Not Safe for Consumption

by Fat Daddy, Esq. on November 15, 2014

Zoom Mouth

Monday nights are generally father-son nights at the Fat Daddy abode. Hot Mama and Things 1 and 2 have a late night at the dance studio so it’s just me and my little guy.

Mondays also allow me to slack off a bit on my role as Cook de Cuisine. Some nights it’s brinner, particularly cheesy eggs and pancakes. Some nights it’s fancy grilled cheese sandwiches with scratch made tomato soup. Sometimes it’s leftovers. One recent Monday Thing 3 had leftover spaghetti. He’s really easy to cook for and is a bit like the Mikey of my youth – he’ll eat anything.

After dinner Thing 3 came to my room with a look of terror on his homemade, tomato-basil spaghetti sauce stained face. “It’s in my tummy,” he said with a groan of despair. After several attempts to get him to clarify what was wrong all I could get from him was “it’s in my tummy.”

Finally he said it was “the thing that lights up.” After some more coaxing he told me it came from my parents’ house and it had a button. I called my mom to try to see if she had any idea what he could be describing. Finally I figured out it was a small laser pointer that Thing 2 brought home from her house.

Immediately I began evaluating the logistics of whether he could actually swallow a laser pointer and his almost four-year-old digestive tract’s ability to shit out said laser pointer. As I recalled, the pointer was a small, metal, bullet-shaped, cat-maddening device. I decided it was plausible he swallowed it but unlikely to make that sharp left turn from the pyloric sphincter to the duodenum.

Thing 3 is a sharp kid who does some dumb things so he could tell by my telephone conversation with my mom that a visit to the ER was in his immediate future and he has been there enough to know he was not interested in the trip.

He started crying and the only words he kept repeating were “I don’t wanna go to the osspital.” He worked himself into such a frenzy he began to cough and then puke. Suddenly I had a crying kid spewing regurgitated spaghetti all over my bedroom carpet.

I’m the father of three children and I have seen a lot so I was unfazed at this occurrence. My first thought was to tell him to go to the bathroom. My second thought was to finger through the warm, slimy, burgundy barf. No laser pointer.

Next I went to check on my patient and found him standing over the toilet with slobber stringing from his chin. First thought, wipe off his face. Second thought, check the bowl. On my knees from cleaning his worried face I peered over the rim of the toilet to inspect his work. I learned that at some point in the evening he had a bowel movement and did not wipe, nor did he flush. I decided I would rather pay the ER copay than do any further investigation.

As we reached the hospital parking lot a mere 1,300 feet from our driveway I gathered some additional intel and finally thought I knew what happened. A Google image search and a photo lineup with Thing 3 confirmed my suspicion. He swallowed the battery from the laser pointer.

It was just a tiny battery, no bigger than a penny. I’ve heard of kids crapping nickels successfully. I’ve seen bigger things come out of my Labrador. Hell, even Hot Mama voluntarily swallowed a camera capsule and shot a little documentary that the doctor said was a little slow at times but ultimately a successful production. But that’s a story for another time.

We breezed through the check-in process since all of our information was still current from other recent trips. If only they had a punch card or frequent flyer program. “Congratulations, with this visit you have earned a free colonoscopy.” We had the waiting room all to ourselves.

Then I made the mistake of Googling “child swallowed battery” and, well, you know how the media likes to report the negative and blow things out of proportion? Did I find any happy stories about Suzy eating a Duracell and then happily waving bye-bye to it later as it went to its watery grave like a pet store goldfish 12-24 hours after its arrival? Nope.

Instead I saw story after story of children killed by battery ingestions. Obviously they can obstruct the airway but Thing 3 was breathing fine. Apparently the human esophagus is a tremendous conductor of electrical current when there is a battery lodged in it and the battery can start to burn a hole. Sometimes they get stuck in the intestines. “Good call coming to the ER, I am a really good parent,“ I thought.

The nurse called his name to which he replied, “how you know my name?” with an impressive blend of wonderment and contempt. I explained to him that literacy is a requirement to pass the NCLEX and she read his name from the chart. On a side note, I don’t know why he would ever wonder how someone knows his name as it is often the first thing he discloses to any and every stranger he meets, regardless of whether they have candy and a cool van.

We met the doctor, we met the X-ray technician, we met the family in the exam room next to ours. He had all kinds of questions about the red crosshairs shining down on his chest in the X-ray room where we obtained photographic confirmation that the battery was in his stomach and not burning a hole through his esophagus.

Surgical removal was an option, and we had already met our health insurance deductible for the year, but the discharge paperwork directed a more conservative approach. Watch for signs of distress and watch for expulsion.

By this time Hot Mama and the elder Things were home and anxious for an update. We worked out how we could collect and inspect the samples. Then came a phone call to the nice woman who watches our little blessing (who I shall hereafter call “Nanny McG”) to make sure she was agreeable with our plan. She unenthusiastically accepted. Hot Mama said she would go get a “nuns cap.” I thought given its function the term seemed sacrilegious. Whenever Junior finished his demonstration of his well-established potty training we would get a call and pick up the package for inspection.

Tuesday morning Hot Mama dropped off the boy, the bowl, and the baggies at daycare. Before they left I suggested a hearty breakfast of Frosted Mini-Wheats and black coffee but there was no time. All day we waited but the call never came. Later that evening he produced a sample and I elected to let Hot Mama put her nursing degree to good use. After a thorough thrice-over we learned the condition persisted.

On Wednesday around lunch time my wife stopped by with a blue plastic baggie containing our son’s latest accomplishment. He got started before they remembered to put the collection plate under him so Nanncy McG had to fish out some of it with a slotted spoon, which she immediately threw away. Hot Mama confirmed through manual palpation (squishing it between her fingers) that the battery was not present in the bag.

Per the doctor’s orders, Hot Mama took Thing 3 to see the X-ray tech for “re-takes” and we were given the all clear. My theory is he stealthily snuck a deuce on Tuesday morning at daycare and his battery elimination went undetected.

Of course we were thankful he was okay. We had a discussion with our son about refraining from placing foreign objects in his mouth and he promised he would never do it again. He broke that promise soon thereafter.

Thursday morning Hot Mama delivered our son to daycare without the need for any medical equipment in his backpack. Nanny McG was relieved and appreciated the new slotted spoon.

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Tales of a 4th Grade Something

by Fat Daddy, Esq. on September 23, 2014

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Welcome to the real world I said to she, condescendingly. Take a seat. Take your life. Plot it out in black and white. Well I never lived the dreams of the prom kings and the drama queens. I’d like to think the best of me is still hiding up my sleeve.

As a parent I have to tell you to stay inside the lines, knowing something may be better on the other side.

So the good boys and girls take the so-called right track, faded white hats grabbing credits; maybe transfers. They read all the books but they can’t find the answer. And your parents we’re getting older. Wonder if we’ve wished for anything better? Yes, filling our memories: tiny tragedies.

I don’t want you to run through the halls of your grade school. You shouldn’t scream at the top of your lungs. But you should know there’s no such thing as the real world, just a lie you’ve got to rise above.

You are invincible, as long as you’re alive. I just can’t wait ‘til your 10 year reunion, when you can strut through the double doors. And when you stand in front of your friends who adore you, you will know what all this time was for.

It finally happened. Thing 1 The Super-Scholar has become Thing 1 The Super-Slacker.  She has always been ahead of her peers and school came easy. Fourth grade is taking a toll on her, causing her to question her scholastic aptitude.

The main culprit is busy work. The “doodle in your journal while I count the meal money“ work. The “write your spelling words with blanks where the vowels go” work. The “read a book for twenty minutes and write a summary of what you read on this sheet” work. Never mind that she is very creative, aces the spelling tests and reads above grade level. She runs the risk of being evicted from the gifted program before it even begins because she is not finishing her work.

So we had to have a talk with her. And since I don’t believe in lying to my kids I told her my thoughts. I admitted that some of the work she is supposed to be doing is not doing much to further her learning and may even be a waste of time or not as important as it is being made out. And no one will care what her grades were when she was in the fourth grade.

But that’s not the point. Hot Mama and I let her in on a little secret—meaningless busy work and mundane tasks are a part our lives too. Judges, clients, bosses, customers will sometimes require us to do things that we would rather not do. But we have to do them. Life doesn’t get better, fifth grade will be even worse. And just wait until seventh grade when you have to try to get your school work done while navigating the social hell that is junior high.

She is getting bad grades because she is not conforming to the expectations. And being lazy. See, I wish I could say that she is so enlightened that she already sees through the fluff work and is forging her own path toward accomplishment. But really she is being lazy. Hopefully she understood my explanation that fourth grade laziness, if left unchecked, can turn into tenth grade laziness. And that turns into middle-aged laziness reflecting on how your life is going and wishing you made some better decisions.

My hope is that she can excel for her own ambitions, not just to conform to expectations. I hope she can excel in her own way and be proud of her accomplishments. I hope she can put herself in a position where she never has to do busy work again. Or at least find satisfaction in the busy work while striving for greater things. But this isn’t about my hopes. This is about her hopes and aspirations.

I remember when she was learning to ride a bike. She so wanted to ride that bike but would get discouraged when she was unable to do it without training wheels. There were times she didn’t want to practice when things didn’t immediately go her way. She didn’t want to put in the work to learn to ride on her own. Hot Mama and I spent evenings running beside her along the sidewalk trying to assist in her endeavor. And then one day it clicked. She could suddenly ride her bike anywhere she wanted, by herself.

Parenting is about to become more difficult. She is one of our proudest accomplishments. I don’t want to screw her up. I want her to want to succeed. Ideally her idea of success will be similar to mine, although admittedly my generation’s definition of success is different than that of my parent’s generation. Primarily I want her to achieve whatever it is she wants, even if it doesn’t fit inside my lines. The trick it seems is to run along her with one hand on her shoulder and another at her back until she is going her own direction under her own power. Then it will be a matter of offering cheers for her accomplishments and encouragement when she falls off course.

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Passing Through

by Fat Daddy, Esq. on September 12, 2014

Homeless_on_bench_stencil_Melbourne

 

As summer fades into a crisp autumn day I find myself back in school. A two-day symposium on drug use and mental illness and the specialized court systems available to treat criminals with these issues. So, you know, best time ever.

This summer Hot Mama and I went to Las Vegas for a weekend. As we walked back to our hotel from dinner one night she commented that were a lot of children out late with parents. She wasn’t so sure that it was appropriate for elementary school aged kids to see what they were seeing. I observed that I hadn’t seen anything all that inappropriate. Apparently she was alarmed by the large number of homeless men and women out on the street. I told her I thought it would be a good thing for them to see.

The Things 3 are good kids. Perfect angels they’ve been called. But they are spoiled little shits with serious entitlement issues. I don’t believe I have exceptional children. I understand that most kids have episodes of “I want” when they are out shopping with their parents and the resulting “that’s not fair” when their requests get shot down. In that regard they are not unique.

We are not wealthy. We are not broke. We pay our bills and try to put a little money aside for fun from time to time. Our small community has plenty of poor and impoverished families but no homeless man begging on the street corner.

A couple of weeks after Las Vegas I got to put my theory to the test. My whole family went to Seattle for almost a week. As with any big city there were plenty of homeless men and women milling about. It didn’t take long for my children to spot them.

One evening I walked alone to the original Starbucks store near the Pike Place Market. I had a few souvenirs in a bag and a big cup of overpriced milk and ice with a little bit of coffee splashed in. As I rounded a corner and started walking up the hill there was a man standing on the sidewalk. He was clearly not on his way to a fancy apartment. Upon seeing my drink he told me “I could go for one of those, can I have it?” I smiled and kept walking. He continued, “naw, I’m just kidding, unless you want to let me have it. But I’d rather have a beer.” It made me laugh. I paused and turned back. I pulled a fiver out of my pocket and handed it over. I’m sure he enjoyed his beer.

The next day we were walking along the waterfront when we came across a homeless man with a plastic cup on the end of a string affixed to a small pole, holding a sign that read, “Fishing for Kindness.” Thing 2 had a few dollars of her own and asked me if it was okay for her to give it to him. I said yes and she walked over, dropped her cash in the cup and skipped away with a smile.

We returned home to our comfortable lives. The children were not magically transformed by the experience. They are, however, more aware now. They have seen real poverty up close and personal. When they act like entitled little shits they at least have a frame of reference when we point out there are others who have so little and we should appreciate what we have.

This seminar has been a similar experience for me. There has been a lot of discussion about trauma and its effect on behavior. It’s easy to see a client walk in my office (or more likely walk into the interview room at the jail) with another drug charge and wonder why that person can’t get their shit together. I don’t understand. I can’t relate. I am not an illicit drug user with mental illness brought upon by traumatic events. I don’t want to become a drug addict any more than I want my daughter to become homeless. But in both cases I think it is important to know those worlds exist and appreciate that, while we may pass through those places sometimes, we don’t have to live there.

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Eating Potting Benches

May 8, 2014

When I was 12 years old I had a career path scoped out. I grew up playing sports and going to sporting events, mostly baseball games. My family traveled the country following a particular college baseball team. We also went to many professional baseball games. Aside from the game, I seemed to always notice the […]

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Perfect Angels

January 31, 2014
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Once upon a time Hot Mama and I lived a carefree newlywed life where we could stay up late; sleep until noon; and walk around our clean house in the nude, not that I ever did for obvious reasons and sadly she didn’t nearly enough. Nowadays we may stay up too late from time to […]

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Pumpkin Pie

November 29, 2013
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Thing 2, my beautiful 6 year old daughter, spent the past week talking about pumpkin pie. Not turkey, not dressing, not cranberry sauce. Pumpkin pie was her sole focus. Oh, and whipped cream. Thanksgiving day arrived and the pumpkin pie talk went into overdrive. Our family gathered for lunch at a local event space large […]

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Neutered

November 17, 2013
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“Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.” So said the coolest game show host of my youth, Bob Barker. Hot Mama and I had many talks and decided that we didn’t want any more puppies. We had grown tired of cleaning up their messes. And it’s difficult to take a long […]

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Couple: An App for Two

August 7, 2013
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Communication is key to a healthy relationship. When I was in junior high the telephone was the popular way to talk to a girl. Text messaging is the popular way to communicate these days. It seems only natural that texting your spouse would be a popular way to keep in touch. It is quick and efficient […]

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The Story of Us

July 14, 2013
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Yesterday I went to the car wash to make my vehicle more presentable for the evening. Hot Mama and I were going out with friends to celebrate our 12th wedding anniversary. As I was spraying down the car with the power washer it made me think of the first summer she and I were together. […]

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Happy Birthday, Chica Dulce

May 17, 2013
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The Mexican restaurant in town, like most small town Mexican restaurants I’ve been to, makes it a practice to, upon learning of a diner’s birthday, slap a sombrero on the patron’s head, sing them a tune in Spanish and present them with sopapillas. At our joint they like to smear whipped cream in the face […]

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TECHSHOW 2013

April 4, 2013
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I’m here. Hot Mama is at home with Things 1-3. I rarely travel alone. I am a homebody. I like my bed. I don’t like cramming my fat ass in a tiny airplane seat. But walking through the airport I began thinking about my previous trips to this event and began to get excited. I […]

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