Thursday, February 24, 2011

from one thing to the next

This is how I know that it's true: the only constant is change.

Just last week Bean spied the sun high overhead and insisted that we take advantage by heading outside to do chalk drawings.

In the chilly 40-degree February air.

And then, this week:

Change is on my mind.

And so is this girl.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

all about the underpants


Meet Olivia.

Bean's grand achievement for navigating the vast labrinth that is potty training.

These days she doesn't leave Bean's sight for very long.

Bean would like to dress Olivia in clothes. Other clothes, she says, which isn't an easy task considering Olivia's small stature. (Everything falls off.)

What is a mother to do?

She pulls out a stack of sock remainders left over from making these and these.

She fashions fabulous tube dresses and simple leggies, just for Olivia.

And when she contemplates using the sock toe--- trying to come up with a good use for the little last bit, it's only natural that the mother makes a hat.

Which then, of course, translates to this:

Olivia approved and stripey to boot.

Monday, February 21, 2011

things I will tell my daughter: about being the last one picked


There's a ritual Bean and I have where we recite all her friends from her Nursery class at church. She asks me if she had a good day in nursery (this is my cue to ask her the same question). When I do, she says yes. Then she asks me who was there. "Who was in Nursery today?" And even if it's Thursday, and there is no question that she didn't actually attend Nursery that day, we go through the list. I ask if Luke was there. I ask if Brixton was there. I ask if Joyce was there. And so we go through every child in her class. Somehow, I always forget the same person. When we reach the end and I'm wondering why I don't have the right number of children counted, I have to think and think and think before I realize who we've missed.

It happens every time.

+ + + + +

I was never good at sports. In middle school I remember lamenting this fact to my older brother, he of the Always Good at Sports Fame. He of the memorizing stats and being known by each and every athletic coach in school. He who was older than I, and when these same coaches and teachers saw me coming heaved an inward sigh, thinking, well--- we don't have the same luck with this one.

My brother told me, as I bemoaned my forever failed status in sports, that I should get involved in running. I'd probably really like it, and further--- it didn't involve any hand/eye coordination, which I significantly lacked.

+ + + + +

One of my strongest memories from grade school is also a recurring one. It is the afternoon sun on a southern California day in May (or June or March or February). The asphalt of the playground bounces heat into our small faces as we stand against the chainlink fence. I smell dust and sweat and the high sweet linger of barbecue potato chips. Our teacher stands in front of us, kickball in hand, explaining the rules to a game we all know. Then she picks two team captains, both of them as swift and sure-footed as I am clumsy. I back deeper into the chainlink, pulling my fingers through the fence, twisting my skin against the metal. Later, my hands will smell like rust. I am thinking of a long cold drink of water. I am thinking of my mother's face when she picks me up from school later that afternoon. I am thinking of the small box of red beads we bought yesterday at the craft store. I am thinking of the way I tore my pink shorts. I am thinking of everything I can while they pick teams for kickball. I do my best to not wonder if I will be last.

+ + + + +

It took me several years to finally try running. When I did, in my middle to late twenties, I was freshly out of a all-too-long-lasting-but-not-healthy relationship and wanted to find something that could be mine. Something that would get me moving but didn't require special equipment or a membership card or any rules or knowledge. Running fit that bill.

+ + + + +

I am, by all accounts, not a good runner. I don't run marathons or half marathons or anything with a K in it. I don't read running books or have a subscription to a running magazine. I have never consumed anything resembling an energy gel and I see no reason to ever change that. These days I don't even run outside. I use a treadmill and have no need to defend it. No one is going to remember me for long miles logged or for summits reached or for crossing a finish line surrounded by cheering fans. I run because it feels good, because it gives me time to think, because it's great exercise. I run because I can.

+ + + + +

If you've never wondered, you don't need to know, but I can tell you why you don't ever want to be last on a team. It isn't as simple as the fact that you are, indeed, last. It's because every other choice has been a choice. Every other person gets picked. They are selected. Their name is spoken and they are welcomed onto a team. The last one just stands there. Shuffles over to her team because there are no more choices. It's a default.

It's also painful. Weird. Humiliating. And sadly: usually justified.

+ + + + +

Because even though I fantasized from time-to-time that my last-picked-for-the-kickball-team status would be miraculously turned around by some stupendous never-before-seen-amazing kickball move, it never happened. I was just awful at kickball. Terrible. I hid in the outfield (as far away as I could get, in fact, without getting in trouble for not playing the game). It's possible that they even invented a whole secondary set of field positions thanks to my as-far-out-as-possible outfield placement: the inner-outfielders. The inner-outfielders were serious kickball players. Those boys stood with hands on their knees and watched every play. They shouted about moving around the field to anticipate strong kickers. They ran until they were sweaty, dripping. They caught the flying, spinning kickballs of death that scared me so much I wanted to vomit.

The inner-outfielders never gave me a second thought.

+ + + + +

Standing out on the blacktop, I thought a lot about heat. Imagine a field as far as the eye can see, set deep in southern California, with southern California sun. A field composed entirely of asphault. No grass. The sun beat down on my head. It sometimes felt like my brain would melt and leak out my ears. I picked at my cuticles. I stared at my shoes. I wished I could figure out a way that sitting down would be considered acceptable kickball behavior.

They had to shout several times when it was our turn to kick. I watched small figures of my classmates waving me down, hands high over their heads, to come infield.

+ + + + +

I wonder about those boys who played kickball. I wonder about the memories they built in their minds: memories of sweaty afternoons chasing the perfect game. Those boys don't think about the last one picked for the team. They don't think about the outfield that existed beyond the one they made.

+ + + + +

Now when I talk to Alice about the children in her class, I do my best to remember every classmate. We talk about every smile. I want her to think about the things that each child brings to the world: they are unique and funny and smart and sweet.

But gosh darn it, if I still don't forget that kid every time.

This is what I want to tell Alice one day, before she walks out onto a blacktop and before she plays her first game of kickball: you might not be naturally gifted in everything. You might be terrible. You might be forgettable. You might be the last one picked for a team. It doesn't matter. Maybe you'll be good at everything you do. You might be team captain and head cheerleader and a straight A student. While all of that is stupendous, and laudable, and I'm sure I'll be so incredibly proud I could burst---- the most important thing you need to do, regardless of skill, is to find something you love to do. Find something that makes you happy, that helps you to feel strong. Find something that helps you to think and breathe and be more of yourself. And do that.

You're going to be just fine.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

the next post

The day that I published this post, I woke up to a coughing and crying Bean on the monitor. The cough was dry and raspy, unproductive. I moved fast to her room, blinking sleep from my eyes.

The morning that I published that post, I brought Bean back to my bedroom. I turned on Super Why and exercised. She lounged on the bed, eating pretzels, coughing. Coughing. Coughing. Before too long, she moved herself to the floor. She wanted to say hello to Phoebe. I sensed a long day ahead, dressed myself in a faded t-shirt and baggy sweatpants. When I came out of the bathroom, Alice was laying on top of Phoebe, loving her a bit too much.

The morning that I published that post, I put Bean in time out for being rough with the cat. She coughed her way down the hall to her bedroom. I put on some socks. It was a long three minutes, a surprisingly quiet three minutes for time out. When I walked into Bean's room, I found her dancing in front of her crib with Bo the blanket draped over her head.

The morning that I published that post, I made Alice cry because I startled her. With the blanket firmly on her head, she didn't see me coming. She also knew that she was supposed to be sitting quietly in time out, and was, instead, dancing in her bedroom with Bo on her head.

The day that I published that post, Alice stood in her bedroom and threw up at my feet: pretzels, water. Her face contorted, choking and gasping. I held a bowl in my hands and kept repeating a familiar mantra: it's okay, it's okay, it's going to be okay.

The day that I published that post, I did a load of laundry. The first of many. I washed Bo while Alice cuddled the already much loved and appreciated Baux. She was still coughing two hours later when I cleaned up another round of vomit: this one on the living room floor - cereal and fruit and juice.

The day that I published that post, Alice and I made an emergency run to Walgreen's and the grocery store. We returned to the house with juice and Pedialyte ice pops and homeopathic cough syrup. Her coughing rewarded us with another round of throw-up.

The afternoon that I published that post, Bean sat on the couch munching Cheerios while I did my level best to clean the floor and start another load of laundry. I came downstairs after starting the washing machine to find Bean skipping in a mad circle around the coffee table, throwing Cheerios in a high reaching arc across the living room. We sat together on the floor as I coaxed her into drinking a small cup of warm apple juice with honey.

The afternoon that I published that post, I held Alice's small body in my arms. I read her two stories before she drifted into a fitful sleep. I listened to her coughing over the monitor.

The day that I published that post, Alice woke up from her nap with a rumbling tummy. We quickly added diarrhea to the list of the day's maladies. Also another load of laundry.

The day that I published that post, I spent the late afternoon doing anything and everything that could be fun for a sick little girl whilst trying to maintain a potty training regimen. Things like singing multiple and completely made-up choruses of The Wheels on the Bus while the little girl sits on the loo. Things like deciding that the Daddy's on the bus say "Hey Alice" for yet another rousing round of the song. Things like spontaneous dance parties in the bathroom and games of hide-and-go-seek when the little girl repeatedly hides in the same place for each turn (behind one of the living room side chairs). Things like a Pedialyte ice pop picnic with the little girl's favorite stuffed buddies.

The evening that I published that post, we made pancakes and drank juice, Alice and I. We toasted a successful two hours without any vomit.

The evening that I published that post, I gave Bean a warm bath and crossed my fingers for the coughing to stop. I lathered her small body with eucalyptus rub, I told her she was going to have a wonderful night of magical dreams. When I asked her if she had a good day, she smiled and closed her eyes to whisper Yes oh yes.

The night that I published that post, I lay in bed listening to Alice's breathing on the monitor. I rushed into her room several times through the night to coach her struggle through a choking cough. Afterward, I would stand in the dark of her room and watch her perfect face settle into sleep.

The day that I published that post, I spoke to my husband several times. We talked about Alice - how she was doing, how often she'd managed to throw up directly on my person, and the blossom of her smile. We talked about our life together - the small things you say to each other in quiet tones. We talked about our hopes for the future. And we talked about that post. He wanted to know if I was okay.

The day that I published that post, I thought about motherhood. It is a demanding job. A dirty job. A job of cleaning up messes that have a way of dividing into infinite piles. Motherhood is messy. I don't do well with messes. I am a list-maker, a planner, a person who ticks off items on an agenda. This is a nice way to say that I don't do spontaneous. I worry and fret. I draw up plans and study maps. I don't throw Cheerioes in the air to let them fall where they may. Except... I do. I have done. Motherhood has loosened my laces, even a small bit. It's given me the strength to wipe up vomit and throw bathroom dance parties.

I want to do it again, even if it's going to be hard. I have the luxury to say that I want to do it again, when so many people do not. So many women that want one child of their own don't already have a little one sleeping in the next room. They want one, will be perfectly happy with just that one. It feels greedy to say that I want to do it again. But there it is: yes, please, I want to do it again.

The day that I published that post, I thought long and hard what I would tell you here, in this, the next post. That thinking took me late into the night as I listened to my little girl coughing and struggling through sleep. I came up with this: my situation is much much luckier than most. We struggle with an infertility that can't be diagnosed in a clinic. It's a situational infertility, so to speak - in that our situation, at this point in time, isn't conducive to another baby. As much as I'd like to take that leap right now, as much as I am thronged by pregnant women who have leaped - who are leaping - who are committed to this huge next step---- it's not a leap that will work for us right now. This weird limbo of wanting and needing, of knowing and deciding, it's terrible and painful and messy. Like motherhood.

But if that's true, then it also has the promise of something so brightly wonderful---- so utterly, indescribably, and impossibly perfect. Something that will push us to the end and beyond. Something that will transform us. This is the journey we're on. I'm glad to have you along for the ride.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

year of the pregnant woman


It's everywhere, all at once. Bellies and backaches and black-and-white images of tiny clutching fingers. I can't close my eyes without seeing them, without having the reminders put into view. There is talk, too: I listen to discussions of due dates like upcoming grocery trips. April, May, June.

I imagine what I'm going to be doing this Spring, this Summer - who I will be visiting in the hospital or packing up white onesies impossibly small. Whose names I will be writing on cards, wishing them well, sending love through the air to their expanding family.

The numbers keep building - I stopped counting when I reached ten in my immediate sphere. Surely there must be something in the water I murmured to myself yesterday morning. For as sure as I'm sitting here without any news of an expanding family or a little something in the oven, I receive news of another happy expectant. Another, and another.

To have to say it makes it feel so much less true, but here it is anyway: I am so happy for these women. I am happy for these growing families. There is no doubt to my joy, watching the balloon of burgeoning sweetness flying high overhead.

But there is something about standing quietly in the din, when seemingly everyone - every single person around you - is clutching a starched white balloon string, watching their bliss blow and sway in the breeze. I study the bright spheres as they glint, sparkling against a sky impossibly blue. And I wonder what is wrong with me, what has me standing so still and quiet? What message did I miss that this, this is what I should be doing this minute? I left my wash on the line, my hair is tied up in a mess. There is no frenzied preparation taking place back home. Just this feeling of missing out on an important memo. Like wearing a house dress to a fancy dinner party.

If I close my eyes tight, I can see what will take place in the coming months: one by one, these women around me will walk off the field. They will take their party elsewhere, will gather quietly to welcome a little stranger into their midst. And I will be here, scanning the horizon for a change in the air.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

valentime's day comes to the last homely house

You remember when it was ValenTIMES? I remember Valentimes. When I wished Alice a Happy Valentine's Day yesterday, she responded with What is Valentimes? I told her it was a day to show our love. And so we did.

In the rain, with a present from daddy. (The froggy umbrella.)

In the dining room, when I made a horrendous mess working on a will-be-revealed-later Valentine craft.

Again in the dining room, when Chip was completely unfazed by my horrendous mess.

And later that night, when the three of us ate pizza and laughed at each other.

How was your Valentimes?

Monday, February 14, 2011

because the truth is, it's funny


(Happy Valentine's Day, my friends. In light of this holiday celebrating the grand fall into love, let's talk about another kind of falling, shall we?)

I have never liked The Three Stooges. They irritate me to no end and remind me of Sunday afternoons when I was a little girl. We'd come home after church and everyone in the family would take a nap except for me because I was afraid I'd miss something - which is very silly, considering the fact that EVERYONE WAS ASLEEP, but nevertheless, I wouldn't sleep and instead I'd watch television. Let me tell you something about antenna television programming for Sunday afternoons in early 1980's Southern California: sports, F-Troop, and The Three Stooges. Sometimes when I was really lucky I'd find a movie on, something from the 1960's with Doris Day. I was SUPER EXCITED when I found a movie. F-Troop and The Three Stooges made me want to die.

So anyway: I don't like The Three Stooges. But they do get something right: falling is funny.

Because what I do like, what I secretly love, is seeing someone take a nice juicy ass-over-tea kettle SPILL. Not necessarily The Three Stooges falling (or the violence, it just sets my teeth on edge), but a wonderful unplanned fall? Is priceless. It's probably why Chip and I spent more time than I ever care to document watching MXC when we were first married. And Wipeout? Very entertaining television. I especially love seeing a good fall during a sporting event, the kind when no one gets permanently damaged, of course, except maybe their dignity. I love a good dignity-bruising.

The public, live, in-person witnessed spill is better than all of the above, combined, times 20. Even though I can't rewind it repeatedly like I can on the DVR at home (what a shame). I love the pinwheeling arms, the total loss of control, and especially - oh most especially when the spill-er thinks they can salvage some sense of respect by pretending that it never happened. That there is the stuff of legend.

I am not a graceful person by any standard. I fall. I stumble. I trip. And I do it on a fairly regular basis. The best part about my frequent stumbles is the faulty wiring in my head, which somehow prevents me from taking the regular precautions that any other normal person would do. Case in point: when we first got married, we were living in a tiny three-story apartment, so small that it was one room per floor. We hung out on the stairs a lot. It made us feel like we had a spacious mountain range right inside our abode. One luxury we did have was a stacked washer/dryer, right there on the third floor landing (our bedroom, way up in the tree tops it was). Because space was at a premium, we got really squirrely with storage. In the case of the laundry area, we kept the detergent perched way up there on top of the (already tall) washer/dryer. One day I was taking a stack of dishes down from the bedroom to the kitchen/living room (2nd floor). I was, of course, walking by the washer/dryer. For some reason still unknown to me, I happened to... sort of look up? As I was walking by the washer? And somehow, also still unknown to me, this looking up and walking by the washer coincided with an actual dollop of Tide detergent falling directly into my EYE. The PAIN, OH THE PAIN THEREOF. For the pain was a great and terrible pain. A pain of stinging detergent awfulness. OUCH. But remember, I was also carrying a stack of dishes. Anyone else with a lick of sense would THROW THE DISHES DOWN, down down DOWN in order to wash their eyes out and prevent PERMANENT BLINDNESS. But me? Little Whimsy? You know what I do? I hold on to those dishes, I hold on to them for all I'm worth as I stand at the top of the stairs and try to bump my way, blindly (BECAUSE MY EYES ARE CLOSED, OF COURSE) to the bathroom.

This is when Chip came up the stairs, pulled the dishes from my deathgrip, and helped me regain my eyesight. Later he reminded me that any normal person would abandon whatever was in their hands to prevent blindness.

He has since reminded me of that same fact when I'm in the process of falling down. Because I've also been known to fall flat on my face (or hip or hands or bum) instead of dropping whatever is in my hands. True story.

But my absolute favorite falling down story is from my pre-married days. I was living in a tiny apartment and working downtown. I took a bus to and from work every day. A very packed bus. One night I was sitting toward the front of the bus and so happened to be one of the first ones off at my stop. As I was walking down the stairs of the bus, carrying my work bag, wearing a skirt and stockings and tall boots, my foot caught on the last stair and I went flying - literally flying forward to land bum-in-air, directly on my knees. Saying just that is still not clear, now I flew--- flew out the doors of the bus, catching a nice two feet of air to land on my knees. There was no skidding, no slow slide into pavement. Just me. A solid thud of knee bones on pavement. And this: about twenty other bus commuters still unloading themselves from the bus, stepping around me, walking home, and ignoring me altogether.

After 30 seconds of stunned immovability, I did my best to stand up and walk home (still carrying my bag, which hadn't even touched the ground).


When I got home, I assessed the damage. Stockings were shredded, my boots carried twin trails of blood down their fronts. I stood in the bathtub and washed blood and gravel down the drain. I still carry matching scars on both of my knees.

Now it's your turn. Tell me your favorite falling down experience, yours or one you witnessed.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

wrappings of a present


I find myself wanting to introduce this Alice to you, the one who is so funny, so sassy, so strange, so very smart. It doesn't seem possible, that I could be surprised by this child. We spend every waking moment together. I know the roadmap of her body like it's my own.

But there is a blinding bright stripe of individuality running through her - something that is all her, all Alice.

The other day she got into the jar of ribbon I keep for her hair. Stripes and spots and plaid. Pink and red and purple and black. She gathered fistfuls of them and pulled them to her nose, smelling deep. She handed them to me saying, "They smell beautiful, mommy. So delicious." And the way she said it, bee-yoo-tee-full, like a prayer.

Downstairs later, she walked by with one remaining ribbon around her neck. It was bright aqua, winking blue in the afternoon light. She held a matching one in her hand and came to me with it, holding it out toward me. "Mommy, Hurp and I want to wear it. We want to wear the beautiful ribbon." I pulled her soft wrist into my hand, circled the small weight of it with azure blue, and tied a bow. I did the same for her stuffed buddy Hurp.

As I watched her wander the living room, the turquoise on her wrist kept drawing my eye to her arms: how quickly they moved, how she waved her hands and swam through the air like a twirling butterfly. She outshines me, she outmoves me, she outsmarts me.

Every parent in her right mind must have this bursting wonder over her child, must believe that her little girl is an incomparable sprite of whimsical sweetness. But let me just say...

She has tied that ribbon around my heart so tight. So very tight.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

love (but it's over now)

What inspired this leap into the dark lurking place of bad romance stories is this: Chip and I, discussing how relationships and dating and the general area of romantic entanglement can bring out the best and the worst in us. It made me think, not just about all the yucky and dumb things that had been inflicted on me in my dating years, but also about the stupid things I had done. Which is why you're going to hear six stories that don't always paint me in the most positive light.

I once told a boy that my mother wouldn't let me go out with him. The truth was that I just didn't know how to tell him that I didn't want to talk to him or carry on a conversation with him or, you know, be his girlfriend - because I didn't think he was even remotely cute. And also because I didn't know how to talk to a boy or carry on a conversation with one or BE A GIRLFRIEND because I was twelve.

I was out with a guy, and in the process of placing my dinner order when the guy looked at me and said--- "Uh, we aren't on a date." To which I was all, "What?" And then he said, "We aren't on a date. You'll need to pay for your own food."

The first time I broke up with a boy I did it on the phone, while I was babysitting my niece at my sister's apartment. I think I said something like, "I just don't want to date you anymore." And then the boy said something like, "I'm going to listen to Roxette (It Must've Been Love) for the rest of time." And then I felt really dumb. I didn't feel bad (like I most certainly should have). I felt dumb. Because I'd ever gone out with a guy who was not only going to listen to Roxette, but actually felt comfortable enough that he could tell me about it. (You can hate me for sharing this. I sort of hate myself for admitting that I was this mean.)

After going out for several months, I stood in a guy's living room as we broke up. When I mentioned something about how we'd been dating for four months, he responded with this gem: "We weren't dating. We were hanging out."

In a case of faulty love wiring, I went a little... CRAZY after the break-up with the guy in story #4. So crazy, in fact, that I left a gift-wrapped CD on his doorstep for his birthday. Two months after we had broken-up from our "hanging out". It was a CD of an artist he HATED. And somehow I thought at the time that it was.... fitting? Or something? When I think of it now I just feel this overwhelming sense of DUMB.

and your bonus story of romantic misfortune is going to come from Chip, posted sometime today in the comments. It's worth the wait.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

heartbreak free


A guy I had dated for a week once gave me a fern. A tried-and-true, accept-no-substitutes, actual live LOVE FERN. As soon as he handed me the plant, there was no question that I would never date him again. I had a hard time even looking him in the eye to say so.

With Valentine's Day looming on the horizon, I say we turn our attention to the darker side of romance. The pale underbelly of dating and relationships. The weird side of love. Who's with me?

For every horrible/weird/embarassing/strange tale of romance-gone-wrong you share, I will share one of mine. Because yes, I have that many. Groundrules: your stories need to be fun, or fun-loving, or at least shared in the spirit of fun. I don't want anybody feeling bad, or dredging up horrible memories of someone that broke your heart. You know, it's Tuesday, and I don't think that Tuesday is the sort of day to sully with heartbreak.


(Editted to add: Originally I was thinking that I'd just chime in here on the original post with my corresponding tales of awkward, but Chip suggested that I just write a post with them tomorrow. What do you think? Instant gratification today or one nice lumpy sum post of Whimsy Horror tomorrow?)

Monday, February 7, 2011

to be written

There's a post I want to write about Chip's thoughts about Pizza Hut and Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

There's a post I want to write about the weird and dumb things we've done in relationships.

There's also one waiting to be written about kickball in fifth grade.

There's one to offer advice and another discussing the symbolism behind a word Alice has been saying for a while.

I have all this... stuff. Stuff that I want to write. But I am currently indisposed. Another late night of coughing from the Bean on top of a project that had to be finished. Both left me limp and tired, late night eyelids barely able to stay open.


Until tomorrow, my peeps, tell me your opinion on this mind blowing question: which restaurant reinvents more make believe food--- Taco Bell, with the thousands of repeating combinations of beans/cheese/meat/tortilla item OR Olive Garden with the also thousands of repeating combinations of meat/cheese/pasta item. It's a conundrum. Taco Bell has been reinventing the Taco/fancy spanish-sounding olupa thing longer, but I think Olive Garden does it more often, and I think they make up more fake food names. What's your call?

Friday, February 4, 2011

(making) water torture


I have discovered the dark side of potty training. At great risk to my personal safety, I'm going to tell you about it.

This is why you don't read a lot of Potty Training Follow-Up blog posts. It's why there aren't many bloggers out there reporting from the middle of the training, telling you what works and what doesn't, giving you a roadmap for what to do and not. It's a conspiracy.

Here it is.

Upon entry into the Great Potty Training Unknown, the Training Parent may congratulate herself on the smooth transition. She may find herself saying, "Self, you're doing GREAT! So patient! So positive! You're acting like AN EXPERT!" Meanwhile, the child in question, the Trainee, is quietly listening and snickering as she wears her brand new underpanties, BIDING HER TIME.

Several days pass. Smashing success after success. There is pee! And poop! With some prodding from the Training Parent, the Trainee responds with patient cooperation. She puts stickers on a chart. She cheers. The Training Parent begins to wonder when she can proudly crow to her friends that they are PAST THE BEGINNING STAGES OF THE TRAINING, AND ENTERED A MIDDLE GROUND OF DEEP BREATHS.

Which is when the Trainee puts her devilish plan into action.

Part one: Training Parent is cooking lunch, Trainee runs into the kitchen, dancing, "Mommy! PEE! PEE! PEE!" Training Parent then whisks Trainee off to the bathroom to take care of business. Upon placing the Trainee on the toilet and waiting for action, the Trainee then announces, "I don't have to pee." The Training Parent takes Trainee off the toilet, pulls up Trainee's pants, washes two sets of hands and then heads back to the kitchen.

Five minutes later, Training Parent is putting lunch on plate when Trainee runs into the kitchen, "Mommy! PEE! PEE! PEE!" Training Parent puts lunch plate down and gathers Trainee into arms for run to the bathroom. Training Parent places Trainee on toilet for the deed. After several seconds of silence, "I don't have to pee, Mommy." A sigh from the Training Parent as she picks Trainee off the toilet, dresses the child, washes hands, goes back downstairs.

And five minutes later, while Training Parent is taking first bite of lunch, the Trainee again approaches, "PEE! PEE! PEE!" Training Parent harumphs loudly, pulls Trainee into her arms and heads back upstairs. Again. And repeats the whole process. Again. Bum on potty. Waiting in silence. "Mommy? I don't have to pee. Mommy?" Deep sigh, off toilet, pants and unders back on body, washes hands, goes back downstairs.


During the eighth trip up the stairs I told Alice that I was losing the will to flush. I needed ACTION. So she complied. Finally.

But I am here to tell you that these potty training trenches are rife, RIFE, I TELL YOU, with little tortures like this. I've experienced hours of The Girl Who Cried Pee--- and when I'm ready to make my bed in the bathroom and sleep there for the night, she finally comes through with something, only to then spend the next several hours having her deny the entire existence of (or need for) the bathroom.

"Hey Alice, do you need to pee?"
"No. I don't need to pee."

Twenty minutes later,
"Hey Alice, do you need to pee?"
"No. I don't need to pee."

And twenty minutes after that, as I'm envisioning puddles of urine forming in oozing circles across the bamboo flooring,
"Alice. Do you need to pee? Surely you need to pee?"
"No. No, I do not need to pee."

Annnnnd twenty minutes after that, I'm dancing around the child, practically holding a cup underneath her (surely) bursting bladder area,
"Alice. You must pee. Don't you have to pee?"
"No, Mommy. I don't need to pee." (and silently in my head, I hear EVER AGAIN! I AM HOLDING IT FOR THE REST OF MY EXISTENCE JUST TO MAKE YOU SUFFER........FOREVER!!!!!!)

Forget water boarding, I say we need to employ a whole slew of Currently In Potty Training Toddlers at the CIA. They can crack a person in an afternoon. And it doesn't leave a mark.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

tuning the house to the key of c


The house is messy. Cat hair and general child detritus covering the floor. There are blocks on the kitchen table and a scattered pile of receipts littering the counter. I left a pile of clean clothes on the bed two days ago. They are still there. I can't look at the dust on the bathroom faucets without feeling a rising quease of guilt. Everywhere I look there is something to be done, to be faced, to be conquered, to be cleaned.

This, reaping the rewards of a January packed with little distractions and major diversions: sickness and returning maladies and the general graffiti of everyday life that stops a person from focusing on necessary tasks.

It's February first and I'm standing in the kitchen, turning in circles, wondering where to start. A deep breath and I can hear Alice coming down the stairs. She is calling for me, asking that we pull out her crayons to color. Her footsteps are echoed and returned around the house: a thump and rumble in the walls, the windows shaking ever-so-slightly. As the echo quiets, there's a small sound like a whistle, something musical and tremulous. It continues for several seconds, welcoming Alice into the kitchen with me. I know what it is, but it's the first time I've really listened to it. Three small colored plates hang on the wall over the dining room table. They are suspended on plate racks with small brass springs. It is these springs that vibrate with each movement in the house, echo with the walls and floors, call out every action we take beneath this roof. They sound out of tune.

I need to fix that.