Saturday, March 30, 2013

Vomit: Greatest Hits

Children ought to arrive with a manual that dedicates at least three lengthy chapters to vomit.

If the site of vomit, the smell of vomit, or even the mere mention of the word "vomit" makes your stomach queasy, then I've got some bad news for expectant parents. For the first couple of months, babies are little more than adorably cute containers of drool, poop and vomit. Squeeze them too tightly or bounce them on your knee a minute too long and you'll see how quickly all that drool, poop and vomit can magically overflow, sometimes simultaneously.

And if your wife is anything like mine, you won't even have to wait for the baby to arrive before you become proficient at handling vomit. At first, I carried her morning sickness bucket like it was filled with radioactive waste. I walked it to a remote section of the neighboring wooded lot and dumped it, then stood a good distance away and sprayed it with the hose. By the time Our Daughter arrived, all the bucket got was a quick swish of water from the spigot and a spritz of Lysol. If any got on my shoes, pants, or in my hair, I no longer cared. Vomit and I had made our peace with each other. Ours was a live-and-let-live relationship.

But that tiny bit of morning sickness vomit is nothing compared to the mass quantities produced by a late-night-breast-milk-binging baby with the upset stomach and an inability to walk to the bathroom toilet. Ever try cleaning vomit from the intricate spindles of a baby crib? Don't worry, you will.

Or how about toddler vomit? When Our Daughter was two years old, she spent much of one visit with relatives circling a coffee table slowly devouring almost an entire bowl of gold fish crackers. A couple hours later, she stood in the crib provided to us and projectile vomited a direct hit at her mother's chest from a distance of five feet. Let me assure you, you know it's a quality vomit when one parent spends two hours cleaning undigested gold fish crackers out of a shag rug and the other has to bathe the baby, take a shower and run a load of laundry.

Or how about the first time they get sick on their bedroom floor? My mother used to tell us to throw up on our beds if we were going to get sick. "I can put your sheets in the wash," she'd say. "I can't put the carpet in the wash."

But there's something counter-intuitive to vomiting on your bed and, in effect, all over yourself. Your body understands vomit is a thing to be shared, so it makes every attempt to spread it out as far and wide as possible.

For instance, were we to go back and visit the house we lived in when our children were born, I would not be surprised to find a barely discernible pink stain on the floor of the back bedroom where, one evening, Our Daughter released a torrent of Raviolio-tinged vomit. It was a monumental achievement, really, and proved too tough a match for any chemicals and carpet cleaning machines money could rent. We were somehow spared the joy of finding out what happens when a boy sleeping on the top bunk throws up in the middle of the night, but that doesn't mean our sons haven't had their share of incidents.

The German once decimated our van with a wave of nausea, again possibly inspired by gold fish crackers. I missed that one and have always felt a bit left out. By all accounts, it was mighty impressive and required some extreme detailing of the leather seats.

And the Italian, well it's been only a few days since his last performance. You would think by age twelve he would have figured out where vomit belongs. Only minutes after he agreed it would be a good idea for us to get him a bucket, but before we were able to get it to him, he sat up on his bed, hurriedly proclaimed "I think I'm going to need that bucket," and immediately proceeded to puke all over the floor. Also hit in the onslaught were his bed, his brother's bed, a bookshelf, three Lego sets, and the storage bins under both their beds. Best of all, I had just given him bubble gum flavored Ibuprofen and the only food he'd eaten in the previous hours were Twizzlers.

Some day I'm going to find out who the genius is who decided it would be a good idea to pack the medicine parents administer to sick children with enough red dye to stain clear through to the floorboards and give him a good, swift kick in the pants.

© 2013 Mark Feggeler

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A King on His Throne

The hall bathroom toilet, and all territory immediately surrounding it, has been claimed by the Italian.

Every now and then it might be possible for the German and Our Daughter to sneak in for a few minutes to shower or brush their teeth, but ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the time if the door is closed and light is peeking out from under it, it means the Italian is holding court.

The strangest thing about this new behavior is that I never expected it from the Italian. This is the same kid who, only a few years back, took great delight in running around the house naked and smacking his bare ass to some improvised musical number, often themed around the words "hiney" or "bahookie." I never expected an exhibitionist of his caliber to withdraw to the windowless environs of the bathroom.

If you're leaving for church and the Italian cannot be found, knock on the bathroom door. If you're running late for inline hockey practice and the Italian isn't in the van, knock on the bathroom door. If it's homework time and the Italian's books are sitting abandoned on the kitchen table, knock on the bathroom door. If he's been in the bathroom for twenty-seven minutes and you've yet to hear the shower running, knock on the bathroom door.

Had the German been the one to sit on the toilet for hours at a time, playing Minecraft until the restricted bloodflow to his extremeties had turned his toes a deep shade of blue, I would not have been surprised. The German has always been something of an island unto himself. He hugs less, is less needy throughout the course of the day, and tends to exist in a state of remote awareness of his surroundings. A moderately introverted boy seeking seclusion is not much of a stretch, yet he is the one who does not find it necessary to retreat to the quiet solace of the loo.

Fortunately for our plumbing, the purpose of the Italian's newfound respect for privacy has nothing to do with dysentary, diarrhea, dropping the kids at the pool, or any other bodily functions beginning with the letter "d." It's all about Minecraft, or whatever other game he's playing on his iPod when he disappears, because he knows at some point My Lovely Wife or I will tell him to log off and interact with an actual human being rather than a virtual one. Out of sight, out of mind is the policy he has instituted.

But, as this blog post serves to show, he has been found out. Gone are the days of attempting to FaceTime with relatives and friends with his pants around his ankles. Few are the remaining days of talking to a white door that sounds like the Italian instead of talking directly to him. Preparations are being made for a coup d'etat to oust the king from his throne.

Besides, if we don't put an end to his Occupy the Bathroom movement, where am I supposed to go to check Facebook and play Angry Birds?

© 2013 Mark Feggeler

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Mystery Mail Bingo

Just a few months ago, our mail delivery was perfect. Beyond perfection, even.

Our mail arrived each and every day at the same time of day for seven-and-a-half years. Packages that were marked "Do Not Bend" weren't. Packages too large for our mailbox were hand-delivered to our door. Packages and parcels belonging to other people were not mixed in with ours. We were spoiled.

At least, that's how the United States Post Office must have considered us, because the new year brought the announcement of a change. Our mail carrier, Kim, was retiring and another would take her place.

What I've learned over the past few weeks is that the Post Office for the village in which we live does not directly hire employees as mail carriers. Why? I don't know, and neither does anyone at our local Post Office. Someone, ages ago, determined that's the way it should be and that is how it has remained from farther back than living memory appears to serve.

Instead, a contract specialist two states away in Maryland solicits and reviews bids from anyone literate enough to complete a form and who also happens to be interested in managing one of the many local delivery routes in our area. Past experience is supposed to be taken into consideration, but in this case it doesn't seem to have been a priority.

These days, our mail delivery is one of the greatest mysteries going. A local bookie could clean up taking bets on all aspects of service:

  • Time of mail delivery;
  • Percentage accuracy of mail received;
  • Whether or not you received any mail at all;
  • Whether or not outgoing mail left in your mailbox for the carrier to take with her remains in your mailbox at the end of the day;
  • The number of days outgoing mail remains untouched in your mailbox;
  • Number of days you receive mail without a single piece of it being addressed to you or any other member of you family;
  • The number of bills you neglect to pay because you never received your statements;
  • The number of confidential documents (bank statements, credit card applications, car registration renewals, medical bills, W-2 forms, etc.) you receive that are not addressed to you;
  • Whether or not the carrier understands why mailboxes have those little flags on them;
  • How many mailboxes the carrier runs down before she acknowledges having run over any;
  • How many pieces of mail are lodged between the cushions of the backseat in the mail carrier's car on any given day;
  • Whether or not the mail carry can read.
You see? The possibilities are endless!

In response to the postal mayhem, I'm doing my part by calling to complain every few weeks to keep our local postmaster apprised of how abysmally horrendous mail service continues to be and spreading the name and mailing address of the contract specialist in Maryland to all who live along our delivery route.

I would post it here, but it's probably illegal and I'd end up getting subpoenaed, or audited, or cavity searched, or some silly thing like that. So just shoot me an email and I'll respond back with it so you can write the guy a letter, too. Just make sure you don't leave it in your mailbox for the carrier to take.

© 2013 Mark Feggeler

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Bun of Steel

We're planning a trip to Hilton Head for the summer. We've been there before and found it to be a relaxing place to visit for a week of swimming and generally behaving like obnoxious tourists.

In addition to flashing way too much pale skin on the beach and not traveling anywhere without a tremendous rolling cooler stocked with enough beverages, sandwiches and goodies to make the loaves and the fishes seem like a mere snack, one of the requirements of tourists at a resort location like Hilton Head is to rent bikes.

Non-sexy resort bike.
These bikes -- like rental bikes at all resorts across the world -- are not cool. They are not flashy, or stylish, or built for speed. You will never see supermodels riding bikes like these during a photo shoot. And, if you're lucky, no one will photograph you while you are riding one around the resort. No, these bikes are built for three things only: (1) durability, (2) comfort, and (3) being so unattractive as to dissuade potential thieves from stealing them for fear they will never find anyone desperate enough to want to own such an unattractive bike.

The first time we went to Hilton Head, our boys were still young enough to require our bringing their bikes with us. Our Daughter, however, has never liked bikes. You see, when learning to ride, some children, like our sons, fall off their bikes and get right back on until they figure out how to balance and pedal and brake. Other children, like Our Daughter, fall off their bikes and live in fear of them for the next ten years.

Until recently, Our Daughter preferred her scooter to her bike. As every other kid in the neighborhood raced down the block faster than the posted speed limit, she kept pace pushing with one foot. That trip to Hilton Head four years ago was no exception. While the rest of us pedaled the four miles from our rented condo to the shopping district, she shoved herself along and often led the pack.

Our niece, whose family had vacationed with us that week, observed that Our Daughter would develop a "bun of steel" from her scootering efforts. I kept waiting for her to pass out from all the extra work, but she soldiered through and never complained.

This time around the scooter is not an option. An 11-year-old on a scooter is one thing, but a 15-year-old on a scooter reaches a whole new level of weirdness, like a 4-year-old still carrying around a baby bottle, or amateur party clowns. Anyway, in the past year or two Our Daughter has learned to enjoy her bike. She's no natural at it, but at least she no longer treats it like some wild beast bent on killing her.

© 2013 Mark Feggeler