Kiss and Tell

To some kids, being affectionate comes easily. Maddux, for instance, has been saying “I love you” since forever. And once Thomas mastered the high-five, he moved on to blowing kisses.

James, on the other hand, has been reluctant to come around. He was nearly 3 before he uttered the phrase “I love you” for the first time, and until last month, I was pretty sure he would never kiss anyone without a gun pressed to his temple.

But one night, as I was leaving his room after tucking him in, James proclaimed with a big smile, “Mommy, I give you kiss!”

Well, far be it from me to pass up this once-in-a-lifetime offer! I knelt down obligingly for a sloppy kiddo kiss.

Now, most kids will just pucker up and kiss their parents. But James is very meticulous about the whole thing. With his lips extended for maximum drooly contact, he roots around on my cheek for the perfect place to plant a wet one, breathing hotly in my ear all the while. Sometimes he unpuckers and re-puckers his lips just to make sure they’re in firing position.

Finally, once he has found the exact center of my cheek, he opens his mouth, checks it with his tongue just to make sure he’s right (this takes approximately 3 to 5 seconds, accompanied by yet more heavy breathing), and then, after all of this drooling and hot breath, he pulls his lips AWAY from the target cheek and makes a kissing noise in the air.

After this several-minute process, he is then ready to kiss the other cheek. (And heaven forbid that the kiss or his bedtime routine in general is interrupted — that requires that the whole process begin afresh.)

A few days into my now-nightly kiss routine with James, I noticed that while he was searching my cheek for the perfect place to lay a smooch on it, he was whispering something very quietly under his breath. Not wanting to jinx my new sloppy-goodnight-kiss routine, I didn’t ask my son what he was whispering.

Days turned into weeks. James was now asking for stories and new songs in addition to his insistence on covering my face in slobber and toothpaste-sweet baby breath. And still, I couldn’t quite make out his whispers.

Finally, tonight, he leaned toward me with sparking eyes and grabbed either side of my face with a chubby little hand.

“Come here, Mommy,” James smiled. “I kiss your little tongue.”

“You’re going to kiss my cheek?” (James is still a little confused about all the different parts of the face.)

“Yes,” James corrected himself. “I kiss your little chin.”

And then, as he leaned toward me, warm breath whispering those mysterious nothings once more as his drooly little mouth grazed my cheek, I just barely made out the words, “I don’t bite Mommy’s ears off.”

So maybe I can’t count on James to remind me constantly that he loves me, or to blow me kisses. But at least I can rest assured that he won’t be gnawing off my face, either. And I can’t say I’ve received that promise from the other two


Last September, on the first day we brought Maddux to preschool, James refused to enter the door. You see, the last time we had visited the school, he’d been sitting in his stroller. So, naturally, it was to be assumed that if his feet touched the floor inside the school, they would disintegrate.

For a week, James would scream at the entrance to the school until he was carried across the threshold, and would persist with such vigor that he drained his sinuses and tear ducts in 5 minutes flat. After a week, he obliged me by dragging his feet very reluctantly into the school, but would wait anxiously outside the classroom — as if it were filled with high explosives — while I got his sister situated. Then he ran for the exit as fast as his little feet would carry him until, outside the school, he gulped in lungful after heaving lungful of freedom.

Finally, sometime approaching November, he decided it was safe to enter the classroom as long as he hovered in the doorway, ready to bolt at the first sign of … whatever. (The catalyst behind his shrieking dashes to freedom usually was a request by Maddux’ teacher for a handshake.)

But as weeks turned to months and months turned to seasons, James began venturing farther into the classroom and closer to the teacher. After a few holiday parties, he decided that perhaps the classroom floor was NOT covered in hot lava, after all. And sometimes, with a bit of prompting, he even agreed to shake hands with the teacher.

For a few months now, James has been prattling away about how he’s going to go to preschool and eat cheddar bunnies and play on the playground with Gabriella (an effervescent little girl who relentlessly chases and kisses him). All that stood in his way was potty training, which we did over spring break.

I will admit, in light of his previous track record of school-related freakouts, that I was a little nervous about his first day. Would he hit the teacher when she tried to guide his hand at name-writing time? Would he shake hands, or run away? Would he follow any classroom rules at all?

The preschool day started with an inauspicious tantrum. Those who know James are well aware that he will scream until his nose bleeds if he is made to wear a coat, even at -20. And I believe we’ve covered what happens when he has to try on new pants. So, think tornado siren, and triple the noise. Think 18-month-old at vaccinations, and triple the tears and snot. Throw in some kicking and flailing. That is how James felt about his school clothes.

“OK, Maddux, we’re going to school now,” I said casually. “James has decided to stay home with me and baby Thomas and have a nap.”

Still screaming, and streaming snot and tears, and trying to wrench his clothing off, James wailed, “I NOT STAY HOME. I go school and play on the big playground!”

All right, then.

A daycare helper held Thomas as I strong-armed James into his carseat and gave him a Wet One to wipe his snot, and away we went. Did I mention this tantrum occurred at the gym? Those daycare girls are saints!

Luckily, the tragedy of new clothing was swiftly forgotten (well, 45 minutes and two car rides later) and by the time we alighted from the SUV, James was trotting at top speed toward the entrance. With just a minor stop for a quick picture of an impatient James, we raced to the preschool classroom, where James immediately filled his personalized mug with water and opened his much-anticipated snack.

At long last!

Alas, in his haste to enjoy his snack, James neglected to use the toilet. (If we’re going to be frank, it was not so much neglected as flatly and angrily rejected.) As I was observing snacktime, James shrieked: “I go pee-pee!”

And go pee-pee James certainly did. His clothes were drenched to the socks and shoes. There was nothing left to put in the toilet. Oh, well. You can’t spell “preschool” without “p,” right? So, 15 minutes into his first day of preschool, James was changed into his backup outfit of jeans and long-sleeve T-shirt.

He returned to his table — and immediately spilled a very full mug of water right down his front.

I asked James, now damp from chest to knees, whether we should leave.

“No, I stay and eat my bunnies!” he insisted bravely. “I play on the big playground!”

And so we stayed. He unrolled a mat and took down a basket of blocks. Since he was in his last change of clothes and they were already wet, I made sure he used the toilet every half-hour. In all the peeing and water-spilling, we hadn’t written his name out, but I wasn’t going to mention that to his teacher. Rectangle time would be challenge enough, I figured.

But apparently, I’d underestimated James. One of two other new kids, a very spirited European boy who sat next to James, was running and bouncing about during rectangle time while James, against all odds, sat mostly in his spot. Facing away from the teacher and everyone else, mind you — but hey. It’s James. I was just happy he wasn’t squealing like a pig at slaughter. He even turned around halfway through and started participating in the story (only in preschool would students be asked to periodically scream at the top of their lungs … which is why I am not a preschool teacher).

At the end of rectangle, all the kids sat in a line on the floor, waiting to be dismissed. James, as usual, needed a little more guidance than most, but sat behind his new friend after some prompting.

It was then, at 3:15 p.m. — by which time he has usually already been napping for an hour — that I tried to put James’ backpack on him.

He screamed as if I were trying to strap a dynamite vest to his body, miraculously hurdled over three children despite his usual lack of anything resembling coordination, and blazed out the door and down the hall. I caught up to him at the heavy double doors at the front of his school and prodded him back to the classroom, where he opted to wait outside until his sister was dismissed, casting a wary eye upon the offending backpack.

As the teacher said good-bye to all her students, James sweetly shook her hand.

And then he trotted proudly out the door, deeming his school day a resounding success. And I had to say, considering the beginning of the school year, I agree.

James shares a table with one of his favorite classmates, Maddux

Queen of the Castle

For the last two years, my almost-5-year-old daughter has gone through life thinking that she is a Real Princess, waiting for that magical day when a prince discovers her and is so overtaken by her beauty that he gives her the Kiss of True Love and spirits her off to her rightful home, which is (naturally) a gigantic, jewel-encrusted castle.

Here are but a few gems that my flaxen-haired little royal has uttered:

“Mommy, how is a Real Prince going to fall in love with me when I is only a child?” (spoken, of course, with the woe begotten melodrama of Cinderella right before she races off to the garden, flings herself on a stone bench and weeps her despairing little heart out)

“Mommy, I’m going to sleep in my wedding dress. That way, if a prince comes and throws rocks at my window, I can marry him right away.”

“Mommy, where can I find a prince who is only 4 years old like me? I need a young prince.”

“When I go to Disney Land, I’m going to ask Sleeping Beauty to see if her prince has any prince friends who will want to marry a little girl.”

“When I get married, I’m going to change my name, too. But only a little bit. I’m going to change it to Princess Maddux Phillips.”

So, you see what I’m working with here. A kid who wanted to be Pippi Longstocking or run away with a traveling Shakespearean troupe, I could deal with. I mean, I was expecting my kid to want to build a time machine or a moon rocket or even be a Russian double agent. These are all things I can work with. But what do you tell a kid who thinks that she’s going to become a princess at the age of 16?

When my stepdaughter was Maddi’s age and Maddi was a wee thing, we pronounced the occasional “Princess Day” — where we’d dress in our finest frippery and go do girlie things — to get some baby-free quality time. Of course, baby-free time is harder to come by when you have lots and LOTS of babies, so it took a few years before we were able to swing a Princess Day for Mads. But last Thursday was the day!

I asked her weeks ahead of time what she’d like to do. A tea party? Get our nails done? Make some personalized kiddie jewelry?

Apparently, what Princess Maddux wanted to do on her royal day was to crawl through tunnels and climb rope ladders at EnergyPlex. (Who knew?) And so it was decreed.

We spent the better part of two hours getting red-faced and plastered with perspiration in a human Habitrail with what seemed like 500 rotten 8-year-old boys (none of whom were princes) azithromycin online. Then we hit the mall — sweaty hair and clothes notwithstanding — for a trip to Claire’s for some princess loot and a kids’ hot chocolate at Starbucks.

I have to admit I was quite relieved that while Maddux has invested quite heavily in the princess-industrial complex’s gender myths and manufactured expectations, she can still enjoy some good tomboy fun. All is not lost!

At the end of the day, as I tucked her in, she flung herself on her bed with the characteristic princessy sigh and proclaimed, “Today was the best day ever, Mommy!”

And then she asked me for a story about her and Jack Skellington and an evil vampire, in which Jack tricks the vampire into going to the sun right before he bites Maddi’s neck, and she marries Jack Skellington, and he turns into a handsome prince.

Yep, that’s my girl.

The future Princess Maddux Phillips


There was a time when I enjoyed going to the mall. I would push my stroller through miles of air-conditioned, window-dressed bliss. No matter that my stroller didn’t fit in my favorite stores. No, it was treat enough to let my mind wander while my babies slept.

Then the babies got older. Old enough to get out of the stroller. Old enough to need to try on clothes. At risk of repeating myself, I now face a trip to the mall with about the same measure of delight as I might approach a shower at the Bates Motel.

But the kids need clothing every so often, and James generally needs plenty of advance warning before he is willing to wear new things. So, to the mall we went. Chris and I had agreed to go tomorrow, but while he was napping, I suddenly realized that I had plans tomorrow. (Had Chris been awake, sadly, he would have reminded me that these plans were for Thursday. Such is my life.) So, hurrying so as not to awaken Chris, and also because naptime for the children was fast approaching, I loaded the kids in the car and zoomed off to the mall. Leaving, in my garage, that extremely critical component in any trip to the mall: The stroller.

Ten minutes later, as I unloaded the children, I realized my mistake. In the horror movie that will be based on this post, some fictional character who is killed off early will interject, “It’s not too late to go back for the stroller!”

Sadly, there was no one present in real life to point out this fatal error in judgment, so into the mall we headed, the older children following me hand-in-hand, their preternatural cuteness foreshadowing our doom like one of those excessively sunny days on which, laughing and horsing about, ill-fated travelers head into Big Bad Nature in the aforementioned cinematic genre.

The failure to pack our trusty stroller was but the first in a series of ill-advised decisions in this most horrific of all mall debacles. At our particular mall, there are adorable little fire-truck strollers available for rent. However, because They Are Different From Ours, James refuses to ride in them without a screaming, snot-streaming, security-is-being-paged freakout, and therefore I did not opt to rent a mall stroller. Not a double stroller, for both boys, and tragically, not a single one for Thomas. (This is, perhaps, where the second ill-fated short-term character would have suggested that containing an 18-month-old while shopping might have been the smart thing to do.)

So, with my too-sweet big kids holding hands and (gigantic, increasingly heavy) toddler on a hip, I traversed about 50 meters through the mall to The Children’s Place, where thrifty mothers are guaranteed to find affordable navy slacks and white polos pretty much all year ’round. And indeed, there they were. Oh, it was almost too easy!

But I had to do it. I had to screw it all up by having James try things on. The third — and maybe stupidest — mistake of this complete horror show.

Now, if this had been Maddi at 3-and-change, she would have been delighted to strip down and dress up in an entire SERIES of outfits. All by herself, while I played with Thomas. She would then have insisted she try on and then purchase not only the selected articles, but everything else in sight. But James is not Maddi.

“James,” I began, as we headed for the fitting room, “We’re going to go try on your school pants to see whether you’re a 2 or a 3.”

“NO!” James screeched, unobligingly, eying the curtained room with caution.

“We will go into the change room and Mommy will take your jeans and shoes off. I will see how these pants look on you, and then you will get to wear your jeans and shoes again! It will be SO EASY!”

James glared.

“And THEN we will go to the PLAYGROUND!” I squealed in an amalgam of mock excitement and slight desperation.

“I NO WEAR DOZE PANTS!!!!!” James told the entire mall, and flung himself dramatically to the floor. I wanted to sink into the floor only the slightest bit at this point, because this is by no means the first time he has had a psychotic break in public.

“James,” I said faux-calmly, holding a wriggling Thomas in one arm while dragging my other son quickly behind the curtain by his armpits with my other, “This is not optional. You have to try on your pants so you can go to school with Maddux. If you let Mommy put these pants on you, you can go to the playground. Otherwise, you will go right home for a nap.”

“I no wear pants! I no go school! I no nap! I go playground!” James screamed at a volume that approached shattering The Children’s Place’s windows. He flailed and kicked as though he were fighting off an invisible squad of ninjas. I glanced around for bouncers, but apparently The Children’s Place has not found a need for muscle. Yet.

I uttered such helpful advice as “We don’t scream in stores, James. You are hurting people’s ears,” but apparently James had hurt his own ears so severely that he was now deaf, because he just kept thrashing and shrieking at top volume.

At this point, I was finding my weather-appropriate corduroy jacket extremely hot, and Thomas had somehow escaped my grasp, leaving behind a shoe. Where WAS Thomas?

“Thomas!!!” I yelled (as much as one can yell in a store without actually yelling, because James doesn’t need any encouragement in ignoring the “indoor voice” rule).

“He ‘scapeded, Mommy!” Maddux told me, wide-eyed. I noticed that James had somehow managed to crumple the pants and throw them under the curtain. And beyond the bottom of the curtain, Thomas, cackling with glee, had crawled off into the infants’ section and was playing chicken with a double stroller. (Apparently, he found his antics so hilarious that his laughter rendered him completely incapable of walking.) Maddux raced off to carry Thomas back, while I struggled to stuff a simultaneously limp and thrashing 32-pound boy into pants he didn’t want to wear.

(This is where, in the horror movie, the girl would look into the camera, snot dribbling down her face, and intone, “I’m SO SCARED!”)

So, with Maddux playing catch-and-release with the baby, who has gotten a taste of freedom and decided to go Braveheart on us, I played my own game of tug-of-war with James’ legs, stuffing one into a pant leg only to find that the other leg had come out of its pant leg … ad nauseam. James was as hot and red and sweaty and crazy as Jack Nicholson in the last half of “The Shining” at this point, and was losing his voice from his voluble protestations of the offending slacks. Tags were torn. Stickers were removed. Shoes and shirts were thrown. Playground privileges were indefinitely revoked.

Oddly, not only were mall cops not cuffing us and removing us from the premises, but nary a store clerk had intervened. And I suddenly realized that this was a horror movie that moms of boys everywhere could have starred in themselves. And that the salespeople in children’s stores have become completely desensitized to the sweaty, ear-splitting, mucus-producing thrashfest that is dressing a little boy who really doesn’t like new clothes. Oh, the humanity!

Miraculously, after what felt like hours of wrestling and bribing and threatening and playground-revoking and looking around for Thomas, I somehow managed to pull the offending pants up over his bottom.

“Put your feet on the ground, James,” I said, and was answered by more wailing and furious airborne bike-pedaling. No matter. Once he got tired of pedaling the invisible bike, I quickly ascertained that a 3 was way, WAY too big.

So we grabbed a 2. The same size I would have purchased had I not had James along for the fitting, because that is what he currently wears (slightly short though it may be).

Utterly defeated both as a mom and a human being, I scooped up my errant baby, put his shoe back on, smoothed my hair back from my now-drenched forehead, gathered up my precious little duckies and headed to the counter with my head as high as the legendary awfulness of James’ very recent tantrum would allow.

Nobody glared at us, so I’m guessing they had already finished their mental “What a horrible boy! And what a mess that mom was! Here’s what I would have done …” dialogue and now viewed us merely as objects of pity. Or maybe they thought, as I’ve occasionally been lucky enough to have the opportunity to think — when confronted with such rare, egregious misbehavior that it trumps the crimes of my own children — “Better her than me!”

The only comment came from the clerk ringing us up, who glanced at a cherubic Thomas (smiling, no doubt, in recollection of his many glorious games of stroller chicken) and said, “Well, you seem a lot happier now!”

“That was actually the 3-year-old,” I confessed, dying ever so slightly within.

Of course, as soon as he was clad in his familiar clothing and I told him how disappointed I was that he had screamed and yelled in the store, James had said, in a soft voice, “Sorry, Mommy.”

The Scourge of the Mall had been tamed … for now. But as with any horror movie, there’s always room for a sequel.


Being a mom is slightly exhausting on a daily basis, but in case you are a sucker for punishment, there are a few things that really wear a mom down in a hurry. Chances are, if you’ve had a kid or two, you are thinking of a few examples already. A toddler cutting canines, for instance. The chaos and insanity of school breaks. And the mother of all nighttime-candy-binge triggers, potty training. Oh, I’m sorry. Potty training a boy.

So, with which of these nerve-wracking situations might I be dealing, you ask? Try all of them.

Yes, in my infinite wisdom, I decided it would be easiest to potty train my middle child during spring break, when our days would be lazier and more suited to hasty trips to the toilet. I realized, of course, that Maddux would be out of school and, unaccustomed to so much unstructured time in the middle of the day, she would probably invent new ways to amuse herself. Ways that involved dressing Thomas in doll clothes and taunting James by putting his favorite toys where he couldn’t reach them. What I didn’t realize was that my 18-month-old would be cutting four enormous, daggerlike eyeteeth while I was busy battling sibling rivalry and a mad carpet assassin.

Every day of this spring break has been a little bit like battling a horde of relentless robotic Kewpie dolls.

Here’s a little picture of yesterday, by the numbers:
50 — Gummi bears dispensed to pottyers and siblings of pottyers
12 — Time-outs given
8-10 — Toilet overshoots mopped up
8 — Lectures given
3 — Quarts of green snot wiped from Thomas’ face
3 — Doses of Infant Tylenol administered
2 — Applications of Orajel administered
2 — Near-removals of my fingers by brand-new teeth
2 — Sets of pants and underwear changed
0 — Naps taken by any child
1 — Bag of ketchup chips eaten by me
1 — Package of Reese’s cups eaten by me
1 — Episodes of “Real Orange Housewives” consumed while eating chips

Wait, you might be asking, Zero naps? Why? Why would you do that to yourself, you crazy woman?

Well, the answer is quite simple. I wouldn’t.

I put all three kids to bed after lunch. Thomas, who finds new teeth very tiring indeed, was delighted to jump into his crib. I’m pretty sure he was asleep before the other kids’ heads hit their pillows. James was tucked in with tractors, diggers, trains and trucks all lined up in the appropriate places on his bed, shadows and monsters shooed from his room, and the requisite number of “You Are My Sunshine” encores and kisses. And Maddux, who had woken up at an unholy hour that morning and antagonized her brothers all day, clambered up into her bed for a story about a skeleton princess’ spooky surprise party and an admonition to take her nap or there would be no playground afterward.

Confident that I would be enjoying two full hours of NOT being smeared with snot and drool, NOT being sprayed with urine and NOT having to lecture anyone about tormenting siblings, I settled down with some Halls Centers and the previous night’s episode of “Project Runway.” (Did I mention I have a cold and that my throat feels as though I swallowed a set of Chinese throwing stars? I didn’t? Hmm, guess that’s because that was the least painful part of my week.)

But alas, Tim Gunn and friends would have to wait. The kids had been down for barely 40 minutes — not asleep, mind you, just down — when I heard Thomas fretting over the monitor. Now, having been slathered with a heaping dose of Orajel before his nap, I knew he wasn’t waking up on his own. So I turned up the volume on the monitor. Sure enough, I could hear the faint sounds of banging. And shrieking. I raced upstairs to tell James to pipe down.

But it wasn’t James. Oh no. James was happily playing with diggers at his regular naptime volume (which is loud, but not loud enough to wake a tired baby). The banging was coming from Maddux’ room, where she was doing goodness-only-knows what. And despite my having shut her door and told her to keep it shut so that the baby could sleep, my darling princess had flung her door wide and was singing at the very top of her lungs.

When she saw me coming, she clambered (noisily) into the far corner of her bunk bed and pretended to be fast asleep while sitting upright. I was not convinced.

The thing about the kids’ naps is this: If Thomas gets less than two hours, he will cling to my head like a drowning swimmer all night long. If James gets less than two hours, he will not pee on the potty. (And if I sit him on the potty, he won’t tuck. Which means I will reek of urine by the end of the day) If Maddux starts her day on the wrong foot and misses a nap, the mischief is compounded by a factor of approximately 3,000. Maybe more. If all three kids miss naps, well, we’re talking flying toys and a portal to hell in the closet.

“WHAT ON EARTH ARE YOU DOING IN HERE WITH YOUR DOOR WIDE OPEN??!!!” I yelled, channeling Joan Crawford. Shaking with the psychological devastation of an epic nap fail on the day when everyone (not least, Mommy) most needed it, I rushed a thrashing, screeching Maddux down the stairs, away from her brothers and their potential sleep. Of course, screaming at one kid is generally a pretty good way of waking the others up. So there we were, in the middle of what should have been naptime, back in the playroom. Thomas clinging to me like a hybrid koala-piranha, wiping snot in my hair. James refusing to sit on the potty or share trains. Maddux coloring in Daddy’s office so I wouldn’t accidentally strangle her.

There would be no restorative sleep for the cranky, teething baby. There would be no pee making it into (as opposed to in the general vicinity of) the training potty. There would be no acts of kindness from a well-rested oldest child. And there would be no break for Mom until after 8.

Don’t get me wrong. Potty training is still WAY easier during a break, when we’re not racing around to the gym and school. However, I cannot be held responsible for any junk food and terrible television I may consume after my adorable little mayhem machines are plugged into their recharging stations.

Whiz Kid

I have spent the last four years of my life potty-training people. Potty-training girls, potty-training boys, night-training, re-training, you name it. Few breaks. No vacations (unless you count childbirth, which I can tell you is a terrible way to get a reprieve from the drudgery of potty training). Constantly reminding, asking, changing Pull-Ups, shuttling a probably-too-late child at warp speed to the nearest toilet.

Potty training boys, it seems, is particularly hard for most moms. First, there’s the fact that we don’t have the necessary equipment to demonstrate proper peeing form. And, more importantly, they’re BOYS. Why take the time out of our days, they reason, to use a toilet when we can play trains in the comfort and convenience of warm, wet Pull-Ups? And James, who wails, brokenhearted, for more train time when I suggest a lunch break after hours and hours of train time, might be the toughest potty-training case yet.

When we broached the subject of potty training last year, James was more than happy to wear the colorful Diego Pull-Ups we bought for him. (Diego, as it happens, is only slightly less awesome than trains.) But as much as he loved his “big boy pants,” James did not love the idea of sitting on a toilet with his bare bottom. Once he was bribed and praised into some semblance of acquiescence, it seemed like we were almost in business. Now, if we could only get him to pee in the potty.

Here’s how that went:

Me (in a super-excited imitation of those manic people on children’s shows): “James, let’s put some PEE in your POTTY!”


Me (doing best impression of pee going into a toilet): “Sssssssssssssssssss”

James: “Pssssssssssst! Go ‘way, kitty!!”

Me (pulling up James’ Diego pants): “OK, James, we’ll try again later.”

James: “Mommmmmyyy! I SO SOAKED!”

And then, of course, there was the total evacuation strike. James was totally against waste elimination of either kind, but he was especially determined never to poop. And indeed, he went days and days without pooping. But inevitably, I’d be doing the dinner dishes after the kids were supposedly asleep, only to hear what sounded like a calf being slaughtered upstairs.

“I so pooped, Mommy!” James would lament, all sweaty and bug-eyed, thrusting faintly stinky hands in my face for (totally unneeded) emphasis. On legs as stiff as a new fawn’s, he’d totter into the bathroom for a change and a totally-beside-the-point half-hour on the potty.

But over the past six months, James’ Pull-Ups have been drier and drier, and many of his poops have made it into the toilet. With his big sister’s preschool graduation approaching, and James eager to join her in school while they’re still in the same class, I decided that spring break would be the week it would all happen.

A personalized cup was bought. A backpack was ordered online. We talked about classroom rules and school clothes and who he’d see on the playground. And on Friday afternoon, we pulled on a pair of tractor-themed underwear James purchased himself.

The poor tractor undies were thoroughly irrigated about 20 minutes later. Their package-mates hastily met a similar fate. James said adios to the green Diego undies. And the orange ones. And the blue ones.

There was much washing of undies and baking-powdering of wet spots on the floors. Potty-using did occur, but just as often, we could expect to hear Maddux wail, “Mommeeee, there’s pee all over the floor near the traiiiiiin taaaaable!”

Every 20 minutes, we’d have this discussion.

Me: “James, it’s time to go potty!”

James: “NOOOOO, Mommy! I playing (diggers/trains/dump trucks)!”

Me: “Let’s pee in the potty and then you can play some more.”

James: “NO MOMMEEE!! I stay DRY! (Slight pause) Mommy, I so peed!”

But finally, on Sunday afternoon, something clicked. Following his afternoon nap, James spent the entire evening dry. I was giddy with joy. On Monday, he stayed dry all morning. I fairly vibrated with pride as I put him down for his nap. After naptime, he ran to the potty himself and exclusively used the toilet — somebody pinch me! — until bedtime. Could it be that he was finally potty trained?

Alas, that was not to be. He had four slips the next day and one today. However, not one of those has been No. 2 and for that I am profoundly grateful. Because, frankly, cleaning a lump of doody the size and shape of a softball out of my darling child’s cloth underwear is not my idea of a fun time.

And this evening, James topped all his previous accomplishments by finally working up the courage (and coordination) to take a whiz standing up. And not a drop missed the toilet! (Grown men everywhere, take heed. IT CAN BE DONE!)

With another week and a bit left in our spring break, I think I can safely say James will actually make it to preschool this school year. It is the dawn of a glorious new era! James has already picked out all the toys he plans on using and what he plans to eat at snack time. Maddux, in turn, has taken it upon herself to tell James that he will not be wearing a tunic like hers, but pants. (I suppose, given that he thinks he will be in her ballet club as well, her specificity may be justified.)

Most importantly, though, I now have only one kid in diapers. And he’s an almost-18-month-old who yells at me while he’s pooping. There is a very real possibility that Thomas will be ready to potty train this summer. Which means one thing: After what will be five solid (and liquid) years of diapers as of May 6, Mama is getting a break!

Whining and Dining

Welcome to Casa de Phillips, an unforgettable experience in family dining.

Our guests are greeted by the restaurant’s signature shirtless performers. Think Chippendales, but shorter and with potbellies and spaghetti-sauce neckties. After they perform a dance inspired by the Russian Army, you will be seated by a hostess, dressed in all the finery of a royal princess. (Please wait to be seated, as all seating is assigned by the hostess.)

You will notice the layer of bananas and chunks of bread that festively covers the floor of our dining room. It is applied using a special apple-juice epoxy and is maintained several times daily by our No. 2 shirtless performer, Thomas. If you notice that an area of floor is running low on decoration, please notify Thomas using our special Casa de Phillips code, “We don’t throw food,” and he will rectify the situation at once. (Similarly, to commence a performance of the renowned Phillips Voice Orchestra, use the code, “We don’t scream at the table.”)

All our meals are served on the finest picnicware in keeping with our way-beyond-casual dining atmosphere. If you prefer drinking from an adult cup or eating with silverware, please alert us ahead of time.

If you are a lunchtime visitor, we offer three delicious entrees: Classic PBJ, all cream cheese, or all strawberry jam. Special orders can be accommodated upon request. Apples, oranges, cheese and Annie’s bunnies can be purchased from our a la carte menu. Once you have thrown your sandwich or your sippy cup, your bill will be brought out and you may no longer order additional items from our menu.

Visitors at dinnertime will enjoy, along with our chef-prepared nightly specials, the musical stylings of Phillips Voice Orchestra. Sit back and allow the otherworldly voices of James and Thomas to transport your senses. Thomas, a mezzo soprano with amazing volume and range, will begin the performance with a series of vocal flourishes. James, also a soprano, is an expert harmonizer. This performing duo is indefatigable and will fill your entire dinner hour with a series of impossibly-pitched crescendos. Their act has been described as the next best thing to sitting in an eagles’ aerie. We think you will agree their music is quite singular. (We do not offer refunds.)

After dinner, Casa de Phillips provides an entertaining grease-wrestling match. Our handler (or handlers) will wash and wipe the greased baby’s hands while the baby tries to escape from his high chair. Who will win? Who will get covered in food? It’s all good, not-so-clean family fun as the baby takes on all comers.

So please, pull up a chair at Casa de Phillips, open from 12:40 – 2 p.m. and 5:30 – 7 p.m. daily, for a dining experience you’ll never forget. (At least not without a lot of therapy.)

Your host, Thomas, diligently replenishes the floor-food.