Tuesday, April 30, 2013

oh yeah, potty training...

It's totally not my thing to talk about my kids and their potty training (learning, etc...whatever you want to call it). I don't particularly enjoy facebook status updates about other peoples' kids and what they've done in the toilet...so I don't share about mine.

However, I do want to talk about the process a bit for sake of keeping record (as that is the primary reason I blog) and for those wondering what it's like for others. Especially in difficult situations like ours.

A tiny bit of back story- Malakai showed interest in going potty at 18 months. (Desmond is doing the same). Unfortunately he had a hernia and we had to quit until after his surgery to correct it 5 months later. We tried again after he turned 2 but he just wasn't interested, and our pediatrician advised us that if he wasn't able to stay dry through nap time, that he wasn't physically ready anyhow. She also said that if he didn't care about being clean, we'd also be wasting our time. 2 strikes against us, so we waited.

Once Kai turned 3 we tried several times but backed off once it became a power struggle, and it always did. We did charts with stickers and treats for using the toilet. None of it lasted for more than a week. He filled up a chart with stickers for using the toilet while still in pull-ups but it went nowhere after that.

Then we went straight to underwear a few times and he did better, but the power struggle would still come into play. Another big issue is that he wouldn't want to stop playing to go potty. We tried reminders and songs and setting timers and none of it helped for long enough to matter.

I listened to an MP3 audio at the height of my frustration a couple months ago, by Love and Logic. It was only $5 and I highly recommend it. Way quicker than reading a whole book and more realistic and helpful than any blogger who promises you can train your kiddo in a weekend.

I learned to back off, use empathy when he had accidents, and let him be in control of the process. I took deep breaths through some really frustrating accidents and setbacks and loved him no matter how badly I wanted to stop spending money on pull-ups... and he did it. He owned it and is doing so great. When he did have accidents during that time we'd just simply say "what a bummer, you can help me clean that up and we can try again." or "that's too bad, maybe you aren't quite ready for underwear yet, and that's okay." Those phrases seemed to motivate him more, especially when the alternative was having to wear pull-ups during the day (he didn't always care about wearing pull-ups but finally grew to prefer underwear).

He still needs an occasional reminder or incentive, but 90% of the time he manages it himself with no problems. For incentives, I don't mean a treat or a sticker, but just simple things like "I'll get out the markers after you take a potty break!" or let's pause your show and you can finish after you go potty." Works way better than chocolate chips for us.

Next is tackling staying dry overnight. He's in pull-ups at night, even though he wants to be in underwear, because I know he's not physically ready. I let him know that he can get up to go potty any time after bed and that once he wakes up with a dry pull-up in the morning he can wear underwear the next night.

So, if you find yourself in a rut with potty training, back off...let go of control and let your kiddo show you what he/she is capable of!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Cloth Diapering- 2 weeks in

So we made the switch to cloth diapers and grew to really prefer it for a number of reasons. However, we are back to disposables for the time being. I'll tell you why...

First, I got my order of pocket diapers and inserts. We had a leak with the first one which I attribute to user error as I tried to figure out where to snap for them to fit Desmond well. After that we had no leaks with those diapers, day or night.

I did a lot of research on washing and detergents to find what would be best for us and the most cost effective. I landed on Charlie's Soap, which we have now switched to for all our laundry. It's super cheap per load and rinses out clean with no residue. It's a bit of work at first because while you are ridding your clothes and washing machine of detergent build-up you have to "wash your washer" before each cloth diaper load. There is some bad PR about Charlie's Soap, some claim it has given their children blisters. BUT if you follow their directions this shouldn't be an issue. The blistering is actually caused from not washing your washer for the first few weeks and having old detergent build-up gather on the diapers. We have had zero problems with Charlie's Soap.

Then I wanted more diapers, but for cheaper. I loathe paying shipping but the cheapest diapers online seem to have the heftiest shipping rates. I grabbed a small stash of second hand diapers in a variety of brands. I was glad to try out different ones to see if we liked any better. I stripped and washed and rinsed, and rinsed, and rinsed. We have soft water, very soft water, so a lot of rinsing is necessary around here. I bought the diapers through a facebook swap and sale group locally, the seller was super friendly and gave me a good deal, but she turned out to be a bit strange when Ben stopped to make the purchase. I won't go into the details, but I won't be going that route again. She also was either lying about sizes, or just didn't know what she was talking about. A couple of the diapers were too big so we had some leaks. Trial and error I guess, no biggie.

Then, last week our washing machine died. In the middle of a cloth diaper rinse. Ew, ew, ew. I tried and tried to force the washer to drain the icky water but couldn't. So I pulled all the diapers out and threw them in an empty storage tote. Then attempted several times to wash them in the bath tub, and in the tote. They seemed to come clean but I noticed there was some build up in the tabs of the diapers. I was thoroughly grossed out. I had hoped that perhaps this was something that was coming out in the wash but I just couldn't do by hand.

I looked all over online for help and found very little. I did run across a few forums where they discussed what they coined "poo lint". I was even more grossed out. I grabbed a clean diaper for Desmond's room and found that it too had the lint in it still! (I'll spare you the photos) Even with tweezers and turning the diaper inside out, I couldn't get it all. BLEGH! I don't understand why the tabs aren't just sewn off so that any build up can be rinsed easily by turning the diaper inside out. Seems like common sense to me.

I cringe at the thought of not making this discovery had our washing machine not broken down (thanks to my cousin it is up and running again- an errant wash cloth had gotten into the pump). I think a diaper sprayer will get rid of the majority of this problem as it would eliminate all solid waste from going in the wash, but I still plan on returning these diapers (I am within my 30 days) and informing the company of what I find to be a design flaw.

I will order elsewhere, or order the same ones again (as the price is right!) and just sew off the tabs myself to remedy the issue. I'd much rather start over with a clean lot then try to tear apart and reassemble the ones that shouldn't have had this problem in the first place (end rant).

Still, with all that mess, I do prefer cloth diapering and we plan to continue our efforts until Desmond is ready to potty train.

What we like about cloth diapering:

  • saving money-our main reason for switching after nearly 4 years of disposables. 
  • Des seems more comfortable in them
  • less stink (for real, I have to do a visual check to see if Des needs changed)
  • cuter....WAY cuter.
  • customizable absorbency- we do 1 insert during the day and for naps, 2 for overnight. no leaks and no rash. We were buying 2 types of disposables because Des is a heavy night time wetter. He STILL had leaks in the disposable overnight diapers.
  • disposable liners. Desmond is pretty "regular" so since we don't yet have a diaper sprayer I just throw a flushable liner in his diaper and can toss the majority of his poo in the toilet. 
  • better fit all around, we used one size diapers so they are custom fit easily with snaps
  • Des can't get his diaper off. The snaps are so heavy duty he can't take them off himself. 
  • easier clean up- even a messy diaper cleans up easier off Desmond's skin in cloth. 
What we don't love about cloth diapering:
  • having to answer to those who are skeptical (dear everyone, I make my choices, you make yours. Let's not judge each other...ok? ok. )
  • the start up costs, they seem high but turn out to be worth it over the long term. 
  • accessories. It seems as though to make cloth diapering as "easy" as using disposables there are a lot of accessories, which can drive up the cost (and the research, and the frustration...) i.e. diaper sprayers, cloth wipes, cloth safe ointment or cream, spray bottles for wipes, wet bags, laundry soap, etc. 
  • not having a diaper sprayer (yet). 
  • having a small stash- while I don't mind doing laundry that often it's finding ourselves short all of a sudden and needing to do an emergency load of laundry or supplement with disposables (which we had on hand anyway). 
So for us, the pros surely outweigh the cons. Not just in number, but in value. 

I'd be happy to answer any cloth diapering questions for a newbie. I'm NO expert but I've done a fair amount of research and I, myself really value the newbie perspective as it's harder to find than the expert advise. 

More to come, when we get our new stash and start cloth diapering again!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Desmond Lee: 18 months

Desmond is officially a year and a half old as of April 10th. He's such a big boy in so many ways! I thought it would be fun to do a comparison with Kai at this age (since I haven't done one in a while).

In these photos the boys are wearing the same hoodie, jeans, and boots. Des is slightly bigger than Kai was at this age, but not by a ton. I can't find Kai's 18 month stats to compare though. Malakai is on the left and Desmond on the right. I didn't pose Des, I just snapped pictures and then found the ones of Kai that looked the most similar in pose...

{picking up things and investigating them}

{walking around on the deck}

{squatting to reach things: not easy to do in boots}

{carrying things around and loving it}

Desmond is 33 inches tall (62%), 26lbs 11.5oz (63%). From memory I'm pretty sure Kai was not in the 60th percentile for height at this age. We often wonder if Des will surpass Kai in height, much like Ben and his younger brother.

One of the most notable things about Desmond's development is his speech and comprehension. (I'm in no way bragging here, just documenting). When the pediatrician asked how many words he could say, we had a really hard time answering. I explained that he can say almost any word you ask him to. She asked how many words he is not just repeating, but comprehends. What's funny, is that it's often evident that he comprehends them almost instantly based on his use of them again in reference to the object not only right then but in the future. I'm totally crediting Ben with handing down these skills as he is able to understand things quickly as well. Me? I am super visual and pretty hands on so I need examples and trial + error to really learn most things.

So- his most common used words and phrases are:

"Malakai" or "Kai"
"nana" (banana"
"sammich" (sandwich)
...noticing a trend here? Our boy likes to eat.
"hold you"
"help you?"
"yeah" or "yes"
"Cooz, Cooz" (Blue's Clues)
....just about every animal and their sound.
"my turn"
"thank you"
"welcome"(often said as "thank you- welcome")
"peez" (please)
"all done"
"I want it"
"I need it"
"have it"
"nuggle" (snuggle)
"read it"
"wub you" (love you)
"happy" (how he refers to the "You are my sunshine" song/book)
"cuh-yuh" (color)
"baff" (bath"

and the list goes on.

He's becoming more and more independent, which has caused some obvious problems when it comes to playing with his brother. They start off okay at sharing most of the time, but it always turns into a struggle or a fight.

He is still enamored with climbing (as he has been since 6 months of age). He is obviously much better at it. We had to start using a sleep sack at 15 months old because he was climbing out of his crib on it's lowest setting. The sleep sack has already bought us 3 month and we're hoping for 2-6 more before we have to make the toddler bed transition. He often climbs to the top of our dining room table, always in 2 seconds flat.

He is super interested in potty learning. I'm sure it's from watching Malakai learn. He has actually used the toilet a handful of times. One day he went 3 times. We have him go every night before bath but we aren't putting any pressure on him, we've learned (the hard way) to be laid back about it.

We started cloth diapering really recently and I'll be sharing more on that soon. So far Desmond hasn't even seemed to notice a difference, thankfully!

Des is our snuggler. He loves the song/book "You Are My Sunshine" and asks for it by saying "happy?". He blows kisses whenever anyone says loves you or kisses.  He miraculously puts himself to sleep for 2-3 hours at nap time but struggles to do so at bed time. So much so that over the last 3 months he refuses to let me put him to bed at night, and will only sleep if Ben cradles him to sleep. He adamantly refuses to go down "drowsy but awake" and often struggles to soothe himself when he wakes in the middle of the night, although that's improving.

He loves pointing out animals and saying their names and the sounds they make. He is obsessed with Kai's room and trying to stand on the bed to look out the window. He loves to "read" and be read to. He's mastered the art of building a lego tower and he loves to color with crayons and markers. He knows a handful of signs, and always says the phrase while doing the signs.

Like I mentioned before, he LOVES to eat. His favorite is bananas. He will often ask for cookies because I shared one with him ONCE. He gets super cranky if we are late on snacks or meals and then is instantly happy again when he gets to eat. The only foods he isn't fond of lately are meats, which I think are a texture thing. If he's anything like Kai in this regard, I don't know if he'll ever eat chicken.

He's fairly mellow but is starting to exert himself when he wants something. He's been known to throw his weight around when throwing a fit, which is not a pretty sight. Otherwise he's super sweet, and I can't get enough of watching him grow.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Converting to Cloth

In our continued efforts to cut our spending in order to focus on saving money we've decided to try out cloth diapering. It only took us about 2 years to come to this decision. We considered it briefly before Kai was born, but Ben vetoed the idea. His biggest problem was the poo going in the washing machine. 4 years later, we both laugh at that being worrisome.

When Kai was about a year old we considered it again. I really looked into the savings, but again Ben wasn't too keen on the idea. I also, wasn't completely sold. I was worried that the amount of laundry I'd be doing would negate any savings. I was also used to the convenience of disposable diapers. The real clincher was that I ended up babysitting a child who was cloth diapered and I was completely turned off to the idea. The smell of the diapers and the rash that the child had were repulsive.

A couple weeks ago Ben and I were crunching numbers and moaning at how much we were still spending on disposable diapers. Even now that Malakai is (FINALLY) potty-trained we still spend about $75 every 4-6 weeks on Desmond's diapers and overnight pull-ups for Malakai. I'm currently looking into cloth overnight undies for Malakai. At $30 a pair, I'd like to figure out how to sew my own (or recruit my Mother-in-law!) before going in that direction.

I emailed a friend from college who has a little guy the same age as Desmond (check out her blog here). I knew that she'd been cloth diapering and was knowledgeable on the subject. I trust her opinion and was hoping to get better information from a friend than what I was finding scouring the internet. INFORMATION OVERLOAD! Amanda was a great help. Additionally I asked friends through facebook to share their favorite kinds. Then I crunched the numbers of half a dozen different trial programs.

I decided to go with Just Simply Baby. They had a great deal on a starter package of 10 pocket diapers, 20 inserts, 10 cloth wipes, a detergent sample, and cloth safe diaper cream for under $90. I got free shipping by adding 2 wet bags to my order and meeting the $100 minimum. They have a 30 day money back guarantee so I knew that I could send it all back if we weren't satisfied or if we decide cloth diapering doesn't work for us. Currently they are running a $10 diaper deal!

My second choice would be the trial through Jillian's Drawers. They send several types for you to try out at a fairly low cost. You can then send back any or all of them after 21 days. Your next order then ships free!

I just got our package today and have it all prepping as I type. I'm pretty excited to start something new and I'm really hopeful it'll work out and we can start saving!

 I received a trial amount of EcoSprout detergent to use, but need to figure out an affordable option for use after it runs out.  Any tips, tricks, or products you'd recommend or NOT recommend? Leave a comment!

Monday, April 1, 2013

the bad news, and the good news

I've alluded to something pretty big going on in our family over the last couple of months. I've clarified that I am not pregnant, and once again...no, I'm not and don't plan to be for quite some time. So there's that.

On January 15th my mom went in for a mammogram and the radiologist saw something. He told her he was almost certain that it was cancer. My mom is only 51 and quite healthy. There was a lot of testing, and a LOT of waiting. She had ultrasounds, MRI's, and a biopsy. We found out about 10 days after the mammogram that the lump was in fact cancer.

I never knew how much waiting is involved with breast cancer. I was surprised that we wouldn't even find out the stage of her cancer until after surgery, when they'd run tests on the tumor. My mom had about a million doctor's appointments for testing, results, and the like.

All of us were pretty quiet about it all, but still doing what we could to support her and hold it all together. I found myself proclaiming God's favor over our family and finding His peace to be most comforting when things should have felt chaotic.

This card is from a message that was preached at the exact right time for what our family is going through. I posted this in our home and claimed these truths. I prayed this prayer often over my mom, and over many other situations that have cropped up over the last few months because, when it rains- it pours.

February 15th my mom went in for a lumpectomy to remove the cancer. Ben's mom stayed with the boys and I went to wait with my siblings and my dad. My mom's sister, brother-in-law, and one of my cousins came for a time as well. Surgery was successful, but it's always so painful to see someone you love in such a state and know that what they are going through and about to move into is going to be painful.

I set up meals to be brought over while she recovered. Thanks again to those of you who may read this and made a dinner for my mom, dad and siblings. It was a huge blessing over them to be able to focus on her recovery and the road ahead.

After surgery we waited to find out more about her tumor. They also removed lymph nodes to test them for cancer. If they had been affected, then the stage of her cancer would be higher and the treatment more aggressive as it would indicate the cancer had moved through her lymph system to other parts of her body. She would most definitely need chemo. No matter the results, she would need radiation treatments to prevent the cancer from returning.

11 days after surgery my mom and I went to meet with her surgeon for results. Her cancer was staged low and the lymph nodes were negative. PRAISE GOD! Dr. F referred her to the oncologists that would take over her treatment from there.

Over all of this we had throngs of people praying over my mom. The prayer team from my church, all sorts of friends, and family, and our small group have been lifting her up. I have a handful of people that I can text whenever I have a prayer request and know that they will deliver. We have been so blessed by this.

Thanks specifically to my mother in law Debbie for making a care package for my mom and watching the boys extra, and to Liz for watching my boys during a couple of appointments.

About once or twice a week I'd accompany her to meet with one of her 2 oncologists. In early March we met her Medical Oncologist and found out there was still a possibility of chemo. Neither of us were expecting that. Of course there was another test to run and more waiting.

While we waited on that, we met with her Radiation Oncologist the next week about the course of treatment for radiation, which was a definite. The nurse told us all about the radiation treatments, but none of what she said would pertain to my mom as she is a candidate for balloon catheter radiation. She lives in a rural area outside town and the regular radiation treatments would be once a day, every day, for 6 weeks. The balloon radiation treatments involve an implant that she'd have for a week and she'd go in for treatments twice a day for 5 days. The side effects of the radiation are also lessened. She opted for the balloon radiation, which she would also do prior to chemo (if needed) instead of after.

March 21st we went back in to meet with her Medical Oncologist and her test came back low, meaning no chemo! The doctor told us he was surprised that the numbers were so low. Prayer works people. She will be on hormone therapy, in pill form, for the rest of her life. With that, the radiation, negative lymph nodes, and the successful surgery the likely hood of the cancer returning in the next 5-10 years is only 6%, which he assured us is very good. She would only need to see him again to make sure she was doing well on the hormone therapy after she finished radiation.

So, today she starts her radiation treatments. She went in this morning and will go back again this afternoon. Please pray for her through this and over the course of her treatment and recovery. We are confident that God has answered our prayers and will continue to do so. Pray for her energy and that she has no complications from the catheter or otherwise.

Please pray for me. I'm 31, annual mammograms start at age 40 but now I've been advised to go in this summer and get screened. My mom's surgeon made a comment that when breast cancer affects women in their 20's and 30's that it is much more aggressive and harder to treat. He was talking about her, trying to reassure her but he scared both of us about my sister and I. Once again, I'm proclaiming God's favor over us.

That has been what I've been doing in my free time. I've been wanting to blog more here as my sons grow and are doing remarkable and hilarious things, as great things are happening all around us as well (see my February recap), but my time is precious and I haven't had much of it to sit at a computer and really update. I'm hoping that changes soon. I'd love to do a March recap before April is over, and I am especially looking forward to posting some Easter photos of my little boys.

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