I thought I had surely mentioned to you that a visit to the doctor, for me, is torture (and not the good kind). In fact, I have a whole tag devoted to it. I can trace this back to childhood pediatrician Dr. Downey although we can scatter blame around liberally if you want. There’s plenty.

You can imagine my delight (which, in this case, is equal parts relief and terror that she might retire despite being my age) in finding a doctor who not only sees the whole family, but is nice, approachable, doesn’t wear doctory clothes, and often gets us in on the day we call. She manages the family’s health without being condescending or judgmental, things you would hope are a given in one’s doctor but, in my experience, are not. We treasure her. And she took our insurance.


Used to.

Past tense.

A month ago we got a pleasant but frank letter about a change in her solo practice. She is moving to a new model of care that more closely mirrors the golden age of house-calls except she can’t be paid in chickens or fresh bread. Nope. She can’t be paid in anything except actual money that is not, to be clear, the money already deducted for our health insurance. In exchange for old-timey, part-of-the-family, care, each person pays a monthly fee instead of a copay.

There were tears, my friends.

Without some serious tightening elsewhere, we can’t afford to pay monthly above and beyond our insurance. Legislation is pending to allow payments like these via a flexible spending plan but pending is not actual. My bank account doesn’t actually get the ideas of pending, patience, or eventually. My credit card does but he’s a wily bastard and not to be trusted.

And so here we are. We’ve a month left to decide whether we’re staying or going and while all signs point to staying, we haven’t yet figured out how to manage the costs. I think I’m a bit paralyzed about it all, especially about the idea of finding a new doctor and starting over. My medical history is a smorgasbord of awesome (if you consider awesome to be both baffling and predictably catastrophic).

This is the second doctor I’ve had stop taking insurance. Are lots of other doctors doing this? Is this some sort of medical industry trend? Is Aetna (our only choice) so horribly awful (we don’t think so) that providers run for the hills? And the million dollar question, how worth it is it to pay, essentially, twice for a really great doctor?

The decision is mostly made but, jesus, I wish it weren’t so complicated.




Perhaps my expectations are too high. I don’t think it’s unreasonable that my four year old would consistently use the toilet but perhaps it is. Perhaps it’s tantamount to my mother putting trash in the can and NOT in the sink. Physically impossible.

I realize that after almost two years of lamenting about this to you, I neglected to share the pay off, the really exciting news, the actual pee in the potty. You deserved it and I’m sorry I cheated you. On the other hand, I’ve probably saved you the letdown I’m experiencing which, when I say letdown, is more of a catastrophic deflation.



Now that you know that, I feel like I can share the excitement without the disappointment because you will be reading and thinking aha, I know this does not end well and I will have saved at least one of us from wondering if I’m a terrible mother, an inept caretaker, or both, probably both.

After a marathon weekend attempting to potty train her, employing our friends (and our friends’ children) as back-up, we finally achieved one incidence of pee IN the potty on Memorial Day weekend. We took her to school that Tuesday, armed with panties and the promise of a reward (specifically a DVD. Specifically Frozen. And I have plenty to say about that.) if she managed a repeat. She did not. In fact, she simply wet her pants all day. I kept her home the next two days in a boot-camp style effort which…worked. By Friday, she was reliably peeing in the potty.

Mind, this required reminders. How do you do foreshadowing in a blog? Doom noises? This?



And so we have continued on in panties, rarely making it a whole day without a change, although I can’t tell if that’s because of a long nap (which I understand), or poop (which, I can’t even figure out how to train), or because she just…doesn’t manage it. Even at home, where we have some more control over the situation, she sometimes just wets her pants. And it’s not as though she tells us, she just carries on as if nothing has happened. I could belabor this point but, suffice to say, after spending a weekend with her, I’m not sure she’d go if we weren’t reminding her.

This is not potty-trained.


Montessori, while working for her wonderfully in every other aspect, isn’t into reminders. So if she’s wet, they send her to change and, since that’s often, she comes home reeking of urine every other day. At least. I want to unequivocally love them but I am getting increasingly frustrated by the combination of my inattentive child and the hands-free staff.

A month in and I’m not convinced she’s getting it. I don’t think it’s oppositional although she sometimes gets belligerent if you ask her to try and she’s already wet. It is definitely not making a point or being on purpose. I think it falls more into the category of forgetfulness. She is, and has always been, so committed to any task she undertakes that she simply doesn’t notice the world around her. It is no surprise that she isn’t listening to her own body either.

Which begs the question, if the solution to an intensely focused kid is timers and reminders AND she is in school all week where there are no timers or reminders, how long will it take for her to get it? I can tell you, it’s longer than a month. Which then begs the questions, am I a terrible mother for allowing it to continue, a terrible mother for not being a stay-at-home mom who can magically manage all things potty-training, a terrible mother for not being aggressive with the school, a terrible mother for not taking her to a new school, a terrible mother for dwelling too much, a terrible mother for not taking her to the doctor (more on THAT gem later, my friends), a terrible mother for letting her smell like urine, or a terrible mother for being frustrated? Tell you what, I’ll bet the answer is simply a terrible mother.

So no, there is nothing to celebrate around here.


Turns Out It’s Bad Guys


You guys, the inevitable slide into peer influence has begun. I always thought it would be words we don’t use* or some sort of violent swordplay, which we could handle. There have been hints that this was coming. For example she said, “hey hey hey lemme see lemme see” when she noticed I was reading something unfamiliar. She also tried out some version of nany nany boo boo and, when asked who said that, blamed it quickly on another little girl. I know we can’t keep the outside world at bay (and we don’t want to) but then bad guys showed up and with it my personal line in the sand.

I didn’t even know it was a line, you guys. But then there it was, it turns out the line is bad guys. Frankly, I might prefer fuck.**

I even know where the exposure came from. Not school, but my dad. Not local hoods leaning up against trashcans and flicking ash in the street, but friends.


It’s not like she doesn’t get exposure to what we’d all agree are bad guys. For example, I have a video game she loves to watch and while a part of it is gathering lovely purple flowers another part is sticking an arrow in folks who are out to get my flower-gathering guy. For awhile we had her sold that I was simply putting them to sleep (as they silently crumpled to the ground). Now she clearly gets that some characters have malicious intent and we’ve got to manage the situation. Debra and I have spent some time explaining why flower-gathering-guy has to do this without relying on good/bad. Flower-gathering-guy has issues, obviously, since he’s storming into other people’s castles and breaking open their safes. He is not all good. And those other guys have a short fuse, which is why old flower-gathering-guy sometimes ends up falling down and starting over. After all, they are protecting their shit, it’s reasonable that they’d be upset. Talking about motivation with regard to characters in a video game seems bizarre but it works for us.

I know, some of you are aghast that I’d let my child watch something on a screen, let alone a video game. I’m pretty sure if I were a good parent I wouldn’t have a blog at all and RR would be potty-trained. So that’s settled.


All this is to say that my dad – totally naturally, I might add – referred to flower-gathering-guy’s opponents as bad guys. And then we hung out with some kids who were quick to show RR who the bad guy toys were and demonstrate how they should interact with the good guy toys. At that point I realized I wasn’t ok with a no-shades-of-grey view of morality. It was also when I realized that I overthink things (I’m just saying it so you all don’t have to. I have flaws.). Debra and I just aren’t down with the idea of categorizing every toy in black as a bad guy. We don’t dig the fact that good guys are invincible, infallible champions of right. We don’t like TV shows geared to kids that feature villains with no redeeming qualities.


I want her to think about people and things as a whole without relying on a flat characterization given to her by someone else. That’s asking a lot of my almost four-year-old but, since she isn’t wasting time on the potty, she’s got time to work on this concept. This hamstrings us a bit. For example, we can’t tell her that people who pull up next to her and offer her candy are bad guys. We have to tell her that she cannot approach strangers in cars at all (unless they are in uniform and in public – and dude, even that isn’t safe).



We’ve got our own shades of grey here, of course. So she plays with kids who are/have bad guys. That’s not different from coming home having played princesses. It’s just kids. It’s why we’re parents so that we can live with these small people and bring them up in line with our family’s values. But we’re biting the bullet and asking our most frequent houseguests and promoters of bad guys that when they stay over they join us in steering the kids toward other kinds of play. I’m pretty sure that makes us total assholes. We’re not scolding the kids, or asking anyone to make grand proclamations, we’re just hoping for an alliance that turns bad guy play into sandcastles, tag, and that weird game where they slam doors and shriek.

Chalk this up to another parenting surprise. Who knew?


*Except that recent weekend where a car pulled into a parking space we were headed for and I emphatically said ASSHOLE and RR repeated it, turning it over and over like a shiny rock and saying it loud and clear. We convinced her that I said A SOL – and that I was really calling noting that the man driving looked like our cat, Sol***.


**Yeah, not really.



Get Me a Jar and a Cork

There have been more than a few moments lately where I find myself thinking that RR at almost four is funny and delightful and wishing I could bottle some of it to open on a cloudy sixteen year old day.

Yesterday, she wore a bathrobe to school. So far she hasn’t shown any interest in picking out her own clothes and rarely leaves the house in a mish-mash. But I had left the hand-me-down to-try-on robe where she could see it and she pulled it on and left clad, hood-up, in blue terrycloth adorned with yellow duckies.

When she opens her mouth we’re shocked at the full sentences and complex thoughts that come out. She can explain herself when she’s upset and entertain us with ridiculous jokes. She is often thinking two or three steps in ahead. The other night, she was watching a movie when we told her it was time for bed (a babysitting tactic gone on too long). She unearthed the right remote, deftly turned it on, and paused the movie. She headed to bed without upset but, when she got there, she asked Debra, “Is mama playing her game? (a video game I don’t play in the evening)” When my wife answered in the negative, she said, “Good, she hasn’t unpaused my show” I had been in the living room thinking that we were rotting her brain, it seems to be working fine.

She does things she’s never done before without a second thought. I was planting on Sunday, putting in new herbs and vegetables while she played in her room. It was going on two hours and I was wondering what had happened to her when she stuck her head out the screen door and asked to help water. Covered in dirt, I suggested she wait until I could find her watering can. She ducked back inside and came out 5 minutes later having found the can, opened a stool, and filled the can with water. When asked where she got the water, she said, you were too busy for the barrel* mama, so I used the sink.

I’m the most struck when we’re in places with other kids her age. She seems absolutely spring-loaded. We were trying on new shoes at a kid’s shop and when asked, she raced in a circle, skipped, jumped, and hopped, all to make sure they fit. I was parts embarrassed and parts proud as other mothers with three and four year olds stared. At the gym on Saturdays she clambered on to a balance beam three feet off the floor and did assisted somersaults.

Even the little things surprise me, like her compassion when I cracked my head on the door (she fetched an ice pack) and directness (when my parent’s dog touches her with his nose she says I AM NOT FOOD DUNCAN!”). My mom and dad have been gone two weeks now (amazing). She found two animal crackers in her seat and insisted on taking one in for grannie and one for pop-pop, even though they had gone. Oh honey, Debra said, and her eyes welled right up and hovered on the brink of spilling over. But we could see her shake it off and plan for the next time she sees them.

She is well-liked at school. We see her play with different kids all the time, some days as pirates finding treasure others as monsters playing freeze tag. Parents tell us that their own kids talk about her at home (a little embarrassing as RR never mentions a soul). This is how we find out that she makes the other kids laugh, that her smile lights up the room, that she’s a joy to talk to, and that she’s a sought-out companion. While this isn’t something we planned for, it’s a relief to know that if it continues she will have fewer social hurdles to surmount.

I realize I’m latching on to these things to convince myself that there’s nothing wrong even though she absolutely refuses to have anything to do with the potty or pedaling a bike or trike**. While I can ignore the latter (she seems coordinated enough, see somersaults) the former has both Debra and I worried. She’ll be four at the end of June and it isn’t as though she’s just having accidents. She absolutely, positively, will not sit on the potty. When she wears underwear and wets it she seems to have no idea it has happened or, if she does, doesn’t care that she’s sopping.

She tells us she’ll use the potty when she’s four. I don’t believe her. I don’t know what else to do but I don’t believe her. It’s so frustrating, especially in light of the rest of her life. I can’t make her do it. I can only assume that she will, eventually. How can she be so smart (She adds. She subtracts. She is starting to read and write.) and so physically capable (she can hop on a swing alone and pump as high as much bigger kids) and not be able to figure out potty training?

Anyway, I say all that to bottle it up – the amazing and the baffling. She is a joy. She does make us laugh. She is smart and thoughtful. We are incredibly, absolutely, amazingly fortunate.


*We use a rain barrel for watering the front gardens.
**We even borrowed a balance bike which she tried twice and then abandoned.

Meditation Struggles

Today is my second meditation class and while I’m looking forward to it, I haven’t managed to do my homework. Incomplete homework, like being late, are two things I can’t abide in myself. These things are brought to you directly by my parents along with a steadfast refusal to follow a rule unless it appears to be a good one (or, is of indeterminate goodness). For the most part, it makes good sense not to be late but at this stage in life, I find that it rarely makes good sense to prioritize homework.

In this case though, I really wish I had practiced. Meditation needs practice and I need the mental space it brings with it. There is no physical space at my house though, and while meditation is sorely needed, sitting peacefully in my house is traumatic.

This is my brain:

cat chasing laser

This is my house:



Meditation would do me a world of good.

Another thing about me (along with lateness, rules, and homework) is an intense dislike of being noticed. Or maybe it’s more correct to say “having drawn attention”. I can accept an individual compliment gracefully, but I’d rather you didn’t publicly remark on a new haircut, my shirt, or a habit or action (good or bad). While Debra is typically exempt from this, thinking that my parents might notice or comment upon a meditation practice makes me die a little inside.

Further, now that we are fostering/my parents are adopting a new dog, there are zero spaces to sit in peace. The dogs shove the doors open. If the doors are shut, the cats paw to get out. The new dog doesn’t understand cats and so he chases them, making them scramble to get in. There is exactly one room that isn’t constantly occupied by a person AND that doesn’t contain cat litter and you’d be surprised at how little floor space there is in our bedroom. Asking my family to intervene is inviting comment and conversation (and telling them not to sets off my mother’s crazy which destroys the fragile house peace in an instant). I have one million excuses and none of them are good enough.

Taking away the chaos of an extra dog and my parents, all that remains is Debra and RR, who is a bit of a wildcard. Yes, she might coming slamming into my space, but I don’t mind explaining what meditation is or bringing her up in a household where meditation happens. It’s a valuable practice for her to internalize and the initial interruptions are worth it.

I give you these excuses because I can’t give them to my teacher or to anyone else. I’ll surmount them eventually, but in the meantime I’m left with frustration at not having finished my homework and dread that I’ll have to draw attention to myself by asking for help.

Wanted: Sanity

For Your Privacy


I’m not an adopter of forlorn animals. I don’t cave easily. If I did we’d have multiple hound dogs laying at our feet right now. Debra has suggested filling the baby-sized hole in our hearts (or, let’s face it, in my case a pregnancy-sized hole) with a new puppy and I have resisted on the grounds that we have the most mellow, handsome, smart dog in the universe. Yes, we do.

2013-12-16 20.11.48

But then a coworker had just the right sort of dog for my parents that, by all accounts, met their somewhat narrow definition of a good dog. You’d think “niceness” would be a quality on their list but that obviously hasn’t been a priority in the past so I tacked it on for them. He had to be out in 24 hours. And, after my mother waffled for a day, time ran out. We picked him up. This dog is not mellow. At least, not now, not after an upheaval in his life.

Chaos. And guilt. As if life weren’t already difficult enough, I’m the one the cracked the door for even more insanity. Tomorrow (and possibly Friday) we’ll be home with RR. And two dogs. And 5 cats. And my parents. And one bathroom (speaking of which, I really need my father to lock the door so my daughter doesn’t keep swinging it wide open).

I’m in desperate need of help. Ideas to entertain my daughter that will keep her from shrieking and jumping (=jumping dog=terrified RR*). Ideas to mellow out my prone-to-catastrophizing mom. Ideas to soothe my wife. Ideas to calm the new dog so that we can feel confident leaving RR with my parents, as planned, next weekend. Ideas to keep my own sanity with a three-year-old for four days. Help.


Note: we’ve reminded her about tone of voice and body language with dogs. She’s trying but she’s three and reason and logic don’t work all that well when something bigger than you is in your face. Don’t worry, we are keeping him out of her face. I’m just saying, it’s hard.

Return of the Wolverine

It’s a miracle we survived the weekend. RR is pretty even-tempered for a wolverine. In fact, we haven’t even seen much wolverining in the last several months. There are fits, occasionally, but nothing a little distraction can’t fix.


This weekend brought us the return of our early twos RR. The child that screamed without ceasing at the top of her lungs for 30 minutes at a time. The child that could not be consoled or distracted. The child that made us say, with utter certainty, that we would not be having a second child, no thank you. I can almost mark the day those tantrums stopped. All of a sudden two kids seemed totally manageable. It’s a good thing I didn’t get pregnant because yesterday I’d have cried myself to sleep at the thought of another.

I don’t know if there’s a why. We removed the Frosty and Rudolf dvds that we had absentmindedly allowed free access to. We gave her water to interrupt the sobs. We tried putting her in her room (which I don’t dig, given the years I spent shut in my room as a tantrumer). We tried hugs. We tried compassion. We tried food. We tried ignoring her. There was no constant solution.

She cried for 30 minutes in the morning (inexplicably). She sobbed at gymnastics (out-of-character). She threw a colossal fit at suppertime that prompted me to leave the house and Debra to cave in to her demands. I don’t like that. I don’t like any of it. I feel completely helpless and I’d like our reasonable child back. Or, barring that, at least someone who screams AND is potty-trained.


The Pie Contract

That year in high school when I ate nothing but ice cream sandwiches for breakfast.

The time I was grounded for two weeks for sending my 10 year old sister into a store to buy candy for me (buy one get one free large bags of M&Ms).

The way I arranged the hostess snacks in the box so that it looked like there were just as many as there were before I ate two – assuming my mom wouldn’t notice when she made my sisters’ lunches.

The fact that I couldn’t stop myself from covertly eating one of the chocolate bars in my German host family’s pantry.

The month I ate all salads with my fingers even in front of other people in order to appreciate it more and eat less.

The cookies I have kept in desk drawers. The chocolates I have hidden in shoes. The empty plates I have shoved under sofas.

I have a lifetime of food issues. It’s the thing to talk about our relationship with things and in this case, my relationship with food has been outrageously difficult. It’s also the thing, in my family, to blame your upbringing and, in the past, I haven’t minded dropping a little responsibility off there. Now, I own it. No matter what was said to me when I was small, how I thought I looked, or how I actually looked, I have grown into a person who takes full responsibility for who I am and what I put into my mouth, whether it’s too much ice cream or a thoughtfully prepared, delicious, nutrient-packed meal.

You know, I’ve chosen to eat a lot of pie since November. I have enjoyed every last delicious bite. I’ve had pie for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’ve had two different kinds of pie in the same day. In one dire case, I hid pie in the back of the fridge so that my brother-in-law wouldn’t eat it. In fact, I’m not down with hiding food much these days. It was a moment of weakness so I won’t do it again. Probably. You guys, he eats everything. The thing with pie is that there’s an exchange. In exchange for pie, you either get to move more or weigh more. At least, that’s the exchange if you’re me. It’s the unspoken agreement you and the pie make.

After you sign on the dotted line with your fork, you then get more choices. Though I have been a member of many gyms (and still have a membership) we have an on and off again relationship that, while not as rocky as my relationship with food, has never been completely smooth. I crave variety and I crumble under schedules and routines. I’m old. I go to the gym when I want. For awhile I called an unused gym membership my “fat tax” in hopes that it would inspire me to go. The expression didn’t inspire me, it made me feel worse about myself.

I’m not slender. I am mortified to see pictures of myself from the last decade. Who is that person? What happened to her? Routines don’t work. Belittling myself didn’t work. Changing my mindset helped. It wasn’t subtraction I needed (eat less, don’t eat any of that), it was modification (eat this now, do that later). I’m not the person I was 60 pounds ago, so something must have worked.*

Which brings us to the point of this post. Because of our success (and all the pie consumption), my wife has recommitted for the new year. I haven’t said as much (though if you want to see, it’s here) because when I talk about eating differently, I hear myself saying that I’m currently eating badly, and my mind interprets that as being a bad person. It’s good to know your own pitfalls, people. I’m too healthy mentally to step into that trap right now. My mother, too, has opted in.

My dad, on the other hand, is always going to pick pie. And cookies. And whipped potatoes. And fries. Living in a house where 50% of the people have chosen not to eat those items AND one of those people is, by nature, a person who qualifies herself as good or bad depending on what goes into her mouth AND, without meaning to I suppose leaves a slight trail of I’m the one who is doing food right everywhere she goes, is really, really hard. I don’t want to eat pie, so I don’t. But I feel incredibly awkward and uncomfortable taking actions that isolate my dad so I’m taking the middle ground. I don’t love it but it’s better than the alternatives.

Suffice to say, I am dead tired of thinking about food. I’m tired of planning menus for a house of people who eat different things or, in my mom’s case, claim to be eating different things. Further, I’m tired of playing defense when my mom suggests having pizza instead of cooking dinner (dude. I would have thrown it in the slow cooker if I had known you wouldn’t). Also, I know that one of my coping mechanisms in life is pie (in moderation) and I miss it. I’m unhappy**, you all. Thank you for listening.


*By the way, I’m not discounting a pretty hefty mental shift, the help of mood management, and a significantly lower stress, higher activity lifestyle. I’m also not discounting my genes, which are predisposed to eating lots of pie and retaining it unhelpfully in my belly.

**A note to my beloved wife who, even though I have TOLD her that I love her and am behind her 100% might read this and think I am unhappy with her: I am not. I am 100% supportive. Still 😉

We ALL Use The Potty, Do You Hear Me?

Well, not ALL of us. RR, I’m looking at you.

Today is the first day of RR’s winter break. She will be home for two weeks with someone, although it’s a bit spotty whether that person will be me, her mother, her grandparents, or some combination of the group. It’ll be all of us and the potty.


As you know, our attempt to go cold turkey back in August was unsuccessful and we retreated into diapers, teaching her to change them herself and clean up on the toilet. She does this at school reliably and less so at home but that’s because we decided to use our parental currency on other things this fall.

Five months later and a solid two weeks in hand, we’re going to make another go of it. As you know we’ve tried nearly everything (I have, so far, drawn the line at pumping her full of liquids on purpose) and she still has yet to deposit a drop. We’re armed with ideas from our doctor (who, by the way, agrees nothing physiological is stopping her) and from a child behavior specialist. She may well be getting a doll that pees for Christmas after all.

Wish us luck this time. I don’t have high expectations but I am hopeful.



It’s far too soon, I think, for much perspective on our decision to stay with only one child. When I say it like that, I’m reminded of my monthly poker game wherein we all have code names and I never stay soon enough causing my to lose all my nickels and dimes. Accepting the cards dealt and making the most of them isn’t my usual strategy (in life or in poker). In this case, however, going all in wasn’t a financially or emotionally (and possibly even physically) feasible.

That said, the evidence is mounting in favor of having only one child. I’m sure, if I were pregnant, I’d be finding similar optimism. I’m reminded frequently how wonderful RR is and how much I value life as it is. I value my sleep and my emotional reservoir that means I can be patient even when the situation is spiraling away from me. But I see little cracks here and there that make me grateful we stopped when we did. This morning I snapped at the dog for panting too near me. I can only imagine how I’d handle a second human hollering for breakfast.

That doesn’t mean that I haven’t had moments of awkward instability. Every day for six months I’ve thought about what my body is doing and how it is feeling in relation to being pregnant. I noticed when I must have ovulated and how odd it was not to have tracked it. I sat there, considering my underwear and contemplating trees falling in the forest. It turns out everything happened as usual, even though I’m not watching it happen.

It’s amazing how much time assisted conception takes. I’m envious (always have been) of couples who can take a quick roll in the hay and turn up pregnant. Whose medical intervention only begins once the stick turns positive. Instead there are phone calls and blood draws, ovary checks and IUIs, medicine check-ins and follow-ups. This month, without the punctuation of the fertility clinic, feels both endless and fast-paced. A combination that wreaks havoc with my mental state (another plus one for the only child route).

Every morning I wake up and remind myself to stay in the moment. My wife’s strategy, a good one I think, in theory, is to plan ahead, identify moments of happiness and interesting events. Meanwhile, I’m torn between reminding myself to take one thing at a time so as not to be overwhelmed (this has nothing to do with children or lack thereof but has to do with my own internal balance, which I suppose you could argue is directly tied to the former) and acknowledging that looking toward the future is a good thing to do. Debra is right, the dark days of winter are coming and it’s unwise to plunge into them without a list of things to be excited about.

That said, here’s a bit of now and it’s absolutely beautiful.

photo (1)