Jamie Elliott Grossman

She was blind (apparently), but now she sees.

In Humor, Me! Me! Wonderful Me! on February 25, 2014 at 10:58 am

EYE CHART 2

It was a few days before Thanksgivukkah and I was at home working when suddenly, the phone rang. As I picked up the receiver and looked at the caller ID, my throat tightened because the number that showed up was that of the elementary school my children attend.

You cannot tell me that those of you with kids are not catastrophists like yours truly. In today’s world with its school lock-down drills, shelter-in-place drills, stranger-danger exercises, nut allergies, sex offenders wandering freely among us, head lice, hoof and mouth disease, BPA poisoning, all that radiation from our iPhones and iPads zipping straight to our kids’ tender brains, concussions from g-d damned soccer, not to mention all those meteorites and asteroids flying randomly throughout space (how not one of them has smashed into us and blown our planet to smithereens truly baffles me), and all that other crazy shit we are bombarded with hourly by the media, can you really blame me or any parent for being for being just a wee bit neurotic? It would be downright weird if you weren’t, in my opinion.

So yeah, I am a catastrophist. I am the person that “goes there” when in reality there are about a bazillion and a half potentially rational and non-drama filled reasons in between here and “going there” to explain away almost anything. But that never matters when it comes to my children. If the school bus is 30 seconds late, I am on the phone with the district’s transportation office, silently praying to the god of school bus safety, making all sorts of deals with the higher power in exchange for my kids’ swift and safe return. It’s terrible, exhausting, overblown, I know. My first thoughts are never, “Oh, there must be a little traffic” or “Maybe a mom stopped to talk to the driver about something having nothing to do with my kids or their safety.” And never, ever, never is there a time when there are no thoughts at all. No, you see the way I am wired, I get the Fast Pass right to freak out each and every time…

So with the receiver in hand, in the five seconds it took me to push the “talk” button, I ran through all sorts of apocalyptic scenarios. Someone is hurt, someone is bleeding, someone is hurt and bleeding, someone fell down, someone broke something, someone is crying, someone is getting airlifted to a trauma center, someone failed a math test. And my amygdala kicks into high gear.

Here’s the thing, though, with the exception of the missing bone spectacular, I usually freak out internally, so that only I experience major league hysteria. I keep myself in check for appearance’s sake; that’s right, to the outside world I am all LLCoolJamie, but on the inside, if you could cut me open, all this pure New-York-City-Woody-Allen-Jewish-neurotic-blood would pool in puddles at your feet. (For purposes of maximum enjoyment of this story, the voice of LLCoolJamie will be played by Billy Dee Williams and the voice of Woody Allen will be played by, well, Woody Allen). I play it cool because it is social suicide to wear your heart on your sleeve. Remember what happened to Howard Dean and his very public lunatic scream when he wanted to run for President in 2004? Or if you don’t remember that, how about the story of Chicken Little? I try to play it cool so that my kids have one less thing to confess to their therapists when I am long gone…

With a deep breath and heart in my mouth, LLCoolJamie answered the phone, “Hello?” “Mrs. Grossman, this is the school nurse calling.”  And with that, I was dying, just fucking dying (but remember, only on the inside). Internal organs were being deprived of oxygen, vision was blurring, legs were weakening. For I was certain that with this eight word opening sentence, Armageddon was just on the horizon. Someone was definitely hurt, someone was bleeding, someone was hurt and bleeding, someone was crying, someone broke something, someone was getting airlifted to a trauma center…. I guess the bright side was that I could eliminate “someone failed a math test” because it was the school nurse calling and not the math teacher.

“What!!!??!?!? What? Wha-wha-wha-wha-what? Oh my god, What happened? Who is it? Who-Who-Who-Who-Who??? Tell me g-d damn it!!!!!” my internal Woody Allen was screaming at the nurse. “Everything is fine Mrs. Grossman.” Woody was practicing deep breathing techniques: Breathe in. Breathing out. Breathe in. Om Shanti. Then  LLCoolJamie elbowed Woody Allen out of the way, while smoothing back his hair and said, “What can I do for you, Mrs. School Nurse Lady?” “Well Mrs. Grossman, your daughter took an eye test last week and she failed the test. In both eyes.”

Wow. Wow. Ummmmm. Wow. Turns out I shouldn’t have eliminated “failure of test” from my list of  catastrophic possibilities… Would never have occurred to me that an eye test would be something that one of my offspring would fail. We never fail tests. We never really even get B’s. So this was somewhat of a shocker. I was no longer paying attention to the nurse, as I was somewhere lost in thought, ticking off the possible culprits for my daughter’s failed eye exam– the environment at-large, acid rain, my advanced maternal age of 38 when I conceived her; of course then there’s Monsanto and all that GMO corn, the city water (always thought it smelled a little off), the cured meats, sushi and shots of tequila I may or may not have ingested way before I even knew I was pregnant with her, and ultimately, the hunky husband’s flawed DNA, when I was interrupted by Mrs. School Nurse Lady once again, “Mrs. Grossman, are you still there?” “Oh, yes yes. I am sorry. Did you say she failed the eye test in both eyes?” “Yes, she did. I will send the test results home with her today and I strongly suggest you make an appointment with an eye doctor right away.”

“Yes, yes, I will do just that. Thank you.” Click

Wow. Wow. Ummmmmm. Wow. I held the phone to my heart. I felt so sad. For I, like mothers everywhere, pride myself on being so in tune with my children’s needs. I can sense when they are hungry, sad, bored, tired or nervous. You’d think that sensing whether or not your kid was blind as a bat would be a relatively easy thing to detect. But it wasn’t. She was reading fine.  Her coloring, now that I thought about it, was atrocious, but I just figured she inherited her distaste for coloring within the lines from me. She never complained of headaches or not being able to, like, see anything. She never ever walked into walls. She noticed every detail about her stuffed animal line up on her bed with hawk-like precision, like if I moved Dolphin-Dolphin to the spot on the bed usually reserved for Beluga-Beluga and Baby Seal, she’d go ballistic.  And she happens to be pretty good at archery (this last thing is a joke), and so it never was a thing I thought I needed to worry about. But I guess I was wrong…

So I took her to the eye doctor right away. This eye doctor was a seriously goofy man. Which I guess is a good thing when you are a pediatric eye doctor because you want kids to warm up to you to build up that trust just before you blind them with chemicals. Man, he had his schtick down. He spoke in this very bizarre rapid-fire rhythmic verse type of way; it was both amazing and unnerving at the same time. Kinda like Dr. Seuss on Quaaludes. I’ll admit I had a short internal debate about whether we should just turn and high-tail it out of this guy’s office, but the facts were that he came highly recommended, my daughter seemed to like him, and he appeared to know what he was doing. After the two-hour long appointment, replete with his weird eye-doctory rap, he confirmed that her eyesight was indeed very very poor, but correctable with glasses. So that was a relief.

But here’s where I got pissed off with Dr. Seuss. He proceeded to cross-examine me with this holier-than-though tone that just really stuck in my craw. “Mrs. Grossman, how is it possible that you never thought to have your daughter’s eyes checked in the past? She’s five years old now.” He got all Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde on me and I’m all like, “What the FUCK, Dr. Seuss?” and “Back the FUCK off!” and “Don’t get all Department of Family Services on me…”

But what I really said was, “Ummm. Well. Ah. Gee. You see. Well. Ummmm, I’m not sure….”

Ignoring my stuttering response, Dr. Jekyll continued, “You know Mrs. Grossman, I can diagnose a newborn puppy’s eyes for vision problems with just a simple flashlight. You really should have had your daughter’s eyes checked when she was six months old.” I’m pretty sure I heard some tooth-clucking tinged with a hint of judgment and disapproval coming from his mouth as he scribbled down her prescription, so then I said, “But I didn’t, doc, and we are here now. So what the fuck good is that color commentary gonna do me, shithead? Fuck you, Dr. Seuss and your stupid high-speed rhymes, and your stupid and useless ability to diagnose puppies’ vision problems. And by the way, aren’t all puppies born blind??? That’s a real neat party trick, you asshole, but I, for one, am not going to fall for it. Why do you think they give vision tests in the schools, you prick? This is your cash flow booster, baby. So fuck you and the blind puppy you rode in on. In fact, I’ll bet you bought your oceanfront beach house and new Mercedes S-class solely from the spoils of the annual kindergarten vision screenings, you scum-sucking opportunistic windbag. HOW DARE YOU JUDGE ME? I do not feed my children McDonald’s, we eat nitrate-free deli meat and drink organic milk, I spend quality time with my children checking homework and doing crafts and validating their g-d damned emotions, we do not drink soda, I limit screen time. I love my children more than life itself, I would take a bullet for them, I would lift a bus for them! I am a G-D DAMNED GOOD MOTHER….you douchebag!!!”

You know I absolutely did not say any of that. In fact, I think I acted all majorly impressed by his ability to diagnose canine vision problems with a household tool, and then I hastily grabbed my daughter’s prescription for new glasses, gratefully shook his hand and made my way to the door, but not without scheduling a follow-up three-month appointment.

The Case of the Missing Rib…. or, My Total Loss of Sense and Sensibility

In Fiction, Humor, Them! Them! Wonderful Them! on February 20, 2014 at 12:34 pm

DEFCON

It’s been a while since the last post containing my musings of motherhood. In large part it was due to the loss of my writing mojo, it left me and I couldn’t find it, so that muscle, like any other unused muscle, atrophied. The other part was the harsh cold reality that my kids are getting older. The kindergartener of yore is now a big fourth grader, a tween (holy shit!) at the ripe old age of 10, and well, it’s just different now, because I find myself in the unfortunate position of having to think of someone other than myself whenever I have the urge to recount in writing the conversations we may or may not have had about, say, ahem,  the stage of development of say, his, ahem, testicles.

And so because I am an excellent and devoted mother (emphasis added), I feel compelled to respect my tween’s privacy and have taken a vow to protect him from my acerbic wit and fabulously devilish funny observations about him growing up, albeit begrudgingly, because some of the conversations we have had, especially about the stages of testicle development are so flippin’ funny, precious and awesome that part of me feels kinda guilty and selfish keeping it from the rest of the world.

But I still have that yummy toddler, who is now a kindergartener in her own right, and my, oh my, she is a gift that keeps on giving. At least for another year or two anyway.

So last night I decided that I could not take one more minute of cooking for my family; not one more fucking minute, because all I have been doing lately is cooking…. Cooking, cooking, cooking, g-d damn it! Cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner, like, well, a mother, and I was fucking sick of it… I was tired of sautéing and baking and frying and scrambling, watching the fruits of my labor being pushed around the plate with ennui or turned into contemporary art. This task of feeding my family can be so thankless, after a while it is soul-crushing. So last night, I made an executive decision to take it easy on ME and grab some take out from this chicken place that serves up some tasty roasted chicken and mac and cheese and ribs that the whole family would eat without incident.

I ordered the number “7” (whole chicken, half-rack of baby back ribs, two sides, corn muffins!) and bam! the kids and husband would successfully be fed and I would get the night off. But, alas, it was not meant to be.

We got home and I served the kids the chicken, mac and cheese, a corn muffin, and some spinach (for display purposes only, so that I could mentally check off that box that states, “Mom served green vegetable”) and I gave each of them one baby back rib to try. A few minutes later, the kindergartener asked for another rib and I was elated that she tried a new food and liked it so much that she asked for seconds.

But as I was about to serve her another rib, my mommy/frustrated CIA agent wannabe radar kicked into high gear when I observed that the telltale detritus of the first rib she ate, the bone, was nowhere to be found. I performed a quick scan of the perimeter, the floor, her seat, under her napkin and turned up nothing.  And it was at that moment that I went straight to DEFCON 5 and fucking lost my shit.

I started to shake inside thinking that the only plausible explanation of the mystery of the missing rib bone was that she had to have swallowed it. With eyes wide and heart pounding I looked at the kindergartener and tried to steady my voice, “Um, baby, where is the bone?” “I ate it, Mama”…. Breathe in, breathe out… “What do you mean, you ate it? You ate a hard bone? You, you mean to tell me that you ate the bone? You are kidding, right?” “No mama, I ate the bone!” she chirped gleefully, because she knows that plate clearing is a crowd-pleaser in our house.

Please keep in mind that at no time was the kindergartener wheezing, turning blue or making the international sign for choking by clasping her windpipe and pointing at it with fear in her eyes. She was as cool as a cucumber, eagerly awaiting her next baby back rib. And despite the fact that my eyes clearly saw that she was one hundred percent completely fine, the missing bone became my idée fixe, and visions of perforated colons, emergency rooms, and stomach pumping danced in my head.

I knelt down next to her, eye to eye and held her face tenderly between my hands, “Sweetheart, did you eat that fucking bone? I need to know what you ate. Please tell Mommy you did not eat that fucking bone. Where is that fucking bone? Baby, where is that fucking bone?”

“I ate that fucking bone, Mama.”

The fourth grader, who turned ghost-white and dropped his fork the millisecond he sniffed that something was amiss, slipped into an unresponsive stupor (a trait he must have inherited from his father) and was just staring, horrified at his sister, mouth agape. He got up from his chair and backed slowly away as if she was contagious, pointed at her and finally squeaked, “She ate the fucking bone, Mom…”

I did not have the time, nor did I have the inclination to address their foul, filthy fucking mouths, for after all, their use of the expletive deleted was in the proper context and that scores major points with me…. And the truth was that we still had not found that fucking bone.

I think it is important to reiterate here, that at no time was the kindergartener showing any signs of distress, but for some unknown reason, it was still not registering in my brain, despite how highly evolved and educated my brain happens to be, and so I called my husband and muttered something incomprehensible like, “Ordered number 7 …. Cannot find bone…. Looked everywhere….She may have swallowed it…” and he’s yelling at me through the phone, “Are you kidding me? Take her to the ER! Now!”

Yes! Yes! Take her to the ER! Action! That was what I needed. I barked orders like a sea-captain, told the fourth grader to swab the decks, and get ready to go to the hospital and the poor kid was frozen with fear. It is interesting to note here that the kindergartener was surprisingly calm during all of this. I was rushing around like a lunatic, trying to gather my shoes, my keys, my wallet, all the while I was trying to soothe my tween; but my voice betrayed me, for it was at an unnaturally high pitch and I was sweating like a wild boar. Overall I’d say that I was doing a shit job of convincing anyone that it was all going to be okay, ‘cause I didn’t believe it myself. I scooped up the kindergartener and the three of us jumped in the minivan.

The scene as we got in the minivan was exactly like that scene in the movie Poltergeist, you know, at the end, when the house is sliding into a huge muddy sinkhole and skeletons from an old burial ground come up through the house’s foundation and the angry spirits are swirling around and making it quite difficult for the family to stay…. We were in the minivan and I was fumbling for my keys and shrieking, “Is everyone buckled?!! Be calm! Be calm! It is going to be okay! Are you buckled?!! Calm down! Just calm down!” and it would be at this point that someone in the movie audience would feel compelled to scream at the incompetent on-screen me, “Come on! Start the fucking car already! Go! Go! Go!” But I continued to fumble, fumble and fumble some more with the keys until finally, I got the key in the ignition, started the van and threw it in reverse.

I started to pull out of the garage when suddenly I hit the brakes. Wait! I thought to myself. “Stay put!” I said to the kids, and I ran back inside the house and grabbed a rib to show the potentially McDreamy ER doctor a sample of what I believed the kindergartener may or may not have swallowed. As I was running back to the van, I quickly gnawed at the rib so I could get a better look at the bone stripped of its meat (which was quite delicious and succulent, might I add) and it was at that moment that I noticed that the bone was about three-quarters of an inch in diameter and about four inches long. I studied this bone for a few beats and then, because I am an excellent and devoted mother, I decided to try to reenact the bone swallowing stunt the kindergartener seemingly pulled off with ease. But my gag reflex immediately kicked in when the rib was only about an inch in my mouth and it was then, and only then, when any semblance of rational thought intervened amidst all of the pandemonium and I finally got it that unless my daughter’s g-d given talent was such that her only career options later in life were that of sword swallower, or more disappointingly, porn star, there was no way in hell she could have swallowed that fucking bone. I turned around to both kids who were so terrified and I held the bone out to the kindergartener. I said, “Sweetheart, take this bone and hold it in your hand. Did the thing you swallowed feel like this? Or was it different?”

“It was different. It was soft, Mama.” The fourth grader, whose color slowly returned to his face, grabbed the bone from his sister, scrutinized it and concluded with furrowed brow, “Mom, it is my formal opinion that it is physiologically impossible for her to have swallowed that bone. Her mouth and throat are way too small. Besides, she chokes all the time. We’d know by now if she swallowed that bone.” I looked at the kindergartener and she smiled back at me and blinked a few cute blinks. And just like that, the voice of reason that had eluded us for a good 15 minutes returned and summarily ended this calamity. I realized that I must have given her the first piece from the ribs, and that it had to have been boneless. And so I pulled the van back in the garage, phoned my husband to tell him to call off the hounds, made a silent vow never to take out ribs again, went back inside and returned to DEFCON 1, and, oh, ate cereal and cookies for dinner.

Early morning wake ups always get me down.

In Them! Them! Wonderful Them!, Uncategorized on September 28, 2012 at 2:01 pm

It is a random Saturday morning, Fall 2012. Pick any random Saturday morning, or Sunday morning for that matter (this will all still apply). I am cranky and pissed off on this random Saturday morning because my eight and a half-year old child woke me up before 6 o’clock in the morning, yet again. On this random Saturday morning, what I should be doing is sleeping at least until a civilized and much more manageable 7 o’clock (8’clock would be just downright greedy). Despite the fact that I have made it abundantly clear that under no circumstances are those children of mine to wake me up before 6 o’clock in the morning unless there are exigent circumstances (i.e. bleeding from the head –and the bleeding must be profuse requiring an airlift to a nearby trauma center, or limb-on-fire due to spontaneous combustion), they do not seem to care. This rule does not seem to register with them as one they should heed at all. Invariably one, if not both of them will wake me (and it is usually me; the hunky husband manages to be passed over for this honor) up for no good reason whatsoever and it is really starting to grate on my nerves.The interesting thing to note is that I am actually a morning person, I like the morning, I love the quiet of morning, I do, but I really like to be able to wake up on my own terms. What I have to endure is more a kin to a prison wake up. There is a difference.

You may recall that at one point in the not too distant past I spent thousands of words describing in excruciating detail the thousands of minutes invested (or should I say more appropriately, wasted) lying on the floor, begging these people to just go the f**k to sleep. And for the most part, now they do, go the f**k to sleep. But like that carnival game “Whack-a-Mole,” a new development has popped up in the void left behind by the easier bedtime, and that somewhere else has taken the form of those people who I gave birth to waking me up before 6 o’clock in the morning. Pretty much ALL THE TIME. What a kick in the head, bed time now runs smoothly for the most part; it’s the weekend morning time that now completely sucks.

Either the third grader barges into my room under the guise of a having had bad dream or having to pee, or some such nonsense, and will proceed to mercilessly fling open my bedroom door with a loud bang, stomp into my bathroom, throw open the toilet with a clank that clearly says “fuck you, wake up,” and do his business with the bathroom door wide open. And his morning pee noise sounds eerily similar to that of a fire hose during a three alarm fire. Subtle and discrete and, oh, considerate, this kid is not. Then after he is done putting out fires in my toilet, he will just stand at my bedside staring at me, willing me awake with his cute little eyeballs, while I try to feign sleeping (thinking he’d get the hint and skulk away). I will then have to unglue my eyelids and meet his gaze, and say “What is your problem this morning, dude?” and he will look me square in the face, unflinching and say “nothing” or even worse, “I’m hungry.” (Hunger is worse because I know he can actually do something about this, but prefers that the something -e.g. toasting a waffle or making a bowl of cereal- be done exclusively by me.) Some days instead of the brutal eyeball-burning technique or the “I will starve to death without you” strategy, he will torture me with a tactic I call the snort n’ sniffle. He will lie down on the floor next to my side of the bed and proceed to snort, sniff and scratch himself incessantly and, I am not sure how he does it, but he snorts, sniffs and scratches himself at a decibel that doesn’t seem possible given the nature of the activity. And I again will lie there feigning sleep, all the while seething and suppressing my burning desire to pick him up and chuck him back into his room.

Other days it is the four-year old’s turn at predawn torture. This child, whose bedtime routine has miraculously turned into a lovely, easy breezy kiss n’ go, will, at about 5:20 a.m. scream from her bed like she is actually on fire the millisecond she wakes up. Screaming bloody murder for me to get up and gather all her things (purple pillow pet, green pillow pet, princess blankie, small stuffed fish, large stuffed fish, and baby Ariel-because you see, we all work for her majesty) to be carried into the den where she will sit and wait until she can watch television.

And so I get up against my will, because I cannot just lie there and try to go back to sleep, not when I have been woken up so cruelly, not when I sense the sun has risen and I can hear those fucking birds cheerfully chirping outside my window. So I drag myself out of bed, and start the day off, supremely cranky and not ready to face the rest of what is in store.  Oh well, only ten more years till college.

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