28 December 2007

Roller Coaster Ride

Potty training, to anyone who's done it, is like a four-letter word. Parents around the world will routinely tell you that it's one of the hardest times to weather with a child. Well, at least the ones in places with indoor plumbing will. However, it is an inevitability that all toddlers must learn to use the toilet for their business, so we suffer through something that we'd certainly choose to avoid if the choice was ours. Which brings us to our story of the day.

While it wasn't widely advertised (mostly because the Rescue Pack was funnier), one of the gifts Lily asked Santa for this year was some big-girl panties. The big guy came through, of course, with Dora The Explorer panties in her stocking Christmas morning. We have not forced the issue of making the transition to the potty because, frankly, it's so damned hard. If she's content to use the pull-ups, we're content to keep buying them. This morning, however, the tables turned. When I got Lily up and went to change her, she boldly said "No Daddy, I don't want a pull-up. I want to wear my Dora panties!" Because EVERYONE has told me that "when they're ready, they'll go", I took this as a positive sign. Maybe she just figured it out . . the kid figures out everything else she sets her mind to, why would this be any different? So I nervously put the panties on her after a successful trip to the bathroom and made sure to pair them with a really old pair of pants. I reminded her at least a half dozen times before her breakfast was even on the table to let me know if she had to go potty, and she assured me she'd comply. "I will Daddy!"

She made it through her egg and yogurt and was happily watching TV in the living room when the first outburst of the morning came, and I knew immediately that she'd wet herself. No worries, we'll just change pants and charge forward. Then the second accident happened, not 15 minutes later. Was this a pattern I should continue to expect? Will her needs to relieve herself come back-to-back like this? The engineer in me was hard at work trying to figure out the kid's formula. A while passed before we decided to leave the house, and I wanted to head off any potential carseat disasters. We went to the bathroom and there it was, our first successful pee-pee of the day! We high-fived and headed out the door to Target to buy some back-up panties . . after all, we were on the last clean pair and she was wetting them faster than I could wash them! I wasn't going to sabatoge a day I'd resigned to spend potty training by running out of panties for the kid to wear. So we hustled down the road, raced in to Target from the parking lot and made a bee line for the restroom. YES!!! She made it there and she went to the potty! I felt like we were gonna win this battle! We went and picked out some Cinderella panties to supplement the Dora ones. We hurried outta there, hauled butt home and had another successful potty right after pulling in to the driveway.

Our next trip of the day was to return some library books we'd let go all the way to their due date. We tried to potty before we left but with no results, so I put a dishtowel down in the carseat (at Mandi's recommendation) and we ventured out again. When we arrived we went into the kids area so Lil could get a look at the mice, gerbils, and fish they keep there for entertainment. She also wanted to play a little bit, but I was getting nervous about the length of time between trips to the bathroom. As I picked her up to take her she threw a major hissy fit, which of course seemed as loud as a semi truck going through a tunnel at full throttle because of the relative silence of the library. I figured she'd rebel in the bathroom, but much to my surprise she went pee-pee and her mood turned around . . momentarily. I think the mental stress started getting to her a little as we looked for my book, because she just started freaking out and yelling for no reason right in the middle of the non-fiction section. We scurried out without the book but with dry panties intact. Lily sobbed most of the way home, stopping only occasionally to ask "Daddy, you're not strustrated?" "Yeah Lil, I am frustrated, but just a little bit."

The "off" mood Lil had gotten into at the library remained through lunch, and I decided on an early nap time. We tried to potty once before bed but got nothing, so I put a pull-up on her and put her to sleep. The usual length for a nap these days is just shy of two hours, so when two and a half ticked by and I hadn't heard a peep I figured she'd definitely be wet when she woke up. I ran up to get her as soon as I heard her call, and I was ecstatic to find her completely dry! We hustled to the bathroom and she went like a champ! Off to a great start for the afternoon we headed downstairs to play. Lil wanted to chill out and watch TV, so I checked on her a few times and tried to set her on the potty, but nothing was doing for the next half hour or so. Then came another accident. And another change of clothes. And another accident. And another change of clothes. And in the words of the immortal H.I. McDunnough from Raising Arizona, "that's when the roof caved in." I had just tried to get Lily to potty about 2 minutes before when she came into the kitchen grinning from ear to ear. This can't be good. "I poopy in my panties Daddy!" Sweet. She laid down on the carpet as though it was just another diaper to change. Little did she know she was in for some dangling-over-the-toilet acrobatics. Luckily it was nuggets and the mess was not outrageous . . anything worse and I might have been discouraged from trying again tomorrow. I guess I'll have to keep feeding her a pound of cheese a day until she gets it down, I don't think I can handle one of the peanut-butter ones without an easy-to-remove pull-up or diaper to contain it. So it's 'til tomorrow, when this roller coaster ride will resume and the tales of potty training will surely flow again.

27 December 2007

Christmas With The Kids

This Christmas marked a number of firsts for us. It was the first time Mandi and I exchanged gifts with each other. It felt great, albeit strange to spend money "frivolously" on stuff. We had a strict $100 budget.

It was also our first debt-free Christmas. In the past we've paid for gifts with cash, so I'm not talking credit-card debt, but the week before we finished paying off the last of my student loans. Aunt Sallie has officially been kicked out of the spare bedroom, which made this holiday especially memorable.

And of course, it was the first Christmas where Lily really understood what was going on. She'd been dutifully reciting her biggest wish every day leading up . . "I'd better ask Santa for a Rescue Pack." You'd better believe she came tearing around the corner at 6:04 am with one thing on her mind . . "Where's my Rescue Pack?" Actually, it's over there behind the behemoth hundred-dollar toy train set it took Santa over an hour to assemble late the night before which you haven't even noticed yet. No worries . . as long as you're happy.

Avery, as I'm sure you all remember from the iPhone story, took the leap to tech toys this year. Her acquisitions include an MP3 player (pre-loaded with Hannah Montana, of course), an electronic dog that is touch sensitive so it can't be packed in a suitcase, and a working personal ATM machine (complete with card, PIN, and wall-mounting instructions). She also got a learner guitar and some really cute (while not age-inappropriate) new outfits. I think they both were really happy, and at the same time I don't feel like it was an overboard Christmas.

Both girls really surprised and impressed us with their behavior at our various family get-togethers this year. Lily was a little bit out of control at PF Chang's for Maw Maw's birthday celebration, but she's never been particularly good at restaurants in the past, so there was no real high expectation going in to this one. As far as I'm concerned, she didn't knock the table over and nothing was spilled on anyone. That's a victory. Christmas Eve we did our traditional Gift Exchange party at Maw Maw's house. Most of the kids are old enough at this point that the stress level wasn't as elevated as in years past. By the time we were ready to do the grown-ups part of the party most of the kids were up past their bed times, so the exchange was quick and painless. Not a lot of gift-stealing and drama this year (which may have had as much to do with the lack of interesting gifts), just git 'er done and get the heck outta there.

After opening gifts at home Christmas morning we headed over to Grandma and Grandpa's house to spend time with that gang. Lunch preceded gifts this time, which was another exercise in patience for the kids. The gift that was the biggest hit that round was the 2-pound bag of Jelly Belly's that Mandi gave her Dad. The girls had Grandpa wrapped around their little fingers as he merrily passed out candy to the begging hoard! We got outside for a little while to enjoy the brief spell of good weather. Grandpa indulged the girls on the porch swing while Grandma pulled the others around the yard in Taylor's new wagon. Then Mandi was off to work at 3 and Daddy headed home with the girls to wind down from a long weekend and enjoy some snuggle time. Overall, this one goes down as one of the most memorable and enjoyable Christmas' yet. I hope everyone else had a very Happy Holiday!

23 December 2007

2008 Will Be My Big Year

In the world of birdwatching, upon the fringes of which I reside, there's a popular term known simply as the "Big Year". The idea, without getting too in-depth, is to record the name of every species of bird one encounters in a calendar year. There are also Big Days (you do the math), but the prospects of spending from 3am to 11pm hunting for wild birds seems a bit out of reach for a guy like me with family obligations and such. In hindsight, 2007 probably would have been a better choice for me to embark on this quest, given the variety of travel we did. There are at least 15 species I can recall from St. John alone that I have no chance of seeing again this year (Bananaquit, Zenaida Dove, etc.) Add to that the Ding Darling NWR in Sanibel, FL and the total I'm unlikely to see again in 2008 easily rises above 30. But with each new year comes an increasing interest in birding, and the Big Year idea will be my chance to really quantify how much I've learned and evaluate my identification skills. Currently I rely heavily on my equipment to help me identify the species I encounter, as time is usually not long and I can't spend the time it takes in the field to identify what I see. But that's the beauty of technology. A good telephoto lens and a high-resolution camera allow you to do the thinking inside the house, leaving outdoor time free to spend hunting.

So for now, that's the plan. Starting January 1st, I will list every species I can positively identify on the side of the blog, and once a week (or so) I'll recount the experiences and locations of the birds. My goal, while modest, will be to record 150 species in 2008. I'll most certainly re-evaluate that goal a few times depending on what our travel plans look like, etc. The more different places we can visit, the better my chances of hitting or exceeding that goal. I'll also try to include as many photos as possible of the more unusual sightings, just for good measure. Wish me luck!