The Jelly Bean Jar

At our wedding 6 and a half years ago, we had a cute little candy table set up.

Most of the candy was put in these mason jars I painstakingly decorated with lace, burlap, and ribbon. We had, among other things: mints, taffy, and jelly belly beans.

A lot of the candy was left over after the wedding, and I wanted to keep a few of the jars I had made, so we consolidated the candy in the jars I wanted to keep. Fast forward to when we moved to Oregon, and the jars now live on the windowsill in our kitchen.

We don’t eat candy very often. Well, let me be clear – we eat the good stuff quickly, and the rest just kinda…sits there. Plus, the wedding candy kinda became more decoration than treat.

Fast forward again to when we had kids, and to when my youngest kid decided that she’d rather start pooping in her pants than in the potty (the latter she had been doing for weeks already). Kids are wondrous, folks. Simply amazing little creatures.

Mama had had enough and, after much screaming and sanitizing and laundry, we decided to try rewards as a last resort. My first thought was that we’d have to go out and buy some M&Ms.

But wait!

We had three cute little jars full of (old) candy that wasn’t being eaten, right in front of me as I did the dishes at the end of every exhausting day! I promptly offered my daughter a jelly bean the next time she went poop on the potty, and pointed to the jar that was backlit by the spring sunlight coming in through the window, illuminating the sugary beans like they were sent straight from heaven.

It worked like a charm!

Now, because we were giving my youngest a magic poop bean every time she delivered the goods, my oldest saw an opportunity.

Hey, he said. (he didn’t really say that) I want one, too. (that he did say)

And so, for the past, I don’t know, 6 months or so (maybe 9? my brain is mush), we’ve been giving each kid a bean, when we’ve been home, for a deed that normally should be going on unrewarded.

After a short while, it was clear that my genius had paid off, and that my daughter’s skill mastery of potty training was here to stay. But, another problem was looming.

How do we stop the rewards?!

Surely, I’d created two monsters. Obviously, they’d go off to college thinking they deserved a godforsaken jelly belly after every empty colon produced. Clearly, I had failed as a parent. I had gone in without an exit strategy! Rookie mistake! Sorry, future roommates and partners.

But wait!

We had a finite number of jelly beans! Of course! Again, the answer had been staring me in the face as I stood at the sink, doing endless freaking dishes day in and day out. The jelly beans would, one day, just run out. There would be no more.

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The Last Jelly Bean

This problem solved itself, ladies and gentlemen. I made the announcement, and they accepted the news in stride. The countdown to the End of the Jelly Beans became somewhat of a thing, from then on. It was to be an exciting milestone for all involved.

So. I’m sure you know what recently happened. My baby girl produced so much poop so many times and ate her way through that jar. She no longer needs the jar. She no longer asks for the beans. The circle of life was complete in that the beans became the poop for which the reward was the beans. I propose that the chicken-or-the-egg phrase be officially replaced.

So thank you, Jelly Bean Jar. You served your purpose not only in looking cute at my wedding, and on my window sill, but you also saved me having to do a whole lot of laundry.

Now, let’s raise a glass to the Jelly Bean Jar. Here’s to stale candy doing what I could not- getting a stubborn little girl to do something that shouldn’t require rewarding in the first place.

Preschool Must Think I’m a Hobo

My family, we’re not morning people.

Mornings are filled with grumbling and swearing and yelling and coffee and more yelling and sometimes tears. Eventually, we get pants on our asses and food in our tummies and we get strapped into the car to get to preschool about 5-10 minutes late every goddamn day.

I’ve tried different shortcuts, different mom hacks along the way to try and make it to preschool on time. I’ve tried setting my alarm earlier – didn’t work out really well because I’m in an abusive relationship with my snooze button. Long ago I stopped trying to put on makeup or do anything beyond getting dressed, washing face, and brushing hair. I get breakfast ready with machine-like efficiency. Cereal, milk, pouches, DONE. For a while I tried running out the door without brushing my teeth or doing mouthwash, convincing myself that I’d just do it when I got back home…and that rarely happened. I realized I was getting to the end of the day and there was fuzz growing in my mouth. Yuck. Plus, we were still arriving late.

The solution? I started bringing my mouth hygiene items along with me in the car! We’d rush out the door, drop off my son, and then I’d spend the 3.5 minutes in the parking lot brushing my teeth and mouth-washing. This, ladies and maybe two gentlemen who read this, was brilliant. Finally, I could do it all! I became evermore the Supermom, and my car the invisible jet.

…Except, we weren’t invisible. While I felt like a strapping, young backpacker going on an adventure through the wilderness of motherhood, I realized what I must have looked like to the other moms rolling up late with their kids, and to the preschool teachers who could clearly see me spitting into the parking lot bushes.

That’s right. I was barely dressed, still showing up late, standing in a parking lot and hunched over the shrubbery with white foam coming out of my mouth. I looked like a hobo. A hobo with great dental hygiene (or maybe a mild case of rabies), but still.

Over time, as my kids became more and more able to put their pants on by themselves, I was able to carve out time to brush my teeth at home again, and I figured this was it. Life was on the upswing, you guys. Everything’s coming up Milhouse!

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And then my youngest started potty training. If you remember from previous episodes, she rocked it, but having her diaper-free meant that I had to cart around her little potty to avoid accidents. We brought the potty to the park. The potty comes with us on beach trips. And oh yes, you bet your mama wine sippy cup that it comes with us to preschool drop off and pick up.

So now I’m also the mom in the school parking lot whose kid is dropping trou and I’m discreetly pouring out the liquid waste if we don’t have time to make it to a real potty. (I also added another hairbrush to the center console because I can never manage to brush my daughter’s rat nest hair before we get out the door. Sigh.)

With all the teeth/hair brushes, potty, and wipes, my car is basically a rolling bathroom, you guys. It already smells like shit, might as well lean in to the stink (can I trademark that phrase?). I don’t know how other moms do it, but, all outside judgement aside, this seems to be working for us moderately well. Basically, I’ve lost all sense of shame. At this point, I might as well set up my own tent.

Who wants s’mores, y’all?

Feelings are having me

We’ve slowly been removing baby things from our living room area.

Before my second kid was born, we had a play kitchen and 273545585 pieces of play food just off the dining area, in an effort to get my kid out of the real kitchen but still feel like a part of the action. I got freaking sick of picking up said pieces of play food, and when I was pregnant with my second, “picking up” meant kicking them across the room into one big pile so I could yell at my husband to PICK THOSE UP the second he got home from work.

That was moved to the playroom many moons ago.

We used to have this colorful foam mat that fit together like puzzle pieces. We got it to save our kids’ noggins from smashing open on our laminate flooring while they were learning to be upright. While it did that, it also served as a thing for my kids to rip apart, chew, throw, and hide. My cat threw up on it. My oldest kid peed all over it during potty training. At that point I rinsed off the pee pieces and threw everything in the closet in a tearful hormonal rage (read: pregnancy).

We actually sold that (I cleaned it. A lot.) for real money. It’s gone.

We had this huge bouncy seat thing in the living room, too. When it was in use, it was SO LOUD, but it did its job of keeping each of my pre-mobile babies content for exactly 20 minutes (no more, no less) while I prepared and scarfed down my own lunch before I had to feed them.

Sold that too. Boom.

Since before our kids were born, we’ve always had a Pack N Play set up in our living room. It served as a diaper changing station, and it held loads of crap. Cloth diapers, disposable diapers, wipes, butt paste…and in the bottom: baby carriers, swim stuff, shoes, etc. etc. etc. In between kids’ diaper needs, my oldest napped in it, we took it camping, it even made a trip to the beach.

Since we don’t need a diaper station anymore because my daughter is a potty training ROCKSTAR, we took it down this weekend. I emptied it, found homes for all the random stuff, threw some stuff away, cleaned some stuff, and we….packed up the Pack N Play. It’s been a fixture in our home ever since we moved in. You can actually see our fireplace now; I think I forgot we had one. My son immediately wanted it back. He’s never known this house without it.

My husband looked over and saw me standing over the Pack N Play pieces and the still-full diaper caddy.

H: Hey Lady (He calls me Lady.)

Me, blinking away the tears: …y-yeah?

H: You gonna put this stuff away?

Me: Well, I don’t know what to do with it! Do we keep it? Throw it away? Sell it? Give it away? Do we need wipes anymore? Will our kids have any accidents? I haven’t changed a poopy diaper in weeks! WHAT IF I’VE CHANGED MY LAST POOPY DIAPER AND I DIDN’T KNOW IT WAS MY LAST?!?!?!

H: …we’ll keep some wipes for now. Let’s throw away the expired butt cre-

Me: NO!! BUT WHAT IF WE NEED IT?!

H: Just put it all upstairs.

Clearly, I’m just having all the feels about it. I wiped down the changing pad where my boy peed all over himself countless times. One time he pooped mid-change on himself. And me. And the floor. And I miss it. You know.

I remember putting my son in that thing right after lunches so that I could clean the frickin floor before he crawled through all the food he had just thrown down from his high chair.

After a while, we stored the kids’ shoes in there and they ran to grab them when it was time to leave the house.

Now it’s all in the closet.

My kids are growing up. They are taking huge steps out of the baby phase and it’s becoming real.

I’m sure you all know what I’m going to say next. On one hand, I am crazy excited. I can SMELL the increasing freedom and I wants more of it. The baby phase was HARD and I didn’t feel like myself and it was hard. And yet.

I find myself trying to drink my kids in a little more lately. They aren’t going to be so little and cute for very much longer, and I wish I could bottle it up. I sneak up and stare at them when they’re playing quietly. I smell their clothes right after they take them off, especially after yummy, sweaty, toddler sleep. I hug them whenever they let me, holding on just a little longer than is comfortable (for them, certainly not me). I need to make sure my kids never find out how to file for a restraining order.

Crap, I’d better stop now. You get the idea. Yay for having an actual living room! Yay for my kids growing up and becoming amazing human beings.

SOB.

 

Adventures in Potty Training

I’ve been changing and spraying and washing and folding cloth diapers for over FOUR YEARS now.

Dear lord.

I just started potty training my youngest, and truth be told, I was still shell-shocked from the experience of potty training my first. I can remember it like it was yesterday… long story, but in my infinite wisdom, I decided to start potty training my first on November 9, 2016. Anyone remember that day? That’s right, it was the day after #45 became our Toddler-in-Chief. Unfortunately, it had to be around that day. We had gone on a road trip in October, we had a goodbye party to go to on November 8, aaaaaand I wanted him mostly potty trained before his baby sister came right around Christmas. I was running out of time to get the job done and the clock was ticking. Besides, I honestly thought we’d be celebrating the fact that my daughter would be born into a world where she’d be able to take for granted that a woman could lead the free world and do it like a badass.

Instead, I was elbow deep in piss and shit. Literally and metaphorically. That first day, my kid peed all over the house and pooped on the floor once. I could barely keep up trying to clean up all the mess, and I was a crying pregnant mess myself. We didn’t leave the house for 4 days. We didn’t go somewhere that wasn’t a park for a few weeks. Looking back, it took him over a year before he was completely, truly accident free.

So, you can see why I didn’t particularly feel like going through all that again.

And yet.

Being a mom has taught me, among other things, that my kids will continually surprise me and to always have low expectations.

This time, I was ready. I scheduled the potty training to commence on a Saturday, when my babydaddy would be home to help (why I didn’t do this the first time around, I have no freaking clue). We rolled up the area rug. I borrowed a box of those puppy pee pads to line the carpeted areas of my house. We had our hazmat suits on and wine chilling in the fridge. My baby girl protested having her diapers taken away at first. She had a few tiny accidents, but then held it and ran for the potty. We celebrated so exuberantly that she even ran back to the potty after going and tried to squeeze out a few drops so that we could celebrate again.

It’s been over a week now and I’ve been blown away by how freaking amazing my daughter is. We’ve gone out, we went to the library, we took a long car ride. Life has largely gone back to normal and I am SO THANKFUL. I never knew potty training could be this way, you guys. Everyone who said, “I dunno…my kid just got it,” I quietly hated you and disbelieved you. And now I’m reminded that each kid is just different. Also, no need to remind me not to count my chickens. Toddlers are wily, and I realize that she can always turn the tables and decide she’d like to make my life a living hell.

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We potty at the park, yo.

But for now…I do not miss washing those damn diapers, and I am super thankful that, at least so far, this whole ordeal is turning out to be way easier than I thought!

My favorite part of the day

Today’s my birthday, y’all. And you know what that means – I insist on some me time so I can wax poetic on my blog about another year gone.

Another year older, wiser, more tired. It’s also been a year a bit more hopeful than recent history. My kids are getting older and more independent (read: less dependent on mommy for every goddamn little thing), which is very much appreciated. We’re all creeping out of the baby stage, and while that makes a part of me kinda sad, it makes a larger part of me sigh with relief. We’ve got potty training on the horizon for the little one, and while that process will probably be a brisk walk through hell, I am giddy with excitement when I think about life on the other side. I simply won’t know what to do with myself.

Along those lines, in the fall my oldest will start kindergarten and my youngest will start preschool. That means I get some time to nap, clean the house, poop alone, and start the process of maybe eventually going back to work.

I think my brain just exploded.

And now I’m going to leave you with a little window into my day. It’s a story that’s been bouncing around in my head for a few weeks and I’ve been meaning to get it down in writing.

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One of my favorite parts of the day is when we read to the kids right before they go to bed.

My son has always settled down to be read to, but my daughter has only started sitting still for books in the past 6 months or so, and it’s glorious. Even so, she’s still demanding to help turn the pages, interjecting every 5 seconds with “waat hap-pen?!” but I’m not complaining.

Getting ready for bed is usually chaos. Screaming, streaking, wiggling. Diapers, pajamas, teeth brushing.

Each child gets to pick a book.

We sit perpendicular on my son’s twin bed, resting our backs against the wall. We use a body pillow for support that my husband first bought me when we were living in Boston, as a surrogate for his own body once he left to take a job in California. How time flies.

My son sits to the far left, then daddy, then my daughter, then me. Always the same.

We have a desk light on low. Daddy and I do all the voices. I specialize in Princess Sparkle, supersonic jets, and the Minosaur. Daddy’s really good at Old Bear and witches and farmers.

About halfway through the first book, without fail, the cat skulks into the room and jumps up on the bed, demanding my lap. Her furry body warms mine. My daughter reaches over to pet her back or poke her in the ear.

Snapshot: for about 10 minutes each day, or entire family is calm and snuggling and…together. All focused on the same thing for a brief moment before we say our goodnights and iloveyous, lay them in their beds, turn out the lights, and shut their doors.

Sometimes my son wordlessly reaches for my hand.

Sometimes my daughter rests her head against my torso.

Sometimes the cat purrs.

Sometimes my partner and I exchange a glance above our kids’ heads.

Always it’s my favorite time of day.

Always.

Math beans, hot coffee, and lunch standing up

You guys.

I just experienced the most amazing thing.  You have no idea.  Or maybe you do.  It’s worth its weight in gold, and I think it’s going to end up being my savior.

What is this magic, you ask?

It’s called PRE. SCHOOL.

OMG, you guys.  My oldest had his first day yesterday and it was HEAVEN ON EARTH.

He was excited to go and the drop off was a breeze.  I squatted down to give him a little peptalk, told him I loved him, asked for a hug, and I got a little choked up for a second and then sucked it back because I didn’t want to lose it in front of him, and then…we left.  And he was HAPPY.  Playing with the math beans.  Preschool has “math beans,” who knew?

I went home dazed.  I had no idea what to do.  I hadn’t planned this out.  Usually I have A PLAN.  Well…first things first, I made coffee.  And drank it HOT.  You heard me.  Holy crap, you guys, hot coffee tastes GREAT.  It tastes like preschool tuition well-spent.  And then I went on FACEBOOK.  Because I don’t go on there enough, amirite? I made sure to feed and diaper my youngest, but then…she fell. ASLEEP.  And then my head exploded because now I was really lost in mommy fantasyland.

So I did the dishes, put away laundry, and started to pack for my FIRST WEEKEND EVER AWAY FROM MY KIDS (but that’s a whole other post entirely).

I ate lunch.  MY OWN LUNCH.  It was hot.  I didn’t have to share.  I still ate standing up for some reason, because hey, let’s not get too comfortable here.

When I picked up the boy after what felt like 20 glorious minutes in heaven, he was still HAPPY.  And, ladies and gentlemen, he was still wearing the same shorts as when I dropped him off.  Which can only mean (and was confirmed by asking the teacher) that he DIDN’T PEE HIS PANTS on the first day.  Angels were singing, my friends.

We came home, he ate the rest of his half-eaten lunch (score!) and then HE TOOK A NAP.

The best part – we get to do this THREE. TIMES. A. WEEK.

Preschool tuition tastes like heaven in this mommy’s mouth.

(I think I’ve lost the ability to complete a coherent thought now, but I think you know what I mean.)