One Year Anniversary!

It’s been one year — one trip around the sun, 365 days, 52 weeks — of raw, real blogging about parenthood, breast milk donation, dairy-free living, postpartum, infertility and delivery, and life in general. What has changed in that year?

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2016

365 days ago, I had two kids in preschool and a 9-month-old at home. Now I have a kindergartener, a preschooler, and a toddler.  The amount my kids have grown, both physically and developmentally, is astounding. My littlest is highly mobile and increasingly verbal with a penchant for mischief. My cuddly, beautifully unique middle son is speaking clearer and beginning to write his name. My daughter is starting to read, controlling her emotions better, and blossoming into a headstrong, thoughtful, driven individual.

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2017

One year ago I could put down my littlest without him running in the opposite direction to eat, climb, or dismantle something. My middle son loved “Bubble Guppies” and princesses, mermaids and “Paw Patrol”. Not much has changed there, except now he adores “Superhero Girls” too. My daughter had big feelings and not enough self-control to steer herself through emotional storms without pulling us all into the swirl. Now, she’s able to attend full-day kindergarten and do extracurriculars or playdates after her school day, and generally maintains a human — as opposed to demonic — demeanor.

One year ago I was up to my ears in childhood needs, inundated by the monsoon of duties; I had to be everybody’s everything all day, every day… and night. Little sleep, lots of responsibility, even more tests of patience… it was trial by fire. Now, the neediness has lessened a bit and I have adjusted. It is controlled chaos now and I am increasingly at peace with it.

One year ago I was grappling with the decision of whether or not to expand our family. I struggled with the conflicting fears of over-extending myself and The Hubs and of future regret if we did not try for another baby. Now, I am gradually settling into the reality that we will likely stick to our party of five, but I am still wary as numerous mamas around me are popping up with surprise babies.

One year ago The Hubs was adjusting to working from home with constant chaos around him. Our days were split in half: mornings at preschool, afternoons at playdates, with a brief respite in the middle for the boys’ naptime. The Hubs had yet to determine the best way to manage a conference call was to ensure that the children were not at home. He has since learned our routine and schedules accordingly.

One year ago my littlest spent his mornings in the Ergo 360 carrier as I ran errands and occasionally either slept or nursed his way through library story time. Now, my littlest has swim class once a week, nurses and dances at library story time, tantrums in Target, and scampers about from one mischievous scenario to another during playdates. Errands are very different now than they were a year ago, but still calmer than they were two years ago when I was pregnant, thus suffering monstrous Braxton-Hicks contractions, with a 3-year-old and 2-year-old to wrangle while shopping.

A year ago, I was simply dairy-free. Now I’m a transitioning vegan. I used to struggle to find any time to exercise. Now I do yoga daily. I used to pump 20oz of milk per day to donate. Now I’m happy to get 6oz, but I still donate! I used to have to use hair powder to disguise the risidual patchiness from postpartum hair loss. Now my hair is fuller and healthier, especially since adopting the Curly Girl Method. I used to be unable to have “me” time. Now I have a weekly or biweekly mom outing to grab a quick early dinner or a weekend coffee with a friend. What a sanity-saver!

A year ago I lived a beautiful, blessed, chaotic, new, overwhelming, and wholly exhausting life. Now I live a still-beautiful, still-blessed, and still-chaotic life, but it is no longer new or overwhelming and it’s a bit less exhausting.

I am happy. I am finding balance, I laugh every single day, as I always have. I have love — so much love — and even better, I have this blog as my outlet to share my journey and to help others traveling this same winding, bumpy path.

Parenthood is both a challenge and a gift to be survived and savored one day at a time. Thank you for following on this journey! I look forward to seeing what the next year brings. I hope you join me.

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When We Need to Parent Ourselves

“I know you’re upset. It’s frustrating when things don’t go as planned, but that’s a part of life. You can feel frustrated but it’s not ok to take it out on those around you.” A talk I have had countless times with my kids. Anyone with a child knows all too well that playdates have about a 50/50 shot of going as planned, especially during cold and flu season or during the early years when fever viruses run rampant. The lesson of adapting to plan changes is a recurrent one.

Though I can parent my children through disappointment and guide them toward seeing the positive, toward accepting that some things are not meant to be, I am far less graceful at ushering myself through similar upheaval. Today I had hoped to volunteer at my daughter’s school. I was excited at the prospect, as a snow storm had cancelled my last volunteer date. Then, life took ahold and changed my plans for me. I would not be volunteering today.

The frustration brewed within me, overflowing in unseemly ways. Lowered patience and a short fuse gave rise to bad mommy moments. What would normally solicit a verbal reminder now quickly escalated to timeout. I was acting like an overgrown grade schooler. Thank goodness I’m not on reality TV!

A few too many minutes in, I realized I needed to parent myself, that I need the lecture. “I know you’re upset. It’s frustrating when things don’t go as planned, but that’s a part of life. You can feel frustrated but it’s not ok to take it out on those around you.” Man, that speech is so much less annoying when it’s directed at someone else! Still, it’s no less correct.

Deep breath. Return to center. Remember that there’s a reason that some things fall apart and other things come together. Smile.

All worked out as it should. I accepted and moved on. I just had to parent myself to get through it.

Sometimes we parents need timeout too.

When You Realize You’re Making a Difference

Some days — if not most days — parenting is a pattern of cleaning, dressing, feeding, refereeing, playing, disciplining, and surviving. Often you wonder if your voice fizzles into nothingness as soon as it escapes your mouth. No matter your tone, your volume, or your phrasing, your offspring refuse to acknowledge your utterances. Then, there are the moments when you witness the impact of your efforts. You have undeniable proof that you are making a difference. That your hard work is worth it.

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Yesterday was one of those days for me. After school, I headed to the nail salon with my kindergartener for a surprise mother-daughter pedicure. We were overdue for one-on-one time and my toes needed some TLC. Perfect, right? Until we approached the intersection just before our destination.

Emergency vehicles swarmed in the center of the 4-way stop. Cars were being detoured. There had clearly been a significant vehicle accident. This is when people’s true colors shine through.

Those who understand the gravity of the scenario, let others in front of them in traffic, increase their politeness, and decrease their sense of urgency. Others try to take advantage of the situation and try to creep ahead of fellow travelers or, worse yet, become rude and abrasive toward those around them. Some think “us” while others think “me.”

Two cars back, a driver laid on the horn. “He shouldn’t be honking,” my daughter said, “those people just got in an accident. They could be hurt and he’s being grumpy to other drivers. He needs to be nicer right now.” The girl was spot-on. Shifting priorities, empathy, perspective… all of those talks had gotten through!

We arrived at the nail salon. The parking lot was unexpectedly packed. I’d never seen it so full. We entered the busy salon and my daughter went to pick out a nail polish color as I signed the guest book. “Do you have an appointment?” Asked one of the nail technicians, holding her client’s lotioned foot in her hand. “No, we don’t.” I replied. “Sorry, we’re busy. You come back another day.” I looked at my daughter, expecting to see tears and reddened cheeks. Instead, my 5-year-old calmly stepped away from the nail polishes, walked back to me, and grabbed my hand. She wasn’t upset. She wasn’t resentful. She was completely accepting of the plan change. All of our discussions about the value of being amenable, of accepting that life doesn’t always go as planned stuck!

We exited the nail salon and I knelt on the sidewalk. “I’m so proud of you,” I told my daughter, looking into her blue eyes, “you didn’t complain one bit about not being able to get a pedicure. I’m sorry I didn’t think to make an appointment. Thank you for being so flexible!” My daughter smiled and said, “You didn’t know it’d be busy, Mommy. It’s ok. We can just go do something else together. Maybe we can get doughnuts and I can bring some home for my brothers and Daddy.” I encircled her in a deep hug. She’s learning… it’s getting through!

Some days you end the day as a human petri dish with a sore throat from yelling, a headache from frustration, an aching back from wrangling tantrums, and a full bladder from being unable to stop to pee. Then there are those rare moments when you glimpse the success of your toils. They’re the parental trophies. Proof of our efforts.

You’re making a difference, even on your hardest days.

Why I Dropped Meat

It’s been 6 months since I’ve eaten meat. I am but a fledgling on my journey towards what some may call veganism and others may call a plant-based diet. But, why am I taking this plant-eating path?

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As a young teen I’d wanted to become a vegetarian, feeling guilty for eating animals. As a “cradle Catholic”, I decided to give up meat for Lent one year. Knowing nothing about nutrition, it’s no surprise I wound up feeling perpetually rundown, weak, and hungry during those 40 days. (As a hormonal young teen, I’m sure that lethargy made me extra-pleasant company!) I left that herbivore stint thinking I couldn’t live without meat… that my body didn’t thrive on a meat-free diet.

Fast-forward to 3 years ago. I had my gallbladder removed in an entirely unremarkable, common surgery. Once the wounds were healed, I felt markedly better than I had for the four months preceding my operation. However, as many post-op gallbladder patients note, my digestion was off. I’d bloat, have frequent and urgent trips to the bathroom, and suffer stomach pain. It was frustrating. Some foods — like raw vegetables, legumes, greens, seeds, and nuts — I was able to help my body digest by way of regular exposure. Other foods — fatty meats like sausage, greasy hamburgers, and hot dogs — were mightily rejected. Fortunately, I was already dairy-free due to an allergy, so I didn’t struggle with that frequently aggravating food group too.

As time went on, my inability to digest meats increased. Fatty fish, processed meats, red meats, beef broth… all of it would wreak havoc on my system. Eventually, even with the help of probiotics, I was only able to eat grilled boneless, skinless chicken breast. With my diet so limited, the texture of the chicken meat eventually became unappealing. Then came a trip to our local farm park.

It’s a beautiful place, this farm, where 4-H members care for the animals. Chickens, pigs, ducks, sheep, goats, horses, rabbits, turkeys, even a couple of peacocks reside on the well-tended farm. The cows though… it’s the cows that got me.

One sunny late-summer afternoon, we took a family trip to the farm. My littlest was nursing in the baby carrier as my older two children scampered about looking at the animals. We came to the cow pasture where I saw an engorged mama cow. We had seen her bull calf a few fields over. Mama Cow’s udder was full and distended. She clearly needed to feed her calf.

As a breastfeeding, breast milk donating mother, I empathized with her. I felt her discomfort. I looked about searching for a farmhand to ask after the calf.

Just then, a farmhand entered the field, halter in hand, ready to take Mama Cow to be milked. “We’re in the process of weaning,” she explained, gently buckling the harness around mama cow’s furry head, “she’s being milked in a few minutes if you’d like to come watch. Kids love it.” She lead Mama Cow through the grass and onto the gravel path, Mama Cow’s swollen, milk-filled udder slightly impeding her gait.

That image haunts me. The painfully engorged Mama Cow, her baby boy separated from her and forcibly weaned to a bottle so that her milk could feed humans, instead of the calf for which it was intended. Later, that bull calf would likely have one of two fates: breed or burger. Mama Cow would continue to be impregnated, continue to be forcibly separated and weaned from her offspring, continue to be milked to feed humans instead of calves, continue to be used until she could give no more. Then her fate would be the slaughterhouse.

I tossed and turned that night. The mere thought of meat made me shudder. The idea of biting into a burger or steak made my stomach turn. It was dead flesh… a carcass! Was I so important that my hunger came above Mama Cow’s life or the life of her babies? Could I not eat other things to fill my belly, nourish my body in another way, and not contribute to their deaths? And with that question, my path began.

At first, I just gave up meat but still ate fish, honey, and eggs regularly. Then I gave up fish unless out of the house and faced with few other food options. Next I stopped eating eggs, not only because I realized that by eating eggs I was contributing to the eventual slaughter and consumption of the hens, as well as the deaths of roosters, but because the vegan replacements satiated my egg cravings. Then I reduced my use of honey. Eventually, I plan to stop eating fish when out and about.

I don’t judge or chastise those who eat meat. This is my path, and mine alone. I ate meat for years. I loved meat! My children and husband still eat meat (though I cook vegetarian fare 99% of the time, unless they request a specific meaty dish.) Simply put, I don’t personally want to consume carcasses. Others may do as they please.

And how do I feel six months in? I. Feel. Great! I never have that heavy “thud” in my gut after even the heaviest of vegan meals. My digestion is regular. My belly doesn’t get distended. I have more energy. I feel lighter. I no longer feel guilty. It’s perfect for me.

I am happy. I am healthy. My conscience is at ease. Our grocery bill is $50-$100 below our previous amount since dropping meat. Heck, this week we spent a measly $150 to feed our family of five for the whole week, and that includes my vegan wine. I cannot complain.

This is my abrupt yet gentle trek towards an entirely plant-based diet. “Take it slow or you’ll regret it,” advised one vegan. So I am.

Next Year will be Entirely Different

“This year will be tough,” I thought to myself, anticipating the summer beach trips at my mom’s beloved but entirely toddler-unfriendly beach house, “but next year… just wait until next year!” The glass-topped tables, the readily accessible stairs, the breakable lamps attached to tuggable cords, the vulnerable trinkets, the vertical blinds, the unlatched cabinets, the massive canvas painting hung within swatting distance above the sofa, the media console with an array of enticing buttons… so much to safeguard from my bumbling tike. But being at the beach makes it all worthwhile.

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Summer 2016

I envisioned my long, memory-filled, sand-dusted, sun-soaked days wrangling my kindergartener and preschooler while simultaneously chasing my toddler on the beach, at the pool, on the playground, and then at the beach house. I recounted the strain of having no childproofed place I can safely place my littlest so that I can cook dinner, pack the beach cooler, make snacks, go to the bathroom, or just sit for a beat. I remembered how I woke up every day at 6AM on vacation and popped him — wailing — into the pack-and-play so that I could wearily pump, set out breakfasts, and pack for the day’s beach excursion before the rest of the house awoke. I remembered the sinking dread I felt at the prediction of a rainstorm that would keep us trapped inside.

This year, I’ll have to wean from pumping before we take our trips and I’ll have to wear him whenever we’re in the house, because a pack-and-play will no longer stand as an impeding obstacle to my athletic tot. I will be on duty from wake-up to bedtime. I will enjoy it. I will treasure it. I will end the season with a multitude of photos and a plethora of cherished memories. I will be exhausted in the best and most depleting way. “Just push through this year,” I reassured myself, “next year will be entirely different.”

Then it struck me: next year will be entirely different. It will be easier, but next year they’ll all be older. My herd will be 7, 5, and 3. 7… 7-years old! The better part of a decade? And my middle son a burgeoning kindergartener?? No more baby? No more toddler? Tears welled. My throat grew tight. They’re growing too fast! Make it stop!

Sure, life will still be loud and chaotic, because that is our familial heartbeat. Vacations will still be life relocated. I will still fight the descent into anarchy by planning and packing, scheduling and routine. My “vacation” will happen each night during the two hours between the kids’ bedtime and my own. I will, no doubt, still referee and soothe, corral and amuse, but I won’t be needed in that primal way. That exhausting, rewarding, wholly taxing manner that both fills the soul and drains all mental capacity.

And with that I stopped coaching myself to “just push through this year” but, instead, to savor it. Because next year will be entirely different.

5 Fast, Healthy, and Easy Vegan Meals

Eating a plant-based diet doesn’t have to be time-consuming or complex. You can eat healthy, tasty, cruelty-free food even if you’re short on culinary skill and time.

Here are five fast and easy meatless meals that’ll have even omnivores cleaning their plates.

1) Spicy Lettuce Cups: 

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Spicy Lettuce Cups

Drizzle a bit of your preferred cooking oil in a pan and heat over medium-high heat. Add 4 chopped baby portobello mushrooms to the hot pan. Once the mushrooms start to sizzle, add 1/4 cup of prepared lentils, 1 chopped avocado, and the juice of 1 lemon. Sprinkle in garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper to taste. Finish with a liberal dose of crushed red pepper flakes. Once heated through, serve the warm mixture on leaves of freshly washed Boston lettuce.

2) Broccoli-Bean Soup

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Broccoli-Bean Soup

Drizzle you preffered cooking oil in a pan. Thaw 3 cups of frozen broccoli in a pan over medium-high heat. Once heated, add 1.5 cups of vegetable stock, 2 Tbl garlic powder, 1 Tbl onion powder, 1 tsp dried basil, 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, 1 tsp smoked paprika, a dash of liquid aminos (or soy sauce), and salt and pepper to taste. Add in 1 can of drained and rinsed butter beans. Turn off heat and carefully blend the soup with an immersion blender until it reaches your desired smoothness. Optional: sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes.

3) Barbecue Beans:

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Barbecue Beans

Add 1 cup of frozen peas and carrots to a pan over medium-high heat. Cook until thawed. Stir in 1 can of drained and rinsed beans (pinto beans and kidney beans are our favorites), 1/3 cup of vegan barbecue sauce (such as Sweet Baby Ray’s Original Barbecue Sauce), 1 tsp cumin, and 1/2 tsp chili powder. Heat for 2 minutes then serve. It is great on its own, mixed into short-cut pasta, or as shown here served as a sandwich topped with vegan mayo.

4) Raw Nut-free Kale Pesto 

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Raw Nut-free Kale Pesto

Add 1 cup baby kale, 4 Tbl extra virgin olive oil, 3 Tbl raw unsalted hulled sunflower seeds, 1 Tbl nutritional yeast, 1/2 Tbl garlic powder to a blender and blend until smooth. Stir into cooked Banza (chickpea flour) pasta and top with 3 handfuls of sliced cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with hemp hearts for an added nutrition punch.

5) Black Bean Bowl

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Black Bean Bowl

Place 1 bag of microwaveable brown rice into the microwave and cook per the package instructions. While the rice cooks, add 1/4 chopped sweet onion to a greased pan over medium-high heat. Cook for 1 minute then add 1 chopped red bell pepper to the pan. After the vegetables have cooked for 1 minute, add 1/4 cup of frozen sweet corn to the pan to heat through. Stir in 1 Tbl garlic powder, 1/2 Tbl cumin, 1/2 Tbl chili powder, 1/2 Tbl onion powder, and salt and pepper to taste (throw in a touch of cayenne if you like some heat.). Place the rice in a bowl, spoon the bean mixture over the rice, top with 1/4 sliced avocado, squeeze the juice of 1/2 lime over top, and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Mermaids and Princesses for the Birthday Boy

We walked the entire toy store three times, my middle son and I. He held my hand as he carefully perused each aisle. “That’s for babies.” He said, shaking his head as he passed walkers and exersaucers. “That’s too scary!” He shuddered, shrinking away from a wall of action villain toys and play weapons. “I like that.” He gasped, walking closer until his nose nearly met the clear plastic front of the princess doll’s packaging. His glacier blue eyes grew wide, his thick black eyelashes unmoving as he soaked in the beauty before him. “I want that!” He said, his mouth remaining slack-jawed.

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Birthday loot

We had slowly strolled the action figures, the trains, the drawing utensils, the wooden toys, the dollhouses, the bikes, the bedding, the building blocks, the sand toys. Nothing sparked interest. Not until we hit the brightly lit, pink-and-purple hued aisles of the doll and princess section. My boy was home!

And so my son spent the next 30 minutes meticulously selecting precisely which toys he wanted to request for his birthday. “You won’t get everything,” I reminded him as I typed the items into the memo section of my phone, “and we won’t buy them today. But that will make your birthday even more exciting. You’ll wonder which toys you will actually receive.” He nodded knowingly and tapped the toddler princess box in front of him, “Don’t forget this!” He reminded me. “Toddler Ariel doll with hairdryer” I typed into my phone. “Don’t worry,” I said, “I didn’t forget her.”

He smiled.

Potty-training Tips

After potty-training two of my three children — 1 boy and 1 girl — and beginning to introduce the venture to my third child, I have learned more than I thought I would ever want to know about potty-training. Through my own, as well as others’, mistakes and successes, my knowledge base has expanded. I’m no potty-training expert but I’ve certainly gleaned experience. If you want my real, raw toilet-training tips, read on.

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In throws of pantless potty-training #2

Pre-potty-training is a great first step, if you’re granted the opportunity. Begin introducing toileting during usual urination times — such as first thing in the morning, before naptime, after naptime, before baths, and before bed — on a standard toilet. (Why add an extra step to the process by having to wean off of a tiny potty? Why make public toileting dramatic? Why add “rinse feces from plastic toilet” to your to-do list? Just start on the real thing.) Next, start introducing toileting when you are using the facilities, whether at home or in public.

If the trainee produces, praise. If nothing is produced, quickly move along. No need to pressure. This is simply an introduction to potty usage. Once your trainee shows readiness to potty-train, I suggest these basic steps.

1) Go underwear shopping. Take the trainee to select his/her new underwear. (Buy 3 more packs than you think you’ll need. Trust me.) While you’re at the store, stock up on all-surface and fabric cleaner. You’re going to need it.

2) Box up the diapers. No more absorbent undergarments during waking hours (except in the case of deuce drama… more on that later.) Naps and nighttime are different. Bladder control while sleeping is an entirely separate milestone.

3) Go under house arrest. Don’t tempt fate. Keep things simple. Stay home for the first 3-5 days of potty-training, based on your child’s progress. If you can schedule potty-training to start over a long-weekend, do it! Devote the time to hydration (water, juice, ice-pops, soup), frequent toileting, excessive praise, lots of bio-hazard clean up, and laundry.

4) Hide the blankets. Dress-ups, blankets, throw-pillows, stuffed animals, doll clothes, area rugs, and unsecured fabric within your trainee’s immediate reach during waking hours must be stored away. Got a boy? Tie up those drapes! Lest you feel like memorizing all of their washing instructions. Oh, and secure the air vents if your tot has a y-chromosome. Who knew peeing down an air shaft would be so enjoyable?

5) Think like you’re pregnant. Visit the lavatory every 20 minutes and upon entry and exit of every establishment. What if you just toileted before exiting a restaurant and pop over to the craft store just five minutes down the road? Still give pottying a go. Better safe than sorry! Bladders have terrible timing, like when you’re midway through loading your groceries onto the cashier’s conveyor belt on a busy afternoon or when you’re in the midst of a PAP smear. Frequent restroom stops are the best way to avoid public bladder deluges and dicey toilet sprints.

6) Pack an entire spare outfit. You’ve probably stepped down from full-on diaper bag to “mom purse” by now. Potty-training means it’s time to dust off the big tote! When I say pack an entire ensemble, I’m talking down to the shoes. Trust me. Be sure to have wipes and a bag big enough to hold an entire soiled outfit. You don’t want to walk through the crowded mall carrying your shoe-less tot wrapped in a coat toga while lugging paper towel wrapped, urine soaked clothes. From personal experience, I’ll assure you it’s unpleasant.

7) Incontinence pads save car seats. Place an adhesive incontinence pad on the seat portion of the trainee’s car seat. It won’t shield everything, but it’s better than no protection. Removing the trainee’s pants for car rides is a bonus precaution, as changing underpants is far easier than changing the lower half of an outfit.

8) Have a Plan B. Devise a car trip potty plan. Are you cool with popping a squat on the side of the road using the car door and a windshield shade as impromptu outhouse walls? Would you prefer to use a portable potty or stash a large empty bottle in the car for bladder emergencies? Think ahead. Traffic happens. So does urine. Think ahead to poop too. Emergency Pull-up? Two bags folded over an empty sand pail? The old Boy Scout dirt latrine? Ponder your options before crap happens.

9) Don’t push poop. If your kid pees fine on the potty but is averse to dropping a deuce in the bowl, let him hide under the table and poop in a Pull-up. Seriously, ask any parent who has experienced poop withholding drama if changing a feces-smeared Pull-up once a day or 10 days of self-inflicted constipation is better. Guaranteed answer: “Give the kid a Pull-up!” Your child will not go to college with a stash of Depends, hunkering under his dorm desk to take a crap. If, for some reason, you are genuinely concerned about that possibility, consult your pediatrician. Toilet training therapists exist and do wonders for children who have a hard time letting go.

10) Accept that it’s going to be imperfect. Potty-training is not a straight-line progression. Just know that. There will be regressions and gross, embarrassing, long phases you think will never end. There will be months when you cannot have outsiders in your home because it is a pantsless, bio-hazard war zone. You will read more books on a tile floor than you ever thought you could. You will cheer for production in public facilities. You will use restrooms in which you suspect breathing will cause you to contract a venereal disease. You will lose any shred of pride you had left. You will know which venues have the best — and worst — public facilities. You will clean up pee in public. Your house will feel like a port-a-potty. You will wash entire loads of laundry almost fully comprised of miniature pants and underwear. There will be a shrewd underwear assessment scale for determining whether to toss or wash. One day your pissing, shitting, pants-averse heathen spawn will be able to wear the same underwear for a whole day without soiling it in some form or another. One day this will end. You will survive. You can do this!

 

 

Lessons of My Tantruming Toddlers

So this was my Target run this morning with my cute little, potbellied, snot-nosed companion.

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#3 Tantrums amidst candy and beer

Gold-star parenting, taking a photo of my raging 1.5-year-old, right? Pffft… the photo was worth it.

I remember back when my first child (now a sparkle-loving, highly articulate, graceful-as-an-elephant kindergartener) would throw public tantrums. Oh how I would shrivel! My face grew red, I could feel real and perceived eyes on me. I gave SO many shits about what others thought. Granted, when my bull-headed mini-me would rage she would do so for at least 30 minutes. No amount of distraction or redirection, ignoring or punishing would calm the storm. She just needed to let loose until the tides turned. And so she did. And so I learned.

Along came my second child. My daughter, but 20-months old at the time of his birth, was still in the infancy of her tantrum season. We’d walk the aisles of a grocery store and she’d wail. We’d shop Target and she’d walk behind me losing her ever-loving mind. Her infant brother, tucked neatly into his stroller, had been prepared for these animal noises in-utero, so he was utterly unaffected by her demonic yowl-and-flail maneuvers. I’d remain outwardly calm, inwardly reminding myself to stay steady, willing myself to pale the increasing blush in my cheeks. I’d nod at the reassuring smiles from on-lookers, I’d respond to kind words with a silently mouthed “thank you.” I’d ignore unsolicited advice to “teach her a lesson” or “get out the belt.” I kept on with my errand. I preserved.

My second child came of age and would tantrum in public. He’d sit down in the middle of a busy aisle or attempt to run across the street and I’d scoop him up into the crook of my elbow so that his belly rested on my hip, his squat legs kicking the air behind me. We’d go about our errand or family walk as he flailed in my arm, securely positioned in the “carry of shame.” Often both he and his sister would simultaneously unleash their inner demons. Onlookers would reassuringly smile and I’d smile back. Passersby would offer kind words and I’d respond in jest. After a few minutes, he’d relent, his sister would eventually follow suit. He knew his sister had calloused me; he could not win.

Then my third child arrived, 2.5 years after my second. He tantrums and I giggle. He hops with anger in a store aisle and I stop to take a picture. Do onlookers sneer or even notice? I haven’t the faintest. Do people seem unsettled by the fussing of a toddler in a public space? I neither know nor care. I’m just living the fleeting humorous moment, because this too shall pass.