Wednesday, August 14, 2013

How to Make Anything More Difficult in Two Easy Steps

Step 1-- Encounter an inconvenience.  Anything will do.  Long line, slow traffic, etc.
Step 2-- Come up with a clever way to avoid it because you are soooooo smart and lines are for SUCKAS.

My son started going to a new pre-k this week, and it's a much bigger school than the part-time playschool he attended at our church for the first 4 years of his life.  I'm always running late, so until today I've joined the carpool pick-up line 10 to 15 minutes after dismissal and only had to wait a couple of minutes to get up to the loading area.  Today I was patting myself on the back as I drove up right on time.  Yay me!  I'm an adult and I sometimes have my shit together!

I approached the car line from the usual direction, but that landed me in the middle of the line.  Turning there would've meant skipping ahead of dozens and dozens of waiting parents.  Parents I have to face again.  I have enough problems without creating bad car line karma, so I needed to go back another block to find the end of the line.  I made a turn and went up one block, then two, then three.  Finally the road ended and the line of waiting vehicles continued around a corner and up another street where it finally ended-- half a mile from the school.

The crossing guard has her hands full.

I looked at the clock.  Classes probably hadn't even been dismissed yet.  My 1-year-old had been crying in the back seat since we left the house.  What's guaranteed to make a car crier cry louder?  A car that's not moving.  All moms know that.  I decided to drive around for 15 minutes.  After all, I am clever, and waiting in line is for suckas. 

Since 3:00 traffic is insane for the first few weeks of a school year (and because I had guaranteed myself more stress by trying to avoid a minor inconvenience), I arrived back at the car line not 15 but 20 minutes later.  There were no cars... No line...  No car line.  I drove up to the loading area.  No kids.  All the pride I'd felt earlier about actually being on time sank into my stomach.  The teachers had successfully loaded kids into at least 100 cars and then disappeared in less than twenty minutes. 

Did you know that chagrin is sometimes audible?  It sounds like someone mumbling, "Oh, hell." 

I circled back around to find a parking spot.  Then it began to rain.  Hard.

I didn't even know where to find my kid, so I parked as close to the main entrance as possible, grabbed my umbrella (it's raining and I have my umbrella!  Partial redemption?) and went to get my still-fussy toddler out of the back seat.  Annnnnd he was barefoot.   Not because I don't put shoes on my child before we leave the house, mind you, but because he takes great joy in pulling them off and throwing them.

Expert at throwing shoes-- and fits. 

I might be the mom who shows up late and misses the carpool pick-up, but I will not be the mom who shows up late and comes inside with a barefoot child.  I have standards, you know.  So I closed the umbrella and climbed into the back seat of the van to find the shoes, which were conveniently located behind the second row seats.  I fumbled with the little feet and worried that my 4-year-old would be anxious about why I hadn't picked him up as normal.  By the time I got the shoe situation resolved, I was so soaked there was almost no point in picking the umbrella back up, but I did, because if anything's worse than picking your kid up late, it's picking him up late and then forcing him to walk in the pouring rain with no umbrella.  I crossed the street through ankle-deep water with a child on one side and an umbrella on the other, and I spotted my son skipping alongside a teacher into a doorway at the front of the school.  I got her attention and said I was there to check him out.  "You have to go to the main office and sign."  Main office.  Right.  It was down the sidewalk about 100 feet, in the opposite direction of where my child was headed.  Makes sense. 

We finally climbed into the van 30 minutes after dismissal time-- that's half an hour after I had the genius idea to make things easier on myself and drive around instead of waiting.  My shoes were soaked through, my socks were squishing, and my jeans were wet all the way up to my knees.

But I avoided waiting in line, and that is the important thing. 

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Friday, August 2, 2013

Conversations With a Four-Year-Old

On chess--
"Mom, can we play chess now?"
"In a minute.  I'm talking to your aunt."
"I want to move my knight right here..."
"Adults are talking, Charlie."
"...and DESTROY YOU."

On age--
"Mom, are you the end of counting?"
"Isn't that how old you are?  The end of counting?"

In the bath tub with his brother--
"Mom!  Andrew touched my penis!"
"No penis touching!  You can only touch your own privates.  Privately, please."
"Oh I AM!"
"They're called 'private parts' for a reason.'"
"Why are you laughing, Mom?"
"I'm not.  Laughing.  It's not funny.  Stop."

At the dinner table-- 
Charlie-- "Mom, watch this!  I'm gonna disappear!"  *ducks below table*
Me-- "Oh no!  Where did Charlie go!?"
Andrew -- *pointing*  "Right here?"

In the pool during vacation--
A little girl in a condo above the pool had been coming out and talking to Charlie from her balcony when he was in the pool.  One morning, she came out onto the balcony completely naked, looking for a swimming suit or something.  Charlie looks up, does a double take, and yells, "Hey!  What's your name again??"

More questions about aging--
"Mom when I'm 11 how old will you be?"
"When I'm 41 how old will you be?"
"When I'm 71 how old will you be?"
"I don't want to play this game anymore."

"You'll still be my mom forever, right?"
"Yes, I'll be your mom forever."


Monday, June 3, 2013

Beach Trip 2013

It is hard to walk in the sand.
It is hard for a one-year-old to walk in the sand.
It is hard to walk in the sand while carrying a one-year-old.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

My Kid Stuck a Rock in his Ear

As we were headed to bed Wednesday night, Charlie suddenly started screaming that something was in his ear.  Since he'd been sitting in the living room floor, it seemed unlikely that anything creepy had gotten into his ear, but I looked in there anyway, praying to God that I wouldn't see a bug lodged in his ear canal, because honestly I would just lose my shit if that happened.  I couldn't see anything, so I wondered if this was a creative way to delay bedtime.  He was truly freaked out, though, so I knew something was up.  Finally he took a breath between whines to tell me he had put a rock in his ear at daycare that afternoon, so I grabbed a pen light and took a closer look.  Sure enough, there was a small white pebble deep in his ear canal.  Awesome. Then he said, "I stuck one in Andrew's ear too!"  "What?  Is there a rock in Andrew's ear!?"  "No, his fell out." 

I was already longing for my pillow when he told me this, and I had three important appointments the next morning including an interview for a summer teaching gig, so suffice it to say I did NOT want to spend the next four hours in an emergency room.  I woke Tim up and announced the beginning of Operation Rock Retrieval.  Tim made him turn his head to the side and shook it like a bottle of ketchup.  That's the only thing we tried.  But here are some things we considered:

vacuum cleaner hose attachment
flush it out with saline
leaving it there because damn I'm tired

Since turning him upside down and shaking him like a bottle of Heinz didn't work, and I was afraid of pushing it deeper into his ear with a pair of tweezers, I loaded him up and headed to the ER while Tim stayed home with Andrew.  I've never had to wait long in the Forrest General emergency room.  In fact, despite a handful of visits to the ER in the 12 years I've lived here, I'd never even been to the waiting room.  We've always been taken to triage within half an hour then put straight into a room.  Two to three hours later, we're headed home.  (Except for that one time they admitted Tim because they thought he had a pulmonary embolism.  That was a fun night.)  My luck didn't hold this time, and I realized we were in for a long night when they sent us from triage to the waiting room I had never seen before, and it was packed with people.  We made our way past a baby who was projectile vomiting all over the place, and I reached into my purse for hand sanitizer as we settled into a corner as far away from everyone as possible.

Charlie was enjoying it at first, and I hoped this wasn't going to be the start of a series of ER visits brought on by his love of attention.  Every time someone looked at him, his eyes widened a bit as he told them his predicament.

"I have a rock in my ear!"
"You do!?  Well how did that happen?"
"I stuck it in there."
"Well why did you do that?"
"I don't know."

The fun soon wore off, and he began to complain.  I didn't miss an opportunity to remind him why we were there.

"Mom, I'm tired and I wanna go to bed."
"Well we'd be in bed right now if you hadn't stuck a rock in your ear."

"Mom, I don't want to wait anymore."
"Well we have to because you stuck a rock in your ear."

"Can we please go home now?"
"Do you want to go through life with a rock in your ear?"

About two hours into our wait, Charlie raised his head from my shoulder and whined loudly, "Mom, we're never getting out of here!"  Everyone in the waiting room got a chuckle from that, which was a nice mood lift for such a miserable bunch.  "We will eventually.  Once they get that rock out of your ear." 

We sat in the waiting room for over three hours.  Some terrible show about a handsome fire fighter with daddy issues played on a tv nearby.  At first I was annoyed at being forced to watch it, but then I considered that the channel choice might've been a strategic move.  You've got a large room full of people who are miserably sick or in bad enough pain that they've come to the ER, it's late at night and everyone is cranky, they have to wait for several hours in uncomfortable chairs, and they've got you outnumbered 20 to 1.  You can A) Turn on the news and run the risk of depressing them to the point that they no longer want to live and decide to go home and die, thus costing you thousands of dollars, B) Turn on something thought-provoking that will cause them to liven up and begin talking to one another, possibly form an alliance, and turn on you, or C) Turn on a show that is so absolutely mind-numbingly retarded that their IQ's begin to plunge and they no longer have the brain power to speak, much less question anything you say or do. 

When the same nurse from triage finally appeared in the doorway and called our name, he was like a scrub-adorned angel of mercy.  We had much longer to wait in the room, but at least there was a stretcher for me to pass out on.  I laid down, Charlie climbed on top of me, and I pulled the sheet over us and started to drift off just in time for a nurse to come in and flip on the light.  Each time someone came in, they did just enough talking and poking and prodding to wake both of us up, then they disappeared again without even attempting to retrieve the rock from my kid's ear.  After we'd been in the room for an hour or so, the nurse came in and told us it was going to be a long time because there were seven people ahead of us.  It was after 1:00 a.m., and we'd been there since 9:00.  I was over it, so as soon as she left I jumped up and began digging through drawers.  There had to be something in there I could use to get that rock out.  I found a package with those long q-tip things that have the wooden stems.  A doctor once used one of those to poke around in a hole in my eye looking for stray pieces of glass after I had a car wreck that shattered a window into my face, so I knew they were good for sticking into holes.  At 1:00 a.m. that seemed like all the medical training I needed to get a rock out of an ear.  I grabbed the light and pulled it down to Charlie's head and told him to turn over and hold. very. still.  I slowly inserted the wooden end of the q-tip into his ear, thinking I could get it behind the rock and push it out.  Just as the tip touched the rock, he screamed.

So I guess we'll be waiting for the doctor, then. 

When he finally came in, the doctor tried suctioning the rock out.  No luck.  The little suction hose would attach to the rock with a promising snap, but it wouldn't pull it out.  Then he tried alligator forceps, but every time he got them around the rock Charlie would scream and start to wiggle.  Finally, he tried flushing it out with saline, but it still didn't budge.  After more than five hours and lots of tears-- mostly from Charlie-- we were sent home with instructions to see the ENT the next morning.  They would try to get it out and if they couldn't, they'd send us to same day surgery.  We were given numbing drops for his ear and sent home.  I couldn't believe that after all that I was about to put my child to sleep with that rock still lodged in his ear canal. 

At 2:00 a.m. I put Charlie in his bed and pulled his shoes off.  Rocks fell out.  As I scooped them off the bed I mumbled a bad word.

"Damn playground."
"Mom, I wish you weren't mad."
"I'm not mad at you, honey.  I'm just sick of rocks."
"Me too."

I told him to sleep with the rock-ear touching the pillow.  Maybe we'd get lucky and it would just fall out.

The next morning, I grabbed the pen light and looked into his ear.  I didn't see it, and feared he had somehow pushed it deeper into his ear.  He said, "It's gone.  It's not in there anymore."  I thought he was just tired of having his ear prodded and wanted to avoid the trip to the ENT, then he said, "It fell out.  I felt it, and I saw it on my pillow."  I looked in his bed, and there was the white pebble. 

It's been two days now, and he hasn't complained of any pain or messed with his ear at all, but I keep checking with the pen light to make sure the white pebble on his bed was the ear-rock and not one of the ones that fell out of his shoe the night before.  Tonight when I did my obsessive ear checking, he said, "It's GONE, Mom!  And I'm not sticking any more rocks in my ear!"

I think it's safe to say he learned his lesson.  I put the little white pebble into a baggy and stuck it in his baby book.  Never throw away physical evidence of how you got your gray hairs. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Exhaust, Fumes.

I haven't had more than 4 or 5 hours of sleep any night this week and it has been a rough week. Tonight I came *this close* to getting in bed early enough to get the sleep I need. Didn't happen. At least it's only a year until the next Mother's Day card will come around to let me know how valued I am. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Clean Up, Clean Up, Everybody, Every... fine I'll do it myself.

If your child ever complains that he or she doesn't have enough Legos, here's a fast fix:  Take all of their Legos and dump them out on the floor, scatter them a bit, and force the child to pick them up.  It will suddenly seem like he has more than enough of the damn things.

The one-year-old scattered a bucket of Legos in the play room a week ago, and I walked past them a hundred times, hoping someone else would pick them up.  That didn't happen.  (Imagine that.)  So tonight I started picking them up, singing "Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere..." in hopes that the baby would help pick some up.  He did-- for about five seconds.  Then he decided it would be funny to knock the bucket over again.  Which he did.  And then he laughed.  Because he's a turd like that.


With the bucket moved out of his reach, I got back to the task of picking up the bazillion tiny little pieces.  I was so in my mom-zone that I didn't even notice the plunking noise that was happening ten feet away.  As I dropped the last handful of Legos into the bucket, I looked up and realized that he'd spent the last few minutes taking each can of Play-Doh out of the bucket and tossing them across the room, one by one.

And the cycle continues. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Outrage, Rage, Repeat

The possibility that someone will mistreat our children is probably every parent's greatest fear, especially when considering whether to place them in daycare.  When my four-year-old went from his part-time preschool to a full-time daycare a few weeks ago, I felt pretty confident that I had chosen a good place.  There was a little voice in the back of my head telling me something wasn't right, but I chalked it up to my own irrational fear, telling myself that the same voice would be there no matter where they were.  I paid close attention for signs of trouble while keeping in mind that I can see problems where there are none when it comes to trusting other people with my kids. 

After the first day, he said he didn't want to go back.  I knew the adjustment would be hard.  He missed his preschool friends and was upset that he had to leave them.  When things didn't improve after a few days, I wondered whether everything was okay, and asked him questions aimed at finding out how his time was being spent and how the teachers were treating him.  Nothing stood out-- except that nothing stood out to him.  He couldn't name any of the kids in his class except one.  He didn't even know his teachers' names, even after two weeks.  My impression was that the kids were being shuttled back and forth like cattle and that it was very impersonal.  I called the director during the day a couple of times when Charlie cried at dropoff, and she reassured me that even though he was upset when I dropped him off, he was playing happily five minutes after I left.  During the third week he seemed to be adjusting, and I thought it was going to work out.

I was off work the Monday after Easter, so I took the kids to daycare late and picked them up early.  When I walked in that afternoon, Charlie's class was walking from the playground to a classroom for story time.  The teacher, a middle-aged lady who hadn't seemed overly friendly the few times I'd spoken to her, was telling them to sit down in the tiny little room.  As I approached the door, I heard her say, "Sit on your bottom with your legs crossed in front of you.  Amelia!  Is that what I said to do!?  I said sit with your butt on the floor and your legs in front of you!"  It seemed a little harsh, considering she was talking to a 3 or 4 year old little girl. 

A day or two later, while getting ready for daycare (we refer to it as "school" around here because that's what we always called preschool), Charlie said, "Mom, I don't want to wear my blue jeans to school.  I want to wear my stretchy pants with no buttons and zippers."  I asked him why, and he said he had trouble unbuttoning his pants to use the restroom.  I told him to ask his teacher for help with that, and he said, "I do, but she gets grumpy."  I could just imagine that teacher being irritated at being asked to help him, and made a mental note to mention it to the director.  The very next day, before I had the chance to talk to anyone about it, Charlie again begged me not to make him wear pants with a button because, in his words, "She gets so angry at me."

That day I called the director during my planning period.  I told her what Charlie had said about the teacher not wanting to help.  I was polite and didn't go on the offensive at all, although at this point I was really beginning to suspect the teacher in question was being impatient with the kids and probably didn't need to work in a daycare.  I just told her that Charlie still needs help with his pants, and if they don't help (or if they get "grumpy") he is liable to not ask for help and wet his pants as a result.  The director always got really defensive and began talking too much anytime I asked questions about how Charlie's days were going, and she definitely had that reaction this time.  In the end, she said she would talk to the teacher.  I reiterated that all I was asking for was for her to help him unbutton and re-button his pants.  I wasn't out to get the teacher.

The next day when I picked Charlie up, the teacher told me my son had said his daddy gives him beer.  She said he told another child that his daddy gives him beer, and the child had repeated it to his parent, and the parent had come up to the school "very upset about it."  Then she said Charlie had mentioned his daddy giving him "vanilla beer."  Well, his dad bought him a vanilla root beer a few days earlier.  I laughed about it, but she didn't see the humor and was really making it out to be a big deal. 

The following morning when I dropped Charlie off, he went apesh**.  When I started to leave, he chased me down and jumped into my arms.  I put him back down, hugged him, and told him to stay in his classroom.  He began crying as if I was leaving him in a work camp, and as I tried to leave again a teacher was holding him and he was literally fighting them to get away.  I quickly made my exit, but I worried all day.  That was very unlike Charlie.  His teacher had already demonstrated her ignorance and impatience a few times, and all signs were pointing to him being treated unkindly by her.

As I drove to work that morning, I was sick to my stomach.  I considered calling in sick, picking him up, and spending the day visiting other daycares.  If I hadn't missed a day and a half last week because of a stomach virus, I probably would have done that, but I went on to work, telling myself he needed to adjust, he didn't need me to rescue him, and I would be doing him a disservice if I didn't make him deal with situations he didn't like.  But I knew there was something else to it.  I called the director during my planning period, and she reassured me that everything was fine.  Charlie was playing and everything was okay.  I didn't believe her this time.  There was always something in her voice when I asked questions, and after this particular phone call, I pinpointed it.  Desperation.  She was desperate.  She was lying.  She knew there was some kind of problem.  When we hung up I called a few other daycares, including one I had considered before finding out they didn't open early enough for me to make it to work on time.  They still had openings and were willing to let the kids start any day.  I decided to talk to my boss, because I'd heard he was very understanding about situations relating to kids and had let another teacher come in a few minutes late every day for a year because she couldn't get her kids to daycare any earlier. 

That afternoon when I pulled up to the daycare, Charlie's class was out on the playground.  I went in and got Andrew first, then went outside to get Charlie.  The mean teacher was sitting there all fat and slumped over with her curmudgeonly self, and Charlie was standing nearby.  The first thing I noticed was that he looked tired and that he'd scratched his skin really bad that day.  His eczema gets crazy in hot weather.

It also gets crazy with stress.

When I approached the gate, the teacher said, "Tell yo momma what you did!"  Charlie began crying.  "Stop cryin' and tell her what you did!"  He couldn't tell me because he couldn't stop crying, and I wasn't impressed with the way she was talking to him.  I asked what unspeakable crime he had committed.  "He pulled another kid off that toy over there and almost broke his neck!"  She was talking as though this wasn't normal playground behavior.  I'm not saying he should be allowed to play rough, but he didn't need to be berated and belittled and humiliated over it.  He's four.  The appropriate response is to put him in timeout and never mention it again, or take away part of his playtime or some other privilege, not raise your voice at him and force him to recount his misdeeds later.

I decided right then that I was done.  I wanted to tell her off, tell her everything I thought, tell her how horrible I thought she was, that she didn't have to talk to him like he was a dog, that she didn't deserve to work with kids, that if you can't get along with Charlie McWilliams, you probably can't get along with anyone.  I wanted to tell her that my kid is smart, funny, and sweet.  He's kind.  He's loving.  He learns easily, and he would do anything to please her-- if there was any hope of pleasing her.

Instead I picked him up, and the only thing that came out of my mouth, which seemed to be detached from my body at this point, was a quiet "Okay."  I was shocked at my self control.

I turned to walk to the van with my crying, humiliated child, my mind already set on taking them straight to the other daycare to secure a spot for the next day.  As I turned to leave, the lady said, "He been throwing sand all day too!"

Last.  Straw.  Bitch should've stopped while she was ahead.

No jury in the world would convict me.
What I meant to do was put Charlie in the van and then go talk to the director.  What I did instead, because I apparently lost the ability to control my legs-- or my mouth-- was march straight into the house with Charlie in my arms and raise hell.  I was seeing red.  I was shaking.  The director was in the kitchen, and she looked like a deer in headlights when I appeared in front of her.

I don't know exactly what I said.  I was pointing and trying unsuccessfully not to yell.  The first thing I said was, "That lady out there has a terrible attitude!"  The rest is all a blur.  I demanded that they get my kids' stuff together and said we wouldn't be back.  The director, a 50-something lady with short, gray hair, put her hands over her mouth and began fake crying.  Pathetic.  I stormed out, put Charlie into the van, and went back in to retrieve the kids' belongings.  Diapers, lunch boxes, snacks, nap mats.  The short lady was apologizing between fake sobs.  When I went back in, I told her what the lady had done, how I thought all these things Charlie had said and things I'd overheard the teacher say were indicators that she wasn't treating them right, and that she had just removed all doubt.  Other parents were beginning to come in for their children at this point, and the woman just nodded and looked completely freaked out and ready for me to go before any more parents heard me.

I drove around the block to the other daycare, and five minutes later they had a spot starting the next day.

The owner of the daycare called me later that day.  She said that there had been a similar incident with the same teacher a few months ago for which she had been reprimanded.  This was the second problem they'd had with her, and she got fired this time.

When I approached the doorway of the classroom in their new daycare the next afternoon, I heard the teacher's voice.  She was talking to them sweetly, encouraging them, and showing incredible love and patience for a bunch of wound-up kids who had been trapped inside all day due to the rain.  I walked in and asked how the day went.  Charlie and Andrew heard me and looked up.  They smiled, but didn't run to me like they were escaping a prison and I was their ride to freedom.  Charlie came for a hug, then went right back to his group of friends.  Andrew never put down the toy he was playing with, just gave me a big, toothy grin and a "Momma!"

I haven't driven to work with a sick stomach or felt the need to call and check in since.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

You Know You've Been a Stay-at-Home-Mom When...

You know you've been a stay-at-home-mom for four years when your first three weeks at a new job involve the following slips:

You tell another teacher you'll be glad to watch her duty post for a few minutes if she needs to go use the potty.
You almost call your boss "dude."
You're so excited to see adults that you walk in waving and saying "Hey!" to anyone you pass in the hallway.
The cafeteria feels like it's missing something.  You realize there are no high chairs.  
Happy Meals for dinner becomes a weekly routine because you haven't yet figured out how to work "cook dinner" into the mile-long list of things to do after work. 
Your high school students are misbehaving, and you start counting.  "One.  TWO!...  Oh, wait.  Sorry."
Your employer asks for a photograph of you to put in your file.  You don't have a single one of you without your kids.
You ask a coworker when nap-time is.