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  • Motherhood 102– Exploring New Levels of Embarrassment

    November 30, 2005

    Sean is in his last semester of Water Babies swimming lessons where I have to accompany him in the pool. In January he will begin lessons where I get to sit fully clothed on the side of the pool along with the other fully clothed parents and cheer him on to swimming independently – that is if I can ever bring myself to show my face at the swimming school again after showing everything else last week.

    Unless you’ve participated in a Water Babies class, you may not really understand what’s involved. You see, there is the 30-minutes of swimming for Sean and me. And then there is the cardio workout for just me before and after swimming — or what I call the “dressing and undressing workout.” It’s a lot like Tai Bo with a lot of flinging of arms and legs.

    First I get myself undressed and then dressed in a swimsuit using only one hand because the other hand is busy keeping the boy from any number of things he wants to do that I don’t want him to do. Then I try to get the boy undressed and dressed in a swimsuit while trying to keep him from running off naked, falling off the changing counter, getting into other people’s things, running off naked, nibbling on stray Goldfish found on the floor and running off naked. And then I do it in reverse 30 minutes later after swimming, only this time I’m trying to push, pull and cajole clothes onto a miniature semi-wet little boy who only wants to get away so he can run around naked screaming “I’m nayk-eee! I’m nayk-eee!”

    Up until last week, I was able to manage all this without causing any psychological trauma to me or the other swimming school patrons.

    I will do anything to get out of taking Sean into a public restroom with me because 1) Once we’re in there he has me hostage 2) He knows I’m in a vulnerable position and 3) He is clever and creative with his torture techniques. But last week after the lesson, having enjoyed too much morning coffee, I had to make a restroom stop before commencing with the post swimming undressing/dressing workout.

    Right off the dressing area where mommies (and sometimes daddies) get their babies in and out of their swimming suits is the unisex restroom. And it’s here that I threatened the boy to not touch anything in the restroom before we went in. “Mommy has to use the restroom and you are not to touch anything. Do you understand?” He nodded his head and adjusted his halo.

    So we go into the restroom and I push the little button lock on the door lever and remind him of our agreement. And he stands there by the door in his itty bitty swim trunks with his hands reverently folded in front of him. I’m thinking ‘Oh good! He’s in a compliant mood. We’ll be out of here, dressed and headed home in no time.” Which was all part of his plan to lull me into a false sense of well-being.

    So I coax my damp one-piece swimsuit down to my knees and assume the public-restroom-hovering pose while keeping an eye trained on the boy. Now I know that this may not be a pleasant image for you, and it’s not for me either, but I also know that you have done it yourself, so I’ll imagine you in the pose and we’ll be even (unless you read this post, then I owe you one).

    Anyway, the floor drain is just too tempting and I see him eyeing it lustily considering what it might be like to poke a finger into one of the gooey black holes. I can see him thinking this, so I issue a warning to stay away from the drain, which in the mind of a 2-year-old extrapolates into permission to investigate the garbage can. Like a pinball machine, I use one leg to block him from the garbage can. Yes, I’m that athletic that I can hover on one leg. I leg-fling him toward the sink which he spontaneously decides would make a very nice monkey bar and he begins to swing. Helpless, I offer up a brief but earnest prayer that the sink will hold 24 pounds and it takes.

    I admonish him to get off the sink and go stand by the door — which he does — but only long enough to wave and say, “Bye-bye Mommy!” He then pushes the door handle down popping open the lock and pushes the door open. Yes, that very same door that opens to the dressing area where there are people wearing clothes. Unlike me. And that’s when I yell, “Sean! No! Stop!” Which was a bad thing because instead of just going out the door leaving me in privacy with my swimsuit worn like bobby socks, he stops and holds the door open (oh sure, now he’s obedient).

    The mad rush of mommy’s and daddy’s and children in the dressing area getting ready for the next lesson can only look on in horror as Antique Mommy attempts to run after the boy forgetting she is shackled by a wet one piece swimsuit. Let me tell you, you never saw so many deer in the headlights.

    There is no moral or real point to this story, but a tip: Never run on wet tile. With your swimsuit around your ankles. In public. Scratch that. Never take a toddler in a public restroom.

    Thanksgorging

    November 28, 2005

    Like most families in America, we celebrated Thanksgiving in the usual fashion – eating entirely too much and then sitting around with our pants unbuttoned under our shirts and stifling yawns while yelling over the television commercials which were loud enough to break the sound barrier so that the people trying to watch the television could hear over the people who were trying to talk by yelling over the television and the snoring. But maybe that’s just our tradition. That and making nine pies for eight people.

    One holiday of excess down, one to go.

    It’s Monday. Count Your Blessings.

    November 21, 2005

    5am – Another day of life. Thank you God for another day. Everyone will be asleep for another two hours. Yay! Two hours of uninterrupted me-time brought to me by me!

    Get out of bed. First stop, bathroom and not a moment too soon. Sweet relief! Oh no. Toilet paper roll has one flimsy square desperately clinging to it. Toss in waste basket. Sit and ponder for a moment the inability of the male species to replace an empty toilet paper roll but the uncanny ability to replace an empty cereal box back into the pantry. Both empty, both cardboard, no? Attempt to stand in newly inventedYoga pose to open cabinet over toilet to grab extra roll. Yay! Another roll! Take a moment to appreciate the qualities of my own gender — breasts and foresight, if not the ability to pee while standing. Bump head on cabinet door and lose balance.

    Strike pose again and successfully retrieve the spare roll but not before accidentally dropping it into the toilet. (Of course accidentally! Who would purposely drop an entire double roll of toilet paper into an unflushed toilet? Someone comes to mind.) Make heroic yet futile attempt to dodge the yellow tsunami that follows while maintaining yoga pose. Watch in horror as double roll expands into a small Carribbean island. Retrieve slightly used kleenex from robe pocket and the original spent roll out of the waste basket. Peel remaining square from roll and combine with Kleenex to make do. Go to toybox to find Sean’s rubber gloves. Count blessings: It was only pee.

    5:30am – Go outside in my sexy hot-pink chenille robe and sneakers to get the newspaper and the first glimpse of another glorious day of life. What’s that on the lawn? Oh Lord! (And this is not a prayer). Something, or someone I cringe to think, has ripped open the garbage bag and strewn a weeks worth of diapers around the neighborhood. Go back into the house. Return still wearing sexy pink robe, but now accessorized with yellow rubber gloves and a surgical mask. Attend to the task of picking last week’s diapers out of my neighbor’s bushes. Neighbor’s sprinkler system suddenly comes on cleaning my teeth like a giant ice cold Water-Pik. Scream. Catch site of neighbor jogging, an Eva Longoria look-alike mother of four who is not wearing a wet pink robe or rubber gloves, but a very stylish black jogging suit. And earrings. Attempt to hide in bushes, but finally give half-hearted wave. Try not to hate her. Fail. Count blessings: I’ll get back to you.

    6am – Time for coffee! Thank you God for coffee. Another salute to the gender that can nurse babies, stock TP and pre-set a coffee maker. The kitchen greets me with the heady scent of the elixir of life. Bring cup up to nose, inhale deeply and take in rich aroma. Take extra care not to inhale steaming hot coffee, although after what invaded my nostrils earlier, seems like a reasonable thing to do. Thank God for Juan Valdez. Take sip. Blech! Spit coffee into sink. Rats! Coffee grounds. Catch reflection of self in toaster in wet pink robe and surgical mask worn like a headband. Notice coffee grounds stuck on teeth. Smile wildly into toaster to amuse self.

    Make another pot of coffee. Drink entire pot while standing at the sink. Run to restroom with hand between crossed legs. Run back to pantry (in same position) to retrieve economy pack of 36-double rolls of TP, roughly the size of a playpen. Run back to bathroom only dropping flushable playpen once. Cross “work out” off to-do list. Count blessings: Combination of coffee and indoor plumbing.

    7am – Take pills. Wash down with cold coffee. Thank God that we can afford to buy enough prescription medication equal in value to the salary of the CEO of Pfizer. Have an “uh-oh” moment when realization sets in that I took three of the little white pills of which am supposed to take one, and one of the slightly bigger little white pill of which I am supposed to take three. Count blessings: Day-long Synthroid buzz.

    7:01am – So much for me-time. Get the boy out of bed. Thank God for the boy and his cheery disposition and his smart yellow rubber gloves. Change diaper with no incident. Yay, another blessing. Pray to never see diaper again, especially on front lawn. Hand the boy a sippy cup of milk and join him on the sofa with my Far Side cup of coffee for our morning snuggle ritual. Boy notices the Far Side cartoon on the cup and chuckles. Boy points at the dog hiding in laundry room waiting to close the dryer door on the unsuspecting cat. Boy laughs hysterically and points at the cup until tears come to his eyes. Boy totally gets Far Side. Another reason to keep him. At this moment, I love this boy more than ever. Count blessings: Too many to count.

    The Moon

    November 18, 2005

    Every evening around dusk, Sean and I will go to the dining room windows and look for the moon. Last night, in North Texas, it was a spectacular golden orb that hung so low and heavy over the city that it looked as though it might fall right out of the sky. “Moon out!” he exclaimed in a stage whisper, then “Shhhh,” putting his finger to his lips seeming to understand that some things are best observed in silence.

    I watched Sean as he watched the moon, his baby profile a study in twilight. Ever the teacher, I explained to him that this was the very same moon that mommy gazed upon as a little girl. And even Grandma and Grandpa when they were little looked up at this moon. And Noah, as he rocked and rocked on the waves in the ark with all the animals must have looked out the window to admire this moon. But how do you convey the concept of ancient to someone whose world is brand new?

    Without taking his eyes from the window, he whispered, “Moon out. Shhhh.” And so we quietly sat there and marveled at the majestic harvest moon because some things are best observed in silence.

    Car Talk

    November 17, 2005

    There is an on-going discussion at our house and it goes like this: The Car — Sacred Machine or Roving Diner?

    One parent believes the car is a sacred moving metal sculpture and should be revered as a mechanical temple. Into “the car” (whispered) no food nor drink shall ever pass. No Goldfish, no crackers, certainly no French fries, no nuggets, no Mcfood of any kind. The wheels of such shall never come to rest upon the unholy ground of Sonic. Verily. Those seeking to enter into the inner sanctum of “the car” must first repent of their Happy Meal ways and remove any sinful traces of the stickiness of life.   One day a year the SUV high priestess must tie a bell around her waist and enter “the car” to make atonement for any Goldfish that have gone astray.

    But the other parent’s car is where two tater tots and five Goldfish miraculously multiplied into enough food to feed 5,000 one afternoon. This car is also home to an array of separated and divorced socks (and those still trying to work it out and get back together), bits of partially digested board books, an extensive collection of fast food toys, petrified French fries and other unidentifiable sticky things.

    This parent — the one whose right arm is a full three inches longer from handing French fries and other essential nutrients into the backseat – believes a car is just a hunk of moving metal that reliably provides transport to and from the places from whence these foul things found on the floor board come.

    The parent who makes the daily run to Wal-Mart with the toddler in tow to gather yet more things that will ultimately find their way onto the floor board allows said toddler to “drive” the car while it’s parked in the garage so that 13 metric ton of groceries can be unloaded without the assistance of one who toddles.

    The other parent, the one who drives a clean car, arrives on the scene shortly after the the toddler begins playing a jazzy hip-hop tune on the horn. This parent, the one whose arms are roughly equal in length, thinks this is an abomination and usually says, “It’s not a toy, it’s a car.” Then the other parent, the one with seven bags of groceries hanging from various appendages usually says, “Dude, it keeps him busy and out of my hair while I’m hauling in groceries. It is a toy. A very big toy. Now grab some of these groceries.”

    And that’s where this discussion usually ends.

    It’s not the gift, but the balloon that counts.

    November 16, 2005

    Last year, when Sean turned one, I went all out and threw him a big party — or rather I threw a party for all those who had been with us through the pregnancy and that crazy first year. For that, those people deserve a party and a place in heaven. And is there any better way to show your appreciation than to serve cake with icing that turns your teeth blue? I think not.

    It’s kind of too bad that Sean won’t remember that on his first birthday the house was filled with people (with blue teeth) and food and balloons or that he took his first solid steps that day. And it’s really too bad that he won’t remember his two grandmothers playing competitive Pin the Tail on the Donkey. (Note to self: Never blindfold someone carrying an AARP card, spin them around and let them walk around in a room full of small children hopped up on birthday cake.) Two years later, people still comment on what a fun time they had. Now that is the mark of a good party.

    Knowing that I couldn’t top last year, this year’s party was a bit more subdued. Instead of a house full of people, there was just mommy and daddy, Godmother Gigi and his surrogate grandparents, Skip and Glenna. We had a simple meal and then birthday cake with white icing. Sean made a heroic effort to blow out the candle by making the “F” sound, but I finally stepped in and helped him so that he wouldn’t totally slime the cake and singe his hair at the same time. I don’t know about you, but the combination of burnt hair and snot covered cake tends to ruin my appetite.

    Then came the unveiling of the birthday present, a brand new red Radio Flyer tricycle (cue the oooh, aaah chorus) to which I had tied a balloon for a festive touch, because I’m all about festive. When I bought it several weeks ago, I imagined that when he first saw it he would run to it squealing with delight and jump into the seat like the Lone Ranger. And when he saw it, he did run to it. And he did jump on the seat. And then stood on it to get to the balloon. And he was squealing with delight: “Bloon! Bloon!”

    Christmas shopping just got a lot easier.

    Photo: Can you spot the real birthday present?

    Just Two Wonderful!

    November 15, 2005

    Dear Sean –

    You are two years old today — two years! You are no longer a baby, but a little boy. While Daddy and I celebrate the amazing creature that you have become and the hope of what the future holds for you, we selfishly grieve the irretrievable days that have already slipped away. Not a day passes that I don’t want to go back and do it all over again, even the day Mommy set you and the lamp you busted out on the curb in a big box addressed to Grandma. I never liked that lamp anyway. Sometimes when we are all three on the sofa and all smooshed together in Daddy’s arms he will say “Let’s just stay here forever, just like this.” If only we could.

    You have accomplished so much in the past 24 months. You have learned to walk and then run and even how to stand like a flamingo. You have learned how to say hundreds of words, but not one more sweet than “mama.” You can feed yourself now and sometimes you even get more food in your mouth than on me. You are
    an inquisitive little boy who already knows about letters, numbers, shapes, colors, airplanes, trains and tractors. You know the names of all the animals including the emu and yak, which someday will look great on your resume. You have mended age-old hurts and proven that miracles do indeed happen. Until you came along, we didn’t really know joy. We just thought we did.

    Two years ago you came into this world on a gray and rainy Saturday, but no one seemed to notice that it wasn’t the most beautiful day ever. We weren’t expecting you for another six weeks, which would have been Christmas Day exactly. Mommy and Daddy had just gone in for a check up and the doctor said something wasn’t just right and that it would be better if you were born that very day so that the doctors and nurses in the NICU could take care of you.
    When word got out that you would be here by the afternoon, the hospital waiting room filled up with about fifty people who were anxious to see you, people who had prayed faithfully for you for many months. And the amazing thing is that many of those people didn’t really like each other very much, but they came together anyway to celebrate your arrival.

     

    After you were born, Daddy went into the waiting room with his camera to show pictures of your brand new face. Everyone set their differences aside and stood in a circle and held hands and thanked God for your safe delivery. You have been a peacemaker and a joy bringer from the beginning. My prayer for you Sean is that it may be so for the rest of your life.Although I can’t remember a world before you, there are still times when I just can’t believe you are really here and I can’t take my eyes off of you. And sometimes I wish out loud, “Oh that every boy in the world might be as loved as much this one.” Wouldn’t that make the world a nicer place?

    God bless you Sean on this journey that is your life and God bless me that I might get to tag along.

     

    Love,
    Mommy

     
     

     

    Part-Time Pet

    November 11, 2005

    My neighbor thinks I am trying to take over his cat. And it’s partly true. I’m not trying to take it over completely. It’s not like I want the responsibility of vet bills, flea collars and a litter box. I just want to have a fling with his cat. I just want some “no strings attached” pet affection. I just want an opportunity for my son to learn that cats do not normally kill little boys. That’s all. And if lovin’ this cat is wrong, then I don’t wanna be right.

    Photo Temporarily Unavailable

    The neighbor claims that the cat is named “Smokey Joe” but I gave him the unusual name of “Cat”.  He responds equally well to either name as long as you are holding an open can of tuna.

    The first time we saw Cat was early in the spring when we were out for a stroll in the neighborhood, a few months after we lost our dog of 13 years. In the interim, Sean had inexplicably developed an irrational fear of cats and dogs. If it were not for the thought of potty training a boy and a puppy at the same time, we would have another dog by now. Anyway, Sean spotted the cat about a block away and started screaming like he’d seen a lion. With all that screaming, the cat figured surely a baby bird or mouse was being served up for appetizers, so he sprinted our way to check it out. And one thing I think we all know about cats is that they are most attracted to those who like them the least. Which reminds me of an episode from my teen years, but that’s another topic.

    Anyway, in Sean, the cat correctly figured he’d found someone who couldn’t stand the sight of him. So he followed us home to find out where he could terrorize him on a regular basis. Which he does. And even though I am a dog-person, I think I’ve fallen for Cat.

    After he followed us home, Cat started coming around to the back door every afternoon for drinks (milk for him, martinis for me). Then he started staying around for dinner. And then one day I found myself in the grocery store stocking up on Fancy Feast and I realized that maybe it was getting out of control. So in a moment of clarity I emailed my neighbor to confess that I had a thing for his cat. I admitted that over the summer we had engaged in some heavy petting and that at this point, I couldn’t promise that with the temperatures dropping, that I wouldn’t ask him in to spend the night. I am not a home wrecker, just a woman caught up with a very charming and handsome cat, and I just thought he should know while there was still time to call Dr. Phil.

     

    * * *

    To see comments, go here:  Part-Time Pet Again

    The Hair Cut

    November 4, 2005

    After the 7th or 8th time someone referred to my little boy as “she” this past week, I caved in and made an appointment to have his beautiful golden curls whacked off.

    This event, more than any other, has made me grieve the passing of his babyhood. All of the previous mile markers were victories, and really with his DNA, growing hair is a victory, albeit probably short lived. But in spite of all that, this cutting of his baby curls just seemed to be a passing of a point of no return. And I didn’t want to pass that point without kicking and screaming and wailing and gnashing teeth just a bit. I want to go back and do it all over again, even the really hard parts.

    Immediately after I called the salon, I called Godmother Gigi, she of The Magic Purse. I’d heard horror stories involving little boys and barber chairs (specifically my own two nephews) and I begged her to meet us there knowing that she could get the best out of him. And being a nurse, I knew that she could help me if I fainted.

    But then I remembered that she’s a labor and delivery nurse and that it’s her policy to step over or on anyone who’s fainted and attend to the patient.

    GiGi is always pulling out some fascinating object out of her magic purse, like keys, that make his big blue eyes glaze over in unequaled and unconditional adoration. I could pull an elephant out of my purse and he’d yawn and squirm to get away.

    Gigi showed up on time with the magic purse in hand, out of which she pulled Sean’s Godfather, Dick (sometimes known as Poopah) — which was even better than keys. Dick is really a 10-year-old boy dressed up as a responsible adult and he does cool things that little boy’s love, like drive tractors and fly commercial airplanes.

    Anyway, Carrie, the stylist, hoists him up into this little car and pops in a Thomas the Train video and sets about the task of quickly and unceremoniously chopping off the best two years of my life. Dick ran the video camera, Gigi worked the magic purse and I stood in the corner trying not to sob out loud. At the end of this amputation of my motherhood, some strange little boy who I’d never seen before, but remarkably resembled my husband, happily popped out the car/chair ready to move on with the rest of his (sniff sniff) life.

    As Sean handed Carrie the tip, she handed me a “Frequent Reward Card” which states that after nine haircuts, the 10th one is free! Oh boy. Let’s see…. with one haircut every two years, we’ll be getting that free one in 2024 – just in time to send him off to college – the ultimate umbilical amputation.

    Man of Many Words

    November 3, 2005

    As Sean approaches his second birthday, his language skills are really coming along. At the rate of about 100 words a day. And anything worth saying is worth saying 100 times. In a row.

    On a recent trip to the grocery store, Sean made the connection between the word “MEAT!” (all caps because a word such as that must be exclaimed with all due vigor) and cellophane clad chicken. He scrambled up a freezer case of chicken, peered inside and started pointing and hollering at the top of his lungs “MEAT! MEAT!” Only instead of just hollering it once or twice, he hollered it about 250 times, just in case someone in the grocery store (or the great state of Texas for that matter) hadn’t heard about this meat thing.

    Like a disciple for Bo Pilgrim, Sean continued to shout the good news about the meat up and down every aisle of the store, to the cashier, the bag boy, the teller at the drive-up window at the bank, the man who hung the dry cleaning in the back of the car and the UPS man who brought a package to the house later that afternoon.

    Some of the new words he has mastered, for some reason unknown to anyone but himself, totally and completely crack him up. The mere utterance of a select list of words sends the boy into hysterics. And the more the word is said, the funnier it gets, until he starts snorting and milk comes out of his nose. And boy is that funny. But no, we don’t do that just to amuse ourselves. Because that would be cruel. But funny.

    Anyway, we’ve learned not to say any of these words while he’s eating or drinking lest we find ourselves in a scene from Animal House. The most recent list of unquestionably funny words include, but are not limited to: Gigi, bulky, flip flop, bummer, stinky, and peeping. List is subject to change without notice.

    The list came in handy last week on Picture Day at Sean’s school. I anticipated that they might sit him down and ask him to say “cheese” at which time his Pavlovian response would kick in and he would hunch his shoulders, make a painfully weird fake smile resembling some rare neurological disorder and then squinch his eyes shut in anticipation of the flash. And when the class picture came out, he would then forever be remembered as the boy in pre-school who had a Grand Mal seizure on picture day.

    To avoid that scenario (and because I am just that much of a control freak) I sent him to school with “The List” taped to his jacket so that my boy might produce a genuine smile and be remembered, in the years to come, as a reasonably normal kid (in spite of his parents).

    I further instructed the photographer that to get a real smile, have him say “Gigi” – the name of the beautiful, beloved and bejeweled God Mother who always has a magic purse full of fun. Just the saying of her name lights up his face.

    On the other hand, if you want a good laugh and don’t mind wearing food, give him a glass of milk and handful of Goldfish and go to the list.