Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sir Chomps-A-Lot

My kids go to a Spanish Immersion preschool, called Amiguitos!  (The exclamation point is in the name, so I include it whenever I write the name, even on my tuition checks).  We love the school, the staff, the teachers and the other families.  However, tonight, I'm not writing about the school.  I'm writing about L in the school.

I spent what feels like the better part of the summer getting L potty trained so he could attend Amiguitos!  They have a policy that you must be 3 when you start school there, and if not three, at the very least, potty trained.  They simply don't have the facilities to change diapers.  Since E was already flourishing in her Spanish aquisition, I just had to get L into the program.  Plus, it's five minutes from work, so there really was no other option.

L started at Amiguitos! at two years, five months, the youngest kiddo in his class.  In addition, he's small for his age.  He only recently outgrew is size 18 month pants.  The boy is a shrimp.  He's a freaking adorable shrimp, but he's a shrimp nonetheless.

Because he's small, the other kids in his class assumed that they could do whatever they want when it comes to him and the toys he's playing with.  What they didn't expect is that L had honed his dirty fighting skills on his big sister.  So, within the first month, I received my first report of my son biting another child.  It was over the little bike, which is popular among the kids because it's low to the ground and cool.  It's also the only bike the little kids can ride where they can actually reach the pedals.

So L was getting on the bike and another child decided to push him out of the way to get on the bike.

Not so fast, was L's thought, and he bit the other child.




When you are a parent of a child who bites, it's embarrassing.  When your job title happens to be "Early Childhood Education Specialist," it's humiliating.  For one thing, I felt like I should have known this was bound to happen, and I should have figured out a way to prevent it.  For another, after the third incident, I realized that I had no idea what to do, and I honestly thought I should send my teaching license back to TSPC.
Birds of a feather...

It's shameful, really.  This is what I do for a living.  I figure out functions of behavior in young children and help them meet their needs in socially appropriate ways.  I do this every day, and more than once in a day.  Yet, when it came to my own child, all I could do was hang my head, cross my fingers and pray that I would not be given the news that "this just isn't a good fit" when I picked him up from school at the end of the day.

And then I remembered that I have friends -- smart friends who also do this kind of thing for a living.  So I enlisted their help.  Specifically, I contacted my friend Ashley, who heads up the 2-1-1 Family Info line.  The 2-1-1 Family Info line is a great parenting resource for anyone living in Clackamas, Multnomah or Washington Counties.  You can call, email, or post on their facebook page any and all questions about parenting.  You may have questions about child development, school readiness, handling family stresses, finding playgroups or other parent support groups, and biting.  So I asked Ashley what I should do about L.  Not only did she respond, the great crew at 2-1-1 created an illustrated story.  I think they captured L's essence.

Click here to go to the totally awesome story.

Since contacting 2-1-1 and creating a partnership and plan with his school, we haven't had any more biting incidents.  In fact, L has told me "I rode the little bike today.  I took turns with _____!"  And I tell him that he must be so proud of himself for using kind, friendly words to take turns with his friends.  We walk out together with our heads held high.  Thanks, Ashley!

To contact the 2-1-1 family info line:
  • dial 2-1-1 on your phone
  • text "children" to 898211
  • email children@211info.org
  • facebook 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Camping With Kids

I know it's technically not winter, but in NW Oregon, we have two seasons: Rain, and Going to Rain Soon.  When the rains come, it's officially winter in my book.  And what does a parent with two young children do during the 6-8 months of rain?  Pack them up in the car and head to the coast for some camping, that's what!

I know you just blinked your eyes, swallowed hard and said "What the what?"  in your head.  But "winter" camping on the Oregon coast is nothing like "winter" camping anywhere else.  For one thing, it rarely gets below freezing out here, and for another, we don't use tents.  We use yurts.  According to Wikipedia, "A yurt is a portable, bent dwelling structure traditionally used by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia."  The state park system of Oregon realized the benefits of having such in their campgrounds, and we discovered them many years ago.  They're cheaper than a hotel, and warmer than a tent.  Once we had kids, we realized it was the best way to camp.  It's kind of like RV camping but without the RV (or the satellite dish).  It's so freaking awesome.  If you have kids and live in Oregon, I highly recommend you look into it.

This past weekend we stayed at Ft. Stevens State Park.  We've never been to this particular park before.  I imagine it's insane in the summertime.  The campground part of the park is gigantic, with loops running the entire range of the alphabet.  The nice part about camping in the off season is that half the campground is empty, so you can let the kids run around with wild abandon.  Our yurt was on a hill, and the kids had a great time running up and down.

We packed in a hurry Friday night, and kind of forgot a few things.  Some things, like my camera and E's headlamp weren't terribly important.  Others, like our dutch oven and L's pants, were.  So Saturday morning, we drove into Astoria to get some breakfast and do some thrift-store shopping.

We found a quaint restaurant with views of the bridge.  The kids ate french toast with two kinds of syrup.  They thought they had died and gone to heaven.  We visited two different thrift stores.  The first, just around the corner from the restaurant, was a bust.  The second, located between Astoria and Ft. Stevens, was un-fucking-believable.  If I had realized I would be writing a blog about it, I would have taken a picture of it.  I would have taken TEN pictures of it.  It's called Penny-Wise Thrift Store, and it's amazing.  It's like everyone in the Astoria/Warrenton/Seaside area of Oregon cleaned out their garages and brought the stuff to Pennywise.  There is sooo much stuff!  You couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a toddler ride-on toy, and when I couldn't find any kid clothing, the guy told me "That's next door."  I was confused, and then he explained that they had a second building where they keep women's & children's clothing and toys.  He gave us a key and we walked over.  The other building was a house.  The entire downstairs was filled with clothing and toys.  So many toys.  E wanted everything.  We had to remind her that we were there for pants for L.  But we ended up at the cash register with some pots and pans, pants, a musical jewelery box, a puzzle and alphabet stamps.  Nothing had price tags on them.  When we asked the woman about it, she said in a very cute New Zealand accent (I only recognize it as a New Zealand accent because she sounded exactly like my neighbors when I was growing up, who just happened to be from New Zealand), "That's because we have so much stuff and we're all volunteers, dear.  We can't put prices on everything.  All this benefits mental health, dear.  It looks like you have about $15 worth."  Paul looked in his wallet.  He had eleven.  I had conveniently left my purse in the yurt for the day, but remembered that we had a bunch of quarters in the car from when we were without a dryer for 6 months.  Paul really didn't want to do that, but the woman was excited, because "the fishermen are always looking for quarters to do their laundry.  They wipe us out all the time."  She offered us Dum Dum lollipops (which E insisted are "suckers" and definitely NOT "lollipops"), and was impressed when L took two, offered one to Daddy, and when Daddy said "Thanks, but no thanks," he put one back.  "You're doing a great job!" she said.  Thanks, lovely lady at the thrift shop, because I'm pretty sure I was doing a terrible job the night before when we realized we had nothing to feed them.  And I probably yelled at them about something stupid that morning.  I always yell in the morning.

After our trip, we decided to take a walk.  The sky was blue, and we figured we had a very short window of time to do much.  Within two minutes of leaving the yurt, the skies opened and down came the hail.  The kids didn't seem to mind.  They happily ran through it, tried to catch it on their tongues, jumped in puddles, examined leaves on the ground, and simply enjoyed the simplicity of being outside, in the rain, in the clouds, in the hail, in the wind.
Catching raindrops
Simple Pleasures

We roasted marshmallows after dinner, in the 30 minute rain reprieve before bedtime.

This morning, after packing up the car, we checked out the shipwreck of the Peter Iredale.  It ran aground in 1906, and the skeleton of its hull still stands at the beach, a constant reminder of the power of the sea.  Even though I grew up on the ocean, the Pacific still scares me.  The rocky beaches, freezing cold water, "sneaker waves," and this...
The Atlantic's got nothing on the Pacific
Please note that this photo was taken from quite a long distance away.  The wind was really whipping and I didn't want to get any closer.  Some day when we return and I have my good camera, I hope to go down there during low tide and get some awesome shots.  For now, you'll have to settle for crappy cell phone photos from 1000 feet.

We also took some photos to commemorate dragging the kids out in the whipping cold wind and rain.  This is what makes the memories, kids.

 Next, we went to the fort.  L fell asleep in the car in the five minutes to get there, so E & I walked into the museum together.  There was a gigantic diorama of the fort during WWII, and with the push of a button, a little train chugged down the line.  It was a hit with E.  After L woke up, we walked around the old fort, and found a lookout tower that offered some cover for our lunch.
I swear, my family is not homeless
We returned to the museum, played with the diorama again, and looked at the displays.  One of my favorites was of a letter a woman had written about the attack of Ft. Stevens by a Japanese submarine.  Not only was it amazing to read the first-hand account of what it was like to be attacked, it was amazing to read it in her handwriting.  I felt a closeness to her in reading the words that she penned, in trying to decipher her script.  How amazing and frightening that time must have been.
The Jetty & Mouth of the Columbia in the distance
West Battery
Climbing down the stairs from the watch tower

Google does this really cool thing when you upload photos.  If they're taken in quick succession, they get put together into an animated gif.  Well, here's one that was made today when my photos were uploaded from my phone.  It looks like the Jeep is moving!


Monday, November 11, 2013

A Day of Thanks

Ahhh, November.  It's the month of Thanksgiving, so naturally social media is filled with "30 days of thanks."  And naturally, I fell for it, trying to post daily one thing that I could think of that I was actually thankful for that day.  Cutting back on my social media time has made it more difficult to post, yet not so difficult to think of things I'm thankful for.  Today being Veterans' Day, my thoughts and thanks go toward my grandfather, Sgt. Michael Hreha, a decorated WWII veteran.  While I'm thankful for his service to our country, I'm much more thankful for the life and memories I have of him growing up.  He was a kind, gentle and patient man who loved unconditionally and found joy in the simple and everyday.

I have an immense amount of respect for him.  He was in the first wave of the D-Day invasion in Normandy, landing on Omaha beach, a member of the 29th infantry division.    He was wounded twice, and when he took his last breath of life at the age of 89, still had shrapnel in his chest.

He didn't speak much about his time in the war.  One of the stories I do remember involved him getting shot from behind, and being saved by his bible...and shovel.  My mother had not yet been born when he left for the war, and she was two when he returned.  When he did return, she greeted him by pushing him back toward the door, saying "No man!  No man!"

How extremely heartbreaking it must have been, to spend that many years away, miss the birth and first two years of your first child's life, witness God knows what on the battlefield, escape death, be wounded, and return home to rejection from your baby girl.

It didn't last long, as my mother grew up adoring her father, but still.  It couldn't have been easy.

And I'm sure the years to come were difficult.  He most likely was dealing with PTSD, and in retrospect, I'm not sure he was over it in the 1980's, when I was growing up.  I remember grandma telling me one day when there was a terrible thunderstorm that grampa always went into the bedroom during thunderstorms because the noise reminded him of the war.  She said his friend was killed on the battlefield.  I always imagined it like a football field, with rain coming down and his friend being struck by lightning.  I'm sure it was just as intense, but I think it played out a little differently, and after reading the history of D-Day, I imagine there was more than one friend he watched die in front of him, or next to him.  Because he never really spoke of that day, I wonder how many hands he held as lives slipped away right before him.  I wonder how many times he was convinced he was dead, or going to die.

And I wonder how, after all of that, could he have been such a sweet, loving man my entire life.

As a parent of two small children, some days all the patience I have won't fill up a postage stamp.  After experiencing the sudden, unexpected death of my father, followed closely behind by the death of my dear grandmother, I found expecting postage-stamp sized patience was probably expecting too much from me.  I imagine grampa probably had the same trouble in the days and years following the war.

But I wasn't there, and I didn't know him then.  I didn't know him as Mike Hreha, or Sgt Hreha, or Dad.  I knew him as Grampa.  Who he was and what he did prior to becoming Grampa is important, as it shaped him into who I remember, but it is not as important to me, since who he was when we were both alive together is the most important thing.

I remember snuggling with him on the couch as he watched TV, with my head in his lap, resting my ear against his belly, the rhythmic up and down that corresponded with the breathing that I heard from the inside (a little rattle in his chest, thanks to smoking), lulling me to sleep.  I remember that he always smelled like tobacco, and it was always comforting.

I remember living down the street from my grandparents, having him walk me home after spending the night over there, and trying to keep up.  He always started out on his left foot, a habit from the military, he said.  His palms were rough, and the hair on the back of his hands was jet black and wiry, some strands standing straight up, at attention.

I remember watching him stand over the hood of his car, just looking, tinkering, changing a spark-plug or two.  I remember watching him build a fence, paint the shed, lay concrete, and turn the carport of our house into an extra room.  Grampa could build anything.

I remember bringing broken things to his house: toys, electronics, tools, furniture, you name it.  He would fix it.  He was the king of splicing.  Just about every item in our house that had a plug had a new plug spliced onto its cord when it stopped working, thanks to us kids pulling the plugs out of the wall by their cords.

I remember every piece of artwork I made getting a frame, and every puzzle I completed getting painstakingly glued, piece by piece, to a piece of cardboard or plywood.  I remember getting my hair cut off outside in the back yard when I had lice.  I remember countless pick ups and drop offs at school, work, play practice and cross country meets.

I remember Grampa's laugh -- it started as a wheeze, and would shake every part of him as he "heed" and "hawed" over and over again.

I remember Grampa building the dome for the new church, and seeing his picture with it in a supermarket tabloid of all places.  Who says they don't write the truth?

I remember jumping off the self-propelled merry-go-round contraption at the park, falling backwards and cutting my forehead at my eyebrow.  Grampa picked me up, and stopped the bleeding with his handkerchief.  As we pulled into the driveway, mom and Gramma were there, pale as ghosts, since the handkerchief was pretty bloody.

"It's OK, Mommy," I replied, "Grampa bought me a cheeseburger!"  He knew exactly how to make me feel better.
I remember the poem he wrote about me, and how much I loved and hated it when he wrote it, and how the hate dissipated as time passed, and I find myself reciting it whenever I need a laugh and a little encouragement.

I remember playing Uno with him on the back porch during hot summer nights.  No matter how many times we played, he never quite understood how the game worked, and always ended up with tons of cards in his hand at the end of the game.

I remember swimming in the pool as he got the grill started.  I remember the delicious smell of lighter fluid, charcoal, burgers, chlorine, Hawaiian Tropic and sunshine.  I remember eating the burgers while listening to WNDB, "The Music of Your Life," and Gramma insisting that the song about watching the girls go by was his favorite.

I remember how much I loved his delicious sauteed cabbage dish that I have yet to figure out how to replicate.

And my most favorite memory, or group of memories, will always be when he would pick me up from dance class on Saturdays when I was in elementary school.  We always stopped at McDonalds.  He'd order a cheeseburger happy meal with milk, and two hamburgers and two coffees.  We'd get it to go, and at his house, we'd all sit down at the table.  Gramma would pull out her green, plastic placemats with leaf designs that I spent much of my childhood tracing with my finger.  She'd open up my happy meal and pass me my cheeseburger and milk.  Then she'd dole out the fries.  She'd take two (she was on Weight Watchers), and split the rest evenly between Grampa and me.  I loved sharing my fries with Grampa.  He always seemed genuinely grateful to get those fries and I loved making him feel that good.

I don't remember seeing Grampa get mad or yell.  I was pretty sure he was incapable of such things.  I know it happened, and if I dig hard, I could probably find one or two examples, but that's not what I want to remember.  I want to remember how he hugged me, how the stubble on his face would scratch me when I kissed him, how that one stray eyebrow hair always stuck out, and how his toenails were so long and thick.  I want to remember how he would always crack a smile when Billy sang "Go go go Grandpa!" to the Godzilla song.  I want to remember the way his hands looked when he started his car, the Galaxy 500.  I want to remember the skinny legs and boney knees that came out of his swim trunks, the only time he ever wore shorts.  I want to remember his wheezy laugh.  And I want to remember his love.  He had a lot of it, and I am ever so thankful that I got it.

So on Veteran's Day, and every day, I am thankful that I got to be part of Michael Hreha's life, and I'm thankful he got to be part of mine.  I love you, Grandpa.

And because you're probably wondering about that poem, here it is.

Dawn Stringer
was a singer.
She sang like a bird
that nobody heard.
She danced on a stage
and she was a rage.
She also smoked a pipe
that nooooobody liked.


Hard Times

I got a phone call on my 40th birthday from my dad.  I missed his call.  I meant to call him back, but never got around to it.  Every time I pick up the phone to call someone, the kids get into a fight, or one of them needs help with something, or suddenly there's poop on the floor, wall, and other surfaces of the house.  Since we were on summer break, I couldn't call him from work, so I just didn't call.  I kept telling myself that I needed to call him, but each day ended with no phone call.

On August 29th, 25 days after I missed my dad's phone call, I got one from my brother informing me that I would never get the chance.  He died suddenly that morning, of an apparent heart attack.  Motherfuck.

We all headed to California, dealt with the craziness of packing up his house, getting him buried, finding a caregiver for my grandmother, and moving forward with our lives.  In less than a month, on September 27th, my mother's mother, the grandmother I grew up with and considered a second mother to me, passed away, just four days shy of her 96th birthday.  Doublemotherfuck.

It took six weeks to get her funeral scheduled at Arlington to finally rest with my grandfather, her greatest love.  It was bittersweet to say goodbye, but it was a beautiful ceremony, and so apropos to happen this close to Veteran's day, when grampa's picture is on my calendar to signify it.  It was quite unfortunate that it also happened to be the exact day of my daughter's 5th birthday.  Triplemotherfuck.

However, I've been trying to be zen about everything, stealing a line from Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, "So it goes."  Of course, whenever I think that line, it always ends with motherfuck.

Because of everything that has happened in such a short amount of time, I've become overly sensitive to mortality -- mine, people I don't know, my mother's, my siblings', my spouse's, and my children's.  It is very hard to be zen about such things.  so it goes, so it goes, so it goes. motherfuck.

I'm trying to slow my life down a bit, take time to smell the roses, and my babies' hair.  I'm also checking their breathing on a regular basis, double checking their 5 point harnesses in their car seats, and cutting their food into the most impossibly small pieces so they don't choke. 

Part of my slow down plan includes limiting my social media time.  It has become such a time suck for me.  I found myself in groups on Facebook that did nothing for me, and only made me angry, posting advice to people I don't know and shouldn't care about that they're not going to read or heed anyway.  I don't have time to worry about other peoples' problems.  I have two beautiful children and a husband to worry about.  THEY need me, not names associated with profile pictures that may or may not portray the actual person.  I have actual people to think of and care about.

So, I spent one evening removing myself from all but a handful of groups on Facebook.  It was liberating.

My next step is to limit my time on said time-sucking social media website.  I haven't quite figured out how to do that, whether it's to set a timer or have a specific time of day when I can access the site.  I've already cut back on my time, and I think it's because I'm not reading all the posts on all the group pages that I'm no longer on. 

I've also decided to start writing more, because I have a lot to say.  I have so many ideas in my head that are dying to get out, and quite honestly, I can't handle any more death right now, so I need to let them out.  I have a lot of half-started blog posts saved, as well as ideas jumping up and down in my brain shouting "Pick me! Pick me!" as I sit down in front of my computer to type away.  My fingers don't work as quickly as my brain does, so they will have to wait a little while.  But I will write.  By God, I will write.  I may not get it all down in one sitting, but that's because I have children, and a husband, a job, laundry, and a shit-ton of squash to turn into sweet bread tomorrow.  But I will write.  I promise you that.  I will write.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A Post About Food

I have never posted about food, but I do admit that I love it.  I seriously love to eat.  I also love to cook, but you wouldn't ever guess that since Paul is the one who does the bulk of the cooking in the house.  I don't like cooking for the kids.  They're picky, they tell me they hate things that I slave over a hot stove for, and they don't like their green beans to touch onions.  Ever.

So there's no fun in cooking for them.  But I do love to cook.  Before Children (BC), I loved hosting parties and get-togethers so I could showcase my talents, trying out new recipes and testing new ways to prepare old favorites.  Once children came, it was too much to do all that, and clean the house, and keep the kids fed, and change diapers... So I stopped.

But every now and then, I get the urge and inspiration.  Today we're on our way to the local PLSO (Professional Land Surveyors of Oregon) chapter's summer picnic, so I made one of my old standby favorites  - Macaroni Salad.

For those of you who don't know me, we have been gluten and dairy free for almost 5 years.  I have spent that time tweaking old recipes into new ones that work for our family.  This is one such recipe, and it keeps getting better!  For Father's Day, I bought Paul a Vitamix, so this version has homemade mayo.  If you've never liked conventional mayo from the store, I highly recommend that you make your own.  I can't stand the stuff, but the first time I made my own, I ate half the jar.

You see -- it's not all weird whiteness.  It has a nice yellow sheen.  I think it has to do with the fact that you use dry mustard in the recipe...

 ..but I also use farm fresh eggs.  I love living in Portland.  Everyone has chickens (except me), so you can't swing a dead cat without hitting someone who wants to sell you some of theirs.
 So back to this macaroni salad that I made (with home-made mayo from farm-fresh eggs, because that's how we Belchigators roll).  I chopped up 1/2 of a gigantic onion, two stalks of celery and a red bell pepper. 

Then I mixed up my mayo, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and mustard.  (Why, yes.  That is the whisk attachment to my hand-held mixer!  I'm classy like that)

 Then I cooked up my pasta.  I use Trader Joe's brand gluten free pasta.  I cook it for 10-11 minutes (the instructions say 7-10) so that it's good and done.  Once it sits in the fridge for a few days, it starts to get crunchy, so it's best to start out with really well done noodles.  I drain them and rinse them with cold water.  And when I rinse them, I really rinse them.  I stir them around and make sure that every single noodle is good and cold.

 Then I mix up the noodles with the veggies...

 ...dump the sauce on and stir.  Voila!  Delicious macaroni salad!

And now that you want to make some because you know I'm eating this while I type (and getting that yummy sauce all over my keyboard), here is the recipe.  Enjoy!!

Gluten Free Macaroni Salad

  • 2 - 16oz packages Trader Joe's Gluten Free Pasta (I use the Fusilli)
  • 1 Cup Mayonnaise
  • 1/4 Cup Distilled White Vinegar
  • 1/4 Cup Sugar
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons Prepared Yellow Mustard
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Onion
  • 2 Celery Stalks
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
Cooking Directions
  1. Chop onion, celery and bell pepper and set aside in large bowl.
  2. Cook pasta in boiling water for 10-11 minutes, until very well done. Drain and rinse well so that every piece of pasta is cool to the touch.
  3. While pasta is cooking, whisk together mayo, vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt and pepper by hand.
  4. Add cooled pasta to veggies and mix. Pour sauce over and mix well, so that everything is coated.
  5. Cover and store in refrigerator overnight.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Strength In Numbers

So, I'm on this message board on Facebook for a Baby & Me group from the hospital.  The Baby & Me groups were formed by the hospital for new parents to get together and share the joys and despair of new parenthood.  It's mostly moms, even though the hospital promotes it as a place for anyone to come.  On this board, I have a friend, whose daughter is about 6 months younger than L.  She recently posted a question asking the other moms what to do about her daughter screaming in restaurants.  There was a ton of advice, and most moms posted what they do/did, and how long this phase of screaming in restaurants lasted for them.  It's an awesome place to go (both physically and electronically) to get a lot of ideas and commiserate over motherhood.

The thing that struck me, wouldn't leave me, and kept me up last night was the fact that she mentioned that while at a "family friendly" restaurant, she got disparaging looks for the fact that her 19 month old daughter was screaming (and then giggling like a fool because she was getting the attention she wanted) during dinner.  After reading all the responses, it seems to me like every toddler does this at some point in their life.  So I couldn't figure out how people at this restaurant could be put off by it.  If you have a family, you've been through this.  Are you so far separated from the toddler years and early motherhood that you forget? Or have you rewritten your personal history in your head that tells you that your children never did such things?

Motherhood (and fatherhood) is the single-most difficult job you will ever have in your entire life, for the least amount of pay.  It is also the most isolating life change a woman experiences, which is why, I think, so many women judge other mothers' parenting skills and choices.  You don't get much public support and praise for giving your best, just disdain for the outcome of your child screaming in a restaurant, peeing on the waiting room floor of the pediatrician's office, or having an all-out, on the floor, kicking and screaming meltdown at Target because you came to buy toilet paper, not a Thomas train.

When E was a baby, another new mom friend of mine & I went to one of those big consignment sales in downtown Portland.  Another couple of moms noticed the diapers our kids were wearing, and made a sweet comment: "Cute diapers!"  I noticed that those moms used cloth diapers, too, so I decided to show off my awesome cloth/disposable hybrid gDiapers, which are a local company (because local is good in Portland, right?)  The two women looked us up & down with disgust and stated "We only use wool," and walked off. 


I couldn't believe that another mother could do something like that - to make another mother feel inferior to you just because they made a different choice about what they should catch poop with.  I went home and thought about this for a while.  And by "a while," I mean, I am still thinking about this.  I will be the first person to admit that I judge.  Rather, have judged.  Past tense.  When you're a new mom, and the majority of the advice you get is 30 year old stuff from your mom who takes it as a personal affront that you're not doing things the way she did it, you need some way to validate your choices as a mother.  When you're pushing your happy kid through the grocery store and someone else's is whining over not getting chocolate, admit it.  You smile to yourself and give yourself a pat on the back because your child would never do that... at least not at this particular moment in time.

When I realized and acknowledged the fact that I was silently judging other moms, I knew I had to do something to change, or I might become that mom at the consignment sale.  It doesn't take long to go from silent, passive judge, to loud, obnoxious, overt, pushy judge.  But what could I do?  How could I feel good about my parenting choices in a world of parents who are different from me?  Yes, I had friends who exclusively breastfed, but not all of them used cloth diapers.  I had friends who used cloth diapers who bottle fed.  I had friends who nursed exclusively and used cloth diapers, but turned their kids forward facing at 1 year.  If I surrounded myself with people who did exactly what I did, I would be a group of 1.  And then I realized why it was that motherhood is so frigging isolating.  There is not one person who parents exactly like you.  There is not one person who will make the same parenting choices as you.  Not even your husband.  And when you're brand new at this job, you really need some validation to know that your choices are good and right.  Hell, even when you're at it for a few years, you need that validation, because even though you've been a mom for 10 years, this is the first time you've been a mom to a 10 year old.

And that is when I made the conscious decision to support every mother I met, no matter what, in their decisions and their parenthood.  When I nursed in public, I would seek out another nursing mom and sit next to her.  While I'm extremely shy and didn't even speak (the internet is a savior to us introverts), just having that silent support and strength in numbers was enough.  Any jackass can tell one mom to cover up, or leave an area for feeding her child in public, but there are few who will speak up to a group of moms.  In restaurants, I choose to sit next to other families.  Again, strength in numbers.

But I can do more, I can do so much more.  When I see a mom struggling in the grocery store with a screaming child, I can say "I know where you are right now.  Parenting is a bitch, and you are awesome.  My kids do that all the time."    In fact, today I did just that.  While buying shoes at the local Fred Meyer with my kids, a woman with three kids (for those of you who are mathematically challenged, that's a 3 to 1 ratio of children to parents; a 6 to 2 ratio of kid hands to adult hands.  Try to wrap your head around that one) was experiencing the drop to the floor tantrum.

I stopped and said, "Parenting while shopping is tough, isn't it?  As if parenting wasn't hard enough as it is..."

She replied that she couldn't wait until school started.

"I hear you, sister!"

And off we went on our separate ways.  It was a short exchange, but I hope that the commiseration was enough to keep her strong through that moment.

I plan on continuing to offer encouragement to struggling parents in public wherever I go.  And I offer you a challenge to do the same.  When you see a mom nursing in public, give her a thumbs up, pat on the back, high five, whatever you feel comfortable with.  Same goes for a mom bottle feeding in public.  If a toddler is screaming in a restaurant, go over to the mom and tell her what an awesome mom she is for braving a restaurant with a young child, and how you remember those times.  When a mom is dealing with an all-out tantrum, let her know that you have been there, will be there, and understand everything she is feeling right now, and that she is awesome.  Hell, if you're feeling really good about it, how about you offer to watch her cart while she goes outside to help her child with an attitude adjustment?

Let's all make a pact, right here and right now that we will stop judging to make ourselves feel better about our choices as parents, and instead start encouraging others so that we all feel good.

Because 20 minutes of this is enough to make Mother Theresa drop the F-bomb.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Patience is a Virtue (and it's hard to be virtuous)

So, last Monday, I was gung ho and sure that L would potty train in three days.  After all, he was staying dry for up to four hours at a time (and through the night), peeing on command, and recognizing when he peed or pooped in his diaper.  These were all the things that E was doing prior to PTBC, and since it took her three days, it surely would take him the same amount of time.

I didn't factor in two variables:

1. My children are completely different; and
2. My time and attention/availability for potty training is much more limited.

Let's start with variable 1.  E is a thinker.  She often won't try anything until she's sure she can do it.  She will then do things over and over and over again until they are mastered.  The girl didn't crawl until she was 8 months old, and spent three months prior to that perch on all fours, just contemplating the idea.  When she took her first step, she crawled back to where she started and took another.  And then another.  Same thing with climbing stairs, swimming, riding her bike, and reading.  The girl likes to drill herself.

L is the opposite.  The boy hurls himself through time and space without any thought.  He started crawling at 5 months, doing this strange, gimpy-type crawl that was a half-sit, half crawl.  Whatever got him across the room, it didn't matter if the form was right.  He continues to trip and fall whenever he walks, runs or climb stairs.  I stopped counting the number of goose eggs he's gotten on his forehead from walking into walls and door jambs.  He jumps in the pool with complete disregard of the fact that someone needs to catch him, and on his second birthday, he ripped his upper lip tie on the play structure trying to climb something that was beyond his current ability.

The second variable is something that occurred to me on day four, when L obviously had enough with peeing on the potty, and I had obviously had enough with him peeing on the floor. 

The first day wasn't so bad -- we went through 9 pairs of underpants, and L was generally cheerful about cleaning up the mess.  Days two & three were about the same, with less accidents because I had stopped offering unlimited amounts of milk.  However, he did not have an increase in initiating potty trips, which I found to be perplexing and frustrating.  By day four, he was beginning to get adamant about not sitting on the potty, and on day five, he had a 20 minute temper tantrum when I asked him to sit on it. 

A friend of mine mentioned that he could always wear pull-ups for the first couple months to school.  The very idea made this earthy-crunchy-cloth-diapering mommy's head nearly explode.  PERISH THE THOUGHT!  I just couldn't bear the thought, and began thinking up ways I could fashion my gDiapers into training pants and then sell them my idea for a million dollars and a sweet "You're Welcome!"  But the next day was Saturday, and Paul was home, so he could be the level-headed person to talk me down from the ledge and help L on his way.

After we came to the conclusion that L's thought process is much different than E's, I started thinking about what other things were different this time around.  I thought that I had fixed the variable of us not being home to potty train, but I didn't realize that it was more than just that.  It was the amount of time I had to really spend with L, playing with him, commenting "Ooops!  You are going pee pee!  Let's get to the bathroom and clean up!" and generally just being there with him in the moment.  In all the moments.   Instead, I was halfway there.  Sure I was around during the day, but so was E, and we weren't 100% focused on the potty, the signs ("Hey, I see you're holding your penis, do you think you might need to go potty?"), or him.  And because of this, I wasn't able to stay positive.  You can't teach a kid to read or swim by screaming at them and getting frustrated each time they make a mistake.  Same thing holds true with potty training. 

So instead of losing my mind and thinking that we would never get this potty training thing done, and would have to pull L out of Amiguitos due to lack of potty skills, I took a deep breath, told myself that he wouldn't be in diapers in college, and kept on with what we were doing, but without the anger, annoyance or frustration.  I made sure to stop L in the middle of what he was doing, look him in the eye to know that he actually was listening to me (because he may hear my voice, but that doesn't mean it sinks in), and I explained to him why I think he should at least try to get some pee pee out.  The first couple of times were met with resistance, but after a while, he became my agreeable little guy again, and was proud of himself every time he peed in the toilet.

On Saturday, we spent most of the day out of the house.  We had to pick up our packets for the Bridge Pedal in downtown Portland.  We rode the Max, picked up our packets, walked through the health expo, and used a public restroom with success.  On the way back, Paul suggested we stop at the zoo, since we have a membership, and we were at the stop, so we did.  Again, lots of walking, lots of fun, a couple public restroom successes, and soon we were home eating dinner with the same dry pants that we had left the house in.  Woo hoo!!  And then during dinner, do you know what happened?  L got stressed out and started whining.  I asked him what was wrong.

"I need to go potty!" he yelled while grabbing his crotch.
"OK, hold it, we'll go right now," I said while carrying him and running to the bathroom.

And do you know what?  He did.  He held it, and then peed in the toilet.  It was something I was expecting on Wednesday that never happened.  And when I finally accepted the fact that it would take longer for him and that was A-OK, he did it. 

"I go pee pee in toilet, Mommy!"  He said, "I proud me-self!"

And you should be, sweetie, because this is quite an accomplishment!

On Sunday, we rode in the Bridge Pedal and spent the entire day out of the house in downtown Portland.  I didn't expect him to tell me if or when he needed to go, so I simply reminded him every few hours to give it a try.  He did, stayed dry, and that was great.

Today, he has initiated every potty trip, including one right before falling asleep for nap, even though he had his "nap-time" diaper on.

Dude, you rock in so many ways, and should be so proud of yourself.  Against so many odds (not the least of which is a mommy who keeps trying to apply things that worked for your sister to your unique self), you have been able to figure this out and get it done.  And because of this, you get to go to Spanish school in the fall, something you've wanted to do since your sister started. 

As for me, I see the light at the end of the diaper tunnel, and every day, I'm even more certain that it isn't a train.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Potty Training Boot Camp, Take Two

Today we begin boot camp again.  L has been successfully peeing on the potty (and sometimes pooping) since our terrible failure in June.  This morning as I was in the shower, he walked into the bathroom with no pants on, diaper in hand, telling me he had to go potty.  I was surprised that the bed wasn't wet, and fairly certain that we would find success this time around.

I got a digital SLR for my birthday yesterday, so I'll be documenting this like a crazy woman.  I'm sure my husband wasn't thinking my first subject would be still life with underpants, or random puddles of pee on the floor, but it's good material to get used to the camera.

I started the morning, by stacking up all 18 pairs of underpants on the back of the toilet.  I hope we don't go through them all, but you never know with this one.

I then gave him unlimited access to milk, which pleased him.

Within 30 minutes, we had our first accident, followed by a successful poop on the toilet.  I'll spare you that photo, but I did take one.

L happily changed his clothes, and cleaned up the mess.

He even put the wet diaper in the washing machine for me.

Apparently, he wasn't finished, since this happened immediately after...

But once again, he changed his clothes without fuss...

...and cleaned up the mess.

It's about 11:30am now.  He's had a couple more accidents, and we had a melt-down in the bathroom over putting on new underpants.  I thought all was lost, then I realized he must be hungry.  At the mere mention of food, he happily put on his underpants and cleaned up the puddle by the couch.  I plan on stopping the unlimited milk after this snack, since E will be home from camp in a couple hours and I don't think I'll be able to keep him out of the carpeted areas once that happens.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


The last day of school was last Wednesday.  We're off until our summer session begins on July 8th.  I was hell bent on potty training L because he's registered for preschool in the fall and must be potty trained by then.  And not just potty trained, but able to use the bathroom completely independently.  Since he's nearly 26 months, and E potty trained at 26 months, I figured this would be no problem.  When he's in his swim diaper, he holds his pee and tells me when he needs to go, so I decided that Thursday morning, we would begin with Potty Training Boot Camp.  Yay!!

When E started boot camp, I had been working part-time, and she'd had a ton of experience using the potty while in diapers.  She could go an entire day without wetting a diaper.  Our nanny was awesome, and continued the instruction while I was at work, so that by the time we ditched the diapers, she needed only one day of accidents for things to click.  She already pooped in the potty independently, so for her, it was a breeze.

With L, I've been working full time for the past year.  He gets time on the toilet about 50% of the time when he wakes up dry, and whenever he asks while he's wearing his swim diapers.  He stays dry for hours at a time, so he's ready to learn.  He is not, however, ready for boot camp.  I learned this the painfully hard way.

On day one, we went through 9 changes of clothes, and had two poops, which made me consider tossing his underwear.  Thank goodness we have a diaper sprayer.

On day two, we had to leave the house because of E's activities.  I reminded him continuously to use the potty, and he was extremely successful.  Once we got home, there was more pee and poop, and he had stopped telling me.

On day three, we went to the farmer's market, where there was an accident immediately after we went potty and he didn't perform, and then poop immediately after that.  I was not prepared, having forgotten to pack a plastic bag, so we left with two screaming kids (because E didn't want to go home yet), and a very frustrated mama.  Paul reminded me that L is not E, and I probably needed to step back and re-evaluate the situation.

On Sunday, we had a couple accidents and a couple successes, and while I didn't want to go back to diapers, I had to finally come to grips with the fact that I was pushing him too quickly and setting him up to fail. So....

On Monday, we went back to diapers.  We're going back to the part that I inadvertently skipped, because I saw some signs of readiness, and I felt the pressure to get it done ASAP.  I wanted him potty trained by the time I go back to work in July, so we could work on the independence part during my second break in August.  However, throwing him into undies like this was putting pressure on him, and he was having trouble getting the pee out, even when his bladder was full.  The accident at the farmer's market wasn't because he didn't try.  He sat on the toilet, pushing, grunting and trying, but nothing came out.  He was so tense and trying too hard.  The moment he relaxed, everything flowed. 

Now, there's no pressure, no clothes to clean up, no floors to wipe down.  Now, I ask him if he needs to go potty, or I tell him we should because we're getting in the car.  Now, he goes potty with no trouble, and keeps his diaper dry most of the day.  On Monday, he asked to wear undies, and I allowed it.  Then he pooped in them.  Twice.  [palm of hand to forehead] Now he wears undies OVER the diaper, at least for a little while.  Until he's really ready.

He gets excited when he's successful, and when his diaper is wet, it's no big deal.  That's not the goal right now.  The goal is to be successful and feel no pressure to perform and screw up that sweet little developing brain too much.  There will be plenty of time to screw that up, and as long as he has good insurance, the therapy bills won't kill him.

Do I still feel pressure to get him potty trained?  Oh, yes.  I want to get him in undies tomorrow.  But I have to wait.  While I want to try again next week, I know that's too soon.  I really should wait until July.  It's going to be difficult, but I need success.  He needs to be successful, and we both need to distance ourselves from this episode.  Plus, our dryer is broken and it looks like it's going to rain for the next two days, so laundry is out of the question.

The biggest lesson to be learned from this is that even seasoned moms, and moms who have potty trained tons of kids (because that's pretty much 1/2 of my job -- and they have special needs), still make mistakes.  In my opinion, it's the seasoned moms like me who make the biggest ones because we are so damn sure of ourselves.  Sometimes it takes a couple shit-filled boxer briefs to wipe that smug smile off my face and put me back in my place.  Thanks, kid.  I needed that.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Potty Training - A Re-Post

About two years ago, when I was pregnant with L, it came time for me to potty train E.  She was a quick study, and I posted the event on my pregnancy blog.  I've had some requests to share that information again, so here it is.  Originally, it was in three posts.  I just put them all together in this one post.  It sure will be interesting to see if L potty trains this easily.:

1/14/11: This blog has nothing to do with being pregnant or growing a child inside my body. Instead, this post has to do with growing a child outside my body, specifically, my toddler. She is 26 months old, and has been using the potty for quite a while. When she was about a year old, she developed a poop face. I think it was because she had GI issues and often had constipation and hard poops. In any case, when I would see her poop face, I would hold her over the toilet because I didn't want to change a poopy diaper. By 18 months, she was pooping on the toilet pretty consistently, and for the past 4 months, she's been telling us when she needs to poop.

Since she turned two, she's been peeing on the potty for the nanny, the people at her preschool, and sometimes for us. She kept her diaper dry for two days at my in-laws' house over Christmas break, using the toilet pretty consistently, and even telling my mother-in-law that she needed to pee a couple times.

So, since we have another hellion on the way, we figured we might as well get her potty trained so that we don't have two in diapers, and so we're not trying to potty train when we have a newborn.

Today is day one. We've been telling her all week that today would be the day of panties, which made her refuse to use the toilet all week. Every time we suggested it, she would scream and throw herself on the floor. She was anticipating it, and wanted to get her money's worth from those diapers, I guess.

I picked her up from preschool today, took her home, changed her soaked diaper, and put her down for her nap. When she woke up, I asked her if she needed to go potty. She said she didn't. Her diaper was dry. I let her pick out her panties. I figured she'd have an accident in 10 minutes. She didn't. She helped us make dinner, ate dinner, and began to play. She didn't have her first accident until 7:15 tonight. She handled it well, saying "pee pee!" We ran with her to the bathroom, and she even had some left for the potty. She took her panties off by herself, peed, freshened herself up with a wipe, put her wet panties in the diaper pail and put on her new panties. She wanted me to put the wet panties away, but I told her it wasn't my pee pee. As she was putting her new panties on, she kept saying "Pee Pee in panties." It will be interesting to see how she does as she has subsequent accidents this weekend.

1/16/11:We began our potty training boot camp Friday night. E did well, and had one accident just before bedtime. On Saturday, we gave her unlimited amounts of milk, and let her do her thing. She had about 12 accidents. Most were half-accidents, where she caught herself peeing and ended up finishing on the potty. Each time she had an accident, she was responsible for taking off her wet clothes, putting them in the diaper pail, and putting on new clothes.

The last accident of the night was while we were Skyping with my in-laws. When we Skype, she sits in her high chair, because it's the only place she'll stay still. She likes to strap herself in. Well, she began struggling in her chair at one point, and wouldn't speak. I kept asking her to use her words, and then I saw the pee coming out of the bottom of the chair. It really upset her. When we were in the bathroom and she had calmed down, I reminded her that she needed to tell us that she needs to go potty.

This morning, she woke up with a wet diaper. Two hours later, Daddy asked her if she needed to go potty. She said she didn't. And then she yelled "Pee Pee!" and ran to the bathroom. Her panties were just a little bit wet, and her pants were safe, which was good, since she was wearing her Thomas pj's. That was the only clothing change we've had to deal with today.

We didn't give her unlimited milk today. She had her usual dosages. We also took a two hour excursion outside this afternoon. We walked to Home Depot. Before we left, we reminded her that she should go potty, and she did. Before we left Home Depot, we reminded her that she should go potty, and she did. We stopped at John Barleycorn's for lunch. Before we left, we reminded her that she should go potty, and she did. We got home, she took a nap and woke up dry. She remained dry for the rest of the afternoon. We took another excursion for dinner, walking to Sweet Tomatoes. Once again, she went potty when we reminded her. When we got home, she said she needed to go, but then didn't when we got to the bathroom. She did go right before bed, though.

Tomorrow, I plan to take her out for a much longer period of time. We're going to visit the zoo or Children's Museum, depending on the weather. We'll see how that works for us.

1/17/11:Today was the big test. We left the house for most of the day. We left the house at 9am (or probably 9:30 or 9:45, even though the plan was to leave at 9am. Such is life with a toddler), and headed to the zoo. I lined the car seat with a cloth diaper, and packed three changes of clothing, just in case.

When we arrived at the zoo, E was dry. I put her in the stroller, and headed into the zoo. My plan was to have her sit on the potty before we entered, but to my surprise, the zoo was free today (not that it really mattered, since we have a membership, but it still threw me off), so I ended up forgetting to stop at the bathroom, until we were almost to the primate exhibit. We stopped at the bathrooms before visiting the chimps and orangutans, and E went without fuss. I'm glad she did, since the orangutans freaked her out. Next, we visited the lions, which did not scare her. She probably could have watched them all day. Go figure, my kid's afraid of monkeys, but not of lions.

We used the potty two more times at the zoo. Once before lunch and once before we left. Then we headed to the grocery store, since I needed to pick up some stuff for dinner. I planned on having her go potty when we got to the store, but I forgot. When I remembered, I was too lazy to take her and figured I would deal with the consequences of a wet car seat and screaming child.

E amazed me by staying dry through the car ride home, peeing like a champ when we got home (and pooping a weekends' worth of poop, since she didn't poop yesterday), and taking a nap without much complaint.

While she was sleeping, I spoke with a friend, and we made plans to meet for an early dinner. I met her at the Lucky Lab in Multnomah Village, and we hung out for about two hours. At one point, I asked E if she needed to go potty, and she said "yes," and did her business in the bathroom. Just as we were talking about getting ready to leave, E said "Get the poop out." I asked her if she needed to go potty again. She replied that she did, and once again, she performed. Amazing.

We got home around 7pm and played, then started getting ready for bed around 8. She peed before bedtime and I put on her overnight diaper (We're keeping her in diapers for naps and overnight until she's dry 5 times in a row. So far, she's been wet every morning, and dry two naps in a row). During snuggle time (part of our bedtime routine), we talked about how awesome she's been doing going pee on the potty and keeping her panties dry. She kept asking me to tell her more about the weekend, so we talked about how much she's progressed from Saturday until today. When I mentioned that she wet a lot of panties on Saturday, she got upset. I reminded her that she was still learning, and that she's been doing much better. I also told her that every now and then, she'll probably have an accident, and that's OK. It's all part of the learning process.

When it was lights out, she didn't make a sound. Typically, she'll cry (read: scream "Mommy! Daddy!" over and over again) for a little while, just to let us know that she doesn't want to go to sleep. Tonight, nothing. I figured she was building something up, but it's been 20 minutes, and no noise. Well, except I can hear her picking up her water bottle and putting it down every now & then so I don't have to go check for breathing.

So, I think at this point, I can say my child is potty trained. While I'm still reminding her when we're out, and I'm telling her to go before we leave the house and before and after sleeping, she's telling me at other times when she needs to go. In addition, she uses the potty at school and at the nanny's, and was really only wetting her diaper at home and refusing to use the potty for us. She's been independently pooping on the potty since she was about 18 months old, and all of this told me she was ready. It was just a matter of finding three full days to implement the boot camp.

Having worked in early childhood for the past 10 years, I've potty trained a lot of children, and I've also seen the pitfalls that parents fall into when potty training. One of the biggest is falling back into the diapers. On Saturday, E went through about 12 pairs of underpants. I was worried that we had started too soon. After all, she's only 26 months old. Typically, children aren't really ready until 2 1/2. Since we had 25 pairs of panties, I told myself that I wouldn't worry until we had blown through all of them. We still have 9 pairs that haven't been touched. I've seen parents panic and go back to diapers long before then. When diapers become an option, children don't learn to control their bladder, they learn to control their parents. They pee on everything until their parents break down and put the diapers back on.

Another pitfall I've seen parents fall into is the use of a sticker chart or reward system. While I've used reward systems for children in the past, I've used them for special needs children, not typically developing children, as they need more external motivators to perform tasks. Typically developing children learn the system quickly, and can use the reward system to their advantage. Parents will say "if you go pee pee on the potty, you'll get a sticker" and after a while, the child has the parent holding out the sticker, begging the child to pee on the potty. The child has control.

My belief is all about natural consequences. On Saturday, I didn't ask E to pee on the potty. I mentioned it, I suggested it, I asked if she needed to go. She said "no" every time. I let her pee herself. I made her clean in up. I made her deal with her own wet, pissy clothing. I made her put her clean clothes on, all by herself. She can't (or, I should say, couldn't) pull her pants up over her bum. It was frustrating. When she peed on the potty, I helped her get dressed. She learned quickly that things are easier when you go on the potty than when you go in your pants. Now, when I ask if she needs to go, she'll say "yes" if she needs to, or "no" if she doesn't. If I tell her I think she should go before we leave the house so she doesn't pee in her car seat and have to sit in her wet pants for the car ride, she'll go without fighting me. It's pretty nice.

If you're thinking about taking the dive and potty training your child, good luck. Remember it takes time, patience and a lot of underpants.