Monday, September 30, 2013

For First-Time Parents: Potty Training

Here's part four of the First-Time Parent series which addresses topics common to all parents. Part One was about night-time sleep, Part Two about napping and Part Three about feeding.

We didn't start BB this young, but she's so cute!
My daughter is three years old and she’s completely potty trained. Hurray! The total process has taken nine months which may sound like a drag, especially with all of those “train your child in one day” books and whatnot, but has been a steady progression without too many bumps and only a couple of public mishaps (which to me sounds pretty good). I thought it’d be nice to share my experience to remind me when it’s LB’s turn.

Last summer, I started thinking more about it. I definitely wanted to be on the no diaper track by the time LB made his appearance. I heard from some of my mom friends with two kids that once the new baby arrives and you are dealing with newborn diapers, you feel like you’re wiping an adult’s rear when  changing your older child. And it makes financial sense to only be buying diapers for one child. (That’s right, we are a disposable diaper family. I spend plenty of time with the washer and dryer as it is. I didn’t feel like quadrupling my time in the laundry room. Not that I didn’t consider it. I know plenty of people who do use reusables and more power to them!)

I read a few books about potty training. The ones that mentioned training in 1, 2, and 3 days seemed quite appealing. I asked my mom what she used. She managed to find a copy of the book and mailed it to me. It was the one I ended up using as a reference: Toilet Training in Less Than a Day by Nathan Azrin. (I just used Amazon to find the title and also found Potty Training Boys the Easy Way which is intriguing and may be read before we start the process with LB in a few years.)

I picked a start date when BB was close to 2 ½ years, one when we could be at home all day for a few days to get the hang of things. I then spent the days leading up to that day dreading its arrival. I don’t know whether it was from hearing others’ experiences, but I imagined it being very tedious and requiring large amounts of time cleaning someone else’s urine off of the floor. Like most other unknown experiences, it’s really not as bad as you imagine it to be. The fear of the unknown is nearly always worse than the actual experience.

The day finally arrived and I had all of my materials – a week’s worth of panties, washcloths, a potty, a training doll (in our case, BB’s favorite stuffed monster, Elmo), juice, water, snacks and rewards. After breakfast I took Elmo through the motions of using the potty, praised him and gave him a reward (M&M) which BB was able to eat since Elmo can’t. We did it several times to get used to the what all is involved. As instructed in the book, Elmo then had an accident. We talked about important people (mommy, daddy, Grammy, Grandaddy, etc) liking dry panties and had Elmo practice using the potty and change his panties. (Humorous side note: for months after the potty training week, BB would refer to her plain white panties as Elmo’s panties because they were what we had used on him.) I asked often if BB had dry panties (the book suggested praising dry, clean pants instead of the act of using the potty as staying dry and clean is the true goal). She would receive a reward when the answer was yes. I had her sit on the potty every so often (I had a chart I followed that had me write in times of various commands/activities to chart progress and spot patterns). Eventually she had an accident. She was not very happy about being wet but I had her clean it up with a washcloth (I helped make sure it all got cleaned), we practiced using the potty, and then I had her change her panties. We did this most of the day, me giving her salty snacks and juice, practicing with Elmo a few more times and playing mostly in the kitchen where the floor is easy to clean. It was kind of boring, but it was nice to know that it was only for a short duration. I still had her nap and sleep in a diaper.

The next couple of days we stayed home to practice getting used to recognizing the sensation of having to use the bathroom and then going. Still plenty of rewards for dry, clean panties. More teaching her to be careful when emptying the small potty into the big potty and flushing. No bowel movements into the potty, but I had heard that it takes more time to get used to doing that on a potty.

On day four I decided to venture out for a short trip. I put a towel in the car seat, had her sit on the potty right before we left, and off to the library we went. We were only gone about twenty minutes but I gave BB lots of praise and a reward for staying dry and clean while we were out. As the weeks went on, I got braver and braver. BB got better at recognizing the need to go and we both gained confidence in her abilities. Eventually she started pooping in the potty. The first time, she received major praise and an extra special reward. For a while all bowel movements into the potty received a special reward. When BB had fully grasped using the potty, we phased out the rewards by letting whatever treat run out of stock in the pantry and then announced that she was a big girl and the treats were all gone.

We still put her in diapers for nap and bedtime. As she started staying completely dry through nap time we let her stay in panties (which was what she wanted). It has taken a lot longer for her to stay dry through the night but I am attributing that to maturity of her body. The past month we have been tracking her dry nights. BB went nearly a week two months back with dry diapers at night so we put her in panties and she woke up wet the next morning. We tried two more nights with the same results so she went into a pull up. We thought perhaps she could still get up and use the bathroom if she needed. A few weeks after that BB announced that she wanted to sleep in panties. We told her she had to have a week of dry diapers to be able to sleep in panties. She achieved that so we put her in panties and started a sticker chart to track her dry nights. In the past four weeks she only had one slightly wet night (only the panties and pjs were damp, not her sheets) and that was day four. We told her when she went a whole month with dry panties she could pick out a special toy or have a special cupcake. She chose the cupcake.

Nine months sounds long, but it was really just the first few weeks that I was most cautious and then a day or so after the occasional accident. Now that we’re finally at this point, everything before doesn’t seem all that bad. It’s been so much better than dealing with two children in diapers.

We’ve had a few road trips throughout this adventure. We would put BB in a pull up just in case, but she’d tell us she had to go and we’d stop so she could. I’ll admit that we did consider having her just go into the pull up once or twice so that we didn’t have to stop but we did stop in order to continue to encourage her progress.

It’ll be quite a while before I get to go through this process with LB (and I wonder whether it’ll be distinctly different with a boy or just because it’s a different child) but at least I’ve been through it once now. I’m sure I’ll still feel a little dread when the day approaches, but I now have experience on my side and the knowledge that accidents are temporary but being out of diapers is forever (I hope).

Experienced parents, how did your potty training experience/s go? For those who have potty trained boys and girls, are there any stark differences you noticed? Any advice to share on what to do (or what NOT to do)?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Lesson in Humility

The past two Sundays I have received encouragement from God during church (written about previously here and here). As I prepared for church this past Sunday I looked forward to what God would reveal to me that morning. I do realize that I should probably approach every day looking for God to speak truth to me - I'm a work in progress. It seems that am beginning a season where I feel more open to God and am trying to have a heart that is tender toward him.

Two weeks ago I started attending the women's Bible study on Wednesday mornings. We are doing a study called Seeking Him by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Tim Grissom. The first week was an introduction to what revival means. The fifth day of the personal study gave an assessment to show us areas in our lives where we could use God to work. It was quite revealing. One of the first areas where I was convicted was in humility.

I don't really consider myself a boastful person. I am an introvert so I don't tend to take over conversations or talk about everything I have done and am doing. However I don't necessarily rejoice with those who are receiving accolades and success and sometimes I ruminate when my contributions are not acknowledged. So, naturally, week two of the study is all about humility.

I am actually glad that this topic is dealt with more in depth. It has allowed me to see ways that pride (the opposite of humility) is manifested in my life. My pride tends to deal with my self-image and what I allow others to see (or how I want others to see me). I am guilty of trying to do as much as possible on my own so that I can be the one who "does it all". I'm not good at asking for help or depending on others. I struggle with being open about my mistakes because I fear others will judge me harshly. I tend to compare various aspects of myself with others.

What ought I to be doing instead? Being open to others and asking for help when needed. Admitting my mistakes, seeking forgiveness and reconciliation when I wrong others or others wrong me and finding my worth in Christ. I was not created to be another Christy or Tracy or Amanda. I was created for a unique purpose. And I wasn't made to be perfect or faultless. If I was, I'd have no need for grace or Jesus.

Now back to Sunday morning. I am not a very demonstrative person. For the last couple of weeks I have been thinking that I should lift my hands some when singing praise songs to God in church. Not because others are but because I want to show my love for and devotion to God. It has been an internal struggle because part of me feels foolish and thinks it might draw attention (the introvert in me). However, I realized on Sunday while singing that it was part pride as well. I was concerned with what others would think. Was I at church to please other people? No. Was I singing for the benefit of other people? No. (By the by, it has taken me quite a few years to feel comfortable singing out loud with other people. I'm still not completely there but it doesn't really hinder me like it used to. Not that this means I'll do any kind of solo singing for anyone other than my kids either.) So I spent a good part of the music time debating whether or not to raise my arms. It carried into the message time. I affirmed to myself, "If there's music at the end of the service (there nearly always is) I'll raise my hands then."

We finished the time of communion after the message and the band began to play. "Okay," I said to myself, "the moment of truth." And then we sang this part of Hillsong United's "The Stand":

I'll stand
With arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the one who gave it all
I'll stand
My soul Lord to you surrendered
All I am is yours

I laughed to myself at the absurdity of my conundrum. God is so good and faithful! I raised my arms to about chest level with palms up. That may not seem like much but it's a huge step for me. I know God will continue to meet me where I am and lead me to where he wants me to go. My job is to continue to acknowledge his promptings, confess any sin that is revealed, repent, and take steps forward.

How is God working in your life right now? Do you also struggle with humility? Trust God and take that first step toward where he is calling you!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Seasons of Life

Image by nenetus at
I know that I am blessed to have the opportunity to stay at home with my children while they are young. I have loved watching them grow and develop and reach new milestones. I know there are women out there who would love to be at home as well but are unable to for a variety of reasons. Nonetheless, it is not always exactly what I imagined or easy-as-pie every day. I know that our lives are full of varying seasons, none of which last forever (good or bad). In this season of parenting young children, I have continued to receive blessings that help me along the journey. One of those blessings are other women in my life.

Being home with two small children can hinder one's social life, especially if one is breastfeeding one of these children and said child chooses not to accept bottles. A child who needs to feed every two, three or four hours tends to put your day on a schedule that you really don't want to vary from. And we must not forget the naps in between these feedings. You don't really want to skip those either. So naps and feedings tend to take up quite a lot of time in a mother's day. Thankfully the time requirement for these things lessens as the child grows. However, it still makes it difficult to spend time with other people during the day, especially when there's an older child who also would like to be noticed and entertained. It seems like it'd be easy to hang out with people once the children are in bed for the night but then you also want to spend time with your spouse. And you have to alternate evening activities with said spouse so that you can both get some adult time while the kids are properly supervised. Yes, there are babysitters but they can be quite expensive so we don't use them willy-nilly. We are one of those families who don't live near family so babysitting is our only option when we want to go out together (or at the same time - though usually if we're both out of the house we are together (see cost of babysitting)).

I say all of that to say PRAISE THE LORD for women who are willing to work with my family's schedule and hang out with me at my house or with the kids in tow. Before children, my best friend and I would get together whenever the mood hit us. I had every other evening or weekend to spend time with the hubs so scheduling was much easier and carefree. 

When BB was born I was holed up in the house for a few months getting used to parenting and scheduling for a baby. I was grateful for those who brought by meals for us and would stay to chat for a bit. When you only have one child, and it's a baby, the daily conversation can be quite lacking. I did start going to a mom's group which was nice because everyone else had small children so no one cared about crying babies and are schedules were similar.

When BB was older my friend and I still wanted to get together for meaningful conversation. Sometimes we would meet for lunch or somewhere BB could play or be a little rowdy. Often times, she'd come over and have lunch at my house. We eventually started meeting during BB's nap time at my house so that we could talk distraction-free. I am so grateful for her willingness to meet at times and locations that worked best for my season of life.

I have found that to continue to be the case as our house has grown to four members. It's slightly more challenging with one who can talk in addition to a baby and his schedule. Thankfully, compassionate women have willingly met me and my crew at kid-friendly locations and patiently endured interruptions from my peanut gallery, some even kindly being stamped and stickered by BB.

This past Sunday at church a woman I am beginning to get to know offered to meet me and the kids at a park to hang out and talk. It means so much to me when others are considerate of my situation and reach out to bless me with friendship and adult time. These are the people that strengthen and encourage me as a wife, mother, and woman of God. It reminded me off all of the times women have done this in my three and a half years as a mom. I hope that I will remember how much these offerings of friendship mean to me once I have passed through this season so that I, too, will be able to do the same for other young mothers.

Have you had people in your life who have reached out to you in a specific season of your life and given you strength and encouragement? I'd love to hear your experience!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

For First-Time Parents: Feeding

Here's part three of the First-Time Parent series which addresses topics common to all parents. Part One was about night-time sleep and Part Two was about napping.

LB loves fruit!

It's amazing to witness the many transitions in the first year of life. People start out as helpless, squirming infants and by their birthday they are on the move, able to get themselves where they want to go. They enter the world crying and are saying actual words by one year of age. They begin with a liquid diet of one substance and are consuming a variety of liquids and solids at year's end.

In this section I will share my family's experiences with feeding during a baby's first year. Yours will probably vary in some form from ours. I do not intend for this to be all-encompassing.

Both of our kiddos started out receiving breast milk. BB was born early so I was instructed to begin pumping right away to get my milk supply flowing. BB and I struggled a bit with latching. Breastfeeding hurt A LOT for me. Some nights in the first few weeks we would feed her formula through a syringe. Other than that, it was all breast milk all the time (not to say that we wouldn't have supplemented again if the need had arisen). With both kids breastfeeding hurt or was uncomfortable for the first six weeks. After that my body seemed to have gotten used to the process and toughened up. I have heard that it shouldn't hurt at all and it means you're doing something wrong if it does. I disagree. I have not yet met a mother who had a peachy keen time from the beginning (if you did, I'd love to hear about it). Breastfeeding is what I wanted to do and I toughed it out. It wasn't as bad enduring the initial six weeks the second time since I knew it would get better. I was able to breastfeed BB for her first year. I'm striving to do the same with LB. So far so good.

In the beginning I fed the kids every two hours, day and night. It stretched out to two and a half and then three hours. After the first two to four weeks I let the kids sleep as long as they would during the night and fed them whenever they woke up. During the day we were on a regular time interval feeding schedule. BB started going without night feedings at eight weeks. LB didn't achieve this until about six months. They ate every three hours during the day for a while, then stretched to three and a half and finally four. It stayed this way through the first year as far as I can recall.

One thing I wish I would have done with both of them was to give them a bottle regularly (such as once per day or once every other day) starting at around four weeks of age. We gave each of them one bottle about this time. They took it without issue so we assumed they would always be that way. Failing to continue to offer it meant that five weeks later (or whenever we tried to give another one) they wouldn't take it. This was not a huge issue as I was home with each of them. But if I had needed to go back to work it would have been a rough transition. As it was, we struggled to have a relaxing date night for the first few months of our babies' lives. They did both accept bottles better after having received solid foods for awhile. I guess something about receiving nourishment from spoons and their own fingers helped them accept milk from a different source.

We started introducing solid food to both kids at six months. We started with cereal and then moved on to pureed fruits and vegetables. I started giving LB small pieces of mushy fruit earlier than BB (maybe at about 7 or 8 months). I had read about Baby-Led Weaning and thought I might give it a try. I can't say that I've stuck closely to it. I try to offer cut up soft foods but he isn't all that interested if it isn't a Cheerio, puff or piece of fruit. Vegetables he tends to snub so I have continued with some purees to help get the nutrients and tastes in there. LB wasn't eating much cereal from six to nine months which decreased his iron levels. I couldn't remember how we got BB to eat it well. PB reminded me that we alternated and/or combined cereal and yogurt (because BB loved yogurt) so we tried that with LB and it worked like a charm.

We offer water through a sippy cup and a straw cup during the second six months. Both kids did better with a straw cup because they don't have to tip it up to get liquid. Not receiving lots of bottles prevented them from learning how to hold a cup and tipping it up to drink. (I'm guessing. Perhaps bottle fed babies also use straw cups better at first.)

Between nine and twelve months we started to drift toward a three-meal feeding schedule with snacks as needed. I don't remember how we did this with BB. I'm currently nearing the 10 month mark with LB and he nurses four times each day (around 7:30, 11:30, 3:30 and 7:30) and eats breakfast, lunch and dinner with BB, PB and myself. I'm sure by 12 months the nursing schedule will be stretched more to 7:30, 12, 5, and bedtime so that they can be replaced by cow's milk and the bedtime one eventually dropped. I will probably get more adventurous with offering pieces of food around the year mark, especially when his molars come in.

When I try to think about the end of the first year and how we transitioned from breast milk to cow's milk I get a little fuzzy. I know that we made sure BB would drink cow's milk out of a cup. Then I dropped one feeding every three or four days until she was only drinking cow's milk from a cup. I didn't experience any engorgement or pain weaning this way. I don't remember when she stopped having food and drink after dinner. I guess whenever we felt like it wasn't nutritionally necessary and we were ready to test whether she would still sleep until her normal wake up time.

That is most of my experience. I cannot share any experiential information about formula feeding. I would assume it's similar in the regular interval feedings. I hear formula is digested slowly so the feedings are spaced out earlier. I'm sure being able to see how much the baby is eating at a feeding (by reading bottle measurements) can be helpful and comforting. I used the number of wet and dirty diapers as my gauge to whether my kids were receiving enough milk.

Did I forget any other useful information about feeding during the first year? Do you have any helpful tips for new parents? Anything specific to formula feeding that others can use?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Encouragement and Humor for Parents

Parenting is exhausting!

As I've waded through the first years of motherhood, I have received loads of encouragement from hearing the stories of other mothers who have been where I am and will be soon. Anyone who has had the blessing of preparing for a new adventure by hearing and learning from others who have made it through already understand such information is like an infusion of oxygen when you feel like you're drowning in the experience. As a new mother, you may feel like certain circumstances are never going to pass and you will always be this tired, bored, starved for adult conversation, or covered in spit-up. If you can have just one voice tell you that they were once where you are but have now been freed from that phase and are now receiving more sleep, stimulation, adult time, or days with unsoiled clothes, then perhaps you will receive the encouragement to continue at least one more day, confident that there's light in the distance.

It's wonderful if you are surrounded by women like these, moms in similar situations. But for many of us it is hard to find someone to relate. Perhaps you've just moved to a new place or you are not naturally a people person. Making new friends and visiting a mom group may be out of your comfort zone. Thankfully, we are in the Internet age where people can connect all over the world. And, if even an online connection seems awkward, we are free to visit online groups anonymously and glean wisdom from a myriad of blogs and websites dedicated to parenting that offer candid moments of what life is really like in the trenches. I thought it would be nice to share some posts and sites that I have personally enjoyed with you. I hope that they provide encouragement (or a laugh) to you as well!

Mothers Of PreSchoolers Blog - has a variety of subjects for parents
Crappy Pictures - hilarious and the pictures give it that extra something
Five Kids Is a Lot of Kids - this was my first experience with her writing and I laughed quite hard at this because it was before this scenario was possible in my house
Jen Hatmaker - you may have seen her and this post on the Today show, but it helps me prepare for the school-age years
Rants from Mommyland - some honesty, encouragement and quite a bit of humor
Full of It... - makes me think of the moments when I, too, feel like I've done something right
WhatcomFamilies - a good reminder of what moms do
The Actual Pastor - an encouraging post for parents of young children
Scary Mommy - a collaboration of mom bloggers covering a range of topics

Do you have any encouraging blogs or articles to share? Have you written your own insightful, encouraging, or humorous parenting experience? Link them in your comment!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Living For His Glory

Image by suwatpo at
Yesterday at church there was a new person singing with the band. I was blown away at the beauty of his voice. It was powerful and passionate. I felt joy watching him use his God-given abilities for the glory of God. It got me thinking about all of the people I have seen using their abilities in a glorifying way. All of the members of the band at church do this. Our various speakers do this as well. So do the people welcoming everyone to church and those teaching and loving on the kids in the children's ministry. There's something so encouraging to me when I see the joy and passion in the face of the person giving of themselves in order to point to Jesus. 

While I was listening to and singing the lyrics of the songs and listening to our pastor speak passionately about focusing on what God looks at rather than what man does, it fanned the flame of my desire to live purposefully and to use my abilities for God's glory. I know that he has given me abilities with the written word. I want to be faithful to write regularly about my experiences for the purpose of encouraging others who may be facing similar situations. I know that God can use my words and my life for his purposes. That's my heart's greatest desire. And, essentially, that's my mission for this blog - to provide hope and encouragement to others. 

Does seeing someone else living purposefully and glorifying God cultivate a desire in you to do the same? What are abilities you possess that you could use to bring glory to God?

And take my life, let it be everything, all of me
Here I am, use me for Your glory
In everything I say and do, let my life honor You
Here I am living for Your glory
~Tim Hughes and Rachel Hughes, Living For Your Glory~

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Life Got In The Way

Top: how I feel some weeks. Bottom: once the weeks are over.

Well, it's certainly been a few weeks since I was last on here. It's been pretty busy around our house. We went on vacation to Myrtle Beach with the in-laws for a week. The following week BB started three-year-old preschool three days per week. This week my brother is visiting for a few days so there's been a lot of changes to the "normal" routine. With preschool started we are working on creating a new weekly schedule and routine. Also within this time frame PB and I have tried to get back into our weekly team tennis practices (match play starts this weekend) and our church community group has begun. Oh, and BB took her first dance class yesterday. So, yeah, our days are pretty packed. 

I was excited about preschool for several reasons. I thought BB would enjoy spending regular time with other children her age. It would also break up the monotony of staring at our four walls all of the time. I was looking forward to getting some one-on-one time with LB. It's rare that he's awake without BB around. I also thought it would give me a few more hours during the week to get things checked off of my to-do list (especially since LB has a nap time for an hour or so while BB's in preschool). 

The first week I managed to get more done than usual. I figured out that I could do my exercise DVD and take a shower in the morning. I could get my blog post written and posted on the alternate morning. And that's how it worked. The first week. 

Last week (I can't believe we've only had two weeks of preschool!) I assumed the same would happen. I don't know whether I took naps I didn't know about, but somehow I wasn't even able to get all of my normal week things accomplished! I have no idea what was different between the weeks. 

This week my brother is here so we are having quality time with him and are nowhere close to regular days, but we're having fun and, in the life of a SAHM, sometimes different is a refreshing break from the norm. However, I must say that I have been able to get some things done knowing there's another set of eyes and hands (and ears - boy does BB like to talk!) around the house.

I'll have to wait until next week to see how the trend is going. I do realize that even before preschool I tended to have productive and non-productive weeks. That's just life I suppose. I'm sure once we get used to all of our weekly activities things will smooth out again. And, if not, then something will probably need to be dropped.

Do you tend to alternate between feeling on top of your to-do list and feeling hopelessly behind? Any solutions or helpful advice?