Adventures of Isabel (Ogden Nash)


Adventures of Isabel

Isabel met an enormous bear,
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t care;
The bear was hungry, the bear was ravenous,
The bear’s big mouth was cruel and cavernous.
The bear said, Isabel, glad to meet you,
How do, Isabel, now I’ll eat you!
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry.
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry.
She washed her hands and she straightened her hair up,
Then Isabel quietly ate the bear up.
Once in a night as black as pitch
Isabel met a wicked old witch.
the witch’s face was cross and wrinkled,
The witch’s gums with teeth were sprinkled.
Ho, ho, Isabel! the old witch crowed,
I’ll turn you into an ugly toad!
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry,
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry,
She showed no rage and she showed no rancor,
But she turned the witch into milk and drank her.
Isabel met a hideous giant,
Isabel continued self reliant.
The giant was hairy, the giant was horrid,
He had one eye in the middle of his forhead.
Good morning, Isabel, the giant said,
I’ll grind your bones to make my bread.
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry,
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry.
She nibled the zwieback that she always fed off,
And when it was gone, she cut the giant’s head off.
Isabel met a troublesome doctor,
He punched and he poked till he really shocked her.
The doctor’s talk was of coughs and chills
And the doctor’s satchel bulged with pills.
The doctor said unto Isabel,
Swallow this, it will make you well.
Isabel, Isabel, didn’t worry,
Isabel didn’t scream or scurry.
She took those pills from the pill concocter,
And Isabel calmly cured the doctor. 

Poem by Ogden Nash
Illustration by Corrie Haffly


Remember my childhood memorized poem, I Had a Hippopotamus? Today’s choice was the poem our artist, Corrie, memorized as a child. And her illustration is extra delightful (with the Oliver Jeffers-esque lettering)…

… but just one question: how do you quietly eat a bear???

I had a hippopotamus (Patrick Barrington)


I had a Hippopotamus

I had a Hippopotamus, I kept him in a shed
And fed him upon vitamins and vegetable bread
I made him my companion on many cheery walks
And had his portrait done by a celebrity in chalk

His charming eccentricities were known on every side
The creatures’ popularity was wonderfully wide
He frolicked with the Rector in a dozen friendly tussles
Who could not but remark on his hippopotamuscles

If he should be affected by depression or the dumps
By hippopotameasles or the hippopotamumps
I never knew a particle of peace ’till it was plain
He was hippopotamasticating properly again

I had a Hippopotamus, I loved him as a friend
But beautiful relationships are bound to have an end
Time takes alas! our joys from us and robs us of our blisses
My hippopotamus turned out to be a hippopotamisses

My house keeper regarded him with jaundice in her eye
She did not want a colony of hippopotami
She borrowed a machine gun from from her soldier nephew, Percy
And showed my hippopotamus no hippopotamercy

My house now lacks that glamour that the charming creature gave
The garage where I kept him is now silent as the grave
No longer he displays among the motor tyres and spanners
His hippopomastery of hippopotamanners

No longer now he gambols in the orchards in the spring
No longer do I lead him through the village on a string
No longer in the morning does the neighbourhood rejoice
To his hippopotamusically-modulated voice.

I had a hippopotamus but nothing upon earth
Is constant in its happines or lasting in its mirth
No joy that life can give me can be strong enough to smother
My sorrow for what might-have-been a hippopotamother.

By Patrick Barrington
Illustration by Corrie Haffly.

I learned this poem for a talent show when I was 9, and have loved it ever since. I chose it as an excuse to revisit all its delightful humor with my kids, and also because I couldn’t wait to see Corrie’s hippo illustration 🙂

Pick of the Clicks 10/23/2015

Happy weekend, friends! Just a few this week, but they’re GO-OO-OO-OO-D: enjoy!


This is so awesome: Sesame Street introduced their first character with Autism—Meet Julia. I watched Sesame Street for the first time in my 30s, and loved it straight away (the Count is my favorite! Von. Too. Tree. ah ah ah ah.) I didn’t think I could love it more… but now I do: what a huge contribution it makes to have beloved muppets teach us how to love kids of all kinds.

Excellent thoughts from Russell Moore: How Confidence Makes Us Kind.

But we are not the voice of the past, of the Bible Belt to a post-Christian culture of how good things used to be. We are the voice of the future, of the coming kingdom of God. The message of the kingdom isn’t “You kids, get off our lawn.” The message of the kingdom, is, “Make way for the coming of the Lord.”

“The arc of history may be long, but it bends towards Jesus.”

This is extraordinary story-telling and journalism from Sophia Jones following Syrian Refugees from country to country: 1000 Miles In Their Shoes.

Truth: I don’t like to link to the same people two weeks in a row on Pick of the Clicks… I try to keep things broad. But I can’t help it this week, because this article from Jessica Mesman Griffiths is truly EXCELLENT. So thought-provoking, so important. READ THIS: The Spiritual Child – The Next Big Idea in Parenting.

 I was a normal teenager struggling on the path of individuation under a mountain of grief. I needed someone, anyone, really, to stand by my side, to say “I’m not leaving,” to say “I see your suffering”—and our loving God sees your suffering. To say, as Miller says, “your pain is real—I know it.”

Also, since I’m repeating honors, Alexandra Petri KILLS it with this one: Famous Quotes, the way a woman would have to say them in a meeting.

“Let my people go.”
Woman in a Meeting: “Pharaoh, listen, I totally hear where you’re coming from on this. I totally do. And I don’t want to butt in if you’ve come to a decision here, but, just, I have to say, would you consider that an argument for maybe releasing these people could conceivably have merit? Or is that already off the table?”

Cindy Brandt always makes me think, and this post is no exception: Three Reasons Why We Don’t Pray The Sinner’s Prayer With Our Children. I think her third point (belonging > believing) resonates deeply with me, especially after my month-long thought experiment on what it means to belong.

Halloween is coming up, and a few people have asked me what I think: so here’s this from me at Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics last year on finding cultural nuance in the Halloween debate: My First American Halloween. (Hint: the holiday is really more American than religious or irreligious)

This old clip came to mind this week, so funny that I thought I’d share it this week for old times’ sake:

Haha. Gotta love Ross.

And from me this week:

When it’s time to hang up the super-mom cape (and put on pajamas),

and an older post which got a lot of love this week: On raising beautiful girls.

Also, I’m giving away a copy of the gorgeous new NIV Bible for Women (which includes devotions from yours truly – EEEK!) You can enter up to four times, and entries close Wednesday. Best of luck.


Pick of the Clicks 6/6/2015

Bronlea Pick of the Clicks

WOW, there are some game-changer reads in this week’s line-up.

Ready? Set? GO!

Abigail Rine’s essay What is Marriage to Evangelical Millenials? raised some really excellent questions about the presumptions people bring to discussions about marriage (particularly why we marry at all). Do not miss, on this topic, Matthew Lee Anderson’s Why I Am Opposed To Gay Marriage: a masterfully written and very thought-provoking treatment on the place of eros in marriage. Anderson covers why we marry, why the sexual chemistry factor (eros) matters, how it calls us to faithfulness, and how a beautiful and true vision of marriage (the “I will always love you” kind, with eros being a feature throughout) affects the way we conduct all our conversations. It’s a lengthy essay but well worth your time. Even if you don’t want to read the application to same-sex relationships: READ SECTIONS 1-4 on love, sex and marriage.

Sheryl Sandberg’s tribute to her husband, Dave, who died tragically last month, and to the community who are standing with her as she wades through grief and love is profound and profoundly beautiful:

“Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay but acknowledging that it is not.”

Edward Schlosser (a pseudonymous name) wrote an eye-opening piece from his perspective as a liberal college professor, who has become terrified of his liberal students. This piece is worth reading not just by college students and educators, but for all who engage in online discussion, because he writes about the changing culture of the “politics of personal testimony, in which the feelings of individuals are the primary or even exclusive means through which social issues are understood and discussed.”  I am not a college student, but I can see patterns of what Schlosser describes on the internet: people presenting challenging ideas are increasingly viewed as threatening people.

It’s not just that students refuse to countenance uncomfortable ideas – they refuse to engage them, period.

Steve McAlpine’s observations on Stage Two Exile in Western Christianity are worth reading if you have read, grieved, brainstormed or prayed over how we can “do church” better in the world in which we live. To set the context, he describes “Stage One Exile” this way:

Cafes were taken over for morning conversations between up and coming exilic leaders; pubs were used for exilic church; MacBooks were bought in bulk; and emerging/missional trailblazers employed coffee quality as a spiritual boundary marker, with a zeal that would have made any adherent of Second Temple Judaism weep with recognition.

In Exile Stage One the prevailing narrative was that the Christian church was being marginalised, Christendom was over, the church needed to come up with better strategies to strip away the dross, and all of this in order to reconnect Jesus with a lost world.

This article is peppered with wisdom, laugh-out-loud tongue in cheek, and some really deep-thinking observations with massive implications for our approach to church and engaging in culture.

Alastair Roberts kicked off this week’s discussion of the Saltshaker blog with a conversation about The Eternal Subordination of the Son, Social Triniarianism and Ectypal Theology. Yes, I know: the title is terrifying, and yes, I know: Alastair is incredibly clever and it is intimidating to read things like this. BUT…. this post is fascinating because it summarizes a critique of theology which is based on the supposed nature of relationships within the Trinity and then seeks to apply them in human relationship (e.g. The trinity live in community, so we should too, or the Father is a King-figure, so healthy communities should have a King, or—in the case of the gender discussions—the Son submits to the authority of the Father, so women should submit to men because this “reflects the Godhead”.) I’ve heard a myriad arguments based on this kind of thinking before, and this article blew a hole in it for me. I’m still processing.

I loved this story of 5th grade boys who spotted bullying and took action.

This is fascinating: a ground-breaking study where they have found a missing link between the brain and immune systems – a finding which has HUGE implications for conditions such as MS, Alzheimers, and even autism.

“In a stunning discovery that overturns decades of textbook teaching, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have determined that the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist.”

Scott Saul’s essay on The Most Honest People In The World, And Why We Need Them was a refreshing and needed read (hint: it’s children.)

Micha Boyett’s reflections on pregnancy are poignant and important: ‘As Long as the Baby’s Healthy’… But What If He’s Not? No matter what, we need to be prepared to receive the children God gives us. I just love Micha’s heart and her writing.

The Narrowback Slacker’s thoughts on How I limited screen time by offering my kids unlimited screen time is DEFINITELY something I plan to consider with our kids in the years to come.

This guy is crocheting food-shaped hats: both random and hilarious.

This delighted my LEGO-loving children no end:

And, I have to post this Dear 16-year Old Me video. I am crazy obsessive about this. So important:

From me this week?

I have a post over at the wonderful SheLoves magazine on the Surprising Wisdom of Ants:

If you had told me 25 years ago that I would one day order a package of ants in the mail, I would have laughed in disbelief.

But I did not know, 25 years ago, that there were such things as ant farms: miniature terrariums where you could observe a colony making their subterranean labyrinths. I did not know, 25 years ago, that I would have two small boys with an irrepressible love of multi-legged creatures.

How could I have known that, late one night—bundled under blankets and bulky expectations for the perfect “boy” birthday—I would click “buy now” for an online order of a space-age looking ant farm, and one small vial of harvester ants? (read the rest here)

I shared some thoughts on Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce Jenner), gender reassignment surgery and how we respond here, if you’re interested.

And on the blog: a tribute to two of the most inspiring students I’ve ever worked with (and to you, the invisible hero in our midst).

Thanks for reading!

Photo Credit: Seven Pegs, by Anders Adermark (Flickr Creative Commons)

Celebrating The Chutzpah of Crazy Jewish Moms

Confession: following Crazy Jewish Mom on Instagram is one of my social media guilty pleasures.

Kate Seigel created the account just a few months ago, and already has nearly half a million followers. On it, Kate shares “daily posts of actual texts with my neurotic, Jewish mother,” screen shots of her Mom’s hysterical (in both senses of the word) concerns about Kate’s safety (she lives in Brooklyn), her weight (hit the gym already), and most frequently, about Kate’s PROSPECTS.


Despite the fact that Kate has a job (she works as an associate producer at Conde Naste) and has a boyfriend (Superjew), her Crazy Jewish Mom is relentless in her zeal to see Kate married to a Jewish guy with Money Prospects; preferably a doctor. So she can have babies. Stat. Because, at 25, Kate’s eggs are catapulting towards their expiry date and She. Wants. Grandchildren.




My husband caught me wheezing with laughter late one night, and asked what was going on. I showed him the Crazy Jewish Mom account, which he immediately ruled out as being a fake. Surely no-one could be that crazy? But Spiegel insists that the texts are legit, and Heavy recently ran an expose on the mother’s identity.

I’ll admit that Crazy Jewish Mom’s texts seem alarmingly Over The Top: I can’t imagine my own Mom ever sending me anything in the same vein, but as I’ve been thinking over Crazy Jewish Mom, I’m reminded that what this Crazy Mama wants is remarkably recognizable: she wants her child to marry well and have children. She wants her to be safe. And if she has to call up her Crazy Side to make it happen, she’s willing to do it.

Crazy Jewish Mom may be a one of a kind Instagram sensation, but she is one in a very long line of sensational Jewish moms whose behavior may have seemed crazy at the time, but was borne out of love. One of the first Jewish moms in history, Rebekah, pioneered the path of crazy mama-bearness as she orchestrated for her favored son Jacob to receive his father’s deathbed blessing rather than his brother. The deception involved tricking a hearty stew and dressing smooth-skinned Jacob in goat’s fleece, so that their near-blind father would mistake him for his significantly hairier sibling. “Obey me,” hustled Rebekah, “so that he may bless you before his death,” (v10), and when Jacob protests she accepts full responsibility: “your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go.” (v13)

Anything, anything, to secure a blessed future for her darling boy.

Just a few generations later, Tamar worked up a highly sketchy plan when her Father-in-law, Judah, reneged on his promise to give her, a widow twice over, a third son by whom she could bear children and continue the family line. Knowing that Judah had no intention of giving her a Sperminator, she took matters into her own hands and stationed herself dressed as a prostitute along one of Judah’s trade routes. (She may as well have been following CJM’s advice: No ring on finger? Do not linger!)

Not recognizing her, Tamar’s Father-in-law propositioned her, and she secured his signet ring and staff as a downpayment for the fee which he promised later. Months went by, and Judah heard that his widowed daughter-in-law was pregnant (SCANDAL!), and sent for her to be stoned to death for her infidelity. Instead, she sent a note. With a signet ring and staff. “Remember these?” was the message.

Judah’s verdict on the situation is stunning: “She is more righteous than I,” he concludes (v26). He knew he owed her a family, and had failed to do so. And so, Tamar too, joined the ranks of famous Crazy Jewish Mamas, giving birth to twins by Judah.

I don’t think a discussion of Crazy Jewish Moms would be respectable unless we also made mention of Naomi, the Crazy Jewish Mother-in-Law, who herself showed something of a flare for the dramatic: “Don’t call me Naomi (which means pleasant)!” she cries in her grief. “Call me Mara (which means bitter), because the Almighty has made me bitter.” I’m so sad I’m changing my name.

However, her screaming soon gives way to scheming, and when Ruth providentially finds herself scouring a neighbors field for left-over food, Naomi is quick to point out that this neighbor is in a position to be more than a little neighborly towards them, as he is in fact Boaz: a relative who can bail them out of their situation. This, then, is the plan she suggests to guileless Ruth: take a bath, dress up fancy, put on perfume, and then wait until after the work party when Boaz is sleepy and full of wine and passes out on a pile of wheat on the threshing floor. Then sneak up to him in the dark, and uncover his feet (and here, read Jewish for “feet”, which means “nether regions”). When he wakes up, coaches Naomi, he’ll tell you what to do.

I’ll bet.

Crazy. Jewish. Mom.

Each of them careful, clever, and risking all to secure the best future for their children. Each of them wanting their children to receive the full blessings of Abraham’s promises.

Jesus had some crazy Jewish grandmothers: Rebekah, Tamar and Naomi’s schemes all gave them featured spots in the Messiah’s genealogy. And so it seems to me that there’s something innately blessed about that heritage of Crazy Jewish Moms: seeking the best for their children, and God being able to redeem the crazy in surprisingly wonderful ways.

Of course, not all ambitious moms were so honored. Samuel and Kings tell of a host of crazy Jewish moms who hatched EVIL plots to bump off contesters for the throne so that their sons might be king (I suppose these days, if you substitute “Cornell Plastic Surgeon” for “King” you might see some parallels), and Jesus himself had that famous conversation with James and John’s mom who came over to quietly negotiate a “spot in glory on his right and his left” for her two boys.

Maternal ambition doesn’t get a free pass on the crazy.

But I do think God knows that Moms have a soft spot for doing what we can to see that our children have every opportunity, and miss no blessing. And I am mindful that, on this side of history where the blessings of Abraham have been fulfilled in Jesus and are passed down to all those who are of his “seed” by faith, that wheedling to make sure our kids are best positioned for a full life remains part of my job as a Mom.

Of course, that has nothing to do with introducing them to a man with an Ivy League education, and everything to do with introducing them to Jesus. Even if that means crazy things like reading them the same book at bedtime year after year after year, being nosy about who they date, and insisting that they go to church.

Because I want them to have the very best prospects for the future, I’m embracing a little Crazy Jewish Mom in me, too.


The Sniff Test

Who knew parenting would smell so bad?

Of all the indignities which are visited on us by motherhood, I vote that the sniff test is the worst.

You know: that horrid and humiliating practice we moms have of putting our noses way up close to the most gut-lurchingly awful things in order to correctly diagnose a predicament.

I have become one of those people. 

I remember being pregnant with my eldest and attending a baby shower where one of the ice-breaker games involved a number of diapers with various types of chocolate smeared inside them. Bending low, we took deep sniffs and giggled as we scribbled: “milky way”, “reeses”, “junior mints”. Imagine eating that, we thought. Hardy har har.

My newborn smelled nothing like that chocolatey mess. Her head was pure heaven: baby and angel and natural and breathtaking. I sniffed her head like a hormone-addled addict. I tried not to think about where she’d just come from and why she might smell so good… but there was just nothing like the smell of her newborn head.

Input leads to output, as the lactation consultant euphemistically quipped, and pretty soon our sweet-smelling newborn was producing plenty of regular ‘output’. I took mental notes watching my adept-with-infants mom whose babies had all used cloth diapers: to check if a baby was wet, she would hold the baby up to her chest and gently feel inside the leg hold of the diaper to check the moisture level. Was baby wet? Yes? Grandma was quick to supply a dry outfit.

I followed my mom’s trick once, twice, three times. With the “stay dry” diaper technology, my baby always seemed dry enough. And then there was that paradigm-shifting fourth time – when I reached my finger into her little diaper to check for wetness, and was met with an immediate and sickening squelch. I pulled a bright yellow finger out, yowling for SOMEBODY TO GET ME A WIPE!

That was the day I started the sniff test.

It was cumbersome to get a winter-born baby sufficiently unbundled to see what was happening in their diaper, and far too dangerous to feel  what was going on down there – so I became one of those people I had always silently judged for their Public Acts of Grossness. When I suspected that there was some output activity (<— see how tactful that was?), I would lift my baby high in the air and press my nose to her cushy tush. Relying on the science of olfactory sensitivity – it never took long to diagnose disaster.

Quick. Clean. Efficient. And still: totally gross.

I think what surprises me, though, is that seven years later, I am still doing the sniff test, and it just gets grosser. 

Has this shirt been worn? (Let me smell)

Have these underpants been worn? (Let me smell)

What are you drinking? (Let me smell)

Did you make it to the potty on time or did you drip just enough to make you smell like a truckstop urinal? (Let me smell)

How long have you had milk in that cup? (Let me smell)

“Oh…. that’s what that smell is. Let Mommy get that moldy apple/old yogurt/soiled pair of shorts/dead mouse out of here…”

Ew. ew. ew.

Parenting is not for the faint of heart. A friend and I were lamenting recently that we preferred the old Bible translations renditions of ‘patience’ as ‘long-suffering’ – because at least the latter admitted that what we were enduring was both suffering, and it was taking loooong. Parenting requires long-suffering. And encouragement. And a sense of humor. And lots of deep breaths.

Just don’t make them too deep.


48 Tips from the World’s Worst Potty Trainer (A Cautionary Tale)


Did you know I am the Worst Potty Trainer In The World? With an average toilet training time of 22 months/child, I dare you to challenge my title. I’m a firm believer of learning from others’ mistakes, so as someone who has made every possible mistake in potty training, I thought I’d share them with you as a cautionary tale.

Follow closely. Each step is important.

  1. Read widely before you begin. Create a Pinterest board and title it “Potty Training Tips”. Knowledge of the options is crucial for success.  
  2. Start when they are infants – practice ‘elimination communication’, whereby you learn to read (and anticipate) your kid’s body cues. (I was dead in the water on this one, since I never even managed to tell the difference between a tired cry or a hungry cry. It all just sounded like crying to me.)
  3. Start with they are 18 months: walking, communicating, and showing an interest in imitating you. Do not wait: it will be harder later.
  4. Start with they are 2 1/2, when they have better language and body awareness. Do not start before this: you will stress them out.
  5. Start with they are 3 1/2, when they can remove their own shorts and the threat of never being able to go to preschool forces you into panic. Do not start before this: you will stress them out.
  6. Take your cue from your child. They will tell you when they are ready.
  7. Post your decision on when to potty train on Facebook. Solicit dozens of unwanted opinions.
  8. You can potty train in one day if you do it right (notice: it’s all on you.) Prepare for the day with books, training DVDs and lots of exaggerated facial movements about the thrills of going potty. Have them train their teddy bear first. Then, on one day: banish the underwear and hold potty boot camp. Be persistent. They’ll get it by the end of the day…. if you did it right.
  9. Potty train in three days. Choose a weekend when you are not distracted and have your kiddo be nakey nakey all weekend. Involve all the stuffed animals and siblings in the Great Weekend of Potty Training. Be persistent. They’ll get it by the end of the weekend… if you did it right.
  10. Potty train when they’re ready. You’ll know when they’re ready because it will work. This makes complete sense… if you read the literature right.
  11. Let them run wild and free while training.
  12. Have them wear pull-ups while training.
  13. Let the diapers continue while training.
  14. Big-kid underwear from the get-go! The pride of getting it right as a “big kid” is a powerful motivator!
  15. Don’t be afraid to let them go back into diapers: what’s another couple hundred of trees in the landfill?
  16. Be persistent! Once you’re doing this, you’re doing this! If you communicate that regression is an option, your kid will turn it into power play.
  17. Be flexible! If your kid isn’t ready, listen and try again later.
  18. Bribery is brilliant: offer a treat for each successful tinkle. If you’re feeling extra motivated, offer two treats for number twos. The logic is lost on kids, but makes total sense to the one who has to wash out soiled underwear.
  19. Avoid bribery: it will be hard to undo the sugar-reward habit later.
  20. Use stickers instead.
  21. Don’t use stickers – they stick them on furniture.
  22. Star charts are awesome motivators.
  23. Except when they aren’t. For us, this is about day 3.
  24. Do whatever it takes: read books or sing songs or let them play with the iPad to keep them on there long enough for a “win” while they’re busy.
  25. Beware: kids are smart. All of mine figured out how to turn “I need to go potty” into a gratuitous story-reading time, without ever producing the “deliverables”.
  26. Let them watch potty training DVD’s. This does not count as ‘screen time’ because #educational.
  27. Make up a potty cheer. “Happy pee on the potty to you” (to the tone of ‘Happy Birthday’) is good in a pinch.
  28. Be prepared to have to sing your cheer of choice, at volume, in public places. Prepare to have to sing it more than once.
  29. Post your decisions on how to potty train to Facebook. Solicit dozens of unwanted opinions. As an Imgurian over 30 this is how I feel when I read
  30. Start potty training in the summer, so they can practice outside.
  31. Start potty training in the winter, when you’re cooped up anyway.
  32. Important: start potty training when YOU are ready to tackle it.
  33. MOST important: start potty training when your CHILD is ready to tackle it.
  34. Invest in a potty chair, and think carefully about what kind of ceremonial ritual you will devise to celebrate its arrival in1B5548278-tdy-130116-ipotty-1.blocks_desktop_smallto your house. If the literature is to be believed, the success of potty training is causally related to how much hoopla you can raise about a kid getting their VERY OWN mini-throne. If you get one with a built in DVD, all the more power to you (see #26).
  35. Don’t bother with a potty chair: invest in a step stool and have them sit on the main throne. They will feel more grown-up and it will make it easier to transition to public restrooms.
  36. Teach boys to pee sitting down: so much less mess.
  37. Teach boys to pee standing up: aiming for cheerios is such a great incentive.
  38. Figure out as a couple whether you are going for sitting-down or standing-up before you engage in Operation Potty Train. In my experience, those who have to clean the bathroom usually opt for #36. Dads usually opt for #37. (Because it’s so much fun to demo. And apparently some things never get old.)
  39. Make potty training fun! Hype it up as a coming of age thing!
  40. Make potty training just “one of the things you learn to do” – the less hype there is, the less pressure there is on the kid to perform, and the less power play leverage you give them.
  41. If things aren’t going well: keep reading widely and pinning madly to research other best methods. Pin this. You may need it if all the other advice from those who succeeded doesnt pan out and you need to know that you weren’t the worst potty trainer in the world.
  42. If someone says their method worked for them, it must have some merit to it. Keep a tally of how guilty you feel each time there’s an accident: that accident probably means you were doing it wrong.
  43. Try not to feel guilty, though. It’s not about you.
  44. If your plan isn’t working: try something new, or try some other time.
  45. But WHATEVER YOU DO: be consistent!
  46. No matter what kind of diapers you chose, for potty training make sure you invest in 3-fold cloth diapers: they are by FAR the most absorbent cloths for cleaning up spills. There is no paper towel which is worthy for this trial. None. Bounty, be gone.
  47. Ask for hugs. For you, not your kid. Potty training is hard and demoralizing and sometimes makes you feel you have an angry, panicked, crazy person living in your head.
  48. Ignore all this advice, except for #46 and #47.

Trust me.

And now, I’m going to print out my list and study it closely (see tip #1), because it seems to me my third kid is about ready to jump onto the potty training wagon, which means I’m bracing myself for another 22 months of insanity…

The Blogger’s Husband (and other naming dilemmas)

So, here’s a question: how should I refer to my husband online?

Some of the bloggers I read have invited me right into their homes and introduced us to their family by name: Rachel Held Evans has her Dan (Go, Team Dan and Rachel!) Kristen Howerton has a feisty daughter named India: I would recognize her spunk at 100 paces, even if she wasn’t wearing rompers. Ashleigh Slater goes with Ted. Glennon Melton has her Craig, Chase, Tish and Amma. And I know Jen Hatmaker has Brendon, Remy, Sydney, Gavin, Ben and another kid whose name I don’t know so they must be either very private or very boring (who am I kidding: clearly the answer is private. Boring is not an option if you are a Hatmaker.)

Others are more cryptic. I know Sarah Bessey has an “Anne with an -e” (of course!), but usually she calls them her ‘tinies’. Parenting forums use the ubiquitous “DH” for “darling husband”, which I find more than a little cheesy. My friend Jen opted for MOTH: the Man of the House – sheer genius!  My friend Cara calls her beloved “HBH”, Hot Black Husband, a most awesome combination of privacy and flattery.

I am choosing the more private route. While I am willing to bare my own soul on this blog, my husband would rather have root canal than talk about his feelings. His trust has been long-won, and I work hard to walk the line between being honest about my life while not sharing about his. My children are in the same boat.  So while they do make appearances, I don’t post pictures of their faces or their names on this blog. But what, then, to call them? And in particular, what to call my husband?

Ann Voskamp loves her Farmer. And Ree Drummond has MarlboroMan (and honestly – who can not vicariously love a man like that?) But my husband is not a Man of the Earth, who spends his days doing manly things in manly ways, sweating manly sweat and wiping his brow on his rugged plaid shirtsleeves. He is an engineer, and an excellent one at that. But I can’t call him The Engineer. It’s altogether too Dilbert-like, and I ain’t anyone’s pointy haired woman.

And so, I call him “my husband”. Accurate, but not exactly catchy or endearing.

So I’m wondering: Do you have any suggestions? How would YOU refer to your family?


The Sad Tale of the Jetlagged Tooth Fairy


My firstborn’s first tooth started to get wiggly a few months back. Even though she is one of the older kids in her class, she was one of the last to achieve Wiggly Tooth Status – and so her excitement at having a tooth starting to loosen its grip can hardly be described. She is, however, not one for risk or discomfort, and after her first bite of an apple with the said wiggly tooth, she declared that it felt too weird and that she would foreswear apples until the tooth made its graceful exit in its own sweet time.

The tooth chose a rainy summer’s day in the Netherlands to break free. After a thrilling day at a kids’ wonderland, losing her first tooth at dinner was the most magical way to end a perfectly magical day. I was exhausted and had no more mommy-energy left: so I chickened out of dealing with the liberated tooth and, after singing and dancing the required celebratory dances with her, also told her that we would keep her tooth for the American tooth fairy, since she doesn’t work in Europe (who knows what the Europeans do with felled teeth? After all, they have enigmatic characters like Zwart Piet at Christmas time!?) She bought it, and went to sleep with a sweet, gap-toothed smile on her face.

The next week saw us in Belgium, when a second tooth decided to wiggle free. We danced and celebrated, and put the tooth away carefully to take home for the American Tooth Fairy.

The next week we were in France for a day, and I helpfully volunteered to knock one of her teeth out myself so that she could lose one in every country. This would make her someone quite unique, I explained: to be the kid who lost her first four teeth in four different countries. She glared at me reproachfully. Clearly, I was not Respecting The Process.

Fastforward to this past week, when my three little ones and I hopped on a plane in Europe shortly after breakfast, and traveled for 22 hours continuously, chasing the sunset. We arrived just after sunset on the same day. It was literally the longest day ever. I collapsed, exhausted, into my husband’s arms at the airport, and handed over the motley crue of screaming, exhausted children. We fell into bed, and slept like the dead…

…until 4am, when that evil travel companion Jetlag crowed louder than the most obnoxious rooster and woke all my exhausted children one by bleary-eyed one.

We ploughed through the day. I fell asleep on the couch by 6pm, and my hubby put the kids to bed. Some time around 2am, Jetlag crowed again, and thus began another night of Musical Beds. The baby in with us. The baby back in his bed. The preschooler in with us. Me in the guest room. The oldest in the guest room. The preschooler back in his own bed. The oldest back to her bed. Me back to bed. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

Somewhere around 3:30am, I took my son – who was whining on repeat IcantsleepisitdayyetcanIwatchashow? – down to the kitchen and set a glass of warm milk before him. “My mom gave me this when I was a kid,” I coaxed. “It always helped me sleep.” In hindsight, I should have laced it with Benadryl.

Twenty minutes later, my eldest stirred while I was tucking the boy back into bed. “Go to sleep,” I whispered. “It’s a long time til morning still.”

As I closed their door behind me, I met my husband’s groggy face on the landing. He mumbled at me, and it took two or three repeats before I decoded his whisper: “The tooth fairy. The tooth fairy. We need to do something about the tooth fairy. She put her teeth in the fairy tooth pot, and we haven’t done anything about it yet.”

Let me confess that I thought very ugly thoughts in that moment. “But she’s awake!” I protested, pushing my way past him towards the bed. “I can’t do anything about it now. We can deal with it before she wakes up.”

But Mommy Guilt is a cruel insomniac, and a few minutes later I was awake and at her bedside. “Would you also like some warm milk?” I asked, stroking her head with one hand while my other surreptitiously scooted the tooth box into the fold of my pajamas. Amazingly, she agreed. Downstairs, I warmed her milk while I found somewhere to stash the teeth and groped around my purse, trying to weed out American money amidst the European notes.

“Here you go, sweetheart,” I whispered – helping her sit up to drink her milk and sliding the tooth jar and the cash stash into place. She drank her milk and curled up dreamily on her pillow. I allowed myself a victorious mommy fist-pump as I left the room.

Not so fast, Gloating Mama.

Moments later, she was shouting. “My teeth are gone! My teeth are gone! Where are they?” We ran into her room to find her distraught. The tooth jar was empty, and there was no money to be found. I smirked in the darkness: “well, honey – sometimes the tooth fairy doesn’t leave the money in the jar. Sometimes its under the bed or the pillow. Why don’t you try looking there?” Seconds later, she was beaming as she retrieved her greenbacks and counted out her good fortune. Kisses were kissed, goodnights re-said, and heads re-settled on pillows.

Not so fast, Relieved Mama.

A few minutes later, a heartbroken wail arose from the room. I dragged myself into their room, and found my daughter keening at her bedside. The wailing had roused my husband and the littlest, who had trotted through and was trying to soothe his sad sister with gentle pats on the had, which she found neither soothing nor gentle. “I want my teeth back!” she cried. “I wasn’t ready for them to go: I was excited to have them for just a few more days! I want them back! Can you get them back? I just wasn’t ready.”

She turned to her Daddy and asked if he could get them back: “I don’t know where they’ve gone,” she wailed, “because fairies aren’t real anyway and there isn’t any magic – so I don’t understand where they’ve gone and I just want them back!”

I breathed in deep. What should we say? We have chosen to tell our children the stories of Santa and the Easter Bunny rather than sell them as fact – and somehow the Tooth Fairy myth had launched her presence into our lives without much forethought. And yet: it was 3am and we were jetlagged and this was our first experience with kids losing teeth – but all three of them were awake and listening for an answer. So what to do? Kill the Tooth Fairy on her maiden voyage? At 3am?

I searched for my husband’s eyes for a cue on how to answer, but his face was buried in her hair, whispering Daddy words of comfort. I sighed and whispered my answer over his shoulder: “you’re right. Fairies aren’t real, but we really do love stories about them. We love the story of the tooth fairy, but Mommy has your teeth.”

The wailing stopped. She blinked at me. “Really?”

“Yes, really.”

She climbed into my lap, whispering thankyou and youcankeepthemoney and thankyou again and again. We laid her down, settled the boys, and said our goodnights.

Goodnight room

Goodnight moon

Goodnight cow jumping over the moon

Goodnight light and the red balloon

Goodnight bears, goodnight chairs

Goodnight kittens, and goodnight mittens

Goodnight clocks and goodnight socks

Goodnight stars

Goodnight air

Goodnight noises everywhere

Good night children.

And goodbye Tooth Fairy.


When a Wounded Unicorn Goes Shopping

Unicorn shopping

Unfair. That’s what it is.

The skin malady of the teen years is acne: those years of blackheads and pock-marked pustules which scream one’s hormonal changes to the the world. And the skin malady of the aged years is wrinkles: the years of crows feet and feathering and (if you’ve lived well), laugh lines.

But here I am, on the business end of my 30s, looking in the mirror and horrified to see BOTH my fair share of wrinkles AS WELL AS a colossus of a pimple on my forehead. And I just wanted to say: it’s not fair. I expected to trade my youthful slender and stay-up-all-night energy (with its acne) for the older, softer body-after-kids (with its wrinkles). To be lumped with both the valleys of wrinkles AND the mountains of peaks of pimples feels a bit like paying double taxes.

Thanks to my grandmothers’ particularly fair genetic skin type, I also have a good sprinkling of moles and nearly forty (40!!) soft, pink scar lines where doctors have decided that some of those moles were wholly unholy and cut a holey in me to excise the risk. So there’s that. The moles and the scars and the laugh lines (yay!) and the wrinkles. But the pimple is just unfair. And it’s the type I haven’t had for a while: the type that’s so inflamed it hurts when I raise my eyebrows in surprise. This morning I will brave the grocery store, taking care when I round the aisle corners not to bash into anyone with my cart or my inflamed unicorn horn. Shoppers, beware.

Of course, this is not the first time I’ve grappled with feelings of betrayal as I’m getting older. My hair is greying too, and so my daily jaunt to the mirror also raises the question “to dye or not to dye?” These were not the 50 shades of grey I had hoped for.

As always, this requires a little self-directed pep-talk before heading out the door. For if nothing else, becoming a Mom has taught me that my body is not just for looking at, it’s for living in. To despise it for not “looking right” is to dishonor a great gift. As such, it is worth ten seconds of my time to check my inner critic and give myself a different script. My face is fearfully and wonderfully made, and my skin is doing its job exactly: providing a flexible, waterproof, self-renewing shield between the germs out-there and my organs in-there. My wrinkly face will wrinkle in laughter today. My moley skin will provide entertainment for my toddler who likes to count the “dots”. My ageing hands will caress little faces.

And, thanks to a sense of humor and a mental picture of a unicorn, my giant pimple will make me laugh this morning as I turn around corners at the grocery aisle.

“Attention all shoppers! Attention all shoppers! There’s a wounded unicorn in aisle 4….”