Wait! Is that Poop?

The other day I walked through our breezeway after a couple days of travel to find my husband cooking something yummy on the grill outside. A few of the kids were all hanging out watching him. It was a really nice scene to come home to so I grabbed a beer out of the garage fridge intending to sit on the back steps and join the fun of watching Grant cook. Until I saw that there were crusty brown streaks across the bottom concrete step.

“Wait! Is that poop?” I asked, catching myself before I sat down.

“Yeah. David fessed up to stepping in dog poop. We were just talking about where might be a better place than the back steps to scrape it off your shoes.”

“Is anyone intending to clean it up?”

“Well, we were talking about that too. It probably should dry first. We don’t want to gross up the broom.”

I stepped over the bottom step and just went inside. Sometimes things look funner than they really are.

You all DO know that I KNOW that funner isn’t a word right? I mean actually, I think it IS, because I use it all the time. Who actually gets to decide what is a word and what’s not? I want THAT job! Seriously. It sounds way funner than selling carpet or writing about poop.

Anyhoo. I am writing this poop post for Marie R. It was her suggestion for a blog post topic. Also,  because I am a poop expert. I have quite a few friends who are either about to have a baby or are right in the peak of what I like to call the ‘poop years’ and I need them to all know: I understand; I empathize; I have been there; and I lived. You will too. Though of course the more children you have, the longer it takes to get past the poop years. Growing six children? Well it’s pretty much just a shitty job. I mean that literally, not metaphorically. I mostly have enjoyed all the other stuff. A metaphor for my life would be more like: I helped grow a bunch of smart ass monkeys. It’s all fun and games until someone starts throwing their poop at you.

Poop was kind of endearing with our first baby. We actually have a picture of the first fecal matter I got on me. Duncan was two days old and I thought it was so cute, that little mustardy turd all over my white sweater, me smiling proudly. That fun little game lost its glamour in about 4 days.

Enter sixth born child Mitchel who at 9 months old learned to take off his clothes, including his diaper, if he was unattended for longer than 4 seconds. We got wise to him and learned to dress him with duct tape AFTER that terrible day when he discovered poop painting. I remember Grant screaming like someone had died and I came running to the source of the scream, Mitchel’s room, and just stood there in shock. “Wait, is that poop?” The grinning baby’s naked body, the crib and an entire wall, two and a half feet up from the entire length of the crib was coated with something very, very horrifying.

Grant looked at me like I was some kind of moron. “No dummy, it’s chocolate.”

“Oh thank God. Chocolate should be easy for you to clean up.” And I turned around and left.

The house.

And drove away.

It’s for sure not one of my prouder moments. Clearly I eventually went home. By then Grant had gotten the first layer off the walls and crib and had little Satan hosed down. I was the detail and disinfect crew. But he didn’t talk to me for a day or two. I don’t blame him. Good mothers don’t run away from poop.

I was just so tired of it: wiping up poop. Scooping poop and babies out of the tub so we could bleach it and start all over. Begging those little people to poop in the potty. I actually chased Dillin around with my coffee cup because he would not sit still long enough on the potty. Apparently he had more interesting things to do. (Like pull his pants down and poop in the corner of his bedroom.) I caught it buy the way. The poop. There wasn’t actually coffee in the cup at the time. I drank it all waiting for him to take a dump. It’s a shame about that cup though. It was my favorite. But I couldn’t drink from it after that incident. Shit just got in my head.

Then when one kid  would finally poop in the potty we would have to wipe their little tushies for another year. It was either that or have poop streaks across the toilet seat when YOU had to go. Grant and I can still hear the echo of Daniel “Mom…Dad…come wipe my butt.” Maria says she has memories of wiping little boy butts too. I feel bad about that. Kind of.  Especially because I think she potty trained herself at nine months. She was in it for the frilly big girl panties. I should be nicer to her.

Road trips were spectacular during the poop years, which lasted about fifteen years for us. The poop years, not the road trip. Though some of them felt that long. Somebody ALWAYS had diarrhea, usually whoever was the baby at the time.  Rarely does one discover the baby has diarrhea until it has moved all the way up the baby’s back and saturated the car seat and erupted into the air like a slap in the face which would often cause a chain reaction of vomiting and mass hysteria.  I can remember being shocked the first time we took a road trip without diapers, wipes, barf bowls and Clorox wipes. Who knew you could get places so quickly?!?

I thought things would be less poopy once they were all potty trained but it’s still a central theme in our household.

“When was the last time someone picked up dog poop?”

“The dog got into the cat litter box again!”

“Sweet! Does that mean I don’t have to scoop poop today?”

Even at the dinner table it’s talked about. Except when there are guests. Girlfriends apparently don’t count as guests and I think are judged by their ability to tell a good poop story. (Am I right Maggie?)

Red licorice caused a couple of the kids to think they were dying. The older ones shaking their wise heads “Dude, that happened to me too. Frightening!”

If someone wants to try and get out of something: “I have to poop first” is often a tactic.

And when someone isn’t feeling well, the first question: “When was the last time you pooped?”

It’s very seldom that I can get ready in the morning without someone needing the bathroom. The only one I DON’T leave the bathroom for is Mitchel. I still have poop painting resentment in me. Plus he enjoys seeing how long I can hold my breath.

I can’t hold my breath long enough for the others. Especially Mr. “I Can’t Take a Shower Until I’ve Had My Two Hour Morning Dump” Siwinski.

But I think I am on to him because sometimes I SAY I am pooping when really what I am doing is reading quietly in the only room in our house that has a locking door. It’s nice there. When people aren’t banging to get in.

Poop

This is not actually poop. But I thought it was when I was vacuuming the basement. It’s actually a toy dragon. But you can SEE how I might be a little paranoid right? Plus I wasn’t wearing my glasses. 

When the Queen of England Comes to Visit

Maybe

I saw something on Facebook that has given me pause for obsession…I mean reflection…it was a picture of a cat taking a nap on the unmade bed of a friend’s son…her comment: “Guess I will have to make his bed later…silly cat.”

My first thought SHOULD have been (but wasn’t) “Ahhhh….what a cute cat.” I mean I love OUR cat. Even though she tried to eat in its entirety the New Year’s Day turkey that was thawing out in the sink…and barfed up red Christmas ribbon on MY pillow…and LIVES to torment our innocent (sea) turtle who only knows peace and just now hissed at me (the cat not the turtle) when I was talking all nice to her. Seems she understands derogatory words even when they are spoken in a sweet voice. (Cats are smart that way.)

Nor did I think “Swat that little bitch cat off the bed, she’s getting hair all over the sheets!” because I have given in to having cat and dog hair on everything. Our pets have taken over the house…especially the cat that has a different napping spot for every hour of the day, all of which are places I either sit, sleep or eat. I no longer notice pet hair in my mouth or stuck to the bottom of my socks, or on my black work slacks, or in my food…I mostly just keep my eyes closed and hum a little when I am in my house for very long.

Instead, my immediate reaction to this seemingly innocent Facebook post was to think “You make your son’s bed?!?!?! WTF?”

Followed thirty seconds later by: “OMG! I am a terrible mother because I don’t make any of my children’s beds.”

Because of course all Facebook comments, even ones about cute cats sleeping on unmade beds, are all about my crappy mothering.

But the thing is: I AM a BED MAKER. I was raised at a young age to clearly understand that bad things will happen to you if you did not make your bed every morning. Plus, there was some mention of the possibility that the Queen of England might stop by and we should always be prepared with made beds. I have therefore, since I was five years old, been inspired to make my bed every morning before I do anything else despite the fact that the QUEEN (of England) has not yet shown. My little sister, who NEVER made her bed, may have been correct in her declaration that mom was a big fat fibber. Though I feel the strong need to make mention and call to your attention that a lot more bad things have happened to my sister than have happened to me (thus far). Just sayin…

…and so it is somewhat upsetting to me that NONE of my kids make their beds, not even Daniel sees the logic of bed making. He is our only neat freak kid, who queebs when one of his asshole brothers moves his carefully placed Halo Ships over to where the Green bay Packers stuff goes (just so they can watch his eyes bug out). “I’m just going to mess the covers up again in 12 hours mom. Don’t you think that’s a waste of my valuable time?”

At one point I sort of tried to teach my kids the importance (and skill) of making their beds, but the Queen of England comments fell short and meaningless upon their blank faces…the one smarty who knew who she was said: “Isn’t she like 100 years old? She’d probably die on the airplane from Paris to Spokane!”…

…I could go down the path of scaring them with the threat “you’ll get bed bugs” to inspire them but I WATCHED that 60 Minutes episode and as someone who stays in a lot of hotels where the beds are always made when you walk in I know for a fact that made beds don’t stop those icky little things. Plus I live with an ex-exterminator who would blame my suitcase as the transporter if we ever got bed bugs and I personally think I get enough blame for shit that goes down in our house.

…and it’s not like I have time to make seven beds myself every morning. I mean really? I get up at 5:30 most mornings and am still rushing to get out the door on time to meet my outside the house life and I am lucky to have on matching shoes and mascara on both eyes.

I probably should make Mitch and Dave’s beds. They are still little and need nurturing but I would rather give them candy, Cheetos and kisses to express my love because every time I go in their room I hurt myself somehow: stepping on Legos, hitting my head on the hard wooden top bunk and one time acquiring seven stitches in the lip after being viciously attacked by a plastic Nerf rifle that fell from their top shelf and hit me square in the mouth….so I am a little afraid to go in that room…mothering is so damn dangerous…

…and the endeavor to make the older kids beds would just lead to a whole lot of unpleasant questions like: “Why perchance is there an empty Coors Light bottle in your room? It seems weird since you are only 19. Oh, it’s MY empty and being used for spitting CHEW into? Oh that’s so much better. Whew! Thanks for clearing that up.” OR “Why does your floor crunch?” OR “When did we get a HAMSTER?”

In my early days of motherhood, I had energy and this thing called CONVICTION and was determined to make good people for the world: one’s who make their beds every morning.

Now, in my later days of motherhood (which began about four minutes after my first son was born) I am trying to accept (with somewhat wavering conviction) that bed making is a personal preference NOT a reflection on whether or not you are a good person (or mother). I am (almost) certain that bad things will not happen just because my kids don’t make their beds (though I still usually make mine, I haven’t gone THAT crazy).

But when the Queen of England FINALLY comes to visit me from Paris I will meet her at the nearest Starbucks (I mean one would THINK that the QUEEN would give advance notice and not just show up on your doorstep) and we will put a little shot of booze from my purse flask in our coffee and toast to shiny crowns, Paris, hamsters, Legos, cats, turtles, dogs, bunk beds, face scars, crunchy floors and the really, really good people in my life who’s beds I never make.

Ballyhoo from the Chestnut Tree

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I have been longing for the chestnut tree in my childhood back yard. The tree was big and wonderful and from the age of about 9 to 12, that was where you could find me. I would climb to the thickest, highest branch and sit with my note pad, writing down ‘stuff’ and softly singing songs from Heart, Abba, James Taylor and the Bee Gees.  From my branch, I could see the goings on of the crazy cat man to the right of our house. He scared the shit out of me but it was important to keep an eye on him, especially during the summer that my mom temporarily took one of his cats. She actually came to us and gave birth in the basement (the cat not my mom) to four kittens. We kept two of them, gave away two to good homes and then my mom took ‘Mama-Cat’ to get spayed (muttering something about pet responsibility) before eventually letting her go where she chose, which became a flip flop between the two houses depending upon the food supply situation. I remember one afternoon when the cat-man spotted me from his back yard, his scary, scowly, old man squinty eyes zeroing in on me up in the tree, asking “Have you seen one of my cats? She seems to have gone missing”. I muttered back a quiet “nuh-uh” as I watched at least seven cats dart around his porch. In my mind, he had enough cats and shouldn’t miss one. Now, of course, I understand that he clearly loved Mama-Cat as much as he did the other cats and I had no right to judge him or be so self-righteous (or a kitten thief). The cats were all he had. They were his children. He never had visitors and we probably should not have ‘borrowed’ one of his cats. I wish I would have brought him cookies or something (to make up for KEEPING the kittens that I was NOT giving back, ever). I would do that now, bring cookies, or reach out somehow because I have learned to see through the surface of the story a little better…

…but let’s go back (just for a minute) to the tree that was my childhood haven. As I write this, I can smell the sweet, white, spring blossoms, and the fat, pungent, star shaped leaves that would turn bright orange before falling into a different luscious scent of ripe decay that signified change.  I can feel the prickly green orbs that the blooms gave birth to… in my hand… fingers prying them open to reveal the most wonderful shiny smooth chestnuts that always, always brought to me delightful amazement. My mom and dad would pay my sister and I a penny a chestnut in the late fall, when they became a menace to the grass. One fall, I collected a big box of chestnuts, got paid by mom and promptly set a stand up at the curb with a sign that read: “BEAUTIFUL Chestnuts for Sale –Only Five Cents Each”, thinking that surely someone else would see the immense value these beautiful shiny nuts held, for they came from a place of complete joy…why would I not want to share them? I actually sold about a dollar’s worth of chestnuts that day…kind people encouraging a child’s unique perception of what holds value.

I want so badly to be in that tree right now. It is currently February and a dreary, cold, snow covered, five degrees outside and I am weary and tired of things as of late…and I long for my tree…but  I am a grown woman now…so it might possibly be frowned upon by the current home owners were I to seek out the tree of my childhood (which is only 20 minutes south of where I live today) and climb up on my branch and just sit there and THINK, legs dangling, and try to reconcile the child I was in the tree who was going to “WRITE and SING and share with the world every joy she KNEW and SAW even if it meant occasionally coming off her comfortable branch to greet fellow chestnut ‘lovers’ at the curb and describe to them the differences of each unique offering  and why ‘perhaps they should buy five of them, for the contrast of beauty’… with the person I am now, who has allowed a twenty plus year long career in sales to be the definition of who I am but not what I will let myself LOVE deep down inside where it COUNTS because “selling stuff for a living” is the scariest, most horrifying career choice a shy, tree dwelling, creative could possibly make. So I have continued to fight the idea that I have been living authentically all of these years.

With this ever nagging idea that “sales” is not what I should be doing,  I turn to my friend Merriam-Webster in hopes of finding a definition that is somehow less publicly scary and more altruistically creative:

Sale: the transfer of ownership of something from one person to another for a price. Synonyms: bargain, auction, horse-trading, negotiation, STEAL….hmmm.

Sell: to offer for sale to the public. Synonyms: deal, vend, put-up. Some related words: hawk, peddle, trade, boost, plug, promote, tout, dicker, chaffer and my favorite: BALLYHOO, the least likely word to be found in “Death of a Salesman” (which is encouraging) or anywhere else for that matter, which means of course I can’t WAIT to tell my boss how “it took a lot of ballyhoo to get the customer to buy my carpet ” because ballyhoo sounds so much more interesting than persuasion to get my job done …which actually helps me overcome what one dude said to describe the word ‘sell’ which was “giving your soul to the devil for money”. See??? I KNEW IT! Ha!

BUT! Climb up here on my branch and sit with me for a little while because it occurs to me that perhaps an aerial viewpoint might be the way to look at things during this time of my poor me, career choice consternation.  I sit with you now, legs dangling, not as the dreamy, shy, child afraid of the cat-man but as someone who has learned with the guidance of solid leadership, the encouragement of respected friends and the experience that comes from just digging in, to see through the surface of the story. Sales is not about manipulating or tricking someone into doing what they don’t want to do. Neither is it really very intimidating or scary. It is simply seeing past the prickly shells and zeroing in on the gorgeous, unique nut inside (are we not all nuts deep down?), discovering what will help each shine even brighter and bringing it to the table with ballyhoo which is “talk or writing that is designed to get people excited or interested in something” (like carpet!) and therefore a NATURAL career choice for a creative! SEE??? It looks so much better up here in the chestnut tree (thank you for sitting here with me!) I feel suddenly ready once again to enjoy the rich daily adventure that is my career, especially now that I know it involves ballyhoo. Ha!!!