Sunday, October 24, 2010

Je suis Low Batt

I'm reading a great book, Michaela Wrong's In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz, which is about Zaire/Congo in the waning days and wake of Mobutu. Yes, shocking though it may be, I have a young child and can still read. I did have to retrain about 6 months after her birth, as entire sections of my brain had been damaged from PPDPTSDSD (that's Post Partum Depressive Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with Sleep Deprivation). But after years of therapy, I am now able to once again read an entire adult book, as long as it isn't too literary or academic, those are still too much for me. I'm trying to do a lot of reading now since I am not sure I'll bounce back as well from another bought of PPDPTSDSD. I may only be able to handle People magazine for the next couple of decades.

But I digress, back to the Congo. She has a chapter called "A Nation on Low Batt," which plays on an expression used by Congolese cell phone users when their phones run out of batteries ("I'll ring you back, I'm Low Batt") and refers to the barely-functioning state in which Mobutu left the country. This includes mountains of uncollected garbage, 20 story buildings with out-of-order elevators, hospitals that act as prisons for patients who can't pay their bills, and, most terrifying, a nuclear reactor (that's right) with almost no security and uranium rods on the verge of corroding.

Well, I am the motherhood equivalent of the Congo right now, definitely A Mom on Low Batt. Everyone poo-poos when I say that I am humungous, but this week it became official. I got on the scale, and my normally laid back OB--who answers almost every question with, "If if makes you feel better," as in, "Should I avoid feta cheese?" "If it makes you feel better"--almost fainted. After he collected himself and examined me further, he concluded that I probably have a condition called polyhydramnios, or excess amniotic fluid, which I also had with Charlotte and which basically means I am breeding oceans in my uterus. And it means that I am officially humungous, and will become ever more so, so you can save your "You look great!"s because we both know you are lying, and last I checked, that was still one of the 10 commandments, right up there with Thou Shalt Not Enact Universal Health Care and Thou Shalt Not Believe in Global Warming. So you know it's bad.

When a person is carrying around not only a small human but an Olympic-sized swimming pool so Baby can practice his butterfly stroke, she finds herself slipping easily into a Congolese state of mind and body. In practical terms, this means Charlotte watches so much TV, if one of the yuppie, over-achieving moms that litter this area gets wind of it, I'm probably looking at a visit from Child Protective Services. She also hasn't had a bath in over a week, because washing her hair is pretty much the Mt. Everest of my physical activities right now, along with putting on socks (on myself or her). My own personal hygiene is rapidly descending in my priorities, not that it was that high to begin with (see a previous post on that topic), but I can't even see a large portion of my legs, much less shave them. Like Kinshasa, my house features uncollected garbage on occasion, and my kitchen counters would probably incinerate the Dateline NBC ultra-violet germ detector (I hate those shows. If Jane Q. Housewife and her family have been living with those germs and no one has died, then their presence is not a news story. Go back to busting sex offenders). Fortunately, when we redid our kitchen, I specifically chose a pattern of granite for the countertops that does not show dirt or debris, even if you are looking for it. Seriously, I could scatter a bag of raisins all over it, and they would be mummified before anyone discovered they were there.

My brain is also on low batt, book reading aside. Today I broke an egg into the sink (as opposed to say a dish where it might be edible). And that's really the tip of a massive iceberg of absent-mindedness. I am really questioning the wisdom of my decision to attend a month of full-time language training for my job in November. I did it last year, and it was really fun, so I thought, what a great way to close out this pregnancy. Plus I will have childcare 5 days a week rather than just 3 days a week, not to be sneezed at. But I am increasingly having a hard time speaking English (writing in this blog is truly tortuous at this point, but I can't let my fan down so I am writing through the pain), much less any other language. I fear this could be quite humiliating.

I'm also having to drastically scale down my extra-house activities I had great hopes of taking Charlotte a nearby farm's Fall Festival this autumn, because as everyone knows, it is obligatory to take small children to places where there are animals, hay, and pumpkins in the fall. But, alas, there will be no pumpkin farming for Charlotte this year, unless I can convince Kevin to buy me one of those Hoveround scooters they advertise late at night on TV. Those things are awesome! Did you know they are lightweight, highly maneuverable even in small quarters, and have lumbar support? And their founder's name is Tom Kruse, which adds even more credibility. I want one of those bad, even just to cook dinner. Or to go to a pumpkin farm, either way. But seeing as we are not on Medicare or Medicaid, I don't think Hoveround is in my future. I'll have to console myself with my "Stork Parking" permit for work, which truly make pregnancy almost worthwhile. If I were like an in shape pregnant person, like super model Gisele Bunchen--who brags that she did yoga the day before giving birth, never wore maternity clothes, and, sealing her position on my Most Hated People in the Universe list, just behind Robert Mugabe, says she thinks breast feeding should be mandated by the UN--I would sell that permit on the black market for a year's worth of formula.

Well, I'm stopping now because writing this has pretty much depleted my mental energy supply for the rest of the week.
Je suis Low Batt.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Potty Training 101


Christopher Columbus dreamed of sailing to India. Icarus thought he could fly near the sun. Tiger Woods believed he could save his marriage after sleeping with the entire bimbo population of the United States, many of them not that attractive. And I had plans to potty train Charlotte before the arrival of Baby Brother. Fools, all!

In my defense, Charlotte is an appropriate age (2 1/2). She speaks English fluently. She can obey my instructions and often chooses to do so, particularly when bribed with jelly beans. I have a Costco membership and can buy huge vats of jelly beans. Most importantly, she has demonstrated an ability to hold it, to the point where I may eventually only have to change her diaper every few days (thereby removing any incentive either of us have to potty train her, but whatever). So I thought my goal was not that ambitious and totally achievable. A co-worker gave me a talking Elmo potty, which, along with the Dora the Explorer panties, I felt pretty much made it a slam dunk.

I forgot about one thing, however. Whereas Charlotte loves jelly beans, Elmo, and Dora, and laps up praise like a Golden Retriever, she also has the life long goal of never growing up. Not that I am one to judge, I totally feel her on this one. My mom loves to recall how I would say to her, "Mommy, when I grow down, can I be your baby again?" Wasn't I totally adorable. This attitude has in fact remained a constant, not literally, as in I no longer want to be my mother's baby, that seems a little creepy, but I would like to have someone cook all my meals, pay all my bills, and basically absolve me of all responsibility in life. I remember when I was like 10 or 12, my 13-going-on-30 contemporary, Amanda, would bemoan how people treated us like kids (my response: duh, that's because we are) and how she couldn't wait til she was 16 or 18 or 20. I thought she was crazy because being a kid was so awesome, I didn't see how it got any better. And, as usual, I was right and wise beyond my years (which is why I shouldn't have to grow up. If you can ace the test without taking the class, you shouldn't have to take the class. I'm just saying.). It doesn't get any better, children, so enjoy your carefree youth while you can. And eat your broccoli, because that doesn't get any better either.

However, I will say this: Depositing one's waste matter into a modern toilet where one's contact with it is limited and it is whisked off into the nether reaches of the earth before one even necessarily has to view it cannot be overrated. Or, as a slight variation, depositing one's waste matter into a talking Elmo potty that congratulates you on your achievement as if you had cured polio and where one's contact with it is hopefully limited and it is whisked off by a long-suffering mommy--who still has to do some cleaning apparently, which is a real rip off, but baby steps here, we will one day make it to the actual toilet seat because the arc of parenting is long but bends towards an empty nest--cannot be overrated. Certainly it is immeasurably better than, say, sitting around with it smashed up on your skin waiting for someone, perhaps even a relative stranger--and I thought a pap smear was humiliating--to clean it off of you with a cold, damp baby wipe. I feel this is a distinction anyone, even a 2 year-old, could make, no matter how badly they wanted to hit the pause button on life. In other words, though I never wanted to grow up, I am cool with wiping my own butt. That is some responsibility I can handle.

This is apparently not Charlotte's take on things. We have had the Elmo potty for about a month (we also have a potty seat that goes on top of the big potty), and so far, Charlotte's potty achievements basically boil down to sitting her doll on the potty, sitting herself on it for a sum total of hours, basically using it as a procrastinatory device at opportune moments, and one second-hand account by probably corrupt church nursery workers of her actually peeing in a toilet. Allegedly. When I heard that, I was filled with hope, only to spend another 20 minutes that evening--after 10 hours of Charlotte with a dry diaper--waiting in vain for the faint, musical sound of urine hitting plastic. I ask you, who, after 10 hours of not peeing while ingesting liquids at a normal rate, can sit on a toilet, with water intermittently running for inspiration, for 20 minutes and not let out even a drop? This child is some kind of urinary camel, with bladder muscles that could bench press a Hummer. I don't know what other conclusion to draw except that she just hates me so much, thwarting me gives her superhuman strength.

Now, I'm told if I am really really serious about this potty training thing, what I need to do is just put panties on her and let her have accidents. She won't like having accidents and will start going on the potty. Sound good...I guess...I just have one question, what, pray tell, do I do with my furniture? Wrap it in plastic wrap? Go all Euro-minimalist and get rid of all but a plastic orb chair hanging from the ceiling? We've already been over how much I love my African crap (thankfully most of it is water proof), but I also happen to love my sofa as well, probably because this is where my butt lives and grows.

And anyway, maybe I'm not really really serious about this potty training thing after all. What's wrong with diapers? The diapers these days are like wearable science labs, sucking in gallons of liquid and turning it into a sterile gel you can style your hair with if you are so inclined. If I just wait another year or so, I'm sure they will start evaporating feces and buffing baby's butt clean at the press of a button. Modern diapers are probably why potty training a child is so difficult now anyway--they make it so comfy to wallow in your own crap, the child could care less. In other words, there is a massive conspiracy by the evil, money grubbing diaper companies to render the human race incapable of using the toilet, thereby increasingly their profits 7 billion fold (evil laugh)!!! I'm so glad I got to the bottom of that. No pun intended. Now I can just start a movement (wait til the anti-vaccine people and the breast feeding Nazis hear about THIS one!) and spend the next several decades trying to eradicate effective disposal diapers from the face of the earth!

Hey, it's probably easier than potty training Charlotte.

Friday, October 8, 2010

An attempt at empathy

First of all, if you haven't seen the Mompetitors short films, go right now and watch this introductory one at least. You will laugh until you cry. More importantly, this blog entry won't make any sense unless you have seen it. Incidentally, this is yet another example of why I will never be a famous writer/humorist because there are just too many funny people out there (and the mom-blogger market is totally saturated). Still, I persevere, pathetically lapping up the meager praise from the few kind friends who encourage my habit.

I noticed on one of the films that someone had left a comment, the gist of which was that the films' maker was obviously siding with one perspective in the mommy battles (i.e. the sane mom) and maybe she could try making a film from the perspective of the "mompetitor" (obviously the person leaving the comment is a mompetitor herself). My first reaction was, Get a life. My second reaction was, It would be impossible to make an entertaining film mocking the other mom because she is totally normal and sane. My third reaction was, But if she tried to make a movie taking the side of the mompetitor, what would that look like? And my fourth reaction was, Why don't I try and see, what else do I have to do? While I am not technologically savvy enough to actually make such a film (and would probably be sued by the brilliant woman who made these), I thought I'd offer her a possible screenplay to try. So here is my attempt to see life from the Mompetitor's viewpoint:

Mompetitor (MP): Hi, I see you were able to turn off the TV this morning. I'm so proud of you!
Other Mom (OM): Yeah, it was hard but I thought of you and your kids and felt inspired.
MP: What did you and your kids eat for breakfast? I find that is the key to having enough energy. We eat plain, steel-cut oats with flax power and fish oil every morning.
OM: We all just ate sugar.
MP: Like Pop Tarts or Lucky Charms?
OM: No, like sugar. LIke I opened a bag and gave everyone spoons. Is that not good?
MP: Actually, no--sugar causes obesity and tooth decay. It's probably also why you and your kids are so tired all the time, it's not a steady energy supply.
OM: Really? I had no idea. I am so glad I met you so I can learn all these things.
MP: By the way, I read in the New York Times this morning that there has been a recall on Snuggleride car seats. Do you use that brand?
OM: Oh, we don't use car seats. My kids like to ride in the bed of our pick-up so we let them.
MP: Well, that sounds fun, but it's really unsafe and actually illegal. 1,768 kids die every year from riding in pick-up beds. And according to state law, kids have to be in a car or booster seat in the back seat of the car until age 8.
OM: Age 8, seriously? How are they supposed to drive themselves to school from the back seat?
MP: That's the law. Kids aren't supposed to drive until age 16 anyway.
OM: For real? Wow, you know everything. Thanks so much.
MP: No problem, I really care about kids and realize that not all moms have time to research everything so I consider it my responsibility to try and help out.
OM: Oprah should give you an award. I mean it, I'm going to write her.
MP: Oh, you're sweet. How's the new baby doing? How's the breast feeding going?
OM: Oh, I've quit, she wasn't sleeping very well so we started giving her formula with codeine in it.
MP: Hmm, well, I don't think codeine is safe to give a new born.
OM: Really? But it works so well!
MP: Yeah, I know, but it's not safe. And you should really give breast feeding another try--did you know that it is scientifically proven to make your kids healthier and smarter?
OM: Really? So that's why my kids are so stupid! Man, I wish you had been around for me a few years ago. But I think it's too late to try again this time, I'm all dried up.
MP: You can take a hormone that will make you lactate. That's what I did with our middle child, who is adopted. It really worked too. Even though her birth mother was drunk for her entire pregnancy, my daughter just passed the MENSA exam and is already a certified genius. Remember, breast feeding is always worth it!
OM: I'm going to my doctor right now to get me some of those hormones. You are a life saver!
MP: You go girl, you can do it! Hope to see you again soon. In the meantime, here's my card, call me anytime you have questions. I'm here to help.
OM: Thanks so much. You are seriously an even better person than Sandra Bullock.

OK, so that was predictably lame. And I still think the Mompetitor comes across as an evil witch. So I think this pretty much proves conclusively that she is. Empathy can really be a useful way to prove yourself right.