Monday, June 13, 2011

Silly Ack Ceptance

On June 3rd our youngest daughter was diagnosed with Celiac Disease.  Upon hearing the news, Mabel asked, “Does this mean that all of my dogs have to be naked?”  Naked is the term we give to any sandwich, burger, or dog that goes bun less.  With one little question, we started down a new path. Here is what I know so far…..
Adrenaline is a great thing.
Maternal guilt is stronger than logic.
Maternal instincts are stronger than everything.
I have hate mail to send to some specialists and some judgmental women.
Practically everything in any grocery store is poison for my child.
The internet is both a blessing and a curse.
Facebook is a blessing.
So much of our special memories and traditions revolve around food.
First communion, college drinking and wedding cakes have all crept into my brain in the last week.
Gluten Free is easy…..corn, soy, tomato, apple, orange, and nut plus gluten free is hard.
Gluten free costs an arm and a leg.
Mabel is no longer an enigma (or an anemone as she puts it).
There are specialists out there that do look at your entire child; you just have to find them.
Anyone can be a nutritionist, and dieticians are scared of us.
Very few people know what Celiac Disease is….we’re not going gluten free to be hip.
Meg and Gus are extremely protective of their baby sister.
I married extremely well to say the least.
Mabel contains the wit and tenacity to take this on and be okay.
Timing is everything.
Of course there are worse afflictions but if you think this isn’t scary, you are a dumb ass.
There are $7.00 crackers that should only serve as packing material.
Any minute now I will drive a VW bus, stop shaving my armpits, and hug a tree.
My grocery store, which was like a second home, is now an alien planet.
I’m one of “those” moms asking weird questions like….”Do you have a separate slicer for the Boars Head products?”  “Does your fluoride and toothpaste contain glutens?”  “If you are allergic to soy, can you have soy lecithin?”  “What aisle is Xanthan Gum in?” 
Mabel could be a totally different kid within 6 months.
Chances are very good that Mabel is not the only “Silly Ack” in the house.
One day we will look back on this past week and realize that we’ve come very far.
My children were eating a great diet before this so now it will be stellar.
I thought I was addicted to chocolate but if you tell me to give it up because Mabel can’t have it, it’s easy.
Crying in your closet from time to time actually makes you stronger, rather than weaker.
Despite the fact that I’m 39, I still find poop charts in a GI’s office, very entertaining.
“Gizzards” is far more fun to say than intestines.
I have amazing women surrounding me who have listened, advised, encouraged, and helped.
The strong desire to make your children happy and healthy is relentless, and despite the fact that we are somewhat powerless, having that knowledge doesn’t make it any easier. 
My sister Ann put together family cook books for all of us a few years ago. She took the time to photo copy original recipe cards so that we could each appreciate the handwriting, smudges, spills and scribbled notes on the sides from our Mom and grandmothers.  When Mabel is an old lady, she will pass down her own recipes.  They will have a pinch of Xanthan Gum and lots of rice flour.  They will be full of organic foods.  And her recipe cards will have smudges of beet juice.  Hopefully processed foods will be unpopular and everyone will make a shift back to real food.  Hopefully our motto will become everyone’s motto…”If it doesn’t grow or have a Mama, we don’t eat it.” 
We found out that Mabel has Celiac Disease on a Friday and on Sunday evening while doing a word find, Mabel said, “I’ve found a lot of FU’s but no N’s.”  She was looking for the word “fun”.  Pete and I paused and then laughed hysterically.  Pete thought it was a great way to sum up our weekend.  But then we both agreed that it was just the opposite.  We did get one FU but we had a lot of N’s.   No matter what it is, we will find a way to laugh about it……poop charts, GI visits, blood draws, allergists, and trying funny foods.  Mabel renamed her disease to “Silly Ack!” and it’s very fitting.  It’s totally silly and if you are going to have a disease, this isn’t a bad one to go with…..sure there are scary things but no pills to pop or treatments to endure….you just eat healthy and you will start to feel better.  Will all of Mabels hotdogs be naked?  Nope….we found a $6.00 bag of hotdog buns to put the $9.00 hotdogs in alongside the $4.20 rice macaroni and cheese! 

Monday, June 6, 2011

When You Look Good, You Don't Run Into to Anyone!

I wrote this on January 9th, 2008 when we lived in St. Louis and my kids were 8, 4 and 2. I drove to and from our school three times each day for drop offs and pick ups for Meg who was in third grade and Gus who was in half day preschool.  Showers were hard to come by with our schedule and the constant presence of a two year old. 
I began the morning with a stubborn 4 year old that would not cooperate in getting ready for school. This was a first for us so I was ticked pretty early. Pete stayed home with Gus and tried to hog tie him into a uniform while I did the carpool. For all of you stay at home Moms out there I’m sure you can relate to the following information. So I haven’t showered and I’m wearing the clothes I had on the previous day but I thought, “no one will see me because I’m just doing drop off”. Those words would haunt me all day long!

 I got three kids buckled in the van and made it to school 15 minutes early and I successfully got three little people unbuckled and out of my van while cars started to line up behind me. Only problem was, my car would not move! I was at a loss! My car literally would not come out of park no matter what I did. Luckily my friend Liz was right behind me so I threw on my hazards and she came over laughing. I told her what was happening and she got in my van and tried it for herself  but to no avail. She quickly said, “You are so screwed but I’m leaving you because people are going to start honking.” And off she went! There was a lot of staring and three different Dads’ came to assist me but they too could not fix it! They tried rocking my van, turning it off and back on, and it just wouldn’t budge. I dared to glance behind me and I saw that the line of cars now extended all the way through HR’s parking lot, down Mason Avenue and then out onto Lockwood Blvd!!! There I stood in my haggard state getting a lot of dirty looks while children were running from cars in fear of not making the bell.  I don't know how, but eventually I got it into drive. The three Dads ran to their vehicles screaming, “GO, GO, GO, and don’t stop anywhere until your home!” Perfect, I'll get home and shower!

 I had every intention of showering but my good friend called to update me on her 7 year old son who has been diagnosed with Diabetes and things were really scary so I wasn’t going to ditch her for a shower. I cried with my friend, ate some Mega MM’s and then had to pick up Gus from preschool. I was still wearing the clothes from yesterday but now I also had flour all over my blue sweatpants due to a Mabel incident that involved creativity with flour and a whoopee cushion (you really don’t want to know), and I was scared to death that my van would malfunction again but what can you do? That pick up went well even though I had to talk to the wealthy woman who was leaving for Europe today for a nice trip. In my floury sweatpants, no makeup, and hair in a ponytail state, I asked where she was going and she said London and then she asked if I was going to be traveling soon and I told her that my next trip will be to the grocery store and that’s only if I can make it out of the parking lot.

Our afternoon was full of adventures including a garbage disposal jammed with dry elbow pasta, trauma over food coloring stains on hands, and my favorite, the apparent sabotage of a tiny rock collection that Gus compiled. Guess who sabotaged? The sabotage might explain what else was in the garbage disposal jam!! I also had two phone calls from my spouse informing me of two different business trips to happen in the next two weeks, which always brightens my day. A napless two year old meant that, yep, you guessed it, no shower for me.

But then, at 2:30 the phone rang and I saw on caller ID that it was Meg's school. Anytime that name shows up on caller ID I have a little panic attack so I rushed to answer. It was the principal calling to inform me that our school was awarded the Pendergast-Weyer Foundation grant. We have a very serious, prim and proper principal and upon hearing her words my response was, “SHUT UP!!!!”  Really not the response a mature school parent should come up with but that was better than other things that could have come out of my mouth. Through September and October I wrote a grant proposal to get new computers for our school and we got it. It’s amazing. I was doing the happy dance in my living room while Gus just watched with that facial expression that says,“God, my Mom is so weird” so I made him dance with me. The whoopee cushion was brought out for the celebration.

And then it was time for the 3:15 pick up so Mabel and Gus climbed in the van with their chocolate chip cookies and my basketball whistle because really every 2 year old needs a whistle, don’t you think? I was still unshowered but oh so happy that I really didn’t care! At school  I was hugging and high fiving and enjoyed a celebratory huddle with the grant committee and then children piled in the van-(all 6 of us because somehow I gained a mystery child that ended up being a neighbor’s play date)……and my van wouldn’t go into drive, but I didn’t care!! Mabel was whistling and Gus was begging to go to the library and Meg was telling me that she forgot her spelling words, and the two other girls were trying to trade earrings and I just didn’t care! After a few minutes we were in business. We came home and danced in the front yard and then Mabel headed to the backyard. Quickly the mood changed.

She reappeared in tears holding her brand new bear who was an obvious victim of the storms on Monday night. The bear really did look like a child’s toy that had been pulled from tornado wreckage. And then Meg was in tears because she truly believes that all stuffed animals are real and Gus was giggling and telling me how it looked like it was covered in poop. We rushed the victim to the kitchen sink where Mabel sat on the counter and Gus and Meg pulled up a chair to watch the animal rescue episode going on in my kitchen. Meg was ready to be a blood donor, Mabel was weeping and Gus was yelling, “Use the sprayer, use the sprayer.” Finally, I was appropriately dressed for a part of my day! I got enough mud off to read the tag and joyfully announced that our victim could go in the washer and dryer and that he would make a full recovery. Mabel cried harder and said, “Please don’t put him in the dishwasher.” I explained the difference between a dishwasher and clothes washer as well as the process and said that we could all go down in the basement and do a ceremonious washer cycle but Mabel wouldn’t hear of it. So I have an extremely soggy bear sitting on a paper plate but you know as soon as that child is in bed, that sucker is headed to the Maytag rehab. So it’s 7:40pm now and I’m still unshowered but I don’t care. If I were showered and wearing clean clothes, chances are that the car wouldn’t have broken down and I wouldn’t have had to chat with the wealthy European traveler, and we wouldn’t have received the grant. The moral of this story is…..amazing things can happen when you least expect them, especially if you don’t shower. Oh, and every household needs a whoopee cushion.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Baby Chucking

This is an Anniversary Edition….June of 2008, Pete was already in Atlanta and I was in St. Louis trying to sell our house and stay sane.  Meg had just turned 9, Gus was 4 and Mabel had just turned 3.  I was 36 and managed to dip to an all time new low on the Maternal Malfunction Meter.  Enjoy!

The last five weeks have been a whirlwind of stress, despair, worry, frustration, hard work, and separation.  It’s really the six key components to a fabulous summer. On week one I found out that a whopper grant I wrote for our school was successful and that was bittersweet knowing my kids would not reap the benefits.  On week two my parents abandoned me to live in DC for two months and the lovely Mrs. Green who lived in our house for 40 years, passed away and I made an ass out of myself at her funeral.  On week three I found out that Gus has been partially deaf in his right ear for a year due to a perforated eardrum (no maternal guilt there at all). On week four I herniated a disk in my back and an ear surgery for Gus did not happen because the surgery center lost power two minutes before he was going into the OR.   I don’t have a great story to share as to how I injured myself.  I wasn’t playing sports, or saving a child.  Instead I will share that I bent over to shave my leg and that was it.  Popping, shifting, and pain to the extent that my arms and lips went numb.  If Pete had not been here, my children would have witnessed Webster Groves’ finest pulling me out of a shower.  Not a great image to have etched into young minds. Thank God for small favors. 

Part of the motherhood package includes a healthy portion of guilt but it also includes a fast track to insanity.  It’s a vicious circle of pushing you to your limits where you may act your ugliest and then the guaranteed follow-up of extreme guilt.  They go hand in hand and there is no way to avoid it.  Such was the case last Wednesday.

I had just finished my round of steroids and I was upright for the first time in a while.  My husband was in Atlanta but we were close to a deal on our house and I had my sister Lucy in town to help me because walking was difficult, and bending, twisting, or lifting was impossible.  Steroids can make you really crabby according to my neighbor who is a physical therapist…..this explains all of it!  I’m totally blaming all of my actions and words on the steroids from here on out.  Please remember this as you read on.

 We had to clean the house and evacuate so that the new buyers could do their home inspection.  So we packed up and headed for my parents house. After a few hours the kids were ready to kill each other and I needed to be back in the fetal position so we loaded up to head for home.  Mabel was being extremely stubborn and refused to do anything I said, simply because she knew I couldn’t do anything about it.  Eventually we got her to the van but once there she fought me again and refused to let me buckle her car seat.  I had been threatening all day and I was really close to blowing a gasket.  After being kicked I knew I was going to follow through on a threat.  I yelled, “Mabel, stop it or I will chuck your baby.”  Mabel still refused so I said, “Gus, give me the baby.”  Gus obeyed because the boy is not stupid and he knew I was on the edge.  I instantly chucked the baby over my head into the middle of my parent’s front yard.  Mabel started screaming but relaxed her torso so I was able to buckle.  I got in the car and drove.  Mabel was screaming for her baby.  Gus, the voice of reason, then said, “See Mabel, the point is that you can earn the baby back.  You just need to be good and maybe then Mom would take you to visit the baby in the grass.”  I’ve never heard Gus say, “See the point is…”  That was when I snapped out of my insanity and realized just what I had done.  My sister had been silent in the passenger seat but lost it when she heard Gus’ thoughts.  She then looked at me and said, “You know what you did could be considered a hate crime because you threw the African American baby.”  Then I too lost it.  Mabel fell in love with a black baby at the dollar store and she hasn’t let it go.  Why did that have to be the one baby that I chucked!  How many neighbors witnessed the hate crime?

After we got home, Lucy and I sat down on the couch while the kids went to play and twenty minutes later, Lucy received a call that her good friend JT had died.  JT was only 33 and a good friend of Lucy’s since college.  He was diagnosed with cancer in late April and Lucy and her friends rose over $90,000 for him a few weeks ago so that he could go to Oklahoma for special treatment and all reports were very positive so this was unexpected.  Lucy and I cried and cried until children came around.  Lucy decided she needed to go have a good cry away from my kids so she left. 

So I was alone with the kids and had to stop crying and suck it up and somehow make dinner in my invalid state.  I managed to get a pizza in the oven which was a fete!  I was thinking I was doing really well until Mabel summoned me to the bathroom for, how should I say this…..oh hell….she needed to be wiped.  I couldn’t bend to wipe and Lucy was gone and there was Mabel in her wiping position which means she bends at the waist and puts her hands on the floor.  Blood was rushing to her head and she was begging for someone to wipe her.  Meg was outside so I had to ask Gus to wipe his sisters behind.  I was there to instruct on technique and the moment little Gussie started, Mabel started crying and saying it hurt.  Evidently she had some resipooy (this is a Krussel term…..a combination of residue and pooy……formal definition would be a residue of fecal matter that remains on human epidermis in the buttocks region causing chafing and irritation and of course, discomfort).  So I’ve got a kid screaming with her drawers at her ankles and the pizza buzzer was going off and then my agent pulled in the driveway.  I had no choice but to abandon Mabel and save the pizza from burning.  While keeping my back straight I did the deepest knee bend ever to get the pizza out of the oven.  Mabel stopped crying when my agent walked in and Meg and Gus were mad because I had to sit down for a second before I could slice the pizza. 

So in walks my agent, Pat and she instantly said, “Where’s Woocie?”  Woocie is the name Pat’s children called Lucy when they were tiny and Lucy was their babysitter and they couldn’t pronounce their L’s.  I instantly started crying!!!!  I had to tell her that Lucy’s friend died and that I was so sad and then Pat was crying.  Meg and Gus just continued to eat and Mabel climbed onto my lap and quickly fell asleep at 5:30 pm while my friend and I cried.  Honest to God I had not shed a tear for 5 weeks straight until that day!  It was like a damn broke and I was a lunatic!  I didn’t want to do all of it anymore.  I didn’t want to leave my family, Marshall Place, Webster Groves.  Pat left and I was stuck on the couch with Mabel on top of me. There was no way that I could lift her or carry her up to bed.  It was actually very nice.  I watched Mabel sleep and you know they always look so innocent when they are asleep so the guilt of the baby chucking incident was looming large at that time.  Lucy came back by 7:00 with a giant coffee and seemed to be in a better place.  Of course we cried again and I told her to just go back to her friends in her town.  She put everyone to bed for me and set out breakfast bowls for the next morning and then she was gone.  I managed to survive Thursday and Friday without Pete or Lucy, with a renewed sense of what really is important, but I will tell you that my house has never been that trashed and you know things are bad when you dread the pain of pouring milk for your kid’s breakfast. 

Pete came home Friday night.  Mabel ran and jumped into his arms.  She instantly put her hands on Pete’s cheeks and looked him in the eyes and said, “Mommy loseded her mind and threw my baby in the grass.”(We all now use that tense of lost).  Pete just looked at me.  All I said was, “The kid is not lying.”  We have a long way to go until we will be settled in Atlanta and I can guarantee you that I will have further, less than stellar mothering moments.  In the interim we are coping by playing inappropriate games and singing inappropriate songs.  Strip Candy Land is a new family favorite (I don’t participate) and my kids have been walking around singing “Somebody farted. Somebody farted in here” to the tune of “Let’s get it started.  Let’s get is started in here.”  (Thank you Tim Basler)  The sad part is that I find it very humorous.  Single handedly I am ruining what would otherwise be three amazingly intelligent and normal children.  So the question still looms, should I just call family services on myself?  Most would say yes but I would argue that children need to see their Mom’s lose it from time to time if for no other reason than to appreciate when their Mom’s are sane. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Big Girls and Bratwurst Always Look Better Brown

After a morning spent with our ENT determining that Mabel will indeed lose her tonsils and adenoids this summer, I felt the mood of the van was rather dim so I threw it out there.  Yes, it was my voice I heard say, “We should go swimming.”  Cheers and applause followed and then a pause and Mabel said, “Wait!  Mom, are you going to get in?”  I didn’t answer because frankly I didn’t know if I could do it.

Next thing you know I was standing in my closet staring at my collection of what I refer to as my “Olle’s” or Old Lady Lands End Swimming suits.  You know the ones I’m talking about….skirts!!!  These are the questions that went through my head….”Which is the best of the worst?”, “Which one goes with super white nun legs?”, and finally, “How long until my kids bust in here?”

In another instant I was standing in front of my bathroom mirror….it’s a mirror above a large jetted tub so all you see is from your knees up to your boobs….I will share with you now that that is my least favorite section of my body but I do appreciate the convenience of my head not being seen so that I can perpetuate my psychological disconnect and denial that it is indeed my body that I see in the mirror.  I couldn’t believe it had been a year and it was swim season again.  It was time for a pep talk.  Oh the odd things that went through my head….”Do it for Johnny, man.  Do it for Johnny.”  It didn’t work because I don’t have a kid named Johnny.  “Keep your head down.  Keep your head down.  Keep your God damn head down.”  Wait, that’s instruction for golfing.  “It’s not over until the fat lady sings” and with that I belted a little bit of “Pour Some Sugar on Me” (inspirational song from high school basketball), realized how gross that was and then I could no longer ignore the voices from outside my door….”Mom, come on!  Mom, we already did sunscreen. Mom, we made sure we got you the biggest towel.” 

I didn’t want to do it!  One last glance in the mirror and all at once I found the inspirational words that I needed….no, it wasn’t Babe Ruth, Coach Bryant, Stuart Smiley, or even John F. Kennedy….instead it was two real estate agents.  Pat Coursault, a friend and real estate agent, told me in May of 2001 that “it’s all so good right now even though you don’t think it is.  Please, wear what you want and tuck in your shirt because you have to realize how good it is!”  In another flash I heard the words of Terri Domm, a New Yorker stuck in the south selling real estate from her lavender Cadillac who said to me……”I have spent 5 days showing you houses and every time we drive past a pool or tennis court you have a cow.  You may not love your body but I would have given anything to have a body that would allow me to bring three gorgeous children into the world so suck it up sister!”  They were so right.

So we made the short walk down to the pool and as we entered the gate, Pat Coursault and Terri Domm went right out the window and there I was faced with the ultimate smack in the face…..skinny minis everywhere I turned, who all had the gall to come to the pool on the very first day that I had to be brave.  To make matters worse, they are all nice skinny minis, two of whom have given birth in the last 7 months but still look better than me, and the added bonus of some college girls…… Why?  Why did the pool have to be packed today?  It took me all of 15 minutes before I wanted to strip off my cover up and get in because it was so stinking hot.  I took a deep breath, put on my shades so that my white legs wouldn’t scar my pupils for life, and then made the long walk to the edge of the pool (it’s all of three feet but it felt like a mile).  Three hours of fun ensued complete with great conversation with great ladies.

So there it is….yes, I am a 39 year old woman who has major self-image issues.  I’m very aware of how wrong it is especially given the fact that I’m raising two girls, but in the end all that matters is that each summer I put on my “olle” and go the pool.  I don’t love my giant legs or my hips, or my butt, or my gut or my lack of a rack…but I am thankful that this body, this vehicle has successfully let me lead the life I want to live and bring children into this world.  Tomorrow will be a little easier because I will remind myself of my own little motto….”Big girls and bratwurst always look better brown” and my first trip gained me a little color.