Monday, January 31, 2011

Potty "Training"

I get so frustrated when I hear of a parent letting their kid(s) run the show. I know, I have a strong-willed child (or two) and sometimes, it's easier to let her think she's getting what she wants, but it's usually about fairly insignificant things....what she wears, for example. What I'm really talking about is when parents say things like "My kid is 3 and has no interest in the potty so we haven't tried potty training".

Well, HAVE potty trained use diapers.

Now, if you know me, you're thinking...hey...your kids weren't exactly early potty learners. Hugh's sensory processing issues created unique challenges. Meg...well, she's a unique challenge all on her own. But my intentions were good. I truly tried. And if I could do things over again, there are definitely things I'd do differently.

Like, "EC". It means "elimination communication". Or, a fancy way to say...teaching your child about elimination from day one, the same way our great-grandparents would have, and the same way much of the world still does. Babies don't like to be wet or dirty; it's not something they knew about before birth. It's kinda scary to them to suddenly have their body doing these things. They give us cues that they need to, or are, eliminating. Many parents learn these cues ("oh, he always makes that face before he poops"), but they don't do anything about it. If you know your child is about to poop, why not put them on a potty or over a bowl? Even if baby is only a few weeks old? Doesn't that make sense? Why spend the money on the diaper that just gets thrown away (in most cases). Doesn't it seem easier to hold baby on a potty then to change a stinky, messy, diaper?

People say that babies have no control over their bladders/bowel. But others say that they do, and even a young baby (6 months) who has been taught since birth that pee goes in a potty, will learn to "hold it" until given the chance to use the potty.

Others say that there's no point in potty training until the child is mobile and can deal with their clothes themselves. That same parent is probably helping their child get dressed in the morning, so what's different about after a potty trip? A child is mobile once they can crawl, and if you teach signing, they can be making the sign for potty pretty young. And, if you're already tuned into their signals, you can get them to the potty yourself. Doesn't it seem easier to pick up a baby and take them to the potty, then to pick up a stinky, leaking, crying, kicking baby and try to change them?

EC is one of the things I really wish I had given a try. It makes teach your baby from day one about other things, why not about where we eventually want them to always put their pee? It's not like we allow hitting and biting until the day they start school and THEN suddenly say "oh, that's not acceptable now, you must change your behaviour instantly, and not have any accidental bitings".

But Tracy, you child is 28 months old and shows no interest in the potty, why should I potty train her now? I understand! With my kids, I had the notion that it was easier to change diapers than to clean the carpets. I often hear "my kid is toilet-trained and has only 2 accidents a day!". Well, I don't think that's something to brag about (unless your child is 12 months old).

A lot of parents also find that "the terrible twos" don't happen...but then the child turns 3 and is suddenly someone else. You've missed the window of opportunity when the child still wants to please momma and is more co-operative...even if she doesn't show any interest in the potty. And often, how do you show interest in something that you've never been shown that you should show interest in?

I often hear "My son always hides behind the couch when he needs to poop! It's so cute!"....that same mom, when the kid is 3, 3 1/2, saying "I can't get him to poop on the potty, he'll only poop behind the couch". Well, sorry to say, but you taught him that it was acceptable.

I hadn't heard, formally, of EC until Meg (child #3, and last) was almost 6 months old. I had heard previously that if you put a baby on a (cold) potty, they will usually pee...and I did do this with Lucy at times. I had also read about "old fashioned" potty training, how our grandparents trained our parents to be diaper-free by 12 months, and the debate about whether it's the parent that's trained or the child that's trained. But who cares---being diaper free is a good thing in all aspects!

When Meg was around 4 months I joined a Yahoo Group "Slightly Crunchy Attachment Parenting". One member was EmiLy, who owns Who knew there was a whole "industry" around NOT using diapers? LOL. She's a great lady, very hard working, and awesome at promoting EC. It's a great place to start if you want to learn more. As I said, it's one thing I wish I had known about before having kids. I don't know to what extent I would have done it, but gosh, any time not using diapers is great!

Friday, January 21, 2011


Lucy is an interesting girl. Very bright and precocious, she lacks common sense sometimes, but her cuteness saves her.

I love having the kids come home for lunch, for many reasons:

Hugh walks in the front door and says "It helps you walk on top of the snow".
Lucy followed him in the door (rare) and replies "But what if you're carrying a dead horse?"


Lucy's class is studying pioneers, like all good grade 3 classes in Ontario since before I was even in grade 3. They were going to have a project where the teacher assigns the kids a "pioneer job" and they have to do a report. Lucy's first choice of jobs: banker.
Last year, Lucy made a Christmas Wish List:

1) Lego Set (any Lego set would be fine)
2) Laptop
3) $200 or $250
4) A magic wand
5) A table for my room
6) My own house (just a little house)
7) Lots of candy
8) a driver's licence (a car for my drivers license)
9) an electric guitar
10) A band (a place to rock out)
11) Sana's autograph
12) A TV for my room
She did get a couple things on the list...but not her own house.
A few years ago, I found a pair of RipZone snowboarding pants at the Salvation Army. They were a little big for Huey, but the price was great. After a while, we noticed a jingling sound. There appeared to be some coins stuck between layers of the pants. One day recently Lucy borrowed the pants. During recess, she tried to figure out what coins were in there, based on sound and size. She decided on a Toonie and a penny. Her friend says "Lucy, you know your money too well!"
Although her name is Lucy (and was named after our last dog's sister), we usually call her Lu, or Lu Lu (or YoYo...). It's fascinating though, that she looks SO much like her Aunt Lou!(Not the best picture to show the resemblance, but I can't find the other ones!).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

December 2010

Ah. December. Christmas "break". I was really worried this year since the kids had a whole week off before Christmas. It turned out to be not a bad week before Christmas, but it was all down hill after that!
First dip in the hot tub!!

December started out with my Community Concert Band of Whitby concert. It got off to a rocky start, but got better as the show went on. It's too bad we have such a small turn out. The last week of school flew by as I was making a batch of brownies every single night for the kids and Rob to take to their parties! The kids had their school concert, which was quite nice, esp. since this year, they left the lights on, LOL. I had no idea of what Hugh's class was doing for the show (or even Meg's class!), so their performance was a neat surprise!

The day after school got out (Sat.), we headed up to the country for the Vetzal family Christmas. The most chattiest member of the family, and a few of the others, were absent. It was quite a quiet affair, and it was so nice to be able to get home at a reasonable time instead of having a 3 hour drive after. And, just like almost every other year, there was a blizzard, LOL!

The Monday of the break, Meg had a doctor's appointment as she had been not well for a month. I had the babysitter come over to watch Lucy (and Hugh). Meg was diagnosed with a sinus infection and since I mentioned that I wasn't feeling well either, she looked me over and gave me a sinus infection AND ear infection diagnosis. Wow. I thought, since we were over that way, that we'd just "pop" in to Michaels and pick up some yarn. It should have been a 5 minute drive. It turned into 1/2 hour! There was an accident and the lane I was in (eventually, a left turn lane), was blocked. I had also wanted to get some groceries on the way back, but we were hungry. Got home, asked the babysitter if she could stay while I went to Wal-Mart to get the meds. Sure, no problem. I got to Wal-Mart and found I had no wallet. Dropped the meds scripts off, came home, got the wallet and headed back. And waited. And waited. Eventually they told me they were waiting for a fax from the doctor. She had put Meg's name on both prescriptions...they were for the same anti-biotic, but one in liquid and one in adult capsules...Finally, they gave up and filled it anyway. I was there nearly an hour. I wish they had said something when they first faxed it, as I would have just gotten Meg's and came back after dinner for mine!

Tuesday was a get together for my family. With the passing of my aunt in the summer, no one knew what to do about Christmas. She had been hosting it for over 30 years, although last year she didn't for a number of reasons. We didn't want to exclude my cousin, but we also felt it was time for our immediate family--my two brothers and our parents--to have their own celebration. Since all the children live down here, and our parents live "up north", it seemed logical to do it here. We have the biggest house, and the biggest brood, and I really wanted to do something new. Rob, however, did NOT want a party, with two extra dogs and 5 kids, and people he's not fond I planned it for the afternoon, while he was at work. No meal to prepare, serve, clean up, etc, a time deadline for everyone leaving....LOL. It was a wonderful afternoon, although I think we need a better family room. With the piano in the house, there's not much room for seating in the 'living' room, the family room is awkward too, the 'dining room' is where we tend to hang out, but the seats are hard....Anyway, I hope we do it again next year, and I hope Rob will join us :)

Wednesday was the only day that we were all home (except Rob)! I don't remember the day, but after the kids went to bed I went to Wal-Mart (after 9pm). I was surprised by how busy it was, but stunned at how few cashiers were open. It was a LONG wait in line.

Thursday, the kids went in the afternoon to see a play with their grandparents, so I wrapped presents. After 2 1/2 hours, I realized I did not need to be hiding in the cold basement, I could have been using the dining room table! LOL! I got almost everything wrapped, but sadly, forgot that fact and found out late on Friday night that there were still some significant things to wrap!

Friday, Rob was home, although I think he probably went out shopping; I think he took Lucy....

Saturday was Christmas, and this is what the kids saw when they got up (plus their stockings):

Yes, we used our little mini tree again. We didn't want to try even the fake tree with the crazy puppy. Lucy got a guitar for Christmas...I had been trying since her birthday! After lunch, I tried to tune it. I found a website, and it said the 6th string gets tuned to E below middle C on the piano. So I did that, using my tuner. I thought it seemed like a high note for the 6th string. Then I tried the 5th string....and broke it!!!! I felt terrible, Lucy was furious. Turns out that the 6th string is an OCTAVE below that E. Then, I tried to get her new camera working. It didn't seem to realize there was a memory card in it. I tried loading the disc to get the real manual, but it wouldn't load. The website wasn't working right. It wasn't till after everyone went home that I just happened to open the camera from a different angle and was able to push the memory card in further. But then, it was putting an annoying date stamp on each picture...still couldn't load the disc the next day.

Rob's parents and his brother came over. I took too few pictures, being stuck in the kitchen, even though I thought I had everything planned out well. This is the moment before the picture above (which was cropped!).

Yes, the window is horrifically filthy with handprints. Yes, John looks bored out his mind. Yes, I knit those socks their mother is wearing :)

The big gift I got Huey was a "real" photo and video editing program. I made sure it would accept QuickTime videos as that's what his camera makes and our program doesn't like them. I saw that it could use Vista. I saw something about Service Pack 2....had heard about that before, but didn't know about it. Turns out, we didn't have SP2....and Microsoft had stopped supporting Vista. "We" had tried to download the updates before, but it wouldn't work. Rob spent all afternoon on the Tuesday trying to get it uploaded, and it finally worked. There were many updates we were missing. I don't think things run any better, but I was able to finally upload the disc from Lucy's camera! Her and I went to the music store while Rob worked on the computer. It was very busy! Got her string changed, and then she had a meltdown when she looked in the new book and saw she was going to have to actually work to learn to play the guitar! LOL.

The rest of the week is a blur...late nights with Meg screaming, Rob working on his truck, me working on some belated Christmas presents....there was no public skating unfortunately, no snow, nothing to do!! We all stayed up on New Year's Eve, then Meg had a tantrum that was epic. What a way to start the new year!

This Year in Review---November

I really want to start blogging here more about our lives. I use Facebook a lot, but often want to get more into the meat of the status update....but I get sidetracked, LOL. It's easier to post pictures on FB too. We recently got our yearly family newsletter from my to hear about all her trips, all her kids' trips, her puppies, her baby ducks, her new kitchen, her new pool....I'm not going to fill you in on our last year (ie...if there could be a problem, there was a problem), but here's what's been going on the last couple months.
Meg got the monthly character award for her class, on wacky hat day. The award was for "empathy" which she is surprisingly really good at (although she still has times where it seems impossible for her to be so clueless as how her actions affect other people!). There are only 8 kids in Meg's JK/SK class, and 3 of them are girls. At snack time, all the kids went to sit at one table, but there wasn't enough room for one girl so she went to another table. Meg saw her alone, and went to sit with her!Lucy had a party for her birthday. We couldn't think of a theme, and then it hit about "Diva/Red Carpet"? She felt a little too old for Princess theme, but did actually wear her princess ball gown. We had a red carpet, and punch in (plastic) wine cups, and hors d'oevers, and dangly stars, and make your own pizza (which was supposed to be on "crystal" plates but I forgot), and cupcakes cause they're all the rage (they were NOT arranged into some vaguely identifiable shape). The girls were supposed to watch a movie....but, as you can see in the was all a big blur.
Shortly after Lucy's birthday is Meg's. With only 2 other girls in her class, we decided to invite 2 or 3 girls that had moved on to grade 1. None of them responded with either a yes or a no. How rude! One of the two girls in her class couldn't come, and her cousins couldn't come either. So, only the last girl (the girl in the empathy story) could come, which was great for her as it was her first friend's birthday! The four kids decorated gingerbread houses. I had put them together the night before, and realized I didn't have anything to actually put them on, esp. for the girl to take home! Dug out some trays! It started off scary as Hayley grabbed the icing bag and squeezed in the middle, without twisting the top, and icing came flying out of the bag! But she got the rhythm quickly after that. Sorry about the sideways picture! Don't know how that happened! I was really impressed with Meg's house. She sat beside Hugh, and at first, she just started globbing on the icing. Then she saw what he was doing with outlining the shingle lines, and copied him...all on her own!
Her actual birthday was mid-week, so we invited Grandma and Grandpa over, and she wanted cupcakes like Lucy (for her party, I made her a 5 cake like Lucy had when she turned 5...just a big 5 on the cake (Rob made the stencil), filled in with pink sparkles). Since her birthday was on a Wednesday, we got to go skating too!

Hard to believe this is public "Parent and Tot" skate. There is usually less than 10 kids there. I wish I could have taken the other kids when they were young. I've seen some pretty tiny "real" skates here, and I wish I had known they came that small! With the outdoor rinks in Orangeville, we could have really got them going sooner if I had known!
The very end of November brought us our hot tub! After 15 months of indecision, Rob finally made up his mind. It's an "Alaskan" tub, the "lower end" of Arctic Spas, pretty basic model, but an 8 seater with two pumps, instead of the 7 seater, one pump model of their 'regular' line that would have still cost more. It's been lovely, although I'm still not keen on the position of the tub, LOL.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Catering to the Kids

Food issues. Sigh. What parent doesn't have at least one food issue at some point in their parenting career? There are some common complaints we all seem to face and some common suggestions on how to deal with them.

Don't give them anything else to eat; if they're hungry, they'll eat it. For how long should we hold this up? I've heard of some parents giving last night's dinner for breakfast! If they didn't like it at dinner, what would have made them like it while they slept?

I'm not a restaurant; this is what is served. That's being a bully. What adult would make themselves a meal they know they don't like, and then expect themselves to eat it? Would you invite a guest to dinner, and knowing that they're vegan, make them cream of chicken soup...and then say "I'm not a restaurant, you won't starve..."? Or, expect them to make their own dinner in your house?

"It tastes fine to me/It's not chewy to me" Why should you expect everyone in your family to like the same thing? We insist on the kids trying everything, but I also know that if they have already formed an opinion, they won't likely change their mind with just one bite. Meg loves fish, but last night she refused to try some catfish. She might have liked it, she might not have. But it wasn't worth a battle.

"You liked it last week" Yeah, and last week Melissa was her best friend and this week it's Maddie. Maybe she was more hungry last week. Maybe it tastes a little different tonight. I find this one SO frustrating, but I have to respect their opinions at all ages if I want them to grow up and know HOW to have and share opinions.

Having kids with sensory issues complicates things too. They (my kids; not all kids with sensory issues) have trouble chewing meats that adults find tender. I help out by cutting meats as small as possible for them, but sometimes that's not even enough, they only want 'easy' foods. Do I give in? Is there a way to make steak or pork chops easier to chew? I've even served veal only to be told it was too tough! Meg has the issue of over stuffing her mouth and then not being able to chew and swallow it all so I often find piles of chewed up food in the sink! She's done the hard work, LOL, I don't know why she doesn't just swallow. She also doesn't mind eating with her fingers, and doesn't feel when her face is dirty. But she does love to eat, LOL.
Lately, the big issue with Hugh has been the sound of knives on our stoneware. Like nails on a chalkboard, this common dinner noise is painful to his sensitive ears. So much so that he will either gobble it down and leave, or wait till everyone (esp. Daddy) is done eating. I can accommodate him by giving him a plastic plate, or a stoneware plate with a plastic fork...but I don't think Daddy wants to use a plastic knife.

With parenting, we're often faced with how much to compromise. When are we catering to our kids, and when are we just trying to make a harmonious meal time?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Parenting When it Matters Most

Why is it so hard to be an effective parent at the times it matters most?
There is something I have noticed among parents, especially new parents. The ones that complain the most seem to be trying to make their child/baby fit into their world. The other parents, the ones that mold their world to suit their baby, seem to have it "easier".

Lets back up a bit.
How often do you hear "My baby won't sleep" "My baby has it's days and nights confused" "She wants to eat every 2 hours!" "He hates the crib" "I can't get anything done!" What if we turned these statements around: "My baby likes to be awake" "Our ideas of when to sleep are not the same" "Babies sure have tiny tummies" "How wonderful to snuggle while we sleep" and "Everything else can wait, babies are tiny for such a short time".

Why would we do this? We're the adults; shouldn't baby conform to our lives? But why should baby?
Imagine his life before being ejected. Constant warmth, constant confinement, constant noise, constant nourishment. Sleep when sleepy, awake when energized. Never have to feel hunger, a wet diaper, cold dry skin. The birth process is a rude awakening for most babies in our 'modern' culture. And then we want them to eat/sleep/wake when WE want them to?

How many parents look at a newborn's life from an anthropological viewpoint? Sure, you might know your baby likes to be swaddled, but have you thought further back than that? Why should your baby "want" to sleep alone in a crib? How can we think a baby should "want" to eat only every 3 to 4 hours? Sure, we know they have a tiny tummy, but do we know why? Why do we get upset if baby "wants" to be held all the time?

These aren't "wants" to a baby! They are biologically programmed needs to ensure baby's survival. Unfortunately, what baby needed to survive 10 000 years ago is what makes parents feel like they're not going to survive this stage, LOL.

I used to feel, before having my own children, that I understood them quite well. But what it really was, was that I knew how to respond to them. I still had some crazy ideas before Hugh came along.....we were going to have a schedule (except for nursing), we would have firm routines, we would have experiences and opportunities for educational exposures. But what he taught me was that what I wanted was not the same as what he needed. I could mold to him more easily and sanely than making him mold to me.

Before Lucy was born I heard about Dr Harvey Karp and "The Happiest Baby on the Block". I read the book while pregnant, and again in her first few weeks cause, dangit, I was NOT having another "Huey". Sure, Lucy was a happier baby, but is it because she's got a different disposition, or is it because I learned that humans are the only species born not able to support their own head? Was it the 5 "S's" that made her happy, or did they just make it easier to be a parent?

Ah. Easy parenting. Lazy parenting. Some say it's letting the dog lead the walker. But it's not. It's doing the things that make life easier for everyone, based on knowledge of the why's and when and your own child. Some children co-sleep well, and this makes them happy. Some babies do not co-sleep well, and forcing them to makes everyone unhappy. Doesn't mean you're not following attachment parenting if you don't co-sleep :) Breastfeeding is a LOT easier than bottle feeding, AND it's better! (Except for in those 10-15% of cases when it's not). Babywearing is SO much easier than carrying a carseat, or a stroller, or letting your baby scream in a bouncy chair because you're "afraid of spoiling him".

When Hugh was quite little still (around 4 months), I finally got to the library to see if there were any parenting books that could explain him. I found Dr. Sear's and his "High Needs Baby" book. Aside from the "7 B's of AP", I learned the one bit of info that has played the biggest role in my parenting: "A need that is filled will self-extinguish, a need that is suppressed or forcibly extinguished, will remain a need but perhaps unrecognized as a subconscious driver of behaviour". (Not a direct quote!).

Think about yourself. Ever had a craving for potato chips? The "experts" say to have some popcorn or some carrots, for the crunch. You eat the whole bag of carrots and what do you feel? That you still want the chips!!!! If a baby needs to be held, they will continue having this need until THEY feel it's been met. So, if you leave your baby to cry in the stroller, or bouncy seat, or crib to "teach" them....what they are learning is that you don't care about their needs and won't meet those needs. Babies will then go one of two ways. Some will rev it up. Others will withdraw. It's okay to say, "I'll give it a few minutes to see what happens" but when it goes on and on, repeatedly, or your attitude is "he's got to learn", then their need never gets met, and it doesn't go away. I have a "signature" on my emails that says "Children should be held by people, not things; Try a sling". What the "cry it out" baby has "learned" is that being held by a THING is better than being held by a person. Isn't that sad? Now think about how that gets internalized as the child grows and starts to form relationships with others.....

This idea of filling needs doesn't stop with infants though. Dr Karp has another book "The Happiest Toddler on the Block" and really, I think it applies to people of all ages! This Christmas break was a hard one for Meg. Although she's not the best kid to get into bed at a decent time, her behaviour over the break, at bedtime, was out of her normal repertoire. The days weren't too bad, but she was suddenly having tantrums again. But then every night at bedtime there was screaming, coming out of her room, total defiance, screaming, night we had a disagreement right before bedtime. I knew she'd never go to sleep unless we resolved it, so we did, and I told her that a talk and a snuggle could solve anything. So, the rest of the two weeks, she'd start screaming "I want a snuggle" instead of going to bed. Well, after two hours of this, who wants to snuggle?! I explained that I wasn't going to 'reward' her bad behaviour that way.
Finally, on the second to last night of the break, I "gave in". About an hour earlier than she had been at least getting quiet the previous nights, I laid down and rubbed her back. She was asleep in under 10 minutes and slept all night! The next night was now a school night, and I tried it even earlier. She has a music player that goes for 6 minutes....longer than it took her to fall asleep! Of course, now I'm feeling horrible for the rough two weeks when I didn't "give in".

Would it have been giving in? I thought about what life was like for her during the break. She went from having me alone all morning, to sharing me with the entire family (even Daddy was home for a week). Asking (screaming) for a snuggle was her way of saying she hadn't met her need of mommy-time. She has a need for one-on-one time with me. Perhaps all the kids do, but they don't express it so vehemently.

So, next time you find yourself in a 'battle' with your child, especially over something that seems out of ordinary, dig a little deeper. Has something changed? Even something simple like a different cereal for breakfast or having to wear a hat. Children really don't want to be "bad". They really just want things easy too. But because they operate more on a biologically driven basis, rather than a knowledge driven framework, they have a unique way of expressing things, LOL.

Editted to add:
I just want to say that Meg wasn't wandering around for two hours every night for two weeks screaming "I want a snuggle". It was more hour and a half of trying to get her to at least stay in her room, settle down, stop tantruming about something, etc....and THEN she'd start with the "Snuggle me". If she had just skipped all the rest hubabaloo and just started with teh "Snuggle me", I would have just laid down and snuggled with her, like we did for the last couple nights of break. Hindsight....but even last night, the snuggling did not work until 11pm when she finally laid down and was asleep in under a minute.