Friday, August 31, 2012

Potty Training Tips

After the crazy success of my post sharing tips about how to get your little one to sleep in a big boy bed, I thought that it would be a wonderful idea to share what I have learned about potty training as well. The transition from crib to big boy bed was almost flawless and easier than I had expected, but potty training has been a bit more of a process. There has been a great deal of trial and error, discussions with friends, and some reading on the subject too.
We started the long process way back in March. I thought (naively) that it could be done during my one week spring break. It went very well. In fact, he had no accidents for most of the week. But I didn't realize how much of potty training is truly up to the parent, and once I went back to work and he went back to daycare, I realized that we were not able to be consistent enough for him to be successful.
We kept talking about it, rewarded him if he went in the potty, and tried to stay as positive as possible, but I quickly realized that if I were home, it would be far easier to keep him on track. So we somewhat let it go, with the plan to come back to it in June when I was finished with school. Of course, life got in the way, and once again it was pushed back due to my laziness and lack of consistency.
Although it took me quite a while to get to this point, I knew that I wanted to get Liam out of diapers before his baby brother or sister arrives, I also knew that at least starting the process while I was at home would help us get a head start. I finally got serious about it and got my husband 100% on board, the week before I was to head back to work.
So far we have been doing very well. We have gone almost a week with no diapers (other than at bedtime), and have had only a handful of accidents, even while he is at daycare. I know that we have quite a way to go, but I also know that we are making progress, and that we are much farther than we were a few weeks ago.
Below are some tips that worked for us. Once again, I'm sure that there are more ideas out there, I understand that some things work for some kids/parents when they won't work for others, and I also realize that some people don't have a lot of time at home, but I thought I would share what we learned.

* Wait until they are really ready: I think part of our issue was that we tried too soon for his body. Our pediatrician said that you know they are ready if they wake up in the morning with dry diapers consistently. We saw one or two and thought, "We're ready, lets try!" It didn't work out for us, until it was more like one or two wet diapers a week in the morning.

* Offer treats when they use the potty/tell you they need to use the potty: We had a couple of big issues when we got to this tip. Issue one- we had a difficult time finding a treat that would be exciting enough, that he would want it over and over again. We had to change it up pretty often. Issue two- we started out giving M&M's for treats. One for pee and two for poop. It wasn't long before we realized that kids use the toilet a lot and that we were not comfortable giving him so much candy. The remedy for both of these issues was finding some recipes for healthy, yummy snacks to give to him instead. I chose to make yogurt melts and homemade fruit snacks. We alternated so that he wouldn't get bored, and by making them myself, I felt as though it was a healthier choice. We also tried to give him a potty toy for a successful week, but that seemed too difficult and he quickly lost interest. Maybe if the time period were shorter, it would work better. Who knows!

* Give them something to do while sitting: This is a great tip, but with some serious downsides. At the beginning, we filled a basket with books and magazines for Liam and I to read while he was using the potty. This was a great way to introduce the potty routine, but it also created the issue that Liam wanted to sit on the potty forever! We slowly took the books away and gave him a time limit for siting, because I was spending ten-twenty minutes in the bathroom with him, each time he "had to go".

* Make sure you and your spouse are on the same page and are equally invested: One of the biggest reasons that I gave up on potty training at the beginning, was that it's far more work than I expected and I was doing the bulk of the work while my husband was at work. Once he got home, I wanted more support but we didn't go about training the same way, so I would get frustrated and end up doing it myself. It was exhausting! Once we sat down, talked about the ques we would use, and created a loose schedule of how to go about it, it was far easier to keep with it. Having a partner makes all the difference!

* Be patient and positive: Just as with the big boy bed transition, patience was key to getting through the more difficult times. You need to have patience with your child, your spouse, yourself, and the process, because it is a long one with speed bumps every where! You also need to be excited about it, so that they will be excited about it. If you get frustrated, so do they.

* Make sure your childcare provider is on board and can be consistent: This process really made the whole "It takes a village...." statement clear to me. Just as it's helpful to have your spouse's help/support, it is absolutely vital that you have the support of your childcare provider. They will be in charge of enforcing your rules/schedule while you are away from your child, and without their consistency, it will never work. But you also need to keep in mind that most daycare providers have more than one child to take care of, and you need to be prepared for less consistency than you offer at home. You need to think about whether or not your expectations are fair and realistic for someone in their situation.

* Expect accidents/speed bumps: Potty training is a process, it doesn't happen over night. I have heard crazy stories about kids being potty trained in two day. I'm sure it's possible, but it wasn't for us. Praising them for even trying seems to help during these times. It reminds them that they are doing a good job and helps you both to not dwell on the downfalls.

* Be consistent: I'm sure that this tip has already jumped out from between the lines, but just in case, and because it's so important to your success, I wanted to make sure to touch on it. Make sure that your little one goes potty at roughly the same time everyday. This way they get used to it, you get used to it, and their body gets used to it. We tend to go right after waking up, after breakfast, once in between breakfast and lunch, before nap, after nap, before dinner, and before bed. We also take him anytime that he says he needs to go. I know that this sounds like a lot of trips to the bathroom, but it has really worked for us, and we thought that it is doable for his child car provider, since it will only be 3-4 times while he is there.

* Trust your kid: At some point you know that your child has the hang of it. There still might be accidents here and there, but they frequently tell you that they have to go and you tend to go a day or two without accidents. This is the time to back off a bit. I use this phrase with my son often. "I'm trusting you to tell me when you need to go." I know he's two, but he gets it. Joe and I will remind/ask about a potty break at the times listed above, but if Liam says he doesn't have to go after we ask a couple of times, I use that line and let it go. At some point they have to know it's up to them, and we need to back off. I noticed Liam would get tired of our constant nagging and would go in his underwear just to show that he was in control. Once we realized this, we gave him more choices/control and it's worked very well.

* Get rid of the diapers!: This is by far, the most helpful hint I have. It has been what has motivated all of us to stay on top of his potty training. Once we decided there was no going back, we were fully invested in the process. Also, once his lack of making it to the potty in time caused all of us grief, we all wanted to work harder at it. Joe and I are motivated not to clean up after an accident, so we stay on top of the schedule and give reminders often. It also has helped Liam to care more about whether or not he makes it to the potty. He doesn't want to miss out on playing with his friends and toys during the time it takes to clean him up. I'm sure that it is also uncomfortable to pee or poop on yourself, as evidenced by his immediate shedding of the yucky clothes.

 I hope that these tips are helpful, and since we are still in the midst of it, I would love to hear any more ideas and advise that my readers may have. Good luck with your big boy or big girl!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Almost Unimaginable

Being a parent has changed many things about me, my husband, our goals, our plans, etc. But the one thing that has never changed is my absolute love for teaching. Even after having Liam and dealing with a year of frustration, stress, and guilt from working full time, the thought of leaving my job never occurred to me. When something is so ingrained in who you are, you can't imagine life without it. Since the moment I got the call from my principal offering me the job, teaching has been like breathing.
When the option to work part-time came about, I was very excited. It offered everything I was looking for! I could be home with my son more, be less stressed about leaving him as well as work, I could still do what I was born and love to do, I could continue to help support our little family, and both Liam and I could have some social time daily. It was the best of both worlds and I loved everything about it!
Working has always been important to me. I love my son, and the baby that is on it's way, which is why I feel so passionate about them seeing the drive and focus I have toward being a teacher. Both Joe and I came from middle class families where all of our parent had to work. My mom didn't get to stay home with me, and because of that I grew up knowing that you have to work for what you want, you have to make goals and strive to reach them. I want my children to know these things as well. Although I want to be there for them as much as possible, I also want them to see how rewarding and important a personal passion and drive are. I have never wanted to be a stay at home mom, not because I don't love every second that I'm with my children, but because I love my career too. I don't want to give that up, nor do I want my children to not know that about their mommy.
A week ago I found out that the schedule that I planned to have this year, had changed in a way that could have definitely caused problems both family-wise, and with childcare. It was even more stressful because the news came with only two weeks to figure out the childcare portion. I called my mom in a panic, crying, stressed, and hyperventilating. Luckily, she was supportive and offered her help until baby #2 comes along.
With this news, not only did my daily schedule and my childcare plan change, but also my maternity plan. I had fully intended to go back to work the beginning of May, but I'm no longer sure that is going to happen. I'm just glad that it happened this year, when I already know I get to be home a good portion of the time.
Last night a co-worker suggested that if it were an option, and if plans continue to be this frazzled, that maybe I should think about taking a leave of absence for a year or two while my kids grow. Until this last week that would have never been an option for me. I love my students, co-workers, and career far too much to leave it, but if things continue to be this unknown and stressful it may be the best option for the coming years. I'm lucky enough to work in a district that supports parenting and that offers up to a two year leave, while still securing my job for the future. This has helped to make this option seem like less of a loss for me. Knowing that I'm not giving up my passion to stay at home, knowing that my job will be waiting for me when the time comes, and knowing that I'm not leaving a wonderful job in a crappy economy are all points that make it easier to consider this option.
Although we have discussed the possibility of me staying home with our two growing babies, we have not even come close to making a decision. Obviously, money is still a concern. We have been working like cattle to pay down debt, and live on a budget for quite a while now and I for one, am loving it! I see our progress daily and feel good about the choices we're making. It scares me to think that these goals and this focus could easily be lost if I were to take a leave. We also have longer-term plans for our family that could be put off or lost all together if staying home becomes my reality. But we are also considering the cost of having two children in childcare vs. my part-time pay check. Would I be working to have someone else watch them? Possibly! We are very blessed that we have a whole year to think these things through, to test it out while I'm on maternity leave, and to work out the details before we have to make a definite choice.
I have always, and I mean always, known that I should be a teacher. I spent my entire education focusing on being not only an educator, but being the best one that I could be. I love my job, and in fact, have never felt as though it is a "job". It is a career, a passion, a calling. Up until yesterday I never thought (not even once) about giving it up. I still wouldn't completely give it up, but taking a break to raise my children is starting to seem like an option I have to consider, both financially and parenting-wise. This is such a difficult decision, and I don't know what to do!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Body Baggage

One of the joys of carrying a baby is the wonderful belly that you grow. It's beautiful and natural and I've always loved the glow that women get while pregnant. However, we don't all carry our growing babies the way that supermodels and actresses do. Unfortunately, it's not just the lovely swollen belly that women gain. As I learned with my first pregnancy, you gain weight everywhere: thighs, butt, breasts, hips, name it, it gains some volume. With my little man, I gained more than fifty pounds and my whole body changed. I will admit, I didn't watch my eating patterns quite as much as I should have, and being pregnant mainly in the winter, I didn't get as much exercise as I would have liked. Each of these played a part in my growing body, I'm sure of it.
This time around, I made it a point to try to salvage as much of my pre-pregnancy #2 body as possible. I worked very hard after Liam was born to loose the baby weight, eat healthier, and stay active. This resulted in not only loosing the baby-weight, but another 15ish pounds. As of yesterday, I felt as though I was doing a wonderful job of this. Although I have been eating a lot, it has been fruits, veggies, lots of whole grains, and dairy rather than fast foods, chips, cookies, and candy. I have also refused to go down the milk hole that I dug for myself with Liam. I got up to about 3/4 of a gallon a day!
Today though, my larger, normal pants are tighter than they were last time I wore them. I can feel the denim squeezing in on my thighs, my baby belly is muffin-topping over my jeans, and my hips are looking quite a bit wider. I know this did not all happen over-night, but I realized all of these lovely changes once I felt the familiar squeeze. I will continue to focus on my (and subsequently my baby's) health, but I also need to come to the realization that babies come with body baggage, and that I can't keep my body in it's pre-baby condition, while it is focusing on growing a little life. Darn!
Almost 18 weeks!

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Name Game

Ever since Liam was born, Joe and I have been busy at work trying to come up with names for our future babies. The reason for the excessive thought about a future event, is that we had narrowed Liam's name down to two far before he was born, but when the time came to choose we had a lot of difficulty picking. He was nameless for two days after birth, and we don't want to do that again.

We have always had a long list of girl names. Joe and I have very similar thoughts about what we like when it comes to having a daughter. Over the last two years we widdled the list down, and made a definite decision for a little girl (which we will share once we know for sure what we are having). Although we have a name picked, we still have several other girl names approved by both of us, that we are a bit sad not to use.

On the other hand, boys names are so difficult for us! When we walked in to the ultrasound for Liam, we said, "If this is a boy, we have our work cut out for us!". Obviously we were right about that. This time around it's even harder. We have a much shorter list of boy's names, that consist of "my names" and "his names". Neither of us are overly excited about any of the other's names.

Another reason for our indecision about boy names is that Joe is sure that this next little one is a girl, and that we don't even need to think about boy names until the ultrasound tells us otherwise. This frustrates the planner in me! I don't want to have an unnamed child this time around and I think that it's a far better idea to plan for both.

At this point, I think we need some help with boy names. If you have a wonderful boy name that you are willing to share, I would really appreciate your suggestions. My feeling is that the more options we have, the more likely that we will agree on one-hopefully, sooner rather than later!