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The Terrible Tale of the Best Gift My Husband Ever Gave Me

It’s a generally-understood rule of thumb established by florists, jewelers, and Hallmark since time immemorial, that household appliances do not make romantic gifts. We all remember the JC Penny jeweler’s “dual bag” commercial, where the hapless man gets sent to husband purgatory for buying his wife a vacuum cleaner for their anniversary, right?


Yet, no rule is without its exception.

My story begins with a dog – a dog my husband had before I came into his life. Shostakovich “Shosty” Darnall was an energetic and remarkably attractive pure-bred border collie, who was about one year old when my husband and I met. She was friendly and affectionate, accepting me with all of her doggy heart as my husband and I gradually went from friendship to dating to engagement over the course of the next few years.

Shortly before we got married, my husband got a job that took him from the wide-open desert plains of central Washington to the soggy metropolis of Portland, OR. A few months after he settled there, we were pronounced Mr. and Mrs. Darnall and moved into the brand-new, never-been-lived-in apartment that was to be our first home together.

So did Shosty.

Shosty had been an outside dog from her youth. We discovered many new and exciting things about her when she made the transition from outdoor to indoor dog. The first was that when she got nervous, she got diarrhea. The second was that she got nervous a lot.

As a stay-at-home-wife (with plans to soon be a stay-at-home mom), the diarrhea became, for the most part, my lot in life. More than once, my husband’s workday would be interrupted by a text message from his blushing bride: “Diarrhea Dog struck again.”

I have always subscribed to the philosophy, “Love him, love his dog,” but the year and-a-half that I watched the virginal white carpet in our newlywed love nest get defiled over and over again – through pregnancy, the birth of our first child, and the early, grueling months of parenthood – strained my resolve almost past endurance.

I was, or at least fancied myself, a quite fastidious housekeeper, and although I treated each new stain with a spray bottle of pet cleaner, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the carpet was never entirely clean.

There was never a day that I did not love my husband, but there were days when, deep down, I did not love his dog.

I talked to the vet, but he could find nothing wrong with her. His verdict: “Just nerves.” I took her out religiously for exercise and potty breaks every day, but “just nerves” continued to leave sporadic offerings at the most inopportune moments.

Four months after our daughter was born, we bought a house. We bid adieu to the apartment, the once-white carpet, and all its guilty stains. The modest but adequate yard and the easy-to-clean wood laminate floor in our new home held out hope of a better life.

Alas, Shosty’s propensity to bark bloody murder at the next-door neighbor’s dog and dig out under the fence put an end to my dreams of her going back to being a full-time outdoor dog.

Her “problem” did get better – as in, less frequent – but it did not disappear altogether. The wood laminate floor was indeed a breeze to clean. But unfortunately, when diarrhea struck, Shosty invariably chose to relieve her tortured bowels on the new wool area rug.

At Home Depot one day, we were picking out some things for the house, and, while buying a new vacuum cleaner, I noticed that they also stocked steam carpet cleaners. I eyed them wistfully, but it was a luxury, not a necessity, and with the expense of a new baby and a new house, we weren’t in the market for luxuries.

A year later, we were well settled into our home with baby number two on the way. It was August, and summer traveling had put us over budget – a fact that I, as a self-avowed tightwad, was acutely aware of. We were hosting an out-of-town family who had come up for an impromptu visit.

Our 18-month-old daughter, with that perversity so characteristic of toddlers and pets, decided to wake up at two in the morning and could not be convinced to go back to bed. My husband had to be up at six to go to work, so I told him to go back to sleep. I would try to rest on the couch while our daughter watched a movie.

When I had gotten her set up happily watching “Toy Story 3” with the volume down low enough not to disturb our guests, I stumbled, bleary-eyed, into the kitchen for a glass of water.

My first clue that all was not well was Shosty skulking past me like a cringing phantom. I smelled it before I saw it: a broad, oval ring of loose, runny turds and dog urine lining the entire perimeter of the rug. It was like one of those magic toadstool rings that you make a wish in when you’re a kid, except instead of toadstools, it was just…stools.

This was no job for a spray-bottle of foaming cleanser – and yet, it would have to be. Bitter were the last watches of that long night as I scraped and blotted, sprayed and scrubbed, sniffed and doubted, and began over again in a dozen different spots of our outraged wool rug. Bitter were my thoughts toward a certain black-and-white mongrel who was making herself small in a corner of the laundry room.

To have diarrhea is one thing, but to manage to spread it out over the entire area of a five-by-eight-foot wool rug began to look premeditated.

When my husband – a man not given to many words – woke up, he was sympathetic, but not quite as sympathetic as the occasion called for, I thought, as he walked out the door to go to work.

That evening, after our guests had said good-bye, Diarrhea Dog found it within her bowels to strike yet again on the newly-cleaned wool rug.

“Honey,” I groaned, “she did it again.”

My husband stood up, inspected the mess, and came back toward me. Then, in surely the most beautiful words ever spoken in the English language, he announced: “I’m going to Home Depot to buy a steam cleaner.”

Unbeknownst to me, he’d been doing research online during the day and already had one picked out.

“But…but we’re already over-budget,” I objected weakly.

“We’ll fit it in.”

An hour and-a-half later, he was pushing that glorious monster across the floor as it sprayed heavy-duty cleaner deep into the fibers of the rug, and I imagined the stubborn fecal residue of a dozen doggy “accidents” lifting, lifting, lifting out of the carpet and out of our lives forever.

You can have your diamond earrings and pearls, but I will always count that big ugly steam cleaner as one of the most romantic things I have ever received.

As it turns out, not every kiss begins with Kay.

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Three was not enough for Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. Mom and dad to North, Saint and Chicago are expecting again.

The story broke earlier this month, but this week Kim appeared on "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen" and confirmed everything People and E! have been attributing to inside Kardashian sources.

Host Andy Cohen, a father-to-be himself, asked Kim to confirm if the leaked sex of the baby was also accurate.

    "It's a boy," Kim told him, revealing that she's the accidental source of the leak. "It's out there. I got drunk at our Christmas Eve party, and I told some people, but I can't remember who I told."

    Like Chicago, this baby will be born via surrogate, and Kim says he's due quite soon.

    Kim has previously talked about how the decision to grow her family through gestational surrogacy was a hard one, but the only one that made sense for her after two difficult pregnancies.

    "Anyone that says or thinks it is just the easy way out is just completely wrong. I think it is so much harder to go through it this way, because you are not really in control," she told Entertainment Tonight when expecting Chicago.

    "Obviously you pick someone that you completely trust and that you have a good bond and relationship with, but it is still … knowing that I was able to carry my first two babies and not my baby now, it's hard for me," she explained at the time.

    One of six kids herself, it's not surprising that Kim wants a large family (considering how close she is with her siblings) and, according to Kim, Kanye's been campaigning for more children for a while.

    "Kanye wants to have more, though. He's been harassing me," Kardashian said on a 2018 episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. "He wants like seven. He's like stuck on seven."

    Four is still pretty far from seven, but maybe Kanye and Kim will compromise a bit on family size. Kim has previously said four children would be her limit.

    [Update: This post was originally published on January 2, 2019. It was updated when Kardashian confirmed the news.]

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    Toxic masculinity is having a cultural moment. Or rather, the idea that masculinity doesn't have to be toxic is having one.

    For parents who are trying to raise kind boys who will grow into compassionate men, the American Psychological Association's recent assertion that "traditional masculinity ideology" is bad for boys' well-being is concerning because our kids are exposed to that ideology every day when they walk out of then house or turn on the TV or the iPad.

    That's why a new viral ad campaign from Gillette is so inspiring—it proves society already recognizes the problems the APA pointed out, and change is possible.

    We Believe: The Best Men Can Be | Gillette (Short Film) youtu.be

    Gillette's new ad campaign references the "Me Too" movement as a narrator explains that "something finally changed, and there will be no going back."

    If may seem like something as commercial as a marketing campaign for toiletries can't make a difference in changing the way society pressures influence kids, but it's been more than a decade since Dove first launched its Campaign for Real Beauty, and while the campaign isn't without criticism, it was successful in elevating some of the body-image pressure on girls but ushering in an era of body-positive, inclusive marketing.

    Dove's campaign captured a mainstream audience at a time when the APA's "Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Girls and Women" were warning psychologists about how "unrealistic media images of girls and women" were negatively impacting the self-esteem of the next generation.

    Similarly, the Gillette campaign addresses some of the issues the APA raises in its newly released "Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men."

    According to the APA, "Traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males' psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict and negatively influence mental health and physical health."

    The report's authors define that ideology as "a particular constellation of standards that have held sway over large segments of the population, including: anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence."

    The APA worries that society is rewarding men who adhere to "sexist ideologies designed to maintain male power that also restrict men's ability to function adaptively."

    That basically sounds like the recipe for Me Too, which is of course its own cultural movement.

    Savvy marketers at Gillette may be trying to harness the power of that movement, but that's not entirely a bad thing. On its website, Gillette states that it created the campaign (called "The Best a Man Can Be," a play on the old Gillette tagline "The Best a Man Can Get") because it "acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture."

    Gillette's not wrong. We know that advertising has a huge impact on our kids. The average kid in America sees anywhere from 13,000 to 30,000 commercials on TV each year, according to the American Academy of Paediatrics, and that's not even counting YouTube ads, the posters at the bus stop and everything else.

    That's why Gillette's take makes sense from a marketing perspective and a social one. "As a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man," the company states.

    What does that mean?

    It means taking a stance against homophobia, bullying and sexual harassment and that harmful, catch-all-phrase that gives too many young men a pass to engage in behavior that hurts others and themselves: "Boys will be boys."

    Gillette states that "by holding each other accountable, eliminating excuses for bad behavior, and supporting a new generation working toward their personal 'best,' we can help create positive change that will matter for years to come."

    Of course, it's not enough for razor marketers to do this. Boys need support from parents, teachers, coaches and peers to be resilient to the pressures of toxic masculinity.

    When this happens, when boys are taught that strength doesn't mean overpowering others and that they can be successful while still being compassionate, the APA says we will "reduce the high rates of problems boys and men face and act out in their lives such as aggression, violence, substance abuse, and suicide."

    This is a conversation worth having and 2019 is the year to do it.

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    Teaching a young child good behavior seems like it should be easy and intuitive when, in reality, it can be a major challenge. When put to the test, it's not as easy as you might think to dole out effective discipline, especially if you have a strong-willed child.

    As young children develop independence and learn more about themselves in relation to others and their environment, they can easily grow frustrated when they don't always know how to communicate their feelings or how to think and act rationally.

    It's crucial that parents recognize these limitations and also set up rules to protect your child and those they encounter. These rules, including a parent's or caregiver's follow-up actions, allow your child to learn and develop a better understanding of what is (and what is not) appropriate behavior.

    Here are a few key ways to correct negative behavior in an efficient way:

    1. Use positive reinforcement.

    Whenever possible, look to deliver specific and positive praise when a child engages in good behavior or if you catch them in an act of kindness. Always focus on the positive things they are doing so that they are more apt to recreate those behaviors. This will help them start to learn the difference between good and poor behavior.

    2. Be simple and direct.

    Though this seems like a no-brainer, focus your child using constructive feedback versus what not to do or where they went wrong. Give reasons and explanations for rules, as best as you can for their age group.

    For example, if you're teaching them to be gentle with your pet, demonstrate the correct motions and tell your child, "We're gentle when we pet the cat like this so that we don't hurt them," versus, "Don't pull on her tail!"

    3. Re-think the "time out."

    Many classrooms are starting to have cozy nooks where children are encouraged to have alone time when they may feel out of control. In lieu of punishment, sending a child to a "feel-good" area removes them from a situation that's causing distress. This provides much-needed comfort and allows for the problem-solving process to start on its own.

    4. Use 'no' sparingly.

    When a word is repeated over and over, it begins to lose meaning. There are better ways to discipline your child than saying "no." Think about replaying the message in a different way to increase the chances of your child taking note. Rather than shouting, "No, stop that!" when your toddler is flinging food at dinnertime, it's more productive to use encouraging words that prompt better behavior, such as, "Food is for eating, what are we supposed to do when we're sitting at the dinner table?" This encourages them to consider their behavior.

    The above methods help create teachable moments by providing opportunities for development while making sure the child feels safe and cared for. It is important to mirror these discipline techniques at home and communicate often with your child care providers so that you're always on the same page.

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    To the mamas awake in the middle of the night,

    If you are one of the many moms with a little darling who doesn't sleep through the night, I feel your pain. I really do.

    Having been blessed with two wonderful sleepers (aka my first and second babies), my third baby has been a shock to my system. He hasn't slept through the night since he was born and he's now 16 months. I do everything "right." I put him down sleepy but awake so he can settle himself to sleep. I keep the room dark and quiet.

    But one simple fact remains: When my son wakes up in the night, he wants me. And he'll scream the house down if he doesn't get me.

    Last night my 1-year-old woke at 3:30 am. He was stirring a bit at first, then started to really let it rip, so I got him up out of his crib and brought him into bed with me. We cuddled for a while. Then suddenly, he wanted to get off the bed and I said no. Then he started to scream and throw himself around on the bed before eventually being sick everywhere.

    It was now 4:30 am. I dutifully changed the sheets, changed my son, changed myself, and then we climbed back into bed, the smell of vomit still lingering.

    I tried to put him back in his crib around 5 am but he woke right up. I brought him back into bed with me, but quickly realized this wasn't what he wanted either. He was thrashing around again, trying to figure out a way off of the bed.

    Finally, close to 6 am he decided he wanted to go to sleep. After about 10 minutes of watching him sleep, I felt brave enough to try to put him back in his room. I gently lifted him up, placed him in his crib and quietly crept back into my bed.

    This left me with just enough time to fall back into a deep sleep, which meant I felt exhausted when my alarm went off just after 7 am.

    Sadly, last night wasn't a one-off. This is a fairly frequent occurrence for me (although dealing with vomit is luckily quite rare!). Which means that when I say I understand what it's like to have a baby who doesn't sleep, I really mean it.

    So here's what I want you to know, mama.

    If you are awake in the night because your baby needs you then you are not alone. Despite what you might read, it's common for babies to wake up through the night. So if you're sitting in bed feeling like you're the only mother in the world awake, trust me, you're far from it.

    There are mamas like us all over the world. Sitting there in the dark. Cuddling babies or soothing them to sleep again. Some, like me, might be changing sheets or abandoning any hope of getting sleep that night at all. Others might be up and down like a yo-yo every few hours. The rest might just be up once and then will be able to go back to sleep.

    There will, however, also be mamas who are sound asleep. Mamas who have older children who no longer wake in the night. And they would want you to know that it will be okay. It won't be forever. One day, you'll realize that your baby no longer needs or wants you in the night.

    And while you'll be so glad for your sleep you'll probably also be a little sad that there are no more night time cuddles.

    It's hard to cope with a baby who doesn't sleep well at night. Really hard sometimes. You may feel like you can't deal with it anymore or you may be wishing that this phase would just stop already so you can get some rest.

    Exhaustion often means that you struggle to get through the day. It can mean that you find it hard to drag yourself out of bed. Or if you're anything like me, you might be irritable and snap at the people you love. Or maybe it means relying on caffeine, sugar and Netflix to get you and your kiddos through the day.

    But here's the amazing thing about mothers—no matter what has gone down during the night, we get up as usual. We go about our day just like everyone else. We care for and love our children, without giving them a hard time for disrupting our sleep. We don't moan, we don't complain. We just get on with it.

    And when night comes, we go to bed knowing that there's every chance we'll be awake in the middle of the night again...

    We get up without fail when our babies need us and we do what we need to do for them. Because we are the nighttime warriors. We are mamas.

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