ass-pies and cock-sacs

I stumbled upon a parenting forum where a mother referred to her child as an "Aspie Kid." How darling, I thought. I love nicknames. I bet it’s for little ones suffering with asthma. It makes no sense of course, but Aspen was all that came to mind. No one is plagued with allergies in Aspen. Oh, I know, an Aspie kid is a spoiled brat who winters in Aspen. The locals call them Ass-pies. This is what my brain does. Then I continued to read, realizing Aspie was short for Asperger’s disorder, which made me feel like the ass-pie. But only for a second.

A Jew who tells Jew jokes. A black man who uses the N word. There’s an unwritten rule somewhere (with which many would disagree) that says it’s okay to joke about things about which you should never joke when it relates to you, when it’s happening to you, when it involves you or the ones you love. But when you do that, you validate and perpetuate stereotypes, you’re feeding a cancer, some would say. Oh how fond we can be of the cliche about laughter neutralizing a sting. At fat camp, we referred to ourselves as fattoes and bested one another with our "you’re so fat, when you sit on a rainbow, skittles come out" jokes.(Oooh,did someone say skittles? Where?) We were lame, but we were in it together, and the words never hurt because we knew they were always coming from a loving, not spiteful or judgmental, place.

When it’s your child suffering, you’re sensitive to what others say, what they don’t say, even to a pause or sigh. And your world becomes too quiet and polite. There are too many caring messages you don’t have the heart to return. The spaces around you become television shows on hospital TVs, with your small son on a white gurney, your sheets and pillow on the sofa beside him. And inside you feel quiet and wonder when it will stop, when things will go back to the way they were before, when you’ll get normal back. And you say normal because there is a normal, despite all the people putting air-quotes around it. And you worry what your new normal will become. And in all that heavy, you need to break the fuck out of there. To say shit like, "Great, now we’re gonna have a fucking helmet kid."

And as quick as we are to glom onto the safety of polite and politically correct, to charge upon any great offenders, we should be as quick to make a little room for humor when it’s done without ill-intent.

As I read through just a small part of the Aspie forum, it came back to me, that feeling you get when you scour message boards looking for answers. I remembered what it was like trying to diagnose my son. What it was like to think, "Wait, my child isn’t perfectly healthy?" I wasn’t just scared of what I didn’t know, of what wasn’t being said, of what they knew and didn’t yet. I was scared of my own thoughts, thoughts to this day I’d never repeat to another soul. I was so afraid and so wrecked, and in a way it feels like so long ago. And in another, it’s something I know will always be a part of me. We don’t get to choose what we remember, but I know I will always remember Lucas’s eyes the day he needed emergency brain surgery. I didn’t joke then, but I joked through the rest of it. I was inappropriate, which was appropriate.

In extraordinary circumstances, you can scream in a library or slap a doctor. You can eat everything or nothing. Can refuse to return calls, to lower the music, to sleep, or shower. You can live, at least for a while, as if you’re the child.

I almost forget sometimes that my son has a shunt in his head. I took him to the pediatrician the other day for his wellness exam. He wasn’t exactly well–with enough mucus slugging its way across his sweet face to make him worthy of the moniker "Mucus Lucas"–but he wasn’t unwell. He had a cold. A normal cold, with a few red dots here and there. And there. Oh, and there. Still, I wasn’t worried. When you become a mother and see enough things you don’t want to see you don’t sweat the small stuff. So he had a rash. Psshaa. Whatever. My Chicken Soup for the Neurotic Soul and I have been through way worse.

The doc manhandled the beans and told me Lucas had been behaving more like a Luke and had contracted some coxsackie virus. The first thing I thought: He got it from that tart in Music Together class didn’t he? "Let’s all click our sticks today" is just a song baby boy, not dating advice. Serves him right for sucking on her tambourine the way he did. I could joke because I’d worried once before, when Abigail got her own taste of "Cock sackies? Did you say?"
"Yes, it’s a virus, but basically it’s just a cold."
"Doctor, if it’s just a cold, then why’s it called…" She doesn’t even have a cock sac, for Pete’s sake! Okay, admittedly I was joking, as I haven’t been that particular brand of stupid since I was rendered idiot with pregnancy brain. Besides it’s fun to say "sac."

The fun continued when I learned coxsackie was really just a polite way of saying, "Your kid’s got the virus of a barnyard animal." Or as the doc put it, "You know, it’s commonly called hand, foot, and mouth disease." At which point, all I really heard was "disease," and then, without notice, all I could think of were the underside of hooves. First of horseshoes and then of a cloven hoof. My kid’s got Mountain Goat Disease. Phil is going to kill me.

Remarkably, during that first coxsackie scare, I was relaxed, so relaxed, I was almost inert. When the doctor said "hand" and followed it so closely with "foot," I must have scrambled the letters into hoof. That, or I was clearly confusing "hand, foot, and mouth disease" with "foot-and-mouth disease," which affects sheep, cattle, swine, and Manhattan men.*

"Not to worry," he’d said. I gave him the "who’s worried?" face, then sped home to google. So this time, when the doc shined a light on the roof of Lucas’s mouth to show me a few red dots, I fanned away his concern and let him know I was a pro at this mom stuff.

"Yeah," I said, "It’s just like last time. It was never on their hands or the soles of their feet, just here and there all willy nilly like it is now." And then we looked at each other for a moment. It took that long to realize I’d just said "willy nilly." I also realized how far I’d come. How far we’d all come, and it made me smile. "Besides," I added, "if this kid gets anything serious again, there’s gonna be a whole new meaning for cock sacky." Then he snorted, and Lucas laughed. It was a good day.

* "Wait, have I told you this story?" Clearly men who have to ask are dating (first dating, at that) way too many women and cannot keep their self-stories straight, making the foot in the mouth syndrome more of a disease. But more on that tomorrow…


  1. those pics from your new york visit…..are you even aware that every photo of you with your friends you're making a face or a "pose" like suddenly the paparazzi have noticed you (a la Paris) and you just "can't be"….look at the pix again; your friends have these natural expressions (even when they are clowning around) but you have such a contrivance about your poses that just smack of self-centeredness, "look at me" shiite……and you're always in the prominent position in the pic…..oh and the shikseh godess quota is still apparent about your "friends"………how many have come to see you in Austin?????????????????

    FROM SK: Maybe my girls will rethink another visit to Austin (because each and every one of them has come to visit me here) now that you've alerted them that I've been positioning myself in all our photos to be "in the prominent position!" Or maybe they hate the way I pose in photos, you know, "too posed," so now they'll start to consider themselves my "friends," using quotes around the term because someone named "jeznoticing" made such a great point on my blog. What was the point again? Let me guess…"If you can't change the situation, change your attitude about the situation." Maybe you should try changing your attitude, Jeznoticing, because from the looks of things, mine's pretty kick-ass and yours is pretty unpretty.

  2. You were on the 39 forum in CL – I know, because I saw that specific thread with the mom who referred to her kid as the Aspie kid. Do not get sucked in to that forum – four years ago that was a great resource, with really cool people. Now it's the type of people who think there's nothing wrong or ironic with shopping at Walmart and getting in a screaming fight in the parking lot there.

  3. Oh – how grand. I've been wondering about little Lucas, and I'm so happy to hear he's fine- can't tell you how happy.

    I'm consistently fascinated with the ever-changingness of life. Tonight, I took my middle baby, that sweet, little, teeny tiny 6 lb baby, who clung to me with every breath – the tiniest baby I'd ever touched – driving for the first time. Out on the driving course – watching those sweet, now capable hands grip the wheel and watching those precious, tiny (now size 10) feet work the pedals of the car…and she's 0h – So – Perfect.

    I watched that sick, near-death baby of mine (now almost 14) perform in the school play last night, and witnessed her figuring out how to fit in with the 'cool kids' because she's one of the 'brilliant kids' and there's that peculiar cross-over. And she's Oh – So – Perfect.

    And then my sweet son – that precious 9 lb baby – with his girlfriend tonight at dinner – making sure she had her Dr. Pepper – making sure her pizza was hot – making sure she was comfy, and home on time, and he was home in time to do his homework – and he's Oh – So – Perfect.

    God. A gift. Every day. Every moment. These precious babies – such capable and lovely people.

    Keep doing exactly what you're doing. Those babies are growing to be so strong and good.

    Good job Stephanie.

    FROM STEPHANIE: You are such a dear. Oh – So – Perfect, yourself.

  4. I've felt Lucas' pain. I had cock-sacs just a few years ago. I blame my nieces and nephews.

    Hey, speaking of parenting forums, do you ever UB? I've lost the last two years of my life there & am currently in cold turkey w/d. I'm absolutely serious. "My name is Barbara E. & I haven't been to since Saturday night." It's like a mud wrestling pit without the class.

  5. The first comment… (insert head scratch here)… WHAT???
    SK, how did you keep from laughing so hard at such a bizarro observation long enough to even form a response?

    BTW, wanted to ask you, in one your NY pics (where you are NOT displayed in a paparazzi pose), that is the sculpture of the ironworkers. Where in NY is that? Believe it or not, it's sentimental as my Grandfather was an ironworker in NYC around that time (my dad too was an ironworker), and he actually has that as a framed print. One of those men look remarkably like my grandfather. Seriously, like take a magnifying glass and inspect look-alike. I would love to see it next time I'm in town. Thanks!


  6. People that analyze your photos are WEIRD. It's one thing to ask what's going on in a photo- I had that this morning where I posted 65 pics from a wedding I was at this weekend and someone asked if I was singing or giving directions (we were singing to Livin' On a Prayer).

    But, seriously, WTF? Who cares if you're "featured prominently"? I'm a Leo so I always make sure to be featured prominently. Good for you if you know how to pose and look good. Everyone should know how to take their best picture.

    People are SO weird. Anyway, glad Lucas seemed to be doing okay, shunt and all. Sucks about the cocksakie (sp?) but according to all the moms on my Nest board, it's way common.

  7. #26 world's most powerful blog! That is amazing! Congratulations. When I read that in the observer this weekend I screamed. Odd, huh?

  8. 3 Teens' Mom, you made me tear up, thanks! I hope your kids know how lucky they are to have you.

    Stephanie, I really liked this post. Motherhood seems to give you a confidence in an area that never existed previously, I guess? Don't know, don't have beans myself :)

  9. Stephanie–You're gorgeous (and you know what, it's okay-fantastic- that you're confident enough to know it). I've been reading this blog a long time, and you and your friends seem to have nice, healthy relationships, and it's hard to be friends with other women! What's the point of commenting just to try and make someone feel bad "jeznoticing?"

  10. Geez, 3 teens' mom.. I don't have kids but I teared up reading that. How blessed you are.

    I'm so glad to hear that Lucas is doing well, aside from his rashy stuff. Hope he gets over it quickly.

  11. I know it sounds terribly clichéd and you've heard it a million times – but this blog makes for good therapy. Or at least 'Ok. See that. Breathe. I can do this too.' Which, if you ask me, is better than therapy.

    And people who don't pose for photos are lying.

    Speaking of the Observer…any chance Moose will be bringing you to London?

  12. I love your posts, Stephanie. Love, love, love them!

    While I don't have children yet, I do have a husband who was diagnosed with testicular cancer 3 weeks after we got engaged in October of 2006. Fortunately, he made a relatively quick and easy recovery and it all seems like ages ago now, but I remember all too well the pain and fear and horrible thoughts I had back then. I have never admited any of the scariest ones to anyone, maybe because in the back of my mind I still think that articulating them might make them one day come true.

    Fast forward to now–both my husband and I joke easily about the cancer he had. About the grisly side effects of radiation, about the humiliating experience of sperm banking and about the emotional toll we've just now realized all of it had on our relationship. It's our way of coping and it makes it easier for our friends and family to ask the questions they've had all along, but were too scared to voice when he was still undergoing treatment.

    Personally, I think the ability to maintain perspective and humor after dark moments have passed (and sometimes even during the darkest days of all) is critical to overcoming and moving on. Thanks for helping us remember that.

  13. Can someone please tell me how to get to 3 teen's mom's blog?? When I click on her name, I just get an error message.

  14. I just wanted to tell you this was so freakin funny! I love this post, and I laughed out loud throught the whole thing. You are hilarious!!!!

    Love it. Like an episode of The Office…."helmet head kid'….uncomfortably FUNNY!

    Loved it. Did I already say that??!!

  15. Jeznoticing………….I think it is time to pull out whatever crawled up your a***. It is her blog…….good for her to post her pics!!!!! Hmmmm……jealous?????

  16. Colleen, the name of the artist who recreated the photo "Lunchtime Atop a Skyscraper" is Sergio Furnari. My now ex-boyfriend is an Ironworker in NY and I purchased the sculptures for him on Spring Street (at Prince Street). Here's a link to Sergio Furnari's site

  17. Hi Megan – I don't have a blog. I'm actually way too tender a soul to withstand the kind of comments that Stephanie takes right in stride. But thanks!

  18. I, too, was going to congratulate you on being in the Observer… Leila beat me to it!
    WELL DONE!! (Gotta say that the "blurb" about you was slightly dated though. Not that it matters I guess, but I just thought that it was… dated, and slightly unkind?)

  19. My sister's baby had that same disease a month ago, and screamed all night in pain. Once he was well she found out that he had passed the disease on to her. Misery.

  20. My oldest son had coxsackie right around his first birthday. Of course he could not speak to tell us what was wrong. No spots on his little hands or feet either. Initially we thought he was just early with temper tantrums. Not fun, but we all lived through it. Good luck and in case you didn't get this tip already,avoid giving little Lucas any acidic foods or juices- they intensify the pain.

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