A Trail of Pee

cleaning-lady-1816357_1280 You can probably make some (very accurate) assumptions about the nature of my morning based on the title. I considered calling this post “A Trail of Tears and Pee,” but it didn’t seem appropriate to compare the drama of my privileged life with the uprooting and forced relocation of an entire group of people.

It didn’t help that the first thing that happened this morning was that I had to dig through piles of clean, unfolded laundry to find my son some socks. After digging through an entire basket (and sorting things into piles as I went), I finally found a pair of green socks and tossed them across the living room to him. He responded by throwing them back at me because he wanted red socks. At that point, I knew I should have told him to deal with it or find his own *darn* socks. But I was not awake enough to make good decisions and I decided to keep looking. Why did I do that!?!? More awake self is kicking me.

Then, in the chaos of trying to help me older children get their breakfasts before going off to school, my little one (age three) gets up and joins in the pandemonium. By the time the other two were settled with their breakfasts, I forgot to make sure that she had gone to the bathroom, which of course she hadn’t. So she’s got her cereal all ready to eat and she takes The Position and starts freaking out about having to go to the bathroom. Usually I can rush her to the  bathroom and she makes it, but not today. Today, she starting dribbling pee all the way across the carpeted living room. All over the piles of laundry I’d sorted. By the time we made it to the bathroom, she had really let loose all over her own clothes (obviously) and, worse, all over my carefully selected clothes that I had been excited to wear because I’d finally done laundry yesterday.

At this point the tears start. And WTF am I supposed to do? There is a trail of pee across the house and we are both covered in pee. I ended up putting her on the toilet while I showered (which thankfully I hadn’t already done this morning) and then cleaned her and then the floor. I’m not proud to say that I was completely hysterical this entire time. My poor two older children at least decided they should probably just take care of themselves for once and got themselves ready for the bus without the usually pestering and nagging from me.

In retrospect, you beat yourself up for all the wrong decisions you made that could have prevented this. The pressure of perfection can stop you in your tracks and sometimes you just have to forgive yourself and move on.

Bedtime Shenanigans

A few weeks ago we went on vacation with my mom and my husband’s mom. All seven of us crammed in one little cabin with one bathroom. It’s situations like this that help you realize just how insane your life really is. I mean, you get in the zone of crazy and after awhile you start to wonder if it is normal to feel like putting three young children to bed is akin to herding cats while fielding questions from the White House press corps and juggling flaming batons. And then your mom observes bedtime and confirms that it really is as crazy as you think it is. It’s good to have perspective.

Last night we went for a walk and returned just in time for bedtime. I’m sure the walk back would have involved more whining, but luckily someone really had to go to the bathroom. It’s a good motivator. I mean, by the end she couldn’t even run because she was afraid she’d pee her pants.

Anyway, we got back and I convinced the other two to get their clothes off, which went surprisingly well. I decided to avoid the drama over getting their shirts off by doing it for them. (The middle kid used to freak out because he thought his shirt was going to trap him. It’s only a little better now.) That kid didn’t want to go upstairs without a special ride from dad, so I convinced the little one to come upstairs to get her teeth flossed. Then I sent her off to pick out her pajamas. She needed someone to turn on the light for her though and I thought maybe her dad could help her with that. Well, by that time he was upstairs helping the other child, so I went down to turn it on. Cue melt down because she decided she did want dad after all (after repeating “no, mom do it” a bunch of times). I decided to leave that child alone after it was clear she was too in no mood to pick out her pajamas. I go check on the oldest child to find that she let go just a little early and there was some pee on the floor. Meanwhile, the little one has decided to follow me around whimpering and I’m all like “I can’t help you right now because I have to clean up pee.” So she throws herself down dramatically on the futon to “wait” until I can give her my full attention again.

Luckily, the middle child was getting dad’s full attention and therefore was actually getting ready for bed instead of the usual running back and forth between bedrooms like a crazy person. The night before I’d sent him upstairs to pick out clothes for the next day and pajamas. I came back and was like “I just went downstairs and started the laundry and put the food away and gathered up all the stuffed animals and I’ve been gone about five minutes and YOU STILL HAVEN’T PICKED OUT YOUR CLOTHES!?!?”. “Sorry Mom, I forgot.” Seriously kid? You had one job and you “forgot.” AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!

And then I head back to the little one’s dresser because she won’t let me pick out her pajamas anymore and she’s really into wearing whatever is not seasonally appropriate. So we stand there for awhile with me somewhat patiently waiting for her to pick out her own pajamas so we can avoid a total meltdown and then she finally decides she wants to wear the fleece pajamas. I start silently cursing myself for not taking them out of her dresser, but can you really blame me when up until now she’d let me get her pajamas? I guess now would be a good time to go rearrange things.

This is just a small sampling of the crazy that goes on here at bedtime. The kids all have their idiosyncrasies about how certain things need to be done and if you mess something up they turn into monsters. “BUT DAD, I WANTED TO BE WRAPPED UP IN MY FROG TOWEL SO I CAN BE A LITTLE FROG.” “BUT I WANT TO GET DRESSED IN MOM’S LAP.” Seriously, are they trying to torture me? I am just very grateful that I don’t have to do it alone and that my husband takes care of all the teeth brushing and washing of kids. I think he’s afraid I’ll turn into the momster version of the Hulk. And really, I don’t blame him for thinking that.


Medicating Child on Flight

medications-257344_1280Dear Momster,

We just flew four hours to visit my in-laws and it was awful! My 18 month old didn’t sleep at all even though I timed the flight to be during nap time. She spent the entire flight pushing buttons, kicking seats, and generally being crazy! My mother-in-law asked if I had tried medicating her. Is that a thing? Can you do that? Please help! I have to get back home somehow!


Flying Nightmare


Dear Flying Nightmare,

I feel your pain. When my first child was 20 months, we flew to England and back to visit my in-laws. The flight there was not too bad because it was overnight and we were able to get her to sleep. The only problem we had on that flight was losing her pacifier. Imagine my husband on the floor of the plane searching desperately for it before being forced back into his seat for landing. The flight home, however, was during the day and it was on top of my “NEVER DO THIS AGAIN” list for the reasons you mentioned. She had a quick nap in the car on the way to the airport and then didn’t sleep again until three minutes before we landed. Ugh.

You asked about medicating your child. I am not a doctor and cannot give medical advice. You should always check with your pediatrician. It is quite the polarizing topic, apparently. The American Academy of Pediatrics says don’t do it, but apparently many doctors quietly suggest Benadryl or Melatonin. Like I said, I can’t speak to the safety of doing this. The real problem, for me at least, was that IT DIDN’T WORK. Some kids get more ramped up on Benadryl instead of getting drowsy. With my child, however, I think it did make her tired but she is such a stubborn little thing that she was DETERMINED to stay awake despite our best efforts to get her to fall asleep. It turned her into a little monster who was fussy and whiny and tired and completely unable to sit and do any one activity. It was really great for someone who is also a bit claustrophobic and was feeling trapped on the damn plane. Plus I was pregnant and could really have used a nap too. The point is that, if you do dare to try such a thing, you’d better try it out BEFORE you get on the plane so you know if your kid will react in the desired way.

I don’t know that there’s any good way to fly with kids that age. I personally swore never to do it again. We’ll be road tripping for awhile, but I’m lucky enough to have grandparents in driving distance. I will say that you should never count on your child sleeping during the trip. If possible, plan flights during the morning when the child is fresh and well rested. Talk ahead of time about what you expect during the flight and things that are okay and not okay. And if all else fails, see if you can order a nice stiff drink.

Best of luck!


Taking Your Three Year Old to the Bathroom: Road Trip Edition

toddler-hand-1893255_1280You might not think it is a big deal to take your almost three year old to the bathroom. After all, she is potty trained in that she tells you when she needs to go and doesn’t have many accidents. However, she still needs help getting toilet paper and she deliberately tries to torture me by having me take her to the bathroom 17 bajillion times to poop before she actually goes. Oh, and I’m the only one who can take her to the bathroom or she screams bloody murder and refuses to go (which might happen even if I take her to the bathroom–you just never know what will set her off).

Last week we went on a road trip to the Black Hills in South Dakota. We drove nearly nine hours (not including stops) in one day with children ages almost three to almost seven. And even though we were a bit squished, we thankfully took two wonderful grandmas with us in the van. (Moms and dads don’t get to enjoy vacations unless there are helpful grandmas around.) Here’s what it’s like to take that almost three year old to the bathroom on a road trip:

Day 1

We leave at 5:30am. The first stop to use the bathroom is uneventful. The second stop involves a meltdown because I dared to squeeze the soap dispenser for her even though it was too hard and high for her to do on her own. She dumps the soap on the floor and cries while I take over and wash her hands for her. Stop three was the best because she let a grandma take her to the bathroom. Win!!! At our fourth stop, we were pleasantly enjoying a picnic lunch at a beautiful rest area overlooking the Missouri River. After arranging all the food and making several trips back to the car when almost three year old says she has to poop. Of course we’re on the opposite end of the rest area from the visitor center bathrooms. I carry her over and she pees and says she’s done. We finish lunch and walk around a bit and then she says she has to poop again so back we go. After three trips total, still no poop. We stop at Wall Drug a little later and make two more unsuccessful trips to the bathroom. I’m pretty sure that’s pretty much all we did there. Once we finally get to our cabin she tries several more times and finally poops THE NEXT MORNING!

Day 2

This day was fairly uneventful in terms of bathroom trips. It was just the normal challenges of her trying to climb under the bathroom stall door while I was going to the bathroom and me praying that a grandma or big sister was out there to keep her from wandering off with a stranger. Plus more drama over the soap dispenser. And needing to dry her hands on my shorts since she’s afraid of the hand dryers (I don’t think a single bathroom in SD had anything but scary hand dryers).

Day 3

Similar to the first two days, but only three or so trips to the bathroom before she successfully pooped. More meltdowns about soap dispensers. And the added fun of her wanting to be in the stall by herself while I stand outside trying to make sure she goes and figuring out when to help her get toilet paper.

Day 4

This is where it really gets fun. We had a successful bathroom break at Bear Country in the morning and then we drove into Rapid City to have lunch (which included a cup of water AND lemonade). I was confident she was going to need to go before we left the restaurant. Once in the bathroom, however, she threw a fit about wanting to wait outside a grandma’s stall to see when she came out. I dared to insist that she go into a different stall with me and she screamed at me and refused to go. She held it in. About 30 minutes later she peed in her pants. Needless to say, I was NOT happy. Her response? Yay, I get to wear this great new skirt that mom had packed just in case! AAAAAHHHHHHHH!

Since battles like this are not uncommon, the new policy on the trip was that if she didn’t go when we stopped, she’s have to wear a diaper. Very effective threat, it turns out. Although we continued to have soap dispenser battles, the rest of the trip was fairly uneventful. Next year’s trip will be easier, right? Right!?!?


The Grape Dilemma

grapes-2182073_1280Dear Stay at Home Momster,

At what age can I feed my child whole grapes?

A Mom who Hates Cutting Grapes

Dear Mom who Hates Cutting Grapes,

I’m with you. Cutting up those suckers is definitely not on my list of favorite activities. The answer to this question depends greatly on birth order. If this is your first child, you keep cutting up the grapes until they are at least seven or eight. At least, that’s if you are a good parent. Other parents might think it is ok to follow the recommendation of waiting until age three or four, but those who want to be really safe might even wait until they are teenagers. (Or perhaps that mother in Love You Forever is actually taking the ladder across town to climb into her son’s window to cut up grapes for his breakfast.) At least with the first child, they don’t have any examples of older siblings who get whole grapes, so you probably can get away with it.

If this is your second child, you probably are going to follow the recommendation of waiting until three or four, but only if you are still cutting grapes for the older child. You might feel like cutting up the grapes is akin to peeling off your fingernails, but you know it is a safety issue and you should probably do it anyway.

Child three is when you start saying “SCREW IT” and giving them whole grapes in a somewhat supervised setting and praying that they listen to you to only put ONE EFFING GRAPE AT A TIME in their mouths. You know it’s probably not safe, but your other children haven’t died yet and you sort of know CPR and that third child is so darn stubborn that you just can’t take the battle over the stupid grapes anymore. I mean, you can cut them up and argue with her over whether or not she will eat them (which she will not) or you can let her go hungry and listen to her whine all afternoon because she won’t eat anything else. Or, you can just give in because you used to manage a call center and now you spend your day cutting grapes and arguing with your toddler about whether or not she will eat the cut up ones.

*None of this should be taken as actual medical or safety advice. Please follow the recommendations of your pediatrician.

How to Feed Your Toddler Breakfast in 1,893,375 Easy Steps


Feeding young children is probably not at the top of any parent’s list of things they like to do. Wouldn’t it be great if you offered them food and they just said, “Oh thank you, this looks wonderful and I can’t wait to eat it”? Despite my best intentions of teaching my kids to be polite and try new things, meal time can feel a lot like teaching an elephant to knit. Here’s how it went this morning:

Step 1: Gently suggest to your two year old that perhaps she’d like to have some breakfast.

Step 2: When she seems amenable, ask her what she’d like to have. Wait while she rolls around on the floor or goes and hides while expecting you to find her. Ask several more times.*

Step 3: Once you finally have an answer, go into the kitchen and gather your materials. Ask your child to pick out her own bowl. She picks the cupcake bowl, as you expected, but you know that if you tried to get it out before she chose it on her own, she’d make a fuss and want something else.

Step 4: Ask again to confirm that what you’re preparing is in fact what she wants. Today it is “purple granola,” which means frozen blueberries, yogurt, and granola.

Step 5: Put the blueberries in the bowl.

Step 6: Get out the yogurt. Listen to her whine about how she doesn’t want the white yogurt. She wants the purple yogurt. Explain again that the yogurt turns purple when you stir it into the blueberries.

Step 7: Allow her to dump the spoonfuls of yogurt into the bowl since she has insisted that she must several times.

Step 8: Ask her if she’d like to put some granola in while she samples the white yogurt that hasn’t yet been stirred into the blueberries. Tell her no, she cannot use the spoon that was in her mouth to scoop granola out of the main container.

Step 9: Feel dead inside while she melts down because she wants plain white yogurt without the blueberries.

Step 10: Carry your screaming toddler out to the bus stop to get her older sister on the bus. Hope that the entire neighborhood is not listening.

Step 11: Come back in the house and offer to get her a bowl of plain yogurt since you don’t mind eating the yogurt and blueberries. She agrees.

Step 12: Listen to her pout and whine about not wanting any of the bowls. Then have her ask for the cereal that her brother is going to have.

Step 13: Offer her brother the cupcake bowl with the blueberries and yogurt in it, which luckily he doesn’t want because now she has decided that she will in fact eat the yogurt and blueberries that you originally prepared for her.

Step 14: Give in to her demands that she sit in your lap to eat her breakfast because you are so worn down that you just can’t handle getting her to sit in her own f$&*ing chair.

Step 15: Get coffee.

*Breakfast is the only meal of the day where I allow my children to choose what is served and usually there are only a few easy options. I am not a short order cook.

How to Get Your Little Kid to Put on Her Shoes

playing-1284497_1280If you haven’t had the battle over getting your child’s shoes on, well, maybe your child doesn’t have feet. It is a hallmark of parenting. That super fun struggle you engage in every time you need to leave the house. “It’s time to leave–put your shoes on!” “How come your shoes aren’t on? I’ve told you five times!” “If you don’t put your shoes on right now, I’m going to lose it!” “I’m leaving without you if you don’t get your shoes on!” “No, you cannot wear your flip flops when it is 40 degrees and we need you to be able to walk.” Even when I know the nagging isn’t going to work, I still hear such words coming out of my mouth, and then I just want to lock myself in the bathroom and cry for awhile.

Getting a child to do something when they don’t want to is just one of the most frustrating things a parent experiences. On the one hand, you need to get out the door. On the other, there’s some tiny part of you that remembers what it was like to be a small child having adults order you around all the time. You want your child to recognize on his own that it is time to go and then have the common sense to put on the appropriate footwear. Unfortunately, young children just don’t have the same sense of time or urgency and half the time they don’t want to go where we’re taking them. They want to have control of something in their lives that seem full of Things They Have to Do. I feel for them. But it still makes me crazy.

The other day I was having one such moment. My very stubborn and independent almost three year old did NOT want to put on her shoes. She didn’t want to do it herself and she did not want me to do it for her. The problem was that she wanted to wear either her too big flip flops or her too small purple rain boots. It was 45 degrees and we were going to ECFE where she would need some shoes that would be comfortable for playing. There are times when I decide it isn’t worth the battle, but I knew her shoe choices were not going to make her happy once we arrived at our destination (I know this from experience…). I tried giving her some time to pout, acknowledging her feelings and stating the problem. I laid out some appropriate shoe choices and told her she could decide which ones. She hid them under a shelf and continued pouting. I could see that this was quickly going to turn into a tantrum. Usually I would just give up at this point and lose control of my own emotions, but somehow I remembered some advice from my favorite parenting book: turn it into a game.

I grabbed a pair of shoes and starting pretending that they were talking. The black shoes with flowers said things like “Oh how I really want some feet in me!” “I really want some feet that I can hug and kiss!” “It is so lonely when I don’t have any feet in me.” “Do you think you could give me some feet?”

Sometimes you just have to change the dynamic. My oldest daughter will get so tired she can’t control herself and sometimes she just needs you to pretend like you think her pants go on your head.

Do things like this work every time? Oh heck no! And it is HARD to make things like this happen. As a parent, we don’t have the mental energy to do this all the time. Sometimes I just want my kid to act way beyond their age and JUST GET THEIR EFFING SHOES ON. Of course, this rarely happens. But some day it will. Some day you will not have to argue with your three year old over her shoes. And if you are having a battle, just try being silly. Just remind yourself that even though it takes time and effort, it will take LESS time and effort than if you really turn it into a battle and then you have to wait for the tantrum to end.

If you’re looking for more good advice on how to handle these situations, check out one of my favorite parenting books: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish have a number of books that are all based around these central ideas. There’s even one on sibling relationships and a new one by Adele Faber’s daughter Joanna focused on little kids. After three kids and seven years of parenting, these books are my number one recommendation for moms and dads trying to figure out a better way to guide our children toward competent adulthood. Or for those of us just trying to survive another day.