Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Daytime Potty Training: 3 Day Method

Before last weekend, I did not believe that it was possible for a child under two years old to be potty trained in 3 days.  I figured that potty training would be a long process that was unavoidably difficult and stressful.  We knew that it would have to happen eventually, so we thought that maybe if we got started working with Ryan early, we would all feel less pressure about it overall.  The plan was just to start slowly, and then see what happens.

I am delighted to say that we actually had a very successful experience with our first attempt at potty training.  I would like to share some tips on what worked for us:

Introducing the Potty (18 months old)

I bought Ryan his toddler-sized potty when he was about 18 months old because he was showing a lot of curiosity about the potty.  He said "bye bye" whenever I flushed the toilet.  He would tell me when his diaper was "yucky" and then bring me a clean one so that I could change him.  He was very interested in the potty books that I read to him.

Originally, my plan was just to keep the potty in its box for a few weeks.  But after only one day, Ryan practically begged me to open it up.

He was so excited when I set up his potty in the bathroom.  For a couple months, Ryan sat on the potty (with his pants and diaper on) every time that he saw me use the big potty.

He eventually started pulling his own pants down and sitting on the potty at random times throughout the day.  This continued for several more months.

3 Days of Training (23 months old)

At this point, Ryan had never actually used the potty before, although he enjoyed sitting on it and reading his potty books.

We decided to set aside the whole weekend, and I also cleared our social calendar for Monday, so that we would not have any distractions.  I gathered as much information and advice as I could, and shared what I had learned with Barry.  Throughout those 3 days, we stayed home and took turns working with Ryan and reinforcing his behavior.

Ryan wore nothing on his bottom and walked around in only a shirt for those 3 days.  The purpose of that was for him to immediately see when he is going, to associate it with the sensation, and to make the connection of needing to run to the potty.  If he had an accident, we would frown and say "no.... goes in the potty".  If he successfully used the potty, we would smile, cheer, dance, hug, high-five, and give him rewards.

Here is what our bathroom looked like:


Ryan and I colored and decorated a potty chart with things like he likes.  I told him that every time that he uses the potty, he would get to put a sticker on his special chart.  He would only get the sticker if there was actually something inside the potty, and not just for sitting on it.  

After Ryan fills up his entire sticker chart (meaning that he has successfully used the potty 50 times) he will get this Elmo book:

Drinking Juice

For the first 23 months of his life, Ryan had never tasted juice.  Barry and I pretty much only drink water and coffee, except for the occasion when we enjoy an adult beverage, which Ryan has started calling "mommy and daddy juice" (ha!)

Recently, he noticed that his already potty-trained friend also drinks juice from her sippy cup. And so do some of his other playgroup friends.  Naturally, Ryan started requesting juice in his own sippy cup, and I told him that only big kids who use the potty are allowed to drink juice.

Not only was this extremely motivating for Ryan, but drinking the juice also kept him needing to use the bathroom.  The more opportunities to practice, the better! 

(On a side note, we still don't plan to give Ryan juice on a regular basis.  This past weekend was an exception for potty training).


Every time that Ryan used the potty this weekend, he also got a reward.  In order to avoid too much junk food/over-snacking, I simply put three or four cheddar bunnies or goldfish crackers in a little bag with a sticker.  Ryan gets really excited about the crackers and the stickers, so these small rewards definitely served their purpose.

This next special reward was reserved for the first time that Ryan successfully used the potty for #2 (which he ended up doing on the very first day).  Ryan had spotted this yellow car at the store a few weeks ago, but I had told him no.  Then, I went back and bought it when he wasn't looking.  I absolutely treasure the memory of Ryan being so very surprised and proud of himself was when he realized that he had earned the car!  

After these rewards, I do not plan to use anything else as an incentive for Ryan to continue using the potty.  We do not want Ryan to think that he needs a prize to do what is expected of him and go to the potty.  The purpose of these small rewards was mainly to help Ryan to overcome any fear that he had of using the potty, and to establish a positive feeling after he goes.  This should ultimately become routine and habit, like it is for the big kids.

Our Results

Day 1:  4 successful times of using the potty, 4 accidents
Day 2:  5 successful times of using the potty, 3 accidents
Day 3:  5 successful times of using the potty, 1 accident
Day 4:  No accidents!!!!!  (even when we played with friends at the library and then went out to eat, Ryan used his travel potty in the public restrooms and he kept his underwear dry!)

I am sooooooo proud of our big boy! Since we are back to being busy with our activities this week, I will make sure to bring Ryan's travel potty, extra underwear, and extra changes of clothes everywhere that we go.

I am sure that there will be plenty accidents here and there, especially as we start spending more time outside of the home.

Ryan still uses a diaper at nighttime to sleep and during his nap time.  We take it off as soon as he wakes up so that he can practice going to the potty.

But, overall, our three days of nothing but potty training wasn't too stressful (probably because there were two of us, so we could take turns and give each other a break).  It turned out a lot better than we had even hoped for.  Ryan is definitely using the potty consistently now and we are super proud of him!

*DAY 5 UPDATE: During a long car ride today, Ryan fell asleep and had an accident in his carseat. He definitely doesn't have control of his bladder when he is sleeping. He also had an accident at the park, which was probably my fault for not giving him a "potty break" during the few hours that we were there (and plus, he was having too much fun on the playground to remember to tell me). But here at home, we continue to be accident free! Yay!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Journal

My mom cried the first time she read my blog.

Everything that she had tried to protect me from had become reality.  Reading about it on the screen made it feel even more real to her.  I wasn’t expecting this reaction at all, and I came very close to deleting the whole thing and never writing again.

But my mom told me that she wanted me to keep writing and telling my story because it might benefit others.  Over time, she began looking forward to reading my new entries and leaving me cheerful notes in the comments.  She wished that I would write more frequently, so that she could check in, see the most recent pictures of Ryan, and read about whatever was on my mind.  

My mom wanted me to have strength and courage, but she also taught me that I need to be true to myself and real about my feelings.  Because of this, I would like to share a personal story with you.

From as far back as I can remember, I had frequent nightmares about my mom dying.  Most people said that it was because of my wild imagination, combined with anxiety, but I always believed that it was because dreams somehow hold clues and insight to the future.

When my mom was diagnosed with metastatic cancer on April 1, 2009, I only wished that it could have been a nightmare or even a bad April fool’s joke.  But it was real.  And it was painful.  My heart sank to the pit of my stomach as I could not even begin to fathom life without her.  The doctors could not give us an estimate of how much time she had left, but most people who had family members with the same diagnosis said that they generally only lived a few months.

So, my mom and I decided to keep a journal.  We ended up writing notes back and forth to each other for the next two and a half years.  It was a simple way for her to pass the time when she was too sick to get out of bed, and the journal was something that I could always keep to remember her by.

In her first journal entry, my mom described how she felt about her diagnosis, how much she loved me, and how she was going to do everything possible to fight for her life so that she could be here with me and our family.  After each round of chemo (and there were over sixty rounds) she dutifully wrote me letters.

On “good” days, her entries were lighthearted and excited, like the time that we went to the beach together or when she described the beauty of our wedding ceremony.  We continued writing to each other throughout my pregnancy and during the joyous days following Ryan’s birth.  I wish that I could describe the happiness that eluded from her words because I had never seen her as delighted as she was as a new grandmother.  In our journal, she also wrote letters to Barry, Ryan, and her hypothetical future grandchildren.

Three and a half months later, we were faced with another cancer diagnosis: Mine.  My mom’s letters had remained upbeat the entire time throughout her own treatments and hospital stays, but at this point, her tone suddenly became somber, depressed, and worried. While I was undergoing my double mastectomy, she wrote in the journal for several hours while sitting in the waiting room.  She expressed her grief and concern that her baby girl had to go through this amount of pain.  She was proud of me for facing everything, but she did not feel that I deserved to have to suffer through it.  Her compassion was overwhelming.

After a while, the journal became a sense of security for me, and it was comforting to know that I would be able to read my mom’s words and feel her love for me in the many years to come.  After all that we had been through, we were both coming to terms with everything and finding peace in whatever situation life dealt us.

The very last time that my mom was feeling good, looking healthy, and acting like herself (energetic and sharp-witted) was at Ryan’s birthday party last year.  We were blessed that she was able be such a big a part of this meaningful event.  In October, she started to deteriorate quickly, and by December she was suffering immensely and the chemo had stopped working.

It was during that month that our journal got left behind in one of the hospital rooms.  

My mom was truly devastated and felt like she had let me down by not keeping track of the book. I tried to tell her that it didn’t matter, because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, but it completely broke my heart to think that all of my mom’s precious words and the record of our journey was gone forever.

Despite many visits and requests to the hospital, I could never track down the journal.  I do believe that everything in life happens for the best, and so there must be a good reason that the journal disappeared.

Here are my thoughts:

1.  If I still had the journal, it might have been even more difficult for me to cope with my mom’s death.  Instead of focusing inwardly on my personal memories, reading the journal might have permitted me to dwell on the past rather than concentrate on the future.  Maybe some of those painful details of my life are not meant to be in my conscious memory.

2.  The loss of the journal reinforced an important lesson: Nothing lasts forever and we should not put much value into any of our material possessions (even the sentimental ones) but rather focus on what is inside of our hearts.

3.  Since this blog contains some of the only messages that my mom left for me and is the sole record of my difficult journey, it holds a special place in my heart.  That gives me the motivation to keep writing and updating.  After all, I never know who might be reading, personally connecting with my cancer experiences, or finding new ideas/amusement in our random life as we raise our toddler.

Now, for the sake of being completely honest, there is a huge part of me that wishes that I still had the journal to read when I miss my mom.  But I can feel her spirit in my heart and in everything around me, and I take comfort in that and in the fact that she is resting at peace with God.

Looking back, I am so grateful that my mom encouraged me to keep writing when she first read my blog in the beginning of 2011.  This has actually become Ryan's baby book, a record of our family's activities, and also a collection of my own personal thoughts and reflections. I'm not sure how much it helps others (although I hope that it does, in some way) but it certainly helps me to organize and appreciate my life.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Summer Playgroup Themes

Everything is more exciting when there is a theme involved. (I could never resist a good theme party!) Here are some of the ones that Ryan and his playgroup friends have enjoyed so far this summer:
Swimming Pool Theme 

I made these mini-cupcakes (inspired by Bakerella) when we hosted our Friday playgroup at a splash park. I used Wilton food coloring gel to make the icing blue, a food decorator pen to draw the faces on teddy grahams, and gummy life savers for their floatie rafts.  We also munched on goldfish crackers and sliced fruit.

Bugs/Insects Theme  

When we hosted our Wednesday playgroup at our place, I served these simple snacks as part of a bugs theme.  1. Crackers with cheese spread, tomatoes, raisins, and black icing spots to look like lady bugs  2. Fudge brownies with gummy worms  3. Ants on a log (celery, peanut butter, raisins)  4. Grapes on a skewer to look like caterpillars  5.  Chocolate and fruit with butterfly toppers that I made out of construction paper.

Cowboy/Cowgirl Theme 

For this fun theme, all of the credit goes to my friend, T.  Last weekend, she decided to host a cowboy/cowgirl party for all of us, including the dads.  (This was in honor of our good friend, A, who is moving away to Texas.  We are going to miss her and baby E so very much!)  We did a potluck of different kinds of Texas-inspired food, including bbq chicken, several corn dishes, salsa, dips, etc.  My favorite part was seeing all of the toddlers dressed up in cowboy hats, plaid shirts, overalls, etc.  This was such a cute idea, and everybody had a great time with it!

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