"Who left a smooshed chocolate chip on the bathroom counter?" my husband bellows.
I'm in the kitchen with my 3-year-old at my feet as I reply, "Uh, hon. We're potty-training. That may very well be something other than chocolate."
I hear a disgusted groan and a long run of the water as my husband frantically tries to clean his fingers.
But then I remember I baked some cupcakes earlier and let our 6-year-old lick the bowl. "Oh, it actually could be chocolate," I reassure him.
That's life in our house currently. "Surprises" could be left around any corner, under any table. Because when it comes to potty-training, I am unbelievably inept at this aspect of child-rearing.
Truthfully, I despise the entire process.
First of all, you're supposed to determine when they're 'ready.'
Gimme a break. When are we ever ready to lose the ease of relieving ourselves whenever and wherever we want to? Sure, he likes his "big boy" underwear but if he's in the midst of watching a rivoting episode of Clifford the Big Red Dog, keeping Spiderman or the Incredible Hulk dry just doesn't rank very high on his priority list.
And I'm left cleaning a couch.
It never gets any easier either.
With boys, you have to decide whether to teach them to sit or stand. Some moms swear standing is easier, others believe in sitting - where they're helping them avoid the bickering with their future wife about leaving the seat up.
I've found both techniques to be useless. Because aim isn't good in either position, I come armed with Lysol wipes either way.
And then there's the consistency factor.
In a perfect world, you would never leave home and the child would have access to the bathroom at any given moment. Timely relief. Consistent training. Poof! They're out of diapers.
I don't know about you, but I don't live in that world.
In my world, it's the constant dilemma of deciding whether to let the child wear his underwear when Mommy has a gazillion errands to run knowing she'll be slowed down considerably by either frequent potty breaks or a very likely "accident."
It's deciding whether to inconvenience a babysitter by asking them to continue the potty-training in your absence or to make it easy on them and pull out the trusty diaper.
It's all very stressful to me.
I'm on my third attempt now, and since my first two children are still trying to master the skill in some respects, I am not hopeful for speedy success with my final child.
In fact, I was pretty lazy about the whole thing with this one. He was nearing age 3 and I hadn't done much more than pull out the potty seat.
I guess when you dread something, you'll put it off as long as possible. And I think I have good reason to dread it. I don't have a great track record.
With my first child, when she hit age 2, I was all over it. I bought two kinds of potty chairs to give her "options." I bought the princessy underwear. I had the reward jar filled with M&Ms. I was cheering like she had won an Olympic Gold when she so much as tinkled in that toilet.
But she was 3-1/2 before she figured it all out. Oof. A year and a half of trying everything I could think of, reading everything about potty training I could get my hands on, and taking advice from every "been there" parent I knew.
With my second child, I foolishly thought I'd had it down. I waited until he was closer to 3, and then, promising myself I'd be patient, I took on the challenge.
I remember WAY too many instances of watching a puddle form beneath my son as he stared up at me with his big blue eyes as if to say, "Am I in trouble?"
Believe me, my patience wore thin.
Since he and his sister are just 19 months apart, much of the years-long potty-training was happening simultaneously. We pretty much couldn't go anywhere without four changes of clothes per kid. If anyone served my kids juice, it meant I'd be doing a lot of extra laundry in very short order. It went right through them back then.
It was humiliating at times. Go to someone's house for a nice dinner and end up asking for the carpet cleaner four times and "Any chance you saved some of Johnny pants was he was little? We've used up all our spare clothes."
This has been the toughest part of parenting for me. Hands down.
Give me a kid who pukes all over me for three straight days and allows me no more than two hours of sleep a night for a week. Because that's short-lived. It's painful at the time, but within a week or two, you're laughing about it.
Potty struggles? Nope. Haven't laughed once.
I am honestly in awe of parents who say they got their kid potty-trained in a day, or they had it mastered in a matter of weeks. I can't even fathom that.
Because I'm in the midst of this challenge again. Some days are good. Other days are bad. I've got carpet cleaner within easy reach these days, and the washing machine gets a work out.
I don't even let my mind drift into thinking about the day we'll be diaper-free, because I'm realistic. I will probably keep a box around until these kids graduate from high school.
And I'll keep double-checking that "chocolate."