Be Careful What You Wish For

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A mom's life returns to 'normal' after cancer.

How could one small toilet cause so much chaos?

A Mom’s Life Returns to ‘Normal’

Loud arguing coming from the bedroom next door wakes me up. “I said, ‘Turn the light off!’” yells my oldest.

“Mom said I could get my morning stuff done, and you just need to get up. It’s your morning to take a shower!” bellows the younger.

I lie there, wondering when I had said anything, as I had thought I was asleep. “Good morning to you, too,” I yelp from my bed as I turn over and close my eyes again.

Within two seconds, the oldest appears by Randy’s side of the bed and gently shakes his shoulder. “Daddy,” she whispers urgently, “Daddy! The toilet leaked really bad last night and there’s water everywhere!”

The thought that jumps to mind is THAT STUPID TOILET! We have been battling that toilet for three weeks now, ever since Andrew flushed the toilet paper holder down the toilet. Rob (the school maintenance man) had to pull the toilet out of the bathroom to tip it upside down in order to fish out the toilet paper holder, and then reinstall the toilet. Ever since then, he’s been called back on a regular basis and come up with diagnoses like, ‘condensation from the tank,’ uh, ‘leak from the turn-off valve,’ uh, ‘I turned the water down’, etc. None of which had ever fixed the problem.

Yesterday I called and begged him to please come and fix the seal around the toilet base because water bubbled up and made a mess. I went through a load of towels daily just from cleaning up that toilet leak. He finally came yesterday to install a new seal, and I happily put away my last extra load of towels.

So I lie in bed, wondering how bad the mess could be and waiting for Randy to jump out of bed and help his daughter with the problem. My knight in shining C-Pap armor doesn’t move, just breathes evenly into his mask, and the sound of more towels being drug out of the linen closet prompts me to leap from the bed.

I run downstairs in my PJs, past the huge fish-bowl window with no window shades (that’s another maintenance/children story) and arrive downstairs to find one daughter under the computer desk and another daughter under the scrapbook table frantically wiping at water that is flowing out behind them in waves.

“Stop, don’t move!” I yell. “Let’s do this in a way that doesn’t spread the water to new places.”

We build a dam of towels that prevents the water from flowing under the couches and then systematically remove all my memorabilia from under the scrapbook table. My very special Spain box—full of memorabilia and photos from our travels in Spain that I’d religiously protected for 22 years—sits in a puddle of water from a toilet. I yank the box out of the flood and rip the top off, frantically removing all my letters (which were in order) and pictures (which were not) and laying them out on the table to dry. Luckily, I’d saved a shopping bag from El Corte Ingles and stuffed it towards the bottom of the box all those years ago, and today that bag helped save a bunch of my letters and pictures. But whatever pictures and paper were under that, well, they are indistinguishable. Fine. I move on to the finished scrapbook pages that are just waiting to be put in the book. Oops. Larissa, in her eagerness to help, had whipped the box out from under them, dumping them right in the lake. There go six pages of work and memories.

I wipe and mop for 30 minutes, while daddy sleeps, with his eyes squeezed shut in blissful ignorance, the sounds of my panic not filtering through his mask.

I am hot and sweaty from mopping in my flannel pajamas, and I am sick of my throat hurting and my eyes burning from the smoke belching out of our pellet stove. As I run back downstairs I yank the cord to the stove out of the socket and keep going.

Fifteen minutes later, everything is as dry as we can get it and Larissa heads for her shower, just as daddy arrives to take over the bathroom, asking, “Who unplugged the stove?”

All this time, Andrew has been lying on his bedroom floor (which looks like a tornado hit—and that’s not a mother’s exaggeration), still in his PJs, playing with a car someone had given him at the hospital. “Andrew!” I yell, “Get dressed!”
“You told me last night to get the room cleaned in the morning,” he answers.
Oh for pity’s sake. “Yes,” I take a deep breath and respond with a world of patience, “but the car is not cleaning very well and it’s past time for breakfast. Get dressed and get out here.”

While gulping down breakfast, my children inform me they need four recipes each from the four major food groups by Friday.

“Four recipes each?” I question.

“Yes, one from each food group,” Larissa patiently explain.

“That’s 12 recipes from our family!” I am ready to cry, “I don’t use that many recipes in a year!”

“There’s that rice goop you make, that has all the food groups,” speaks up the helpful dad, “What do you call that?”

“Rice goop,” I answer, “and it doesn’t have a recipe, I just make it up.”

“Yeah,” says Larissa, “that’s why you never know what it’ll taste like…”
OK, so following recipes isn’t my thing. Fine. We’ll come up with 12 stinkin’ recipes by Friday, even if we have to make them up, I think to myself. Larissa shows me the note…great, they’re making a recipe book! Shoot! That means the recipes have to actually make something!

We get through with breakfast, my head is spinning in circles…chapel speech, gotta call about the toilet, gotta make up recipes and pretend we’ve used them, gotta get the cat de-wormed, gotta….oh… the dog.

“Larissa, did you feed the dog?”

Of course not. For the next 15 minutes I make sure everyone has fed the animals, brushed their teeth (the children’s not the dog’s), put their dishes in the sink, has their lunches and folders ready for school etc. Normal, morning stuff.

I wait downstairs with Karina and Andrew for Larissa to finish with the dog so we could pray and they could run to school. “Oh No! What’s that smell?” I moan.

“It smells like poop!” Karina volunteers.

Everyone checks their shoes, no poop.

“Larissa, did you feed the dog?”

“Yes mommy, but there’s no poop on my shoes!”
 No, there isn’t much, not now. I look and there is a good-sized turd on the carpet, half smashed, just inside the door, and a half footprint of poop (every other step) leading across the just mopped floor (remember the flood?) and up the steps, through the laundry room and into the kitchen, where it ends with Larissa, her shoe in her hand.
“Larissa,” I wail, “that’s gross!”

She looks up with her nose wrinkled. Yes, it is gross. She tiptoes down the steps and carefully wades through the poop steps and wipes her shoe on the doorstop.

“Larissa, at least shake the rug out the door and get rid of the chunk.”
She again wrinkles her nose but obediently picks up the rug, and since Larissa is the child who does everything 100%, she gives it a violent shake out the door. The chunk flies through the air, narrowly missing her head and barely avoiding reentering the house. I shudder with relief and Larissa spreads the chunk-less but smelly rug back in front of the door. I say nothing, what’s the point?

Larissa approaches our group, where we still await prayer. She looks at me with sad eyes and says, “Really, Mommy, is an orange the only thing I get in my lunch?”

“What?” I squeak.

“Well,” she knows my morning and she thinks she should tread carefully here, “I was wondering if we were out of food or if I could have a little more than an orange for lunch?”

Oh my goodness. I had rounded up leftover macaroni for Andrew and a leftover burrito for Karina. I had gotten a banana for one, an apple for another and an orange for the third. I had napkins and one kid even got juice. However, Larissa just got an orange. I jump up and run to the freezer. I hand Larissa a leftover peanut butter pie (ever heard of that?) from the cafeteria and she laughs out loud.

“Share it!” I order.

“Are you serious?” she asks in wonder. Why not? I think. It’s one of the four stupid food groups, isn’t it?

I dig some more and find a pizza pocket and send the kids off to school, even remembering to pray with them first.

On my morning walk with my exercise buddy, I blow steam about my morning. I wonder why, when I feel like crying, she is about to fall in the mud puddles from laughing so hard. In the middle of our walk, I find Rob, and patiently explain the disaster of my memorabilia and beg him to PLEEEEEASE fix my toilet.

He does—during the time I usually shower in time to get ready for my class. His teenaged maintenance workers haven’t discovered the door that’s seven feet from the bathroom yet, and they wander back and forth through the house and out the front door, tracking in leaves and letting the dog in each and every time they open the door (again, remember that my floor has already been mopped twice – once from floods, once from poop).

They finally leave, hollering as they go, “I have your bathroom sink in my van!” I gaze after them in wonder, trying to figure out why, if my sink is in the van, is the van leaving?

I shrug, that part of the story belongs in the bathroom saga. I run to shower and prep my class. It’s OK. It’s just a mom kind of morning and I can deal with it.

I paste on a smile, pull my self together and as I head out the door I take a deep breath to face my day. The stench of sewer smacks me in the face. I look down and there, on my front step, is the toilet seal they pulled from my bathroom yesterday, in all its smelly glory. I look at the welcome sign, made by Larissa that hangs by our front door. All the pretty leaves and acorns that once adorned it have been blown to kingdom come by the weather and it’s just a dirty white sign with a little welcome note in the corner. I take it off the wall and prop it behind the aura of the smelly toilet seal. I smile and walk to class.

This week I’m linking up with Kirsten Oliphant and friends for story time.  If you’d like to join us in crafting a story each week, or even occasionally, click here.