Tag Archives: potty training

It Too Hard

This week my son buried his face in his hands and said, “no. It too hard,” twice. Once was about some of the speech development exercises we’ve been working on, and once was about the potty. I’ve blogged in the past about my personal lifelong aversion to “too hard.” Far too often in my life I have said, “it’s too hard” as a justification to not do something. Violin lessons, any sport you could mention, math, have all fallen to the god of ease. I would have never been a star athlete, no matter the work invested, but I suspect that with some discipline I could have performed far better in math throughout my school years.

The part of me that hates that part of me wants to try to force that sort of self-discipline on my three and a half year old son right now. I want to tell him that hard means try more. I do tell him that hard means worth working at. On the other hand, I have to acknowledge that these things are far harder for him than they are for other children his age. Most children literally absorb language from their surroundings subconsciously, they don’t have to spend hours each week teaching their mouth the difference between a “d” sound and a “w” sound. The Lord, in his sovereignty, has chosen to make my son’s first few years abnormally difficult, possibly to teach him the self-discipline I am too impatient (oh the irony!) to let him learn.

I am having to come face to face with the fact that my frustration when he says, “It too hard!”, my begging God just to give the boy words and and teach him to potty already, is really me throwing up my hands and saying, “no! It too hard. Stop the process of teaching him, already, because parenting him through this is just too hard!”

I suspect I’ve got as much to learn in all of this as my cheesedoodle does. Maybe more.


All in All It’s a Pretty Great Job

Being a stay at home mama can be exhausting some times. The snickerdoodle continues in her sleep dysfunction. The cheesedoodle continues in his speech delay and potty refusal. The mackerdoodle is my oldest, and thereby has the unfortunate roll of blazing trail for her siblings every where she grows. So there are struggles, but this week has been a pretty good one in the parenting department, and I thought I would share the highlights.

Monday I was giving the cheesedoodle his daily potty pep talk. Are you a big boy? Do big boys wear diapers? Don’t you want to wear underwear and keep it dry like a big boy? When I got to that last question, he put his hands on my cheeks and looked into my eyes and said, very clearly, “No no. DyePo.” Now I could put that in the loss column for potty training, but I’m putting it down as a win in speech development. I sighed and said, “When are you going to learn to use the potty?” He held up three fingers, and smiled happily. I guess I’ve only got 4 more months.

Monday at lunch Jonathan was reading the bible, as is his habit when we have a family meal together, and he asked the mackerdoodle, “Do you have any questions?” She looked up at him and asked, “What happens to the hell people? Do they ever get to go to the city with no sin where Jesus is the King?” We are amazed at her mind. Jonathan explained that Hell, like Heaven, is eternal and they had a long discussion about all sin deserving eternal punishment and because we are all sinners, we deserve that too. She has often acknowledged her sin and has had an understanding to some degree of sin’s affects in the world, but this was the first time that the Lord began to open her eyes to sin as an act of treason against God. With both the mackerdoodle and Jonathan in tears, she asked more and more questions and Jonathan responded with scripture, “anyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” “If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” They prayed together and Jonathan left for class, and then work and the mackerdoodle didn’t mention it again; but at bedtime her usual rote prayer, “Thank you for mommy and daddy has a good shift and please forgive my sins and be the king of my life,” was replaced with this: “Dear Jesus. Thank you that when we know in our hearts you are the true God, you have saved us from our sins. Amen”

The weather has been BEAUTIFUL here lately, and one day this week I was putting the snickerdoodle down for a nap and told the older doodles they could play on the back deck while I was doing it. They asked if they could put out some bird seed for the birds, and I gave them permission to do so. As I was coming toward the kitchen, one sleeping baby later, the mackerdoodle said, “Mama? We’ve put out a lot of bird seed. We didn’t want the birds to be hungry.” based on the amount of birdseed I know was in the bag before I went to put the baby down, I would guesstimate they had put about four pounds of seed on the porch, but they had spread it evenly across each board in the deck. “We wanted all the birds to have room to eat,” was the mackerdoodle’s response.

Wednesday is a bit of a crazy day at our house, and I was trying to get dinner into the crockpot so we would have supper ready for our mad dash home from ballet before heading back out to midweek activities at church. I became vaguely aware in mid bustle that the two older doodles were pretty busily doing something in the kitchen. About to snap at them to stop messing with things, I caught my tongue as I realized they were unloading the dishwasher. They were doing it together, happily, and anything that went where they couldn’t reach was being placed neatly on the table. They were genuinely helping. Thursday saw a reprise of that when I arrived home from grocery shopping to a very hungry and tired snickerdoodle. As I was spooning pureed pear into the baby’s desperate mouth, mac n’ cheese put away the groceries for me, including carrying several frozen items downstairs to the chest freezer and putting them away. When the snickerdoodle could be left with her avocado pieces (a big snickerdoodle favorite), all I had left to do was put two gallons of milk into the fridge and a few large pieces of meat into the freezer. They had done almost all of it, and done it cheerfully, together.

So I may be tired and there maybe giant smears of avocado on my pants, and cheesedoodle muddy hand prints on my jacket, walls and mirrors, but I’ve got to say, this week I’m feeling like I’ve got a pretty great job.

Ends of Ropes and Signs of Hope

To begin this post I will outline all of the ropes of which I have reached the end, but hold on with me through the perceived whining, because it does result in my learning things, and a funny story about my doodles.

Rope 1: The partial and inconsistent potty training of the cheesedoodle is driving me crazy. People keep telling me “He’s only two and a half,” which is actually the problem. The average age of potty trained boys in Western culture is increasing generationally but human anatomy hasn’t changed.  The conclusion I’ve reached is that boys are capable of being potty trained younger, and our culture must have a flawed approach to the process. Trying to identify the cultural blindspots associated with this issue, however, is liking asking a fish to identify how wet it is. I am a product of my culture, and thereby unable to see past it. The result is alternating days of throwing up my hands in defeat, declaring him “not even three” and putting him in a diaper, followed by days in which I am determined to find the key to unlocking the diaper chains even if it kills everyone in the house, because “he’s already two and a half!”. Tuesday he used the potty faithfully until we left the house, then pooped in his pants for the childcare workers during bible study. END OF MY ROPE!!!!!!!!!

Rope 2: I feel that I am taking two steps forward and two back when it comes to house keeping, and every time I am completing one chore, there are thirty seven others that are not being done because I am doing that one. Jonathan is taking a week long Jan Term class that runs from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm every day this week. Tuesday he didn’t have lunch because I didn’t “get around” to making one. END OF MY ROPE!!!!!!

Rope 3: The situation with our house in Georgia has been deteriorating since June, and we are now back down to two tenants. When we bought the house it appraised at $140,000  – significantly more than we owed on it. We thought we were making such a wise decision and a clever investment. It’s currently on the market for $112,500 with no interest at all. END OF MY ROPE!!!!!

As all of this (and the daily demands of just life with three dependent little people) was piling up on me, and I reached the end of my rope (and then watched said end rise above my head as I passed it going down) it occurred to me that when I reach the end of my rope, it’s a sign that I’m holding onto the wrong rope to begin with.

The result of this “epiphany” was a day spent (I’m so embarrassed to even write this) thinking to myself, “Coming to the end of my rope. Let go of my rope. Cling to God’s rope.” If that doesn’t sound like a youth camp t-shirt slogan, I don’t know what does, and the sad thing is that I didn’t even recognize it for the lunacy it was for almost 24 hours. I know better than “just try harder,” or “find the right rope,” but the harder I tried to pull myself out of the hole I was sinking into, the worse everything was going. I was snapping at my kids, snapping at myself, ignoring my housework (because that really showed the dishes who was boss!) and was generally an unpleasant person to be associated with. The rope kept getting shorter the harder I tried to hold on.

I was finally forced to preach the gospel to myself.

I am found in Christ.

I am not pulling myself up by a rope; I am abiding in the Vine!

I am not hanging over a precipice; I am safely in the hands of the creator of the universe and no one can snatch me from Him.

I am not barely surviving; I am living the abundant life!

I wish that I could say that once I let go of all my rope related thoughts and began to once again focus on Christ that the cheesedoodle potty trained himself, the house in Georgia sold and someone bequeathed me a house elf. That’s not what happened. I’m praying for wisdom in potty training. I’m praying for a miracle for the house. I mopped my floor and loaded my dishwasher. And then:

Wednesday night is midweek at church which is a late night for the kids, but not unmanageably so. Jonathan had a committee meeting to attend, so I was going to get the kids home by myself and into bed and he was catching a ride home with a neighbor. I herded them all out to the van, got every one of the buckled, got into the driver’s seat, got myself buckled in, reached for the ignition and realized that I didn’t have any keys.

End of my rope? As I was sitting there wondering how I was going to abide in the Vine on this one, the mackerdoodle asked what was wrong.

“Mama doesn’t have car keys, baby girl.” I answered, doing my best to keep my voice in neutral.

“OH NO!” cried the makerdoodle. “We will never be able to drive our van AGAIN?!?”

With a deep breath, I turned around and smiled. “Isn’t it funny?” I said. I even began to feel it. “Isn’t it crazy that we did all of this and I don’t even have keys to the van? Now we get to go on an adventure and find Daddy in the church to get keys. Isn’t that funny?”

Within moments they were giggling, those older doodles of mine. Taking their cues from mama, as they had all week to the detriment of peace and harmony, they were now laughing at the crazy situation. As we returned to the church building, and I said hello to people to whom I had just said good bye, my mackerdoodle said, “Get this! We got all buckled into the van, and she doesn’t have any keys! Isn’t that HILARIOUS?!?”

Once we got the keys, the mood remained.The moon was a beautiful huge orange orb low on the horizon as we were driving home, and sometimes we could see it, and sometimes we couldn’t. Frustrated that she couldn’t always see this mesmerizing sight, the mackerdoodle asked why the moon was sometimes up and sometimes down. I answered, “It’s playing hide-and-seek with us.” There was a moment of silence as we caught glimpses of the moon dashing between the trees from one hiding spot to the next and the mackerdoodle said (dryly, but without whining) “I think it’s winning.” As soon as she said it, the cheesedoodle chuckled at his sister’s wit, and so did she.

I’m still praying for a miracle. I’m still wondering about potty training. I’m still feeling the pressure.

But I’m not at the end of anything. I am found in Christ. No ropes attached.

The AfterParty

Well dadgum it. I thought I had posted this back on Tuesday night. Shoot. Oh well. Here it is now.

Today we held a Potty Party at casa Cowan in the hopes of encouraging our cheesedoodle to use the potty. If you have been around these cyberparts for a while you may remember that the Mackerdoodle essentially potty trained herself two days before her second birthday, which was nice for the moment, but did nothing to actually prepare me for real life potty training combat. I took the same approach with the cheesedoodle of just periodically putting him in underwear, but here we are six months later with no sudden potty switch and I decided it was time to move things along.

I had purchase the book Potty Train Your Child in Just One Day back when the mackerdoodle was eighteen months old and it sat on a shelf, largely unread, for almost three years until last week. There were two straws that broke my potty training back. The first was opening the last box of diapers we had been given before the snickerdoodle was born. (SERIOUSLY! She’s almost 8 months old, and I haven’t had to buy her diapers. Our church and seminary friends rock the diaper dumps!) The second was asking the cheesedoodle if he was going to wear a diaper forever (jokingly) and getting a very serious nod in return. Something needed a kick start.

The Potty Party idea is a pretty simple one, but she makes a few assumptions in the book. First, she assumes that a potty training mother will have the ability to spend a full day with the potty trainee exclusively. Second, she assumes that a mother is always potty training her youngest child. (do people often wait to have another baby until the last one is potty trained?) Finally, she assumes that all daddies work a 9-5 type job.

None of these assumptions apply to my life.

That being said, and considering my limitations, we had a pretty successful day. From 9:45 am until 4:20 pm the cheesedoodle kept a single pair of underwear dry. He never once told me that he needed to use the potty, but he was able to control himself between mama instigated trips to the potty. The idea of “training” a doll to use the potty didn’t get any traction with the mackerdoodle back in her day, but was a huge hit with the cheesedoodle today. He thought it was a great game and spent a great deal of time this morning putting Winnie the Pooh on the potty, wiping him, giving him a sticker and clapping for him.

The concept of a progress chart was a real challenge. First, he didn’t understand why he would put a sticker on a piece of paper. He wanted . . . well, let’s just say that the cheesedoodle thought the sticker would best be used to decorate the part of his anatomy that was doing all of the work. We compromised, and for every successful potty trip he got one sticker for his shirt and one for the chart. Once he had figured out that the goal was to get stickers all the way to the end (about four this afternoon) he kept trying to jump to the end by just putting his next sticker there.

At supper everything fell apart, but I think that was mostly just exhaustion. Just before bed I asked him what he was going to do when he woke up in the morning and he signed “potty,” so I’m hopeful that we’re on our way. We don’t have any big plans for the rest of the week, so we’ll keep plugging away and maybe I can eventually be back to one in diapers.

*** Today he stayed mostly dry (again with regular prompting. It’s exhausting.) until just after supper, when he peed on the kitchen floor. He removed his wet pants and underwear, ran to the bathroom for a diaper and brought it to me. I gave in and put it on him. He looked at me and said, “Ahhhhhhhhh.” This is going to be a long road ******

A book

While feeding the snickerdoodle at some point last  week, I was browsing my blog roll and came across a blogger linking to another blogger’s announcement of a book deal. After reading it I tackled my remaining chore list, but the word “book” kept floating around in my mind as I did laundry, loaded the dishwasher, swept the floor etc. I reviewed in my mind the lines about her sitting in Starbucks for hours working on her manuscript and I had to be very honest with myself about what that revealed in my heart.

I really wish I could be that woman who manages to feed and clothe her kids, keep her house to a modest level of cleanliness and organization and still be able to spend several hours each week writing. Right now I’m not, for a lot of reasons. A year ago a publisher contacted me about co-writing a book about infertility. The other author and I worked very hard for several months to write the sample pages we were asked for and create a blended voice that would harmonize our very different writing styles. I kept thinking that this would be the way the Lord would provide for us in seminary. But it’s been nine months of almost total silence, and I’ve put all the “maybes” away.

I  have to be honest about what I would bring to the table as an author, and the answer is “not a whole lot.” The world has enough fluff and feel good sentimentality. We have enough easy reading ten steps to fill-in-the-blank printed and digitized for public consumption. I might be able to string together a few words to make a compelling sentence, but that doesn’t mean that sentence is worth anyone’s time or money. Every time the word “book” kept floating into my mind, it was followed rapidly by a story from my friend Jenni.

Jenni was telling me about potty training her twin boys. Twins. Potty training. In a one bathroom apartment. She told me that after a week of simultaneously intensive and ineffective potty training she was sitting on her bathroom floor, while her boys sat side by side on their potty chairs. She said, “Lord, please just let pee come out. I will give you all the glory. I won’t write a book about what a great potty trainer I am. Please just let the pee come out.”

Isn’t that an awesome story? Every time I hear her tell it (and she honestly tells people that story when they ask her how she potty trained twin boys in a one bathroom apartment) I feel convicted about all the times I’ve thought to myself, “I could write a book about .[fill in the blank]”because what would I be taking credit for? For something the Lord worked. Like pee, or obedience, or words from a 2 year old. I need to spend less time wishing someone would ask me to write a book and whole lot more time humbly asking the Lord to guide me through this great labyrinthine process called parenthood, and then giving him whole credit when he does.

And also, I shouldn’t write a book about promising the Lord I wouldn’t write a book about parenting. 🙂

An UnAnticipated Challenge

So when the mackerdoodle was the same age as the cheesedoodle is now, and the cheesedoodle was in the same gestational development as the snickerdoodle is now, I would spend entire days with the mackerdoodle on the potty trying to potty train. I wasn’t all that stressed about it, as that post indicated, and when she did decide to use the potty she pretty much told me she wanted to use the potty, and didn’t look back.

Frankly, with the cheesedoodle it hasn’t even crossed my mind. I don’t think of him being almost two and I just don’t think about him using the potty. Two days ago, he put the little potty seat on the toilet seat, pointed to it, and pointed to himself. I sat him on the potty and, to be honest, walked away. When I came back he had gone in the potty, wiped himself and was waiting patiently for me to fetch him down and put his pants back on.

I haven’t put him back on the potty since, because I just haven’t thought about, and he doesn’t have any words, so he’s not asking to go.

How do you potty train a child who refuses to speak?

Refuses is the proper word here, too. When asked if he can say anything, his standard response is to twinkle his cheekiest look at me, shake his head and say, “Unh unh.” In fact that’s his only “word.” –  “Unh Unh.”

So what I have is a little boy who wants to use the potty, but doesn’t want to use words. I can honestly say that none of the literature on potty training deals with this. He’s not giving me a lot to work with, but he’s certainly continuing in his “one of a kind” ways.


At the beginning of June, I posted about our failed attempts at potty training the mackerdoodle.  After posting it, we decided to follow the advice of several friends and acquaintances and take the naked or just panties approach to potty training.  With all hardwood and tile floors, it’s the perfect house for it.

On days when we knew we were going to be home all day, we would put the mackerdoodle in panties and hope she would learn that peeing on the floor was nasty.  She didn’t.  She would stand in a puddle and say “Oh.  All wet.  Towel.”  So we’d go back to diapers for several weeks, and then try again.

So last Monday afternoon we made an attempt.  She sat on the potty, grinned at me, and said “All done.”  We put her in her panties, and ten seconds after leaving the bathroom she was saying “All wet, All wet, All wet.” and standing on her tiptoes in a puddle.  I cleaned her up, mopped and bleached the floor and put fresh panties on her.  I chalked it up as another day that would end in frustration, and went on with my day, which included a phone call to my mother.

A few minutes into the phone call, the mackerdoodle was standing on her tip toes, clutching herself and pointing to the bathroom, screaming “White dere.  White dere.  Oh.  Oh.  White Dere.  White Dere.”  I got her “white dere” as soon as I could, and when I came back to the bathroom after mopping up the tiny drips where she had been standing and fetching more clean clothes, there was a – now how shall I phrase this? – a deposit of both kinds in the toilet, and a grinning little girl.  Well, you can imagine that such an achievement was met with reward and celebration and dry panties instead of a diaper.

After experiencing reward, she was very willing to let me know when she had to go again.  By Monday evening she would be saying “Icee?” as she tinkled, anticipating the reward, and I was happy to provide it.  Wednesday afternoon when Kaitlin and Sarah Ann came for their weekly play date, they were delighted to receive three icees as they shared in the reward of my mackerdoodle’s achievements, and Thursday she wore the same pair of panties (except for a pull up at nap time) all day!

With Friday being her birthday, we had a little regression, which I was expecting, but Saturday was another dry panties day and on Sunday she told the nursery workers when she had to go, and during our fellowship lunch told us when she had to go.  Monday I was so confident in her potty training that when we went to the allergist I left her in her panties.  My confidence was not misplaced.

Our only problem remaining is her fear of  (or refusal to) making a bowel movement.  She is not doing a lot of the things I’ve been reading about, (she’s not hiding and pooping in corners.  She’s not asking for a diaper and then pooping in that . . .) so I’m confident that if we make sure she has a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables we will have some progress in this area as well.