Archive for February, 2009

My Week and More True Stories from the “Hood


“So,” you ask, “How is your week going, your time away from husband Mike, the traveling businessman, who is “stuck” in sunny Phoenix this week?” Well, let me tell you about my week.……

Mike left on Monday morning around 7:30 a.m. That is late leaving the house for him; he is usually long gone before 7 a.m. He was really dawdling around because he had an 8 a.m. breakfast meeting at the Marriott.

By 7:30 I was up, dressed and had the upper floor of the house marginally straightened. Two kids had been fed; two sack lunches had been made. The other child was sitting on the bathroom floor with her legs wrapped around the base of the toilet. Her tummy hurt. Mike was going off to a full breakfast served to him at the hotel and I got the crumbs of the box of Froot Loops cereal and the warm drizzles of milk that were left in the milk bottle which had been sitting on the counter for an hour after somebody forgot to put it away. I ate those crumbs, a few taco chips that were going in a school lunch and drank a swig of the juice that somebody left on the breakfast table and forgot to finish. I should have known better, I’m not a novice at this motherhood thing. There were large floating junks of toast that I slurped down before I knew what I was doing.

I asked Mike to take Emily to school on the way to his meeting to which he rolled his eyes and promptly replied, “I suppose so if she can be ready in two minutes. I’ve really got to get going.” “Yes, I bet you do,” I said with a smile and a lilt in my voice.

The day passed with a lot of groaning and complaining from Abby and a few phone calls from Mike which one would suppose would be like, “I just called to tell you that I love you before I go. I was on my way to the airport and was thinking of you.” Instead, the conversation went like this, “I need you to pay the bills. I forgot.” And, “Did you remember to pack my hemorrhoid cream? You know how I need that when I travel!” Yeah, yeah whatever…

Abby spent the day with a low grade fever and was very whiny and in a miserable grump. Soon she began to swell up with a nasty case of hives. Sure she did, of course!!! Daddy’s gone, so now we are going to give Mommy a cerebral hemorrhage! What to do??? I called the physician on call and she recommended I dose her with liquid children’s Benadryl and Zantac. Should I have them both here at my easy disposal??? Thus began the dismantling of the house…I was flying through cupboards digging in my secret hoards of medicines…found a Zantac in the bottom of my purse next to a mint that had been sucked on and discarded and which was now collecting the fuzzies of my purse. What about the Benadryl???

BINGO! I found it in my mondo first aid kit that I had almost forgotten in the car. This is the same first aid kit that many have taunted me about because it is such a behemoth. They will all be left laughing when I pull out the Jaws of Life to save them or the cardiac paddles to shock them back into a normal heart rhythm.

After the dose of Benadryl came the calm. That is, the calm before the proverbial storm. The first thing I knew Abby was barfing her head off…my least favorite thing to help a child with. Where in the hell was her damn father??? I knew I had to go in the bathroom and act like a grownup, but I DIDN’T WANT TO!!!! Doesn’t anybody understand? I never promised to be the head-holder of the barfer.

Well, at least the hives were gone and after a couple of hours of her heaving violently (and me trying not to!) I was able to remove the bar of Zest soap that I had duct taped to my face/nose so I wouldn’t have to smell the vomit. Just as I was escorting her to my bed (which was encased in an old shower curtain lest it be barfed upon) Will came running into my bedroom and said, “Emily is sleep walking down the stairs!” He helped me round her up and put her in bed and then began what can only be described as the night from hell that started from a small armchair in my bedroom. After Abby rolled and rolled for several hours in my bed, making sure to make large crinkling sounds on the shower curtain which I was sure was heralding a hive induced seizure, I finally moved to the love seat in the family room where I remained bent like a pretzel until 5:45 a.m. the next day, when it was time to start the whole motherhood thing over again.

That day involved taking Abby to the doctor and having the doctor run every test known to man only to tell me that she had a virus. “She has a WHAT? I had to hold this child down with my legs wrapped around her waist and my left hand plastered across her forehead in order to get a sample from her nose for influenza and swab from her throat for strep and now you have the nerve to tell me it is a VIRUS! I beg your pardon!!!” I have been to that office four times since February 1. The nurses all know me by name; we exchange recipes for goodness sakes! There is a parking spot up front with my name painted in large yellow letters stating, “Reserved for GRIES: Our Patient of the Month.” Why can’t they just give you some sort of frequent visitor punch card? Like four visits and the fifth strep swab is free? At least I’d feel like I got something out of the deal!

Today’s trauma was one that I had never suspected or anticipated. I must admit here and now that I cannot read manuals. Can’t read them and understand how to use whatever appliance. You want me to try to work that new microwave? Well, don’t expect me to be able to read the directions and understand how it works. My “brain” is not wired that way. I have to experiment with the appliance first and then perhaps, if I am lucky, figure out how to run the thing. I also cannot fix things that are broken. Anyway, they have people you can pay for things like that!

So when I realized that the liquid fabric softener dispenser on my washing machine was clogged, I thought of reading the manual, but instead hit the speed dial number for our local appliance store. Soon I was instructed by a very manly woman named “Pat” how to dismantle the dispenser. “She” kindly said, “We recommend that you dismantle this piece and clean it every two weeks or so,” to which I not so kindly replied, “You have got to be kidding me! How come nobody told me this when I bought this washing machine from you six years ago??” No reply from Pat’s end. Go figure.

So after attempting for twenty minutes with two butter knives to pry apart the dispenser, (steak knives would have been too sharp and dangerous! Duh! I do know that!!!) I managed to pry it off and was greeted with six years worth of black grime. To have a good idea what I was dealing with, pull out that drain thingy that is in your bathroom sink…you know that black gooey, stinky stuff that accumulates on the drain thingy after you forget to clean the sink for a couple of weeks??? That is what I mean; only this time it was six years of accumulated black slime.

It took me almost three hours to clean it and one telephone call to my best friend to say, “You have got to get over here to see the slick that I found.” You really can only call your best friend and invite her over to look at your filth. Other people wouldn’t come; a best friend always will. And she’ll tell you how she really wants to clean under her dishwasher but her husband tells her that if they move it, it’ll never work again (you don’t want that to happen, do you???) and better to let the next people who buy the house clean under there. Yeah, he obviously is a member of the Friends-of-Mike-Club.

So, in case any of you are wondering how I am doing here in Marion, Iowa…now you know for sure. Just another day in the life of Korky Gries: mom, plumber, doctor and wife extraordinaire. All of the above is true and I will swear by it. Or swear through it.

Van for Sale or Don’t Try this at Home

I always try to make going to school in the mornings an adventure. What better time to bond with your children than when they are strapped in a seat and are a captive audience forced to listen to you? I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that most mornings are a panic; are they at your house? Remember how in the olden days Moms had time to get their kids off to school? My mother always made a breakfast for us, she made sure we had our vitamins and then she sent us off to school secure in the knowledge that she had done her best to ensure that another day was started on the right foot.

These days it’s all about speed and ease of preparation of food, isn’t it?

Breakfasts are from the freezer; they are usually called ‘Breakfast Bites’ or some such thing that is made to sound convenient, yet usually end up tasting like the cardboard they come in. I’m pretty sure that June Cleaver never would have served ‘Breakfast Bites’ to the Bev! After breakfast is inhaled it’s time to drive carpool and all the fun that comes from captivity with your mother.

In fact, I don’t recall there ever being such a thing as “car pool” when I was a kid. You either road the bus if you lived in the country or you walked; some people called that taking ‘shanks mare’. I don’t care what they called it, my mother made me walk. The exercise was good for us and it cured what ailed you. By the time you got to school you were invigorated and ready to learn. Or that was the idea anyway. I didn’t mind, unless it was January, then I complained that it was child abuse.

Do you remember how it was to grow up in Iowa and have to walk everywhere in the dead of winter? You always hoped that you didn’t have a cold, because if you did, your nose would be frozen together by the time you made it to the school. Your thighs would be unfeeling because who had snow pants? I think they were called wet jeans when I was a kid. Mom would take two Wonder Bread wrappers and put them on my feet to keep my socks dry. Usually by the time I got to school the snow would be in squeaking in the Wonder bag. I held in the snow wonderfully well.

I’m of that generation who wants to do better for my kids; they shouldn’t have to suffer the way I did. So I drive them in their Gore-Tex snow pants and fleece lined boots in a car pool, to a school that is less than any distance that I ever walked. Aren’t I a good mother?

A few years ago we had a car pool with a family about .25 miles from here and one morning we got in the van and Will said, “Mom, what’s that black thing rolling on the floor?” We were running late and I was in a less than good humor. I said, “Will, it’s probably a toy, sit back and buckle up.” I started to put the car in reverse when out of the corner of my eye I saw a kamikaze mouse. It was a mouse on a mission mind you, not your slow moving hesitant variety.

Little Mickey was freaked out that we had invaded his space and was hurling his body as fast and as wild as he could around the inside of the van with us. Of course, being the calm, collected person that I am I went, “BLLLLLAAHHHH!” and jumped out of the van screaming bloody murder! It’s each man for himself and damn the kids who are strapped in the van, unable to save themselves!

At this point Will was bawling, Emily was screeching and as she was trapped, strapped in her car seat, Abby was looking quizzically at me like, “Mom, what the heck is the matter with you?” I had no other choice but to get back in the car and take Will to school. So I put it in reverse. Now, let me mention here that this should not be done by another family in the interest of safety, but my kids (one still screaming, the other blubbering hysterically) sat on the backs of their van seats while I went from 0 to 85 mph to the other family’s house.

I drove, twisted like a pretzel, with one foot completely in the air, the other foot jammed on the accelerator. I whipped into their driveway and ended up taking their car the rest of the way to school. Then their retired neighbor came over and tried to help me get the mouse out. At this point Emily and I decided that there were two mice as she swears she saw one bail overboard and the other was hurling itself all over the inside of the van.

After 45 minutes of trying to skewer the darn thing with a yard stick, I played helpless female (well, actually I wasn’t really playing) and called Mike at work to come and help. We finally got the mouse after setting several glue traps in the car for the day. Needless to say, a family pet is not in the near future for us and perhaps coincidently the van is up for sale.

Maybe shanks mare wasn’t such a bad idea after all.