The potty training chronicles

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job as Mommy! It is an amazing gift to spend my time caring for these beautiful boys, and shaping them into small citizens of the world. That being said, there are some aspects of parenting I do not particularly care for. Potty training is near the top of the list, especially potty training two children at once.

It is my own fault for putting it off so long. Every time we tried in the past, I gave up after a day or two. I said it was too hard, it was too stressful, I had too many other things to worry about and couldn’t be rushing a child to the bathroom every five minutes….. I wasn’t ready. So of course the boys weren’t ready either.

But two weeks ago, we bit the bullet. And we did something we had never tried in the past: we threw the diapers away. Okay, not really, my frugal heart would never stand for such waste. I returned unopened boxes, and gave the rest to a friend. Bottom line, all diapers were removed from the house. That eliminated the boys’ crutch of falling back on diapers, but more importantly, it removed my own crutch of falling back on them. There could be no turning back this time.

In an ideal world, I would have trained the boys one at a time. I would have loved to just focus on one child at a time, especially because my identical twins tend to have identical body clocks when it comes to bathroom needs. But by getting rid of all diapers in the house, we were forced to take on double-duty, like it or not. And somehow, it has not been too terribly bad. It hasn’t been that great either, but not that bad.

So here’s what we did. We spent the first three days chained to the house, wearing only underpants. We focused on keeping our underpants dry, and I did my best to catch any accidents as they were happening (not easy with two, but I did the best I could). We had some successes and some failures, but that was the point. They almost have to have accidents as they learn to start listening to what their bodies are trying to tell them. After the first three days, we tried to relax a bit, but then the boys slipped. Instead of trying to make things happen on the potty, they were trying to hold everything in, and they were making themselves sick. Both boys have a history of GI problems and chronic constipation, so alarm bells started going off in my head that we needed to change things, and fast.

I reached out to some other twin moms, and they recommended a reward system. So I created sticker charts, and instead of focusing on keeping their underpants clean, we started focusing on successful trips to the potty. The stickers got them excited, the prizes (dollar store) they earned when they filled a row of stickers got them even more excited, and things FINALLY started to click!sticker chart2

After two weeks, are we fully potty trained? No. We still have accidents, of both kinds, and I don’t leave the house without extra underpants and shorts for them. But the accidents are becoming fewer, the successes are becoming greater, and overall I think we are doing pretty good! I am hopeful that in a few more weeks, I won’t have to ask them every 10 minutes if they need to use the potty, and I won’t have to be on such high alert when we are out in public. It will happen. I know it will. Eventually.

A quick note, we do still wear pull-ups for naps and at night. I firmly believe that nighttime potty training is an entirely different skill set, and they are not ready for that yet. I don’t mind doing the pull-ups right now, especially since I don’t want to change sheets five times a day. But to think that after five years and two months of constantly changing diapers, and 15 months of that was three kids in diapers at once, I have not changed a single diaper in 15 days. Wow! That feels really good! I am proud of my boys for taking this step to grow a little more, and grateful to be done with the diaper phase of life.

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Potty training round one: diapers-1, potty-0

I am overdue for an update on our attempts to get the boys out of diapers this weekend. I don’t want to use the term “epic failure” persay, but it didn’t happen. At all. And I am resigned to the fact that for now, that is okay.

We gave it a go on Saturday morning, and were immediately met with resistance. When the child/ren refuse to even sit on the potty for more than a millisecond, nothing is going to happen there. I firmly believe the boys have to be comfortable with the idea of climbing up there before we can ask them to start trying to, ahem, put things in there. So the best we can do now is just encourage them to get up there and sit from time to time, without any pressure.

And honestly, I am okay with that. As much as I am tired of changing diapers all day long, I quickly remembered how debilitating it can be to go through the potty-training process. For the first week after Connor started, we couldn’t leave the house, I couldn’t focus on much of anything besides getting him to the bathroom ALL.THE.TIME. And there are just too many other things going on right now for me to be able to do that. I have to be realistic about my own abilities as their teacher right now, and this week was not the right week.

But maybe next week will be?? Connor is on Spring Break, which means I don’t have to load kids in and out of the car all week. We could, in theory, stay home the whole week. I guess I will do some soul-searching for the next few days and decide whether I want to try. Otherwise, it looks like my next free week to camp out and potty train won’t come until summer vacation…..

Oh, and I really want to just do one boy at a time. So much easier, I think. I hope. Who knows.

Couponing is a full-time sport

For a long time, I have prided myself in being a bargain hunter of sorts. I don’t like to pay full price for anything, and I am always on the watch for sales. This little hobby of mine only became that much more essential when we grew to a five-person family while simultaneously shrinking to a one-income family. Our budget is tight, so the more places I can find to cut back and save, the better. It is certainly something that requires planning, like shopping off-season for discounts and sales. For example, a few weeks ago I bought Connor a new bathing suit for next summer. It was on clearance at Old Navy for $3.97, a price I know I won’t find anywhere come April or May. I’m only bummed that I couldn’t find two for that price, in that size, that I liked. Because whenever I can, I buy things for Connor in double to have it ready for Ben and Alex down the road.

While I excel at finding bargains, I can’t say the same for couponing. It is hard, time consuming, frustrating. Half the time I will end up throwing out most of my coupons, simply because I forgot I had them and they expired. But every once in a while, I get the couponing thing figured out, and I score big. And you have to bear with me while I take a moment to brag about one of these most recent scores. It was on diapers, which as you can imagine, eat up a great deal of our monthly budget. I typically buy Target brand diapers because they are the cheapest I have found that still work well. But every once in a while, enough coupons and deals come along to make the name brand ones an even better deal.

The example I am going to share with you is for Huggies diapers. During a recent shopping trip to Target (seriously my favorite store for all things baby), I bought two big boxes of Huggies diapers, one in size 3, one in size 4 (stocking up since we will be there soon). The thing about diapers is that the bigger the size, the more they cost. Each box costs the same amount, but you get fewer diapers the bigger the size is. Here is what I got.

Box of 112 Size 3 diapers at the cost of $22.49. That’s $0.20 per diaper.
Box of 98 Size 4 diapers at the cost of $22.49. That’s $0.23 per diaper.

Now here’s where the fun part (for me at least) comes in. For this particular shopping trip, I had manufacturer’s coupons, store coupons, and several Ibotta offers that could all be combined:
$1.50 manufacturer’s coupon
5% off with Target’s cartwheel program ($1.12)
5% off with my Target RedCard ($1.07)
$10 free Target giftcard for buying two qualifying diaper items
$1.50 offer from Ibotta
$4 in bonus offers from Ibotta. (Please note, these bonuses included other household products that I purchased as well, so I broke everything down per item to calculate this figure.)
Total is savings and discounts for both boxes: $19.19

My new totals:
Box of 112 Size 3 diapers at the cost of $12.90. $0.12 per diaper.
Box of 98 Size 4 diapers at the cost of $12.90. $0.13 per diaper.
I would typically buy these sizes of diapers through the Target brand at $0.14 per diaper and $0.16 per diaper, respectively. So not too bad for name brand! And yes, when you change as many diapers as I do each day, those pennies do add up!

I have one more great savings trick I must pass along, after our trip to Staples today. If you are not a Staples Rewards member, you should be. It doesn’t cost anything, and from time to time, they offer deals where you can combine a coupon and rebate to get an item free. Typically that item is something small, but today I scored a case of 10 reams of printer paper, for free!!!! The case cost $49.99. I had a coupon to take $21.99 off the price at the register. I will then submit an online rebate to get $28 back. The only thing I end up paying is sales tax… so $2.07 for 10 reams of paper, pretty sweet deal!

Honestly, this kind of shopping is not just good on our bank account, it is also fun for me. It’s a bit of a game, to get all the right puzzle pieces in place. If you have any good couponing/ bargain hunting/ money saving tips, please feel free to share them. Also, if you would like to better understand how Ibotta works and how to combine it with coupons, let me know.

Pool time and potty training

Ah, one milestone draws to a close while another begins.Connor_Swimming

Today was Connor’s last day of his two-week swim class. Is he ready for the English Channel? Not by a long shot. But over the past eight lessons, I have observed his confidence in the water grow by leaps and bounds. He is now happy to put his head down and blow bubbles, float on his back (with assistance), kick his legs, moves his arms, and today I even watched him swim on his own with just the aid of a floatation device. There are not enough words to express how proud I am of my little man!

Click here to see CJ in action.

So now we are ready to tackle the next big challenge: potty training. It has been a year since we first introduced the concept, and we have had a long and rather frustrating year of no progress. Looking back now, I know Connor wasn’t ready a year ago. Sure, he understood what needed to happen, that was never the issue. I think the massive changes that came with bringing two new babies into the house were just too much, and we should not have pressured him to embrace any more changes.

The past few weeks and months, I have tried to just sit back and observe Connor’s behavior, when it comes to matters of the potty. We have talked with him about how 3 year olds don’t wear diapers anymore and how his friends are starting to use the potty. We have told him matter-of-factly that he is getting too big for his diapers, and since they don’t make a bigger size, we really have no choice but to start using the potty. The truth is they do make a bigger size, but I feel that in parenting, there are always times when a little white lie may be in everyone’s best interest. I freely admit that I feel this is one of those times.

Along with this gentle nudging, recently I have seen some changes in his bathroom behavior that show me, without going in to too much detail, he is ready for the next step. But at the same time, I also know that he uses his diapers as a safety net. So beginning tomorrow, we cut the cord, so to speak. The safety net disappears, and we let the cards (or poop and pee) fall where they may.

We shall be patient. We shall be positive. But with the exception of naptime and nighttime, the diapers are gone for good! Wish us luck!

Sleep Training: Night 9

I think it is safe to say that this will be my final “sleep training” post. Last night…. drum roll please…. no wake ups!!!!! Not a single one! I am ready to claim victory in the sleep training battle, yay!

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t for an instant think that we have 18 years of uninterrupted sleep ahead of us now. There will always be sick kids, nightmares, teething, crazy howling wind…. it’s gonna happen. But I know we are on the right track, and I am so thankful for all of the help and support Alan and I have received in this struggle, from family, friends, fellow parents of multiples… it really has meant the world to us to know we weren’t alone in our sleep-deprived fog.

The most amazing part of all of this, besides of course getting to sleep more than 2 hours at a stretch, is that we are already seeing a marked improvement in Ben and Alex. They have always been happy and healthy babies, but as of late, the wear and tear of not getting quality sleep has been taking its toll on them. They had been fussy, cranky, hard to console, all around miserable. Now we are seeing more ready smiles again, and I am so thankful that my boys are finally getting the rest their little bodies need as they grow.

Because of the reflux/milk allergy issues, and then teething coming right after, I would not have started sleep training sooner, had I it all to do over again. I think this timing was exactly what our family needed, and I’m glad we bit the bullet, so to speak, and made it happen.

Now the next battle royal for the Knight household… potty training!!! Just kidding, it won’t be a battle, I will be patient, I promise. =) (Andrew, you won’t mind a ring bearer still in diapers, will you???)