Responding in grace

Something happened today.  Something that got me thinking.  I was sitting in the floor of my bedroom, trying to put my socks on.  We were getting ready to head out to story time.  Sophia and Abby are playing, of course, while I’m trying to get us all ready.  Sophia put a beaded necklace around my neck, and then started pulling on it and saying that I was her pet frog.  She pulled harder and harder.  I told her not to pull on the necklace.  She pulled harder and harder.  I braced myself so that she wouldn’t pull me over.  The necklace popped. Beads flooded the floor.  She was shocked.

Before I could say anything.  She said, “I’m sorry, Mommy…” She smiled, “I’m so sorry.”

It stopped me dead in my tracks.  I was ready on my heels to bark, “See!  I said stop.  YOU broke it.  Why do you not listen to me?  I told you it would break…”

Instead, I paused.  I looked at her.  I said, “Thank you for saying you’re sorry.  That was an accident, huh?”

Did I let her off easy?  That’s the first time she has ever said, “I’m sorry” without being asked.  It was growth for her.  It was big girl.  It was growth for me, too…. because I wanted to yell at her.  I wanted to be mad that she, not only interrupted my efforts to get dressed, but also broke something in the process because she wasn’t listening. I wanted to be mad at her and show her what happens when she doesn’t listen to me.

But, she will learn that necklaces will break when you pull on them too hard… and she will learn that when they’re broken you can’t play with them anymore.   She will learn that without me yelling at her.  She will learn it for herself.  She will learn it, rather than me forcing her to learn it.  What is she really learning when I yell at her and lecture her?  Careful around Mommy.  One mistake and she’ll snap.

I hate when I get so angry around my kids.  I hate that nothing can set off my temper worse than they can.  I see that it’s my thorn.  It is my every day struggle.  Many days have gone by lately that I haven’t really gotten angry.  I’ve responded with grace to the most outright disobedience with a calm punishment of time-out.  I’ve even calmly given 2, 3 minute time-outs in 7 minutes.  Some days I’m just on.  And, some days I want to lock my kids in their rooms and yell a 5 minute lecture.  I’ve personally decided that I will not spank anymore because I am not able to spank with a clear conscience.  I am angry, and I spank out of anger.

The thing is that my girls are wonderful. They’re loving and sweet, and they want to be sweet so badly.  I have seen my eldest growing up more and more everyday.  She’s starting to take her big sister role more seriously.  She helps me keep Abby away from the oven, and grabs her around the waist when she’s trying to go out the door at a store.  She is listening better, even pointing out when Abby doesn’t listen.  She wants to hold my hand in the parking lots and stores.  She’s learning to control her impulses, too, like the one that says, “Abby has my toy and I want it now.”  I see her look with desire, start to grab, and control herself.

I also see her testing the limits with the most incredible sophistication.  Just this morning, for example: I told her that I would take away what she was playing with if she didn’t play with it the  way she was supposed to.  She backed away from me with the toy, heading downstairs, and said, “Don’t worry about me, Mommy.  Just don’t worry about me.” She’s beginning to understand that I can’t see everything. She’s experimenting with all forms of deception, even lying.  She’s not even 3, yet.  You can imagine that this could spark a short-tempered mommy to react undesirably…

Responding with grace is SO difficult.  It’s a practice.  It’s a choice that has to be practiced, again and again.  I can respond in grace, though.  I can apply consequences with a gracious heart.  I can teach obedience without demanding it. It’s more effective.  My daughter responds better.  We can move on without the guilt and shame of a yelling match.

I’m so glad that my God loves me better than I love my kids.  I’m so glad that he continually responds to me with grace.  This morning when Sophia said, “I’m sorry,” it was if God spoke to me.  It was as if he whispered, “Listen to the little child.  Respond to her as I respond to you.”

Confessions of an emotional eater.

Emotional Eating.  So many of us do it, right?  In fact, who doesn’t?

4:00 in the afternoon.  I’m sitting with Abby.  She’s having a snack.  I’m sitting with her silently worrying about something I cannot control.  I’m carrying the burden for a loved one.  I can’t take away this loved one’s pain.  I can’t magically make things right.  I can’t give my loved one a do-over.  I can’t make everything right and happy.  I can’t do anything.

I decide to pour myself a bowl of cereal, I didn’t eat much lunch… I’m thinking about how nice it is to have a baby.  No judgement.  She isn’t judging my bowl of cereal at 4 in the afternoon.  She’s actually excited about it.  I share some with her.  I’m not really enjoying this bowl of cereal. I continue with my worrying.  Now, I pour myself a second bowl.

Waaaait a minute.  I’m not even hungry.

Abby’s still not judging me.  I reach into the cabinet and get Sophia’s leftover Cheetos.  I share some with Abby. If Sophia woke up from nap right now, she wouldn’t judge me either.  She would just join me, thinking we were having a party.  Isn’t it nice being alone with the kids?  I can do whatever I want… and, no one will judge me.

Except for there’s this tiny fact that I’m teaching my children with my actions.  I’m teaching them to reach for food to comfort them when they’re worried.  I’m teaching them that eating is a good way to try to make yourself feel better.

Dammit.

I roll the Cheetos back up and put them in the cabinet before Sophia wakes up. I know I don’t need to go hide away in a closet to “emotionally eat” in order that they won’t see me…  That’s hardly satisfying… and I’m not THAT kind of emotional eater.  I’m just a normal emotional eater.  I eat when I’m worried.  I eat when I’m bored.  I eat when I’m lonely.

My babies are always eating. ALWAYS.  It’s so hard to tell when they’re actually hungry or just bored or just wanting comfort.  Sometimes Abby rolls all over the floor crying with one hand in her mouth because she’s SO hungry.  Sophia will eat 3 breakfasts for an average person and turn around and ask for a snack not 2 hours later.  I’ve been constantly saying “yes” lately.  Ya know, “choose my battles.”  Keep them happy so that when I really have a point to make it will be heard.  Help Abby sleep all night. (Overfeeding her at dinner really helps with that.)  I keep limitless snacks in my diaper bag for outings.  But now, outings are turning into a 24/7 snackfest.  Right when we get in the car, the kids are jonesing for the next carb load.  Abby’s hollering, pointing to the floorboard at the empty containers, and Sophia’s hollering about wanting candy.   I’m rewarding with food.  I’m pacifying with food.  I’m stuffing, stuffing, stuffing.

My girls don’t have a weight problem.  They’re babies.  They’re perfect sizes.  Sophia eats pretty well.  She eats some vegetables.  She eats fruit like candy.  But, when I tell her it’s time for lunch, sometimes she’ll yell at me: “I DON’T WAAAAANT LUNCH! I want a SNACK!!!!”  Hmmm.  She seems to know the difference.  And, Abby… well…  she’s had a hard life.  And, I’m coming to terms with the fact that re-training her spoiled little brain is going to be difficult.  And as soon as I feel a little less pity for her, I’ll give in less and stop giving her animal crackers for dinner…

Shew.  I’m being hard on myself.  I realize this.

I’m not, though. I realize what’s going on.  I’m aware of my personal struggles with food.  I understand the potential problems that my daughters will face.  I realize that my children are little imitators.  I realize that (almost) every drop of food that goes into their bodies is food that I’ve paid for and chosen for them to consume.  I AM responsible.

There’s a bigger issue here.  Food.  This is no new issue to our culture.  As a society we struggle with emotional eating, with feeding our emptiness and our anxieties and our multiphrenia with something sweet, salty, oily and quick.  The bigger issue isn’t food, though, it’s the hunger that we’re feeding.  And, the food that we’re feeding that hunger isn’t going to make us ULTIMATELY satisfied.  We may be satisfied for a few moments, an hour if we’re lucky.  But, ultimately that snack, those Cheetos, wasn’t what my body craved.  It craved a meal. Not an actual meal, but a metaphorical one.  In this case I needed to lean on the Father.  I needed to trust Him that my friend would be okay.  That, though I couldn’t take care of my friend, I could trust that He will.  And, I can trust that He will take care of my friend in just the way that He sees best.

I want to teach my daughters to lean on the Father.  I want to teach them to lean on Him for comfort.  To trust Him through difficult times.  I’m not sure I know how to do that.  But, I do know that thoughtlessly stuffing my worries with food is no shining example.

Following through

…sucks.

I had this great afternoon planned.  After Sophia took a nap (She didn’t have one, yesterday), I planned for us to do painting projects together.  I had some wooden letters to paint for Abby’s room and a canvas to get started on, and I had a wooden birdhouse for Sophia.  She was so excited. She had her “princess pink” picked out and everything.  I told her, “After you wake up from your nap, we can paint your birdhouse.” She’d been talking about it all day.

Five minutes into her nap, “I can’t sleep.  I don’t need to paint my birdhouse.”

We’ve gone through this before: television as a reward for naptime.  She figured out that if she tells me that she doesn’t want to watch T.V., then she can get up.  Miss Princess has figured out how to exert control and get what she wants… sort of… I always follow through, no big deal, just no T.V.

Well, today I had plans.  Fun, exciting, painting plans.  I didn’t mean for the birdhouse to become a reward for her to nap, it just sort of happened that way, and now we’re both punished.  It didn’t keep me from painting, but it kept me from getting to share the experience with her.  I wanted us to be able to do this activity together. While I painted, I facilitated her potty trips and taking her back to bed… and back to bed.  I was essentially watching her make a choice that would hurt both her and me, and it was so painful.

I just wanna take it all back and say, “Screw naptime.  Let’s paint!”

But, I know that I must follow through.  An hour later with a second poop trip, she’s in the bathtub, and my head hurts.  I’ve got to step back and think again.  The rewards aren’t working.  We removed all the books from her room a few days ago because we thought that the stimulation of the books was keeping her up… apparently not. The removal of toys and stimulation isn’t working.  I can’t lock her in her room because she always has to poop at naptime if she’s not asleep–sometimes multiple times.  I’ve thought about instilling “quiet time.”  So far, that’s really what it has been most every day with an occasional nap when she’s freaking exhausted.  She does a good job of being quiet, she knows that waking up Abby would send Mommy into a HOLY TERROR! She sleeps fine at night…

Oh, the battles of the will have begun.

This overtiredness is, no doubt, contributing to a new phase that we’ve entered: Tantrums on a whole new level–a more sophisticated and verbal level.  A verbal tantrum at an embarrassingly loud volume.  I can see the manipulation in her eyes.  They’re no tears in her cries.  She screams “No, I don’t want to!” and the like.  We’ve started having time-outs in the corner with no Cowboy.  I give her opportunities to leave time-out.  I tell her, “When you are done crying, we will talk.”  Yesterday, this lasted nearly a half-hour.  I kept asking her, “Are you ready to talk? When you stop crying, I’d love to talk to you.”  She’d scream at me, “NO! I’M NOT READY!”  This whole time-out in the corner sends Abby into HOLY CONFUSION!  OH, it’s not pretty.  Finally yesterday, during said time-out event, after 30 minutes of an exhausting tantrum in the corner she stops crying, falls into my arms, hugs me so tight and says, “I can’t believe myself.”  That’s either some strange self-awareness… or she heard that somewhere.

I’m so freaking exhausted at the end of the day.  It’s no wonder.

So, all of this is to say: Let’s hold our glasses up to the moms who follow through.  Cause it SUCKS.

To shelter or expose: A rant on children’s literature.

I’ve been thinking a lot about kids’ books lately.  What makes a good kids book?  The story? The characters? Does it need a moral?  Does it have to teach a lesson?  When I say I’m thinking about kids’ books, I really mean toddler books, or early pre-school age… books appropriate for a 3-year old.  Books appropriate for a child that has outgrown board books and picture books with few words.  She wants  a story.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this because Sophia LOVES books.  Some days it’s literally ALL she does is to sit and look at books.  These are her favorite topics: Disney Princess books, Max and Ruby books, OLIVIA books, Blue’s Clues books… Can you see a few questionable ones, there? Let me tell you a story.

If you follow my blog, then you might remember this story and picture. (It’s the painting the face blue with “make-up”episode…)  Well, what I found out the next day was a copy of a library book that I hadn’t yet looked at entitled Ruby’s Beauty Shop by Rosemary Wells.  This is a pretty adorable story (if you like Max and Ruby) about Ruby playing pretend make-up and beauty shop with Max.  Max eventually breaks off on his own and paints himself with hair dye.  YES!  You heard me right.  He PAINTS himself with hair-dye!  Exactly like Sophia did with my acrylic paints!  She was acting out the story!  Now, granted, this is also a story that is on a Max and Ruby episode by Nickelodeon… and, she has probably seen it… But no doubt, we had this particular book from the library at the time of the offense…

This isn’t the first time that she has acted out scenes from books.  She loves to play babies just like Olivia in OLIVIA and the Babies. She loves to play Little Red Rubyhood from Bunny Fairy Tales. She has an insane memory for lines from the stories and loves to recite them.  This is also not the first time she’s gotten in trouble from reenacting something from a book.  I decided after the initial embarrassment of finding Ruby’s Beauty Shop, that it’s normal for her to reenact, healthy even, and this is a good way for her to learn appropriate behavior.

WAIT, though!  She never would have even thought to paint her face blue with my paint if she hadn’t seen/read this story!  So, there’s the question:  Do we shelter our children for the sake of reducing possible misbehavior, or do we expose them and thus encourage teaching opportunities?  It’s the same age-old question that parents face when they consider homeschooling… (One of the questions they consider, I realize.)  Maybe, she’s too young for these books. They specify “reading level” for these books, but that’s not the same as age-appropriate content, is it?  Here’s the thing, though:  She’s excited about looking at books.  I don’t want to discourage that.  My hope is that excitement about looking at books will turn into excitement about reading books, and isn’t that one of my goals as a mother–to encourage learning and success in school?

Hmm.  So, back to what I think about these books, these kids’ books.  Max and Ruby books are silly.  Max is always getting into trouble, and it’s never clear that what he’s doing is wrong.  He’s never punished, and his parents are nowhere to be found.  But, Sophia LOVES them.  They make her laugh, and she loves retelling the stories.  Olivia.  Well, Olivia is honest.  The story line is honest and it’s great story-telling.  She’s just a kid being a kid.  Her parents are doing the best they can, and they are not always perfect.  For example, in OLIVIA, a CALDECOTT HONOR BOOK, Olivia has this conversation with her mother:

“Only five books tonight, Mommy,” she says.

“No, Olivia, just one.”

“How about four?”

“Two.”

“Three.”

“Oh, all right, three.  But that’s it!”

If this was intended to be a story of a mother showing exemplary parenting, then it failed miserably.  (We have a strict 2-books-at-bedtime policy here at the Spicer house.  We waiver only on VERY special occasions.) This is an example of a child manipulating. And a parent getting manipulated. Like I said, the story is honest.  I get that this happens.  I’ll admit that it happens at our house, too.  But, is it appropriate story material for my 2 1/2 year old?  There’s much more questionable behavior in there that I would loathe for Sophia to copy: Olivia replicates a painting from the museum and throws paint all over the wall. (She gets a time-out.) She doesn’t nap when she’s supposed to. (No punishment.)  She scares her little brother with a mask in order to get him to leave her alone. (No parental acknowledgement.)

Do I want my children’s books to be neutered in order that I can spoon-feed behavior-training?  Teach by example (Johnny is a good little boy.  See how he goes to take a nap when he’s supposed to.) or teach by story?  Isn’t the latter more like real-life, what it looks like to live in the world?  And, isn’t that what we’re raising our kids to do.  I want to raise children to become adults to be successful in the world.

I have very few “Christian” kids books, that is to say that they were put out by a Christian publishing company.  I’m not talking about Bible storybooks.  I’m talking about cheesy books like God Loves Your Nose.  We’ve been gifted a few like these.  And, may I say, I really don’t care for these books.  They’re boring.  They’re poorly written–lines seem to be put in just to finish a rhyme, making little to no sense, with little to no story line.  It’s fine that they furnish an opportunity to talk about God or a particular truth.  I’m cool with that.  But, don’t all books furnish an opportunity to talk about God or a particular truth?  If I’m in conversation with my daughter?

Woah.  This blog is really turning into a rant.  I haven’t even talked about princess books.  I don’t even know where to start there, but my sweet, precious daughter is absolutely in love with pink and princesses.  And, at the very least it provides an opportunity for us to talk about exemplary behavior.  And, COOKIES!  What is it about so many preschool books having cookies in them?  Cookies for morning snack?  Is this just a line to make kids happy and come back to the book.  Think, authors.  Think about my children and how reading about cookies makes them want to eat cookies… ALL THE TIME!

Okay.  I’m done.

“Mommy, leave Abby alone.”

My patience has been wearing thin lately.  It’s Sophia.  She’s talking non-stop, and she’s such a bossy little booger. She’s really enjoying playing with Abby, who’s getting around and interacting more than ever.  (Abby just started crawling and clapping. So sweet.)  But, she bossing Abby like a little Mommy.  Everything is “I need that!” or “Stop that!”  She won’t let Abby play with anything, yanking it out of her hand, or hollering “That’s mine. I need that!”  She even bosses around her Cowboy. This morning was disruption for me when she told me “Mommy, leave Abby alone.”  Alright, what’s up?!

The last couple of days we’ve also been struggling with hitting.  She’ll get upset because I told her “no” about something, and then she’ll grunt, and say “I’m mad. I’m going to hit you.”  We’ve had some talks about this, about using her words.  We’ve had some time-outs, she’s apologized… we’re getting somewhere.  She’s definitely learning that it’s not okay.  This begs the question, though, Where did she learn that? Ugh.  I can’t possibly police every minute of media that enters her eyes and ears.  We read books, she watches some age-appropriate t.v., she plays with kids at church, but she absorbs and then ‘tries out’ EVERYTHING.  Monkey-see, monkey-do, I guess.  So, maybe this is a phase?  Eventually, she’ll acquire a filter through which to process media?  What’s okay to try out, what’s not nice, what’s down-right wrong…

Here’s what I’m thinking about this morning: it’s the struggle with age/role-appropriate behaviors–between tones and words that are okay for Mommy to use but not okay for Sophia to use back at me or with other people.  For example, I can tell her ‘no,’ but she doesn’t need to tell me ‘no.’ Or, the fact that I can sometimes be bossy or seem bossy because I’m being Mommy… and, I don’t want her to be a bossy little girl. Maybe, I don’t know how to not be bossy.  I was a bossy little girl, too.  Thanks, Mom.  😉  What to do?

How do I teach her to be sweet, humble, and gentle? How do I model sweetness, humility, and gentleness?  Is it too early to expect anything greater than mimicking, and if so how should I be presenting myself in front of her?  Because, isn’t that the greatest lesson–how mother behaves with her family is a model for how her daughters should learn to behave in and with the world.  I came across an article recently.  It’s mostly on home-schooling, but there was a piece in there that really got me to thinking about my behavior in the home.  My role as daily-teacher is not just when I’m trying to help Sophia learn her letters or count to 20, it’s when I try to help resolve conflicts between her and Abby.  It’s when I am frustrated but chose to act out of love.  It’s my attitude when she won’t quit bugging me or Abby won’t quit crying.  It’s when I’m… being…

Well, I guess that’s my thought for the day.  How am I being an example of Christ to my babies today?

Vacation in the Smoky’s

We just got back from a sweet little vacation to the Smoky Mountains.  Here’s some pictures and a bit of story.  It was an adventure!

We started out our vacation with a trip to the doctor.  Abby had these strange bumps all over her face that looked like the measles.  She had been screaming for two days.  Turned out to be a double ear infection and 30 mosquito bites.  Glad we went to the doctor, though.  I had forgotten that I took her outside the night before around midnight to try to quiet her screaming. Thank you, Delta, may I never underestimate you.

In order to keep the girls a little happier, we stopped in Nashville on the way and stayed in a nice little priceline.com find.  We got a $200 hotel room for $55!  If you haven’t tried priceline, do!  Our first night in a hotel room with the four of us was a success.  It was really hard to get Sophia to go to sleep in a big bed all by herself.  She was so excited.  But, it was a good start to our trip.

Our first night in the Smoky’s we camped outside of Gatlinburg, TN.  All four of us in a large tent.  We did a test run a few weeks ago to make sure we could do it, and we were prepared.  What we weren’t prepared for, though, was a huge rain storm.  We arrived at our campsite on Saturday afternoon with blue, sunny skies and just enough time to set-up and get dinner before the bottom fell out.  I have no idea how much it rained, but let me tell you this: the floor of our tent was a waterbed!  I’m not kidding!  Under our tent was at least 2 inches deep, and you could slosh it like a waterbed. Thank you, NORTH FACE for making such great tents!  I tell you, I prayed so hard all night.  It thundered and lightening all night from about 8 to 8, but not a drop got in.  It was a long night, but totally fun, too.  I lied there watching the lightening, praying we would all be dry and safe, and thinking about how romantic it would be if the kids hadn’t have been there.  Shucks.  Instead, it was just frightening. We woke up a little cranky the next morning, tired of being in the tent, and a little worried about how the rest of the trip would go.  Sophia kept saying that she was ready to go home.  So, we hopped into the car and headed into the mountains.  No schedule, just adventure.  We did a lot of hiking and exploring and were gone about 12 hours.

On Monday, after an exhausting hike and a bear sighting, we made it to Ripley’s Aquarium in Gatlinburg, TN.  Gatlinburg is an absolutely beautiful mountain town with it’s share of huge tourist traps.  The Aquarium was breathtaking, though.  The tanks were immaculate, huge and so clean.  It was only second to being in the water with them.  The best part was a slow conveyor belt ride under/through a huge shark tank.  They were all around us.  At one point, I noticed two swordfish laying on the ceiling above us, and started laughing uncontrollably.  The enormity of it was unbelievable and put you into a sort of trance that made you feel like you were in the water with them.  Breathtaking, really.  Sophia didn’t quite appreciate what all she was seeing, and she definitely didn’t care for the sharks, but it was really something to see.  The pictures don’t do it justice but here’s a few.

Overall, we had a wonderful trip.  It was restful, it was fun, it was so enjoyable to be with our family.

Let me tell you about our trip home, though.  Here’s a story.  Monday night we got ourselves prepared to leave early Tuesday morning for the long drive back.  We hoped to make it home in one day.  It was a terribly cold night, and Abby woke up 6 times through the night.  Abby, my princess, does not know how to soothe herself back to sleep.  Throughout her life, I’ve done what works, and nursing works.  So, Monday night I nursed her 6 times through the night, the 6th time giving up and letting her sleep with us.  We all slept in a bit that morning, feeling somewhat rested and also somewhat cranky.  What a night.  With a positive attitude and a sweet, encouraging Daddy, we packed it all up, muddy tent and all, and headed out of town.

About 30 minutes into our journey home, we stopped at a local coffee shop to jumpstart our departure only to realize that Will’s wallet was missing.  In the middle of Gatlinburg in this small coffee shop’s parking lot at 10 a.m., we unloaded the van and went through everything.  No wallet.  We went through every bag, under every seat, in every pair of pants he wore.  Nothing.  We called the campsite and the last few places we were the evening before.  Nothing.  No leads.  I took the girls inside.  We were all getting restless.  I got a latte.  Still no wallet.  I mentally prepared myself to call all the credit card companies and find us a hotel room for the night.  Then, as if an angel whispered in his ear, Will wondered if the wallet might be in a pocket inside the tent.  Could it be?  So, he took everything back out of the van again, took out the tent and found the wallet tucked inside.  AH, breathe.

We sighed, thanked God, got our coffee and got back in the car.  I was driving.  I was running on adrenaline.  Not 30 minutes from Gatlinburg on the way home is a town called Pigeon Forge.  If you don’t know it, think all the bad stuff about Branson, on only 1 strip of road.  We had to pass through Pigeon Forge to get to Gatlinburg on Saturday, and it took us over 30 minutes to get through the town driving at an average rate of about 3mph.  Apparently, there had been some sort of car show or a parade.  Now, I had fully planned to figure out how to drive around Pigeon Forge so that this would not happen to us again, but this sweet old lady who worked for the Park Service told me that all the tourists would be headed home on Sunday, and traffic through the week would be fine.

So, we headed into Pigeon Forge about 11:00.  We thought we’d stop for breakfast.  Fill up everyone’s bellies, and maybe they’ll all fall asleep.  It didn’t look too crowded, and after all, we found the wallet.  After a nice breakfast we headed back out to leave Pigeon Forge and head on our 8 hour trip home.  While we’re driving down the 1 strip of highway, we notice that there’s a firetruck or a police car at every light, blocking the left turning lane.  Will and I exchange nervous glances.  What’s going on? We see a billboard that says “Dont try church–Satan”.  Well, that’s weird. Then, we see two firetrucks in the middle of a stoplight with their ladders up and an American flag hanging down between them.  We look at each other again. Oh, crap. Now, the car show is still in effect apparently, camping chairs are still set up along the highway, we do not have any idea what’s going on.  Another parade perhaps?  We look up at the next light.  There’s another policeman.  And, at the next light, and the next one.  What is going on? Traffic is slowing down and I see far up ahead at the next light a firetruck pulling ahead of us.  Sophia says, “Caillou’s favorite toy!”  We watch the firetruck, and it pulls into the traffic light just ahead of us.  It stops, backs up, turns sideways, and blocks all traffic.  I watch the light turn red.  Traffic stops.  I watch the light turn green.  Red. Green.  Red.  Green. What the what?! Well, about 10 minutes later, we see a very slow line of about a hundred police cars.  Apparently, there was a funeral for an officer of the law, God rest his soul.  I mean no disrespect to his family, but we waited there for them to pass a good 30 minutes.  We finally left Pigeon Forge at noon.

We spent the rest of the day balancing when to stop for potty breaks, trying to induce naps, and limiting the amount of times we allowed “Yo Gabba Gabba: Volume 1” to loop on the cd player.  Here’s the short of the rest of the day: Sophia never napped.  Abby slept about an hour total all day.  We stopped in Jackson, TN, where Sophia got stuck inside some playground equipment at Chick-Fil-A.  Sophia had a poopy accident in the men’s bathroom while Daddy simultaneously had IBS, and Abby began a crying spell about 2 hours from home. Trying to soothe Abby, Will and I sang a medley of popular nursery rhymes only to be bombarded with a screaming, crying Sophia.  Both children echoed each other with tears and screams, and for the last 45 minutes from home, Will and I sang the one song that kept them both quiet: Old MacDonald had a Farm.  On this farm, he had a whole lot of funny things that shouldn’t belong on a farm, and we had a whole lot of laughs.  Ah, family vacation.  😉

Her First Shiner and a Potty Training update

Sophia got out of bed this morning, and she was so excited.  Her diaper was dry and she was about to go have her morning potty.  She yelled, “My famwees!” She grabbed all her favorite stuffed animals: Cowboy, the Mole puppet, and Pooh, and took off running for the potty.  She ran right smack into the end of the changing table.  I think 2 is the year for booboos.

Despite the year of booboos, Sophia is getting more and more brave.  I was nursing Abby this morning, and Sophia came into her bedroom.  She pushed an upside-down laundry basket up to Abby’s crib and hollered, “I go back to bed rie now!  I angree!”  Then, she proceeded to climb into Abby’s crib.   She talks ALL the time.  She’s just a chatterbox; it’s insane.  I love to listen to the sentences and words that she strings together.  She was playing a game with Abby’s crib, throwing Cowboy into it and then climbing in to rescue him.  She said, “I throw Cowboy over Abby’s bed. See look. What now? I love my Cowboy. I get him.”  I hear so many things that I say that it’s unnerving.  Yes, I say, “What now?” to her all the time when she does something, says something and then looks to me for what to do.  I didn’t realize I said it all the time, though, until she said it back to me.

We’ve also been discussing feelings a lot lately.  She’s obsessed with how we’re feeling.  She always asks, “Mommy, are you happy?”  Notice she said angry before?  That’s her new favorite feeling.  I guess we talk about how angry Abby is all the time.  (Yeah, she hollers a lot.  When she’s upset, she can scream and cry like I’ve never heard a baby cry before.  Shew, she get’s angry.)  Sophia thinks that when Abby’s angry she needs to go to bed.  We tell her, Abby’s angry because she’s so tired and doesn’t know what to do.  We seem to be doing a lot of discipline/training with her by how we look at her–happy or unhappy.  We didn’t mean to do it.  It just sort of happened.

Potty training is probably how it all started.  It threw all of our emotions (mine and Sophia’s) out of control.  For a while there, she would incessantly ask, “Are you happy?” all the time.  Right after nap, right after she did something wrong, right after I looked at her sternly, right after I looked at her questioningly.  It was driving me mad.  We’ve exited that stage, though, and she’s making some associations.  Like at night time, she has to keep her diaper on.  “Diy-pa on.  Daddy happy.”

A potty training update:  We stopped Sophia’s habit of taking her diaper off at night time by using duct tape for a week.  She loved it.  She thought it was a belt.  Then, she just got used to keeping it on and eventually made the association that Daddy’s happy when it stays on.  We’ve had a week of no accidents and dry diapers at night.  It feels so good.  I’m starting to feel like I can trust her answer of no after I ask.  She’s also beginning to act on her own urges without accidents.  It took a while.  It took longer than I thought it would, but it was easier than I thought it would be.

My advice for anyone getting ready to potty train is one word: patience. Oh, and be positive. I got some advice from this great website I found.  Nearly erything’s there.  Oh, and training panties.  Gerber training pants are great.

Here’s some other great advice I got from friends that was really helpful for us.

1)Completely get rid of diapers/pull-ups, i.e. just use underwear.  That was key with us.  That just means you’ll have some accidents and clean up.  But, you expected that, right?  By the way, if you decide to go cold turkey on the diapers, you’re going to need a LOT of underwear.

2)One way you know if your child is ready to start potty-training is if they wake up with dry diapers either in the morning or after a long nap.  That was only occasionally the case with us.  That could take the pressure off of some parents who don’t think that their child is ready emotionally or physically.

3)Lastly, when you’re first beginning potty-training put them on the potty when you expect that they need to pee and keep them there until they do.  With a book.  Read to them, and every couple of pages ask them to try.  Eventually, they’ll pee and learn how to use those muscles.  Sophia LOVED all the extra reading time and all the cheers when she was successful.