Friday, May 8, 2009

Thirteen Hours a Day

It is Day #9 of Quarantine and I'm completely, utterly depleted.
My feet look like sausages and my energy could be trumped by a corpse.
Still, I'm proud of myself for not relying on television or the computer to fill our 13-hour-long days. I have, after all, killed myself to put down big boundaries around screen time and I'll be darned if a little swine flu is going to wreck five years worth of work.
In fact, I'm proud to say that my five-year-old twins and I have invented all kinds of new activities which we just might return to after we've been sprung from captivity.
Then again, some ideas were born of comoplete desparation.
Remember, now, I have thirteen hours to fill each day, so be kind in your criticism.

Laundry Train:
Each child loads a small plastic wagon with folded laundry then makes "stops" to drop off their "packages" at various "stations." When the "train" is empty, it must return to the depot for a refill. Making train noises is mandatory; those who ram a sibling on the tracks with their trains must go to the round house for repairs.

Funeral Director: Lots of critters fall into our pool and endure an untimely death, but lucky for them we have caring professionals on hand during their time of need. Using a net, the child scoops said party out of the skimmer, notes time of earthly departure, chooses a backyard burial plot and digs a grave. Nondenomiational prayers are said. Weeds are planted.

Boutique Owner: Using various scraps of gift wrap, the children choose a "gift" from our playroom "store" and swaddle it. The more sticky tape employed in the endeavor, the better. Each present is then delivered to a deserving stuffed animal.

Bus Boy: Making meals is a lot of fun at our house, but noone ever wants to clean up the 45 spatulas used in cooking. Hence the birth of "Bus Boy" in which "waiters" earn big tips (Tootsie Rolls left over from Easter). The booty is dealt out based on the amount of items each child takes to the sink and scrubs. Waiters at "five star" restaurants not only scrub, but classify their dishes by type, material and color in the dishwasher.

Historian: In this game, I ask the kids to give me an object and I detail how it came about. This has lead us to discussions about the ancient Roman Empire (coins and aqueducts), an explanation of clogged arteries (why french fries are a "sometimes" food), the origins of rubber and protection of the Brazillian rain forest (car tires). (Note: This game has been curtailed due to the limitations of my liberal arts degree.)

Scatologist: Children go forth in the backyard wearing rain boots to identify animal poop and make educated guesses as to what the animals recently consumed. Close examination of poop in home bathroom potties is not encouraged but, alas, often discussed.

Dancing with the Stars: Children dress up and perform "routines" to various mixed CDs. (Possible parent bonus: You get to listen to your own music! Downside: You might have an obsessive child like my son who is currently jonesing on Lisa Loeb's compilation of kiddie camp hits. You will also have to explain why everyone on the T.V. show is nearly naked all the time.)

Furniture Movers: Children push, pull, flip over, de-cushion all major pieces of furniture in the house, including antiques bequethed to you by your late grandmother. The aim is to "re-arrange" things and "make them new-ish."

Name the Baby: There is much debate over what we'll call Baby #3 (a girl). Competition over who can come up with the most ridiculous name affords hours of fairly quiet contemplation. Options now include "Hen," "Wren," "Sven," "Violet," "Pillow" and "Shoe." (Potential downside: You have to get pregnant again.)

"I went to the store...": Lay out this starter phrase and let the children add on details. The point here is to be silly. We've purchased pink elephants, 497 bottles of nailpolish, wigs for dogs, beavers.

Swiss Family Robinson: The children unearth rope from the garage and tie it around all remaining Easter baskets. Next, they climb to the top of the swing set and loop the rope around the roof. Snacks and/or dinner can be pulled to the top of swing set. (Parent bonus: No dishes!)

Santa's Sleigh: When it begins to rain--and invariably it will do so for days at a time during your next quarantine--bring the rope inside. Loop the rope around folding chairs allowing lots of lead rope to dangle in front. Have one child play Santa and the others the reindeer. (Do not attempt this on hard wood floors.)

Drive Mom Crazy: Try laying down for a well-deserved 32-second nap on the couch and children will immediately find ways to interrupt your slumber. They will find forgotten feathers to tickle your nose, alternately pull at your toes, sing song about poop and drag chairs to the pantry to plow through bags of baking chips.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Doctor's Office

It was reckless, this visit to the city medical center. I knew that.
Regardless, I snapped the latex gloves over the cuffs of my sleeve, pulled a rumpled Kleenex over my mouth and nose then handed my husband his own costume. We hoped these small protections would keep out the swine flu germs as we entered the busy emergency facility, a center that would likely be receiving patients with the full-blown virus. They were our only options, however: Both our neighborhood drugstores were sold out of surgical masks and didn't expect to refill their shelves for a week.
As we bolted across the parking lot, I again questioned my decision to come.
A routine obstetrics exam seemed at first glance a ridiculous reason to break my two-week quarantine. This timeframe had, after all, been suggested by a veteran physician who said contracting the virus might bring harm to my unborn baby. We had happily complied, going so far as to pull our five-year-old twins out of preschool and creating a homemade hazmat zone for my husband to decontaiminate himself after work.
Still, I had to weigh the odds of catching swine flu against the need for baseline numbers. See, I had been on bedrest for two months with my first pregnancy then struck suddenly with pre-eclampsia at 34 weeks, forcing me into an emergency C-section and two weeks of NICU time. Thus, I wanted to make sure my OB knew what my body looked like healthy so that he could detect if it ever began to sour.
Jim gave a little moan.
"My God, there are no obvious stairs," he muttered.
Having worked in hospitals as a college pre-med major, my husband knew firsthand how dirty they were. Our strategy had thus been to run like rabbits through the enterance then dash up the staircase to the OB's office on the third floor to avoid as many people as possible. Now were were faced with riding a huge elevator with other patients and--gasp--touching elevator buttons.
There seemed to be no choice.
The doors slid open and, lucky for us, we were alone all the way to the third floor.
That's when we encountered the crowd.
The office--home to a lucrative practice that included maybe nine OBs--was packed with at least a dozen hacking, sneezing pregnant women, their spouses and several snot-nosed kids depite the early hour. (Our own children, whom we planned to bring with us to learn the baby's gender, were carefully squirreled away with a friend who had quarantined her own offspring then shellacked her home in Lysol.)
"This place sounds like a tuburculosis ward," Jim said, taking a chair and eyeing another near the door.
I signed in with the front desk using a gloved hand and my own ballpoint.
Then, we waited.
And waited.
And waited.
Time seemed to drip by.
Jim reached for a magazine but stopped short.
"That's covered in swine flu!" I screeched using marital ESP.
He stuffed his latexed hands in his pockets.
The door of the office suddenly flew open and in strode a gigantic man carrying a battered briefcase.
He marched directly to the nurse's window and pushed open the glass.
"I'm here about the virus," he snapped.
"Oh, yes, yes!" said the nurse. "We'll prioritze you. Just a moment."
The man coughed roughly into his shirtsleeve.
My God, I though, I've walked into the heart of darkness!
I have just sealed the fate of an innocent!
I am going to get swine flu!
My baby will be born with a snout or at the very least reject innoculating breast milk in lieu of pork byproducts!
Sweat began to pool on my forehead.
"Do you want to leave?" Jim whispered.
Just then, the door swung open and three nurses with concerned faces peered out.
"Oh, Mr. Johnson, thank Heaven you're here!" the tall one said. "That virus is back! Our computers are down!"
It has now been 24 hours since our visit to the OB's office.
Neither I nor my laptop have come down with any type of virus--swiney or otherwise.
And our baby girl is, so far as anyone can tell, perfectly healthy at 20 weeks.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Cinco Day Swine-o

It is officially Cinco de Mayo, but we've renamed it Cinco de Swine-o here in Quarantine.
Jim had long planned to take off Friday to cover the kids while I was OOT, so we had plenty of Daddy fun to ease us into our new duck-and-cover lifestyle.
The children took to the new holiday with abandon.
There was, for example, a Wii tournament in which five "lands" were opened on our new amusement park game, a Monopoly marathon (yes, they now make a version for those under age 8) and at least four hours of rigorous tent play (my favorite upholstered chair was employed, but I figured this is no time for tsking).
Having grown stir-crazy by 2 p.m. on Saturday, we figured it was safe to find an abandoned neighborhood park. We first coated the monkey bars with Purell, of course. Upon our return, we all stripped and threw our clothes into bleach before doing a pre-surgery-style scrub.
I managed to get in not one but two extended naps and thus am feeling well-rested as I go into Day Four of Quaranatine.
I mean, could it really be worse than two full months of bedrest?