daughters · marriage · military life · mood issues · motherhood · poop · preschoolers

More Depressing than a Sad Santa

From the Momplex archives:

It would be an understatement to say I’ve been a little blue lately. Blue’s such a pretty color anyway. Why don’t we refer to the doldrums with a color like diarrhea brown, as in “I’ve been feeling a little diarrhea-brown lately.” I have.

My daughter, who will be five this week, crapped on her bedroom floor last night. I have never quite understood the root of the expression “do me a solid,” but I can definitely say she didn’t do me one. She did me a liquid, and a lot of it. I am hoping against all hope that it wasn’t some sort of willful act, the giant heap of diarrhea unleashed in the corner by her hamper. It was about an hour after she went to sleep, and I won’t get into all the details, but it appears she was just disoriented. When a little one wakes in the night from a deep slumber with an urgent need to “unleash the hounds,” it seems safe to assume that she might not have the wherewithal to properly navigate herself.

I can’t tell you how disgusting that room smelled. The windows in her room were frozen shut, too. Oh, and we plugged the toilet with all the toilet paper we used cleaning her up. And when I plunged a while later, the splashing poo water went into my face. For those of you who know me well, it should come as no surprise that I didn’t have my mouth shut at the time. (I almost never have my mouth shut.)

Thank God my husband happened to be home for the day/night from his three-week annual training with the National Guard. I am sure he is thrilled that he opted to make the long drive back home for a booty call. (One could certainly argue that cleaning up a diarrhea-butt IS a booty call of sorts, literally speaking.) In that regard, I am secretly thankful my daughter shat on the floor.

“Honey, I just accidentally swallowed some diarrhea” packs a much bigger punch in the frigidity department than “Not now, dear. I have a headache.”

Anyway, I’m feeling diarrhea-brown. I got so desperate today that I even took my daughter to the mall play area just to get out of the house. The mall play area is essentially Hell on Earth: Hyperactive kids with depressed moms spreading germs as holiday Muzak pipes overhead and too-skinny mannequins taunt us from all directions. Also, this time of year there are the Salvation Army bell-ringers dinga-donging ad infinitum next to the acrid-smelling Asian nail salon. As if that’s not diarrhea-brown enough, we took up an invitation to go watch some poor entertainer called the Banana Lady over in the JCPenney children’s section at 11 a.m. She set up shop (which consisted of a karaoke machine) in a four-way intersection of Hannah Montana paraphernalia.

Initially, it was just my daughter and me watching this woman prance around in her banana suit and sing songs about being healthy and doing your own thing. She was horribly, horribly gleeful (seriously, did you click on that link? or how about this one?), and it was horribly, horribly awkward how she was performing to maybe six people total. I felt terrible for her, as people kept walking between us, not realizing she was a show and we were her audience. She’d try to lure them over by trying to ventriloquize the large spidermonkey-puppet that’s sewn to her suit but with her lips totally moving. Few took the bait. When she said, “Come on and dance with me, everyone!” I was the only one who obliged. My daughter and the other sad moms and their kids stared blankly at us.

So, this is my life. Cleaning up diarrhea and dancing with a stranger in a banana suit in JCPenneys in the middle of the Hannah Montana aisle at the mall. Exactly how I hoped things would turn out for me. Exactly.

Globe · home · humor · motherhood · poop · whereilivedwednesday

The Dump on Sharp Road (the Momplex Blog archive)

Today’s writing was prompted by a weekly meme called “Where I Lived Wednesdays,” from Ann Imig at Ann’s Rants. Want to join the fun? Just click here and leave your link!

Way out in Six Shooter Canyon, in that time, nobody cleaned up their dog poop. There were piles of it in every yard, including ours. We used to let it sit out there for days, maybe weeks, wondering who was going to pick it up. In the desert sun, the turds dried until they were light and hard as chalk. My best friend, Anne Marie, and I made a game of spraying these with the garden hose. The best ones sent up a puff of dust, then shrunk away, layer by colorful layer, like an Everlasting Gobstopper. It was the best game ever, after Nun Rock, which was when we put ladies’ skirt-slips on our heads like wimples and solemnly circled near my waterbed humming monk melodies. Then we’d ascend a little step ladder and tear off our habits to jam out like punk rockers.

Sometimes in the fall when I came home from school, I burned energy by practicing my gymnastics in the side yard. It ran along the giant garden kept by our neighbor, a rotund Mexican man who looked like an old Diego Rivera. His was a garden overgrown, too much food, and yet we once caught him stealing plums off our tree. I liked that he kept his garden sloppy and was never out there picking, because I didn’t want his audience. What I really wanted was for the boys on my street to happen by on their bikes and catch me turning aerial cartwheels and back flips. Usually it was just a boy named Mark, who looked like he’d stepped out of a De Grazia painting—irises black as his pupils, and hair to match, stick straight and shiny. He was probably cute, but I didn’t think so at the time. If no real boys happened by, I’d flop into the yellowing grass with my dog, Molly, who could be found snacking away on her own poop. “Stop that,” I’d say without really trying to make her stop. Later, my dad would let Molly lick his face all over, even his mouth. I didn’t tell him.

Winters were short and mild, and when we got snow, it was a magic like looking into God’s mouth. Of course, the flakes came down in millimeters not inches, and only every couple of years. That’s why the schools would close, because we didn’t have plows and the buses didn’t want to risk the trip to the Apache reservation. It wasn’t enough snow to cover the dog poop, and one winter I packed a lot of turds into snowballs. These I collected into a bucket, which Anne Marie helped me carry down to the end of Sharp Road, where the neighborhood boys had been pelting us. I pitched a big one at Chad Cecil instead of Chuy Casillas or Frank Grice. Chad was the popular kid with blonde hair and the shit-eating car-salesman grin, all teeth and not very nice. He shot his arm up in the air like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever and caught the snowball and froze in that position with a smug look, like he was something else. But the snow had crumbled so that he was holding a pile of dog crap in his mitten, and I think he almost cried when he saw it. I was very happy that day.

In the spring, our grass would finally green up. That’s when anyone could tell the exact size and location of our septic tank, because the blades were more vibrant there, like emeralds, and much thicker and taller. This was my favorite spot to lay down in the yard and listen to the locusts, counting down the days to summer and hoping my mom wouldn’t notice I had nothing to do. When she did notice, she’d bring out the weeding tool and pay me five cents a dandelion, but only if I got them out by the roots. I’d end up with a pile big enough to get me to the movies in town, which cost only two dollars for a double-feature that started with cartoons. The theater was lorded over by greasy Carl with the glass eye and the polyester pants and Colonel Sanders beard. He greeted everyone with a devilish smirk, conspiratorially, like you were about to see a peep show and he might call the cops on you, or not.

It costs $8.50 now to go to the theater, but Carl might still be there. I saw him last time I was in town, years ago, and he gave me that same smirk and it was like he hadn’t changed a bit in 30 years. I couldn’t say the same for my house on Sharp Road. The door to the garage where Anne Marie and I used to hold séances and haunted houses was peeling and cockeyed. The weeping willow tree from where the locusts used to serenade me was gone. Of course you can come in, the woman at the door told me. I’m so sorry about the way things look. Dad passed away two weeks ago. He had Alzheimer’s, and we didn’t know it had gotten this bad. Piles upon piles of detritus were everywhere—papers, cans, jars, clothes. It felt dark in there. And interestingly enough, it smelled like dog poop.

There's dog poop in them there hills.
There’s dog poop in them there hills.

Like the Momplex? Buy my book! During March 2014, my publisher will be donating 80% of proceeds from the sales of my book to the Restoring Hope Transplant House, a home away from home for transplant patients and their families. 

advice · government · humor · motherhood · poop · preschoolers

Whack-a-Mole: Parenting in an Intrusive World (from the Momplex Blog archives)

Poop-slinging is not just for primates. I know, because I experience it as a mom firsthand all the time. I’m not talking about literal poo once flung at me by kicking baby legs—technically, that’s not slung. I’m talking about the endless heaps of crap the world puts on parents, day in and day out:

  • Sexualized monster dolls with anorexic thigh-gap and Kris Jenner eye makeup
  • Vaccination, breastfeeding, and red-shirting debates that outheat the meetings of the Continental Congress
  • Surprise commercials for things like CSI: Cannibal Ear-Rape Unit during family Christmas specials
  • Endless scare campaigns about eating high-fructose corn syrup, GMOs, aerosolized feces, snow, etc.
  • Magazine covers with the lying liars who make babies in Hollywood and the lying liars who help them lie about the baby weight they “melt away” three weeks post-partum through a combo of Pilates, coconut oil, and Acai berries. Liars.
  • Know-it-alls forever saying, “If I were a parent, I would never…” [insert karma’s placeholder here] as if it were as simple as boiling an egg or crate-training a dog
  • YouTube instructional videos for DIY push-up, padded training bras
  • Absurdly expensive athletic programs that require 12 practices a week and a second mortgage, until the third grade, when it all doubles
  • My personal nemesis, the bottomless sea of paper: teachers’ notes, permission slips, school calendars, snack lists, book fair circulars, fundraiser order forms, and really bad artwork that only qualifies as artwork because your child wrote his/her name on it during art class

It’s nothing, really. I’m sure every generation of parents has it’s crap, and I’m not complaining. I do my best to roll with the punches and stay ahead of the whack-a-mole game that is raising kids. But sometimes I just have to laugh at the absurdity of what gets slung at me by our hyper-ridiculous society. Look at the headline of a note I received today from the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine and Public Health:

Exclamation Point!!!!
An Intervention!!! Exclamation Point!!!!

No pressure there, right? Screw the “happiest kid on the block.” We’re going for global domination! Basic rule of thumb I’ve learned as a writer: Be wary of exclamation marks. They often indicate hysteria, fake excitement, ignorance—or, in this case, all three.

Turns out the university thinks my kid is fat. And they want to do something about his dangerous fatness—as well as mine and his dad’s—through a special web-based program to help us exercise and eat healthier meals: “All parents and children will be weighed and measured at the first visit, and again at 6 month and at 12 months.”

Um. Really?

This letter took me off guard. It explained that an enclosed body mass index (BMI) chart—on which my son’s latest BMI was shown—indicated that my son is heading for heart disease, bone problems, and diabetes. Basically, they called my kid fat, and then very subtly indicated that my husband and I must be fat, too.

Thank God SOMEBODY'S looking out for my kid.
Thank God SOMEBODY’S looking out for my kid.

Most of you don’t personally know my son. Let me just say that I regularly worry he isn’t eating enough. He even has a little preschooler six-pack. You know what I’m talking about, right? I’d kill to have his abs.

The BMI is an arcane tool, and you can Google to your heart’s content to find out why. Basically, it’s an oversimplification and doesn’t really measure what doctors purport it measures. My husband used to always tip the BMI index at “obese” when he was in the military. Then they’d do what’s called a “tape test” to measure his various body parts in proportion to one another (no penises, I promise) and conclude otherwise. In other words, the BMI is flawed.

So, I wrote a harsh letter to the university. It had more to do with my critically anorexic cousin—now in her 20s—than with my son. That the medical community would start imposing diets on 4-year-olds with six packs? Please. Let’s sling some more poop at parents. I’m sure there are kids who will benefit from the program, but I could not help but wonder about the 11-year-old girl who might intercept that form letter, who might be perfectly well proportioned, and who might head up to her bedroom sobbing because the numbers show she’s “fat.” And the doctors want to pay her family a $100 research reimbursement to see if they can un-fat her!

Maybe the medical school undertook this ill-researched project to jump through a funding hoop. I’m certainly not signing up. I don’t aspire to having the “healthiest kid on the planet,” but I don’t think I’m terribly far from just that. I aspire to having normal kids who walk the usual tightrope of living, who aren’t scared to death by all the poop being slung at them and their parents over the course of their sweet little childhoods. I want kids who are prepared to take the reins when it’s their turn to be mommies and daddies. I suspect there will be ever-more poop slung at them. But just as I was there to wipe it off their bums from the start, I want to be there to wipe it off their faces someday so they can still see straight.