January 30, 2012

Big Kid Adventures

Finally, the ultimate reward for successful pottying - a big kid adventure. And what do big kids get to do on their adventures? See Elmo in real life, of course.

After the last post, there was a serious turnaround. In fact, to date, the only accidents they have had since that post (#1 or #2) have been in unusual circumstances...like being at the store with Daddy, in the checkout line, and not making it through the checkout process. I've been truly thrilled with the success (especially Ryan's sudden turnaround with the #2)! And this accident-free week just happened to be 1 of our busiest weeks ever, with activities every day and 2 separate trips to Detroit!

Remember the change they had been saving? I forgot to take them to the bank to trade in their change for cash, so I used their piggy banks. They put all their change in, lifted it up, and there was a $10 bill (taken out of the piggy bank the night before) waiting for them. Let's just say they were less than thrilled to put all of their beloved change into the bank only to have 1 measly piece of paper waiting for them underneath!

Before the show the twins got to pick out what they wanted to buy with their potty money. I was hoping for t-shirt, or something that I could turn into a lasting memento. Ryan chose a cd (very practical, we've listened to it a bunch of times already, and it's a great way to re-live the fun). Allie chose binoculars. Now she has been obsessively asking for a pair of binoculars for about a month, and using as many toys as possible as pretend binoculars in the meantime, so I wasn't surprised by the choice!
With Daddy in front of the stage!
Just before the show started, I had a big mommy fail. We take potties with us in the van when we travel so that we can stop and let them go whenever they need. So, before we went into the theatre, we had them go in the travel potties. I should have known that it would be a good idea to take them to the bathroom before the show, but I didn't. Just as Big Bird announced that there were 3 minutes until the show started, Allie whispered she had to go. Lucas and I debated whether or not we should go, if she was just bored, etc. Then Allie whispered very urgently that she had to go NOW. So we stood up to hurry to the bathroom just as the characters came on the stage. I scooped her up and rushed to the bathroom. I was convinced she would be devastated about missing part of the show, and in my hurry to get her pottied and back I failed to remember that she has an uncanny ability to shoot her pee forward rather than down...which she did...and in my surprise I almost dropped her in the toilet. She was devastated (and a wee bit traumatized), and I was still trying to get her upstairs. It didn't dawn on me until we were back that she was no where near as concerned as I was about not missing the show (in fact, in her mind she missed nothing), and I should have just stayed calm and focused on a pleasant potty experience. Lesson learned.
Elmo & Zoe - their favorite characters!
A couple times the shot out confetti and/or streamers. We were 1 row short of catching the streamers!
The Fabulous 5 superheroes.
The best picture I could get of the whole gang...
They really enjoyed the show. The only downside was that it ended about 20 minutes after their naptime usually starts. So the last 10 minutes they started to get alternately limp and restless. But that night they started telling me all the things they remembered about the show (some details that I didn't even remember!), and I realized that they paid attention the whole time! I'm glad that we made this their first big kid adventure!
All of us before the show
(why is this picture black and white? Because the guy who took the picture kept putting his hand over the flash, and the only way I could brighten the picture enough that you could see, and have it look slightly normal was to make it black and white...)
Another busy week ahead including our home visit from our social worker as part of our home study for the adoption! So you probably won't hear from us again this week...because I will be busy cleaning out every nook and cranny of my house!

January 24, 2012


We've been very disappointed with the lack of snow so far this winter. In fact, recently Allie told me, "Winter is supposed to bring me snow, but it didn't. Winter is being mean. It needs a spanking. But it is up in the sky, and I can't reach it. Please, Winter, give me snow!" The next day it snowed. We almost immediately invited ourselves over to our friends house to use their perfect sledding hill before they move. Thankfully, they were willing to host our sledding party...even though their daughter hates to sled...
The twins loved it!

Pretty soon they were racing!
It didn't take long for the adults to get in on the sledding action.
Seconds after this picture, she crashed...and I took about a zillion pictures of her trying to get up before I realized she could perhaps use some help. At least I didn't post the pictures of her flailing on the ground here. That should earn back a few friend points?
While the kids never made it this far, all of the adults crashed in the mini-forest.

The only one who somehow managed to pose for the camera...
The best part of the trip? This moment:
My friend didn't know, as she went down the hill, that her daughter failed to let go and was trailing behind her. It turned out to be the best thing. We couldn't coax sweet E onto a sled, but once she went down accidentally, she loved it! She went down a few more times (although not on her stomach...because it wasn't very comfortable)! We were so excited to be part of her sledding breakthrough!
Oh, and it rained the next day and our snow is essentially gone. I'm pretty sure we are going to get blizzards in March.

January 20, 2012

Post-Potty Party Run-down

Sick of my Potty Chronicles? Sorry. It turns out this is one of those all-encompassing milestones. Suddenly, your whole world becomes "How long has it been since they last went potty?" and "Do you have to pee-pee or poo-poo?" and "Has she pooped yet today? Is he getting constipated?" and "Are they drinking enough?" or "Maybe they could drink a little less," and so on. Since it has filled our days, it monopolizes the posts here :) But this is the last...I think...I know that the very next post won't be potty related at least!

The morning after Allie's party (Sunday...church day...and we couldn't skip because I had nursery duty) was filled with accidents. In fact, we left for church without anyone actually making it to the potty in time. I was a bit of a wreck. I was exhausted. I was convinced those 2 days were a complete waste. I was wanting to go back to diapers (but we "threw" them away!). I lost it a little. And then we got to church and they both went on the potties there. And then we not only were accident free at church, the other kids in the nursery LOVED the potty practice theme. We sang songs, told stories, played games - all in the bathroom. And then we made it through the rest of the day with success (even poopy!). I started to realize that they were actually doing better than I thought, and I needed to relax. I did, and it hasn't been so bad. We haven't had an accident free day yet, but we've been close, and the majority of the accidents have been understandable (while playing outside or wrestling daddy).

A few things I've learned:
- it seems that potty training is one big trust-building activity. For the twins to stop whatever they are doing to go potty when they need to, I have to come through on my promise that they can go right back and finish. This meant that even though I wanted to go inside in 5 minutes, when Allie said she had to go potty, we went back outside after. Even though the potty process (with full snow gear) took roughly 15 minutes! It has made me enter their world a little more to see what is truly important to them.
- Getting them to sit on the potty long enough to fully do what they need is a challenge. They jump up every few seconds to see if anything is there, and their attention span on the potty is about 10 seconds. I quickly collected an arsenal of tricks to keep them there: reading books, watching potty movies (I'm not proud, but it helps when desperate),
magnets on the bathtub, window cling decorations on the mirror,
games, songs, and (their favorite) the camcorder (I was hoping to post a few videos, but every single one of them had a flash of parts of my children I don't want posted on the internet...and I don't have the time to edit...so they will only be for our eyes). They will sit forever while I record videos of them, and then sit longer to watch said videos! It is my ace in the hole, and I am loving all of the short movies I'm getting. This will be a well-documents phase for sure!
- My children apparently have to go potty every night, 5 minutes after we've put them down for bed. It is the ONLY time of the day where an accident is completely unacceptable, and it will take them 30 minutes to be finished...we are working in adjusting the routine to correct this situation.
- It isn't a guarantee that a girl sitting on the potty will actually hit the potty. At least with a boy, you can teach them how to aim...
- One should never under-estimate how many times a day their children can go potty. I thought I made their potty charts with enough spaces to get us close to their big potty prize (Sesame Street Live), but they filled them 11 days early. But I still needed incentive. So, they "made" banks (empty parmesan cheese and seasoning shakers that they covered in stickers),
and every time they go potty they get to put money in their bank to save for a special surprise when they "meet" Elmo. We save our change. They love to put money in their banks. And we would have wanted to buy something to remember the day anyways - now we are actively saving toward it. It is a win, win, win.
Update: The banks are both about 1/4 full. Like I said, my kids pee a LOT.
I'm learning to stay calm in all situations. A calm mommy usually means everything goes more smoothly. Because I already had 2 days where I didn't open my computer, answer the phone, do anything but be with them, I became slightly detoxed from the usual distractions of the day. Since, I have made a concerted effort to avoid distractions when they are awake and BE with them. Partly to keep an eye out for signs that we need to run to the potties. Mostly because this has been an unmistakeable sign that they are growing up, and I want to know I've cherished the moments to the best of my ability. The fun thing is that, after a day where we played a lot together, the twins have started to invite me to play with them. I like this.

Update: a little over a week after the potty parties, things are starting to settle back into normal life. We have had several consecutive accident free days. We have played outside, gone sledding, played at a friend's house, and been to McDonalds playplace twice (not as regular of an occurrence as it sounds from these posts) all without accidents! Right now, the biggest problem is getting Ryan to poop in the potty. He prefers to wait until he has pull-ups on. I've changed the rules and consequences several times to try to corral him into the potty (such as making it so that I get to pick the underwear he wears after an "accident" so he doesn't get the pleasure of wearing yet another favorite pair of car underwear). He always finds a loophole. I upped the incentive. First I offered a sucker each time they went #2 in the potty. Then the presents were delivered from the family Christmas party we missed, and I told them they couldn't open a present unless they pooped on the potty. Ryan gave me enough little nuggets to technically be able to open each present...and then really went in his pull-ups during naptime. When asked why he said, "I poopied in the potty enough today. I'll try tomorrow." He is an expert at getting around every tactic I try. They should employ preschoolers at law firms. But I remain hopeful. Mostly because I don't know of any teenagers who willingly soil themselves. It has to end sometime!

January 18, 2012

Allie's Potty Party

I will start by saying that I learned a few things about Allie's personality during her potty party day that made me confident I would have done it differently had I thought of it. Different in that I would have done her party first. What did I learn? This girl thinks about what is coming and plans ahead. She had thought about her potty party, and was very specific about a few things - namely what she was going to wear. Without hesitation she informed me that she wanted to wear her "polka-dotty princess dress" - she had definitely thought this through. Based on her knowledge of her brother's party, she had high expectations for her day. She woke up way early (and hour and a half earlier than the day before, and an hour before the official "wake-up" time). Lucas and I couldn't figure out why she had a meltdown when we told her she had to go back to bed. Later, I realized that she was expecting a morning like her brother's - we would wake them up excited, get them dressed right away in their room, reveal the party decorations, and send the other away with daddy. Instead, 2 sleepy, grumpy parents told her she had to go back to bed. She was crushed. This was when I learned how quickly her heart breaks when her expectations are dashed to pieces....it was not the first heartbreak of the day. Eventually, the guys were gone (not fast enough for her...more tears), and we got to start the party!
Opening her doll. She was much more excited than her brother. She named her Baby.
Baby is a big girl!
Allie required a lot more activities to keep her engaged in the day - which was ok because a princess theme lent itself to a lot of activities: Painting toenails, coloring princess pictures,
Ballroom dancing,

Princess dress-up,
and all these in addition to the potty books, potty movies, and time spent sitting on the potty (with Baby and with Allie in the afternoon). Being a princess is exhausting :)
At our lunch party celebrating Baby being a "big girl." Allie kept asking me to take ANOTHER picture of her with her eyes closed.
Allie's naptime went MUCH longer than Ryan. He was up by 1, but I had to wake her up at 2:30 to make sure she got enough practice time before the guys got home. She did NOT wake up well, and this affected the success of the afternoon.
Big Girl underwear!!
Showing off her new favorite accessory
note: you might have noticed that she is suddenly wearing a different outfit. She didn't like trying to go potty in her dress, and we had several wardrobe changes before she found something she felt "went" with her cool new underwear.
Putting princesses in her potty chart castle.
There were a couple big hurdles (that I had not anticipated) to overcome. 1) She knew that Daddy & Ryan were coming home with a present, and she would be wearing her big girl underwear to show them. Once she had her underwear, all she could think about was the present (which she had already picked out, and told Daddy - like I said, I planner). 2) She loved all her different underwear, and told me at one point that she liked having accidents because she could pick out a new pair. 3) Once I got her to the potty, it was almost impossible to get her to sit there long enough to do anything. Until I brought out the video camera (with a fully charged battery). She loved making videos and then watching them. Videos like this:
But we had success - she went more times in the potty than her underwear, AND she pooped in the potty (I can already hear her horrified scream when she goes back and reads this as a teenager)!!
They're home! Ryan couldn't wait to give his sister her gift :)
(She has decided Cinderella is her favorite princess. I think it might have to do with the fact that Cinderella is blond like Allie, and Allie looks like her when she has her hair up. It has nothing to do with the movies because she has never seen any of them!)
After Allie's big kid party, they got to have a special "No More Diapers" activity where they "threw away" all of their diapers (we'll actually give them away...so let me know if you need size 4 Up and Up diapers!). They sang the "Goodbye Diapers" song from their favorite potty movie (click here to see it, but be warned you will be singing it the rest of the day, and quite possibly in your dreams!)
One of the biggest things that was really hammered into my head was that even though Allie has a strong will/personality, and she often marches to the beat of her own drum, she has a very sensitive spirit. It's a difficult combination because it is easy to forget - when she is wearing crazy clothing combinations, directing her brother/playmates, or doing her own thing and enjoying it - how sensitive she is. But when her heart is broken, it is broken. There is no in the middle. At the end of the day, I really just prayed that God would give me wisdom as I parent her - to build her up when she needs it, encourage the confidence she already possesses, and help her pick herself up and get over the disappointments that frequent the life of a sensitive and particular planner.

January 17, 2012

Ryan's Potty Party Day

The morning started out surprisingly well, considering one kid got to have the first potty party (which they had been waiting for forever...forever to an almost 3 year old), and the other had to leave.
Playing with the new road rug we got for the day before Sister had to go.
We got them dressed in their room, brought them out together to see all the decorations, and then Allie & Daddy left and Ryan and I started the day with a special breakfast and the first surprises of the day.
A special new cup for all of the great drinks that day!
He wasn't exactly thrilled about the doll - who he named "Little Einstein."
The day was filled with theme activities - reading potty books, watching potty movies, and (to match Ryan's theme) lots of playing with cars!
The morning is all about training the doll. They learn through teaching. Ryan wasn't the biggest fan. He kept saying things like, "But I can do it too." or "Mommy, I already know that." And he really hated that the doll was getting special treats for going in the potty (Note: since the doll can't eat, Ryan always got the treat anyways), when he was confident he could do the same if I would just take his diaper off. He was itching to be the big boy. And I learned during the morning that special snacks were a big motivator for him. As soon as a snack was finished he was like, "Let's go sit on the potty so I can get something else!"

When he woke up from naptime, there was a present waiting for him (his underwear), and he found out that it was HIS turn to be the big boy.
He was ecstatic. It wasn't long before he went on the potty (I was so surprised that he knew, stopped what he was doing, and then really went). And then he went again. And then again. And then I started to think that this was a breeze, and we might have no accidents at all. It was about then that an accident happened. He was sort of jumping around, and it sort of jumped right out of him (in his defense, part of the process is pumping them full of liquids. During the course of the day he drank 3 16oz. chocolate milks, an 8 oz apple juice, and 16 oz. of water - most of that in the afternoon. And no, I don't always let them drink that much of sugary drinks. It was part of the special day). We had a bit of a poopy incident too, but it was more of a loaded gas situation. He was as surprised as I was!
Playing with the car rug - his favorite activity of the day!
note: once he got underwear, he wouldn't wear pants because he didn't want to cover them up!
By the end of the day he had gone on the potty 8 times (and because of the volume of liquids, every one of them was significant), stopped something he was involved in every time, and really recognized the feeling of "having to go." I would call it a smashing success.
The ubiquitous "on the potty" picture that will horrify him someday...
Some of my favorite moments of the day:
The way he would dance in delight all the way to the kitchen for his "special treat" after going on
the potty.
(my apologies that you actually can't see the dance to the kitchen in this video - even though that was the whole point of taking the video! I discovered that our camcorder battery was dead when I went to take this video - mommy fail - and only had my laptop...which doesn't show me what it sees...so this is the best I've got...but he's still adorable, so I included it!)
The fact that he didn't like juice, or the carbonated water combo that I made. Chocolate milk (and the unexpected hot chocolate that I thankfully had supplies for) was all that he would drink of the "special" drinks.
For his potty chart, he got to move his race car (that he was driving!) around the track and put a cloud of dust. Each time he would say, "Goodbye, diapers! Eat my dust!"

Snuggling with him on the couch while watching potty movies.
Him teaching his toy cars to go potty.
Me saying, "I'm so proud of you! You are such a big boy!" and his response: "I know, mommy. I know."

At the end of the day, Daddy and Sis came back from their special adventure (he couldn't wait to see them...and show off his underwear). They brought a present, and we had some here. We had a party to celebrate that he was officially a big boy. No more diapers!
Watching for Daddy & Sis
Opening his "big boy" presents.
One thing that I got out of the day: Last week, at Bible study, we had to do this exercise where we spent a minute imagining ourselves in the presence of God. We were to imagine Him as a parent, eager to spend time just with us. Then we were to imagine Him saying to us the one thing we needed to hear the most. It was amazing that everyone said that one minute was the most powerful part of Bible study. They had never imagined God as being eager to spend time with them like that. And each person said the one thing they needed God to say was that He was proud of them. There was a moment during the day when I was beaming at Ryan, delighting in my time alone with him, telling him how proud I was of him, and that moment from Bible study came back to me. It was powerful to realize that as much as I was truly loving that moment with Ryan, God loves those moments with me. It made ME feel loved by and closer to God in a way I hadn't before. Completely unexpected during a day of potty training!
Mommy and her Big Boy!

January 16, 2012

Prelude to a Potty (Training)

I have found, more than anything in my parenting career thus far, that potty training is a hot button topic. It seems to get the hair bristling of moms more than anything I've encountered thus far. I didn't realize this until I started to talk about the "method" I chose to potty train. I was suddenly hit with comments ranging from the "Your children aren't potty trained yet?!" to the "You're potty training them already?!" from the "I would never put that much work into it, you know you don't have to," to the "You have to put more work than just one day. It takes weeks. This won't work, you'll see." The most shocking thing was that so few of the comments I received were positive. I kept thinking, "Have I ever been this un-supportive of another mother? Or this competitive? Or this discouraging?" It felt so often that they were responding defensively - like the "method" I chose somehow made them feel like it was a judgement on the method they chose (or planned to choose). I liked what the author of the potty training book I read said, "As all mothers with toddlers discover, this is a universal, yet unspoken truth. If we get through the experience relatively unscathed, or at least with no facial ticks, we can silently conclude we are good mothers."

So before I post about the potty party days, I wanted to say this:
In the end, I really don't think there is a "right" or "wrong" method to potty train (outside of
abusive methods, which I shouldn't have to qualify, but somehow feel the need regardless).
Children are so unique that I don't think one age, method, reward can be broadly applied to all children as "right." I think every parent has to know their child and, perhaps more importantly, themselves. I picked the method from this book for many reasons, but the main was that this
book got me EXCITED about potty training. It sounded fun. It fit my personality to a T. I kept thinking, "There is no method more perfectly suited to anyone, than this is to me." I figured that
if I had fun, they would have fun, and if they had fun it would be a success! Do I think that every mom needs to plan a theme day for the kids to be successfully potty trained?
Do I think every mom needs to decorate and transform their children's potties?
I did it because I like doing those things, and it didn't feel like a lot of work because I had fun. I don't feel that the overall result is much different than that of anyone doing any other method, but I enjoyed all the steps. So, I would encourage any mom to potty train however they feel most comfortable and in whatever way will reduce their stress! I feel much more strongly about moms sticking together and supporting each other in whatever way possible through the work of potty training, then I do about what method someone chooses!

Some things that I did like about this book that I would recommend to any parent potty training with any method? She goes through ALL of the steps of going to the potty (from recognizing you have to go, to undressing from the waist down, to washing their hand by themselves), and gives you a list of "pre-requisites" that you can work on ahead of time so that the skills surrounding going to the bathroom are already in place and you can focus on JUST going in the potty that day. I loved this. Months ahead of time the twins started working on undressing and dressing themselves, washing their hands on their own, and even wiping (after I had cleaned their poopy bums, of course). It did make the day go A LOT smoother to have so many things already in place. Plus, it helped build the hype because I would tell them, "You are learning a new skill that will get you closer to your "No More Diapers" day!"("no more diapers" is from a favorite book that we've had since they were little). They loved learning new things and knowing they were getting closer to the much-awaited day!
Washing their hands:
get the hands wet, get some soap (one hand underneath to catch, one hand on top to push it out), scrub while singing "Happy Birthday" twice (don't forget to scrub between the fingers!), wash all the soap away, dry your hands completely.
The biggest thing I will say I gained from this method? At the core is an entire day just you and the child being trained - no sibling, phones, computers, non-related projects, or visitors. The day alone with my children, just focus on them and celebrate a new milestone was incredible.
I wouldn't trade those 2 days for anything in the world.

Since there were 2 days completely focused on them, and I've been devoting all of their awake time to paying attention to them and their need-to-potty signs, I'm currently trying to catch up on housework, needing to get groceries, and figuring out our new routine as we navigate the potty world. So it might take me a while to get up each of the potty party posts (I took so many pictures...there are a million to go through...which will also take forever). But they are coming!