The Battle of the Poop

There are small things and there are big things in parenthood. Good and bad. My hope is that in old age, it’s the good that shine the brightest. But there are times in the day-to-day that the bad grab hold and demand your attention. Or your irritation, at least.

Take, for example, the morning after my sweet daughter left for Europe. I entered my shower thinking that, despite the cold weather and long pants I would wear, maybe I’d shave. Only… my razor was missing.

That’s weird, I thought. Did I take it out for some reason? I glanced over at the counter and it wasn’t there. When I got out, I checked my overnight bag from a recent trip. It wasn’t there either, which didn’t surprise me since I knew I hadn’t packed it. You know, winter weather and long pants and all. My mind drifted to my daughter. Surely she didn’t take it with her? She has her own and likes it better.

I asked the menfolk of my household if they knew where it was. They all just shook their heads, looked at me odd for asking, and went about their days. Which I ultimately did as well, thinking about the missing razor only in the mornings as my eyes lit upon its empty holder during my shower. Just one of the minor irritations of being a parent and thus, not the master of my own stuff.

That is, until I found myself in the children’s bathroom early one morning with my eyes watering and a bandanna wrapped tightly around my face. It was then, in such a miserable state, that I saw my wayward razor sitting in their shower. She must have “borrowed” it, I thought to myself, backing out to the relative safety of the hallway. Hers was probably already packed. I bet she planned to return it when done. They always plan, but never do.

The thoughts were a delay tactic, I knew, and eventually I resumed my odious task – one of the larger and much more objectionable irritations of parenthood.

I had managed to forget about this task until that morning when I had opened the door to see which boy had gotten up without my knowing, and been greeted not by an indignant child unhappy about the door opening, but instead by a smell so strong that I quickly shut the door. And remembered.

It was late the night before. The boys and I were staying up a little late because it was Spring Break so why not? But finally, I had admonished Hal, the youngest, to use the bathroom, brush his teeth, and get ready for bed.

He had returned quickly with his nose scrunched up and a small, nervous smile on his face. With a little giggle, he said, “The toilet is clogged!”

“When did that happen?” I asked, my eyes heavy with sleep and my shoulders now sagging. I looked around the room.

“It wasn’t me,” said Daryl, only momentarily diverting his attention from Fort Nite on the PS4 to me.

“Well it wasn’t me!” claimed Hal, a little too defensively and definitely too cheerfully.

“It didn’t just clog itself,” I muttered and headed into the bathroom.

“It really stinks in there!” Hal called out helpfully.

I lifted the toilet lid and what greeted me was of a magnitude unbelievable. With a certain amount of wishful thinking, I pushed the “big flush” button on our high efficiency toilet. It didn’t flush. Instead, I gagged and choked and covered my mouth as I watched through watery eyes all the brown chunky water, a log surely too big to have exited my young child’s rump, and reams of toilet paper swirl dangerously close to the rim.

I closed the toilet lid. I hurried from the room. I shut the door. Not my proudest moment, but it had been a long week. A tiring one.  Nearly a full work week covered over just three days, on the tail end of a 62 hour work week, and a long trip to take my husband to the airport very early that morning. Despite a couple of short naps that day, I was not ready to fight the battle of the poop. In my exhausted state, I declared it a task that could wait for morning.

And morning had come. And with it the fresh state of forgetfulness… until I had opened that door. I tried another hopeful flush. I gagged again. I left the room. Again. But this time to plan because even the most irresponsible of parents can surely not leave a toilet full of sh*t to stink up a room and eventually the entire house.

I found a box and a stick. The toilet paper, I had decided, needed to exit the bowl via the hole at the top instead of the hole at the bottom. I found a bandanna and wrapped it securely around my face. I entered the boys’ room. They looked up and did not bat an eye that their mother approached like a bandit robbing a stage coach.

“I have a task for you,” I said to Hal. “Get your shoes on. I’m going to be transferring some of the contents of the toilet into a box and then I want you to carry the box out to the burn pile. Do you want a bandanna to cover your nose?”

He nodded. Quietly. Like he wished there was a way out of this task but perhaps knowing that if his dad was home, it’d likely be Hal, and not his loving mother, who would be manually unclogging the toilet. He didn’t have the worst task and he knew it.

It was when I entered the room again with stick and box in hand that I noticed the razor. It struck me that if I didn’t have children, I wouldn’t have a clogged toilet and my razor would be where it should be.

Of course, I’d also be at work because what would be so special about Spring Break then? I’m all the richer, and wiser, and kinder, and more patient, for having children. But there are moments – like when I’m standing in a stinking room looking at my stolen razor through watering eyes – when I feel the price paid for those no-longer-little bundles of joy.

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Poop

I wrote a couple of blog posts between the time that my father-in-law passed away and when I finally felt ready to write about it. I didn’t publish those posts because it seemed… trivial? Insensitive? To write about anything else before acknowledging his passing.

I wrote another short fluff piece about a week after finally putting some feelings down about our loss. It was obviously time to schedule these drafts before they stacked up on me.

I picked my favorite and scheduled it for the next day. Another I scheduled a couple of days later. Before scheduling the last one, another draft caught my eye. It had a title – not all my drafts do. This title was simple and succinct:

Poop

I wonder what that post says…

So I clicked on the draft, which I had started a year earlier and that’s all it said. Poop.

I never start with a title. I almost always tell the tale and then struggle for the right title. But this time I apparently had just the right attention-grabbing headline… and no story.

Wonder what I had in mind?

Who knows?

Whatever it was, I’m sure I was full of s**t.

ba-dum-dum… ching!

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I’ll be here all night.

No really, I mean it. I’m sitting in my bed typing away at a laptop. I don’t even have to get out of bed to turn off the light.

The Adventures of Hal

We had dinner at Chick-Fil-A tonight. Our local restaurant hosts “Spirit Nights” for various organizations. Tonight was for Destination Imagination, an activity that Daryl is involved in. A friend and her kids were there as well so we ate with her and her son while her daughter waited tables to help with the fundraiser. Jane stayed home and Daryl was, ironically, at his Destination Imagination practice.

Hal was a little wound up by the time we sat down. As he bounced on his chair, our friend commented how much she enjoyed reading about his antics on Facebook and on this blog. This kicked off a rapid-fire retelling of several of his more colorful tales from her and her young son, all centered around poop.

First, a favorite of our friend:

Jane and Hal were arguing about something that I don’t recall now.
Jane: “I am not going to argue with a four year-old.”
Dad: “You mean you are going to stop arguing with a four year-old?”
Hal: “Doodie Poopie bottom!”
Jane: “Yes.”

Then they talked about the time he rode his tricycle down to the neighbor’s house without permission. When I started to panic that he was missing, he rode back up and calmly announced, “I pooped in my pants.”

Then there was the day I found Hal in the bathroom, donning a pair of the blue latex gloves that we would wear while scrubbing the poop out of his underwear. When I asked what he was doing, he patiently explained to me that Sobo-be-nye-nye, his imaginary friend, had pooped in her pants.

I don’t know if Hal was listening and wanted to give them some firsthand exposure to his adventures or if it’s just not possible for an hour to go by without him entertaining those around him. Fortunately, the new tales do not involve poop. We sincerely hope to have permanently moved beyond those particular adventures.

Hal headed off to the play area while the rest of us sat around the table and talked. At one point, a lady approached our table, pointed at my husband, and said, “Excuse me, but your son is stuck between the slide and the wall.”

We all popped up to where we could see. Sure enough, Hal had managed to wedge himself between the slide and the wall. His face was already red from having been running around and now he was starting to look slightly panicked. His dad walked in and started talking him through it. Most of the dining room was now watching. One man asked me if he was trying to talk him through it or if he couldn’t figure out how to get him unstuck. I told him that my husband was the type of parent that makes a kid get himself out of a situation he got himself into.

Eventually, Hal was freed and resumed his running around. When he returned to the table, he was hot and sweaty and extremely thirsty. First he tried my lemonade but it was empty. He loudly proclaimed himself thirsty and then tried to stick a straw in Jane’s cup that I was going to take home to her. “No, that’s Jane’s,” I said. He loudly proclaimed himself thirsty.

That’s when he reached across the table for the other cup he saw, which belonged to Mary, our friend’s daughter who had finished with her volunteer work and was gathering her dinner before heading off to softball practice. Mary pulled it back and I told Hal that it was hers. He loudly proclaimed himself thirsty.

Now, there’s something you need to know about Mary. And about us. We are not a family that is overly concerned with germs. We will drink out of each other’s cups, share food off the same fork, even share a toothbrush if the situation is desperate enough. Mary is not like us in this regard. She is not the least bit interested in swapping germs with anyone. At all. Period.

Before I had the opportunity to find a solution to Hal’s parched problem, he had reached for the cup again and managed to get his lips on her straw before I pulled him off.

“Mom,” said Mary. “I need a new straw.”

So… I stole her straw and put it in Jane’s cup and then let Hal drink some of Jane’s tea, the whole time wondering what Mary thought of me giving Jane a straw that both Mary and Hal had touched. Oh, well. When you live with Hal, you do what you gotta do.

A Really Bad Thing

We were driving into town, all five of us packed tight in our little Prius, when Hal made an announcement.

“Mommy?”

“Yes, dear.”

“If I pooped in my pants, that would be a really bad thing. If I pooped in my pants.”

Daddy: “You know what else would be a really bad thing, Hal?”

“What?”

“Hitting your face with a hammer.”

Hal: “Well, you know what else would be a really bad thing? Hitting your butt.”

Daryl: “No, a really bad thing would be farting in the car.”

Jane: “A really bad thing would be to provoke a shark.”

Daryl: “No, you know what would be a really bad thing? Attacking the Pentagon and trying to destroy it all by yourself. That would be a bad thing.”

Hal: “You know what would be a really bad thing?”

Daddy: “Coming up with really bad things?”

Hal: “No. Hitting someone’s house and smashing their Christmas tree and then farting around it and hitting your butt. That would be really awesome.”

The conversation degraded from there as only conversations with either children or drunk adults can do.