"taleS froM the trencheS

National Guard wife blogging about her adventures with three sons and the unexpected joys of Smith-Magenis Syndrome (SMS)
....um, yes. They are tears of joy. Really.

Our Squad

Our Squad

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Going Bananas

Our son, Garrett is obsessed with bananas.

We believe he is part monkey.

Garrett will even peel them in one piece, the way a monkey will do. So, in an attempt to make the bananas last more than one day, we hide them.

The first hiding place was under the kitchen sink, next to the dish soap. I did not know Garrett was watching me from his breakfast chair, until I found the pile of peels on the couch.

The next hiding place was in the cupboard, behind the cereal boxes. Garrett sniffed those out like a K-9 on the drug force.

They went from the cupboard to the bread basket, to behind the toaster and then inside the big soup pot. Garrett found his fix every time.

“This is it,” I told Charlie as I deposited the bunch of bananas behind the water cooler, “there are no more hiding places left. We have to be careful and not let Garrett see us reach behind here for his golden sustenance.”

So, I started placing a banana on the table next to his peanut butter and jelly sandwich before I called Garrett to the table. I am happy to report that we have managed to stay this one step ahead of Garrett for almost six months now.

But, occasionally, Garrett will come to the kitchen before I am ready.

“Where’s my nanna?” Garrett asks.

“I think Dad left one on the coffee table,” I reply.

When Garrett runs to the living room, I pull a banana out from behind the water cooler and toss it on his plate.

“There’s one!” Garrett will shout when he returns.

During the last few months, I’ve sent him on a banana hunt to the laundry basket,to the bathroom sink and under his bed-just so he does not see me reach into the hiding place. That may sound cruel to some moms. Those other mothers who have not found piles of yellow skeletons in their basket of needlepoint projects, that is.

This morning, I completely forgot the banana.

“Where’s my nanna?” Garrett asked with cheeks already full of PB and J.

“I think we need to get some at the store,” I replied.

For the life of me, I could not remember if we had any left. It was better not send him on a wild goose chase and give him false hope.

Garrett sighed and stood up. He turned to the window.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I look out the window,” he answered.

Garrett covered his head with the curtain.

“You get the banana,” he ordered.

I never really know who’s fooling whom around here…

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Biology Lesson

“Did you know that the platypus is the only mammal that lays eggs?” my eight year old son, Patrick asked me. Sometimes I fear I may have given birth to the next Clifford C. Claven.

“What’s a mammal?” Brennan asked. At six years old, Brennan still believed I knew all the answers.

“A mammal is an animal that feeds its baby milk,” I replied.

“Like a cow,” Patrick added.

“Not just cows,” I was happy to have one up on Patrick. “So do cats and dogs and horses and pigs-“

“Cats! Cats have milk?” It was obvious Patrick did not believe me.

“Yes.” I reminded him of the litter of kittens we saw taking their lunch break.

“Oh, yeah,” Patrick nodded.

“Yuck!” Brennan held up his hand. “I do not want to drink cat-milk!”

Patrick laughed and shook his head, “Don’t worry Brennan. Humans drink

“No, human babies do not drink cow’s milk,” I was thrilled to be shooting Clifford down twice in one afternoon. “Babies drink from their mom just like the kittens.”

“What?” Patrick was dumbfounded. “No way.”

“How?” asked Brennan.

I was like a deer in headlights. I should have noticed where this line of questioning was headed. The victory of being the smart one was suddenly bitter. I couldn’t say the words. And of course, visual aides were out of the question.

“You know,” I looked at them with raised eyebrows.

“No, seriously. I don’t,” Patrick looked so innocent.

How could those boys not notice my cousin and her baby at the last family get-together? I’m sure the breastfeeding did not escape my husband’s attention.

I pointed my finger in front of me and decided to go with the visual aides after all. Patrick’s eyes bugged out of their sockets.

“No!” he cried.

Brennan covered his mouth with his hands and ran into the bathroom.

“Did I…” Patrick could not finish the rest of sentence.

“No, you took formula from a bottle,” I answered.

“What about me?” Brennan peeked around the corner.

“You all were feed from a bottle.” I could feel the sense of relief in the room. “Well, except for Garrett.”

There was a gasp. Brennan turned white.

“Is that why Garrett has SMS?” Patrick whispered.

“No, that is not why Garrett has SMS.” I tried not to laugh. For a brief second, I thought about discussing Garrett’s problems of latching on and how I thought something was wrong with me. I decided it would be more enjoyable if I saved that conversation for their teenage years.

Feeding problems are common with Smith-Magenis infants. But, we did not know Garrett had SMS until he was eighteen months old. By that time, I had lived many more serious concerns than my inability to breastfeed: Why is he not sitting up? Why is he not crawling? Why is he not walking? Why is he not sleeping? It was so “helpful” when our first pediatrician’s answer to every missed milestone was “you are holding him too much.”

“Garrett has SMS because that is how God made him,” I replied.

It is my canned response to that question. But there are moments when that does not satisfy my question of: “Why him? Why us?” But, I had dishes to wash and laundry to fold, so we all went about the rest of the day.

At bedtime, I caught Brennan crying in his bed.

“What is it now?” I asked. Brennan likes to pull out all the drama to delay the inevitable.

“It’s Garrett,” he wailed.

“Did he break one of your toys?” I asked.

We put locks on Patrick’s and Brennan’s door. They do have a right to have their things NOT destroyed…but, if they forget to put the lock on and Garrett “plays” in their room…who is to blame? It’s just one of the many steps in The SMS Dance that seems to constantly trip me and Charlie.

“No.” Brennan continued to cry. “I just can’t believe,” he paused and took a deep breath. “I can’t believe,” he sobbed some more.

Finally, he collected himself.

“I can’t believe my brother is a mammal!”

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Accident

I had to go home and change my clothes. Somehow I had managed to get all sweaty at the gym. I try really hard to stand against the wall and blend in. It’s a trick I learned in Junior High, but no longer easy to accomplish since I’m in my thirties with a personal trainer.

After I changed and enjoyed a healthy (code for “flavorless”) lunch with Charlie, I headed out the door for work. I tossed my laptop in the trunk and put my purse and bottle of water on the passenger seat.

The next few details are a little hazy.

I know I started the van.

I remember cranking up the radio.

Then there was a deafening “SCREETCH” and a jolt that stopped the van.

At the same time, I remembered Charlie’s pickup truck was also in the driveway. And I instinctively knew I had hit it. Probably something I learned from reading all those Nancy Drew books when I was a kid.

The damage was not as bad as I had expected. I really thought there would be a busted tail light/ head light combination. Apparently, my van’s side panel rubbed up against Charlie’s running board and shaved a couple inches off of it. The black shavings and one chunk of plastic lay on the ground.

There were not any scratches or dents or even broken glass. I think those step stools attached to trucks are just for show, anyway. And it was on the passenger side (my side) and really would not affect Charlie’s travel experiences in his truck. I was not worried.

I went inside the house to break the news to Charlie. Several of my girlfriends have questioned this move and I really can’t explain it. My usual intuition would be to lie and hide the evidence. All I can think is that I must have been in shock from the accident.

Thankfully though, Charlie was not mad. I know he was not mad because he informed of this at least twenty times.

“I’m not mad,” he stated for the fifth time as he walked around the van, in four inches of snow while wearing his slippers. “I’m not mad. I’m not mad. I just don’t know why. Why did you hit my truck?” He walked over to the truck. “There is plenty of room to get around it. I’m not mad. Can you just tell me why?”

There is no defense when you hit a parked vehicle. Ever.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I guess I just didn’t look.”

“I know you didn’t look!” he yelled and then told me he was not yelling.

I do not know if he was trying to convince me or himself.

“I’m not mad. I just want to know why you didn’t look.”

Charlie walked back to the van. “Do you see that?” he asked.

I didn’t.

“Yes,” I replied.

Charlie rubbed at an invisible spot on the van. “That is going to rust,” he informed me.

I am pretty sure the whole van is going to rust. Someday. But I didn’t point out that fact.

“I’m not mad. I just want to know why you didn’t look.”

I let the truth slip out.

“I was turning up KC and The Sunshine Band,” I said.

“Disco?” he asked. The look he gave me told me it was the wrong answer. The shock was still affecting my common sense.

“Actually, I think KC and The Sunshine Band are more ‘funk’ than ‘disco’,” I corrected him.

And then, I'm almost certain, I saw him get mad.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Happy Birthday Dr. King

I was attempting to clean the kitchen table before supper.

More like moving The Pile to the counter in order to make a hole for the plates, but I call it “cleaning.” My first grader, Brennan, decided to help by unloading his backpack from the school day. He pulled out a paper birthday cake and laid it on the spot I had cleared. “Happy Birthday Dr. King!” it read.

“Who’s Dr. King?” I asked him.

“Well, he’s a guy that said people could ride on a bus,” Brennan replied.

I was pleased with that answer. Brennan tends to miss the morals of a story and focus on the horrific details.

“Oh!” he exclaimed, “you know what else?”

“What?” I was excited to see him excited.

“He got shot!” And there it was.

“Yeah, I know. That’s very sad,” I answered.

“Do you know what happened to the bad guy?” Brennan asked. “He went to jail. Where’s jail? What do the bad guys eat in jail? Where do they sleep? I wonder-“

“What else did Dr. King do, Brennan?” I asked.

“Do you want me to read the book?” The birthday cake had a book stapled to the bottom of it.

“Sure.” I said and sat down at the kitchen table. It is amazing how far his reading skills have come since the beginning of the school year.

“Dr. King was a preacher at a church,” Brennan began.

“BIRTHDAY CAKE!” It was as if Garrett dropped from the ceiling.

He snatched the paper from Brennan’s hands and began to sing. “Happy birthday to me! Happy birthday to Garrett, happy birthday to-“

“Garrett!” Brennan cried, “It’s not your birthday. “

Brennan grabbed for the paper. Garrett turned away and held the cake up higher than Brennan’s reach.

“Birthday cake! Yummy, yum. I’m going to eat,” Garrett sang as he made an exaggerated display of bringing the cake to his mouth.

“It’s mine!” Brennan hit Garrett in the back. Garrett swung his leg around in a counter attack and kicked Brennan. I stepped between them and grabbed Garrett’s wrist.

“This is Brennan’s homework,” I said to Garrett and took the paper back.

“NOOOOO!” Garrett screamed. He crossed his arms and stomped his right foot. “Humph,” he snorted for added effect.

And then Garrett turned and stomped off towards the stairs. No doubt in a search for another item of Brennan’s that he would wave above his head and begin Round 2.

Brennan turned to the second page. It was a picture of two hands shaking with a dove flying above them.

“He believed that all people should live in peace,” Brennan read.

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