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Dear future wife of Seabass: Hope you’re cool with a grown man who wears diapers.

10 Jul
Bored and photo-boothing it on a recent flight to Idaho.

Bored and photo-boothing on a recent flight to Idaho.

Potty training is hard.  But potty training on a deadline? Excruciating.

Seabass was recently enrolled in a wonderful preschool about which we’re all so excited.  Everything about it is spectacular.  Everything, that is, except for the potty training rule.

Yes, if you’re doing the math right now, you are realizing that Seabass is over three years old and STILL not potty trained.  Years ago, I would look at kids his age, see the papery frills of a man-sized diaper peeking out of his shorts, and think, Geez, get that kid on a toilet already. But now that the kid is my own, I can’t seem to make the whole toilet thing happen.

And is it even my “thing” to “make happen?”  Everyone disagrees on this.  The liability-avoiding folks at swear that Seabass will be ready when he’s ready, insisting that I’ll scar him for life if I force the issue of using the toilet.  But then I found someone online who swears that her training method can woo even the most potty-shy boys into potty swoonery in just three days:

Don’t wait for so called “readiness”

Don’tuse a “comfort” period to get used to the potty

Don’t go back to pull-ups or trainers at night…ever!

Don’t go backwards and either will you…

Okay, so her phrasing and punctuation aren’t tip-top.  (I cringe about every four words reading her PDF training booklet.)  But she certainly makes her point, and lawdy if I ain’t desperate to get this kid ready for school in the fall.  We’ve already lobbed a $100 non-refundable deposit at them, and if he isn’t squared away on the potty by August 6, we’ll be paying tuition just to hold his spot until he figures the potty out.  Did you catch that?  I’ll be paying for school even though he won’t be there.  He’ll be home.  With me.  Peeing and pooping on the rug while I look for a rope with which to fashion a noose.

Added to the madness of potty training on a deadline is the fact that life will be a bit insane leading up to it.  We are remodeling our kitchen starting this Saturday with enough trepidation to rattle even Jake and I into forgetting how to use the john.  How can we expect anything more from Seabass?

I don’t know what to do.  Do you?


When Kai named the baby.

20 Jun

This is my precious friend Jenny with her husband Kai on their wedding day:

Kai and Jenny

Jenny and I met at work several years ago and have kept in close touch though we haven’t lived in the same city for more than a few months at a time since. Before I met her, though, I already knew Kai from his employment at Insomniac Video, the erstwhile mainstay of San Luis Obispo film culture where movies were literally split into sub-genres as anally specific as “Swords and Sandals.” Insomniac has since closed, may it rest in kitschy peace.

Jenny and Kai are an adorable couple who are, now, expecting. The following is part of a Google chat conversation between Jenny and me from earlier this week, with her explicit permission.


Jenny: we got our test results and ultrasound yesterday

me: yay!

Jenny: everything is perfect

me: of course it is.

Jenny: my baby is so cute already

me: you’re saying “him?”

Jenny: i think it’s a boy

but i don’t really care

me: i can totally see a boy

name ideas?

or am i being annoying?

Jenny: can i tell you some of kai’s suggestions?

they are totally amusing

me: oh please do

Jenny: manko

i’ll let that one sink in

me: cannot



background on manko?

Jenny: some obscure reference in the good the bad and the ugly

me: natch

Jenny: i lost interest halfway through the story

but wait

there’s more

me: oh god i’m peeing

Jenny: i’ll let you catch your breath

me: kay. ready

Jenny: zircon

me: you’re going to hate me

i actually kinda like that

Jenny: shut up

me: for you, of course

not for my kid!

Jenny: it sounds like the bad guy in a sci fi movie

also zoltar

me: how about zoltar?

no way!!!!!!!!!!

I was literally typing that as you wrote it

but i’m kidding

don’t name your kid zoltar on account of me

Jenny: of course not

these are not even under consideration

the last one may be the worst

me: bring it

Jenny: chinu

the explanation is the best

it’s some native american name

and when i asked why this was a good idea

kai proceeded to tell me about his heretofore unnamed sioux roots

when i pressed him he could not actually name a native american relative

can you imagine a child named chinu?

me: oh, i’m dying


kai is the poster child for haphazard american lineage

Jenny: i told kai that if he had any legitimate native american roots, i could not believe that he wasn’t cashing in on gaming money

and so i totally didn’t believe him

he was deeply offended

it was hilarious

me: seriously

if anyone is going to cash in on gaming money, it’s that cheap bastard

and i say that with all the love and respect in my heart

Hey Sheryl Sandberg! I leaned in and she barfed on me.

12 Jun

Every month, I meet with nine incredibly smart, funny, and insightful mothers to discuss books.  Although technically it’s a book club, this group represents so much more to me.

In the town where I live, sometimes finding a mom who can talk Tolstoy and Brahms is challenging. Let me be clear: I don’t need everyone to love art, music and literature; I love a good chat about nap times and recipes and poopy diapers as much as the next mom. But every once in a while – once a month, to be exact – I need to get back in touch with the world.  I need to think.  I need a good laugh.  And I need a glass of wine.  This is exactly the service my book club provides.

lean inThe women in my group were collected from all walks of life.  Strike that.  We’re all white, middle-class mothers.  But our backgrounds and situations are varied; Last Monday night, we actually had a Muslim, a Jew, and a smattering of Christians sitting down together like a bad joke. And we discussed one of the most provocative books to be published in a long time: Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.  And we still hugged before we got in our cars to drive home!

I am not going to review this book.  It simply isn’t necessary – Google “Sheryl Sandberg is”  and you’ll find:


  • Sheryl Sandberg is an idiot
  • Sheryl Sandberg is hot
  • Sheryl Sandberg is annoying

Whatever your feelings on “women, work, and the will to lead,” you will find someone who agrees with you on the world wide web.  For my part, the best thing I got out of Sandberg’s “sort-of feminist manifesto” is the encouragement to do whatever I do with my whole self.  While I didn’t particularly love Lean In (I’m pretty sure the word I used was “detest”), I profoundly enjoyed sitting with a handful of thoughtful women to discuss what it means.  Lean In forced me to distill and define my thoughts on womanhood, and for that matter, personhood.  Never a bad thing.

The following day, while mulling over everything that was said, rocking my precious Sweet Chuck and humming softly, I looked deeply into her cherubic face and thought I have made the right decision to be here with her.  I can definitely lean in to that.

It wasn’t two seconds later that a silent gush of breast milk, teething cookie and scrambled eggs erupted from her mouth, shooting into the air above her and splashing back down on her face.  Three times.

Thanks a lot, Sandberg.

How can I say this without offending you?

10 Jun

She is the cutest baby girl ever to grace the planet.  And I have proof.

Exhibit A: The whole impossibly-cute package.

I mean, just LOOK at that.

I mean, just LOOK at that.  As my friend Jenny says, she looks like a freaking Cabbage Patch doll.

Exhibit B: The new ‘do.

...or as Seabass likes to call them, "tonypails."

…or as Seabass likes to call them, “tonypails.”

Exhibit C: Curls at the nape of the neck.

This one's going out to Oma, who has a serious weakness for curls at the nape of the neck.

This one’s going out to Oma, who has a serious weakness for curls at the nape of the neck.

And finally, Exhibit D: The new chompers.

You can't really see the two new teeth coming in here, but I (and my boobs) promise you they're there.

You can’t really see the two new teeth coming in here, but I (and my boobs) promise they’re there.



It’s a twister!

29 May

DSC08623Seabass’ birthday was a couple of weeks ago, and frankly, he wasn’t a little bundle of joy through it all.  But he is now.  Ah, cycles.

Anyway, the point is that it hasn’t been until now that I feel like celebrating his sweet, crazy spirit with a birthday slideshow.  But it’s worth the wait!

You’re our little tornado, giggles and wrecklessness, tangled up tight together.  We love you very much, darling boy.  Happy birthday!!

My Third Baby

23 May

When Jake and I lived in New Zealand, we made a point of hiking the Nydia Track, which is a phenomenal and hugely under-appreciated hike in the Marlborough Sound. (Read all about it here, if you have the time or inclination.) The coolest part of the excursion was staying at an eco-lodge halfway along the trail, which was only accessible by boat or by foot from the trail.  The proprietors were a young couple who tended the lodge and cooked for guests.  Our first night there, sore and achy, we enjoyed a delectable steaming curry along with a 40-ounce bottle of the wife’s home-brewed beer. When she served it to us, I thought to myself, When I grow up, I’m going to be the sort of woman who brews her own beer.

And I guess I’ve grown up, because I am now that sort of woman.

THIS IS A MOMMY BLOG, you argue, NOT A BEER BLOG. And that’s very true.  But my homebrewing experiment is so uncannily similar to the births of my two children, that I’ve started to call the beer My Third Baby.  Witness:

  • It was expensive, and at times painful.


  • It made me do and say strange things, as though I was in a trance.





  • Daddy had to take the other two kids so I could devote myself fully to the process.  He did the best he could with what he had.


  • I even spent some time in the bathtub with it.

DSC08693Will the payoff be quite as good as that of a real baby?  Considering that it won’t wake me up four times a night, tell me to shut up, ask me for the keys to my car or call me from the police station, I’d wager yes.

Just kidding, geez.


The Days of And, The Days of Or

21 May

In the days before children, it seemed like everything was sprinkled with the word *and.*  Let’s prepare a time-intensive French dinner AND watch movies all night AND go wine tasting AND take a nap.  We can because we can!!!

If I had to summarize these days with two children under my care, I would call them the Days of *Or.*  We can visit Uncle Dusty in London OR remodel the kitchen.  We can embark on a walk OR read a book. We can take a shower OR write a blog post.  We have a lot of options, but we can’t do it all.

And that should perfectly explain my lack of posts lately; Higher Highs, Lower Lows has most definitely been the “or” that gets the shaft.  The good news, however, is that the things I choose instead have been wonderful ones.  I’ve taken on more writing work, which makes me oh so very happy, plus I’ve been gardening, canning, brewing beer (aka My Third Child, which will receive its own blog post shortly), sewing, celebrating Seabass’ 3rd birthday, training for a half marathon, and collaborating with Jake on plans for our (gulp) impending kitchen remodel.

Individually, each of these activities would strongly indicate that I am happy. But I’ve been doing them all, which makes me Little Suzy Sunshine.  Some people, I suppose, chill out and do less when they’re happy, but not me.  If my mind is freed up from despair and anxiety, there is more space for dreaming and scheming.  This is where I am right now, thank the Lord.

So forgive me for taking some time off.  The fact that I’m happy does not mean the stories have ceased.  Heavens, no.

Doin' good.

Doin’ good.

I screamed. At the top of my lungs.

2 May

It was Monday.  I managed to pee by myself in the bathroom, only to discover Seabass had pushed Sweet Chuck over from a sitting position and was slapping her head with both hands repeatedly while she cried.  And     I     simply    lost     it.

Lost what? you ask, innocently.  My mind.  My dignity.  My equanimity in the face of difficulty.  It all went far, far, so very far away.

I sort of watched the scream coming, as if in slow motion.  Here it comes I gotta hold this one back or it’s gonna be ugly and think about what the neighbors will think uh oh too late:


The scream was so long and from so deep in my gut that the kids were already crying by the end of it.  Oh, they were so scared.  All day long, I had been saying “Don’t do this” and “Don’t touch that” and “Don’t hit her” and “Stop grabbing” and “If I hear any more whining…” like a broken record.  And finally, something new came out of my mouth.  It got their attention, all right, but it wasn’t pretty.

After a few moments in which all three of us shed tears, I had the presence of mind to apologize.  “Screaming is never okay, you guys.  I am so sorry.”  Then hugs all around.  The creepy hugging-too-long-and-too-hard-because-Mama-feels-guilty sort.

Things haven’t really been the same since, especially between me and Seabass.  He’s a little sullen and a lot sensitive.  He might be obeying me more, but he’s not the sparkly, affectionate boy he was just a couple weeks ago. Did I ruin him forever?  Will he have to join a 12-step group to recover?

I’ve told a couple fellow moms about the scream, expecting their jaws to drop in horror.  Of course, they didn’t.  One mom actually said, “Who among us hasn’t screamed?”  And while it certainly helped, for the time being, I’d like to keep that question rhetorical.  It would hurt too much to discover that, in fact, almost nobody acts this way.

The Facebook version of our life at home.

The Facebook version of our life at home.

Everything happens in cycles around here.  One week we’re dancing in the living room every night, and the next week we’re weeping and gnashing our teeth in Gehenna.  I used to blame it on Seabass.  And while he certainly is a force to be reckoned with, it isn’t he who sets the tone in our home.  It’s me.  And that, my friends, is a lot of pressure for someone born of such mercurial stuff as I.

...aaaaaand the real version.

…aaaaaand the real version.

I’ve been working really hard since Monday to surrender my impatience and rage in exchange for peace and kindness, and it has worked decently well, but it won’t last.  I’ll fail again.

How to overcome?  No really.  This is a question for which I’d seriously like an answer.

I commented to Jake the other night that our premarital counseling (required by many churches) from 11 years ago continues to bear fruit in our marriage today.  I regularly think back on the words we read from the book As For Me And My House by Walter Wangerin, and apply them as needed.  Surely parenting is as hefty a commitment as marriage; why don’t we encourage pre-parental counseling?

Good for the eyes, quite literally.

24 Apr

carrots are good for your eyesIt is all four of us, sitting at the dinner table, eating.  Out of the blue, I decide to become chatty, helpful, Healthy Habits Mama.

Healthy Habits Mama: Hey Seabass, is that a tasty dinner?

Seabass: Uh-huh.

HHM: What’s on your plate?

SB: [Glancing down] Um…spinach and black beans and garlic and carrots and tortillas.

HHM: Oh.  Are those healthy foods?

SB: [Absentmindedly] Uh-huh.

HHM: They all help your body in different ways, don’t they?

SB: Uh-huh.

HHM: Like garlic.  Garlic is really good for your heart.  Did you know that?

SB: [Inquisitive-yet-slightly-blank stare.]

HHM: And carrots are really good for your eyes.  They help you to see far away.  Like a super hero.

SB: [Suddenly hanging on Healthy Habits Mama’s every word]


HHM: [Turning to Daddy to discuss something more fruitful] So, did our tax refund get direct deposited into our… [Looking back at Seabass, who has picked up the carrots from his dinner to apply directly to his eyes] NO!  Seabass!! I didn’t mean “good for your eyes” quite like that

Never forget: Because there are birds flying and helicopters and airplanes.

16 Apr

good day

Riddle me this: How can a day be both interminably long and too short in which to accomplish anything?

Answer: Kids.

I woke up several mornings ago feeling fragile and restless.  This happens.  Sometimes I can shake the feeling off, but other times it clings like tar.  This particular morning, it clung.

Children really respond to the unspoken, unseen things inside their parents.  I’ve noticed that when I am up, Seabass is often up with me, and when I’m down, he is like a yawning black hole in our home, sucking every last bit of patience and energy I have.

So what happens when I wake up low and can’t recover?  Mayhem, scuffles, despair. Seabass is about to turn three, and apparently three really is the magic number because he has become magically insane.  We tiptoe around the house knowing that anything could set him off onto a crying jag or, worse, a full bloom tantrum.

He has developed sensitivity into an art, and an unpredictable one at that.  I was washing dishes the other night and a wine glass slipped out of my hand to crack in the sink.  Seabass nearly lost his mind.  Sweet Chuck dropped her baby spoon on the floor yesterday and he was beside himself.  The worst I’ve ever seen, though, was when he released a birthday party balloon and it drifted into the sky.  His jaw appeared to unhinge from the rest of his face, he was so upset.  My first response was, “Come on, kid!  That’s what balloons do!” But I forget that he doesn’t know about helium.  He doesn’t see that the very thing which keeps his balloon upright is that which can also take it far, far away.

So on this fragile morning, I just couldn’t handle the shenanigans, the whining, the irrational Seabass-ness of it all.  And he knew it.  He was poking at my wounds and provoking me to the point of exhaustion.  And it was something like 9:45 AM.

I threw together a little snack for us to share on the front stoop while Sweet Chuck napped.  My feet were cold and I needed to warm up in the spring sunshine.  We sat there, chomping away at almonds for a while, before I found myself with my head in my hands, feeling hopeless.

“Are you sad, mama?”

“Yes, sweetie, I am.”

“Are you having a good day?”

“No, I’m not.”


“Because it’s just a bad day,” I said, sighing.  “Is it a good day for you?”


“Oh?” I asked, a little surprised, given the screaming tantrum I had just witnessed not three minutes before. “Why is it a good day for you?”

“Because the birds are flying, and there are helicopters and airplanes.”

good day 2 Now look.  I don’t usually get off on the “Kids Say The Darnedest Things!” entertainment sub-genre, but this was incredible.  Perhaps it was his nonchalance.  Or maybe how quickly his answer came.  Whatever the case, Seabass surprised me, and lightened my load, even for just a moment.  He was right: the birds were flying, and there were helicopters and airplanes.  Not within view at the time, of course, but there were helicopters and airplanes somewhere in the world, and that was pretty great.  I hugged his precious neck and kissed his apple cheeks and tried to memorize the pleasure of just being his mama.