Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mardi Gras memory (circa 2004)....

Since I currently do no have the energy needed to keep up with the carnival spirit of New Orleans on this fabulously festive day, I will instead share with you one of my favorite memories of when I didn't listen to my gut and took children into the city for a parade.  I hope you laugh almost as much as I did.  And if you don't...well, maybe what you need is a Hurricane (the Pat O'Brien's kind) some beads and a little time spent negotiating with a toddler's bladder!


It seemed like a good idea.

Simple really.

I was asked by one of my new friends if I would like to accompany her and her two children to New Orleans for a parade.  I'd only been into the city for parades one other time.  That had been with Jon and a bunch of his friends.  I had feared for my life to be honest but that had a lot to do with the fact that I don't do well with crowds and unfamiliar places.  My girlfriend said we wouldn't be down in the French Quarter and that this parade would be during daylight hours.  Much more family friendly then my past experience where women barely kept their shirts on and I came home smelling like a cross between a brothel and a brewery.

Since my friend was a native to the area and had been taking her kids to these parades every year since they were born I figured what was the worst that could happen?

Even though I was a novice parade goer, I believed that with a well laid plan we were sure to have a good time.  Now for those of you outside of the king cake eating, bead catching, purple, green and gold wearing jurisdiction where the words "Fat Tuesday" just means another reminder to buy more Slim Fast, making a plan for a parade may sound a bit insane.  But here, in the areas surrounding the "Big Easy" parade time is planning time.

Living on the Northshore of Lake Ponchatrain, like we do here in Slidell, does not mean that you escape parades.  In truth they roll every weekend during the carnival season.  The barricades go up weeks in advance and you are left to plan your Sunday errands around street closures and parade times.  In the city, though, things get a bit trickier.  Unless you know someone that lives along a parade route you've got to plan for parking, food, drink and most importantly....restroom facilities.

My girlfriend, Laurie, told me that we would have the parking situation handled in the form of her brother's house.  We would pack drinks and snacks for the kiddo's and then walk the 10 blocks to the parade route.  We'd have the kids use the restrooms at the house before we left and when we returned so all we had to do was make it through the duration of the parade (about 2 hours) and we'd be home free.

After a 45 minute drive from Slidell we arrive at Laurie's brother's house.  We unload her two kids, my youngest daughter and my child on loan.  Since moving from FL to LA I've had to split school breaks with Olivia's dad so this happened to be one of the times she was to be in FL.  Not wanting the number of kids to be an odd person out I asked a friend of mine if I could borrow her daughter to even things up.  She gladly obliged since she has 4 and losing one for a few hours was most likely a godsend.

Immediately the argument ensues over the importance of peeing now.  After herding each child in and out of the restroom facilities we preach for 5 minutes about how there will be no coming back to this house to use the restroom during the parade.  Their options are as follows:
  1. Pee now and pee again when we return after the parade.
  2. Don't pee now, don't cry about needing to pee when we get to the parade route and then pee when we return after the parade.
  3. Don't pee at all.
  4. Don't pee now, continue to be a whinny brat and we pack everything up now, skip the parade and go straight back home.
With the options laid in front of them each child filed in and then out of the bathroom.  Bladders hopefully empty.  Hands washed.  Attitudes in check and ready to roll.  Laurie and I made a vow to watch their fluid consumption, especially the two younger ones who were only 4 at the time, thinking that if we kept the amount of fluid going in to a low amount we could reduce what would need to come back out.  We put the two youngest into strollers for the 10 block walk, loaded on folding chairs, backpack full of snacks, drinks hidden away and our camera's while we told the two older girls, ages 9 and 10, to "get moving and watch for cars".

The 10 block walk flies by in a blur of veiled threats to all four children cut the whining and stop asking for a drink.  It seems the moment you tell a child that they can't have something it only makes them want it more and cry for it louder.  We finally reach our destination and set up camp.  Our arrival time is just over an hour before the parade is set to start rolling near our location.  This means that we are no where close to the street therefore decreasing our chances of maximum bead catching opportunities.

Em & Hannah

This turn of events suits Laurie and I just fine, but to the four children with us, who have bought into the delusion that these beads are more valuable than gold, it seems to be a HUGE issue that is met with ear piercing cries of heartbreak.  So we begin to distract them with food.  One package of caramel corn, apple slices, dry cereal, one cookie a piece and two shared bags of cotton candy brought us past the bead issue and straight to the issue that every parent or human being that doesn't have a house, hotel room, business or RV on a parade route has to deal with....bathrooms!

Ceara (my child on loan) & Elise

Over the steady and some what drunken slurred conversations of fellow parade goers comes seven scarey words, "Mom, I have to go potty....NOW!"


You immediately switch into gear and do the one thing that you feel can get the group or at leas this one defector back on task....you tell the child that they don't really need to go to the bathroom.  Then you pray that you're convincing enough to yourself, the child and their bladder.  This approach has only a 10% success rate at best and you damn well know that today isn't going to fall in that range.  But you carry on anyway.  Realizing that defeat on your part is imminent and pretty much guaranteed you begin to scan the crowds for the nearest port-o-potty, all the while cursing the fact that you were stupid enough to give them apples.  Seriously...apples.  Geeze.  Surely, it was the juice from the apples that caused this problem.

Then the situation goes from bad to worse when a second child pipes in with her need to use the restroom only her needs go beyond just needing to pee.  The look on Laurie's face makes me realize that even the best negotiator in the world isn't going to turn this situation around.  Laurie and I immediately assess our options.

We are within sight of four port-o-potty's.  Three of which are labeled for public use and have gigantic lines.  The fourth has been rented by a private party and is being guarded by a very large and unhappy looking man who looks as though he'd rather see these two children pee on themselves rather than open the door that would lead to our salvation.  Laurie follows my gaze to the private port-o-potty and for a moment we contemplate paying this guy to let the kids do their business.  Surely it would be quicker than waiting in the long lines and definitely cheaper than paying for the therapy that will be needed after these two loose their battles with holding it in and have to walk the 10 blocks back to the vehicle covered in piss.  Not to mention poor Emily who has to do more than just pee!

We think on it for a second and decide to take the cheaper route and take our place in the long line of parade goers waiting for the port-o-potty's.  Figuring their young, if they have an accident chances are a happy meal and a new toy will erase all recollections of this unfortunate event.  Besides at the rate we're going Laurie and I may need that money for drinks later.

So we wait.  I stand in line with the two "pee pops" and Laurie hangs at our spot with the two older girls.  I begin to let out a sigh signaling that we are in the home stretch because I can finally see the door to the port-o-potty through the sea of people, when I hear Emily begin to cry.  Instinctively, my eyes shoot to the area around her feet.  Thinking for a moment that all of this may have come to little too late.  Instead I hear Em tell me she needs her mom in order to poop.

I scan the line ahead of us and realize we've got another 5 drunk parade goers to get through before her moment of release arrives.  I assure her that I will call for her mom to come potty with her when the time arrives.  She calms down.  We move forward.

Now my daughter, Hannah, tugs on my arm as she spots the rather large beads on an extremely inebriated man standing behind us in line.  She asks if she will catch beads like that tonight.  Although I'm grateful for the topic change from poop to beads my mind is now preoccupied with the idea that years and years from now my sweet four year old girl may have the "assets" to get beads like that.  I feel a sense of depression set it.  We move forward.

Emily now tugs on my arm, crying once more.  Laurie's mom radar must be on high alert because I can see her making her way towards us.  She steps into the line as we move one space closer to the front of the line.  I asked if she could tell something was wrong with Em and she smiles and says, "no, I just thought you'd like to know that I heard some people saying that there is no toilet paper in the port-o-potty's".

I want to laugh and cry all in the same breath.  For a split second I wonder how emotionally scaring would it be to have a child use the bathroom, then use their underwear as toilet paper, trash the soiled articles and have them go commando for the rest of the evening until we get back to the car.  Then I remember how it was like trying to wrestle a crocodile to get Hannah to wear her ballet leotard with no panties for her dance recital and decided I just didn't have the strength for that fight right now.  I roll my eyes to the sky and wonder, "what next?".  We move forward.

I realize that what is next is our two kids and no toilet paper.  We are next in line.  Just steps away, with two kids about to burst at the seams and not a stitch of toilet paper in sight.  In all of my "Type A", "OCD", "over pack for just 4 hours away from the house" planning I had managed to not pack one single piece of paper or paper related product that could possibly be used in this disastrous situation?


And then the skies opened up and the hands of God himself came down in the form of a slightly stumbling, definitely drunk, but oh so appreciated woman with two picnic napkins.  I'm so overwhelmed I actually can't decide if I want to hug her or pay her.  Thankfully she refuses both.

We have arrived.  Paper in hand.  All that stands between our two ticking potty bombs and their diffuser is a few feet of grass and two teenagers who surely cannot think they are going to just cut in front of us.  My patience gives out and the emotions of the last close to 30 minutes of waiting come swelling up in me as I lash out like a lioness protecting her cubs.  I begin to shriek at them, "Oh uh uh...I don't think so...you better get your asses to the back of the line".

Cheers erupt from the drunken line behind me as the port-o-potty doors in front of me open and we commence with hurrying the girls inside.  I hold open the door and as Laurie ushers Em inside we see that our worry over the toilet paper situation had been for nothing as a whole roll sat awaiting our kids tiny tushes.  This discovery made me even more grateful that the drunk lady hadn't accepted my offer to pay her for the napkins she gave us.

Laurie pulls the door closed and I stand guard outside.  From inside the port-o-potty I can hear Laurie giving instructions, "not to touch", "stand still", "sit still" and then Em emerges looking lighter and smiling.  One down, one to go.  I take Emily in hand and resume my position outside as Hannah takes her place inside with Laurie.  I can hear Laurie arguing with my child and wonder if maybe I should be in there.  I crack open the door to see what's the matter.  Laurie turn's to look at me as she tries to choke back the smile, "she says she can't go in her".

We bother laugh for fear that if we don't we'll both do what we were thinking which is to ring my child, the one who started this whole potty fiasco, like a washcloth.  Instead Laurie regains enough calm for the both of us, pulls the door shut and coaxes my child into peeing.  The door opens a few seconds later and Hannah emerges with a slightly frazzled Laurie in hand.

We make our way back to our spot and sink into our chairs.  Noticing our diminished state of awareness the kids dig into the bag of remaining snacks, find drinks for each of them and suck it down as the parade begins to roll.
Em & Hannah enjoying the rest of the "snacks" while Laurie and I just chill!


No comments:

Post a Comment