You drive around with a stool sample in the front seat with you, and end up taking it to Wendy’s.
A few nights ago, Steve was out of town, and Jasper, our in-house social coordinator, decided he couldn’t live without organizing an impromptu sledding excursion after school. Truthfully, I groaned a bit inside, but said Yes, I would take the boys and sleds to the park.
I love Jasper, and his extraverted personality, and decided long ago that I wanted to be the kind of mom who supported that—who would drop things when possible to support the kids’ ideas. That’s why I have spent more than a one afternoon manning the hot cocoa for an impromptu “hot cocoa stand” in the driveway. (I say impromptu again, because Jasper is a true believer in the JIT/Just In Time approach to life.) I regret that though I often say Yes, it’s commonly with a tone of annoyance. Does saying yes with a guilt trip about respecting Mom’s time cancel out the saying yes all together? Probably. Anyway, this tone doesn’t phase Jasper at all—as my mom always says, his life philosophy seems to be “it never hurts to ask!” Since he was little I’ve been sending him to ask by himself for things he wanted that I didn’t want to ask for, thinking it would discourage him. It doesn’t. “Can I trade this Happy Meal toy for that one?” Was only the beginning. When he was about 4, Steve’s parents took him to get ice cream. They ran into friends and began to chat right inside the doorway of the creamery. They didn’t notice Jasper for a minute, and when they did, he was standing next to them licking his ice cream. No biggy—he’d just gone up and ordered for himself.
So what does all this have to do with stools? Well, Jasper spent quite a while calling boys, and only found one (thanks for being a willing participant, J.G.!). He and this friend sledded in the yard for about an hour waiting for other boys to be available. I checked on them and figured they’d forgotten about the park and I was safe to jump in the shower. Not. Pretty soon I hear Jasper, “Mom! We’ve got to hurry to the park. It’s getting dark!” I really wanted to say no at this point, but when you have a video-game-loving child, you never want to discourage any physical activity. So, I jumped out of the shower, grabbed a comb, and took them to the park. One thing Jasper and I have not adjusted to is the fact that you can’t be as spontaneous with four kids as you can with two. You can’t drag three girls on a quick trip with you. So, I left the girls home with the usual admonishment not to answer the door or phone. By the time we got to the park at 5:00 it was dark (I hate these short, winter days, but they’re not as bad as London, where it was dark when we walked home from school in the winter.), and I felt I needed to stay and watch the boys. I stood out in the cold combing my wet hair until my ears were freezing and I couldn’t resist the car. I sat thinking to myself, “What good can I really do from this distance if one of the boys gets snatched into the woods, or cracks his head open?” (I’m a chronic worst-case-scenario imaginer. That TV habit, again.)
After only about 10 minutes my phone rang. It was Ruby. “Mom! Mom! Saffron pooped! Come home quick!” Then Saffron got on the phone, beaming with pride. “Mama, bathroom! Poop!” She was thrilled because she’d “given a sample” big enough this time, after too many pea-sized offerings. Oh no. It was almost 6:00. I doubted the lab would be open, but didn’t want to disappoint Saffron by not even trying. I told the boys I was leaving, then called J.G.’s parents to come pick them up. I hated to leave them in the dark, but checked my mother’s intuition, which seemed to indicate no feelings of disaster. I knew I had little time to get the sample in in time. Boy! This is just like Mission: Impossible, isn’t it? Except Saffron’s sample would be in danger of destroying any governments if it didn’t make it on time. Ha! Try telling that to the girls! When I got to the house, they were racing around in a panic, ready to jump in the car and get this top-secret sample where it needed to go!
Saffron told Willa not to speak to me while I was driving, because I had to race like a mad woman to the lab and could abide no distraction. First lab: left the girls in the car and ran in the building and to the office—no luck. Closed at 5:30. Second lab: raced around to the other side of same building and up a flight of stairs: closed at 4:00 (who gets to close at 4 PM these days?!)—no luck. Ah ha. Wait—the hospital. They’ll be open! Drove to the hospital and raced in with the girls. A kind doctor in full surgery scrubs saw the apparent importance of our mission and escorted us to the lab through a back door. STOP. Sit. Wait. “We don’t take your insurance,” they tell me. Well, maybe I’ll just pay, after all this effort! How much? Sit. Wait. After 10 minutes, they came back with a price list well over $500. To test poop? Nevermind. “Wait,” the tech reminded me—there’s one more play you could try. So, with three hyper girls I trudged back out through the parking lot to the car, and drove to one last lab. By this point it was about 10 after 6:00. As I screeched around a corner and pulled into the last lab, I saw it: they closed at 6:00. Oh! We could have made it if we’d gone there first! But by this point it was about 10 after 6:00. Saffron’s disappointment was palpable. “Poop again? Oh no.” “Yes,” I said. “And now what do I do with the sample?” I thought. The girls were starving, but I didn’t want to be a bad citizen and drop it in the clinic’s little garbage, as it was labeled with that ‘bio waste’ symbol. So, I tucked it in next to me on the seat, and drove to Wendy’s to get the girls a nice, home-cooked meal. “I did wash my hands when I got this sample, right?” I wondered.
Update: Now that I knew what time all the local labs closed, I was happy when Saffron “sampled” again two days ago. It was not large, but apparently was an ample sample, as we did get our diagnosis: Giardia. Of course—we knew she must, right? Willa has it, and they lived right next to a river where they washed and drank and watered the cows. They’ve probably had giardia since birth! Well, now it’s official and we get our meds.
Update Again: We got a call for a dermatology cancellation, too. So I took both girls in yesterday, and we’re getting both Willa’s scalp and Saffron’s warts treated. HURRAY! All is now well and their third-world health will soon be first-world health. All that’s left is for them to adopt junk food and childhood obesity, and they’ll be true American kids.