To illustrate my point, when I was 19 and just starting my junior year at Florida State, I started feeling seriously odd during a bible class one Wednesday night. My eyebrow started going nuts. It was trying to leave my face. That’s all I can do to really describe it. I felt like like I was inching into an Edgar Allen Poe story. Totally creepy. All the muscles in my face started tingling. One side of my face seemed hyperactive. The other side went to sleep. By the next morning, I sat up in bed, looked myself in my dresser mirror and smiled as big as I’ve ever smiled in my life. Only half my face did anything. Even if the experiment had worked, I’d have looked strange smiling like that at 7 a.m. But as it was, it was much more disturbing.
“I think you have bell’s palsy,” my mother announced, like she might mention that it was going to rain. She even explained a bit about it. And then, for some superfluous reason, we went to the pediatrician (I know. 19 year olds should not be seeing pediatricians. As soon as I get off here, I’m calling my mom about that one.) just so he could tell us, “She has Bell’s Palsy.” He told me what I’d already known for 16 hours. Oh, and it’s viral. So again. There was no reason at all for me to be at that doctor that day.
But anyway. That’s what I mean about us being doctors. We just are. Don’t even try to fight me on this.
Well, for some reason, all of this medical knowledge that is already filling up my very large brain has made it so that I don’t really like taking my kids to the doctor. Oh wait. The other reason is the immoral pricing scheme. It does actually cost me $100 to go there. And now that I’m sitting here thinking this through, there are at least 39 other reasons I hate going. That said, I don’t intentionally avoid going. I just only go when I have to and take the ones that really need to go. Eveyone else can take a number. And today that number is Four. Baby Quattra. A.K.A, Jenna.
Our fourth kid is a robust little sisterwoman. She’s chubby and tough and she doesn’t get sick. If she has ever been on an antibiotic, it’s only been one. And I’m not sure she’s ever had one at all. The others haven’t fared so well, so many of Jenna’s trips to the doctor have been as a spectator for some other very grotesque ailment. And then there was this whole “doctors charge too much” tirade I went off on, and I up and switched doctors, and charts were moving around faster than a suitcase trying to catch up to a frequent flier. And in all of the swirling chaos, I guess I just forgot about the whole “check ups” thing. I was checking her at home. She was fine.
But then one day quite recently, it seemed like maybe it was time to get her established with the pediatrician and figure out where we stood on the vaccinations issue. So I went. I didn’t tell her what we were doing. We just went to meet the doctor. He looked her over, met her, and then said: “Now, about her shots.”
“Oh yes. About that. How many are we behind?” I asked. I didn’t even bother to ask if we were. I knew we were behind. I think I even knew we were woefully behind. But I didn’t know we were devastatingly, woefully behind.
“Let’s see,” he said, referring to her chart. His eyes were down and his lips were moving. His head bobbed as he counted under his breath. One, two, three, four, five…..six, seven, eight….nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen…fourteen.” He said. His voice seemed unnaturally high and glib and he paused for just a fraction of a second to let that final number have some hang time before he said, “We’ll need to split that up over 5 visits.” Oh good. She’s going to love me for this, I thought. As if the doctor really needed to continue, he added one final note, “What I find funny about all of this is that you are pro vaccination!” Ha ha ha ha ha. I know! Isn’t that a gem? Welcome to my world, doctor. It’s crazy in here. And by the way, I pay you money, so stop mocking me. I did manage to show shock, because it was a staggering number he’d proposed, “Have I taken her to any of her check ups?” He looked down at the chart again. “Yes, you took her for her 2 month and her 4 month.” Huh. She’s 3. His expression was blank. So was mine. Huh.
Actually, I do like this doctor. But he could be a tad less blunt, if I’m telling it straight. Especially since I don’t need him. I have my mom. And myself.
So, to add to the fun of that 14-shot diagnosis, on my way out he handed me a stack of papers to do some lead poison testing on the baby. This, I must admit, I have no intention of doing. Though I am pro-vaccination, I am anti-lead-poison-testing. That just reeks of doctor-insurance scam to me. Perhaps this thinking caused me to subconsciously place the stack of papers up against my windshield as I strapped the girls in the car. I’m not really sure about that. But the effect was clear. I pulled out into 56th street and 130,000 papers went flying into the Tampa sky like confetti in front of a fan. Well, pooh. That’s a problem. I had to pull into the median, and while my ridiculously bewildered girls watched, I darted into traffic, between spurts of passing cars, and collected the lead poison testing papers.
Does it get better?
Yes, it does.
We were in a super big hurry that day, because it was a half day at school and because that’s just how these things seem to go. Before we could pick up the boys, we had to pick up a pie crust at the grocery store. We only needed this one thing. And in case you don’t see it coming yet: Super big hurry + quick stop = spontaneous catastrophic event. I am still so dumb in matters of daily living that I did not see this one coming. We threw Jenna into a cart, because she really cannot be trusted anywhere. Ever. And Lucy, who’s 4, was on foot. And as I was staring at the wall of Pillsbury products, Lucy began to cough. A lot.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Yes, Mommy. I’m fine.” She replied, without hesitation. OK, good. That’s good. My eyes went back to shopping mode. The coughing started again, this time with some disturbing cadences thrown in.
“Seriously,” I said. “Are you okay? Are you going to throw up?” I asked, growing more alarmed.
“No, I’m not going to throw up. I’m okay.” OK. If you say so. But oh man. That cough. And those cadences. And there it came. Up came the Frosty I had bought her at Wendy’s just 20 minutes before. This all came as a complete shock to me, because…well, because I’ve chosen to block out all the other public vomits and catastrophic grocery visits that have occurred in the last 6 years. There’s no way this should have shocked me. I was just in denial. But as it was, I had NOTHING with me to use for catching a second-hand Frosty or cleaning up the after effects of the Frosty. So I did the only thing I could think of at the time: I grabbed the bottom of her t-shirt and used it as a bucket.
It kept coming. I kept holding that shirt. Patrons were walking around us, bug-eyed. What do you do in this situation? Totally pretend it isn’t happening? Make eye-contact and start offering giggly “it’s not viral” explanations? I couldn’t worry too much about all of that, because the Frosty was STILL coming up. And though I hate to say it, we were out of shirt.
In the intense pandemonium of the moment, I rolled up the nasty shirt, lifted it over her head and now she was shirtless and throwing up on the floor. Oh man. My head darted around like an owl until I saw a couple of employees chatting in the warehouse, behind double doors. I ran about 10 feet, banged on those doors, made some quick “we’re vomiting. it’s not viral” conversation and begged for a bucket or a mop or something. Anything. The lady came rushing back out with a mop and some paper towels and leaned down to start cleaning it up. Oh, no, ma’am. I’ll do that, I offered. I don’t want anyone else to have to do this. So I mopped up the floor, pulled Healthy Child out of the cart, put Shirtless Child into the cart, grabbed a silly pie crust and went running for the check out. On the way, I threw that shirt into a trash can. We had to stop in the bathroom to clean off her shoes.
Twice she stood up in the cart…with no shirt on.
“Sit down,” I whispered, mortified. “You have no shirt.”
As we checked out, I internally weighed the pros and cons of addressing the obvious fact that she was shirtless. Do you tell the cashier, ‘Oh yes, she’s shirtless because she just regurgitated everything she has eaten today,’ or do you just let it sit there, unexplained, as a completely unacceptable fashion habit? I went with ‘say nothing, make no eye contact.’
When in doubt, skulk.
She does have a nice tan. I’ll say that for her.
So. When one silly pie crust can cause this much commotion, do you see why we are 14 shots behind?
I think it makes perfect sense.