jen groeber: mama art

4 kids in 3 years: reflections on motherhood, art and life.

Pompeii, I Was There

The craziest thing happened tonight.

Actually, I should probably begin with a Trigger Warning: for poop and putting your hands into toilets filled with poop. In case you’re eating an egg and bacon bagel. Or split pea soup… With corn.

Ladies and gentleman; the story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

August 2014

Two possible “poop”-ertrators, at the beach, earlier in the day.
August 2014

It began like this. We had a great day. Kayaking and paddle boarding at the beach, catching crabs with someone else’s family reunion, sandcastle building and the like. Then we headed into town and ate a boatload of sushi, literally. And then we finished the whole thing with the world’s most flavorful gelato.

So what better way to kill the last hour of our day than to sneak into the pool of the fanciest inn on the island where we were lucky enough to have family staying? I mean, two exhausted parents, four over-stuffed and crazy children and two adults who have chosen not to have kids, staying in the fanciest suite available: What could go wrong?!

I headed to the pool with the kids while everyone else headed somewhere more peaceful. The kids dived and floated, cannon-balled and practiced their swimming. For fifteen minutes. Until Child 1 stated, “I have to go to the bathroom. Poo.” (Knowing look.)

And my reply? “Are you kidding me? We just got here! There are four of you. Do you actually have to go to the bathroom?!”

The reply? “I can hold it… For awhile.”

The sun was beginning to set and the views of the ocean beyond the pool were glorious.

Then suddenly Child 1 popped out of the pool and shuffled hurriedly towards the gate. “Gotta go!… To the bathroom… Now… Oh…um…” And like that scene in Bridesmaids, metaphorical traffic stopped as the bathing suit drooped.

Oh my… Oh my god. Did you? Did you just? Did you just… poop?!

“Go back to the suite and get Dada. Go to the bathroom.”

I texted dada. Child 1  left. Child 1 returned. Still poopie.

I sent Child 1  back. Child 1  returned. Still poopie.

And as I attempted to unravel this horrible mystery of why the bathing suit still drooped, Child 2 said, “I have to go potty, Mama.”

So the family member who has chosen not to have children showed up and I megawatt smiled, and said, “Watch the other two for a minute, please?!” And I hustled back across the lawn of the inn with 1 and 2.

Because who doesn't want to be responsible for two hyper kids in an in-ground pool?  August 2014

Because who doesn’t want to be responsible for two hyper kids in an in-ground pool?
August 2014

As I dragged Child 1, the poopy one, into the bathroom smiling and waving, all “Haha. We’re just going to use the potty!” Child 2 scuttled into the living room.

“I have to go poopy,” Child 2 stage-whispered, then, “I’m pooping.” And by the time I got them both in the bathroom there were sheets of poop-infused chlorinated water running down poopy bodies making brown puddles on the floor and all over the white porcelain of the toilet.

I nonsensical cursed like the father from A Christmas Story, but in a scary hissing whisper voice “A blargin, furking, futher!! Corn?!! Who ate corn?! Ah, blargin, shimmy blit!! This makes no sense… This is.. I… You… Bargin fig a blart.”

And the men sat right outside the door watching Rory McIlroy finish the last few holes of the PGA golf tournament.

The two “poop”-ertrators’ faces started to crumble, chins wobbling, tears brimming, as the full impact of the poop began to sink in, as it were.

“Be quiet,” I hissed. “Do not make a sound. No. Words.” And by the looks on their faces, the now dropped chins, the huge eyes, I could tell that I had apparently let crazy entirely out of the bag, and it was showing. Mommie Dearest was in the hizz-ouse.

And I may have fake-cursed again. I may have thrown two bathing suits into the toilet, because… poop. Then I may have scooped them out, because… toilet.

These people have chosen not to have children and chaos and POOP. It was Poop-Vietnam, I tell you. Poop-Pompeii.

And if you’ve ever wanted to go back to Pompeii in a time machine and ask some olive seller if he notices Mt. Vesuvius smoking and the ground burbling, let me tell you. I’ve been there. And I did not see it coming. I mean, that volcano hasn’t erupted in years.

I may have opened the door and chirped, “Okay to give these two a quick shower in here?”

I may have closed the door, pointed my finger at their shell-shocked faces and hissed, “I want you to always remember that mama fixed this. Pinky swear that we tell no one but Dada. Ever.”

Some towels may have suffered. Maybe a bath mat.

I’m not saying. And I guarantee, those two are not saying. We pinky swore on it.

Then Child 3 and Child 4 returned with the dear relative, the one who has chosen to not be surrounded by chaos? You remember. She was at the pool with two crazed children  jacked up on gelato, chlorine and whatever hormones drive young children.

“Where were you?!” she asked. She looked a bit shell-shocked herself.


And then one un-poopy child had a temper tantrum about not getting to use the hot tub. So I swatted the crocs out of Child 3’s hands, leaned in close and hissed, “You need to get a hold of yourself. Mama is done, I tell you. Swallow. Those. Tears.”

And Child 3 did.

The unpoopy children hot-tubbed while Child 1 and 2 looked longingly on. And I may have even whispered menacingly to them, “Because… Poop.”

I then showered Child 3 and 4. And then I had a Silkwood shower myself. Because I was covered with poop, I tell you.

Finally I sat on the couch with four exhausted, sweet-smelling children in pajamas (always bring pajamas after 5 pm. Just do. Or should I say doo-doo?) And I gripped a glass of wine like a kid who can’t swim grips a swim noodle.

I cuddled with my damp kids and they petted my shoulder and hair saying things like, “You are the best Mama” and, “You are so good, Mama,” while we all watched the sun slip down into the water outside and Phil Mickelson barely suppress his frustration over Rory McIlroy.

I’m telling you, I felt for Mickelson. I know frustration.

The moral? Bring pajamas? People who do not have children are on to something? Parents can do things they wouldn’t have done drunk in college when faced with the right incentive? I’m not sure.

But I had to tell you. I had the craziest night.

(And by the way, if you know the family without kids who stayed in the fancy suite? Don’t tell them about Pompeii, ‘kay? Let’s just let dead Romans lie.)

Click >Pompeii by Bastille< for your own Pompeii soundtrack.

23 comments on “Pompeii, I Was There

  1. Kim
    August 24, 2014

    Oh Jen. Oh Jen. Oh Jen. That was AWESOME! Like I just bent over in my bed laughing belly laughs. I needed that so much! I haven’t laughed all week as the entire family has been hit by hand foot and mouth and did I mention that it’s our vacation week? That we were supposed to go away? Thank you yet again for the ‘not alone’ feeling and the laughter that you just gave me, which I needed, although I know it wasn’t funny at all at the time. You rock mama. They are handing out Mama awards somewhere and you just got one! XO -Kim

    • jgroeber
      August 24, 2014

      Oh, no! Hand foot and mouth. It always sounds like something you contracted in a barnyard… from drunk cows. And on your vacation!!! The absolute crappy timing of it. So sorry!
      But I’m glad I made you laugh. You deserve a laugh. And chocolate. And booze. You are totally beating me out for Mother of the Year for sure!

  2. Tim Johnson
    August 24, 2014

    Love it!

    • jgroeber
      August 24, 2014

      Aw, shucks! And to think, you were there.

  3. ponymartini
    August 24, 2014

    Your husband owes you a spa day for taking care of all that. Maybe even a spa weekend.

    You are a supermom.

    • jgroeber
      August 24, 2014

      Oh, yes! I hope he sees this comment! Because that was a horrifically poop-tastic day.

  4. Heidi
    August 24, 2014

    This made me laugh so hard I had tears streaming down my face (which is infinitely preferable to poop streaming out of a bathing suit). Just saying

    • jgroeber
      August 24, 2014

      Ha! You know it. No poop suits allowed!

  5. donofalltrades
    August 24, 2014

    Gross. While poop related incidents are awful, for some reason, I dislike vomit more than poop. You’d think it wouldn’t be that way, but it is. Childless people really are onto something. Not sure what, but something.

    • jgroeber
      August 24, 2014

      Okay. I’ve been thinking about this all day and I think this is the difference. When you stick your hands in poop, you just feel totally grossed out, but it doesn’t make you want to poop. But a hand full of vomit?! Automatic potential for vomiting.
      Which I imagine is a problem in your line of work. More potential for vomit exposure I’d think? (Yuck!!!)
      And yes, kids are total nasty germ and bodily fluid extruders. I should wear a hazmat suit.

  6. Rivki Silver
    August 25, 2014

    Oh my, poop scenarios like that are always stressful, and in the presence of childless people that is STRESS! I also had a particularly poop-filled week. Maybe it’s something about getting it all out while it’s still summer? Something?

    • jgroeber
      August 25, 2014

      Oh, no. You, too? And perhaps our poop-storms mean the teachers are off the hook? One can always hope… Ack!

  7. Aunt Claud
    August 25, 2014

    Had a conversation with the childless couple the following day. She couldn’t understand why you were gone so long!! Now I know!! Promise–my lips are sealed!

    • jgroeber
      September 1, 2014

      Oh, just saw this comment!! And please, please keep those lips sealed. Oy! I made sure we took such a long hot continuous shower that the room would be too damp to use for any purpose until well after they’d left. (Damn kids…)

  8. Jenn Berney
    August 27, 2014

    Wow, I’m currently on vacation, and this post captures exactly what “vacation” feels like. Not just the poop, which has been epic every day, but the *having to deal*. I spent minutes every hour dreaming of the day when my kids can wipe their own butts, or I can go for a swim without asking someone to watch them.

    • jgroeber
      August 29, 2014

      I’m beginning to suspect that they never actually are able to ever wipe their own butts. Like, ever. I think we just give up caring about the potential for rashes on their bum or smelly underwear. And I’m getting close to throwing in the towel (er, toilet poer?)
      Hope your return flight from vacation went better than the way out (speaking of poop.) Talk about having to deal… Zoiks!

      • Jenn Berney
        September 17, 2014

        Our flight home was heaven compared to the flight out. I’ve had that same exact thought about living with butt rash and smelly underwear. Glad I’m not alone. But Smoke reports that he just doesn’t poop at kindergarten, so I think he’s the one hanging on.

        • jgroeber
          September 20, 2014

          My kids don’t poop in school either! Which means, take my advice. As tempted as you might be (or at least, as I am) don’t just send them into the backyard to run off some steam the second you get them home from school. Because sometimes running off steam loosens up… ahem, stuff they’ve been holding in all day… and the run back to the house can get dodgey. ‘Nuf said.

  9. talesfromthemotherland
    September 6, 2014

    Does it make me a sick person, that I’m laughing… out loud? Seriously.

    • jgroeber
      September 7, 2014

      That your laughter can come from my poop-pei makes me happy.
      (To be honest, it makes me chuckle now, too!)

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