Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Disaster that was San Francisco '12

I was looking forward to a fun family day in the Bay. We had never been as a family. Maybe we would get a caricature of the girls or buy some funny souvenirs. We planned to see Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 and Ghirardelli Square.

As we approached the 7-mile toll bridge before the city, we heard from the back seat, "I'm poopin'."

Those two words used to make me drop what I was doing to race to the nearest bathroom, assuming it was too late. I've learned that this statement actually means, "Mommy, I need to poop now and I can hold it for maybe a few minutes but we better find a potty soon."

As I said, we were approaching the toll bridge. No toilet in sight. "Ellie, you're going to have to hold it and we will find a potty in one minute." Any time we use a time increment, it's always one more minute. "Ellie, you have one more minute of play time. Ellie, you have one more minute of time out." That minute can be anywhere from 30 seconds to several minutes, and in this case, it was looking like it was going to be an eternity.

I looked at her face. She looked worried. We all realized she might not hold it. We paid the toll and slowly scooted across the bridge. "Look, Ellie, boats!" I tried to distract her. As the beautiful downtown San Francisco skyline came into view I had one thought: "That's a lot of buildings. I bet there are hundreds, no, thousands of toilets staring at us, but we can't get to even one of them."

I don't remember when I realized it was too late. My poor girl couldn't hold it any longer. She informed me that her pants were wet. She seemed sheepish and confused. I felt bad for her and was also feeling badly for the parent that would be cleaning up the mess.

We started pulling in to a parking space as another car started backing in. After a passive aggressive discussion with the older couple (I wanted to yell out my window, "we have a poopy toddler in here! That trumps you being old!" but I only mumbled it loud enough for Michael to hear), we caved in and drove to the parking garage with all of its outlandish fees.

Michael gets the hero award for cleaning up the mess of a carseat and child while I nursed Hazel in the cold, dark parking garage. We were determined to be positive and still had a whole day in front of us. This was only the second pants change of the day, after all. No big deal. (The first change was a few hours earlier. Despite making it to the toilet at the gas station Ellie's aim was off and she still needed a change of clothes. Who knew girls could aim out the toilet too?)

We loaded up our two strollers and headed towards Fisherman's Wharf. We had been given a few recommendations for lunch and were looking forward to some yummy food. We got to the restaurant and were deciding where to sit when we heard a tiny voice, "potty." Michael pushed her stroller to the bathroom and a few minutes later returned, shaking his head. Apparently they were too late, and the stroller and her pants were soaked. Of course I forgot to throw in a new pair of pants so back to the car Michael went, a 15-minute walk each way.

At lunch. Hazel was a happy girl, at least.
I found a new restaurant closer to the car and 30 minutes later I finally saw two little side ponytails up on Michael's shoulders heading my way.

After a somewhat disappointing 2PM lunch we decided we must go to Ghirardelli Square. We walked towards the chocolate tourist trap and once again heard, "potty." We were a few blocks from the Square and the public restroom within it. Michael took Ellie and started running and I would meet them there.

I got to the fountain and waited with Hazel. It was starting to get chilly outside.

Here we are waiting, the Ghirardelli sign behind us.
A more accurate depiction of how I felt about the day so far.
Michael came around the corner carrying Ellie. I was hopeful. He had made it all the way to the men's restroom only to stand in line. Several stalls of men sitting and looking at their smart phones caused my poor girl to pee on Michael's arm as they stood there, so close, yet not close enough. Thank you, men of San Francisco, for taking your sweet time on the pot so my little girl could have yet another accident.

The parking garage with our car was directly below the Square. We decided to head to the car. I could feed Hazel again, Michael could change Ellie and also get a new shirt since his was wet with pee, and then we could return for the long awaited chocolate ice cream.

Michael changed Ellie once again in the cold parking garage. 4 hours after our arrival we were in the same spot again, a few accidents later, and nothing but a quick lunch in between. We decided we were paying way too much to use the parking garage as a changing center without even getting to enjoy much of the Bay. It was getting too cold for ice cream anyway.

We had heard there are several great coffee shops to try in San Francisco. There is nothing Michael and I like more than to find a warm, cozy coffee shop on a cold day and enjoy a good cup of joe. Hopefully this would help salvage the day.

We drove a few miles and as we were parking, once again from the back seat: "I'm poopin'."

Seriously? Are you serious? You need to go AGAIN? "We're almost there. One more minute."

We parked. We got Ellie out and she started crying, "I'm poopin," and this time I knew she meant IT'S TOO LATE, I'M LITERALLY POOPING RIGHT NOW. I quickly grabbed a plastic bag, pulled her pants down, and tried to get her to squat and finish in the bag. It was a mess. She was a mess.

We debated just loading back up and heading for the hotel. I was done. The Bay had been a disaster with zero fun had by us all, except maybe Hazel who enjoyed walking around in the baby carrier. It was getting cold and our frustration level was reaching its max.

But oh, the idea of sitting in a warm coffee shop caressing a mug beckoned us. A cup of good espresso can fix a lot of bad in our book. We were determined to have at least one good thing happen in our day. Never underestimate the power of good coffee. We set off on a hunt for this shop, wondering if we had enough pants to make it through the rest of the day.

A few blocks later we found what we were searching for, only, it wasn't. It was an outdoor coffee stand. With little garden chairs to sit on. In the cold.

I forced myself to be positive: "I WILL enjoy this coffee, despite the cold. I WILL sit and relax and forget about this crazy day. I WILL enjoy a few minutes with my daughter so we can all have one good memory of this day."

The coffee was good. I sat on the cold patio furniture and released the day, trying not to be distracted by how cold I was. Ellie was sipping her first hot chocolate. Ever. It was a sweet moment. She sipped it and said, "yummy inside." Michael and I smiled at each other. "Finally. This moment is helping redeem the whole day," I thought to myself. "Despite the cold and the atmosphere, this is a precious moment." 
Ellie's first hot chocolate.
Then this happened.
I'm pretty sure she had two sips. I may have shed a few tears. Seriously. I couldn't take it anymore. The fleeting thought of redemption through hot chocolate was flowing away down the sidewalk.

We finished our coffee, let Ellie play on a nearby play structure for a few minutes, and left for the hotel.

I could explain how the hotel charged us for parking for the week when it was supposed to be included.  I could mention how tired and hungry we were and how our patience was down to zero. I could mention our tired toddler or our crying baby. But I'll move on past the hotel lobby and the two cranky parents yelling at the hotel employees.

Michael and Ellie had a fun time in the pool. We ordered room service pizza. We considered finding a laundromat because two pairs of clean pants didn't seem enough for the next day of travel, but we decided to risk it. We all slept well.

We enjoyed our complimentary breakfast. The front desk ladies couldn't change the parking situation but we did get free breakfast and we were upgraded to the Executive Floor-the quiet floor with no kids. We got some dirty looks from the businessmen in their suits the next morning as our daughter yelled happily down the hallway past all of the Shhhhh! signs on each door.

We were waiting for the airport shuttle and Michael was paying at the front desk. I looked over at Ellie. She looked away and her face turned red. "Ellie, are you pooping?" It was happening right in front of me.

I threw Hazel in the car seat, bonking her head as she started to cry, scooped Ellie up, yelled to Michael across the lobby for all to hear, "She's pooping!" and ran to the bathroom as fast as I could holding 25 pounds by the armpits.

The good news was her pants could still be worn. The bad news was the shuttle had arrived and the driver made it clear he was not happy to be waiting. Michael came into the empty women's bathroom, grabbed a shoeless Ellie, I grabbed the messy clothes wrapped in paper towels, and we all ran to the front of the hotel, making the shuttle late and getting dirty looks from all aboard.

At the airport we made the decision to put a pull-up on Ellie. A little late for that thought. She stayed dry on the plane. Of course.

Ellie's first plane ride as an official passenger.
On our drive from Denver to Colorado Springs she mentioned something about potty but we just drove. She had a pull-up on and there was no way we'd make it to a toilet anyway.

Someday we hope to go back to San Francisco. I'd like to eat some ice cream at Ghirardelli Square.

Ellie did well in Colorado. The first day she was a bit tentative, but after a couple of days she was back to her potty-trained self. I think the first incident in the car on the toll bridge confused her and threw her off for a few days, but I'm happy to report that we're home and she did great both on the airplane and on our drive home. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Happy 4 Months Hazel Jane!

Hazel is 1/3 of a year already!
Yesterday we went to the doctor for both her and Ellie. 
Hazel is 15 lbs 5 oz and 25 1/2 inches. At 4 months Ellie was just a little shorter, 
but Hazel weighs 1 1/2 pounds more, in the 90th percentile for weight. 
She's our little chunk, as her Daddy says. :)

Hazel sleeps through the night and has since about 8 weeks. I put her to bed around 7:30 PM and she sleeps until around 7:30 AM. Sometimes she wakes up talking at 6 or 6:30 but a simple pacifier puts her back to sleep a bit longer. I still wake her up to feed her once around 10 PM. That will be the next feeding to drop.
She has been taking four naps, two long and two short, every day. Until recently, she couldn't go more than an hour or so between naps and would still sleep all night. She's a sleepy head!

I was sensing she was ready for a change in schedule as she has been eating less at each feeding, but I couldn't seem to stretch out time between naps. I know every kid is different and I've been MUCH more relaxed about a schedule with Hazel. I've had to be because I'm simply not staying at home for naps nearly as much as I did with Ellie. I absolutely love having a routine/schedule. I truly believe both of my girls are good eaters and sleepers because of it. The beauty of a routine is that I can still be flexible and change it up when I need to, but the framework is there for a content baby. I figure by the time we have another child that poor baby may never have a scheduled nap at home. Okay, I doubt that as I'm still a fairly scheduled person myself, but each child will probably learn to be more flexible than the previous one.

Yesterday Hazel accidentally fell right into a new schedule and dropped a feeding after I had held her feeding off because of being at the doctor. Today she took a 2 1/2 hour morning nap and a 2 hour afternoon nap, and is now eating every 4 hours. I'm learning that my babies tell me when they're ready for a change, and I don't need to always worry about what the books say (though they do help for reference and to appease my research-oriented personality).  
 Hazel is sitting up pretty well when propped and is getting better at tummy time. She hasn't rolled over yet but is trying hard, as you can see above. Ellie was already rolling over at this point, but Hazel has a bit more weight to work with, plus we've realized she probably has gotten less tummy time than Ellie. We're in no hurry. 
We are very blessed with a sweet, happy baby. She wakes up smiling and giggling and usually only fusses when she's tired or hungry. She lights up at the sound of Ellie's voice and knows her sister (and her parents) well. 
I can't believe that 4 months have come and gone. We're having so much fun watching her sweet personality grow every day.

Here's a little video of her "chatting" with me"

Happy 4 months to our sweet Hazel!

The Grieving Stages, Part 2

I tell myself not to get used to any one schedule or routine because the second I do it changes. I know I shouldn't be surprised but somehow it still catches me off guard, probably because I like routine and schedules more than I'm willing to admit. Yet, I blame Ellie's preferene for routine on my husband. Ha.

After a solid week or two of no naps I took matters into my own hands. I refused to accept it and was still in the frustrated stage. I got a lot of feedback after my last post and decided Ellie probably wasn't ready to give up on naps quite yet. But, how does one get a toddler to sleep?

I've found something that has been working for the last week or two. I was trying to quickly get Ellie down for a nap so I could deal with a fussy, sleepy, hungry baby, and then get her down for a nap too. Instead, I tried putting Hazel down first, letting Ellie stay up a bit later, and then getting to spend better quality time reading and getting relaxed before naptime. I then lay with Ellie for a few minutes in bed while she falls asleep.

The positive side to this: Ellie has been napping for 2-3 hours almost every day and she usually falls asleep within 5-10 minutes! Big sigh of relief. Whew.

The negative: After a week of this I was starting to resent the fact that the ONLY way for her to fall asleep was with me by her side. I know, I know, I can't be happy with no naps and I can't be happy with naps. I try to avoid accidental parenting (developing random bad habits or routines to get a child to eat/sleep/do what you want in the moment but suffer long term consequences), and I felt like this was quickly turning into an unbreakable habit.

As per my usual emotional pendulum, I had a cryfest on Sunday afternoon. We were home from church and Ellie wasn't napping. Not only was she not falling asleep while I lay by her but she was hyper and twitchy and not laying still (silly toddler not wanting to hold still). That irked me. Since we got back from Oregon several weeks ago Ellie has been extremely clingy to me and won't let Daddy do much of anything (not from lack of trying on his part!), which means I have to put her to bed and I have to read her books and I have to comfort her when she's having a meltdown and I have to help her go potty. My perfect Toddler Whisperer antics weren't working and once again I felt defeated by the game of Getting-My-Toddler-To-Sleep.

I had a good cry and then had a few aha moments that helped swing my pendulum back the other way.

First aha: It wasn't just this one nap time that was frustrating me. The girls had been taking turns waking up in the middle of the night and I was getting less sleep and feeling extra tired. I'd been slowly keeping a list of things that were making me feel disorganized and overwhelmed. I'm learning as part of my personality that my life feels chaotic and I get stressed when this small list gets too long in my head.

What was stressing me out? Oh, things like Christmas is coming and oh my gosh I haven't even thought about gifts but I want to make homemade gifts which take a lot of time and energy and thought; and, our house is a mess and that makes me feel anxious living in a small space; and, I need to order more cloth diapers because I'm tired of using one or two disposables between every laundry cycle; and, I want to spend quality time with my husband who I feel I'm ignoring; and, what should I make for dinner this week?; and, well, you get the picture.

Second aha: Some days Ellie might nap and other days she won't. New plan: continue to do what I've been doing (put Hazel down first, then Ellie) and lay with her for a few minutes. But, give myself a time limit. I can usually tell if she's going to fall asleep within a few minutes depending on if she settles down and lets me tuck her in or not. If she keeps kicking off her blankets it's possible I may just have to leave her alone and walk away, for her sake and even more for my own.

Third aha: My husband is extremely patient. I've always known this but I'm constantly reminded of this fact.

Fourth aha: I need to be thankful I have two girls who sleep. I get naps and nights that are several hours of sleeping, whereas many of my friends have much bigger sleep issues to contend with. I should probably just stop complaining and whining altogether. 

The girls seemed to have transitioned fairly well to Daylight Savings Time. (TangentCan someone PLEASE tell me why in the world we haven't abolished this practice, when farming is no longer a dominant industry in this country? I know there are more important issues for our politicians to tackle, but couldn't they just tack this on to some random bill like they do for so many other things? While they're at it, why don't they get rid of the Electoral College, too?)

Ellie has always been one to sleep in until 7/7:30 but since our trip to Oregon she has woken up between 6-6:30 almost every morning. Sometimes earlier. I'm hoping it's a phase but also embracing the fact that after two years this might just be her new wake up time. See? This is me growing and accepting changes to my child's routine.

And now I'm going to enjoy the rest of my coffee while I enjoy the peace and quiet of two girls napping.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance

I'm in mourning.

I think I'm in the middle stages of the grieving process, somewhere between bargaining and depression.

I've lost my afternoon break. The glorious 2-4 hours when Ellie took a nap and I could do what I wanted. I napped. I read. I made myself an espresso. I watched a guilty pleasure TV show. I crafted. I cleaned. I caught up on emails. I prepped for dinner. I did nothing. Whatever I did, it was MY time to recharge. Alone. Quiet. Ahhhhhhh.

And now....

I can't say it's 100% gone, but it's morphing. Since we returned from our trip to Oregon Ellie has stopped napping. I can blame it on our switch to the toddler bed, or maybe potty training, or maybe turning two. Regardless, this has been hard for me to accept, which is probably why it's the last stage of grief. Instead, I was trying to force sleep. You can't force sleep. Duh. I'm a very light, restless sleeper, so I know that willing sleep isn't enough to make it happen, especially on a squirrely, stubborn two-year old. But oh, how I've tried.

I've tried ignoring her, I've tried not letting her out of bed, I've tried laying down next to her. I've tried taking away toys. I've tried threats of losing out on fun post-nap activities. Nothing is working.

On Tuesday I experienced a little something I'd call a classic mom-of-a-toddler meltdown. I was frustrated and had lost all patience in the nap time department. I believe I was in the denial stage. I was hanging on to every shred of nap time possibility I could. Ellie was constantly getting out of bed to play and I had tried all of the above, and then some. I found myself getting truly angry and fired up. To be honest, I was outraged and afraid of letting my anger get the best of me. I had to leave her alone to calm down, but not without some tears on my part. We've chosen not to spank for several reasons, but I felt on the verge of desperation and physical restraint. I called Michael sobbing because I was scared of my own frustration and anger. I needed a breather. To talk it out. To change my attitude towards naps. Something. Anything. My sanity was slowing ebbing away and something needed to change.

(I don't want to explain the complex reasons we don't spank in this post. If you're curious, for a little further reading from a Biblical perspective on why NOT to spank, using the same references most Christians use to justify spanking, click here.)

I realize naps for Ellie might be mostly in the past. She has fallen asleep in the car a few late afternoons after she hasn't napped, but the lack of sleep doesn't seem to make her cranky. I'll take that. She will still have quiet time where she can read books in bed or play quietly. I still need my time to recharge. So does she. What I've had to let go of is waiting until she falls asleep to relax. It used to take her up to an hour or more to fall asleep followed by a minimum 2-3 hour nap, and I held my breath until I knew she was out before I really let my hair down. Now I just need to close the door and use my shorter time as best as I can.

The other battle is that this is the only time of day Ellie has accidents. I can't figure out if it's a control issue, as in, she's using her wet accidents as an excuse to get out of her room, or, if she doesn't understand that she can communicate her need to go potty while in her room. I've tried explaining this several times in various ways, to no avail. This only adds to the frustration that has become my afternoons.

Today I will choose to count my blessings. At least Hazel is usually napping during this afternoon quiet time. This is still my time and I can use it well. Only now instead of complete silence I hear the chattering of my two-year old as she reads and talks to herself in the next room.

I'm choosing to release my expectations and control of the afternoon. I still look forward to nap time, or I should say "quiet time," but not in the same way. Ellie still hasn't taken a nap in days, but the time she's in her room is much more peaceful and respectful. I'm not losing my sanity trying to force the impossible and have accepted the reality of the situation. Maybe I've made it to the acceptance stage after all. Good-bye, glorious long naps. You'll be missed.

Today during nap time I was able to wash dishes, start some laundry, make myself a coffee (though it turned cold before I finished it), and write this post. I was only interrupted a handful of times due to things like two wet accidents and a toddler tantrum that woke up my sleeping baby in the next room, and ended with a bit more quiet time. It has yet to be determined if my awakened baby will fall back asleep, or that I'll finish my coffee. Here's to hoping. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Changes Continue

As a parent I find myself questioning decisions. Big decisions. Small decisions. It's partly my personality but I think it's common for parents to constantly wonder if we are doing a good job. At the least we hope we aren't doing extensive damage to our kids, though I'm fairly certain that some of what I'm doing is affecting her for better or for worse. I am human, after all, and parents aren't perfect.

Ellie has experienced a lot of changes recently. A few short months ago a baby sister showed up. Then we said good-bye to diapers and started potty training. She's doing great with that and only had a few accidents while we were on our recent trip to Oregon. Since we've been home her only accidents have been during nap time. She's doing really well for a just-turned two-year old and I need to remind myself of that in moments of toddler tantrum-related exasperation. I'm very proud of my big girl and sometimes need to take a step back and realize she's a remarkable little girl who adapts rather quickly to life changes.

The two most recent changes happened on the same night, and for that reason might as well be called what it is: a parenting blunder. We took down Ellie's crib.  She seemed OK with this until bedtime when I also introduced her to a cloth pull-up instead of her regular nighttime diaper. As she realized her diaper AND her "big bed" were gone a meltdown ensued. Eventually we all calmed down and she fell asleep. She woke up at 1AM in the middle of her floor crying and traumatically upset. After several minutes I finally got her calmed down and back to sleep. I laid awake in bed for another two hours second-guessing this next milestone. 

"Are we pushing her too soon?" I asked Michael. I ask this at the beginning of every new change that leaves behind babyhood: weaning the pacifier, potty training, and now upgrading to a toddler bed. 

The next day she was excited to play a bit during nap time but eventually fell asleep. That night she had no problem laying in her bed. One day. It basically took her one day to adjust. Just like it only took a few days for the pacifier. And just like she adjusted to a new sister and potty training relatively quickly. I have to remember that Ellie usually has a strong, often emotional reaction to any new change. Routines are VERY important to her sense of security and well-being, but she also adjusts much more quickly than I expect.

We traveled to Oregon for a few weeks and we all shared a room. I was nervous for the girls to be in the same room because I didn't want them waking each other.  They both slept through the other's crying moments, including some deafening toddler tantrums at bedtime. We came home and the girls are now officially in the same room at night.  I still keep Hazel in our room for naps. They are doing great and this transition, though slightly forced on us because of our travel situation, has gone smoothly.  I should stop being surprised.

I am learning how part of being a parent is attempting, as best as I can, to be confident in my decisions and to go with my gut. I just blinked and my little baby Ellie has become a full-fledged toddler (we just celebrated her 2nd birthday!). She is funny, extremely verbal, intelligent, and a quick learner. She's fully potty trained (besides bedtimes), knows all of her colors and all of her alphabet letters. She loves to take care of Hazel and is already a proud, big sister.

I have several reasons to stop doubting how we're "doing" as parents, but I have a feeling that won't ever go away. Or maybe it will. But I doubt it. Probably. Yup. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Another month come and gone

Life continues to zoom into the next season.

Michael was gone for 8 days and I was alone with both girls. It was a loooong week. By the fourth or fifth day I wasn't sure if I was going to make it through the rest of the week. I did make it, of course. But it was rough. There were typical toddler tantrums. A recently potty trained toddler who still has accidents for no rhyme or reason. A nursing baby who often wanted to eat right when Ellie needed to sit on the potty or go down for a nap. Ellie missed her Daddy and often asked for him during crying fits or at bedtime. I've decided that the bedtime routine night after night is the most difficult part of being spouse-less.

My sweet Hazel is definitely learning to be a patient second child. It's often necessary to put her down, even in the middle of nursing, to tend to Ellie, and most of the time she patiently waits for me to return. The most difficult times are when she's fed up and mad and lets me know by crying or screaming. The worst of these moments seemed to happen around bedtime, when Ellie was in the bath or had an accident needing clean up. Ah. To be a second child and have to share attention...
But, we made it through the week. Michael has another long stint of work stuff coming up in the Northwest but luckily we get to join him and visit friends and family in Oregon while he works.
Hazel is 11 weeks old. Today she weighed in at 12 lbs. 12 oz. She's in the 75th percentile for height and weight, whereas Ellie was always about 50th for weight and 90th for height. It's fun to see their differences. She's been sleeping through the night for weeks. I feel bad (and guilty for complaining about anything) when I talk to parents who have older babies (sometimes even toddlers) because Hazel eats and sleeps like a pro. I usually feed her around 7PM and put her down for the night by 7:30 or 8:00. I wake her up once at 10:00 before I go to bed to feed her again, then she sleeps straight through until I have to wake her up between 7:30-8:00AM. Yes, I'm a lucky, lucky mama. We thought Ellie did well at this age and Hazel has outshone her. If it's any consolation to those sleepless parents out there, Ellie has been waking up a bit in the night with nightmares or something (mostly while Michael was gone), and also wakes up earlier sometimes in the morning due to potty training.
In between the hectic moments I'm trying to soak up this stage of our lives. The new baby that's not-so-new anymore and growing like a weed. She gained two pounds this month and is already wearing 6 month clothes. The potty trained girl who will be turning two in a few weeks. Ellie is growing and changing and amazing me more every day. She knows and recognizes all of the capital letters of the alphabet. (H-Hazel, D-Daddy, M-Mommy, O-Oscar, C-Cookie, etc.) Her vocabulary surprises me literally every day as she busts out new words. She's funny, sweet, and endearing. She loves being an older sister and adores Hazel, always needing to know her baby sister's whereabouts.

It's a precious, precious time.

Photo Book: Sisters

I made this photo book and thought it was too fun not to share. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Sometimes Mommy Needs to Chill Out

Ellie is doing really well. I'd say she's basically potty trained during the day, with only an occasional wet accident. She seems to have no issues going #2 and I couldn't be happier about that. She still wears diapers at naptime and bedtime but is just wearing undies during the day.

I am a little paranoid about accidents. I've found myself asking Ellie, "do you need to go potty?" much more than is probably needed, to the point that I think I'm obviously annoying her. She started throwing fits and crying when I try to "force" her to go if she doesn't need to, so I'm learning to back off and only ask occasionally. She obviously knows when she needs to go and is frustrated when I bug her too often. If that's not a clear sign that I'm a nagging mom, I don't know what is. This is a learning process for me too.

One of the most surprising parts about this is how rarely Ellie actually has to use the potty. I guess I assumed that when wearing a diaper a baby is just wetting it constantly. Now that we've trained Ellie she usually goes 2-3 hours no problem. Me asking her every 20 minutes is getting old for her and for me.

So, I'm working on waiting for her to tell me, although I still ask her when we hit the 2-3 hour mark. This morning she had an accident only a few minutes after sitting on the potty (with nothing to show for it). I'm not sure why that happened. I think because we were about to "exercise" (P90X on video) and she was very excited about it, but after that she came to me twice on her own to use the potty successfully, so I know she's still getting it. I have accepted the fact that there will be occasional accidents for awhile.

The best news is she has had zero accidents when we've gone out. She almost seems to do better when we're out. She has no issue sitting on toilets in public restrooms or at other people's houses. We went to a baseball game and she did great! Granted, I asked her about the potty and took her every half an hour, but she did go twice out of the five times I took her. Yes, I know I was paranoid, but the bathroom was far away and I have no idea how long she can hold it after realizing she needs to go. I'm sure I'll get better as I get more comfortable with her schedule and only going every couple of hours.

First family baseball game. Go Grizzlies!
And now to move on past the bathroom habits of Ellie.
Here's a glimpse of what our house looks like these days:
Hazel having tummy time while Ellie does puzzles next to her.
Ellie's reward for going #2 on the potty: watching "Monkey" aka Curious George on Daddy's I-pad.

Below: Ellie's baby often does the same activities that Hazel does. She goes potty, sits in the bouncer, sleeps in Hazel's bassinet, and even lays on the mat with Hazel.

And, a random video of Ellie.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Getting Closer

I've been documenting this process of potty training both for my own future reference and because I know I have several friends who are going to be entering this world soon. I thought I'd offer my own experience for what it's worth. So, my apologies to all those family members or friends looking here for a general update. You're getting the nitty gritty right now. :)

Over the last few days we've stopped the free-for-all method and introduced "big girl underwear." Ellie was at virtually 100% success with nothing on and even though some accidents are happening with the undies, she can't go clothes-free forever. We're all going a little stir-crazy and it would be nice to have an outing soon.

Despite more accidents with undies, I have to focus on the positives:

First and foremost: Ellie has gone #2 on the potty for several days in a row! (YAY! Break out in applause here!) It seems easier for Ellie to get to the potty for this than for peeing. I'd rather have it this way for clean-up purposes. I know this can take a lot longer for some kids to master, so I'm counting my blessings.

Second: Ellie is starting to tell me "potty" when she needs help getting her undies off. Sometimes. I still feel like I have to be only a few steps away with the potty but so far it's working. Out next goal is to have her hold it longer so we won't need the potty right on hand. As cute as a mini-toilet is, we'd like to move it to the bathroom and not keep it in the middle of our living room floor.

The most difficult times are when I'm feeding Hazel. Sometimes I have Ellie sit on the potty while I'm nursing. Sometimes I just take the undies off. I've had to stop mid-nursing to help Ellie. Hazel is learning patience as I have to set her down to deal with an accident or another part of the process. I'm still coming up with a system for this. This is probably the hardest part about being at home alone and potty training while having an infant.

Third: Ellie hasn't gotten a sticker or an M&M in the last day or two. Not because I'm not willing to give them to her but because she stopped asking or caring. When I do offer she says "nope" in that matter-of-fact toddler voice that is her answer for everything these days (even when she means "yes"). This shows she's going potty more out of habit or training and not simply for the reward. (Going #2 still gets the reward of watching a short episode of Curious George on my phone...a BIG reward for Ellie and totally worth it to have her going consistently).

Sometimes she runs right to the potty and wants to go and other times it seems like she treats undies like a diaper, having accidents on occasion. I'm wondering if this is because we are still doing diapers at nap time. Maybe it's "diaper confusion." You know, like "nipple confusion" is for babies who switch between pacifiers, bottles, and breast. OK. Maybe not. Or maybe I just came up with a new phrase.

She doesn't really like to be "forced" to sit on the potty. If she doesn't have to go, she won't go. Some  kids will go at least a little if they sit on the potty. Not Ellie. If she has to go, she goes. Otherwise, she'll sit on the potty for 10 minutes reading book without a drop, even if it's been an hour since the last time she went.  I'm starting to believe her when she says she doesn't have to go because so far it means she doesn't. I'm still having her sit on the potty at crucial times: first thing in the morning, before/after lunch in the high chair, before/after nap, and anytime I see her doing the potty dance. Otherwise, she initiates most of the trips to the potty herself. 

I'm feeling fairly confident about this process though we are nowhere near being fully trained. Ellie is doing well and every day there are even the tiniest improvements and successes. Yesterday before her nap I took her temperature and she had a fever of 101. 8. She might be teething because she has no other symptoms except not eating well yesterday. Either way, I think she gets bonus points for doing this even while feeling yucky.

Good job Ellie! We can do this!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Slow and Steady

Yesterday was a rougher day. Ellie seemed to be fighting us more throughout the process. I've heard the third or fourth day can be harder, and despite knowing this, I still started to question the process.

I think it was because she was starting to figure out the whole process and we were pushing her to sit on the potty when she didn't need to go, and she was getting frustrated.

This morning we tried training underwear on Ellie. It lasted through one accident and we decided that she wasn't ready for them yet. I was feeling doubtful and even asked Michael, "Are we pushing her too much? Maybe she isn't ready yet..."

A few minutes later Ellie suddenly stopped playing, ran to the potty and sat down, totally unprompted. She pooped! It was pretty incredible since she 1) realized she needed to go and 2) got to the potty in time to go without us saying a word. Her big reward was that she got to watch an episode of Curious George. This incentive seemed to work well!

That set a precedent for the rest of the day. A few different times she stopped completely on her own, ran to the potty and went. A couple times she would do the "potty dance" and I'd tell her to run to the potty (sometimes as she was already heading that way) and she made it every time. She didn't seem nearly as interested in her M & M and stickers as she had been. I had to remind her about them which showed me that she's going without the reward always on her mind.

Michael took her outside with the potty after dinner and she randomly put down what she was playing with, sat down and went.

Today I tried to ask a lot less often if she needed to go, and only made her sit on the potty a couple times when it had been over an hour.  She never went when I made her sit. I think she's at the point that when I ask her if she needs to pee and she says "no" she really means it. She definitely knows when she needs to go, and gets frustrated when I ask her to sit on the potty if she doesn't need to.

Obviously we have quite a way to go. We need to have Ellie learn to wear clothes and be able to go potty, but one step at a time! Today's progress was very encouraging for this Mama. Michael reminded me it may be two steps forward, one step back for a while, but slowly we are moving forward. I'm very proud of my big girl!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Training of The Pot, Dos and Tres

Day 2 of Potty Training had a few interesting hiccups.

Hazel and I had doctor appointments so Michael stayed home with Ellie yesterday. While I was in the shower Ellie had her first #2 accident. Michael was cleaning up a mess and coaching Ellie through the accident, all with a screaming baby Hazel in the background. (I have a trooper of a husband). The rest of the day she had a few accidents but almost always stopped them and ended with a success on the potty.

Then there was yet another traumatic poop incident last night where Ellie ended up crying for Mama (I was gone) and was upset. Michael managed to fling just a tiny bit into the potty as he tried to get her to it in time, encouraging one little sticker on the potty chart (see picture below). Fortunately, the night was redeemed with another successful potty time before bed.

Three Days of Potty Training Successes
Today was a nice change because there were two parents at home. Ellie had a few more accidents where she had drops on the floor, but she always ended on the potty.

At moments we asked ourselves, Are we doing this right? Are we pushing her too much? Is this working? We've been trying to read her body language and not force the process. She seems to understand and is making progress.

We've been trying the let-her-run-around-naked from the waist down method. We weren't really sure what to do at meal times, so we decided to keep the pants off, put a towel in her high chair, and go for it. So far she's been dry at every single meal, which is a sign of progress.

Other signs of progress:

Even if she starts to go on the floor, she stops and tells us she is peeing and makes it to the potty. If we aren't in the same room and she starts to have an accident she finds us and tells us, "I peed!" or starts fussing because she doesn't like the "mess."

Tonight's biggest success was during bathtime. She'd been in the bath for quite a while and suddenly stood up and said, "potty!" We grabbed her potty from the living room, pulled her out of the bath dripping wet, and plopped her on the little toilet.


To me this signified that she recognized her impulse to go, told me about it, waited for the potty, and then went. This gave us hope that it's working! I assumed she would have just gone in the bathtub.

We expect more accidents but tomorrow we have a slight change of plan.

Up until now she has received an M&M and a sticker for every success, even if she had an accident first. Tomorrow we are going to try only rewarding when there is no accident first. We're also going to not ask her as often to sit on the potty to gauge if she can tell on her own.

We're still working on an incentive for going #2 on the potty. She's obsessed with watching Curious George ("Monkey") so we might use that. I have a feeling that one may take a while. Any tips or suggestions would be welcome!

And just to include our little one: Michael and Hazel having a conversation.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bye-Bye Baby/Hello Big Girl:Potty Time

This was a big week for my first-born.

On Tuesday, Ellie got her first haircut.
And then there was today,
Day One of Potty Training.

Ellie has showed "signs" of being ready. I thought I'd wait longer after having a baby, but I've been feeling good about my new routine and decided there was no reason to delay.

We bought a potty several months ago and Ellie has used it a few times with success. Since we use cloth diapers she's been aware of what's been going on for a while. 
(It's been said that cloth diapered babies potty train a full year ahead of disposable babies-yet another reason to use cloth diapers!)

Last night Ellie and I took a special trip to Target and bought some big girl underwear, stickers, and M & Ms. I told her in the morning we'd be saying goodbye to her diapers.

This Morning,
When Ellie got up we took her diaper off and put her straight onto the potty, now strategically placed in the living room, in the center of our small house.

And Then,
It was no pants time!

She had her first accident on the floor right away. That helped her figure out what was going on. 

After That,
She had several successes on the potty. She got a sticker for her potty chart and one M & M each time. At the first mention of the colored candies (which she has only had once before) she headed straight to the potty.
They were a great motivator today.

At least one sentimental moment:
We watched an Elmo video called "You'll Use the Potty" and I actually teared up. 
Yes, Elmo made me cry
as I realized my baby is becoming a big girl.

She had that first accident right away,
And two other times she started to go on the floor, stopped, went to the potty, and finished there.
She peed 8 times on the potty, in total.

I Am A Proud Mama.
I feel like it was a successful day because I made a hot dinner,
washed our cloth diapers, 
nursed our 6 week-old several times,
watched my oldest daughter slip further away from babyhood.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

First Comparison (of many)

Hazel Jane, age 5 weeks. Discovered the mobile on her swing.

Ellie Grace, age 5 weeks. Discovered the mobile on her swing.

Apparently, they even like the same swaddle blanket.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Eating and Sleeping

Michael and I have noticed how much my mood is dictated by how my girls are doing/eating/feeling.

I first noticed this phenomenon with Ellie, way back when she was first born. Whenever she had a solid feeding I felt relieved and confident. If she had a weird feeding where she didn't latch well or didn't eat as much as usual, or if she was crying for an unexplained reason, I found myself stressed, frustrated, and distraught. This often led to tears for us both.

Now this scenario is on repeat with Hazel. I've had several feedings where Hazel is acting strangely-instead of a calm, "solid" feeding she might eat for less time (when an average feeding is only 5-7 minutes anything less makes me pause) or be extra gassy and therefore be frustrated, resulting in a shorter, stressful feeding.

The result of a poor feeding is that I feel frustrated. I start to over-analyze everything.
 Is she eating enough?
Is my milk supply going down? 
Is she gaining enough weight? 
Is she too gassy? 
What am I eating that's causing her to have tummy troubles? 
Should I move positions?
Should I pump?
What can I possibly do differently to solve this issue? 
Is this EVER going to get easier?

Recently a friend wrote to a few fellow moms on facebook because she was having nursing issues. She admitted to several tears during nursing, and I noticed several other moms concurred. 

Even though I'd say nursing is going night and day better than it did with Ellie, there are STILL moments when it's so frustrating I cry. I still went through an extremely painful patch where a less committed mom would have thrown in the towel. It's encouraging to know that almost every mom I know who has attempted to breastfeed has had moments of tears.

Today, I'm feeling good. Hazel has had several good feedings. I'm calm and relaxed. Even Ellie ate a great lunch. (My mood-connected to feedings didn't end with nursing...I still feel much better when Ellie eats well. Thankfully, I have a great eater most days).

I know I need to learn to relax and not let these things influence my mood. But it does and I just have to learn to be aware of when my poor mood is because of an off day with one or both of the girls.
 By naming it, I can learn to release it.
Happy One Month Hazel!
On another note, I have an amazing sleeper! 

I thought Ellie was a great sleeper, sleeping 4-5 hours at night by one month. 
Hazel decided to welcome her fifth week of life by sleeping for 7 hours straight. I woke her up at that point to feed her because I wanted to make sure she had enough feedings (see questions above).

Last night I decided to see how long Hazel would sleep without me waking her up, since I wake her up for almost every feeding. I fed her at 10:30PM, put her down to sleep by 11:00, and when I woke up at 7AM I decided I needed to wake her up and feed her. Yup. She went for 8 1/2 hours between feedings, skipping her middle of the night feeding, which recently has been 5 or 6AM. I just couldn't let her go any longer. Maybe tonight.

I thought I had it good with Ellie, but now I know I'm beyond lucky with Hazel. I have friends with babies several months or even years older than Hazel who are still waking up in the night to feed.

 I will count my blessings and appreciate my good night's sleep while it lasts. And I'll try not to worry if I have a weird feeding or two.

(I refer to a couple of good books that help me with an eating/sleeping/activity time routine. I credit at least some of my good eaters and sleepers to these. I'd be more than happy to share them if you're interested.)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Phone Photos

Making cookies with Grandma
During the last two weeks of my pregnancy I didn't blog much, but I took a lot of pictures with my phone. Here is a random assortment of pictures from the two weeks before Hazel was born, trying to pass the time while my mom was here visiting. And waiting for a baby to be born.
One of Ellie's favorite activities: building a "BIG" tower with blocks.

Her new "pack pack"

At the zoo with Grandma

Watching soccer with Daddy

We went to a local water park and Ellie loved every second of it.

Ellie had to put her glasses on her forehead like mama.

Almost last family photo of the three of us

Ellie could have gone on this slide a hundred times

Whirlwind of Emotions

Last weekend was a rough welcome into the world of parenting two children. Ellie woke up Friday night with a burning fever and continued to have a fever for two days, peaking at night. I got mastitis (a plugged milk duct) that left me alternating between burning fevers/sweats and chills, and I felt achy and had flu-like symptoms all weekend. Thankfully, this all happened over the weekend so Michael was home to take care of all of us and let me rest a lot. I even woke up from a nap to a cleaned bathroom. I'm a blessed wife, thankful for my partner in parenthood.

After the weekend I had a bit of a panic about my milk supply and Hazel's health, as well as a couple major meltdowns because this whole nursing-an-infant-while-keeping-a-toddler-happy is HARD WORK. I went to the doctor and was relieved to know Hazel is doing fine. She's gaining weight and we have figured out a lot of our nursing issues. My lactation consultant told me I win the prize for not giving up and pushing through a lot of pain, when a lot of people would have given up. Thankfully, I'm healing and Hazel is eating well.

If you had called me at about noon last Monday I would have answered the phone a blubbery, hysterical crying mess. Just ask my husband, who I called while crying and lamenting, "I can't do this." I was nursing Hazel and it was taking way too long because she was so lethargic (part of why I had been worried about her). Ellie was getting impatient and starting to act out and getting into things she's not supposed to, throwing things and being defiant, requiring a time out. How in the world do you give a toddler a time out while simultaneously nursing a newborn?

The answer is probably: you don't. But, I have attempted not one, but two time outs with Ellie this week while seated in my nursing chair. Both times Ellie obediently walked over to her corner, sat down, waited until I told her she was done, walked back over to me, apologized, and moved on. I know that's rare and I need to probably just put Hazel down or come up with an alternative, but in those two instances it worked, and for the sake of my sanity, I was thankful in those moments.

What I've found to work the best is to sit on my bed with Ellie sitting next to me reading books while I nurse Hazel. It gives Ellie something to focus on, plus I can sit there and interact with her and talk about the books. It keeps Ellie somewhat contained and I'm able to give her more attention than I might sitting in the living room in a rocking chair. Slowly but surely, we are figuring this out, one day at a time.

Hazel-3 Weeks Old
I have experienced such a vast array of emotions in the last few weeks:
  • Exhaustion (Should I nap or enjoy a few minutes of quiet during the girls' naps? Or finally take a shower at 2:00pm?)
  • Fear (How am I ever going to handle two little ones? I CANNOT do this. What were we thinking?)
  • Guilt (Am I spending enough quality time with Ellie? Am I holding Hazel enough between feedings? Am I overly emotional and taking it out on my daughter and/or husband?)
  • Impatience (Feeling frustrated and having a short fuse, then feeling guilty for it.)
  • Overwhelmed (Will I ever find a way to cook dinner again, to find a routine? How can I discipline a toddler and deal with her tantrums when I have a crying, hungry, poopy newborn? I ONLY HAVE TWO HANDS!)
But also:
  • Gratitude-I'm blessed and so thankful to have such a sweet family, and two healthy, beautiful girls. I'm grateful for friends and community who have brought us meals. Making dinner is literally the last thing I have wanted to do over the last few weeks. Oh, and Hazel is a pretty good sleeper already, sleeping for stretches of 4+ hours at night.
  • Joy-Ellie and I have had some sweet bonding moments, including painting her fingernails for the first time. It may seem like a silly, trivial thing, but it was a special mommy/daughter moment where I got to really focus on my oldest for a bit.
  • Slowly growing in confidence-Some days, or rather, some moments, I strap Hazel in the carrier and find ways to spend more quality time with Ellie. We've been swimming in her kiddie pool, blowing bubbles, drawing with chalk, doing puzzles, coloring, playing with play-dough. It's these moments that give me hope and confidence that I might be able to do this after all. I just have to focus on these moments in between the crazy, chaotic ones.

    Saturday, July 14, 2012

    Today's Firsts

    Hazel's First Trip to the Zoo

    First use of the Double BOB
    First outing in the Baby Bjorn
    First Bath
    Today's other first was two kids with blow-outs in an hour. As we were getting ready for the zoo this morning, we suddenly noticed poop all up and down Ellie's leg. We took her straight to the shower. Not sure how it got there or when. Then as I was changing Hazel's diaper on our bed she suddenly sprayed me with a shower of poop: I was covered in it across my whole shirt, my arms and even my legs, and so was our bed. I just started yelling "HELP, HELP, HELP, HELP!" until someone came to help me. That was definitely a first I won't forget.
    Happy One Week to Hazel Jane!