Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Dominant Dumpster-Diving Gene

I can’t throw an empty can of tomato paste away without my children knowing about it. I can mix my colors and whites, clean the bathroom naked, and drive to swimming lessons in reverse and my kids won’t say a thing. But if I toss a Spiderman-themed candy wrapper in the garbage, I’m going to hear about it.

Just last week Leah removed a flower arrangement from the trash. Just plucked it from the top of the can and placed it in front of our house like a sad little monument of my anti-domestic prowess. Unfortunately, the arrangement was from my birthday, which was nearly two months ago.

So when I toss something that I’m afraid might get discovered, I hide it under the empty soda can full of bacon grease, behind the junk mail, or, if I’m smart, in a Walmart plastic bag, tied in a double knot at the top.

But I have to admit, I’m usually not that smart. And I’ve managed to throw some cherished items away in that heartless, mean-mommy manner of mine. Things like completed homework assignments, an empty Pepsi can with Indiana Jones on it, hair ties covered in dust found under the living room couch, little plastic weapons, a half-eaten bag of melted Skittles, the DVD case for Leah & Stitch that’s been missing its DVD for three years, broken Happy Meal toys, a rainbow-colored shoelace, and one Barbie leg.

You wouldn’t believe the drama that ensues once I’ve been discovered. Wailing and hiccupping they ask, “Why, Mommy? Why would you throw my Barbie leg away?” There’s no reasoning with that. I’m evil and that’s all there is to it.

But as I write this I have a nagging feeling that dumpster-diving is a dominant gene that just may have come from me. The only difference is I have yet to throw my stuff away. Because as I look around I notice that in the pass-through between my kitchen and dining room I have three, count them—three bowls full of change, keys, business cards, paper clips, a handful of marbles, screws, nails, and an assortment of washers. At what point did one bowl stop being enough to hold all that stuff? And how did I justify allowing the overflow to fill two more?

On my dining room table is a laundry basket filled halfway with unmatched socks. It’s not a new basket, but one that I’ve carried to and from the laundry room for about 6 months now. I don’t know where the mates have gone, but they’re obviously not coming back.

As I mentally travel through my house I’m quickly realizing that I have enough garbage displayed inside my home to fill two garbage cans. And believe me, these things are just as valuable as Barbie legs.

So this weekend I will purge my home of all trash, trying to encourage my children to do the same.

That, or we’ll have a yard sale.

Friday, July 18, 2008

When Bad Parenting Happens

I’m no Super Nanny or Dr. Spock, and not even on a good day am I Brangelina minus the entourage and airbrushing. That knowledge drove me to Professor D’s parenting class about 6 months ago. And not to point fingers or anything, but he was the one who told me I could send my oldest child to his room and lock him in if he chose not to stay there himself. Which is why, 6 months later, I found myself locked in that same bedroom late one summer night with all three children huddled around me.

I won’t bore you with the ugly details. But I will say that in a moment of parenting desperation I switched the bathroom door knobs with the one in the boys’ room in order to have ultimate parental control by locking the door from the outside. I am mama, hear me roar.

And in my defense, I only had to lock Kaleb in two times before the lock was no longer necessary. Which was why I completely forgot that the boys’ room locked from the outside until Leah accidentally locked us in on her way back from getting a drink.

I shook the door handle. I tried to jimmy the lock with a wire hanger. I even began removing the hinges only to realize I would have to break the door frame in order to get past the lock.

And when I turned around Kaleb was sitting on his bed, arms folded and eyebrows raised. “Trust me,” he said. “We’re never breakin’ out of here.”

No one likes it when bad parenting comes back to thumb its nose at you, and in front of your own children.

“Are we going to die in Kaleb’s room, Mom?” Leah asked, blinking her dewy eyes at me.

No, I thought. We’re going to call Professor D and asked him to get us out of this mess. Only, I didn’t bring my cell phone to tuck my kids into bed.

So I went to the window and looked down the long slope of my metal roof. You might remember that 7 months ago, at Christmas time, I was locked out of my house and stood at the base of my roof trying to determine whether or not I could climb back in.

I took out the screen and straddled the window sill, thinking how much like a slide my metal roof appeared. Getting down will be a snap, I thought. That is, if I weren’t barefoot with a very thick application of Bath & Body Works sheau butter on my feet. This was not an escape plan but a new Olympic event.

I sat there for a few minutes, pondering my options, while Leah stood beside me, gasping periodically and saying something about having to rethink our family fire escape plan.

It was then that I noticed our neighbors, chatting pleasantly in their gazebo. I realized I had two options. One, I could slide down my roof, providing someone the opportunity to take great footage for America’s Funniest Home Videos. Or two, I could ask my neighbors to spring us from our Spiderman-themed prison. It may seem like a no-brainer, but I had to think about it for awhile.

Finally, I called them over.

Five minutes later my lovely neighbor was unlocking the boys’ bedroom door from the outside. She told me my house smelled nice and added, “It’s weird that the door locks that way.”


Weird enough that I lulled my children to sleep that night to the sound of door knobs being put back where they belonged.

And I could swear Kaleb wasn’t snoring but laughing in his sleep.

I’m guessing so were the neighbors.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Worst-Case Scenario Mama

This week my doctor took me off Google. That’s right. I am no longer allowed to search the internet for ailments and their freakish causes. And I’ll tell you why.

First, let me preface this column by acknowledging that I have issues. The truth is, if you’ve read more than two posts, you are acutely aware of this fact and have probably laughed unabashedly at my expense, grateful that there are people out there in need of more therapy than you. That’s okay. I’m totally at ease with my dysfunctional self. You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. Right, Dr. Phil?

So this is my big issue: I have the tendency to worry. Excessively. Now for some people that would simply be a character flaw. For me it’s an occupation.

For example, just two weeks ago I took Zack to the pediatrician, again. He had been having headaches and instead of assuming it was caused by bad vision, child migraines or even dehydration, I jumped to the frightening conclusion that it was a brain tumor. It wasn’t, but I was more than willing to pay a $20 co-pay to have a doctor say as much.

And while we were there I asked that she check his urine. Frequent trips to the bathroom during church had me assuming, you got it, he also had juvenile diabetes. Not a urine infection or excessive hydration, but juvenile diabetes.

I fondly refer to myself as Worst-Case Scenario Mama. Give me a problem or a symptom and I immediately imagine the worst-case scenario. I’m good at it. If only there were a game show.

My most recent self-induced scare involved a numb toe—my numb toe. For nearly two years the big toe on my left foot has been numb. For nearly two years I had chosen not to worry about it (I was a little preoccupied). But for whatever reason I decided to start worrying three weeks ago. And by worry I mean Google.

Worse than Google is It’s a breeding ground for hypochondriacs. All the worse-case ailments I had imagined were there as well as a handful of conditions I hadn’t even considered. I was in Fright Heaven.

After much internet searching I diagnosed myself with a nearly fatal disease. And regardless of the fact that I’ve never had any medical training, for two and a half weeks I grieved, begging God to let me raise my children into adulthood.

You laugh, but it’s true.

So this week my doctor told me I have a compressed nerve.

“You mean I don’t have a nearly fatal degenerative nerve disease?” I asked.

She cocked her head. “Uhm. No.” she said.

And that’s why I’m no longer allowed to Google my symptoms.

Or my children’s symptoms.

Or the symptoms of my neighbors, friends and family.

Which makes me wonder—what does excessive worrying cause? I bet Google would tell me…

(And no, that doesn’t count. It’s preventative…)