>Evidence of Old Age

>I left myslef signed onto a computer in our department at work while I went to treat a patient in the ER the other day at work, and one of the other therapists, who is ever the jokester, changed my screen saver under my login.

The scrolling marquee on Windows. And it says this:
“S-S-S-S. A-A-A-A. F-F-F-F. E-E-E-E. T.T.T.T. Y-Y-Y-Y. Safety. Dance.”

Obviously, he is about my age. But the night shift therapists, as I have mentioned before, are very young. And I never changed it back. So last night, while at work, my computer switched over to my screen saver, and they all asked me what in the hell it was supposed to mean.

“It doesn’t mean anything. It’s a song? From the 80’s. Haven’t you guys ever heard that song????”

Blank stares all around. I have never felt so old.

>Is This What It’s Like?

>….to be homeless? Nah, I’m being overly dramatic again. I have food and a way of cooking. I have hot water to take a shower. I have most all of my belongings. But still, this cureent state we are in is rather hellish.

I keep telling myself that I survived contractions so bad–basically was in an active labor pattern non-stop for 4 months–that there is no doubt in my mind that I can do this. I mean, really Andrea! C’Mon! Suck it up, right?

I am, of course, referring to the state of my house after I paid a crap-ton of money for the exterminators to treat it for cooties. (Incidentally, I am an ass and did not get them from my neighbors at all, and so I feel awful. By deductive reasoning, the exterminators hypothesized that I brought them home from a patient at work, which brings on a whole new scare factor!)

It was way worse than moving.When you move, you pack your stuff in boxes and move it until your old place is empty. What you don’t have to do is treat everything before you pack it away, which was very labor-intensive. You can pack stuff neatly instead of sealing it in plastic bags. And you don’t have to trip over the crap while you work your way through the house.

We went through over 250 black trash bags this past weekend. Somewhere after 250, I stopped keeping track. I just know I had to keep sending John back to the store for more. He finally had had enough on the last trip and brought home more than I asked for. I think fear motivated him. He had purchased those huge storage tubs,5 bottles of rubbing alcohol, a large bucket, 5 large boxes of garbage bags, and a ton of plastic sheeting with which to wrap the furniture, and he came home visibly perturbed. “Andrea! I am sure by now that the people at the store think I am trying to dispose of a body right about now, and I am not going back!” Poor John.

So now my basement is completely full of filled black garbage bags. We can’t start putting it all away until the exterminator does our follow-up 2 weeks to make sure there is no more evidence of cootie-infestation in my house. And even then, as we unpack the stuff, we have to treat it all again. Bag by bag. Honestly? This sucks. In more ways than one.

First of all, I have this addiction to designer handbags. It is my crack/ heroin/ crystal meth. Seriously. I live for the 2 times per year where I go and buy a really expensive bag. But the drawback is that my closet had shelves where they were all lined up neatly like a little army. They had to be treated somehow and the only things that effectively kill any hidden cooties are alcohol (NOOOOOOO!) and heat. And so I had to do it. I had to fill my dryer full of handbags that were on average of $400 a piece. I swear you would have thought someone made me put my children in there. I cried and fretted and whined and bit my nails for the entire 35 miutes they were in there. And when the dryer buzzed to let me know it was finished, I ran down the stars to rescue them as if Jesus himself was trapped in my dryer. Thankfully they all emerged unscathed.

This experience has also taught John just how much crap I buy. Nothing reveals a shopaholic like having to go through the house, item by item, mentally taking stock of what all one owns. In other words: Shit, I got busted! Good thing I am the breadwinner or I would probably be divorced right now. Evidence of my excess: Zach has 16 fricken snowsuits. And after treating load upon load of scrubs, John started counting as we were folding and bagging them. Lets just say that, since I am only obligated to 3 days a week, I could go most of the year without having to wash uniforms if I wanted to. And gym shoes—I’m a fatty, and I work long hours on my feet, running around a hospital on concrete floors all night. I am constantly in the market for the miracle shoe that will reverse the effects of gravity that my fat arse exerts onto my poor fat feet. I have paid a ton for shoes, only to discard them a week later because they didn’t do it for me. Mind you, these are perfectly good gym shoes, and are great for a trip to the mall or taking the kids to the park. Or running errands. Or even running on a treadmill. Just not for work. So I have to keep them, which translates to a closet full of gym shoes that have each been worn a week or so. So after raiding my closet, I don’t think I am allowed to buy anymore shoes. Ever.

In the meantime, every square inch of my basement is covered with trash bags. My living room furniture is gone. John and I have been sleeping on the living room floor for days now. (We tried an air mattress, but as uncomfortable as the floor is, it’s better than that air mattress, which felt like it would pop like a balloon every time you moved on it.) Zach is sleeping in his Pack&Play. About the only one of us unaffected is Evan–his bed had to be stripped and his dresser drawers removed so they could treat, and his stuff was also bagged up and treated, but he still has his bed because nothing was found downstairs. As a matter of fact, my computer has even been swathed in plastic for 2 days. Sucky.

So until November 10th, we have to live out of these bags. That’s when the follow-up appointment is scheduled. Lucky us.

>Succumbing to the Pressure

>I did something comletely against my religion–if I really had a religion, that is.
Lemme explain!

Every year, I have made Ev a killer Halloween costume. It all started when he was a year old. There was a costume contest, and Ev was dressed in a store-bought costume as a little lion. Not original, I know. But so, so cute because he even learned to roar. And he was little–about the size Zach is now because Evan was such a scrawny baby. So for what we were lacking in originality, we made up for in cuteness. He got zilch! And I took it as a personal attack and vowed never again!

The following year, when Evan was just 2, it became my mission in life to win that stupid contest. What made it especially difficult was that everybody competed against each other for the big prizes-all ages, all costume types….And I had never so much as sewn a button on a shirt before. But, damnit, I was going to find a way to make THE costume to rule them all. And so I bought fabric, buttons, hair dye, face paint, and tights.

And I made Evan into the cutest Oompa Loompa ever. Strangers were asking to take his picture. I did so well And when it came time for the contest and John walked Evan up onto the stage, you could hear everyone saying, “Look at that little boy!” And when it came time to announce the winners, Evan didn’t win a thing for his age group. But he did win for the entire thing, beating out other babies,bigger kids, teens and adults. The seed was planted, and I have been making his costumes ever since. We’ve done french fries, a dinosaur, a bus driver (complete with the bus), and more. And with each passing year, as Evan gets older, it gets more and more difficult to do this because his tastes and interests change. This year? He wanted to be a pilot. Have you ever tried to find pilot-looking clothes for a 9-year-old boy? So it was a no-go. And then we found ourselves beyond the Gates of Hell this week (see next post) and it never dawned on me that Halloween is just days away. And Evan doesn’t have a costume. Gasp! At this point my Mommy License is in serious jeopardy of revocation. But I just figure I’ll come up with something.

So tonight, we’re at the grocery store, of all places, and Ev finds a rack of cheap Halloween costumes. Including an Ironman one. Oh, the horror! Other than the Oompa Loompa, I have this thing about characters. (Technically, the Oompa Loompa was first a literary character and thus exempt from this.) No characters. I just can’t do it. My children have received shirts with characters on them as gifts, and I hate it. I have no idea where this came from with me. A perfect example is the shirt Evan got as a gift from John’s sister when the movie Cars was all the rage. And it had Lightening McQueen on it. And I really would have been happier if I could toss it into the bin of clothes to be donated, but Evan insisted on wearing it, and I secretly longed for the day when he would outgrow it. I just find it too commercial, too unoriginal, too cheesy. So we steer away in every way, including clothes, toys, and even Halloween costumes.

So back to the grocery store: Evan wants the Ironman costume, and I want to die. I’m trying to come up with arguments to counteract his. But he has some pretty damned good rationalizations as to why he needs this costume. These arguments include my role as Bad Mommy, that he still doesn’t have a costume 2 days before Halloween,and there is no way, at this point, that I can make one. That it is the only one in his size. That it isn’t tacky, cheesy plastic, but rather good quality. That it is on sale because no other respectable mom waits until 2 days before Halloween like we did. Ahhhhh, the drawbacks of having a smart kid–he could rival the most hardcore, cutthroat attorney out there!

I bought him the damned costume. It kills me. Trick-or-Treat this year is going to be a traumatic experience for me this year, because everywhere I turn, I will see a kid dressed exactly like mine. I imagine myself losing Evan in a sea of other Ironmans on the street. But on the bright side, this is a learning experince for me: never, ever wait until the last minute!

>It’s What I Do

>One week out of the year, we celebrate my profession, and this is that week. National Respiratory Care Week. Not many people know what I do. Or understand it. I have been asked on several occasions if it requires college. Ummmm, yeah, it does. I have been asked, while delivering an inhaler to a patient, if that is all I do all day at work. Ummmm, nope. Even nurses get confused. So in honor of RC Week and my profession, I thought I would sum it up as best I can.

  • I have resuscitated patients anywhere from as young as 22 weeks gestation to 99 years old. The most difficult are always the ones I relate to my own life. The child Evan’s age who decided to help his dad by getting his own medicine…and took the entire bottle. The 6-month-old drowning victim. The 34-year-old woman who died of breast cancer, and while we were breathing for her and doing chest compressions, while her body was still warm, her 8-year-old daughter and husband were brought into the room to say goodbye. I can still hear that one: the young husband wailing, while the little girl draped herself over her mother screaming “Mommy, don’t go!” Fresh tears still spring to my eyes, years later.
  • The coolest moment for me was when I participated in a code of a patient fresh from open-heart surgery and I literally held his heart in my hand. This also had to be the scariest. Runner-Up? The day we delivered a baby in the ER parking lot in the backseat of a Chevy Equinox.
  • The most rewarding experience of my life was when, at a time I was having horrendous personal issues, I met a little blue-eyed, blond-headed 2-year-old boy and found out from his mother that I was the one who resuscitated him. Suddenly everything had a new meaning after that encounter.
  • My proudest moment? Evan had to sum up what I did for his class at school during a Career Day. He really didn’t have the words, at such a young age, but wrapped it up to one sentence, according to his teacher: “My mommy saves lives.”
  • Yes I give inhalers. I also give breathing treatments. And manage oxygen. And life support. When a family decides they have had enough, I am the one who has to “pull the plug”. I have seen countless deaths, but I have also seen real life, in all of its glory.
  • My hands hold within them the rhythym of human breathing. I can take one look at a total stranger and determine immediately the size of their trachea and about what amount of air they need per breath.
  • I can intubate with the best of them.
  • I am horribly out of shape, but yet for some reason, when a code is announced, can manage to run from one end of the hospital to the other without getting winded in the slightest.
  • I’m the one who eventually sees you when you have done something remarkably stupid. Example: the 23-year-old who trashed his lungs and eventually died after being on a ventilator for a month–all because he tried to get high by putting Jagermeister in his baby sister’s nebulizer and inhaling it.
  • When I ask you if you smoke and you tell me no, I already know if you’re lying to me. I don’t ask to be judgemental. I ask because I need to know how best to treat your lungs.
  • Seeing me walk into a room is never a good thing. My presence means someone is not breathing well. Or not at all. Or their heart isn’t beating, or is at risk of stopping.
  • I have gotten hurt for the sake of my patients: the 500-lb. man who had me straining my back to help lift him to a chopper so the National Guard could transport him since he was too big for the ambulance, the ICU bed that was rolled over my foot because I couldn’t move since I was breathing for the patient.

My job is beautiful and amazing. Heartbreaking and soul-crushing. It can boost you up and also wear you down. It is exciting at times and boring at other times. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

>Learn From Me

>Warning: Long post, but I need to vent, STAT!
I learned a heartbreaking lesson this week. It really can happen to anyone. I have thought long and hard about writing this post because of the embarrassment I feel over the topic, but I figure there may be someone out there who is helped by it.
Remember this post? Well, John and I spent the entire day satisfying my paranoia and probable OCD. And we saw no evidence of them in my house. No stains, eggs, casts. No bites on any of us. And I felt enormous relief, and John was about to cuss me for making him take the bedroom apart piece by piece. He went into the kitchen to get us each a drink as I collapsed in my relief on my pristine ivory mattress (sans bedding). And as John comes back in the room to hand me my Diet Coke, he gasps, “Andrea, what’s that???????

There it was. A tiny bug crawling across the mattress. And so we caught it in a piece of medical tape and put it in a jar, and called a pest control company. The poor exterminator who took my call probably didn’t know what to think, as I was literally sobbing. And when we ended up taking it to him so he could look at it under a microscope, and he told me it was indeed a bed bug, I gagged. I mean I literally I’m-gonna-vomit gagged. And I told them that I didn’t care what it took, to please get to my house ASAP and fix it! And I started to speculate where it came from. One of my patients? Or from something I bought in a store? Where?
So the next day, a man with a masters in entomology showed up at my house along with an exterminator and a trained dog that can sniff them out. And they looked. It only took them 10 minutes. This next part takes some explaining.

We rent. Long story as to why a 30-something professinal with an above-average salary, a ten-year marriage, and a couple of kids rents a house instead of owning like I should. Let me just say that up until I had Zach, the plan was for me to start med school this year. And with med school, you go where you are accepted. I could’ve been moving to fricken Guatemala or something. So I did not want to be strapped to a mortgage, and so we rent. And it is indeed a duplex made of parallel units instead of the one-up, one-down design. And we know I hate my neighbors because of their lack of taste. Now I have a whole other reason.

The pest control people found an egg in the joint of the wall and ceiling of my bedroom along the adjoining wall to the 2 units. And about a foot further, another one. And a little bit further from that, another one. And then they got to my bed. No evidence. And then they peeled the fabric batting off of the bottom of my boxspring. And found more. But so far out into my room, it stopped. We had caught it early, and they thought it was coming from the common wall I share with my neighbors. Fuckers. Sorry for the language, but it seems appropriate right now. Because thinking back, they mysteriously threw out their mattress in the middle of the night a few weeks ago. And when I told them I found one in my place, they had no reaction whatsoever. Not shock or disgust or surprise. And when the property owner suggested the exterminator take a look at their side to be safe, they came up with every excuse to get out of it, even though I was paying for it. My landlord had to strong-arm them into an inspection, which is taking place tomorrow at 10 AM.

And then they found the pattern in my house. And there is no doubt we got them from the neighbors, but have to go through the motions.

My brand new bed was thrown out. It was less than 6 months old. John bought it right before I had Zach because the old one was getting worn. And the entire treatment of the house, which is under way, was $1100.00. And the work! Just to be safe, we are treating the house like it is overrun with them. Everything–and I mean everything–has to be sealed in plastic and treated with heat. But the worst part? As I was stripping Zach’s crib of his adorable, posh crib bedding, we found another bug. And I started sobbing again. Because the idea of one of them in the bed with my baby just kills me and makes me borderline homicidal. What nasty person has these and doesn’t take the proper action to get rid of them? I know! My skanky neighbors!

So there you have it. I am embarrassed. I am enraged. I hate them. HATE them! I used to think this only happened to dirty people. Nope. People here are getting them from travelling or simple shopping. People in affluent neighborhoods and housing projects alike. My family is a statistic.

Now for my PSA. Unless you live in a bubble, check your house. Be paranoid like me. I really didn’t think we would find anything. I was so wrong.

>The Results

>O.M.G….

I lovelovelove the Hippie Store. Love it!

We arrive in this store in downtown Cincinnati, and I am struck first by its boho charm. And they have a smallish section of the store specifically for natural parenting. I am sort of discouraged by this at first, because the area really is small. But as I start to browse, it is very, very crammed with anything you could need. On the shelf directly across from some adorable organic baby tees is my Mother’s Milk tea. And Fenugreek. And Blessed Thistle. And another tea called Milkmaid Tea (which I bought just to try). And neat rows of organic, green baby lotions and soaps and oils. And eco-friendly diaper detergents. Supplies to make your own baby food. Green baby toys. Diaper bags. An entire rack of carriers (should’ve bought my Moby there as they have too many cute colors!). They had a bECO Butterfly 2 and a bECO Gemini on display and I tried both on. Both were comfortable, but the only Gemini patterns they had were very feminine, which just would not do, considering that I am mainly buying this so John can get in on the fun of babywearing also. The Butterfly 2 had some more patterns and colors that would work, and so I performed the ultimate test: getting Zach out of the carseat and trying it. And he screamed and screamed. His short little legs were just in too awkward a position. So I moved onto the Ergo. And it was comfortable for both John and I with minimal adjustment. So in goes Zach. And I love the way is positions him. Sitting instead of curled up like the Moby does. My only complaint is that it was too wide for his hips and so forward-facing didn’t work so well. But as soon as we turned him to where he was facing me, all was right with his world and he leaned his head on my chest and looked around in amazement. We found a winner, and after perusing the cloth diapers, and picking up some teething pads to go on the Ergo straps, we were off to the checkout.

Of course this is where I made an ass of myself. Well, not really. John had picked out a camel color in the carrier, but thought it would show dirt too easily, so we picked up a chocolate brown one instead. Well, at the checkout, I noticed that the darker color was $40 more. Really?

“But this one’s organic.”, stressed Hippie Chick #1.
“Sooooooo worth it!” stressed Hippie Chick #2.

So this is where I blurted out to John, “Here, take this and get the cheaper non-organic one!”

Gasp! The horror!
Don’t I care about Mother Earth? They looked at me like I had 2 heads. And when it came time to finish the transaction, they asked to put me on their mailing list, so I gave them the info. Later, in the car, John told me I shouldn’t have. “They’re gonna hunt you down because you didn’t buy the organic one!” Ha!

So on the cloth diapering front: I am a tactile person. I hate shopping on line. I like to gaze and feel and compare. So the lookng at diapers that I have been doing online just hasn’t done the trick. But there, at the Hippie Store, they have them all: Thirsties, BumGenius, Flip, GroBaby…Fitteds, prefolds, biodegradeable inserts, flushable inserts, fabric inserts. In organic and non-organic, bleached and unbleached. Gah! And the rainbow of cute colors and prints! Zach will forever be pants-less so I can show off his cute diapers!
I managed to talk John into this endeavor. But I explained All-in-Ones to him, which function closest to disposables, are the most user-friendly, but also the most expensive. I really think we are going to go with the BumGenius AIO’s, because after such a huge investment (about $25 per diaper x 24 or so diapers if we wash every other day , plus sprayer, wetbags, pail, laundering supplies, cloth wipes and spray, inserts…..) I like that they will grow with Zach and will last him through toilet learning.

But we didn’t buy any yet. (Insert bummed look here!)
We are going through a major hassle in our house, so I couldn’t just thunk down that huge wad of cash just yet. (see next post!) Plus I got seriously confused. Soakers? Doublers? What the hell? It’s like some secret language that I cannot decipher. And so I am going to schlep my happy arse to a cloth-diapering workshop that the Hippie Store puts on before I make such a huge investment. I’m already dreading it: my loafer-clad feet, designer jeans, and expensive handbag next to their birkies, broomskirts, and hemp totes. But oh well.

>The ‘Tots Survived

>B said she could see a blog post coming on this and she was absolutely correct!

It all started at about 1 AM when John said he wanted a midnight snack. He decided to make some tater tots, of all things. Our deep fryer died some time ago, and with my husband’s relatively new struggle with diabetes and hypertension, I was not about to replace it. A normal person would have baked them in the oven. But this is John. My love, my life, my soulmate, the father of my children. But living with him is kind of like what I imagine it to be like for the Man in the Big Yellow Hat to live with Curious George. Seriously.

So he fills a pot with canola oil and heats it up. I am in the bedroom, just around the corner from the kitchen, playing on Facebook, when I hear him ever-so-calmly ask, “Honey, do we have any baking soda?”

And I think to myself, “Why in the is he baking at 1 AM?” And so I ask him why he needs it. And I hear him say what I think is, “Oh, fire.” Just like that. Casual, nonchalant. So I get up from my perch at the desk to investigate. Surely that isn’t what he said.

And I peek around the corner into the kitchen…

Yep. That’s what he said. Oh my God!
I just see 4 feet of flames shooting from my stove. What happened next is a bit of a blur. I thought we had a fire extinguisher under the sink. Guess what! We don’t! And so I started randomly jerking open cabinet doors. (Like the one with drinking glasses in it…what in the hell was I thinking?) And John is screaming at me “Get me SOMETHING!!!!!!” I did’t think about the flour that was in the cabinet right behind John, which would have worked with the grease fire in place of the baking soda. I couldn’t think of anything other than the flames, which were getting higher and higher. And I yelled at John, “Should I call 9-1-1?????” And he shouted back “Ummmm, yeah Andrea. GOOD IDEA!!!!!” (Hey, I do not appreciate that sarcasm, Mister!) And so I reached for the cordless phone while simultaneously screaming to Evan in his downstairs bedroom. The poor kid ran up the stairs in his little boxers, looking all bleary-eyed and confused.

“Evan, baby, run downstairs and throw on clothes and go outside though the back door. Hurry, baby, please!
So he tries to come up through the kitchen, and I had to shout at him, “No Evan! FIRE! Get OUUUUUUUUT!” And bless his little heart, he did. In the meantime, the only thing nearby for John to grab was a neat little stack of Zach’s receiving blankets that were folded on the kitchen table, waiting for the next morning to be put away once Zach awakened. So John is fanning the fire with, trying to smother it, but only making it worse. And there are huge chunks of burnt blanket wafting through the air. I dial 9-1-1, and as soon as the dispatcher answers, I shout “FIRE!” at her as well. I don’t even remember the rest of that convo. I know she asked if everyone was out, and I told her I was working on it. I grab Zach and run outside to meet Evan and wait for emergency people to arrive. The local police are first, and just as I am teling them that my husband may be mildly retarded and started a grease fire by frying tater tots, John emerges from the house, arms full of charred baby blankets and breathing rather heavily, to tell us the fire is out. (Incidentally, this is the point where I think, “Shit! I haven’t treated smoke inhalation in a long time—do I remember how?????)
Wthin the blink of an eye, the police officer is on the phone to let the fire people know it is out, yet within three minutes, there are 3 enormous fire engines lined up on the street in front of my house, sirens wailing. Zach is looking in awe at the lights, and I look over and saw Evan put on shorts and a huge parka–that’s it! No shoes, no shirt, no long pants. Thankfully a neighbor brought over a blanket for him.
The fire people get a great laugh over the fact that my father-in-law is the Fire Chief in his town and John was a volunteer firefighter for years, yet we didn’t have anything to put out a fire in my house.
So anyway, with the fire out and the family safe, we were still not permitted to re-enter the house because of the smoke. When the fire people opened my living room blinds and opened the window, I gasped. The smoke in the house was so thick you couldn’t even see anything other than opaque white. With the fire department’s industrial fans and my opened windows, it cleared relatively quickly, and we thanked the people who helped us and started to head inside. And then it happened.

By it, I mean the most ridiculous statement I have ever heard come from my husband in almost 10 years of marriage.

“Andrea, do you want some ‘tots? I saved them for you!”