Food, legos, leaks, and tuberculosis

By Mir
January 21, 2007

You already know that when my folks are here, we do exciting things like watch endless hours of CSI: Miami. But obviously we cannot do that while the children are awake, because David Caruso is inappropriate viewing material for impressionable young minds. They would have nightmares. So what did we do while the kids were around?

Well, mostly we fill the time with eating. Sure, you might think, “Really, now, how much time could you spend eating?” And the answer is: Almost all of it. There are meals, of course, but then also there just seems to be endless amounts of snacking, not to mention the pie I had to make (because my dad likes pecan pie and I have to entice him to visit me SOMEHOW) and our traditional night of Chinese food which typically involves ordering enough food for a week and interrupting the steady shovelling of delicious MSG into our mouths only to give Chickadee occasional pointers on using her chopsticks more effectively.

The funny part, of course, is that we are all people who normally eat very sensibly. A weekend visit is just somehow the green light to indulge. Well, it is for my father and me, anyway. My stepmom has a will of steel and is often low-carbing it, even while Dad and I eat pie for breakfast. And because I am kind and supportive, when we’re all sitting on the couch eating cheetos I am nothing but solicitous when I offer to retrieve an appropriate snack for her so that she isn’t left out. “Can I get you something?” I’ll ask. “Some cheese, maybe? A slab of bacon? How about a stick of butter?” She didn’t even try to kill me in my sleep, which is proof that she possesses the sense of humor required to be a part of our family.

We tried to think of something exciting to do yesterday, but it was cold and windy and we were all feeling rather low-energy, so in the end we mostly sat on the floor and helped Monkey assemble a variety of vehicles out of legos. Both of my children have that savant-like ability to pick up a lego instruction booklet and follow all 478 instructions to create a scale model of the Mayan ruins before I’ve even managed to dislodge the tiny brick I’ve invariably managed to sit on from my ass. (I know this doesn’t indicate any stunning intelligence on their parts, overall, by the way. The same kids who can do this are also capable of declaring with the utmost honestly that they didn’t KNOW it would be a bad idea to play “javelin” with a serving fork. So.)

Given that the children don’t require any assistance with the lego whatsoever, it became an interesting exercise for us adults to try to peek ahead in the instructions and anticipate which pieces would be needed next. So Monkey would be snapping things together and saying “I don’t need any help” and we would all nod and agree and admire his work and then scuffle amongst ourselves a bit to pick up the next few pieces, and when he announced he was on the next step and needed, say, three 2-dot red bricks, one of us would hold them out and he would say, “I SAID I don’t NEED any help!” And we would nod and apologize and pick up the next few pieces.

This is more entertaining than it has any right to be, because it provokes the children into two interesting behaviors. First, they start trying to hide the instructions and hoarde the bricks so that we simply cannot interfere. (Chickadee is especially good at this tactic. You’d be surprised at how much lego she can stuff underneath those bony little chicken thighs.) Second, our continued participation evokes the kind of exasperation that results in various hilarious declarations. “You can play with it when I’m DONE. Just try being PATIENT,” Monkey huffed at one point.

(“I can’t wait. I want to play with it NOW,” my father insisted, when Monkey was on step three of one vehicle. By step 3 you have… pretty much nothing. Monkey actually rolled his eyes at Dad. “Well it’s not going to DRIVE very well right now when it doesn’t even have WHEELS, Grandpa!” Poor, daft Grandpa.)

It’s not a bad way to spend a day, really, being as annoying to your children as possible.

At one point this weekend I was filling my dad in on all the work we’ve done around the house and what I still need to do, and with a heavy sigh I pointed out that I still needed to paint the ceilings, but that I haven’t gotten to it yet because it’s a time-consuming and annoying job. I pointed out the large area on the dining room ceiling where I’d painted over the water stain from a past plumbing debacle. While doing so, I noticed a funny little area a few feet away.

The lighting in my dining room isn’t very good, so I turned on the light and then hopped up on a chair to have a look at what appeared to be a hairline crack in the ceiling. I put my finger up to feel it…

… and poked right through the (soggy) ceiling.

I may have had a few words to share about that particular experience. I also may have cried a little.

The good news is that the area in question is very small, but the bad news is that it has since dried out completely. I know—you’re thinking, why is that bad news? Well, we know what’s above that hole (the master bathroom toilet’s water line) but we had no idea what would’ve caused it to leak and then STOP. My experience with leaks indicates that the only thing that stops leaks is either batting my eyelashes at Otto (if he’s here) or me writing large checks to people. So despite the apparent disappearance of said leak, I am gearing up to write someone a large check, I guess.

But at least a few hours after I discovered that my ceiling was rotting away, I opened the cabinet underneath my kitchen sink to get something and discovered that my sink was no longer connected to the pipes underneath it. This wouldn’t have been much of a problem, except that I’d been running the dishwasher, which funnels the water through the pipe that was no longer attached to anything.


At least for that one I was able to bat my eyelashes over the phone, and Otto walked me through reattaching everything and told me what to replace. I need to go buy a new… ummm… plastic collar doohickey thingamabob.

(And I think I never mentioned that right after I set up a showing of the house, my boiler started leaking. That’s since been fixed.)

I don’t want to say this too loudly, you know, but I think that the house might know I’m trying to sell it. And I suspect it’s laughing at me. (Or maybe it’s crying. That would explain all the freaking WATER.)

At some point I may have wondered—either to myself or out loud—what else could possibly go wrong this weekend, so naturally this morning brought a fresh surprise. Monkey got up hacking away as if he was a 90-year-old man who’d be smoking three packs a day for most of those years.

“Hey buddy, you feeling okay?” I asked him.

“I’m fine,” he said. *hacksnortsplutterhackhack*

Eventually I decided that he was wheezing enough to merit a few puffs on ye olde rescue inhaler. Since having been “officially” diagnosed with asthma last year, Monkey’s been on a new regimen of allergy medications which includes a maintenance inhaler, and it has lulled me into a false sense of security. He hasn’t had a major respiratory illness since then, and I guess I assumed we were in the clear. But I was ready to whip out the big guns and take care of this latest cold.

The problem was, when we got the latest set of inhalers, we also got something called a spacer to use with them. The spacer is a big plastic chamber that you plug the inhaler into; the mist is then injected into the spacer, and you inhale it from the other end. This has the effect of… ummm… doing something. Actually, spacers are good for kids, because mixing the medicine with extra air increases the delivery to the lungs as opposed to just spraying all over the inside of the mouth, which is what most kids would do with an inhaler.


I cannot find the spacer. I looked high and low, and I have absolutely no idea where it is. We haven’t had to use it yet, and trust me when I tell you that looking for it while your child stands there in penguin pajamas and hacks up a lung is not the preferred method. Eventually I gave up, and had him suck directly from the inhaler.

It helped his cough, some, but it also made him completely hyper. (I have no idea if using the spacer changes the side effect of making the user totally wired.) We went to church, and during the children’s sermon the pastor talked to the kids about how Jesus told us to address God as “Father” because we should think about Him as another father to us, and isn’t it great that we all get to have TWO fathers?

“Well ACTUALLY,” piped up Monkey, in that adorable voice of his which carries clear to the next county, “two fathers is pretty good, but I am EXTRA LUCKY because my mom is ENGAGED and I am going to have, like, THREE fathers, because I have my DADDY and GOD and I’m going to have a STEPFATHER, too, and so I will have THREE! But maybe that will be confusing.”

“Yes, well…” the pastor said, glancing up at me in the choir, where I was busy trying to crawl underneath my chair, “that can be… complicated.” The congregation tittered a bit and then I died. (This moment of mortification brought to you by Albuterol! Ask your doctor about it today if you experience shortness of breath, asthma, or need your child to make you more uncomfortable at your place of worship!)

By the time church ended, the cough was back and my urge to pinch Monkey’s head off of his neck was superceded by my instinct to track down a spacer so that we could keep him breathing long enough for me to decide whether or not I should let him live.

We drove to the pharmacy where I’d had his prescriptions filled, and I explained about misplacing the spacer. Could I get another one?

No, I could not. Because you need a prescription for a spacer.

That’s right. You need a prescription for a plastic tube with a mouthpiece. Because right next to the black market abuse of narcotics is the blatant misappropriation of spacers for… ummm… I have no idea.

This evening Monkey had a couple of puffs of the good stuff through a toilet paper tube. Necessity is the mother of invention, or small boys who don’t much like medicine are enticed by anything with the word “toilet” involved. Either way.

Tomorrow we’ll go to the doctor and get a new spacer. Which I plan to use first as a funnel for tequila, and then to fix the leak under the sink. Shhh, do not tell.


  1. Jenny

    Oh, yes. The Spacer. We always call it the breathing tube thingie. I’m going to have Kaiser give me a bunch of them next time I go in, and I’ll send them to you ;)

  2. Genevieve

    I cannot frickin’ believe you need a prescription for a frickin’ spacer.

    We have three: one for the boy, one for me (so we don’t swap germs when we’re sick), and a mini one I bought to keep in my purse, because I keep a rescue inhaler there and if you need a rescue inhaler, you need to get more of the medicine, not less. But the mini one is not very mini, is a pain in the butt, and the attached cap became detached, so it lives at home where it’s not very useful.

    Hope Monkey feels better very soon.

    And I totally cracked up at “this moment of mortification brought to you by Albuterol”!

  3. Becca

    Feel free to ignore my assvice, but I couldn’t tolerate albuterol myself due to tachycardia. Turns out there’s a new version out in this past year that works just like albuterol, but without all that shaky jittery hyperness! It’s called xopenex, and it’s good stuff. However, it’s 3 times the cost, because that’s a rule somewhere.

    Hope he feels better soon!

  4. carrien

    Taping the tops of two plastic bottles together works pretty well too.

    I love that Monkey said that, not because you wer embarrassed, but because it probably made everyone else uncomfortable too and I find it really amusing for some reason to imagine all those pews full of people wriggling a bit.

  5. Lady M

    Was simply forced to ROL (Read Out Loud) Monkey’s church quote about 3 fathers. SwingDaddy loved it too!

  6. Cele

    You do realize by the time you sell your house and move south, Otto will be able to hire you out as a Plumber. So how’s that crack?

  7. meghann

    Mmm… pie for breakfast.

  8. Muirnait

    Oh, Monkey. You really are extra lucky :-)

  9. LadyBug Crossing

    Kids do say the darndest things – especially when they are hyped up on albuterol… That stuff is wicked!!

    I love pie (apple is my fave in the am) for breakfast!! If you move far enough south we can have pie for breakfast together!

    Have a good day!

  10. rachel

    but, but, pie for breakfast is healthy! really.

    I can justify anything.

    How weird that you need a prescription for a spacer, but I can have prescriptions for 3-4 different controlled substances, nd no one bats an eye!

    Hope Monkey is feeling better today. Sounds like a great weekend for all of you!

  11. tori

    I was just going to write a post about basically all the same things…eating like crazy when my parents were here, mocking children while doing legos with grandparents and my 3 year old’s albuterol experiences over the weekend. I guess I don’t need to write a post…I’ll just link to you and say “what she said”.

    Hope he’s feeling better soon! And that your house will just give up and behave already!

  12. Lisa

    Be sure and get your pediatrician to GIVE you a spacer. If you get a script, it costs about $50 at the pharmacy. For a plastic tube.

  13. Cynthia Samuels

    I do NOT think it is possible to adequately tell you how amazing a parent you are. I love reading about it – it makes me happy on a snowy, icy morning.

  14. Dragon

    Back in the day, when I was newly-diagnosed with asthma and learning how to use inhalers, spacers had not yet been invented. The Canadian Lung Society (or whatever its name is) used to tell parents to use a clean plastic bag. They actually recommended a milk bag, but you don’t have those in your country for some reason, so you will have to substitute a medium-sized freezer bag. Seal the bag, and cut a little hole for the inhaler in one end and a little hole for Monkey’s mouth in the other end. Although after reading this post, perhaps his mouth needs a big hole. LOL. Anyway, this will supposedly work like a spacer and help the medicine get where it’s supposed to go.

    Albuterol makes me hyper too, and now I am wondering if some of the many inappropriate things I have said in my lifetime could be attributed to my asthma medication.

  15. Andy

    Hey, Mir. Regarding the wonderful “hyper” thing. Our pediatriciation changed destructo-boy’s medicine from Albuterol to Xopenex. MASSIVE decrease in hyperactivity. It’s ridiculously expensive ($50 co-pay), but soooooo worth it.

  16. Jen

    Can you buy spacers on the black market? He could have mine – if I could find it. As long as he doesn’t use it as a hamster ball (you know those plastic balls you let your hamster run around the floor in?), as one little boy did: apparently it didn’t help his allergies one little bit…

  17. Kris

    Mir, if you don’t get one (though I can’t imagine they’d say no), let me know. I’ve got an extra laying around here.

    Hang in there kiddo. (And ask about putting him on xopenex instead. It’s a bit more pricey, but you CAN get insurance to cover it. All the benefits of albuterol and none of the hype. It won’t make him go bonzoid.)

  18. Jenn2

    I had no idea albuterol caused hyperness. This explains so MUCH about Mr. Clairol!

  19. MMM

    1. Did you teach Chickadee how to make walrus teeth with her chopsticks??
    2. Our spacer cost us $50 if you can freaking believe that??
    3. Albuterol inhaler never made my daughter high, but the liquid made her incredibly loopy.

  20. Mom2One

    I’m really sorry that you had so many problems during your weekend and it shouldn’t cause me to laugh, guffaw, and chortle so much, but oh my, it did.

    I’ll never be able to look at a spacer the same way again (for some reason, I was prescribed one once. Maybe I look like a young boy? Or act like one, more likely). Or a toilet paper roll, for that matter.

    Thanks for the laugh. I hope things get better for you.

  21. ishouldbeworking

    I’m so there with ya on the albuterol-induced hyperactivity! My daughter had the syrup and/or nebulizer treatments for 3 years………I spent many a night up til 2 or 3 a.m. with her.

  22. Velma

    I have been known to use a toilet paper roll as a temporary spacer, but the bag sounds like it could work, too. Good times, good times.

  23. Delton

    The lego adventures were cracking me up. I love to annoy my kids too, but for some reason they just don’t seem to appreciate it like I do.

    Hope your house issues dry up!

  24. Christina

    Hope the water issues stop soon!

  25. Kim

    Styrofoam cups will work in a pinch too…as will large plastic beer cups…which i had on hand because…um….well, i just found them in my cupboard!

  26. kirala

    We don’t need a prescription for spacers here in the northern midwest. Isn’t it somehow alarming that everybody knows what a spacer is?

  27. Sophie

    Forget Albuterol!! After three straight days of my daughter not sleeping (this was a couple of years ago), we told the doc to either find a substitute or we’d take our chances with the asthma. Funny the tricks those docs have up their sleeves. Ask about Flovent and Xopenex. Not sure about the spelling of the last drug, but I’ll check if you are interested. There are drugs out there for asthma that don’t make you feel like you’ve drunk four pots of coffee.

    Sorry about the plumbing. That’s really rotten, well, you know.

  28. Liise

    I love it when the grandparents are in on the torture of the children!

    Sorry about the crack and the wheezes.


  29. Jessica

    Zopenex is definitely better when it comes to hyperactivity, but unlike Albuterol it’s not covered by insurance and it’s EXPENSIVE!
    Sorry to hear that Monkey is having issues with his asthma. Hope he feels better soon!

  30. JayMonster

    One, while everybody got a chuckle (except you of course) from Monkey’s comment in church, I thought it was actually quite sweet that he is excited to have Otto as a step-dad, and that he is viewing it at a positive thing.

    Second, the water in the ceiling… Could it have been from when the children were using that bathroom while the other bathroom was being repaired? Kids have(at least mine does) an innate ability to get water everywhere, and perhaps water through the tile and from the floor seeped down, and was just hanging out there waiting to be discovered… just a thought.

  31. hillz

    i work for a respiratory clinic here in NZ, all you have to do is write to one of the asthma drug companies and they send you free spacers. we give ours out free, but only the horrid huge ones instead of the lovely little ones.

    the good thing about spacers is that the patient doesnt need to coordinate breathing in deeply with pushing the puffer down can just breath normally, and take as many breaths as you make, gives you 80% more medication, instead of losing it all in the mouth.

    not just for little boys, we recommend them for ALL our patients, every respiratory disease as well not just asthma.

  32. Hannah

    I love that Monkey thinks he’s extra lucky. That’s so awesome. And if people were uncomfortable about his comment they need to suck it up. Just as much divorce in the church as outside.

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