Seriously, where did my tiny baby go? Am I being punked?
I would love to have Judah potty trained before Baby 2 arrives in September. At almost 2 and a half, he is definitely showing interest. But every time we’ve tried, as much as he wants to get it, it seems like his brain and his bladder just aren’t on the same page.
He frequently asks to go to the potty, and I take him, but nothing usually happens when we get there. It’s a big game. I know he needs more direction and something other than diapers to help him make the connection, but I’ve been putting it off for weeks hoping that I would start to feel better.
I do feel a little better now (somewhat), but more importantly, my husband will be on vacation for a month in May and June, so I’ll have some help. We’ve decided to give it a shot and see if Judah is ready with a little guidance and more intensive efforts on our part.
I know that putting him on the potty while he continues to wear regular diapers is pointless. Those dang things just keep them so dry (great for newborns, not great for potty-training). He needs to feel when he’s wet to make that connection. I considered putting him back in cloth diapers, but I need something that’s easy on and off so we can manage quickly or he can do it himself.
Pull-Ups are the most popular option, but I just can’t get over the price. Twenty five to 30 cents a diaper?! And that’s for the generic brand! We currently pay about 16 cents per diaper for the Target-brand diapers we’ve used since Judah switched out of cloth at 12 months, so doubling our diaper cost is a tough pill to swallow. Especially since the few times I’ve put him in Pull-Ups, they’ve leaked terribly. Plus I really don’t like how similar to diapers they are. I feel like he needs something new and different to help him understand that it’s time for him to try to stay dry.
I also considered reusable training pants like these Flip training pants. They’re easy on and off, but I’ve heard conflicting reports from friends who’ve used them about how effective they are (according to some, the liner shifts and causes leaks). I’m also having the same problem with price. They’re a little more affordable than the all-in-one training pants I’ve seen for $15-$20 each since the cover can be used a few times before washing, but the reusable inserts cost about $6 a piece. If I bought two covers and 12 inserts, I’d pay almost $100 for the whole system. Probably still less than I’d pay for a few months in Pull-Ups, but still. Yikes. Especially since I’m not even sure how well they’ll work.
Several people on my Facebook page suggested DIY options. I found this tutorial for DIY cloth training pants that involves modifying Gerber training pants (the kind that are basically cotton underpants with a little extra layer of padding where it’s needed) to add a few extra layers of flannel and a waterproof outer layer. I like that they look and feel more like underpants, which I think will make a big difference for him psychologically. Plus they’re less bulky. They will definitely leak, but I’ve yet to hear about a training pant that doesn’t. It seems like that’s kind of the point — if they’re as effective as diapers, there’s no incentive for kids to stop wetting them. At least these won’t cost a fortune! They should cost about $2.75 per pair. I can make a dozen for what I’d pay for a few weeks’ worth of Pull-Ups. That seems a lot more doable for something that my toddler is going to pee on.
I haven’t made them yet, and I obviously haven’t tested them, so I guess we’ll see how it goes.
I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed at the prospect of starting this process, though, so I’m curious how you did it. Did you use Pull-Ups? Or are you one of those brave people who went cold turkey with diapers and just cleaned up messes for a few days until it clicked? (I can’t even imagine that right now, though I do hear it’s effective.) Send me your potty-training advice and encouragement!
Every year on New Year’s Day I feel anxious for a fresh start. “This is the year,” I tell myself. And I really mean it. I really believe that opening a fresh new calendar will give me the motivation I need to make all the changes I failed to make the previous year.
Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve ever followed through with a single resolution. The closest I came was the year after Judah was born when I resolved to take at least one photo a day. I made it to July before I stopped making an effort to use my camera each day. Let’s be honest, though, my success was probably more likely due to the new baby who stayed relatively still looking cute. Once he started moving, I was done playing photographer.
This year is no different. I have a whole list of things I’d like to change about myself — get in shape, be more organized, finally get to the home improvement projects we’ve been putting off, be more creative, make more time for the things I enjoy doing.
When I really started thinking about it, I started to feel really bad about myself. That’s the thing about New Year’s resolutions — most of them are pretty focused on what’s not good enough about us. As I ticked off the huge list of possible New Year’s resolutions in my head, all I could think was, “Man, I’m doing a lot of things so wrong.”
I think most of us get enough of that kind of negative self talk as it is without focusing an entire yearly tradition on what’s not good enough about us, what we need to change.
I’m not bashing self-improvement. It’s important to be healthy, take care of ourselves, and banish bad habits. However, instead of making a resolution and setting myself up for disappointment if I fail, I’m changing my perspective this year. I’m focusing on the positive. Instead of thinking about all the things I need to change about myself, I’m surrounding myself with people, things, and ideas that motivate and inspire me to take care of myself and my family in the way that we deserve.
The problem with “New Year’s resolutions” is that when we tie our motivation to a time of the year, the motivation inevitably wears off. Anyone who regularly works out at a gym is familiar with this phenomenon. Every January 1, there is a flood of new faces in the cardio room and the classes. Suddenly you’re waiting in line for a treadmill when just before Christmas 90% of the machines were empty. By Valentine’s Day, the crowds are gone. All of those people who rushed to the gym after the holiday gluttony and resolved to finally get in shape have gotten back to their busy lives.
So I decided — no New Year’s resolutions this year. If I choose to eat better, exercise more, organize more efficiently, or start a new home project, I’ll do it because I’m feeling motivated and inspired to do so in the moment — not because of the date on the calendar. I’m not going to spend the beginning of the year feeling bad about myself because of all the things I need to change.
Do New Year’s resolutions work for you? How do you motivate yourself to make positive changes?
My three-month break from blogging wasn’t planned. That’s why I never had the chance to post a note explaining my absence. I was always on the verge of posting an update. Tomorrow. Next week. Any day now. Soon.
It started with good news. Shortly after my last post in August, I found out we were expecting another baby. We were elated. Then came the fatigue, the morning sickness, the aches and pains. All of that added to a rigorous teaching schedule and a 21-month-old gave me little time for anything else — not even this blog that I missed so much.
Unfortunately, our good news was followed by heartbreak. At our first ultrasound at 10 weeks, there was no heartbeat. I had a miscarriage at the end of October.
It was painful and sad, but now a month later I’m doing much better. We’re preparing to celebrate Judah’s second birthday (TWO!), and I’m reminding myself daily just how much I have to be thankful for.
Long story short, I miss you guys. I miss this space. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. I love this blog too much to give it up completely. I hope to start posting regularly again, and I hope that some of my readers have stuck around during my extended break.
To those of you who emailed me, thank you. Your concern means the world to me. All is well. Obla-di Obla-da, life goes on.
What’s new with you?
I know I’m not the first person to say this — and certainly not the last — but living with a toddler feels like a losing battle. Every day, every hour, sometimes every minute there’s a new battle to wage, a new argument, usually an argument that we just had 20 minutes ago.
I know he’s 19 months old. I know this is his job. It’s unrealistic for me to expect him to follow the rules all the time. I get it. But he’s just enough like me — stubborn and strong-willed and determined to have the last word — that it makes choosing my battles incredibly difficult. Every time he pointedly breaks the rules, he looks me right in the face with that big grin as if to say, “Rules? What rules?” And I’m convinced that it’s so monumentally important that I win this battle, this one right now, otherwise he’s doomed to a life a lawless disregard for the rules. As if letting him climb on the chair or take off his pants will lead him to an inevitable life of crime.
I realize this is ridiculous now as I sit in my silent living room while he naps peacefully in the other room. Obviously toddlers are going to break rules. The best we can do is enforce the important ones, correct them when they test boundaries, and wait for them to grow up enough to understand why it’s not a good idea to climb on the table or throw alphabet magnets into the heat registers. But in the moment, when I turn my back for a split second and find him standing on the table again, I can’t help but feel like I’m losing. To a 3-foot, 25-pound dictator. And it is exhausting.
My husband tells me to choose my battles. I know he’s right. I spend so much time chasing him, correcting him, trying to get him to mind just for the sake of following the rules. I know if I could just relax and let some things go, I would spend less time pulling so much of my hair out and more time enjoying this time. So why is it so hard to “choose my battles” in the moment?
Don’t get me wrong, there are wonderful moments sprinkled throughout the day between all of this chasing and correcting and preventing injury. I know when I look back 20 years from now, those will be the moments I remember. The snuggles and kisses and milestones. The books we read and the games we play. He makes me laugh and melts my heart as much as he drives me bonkers. I’ll remember all of that, and I’ll miss my little baby as he grows up. It’s one of the kind quirks of our brains — as parents, we have a funny way of filtering out the bad days and remembering the good.
But there are hard days, too. Days when I collapse in my bed after he finally falls asleep close to 10 o’clock. The house is a mess, the stack of papers I wanted to hand back to my students remains ungraded, my blog goes another day without an update, the bookmark in the novel on my nightstand that I’ve been reading forever doesn’t move. I feel exhausted and beaten, and all can do is wonder if I’m doing it all wrong. Surely, it’s not supposed to be this hard. Though every account I’ve ever read of someone else’s parenting experiences assures me that yes, it is this hard, it’s probably going to be this hard forever, but I still can’t help but my doubt myself.
The doubt is the worst part. What if I’m not just losing these daily battles? What if I’m failing him? That’s why it’s so hard to choose my battles. It’s so hard to tell which ones are worth fighting when there’s so much at stake.
Often when I’m standing in line at the grocery store, waiting to check out, and Judah is being particularly difficult — squirming, trying to climb out of the cart, grabbing at the credit card reader, picking up grocery items and throwing them on the floor, screaming — some kind older lady always smiles wistfully at me and says, “Enjoy this time. It goes by so fast, and someday you’ll miss it.” Though I question the truth behind that statement (obviously, I will remember the wonderful things about my son at this age, but somehow I doubt I’ll ever stand in line at the grocery store and say, “I miss those nuclear meltdown temper tantrums Judah used to have when I was trying to pay for my groceries.”) Still, I muster the kindest smile I can, and I always tell them, “I know. The days are long, and the years are short.”
And that’s what I tell myself on the bad days. I take a deep breath as I gently pick him up off the table or chase him down to put his pants back on, and I remind myself that it won’t be this way forever. It will get easier. And that’s exactly when I’ll forget all of the worst parts of life with a toddler and long for the good parts again.
One of the biggest misconceptions that I find myself correcting since Judah was born is the idea that life without a full-time office job is a 24/7 party/nap/pajama fest. While I continue to feel blessed that I’m able to be at home with Judah during the day and earn an income at the same time, it’s much more challenging than working in an office 9 to 5 (for me, anyway).
I know my fellow moms (and dads) will agree that no matter what your work situation — whether you work in an office, earn income from home, or work your butt off as a stay-at-home parent — time is a precious commodity. I’ll admit, Judah was such a content baby, I spent the entire first year of his life thinking this gig was going to be easy. Then he started walking, and it was all over. Now it feels like I’m always running behind, I’m never as productive as I used to be, and I’ve even turned into a bit of an airhead.
But time management, like money management, is about priorities. Between teaching three classes, taking care of Judah all day and managing his activities, and taking on the most freelance work I’ve ever tackled, this summer has been bonkers for us. I’ve recently found myself lamenting my lack of time for pretty much anything, which means it’s time for me to step back and reprioritize.
So I made a list — a road map of which things on my to-do list are non-negotiable and which things I need to rethink to be more efficient.
Play time with Judah – Spending time with him is the whole reason I made the decision to forgo full-time work, so he remains my top priority. Now that he’s a full-fledged toddler he’s more interactive than ever, and it’s not fair to keep him cooped in the house while I work all day. I already squeeze most of my work into his short naptime and after he’s in bed, but I’ll admit that this schedule sometimes leaves me so exhausted that I’m not the most energetic playmate for him. This is something that I’m working on.
I’ve also decided to make time for activities he enjoys like his gymnastics class, a swim class later this summer, and other fun things that can be a pain to fit into my schedule, but worth it for him.
Exercise – I’m still working on dropping about 20 pounds of cheeseburger weight (I lost the privilege of calling it baby weight when Judah turned 1, so now it’s best if I admit it’s the cheeseburgers, not the baby, that are the problem). Exercise is also the best way to control the symptoms of my anxiety disorder, and it certainly ups my energy level. The good news is that Judah has adapted fantastically to the wonderful people at the YMCA daycare, and that hour a day is a great way for him to burn some energy and meet some playmates, so this keeps us both happy.
My Teaching Job – I’ve absolutely fallen in love with this job, and it’s too perfect schedule-wise to give up. They schedule my courses around my husband’s, so he’s home when I’m not, and I enjoy it more than any other paid position I’ve ever had. So I want to do everything I can to continue doing it as long as they’ll have me.
Things to Rethink
Freelance Work – I have this problem. When someone contacts me with an opportunity to earn some money, I can’t say no. No matter how swamped I am or how uninterested I am in the work, I have the hardest time turning it down. This does absolutely not good for me or my schedule. Now that I’m teaching, I can let go of this “feast or famine” attitude. I have steady paychecks. I have enough on my plate already. I don’t want to give up freelancing, but I need to be much pickier in what I’m willing to take on.
Household chores – I can be a little Type A when it comes to keeping the house clean. I don’t want to give up on a clean house — keeping things tidy reduces my overall stress. But I do need to work on accepting help in this area, and lowering my expectations. It’s not that my husband doesn’t clean well; it’s just that I’m a psycho with ridiculous requirements when it comes to a clean house. Letting go of some of my control issues in this area will be good for me and for our marriage.
Extra organization and home improvement tasks – As if I have time for stuff like this right now. But my to-do list around the house just keeps getting longer as the closets and piles of hidden paper get taller. My solution is to get serious about organizing since this will hopefully help my feel more productive and less stressed, and let go of decorating tasks for the time being. I don’t have time for them at the moment, and obsessing about when they’re going to get finished just adds stress. We’re most productive on breaks from school, so I’ll try not to worry about this stuff until we get a vacation.
Blogging – I miss you guys. I miss this space. I need to make more time for it, even if I feel like my brain is fried completely at the end of the day.
So what about you guys? Have any of you found the magic key to work/life balance? Or least found a method of managing it all that works for you? I’m all ears.
Remember a couple weeks ago when I was all, “I don’t even think about Facebook anymore!” That was true for a couple of weeks in the middle of the month. I experienced some withdrawal for the first week or so, and then for about two weeks, it was almost like social media didn’t exist. I was fine with out it.
As I get closer to the end of the month, though, I’m starting to feel the withdrawal symptoms creeping back. You know what’s funny, though? It’s not Facebook that I miss the most this week; it’s Pinterest. I can’t wait to look at all the pretty pictures of crafts and food and clothes. All of the sudden I’m finding things all over the Internet that I’m dying to share, and I have nowhere to post them. I can hardly wait until tomorrow.
I’m not entirely certain what will happen now. I’d like to say I’ve learned some life-changing lesson about balancing the real world with the Internet. I’d like to say I’ve made a vow to get off the computer and spend more time outside. It’s true that I want those things (maybe not outside if it’s 90 degrees, but I at least want to get out of the house), and I’m sure for the next few weeks I’ll be pretty good about sticking to it. I’ll probably use social media less for a while. But I’m a realist, and I know it won’t be long before I start feeling like I’m wasting time again.
Honestly, though, as I’ve said before: the benefits outweigh the cost. I may lose some time, but what I’m gaining is invaluable information and a support network which I depend on too much to give up.
Based on the experience, though, I do have a few small goals I’ve set for myself to help me find a little balance.
Limit screen time before bed.
These days, the only time I can read is right before I fall asleep. Before this experiment, I hated that I’d get into bed, log in to check Facebook “one more time,” and end up killing an hour playing with my phone. I sleep better when I read, and I like making time to read anyway, so I’d like to leave the Internet behind when it’s time for bed.
Get out of the house.
If I have a lot planned during the day that keeps us running around, Judah and I both stay more active and I don’t find myself wasting as much time. I’m teaching three classes this summer, Judah and I have been spending an hour a day at the YMCA where I work out, and Judah is enrolled in a weekly baby gym class. With all of these activities, staying busy shouldn’t be a problem.
This is my toughest goal, because I’ve tried to do this in the past, and failed miserably. There is never a time when I’m sitting on Facebook and there’s absolutely nothing else I should be doing. Sometimes it’s work that I’m avoiding, but other times it’s something I want to do — reading a book, quilting, spending time with my husband — but I get so caught up in the Internets that suddenly I look at the clock and an hour has passed.
I strive to live my life mindfully, though — mindful eating, mindful spending, and eventually, mindful time management. So I’m going to make my best effort to set hard limits and stick to them. In other words, if I’m wasting time on the Internet, I will tell myself, “You have 15 more minutes, and then it’s time to move on to something more productive.” Setting the limits won’t be hard at all — I do that all the time. The hard part is watching the clock, and actually sticking to the limits I’ve set.
Let me just preface this by saying that I honestly believe we would have gotten just as much done this month even if I wasn’t taking a break from social media. I’ve been planning all of this stuff since we moved into our house (a year ago this month), and we finally had the time, money, and motivation to get all of it done. The sudden surge of productivity has more to do with both of us having a month off work.
With that said: whew. It has been a crazy month. In addition to visitors or travel plans every single weekend this month (I am not exaggerating), we finally started ticking things off our huge to-do list around the house.
We kicked it off by painting the den and repainting the dining room. We already painted the dining room the same color as the kitchen — pale yellow — but I didn’t like it next to the light blue in the living room. The two colors next to each other reminded me too much of an Easter egg. So we painted the dining room mocha. The den is a fabulous green color — Valspar’s Irish Paddock.
Dining room before:
Dining room after:
And here’s a shot of the mocha and blue side by side — much better than the yellow, trust me:
The den functions as a dual office, craft room, a place where we can relax and read or watch movies by the fire after Judah’s in bed (there’s a desktop computer off camera that we use for that), and a depository for all things not baby proof (it’s the only non-bedroom in the house that isn’t part of the open floor plan, so we’re able to gate it off). It’s cluttered, but cozy, and I suspect we’ll be able to eliminate a lot of the clutter when we move the bookshelf out and put all the books in the built-ins in the living room.
Now that we’re finished painting, we’re slowly starting to hang some things on the wall. First, we hung a family photo gallery in the living room.
The frames are the Virserum line from IKEA, and they’re dirt cheap — $1.99 each for 4×6 and 5×7 frames, and $4.99 for 8×10 frames. The gallery includes three 4×6, three 5×7, and two 8×10 frames. I love the way these frames look, but a word of warning if you decide to go with IKEA frames: they really are cheap. The hook in the back is really just a serrated edge, and when we hung them with ordinary nails, the three frames on the right fell off the wall when Judah pounded on the other side of it from his bedroom. We replaced the nails with 3M picture hangers, and they’re much more secure now.
On the other side: collages.
The collage on the far left is all photos taken before Judah was born, the one in the middle is a wedding photo, and on the right is pictures taken in the first 4 months after Judah was born.
And a shot for perspective:
I also framed postcards from major cities where we traveled in 4×6 frames and hung them in the hallway. Hopefully someday we’ll have enough to fill the other side of the hallway, too.
Amsterdam, Paris, and London:
Springfield (our first trip together as a couple — my husband is a huge Lincoln fan, and we’re both nerds); Asheville, NC; and the Bahamas:
New York, St. Louis, and Washington DC:
The Outer Banks, NC; Seattle, and Chicago:
We have several more postcards, but I couldn’t figure out how to fit them on the wall yet, so we’re waiting until we collect a few more to start hanging them on the other side.
It may not seem like a lot, but all of the painting was done in the late evening (and early morning hours) after Judah was in bed. And you wouldn’t believe the work that goes into hanging and positioning a multiple-photo gallery. Tony measured, calculated, and leveled photos for what seemed like forever. He threatened to frame the scratch paper full of numbers with measurements and calculations next to the gallery just so show people it’s not as easy as it looks. Heh.
We also made a huge dent in the ridiculous jungle in our backyard. Tony and his dad removed several hundred pounds of brush from the overgrown plants in the back, and I planted another herb garden this year. I really hoped to plant a bigger vegetable garden, but between my crazy 18 month old, my part-time teaching job, and my other part-time job freelancing, I just don’t see how I’ll have the time. I’ll be lucky if I can manage a small herb garden.
If you would have told me it would take over a year before our house really started feeling like our own, I wouldn’t have believed you. But it really does take time — and money. It seems like every time we do a small project on the house, it ends up costing at least a couple hundred dollars.
It’s overwhelming to know that this is only the beginning. We still have too many empty walls in the house to count, bleak empty flower beds in the front, an orange master bathroom to paint (eventually), a wall of built-in bookshelves to install (hopefully this fall!), and the million other to-dos that are sure to pop up as we go along. It really is never-ending. I imagine we’ll finish right around the time that we decide to sell. :)
I just finished my second week without social media, and I’ve decided Facebook is a lot like fast food — when I consume less, I crave less. I’m only halfway through the month, and I already don’t even think about social media. I no longer feel the urge to jump onto a social network to vent or catch up on acquaintances’ lives. Despite the fact that Facebook has been a daily part of my life for over 5 years now, after only two weeks, life feels totally normal without it.
I’ve noticed an interesting and unexpected side effect this week, though. I hoped that logging out of social networks for a month would give me more time for blogging and other more creative Internet pastimes. It has actually had the opposite effect. Without social networks, I find myself putting down my computer and phone for longer stretches of time. Without an excuse to use them throughout the day, I’m not easily reminded that I should be blogging or working. I don’t feel creatively inspired. My computer actually sat in the same spot, unopened, from Thursday night until Sunday afternoon this past weekend. I suppose that was the point of the experiment, partly — to disconnect and find more balance. But the truth is, I miss the creative outlet.
Am I more productive? Eh, not really. It’s true that we’ve been more productive around the house than normal the past couple weeks (pictures to come!), but that has more to do with my husband being home and both of us on summer vacation than my social media break. I’m still finding ways to distract myself.
The big question I wanted to answer, though: is my life better without social media? And the answer is not really. I expected this break to have much broader effects on my life, but the truth is, I really don’t think logging out of Facebook for the past two weeks has made me a better mother, wife, or friend. It hasn’t made me particularly happier, smarter, more creative or more productive. Everything feels pretty much the same only now I’m not spending part of my day connecting with people I wouldn’t otherwise see in daily life.
I do miss my Facebook friends. I sometimes wonder what some of them are up to. Unfortunately, I still don’t feel like I have the time to pick up the phone and call them. It’s something that I need to work on — with or without social media. I hoped without Facebook I would be more motivated to try, but that hasn’t been the case. Now I just feel out of the loop and even guiltier for being too busy to take the time to catch up. At least with social media, I knew what was going on with them. I could congratulate their successes, and even make a call if something they posted alerted me that they needed me. Without Facebook, I don’t have time to call, and I don’t even have a reminder that I should.
It’s been an interesting experiment, and I’m sticking with it for the rest of the month. It has been nice not spending so much time attached to a screen, and I certainly think I’ll take some of the balance I’ve found with me when the month is over. So far the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I have no reason to feel guilty about the time I spend connecting with people on social networks. If it’s not one thing, it’s another, and at least social networks are more engaging, helpful, educational, and, well, social than television. If I had to choose one vice over the other, I think I’ll stick with Facebook.