Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Diaper Fairy Has Arrived

Parents have a license to discuss their children's bodily functions, especially when they are actively training them to go on the toilet. It's a dirty business, but...

The Diaper Fairy came this past Sunday morning and left Maya two gifts, a twelve-pack of Fruit-of-the-Loom underwear for toddlers and a toy. The night before, Verna and I had boxed up all but one or two of her cloth diapers and wraps and happily bade them adieu. We will happily ship them to a new home--for free.

Verna promised I wouldn't have to change diapers (other than my own) once I turned 50, and she was more than two months ahead of schedule. I will hit the milestone this April.

We were worried how Maya, who turned three less than two weeks ago, was going to react to having her diapers permanently swiped from her. She peed once while on her potty several months ago, but hasn't really been very interested in using it or the toilet.

We tried sweetening things by offering her Annie's gummy fruit, Trader Joe's oreo cookies, and even chocolate if she went either on the toilet or in her potty. That worked three or four times where we could hoist her up on the toilet, without a child's seat cover, and she would go and then immediately blurt out, "Gummies now?!"

We upped the ante last week when we started giving Miguel chewy calcium vitamins in addition to his regular multivitamins. Maya wanted some, so we said, "Once the diaper fairy comes and you are wearing big girl underwear, you will get the vitamins."

Verna had been showing Maya her new underwear (not the ones left by the diaper fairy) for a few weeks. Much like successful marketers, we were trying to create an early buzz and excitement for potty training by revealing to Maya the ultimate reward: big girl underwear.

And it worked.

She was so psyched to get into big girl underwear and earn the right to chomp on gummy vitamins, that she asked us to stop her diapers Saturday night.

So far, so good. She's had two pee-pee accidents, but has been amazingly controlled and cooperative about using the toilet. Sunday morning, while I was out at the Farmer's Market and Verna was upstairs with Miguel, Maya walked into the downstairs bathroom by herself, pulled down her pants and then her underwear, climbed onto the toilet and went #2.

Verna told me about it when I got home, and we were so excited that we high-fived each other, smiles beaming across our faces. You'd have thought David Ortiz had rocketed a homerun past the Green Monster for another dramatic Red Sox win.

When we were potty training Miguel, also at three years of age, he peed all over my hands as I tried to scoop him off the carpeted floor of Performance Bicycles, one of two stores that were part of our nightly walking ritual when we lived less than a mile away. He was also in the middle of training that same month when we visited my father and stepmother in Florida and journeyed with them to the other side of the state. We had to stop at least once an hour, so a normally three-hour ride took us more than four.

Verna and I are very focused now on asking Maya every 10 minutes or so, "Do you need to use the potty?"

The other ironic (or cosmically poetic) component to this story is we also have a puppy, Gigi, who is only eight months old, and is experiencing her own kind of bathroom issues that are giving us more headaches by far than Maya.

Gigi is the ultimate scaredy cat dog. Getting Gigi to urinate let alone anything more after dark is an often impossible chore. She bolts forward at every crunch of grass, car whooshing by, rustle of leaves. She whimpers loudly and yanks on her leash in the direction of home. If I yelled and yanked back at Maya as I do with Gigi, I'd be arrested for child abuse.

Maya we praise, while Gigi frustrates us, even though we reward her with treats as well. And she is the only one whose tummy I scratch morning, noon, and night.

Potty training, doggy training. It's a thankless job, but...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Celebrate The Whole Boy

"Miguel, what are you doing?" I asked nonchalantly after I bounded into his room last night.

"I just wrote a poem."

"Really? What made you do that?"

It was his bedtime and he'd been waiting for either Verna or me to stay with him for a few minutes while he fell asleep. I expected and hoped he was going to say he scribbled a few lines of verse down after being inspired by watching Obama's inauguration at school.

"I was bored."

Oh well. So much for MY parental hopes. Seriously, though, I was still mightily impressed with Miguel. He created something with his mind and heart. He does well in school, but Miguel would trade in a heartbeat a day of being in the classroom for sport and play outdoors in almost any kind of weather. I did put a poster up in his room showing a small group of boys, all clad in football gear, clustered around one who is playing the violin. It reads: Celebrate the Whole Boy.

Yes, I want to nurture Miguel's dream to become a professional athlete, but I am also as glad that he wears a t-shirt with the following quote from John Steinbeck, "I guess there are never enough books", that he picked out at the Steinbeck Museum gift shop.

So I was even more impressed that he jotted down the following in a matter of minutes. I also think it was influenced by all that he saw and heard as his 5th grade class watched history being made when President Obama recited the oath of office.

Miguel's poem:


As I sit on my front step looking out into space, I see the wonders of life,
The wonders of painting a picture with words,
The wonders of America,
And the wonders of everything beyond that.

Yes, we do celebrate the whole boy. Our boy, Miguel, blossoming, almost, into a young man.

Friday, January 9, 2009


I rolled over and asked Verna how she was feeling.

“Don’t talk to me,” she mumbled, “I’m sick.”

Maya, nestled between us on the bed, woke up and said, “Don’t talk to me Daddy; I’m sick.”

Life imitates life.

Verna came down with some devastating virus the second day into the New Year. Kaiser said it was RSV, which means no fever, no flu, but Verna still feels like crap: pounding headache, raw and painful sore throat, extreme desire to be shot like a rabid dog.

Maya has a slight fever and general malaise, but overall she’s been fine. That hasn’t stopped her, though, from telling me now several times not to talk to her. And also having her mimic her mother’s coughs, where she opens her mouth and emits a low-key machine gun sound. The girl has a flair for drama and excess already.

Where did that come from?

Being sick sucks. It might’ve been different for Verna if she hadn’t survived cancer. But when this virus hit I know that Verna was thinking: “Shit, my body has betrayed me yet again.”

She hasn’t felt much better for a week. A woman I know casually from the park, who happens to be a nurse, said she and her daughter had the virus, and it often lasts for 4-5 weeks. Weeks?

Fortunately for Verna in terms of having help and unfortunately in terms of our finances, I started only a part time job this week, Wednesday-Friday. So I was able to take Miguel to school and pick him up on Monday and Tuesday. And also play with Maya before her nap. On Tuesday she and I went to the library where we got five books, one of which she seems to love most, Click Clack Quackity Quack. She’s been repeating that phrase a lot since then.

Since my job is only part time, I am also busy on Mondays and Tuesdays with freelance writing assignments, finding additional work, and figuring out the meaning of life. But one of my other priorities now is just picking up the slack so Verna can remain camped out on the couch.

So what if the kids get chocolate ice cream for dinner with gummy bears as an appetizer? There must’ve been at least two or three minor food groups in those selections. OK, just kidding. I made wholesome meals: pasta with broccoli, veggie stir-fry with tofu over brown rice, organic macaroni and cheese with tofu hot dogs. Sounds yummy, eh?

Last night Verna decided to use a folk remedy suggested by our witch, er, friend, Amanda, a native of Transylvania, er, England. She told Verna to rub Vicks on her feet before bed and then cover them with socks. Supposedly this will cure Verna of her hacking cough that threatens to explode one or both of her lungs.

Vicks vapo-rub wafting in the living room brought me back to me childhood when my mother rubbed the goop on my chest and covered it with a small towel so it wouldn’t get on my pajamas. The powerful aroma of Vicks means to me childhood, sickness, warmth, being nurtured back to health by my mother.

When I got up this morning to take the dog for a walk Verna was sleeping soundly. I woke her, though, because I had to leave for work and she wanted to make breakfast for Miguel.

“Did the Vicks work?”

“I was fine until three a.m.,” she said. “Then I started coughing and couldn’t stop for hours. I’d just fallen back to sleep.”

Maya would be up soon, we knew, mouth wide open, coughing and telling me not to speak with her.