Sheepdog has a hard time sitting still. I feel that he was born with some horrific “can’t relax” gene. He still complains of being tired all of the time and that he feels run down and exhausted, yet he rarely listens when I wisely advise, “take a nap, dummy.” Naps are the best part of parenting as far as I’m concerned. They are the diamonds of Minecraft. My precious.
But, back to Sheepdog. The man is unable to just be. I tease him all the time about his lack of quietude, yet I secretly find his buzz intoxicating. I don’t want to be him, mind you. But I am thrilled that he is on my team. And he’s fun to watch.
This summer, my mom and dad gave Sheepdog a GoPro helmet camera. I do not think in the history of things created that there could be a more appropriate gift. Sheepdog is even more excitable than usual because of it.
He has already begun filling his dance card with mountain and road bike races throughout 2015. His first mountain bike race was the Snake Creek Gap 34-miler, which he completed last Saturday, January 3, in the cold and pouring rain in just over five hours. He was so muddy at the end that the ladies who give out chili to the riders afterwards asked him to pose for pictures because they had never seen anyone so filthy and caked in mud.*
And because he can’t sit still, Sheepdog came home from the race and promptly made a movie about it.
I told you he is fun to watch. How about those thighs, huh?
Wish me luck for tomorrow…
* Reminder to have Sheepdog build an outdoor shower in his spare time
A week ago, on New Year’s Eve, I had an appointment to donate at Atlanta Blood Services. I have been going there every other month ever since Kid A’s boyfriend, Braden, was diagnosed with leukemia, mainly because he needed blood products (we always joked that he would know when he got mine because he would have a wine hangover afterwards), but also it gave me something to do at a time when I felt in control of nothing. Even after he died, I keep going back to donate.
It was really hard to go back at first, especially since the infusion clinic is directly across the hall and he and his mom spent a lot of time over there during his treatment. The very first time I returned, I stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts and got some treats and a jug of coffee because I wanted to give it to the staff over there. I even planned ahead and made a little card with a picture of him that said something like “In Memory of Braden Dean Smith” so that everybody would think of him while they were eating their yummy donuts. I intended to ask the receptionist if I could put them in the break room once I got there. But I was so overcome with emotion and grief that I was a blubbering, snotty mess and I couldn’t even get words to come out of my mouth. Instead, I showed the girl the picture of Braden and held up the jug of coffee, all while tears and weird noises kept pouring out of me. I was like the deaf/ mute people who hand out cards asking for money, except I had a Box O’ Joe and two warm dozen. She didn’t even bat an eye as she buzzed me through to the back and guided me through the labyrinth of halls to a room marked “Staff Only.”
I was eventually able to calm down and I finally went across the hall to Atlanta Blood Services to start the donation process that day. Each time has gotten a little bit easier after that.
Until last Tuesday.
Looking back on it, it turns out that last Tuesday, the 365th day of the 2,013th trip ’round the sun, Anno Domini, was a fitting end to a quite sucky 2013.
Each time I go in to donate, I first have to do the dance for the lawyers (reading some legalese, mumbo-jumbo, CYA crap that basically says “I know I can die at any time and it’s nobody’s fault but my own”). Then I answer a long set of questions on a computer from 1999 in a tiny, private room (questions like “Have you ever had a transplant of your dura matter?” and “Have you ever had sex with a man who has had sex with another man?”), and then they take my vitals. Following the computer exam, I get poked for a blood sample, and they run tests to see what and how many blood products they can safely and most efficiently extract from me over the next two hours. They always want my platelets.
Last Tuesday was no exception, as I had just shy of 400,000. Be amazed, people, because that makes me a rock star, if only in that room.
So I went into the donation room with the nice nurse (are they even nurses?… I honestly don’t even know) who had reviewed my Scantron and all of my bodily tests (she was new), and she put me in a bed which was not my regular spot. That kind of thing doesn’t really bother me, so I didn’t say anything, but the other nurses/ people who enjoy extracting other people’s blood products without proper qualifications were all like, “Whoa, Nelly! That’s not her bed. She goes over there!” The new lady and I just laughed at them and I stayed put. Mistake #1.
The machine was on the other side of this particular bed – the right one, which meant that I would be donating from my dominant arm. Traffic had been really easy that morning (some days it takes me 2 hours to get there, especially since they started taking down the toll on GA-400!), so I was all, “NBD and whatever!” I climbed in and snuggled under the warm blankets (it makes the blood flow better). Mistake #2.
While she was setting everything up, the machine started to do weird things. It was being quirky and disagreeable. It crossed my mind that I should suggest a move to my regular spot then, but I was doing a great job of being laid back, so I decided to commit fully. I said nothing. Mistake #3.
There was a man donating to my left who is also a true regular. He comes in every two weeks and donates one or two bags of platelets, which means he donates at least 26 bags a year. That is super impressive. It also takes a whole lot of his time, but he teaches yoga and his schedule seemed flexible. He also video blogs (or “vlogs”) about his donations, because he wants people to see that donating is easy and painless and everybody can (and should) do it. He had already vlogged on YouTube about his own New Year’s Eve donation, his final one of 2013, but made a big deal about me sitting next to him (remember that I am a triple donation rock star here), so much so that he made an addendum vlog about me!
So, I had fully committed to this different spot, and I was talking to my new friend, and the new nurse finally tamed the machine and got me hooked up and started my actual donation process. Pinch, release, then slowly and continually squeeze the stress ball to keep the blood pumping. Eventually, I settled in and everything was A-OK.
About two bags in to my donation, I started watching The Truman Show on my laptop. When the second bag was just about done, the nurse wanted me to eat a snack and drink something. I asked for crackers and water. She brought them to me and proceeded to open the water bottle (I only had one free hand… everybody knows you are not supposed to move the arm with the needle in it).
Then came the slow-motion, yet speeded-up combination of events.
The water bottle was not level on the bottom, as sometimes happens with disposable plastic water bottles (I suppose it is karmic punishment for selfishly destroying Mother Earth with those BPA-laden landfill staples). When she put the bottle on my tray, it promptly tipped over onto the keyboard of my MacBook Pro. She reacted and I reacted too. She yelled something and ran to get paper towels, and I moved my dominant arm (along with my left one) to save my laptop.
Yep. I did that. Even though I know better, I moved my arm with the needle plunged into the vein. It immediately hurt (I don’t know which hurt more… the needle or knowing that my laptop just took a shower), so I quickly brought it back to immobile station zero on the arm bar. All of the nurses freaked out and checked on me, making sure I was okay, drying off my laptop, and checking on my arm and the apheresis machine. The new nurse was so freaked out that she came over to help clean up and accidentally dropped the water bottle again, this time into my purse (fortunately, my phone was not in there). I honestly felt so bad for her. It was a complete and total accident. And for whatever reason, I was (honest to goodness) not even upset about it.
The pain in my arm went away quickly. We determined that the needle likely punctured through the vein and I would have some bruising afterwards, but it was not life-threatening. I even finished my full donation and they collected three whole bags from me. I’m still a rock star!
Except this past week, my arm looked like that of a rock star who shoots up (poorly), or maybe a rock star who dates Chris Brown.
“Yes, but you should see the other guy!”
It is getting better every day. It doesn’t hurt at all. It just looks awful. And because Sheepdog took excellent care in drying out my laptop, even the MacBook Pro is recovering nicely. No harm, no foul. I plan to go back in 7 weeks or so. I promise that donating is easy and safe and something that I hope everyone will consider doing.
Except next time, I am sitting in my regular donation bed. And I’m bringing my own reusable water bottle.
Kid E came home from school in early October and unloaded his backpack. Inside his folder was a piece of paper. He happily announced in my direction, “This is for you. From my teacher. I will put it in your bin.”
I was excited that he had already mastered my rules established to conquer school-related entropy (for a quick ENTROPY primer, click here) by unpacking and sorting immediately upon entry. I like to train them young around here. Early independence of my kids is always a long-term goal.
So I let him do his jobs… his shoes get put in the shoe basket, his lunchbox gets emptied of any trash and leftovers and put on the kitchen table, important papers go in the bin on my desk. He is always so proud when he completes these simple tasks. And then he inevitably asks if he can watch videos.
Meanwhile, this kid has been glued to electronics since birth. My bad. I wish I was exaggerating, but I am not. I have been such a slacker parent with him. I always say yes when he asks if he can watch the video/ play the game/ download the app. I get more done that way. I mean, he’s my FIFTH kid. But I think I am wrecking him. He talks in a language I partly do not understand (“Mom, can you type in ‘skylanders swap force girl and boy super evil chaos?'”) and I partly am super worried about (see previous example). In the beginning, I would always say things like, “Apple products are truly user-friendly! Even my baby can use this iMac, and he can’t even sit up!” I guess we’ll just see how my little experiment turns out. Here’s hoping for the best.
Anyway, he gave me the paper from his kindergarten teacher and went off to watch YouTube videos of other people playing video games (I know, I know… Mother of the Year over here. But he knows to turn it off if there are curse words worse than what I drop on the daily). About a half hour later, I got around to browsing through my in-bin.
Kid E had been given a project. Dun-dun-dun. Well, crap.
The October kindergarten project (Man, I really hope this is not setting some sort of precedent for a new project each month, because that would be some bullshit. It’s kindergarten, not grad school.) was to find a book that you liked, write some things about the main character and a short summary of what they did in the book, and then decorate a small pumpkin to resemble that character. He had to bring it all in by Monday, October 28th.
OK, we had some time. And the assignment wasn’t overwhelming or impossible or even that much of a pain in the ass. So I presented the project to Kid E with as much enthusiasm as I could muster.
“Hey, buddy? Can you take off the headphones and press pause for a sec (and, yes, I made the universal gesture for taking off headphones). This paper you said was from your teacher for me… actually, it is a fun project for you!” I went on to explain the assignment with gusto. But the kid was not buying it. He was not excited. He was not even happy. He started to cry uncontrollably.
“But, MOM! It is supposed to be for YOU, not ME! What am I gonna do? How am I gonna do it? I can’t do it. I don’t know how to do ANYTHING!”
I gave him a big, fat hug and helped him to bring it down a notch. I explained that he most certainly knew how to do lots of things… like putting his shoes in the bin, and emptying his lunchbox and backpack, and putting important papers on my desk. I reminded him that he also dressed and undressed himself, put his clothes in the hamper, and put the silverware and napkins on the table for dinner. I pointed out that he can read now, and his writing was getting really good, and he knew how to do math problems. Kid D heard the commotion at this point and (helpfully?) added that Kid E also cleaned up his toys, but only when I made him. He also suggested a book for the project, The Runaway Bunny. That part was actually pretty helpful.
“Perfect, ” I said. “You like that book. You can write about the little bunny and all of his shenanigans when he tries to run away from his mother. And we could buy a pet-sized bunny costume and glue the ears on your tiny pumpkin!” I continued to reassure him. “You know how to do lots of things. Don’t you worry about a thing. We’ve got this.” Kid E stopped crying.
Then he asked if he could go back to watching the YouTube. Of course I let him. I had stuff to do.
I glued the ears, nose and tail on (yes, I own a glue gun, smartasses), but Kid E drew the eyes and mouth. Plus, he wrote out the book report all on his own (even though I helped him construct one or two of the sentences). He did so well that next time, he’s on his own.
I am sorry that I went MIA for a bit. I had a long run of consistent posting in September, what with the travel logs and the recounting of all of my recent screw-ups. But then I guess I burnt out a little. And then our house got hit with a stupid virus, which even had the nerve to try to take me down for a few days.
Yet, the show must go on. Not everybody around here was sick, so some people still expected things like clean underpants and dinner.
“Maaaaah-ommmmm,” I would hear through the bathroom door. “What’s for dinner? I’m starving.”
“Um… english muffins?” I hadn’t gone to the store in over a week.
“Leave me alone. Quit your complaining. I’m sick. Make your own dinner if you don’t like it.”
“But I can’t even reach the oven. I’m six.”
That’s basically how it went for most of last week. I felt guilty for feeling bad and I felt bad for feeling guilty.
But I womanned-up made it through those icky feelings by remembering times when I was kind of awesome. Like this one time:
Right after we got back from Europe, Kid A and I got thrown right back into the thick of things. She had to go back to school. I had to do whatever the heck it is that I do. Time zone adjustment? Get over it. Travel exhaustion? Ain’t nobody got time for that! You miss waking up in a different country each morning and dressing for dinner and having someone else make and serve you three course meals each evening? We feel so freaking bad for you. I need a ride to my school project partner’s house. She lives kind of far from here and we need to stop at the store first to buy $60 of random supplies on the way.
So we adjusted. It was painful at first, but Kid A and I only complained to each other and that seemed to work pretty well. Life went on.
It was day two or three post-vacation when Kid A’s car wouldn’t turn over. It made that ugly click-click-click noise. We called Sheepdog and he confirmed that it needed a new battery. And since he was already at work and still in “I-don’t-want-to-hear-your-sob-story-I-was-left-at-home-with-these-kids-by-myself-for-two-weeks” mode, and Kid A needed the car to help me out later that day, solving the problem fell squarely on my shoulders.
So I did what any girl would do. On my way home from driving the teenagers to school, I drove around the neighborhood to see if any of my friends were having construction projects done. The last time I had car that wouldn’t start, Sheepdog was out of town and my across-the-street neighbor was getting a dream house update, so I texted her and asked if the big, strong guy with the big, strong truck could come over and give me a jump (minds out of the gutter, dirty birds… it was nothing sexual). There is not much that scares me more than the red and black jumper cable thingies. Except varmints in my attic. But, I digress.
Sadly, I saw no one with an F-150 or saw horses in their driveway. I was on my own.
So I went to the YouTube. I found a video called “Using Jumper Cables, the Right Way” and I felt like it was the exact right video for me, especially since it had started raining a little outside and it was also raining in the video! But I was still really nervous, so I went to fold some laundry for a bit.
“… and the Golden Rule is NEVER touch the clamps together!” Great. More stuff for me to worry about.
Then I gave myself a pep talk and I finally decided to go out and jump the stupid dead battery. I could totally do this! Unless, of course, I accidentally hooked up a cable to something really wrong and then I blew up both cars or caused battery fluid to leak out and I got horrible chemical burns, that is. But I could probably totally do this. Totally.
I pulled my truck up right next to Kid A’s car. That was easy. I opened up both hoods. Not simple, but not rocket science either. Then I got out the jumper cables. I held them like they were made of asbestos or penises (TBH, nobody really wants to touch either of those things). I planned to follow the steps from the video.
The first problem was that the cars I had in front of me looked nothing like the cars in the stupid video. The bad car didn’t even have a battery, as far as I could tell. No wonder it wouldn’t turn on! And that was just step one.
Goofy Sweedes. Come out, come out, wherever you are, little battery!
And in the American-made vehicle… the positive post and the negative post are NO WHERE NEAR EACH OTHER. Aaaaaaargh!
I almost started to cry, but then I just got mad and decided that this effing project was not going to beat me. I’m a little bit stubborn that way. I was afraid to put my hand too far into the car at all because it reminded me of Flash Gordon when Prince Barin made him put his hand in the hollow stump and he could have been bitten and infected with deadly poison. Like Flash, I tensely and very cautiously moved around in there. Eventually I lifted up some plastic stuff inside the Saab’s front end and found what looked the most battery-ish. Yay for no poisonous creatures! Finally, I was on to step two.
Step two was not one bit easier, as the battery in a 2008 GMC Yukon XL is extremely well hidden. It might as well have been wearing a wig and mustache and been hiding in the Witness Protection Program. I actually had to get out the owner’s manual from the glove box and read it! And surprise, surprise… the actual car battery did not look like the one in the picture. But I figured it out anyway because I was good and cursing-out-loud angry at that point. And I hooked up those mo-fo clamps. I wasn’t sure that they were in the right place, but they were hooked, dammit! Then it was time to start the good car. I said a quick, “Dear God, please don’t let me lose my eyesight. Or my right arm. And thanks again for wine,” and I turned the key in my truck.
Nothing blew up. I was actually amazed. I was certainly relieved. I let it run for a minute. I eventually started breathing again.
Now it was time to turn on Kid A’s car with the bad battery. For whatever reason, this step scared me more than all of the other steps combined. I was convinced that this would be the part where the front yard turned into a cordoned-off post-bomb site, and they would be collecting pieces of me from neighboring lawns for weeks.
But I am stubborn and still determined to do this or die trying.
I went over to the passenger side, reached across the entire car from outside (because I planned to run away faster than the explosion, if at all possible), squinted my eyes, and slowly turned the key in the Saab.
It thrummed to life!
I started doing a weird, spastic dance in the driveway and cursing very odd things at that point, but I was so incredibly proud of myself that I did not care what I looked like to the outside world. Stubborn beat out scared! I did it! And I didn’t blow up the cars or get battery acid all over myself. It was a good day! A very good day indeed! Girl Power!
Then I drove Kid A’s car to the mechanic, where they charged me a ridiculous amount of money to replace the dead battery. It didn’t matter, though, because I was still high from my automotive triumph.
But then I came home and no one was there. And likely all of that spaz-dancing or the excitement/ extreme fear had worn me out, so I took a really long nap on the couch. And then I didn’t make any dinner and I mumbled about serving english muffins or something lame again and everybody got mad at me for not doing a good job.
But I did do a good job, at least that one time, so whatever.