Monday, March 31, 2014

It Got Better: Part 1

This will be Part 1 of a two-part post. I'm preempting this upcoming Flogger Blogger Wednesday to bring you the rest of this story. But don't worry. I feel really bad about it.

In the last edition of Flogger Blogger Wednesday (which happened to fall on Thursday), I bemoaned my general lack of alone time. Frankly, I bemoan a lot of things, but I put special effort into bemoaning how motherhood has robbed me of my precious sloth, of time not so much well spent, as time purchased on impulse. It seems a small thing, to quietly spoon a bag of Tostitos while watching TV in one's basement, until parenthood comes along and eats the corn chips and puts new batteries in all of the musical toys.

But my hardest days as the mother of a 14-month-old (the baby-Giardia-with-a-side-of-mama-migraine days) don't even compare to those days as the mother of a newborn. 

I've heard that landing a plane is sometimes referred to as a "controlled crash," in that the plane must plummet from tens of thousands of feet in the air and yet, after a bounce or two, come to a stop on the runway in one shiny piece. New motherhood is a lot like a controlled crash, except you're never sure whether you're going to touch down lightly and taxi to Terminal B or whether you're going to do a flaming cartwheel into Baggage Claim.

You have no flying experience! It's not even clear in this analogy whether mom is the pilot or baby is the pilot, and a baby pilot sounds pretty bad for your chances of survival. Newborns can't even support their own heads, and they need at least another 3 months before they figure out computers. And if the baby is the pilot and you, the mom, are the passenger, why did you buy the damn ticket and where in the hell did you think you were going?

As a new mom, you just don't know how you're going to land until you land. And until you land, there's a lot of screaming and praying and bonding with strangers.

You've logged how many flight hours, exactly?

But this post isn't going to be about the terrifying decent. Several of my friends are about to become or have recently become new moms. Google "newborns" and "does it get easier." About 2.9 million results later, you might have an answer. You will also have an idea of how many desperate moms are out there, asking Google for parenting advice in the middle of the long, screamy night. Those moms don't need another list, describing how tough it's going to be. They don't need someone giving a play-by-play as the plane hurtles toward Earth.

Instead, I want to tell them that it does get better. That it does get easier. It's never easy, but it is easier. 

When Pork Chop was all freshly birthed and I was getting an average of 3 hours of sleep per day and crying into my decaf and asking the Internet how -- seriously, how? -- our species could be convinced to perpetuate itself, many mamas came to my rescue. Some brought food. Some called to talk me off of the ledge. Some rocked my son to sleep while I showered. Some IM'd with me in the grey February afternoons while I was tethered to a breast pump.

And I needed it. All of it. But there was this one thing, a seemingly little thing, that my oldest friend in all the world did for me that got me through to the better part, the easier part. Gina sent me a link.

Tune in on Wednesday to read more about the mysterious link. Maybe this should just say "Fin" or something. But I stink at brevity and I just took codeine cough syrup. So, I'll see you back here on Wednesday for Part 2. I'll be less medicated by then probably. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Flogger Blogger "Wednesday": Party of One

Yeah, it's Thursday, not Wednesday. I've been sick. Let's just flog already, m'kay?

As I type, I am penned up in The Octagon, which is what my husband and I dubbed Pork Chop's gated play area. The Octagon is crammed with books and with blocks and with VTech toys that blink and sing, "It's great to see you. I'm glad to see you too!" It's a funny little song, in that the only time I was ever glad to see a VTech toy was when its battery ran out: "It's great to see you . . . finally die."

Both Pork Chop and I have been battling a nasty cold that's left us feverish, congested, and with a hacking cough. We are two very disgusting, very unhappy campers.

Before I had my son, I confess that I sometimes relished a bad cold: they aren't terminal; they are made significantly less unpleasant with a little Tylenol and hot tea; and they present an opportunity to spend the day in pajamas, napping, catching up on Judge Judy, and garnering sympathy. When you only have to care for yourself, a cold can feel like a Get Out of Work Free card. But when you have kids, having a cold can feel like a Suck It Up Because That Diaper Won't Hold for Much Longer card. Or a Sorry About Your Chills But the Groceries Aren't Going to Shop for Themselves card. Or a Just Put Some Vaseline on Your Nose and Make Lunch Already card.

Early this morning, as I lay shivering atop a heating pad, I had a fever dream in which I was hospitalized. It was an awesome dream: Clean sheets. Trays of food that I didn't prepare. Strict visiting hours. Maybe a sponge bath. And the sweet lullaby of beeping machines pumping me full of medicine. But even as I reveled in my sanitized fantasyland, I could hear my son begin to stir in the next room. It was time to put on the coffee, do a shot of Robitussin, and stuff my pockets with Kleenex.


The truth is (and here's where the guilt gets legit), if pressed to describe my perfect day -- not my perfect sick day, but my perfect day -- I'd be alone. Not just without my son, but without anyone I love or like or am related to or work with or would wish a happy birthday to on Facebook when prompted. To most of my friends and family, I seem like a raving extrovert, but my inability to ever shut up or to ever slow down is hella tiring.

My husband is keenly aware that, come the weekend, I need at least 2 hours on my own to be frivolous -- to get a powder blue pedicure, to try on slutty high heels for a night out at the clubs I don't go to, etc. But 2 hours is, according to my calculations, 22 hours short of a day. And that's all I want -- a day.

But this dream of a perfect, lonely day comes with a latticework of conditions: The house must be clean from top to bottom. No deadlines must loom. All of my family must be out of town, doing something so fun that they never once think to call me and ask if I want to come over for meatballs. My husband must decide that he needs some father-son time with Pork Chop, and thus must speed away with our son in tow to watch the airplanes. Or to sit at a pub and wait for the kid's cheeky grin to make the panties drop. Whatever. As long as I know I'm free of people and obligations.

What? I love my kid! I love my husband! My family! My friends! But, damn, sometimes I want to sleep in. Sometimes I want to, well, here is how it would go:
  • Drink coffee while it's hot
  • Eat Somoas for breakfast, because no one's there to give me the stink eye about it
  • Take a shower so long and so steamy that I look like a boiled hot dog
  • Put on makeup. Not zit cream and lip balm. Makeup. To look pretty. Just because
  • Wear dangly earrings, because no one's going to try to rip them through my lobes
  • Wear a white shirt
  • Wear shoes that aren't slippers or sneakers
  • Go to a coffee shop to drink more coffee, even though I could have made more coffee at home
  • Read a book at the coffee shop. A paperback book. None of that cardboard crap
  • Write for an uninterrupted hour at the coffee shop
  • Go to some kind of market (Union Market? Eastern Market? the supermarket?) and wander around like a bohemian douche, buying bread and artisan cheese and flowers like I'm going on a picnic date with myself
  • Take my loot and go to Wendy's for a Dave's Hot and Juicy and a Frosty
  • Go home and take a nap for 3 hours
  • Wake up and eat bread and cheese for dinner
  • Decide that bread and cheese for dinner is not enough. Crack open some wine
  • Sprawl on the couch, spooning a bag of Tostitos
  • Watch every episode of The Wire that stars Idris Elba
  • Wash my face
  • Go to bed
  • Sleep through the night
  • Miss my family
And I would -- miss my family, that is. The minute my husband leaves for a business trip, I begin to miss him. When I get my nails done on the weekend, I miss my kid while I'm at the salon for Pete's sake. But I also miss myself sometimes. So my perfect day isn't about great adventures or exotic indulgences (unless you count the Somoas). It's about spending time with someone I used to know. Someone I took for granted, but who, it turns out, was pretty good company.

Monday, March 24, 2014

May I Offer You a Lysol Wipe?

The term "Obsessive Compulsive Disorder" has always struck me as a poor choice of words. It seems a tad cruel to refer to folks obsessed with order as "disordered." When I use the Dust Buster to suction crumbs from my kid's pants while he's still wearing those pants, I'm aiming for obsessive compulsive order. When I iron the crib sheet that my son will pee on hours later, I am vainly wishing for obsessive compulsive order.

But, cruel though it may be, order has no place in parenthood. Or, at best, order seems relegated to the outskirts of parenthood, somewhere on the other side of the tracks, near the college years -- a lonely, overgrown, but utterly untouched relic, doilies placed just so on the dusty credenza, the fine china still stacked neatly in the sideboard. In 20 or so years, when I stumble upon order, nearly hidden by kudzu, maybe I'll feel a sweet pang of remembrance, or maybe I'll shudder and turn back toward the cozy shit pile I call home.

The point is that I was writing a totally different post for today. But my kid just got over a case of torrential diarrhea. Sixteen super-swell days of gastrointestinal distress finally came to an end that wasn't Pork Chop's butt. And just when I felt like celebrating, he started to cough. Then his nose ran. Then he spiked a fever. And then he got pink eye. And it's going to snow tomorrow. And I cannot even.

Normally, I like to have the blog up and running no later than lunch on Monday. But today? Well, in the blink of Pork Chop's crusty eye, lunch turned into dinner turned into almost bedtime. I can hear the low, mournful bonging of a grandfather clock down some long hallway of order. 

In the past, friends who didn't know any better would share articles with me about life hacks: (Q) Want to make your home look tidy in 5 minutes a day? (A) Always make your bed and give the sink a scrub when you finish with the dishes.  

And my response was: Who the hell doesn't make her bed every day? And, ew, you can't expect to get your dishes clean if your sink is dirty. "Tidy" sounds like a euphemism for "teeming with bacteria." God gave us bleach for a reason, you sickos.

Then motherhood happened. If I tried to vacuum, the baby would cry. If I tried to dust, the baby would cry. If I tried to do laundry, the baby would cry. If I cracked open a bottle of Windex, the baby would cry. I could, however, hold the baby as I sat on the couch like a beached manatee in a dirty nursing top. I could hold the baby and smell the trash becoming more powerful, threatening to burst from the can and Hulk smash my kitchen. I could hold the baby and gaze at my laptop, longing to bank online. I could hold the baby as I missed another appointment, didn't get to my phone in time, forgot to respond to an email, and left the wet clothes in the washer to mildew. 

Nowadays, when guests come over, I just hand them a Lysol wipe at the door. 

Pork Chop is a bit older. I get more dishes done and, most of the time, my family's underwear is clean. But bowls and boxers and blogs will always take a backseat to my kid. Right now, he's got his trusty stuffed elephant cradled next to his snotty nose as he sleeps. I feel a familiar itch; I want to snatch the elephant from his hands and drown it very hot, very soapy water. But he could care less about elephant's scummy fur. To him, that scummy fur just smells like home.

So I glance longingly up at order from the rusty front gate. The porch swing, long empty, sways lazily in the breeze. But I turn away. I just don't live here any more.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Flogger Blogger Wednesday: On a Pain Scale of 1 to 10, It's Vivisection

Yesterday was my blog's monthaversary! Do you feel bad about forgetting? Good! That's what Flogger Blogger Wednesday is all about.

There is one thing about which I feel profoundly guilty but that I realize does not actually merit any guilt: I get migraines. Often. I've dealt with them for more than 30 years. I hate them. They can be utterly debilitating. But I've never felt guilty for having them . . . until I became a mom.

Yesterday was a killer: a migraine that rose to a boil in less than 15 minutes, nausea, the shakes, dark spots in my vision, and one crazy-ass toddler. About an hour into the migraine, I was on the verge of total panic. My husband is out of town, most of my family live in another state, and my meds can take up to a 2 hours to kick in. I was having Hildegard of Bingen-style technicolor visions of puking into the grimy toilet while my kid gnawed a nearby plunger handle.

To make matters worse, Pork Chop is teething. He's weathered other teeth without much ado, but these top teeth are a fresh kind of hell. He cries while eating. He cries while drinking. If I come at him with a toothbrush, he pulls out a shank. It's bad. And yet, when I'm in the throes of a migraine, I can't help thinking, "Would it kill him to just take a 4- or 5-hour nap? Couldn't he at least stop making sounds? On a pain scale of 1 to 10, how bad can a tooth be? Like maybe a 3? This migraine isn't even on the scale. Unless there's a scale that includes vivisection." Admittedly, trying to outdo my toddler on the pain scale is not really a point of pride.

Terrifying pain scale courtesy of Allie Brosh at Hyperbole and a Half

But the kid and I are in the same boat -- a boat that is not sea-worthy. A boat that isn't even sea-hopeful. We are in pain and we can't stop it and we don't know why. My son doesn't even have the means to bitch articulately. He flails and yells and snot runs onto his upper lip. It's a terrible thing to watch, and not just because it's disgusting. I, at least, can turn to an online support group. My husband is very understanding and an enormous comfort, but the support group doesn't bat an eye when I mention "prodrome symptoms" or "scintillating scotomoas." That kind of talk might convince Shelby I'm finally having a for-realsies stroke. But Pork Chop? He can smash a keyboard alright, but he sucks at typing, so most of the time, he's stuck with me and my flawed attempts at figuring out whether his face hurts or whether he just wants another banana.

Yesterday, though, Pork Chop did me a solid, despite his own pain. For once, and I mean exactly once, I plunked him down in his gated play area (a.k.a. "The Octagon"), and he played contentedly for almost 45 minutes. He did not scream. He did not shake the gate and wail "Mama! Mama!" like he was auditioning for a Lifetime movie. He just played. And I lay on the carpet outside the gate, my head wrapped in an ice pack, letting the meds work their glorious magic.

I threw a blanket over my face to keep out the light, but was able to watch my son from a hole in the crocheted fabric. He babbled at the dog, who sat by my side, aloof to my son's overtures. He pushed buttons on his activity table and danced, er, rhythmically squatted as the music played. He paged through cardboard books. It made me smile, despite the pain, to see him sternly wave no-no to his Lambchop puppet (because Lambchop's a regular bastard). My baby is becoming a real-and-true little boy. And, on more days than I'd care to count, I'm watching the transformation from the wrong side of the fence.

It's not like I want to hurt or to shortchange my son. But that doesn't stop me from running back and forth over my sins like I would a string of worry beads.

Did I wait too long to eat? Did I drink enough water? Did I drink too much coffee? Did I have a glass of wine? Did I get enough sleep? Did I eat too much cheese? Did I eat too much sugar? (Do I ever not eat too much sugar?) Did I exercise enough? Did I exercise too much? Was I too cold? Was I too hot? Did I take my vitamins? Was the moon full? Did my chakras align? Was I karmically imbalanced? Was I a stone-cold asshole in another life?

What does it matter? I woke up again this morning with the telltale ache behind my right eye. My son was stirring in his crib, making muted cries. Normally, he wakes with enthusiasm, babbling with his stuffed elephant, hopping up and down in his footy pajamas, and laughing the moment I flick on the hall light and come into view. But not today. Neither of us is at our best. On a scale of 1 to 10, we're maybe an 8 on the I'm-tired-of-this-shit scale.

But I hoist Pork Chop from the crib and hold his fat, ruddy cheek to my cheek. He rests his head on my shoulder, already spent before the day has even begun. I smooth his hair, I rub his back, and I say, "I'm so sorry that it hurts, buddy. I'm so sorry. So, so sorry."

Monday, March 17, 2014


The term "perfect storm" gets bandied about quite a bit these days: Rising unemployment and a wave of political extremism in Europe? Perfect storm! Crumbling city infrastructure and an active hurricane season? Perfect storm! You're fresh out of a hot shower and your skinny jeans are fresh out of the dryer? Perfect storm!

So perhaps the phrase has lost some of its impact. That said, let me assure you that what I am about to describe is, in fact, a perfect storm -- a confluence of events that, even taken separately, would be catastrophic. I'm talking about the winter that will not die. About a baby with a "loose bowel." And about Girl Scout Cookie season. It's a perfect storm of endless snow days, trapped in the house with a miserable kid, brimming diapers, and six boxes of the Little Brownie Baker's assorted delicacies.

This morning, we awoke to another 8 inches of white stuff. My son is banging his activity board as his stomach makes a queasy gurgle. I'd normally be working from home, but daycare is closed. Again. Another vacation day will be spent digging, scraping, salting, nursing, wiping, and washing. I'm not even finished my organic, high-fiber, whole wheat bagel with low-fat vegetable cream cheese (evidently made in a fit of self-loathing), but I'm already eyeing the pantry, where the cookies are lined up in their cheery, colorful boxes. Delicious cookies. Wonderful cookies. High-sugar, high-fat, no-fiber, 100% happiness cookies, snug in their plastic trays, blanketed in creamy chocolate, inviting me to grab a cup of coffee and cuddle up with them, to lose myself in their sweet, chewy embrace.

It's easy to convince myself that my sugar habit isn't a big deal. That I can quit whenever I want to. It's just, ya know, that I don't want to. And, besides, my weight is healthy, my blood pressure is normal. Sure, I get jittery. But what mom doesn't? So I pop a few Somoas to help me unwind? That doesn't mean I have a problem. Did I eat a handful of Thin Mints in the darkened hall bathroom? I did. But only so I wouldn't have to share. There's over half of a foot of snow outside, people. I deserve a cookie. A few cookies even.

But the Internet is really trying to harsh my mellow. Facebook friends keep posting links to articles about sugar addiction, the hazards of refined sugar, sugar toxicity, and danger, danger, danger!

Diabetes, weight gain, and mood swings -- yeah, I knew about all of that. But last night, as I munched a Tagalong, I turned to my husband and confessed, "So, I think I should maybe cut back on the sweets. I was reading this one article, and it said sugar can cause cognitive . . . um . . . mental . . . uh . . . cognitive . . . DAMN IT . . cognitive things."

"Cognitive things?" he asked, very judging-ly.

"Cognitive delays! Delays. Not 'things.' Delays."

He laughed in my face, judging-ly-er.

"C'mon. I'm serious. My cognition is already, like, bad."

"Okay then," Shelby said, "eat fewer sweets." But he looked away when he said it. Then he chewed a fingernail. He knew better.

I plucked another cookie from the tray. "Well, tomorrow. I'll begin tomorrow."

But it's tomorrow right now. And I need to dig out the car so I can get my husband to the airport so that he can do business in another, much warmer, state until Thursday. Pork Chop is rolling on the floor, making sure to spread the contents of his diaper evenly around his lower torso. It's begun to snow again. My mouth feels dry. I'm antsy. And would you look at that. The pantry door is ajar. I don't even remember opening it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Flogger Blogger Wednesday: Peekaboohoo

It's already week 4 of Flogger Blogger! I'm gonna screw this up any day now.

I shouldn't have to begin by telling you that I love my son, but let me stress that I love my son. And now let me stress that babies are so boring. Like booooh-ring boring.

Of course Pork Chop is a joy and the love of my life and blah de blah blah blah, but he thinks the ceiling fan is a miracle machine. He loses his mind whenever the dog licks herself. His favorite pastimes are throwing and crying.

Experts say that most kids under the age of 3 engage in "parallel play," meaning that they don't play together so much as they play side by side. Parallel play helps to develop language skills in children. It also prepares kids for staring at smart phones in unison during social activities, like concerts, parties, and dinner.

What I'm getting at is that Pork Chop wants me around, but he sucks at entertaining me. Mostly, he wants me to entertain him. How many times can I hide my face under the damn dish towel before he realizes that I haven't disappeared? The rest of my body is still there. How does he account for that? Why isn't he concerned that my most important part is missing? Why, in fact, does he find it funny? He won't think it's funny if my head stays disappeared. Good luck opening the canister of apple puffs, kid. But I can't just sit under a dish towel all day to teach my 1-year-old a lesson, right? (Right?) So, over and over, it's "Peekaboo!" and my head makes its triumphant return and Pork Chop cackles and then it's back under the towel and so on and so forth. I can participate in this ridiculous charade for about 5 minutes before I need a coffee break. Pork Chop, however, never tires of the lie; he's the ultra-marathoner of peekaboo.

And can we talk about VTech? I want to hatchet murder every single person who has ever bought my son a VTech toy. In theory these toys will teach Pork Chop the alphabet, numbers, colors, even a few token words of Spanish. In reality, they play CIA torture music. If I hear "Welcome to My Learning Farm" fewer than 50 times in a morning, then there's a good chance my son is stuck under the leg of the breakfast table again and can't reach his VTech activity board. Pork Chop isn't interested in hitting the keys that play a quick musical note. He isn't interested in tapping the buttons that light up and count to 3. He is, however, interested in taking a wooden spoon and smashing the activity board as it plays "Welcome to My Learning Farm." One day soon, I'm gonna to burn that farm to the ground.

Pork Chop also enjoys being held. Don't get me wrong -- a good snuggle is a good snuggle. But that's not the kind of holding I'm talking about. My son mostly wants me to hoist him up on my hip and cart him from window to window so that he can point at things. At a year old, he has an impressive little vocabulary, but most of the time, the things he points at are simply "dadaga" or "shmegaga." I pretend to respond with wonder and delight: "You got it, buddy, that's a tree," or "Uh huh, I see another tree in the yard" or "You're right, that's also a tree next the tree." But, like peekaboo, the novelty of our "conversation" wears off pretty quickly. And my kid is heavy. And my hips hurt. And boooh-ring.

How many times a day do I hear the siren call of the Internet or the TV? How many times have I thought, "Can we please just take a vacation from this Learning Farm?" And how often will I one day look back and wish I could do it all again? When will my kid be so busy with friends and school that I'll have all the time in the world to read BuzzFeed? To paint my nails? To take a nap? To be boring all by myself? To think, he used to find me funny? To think, he was just here, now where did he go?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Mother Truckers

I went to a party on Saturday night. A real party with snacks and booze and mingling. And I went all by myself. No husband. No kid. Just me, some Spanx, and three tubes of emergency lip gloss.

I haven't been to a party in a while. A long while. Not since BPC. Before Pork Chop.

The occasion was a Listen to Your Mother DC cast meet and greet. Or, in my case: meet, eat cheese, greet, eat candy, greet, eat more candy. For a hard-working mama in a still-unfamiliar town, what could be better than hanging out with new friends, celebrating the upcoming show, and enjoying a rare night out?

Well, before I got to the party, the answer was anything. Anything could be better. The thought of rubbing elbows with a bunch of unfamiliar women sounded like my worst nightmare.

I have a recurring dream that I show up to a party in a hot pink tube dress. Moments later, model-slash-actress Molly Sims shows up wearing the exact same dress. In the quiet of the night, Molly Sims is parading around my psyche like Miss America Barbie while I'm stuck playing Skipper, crying big homely tears onto my ill-conceived party attire. In all seriousness, I have woken from this dream to the sound of my own muffled howling. I've outrun vampires, Satan, even a homicidal Beagle, all as I've slept, but nothing chills my blood like Molly Sims in spandex. So I found it hard to look toward the LTYM party with anything other than dread.

Molly Sims, you asshole.
But sometimes, for your own good, you just have to grab Molly Sims by the horns.

To start, I put on a massive "statement necklace" that made me look like a suburban mom with aspirations of becoming a Masai warrior. I tried on skinny khakis, but didn't think I could pull off the camel toe. I slipped into a jaunty houndstooth blazer and then remembered that I'd be arriving in my Civic, not on a thoroughbred.

In my one clean pair of underpants and ratty nursing bra, I stared into the bathroom mirror, paralyzed. My hair, greying at the temples, was gathered atop my head in a deranged ponytail. I'd dabbed both acne cream and wrinkle cream all over my face. My bellybutton, once a pert little pucker, grimaced back at me.

I didn't know what to wear. There wasn't enough spackle in the universe to fix my face. I smelled like sweat and fear and diaper cream and Burberry Brit eau de toilette. The party hadn't even begun, and I was already circling the drain. And that's when I did it. When I said the bad thing.

"I've really let myself go."

My husband, who was carting Pork Chop off to bedtime, stopped briefly outside the bathroom door. He just shook his head at me, sighed, and walked on.

He was frustrated. Not that my bellybutton makes frowny faces, but that I'd said the bad thing. Again. That I'd not only said it to myself, but that I'd said it in front of him and in front of my son. That for someone who would be a bra-burning feminist were it not for her boobs' Sherman-like march south, I had somehow adopted an Us Weekly attitude toward my own body.

Let myself go.

As I dotted concealer on my under-eye circles, as I brushed out my greying mop, as I morphed from frantic woman in underpants to frantic woman in underpants and full makeup, I wondered what it even meant -- to let myself go.

In the past 21 months, I've grown a human being inside my torso, pushed over 8 pounds of person through a hole in my business end, produced food from my own body, learned to sleep in 45-minute increments, and made peace with a home that always smells slightly of pee-pee. So, yeah, I let a few things go, like my abdominal muscles and any hope of rest, but myself? No.

It's more apt to say that I transformed, and I'm talking "transformed" in the Michael Bay sense of the word. But wait. You think I'm going to tell you that moms are like Optimus Prime, don't you? You think I'm going to tell you that women are hulking metal goddesses from planet Cybertron? Sorry. No.

Thinking that we're Optimus Prime is the problem. Or a metaphor for the problem. A Transformers metaphor. I spent a lot of time with my nephews this weekend. But anyway. My point is that we think of ourselves as these sleek and towering aliens, when, in fact, we are really, at heart, tractor trailers. We are made to carry a heavy load. Every once in a while, say for a party, we bust out the big guns and the big hair and act the part of the Autobots' fearless leader. But the rest of the time, we're just trying to get from point A to point B with our cargo intact. And it is precious cargo. And our journey is long. At least 18 years long. There isn't always time to pull over and enjoy the roadside attraction of six-pack abs. Sometimes we have to just let that stuff go.

In the end, I put on some black pants, a pair of striped flats, a chambray shirt, and red lipstick. I looked clean, maybe a bit too nautical, but mostly like myself -- Optimus Sub-Prime perhaps. And I enjoyed the party. The women I met were funny and friendly and didn't once comment on how many times my nerves compelled me to dip into the candy dish. Surprisingly, no one wore a tube dress.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Flogger Blogger Wednesday: Future Darwin Award Winner

It's week 3 of Flogger Blogger Wednesday. You know the drill by now, person/people, so let's get our guilt on.

The Darwin Awards are doled out annually to those poor saps who have died thanks to an act of staggering stupidity. Say you drink gasoline accidentally (sure, it could happen) and afterward, to soothe your palate, you light a cigarette. Well, congrats on your Darwin Award!

Honestly, I have a hard time being entertained by these kinds of stories, because every idiot is somebody's idiot son or idiot daughter. I only bring up the dubious honor because there's a good chance the honor will one day be bestowed upon me.

For a woman who is paid to navigate the minute and complex world of grammar, I would probably burn to death before I even noticed that my own ass was on fire. To be more specific, when I hear a suspicious noise coming from my car, my first reaction is to turn the radio up -- not because I don't want to deal with impending mechanical failure, but because it never occurs to me that the noise is anything other than an intrusion on my sweet jams. The engine may be actively falling out of the car, but Justin Timberlake and I are too busy bringing sexy back to notice.

If I were a lone dummy, then my future Darwin Award winner status might not trouble me so deeply. We've all gotta go someday, and why not go while butchering the lyrics to "Wrecking Ball" as the wheels fall off my Civic? But I'm not a lone dummy. I'm a dummy plus one. A mom. And my kid is counting on me to tap into those long-dormant survival instincts, which is why what follows is so bad. So, so bad. "Flogger Blogger" might not be able to handle this. But "Self-Immolation Blogger" doesn't really roll off the tongue.

So, a few weeks ago, my friend LeNaya and I grabbed lunch at a local cafe. LeNaya had her two daughters in tow, and I brought along Pork Chop. We settled in, flanked by high chairs, and tried to chat while swatting baby hands away from cutlery and drinks. It was like our heads were having friend time while our torsos were actively wrestling wild animals.

But LeNaya exudes a kind of Zen grace. If she's sweating something, you'd never know it. By comparison, I wear my ineptitude on my sleeve. So when LeNaya, pointing to my son, calmly asked, "What's he doing?" I glanced over at my son, whose mouth was agape, whose eyes were clenched, and responded, "Oh, big yawn. Must be naptime!"

LeNaya leaned forward in her chair, looked hard at my son, then at me, and said, "I don't think he's yawning. I think he's choking." And, still, I hesitated for a moment. My hand was hovering near the volume knob.

Had she really said "choking"? She looks so calm. She's not even yelling. Maybe she said "joking"? Like, maybe she thinks Sam is fake choking? I wouldn't put that past him. 

Finally, I did snap to, grabbing my kid's face and jamming a finger in his mouth just as he gagged up bread. Pork Chop was thankfully none the worse for the experience, and went on only moments later to stick a pickle spear up his nose. I, on the other hand, burst into a fit of what can only be called the shame giggles and started sucking down my ice tea like it had magically turned to booze.

You'd think the choking episode would have cleared some of my cobwebs. You'd think. But you sure as hell don't win a Darwin Award by thinking. Which brings us to last week.

On Friday night, I put Pork Chop to bed while Shelby picked up Chinese take-out. I was looking forward to complaining that there was nothing to watch on TV while scarfing down Chicken of Two Flavors. I was setting out plates and pouring drinks, happily anticipating a night of sloth, when my husband walked in the door. He quickly dropped the bag of food and sniffed the air.

"Do you smell something burning?" he asked.

"Yeah, ya know, now that you mention it, I noticed a burning smell a little while ago."

Shelby blinked, then looked toward the stairwell to our basement. "A little while ago?"

We ran down the stairs to find our basement filled with smoke. Yet we could find no fire. Shelby grabbed a flashlight and started poking behind the dryer, behind the hot water heater, into the duct work. Nothing.

I will have you know that the next thing I did was check on Pork Chop, who was, in fact, still in his crib upstairs, breathing easy. Next I told Shelby to call 911. Then I told him to not call 911 . . . until I put on a bra. Because, well, priorities.

As it turns out, an adjacent townhome blew a fuse, which created a lot of smoke but no fire. We aired out the basement, reheated our chicken, and plopped down on the couch, where Shelby turned to me. "A little while ago? You smelled something burning a little while ago? Why didn't you do anything?" he asked. I giggled. I didn't have a good answer for him. I still don't.

Maybe I just couldn't smell the smoke over the sound of the radio.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Puff the Magic Elephant

Pork Chop is teething. We've weathered several bottom teeth without much crying or gnashing of gums. Sure, he was a little bit fussy. Sure, he drooled. Nothing a frozen teething ring and a beach towel couldn't manage. But this time? The top teeth? Shit just got real. And I mean, very specifically, that his shit is real and as unrelenting as the tide. I'd heard tell of such teething symptoms, but I was emotionally unprepared for what lurked in my son's bowels and eventually in his diaper and invariably in his only clean pair of pants.

Frankly, we never should have gone out for breakfast on Saturday. But Pork Chop slept until 7:15 -- a record worth celebrating with a carbohydrate smorgasbord at a restaurant renowned for international cuisine.

IHOP was packed, but we snagged a booth with room for a high chair. Life was good. Pork Chop even struck up a cross-diner friendship with a toddler in a nearby booth. Both boys pointed at one another, smiling, goading each other to fling more food, to reach for the sticky syrup dispensers one more time. But our little suburban fairytale was to be short-lived.

We heard a gurgle. A low, wet rumble. My husband, Shelby, looked at me. Was something percolating in the kitchen? Then again the sound, like fast moving water bubbling over rocks. No, sadly, it was not a fresh pot of coffee brewing. It was our son, violating the Geneva Convention, the Clean Air Act of 1970, and the Golden Rule, all at a very crowded House of Pancakes.

We went home as quickly as possible, before a war crimes tribunal could convene. And for the rest of the day, my poor boy was a miserable, incontinent mess. Neither boob nor Pedialyte could comfort him. Not even a taste of the iPhone's forbidden fruit could quell his tears for long. This was a job for the elephant.

The elephant is a small, plushy toy with amazing psychological fortitude. Pork Chop loves nothing more than to violate his docile friend -- gnawing on elephant's trunk, wiping his nose with elephant's butt, sucking his thumb while nuzzling elephant's spit-soaked ears. It's been this way for half of my son's life, which is to say about 6 months, and there are no signs that Pork Chop is about to kick the elephant habit any time soon. One day, when the elephant is threadbare and bursting at the seams, I won't be surprised to find that, instead of fluffy stuffing, the elephant is actually made of Xanax. The elephant's powers are profound.

If my kid takes a tumble, elephant consoles.

If Pork Chop is subjected to a new diaper, to the car seat, or to his high chair, elephant commiserates.

And every night, every single night, elephant comforts my son to sleep.

Woe unto us if that elephant ever goes missing. We tried buying a decoy, a second nearly identical elephant. We figured, Pork Chop is a year old, and 1-year-olds aren't exactly rocket scientists. Of course I think my son is a boss toddler, but if it weren't for our exhaustive baby-proofing efforts, the kid would be tongue kissing every electrical outlet within smooching height. So we were both surprised and alarmed to find that our child's taste in elephants is rather discerning, inasmuch as he can discern which plush elephant is a fake-ass sucka. He will have nothing to do with our decoy, our sad excuse for a wannabe elephant.

As I type, my husband is upstairs giving Pork Chop a bath. I can hear Shelby trying to convince him to stay still so that the kid's rear end can be properly sanitized. But the kid is having none of it. He's throwing bath toys and trying to scale the faucet. Shelby sounds fake-cheerful, like he's trying to maintain bath time fun, but like he's also wishing he could take a bath of his own, in gin.

The elephant sits on the seat next me. I need to take him upstairs before Pork Chop goes down for the night. It's been a rough few days for all of us. I glance at the elephant again. He does look awfully soft. I pick him up. I probably shouldn't hold him to my face, but I do. This feels illicit. And germy. But I bury my nose in his nubby fur, and then I take a good, long pull.