Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Gangrene Gang

When Glamour Girl told me on Monday evening that her stomach was hurting, I must admit, I thought it was a ploy to postpone going to bed. Perhaps she had noticed that the phantom backache she had been complaining about for the past two months wasn't bringing in the sympathy that it used to, but as the night moved on and the tears continued, I started to doubt the accuracy of my "baloney" divining rod. I was never very good at using it anyway.

One skill I have acquired in my 17 years of motherhood is the ability to check for rebound pain. I knew one day that one of my children was going to develop appendicitis, and when they did, I was going to be ready. So when I quickly pulled my hand off of Glamour Girl's abdomen and she cringed big time, I knew it was show time. Mr. Smith came home from work only to turn right around and take us to the Emergency Room.

Unfortunately the hospital was full (as was the ER) and the doctor that looked at her wasn't totally convinced. Two hours later we were headed home for the night. When Glamour Girl vomited in the parking lot, we probably should have turned around, but the doctors had assured us that there was no emergency, and we were all exhausted, so we went home.

The following morning we woke up early and sang Happy Birthday to Book Lover who was turning 13. We could tell that Glamour Girl hadn't improved, so we passed out the gifts, we oo'd and ahh'd over them, then we headed back to the hospital. This time we were more determined. When they informed us at 9:30am that there were no hospital beds available we stuck like glue. When gurney after gurney was lined up next to Glamour Girl's, we stuck. When they continued to run tests and the afternoon got hotter, we stuck. Finally, finally, after standing in the ever shrinking spot next to our daughter for seven and a half hours, we were informed that there was a bed for her and surgery was scheduled for the next morning. Even then the surgeon came around and told us he still wasn't convinced because her pain wasn't very severe and it seemed to be all over the place.

I knew better. I knew that Glamour Girl had inherited a trait from me. She wants to please the people around her. This means that when she is sick she masks the pain in front of the doctor so he doesn't think she's a baby, and her need to give the right answer makes her overthink her response when the doctor asks "Does it hurt here? How about over here?" So... I coached her. I felt a little guilty, but at no time did I tell her to misrepresent her pain. Mostly I just said, "When the doctor comes in to check on you tomorrow morning, if it hurts when he pushes on your tummy, say 'Ow! That hurts!' Now, let's practice."

I guess our little practice session worked because Wednesday morning Glamour Girl was wheeled into the Operating Theater (despite it's fancy name, we were not allowed to watch and no popcorn was served). Mr. Smith and I were ushered into a small, stuffy waiting room.

Let's fast forward a little, shall we?

The surgery ran long enough that Mr. Smith and I had time to imagine all kinds of terrible things, but it was successful and Glamour Girl came through like a champ and slept for the rest of the day. On Thursday morning the surgeon came around to check on his patient and to inform Mr. Smith that it had indeed been appendicitis. When Mr. Smith told me that the words Acute Gangrenous Appendicitis and Acute Pelvic Peritonitis had been used, I no longer felt guilty for coaching. Gangrene is never a word a mother wants to have associated with her children (even the naughty ones) unless they are referring to the Gangreen Gang from The Powerpuff Girls, which is spelled differently, but pronounced the same.

On Saturday evening Glamour Girl was finally released with plenty of medication to take home. We were all glad to have her home safe and sound. Oh, and guess what? The phantom backache I had been rolling my eyes at for two months? It's gone. It seems to have left along with the gangrenous appendix. Great... now I feel guilty again.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I Say Humor, They Say Humour!

Humor is important to me, very important. It always has been. The truth is, in school, I always had a crush on the funny ones. Not necessarily the class clown, but the quiet, intelligent ones that made me laugh. For instance, in 5th grade I had a long term substitute teacher named Ms. Bennet, who will always be my most hated teacher because she was the only one that ever found it necessary to tell me to shut up. She actually used those words. I was crushed and humiliated. Luckily for me Jason Williams was sitting next to me that day. Jason Williams had blond curly hair, blue eyes and an awesome digital watch with a calculator in it. Justin Timberlake, only manly. As Ms. Bennet turned around to write a math problem on the board Jason leaned over and whispered, "See how she crosses her sevens? That's how the Nazi's wrote their sevens. I knew she was evil!" I giggled, and loved Jason Williams for the rest of the year.

As a mother it is always fun to see my children developing a sense of humor. This week Number One Son has returned home to us and brought a lot of laughter with him. Yesterday he was trying to shove his very slender sister, Glamour Girl, off the couch. He grunted and groaned and made a big show of it, then collapsed, exhausted. This is the exchange that followed.

  • I can't move you, you're just too fat!

  • It's my super power.

  •'re super fat?

  • It's more useful than you think.

See? I love that!

One of the problems we face here is that very few people understand our jokes. Those of you who know Mr. Smith can imagine how this kills him. Two years ago when just the two of us were here for a "take a look and see what you think" trip we had a beautiful guide named Ambika taking us around. Now, Mr. Smith loves any audience, but the number of jokes he tells per minute increases in direct relation to the hotness of the women around him. With Ambika in the car for 7 days he was in fine form. Jokes left and right on any subject, I half expected to see him pull out a hat and cane and begin to tap dance. But the best part? Poor Ambika didn't get a single joke. Not one. On one of our final days in India, after one more joke had failed to hit it's mark, Mr. Smith and I were sitting quietly in the middle seat of the van while Ambika was discussing our next stop with the driver in the front. I leaned over and whispered, "It's just killing you isn't?" "What?" he replied, defensively. "The fact that there is a beautiful woman in this car who doesn't think you are funny. Personally, I'm loving every minute of it!"

To be fair, Mr. Smith is not the only one who has suffered. We Smith's tend to think of ourselves as fairly funny people and we find it disconcerting to live in a country where the majority of the people just don't get us. Number One Son was recently visiting Red Fort with Mr. and Mrs. Jones (our summer visitors) and a sweet, intelligent, young woman from around here named Leeza. Number One Son and Mr. Jones were lamenting the fact that, by and large, Indians did not understand sarcastic humor. Leeza took exception to this and defended her countrymen, and their sense of humor, admirably. Number One Son and Mr. Jones apologised and politely let the subject drop...for about 30 seconds, at which point Number One Son looked at the acres of red stone buildings around him and asked, "So why do they call this 'Red Fort' anyway?" Leeza, suspecting nothing, immediately answered, "Because the stones used to build the fort are red in color." Really?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Today Is Raksha Bandhan!

After we had been in here for a while we noticed that Indians celebrate a lot of holidays. I mean A Lot. So many that they all start to slide by in a blur that hardly catches your attention. Raksha Bandhan is not one of those holidays. Right from the start you can tell that this is an important day.

In a nutshell, today is the day that sisters honor and express their love for their brothers. If a woman is married and lives in a different town, she will often leave her husband's family's house and go back to her parent's house for the few days surrounding this holiday. (Personally I think this has a lot to do with the popularity of the holiday, but that's just me.) You can easily spot the brothers that have been honored by their sisters because they are wearing a Rakhi. Go ahead. You can ask. Remember, their are no dumb questions. (Mrs. Smith, what is a Rackhi?) I'm so glad you asked! According to - A Rakhi or Raksha is a sacred thread embellished with sister's love and affection for her brother. On the day of Raksha Bandhan sisters tie Rakhi on their brother's wrist and express their love for him. By accepting a Rakhi from a sister a brother gladly takes on the responsibility of protecting his sister. In Indian tradition the frail thread of Rakhi is considered stronger than iron chains as it binds brothers and sisters in an inseparable bond of love and trust. Nice, huh?

Last year on this day, during a normal conversation at the office, a young lady asked Mr. Smith how he was doing. "Oh Shashi," he said, "I am so sad today because I have no sisters." Immediately the young women told him to come over to her desk. When he arrived she pulled out a Rakhi and tied it around his wrist. "From now on, I will be your sister!" she declared, and thus, Mr. Smith gained a beautiful (you'll see what I mean in a minute) new sibling.

So today, being Raksha Bandhan again, Mr. Smith's sister, Shashi, invited the two of us to her parent's home to celebrate.

First She Blessed Him

Then She Decorated Him

Then She Fed Him

(just one bite, cuz, well, that could get awkward)

We had a wonderful time, although it made me miss my own two brothers a bit. They are both tall and handsome and provided me with lots of fun stories to tell about my childhood. Someone told me that one of my older sisters who was still single at the time (I won't tell which one) once said that none of the boys she met had turned out as well as her brothers. High praise indeed. On a whim a couple of weeks ago I actually bought them each a Rakhi, but I couldn't think of a reasonable way to get them to Arizona in time. So, for now, they will have to settle for a virtual Rakhi. I'll let them decide who's is who's. No fighting!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Good Grief!

I seem to be channeling Charlie Brown this week. You would too, in my position.

While in the US last month Mr. Smith and I were under a bit of pressure. Grandpa Smith hadn't decided whether or not he was going to "go into the light" and each day he seemed to lean a different direction. Grandma Smith was doing better, but still not great. I was on large amounts of pain killers and looked liked I had lost a fight with a car grill (which I had) and our kids were cranky because they were spending a lot of time babysitting each other and not much else. Then came The Letters. Dun dun duuuuuh!

Mr. Smith and I each received our own copy of a letter from our old friends at the Eye. Are. Ess., if you know what I mean. (Sorry for the code but there is no way Google is going to get me on that one!) It seems that our mid-April bill collector wanted to take a closer look at our numbers for the year 2006. Particularly the number of dependants.

What? Isn't seven kids the norm?

Oddly enough the same thing happened last year. We received a letter asking for the same information for 2005. We called the gentleman assigned to our case and explained to him that we couldn't make our scheduled appointment with him, and we certainly couldn't bring our kids and the documents to prove they had lived with us in 2005, because we were currently living in India and most of our documents would be living in a storage pod for two more years. We all had a good chuckle, he approved our 2005 return and the case was closed.

Until this year. Once again we crossed our fingers and called the woman assigned to our new case, hoping to have the same pleasant, yet short, conversation. No such luck. She was very understanding about our situation and agreed that we couldn't show up in person...however, she still wanted us to magically produce documents proving that our seven little deductions existed, were ours, had the Social Security Numbers we said they did, and had lived at the same address we did during 2006. Lovely.

(Excuse me for a moment while I compose myself and control the urge to rant and rave against a very powerful agency in very a public forum.)

So, this week we have spent hours upon hours searching, scanning, emailing and faxing every scrap of paper that has a child's name and a 2006 date on it and generally trying not to have a nervous breakdown. I think we may have pulled it off.

Until next year.