Drunken stupor

"Ahzaba yada Ducky," He slurred unintelligibly, as he gazed happily at me from la-la land with the sloppy grin of a falling down drunk.

There was no question about it. My three-year-old son was the new poster child for what it means to be feeling no pain.

But wait, it’s not what you think! As it happens, Noah was in the hospital’s outpatient surgery wing, being prepped to have his tonsils removed. The pre-surgical cocktail was really a sedative intended to keep him calm and ooze him into drowsiness in advance of the real anesthesia. It worked; he was certainly a happy little man.

He was also more than a little woozy. My comedian son decided AFTER the Versed had been administered that a trip to the potty was in order. The boy could not have stood on his own two feet to save his life, so I dutifully carried him down the hall to the nearest bathroom, trying as best I could to protect his modesty in the skimpy hospital gown. Then I had to hold him upright to do the job. Otherwise he would have plunged face first into the toilet, and somehow I don’t think he would have cared one bit!

But have YOU ever tried to hold up a floppy (and heavy) three-year-old at the potty while at the same time trying to direct his aim and simultaneously keep him from dropping Ducky in? Because there was no parting Noah from Ducky. Yet due to the cocktail, he wasn’t exactly holding on to him with a death grip. Ducky was in real danger, I tell you. Barney (clad by attentive nurses in a hospital gown and wristband of his own) too, for that matter.

Somehow, we managed. Nothing got sprinkled that wasn’t supposed to, and thanks to a Hurculean effort on my part, neither Ducky nor Barney touched any icky public bathroom surfaces. 

It was also at this point when I realized why the hospital gown seemed so cruelly skimpy. I had missed one of the ties in the back. I decided to fix the problem immediately, before parading Noah back down the hall. But because he was loopy and droopy and not at all in a condition conducive to staying upright without assistance, ingenuity was required. I started out by squatting down on the floor and balancing him precariously on my knee to find the other half of the tie. Not good enough. Lacking magical abilities (super powers notwithstanding), there was no way only two hands could keep Noah, Ducky, and Barney off the floor AND tie the gown. I don’t know about you, but I have not yet mastered the fine art of fastening barely there hospital gowns with just one free hand. So I shifted over until I could prop Noah’s shoulder against the wall, with one leg unsteadily extended to catch him if he fell forward. It took a few tries but we did get the gown properly adjusted, barely.

After all that effort, I’m not sure it helped. Did I mention that hospital gowns are just evil? But anyone who is familiar with my clumsy ways (and if you aren’t, you can read about some of my hall of shame tumbles here and here) can now marvel at the fact that I didn’t topple over and mortally injure us both.

On finally returning to the pre-surgical staging area, all dry and in one piece, we discovered that even in his drunken state, Noah still has a pitcher’s arm. Just as we were sitting down, Ducky went airborne. He who could barely even hold on to Ducky two minutes earlier had, without warning, hurled him across the room. All the while with that same goofy, tipsy grin. Noah looked at that moment like he was living the Barney theme song, in an inebriated sort of way:

"I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family…" 

It seemed inappropriate to laugh, considering that the little guy was about to be put under for surgery, but really, how could you not laugh at such a sight? 

They kicked us out of the hospital practically as soon as Noah woke up, and he has been resting comfortably at home all day, sleeping off whatever drugs they gave him to knock him out. A very different experience from when Maia went through the same a few years ago. I’ll never forget her singing Hakuna Matata in the car on the way home. From having her TONSILS out. Her throat was supposed to hurt! She never did go back to sleep that day. Instead, she threw a tantrum because she wanted to play baseball outside with Daddy and we wouldn’t let her, being still under the effects of anesthesia and all.

So Noah is doing as well as can be expected, living on chocolate milk. Poor guy, though… the anesthesia and the surgical morphine have pretty much worn off now, and we can tell his throat is really starting to hurt. He’s a trooper, but he didn’t want to eat anything for dinner. Not even ice cream or chocolate pudding or popsicles. He just sat there, not complaining, but with a quivering lip and a single tear rolling down his cheek.

Maybe laughing wasn’t so appropriate after all.

This past week, Maia was on fall break from school, so we took advantage of the opportunity for a little family vacation. It is no secret in my family that housekeeping is not exactly my forte, but prior to our departure on Monday, I did the unthinkable. I actually straightened up around the house. I was still decluttering even as my husband and kids were already loaded into the car, eager to get started toward our seafaring destination.

I did not realize what a shock it would be for my children to see our home in a relatively clutter-free state until we returned to the scene yesterday morning. Noah’s immediate reaction upon entering the living room was to exclaim, "Ama and Aitachu cleaned the house!" Ama and Aitachu (Basque for mother and father) are what my kids call my parents. I tried to explain to Noah that actually, his Daddy and I had done the cleaning. But he still insisted it was Ama and Aitachu. Our clean house could not register in his brain any other way. My son could not wrap his little mind around the fact that the people who inhabit this dwelling might actually tidy it up once in a while.

Woe is me. I have been setting a terrible example, haven’t I??

Blogging on the go

Life on the road stinks. I miss my family! But free wi-fi is a nice perk, as I sit here in the hotel lobby waiting for my ride to the airport. It’s almost better than being at the office, since I can catch up without interruption. So my email has been answered, and I find myself with a few minutes to spare. One of these days I may even make time to write something profoundly witty and interesting. I miss writing in this blog, dear readers. I really do. I have the ideas, it’s just a matter of devoting time and brain power to transforming them into entries worth reading. I have every intention of getting back on the blog circuit as soon as it is humanly possible. That’s a promise. I still have lots of stories left in me to document for my kids. ‘Til then, happy travels to me.

Morning hugs

Maia and her Daddy may have a daily morning ritual, but Noah and I have one of our own. Every morning before going off to daycare, I get the best, and I mean THE BEST, hugs. Noah is at his snuggliest in the mornings, willing to let me hold him for an extended cuddle while he simultaneously rests his head on my shoulder and pats my back. How could anyone not love such a sweet and affectionate little boy?

I have to cherish these moments while they last, because Noah is growing up on us. He can write his name now, and he drew his first family picture last week. And he’s losing the baby pudge. My round little baby is getting so lean! He’s not allowed to grow up. He’s just not! I wish all kids could stay this age forever. It’s my very favorite.

Daddy’s little girl

Maia has always been a Daddy’s girl. Small wonder… he has a bit of kid in him himself and makes a great playmate. He does all kinds of fun things with her. I make her do her homework and clean her room.

Maia and Daddy have a special routine they perform every morning. When Kent leaves the house to drop Noah at daycare, he checks to make sure the front door is locked. Then after he’s strapped Noah into his carseat, he walks around to check it again, from the outside. And every day, like clockwork, Maia is standing just inside the door waiting for him. While Kent wiggles and jiggles and rattles the door to make sure the lock is just as secure as it was on the inside, testing its ability to withstand attempted break ins, Maia waves to him through the window and recites the same thing, every single day. "Bye Daddy, I love you Daddy, have a good day at work Daddy." I doubt he can hear her through the closed door, but she says it anyway. Every. Single. Day.

Last night at Maia’s dance class, I bumped into a parent whose daughter is in Maia’s class at school. She had a story she had been waiting to tell me. It seems that one day a week or two ago, this parent was at school helping in her other daughter’s class, when she bumped into Maia in the hallway. Maia was crying her little heart out all the way down the hall. The mother, being concerned that something tragic must have happened, asked Maia what was wrong. Maia’s response? She had had a fight with her Daddy that morning and forgot to kiss him goodbye. My sensitive daughter was heartbroken because she didn’t kiss her Daddy goodbye.

She gets it from Kent. My husband the family man never, and I mean never, leaves the house without kissing us all and telling us he loves us. I’ve pointed out to him a couple of times that he acts like he’ll never see us again. He says you never know. And you know what? It’s true. You just never know when this time might be the last time you’ll have an opportunity to show your loved ones that you care. And besides, it’s always nicer to part, even just for a quick outing of errands, on sweet terms rather than sour ones.

It’s amazing what you can learn from a 7-year-old and her beloved Daddy.

Airport blogging

It’s much too early in the morning for blogging, but the airport I’m sitting in has free wi-fi, which is pretty cool. I’m mostly caught up on the work email, so it’s too bad my blogging brain is malfunctioning. But at least now I can say I’ve blogged in an airport.

I’m headed home, for a few days, at least. That’s a good thing. I’ve been gone for nearly a week. It hasn’t all been for work — I’ve had some time to play too, but I miss my family. And I’m off again to Minneapolis on Monday. I’ll blog about my travels soon. Til then, wish me a speedy recovery from the jet lag.

Ducky rules the world

My husband has never, to the best of my recollection, proposed a blog topic. Yet this morning, he suggested I write about Ducky, a most important member of our household. Who am I to refuse such a request? And so without further ado, I give you the true tales of Ducky Quack Quack.

Ducky is a stuffed animal—a Mallard duck, to be precise—that took up residence with us just over a year ago. I think he followed us home after some sort of vacation transaction wherein we foolishly agreed to exchange hard earned cash for a small stuffed bird. We knew nothing about this duck, his character, or his background, but we were roped into taking him home anyway by the persuasive charm of a then two-year-old. I never saw or even thought about the duck again, until recently. Somehow, Noah rediscovered and has now become quite attached to this faux fowl, going so far as to bestow on it (with the assistance of his sister) a full legal name. Ducky Quack Quack. Which just so happens to work very well with our last name. Ducky Quack Quack is the first stuffed creature in our home be so honored with a first, middle, and last name, but we still just call him Ducky for short.

Don’t be fooled by the cleverly simple name, however. Ducky is no ordinary stuffed animal. He has surpassed even Barney for top honors as the companion of choice for all outings and events. Ducky faithfully accompanies Noah back and forth to daycare every day, to bed every night, and to many other locations in between. If I awarded frequent traveler miles in my car, Ducky would be an elite passenger.

The biggest downside I can see is that I think Ducky has become a little possessive of Noah. He doesn’t seem to want to share him with the other stuffed animals anymore. And to tell you the truth, I think Ducky might even be a bit jealous of the attention Noah receives from the human element in our home. I’ve noticed of late that Noah is never allowed to kiss me anymore when Ducky is around, unless Ducky kisses me first. Fortunately for us, Ducky is quite the affectionate duck. I get hugs and kisses galore from Ducky, which paves the way to get the same from my son.

But that’s not all. Our very own Ducky Quack Quack is also a devilish little prankster who takes great glee in bouncing on people’s heads and sliding down their arms. Ducky isn’t necessarily so adroit at these bouncing and sliding games since he often topples straight to the ground, to squeals of delight from his puppeteer.  But there’s one thing you have to say about Ducky… the unexpected tumbles never stop him. He always gets back up! In fact, I now believe that Ducky is truly invincible. Need more proof? Just look at his diet. This duck eats ALLIGATORS! And SHARKS! I know, because Noah told me so. Just last night, I witnessed it for myself. Ducky scarfed those imaginary ‘gators and sharks down in a single chomp! Not too shabby for a creature that lacks teeth. Sadly, though, Ducky’s table manners leave something to be desired. Because after that daring feast, Ducky belched a big one. And he did NOT say excuse me.

Questionable table manners aside, there’s one thing I really love about Ducky Quack Quack. It’s seeing how he unlocks Noah’s creativity and imagination. To me, that’s priceless. Burps and all.

When it rains, it pours

Here is what the rest of my month looks like: San Francisco, Phoenix, Minneapolis, and Atlanta. Then I get a couple of weeks at home before it’s off to Chicago and Dallas. October brings a family vacation, followed by a brief respite from the travel before hauling to Canada and New York in November.

I don’t really know what’s different this year, but by the end of the year, 2006 will have brought more travel than the previous 6 or 7 years combined. Not that I’m complaining—at least not too much. I don’t mind the occasional getaway, and some of the trips are for fun. It’s the nearly back-to-back clusters that have me seeing double.

Thank goodness for a wonderful husband who does an amazing job of holding down the fort, sick kids and all. Because strep throat in particular seems to flourish whenever mom is away. And this particular strain is really hanging on. A round of antibiotics didn’t kill it, so back to the doctor we go tomorrow. Imagine the doctor’s surprise when he discovers that my son actually has a mother!

Sin City

I’ve recently returned from my first visit to that glittering gambling mecca in the desert—Las Vegas. Interesting city, this place where the seedy and the swank co-exist in improbable harmony.

My first vivid impression of Las Vegas came not upon arrival, but before I even departed the slightly more family friendly tourist destination that I call home. As I sat waiting to board my Friday evening flight, I observed a man whom I guessed to be in his early 40s, and who most reminded me of the type of character who acts self-important but probably isn’t, promenading back and forth around the gate area. Never leaving his side were two pleased-with-themselves women dolled up and decked out for a night on the town, one draped possessively on each arm. Their preening strut left no question that they were seeking to be noticed. This was a trio ready to gamble the night away, and they were ready to play in more ways than one, I suspect. Yep, I was definitely on my way to Sin City.

I arrived at my hotel after midnight and, feeling the effects of the three-hour time difference, did what many first-timers likely do not—I went straight to bed. The next morning, however, I had some time to kill before the start of the conference that had finally brought me to this hedonistic metropolis, so I did what one is supposed to do in such circumstances. I headed for heart of the action. The Las Vegas Strip.

Because my hotel was within sight of the strip, I decided to enjoy a leisurely late morning stroll. (Note to self: Walking distances are much further than they appear when you’re in the middle of the desert in July and didn’t think to pack a pair of shorts because it was a business trip.) Along the route, I began to gain an understanding of why this is called "Sin City." In the locations where one would normally expect to see newspaper stands, I passed stand after stand of circulars advertising the lascivious side of Las Vegas, showing off scantily dressed women with strategically placed black boxes where necessary. These were so prevalent that I was left wondering how anyone could in good conscience raise a family there. Then again, maybe it was just my part of town. I later discovered from a taxi driver that only a block or two in the opposite direction was where crack addicts hang out, and where it was unsafe to walk after dark. Yikes!

The strip itself was a completely different experience from the hike to get there. The fabulous hotels that you always hear about are just as fabulous as they say. I visited the Wynn, the Venetian, and the Bellagio before the clock dictated that work obligations were at hand. These resorts and the others like them are destinations unto themselves, filled with beautiful scenery, sophisticated décor, upscale restaurants, high-end boutiques, and legendary shows and attractions, some of which I would very much like to see. The glitz and glamour was highly advertised, splashed on every billboard and banner. Opportunities to spend large sums of money abound before you ever even step foot in a casino. Yet despite the prominent advertising, it’s not all high fashion and expensive entertainment and haute cuisine. During the daytime, these high-ticket "locales within a locale" were largely empty, except for the average tourist joes like me who were merely sightseeing. I imagine the high rollers mostly come out at night.

I also had the opportunity to be on the strip one evening after dinner, which was truly an assault on the senses. Bright lights, loud music, flashy clothes, and people everywhere. For someone like me who likes to people-watch, it was a bonanza. My dinner companions and I played a guessing game of "real date or hired escort" for various couples we observed in the bar where we were situated, and I definitely saw more than one cross-dresser—a sight fairly uncommon here in Mickey’s backyard. I had expected to see more of the melancholy "down on your luck" types trying sadly to hit it big and change their fortunes, but mostly what I saw was people from all walks of life just having a good time, regardless of whether they were winning or losing.

Through it all, I never parted with a cent to the casinos. Not that I’m not opposed to spending a few dollars as entertainment, but I found it just as entertaining to watch everything else going on around me. And to tell the truth, I was a bit disappointed to not hear the clanging of coins signifying winners’ good luck in the slot machines. Unlike the cruise ship casinos I’ve been in, cashing out is done via paper tickets. And pushing a button instead of pulling a handle? Where is the fun in that?  

Another quirky thing I noticed about Las Vegas is that any advertising which wasn’t for entertainment or shopping or pursuits of the more risqué variety, was for energy drinks. This stuff was everywhere, no doubt positioned to keep visitors awake and spending their money. I did part with some cash of my own in the end, but not because of shopping or gambling or energy drinks.  Instead, I opted to take in the splendor of one of God’s natural wonders. With an afternoon to spare before my red-eye flight home, I splurged on a helicopter tour to the Grand Canyon. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and it was worth every penny. I only wish I had had more time to reflect on the awesomeness of what I was seeing. Maybe next time, I will.

Oh, and the conference that brought me to Vegas in the first place? Highly productive and motivational in more ways than one. That’s a definite subject for another blog post. 

Two pretty underutilized phrases in the English language, if you ask me. I wonder sometimes why it’s so hard to express gratitude to others or own up to our mistakes. It doesn’t have to be eloquent. A simple, heartfelt "thank you" or "I’m sorry" delivered with feeling can do so much to brighten someone’s day or mend fences.

So here’s your mission for today, should you choose to accept it: Say "thank you" or "I’m sorry" to someone who deserves it, and mean it. 

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