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June 2005


I have absolutely nothing to say here but a pervasive sense of agnostic guilt compels me to check in with you anyway. Actually it is true, I really do not seem to have anything to say to anyone right now. I am not even answering the phone when my mother calls, although I admit that with her the silence stems from yesterday when she implied that I was boring. I am still sulking. BORING! And you know what else? Just this afternoon I was entertaining Patrick with some delicious bon mot and he put his hands over my mouth and said, "Mommy, be silent. Silent like an E." And then I asked Steve if he thought  I was bromidic and he said "I don't know" and went back to typing an email when the correct answer would have been, "Bromidic?" If he had even cared enough to ask.

So to hell with all of them. Am I boring? It's the point people always make when they try to explain why stay-at-home mothers should be gagged and forced at gunpoint to make Gucci knock-offs so at least they are contributing something somewhere. And I assume it is what my former colleagues mean when they say "Oh my GOD I don't know HOW you do it! I would go CRAZY if I had to stay home all day with the kids." I used to be able to dismiss such one-size-fits-all foolishness with a thoughtful "Eat me" but now I am beginning to wonder if they might have a point. Apart from tedious descriptions of Patrick's nethers and the potties they adorn, what have I contributed to American Letters lately? Fuck all. And, if my mother is to be believed, apparently I am just as boring in person. So, um, look for my handiwork soon on the streets of Hong Kong.

If you stay home with children or pets or maybe a few plants, do YOU ever feel like you have little to contribute to, say, cocktail party conversation? If you work (MODIFIER: outside of the home, work OUTSIDE of the home) do you find friends and loved ones who punch the Tomy clock (Tomy is a toy manufacturer. they make a toy clock that helps kids learn how to tell analog time, although, hello, digital age anyone? the reference, then, is to stay-at-home moms and dads) a little... stultifying? Sometimes? Come on, you can tell me. My mother did and we've never been closer!

Oh, and before I forget and thank you for asking, the birthday was very sweet. I would post some pictures but Town & Country has the rights to the party for their August issue.

PS My mom hurt my feelings. I didn't mean to call her at the office with half hourly potty updates but it was all just so exciting. Ahem.

Rational Birthday Party Jitters

I do have the best of intentions of writing here every day, really I do. Then I spend a day being quietly poisoned by the pre-IVF birth control pills (hurl) and then I spend a day following Patrick around and around and around a little lake-ette we just discovered (did you know that Minnesota has lakes? damnedest thing) and then I spend a day swilling nerve tonic after accidentally locking Patrick in the car and needing to have the police come to my garage to jack him out again... and here it is, Friday already.

I haven't attended a toddler birthday party in thirty years, so I am seriously out of practice and ridiculously nervous about the matinee tomorrow. What do you think, two ponies and one hot air balloon per kid? What about the magicians, should they saw the troublemakers in half or just make them disappear?

I jest. Ha. No, that sort of excess is really more appopriate for the Coasts, don't you think? Here in the Middle West we are a simple, happy people.

So this is my party plan. In the downstairs play room I am putting feathers and markers and crayons and glitter glue and stickers and... well, you know, crafty stuff... with which the four little kids can make birthday party crowns, should they so desire. In the upstairs playroom (yes- we have a lot of playrooms. we also have a lot of bedrooms. don't make me point out the fact that we were expecting to have more children or I'll cry wetly all over you) we have midget climbing toys and blocks and cars and the ilk. In the backyard I am setting up a wading pool and a sprinkler. Tonight Steve and I are putting together Patrick's kick ass birthday train set (Geotrax. I am hopelessly in love with Geotrax and I cannot stop buying them BUT I don't want Patrick to be the spoiled dick with the  'Vette in all the John Hughes movies so I have been hiding them in the front hall closet until I can legitimately present the child with a gift or two without ruining him forever) so that when he wakes up tomorrow there is going to be about a mile of elevated track circling the living room and he will EXPLODE with joy. That's it. Think we'll be able to keep four three year olds entertained for an hour and a half? Oh and cake, of course (yes, Christine, I will let Patrick eat the cake this year. He could've eaten it last year, he just preferred to pick the berries and kiwi off the fruit tart instead. Can he help it if he would rather eat foods rich in beta carotene and antioxidants? Can I help it if I eat all the leftover cake rather than let it go to waste? No and no.)

Why do I stress so much over completely meaningless things? Do you know?

From The Patrick File

Excellent! Thank you for the advice. Being an impatient type I decided to just try everything you suggested simultaneously and, sure enough, Patrick's wee head exploded. Problem solved.

Ho ho ho ho.

Actually Project Bathroom Friendly is proceeding nicely and I do thank you for all the good advice. The reason I am initiating this at all is that we have him signed up for morning preschool two days a week starting in September and the enrollment sheet they sent had the words MUST BE OUT OF DIAPERS printed in letters about a foot high. Now, I read that and said "Oh well, I tried. I guess Patrick will just have to spend another year playing with me" but Steve and my mother said it was time to let him, you know, interact with other kids and possibly learn to wash his own hands. So we are both being forced into it.

Patrick will be three on Saturday, for those who asked.  I assumed that you had already received flyers for his upcoming birthday party promising BALLOONS! and a BEAR CAKE! and SPAGHETTI! as he has been running that little press of his day and night (I hope he is just printing birthday invites- I would hate for that Rights of Man pamphlet stage to start up again. I also hope that he forgets about the spaghetti as I am not actually willing to serve pasta to four three-year-olds at ten-thirty in the morning.) But yes, three. He's turning three. These many.

Have I ever told you about Patrick's patented finger-counting system? I should, otherwise I will forget it and, frankly, it is pretty cool. I mean, if you are into counting.

It goes like this: First he counts one and puts up the pointer finger of his right hand. Incidentally he always calls this finger his "one" as in, "There is peanut butter on my one." Then he puts up his index finger: two, V for Victory. Ring finger goes up to make three and then the pinkie is four. OK, all right so far and the thumb makes five. Got it.

For six, though, he just sticks out the thumb on his right hand. Seven is the thumb and the pointer and so on until he gets to an awkward nine with only the pinkie on his right hand still pointing towards the palm. Ten is all ten fingers. Eleven? Well, for eleven he shifts to the left hand and puts up the pointer finger there and then the pointer on his right hand again. He can continue this way all the way up to 99 (although he is currently stuck at 60 and likes to leap to 80 more often than not.)         

Speaking of Patrick and how sweet and good he is, here's a little story from my weekend. Yesterday we went to Target (where he peed! in the big potty!) to get stuff for the birthday party. While we were going through the checkout line Patrick was startled by the sound of what appeared to be a Build-Your-Own-Mack-Track kit hitting the conveyer belt behind him. He flung up his hands and yelled, in ringing, beautifully modulated, speech therapized tones: "JESUS CHRIST!"   

"Amen," I added, hastily. I tried to look suitably devout, but I think the checkout clerk realized that we were spending the Lord's Day buying glitter glue.

He didn't learn it from me. Just so you know.

For The Four And Under Crowd

Since early childhood I have favored the notion that I might be a prodigy at, um, something. It always seemed to me that this would be the easy way to live and as many times as my mother would explain that those little violin geniuses worked very very hard at their craft I would always retort that they certainly did not work as hard as I would have to in order to achieve the same results. I mean, look at these stubby fingers!

In time, I sadly came to accept that I am not a prodigy after all (although just contemplate all of the things I have never even attempted: the monovalve b'rugalsec! Farsi! synchronized swimming! perhaps I am exceptionally gifted at any number of things and I just haven't tried them yet... the mind boggles at my untapped potential) BUT the notion that easier is better has stayed with me. Some call this mere laziness and to them I say.... eh.

This is why I do not like parenting books. The sleep guides and the food directives and the stage-by-stage analyses all seem to be predicated upon the notion that some sort of parental exertion is required to achieve maximum childage whereas I like to believe that the tree just grows in Brooklyn. "More sleep! Less stress!" that's my motto.

So it is with a heavy heart that I finally realized Patrick was not just going to come up to me one day and say, "Excuse me, mother, I need to use the men's room. I'll be back in a moment." Months of my most eager, "Hey! Would you like to sit on the potty?" have been met with a curt "No" and many times the kid has flat-out lied to me when questioned about the state of his posterior. I decided it was time to get a little more interactive with the process. I will confess right now, it's killing me.

We are three days into Potty Watch and, seriously, I am frazzled to a vanilla crisp and in need of any advice you can slather upon me.

This is what I have done. Tell me what I should do next. 

First, I let Patrick have an M&M. As this was his first introduction to anything sweeter than a graham cracker (yes! I KNOW! I DO keep Peppermint Patty Bites in my bedside table! I DO have Altoids cinnamon gum in my desk and purse and pockets and just a pinch between my cheek and gum! I am a H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-T-E) it went over like an atomic blast of goodness. He tried it. He savored it. He smacked his tongue against the roof of his mouth for ten minutes afterwards trying to recapture its essence. He said, "Want another treat with an 'M' on it?" I said, "SURE! If you sit on the potty!"

Then he and I made a Potty Chart. It had his name AND an apostrophe (letters! punctuation! he swooned.) It had lots of little boxes (squares! inside a rectangle! his heart!) and the boxes were numbered (o! how he loves numbers!) As the coup de grace I bought a couple of sheets of cat stickers (also dogs, butterflies and flowers, but they do nothing for him) and explained that he could put a STICKER in a SQUARE under a NUMBER beneath the LETTERS when he used the potty.

At which point we entered a potty detente that lasted several weeks. His desire for chocolate and the chart warred with his unwillingness to take orders like some sort of Golden Retriever, but he finally caved after our return from the beach. He sat. I handed him five M&Ms. He sat again. He got more M&Ms. Nothing happened but it was a step in the right direction.    

On Monday I put underwear on him and he promptly wet himself. "Huh," he said. "It's cool," I said and put on another pair. These got drenched five minutes later. "Are you wet?" he asked. "Apparently," I replied, wringing him out.

On Tuesday I abandoned the underwear and let him run around pants-less. When Steve saw him wander thusly into his office he shied like I was waving a loaded gun around. "It is a natural thing," I told Steve sententiously. All day Patrick would start to pee on the floor or a chair or my lap and then would stop himself. "What did you do?" he would come find me to ask.

"Did you pee?"

"Yes," he would say and take me to whatever little puddle he had created.

"That's ok! Let's go finish on the potty!" And I would sit him down and he would pee. And get a sticker. And count the stickers. And it was good. He even forgot about the M&Ms, so I ate them. Huzzah!

On Wednesday I tried putting pants on him again and he promptly got soaked. So we are back to being All Nude All the Time (except at bedtime. and naps. and our trip to Target to lay in another potty and more stickers. then he was re-diapered up to his eyeballs. Is that wrong?)

As I was typing this Patrick came over and asked for some Playdough. I said, "OK, just use the potty first." And he walked over, competently flipped up the lid, sat down and voila! Pee! God how I love the stuff. Then he wanted another sticker so he went over and tried again.

So....  I think things are progressing but I have questions.

When should I try to put underwear on him again? How long do I keep putting diapers on at naptime and bedtime? How on earth do I ever get him to use a toilet that is more than 12 inches high? Are we going to be confined to the house forever? Also, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our current potty philosophy. You know... it ain't all just pee. I was trying to encourage Patrick to poop in there as well and... WOW... "upset" does not even begin to cover his emotions when he realized what the hell it was I was trying to get him to do. Does that go away or should I just sign him up with a competent therapist?

ANY suggestions at all would be vastly appreciated. For those of you who are not currently obsessed with the content of someone else's bowels and bladder my most heart-felt apologies to you for having read this. 

I swear I will write something suitably Adult next.

Auf Wiedersehen

Yay! Audience participation! I love it.

The provocative think-piece I entitled "Huh?" yielded this response:

"whenever i read your blog - not often but once in a while - i like to think you are exaggerating massively and not really so mean to your husband in real life. if i was your husband in the world of your blog, i would have left you long ago. i assume you are turning your life into complete fiction, else why do you stay with him if he is so terrible? please reassure me that this is all a joke!"

I shared this with poor Steve, who piteously asked me to send his heartfelt thanks to Infrequent Reader- provided it was ok with me, he added hastily while shielding his face. He says it makes him feel less alone to know that there is someone out there who understands what he is going through. He started shouting something about please! please! send help! but I snapped my jaws at him and he hustled back to his labors, anxious to keep me in the style to which I have grown accustomed.

Listen up, kiddliwinks, I wouldn't waste too much time worrying about Steve. When I am not actively engaged in trying to bite him I am usually having sex with him or feeding him something fairly eatable or making him laugh. He does ok. Besides, MOST people find me ineffably charming.

Infrequent (what? I am not daily read? not even weekly? a touch! a touch I do confess) Reader asks an excellent question, though, which is: surely I jest? Did Steve really say that I had obviously scheduled the sixth D&C solely to screw up his weekend? Did I actually try to bite his leg? Do I honestly believe that prodding him into telling me that he is angry rather than letting him wander around the house for days in a silent froth is healthy? Do we truly have such little self-control that we engaged in adult acts in an upstairs bathroom while the carpet guys were working in the basement on Tuesday?

Some, yes, yes the left leg, yes and none of your damn business. But yes. Ha! 

I don't know. It seems to me that Steve and I have a pretty good marriage, all things considered. I probably should not get drunk and try to rip his head off his shoulders, but he shouldn't throw tantrums about my announcing an Eight Miscarriage Limit. Give and take. Yin and yang. Siskel-Ebert.

Anyway, I am always delighted to hear from each and every one of you, even if you do want to leave me sobbing into a wadded piece of Kleenex while the movers dismantle the nursery.

So the bad news is that we are going to South Carolina tomorrow and the blog will be a sad and lonely place until next week. The good news is that the trip is some sort of bizarr-o Family Beach Week in which Steve, Patrick and I will be sharing a house with my mother, while my brother and his wife and their two kids have a house with her brother and his wife and their child plus the other sister. Then in a third house we have the brother's wife's brother's wife's sister and her family and finally, bringing up the rear, my brother's wife's parents in house numero quattro. So when I come back I will have stories to tell. How could I not with a line-up like that? Provided I can figure out how to do it without gossiping, of course, I add primly.

I hope you have a wonderful week. Think of me while I contend with my brother's inlaws en masse. Actually, no, no. Think of Steve. Unappreciated sweet lovable little rich boy. He has suffered so much already.