Tuesday, June 28, 2005

No Foot, No Horse II

Yes, I know it's been a long time since my last entry regarding this subject, but, true to form, I only got around to visiting a podiatrist yesterday. I decided last week that enough was enough when, after wearing on old pair of (formerly) reliable flats to work, my feet hurt so bad that I could barely walk for two days. I threw the shoes out with the garbage and made the appointment.

The first thing the nurse told me to do when I went into the examination room was to take off my shoes and socks, which I did, and she left.

Looking at my pink, sweaty doggies, I couldn't help but think that podiatry is a pretty nasty business. This is coming from someone who is NOT a foot person, mind you. I do not DO feet. I cringe when my husband asks me to massage his feet and demand that he wash them first. But there I was, waiting for someone who touches strange feet every day for a living. Ew.

Looking at my feet, I wondered how they would compare with those of other patients. Of course, people with healthy feet rarely visit a podiatrist, right? I figured this guy probably sees a lot of really gross stuff. Gigantic bunions. Infected, oozing ingrown toenails. Flaky, fungal toenails. Hammertoes. Maybe that's all he sees is gross stuff. Remembering that, I felt confident that my feet probably weren't all that bad.

But I wasn't there to play footsies, of course. This was serious stuff.

After a short wait, a cute, prematurely gray man wearing little round glasses stepped into the office and introduced himself as Dr. D. We talked about the problems I've been having, and then he briefly examined them. He cupped my left heel in the palm of one hand, and he gently grasped my foot around my toes and slowly pivoted my foot at the ankle. "Whoa," he said, "That joint is really unstable. Is this sore here?" He applied his thumb at the top of my foot, where my ankle pivots, and pressed down.

Thank you, Dr. D. You found a place I didn't realize was hurting.

He asked if I use a lot of ibuprofen for pain. I laughed. I subsist on ibuprofen. So he gave me some prescription NSAID's and we talked about orthotics to stablize my feet.

I will get the orthotics on Thursday. We'll see how it goes.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Desperate Housewaif

Everyone has a little dirty laundry.

And it is the job of the Gladys Kravitz's of the world to find out what it is.

If you don't know who Gladys Kravitz is, then you need to catch an episode of Bewitched. Mrs. Kravitz was always snooping around the Stevens' house at just the right time to catch Samantha performing some hocus pocus. Then Gladys would run home screaming to her husband, Abner, who was convinced that his wife was crazy.

I used to have a Gladys Kravitz living in my neighborhood. I'll call her Diane. Though Diane didn't hide in anybody's bushes -- at least I don't think she did -- she did know the name -- and business -- of everybody on our street.

If it weren't for Diane, I admit, I probably would know nothing about my neighbors.

For instance, the couple on the corner had a premature baby.

The people living in across from me are dealing with cancer and a drug-addicted son.

The couple up the street divorced because the wife was having an affair. Consequently, their two kids are a mess.

The teenaged girl living next door had a loser boyfriend, and she gave her parents hell because of him.

So much drama going on around me, and I'm so busy between my job and my own family that I would have never known. I guess I simply prefer to keep to myself. I just don't have the time to cultivate friendships in my neighborhood. Don't get me wrong, we're not hermits. It's just that my real friends are at work. When I am home, well, that's family time.

But Diane would have none of this.

A few weeks or so after we moved into the neighborhood, I opened my front door to find Diane standing on my front porch. Before I could say, "Who are you?" she had stepped into my foyer and was checking out my furniture. Turned out her younger daughter was the same age as my older daughter, so I quickly began seeing a lot of Diane.

I think I was dry forage for her, though. No drugs here. No teenage angst. No wandering eyes.

I was, however, a good listener, and I oft found myself listening to many of Diane's familial ills.

Her husband, for instance, was chronically depressed. That explained why he always looked like he'd just crawled out of bed. To make matters worse, he got laid off from his job.

Then there was Diane's kids. She had a teenage daughter who was one big hormone from hell. And her teenage son became very ill with an autoimmune disorder.

So they had a lot of stressors going on at the same time, a daughter gone wild, a depressed father in need of a job, and then, when they didn't have health insurance, their son got sick.

It was enough to make Erica Kane's head spin.

So Diane and her family were going through some really tough times. They had to sell their house and move into an apartment.

Even so, Diane kept in touch with the neighbors, and she continued to know more about them than I did. How strange.

I thought for a while that I would maintain relations with Diane for the sake of my daughter, who considered Diane's younger daughter to be her best friend.

But then I started seeing behaviors in Diane's daughter that I disapproved of.

The girl was bossy.

When she couldn't get her way, she would rather go home than stay and learn to compromise.

She would purposefully disobey me right in front of me (which resulted in her being sent home immediately).

If she found a locked door (such as that to my guest bedroom, which was locked to keep the kids from messing it up), then she set out on her own to find the key. (This particular sneakiness truly disturbed me.)

And then there's the day that Diane's husband dropped the girl off at my house without first determining whether or not we were even home. Lucky for her, we were, but the fact that he would do that was just scary.

All of these things led me to believe that my daughter was better off finding new friends.

Arriving at this decision was a relief to me. The relationship with Diane was wearing me thin. There was always a new episode of violence for her to tell me about. Or a new episode of illness.

It was always something.

Maybe I could have continued to tolerate it if there had been something in the relationship for me. But encounters with her were usually made up of me listening to her. I just got tired of being her support.

So I quit returning her phone calls. I encouraged my daughter to pursue friendships with children who still lived in our neighborhood. And slowly, Diane became a memory.

I did, however, run into her in the video store the other day. I was there for a quick run, but the instant I saw her, I knew I was stuck for longer. She at least had good news for me. Her son was better. Her older daughter was emerging from adolescence in one piece. They'd bought a new house and were enjoying it.

When she asked me about my kids, I was eager to tell her some humorous stories, but after I got out a sentence or two, she interrupted me to tell me that her dog had died.

It was then that I realized that Diane is like Long John Silver's -- I have to go there once every year or two to be reminded why I usually avoid the place.

I took the first opportunity to politely leave the conversation.

I was left with a slightly bitter taste in my mouth,though. I think Diane only wants to listen to tales of woe. She's not interested in the fact that my husband and I, for the most part, have it together. She doesn't care that my kids, in general, are good kids.

She wants to hear about divorce and drug addiction and terminal illness.

I finally saw her for what she really was: a sad and desperate woman.

Friday, June 10, 2005

June Cleaver, Axe Murderer

If you haven't visited Cheeky Mommy's page, then I encourage you to do so. I expect she is going to supply us with an interesting view into the world of stay-at-home moms.

Stay-at-home moms are brave women. I have never disputed this fact.

I've often thought about what I would do if I stayed at home with my three wonderkids.

I'd start by posting a perfectly drawn schedule on my spotless white refrigerator:

8:00 breakfast
8:30 play time
10:00 morning nap time
12:00 lunch time
12:30 play time
2:00 afternoon nap time

While the children are either happily entertaining themselves or quietly tucked away in their beds for nap time, I would clean my house from top to bottom. No toilet rings or ring-around-the-collar. No dirty kitchen floors or countertops. No stains on the carpets. Couch cushions all in their places. Furniture dusted and polished to a sheen. All my pictures artfully arranged on the walls instead of leaning against the wall behind the office door.

Everything would be so perfect.

I'd have my photography all organized. My three novels would be in their final re-writes. I'd be enjoying swimming parties with the other stay-at-home moms. Trips to the zoo on Tuesdays. Read-ins at the library on Thursdays.

Wouldn't it just be perfect?

What? WHAT?

Okay, so maybe that's a little naive. All right, all right, it's A LOT naive! If anybody really believes that this is what a stay-at-home mom's world is like, then he or she knows absolutely nothing about kids.

And I mean NOTHING.

Kids need attention. Kids need A LOT of attention. Here's a simple breakfast-time scenario for me, someone who does work outside the home: We are going to have cold cereal. No big deal, right? So I'm the first one in the kitchen. I set out five bowls and spoons on the table. I put the gallon of milk on the table. The table is too small to put all the cereals on it, so I leave them on the kitchen island. The kids are big enough to get the one they want. I call everyone to the kitchen. Nobody comes. I'm hungry, so I fix my bowl and sit down at the table to eat it.

My 9-year-old daughter comes in. She has dressed herself and fixed her hair. She's very cute. "What's for breakfast?" she asks.

"Cereal," I say as I crunch on my Shredded Wheat.

My 6-year-old daughter comes in. She is in tears. "I can't find my shoes," she cries.

"Don't worry about it. I know where they are. Fix yourself some cereal," I say.

My 5-year-old son streaks through the kitchen, stark naked, light saber in hand, screaming, "I'm gonna cut your head off!!!"

"Get dressed!" I bark at him.

"Put some clothes on!" my 9-year-old tells him. "Mommy, what cereals do we have?" she asks me.

Of course, I've set the cereals out. They are right in front of her.

I stare at her.

"Are these all we have?" she asks.

"That's it," I say.

We are both startled by the sound of shattering glass. Our attention turns to her younger sister, who, not seeing the bowls on the table, had taken it upon herself to climb on top of the cabinet to get her own bowl. She is staring at me with a terrified expression on her face.

My 5-year-old starts to dart through the kitchen again.

"Stop!" I yell.

He stops. He is still naked and is now armed with two light sabers.

"Don't come in here. There's broken glass on the floor. And get dressed!" I stand up, leaving my half-eaten bowl of cereal, and get the broom and dust pan.

My 6YO starts to cry again.

"Don't worry about it," I assure her. "It's just a bowl. We can replace it." I sweep the glass into a pile, then carry her to a chair at the table. "What cereal do you want?" I ask her.

"The chocolate one."

So I fix her a bowl of Cocoa Crispies and finish cleaning up the glass.

"Mommy, is it okay if I fix myself a bowl of oatmeal?" my 9YO asks.

I look at the clock. We still have time. "Yes," I tell her.

I hear my 5YO in the dining room. He is singing the song from Shrek, "Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me. I ain't the shockatootysheeeed...."

I am now officially exasperated. "Get dressed!" I holler at him.

"I am!" he hollers back.

I step into the dining room to look at him. He is wearing a red and black sleeveless t-shirt, red basketball shorts, and tan cowboy boots. I'm not sure if he's a redneck or a gangsta. I look at the clock. Not enough time to worry about the clothes. At least he's dressed. "Go eat," I tell him.

I see my 6YO's shoes under the dining table. I pick them up and take them to the living room. I hear my clothes dryer buzz. Damn. I'm running out of time, but I'm really behind on the laundry. I decide to get the clothes out of the dryer and leave them in a heap on the dining table. I'll fold them later. That way, I can wash another load of clothes now. While I am doing this, I hear my 9YO yell at my 5YO.

"What's wrong?" I ask from the laundry room.

"He spilled milk all over the table!"

Jeez. I'd forgotten about him. I go to the kitchen, and they all three are sitting there, staring at the milk as it creeps across the table and spills over the edge into my 9YO's lap.

"Well don't just sit there!" I yell. "Get a towel!"

My 9YO jumps up, but of course it is too late for her denim skirt. It is wet. But she grabs a kitchen towel and lays it over the spilled milk.

"Sorry, Mommy," my 5YO says pitifully.

I growl. Time is running out. I quickly make his cereal for him. "Hurry up," I say. I finish cleaning up the wet towel. My 9YO goes to her room to change clothes. "Your shoes are on the couch," I tell my 6YO, "Hurry up and finish eating so you can put them on."

I look at my cereal. It is now soggy. I don't care. I'm still hungry. I pick up the bowl and finish eating it while standing at the sink.

"Mommy!" my 9YO yells from her room, "Do I have any clean clothes in the laundry room?"

I look at the clock. "No!" I tell her. "Just wear the skirt you had on!"

"But it's wet!"

"It's not that bad!"

I look at my 5YO, who is eagerly eating his Cocoa Crispies. He smiles sweetly at me as he munches away.

My 6YO puts her empty bowl in the sink. She goes to the living room. I hear her saying good morning to her dad, who has finally decided to make an appearance. He comes to the kitchen and starts fixing his cereal. My 6YO returns to the kitchen, shoes in hand, an angry expression on her face. "I don't like these shoes!" she pouts.

My blood begins to boil. "You'd better put those shoes on, or else!" I yell angrily.

She begins to cry again.

My husband looks at me like he thinks I'm crazy. "Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning," he comments. (The newspaper later reported that he was treated for minor injuries and released.)

By the time I have dropped the kids off at school and arrived at my desk at work, I am exhausted, both mentally and physically. I cannot imagine doing that all day long, every single day of the year.

It would kill me.

Oh, I suppose I would find a way to deal with it. But either way, that is why I have nothing but respect for a mom (or dad) who chooses to stay at home to care for the kids.

My hat is off to you.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Mean Girls

My 6-year-old daughter conveyed a tale of terror to me last night at the supper table. She and her 9-year-old sister were sharing a video game with a 7-year-old friend, Nick. I was never clear on exactly what it was that Nick was doing, but the saga began with my older daughter admonishing Nick to not cheat. This apparently angered Nick, so he yelled at my 9-year-old and kicked her.

Well, this angered my 6-year-old, and she turned to Nick and said, "Don't you kick my sister!" And she kicked Nick.

So Nick turned and kicked my 6-year-old.

So then my 9-year-old joined the fray and kicked Nick, too.

To hear my 6-year-old tell it, my daughters turned Goodfellas on poor Nick. I envisioned him as a bloody pulp on the floor at circle time.

"Is Nick okay?" I asked.

"Yeah," my 6-year-old said, "He wants to know if he can come to my house and play on Saturday."

Sounds like an offer I can't refuse.