TATT: Phoning It In

Here’s a tip for you:

When your two year old wakes up crying Tuesday morning because her ears hurt and she’s running a temp, and then gags while coughing, which necessitates a cleaning of the living room couch, that is the moment when the rules fly out the window and you find yourself doing everything you said you’d NEVER do as a mom, aka…

Letting the kids watch their entire week’s worth of TV time in one morning.
Letting the littlest one fall asleep two hours before nap time, sitting in her chair, still wrapped in a towel from bath time.

Feeding them animal crackers and juice boxes for lunch.
Phoning it in on your Tips and Tricks Tuesday post, even though you sort of phoned it in last week too.

It’s been one of those days around here.  I’m learning as a mom that there are days you thrive and there are days you just survive.  I’m also trying to learn to be okay with that.

A Cheap Parenting Moment

Okay, so I know Peter and I aren’t the world’s cheapest parents.  We didn’t cloth diaper, we bought brand new nursery furniture and we (a.k.a I, Elise) have been known to splurge on unnecessary kids bed and bathroom decor items on occasion.

However, we did recently have a pretty spectacular cheap parenting moment.

Everyone, I’d like to you meet…

Our new backyard playground!  (Deluxe Rainbow play system, this is not.)

When we moved in, this spot in our yard was supposed to be a rain garden.  However, the house having been vacant for nearly a year previous to our purchasing it, the rain garden had essentially become a weed garden.

This is a picture from 2010.  Lovely, isn’t it?

Anyway, a couple years ago we dug up all of the worthwhile vegetation and planted it elsewhere thinking we’d make this into a fire pit area.  The front yard landscaping ended up taking priority though, so we kinda let the fire pit idea go, which might not have been the most brilliant plan, because weedy area, minus the few good plants holding things back, equals SUPER weedy area.  So this year before the weeds could get out of hand again, Peter decided to put a tarp down over everything.  And since we needed something to hold the tarp in place, we figured we’d use what we already had on hand to make it a little play area, just for this year (hopefully).

And what did we have on hand?  Well, that brings us back to our cheap parenting moment.  We had a found-by-the-side-of-the-road Little Tykes play structure and an also-found-by-the-side-of-the-road turtle sandbox.  Uh, huh, that’s right.  Someone actually left this beauty out for the taking.

I’m not exactly sure how the whole cheap-parent point system works.  Anyone know if we qualify for some bonus points since our turtle doesn’t even have his eyes anymore?

Naturally, the girls think their new play area is the best thing ever.  Alethea is always begging to play in the backyard now.  And Lydia?  Well, she gets her ‘I’m big stuff’ face every time we help her climb up into the play structure.

I have to admit, seeing grins like that for the price of a tarp and a little manual labor, makes me think I should try the cheap parenting thing more often.  Makes me and my checking account feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Of Poop and Pop Art

I just changed my third poopy diaper of the day.  Peter and I often talk about how nice it will be when our lives don’t revolve around our children’s bowel movements.  Then we we can quit having conversations like this:

“When was the last time Lydia pooped?  I think it might have been two weeks ago.”

“No, I’m pretty sure I changed one earlier this week.”


“Don’t give Alethea any oranges for dinner.  She’s already had one today and her diapers lately have been really gross.”

Truly, there are many joys in parenthood.  This isn’t one of them…

I do however enjoy thinking about what my children might be passionate about when they get older.  As of today, I’m convinced Alethea will be an artist.  Check out the installation she put together overnight:

We call it So Many Hangers, Nothing to Wear

Yup, she’s definitely the next Andy Warhol.

Are You A Parent?

You might be a parent if you find yourself saying any of the following during the course of your morning:

“Don’t drink the bathwater!  You’re sitting in it, so now there’s butt paste in there too, so it’s icky!”

“The bookcase is not a ladder! Climbing it isn’t a good idea, no matter what you’re trying to get.”

“Please stop licking your shoe!”

Turns out I’m REALLY a parent, because I said all three of those today, and it’s not even 2pm yet…

I wonder what will come out of my mouth in the ‘Things I Never Thought I’d Say’ category this afternoon.

How to Buy a Potty Chair

After I got so many comments and e-mails all saying ‘go for it!’ following my first potty training post, I asked Alethea if she’d like me to get her a potty chair so she could learn to use the toilet by herself.  She said, “Okay!”  (And yes, I am taking that with a grain of salt.  I also asked her if she’d like an Oompaloompa to go with it and her answer was, “Okay!”)

Anyway, today during my weekly trip to Target, I stopped by the baby section to look at potty chairs.  Now I was hoping there would be two or three to choose from.  What I wasn’t prepared for was having a dozen styles sitting before me on the shelf:

My options ranged from just a simple plastic lift-out bowl in a simple plastic seat, to chairs with lots of bells and whistles.  Suddenly I was confronted with choices I hadn’t even dreamed of prior to walking down that aisle.  Did I want the seat to lift off and sit on the grownup toilet to make the transition to big toilet easier?  Did I want the base to convert into a step-stool?  Did I want the potty to look like a frog, a racecar, a throne, or of all things, a toilet?  Many played music, a couple had padded seats, a few sported toilet paper holders…

I was overwhelmed.

Then I asked myself what would be most appealing to Alethea?  The answer was clearly, this one:

It plays music, has a handle to ‘flush’ and even tells you when you’ve done a good job.  Yeah, I was pretty sure Alethea would like it.  So, I was going to buy it, even though it was the most expensive one and it didn’t convert into a step stool (which seemed like a nice feature for when Alethea was ready to move up to using the real toilet).  But then I looked at the box a little closer and noticed this:

That’s right folks.  It doesn’t just play music, it has “Encouraging songs with lyrics and fun phrases”!

Suddenly in my mind’s eye, I caught a glimpse of Alethea singing those lyrics and repeating those fun phrases in a public place.  Lovely.

The ‘Cheer for Me! Potty’ went back on the shelf.

I ended up selecting this one instead:

It is the Royal Stepstool Potty, which was $10 cheaper than the Cheer For Me model, and as the name implies, it does convert to a stepstool to prolong its usefulness.  Plus Alethea will be rewarded for ‘contributions’ with “regal musical ditties and fun sound effects”, which sounded a lot safer to me than “encouraging lyrics”.

I think I made the right choice.  Alethea is still taking her nap, so she hasn’t gotten to weigh in on the matter yet, but really… who needs a retractable toilet paper holder anyway??!?!

Potty Training Pros and Cons

For a while now I’ve been wondering what the best timing would be to start potty training Alethea.  For several months now she has been showing some of the ‘signs of readiness’ (telling me before or right after she poops, not liking when her diaper is soiled, being interested in the toilet), but since we were expecting a baby/had a newborn in the house, I decided it could wait.

Then the other day when Alethea was in the bathtub she sat up against the side and told me, “Potty.”  I asked her if she was pretending to sit on the toilet.  Then she repeated, “Potty,” and proceeded to urinate in the bath water.

Okay, so she might be more ready than I realized.

But here’s the thing.  I’m not sure I’m ready.  I mean, I know everyone talks about how great it is to leave diapers behind, but I’m wondering, is it really all that wonderful?

So I made a list of pros and cons for potty training.  First the cons:

1) At this young age, it will probably mean several weeks of hassle and power struggles to get Alethea potty trained.

2) When you’re out in public you always need to know where a restroom is, just in case.

3) When you’re out in public you have to let your toddler use a dirty bathroom (and in my case, drag an infant in there as well).

4) Unless we buy a freestanding potty chair (which I’m not sold on), I’ll have to help Alethea get on and off the toilet for a long time anyway, so it’s not like I’ll gain a bunch of free time, and in fact, it will probably take more of my time during the day.

5) And lastly… accidents happen and I hate messes.

Here’s my pros:

1) It would save us money.  I estimate that we spend $20-$30 a month on Alethea’s diapers and wipes.

2) Let’s face it, no one really loves changing diapers, and I’m no exception.

That’s it. Two pros. Five cons.  So I’m dragging my feet, but maybe it’s only because I haven’t made it to the other side of the potty training road yet.  Is the grass truly greener there?  Maybe some of the more experienced parents out there can tell me, are there great advantages to having a potty trained kid?

A Good Memory

Alethea is our first-born child.  Thus, I’m sure we’re making all sorts of mistakes in our parenting, but I’ve always taken comfort in the thought that at least she’s young enough that our mistakes won’t make much of an impression on her yet.  After all, at this age, how long could her memory actively retain things?  A week or two, maybe a month?

Turns out I was wrong.

Yesterday we were outside shoveling the snow off the back deck.  I had a big shovel and Alethea had a little one.

During a break from snow removal, Alethea pointed at the grill and said, “Hot.”  To which I responded, “The grill is hot when Daddy is cooking food on it, but it isn’t hot right now.”

Alethea’s reply was, “Eat.”

“You like to eat the food that Daddy cooks on the grill, don’t you?”

And then Alethea pointed at the corner of the table where the two benches come together and uttered the words that showed me just how much I’ve been underestimating her memory.  She said, “Eat. Highchair goes here.”

Her meaning couldn’t have been clearer.  When we eat outside, we roll her highchair out of the kitchen right to the very spot she indicated.

Only thing is, we haven’t eaten outside since probably September, maybe the beginning of October.  That means she remembered where her highchair sits for at least four months.

Okay, time for a new plan.

Last night I told Peter, “From now on we have to assume that she will remember everything we say or do and may even repeat it.”

Scary thought.

A Glimpse Into the Future

Yesterday morning Alethea and I left Lydia and Peter at home and hopped into the car to run some errands.  I told Alethea, “We are going to go to the library and we’ll look at books, but first we have to stop at the Post Office and buy stamps.”  And then I reiterated myself several times to avoid a potential meltdown when our first stop wasn’t the beloved library.

We got to the Post Office.  The line was out the door.  They only had one clerk working on Saturday morning.  Not good.

So I told Alethea, “Never mind, Honey.  We’ll get stamps another day.  Let’s just go to the library.”

I thought Alethea would be pleased to be headed to the library.  Boy, was I wrong.

As I took her hand and started walking out the door to the car, she started crying.  I asked her what was wrong.  She sobbed, “Stamps!  Stamps!”

I tried to console her.  “It’s okay.  We’re going to the library.  We’ll get stamps a different day.”

Alethea continued to choke out, “Stamps!  Stamps!” and didn’t calm down until we pulled into the library parking lot.

I thought it was funny.  My little girl crying about not buying stamps when she doesn’t have a clue what a ‘stamp’ even is.

Then this morning I told my friend at church what had happened.

She laughed and then said, “It sounds like you have a structure loving first-born just like my daughter.  When you give them the plan, you’d better follow it to a T, or you’re in trouble.”


I was thinking of it as an amusing anecdote, not a life-long personality trait.

It’s suddenly less amusing.

How does one teach a child flexibility?  Because it looks like I’m going to have to figure that out, and quick!

How Quickly They Learn

Alethea has been a little clingy lately.  I’m sure she senses that things are changing, being moved into a new room, a steady stream of new things coming into the house ‘for the baby’ and all of the hubbub surrounding Christmas are all probably a bit unsettling.

That’s why I’ve been trying to be extra sensitive and let her have more cuddling, hand holding and being picked up than usual.  However, I think perhaps she’s starting to be take advantage of the situation.

Tonight we did our bedtime routine, said our prayers, sang ‘Jesus Loves Me’ and then I gave her a hug, tucked her in and told her goodnight.  She said ‘hug’ and stood back up.  I gave her another hug, laid her back down and told her good night.  She said ‘hug’ and stood back up.  We repeated the sequence.  She said ‘hug’ for the third time and stood back up.  I said, “You’re stalling, aren’t you?”  She said, “Yeah.”  I told her that she needed to go night-night and she laid back down without another hug and without complaint.

In this case, I feel that I handled it well, but in general, I wish it were easier to know when she really needs emotional support and when she just wants to get away with something by making me feel guilty.  Sometimes I think she’s too smart for her own good.