Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tale of the Librarian!

Today I'm trying something new and attempting the "Weekly Writing Challenge" at "The Daily Post."  Here is the challenge:

  • Pick a stranger, family member, or friend. Imagine a day in their life. Give us insight. Give us detail. Don’t just tell us about the other perspective, make us forget that you don’t live it every day. How does the homeless man on the street corner see you? What’s on your mother’s mind minutes before you visit? Does your boss like her office chair, or does the squeaking sound drive her crazy, too? Aim for two or three paragraphs.
Okay, here we go.

It takes forty-five minutes to style my blond hair into the perfect librarian up do, and I can accomplish this only because I enjoy interruption free mornings in my silent condominium.  Sure, the cat purrs a little loudly at times, but I purse my lips and shoot him instructive looks telling him to keep it down.  I treasure my mornings in which the lack of noise is so pronounced it's deafening.  Working in the youth section of the town library, I don't get a lot of quiet time.  Those children are monsters.

After my hair is perfected, I take exactly seven sips of Earl Grey, rinse my teacup thoroughly, and bundle up for the drive.  I pull into the parking lot, and sure enough, it's already packed with those awful mothers herding their unruly brats up towards the library entrance.  I can feel my tea creeping back up my throat, and I have to swallow hard, close my eyes, and go to my happy place.  I actually have three happy places.  One is a dim room.  The second is a slightly larger dim room.  The final is a room that's smaller, but dimmer.

In the library, I smile tightly at my fellow librarians.  In a matter of moments, I have planted myself in my seat at the circular Youth Services desk.  Incrementally, I have been inching the computer further over to the left. It is imperceptible, this movement, and yet I am accomplishing my goal.  My back is almost fully to the elevator and stairs now.  I must avoid patrons as much as possible; I dislike the patrons oh so much.

And yet, even if I can't completely see them, I can hear them.  The elevator dings, and there's the sound of little boys roaring.  Feet gallop, and a small blur rushes past me.  Then, the mother's voice, much too loud for a library.  "ANDY!"  Then the mother herself enters my field of vision, pushing a stroller containing a toddler who is haphazardly buckled in, missing a shoe, and covered in dried yogurt.  Oh jeez.  THIS woman.

The library has a lot of regulars.  My supervisor says we're lucky that our regulars are crazy stay-at-home mothers with nothing better to do as opposed to winos and pervs trying to view porn on our computers.  I don't know; at least the latter is more well-behaved.  This woman and her two boys are here at the library every week.  Her children are loud.  The younger one unplugs our computers, runs around like a wild animal, and rips pages out of our books.  I have seen this happen out of the corner of my eye and watched, horrified, while the mother just shoved the torn page back into the book and stuck it on the "to-be-shelved" shelf.  The older child is getting better behaved, but just barely.  He is loud, of course, and about nine months ago, he soiled himself while scribbling.  I could hear the mother's reprimand as she dragged him to the bathroom to be cleaned, and I almost quit right there on the spot.

I am simply not fond of this woman.  She tries to smile at me, but I avoid her as much as possible.  Her hair is awful.  It's like she doesn't comb it at all, just ties it in what barely qualifies as a ponytail.  You can tell that she applies make-up each morning while her children climb over her like baboons on a tree; the effect is uneven.  Why women subject themselves to becoming mothers, I'll never know.  A woman's job is to take care of herself and preserve her femininity.  A true woman cannot accomplish this when she is wrangling savages.

I can hear this woman ripping open a bag containing some sort of snack.  Really?  Does this lady think this is a cafeteria?  I tap on my computer keyboard and bring up a list that I have been working on, a new set of library rules.  Coming up with rules is easy.  I just watch what this woman and her children do and type.

No soiling your pants at the library.
No running.
Certainly no crunchy snacks.
Children must wear both shoes.
No children lingering at the water fountain.
Do not bang on the fish aquarium glass.
No, your child may not have his own library card, he will obviously lose it.
Do not rip the books.
Patrons must leave after fifteen minutes.

After working on my list and the library calender for a bit, I stand up and decide to take my fifteen minute break in the library conference room, which is not too dim but just shaded enough as to allow me a bit of rest.  As I began walking to the room, I notice the woman and her sons sitting on the floor near the books about penguins.  She is reading to the older one while the younger one licks the books.  His tongue is out and everything.  I gasp and watch for a moment, my hand fluttering over my heart, which is surely about to seize in a full on attack.  It seems that the toddler is trying to kiss the penguins.  But his disgusting, wet little face doesn't seem to know how to properly kiss, and the result is slobber.  The mother, of course, doesn't even seem to notice.

I start shaking and begin to storm over, ready to give them hell, ready to raise my voice from a six inch whisper to a full nine or ten.  I am full of rage.  Somebody must teach these people some manners. Somebody must stop this madness.  Somebody must teach this child how to kiss, for heaven's sake.

And then my feet tangle up and I find myself slumping off to the side.  Is it the heart attack?  Am I done for? Am I tripping over my unscuffed shoes; will I fracture a bone for the first time in my forty years?  That is not it, though.  I am thinking about kissing, and I cannot move any further.  I watch this woman and her gross children, I think about their sticky lips on her unpowdered cheeks, and for a long few moments, I just watch, wait, and listen to a story about penguins.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Agony of The Feet!

About a month ago, I was driving Andy and Alex to the library when Andy said, "Mommy, can you put your hand back here?"  Thinking he was going to hand me a piece of garbage or a wayward fruit snack, I reached back to him and had my hand greeted by a bare little foot.  Andy burst out laughing, so proud of himself for thinking of taking off his shoes and socks and tricking me into touching his stinky foot.  Playing along, I gasped and cried out, "Andy, is that your foot?"  Letting go of his foot, I slowly brought my hand back and stared at it with a mixture of disgust and despair.  "Ewwww.  Now my hand smells like a foot!"

And so this is the new thing we do.  Granted, this is not the safest game to play while driving, but it is Andy's favorite, and many car rides will consist of me getting "tricked" into touching his foot and then groaning Andy's favorite "line."  My hand smells like a foot.  This makes Andy laugh every time, and I have to agree, it's pretty hilarious.

Even while he sleeps,
his feet exude stink.
Alex, who is increasingly joining in on the fun, has begun playing the foot game, and today, after I had Andy's foot in my hand, I heard Alex yelp "Mama!"  I glanced backwards to see Alex wagging his foot at me, grinning merrily.  And so I touched Alex's foot, my gloved hand now saturated with the scent of not one but two smelly feet.  Andy laughed so hard he couldn't catch his breath, Alex giggled happily, and I- well, I almost ran off the road and into a tree.  Really, I need to pay just the tiniest bit more attention to my driving these days.

At home, it is our ongoing joke about how bad Andy's feet stink.  Alex has also begun to revel in the fun and now likes to stick one of his feet in my general direction and call out,  "Whew!"  Whew, that's quite the aroma!  Whew!

And if I had a dollar for every time Andy begged,  "Now smell my other foot!" or  "Now smell Alex's feet!" then I would have many, many dollars.

Which brings me to the question that's been plaguing me as the footsiness of our household gets more and more out of control:  If I had daughters instead of sons, would our play be more well-mannered and civil? Would I be more conscientious of trying to raise a refined young lady?  Or would I be just as gross and crude with my kids regardless of gender?

And, would my daughter even think a smelly foot was funny in the first place??

Feet in red socks smell the
Of course, I clearly do, and I'm a lady.  Well, not exactly a lady in the most polite and well-bred meaning of the word, but I don't exactly give off that raised-in-a-barn vibe either.  At least not most days.  So, what kind of humor would my daughter have regarding all of this stinky foot nonsense?  Is it fair to assume that kids are kids and find the same sorts of things funny or would a daughter be wired to be just a little more revolted by the thought of her own foot giving off a noxious, green-gas type odor?

I have no idea.

I do try to instill a small amount of properness into Andy, though, as not to project a completely vulgar view of our family.  We are not boobs who spend ALL of our time in hysterics over foot stench.  And Andy is aware that certain kinds of jokes and actions are private and appropriate only at home.  For instance, coming out of the bathroom at home holding his underwear and pants clasped to his chest so that I can help him get redressed- totally fine.  Coming out of the bathroom half-naked at Potbelly's and walking around the dining area holding his own underwear and jeans - well, not so much.

Aside from our silliness, sometimes I do wonder what a daughter would be like.  My boys are so playful and fun-loving and goofy.  I call them my "balloonatics," by which I mean a lunatic who likes balloons.  I can only assume my little girl would be a nutcase as well.  Except in pig-tails.  Well, except without the pig-tails, because I don't do hair.  Or nails.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The M&M Story!

"Daddy, will you tell me the M&M story?"  I overheard Andy asking Chris last night.  This piqued my interested, and I wondered what sort of fantastical, chocolaty tale Chris had woven for his young sons.

"Once upon a time, when Daddy was a little boy," Chris began, "The only M&M colors were red, green, yellow, brown, and other brown.  Can you imagine a world without blue M&M's?  Well, son, I lived it! Then, one day, the M&M people had a contest and all the little boys and girls and some of the weirder adults cast their votes.  Blue, pink, and purple were on the ballot- and blue was the winner!  So, they stopped making other brown  and started making blue.  The end!"

"Wow," breathed Andy.  Then, "Can you tell me that story again?"

And so Chris told the story again, and this time I listened closer.  That's right- there was once a world in which a bag of M&M's looked drastically, yet minorly different.  I suppose the M&M litmus test would be a good way to check to see if you've accidentally time traveled to some era pre-1995 and post whenever it was that M&Ms started being made at all.  "Quick!" you might shout out to a convenience store clerk as a younger Bill Clinton babbles on a tube screen TV behind you.  "Open that bag of M&M's!  Are there any blue ones?  Are there any other brown ones??"  And, then, since the M&M bag can only clear up so much, you may have to just ask for a newspaper.  Because, truly, that's the only real way to find out if you've time traveled.  What kind of idiot divines this sort of information from candies anyway?

I keep telling Andy and Alex how good they have it, and I am the cliche of every other parent who ever existed ever.  I remember hearing how good I had it way back in 1988, but I always thought to myself,  "Nah.  I could probably have it better.  It's not like I can pause Jem while I go to the bathroom."  And that, right there, is the amazing thing about being a child these days.  Television that is ready when you are.  A TV show that gets paused so you can leave the room and pee.  Video on Demand.  Fast forwarding through the tedious bits. Hundreds of shows available for streaming on Netflix.  Andy is confused by commercials since he so rarely has to watch one.  Sometimes, when he actually sees a commercial, he thinks it's a new show to watch.  "Let's watch that one again!"  he might exclaim after a Matchbox car commercial.  "I like that show with the little cars and the racetrack and the thing about batteries not included."

I wonder what the future holds in this amazing world.  One day, Andy may be telling his children about a time in which M&M's were not yet delicious holograms in a literal rainbow of colors.  And he may be saying this to a child who has never ever watched Caillou because he gets to actually BE Caillou.  How that technology might work, I don't yet know.  Ask Andy in thirty years.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Christmas Is OVER!

Christmas break for Andy is ending tomorrow, assuming the preschool decides to open.  Today is one of those days with a -52 degree windchill, which means nothing to me and the kids since we're warm inside.  It could be any other day on the couch except for the fact that we watched Chris leave for work wearing no less than three pairs of pants.  And except for the fact that we never stay home all day, unless it's -52 degrees windchill wise or one or more of us is vomiting like crazy.

We did the vomiting like crazy thing over the break.  Andy had the good fortune to only be ill for six hours. He woke up at three am in his own throw up.  Like an idiot, I brought him into bed with me, and also took Alex in, too, since he had been woken up by the ruckus as well.  Chris, lucky Chris, was out on the couch. Two hours later, as I was almost starting to drift off, Andy sat up, retched, and soberly declared, "I threw up on Alex."  That did not bode well, except for the fact that by nine o'clock in the morning, Andy was pretty much back to his old self.  I updated my status on Facebook to reflect the early morning vomiting I had witnessed, and a friend posted back, "Don't you just love those middle of the night baths?"  To which I mentally replied, "Baths?  Who said anything about a bath?"

So Andy was sick for six hours, and Alex was sick for TEN DAYS.  For about six days in a row, he woke up in his own vomit.  It was stinky and chunky and totally disgusting, and for the most part, happened only at night in his crib.  I was perplexed by this crib puke, googling "toddler puking while sleeping" only to come up with some terrifying explanations.  Clearly, he was having night seizures.  Clearly, he had incurred damage to his brain recently.  Clearly, his adorable little cells were being eaten alive by a bacteria that tripled in strength only in the dark and one night it was just going to consume him entirely.  Clearly, something was incredibly wrong.  Or it was just a bug.

Maybe seeing Santa made
us sick?
It was terrible.  Alex had non-stop diarrhea during the day and vomiting most nights.  Coupled with the craziness of the holidays, the kid was just miserable and didn't show any signs of recovering until the day of his eighteen month appointment, where the doctor shrugged the whole thing off as "going around" while next door, in another examination room, a much larger boy moaned to the nurse about his non-stop diarrhea as well.  Meanwhile, I furiously scrubbed as much Purell on my hands as I could pump from my little bottle and thought that, surely, every single last one of us was doomed.

But Alex recovered after those long ten days.  By this time, Christmas was over, the tree was in the trash, and Andy had thoroughly exhausted feigning even minimal interest in any of his new toys.  And let me just say, there was no reason for me to throw the tree in the trash except that by eight o'clock at night Christmas Day, I was just DONE with Christmas.  I tore the pre-lit plastic tree out of the electrical socket and tossed the whole F-ing thing right in the garbage.  Was it broken?  No.  Should I have packed it away back in its box?  Well, clearly.  But this year, between Alex's illness, my own flirtation with a version of the stomach bug, the driving six hundred miles back and forth over the span of four days, the sugary treats, the lack of sleep and schedules and naps, the horrible snowy weather, the whole damn thing- I just couldn't have been more done with any of it.  Which is a shame because this year, this year was going to be the year that I promised to be in a better mood during Christmas.  And this year, I failed again.

And while, yes, I am grateful for the generosity of others, I can't help but think that when Andy and Alex spend a whole week doing nothing but opening presents and eating candy canes, something is cracking just a tiny bit in their souls, and any sort of gratitude or thankfulness that I can instill in them falls right through until by the time they get to actual Christmas Day gifts, they are so expectant and smug about the whole thing that there really, truly is nothing I can do to get the point across that CHRISTMAS IS OVER other than to make them watch while I pack that tree in the goddamn trash can.

Anyway.  I suppose we can try this again next year when we're all a year older and that much wiser.

The thing is, part of me actually does love Christmas!  I love reading Andy (but not Alex, because Alex is the worst child to read to, ever) Christmas storybooks.  I adore Christmas movies, music, socks!  I like the whole general spirit of the thing.  But something gets lost in all this craziness, and I have to try to recapture that and figure out how to save it, because just as Christmas tends to be the time of year my mother grates on my nerves the worst, so shall my boys feel the same way about me unless I find a better way to cope with all the merry madness.

Developmental sidenote:

I finally got Alex off his two bottle a day habit.  This was actually harder than transitioning Andy two years ago.  I think that Alex may possibly be more stubborn than Andy, which is a terrifying thought.  Alex fights me on things, and the bottle was no different until finally I found a sippy cup at Wal-Mart that is basically a bottle only with the nipple thing shaped like a sippy thing.  I mean, the difference between "cup" and "bottle" here is pretty negligible, but I'm just going to go ahead and count it as a win.