Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Laxative Incident

During Terzo's late infant/early toddler months, he suffered from severe constipation.  He was still breastfed, but his diet seriously lacked variety.  He ate bread, cheese, and those dried apple snacks from the baby food aisle.  That's it.  No real fruit, no meat, no vegetables, not even a sip of juice here and there.  It's no wonder the kid could only move his bowels once a week and those events were marked by crying, vomiting, and wonderment.  Wonderment, because the resulting diaper changes had my husband and me standing around questioning the laws of physics.  Seriously, I'd add a drawing here just to illustrate how unbelievably brick-like Terzo's poops were but no one would believe it.

At Terzo's one year checkup, his pediatrician prescribed a laxative powder that I'd mix into water (or juice, if I could get him to drink that) and would help him move his bowels like a normal human being.  She cautioned me that the dosage may need adjusting once the laxative started to take full effect.  When we got home, I dutifully followed the doctor's instructions and started giving Terzo the laxative once a day.

Two days later, my husband took off for a business trip.  Dinner time rolled around, and I had so little desire to cook that I did the unthinkable.  I took three children out to dinner alone.  Prima had just turned seven, Secondo was two and a half, and, like I said, Terzo was one.  I chose a restaurant close to home, someplace with decent food and a kid-friendly attitude disguised by grown-up decor.  The few other weeknight diners were spread throughout the dining room.  We ate a quiet meal and, as the waitress took our dessert order I began to smugly congratulate myself on my outstanding parenting skills.  My mind wandered into a favorite fantasy, where other diners approached our table and complemented me on the fine manners and exceptional beauty of my children.  "Why dear, we didn't even realize there were children in the restaurant!" they'd gush.

Then, I looked and Terzo and my heart sank.

Red face.  Eyes squeezed shut.  Tense little body.  Grunting.  Oh, the dreaded poop face!  It was too late to do anything other than wait for him to finish and hope he didn't throw up.  Then, I remembered the laxatives.  Would they be working already?  I scooted over to take a quick peek down the back of Terzo's little jeans as he sat in the restaurant's high chair, and the sight which assaulted my eyes is something I will never forget as long as I live.

A stain, spreading nearly all the way up the back of his shirt.  As if that wasn't bad enough, poo began to ooze over the top of his diaper, right into his pants.  Horrified, I decided my only option was to throw the kids into the minivan, race home, and hose Terzo down in the yard. was winter.  Never mind.

I'd have to use the restaurant bathroom.  I grabbed the diaper bag and did a quick inventory.

Not good.  One pink sock, one diaper, three ancient Cheerios, two baby wipes, a tongue depressor, and Terzo's Yankees jacket.  The curse of the third child strikes again.  Who really bothers to leave the house prepared after that third baby comes along?

As I sat trying to figure out what to do with Prima and Secondo while I attempted to clean Terzo up, the waitress returned with dessert.  I had no choice but to rely on the ice cream to keep the two older kids at the table while I was in the bathroom, which (luckily) was very close to our seats.  I gingerly picked Terzo up, holding him at arms' length, and carried him into the bathroom.

That's when the real fun began.  Keeping my ears peeled for unusual noises from the dining room, I stripped Terzo to his birthday suit and attempted to clean him up with only two baby wipes.  Not happening.  I grabbed fistfuls of coarse paper towels from the bathroom's dispenser, wet them in the sink, and tried to clean Terzo as he checked out the exciting world of Restaurant Bathroom.  Because, no way was I going to make that kid lay down on a public restroom floor.  If you've never had to clean liquid feces off an extremely mobile toddler while preventing him from playing in a public toilet, you haven't truly lived.

Listening hard for sounds from the dining room,  I anxiously waited to hear an outraged voice exclaim, "Why are these poor young children here alone?!?!  Call the police and DCF immediately!!"  Or, the sounds of little feet running around the restaurant, shattering china, thrown cutlery, and the insane giggles of children on a destructive rampage.

But all was quiet.  Too quiet.  What if my kids weren't even in the restaurant any more?  What if they were, at that very moment, being lured into a shabby van filled with shadowy, creepy people?

Working frantically now, I wiped as much poo out of Terzo's pants as I could and put them back on his little body.  His shirt was beyond help, so I tossed it into the garbage with a huge pile of soiled paper towels and a diaper that was, quite possibly, the smelliest diaper in human history.  I zipped Terzo into his jacket and hoped it wasn't obvious he had no shirt on underneath it.  I sat back, surveyed my apparently clean child, and then thought, "Oh, crap."  Literally.

In my desperation to change Terzo while psychically monitoring my other children, I hadn't even noticed how unclean the bathroom had become.  We'd managed to smear poo on the floor, on the potty, and on the wall.  Oh, and on my jeans.  Thank goodness for well-stocked paper towel dispensers.  A few quick wipes, and the evidence of our diaper disaster had disappeared.  Well, other than the horrifying odor.

After thoroughly scrubbing both our hands, I held my breath and carried Terzo out of the restroom.  I didn't even want to know what Prima and Secondo had done to entertain themselves during that little poop party.  When I saw them still sitting quietly, eating ice cream and not surrounded by cops, social workers, reporters, and outraged restaurant patrons (not to mention creepy van owners), I felt indescribable relief.

The bill paid, I quietly informed the waitress that someone should change the garbage in the bathroom.  I really hope they also doused the entire room in undiluted bleach.  I took everyone home, gave Terzo a bath, took a shower, and washed our clothes twelve times in hot water.  I vowed never to leave the house without a well-stocked diaper bag again, never to take three children out to eat alone again (and yeah, those vows were broken pretty quickly), and to immediately cut back on that laxative dosage.

Five years later, I'm happy to report that Terzo's diet has somewhat improved.  He'll eat a few kinds of fruit, anyway, and hasn't had a need for laxatives for years.  His bowels are quite regular in that he moves them almost daily.  He also manages to clog the toilet almost daily.  Yes, he still defies the laws of physics.  How is it that the smallest person in our family, the person who ingests the least amount of food, produces unflushable poo?  Sometimes, my husband and I just stand and stare at the toilet in wonderment.  Should we call the Guinness World Record people?  A doctor?  An exorcist?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Magic Trick

During her toddler and preschool years, Prima attended a wonderful daycare center.  She loved her friends, she loved her teachers, and she loved the special activities the center had to offer.

One special event in particular earned Prima's adoration above anything else.  Once a year, the daycare arranged a special magic show put on by a performer called The Amazing Andy.

The Amazing Andy stood before his pint-sized audience dressed in snazzy stripes and suspenders with a top hat over his long hair.  He conducted his magic show in a high, squeaky voice and didn't get discouraged when his tricks went terribly wrong.  The children howled when his magic wands fell apart or his magic rings refused to come unstuck.  They gleefully shouted his special magic words along with him:  "Pink Panther Pickles With Ketchup On Top!!"  

By the way, I spent a good part of the day today trying to remember The Amazing Andy's exact magic words.  I made the mistake of asking my husband if he could remember them and he said, "Yeah, it's 'Abracadabra I'm a Pedophile."  So you see, my husband is clearly to blame for all of the insanity in our family.

Being chosen as The Amazing Andy's assistant was the highlight of many a child's daycare experience, and Prima was no different.  When The Amazing Andy chose her out of a crowd of eager preschoolers to assist with a magic trick, her face glowed with something akin to religious fervor.  Her eyes sparkled and her little body trembled with such joy I honestly thought she might collapse in some kind of fit.  

I think it was the best moment of her life.

That night, Prima emerged from the playroom and announced to my husband and me, "I am going to do a magic trick just like The Amazing Andy.  I memorized his magic words."  

She brandished a magic wand and a rubber ducky with such confidence.  How could her trick fail?  Prima carefully hid the duck under a plastic bin.  "I'm going to make this rubber duckie...DISAPPEAR!"  She took a deep breath, waved her wand in dramatic circles over the bin, and spoke the magic words.  "Pink panther pickles with ketchup on top!"

Without hesitation, Prima lifted the bin to revel in the success of her magical abilities.  Incomprehensibly, the duckie still sat there.  Mocking her with its cheerful grin.

Never one to immediately accept defeat, Prima tried again.  And again.  The duckie refused to disappear, and Prima's faith in The Amazing Andy's magic words began to falter.

So, we did what any decent parents would do.  We helped our poor, sad, nonmagical child achieve her goal.  My husband said, "Maybe it would work better if you closed your eyes while you said the magic words."

"Yes," I added, "and say the words really slowly.  Three times."

Because she trusted her parents without question, Prima immediately put our advice to the test.  Once again, she hid the duckie.  Once again, she took a deep breath and began to wave her magic wand.  She spoke the magic words slowly and clearly, "Pink panther pickles with ketchup on top.  Pink panther pickles with ketchup on top.  Pink panther pickles with ketchup on top."  

Slowly, hopefully, she reached down to look under the bin.


Oh, the joy and rapture!!  The thrill, the elation the exultation!  Prima did real, actual magic!

Who knows where that rubber duckie ended up.  An alternate universe?  A strange bathtub on the other side of the world?  Mars?  Or, maybe someplace a bit closer to home.

Prima tried many times to recreate her one magical moment, but it seemed her supply of magic had run out.  For years, she honestly believed she'd made that rubber ducky disappear and we didn't have the heart to tell her otherwise.  Sometimes what's funny when you have a preschooler isn't so funny when you have an older child who still tells people about the time she accomplished real magic while you stand awkwardly by, smiling, and knowing someday that poor kid is going to be seriously pissed off at you.

Yes, we eventually told her the truth.  She yelled at us.  She might still be a little bitter.  OK,  a lot bitter.  But she also spent a few years thinking she'd done the impossible.  She believed she could make magic.

And you know what?  I believe she still can make magic.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

How My Dad Tried to Kill Me. Repeatedly.

You are cordially invited to join me on a trip down memory lane.  Yes, we're visiting the days of my childhood, when a Happy Meal on a TV tray in front of a new episode of The A Team represented the pinnacle of bliss.  When a trip to the drugstore for candy cigarettes and a Phil Collins record, followed by a stop at the bookstore for the latest Sweet Valley High book, imparted each day with the kind of silver lining that we spend our entire adulthood trying to recapture.  That's where we're headed today, only we aren't going to explore those bright moments of childish pleasure.  We're visiting the darker side of childhood.  This is the stuff Stephen King novels are made of, so be warned.

I didn't immediately realize my dad was trying to kill me.  As an adult looking back, however, it's clear he was trying to get rid of me in some way that would make him look totally innocent.  As the years progressed, his methods became more reckless, more open, and it's a true miracle that I am still around to tell you about it.

The first attempt on my life came when I was 12.  We'd moved to a rural area and my dad purchased his first tools of murder:  a rope, a sled, and an ATV.

Looks like fun, right?  What could be better than sitting on a flimsy piece of plastic, being pulled at high speed across a snowy field littered with rocks, no helmet on your fragile head, until a sharp turn sends you flying off across the snow, tumbling helplessly across the hard ground over and over until you finally come to a rest and lie staring up at the sky and gingerly testing your limbs to see if any are broken?  Amazingly, I suffered not a single concussion, contusion, or fracture.  Opinions vary on the issue of brain damage.

When death by extreme sledding failed to end my life, my dad upped his game.  He bought a boat.  He docked the boat on Lake Michigan, probably because a huge lake would be a good place to make a body disappear.  His murder plot this time took on a subtle twist, requiring an iron will and large amounts of patience.  Oh, and a bucket.
That's right, death by seasickness.  You have to admire the beauty of this plan.  If I hacked up a vital organ and puked myself to death, that certainly wouldn't be his fault!  No one could claim he had control over my defective inner ears.  My extreme sea sickness as we trolled along all day, fishing incessantly, must have given him hope that he'd finally do me in.  His gleeful jokes about chum gave him away every time!  I should have known a more sinister purpose lie behind those fishing trips.  Why would anyone buy a large boat, dock it two hours from home, invest in high-tech fishing gear, and then spend weekend after weekend fishing when he didn't even eat the damn fish!   Highly suspicious.

 Not one to give up easily, my dad devised another method to put an end to my existence.  He didn't give up on the boat right away, and can you blame him?  That's quite an investment as a murder weapon.  Even though it failed him in the past, my dad turned to a variation of original murder plot.  He sure had a fascination with using large vehicles to drag me around.

Let me tell you, if someone offers to tie an inner tube to their 28 foot boat and pull you across a gigantic lake, be prepared for how extremely fast that boat can go.  It was the sled and the ATV all over again, except with insanely deep water.  When you are flying along at that kind of speed, like at a lot of knots or whatever, and the maniac driving the boat takes a sudden turn, you don't just fall off.  You hit the water, tumble around for a while, and suddenly realize you don't know which way is up.  There are no clues to show you which way to swim in order to reach life-giving oxygen, which is an indescribably horrible sensation.

Luckily, my dad overlooked the life jacket I strapped on before jumping into the inner tube.  All that overzealous blood lust probably distracted him.  Just as I thought I was about to drown, I popped back up to the surface like a cute redheaded cork, gasping and spluttering and waving my little arms around.

All that failure must have had a demoralizing effect on my dad because he gave up on trying to kill me for a while.  Maybe he thought I was growing suspicious and wanted to lull me into letting my guard down.  I shudder to think what would have happened if he'd known I still had no idea my life was in danger.

I was in high school before he acted on a sudden opportunity.  My dad collected guns.  He kept them in a cabinet in his bedroom.  Now that I think about it, the cabinet was probably unlocked.  Just sitting there, full of loaded guns in case someone (me) decided to try to play with them.  My dad said he only used the guns for target practice and for attempting to rid our pond of muskrats.

One hot summer night, my friend Angel and I returned from a movie and decided (with a lot of giggling) to go skinny dipping in the pond.  The rest of the house was asleep, so we ran and giggled down the hill to the water, stripped, and jumped in and giggled some more.  We swam and splashed and giggled and talked about boys until suddenly a voice floated out of the darkness and put an end to the giggles.  We froze.

There on the bank, just visible in the moonlight, stood my dad.

Armed.  With a really big gun.  A fast thinker, he tried to play it off.  "What in the hell are you doing?"  Like I was going to tell my dad I was skinny dipping.  After I replied that Angel and I went swimming in the mucky pond to cool off, like all normal people do in the middle of the night, my dad had to come up with a reason to have been stalking me with a gun.  "Oh, I saw something in the water and thought it was muskrats.  Good thing I came down here to check it out and didn't just shoot from the deck."

Yeah, good thing Dad or there would have been a witness!

Another failed (and awkward) murder attempt.  The idea of using a gun stuck, however, but my dad had to be patient.  A few more years passed before he struck again.  I was in college, and I can only assume the high tuition bills and my desire to be a useless, unemployable writing major pushed him over the edge.  He threw caution to the wind in one final, desperate attempt on my life.

The date, July 4th.  The time, too late to have much fun thanks to my stupid job at the stupid grocery store deli.  By the time I got home from work, the house was dark and silent.  I changed out of my completely stupid deli uniform just in time to run back outside and jump into my boyfriend Joe's car.  Joe's friend Kyle was with him, and the two of them had some seriously wicked M-80 firecrackers.  Up to that point, I'd never actually seen an M-80.  Joe and Kyle were eager to show me what the firecracker could do, so I directed them toward our neighbor's mailbox.  This particular neighbor was a real jerk, so it was OK.  We drove over to the neighbor's place where one of the boys lit an M-80 and tossed it into the mailbox.  As we drove off, we heard a loud boom and laughed our delinquent heads off.  

Because we lived on a cul-de-sac, we had to turn around.  Joe pulled back into my driveway, put his car in reverse, and then paused.

"Did you hear that?" he said.
"Yeah, Kyle did you light another firecracker?" I asked.
"No, that was a GUN!"  Kyle yelled.

Joe and I scoffed at that until we saw the horrifying sight illuminated by Joe's headlights.

My dad, overcome by murderous rage, rushed out into the front yard, clad only in his whitey tighties, was shooting at me!  In front of witnesses!  Joe flew out of the driveway and back up the street and I suddenly realized what had been going on all those years.  My own dad, while pretending to do cool stuff like sledding and fishing and ridding the world of large rodents, had been trying to kill me!

He did a decent job of covering it up the next day.  He claimed not to recognize my boyfriend's car.  He claimed to think we were common hooligans on a mailbox destroying rampage.

Oh, but I know the truth Dad.  I know.  And guess what pal?  You failed!  All those attempts to end my life, and all you accomplished was giving me a fun childhood!  So ha!  Jokes on you!

*I don't know what the statute of limitations is in Indiana for attempted murder, so in the interests of honesty I'm forced to admit that my dad didn't actually fire the gun AT the car.
**Names have been changed to protect the innocent, and also so that no one will ask Angel if my dad saw her nekkid.  Because that would probably be more awkward than him mistaking us for rodents and almost shooting us.