Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Love in a Time of E. Coli

When you're standing at the altar, repeating, "For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health," you're probably thinking some combination of, "Spanx make me sweaty," "My nipple might be showing," "I want booze," and "I should be paying attention." Or maybe you really are paying attention, because you drank far too much coffee, and with each vow, you stare with unblinking ardor into your beloved's face and imagine buying a home, birthing children, nursing each other through bouts of the flu, loving each other mightily and lustily.

In neither scenario, do you truly appreciate the nature of marriage. Perhaps for a while you'll tuck those dampened, musky Spanx at the back of the closet, keeping them separate from the more dignified family laundry. Similarly, you'll make sure that your nipples are neatly tucked into your blouse. But then you birth those children, and your pungent Spanx suddenly seem like an acceptable, flesh-toned alternative to your spit-up-covered yoga pants. You no longer wear blouses, and hiding your nipples will seem both counterproductive and impossible. For a long time, every day will feel like a bout of the flu -- runny and wet. You will still want booze; so that, at least, you can cling to.

Yet the vulgarity of the day-to-day is what makes marriage (or any other committed relationship) worthwhile. You can peel off your sopping thigh shaper in the private sanctuary of singledom, but there's a physical and emotional freedom that comes with admitting that dignity is a spandex-encased illusion.

All of this Spanx talk is, obviously, a metaphor. A metaphor for an E. coli infection, which, like Spanx, can make you lose your faith in the goodness of humanity. And which, like Spanx, can test the very foundations of your marriage once it reveals itself.

A little over 2 weeks ago, my husband set off on a short business trip to Florida. He travels routinely for work, and Pork Chop and I manage without him through the grace of leftovers and Skype. Shelby flew out at dawn on Monday and was set to return by midnight on Wednesday -- a pretty typical jaunt for my husband, but one, he noted, that would be jam-packed with important meetings. In other words, Shelby didn't want me to text him in the middle of the day, asking, yet again, how to use our fancy TV remote.

Skies were blue, I was in good spirits, and my kid seemed healthy and whatever passes for mentally stable among toddlers. But by late Monday evening, I started to feel a bit off, a cold deep in my bones. I sent Shelby a quick email: "I think I'm getting a fever." There were no other symptoms: no cough, no runny nose, no bellyache. I popped a thermometer in my mouth before bedtime, and sure enough, I was pushing 102. Must be a sinus infection, I reasoned. My head ached mildly. After two Tylenol and a brief video chat with my husband, I hunkered down in bed with a cup of hot mint tea and a good book (or maybe a BuzzFeed "Which Pair of Jorts Are You" Quiz, but whatever). Shelby was sorry to hear that I was feeling badly, but neither of us was concerned.

By morning, the fever had broken and I felt well enough to host a play group for five moms and eight kids. The fact that I even agreed to host the play group in the first place should have put somebody on alert. But no, the gathering went off without a hitch. I mean, yes, there was some punching and kicking and minor blood loss, but nothing out of the ordinary. However, by nightfall, I wasn't feeling right. In fact, I was feeling pretty damn wrong. I tucked Pork Chop in at 8 p.m. I video chatted with Shelby just long enough to say that the fever seemed to be back and bringing a terrible migraine with it. He suggested that I visit Patient First in the morning; he was starting to sound worried. After hanging up, I grabbed an ice pack, took my migraine medication, and climbed miserably into bed. But the meds didn't stand a chance. I upchucked for a solid 5 hours. Eventually, I managed to keep down some anti-nausea medication that also, mercifully, knocked me out cold.

When I woke on Wednesday morning I felt, yet again, much better -- still mildly headachy and a tad queasy, but nothing I couldn't attribute to the onset of that damned sinus infection. I had work to do, so passed on going to the emergency care clinic. Instead, I noshed on bland foods throughout the day and picked up a large bottle of Gatorade to help set me right. Shelby messaged me to say that the meetings had wrapped up early and that he had switched up flights so that he could be home by 9 instead of by midnight. I looked forward to seeing him before I turned in for the evening.

His flight was right on time, and he walked in the door at 9 p.m. sharp. He gave me a bit of grief for not calling a doctor, but mostly we chatted about his trip and about Pork Chop. It was, however, a very abbreviated chat. Within 30 of my husband's arrival, my stomach began to cramp and ache. I daintily sipped my Gatorade. I felt sweat prickle on my nose. I lay down on the kitchen banquette, thinking that a change in position might somehow rearrange the pain. My dashing husband, still in his tailored navy suit and sipping a bourbon on the rocks, was recounting some bit of office gossip when my intestines tried suddenly to exit my body.

I sat bolt upright. "I don't feel good," I said urgently, cutting Shelby off mid-sentence. I ran for the white, tiled salvation of our master bathroom. There was a moment of panicked fumbling. Were my intestines taking a northern or a southern exit? I threw down my pants and sat on the toilet, making certain that the trash can was also within arm's reach. But nothing happened. Nothing but pain, pain in powerful waves that made my joints feel loose and made my head feel heavy, like it was filled with syrup. My head was just so heavy. Very heavy.

"That's it. We're going to the hospital!" I heard Shelby say. Somehow my husband was hovering over me, looking pale and scared.

A moment before, I had been dreaming, something about a deadline and a broken computer. In the dream, windows kept popping open on my laptop, disparate images overlapping one another. I swiped at the screen, frantically trying to sort through the kaleidoscopic confusion. Just as I managed to clear the screen, I opened my eyes. I was lying on the bathroom floor. My head hurt. My teeth hurt. My husband waited for me to say something.

"Get out! Get out! Get out!" I bellowed. Shelby stared at me, wide-eyed, backing out of the bathroom.

I had passed out face first onto our tiled floor. My pants were down. For all I knew, I was lying in a pile of my own waste. I was pretty sure that my insides were actively turning into stew, but I decided that I'd rather die alone than let my husband see me in the throes of gastrointestinal devastation. All the sex, I thought to myself, is over.

This is the single weirdest stock photo I've ever found, but it still
perfectly illustrates the gap between what you think marriage will be like
and the big, beautiful shit show that marriage turns out to actually be.

And this, my friends, is what I mean by the true nature of marriage. Because after I hoisted up my pants, checked to make sure my teeth were intact, inspected the knot on my forehead, and wobbled out of the bathroom, there was my husband, sitting at the edge of our bed, waiting for me. The same man who could make a full-time job of cracking jokes about my klutziness or my inability to understand driving directions, simply looked up at me and said, "I thought you were dead." Not, as I had expected, "Haha! I saw your butt."

He held my hand in the emergency room as I wailed for the nurses to help me. (The pain reached levels of intensity that I'd only ever experienced during labor.) He watched my heart monitor, calling the RN to my bedside every time he noticed an errant blip. My squeamish husband sat by my side while they inserted an IV and asked me 50 questions about diarrhea. Later, he filled my prescriptions and prepared bowls of chicken broth and watched Pork Chop while I drooled on my pillow in a luxurious haze of Percocet.

What we had thought was a bad stomach bug turned out to be an E. coli infection, complete with intestinal bleeding. The likely culprit was a powerhouse sandwich packed with raw bean sprouts, proving, yet again, that vegetables are bad for you. It took a full week before I could eat Tostitos without cramping up. Total nightmare.

Yet, even during the hours spent nestled in the bosom of narcotic painkillers, I still worried about that moment, the one where my husband found me ass-up on the bathroom floor. My guts would recover, but would our marriage? I finally plucked up the courage to ask him what happened. We were sitting in bed together.

"I heard a crash," Shelby explained, "so I went upstairs and knocked on the bathroom door. When you didn't answer, I listened, and I heard snoring."

"What? I was snoring?"

"Yeah, really loudly."

Okay, so it was worse than I thought.

"Well, I opened the door," he said, "and it took a minute for me to understand what was going on. You were on your knees, with your backside in the air, your face smashed into the side of the tub, and one arm sprawled out at a 90-degree angle beside you."

Mmm, very sexy.

He went on, "I moved you onto your side, and you stopped snoring. But then I couldn't tell if you were breathing, and I couldn't rouse you for a long time. It was scary as hell."

He paused, then went on, "I mean, it's kind of funny now. But at the time, I thought for a minute there that you might be dead."

He looked me right in the face when he said that. He squeezed my hand under the sheets. He gave me a weak little smile, but then his eyes lit up in a familiar way.

"Your pants were completely down and your ass was just hanging out. Oh my god. Just sticking straight up. It was ridiculous."

And I know he was right. It was scary as hell. It was ridiculous. And we were a little richer, a little poorer for the whole experience.

Monday, August 25, 2014

It's Never Too Soon to Say "I Love You"

Welcome, new visitors, long-time readers, family, and friends. You are brilliant and amazing! Yes, even you, creepy troll guy who thinks motherhood is a feminist conspiracy

This is my blog. I post here every Wednesday (last Wednesday being the exception because I got e.coli and was bleeding internally like a regular badass). Sometimes I also post on Monday and Friday too, just to keep you on your toes. I write a lot about parenting and family and womanhood and guilt and boobs and poop. That particular combination of topics is what won Faulkner the Nobel Prize in literature. Ergo, reading this blog is like witnessing the birth of a star -- all sound and fury and glorious light. Or maybe just like witnessing a birth -- all sound and fury and bodily fluids. Whatever the case may be (glorious light or bag of waters), you'll never be the same again!

You can read a little more about the blog and about me by clicking the Know Your Blog and the Know Your Blogger links at the top of the page. But if you're feeling particularly nosey, you can also find me on Facebook and on Twitter (@rappadappa). Now take a gander at the right side of your screen; you'll see a little "Follow by Email" doodad. You should probably just sign up so that I don't have to hunt you down.

Sadly, today is Monday, and, as I mentioned, new posts go up on Wednesday. So I'm sharing an oldie but goodie with you, a little something that's indicative of the kind of blog you'll be reading when you should really be doing the laundry or filing reports or stopping your toddler from eating the cat litter. Click here to read "Dear Boobs." It's about boobs. Okay, and also about breastfeeding and about body image and about that one time I decided to dress up as Babe-raham Lincoln for Halloween.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope to see you again. I love you.

This is how excited I am that you've visited my blog.
Also, that's my kid, the Pork Chop. I'm using him as cute-bait to make you stay.
This picture is a year old, so it's kind of false advertising.
But don't go. I love you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Clickbaitin': The 25 Greatest Listicles of All Time (Number 6 Will Blow You Away)

1. The 10 Milestones Every Toddler Should Hit by the Age of 3 (The 5th Milestone Is Shitting in the Community Pool)

2. Five Innovative Ways to Get Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night (The Second Way Isn't Even Medically Advisable!)

3. The Most Important Photos in the History of Photography (Numbers 1 to 20 Are Cute Cats! Number 21 is Extremely Violent! Number 22 Is a Baby!)

4. 100 Fun Snow Day Crafts to Create with Your Kids (You'll Want to Cut Yourself by Number 12)

5. Ten Things You Should Never Say to a Woman Before She Gives Birth (Hint: Rectal Prolapse)

6. The 19 Most Meta Listicles Ever Written (Number 6 Is THIS LIST!)

7. These Acts of Kindness Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity (Your Face Will Melt Clean Off When You See a Goat Befriending a Mouse with No Legs)

8. The 50 Worst Movies of All Time (Not Counting Whatever Your Kid Has Been Playing on Repeat for the Entire God-Damned Summer)

9. Go from Mummy Tummy to Six-Pack Abs with These Easy Tricks (Family Stomach Bugs Are a Bummer, But Puking Really Works the Core!)

10. Twenty Meals Your Toddler Will Love (All of Them Are Macaroni)

11. The Top 900 Most Dangerous Toys for Children Under the Age of 5 (You May Already Own at Least 812 of Them, Mom!)

12. Seven Caffeine-Free Pick-Me-Ups (#3 Is Don't Have Kids)

13. The 7 Breakfast Cereals You Have to Eat Before You Die (Three Words: Cinnamon Toast Crunch)

14. The Best Wines to Pair with Your Lean Cuisine (Ladies, You Will Never Think of Your Salisbury Steak the Same Way Again)

15. The 9 Types of Friends Who Will Ruin Your Life, According to Science (#7 Keeps Offering You Oxycontin, but #8 Sells Pampered Chef!)

16. The Six Least Family-Friendly Pets (Read This List Before You Run Out to Buy a Pregnant Spider!)

17. Ten No-Fail Tips to Help You Land a Husband Now! (Because Diamonds Are Forever, Unlike Your Eggs)

18. Our Favorite Uses for Butter Outside of the Kitchen (You'll Never Put on Skinny Jeans the Same Way Again)

19. Thirteen Uses for a Giant Cardboard Box (Why Recycle It When You Can Pass It Off as a Toy to Your Dumb Kid)

Get ready to be the the most fun mom of all time!


20. Sure-Fire Signs That You're About to Get Canned (Find Out Whether Reading This List at Work Is One of the Signs!)

21. The Best Toddler Scraps to Eat When You're Too Tired to Make Your Own Lunch (That Half-Chewed Chicken Nugget Sure Looks Good)

22. 19 Ways to Surprise Your Wife Tonight (She'll Literally Pee in Her Pants When You Jump from Behind the Shower Curtain!)

23. 9 Times When Elmo Taught Us How to Forgive (Because That Zoe Sure Can Be an Asshole)

24. The Eleven Most Embarrassing Calls You'll Make to Poison Control (If It Says "Jelly," the Kids Will Eat It)

25. 50 Contradictory Parenting Trends You Need to Try RIGHT NOW (Because You're Not Really Parenting Unless You Feel Tired and Confused)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

FBW: The One Word You Can't Yell in a Crowded Park

Flogger Blogger Wednesday has been on ice for a while, my friends. Spending time each week writing stories about why I feel guilty had an odd effect on me: it made me feel worse. And this blog isn't about making me feel worse; it's about taking time away from my family so that I can become marginally Internet famous. However, the little ditty that follows had to be shared. Let's make a triumphant return to self-flagellation, shall we?

My son is a talker. At 18 months old, he can already string together a few sentences -- helpful turns of phrase like "It goes roar!" or "That's a star!" Apparently, "I'm hungry!" or "I'm so tired I'm about speak in tongues!" are just too pedestrian for my kid.

He's also quite the parrot, repeating whatever word catches his fancy. As any mom or dad with a potty mouth knows, the threat of toddler repetition puts a real kink in your swearing style. About a week ago, while stuck in a traffic jam with my kid in the backseat, I caught myself shouting, "I dare you to get one inch closer to my bumper, hineyhole! I M.F.-ing dare you!" Ah yes. Nothing strikes fear into the heart of aggressive motorists like a woman shaking her fist in the rear view mirror while yelling "hineyhole."

Notably, Pork Chop's pronunciation skills leave a lot to be desired. "Shirt" sounds surprisingly adult when uttered by my son. But "clock"? "Clock" sounds downright X-rated. Coincidentally, Pork Chop's daycare provider has a large clock hung just inside the entrance to her home. Three days per week, my son enthusiastically greets kindly Ms. F. with what sounds like a filthy proposition. I'm one proud mama.

Toddler swear words are a rite of passage for almost all parents. Sometimes it's just that your kid can't handle the "tr" sound in "truck." Sometimes it's just that you are a horrible person and swear in front of your sweet, innocent children. Of course it's embarrassing when your 3-year-old tells the cashier to "eat a bag of dicks," but what are ya gonna do? Beating yourself up about it won't make your kid un-say "eat a bag of dicks." And, frankly, some people deserve to eat a bag of dicks. If the situation merits it, you put on your horrified face, mumble an apology, and haul butt out the door before anyone notices that you're trying not to laugh.

If karma is real, then I have precious little time before Pork Chop says something that gets me investigated by Child Protective Services. Neither of my parents was particularly foul-mouthed. They might let slip with an occasional "shit" or "damn" in the heat of the moment, but to this day, I've never heard my dad drop an F-bomb. In fact, the word "fart" was nearly verboten in our home -- deemed too "unladylike."

But as a little kid, I loved learning new words. My grandmother bought me a dictionary, and I would spend time each day poring over the pages, jotting down unfamiliar vocabulary with my favorite magenta crayon. Suffice it to say that, at 6 years old, I was already a pretty big loser. By the time I was 8, I was walking myself the mile or so to the library, where I would sign myself up for various reading programs. Judy Blume's Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing really spoke to my terminally dorky heart.

1984 was a tough year. I had a bowl haircut, I read dictionaries for fun, and I lost my mom to cancer. I wanted so badly to feel normal. After school let out for the day, I'd hang back from the mass of kids swarming the parking lot of St. Dominic's Catholic school. I studied the crowd like I studied the dictionary, eager to learn something new, something that might make me just a little bit cool. And, to me, the 8th graders were a bottomless font of cool. I rolled the skirt of my uniform like they did. I let my socks slouch like they did. I doused myself in Love's Baby Soft cologne like they did. I tried to talk like they did, even though most of what they said was a complete mystery: Why were they always discussing the time of the month? And what made a kiss French, as opposed to American or, say, Mexican?

And that's where we come to the part of the story where I nearly get my dad arrested.

If 1984 was a tough year for me, it had to be downright unbearable for my dad. He was suddenly the single father of three little girls, ages 8, 6, and 2. But even through the grief and the fear and the exhaustion, my dad made time to play -- to toss a softball in the backyard, to hold impromptu Michael Jackson dance parties in our living room, to go to the park. Our favorite destination was Baltimore's Burdick Park, just a block from my grandparent's row home. It was a few bucolic acres of oak trees and wide grassy fields. There was a much beloved twisty sliding board, rows of swings, and enough 80s-era metal playground equipment to simultaneously break the bones of a hundred different kids. Paradise.

So on a warm, sun-drenched Saturday afternoon, my dad packed us into the Chevy Chevette and headed to Burdick Park. There was a line to get on the twisty sliding board and the swings were occupied, but we were unfazed. My dad challenged us to a game of tag. (At 2 years old, I can't imagine my youngest sister, Sarah, joining us in this game, but I don't recall what she was doing exactly. Now that I'm the mom of a toddler, my best guess is that she was calmly eating mulch.) Anyway, my middle sister and I rose to the challenge immediately. We rocketed around the see-saw, through the middle of a basketball game, and toward the small park maintenance building.

I'm about to make this super awkward, Dad.

"I'm gonna get you guys!" my dad shouted, sprinting after us.

"No way!" my sister Kim shouted back. Always the superior athlete, Kim shot between a group of kids and toward a stand of trees.

I was left out in the open, with my dad gaining on me.

My energy was flagging a bit, but I still had a lot of fight left. I reached the corner of the maintenance building, turned toward my dad, and called to mind a term I'd heard the 8th-grade girls casually lob at the boys from time to time.

"Get away from me, you pervert!" I yelled. Then I sprinted around the side of the building.

I remember a mom with a stroller stopping dead in her tracks to stare at me.

"Haha! You'll never catch me, you pervert!" I screamed as I rounded the back of the building.

"Pervert, pervert, pervert!" I chanted as I took off toward the merry-go-round, drunk on speed and my own coolness.

A group of kids near the monkey bars had gone strangely quiet.

My dad finally caught up with me as I reached the merry-go-round. His face was red. His mouth looked stiff. "Geez, he's taking this game pretty seriously," I thought, just as he grabbed me by the arm.

"Let go of me, you pervert," I laughed.

My dad looked like he had just been brutally goosed. With his eyes still wide, he leaned down and hissed, "Jeeeeesus Christ, Jessie. Shut the hell up!"

Suffice it to say that our day at the park ended right then and there. On the ride home, my dad wanted to know where exactly I'd picked up my fun new word, but I guess he was just too tapped out to explain what the word actually meant. I had to sleuth out the definition on my own during recess later that week. It was a gut-churning revelation.

Thirty years later, I still remember how my dad hustled us out of the park that day, his hand held gently at my back, urging me to walk a bit more quickly. I remember hearing him sigh and thinking to myself, "Boy, I really wore Dad out!" I remember feeling briefly and cluelessly cool.

So do I like that my son shouts "cock" at his daycare provider? No. Do I like using "hineyhole" when the situation merits something much stronger? No. But karmically speaking, I have bigger perverts to fry.