My Daughter Pees for Candy

Smarties wrapper next to a roll of toilet paperIt’s that time on the parenting clock.* We have a 2 year old in the house.

When Kate began regularly standing next to the toilet and tugging on her clothes plaintively crying “poo, poo, poo, poo,” I thought it was a sign of readiness. When she stood in the cart at Costco and peed through the cart and on to the floor (except the part intercepted by my bag of frozen burritos), I felt we couldn’t put it off any longer.

Well.  Here we are.  Two months later.  She has been night dry for weeks and weeks and weeks (Thank you, genetic lottery!)  And there have been entire weeks during the past two months during which she did not have a single daytime accident.  Ultimate success is still elusive, however.

Consider the following important principles:

1) You can take a child to the potty, but you can’t make her pee.

2) Your child can take you to the potty, but if she won’t use it, it might not feel like success.

3) Candy can be a helpful tool.

a. Offer the child something she really wants in exchange for something you really want and the agency and tender feelings of each party are preserved.

b.  If you have a child who, while on vacation, happily peed in strange potties all over coastal Oregon (to the point that every one of your restaurant reviews on TripAdvisor includes a restroom review as well) do not congratulate yourself too soon.  [When it comes to potty training in general, avoid premature feelings of relief or satisfaction.  You will be sorry!]  If that same child comes home and suddenly and inexplicably decides that there is only one true potty in the entire world, and it is not at Target, not at Grandma’s, not at the grocery store, not as this restaurant or that one–well, candy can help the two of you find a saner place.

c. If you are solving your toilet-training problems with candy, at some point you are going to need/want to drop that incentive.  Will your daughter feel the same?

*I wrote most of this post a few weeks ago, but had to relegate it to the drafts folder after another accident and my ensuing feelings of despair.  Currently, however, I am experiencing feelings of relief and satisfaction.  Premature?  Time will tell.  But the last Smartie was eaten three days ago, and things are going well here!

Strawberries and Pests: Hot News!

Four search queries (among others) that led people to my blog, Tuesday, May 26:

what is eating my strawberries

what is eating my strawberries?

what is eating my strawberrys

what’s eating my strawberries

Bird bitten berryBird bitten berry

Trial: Well, I don’t know what is eating your strawberries, but I will update you about mine.  I tried the diluted bleach treatment recommended by my county extension office.  It damaged the glossy green foliage a bit as you can see in the photos below.  I should admit that I wasn’t completely careful about getting an exactly 5% solution as I might have been, and the bleach solution I used might have been as high as 10 or 12% bleach.  Also, I allowed my children to squirt the plants, and they were not careful about aiming for the stems (where most of the aphids were hiding).

Bleach damaged foliageBleach damaged foliage

More bleach damaged foliageMore bleach damaged foliage

Result: The black aphids did not completely disappear, but the infestation’s quick spread was effectively arrested.  I think a lot of aphids died, and it gave my plants a little breathing room to work on ripening those berries.  Today I chose to apply another treatment (9 or 10 days after the original) because it appeared that the black aphid population was beginning to climb again.  While I wouldn’t characterize the diluted bleach solution as magical or amazing, it seemed effective enough to try again in the future.  Also, when one of my children popped a ripe berry into her mouth before washing it, I felt very glad that I had not just sprayed those berries with an industrial pesticide.

Unfortunately, we now have a new threat to our strawberries.  It appears the birds are pecking our ripe berries!  I can’t think of any remedy for this except to pick the berries earlier than we’d like to.  Bad birds!

National Spelling Bee 2009


It is Bee Week!  This year there are 293 contestants competing for the top speller honor in Washington D.C.

I have been busy trying to figure out if there is a way for Amelia and I to see it on TV.  Supposedly the finals are going to be televised on ABC Thursday evening, but I found the local listings confusing and I’m not sure if this is true.  Also, because I’m a recovering addict, we don’t have a television, so that complicates things further.  Anyway, as a great speller wanna-be (I am a high school basketball star with Michael Jordan dreams) I find it all very exciting.  Participating in the Project Read fundraiser (spelling) Bee last fall and coaching Amelia this past winter has reignited my interest in spelling bees.  Fortunately, I found that the internet can help with the desire to hear all about it.

1) You can test to see whether you would have qualified for the quarterfinals last year.  (Pmom: Yes!  Of course since I’ve had an extra 25 years to study, I’m not sure how impressive beating out all those 11 yr olds is).  Scripps will post 2009’s written test words tomorrow, I think.

2) You can check out this throwing things blog (also known as alott5ma) .  Last year they offered a super play-by-play of the bee and they have a fairly comprehensive list of twitterers and bloggers concerned with this year’s bee (but check the comments on that thread, because I added another one!).

3) You can also check out biographies of the spelling bee contestants at the official Scripps site and read CNBC Darren Rovell’s picks for the kids to watch at the Bee. — Go Kavya, go!

Wigging Out

I have received a wonderful inheritance from my father’s side of the family: my love of teaching, my curiosity about the world, and my heritage of faith.  I also received baldness. It is easy to trace the path back from my father, to my grandmother, to my great-grandmother.  Unlike my father, my grandmother and great grandmother bore the burden of being female.  Baldness is not only more common in men, it is also better accepted.  Both of my grandmothers wore wigs.  They felt they needed to.

Since Kate’s birth, the thinning I’ve struggled with since I turned 18 has continued to worsen.  I realized this the other day when I noticed that I never need a barrette to keep hair out of my eyes any more.  Pdad reluctantly answered my questions when pressed and admitted that it’s pretty obvious.  (I have trouble evaluating the situation myself because I can’t see the top of my head in the mirror).  I hadn’t realized how bad it had become.

I haven’t decided for sure, but I’m thinking I’ll start wearing a wig.  Not because I have to, but because I want to.  We associate baldness in women with grim cancer prognoses, not a random turn of genetics’ wheel of fortune.  But my insurance company would be happy to inform you that my problems are completely cosmetic (read: coverage denied).  I’m healthy.  Getting a wig would allow me to change my appearance to reflect that.

It’s scary though.  I think that if I want to wear a wig, the best way is to go whole hog, no turning back.  I don’t want people doing a mental comparison between my real hair and my fake hair all the time, and I think that means I need to wear the fake hair consistently.  Then, hopefully after the initial, “Wow, she decided to start wearing a wig,” looking-but-trying-not-to-look, period, people’s attention will drift elsewhere.  Of course, some people try to keep their use of a wig or hairpiece secret.  I don’t think that will make sense for me.    Getting a wig will change my appearance signficantly, I imagine. Since my hair is now painfully thin, the fact that my head is suddenly covered with hair should be rather obvious–isn’t that the point, after all?  If it isn’t a noticeable change, then why go to the bother, discomfort and expense?  And if the fact that I’ve decided to wear a wig is obvious, then why pretend? Why be ashamed? Hopefully, it won’t just be a change, it will be a change for the better (otherwise I hope I’ll have the sense to stop and change my mind and do something different).  I am a balding woman.  I’m not glad, but I’m not going to sit and stew about it either.  This isn’t something I chose or something I did, it is just one part of the total package I got from my ancestors.  There’s a lot to celebrate and a lot to rue in there.  I suspect that for others it is the same.


I went to Recipe Group this evening. Since I nominally help lead the group (i.e., I call people and remind them to attend) and the real leader said she might not be able to make it, it was particularly important for me to be on time.  I tried.  I tried hard.  I was stressed.  But I wasn’t on time.

I’ve been musing about my reasons for always being late and always being behind.  Two years ago I had a newborn and I was nursing constantly.  Yes, I was always late, yes, I was always behind, but observe: I am caring for an infant.  This will pass.  Well, infancy and nursing have passed, but lateness and behindness haven’t, not for me.  Now, I have a 2 yr old and I look at those with nursing infants (unfairly I know) and think, “Oh, that’s much easier.  If you put that baby down it will stay where you leave it.”  My baby no longer stays where I leave her.  She tears around the house doing destruction and requires an awful lot of attention.  In the past couple of months, trips to the potty (and yes, I almost always have the honor of being her companion) have often been more frequent than diaper changes were in the past.   And of course, she still eats many times a day, although tablefood now suits her just fine.

Something tells me, though, that when she hits kindergarten and 1st grade, I will probably still be late and behind. Because, let’s face it, it isn’t any particular stage my kids are going through, it’s me.    Comparisons aren’t wise, but they are human.  I noticed that my hostess had several children including a ~2 yr old (same age as Kate).  Not only did she host the recipe group, she also prepared two different recipes.  And she works.  I was home all day.  I can’t explain it.

Why Pdad is So Great

When we moved to this house, our yard was such a mess that we had to start over. With the exception of several rose bushes, a snowball bush, the arborvitae, and an apricot tree, it’s all new.

Mess of a Backyard

How things looked when we moved in

Pdad and I were both completely ignorant about landscaping and plant selection. The only thing we knew for sure was that we needed expert help. We hired a consultant to come talk to us. That experience underlined the fact that we didn’t even know what we didn’t know. Well, several classes, and three additional consultations with different horticulturalist and landscape design experts later, we knew a lot more. We had some expert suggestions and sketches of what we should do.

However, I had meanwhile become obsessed with plant selection. In informing myself of what I didn’t know, I had fortunately and unfortunately developed strong preferences. Although definitely still a novice, I couldn’t but help but question every suggestion we were given. Ultimately I realized that what I really wanted was to plan which plants we would get and where we would put them myself. I didn’t want to follow someone else’s plan regardless of whether it was well or carefully done.

So here’s why Pdad is so great:
When I ultimately decided to set the experts’ counsel aside in favor of carrying out my own plans for our yard, Pdad gave me his blessing. a) This was brave. He knew what a novice I was. b) This was brave. We’d paid good money for valuable opinions and were tossing them aside. c) This was brave. He knew I was planning a design burdened under constraints he didn’t understand and/or agree with. For example, none of the local professionals we spoke with was particulary knowledgeable about or interested in waterwise gardening. By contrast, I insisted that all of our landscape plants be waterwise. This was not important to Pdad, and it was a constraint that made things a lot harder (waterwise irrigation anyone?). But he allowed me to carry out my vision. Another example of this was when I decreed that we would have no yellow flowers of any kind. Pdad saw no reason to ban yellow flowers from our premises (“Why is it we’re not doing yellow, again?). I attempted to explain how it was like poetry: by operating under artificial constraints (such as using a limited number of syllables or only certain colors in the palette) we would birth beauty through discipline. Pdad rolled his eyes at me. (I deserved it!) But then he cheerfully worked with me to accomplish my vision of a purple, and pink, and red, and blue, but never yellow, yard.

"Walker's Low," Catmint (Nepeta) and "May Night: Salvia

This Spring I have felt smitten by our plants every time I walk outside. I feel stunned every time I walk out the door that the Nepeta (Catmint) can look that beautiful, that the May Night Salvia pairs with it so perfectly, or that the crimson creeping thyme has become so vigorous and spread so far. Please don’t misinterpret–I don’t make this observation so that you will know what a showpiece our yard is. In retrospect, I can see that I have made some significant mistakes. I was a novice after all. So, even though the Nepeta is ravishly beautiful, I look at the garage window next to it, and realize that the spot called for something much taller –probably a bush or small tree. Eventually, I think we will be digging that gorgeous Nepeta up and planting something else–probably a purple leaf sandcherry like the experts recommended! Also, I marvel at our Red Valerian (Jupiter’s Beard), but then notice that the Rose Glow Barberry behind it is the wrong backdrop for it. The valerian’s blossoms disappear against the barberry’s red foliage. And what of the Compact Pineleaf Penstemon, the Zauschneria Arizonica, and the blanketflowers? All big failures in our yard. But Pdad seldom talks about the failures (until I bring them up). Mostly, he notices the things that look nice.

So, because Pdad helped me carry out my vision, we have wasted a lot of money and will have many additional hours of work ahead of us. But I love our yard despite all the mistakes. And I so appreciate Pdad for allowing me to play artist on such a large scale. The canvas has been expensive and the mistakes are obvious, but I don’t regret doing it myself.* This yard is mine. And I am surprised to learn that if our yard is an unfinished novel, I am eager to continue to revise and delete and add. What fun, what excitement, what suspense! I look forward to the writing of it and I am glad that Pdad will be writing it with me.

Jupiter's Beard, Red Valerian, Keys of Heaven, Nepeta (Catmint)

* Let me be clear: The only part of the landscaping we did ourselves was the plant selection and installation. We have had a whole lot of earthmovers, sod installers, arborists, sprinkler layers, etc. to help us in the past few years. Bless them! And bless especially the man who suggested digging out our backyard rather than filling it in. Genius! Professionals can be very worthwhile.

Bleach Cure for Black Aphids

So, as recommended by Jim F., I went to the county extension office.  I took samples of my buggy strawberry and some green and yellow mottled rose leaves.

I was impressed.  They had a corner with toys for the kids and I got to see the assistant horticulturalist right away.  The fee for the service was $1 for each plant, and when I discovered that I didn’t have $2 in cash, they said that I could owe them.  Anyway–

STRAWBERRIES: As widely suggested, my strawberries are suffering from a nasty bout with black aphids, which are not to be confused with the green aphids currently having their meal on the rose bushes. Fortunately, while the diagnosis was no surprise, the cure prescribed was more original.  I could use pesticides OR I could spray my strawberries with a diluted bleach solution.  He recommended trying 5% and then upping it to 10% if necessary.  I like having a plan.

ROSES: My diagnostician sought out a 2nd opinion from the head horticulturalist on this one (and it was still just an IOU $1).  Unfortunately, he confirmed what I suspected: Rose Mosaic Virus.  Recommended treatment: removal.  As in, removal of the whole bush.  I have at least three affected bushes.  Boo-hoo.  I am tempted to just keep removing all the branches affected by mosaic. There aren’t many right now, because I have done several radical branchectomies in the past. But apparently, once any branch shows symptoms, the entire bush is infected (which means shorter stems, fewer roses and less vigor) whether the symptoms are obvious on the other branches or not.    Fortunately, it sounds like I am not risking my other roses if I choose not to remove the infected ones.

ALL IN ALL: I was very impressed with the extension service, and they will be seeing me again.  (Probably as soon as the strawberry root weevils start eating the peonies).  The depth of my ignorance has no bottom; the number of my questions is limitless!

Book Review: The Perfect Mile

Back in February, when Christian F and I were debating the merits of competition on this blog (see The Spelling Bee, Competition: Success and Struggle, and In Defense of Competition as well as the lengthy comments on these posts),  Sharon recommended a great book, The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb.

The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb

I finally managed to both a) be at the library AND b) remember that I wanted this book while I was there last week.  I listened to the first half of the book on CD.  Unfortunately, I don’t spend enough time in the car to get through 12 CD’s.  I kept having to sit and listen in the garage when I got home because of the suspense.  It seemed unhealthful.  So when the book itself finally became available yesterday, I was excited to finish the latter half of it by reading the hardcopy.

I enjoyed this book tremendously.  (I did like it better in hardcopy than on CD because I could read the story much faster than I could listen to the CDs and that made the story seem to move faster).  It is the story of the 4 minute mile.  For many years, it was believed that it was impossible for humans to run a mile in less than 4 minutes.  At the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, three athletes, Roger Bannister, John Landy, and Wes Santee each suffered great disappointment.  Each returned home committed to showing that their Olympic results didn’t tell the full story of their athletic abilities.  The next two years saw the three in a frantic seesaw battle to see who would be the first to break the barrier.

It is a neat story because each athlete is different.  They live on different continents, they come from different backgrounds, they have different racing philosophies, different ways of training, different challenges and different personalities.  But they share things as well: each embarrassed himself through failure to live up to expectations at the Olympics.  Each is eager to beat the barrier.  Each has great natural athletic gifts and each has an even greater natural determination to improve and excel.  Each of the athletes readies himself to run the race of his life and then comes up short, again and again.  The book is a fascinating look at their lives, how they handle failure, and how they pick themselves up and go back at it.  Although the 4 minute barrier fell over 50 years ago, Bascomb was able to interview all three runners and many of their contemporaries, so the book is rich in the detail and has the credibility that make this sort of account great.

You will like this book even if you don’t know anything about running and don’t enjoy running yourself. Both are true of me.  I did learn a lot of new things about running by reading this book: strategies for running a very fast mile, the importance of a pacesetter, the difference between racing a clock and racing competitors.  I also learned not only about the cinder tracks of 50 years ago and how track shoes have changed, but how the world of elite-level athletics itself has changed.  This was interesting.  Even more interesting was the story of Bannister, Landy, and Santee’s drive towards excellence, their thirst for remarkable achievement, their desire to run faster than anyone had ever run.  I especially liked the theme of redemption.  Of how one can embarrass oneself, disappoint others, and then pick up, work harder, and do things that almost everyone else on the planet only dreams about. These men didn’t dream it, they did it.

Finally, I appreciated being able to observe the truth that played out in the background: while running a world record mile is a stunning individual achievement, this book showed that none of them could have done what they did without support.  Sometimes it was friends or family, sometimes it was a coach or fellow competitor, but none of the men got where he did completely on his own.

What is eating my strawberries?

We’re pretty excited about our strawberries.  We planted them last year and dutifully plucked off all the blooms, dreaming of harvests to come.  This year we are anxiously awaiting our first crop and things have been looking good.  

Green Strawberries

But lo–while admiring my lovely, thriving, healthy plants, I noticed something that suggests maybe they are not so healthy!

Bugs on a strawberry stem

See the little black ovals on the stem? Those are bugs. That part I figured out. Now–what are they and what should I do about them?
Soapy water? (Will my strawberries taste like dish detergent?)
Diatomaceous earth? (Will it be effective?)
Chemical big guns? (Will we all die early and painful deaths?)

What would you do?

Disclaimer: This is a mommy blog. This is obviously a mommy blog. You know what that means: if discussion of bodily fluids makes you uncomfortable, surf elsewhere immediately.

Please reply in the comments:

If your 2 yr. old daughter peed all over you right after you had checked in for your son’s much needed, long awaited dermatology appointment, would you:

  • a) Leave in haste, telephone to apologize, and ask for a new appointment
  • b) Beg for a new appointment and then leave in haste.
  • c) Put the 2 yr old in clean clothing. Return to the office carrying her in a strategic position to block the view of your wet clothing, apologizing to nurses and doctor.
  • d) Put the 2 yr old in clean clothing. Return to the office carrying her in a strategic position to block the view of your wet clothing. Pretend that nothing has happened.
  • e) Other — please elaborate.