Wednesday, January 21, 2015

All manner of manners

Greg just informed me he had one for the parenting "win" column this morning.

He said June made a derogatory comment to him, not aware of its meaning. Greg calmly explained that it wasn't a nice thing to say and why, and that people who are what she said Greg was often are hurt or struggling and need our sympathy and kindness. June was genuinely contrite and listened to Greg's sensitive explanation with intent and interest. They walked away from the moment stronger and better informed.

I, on the other hand, just presented our 1-year-old with a pile of newspapers and a crock of sharpened pencils to play with while I met a deadline.

We can't all be winners.

But my point is, we're reaching that era in our parenting where we have to teach our eldest that she needs to know when to put a cork in it — this after four years of encouraged free expression. Now we're backpedalling, putting contradictory footnotes on all the rules we once set, telling her, "Weeeeeellll... maybe farting at the dinner table isn't that funny after all."

In fact, just the other day, I said the following to June whilst biting the inside of my cheek:

"Bug, there's a difference between a good toot and a bad toot. And we have to understand there's a time and place for good toots and a time and place for bad toots. We have to toot where we can toot, but not toot where we can't toot."

I'm the Thomas Kuhn of gas.

June's a sweet and sensitive kid. She took to the manners thing early and easily, and now you can't exhale in here without her thanking you for giving the plants carbon dioxide. She's appreciative, and she's acutely aware of others' feelings.

And she's also observant. One recent grocery store trip had her pointing to a uniformed employee doling out Home Run Inn pizza samples and saying, "Whoa, mom, look at her butt." This was minutes after she said, pointing to a customer, "Check out that man's crazy hair!"

It was a woman.

That's easy enough to correct, right? You say, June, we don't make comments about the way people look. If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. Done and done.

There's always a caveat, though.

The same trip she spied a very stylishly dressed college-aged girl. As she passed, June said, "Wow, that's a fancy, pretty lady."

There's a compliment any person would love to hear. But to June, there's no distinction between being a fancy lady and having a noteworthy butt. We see one as being better than the other, but she doesn't. For all she knows, that pizza peddler's butt is fantastic and we should all long to have it. Is telling her she can't say that the invitation to a lifetime of butt paranoia and body issues? Is the blanket "Don't talk about other people, period" an adequate message? Because who doesn't love a random act of kindness?

And if you've got a butt of distinction, I've got a gal who'll tell you all about it.

Luckily she's now four, and these sorts of psycho/social nuances are, believe it or not, starting to make sense. Not because of anything we did, in fact more likely it was her wonderful schoolteachers, but because the confetti gun that controls her neuro impulses has been holstered, and all the little particulate is starting to fall into followable form. That mess of words and meanings and interpretations now is becoming linear, like a solved Soul Train Word Scramble.

It's fascinating to watch it settle, and then look at Tess and see it storm. At 15 months, the baby sign language thing has proved beneficial, and while no self-respecting sign expert would recognize one command she gives, we do, and that's the point right now. She knows how to ask for food and drink, tell us she's through, and can sometimes specify her needs further. She's also a pretty verbal kid, so the gestures coordinate with a decent number of words and sounds. Once we moved from the basics, it was time to teach her "help," "please" and "thank you." The latter came pretty easily, with her saying "dee doo!" each time she takes or gives something to someone. "Help" and "please," though, are tougher since they're also trying to unseat a longstanding habit of hers where she belches out this staccato grunt when she wants something. The louder and angrier it is, the faster you better move.

The best way I can think to describe it is the throat-clearing sound an ornery old woman with hearing loss would make if she's trying to get a bus boy's attention.

"Young man! AH-HA! Young Man! AH-HA! Come back here — I wasn't through with my muesli!"

Tess is so heartbreakingly sweet and funny and affectionate, and is as fantastic a kid as I could have envisioned, but this sound makes me want to peer over my glasses at her and say, "You need to fucking shut up with that."

I've actually said close.

So lately she's been getting a little wordless taste of that from me — a "not gonna fly" sternness from mom heretofore unseen. It was jarring, initially, and she returned my gaze with a slow curling of her lower lip, a large Demi-Moore-in-"Ghost"-style tear tumbling from her eye, and the slow-build bleat of Wookie cry (truly, I have proof). After more hard-hearted stonewalling, she will now scratch at her chest and say "cheese" – the Tess Trotter interpretation of the ASL's circular palm-over-collarbone sign for "please."


Now, this is all well and good and self-aggrandizing, but it brings us right back to the farting.

When she cuts one she looks right at me and laughs. As much as the defense of "cavemen thought it was funny!" (ahem, Mike Leonard) may be invoked here, nurture's got nature on the ropes. Without a certain mother's roar of approval, a toot falling in the forest might not make a sound. Or get a laugh track. So we're right on pace to be having these same relativist manners conversations with Tess in roughly three years.

But come on. Are there any parents out there that can behold a flatulent baby and NOT laugh? It's where my dad's laissez-faire approach to manners has some merits. Gas is humankind's oldest, and arguably best, joke. Before we had language, fire, wheels, and thumbs made nimble from sexting, some brazen hominid ripped one in a dark cave and discovered laughter. Where is this on the evolutionary timelines? Should't it be highlighted somewhere between the knuckle-dragging hairy man and the slightly more upright knuckle-dragging hairy man? A red arrow pointing to a notch on the line denoting some icy epoch in which a finger was first pulled?

Manners might be what separates us from animals, but so is humor.

Our kids growing up polite and respectful is very important to us. As is an appreciation of the finer things. It's evolution.

And butts are pretty damn funny.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Wean a little wean with me

Hey, all. Happy holidays and stuff.

Confronted with a terrifying lull in freelance work (which, thankfully, ends next week when my new batch of assignments rolls in), I shall instead take stock of the business of the day: that is, being broke and weaning a baby.

No one wants to hear about our debt-to-income ratio sadness, so I'll instead talk about the weaning.

Wait, no one wants to hear about that either.

Oh well! Doing it anyway!

Tess is a healthy 14 months old now, and she's still at the teat. Not exclusively, obviously, and really not at it with any conviction either, as those fun bags ain't that fun anymore. The once healthy-ish rack now better resembles empty goat bladder canteens strapped to the sides of a bedouin's mule — so full of promise, yet more a haunting reminder of richer days. Once they were ample and life-sustaining; now they are spent and making my existing brassieres a laughingstock.

June, for all her curiosity, verbosity and lack of filter, never once questioned the very open, and open-ended, nursing policy around our house. One day I was Puritanically buttoned up, and the next it was like Russ Meyer's oeuvre in 4D. Make that lactating 4-double-D. All that bosom and she never said a thing. Until recently, when she cast her sad, little eyes hooter-ward and said, "Um, mom, am I going to get... those... when I'm older?" She looked so angst-ridden, and I felt so sorry about dashing her hopes and propagating legit fears of one day having a sorrowful set of howitzers like these, that I flat-out lied to her: "I'm not sure, love."

It was easier weaning June. We stopped at 14 months to the day, and she was ok with it. But June was a different kid; for one, she ate everything I put in front of her. Second, we weren't traveling or introducing any new changes when the time rolled around. Third, her two little snaggleteeth had erupted from her lower gums, so life was good and comfortable. It was boobs one day, no boobs the next and she took it in stride.

Tess, bless her sweet little heart, is quite a bit pickier on eating front. Every day marks that of another foodstuff stricken from her list, as mangos and sweet potatoes and apples and other sure-things are suddenly deemed unpalatable. I was reliably able to supplement her diet with those squishy packets of pureed fruits and veg to ensure that she got some nutrition beyond cheese and bread, but recently when I proffer them, she grabs my hand holding the packet, pulls it toward her, and then forcefully shoves it away with a brow-furrow and a demonstrative "ah dah." Although, I prefer that maneuver to the few times she's cocked her arm back and slapped the food out of my hands and clear across the room. This kid knows how to make a point.

Also, we traveled over Thanksgiving and Christmas and everything I've read on the matter says not to make any big changes (weaning, potty training, big kid bed, etc.) when the wee one is being shuffled about. Duly noted.

Lastly, Tess is still working the World's Most Stubborn Tooth out of her head. I remember thinking at 6 months, as she gummed and drooled and gnawed all over everything, "Whelp, here it comes! Any day now!"

Or week.

Or month.

Or twice her lifetime.

That thing is like a Whack-a-Mole at an arcade, receding and reappearing with weepy fanfare and runny noses. One day I'll see it and think, "At long last!" and then the next it's buried under a layer of swollen, red flesh — the Punxsutawney Phil of the pediatric dental world, squeezing back into the warmth of its dark hole rather than bucking up and facing the light. Up and down, up and down. That tooth has some serious social anxiety disorders.

This, of course, is a two-fold reason for my continued nursing: she needs it for comfort, and I am willing to go along with it since my nerps aren't been shorn off by teeny tiny chompers.

Oh, and I work from home.

Honestly, I love the look of a baby's toothless grin -- even if she's looking less like a baby and more like Uncle Junior in the final episodes of "The Sopranos." Junior with a Joyce DeWitt hairdo, that is.

(That reminds me -- I need to give her a trim)

I hear there are merits to a child being a late bloomer in the tooth department; he or she is less likely to suffer premature tooth decay, and according to my OB/GYN, girls possibly enjoy a later onset of puberty — a fact-backed theory I received with a fist-pump and a cried-out "THANK YOU, JESUS!" Now, this is purely celebrated for selfish reasons, since I recall my own late-blooming teen years as an exercise in controlled sobbing and boobless envy. An issue of Seventeen Magazine couldn't darken my doorstep without me connipping — so many dewy-skinned girls in training bras lapping me in coolness. Never has a minimally supportive undergarment been more pined for than it was in Winnetka during the winter of 1991.

Do I want my kids miserable like that? No! Of course not! Well ... maybe. Greg and I have said that if we could guarantee that our children approach adolescence like I did — wearing turtlenecks under hockey jerseys and sandwiched in between my parents watching "The Secret Garden" on a Saturday night — rather than his method — as a dreamy, long-locked bad boy with a "420" bumper sticker on his S-10 pick-up — we're dodging all sorts of bullets. But there are no guarantees, and I just ask to be granted patience, perspective and a lot of vodka when those days roll around.

But back to the nursing. I always figured that if a kid is old enough to ask for it, he or she is too old to get it. I mean, do your thing, ladies. No judgment from me here. But my OB told me that a couple of her patients are still nursing 4- and 5-year-old kids, and my jaw went slack. I pictured my June saying, "Hey, mom? Can I have spaghetti with red sauce for dinner? And can you bust those cans out so I can get a little (wink-wink) to tide me over?" This is what those women are dealing with. Not to mention the pathetic state their juggs must be in — to borrow an analogy from my sister, like plastic Jewel-Osco bags with a palmful of sand dumped at the bottom. But just when I determined that enough was enough and my kid wasn't going to be like the one that went out the moon door on "Game of Thrones," Tess started asking for it. Not in the usual way babies do, by clawing at your shirt or face-planting into your solar plexus, but by squeezing her hand open and closed, pantomiming a most graceless cow-milking, while giving me her saddest and most plaintive, "Nuh? Nuh?" Shit. I can't say no to that!

But I must.

While we were on the plane heading home from Denver last week, I kept catching the eye of a woman seated across the aisle from us; she was gawking at my stealth nursing system (executed purely for baby containment purposes) with a look of disgust and/or morbid curiosity. She'd whip her gaze back to her iPad on her lap when I'd catch her, clearly sensing the hostility I was returning. "Just try me," I kept telepathically goading, to no avail. But then I thought, "Shoot, I may have given the same looks but a few years ago; this kid can sing 'Happy Birthday,' for pete's sake." Silent judgment aside, the time is nigh.

Moms approaching the end of their infant-parenting years know this as all too bittersweet. We're pretty sure two is it for us, so the end of "baby" and beginning of "toddler" is a transition for me not unlike that of this tooth of hers — an inevitability that I'd prefer to keep just out of sight. I'd get bummed out when June would outgrow her Kissy Kissy jammies, the beret with the scottie dogs all over it, and her first pair of shoes. But then there was a good possibility they would all be reused, and they were, only now to be retired in a fashion reminiscent of Keith Magnuson's number at the United Center, with many tears, a light show and maybe a song or two. I'm sentimental to a fault and have the basement clutter to prove it.

This is another milestone that makes the memories of a tiny baby in the house recede that much more; the photos of her at weeks and months old seem increasingly foreign; her primordial need for me now morphing into something more ambivalent — even if it is only I who senses it.

I figure this is why my mom poured my brother's cereal until he went to college. Your baby will always be just that.

But hell, we're lucky we got this far. Had any variables been different (work schedule, sleep schedule, etc.) we may have cut loose ages ago. So I'm grateful for what we had. Even if my tits looks like two bean bag chairs that exploded all over a basement rec room.

Worth it.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Summer Wrap-Up

Here we are, folks.

Drawing the curtains on another summer — a summer which, if you are inhabiting the Upper Midwest, never really arrived. Any day now... so, October?

The close of August has left me contemplative and I'm taking stock of what has changed around here, and also what needs to change. Starting with this blog design. But I'm reminded of that hilarious t-shirt I once saw:

Things I Ain't Got Time For:
1) That.

But I digress. Here's how Trotters are faring at the start of (gulp) September.


Contrary to what you have heard about the consistency of modern building design, our home has shrunk. I think the rental listing billed it at 1,500 square feet, but I have reason to believe we're operating with about 850 these days. While, no, the perimeter has remained stationary, and the ceilings are not dropping, there exists a buffer wall of dog hair and kids toys that creeps ever centerward, like calcium deposits on the skeletal system. There is no walking from Point A to B; there's hopscotch and juking and kneeing four-legged mammals (more on him in a minute) as I try to lock my gaze at a fixed destination, obscured by so much colorful plastic crap. There are Olympic-level long jumps over masses of dollhouse furniture. There are NFL-esque high-stepping gauntlet exercises through minefields of My Little Ponies. With such acrobatics, there's frequent loss of balance, sending me crashing into musical educational toys, thus triggering a discord of bells and midi-file Mozart and sounding like something tripped the alarm in a Japanese pachinko shop.

I've always been a bit smug about keeping the toy population in check, instituting Draconian tactics banishing all items that didn't fit snugly in the low shelves behind our couch. That worked — for one kid. Two kids? Two different developmental stages? Lots of frigging toys. June, God love her, is the sort that will generally sit and play with one thing for a while, and she's always been that way. Tess (also God love her) is fitting our predictions of her being a little adventuress and leans toward the "more is more" camp, plucking and chucking each item from a basket before moving on to find something with an electrical current on which to chew. This kid likes her stuff where she can see it, that is, everywhere. So I sit here at my desk, staring at a partially assembled Mrs. Potato Head where my AP Style Guide usually sits, amid complete and utter chaos.

But truly, who frigging cares. They're fabulous children.


As I alluded above, my babies are huge and wonderful all that other stuff that makes a mama weep. June is a kid. Her legs are growing lean and muscular; her once zaftig belly is flattening out; her face more chiseled, her eyes less naive. It's breaking my heart and delighting me concurrently. She misses nothing, and has to know everything. She relishes her independence. Her conversational ability, recall, vocabulary and analytical skills astound me. She's selflessly kind and so considerate. All that and she can negotiate like a preschool-aged Karen Lewis. Observe:

June: Mama, can I please have something to eat?
Me: Let's take a food break, Bug. You just ate lunch.
June: Just something real quick. Real quick, mama.
Me: Later, Bug.
June: Just one fruit snack.
Me: No, June.
June: Just two fruit snacks, I promise.
Me: No.
June: Just three fruit snacks and some pretzels, real quick.

She brings limitless joy and energy with her everywhere — which is why I'm real damn ready for her to start school again. Dear sweet Jesus, I love this child. But she needs to leave me the bleep alone for a minute.

That sounds awful, with good reason, but I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. She's like a Border Collie, and if she's not given enough exercise will start running wind sprints through our very compromised (see above) home by 4 p.m. That or jumping. Or climbing. On me. She's not what I would categorize as particularly high energy, but she's 3, and her peak comes right at my valley. I was feeling a little worn out the other day — just your usual cocktail of fatigue and forgetting what my body felt like without someone attached to it. My "alone time" comprised a trip to the grocery store — so, so sad sounding but it was a delight. As I was ho-humming my way through dry goods, I spotted not one, not two, but three parents walking their adult special needs children through the aisles. Looking for a wake-up call, moms of healthy kids? Watch an exhausted elderly woman hobble through a supermarket on the arms of her 30-year-old daughter loudly sobbing about not finding the brand of tampons she prefers.

I shut up right quick.


And Tess? Sweet, sweet, Tess. That kid is on the move. While she's not "crawling" per se, she has developed a rather efficient butt-scoot style of transport that Greg noted was evocative of a hermit crab (or how Mrs. Peacock from that one episode of "The X-Files" might get around). I watch her practicing her form — sliding onto her belly, pushing herself onto her knees, shooting her legs out in front of her — like doing baby burpees. She's very much the second kid, in that when she discovers a fossilized Cheerio long ago lost under a piece of furniture, I'm a little slower to jump into action — if at all. I've always been fascinated by birth order and personality development, especially coming from a family of four kids who bear pretty discrete character traits. "How can children raised by the same two parents in the same exact way turn out so differently?"

I'll tell you how. They're not raised by the same parents.

June and Tess have two different mothers. June's mom was sweet, patient, adventurous and calm. Tess's mom, however, is a bit hotheaded, weepy, unstable and prone to saying things like, "You need to leave me alone with this wine right now before I lose it." Tess's mom has — tada! — more than one child.

June spent her first few years assuming I had two modes: talking sweetly or singing sweetly. Then we had Tess and I added a third to my repertoire: Cranky Stresserson-McShortfuse. One day I left for the hospital all pregnant and happy; a few days later I returned with a baby and what June must perceive as a personality disorder.

Tess has born emotional witness to a few more tears, a few more "Fine, I give ups," and has the insatiable yen for dog hair to prove it, thanks to the lax supervision she generally enjoys.

This is how kids turn out differently, folks.


Old Man Red Dog is hanging in, you guys. He's a bit more ornery, has a few more mystery growths, andhas an ever-looser sphincter — but he's got some puppy left in him. He still lives for fetch and is a solid running companion, but we're seeing more elderly old coot traits than even a few short months ago. He grunts when he gets up, takes a few more indoor dumps than we'd prefer, and tries to hock up loogies that just aren't there. This reminds of when my maternal grandfather was alive and he and my grandmother would spend weeks visiting from their home in Florida. My grandparents would claim the family room with the pull-out couch (and one TV) as their sleeping quarters, and then my grandfather would plant his flag in the den with the recliner (and the other TV) for the daylight hours. He'd pass out in the chair with a ball game on and wouldn't move until dinner. Imagine the fallout when children hopelessly addicted to television would come running in from school only to remember they had been ostensibly thrown into rehab, going cold turkey amid a full-blown case of the Tom & Jerry jitters. We'd instead crowd around the small black and white kitchen set, jonesing hard and settling for a fuzzy episode of "Gilligan's Island" — the canned laugh track punctuated by an occasional apnea-cough from my grandfather sleeping in front of our precious, large color TV.

No, I wasn't sitting at my beloved grandmother's knee begging her for fascinating stories of her youth; no, I didn't plead to watch the game with my grandfather, letting him impart his wisdom upon me. I was shitty and resentful and counting the minutes before we could watch "The Jetsons" in peace. And now neither of them are alive. Well played, Kerry.

Stupid TV.

(Wait! I didn't mean that! I take it back!)

But that was quite a segue — back to Gypsy.

He's so patient with Tess, who is completely smitten, but you see the fear in his eyes when she Mrs. Peacocks her way over to him. We see his barrel chest rise and fall a little faster, his eyes widen, his tail go ramrod straight, all while she's contemplating, "Hmm, do I shove my thumb in his eye or do I give that ashy elbow a good licking?" He takes the abuse for a minute or so and then he awkwardly hoists his lumpy girth up and away, tufts of undercoat left in his wake. Tess is bummed, but then she eats some dog hair and presses on.

Side note: I just accidentally kicked him square in the head as I was stepping to avoid doing a banana peel-slide on Funshine Bear across the dining room floor. Sorry, buddy.


Oh, my poor garden. It's not terrible this year, but it ain't great either. I guess I have to consider any output a success considering it spent its first six weeks under water (thank you, Wettest Summer on Record). I determined that I need to get $3.50 worth of value out of each plant in order to break even, and I'm about three-quarters of the way there. So in that sense, yes, not bad. But by the looks of it, you'd think it had been abandoned. The tomatoes are gasping to churn out messed-up looking fruit, as the blight systematically creeps its way to choke out the tallest, greenest leaves. A fully ripened red bell pepper fell effortlessly into my hands the other day — because it had rotted from the inside out. The cucumbers are runty and malformed. The carrots, all frond. The weeds, however, are doing fabulous. Strong and green and flowering. See? Not a total bust. My hot peppers are on point, too, as are the few herbs I planted. My onions and lettuce from seed have been worthwhile additions, and we're looking to reap a hefty crop of fall raspberries from our one climbing bush, if I can beat the birds to them. For anyone concerned about the decline of the bumble bee population, worry not, they're alive and well and getting drunk off berry nectar in our backyard. I told Greg that if you stand close enough, I swear you can hear a lascivious "Ohhhh yeaaaahhhhhh" as they hump each flower, rise awkwardly on their disproportionately small wings, and crash land on another. Oh, and don't believe the hype about the Plushies of the insect world. Those effers definitely sting.

One thing I've been doing this year, thanks to the general shortfall, is making the best use of garden scraps. Since we rent and rotting garbage is generally not preferred by landladies who share your yard, we do not compost. So I save all the little ends and bits and ugly pieces and throw them in the small food processor attachment of our immersion blender (it's a lot easier to use and clean than our big Cuisinart). Chunks of tomatoes, onions, half-used garlic cloves, hot peppers, kosher salt and a squeeze of lime get a few pulses and whoomp — really, really delicious salsa. So there, this post wasn't totally worthless. I just gave you a recipe.

Well, that's about it for now. I'm off to do my 30-Day Shred, which as it stands is looking to be more of a 22-day affair.


Happy Fall, y'all.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Nip the nap

I am currently enjoying "quiet time."

And in the vein of Linda Richman and her Holy Roman Empire being neither holy nor Roman, I am neither enjoying "quiet time" nor is it particularly quiet.


June is playing by herself in the dining room as I attempt to force silent boundaries, during which I may get work done and June must keep her trap shut for 60 full minutes against all odds. She used to have quiet time in her bedroom in the hamfisted hope that she would succumb to her fatigue and lie down for a bit, but I bagged that when she would a) become disconsolate, b) stand at the top of the stairs and bellow, "Mom? Is quiet time over yet?" every two minutes, c) begin upending furniture and clearing bookshelves, or d) all of the above. I told her today that quiet time could be had downstairs, in my presence, on her own terms. This is what a desperate parent does in the wake (ba dum bum) of a child having long given up her nap. This is a last resort measure. Mine is the unwashed face of placation.

Alas again.

June has always been a pretty good sleeper. The product of both a lucky break and schedule-stickler parents, her rest has been consistent, uninterrupted and unprotested. She fell asleep and stayed asleep at night. She welcomed her midday siestas with aplomb. We had no grocery store meltdowns or face-plants in chicken fingers after a late-night bedtime. Sleep was pursued. Sleep was beloved. Sleep was a feather in my parenting cap.

And then she turned 3.

Somewhere in the electric, absorptive rivulets of her brain matter, so pulsing with new knowledge and the quest for it, she figured it out — "Wait a sec, I can control this. I don't have to be asleep right now. And you know what? Neither do they."

So she didn't. And we didn't. She'd wake in the middle of the night, as she had probably done hundreds of times before, but instead of giving her animals a gentle hump and then drifting back off to sleep, she got herself a wild hare and stayed awake. She'd call out for us, quiet at first and then crescendoing with a steadying rhythm and incantation that sounded like a heckler at a hockey game.

"Mama! Mama!... ma-MA! ma-MA! ma-MA!"

Of course, that first utterance of "mama" would jolt me awake like I had been doused with a bucket of cold water. Greg and I would find each other's gaze in our dark room and play a wordless game of rock-paper-scissors. Let's say, for the sake of exposition, I lost this game. I'd then hustle to her room bearing the concern all parents have when awoken to the sounds of their child's pleading calls, open the door, and find bed, covers drawn, pretending to be asleep.

I felt my cool slipping from me like warm jell-o through a fork.

"Junie, what?"


"Junie, what?? You woke us up, what is it?"


"OK, I'm leaving now--"

"Wait! Mama, I need a drink of water."

I should mention now that June has been in a barricade-free twin bed for about eight months. Every evening we fill a water glass and leave it on her nightstand, approximately 10 inches from her face. We do not bind her wrists at night, nor do we boobytrap her access to refreshment. She has excellent fine motor skills and better-than-average eyesight. There is nothing, I tell you nothing, prohibiting her from accessing it herself.

And yet I stand there before her, the Mr. Carson to her Lord Grantham. I'd make some hyperbolic sort of "She'd ask me to wipe her ass if she could!" statement, but she's 3 and I really do assist in that department still. But point being, she doesn't need our help in the middle of the night. Instead she needs the sadistic thrill of watching her parents go slowly mad.

This is not like the pattern of frequent waking one encounters with a newborn, where the wee-hour wordless communion with a cooing, feeding baby is primal, beautiful, arresting experience.

This is some bullshit.

Now, I feel like I need to make an aside about what a great kid she is, how much happiness and joy she spreads in our lives, how often she makes us roar with laughter, what an angel she is most of the time. You all know how I feel about her, and how I feel is pride and delight that transcends obnoxiousness. But she's also normal, thank God, and normal kids bug the shit out of their folks occasionally. The other day she had grown weak from uncontrollable, source-less sobbing, slamming doors in my face as Tess tried to sleep in the adjoining room. I don't remember what her request was — a request I was obviously not heeding — when I calmly stated, "Junie, I don't negotiate with terrorists." She grew ever more incensed, threw one hand on her hip and wagged a finger from the other in my face, saying, "Yes you do! You DO negotiate with terrorists!"

But she was totally right. At 2 a.m. I'd make al Qaeda an omelette if it meant they'd let me sleep straight through to 7. My concessions to June's odd-hours demands were doing none of us any favors, but I just wanted to go back the frig to bed. There was begging, bribing, threatening, comforting, ignoring, crying (hers, not mine), sobbing (mine, not hers) and a whole host of other inconsistencies. Greg, of course, was deep in the shit alongside me, trading off in the good cop/bad cop pattern that characterized our nights. I threw the issue out on Facebook and got some ideas. I talked to my family. I got her pediatrician involved.

She suggested that whatever we do, we do it consistently and we make sure June knows we're pissed off. But while our anger should be palpable, we weren't to talk -- because talking would and does quickly escalate to yelling, and the drama is precisely what she's looking for in her bored wakefulness. And when she does go the night without a peep? Throw her a freaking ticker tape parade. She is to know that this is behavior to be applauded.

Yet (and I'm knocking on every wood and wood laminate surface I can reach from my desk) by the time I acquired this information, her hollering had abated. Whatever we did or told her worked. And this is the real b-word of the situation: I don't really remember what it was that got her to stop -- what threat or reward was dangled in her sweet, sleepy face to soothe her? I'd love to pass along some "been there, done that" words of wisdom to others, or put it on ice for when Tess decides she doesn't want to sleep anymore, but I can't -- that knowledge is gone.


But who cares, because now she wakes up at a decent morning hour, runs into our room and says with delight, "Dad! Mom! No hollering!" We hug and kiss her, high-five her and tell her how proud we are. I throw some more questionable parenting bombs to secure additional nights like these, telling her we'll make brownies or go to "Old McDonald's" if she keeps it up.

I know this isn't the end of it, because at the very point I realize, "Hey, she's given it up for good!" she'll have her driver's license and I'll have discovered a whole new reason to not sleep.

Yet have I mentioned what a good kid she is?

As I typed this, a pudgy hand appeared from behind the dining room wall, extending in it a play bottle of ketchup from her pretend kitchen.

Me: "Junie, it's still quiet time."
Junie: "But I just wanted to give you a beer."

I accepted her "beer," hoping against all hope it was real, and sent her back to the dining room where she was to be quiet for the remaining 20 minutes.

It was the noisiest quiet, but thanks to the beer, I did wind up enjoying it.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Climbing a '14-er

 As far as years go, 2013 was a pretty epic one for the Trotters.

Work advances were pretty solid, and we got to do a little traveling to see family. It wasn't all butterflies and rainbows, but it was damn close.

And thanks to a one Teresa Clare, "Tess," it's as close as it's going to get.

This little Tess. I can't talk about her without heaving a love-drunk sigh. She's as sweet a baby as I've ever encountered (warning: slight bias alert) and smashed the "first smile" milestone marker by weeks. Days go by without hearing more than a meek fuss from her, and if there's anything she loves more than contentedly smiling and cooing at her kin, it's sleeping. Don't be mistaken. I know the teenage years are going to hang me out to dry.

Out. To. Dry.

With that said, we're taking these days by the gonads and running with them. While I find myself right busy all damn day and plum exhausted by nightfall, much of my time is spent in cuddly baby bliss. I'm reveling in this time, knowing this is very likely the last child we'll have. I don't want to take my eyes off her or June. She, too, is changing and growing at such a breakneck speed that it takes my breath away. While she dabbles in your typical toddler behavioral, um, quirks, she is a shining light of joy and humor, a beacon to which we are all innately drawn.

But the time has come to put the kid-cam on ice and get down to brass tacks. While we're the <gag> richest we've ever been, 2014 Trotters need to make that paper. We are no exception to the current rule of a family that requires two incomes. Greg and I long ago decided that I would stay at home with the girls while they were young, which was very important to both of us, and cobble together whatever work I could in my "free time." That time is ever more elusive but cultivating it is imperative. So that's why I've assembled a few things that need to happen in 2014 in order to get my act together and start bringing home more of the extra-lean, imitation bacon. It's not a comprehensive list but includes both personal and professional goals.

In no particular order:

1) Grow a pair.

A physiological impossibility for a two-time gestating woman, but still a metaphorical sack in need of some grabbing. I had balls at one point, I swear I did, but they shriveled up inside of me like I was plunged in ice water somewhere between the birth of June and the desire to establish this thing you call a "savings account." Any desire to go out of my career comfort zone was suspended for, well, comfort. But the fact is I have nothing to lose. It's not as if I have built this empire that may crumble with one misstep. My empire is an anthill. I've done some great things for which I'm very proud in the last several years, don't get me wrong, but in 2014 I need to get something big off the ground.

Uhhh, suggestions welcome.

2) Blog more.

The energy produced by your collective eye roll has the potential to disrupt the lunar tides. Who the hell needs another blog? Not you, that's for sure. No one wants to hear me wax schmalzy and falsely authoritative on parenting, or see what I'm cooking (frozen pizza again). I haven't had anyone knocking on my door to get to the bottom of my beauty regime, which is predicated upon using up the last of that nipple cream for every possible purpose; or for my fashion choices — a "Newton's Cradle" of jammies, slippers and sensible washables in virtual perpetuity. I'm not going vegan for a year. I won't be hiking the AT and living to tell the tale (this year). I'm not going to be renaming this "Toothfairies and Dingleberries" or whatever that goofy blog-calling trend is. It'll likely be me just tuning in more often than not with a quick paragraph on some musings, ideas, stories, etc. I just need to get back into the regular practice of writing, making it ritualistic, daily and necessary — like brushing my teeth (wait a sec, did I...?). Anyway, if you'd like to read it, great. If not, I don't blame you.

Oh, and nipple cream makes really good lip balm, by the way.

3) Move it, fatty.

I count myself among the lucky. I'm a very healthy person lacking any chronic conditions, nagging pains, acute this-and-thats. The problem is I just like that extra sleep in the morning. And chocolate. And my healthy streak may run out, so I want to enjoy and embrace it while I can. We eat pretty well, and I have been in the practice of getting regular, rigorous exercise. Just not lately. Yes, I can drum up some pretty decent excuses including but not limited to birthing an infant, surgical recovery, lack of funds for a gym membership, the worst @%&*ing winter in memory, and so forth. But we have a TV, and on TV one can view exercise videos. It's less a matter of getting the back fat in check as it is in longterm wellness creation, healthy habit formation, and exemplifying a positive body image for the sake of my daughters.

Oh, who am I kidding -- I want this back fat gone-zo.

4) Improved Gypsy P.R.

Poor, beleaguered Gypsy. The sweetest, kindest, smartest, gentlest dog I've ever ignored. Somewhere in that canine brain so clogged with preternaturally accurate mealtime predictions, his need for fetch, and the singularly exquisite taste of his butthole are the halcyon days of our childlessness. More specifically, Greg's bitchlessness. He was King Shit once upon a time, a dog for whom work schedules were rearranged to accommodate his appetites. A dog for whom we purchased doggie shampoo. A dog spoiled. Now he is a dog deferred, often only engaged to get him to come back inside after an abbreviated bathroom break in the frigid, turd-studded out-of-doors.

Gypsy's not a baby guy — never has been. When we first brought June home from the hospital and placed her near him, hoping to generate one of those achingly cute lion-protecting-his-pride sort of relationships, he haltingly drew his creaky, arthritic forelegs into his keg-like form, stood and walked away in search of a dark corner, all the while letting out a graceless snort as if to say, "This is so not my scene." His face grayed faster that day than that Nazi's who drank out of the wrong cup in "The Last Crusade." He's tolerant of the kids, but they remain largely something to avoid. Relations improved when June began raining food, but she continues to be yet another obstacle to Greg. He's not the Sit Around and Gamely Let the Baby Pull My Ears dog. He's the Retreat To the Bedroom And Wedge As Much As I Can of My Lumpy 90-lb Body Under The Bed dog.

This is where I imagine him, among the dust bunnies and out-of-season shoes, trying to find his "happy place" — the place of his youth. Where he'd otter dive into the Pacific for tennis balls. Where men fueled by beer and a bonfire's heat would gamely play fetch for hours in the sand. Where the slack line to his lupine ancestry was pulled taut during camping trips in the redwoods with Greg, as he served as companion and more importantly, vital protector of his beloved master. He'd visit these places in his head, but the memories grew dimmer with every turn of the diaper pail, the click-click-click like the snake-tailed finish of a film reel — eventually spinning into darkness.

Now he lives in the suburbs and I tell him to shut up when he barks.

There comes a point in the day when, after juggling the two kids and finally getting them to their respective rooms for some semblance of nap time/quiet time, I am afforded anywhere between five minutes to one hour of alone time—time usually spent doing housework, paying bills or working. Without fail, this is the moment that Gypsy leans against the dining room wall, begins thumping his tail and moaning, the preamble to his "potties dance" — another need for which I must cater. After seeing to needs all morning long, I need no more. So I knead my hands, mutter "balls" under my breath (trying not to swear), and stomp over to the back door to let him out, giving him the passive-aggressive side-eye resentment that one incurs when asking me to get up out of a chair. Oh, and the hair -- THE HAIR! I'm in talks with Ian Ziering's team to producer "Hairnado" as the only logical end to the limitless production power of his aged follicles.

The poor guy. What the hell did he do? I love this dog so, I do, and I worry that June picked up on cues that Gypsy is a creature in direct competition with her — she guards her food unnecessarily in a Darwinian display of resource protection, lest she let her guard down and Gypsy helps himself to a heart-shaped PB&J. They didn't have that forged-in-childhood bond. Gypsy's an old dog and June, Tess and even me? Well, we are in every sense the new tricks. But June very recently has taken a keen interest in Gypsy, following him around, lining stuffed animals down his back, cuddling him, pretending to be his mother. I've decided to pick up on her cues and engage him more than I have been lately. He doesn't  quite know what to do with this new attention, and has reacted by trying to escape it. He'll come around. I'm coming around. If our home is a ship, Gypsy's ass is in steerage. It's time he come back to the sunshine of the deck.

Make that the poop deck.

So that's it for now, but there are more: harness my patience, organize my desk, and start writing down more of Tess's baby milestones. June's log is a multivolume affair; Tess's thus far has a few hastily written sentences about craving graham crackers in the hospital after she was born, and how they encouraged me to "pass gas" to keep the pain of the c-section incision at bay—a suggestion I reluctantly heeded only immediately before a nurse would enter the room, without fail. Sweet Tess needs a few more heartfelt thoughts on paper from her dear mom, no?

But I gotta run — the pizza's almost ready. Anything about my life that is in dire need of polishing? What about you guys? Any self-improvement campaigns launched this year? I'd love to hear about them.

Until next time...

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Magic Number

I read a story this morning about a very unscientific study that deemed three kids the most stressful number to have. Two is doable because the parents are not outnumbered (assuming there are two parents) and four and above seem to work because parents just start saying, "Fuck it. You kids are on your own."

But three? You're toast.

I know a lot of folks with three kids, my sister and brother-in-law among them, and it does seem really, really hard. Their toils, plus hefty student loan debt, have solidified Greg's and my hunch to lock our own family growth down at a solid two kiddos. Two kiddos and a red dog.

But as I got further into this "study," I noticed some flaws — and not just the study's flaws, of which I'm assuming there are many, but those of the mothers. I'm not player-hating here, ladies, but put down the mod podge and listen up. The reason, they attested, that the third time was most definitely not the charm is that you're doing too much. The kids are over-scheduled, they said; whatever free time is left is squandered scrapbooking and making this.

I read the story while June was watching her morning Sesame Street, and as I popped another microwaved mini pancake into my face-hole, I smugly thought, "That ain't me!" Truly, though, no one has ever accused me of doing too much.

And when I talk about the do-too-unnecessarily-much-ers out there, I'm not talking about my sister, who has two school-age children and a newborn and is valiantly clawing her way through these trying early months of a baby's life to resume what was once a dependable routine. That sounds seriously stressful. Real talk. But I'm talking about the well-meaning gals (and guys) who are just overdoing it. Too many crafts, too many lessons, too many projects, too many playdates. Aside: when the frig did we start calling it a playdate anyway? Therein, I believe, lies part of our problem. When I was growing up you "went over" to a friend's house. "Dates" imply there will be a prepared meal and some sort of wooing and entertainment involved. Too much damn work. "Going over" to a friends meant a sleeve of Oreos and un-PC cartoons for hours. Parental supervision was almost guaranteed not to be a factor.

In fact, I remember my mom saying that she liked it when we had friends over because we remained within her purview but were leaving her the frig alone — the stated objective. Also, she didn't have to get in the car and drive anywhere. Granted, right now my child is a toddler, still requires supervision, and doesn't have a choice who her friends are, so I get to invite my friends and their kids over on adults' terms only. But I hear about school-age playdates during which the parents who are virtual strangers linger, interfere, redirect, entertain. So you're telling me when June is 7 and wants a friend to come over, I have to have her mom, too? A mom I barely know who might be opposed to drinking and/or celebrity gawking and therefore with whom I have NOTHING to talk about? I have to clean the house and provide organic snacks and compliment little Brayden's faux-hawk all the while making small talk with this tee-totaling monster of woman? Ugh. Sounds exhausting.  Forget it.

I want to be a good mom. I think I am a good mom, but I vacillate between wanting to be the sort of mom that crafts with their child and the sort of mom that hands her child a crayon and some Post-Its and says, "Here. Color. Mommy's going to go lie down."

Perhaps the "I'm pregnant and exhausted" disclaimer should be invoked right about now, since just about the only thing I'm game for these days is the "pretend Junie is going to bed" ruse in which she lies on the couch and fake snores for a while. One better, this morning she discovered the hammock outside and was content to swing in its nylon hug while I sat adjacent in the adirondack chair. I nearly wept with joy at the development. Then our dog dropped his ball at my feet hoping for some fetch and I told him to fuck off.

In my very, very limited experience in parenting, I've discovered that what works for us is "less is most definitely more." This choice was not created in a vacuum, considering my husband's imagination- and wilderness-rich childhood, and the conscious laissez-faire approach my own folks took with us. I remember my mom telling me about how my brother Matt's only toy for about two years was a cigar box with, like, a twist tie and a nail file inside. That's it. Depression-era fun for all! But seriously, that seems to be the ticket with June, too, yet I know all kids don't function that way.

Pinterest, in all its Fantasy Land glory, can be a real bitch for moms. Those who "follow" me know I don't play the mommy game on that site. I'm strictly in it for the food and fashion. But those who know me for real know how much I adore my child and that I would do anything for her.... within reason.  When I saw the "pin" of a toddler sliding down a plastic PlaySkool outdoor slide covered in food-dyed shaving cream with the caption "100 Things From The Dollar Tree You Can Use In Play," I wanted to throttle my laptop. Pinterest is to pragmatist moms what the Bryan Adams "Summer of '69" video was to my late grandfather: an obscene display of waste and misdirected resources to no viable end. Shaving cream on a slide?? What, are you dying to be scrubbing that shit out of your upholstery for the next month? What's wrong with just a slide? A concussion is enough of an imminent possibility without an accelerant, but now you want to lube the thing up with a product that explicitly states both "Not for use for children under 12" and "Keep out of eye area" on its package?*

No wonder you're stressed, moms.

So much of the crap you find on crafty mommy blogs is destructive posturing for both self-esteem and hardwood floors. Clearing out the Dollar Tree of their foreign-made, chemically laden, not-for-child-use products to give kids about five minutes of payoff for quintuple that in prep and clean-up time sounds like a nightmare to me, and it should to you, too. Say no to the shaving cream, moms. SAY NO. Plus, aren't they saying now what us thirty-somethings have known since childhood? That boredom is good for kids?

I don't ever recall my mom being stressed out and keen on keeping us occupied when we were growing up, beyond the inevitable blow-ups of having four kids who were acting like a pain in her ass from time to time. We played sports and stuff through school but didn't have anything scheduled beyond that. We would do a fun project with her, like build a gingerbread house or bake bread, but that didn't happen often — and that was only with me since Meg wanted nothing to do with her for the bulk of her formative years. My mom didn't express any inadequacies relative to other moms because she didn't care — and if some other mom wanted to corral a bunch of us tweens in and out of the Northbrook Court Claire's Boutique for a fun girls' outing? Great, better that fool than her. Just don't ask her to drive.

But she was attentive and affectionate and kind and funny. She gave us nothing but time and love and joy and more time, just not finger paints. And I didn't miss 'em.

A couple of months ago, my cousin Beth hosted a cookie decorating party for June and her other toddler brood. June talked about it for weeks — it was an absolute delightful joy from beginning to end. Given how much fun my girl had, I decided I was going to try and recreate it one cold, gray, slow winter's afternoon. It was a disaster. She was frustrated, I was disappointed, and the cookies blew. Plus, I used one cookie cutter ... in the shape of a circle. It was Super Mommy Amateur Hour. I half-expected my cousin to appear dressed as the Sandman, shooing me out of the room with her push broom. Plus, all this was before we got our dishwasher so we made an unholy mess. But I considered it to be a shaving-cream-on-the-slide "big" project that the sleep-deprived trolls of Pinterestland told me was an instant memory-maker for a fastidious toddler such as mine. Bull. It was like she knew it wasn't my bag. If she could articulate as such, she would have licked the last bit of streaky electric blue frosting off her fingers and said, "Mom, nice try, really. But this ain't yo' style. Can we play 'monkey on a motorcycle' instead?" (That is a "game" in which she crawls behind me on a chair and we lean to and fro making noises like we're taking sharp turns on a crotch rocket.)

But this is what she wants, what she remembers. I guarantee our cookie debacle has been wiped clean from her mind's dry erase board and rescrawled with any number of stupid songs I make up, walks to the beach with Greg, stories told by her grandparents, piles of rocks counted on our driveway, kisses, cuddles, books. To the aggressive Pinterest mom, I would be an abject failure. To my happy, delighted little girl, I'm doing aiiiight. And I'll try to keep this low-balling expectations thing up for as long as I can.

The jury's out as to what pressure I'll succumb down the line as June ages, or after this baby is born. But the silver lining to all this loan debt is the simple inability to compete with the trend, even if the desire was there. I can afford 99 cent bubbles, but monkey on a motorcycle is free.

And damn fun.

*That shaving cream craft pin on Pinterest links to a blog called "Growing a Jeweled Rose"... barf.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Real Word (sic), Highwood

Sooooooo ... hi there. How've you been? What's new? Gosh, I haven't seen you in... TWO FREAKING YEARS?

That, ladies and germs, is laziness. Nay, toddlerdom. Ok, laziness, too. Much has changed since that last dispatch (which was an also-ran from a column I had written months before — cop-out city), but I'm thinking most of you reading this are either blood relatives or check Facebook now and again, so you know the gist of the Trotter happenings.

In short: a move to the Chicago suburbs, two writing jobs for Greg, part-time employment with some hilarious priests plus a decent freelance career for me, the world's most awesome spring, followed by the world's shittiest spring, a little travel here, a few visitors there, a graying red dog, the growth and development of a most spectacular little girl, and now another wonderful (so far so good) pregnancy.

June's chatty now, and I mean real chatty. She likes to cuddle up next to me on the couch and say, "Mama, let's talk about animals." So we do. She tells me about monkeys, how they live in the jungle and eat bananas, and sometimes get in bathtubs and ride bicycles. Then we move on to cows, how they live in the fields and wear bells. And next is always lions, also living in the jungle and eating bananas. I dare not correct her. Now's not the time for Darwin.

We have given some passing thought to potty training, but are waiting a few more weeks until she shows more signs of readiness. She loves the trappings of the potty— the accessories, the how-to books, the mirage of independence — but not the actual usage itself. Right now, she's just in it for the toilet paper.

About a month ago, Matt and Margarita bequeathed their vast collection of potty paraphernalia to us, much to Junie's delight. As we were transporting the haul from my parents' house, she insisted on holding the Sesame Street-themed junior toilet seat in her lap all the way home. When it wasn't on her lap, she was holding it up to her face and peering through the hole saying, "Mama! Yook! Number zero!" Once again, too cute to correct. I commended her command of the numbers and then said to Greg, under my breath, "Where did she learn about zero? It wasn't from me." Then the little face in the toilet seat in the back chirped, "From TV." Take that, American Academy of Pediatrics.

I had incorrectly assumed, by gauging her interest (see above) and intellect, that she would be drunk with potty power by now. Not quite. She can't "hold it," she doesn't articulate when she needs to go No. 1, and she's not great at removing pants on her own. She will clink her glass and stand on a chair at a restaurant to announce the coming of a turd, but the pee warnings are more elusive. We've had a few instances where she's pantsless on the potty, says "All done!" and stands up, and then pisses or craps (or both) on the floor. Diapers haven't become such a hassle yet, and the thought that she may have inherited my pea-sized bladder and that we could be spending most of the next several years corralled in a public bathroom taking toilet turns isn't propelling me out the door to procure a copy of "Elmo's Potty Book" anytime soon.

And people, let's face it, a child out of diapers means a child getting older. And I ain't cool with that.

But a key factor in my reticence to go full-throne-throttle is the intersection of an increased vocabulary, a bear trap of a memory, and the mechanics of bladder and bowel relief. The questions are going to come, I know they are, and the answers will demand the use of "real" words.

Real words for which I'm not ready.

Everything I've ever read and heard when it comes to toddlers and the anatomy is to just let 'er rip. Be honest. Tell them the correct names for body parts. That horrifying fifth-grade sex-ed class living nightmare of "P" words and "V" words and "A" holes is supposed to be a calming, truthful presence in a 2-year-old's life. I'm calling bullshit. Did those doctors talk to any parents doing real parenting when they decided this was in the child's best interest? The generations of folks who happily grew into sexually repressed adulthood using only terms like "pee pee" and "wee wee"? The kids that we all see shouting "PENIS!" at the top of their lungs during recess just because they can and it feels right? I see what doctors are doing -- take away the shame and you take away the fascination, leading to healthier relationships and improved body image. I get it. I do. But I'm thinking about my daughter whose favorite word is currently "humungous" — a word I can see being especially expressive when paired with "vagina" and belted out during a quiet moment at Christmas Eve Mass.

When it comes down to it, when she does ask, I will tell her the truth. I will explain it to her in real terms. I will look her in the eye and say "nipple." I will not laugh. I WILL NOT LAUGH (the more I say it, the more it becomes an affirmation). I'm pregnant and my rapidly changing physique will only invite more awkward questioning. That and her refusal to let me pee alone.

At least one of us is using the toilet.

And this is the easy part, throwing a couple of names around. When the baby appears? And the whole "how did it get in there? / how does it get out?" double-whammy rears its graphic head? What will I do then? Ohhh Greg...

I love my parents so much, I do, but they will be the first to admit they dropped the ball when it came to this sort of stuff. Hell, they never picked the ball up. My dad still winces when he hears the right names for reproductive organs, and bellows "Why can't they just learn about it on the street, like I did?" when the topic of birds, bees and teaching young kids comes up. And my mom? Well, she did sit me down once to have "the talk" ...  only to stand up immediately and scamper out of the room murmuring, "I can't do this. Talk to your sister." I was 19 at the time. True story.

But I can't blame them. Heck, I turned out fine. A little childish when it comes to some topics, a little prone to laughing like Butthead in others, but altogether fine. Is this "real" word thing some grand experiment we'll revisit in 20 years when the psychotherapy community will widely renounce the practice after droves of humorless adults complain that there's really nothing good to laugh at anymore? Will we go back to the "pee pee" days just so kids have something to giddily gasp at? When we lift the "P" word veil, what's left?

Well, there's your deep thought for the afternoon. I have to pee like crazy and June's napping so I've got this time all to myself.

No questions asked.