April 6, 2016

Three Years Old

You fell asleep too quickly last night.

I had to work a little later, and then I had to stop by the store to get the last pieces we needed to make this morning especially special for you. After all, you only turn 3 once.

I raced up the stairs, so excited to see you. I've been thinking about you so much, because yesterday was the last day that you were two. As we drove to daycare, you were so full of silliness and laughter - we giggled and chatted the whole way.

Two has been so much. So much fun. So much learning. So much love. So much growth. There have been challenges. But there have been breakthroughs. Triumphs.

It's overwhelming to think that two is over. It's so great, because you're so ready for this amazing milestone, this continuation of your journey. But it's also tearing my heart into pieces because what you might not realize is that I'm constantly seeing you through so many lenses.

 I still see you so fragile and vibrant and new. Your sweet head, bruised from the vacuum that helped me get you earthside.

Your incredible skin, rolls upon rolls, still too big for your tiny body. Don't worry - you'll fill that skin  in so soon.

See? You grew so well and so quickly. It was amazing, seeing the complete circle we made. The cycle of supply and demand, everything you needed in the world... all in one place. Those arms. Those rolls. Those thighs. It was like a rubber band was around your wrists... and it was so awesome.

Look at those amazing eyes. Your daddy has amazing eyes, and you were lucky enough to take after him. Not only is the color amazing, but the lashes have always been gorgeous. I remember just looking at your eyes when you were small - admiring them, and always so excited to learn more about who you are. I still am, every day.

You will never doubt my love for you. I can't help but light up when you're near. Some days I'm tired. Worn out. Exhausted. Frustrated. Angry. But you are the key to wonder and magic, at a time in my life when I started to doubt my ability to find those on my own. You are a marvelous adventure, and you are helping me become the woman and mother I always hoped I could be.

I've always described you as "cheerful". You're such fun to be near, and your smile and giggles are infectious. Even Zoey can't stay away from you.

You've always been so social and verbal. You LOVE interaction and faces and communicating, even to this day. I see your silly roly-poly body as you flip over and exult in your range of movement. How exciting it was for you to be mobile! We cheered for you at every new development.

The soft, wispy baby hair that you had before your first haircut. It was downy and feathery and baby hair. Your hair today is that of a boy... when did that happen?

 And then you were one year old. All of a sudden. But the longest time ever. You were on the move, and exploring a whole new world.

 We started doing more fun, interactive games. You love being with your daddy, even though mama was the only one who could comfort you when things went wrong.

I joked that I could only call you "beautiful" until you were one year old... but who was I kidding? You're still beautiful. You'll always be beautiful.

 The milestones seemed to blitz past even faster - maybe because you were moving faster. It took you some time to catch up with walking, but you did catch up. And now you're "the fastest boy in the world!"
 The joy and wonder that you express while experiencing something new makes that thing new for me as well. I'm honored to not only teach you, but learn from you as well.

 And these pants that were too big - that we had to cuff ridiculously - are too small. You grew out of them slowly... and then all at once.

 By now you were running and jumping - still falling down some. But so joyful and so full of movement. Still little enough to need Daddy to carry you home after this trip to play in the leaves... but so independent.

I can see you changing into a boy before my eyes, but I still see so much of the baby that came before you. You started to snuggle into me after your initial push of independence - like you knew how much it would mean to both of us to come close after ranging out so far.

 And then you were two years old - full of grins and mischief and hugs and kisses. You just keep learning, and all of a sudden our living room was full of construction equipment, more train tracks and trains than I know what to do with, and we started seeing more of what you loved and what made you light up.

 You get a little shy when all the attention is directed at you - when we sang you "Happy Birthday", you had to take a minute to process. You've always taken a few minutes to warm up to new people or a new situation... but then your natural warmth and cheer and humor break through.

Constantly on the move. Capturing a picture of you at your party was a challenge, because you were so excited and wanted to be everywhere, all the time.

 It's incredible to me that you look so different... but so the same. When you were a tiny baby, I couldn't begin to imagine what you would look like as you got older. Looking back, it's so clear. Your features are the same, but different. You're longer everywhere. You are taller. Lankier. And one day, I noticed that your fingers weren't the chubby/stubby toddler fingers... but the fingers of a little boy. You were actually holding my hand. Deftly handling a marker. Successfully using scissors.

 I still see your hesitancy with physical tasks. You were always so quick with the social and verbal skills, but new physical skills take you some time to build comfort. Jumping. Running. Rolling. Climbing. But watching you try - watching your enthusiasm for something new - has inspired me.

You love superheroes these days. This Superman shirt has been a huge favorite, and you have the persona to go right along with it. It's getting faded, pilled, and a little too small... but luckily I found you a bigger replacement. We're just waiting for your party to give it to you.

 We always hoped to have a second child, and finding out we were expecting your brother Thomas was both very exciting... and kind of scary. It was a new frontier for all of us, changing from a family of three to a family of four. Your daddy and I wanted to support you and make sure we did as much as we could to help our family transition. We took classes. Mama read books and articles. And you know what? When Thomas showed up in the early morning hours and we brought him home... you loved him right away. There was never a question. I worried about jealousy or anger, but so far there doesn't seem to be any of that. You love brother. You light up when he wakes up. Four and a half months later, the shine hasn't worn off. Watching you love him - and him love you - has been a completely new dynamic for me.

Not only have you grown up so much since Thomas arrived, but you show such care and love and attention and empathy. There are certainly moments where you try something fun for you but still too big for Thomas, but you are willing to dial it down for him. Don't worry kiddo - before you know it, he'll be trailing after you and running to catch up. I hope to show you the joy of having a sibling, while balancing the real struggles of sibling hood. I still feel amazed and kind of out of my depth, having two boys. I only know about life and family from my lens. You are teaching me so much.

I was worried about potty training. But as I've learned with so many other things - I shouldn't have been. I needed to do some preparation for myself - to get my mind right and feel confident. But as I read - potty training was going to rock my world as I watched you learn something new, knock it out of the park, and learn more about you. How you tick. How you learn. How we work together in this partnership as you get older. You are such a big kid. Your willingness to learn and try new things is astonishing, and seeing your confidence and how you bloom when I let go and let you take the reins...  is such a life lesson for me.

Happy, happy birthday my sweet boy. Thank you for making me your mama and choosing us to make your family. We are beyond blessed to have you near and take on this journey with you. We can't wait to see what 3 brings!

April 1, 2016

Catching Up: Potty Training

I didn’t want to say anything as we started this process, on the “don’t wanna jinx myself” principle. But…

James is potty trained!

Major major thanks to my friend Mallory for being our guidepost and encourager in this process. She gave me the confidence and resources to tackle this and kick things off for REAL.

First, some stats. James has been exposed to “potty training” (or use of the potty) at daycare for about a year now. He’s had some successes here and there while participating with the other kiddos in class, but wore a diaper 100% of the time. I knew it was something that I should figure out, but since most of last year I was really pregnant (and hearing stories about regression after the birth of a younger sibling…) I decided to wait until after Thomas was born.

James was 2 years and 7 months old when Thomas was born, but we still didn’t take on potty training until after I returned to work. This gave us the massive benefit of keeping Thomas at daycare for a couple of days while I stayed home with James solo. At the end of February, James was 2 years and 10 months old – just shy of 3 years old.

The hardest thing for me about potty training was feeling absolutely and completely clueless. Was he ready? Was I ready? How do we start? I’m someone who likes to have a plan, who likes to do research. I was simply overwhelmed and paralyzed. Mallory lent me her book Oh Crap! Potty Training by Jamie Glowacki, and thank goodness.

  1. This book is awesome. The author is straight to the point and super relatable. 
  2. It’s a quick read.
  3. It’s easy to comprehend.
  4. It’s reward/chart free.
  5. It’s chock-full of seemingly-tiny tips that I would neeeeever have thought of on my own. For example: Practice with James how to push down/pull up his pants! Have a few containers of wipes and/or TP throughout the house! Have multiple small potty chairs! Pee is sterile!
  6. It gave me a plan for how to start/get my mind right, and how to handle it when accidents inevitably happened. (I was pretty terrified that I would mess James up for eternity by saying/doing the wrong thing during an accident – this potty training thing is a big deal!)
  7. There are “just in case” chapters for if you hit a snag and aren’t sure what happened, and for interesting scenarios like kiddos in daycare, or handling daytime vs. night time potty training (or all at once). 

I took notes while reading the book (this is just how I best process info – certainly not required!) in advance of starting:

I also took another tip from the amazing Mallory and made myself some cheat-sheets to post around the house so I would have a quick reference while in the heat of the moment. Super helpful for me, but also for Alan as he joined in the process. 

Don't you love this reminder? That in potty training (as in most of parenting, I'm finding out!) our attitude as parents is the driver. I also had the words handy if there was an accident - no scorn or shame. Just calm reflection as we move through this learning process. 

So. I got my mind right. I had my plan, and I knew the right words to use to kick off the potty training process with James. Alan and I decided to go all in – 100% diaper-free potty training for daytime/naptime/nighttime. Just rip off that bandaid and make it happen. Jamie encourages this approach because there's nothing left to fall back on (for us or James). Less confusion and generally a quicker learning process. 

I re-arranged my schedule and took two vacation days. I would have 5 days home with James, and the first two would be just him and me solo. Thomas was at day care and Alan was at work, so it really was something I drove.

The morning we started, I took the diaper off James and threw it away. “Today you are going to be a big boy and put your pee and poop in the potty. I’m going to teach you and help you learn this.” He also threw away the last 2-3 clean diapers left in his size – a physical cue that we were done with diapers!

We spent those first two days with him totally naked, and just spent time together. We played games, did puzzles, played with our sensory bin, read books, built train tracks… you name it, we did it. Jamie mentioned that we’d probably both be exhausted, and she wasn’t kidding! It was the first time in ages that I was completely tuned into James without any other distractions. It’s a lot of work! There were a couple of accidents during those days, but it really helped him connect the feeling of having to go with what he needed to do next.

To be honest, I think my biggest “fear” was poop on the carpet. Not that the carpet is amazing, but just because: ew. Well – it happened. Sure it did, this whole thing was so dang new for James. We were both learning – me how to read his signals, and him how to gauge the time he needed to get to the potty before it was too late. After it happened (and seriously: not that big of a deal - again, something I'm continuously learning as a parent), I texted Alan and told him: “The worst has happened.” And honestly… if that was the “worst” thing I was afraid of? The rest would be pretty downhill.

I made a big point to CELEBRATE his successes. He peed in the potty? Woo! I’d dance and jump up and down and lift him into the air and spin him around and give him a massive hug. He’d help me flush the big toilet and give me a high five. He TOTALLY lit up when we celebrated! And he should - this is incredible! Jamie mentioned that during this process, you'd get a unique look into how your kiddo learns. And that this process would rock my world as his mama - and she was COMPLETELY right! He gained so much independence and confidence during this process... and he blew me away with his acceptance and growth and fearlessness. 

Note: He stayed dry for all of his naps during this process. I’m pretty sure he was already doing that when wearing a diaper, but it was still pretty cool once he wasn’t wearing one anymore!

One of the hardest things for me in the earliest days was how to handle night time. As Jamie puts it… night time is a long ass time. So to help your kid be successful, you as the parent have to monitor/reduce fluid intake in the hours leading up to bed and/or wake them during the night to use the potty. It’s on YOU as the parent because it’s just too dang long for them to do solo at first.

What??? You want me to WAKE my kid up in the middle of the night, on purpose?? I’ve literally spent the last 2 years and 10 months trying to get this kid to SLEEP!!!

I seriously had some anxiety about this, but I sucked it up. Because she’s right – if I want him to have success, I’ve got to do the work. I went in at 10 PM and 2AM as she suggested for a couple of nights. The first night, James sure enough had to use the potty at 10PM. He went right back to sleep. The next night, he didn’t have to use the potty until later in the night. The night after that, I timed it wrong and he wet the bed. (After stripping his bed and cleaning everything, I also sent Alan to the store for some puppy training pads. I put those on top of his mattress protector but under his fitted sheet – just in case. You could also use chux pads if you have those.)

Those first couple of nights, it was hard for ME to sleep, just because I was worried. Would he wet the bed? Would he need me? Would I hear him in time?? But he did SUCH a great job. After he wet the bed that one time, we talked about holding his pee until mama came in to help him use the potty. And then after a couple of nights, he just consolidated all by himself. He didn’t have to use the potty when I came in. And when he woke up in the morning, he’d go out to use the potty in the living room. Incredible! 

We added in some short trips after those first two naked days - to the store, to the park. James wore pants, but went commando. (The idea being that his muscle memory tied to diapers translates to anything tight he wears - pull ups, underwear, training pants. They'd sabotage his progress.) I brought the froggy potty with us to the park and on errands in the back of my truck so JUST IN CASE - he'd have a safe place to go that he was familiar with. 

He had a couple of accidents while out and about - one at the park and one crossing the street as he and Alan were walking home from the store. We just talked about how it feels when you need to pee, and helped him get clean. Being commando really reinforced that yucky/cold feeling and helped him figure things out! We spent about a month with him being commando under his shorts/pants just to give him time to work on his muscle control, and then Alan took him to the store to pick out some special superhero undies. Definitely a big hit. 

Alan and James tackled a public toilet for the first time at the grocery store, and he peed. James has had some accidents at school, but also a ton of success. It's phenomenal. He's such a BIG KID! 

I remember feeling nervous in those first couple of days. After all - it wasn't just JAMES learning something new. We were learning right along with him. It was kind of reassuring to know that we were completely-diaper free no matter what. There was no turning back for him, and there was no turning back for us. No copping out. Kind of terrifying in moments... but also super liberating. We were going to figure this out together. 

And we did! 

I feel like there's literally books I could write about our experience but... the shortest, simplest answer is that James is potty trained! 

What questions do you have? What tips and encouragement can you share?