Tuesday, September 20, 2005


It’s potty-learning time at our house. I try to let my kids take the reigns and do this at his/her own speed. My youngest has finally decided he likes the feel of “big-boy pannies” better than a diaper. (Yes, at our house they are “pannies” regardless of gender. And no ‘T’ is pronounced. Deal with it.) Those of you with children know, and those of you without can imagine or perhaps remember, that this journey to potty proficiency is fraught with accidents and setbacks. My son and I experienced his first big setback today. I’m pretty good about staying calm and I certainly don’t punish my child. I just put the kid in the tub and clean up the mess. Sometimes an audible growl and “eeeew, yuck!” do escape my lips, but that’s about it.

The worst part of the whole thing is rinsing the poop out of the pannies in the toilet. Ugh. It’s horrid. You start off so gingerly with thumb and forefinger carefully swishing the soiled underwear around in the bowl, trying not to splash. And you can get really quite good at it with the Flush-and-Swish technique. But in the back of your mind you know that ultimately you have to take the dive. There’s no getting around the final pannie wring. I know of no technique to avoid getting poo water on your hands. I hate it.

How did our ancestors do it? I remember the cloth diapers my mother left sitting in the toilet. At times washing those things out must have been more than she could bear. And she had an automatic washer and dryer. What about another 50 or 100 years before her? What if I’d lived then? How would I have managed? First of all, I don’t think I’d have been such a patient potty coach! And I think instead of a diaper pail I would have had a diaper vat—a diapers-only kettle sitting there to toss the diapers into, then fill with water and boil for a very, VERY long time. And what did they use for plastic pants? Wool I guess? How did they ever manage to keep a baby dry and not leaky all the time? Those folks were either incredibly creative and industrious or horribly smelly. Probably both.

What do I learn from all of this? To be grateful. So thank you, inventors of the disposable diaper, the automatic washer and dryer, Clorox wipes and bleach. Thank you.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Blood Suckers

Yesterday I gave blood. Yes, kudos to me! I’m on the vampires’ call list, so they call and I go in. No big deal. I figure I can donate blood and there's always more where it came from. It doesn't bother me; I watch them put the needle in every time and I don't get sick or woozy from donating. No problem.

But the part that sucks about donating blood, besides that little owie lancelet prick on my finger, is reading the “What You Need to Know Before Donating Blood” booklet. You have to read it every time you go in. It tells you about all this stuff that could have possibly contaminated your blood. Then you have to answer all these worthiness questions, including the question, “Did you read the ‘What You Need to Know Before Donating Blood’ booklet?” I always feel like I’m going into some big interview, a final judgment of sorts. The thing of it is, I always give myself this pep talk as I drive out to the donation site. “You can just skim the information booklet. You haven’t done anything since your last donation to contaminate your blood.” I mean really, I lead a pretty boring life. I haven’t gone anywhere or done anything or anyone that would compromise the integrity of my blood. My riskiest behavior is my occasional encounter with mosquitoes, but I’m pretty good about wearing my summer scent (Deep Woods Off with DEET) at both dawn and dusk.

So I get to the donation site and sit down with the fateful red booklet ready to skim. Then I have this wave of anxiety and guilt sweep over me. What if one of the questions has changed? What if there is a NEW information sheet in the booklet? I mean, they are in plastic sleeves, so they could be easily updated or changed. What if I have forgotten some important little detail about my conduct since the last time I donated 8 weeks ago? And what am I going to say when they ask me if I read the booklet? So despite my pep talk, I start reading.

I pass my eyes over every word, pausing momentarily but trying not to contemplate too deeply all the new definitions of “sexual contact” they have included. Then here is the part that really sticks in my craw. About 5 minutes after I walk in and begin my soul-searching reading, another lady comes in and starts her reading. Then she finishes her reading another 5 minutes before me and goes back for her worthiness questioning! What the heck? Who does she think she’s fooling? I know she didn’t read the whole thing. I was flyin’ and hadn’t finished mine, and I think I’m a pretty quick reader. And even worse than that, a kid comes in 5 minutes after her, picks up his book, begins perusing, then starts chatting with one of the volunteers. Then he goes back for his interview. WHAT? He hadn’t sat there 5 minutes! I don’t think he even flipped each of the pages. And I'm certain he didn’t check his memory to recall if he had been a dependant of someone in the military since 1980 or if he’d had a family member with Krutchfeld-Jacobs disease. Does he think being an acquaintance of a volunteer gets him off the worthiness hook? And it’s not like he can say he’s been in more recently than I have, because I’m on the vampire call-back list. This isn’t the first time this has happened, either. I had the same thing happen on my last two donations. Some people just aren’t taking this booklet seriously enough. And they got into the donation chair before me. Growl.

I can say that the American Red Cross is speeding up their process. It used to take me about an hour to donate. Now I’m out of there in 35 to 45 minutes. But I still wish they just had one worthiness question for regulars like me, something like, “Have you had any wildly excessive fun or any completely novel experiences or diseases since your last donation?” Then I could just say "no" once and be out of there in 15.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Every Breath You Take

Neighborhood Watch. I’ve mentioned her before. She’s my neighbor and friend and I love her. But she’s just a little quirky. Her house sits at the end of my street, facing the traffic coming up the road, giving her a clear view of the whole street. Some would put up blinds in a house with this view. Not Neighborhood Watch. No, instead she uses this eagle-eye perch to her advantage and stays busy with everyone’s business. I’ll illustrate.

This June, a group of us were standing around in the road talking when a neighbor of ours ran by. We knew she was training for a marathon, and so as she passed, we wondered aloud how long she had been out running that day. “An hour. I saw her leave an hour ago,” said Neighborhood Watch. Then another neighbor drove past. She hailed him and ran over (with baby on hip) to his Suburban to tell him some important piece of news. During that conversation, the mailman drove his truck down the road. She hollered to him, (calling him by name, of course) to tell him that a certain family wasn’t home, so not to deliver their mail. All of this occurred within 15 minutes.

What a busy life she leads! She calls to alert me of any police or ambulance activity on our street and to warn me of approaching salesmen. On the rare occasion that something obstructs her view, she calls me to get the scoop on the action happening at my end of the road. She watches children walking up and down the sidewalk and calls to let me know when mine are coming home.

One night last summer around 10:00 pm she called and asked me to turn my porch light back on. I was already in bed, so I asked why. She told me it was because our streetlight had burned out and the street was just too dark—she couldn’t see what was going on and it was driving her crazy. Driving HER crazy? Grudgingly, I indulged her. The next day she called the city and somehow managed to get the thing fixed within a few weeks, despite the fact that those city workers were backed up for months with lamppost fixing requests.

A few weeks ago she called me to let me know she was going camping for a week. She was entrusting me with the charge of neighborhood watch. Me? What a burden. I didn’t know if I was up to the task, but I told her I would do my best. The first day I did all right and checked the street a few times. Nothing much seemed to be happening. Then suddenly I realized it was four days later and I had no inkling the whereabouts or activities of any of my neighbors. I had no idea if anyone had had any disputes in their front yards, if any of the teenagers had any questionable guests at their houses, or if anyone had forgotten to pull in their garbage cans. Had George been on his bike ride? I couldn’t tell you. Had the mailman been sick or had a birthday? No clue. I had failed in my calling. What would I tell her when she got back? I would have nothing to report.

Fortunately when she got back she didn’t come ask for a report. She must have had her plate full getting back into the regular watch routine. I didn’t mention the fact that I had been negligent in my duty. All I know is that I’m grateful I don’t have the burden of neighborhood watch. I’m definitely not that busy a body!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

A Tribute to Sewer Guys

Food, water, shelter….and a place to poop. That last is all too often left off the list of basic human needs. Pooping is very important to all of us. If you aren’t sure of this fact, just browse around in this blogging community. Julie’s pen, my tree house, Chris and Lisa’s unfortunate neighbors on the east bench, and Wendysue’s Whitney all testify to it, to name a few. And what really drive this point home are the horrible pictures we’ve seen on the news of our friends in the South. So let’s not take for granted our places to poop. Here’s looking at you, Sewer Guys! May your pipes remain unobstructed and may it always run downhill.