Categories
enjoying a good cry Mommy had kids to do all the work for her Niblet swimming goggles put to use

Kindergarten Sous Chef

If I do no other good in this life, at least I have had a part in creating this one:

He didn’t want to speak because the onion fumes irritated his mouth–this in addition to his eyes and nose, but he didn’t have a “gaping maw” goggle on hand.

Since he’s certainly not getting off the hook as my kitchen helper, I guess we know what to get him next Christmas.

A mouth plug.

If you care to share, click a square:
Categories
burying your children drinking Fulghum Kinkade Niblet Pinocchio the work of a kindergartener

Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in a Bitchslap Fight Outside the Bar When That Skank Burned My Wrist with Her Cigarette

Remember that precious Robert Fulghum book from a few years back–the one where he listed all the things he learned in kindergarten and then showed how they had carried him in good stead throughout life? In a folksy and fuzzy approach, he made millions by writing nonsense like “Play fair” and “Share everything” and “…no matter how old you are – when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.”

Is this the right spot for a group vomit? If so, bend over with me now and make a big heave.

And you know how that smarmy Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light, puts out the “art” version of Fulghum’s kind of packaged, insulting nothingness–stuff that’s aimed firmly at any unthinking plebe with a Mastercard?


And you know how both men deserve to have their nostril hairs plucked out, slowly and painfully, by a the beak of a drunken hummingbird who keeps missing their nostrils and instead just pokes their eyes out?

Yea, like that. I resent their particular kind of mass-marketed crap in an eye-poking-outish-by-small-birdie fashion. I also kind of want to dismantle Pinocchio there and whack both guys in the testes with the wooden legs.

Thus, you can imagine my dismay when, recently (as I was carving Kinkade a third buttock out of Pinocchio’s femur), I realized I had to give Fulghum, at least, some cred. His premise might have merit after all.

See, I live with a kindergartener. Watching him move throughout his days has, in fact, taught me a handful of life lessons:


Always leave an eye slit. Even if you have a pair of pantyhose over your head or are working the door at a speakeasy, clear vision is key to a life out of the hoosegow.

Have other people do the work while you take a rest. Construct the situation so the workers are enthusiastic about breaking a sweat while you garner all the glory. For more, see: Coldplay vs. Joe Satriani.

Drink with gusto and little discernment. Even if you’re catching drips straight out of the gutter, don’t be proud.

Learn to hide. Be sneaky.

So, okay. I’ll back off Fulghum, to a certain extent, and will only bop lamely at his kneecaps with Pinocchio’s dismembered head for a few minutes.

Kinkade, however, is getting a wooden tibia right up the pooper.

If you care to share, click a square:
Categories
bastard pirates birthdays doulas labor new piercings Niblet

Ashen, Ashen, I Bawl and Fall Down

For the event of Niblet’s birth, we bartered for the services of a local doula (if you can’t buy the time of a lesbian who works at the Environmental Protection Agency for the price of a gallon bag of frozen pesto and a six-course feast including hand-made butternut ravioli…then it’s time to kvetch about the state of the economy). “Doula” is a Greek word meaning “she who will dive into a uterus to pull out the remaining piece of a placenta when everybody else in the room is more concerned with taking APGAR scores.”

A doula is kind of a labor assistant, someone who tells the nurses to back-the-eff-off if they’re clacking too much in your face, someone who suggests that a pair of feet dug into one’s lumbar might be just the ticket to relieve back labor. Some doulas also create written narratives of the labor and delivery, just in case you want to recall at a later time that one of the blood vessels in your eye burst during the pushing.

Our doula, Anne, was cool. When Niblet maneuvered into a bad-bad-no-no position a couple weeks before his due date, she researched various stretches and lunges I could do to get him to shift back. It didn’t work, but, as a faux-academic, I can always appreciate failed research.

On the day of Niblet’s delivery, when I worked for eleven hours to pass his 10+-pound body, which was posterior facing instead of the preferred-anterior position, I kind of, um, stalled out. I was done and ready to wait until he and I both died, whereupon we could romp together in a heaven much like the scene in 1977’s James at Sixteen when James had a crush on Little House on the Prairie’s Melissa Sue Anderson, and they ran towards each other across a flower-filled meadow. Pretty much, I was ready to be Lance Kerwin, and my unborn baby was cast as Melissa Sue.

But then the damn doula refocused me and told me to lower my vocalizing out of the high-and-ineffective-wounded-puppy range, to drop it more into a gravelly and powerful “This-is-the-big-one-I’m-coming-Elizabeth” Fred Sandford plaint. So I started grunting real low-like and forcing my breath to do some work. It was a pretty remarkable sound of channeled pain.

Fat lot of good it, and the doula, did. Fancy-schmancy labor assistants and their blather about breathing. I’ll tell you how to get a damn baby out of you: let a well-paid team of carpenters take their blades to you and cut the thing out.

Now that worked. They hacked me open, and out came Melissa Sue.

Who knew, however, that nearly six years later I’d be giving the low, primal, Sanfordian groans a curtain call…all due to that same Melissa Sue (now a little boy in kindergarten)?

Who knew that I’d be carrying his 54-pound body towards the bunk bed one night and step on this, a much-coveted ring that I’d picked up off the floor already at least twenty-nineteen times that week:


Of course, I was barefoot, and the ring was turned sword side up. Impaled, dropping Melissa Sue, crazy with the pain, I yanked on it.

The ring didn’t budge.

I pulled again, harder, trying to get the sword to yield my foot flesh.

Arrrgh, maties, but it hung tight.

For a nano-second, I wondered what kind of boot Steve Madden makes that could accommodate foot-with-pirate-ring-growing-like-a-barnacle-out-of-the-sole.

If it meant new boots, I might be able to live with the thing.

Contemplating my options, I also hopped around wildly and–apparently–emitted a familiarly deep and extended moan of pain.

Generally, cries of pain are ignored in our house, as they are all overblown act, put on by the drama queens that live with my husband and daughter. But in this case, Groom detected a different tenor. He heard the doula keen. He knew my pain was real and that carpenters might need to be called in.

In fact, he was so convinced actual pain was happening that he dropped his chef’s knife (thankfully not into his foot; I could have told him that would hurt like a mudder-effer) and raced up the stairs, hollering, “Are you okay?”

At the moment he crested the stairs, I was delivered of a healthy pirate ring. It popped out with a flourish and belched a weak cry. As when Niblet was born, I managed to heave out the words “That. Hurt. Me. A. Lot. That. Should. Not. Happen. Anymore.”

Crankily, I hobbled into the bathroom and scrounged for the Bactine and gauze. That’s been Niblet’s legacy to me: blood and gauze and misplaced toys and despairing cries. Several times now, he liked to have killed me.

This week, as as the lad turns six, I am twirling dizzily in the circle of life. His birth gave me a new noise to make; six years later, I trotted it out again. In six more years, when he’s twelve, he’ll whack me in the head with a remote control in a fit of pique. He shall make me groan again, and often.

Yet.

Of course.

Without him there would be

no moon that looks like a “sleeping banana,”

no snowman called Puffy made out of cotton balls and M & M’s,

no cadre of stuffed kitties named Star, Butterscotch, Strikes, Jingles, and Flash,

no body made prone with laughter over “sufferin’ succotash,”

no science “conspiriments” of growing “jiggly crystals that look like the sunset,”

no Baby Paco who is learning to walk (a character he inhabits through much of the day),

no fried eggs and frozen blueberries for lunch,

no heap of broken junk in the basement for “when Dad learns to weld, and we make a robot,”

no one asking Girl to hold him on her lap and groom his hair “like chimpanzees do,”

no one humming “Allouette” under his breath while throwing a bowling ball at Optimus Prime,

no one naming his betta fish Anikin,

no one seranading me with a song that goes “this is my soft leeetle weenis,”

no one climbing into the bed every morning to hug my cranky body to wakefulness,

no one who moves through the world just as I do, a perfect partner in hyper-sensitivity and goof-ass-ish-ness.
————————–
Thus, at the end of an extended visceral growl, I have discovered

there couldn’t be a more perfect pain.

If you care to share, click a square:
Categories
Girl J.C. Penney's Niblet photographers school pictures

Benchmarks

School pictures came home last week, toted in backpacks jumbled with Boxcar Children books, broken pencils, water bottles, and gym shoes. The kids are proud and excited about the photos; usually, I fake an interest on their behalf.

However, I find I’m turning a corner, when it comes to my attitude about these highly-contrived photos that jam a kid onto a stool in front of a magnification of Stephen Hawking’s brain.

Thus far, I’ve balked at school pix–and not just because, in my high school senior photos, the shoot’s stylist made me lean on a wagon wheel and clasp my hands under my chin coyly. No, my issues go beyond Conestoga trauma. Here’s what rubs me:

Some company comes in, holds my kid hostage for a few minutes, using a photographer that calls every kid “Patty” in an effort to get him/her to smile naturally, and then the whole outfit tries to charge me, the parent, large American dollars to buy back my own uncomfortable-looking children in packaged form so that I then have something to share with the relatives come holiday time. Couldn’t I do this type of thing every year on my own, at the J.C. Penney’s, if it mattered to me? And don’t I, quite willfully, resist doing that, too, because it’s all just so fake and weird and hell if I don’t prefer a candid shot I’ve taken myself for free? And couldn’t I just give the relatives new socks, if they require a holiday thought? Or perhaps a free weekend–or week, or month–with the kids, if they need to see them so damn much?

Clearly, school pictures make me swearish, and I think we all know I’m generally quite refined.

But this year? I’ve been surprised; I’m appreciating adding their photos to the progression of years. I like seeing them grow up through the school’s eyes. Crunk it, but I think I prefer my kids wallet-sized.

Hence, suddenly I am all about embracing the school photos, even though they give me paper cuts when I hug them too tightly.

Plus, the photos prove that my kids exist when I’m not around, and I’ve never been completely certain on that point before.

Lookit:


You know why I don’t blog about this one as much as the other one? Because she shows up, shuts up, and does the job, all with a sprinkling of freckles. Oh, and if you ever need a kickass speller, call 1-800-GIRL.

Certainly, when she’s overtired and has had a big day of Scholastic Book Fair + Parent/Teacher Conferences + Swimming Lessons, the sum of these parts is just as likely to be her lying on the floor of her bedroom, screaming in high dudgeon, a toothbrush dangling out of her mouth, kicking her heels repeatedly in an impressive fit as it is to be her spelling “temperamental” correctly.

But then she recovers and helps her little brother with the snap on his pants.


If you’ve ever wondered what it looks like when a Finnish/Norwegian-American gets his monkey on, this is your day.

Note the pebble-creature necklace, which I was given when I turned 12.

I think I wore it in my school picture that year…the necklace, a new bra, a cowl-neck sweater, and a smile manufactured just for the photographer when he called me “Patty.”

If you care to share, click a square:
Categories
bathtime blogging chia pets hair Niblet picture day

If These Photos Represent a Mere Ten Seconds of My Day, How Could I Possibly Find More Hours For Blogging?


I don’t mean to post all the time about mein Wee Niblet, but, hand to heaven, he continually provides a mind-boggling amount of fodder.

For example, we have a deal in the household, when the kids are due for haircuts, that they can go sit in a stylist’s chair somewhere and be enveloped by a plastic cape and false gushing about how cute they are–both of which are matter-of-factly laid on by a hair artiste who wishes she hadn’t gotten pregnant at 19–or they can stay home and let me pay them a dollar to cut their hair. The kids spend about thirty seconds teetering on the steely edge of that decision, weighing the bright lights and free lollipop of Cost Cutters against their desire to save up one more dollar towards The American Girl “Feel-Better” Kit, ultimately tumbling towards personal greed over glamorous gratification every time…and saving us about $28 bucks in the process.

Indeed, I’m happy to shell out $2 for my kids to have the nicely-trimmed hair that tells the world somebody loves them.

Of course,

I’m not exactly a professional. I, em, wield good intentions more adeptly than I do a scissors.

In my defense, it’s not exactly a disaster. I mean, who cares if an 8-year-old girl’s hair slants dramatically downward and to the right, when she is viewed from behind? She hardly ever holds still or has all her hair in one place, anyhow. No matter the slant, it still looks all wild and happy when she’s dangling upside down from the monkey bars. Plus, we always have the slick back-up option termed, in spy circles at least, braids.

And who cares if a 5-year-old boy’s eleventy-nineteen cowlicks all conspire to make him appear a Young Einstein, even after the snipping?

Hmmm. Wait a minute. I guess I do. Niblet’s Chia Pet hair is as unruly as the crew of kids on the morning bus ride to school, hair that often leaves him looking tragically untended (incidentally, damn you, third grader Caitlin, for forcing your way into his backpack each day during the drive and pretending to steal his applesauce cup, a little scenario that stresses out my kindergartener to the point that SuperMommy may be riding the bus one day soon wearing the coolest part of her hero’s get-up: the patent-pending Stealth Pincher Hands).

So when I recently cut Niblet’s hair, I decided to use the electric buzzer clipper doohicky wahoonie thingie all over his whole head and not just on the back section. Trying to get his hair to behave, I buzzed the kid’s entire noggin.

Leaving him looking like a sociopath out on a day pass.

Oh, and let’s check the clock at this juncture, shall we? We were a week out from School Picture Day (and 47 subsequent years of mockery, based on that picture).

The hair clearly waddn’t going to grow back in before Picture Guy squeezed the birdie for 500 elementary school kids. (poor Picture Guy: imagine the chafeage after all that “birdie squeezing,” not to mention the prison time)

All of this brings me back to my original point–and I did have one: Niblet offers up endless fodder. Case in point…while I didn’t directly mention to him that he looked kind of scary after Mommy buzzed his skull, I did suggest that Picture Day is traditionally a great time to express personal creativity, and wouldn’t a hat or a wig be a nice touch?

His unique solution, of course, was to choose to wear a hoodie that has monkey ears on it. Naturally, he NEEDED to wear the hood up, ears a perkin’, along with a special necklace made out of three rocks glued together.

So the other day, in front of the camera and for all posterity, Punky proudly sported the monkey ears and covered up his Death Row ‘do.

Other times? He puts on his bathing mask and takes a plunge.

My point, thus, is that when it comes to the Resident Bathtub Diver, I don’t make the news. I just report it.

If you care to share, click a square:
Categories
Bakugan Niblet

Preschooler Oysters

 

You know how it’s important for a parent to mess with her kid, just to make sure he’s ready for the Whac-A-Mole game that is middle school?

I do; therefore, I view every day as a “mess-’em-up-early-and-hard” opportunity.

Case in point:

While the Wee Niblet still has affection for his Pokemon cards and is always game for a Yu-Gi-Oh duel, he’s recently expanded his faux-manga-based-consumer-merchandising passions into Bakugan territory, as well.

Pretty much, Niblet is hot for Bakugan’s balls.

Admit it. They’re strangely attractive, weirdly soothing, these balls. You want to cradle them in your palm, don’t you?

Don’t be coy. One glimpse, and you can sense they give good hand.

If you don’t believe your own impulses, you can believe Niblet. He’s an expert in holding little balls, and he finds the Bakugan Battle Brawler balls very satisfying.

In fact, he is so enchanted with them that he keeps the Bakugan brawlers in his pockets, where he can massage them, roll them, and tweak them.

Even better, I like to get him talking about what he’s doing: “Hey, kid, whatcha got there in your pocket?”

“My widdle balls.”

“Yea? Whatcha doing with them, toots?”

“Feeling them. I like feeling my widdle balls.”

Then I let about three minutes pass before asking, “So, buddy, you seem to be touching something in your pants there. What’re you doing?”

“Mom, you know I wuv my widdle balls. I’m playing with my widdle balls.”

Next mission: get him to explicate, with great volume (“EEEH? Cain’t hear ya, kid. Speak up!”), at the mall, about what he’s got in his pockets. I may enhance this activity by having him take along the Bakugan wrist-shooter, into which the brawler balls can be inserted and then ejected. There we’d be, in front of the Eddie Bauer store, me asking, “Whatcha doing now, poodle?”–and him answering, “Just making my widdle balls shoot out.”

After the tortures of Mommy Boot Camp, middle school is, in comparison, going to feel like an easy stroke of the tool.

If you care to share, click a square:
Categories
Craig Ferguson feet Fergie Niblet pain Webkinz

Ouchie-ooh-la-loobie-ding-dat

 


After a particularly hardcore session of Webkinz, during which he mined for precious gems, tackled fairies in the Charm Forest, and added a new trellis to his platypus’ yard, Wee Niblet stood up and staggered away from the computer.

Leaning uncomfortably against the bed, he groused, “My legs fell asleep.”

“Eep opp ork ahah, scoobie-shoo-doo, boopity ba-ba-ba,” I hummed in response as I folded the laundry, unable to find a caring bone in me. Rather, deeply immersed in my non-mommy headspace, I considered the possibility that my life, even though I’m 40, might not yet be completely set. If I could toss out scat like that with no rehearsal to speak of, the distinct possibility existed that I might be featured as JocelyNummy on Fergilicious’ next album.

“No, rewwy, Mommy. My feet have all prickles in them. It’s like I’m getting my shots for my five-year-old check-up again, all at once, ‘cept only in my feet, a million times over. I need for it to stop now.”

“Well, keep on keepin’ on, kid–try kickin’ it Pre School, for reals–and it’ll go away,” I counseled, folding another towel.

“It’s so bad, though, I won’t ever be able to sleep because it won’t ever go away,” Niblet moaned, launching the Increased Desperation Triggers Sympathy strategy.

“Dude, you have a computer to play games on and a bunch of Webkinz and a new trellis, and your platypus ate a big plate of noodles tonight and stuff. I don’t really feel for you here. Take your pain and your pout and stomp them around the room a little bit; that’ll get the blood flowing again,” I recommended, wondering if Craig Ferguson would wear a blue or a yellow tie during his monologue that night and if he might ever need me to come on to work the audience into a frenzy with my scatting virtuosity.

“But Mommy, it’s so bad. You need to feel my feet. They are so prickly you will shriek when you touch them because it will hurt you too. You should feel them to see how much they hurt.”

So I did. I bent down and touched his paws. And those prickles of his felt like rays of burning sunlight had been taken and jammed into shards of ice which were then packaged inside diamonds and scratched along a blackboard covered with jalapeno juice that squirted into an eyeball that was being held open with toothpicks coated in barbed wire that had been heated in molten lava for six minutes. Jehosephat, but Whinebot was right. How he managed to contemplate which jammies to wear at the same time that kind of torment was roiling around inside his body–well, I’d never admired him more. Letting go of his feet, I fell to the ground, paralyzed.

“Um, Mommy?”

Croaking from the floor, weakly, whimpering, I whispered a, “Booooy? Get your father. That’s right. Get Daddy. Mommy’s dying from touching your prickles. She may need a lemontini to restore a regular heartbeat.”

“Hey, Mommy. Get up now. I have to use the potty and am going to need a wiper-suhviper. You can do your scat thing while I do mine.”

—————————————–
Despite my willingness to mess with his head and play along, I’m pretty sure Niblet will soon outgrow his certainty that interior pain can be felt by those outside of his body.

Until his first acid trip in college, of course. Then I’ll have to be all “Wow, babes, but the walls ARE melting. Yea, your hand is totally bigger than that chair. Ooh, yea, that scab on your leg is on fire.”

What?

Like I’m not going to be there?

What else I got to do? Wait for Fergie and Craig Ferguson to call?

If you care to share, click a square:
Categories
bad days birthdays Niblet students

The Twelve-Inch Scar

 

Five years ago, on January 17th, I made one of my students vomit.

I hadn’t even assigned “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” either.

Rather than yacking up her lunch as a reaction to Coleridge’s opium-induced writings, she barfed out of affection and empathy.

See, this student came from a background so sketchy, so traumatic, that you would be skeptical of the details. The first twenty years of her life were positively and brutally cinematic, in a directed-by-Quentin-Tarentino-and-starring-Harvey Keitel-as-a-coke-addicted-mafia-enforcer-with-a-blowtorch-and-a-pair-of-pliers kind of way. In short, any possible abuse that you can imagine inflicted on another human being had been heaped upon her before age 11, when she finally broke free of her parents’ terrors one seminal night and found possibility–found life–on the streets.

I didn’t know all this at first, of course. All I knew was that she seemed oddly experienced yet unformed there in Freshman Composition, and when I gave students twenty minutes to write up a paragraph of introduction, she fidgeted and ultimately turned in less than a line, apologizing that she was having a bad day. At that time, I didn’t know her literacy was so newly-minted that it shattered in the face of pressure.

As the weeks passed, I noticed that she was making tentative overtures of friendship and that she seemed willing to expose some hidden parts of herself (when she came up after I’d assigned the persuasive essay to say, “You told us to write from our personal experience, so, uh, could I argue that the War on Drugs is a good thing, from the point of view of those in the drug trade? I can easily come up with three reasons to support that idea–it keeps our, um, their prices higher and keeps employment opportunities up for some of us, um, them and such to have drugs outside of government control). I told her to go for it, draw from her experience, and if she didn’t want to share her essay with classmates during a peer review session, she didn’t have to.

In particular, she seemed fascinated by my expanding belly that semester, as I was in my last trimesters of cooking up the Wee Niblet. She started with “I’ve never seen a healthy pregnancy before” and, a week later, progressed to “So this kid won’t be addicted to nuthin’ when it comes out, right?” before eventually winding around to “Because of some stuff that’s happened to me, I can’t have kids.”

Thusly, through small disclosures, we became friends. The semester and third trimester carried on.

Then the semester ended in December, and the third trimester carried on. And on. And on. Those last weeks dragged out endlessly, as they do in most pregnancies, but for me they were exacerbated by a big baby in my uterus deciding to turn. Generally speaking, at the end of the pregnancy, a fetus is too big to move much, but Niblet apparently was feeling the squeeze because he shifted from happily-head-down (the Ready to Rock position) at about Week 38 of my pregnancy to Head Up and Right, Head Up and Left, and eventually Head Slowly Descending, which I think is also a yoga pose.

Trust me, having a huge ball of flesh move around in a womb that’s stuffed to bursting–bursting like Paris Hilton’s closet, but not like her head–is painful. Each time he started travelin’, I had to stop and grab the counter or the car or Groom’s leg, thinking, “Holy Red Hots, but this is some funky contraction.”

Then it would stop, not a contraction at all. I’d clean up the spilled cereal or pick up the groceries or administer a soothing cream to Groom’s broken leg skin, and we’d move on.

We did have the support of a doula during the pregnancy and labor, fortunately, and during the “Where the Hell’s the Head Now?” phase of things, when I was getting weekly ultrasounds to determine the babe’s position, she would come over and help me try to flip the Niblet. There are age-old methods of baby moving, apparently, that require the expectant mother to crouch on the living room floor in a position called Turtle or to do lunges against the edge of the couch, in the hopes of prompting the Little Shaver to rotate. Since these methods have emerged out of eons of childbirth, I found them worth trying, although I never could figure out how prehistoric women did them–what with not having living rooms or couches.

After all my contortions, the baby ended up head down, but anteriorly, not posteriorly (translation: when you’re standing behind a birthing woman–which is safer than standing in front of her, where any missiles she lobs…water glasses, car keys, unopened condoms…can nail the innocent onlooker–the baby’s face should be looking right at you when it exits the birth canal. In my case, the baby was trying to come out face forward, so he could watch and flinch each time innocent onlookers were pelted with unopened condoms). The upshot was that the kid was overdue and not in ideal position, but he could make it out.

Ultimately, labor was induced. The night before, I was checked into the hospital, where a heavy-handed resident practiced, with loudly-whispered advice from the bystanding nurse, inserting a little P-gel, in the hopes of ripening my crabby cervix and making it more amenable to labor. It didn’t help much, so the next morning, they broke out the hard stuff: Pitocin.

Haysoos Marimba, but a Pitocin contraction is a regular contraction on steroids (or, um, Pitocin). Bigger, harder, meaner. I labored for about six hours–in awe at my water breaking, at upchucking my Nutrigrain Cereal Bar when I dilated to four centimeters (classic stuff, I was told). Truth be told, I was only awed for about 4 seconds during that time. The rest of it?

I wanted to die.

There’s a reason why I’ve never written about this day before. Even with my love of juicy vocabulary and a sound thesaurus, I have continued to have the sense that there just aren’t words for that day. When I type, “I wanted to die,” it sounds cliche. It sounds like me at the mall when I spy the perfect pair of ankle boots on clearance–and, amazingly, they are available in my size–but when I get them to the check-out, I am told they weren’t on clearance after all. That’s when I usually drum up a good “I just want to die.”

So it’s almost impossible for me to convey my longing to die that day. Unquestionably, if I had been Linda Purl in The Young Pioneers, out there alone on the prairie, just me in my corn-husk bed, raising my calico skirts to make way for the delivery, reaching for my sewing shears to sever the umbilical cord, I would have died. I would have reached over for my plow-loving husband’s rifle, angled it towards my head, and pulled the trigger.

Fully aware of the impact of my actions and the fact that I would miss that year’s wheat harvest, I still would have pulled the trigger. Knowing how much we had desired this baby, craved his addition to our family, planned to have him, I would have pulled the trigger.

On our way out of the world, I might have whispered an apology to the baby. But mostly, I would have welcomed the release from the agony. That day, in the hospital, I just didn’t care. I only needed it to end.

In my recollection, the long hours are actually a blur. Women in labor dive so deeply, internally, that we don’t realize our husbands are shoveling in Dagwood sandwiches while standing next to us–getting the bones in one hand crunched during a contraction, snarfing down a stack of turkey and lettuce with the free hand. I certainly had no idea Groom had eaten. Later, I expressed to Groomeo my admiration at his uncomplaining fast, noting that he must have been incredibly hungry as he worked Support Staff. Turns out, he ate quite a bit while standing a foot away. He probably answered the phone, too, fluffed some pillows, and carried on conversations about the local news anchors’ hairstyles. I had no idea.

Certainly, I was not proud; I availed myself of one, two, three epidurals, the story of which is another twelve-page post. In brief, epidurals are more efficaciously administered when the hospital pages the anesthetist on duty, not one who is at home shoveling his sidewalk. And certainly, I had my peeps. Pulling me through that day were not only the doula and Groom but also our kids’ Godmamas (the beautiful lesbians), my cousin’s wife (herself nine months pregnant, yet she dropped to her knees repeatedly to massage my lower back as we paced the halls very early in the process, helping me wheel the IV stand along), and my mother (who was ultimately sent from the room, when she couldn’t handle seeing her own grown-up baby girl in such a state). This troupe went through their own physical contortions on my behalf: pressing into me a foot or an elbow to counteract the back labor; chasing the heartbeat around my uterus with a mobile monitor, to avoid having to insert a scalpal monitor into the baby, who was firmly lodged inside of me; getting my husband that big ole sammy.

Even surrounded by help and love, however, I was ready to die.

Still working, our doula urged me to lower my vocalizing from high, squeaking, ineffective pips down to lower, stronger, diaphragm-centered tones, yet the baby didn’t descend any further. The nurses came and went with a bustle. And then the resident insisted on checking my dilation during a contraction.

As I bellered at this painful indignity, and the cast swirled around me, trying to regain focus out of chaos, the curtain shielding the door to my room was pushed aside. It was my excited, naive student. She was happy, expectant, ready to see a healthy baby for the first time in her life. She was ready to behold the post-birth beauty of Mother and Child, nestled in joyous union.

Instead, she walked in on Dante’s Inferno, if Homer Simpson had doused that inferno with charcoal lighter and held a Bic to it before spraying the whole thing with aerosol hairspray.

At the moment she popped through the door, she heard one of my low, gutteral,”I-am-a-broken-person” moans. It struck her as a familiar a sound. It struck her as the same sound she’d made herself in moments of profound physical pain, when others were on her, in her, torturing her. It struck her that I was dying. I wager it struck her that I wanted to die. She’d been there.

As the doula called out to my stunned student “This is NOT a good time,” she’d already turned and run–run down the hall, stumbling into the nearest bathroom, where she vomited up her visceral reaction to what she’d seen and heard.

For the rest of that day, both of us were shaking. I had five more hours of torment before decelerations in the baby’s heartbeat led to an emergency C-section. Strangely, I felt shame about not being able to get that baby out on my own. I felt I hadn’t worked hard enough. I felt a failure.

However. When the blessed epidural finally took effect in the operating room, and the misery ceased for the first time in eleven hours, and I proclaimed my everlasting love to the anesthesiologist, they pulled the Niblet out of me, and no matter how he got here, I was oh-so-glad he had arrived.


(with Niblet weighing in at a few ounces over 10 pounds, the surgical team greeted him with a roar of appreciation; for at least a few more days, he had the distinction of being the biggest baby born in the city that year)

Due to the sheer amount of painkiller my body had accumulated throughout the day, I had been on oxygen; I had the shakes; I had uncontrollable itching. As I was prepped to move into the recovery room, the brusque surgeon took two seconds to stop by my arm, which she touched briefly. I had been warned that bedside manner wasn’t her forte, but her words sliced me as deftly as her knife: “You need to know that you couldn’t have done this any other way. Neither you nor he would have made it. This was the only option.”

It is so rare that we hear exactly what we need to, exactly when we need it most. She gave me that rare solace.

—————————
The day after Niblet was excised, when I was still hooked up to the ease-inducing morphine pump, the phone in my hospital room rang.

It was my dear, traumatized student. She opened with, “So you’re alive?” An hour later, she sat at my bedside, a bag of chocolates in her hand. With awe, she took in the fact that I had been through such an ordeal, yet I was still her same Jocelyn (read: happy to see the chocolate). When the nurses brought my boy in for a feeding, she refused to hold him, aw-shucks-ing that she wouldn’t want to drop him.

A few minutes later, after our goodbyes, I spied her down the hall, standing outside the nursery, where she stared through the glass at him with marvel bordering on reverence. Overwhelmed, I hit the button on my morphine drip and clutched a pillow to my foot-long incision, grimacing as I anticipated the pain of an approaching sneeze.

That hospital hall saw my student move from spew to wonderment in the course of twenty-four hours. It took me weeks to recover from the agony of Niblet’s delivery, but the sight of her down that hall, her nose against the glass, appreciating for me what she could, can, never have, was an instant benediction.

Her joy at my good fortune,

her joy at seeing a healthy, welcome child,

her joy in his tightly-swaddled purity

reminded me that beauty can be birthed out of terror and anguish.

And now Niblet is five, and Student has just this week accepted her first professional job.

As a nurse.

If you care to share, click a square:
Categories
Irrepressible Niblet This I Believe

When I Was Young and Full of Grace

I believe, when my aunt labeled the Wee Niblet “irrepressible,” that she saved me at least twenty-three minutes of racking my brain to find the most apropos adjective for the little nutter. Indeed, without her astute assessment of him, I might have thoughtlessly described the lad as merely “zestful” or “bubbling.”

What a mistake that would have been, for he and his occasional mohawk efortlessly infuse twelve thousand bubbles, with small lungs and a twisty straw, into piles of unsuspecting zest, shake them to the tune of a mambo, stir the concoction with Mad Maxian vigor, and top it all off with an olive (or rather, ten of them, pitted, each waggling on the tip of a grubby finger).

Niblet is four. Niblet has remarkable mojo.

It is rising.

Placing a call on his hot dog phone

His days begin when he rolls into our bedroom, climbs into the parental bed, and starts kneading my belly, elbow skin, and neck folds (there are no greater expressions of affection from this tactile preschooler). After a bit of a cuddle, he’s ready to “watch,” a half-hour that has him singing and dancing in front of the tv…unless his watching gets derailed by a pick-up round of “Animal School” with his Girl sister. When they play Animal School, she teaches; naturally, he is a student and sits in his assigned place among the penguins, unicorns, bats, and gorillas. So effortless is his popularity that he may run for Animal School Council (they need a new treasurer).

As he watches or plays, Der Niblet munches on his breakfast of beef jerky, pickles, and/or croutons. By 9 a.m., his visionary and entrepreneurial spirit has awakened, and we find ourselves making helmets that are half-alien, half-dinosaur. Generally, the purpose of the helmet is not specifically revealed, but we’re amenable to pitching in because participating in the process means that we have license to make a whole lot of googly eyes and antennae–honest work that keeps us out of the meth lab. Plus, he needs an assist with the hot glue gun.

In between projects, there is some dabbling with chess, playing Camel Poop Care Bears with the neighbor girl, organizing his Pokemon binder, breaking eggs for the pizza dough, and cutting up National Geographic magazines. At some point during this agenda, The Boy Hurricane either makes a case for it being a pajama day or for wearing tights, a sportcoat, and a Frankenstein tie.

Best of all, while his given name is fairly unique in the U.S., setting him apart in any classroom or puke-ridden ball pit, he finds it unsatisfactory. Several months ago, as Niblet sat in his sweat lodge, toying with his ceremonial pipe, a new name delivered itself to our chap, a name that he, in turn, revealed to us. It is his true name, he maintains, and it should be the only one we use to address him.

It is Dinko.

Certainly, I slip up. Sometimes my mistakes slide by; sometimes I am quietly but firmly reminded of his Dinko-ishness. Sometimes he’d like to reprimand me for being so absent/neglectful/audacious as to not recall my own son’s name.

But then he spots his little sewing machine or a bag of magnets across the room, and he’s gone. I am temporarily off the Dinko hook.

Of course, when he trips up to me, three minutes later, holding a pop-up book about King Tutankhamun in hand, I’m back in the hot (glue gun) seat. You see, Dinko is adamant about the pronuciation of that dead pharaoh’s name, and when I read it with its traditional inflection, the boy grounds me with a glare and an exasperated: “Maw-om, it’s Too-kin-ham!”

Quickly forgiven once I apologize and practice, I am then invited over to his ever-evolving diarama of King Too-kin-ham’s barge, where my finer motor controls are required–to tape in a few new loaves of bread and storage barrels. The whole thing is made out of grocery bags, chopsticks, and unfettered whimsy.

Dinko’s days are full; he has many departments, from barges to monster-making, that require constant attention.

Frankly, we can’t figure out from whence all this zany caprice stems.


Although the origins of his character are murky, it is clear that Dinko is a one-man goof troupe.

This, I believe.

If you care to share, click a square:
Categories
books Halloween Mo Willems Niblet reading

Harvest Recipe

Take one locally-grown 4-year-old bubbie:


Mix in a little Mo Willems’ KNUFFLE BUNNY:




Shake vigorously.

Months later, after ripening and fermentation, when the wee bubbie subsequently suggests making a “gravetomb” (preschooler speak for “tombstone”) to decorate the yard for Halloween, gently fold in the question, “What shall we paint on it? R.I.P?”

He will figure out, with scant 1/4 cupful dollops of explanation, what the R., the I., and the P. stand for, ultimately decreeing, “No, I don’t care if the people under the ground are left in their peaces. I know what we need to paint on it.”

With that, his half-baked idea will hit the jar:


———————————

So for all of y’all who leave your porn propped open on the Fisher Price Rescue Hero Command Station, knock it off. Kids pick up what’s in the reading materials. They internalize it. They paint it on their gravetombs.

And wouldn’t it be a shame, this fine All Hallow’s Eve, to have the neighborhood reading on your yard’s gravetomb that “Hot sluts do it sideways”? Even telling passers-by, “Heck, my kid suggested it” won’t keep you from being regarded as the local Larry Flynt.

Keep it clean this Halloween, my dear ghoulfriends. Keep it clean.

If you care to share, click a square: