Wednesday, September 30, 2009

More Evidence of Montessori at Work

Here are some new things that Samantha is doing, which I can only attribute to her 2 weeks in Montessori.

  • Sammy has started to write her letters.  She mostly draws individual squiggles which look like "c's" and "u's" and she'll "read" them:  A, EF, GEE, EM, ESS, DEE.  THAT SPELLS JINX!  But she has written and identified a recognizable "u," "w," "t" and a "j." 

  • She tried to do a headstand last night.

  • Looking at a blob of soap on her hand, she said, LOOK, MOMMY!  AN OVAL!  And she was right.

  • She rolls up or folds every towel and washcloth in sight.

  • When she is putting away her toys, she doesn't want any help, and she doesn't even want any words to help her:  NO, MOMMY, DON'T TALK.  I'LL DO IT MYSELF.

And my favorite:


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Potty Training Update #2

I think another potty training update is in order.  Since I wrote about it last, Sammy has gone through a terrible regression.  I’ve heard that kids regress but I didn’t expect this.  Over 10 days, Sammy just stopped pooping on the potty.  She came home from school every day in different pants than she was wearing when she left, and sometimes the second pair were stained by the time she got home.  She did fine with pee, and I think there were a couple of times that she did successfully poop, but I was cleaning up poop 2-3 times a day, every day, for those 10 days.  (Of course, at this same time, the dog decided that he liked to step on his own poop in the backyard and drag it through the house, so I had to deal with that too.  My washing machine has been busy.)

I was so temped to put a diaper on that girl.  Oh, the relief it would have been.  We could barely leave the house.  Every time we went out, she pooped in her pants.  She did it at our next-door neighbor’s house, she did it outside while playing with the neighbors, she did it at the restaurant, she did it at the toy store, and she did it in the car. 

I was at my wit’s end.  I tried to just take it in stride, but by the end, I was begging her to use the potty, and saying things like, “Sammy. Please!  Please tell me why you aren’t using the potty.”  I tried to just relax and let her go when she needed to go, but I couldn’t help but be constantly aware of imminent danger.  When away from the house, I’d be sniffing and checking and asking every 5 minutes.  I’m sure this did not help Sammy at all, but I didn’t know what else to do.  One time, we were out to lunch and she had 3 separate accidents within one hour.

Last Thursday when I picked her up from school, I suggested that we go out to lunch. She got very excited – and then pooped in her pants.  I had forgotten to re-load the potty bag with extra clothes that morning, so she had to put her dirty pants back on.  I told her that now we could not go out to lunch because we had to get home to change her clothes.  I wasn’t angry or trying to give her a guilt trip – I was just telling her the logical consequence of her actions.  Then I told her that we could go out to lunch tomorrow, as long as she hadn’t had an accident at school.  And that did it!  From Friday forward, she has had zero accidents.  None, nada, zip, zilch!  No pee, no poo.  I only remind her to go when we are leaving the house or if I see her doing the pee-pee dance.

I had ruled out rewards as a way to accomplish potty training, but when a logical consequence arose – one that mattered to her – she was finally self-motivated.  I know she’ll have setbacks in the future.  I hope they aren’t as bad as this one.  But next time, I’ll be on the lookout for that consequence.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Prenatal Visit #1

I had my first prenatal doctor’s appointment last week.  I was pretty excited about it, and had hoped that it would kick-start the feeling that this pregnancy is for real, and that there actually is a baby coming.  I guess I still have mental scars from my first pregnancy, because I’m having a hard time getting excited.  Unfortunately, the appointment was nothing at all like my prenatal visits at the birth center where I gave birth to Sammy.  It was just another doctor’s visit.  They took my blood to confirm the pregnancy, which is totally unnecessary.  They didn’t even do a urine test (because, I suppose, they don’t really believe that I’m pregnant yet.)  The doctor was completely unhelpful in discussing the first trimester diagnostic tests that I should have.  Since I have an unusual history, I was hoping for some advice on whether to do the standard NT/blood test screening, or go straight to CVS or amniocentesis.  The doctor didn’t even give me any statistics on accuracy or risk, and basically said, “It’s up to you.”  Gee, thanks.  She didn’t even calculate my due date.  Sure, I’ve already done this myself, but isn’t that one of the fun parts? (Officially, my due date is May 16, but I’m holding out hope that this baby will come just a bit early like Sammy did, so I’m saying early May.)

I’ve met 2 of the 3 doctors in this practice now, and I didn’t particularly like either of them.  They have 2 midwives in the practice, though, which is why I chose this place.  I’m holding out hope that I’ll like one of them better.  I can pick my preferred doctor/midwife for the birth of my baby, but there are no guarantees – the person could not be on-call or could be on vacation and another would have to cover for her.  Apparently, it’s standard practice to induce labor just so you can get the doctor you want.  This is absolute insanity, in my opinion.  Inducing labor increases the risk of needing a C-section.  Once you have that pitocin, it kicks off the chain reaction of medical interventions that cause so many problems.  The two best ways to avoid a C-section are to let labor come when it comes, and to stay out of the hospital for as long as possible.  I think I’ll take my chances with whatever doctor is available and let nature take its course, thank you very much.

I did learn something new about pregnancy, although it wasn’t from the doctor, it was from this “Future Moms” program I’m eligible for through my health insurance.  The idea is that the insurance company can help keep costs lower if they provide education and incentives to pregnant women to take care of themselves.  So if I participate, I don’t have to pay the hospital co-pay when I deliver.  That saves me a few hundred bucks!  Plus, I can talk to a nurse on the phone 24 hours a day, during the pregnancy and for postpartum support.  I suspect the nurses will be more helpful than the doctors, so this is a nice perk.  (I’m going to call them regarding the diagnostic tests this week.)  What do I have to do in exchange?  I had to enroll and give a health history (so they could assess my risk), and I have to have a dental cleaning before 24 weeks.  A dental cleaning?  Yes, you see, preterm deliveries are the biggest maternal health cost to insurers.  (Think of the amazing things they are doing for preemies in the NICU.)  And many preterm deliveries are caused by infections.  And many of these infections are apparently caused by, of all things, poor dental health.  Interesting!

Everything seems to be going fine with the pregnancy.  I’ve had no nausea, and just a little bit of fatigue and emotionalism so far, all of which is normal for me.  I enjoy pregnancy.  It’s the post-partum problems that get me.  Don’t worry, I’m sure I’ll share all the disgusting and horrifying details with you when the time comes.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Little Thing

I gained 2 pounds in the first 2 weeks I knew I was pregnant.  I've already had to pull out some of my old fat pants.  And I'm looking forward to maternity clothes!

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Little Thing

When Sammy attended day care, she'd sometimes come home with a new "skill" such as reciting the days of the week or naming the seasons.  After attending Montessori for 2 weeks, she has already come home with new skills such as shaking her hands over the sink after washing them to get most of the water off, folding, and going to the potty without stripping completely naked.  Practical life, indeed!

The Role of Fantasy

In a parenting mailing list I belong to, we’ve been continuing the discussion of evasion, and the topic of fantasy came up. 

Since Objectivists recognize evasion as the basis of all immorality, many of us are struggling with the issue of children’s fantasies and whether using their imaginations in some improper way might lead to evasion.  Of course, imagination is one of the tools that makes evasion possible.  Rational Jenn just posted a great storyof an instance when she thought her son might be doing exactly that, and how she dealt with it.  I think that story is an excellent concretization of the difference between proper fantasy and evasion and I highly recommend that you read it before continuing with this post. 

(By the way, I don’t think children can be morally judged as having “evaded” in the adult sense.  Jenn’s child appeared to be “testing out” evasion based on what he said to his mom.  Even this “testing,” I think, is proper in the sense that children need to try it to see what happens.  Even if Jenn hadn’t taken any action based on what her son said, he would have found out that the evasion didn’t do him any good when he came up against the reality he was seeking to avoid.  She chose to make the lesson explicit because it is such an important issue, and I would probably do the same, but the point is that children are going to test this out, just like they test boundaries, patience, truthfulness, and everything else.  This is their job!)

Imagination is not equivalent to evasion.  Imagination is the mental aspect of human productivity.  If productivity is taking materials that exist and rearranging them into something that is valuable to man, imagination is the rearrangement of thoughts that can lead to new ideas that are valuable to man, or, eventually to new products as well.  Oh, wow, I wrote that before I looked this up, and here is what Ayn Rand has to say about imagination, which is, of course, much more clear:
“Imagination is not a faculty for escaping reality, but a faculty for rearranging the elements of reality to achieve human values; it requires and presupposes some knowledge of the elements one chooses to rearrange. An imagination divorced from knowledge has only one product: a nightmare . . . An imagination that replaces cognition is one of the surest ways to create neurosis.”

--Ayn Rand, quoted in “The Montessori Method,” The Objectivist, July, 1970, 7.

I believe that fantasy, in children, is the exercise of this human capacity of imagination.  (By "exercise," I mean specifically that it is practice and work, not that it is just the childish form of imagination.)  Note that fantasy is a universal amongst children.  Their fantasies often revolve around what they know:  pretending to put dolls to sleep, an imaginary pet or friend, or acting out stories they’ve read in books.  They don’t make things up out of whole cloth.  (However, I am very curious about the almost universal phenomenon of children thinking there are “monsters” in the dark and where they get the idea of a monster.  I suspect a monster symbolizes the unknown or inexplicable to a child, but that’s a more specific topic I’ll leave for another post.)

I think it is extremely harmful to treat a child’s fantasies as “lies,” as many parents seem to do.   I’m talking about very young children here.  I only have experience with my own, who is 3, so I’ll limit myself to that age group.  At this age, I think lying is very rare.  By lying, I mean the faking of reality in order to try to gain an unearned value (although it does happen, even at 3).  What usually happens are things like the child saying, “Mommy, there is an alligator in the back yard,” or “I ran by myself all the way to school.”  I feel very strongly that chastising the child for this type of statement is a terrible mistake.

First, assume positive intent.  (God, I love that principle!)  Assume that the child has some valid purpose for these statements and try to imagine what it might be.  Maybe the child sees something in the back yard that looks like an alligator, or he sees something and doesn’t know what it is, but an alligator is the first thing that came to mind.  Maybe the child has been practicing running lately and imagines how great it would be to run all the way to school but doesn’t know yet how to express, “I imagine” in any other way than “I did.”  I don’t think there is one proper way to respond to these kinds of statements, but here are some ideas:

  • You see an alligator!  Show me.  Oh, I can’t see it, sorry.

  • Where is the alligator?  What is he doing?  Should we pretend he is eating our flowers?

  • Show me the alligator.  Oh!  Does that bush look like an alligator?  I see what you mean.

  • Is there something scary in the yard?  Tell me more about it.

  • You ran to school by yourself?  How did you get home?

  • Are you thinking about running to school by yourself or did you actually do it?

  • Did you run really fast?  It’s fun to imagine things we like to do.

  • Do you want to go outside and run right now?

These are just some thoughts.  You can subtlety point the child to the idea of imagination without morally judging him.  You can also simply say, “Oh.”  I see no danger in letting the child fantasize without “correction.”  I do think that children need some guidance in identifying what is real versus what is imagined, but they do not need to be told every single time it comes up.  They do learn from reality and there is much more going on in their minds than they can express.  My daughter started identifying “pretend” versus “real” when she was just over 2 years old.  This does not mean that she has yet properly categorized everything in her world into one camp or another.  I’m sure she doesn’t know that there is no real magic and she might not even know that there is not a real Snow White out in the world somewhere.  But I’m pretty sure that she knows that animals can’t talk like they do in her books and that ghosts are a silly scary thing we make up to play games where we get to say “Boo!”  I’m completely comfortable that she will go on and figure these things out, mostly on her own.  As long as you aren’t Parenting by Authority, there is no reason for a child to be confused about this issue.  What they do need is lots of experience and a nudge here and an explanation there.

By equating fantasy with lying or evasion, you will be teaching your child to shut down the creative part of his mind.  And shutting down your mind in any way is evasion.  Without his creative faculty, a child will seek guidance from another source and the only option is to seek it from others.  This is a recipe for dependence and secondhandedness.  When you tell the child, “there is no alligator in the yard,” you might have told him the truth, but you have ignored the inner process of the child – the process that he is using to learn, for himself, about what is real and what is imagined.  Let the child be firsthanded and learn the method, and the content (the truth) will follow on its own.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Objectivist Round Up #115

Welcome to the September 24, 2009 edition of the Objectivist Round Up. This carnival features posts written by Objectivist bloggers. Ayn Rand once described her philosophy:
My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.

--Ayn Rand, "About the Author,” Atlas Shrugged, Appendix.

For more information about Ayn Rand and her philosophy, please visit the Ayn Rand Institute.  And now, on with the Round Up!


Miranda Barzey presents Ayn Rand Institute Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest posted at Ramen & Rand, saying, "Here's my essay for the Ayn Rand Institute's Atlas Shrugged essay contest. The topic was to analyze the different views of money in the novel."

Trey Givens presents Price Controls and the Fed posted at Trey Givens, saying, "Last week, Yaron Brook and John Allison participated in a discussion panel. While lots of important issues were discussed, I chose to focus on how the Fed is a giant, economically destructive price-fixing machine."

Stella presents A nudge up the stairs posted at ReasonPharm, saying, "The NYC health commissioner wants to get even more intrusive. I say no way!"

Ari Armstrong presents Gazette: Obama's Republican Health Plan posted at, saying, "Obama cribbed most of his health proposals from Republicans."

Diana Hsieh presents Steve Jobs on Apple posted at NoodleFood, saying, "Under Steve Jobs, Apple focuses on achieving goals, not conformity to bureaucratic process."

Greg Perkins presents The Totalitarian Universe posted at NoodleFood, saying, "What difference does metaphysics make to people and cultures? The Objectivism Seminar finds out as it continues its exploration of Dr. Leonard Peikoff's book, The Ominous Parallels by discussing Chapter 2, "The Totalitarian Universe"."

Jared Rhoads presents Bad goals, bad solutions posted at The Lucidicus Project, saying, "Obama's stated goals for health reform, translated."

Paul Hsieh presents "Is Your Doctor Getting Ready to Quit?" posted at We Stand FIRM, saying, "My latest OpEd at PajamasMedia, "Is Your Doctor Getting Ready to Quit?""

Rational Jenn presents On Evasion posted at Rational Jenn, saying, "When parents insist on their children's obedience, they may be teaching kids a lesson in evading reality."

Amy Mossoff (that's me!) presents Avoiding Evasion posted at The Little Things, saying, "Rational Jenn's post this week discussed how Parenting by Authority can teach children to evade. This post discusses how standard schools Educate by Authority, and how the Montessori method, by contrast, cultivates independence and a reality-focus."

Roderick Fitts presents Aristotle's "Two" Views of Induction: McCaskey's Resolution (Part 3) posted at Inductive Quest, saying, "The final part in which I show McCaskey's groundbreaking revision of Aristotle as not an enumerative inductivist. We also see, as promised, exactly how Aristotle thinks inductions can become the premises for deductions."

Mike Zemack presents Obama's Impossible "Balance" posted at Principled Perspectives, saying, "The president (inadvertently?) zeros in on the fundamental alternatives."

Doug Reich presents Is "Time" Really "The Enemy of Reform"? posted at The Rational Capitalist, saying, "Geithner recently said that "time is the enemy of reform". By examining a fictitious bet, it can be seen that this is a claim with which we should actually agree."

Doug Reich presents A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Socialism posted at The Rational Capitalist, saying, "Observing the contrast between a recent Atlas Shrugged benefit dinner and the preceeding 25 years led me to an inspiring conclusion."


I hope you enjoyed this week's edition. Next week's host will be Reality Talk.  You can submit your posts using the carnival submission form.  Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Avoiding Evasion

Rational Jenn wrote today about one way children learn to evade:  their parents implicitly teach it to them by Parenting by Authority.  To Parent by Authority is to expect obedience from your children.  “Because I said so,” is the leitmotif of this parenting style.  Sure, we may all do this on occasion.  Each time we do it, it is a mistake,  but the real harm comes when a child is implicitly told over and over again that what he perceives, thinks, feels, and judges, is irrelevant – that what matters is what the authority figure demands.

I’ve been thinking about the same issue, but in regard to education.  Since Sammy started Montessori, I’ve been reacquainting myself with all the good reasons I had for choosing this type of school for her.  One of those reasons is that Montessori is the only widely available educational system that does not Educate by Authority.

Everything about standard schools is geared towards obedience.  Teachers decide what the students will learn, when and by what method.  Grades are the major form of feedback, but they do not measure everything the student has learned, only what the teacher has decided is important.  There is no freedom for the student to pursue a special interest deeply.  Busywork replaces the quest for real understanding.  One of the worst features of standard school is the system of grading on a curve, which pits students against each other in unhealthy competition, where one gains at the expense of another, and actual achievement in relation to reality is irrelevant.

Everything about Montessori is geared toward independence.  Students interact primarily with their environment, not with the teacher.  The students enter a prepared environment of materials that are appropriate for their age.  They are free to choose whatever “work” interests them at the moment, focusing on it for as long as it interests them.  The teachers are guides, serving only to demonstrate the use of the materials when necessary, or to gently point a floundering child in the direction of purposeful activity.  For preschoolers, almost all work is hands-on.  At this age, the students do not have the capacity to connect abstract lecture to concrete reality, at least not when learning something brand new.  They need to learn with the hand as well as with the mind.

The Montessori method recognizes that external reward systems such as grades are not necessary, and even harmful.  Children naturally want to learn.  Anyone who has observed small children can see this.  The reward for good work is in the work itself, and in the accomplishment.  Montessori materials are self-correcting – the children know whether they have done the work correctly without relying on a teacher’s stamp of approval.  The blocks of diminishing size must be stacked up from biggest to smallest or the tower will not stand.  The cylinders of diminishing size must be placed in the proper holes, or they will not all fit in the puzzle. 

Discipline in a Montessori school is almost a non-issue.  There is no need for children to sit quietly and listen to a teacher.  They are free to roam about the classroom and to interact with each other as they see fit.  Because the work holds their interest, they are generally focused on a task, and not seeking attention or looking for an outlet for their energies.  The rules that are in place are natural, for the purpose of working in a group setting: children must never interrupt others’ work, must put their materials away when finished, and generally follow the rules of social decorum that adults do.  But within those limits, they have a great deal of freedom.

One important freedom Montessori children have is the freedom to make mistakes.  Instead of a big red "X" on their paper, children who make mistakes get feedback from reality:  from the materials they are using.  If a child tries to stack the blocks and fails, he is not judged by any other person.  The tower just falls.  That is enough.  His own, internal motivation is what will drive him to try again, and his primary guide is his own mind.  He must make the connection that the smaller blocks go on top before he can build the tower.  He may observe the other students and possibly the teacher building the tower, but nobody is telling him what to do.  He is free to try again immediately or to wait.  There is no external pressure motivating him.

This trust in children’s innate (or, I would prefer to say, natural) desire to learn, to achieve, and to grow – in short, to be good – is analogous to the Positive Discipline principle of Assuming Positive Intent.  You should assume, barring any evidence to the contrary, that your child is trying to solve a problem but just doesn’t have the skills yet, or has forgotten how.  For example, if your toddler is banging his fork on the table, he’s probably not trying to irritate you.  He might be hungry and not know how else to tell you, or he might be exploring the sound or the feel of the vibration of the fork.  Your job is not to discipline him, but to try to read his signals with the assumption of positive intent, and to guide him towards the actions that will accomplish what he wants.  A teacher’s job should not be to force learning upon the child.  The child already wants to learn.  What he needs is freedom within limits, and guidance.

Why are Parenting by Authority and Educating by Authority so prevalent?  What in the world makes anybody think that children need to be disciplined and forced to learn?  There is so much evidence against this, that I can only guess that a deeply rooted premise is at work, and I suspect that it is the idea of Original Sin.  I’d like to explore this idea more.  I think it has enormous implications for parenting and education.  I know that I have unconsciously accepted this premise.  I fight it consciously, but it will take a lot more work to fully root it out.  But I already see myself thinking about ways I might homeschool differently that I envision it now.  Instead of telling Sammy what subject we will study for a semester, I may purchase all the materials I think are appropriate and set them up in a way that she can begin to explore them on her own, and see where it leads.  I might break up the day into two, 3-hour study blocks, as they do in Montessori.  I might let Sammy go a whole week studying only one subject, or I might require only that math be studied every day.  I’m not sure yet.  But I see two principles that can guide me:  Let Reality be the Judge, and Trust Internal Motivation.

A Little Thing

My husband, Adam, who is a law professor, was talking to one of his students the other day and the subject of Montessori came up.  The student told Adam, "Yes, I'm very interested in sending my future children to Montessori.  I learned about it from reading Ayn Rand."  When Adam told her that he was an Objectivist, she was thrilled and said, "I'm going to have to tell [another student].  He loves Ayn Rand, too!"

Objectivism is no longer a fringe movement, but a force in our culture.  And admirers of Ayn Rand are everywhere.  I see it in anecdotes like this all the time, but the Ayn Rand Institute's statistics on book sales, successes in academia, and media exposure are the real evidence.  This is an exciting time!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Little Consequence

Here's a logical consequence that worked wonders today.  After an hour of trying to get out the door to run an errand that absolutely had to be done, I finally told Sammy, "If we don't get to CVS, I'm going to have to send your dad when he gets home, and that means you'll have less time to spend with him."   We left immediately.  I'll remember that one!

A Little Thing

I don't know if I can capture this one in writing.  Last night we were having dessert at the table after dinner.  We each had 5 M&M's in little cups.  (Sammy wanted all brown ones so that's what she got.)  Adam looked up, lifted his arm, and dropped an M&M into his open mouth.  Sammy was fascinated.  After a moment of careful consideration, she said, I CAN DO DAT, TOO!  She looked up, lifted her arm and dropped the M&M right in there.  Then she looked at me with big eyes.  I knew what had happened, but still, I just about died laughing when she said, with both surprise and pride in her voice, I SWALLOWED IT. 

Maybe you had to be there.  But I was, and it was hilarious.  Trust me.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Different and the Same

Things I will do differently during this pregnancy:

  • I won't wait for 3 months to announce that I’m pregnant (check that off the list).

  • I won't gain as much weight.

  • I won't buy maternity clothes ahead of time, but wait until I absolutely need something to buy it.

  • I won’t keep a pregnancy journal.  I loved keeping a journal last time, but I re-read it and there were only a few things that I found interesting, all of which I can capture this time on the blog.

  • I'll give birth in a hospital instead of at a birth center.  I wish I could do it the exact same way as last time, but there are no birth centers with tubs in Northern Virginia.  Now that I'm more experienced, I think, barring complications, I can achieve what I want in a hospital - a calm, natural birth - without having to shell out a few grand since health insurers are too stupid to realize that hospitals waste money like crazy on childbirth. (Actually, I know why they don't cover birth centers - it's not stupidity, it's that all coverage is decided by pressure group warfare and birth center users are not a big enough group to have an impact.)

  • I’ll slow down towards the end and try to take it easy so the baby doesn’t come too early – Sammy came 2 weeks early, which was great, but I don’t want it to be any sooner than that, so why push it?  With Sam, I started a business 6 weeks before my due date which had me squatting and lifting boxes up until the day before she arrived.  I must have gone a little loco there at the end.

  • I’ll eat sushi occasionally (in fact, I already have).

 Things I will do the same during this pregnancy:

  • I'll drink a cup of coffee every morning.

  • I'll drink a glass of wine on occasion (after the first trimester).  It's especially fun to do at restaurants.

  • I'll enjoy eating for two.

  • I'll have every diagnostic test as early as possible.

  • I'll do my Kegels.

  • I'll do some form of exercise.  Last time it was a bit of yoga, a great pregnancy workout tape, and a lot of dog walking.  That worked very well for me so I'll probably stick with it.

  • I'll get prenatal massages (in fact, I've already signed a contract with Massage Envy for one massage per month!).

  • I'll get pedicures as soon as I can't easily reach my feet.  This is an indulgence I normally scoff at as wasteful, but, ohmygod, it is so worth it during pregnancy.  Not only does one part of your body look dainty and pretty, but it's so good for those aching, swollen feet.

  • I'll play the pregnancy card with Adam for as many foot rubs as possible.  Because you can't get a pedicure every day.

  • I'll have a natural birth if possible.

  • I'll (we'll) find out the sex.

  • I'll (we'll) wait to decide on a name until I (we) see the baby.  We had 3 choices lined up when Sammy was born and it was nice to look at her face and try to decide what suited her best.  (The other 2 were Maia and Zoe.)

  • I'll take pictures of myself every month.  If I get as huge as last time, you'll be very entertained.

  • I won’t take this amazing experience for granted. 

Saturday, September 19, 2009

First Week of Montessori

Sammy is officially a Montessori student! 

She just finished her first week of school.  This week, the new students only attended for 2 hours a day to give them a chance to settle in with a bit less pressure, and to give the older kids some time without all the chaos of the little ones.  Sammy is probably the youngest in her class, I imagine, having just turned 3 a couple of weeks ago, but, for once, I don’t feel like she is way too small or out of place. 

I won’t get to visit the class for at least 6 weeks so I can’t report much about what Sammy is doing as her work.  I might get some kind of report in her Friday folder which comes home each week, but I’m not sure about that – the only thing in this week’s folder was information on a fundraising event.

What I have seen is drop-off and pick-up.  Sammy has been fine overall with leaving me to go to her new school.  We’re supposed to drop the kids off at the curb, where a teacher comes to get them and bring them to class.  At the open house last week, the Directress said that on the first day they would allow parents to walk their kids to the front door or to the classroom, but that it was discouraged, both for efficiency’s sake and because it is actually easier for the children to separate at the car.  I think every parent who has taken the time to find this pre-school for their child and has spent the high cost of tuition should have done enough research to know Rule Number One of separation:  Don’t make a big deal of it!  You tell the child what will happen and then when it does, you say, “Bye bye. Have a nice morning.  I’ll see you at noon.”  And you leave.  Prolonging it is counterproductive.  It tells the child that you are not comfortable parting from her and sends the message that you don’t fully trust the people who will be taking care of her.  I’m sorry, but this is so basic.  There was no way I was going to walk Sammy in.  We were going to start as we meant to go on.  But at the open house, one doofus actually asked if he could come and sit in the classroom for 20 minutes on the first morning!  He was told, “no,” which made me feel pretty good about the school I had chosen.

Still, on the first day when we arrived, there were a few cars in line but many more people could be seen walking their children in from the parking lot.  Because they did this, the line-up system didn’t work.  There were so many people walking their kids in the front door that there weren’t enough teachers to take them away quickly, and the car line-up was ignored.  I can’t really blame the teachers – they were inundated with crying children whom they wanted to whisk away as quickly as possible, while the kids in the cars had to wait, but at least they weren’t at that critical moment of separation.  Of course, I didn’t realize exactly what was going on, and after 5 minutes of no movement in the line, the mom in front of me came back and said that the front car had been there for almost 20 minutes and that we might as well park and walk the kids in.  I didn’t see any choice, although later I found out that the line did start moving a few minutes later.  So we parked and I walked Sammy in and it was a disaster.  Well, it wasn't that bad, but she twice dropped the plant that she had brought in as a class gift (a suggestion from the teachers), and stopped at the front door, refusing to walk in on her own power.  I was carrying so much stuff that I could not pick her up and we blocked the door for a good minute.  She wasn’t crying, just refusing to enter and whining, but it was not the way I wanted to start her first day.  I wish they had told us at the open house to stick with the line no matter what and that they would eventually get to us.  They did say it might take “a few more minutes than usual” the first couple of days, but that was an understatement and it caused a lot of confusion.  Well, in the end, it didn’t matter.  The next day drop off went without a hitch and Sammy’s been happy to go to school ever since.

Because the youngest children were leaving early this week, they were taken out to the playground for pickup time each day.  I watched Sammy’s attitude change throughout the week when I picked her up.  The first day, she was on the swing with the teacher pushing her.  The next, she was on the swing by herself.  The third day, she was not near a teacher and she came running to me when she saw me, saying MOMMY! MOMMY! MOMMY!  She wasn’t relieved to see me, she was excited to show me what she had been doing.  She showed me the slide and the sandbox and the swings and the playhouse.  The fourth day it rained and she was brought out to my car, happy as a clam.  And the fifth, she again came running to me, and I watched her interact with some of the older children.

I think that being in a mixed-age class is going to be one of the most important parts of the Montessori experience.  It was important for Sammy to be around her peers in day care – she learned a lot (good and bad) from being with kids in her own age group.  But the older Montessori children are true role models.  Sammy likes older kids.  She often chooses them over her own aged kids at playgrounds and at the supermarket.

We have noticed even a bit more independence from Sammy this week.  She is picking up her toys without being told occasionally, and there seems to be a process for washing her hands now, instead of the half-hour long play session a hand-washing normally is for her.  We’ll see if those things continue.

This transition has been very smooth.  (Well, it’s been very difficult for me in terms of my schedule.  I can’t figure out when to shower or how to deal with my even more fractured time.  It will help when we move to a 3 hour day next week.)  But for Sammy, it’s been pretty painless, and I almost forgot to take note of what a huge achievement this is for her and for me.  I thought about sending a child to Montessori long before I even decided to have a child.  My own experience at Montessori (I attended through age 11) played a big role in my own character development.  Then I read what Ayn Rand had to say about Montessori, and I read Montessori’s own works.  I took classes from a Montessori-trained parenting coach, and I did a lot of hard work and research to find the right Montessori school in our area.  I didn’t know how it would turn out.  I think there are probably some kids for whom Montessori is not a good fit.  Even though that’s probably rare, I tried to keep an open mind about whether this would be right for my daughter.  I can say with confidence after only one week that I now know I made the right choice.  It already shows.  I can’t wait to see Sammy in that classroom filled with all the materials that bring back my own childhood memories – the moveable alphabet, the math beads, the geography puzzles.  I can’t wait to see what she will learn and how she will grow.  I know she is going to thrive there, and that this is the best beginning for her formal education that I could give her.  Hurray for Montessori!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Little Thing

I was dropping Sammy off at Montessori.  It's a car line-up and the teachers come out to the curb to bring each child in the building individually.  The teacher tried to pick Sammy up out of her car seat and Sammy said, NO!  I DO IT MYSELF!  The teacher watched as Sammy got out of the car on her own and said, "Now there's a perfect Montessori student."

How We Handle Hitting

I've written before about our struggles with Sammy's hitting.  It's still a work in progress, but I thought it deserved an update because I think we've achieved a great deal of success.  And by "we," I mean all 3 of us.

I don't think Sammy hits more than any other child.  She seems to go through phases where she starts hitting again, and then goes back to her normal, non-violent self.  I don't think she has ever hit at a person with the intent to hurt.  As a matter of fact, she's never hit me hard - she uses an open hand and kind of swipes in a downward motion along my arm or leg.  A lot of the time she doesn't even make contact.  It's like she just wants to show me that she wants to hit me.  Hitting is a defensive behavior for her, or an expression of frustration. 

When Adam and I forget to respect her person and physically manipulate her when we should use words, she might swat our hands away as a defense.  For example, (when she was wearing diapers) I might smell something and, without asking, just say, "I need to check your diaper," and immediately pull on the back of her diaper to look inside.  If she swatted at me in that situation, I would tell her I was sorry for manipulating her without asking (or at least giving her a moment to prepare) and then I would ask her to use her words next time to remind me not to do that.  She also might swat at my hand if, while walking somewhere, I put my hand on her back to indicate that she needs to move along.  She doesn't mind if I do it very gently, but the moment I put pressure on her back, like pushing, she will react, and rightfully so.  I handle this swatting the same way.  I acknowledge my error and apologize, and then remind her of how she could have handled it better.  And then, most importantly, when she does use her words to tell me things like, DON'T TOUCH ME, MOMMY or I'LL DO IT MYSELF!  I make sure that I apologize and acknowledge her use of words: "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have done that.  Thank you for telling me with words that you didn't like it."

The other hitting situation comes from pure frustration.  Usually this happens when she is emotional and can't find words to use.  We used to give her time-outs for this behavior, but I discovered that there was a better way.  We started using Positive Discipline techniques like catching her arm before it could reach us (this only works when she is hitting over and over which pretty much never happens anymore) and telling her that hitting hurts our feelings as well as potentially hurting us physically.  We walk away.  We tell her to walk away.  We suggest she go to her room to calm down (she calms down best when left alone).  We remind her to take deep breaths.  We offer to hold her until she feels better (she rarely takes us up on that).  We stopped punishing, assumed positive intent from her, and started focusing on helping her get past the emotion so that she could express herself properly. 

Still, we hold her accountable.  We ask her to apologize.  (She learned quickly what this meant with all of the apologies we've made to her.)  While she is in the emotional state we never give into to whatever her demand was that caused the outburst.  But as soon as she expresses her desire with calm words, we try to give her what she wants.  This part can be tricky.  If her frustration comes from the fact that we've already said "no" to something, like eating dessert before dinner, we have to stick to our guns even after she calms down.  But we try to find alternatives or express our "no" as a "yes."  "Yes, you can have dessert, as soon as you finish your dinner."  Or, "No, you can't have dessert before dinner but if you're hungry now you can have some milk to tide you over."  There is rarely a second outburst over the same issue, which indicates to me that we're doing a pretty good job remaining consistent.  She knows that the outbursts don't get her what she wants.

We aren't perfect at any of this, but the switch from punishment to guidance (with the critical assumption of positive intent) was a huge success.  She still goes through hitting phases.  This means that, over a bad week or two, she might swat or hit at us 4-5 times.  In my old view, this would have been a failure.  Hitting was absolutely wrong, I thought, and she needed to learn to never, ever do it.  Well, it's true that hitting is wrong, but she can't really learn that all at once.  This seems like every other developmental pattern:  a child will learn a certain behavior, but then they grow and learn in other ways, and they have to re-learn the behavior for their new context.  A child can't learn that hitting is always wrong out of context.  She needs to experience those new contexts over and over, and learn the lesson over and over.  The only alternative is obedience, which is a lesson I definitely do not want to teach.  All of this applies to so many things other than hitting.

Another technique that I've used when Sammy hits me is to express my hurt feelings directly.  This is easy, because, now that hitting is so rare, when she does it, it is a shock and it does indeed hurt my feelings.  I usually respond naturally with a shocked intake of breath and the words, "Samantha! You hit me."  I don't yell or even raise my voice, but I know my hurt is there in my tone.  This is all I've needed to do for a long time now.  If Sammy forgets and strikes at me, sometimes I can just look at her with that shock on my face and she immediately says SORRY, MOMMY and comes to me and kisses the place she hit, and repeats, SORRY FOR HITTING, MOMMY.  I always forgive her immediately when she does this, and ask her if she can use her words to tell me what is wrong.

The best part is that I've observed Sammy stopping herself from hitting.  I've seen her get frustrated and take a step towards me, raising her arm, and then stop.  Then she might scream or cry, but she doesn't hit.  When I've seen her do this, I always note it:  "I saw that you wanted to hit me and you stopped yourself.  That was good self-control.  Can you tell me now what you want or do you need more time to calm down?"

Seeing my daughter exercise real self-control that results in the fullfillment of her needs, instead of repressing a behavior because she might get punished, is a great joy.

Objectivist Round Up

This week's Objectivist Round Up can be found at ReasonPharm, a new host.  Check out the blog while you're there.  It is dedicated to a rational discussion of health care.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I think I've entered the hungry stage of pregnancy.  I get hungry at the beginning and gain 10 pounds before I start showing.  After the first 2 months, the relentless hunger ebbs and I just need a few extra snacks each day.  That's not normal.  You're not supposed to gain any weight for quite a while.  I found in the previous pregnancies, however, that in the first 8 weeks or so I needed to have a big meal every 2 hours or I would get the shakes.  It's the same kind of reaction I have when I eat too much sugar without protein and fat.  It will be interesting to see if a lower carb/higher fat diet this time around helps with this problem.  I'm not on a super-low carb diet.  I just cut out rice, pasta, and bread from my regular eating habits.  I still eat popcorn and potatoes and occasionally, even potato chips, but I don't eat carbs as a major portion of any meal.

If I can get through the first 2 months and only gain a few pounds, I'll be on track for a more reasonable weight gain.  With Sammy, I gained about 45 pounds, and that was on top of an extra 15 that was left over from the previous pregnancy.  This time, I'm starting out 10 pounds over my normal (but still heavier than ideal) weight, so I'm already doing better. 

But, oh, the food is calling!  It's actually quite a hassle.  I was in school during my first trimester with Sammy and I remember having to eat in between every class.  I love the food, but I hate the urgent, crazy feeling of starvation multiple times a day.  I'm going to try to plan my lunches for the next month or so, so that I'm sure to get a lot of good meat without resorting to the fast food hamburgers that were my lifeline 3 years ago.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Potty Training Update

So Sammy is potty trained, I suppose.  She doesn't wear diapers while she is awake.  But she gets confused if she wears clothes. 

We used the naked method recommended by Principled Parentand it worked really well, but when we found out that she could not go to Montessori in a dress sans underwear, we realized that we'd better start practicing wearing clothes.  Surprisingly, she's doing better with #1 than with #2.  In fact, in the past 3 days, not one poop has gone in the potty.  They've all gone in her clothes or on the floor.  I'm not sure what's up with that, since she originally was much more comfortable using the potty for #2.  Right now I'm just trying to be patient and hope that she figures it out on her own, but I don't know - maybe I need to do something about it.

We did get a Piddle Pad (also recommended by PP) for the car seat.  I wasn't going to get one - I figured a towel would do - but when we were at WalMart buying school clothes for her, Sammy brought over a package and put it in the cart.  Lo and behold, it was a Piddle Pad, so we bought it!  Bright girl, that one.  Fortunately, she hasn't had any accidents in the car yet, but I know it will happen the first time she dozes off in the car.

She did just fine at day care last week - not a single accident.  And there were no problems at Montessori today either, although it was just a 2 hour day.  What she is doing is letting out just enough urine so that she won't leak or have an accident, but holding the rest.  I'm not sure why she is doing this, or what to do to help her realize that she can just let it all out at once.

She seems comfortable with all kinds of potties, but at home she prefers the little plastic buckets.  We got 2 of them from Ikea for a few bucks apiece.  pottySammy actually uses the potty, wipes herself (if reminded), pours the pee into the big toilet, closes the lid, flushes, and washes her hands, all by herself.  She does need help using the soap, though.  We have one of those awful, huge pedestal sinks in the powder room and the soap is just too far away for her to reach. 

Anyway, I hope she doesn't want to use the buckets for much longer.  It's quite messy, and when she is using the potty 3-4 times an hour, I'm not inclined to mop up the floor or disinfect the potty every single time.  Do people actually do that?  I just mop up the worst of it with toilet paper and clean up at the end of the day.  And how in the world are you supposed to help a child wipe her butt, anyway?  There is no way you can get in there while she is standing up.  I have Sammy walk into the living room and lie down on a pad and raise her legs just like I did with diapers.  I was hoping that particular indignity was over for her, but I can't figure out what else to do.

That reminds me - another purchase that was well worth it was Sammy's own special Kandoo wipes and toddler soap.  She likes to have things that are just for her.

The new gear we have to haul around is our portable Potette potty, extra clothes, wipes, and towels.  The Potette can function as a stand alone potty like the bucket, except that it has a bag/liner that catches the product and can then be disposed of easily.  It can also be used as an attachment to put on top of toilet seats that are just too big.  Sammy doesn't seem to like to use it that way.  If she uses a toilet, she prefers to just sit on it and hold herself up with her hands.  (We might not get any use out of those fancy toilet seats we bought a few months ago!)

Overall, the whole process hasn't been all that bad.  I expected a lot more accidents than we've had.  One more piece of advice from PP that was particularly helpful was this:
I had to learn to trust my kid. When we first started potty training and we were in the outside world I would nervously ask him over and over if he had to go potty. Ben and I would make each other anxious and Charlie got upset by our bothering him. It also resulted in an accident out and about. From this we learned to relax and not push the issue. It's OK to remind him after a significant amount of time has passed, but not be bothersome.

I do think that the parents' attitude plays a huge role in how the process goes.  Too much anxiety is counterproductive.  A little trust goes a long way.  Being patient with accidents is critical.  Accidents will happen.  If you set your expectations it won't bother you so much and you can keep the attitude of this being an exciting new thing your child can do.  Finally, taking the action of putting away the diapers, telling your child that they are not needed any more, and meaning it, is probably the most important part of the whole process.  That, and lots of Clorox wipes.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Bad Week

Well, we didn't make it to the Tea Party here in DC this weekend.  It was a very rough week - rough enough that, if not for Facebook, I would have completely forgotten about it.  And I'm not really in the mood to even read about it right now, especially with the focus on health care, which you'll understand shortly.

Finding out I was pregnant was the only good news.  Adam's grandmother died.  We're all out of grandparents now.  Adam went to the funeral in Pennsylvania on Friday but Sammy and I stayed home.  I didn't know her well, but I did feel a strong connection with her, just as I do with all of Adam's family whom he is close to.  He's told me so many childhood stories about the time he and his sister spent with their grandparents each summer, and Adam and I are so much a part of each other, that I guess I feel like they are my memories as well.  So it was a sad week.

Then there have been all kinds of smaller troubles.  I had to go on antibiotics for an infection - not exactly the first thing I wanted to do after finding out I was pregnant.  I'm also trying to work out what medicines are ok for me to take for my psoriasis, and making my ob-gyn appointments and thinking about health insurance issues.  Sammy had her 3 year old checkup, which was no big deal, but just another doctor, which is not what I particularly wanted to do this week.  The potty training is going well, but it is very draining.  It's kind of like a smaller version of having an infant: you have to get used to the mess and the hassle and the focus and all the new stuff to haul around.  We're gearing up for Montessori which Sammy starts tomorrow.  It's exciting, but we had 2 open houses and lots of new information to take in and some shopping to do.  Of course, Sammy also had her last day at day care this week, and that made both of us very sad.  I started doing some volunteer work for the Ayn Rand Institute this week, which might have been good, but in my frame of mind was just another thing to think about.  Then I received news of 2 acquaintances and 1 friend having serious medical problems.  What's up with health issues this week?  Adam was already behind with his work after the long potty-training weekend so he's been heroically working his ass off through all of this, while somehow keeping his sanity.  This week was much tougher on him than on me.  But at least he got to have a gin and tonic at the end of the day.  (There, I made a joke!)

To cap it all off (this had better be the cap!), this morning Sammy fell off the couch backwards and banged the back of her head on the floor--hard.  She got her first real goose-egg.  We were literally walking out the door to the emergency room when we finally got a nurse on the phone who said it didn't sound bad enough to warrant a trip to the ER.  We're still watching her for dizziness, nausea, and all the rest.  It scared me much more than the bloody cut she got last month.  Maybe it's the pregnancy or all the stuff that has happened this week, but it just really rattled me.  She's napping now, with no signs of a concussion, and I'm starting to feel like she'll be ok. 

If you've read along this far - I apologize.  It can't be that interesting to anybody but me.  I try not to vent like this on my blog.  A big part of why I keep this blog is to help me stay focused on the positive, instead of dwelling on the negative.  But there are times that just putting a list of things like this on "paper" allows me to let it all go.  I'm hoping to make a fresh start tomorrow.  We'll have a new school, a new routine, and plenty of good things going on. 

Goodbye, Grammy Harriet.

Friday, September 11, 2009


My daughter has decided that she wants to be called, not Samantha, not Sam, but Sammy.  So Sammy it is!

I started asking her the question, "What would you like to be called: Sam, Sammy, or Samantha?" a few weeks ago.  I tried to ask it at totally random moments, and I altered the order of the 3 versions of her name, since she still tends to choose the last item in a series when she has no real preference.  Every single time, she answered definitively, SAMMY.

I figured that now is a great time for her to decide on a preferred version of her name, since she is starting preschool on Monday.  She has to wear a name tag for the first three days, so we made sure it read, "Sammy."  We also informed her teacher last night at the open house.

Sammy is the form of her name that we've used the least, but we tend to use it occasionally when cuddling or goofing around - very positive associations.  Also, it's the one that sounds the most like MOMMY and DADDY, which I suspect is the primary reason she chose it.

I'm not crazy about calling her Sammy, and I have a feeling we're going to have to go through another adjustment period at some point (12, 13 years old, maybe?) when she decides that Sammy is a baby-name, and wants to be called one of the other versions.  But so be it. 

We've also named our little embryo.  Actually, we named the potential potential a couple of months ago, when it was still just a hope.  We call it SS.  Sam's Sibling.  Oh, excuse me - I mean, Sammy's Sibling.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


This has been the conversation in our house for the past 5 months:

  • "I'm tired."  "Maybe you're pregnant."  "I don't think so."

  • "I'm hungry."  "You must be pregnant."  "No, probably not."

  • "I really want a hamburger."  "Now I know you're pregnant."  "Yeah, right."

  • "I think I have a pinched nerve."  "Do you feel pregnant?"  "No."

  • "That commercial made me cry."  "Maybe you're pregnant."  "No, it's probably PMS."

  • "I'm cranky."  "Maybe you're pregnant."  "Shut up!"

It's good to finally be wrong!

Objectivist Round Up

It's up, over at Titanic Deck Chairs.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Not Everything is About Me, OK?

My rationally selfish friends will get a kick out of this cute little comedy sketch:


(HT: Scribbit)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Photos and Poems

My personal favorite gift that Samantha received for her birthday was a book her dad found for her, called Because I Could Not Stop My Bike and Other Poems, by Karen Jo Shapiro.  It's a collection of classic poems which have been transformed into kid versions.  For example, from the editorial review listed at
... Walt Whitman's "O Captain! My Captain!" becomes "Oh, Mommy! My Mommy!," a lament from a kid stuck in the backseat on a long car trip. Edgar Allan Poe's "Annabel Lee" becomes "Macaroni and Cheese" ("It was many and many a week ago/that I and my sister Louise/first tried out a food that you might know/called macaroni and cheese").

Before it arrived I thought the book might be a bit too silly or sophomoric, but it is so well done that it's fast becoming one of my favorites.  I'm going to have to re-read all of the original poems so that I can enjoy how the author plays off of them in her transformations.  (Samantha loves it too!)

The final half of Sam's birthday party was a hit.  Here are a few photos, and you can find the rest here at my Picasa site.  (I still hate the way I have them organized, but I can't seem to find a better way.)









At Sam's birthday party at the park, Adam was admiring a little girl in a brown dress with pigtails.  She was impeccably groomed and looked very cute.  We noticed that her parents were sitting on the bench right next to us.  Adam said to her mother, "She's really cute."  The mother replied, "She's a little bossy."  And then, yelling out to her cute little girl, she said, "Just go down the slide.  Go down the slide, now!  Arianna, play now!"

Monday, September 7, 2009

Potty Training - Day 3

Be sure to read Day 1 and Day 2 if you haven't already.

Day 3 was, shockingly, even more difficult than either of the previous days.  I guess Sam's goal today was to hold her poo instead of her pee like she did yesterday.  She made little nuggets all day long.  I mean, she probably went poo 15-20 times, and each time it caused her horrible pain.  I mean, screaming in agony, begging me not to touch it kind of pain.  She has awful diaper rash, which makes no sense to me, but every time she let out a little bit, it stung, and then I had to wipe her.  So 15 times today, I had to hold my daughter down on the ground and pry her legs open and cause her great pain.

It was just awful.  I'm a total wreck.

Because she was holding it in, she really didn't make it to the potty much.  She'd be doing something, then scream in pain because a little thing came out, and then she'd sit on the potty but she would not let anything more come out.  In the morning, however, before it got too bad, she did go pee and poo once each, so I guess that's something.  And two other times she made more substantial poops, plus, of course, the stuff that was in her overnight diaper and her nap diaper.  I've never dealt with so much poo in one day, not even when she was an infant.  We must have made up 3 new poo songs today.

This evening, we took her out for ice cream after dinner but it wasn't a really good test of the potty training because she ate her ice cream and then a bit of poo came out and she screamed in agony again.  She sat on the portable potty in the back of the SUV, which was a first.  She really didn't seem to have a problem with the potty so much as she just did not want to poo.  I wish I knew if this was caused by the potty training somehow, or if it's just a terrible coincidence, but it's very disheartening and it made me want to quit, even after all the progress of the last two days.  But I didn't.

She's supposed to go to day care tomorrow, but I can't send her in this condition.  I'm hoping the diaper rash (or whatever it is) clears up tomorrow so I can send her on Wednesday.  She'll have to wear clothes and be around all the other kids, and she'll have to ask the teacher to go to the potty.  I think she can do it.  She might have an accident, but I'm pretty sure she has the idea and just needs to keep practicing. 

Overall, I like this potty training method.  I wish I had tried it a year ago when she first showed signs of being ready, but I just didn't think I had to really do anything.  For some reason, I thought it would just happen, just like all the other things she learned to do like walking and talking.  That might be true for some children, but probably not many.  But I guess, in a way, we didn't really do much with this method either.  We showed her how to use the potty a long time ago, and now, all we did was take away the diapers and clothes and let her figure out how to deal with it.  We gave her a few stickers for fun, but she didn't really care about that.  More rewards would have been meaningless.  We did a pee-pee dance, but she didn't really need that either.  She knew what to do and she did it.  We just had to remove her crutch and stick with it.

The worst thing about this method is that it is so boring.  You really need two people to trade off watching the child, especially on the first day, when there is a lot of dribbling.  But you can't really do anything else - you're just sitting there watching.  It's mind numbing.  The messes are no fun, but I much prefer to have a lot of them in a short period of time than to have them occur unexpectedly for a long time.  We kept the cleaning products out and set our expectations, so that was not a big deal. 

I think the only major hurdle left is testing whether Sam can wear clothes and remember to use the potty, or if she'll forget she's not wearing a diaper.  Oh, then later, of course, there is the nighttime issue, but I won't expect that to happen for a long, long time. 

I'll write an update on our progress in a week or so, but this concludes the formal discussion of poo for a while, ok?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Potty Training - Day 2

Be sure to read Day 1 if you haven't already.

Day 2 was much more challenging than Day 1.  In short, Sam learned how to hold her pee long enough to make it from waking up until nap and from nap until bedtime.  I've never heard of such a thing!

Today, Sam barely even dribbled.  She just held it all day long.  We did the exact same routine as yesterday, keeping her naked and setting the timer and watching her like a hawk.  She sat on the potty a hundred times but we got nothing more than a drip until about 8pm.  I had spent about an hour doing wild and physical play with her.  (When my dog plays like that he always has to pee, so I thought it might work with Sam too.)  I took her to the potty a few times during all this, but nothing was forthcoming.  She drank sippy cup after sippy cup of water and milk, but it all seemed to go into some kind of giant tank she has in that body.  She definitely didn't get my bladder.

Finally, in the middle of playing "jump on mommy" she stopped, grabbed her crotch, and ran to the bathroom on her own.  I looked at Adam across the room and whispered, "This is it.  She's going to go.  I'd bet on it."  And I was right!  She finally made a big pee.  But it was the only one for the whole day.  She played for another hour with no need to let it out.  I've decided that Sam's new theme song is "Control" by Janet Jackson, which we just happened to hear on the radio tonight.  " I'm all grown up."

There were other strange happenings on Day 2.  Last night, Adam and I watched a movie and forgot to turn on the baby monitor and when we went upstairs, we heard Sam crying.  I could tell something was wrong, so I raced into her room and she told me that her ear hurt.  We gave her some Ibuprofen and I held her for about a half hour then she went back to sleep.  This morning there was no mention of a pain in her ear.  Was she making it up?  I'm not sure.

Then, there is the mysterious fact that, although Sammy went all day without a diaper yesterday, she developed a terrible diaper rash last night.  It could be all the extra juice, or the fact that she was constantly dribbling all over herself and we didn't use the baby wipes, but just toilet paper.  Or maybe it was the stress of it all.  But it was an inconvenient thing to happen because it made all of her excretions very painful.  I've been telling her for ages that when she starts using the potty she'll have less diaper rash, so it made me feel like a liar and I was really concerned that it would be traumatic.  But after a successful Number 1 and Number 2, I think she's ok.

Another strange thing was that Sam took a 2.5 hour nap.  This is Ol' Reliable we're talking about here.  She's a one hour napper, and when she sleeps longer than 1.5 hours, I start to worry.  We actually had to wake her up after 2.5 hours.  Was she exhausted?  Or was she just maximizing her diaper time?

Anyway, it was a difficult day.  Being me, I was stressed out all day because Sam wasn't using the potty.  But, wait!  She didn't make any messes all day and when she finally needed to go, she went to the potty on her own.  Isn't that the definition of being potty trained?  She just had to do it her own way.  This girl is going to be one difficult teenager.

Tinkle, Tinkle

Sung to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star:

Tinkle, tinkle, little pee
How I wonder how you got in me
Was it the milk or was it the juice?
Or was it the water that set you loose?
Tinkle, tinkle, little pee
How I wonder how you got in me

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Potty Training - Day 1

So we decided to buckle down and get this potty training thing done.  I've forgotten who recommended this, but we're following this "potty training in three days" method outlined here.  Today was Day 1.

The process actually started last night, when I told Samantha that we were getting rid of all the diapers and pull-ups, and that she would only wear them while sleeping from now on.  I told her that she could be "naked girl" all weekend, and that both mommy and daddy were going to stay home with her all weekend.  That was exciting!

This morning, we took off the last diaper and told her that all her pee and poo had to go in the potty now.  We reminded her where her potties were and we put a shirt on her, but nothing on the bottom.  We've done all of this before, so it was nothing new for her.  What was new was that we took all the diapers and supplies up to her room and put them away in a drawer.  I think this had a big impact.

She made a poo in the potty mid-morning, which was great.  We gave her all the juice she wanted, and after a while, she started dribbling pee down her leg.  She knows how to hold it, so she wasn't going to make a big puddle.  So she'd sit on the potty and put a few drops of pee in it, and we'd cheer and give her a sticker, but we knew she was still holding it.  We set a timer for 30 minutes and when it went off, it was time to try the potty again.  We did that all morning and she was only slightly resistant to sitting on the potty.  After a few tries, she was resigned to it - she knew that the timer meant she had to at least try. 

By nap time, however, she still had not done more than dribble a little pee.  I put her diaper on for nap and when she woke up, of course it was full.

We continued in the afternoon the same way.  We went outside and hung out in the front yard for a while.  I had her try the potty before we went out, then we put a long dress on, with nothing underneath.  We brought the potty out and she needed to sit on it a dozen times in the hour we were out there, but still, just dribbles.  At one point she started begging for a diaper.  She really needed to go.  We gave her more liquids.

Then at six, the dam burst.  She dribbled, we took her to the potty, and she sat down and made a big, real pee.  This was a first!  We got so excited that we offered her some leftover birthday cake.  I didn't want to start the reward thing again after the problems we had before with rewards, so we told her that the cake was a celebration, not a reward, and that we would not be giving her any more cake for peeing.  She was fine with that.  About 3 minutes later, she did another huge pee.  Then 5 minutes later, another.  I stopped counting after a while, but I'd guess she did about 7 large pees in the potty between 6 and 8pm.  She also made one more poo.  Most of the time, the need to pee was signaled by a dribble down the leg, but once she said, MOMMY PEE PEE PEE PEE PEE!  And another time she just went on her own.

I'd say Day 1 was a great success!  I think this is going to work.  Stay tuned...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Birthday Hoopla

Today is the day we're celebrating Sam's birthday.  We continued our tradition of surprising her with helium balloons first thing in the morning.  The past 2 years we've put them in her room and tied up the strings but this year we put them in the hall outside her room and left them loose.  When she came out of her room she said, MOMMY! COME IN MY ROOM, COME IN MY ROOM!  I went to her and realized that she was so sleepy that she didn't know what she was seeing.  The hall just seemed full of hanging strings.  I told her they were her birthday balloons and she said, RUN THROUGH THERE REAL FAST, and she ran through all the strings to our bedroom.  Only after that did she realize that these were balloons and she started squealing with delight. 

After breakfast we opened presents.  Sam's big present this year was a real bike with training wheels.  We skipped over the trike thing since Sam already had a kind of scooter.  The bike is a bit challenging for her, but her friend next door has one and Sam really wants to ride with her.  She also got a porcelain tea set, some clothes, magnetic letters, a threading game, books, necklaces, headbands, and more.  And there's more coming from the other set of grandparents this afternoon.  How did we let this happen?

After her nap, we're going to a park where they have a train ride, a carousel, a playground, and mini-golf, which we might try.  Sam's friend from next door is coming, along with her brother and mom.  I would say that this girl, who I'll call C., really is Sam's first friend.  She's 6 months older and the 2 of them get along very well.  Sam is always asking about her and wants to do everything with her.  It's so wonderful to have such great neighbors.

Then we'll come back for cake and call it a day.  I hope to get pictures up by the end of the weekend.  Hope you all have a great holiday!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Objectivist Round Up

This week's collection of Objectivist blogging can be found at Rational Jenn.

The Sam Update - Thirty Six Months Old

Samantha is 3!  I have a 3-year-old daughter.  She’s a kid, not a baby.  I guess that’s why I only have one decent photo of her from the past month.  Shame on me!


Yesterday, her actual birthday, the weather was absolutely gorgeous, just like the day she was born, so I took her to the water park.  This was the third time we had gone this summer, and she finally worked up the courage to go down one of the water slides.  Of course, once she did it, she was an instant expert and had no fear.  She climbed up it, fell on her face and laughed about it, and probably slid down at least 50 times.  This is so typically Samantha.  I don’t think it’s a particularly good character trait, but it’s her, and even as I try to encourage her to take more risks, I respect and enjoy who she is.

We have finally entered the “why” phase.  I’ve been looking forward to this since before Sam was born!  I know parents complain about all the “whys” and maybe someday I’ll understand, but for now, I love it.  One question I seem to get over and over is WHY YOU NOT LIKE FRUIT CUPS, MOMMY?  I think I’ve explained to her that I do indeed like fruit cups about 30 times in the past week.  There is also the constant WHAT YOU DOING, MOMMY?  WHY YOU DOING THAT, MOMMY?  WHY YOU DRIVING, MOMMY?  WHY YOU WALKING DOWN STAIRS, MOMMY?  WHY TAKING SHOWER, MOMMY?  But my favorite so far was after I had sung “The Farmer in the Dell,” and there was a long pause and then, WHY DA CHEESE STAND ALONE, MOMMY?  WHY CHEESE STAND ALONE?

Another change is that Sam doesn’t seem to play with her toys as much anymore.  I’m not sure if she needs new toys or if she just needs to be doing something more structured.  She might still play with her dolls or little figurines, making up a whole scenario and playing it out, but most of the other toys hold little interest.  I’ve had less time to do my own work because she has needed me to be doing something with her more often.  I’m just trying to hang on until she starts Montessori in a couple of weeks.  Then I’ll assess what’s going on.

She has also come through the other side of the latest difficult period.  I re-read my post from last winter about how I refocused on natural consequences instead of time-outs and was surprised to recall how difficult that period had been.  Giving up the time-outs has been a great success.  We still have tantrums, whining, screaming and crying, but we have much less conflict and bad feelings between us, and even though the hitting has come back here and there, it’s mostly gone.  I also have much less internal conflict and generally feel good about how I’m doing as a parent.  I still don’t think I’m a true believer in Positive Discipline – but part of that is that I don’t think PD is an integrated system, but just an amalgam of ideas.  There are so many good ideas in that collection, though!

She's really growing up.  I try to notice it every day.  It used to be a daily occurrence that Adam and I would look at her in wonder and say, “We made her.”  I’ve noticed that we hardly ever say that any more.  She has started to make herself.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Little Thing


She turned 3 today.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Me:  Ah, I love this weather.


Me:  Well, because it's cool, and...