A Banner Day In A Public Loo

Yesterday was a banner day here in the Fathead household. My son, who until now has steadfastly held to his vow to only pee sitting down on his very own potty seat in his very own home, peed on a foreign potty. Not only that but he did it standing up. And without any coercion or anti-anxiety drugs.

There we were at a park we’ve never frequented in a questionable part of town when Conor decided that he needed to use the bathroom. Now I brought along a pull up for just this possibility because we have loads of experience with potty meltdowns–refusals to use a potty or bush, cries to go home, a full on meltdown followed by the inevitable wet pants, but Conor decided that he wanted to see the bathroom there at the park.

Each toilet was contained in a separate tiny, dark room, ostensibly to minimize sexual attacks and maximize germ distribution. The ambience reminded me of the first Saw movie and upon stepping inside my life immediately flashed before my eyes, but Conor stepped right up to that nasty, unflushed metal toilet, dropped his pants, leaned against the germ-infested surface and peed right inside. He had to wait a minute for the biological magic to happen and for a moment I thought that he had contaminated himself and would still end up with wet pants, but he did it. Then I let him flush with his foot because I’m pretty sure that his hand would have instantly dropped off from fast-acting necrotizing fascitis had he touched the button with his fingers and we were instantly encased in a microscopic mist of germs and fecal matter while I desperately tried to free us from our toilet tomb and find the nearest bucket of bleach. Yay, Conor! You did it!

Excuse me, sir, could you hurry up and saw off your foot? My son has to pee. (image via haro-online)

Did I mention that I have a teeny tiny hang up about children in dirty public bathrooms? Just a little one. Hardly worth mentioning, really. But I might go a little bit Howard Hughes when confronted with a questionable loo.

However, this was momentous and let’s be frank here, I’m desperate. Desperate to run errands or visit friends without a pull up. Desperate not to have to worry that said pull up might not last the whole visit. Desperate to avoid more phone calls from grandparents and the like asking what to do about Conor’s mental breakdown and refusal to go potty anywhere but home. Desperate to find an incentive that works, so that he can go on to the next year of preschool and eventually college without an adult diaper. Desperate enough to let him go pee anywhere this side of a genocidal body dump. D-E-S-P-E-R-A-T-E.

So you best believe I muttered words of encouragement through my gritted teeth and tried my best to go to my happy place (a place where everyone is potty trained and surfaces are well cleaned, by the way) while Conor and I stood in that nuclear waste dump of a bathroom. I didn’t throw up in my mouth or do the heebie jeebie dance when we exited either. We calmly washed our hands. Twice. And then we went and got the big boy a Happy Meal.

A proud boy with his happy meal

I will swab him down with disinfectant and burn his clothes later after my bleach bath.

Not a bleach bath!

Oh and did I mention that he also let a little girl go ahead of him on the slide, saying “Ladies before genamen?”  Hubs and I couldn’t be prouder of Conor if he speed assembled an M16. Well I guess I should only speak for myself there. The speed assembly would probably bring Hubs to tears. My standards are lower and less sanitary.

Traveling With Women

I don’t really travel on my own per se. I went to a friend’s wedding when my daughter was one. I was gone for two days and the homestead went down in flames. Since then I’ve traveled with at least one child and/or a husband tethered to my side at all times. That is until a week ago when my book club took its first annual weekend retreat.

Females only. All adult. (Let’s try to ignore the fact that it sounds like I’m talking about a porn genre, okay? Thanks.)

Anyway, just so you know, traveling with grown women is very different from traveling with a husband and children. Shocked? Me too! Who would have imagined? Let me share my insights with you so that you can experience my wonderment.

  • The first thing I noticed was that no one needed me to suggest going to the potty before we left the condo. That didn’t stop me from doing it anyway. Every. Single. Time. The girls got me a shock collar to help me break the habit. Such a thoughtful gift. Also, no one suddenly leaped up, sprinted to the bathroom and then emerged, declaring, “I peed on the tub and a little in the potty” even after three glasses of wine.

Literate and potty trained

  • Everyone voluntarily bathed themselves and I didn’t have to wash anyone’s hair while listening to them whine, “Not in the eyes, not in the eeeeyes!” Nor did I have to comb the house for their special mermaid. I’m also pretty sure that no one yelled “I have to poop!” while in the shower, though it was hard to hear with my mouth full of wine.
  • The bathroom smelled unnaturally good the whole time we were there, leading me to believe that women defecate lavender and sunshine, which evaporates into a rainbow before ever touching the toilet bowl. Or perhaps they just knew the location of the air freshener. Whatever the case, it only served to reinforce my concerns for Hubs’s digestive system, because our commode at home consistently looks and smells like it lost an alien war.

What I imagine is happening behind our closed bathroom door. (image via prism.gatech.edu)

  • No one solved a crime, rescued anyone or helpfully pointed out potential criminals. There wasn’t any road rage or general irritability. One of the girls nearly threw down over some missing guacamole, but that’s totally understandable. Guacamole will do that to you.

Feeling despondent and about to jump? Not our problem.

  • There were extensive discussions about dietary restrictions, health obsessions and food in general. All of our dietary concerns made ordering meals a long process and in fact we were generally disliked by waitresses everywhere. On the upside, I didn’t have to take anyone for a walk during dinner, dig through my purse for something to entertain them or try to cajole them into eating more fiber.

On a quest for vegan, gluten-free, no-refined-sugar foods at the Farmer’s Market. Isn’t everybody?

  • The thing that made the single biggest impression on me, however, was the unearthly quiet at night. I slept in a room containing four other women and I woke up periodically thinking that everyone had left the room. Or died. And then I’d fall back asleep working on their eulogies. Also, the room didn’t smell like farts in the morning and nobody kicked me in the head or woke me up because they had a bad dream. This got me to thinking that there might be a whole subsection of women who are gay simply because they really want a good night’s sleep in a quiet room. Seriously, think about how fantastic a good night’s sleep is. Now look at any female on the street. She looks more attractive, doesn’t she?

Me and three delightfully quiet sleepers.

In conclusion I contend that traveling with women is all kinds of awesome. And since nothing imploded at home, I’m primed and ready for the next book club retreat. Only 51 weeks to go.

Good Will Hunting

My mother-in-law, otherwise known as Nana, has A-list celebrity status in our house. I will spare you the long, schmaltzy list of reasons why I love her so dearly. It’s probably sufficient to tell you that I met her during a time of crisis in her family and she showed me, some random girlfriend of her son’s, uncommon grace and hospitality. It made an indelible first impression that she has consistently lived up to in the years since.  My daughter is convinced that Nana is rich because of her consistently superior style (next to a mom who frequently rocks sweat pants, it’s especially impressive) and my son adores her more than squeezy applesauce and Thomas the Train.

Anyway, I was talking to Nana on the phone, as I do almost daily because she and Grandpa (also an A-lister) live on the other side of the country, and she mentioned that another family member, who shall remain nameless, had casually informed Nana of which possessions this person would want to be willed in the case of Nana’s and Grandpa’s deaths. Whaaaa? Pardon me while I stutter in disbelief. Who does that? You almost have to admire the enormous set of balls it must require to casually thrust that into conversation. With one comment you have simultaneously reminded someone of their mortality and let them know that you’re kind of looking forward to their demise as long as you can score some swag.  Nothing makes a person feel better than watching a pack of vultures circle over their head.

Just checking up on you. How're you feeling today? A little peckish?

Nana, evidently not as incensed as I was, went on to helpfully list a couple of things that might come our way should she and Grandpa attend that great cocktail hour in the sky. You know, in case I too was eagerly waiting her demise.  I don’t remember what those items were because I was distracted by my violent fantasy aimed at Nameless and also because listening to the list would have challenged my firmly rooted delusion that Nana and Grandpa are immortal. We must cling to our delusions–sometimes they’re all we have.

We're 150 years old and preserved in vinegar.

However, delusional or not, I am adult enough to understand that some things need to be hashed out prior to happening so that things don’t disintegrate into some sort of hillbilly wrestling match. You have to discuss things like wills and power of attorney. And it’s helpful to get feedback from your loved ones. So in the interest of being a team player…

Nana and Grandpa, if you’re listening, I’ve given this a great deal of thought and here a list of what I’d like you to leave me if you two decide not to live forever, though I would strongly urge you to reconsider that decision.

  • All of your unused toilet paper. As any high school student with a car, a free Saturday night and a list of addresses could tell you, there is no such thing as too much toilet paper. Unless that toilet paper is in the hands of a toddler with some unsupervised bathroom time and a boatload of curiosity, in which case, I hope you own a plunger. That said, I want whatever you’ve got that hasn’t graced your dearly departed backside.

Beer and toilet paper make for an enjoyable Saturday night and a not so enjoyable Sunday morning. (image via Stevendepolo)

  • The cats. I know they developed a nervous twitch the last time we visited, but the children would like nothing more than the opportunity to slather those cats with love 24 hours a day and I think with enough sedatives, the kitties will stop throwing up whenever they see the kids coming.

Cats love being wrapped in a blanket and pushed up and down a hallway almost as much as they love baths.

  • Your cleaning fairies. Clearly there is some sort of magic involved in how unnaturally clean you manage to keep your house. You’ve seen my house–no magic here. Whatever Hocus Pocus you use, I want it. Otherwise your grandchildren may eventually become lost in a pile of discarded shoes and dust bunnies.

I keep telling you people, I'm just a boy in his sister's Tinkerbell costume, not a magic maid!

  • Your cookie selection. I never have the breadth of selection that you two do because I feel guilty if I purchase too many sweets. However, if the cookies were willed to me I would feel obligated to cherish them for the full two minutes it would take me to cram them down my throat like a sugar-crazed lunatic. It would be a very satisfying two minutes.

In a sugar craze, I have been known to eat a whole Keebler elf. They taste like butter and sugar...and chicken.

  • Your collection of gourmet condiments. The energy and gas money you’ve dedicated to tracking down the ideal olive oils and jellies is impressive and almost beyond comprehension but I’m sure that it would add joy to my life or at least my waist line. If you have any maximum strength elastic from which I can fashion myself a girdle I’ll take that too.

I can't feel my legs but waist looks fantastic!

  • One of your many wind chimes. Although the weight of them would crush a Buick, the sound is heavenly–like sitting in the middle of a Buddhist monastery. When I close my eyes in your backyard I see the Dalai Lama dancing with elephants in a field of beautiful flowers, although this vision might be also partially due to beer consumption and heat stroke.

Is he not just as cute as a button? This guy is welcome in my hallucinations any time. (image via dreamstime)

  • The exotic liqueurs in your liquor cabinet whose names I can’t even remember. A trip through your liquor cabinet is like taking an exotic inebriated adventure through Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. I didn’t even know that half of those liqueurs existed but there they are: ‘Nilla Wafer Jubilee or Cinnamon Thermonuclear Surprise or something. I need it. In a glass.

I make all of my chocolates drunk and without pants.

These things would be nice, but not essential…well except the toilet paper, because let’s face it, life without toilet paper is unpleasant. However, aside from the t.p., the one thing on which I really have my heart set is:

  • You guys. Professionally stuffed. Like Build-a-Bear but with grandparents. That way the kids could climb all over you, snuggle with you at bed time, sit with you at the table during dinner.  Grandpa, we’ll slather you in whatever combination of coffee, cologne and cigarettes that gives you the special “Grandpa smell” that your granddaughter is so very attached to and Nana, we’ll stuff you with pearls and meat sauce and drape you with jewelry. Then we’ll add those little recorders so that when the kids squeeze your hands Grandpa says “if you say so” and Nana says “I love my gang!”

Come sit on my Nana! We had her stuffed.

Sure, people will stop coming to our house because we are the creepy people who taxidermy their relatives. They’ll stare and then whisper to each other whenever we pass by. The kids will become outcasts and sit at the lunch table alone, talking to themselves…

Okay, so that really isn’t a socially acceptable solution but surely you can understand my sentiment, because though you two have collected many nice things over the years, it is just stuff. Nice stuff, but stuff none the less. It can’t compare to the impact you make on our household, especially the household members under five feet, every single day just by being alive. And I’m not just saying that because Grandpa changes our burned out light bulbs and without him we’d live in darkness. You are worth more than the sum of your possessions to the people who love you (and also have social skills).

PS. We’ll still take the toilet paper.