Diaper Duty

It’s official. We have a potty trained toddler. She will be three next month, and she has been wearing her “big girl underwear” without any accidents for over two weeks. Sweet.

I was recently talking with a friend who has a daughter the same age as ours and she was asking my advice on potty training. She had been having a contest of wills with her daughter and the daughter was definitely winning. I told her that I have never potty trained my children.

I know that sounds crazy. I assure you that all of our children are potty trained–except for the baby, of course, but I didn’t do it.

When our oldest daughter was about eighteen months old, I was the dutiful mommy and bought the little potty and training pants. I made such a big deal of “going potty,” got the stickers, pulled out the candy rewards, etc.

It was all a huge failure. Our daughter was not the least bit interested in giving up her diapers and every attempt I made to convince her otherwise was met with strong resistance–and a messy cleanup.

About that time I became pregnant with our second daughter. I was sick as a dog and decided that I spent enough time in the bathroom and I didn’t need to spend any more time there. I gave up on the whole potty training thing and decided that as long as she was out of diapers by kindergarten, we would be in good shape.

I actually found it a lot easier to have her in diapers. I will probably not score any points for admitting this, but it’s true. There was much less laundry–no accidents. Perhaps most importantly was that we didn’t have to visit every public restroom in the area every time we went out. (I absolutely hate public restrooms, so this was big for me). So, we carried on with the whole diaper thing and we were all content.

Then an amazing thing happened. When our daughter was two years and ten months old, and her sister was just tiny, she came to me and said, “Mom, diapers are for babies. I’m a big girl. I want to wear underwear.” And that was that. I think she had maybe one accident during the whole process. I was thrilled to know that she would not be starting kindergarten wearing diapers.

Perhaps the more amazing thing is that we had an identical experience with our second daughter. Our son was a little older, but he too potty trained himself.

My advice to my friend was to just let it go. Her daughter will figure it out when she’s ready. I think that we as moms put too many expectations on ourselves that maybe we should just let go of. I’ve heard the stories of babies that are potty trained by six months of age and I think that’s great. I was just never that motivated.

I am definitely no expert in this area, but I am pleased to say that we have been successful regardless. And in just ten more months, our family will (hopefully!) be diaper-free.

July 31, 2010 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

I Love a Parade

I admit it. I frequently get claustrophobic when surrounded by the four walls of our house. It doesn’t take too much to alleviate that feeling–a trip to Costco, Target, the library–you get the picture. Just being somewhere that’s not our house. The kids enjoy these outings too, so it tends to be a win-win for all of us.

Today, we took the kids to an electronics store to look for a much-needed (unfortunately) dishwasher and then to Costco for much-needed groceries. We had the baby in the stroller, the two-year-old in the shopping cart, and the other three walking beside us. They were all well-behaved (amazingly) and we accomplished everything on the list.

It never ceases to amaze me how much attention we attract whenever we go places. Some of the attention is nice–like when the snack ladies at Costco dote on the kids and give them extra samples. Some of the attention is encouraging, like when we get complimented on what a beautiful family we have and how well-behaved the kids are. Nice though it is, somehow that attention isn’t what usually sticks with me.

The attention that haunts me is the glares and rolled eyes that we get when our little parade walks by. The “Are those all your kids?” sneered at me in the checkout line. The “Five children?” said with the up-turned nose. I think my personal favorite is the “don’t you know what causes that?” that some witty passersby unleash upon us. I would like to say that I let the unkind words and looks just roll off my back and think nothing more of it. But the truth is, I find it hurtful. Not so much that these people are judging me and my family, but more the fact that they feel entitled to make such ugly comments to me and in front of our children too. I just can’t believe the nerve of some people. Fortunately, these people are not the norm–most people are very gracious to us.

We get out of the house most days, and usually have a great time. The kids are little social butterflies and seem to make friends wherever we go. I think maybe I need to be more like the kids. Every day is an adventure and every outing is a parade.

July 30, 2010 at 10:45 am Leave a comment

For Love or Money

We are a single-income family. It wasn’t really by design, we just sort of fell into it. My husband and I have never been very good at long-range planning, and having children was no exception. When we had our first baby, I was working from home and my husband worked full-time as a crime scene investigator. It was a very interesting job for him, but the hours were terrible and the pay was worse. It had good benefits though, so he stuck with it.

When our baby was six months old, my boss told me that I would either have to come back to the office to work full time, or quit. We weighed our options for childcare, but nothing felt right. We had no family available to help out, so we would have to put our little girl in daycare. I entertained the idea for awhile but started waking up at night in cold sweats from terrible anxiety about putting her in daycare. We made the decision for me to stay home.

Financially speaking, it was about the worst decision we could have made. I was making more money than my husband, so instantly our income was cut by more than half. As I mentioned, our long-range planning left a lot to be desired, so we blew through our savings in no time. Before I knew it, we were thousands of dollars in debt. We were using credit cards to go grocery shopping and to pay bills. We were in big trouble.

We made the heart-breaking decision to sell our beautiful house. We couldn’t afford it, so we downsized to a tiny old house in a not-great neighborhood…but we could afford it. By the time the move was over, we were in even more debt. My husband had gotten a new, better-paying job, and we felt good about the changes we were making to be able to tackle the debt.

It’s been ten years since then. We have had four more children, put an addition on our tiny old house to accommodate our expanding family. My husband has tripled his salary, and I have stayed home with the kids. We still have the debt.

It’s not that we haven’t tried to do something about the debt. We are not extravagant people. It just seems that every time we start to get somewhere financially, the bottom drops out and we end up exactly where we started. An appliance breaks. The car needs new brakes. We have a baby. There’s always something. The guilt of carrying that much debt is almost unbearable.

I look at our kids and I think they are turning out pretty well. They seem to be fairly happy and well-adjusted, so I try to convince myself that we’ve made the right choice about being a single income family. Some days, it’s just really hard.

Just last week, we babysat our niece for the week because her regular babysitter was unavailable. Our middle daughter turned to me and said, “Mom, how come you don’t work?” It wasn’t exactly what she said–it was more how she said it. It was as if she was saying, “All moms work. What’s wrong with you that you don’t?” I started to think, “Maybe she’s right.” It’s not that I haven’t thought about going back to work….

She may not have been thinking anything like that. I think for the most part, the kids are glad to have me home with them. They don’t seem to mind too much that we can’t get the expensive tickets to the local water park or buy the name brand clothes. I don’t mind that too much either. What I do mind is that sometimes it feels like we are making all these sacrifices for nothing. I try to pinch every penny, but it seems like all we ever do is barely scrape by–and that doesn’t begin to touch the debt.

I don’t aspire to be like our friends who just got back from two weeks’ vacation in the Caribbean– although it would be nice to be able to pay our way to the annual family reunion and not wonder where that money could have gone. I just want to be able to pay all of our bills every month without having to play “bill roulette.” You know, when you mail the check and hope that it doesn’t clear the bank before the paycheck gets there.

When we were in our twenties, it seemed like a rite of passage that money was so very tight. Most of our friends were in similar boats, and it just seemed like we were paying our dues. Now that we are finishing up our thirties, it feels a lot less fun. I feel like I’m working harder than I ever have, but have so little to show for it. The babies are wonderful, to be sure, but I can’t deny the weight of the financial burden.

We will continue to work hard. Maybe sometime in the near future we will be able to catch a financial break for the first time in our lives. We will continue to love our babies and do the best for them that we can.

I know in my heart that there are many things that are more valuable than money–and in that respect my husband and I are rich beyond measure. It’s just that now that we are entering our forties, I’d like to get beyond the dues-paying part and get to enjoy the privileges of membership.

July 20, 2010 at 6:59 pm Leave a comment

Dance Party

Like many families, I suspect, the hours between 5 and bedtime are not so much fun around our house. You know the drill–everybody’s hungry, tired and frustrated after a long day. I try to get dinner cooked while entertaining the baby, making sure the toddler doesn’t tear down the house, refereeing fights, and trying not to kill anybody, all the while counting the minutes until bedtime.

Last night was no different. The kids were climbing the walls as I was finishing getting dinner on the table. Nobody seemed to be listening and I found myself counting to 10 several times.

We ate dinner. The baby cried and fussed. The toddler refused to eat. The older kids complained. It was generally a very pleasant meal. Or not.

After dinner, my husband had the brilliant idea of putting on some music. This is not uncommon for him–I think he lives his life with a soundtrack. Tonight however, he put on some old-school dance music. Immediately, there was a palpable change in the house. Everyone stopped, looked at each other, and began shaking their little booties.

The older kids jumped around trying out all their new moves. The toddler had us rolling on the floor laughing as she shook her tail feathers in ways I didn’t know a two-year-old could. (I think we’ve discovered who the performer in our family is.) My husband and I even busted out some moves that normally no amount of alcohol could entice us to unleash. We laughed and danced until we were all red-faced and exhausted. Or maybe more exhausted.

I have often thought about the power of music in lots of different contexts. I was thrilled to see that it even had the power to save our evening.

July 12, 2010 at 1:02 pm Leave a comment

Pass the Earplugs

We are now the proud owners of a nine-month-old boy. He’s pretty cute and very sweet. He is however the youngest of five, and as such appears to feel a bit insecure in his place. His older siblings dote on him constantly and have since the day he was born. This has worked out pretty well for me, because I’m rarely at a loss for an extra pair of hands or an entertainer for the baby when I need to get something done. But…

I have discovered a dark side.

The baby now seems to think that he is the center of the known universe. He merely bats his little eyelashes and all the world falls at his tiny feet. There are moments (hard to believe, I know) when there is nobody around for him to unleash his charms on. He occasionally must entertain himself in his bouncy seat or crib. When this happens, the baby has struck upon a secret weapon: his scream.

This is not a crying scream. This is a blood-curdling, ear-splitting scream just for the sake of screaming. It’s gotten to the point now that he doesn’t even have to be mad or lonely when he does it. He screams just for fun. He seems to love the reaction of his parents and sibling when he opens up and lets it fly.

I hope this is a phase that passes quickly. I don’t think they make enough ibuprofen to handle the headaches this is bringing. Until then, I need to focus on the fact that at least he’s cute…..

July 1, 2010 at 2:01 pm Leave a comment

Here Comes Trouble

Summer is here, and to help keep our brood entertained, we decided to join the neighborhood pool. We’ve never done that before, but thought that it might be something that the whole family would enjoy.

As temperatures approached 100 degrees yesterday, we trekked down to the pool to cool off. My husband and I and the five kids all jumped in and immediately began to enjoy the refreshment. It wasn’t long before the neighborhood boys discovered our older two daughters and, perhaps even more terrifying, our daughters discovered them.

It was all innocent enough, I suppose. The boys would take turns showing off their skills jumping into the pool and the girls would giggle. Then the girls would show off their jumping skills and the boys would pretend not to watch. This continued for the remainder of the afternoon, then it was time for us to leave. The boys pretended not to watch as we filed out to the car, then chased the car as we drove away.

My husband and I are baffled by this whole thing. We are not ready for our girls to discover boys. More than that, I’m not sure that our girls are ready. Now comes the arduous and scary task of trying to educate our daughters on the ways of the world. Not sure how we’re going to pull that off.

Where is that parenting manual when you need it?

June 29, 2010 at 7:58 pm Leave a comment

Father’s Day

Today is the eleventh Father’s Day my husband and I have celebrated. As I look back, it’s hard for me to believe that he is the same man that I celebrated with all those years ago. He’s a little bit older and grayer, to be sure. But more than the physical, he really is a different guy.

When we had our first baby, my husband was involved, but the baby was really more my territory. He would ask me what to do, how to do it, and when it should be done. He was certainly willing to help me out, but ultimately the responsibility was mine.

As we had more kids, he was still helpful, but again the day-to-day care and feeding responsibility laid with me. I can remember trying to get ready to go somewhere and my husband was hanging out in his home office–claiming he was ready to go. I was running around the house with my hair on fire trying to finish getting ready, making sure the kids were presentable, all the juice cups were filled, all the diapers were changed, the diaper bag was stocked–you get the picture. Finally I got all our little ducklings in a row to leave and he had to go to the bathroom, get his shoes on, find his keys, etc., all while the kids and I were steaming (mad) out in the car.

Today, we celebrated Father’s Day, but you would hardly know it by looking at my husband. While he would have been entitled to sit around with the remote in one hand and a cold beer in the other while I took care of everything, he chose not to do anything like that. HE got up this morning and made me coffee. We scrambled trying to get out the door this morning and HE got the juice cups, all the shoes on, and all the kids out to the car. In short, he was the same fully-engaged daddy that he has become.

How this transformation took place is a story for another time. For now, let me just say that my husband is amazing.

June 20, 2010 at 11:18 pm Leave a comment

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