Thursday, August 30, 2012

Holy Hormones, Batman!

You know that you are hormonal when you find yourself tearing up reading Corduroy.  There's a line at the end of the book, after Corduroy gets adopted by the little girl, when Corduroy says, "This must be home.  I know I've always wanted a home."

And then the next page he says, as the little girl hugs him, "You must be a friend.  I've always wanted a friend."

Me: Tears.

Lila and I were reading Corduroy a few days ago and when I found myself discreetly wiping tears from my eyes, I knew that those tears meant one of two things: I was pregnant or I was about to have my monthly reminder that no matter how hard I try or how much I want something, there are some things that are out of my control.  Turns out it was the latter.

I just want to go on record and say that it totally sucks that the symptoms for pregnancy are stupidly similar to symptoms for your you-know-what.  (Is talking about your you-know-what without actually saying you-know-what any better than just saying it?  No?  Okay.  Period.  There I said it.  I'm talking about my period.  And now we have crossed yet another line that I thought I wouldn't cross on this blog.  Oh, well.  It is what it is.)

And I also want to say that it really sucks that the disappointment and grief of yet another month without a positive pregnancy test (although, I've at least had self control and not wasted the tests the last two months) is amplified by the monthly "normal" hormones.  Therefore I'm a hot mess for more than one reason and I can't really distinguish where disappointment and grief ends and irrational hormonal crying begins.  If there even is such a dividing line.

And as usual, Aunt Flow (there I go again with the euphemisms) and all of her hormonal baggage arrived at a most convenient (sarcasm) time - the day I would meet my new students and their families.  Back to School Afternoon.  Admittedly, I cried a lot today.  In front of a lot of people.  I was a complete basket case.  (Where in the world did that phrase come from?  Pause while I look it up.  Hmm.  Interesting.)  All morning I was one jammed copy machine away from losing it, but I did manage to keep it together (mostly) when I met my students.  Which is a good thing because I'm kind of going for the I'm-a-safe-and-stable-person-to-trust-your-kids-with-for-6-hours-a-week vibe rather than the maybe-she's-got-a-screw-loose vibe.

I'm excited for this year.  I think I have a really sweet class and eight years into this gig I think I'm getting the hang of it.  Lila, on the other hand, is feeling a little fickle about school right now.  One minute hour and a half she's talking to herself in bed about how "excigaded" she is to go to school the next day when she should be sleeping (8:30-10pm, folks) and the next morning she's all, "I don't want to go to school because I don't love it."  Exact words.

Too bad, little lady.  We're going to school.  Wrestling match, wrestling match, threat, threat, bribe, threat, wrestling match, warning, spanking, tears, "Please Jesus," more tears, 15 minutes late to my morning meeting, cramps, sweating, mascara goops, big deep breath, more prayers...

As soon as I got home, the Hoover Hormone Dam released itself when my mom called to ask how my day had been.  "Really haaaarrrrrrrddddddd," I squeaked and then burst into tears.  At which point the Husband came home and, with a concerned look on his face mouthed, "What's wrong?"  I waved him away until I was done talking to my mom.  Then, I whimpered to him about how Lila didn't want to do anything I wanted her to do this morning (eat breakfast, wear clothes, go potty, wear shoes, wear undies, get in the car, go to school) and how our printer was out of ink and I couldn't find a working printer at school for my handouts (until my sweet co-teacher, Heather drove me to her house to print off my documents) and how the air conditioning in the building was broken so I had B.O. when I met my new class and how people kept asking me really hard questions like, "How are you?"

He laughed good-naturedly at that last bit, and told me he would rub my feet and I could watch Wipe Out tonight.  I married a smart man, I'm telling you.  So we ditched the crockpot meal I had made and went to Chick-fil-a for dinner, put Lila to bed and, true to his word, he lotioned up my feet while I laughed my worries away at people doing face plants into big red balls and muddy water.

Anyway, I have some more to say, but maybe I'll say it tomorrow.  For now, I'm just going to say that I'm glad today is over.  I'm hoping Lila sleeps for 16 hours tonight and that we can have a peaceful day tomorrow.  I'm hoping that I can get my life - or at least my emotions - together.  In the meantime, I'm super-duper thankful for this sweet man who fell asleep holding my hand.
what a guy

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


I've been trying to write this post since Sunday and I just can't corral the words into a succinct post that does justice to what we experienced Sunday night.  Here's the best I can do.  Let me start by saying, we had a lot of church on Sunday.  First, the Husband's brother was baptized in the morning at Heartland's annual baptism.  Then, we all went home, ate lunch, took naps (yes, all of us) and woke up to get ready for church at 5:00.

Our church, the Gathering, meets Sunday evenings so we have an unofficial tradition of going to my parents' house for dinner after church.  This Sunday we and a few friends gathered at my parents' house and toward the end of the night, we had CHURCH.

Ok, first a little back story.

A few weeks ago, my dad was pulling up to his house as his neighbor, Alan, was pulling up to his house.  As my dad got out of his car, Alan yelled to him, "Pastor Glenn!  You have BET?"

To which my dad, aka the whitest guy in Lenexa, said, "I think so."

"Turn on BET! My daughter's singing!"

And thus started a new part of our Sunday evening tradition - watching Alexis sing each week as she competed on Sunday Best - Gospel's response to American Idol.  And you'll never believe it (actually you might once you've heard her sing), she's in the final two!

So Sunday night, we were at my parents' house for our usual post-church dinner when Alan stopped by to tell us that the semi-finals were airing and that we could start voting for Alexis to win!   We ended up inviting his whole family over to join us for dinner and together we ate dinner and watched Alexis sing.

It was surreal to be watching the sweet 19-year-old sitting next to me on the couch, up on a stage on TV belting her heart out.  Lila kept looking back and forth between Alexis and the TV saying, "That's you!"

It did occur to me that perhaps the magnitude of it was lost on Lila, considering she regularly sees herself on TV thanks to her parental paparazzi and our constant iPhone videos we take of her.  "You're on TV? Big deal.  I'm on TV all the time."

After the show was over (and all of us had maxed out our votes per person), we asked if Alexis would give us a little private performance and she obliged.  So we all headed upstairs and that's when CHURCH happened.  It turns out Alexis is not the only musically talented member of her family and suddenly we had a full Gospel choir in our living room.  It was spine-tingling.  There is not one member of that family who can't sing and they all gave us a live performance.  And you are in luck, because I recorded it.

We had church in the morning at the lake.  We had church in the evening at the Gathering.  And then we had CHURCH.  And you're about to, too:

There is so much I love about what happened in the living room Sunday night.  I love that our church family and our neighbors' family blended into one big family.  I love that we got to experience worship in a way different from our norm.  I love the look on Lila's face when they started singing and the fact that she said, "Too loud!"  I love that my mom found a tambourine.  CHURCH.

It was awesome.

Okay, now it's time for you to support our local celebrity, Miss Alexis Spight!  You can vote up to 30 times, ten times three different ways:
1. Text the number "1" to 72299 to vote for her (you'll get a text response that it was processed)
2. Call 1-888-523-7801 - you'll get a recorded message saying thank you for voting for Alexis
3. Vote online here.

You can vote until midnight on August 31st so go ahead and start texting, calling and clicking!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A brief but earnest tribute to one Mr. Jerry Nelson

The world has lost a great friend and purveyor of popular culture this week. One of my favorite things to enjoy together with Lila, for a variety of reasons, is the Muppet Show so it makes me sad to count one less member of the Muppet universe, and an original one at that. Jerry Nelson passed away this week from cancer, and Lila and I spent Saturday morning soaking in some of his best work (not that that's any different from most Saturday mornings. Seriously, you don't know how much I love the Muppets and how much I love that Lila loves them too).

Nelson contributed mostly peripheral characters to the Muppet show and movies, but they were great nonetheless. In addition to Floyd Pepper, Lew Zealand, Dr. Julius Strangepork and Uncle Deadly, Nelson was best known for his forty years behind (or under, I suppose) Count von Count on Sesame Street. For every parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or babysitter that has ever uttered the phrase "ONE, ah, ah aaaaaah. TWO, ah ah aaaaaah," the world will be a little sadder. The Jim Henson Company has done a fairly impressive job of filling roles of departed Muppeteers over the years (though I still wish Frank Oz had chosen to be part of the most recent theatrical effort) so you Sesame Street parents out there can count on them not skipping a beat in production, but next time Lila counts up to the number of the day with the Count I'm going to feel a little pensive.

So let's take a look at one of my favorite Floyd moments that you gave us. Thank you, Jerry.

Monday, August 20, 2012

someday somebody's gonna make you wanna turn around and say goodbye!

Till then, Baby, are you gonna let 'em hold you down and make you cry?
Don't you know? Things can change! Things can go your way if you
Thing'll go your way!  Hold on for one more DAY!

Why the Wilson Phillips? Because they're awesome!  And that song is my guilty pleasure.  Can't help but sing into a hairbrush microphone whenever I hear it (just ask the girls who lived on my floor when I was an RA).

Let's take a moment and enjoy the awesomeness:
 (Watch at your own risk, I totally got sucked into a rabbit hole of 80s/early-90s music and ended up wasting about 20 minutes watching the likes of Baby, BabyIt Must've Been Love and Take On Me.)

Oh man, Chynna Phillips gets the award for most dramatic sand swirling.  I've never actually seen that music video before.  Pure 80's perfection.  Which brings me back to why I really started this post with Wilson Phillips: we are officially in the 80's!

That's right!  After six months on the waiting list, we have moved ten spots and are officially out of the nineties at number 89!  Wahoo!

I know we don't update much about our adoption here, and that is mostly because there's not much to update.  Every other week we get an email from our agency which tells us if there have been any referrals that week.  When there has been a referral, we assume that means we've moved down a spot, but sometimes we'll move spots without referrals - if families leave the program for some reason - or sometimes we'll stay put or even move back up a spot - if a family loses a referral or if an Ethiopian adoptive family joins the list (Ethiopian families are expedited because Ethiopia prefers placing children in a home that would keep the culture and language for the child.  We love that they do that, by the way - no resentment here!).  So to get an "official" number, we have to email our consultant which I try to do once a month or so just to check in.

So I sent an email last week asking two questions:
1. What's our number?
2. Should we still anticipate a two year wait from dossier submission in February?

I was actually more interested in her answer to the second question because the answer would affect whether or not we continue to try to get pregnant.  If you'll remember, our youngest child has to be at least a year older than the child we are referred so the longer it takes us to get pregnant, the more we are  (in theory) stalling our referral.  Even if we got pregnant this month, we would be looking at May of 2014 before we would become eligible for a referral which, if the two year wait holds, is delaying our wait by three months at the least.

Although, if I really do the math, it took us six months to move only 10 spots, so if that rate stays consistent, that's 20 spots per year and at number 89, we'll be waiting FOUR YEARS or MORE!  But, our adoption consultant said that, while it's (in her words) "impossible to predict" how long we will wait, she would still estimate a two year wait from our dossier submission in February.

So what do we do?  In reality, it's all a big guessing game.  How long will it take us to get pregnant?  How long will we wait for our referral?  The answers are "I don't know" and "I don't know."  So at this point, each month we discover we aren't pregnant, we are asking the Lord, "Should we try again next month?"  So far, I have had a really strong urge to continue to try to get pregnant - I just don't feel like I'm done being pregnant.  I would be really sad if Lila's pregnancy was my only pregnancy.  So I am trusting that to mean we should keep trying.  All we can do is take it one month at a time and continue to ask for the Lord's guidance.  Ultimately, we trust our family - present and future - to Him.

In the meantime, I am feeling the Lord reminding me to avoid dwelling on the whens and whos of future kids and to focus on my already-here-and-really-awesome kid.  We had Ruby today and it was a rough day obedience-wise for Lila.  A busy weekend leading into having Ruby here left her a little defiant, evidently.  That coupled with a short nap made me sigh dramatically when I heard this over the monitor at 8:30 tonight:

"Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!  I not tired.  Mommy, I not tired!  Mommy, I don't want to go to sleep."

"Yes you do.  Go to sleep!" I responded to the monitor.

And then, this:
"Mommy I missed you today.  I missed you today, Mommy."

Oh. my. heart.

I had a fleeting thought "she's playing me" scurry in and out of my mind, and then I turned to the Husband and said, "Who can resist that?!"

When I went into her room, she was standing in the corner of her bed with her Lambie, Snuggle and Birdie Blanket all balled up in her arms.

"Mommy, I missed you today."

"I missed you, too Peanut.  Can I rock you for a little bit?"

She nodded and I lifted her out of her bed.

As I sank into the rocking chair, she nestled in and said, in the sweetest voice imaginable, "I love you, Mommy."

Whimper.  "I love you, too Baby Girl.  So much."

We rocked, her long toddler legs dangling over the arm of the chair.  After awhile, I lifted her back into her bed, and she murmured, "Pat my back and sing me a song?"

And I thought to myself, THIS is what mommy dreams are made of.  These moments are the moments I dreamed of when I imagined motherhood.  Folded over the crib rail, patting my baby's back, whisper-singing "You are My Sunshine."  Mouthing I love yous and hearing her sigh in a way that says she is exhausted and secure.

In these moments, I'm grateful to have every ounce of my mommy-hood to shower on her little body.  Soon enough, we will have the joy of another small one in our house - Ethiopian or Kansan is yet to be told - and we will be awed at how the immensity of our love and capacity for adoration simply multiplied to make space for the new One.  But for now, I will jump at the chance to show the One I already have that I missed her, too - even if she is just stalling.  Bedtimes be damned.  I'm gonna snuggle my Baby Girl as long as she'll fit in my lap.

A self-initiated rest time on the couch.  I love how she spread her Snuggle out over the pillow.

Lila the flower girl

Lila was a flower girl in our friend Mallory's wedding this weekend.  It was the thrill of her life.  Mallory and another friend, Elissa, lived with us for the summer when I was pregnant with Lila so we call them Lila's summer aunties.  We were so honored and excited when Mallory asked Lila to be a flower girl in her wedding.  She gave Lila a little book that told the story of a flower girl and we've been reading it religiously, inserting Lila's name for the flower girl's name and Mallory's name for the bride's name.

The book was hugely helpful because Lila had no idea what being a flower girl meant.  The problem was, she began to take the book literally.  The little girl in the book got to wear white sparkly shoes, so Lila told everyone, "I'm going to be a flower girl and I get to wear white sparkly shoes!"  And the flower girl got to drop the flower petals on the ground while Lila simply got to hold a special bouquet as she walked down the aisle.  I began to get worried that she'd be sorely disappointed when the time came to walk down the aisle and she realized her shoes were neither white nor sparkly and that the basket of flowers she had come to expect was a bouquet of flowers.

Lila and Daddy before the wedding

My two loves.  Could a girl ask for a better-looking pair? 

I needn't have worried, though because the other factor was that Lila was not the only flower girl.  Mallory's little cousin, Tenley, was also a flower girl and Lila was completely engrossed in the task of micro-managing Tenley's flower girl performance.  Even though Tenley is just four months younger than Lila, my bossy girl intuited the age difference and immediately took charge.

"You have to hold my hand, Tenley!  This way!  Come on, Tenley!"

I love Tenley's look of trepidation.  She must have sensed the tight grip of a rough hugger and heard warning bells go off in her cute little head.
They ended up being a great pair and Lila asked all night, "Where's my friend?"

An impromptu photo session as we were trying to keep the girls occupied while we waited for their turn. 
Right before we sent them down the aisle.  They took their job very seriously!
The girls did a great job - no melt downs or anything!  They did need a little prodding to make it down the aisle because they got distracted two rows in and started showing people their flowers.  I tried to discreetly nudge them along and was successful until they hit the halfway point where there was a break in the chairs and some stairs to the right of the congregation.  They saw the stairs and took a right turn and started up the stairs so MOTFG (Mother-of-the-Flower-Girl) had to intervene to redirect them down the aisle again.  I was laughing so hard and both girls were looking at me like I was nuts. Hopefully the little detour was seen as normal flower girl hijinks that people expect from two-year-olds.  I also hope I successfully walked the line between helpful herding and distracting interference!

My mom came up with the brilliant idea of having a little gift for Lila to play with once she made it down the aisle.  So before the wedding, I showed Lila the little Cinderella and Prince Charming dolls my mom had picked up for her and told her she could have them once she walked down the aisle.  To which she responded, "What's an aisle?"  *sigh*

Anyway, they worked like a charm and entertained Lila throughout the ceremony.
This is the best I could do when I was discreetly trying to take a picture of Lila during the ceremony.  See those blurry things in her left hand?  They're Cinderella and her prince flying through the air.  Lila's really into making things fly and wanting to fly and wondering why she can't fly.  "I need wings!" she asserts often.
As soon as the ceremony was done, we corralled the girls outside so Mallory could get a picture with them.

Look at that beautiful bride! Mallory was breathtaking and Tenley couldn't stop staring at her while Lila couldn't stop touching her dress.
 Then the mommies tried to have our own photo shoot which wasn't quite as successful.  Tenley refused to hold her flowers and Lila kept trying to show off her undies.
This photo perfectly captures their personalities and moods.  Love it.
Look at that sweet girl.  I'm getting some unwanted flash-forwards to her wedding. Sniff.
After this, we moved the party inside to join the actual party and Lila had her first of many cookies as a reward for a job well done.

My motto for the night was: Forget the rules.  Just survive.
It was such a fun experience, especially because we love Mallory and her new hubby, Ryan so much.  The wedding was perfect and Lila had a blast.   She's ready to do it all again.  In her mind, it was like hitting the jackpot - she got a few presents, a new twirly dress, a flower barrette which she proclaimed "perfect for singing Popular,"* more cookies than she usually is allowed to consume in a month, and a lot of attention.  So, I whipped up a little advert just in case anyone is looking to hire a flower girl:
As ready as Lila is to be flower girl again, her mommy is ready for a return to normalcy!  We had our first monster tantrum in many weeks this afternoon when I pushed her just a little too far past her nap time.  Rookie mistake.  I should know by now that especially fun things also tend to be especially exhausting things, but I didn't really do the math until about 15 minutes into hysterical crying and thrashing.  She literally fell asleep crying.  It was so pathetic and sad.  And full of snot.  I needed a second shower after I had finally gotten her to sleep!  

Anyway!  Here's to many wonderful and happy years of marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Gobet!  We love you!

*Lila is obsessed with the song "Popular" from the musical Wicked.  Remember how I was determined to have her watch musicals with me?  Well, I've succeeded.  She has memorized Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel's version of the song (after approximately 1 million YouTube plays) and now insists on re-creating the performance on a daily basis.  If you have been near us in the last month, you have surely been privileged to witness these little performances.  

I've been trying to get it on video to share here, but it's very difficult to document when she insists that I play the part of "The Green" while she plays "The Pink" (her names for the characters Elphaba and Galinda, respectively).  She's got every little nuance and detail memorized and has turned into performer, director and producer of each production.  She's very bossy.  And hilarious.  But she takes it all very seriously.  An artist perfecting her craft.  I've created a monster.

Lila and "the Pink" aka, Kristin Chenoweth with their matching flowers.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Lila: What's on your shirt, Daddy?
Husband: It's a super hero.
Lila: Grover's a super hero!
Husband: Yep.  Mommy got me this shirt because she thinks I'm a super hero.
Lila: Ha! That's silly!
Husband: (indignant) It's not that silly.

In the car...
Lila: What's on my window?!
Me: It's bird poop.
Lila: I don't want da bird to poop on my window!
Me: Well, we can clean it off when we get home.
Lila: (in a bossy, know-it-all tone of voice) Birds need to poop in da grass! Just like doggies and kitties and cows.

Over the monitor...
(after a half an hour of silence during which we assumed she was asleep)
Lila: Mommy! Mommy! Mommy, I so tired!  Mommy, I so tired!
Lila: Mommy! I so tired but I POOOOOOPPED!

Walking past the bras in Target...
Lila: (pointing at each bra and proclaiming at the top of her lungs) Those are for boobs! And those are for boobs! And those are for boobs!
(and then later as we passed an, erm, ample-breasted woman)
Lila: Mommy! She has boobs just like you!


And these are just the conversations I thought to write down!  Sometimes I look at her and I think, "You really are your own little person, aren't you?"  It's enough to fill a mama with equal amounts pride (in her growing, budding intelligence and talents) and humiliation (at the things she might shout for all the Target world to hear)!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

5 Things that Work: Part 5

And now, the final installment of:
5 Things that Work (right now) for Parenting (my) Two and a Half Year Old

5. Potty-training!

I can't believe this is my number five!  And by that I mean to say, I can't believe Lila is potty-trained!  After much counsel, advice, opinion, and experimenting, I had sort of resolved to take a break from potty training.  You see, I sort of took the lazy man's approach to potty training.  I didn't feel all that compelled to do the whole "potty training in a day" or three days or whatever "They" recommend.  And by that I mean I was lazy and I didn't want to stay home for three days straight.  I just kind of figured it might just happen as it needed to happen.  

Of course, I opened the doors as needed: I got out the big girl undies, bought a potty seat (in addition to the one someone gave us that sets on top of the big potty), talked about it a lot, showed her how I went potty, explained where potty belonged, etc.  And she seemed to be making progress.  Over the course of a few months she started to voluntarily sit on the potty, ask for her undies, be able to "hold it" for several hours, wake up dry from naps on occasion, etc.  But the thing that wasn't clicking was the actual going in the potty.  My mother-in-law teased me when I told her that Lila was 90% potty trained - the only thing she couldn't do was actually go in the potty.  My mother-in-law said, "It sounds like she's 0% potty trained!"  Which was true.  Sort of.

Anyway, I reached out for advice in this post, talked to every mommy friend I have and tried everything people advised - blowing through a straw worked twice, the hand in warm water was unsuccessful, as was distracting her, bribing her and having her dolls/toys/animals, etc "go potty."
I rescued this little potty leftover from our garage sale donations.  Lila's baby often has to go potty when Lila does.
It was like she just didn't understand the mechanics of it.  Which is weird because I've been changing diapers for two and a half years now and I know that kid knows how to go to the bathroom!  

But last week, something clicked.  It was like she just sort of...did it!  And once she did it, she realized which muscles were involved and could do it again!  And we've had success each day since so I think we're rounding the corner - Hallelujah!  I wish I could tell you what worked, but I honestly have no idea.  It just happened.  But I will say that keeping the pressure off her kept her interested.  I was very cautious about her getting stressed about it.  So maybe that helped?  I don't know.  Rookie Mama, here.  It's a mystery.

But I'm so proud!  And despite the few weeks stressing about why that final thing wasn't falling into place, it was a really easy transition.  I think in hindsight, I chose the "lazy" approach because I know my tendency to be determined to force my will on Lila.  If I had done the potty training in a day or three days, it would have been on my timing, my planning, my execution.  I would have set aside three days, confined us to the house and been absolutely miserable if it hadn't been unsuccessful.  I'm sure by the end of day three I would have been hollering, "You will go potty! NOW!" to a crying, stubborn toddler.  It would have (or could have) turned into a battle of wills.  And that is a lose-lose situation.

Because expert wisdom tells us that there are three things mamas can't control when it comes to our kids: eating, sleeping and pooping.  You just can't force a child to do any of those things.  In fact some of our adoption education taught us the same thing.  The lesson was: avoid power struggles as best you can, but if you find your self in one, WIN.  But then it gave the caveat that you should always avoid power struggles around sleep, food and the bathroom because you simply can't win those.  So, if you tend to be someone with control issues (ahem, like me), approach potty-training with as few expectations as possible.  That way you can spare yourself (and your child) a battle of wills that you will never win.

And okay, since I'm an expert now, (stop laughing!) I'll give you my top five list of things that I think helped and things I heard over and over again from moms who had gone before me:

1. Have options.  Toddlers naturally want to control as much of their world as they can - it's an important developmental step in learning autonomy and independence - so have several options for the potty.  We bought a little potty seat (the kind that they pee in and then you dump it out) and someone gave us one that sets into the big seat.  Lila initially only wanted to sit on the little seat, and it was nice because we could bring it out into the living room to watch a show while we were trying the (unsuccessful) distraction method.  But we've had all of our successes sitting up on the big potty using the seat insert.  Also, I've heard that some kids might have a fear of sitting on that big potty (even with a seat in it), so the little potty might be the only thing they're willing to try.

I will say that we went the penny-pincher's route with the little potty and bought the cheapest one they had.  However, it's also the smallest one they had, and I've wondered if we had gone for a slightly bigger one if Lila would have been more comfortable on it.

We also bought a fold-up travel potty seat that we can put on big potties in public bathrooms - takes away some of the ew-factor and makes it a little more comfortable for her to sit on the potty without fearing falling in!  Plus it folds up so it's easy to shove in my purse to take into Target or restaurants - I couldn't do that with the big one above without looking like a crazy person.

We keep it in the car along with a change of clothes, two clean undies, wipes and emergency diapers and pull-ups just in case.  It all fits into a ziplock which I slide into the seat-back pocket.  Look at me all organized!  Never-you-mind the bunny crackers smushed into the car seat and the wadded up napkins strewn on the floor.  And the billions of toys that Lila somehow squirrels into the car with every excursion.  That seat-back pocket is organized!

2. Use a reward.  While this may not motivate in the initial breakthrough (it definitely didn't for us), it is certainly helpful for motivating once they get the basics down.  Lila has outright said to me, "I need to go potty!  I don't want to go in my diaper, I want to go in the potty because I get a chocolate chip!"  Make it something small, something special they don't get otherwise, and something that you won't mind handing over a few times a day.  Lila has taken to showing off her spoils to anyone with eyes, "See Franny? I get a chocolate chip because I go potty!" (Franny licks her lips and considers the injustice of the fact that she doesn't get a reward like that every time she goes potty - "That small human gets treated like a queen and I'm forced to do my business in the yard like a common dog.  Oh wait, I am a dog.  Still, I've been here longer.  Where's the love?")

3. Look for signs that she is ready. Every resource I have ever read says this so it's not like I came up with this brilliant tip.  But things I noticed in Lila that told me she was on the right track were:  She told me when she had to go, she could put on and take off her undies/pants by herself, she was interested, she wasn't fighting it, she was waking up from naps and occasionally overnight with a dry diaper, she was interested in the potty habits of others, she wanted to wear big-girl undies, and she was "regular" with her "movements" (hee, hee - I'm such an adolescent sometimes, all this potty talk is making me giggly.)  If your child is showing some of these signs, he might be ready, but if there are stark things that stand out like he don't even want to sit on the potty at all, trust me - it's not worth the fight.  Give it a few weeks and then try again.

4. Be enthusiastic and supportive.  Make potty-training a positive experience rather than a negative one.  Whenever I found myself getting frustrated or stressed about it, I could immediately see a change in Lila's emotions, too.  Have you ever tried to pee on command?  Imagine your flight is about to leave and you decided to try to make a quick trip to the restroom before you board so as to avoid those hilariously small and mysteriously stinky airplane bathrooms, and as you're sitting there you hear, "Last call for Your Flight Number, service to Where You're Going.  All passengers must board immediately."  Now tell me, would it be easy to go?  Stress doesn't help.  Don't scold or punish or threaten if your child has an accident.  The more relaxed and positive you can be, the easier it will be.  Once again, remember this is one power struggle you can't win!  When we had an accident, I would say, "That's okay.  It's an accident.  Next time we'll try to make it to the potty."  (By the way, I read somewhere you're not supposed to say, "that's okay" because it communicates that, well, it's okay to pee your pants.  But really, who cares?  When my kid is crying and afraid I'm going to be mad at her for having an accident and the words "it's okay" escape my lips, I'm not going to beat myself up for word choice.)  When we had a success, I let Lila choose someone to call and brag to, so many of my family members received muffled voicemails from an unintelligible (cute) voice saying something like, "I gfnskink matdgsa potty dsgheip chocolate chip!"

5. Remember, every kid is different. One thing I did learn from my "research" is that every kid is different when it comes to potty-training.  Moms I talked to with more than one child all said this.  Some kids may get it immediately and hate the feeling of having an accident.  Others may defiantly poop in their undies and then smear it all over the bathroom (yeah, that's a true story).  Others may take forever to be potty-trained overnight.  So I guess the advice here is, "Mama, know thy child."  You can probably guess based on your kid's temperament which battles you will face.  A defiant, strong-willed child would be the more likely poop-smearer than the perfectionist compliant child.  For us, I knew that I had to give Lila the control, the choices and positive reinforcement.  I could see the frustration in her when she would try to go and couldn't and as her mom, I knew that frustration quickly erupts into explosive emotions - tears or screaming.  So to combat the frustration, I wouldn't force her to sit there if she didn't want to, I would distract her or simply say, "It's okay!"  What works for one kid might not work for yours and what worked for us...well, is a complete mystery so I can't help ya there!  Sorry!

So concludes our little unintentional series about parenting a two and a half year old.  I hope you weren't bored to death and I hope maybe something was encouraging and helpful.  And now (because I love lists), I'll recap the five things with some handy-dandy links for ya:

1. Have Realistic Expectations
2. Sticker Chart
3. The Timer
4. What I'm Proud of You For.  By the way, I realize that is horrible grammar, and I hate having it typed out because I'm a grammar lover.  But what kind of a weirdo would I be if I said, "Can I tell you the things for which I am proud of you?" to my two year old?  Isn't it weird how correct grammar starts to sound incorrect or snobbish when it's used less often than the incorrect grammar?  But I digress....
5. Potty Training

Good luck, Mamas and remember - soon enough your terrible Two-and-a-Halfer will be a lovely and angelic Three back in equilibrium!  In the meantime, try not to sweat the small stuff and remember to celebrate the small victories.  Preferably with ice cream.
We celebrated a good day of obedience and following the rules with Lila's first ice cream cone.  She'd had ice cream, just not in cone form and she wasn't sure how to go about eating it.  Kept trying to take bites off the top and ended up with an ice cream beard.  We tried to teach her how to lick the sides, but she refused to be coached.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

5 Things that Work: Part 4

And now, for the next installment of:
5 Things that Work (right now) for Parenting (my) Two and a Half Year Old

4. What I'm proud of you for. 

I started doing this a few weeks ago when we were in the peak of tantrums and fits.  I started to realize that most of my words, most of my actions, most of my input in Lila's life was negative, critical, disciplining.  It's so important that our kids know we mean business when it comes to disciplining, but it was getting to the point that I felt like all I did was discipline.  I hated the idea that she would go to bed at night with my words, "No! Stop that! Don't do that! Time out!" ringing in her ears.  Plus, I would go to bed every night feeling defeated, like a mean mom and convinced she was going to grow up to be a delinquent.  So I decided that I would start telling her three things I was proud of her for each night as I was putting her to bed.  
I'm proud of you for trying something new even though you weren't so sure about it: fake nails at our friend Layla's birthday party.
The first night, we had had a really rough day.  Many tantrums, many time outs, a few spankings, a lot of tears and frustration (on both our parts).  But I stuck to my resolve and as I tucked her in I said, "Can I tell you three things I'm proud of you for?"  She nodded.  I wracked my brain.  All I could think of was the hard parts of the day.  So I went small.  "I'm proud of you for eating your whole dinner.  I'm proud of you for saying please when you asked for more milk.  I'm proud of you for putting your book away nicely."  I could see her eyes wide, staring at me in the darkness.  I could see her head nodding with each thing I said, allowing my praise to sink in.  She was quiet for a few seconds and then said, "Can you tell me more what I proud of you for?"  I laughed and of course obliged.  
I'm proud of the way you use your imagination when you play.  I think this was a bus. Or a train.  Or a car.  Some vehicle.
Ever since then, she'll say it before I can even get the words out: "Tell me what I proud of you for!"  This has perhaps made all the difference in our days.  Not only does she hear me affirm her good choices, but I remind myself of the good that happened that day - no matter how small.  And if I'm tempted to ignore the good and focus on the bad (which I am prone to do in many areas of my life), I have a little voice audibly reminding me of the importance of remembering the good.

I'm proud of you for being my Lila.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Shout Out!

Taking a break from our "Things that Work" accidental series to send you all over to Saying Yes to Adoption blog where we are being featured today!  Go take a look and we'll see you back here tomorrow for part 4 of Things that a Working (right now) for (my) 2 and a Half Year Old.

Oh, and these are for you, Grandma:

Did anyone else in Kansas City see this beauty on Saturday night?  It was even a double for awhile (you can kind of see it in the first picture).  You know the Husband kept saying, "That's so intense!" and "What does this mean!?" in an overly-dramatic voice.  It teased us and danced in and out of the clouds for a good 30 minutes.  Lila was completely enraptured, but couldn't understand why the rainbow went away after awhile: "I want dat wainbow! Where'd it go?"

Welcome to Say Yes to Adoption visitors!  Check out the tabs at the top of the blog for adoption info.  Thanks for visiting!

Friday, August 3, 2012

5 Things that Work: Part 3

Part three of:

Five Things that Work (right now) for Parenting (my) Two-and-a-Half-Year-Old
Read parts one and two here

3. The timer. 

New moms, a word of advice (one learned from suffering the consequences of NOT doing this many times), if at all possible, give your toddler a heads up before you spring a change of plans on them.  Let's say you are at the park.  She is happily playing in the sand and you look at your watch and realize it is getting close to nap time so you say, "Time to go!"  Inevitably you will be met by resistance, arguing or worse - a full-fledged tantrum.  Now rewind back to when you noticed the time and try this, "Two more minutes, then we are going home!"  This gives your toddler (who desperately wants to have control over her world) a warning that a change is coming.  She can finish what she's doing, she can go down the slide one more time, she can choose how she wants to use her precious two minutes.  And when the two minutes is up (by the way, two minutes can be completely relative if you like - it's just the warning that helps) you say, "Okay! Time to go!"  Now, it's not fool-proof.  She might still choose to throw a fit, but at least you didn't spring it on her which would have almost guaranteed the fit.  

An added trick to this plan which I find particularly effective, is to implement the timer.  This was a stroke of genius I had a few weeks ago at Target (I usually let Lila play in the toy aisle for a few minutes if she has obeyed me while I got my shopping done - a little extra motivation for her to behave).  She was sort of getting to the point where the two minute warning didn't really avert the fit that came when I followed the warning with "time to go!" a few minutes later.  So one day I said, "Okay, we're going to set Mommy's timer.  When the timer goes off, it will be time to go."  I set the timer on my phone for two minutes, let her push the button to have it start, and then she got to play.  When the timer went off, I let her slide the button to turn it off and said, "Okay, the timer says it's time to go!"  And here's the beautiful part: she said, "Okay!"  No argument.  No fit.  I think the magic is in the fact that she gets to turn it off and on and that it's not me calling the shots.  The timer said it was time to go.  It's the timer's fault.  Mean ol' timer!
the timer is heartless when it comes to the whining of little girls

Thursday, August 2, 2012

5 things that work: Part 2

Part two of:
Five Things that Work (right now) for Parenting (my) Two-and-a-Half-Year-Old
Read Part One Here
2. Sticker Chart.  

Oh, my friends.  This thing is magical. We went from having daily 20-minute-long tantrums - kicking and screaming - to an angelic princess who will obey most of the time and who is just generally sweeter than three weeks ago.  All for the cost of Target dollar section stickers.  Well, that and the Kohl's gift card I spent on the Grover firetruck which is her reward for filling in all the squares on the chart.

It's not an elaborate chart - I just drew a bunch of boxes and told her she can have a sticker when she follows the rules of our house.  She'll earn a sticker for things like not throwing a fit when it's time to leave the park (or friend's house or Target toy section or fill-in-the-blank), or eating a meal without a fight, or remembering to put her toys away without being asked, or saying please/thank you without a reminder, or going potty in the potty, or being kind to Ruby when she comes over, etc.  Sometimes I'll remind her beforehand, "Lila, if you eat all of your dinner without arguing, you can have a sticker!" Or sometimes I'll reward her after the fact, "Lila, you remembered to put your shoes in the basket without Mommy telling you to so you can have a sticker!"

Best $1 I've ever spent.  I am not above the well-earned bribe.  I imagine we'll become stingier with the stickers as she gets more habitual in her obedience.  The goal, as my dad says, is to "Get them to want what you want."  What I want is for her to eat healthy meals, to have less timeouts, to be safe and respectful.  And if it takes a few stickers to get her to want those things too, then I'm sticking with it!  (Pun intended!)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

5 things that work: Part 1

I have about seven posts started and either don't know where they are going or they feel too deep and emotional right now to post.  So, I am solving this problem by starting an eighth post.  And that eighth post has turned into a series of posts because I'm too long-winded to keep things concise.

So, I give you the first installment of:

5 Things that Work (right now) for Parenting (my) Two-and-a-Half-Year-Old

Disclaimer: These purpose of these posts is two-fold: first, to remind me later what our life was like in this stage of the parenting game, and second to pass on some tips/obeservations I've uncovered in the trenches of parenting a toddler.  I share them, not to suggest that I'm an expert or that I have it figured out or that they will work for every kid, but in the hopes that they might work for some of you with younger kids who will eventually be in my shoes.

1. Realistic Expectations. 

oh yes, she LOOKS innocent
If you are the parent of a two and a half year old, you have my sympathies.  If you are like me, you heard experienced parents talking about the "terrible twos" and dreaded that 2nd birthday and the doom it threatened.  But two years old rolled around and you were pleasantly surprised by your child's behavior.  In fact, two years old seemed easier than 18 months.  You begin to think, Maybe we experienced the terrible twos early? or (more likely) Maybe my child is exceptional.  Maybe she won't ever defy or disobey or throw a fit! Surely that's it!  She IS perfect after all!   But then, everything starts to unravel.  Your little compliant angel begins to birth a holy terror of a thing with teeth and elbows and a will - oh the will! - and suddenly everything is a battle, everything is an argument, everything is tantrum-worthy.  One day you find yourself the recipient of sideways glances and judgmental head shakes as you stand in the aisle of Target watching your child throw an Oscar-worthy tantrum.  At that moment, you'll wonder if the e-card your mom sent you as a joke was actually some sound mother-to-mother advice:

And you think, Where have I gone wrong!? I really screwed her up! She used to be so sweet and I must have made some wrong turn somewhere in my parenting that created this monster! 

Not so, friends.  Don't you worry.  The reality is your kid is simply - NORMAL.  Because research - specifically, the extensive research done by the Gesell Institute of Child Development and child development expert (as in, I had an entire class on him in college for my Elementary Ed degree), Jean Piaget, shows that in normal child development, the brain and body are on a virtual roller coaster.  There are certain predictable stages during which your child must learn new things, master new skills and break free of infantile abilities.  And with those new skills come frustration, anger, and a lack of competence for your child.  The result of which are fits, arguments, and general misery for everyone involved.  The reality of 2.5 is that their brains and their bodies are in disequilibrium.  The good news is that this disequilibrium is temporary and will eventually come back around to an evening out of emotion, skills, and behavior (equilibrium).

While not every child is the same, in general the first few years of a child's life are characterized by peaceful and stable "whole years" (12 months, 2, 3, 4) and unpredictable and difficult half years (18 months, 2.5, 3.5, 4.5).  You'll notice in the chart below that as a child ages, the time between equilibrium and disequilibrium lengthens.  I even read somewhere (can't remember where, of course), that adults still experience stages of disequilibrium!  (Does that explain anyone else's college years to them or is it just me?)

You may have also noticed that the illustration on the disequilibrium side is a sort of swirly loop.  This indicates the regression that is likely to occur in previously mastered skills and behaviors while a child begins to develop new skills.  As a side note, another interesting thing is that often when a child is working on mastering a new fine motor skill (such as eating, speaking, drawing, writing, hand-eye coordination, etc), a gross motor skill (such as walking/running, jumping, balance, etc) may regress and vice versa.

What this means for me parenting 2.5 year old Lila is that I can't expect behavior from her that is fitting a child in equilibrium.  I can anticipate that she will be easily frustrated, overly emotional and lack coping skills for the most basic of obstacles.  Anticipating these things can keep me prepared to respond to these behaviors if not avert them.  I can give her choices, set her up for success, give her words for her frustrations, be patient when she responds unreasonably.  I can keep my eyes open for the proof that she is in fact mastering new skills that might explain the frustration she is experiencing.  And I can remind myself that her behavior at 2.5 is not necessarily indicative of her future character (thank Heaven!)  It IS indicative that she is on a "normal" developmental swing into disequilibrium.

This knowledge will also come in handy when well-meaning (or perhaps not-so-well-meaning) people make comments about your child's "was-she-raised-by-wolves?" behavior.  When those comments are made, remind yourself that most likely this person A) has never parented a 2.5 (or 3.5, 4.5) year-old child, B) parented a child that age so long ago that he or she has forgotten what kids at that age are actually like and/or C) really has no place making that comment in the first place.  As an example, I will quote one such comment I recently received, "Parents these days let their children get away with way too much.  They excuse away poor behavior by saying, 'He's just two! He doesn't know better!' when really that child shouldn't be allowed to act the way he's acting."  To which I responded in my head (because really, what's the point of arguing with someone making that kind of comment?), "He may know better, but he lacks the developmental skill set to act on that knowledge.  Give the parents a break!"  Someone making these comments has unrealistic expectations for the child's age.

The bottom line is, if you understand the reality of what your child is experiencing developmentally, you will have realistic expectations of your child and her behavior - which will benefit everyone.  Including bystanders at Target.

I'll post number two tomorrow - it's not nearly as scientific (or rather it's not scientific at all) so if you were bored to tears reading this, take heart - tomorrows post involves stickers!