I am super excited that one of my posts has been selected to be featured on Aiming Low’s “Three Day Weekend” (it will be up tomorrow). I practically had to threaten bribe the Aiming Low girls, but they came to their senses and recognized true genius and wit when they saw it. I call the women over at Aiming Low my “blogging tribe” because they celebrate motherhood’s glorious imperfections, mistakes and general slackerness. They’re my heros. Plus they’re damn funny.
There is a battle going on at my house. It’s waged in our living room every night. In this epic struggle – which pits my husband against our two kids – I am thrilled to say that I am a happy bystander. It’s like watching gladiators duke it out on the coliseum floor – I observe, comment occasionally, but generally am just highly entertained by the whole commotion. Once in a while I signal who won with a thumbs up or thumbs down.
But really, one dad versus two toddlers? He doesn’t stand a chance.
The war is over territory. Specifically, who owns the living room. Siig wants to be able to relax and watch TV in peace and quiet. The kids, on the other hand, being kids, want to play and be loud and run everywhere and yell and scream. Siig feels the kids should go downstairs to the playroom to play, that being what the “playroom” is for. What he doesn’t understand is that the children want to be near us. If he wants them in another room, he’d have to get off the couch and walk downstairs. Which would defeat the purpose of his definition of “relaxing.”
As for me, I don’t care so much about watching TV (unless, of course, “So You Think You Can Dance” or “The Amazing Race” is on) and have anyways long since given up control of the clicker. Plus, I am usually too busy making dinner or cleaning up the kitchen. As long as no one is crying or bleeding, and I’m not on the phone (which is a guarantee that your kids will be at their most obnoxious), I usually don’t care if the kids are being loud.
This puts me in an awkward position. I feel I need to side with Siig, being my husband and fellow adult, but really the whole thing just makes me want to laugh. And giggling when your husband is angry is not a good thing for a husband-wife relationship.
The reason I laugh is because the whole situation is comical. The kids can only stay quiet for about two minutes, Siig gets more and more angry, threatens to take them to their rooms, swears he’s going to move the TV to our bedroom, but in actuality does nothing, and the process starts over again. Basically, Siig turns into a 5-year old and instead of two kids screaming and yelling, it turns into three. And then I am the only adult left in the room.
Do you think they served cocktails to those toga-clad spectators cheering on the gladiators? Because with three kids fighting, I’m going to need one.
I used to be such a low maintenance girl. I’ve never been into “products.” On my bathroom countertop sat two face creams (one for the day, one for night) and one body lotion. That was it. I don’t wear make-up. I don’t put anything in my hair except shampoo and conditioner. Heck, I don’t even own a hair dryer.
It used to take me about 10 minutes to get ready for bed. Now all that has changed.
My sink is now cluttered with plastic bottles. Some may surprise you: a bottle of vinegar, another of tree oil and one of hydrogen peroxide. Some you have probably never heard of: Selenium Sulfide, Ketoconazole, Clindamycin, Chlorhexidine.
And that’s just my bathroom countertop. Upstairs in the kitchen, I have a bottle of pills called Septra-DS, which is basically sulfur (I’ve already gone through three months of the antibiotic Minocyline), a bag of turmeric, a bottle of apple cider vinegar and a jar of blackstrap molasses. The last three are ingredients for a tasty concoction I drink a few times a day. Let me tell you, it’s de-fucking-licious.
I am sure at this point you are wondering what in the heck is wrong with me. That would make two of us.
For the last seven months – yes, seven – I have been dealing with a skin problem that I just CANNOT seem to shake. I haven’t written about it before because, well, it’s kind of embarrassing. But after over half a year of dealing with it, I just need to vent. And tell you. Because I know you have nothing better to do than listen to stories about things growing on my epidermis.
Since April, I have been breaking out like a teenager before a first date. And not just on my face. Pretty much from my belly button up – my chest, my back, my neck, even on my elbow creases. Yes, it’s as fun and lovely as it sounds. For those of you who know me, you might be surprised. I am lucky in that my complexion seems to hide some of the spots, and the drugs have gotten it under control – but only for a while, only just long enough for me to think I’ve finally, finally kicked it, before it laughs at me and says, “HAH! Fooled you again!” and flares back up. It’s a stubborn little bugger, I tell you. I am about ready to kick its annoying ass.
So what is this thing that’s infested my skin, you ask? (Don’t worry, it’s not catchy.) Well, after finally undergoing a culture and biopsy, the dermatologist discovered that – good news – it’s not a fungus. Bad news: the normal bacteria on my skin basically went haywire and decided to multiply, giving me folliculitis, which is an infection of the hair follicles. I know what you are wondering: follicu-what? I never heard of it before either. But now this bacteria and me are on intimate terms. And I am becoming desperate. Hence the alternative remedies: turmeric, vinegar, tea tree oil.
Although I can’t seem to rid myself of this bacteria, I do know exactly when I got it. It was an unseasonably hot day in April, and we took the kids skiing, and I was basically carrying Kaya in her skis around the mountain sweating my balls off and being hot. Did I mention I was hot? With my ski parka on, I provided a nice little warm climate for the normal bacteria on my skin to screw like rabbits and multiply. Lovely. And now those damn rabbits just don’t want to leave.
Where’s Elmer Fudd when I need him?
I am really, really, really hoping and praying that this latest medicine I am on, coupled with all the alternative stuff I’m trying, will cure it. At this point, I will pretty much try anything, although I did rule out the suggestion about soaking in a Clorox bath that I read on a web site. This whole experience has given me a new appreciation and compassion for people who suffer from skin problems, especially my husband, who at times gets embarrassed about his Rosacea. Don’t we paint a pretty picture?
For now, if you wonder why I’m not returning your calls or answering your emails or updating my blog, it’s because I’m too busy soaking in vinegar, drinking turmeric and counting the number of bottles on my bathroom sink.
What is it about my children that makes strangers want to give them things? I could say it’s because they are so adorable people can’t help themselves (snort!), but thinking about the times it’s happened I start to see a pattern: they are always with my husband. Is this because people take pity on a man when he is caring for his children without his wife to support him? I heard author Michael Chabon on NPR the other day talking about how low the bar is set for fathers. (He just published Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father and Son.) He tells the story about being in the grocery store holding his 10-month old in one hand and placing the items on the check-out counter with the other, when the woman behind him in line gushes: “You are such a wonderful father.” Chabon said, “I certainly wasn’t doing a good job, and yet there I was being given this gift of praise and so much credit. It’s just because of the mere fact that I’m just there, holding on to my kid. … That’s all it takes to qualify sometimes.”
The first time Kaiden received a gift from a stranger was in Aspen when he was almost a year old. I was in a cafe getting some food while Siig sat outside with him. When I came out, Kaiden was holding a stuffed zebra in his hand, like the one from the movie “Madagascar.” Siig said some lady walked by and thought Kaiden was so cute she went into a toy store and bought it for him.
I didn’t really think much of it, thinking it was a one time occurence, until this summer when, once again, I was in a burrito place getting food while Siig and the kids waited outside. (There is most definitely a pattern here.) All of a sudden Kaiden and Kaya come bursting through the door, waving a dollar bill in their hands. Some old man had walked by, spotted the kids, and thought they deserved a buck of their own. I was just glad he didn’t ask if they wanted to step into his van for a piece of candy.
OK, I thought, something is definitely going on here. This never happens when the kids are alone with me.
Then, a few weeks later, Siig took Kaya into a music store to look for a CD while I waited in the car. He didn’t find what he was looking for, but out she walked with a free pink visor and pinwheel that the music store owner gave her. Score.
But I couldn’t help but wonder – are these people giving the kids gifts out of pity for the dad, who they assume is helpless when it comes to taking care of children because that is a “woman’s domain?” Or are my children so obnoxious that strangers try to shut them up with presents (I have been guilty of that myself)? Or are they just so damn cute people can’t help themselves?
But what I really want to know is this – what do I have to do to start getting people to give me free stuff?
Yup, I don’t post for almost two weeks and now here I go with two posts in two days. Confusing, eh? But 1) I now have the time and 2) I have some inspiration for today’s post from The Accidental Mommy, whose “Too True Tuesday” assignment this week is to write about the worst gift you ever received.
The first gift that came to mind was a wedding gift. It was a pepper shaker. Just a pepper shaker. No matching salt shaker in the box. Just ONE. PEPPER. SHAKER. I mean, really? Who does that? Was that person really that cheap? Or did they just think that we were so inundated with salt shakers we couldn’t possibly need the match for the pepper? It couldn’t have cost more than $15-$20. I kind of felt like the giver was sending me some kind of message: “You are better off alone.” “You don’t need each other.”
But my all-time best, worst-gift story happened when I was traveling in Morocco with my best friend Renee in 2001 (See: My Life as Thelma for a better understanding of our crazy travel experiences). We had just spent an amazing week in the seaside town of Essaouira and were reluctantly pulling ourselves away from the magical place to continue on our journey. Renee, who had fallen in love with the most gorgeous man we had ever seen in our lives (we had nicknamed him “King Babe.” Who knew the most beautiful man in the world was living in Morocco?), was especially sad to be leaving.
So here we were, moping at a bus station, when two young Moroccan men started flirting with us. Even though we were not in the mood, they would not leave us alone. They wanted us to come back to their mother’s house so she could make us food – not an unusual invitation in this part of the world. When we kept refusing, they finally offered us some gifts to remember them by. The build-up was intense. They talked about the gifts like they were a family heirloom or a gift from King Mohammed VI himself. The men brought us to where their bags were, dug around inside, and then told us to hold out our hands and close our eyes. When we opened our eyes, this is what we saw sitting in the palm of our hands: a cheap silver bracelet and, best of all, gold-colored toe-nail clippers. TOENAIL CLIPPERS!
Renee and I took one look at was lying in our hands, and then each other, and tried our best to suppress the laughter that was bubbling up inside us. Were they really serious? we wondered. One look and we knew – yes, they most definitely were.
We never went back to the boys’ house, but man, those toenail clippers provided us with countless hours of laughter. Like a garden gnome, we took photos of those clippers at every new destination – with us at the ferry stop in Tangier, sitting in a cafe in Barcelona, at a beach in Tunisia.
And you know what? I still have them. And the bracelet. And the pepper shaker. Every time I look at any one of them, I have a good laugh. So maybe they weren’t that bad of gifts after all.
I’ve been a bad, bad blogger.
Forgive me, dear readers, for I have sinned. It’s been 12 days since my last post. I know what you are thinking: “What could be more important than providing highly entertaining posts for my mom all my thousands of loyal readers on a daily basis?” I won’t try to come up with excuses, although I have some pretty good ones, like being on deadline with articles and editing, two board meetings, school meetings, accidentally deleting a brilliantly funny post that I did not have time to rewrite, and planning Kaya’s 3rd birthday party.
But you can put away the violins and tissues. I am finally coming up for air. Last night, I finished cleaning up the house after having 15 kids and 20 adults over to our house for the princess birthday party. I think we set a record with 12 kids on the trampoline at one time. Visions of lawsuits flashed through my head, but luckily no child was harmed during the jumping, except for the usual scrapes and bruises. And Siig looked absolutely ravishing dressed as a fairy princess.
But not that’s what I want to tell you.
Why I’ve really gathered you all here today is to talk about something else. My freezer. Or more specifically, what’s in my freezer. I bring this up now because the party is over and if I had talked about this before, no one would have come over.
Wrapped in plastic bags and tin foil, and sitting underneath boxes of frozen pizza and peas and blueberries and a bottle of vodka, is Kaya’s placenta. That’s right, you heard me correctly. What nourished her for nine months while she was growing in my womb is now a silver blob of freezer burn.
The original intention was to plant a tree with the placenta in honor of Kaya’s birth, which was a victory of sorts for me. After having a c-section with Kaiden, I wanted to reclaim my power. Kaya was born at home in a tub of water, a beautiful, sacred experience.
And now, three years later, I have an organ that resembles an uncooked steak sitting at the bottom of my freezer.
Before you write me off as some earth-loving, neo-hippie woman (which wouldn’t be a total insult), I’ll have you know I never planned on doing anything too far out like making placenta tea or placenta prints. I just wanted to be able to look out of my house and see a beautiful Aspen tree, a reminder of that wonderful, healing day when Kaya came into the world.
But as the saying goes, “The cobblers’ children have no shoes.” And thus, as the wife of a landscaper, it is near impossible to get Siig to find the time to plant trees at our house. In other words, the landscaper’s child has no placenta tree.
So, another year goes by, and the placenta sits silently at the bottom of our freezer, waiting to be remembered and given a proper burial.
It was ironic, then, that on Kaya’s birthday my mom called from her house down the street. She wanted to know what we wanted her to do with the bag of Siig’s blood she just found in her freezer. (Siig used to have to give a pint of blood every two months because we thought he had a blood condition called polycythemia, where his body produces too many red blood cells, but two years ago we went to an expert who told us he doesn’t have it. I’ll save the details for another story.) One time after giving blood, Siig had the bright idea of saving the bag of fluid to put in his landscapes to help plants grow. So he put it in my mom’s freezer, because at the time we were living there while we remodeled our house. That was in 2007.
So here we are, in 2009, with a two-year old bag of blood in my mom’s icebox and a three-year old placenta in ours.
If we ever lose electricity, we are totally screwed.
Note: Irony of all ironies – we actually lost electricity the day after I wrote this due to a big storm. In my whole neighborhood, so that included my mom’s house. Good news: power was out for only a couple of hours. So you can breath a sigh of relief. We do not have thawing placenta dripping out of our freezer.
Here’s something they don’t tell you how to deal with in parenting books – what do you say to your 5-year old son when he goes rummaging through your purse and pulls out a tampon, then holds it up inquisitively and looks at you and asks, “Mommy, what is this for?”
This happened to me the other day. When it did, I literally froze for an instant while I digested the moment. It was like when you fall off a bike and it only takes a few seconds but while it’s happening it feels like slow motion and forever. I thought to myself, “Hmmm, this here is a bit of a doozy. How the heck do you explain to a kindergartener what menstruation is?”
I could have lied, of course. That is a God given right of any parent. It would have been easier. For a few brief seconds, I pondered the possible answers: “Oh, it’s a new kind of extra long chapstick that comes wrapped in paper” or “It’s an early Christmas present that I haven’t opened yet.”
But I didn’t. For one, that would have immediately triggered Kaiden’s curiosity and he would have wanted to open the thing. I decided, instead, that I was up for the challenge of trying to explain periods and tampons and vaginas in the simplest terms possible. Simple enough for a 5-year old boy.
It was a lot harder that I thought.
This is how I started: “Well Kaiden. You see, you know that Mommies grow babies in their tummies, but when there is no baby in there, then they bleed out their putter.” (Yup, that’s what we call it in our family, courtesy of a British nanny growing up. Rhymes with “cooter.”)
Kaiden looked at me like I had been smoking crack. I thought a clarification was in order.
“Well,” I continued, “Mommies bleed because the blood was meant to feed the baby, but if there’s no baby, then the blood just comes out. So that’s what the tampons are for – we put it up our putter so we don’t bleed everywhere.”
Kaiden then gave me a look that only a boy could give, a mixture of total disgust and “you gotta be crazy.” And then he said, “Wouldn’t it be better just to stick it up your nose?”
Don’t you just love boy logic? So I answered, “Yes, Kaiden, maybe it would be better to stick it up my nose.”
So next time if you see me walking around with a string hanging out of my nostril, don’t freak out. It’s just that time of the month.