Monday, August 23, 2010

The Potty Plan of God

It is with great joy that I write these words:

My children are officially completely potty-trained!! ALL OF THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m ecstatic! I’m giddy!

The potty-training chapter of our life is now over, and it was hands-down the hardest thing we’ve ever done. I know the future holds more challenges for us, but I can’t imagine another developmental stage that could even come close to matching this. It’s been AWFUL.

And because it’s been so awful, I have A LOT to say about it, so I’m warning you now. The rest of this (really long) post is pretty much going to detail the struggle we’ve had in potty-training Zachary and how it all finally turned out well, thanks to GOD! So if you don’t care about potty training, feel free to move on to the next blog on your reading list! BUT if you DO care about potty training, if you are struggling to train your own child(ren), read on and find hope!

My first attempt to potty train the kids began early November 2008 (2008!!!! That’s almost 2 whole years ago!!!!) It was a failure. As the months have passed by, training in its different incarnations has continued. You can read through the different posts here, if you want: April 2009, May 2009, July 2009, October 2009. By Feb 2010, Jonathan, Reagan, and Thomas were all fully trained both day and night.

But not Zachary.

At that point, when all the other kids had moved on to full-time underwear, he was still in Pull-ups, only using the potty if you MADE him, and mostly doing his business wherever he happened to be. I feel certain he was the only child in preschool who wasn’t potty trained, and every day that went by with him making no progress toward BECOMING potty trained, the more guilty I felt about him being in preschool at all.

But Zachary didn’t care. He didn’t care one bit, and I couldn’t find anything to make him care. None of the incentives that had enticed the other kids were good enough for Zachary. I mean, he loved getting stickers or candy or whatever for using the potty, but not enough to actually motivate him to do it on his own.

It was a very discouraging time, as friends and family with much younger children announced their pottying successes, while Z continued to make no progress at all.

I told myself it would be fine. No child starts Kindergarten without being potty trained, right? I just needed to get through preschool. When it was summer, we could stay home every day, all day, for lots of consistent potty training efforts, and Z would have it figured out in NO TIME!

Plan Z for Zachary began on June 8. My unofficial goal was a potty trained child by his 4th birthday on the 20th. My plan failed.

The first few days were promising. I let him wear underwear all the time if we were home which he LOVED. We only wore Pull-ups if we were going somewhere. I reminded him frequently to use the potty, and when he did he got candy and heaps of praise. Those first days I devoted nearly every waking minute to him and he had very few pee accidents. However, as soon as I didn’t devote every waking minute to him, the accidents began to increase.

On June 22, I lost it! After playing outside, Zachary came in the living room, laid down in the chair, and just peed all over himself and the chair, WITH A LITTLE POTTY SITTING RIGHT THERE IN THE SAME ROOM. I lost my ever-loving mind! All of my frustration with Z’s potty habits spilled out in a loud, angry tirade centered around how that was completely unacceptable behavior and it would not continue for a single minute more. I made him clean the chair and I sent him to his room. After calming down, we had a very firm discussion about the CHOICES he was making about pottying and how they were absolutely going to change or there would be consequences. And for the first time, I began punishing him for his accidents (the #1 ones). His punishment was that he had to clean it up, he got a 15-min time-out, and he was banned from all TV viewing for the rest of the day.

This worked for about 3 days, and then he didn’t care about missing TV anymore and went back to having accidents.

I was completely discouraged. I was a failure. I was failing my child. What was I doing wrong? What was wrong with my child? What else could I possibly do to help him learn to use the potty? It was all I could think about. I searched and searched the internet for answers, but could find NOTHING that I had not already tried with no success.

And then it hit me. All my plans had failed. MY plans.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

I had to face the truth and admit that I couldn’t do it. I WAS NOT CAPABLE OF POTTY TRAINING ZACHARY. I JUST WASN’T. I had to let God do it. That may sound ridiculous, but it isn’t.

And so I began to pray continuously for God to teach Zachary to use the potty, for Him to help Zachary want to use the potty, for Him to guide me to His plan so I could do what He needed me to do too.

And He did.

The very next day it struck me like lightning. All of the internet searching I had done looking for help, I had always searched for “potty training problems” and I found nothing that helped. What I needed to search for was “potty training OLDER CHILDREN”!! You can think whatever you want, but I know that God put that thought in my head as an answer to my prayers. I did the search and almost immediately I found this article:

“Toilet Training Problems” by Dr. Barton Schmitt, MD

It was a gift directly from heaven. The article is written specifically about older children who struggle to use the potty and outlined the plan that this pediatrician gives to his parents when their children struggle.

I put the plan into action that very day. Here’s the simple version: focus just on peeing in the potty at first, give the child full responsibility for using the potty (that meant I no longer reminded him constantly to do it), and use the perfect incentive, which turned out to be TV.

Every time Z peed in the potty, he got to watch a show. If he didn’t pee in the potty, he didn’t get to watch a show. It was that simple. After explaining the plan to him the first day, I only mentioned it when he would ask to watch TV. “Only if you pee in the potty!” And I never reminded him to go.


Zachary went 9 days straight without a pee accident, nights included. This also included our trip to IN to visit Uncle Clay and family, even the car ride! I was amazed!

Praise the Lord for He is good!

I decided it was time to add poop to the equation. I was anxious. VBS was coming, and I wanted him to be done before VBS. I,I,I.

I used the same plan as I had done with pee. If you poop in the potty, you get to watch TV. If you don’t, you don’t.

It didn’t work. Again, it was my plan, not God’s. And I will honestly admit that when I made the decision to do it, I really didn’t feel peace about it. God knew it was too soon. He tried to tell me, but I didn’t listen.

Zachary did not poop in the potty, and after a couple of days with no TV, he quit peeing in the potty too.


“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Start over. Be patient. Trust in Me.

So I started over. I made a chart and hung it up in the playroom. The chart had 28 blank squares, 4 rows of 7. We went back to watching TV every time Z peed in the potty, and at the end of every accident-free day he got to write a letter of his name in a square. Luckily Zachary has 7 letters in his name! When his name was spelled, we had completed a week with no accidents. I wouldn’t even think about poop until we had completed 4 accident-free weeks IN A ROW. I felt that that was a decent amount of time for peeing in the potty to become a habit.

Of course, I couldn’t HELP thinking about poop. I talked to Z all the time about how he needed to put his poop in the potty. Jim talked to him. I tried not to get on him too much for his poop accidents, but some days my frustration was higher than I could handle. I was not always as encouraging as I should have been. But I did my very best and continued praying for God’s guidance (and deliverance!).

One Sat was one of those frustrating days. Z had gone 3 weeks straight with no pee accidents, but continued to poop in his underwear EVERY TIME. That morning when he pooped in his underwear AGAIN, that was it. I had had it! I reached my limit of poopy underwear! I WAS NOT GOING TO CLEAN ONE MORE PAIR OF POOPY UNDERWEAR!!!! So I took the underwear away.

Zachary was now half-naked. He went bare bottom the rest of the day and didn’t poop anymore. Sunday he wore a Pull-up to church, but we went back to bare bottom when we got home. No poop all day. I let him have some underwear to sleep in that night. He pooped in them.


Monday we went back to the bare bottom. Around 10:30 he told me he needed to poop. (He had said this before, but never actually pooped. He did, however, get to spend a lot of alone time with mom listening to stories while sitting on the potty) I didn’t really believe him. I told him to go ahead to the potty, and I’d “be right there.” You know, in a couple of minutes when it’s more convenient for me. He went, sat on the potty AND POOPED!!!!!!!!!!!

“Mom! Come and see!” he shouted from the bathroom. He was so excited! I was so excited! The other kids were so excited! I gave him back his underwear! We called Daddy at work! I gave him a present! I gave him another present! I gave him brand new underwear! Daddy left work and came home just to hug him and say how proud he was! We danced and cheered and gave him candy!

I was so excited I couldn’t stop giving him things!

That was Aug.16. He hasn’t had an accident of any kind since then! Yesterday I let him wear underwear to church AND HE POOPED IN THE POTTY AT CHURCH! That meant he actually had to SIT on the big potty which was another thing he had never done!

I’m just so proud of him I can hardly wipe the smile from my face! (Unless it’s cleaning time. I smile very little then) And I’m proud of me too! But not so proud that I don’t remember who really deserves the credit here. I fully believe that if I had not surrendered the responsibility of potty training Zachary to God, he would not be pooping in the potty today. And I’d be crying in a corner. Yes, I did it too. Yes, I found a plan that worked. But it was not without God’s guidance. Thank you, Lord, for potty training my son.

Whew! I know, that was horrendously long! Kudos to you if you read the whole thing! Now, get up and stretch and do a little victory dance with me!

Friday, August 20, 2010

They’re on the Shelf

The kids, that is.

These are just a couple of cute pictures I came across that somehow missed getting posted a couple of months ago when they were taken. Enjoy and have a great weekend!



We won’t discuss the mess that was created to clear off the shelves so each child could have his own…or the battle that was waged to get said mess cleaned up after the kids tired of playing on the shelves. We will merely focus on how cute they are in their teeny bunk beds.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

There are Never TOO MANY BUNNIES!

I have to give great big thanks to my friend Michelle for introducing me to the book Too Many Bunnies by Tomie dePaola.

Too Many Bunnies (Trade)

In this adorable story, Mommy and Daddy Hopkins give the children the task of readying the radish garden while they go to the store to buy carrot seeds. Each bunny has his own task, but they all try to do their jobs at the same time, creating a big mess. When the parents return, they straighten everything out by teaching the kids the importance of organization and taking turns.

But here’s the best part!!!!! The bunny children include a set of quintuplets, a set of QUADRUPLETS, a set of triplets, AND a set of twins, plus one singleton! This is the first children’s story I’ve come across that actually has characters in it who are quadruplets! My kids love it! Thanks, Michelle!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Things We Love #5

We LOVE Crayola Paint Brush Pens!


Let’s just be honest. I don’t like messes. Why? Well… they’re messy! And guess who usually has to clean them up? ME!!! So letting the kids paint indoors is not something I like to do, but it’s been so hot outside this summer that painting OUTSIDE is impossible. Luckily, Crayola has rescued my kids from a paint-free summer.

These brushes are FANTASTIC! They are just like painting with watercolors but without the mess! And with four mess-prone little ones, that makes me really happy! They don’t drip. There’s no cup of brown rinse water to knock over. And there’s practically nothing to clean up! Just put the caps on, hang up the masterpieces, fold up the tablecloth if you used one, and DONE!

DSC_0403 Reagan

DSC_0404 Jonathan

I’m pretty sure we got these pens from Gammy and Granny Kat a couple of Christmases ago, and they are still hanging in there! If you don’t have any for your little ones, you might want to consider adding them to your art supply!

By the way, Crayola did not pay me to write this lovely review of their paint pens. They did not provide me with the paint pens. I don’t get anything if you buy their paint pens, except the satisfaction of knowing I influenced someone else’s purchasing decision. And that’s only if you tell me.

Happy painting!

Monday, August 9, 2010

This Is How You Stand When You’re Cool

I was in the kitchen the other day, and the kids were playing in the living room, when I heard Reagan ask Jonathan, “Why are you standing like that?” His answer:

“This is how you stand when you’re cool.”

Well, that was something I needed to see! After all, I want to be cool, so I need to know how to stand! Apparently, you need to stand like this:


I think the look on your face is just as important as the way you actually stand, as is the presence of your blankie! All the cool boys are carrying them these days. Aty least, they are at my house.

And in case this look is too difficult, the other kids were quick to offer their own equally cool stances. You’re sure to find one that works for you!

DSC_0397Zachary rocked his now-classic Superman pose. He doesn’t need the costume to be a super-cool superkid!


Reagan has achieved a level of coolness that is not for beginners. The foot placement is definitely only for those with advanced degrees in cool. And please note Jonathan in the background, still cool.

When I asked Thomas how he “stands cool,” he just started jumping around like a crazy person, and then wanted to see the picture. I told him he had to be still for me to take a picture, although I kind of wish I had just done a video. Here he is standing still AND cool.

DSC_0409 And yes, he picked out his own clothes that day. He’s not just cool. He knows fashion too.

So I hope this has been of help to you. Check back often for more ideas on how to be cool the JonZReaTom way!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Nature Nook: Garden Update

We have really enjoyed our garden this summer. The kids have loved going out with Daddy to harvest the vegetables, even if they don’t like eating any of them! Here’s a shot of our garden in its prime, before some sort of pest killed off our squash plants. Sigh.


Our plants got much bigger than we expected. The okra plants are taller than the kids! And our harvest has been bountiful indeed! I think we’ve collected our weight in cherry tomatoes! (To see our baby garden, click HERE)

But growing a garden has also been incredibly interesting! Most of you probably know that this flower turns into a squash…


…but do you know what this one turns into?

DSC_0384It’s an okra blossom!

Hmmm…maybe the okra growing beside the blossom sort of gives that away. Well, I found it fascinating! Isn’t it gorgeous?

And our mystery bean? Look! It actually grew a bean!


Unfortunately, I didn’t pick it at the time, and the next time I went out, I couldn’t find it because there was too much cherry tomato in the way. So it’s still a mystery. What kind of bean is that? Anyone? I’m just glad I got a picture of it! I’m amazed it grew at all!

What fun the garden has been! If you didn’t plant a garden this year, make an effort next year! It doesn’t have to be much! You’ll be amazed too!

The Rest of the Fourth

After our fun at the park, we headed down to the river. It didn’t smell very good, but it was pretty and very windy which was nice because it was HOT!

DSC_0334 DSC_0340 Waving at the barge—we were disappointed it didn’t honk at them, but convinced ourselves there must have been a law against it! Who wouldn’t honk at these adorable children waving on the riverbank!?!

We took a walk down the riverside to a little memorial park, but discovered on the way that Zachary’s shoes were giving him blisters. I carried him the rest of the way to the park, and he is HEAVY! So that kind of hindered our walk, and we headed back pretty quick. Lucky for me, Jim carried Zachary on the way back. Too bad for Daddy, Reagan wanted to be carried too. Thank goodness Daddy is super-strong!


Down by the river was also a museum that had a train engine that you could actually get in and climb around. It was a highpoint for the kids who LOVED getting to see a train so close-up, especially Zachary who LOVES trains! But it was also a low point since we went to great lengths to be there at noon when it opened only to wait around and discover that it was closed for the 4th. THERE WAS NO SIGN ANYWHERE TO TELL US THIS!!!!! We just waited and waited and finally Clay went to the main museum to figure out what was going on and found out they were closed. It was such a disappointment!


Oh, well. We’ll try again the next time we visit! We had so much fun, the next time can’t come too soon! Thanks Uncle Clay and Aunt Carey for letting us come and overtake your home! Love you guys!