Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Burly Doctor with a Quirky Smile

I remember watching him; his hands massive; his voice gruff and mannerisms crass thinking how ironic it was that this person examining my child was the opposite of how he was perceived by some in the community-including my mother. There was another pediatrician we could have chosen but there was something about this particular man; part-time artist; part-time writer; overtime doctor-to those of us who looked beyond the obvious. Whenever I saw him handle our children, I knew we'd made the right decision. Every time I needed him, he never let me down. Every time I'd call, this burly doctor with a quirky smile reassured me. When I was pregnant and very sick he was the doctor who came to our house to see me. When it was the week-end or the middle of the night and a child had an earache or rash or upset stomach or was congested he'd answer his phone and tell me to bring "the kid" up to his house. He'd leave the back porch light on for me.

More often than not his advice was simplistic. "The kids's not deaf. He's just lazy!" "There's no pill for the common cold. All that stuff you buy is a waste of money." When our 2nd child repeatedly became ill with the croup he told me to "wrap him up, put him in a sled and walk him around in the snow." My mother spoke up telling me it was too cold to take him out. But I did. Soon he was breathing easier. But one time-the sled thing didn't work. He ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. A few days later he was back home doing much better.

He went to sleep that first night home a little after ten. Around midnight I thought I heard some sort of a semi-truck roaring by. It was odd because trucks never passed through our neighborhood. I got up and looked outside though one window and then another. No trucks anywhere. Then I heard that noise again. It was coming from the baby's room. I found my son purple and gasping for air. The croup was back! Instinct told me no walk in the snow could help this time. As I wrapped him up in a blanket and scrambled for the car keys, the doctor was called. I wasn't surprised to find this pediatrician whom my mother called a quack already there as I rushed into the hospital. Two days later he underwent a tracheotomy. From meeting me at the door to the surgey and aftercare that man who'd become our Dr. Spock and guardian angel all wrapped into one never left our side.

When cancer claimed him years later my mother admitted he'd been a good doctor. I told her he was so much more.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Favorite Blankies

I never understood my younger cousin's obsession with her blanket when she was a toddler.It'd been a full-size receiving blanket but ended up a mere piece of worn, frazzled cloth she affectionately named Corny. She carried Corny with her all day and took Corny to bed with her every night.

One particular Corny episode stands out in my mind. We'd all gathered outside for a picnic. Relatives were everywhere when my aunt put us on alert. Corny was missing! Abandoning hot dishes cooling and mayonnaise in salads we rushed to help find that sliver of material. Homes were searched; cracks down sofas and chairs explored. Favorite play areas were scoured; my cousin's bed and bedroom torn apart. What seemed forever ended in a squeal of delight when Corny was found by my little cousin herself. Turned out she'd been looking at one of her books and dropped Corny on a page. She then closed the book and went to another. Later on as I ate cold hot dogs and drank warm lemonade I remember thinking what a little brat this cousin of mine was. I'd throw that crappy piece of what was a blanket away if I was her mother.

Turn the clock ahead to when my daughter was a toddler and she and her cousin were staying at my mother's for the night some eighteen miles away. I made sure she had extra clothes, toothbrush, some books and her favorite cereal for the morning. I thought I remembered everything. That is until the phone rang about 2 a.m. My daughter was screaming; in a panic. I forgot to pack her blankie. She loved her Duckies. She carried Duckies with her all day and took Duckies to bed with her every night. I couldn't believe I forgot to make sure her mere piece of worn, frazzled cloth named Duckies went on the overnight too. Without skipping a beat I ran to her room. I found Duckies under her bed. As I raced up the road I remember thinking back to my little cousin and her Corny. It'd come full circle and I was now the mom in a panic.

Truth is we all can use a favorite blanket some times. Do your kids have-or did they have-favorite blankets too?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Pass The Peas-Don't Throw Them-Please!

When my 2nd child was still in a high chair and "feeding" himself it was a food fight from beginning to end. The fight was not with me or his father. The fight was with this curious toddler trying to get those enticing objects from his plastic plate with puppies staring at him to his mouth. It was a struggle since he preferred playing with them instead of having them disappear forever. Spaghetti curled up like a kitten; cheerios with that hole meant to be worn on litle fingers; peas certainly designed to touch or roll or squish or throw like a miniature ball-all made his meals a smorgasbord to be toyed with, not eaten. I kept telling myself this was just a stage he was going through. My mother kept telling me to punish him. His father kept telling me to do the feeding. His older sister did not find him funny. Annoying would best describe their mood with this funny little guy covered in the same meal the rest of us had on our plates.

I consulted all the advice books written by professionals. Since they varied in their opinions I put the books away and tried feeding him; tried keeping him in his room while we ate; tried letting him eat before we did. Nothing really worked so I cut down on his portions. It somewhat solved the problem. At least it didn't take him that long to eat and play-then play some more.

One night a friend of mine joined us for dinner. She didn't have children so once the zoo began she was horrified especially when a few peas went whizzing past her. It was obvious she was happy to say good-bye. It had to have been at least four years later that I ran into her. By then she had a toddler of her own-a little boy with beautiful curly hair. My toddler-now six and a half and still curious in a tamer sort of way-was with me as was his younger sister. My friend could not believe he was that monster who'd made mush out of his food; the same kid who'd thrown some homeruns with his peas. She asked me if we'd like to go to lunch with them. So we did. And the food fight began. But it wasn't my child. He was content with his happy meal. It was that toddler with the beautiful curls turned monster with his food.

I wanted to tell my friend it was just a stage but I didn't say a thing. She'd find out. We parents always do-for one thing even the experts can agree upon is that one stage leads to another. It's all just part of being a parent.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Creating on a winter's afternoon

One thing I don't understand is why people have a blog and do not keep it up-like me and this Snarly Sally Blog! I could say I've been busy but that's no excuse. What I can say is that I am back and hope that you will stick with me as I go forward. I realize I have been among the missing-but no more!

Snarly Sally was created one winter's Sunday afternoon in a small upstairs apartment. I was sitting with my two-and-a-half year old daughter at her child-size, red and white table as the wind blew and the snow swirled. We'd just returned from the nearby park where she'd stood atop a nearly frozen in place merry-go-round and took a few runs on a swing. We didn't stay long at the park.

As we sat together thawing out with some hot chocolate she began coloring as I grabbed a pad of paper and started to write. I had a story idea about a little girl who never liked getting her hair brushed-which was actually my very own child sitting across from me intent on filling in every space with a red crayon. As she colored, the story flowed right out of me. I'd been mulling it over for some time. That would be the first version. Later I felt Snarly Sally needed a little friend to go on adventures with her so I gave her a puppy named Tangles. They became the best of friends.

Since that wintry afternoon Snarly Sally has evolved. I first illustrated her wearing a dress; in the 3rd book I put her in jeans and a pink t-shirt. Being the novice that I was I never realized that once I illustrated her-that's how she'd have to look every time after that. Think of Dora-the Peanuts Gang-the Grinch-they look the same whenever you see them but if you research many of the well-known characters, they started out looking a little different. The creative process is never-ending, especially when you give birth to your very own character.

I thought I'd find a publisher right away. Little did I know how long and twisting this journey would be. I finally found a publisher in 2000. She loved Snarly Sally; instantly saw a line of children's picture books and accessories. We signed a contract to begin with two Snarly Sally books. Plans were in place to promote the first title, "The Really, Really Hairy Flight of Snarly Sally." Unfortunately none of that happened. The book's release paralled the horrible timeline of 9/11. After that tragedy, the publisher changed her focus to publishing only home arts and crafts books. The 2nd book, "Snarly Sally's Garden of ABCs" followed the next year as planned but as with the first title, there was no accompanying marketing. I did what I could but I am not Random House!

Long story short, I waited for my contracts to expire and last Christmas I published what I call the first Snarly Sally book, "The Really Hairy Scary Butterfly Rescue". It will soon be up on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. There will soon be funtime pages for kids to download on this site. Sometimes the actual journey is opposite of the plan. Sometimes we have to take a break from that journey to realize how much that journey means to us. Snarly Sally is like a child to me. I look at her and think back to that cold winter's Sunday afternoon when putting a pencil to paper while the original litle Snarly Sally colored, sipping hot chocolate. I'm still writing Snarly Sally's story and I will contiue to write this blog so please stick with me; please tell your friends. In the words of Snarly Sally herself, it's just "so pretty happy out"-and I am happy to be back!