Archive | April, 2011

Easter Inspirations

21 Apr

Remember college?  Man, I sure do.  I loved college.  College was my favorite (except for right now, which is also my favorite).  I found out that I wasn’t stupid!  Readers who spent their youths perfecting dazzling jazz dance routines and singing soprano can understand what this revelation meant to me, and why it came as such a surprise.  Well, a more accurate description might be that I discovered that I was arm’s length from this particular kind of smart with the ability to generate pensive looks and a tolerance for silence that made up the difference.  In other words, I am one hell of a faker, which is almost better if you want to know the truth (turns out that jazz dancing and singing soprano have paid off after all).  Less burdensome.   I quit singing seriously.  I underlined.  I highlighted.  I spent a lot of time sitting still and wondering if anyone was looking at me.  I wrote furiously scribbled essays on both Old and New Testaments of The Holy Bible in cursive (because one of my religion profs. was apparently a member of The Church of Cursive Penmanship – seriously, I’ve not experienced such zeal since).  Speaking of religion and college, I remembered a college story while I was making dinner tonight and since it made me laugh out loud and splash daal on my shirt, I thought you might enjoy it too.

I was fortunate enough to take lots of fun and interesting classes while I was diddling around in the world of higher education, but a stand out is definitely a religion class I took on the topic of Adam and Eve.  This class was taught by a very cool and hip professor and was populated by several of my friends, two ex-boyfriends (Hey!  I was a GIRL in the philosophy department!  What do you want from me?), and my future spouse.  Good times all around.  Plus, you know, lots of interesting discussions and assignments and stuff.

One member of our class was a stalwart college archetype – the stoner/thinker/bathrobe-as-outerwear-trendsetter.  Sam.  I had a few classes with Sam and always found him to be a delight.  He made some particularly show-stopping/train-wreck arguments during a small seminar of the works of David Hume.  I seem to remember something about zombies…  Sam had a strict “no reading, no writing” policy when it came to his college education.  He also had a flexible understanding of “attendance.”

Like marshmallow peeps, or light red kidney beans – nobody was ever clear on Sam’s function or purpose, but that didn’t seem like the point anyway.  One day we were discussing the origins of the names “Adam” and “Eve” and we were asked to speculate (after some instruction on the language, history, and yada yada) as to what significance these names might suggest.  No doubt hyped up on talk of linguistic origins and the deep meaning of it all (and, I’m pretty sure, aided by some fantastic substances), Sam suggested that the name “Adam” was probably a reference to – and I remember this so precisely – “man’s infinite smallness.  Like, you know, atoms?”  Sam was so pleased.  His mind working at a mean clip, he was putting all of the pieces together.

I’m sure you’ve had this opportunity at least once, but I’m here to recommend that you should always relish it when it comes along.  It’s not often that you get to see a professional person deal with madness on this level, and it’s especially rare to get this sort of action in a public forum (such as a large class).  I find that I can learn almost everything I care to know about a person if I’m lucky enough to witness them in confrontation with bat-shit-craziness like this.  So many things to say.  Like, maybe that the words “Adam” and “atom” probably aren’t as similar sounding in hebrew.  Or that atoms weren’t so much understood in the author’s time and so the relationship, even just conceptually, is probably a non-starter.  Or that you’re wearing a bathrobe to a planned engagement for christsakes.

I don’t respect a person who talks right away.  If they have a plan in place to deal with this sort of thing, I feel uneasy about what else they might be incubating upstairs.  I like what my professor did.  He waited for a respectful time – letting the class enjoy the possibility of this radical and hilarious idea – letting Sam experience the flawless feeling of having an idea and knowing that it is awesome.  Then he just said, without any meanness or despair, “I don’t…………… no/know.”  And then he shut it down and took Sam to school utilizing a satisfying combination of the socratic method and naked sarcasm.

I always wondered what he was thinking in the space between “don’t” and “no/know.”  I still think and wonder about which no/know he meant.  Sam, as you may have suspected, was completely undeterred by this lack of confirmation for his theory, and made it clear that he was pretty sure he was right about all of this.  Sam’s chops were bust-resistant and the more he thought about it, the more evidence he discovered to support his theory.  We were not privy to this information, but that was largely irrelevant as it had become clear that we were participating only insofar as witnesses.

While this story cracks me up, it also inspires me.  What must it feel like to go through life like Sam did/does?  Sure at the instant you form a thought that it’s right – that it’s perfect – so perfect in fact that no amount of reasoned criticism can remind you that you’re not an expert.  Free from the feeling that you have no right to trust your ideas.  In my life as a dance improviser, this is always the lofty (and sometimes seemingly impossible) goal that I aspire to.  The ability to always say “yes.”  The suspension of judgement.  The willingness to go, totally alone, into new space.  It’s more than just saying “who cares?”  It’s the forgetting that there is even a “who” in the first place.  It’s ordering something that’s not on the menu with full confidence that it will arrive steaming hot before you.  It’s very Easter-y in a way.

So here’s to Sam, and Adam and Eve, and to the luxury of a deeply pleasurable education followed by a degenerate life in the arts.  Cheers.

F*#&ING Fiber Arts

20 Apr

I have always maintained that if you’re not swearing while you’re sewing, you’re probably not doing it right.  Some people say that the secret ingredient in really excellent food is love (these people have obviously not encountered the perfection that is the egg mc muffin which is primarily made of sadness), but in sewing, I find that the secret ingredients are usually sass and fuckwords.  Holding firmly to this conviction, I contemplated naming my sewing “company” (because, let’s face it – sewing a few dozen pairs of baby pants for a craft fair does not make you an entrepreneur….) motherfucker inc. as I focused mostly on products for small children.  I ended up going with Meatloaf Sewing Co instead, but the fact remains – any fabric craft that goes down at the JS compound is fueled largely by foul language (and, indirectly, the aforementioned mc muffins).  That’s why you can imagine my delight upon discovering this little ditty via a pastor friend of mine who makes some seriously badass quilts (I’ve discussed how much I love my church family, yes?).  My birthday is in february.  Just in case you were wondering…

Happy Birthday, CoWHRN!

17 Apr

Hey!  Lookey here!  I’ve been dumping my terrible grammar on you for a year now!  Thanks for reading, my friends.  I’ve had a swell time.

In honor of this exciting milestone, I thought I’d see if any readers have suggestions for topics/events/phenomenon/questions that they’d like to see me unleash my stream-of-consciousness on.  Don’t be shy.  I always picked “truth”, so I’ve been training for this ever since 3rd grade summer camp.  If you suggest/ask it, I’ll definitely blather on about it with the promise of doing absolutely no research and relying exclusively on my feelings and vague memories of “hearing about it on NPR.”  Deal?  Deal.

diaper-free diary, phase 3

17 Apr

Phase 3 was off to a great start!  Ida spent the better part of her first diaper-free morning playing as usual and fielding nearly constant inquiries as to whether or not she needed to use the potty (from yours truly).  She would shake her head no, or sometimes, nod her head yes and walk over to the bathroom.  I had taught her how to pull her pants and undies off (through she often told me that she needed help with this because she had/has a hard time remembering that she needs to pull them off of her butt first and just starts yanking tenaciously at the front of her pants, lamenting the fact that no progress is being made).  I had made a special chart a while ago (just in case) for this week-o-potty fun and each time she used her potty and contributed some material, she got to put a sticker along the row for that day.  She’d wash her hands, have her cookie and go about her business.  She knew the drill and was surprisingly adept at moving through the steps.  I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I couldn’t believe how smoothly the whole thing was going.  I thought briefly about Ida’s first 6 weeks of life (where she only slept while being ferociously bounced, shushed into oblivion, or careening back and forth in her swing – specially designed for toddlers because the infant ones were way too gentle.  And when she only slept for 20 minute stretches).  I thought maybe this was my reward for hanging onto my sanity, albeit just barely.

In the early afternoon on day 1, Ida had her first out-of-potty experience.  We took Maude (our dog) outside to do her business (at which point I thought to myself “I really am managing a lot of excrement these days”).  Ida took one look at Maude shitting in the yard and decided that this was an excellent idea.  With accuracy and speed previously unseen (but quite frankly suspected), she dropped her pants and began peeing in the yard.  Upon finishing, she pulled up her (soaking wet) pants and with a huge smile, clapped for herself and suggested that I should do the same.  In thinking about it, this was no accident, but a carefully planned experiment for Ida.  New undies were selected and the day went on.  She had a few accidents later, and was getting pretty frustrated by bedtime.  She was tired and ready to call it a day.  I was really proud of her for her tenacity and success.  We decided that Ida should wear a diaper at night, so it felt like a little relief to put the diaper on at the end of the day.  I was tired of such a toilet-intensive conversation.

We stayed the course and mostly hung out at home for the next couple of days.  Toileting was becoming pretty routine.  Ida would often have an accident or two in the afternoon (including one hilarious incident where she peed on our friend’s day planner), but for the most part, she was getting the hang of it.  But oh, the accidents.  Though they were few and often small, they were devastating.  It’s hard to describe the specific sadness of Ida’s remorse after wetting her pants.  She is profoundly disappointed by it and often requires some cuddling and cheering up after it happens.  I worried for a minute that maybe I was the one pushing her to do this – that she wasn’t ready.  But I knew she really wanted to learn – she expressed this and continued to express it many times and in lots of ways.  I remembered that my job as her parent is to help her deal with the frustration and disappointment that comes from stretching yourself to reach a goal that seems just a little bit too hard.  I felt good (again, childfree readers may be having some thoughts to the effect of “um?  Are we still talking about learning how to not crap yourself?”).  We were doing a great job.  But such remorse from a tiny person!  It was overwhelming.

The poop was the most difficult component of diaper-free living because Ida seemed a little mystified by how and when this strange event happens.   I often had to really encourage her to spend a little time on the toilet and to push with her abdominal muscles to see if there was any poop that wanted to come out (again, an unfortunate phrase that I’ve adopted).  I’d mimic abdominal pushes with her to help her get the idea.  It’s now been three weeks and she’s got the hang of it.  It often takes a few attempts (she’ll tell me she needs to use the bathroom, sit down and decide she’s all done, repeat several times at 3 minute intervals) but she knows what to do.  I also discovered a few days in that if I put my hand to my ear and said “let’s listen and see if we hear any pee going into the potty” that she would basically pee on command.  What a strange and pavlovian experience.  I’ve avoided the term “potty training” for the most part, but there is some element of rote learning at work.  Ida seems okay with it.

After we’d had a few accident-free days (days 3 and 4 of potty-bonanza), I stopped asking her if she needed to use the bathroom and started saying “Ida, make sure you let me know if you need to use the potty.  Remember, you don’t like to pee or poop in your underpants.”  For the most part, this was a big success.  The late afternoons were always the hardest for her and she’ll sometimes have a tiny accident before making it to the potty.  For the most part though, she’s pretty potty-savvy when we’re at home, letting us know with her signs or by just heading into the bathroom on her own.  We still ask her periodically if she needs to use the potty, especially in the afternoons.

Having decided that Ida was getting a little antsy to get back to the world at large (er, I was), we decided to head to church on Sunday of potty week ( the 7th day).  Ida usually spends some time playing with her friends in the play room and some time in the service with me.  I was a little worried about what the (incredibly cool and loving) caregivers in the play room might think of my diaper-free 18 month old with only signs to communicate her potty needs in a new space.  Throwing caution to the wind (a practice often encouraged at Berry UMC), I just took Ida to the play room like usual, explained our situation and headed to the service.  She did a great job and seemed really proud.  However, when I got there she immediately and urgently told me she needed to go potty.  I took her to the bathroom and discovered that the stalls were majorly freaking her out and that there was really no way for her to sit on the giant seat.  She was having none of it and wanted off the toilet immediately.  Then she peed her pants.  Then I put her back on the toilet.  Then she freaked out again.  Then she peed her pants again.  I felt terrible that she was having such a hard time and was obviously really stressed out about it.  This was not a great moment, and I reminded myself that Ida’s potty-ing isn’t a linear process – that this difficulty didn’t mean that we were doomed, or doing it wrong, or that anything had gone awry.  It just meant that we had a tough moment or two.

Things pretty much kept improving.  I got a little seat that fits on top of a regular toilet for when we’re out and that seemed to really help.  Ida now lets me know when she needs to go, we head over to the bathroom and the minute her little butt hits the seat, she gets down to business.  I hear tell of a fold-up contraption, which would seriously improve my quality of life (insofar as right now I have to haul a toilet seat around on my person whenever I want to step out for more than 30 minutes).

I really enjoyed undertaking this project with Ida.  Watching her learn how to do things and watching her take so much pride and pleasure in such a simple competence is refreshing and fun.  I had fun potty training my kid.  There’s something I never thought I’d say.

Ida. Now Available Diaper-Free! Part 1

10 Apr

Disclaimer – this post is long and probably boring to anyone who hasn’t spent a week eating lunch on the bathroom floor and reading the same godforsaken books aloud over and over again (for really any reason I imagine, but I was thinking especially of the particular case of potty-learning with a small child).

Ladies and Gentleman, it is with great pleasure and no small amount of surprise that I announce some strange and excellent news:  Ida is now a diaper-free toilet enthusiast!  Well, she’s really more of a handwashing-sticker-fancy underpants-cookie enthusiast….. but whatever.  The point is, my kid no longer craps her pants.  At least not on purpose.

Since some of you have asked how this all transpired, I have provided a description of this exciting journey in two parts.  Here’s how it all went down:

When Ida was around 4 months old, I got a little potty from the store, thinking that she might like to sit on it sometimes.  I thought it would be kind-of a fun activity (childfree readers might be having some revelatory thoughts after reading that – the “fun activity” part) and I also had in mind that an early introduction might make Ida aware of what the toilet was for, so as to aid her transition from diapers to underpants in some small way.  I read some fascinating stuff about elimination communication, but I quickly opted for a more, how to say….. half-assed approach.  Basically, phase one was just me setting Ida on her little potty whenever I felt like it and reading her a few books.  We had potty time after her naps for a little while, but then I got lazy about that and we took an extended potty hiatus.  I also used to tell her all about the toilet when I was changing her diaper, or when I noticed the telltale half-smile-with-raised-eyebrow that indicated she was in process with a shitastrophie.  I’d say something like “hey you’re pooping!  That’s what it feels like to poop, Ida!  When you’re ready, you can poop on the potty!”  All I can really say in my defense is that when you’re trying to generate a one-sided conversation for days on end with a being whose primary function is, well, primary functions, the topics tend to get a little basic and weird.  Phase one lasted from about 4-14 months.

Phase two!  When Ida was around 15 months, I started to really hype the potty.  Toileting was getting some serious PR at the Joynt Sandberg residence.  Ida had become very curious about the bathroom my own toilet use, so we’d chat about what I was up to and how I was able to wear underpants rather than diapers with the help of the (glorious, fabulous, fun and exciting!) toilet.  Ida would often express an interest in her own little potty, taking it apart, stacking up all of the parts, stuffing it with toilet paper, and dragging it around the apartment to use as a step-stool to reach breakable objects.  She’d also sometimes point to her potty and then make the sign for “diaper” (a sort-of unfortunate tap on the front of the hips, not unlike some of the dance stylings of the late Michael Jackson).  I’d whip her pants and diaper off and help her sit down on her potty and she’d occasionally (and I think often accidentally) make a deposit.  I’d freak out with the joy of a million unicorns.  Rinse (literally) and repeat.

Eventually, Ida started going over and sitting on the potty while she crapped her diaper.  Then she’d take off her pants and diaper on occasion to do her thing in the potty.  I knew she was getting ready for full-on diaper-free living when she’d request to use the toilet when we were out and about.  She’d make the sign for diaper and I’d ask her “would you like a new diaper?”  She’d shake her head “no” and emphatically make the diaper sign.  I’d ask “would you like to use the potty?”  and with a very smug smile (and a glance around to make sure everyone was watching) she’d nod her head yes.  At a restaurant, a friend’s house – wherever.  I suspect that it had become a bit of a parlor trick for her.  She noticed that the joy of a million unicorns was multiplied by a factor of however many people were in her proximity at the time of her toileting.  She’s no dummy, and may (I’m afraid) have a future in the performing arts.  Heaven help us – another hustling artist is just what this family needs.

Toward the end of Phase 2, I hung a piece of paper up on the bathroom wall and stashed a little box of stickers on the shelf above the toilet.  Ida and I had many talks about how pretty soon, she’d get to start wearing underpants, and how with this new great power, came great responsibility.  “You can’t just freestyle in your underpants – you need to use the toilet for pees and poops” I told her.  She solemnly nodded.

Readers who know Ida can attest to her peculiar and adult-like understanding of the things transpiring around her.   It’s not just me – as in, I’m not just saying that because I’m her mom and I think her boogers are tiny amber gemstones.  It’s real – the kid KNOWS what we’re saying and doing.  All the time.  I’ve taken to enlisting her help to find stuff I’ve lost.  I’ll say “Ida.  Can you please find Mama’s black notebook with the rubber band around it?  Can you find mama’s other grey shoe?”  And sure enough, the kid comes toddling over with the object a few minutes later.  She found an earring once when I asked her to.  I still don’t know where she finds half the stuff I ask her to fetch.

Anyway, I had a plan and it was this:  I decided that every time Ida peed or pooped in the potty I’d offer her the box of stickers.  She’d choose one (this was often a lengthy, non-linear process) and stick it on her sheet.  Then I’d give her a little bit of toilet paper because she insisted that she wipe.  God have mercy if you tried to help her with any part of this process.  Then I’d pull out a stool and she’d climb up to the sink and wash her hands with near surgical precision.  She took the handwashing component very seriously.  Then, I’d offer her a frosted animal cracker.  I still think it’s funny that she believes these to be rare and fabulous delicacies.  I’ve given them the unfortunate moniker “potty cookies”, which always makes me think of my father saying “road apples” when we would visit Mackinac Island in our youth (Greer, if you happen to be reading, you’re welcome).

Once we were on a bit of a roll with the practice paper, stickers and other toilet pageantry, I was kind-of just waiting for a sign that it was time to go sans diapers.  Up until this point, Ida was always in a diaper, but would often keep it dry and clean for a considerable stretch, and would semi-frequently request to use the potty.  But like many of you (all of you?  hopefully?), I had no idea how often she was peeing.  Was it a tiny little bit every 10 minutes?  Did she know when she was doing it?  I wasn’t totally sure what I was waiting for, but decided to take Ida on an undies-choosing shopping trip so we’d have underpants on hand when the mystical moment arrived.

After removing all franchised princess’ pneumonic horses, and spunky latina explorers from the mix, I let Ida pick out several packs of undies.  I had a moment of surprise when she chose boys underpants (while exclaiming “pup! pup!” upon seeing a cartoon monster emblazoned on the butt), but almost immediately thought “why in the world would I care about this?”  As someone who used to tell people when they asked if I was having a girl “well, the sex is female, but we’ll probably have to wait until she’s older to find out about her gender” this moment of tiny panic was pretty funny.  Far be it from me to decide that Ida does not require a tiny flap in the front and sturdier waistband.  Maybe she knows something I don’t.  Anyway, we paid for the undies and spent the trip back home discussing underpants and conducting a thorough examination of their properties.  She was very excited about the underpants and suggested (demanded) that they be placed in an accessible spot so that she could inspect them at her leisure.  I put them in a basket by her little potty and she took to sitting on the potty and slinging dozens of pairs of underpants on each leg, examining each one and admiring their beauty.

Two weeks passed.  Ida woke up one monday morning and uncharacteristically lost her mind when I tried to change her diaper.  She was screaming and thrashing around until I took the new diaper away and asked her what was wrong.  “UNDIES!”  She screamed.  I lifted her off the changing table and she took off at a run for her potty.  She peed, pageanted and then chose a pair of underpants out of the basket.  She was so very pleased.  I was kind-of shocked.  I was not planning on a potty-intensive week and had a pretty full work schedule ahead.  I decided we would just work it out together.  We’d just do our best.  I knew the folks who take care of Ida while I’m at work would be supportive and helpful.

There was a little scuffle when I tried to put pants on her that morning.  “UNDIES!”  It became clear that the underpants needed to be visible and that donning pants would seriously impair her ability to admire their beauty.  Socks and a shirt were sometimes permitted.  Welcome to Phase 3, I guess.