Make a Decision

You know, I’m a competent professional. Part of my work is to make decisions, forecast the future, design plans that will move us forward into new places, and sprinkle the whole thing with innovative ideas. I’m good at it and I like doing it. I’m not a waffler, although at home I’m deliberate; at work I make decisions relatively quickly, accepting that if there are mistakes we can right them the second or third time. That would be a problem in fields where decisions are exceptionally costly or life-saving, but I work at a library, folks, none of my decisions are going to be disasters.

My wife likes to consider all of the possible options before settling on a decision. We’re incompatible this way (at home, I’m not always interested in options) but we are very compatible in that the time I prefer to make a decision (again, at home) is pretty close to the time she needs to consider all of the options. I like to think of it this way – she will lay out a range of options and then I can make a quick decision after having taken awhile to consider them all and we’ll end up landing in about the same place. You might recall that we had paint samples on our bedroom wall for a year.

My mother wants me to make instant decisions about things that are important to her. And then she wants me to do those things right then and there. Under duress, I can usually accommodate one preference, but not the other. For example, she wanted to know if I would take a lovely fountain and a fleet of end tables so that she didn’t need to move them. I said I would on the spot but they will certainly hang out in my basement until I’ve had time to consider where I’ll put them. This will take awhile, my brain space is occupied by other things, and it bothers me not at all that we don’t know where we’ll put them yet (or ever).

It agitates her that I sit on things past the .15 seconds she has provided for a decision. What dates am I thinking of traveling? Where am I planning to go? What do I think I’ll do when I get there? If there’s not a plane ticket, hotels, or a friend’s couch involved, those decisions may well come once I arrive. When we went to Disneyworld, I bent my entire will toward planning out the trip (although leaving plenty of flexibility) but this is not my regular approach. I head somewhere down the middle but closer to the last minute.

For example, earlier this month Debra and I decided that we might go away for the weekend. Two weeks prior, we decided on a location. A week prior, we made a hotel reservation. Three or four days prior, we decided what we’d do when we got there and we decided when to leave about 15 minutes before we got in the car. Of course, this is for a relatively local vacation. I don’t consider most of that last minute but I watched my mother practically tremble with agitation and judgement as we waltzed through this process.

Today I’m spending the afternoon with her wrapping up the tail end of her packing. I am well aware that she will expect me to make more split decisions about what I want to take and leave. I’d prefer to decide later once I’ve brought it home. I’m not asking her to delay any moving things and my decision will have no impact at all on her. I just want the chance to consider the greater picture and, if she behaves as she usually does, this is going to drive her insane. I’m not feeling particularly accommodating today. I’m trying not to think of this as a looming disaster.

I accept that there’s a happy medium here and that the stress she’s under doesn’t give her the flexibility to move outside of her comfort zone. The impending conflict is completely within my control. Clearly, the teenager in me is trying to act out – I could make decisions quickly, I just don’t want to. If I can just get that cantankerous 15-yr-old to cool her jets, I might be able to make it through this.


Retirement Planning (Boundaries, Part 2)

I’ll be honest, when we talked about the pros and cons of having a second child, one of the winningest points was that we’d have double the chances of having someone to care for us when we’re old. I know, right? How were we even allowed to have one kid? It’s true though, I have two sisters, Debra has one. When we have faced parental crises, we had someone else there to share the load. RR has no one. And, if she hates us, we will have no one, too.

This is no reason to have a child. And obviously, if you do go this route, there’s no guarantee it will work out. For example, our neighbor across the street is in her late seventies. She has two 40-something childless daughters. One is married and lives on an isolated farm in a tenant house a few hours away. The other has MS and a number of other health challenges, all of which keep her unable to fully care for herself. She and her two large dogs live with her mother. Neither daughter can help our neighbor on the spot and, as we’ve learned, that’s what neighbors are for anyway.

Over the years we have been the go-to for tricky lightbulb changes, Christmas tree assembly, garden help, and notably, grave-digging for one sweet cat. In the last two weeks, I’ve had to carry one of the dogs into the house from the car twice. The first time, Minnie (the dog) was soaked in blood from burst sutures and Jenny (the daughter) was having a full-blown anxiety attack. The second time was from another suture repair but it had the distinction of being at 10 at night and Minnie was only a little bloody. Jenny was nowhere to be seen.

Last Friday, our neighbor called frantically for help streaming the Olympics on her computer. You see, a large branch knocked her phone and power lines down and the cable apparently wasn’t resurrected when the lines were repaired. Helping the elderly use electronic devices is not my strong suit. However, Debra has begun to flatly refuse to help her and our neighbor was in tears so off I stamped. My heart breaks for her. Life has been rough lately and she doesn’t have any other family but her daughters.

I don’t want to help her. I don’t like that her house smells like cats. I don’t like washing blood off every time Minnie goes rogue. I don’t like answering my phone. I don’t like unexpected visits. I just want to be left in peace. I want to have boundaries. But I ALSO don’t want to be alone when I’m old. I don’t want no one to want to help me. I don’t want to be helpless. I don’t want to cry in front of the nice girl from across the street. I want my daughter to want to help me. And not to be so far away that she can’t.

And that’s the kicker. I don’t want to be the anchor that holds RR still. So I help my neighbor because I hope someday someone will help me. I don’t know if it works that way but I sure hope it does.



You guys.


Holy fucking shit.

My child hasn’t had an accident in almost two weeks. You guys. I can’t even.


This is my new favorite. I work with a lot of college students.

Let me tell you, this is one of those times. Those times that you think, we are so. lucky. So incredibly lucky to have modern medicine. To not only have modern medicine but to have upbringings that have allowed my wife and I to not take no for an answer. To stand up to a doctor and say no. This is not working. Try something else.

I don’t take that lightly. My wife’s mother did something really excellent when she raised her. She helped build a strong person that isn’t afraid of authority and doctors’ cool competence, a person that can listen and then make a reasoned argument, a person that is able to push back firmly and politely and gets shit done.

I’m all over the place here. It’s shock.

The more we thought about our visit with the occupational therapist, the more convinced we became that this wasn’t the angle. At least, not at the outset. We did make RR a schedule with pictures and we considered the ultra expensive body harmonizing music and equipment she recommended. But our guts said this didn’t seem sensory. In fact, the OT said, “well, she could be mildly sensory-seeking but probably we aren’t seeing many signs because she’s so smart” Dude. No one has ever NOT said that. She’s smart. If this is flattery, we’re not having it. If it’s not, it’s still not helping.

A few days after that we were able to get in for an ultrasound of her essentials and a visit with a resident. As I sat in the sparkling new children’s hospital and watched her play, I felt that old tugging, the one that must run in my family blood (or at least that my mother ground in), the one I thought I’d therapied out, that we didn’t need to be there. There is nothing really wrong with her. Other kids need this time more. And then she peed her pants, oblivious.

The urology folks pumped her full of juice and she was not, I don’t think, scarred by the ultrasound. Everything was so perfectly normal, right down to the type and quality of flow she has. I had such a sinking feeling, sitting there, knowing that I was wishing there was something mildly, fixably wrong, and feeling absolutely horrible about it. For RR’s part, she held it together through the full two hours and Debra handled the end of the appointment when I had to run (unrelated to feeling absolutely horrible).

They tried to counsel good nutrition. I’m glad I wasn’t there. Yet another lecture from a doctor based strictly on what they think they should say and not at all based on fact would have put me in tears. She eats more vegetables than most people I know. She drinks water. It’s like prison over here. Fortunately for all of us, my wife chimed in with a thank you but also really, we have tried everything (though she said this in a much more articulate way). EVERYTHING. Is there nothing else?

And it turns out, there is. I’m sure there were lots of reasons why it took so long to get here. To a medication for incontinence. To bank on the chance that some spasms were making it so that she couldn’t hold it and hadn’t ever learned what it felt like to hold it. Couldn’t hear her own body telling her what needed to happen when. Not because she wasn’t listening or didn’t care or wasn’t smart enough or didn’t like the way it felt or liked it too much. No. There is actually a solution.

I’ll admit, after getting a last-ditch prescription, we were a little reluctant to take the plunge on a medicine not typically given to kids. We went into the weekend waiting for a call back from our super-but-where-the-hell-was-she doctor. And so we did it. We gave it to her. And one day bled into the other and then there I was, a week and a half later, realizing that I have a potty-trained child. No accidents during the day. She interrupts her work to go. She poops. She pees. She doesn’t leak.

I cannot tell you how amazing this is. She still wears a pull-up at night and you know what, she can do that until she’s 40 if she wants to. Accidents in the daytime were holding her back in so many ways. I’ve seen tears in her teachers eyes over this. This is a miracle.


Every so often, I catch myself mourning my cute, round, baby with her giant eyes and solemn outlook. Most of the time, I love her spring-loaded self. One solid strand of muscle devoting equal intensity to chasing, jumping, climbing, coloring, sleeping, and eating. Her flexibility always surprises me (mama, why aren’t there mushrooms on my pizza? a) mushrooms? b) totally mellow when I shrugged). While there are fits pre-loaded for appropriate times, they are nearly predictable and nearly always involve the potty.

You guys. She is now four and some. She is STILL not potty trained. What was mildly concerning and mostly frustrating is now baffling. Why doesn’t she get it? At least the deposits (of both kinds) occasionally make it into the toilet, but a good day is often followed by four accidents in 3 hours or some other feat of bladder/bowel olympics.

As you would, we’ve checked any constipation and tried every training technique in the books. All the books. As we rounded the corner on four we were in constant communication with the doctor. We’ve all been on the same page (all of us but RR). The hold-up doesn’t seem to be medical although we’ve made an appointment with pediatric urology. We were both reticent to go that route, having had our own fights with our bodies early on and the mental scars to match it. There’s plenty of time though, the earliest appointment we could get was for March.


One of her teachers has been concerned about a sensory hiccup and recommended an occupational therapist. We again held off (until now) since by all reports she has zero other indications of another sensory issue. At all. Anything. Except this. We’re off to see that person on today. I am hopeful that she will have a suggestion transcending a sticker chart (her initial reaction) which, you should see RR approach a sticker chart, the disdain. The utter indifference.

RR cannot be swayed.

Some days we go through six changes of clothes. Other days just one or two or none. Of late, now and then, we lose our ability to be balanced and both of us at separate times have been frustrated with her. She and I had a lengthy talk while she angrily sat on the toilet, her insisting that she didn’t have to go and me insisting that she try, given the damp state of the panties I had just stripped off (yes she normally does it, yes I’m usually more sane). I gave in and told her all of the things I would normally not say. That she is smarter than this. That at that moment her brain knew better than her body. That she needed her smart brain to tell her body that it has to try harder. And I walked out and shut the door.

As I criticized myself up and down for that reaction, no matter how measured my tone, I heard her tiny voice piping through the door, talking to her body. explaining. She was earnest and lengthy. She peed. A lot. This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I can only imagine how she feels.

As much as I would like to say that discussion (hers and mine) closed the door on this business, yesterday happened as normal. Damply. This is an endless stress in our home between my wife and I and us and our daughter. There are plenty of good things. But this thing. It’s maddening, saddening, frustrating, baffling. I hope one of these appointments helps, because time and neutrality (and stickers and rewards and pre-rewards and encouragement and self-care and indifference and so on and so on) hasn’t been.


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.


Virginia Does Not Care if You Went to the Chapel

Did you know that hardly a day goes by that I don’t think about marrying my wife? Usually it takes the form of a small daydream about being the first in line at our local courthouse when it finally becomes legal. I wonder what I would need to do to finagle that. Would it help that we were in the paper several times? Sometimes I wonder if we would plan a big party and I consider the venues. I think about new rings. I think about my daughter as a flower carrier or ring bearer. Sometimes she is six. More often she is sixteen. I dream about saying I Do all over again. Sometimes, like today, I feel like it’s too far away to even consider (though I do anyway). There are days when I worry it will be so long that her wheelchair and my cane won’t fit through the courthouse doors.

I have no idea when I’ll get to stop thinking about marriage in Virginia. It won’t be today, that’s for sure.


I’ve always been the sort of person things work out for. Even when those things are long shots. It’s little things like needing to leave my bike and having forgotten my lock just as a friend ambles by and has time to stand watch for five minutes. It’s big things like deciding I’d like to join the Foreign Service and then vaulting right through the (lengthy, competitive) process and into employment. At the time, the odds were 200 hires for every 30,000 applicants. Long shot indeed. Especially for someone who knew no languages (officially) and had read zero foreign policy/international affairs news (ever).

I don’t win contests (usually) but I do win in general (prepare, plan, cover all the bases) and I can’t believe I’m just not going to have a baby (probably). To be clear, I don’t think I deserve or am entitled to the good things that happen. But I do accept that they happen and I’m happy for it. Lots of supremely terrible stuff (brain surgery, that was fun) happens to me, too, and I don’t deserve that either. I’ll tell you though, even when things do derail me, something always happen to save the situation. Evidence:

In college, I routinely broke down in the desert miles from any help. Every single time someone happened by to assist. Once, two threatening men in a tinted window sedan (saved by an elderly couple pulling up right behind them). Another time on my way to a flight to a job interview (saved by I kid you not a menacing looking circus clown in a panel van). On Halloween, a man in a pick-up with guns piled on the seats (given a cookie by his wife in a perfectly normal looking subdivision 10 heart-swallowing miles away).

Also in college, at 2am on the way back from that really disastrous interview (made the flight but blew two tires in a rental car in the snow), I stopped the car from exhaustion. There was too much fog, I hadn’t eaten or slept in more than 12 hours. I didn’t even bother to pull on to the shoulder. But, when the fog cleared for a moment, I saw that I was already on the shoulder, pointed off the road, and had stopped not twenty feet from the edge of a steep canyon.

Things work out for me.

I’m surprised that having a baby is not working out (I was equally surprised that my tubes were clear and that my equipment was well prepared to have a baby). I think I was coasting along assuming there would be a hail mary delivering us a child. Admittedly, my timeline was (is) short and we could keep trying but we talked about it and tried to make the decision in a sane place. Finding a week to do that without hormones was not easy.

I don’t think I can rule out another try completely and I am sitting on an egg at the moment. If you’re at all superstitious, we were in a different room for this IUI. The doctor was wearing a bow tie instead of scrubs. I ovulated earlier than expected. In fact, we nearly missed it since I started checking for ovulation later than usual expecting a kit change on the 19th. We now know which of the staff have kids and how they are doing. We’ve started recognizing and making friends with other patients in the waiting room. It’s time to be done. It’s okay to be done. It’s hard to be done. But I’m done.

Roller Coasters Are a Consolation Prize

Well, you all, I was sure this month we had it in the bag. The sorts of things that happened last month that were hopeful – unexplained nausea and exhaustion – showed up times three this month. We even made it past fateful day 10 where any symptom that could have been pregnancy typically evaporates. Today, the 12th day after ovulation, we took a test because come on! How could I not be?! I’ve never felt this seasick, this bone-tired in my life.

But the test was negative and I apparently just have a novel case of the flu. My nausea has disappeared and my uterus is cramping something fierce even though my period isn’t due until Wednesday. So, I don’t approve of THAT. On the other hand, we’re off to an amusement park tomorrow and while I expect to mostly be on the ground watching RR take it all in, I’m not ruling out flinging myself down some very, very steep hill.




You know what I don’t care for? Feeling like this.

I put more salt than usual on my eggs. And then sprinkled sugar on my peaches and cream. Haven’t done in over a year.

A slightly (and I mean barely) confrontational email this morning raised my hackles more than it ought though it was quickly and happily resolved, despite my mental thunderclouds.

A lump in my chest over the not-even-real feather-ruffling and I feel like crying. Just a bit. Just while no one can see. I know I’ve no excuse for this and so I won’t, even though everything seems depressingly dingy at the edges.

Chocolate, even though I didn’t really want it, I did. And so I ate it. And it didn’t make me feel better.

Yesterday I wanted to write something about feeling pregnant or not. Until I realized I felt nothing at all and so I gave up and decided to wait until I had something to say. I had hoped it wouldn’t be something like this. I’m not a classic PMS symptom-haver but if that’s not what this is, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.

This is the first image the appears when you search “monkey’s uncle”:


This S*** Is For The Birds

You guys, potty training. It’s killing me (still). All I want to do is wait for the magical day (and I’ll know it is such by the sunbeams twinkling with glitter and breakfast appearing lickety-split on my plate when I put it on the table) when she decides she wants to use the potty. I mean, she’s not going to want to sit around in a soggy pull-up forever. Sooner or later, peer pressure or a basic desire for cleanliness will kick in and she’ll say, yup, totally time for the potty.

I can’t tell you how many times people have said to me, “Oh, just wait. Once they start pooping like real people you’ll want to tie them to the potty til they get it.” or some other well-meaning, less-torturey variation. And yeah, I get it. It’s a shitty job (har) but it’s a blip on my life radar. I’ve hung out in a morgue*. A little poo doesn’t really rate. And honestly, it’s more important to me that she work on what she’s working on right now, whatever that is. That approach has worked well so far – though not without anxiety on our part – and she’s a happy, healthy, smart kid who can (most of the time) articulate her feelings and interact with the rest of humanity in a way that reflects our family ideals of civility and respect. Yes, I’m totally talking about a three-year-old. See? How can you force potty training on that?

While we were at the dentist on Tuesday, the hygienist (who was wearing Bambi scrubs) greeted RR (who was playing with one of the abacus type toys with round, multicolored beads). I asked RR if she knew what was on the hygienist’s shirt and she looked at me blankly.

“Bambi?” the hygienist prompted.
“Deer?” I nudged, knowing full well that Bambi is, and ever will be, cervus non grata in our home**.
“I’m playing with planets.” RR deadpanned.

You guys, I didn’t know she knew what a planet was.

It’s killing me. Last weekend, after much panty-wearing, panty-changing, peeing willy-nilly, and potty-nagging, she rocketed down the hall, flung herself on her little potty and flooded it, my hands, and the floor. I was holding the potty insert at the time, having just been cleaning the single solitary drop of pee she’d deigned to put into it minutes earlier. We rewarded her and she hasn’t done it since (or even been willing to consider it).

I’d like to think that she’d get it if I could just watch her cross and uncross her legs all day but I know from experience that staying home has nothing to do with her desire to use the potty. Last Saturday was a fluke, I’m afraid. During the week, we ship her off to school where she sits on the potty at regular times (always at diaper change so, really, what’s the point of that?) but never pees. On weekends we put her in panties when we’re at home but, let’s face it, the child still takes 3-4 hour naps. She’s not AWAKE enough to be in panties much of the time.

And here’s the kicker and it’s a big one. She’s supposed to be potty-trained before she moves to her new school in mid-August. I am so worried that she won’t be that I’m having strings of bad dreams that involve the school kicking us out, her peeing all over the parking lot sobbing, getting scolded for deceiving them, and finding ourselves suddenly and completely without childcare at the start of our busiest work season. I have no idea what to do. I’m torn between taking time off for a heartless potty bootcamp and crossing my fingers and hoping for the best over the next four weeks.

I suppose I’m not really looking for suggestions but if you have any besides the following – or if you’re looking for some yourself! – here’s what hasn’t worked:

Sticker rewards
Toy rewards
Candy rewards
Peer pressure (mama gets an M&M for peeing)
Leaving every door open
Potty books
Potty apps
Potty videos
Sitting at regular times
Panties regardless of trainedness
Constant changes of panties
Naked time
Keeping a potty in the room with her
Having her sit when we sit
Telling her it’s the last diaper and showing the empty bin
Letting her decide when she’s ready

And frankly, we’re back to that. Looking at that list, we appear to be inconsistent potty fanatics but this is a list collected over a period of time and we’re not dumping (heh) it all on her at once. It feels terrible to force this on her when I just don’t think she’s ready. I don’t know what I’m going to do if she can’t go to school. Seriously. I don’t know.

*To be clear, I wasn’t sipping lemonade and eating nachos. It was more hanging out in the sense of hanging out to dry, hanging on a limb, hanging by a thread and so forth.

**I’m down with Disney, but not with that damn deer. Fire! Death! Destruction! Abandonment! No.