Jul 31, 2011

Smart Boy...

The Littler One has had a breakthrough this weekend.

We started potty-training a month ago. Now, I know you're all thinking "Wow, he's only two and already you are potty-training him. You are brilliant and motivated, Skerrib," but the fact is that I am on the lazy end of things and wouldn't have even thought of it, except that it was his idea. He started randomly taking off his diapers (and laughing at me while he did it), and he wanted to sit on the potty like his big brother, which is hilarious because His Highness is of the opinion that going to the potty is a pain and interrupts playtime.

So I thought, "Hey I'd better take advantage of this while he wants to do it." But I didn't want to do the Pull-Ups. First off, they are expensive and I am cheap. Second, my kids seem to follow the line of reasoning that having a diaper-ish thing there to catch the drips and poops means that everything is OK and there is no need to put anything in the potty.

So I bought a bunch of old-school, white cotton training pants, and when we got back from our summer vacation we began a modified verson of potty boot camp. We stayed close to home for a couple days to get the basic idea down. You go sit on the potty for a few minutes. If any pee or poop comes out, you get an awesome reward. If not, you get a mediocre reward for trying. I learned from the first time around that teeny-tiny rewards are just as awesome as ridiculously expensive rewards, and you don't actually need to buy the entire fleet of Cars cars to convince your kid to poop in the potty. Or maybe we did for His Highness, but I was determined not to do the same thing with the sequel or The Littler One.

Boot camp was good because it let us try lots of things and figure out what would likely work this time around. Tootsie Roll Midgees are sufficient for a potty success, and those little colored star stickers are grand for a try. Around the house, naked works better than training pants. We also figured out that the Littler One very much values his freedom of choice, and will only sit on the potty when he wants to, and for as long as he wants to, so in general when we went out we put potty-training on hold and let him wear a diaper.

Overall we've had little successes along the way, and The Littler One seemed to be progressing, albeit gradually, until yesterday. Yesterday something clicked, and he went the entire day without a single accident. He also sat on the potty what seemed like every 10 minutes, and pushed out whatever pee was in him, even if it was a milliliter or less. That kid was on a singular, focused mission for Tootsie Rolls.

So today, with church and all, I wondered what would happen if we tried going with the training pants instead of the diaper. I'll take a little credit for my idea to put some star stickers and Tootsie Rolls in a baggie, and bingo--portable potty training. He made it all the way thru church clean & dry, earning several Tootsie Rolls along the way. We had a poop issue during lunch at the restaurant, but in the big scheme of things this is massive progress.

He has been so successful that we ran out of Tootsie Rolls, so we transitioned to a different potty candy. The Cat Daddy made the call to switch to Starburst, which I'm guessing is because he loves them, and I can't say I blame him either. If The Littler One keeps up this pace (and if the Cat Daddy raids the potty candy), then by next week we'll run out of Starburst, so my thought then is to switch to Skittles, and after that we'll just have to see. Moving from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation can be a tricky thing, so I'm treading lightly and carefully.

I have no words of wisdom for those who are in the throes of potty training. I have been just as gratefully stymied this time around as I was frustrated with the oldest's process. Yes, we know better what seems to work for our family overall, and I've learned to look and listen and be more responsive, but for us it is as much an issue of our children's personalities as anything else. When The Littler One wants something (ie candy), he buckles down and keeps trying until he gets it. He is very determined, indeed.

Smart boy...

The Latest...

...involves drugs, or a lack thereof.

I've had a long & winding journey with depression, anxiety, and happy pills. I can't possibly do the whole thing justice within a blog post, so I'll summarize by saying that, over the past 10 years or so I've come to a place of pretty good health. I've learned the things I need to do to keep myself in a decent place--eating somewhat well, exercising (endorphins. Oh yes), positive self-talk, being as open & honest as possible in relationships, resolving issues instead of stuffing them down (resulting in emotional vomit later), blocks of therapy as needed, recognizing and dealing with my own personal triggers, and so on. Until recently, that has also included a small dose of some sort of antidepressant to help keep me on an even keel. Better living through chemistry, and all that.

On the one hand the drugs are no big deal--when I get to where my symptoms start interfering with my life (exhaustion, hopelessness, etc.), the drugs help me stay level so I can do my life in a healthier way. On the other hand...well, there are lots of differing opinions in Christian circles about depression and drugs. I could do a whole series of posts on that one. There are lots of factors to consider, but in summary I'll boil my views down to a few quick points--

--I love Jesus.
--I don't think asking for or accepting help is an indication of weak faith.
--Medicine of any sort can be useful, but you have to know what it can & cannot do.

Good? Good. Now, all that said, on the advice of my doc I have been weaning off the meds for a while now, the biggest reason being the impending arrival of Kiddo #3 next spring (yay!). The particular drug I'm on is relatively new, and the studies with regard to pregnancy just aren't there yet. Baby and I would probably be fine, but just to be extra-safe he recommended I try going off the drug, especially during the first and third trimesters.

Now generally I'm in favor of minimizing medicines as much as possible, so going off the drugs during pregnancy is a great idea for me in theory. In practice though, it is pretty daunting. I've had only a few episodes over the years where I needed a change or adjustment in meds, but during those times it has been incredibly evident that I do in fact benefit from them. So I was nervous about having to emotionally muscle my way through pregnancy without them, but I also reasoned that if it all hit the fan I could always try another drug that is older and more proven.

Thankfully, things have gone better than I expected thus far. Not that I expected them to go badly; I just wasn't sure what to expect. You take a neurotic, and then tell them to taper down their happy meds and keep track of how they feel, and you end up with me going, "So Skerrib, how do you feel? Pretty good; maybe a little tired. Maybe you need some veggies, or a nap or something," approximately every few seconds. And thus far veggies and a nap (or more accurately, going to bed at a decent hour, cuz if I take a nap then I get the insomnia in the middle of the night, and that's no fun. But I digress)--and a good amount of jogging--have actually gone a long way. So I'm quirky, but I'm also alright. I've always said my goal is to be able to be off the meds long-term, so this months-long experiment gives me hope. I'm trying not to plan too far in either direction--if I can keep healthy and deal with life and stay off the drugs, great. If, after the baby is born, I find the need to go back on them, that's OK too.

I have lots to be excited about, and lots to take with a grain of salt. Life is moving along a little more vividly these days. I'm more creative, more feeling-y, more socially awkward...just "more" overall, it seems. Except for my appropriateness-filter, which sadly is less. So if I seem a little weird, or if I come up asking you if we are "OK," it just means I'm trying to keep my perspective. Which I think is a good thing for anyone...

Jul 12, 2011

Straight Up Killaz...

Preface: The Cat Daddy was otherwise occupied, so he had no idea any of this was going on...

Tonight I was putting the boyz to bed. As I've said before, our version of "crying it out" is lying next to the crier and comforting him to sleep (friggin' hippies, we are), so I was hunkered down on the bottom bunk next to the Littler One while he settled enough to give in to sleep.

I heard a faint kitty-growl out in the living room, indicating that Nipples had come in from outside. Then the dogs leapt up and ran down the hall, barking along the way. I hate when they do this, but both kids were far enough gone that they didn't stir much, so I didn't practice my standard-yet-ineffective-yet-somehow-still-standard yell: "Zoe! Max! KNOCK IT OFF!!!!" Following was a mild commotion, punctuated by yips, and growls, and a couple of squeaks which I was fairly certain did not come out of any of my animals. So I thought, "Oh great, the cat has caught a mouse and is having some fun with it." Yesterday he'd left a mouse head on the porch for me (as well as a mouse butt/tail, I later found out), and I have in the past had the morbidly fascinated displeasure of watching him bat around a bird in preparation for the kill--in my living room--so I was not all that surprised at the prospect of finding mouse pieces on my floor.

Well, finally the children were sleeping, so I went out to the kitchen to feed the dogs and grab a little snacky before bed. They were watching the cat with rapt attention, because you see the cat was on top of the kitchen counter with his latest kill, a small rabbit. Or baby bunny, depending how sad you want to feel about it. Not newborn, or anything--probably an adolescent or 'tween bunny. I imagine he probably mouthed off to his mom and took off to cool down or something, and normally I would say taking a walk to calm yourself is a great idea, except apparently this guy forgot to watch out for cats, cuz there he was on my counter.

Now, there's a lot I'd do for a Klondike Bar, but watching my cat bat around a dead animal weighing a full pound or more while I ate it (the ice cream, not the animal) is most definitely over the line. So I temporarily shelved the ice cream idea and grabbed some makeshift gloves (folded paper towels) and went to get the rabbit from the cat. I tried to explain, and I felt I was being very fair:

"Nipples, I'm afraid you can't have that on the counter. I can't even handle it in the house I don't think, but you can keep it if you go outside with it."

Well, Nipples was in disagreement with me, and gave me a "Leave me alone, I'm butchering a kill!!" growl. He was quite intent that I not take his prize. Being that I've never had to confront a cat in this fashion, I backed off for a moment to regroup. I went downstairs to survey a day's worth of toys scattered about the floor, where I promptly decided to leave them until sometime between tomorrow and Friday. I turned out the lights and went to head upstairs, and was fairly surprised to see Nipples flying down the stairs and over to his food dish for a quick bite, leaving the rabbit unguarded back upstairs on the counter.

Well, pin a rose on my nose, I dashed back upstairs, got my paper towels and gathered up the rabbit to take him outside. The cat, promptly remembering the stakes, sprinted back up the stairs and onto the counter, looking for his bunny, and shooting evil-eye darts at me when he realized I had bested him. Again I thought I was being, at the minimum, incredibly fair:

"Look Nipples, I've got to have some sort of standards. You just can't have this guy in the house. I'm sorry, but that's the way it is."

Well, he was still pretty irked about that, but he is one of three creatures in the house that recognize me as the boss (on a good day), and seemed resigned to my suddenly acquiring standards. I showed him where I put the bunny, and told him he was free to do with it as he wished, as long as it stayed outside.

It's funny, my college friend Fazzi (the cat's previous owner) said he never brought in any dead animals (or parts thereof) when he lived with her family...so it's as though Wyoming has opened up a whole new aspect of his personality. We would always say that Pim was a lover, not a fighter. Well, Nipples is wonderfully gentle with people, especially children, but when it comes to small animals, he is a straight-up killer. It can't possibly help the situation that we have a bird feeder in the front yard (and we've wondered aloud if that's not actually a twisted thing to do to birds, but the feeder was there before the cat and we are in fact a little twisted, so there you have it), but even if we didn't...the cat loves to hunt.

The happy ending, of course, is that I eventually did get my Klondike bar, so all's well that ends well. And now I must go pick up the remaining bunny fur bits and bleach the counter.

I like to think I can take most things in stride; even dead rabbits on the counter. But I will say this: if Nipples EVER brings me a snake, we will have words, he and I...

Jul 4, 2011

Gladly Stand Up Next to You [and gag]...

Cheyenne might be the best-kept secret when it comes to Independence Day fireworks. The past couple years we've watched them from the softball fields on base--you can see them almost as well as if you were at the Frontier Stadium, but you don't have quite the amount of traffic you find if you're in the thick of things.

This year, though, we decided to venture to the stadium. And you know what we found out? The view from inside the stadium is about 25 zillion times better than at the softball fields, and is totally worth the traffic and noise. When we were entering, the Cat Daddy remarked, "I wonder where they'll set the fireworks off from?" and I was all, "I dunno, they don't have barges like when we saw the fireworks in Boston that one year" (which was the awesomeness, BTW).

It turns out that, for the fireworks show, they close off one side of the stadium. So everyone sits on the west side, and they set off the fireworks from the east side. You know how sometimes when you see a firework climbing into the sky before it explodes, and it looks almost peaceful? Well, when you are 50 yards from the launch sites you can see how fiery it actually is. OK, maybe "fiery" is too strong a term, but definitely "ember-y," if you will. There's nothing peaceful about launching fireworks, that's for sure.

Now, these were the real deal. There were perhaps a good many fewer fireworks involved than one would find in a big city, but what they lacked in quantity they made up in sheer and blatant proximity. No one's retinas were burned or anything, but it's not because they didn't try. As the fireworks cracked and boomed, we could watch them fade to embers. At first I thought, "Wow, the fireworks seem so close," but as I followed the embers all the way to the rodeo dirt in front of us I thought, "By golly, someone's going to catch fire if they're not careful." Luckily for the finale I succumbed and covered my ears, because I think I very nearly ruptured an eardrum. So while those over on the base saw maybe 70% of the fireworks, the remainder didn't clear the stadium walls enough to be seen by the poor saps on the outside.

And while some might think, "Oh goodness, that sounds unpleasant," it was quite possibly the coolest fireworks show ever. Cheyenne does have that Wild West spirit about it, part of which is a sort of bratty, "I'm gonna do what I want and you can't stop me" spirit. In a good way. The vibe I got was along the lines of "We like to experience our fireworks, and there are no trees to burn down so we're going hardcore with it." Plus the opening song was the Toby Keith one about America putting its boot in a$$es, which of course contributed to the independent rebel feel.

Now here's a situation where my intelligence occasionally...slips out for a bit. Prior to the fireworks they had a local country band, and then the main pre-show of the night was Tops in Blue (an Air Force touring musical group). I have no idea how I made it this long without figuring it, but I had always assumed that Tops in Blue was sort of similar to the Boston Pops. Or any other Pops, for that matter. It was not until this evening, reading the Tops in Blue program, that I realized that, while the two words rhyme, "Tops" is not the same as "Pops." At all. Rather than being a cool orchestral deal, Tops in Blue is more like show choir. Think "Glee," minus drama, plot twists, and any over-the-top cool/crazy/glam factors (And obviously minus any gay folks, since Don't Ask Don't Tell isn't quite gone yet, and it is a military group, after all). While most of the members themselves were obviously talented--and well-practiced in jazz hands--the show was...well, it did get better as the show went on, but let's just say it was not as cool as the fireworks and leave it at that.

Now, each of the musical groups of course did "Proud to Be An American." And then the fireworks show, not to be outdone, did it too, bringing the grand total for the night to three--count them, THREE--rounds of the dang song, which simply is not one of my favorites. Once upon a time I really liked it, and then I heard it overplayed and hoke-i-fied beyond all reason, and now I make poking motions at my eyeballs when I hear it. Sorry. I did mime a big gigantic drum fill all three times at the part of the chorus near the end of the song with the pause and/or big gigantic drum fill, depending on which version you're listening to. So it's not a total hatred of the song or anything. Maybe just a mostly-hatred, or a heavy dislike perhaps.

We sat with Ms Sitter and her boys, and we brought along the glow bracelets which were a Target dollar bin treasure a few weeks back. They were a big hit. So much so that, at the end of everything when we were all getting up to trek to our cars, His Highness told Ms Sitter's kids, "We're going to need those back." Thankfully I heard him, because I was then able to calm the stricken boys by reassuring them that they could, in fact, keep their glow bracelets, and to remind His Highness that we had brought them to share with our friends, even for keeps in this case.

Even the Cat Daddy, who in general can find very little he enjoys about Cheyenne, was impressed by the perceived danger level of the fireworks show. And that's saying something...