Category Archives: Poo

The Adventures of Catfish, The Poop Goblin


My three-year-old daughter Bridget has been blaming all of her problems on Catfish lately, even though he’s her favorite stuffed animal.

He’s a Siamese-looking cat with a fish on his collar. She snuggles up to him every night even though he keeps wetting her bed.

And I was already having a rough day the other day when Bridget walks up to report:

“Really sorry mama, but Catfish pooped your bed…”


I run up to my room to find a bunch of poop circles all over the duvet cover (which of course I’d JUST washed and changed).

I walk into my bathroom to see a three-foot tower of toilet paper exploding from the toilet bowl, leading all the way back to a nearly-naked toilet room on the wall, which was splashed in brown handprints.  Dirty crumpled pants were wadded up on the wet floor.

I take a deep breath…

“Bridget,” I say in the most understanding tone I can muster. “I know it was you who pooped my bed, not Catfish.”


“Catfish doesn’t poop. Look, I’m really proud that you’re using the potty like a big girl, but you need to tell me because you still need help with…”

“STOP LYING, THAT NOT TRUE!” she screams, stomping away all indignant and mortified.

unicornSee, a guy friend of mine once ranted on Facebook about how badly his female coworker’s blatant grabbing of a newspaper before walking into the restroom had shocked him. He said women were delicate creatures whom he needed to picture floating several feet above the toilet to do their business, yards of fluffy tulle skirts separating them from the foulness below as they plan their next unicorn ride (or whatever it is boys think we do in our spare time).

The crazy thing is how he has two high-school aged daughters. Because I have no idea how the myth of the fartless female could survive the raising of two actual girls.

For my part, I’ve been reminded that girls poop every day for the past six years. My daughters still think farts are hilarious and will demand credit for them (I should probably do something about that before they reach high school).

“Umm… Catfish stole a croissant too.”

Still,  I’m finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Honestly, I don’t understand what other parents mean when they say their kid was potty-trained “at 11 months” (or whenever) because it’s not exactly a sudden event.

It’s more of a process spanning many unpredictable months (or years) of still needing diapers when asleep, relapsing for several days, or wetting themselves whenever they’re distracted or because they’re telling you they have to go potty eleven seconds before it happens and there doesn’t happen to be a toilet five feet away…

Handling Number Two all by yourself is the black belt of potty mastery, and Bridget really, really wants to believe she’s already there.

But her skill level doesn’t match her confidence yet. She’ll ask me to “PLEASE LEAVE” if I’m hovering and shriek “NO! DO IT MYSELF!” whenever I try to help.

But I still do, to avoid the gross aftermath of her independence streak, which is why she started sneaking into one of our four bathrooms to poop on the sly.

I find out whenever she’s mysteriously changed into new clothes, stink lines wafting above her head, and I start suspiciously checking the bathrooms for clear evidence of a struggle:

“Why did you change your pants, Bridget?

“Um… Like these pants better.”

Understandably, she’s not been wanting to own it. So, poor Catfish has been stealing Brontë’s toys, occasionally peeing the bed and leaving poopy clothes all over the bathroom floor next to piles of half-dirty toilet paper. Even though he doesn’t wear any pants.

At least Bridget keeps apologizing on his behalf.



My Daughter Starts Bullsh*tting Her Friends

Okay, so I’ve mentioned how watching little kids is hilarious because all the starter adult elements are already there, along with a belief in magic and an underdeveloped sense of  self-consciousness…

(This whole self-consciousness deal was a huge conundrum for me, as a parent, because I find myself eternally balancing the need to NOT teach my kids crippling shame with the practical need to impart rules of social acceptability, which was a real humdinger  when Brontë was about two and wanting to be naked all the time, because it felt good. I mean… how do you simultaneously explain that there’s nothing inherently wrong with her body, but it’s not okay to constantly strip off her clothes in public and run around screaming?  Especially when getting into why strangers seeing her naked is a bad idea is more than I want to share at this vulnerable age… For some reason, telling her “You can only be naked when most everyone else is naked too” finally did the trick.)

Squirrel 6Well, as a parent, you’re always vaguely terrified about doing a good job while being reassured every time your kid passes through a stage of development.

First, it’s amazing to see your kid stay alive, then you’re excited about hearing them say their first word or crawl for the first time.

Each step moves the crying, blurry starter-human closer and closer to what you recognize about normal people… for example, I’ve seen my kid move from wanting to be naked and screaming all the time to showing her first signs of social embarrassment:

For this next part, I’m gonna pretend Brontë lives near another little girl in her Kindergarten class who goes by the name of “Alice.” I’m pretending that because I’m about to share a hilarious potty conversation she had and I don’t know if Alice’s mom is okay with me publicly talking about it, so out of respect, I’m going to give her the name we gave the backyard squirrel before our lunatic dog ran it off in a misguided attempt to protect our property

Because parents like to project the safest, cutest moments of their kids, their kids, which is probably a good idea, except it paints an insincere portrait of parenting as though it were a giant series of Norman Rockwell scenes punctured by occasional Hallmark greeting cards, when really, it’s more like humanity stripped of any sense of grasping how other people are going to interpret you, which can be both hilarious and awkward… like today, when Bridget laid on her back, spread-eagle, and danced her legs in the air, toes pointed, singling “Faaa-aaaa-aaaa-aaa–aaaaart” in a way that evoked Gregorian chanting before ripping an enormous, comedy fart.

And frankly, I’m the type of mom who gets more worried about discouraging Gregorian chanting than outrageous farting displays. I mean, her announcement had a decidedly medieval flair, which seemed a most impressive build-up for a three-year-old at the time, but I have a feeling that my analysis of the situation won’t be the best one for getting her invited to future dinner parties, if you know what I mean…

At any rate, today I was charged with picking up both Brontë and “Alice” from Kindergarten, while my neighbor watched over farting baby Bridget. Sometimes I’m surprised that a neighbor as popular and level-headed as mine will entrust me with the supervision of her kids, and that she seems to find my quirks endearing, but she’s madly in love with Bridget’s ridiculous antics and we strangely seem to get along just fine.

Well, I ended up bringing Brontë and Alice to the park right next to the school, because I’d rather let the kids play until the insane traffic out of the one-way road from the school dies down and the kids seem to settle down better after playing for a few minutes after all those rules, so its a win-win.

But on the way to the park, Brontë said she REALLY needed to use the bathroom, so we ran to the girls’ bathroom where there ended up being a line, and she ended up peeing her pants before reaching the toilet.

Brontë is 99 percent potty-trained at this point, but little kids don’t have a good sense of how long they have until they need a toilet. Brontë yelled that she’d peed her pants in the bathroom, and Alice sweetly offered to give her some underwear, but I threw away Brontë’s underwear while reminding her that she couldn’t go on the swings or slide in the park because she didn’t have underwear and please try to mention needing to use the bathroom before it got critical… in the meantime, Brontë’s loud announcements about discretion over peeing her pants had the ironic effect of informing all the older girls in the bathroom to her situation, and to their credit, all of them uncomfortably pretended they didn’t hear anything as she exited the stall and I threw her underpants away in the trash. Because we already have a lot of underpants and I didn’t want to deal with it.

Brontë walked up to Alice, looked her in the eye, and said…

“Please don’t ever laugh at me for peeing my pants.”

Alice looked back into Brontë’s eyes and said, very sincerely, “I will NOT,” thus cementing a probable lifetime bond. Especially after they’d recounted how another kid in their class had peed his pants earlier that day, and how the kids had all laughed and pointed at him… Brontë stared into the distance, appearing to reconsider her earlier take.

craawdadWe then went to the park so the kids could play by the creek, where boys were pulling up red stripey crawdads. Bidgie had been amazed at the sight of crawdads, calling them “red things with two snaps, that snap your finger,” and the girls were simultaneously fascinated by them and worried that the boys would bring them too close.

(As an aside, I first learned that I was of a unique American social class when I was in the Army, discussing the eating of crawdads. Turns out, only people from Louisiana and their ilk would consider such a thing… my cousins and I would wade, unsupervised, into city creeks and catch the things to put into random aquariums by the playhouse. I had NO idea that this was truly bizarre.)

When the girls wanted to walk across the pond, one boy pointed out a thin branch that someone had laid across the water. The girls decided they wanted to try this way across, so I started mentally calculating the hazards risked by trying it:

“Hmm… shallow pond, rickety stick. They could fall. It wouldn’t be far, but they could get muddy and at worst, get pinched by a crawdad… I think Alice’s mom would okay with muddy clothes?”

My sense of consequences warred with my heartfelt belief that trying to cross a shallow creek on a rickety stick was a critical element in understanding one’s boundaries in childhood…

“Okay, let’s take off your shoes and give me your backpacks, then you can try,” I told them.

“Why do we give you our backpacks?” Alice said.

“So if you fall, your homework and backpacks won’t get wet. Don’t go at the same time: one goes first and the next waits, or you’ll pull each other in the water.”

They chucked their backpacks at my feet and stripped off their shoes. Alice took a few steps and started to waver…

Ahhh! She jumped back. “You go first!” she told Brontë.

Brontë took a few hesitant steps before wavering and jumping to the shore. They asked the boy how he got across, so he demonstrated while holding his arms out to the side.

“I’m going to do what he did,” Brontë said, holding her arms out to the side and taking a few steps. She began to lose her balance and jumped back to the bank.

“The easier way,” the boy said, “is to just walk across right here.” He walked across a shallow part to the other side.

“I’m gonna try that,” Brontë said.

“Okay,” I told her. “But here’s the trick: look before you step and only walk where you can see the ground. Don’t walk in the weeds or there could be a crawdad.”

Brontë nodded before taking a couple steps into the pond. She stepped again, then a big red crawdad popped his head up…

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!” She screamed and ran to a pile of other kids. “I was walking across the pond,” she told them, breathlessly, “When a giant crawdad jumps out and ran at me, trying to attack me!”

Meanwhile, I took a stick and tried to get the crawdad to pinch it so I could pull him out. But he kept backing off when I tapped him. He was rather docile.

I walked up to the kids as a boy tried to offer Alice a frog to pet. She screamed until I told her that frogs can’t bite or pinch you. She carefully reached out and tapped the frog before shrinking back in horror:

“He’s WET,” she said.

“Yes, he was swimming.”

She considered this before I told the girls to play for just a few more minutes before I took them home. They played until I realized we’d been gone an hour, and Alice’s mom was texting to make sure nothing had gone wrong.

And on the way home, I was awed by overhearing my child’s first successful attempt to completely bullsh*t her friends. Their conversation from the backseat went like this…

Alice: I pooped today.

Brontë: Where?

Alice: In the bathroom.

Brontë: That’s good. What color was it?

Alice: Umm… brown.

Brontë: Brown? Not rainbow colors?

Alice: No….

turdBrontë: I poop rainbow colors… don’t you?

Alice looks out the window, stunned, looking a little intimidated.

Brontë: Rainbow poops are cool, but at least you pooped in the bathroom. That’s good.

Alice nodded, then I walked her back to her house.

As we returned home, Brontë squeezed my hand, saying “Alice did NOT laugh at me when I peed my pants.”

“She did NOT. That’s a good friend.”

Brontë nodded, considering the significance.

And I couldn’t help wondering if feelings of insecurity about peeing her pants had prompted these boasts about pooping in technicolor. I mean… these boasts had obviously  been effective among the five-year-old set, where people don’t grasp the limits of biology. Alice was clearly wondering whether or not her poop was performing adequately in a world of multicolored options.

Take the levels up a few notches, though,  and you have an adult interaction. One is feeling insecure when the other boasts about mastery of the topic at hand. Then the other recalls a previous time when they had delivery superpowers.

But despite all the boasting about rainbow turd, Brontë noticed that Alice didn’t laugh at her when she had the chance, and she appreciated that.

There’s got to be some adult lesson in all this…












Bridget The Viking Wages a War on Pants

As I’ve mentioned before, my two-year-old daughter Bridget is a baby Viking: a freakishly-strong blonde who lives to dance, eat, and occasionally conquer all rules of civilized Christian society by violently head-butting them with her berserker rage.

And tonight, she waged a war on the meaning of pants.


Everything had been going so well. Earlier, she’d finally asked to use the potty instead of just using it as a step-stool or a comedy hat as she’d done for months, in what I can only assume was a blatant mockery of our attempts to civilize her.

Then she actually peed in it for the first time, like she was supposed to.

We were so ridiculously thrilled. Even her four-year-old sister Brontë was impressed, telling her, “You PEED in the potty like A BIG GIRL. I’m so proud of you, Bridge-git, because you are being a big girl more every day!”

Everyone clapped. I gave Bridget a chocolate, which she wolfed down in beaming celebration before squaring her shoulders and bellowing something unintelligible to the heavens (which I can only assume was a shout-out to Odin) before tearing out of the room…

And that’s when things got weird.

I’m not sure if Bridget worried about whether her potty capitulation meant she’d become too domesticated, or if triumphing over her bowels overwhelmed her with a sense of boundless power, but she ran straight to the pajama drawer and started yelling, “PICK! PICK!”

You see, every night before bedtime, the girls get to pick the pajamas they’ll be wearing and it’s kind of an amazingly big deal for them.

I’m guessing that’s because they don’t control most aspects of their daily lives. They don’t get to make many selections apart from whether to play with dolls or Legos, drink water or milk, eat dinner or NOT eat dinner, and which cartoon characters they want smeared across their bodies as they sleep that night.

So when I opened the pajama drawer, Bridget dove in with real purpose, finally surfacing with a Minnie Mouse nightgown in one hand and an Olivia-the-piglet top in the other.

“You have an Olivia shirt… do you want the Olivia pants, Bridget?”

“NO! NOOOO! NONONONONO… MINNIE!” (Angry V-eyebrows).

“Okay, that’s cool, you don’t want to match.”


“No problem. Do you just want to wear the Minnie Mouse nightgown? You don’t have to wear pants with it.”

“Okay, that’s fine too. Except you have two shirts right now. Do you want the pants instead?” I pulled out the Olivia pants and offered them to her.

False prophet

“NO!” Bridget insisted while shoving the Olivia pants away: “This!”

“Okay, but you have another SHIRT. You have TWO SHIRTS right now.”

“Pants,” she grunted through gritted teeth while staring me straight in the eyeballs, just daring me to suggest she wasn’t holding pants one. more. time. These were pants, goddammit, even if my limited peasant vision wouldn’t accept it.

I sat back.

Alright. Put on those pants then. 

Bridget scowled at me while balancing one foot over an upside-down Olivia shirt. She snaked her wiggling toes into an armhole before thrusting her leg all-the-way through.

Hmm. Now what?

One leg safety through, Bridget glanced down at the giant neck-hole and tiny armhole beneath her, suddenly grasping the complex dignity equation in which she’d landed herself. Not yet willing to surrender, she picked up her free leg and alternated pointing her toes at the neck hole and leg hole, aiming back and forth until she lost her balance and fell smack down on her toddler butt.

She started rolling around, jamming her leg in various parts of the Olivia shirt as though sheer force of will would magically transform it into appropriate leg wear. Finally, she somehow managed to cram both her legs into a single armhole, then, realized she was trapped, began thrashing around in a berserker rage, screaming “PANTS! PANTS! NO PANTS!”

I let her thrash until she was winded. Laying helplessly on the floor, her dignity somehow crashed amidst a random pile of brightly-colored piglets, she finally looked over and weakly gasped, “Help?”

I worked the Olivia shirt off her legs. She ran over to the pajama drawer, fished out the Olivia pants, and collapsed on my lap. I wadded up each Olivia leg like pantyhose, popped her feet through either side, held her hands and pulled her back up to her feet.

She laid a hand against my neck, pulled my face closer, and pushed her forehead onto mine. She pushed our foreheads together for several moments.

“Mama.” She gave me a kiss.

Eh, part of me knew she needed to learn for herself that even spite can’t turn shirts into pants, but another part weirdly hoped she’d manage to pull it off somehow.

And still another part isn’t sure whether she’d actually hoped to transform shirts, or was trying to challenge rigid definitions. Maybe we’d all just been blindly accepting rules about only wearing shirts on the top halves of our bodies and a single open-minded clothing messiah could break the boundaries of our apparel world by bravely venturing into unknown territory.

But not today. Today was about getting a little too big for your britches after successfully peeing in designated containers then realizing your jailers sometimes know more than you do about the boundaries of space and time.


Bidgie squeezed my hand and led me to her room, so she could hear her bedtime story and finally drift off into a dreamworld of dragons and Valkyries.

She was safe. Mama had saved her from herself and pants.









Pillow Feathers and Turds and Dogs With Rebellious Ears

Have you ever done something that you thought was a SUPER WONDERFUL IDEA only to later see that same SUPER WONDERFUL IDEA as proof there’s something wrong with your brain?

See, we’ve been going through an extremely stressful few months around here trying to sell our house and buy one at the same time. Trying to bid with contingencies, spending ungodly amounts of money fixing up our yard to look more inviting and having to keep our stupidly white house with white carpets looking absolutely perfect, just in case strangers need to walk through and judge us.

And complicating this endeavor is the fact we’re raising two crazy toddlers in this stupidly white house. Look, toddlers are all a little crazy, but I suspect my toddlers are even crazier than most.

I have my reasons. Like, when I attended mamma-baby yoga classes with my kids, all the other babies were sleeping or playing quietly with their toys, whereas MY babies were either concocting complex schemes to rip off all the other babies’ toys or so wound up they were repeatedly smacking themselves into the wall mirrors while disrupting class with their shrieks.

My toddlers appear to have a death wish. I kept trying to rationalize this away, but after baby-proofing every room in our house, we kept seeing them think up endless ways to throw themselves off our loft or stack up enough furniture to remove lightbulbs so they could stick their fingers into the empty sockets.

You’d think they’d grow out of that nonsense as they got older, but l’appel du vide is only becoming more sophisticated. Just this morning, I caught Bridget dipping her TOOTHBRUSH into the toilet, then sucking the water out of it.

Since plummeting off the balcony didn’t work for her, she’s now clearly trying to contract some form of cholera.

Witnessing this, there first was horror. Then, uncomfortable curiosity about whether or not it was the first time. And finally, the painful realization that she grabs my husband’s toothbrush whenever she can get her hands on it…

Unwilling to fully process the implications, I piled the kids into the car to hit the library. We were nearly there when bloodcurdling screams exploded from the back seat, whereupon I turned around and saw this:



THAT’S RIGHT, SHE’S STRANGLING HERSELF WITH THE FRONT PASSENGER SIDE SEATBELT. It wasn’t actually tight enough to hurt her, but what an impressive effort. How have we all managed to survive??

And this kind of insanity; this type of gritty, single-minded focus on senseless destruction has been aimed at our white-carpeted house for the past four years. At any given moment, I get a text from our agent telling me someone wants to view our house within the hour, usually just after realizing my kids did something like not only bust into my lipstick selection but also the ten-pound bag of rice hidden in our pantry, because such an exciting combination of two new forms of artistic media couldn’t fail to be explored.

And as much as I’ve tried blaming our kids’ foolishness on my husband’s genes, I’m now forced to admit that mine may also be responsible. Because in the middle of all this house-swapping lunacy, some crazy mad scientist living deep in my brain decided:

“You know what?  I don’t think this situation is nearly stressful enough. We should probably take everything up a notch by throwing a hysterical, house-shredding, not-potty-trained puppy into the mix.”

Yes, that was actually MY brain, surveying the landscape and determining how to proceed. Since the lipstick stains and rice everywhere hadn’t already broken me, I felt I needed a dog who’d shake every pillow in the house until feathers coated whatever clean space was left.

And you know what else? I don’t believe Douglas is a chihuahua mix. That’s what we were told by the sweet old lady handling him, but she’d pretty much gotten everything else about him wrong. She said he was six years old, but it turns out he’s 18 months. She said he was fixed, despite him clearly being intact.

I’m starting to wonder if she just assumed he was a chihuahua because most little dogs at shelters are (the bigger ones are Pit Bulls). Because since then, we’ve looked at photos of various dog breeds and he looks kind of EXACTLY like a Jack Russell terrier, which would explain the ridiculous amount of energy. It also means we busted straight past the beginner dog breeds to tackle the Advanced Calculus of challenging dog ownership.

Those ears are an in-your-face abomination, according to my kid

We still love him, of course, despite the fact that Brontë is deeply dissatisfied and has already put in her order for a secondary dog. When we move, as she’s explained to us multiple times, we need to get what amounts to the EXACT OPPOSITE of Douglas: a giant, black, female dog named “Bella” with TWO ears that stick straight up.

You see, Douglas has one ear that sticks up and one that folds over. I think it’s adorable, but it’s driving Brontë nuts. She keeps trying to unfold the bendy ear in a fruitless attempt to set things right. Something about Douglas’s mismatched ears really tweaks her 4-year-old concept of predictable world order.

For me, those concepts are a tad bit more unhinged by errant pillow feathers settling into dog turds on our expensively-cleaned white carpet right before our 2-year-old with an angry colon tries to hang herself with the seatbelts in our car, but why should my personal definitions of domestic tranquility take precedence, right?

Yet tonight, just as I thought the whole crumbing chaotic universe was about to claim my very soul…


Hallelujah! It’s OVER.

Someone is buying our house and someone else accepted our offer on theirs. On the same night.


Everything is right again and all we need to do is move.

(And get a giant black female dog with TWO sticky-up ears so my 4-year-old can again feel the world is just and consistent.)

Everyone is beautiful and wonderful again and I wish you all a good night. I love you all.







Where I Sick My Toddler on Our Obnoxious Dog

Douglas pretends to be okay on a leash when we first meet

So we’ve had Douglas the chihuahua/terrier/something for about a week now and I have to tell you, he’s driving me nuts.

Don’t get me wrong. He IS sweet and adorable and will cuddle up to you at night and really, really means well, but I’m having a rough time with his berserker dog energies.

I’m beyond certain this has something to do with me being a cat person.

I’m used to calm, clean kitties who like your approval but don’t NEED it, whereas Douglas goes into approval-seeking seizures so violent they’ve actually drawn blood.  He wasn’t even trying to be mean… he just goes into such a licking, head-whipping frenzy that upon seeing me, he woodpeckers his face against my hands until his teeth accidentally break the skin.

And he has other problems, like:

  • He chews EVERYTHING. I have two kids under five, which means there’s a wave of toys constantly enveloping our house. I was hoping the threat of dog ingestion would help me train my kids to pick up after themselves, but so far, the dog keeps on crapping Legos and trying to wrestle Bridget’s blankies away.
  • He isn’t leash-trained. Approaching Douglas with a leash makes him instantly pee all over the floor. Then he stubbornly sits there while you pull at the leash until he’s choking and vomiting.
  • But if you remove the leash, he won’t respond to commands AT ALL. When I took Douglas and the girls out to get mail from the mailbox, the FIRST thing he did was run straight out into the street and into oncoming traffic. He not only didn’t flinch when we called his name, he bolted away from us for the next half hour while we tried to grab him.
  • When we let him inside, the first thing he does is find a sweet corner of the house to crap in. We tell him NO and put him back outside for a decent interval before bringing him back in. Then he instantly craps again, like he’d been holding it. He’s THE OPPOSITE of potty-trained. He WANTS to crap inside.

Despite all of his issues, there’s NO WAY we’re taking Douglas back to the shelter because that would break his little doggie heart. He truly loves us and was so happy to become part of our family that I just can’t do that to him.

But what to do…

Brontë bosses her stuffed lemur around

The other night, it hit me: Brontë not only loves animals but, like many 4-year-old girls, she’s incredibly bossy. She bosses her little sister around all the time, tries to boss around John and me, and managed to train Frodo the Cat to stand up on command, just cause she was bored.

So, I turned to her while she was eating some graham crackers at the kitchen table. I told her in a very serious voice: “Brontë, I’m making you the Official Boss of the Dog.

She stood up, nodded, and said, “I’m also the Boss of the Minnie Mouse blanket.”

“Yes you are. You are the Boss of Minnie Mouse and also the Boss of the Dog.”

How did I not instantly see it? Brontë’s hyper control needs and an out-of-control little dog is a match made in heaven. She even has infinite time on her hands.

And she’s been taking her duties very seriously. Everywhere I go, I’m hearing Brontë whip Douglas into shape:

“No, DOUG-LAS! People are NOT for biting. We are NOT DOG TOYS. Kissing us is an okay thing to do. You can kiss but you CANNOT BITE!”

“Douglas, you are NOT ALLOWED TO PLAY WITH BARBIES. Here… you can play with your squeaky duck.”

“Douglas, STOP GIVING THE CATS MEAN LOOKS! Raj will smack you in the face and he will be RIGHT.”

“You do NOT poop in my room. Rooms are NOT for pooping! You can poop in the potty or outside because you are a dog but you do NOT poop in the living room or my room and you DO NOT poop next to Ariel because SHE IS A MERMAID.”

Okay, so maybe I set Brontë on the dog because I knew it would be funny and that would kind of help me deal with all the frustrations he’s caused, but I still think it’s a good plan. She seems to have the essential training idea down and I somehow think a four-year-old mind could maybe brain-hack a dog.




My Daughter’s Fixation on Bathroom Identity

Toddler obsessions can be strange and mysterious. Like lately, Brontë has been consumed by the significance of the bathroom in which you choose to pee.

How DARE you suggest I pee where boys pee??

So, for example, if Brontë is out somewhere with her dad, she will absolutely flip out about him taking her to the bathroom. Because that would mean peeing in a boy’s bathroom, which is NOT OKAY.

If he won’t take her to the girl’s room, she won’t want to go at all… no matter how many times we’ve explained that she’s allowed in the men’s room with her dad, while grown men aren’t allowed in the women’s bathroom.

Well, she’s not buying it and furthermore, she’s not happy about the whole unisex deal we have going on at home. She’s taken ownership of the bathroom closest to her room and keeps piling dresses and princess toys in there like some kind of feminine territorial display.

She’s okay with baby sister Bridget using it and actually seems flattered when I do. She’ll wander in after me, asking if I like her bathroom, checking to make sure there’s still toilet paper and pointing out her fancy-smelling soap. She seems to take pride in the place.

catbathroom.jpgAnd every single time, she’ll make pleasant small talk with me before requesting I put a girl’s bathroom sign on the door–one of those public restroom stick figures with a dress on–so daddy will quit going in there. Because it’s a GIRL bathroom.

Her peeing obsessions have worked their way into her humor lately too, what with her asking me last week if I wanted to go to China with her someday. I told her I’d love to and asked what she wanted to do there. She plans to eat rice with chopsticks, drink tea, and “PEE IN A CHINESE BATHROOM IF THE POLICE WOULD LET US,” she told me while wiping tears from her eyes and breaking into uncontrollable laughter.

MOMMY’S bathroom has flower-smelly stuff and proper girl accouterments 

“Pee in a Chinese bathroom,” she kept saying again and again, laughing harder every time. I have no idea what kinds of hilarious shenanigans she envisions taking place in Chinese bathrooms, or why she would imagine the Chinese police wouldn’t prefer people peeing inside the bathroom, but she found the idea hysterical, just the same.

This weekend, we were driving through Sacramento when we went past the coffee shop where John and I first met. John pointed it out to Brontë, telling her how we had cafe lattes and a seven-hour conversation at that table, right over there…

Brontë was fascinated. She loves to hear about her parents’ early relationship and likes to talk about what our wedding was like. She found a picture of us on our wedding day at her grandparents’ house which she stared at for ages before begging for a copy in her room. “You wore a white dress,” she reminds me sometimes, “And had white earrings and pink flowers. Can I see your ring?”

We decided to stop there for coffee. Brontë begged us to drink it there and found a nice table on the patio. Chewing on some lemon pound cake, she pointed out the men with strange beards playing chess in the corners before saying she needed to use the bathroom. I got up to take her.

We grabbed the long key next to the coffee bar and went into the single, unisex bathroom with long open windows. Brontë crawled up onto the toilet and relaxed, her little feet dangling over the bowl.

Suddenly she froze, her eyes enormous. “WAIT,” she said, staring me hard. “Wait wait wait… Hold on: Did you PEE IN THIS VERY SAME BATHROOM on the day you met my dad?”

“Umm… I don’t remember, but maybe… I probably did.”

Brontë stared in amazement for a few moments before heaving a deep sigh.

“Whoa, ” she said. “Just… wow.”


My Kid Made Me Look Racist In Public


Looks like an upscale joint

I didn’t used to know if kids actually embarrassed their parents by saying super inappropriate things in public, or if that only happened on TV.

I thought maybe it just was a convenient comedy device, like kids wearing off-center  baseball caps and scrawling backwards letters on their lemonade stand signs as they learned the value of a dollar. Or running away from home carrying all their jacks and marbles tied up in a red bandana on a stick.

Off to eat Moon pies and sulk by the Ol’ Fishing Hole

Maybe I’m getting modern kids confused with kids from the 1930’s, I don’t know.

But after our family’s last trip to the zoo, I DO know the public embarrassment deal isn’t just a sitcom gag.

And I’m not talking about public tantrums, either. Yes, those can be embarrassing, but on some level everyone knows toddlers have tantrums, so it isn’t all that shocking when it happens.

No, I’m talking about the blood-freezing, chest-locking public humiliation that can happen when the planets line up just so to make your painfully honest, naive toddler shout out just the wrong thing at just the wrong time. It doesn’t help that toddlers have intermediate language skills, at best.

Let me tell you what happened…

Kids-have-so-much-energyWe had been walking all day at the Sacramento Zoo, following our hyperactive kids as they darted from one animal to another through a mass of crowds. It was HOT and we were tired.

Even the kids were winding down by this point. It was nearly 100 degrees and the crowds were feeling it, getting touchier by the second. Our four-year-old daughter Brontë was frustrated by her inability to find cheetahs and her baby sister kept trying to eat popcorn off the ground.

Pushing on, we suddenly saw a beautiful oasis off to the side: a koi pond with Japanese statues surrounded by gardens and stone benches. My husband and I rushed over to rest on the benches while Brontë and her two-year-old sister Bridget ran up to the pond.

Awesome, we can sit. 

There was a large family to our left.  They appeared to be Mexican. There was a black family to the right. Both families included kids, which was great because Brontë LOVES to introduce herself to new kids and try to make friends with them. I figured she would start talking to the kids and end up playing with them for a while, so John and I could take a nice long break.

But that was not to be.

IMG_3407Instead, Brontë stared at the pond for a minute before bunching her little eyebrows up in a ball. She turned to me before saying, “Mom? There’s orange fish and brown fish and I DON’T LIKE BROWN FISH.”

I got up from the bench and walked over to her. Maybe being next to her would help keep her volume down.

“Brown fish are okay,” I said. “Brown fish and orange fish are BOTH nice.”

Brontë gave me a hard look, angry that I didn’t seem to get it.

“NO, mama,” she said, with rising volume. “I like orange fish. Or white fish. I DON’T LIKE BROWN! WHITE IS BETTER!”

OMG… My face gets hot as my eyes dart side to side. I’m wondering why my daughter is saying these things and am suddenly painfully aware of everyone tan in our vicinity.

Brontë looks at me dead in the eye, throws back her head, and screams, “BROWN IS UGLY!”

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAH, for the love of all that’s holy, child, SHUT THE HELL UP!  

I had no idea where this came from and was beginning to panic. But it felt like if I got all flustered, telling her to be quiet, it would make me look REALLY GUILTY. Like everyone hearing it would assume she’s just repeating stuff she’s heard at home.

Not sure of the best way to handle it, I tried turning her around on the whole issue of brown.

“Brown isn’t ugly,” I told her. “LOTS of thing you love are brown. Chocolate is brown. Cinnamon is brown. Deer and horses and big beautiful eyes are sometimes brown. Brown is beautiful too.”

I was talking aimlessly, but was so mortified by my toddler’s sudden public screamfest about white superiority that I didn’t know WHAT to do.

I’m judging you too

Where did this come from? After Brontë spent two weeks crying about not being “pretty enough” because her hair isn’t blonde like Rapunzel’s in Tangled, I made such a huge point of teaching her why Aryan blondeness isn’t the only way. How could she say these things after her special moment with Princess Tiana in Disneyland?

After I ramble on about brown beauty for a while, Brontë looks me dead in the eye, throws her head back, and screams:



The Mexican mom looks at me sideways as I fantasize about the Earth swallowing me whole.

Great. Now everyone thinks my daughter has a racist grandma and God knows what we’ve been telling her on the side.

I took some time to ask Brontë how grandma feels about brown fish and white ones as I grabbed her hand and made a speedy exit.

Later, I tried to figure out the best way to broach the subject with my folks.

I didn’t want to straight up ask them, “So, have you been saying racist sh*t around my kids?” Because that would be really offensive and unwarranted, considering everything I know about my folks.

BUT, the next time we had dinner with my parents, I planned to raise the subject when the moment was right.

My dad had invited us over for ribs, which was awesome because he’s really good at cooking ribs. We had all eaten not just babyback but St. Louis too, all had a beer or three, and the kids had run off to play with a bevy of Barbie dolls. Everyone was relaxed and the time seemed possibly right…

I tried to think about how to bring it up without sounding like I was pointing fingers.

“So, umm…” I started. “We were at the zoo and were hanging out at the koi pond and Brontë, out of nowhere, starts talking about how much she hates brown fish and how white fish are better…”

I try to relay the story as best I could, ending with how Brontë shouted about grandma thinking brown was bad. Didn’t want to insult my parents, of course, but sometimes 60’s sensibilities aren’t the same as modern day.

“Ohhhhhh…” Dad started. “Well, we have the koi pond out front, and the filter was on the fritz.”


“So the pond wasn’t getting cleaned and a brown film was building up. Maybe we said something about the white fish turning brown and how it was ugly and we needed to fix it.”

Ahhh. It was all starting to make sense…

Still, the things that come out of your mouth that your children end up repeating with their limited understanding and even more limited tact…

He’s just paying you back

I was happy the explanation ended up being  reasonable, but still…Parenting is nothing if not boot camp for control issues and sensitivity. There comes a point when your kid has crapped or screamed or thrown things enough in public that you finally start building a thicker skin.

This was not one of those times.

But it’s still early. I have no idea what’s still in store for me. I’ve already braved my child screaming what sounded like racist rants in public, so there’s no telling what’s coming next.

What about you? Has your kid embarrassed you in public, or are they the quietly-coloring type that I always see on TV? 🙂











Memorial Day Weekend Hilarity

Hello everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day and fun three-day weekend.

We sure did. My crazy, high-energy toddlers can be challenging (aren’t they all?), but they really crack me up. The entertainment value alone makes it all worth it, so I thought I’d share some of the highlight reel:

Dad Makes a Mockery of Purple Princess Clothes

IMG_3602John: Can I wear your dress today?


John: No, I look awesome.

Brontë: NO, you’re too big. That’s for GIRLS. MOMMA, DADDY’S TRYING TO WEAR MY PRINCESS DRESS!

Notice my daughter’s look of unbridled toddler outrage. Not only is her dad taking her dresses without asking, he’s  getting boy cooties all over them.


Battles for Violet the Lizard

We went to a cousin’s birthday party at John’s Incredible pizza. I told my husband he should demand free entrance because the sign says it’s his place, but no one else thought the idea was funny. And rightly so.

Violet the lizard
Turns out my husband has mad skee ball powers that gave us a cheap toy return on our entrance fees. As if by magic, he dropped a ball straight into the 300 ticket slot. He claims it was pure luck, but I think he’s just being modest.

After playing a variety of arcade games and collecting tickets, we went with the kids to the ticket redemption center so they could pick out some stuff. They selected two miniature Army guys with tiny parachutes, two kazoos, and one plastic lizard.

Brontë named the lizard Violet (after my cat) and she quickly became the most sought-after toy in the house. Brontë and Bridget fight over turns with Violet, pretending to brush her hair, read her books, carrying her around in a plastic cat carrier, and wearing her on their shoulder while they eat dinner.

Lizard castle
They even built her a lizard castle, which also functioned as a sister fort.

Finally one evening, I caught Brontë quietly staring at Violet. Brontë lightly poked her a couple of times then looked at me, concerned.

“Mom? I think there may be something wrong with this lizard.” Brontë told me as she kept poking her. “She isn’t moving. We may need to take her to a doctor.”



Profanity At The Zoo

IMG_3611We also had a terrific time at the zoo, checking out all the different animals and running around like mad.

I even learned something new. We were standing next to some zebras when one of them got worked up about something and started yelling. It sounded A LOT like a donkey.

I’ve never heard a zebra make noise before, but I didn’t expect to hear donkey calls. I thought zebras would sound more like warbling deer. Now I can’t help but see zebras as nothing but donkeys wearing elaborate striped outfits.

The kids were having so much fun, in fact, that we didn’t notice the time flying by. And right as an employee finally walked up to us to politely tell us the zoo was closing, Brontë stopped suddenly, looked at me with enormous eyes, and said, “MOM, I REALLY, REALLY NEED TO GO TO THE BATHROOM.”

We immediately rushed over to the nearby restrooms because when a four-year-old tells you they need the bathroom, it’s urgent. John and I were negotiating who would look after which kid when the zoo employee told us to all just go in together since everyone else had left anyway.

So, we all walked into the bathroom together as Brontë beelined to a stall. She scrambled onto the toilet seat while dropping her drawers… and two baseball-sized turds rolled across the floor.

Brontë looked down, threw both her arms in the air, and shouted:

“Well SH*T, looks like I just crapped my pants!”

I pressed my lips together hard while my brain screamed dontlaughdontlaughdontlaugh, but I just COULDN’T HELP IT.

John, sensing I was about to break, heroically rushed over to help as I quietly left the bathroom to go into hysterics. You don’t want to encourage your children to have potty mouths by laughing when they swear, but it was just…

IMG_3610SO FUNNY. I don’t know how my husband held it together. Her enunciation was perfect. Her arms gestures added just the right emphasis and if crapping your pants isn’t the perfect situation for using the S-word, then I don’t know what is.

I walked back in after collecting myself and helped get everyone out of the zoo. John and I told Brontë she shouldn’t be using the S word but tried not to make a big deal out of it, because flipping out seemed like handing our kids detailed instructions on how to really get a rise out of adults.

My cousin related this little gem to our grandmother, who called the toddler use of the S word an “abomination.” That seemed like a strong word to me.

Fortunately, no one saw or heard any of this: neither the toddler S bomb, nor the rolling turds. I’m not entirely sure whether we just spared humanity from this scene or if everyone else was robbed of the joke.

But I hope everyone else had a fun weekend too. Happy Memorial Day!





Preschools and Snot-Driven Plague Vectors

Hello, readers and fellow bloggers. Hope you’ve all been well and I mean to catch up with you guys, but I’ve been knee-deep in the parenting trenches of full-blown family sickness for the past week…

There are some aspects of parenting we’ve all heard jokes about our entire lives. You’ve heard them so much, in fact, you might think you know what you’re in for when signing up for this whole parenting gig.

For example, not getting enough sleep.

Sure, I’m in for some late nights, you think, but until you’ve actually woken up every ninety minutes for months on end, you really have no idea what sleep deprivation means. We’re talking hallucination levels, here.

Thankfully, the sleep torture thing eventually winds down. I say this in hopes of bolstering the sanity of any new parents that happen by my site: it DOES get better guys. Hang in there.

But I also want to warn you about another big hurdle: Prepare to get sick. A lot.

I didn’t used to get sick very often, maybe once or twice a year. I figured I had a pretty good immune system. I was even a bit… shall we say… cocky about it.

Well, I’ve been humbled.

I was lucky because neither of my daughters were ill for their entire first year (knock on wood). We were healthy, they were healthy… I breastfed them both and since that’s supposed to give kids a better immune system, I figured we were in great shape.

And then… my daughter started preschool.

That’s the game changer, because ever since my daughter started going to class with a bunch of other kids, our family has been hit with enough plagues and locusts to slap the smug right off my face.

It usually starts with my older daughter being a little crabby and out of sorts, pushing her dinner away and whining a lot. Next thing you know, she’s warm to the touch.

Before long, she’s projectile vomiting in every room of the house and eventually exploding from both ends. I stay up all night with her, ready to aim her towards a bucket or change her or administer baby tylenol or what have you.

Then a new day dawns, I feel a twinge, and next thing you know, I’m scrambling to reach a bucket myself. I’m sick and then the baby gets sick and then my husband gets sick and soon, our toilets and garbage cans are straining under the weight of purged infection.

We’re miserable, we recover, and a few weeks later, we’re sick again in a slightly different way. Again and again.

The past week’s episode started when Brontë was sent home from preschool after not reaching the toilet in time. Kids have the sniffles all the time, they told me, but diarrhea is where they draw the line. Apparently, the other class had had an outbreak and you want to keep that kind of thing contained.

According to our preschool and family doctor, this has been a particularly bad year for illness in general, but the nonstop sickness deal is common for new parents. New teachers too, for that matter. I hear that anyone who spends time around a lot of kids tends to get sick constantly for about two years.

And why is that? Well, because kids have immature immune systems and tend to pick up every bug going around. At first, this explanation baffled me because by that logic, adults should have mature immune systems that should be fortified against catching all of this, right?

But when you think about it, a preschool is the living embodiment of how NOT to contain disease.

Just think about the adult world, by contrast. I remember how back when I worked in an office, you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting antibacterial hand sanitizer. They used to put hand sanitizer in the bathroom, by elevators, and by every cubicle nest.

I thought it was overkill at the time, especially because some people liked to squirt it on after touching practically anything. One coworker even massaged it into her lips whenever she finished eating lunch.

And I also remember how some nervous new parents would carry the stuff around with them wherever they went. They’d sanitize their hands before touching their baby, and make sure everyone else did too.

What a losing battle that was, because babies eventually turn into toddlers. And if there’s anything I know about toddlers, it’s that they aren’t real clear on the concept of good personal hygiene.

I love toddlers, of course, but there are a couple of things it’s very difficult to talk them out of doing:

  1. Keeping their fingers out of their noses, and
  2. Not chewing on everything

Seriously, I’ve tried and tried, but it’s damn near impossible to keep kids’ fingers out of their noses.

My four-year-old is a girly-girl princess of pink sparkle proportions, who wants to wear a glittery princess dress every. single. day.

We’ve had many discussions about nose-picking. I’ve told her it isn’t very princessy. I’ve shown her how to use a tissue. I’ve told her other kids will think it’s gross and to at least do it in private then wash her hands.

It hasn’t made a dent. Every time I turn around, she jams her finger right back up her nose to the knuckle like someone flipped on a high-powered magnet. Just like all the other toddlers do.

So, this isn’t rocket science. Any germs in a five-mile radius end up in kid snot, which kids will rub all over their fingers before touching stuff, whenever they aren’t busy chewing on whatever toys other kids have touched with their snot-marinated hands.

Sickness spreads like wildfire, then the infected kids go home to their parents, who have to change their diapers and clean their vomit many times a day. Even once your kids are potty-trained, you have to wipe their butts for a while, cause kids aren’t real thorough about it.

And you cary around your kids and cuddle them and hold their little hands and kiss them. You’re in close quarters, so it’s just a matter of time before you’re exposed to whatever germs are mutating in their little bodies.

So new parents, be prepared. It happens to everyone. We get our flu shots and vaccinations and everything else, but you just can’t account for everything going around.

But if it makes you feel any better, I’ve heard it only lasts for a couple of years. Your immune system goes through a trial-by-fire ordeal in the wake of endless foreign germs until it finally rises to the challenge.

And one small comfort concerning the nose-picking habit: it may actually be a natural compulsion. According to this weird study, kids might instinctively pick their noses because it helps strengthen their immune systems.

It would explain a lot.








How to Be Naked At the Grocery Store

So the other day at the grocery store, my four-year-old daughter Brontë once again showed signs of an unfortunate phase I thought we’d gotten past.

Let me explain.

As any parent can tell you, having kids is a mixture of heartwarming, hilarious, and insanely trying moments.  While every kid is different, they all seem to go through phases so frustrating, so utterly nerve-shredding, that parents hope and pray they can make it through them without duct-taping their kids to the back porch before grabbing their keys and tearing off in the car, blasting rock music and shouting, “WHEEEEEE! FREEDOM!”

I exaggerate, but only a little.

Brontë’s worst phase had to have been the Great Poop Art period spanning 2013-2014, when she was roughly one and two years old. Back then, she would casually reach down the back of her diaper to scoop out  handfuls of poo, which she would then paint into massive murals all over the house.

She really got into it, focusing intensely as she massaged poop into the wall and all the crevices of her crib. She would poop mural the bathtub, poop mural her bedroom and poop mural the backyard whenever the spirit moved her. No amount of shrieking, yelling or time-outs seemed to slow her down.

poopI don’t know whether she was inspired by curiosity or anger, but I can tell you what finally stopped her. One evening,  I returned home from a mom’s night out to find Brontë’s bedroom wall completely covered in fecal swirls (apparently, dad had missed this).

That was it. I sprayed the wall down, put a sponge in her hand, and told her to get busy cleaning.  I made her scrub the caca nightmare for half an hour before mopping up whatever was left, and THAT, dear readers, was the last time Brontë involved choco-pants in her artistic endeavors.

Poop Art was the worst of the worst, but the second worst phase was probably the one where Brontë thought it was great fun to flip mom’s shirt up in the grocery store.

Maybe because Brontë was breastfed, she didn’t think boobies were a big deal. Toddlers love being naked anyway, and don’t get why adults make such a fuss about it. Many times, John and I had to rehash the “being naked is private” lecture with her after Brontë had once again ripped off all of her clothes and run bare-ass naked through a park or restaurant or dentist’s office.

But one day, Brontë figured out she could really get a rise out of mommy by pulling up mommy’s shirt in the frozen section of Safeway. What fun. All Brontë had to do was wait for the right moment, when mom was lost in thought comparing different tomato sauces, for example, to whip out her tiny hand and start pulling.

Mom would hysterically grab at her shirt with one hand and try to restrain her toddlers’ hands with the other, shouting for Brontë to quit while other shoppers pretended not to see anything. Brontë thought this was the most hilarious thing she had ever witnessed in her two years on the planet and it took me weeks to break her of it.

But I finally did, and everything was quiet through all of age three. And four, until the other day…

Pure unbridled havoc
Brontë and I were at the local Whole Foods. She was facing me, perched in the kid seat of our shopping cart, and I was staring at the vast pasta section while trying to figure out where they put the bucatini.

“You’re tall, mommy,” she said.

“Yes, a little tall. Very tall compared to you right now, but you’re getting taller,” I said.

All of a sudden, her eyebrows bunched up in a look of pure determination as she plunged both fists under my shirt and shot her hands upward. I thrust forward from the waist, trying to move my torso with my shirt without jettisoning my child in a runaway shopping cart, and yelled, “STOP IT!”

“YOU stop it!” Brontë shouted back while using every ounce of her strength to wriggle her arms back toward my collarbones.

“CUT IT OUT!” I yelled while trying to grab her blurry arms. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?”

“I’M…” she started. “I’m…”

“I’M MAKING DINOSAUR ARMS!” she screamed in exasperation.

I blinked at her in pure bewilderment. Dinosaur arms? What the hell!?

When it finally hit me, I couldn’t help but smirk. Suddenly, I found myself caught up in the classic parental dilemma of not wanting to encourage bad behavior while simultaneously not wanting to discourage raw genius. Maybe I could help her realize her creative vision in a safe way.

“Umm…” I said, “How about I make the dinosaur arms?”

She nodded and relaxed as I snaked my own arms beneath my shirt, popping my hands out the neck hole: “RAWR, I’M A T-REX!”

Brontë laughed hysterically before snaking her little arms up her own shirt and popping her fists out the neck hole: “I’m a baby T-rex!”

We rawred at each other for a bit while snorting, stomping, giggling, and convincing nearby shoppers to give us a wide berth, since we were clearly lunatics.

And I breathed a sigh of relief.

Brontë wasn’t trying to publicly pants me again; she was just realizing that her relatively small arms on my tall body would make a terrific Tyrannosaurus Rex impersonation. That’s exactly the kind of brilliant, outside-the-box thinking I can’t bring myself to shut down.

Even if I should. Or shouldn’t. Who knows?

We went home and made our bucatini and played T-Rex tag the rest of the night.