“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Never Poop On Superman

Noah has an upset stomach today, so even though he's fully potty trained (hasn't had an accident in months), I was a little worried about him today. After a long time sitting in the bathroom, he finally INSISTED he could sit no longer and absolutely HAD to watch Scooby Doo right NOW. I did not want to hear him wail these demands any more, so I caved.

"BUT," I said in my strictest voice, "you have to wear a Pull-Up."

He frowned deeply and whined, "Pull-Ups are for babies."

"I know," I said, "but they can also be for boys with upset tummies."

"No," he declared, shaking his head with his eyes closed. "No. I won't do it."

"Yes," I said calmly. "If you want to watch Scooby Doo."

Moments later, however, I had to give in on this, too. There were no Pull-Ups to be found. I sighed, going into the laundry room and calling over my shoulder, "Okay, Noah, you win. We don't have any Pull-Ups, so you can wear underwear. But you have to promise not to have an accident."

"Oh, Mom," he called back. "Don't worry, I can handle this."

I pulled from the dryer a pair of Superman undies, thinking this would be perfect. Both of my boys are convinced--truly--that my older brother is the actual and real Superman. This is now to the point where when my brother leaves, they run to the window and look at the sky in case he decided to fly. And even better, today is my brother's birthday.

"Noah," I said seriously. "The only undies I have are Superman undies. So you definitely can't have an accident. Because today is Superman's birthday."

Noah's face went from pleased to horrified. His nose wrinkled on one side and one eye scrunched shut. "MOM!" he cried, "it's not the real Superman on there! They're only underpants!"

I almost choked trying not to laugh. But then he went on.

"You think your brother lives on my undies? I would NEVER POOP on SUPERMAN! ON HIS BIRTHDAY??!"

Monday, March 26, 2012

In A Blink

The other night, I sent my husband Joe out to pick up a few things I needed. I'd have gone myself, but I have been laid up at home with kidney stone trouble for a few days and my wonderful hubby is loving (he LOOOOOVES it) that he gets to take extra special care of me. On my list were the usuals, like bread and milk and bottled water, but also, I'd run out of my favorite sunless tanning lotion from last year. I don't use it in winter, because there are times it's just not okay to walk around looking more orange than other people, but as I've recently been to Florida and also have been spending time outside in unseasonably warm weather, I decided I needed to break out the tanner. Only problem? I left the supply grossly low last year (yeah, I'm totally the person who puts the box of cookies back when there's only one left).

Before Joe left, I showed him the bottle, carefully pointing out its identifying color scheme, the brand name, the kind of lotion, etc, to be sure he'd get the right thing. I do this because Joe ALWAYS gets things right when he goes to the store. Of course he does. Always.

Well, it turned out that Wegmans didn't have my special lotion in stock. Joe called me on his cell, and we decided the next best thing would be regular lotion made by the same company who made the tanner. We hung up, Joe finished shopping, and came home after about thirty minutes. We unpacked the bags, put things away, and ate lunch. Later in the day, I felt like trying out the new lotion. I found the bottle in the bathroom, and examined its label. Of all the lotions he could have picked, Joe brought home for his thirty-year-old wife:


Thank you, honey. You've been looking great, too.

The thing is, Joe and I have definitely been noticing that we don't look the same as when we met anymore. I mean, we met when we were fourteen so I guess that was bound to happen, right? Poor Joe worries about his hairline and his waistline and I've noticed a totally different kind of lines collecting at the edges of my eyes. And just the other day, Joey was commenting on how my hands look "old." He said this with a curl in his lip and one nostril flaring. Isn't it funny how right up until the moment you notice these things have already happened, you assume they won't be happening for a long time? Or maybe not funny at all, as it turns out.

So, it's kind of odd then that I had this moment tonight as we put the boys to bed. I tucked in Noah while Joe said goodnight to Joey in the next room. I'm almost always faster at these things than Joe, because I'm all about no-nonsense. If you give them an inch and all that. Anyway, I closed Noah's door and peeked into Joey's room. My husband was on his knees beside the bed, his elbows resting on the mattress. He was whispering a silly story to Joey, who was giggling. It was probably about farts or poops or burps, or some other stupid boy humor I don't get.

But the moment came when I blinked, and somehow saw my husband objectively. When you've known someone for eighteen years, these moments don't come very often. When they do, they're always startling.

The last bit of daylight came through the bedroom curtains, making Joe's ash blond hair glow. I could only see the back of his head, so evidence of any receding hairline (which is really "all in his head"--haha! get it??) was hidden. In his t-shirt and jeans, the slight widening of his waist that age has brought was erased by shadows and fabric, and the line of his neck and his back reminded me of all the time I spent following him around when we were teenagers. I could have been looking at Joe fifteen years ago.

And it just kind of hit me, as it does when I least expect it. Saying goodnight to our son is the same boy I knew in high school, a boy I swore was positively flawless and who I would love forever. That's Joe Bielecki, and he married me. And that's our son. And somehow, I'm this lucky.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Rocks in My Belly

My archenemy, Kidney Stone, is in town. Evil is his middle name. And he attacked me so fiercely when I thought I was safe that I am stuck in bed this weekend trying to recover. But I'll win. Just you watch. I've defeated him before and I'll do it again.

When Noah found out I was sick again--he calls it having "rocks in my belly"--he came very close to me and looked in my eyes. He kissed my cheek lightly and rubbed my back. He smoothed my hair and held my hand, carefully lacing each of his tiny fingers through mine. He said, "Don't worry, Mommy. You will be okay. We will all take care of you and make you better."

Monday, March 19, 2012

Solo Singer

Putting my children to bed is this huge event in our house that has become, for me, a huge conflict of emotions. During this rigorous routine of bathing and teeth-brushing and pajama choosing, I am in a big rush to get it all done and have time to myself. Finally. At long last. I often feel that once I am downstairs without these people I love so desperately, I take my first breath of the entire day.

On the other hand, the routine itself has given us this magical bond. The methodical movement from step to step settles them down and is the signal of the end of the day. Noah becomes extra snuggly and Joey confides secrets he has been holding in all day, until that very special moment where I turn off the lights and lean down to kiss him goodnight (which he always wipes off, an involuntary reaction for which he instantly apologizes). He locks his arms around my neck and pulls me close and says, "Want to hear something?"

Tonight, he said, "Mommy, I got to sing a solo today!"

Trying to squash my own cringe-worthy memories of solo moments in my own elementary years, I thought of how much I love Joey's singing and said with great enthusiasm, "You did? Oh my goodness! Did your teacher pick you?"

Joey, thankfully, has either not yet reached the point where he becomes embarrassed or else is going to be one of the great people in the world who can just be himself without care. I'm hoping for the latter. Either way, he didn't miss a beat and responded with, "Oh, no. I asked for one!"

I said, "You brave boy! What did you say?"

"Well," he screws up his face here as he remembers, "I actually asked if I could have my own solo in the Spring Concert, but the teacher said no. Do you know what he said next?"

"What did he say?" Joey's smile is so big and so happy I truly cannot wait to hear the next sentence.

"He said, 'You can't have a solo in the concert, but you can have one right now.' So I said SURE!" I squeezed him in my excitement as he continued, "So I stood in front of everyone, the whole class. I asked my teacher what I should sing, and he said whatever I wanted, so I just did 'Summer of '69.'"

"You did?" I said, thrilled that he chose a family fave.

"Yeah!" he said. "Except I forgot the words after 'Standing on your mama's porch.'"

"But did you start with--"

He closed his eyes and rocked, "'Got my first real six-string! Bought it at the five and dime!'"

Overcome, I hid my ridiculous Mommy Emotions with questions. "Did everyone know the song? Did your teacher know it? Did they clap for you?"

"My friends didn't know it, but my teacher did. He said the song is a true story, and that he was FIVE when it happened. He must be reeeeeeally old, huh?"

"Yes, honey," I said, loving him to levels of insanity.

"And nobody clapped, but everyone had big smiles on their faces like THIS!" And his face broke wide into his beautiful, wonderful smile. I leaned in and hugged him and congratulated him on his shining moment, on his bravery, and then wished him a good night, because wonderful or not, Bedtime is Bedtime and Enough is Enough.

"I love you, Mom," he said.

"I love you, too," I said, and closed the door behind me.

And I was sad to walk away.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

New Independence

I'm pretty sure I believe in past lives. It just makes sense to me, along with visiting Lily Dale, New York, and being superstitious, and living the life of a devout Catholic who only goes to Mass sometimes (in my defense, it's really a germy place).

I'm also pretty sure that in a past life, I was a princess. The real thing. With a turret bedroom and an elaborate canopy bed and throwing handkerchiefs (handkerchieves?) to victorious knights. Laugh all you want. If you know me well, I bet you can see it, too.

That said, the whole princess thing has sort of fallen apart on me this year. Try being a stay-at-home mom when your husband works out of state. It just doesn't lend itself to the royal life. But I must say, I'm pretty proud of some of my bolder steps toward being a gal who can fend for herself.

First, I can officially change all light bulbs in the house by myself. This may sound silly to you, but some of our ceiling fixtures are pretty daunting. Especially since I felt sure that the glass domes on them would crash down and shatter in my face. However, my husband gave me an (impatient) over-the-phone tutorial and I can totally rock those suckers. I have also since discovered that you can find a tutorial for pretty much anything on YouTube. (This is how I learned to fold a fitted sheet and reorganize my linen closet.) So no more bothering Joe with over-the-phone tutorials.

Second, I can plunge a toilet. I also discovered my husband's not-so-awesome keeping place for the plunger, and found a more...sanitary...home for it. Woot!

Next, I'm all over the online banking. As of yesterday. I used to handle all this myself ten years ago when I had my own apartment, but when you marry an accountant, you find yourself saying things like, "Well, why would I do this when...?" But when the hubs works out of state--and brace yourself, 'cause this is shocking--he finds it difficult to keep track of the mail at home. Ugh. Whatever. Just another thing for me to totally rock at.

I kill spiders. Oh, yeah, you heard me. I break out the big shoe, slam that sucker to bits, flush, vacuum, and Lysol. I briefly considered handling this in a more humane way, but it seems to me the spiders are hell-bent on finding their way back into my house and it comes to down a them-or-me situation.

I shovel snow.

I have outdoor work gloves, which I wore today to clean up the massive pile of fall leaves that had blown in front of our side door. Not only did I shovel these away, I also discovered under them the rotted pumpkin my Joe had promised to dispose of last November. Yeah. It was gross. I shoveled that bad boy right into the garbage and just kept right on working, while Noah pedaled his Lightning McQueen Big Wheel in maniacal circles around me screaming, "I have a need for speed!' He doesn't drive like his dad. He drives like my dad.

I have reorganized my kitchen to handle what I call the Mail Situation, which I've discovered was really a MALE Situation. Why does Joe have to leave separate but massive piles of unopened mail everywhere? I sort through it immediately and have a tiny little pile in a basket in a cupboard for him when he gets home. I've also met our mailman. He doesn't like me. He once had to drive up my three-hundred foot driveway to deliver a package that wouldn't fit in the mailbox. He was all huffy about it, and I really wanted to say, "Listen, Big Fella, you just DROVE up here. I have to WALK down there!" Not to mention, he delivered the package to my door, and put the rest of my mail in the box. What the...?

And last, but most certainly not least, I take out the garbage. Two huge Rubbermaid cans once a week, barreling downhill to the curb with no handles (because they mysteriously broke off long ago). They blow over in the wind. Wild animals bust into them. They blow into the middle of my very busy road, and I have to chase them into traffic and yell, "Do that to YOURSELF!" in response to what neighborly drivers holler at me. Dragging the cans to and from the road isn't the only rough part, either. Joe always emptied our kitchen can and took it outside for me, too. This has been a particularly annoying adjustment. Just last week I learned the hard way that I can't just put the bags by the door until I'm ready to go outside. I might trip over them while carrying a small child and end up with a massive bloody nose. Seriously! Who knew garbage was so dangerous?

I think the greatest eye-opener for me is how much we need and miss Joe. I've always prided myself on being this really almost superhuman parent, because for all my princessness, I always wanted to believe I could handle things without help. It's not that I can't, it's that I don't want to. That might sound especially spoiled, but I don't mean it in a spoiled way. I just mean that I enjoy sharing my life with someone I love very much, and I love the different influence he has in our children's lives because, simply put, he's not me. And I will be very, very grateful when all this traveling ends and he can finally, finally kill spiders for me again.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Advice For Traveling With Children

There are so many stories I could tell about my travel-alone-with-little-boys experience (I think it's really important to differentiate between boys and girls in the situation--because say whatever you want, but little boys ARE WAY DIFFERENT). Instead of trying to focus in on any one of them, I've decided instead to create a little list of recommendations/advice for the other mommies out there who might be considering such a feat.

When Flying Alone With Children...
1. Dress them in cute outfits. People will like them better and will be nicer to you.

2. Feed them chewy things that will prevent them from speaking for long periods of time. Gummy Bears, Starburst, and Mike-N-Ikes work well. Gum does not--they can still talk with gum. Chewy foods also assist with ear-popping issues.

3. Understand that coloring books suck. Bring video games and DVDs. Anything that can reel them in now and ruin their attention span for later in life.

4. Hand sanitizer is for rookies. Antibacterial WIPES are the way to go. But you'll need ordinary baby wipes to clean their faces. If their faces are dirty no one will feel sorry for you when they misbehave.

5. Don't make eye contact with them when they are being naughty. It gives them validation, and makes them grow louder. Use a monotone voice to correct them and pretend to be involved in anything else.

6. Don't be afraid to tell outlandish lies. Things like, "The airplane police are watching you on hidden cameras and are about to take you away," and, "The people behind us might be angry aliens" work really well.

7. Explain to them ahead of time in gross detail that the bathrooms are unclean. Also, prepare them for the automatic flushers. Noah was convinced he could get sucked in and tried to refuse to go at all.

8. Have code words to use with your children. Practice them ahead of time. Not too many. Pick and choose what will be most important to you. Ours were "FALL IN." When I say this, my kids run and latch onto my hips like little magnets, no matter what is happening. We practiced this for two weeks at home and I rewarded them with candy. I'm not ashamed because it totally worked.

9.  Make sure they understand they are to scream as loudly as they can if a stranger approaches them while your back is turned. This helps with kidnapping and those weirdos out there who seem to think it's okay to touch other people's children. (I suppose it's an unpleasant side effect of adhering to #1.)

10. Strollers help you get through security faster, manage the carry-on bags, and get to your gate on time. Small children are bad walkers.

11.  Get seats as close to the front of the aircraft as you can. If the only ones available are premium seats, wait until check-in and ask nicely for a free upgrade. Sometimes they will do it. If they get snarky and look at you with disdain, ignore them. There is nothing wrong with asking.

12. While I know lots of really wonderful men, male flight attendants seem, generally speaking, to be less sympathetic than female ones. Keep this in mind when asking for anything, whether it's help with a Batman backpack in the overhead bin or making sure the cup of apple juice is only half full.

13. Avoid taking your child to the bathroom on the plane at all costs. If you must do it, forego washing their hands in that gross little sink. Use the antibacterial wipes and say lots of prayers. Also, don't try to use the bathroom yourself while you're in there with your child. There's not room and someone will get pee on them. Especially during takeoff or landing.

14. If your children are too old to qualify you as a  preboarding family, mill about next to the boarding ramp and look flustered. Sometimes they'll offer to let you board early anyway.

15.  Do not allow your really intelligent six-year-old son to locate the seats on the plane. You might end up in the wrong row, which means that you have to get back up after being settled, relocate yourself and the children, and get resettled. This will completely undo the convenience of #14.

16. Don't promise the people around you that your children are going to be well-behaved. Everyone, including you, knows you're lying. Instead, smile and tell corny jokes about "The Ransom of Red-Chief." But understand, many of these people resent you no matter how nice you are. It's not personal.

17. Have absolutely no expectations of anything going even remotely the way you want it to. Children will always, always surprise you and find a way to throw you for a loop. Your goal is SURVIVAL...and memories. 

Oddly...it all makes for very, very good memories. :)

Good luck!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"Slowing Down" in Florida

Here I am in beautiful, sunny Florida with my two sons. There is more than one reason I decided to take this trip, which I won't go into. Mostly because...I can't. It's just too much for me to talk about.

I will say that I came down to see my grandparents, who are two people who have had a constant presence in my life since before I can remember. Every important memory I have, they were there. They are now in their eighties, and have been inviting me to visit them during their annual trip for probably the last ten years.

At first, my parents were here with me and the boys. Today, they left. I am here for two more days. This seemed like a pretty okay idea when all the planning took place, since I know my grandparents well and am comfortable being around them.

Except that...well, when you're thirty-two and your grandparents are in their eighties, it's not the same as it was when you were five. Does this seem obvious to you? Well, I'm the idiot who was shocked.

Today, my parents left after lunch. I put the boys in for a nap, and afterward decided to take them for a walk. My grandmother liked this idea, and decided she and my grandfather would come along.

This is where things went downhill. Fast.

First of all, my grandpa can't walk very well. He walks maybe a tenth of an inch per hour. He shuffles along in a teetery uncertain way that makes you inclined to stay behind him with your arms outstretched. Just in case.

Second of all, they decided we should all go in search of an ice cream parlor located in the hotel across the street. This street is an eight lane highway with busy traffic and no nearby crosswalks.

Thirdly, my grandfather can't walk great distances. The hotel we were looking for was only across the street, but had a long and winding driveway lined with lovely landscaping and fountains. And no benches.

When we embarked and I realized there would be street-crossing, I balked. My grandpa reassured me. "Don't worry. I'll carry Noah," he offered.

I cringed. "Um, no, Grandpa," I said quickly. I tried to cover it with a joke. "Don't worry about me. I've got Mommy muscles!"

I searched for other ways to avoid crossing the street. "We can walk all the way to the end of this road, and follow the sidewalk around the beach and back up the other side," I suggested. My grandmother looked dubious. "That's an awfully long way," she said, glancing at Grandpa.

She solved the street-crossing problem by marching out to the median, her arms outstretched like a crossing guard, announcing, "They won't hit us. They'll have to get through ME!" Right. Because Grandma's made of titanium. Like Wolverine.

It was my Grandpa, surprisingly enough, who seemed to know exactly how to find the ice cream parlor. It was just that he moved so slowly. I felt bad, since he clearly is either unaware of how slow he's become or else is in denial, so I made the boys stay back and we pretended that we were lazy walkers. Noah was really offended by this, and I had to shush him a few times to not ruin the ruse. But my grandmother was the one who really blew it. She insisted on charging ahead of us, her marathon runner's feet refusing to be reduced to a snail's pace. (This is not sarcasm--both my grandparents were marathon runners up until last year. And they won, too.) Behind her, my grandfather hollered out, "Hurry up, slow-poke!" The logic behind this was really all his, because he really seemed sincere in the hollering but was definitely wrong in his figuring.

Arriving at the hotel, my grandmother realized she needed a ladies' room, and just took off ahead of us. This left me in charge of grandpa, who needed to sit down. Soon.

"Hey, let's go sit by that beautiful fountain!" I said cheerfully, thinking this would be exciting for the boys and a place for Grandpa to rest. We trudged the rest of the way in the blistering heat to the fountain. It was empty for cleaning. We sat anyway.

"Why are we sitting by this empty fountain?" Joey complained. Grrrr.

Ten minutes later, my grandmother came out the grand front entrance of the hotel. She was waving and calling out to us, but I couldn't hear over the lovely Florida breeze. I didn't want to make my grandfather get up until I knew what she was saying.

"WHAT?!" I yelled back through the wind. She gestured wildly and her mouth was moving but I heard nothing.

"WHAT?!" I yelled again. Same response. There was nothing for it. I gathered up my children and waited to be sure my grandfather was securely on his feet, and we began plugging across the circular valet drive the doors.

"I found the ice cream parlor!" she said, looking at me crossly. (She says it i-SCREAM parlor, instead of ICE cream parlor. EmPHAsis on the wrong sylLAble.) My mouth formed a firm line so I wouldn't frown at her--she didn't do anything wrong, actually--and into the hotel we went, my grandfather the chuggy little caboose to our train.

The air conditioning hit us with a welcome blast, and I hoped it would perk up Grandpa a bit. The i-SCREAM parlor wasn't far past the hotel lobby, and the ladies inside were lovely and energetic. My grandfather refused to have any i-SCREAM, based on some principle I couldn't understand beyond "just because," but the boys each got double-decker cones with sprinkles. They were happily oblivious to my growing concerns. This was only further demonstrated when Grandma went off to the ladies' room (again) and Joey asked me to take him in the gift shop while Noah finished his i-SCREAM.

"I don't want to leave Noah, honey," I explained.

"He's with Papa," Joey said, like I was stupid. I sighed. I couldn't very well explain to Joey in front of Papa why I didn't want to leave Noah, but I also couldn't very well leave Noah alone with my grandfather. Although as I reflect, I do wonder if my grandfather even realizes that my children call him Papa and knew we were talking about him.

Thankfully, Noah finished his i-SCREAM and Grandma re-emerged from the bathroom, so it seemed like we could just head back to the condo. We'd be on the shady side of the street this time, and since we knew where we were going, I hoped I'd feel less anxious on the way back.

But halfway out of the insanely long hotel driveway, Grandma realized she left her purse in the bathroom. Her purse that had the condo KEYS in it. Grrrrr.

"Don't worry, I can jog back!" she said airily. "You all wait right here!" And she really did jog away. How many eighty-one-year-olds can do that? I don't think many. And also, she left us standing pretty much on the curb, and Gramps was teetering.

"I think there's a bench around here," he said. He meant to make it sound like I'd be wanting the bench, not him, but I was just as eager for him to sit as he was. So, while I was worried about Grandma Joggy, I also knew we couldn't just stand there on the side of the road. We had to keep walking. I sighed, holding my children's hands tightly on either side of me and checking behind me at every step to see that Grandpa was all right.

We were almost to the street when Grandpa spotted what might have been a lovely sitting rock.

"How 'bout there?" he called.

"There?" I asked, pointing. "On the median in the middle of the road?"

"It's a seat," Grandpa insisted.

I sighed. Surrounding the rock were flowers and no path, and to reach the rock one had to step up a fairly large curb.

"Okay, Grandpa," I said, feeling doubtful even as I led us over that way. We had to pause three times to let cars pass. Our dash was less than mad. It was more like...Level 1 of Frogger. When we reached the rock, we saw it was too small to sit on, and Grandpa couldn't step over the curb without wobbling. We had to keep going. Actually, we had to Frogger our way back to the sidewalk and THEN keep going. Grrrr.

We did find a bench, ultimately, on the corner of the hotel drive and the eight-lane superhighway. Not at all nerve-wracking to sit there inches from traffic with my two small children and wobbly grandfather. Waiting for a Grandma who couldn't walk ten feet without needing a bathroom and who, incidentally, wasn't answering her cell phone. Not only was she alone, not only had we left the place where she'd told us to stay put, not only had we wandered to a place she could not easily see us, but she also was not reachable. Where was she?

After a long several minutes on the bench, Grandpa startled us by speaking. He'd been in sort of a trance since we sat down. "You stay here," he said. "I'll go find Grandma."

Ha. Fat chance.

"No, Grandpa," I said, unsure of how to make him stay except to knock him down, which seemed unacceptable somehow. "I'll go."

"No," he said. "I'll go."

We all went. Grrrrrr.

It was clear we wouldn't be able to see Grandma coming around the bend unless we returned to our original spot (the one we weren't supposed to have left), and I knew Grandpa wanted to sit down again. "Let's just go back to the bench, Grandpa," I said in my firmest voice. "Grandma will find us. You'll see." I sounded much more confident than I felt, enough to convince Joey and Noah that I was right. They chirped, "Yeah, Papa, Grandma can find us! Let's go to the BENCH!"

Luckily, Grandpa didn't argue again. Not long afterward, Grandma came jogging around the ornate hotel sign and went right by us on the bench, waving as she went.

"It's a good time to cross!" she shouted, heading for the road. I scrambled to grab Noah, grasped Joey's hand tightly, and checked out the road frantically in disbelief. It was clear...sort of. Like, for normal people. But not for Grandpa...?

"Come on!" she shouted. It was the same tone she used to use when she'd yell at her old pit bull, Shiner, to stop acting excited. "Come on, Shine!" she'd holler. Sometimes she'd whack him with her giant heavy Bible. 'Cause she always had it close by.

But she couldn't whack Grandpa right now with a Bible. Instead, I got my own kids safely across the street and prayed fiercely and Grandma did her crossing guard routine to make way for Grandpa. He made it, but it seemed like barely and I was pretty shocked that no one had laid on the horn. But then, it's not home. It's Florida, where all people come to...slow down. Except maybe not so literally.

When we finally got back to the condo and I was breathlessly muttering the Lord's name repeatedly (not really in vain, I don't think), I got a text from my parents at the airport.

"Everything okay?"

I texted back, "Everything's okay, but no more walks."

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mommy's First Nosebleed

Literally. As in, the nosebleed belonged to Mommy. Me.

In the morning, I did something that I cursed myself for all day. I promised Joey I'd pick him up from school. I have all kinds of issues with him taking the bus, mostly stemming from my own nightmarish bus experiences, but I've found that, for the most part, I do prefer him to ride the bus home from school.

When he asks me, eyes all glowy and pathetic, "Mommy, can you please pick me up from school? I haaaaaate the bus," it's not that I feel sorry for him. It's usually that it's 7:35 in the morning, and Noah is refusing to wear pants, I've forgotten to pack Joey's lunch, Daddy is leaving some long and pathetic message on the answering machine from Pittsburgh, and I only have one sock on. So what happens is I just close my eyes real tight and cry out, "Okay! Fine!" It's just easier that way.

I went to Target at 8:00 this morning, but forgot something and had to go back at 1:00 this afternoon. This made having to pick Joey up at 2:15 feel even more harried than usual, and I had a serious case of the Grumbles and Mutters. Noah was dragging his feet, so it should come as no surprise that when I snatched him up in my arms, flung open the door to the garage, and stepped down to the concrete, I had totally forgotten that earlier, I had placed a giant Hefty bag out there and left it. I'd thought, "Oh, I'll see it and grab it to put in the trash can as I leave to take Joey to school."

I didn't see it.

It was one of those moments when time slows down and you exist in your own cosmic realm. Forty billion thoughts raced through my mind during each millisecond, everything from, "Oh, yeah, the trash bag," to "Must protect Noah at all costs." And that was what I did. As I fell, I slowly--or it seemed slow because time had slowed down--twisted my body to make sure Noah would not hit the concrete. This meant that I crashed down awkwardly, my elbow hitting down first and then my tailbone, as all forty pounds of heavily clothed Noah smashed down on top of my face. I felt a CRACK and knew the gush was happening even before I managed to twist my hand out from under us, grasp as my nose, and pull away what seemed like three liters of blood. My elbow was throbbing and so was my face, and Noah was screaming in terror.

Not as much as he screamed, though, when he looked at my face and saw it covered in blood.

Oddly, because it's completely unlike me, I stayed really calm and promised him we were both fine. I lifted him up, checked him over while trying to remember what one does for a bloody nose, and brought him back in the house. I checked the clock--how in the world was I still self-possessed enough to think about the time?--and saw that I had about three minutes to spare before I had to be at Joey's school.  I raced into the bathroom--without taking off my shoes--and grabbed tissues and baby wipes. My mind raced. I've had students get about a hundred bloody noses over the years, and I desperately tried to remember all the things I knew (besides, "never ever touch the bleeding child"). Don't tip your head back. Pinch the bridge. Hold the tissue up to your nose. That last one seemed obvious, since I wasn't in love with having blood pour all over my face.

When I looked in the bathroom mirror, I could believe my appearance. Ten minutes before, I'd put on a light coat of makeup, you know, to look nice for all my mom-friends, and I now looked like a victim from Scream. Somehow, I was still calm, and used the baby wipes to clear away the blood. The gushing slowed and stopped pretty quickly, though I had to keep the tissues pressed to my face as I loaded Noah in the car and started the drive to school. On the way, I called the school office to let them know I might be running late, and not to let Joey get on the bus. They must have thought I was dying the way my voice shook. In the backseat, Noah kept asking meekly, "Are you okay, Momma? Is your face still hurt? Was it my fault?

"No, baby, it wasn't your fault at all," I assured him. "Mommy just tripped because she was really, really foolish."

"I'm sorry we fell, Momma," he said, still unconvinced. I mentally promised myself to give him a sticker for being extra kind and tough.

When I finally reached Joey's school, I realized that I had blood on my hands (hee hee--that sounds funny), and used yet more baby wipes to clean them off. I grabbed some sanitizer, completed the job, and raced into the school just as the afternoon announcements began.

Joey came around the corner then, all smiles. He said cheerily, "How come you were running late, Mom?" Apparently, the secretary had rushed to tell my message to Joey's teacher.

"I'll tell you in the car, honey. You won't even believe it."

We piled into the car, sanitized our hands, and began the short drive home.

"So what happened, Mom?" Joey asked.

I began telling the long tale, hoping it wouldn't sound too scary or upsetting for him. His mom all covered in blood? How would he take that?

As I reached the part about me having clean up with baby wipes, Joey interrupted.

"Did you know Iceland is formed from volcanic lava?"

I guess he handled it okay, then. Me? Well, once I realized I was safe I sent dramatic texts to my loved ones just to let them know that I'd nearly died and was, in fact, all right. But I will say, having a bloody nose is...exactly as bad as I'd always imagined it would be. I feel I've been initiated into a crowd of "tuffs."

And at least now, if this ever happens to my boys (and I'm told it assuredly will), I'll know just what to do.