Wednesday, January 21, 2009

An Email to My Sister

Dear L,

I just wanted to let you know that I have not forgotten about inviting B over for a play date with Jason, but this week is not looking so good. Drew is sick again...two days after I tried to waylay any potential motherly guilt by finally shelling out $15 at the doctor's office so that they could tell me, up close and in person, that he has a virus. "He's perfectly fine," they said. "This is probably the tail end of that barky cough." Awesome. Thanks for the pricey info. Wait, I almost forgot the most valuable part of this visit: "You know, a teaspoon of honey might help his throat feel better." Great. Thanks, Grandma.

Sure enough, less then 12 hours after that visit, the cough had subsided. LIKE MAGIC. Works every time.

On Monday, he started hacking again and got a runny nose. At the same time, Jason started complaining of a sore throoooaaat. (Did I mention that he had gone to a b-day party at Men E. Germ's on Saturday? Coincidence?) Then he was complaining of a headaaaaaache.

Last night, he woke up in the middle of the night (after hours of ear-splitting SNORING) and became rather hysterical because "my legs hurt really bad and I can hardly waaaalk waaaahhhhhh!" So I tried to give him Motrin and he could barely sip it because "my throat is soooo HOT! I can hardly swallow waaaahhhhh!" After threatening him with bodily harm I mean reassuring him that he was fine, he went back to sleep, thank God. Woke up and announced that his legs felt better! So bright and cheery! Got all ready for school and then walked up to me for a hug, looking a little grayish with lower lip trembling. He said he felt like he had to throw up. I quickly gently shove him away from me dislodge his little arms from around my waist and run for my life slowly back away because oh my God do I lose my shit at the mere mention of the words throw and up in the same sentence.

As you know, my kids almost NEVER throw up. I think they've each had two bouts of it their entire lives. So I thought he was pulling my leg because he doesn't even know what nausea feels like. But then I asked him if he knew what throwing up was and he proceeded to describe exactly what happens in practically scientific terms. And I noticed he was beginning to take on a greenish hue.

Meanwhile, I was also noticing that Drew's right eye was swollen and a bit pink and he kept whining and rubbing it. "I got a crumb! I got a crumb!" Pinkeye? I began rummaging through the bathroom cabinet. "Now where is that Valium?"

I made an executive decision that they'd stay home from school (even though coats, hats, gloves, boots, and backpacks were all on and ready to go). Jason went to lie on the couch and started looking kind of gaggy and nervous. I got him a Texas Ware bowl (because we puke in style in this house) (want me to make pasta salad for the next gathering, by the way?), and he sat with that on his lap for a while before the fun began.

Well. Let me tell you.

This child hasn't puked in so long that he was TERRIFIED. I even tried to prepare him beforehand by encouraging him with the fact that lots of kids have this same virus, and they feel sick, too, and sometimes when you're sick you throw up...which can feel really yucky but it's over really quickly and you'll feel sooo much better after you do! But when it actually started, he did that throwing-back-the-head thing ("I refuse to give up this bile! It is MINE!"), and I tried very hard to speak reassuringly as I kept gently yet forcibly thrusting his head back down toward the bowl. The entire time, he's flailing about like a fish out of water while trying to talk to me: "B-gut, M-gummy...grrrgle...gag...g-I do-gn't g-liiiiike...grrrrgle...g-thiiissss...!!!"

Oh. My. God. I have never heard someone talk their way through a full minute of barfing. I kept saying, "Jason, STOP's'll be over in ONE MINUTE and you're going to feel soooo much better!" Jesus! I wish someone would coach ME when I'm barfing, but do I get any thanks? Noooooo. I get mini fists swinging at my face.

So I pack Drew and Jay-'n-his-trusty-bowl in the car, and we go to the doctor to make sure it's not strep. Well, it IS strep. Again, neither of my kids has had strep, ever. We are freaks. Strep causes headaches? Leg pain? Dramatic puking episodes? Yes, yes, and yes. Huh.

News flash: Drew does not have pinkeye. It looks like he did have a crumb after all. Who knew a foreign object could cause what looks like a shiner? Another fifteen bucks...adios!

Jason announces on the way out that he's starving and thirsty. The doctor calls out to me that it's okay for him to eat if he wants, and that he most likely won't throw up again, "at least not like you would with a stomach virus."

So we go to Panera to get Drew a bagel and Jason an egg and cheese sandwich with sausage please hold the egg and cheese. Every time, I get the same baffled look from the cashier and have the usual verbal exchange.

Them: "You mean you just want sausage?"
Me: "Yes. And the bread."
Them: "No cheese?"
Me: "No cheese."
Them: "He doesn't want egg?"
Me: "He does not want egg."
Them: "..."
Me, feeling compelled to explain: "He's allergic to eggs."
Them: "So just sausage and cheese?"
Me: "NO. Just SAUSAGE. And BREAD."
Them: "Ohh. Hmm. That's funny, huh?"
Me: "Wicked."

This time, though, I hear Jason whimper beside me and watch as he leans tragically against the danish display, gripping his forehead with one hand and his belly with the other, appearing to be in gastric distress. More theatrics ensue. " stooommaaaaaach..."


The cashier had just put my empty coffee cup on the counter, so I grab it and stick it under his chin. "No, no, no!" he says and swats at the cup with his mittens. So I'm trying to hold the cup firmly against his chin, block him from the view of food-ordering patrons with my body, and keep his flailing hands away from the cup. He proceeds, with much fanfare, to puke in the cup as I do my "you're okay it'll be fine you'll feel so much better when it's over just wait one minute" routine. The cashier brusquely hands me a bunch of napkins and a cup of water (free! I mean, could this day get any better?) and gives me a curt smile that secretly says, "Okay, you're grossing out my customers. Can you please clean up your germ-infested kid and get the hell away from this counter?" I'm good at reading people, see.

I ditch the evidence and we hightail it out of there with minimal dirty looks (I think) and go to pick up his prescription, get home, I fumble my way through 12 minutes of histrionics to get the damn stuff down his throat, and he's now lying on the couch next to his aptly colored green Texas Ware bowl, which periodically matches his skin color exactly.

I'm thinking about filling up the tub with Purell and taking a good, long soak.

Will be in touch when the germs have evacuated the premises.

And how was your day?


Monday, January 05, 2009

Back to you

Finally, the much-anticipated holiday season is over. The tree is at the dump; the decorations, neatly packed in their rightful boxes in the attic. There are no more pastry-and-eggnog-laden parties that leave me with shrunken pants (how does that happen?), and no more family gatherings that conclude with our having to back up a U-Haul to the front porch in order to get all of our stuff home.

But most importantly, the kids are back at school. It was a long, long two weeks, my friends.

The school year involves an endless cycle of trade-offs between parents and teachers. From early September to late November, parents revel in the knowledge that they have nearly 10 weeks to be back to a normal routine after the long summer break. But all too soon, Thanksgiving brings many things for the teachers to be thankful for: namely, four studentless days. This is followed by four blissful weeks when parents can shop for the upcoming gift-giving season without such annoyances as dealing with little people yanking things off the shelves at Target, proclaiming that they need these toys and cannot possibly wait until December 25th, can't you see that, you horrible, horrible mother?

Before you know it, Christmas is upon us. And no one has more feelings of joy and peace than the teachers, who you can hear fa-la-la'ing from miles away as they skip to their cars at the end of the last school day before winter vacation. But parents finally get to breathe a little easier on New Year's Day — that time for us to rejoice, refresh, and resolve to make damn sure we get our kids to school on time the next morning. Maybe even a little early, so we can grab a cup of coffee at Dunkin Donuts afterwards...and curl up into the fetal position in a booth, sobbing with relief.

After what seems like three hours, it's time for February vacation. You see, school administrators seem to feel that our kids need periodic breaks — and lots of them. Apparently, five weeks after the 10-day winter break, it's presumed that my kindergartener is already overwhelmed with tracing the alphabet and playing bingo and gluing macaroni products on construction paper, which, as you can imagine, can be so exhausting.

It's interesting that April vacation always seems to begin directly after the springtime classroom party — you know, that fun-filled day when the teachers stuff our kids full of sugar until their little bodies are almost audibly twanging as they run amok, then pile them into buses (with treat bags...for the ride!), and send them straight home to us, ensuring that those seven days we spend alone with them get off to a fabulous start. Make no mistake about it, this is their passive-aggressive way of socking it to us parents because they're already dreading that marathon stretch between April vacation and the start of their long-awaited three-month break. But that's okay. We manage to get a certain amount of satisfaction when we come back in late April and taunt them with our smirky, knowing smiles that say, “They're all yours until mid-June, sucker. And by the way, I fed them Laffy Taffy for breakfast.”

Strangely, when that final school day in June comes, we welcome our children home for summer vacation with open arms because...well, the warmth and sunshine clearly makes us all kinds of crazy. But after a few weeks full of such fun-filled activities as visiting parks, going to the beach, and nearly manic chasing of the ice cream truck, we're done. Kaput. Finito. And this feeling of doneness occurs even sooner if you take an early family vacation to somewhere like Sesame Street Village or Storyland. Those sorts of things should only be planned for very late August so that we can mentally survive the experience by closing our eyes and conjuring up soon-to-be-real images of children with new clothes and backpacks walking into a large building with a flag.

So, in direct accordance with The Cycle, I pulled up for drop-off at my sons' school today on their first day back, giddy and euphoric (me, not them). When I spotted their teachers, I found myself shoving the boys gently toward them, impatiently muttering, “Here. Take these.” The teachers, looking refreshed and relaxed, smiled with understanding and led them away as I leaped back into my minivan Dukes-of-Hazzard-style and burned rubber out of the parking lot. I didn't want to be late for my appointment with my old friends Peace and Quiet. After all, I only have five weeks to enjoy them.