Thursday, December 18, 2008

Devil on Pause

Sometimes, the devil is kind.

However, the devil hates for people to know this.

In an effort to stem the rising tide of toys and other baby paraphernalia that threatens to overrun our living room, we have installed a huge, roughly rectangular wicker basket in the corner in which to catch all the toy flotsam and stuffed animal jetsam. When I say "huge", I don't mean big enough to park the car in, but certainly I could put all 3 children in it, if I stacked carefully and made Number One Son scrunch down a little. And believe me, it's tempting.

So, as you might imagine (were you prone to imagining things about wicker baskets, which I frankly hope you are not), this basket is quite heavy when full. It has built-in handles on the short sides, and is more cumbersome to lug about than, say, a laundry basket loaded with soiled sleepers and fouled footies, and about twice the height.

The devil, just as a point of reference, is about two and a half feet tall. This thing is up to her chin.

So the other day, as I am sitting at my computer playing Mob Wars on Facebook and pretending to work on a website, Number Two begins a half-hearted whimpering as he sits in the walker. I say something high-pitched and hopefully soothing at him, to no effect. I am just debating whether to get him out and try to put him in for a nap when I observe the devil meander casually over to the basket, all nonchalant, and peer into it with an expression of deepest puzzlement, as if trying to decide which wine goes best with Cheerios and Pasta Pick-Ups. After a good while, she appears to have arrived at a conclusion of some sort, and thrusts her arm with great vehemence straight into the pile, until she is being poked in the armpit by the rim of the basket and so can reach no further. Her brow furrows.

The devil will not be thwarted by mere woven rattan.

She swirls her arm around, but not very well, and whatever she is attempting to achieve, she clearly does not, because she pulls her arm out again with a decided lack of good grace and gives the side of the basket a swift kick. She smiles thinly at the crunching noise this elicits, pushes at it again with the sole of her foot, I assume just to let it know that just because she's smiling, doesn't mean it can get away with anything while SHE'S in charge, and drops down abruptly onto her bum with a bemused "Huh."

She glances over at me and I quickly look back at my monitor. The devil hates being watched.

Several minutes pass, during which time she alternately pokes at the basket, glances at Number Two fussing in his walker, and repeats "Huh." Finally, she jumps up, grabs one of the handles, and begins dragging the full basket across the living room.

Let me remind you that her father issues a soft grunt when he moves this thing, and he's a Merchant Marine who throws massive iron chains around the deck of a ship for recreation. I have no idea how she is accomplishing this, but I am rapidly coming to a terrifying conclusion:

The devil has the strength of ten men.

I am watching openly now, more out of awe than curiosity, although I am wondering just where she intends to go with her new luggage. I'm also wondering, given her newly-displayed feat of strength, whether I'll be able to stop her if I don't like her destination. At this point her father looks up at me from the couch, and, seeing my expression, follows my gaze toward our intrepid explorer as she drags the basket across the carpet like the world's smallest Sherpa on the world's lowest Himalaya. She tugs it across the entire room, a good 15 feet, until she reaches her father's feet, at which point she delivers what is clearly a command, albeit an unintelligible one: "Gaish!"

He looks at me questioningly. I shrug.

"You heard her," I say. "Gaish!"

He shoots me a look of unmistakable hostility, then looks down at her and says "What, honey?"

Imperiously, and with ill-concealed impatience, she repeats herself: "GAISH!!"

Oh boy.

As if giving voice to the tiny flutter of fear growing in my mind (I, after all, will be the cleaner-upper if this degenerates into crying and puking), Number Two begins wailing. I sympathize privately, but it does no one any good to demonstrate fear to the devil. She glances in my direction. I remain stalwart.


Her tone indicates she is NOT KIDDING, and as I cast my mind around for something - ANYthing - with which to distract her from this single-minded pursuit of... well, of whatever it is she's pursuing so single-mindedly, her father - bless the man! - tips the basket on its side, spilling it out like fruit from a cornucopia, and offering her the full range of its contents for her perusal. She favors him with a brisk business-like nod and plunges in with great determination, grabbing out from among the gazillion expensive doodads a simple green plastic ring from one of those stacking toys.

I am non-plussed. That? All this fuss for THAT?

I probably would have pondered this oddity much longer, except at this point, Number Two graduates from whiny grumbles to a full-blown tantrum. I rise from my chair, intending to pick him up out of his chair, when I am stopped cold by an unprecedented sight:

The devil is handing him the green ring.

He grins. SHE grins. He puts up one fatsy baby hand and she leans into his reach, resting her cheek momentarily in his open palm, says, "Awwww," pats him lightly on the head, and toddles away...

... and slaps Number One, who has the misfortune of being in her way, resoundingly across his bare upper arm. She grins when he squeals in protest.

Ah, yes. Business as usual.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Vomit Satori

SATORI: A moment of sudden enlightenment, after which the person's perspective is irrevocably altered.

You'll need to know that later. But for now...

The devil has a problem with puke.

Okay, let me rephrase that. The devil has no problem whatsoever with puke; she does it with alarming ease every time she cries hard for a really long time. You know, like, after two minutes. Faster if she has a cold. (Mucous, ew.)

The problem is - well, obviously, the problem is that the devil spontaneously pukes. The reasons this is problematic are several, not the least of which are the ick factor and the clean-up factor, but the part I thought really bugged me was that it rendered us completely unable to do the whole stay-in-the-crib-screaming-crying-until-you-fall-asleep trick. We are not a tricky parenting unit; without this ploy, we've pretty much exhausted our entire get-her-on-a-sleep-schedule repertoire. So the devil is often running amok at odd hours. This leads to parents who cannot sleep, which leads to parents who cannot think, which leads, inexorably, to parents who write semi-coherent blogs about not sleeping.

So you see how ugly the progression gets.

So the other evening, the devil - who had slept practically not at all the night before - got cranky. A cranky devil is a petulant and demanding devil, and when she didn't get her way (by which I mean, when we refused to allow her to sit on the cat's head until it stopped moving), she began to do this charming cry-whine-keen combo thing she does that I'm fairly certain kills small mammals in their tracks for a 50-ft. radius around her. (This is, at any rate, my explanation for the sudden spontaneous reversal of our burgeoning mouse problem.) This sets off instant alarms for me, because I know that genuine crying is right around the corner, and we know what comes after THAT. So a part of me (the part that hates the smell of bleach) is immediately moved to comfort and cajole, but the part of me that has any sense at all rebels at this idea of catering to brats, and even - dare I admit it? - wonders if she doesn't do this stuff on purpose. I am torn.

So this night, as anticipated, she starts crying. However, it's just kind of slow steady drizzling sort of crying, and it seems like maybe we'll be able to distract her. We try. Oh, how we try! We put on Wubbzy. We dance, we sing. We read stories. We recite the entire script of the "Little Bill" episode that follows "Wow Wow Wubbzy", including acting out the parents' parts. We are a two-man Vaudeville act unrivaled in this day and age, but our many talents are wasted on our small, weepy, hiccuping audience. By now, we've also managed to awaken Number Two, who I'm pleased to report has a much greater appreciation for the finer points of physical comedy, but he is in a fine mood and requiring nothing.

So, despite our best efforts, she remains in a really prolonged crying fit. This is unprecedented, in that it so far has not involved peristalsis of any sort, reverse or otherwise. As a reward (okay, as a further attempt to bribe her out of her mood), we realign the complex network of baby gates to allow her to run freely from the living room to her bedroom, which she does with great gusto. The sobbing, however, continues unabated.

Let us pause for a moment here for me to explain how this day began.

As mentioned earlier, the devil refused to sleep the night before, and consequently, I got to see parts of the whole nighttime-to-daytime metamorphosis that I don't really care to witness firsthand. Some time later in the morning, when the day had officially begun (for normal people who have sleep to delineate one day from the next, that is), I was changing Number Two when he peed at my face. Notice I say "at", and not "in", because I was nimble - and caffeinated -enough to avoid disaster at that point. Shortly thereafter, I picked up the devil, holding her, grinning, over my head, and as I lowered her to my face for a big smooch, she sneezed. HARD. With... um... projectiles. *shudder* At lunchtime the cat attempted to hack up a hairball. I'm not going to say he was aiming directly for my foot; perhaps that was merely coincidence. But I began to sense a general trend for the day involving body functions and the trajectories of their attendant fluids which unsettled me.

So: back to the devil. I follow her down to her room. She is playing, but still crying. Nothing is pleasing her. All her toys are conspiring, her body language suggests, to purposefully piss her off. She stomps her feet. She whines through her tears. She starts to hurl objects in a most unattractive way sure to get her banned from debutante balls later in life, and I feel I must intervene, if only I can figure out how. Having pretty much done every thing I can think of to jolly her out of this, and being unable to identify any reason for this endless spate of tears, I finally resort to what we call "concentrated luvin", and I scoop her into my arms to reassure and soothe her.


She immediately launches into a series of screaming howls, struggling mightily against my interference, and begins wailing hysterically, as if instead of hugging her, I had clutched her with arms slathered in, say, battery acid. I am, at this point, sitting in her pretty pink wing chair, with my feet on her brand new rug.

You know, of course, why I'm mentioning this.

She begins to vomit. And vomit and vomit and vomit and vomit. Paroxysms of puke! And I, in what may well be my most graceful move of the month, somehow manage to sweep her gently over my arm in such a way that she does NOT puke on me, herself, the chair, the table next to us, the ottoman by my feet, or the new rug. NOTHING! She gets bare floor and nought else. And I...

...I find myself full of a small but very, VERY definite sense of satisfaction at this accomplishment.

And there it is, my moment of Satori. My life has been reduced to this: that my greatest satisfaction in an entire, irreclaimable day comes from properly aiming a puking child.

I suspect this would be a good year to make sure my New Year's Resolution involves increasing my alcohol consumption.

The Penis Chronicles

I have a beloved girlfriend - you know who you are! - who blogs, and who recently wrote movingly about her small son's stiffy ( Not to be outdone by anything as mundane as a mere woody, I now offer the following terrifying testicular tales, in two (of course) parts:

PART 1: Kindergarten

At the time, Number One Son was the only child, the DiPP not having been born yet, and Small Boy (a.k.a. "Number Two" when his diaper makes it appropriate) not even having been considered. So I was full of maternal pride, and - dare I say it - even a little bit misty at the prospect of Himself shuffling off to Big Boy School. And when he came home the first day clutching 'artwork' (which I dutifully hung on the fridge, and later tucked away in a trunk), I found my throat full and my eyes watery and avoided outright mawkishness only by a masterful display of self-control. And so it was in the land of the Hallmark moment, when Day 2 dawned bright and full of potential, and we trundled off to school again.

2 hours later, the phone rang.

"Mrs. Parent?" [Note: that is my actual name. O, the irony!]
"Um.. yes?"
"This is Mrs. Br----, the Assistant Principal at LES."

PANIC!!! He's HURT!! Some big nasty lummox pushed him on the playground and my PRECIOUS ANGEL IS HURT AND THEY'RE CALLING TO TELL ME HE'S IN THE HOSPITAL!!!!

Er - Wait. Wouldn't the Nurse be calling if he were hurt?

"...Hi... What can I do for you?"
"Well, there's been.. an incident. Involving Number One Son."
"An incident."
"An incident?"
"Yes, an incident."


Is she going to tell me, or is it standard op that parents have to guess these sort of things? And just what does she mean by "incident", anyway? Did my son throw up on a visiting Japanese dignitary? Mistakenly sink a cruise ship in International waters? Does he o-ffend?

"Okay, what kind of incident?"


Pause spins on into infinity.

"... well, he, uh... it seems he was walking with several other boys to the boys' room, and, um..."

Second pause, longer - if that's even possible - than the first.

I begin to wonder: does this woman have regular contact with the public? If so, we may have to switch districts.

"... they were in the hallway, with other classes going by, and... well... your son, um..."

The woman is deeply hesitant.

I am starting to understand something. (Sing, choirs of angels!)

The something I am starting to understand is that problem here is not, in fact, that the woman is an imbecile, or even simply tongue-tied. The problem is that the woman is nice, and doesn't want to have to tell me whatever it is she has been charged with telling me. She is, in point of fact, embarrassed.

This indicates to me that very soon I will likely have to be embarrassed. My misty weepy feeling, so recently replaced by utter panic, is now freshly replaced by a seeping, amorphous dread.

"... well... "

deep breath

"...Your son pulled his pants down a little early, before they reached the bathroom in fact, and... er... shook himself at the passing children."

Shook himself, I think. Shook himself? Since when is shivering an offense? And why would he pull his pa - OHHH! "SHOOK HIMSELF".

Oy vey. *snerk!*

No! Stop that, this INSTANT! This is serious. He did this AT SCHOOL, and now the damn ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL is on the phone!


Okay, it IS kind of funny. I know just what he did, too - something he does when he's drying off after a bath, which I refer to as the "hippy hippy shake", where he wriggles himself head-to-toe like a wet dog, head first, then shoulders, then working the wiggle down until, as we say only in the confines of our own bathroom (I hope, I hope), his "ding-dong dangles in the whing-whang."

Okay, OKAY! *grin* Try not to laugh at the nice lady. This is serious, really. Seriously. This could go on his permanent record! (Do they even have permanent records in Kindergarten??) He could be eternally labeled, branded a...a... a penis-shaker! A hip-wiggler! A DING-DONG DANGLER!!

Oh my god, STOP ALREADY!

*helpless giggling, stifled behind a fake cough*

So I manage to contain myself long enough to make some appropriately appalled comments:
"Oh my god, I'm appalled. He's never done anything like this before!"

(True. Well, in public, anyway.)

She is kind to me. She tells me it's just kids being kids, boys especially, and that the unholy fascination with their dangly bits that grips them - you should pardon the pun - so firmly after puberty begins well before then. That he is, in that respect, right on schedule. She even goes so far as to tell me that her very own son did the same thing when HE was in Kidergarten, only it was much more humiliating because she worked in the school.

And just when I am on the cusp of being mollified... Just when the sudden overlap that had appeared between my safe Mommyland this new and hostile Educational Incident Territory seemed to be retreating... she says, in a voice so sweet it would give a gingerbread man Diabetes:
"Of course, I have to notify the parents of everyone he exposed himself to. I won't use his name, but I want to call them all before the kids come home and tell their parents all about Number One Son's penis!"

And they wonder why I never attended any of those PTA meetings.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Breeders First


I don't even like the sound of it.

I hear it and my head is instantly full of smarmy, soft-filtered visions of beatific women smiling like the Mona Lisa, gently cradling the heads of their peacefully sleeping infants - all blissful themselves. It's matronly. It's cloying. It's domesticated.

It's a LIE.

"Motherhood is the toughest job you'll ever love."

More bullshit.

If motherhood were a job, we'd be paid. Or, at the very least, we could put it on our resumes, and people wouldn't wet themselves laughing before herding us, ever-so-gently, out of their offices, nodding meaningfully at Security to make sure we leave the building. We'd be insured. We'd have a union. We'd get DAYS OFF.

(I know, I'm deranged. Where would we find time to form a Union?)

But this what I thought, before I was a mother.

This "job", I thought to myself - newly pregnant and full of self-satisfaction at my cleverness for being so aware, dontcha know - this "job" that I am about to sign on for, will be so meaningful (can you hear the earnest whine in my voice, even when I say it in my head?) that no matter how unglamorous, how difficult, how arduous the task - it will be a pleasure to do. Always. NO MATTER WHAT. The Zen of Motherhood. Motherhood is next to godliness. Heck, Motherhood IS godliness: I am becoming the Goddess, who birthed the world and suckles it nightly on the milk of moonlight and feeds it daily on slices of sunshine. I am Mother, hear me roar! And my children are living proof of the glory of all creation.

Um... yeah. (We'll talk later about the danger of hormones when mixed with a human brain, but suffice it to say, anything you think about your impending motherhood while actually pregnant for the first time should be viewed with deepest suspicion, at best. Preferably, it should be written down, saved, and taken out sometime around your baby's first birthday to be read to other mothers who will point, laugh, and pat you condescendingly on the head, right before they take a group nap.)

So, 3 children later, here's the real truth about motherhood: The devil wears pink pajamas.

The devil wears pink footies, and thinks it's hilarious when Mommy can't stop the baby from pulling the cable box off the TV onto his head.

The devil does not, as advertised in commercials or on sitcoms, flush pets or valuable jewelry down the toilet. She DOES, however, unroll all the toilet paper - but only on new rolls. She also locks herself in the bathroom and shreds the toilet paper. And she hides the toilet paper in the bathtub, and figures out how to turn on the taps... but not how to close the drain. The devil thinks watching tubs full of swirling clots of shredded toilet paper overflow is the very pinnacle of jocularity.

The devil, apparently, has a real problem with toilet paper.

The devil can tell you her diaper needs changing - but only after she manages to unhook one of the velcro tabs (through her clothing, mind you), allowing the diaper, and all its glorious contents, to slide gracefully to her ankle, where it will remain, hidden and ready to disgorge, until you attempt to find it by laying the devil on the couch or bed and beginning to undress her by lifting her legs, at which point you will get a nasty surprise. The devil thinks this rivals toilet paper and floods in comedic content.

The devil has siblings.

Sometimes, the devil IS the sibling.

Now, I'm not saying I don't love my children. I do. I would gleefully bite the throat out of someone merely thinking about hinting that someday they might threaten to contemplate doing them harm, and I would walk away grinning when I was done, humming the theme from "Max & Ruby".

But a little perspective is in order.

My children, my precious angels, my godsends, my perfect cherubs - those little ratfink maniac bastards who steal my sleep, spill on my furniture, and have an outright vendetta against family heirlooms and delicate tchotchkes - are not all I am. They do not define me in my entirety. They have not completely undermined my intellect (yet). And they are not perfect. They never sleep when I want them to, and certainly never all at once. They whine, usually in public, and espcially when I need them to be quiet. They engage in unseemly biological processes at heinously inconvenient times. They often refuse food with a vehemence that suggests I am trying AGAIN, and quite transparently, to poison them, even though they ate the same exact thing the day before at their own request. And they do it all with a level of mirth that can only mean they are evil (EEEeeeeebil!). They are possessed of a wily cunning and an appreciation of the finer points of humiliation. They are, in short, naughty.

But damn, they're cute.

And so, I welcome you to my blog. Someday, it wants to grow up to be a book, and have shelf space of its very own, next to my collection of pregnancy guides and other fiction. Until then, it will simply have to be content with being dedicated to the noble pursuit of happiness through the judicious application of scathing honesty to that thing we call "motherhood", and those other things we call "kids".

Shoes off at the door, yes you can have a snack, and don't say I didn't warn you!