Monday, December 29, 2014

Potty Training: Day 8

So how are things going?

First, I didn't really announce the whole start (because, do any of you really care?). I had plans to start the 3-Day PT method on Wednesday, Christmas Eve. The husband would be home and I would be able to somehow have extra hands when sister tries to crawl through the pee all over the floor. Yes, it's happened a few times.

Except, the toddler decided that after weeks of me telling him we were almost out of diapers and that soon we won't have anything other than big boy undies to wear that Monday, 12/22 was the day he would refuse a diaper. We were having friends over for a playdate just an hour later. And the next day we had dentist appointments that would require we be out of the house. Not ideal and not in the plans for the whole 3-Day method. Except, the method was written for kids primarily between 22-30 months. Anything after that (read: my kid at 34 months) would be harder and not ideal. Super. Starting things off on a positive note.

The benefit to having a kid this old to PT? They do know when they are peeing and can tell you all the signs. And if they are anything like Benjamin, they've been casually using the potty on their own for almost a year. Time to get the ball rolling.

First two days of PT were flying solo because Dad was working. We went all-in without pull-ups or diapers at night or naptime. Here's the summary without doing a day-to-day.

Naptime: Woke 6/7 times dry

Bedtime: Called for me 2/7 times after peeing in the middle of the night, slept through the wet or woke up and peed the bed (hard to tell) 3/7 times and woke completely dry 2/7 times. This doesn't bother me. He is not expected to all of a sudden know how to hold in a bladder full of liquid for 12 hours. I'll change sheets as necessary. I have washable pee pads and he's in a toddler bed, so the laundry is much smaller.

Accidents: 6 accidents over two days (day 1 and day 5-- of which I believe he was acting on purpose because his behavior was terrible that day). The other 5 days were completely dry.

Overall: He's been doing okay, but three days was definitely not the magic number. He goes in public toilets and is fine. Perhaps it's the novelty. He'll proudly tell you he goes in the "women's bathroom" because he's partial to Mommy these days (please send wine). I take him whenever we go somewhere (library, Costco, restaurants) to ensure he doesn't have an accident. He is fine wearing the underwear but is particular in selecting the pair. He also prefers the little potties in our house, but occasionally stands up to pee in the big potties. I don't care which he chooses, as long as he is comfortable using foreign toilets when we're out of the house.

The Bad (or should I say annoying): He doesn't tell me often when he has to go, so the whole premise about them owning it is not at all working with Benjamin. I usually get him to go by telling him I'm going potty and want him to come with me. It usually works. He refuses to go when he wakes up from nap or nighttime and had two consecutive accidents because of this. He also occasionally flat-out tells me NO when I ask him to go potty (because I know he has to be holding it in! Ah, life with a "spirited child").

On the 3-Day PT Method:
- I clearly don't have the poster child for this program. Three days (multiplied by 50?).
- The whole premise is to ditch all forms of a crutch and go head first. Fine. I'm cool with changing peed bedding (it's only pee).
- You are to be near your child and notice when they start to have an accident and run them to the bathroom, getting pee all over your house in the process. Also fine. I understand that it's teaching the kid that pee only goes in the potty and no where else, at the expense of your hardwood floors and carpeting and the baby who will absolutely crawl through it.
- Verbally congratulate them (at obnoxious levels) for using the potty, even if it started as an accident, congratulating for keeping their underwear dry and reminding them to tell you when they need to go (like 100x a day). No questions, only statements. Also fine, except I can count on one hand how many times Benjamin has told me he needed to go on his own. The rest were me convincing him he needed to go when I know he did (judging by liquid consumption).
- Lots of liquids. I find this the trickiest. Pump them with lots of favorite beverages and then halt them a couple hours before sleep time. That means he only gets liquids for two, 3-hr periods a day. It's really hard to manage that! And, I can't just force liquids upon him. He's nearly 3 and seriously gives me the back off, MOM look whenever I try. It's exhausting getting him to eat or drink anything.

We're in it. We're not wavering. It may take forever from here, but we're committed.

Things I'm nervous about:

School starts back up January 6. He's been fighting school (because it's not on his terms, not because he doesn't actually like it) and getting dropped off. He will have been diaperless for 15 days and seriously can hold his bladder like a champ, so I'm not too worried. However, it is 2.5 hours long and he does go early in the morning and there is a chance he could have an accident because he refuses to pee when he wakes. On the flipside, it is preschool and something tells me his school has seen their fair share of accidents (after all, where do you learn if not there?), but I'm nervous. I might try to walk him in myself and have him use the potty before dropping him in his classroom each morning. But ugh! Then I lose the luxury of the dropoff service and have to schlep Claire out of the car in the coldest month of the year. I really, really think putting him in pull-ups is a poor choice and won't do it. I'd honestly rather keep him home.

We will also be traveling to Whistler in two weeks with good friends and Benjamin will be sharing a room with their daughter who is also almost 3. I don't want him waking her in the night because he peed the bed, so despite all the encouragement to eliminate all diapers, I'm going to tell him that in other houses and special hotels that we must wear these pull-ups (using a decoy name) because the owners make us. I'll even generate a note and hang it on the wall so he knows. Just so it's situational and not a regression. Like most kids his age, he loves pointing out rules and think that will go over fine.

**I posted this at naptime. End of Day 8 went swimmingly. He actually told me twice today when he had to go and went on his own ("Turn the lights on and close the door, Mommy"-- been telling us this for months). Rewards are really working. Every positive thing I give him (TV, treats, computer time) is followed by "because you've been so great at going in the potty and keeping your underwear dry!" I make sure to reward him even when only a pee-- noticed that the first few days he was forcing out mini poops because he was somehow under the impression that poop is more impressive. I've been obnoxiously complimenting his pee-only times as well to curb this. Seems like he's really starting to own this. Also took all his clothes off tonight and took his own shower (just needed help turning on to get correct temperature). Yay?!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

From our family to yours. Wishing love and peace to you all.

Best of 6. Toddlers are impossible with photos. Heavily bribed to sit on my lap because a present was waiting (Buzz Lightyear!) and allowing him to press the self-timer before hopping on my lap. Green Christmas sweaters were a gift from family. Notice Andrew's print. I'm sure you already did. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Gap

I'm at my end this week. It's just one of those weeks that never seems to end and the toddler and baby have found every cord to strike within me.

I had to get out this morning. Most storytimes have taken a winter hiatus and so we went to my least favorite one in the local downtown. It's not very engaging and the room is enormous, so attention spans are minimal. After, we explored the computers, elevator, dirty toys, water fountain in which Benjamin was sticking his hands in and then sticking them in his mouth, omg omg omg, we went to the {once again} mediocre storytime.

After, I thought it would be fun to walk and check out the trains they place on the sidewalks for the winter. They're about the size of the ones you'd ride in front of a supermarket, but decorated with different sponsors and such. We got to the corner and there was a Gap store. I figured I'd check out their clearance for cute stuff for Claire.

Walking in was fine. And then it was all over.

Benjamin was a nightmare. He was hanging from the security things in front of the door. Climbing into the front display of the store. Grabbing display hanging metal things that the workers were assembling and running off with them. Climbing on top of full displays and sitting on them after he cleared all of the shirts that were being displayed. Running up and down the aisles and yelling MOM! as loud as he could. It's his latest thing to do. Finally, after he cleared another shelf and landed about 50 beautifully folded shirts on the floor, I put Claire on the floor (to then also crawl up and down aisles and attempt to get into the cashier's area) and purchased a single item. But of course, Claire can't walk, so I must carry her the 1.5 blocks to the car and the toddler refuses to not only put on his coat, but move a single inch on his own. He sat.

Somehow I strong-armed them both and after that block, I didn't have the strength to manage the full 50lbs of awkward weight, so I put him down on the sidewalk and told him he needed to walk. He refused. So I grabbed one arm and began to drag-walk him down the street. An older couple approached and asked if I needed help.

I'm not too proud. Yes. YES. I need help. And a stroller or a husband or a freaking nanny. She held his other arm as we dragged him that 1/2 block to the car.

And this, my friends, is why I refuse to shop anywhere with my toddler. How I see these moms walking in and out of stores with their children who happily wear coats and hats and stand by their side while shopping amazes me. They're like unicorn spottings.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Conversations with Benjamin: Part I

My friend Brooke inspired me with her recent posts about her daughter, Zuzu, and the hilarity that is spoken in her house. You have to go over and read her posts... toddlers are a riot.


Scene: Early morning and the kids are rummaging around in our bedroom. Claire finds a plastic bag with an empty bottle inside.

Benjamin: {grabs bag and runs} No, thief!

(Apparently all the readings of his favorite Peter Rabbit book are adding to his vocabulary. He just loves that naughty bunny.)


Scene: Living room, climbing on top of the very unsafe and not to be climbed Ballapallooza toy.

Benjamin: {yelling to me as I'm in the kitchen} Mom! Take a picture. I being dangerous!

(He loves being dangerous. And naughty. Dangerous and naughty. He also was proud to tell me about his dangerous ways as he attempted to climb the luggage rack on the commuter train from the second level on Sunday.)


Scene: In his bedroom after nap. We were talking about going to the children's museum that morning and why we left the museum prematurely.

Mom: Didn't we have a fun morning? What did we do?

Benjamin: I go to children's museum. I kick off my shoes. I make a poor choice.


Scene: Afternoon, just hanging out in the kitchen.

Benjamin: Mommy, sing please mommy dod? Know dat song?

Mom: Yes, I know that one... "Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad..."


Scene: Benjamin finished art at the table (i.e. scissors, paper and glue stick, no rules)

Benjamin: I cut dis for you. Mommy, are you proud?

Mom: Yes, Benjamin. I'm so proud of you!


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

We Remember, 2014

This is our fifth Christmas since becoming pregnant with Andrew. All five of which he was not here to celebrate with us. Each year I struggle with decorations. Even though we have two children in our house (judging by the looks of the messes they make at the very least!), it's still difficult to hang the stockings (four or five? where? which location will make us the least sad?), buy the tree and find a location (same place as when we arrived home from the hospital in 2010? no thanks.), and go about the whole holiday cheer business. I'm still not there completely. I'm not sure I'll ever be. There will probably never be an Elf in our house and I'm pretty content with that.

Each year we attend a remembrance ceremony held about a block from the hospital all three of our children were born. It's put on by the hospital's SHARE program and is free, funded by the hospital and volunteers. There are cookies and punch at the end, baked by the staff in Labor & Delivery.

This is our "favorite" (odd to favorite a remembrance ceremony?) one to attend and one we like keeping as a tradition for our family, especially during the Christmas season. It is also nice that it's the same week of Andrew's birthday each year. It's specifically for families who have lost children, so it almost feels like a group of comrades coming together who fully understand the magnitude of this type of grief. It's really wonderful and really heartbreaking as the numbers continue to grow.

The sanctuary is full of hundreds of families. Some are childless. Some lost children days, weeks or months before, and some are like us and have lived through this for years now. There are babies, toddlers, children, teenagers, parents, grandparents, family members and friends all sitting in pews listening to the church choir sing and SHARE organizers speak the names of our children, hand us the lighter to ignite our candle and stand near the tree we hang our ornaments.

They open the mic and some people go up to share poems or speak about their experiences and love for their children. One woman spoke about approaching her daughter's first birthday on January 7th, just a week before Claire was born. I could probably tell you what I was doing that day (itching in the OB office, flipping out). In the end, I did birth a live child, and she did not.

One man spoke of this being a tradition for his family each year. In tears, he spoke about how other family members might forget, but it's important they keep their son's memory alive and attend these ceremonies with his people-- us-- other broken families. He thanked his wife publicly for making this important to their family, because he is important and being open about your grief and sadness is important.

Another woman spoke of this being her 14th year at this ceremony and it being a tradition for her family as well; how the grief is easier now, but that it still makes her sad.

Claire spent the majority of the time crawling up to the front of the sanctuary and trying to get her little hands on those shiny ornaments. I pulled her back each time, knowing there were people sitting there, hoping they would have a child accompanying them to future ceremonies. How they wish that were them right now. We've been that family. Claire found a toddler boy and spent her time entertaining him by handing him a Chapstick and then giggling, over and over again. That same mom and son were there the year prior and sat behind us-- they are missing their firstborn son that bears the same name as ours. It's really a comradery. It's not quite the same as my group of blogging friends that dragged me through that whole first year and still are there supporting, but it was nice to see familiar faces, shed similar tears, and nod with the understanding that only a family who has lost a child can really comprehend.
Wearing her rainbow hat, made by the grandma of a good BLM friend of ours who also lost her daughter..
Benjamin first wore this hat along with 14 other rainbows at our first babyloss get together here in Chicago.
Benjamin was practicing his terrible two stage of fun by tantruming in the car for the first 20 minutes of the ceremony. These can last upwards of 2-3 hours lately, so I didn't think they would be coming inside. But, miraculously there was an apology given and they arrived in the sanctuary just as the names were being read. We walked as a family of four to hang an ornament for our five. I lit the candle and Benjamin hung the ornament for Andrew on the tree. That moment was really special {except after he walked down the aisle saying, "I all done...we go now...get cookies."}
No photos from the ceremony of our middle child, but here he is all dressed dapper after nap in his collared shirt and sweater.
(because he refuses to wear any jackets at all and therefore I must dress him in the warmest clothes possible!)
I knew there were families there that saw our family of four (one boy! one girl! jackpot!) and thought to themselves that we were the lucky ones. We may have lost, but look what we have now. We have hope. And, we do. We truly feel thankful for the squealing little girl who was literally crawling through the pews under peoples' legs during the ceremony and the boy who was thrashing himself in his carseat because I don't even remember why (and neither did he). That first year after losing Andrew, we attended, quite pregnant with our rainbow baby. We saw the families around us with children and hoped that would be us. We even talked about the hope we had to bring our future children there each year to celebrate the life of our firstborn and keep his memory alive in the midst of the present-buying, cookie-exhanging, Santa-picture-taking madness.

Here we are. Hope has arrived. May there be many more (other peoples' rainbow children) in that sanctuary next year and years to come.
Made an apple pie yesterday with initials of December babies we miss, just because. Grief baking and eating + apples that needed to be eaten = humble pie for sure.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Gobble Gobble

We headed east for Thanksgiving like we've done in the past. We have family in Pittsburgh, which is about a 7-hour drive from Chicago. We love Pittsburgh. It's big enough to get a city feel, has bridges and water and rolling hills and good food. It's a fun city. Did I mention I am a city girl? Yep.

I'm always happy to leave the Midwest for something more exciting and Pittsburgh is always more exciting. It especially helps that when we're there, we're with family who loves on our kids and gives us breaks. Three cheers for that!

We had a great time. We woke up at 3 a.m. on Wednesday and drove the entire 7 hours with just one 20-minute stop for gas and a stretch. We arrived at lunchtime and had lunch with Gramie, Grandpa, Aunt Mansa & Max. The rest of the day was pool time, relaxing, skipping naptime, and Primanti Brothers (though they're rated a 5/10 this time and I'm honestly not sure we'll return).
Thanksgiving morning we woke up and ditched left the kids with the grandparents and ran the Turkey Trot Downtown. I made some pretty fun costumes that Aunt Mansa and I wore, while the guys sported some Target turkey hats.
Thursday afternoon and evening was spent at Aunt Ceil's house. I love their house and love them even more. They made this vegetarian some delicious red lentils and rice that I could seriously eat for every meal. Thanksgiving dinner is always really underwhelming for me because it usually consists of mashed potatoes, a side of veggies and bread. But not there! Delicious all around. Benjamin disagreed, but he never really eats anything, so that's no surprise. Family was great and we had a great showing. {Great} Gramie & Papa were at Thanksgiving and it was so nice to see them, as well as Aunt Jan who spends most of her time in Portland (another one of my favorite cities!).
Friday was spent at Aunt Helen's house, about 45 minutes from Downtown. She has three horses and Benjamin sat on one. Maybe next year he'll actually ride! We spent the day with everyone just relaxing. I was exhausted because Claire seemed to think waking every two hours the night before was a good idea... so we made the decision to head home that evening and just leave around dinnertime because if she was going to be waking every 2 hours anyway, we might as well leave before bedtime rather than wait until 3 a.m. again. That way we'd make it home just past midnight and get at least 7 hours of sleep (and it worked!).
I drove the first 3.5 hours back home and the husband drove the last 3.5 hours. We literally stopped for 2 minutes just to fill a 1/2 tank of gas and were off again. We arrived home around 12:30 a.m. and Claire slept the majority of the time. Benjamin was awake for the majority (even at Midnight!), but was so tired from all the family and festivities that he was calm and cool just sitting in his carseat.
It was our first road trip with two in the backseat! This was our first one over 2 hours with both of them and we deemed it successful!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Letters to Andrew: 4th Birthday Edition

Just over a month before Andrew was born, we were sitting in a soccer stadium in downtown Chicago watching my cousin's game with my aunt and my cousin's girlfriend (now wife-- Benjamin went to the wedding in 2012). I remember telling her how nervous I was to give birth because it was scary and foreign and sounded, well, painful.

I vividly remember her telling me that no matter how much pain, in the end, we will get to take home the most wonderful gift ever when it's all over. Those words are burned in my memory, because that never happened. All the pain, none of the gain. {Well, the love during pregnancy and beyond is most assuredly a gain, but not without an immense amount of emotional pain that will never end.}

Not pain and then gain. How I wish that were so.


Dear Andrew,

You are absolutely missed. Every single day of my life, I miss you. There will never be a birthday that we don't celebrate you, or a holiday, first day of school, soccer practice, park visit, family vacation that you go unmissed.

On your fourth birthday, I miss the preschool-aged boy you would be. I miss the boy who would be starting to read and getting excited for selecting his birthday party theme and blowing out those four candles tonight. I miss every bit of it.

Always Loving,
Mom, Dad, Benjamin & Claire.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Dear Abby: Stating the Bad

Despite this being our big grief month, we still have to carry on and parent our living children, sometimes lacking the correct way to handle the many adventures Benjamin throws at us. Here's my Dear Abby for you all... because kids don't come with handbooks. I'd seriously pay a pretty penny for one tailored just to this toddler.

Recently he has been verbally recounting all of the unfavorable things he does. Sometimes immediately, but mostly days and weeks and months after the fact.

I hit the TV.
I throw Mr. Potato Head on the floor.
I hit Gawbee at IKEA (which he says often and this happened in SEPTEMBER!).
I go pee in Buzz Lightyear underwear (yeah, those didn't work).
I bite Daddy.

Usually we respond with conversational language about the incident and attach feeling to the story so he learns that not only is the action unfavorable, but it hurts our feelings. He does need to know that the action disappoints us and why.

Yes, you did throw the toy on the ground and it made Mommy and Daddy very sad. Was that a good choice to make? If we throw our toys on the ground, that is not respecting our things we are lucky to have and it could break the toy. We would have to throw it in the trash if it breaks.

At this point, he usually agrees and repeats some of what we have said and says things like "bad choice" and "no throw in the trash" and whatnot.

Yet, he still continues to exude this toddler behavior (he is still a toddler and they are irrational, so obviously) and recount these behaviors almost like they are verbal trophies he is giving himself for poor behavior.

Should we be ignoring these statements of negativity he is trying to use? Is he doing this because he is getting a reaction or is it important to continue reacting and talking through his memory again? I know he's only two, but sometimes it feels like he's pulling the reverse psychology on us and almost mocking us. Maybe it isn't that at all and we are just beat down from the same repeat behavior.

Fairly certain at this point that our firstborn would've been much more agreeable.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Name Mix-up

There's this one mom who brings her son to storytime each week. He appears to be a bit younger than Benjamin, but not by much. She also totes along her daughter who is 7 months.

During storytime this morning, the kids were working with shapes of different materials and textures and then finding the location in the room to match the same color and material. As the storytime leader passed out the supplies, she came to this woman and her son and said, "Here you go, Benjamin-- err-- I mean, Andrew. I'm sorry. I get these kids mixed up sometimes."

And... that will never happen to me. I will never mix up Andrew for Benjamin or Benjamin for Andrew. Pretty hard to mix up two kids when one is alive and one has been literally reduced to carbon ashes.

You can also probably see why I have no interest in befriending this woman and her same-aged children, despite the potential connection and playdate opportunities. Can you just imagine me walking into her house to see monogrammed stuff and his name hanging up in his bedroom?

Me neither.


Sweet side story: Benjamin randomly sang the entire Happy Birthday song to Andrew yesterday morning while we were getting ready in our bathroom. We have not sung that song or even been telling him much about Andrew's birthday coming. He knew it was coming, but that was completely his idea. Heart explosion. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

It's the Most HAPPY & SAD Time of Year....

We're kind of going big for Christmas this year. It wasn't intentional, but I've stocked up on things throughout the year, visited a toy resale and scored big, and made a purchase that I hope to not regret as a shared gift that will only be unveiled Christmas morning on Instagram. I have to leave some secrets, as you all know I won't be busting out with anymore "I'm pregnant" announcements (which is why most people read blogs in my age group anyway, KWIM?).

Some ramblings of the happy...

  • We had a great Thanksgiving. I'll post about that on another day. 
  • Benjamin told me he had to use the (public) toilet at the children's museum and he did. We celebrated.
  • Claire is now pulling up to a stand, basically everywhere. 
  • She's also cruising a bit. We think she'll be walking before 14 months (when Benjamin started).
  • I signed up to bake loaves of bread for the local food pantry. Our church selects a local organization each year for an Advent Conspiracy to encourage us to spend less and give more. This year, it's that local food pantry. While I love giving, I've also volunteered there during my pregnancy with Andrew and yowza! Whole Foods hooks it up in there!
  • I'm planning to donate toys for Benjamin's school toy drive for Toys-for-Tots. We will also be donating mittens and other items to decorate the tree (and donate) at his school.
Some ramblings of the sad...

Andrew's birthday is on Friday. He'd be four. It's always like a ton of bricks when Thanksgiving ends and all of a sudden it's December 1st. Because December 1st means his birthday is in four days and it sort of just takes the wind out of me each year. Every single day it seems, I meet kids his age. Younger, actually. It shocks me to see their big and able bodies and to know his never grew past the 7lb6oz I birthed.

We will celebrate with dinner at our favorite local burger chain that our kids love. We figure he'd love it, too. I'll buy a special dessert and we'll light candles and especially his candle. My in-laws sent us home with a gift for Andrew's birthday and my mom sent over another ornament for him and decorated a tree special and in honor of him at their house. They will also be setting off four Japanese paper lanterns in his honor this weekend to represent his fourth birthday.

Next Tuesday, we will attend the annual remembrance ceremony at a local church, specifically for families who lost children. I will bring an ornament and hang it. I will then drive back to the hospital I birthed all three of my children and retrieve it in January... the week Claire was born last year.

We will wait, as we always do, to decorate for Christmas until after his birthday is over. It's part of respecting his birthday, and partly because we want to leave space for our grief. Our house was heavily decorated just hours before Andrew died. We will probably never put a tree in that spot again. The first five windows to the Advent House (calendar) we have will remain empty in his honor every year. No decorations will be hung or placed until after we celebrate our firstborn. It just doesn't seem right any other way.