Potty Training Mommy

We started potty training Ivy today. A two-fold reason, the first being that she is 21 months and showing all the cues (telling us when she pees and poos her diapers, showing an interest in sitting on a potty when her big sis does, etc.) and the second being that our hard water is rendering our waterproof diaper covers useless. I found a wonderful soap to use on cloth diapers formulated specifically for our hard water except that it’s expensive, well the shipping and handling anyway, and it makes Ivy break out. So my choices, diapers that work and make her break out versus diapers that don’t work and leak through all her clothes but leave her bottom rash-free. I took the third road of chucking the diapers and potty training early. By early I mean earlier then I was planning which was when the weather warmed up and she can casually run around in her undies without me doing 50 million loads of laundry from beginning pee accidents in pants.

I’ve discovered that I am not good at the potty training thing. All of my children are late, late potty trainers with very stubborn wills and all have had a history of regression that takes at least a year or more to pull out of. So, this being my fifth round, I’ve decided to take a different tactic.

  • Pray, pray, and pray some more! Not for common sense or the how-to’s (I’ve read a million books on those), but on keeping my patience, using a gentle tone, not getting frustrated too early, not giving up too soon, and staying consistent.
  • Use this as a positive reinforcement for Delilah (3 – still potty training) and Luc (5 – finally just finished potty training!!!) by including them in the process and making it about all three of them.
  • Mommy training. I don’t expect Ivy to get it in the two weeks we will be concentrating on it, I more expect me to habit-train myself on taking her and being consistent with the work so that when the two weeks are up and my normal schedule resumes we don’t fall off the bandwagon.
  • Set reasonable expectations. For Ivy, stick to practicing sitting on the potty and making it positive and the transition to big girl panties. For Delilah, getting consistent potty use and practicing getting pants back on in a timely manner. For Luc, continuing with encouragement for jobs well done.
  • Maintain the schedule.

It is this first and last point that has made the biggest difference today. Giving it over to God constantly has made me keep an even keel (#321). And the gentle nudgings of the Holy Spirit have helped me encourage in places I wouldn’t otherwise, especially with the older two. It is easy for me to ignore little things with them because they should already know better (i.e. wiping themselves, washing hands, flushing, etc.) but I have treated them both as if they are training for the first time in order to keep it positive for Ivy and the praise is totally lifting them up, making them feel included, and keeping them on track (#322). Praying has also helped keep me from distraction (#323). As I am tempted to just do a quick kitchen cleanup the Holy Spirit reminds me that we have a schedule of chores and let’s just let that be enough. When I am tempted to hop on the computer because the baby needs to nurse the Holy Spirit whispers in my ear that I will just let time slip away and then that one-on-one interaction with Ivy will be broken.

Before in training I had taken book reccomendations on completely clearing my schedule and devoting all my attention to the trainee. That sounds great in theory (and may be with a first child) but is not practical with trainee number five! When I’ve tried this in the past then chaos ensued. The littles would make messes everywhere because they had unlimited freedom with no boundaries. And the older children would make messes everywhere with their well-meaning crafting and negligence of chores. I would end up frustrated and potty training would be derailed as I tried to pull some semblence of order back into our lives. 

I’ve also tried the maintain-current-schedule theory with little success as well. I would spend the whole day answering school questions or keeping toddlers out of trouble or getting laundry, dishes, meals done and the poor trainee would have an inconsistent trainer.

So, what to do?

In my brilliance (okay, not mine but the Lords!), I came up with two solutions. The first I’ve already touched on ~ keeping the other two toddlers/preschoolers involved in the training process right by my side. This has left my house reasonable clean all day (#324)! No messy playroom to pick up (#325). No toys strewed everywhere (#326). No food snuck and left sticky on tables and walls (#327). It has been wonderful and an eye opener on how our school days should go.

The second solution is guided project learning for the older ones. I needed a way to still school them without them needing me to be there. We’ve done project weeks before and the biggest challenge for me is the huge mess it creates as they “work”. The biggest challenge for them has been staying on track or not abandoning it as they are distracted by other play. I knew I could easily assign basic school work that they could independently work on but I also know their personalities and that would’ve turned into drudgery for them really fast which, in turn, would’ve led to daydreaming and getting distracted which would’ve led to me constantly nagging reminding them to get back to work and me not being focused on my trainee. I needed to keep them engaged for their 2-hour morning school block while allowing them to work independently. So I thought and planned ahead. I allowed them to check out library books that they wanted. Then I took those same books and turned them into a schoolish project that they could work on but would appeal to their individual interests and keep them going all week. It worked wonderfully (#328)! (I will post on that tomorrow!)

Both solutions allowed us to maintain our schedule better then we’ve been doing for weeks (#329). (Again, giving me great food for thought about how we “do” school.) And the best part, laundry got done (#330), dishes got done (#331), chores stayed on track (#332), I did very little yelling (#333), and my littlest ones had lots and lots and lots of mommy time (#334). And now as Ivy naps I have this incredible free time – an hour or so – before dinner needs to be made where my house is cleaned, chores are caught up, and the kids are happily playing in the playroom after all working together as a team to make sock puppets (#335-337). We have sticker charts that are being happily filled in (#338 – thank you pullups.com for your customization for each child!) and I have a moment to breathe (#339). It has been a very, very good day again reminding me that when I sacrifice my own needs to meet the needs of others, my needs end up getting met exactly how I need! And all the glory goes to Him who sustained me!

Edited Addition ~ Ivy went in the potty!!!!! At exactly 8:04 her 4 older siblings started dancing joyfully around the room and she looked perplexed at the pee, perplexed at their dancing and then got it and danced joyfully herself around the room. A thrilling moment in our mundane household! (#340)


Spelling Bees, Junie B.’s, and the ride home…

Today was the official day of the Omaha HEN Spelling Bee. Gabe’s last year participating in the junior division. And he was thrilled to walk home with a gold medal! Lily almost placed second and might have placed higher had they actually used the spelling list she worked so hard on. Instead, they used the secondary overflow list first. But not once did she blame me for spending all that time studying the wrong list or blame them for using the wrong list. No, she quietly, with natural grace, accepted her ribbon with a smile on her face.

I would love to show you a picture but you’ve already heard that sob story we shall have to be content to wait for regular photo processing. Next week maybe?

Since the spelling bee was held at the library, my kids finally had a chance to check out some books. (And I had a chance to pay off some fines….yeah! Can you hear the sarcasm?) After being cooped up with only the hubby getting out to do necessity shopping, we’ve not had the chance to grace the library steps in a while. Lily was thrilled to pick out a bunch of Fancy Nancy books and Gabe got some much-favorite math books and a few new science books with some new titles on carving wood.

But our best find was Junie B. Jones on audio and a few books to supplement. Lily is just now turning the corner on wanting to tackle some chapter books. Most are still intimidating to her. So when she picked up the Junie B. CD and begged me to get it, I found a librarian and we learned where the books were kept. Junie B. is in first grade – same as Lily – and I thought these would be perfect starter books. Although, I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical on whether I was making the right decision as the first book was titled a flagrant Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus. Should I be condoning this language and attitude I said to myself while checking it out? We popped in a CD on our very long ride home (due to having to drive to another city to drop off our very badly broken Kirby vacuum). The girl narrating the story did a FANTASTIC job. Before long we were all enthralled at the innocent happenings of this Junie B. girl. Even Gabe, at the time completely engrossed in his own reading and willing himself to ignore anything that made Lily happy book-wise, soon found himself putting his book down. Then came the laughter and the the snickers and the looks at me to see if I found it as funny (which I did) and then the, “Aaawwwhhhhh, mom, do we have to turn it off?” when we got home. I even found him carrying around the book and reading it before supper. Hmmm.

The six-year old Junie B. has captured our hearts and I just know we will be seeing much more of her around here in the days to come!

Linked with Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers at:

Wooing as Worship

I am reading this passage today…

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.   ~Romans 12:1

Just yesterday I was encouraging a young, married wife that the biggest blessing my marriage had recieved was when I stopped worrying about fixing him and started serving him and his needs. Suddenly I found my own needs being met. My marriage was blessed. Harmony reigned in our house. She said she heard and appreciated but found it hard to put into practice.

I was still reflecting on this when I read Ann’s repost on the Marriage Bed this morning.

And why would a woman rather scrub the grime of the tile grout in the bathroom for her husband, make him plates of heaping mashed potatoes, light the candles, scour the pots, wash his underwear, rather than say yes to his wooing?  ~ Ann Voskamp

And then I reread that passage from Romans and saw it in a whole new light. How often I serve in wonderful ways that are pleasing to my husband ~ making the bed for him even though I hate to, making sure he has dinner when he comes home even though it would be easier to make mac n chz for the kids, allowing him to go to the store for me even though I’d rather do it myself ~ little ways that say, “I love you” with acts of worship. This is always how I saw serving. This is how I interpretted Romans 12:1.

But what about the wooing? Do I serve his needs here as well as the others? Why not the other ways I know will make him happy? Curling my hair for him. Dying my grays a color shade he’d prefer. Wearing a shirt he specifically likes. Allowing him to caress and woo me with compliments and his hands and believing it. Why do I find it so hard to believe that a literal interpretation, serving with my body, can’t be an act of worship? Is our culture really that distorted? Is that distortion largely to blame on Christian women in their false piety? Or feminist women in their false sense of liberation and non-objectifying?

Ann is right. His word does tell us to rejoice in this union, that He blesses those ways of men that we try to shove in the chauvenistic box.

I choose You today, Lord. I choose to say yes to the wooing of my husband and no to the false lies I’ve been harboring. I choose to live this February really loving, loving as an act of worship and contemplating on what that means. I choose to say yes to Your wooing, Lord, as I seek to set that time aside for You and say no to the desires of my own flesh that won’t satisfy.

 And I urge you, dear readers, to visit Ann today. To seek encouragement and drink from the words of honesty and vulnerability as she allows the Holy Spirit to direct her typing. Wise girl, that Ann!


Renewing our Mind with Prayer

When I am sour in mood, exhausted from a sleepless night, short with the kids over dawddling chores, bored and not wanting to do my work, quick to anger and share a sharp word as I clean up messes too repungnent for words…

How often do I stop to pray? How often do I allow pray to renew my mind? Not often enough.

Praying again for grace and strength, here I will share the prayers I have long been meaning to get to…prayers I long to memorize so that they become habits upon my lips. (Excerpted from Holiness for Housewives by Van Zeller – a MUST read ~ yearly ~ for any mom!!!)

Prayer in time of exasperation:

Lord, my interruptions are almost more than I can bear. Give me patience. Help me to suppress my irritation for Your sake. Help me to see this provocation as being sent by You for the perfecting of my soul. If I do not let it act for my good, it will inevitably act the other way. Lord, let the surface of my soul be calm, so that it may reflect Your image and Your will. Amen.

 Prayer when in a bad mood:

Lord, I am in a shocking state of mind. I feel as if I ought not to be praying at all: I am too disgruntled for recollection and generosity and good resolutions and all those things that are necessary to be of Your service. But it is better to try to pray now than merely to give in and indulge my poisonous humor. Lord, show me how to deal with myself when rebellion and bitterness well up in me and make life seem far more of a burden than it is. Show me that the remedy lies in submission to You and not in wallowing in self. Amen.

Thank you, Elizabeth, for your ever-so encouraging words today that inspired me to post these (my post-it note to myself and to share with others) as I am still anxiously awaiting your book in the mail!!!

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.     ~Romans 12:2

Linking with Small Steps @ In the Heart of my Home with Elizabeth Foss

Unschooling, New Friends, and a Broken Camera

I’m sobbing as I’m looking at my camera and trying to ~ over and over ~ press a button to make anything work at all. It’s fried. Kaput. I have no idea what happened to it. One day it worked beautifully and the next I tried to turn it on, heard a bzzzing sound and then nothing. It’s stuck in the open position with no power. Battery works. Memory card works. Camera ~ sadly ~ does NOT work!!! I’m heartbroken. How will I live without a camera for the next two months until we can replace it? How will I blog effectively without it? I didn’t realize how much I’ve come to rely on this blog as a scrapbook of our life, capturing it in photos as well as words.

That said, we had a great day today. We met some new friends. Thanks to my new ladies bible class I was introduced to the one other homeschooling mom in Ashland who happens to have 4 kids my kids same ages. After class today we had our first meet & greet playdate. It was loud and chaotic filled with happy noises of playing and promises of being best friends. My house is in shambles but they left at a still reasonable time, Gabe is practicing for the spelling bee, the littles are both down for naps and the other three decided to spend the afternoon drawing with markers at the learning table. (Would love to show you pics of their beautiful drawings but, you know, that whole camera thing and all.)

It is quiet around here. That good kind of quiet where everyone is completely absorbed and involved in their thing. I am happily spending a bit of free time catching up on blog reading and feeling really comfortable that my kids are learning just fine without me for the time being. I love this aspect of unschooling. The ebb and flow of learning and playing, of scheduling and unscheduling, of doing and just being.

And, on that note, I will share a few pics (because honestly, what is a post without pics?) of the kids in their “play” this week. Very imaginative using the cardboard insert from my new mop box to set up a labryinth Mario land for their Mario figurines and Zoobles.

(Don’tcha just love the Mario cut-out pieces?)

The Learning Room and an Amazing Book Review!

January  10 – 21, 2011

We have been spelling, spelling, spelling around here. Next Friday is the spelling bee. We got a late start this year because they didn’t have the lists prepared and I admit, I feel a bit nervous this time around. I know Gabe will do great but his competitive edge will either make for a really great day for him or make him miserable despite all our talks about good sportsmanship and just doing your best. But, really, I’m not that nervous for him. He’s gotten through three pages of list words at the fourth grade level and is aceing all his tests on spellingcity.com. Who I’m really nervous for is Lily. She wants so bad to do well and keep up and is getting frustrated with herself (she is not a naturally good speller) at still having to work on certain words over and over and over again. I’m trying to be as encouraging and supportive as I know how.

On the positive side, our Little House studies are going fantastic. We read two chapters yesterday and Gabe was begging for more. They really enjoy doing the lapbook work and we listened to some jigs yesterday (like Pa played on his fiddle) and we had quite the group of bouncing kids jigging around the house (bet our downstairs neighbors loved that!). Along with jigging we tried our hand at making maple syrup candy with our plethora of snow days. The kids gobbled it up but it was too soft. Would have been better had we had a candy thermometer. They also loved sampling the difference between “real” maple syrup and the hybrid stuff from the store. They noted the difference in flavor and had fun reading the ingredients label but thought each were equally tasty…especially when compared to the sample of more-common molasses they had which they thought tasted like medicine.

Speaking of snow…there has also been quite a lot of sledding going on around here. We have a perfect sledding hill next to our house and my husband has felt extra inspired to be taking the kids out in it. Better him then me, I say! Although, I did sneak outside for a few pics and to rescue my baby who was standing in a snow pile up to her knees, stuck, with tears iced to her cheeks. As much as you want to be a part of the gang at 20 months old, some things aren’t quite as much fun as anticipated!

But our most favorite part of the past 2 weeks…

This little gem of a book that I found on clearance (1/2 price!!!!!) at Barnes and Nobles.

It showcases all the elements in order, like a field guide, with a picture of each elemant in its natural state on one page and then a brief history with pictures of how and what it is used in on the opposite page.

It also showcases a mini-map of where it is on the periodic table; its atomic weight, density, radius, and crystal structure; and where it lies on the atomic emmission spectrum.

It is written by an author, Theodore Gray, who truly is passionate about this subject (a true living book!) and has a knack of drawing you right in despite the fact that you’re learning college level science! Case in point:

The very last column is the noble gases. Noble is used here in the sense of “above the business of the comman riffraff.” Noble gases almost never form compounds with each other or with any other elements.


Alkali metals react with water to release hydrogen gas, which is highly flammable. When you throw a large enough lump of sodium into a lake, the result is a huge explosion a few seconds later. Depending on whether you took the right precaustions, this is either a thrilling and beautiful experience or the end of your life as you have known it when molten sodium sprays into your eyes, permanently blinding you.


Almost everything you see in this book is sitting somewhere in my office, except that one thing the FBI confiscated and a few historical objects. I had a great time collecting these examples of the vibrant diversity of the elements, and I hope you have as much fun reading about them.

It is truly one of the most fascinating books I’ve looked at! And, to put the icing on the cake, it comes with a bonus DVD that plays The Elements Song by Tom Lehrer (a mathematician who wrote satirical educational songs, all of which I find greatly amusing!) . This song is already on our much-played science CD and the kids LOVE it! As the DVD is playing the song, you see the pictures of the elements flash on the screen then find their place on the periodic table. My husband bet the kids that whoever can memorize it first will win $10! If you listen to the song here you will know what a challenge that will be! Phonics? Pisshhh. That’s nothing on pronouncing ununoctium or yanomanmite!

My husband decided that we go through the book with the kids as a full science course. The kids seconded that vote. Then the kids decided (their idea…really, I didn’t even suggest it) that they draw a picture of each element. I just added the nice touch of putting a mini blank periodic table for them at the bottom of the page to “map” where that element is found. They thought that was a great addition and today a new science notebook was born! I loved how their first pages turned out and I would love to show you except my camera is on the fritz. (Hmm…maybe I’ll try scanning?) Gabe even mentioned today that even though they were doing school during their free time (a consequence of not finishing morning chores on time) that it was okay because this was cool and not really like school at all so he didn’t mind missing any free time.

Oh, how my homeschooling mom’s heart went pitter patter just then! Blessings this weekend!

Linked to:

Joy Moments

Because I finally brought myself to watch Ann’s video and remembered that I, too, am going too fast…treating life like an emergency…decided to take a slow road today and watch for the moments. And in my hurry to do dishes and bring order for dinner quickly before little cries begged for nursing, I stole a joy moment of licking chocolate cake batter from the bowl until the heartbroken cry of a little girl reminded me and I quickly returned the bowl and allowed the moments to pass unhurried savoring the delight of smudged faces and pushing away thoughts of baths and laundry. Instead I savoured and grabbed the camera to remember that I don’t always have to be the grownup!