Adventures In Potty Training

potty trainingI’m coming out of my blogging hiatus to talk about potty training. What better time than in the midst of potty training my 4th and final child? She’ll love me for this some day I’m sure. Okay, honestly I’m not going into too much detail other than to say I think it’s safe to say that my baby is day time potty trained. And of all of my kids she was by far the easiest to potty train. You know those stories you hear of I put my child in underwear and that was it, we never looked back? Okay well it wasn’t quite that easy, day one was definitely filled with a lot of accidents, but by day two she was consistently using the potty. A week in there was just the occasional accident and now those seem to be a thing of the past.

So yes, I’m happy to say at this point in time, diapers are just a night time thing in this house, which I’ll take. And I assure you all that I have been through the gamut with my kids when it comes to potty training, so for those of you who are struggling all I can say is stay the course. It will happen eventually. It might be little comfort right now, but every child is different and will have different incentives that will work. So don’t give up, it will happen.

But today as I was running to the store to quickly pick up a few things and I had all 4 kids with me I got sucked into the bathroom tour. Those of you who have lived through potty training a child surely know what I’m talking about. You will make multiple trips to every public restroom in every store during every shopping trip. We walk into a store now and I say, “Okay, time for the bathroom tour.” I will take this bathroom tour over diapers any day though and I certainly would rather have her tell me she has to go than have an accident.

Making the mad dash through a store looking for the public restroom is a bit exhilarating. The amount of pride my daughter expresses when she successfully uses the potty is great. So I guess I’ll take the bathroom tour that comes along with the potty training.

Someday I’ll probably miss these moments, but sometimes I wish I could just go into a store with all of the kids to quickly pick up some garbage bags and not have to make a pit stop. And I know that’s on the horizon. Really no need to rush it. But I was thinking the bathroom tour might be an over looked nuisance of the whole potty training process.

There are some things we have found she does not like about public restrooms. She’s not crazy about the automatic flushing toilet. A bathroom that does not have paper towels for drying hands is a bit of a nightmare. Those hand dryers are loud, some are hot, and some blow the air too hard, but all of them are above my child’s head therefore she ends up blow drying her entire body. She hates them so we have become well versed in the hand shake to dry our hands. She definitely has her favorite bathrooms in town, our local Walmart being one because it has a sink that’s just her height.

But this is the wrap up of my potty training days I think. Perhaps I’ll be involved in potty training my grand kids some day, but I think for this most part this is the last time I will have to potty train. So I wanted to take some time to share some of my musings on the subject and ask you all, what have been your adventures in potty training? If you haven’t gone through it yet, what are you most worried about with potty training?

Happy Independence Day

Image courtesy of Free Digital photos and nixxphotography

Image courtesy of Free Digital photos and nixxphotography

Yes, it has been months since I’ve blogged.  And I will tell you, I’m not sure that I’m back just yet.  I’m in a blogging funk these days, but am also really swamped with work and the kids.  I hate that my blog is taking a back seat because it is very important to me, but every time I sit down to write out what I’m thinking I just can’t get it out the way I want.  Perhaps it’s too much writing for others.

But anyways, I do want to wish everyone of my fellow Americans a very happy Independence Day.  And I don’t care if you don’t want me to wish you a happy Independence Day or not because it’s not the anniversary of YOUR independence or even mine for that matter.  Quite frankly I am getting so sick and tired of all of this political correctness.  I miss the days of not being afraid of offending someone if I say Happy Independence Day, or Merry Christmas.

We’re so concerned with who we’re going to offend and pointing out our checkered history that now we seem to have so many people forgetting what being American is all about.  I have never set foot outside of America, but you know what, in spite of all of its flaws (past and current) I still wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.  We still have a certain amount of opportunity and respect as part of a democratic society that other people just don’t have.  Despite any feelings for or against our president that I might have I take pride in being an American.  And all of you who are so busy denouncing holidays like today better be proud you’re an American too because your lack of patriotism for your country would not be accepted in many other countries.

So Happy Independence Day one and all!  Whether you’re woman, whether you’re black, white, Native American, Mexican-American, or even Irish-American this day is for all of you, all of us.  Because we celebrate our independence which was afforded to us by first creating the declaration of independence which set forth the ideas and principles behind a fair and just government.  Isn’t it great that our founding fathers had the foresight to create a constitution that could grow and change with us?  That is brilliance right there!  And I for one am so grateful that they created the constitution in such a way that could be changed.  As imperfect as the system may currently be and perhaps was when it was started this is still a day we should all celebrate, even if in 1776 your ancestors didn’t get to partake in the same independence as our founding fathers did.  The signing of the Declaration of Independence was what our constitution was based off of which did afford every American citizen the independence they do enjoy today even if at times it might seem like we don’t.

So think about that while you’re busy taking offense to me saying Happy Independence Day to you!

Letter To My Mom On Mother’s Day

Note: adjusted letter slightly from its original to remove my daughter’s name.

Mother’s Day 2014

Mothers DayDear Mom,

As I was thinking about what to get you for Mother’s Day I was mulling over all of our time together. Those mornings when you were watching your soap operas and I would come out to ask, “What’s it like outside?” You would tell me and I’d linger watching those soap opera recordings with you for a few minutes before you would tell me it’s time to go get dressed.

Shopping for my prom dress together and shoes. Exercising together in the mornings while I was in high school. Calling you up to tell you that I passed my driver’s test and was now a certified licensed driver. My graduation. The day I waved goodbye to you all teary eyed for my first day of college. All of these things are such a part of who we are together, but I was trying to think about what my best day with you was.

It has got to be the day I became a mother and you became a grandmother. That day 15 years ago was one of the happiest days of my life. As cliché as it is of course because my child was born, but it’s really so much more than that. In that moment we shared something very special. I finally was able to understand just how much you have always loved me from the moment we met. And every day since then has just been a stronger affirmation that what you did for me all of my life has been nothing short of miraculous.

Sitting up with me night after night during colic. Late night feedings, teething, illnesses, potty training, homework, my crazy foolish not listening to you about sunscreen and getting 2nd degree sunburn (not once, but err, twice), friendship drama, dating, skinned knees, picky eating, stubborn know it all teenager stuff. You were there through it all guiding me and supporting me. I only hope I have been half as good as you in all of this for my own children. You made it all look so easy.

I know I don’t know all the times you sat up crying and praying for me and still do. I know that fierce protectiveness and love hasn’t just gone away because I’m an adult and have my own children. I imagine it’s probably even harder now because now you’re worried about me and your grandchildren.

But if I can look at one day in my past with you that makes me the happiest it definitely has to be the day my first born was born. It was the birth of both of us as mother and grandmother. A shift in our relationship which in that moment I think was for the better for us. Which has taken us full circle as mother and daughter.

You are with me every day. I think about what you taught me and what you did for me; and I’m hopefully teaching my children the same life lessons you taught me. And I worry every single day that I’m messing this all up for my children. Did you feel that way too? I’m sure you did, but you know what Mom? Whatever you did, you sure have made it pretty darn hard to live up to. And for that I am eternally grateful because I know I truly do have the world’s greatest mom in you!

I love you always and forever!

Happy Mother’s Day.

Love always,

Monica

Mother’s Day Expectations

Easter 2014As we approach Mother’s Day all of the mothers with children in the home are hoping for certain things.  Things like a day of rest and relaxation along with a few homemade gifts and cards.  My middle daughter keeps asking me what I want for Mother’s Day and I keep telling her for you all to behave and not fight with each other.  Not exactly the answer she has been looking for though.  As she says, she can’t control what the other kids do.

Over the years I have come to not expect too much.  Really it’s not about expectations and more about realizing how lucky I am anyways.  Even if I still have to work, cook, clean, change diapers, and yes, even if all the kids do is bicker with each other all day long I am really lucky to have them.

And isn’t that really what Mother’s Day is all about?  Not the pampering and the day off or even one day of peace and quiet.  It’s about being grateful.  And why does that mean I should be anything but grateful as well for whatever the kids throw at me that day?

I’m looking forward to my school made gifts and other handmade with love treats.  I am looking forward to spending an evening out with my husband and children.  I do hope they behave, but I hope for that every day.  But if they don’t you know what?  We’re all only human and I can’t stay mad at them.  I don’t have many more Mother’s Days with all of my children here at home and I don’t want to waste it being bitter.  I want it to be worthwhile and memorable.

So instead of a list of materialistic or unattainable wants this year I plan on spending the day being grateful that I get to mother four of the most amazing, smart, beautiful, funny, and unique children I know.  And I’m grateful to my own mother for being there for me and helping to teach me that motherhood is about being selfless and going without so your kids can have more.  That’s all I need for Mother’s Day and I’m pretty sure I’ll be having the best Mother’s Day in my 15 years of being a mother.

What expectations of Mother’s Day are you throwing out the window this year?

Tips For Surviving Planning And Placement Team (PPT) Meetings

PPT

Image courtesy of Supertrooper / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tis the season for PPT’s (Planning and Placement Team) and creating student’s IEP’s (Individual Education Plans) for next year.  I currently have 3 children with IEP’s.  And while I am far from an expert on the entire process and each of my children’s IEP’s are for minor reasons and mostly one area of struggling where they need extra support in, I do know the whole PPT meeting can be very stressful.  Especially when school and parents don’t see eye to eye on what’s best for the child.

I just went to my middle daughter’s PPT meeting.  All went well, they did make some changes, but they were ones I did agree would be helpful in her making steps towards growing.  It hasn’t always been this simple with our meetings for her though.

Over the years I have learned some things that make things go more smoothly.  Mostly it’s going to come down to a parent’s attitude.  If you walk into those meetings ready to fight, then it’s not going to go so well.  Now, you shouldn’t be a push over.  If there’s anything you disagree with you have every right to simply say I need some time to think about this and discuss it with other people.  You don’t have to sign something just because they tell you this is what’s best.  The operative word in PPT is the T for team.  You are a very important part of the team, but you are not the only part.  You have to take into consideration the recommendations of some of the experts around you, but you also need to make yourself heard as a team member, but you can’t do that if you have proven to be unreasonable.  So here are some tips to help win over the team of educators and to help you feel less like it’s them against you.

How To Have A Successful PPT

  1. Bring treats. Bake up some muffins or cookies or bring some fresh fruit to share with the team.  They have likely been sitting in a conference room for meeting after meeting and would likely welcome a sweet treat.
  2. Don’t go alone.  If you feel that your emotions might get the better of you (completely understandable), then have an advocate with you.  There are specific advocates who are well versed in the laws, but it doesn’t have to be a professional.  It could be your spouse or a friend who has been through it before, but if you are concerned about rights violations, then it might behoove you to seek out a professional advocate.
  3. Get on the same page with whoever you bring with you.  If you think you might lose your cool in the meeting, then make sure your partner is ready to step in because the last thing you want to do is make anyone think you are not listening.
  4. Avoid publicly speaking about any gripes you have with the school.  Facebook, twitter, your blog, you don’t want to put something out there that the school can find and bring into the meeting to say you’re adversarial and are not interested in what’s best for your child.  And you’re just interested in attacking the school.  As stressful as things might be and as much as you feel you have to gripe or you need to get this out to help others going through the same thing in the long run it’s just not going to be helpful for your child.  If you need to gripe do it in private with your spouse or a trusted friend.  Trust me on this, it’s really hard to come back from something like that.
  5. Don’t make threats.  Again, you are a team, supposed to be working together for your child.  Making threats towards the other members of the team is counterproductive.  If laws are being violated consult a lawyer, but don’t threaten the team with lawsuits unless you know you are prepared to follow through with one.  At that point communication would be coming from your attorney anyway.

You need to do everything you possibly can to not be adversarial in these meetings.  You need to be a strong advocate for your child, but part of advocacy is listening.  So be a good advocate for your child and keep your feelings in check when discussing your wants and needs for your child.  Once those communication barriers have been broken it’s really hard to build them back up.

How do you make it through PPT’s?

Live #BelowTheLine 2014 Is Done

Live below the line 2014Last week my oldest daughter and I spent the week eating only $1.50 worth of food and drink a day for five days.  This was my 3rd year doing it and my daughter’s 2nd year doing it.  It ended up being a little more difficult this year than last year.  I don’t know if it was because I decided to do it last minute and didn’t psych myself up for it enough or it was a particularly stressful week which required chocolate which I couldn’t have.

But I am proud to say we lasted the 5 days.  To my knowledge both of us succeeded in the challenge of only eating and drinking $1.50 worth of food and drink in spite of whatever temptations were thrown in our faces.

We raised some money, we could do better and you can still donate.  I hope we raised awareness if nothing else.  Honestly, the most important thing for me to get out of this is that my children understand how lucky we are.  That there are people in this world who do get by on so much less than we do.  I am pretty sure my oldest gets it and even my middle daughter understands what an enormous difficulty it must be to survive on so little.

I do still hope people will be inspired none the less to donate to this worthy cause.  No one should have to go to bed hungry and wake up hungry and continue through their day that way.  We have so much that we take for granted.  Meanwhile there are people in this world who see no end in sight to their poverty. And not because they are lazy or not trying to improve their lives, but simply because of where they were born.  There’s no choice in the matter and no way out and no hand up unless those of us who can give them that leg up.

I chose Care to be the charity that gets donations because I believe in what they are doing.  They started out creating Care packages for people in war-torn Europe, but now they give women and children the education and long lasting solutions needed to end poverty for them.  This isn’t simply providing food for people who are hungry.  Because as you know you can give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, but if you teach a man to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime.  The money raised is going to improve people’s access to nutrition, healthcare, economic opportunity, and education in 84 impoverished countries.  They will be given the tools needed to overcome the challenges of the life they were born into for the rest of their life.  Sounds pretty fantastic to me, how about you?

Will you be making a donation to Care in my name?  The site is secure and it’s so simple to do, any amount will help.  Just go here and you can make a difference in the lives of thousands of people.

Just Getting By

Easter 2014There seems to be this thought process that people have adopted in life, that it’s okay to just get by.  Like there’s a lot worse in the world we can be doing so I’m good with how I’m doing it.  And this seems to be increasingly more present in parenting.  We seem to be content with not giving parenting our all and just figuring well there are way worse parents out there than me so I’m doing all right and if those kids can mostly make it through okay, then mine will be fine too.

And you know I do believe kids are resilient.  They can have set backs and come out the other end just fine.  We can screw up as a parent and still our kids will make it out the other end okay.  And of course no one is a perfect parent, but what happens when we set the bar too low for ourselves?  What happens when we don’t try our absolute best to provide for our children?  I don’t really want to know what the product of not setting the bar high is.  I don’t want my kids just coming out of childhood okay in spite of things I have done.

I Am Hard On Myself

To this day 6 1/2 years after the birth of my son I still kick myself for decisions I made in my son’s early days which I am now possibly seeing the effects of more clearly.  Was I a bad mom?  No, I don’t beat my kids and I provide them love and shelter.  I educate them, but I know I could have handled my son’s health struggles differently than I did possibly saving him from 6 months in a Doc Band and over a year receiving physical therapy to help develop his gross motor skills.

Did his failure to thrive and sticking it out with a doctor who couldn’t diagnose his acid reflux hurt him?  Well, it certainly didn’t help him.  I’m proud of myself for standing up and finally firing our pediatrician, but it took me 3 months to do that.  I can do better, I should have done better.  The first three months of my son’s life I was in denial that he wasn’t growing and thriving and then the next 3 months I spent fighting with a doctor to just listen to my concerns before finding one who did listen and did fix everything.

I vowed that I would never take a back seat to anything like that again.  Especially when it came to him.  Because he deserved and still does better from me.  I can’t go back and undo that time, but I certainly don’t look back on that time fondly and don’t tell myself well I could have done worse.  The fact is that yes, I could have done worse for him and he did make it out just fine, but none the less there was still a price to pay.  And one that I’ll never know for sure is the cause for his future struggles or if that was just the way it was always going to turn out.  But I know he did not get me at my best and I will be making up for that for the rest of my life.

I Don’t Want Any Of My Kids Just Getting By

I expect my kids to work their hardest and try their best in everything they do.  Do they have to be the best?  No, of course not, but I don’t expect them to come home and say to me well I didn’t do the best, but I wasn’t the worst either, I just got by.  Did you do YOUR best?  That is the question.  Could you have done anything more to make the outcome better?  If no, then good job, if not, then how do we fix this the next time?

What better way to teach this than by example?  Showing our kids what it means to work to your potential.  Not this idea of just getting by.  We should be beating ourselves up as parents.  This is the toughest job any of us will ever have and the stakes are so high.  Twenty years from now I don’t want to be looking at my kids and saying well at least they didn’t become axe murderers.  It could have been worse.  I set the bar high for myself and if I fall short as a parent for them, then I will not shrug my shoulders and say well, the outcome could have been worse.  I reevaluate and figure out how to do better by them.

Lets Not Be Confused About Expectations Though

My expectations for myself as a parent have nothing to do with what I expect my children to be or do in life.  Well, that’s not entirely true, I expect them to be productive members of society.  What I mean is I’m not setting goals for them.  That’s their job to do.  It’s my job to guide them in achieving those goals.  Giving them the best possible foundation I can.  One which shows them that if you get knocked down by something you get up again and try harder.  You don’t say oh well it is what it is and it could have been worse.  That’s the way you look at accidents and acts of God that you had no control over.  You have control of how you live your life and how you parent.

You won’t always make the right choices, but it’s important that we recognize when we do something wrong and never forget it so we can do better the next time.  Because we shouldn’t be satisfied if our children simply survive their childhood.  We should want them to thrive because of the things we did for them.  Because we never gave up and put their needs before our own.  This is not about outdoing other parents, it’s about giving our children the absolute best of us every single minute.  Think about it, aren’t our children worth having us at our best?  My kids are so you better believe I kick myself when I don’t achieve that.  Isn’t it better that our children thrive because of us rather than in spite of us?

Menu Plan Sunday: April 27 – May 3

Have you missed menu plan Sunday? I sure have. It hasn’t been too great on my bank account. I hate those last minute what’s for dinner questions and not having the answer. So I need to get back into this. And what better week than one where it’s very important that I monitor financially what I’m eating. Since I’m taking part in the Live Below the Line campaign again and can only eat and drink $1.50 worth of food I have been putting lots of thought into my menu this week. I start this on Monday so I’m going all out tonight.

Monica's Mom Musings

Monica’s Menu For April 27 – May 3

Sunday: Honey baked chicken with butter herb noodles and mixed vegetables.
Monday: Spaghetti and meatball (just the spaghetti for me and my daughter).
Tuesday: Oven fried chicken with rice pilaff and corn.
Wednesday: Breakfast for dinner (my husband will probably have leftovers).
Thursday: Hot dogs with garden salad.
Friday: Chicken alfredo (just the alfredo for me and my daughter).
Saturday: Chicken cordon bleu with baked potato and broccoli.

Now it’s your turn. What’s cooking in your kitchen this week?

It’s Time To Live Below The Line Again

Live below the line 2014The past two years I have been committing to eat and drink $1.50 worth of food a day for five days in an effort to raise awareness for extreme poverty all over the world and to help raise money.  I had actually forgotten that this is the time of year this is usually done until my oldest daughter, who joined me in it last year, asked me when it was.  So I looked it up and found out it does in fact start this coming Monday (April 28) and goes until Friday (May 2).

Since my daughter was asking about it I figured she wanted to join me again this year.  She said she would.  I asked my 12 year old if she wanted to do it, but she declined at this time.  It’s a tough thing to commit to so I get it.  I won’t force anyone to do it here so it’s just me and my oldest daughter doing this.

And we discovered last year with a little planning it was really very doable.  I haven’t told my daughter though that this is going to mean no Moe’s Queso (our weekly date together).  We’ll have to reward ourselves next Saturday with that.

So what can you do?  Well, you could join me and live below the line.  I have chosen the charity CARE to raise money for. Here’s what CARE says they do with the money:

CARE works in 84 countries around the world to support nearly 1,000 poverty-fighting development and emergency programs. These are programs that improve access to proper nutrition, quality health care, economic opportunity and education and don’t just help people improve their lives now – they provide people with the tools they need to overcome challenges for the rest of their lives. -

You can either join my efforts or pick your own charity and do your own work towards raising money and awareness towards poverty. Or you can make a donation to mine and my daughter’s efforts in this.  Check it out here.  Help me spread the word.  I will keep you posted on our progress.

I will tell you from experience that this is a very eye opening experience.  Knowing that people live on such little, barely able to get the daily recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables and protein a day.  I only do this for 5 days out of the year.  About midweek I am dreaming of the foods I will get to eat when it’s over.  For some there is no end in sight.  So that’s why it’s so very important to me to help out and make a difference in the lives of people I don’t even know.  I hope you’ll do the same.

Will you be living below the line this year?

CARE works in 84 countries around the world to support nearly 1,000 poverty-fighting development and emergency programs. These are programs that improve access to proper nutrition, quality health care, economic opportunity and education and don’t just help people improve their lives now – they provide people with the tools they need to overcome challenges for the rest of their lives. – See more at: https://www.livebelowtheline.com/us/partner/care#sthash.XwiSIfAo.dpuf

15 Things

10256247_10151985787017653_1254481822125875544_nLast birthday post or a while, I promise.  My oldest daughter is 15 today.  That of course makes this a pretty special day for me as well since I have been a mother for 15 years today.  Hard to believe.  I have messed up a lot, but my daughter (or any of my kids for that matter) don’t seem any worse off for that.  As a matter of fact my daughter is pretty amazing.  Here are 15 things that make her so awesome…

  1. She takes really good care of all of her younger siblings. Even the one closest in age to her, most of the time. She helps her with homework.
  2. She is really smart.  Probably smarter than she gives herself credit for.
  3. She has her father’s sense of humor and smart mouth which is really endearing, but also really aggravating sometimes.
  4. Family is very important to her.
  5. She is very sensitive to other people’s feelings.
  6. At such a young age she has already set so many amazing goals for her future.
  7. She is a rule follower.
  8. A bit of a people pleaser.
  9. She is a homebody.
  10. She loves with her whole heart, but watch out if you betray her.
  11. She doesn’t forget anything.
  12. She loves Moe’s Queso.
  13. She is often very childish and playful which is great because she’s not in any big hurry to grow up.
  14. She does not like change, but once she accepts it she excels.
  15. She is turning into quite an amazing young lady that I am so lucky to have the pleasure of raising and watching learn and grow.

And that is just a small fraction of what a great kid my newly turned 15 year old is.  I love that we get to experience so many firsts together as parent and child.  Walking this path with her thus far has been great and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for her.  The skies the limit.

Happy 15th birthday to my first born.  I hope it has been an amazing day.  It’s not so bad to be halfway to thirty, is it?