Friday, February 24, 2012


I have been feeling very February today – cold, windy, grey, covered in chunks of crusty, mud sprayed snow.  To relieve this sense of spiritual muckiness I decided to read through some of my earlier scribblings from this summer, hoping for a well defined memory of warmth and sunlight.  I found this little gem, which gave me a few laughs for obvious and not so obvious reasons, especially considering all of the time I have been spending lately trying to separate the what I think I should be doing voice from the what God thinks I should be doing voice in my head.  I won’t say “please, enjoy” because I think that’s presumptuous and you may not enjoy it at all, and I may not care.  So…please, partake.


In Which I Find Myself Picking Up Dog Poop With A McDonald's Bag


Balanced on my hip, Lu leans her upper body away from me and gives me a Peter Rabbit, crinkled nose grin as she whispers hello.  She leans in, snugs her crusty nosed, tously curled head into my neck, snakes her strong little arms around my shoulder and pats me on the back.  Endorphins flood my system.  I close my eyes and sigh.

“hi…” she breathes into my neck.

It is the 63rd day of my stay at home experiment (adventure? Journey I did not intend to embark upon but am trying to jump into whole hearted?), and strangely enough, the first time I have written expressly about it.  Well, it is the first time I have written about staying at home without the gratuitous use of language that would make a cowboy/trucker/sailor blush, so I feel I am making progress.

At 29 years of age I find myself with a husband, a 16 month old daughter, a huge black lab, a house, two cars, bachelors and master’s degrees from the University of Notre Dame, wonderful friends, two loving families, and no job.  Allow me to rephrase: no CAREER.  No calling.

63 days ago I was called into one of my supervisor’s office, and told that my job no longer existed due to a restructuring of the office.  Moreover, due to the sensitive nature of the information that I dealt with, would I please pack up my desk and leave immediately?  Thank you so much, maybe now would be a great time to focus on your family, and best of luck with your life!  In a daze I drove to the hospital and liberated my husband forcibly from his Tuesday lectures.  We sat in our park drinking coffee and made a PLAN.
            Item 1: Decide whether to go back to work for the next 11 months, or stay home with Lucy while figuring out what I want to be when I grow up?
            Decision: Look for work.

Four weeks of depressing and hectic job hunting later (Question: have you ever tried to write a cover letter with a toddler on your lap fighting you for the mouse?  Have you ever had to look for a job knowing that the skill set and job history you have amassed do not match the job of your dreams, but without really knowing what that dream job is exactly?  First things first: have you ever had to look for a job at all!?  If not…just skip this page I guess) that decision was reversed by the Court of Appeals as a result of several strong arguments presented by several very convincing parties.

            Party One: My Rochester friends, who, while shocked and saddened by my sudden….dismissal?...were unabashedly delighted at the thought that I would be free to play and parent with them more.  These are all incredibly smart, talented, professional women who stay at home with their children here while their husbands are in residency.  Nurses, lawyers, doctors, you name it.  They convinced me that I could stay at home with Lucy and not turn into an insane, wearing-pajamas-in-the-grocery-store, using baby talk with non-babies, no longer aware of current events, vacant eyed crazy lady.  Note: I am NOT saying that this is what I think stay at home mothers are like – far from it!  This just delineates my irrational set of fears as to what I would become.

            Party Two: the second appeals argument was made by my husband and good friend Carolyn.  They are both madly convinced that I am supposed to write (but, unhelpfully have no advice on what I should write).  They think my unceremonious sacking (sorry, but “restructured” just doesn’t sound as fun…or convey the emotions involved) was in fact a providential opportunity to explore the next step in my intellectual life i.e. writing.  I think they are nuts.

Party Three: this third and most convincing argument was made by Lucy herself in ceasing to become a wriggling need-monster, and blossoming into an actual human being that can communicate.  One morning, about a month after my nonchalant dismissal, I was readying Lucy for our morning walk down to the playground.  I glanced at the clock to see if we would be early enough to avoid the YMCA mob.  When I read 7:35am, instead of my typical line of though about how we had better hurry up, my mind felt as if it suddenly cleared.  All I could think was:
Thank you God.  Thank you God that I have not just dropped off Lucy at daycare and am now on my way to that job that I really never liked, and that was slowly sucking away my soul.  Thank you God that I am lucky enough to be able to take my daughter and dog to the playground every morning.  Thank you God that she is healthy and happy, and that I am able to watch her and guide her as she grows into a little person.  Thank you God!

And here I am, another month later, daughter in one hand, dog leash and coffee mug in the other, cell phone, tissues and poop bag in my back pocket, at 6:50am on a mid-August morning on my way to the playground.

In adjusting to my new “routine” as a stay at home mom and wife, I have been disgustingly lucky.  Not only do I have a wonderful group of friends to meet up with for play dates and happen to live in one of the most family friendly towns in America, but our location could not be better.  Our backyard consists of a hill which terminates in an amazing little playground, a three minute walk takes us to the cities system of walking/running trails, and a 10 minute walk takes downtown and to the library.  Like I said – disgustingly lucky.  Well, for the five months of the year the city isn’t covered in snow…

Leaving the house, baby, dog and coffee in hands, we are at the playground in two minutes by the long route.  Boss stops twice to poop in the grass of the park, and Lucy looks on in confusion as I explain to her that humans poop in toilets (or their diapers) while dogs and cats, and pretty much all animals, can poop where they want.  While I am trying to set a foundation for eventual potty training, this running commentary mostly serves the purpose of keeping her from running away when I set her down to pick up after Boss.

Our journey resumes, and dog, coffee, baby and full poop bag in hands, we complete the short walk to the park, passing a steady stream of Mayo employees walking to work on the way.  The streets around the park and in our neighborhood serve as overflow parking for the downtown Mayo buildings.

As I stated before, not only are we lucky enough to live this close to a playground, but it is (in my opinion) the best playground in the city.  Designed to look like a rustic, wooden fort but safely made of mostly composite plastic, there are separate play areas for toddlers and older kids, as well as two sandboxes.  We love to come so early in the morning so that Lucy and Boss can play together in the “big kid” area that quickly becomes dangerous to an adventurous toddler when full of screaming seven year olds.

View of the park from the top of our backyard hill.

Quick aside: Lucy is in the 50th percentile for her age across the board, but she runs everywhere, climbs everything, and follows older kids around like a shadow.  It is better to have her away from larger playgrounds when bigger kids are around.  Several times I have rescued her from the jaws of death (or the Emergency Room at least) as she tried to follow a bigger kid off a two story drop down a fireman’s pole or up a rope ladder that she can fall through.  This brings us to one of the most important EM Wife Rules: whatever you do, do not visit Daddy at work in an official capacity.

Yes, of course I never want Lucy to get hurt in the first place.  However, with a growing monkey bumps, bruises, scrapes, stitches and even breaks are bound to happen.  And while I dread the thought of Lucy in pain, I dread perhaps even more the though of my husbands terror, however momentary, at seeing our address or name on the incoming ambulance board.

This is a shift in mentality that seemed to happen slowly, so I am not sure if it is a function of being the wife of an EM doctor, being the mother of a child whose father is an EM doctor, or a function of the recent tragedies that have affected our family.  Regardless of the cause, the affect is clear – don’t get hurt!

Lucy, not thrilled to be sitting with Boss, at the park,

Once at the gates of the playground (which must be approached from the right so as to steer her past the large sand box full of dewy wet morning sand) Lucy runs immediate to a large dump truck which seems to have been liberated from the sandbox the night before.  Relishing the feeling of the playgrounds wood chip flooring between her fingers, she squats down in her purple bug pajama pants and starts filling the back of the truck with chips.  (A note on playground flooring:  wood chips – yes, please.  Rubber matting: awesome.  Pea gravel: ok, easy to pry out of wounds, but that sucks.  Sand: you are stupid and cheap!)  Boss makes a circuit of the playground, looking for discarded edibles, discarded trash, large sticks, etc.  I sit down on the low fence that seperates big kid land from toddler land, sip my coffee, and sigh in contentment.  The sun is just rising above the treetops that line the street, the air is a bit cool, Lucy had decided wood chips are probably not food and recommenced filling the truck bed, and when pouring my coffee this morning I attained the ideal ratio of coffee to vanilla creamer.

Perfection achieved.

Happy sandbox baby and puppy.

I do another quick visual check to make sure everyone is still in the area and see…Boss pooping again underneath the jungle gym.

Shit.  Ok.  Ok, don’t panic.  The one bag I brought with us this morning is already gone.  However, in anticipation of just such a problem, I took the liberty of hiding several poop bags around the playground.  Keeping one eye on Lucy (now trying to fit her butt into the wood lined truck bed) I walk around the playground checking out the bolt holes.

Small recess behind wooden flower: empty.
Small recess behind wooden bunny tail: empty.
Hole underneath back of bench: empty.
Small recess behind wooden ear of corn in corn maze: empty.

Shit.  Literally.

I now begin a process I had hoped to avoid with my clever bag hiding scheme.  A process I have only had to perform once before, which left me in a very disgusting situation where I actually had to think whether it would be better to carry my daughter home given my state of contamination, or leave her in the playground for two minutes ALONE while I sprinted back to our house and quickly sanitzed my hands.  I had to compromise by first wiping my hands on wet grass, scouring them with sand until they were red and raw, and carrying Lucy back on my hip with an uncontaminated forearm while attempting not to touch her with my hands.

I scour the playground and nearby trash cans for suitable poop picking up trash.  What kind of trash can you use to pick up dog poop, you enquire?  Well, I have found the following items work quite well:
  • Discarded party plates, preferably large
  • Empty plastic bags
  • Empty fast food drink cups
But were any of these items present?  No.  What was the only item in the very bottom of a nasty, wet trash can?  A sodden, paper McDonald’s sack.

“Well” I thought, “At least it looks to have been a very large meal.”  What the bag lacked in poop retention and hand protection qualities it made up for in sheer size.  And so, prize in one hand, fending my overly curious daughter off with the other hand, nasty trash fluid dripping onto my shoe and down over my foot in the process, I made my way over to the jungle gym.

“bad dog…” I mutter, trying to hold my breath, pick up poop, keep Lucy away from the poop, and keep a positive frame of mind at the same time.  As the wet paper starts to tear under the weight of the…package…I fight even harder not to let a cloudy perspective take over.

Damn it, I am an intelligent and accomplished woman who makes plans for even situations such as these!  I come from a good family!  I am an excellent wife, a damn good mother, and a loyal friend.  I have two degrees from a top University!  How the hell did I end up running to a trash can holding a rapidly disintegrating McDonald’s bag of dog shit?!

After the 3 second wave of self righteous indignation passes, I begin the process of dew-washing and sand-scouring.  I pause to point out a large stick to Lucy, who pauses in her laughing pursuit of mommy who is playing this excellent game of running swearing through the playground, and runs towards the stick.  Lucy views every stick, be it an inch long twig or a two foot long branch, as Boss’ toy, and takes pains to pick them up and offer them to him.  Lucy and Boss happily engaged in a tug of war over the stick, I resume the sand scouring. 

I shrug my shoulders…oh well.  Sometimes in life, you just find yourself picking up dog shit in a playground with a soaking wet McDonald’s bag.

Tunnel exploration.

Lots of swing options.

And more sandbox fun!

1 comment:

  1. Oh Crystal, I just love this post. I think we can agree that I'm in essentially the same life place you are right now. In my rare moments of free time I sometimes fret over my future professional life...but then it's back to double diaper duty (and Dublin doody too). Love hearing your thoughts on this all. And by the way, you know I'm in "Party Two". XO