The Most Beautifulist

Autumn arrived yesterday but you’d never know it from the thermometer. It was the second of three straight days of highs in the 90s, at a time of year when it should be ten or fifteen degrees cooler. I didn’t write much about it but we had a crazy hot summer this year, nearly record-breaking, and I guess it just doesn’t want to quit. It will, though, and soon. I can tell because the dogwood tree in our front yard has a few red leaves along with the berries that appear on it every September. It’s always the first tree to change colors and it’s right on schedule.

More importantly, to us anyway, it was also June’s half-birthday yesterday. She’s four and a half now, as she will be happy to inform you. She told her drama teacher pretty much as soon as we entered the Rec Center auditorium, even though as we walked to class, she had started to get cold feet. I reminded her that she took the same class last winter and loved it, and that the teacher told me she was looking forward to seeing her again.

“I used to be excited, but now I’m nervous,” she persisted.

“It’s okay to be nervous,” I told her. “People feel that way when they start things sometimes. You just have to get used to it again.” Then I asked if she’d like me to tell the teacher she was feeling a little shy. June said yes and it seemed to make her feel better.

So I told the teacher and then June pretty much chatted her up nonstop for ten or fifteen minutes while we waited for other children to arrive. The class had been advertised with one starting time in the online catalog of activities and another in the print version so most of the class arrived late.

Once we got started, it was the familiar routine. The children did warm-up exercises, they sang a song (“Doe, a Deer”), which they will be learning along with an accompanying dance over the next eight weeks, and then the teacher read a story. It was Caps for Sale ( After she’d read it, they reenacted it. If you’ve seen anything cuter than a bunch of two to five year olds all walking across a stage balancing multiple hats on their heads, I want to know what it is. A few times I caught sight of June’s face during the class and she was just radiantly happy.

We came home and ate lunch and then we got ready to leave for school. When I changed her from a diaper into a pair of thick, purple training pants I was unnerved to realize that the diaper was dry and it had been dry since at least 8:00 a.m. There was no way she would last until we got home at 3:30 and she never pees on the potty at school so she was pretty much guaranteed to have an accident. Not that this would surprise anyone. After making it through the school day dry most days the first two weeks of school, June had been wetting her pants at school all week. The only day she didn’t was Wednesday when I sent her to school in a pull-up because they were taking a field trip. On Tuesday she went through two outfits and came home in the Toad’s spare pants (pastel plaid capris, “very cool,” June said, not at all fazed by the multiple accidents).

Sure enough when the children came around to the front of the school to sit on the porch steps and wait for dismissal, June was in her spare clothes, but at least they were her own spare clothes. At home, I asked her if she’d like to sit on the potty. She complied. She had become more interested in using the potty since Wednesday, when I promised her if she learned to use the potty, she could set up a lemonade stand in the driveway. This has been a long-standing goal of hers, made more urgent by a recently viewed episode of Curious George. Like George, she wants to buy a soccer ball with the proceeds. This despite the fact that she has two soccer balls already—including a pink one—and she’s not even playing soccer this fall. (Silently, I was planning to suggest a hot chocolate stand if she didn’t train until the dead of winter.)

Anyway, back to the point. We had some potty momentum and it came just as I was planning a two-week experiment of underwear all the time except at night and while out of the house at places other than school. The pediatrician suggested this over the summer and I was lukewarm, given June’s sorry potty record over the past two years. But kindergarten’s only eleven months away and we had to start trying again at some point, so I decided on her half-birthday as a starting date. I thought I could make a big deal about how big she’s getting, four and a half, my goodness. It must be time to start using the potty, etc.

So, she’s willing now. She didn’t go when she tried after school and around 5:00, just as I was thinking I should have her try again, she had an accident. The next accident was around 7:40, again moments after I thought I should have her try sitting on the potty. Well, I thought. She’s not trained, but maybe I’m getting close to it.

In between the accidents, we had dinner. I made sesame noodles with broccoli and tofu (the kids ate plain udon noodles with tofu and broccoli). I chose this meal because while I was flipping through a cookbook last weekend, I read that long noodles symbolize long life in China and are traditionally served on birthdays. It was also something I knew the kids would enjoy. On the side, we each had a quarter of a softball-sized but perfectly ripe watermelon from the garden and there were cupcakes for dessert. June picked out the Spiderman cupcakes at the supermarket on Sunday and they had been waiting in the freezer ever since. She surprised Beth, by spurning the Dora cupcakes and butterfly cupcakes she had originally examined. She said the Spiderman cupcakes were the “most beautifulest.” They were vanilla with white frosting tinted red and blue and they had plastic Spiderman face rings and spider rings set into the frosting.

Noah remembered that his snap circuits kit ( could be set up to play “Happy Birthday” and he let June help him connect the circuits in the proper configuration. He played the music, and then we sang the song ourselves and then we all blew out the candles and ate the cupcakes.

Later that evening I was in bed with June, singing her a lullaby when she interrupted me. “Mommy, I need to use the potty,” she said. I hesitated just slightly. Was the remote chance she would actually produce anything worth getting her out of bed? But in the spirit of staying positive, I got up and she did, too. She trotted off to the potty and I helped her get settled. A few moments later I heard the sound of liquid hitting plastic, a lot of liquid from the sound of it.

“I’m peeing,” June whispered.

“I know,” I said, laying a hand on her thigh. “Don’t get up in case there’s more.” I called Beth and she came in from the study to exclaim over June’s potty victory. After a few moments June said she was done and she got up and we all looked into the potty.

I saw many beautiful things yesterday. The red leaves scattered among the green of our dogwood, promising cooler days ahead; my daughter’s beaming face as she lost herself in imagination; one of summer’s last, sweet parting gifts from the garden, and colorful grocery store cupcakes seen through a preschooler’s appreciative eyes. But that full potty was, without question, the most beautufulest.