Sunday, September 2, 2012

Running With Scissors

Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on. ~Bob Newhart

My day pretty much begins the same as most every other day. 

The hustle and bustle of the busy city street which runs past my house slowly comes to life as children playfully jump about on the corner (I.e. make fun of the smallest kid while pummeling him with rocks) as they wait for the school bus. 

It’s a nice little slice of Americana…with the exception of screams and bangs from, what sounds like, violent sexual activity, involving machinery, emanating from the house occupied by a 25-year old woman who lives next door to me.  Meanwhile the dogs, belonging to the neighbor on my left, bark uncontrollably.

It’s sort of reminiscent of the movie, Groundhog Day; only instead of the Sonny and Cher song blaring from the alarm clock, it sounds as though I’m sitting in the middle of a hardcore porno production…which is being filmed inside an animal shelter…or Michael Vick’s backyard.

In retrospect, today was supposed to be a pretty simple day:

                    Give Michelle a lift to work
                    Take a nap

                    Finish editing two pages of a writing project for a friend
                    Watch TV

                    A short conference call with a director of national sales/promotion
                    Watch TV

                    Take a nap
                    Think about writing a book chapter

                    Go watch Jack (Michelle’s 12-year old) at football practice

                    Scrap plans for writing a book chapter
                    Give Michelle a lift home from work

Michelle is like many people…slow to wake.  So, she sets her alarm slightly earlier than she actually needs to be up and at it so as not to be late.  By slightly earlier, I mean that she sets her alarm to go off on the previous Tuesday at 3am so that she might wake up at 6:15am on Wednesday of the following week. (After hitting the snooze button approximately 75 times.)

It was a quiet drive this morning, with the exception of a Lil’ Wayne song roaring at the volume level as that of a military aircraft engine. 

When we finally arrived to Michelle’s place of employment, I was reminded, and slightly envious, of pleasantries that are typically exchanged between average couples at the end of the car pooling experience:

Man: “Love you” (quick kiss)
Woman: “Okay, see ya’ later today”

Man: “Have a nice day sweetie…you think we can have sex later?”
Woman: (Blank stare)

Man: Can I borrow 20-bucks?

Not me and Michelle.  Instead, she exited the car and dropped the following bomb:

“Oh, the kids are outta school today and the sitter can’t make it…can you watch them?

Fully aware that if she’d asked this question three minutes earlier, while I was driving, I would likely have veered the vehicle into oncoming traffic, killing us both instantly.  So, she appropriately waited until she was completely and safely four feet from the vehicle.

Watching the 6 and 12-year old can be slightly challenging in that they have more energy than your average kids**

**Pronounced AD/HD and an apparent crack cocaine addiction

In order to watch Jackson and Lucien, one must possess certain basic skills:

  • Cooking healthy, balanced meals (9 times per day)
  • The ability to do laundry as though one works for housekeeping at the Hilton hotel
  • Washing dishes 30 times per day
  • Calmly answering no fewer than 725-thousand questions
  • A direct and personal contact hot line to the national poison control center
  • Strong organizational skills
  • Haz-Mat first responder certification
  • Emergency field surgical training
  • District attorney cross-examination skills in order to fully and accurately complete an investigation into actions which result in moderate destruction to the entire back quadrant of the house.

Upon pulling into the driveway back at the house, I took a deep breath and prioritized a day which would now include looking after two kids, 3 cats and a dog.  Realizing that this would likely be more than one person could juggle alone, I formulated a solid game plan; I decided to bring our neighbor, Glen, into action.

Aside from a few minor glitches when Glen and I watched the kids on Mardi Gras Day (See archives at the following link):

Glen and I work well together in watching the children.  The word “child endangerment” only came up once during that episode and Michelle finally began talking to me again a week later.  So, I feel that our field trip went fairly well. 

Glen is an animated and energetic individual who works as a fashion industry makeup artist.*

**Translation: He drinks champagne and wine with 79-pound models all day at work, eats very little and says “fabulous” a lot.

I lightly tapped on Glen’s door to enlist his assistance for the day.

Me: Hey, I need your help for a little while today with the kids so I can do a conference call and some writing.
Glen: I thought we weren’t allowed to watch the kids anymore; plus we lost the kids for 30-minutes that day.

Me: No one got hurt and we eventually found the kids…so I think we’re still allowed to watch them.
Glen: I ended up in a first aid tent on Canal Street with a panic attack during Mardi Gras.

Me: Yes, but the fact that the KIDS didn’t end up in the first aid tent means we’re in the clear.  Can you help?

Before opening the front door to my house, I stared Glen down with my best poker face and assured that this should be a piece of cake.

That is, until I actually opened the door, revealing, Scrappy, the dog, tied to a skateboard and the kitchen table by his front and rear leg.  He was also covered, as was the 6-year old, with Michelle's body glitter. 

Pook, the 200-year old cat, lay under the table, all four paws completely tied with brilliantly colored Mardi Gras beads.  It was at this moment where I felt that I was trapped inside of a nightmare from which I could not awake...or a bizarre Lady Gaga music video.
Standing before us was the 6-year old, wearing a wig, his mother’s dress and high heels proudly announcing:

                                                “I’m a GIRL!!”

Me: Shut up.

In the background, I spotted the 12-year old, Jack, who lay, passed out asleep, on the couch with the television blaring an “R-rated” movie and a trail of potato chips scattered across the floor.

I quickly and forcibly grabbed Glen by the shirt as he tried to leave.

First order of business…provide trauma counselling to the animals, then feed the kids and administer AD/HD medication to the youngest child.

As I scrambled to gather my notes for the conference call, Glen prepared a bowl of cereal for Lucien.
I’ve since learned a valuable lesson…communication is key when tending to a 6-year old with AD/HD.  Example:

  • Glen dishes a couple of teaspoons of sugar into the cereal
  • The oldest kid stumbles into the kitchen and also shovels a couple of teaspoons of sugar   onto the cereal
  • Finally, I breeze through and sift sugar into the cereal bowl before serving it.

Behold… the net result…

A child with super-human abilities as that of the Incredible Hulk…only he doesn’t tirelessly right injustices within the confines of a tired and predictable television plot line. 

Instead, he tosses his mother’s entire jewelry collection, a bag of cat food, a bottle of body wash, a package of crackers, all of the bathroom towels and the cat into the kiddie pool in the front yard just before beating his older brother senseless with a plastic sword. 

Keep in mind; he’s still wearing the dress, wig and high heels while my neighbors stare in horror from their front porch.
After grabbing Glen again by the shirt to keep him from leaving, I administered minor first aid to the oldest kid, Jack, as Glen exhausted his best efforts to occupy Lucien by inserting a Sponge Bob DVD into the player. 

As I nervously awaited my conference call, I noticed that the house had fallen eerily quiet.  This is approximately the moment when I spotted Lucien, fully engrossed in the Sponge Bob DVD, sipping from a cup that Glen had left on the end table.

Me: Glen...The kid is drinking your orange juice.
Glen: (Heart stopping gasp) That’s NOT orange juice!

I’m no legal expert, but I feel strongly that accidentally serving a screwdriver to a young child might, in fact, constitute child endangerment in the state of Louisiana.
Needless to say, I was quite upset with Glen’s reckless behavior and I let him know about it…primarily because he was stashing vodka and didn’t make a screwdriver for me.

My favorite time of day while watching the kids is lunchtime.  It’s a period of time where both kids typically settle down, shoving their faces with food while saying “I hate you” a dozen or so times to one another.
I’ve heard stories of sibling rivalries in my lifetime; however, Jack and Lucien take it to a level that even Hollywood screenwriters can’t possibly imagine.  Examples: (And, I’m NOT making this up)

“Stop breathing my air Jackson!
“You’re ugly just like my butt hole.”

“How do you know what your butt hole looks like?  Gross!”

“Stop talking about my butt hole Jackson!”.
"When I get rich, I’m gonna buy an entire country and I’m gonna let everyone
 in the world in it…except for you.

 “Stop laughing at the TV Jackson!”

"Shut up and eat your food punk!"
"Stop looking at my food Jackson or I’m gonna throw it away.”

"Then you won't get to eat punk"

"Don't tell me when to eat JACKson!"

Sadly, the list goes on and on and on and on and on.  To the point where I find myself wishing to fall victim to a drive-by drug related shooting.

After Scrappy the dog devoured the briefly unattended lunch plate, it was finally time for my conference call.  I felt pretty good about the household conference call ambiance, as the kids had finally settled down.  I pleaded with Glen to exert extra precautions in keeping everyone quiet so that I might get through this call without embarrassment. 

Mr. Bentley: As you all know, we’ve stepped up extra promotion and sales efforts in the Mid-south and in the Pacific Northwest.  I’d also like to welcome Jim to our weekly call.  He will be working closely with our promotions office to cover the Deep South.  Welcome Jim…

Me: Thank you.  I’m happy to be a part of…
Lucien: I FARTED!!!

(Awkward silence on the conference call)
Mr. Bentley:  Uh…who was that?

Me: We have a pet McCaw…he sometimes blurts out weird stuff.
Mr. Bentley: (nervous laugh)  Oh, okay.  Anyway, as I was saying…

Lucien: I just saw Mr. Glen’s pee pee.  Mr. Glen has a long pee pee!! (Giggles)
Me: (rapidly disconnecting from the conference call; glaring at Glen as he appeared from upstairs)  WHAT THE HELL GLEN?

Glen: I had to go to the bathroom…he picked the lock and came in while I was finishing!

After dispatching a quick explanation email to the director of national sales, explaining that the house suddenly exploded, resulting in my conference call disconnection, I figured that a quick nap might calm my nerves.

I asked Glen to keep a close eye on the 6-year old and informed him to wake me if anything happened or if he needed assistance.  Translation: "I planned to murder Glen if he even THOUGHT about waking me."

I must admit, I’ve never seen a child completely reconstruct his bedroom…outside on the front lawn.  But, upon waking, there it was, complete with the mattress, lamp, dresser drawers and Scrappy the dog, tied to the flat panel television base.
On the front porch sat Glen, head tilted all the way back, snoring, with Lucien nowhere in sight…that is, until I quickly made my way down the sidewalk around the corner of the house. 

A pizza delivery guy strolled toward me with a stack of pies when I spotted Lucien hanging out of the side door to his SUV.

Delivery Guy: Anyone order a pizza?
I can fully appreciate that someone who has never had children might not convey a sense of concern or urgency where these matters are concerned, but I feel strongly that MY first question would have been:

Hey…do you know WHO the 6-year old hanging out of my car window belongs to??

After smacking Glen in the head with a stuffed animal, I woke him and we began to reconstruct Lucien’s bedroom…safely within the confines of the house.
It was finally time for football practice…the home stretch of the day before I was scheduled to retrieve Michelle from work.

Taking Lucien out later in the day can be hit or miss as his energy level becomes slightly elevated like many small children. 

Nothing out of the ordinary, he simply becomes excited around people and does things which might be a little more than your average adult can effectively manage. 

He runs, jumps, hides things, sprays an entire bottle of expensive perfume onto the cat, rakes a 7-foot shelf into the floor with his arms at the grocery store, destroys the floral department, attempts to jump from a balcony, performs factory unauthorized tests as it pertains to the buoyancy of cell phones in mud puddles and challenges the durability of the neighborhood electric and water department grid by activating every single outdoor faucet and indoor light.

Before heading to Jack's football game, Glen and I grabbed a shoulder bag so that we might visit the convenience store near the park to purchase a few refreshments for our outing...Gatorade, snack crackers, peanuts, bubble gum, vodka, orange juice, cigarettes, Valium and bottled water.

At the checkout, Glen and I placed our items on the counter while we waited for Jackson...who, as usual, dumped a basket onto the checkout totaling the approximate down payment amount for a new BMW.

As we watched the game, Lucien played with the other 6-year olds on the playground within the field fence line as Glen and I chatted with a few parents who sat nearby.

Lady: I think it's awesome for you both to come out and be a part of sports with the kids

Glen: Thanks.  We usually get nervous taking them out together...they have a lot of energy and don't get along very well..

Lady: Well, I think it's fantastic. 

Glen: It's not that big of a deal...we just both need eyes in the back of our heads to watch him.

Lady: Jackson is a good kid not to be worried about what his friends and coaches think.

Glen: What do you mean??

It was at this point when I realized that this lady assumed that Glen and I were a same sex couple.

Football practice went well and Jack, being the newly selected first-string quarterback, loitered on the field, chatting with fellow team mates and the head coach.

We wandered onto the field where we stopped and exchanged pleasantries with the coach and his staff.  Midway through our conversation, the coach suggested that I enroll Lucien in the 6-year old league which was set to begin in a week...that is, until a young woman approached with the following question:

Woman: Is THAT your child over there (pointing to the playground)

Me: Yes...why?

After carefully focusing toward the playground, I noticed Scrappy, the dog, firmly tied to the base of the slide with Mardi Gras beads; bubble gum was plastered through both Lucien's hair and Scrappy's fur.  I nervously laughed and politely excused myself from further football contract negotiations with the head coach.

As an added visual, Lucien was also wearing his mother's hair extensions which he'd smuggled in his pants.

As I scanned a little further to the left, I noticed Glen surreptitiously mixing a screwdriver.  It was decidedly time to leave football practice and go pick up Michelle, capping a day that no one that I know would ever believe.

Upon retrieving Michelle, we caught up on the news of the day, exchanging pleasantries:

Michelle: Ugh...what a day!  I'm soooo glad to be off work.  How was your day?

Me: Nothin' to write home about.  Pretty quiet.

Michelle:  Is that bubble gum in your hair???

A simple day indeed.

copyright, Pontchartrain Press 2012

Author's Note: I like to joke around a lot in order to put a more acceptable face on serious topics...I tend to do so in a manner, unlike my father, who served salmon on the evening that he informed me that my gold fish died when I was age seven. 

Or, for that matter, when the first girlfriend with whom I had sexual relations microwaved a bag of popcorn in 2-minutes at our friend's house and coyly asked if it reminded me of anything.

The truth of the matter is, it's been quite difficult to watch a young child struggle with a psychological situation that a team of therapists can't seem to identify...but they continue to diligently work hard to lead Lucien to a happier and normal place.

I would also be remiss by not admitting that there have been good days and bad days for all who have been involved on this journey.

Lucien is not mentally challenged, quite the opposite actually.  I believe that he's too smart for the physical and mental faculties for a six-year old to handle...much less two unlikely babysitters.   

Words can not begin to describe what it feels like to have a front row seat to witnessing the toll that his situation has taken on the person who gave birth to a beautiful child, only to be told by many specialists (and casual bystanders) that they KNOW something is wrong with her precious boy, but they just can't figure it out. 

It's even more painful to witness the tears after no fewer than ten people give her the dreaded "run-down" on a daily basis as to her child's antics; be it the school bus driver, the teacher, the principal, me, Glen, Jackson, the neighbor or the team of therapists.

Then, I realize that I DON'T have a front row seat...SHE does.  I can't possibly imagine how that must feel for a proud, hard working and loving mother...all of which she is.

At present, Lucien is undergoing competent and careful therapy and I'm optimistic for great success. 

In the meantime, this piece is dedicated to Lu...and to the fact that I do, in fact, last longer in the sexual department than a bag of microwave popcorn!

Please cut me some slack...I was 17 for God's sake!

Lucien and Pook...the ancient cat...just before Hurricane Isaac