Monday, December 28, 2009

(Port-a) Potty Conversations

Last night, we spent a delightful evening with my in-laws. They live in South Carolina near an animal park that must have an astronomically high electric bill at Christmas time, because they have lights numbering in the millions. Every tree, building, fence, animal enclosure, and gate is draped with swags of multicolored little starlights.

I thought MayDay might have a little baby heart attack. Each time he said, "More (breath) Ti-tas (breath) wights!", his voice increased in pitch, timbre and intensity. "More. Mooore! MOOOORE! Ti-tas! Wights! MOOOOOOOORRRRRE!!!!!!!!!" I have never seen him so excited about anything.

Towards the middle of the Christmas light driving tour, you enter a fenced enclosure filled with some small European breed of deer (I'm not sure exactly which breed -- it was hard to see the sign in the dark). You can buy a bag of grain for a dollar, and the deer will come right up to your car and eat out of your hand. Oh, the fun of it all.

The deer were a little skittish -- who wouldn't be? Something just felt wrong about a disorganized group of cars, headlights blazing, slowly stalking these relatively defenseless creatures haphazardly through a big field from which they can't possibly escape, even if we were just trying to feed them. Eventually we coaxed a few up to the car and each child had some creature eat something out of his hand.

But the funniest part was how each kid best thought to call the deer over to our vehicle. Since we were driving so slowly, we let them get out of their car seats. We wound down the windows and they half hung out, one each with Nana & Papa in the back seats, and one with me in the front. As soon as we saw the deer, G-Dog started doing the little clicking noise my dad makes to call his dog. ConMan just started randomly throwing grain to catch their attention -- I must say, this seemed to be the most effective method. And Lil' MayDay -- well, he just started yelling, "Dude!" Because we all know that in secret deer language, dude is exactly how they refer to themselves.

The highlight of my evening came after the driving tour. At the end, there is a petting zoo. You can buy a bottle for $1 and feed it to one of the many baby goats. They have camels and bison and reindeer and oxen and lots of sheep and goats and donkeys. And a big bouncy slide. And Santa Claus. Loads of fun all around.

The boys had a great time. Daddy took them all on the bouncy slide, and, of course, while he was up there with no shoes on, G-Dog had to use the potty. The Port-a-Potty.

I have found that one of the singular pleasures of being a mother of boys is that I never have potty duty when we're out in public. But Porta-Johns are gender-neutral. I swallowed all my indignant protestations and herded my little man over to the nice row of disgusting toilets behind the bison house.

I say disgusting, but I can only assume, because it was so dark we couldn't really see anything. (Thank heaven for small favors, right?) This is how the conversation went:

(very firmly, as we enter said potty): G-Dog, don't touch anything.

G-Dog: Don't touch anything. Don't touch anything. Don't touch anything. Don't touch anything.

ME: Okay, G-Dog, I'm gonna stand you up on the side here and you just pee into that big hole. Do you know what's down there?

G-Dog: Don't touch anything. Don't touch anything. Don't touch anything.

ME: It's a big disgusting pit full of all the things that come out into the potty and you can't flush it, it just all stays down there being gross and stinky.

G-Dog: Don't touch anything. Don't touch anything. Don't touch anything.

ME: Good job, G-Dog. Let's zip you up and then we're done!

G-Dog: Mommy, I was gonna touch something and then I didn't.

ME: G-Dog, you are awesome. Almost done here. Don't touch anything!

G-Dog: Mommy, can I touch you?

ME: G-Dog, you rock, and you can touch me any time you want. Done!

Can I emphasize here how much I DON'T do Port-a-Pottys? I know, what a mom, right? I was really tempted to just take him out in the trees and let him pee out there . . . but I didn't.

And the bonus for G-Dog? He didn't touch anything. He spends his potty-time trying to devise new reasons he shouldn't have to wash his hands. This kid doesn't flush. He doesn't put the toilet seat down. He doesn't even turn off the light in the bathroom. He only touches the sides of his pants. And he has developed this method of standing just right so he literally doesn't have to touch anything.

This isn't so good for the cleanliness of the boys' bathroom, but G-Dog is thrilled when he keeps himself from being contaminated, and thus, avoids the decontamination process. Or so he thinks.

For now, hand sanitizer tops my list of most useful, miraculous and indispensable modern inventions.

Another repost . . . cut me some slack, I just had a baby already! But it was a fun story, right? And admit it . . . rehashed InkMom is better than no InkMom at all.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

The Kindness of Strangers

When we were kids, we spent Christmas Eve traveling to my grandparent's farm and back, all in the same day. My parents didn't want to miss the big family get-together, but they felt strongly that we kids should all wake up in our own beds on Christmas morning. (Secretly, I think they were trying to get us to sleep a little longer . . . to no avail.)

This four hour one-way trip done twice in one day kind of prevented the establishment of Christmas Eve traditions, but we still managed to have some good times.

We spent the drive home listening to The Forgotten Carols, counting Moravian stars, making drawings in the mist we breathed onto the windows and scanning the sky for a glimpse of Santa Claus. Somehow, the magic was preserved even though we were not "nestled all snug" in our beds.

One year, about two hours away from home, our car died. I don't remember exactly how it happened, but it was cold and late and when we coasted into a gas station from some obscure exit ramp, all the lights were off and there seemed to be no one around for miles -- no houses, no cars, no civilization. On Christmas Eve, with four little kids, in a van that didn't work.

Suddenly, from out of no where, we saw headlights. A big Cadillac pulled up behind our minivan, and a man in what I can only describe as a gold lame' jumpsuit got out of the car and approached my dad's window.

"Do y'all need some help?"

He volunteered to drive us to a hotel so we would have a warm place to sleep and help us find a tow in the morning. We piled into his big boat of a car. I felt so special to sit in the front between this kind stranger and his big-haired blond wife in a fur coat. My mom and dad sat in the back with MommyJ and our brothers, and we were on our way.

My mom says she and Dad started to get worried when he kept passing hotels on the interstate. Mass murderer? Crazy mental asylum escapee? One after another, after another, he just drove on past. Finally, my dad spoke up . . . aren't you going to stop? This motel would be just fine.

"No, sir. Children should be home on Christmas Eve."

And he kept on driving until we arrived home at 3 AM on Christmas morning.

I don't remember what gifts were under the tree when we awoke later on; I don't remember what we ate or who we saw or anything else about that day. But I will forever be thankful for the kindness shown to my family that cold, cold night years ago.

This year, I have spent too much time away from my family. I have not been around for bedtime since December 3. Instead, my evenings have been filled with rehearsals and performances, choir practices, church meetings, office parties and other things that seemed so important when I was committing my time to them. After two concerts last Saturday night, I came home and checked on my little ones just to remember what they look like.

So, in memory of Roger and Teddy, who got us home for Christmas, I pledge to say No! And to really mean it! Roger was right . . . children should be home for Christmas, but so should their parents. In this season that ends up being the busiest of the year, why don't we all simplify? Why do we feel so compelled to fill our time with things that are less important than those things that are real?

Next year, I promise to do better.

Forgive me, but I love this story, and when I originally posted it last year, I had about 5 readers. And they only read what I wrote because they share my DNA, and didn't want to disappoint me when I called (pathetically) 15 minutes after I posted to make sure they'd read it. Hope you liked it!

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gift-Giving 101, or Why I Don't Want a Vacuum Cleaner for Christmas

At some point, things just die.

That's what happens twelve years into a marriage. Almost all of the things we bought when we got married have now fulfilled the measure of their creation and are desperately gasping out their last great, heaving breaths -- washing machine, clothes drier, television, and, alas, the vacuum cleaner.

My kids are into Raisinets lately. And they're also really big on molesting the Christmas tree. I swear, it's a good thing we do real trees because an artificial tree would not make it to see another season with my children beating on it. Yet another thing that will breathe a sigh of relief when I finally take it out of my house.

So I was vacuuming the other day. I noticed some chocolate-covered raisins on the floor, and sucked them up, then made my way over to the tree to get rid of the many, many needles sacrificed on the altar of toddler tree redecoration efforts. As I went over (and over and over . . . 12 years is a long time for a cheap vacuum) the area surrounding the tree, my vacuum cleaner pooped on the carpet.

Or, that's what it looked like. It took me a minute to realize the Raisinet had been rejected by my Hoover -- spit right back on the rug like a little mouse turd, pooped out in midstream just like MayDay, who can (and does, frequently) clear the room with a foul stench while simultaneously putting together a train track and telling an entertaining story about his imaginary accomplices.


I need a new vacuum cleaner.

But it's December. It's Christmas. It's my birthday. It's CPod's birthday. I'm not spending my money on a vacuum cleaner.

And (are you listening?) CPod better not be either.

When it comes to gift giving, I'm complicated. I love to be surprised, but I also like to be happy. At the beginning of our marriage, those two things were mutually exclusive. Now, thankfully, my dear CPod has mastered the art of selecting the perfect gift for me to open on Christmas morning. One year, he bought me a print (genuine, official, signed, numbered and smacked on the butt as it went out the door) of the Greg Olsen painting, "Mother's Love". Not the close up, but the real one. The big one. Now it hangs over our bed. A few years later, he bought me a print of a painting that hangs in the BYU Museum of Art that he knows I love; it hangs over our fireplace. Another year, he gave me an entire box of Godiva key lime truffles. Mmmmm. He has developed a knack for choosing jewelry I will love, fine kitchen tools I will appreciate, and delicious-smelling things that will make me swoon.

But a vacuum cleaner? No way. I just don't think the sight of a new Dyson under the tree would have quite the same effect as, say, a beautifully wrapped bottle of L'Eau d'Issey. (Oh, yes, ladies. He even does gift wrap!) There's just something about vacuum cleaner that says, "In case you weren't sure about your place, little woman." And maybe there will be high heels and an apron in the next package. Now, don't get me wrong, without the vacuum cleaner in the picture, I'd be all over those stilettos, and the apron, too. But gifts are supposed to be something that I wouldn't be able to justify buying for myself, or that I wouldn't think of, or that make me remember fondly the person who gave them. Lucky for me, CPod does not subscribe to the Homer Simpson school of gift giving: I don't have to use the bowling ball engraved with his name to remember that he loved me enough to give me something I love on Christmas morning.

Speaking of things that I love -- check out my new signature! My awesomely fantastic brother-in-law used my own handwriting to design that cool little sign-off. Isn't he great?

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