How We Failed at Potty Training a Toddler

By July 25, 2019 #BabyFox, Musings, The Daily Dish

Yes, we failed.

Gloriously.

All the books and blogs we read made it sound so easy. “Just follow these steps and you, too, will have a fully potty-trained toddler in just three days. It’s easy!”

Well, that didn’t happen for us. Not even close.

Why would I write about failing at this? Because I wish I had read a blog about failing instead of succeeding. I wish I read about someone’s mental exhaustion, about how she almost gave up, about how it took months to get her kid potty trained and what she did about it. Then maybe I wouldn’t have had such high expectations. I wouldn’t have been so frustrated by Day 2. And I probably would’ve opened that bottle of Prosecco earlier.

Here’s the thing: Potty training could be the hardest thing you’ve ever done with your child. (It was for us.) Or it could just happen. I can’t tell you how many people have told me that their kids just one day decided to turn in their diapers and use the potty. No training, no books, no gummy bear bribes necessary.

I’m not gonna lie: I had high expectations for Landon. He’s pretty agreeable and does what he’s told. He never throws tantrums. And he generally picks up new things quickly.

That is, until we started potty training.

First, we ordered “Potty Training in 3 Days: The Step-By-Step Plan for a Clean Break from Dirty Diapers” by Brandi Brucks. It came highly recommended from a few successful friends. Then we hatched a plan: We would, as the book instructed, set aside three consecutive days to work with him. We had already introduced the potty to him—he was sitting on standalone ones since he was eight months old—and had been talking about this for months now. He knew it was going to happen. Though I should have taken his comment, “I looooooove diapers,” as cause for concern.

The plan was simply this: We would go cold turkey with the diapers, getting rid of every single one in the house on the first day of potty training. Then we would put him in underwear, set the expectation and follow him around like a hawk—a mama hawk trying to potty train her son—until he figured it out. Sounded pretty simple.

Well, it was a disaster.

He hated every single moment of potty training. He refused to go. He threw the kind of tantrums we had only heard about and feared. And nothing would entice him, not gummies, not French fries, not excavators or garbage trucks, not the iPad, nothing.

And when we could get him on the potty—usually by force—he would sit there and nothing. Then, as soon as he was back in undies, he would pee. What was happening?

I couldn’t figure out what we were doing wrong. We bought the recommended potty, we stocked up on cute underwear, we ordered five pounds of mini gummy bears. I made reward charts, I bought new books for him, I got all of his favorite foods and treats. We didn’t yell, we stayed positive, we were encouraging.

By Day 2, I couldn’t take it anymore. I lost it. When he threw a tantrum, so did I. I couldn’t understand why my son, this smart, adorable, easy-going kid, was now a terror. What was I doing wrong?

Well, lots of things, apparently.

First off, he had just turned 2 1/2, which could be a little young to start potty training. But we had no choice: He was starting preschool in late August and he needed to be fully potty trained by then. The pressure was real.

Secondly, he just didn’t want to do it. And there was no convincing him. He was much more strong-willed than I had anticipated. (What? My son?) And bribes weren’t working.

And finally, we realized how much we had been catering to him. He never threw tantrums because he actually always got whatever he wanted. Not that we let him stay up all night and party with Blippi. But we rarely fought with him about anything. He’s the kind of kid who puts himself to sleep, who never complains about what you’re feeding him, who prefers water to all over beverages, who loves veggies, who loves to read, who brushes his own teeth. For all intents and purposes, there hasn’t really been a reason to scold him.

But that was the problem. We had allowed him to become the boss of the house. He ran this place and he probably viewed us as servants with driver’s licenses who were tall enough to reach the stuff he couldn’t.

It has been about a month since we started potty training and, finally, it has started to click for him. He knows “that funny feeling” and now asks to use the potty. By Week 2 he was able to hold his pee for long stretches. And by Week 3 he could pee in the potty, no problem. (Poop is a different story.) But we had to work with him on one very important concept: We were his parents, the adults, and he had to listen to us. He was no longer the boss. And that was a hard fact for him to accept.

The whole process has been exhausting—but at no point did we give up. (Oh, I wanted to. I actually saved his diapers, just in case.) I felt like a colossal failure most days, but then there were the small victories. Like the first time he peed in the potty or the first time he asked to go. It may have felt like an impossible task—and it may have taken a month instead of a weekend—but like anything that’s hard but necessary, it got easier the longer we did it.

Did we use pull-ups when we had to run errands to Coscto? Yes. Do we still use pull-ups at night? Of course. And does he still have accidents sometimes? Uh, yeah. But he’s getting better about it every day.

But it’s really more like we’re getting better about it every day.

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What It’s Really Like Being Married with a Kid at 44

By June 20, 2019 #BabyFox, Musings, The Daily Dish

One recent Sunday, after struggling to feed a toddler who wouldn’t stop moving and reading six books before putting him to bed, I wandered into the living room and snapped on the TV. The movie, “This is 40,” was on.

I remember watching this 2012 movie years ago, when it first came out—before I was 40 and a mom and I didn’t understand much of it. Why were they always yelling at each other? I didn’t get it.

But this time around, it all made sense. That scene where married couple Pete and Debbie confess to each other their fantasies about how they would want to kill the other—yeah, that hit home.

Being married is hard enough. My husband and I recently celebrated our 5th anniversary—and we started that morning bickering about something so inconsequential I can’t even remember it. Then throw in a rambunctious toddler and three dogs who love attention—and all the stress and drama of working full-time jobs, maintaining a home, managing (or not) our finances and figuring out what’s for dinner every night—and it’s hard to believe we’ve even survived this long.

Marriage. Is. Tough.

And marriage with kids, a mortgage, demanding jobs—well, that can break you. (Good thing it isn’t tax season.)

My husband and I were just talking one morning about how much time we’d have if we didn’t have dogs or a kid. We could go surfing after work, take quick weekend jaunts to a Neighbor Island, sleep in, watch an entire movie—an adult one—in one sitting. We spend so much time preparing food (that the toddler won’t always eat, anyway), walking dogs, driving the kid to and from the sitter, going to swim lessons and soccer practices. I spent hundreds of dollars every month on diapers and board books and crayons and squeeze packs. There are doctor’s appointments, ER visits, birthday parties, preschool interviews, play dates. We’re lost in a schedule that isn’t our own, that has nothing to do with us. It’s a selfless existence.

While there are so many perks to raising a family in your 40s—you’re (more) financially settled, you’ve reached (hopefully) your professional goals, you’ve traveled and played and (maybe) got it out of your system—there are definite downsides. For one, you’re tired, like, all the time. You can’t rebound from the lack of sleep like you could when you were in your 20s. (Remember partying—or studying—all night, getting maybe two hours of sleep and still getting to work on time the next day—and functioning?) And for another, you don’t have the same patience you probably once had. You’re not going to put up with a toddler throwing a tantrum at Macy’s. You tell him, “I’m leaving you here,” and you kinda mean it.

But above all, you lived most of your adult life the way you wanted to. You had your own schedule, you did your own thing. And you did it for so long, it’s hard to change that. But that’s exactly what kids do. They’re disruptive. And it’s easy, at our age, to resist and even resent that.

So, of course, this all affects your marriage.

How can you expect to plan date night when you don’t even have time to take a shower? How can you “emotionally connect” with your partner when all you want to do is fall into a coma on the couch?

You’re tired and you’re impatient—and you haven’t seen the inside of a gym in three years. (Oh, and you’re still paying the membership fees.) So you snap at the person you’re always around—not the one who’s signing your paycheck or delivering your groceries from Safeway. (Those people are important.)

Marriage is hard enough. It really is. I have friends without kids (or dogs, or chickens) and they struggle with communication, money, social media use, remote control possession. But kids add another layer of stress, another set of challenges, and it takes a lot of conscious effort to stay above it all and make it work.

But there’s a flip side to all of this: Despite the zombie-like state we seem to be in at all times, we are probably closer than we’ve ever been. Sure, we rarely go out alone and forget taking trips without the kid. Still, we’re closer because we’re sharing this crazy experience of raising a son together. We’re figuring this out as a team—installing car seats, researching preschools, potty-training a 2-year-old who exuberantly says, “I loooooove diapers!”—and that has made our relationship a lot stronger.

I can’t do this alone. (Well, maybe I could, but I really don’t want to.) We need each other to navigate this new life. It’s us against him, the dogs, the world. That’s what our marriage has become.

Are there arguments? Of course. Do we neglect each other? All the time. Will there ever be a time when we can sleep in? We hope! But for now, this is where we are, this is life and marriage at 40. And I couldn’t ask for more.

Less, maybe, but definitely not more.

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What It’s Really Like Raising a 2-Year-Old Boy

By March 24, 2019 #BabyFox

Every time a friend of mine gives birth to her first child — and especially if it’s a boy — I hold my breath.

I remember those early weeks, the obsessing over every little thing, scouring Google like it was CliffNotes to parenthood. I remember the crazy every-three-hour feeding schedules, the pumping (oh, the pumping), the bottle warming, the endless laundry and dishwashing. I remember having to apply dabs of apply Vaseline to the area newly circumcised every time we changed his diaper, which was a lot. I remember the cute baby farts that became not-so-cute baby gas that became not-at-all-fun baby problems. I remember my nipples cracking, the pain from pumping every three hours, that initial latch that felt like knives stabbing my boobs. I remember thinking all of this would never end, ever.

Then he grew up.

He slept through the night. He started eating solid foods. He slowly crawled, then stood, then walked.

Looking back, it seems like it all happened so quickly. I mean, it’s only been about two years. And a lot has happened! But when we were immersed in it, it didn’t seem quick at all. In fact, there were times I never thought he would ever crawl or walk, ever stop wanting the bottle, ever climb into his own booster chair at the table and feed himself.

But now he’s running, jumping, dancing, playing in the ocean, hiking with us, even sweeping the leaves outside. (Yes, we’ve already put him to work.) It’s amazing!

But I’m going to be honest here: This has been really hard. Our lives are completely on hold. All of our choices — from the jobs we have to the place we live — revolve around this little guy. I used to travel at least six times a year, including international jaunts, and now I’m lucky I can sneak away to a Neighbor Island for work. I’d love to surf every morning, but that time slot is reserved for making breakfast, walking dogs and tidying up the house. And though it may seem like I have all this time at night — the kid goes down at 6 p.m. — I’m exhausted from a full day of working, cooking, cleaning, walking dogs and playing with a toddler who can’t stay in one place. I’m a zombie.

I’m in total survival mode right now. My life is a strange hodgepodge of my former existence. I sneak away to surf at least twice a week but with no time anymore for leisurely breakfasts before heading to work. I don’t have time (or energy) to workout, so I get my exercise in by walking three miles to the office most days. And my dogs are afterthoughts — just check my Instagram.

I recently checked my Google history and it was very revealing. No more looking for cheap flights to Iceland. My searches look more like this: How to potty train a toddler boy difficult; Monster truck books for kids; Is Albuterol safe for toddlers; Who is Blippi.

There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t feel like a failure in some way. The house is never clean, no matter how often I vacuum and mop. I feel like I can never catch up (forget getting ahead) of my work. I’m so uninspired in the kitchen, I only bake when I’m stressed and I rarely experiment with new recipes. (I can’t afford to waste ingredients!) I’m braindead by the time the evening rolls around and all I want to do is read a book, watch reality TV or sleep. Forget blogging, playing guitar, running or doing anything that requires any type of brain function.

Sometimes I feel like I can’t do this, like I’m going to wither away. I wonder if this is how my life will always be, stuck at home, too tired to do anything productive, barely getting by. I don’t know how other moms are running small businesses or writing books or traveling the world. A friend of mine is in Paris right now — with a toddler just a few months older than mine. And another has taken her kids to Japan and Disneyland more times than I’ve been myself — and her daughter is younger than Landon!

I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. And I know other mothers who follow me on social media may think I — me, the one whining right now — have everything under control. Look, I take my son hiking, we go to the beach all the time, I just made five jars of pickled veggies the other day! What mother of a toddler boy has time for that?!

Yes, I do all of those things, but what you don’t see are the moments when I’m serving my son reheated chicken nuggets, a handful of dried cranberries, strawberry Go-Gurt and French fries from McDonald’s for dinner because I didn’t have time — or was just too lazy — to cook anything else. Or when I’m binging on Girl Scout cookies on the couch, thinking about going on a run but don’t. Or when I’m lying in bed, in the middle of the night, checking the baby monitor to see if my son is still alive and worrying if I applied to enough preschools. (At last count, it was 14.)

I guess what I’m trying to say is simply this: We’re all doing our best, and our best is never going to be what we want it to be. Even the most put-together moms have insecurities, feel like failures at times, wonder how they’re going to make it through the week.

And we do. I did. I survived those first two years, when so much change was happening. We went through toys and clothes and gadgets every few weeks. I can’t even remember how to use a bottle warmer or swaddle a baby. Oh, how badly I wanted Landon to walk — and now look at him.

Just be careful what you wish for.

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No-babies Perfect

By February 13, 2019 #BabyFox, Musings, The Daily Dish

Whenever someone told me, “You’re so lucky. Landon is such an easy baby,” in the back of my mind, I would wonder how long that would last.

Because no one has a perfect kid. At some point, all kids, even the seemingly easy/calm/mellow ones, have their moments.

Well, Landon’s time has come.

Soon after he turned 2 a few months ago, my once-chill kid transformed into someone I didn’t know. He whined, he pouted, he started making demands. No, not leaving the playground, Mommy! No, no, no!

Don’t get me wrong: He’s still a pretty easy kid (from what I hear, anyway). He still happily puts himself to bed (before 6 p.m.) and entertains himself with crayons and excavators (not together). But he’s started to protests bath, which he used to love, and demands very specific things (like a certain T-shirt that’s almost always in the wash or backpack that he won’t end up using, anyway). My once voracious eater is now extremely picky; he suddenly started refusing fruits and eggs—his usual standbys—and won’t try anything new. Some days he’ll eat cheeseburgers or fish sticks; other days he’ll throw them on the ground. And he never used to shout before.

Who is this kid?

I know he’s at that age where he’s started to assert himself, test boundaries, be more independent. I get that he’s frustrated, too. I don’t always understand what he wants or needs, and he has trouble articulating that with words (hence the throwing). And while I expected this, I didn’t really know what this stage would be like. It’s not fun.

It’s so hard to be patient—not one of my virtues to begin with—when your kid is lying in the middle of a playground in protest of my suggestion to leave. I can’t reason with him, either. Saying, “Hey, it’s getting dark, it’s starting to rain, and the new season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is on in 15 minutes,” doesn’t quite work. And you can’t let him lie there forever. (Though I’ve thought about it.)

I know this is just a phase. I know this is an important transition for him. I know that, at some point, he’ll be a normal human who doesn’t need to throw his food at me to let me know he’d rather have a grilled cheese sandwich.

And I also know there will be worse phases—I’m not looking forward to puberty—and times when I’ll wonder why I ever wanted the Terrible Twos to end. (Try Terrible Teens. And that’s a decade!)

So what should a sleep-deprived, Google-addicted parent do?

This is what I’m doing: I’m writing everything he does down. So when he’s older, he can read it. And when he asks for a car, I’ll lie down on the kitchen floor in protest.

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#CatBakes: Super Easy Coffee Cake

By January 28, 2019 Food

I’m always looking for quick and easy breakfast dishes that can double as mid-day (or midnight) snacks.

That’s why this coffee cake recipe is so awesome. It’s quick to make, you’ll probably have most of the ingredients already, and it will satisfy your cravings for something sweet. (Trust me, I know cravings.)

You’ll especially love this cake if you’re like me and really, really love cinnamon. Because this packs a ton of cinnamon in every square. It’s like eating cinnamon toast but on a cake. And topped with melted butter. Right? You need this.

So here you go. And you’re welcome in advance!

Super Easy Coffee Cake

Ingredients:

1 c. oil (I use vegetable oil.)
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. milk (I’ve even used skim milk and it comes out great!)
1 c. sugar
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

For the streusel topping:
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. butter, melted

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine oil, eggs, vanilla and milk. In another bowl, blend sugar, flour, baking powder and salt. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, then pour half the batter into a greased 9×13 pan. In a separate bowl, prepare the streusel topping by combining the brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle half of the streusel on top of the batter. Add the rest of the batter and then sprinkle the remaining streusel on top. Drizzel with the melted butter. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

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