potty training blues

A few months ago my son stopped breastfeeding. I nursed him longer than any of my other kids, few months past 2 years old, and it was time. Around the same time we stopped giving him bottles as well. My last baby was a full fledged toddler and I was okay with that. Especially since I decided it was time to potty train him.

He’s incredibly smart. He’s also super stubborn, but he acts like such a big boy and wants to copy his brother and sister so I figured he was ready. I searched through my email for the nearly-decade old attachment someone had emailed me for my firstborn, the infamous “3 Day Potty Training Method”. I decided the next day was his day. We were stopping diapers and converting to underwear fully.

We used this method with our other two kids and they had great success. My oldest was just over 3 years old when I trained him, and my daughter was probably 2 years, 7 or 8 months old. So, I knew H was a little young at 2 years 5 months old. But, he seemed ready. Or so I thought.

The first few days were a major struggle, as expected. He just didn’t seem to get it. He’d pee and not even notice. Poop was the same. But, as with the other kids, by day three he seemed to understand. He’d hold himself, at least, and would pee whenever we’d put him on the toilet. We went back to our normal daily routine, which consists of trips to the gym or parks or shopping.

After a few accidents on the road, I bought pull-ups. And now, here’s where it gets bad. I started putting him in pull-ups even just around the house. Because, my highly verbal son seems to be unable to express the words “I have to go potty”. No amount of bribery seems to work, no candy, or prizes. He just won’t tell us.

If we catch him grabbing his crotch and rush to the toilet, he will go and there’s no “accident”. But, if it were up to him, he’d never tell us and just piss everywhere. It’s so frustrating. I can’t believe we are relying on pull-ups in this way, and I curse myself for not sticking to a plan. I know consistency is key and my own laziness is getting in the way.

I probably should have waited a few months before forcing this upon him. But we are 2 months in and I can’t very well fully give up, yet. I was just ready for the diaper days to end, you know? A he just doesn’t care. I think he’s told me “I gotta potty” only three times since we “trained” him. Like I said, he can hold it and tries to hide if he has to go…. but my husband and I are at a lost on how to make that final cog just click and have him WANT to go potty in the toilet, not his pants.

Having two other kids is great for the grand perspective of things. I know he won’t still have these bathroom issues in a year or so. But this is a perfect example of the day to day drag of raising a toddler. These little missteps and accidents add up throughout the day and the frustration I feel about it builds too. You’d think by child number three I’d be a pro by now…but it just goes to show that every child is different and things don’t always end up how you intend.

Diagnosis: Princess Power

It’s happened.

I swore to myself it wouldn’t; the day she was born someone put a silly pink bow hat on my daughter’s head, and it was then I vowed; I’m going to keep her away from the girly stuff. All the frilly, lacy, pink stuff that is having a little little girl just isn’t my style and I wanted to raise my daughter to think independently and not conform to the standard stereotypical gender role of “little princess”.

It worked, for a bit. I mean, prior to age 2 and prior to her having the ability to form an opinion and express it clearly, it was pretty easy avoiding Disney princesses and crowns.

But slowly, the princess culture seeped in to her life.

She’s the only girl out of eight cousins on her father’s side of the family, so for every birthday and Christmas, our generous extended family has fun buying her girly toys. I get it it. Superhero’s and Star Wars for seven nephews/sons/grandsons is tiresome and any break from the routine is welcome. So she can get a poofy dress up skirt and parade around in it with joy, no big deal … as long as we don’t highlight the word princess, it’ll be ok, or so I thought.

And last year she went through a serious butterfly phase. Around the time she started wanting to choose her clothes everyday, she started demanding only butterfly shirts. That was a fun indulgence. Before we moved she wanted her new room to be a butterfly room, which gave me a lot of fun options to decorate with. In my mind, while butterflies are girly, they aren’t as “bad” as a princesses.

But sometime this summer my little girl dropped the obsession with butterflies and moved straight onto the princess train.

Sigh.

What do you want to be when you grow up, Lu?

A princess.

What do you want to dress up as for Halloween?

A princess!

What do you want to play when we are at the playground, sweetie?

Princess Luella!

She’s obsessed. Any paraphernalia we purchase with a cheap Disney synergy tie-in gives her glee. She’ll just sit and look at books with the darn princesses for hours. And nothing, nothing, lights up her face more than when we call her “Princess”.

And that’s my struggle. I want her to be a strong, independent, kind person in the world, and want her to follow her passions but also be a hard worker and someone who values inner strength and beauty more than outer, yet …. the pleasure on her face when I indulge her and call her Princess while tucking her in at night, man, that’s hard to fight. She was absolutely adorable dressed up as Ariel over Halloween, and if I can give her a sticker book with the princesses in it and it entertains her for hours, what’s the harm, really? What am I fighting, exactly?

She’s three. This phase should pass, eventually, right? Shouldn’t I just let her have this phase while it’s still pure and just because they’re pretty, now, while she’s little? Why and I trying to force my own distaste of it all on her? Her being into princesses doesn’t mean I, the mom, am raising her to literally think she’s an actual entitled princess… she will still work hard and be empathetic and know her smarts are far more important than her looks because those are the values we are instilling in her.

So, I’m okay with it. I’m going to smooth her hair, call her princess because it makes her smile, let her pretend and dress up and let her enjoy all the stupid plastic Disney crap because she’s a child and this is just a phase. And trying to control what she likes isn’t the type of mom I aim to be.

stop! don’t read anything else about parenting until you learn how to do this ONE parenting hack!

The ONE parenting hack you need to know! You won’t BELIEVE what you’ll learn! EVERY PARENT MUST KNOW THIS!

Yes, this title is clickbait. Yes, this topic is disgusting. But, as I sit here in my dim living room, craving, just craving a glass of wine followed by a long, uninterrupted night of sleep, I have to admit, I DO know the number one, absolute and smartest way to clean $hit out of the bathtub.

Stop bathing your kids.

I mean, really. If they aren’t toilet trained you can give them baths with baby-wipes just fine. How dirty do they get anyway? Sure, once they are crawling and toddling and picking up dirt and trying to eat the playground bark and prefer eating by their hands and they end each day with grime on their fingers and feet and necks, you’d need at least two dozen wipes per kid, but, at least you won’t find yourself scooping poop out of a tub with a very unfortunate plastic robot cup to the sounds of screaming children in the background.

So, if you feel like bathing is sorta essential, having a game plan in mind when poo happens is smart. I’ve learned through experience you should always scoop the log out of the bath, before you drain the tub. When your daughter has loose bowels it’s not as easy is that, but you can still get the biggest turds that way. Having long rubber gloves is essential, as is a bottle of bleach-infused cleaner.

I prefer Fantastik.

I think I’m high from the fumes right now.

Because, when you are the only parent present, and you have to boogie two babies out of the poop-tub, you’ll find you HAVE to shut the bathroom door when you clean the tub, otherwise the baby will crawl around you and try to splash their tiny hands in the poop-water and the older toddler, who really should know better by now, will scream “MORE BATH!” on repeat at volume level 10.

What really inspires this post is the fact I went through this exact same scenario just last night. Two happy babies splashing in the bath, a moment where I realize the water looks cloudy, and then the horror of seeing poop particles floating around their happy little baby butts.

And then, tonight, the encore performance.

I even warned L, “No POOPING” tonight.

“No pooping!” she agreed, nodding her little blond head, putting a chubby toddler leg in the water.

I’m pretty sure she’s the culprit, just because H has insanely soft bms and what came out tonight had form, oh and the fact when I yelled, “DID YOU JUST POOP” she said in the happiest, sweetest voice, “I Pooped!”. I may have yelled at her, something I rarely do, and she just looked at me with big innocent eyes, and then went to her little training potty and pooped some more, so, yay?

The moral of this story is this: sometimes bedtime can’t come quick enough, and sometimes a glass of wine needs to be bottomless, and sometimes your best friend is not a person, but a very well-loved bottle of bleach with happy little scrubbing bubble cartoons trying to cheer your night up.

 

the paci menance

Last week, we broke our daughter’s heart. We denied her her one true love- something that brings her comfort, something she’s held dear her entire life. Ever since the night she took her first breath, it’s been there for her. Through sleep, sickness, happy times, the boring times … this precious talisman has calmed and soothed her. It’s never let her down.

And we took it away with little fanfare, harsh and abrupt.

I’m talking of course about her pacifier. The nook. The dummy as the Brits’ say – to L, her renowned “Paci”.

Paci and L went together nearly everywhere, although, because my kids crave security items in an excessive way, she also always has to have her blanket as well. But Paci was always first to her. And though we attempted to limit it, regulating it only to car rides, nap time and bedtime, the stinker always found a way to sneak it in all hours of the day. Multiple times a day I’d turn around to see her clutching her blanket with her pacifier spinning in her mouth, sucking furiously and glazed. If she got angry, upset, or hurt, she cried out “Paci blanket! PACI BLANKET!!!!” before “Mommy” or “Daddy”.

Anyway, if you knew L, you’d know I’m not speaking in hyperbole. My two-and-a-half-year-old daughter has a real problem.

So, last week. We are at an outdoor concert, a Spice Girl cover band down by the beach (a topic of which could easily segway into an entirely different post, such as, how is it possible the Spice Girls were popular 20 years ago? Does the world really need a Spice Girl cover band? How much of our tax money went towards this super group of girls?) and L was a handful. A loud, overtired, cranky toddler mess. When will my husband and I learn not to expect too much from our kids in public, at outings?

Upset over her behavior, my husband told her she couldn’t have the pacifier any longer. By this point L was screaming. “I’m serious, L” he said from the driver’s seat of the minivan, “No more pacifier. Ever.”. He then looked at me, “I’m serious, N. I’m for real”.

I just nodded, dreading the night ahead. I know it’s time, but, I also know her. I know how stubborn she is. There’s a reason she’s still in diapers; she’s a master of ‘sticking to her guns’ and I’m a pushover.

We got home, and she sobbed. Her chest heaved and she cried, and shook, and pleaded. My heart broke for her. Her paci has been an appendage for her, literally, since she came out of me. And to just take it away, like a 2.5-year-old band aid, ripped from her so harshly, well, it didn’t same fair.

But I held strong.

I gathered her up in her toddler-carrier, and swayed with her and her blanket as she convulsed with sadness. She fell asleep. I kept her on my chest and sat down and smoothed her hair and thought, “This wasn’t bad”.

Then 4am happened.

The girl wasn’t going to sleep again. Since she shares her room with her older brother, and we didn’t want her to scream the rest of the night, my husband took her out to the living room and turned on Peppa Pig. We took the loss.

Later that day I found an old pacifier of hers and snipped the end, a bit. I’ve tried this trick before and the girl demanded a different, whole pacifier, but faced with “no” paci or a “damaged” paci, she took the damaged one. This turned out to work beautifully. She was weaned within a few days. Now she proudly says: “Blanket, no PACI!”

Moral of the story? L is a child who needs a more gentle transition. Another lesson: we took away baby H’s pacifier. He has little complaints and doesn’t seem to mind, and we are avoiding the tears that poor L went through.

The next hurdle with L is the same one I so flippantly wrote about a few months ago: potty-training. Stay tuned, friends.

ticking stink bomb

As I type this, half my attention is on my two-year-old. L is currently on the couch, legs crossed, without pants on.

Yes, friends, the time has come. We have ditched diapers.

It’s day 1. I did the 3-Day-Potty method with E, but he was much older (3 years, 2 months). He got the hang of it by day 2, although his comfort with taking BMs took another week or so, and he was in pull-ups overnight until he was about 4.5 years old.

is showing some signs she is ready. Plus, I’m tired of it. Diapering two babies in cloth is hard and I’m sick of it. I think I’m feeling this obscure pressure from other people I know who all had babies around the time period of L (February 2015) as well. Not that anyone overtly judging me. But when other moms at the library have babies who are younger than L with flat underwear bottoms I feel like I oughta suck it up and train her.

So far today she’s peed once. She was super upset, wanted a change of underwear, so that’s something… I’ve just resigned myself that today is going to suck, tomorrow will suck, I’ll scrub feces and urine from many surfaces, she’s gonna cry, I’m gonna cry, but after this window of annoying frustration, I’ll only have one baby to diaper. That’s worth it.

putting the fast in breakfast

This past week my 2-year-old, L, has decided eating is an option she doesn’t want to do it anymore. This is not written in my usual dramatic hyperbole. The girl doesn’t eat from about 4 pm each night until 7 am the next morning.

She’s making husband’s recent daily 14-hour fasting goal look easy.

I know toddlers are the best judges if they are hungry or not. I know she will not willingly starve herself. Her appetite starts waning after 1pm and apparently ceases once the sun goes down. I also know actual toddler “serving sizes” are microscopically smaller than you’d think: a quarter of a banana is the recommended serving for a 2-year-old, 2 tablespoons of Cheerios is all they are “supposed to” have at a time.

I once went to a ‘Toddler Workshop’ at the library and the childhood nutrition specialist there blew my mind with these facts. At that time E was 2 and would easily eat more than me for at least one meal on the daily.  He’d plow through two full Eggo waffles, two scrambled eggs, a handful of berries and juice and want a snack one hour later.

It’s hard to fight the ‘clean plate club’ idea. It’s driven into me, from somewhere, kids need to eat. Eat something. I can now see how easy it is to fall into the trap of young children skipping dinner but then eating “snacks” an hour later. You don’t want to harm your kids. You don’t want them to starve.

But that’s the thing. I also rationally know, if L is hungry enough, she will eat what we offer her. And it’s not like she is sitting at the table screaming her head off for sweets- she doesn’t even want to sit down in the evening to eat. “L, time to eat!” I call. “No!” she shoots back, and runs away.

So, even though a part of me feels like I’m failing somehow, as I sit down to eat a nutritiously balanced dinner with my older son and she’s in her room playing with dolls, I also know that I’m avoiding a tantrum, tears, and annoyance by just letting her be. She goes to bed without dinner, sleeps 12 hours straight and wakes up hungry and happy so, I guess for now it’s all good.

Living with a toddler is living with an irrational power hungry dictator wanna-be. I know I can not physically force the kid to eat. She’s gonna do it when she wants to do it. But, on the flip side, I control what she eats. I can’t give her options, the knowledge that she maybe could have a choice of not just when to eat but also what– that’s how you end up with kids only eating chicken nuggets or grilled cheeses for three years straight.

So, this power struggle really isn’t a power struggle. It’s all internal with myself. She will eat when hungry, but only what we, the parents, deem healthy for her. And that’s how it is she ends up eating roughly the same calorie intake that Emma Stone dieting to fit into her Oscar gown does each day. And it’s ok.

 

 

walks with toddlers

Walk at your toddler’s pace, they said. Notice what they notice, they said. You’ll gain a new appreciation of beauty and life and learn how to slow down and enjoy the world in an entirely new way, they said.

False.

Walking along, behind, and in front of a 2-year-old is akin to going to the dentist. You dread it, it’s mostly unpleasant during the procedure, and maybe after you’re done you feel like it was a good healthy choice, but you never look back at it with wonder or gratitude. It just is what it is: a time-consuming exercise, a battle of wills of you arguing internally between “just-pick-the-damn-kid-up” and “she-really-seems-content-I-can-fake-a-smile-a-little-longer”.

In reality, I DO let L walk. Quite often. The bugger has great stamina and can keep up with myself and the six-year-old pretty well. I love fostering her independence this way and I know it is fun for her.

But I don’t see how on Earth it’s supposed to inspire or help ME at all.

pink exploding

We celebrated L’s second birthday yesterday. L is the only female of her cousins here on Long Island, she’s the one girl among six boy cousins. Because of this, she is automatically gifted all the frilly, girly, pinky stuff* my sisters-in-law and mother-in-law can find. Which is understandable and all, but I still scrunch my nose up at it all.

I’m the same way with my boys. I am a believer of not pushing gender norms onto kids, and in addition to this ideal, I also don’t like the amount of commercialism we surround our kids with. The character tie-ins just make me sick. It’s everywhere. Try going to Target and buying a non-commercial character Halloween outfit. Or getting your kids a nice, plain backpack or folder for school without some flashy cartoon character on it. You have to dig and search for the non-branded items.

I did, possibly, too good of a job of steering my oldest away from the trends. Unlike most little boys, he could care less about superheroes. It’s not that I’ve actively avoided exposure to them, but I’ve never encouraged it. Now he is six-years-old and refuses any character-branded clothing or items unless it’s Elsa from  Frozen but that’s a totally separate topic. It is almost annoying just because when he is gifted said “boy” items he won’t use them.

Now, back to little L.

I guess I have only myself to blame. A few months ago she needed new socks, and Aldi was selling some Disney ones super cheap so I picked them up. She was drawn to the princess socks. Like, obsessed instantly. It made putting her socks and shoes on much easier, but I sensed this kid is gonna be a totally different beast when it comes to fighting the gender norms.

Which is fine. Even though I look at the plastic, gaudy princess gear she opened yesterday with distaste, I also know this is a losing battle. I can’t keep it away from her. The more I fight, the more she’ll desire it.

I’m torn because I know it doesn’t really matter for her future as a woman, but another part of me believes it does. I know that when I was 2,3,4 I would have LOVED princess dresses and crowns. Absolutely I would have. But there wasn’t nearly the amount of merchandise to buy back then. And it certainly wasn’t as readily available and cheap as it is now.

I was aware of the princesses and I loved them, but my exposure was mostly through movies and books. I had this large classic Snow White book and I would stare and stare at pretty Snow White and play pretend I was her but, at the risk of sounding like a major Grinch about it all, I used my imagination when I played Snow White but my daughter will never have to pretend to have a crown and a big fluffy dress. She’ll have an entire closet full of them.

Today she hasn’t taken a tutu off or her wings off. It’s cute. It is. Maybe I can adjust my scowl and spin it all in a positive way. She is expressing herself and so so happy playing dress up. I can always tell her Princess’s wear their gloves and eat all their vegetables and share with their brothers. I can let her “play princess” without actually calling her “princess” all the time. Little things like that. Who am I to turn all femi-nazi on a toddler’s natural attraction to all things frill and pink? Like I said above, resisting this will make her desire for it worst, so for now I’ll try and smile at the pink explosion that’s taken over our tiny little home.

 

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attack of the chiffon

 

 

*I would say crap but our friends and relatives spent a lot of time and money buying her these gifts and it isn’t crap, really.

 

how I cloth diaper 2 under 2

(without losing my mind)

If there is one aspect of parenting I excel at, I’d say this whole cloth-diapering-thing is my mic-drop-worthy task. Generally speaking, when I tell someone (crossing guard, gym babysitter, rando grandma-like lady in the grocery store line) I cloth diaper my two babies, I get a dropped jaw and shaken head in sympathy as a response.

Which is totally unneeded.

Here’s a little secret: the diaper laundry is my favorite household chore.

How is this possible, you may wonder. Maybe I’m just a masochist in the homemaking sense. The reality is no other task is as satisfying as seeing and smelling the sloppy mess that is a wet bag go into the wash, and taking it out of the dryer a few hours later clean, white, and fresh smelling. Nothing compares.

I’m not an expert by any means, and my wash routine came from fluffloveuniversity.com, but I’ll share with you how a typical diaper wash day goes at my house.

The wetbag  is stored at the top of our basement stairs, on a nail. I usually have a smaller wetbag in the bathroom with the diapers our daughter has pooped in too (poops from food, not just milk, must be rinsed off in the toilet before going in the wash). I take them down to the wash, dump all of it in our top-loading HE machine. The first several months of cloth diapering I would have to go through the mess to pull the inserts out of the pocket diapers I use, but I finally learned to extract the inserts the second I change a diaper. That way I don’t have to touch a single soiled diaper.

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oh beware the yuckiness this preppy bag conceals

 

I use the “Quick-Wash” setting, set all the buttons to ‘hot’ ‘heavy’ and ‘high-spin’ (oddly sexual seeing those settings all typed out). I put it a full cap of detergent (usually Kirkland Ultra, but sometimes Tide). That’s another thing; I am dealing with literal sh*t and piss, so using “gentle chemical free detergent” is not happening in this house. Give me the chemicals, the science please. I totally am in sync with keeping unneeded chemicals out of things I ingest, but I trust the folks over at Kirkland Signature as experts on what works to get my clothes actually clean and I say to them; “more chemicals, please!’

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diaper soup – do your magic Samsung HE machine -do your magic Kirkland Ultra

 

After about an hour of the quick wash, I go back downstairs, add another capful of the evil-chemical-filled detergent and do a “Heavy Duty” wash. This wash takes about an hour and a half. Then, depending on the weather and usually my motivation level, I dry the diapers. Hanging them on the line to dry outside is ideal. I know I was just bragging on science but the Sun does wonders on cloth diapers. It bleaches them and makes all those annoying little poop stains fade out. It’s been awhile since I’ve sunned diapers, though, so usually, I just put them in the dryer and in an hour or so I bring them upstairs to fold.

Folding the diapers is tedious. It’s the hardest, thus easiest to blow off task. I try to avoid procrastinating on it by allowing myself the most ultimate of guilty pleasures while stuffing the diapers: Real Housewives of (insert whichever city is in season here).

It never fails, as I shove microfibers and cotton into the pockets of the diapers, I smell them deeply and marvel. I pretend I’m in a Tide Commerical. That dad who’s daughter wears a princess dress everyday? HA! I put the diapers through the wringer every other day, covered in so much nasty and since I don’t want to put off the readers here, I won’t attempt to describe them, but anyway they come out smelling and looking like new! (usually. I’d say there’s a 95% success rate. The odd diaper or two has a stain. I’m okay with that)

Once diapers are folded and on display on the bookcase I use to store them, I channel Marie Kondo and thank them. The bulk of my stash is Kawaii brand, and I’ve used them practically every day for two years straight. They now cover both my daughter and my sons butts over and over again and they do an incredibly good job at it. Every diaper washed represents up to 25 cents saved of a disposable diaper I didn’t use. Every diaper washed and dried and folded up represents a full circle, deeply satisfying.

How do I cloth diaper 2 under 2? I just do it. It’s just laundry, after all. A double-wash every 2-3 days. Anyone can do laundry, and this does increase the load, but like I said before, there is something rewarding about this ritual of wash-dry-fold that hasn’t faded over the years.

My daughter is going to turn two next week and I’ve planned on toilet training her very soon. Going down to just one fluff butt to cover means less diapers and until H is six months old or so, I won’t need to worry about rinsing poop off, which will be awesome. But, all in all, the cloth diaper ‘lifestyle’ (haha what a lifestyle, I just have to giggle at that) is one that works great and I’m a naturally messy, disorganized scatterbrained lady so if I can do it, I know you can too.

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