Toddler Updates: My perpetual motion machine learns to use the potty

This blog has been almost completely dedicated to pregnancy updates for the past few months, due mostly to my inability to muster the energy to write more than once a week. Despite this, my days are full to the brim with toddler stuff and farm stuff, and my bump (and even the heartburn) are more of an afterthought. Really, this space is the only place pregnancy has taken a front seat. So it’s well past time I made some room for an update on all the other stuff! Today, I’m focusing on The Toddler, if for no other reason than to remind my future self what 21 months looks like.

But because I’m still pretty tired/lazy, I’m going to let my camera roll do most of the talking…

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Never look directly at a toddler’s chubby thigh; you may go blind. (Partial eclipse shadow cast onto The Toddler’s leg last month, during the nap strike. Not the little crescent of light.)

The Toddler is (Thank God!) back to napping pretty regularly after a very trying couple of weeks where he was flirting with the idea of quitting forever. Unfortunately, the solution to his nap reluctance has been rocking him to sleep in a soft-structured carrier. As my belly gets bigger, this becomes more and more difficult, so I’m going to have to find a new fix any day now. Setting him in his crib to fall asleep on his own, or even trying to get him to sit still while I rock him in a chair, are not feasible, as he just never stops moving.

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Putting the, “Oh…” in Cheerios. Thanks, kid.

It could be faulty memory, but I swear there was a period of time in the not too distant past I could keep the house within spitting distance of tidy at least a few days a week. That is absolutely not the case anymore. Whether he’s ransacking our closet to try on his dad’s shirts, dumping snacks everywhere he goes because he’s too busy to sit down and eat a meal, scattering a basket of clean laundry across the living room, or filling his dump truck with dried noodles and dumping them out on my bed, this kid is hell bent on destruction.

While he is sometimes willing to help with the clean-up, I often find it takes less energy for me to just wait until he’s asleep to deal with it myself than to try to battle with him/trick him/reason with him to help me clean up. The only thing that seems to get him excited is the prospect of vacuuming.

The kid has boundless energy these days. We’ve been spending a lot of time on the playground, where he’s either doing full-speed laps up the playground equipment to go down the twisty slide, or yelling, “High! High!” on the swings, tricking people into thinking he’s being friendly when really, he’s just bossing me around.

When we’re outside at home, he’s obsessed with dragging around heavy logs, dragging our garden wagon around, or digging in a dirt pile that happens to also be littered with goat poop. This means he’s been getting an exasperating number of midday showers. I’m hoping my Best Mom award hasn’t gotten lost in the mail, but I have not received it yet.

In other news, it’s been just over two weeks since we embarked on the potty training mission, and while we’re far from perfect at this stage, I thought I’d provide a brief overview of how it’s gone so far. We’re using the book Oh Crap! Potty Training by Jamie Glowacki as our guide, which in very brief advises potty training in phases or “blocks”–from naked (and watched like a hawk), to commando (no underwear, but yes pants) at home, to commando out and about in the world, etc.

We’re still in Block 3, and while prompting and built in potty break times (immediately when he wakes up, before and after getting in his carseat–we take the potty chair with us, etc.) are still very necessary to success, we are going most days without accidents and he is even self-initiating a few times a day.

Our biggest hangup right now, which I think is pretty common for the under-2 crowd, is that he isn’t figuring out the mechanics (or the necessity) behind pushing his pants down before he sits on the potty. Sometimes he’ll just walk over and hover over/sit down on the potty, fully clothed, and let loose. So I need to be there to help him with that, but since I need to be around anyway to help with wiping and emptying the potty chair, it’s not a big deal for now. We’ll get there.

He seems to take a lot of pride in being able to use the potty, and I feel fine about the pace of our progress. My main goal is to have him completely out of diapers (he still wears them for naps/night) by the time Baby 2 arrives.

We went to a new pediatrician last month who scoffed at the idea of potty training at 21 months, telling us we needed to wait until he was 2 1/2 to 3, or we’d just be “training ourselves [his parents],” but all this did was make me want to prove her wrong.

Yes, I know there are possibly risks for potty training too early (though some of these claims seem pretty dubious), and yes, I have the luxury of being the primary person to help my son get to the potty when he needs to go and not needing to rely on day care to do so, but he was enthusiastic at the outset and seems to prefer using the potty to diapers (even going so far as to wake me up a few times in the middle of the night to pee on the potty because he’d prefer not to go in his diaper.) So now felt like the right time for us, and I’m glad we went for it.

In particular, here’s what I like about Oh Crap! Potty Training, for anyone who is looking for potty training resources:

  • The author recommends ages 20-30 months (with some markers–like retreating somewhere to poop, being able to ask for something to drink when they’re thirsty) as the best time to potty train. We were getting some signals that The Toddler was seeming ready, and this book basically says, “Go for it.” There’s no waffling about readiness within that window — you decide to do it (setting a date and getting ready) and go full steam ahead. This is the attitude I find most motivating in the rest of my life decisions (taking a new job, deciding to have kids, moving to the farm), so I knew this was the approach we needed for this particular project.
  • There’s no incentivizing/rewards system. After having pushed through a brief bribery period with getting The Toddler into his carseat that got out of hand very quickly and made me feel like I was very much losing a power struggle, I can see how treats/stickers/etc. would get with potty training, and am happy to avoid it.
  • Glowacki is staunchly anti Pull-Ups, which greatly appeals to my sense of righteous indignation at the commercial exploitation of every possible childhood milestone. It seems clear to me that the point of Pull-Ups is not to help get kids potty trained, but to make them reliant on diapers way longer than they need to be, so diaper companies can sell more diapers.
  • The book is realistic about the variations in timing that each kid will take to fully adapt to using the potty, and doesn’t make you feel like a failure based on a recommended time frame.

Well, there’s a way-too-long post about my SAHM-of-a-toddler life right now! Stay tuned for exciting updates about my ever-expanding belly.

Toddler Updates: My perpetual motion machine learns to use the potty

Pregnancy Week 20: Ultrasound Wishes and Childbirth Dreams

Pregnancy Week 20 recap! I’m a day late, as today technically marks the beginning of Week 21, but it’s been a busy weekend. I hope no one was holding their breath.

The Internet says my baby at 20 weeks is about the size of a banana, a stapler, an endive, or 6.5 inches head to butt and about 10 and a half ounces. I say it’s big enough to kick me pretty good. We had our anatomy scan ultrasound on Thursday, and got to see fingers and toes and profile and fluttering heart chambers, but no genitalia — like last time, we’re keeping the baby’s sex a surprise.

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While I was very comfortable with this choice the first time around, I had really mixed feelings–it seemed silly and artificial to shut our eyes for that part when we were literally seeing everything else, including parts of Baby 2 we’ll likely never see again. But The Husband was certain he didn’t want to know, and I waffled, and in the end didn’t request a sealed envelope with the news.

Symptoms-wise, the broken record of tolerable heartburn remains. Additionally, my chin has blossomed with pregnancy acne and the on-again, off-again relationship I’ve endured with eczema throughout my adult life is decidedly on again, in the form of a persistently itchy, red, peely, burning right pinky and ring fingers, which makes the 175 daily hand-washings all the more fun.

My bump is getting bigger, and my twice-weekly 3-mile stroller walks seem to be wearing me down more than they have been in the previous month or so.

Some people (those who encounter me on a regular basis) might also tell you I’ve been especially irritable lately.

Those people can go to hell. (Kidding! Sorry!)

This week also marks the beginning of, what I recall from my pregnancy with The Toddler, a long running theme of childbirth-related dreams. The weirdly comforting part of this is that I at least have an idea of what to expect, and so even though they’re still stressful, there isn’t quite the daunting element of mystery I remember the first time around.

I had two pregnancy dreams this past week, and the theme of both centered around not having enough time: In one, I was afraid we wouldn’t make it to the birthing center on time, and the other, I was afraid my husband wouldn’t make it home from work in time. In the second one, though, I also had what felt like a rapidly progressing, intense labor, but when I got to the hospital I was dilated zero centimeters. Either way, I have at least another 18 weeks to subconsciously build the dread and anticipation of the big day, and I suspect my dreams will be rife with more of these scenarios as time goes on.

In terms of my day-to-day toddler mom life, pregnancy Week 20 went a little better than Week 19, in that none of my pets died. It still wasn’t great, as The Toddler is fighting naps like his very life depends on it, and nothing breaks me like a missed nap.

It’s been seven days, so I think I can say officially that he is weaned. (Hallelujah/*sob*) On Monday, when he fidgeted through his usual pre-nap nursing session and then very much did not go to sleep, I decided I was done.

I had been reluctantly hanging on to that last nursing session, as it had been a nearly surefire guarantee that he would nap (and, conversely, a withheld nursing session promised a wide awake, cranky and endless afternoon).

Now that this doesn’t hold true, we’re stumbling our way toward a new nap routine, with varying success. He did nap each week day after a protracted rocking-to-sleep-while-begging-to-nurse routine that I hope to fade out, but he staunchly refused to nap all weekend. I’m hoping that as long as we don’t compensate by letting him go to bed early, he’ll eventually rack up enough of a deficit to surrender to a recovery nap the next day.

Just in case he doesn’t, though, I have finally (and, very possibly, temporarily, as my most notable personal attribute is inconsistency) found some routine to inject into our afternoons through my local library’s T.O.T. boxes: They’re file boxes filled with specially themed books, games and activities. I have reserved a different theme for the next five weeks and plan to spend a chunk of time each day reading stories, having messy play, doing a craft project, or taking a field trip related to the theme. Tomorrow kicks off Gardening Week at TLMB house. I’m looking forward to it! (But looking forward to a nap even more!)

Pregnancy Week 20: Ultrasound Wishes and Childbirth Dreams

The kids are all right

On Saturday, The Husband and I left The Toddler with Grandma and drove an hour and a half into the heart of Amish country to pick up three young Nigerian Dwarf goats we found online. Their owner was selling them as almost year-old wethers (the name for neutered male goats), as she has milk goats and her herd was getting too big.

We ended up cramming the poor guys into a dog crate in the back of my Subaru hatchback because we need to do some repair work to the cool but temperamental old yellow 1972 Ford F250 we co-own with our friends. The ride home was a quiet but tense one, The Husband gripping the steering wheel and doing his best to keep the turns smooth and slow on the winding back roads, carefully passing Amish families in buggies while the goats stumbled around in an increasing puddle of urine in their crate. Not an ideal way to start the relationship, I’m sure, but they were exceedingly patient with us.

They arrived at our house and we corralled them into an area we have cordoned off with portable electric fencing very near our house. This is one of the big garden beds my grandparents used to manage, but which has over the past decade or two become utterly overrun with poison ivy, wild roses, blackberry bushes and feral garlic (from the time my grandmother threw some old, sprouting garlic cloves out her window. Advice: Do not do this. All last spring and summer the overwhelming scent of garlic wafted through our windows.)

Anyway, to answer a few questions we’ve been getting:

  • The goats’ main purpose is to help us manage this overgrowth (they prefer “browse” or “forage” to pasture–they like reaching above their heads to eat, more like deer than cattle. So the brambles and vines and saplings are prime eating for them.) They will also serve as pets. Also, their poop makes great fertilizer. Also, they’re pretty cute.
  • We have no interest at present in running a dairy. Nigerian Dwarf goats are bred for milk, but you have to breed goats about annually to keep the milk flowing, and breeding goats brings an overwhelming element to the adventure that we’re not willing to entertain right now: stinky, aggressive bucks (non-neutered males), helping with deliveries and keeping kids alive in the dead of winter, when they’re usually born, twice-daily milking and figuring out what to do with all those extra goats.
  • We haven’t picked new names for them. They’re still pretty leery of us (they were quite friendly toward their former owner, but being a year old and only with us for a few days so far, they’re taking their time warming up to us). So we’re keeping their old names for now in hopes that a little consistency in that regard helps open the lines of communication. I’m not going to get into what the currently are, because it’s kind of a longer story than you’d think, but we’ll let you know when we settle on new ones.
  • The Toddler adores them. He can see them out his bedroom window, and they have been added to the good night tour each night along with the chicks.
  • The Dog, poor Louise, got a nose full of the (honestly potentially not strong enough, it feels only slightly worse than getting a static shock from socks on a rug) electric fence when she first encountered the goats, and holds me personally responsible. She’s avoided eye contact with me since Saturday.

Here are some photos for your enjoyment… I hope as the goats get more used to us, there will be better shots, but I can’t get very close right now (and if I am, I have a spoonful of molasses in one hand and a lead in the other, which doesn’t make for easy photography.)

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One of the guys before we brought him home. (Behind him is one of the bucks from the herd, saying his goodbyes.)
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The boys stayed shoulder to shoulder the whole first day they arrived, but did nibble on some forage.
Nigerian dwarves exploring
This photo is from today. They like to stand on that falling down fence, and here they are nibbling some wild roses. Get it, guys!
Tucking in for the night
This is where they sleep in the barn at night. Check out my Instagram @arkayokay to watch a video of them basically sprinting to the barn on leads as I try to mimic the “praise voice” their former owner used (embarrassing).
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The apparent leader of the herd in his favorite spot. They started to let me get a little closer today so long as I sat still.

In chick news, the girls are getting bigger and bolder and feathering out nicely. I bring them a treat each day (either hard boiled eggs… yep, the original chick feed, as weird as it sounds, or smashed chick peas, or raisins or freeze dried meal worms, but eggs are their No. 1 jam) and they hop into my hand and go nuts. A couple of them have even been testing out the mini perches we put in their brood box. So cute!

They also survived an attempted massacre by my cat while we were out picking up the goats. Fortunately, everyone was accounted for soon after we got home. We have reinforced the boxes to keep that from happening again (I hope.)

In parenting news, The Toddler is 15 months old now. He’s absolutely a toddler, exploring everything, throwing tantrums, picking up more and more words (his current favorite word is “gouda.” Ha!) and being equal parts heart-explodingly sweet and unbelievably challenging. I am addicted to his hugs.

This week, The Husband is on spring break from school so we’re finally working on a gentle approach to night weaning. (Yeah, I know a lot of moms figure this one out 6 or 10 months in or whatever, but we’ve been lazy and he’s been down to one quick nurse a night unless he’s sick or teething.) Anyway, every night the husband is “on duty” no matter what for an increasingly longer amount of time. Usually if I send him in, The Toddler screams and points at the door for me until we cave, but he’s going to have to take comfort with his dad for longer and longer period of time until he figures out we can’t all get 3 a.m. milkshakes every night.

Speaking of 3 a.m. milkshakes, The Toddler’s dwindling need to nurse, coupled with my persistent attachment to frozen yogurt and string cheese and buttery toast, means I’m starting to gain back a little of the baby weight that fell off so easily from breastfeeding. So today starts a conscious effort to pay attention to my appetite and get some exercise. I went running outside for the first time in eons. It felt like I was running with a backpack full of bowling balls, but I got through it and it felt good to break a sweat. Here’s hoping my saying it on the Internet will help me stick to it.

Time for a very desperately needed shower! Until next time.

The kids are all right