Monday, February 25, 2013

That whole potty training thing...

You have heard me mention in varying expletives over the past year how potty training my little man is just doomed to never happen. Believe me, until about a month ago, I truly felt that I would have the only kid in grade school wearing diapers. We are often our worst critics as parents, and I had myself convinced I was doomed for defeat in this category because every attempt I made was an epic failure.

Well, I'm happy to report the "oh-so-should-be-private" accomplishment that little r is finally potty trained. And no, I'm not lying, I swear completely that it has happened, and no one is more shocked about it than I am. I wasn't going to write a blog about it with the internet being forever and all, but a couple of things are motivating me to write down at least some generalities of what finally went right for us. One of those motivations was the fact that as parents, and mothers especially, we are hungry for others to tell us their experiences about what worked for them. I know I'm definitely one of those mothers that can't get enough help from others, especially online. I'm sharing my experience just in case it happens to help someone with this challenge. And an even bigger motivator is that I want to remember what worked for little r for the next little man in my life. Yes, regretfully, and dreadfully, he will need to transition from the diaper world and enter our toilet trained society. I am doomed to forget some likely major points, so I wanted to get them written down. (Hopefully little r will forgive me for this later - sorry, dude!)

So, here we go...

1. You know your child best. I am likely the last person in the world to be giving advice on the topic of potty training. But there is one thing I would like to say to all of the other mothers out there, you know your kid best - trust your instinct and try hard not to let judgments get to you. We are so incredibly overwhelmed with information these days about what to do, or more importantly, what not to do, that we lose sight of the fact that people have been doing these parenting tasks for a very, VERY long time without the endless advice of those on the internet and in a dozen books we are talked into buying. By the time your child is ready to be potty trained (which a friend once told me will happen when they are ready at 3 years old, or if you push them, at 36 months - haha), you will hopefully see clearly that every child is remarkably different.

Also, you will hear stories and read blogs and other sources, both online and in books, about training your child to use a toilet in one day. One single solitary day - HA! Really people, can any child be trained to do ANYTHING in one day? This is hogwash. I don't care how many people make money off of this or can provide you proof otherwise. Not only will it not happen, it will likely set your child up for many accidents and setbacks.

Instead, look for the signs that he is ready. Try to put yourself in his mind, if that's even possible, and see if he is truly getting it. Trust yourself on this, and don't let anyone convince you otherwise. At the end of the day, this is your kid. You know best.

2. Make sure you are ready. This might seem like a really ridiculous thing to say, but for me it was so very important. We had so many attempts at potty training that ended badly. I gave into the ever-convenient world of diapers at the slightest push-back from my little man. He is incredibly stubborn and independent. Well, guess what? That quality does not come to him from just anywhere, I happen to be exactly the same (and don't get me started on Big R). We were doomed from the start thinking we had complete control of this child. Believe me, we do not. What I strongly feel made things work this time was that I was ready. I knew he could do it, but more than that, I was finally in a place where I could hold onto some resolve. I needed to be as stubborn as he was. This was far more important in the success of the training than I ever wanted to admit. As a mother, you are supposed to always be ready, right? Blaming little r for every time we failed really probably wasn't fair. I understand that now.

3. Go cold turkey. This might not work for every kid, or every parent, for that matter, but it is starting to become the best approach to successful outcomes with little r (and to be fair, for me as well). When I weaned little r off of his bottle, it was hardly a weaning process. I just stopped. Cold turkey. At age 1, we went to only sippy cups, and I put all the bottles away. Was this painful and agonizing? Holy gazongas, YES! For two weeks I called my mom at least 2-3 times a day nearly in tears wanting to give in. It was hard, but I stuck to my guns, and it worked. It might not have been fun, but really, the first few days were the hardest. Well, guess what?! That was the exact same approach I took here. The first few days were the hardest, yet again, but then, it just stuck. Things finally clicked for little r, and we were rockin' the potty time on the big boy toilet and the accidents left the building (mostly - haha).

So, the diapers ended. The first morning was brutal. Big R was here to help, and we agonized over the screaming child together. It was amazing how much he resisted even being out of a diaper. But I refused to give in, and I think having Big R here to help me with that was huge in our success. I also stuck to my guns and decided that the diaper would not be used under any circumstances except for sleeping at night (to avoid the poor kid waking up soaking wet - turns out he has woken up only once with a wet diaper since we started). No matter what. Whether we left the house for swimming, gymnastics, or school, I would just deal with the consequences and that was that. This is why I think point #2 above is so important. You really need to be mentally prepared for this in every way...

4. Make sure you have the time. It's no secret that we travel a lot. When you are doing something like potty training, you really need to give yourself a block of time to make things work. Right, easier said than done. Not only do we travel too much, but I hate sitting still. I am incessantly on the go, and little r and I like things this way. It was finally at the point where I needed to relinquish my freedom for a few days. We had a decent four day block of time with a German holiday creating a long weekend (I hated the idea of him missing school for this, so this holiday was perfect), and I wanted to give us a good solid chunk of time before chancing leaving the house. It ended up being just enough time. Not even a week after leaving the diapers behind, we went on our ski trip to Austria, and little r literally only wore his diaper for sleeping at night. He skied and played in the snow all day with underwear on and didn't have a single accident. I was so proud.

5. Bribery isn't always necessary or required to make it work. I had tried every big bribe in the book. Nothing worked. My kid was too independent to be told that he'd get some sort of treat. I won't lie, bribery can help get certain things moving forward. We had a sticker system for awhile that encouraged him to at least sit on the potty once in awhile, and I would bribe him by saying he couldn't have his snack or watch his favorite show until he used the potty first. It worked, but not the way I had heard other people have such amazing success. Like I said, you know your kid best.

For little r, it turned out that the best bribery was encouragement and praise - LOTS of praise! He loves to feel proud and for you to be proud of him. For each challenge along the way, high fives and saying "you are SO awesome" went a really long way to make him want to keep it up.

6. Don't give up. I had to keep saying this mantra to myself over and over again. Stand your ground and don't let yourself give up. You owe it to your kid to be strong so that they can be strong, too. At 3 they can be the world's most incredibly manipulators. My child is a master at it, and he threw everything he had at me. Each day I realized how far we had come, and I knew that giving in would only be another set back that through us to the beginning where we'd have to start all over. All they need is a small sign that you will give in and they will run with it. Well, at least that's how little r can be. This was especially hard to get him past not wanting to do more than pee in the toilet. Messes are no fun for either of us, but he was never going to learn if I didn't stand my ground and push through the sloppy, nasty, mess (or the incessant constipation that ensued from refusing to go).

7. Don't beat yourself up for not being ready before. I kept torturing myself with thoughts that maybe I was so wrong and he was really ready before, but I was simply too wimpy. You both need to be ready or it doesn't work. Sometimes trusting your instincts means also understanding yourself and what you are capable of at that point in time. You are seeing signs that he isn't ready, and you are worried it will only result in major setbacks and many unpleasant accidents. I should have avoided "pull-ups" because they really are just diapers that cost more anyway, right? Or I should have taken advantage of the warmer weather and gotten this done in the summer time, or not given in when we were seeing success a whole year ago.

Stop these thoughts. You cannot change the past, and it's ok if you might have been able to train him sooner had you been stronger. The truth is, you were probably right, and your kid was not ready. This is moreso the case with those of us that have boys. All those studies out there show that boys often need more time. This is so much the case that it's almost a fact in my mind. Give yourself a break.


For what's it's worth, these are my pointers. I hope they are helpful to some of my friends that are struggling with the whole potty training thing. I also have many friends that had a much different experience with their kids where it was likely easier or they used a wildly different approach. And that is a-ok. Whatever works, just works. If my approach helps you succeed, then I am endlessly ecstatic that I was able to provide some insight and encouragement.

The bottomline is that it's probably one of the most grueling parts of parenting, even moreso than sleep training or bottle weaning. I swear, it is not fun in any way. Except for the high fives, the huge proud smiles, and the knowledge that you are finally one step closer to preparing your child to survive in a socially acceptable manner in this world of ours. Be prepared with rubber gloves and bleach, multiple pairs of underwear, copious amounts of laundry, and many, MANY accidents. Remember that at this age you are already intimately familiar with the unpleasant side of your child's natural tendencies - handling a little urine and disgusting poop is second nature at this point. It won't last forever, so just roll with it...

So, here's to little r for making mommy proud. It's not that I never thought we could do it, but I was incredibly impressed with how quickly he caught on. Every time I hear his cute little voice say, "I have to go potty" I smile knowing we just conquered a huge hurdle. YAY for us, and high fives all around. And to those of you entering this fun and exciting phase of parenting - good luck, have fun, and try not to lose your sanity.



Friday, February 22, 2013

Family skiing adventure in the Alps - our return to Alpbach

When we discovered Alpbach last year, and easily had one of the best weekends of our life, we knew it would be a place to come back to.  We spent a week in Alpbach this summer, and we had already put a ski trip in Alpbach on our calendar for this February.  It was just the family this year, and being pregnant, I wasn't hitting the slopes this time around, but we still had a fantastic weekend.  We are convinced that it's hard not to have a great time in this place we are calling "our home away from home."

The farmhouse we like to stay in was unfortunately booked during our visit, so we tried out a new Gasthaus on the other side of town, called Haus Luzia.  This one wasn't a barn, but it was equally quaint, charming, and ridiculously affordable.  We really fell in love with our host, and the location was great and convenient. In fact, it was nearly perfect with only one detail that will keep us from staying there again.  Let's just say I will never underestimate the phrase "non-smoking" on a hotel listing again.  Austria is a fabulous country, but they are a bit behind on a few things and the lack of smoking rules is definitely one of them.  We worked around it though, and still enjoyed our stay.  We were surprised how easy it was to walk to town from a seemingly distant location. In fact, we pretty much walked everywhere - we had to do something to walk off all that rich Austrian food we ate!

This weekend was all about being together as a family, teaching little r how to ski, introducing our new buddy Lando to the Alps, and relaxing away all the current stresses in our lives. We spent all day on the slopes, and every evening we had reservations to eat at one of the town's fine dining establishments.  The best part was, Lando was welcomed pretty much everywhere we went including dinner. Instead of going on an on about how great it was, I'll instead share our weekend through pictures...

skiing with daddy - this picture makes little r look like a pro
(the poles didn't last long though)
Big R earned a gold star for his patience helping little r ski -
he started out going up the tug line with daddy...
while I strapped on my snowshoes,
so Lando and I could watch slopeside
then he finally got brave enough to do the tug line by himself 
talk about brave! heading up the "flying train" to the  BIG mountain with daddy
Lando and I waited patiently - they were gone a loooong time
My guys were up on that mountain somewhere! Finally they made it down with little r in Big R's arms. I asked how long they were like that. Big R said, "pretty much the entire mountain" - oh well, we can try it again next year!
We spent the next day on the BIG mountain - Wiedersbergerhorn in Alpbach.
I think this is one of my favorite pictures from the trip!
little r was really excited for another day of skiing
The views from the top were stunning!
I didn't get to ski, but I still went along for the fun
Big R literally carried little r up the puma lift
- sheer determination, daddy!
and he used a leash as a tether to help him ski
down the mountain - it worked really well!
This trip included quite a few hot chocolate breaks :) 
And puppy breaks were in the mix, too :) 
Views we experienced as we walked into town from our Gasthaus
yes, we were VERY spoiled - it's a beautiful place
One of our favorite parts of the trip was having our
new buddy along - he loved the snow
and we loved his company

So, yeah, our winter adventures in Alpbach were brilliant this year.  Don't get me wrong, we certainly had our moments, as skiing with a three-year-old never disappoints in that category.  But overall, we could not have really asked for things to have gone much better.  I hope you enjoyed the pictures, and don't worry, there will be more to see next year when we go back!


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Life in limbo...

I keep making these promises to you, post after post, that we have so many things going on at the moment and a lot of news to tell.  I've been waiting with baited breath to report something to you all, but life instead remains in limbo. Constant limbo.  This is not to infer that life should be predictable because that would be boring, of course, but we really seem to have an unusually large amount of things up in the air at the moment.

There are some things we do know.  We do know that the Army is keeping us here in Germany for another year.  In order to do this, we will likely need to move to another post.  There is a slight inkling of a chance that we could stay where we are and Big R could do his next from assignment here, but that is uncertain regardless of how much we hope for it to be true.  It's amazing how much this slight detail changes so many things in our near future though.  This isn't an uncommon situation for an Army family.  In fact, we are asking a lot of the Army to think we should know everything already.  In this regard, I make a terrible military spouse.  My dad always tells me I am his daughter, and with that comes the incorrigible characteristic of having zero patience. The only person (aside from my father, of course) that is less patient than me is Big R.  The consummate planners in us need to be in the know so that we can map out our futures.  Isn't everyone like this?  You aren't?  Well, that explains a lot...

We are relatively certain we know what Big R will be doing for the Army next year.  That is always subject to change, but it seems fairly solid right now.  As for me, I know that I will be a mother of two little boys here soon, but beyond that my future is looking mildly hazy.  I am chasing down two potential job opportunities at the moment; both could be promising, but neither could materialize.  One is an attorney position with the Army here in Bamberg.  Between federal job freezes and other competitive factors, that job is a wild card at the moment, so we will wait and see. The other is a professorship position teaching law at a satellite campus on a post near Big R's new assignment (assuming we move).  The job is in person with the open possibility of later teaching online courses.  Even if we are able to stay here in Bamberg next year, I will probably do all I can do make that position work.  The assessment process is lengthy and I will be enormously pregnant for most of it, so here's to hoping the little guy doesn't try to bless us with his presence too early.

My big goal of going back to school is starting to become a "maybe" factor as well.  The biggest driver to whether I can still attend the program this fall is if we move over the summer. Big R's new assignment is much more rural than where we are now, and internet availability could take the better part of six months to get us connected to the virtual world.  It never ceases to amaze me how dependent we can become on technology. I still have some time before all of my application materials need to be in hand with admissions, so that is helpful.

The most emotionally consuming part of my life in limbo right now though is my father.  He remains critically ill.  We are keeping our faith and our hopes high that each day he will climb to a healthier place.  Each piece of good news elates our hearts, and each dose of negative news breaks them.  I have moments of great strength and other moments where I break down for what seems like no reason. Mostly I just miss him, and I am and will be eternally grateful for my family and those that have been able to be by his side through all of his illness.  

All this limbo mumbo jumbo aside, we are living life to the fullest.  My pregnancy is going extremely well.  I just started my third trimester (crazy!!!), and my last appointment showed that the baby and me are super healthy.  I took the much dreaded prenatal diabetes test this week where they starve you, make you drink a liter of glucose laden syrup, and poke you with a needle what seems like a dozen times.  Despite my best efforts otherwise, by eating sweets every chance I get and consuming my weight in chocolate, I am not even close to demonstrating any diabetic tendencies.  Ah, huge relief - haha.  My blood pressure is good, with no hypertension in sight, and the anemia I've been battling since the beginning of this pregnancy is finally under check. Our newest furry member of the family, Lando, is a dream come true.  We are literally falling more in love with him every day.  Little r is growing up before our eyes, AND we are on the glorious path to potty training (finally!).  This is a moment I honestly didn't think I'd see before he graduated from high school.

This weekend we are doing what we do best.  We are heading off on another adventure.  Tomorrow we leave for one of our favorite places on earth - Alpbachtal, Austria - where we hope to have a relaxing winter vacation in the Alps.  My big 'ol pregnancy body won't be hitting the slopes this year, but we have high hopes that little r will make great waves in his skiing ability with Big R.  In the meantime, I'll be strapping on my snowshoes and taking our war hero on a fun adventure in the snow.

See you when we get back!  xoxoxo

p.s.  We asked little r if he was going to be a skier (like Big R) or a snowboarder (like me) when he grows up.  I figured this was a lost cause because the kid has never heard us talk about snowboarding.  His answer?  "A snowboarder."  Hahahahahaha, how do you like them apples?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Our War Hero is Famous!

Ok, maybe not famous exactly, but the newest furry member of our family is certainly making the news in our neck of the woods.  And we couldn't be more happy or proud of our retired Military Working Dog.  One of our good friends works for public relations, and when she found out we were adopting Lando, she immediately wanted to do an article on Lando's story.  Her article is making waves across Facebook and is also front page on both JAGCnet and

Although we have certainly known all about the amazing MWD program, it never occurred to us that we would be adopting one of these a wonderful war heroes.  It turns out, not only is the program huge in the military with around 2,500 MWDs deployed with troops overseas, but adoption of the retired MWD veterans is also becoming a sought after affair since President Clinton signed a bill in 2000 allowing civilians to adopt retired MWDs.  In fact, awareness of these well-trained heroes seems to be making the news everywhere including this article written just last month for the Washington Times.

It is actually hard for me to believe we have had Lando for barely a week.  He fit into our family so perfectly, I can hardly remember what life was like without him here.  He is a huge sweetheart that wants nothing more than to please and protect you.  He greets everyone with a nudge of his nose and melts my heart on a regular basis with how quickly he attached to us as his family.  What is even more incredible is how amazing he is with children and our cats.  He has a gentle patience about him that immediately puts you at ease.

I think Lando has made himself right at home here.  He already has his favorite places to hang out in our house, and he is in love with his new dog bed.  They take great care of the MWD's but they sleep in kennels most of their lives, so I'm sure his therapeutic dog bed feels like a little piece of heaven for his old bones.  He walks little r to school every day, and he enjoys spending time with Big R in his office.  Something about seeing all those soldiers in green turns this pup into mush.  We are so happy to provide this war hero with a comfortable home for retirement.

We are the luckiest family in the world to have adopted Lando.  A good friend of my said that Rani had a hand in all this, and I think she might just be right.  Well, Rani, if you are listening, you will never be replaced in our hearts, but we thank you for helping bring Lando into our lives to replace the huge void that was created when you had to leave us last summer.  We are falling completely in love with this sweet boy...

Friday, February 1, 2013

Our War Hero is finally home

"Sit" quickly became, "I think I'll just take a break"
It is almost hard to believe, but the much-awaited day of bringing our war hero home is finally here.  Military Working Dog (MWD) Lando retired from a very full and courageous career with a beautiful ceremony, which ended with his leash being handed to our incredibly excited family.

Big R and I decided back in October that adopting Lando would be a perfect fit for our family.  The process took quite a bit longer than even the MP's anticipated. They were hoping he'd easily be a part of our family by Thanksgiving, but 4-6 weeks quickly turned into several months.  Worried the "powers-at-be" were doubting our abilities to care for Lando, in actuality, the review process is put in place to make sure the dog is fit for adoption.  This is a lengthy process that is taken very seriously.  Luckily for us, Lando is an easy-mannered, well-trained and obedient sweetheart.  Despite his military history, he appears to have suffered no PTSD or any other issues related to his service.

Lando's retirement ceremony was SO cool.  I can think of no better way to describe it.  We have been excited beyond words since we found out last week that the ceremony was scheduled for today.  The entire MP detachment company assigned to the working dogs, and a few of our closest military friends, were there to see him retire in style.
Lando taking a snooze during the National Anthem
During the ceremony, MWD Lando was presented with an Army Achievement Medal for his exemplary service.  And his achievements really are pretty incredible.  He was born in September of 2001, and Lando entered training for military service in December of 2003.  After his training, he was stationed here in Germany where he was attached to different MP companies until his retirement today. During his career as a MWD, Lando deployed four times (to Afghanistan, Kosovo, and twice to Iraq), where he supported Soldiers with his explosive detection capabilities.  Lando was present in over 300 Combat missions where he discovered a total of 15 explosive caches.  Impressive, right?  It gets even better...  In addition to his deployments, Lando also provided support for the U.S. Secret Service including protections of the Secretary of State, Vice President, and the President of the United States.  Big R's favorite of Lando's accomplishments though is that he was selected as "Top Dog" in the Patrol work category of the 2008 USAREUR Military Working Dog competition.  I'm proud of him and I just barely met the 'ol boy!

Lando proudly showing off his medal
Achievement Medal, Certificate of Adoption,
and retirement ceremony pamphlet
At the end of the ceremony, they asked us to join them on stage to present us with the Certificate of Adoption and to thank us for volunteering to give Lando a safe and happy home for retirement.  I don't think anyone in the room would have argued that this dog has earned every minute of lazy time on our couch.

We were all too happy to take his leash, especially little r
It was clear that Lando was going to be missed
Lando is the biggest sweetheart!
...and he loves his toys
I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship :) 
Once we finally made it home, Lando instantly made himself comfortable.  For a dog that has lived in a kennel nearly all his life, he was probably overwhelmed with the comforts of a warm home with a snuggly bed. Our other furry creatures are getting along pretty well. Poor Lucy isn't sure what hit her, but she's quickly coming around. And Sergeant, well, he's a dog-lover so there was never any fear there.  We were happy that Lando took to the cats right away.  If anything he seems relatively indifferent, so our fears of the cats being chased or harassed or even EATEN were easily dispelled.

Little r did all he could to help Lando feel at home right away.  He helped me bring out the basket of Rani's old toys, and show them all to his new friend.  Lando loves them all.  I think his favorite right now though is cuddling with Big R on the couch.

One toy...
...and little r decided he needed ALL of the toys...
I think Lando just found his favorite place in our home
We are beyond excited to have not only a dog again, but to have adopted such an incredible new friend.  I hope he loves living here with us as much as we are going to enjoy having him as part of our family.  I also hope he's ready for a relaxing but very fun retirement.  Although he's seen more of Europe than most of us could in a lifetime, we are looking forward to having his companionship on our wild family adventures.