Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Potty training 101

Last week, while I was sleeping off a particularly vicious episode of vertigo, Danny inadvertently started potty training while Nana was babysitting. Danny was running around naked and I just told her where the potty was. He had several hits and misses.

When I came downstairs, he excitedly told me that he'd put "peep" in the potty. I figured maybe he'd be ready for the training pants. So I put some on him.

"Pull them down and then go sit on the potty when you have to pee," we told him.

He ran down the hall, got on his potty and just sat there smiling at us. Turns out he was peeing in his training pants while sitting on the potty.

All we could do was laugh. I needed a good laugh at that point: about three hours earlier I was lying on the floor waiting for reinforcements to arrives as the room spun around me and my stomach churned. Meanwhile, my son begged me to read a book and my daughter crawled over me as if I were merely a speed bump in the living room.

Obviously, it will be a while before we can use training pants with him. And with my vertigo episodes becoming more frequent, I don't feel like I can be very consistent about this just yet. Naked time will have to be all outside for now, too, since my nightmare is that our daughter will be crawling through any puddles of pee that I miss.

I do dread this stage. Every kid in Danny's playgroup is potty trained to some degree. To be fair, he is the youngest in the group and he's much smaller than most boys. Upon learning of our pregnancy with Danny, one of my first thoughts was "Oh crap, eventually I am going to have to teach another human being how to use the toilet." Doing this still seems like the most monumental of all tasks, the one most likely to devolve into a battle of wills between parent and child. Confrontation is not my thing, really. (Yes, I know it seems like I could and very much want to tear people a new "one" sometimes, but I'm really a pussycat.) Some mothers tell me that potty training turned into a battle of wills and they still have issues with the potty trainee. Others tell me that they tried off and on half-heartedly, usually when another baby was on the way, but ultimately, potty training was led by the trainee.

For months, we've been talking to him about where pee and poop come from, how it comes out, where it could go instead of diapers. He went through a stage of sitting on his little potty and even the big potty to read books, but never actually peed in the potty. We have one photo of him with the one poopy he put in the potty. (We're saving that one for his future wife!) I've even gotten some books from the library about potty training. The latest one is called "Even Firefighters Use the Potty." Of course, I didn't prescreen this one and found that there are cartoon drawings of big burly, hairy men (policemen, fireman, construction workers etc.) sitting on the potty. This borders on too much information for me, but Danny enjoys it. About once a month, I would let him be naked around the house and yard to gauge where he was developmentally. He started noticing recently when the pee was coming out, even when he had a diaper on.

Potty training is one of those areas where I really hope that my core belief in child led-development can prevail. (Oddly enough, though, my parenting philosophy can swing wildly between a my-way-or-the-highway attitude and a more hands-off approach usually depending on how much sleep I've had.) I see Danny getting smarter and more sophisticated every day in his thoughts and how he expresses them. And here is where I will walk the fine line between letting him take the lead in discovering the functions of his own body and how to emulate the adults and knowing when to begin reasonably expecting him to perform this task.

Wish us luck.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Doing the right thing (all on his own)

Danny's first act of petty theft was the unintentional pilfering of his friend Louis' pink Cadillac Match Box car. It was the first car that he named. "Louis car" has been the flagship vehicle in his fleet for months now.

We started explaining to him early on that Louis really misses his car and that giving it back is the right thing to do. He seemed unmoved, sometimes he would balk. We didn't push it. Whenever we had a play date with Louis, though, I made sure that Louis car was stashed in the diaper bag. The time never seemed right.

Well, last Friday, Danny came down to breakfast with Louis car. As usual, we talked at breakfast about our plans for the day. I told him we would see Louis at church that morning. He perked up, grabbed Louis car and said "Louis car. Take it with us?"

Sure, kid. So off we go to church. He started squawking about Louis car as I backed out of the driveway. Turns out he left it in the house. I went back for it and when I gave it to him, he said, "Give it back to Louis."

This particular morning I had not even mentioned giving it back. When we got to church, I told him where Louis was (in the art room) and asked him if he would like to give Louis his car back. He walked right up and handed it to him, "Here you go Louis." Louis thanked him and then drew us a nice little picture that is hanging on our fridge.

My jaw dropped. I gave him a hug and told him how proud I was of him and that it was the right thing to do even though it was hard.

Then I tried not to cry. Maybe it was the weeks I've gone without any real sleep ... or maybe I'm just really proud of that boy for making the decision and proud of us for backing off and letting him do it. Danny did fuss a little bit as he realized that we were leaving Louis car behind when we left church. But I told him again how proud I was of him and told him that I understood it was a hard thing for him to do. He told me "Did the right thing."

"Yes, you did, honey," I said, choking back tears again.

Of course, when I told Jim about it later that day, I cried. And over the weekend, Danny was rewarded with seven new vehicles for his fleet.

Imagination is cheap

It's a good thing we don't spend too much money on toys around here. Most of his toys are hand me downs either from my sister and her kids or from his uncles. What Danny lacks in fancy toys, he has certainly made up for in imagination lately. He's all about cars these days - parking, washing, racing and gassing them up and occasionally running them up and down my legs and through my hair.

One day I found him lining up his cars on the top step. "Gas station," he explained. "Getting the gas."

Cars are rolled under the van in the driveway. "Car wash," he says. "Getting clean. Fire engine is dirty."

He builds garages from blocks or just rolls his cars under the furniture. He lines them all up for a car show. In fact, this past weekend, we took him to a car show. And to his delight, there was a car there that looked just like one of his Matchbox cars.

Good thing we didn't buy him any of those fancy, molded plastic, made-in-China replicas of such things. Turns out, all he needs are $.97 Match Box cars from Target and some hand-me-down cars and his imagination.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Crawling along

Our daughter is crawling. She's five and a half months old. Really. It happened so quickly, too. On Monday, she was taking one "step" with her hands. By Friday, she was taking several "steps" before plopping onto her tummy and getting back to a sitting position. She spent Sunday morning crawling around the room swatting at a water bottle, trying to charge the CD tower and pulling up parts of the rug. Today, she spent the morning and afternoon trying to STAND up with her feet planted firmly on the floor, bent at the waist, hands on the floor. She's also figured out that rotating from a crawling to a sitting position will get her pretty far and that's been her preferred method of mobility today.

Not only that, she's pulling up on things. She's not picky about what she climbs and hasn't yet figured out that the Exersaucer isn't as stable as the sofa. In the past few days, she's pulled up on my legs while I'm sitting, the sofa, the Exersaucer, a stool her Uncle Tom built for her, the dishwasher, the steps (NO!!) , and the (padded) hearth. A few nights ago, Jim stood her by the side of the tub. She saw a toy and, while trying to reach it, nearly hurled herself over the edge into the tub. We fully expect her to attempt a crib break in a few months and tackle the stairs by the end of this week. Danny was climbing stairs at 7 months. She seems to be about a month ahead of him developmentally.

With this new mobility comes quite a few ruffled feathers, though. Danny is frantically trying to protect his stuff as is Jim. Fiona discovered the stereo receiver on Sunday. Apparently, the big knobs are a draw. It was one of Danny's first stops, too. Poor Danny is doing pretty well (for a two-year-old) at sharing his toys with his sister. A few strategies seem to be preventing World War III for now - asking him if she can play with one of "his" toys for a few minutes, telling him that she just wants to check it out (that's his new phrase these days), acknowledging that these toys were all his before she came along and that it must be hard to share them now, and lightly admonishing Fiona when she tries to grab toys from him. (As for property rights, the fairest rule I've come up with is that if it's in someone else's hand, it belongs to them at that moment and said object may not be forcibly removed. If it's not in someone's physical possession, it's fair game.) I've also been telling him that he needs to help us to keep her safe from small toys. Then I tell him that he can take that unsafe toy from her and find something safer for her. It's a good little introduction to the concept of trade. It's also neat to see his little brain working as he scans the playroom for a suitable toy. Of course, we have had a few episodes of poking and head pushing, but I expected that and know it won't be long before our heavyweight infant just clobbers him.

Fiona and Bob the dog are also getting to know each other better. They occupy the same sphere these days. She crawls into his neck or over his paws, he just stays stock still or licks her face as she passes. On Sunday, when he passed by and didn't acknowledge her, she actually cried after him. She had this wounded look on her face (yes, she's a little diva). Unfortunately, as she expands her territory, she's also getting dog hair in her mouth and all over her clothes.

I'll try to get some videos soon of her. Videos are hard to get these days, though, since she freezes when she sees the camera.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My evil twin

I have an evil twin. She stops by when the kids aren't sleeping, the toddler isn't listening, the laundry's piling up, I've forgotten to eat or drink enough water - basically when all the little annoyances get together for a little party.

So, last week, after the fourth straight night of Fiona waking up every two hours, she's back and she's wavers between anger and indifference. Her standards are little more lax than mine. Whenever my high standards occasionally clash with reality my evil twin seems to step in and encourage the exact opposite of those standards.

Cooking? Forget about it. McDonald's for lunch at least once this week and dinner out the past two nights. Healthy and frugal snacks for play group? Danny was very popular last Thursday morning ... he had Spiderman "fruit" snacks and a ... gasp ... packaged granola bar. Compost attracting fruit flies in the kitchen? Just throw 'em in the trash instead of the compost (I haven't separated my compost in a week). Naps at 12:30 sharp? Danny mosied up the stairs around 1 p.m. one day last week and found me sacked out on the bed in Fiona's room while she played on the floor. He promptly commanded "Get up Mommy."

My evil twin tells me that the baby would sleep through the night if I just gave her a little formula to fill her belly and didn't go to her every time she cried.

My evil twin tells me that my son really needs to be in preschool a few mornings a week despite our intention to homeschool our kids. "It'll be impossible to teach that boy anything. He doesn't listen to a friggin' thing you say," she bellows.

My evil twin tells my son to "Back off" instead of gently reminding him that Mommy needs her space and that the Matchbox car is just as super cool if it's a foot from my nose instead practically up it.

My evil twin tells me to ignore the baby for at least 15 minutes (unless, of course, she's maneuvered herself into a corner or is banging her head against a wall in an effort to crawl). "Hell, maybe she'll learn to entertain herself instead of seeing you as a one-woman broadway show," she says.

My evil twin tells me to just get a high-paying job and stick the kiddos in day care. "They don't seem to appreciate your efforts anyway," she says.

And while I don't act on all of her impulses, I must admit her presence does make me wonder whether my own high standards make motherhood unnecessarily difficult. Having two under the age of two is difficult on its own without an evil twin plus that multi-generational mob of moms who just love to put in their unsolicited two-cents. Their opinions on everything from childbirth, breastfeeding and sleeping to education and discipline seem to represent extremes on both sides of the spectrum. If there's a middle ground here, no one is talking too loudly about it.

Those who don't like traditional education and lean toward homeschooling see any kind of alternative to parental instruction as a shirking of your duties.

Those who advocate attachment parenting are convinced your child won't be properly bonded to you if you don't co-sleep and wear your child every minute of the day. (You know, slings are great when I need to get things done, but sometimes, I just want to sit down ALONE. Have I mentioned that I don't even go to the bathroom alone these days?)

Those who feed their children only organic fruits, vegetables and other snacks are convinced you're child will be fat and get diabetes or leukemia.

There are the sleep trainers who say the baby should NOT need to eat in the middle of the night by the age of 4 months. (Really? Did some baby reveal this information? Who is this mythical child and why is he talking to his parents? I wonder.)

Just shut up. All of you, please.

And one thing my evil twin and I do agree on ... if anyone so much as utters a word about any grammar, spelling, punctuation errors or the like in this (or any other post), I'll do something ... you're lucky I'm too exhausted to exact an appropriate revenge.

That is all.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Another car show

After three weeks of night terrors, night wakings and just general night mayhem from Danny, things have settled down a bit. At least now when Danny is up at night, he's just playing in his room or talking to himself. Usually he stays in his room.

Not tonight. We heard him bumbling around upstairs. Jim went to investigate. Here's what happened:

"Danny, it's time for resting. Get back in your room."

Danny starts that way, opens the door, but turns back, lips aquiver.

"Dennis, blanky," he whimpers.

"Dennis and blanky are in your room."

"They're in mommy's room," he informs Jim.

Sure enough, Dennis the monkey and blanky were attending a "car show" in mommy and daddy's room. Police car, his truck and a few others were lined up neatly on the floor with Dennis and blanky looking on. The slight whimper and an explanation are a HUGE improvement from just a few days ago when he would simply have cried hysterically and gestured wildly.

In other news ...

We have new neighbors - a young couple with a 2 and a half year old boy. It's a very awesome turn of events for us. So far, Danny seems to like the little boy, who is slowly acclimating to his new surroundings. Danny is also adjusting to the fact that Jeff and Sara, who he really liked, don't live there anymore. Of course, he still sometimes calls the very similar looking car that pulls up in their driveway "Jeff's car." Today, he did call it Joshua's car for the first time.

And as for Fiona, she's practicing her angry crying scene on a regular basis. Today I had to take away a piece of paper she had been playing with after it wound up a mushy mess in her mouth. Let's just say that didn't sit well with her highness. She gets this wounded look on her face that cracks me up. I've noticed that she's a little more sensitive than Danny. If I raise my voice or she gets jostled too much in the sling or when she's on my hip, she starts crying rather indignantly. I don't do well with sensitive people ... I'll have to work on that, but I'm sure Miss Fiona is going to hear "suck it up kid" on occasion.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Six funny things

Not everything that goes on around here fits into a nice 500-word post with a beginning, middle and end. Many of the funny things that come up in a day wind up on my Facebook status updates. I've tried Twitter, but I must be too old for it. It literally makes no sense to me. If I was at a computer all day or had a web-enabled cell phone maybe I'd use it. But, then again, probably not. I like words, I like stories, I don't want to reduce my world to 50 word phrases.

So here are a few interesting, funny or just plain nutty things that have gone on lately (in no particular order):
  • Danny now speaks in complete sentences. The first one I took notice of was this: "Daddy found 'spectacular' in his pocket." "Spectacular" is the name of one of his Matchbox cars; it had been MIA for a while. (yes, all of his cars have names, as do all of his stuffed animals) The fascinating thing to me (and maybe me alone) is that he formed a thought about his missing car at least 24 hours after it was found. Of course, now he believes that car was in Daddy's pocket the whole time.
  • Name that car. All of Danny's cars have names and, sadly, Jim and I actually have conversations about these cars, calling them by name. As in "Have you seen Louis car?" (the first car Danny named because he "stole" it from his friend Louis) or "Green machine is missing again." Louis car is the one that began the obsession and since then, all have been named. There's purple racer, vanilla racer, desert racer (a dune buggy), spectacular, and Uncle Tim's car (which applies to anything that came from Nana and PopPop's house).
  • A little slice of order amidst the chaos. Danny is obsessed with cars. He is developing quite the collection. He sleeps with them. He lines them up end on end (but hasn't called them a traffic jam yet). He lines them up side by side and calls it a car show. He parks them, sometimes diagonally, and calls it a parking lot. He drives them into and backs them out of anything that looks like a garage. It's amusing to see, amidst the toys scattered about, cars perfectly lined up.
  • Our little girl is turning into a drama queen. Last night, she was crying hysterically in her crib after I put her to bed. Usually, she gritches for a few minutes before drifting off. She's even had nights with no gritching. I brought her down to the play/living room where Danny and Jim were playing. She got quiet, saw what was going on and started crying again. It was an angry, body curling, grunting sort of cry. It was as if she'd figured out that people are up having fun while she's in bed. To be fair, the night before last, she was up late watching fireworks.
  • Speaking of fireworks ... We went down to my folks house on July 4th. We walked up to the art museum grounds to watch the fireworks. Danny was a little scared at first. Fiona was wide awake, watching and shrieking with delight.
  • It's all about the music. The kids like our kind of music. Last night, we were listening to Grateful Dead's Long Strange Trip. As soon as the first song came on, Fiona went nuts, moving her arms and squealing. I'm finding that the kids are calmer and happier when music is on.
So there you have it ... all I can't convey through Facebook status updates and refuse to reduce to a tweet.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

A preemptive no

When I was growing up, the rather rebellious nature of our preacher's son was storied. And he wasn't yet a teenager. He was merely a 2-year-old when I heard of his morning ritual: walking into the middle of his family's living room, with it's huge window looking down a hill onto the church, and screaming "No" whilst he pointed in every direction. Of course, knowing the sometimes cantankerous nature of his father, we all just chalked it up to genetics.

Apparently, this is one of the least charming traits of 2-year-olds everywhere. Danny says "No" on average about 50 times a day. I had hoped that maybe the solution would lie in just not asking him any questions. But that hope was dashed today as I must have looked as if I was going to ask our 2-year-old a question. He looked straight at me, shook his head and just said, "Nope."

Dinner has become a battle to get him to stay seated and actually eat something. Tonight was a multiple time out dinner. The best way to get him to eat is to "take turns" eating as in "Mommy's turn eat" then "Daddy's turn eat." Then he'll eat. Another strategy is to use his constant "no" to our advantage by pretending that you want what's on his plate.

"Can I have that chicken?"

"No. Mine." And in his mouth it goes.

"How 'bout that piece of broccoli? Mommy's really hungry tonight."

"Uh huh. Mine." Pops it in his mouth.

Tonight we got him to eat all his broccoli this way. Normally, I'm a little more my-way-or-the-highway, but I'm finally warming up to subversive tactics.

(Usually, I don't worry too much about how much he eats, but we do have the issue of blood sugar crashes and really, um, interesting poop with him when he eats too little food or too much fruit. Lately, Jim and I feel like a pair of poop chemists trying to get him to eat a balanced diet so he doesn't have poop that gives him a rash. That's something that no one EVER tells you about parenthood.)

Fiona at 5 months

Fiona is eating more solid foods now. Last night and tonight, there just wasn't enough butternut squash in the world for that little girl. She was yelling at me the entire meal last night. I couldn't get it in her fast enough. I had fixed two tablespoons and wound up heating two more tablespoons. Tonight, she downed four tablespoons of squash. Jim reminded me recently that Danny liked the savory foods more than the sweet. She likes the rice cereal if I put breast milk in it, but is so over the bananas and applesauce I had been adding. So tomorrow, it's on to carrots (fresh from my garden!!).

Some other interesting milestone for Fiona: she sits up well enough to sit in the grocery cart next to her brother and takes baths with her brother in the tub. She gets up on hands and knees, but can only move forward if she's on her belly. She can almost get up from her belly to a sitting position.

And, of course, we think that she's just the most beautiful child ever. But forget beauty pageants ... is there a World's Strongest Baby competition I can enter her in?

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The ever evolving cloth diaper stash

Two things excite me these days: freebies and finding unique ways to use fewer resources. (Okay, a third thing also excites me: sleep, but that doesn't count because, let's face it, that's not something I can expect much of anytime soon with a toddler and a 5 month old.)

As you know, we do cloth diapers with Fiona. So far, my stash includes prefolds and covers, a handful of fitted diapers that I've made from old t-shirts and some all-in-ones that I also sewed from a kit that comes with precut diaper pieces (best idea EVER for the slim demographic of sleep-deprived mommas who like to sew and save money on diapers). It's a system that works for us so far. But as she grows, the stash must evolve to accommodate her changing, ahem, elimination needs.

Since I sew, I'm always interested in diapers that are constructed to solve some of the issues that come up with cloth diapering. Many all-in-one or fitted diapers take a long time to dry. Others don't have good leg gathers. Getting good absorbency without the bulk is a challenge, especially at night. As she gets more mobile, I want her to have a trimmer diaper so she can move around easily, too. And inserts for pocket diapers? What a pain to have to buy several different sized inserts as your baby grows - even if you have a one size fits all diaper.

That said, I just love when a company comes up with a fresh take on good ol' fashioned cloth diapers or even those new fashioned diapers. I found a company that's rolling out a new diaper called Gro Baby. This diaper is an all-in-one diaper with a snap-in soaker that is elasticized to grow with your baby. It also has a mesh lining for a much quicker drying time. What I like about this diaper is that you don't have to keep buying new sizes - covers or inserts - as the baby grows. It also appears to be very trim since the inserts are made from six layers of absorbent organic cotton.

I'd love to give these a try. And wouldn't you know, they're giving away a free sample to bloggin' mommas (that would be me). Check them out here.