Sunday, October 30, 2011

What Every Man Should Be Told About Babies

Any parent should be familiar with the book "What to expect when you're expecting." It's a big ole monster that details the forty weeks of the human gestational period. It's meant to help you prepare for pregnancy and what happens after you bring your little guy of gal home from the hospital (unless you're one of those uber hippies who scoffs at modern medicine and chooses to pop your kid out in a bath tub). It's a good book, I guess, but it fails to truly cover the things that no one tells you about babies. So, please take the following posting as my very abridged version of "What to Expect Once Your Little Monster Comes Home: What Every Man Should Be Told About Babies."

1. Soy should be illegal.

Both of my boys had some pretty adverse lactose issues. We quickly switched them to a soy based formula to soothe their little tummies. The transition went well for both boys, but was a scarring event for me. During every feeding, a baby must be burped. My kids obviously inherited my gene of prolific gas exertion so they both burped like grown men. This really isn't a problem unless your kid must go the soy route. Soy burps can change your entire outlook on what you think stink really is. It's toxic, and is kind of like getting stuck behind a dump truck in traffic, it lingers like a beast. I swear that my youngest Matthew used to get a kick out of turning toward me just as a blue ribbon burp rolled up his chest. ugh.

2. Babies have a natural instinct to suckle.

I won't go too far in to this one, but it should be noted that from birth a baby knows exactly how to suckle. So gentlemen, be sure to wear a shirt when you go to rock your baby back to sleep at night. No one wants to be involved in that awkward of a father/son moment.

3. Babies love to squeeze.

For the first few months of a baby's life their little hands interact with everything they touch by squeezing. Do yourself a favor and protect your sensitive areas. When Jackson was only a few months old we put him in bed with us one evening when he was finding it difficult to rest. When a baby sleeps in your bed instinct kicks in and you become statuesque. Amanda and I both faced inward, with Jackson positioned in between us, and I unknowingly tucked one arm up behind my head and dozed off. Somewhere around an hour later I was torn from the depths of peaceful sleep by a life-changing level of pain. Apparently Jackson wasn't sleeping well and began to toss and turn a bit. In his wanderings, his little left hand found my armpit. Nothing says welcome to parenthood more vividly than trying to unclasp your infant's hands from your armpit hair while fighting the instinct to scream in pain for fear that you'll wake him. He never shared our bed again.

4. Deep coughs mean trouble.

Listen, if you are laying in bed one night and are awoken by the sound of your baby's gentle cough, it's ok. However, if that cough gets heavier and finishes with a deep guttural sound like an animal would make, it's a different story altogether. Go ahead and get up, grab the rubber gloves, spare sheets, diapers, pajamas, and some disinfectant spray because there's a 90% chance that your kid just vomited all over everything. Oh, and be sure and wear clothes you don't really care about because you're going to have to interact with a vomit covered kid, which quickly becomes a vomit covered family.

5. Baby monitors mean business.

Parents are asked to put a lot of faith in a $29.99 piece of electronics you pick up on the sale isle at Babies R Us. Your brand new human being could be choking to death and you are meant to simply plug in both components so you can leap to the rescue should the unthinkable happen. That sounds quite daunting, especially if you are a heavy sleeper. But rest easy. Baby monitors are specially designed to transmit your child's every whimper at a volume that could stop a human heart. I swear the first time Jackson began crying in the monitor I pee'd a little, in fear that I was being attacked by a legion of wailing demons. A sudden cough can rupture your ear drums. Do yourself a favor, turn the volume down a little to help avoid incidents of arrhythmia and soiled sheets.

6. Drool happens.

Babies are born with many inherent abilities, such as suckle when hungry, cry at everything, and react to sound. However, no child in history has ever been born with the ability to operate it's bottom lip. It's like an open faucet at all times. A session of "playing with dad on the floor" can quickly turn in to baby spit in your mouth. It happens. You expect that. What you don't expect is the chemical reaction that occurs when baby drool is mixed with formula or your baby's favorite juice drink and becomes one of life's most rank smells. It's sour and horrible. For me, it's worse than a poop diaper.

7. Plan wisely.

I'll be very careful on this one. Babies are born with a sub-conscious sensor that alerts them when it's "mommy and daddy time." Plan wisely. Fill that little bugger's stomach with formula, lay him down, and don't doddle. You never know how long you have until the all knowing one is alerted as to your intentions. Once he realizes that you may have placed your attention on something other than him, your party may be cut short. Good luck!

8. Contents under pressure.

Diapers seem harmless. Most of the time when your kid poops, diapers operate as designed. However, if your little guy or gal's tummy is upset in the least, diapers react in a very different manner. I would've never believed it before my boys were born, but it is very possible, and almost expected, for a child to poop up his back. It's the human version of zero gravity. To this day most scientist can't explain exactly how it occurs. I maintain the theory that the child simply wills it to happen to satisfy his morbid love of pooping on everything he sees.

9. Diaper rash cream smells like crap.

Not really, but your mind plays tricks on you. Because the two smells are so closely tied to one another you lose the ability to tell them apart. Your olfactory senses are confused. Every time you smell poop, it's followed by the smell of rash cream. Poop then cream. Poop then cream. After a while you will begin to obsessively wash you hands when you get cream on them because you are convinced that the smell is that of poop. My advice: visit your local auto parts store and get some of that mechanic's soap. The smell of diaper rash cream is REALLY hard to get off your hands. It's better to invest in a serious soap than walking around all day concerned that you're contaminating every thing you touch with human feces.

10. Other people's kids are diseased.

Seriously, other kids that don't live in your house are walking petri dishes. All you ever hear from parenting books and advice websites is how important it is to "socialize" your child at an early age. Screw that. Think of every kid you know. Now realize that each one of those kids may represent patient zero that will certainly create two weeks of snot and diarrhea for each and every member of your house. Load up on vap-o-rub and tissue because your child's enlightening experience of sharing drool with a room full of other people's stinky kids will probably have a dramatic affect of the stock value of Lysol. My advice: buy some more baby einstein dvds and skip play group.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Snuggies, Muffins, and Hot Wings

Throughout our lives we are faced with moments that exist to teach us perspective. Only time will tell whether or not we recognize them when they occur. I would say that's the hardest part of self-actualization; the ability to maintain perspective through trials. But it's difficult to stay on the right path when outside influences try their damnedest to blur your reality and create false or temporary goals or truths.

For me, the biggest example of this is marketing. How many of us have sat through a commercial for a snuggie where the actor on the screen struggles, in a ridiculous fashion, to grab the remote control because his/her hands are inexplicably trapped by some rascally blanket. I've seen magicians struggle less to free themselves from a straight jacket secured with pad locks. Or how about a commercial for some new-fangled muffin pan that will surely make all those other evil muffin pans obsolete. I can't count the senseless slaughter of delicious muffins that has occurred in our house because our muffin pan apparently has the ability to destroy our entire kitchen. You know the type, the screen is transformed to a black and white picture, like something out of a horror movie, while a frustrated homemaker destroys her perfect muffins because she's unable to unlock the Da Vinci code that is her inferior non-stick surface.

That's just it, these situations are created in our minds; they don't really exist. We allow people to create insecurities that we use our own weak psyches to exploit. How many times have I heard the phrase "retail therapy?" Don't think I'm mocking the concept. I'm sure it's a very real thing. It's only logical that we would flock to our local shop to upgrade one of our possessions during times when we feel overwhelmed or out of control of our everyday lives. It's our way of facing a falsely perceived shortcoming and creating a victory, no matter how meaningless. If we were truly able to maintain perspective on those big insecurities, maybe we wouldn't have to resort to raiding Target's $1 aisle so the world would make sense again.

I've taken a different course on discipline lately. I've noticed that many of Jackson's behavior issues are usually related to how he perceives his potential courses of action, rather than some purposeful decision to act like a maniac. Sometimes he just doesn't understand that his world may not be as it seems. So I now find myself spending less time BARKING at him with a "what were you thinking!" tone, and spending more time TALKING to him with a "what were you thinking?" approach.

I swear, every time I hear him explain himself and how he perceived his choices, I'm reminded of times in my life where I got it so wrong, and some, where I got it right.

Amanda and I were faced with one of these perspective type situations last weekend. On Saturday morning we got the kids fed and dressed so we could do a little shopping for some cold weather clothes. After hitting a few stores we decided to stop for lunch at WOW. For those of you who are unfamiliar with WOW, it's a your basic chicken wing joint. Think hooters + self-esteem. The place is usually littered with families because kids eat free, plus dads can watch football on one of the 73 flat screen TVs that litter the walls. The front of the restaurant has a few arcade games, and some toy-vending machines to ensure your rugrats get their junky toy fix for the day. We are regulars at our local WOW and are usually waited on by the same waitress. She has a son about Matthew's age and is always excited to compare silly toddler stories.

Well, this Saturday in particular we walk in and take a table that would provide a good view of the games for me and a nice view of the arcade games so we could keep an eye on our kids. What we didn't notice is the family of four seated at the table adjacent to ours. Maybe we don't notice them because we are so focused on all of the moving parts associated with wrangling two boys, but it probably had more to do with the fact that they were completely silent in a restaurant a buzz with activity. As soon as we sit down our boys are off. Jackson sprints to the bang-bang hunting game and Matthew follows close behind in curious delight.

Not long into our little lunch adventure Amanda begins to take notice of our lunch mates. It's a mother, father, and two kids (boy and girl). The kids are sitting perfectly still, almost zoo animal-like, while the mom CLOSELY oversees their lunch. She directs their bites and curtly and condescendingly addressing them. The husband says nothing as mom carefully orchestrates nearly every breath they collectively take. I begin to notice that she periodically glances at us in disgust. I think nothing of it. Maybe she's having a bad day. Hell, maybe we smell bad. Who knows? As our lunch arrives both boys return to the table to eat up. Jackson uses his best manners as he asks our waitress if he "may please have some more sprite." Matthew, on the other hand, is having issues. We've started to notice that he may not feel very good. He's unusually fussy and refuses to eat. (side note: the day after this event he is diagnosed with a double ear infection) Seeing this, Amanda and I go into divide and conquer mode (parental style). We take turns eating our lunch while the other of us tends to Matthew. He's up and down, walking around, and generally fighting everything.

That's when our "perspective" was tested. The young daughter at the table next to us shifts in her chair as if she's going to get down, but is swiftly rebuked by mommy dearest.

Mommy dearest: NO! You sit still and eat your food. We do not walk around in a restaurant. That's bad manners!

Now listen. I'm an adult. I can tell when something is directed at me and when it isn't. This was DIRECTLY addressed at us. This crazy tyrant was attempting to spread her rule of law from her kids to some random family she'd never seen before. Immediately my blood pressure spikes. In a split second I begin to mentally prepare countless witty/arrogant retorts that should surely teach her a lesson. Most of them involved name calling that any Sunday school teacher would find offensive. One of them even involved reaching over and kicking her chair out from under her while screaming "HOW'S THAT FOR BAD MANNERS?!?!" as her butt hits the floor.  I kid.

In an instant my temper is quickly surpassed by the growing storm of anger I see in Amanda's eyes. Her temper is unable to be swayed by fantasies of revengeful whimsy. She's mad. Really mad. Momma bear has been set free from her cage. But instead of tossing a plate of hot wings at this chick and diving across the dining room in a Nature Boy Ric Flair-like fashion, she locks eyes with me in a "talk me out of killing this chick" type gaze. In all honesty, Amanda isn't the brawling type. She's a lady. But, if anything could turn her to violence, it's her boys.

Over the next few minutes we both take the time to gain perspective on why this crazy, and obviously suicidal woman would attempt to teacher her child about manners by being so incredibly rude to someone she doesn't even know. We quickly resolved that this woman had no perspective. She treated her kids like some sort of science project, where arbitrary rules took precedent over understanding. Her husband sat in the corner like a wounded animal, unable to contribute to the parenting process. She had created her little world, and was truly bothered by those that didn't seem to adhere to her laundry list of rules.

But, we maintained perspective. Amanda didn't claw a single eye, and I didn't kick a single chair. We took comfort in the fact that we could not, and should not control every crazy person we come across. It wasn't our place to teach this woman a lesson on how to behave in public, just as much as it wasn't her place to teach our kids "good manners." If we spent our time chasing the misgivings of all those we come in contact with, how could we ever find time to examine our own lives.

Still, I have to admit that I do find myself imagining exactly what that witch's hair would've looked like covered in sweet tea and ranch dressing. hmm.......

Monday, October 17, 2011

NERF THE WORLD!!! (Seriously. How Did We Survive?)

My youngest son is now eighteen months old. A phase of early childhood development I commonly refer to as the "hey dad, let's see if you can stop me from killing myself" phase. This phase is highlighted by the fact that he now sees his short stature as a challenge to overcome by carefully scaling every large object in sight. He also apparently enjoys the "devil may care" thrill of climbing things positioned on non-carpeted floors. Anything hard and suicidal like brick, concrete, or ceramic tile suites him just fine.

On a positive note, his wish to test Newton's theory of gravity has really upped my time in the forty yard dash, or at least the ten yard dash. I can now make it from my chair in the living room to our kitchen table before the final consonant of whatever the expletive du jour is leaves my mouth. I feel like Indiana Jones as I sprint while leaping over the coffee table and dodging stray toys. And wouldn't you know it; as soon as I rescue the little monster from his own horrific judgement he screams at me and attempts to begin the climb again. Doesn't he understand heads are supposed to be round? Why is he in such a rush to add so many nice, symmetrical flat spots? If he's successful, he's gonna feel really silly when the prematurely bald Nolan gene catches up with him.

I wish I could say that my kids grow out of this type of self-destructive behavior, but so far Jackson is providing no evidence to support that theory. This summer we took him to Mobile, AL to join in the celebration of his cousin's birthday. It was a lovely party complete with tons of kids and an inflatable water slide. This slide stood about fifteen feet high and attaching your handy water hose to the top made all of the kids squeal with joy as they plummeted to the bottom. At the bottom there stood a backstop to catch the never-ending stream of flailing sixty pound bodies it would endure over the course of a hot summer afternoon. Jackson quickly identified that the backstop area at the bottom of the slide was collecting water at a dangerous pace. This would not do! How could he possibly stand for this apparent design flaw that would inexplicably lead to the drowning of his party mates.

Knowing that only he would be able to save them all, he sprang in to action and devised a plan. In order to "safely" remove the excess water from the slide, only one course of action would do. He would have to climb to the top of the slide, run and jump (thereby avoiding the pesky slide part), and cannonball on to the bottom of the slide. Like any good parent, I'm inside yucking it up with the gals, completely oblivious to the fact that my kid is FREAKING everyone out. One of Amanda's relatives taps me on the shoulder and says "umm, Jamey. Could you please ask Jackson to stop cannonballing off of the top of the slide. I think he's gonna really hurt himself." As those words leave her mouth I catch a glimpse of this beautiful human I helped create flying through the air, legs tucked in (perfect form no less), then smashing on the bottom to a chorus of "OH!" from the onlookers.

As he climbs up the stairs for round number: "God only knows" of this horrific daredevil stunt, I catch him by the ankle. He looks at me in a sort of "I know, it's cool right?" way and I immediately remove him from the slide. Our exchange goes as follows:

Me: Jackson, what in the world are you doing?

Jackson: (nearly screaming in delight, while not hearing the question, or caring) dad, did you see what I did? It was awesome! I did a cannonball and made a big splash..........(at this point he trailed off into the ramblings of an over-sugared six year old)


Jackson: What?

Me: Do NOT do that again! You could really hurt yourself.

Jackson: No dad, I'm fine. My neck only popped that one time.

Me: Listen to me carefully son. Don't tell your mom that last part.

I always crack up at people who post some obligatory "when I grew up we drank from the water hose" schtick on facebook, or hear someone claiming that kids these days are too soft and babied. I grew up in a small neighborhood with nine other boys near the same age. Our world certainly wasn't "nerfed" to protect us. We ran around barefooted, in the woods, most days with little to no supervision whatsoever. This led to the invention of games like "let's build our own zip line" or "baseball bat sword fight." These were not games developed by the good people who make those Baby Einstein videos. Far from it. The only thing we learned was the distinct auditory difference from the ping of two aluminum bats smashing together and the dull thud of soft tissue damage.

The zip line really stole the show. Steel wire, an enclosed wheel, and a small lat bar from a workout bench was all that was needed to get the party started. There's something quite exhilarating about breaking the highway speed limit while holding on to a slippery metal bar hanging twenty feet above the earth. If you were prone to sweaty palms, this was not the ride for you. The key to a safe zip line experience was learning when to bail out. You didn't want to let go too soon, or the drop would shatter your little ankles. Too late, and you might get to experience the taste of oak tree bark. And did we clear the landing zone of debris? Hell no. There's nothing like tumbling, in nothing but shorts, through overgrown grass and pine cones to toughen you up a bit.

You know what makes me a little sad? The thought that kids who grew up in cities would never know the joyous experience of having a pine cone splinter removed from the bottom of your foot. It's really a family bonding experience. Nothing says beautiful family memories like having to be physically restrained by your dad while "shaky hands" mom uses a sewing needle and tweezers to carefully remove all of the meat around the splinter so it can gently fall out on it's own. And thanks to modern medicine, infection would be no issue as the wound would most certainly be drenched in rubbing alcohol. Seriously. How bad can gangrene be? How about this mom? How about next time you just cauterize the wound with a glowing hot cattle brand? Ointment was apparently reserved for "sissies." Fine, put me in a dress, paint my nails, and put the alcohol AWAY!

People always say "look at me. I turned out just fine!" No you didn't. How many of us have too many scars to remember where they all came from? New flash; that's not supposed to happen. That cool shiny skin that permanently replaced your regular skin is a back up plan. You're body is only supposed to use it if you've done something really stupid. Or how about the fact that your knee hurts a little when it gets too humid? That's not by design. You're thirty! Those kind of stupid human tricks are usually reserved for war wounds and "I drank too much at a wedding one time and had a horrific chicken dance accident" stories. They're not supposed to happen when you're eight, and living through them isn't a testament to your strong will or manliness. It's simply that old man Murphy hasn't quite caught up with you yet. Sometimes it takes a generation or two for the theory of natural selection to kick in.

I'm aware of the insanity I passed on to my kids. I know that they are both hell bound and determined to test the fiscal limits of modern health insurance. Therefore, I'm committed to wearing expensive running shoes during their waking hours to ensure that they aren't done in because dad got a boo boo when he stepped on a lego block on the way to their rescue. Maybe nerfing the world is a little too far down the insane father path, but don't mock me when you notice that I tweak out like a spooked deer when they're out of my sight for too long. I know what they're capable of and I smart enough to know that my own survival was purely dumb luck.

Friday, October 7, 2011

When I Grow Up....

I read an interesting article this week. It was titled "Why Men Are In Trouble," and it was posted on At first I was completely miffed at why I wasted five minutes of my life reading an old blow hard (author) pluck random statistics and form them into a drawn out version of "you darned kids!" He made broad generalizations about playing video games, religious involvement, education, and career motivations. It was all very lofty and pointed. I immediately labeled him a grouchy old man and tried to move on. But, the more I thought about his view points the more angry I became at the lack of a coherent counterpoint to his article. His main view was that men these days are nothing more than grown boys. We continuously avoid adulthood by fighting to conform to his concept of manhood.

As I ran this through my head I came up with one very real answer to his proposed problem. It was his own damn fault, or rather his generation. Look at the sociological influences that created his generation's version of manhood. World War, the great depression, nationalism on steroids, and limited rights and availability to anyone that was not a white man. Limited education, political positioning, employment, and role models combined with the above influences forced their hand. They had to grow up, farm to survive, and take the lives of foreign soldiers at war. That's some pretty intense stuff. But guess what, that has absolutely no semblance of meaning toward what I choose to do with my life and the path I choose to follow.

My generation was raised by those same people to believe in dreaming and the fact that we were all special. These concepts, while somewhat flawed themselves, were simply the regret our fathers poured out on us. We all do it. How many parents out there state that their goal for their kids is to have a better life than they had. Our previous generations were robbed of the opportunity to dream and be kid-like so they raised us to believe that we were somehow faced with an inevitable greatness because we had possibility. They knew that technology and education would provide us with the breathing room to reach. One problem. We have no idea what we are reaching for. Mom used to say "son, you can be anything in the world you want to be." What the hell does that mean? I have no idea what I want to be. My life is constantly bombarded with images of creative, boring, successful, poor, happy, sad, starving, and fat people, most of whom stumbled into the life they have and had little to do with how they got there.

We have no drivers. We have nothing to nudge us in to a direction. And most importantly, we are freaking terrified of settling on a path. I have a great job. I work every day toward something that I feel is morally right and necessary. I also have a horrible job that forces me to miss clear blue skies and my children's waking hours so that I can stare at a cubicle wall. All for what? To pay my car note? When I took this job a supervisor up the chain of command congratulated me by remarking "wow Jamey, congrats on the job. That's a great job. Ya know, you could be sitting in that same desk for the next twenty years!" To him, that was high praise. To me, it was a ball and chain with ominous organ music playing in the background. I suddenly felt like I couldn't catch my breath. Panic set in. Was my path decided? Was this the "anything" that mom spoke of so many times? Cheap particle board office furniture and microsoft outlook?

Since that date four years ago I've been tirelessly trying to decide the next move for my supposed possibility filled fate. It's hard work to pick the right profession that would take advantage of all this supposed potential. Therefore, I think it would be so much easier if I narrowed down the list by figuring out what is completely out of the question.

My list of awful jobs:

1. Astronaut

Ok, this is a pretty obvious one when you consider the fact that I wet my pants a little during very light turbulence on a one hour flight to Houston. I hate flying. Why big metal planes stay in the air is more puzzling to me than why big metal boats float. Plus, I'm always afraid that my pilot on these small regional flights is some twenty two year old kid who's only shaved twice in his entire life. I know my generation. We are way too distracted and a.d.d. to maintain the requisite amount of concentration needed to shoot me safely through the air for a few hundred miles. He'd probably have ears buds in, marveling at Justin Beiber's talent, completely unaware that we are hurdling to our deaths because he for got to fill the tank or release the emergency brake. Ok, I don't know exactly how planes work, but there has to be some FAA regulation out there that mandates an emergency brake.

Flying into space takes this concept to ridiculous proportions. If you've never seen a Saturn V, three stage rocket, then you have no idea of the true insanity of space travel. I've seen one. We took Jackson to Johnson Space Center in Houston. It's an incredible place where they celebrate the fact that certain human beings were born without the instinct of self-preservation. After eating astronaut ice cream and looking at simulators they shuttled us out to a warehouse three football fields in length. There laid a Saturn V.  It looks like a giant piece of space age technology created by the brightest minds the world had at that time. Bullcrap.

The lowdown on this rocket is that they would take two (gemini) or three (apollo) astronauts and convince them that aliens had shown us how to go to space. This had to be the method because if they told them the truth they would've been indicted for attempted murder. Next, they cram these guys in a cone about the size of a ford focus. Then they use the strongest crazy glue and duct tape they can find to fasten this tiny cone to a gas tank the size of the Washington monument.

But wait, there's more. Do you know what these perverse psychopaths do next? They ignite the gas! That's right. This isn't high science. It's the grown up version of sticking firecracker up a bull frog's butt. They somehow made a firecracker so big that it would jettison humans from our freaking planet! That's a heck of a firecracker. The astronaut's orders are very simple. Don't die. That's about it. Once they are hurled into the most dangerous environment imaginable they float around for a while, pee through a tube, poop in a diaper, and fall back to earth. They fall so fast that the air can't get out of the way fast enough so it explodes. These tiny explosions heat the flying trash can up so hot that if one tiny little gap in protection exists, they are instantly vaporized. Then, if they survive the exploding air, they are left with a parachute to keep them from hitting the ocean at a bajillion miles per hour. All for what? Endless moon rock gifts for foreign dignitaries? Screw that. Let them catapult their own guys into space if they want moon rocks so badly.

So needless to say, I've scratched this one off the list.

2. Psychiatrist

Look, I consider myself to be a very empathetic person. For a long time I thought that I was empathy deficient. That's not the case. I care deeply for other people, but in spurts. I definitely have a cutoff point where I can no longer deal with whiny people. My career as a psychiatrist would, no doubt, be reduced to vast libraries containing only the notebooks of my doodles during sessions where people sit and pour their hearts out. I'm not an artist, so these doodles would be very repetitive. My doodle repertoire pretty much consists of 3D boxes and triangles, that I learned how to draw in the third grade, and human faces that look like something a mental patient would craft. It's the ears. I can never get the ears right. One is always so much larger than the other that it looks like my subject is suffering from elephantiasis of the ear lobe.

I don't think the practice would make perfect. I suck at ears, so why waste so many people's time luring them to my office under the guise of medical care just so I can have time to destroy the hearing of so many fictional characters.

3. Dentist

Seriously? Do I have to even explain this one. We have holes in our body where we store tiny little stones that we use to grind up material before it spoils. One problem; those little stones have a ton of crevices and hiding spots that allow the food to hang out and rot. Then we trust that people are disciplined enough to use a tiny brush to thoroughly clean the stones. I don't trust most people to handle a claw hammer without caving in their own heads, much less that they would be able to meticulously clean their mouths to the point where I would voluntarily touch them with my hands. Yuck.

4. Homemaker

Ok, so all of my female readers, who are homemakers, just internally said "oh no he isn't!" Oh yes I am. I couldn't do it. There's no way. I love my kids; they are completely awesome, but there is no freaking way that I would subject myself to their company 24/7. I'm not saying I'd rather be an astronaut, but after an afternoon alone with my youngest, where maybe he didn't get a great nap, I'm looking a little harder at the Saturn V. When I'm home Amanda and I trade off duties. I usually come in from work and assume Matthew duties for a few hours to give her a break. And do you know what she does with this break time? Nothing. She does exactly what she has been dreaming about all day long. She takes some time to walk outside, go into another room, or just to not jump when he begins freaking out about something. That's not exactly true. It's usually the only time where she can completely focus on the other tasks at hand without having to hit pause and stop him from climbing up the fireplace mantel.

One of my presents to Amanda for our last anniversary was "nothing." I took off work on a Friday and gave her 24 straight hours to have absolutely no responsibilities. It was like she was a drifter living in our home. She came and went as she pleased, watched what she wanted to watch, and for one whole day didn't touch a bottle or diaper. The relief on her face truly sealed the deal for me. Watching the tension roll off of her showed me exactly what she goes through every day. That's not for me. Before long, I'd be the one in diapers drooling in the corner.

5. Nail Shop Worker

First off, the smell of those chemicals can't be healthy. However, that is nothing compared to the concept that a person could shoot me a twenty to grind funk off of their nasty hammer toes. Guess what, it's not the nice, clean, symmetrical feet that those poor women face every day. It's the cashier from Fred's who's been working double shifts all week in her SAS's, with a corn the size of a golf ball and hangnails on four out of five toes.

I walk down the hall of my office and around lunchtime I can tell who brought in leftover spaghetti or maybe a nice bag of popcorn. Can you imagine the olfactory file folder of foot smells that these women carry with them at all times. The volumes of toe lint, fungus, and general cheese they've smelled raises the hair on the back of my neck. I'm getting the heeby jeebies just thinking about it.

So that's my list so far. Maybe one day I'll be left with only a calling that truly suits me, maybe not. Maybe I'll just keep on searching, moving from thing to thing until I give up on it all and write silly blogs for a living. The pay sucks but at least it doesn't smell like cashier Fran's left foot.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sometimes the Cure is Worse

OK, so I told this story to some friends today and was inspired to put it down on "paper."

Disclaimer: The following story does involve some brief mention of bodily functions, but will in no way be graphic. So have no fear.

Also, my old neighbor Mark resurfaces in this story. If you haven't already, please go and read my posting titled "Nutty as a Fruitcake" to gain some perspective on our relationship.

When Amanda and I moved to Slidell in 2004 I was stationed in the USCG command center in NOLA. I worked from six in the evening until six in the morning. Therefore, I had breakfast for supper most days. I would come in from work, wake Amanda up, and fix a big ole omelet stuffed with all of the goodies. Little did I know that my frequency of omelet intake was going to cause me some significant issues in the near future.

One peaceful fall Saturday morning, I sprang from the bed, looking forward to a day filled with college football. I barely even noticed the slight cramping feeling in my big toe. It was a small sting that felt almost arthritic, but I paid it little mind. While sitting in the living room talking to Amanda, I began to complain about this sore little piggy and decided to grab it and give it a good popping. As soon as it popped, I howled in pain. Apparently, my hardcore strength had broken my toe, or so I thought. I really needed to be more careful with these guns I called arms. After all, I had a young child now. What if he were to fall victim to my superhuman strength. I could never live with myself if I accidentally ripped one of his little arms off whilst trying to retrieve him from his crib. While these ludicrous concepts flashed through my mind I noticed that my foot was turning a very bright red and swelling to nearly the size of a cantaloupe. Yep, I broke myself alright.

After some discussions with a corpsman combined with the fact that I could only apply pressure to my heel without letting out an embarrassing, and all too feminine squeal, I decided that a trip to the emergency room was in order. I stumbled into the back room and alerted the nurse that I needed an x-ray because I definitely broken the joint that connects my big toe to my foot. She looked closely at my swollen piggy, which was almost visibly pulsating and informed me that it most likely wasn't broken. Based upon the concerned, and somewhat confused look on her face, I certainly didn't have visions of sugarplums dancing through my head. A few minutes later a doctor strolled in and asked me about my dietary habits. I told him about the omelets and my love of chicken. He nodded and asked me if I drank red wine. As a man of high society, I informed him that I would occasionally drink wine, but only the finest boxed "red" wine would grace the Nolan house. He gave another knowing look, which I interpreted to mean that he obviously recognized class when he saw it. Apparently I misjudged his look, because the next words out of his mouth were some of the most traumatic I've ever experienced.

Doc: Mr. Nolan, you have gout.

long awkward silent pause

Me: uhh, that's impossible.

Doc: Why? People get gout all the time.

Me: Yeah, really old people who wears orthopedic sneakers.

Doc: Well, now you have it.

Sidebar. If you are creeped out at the idea of gout, you're not alone. I had no idea what it was, and assumed that it was most likely some type of age related flesh eating disease that somewhat resembled leprosy. Great, now my foot's going to fall off. I then envisioned me limping around on a wooden peg for the rest of my life making up manly stories about how I lost my foot in some sort of combine accident, or maybe I was a child laborer who escaped the perils of the industrial revolution with only this damn peg as a reminder to live the remainder of my life to it's fullest.

I was quickly brought back down to earth by the facts of gout. Gout is the body's inability to process uric acid. Once the acid stores up, it crystallizes in your joints, usually a big toe. This causes the toe to become inflamed, and potentially demon possessed.

After a quick anatomy lesson, he proposed my treatment options. This conversation went something like this:

Doc: OK, there are two basic treatments. It's your choice which one to take. Treatment A is really bad and will take three days to completely relieve your symptoms. Treatment B is the worst thing you've ever been through, but will relieve your symptoms in 24 hours. Your call?

Me: Did you say 24 hours?

Doc: Uhh, yeah.

Me: I'll take it.

I completely glossed over his prophetic descriptions and chose the path of shorter pain.

We dropped my prescription off at the wal-mart pharmacy and I hobbled over the the shaving isle to retrieve some other needed essentials. After a few minutes I heard my name being summoned back to the pharmacy. When I reached the counter, the pharmacist looked very troubled at me and my prescription. She immediately asked me if I had gout. I embarrassingly responded yes, and gently hushed her volume level to keep the rest of wal-mart from knowing of my illness. She then asked me if the doctor explained exactly what he'd given me. I told her no, and this was her response:

Concerned Drugist: Well, the amount of medicine you were prescribed is really dangerous. I won't even fill this drug for the elderly because it could kill them.

Me: Did you say kill? What did he prescribe me, drano?

Concerned Drugist: No, but it's almost that bad. Mr. Nolan, please follow the instructions on the bottle to the letter. If you over do it, please go immediately to the hospital.

Me: How will I know if I've over done it?

Concerned Drugist: Trust me, you'll know.

She handed me the medicine bottle and asked me to read the instructions in her presence to ensure that I took her seriously. The directions were as follows:

"Take one pill with a glass of water every hour stopping at the onset of explosive diarrhea."

Me: Come on, did you really have to add the adjective "explosive?"

Adamant Drugist: Yes. This isn't a joke. Please don't deviate from the instructions.

To say I was freaked out would be an understatement. But the good news is that if I have any left over I could probably use them to clear a clogged drain or flush the fuel injection on my saturn. Like a good little soldier I started the regimen. Ten hours later, the pills were all gone, and my foot still hurt. I became very cavalier about the whole scary meds conversation, feeling that somehow that idiot pharmacist clearly couldn't fathom intestines as sturdy as mine.

The next day Amanda and I traveled to my parents house for a visit. You would think that staring down the barrel at "explosive" issues would encourage me not to travel more than twenty feet from the nearest potty. You would think. Our visit went well. I'm not sure what I showed off more, my new infant or the cantaloupe foot. Sometime around four in the afternoon, I began to realize that we may have a problem as a tummy tingle or two sent instant panic rushing down my spine. I graciously excused myself to my parents unsuspecting restroom and was truly humbled by the gravity of modern medicine for the following forty five minutes. My cavalier attitude was instantly erased and replaced by the fact that I was now an hour from home. By this point, an hour seemed like an eternity of "cleansing."

As wave one of the storm passed, I rushed Amanda out to our car, threw her the keys, and curled up in the fetal position in the passenger seat. She spent the next hour laughing hysterically and warning me to be proactive about my condition. If I felt the slightest of tingles she would hit the shoulder of the road and I would be remanded to "recuperate" on the side of the interstate.

Hopefully you are caught up on who Mark is, and why we didn't seem to see eye to eye. We were loud, party throwing neighbors who were seemingly unconcerned over the uniformity of our grass height. He was an anal retentive psychopath.

As we neared our neighborhood the tingle had turned in to a gastrointestinal tornado. Mark stood in his yard, horrified as the following scene played out in front of him. Showing no care to the safety of the kids of our neighborhood, Amanda flies down our street, barely breaking as she slides our honda into the driveway, mere inches from our garage door. As the car violently slams to a halt, I kick my door open and projectile vomit a good ten feet in to the yard. Nearly falling out of the car, I stumble across the driveway and slump against the wall until Amanda can unlock the door. His jaw rested ever so gently on his perfectly manicured lawn, mind racing at the crazy guy next door who is apparently fall down drunk on a Sunday afternoon. I never told him the real story. He wouldn't have believed me if I did.

Thanks to the healing powers of gatorade, I survived the next twelve hours or so and my foot slowly returned from Quasimodo-like proportions. Since then, my gout has never returned. Thankfully, I've never had to make the choice between medicine and peg leg again. Next time, peg leg will probably win by a nose. To this day, I still shutter when some fancy chef on the food network makes an omelet. Don't they know they're playing with peoples lives?