Blood Test

My family knows blood. Whether through accidents, falls or roughhousing, my loved ones spill their share of life-giving plasma on a regular basis.  Unlike my husband and kids, I manage to keep the majority of my precious Type O molecules where it belongs.

Unless I’m on jury duty. jury duty

In my lifetime, I’ve had two spontaneous nosebleeds and for reasons still unclear, both happened in county courthouses.

The first time, sitting in the jury box during voir dire, the much too sexy sounding term for our country’s mind-numbing jury selection process, I tried to stop the sudden surge of blood without drawing any attention to myself.

Scared I would unwittingly secure a spot on the jury by disrupting the proceedings, I sacrificed my favorite turquoise sweater to staunch the flow. A fellow potential juror offered a pocket pack of Kleenex, which I promptly filled to saturation. My fistful of blood streaked tissues may have persuaded the court to release me from jury service.

My second jury duty-induced nasal eruption, two years later, coincided with a lunch break. I’d spent the morning in a courtroom with a judge who didn’t allow any reading materials, counting the minutes until lunch. As I bit into a turkey on rye, I felt a cold drip from my nose. The sight of blood droplets speckling my coleslaw activated my startle response; I looked around to see if any others were spontaneously leaking bodily fluids.

Clutching my sole napkin to my nose, I hurried past the security screening where a guard helped me to the bathroom. As I leaned over the sink, my nose gushed blood, streams splattering the porcelain basin. Before long I’d attracted a small crowd of security guards, all eager to see Old Faithful gush on demand and to offer care and opinions.

“You’re losing a lot of blood there, honey. I think you better sit down and put your head back.”

“Sit tight and pinch your nostrils until the ambulance gets here.”

Although shocked at the amount of blood leaking from my body and the whiteness of my usually olive-colored skin, I had no intention of going anywhere in an ambulance. Who the hell calls an ambulance for a nosebleed? Apparently, the security guards at the Circuit Court of Cook County, that’s who. So much for being inconspicuous.

When three attractive, engagingly funny male paramedics arrived, I couldn’t believe my luck. I wished I was having a heart attack or suffering from a broken limb; anything but an unimaginative, messy nosebleed. Granted, I was married, but that level of male attention doesn’t come along often. Other than in romance novels and romantic comedies, that is.

Although I ultimately declined to go to a hospital and returned to jury duty that afternoon, I enjoyed every second of the paramedics’ sexy expert care. Taxpayers of Chicago, I thank you. Keep up the good work.

My next jury duty summons arrived in the mail yesterday. I’ll pack tissues, a change of clothes and some lipstick just in case. I can hardly wait.

Souvenirs For Everyone

imagesI fanned my neck with the Shedd Aquarium map and searched the signs overhead for the entrance to the dolphin show, oblivious to the dangers lurking behind me on row upon row of overstuffed, expertly lit shelves. Only when my daughters dry humped my legs, their squeals of excitement echoing through the crowd, did I turn toward the source of their frenzy.

The museum gift shop.

Specifically, the stuffed, near life-sized beluga whale display.

I gripped my purse strap tight to my body, as if that simple act would protect me from the onslaught of their impending souvenir attack, and searched for a distraction. Sharks! There’s nothing like sharp teeth and beady eyes to distract frenzied, pint-sized consumers.

Without comment, I quickened my pace and headed toward the Wild Reef exhibit.

“Mom, come back! These beluga whales are only $4.99! Can I get one? Can I?” Ava said.

I should have used my well-honed selective hearing and kept walking. Instead I looked at the price tag – $49.99.  Whaaaat? Did my kid need glasses? Or a remedial math lesson?

“Can I get one too?” Rhys said.

Baby beluga, how did I not see that coming? stuffed beluga whale

“No. These whales are expensive. Let’s go watch the dolphin show.”

“But Mom, you can get it for my birthday next week,” Ava said.

“Me, too.” Rhys said, forgetting her birthday was in May.

Unwilling to be the bad guy yet, I said, “I’ll think about it. Let’s go see the dolphins.”

As the dolphins flipped and splashed, Ava elbowed me every three minutes to ask, “Did you think about it yet?” I cursed the gift shop and myself for my rookie delay tactic.

My children aren’t easily dissuaded. Like Great Whites eyeing a shiny appendage, they smell my discomfort with saying no, then circle, strike and clamp on for the kill.

If I didn’t handle this firmly and decisively, my daughters would badger me incessantly, like feral birds nipping at Tippy Hedren in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film.

“Girls, we’re not buying souvenirs today. Our gift is coming to this museum.”

And then we held hands and skipped off together to fondle the live stingrays.

Yeah, right.

Thankfully, the hallway outside the gift shop was filled with moans and wails from other kids whose parents refused to buy another stuffed anything.

I wanted to tantrum too. But first I needed a snack.

As we ate our popcorn amid exaggerated silence and pouts, I wondered how fun mommy had quickly morphed into tired and pissed off mommy. Screw that. I decided to have fun even if my daughters were disappointed and sullen.

Once I made that decision, I ignored my kids’ exasperated sighs and complaints and enjoyed the rest of our oceanic outing, especially the playful beluga whales. I may buy myself a stuffed one. Just for fun.

Falling In Love With Boys

I haven’t spent much time with little boys. As one of three sisters with two nieces and two daughters, I’ve never even changed a boy’s diaper. So when I volunteered at my daughter’s preschool for Water Day, and the teachers assigned me to the boys’ group, I had no idea what to expect.

I have never seen so many penises in one place.

As I walked into the classroom, ten naked little boys jumped, whirled and rocketed across the colorful alphabet carpet like firecrackers exploding inside a box of Cracker Jack.

I didn’t know where to put my eyes.

Is it wrong to look at their little penises? I wondered, feeling as uncomfortable as if I’d wandered into a secret fraternity ritual.

I pretended to search for lip balm in my purse, digging like it was an oversized diaper bag instead of an envelope-sized clutch.

“Mary,” the teacher said. “Mary?”

I turned and registered the slight smirk on her face. “Just grab one and help him get his clothes on,” she said. Why was I waiting for her to add “Keep your eyes to yourself, perv?”

So I looked. Nine circumcised, one not.

What the hell is wrong with me? I wondered. First I don’t want to look at their penises, now I’m cataloging them for future reference. Talk about pervy!

But instead of feeling depraved, once I looked, I fell in love. Little boys are freaking adorable! Here were ten exuberant little people, so proud of their nakedness. So unwilling to get dressed. The glee and unfettered energy in that room could have powered the Northern Hemisphere for a week.

As I kneeled on the faded carpet, eye level with the sea of nakedness, a quiet, brown-eyed boy handed me his underwear in a plastic baggie marked “Henry” as two boys nearby danced a jig, their knees and naked bits keeping time with their giggles.

I held Henry’s tiny tightie-whities as he carefully stepped in, one foot then the other, his small hand resting on my head for balance. His and mine.

“I love water day,” one boy shouted, setting off a chorus of “I love” everything from popsicles to lightsabers.

“I love my penis!” a boy yelled, galloping around the room like a cowboy on crack.  The room devolved into happy chaos as I stared in awe, grateful I wasn’t in charge because all I could think to say was “May the force be with you.”

I could have sat there all day soaking up their contagious energy. Instead, I packed up the wet towels and swimsuits, feeling grateful for this glimpse inside a boy’s world.

That night, as I watched my husband undress for bed, I wondered what he must have been like as a little boy and if he ever wishes we could add a boy to our brood. I know I do.

Nine Clues that I’m Angry (Or Will Be Soon)

Anger. It’s an emotion at least as American as Fourth of July parades, cookouts and flag burnings. While some people are attuned to the twitches in their bodies that alert them to angry feelings, I need more concrete notifications. As a public service to my loved ones, I offer the following clues that Mr. Hyde is on the loose and should be avoided at all costs.

  1. Anyone other than me is whining.
  2. I’m rushing. And no one else is.
  3. My eyes are open. Moments earlier they were closed and enjoying a sexy dream starring me and Jason Bateman, but now a certain little person’s stuffed lamb fell off her bed and MUST be rescued immediately as evidenced by the screams emanating from her bedroom.
  4. The playroom that took two hours to clean and organize stayed neat for seven minutes instead of the usual 22.
  5. My shopping cart contains five pints of Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby instead of the usual one. You know, for my husband.
  6. I need toilet paper stat and there’s none in the bathroom and no one home to blame.
  7. I can’t find the sales receipt for the oh so cute, oh so slightly expensive sandals I bought that fit at Macy’s but pinch like a horny Italian the minute I wear them outside.
  8. The tone of my voice is calm yet tight as I form the words, “Fine. Go. Have fun,” when my husband is invited to yet another last-minute sporting event.
  9. Our kitchen floor is clean. (The only time our kitchen floor gets washed is when I’m angry, so if you visit us and our floor is spotless, you’ll know my mood going in.)

Each of my nine “tells” belongs in the category of “sweating the small stuff.” They also guarantee that I will a) lose my shit within moments or b) act as if everything is fine, but silently seethe, shooting daggers at anyone within ten yards, including the lovely woman at the dentist’s office who didn’t say thank you when my five year old held the door open for her or the kind gentleman at the grocery store who advised me to “smile” as we passed each other. (Should any of my readers have access to the surveillance videos at either of these fine establishments, please note that I regret resorting to stealth middle finger salutes in both cases. I know. I know. Speaking up would have been classier, but the bird can be strangely satisfying.)

While I do save some of my anger for the serious social injustices in the world, mostly I’m angry when I don’t speak up for myself or don’t let others know what I want and need. And when I’m extra surly, mostly what I need is a hug, especially when I’m too stubborn or too far gone to ask for one.

Anger (640x483)

I’m participating in Yeah Write’s 31 Days to a Better Blog program. We started yesterday, but it’s not too late to join in! Today’s assignment is to write a List Post. And, yes, I’m open to feedback!

Yesterday’s assignment was to write an “elevator speech” to describe your blog. Check out what I came up with and let me know your thoughts. Thanks!

When Does Parenting Cross the Line From Encouraging to Controlling?

The plan was to jog the 5K with my daughter’s Girls on the Run teammates. Instead, Ava and I sat in our car for ninety minutes inching the final two miles to the event parking lot and missing our race start time by 45 minutes.

By the time we arrived at her team’s base camp, her friends had crossed the finish line, beaming at each other and glowing with endorphins and pride. Ava was devastated. I felt ashamed. Hadn’t these people hit the same butt-numbing traffic we did? Apparently, they’re better parents. Or at least better drivers.

At that moment, my desire to run the race disappeared, replaced by a voracious urge for large quantities of junk food. But was that the message I wanted to send my daughter – Life hands you lemons, binge at the nearest Dunkin Donuts?

Instead, my tenacious side won out. I didn’t drive two hours to give up. We were running that god damn race. And we would have fun running it, even if it killed us.

Ava and I lined up hand in hand at the starting line. Earlier that morning, I promised Ava we could walk as much of the race as she wanted. She felt scared. I did too. While Ava had spent two months jogging with her teammates to prepare for the race, I had run exactly twice – once for training purposes, once to buy a corn muffin as big as my head from the bakery down the street.

Walking the race originally sounded like a brilliant plan. But as we stood at the starting line with the many others who had arrived late, adrenaline ignited my competitive streak.

“Can we walk now?” Ava said after we’d run approximately 25 feet.

“No way, kiddo,” I said. “We’re running. Let’s go!”

I felt strong and was eager to burn maximum calories before our long trek home.

“Mom, you’re breaking your promise. I can’t trust you if you break promises.”

Her words sounded vaguely familiar, but I was too full of energy bars to back down. “Ava, you worked hard for this moment. Don’t let your disappointment ruin it for you. Let’s switch off jogging and walking until we finish.”

Block by block, I pushed Ava to keep up with my plan. She jogged, walked and complained simultaneously for three miles.  When the finish line came into view, she begged me again to walk.

“You can walk if you want, but I’m running. I’ll race you!” I said, registering the anger in Ava’s eyes.

While I told myself I pushed for her benefit, I’m not sure that’s true. My motives weren’t pure, but when we ran across the finish line, Ava’s face radiated pride and joy. I saw a mirror for myself, and I liked what I saw. Maybe a little pushing is a good thing. Maybe I’ll call it leadership. I may be justifying my behavior, but I’m grateful we ran half the race, even if Ava spent that half hating me.

Worth pissing her off? Check with me in 20 years.

Worth pissing her off? Check with me in 20 years.

Tangled: Our Silly Putty Hair Solution

Silly Putty Hair, Silly Putty ClothesAs the gold medal slipped over my head and the opening notes of our national anthem filled the stadium, the crowd’s screams slowly dissolved into screams of despair. I reluctantly emerged from my delicious dream as my brain registered real life screams coming from our daughter Ava’s bedroom.

Now awake, my mental calculations began. Emergency or bad dream? Did our daughter’s screams qualify as a one- or two-parent alarm?

I rolled over to jab my husband awake.

“Is she being abducted?” I said.

“Doubtful. Fire?” Mike said.

Ava’s screams reached a crescendo.

“I don’t smell anything. You go. You have longer legs,” I said.

“There better be a wild animal in there,” Mike said as he jumped out of bed. “You owe me.”

Wishing I could reenter my Olympic dream, but too agitated to sleep, I glanced at the clock. 12:50 a.m.

I yelled to Mike to tell me what was happening.

“She’s bleeding from her head!” is what I heard.

Oh, god, not again, I thought as I sprang out of bed and clamored for my glasses, lost among the detritus on my nightstand.

As I ran to her side, I chided myself for ignoring her initial screams.

“How bad is she hurt? Where did she fall?” I said between pants.

“She has silly putty in her hair.”

Not registering Mike’s response, I peered at my daughter’s head.

Apparently she’d fallen asleep playing with silly putty and woken up with the puke pink-colored goo matted to hunks of her thick brown curls. I’d never seen anything like it.

Although I assured Ava we wouldn’t have to cut off her hair, the matting was so severe I feared she’d soon be sporting a one-sided mullet.  Not a great look for a fashion-conscious fourth grader. And not a haircut this mom was willing to live through.

I turned to my trusted friend Google for advice.

Apparently, since time immemorial, silly putty and kids’ hair have attracted each other like fingers and electric sockets. Fortunately, parents around the globe have tried countless remedies ranging from peanut butter to WD40 and documented their success with each on the internet.

We decided on olive oil for our triage in the beauty ER and massaged half a bottle into Ava’s matted web of curls. I couldn’t help giggling as Mike combed out the now liquefied goo with the studied precision of a brain surgeon.

Ava, however, did not appreciate my punch drunk humor and berated me for being insensitive, which launched another fit of giggles, especially as I realized we now had to get all that olive oil out of her hair.

As the clock struck 1:45 a.m., Mike and I finished our task, hugged Ava and settled down enough to sleep, grateful for our parenting success. My only regret?  Not photographing Ava’s head before and after. And she refused to put more silly putty in her hair for the sake of this blog. That’s the thanks I get.

This mom had the presence of mind to photograph her daughter's silly putty debacle! Bless her!

Unlike me, this mom had the presence of mind to photograph her daughter’s silly putty debacle!  Photo courtesy of http://www.sarcasta-mom.blogspot.com.

Plastic Barbie Lunch Boxes: Use Only As Intended

Plastic Barbie lunch boxes should come with a disclaimer:  This item will not protect you in an emergency.

I walked home from elementary school past the same twenty seven houses every afternoon for months without incident, swinging my pink lunch box north to south as I counted the brick and wood-frame homes fronting Westover Avenue or skipped over the cracks snaking through the sidewalk, determined not to break my mother’s back by landing on one.

I’d just passed house number thirteen on my route and stopped to smell the lilacs dangling like purple snow cones from the bushes out front when I saw a blur of movement over my left shoulder and felt the sidewalk slip beneath my feet. The lilacs’ heady scent mixed with the hot, muddy smell of spit as I felt the sting of teeth on my arm and fell to the ground under the bushes. Before my brain registered pain, I saw the ash-colored face of a large greyhound run past me.

Terrified the beast would return for round two, I crouched in the bushes, clutching my scratched lunch box to my chest as a shield before sprinting home, determined not to stop, even for our neighbor who called after me as I ran by.

“Help,” I wailed as I ran up the stairs to the kitchen where my mom was filling homemade cream puffs. I could smell the rich lemon custard on her hands as she ran to me, unmasked horror and powdered sugar clouding her features.

After cleaning the small wound on my forearm where the dog’s teeth had punctured my skin, she sat me in front of the kitchen’s picture window with a bowl of custard and a blanket. I didn’t budge until I heard her talking to the police about rabies and heard the panic rising in her voice.

“We don’t know whose dog bit her. She’s never seen it before. How can we make sure it doesn’t have rabies?”

“Mom, what are rabies?” I said, tugging the telephone’s curly cord. “What are rabies?”

“Nothing you need to worry about,” Mom said. “Go sit down. Right now.”

Convinced I was about to die of some horrible dog disease, I soothed my fear with more custard and glanced out the window. Sitting among our lilac bushes, like a sphinx guarding its temple, my personal hellhound stared at our back door, his black eyes steady and unblinking.

Nearly identical to my hellhound! Photo courtesy of www.projectocova.net

This is not a photo of the actual dog that bit me. Photo courtesy of http://www.projectocova.net

A mouthful of custard muffled my scream, but my mom came running.

“That’s the dog?” she said. “Are you sure?”

I managed only a vigorous nod before bursting into tears and grabbing my lunch box for protection. Moments later, the dog was gone. And I never saw him again.

With the help of our neighbors, the police found the dog and determined he did not have rabies. But I slept with my Barbie lunch box on my chest every night for the next week.  Just in case.