Monday, August 19, 2013

Life Lately (Otherwise Known as Single-Parented Potty-Training)

I've been home alone with the girls for the past 23 days. Shannon comes home on Thursday. And I am so ready for him to be back! Yesterday I (accidentally) put Noel down for her nap without a diaper. It turned out ok because she wakes up from her naps dry at least 2/3 of the time so she was dry. But then I put her to bed for the night without a diaper, too! What is wrong with me? So of course the first thing I had to deal with this morning was a soaked toddler and her sheets and foam mattress. Thankfully everything came clean and we're no worse for the wear, I'm just obviously tired.

Six days into this crazy-long single-parenting gig I started to potty train Noel. Other than her showing absolutely no actual interest in the potty I could tell she was ready. She had all the words. She woke up dry from naps sometimes and could stay dry for an hour or two at a time. She would tell me when she had pooped. So I decided to go for it with "3-day potty training." And it worked. It was a rough first few days but by a week in I think I could say she was officially trained. She still has accidents but they're usually my fault for not making her go (and thankfully she will now pee on command unless it's only been like 30 minutes). In the past few days she's decided she'll go on the "big potty" so that has allowed us to venture farther from home and be gone for longer stretches of time. She's doing great, our budget is doing great (no more spending $32 for a package of 66 diapers!), and I just can't believe she's so big.

Torturing Playing with a neighborhood stray. Lane named the cat "Paint." She loves that cat and it *almost* makes me consider getting a pet. But not really.

We're also packing for yet another move. Our lease is only until September 15th and we had greatly hoped to be able to stay for longer, but I've had two neighbors approach me and say, "So, you're moving in September, right? The brother is going to live there, right?" So I think our landlady's brother is, indeed, planning on moving in here after he gets married. So in all my free time (ahem, at night after the girls are in bed) I've been packing up some of the things we can live without for the next three or so weeks. I seriously am beginning to loathe packing.

This is the longest that I've ever done the single parent thing. My previous "best" was 13 days...this will end up being twice that, including a solo international flight with the girls. But I think it hasn't been that bad up until the last 4-5 days, and I think we're just all kind of bored. Life has no real routine, I'm tired of my house being dirty, and I'm tired of eating PB&Js. I'm ready for real life to begin again, even if that includes *gasp* going to language class again.

A few tips for those (especially who live overseas) who will be embarking on single-parenthood:

1) Keep your expectations of yourself low. Yes, you may get all sorts of things done while the kids are sleeping, but you may also be so exhausted from handling "those days" all by yourself for days on end and in turn just want to go to bed at 9:00. It's ok. Get some sleep. The projects can wait.
2) Try to get up before your kids do, even if it's just long enough to drink a cup of coffee, say a quick prayer for the day, or take a shower. This is not always possible (when Shannon was gone for two weeks before Noel was sleeping through the night I took showers at night and slept until the girls got up), but is highly advisable. When the only minutes of silence you'll have all day are those that will happen before your kids wake up, try to make them happen. You'll be in a much better frame of mind for the day.

Beans, noodles, funnels, spoons, and tupperware. An hour of fun.

3) Stock your freezer and pantry before your spouse leaves. Make sure you have lots of canned whatever-you-use-a-lot-of. Crackers, raisins, cereal, the kinds of things that don't go bad. As well as flour and sugar because you will want to make cookies or need to make banana bread since your children refuse to eat the ones you buy without daddy around. Stock your freezer. Our staples this go-around have been bags of frozen veggies (because I'm too lazy tired to cook fresh ones), homemade frozen pesto, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, and pizza dough.
4) Make mealtime easy on yourself. It's not a time to be fighting food battles. Trust me: I'm all about the food battles...I want my kids to not be picky and to eat what they're served. We fight these battles regularly. But not when daddy's gone for almost four weeks.
5) Try to have some fun things that they haven't seen or played with. I'd been saving a few things since January for just a time like this. It was new entertainment for two days. We bought brand new markers. We borrowed a LeapPad for a few days. Save some of the things from packages that grandma sends and pull them out when you're at your wits' end.
6) Let your kids watch more TV than usual if you need to. We have a fairly strict no-more-than-two-shows-a-day policy at our home. And those are the 22-minute shows. But my girls have been watching probably twice that on most days so I can hang laundry (without them trying to un-do my work), take a shower, wash dishes, type emails, or just read a book for a few minutes. A bit of extra television won't hurt them for a few weeks. So relax about it and enjoy some peace.

Playing in the fountains on one of our long walks.

7) Do special stuff with them. Go out for ice cream. Go to indoor play places. Go out for pizza. Go for long, leisurely walks and don't hurry them home for dinner but let them eat sweet rolls and drink juice boxes. Make it a fun time for them. Try to enjoy the time with them. If you try to make it enjoyable for them, you will in turn enjoy the time more. And let's face it, a mom who's two or three weeks into a single-parenting jaunt who's still sane and enjoying her kids is worth much more than one who has insisted that her children eat every green bean and take a bath every night. Keep it fun.
8) Give your kids grace. They will not act the same when daddy is gone. They might not sleep as well. They might need extra discipline for a few days. They might need lots of comfort on others. Just remember that they don't necessarily understand that "daddy will be home in X number of days." All they know is that daddy's not home, and they miss him.

So there you go. I figured up the other day that Shannon has been gone for about two months of Noel's 20 months of life, so about 10%. I know a lot of other dads miss a lot more than that and that the moms have to "single-mom it" for much longer, but for us that's a good chunk of time. And these are the things I've learned that work for us, and help me to not count down the days (in a bad way).

Hopefully I'll be back soon but who knows with all the single-parenting and all the packing... 

Monday, August 12, 2013

20 Months Old

I missed Noel's 19-month post because we were traveling the two weeks before and the two weeks after, goes month 20!

At 20 months Noel:

*is potty trained! She's been "trained" for about a week now but has only gone two days with no accidents and seeming to really understand the whole thing. Tonight she was playing and suddenly shot up (she was squatting), said, "Oh! Poo in da potty!" and ran for the bathroom. It was hilarious. And great. We did the "Three Day Potty Training" and I have to say...days one and two were awful, days three and four were alright, and by day five I think she pretty much had it. She is definitely enjoying wearing panties and seeing what she produced in the potty.

*says some really funny things. Some of my favorites recently are that she says, "Umm...yeah," a lot when you ask her if she wants to do something. She also gets all worked up about wanting something that she can't have (cookies, for example) and will pitch a mini-fit, yelling, "I. Want. SNACKS!" and lifting onto her tippy-toes at "snacks" and throwing her head up. And then she'll burst into a fit of giggles because all I ever do is laugh at her when she does because it's so funny.
*really enjoys coloring and is always asking me to draw her something...a ladybug, a giraffe, a cow, whatever. It's a good thing she's easy to please since my artistic abilities are seriously lacking.

*knows all the main colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, brown, black, white) and can usually tell you what color something is.
*calls all letters "ABCDs."
*has finally been swimming. We spent a week in Cyprus so we took her to the pool a lot and she had a blast. She really enjoyed walking around in the mini-pool and jumping to us in the big pool. She did not enjoy the sea, though.
*can walk up a few (four or five) steps without holding onto anything/anyone.

*has had a rough couple of weeks. She got an ear infection (to the best of my ability to tell), was really fussy, and didn't want to lay down to sleep, so I ended up holding her to fall asleep for a few days. Then she decided she didn't want to have to fall asleep on her own ever so has been pitching fits at bedtime and nap time for probably a week now. I think that she may finally be broken of it, after letting her cry it out at bedtime last night and nap time today, and at bedtime again tonight but she only cried for maybe five minutes before she gave up. I'm glad, as it's been rough!

*can sing along with some songs; "10,000 Reasons," "Wheels on the Bus," "Sanctuary," and a few others. Of course she can't sing all the words but she gets a surprising number of them correct.
*cut that last incisor tooth about a week before she turned 19 months old. I have definitely noticed an improvement in her mood!
*repeats, "I do it" about a million times a day. I've determined that toddlers want to do it themselves as soon as they learn how to express it!

*is still pretty picky when it comes to food. Four weeks of traveling followed by two weeks (with ten days to go) of single-parenting (with a week of potty-training thrown in there) are not reinforcing good eating habits. I seem to recall that we didn't really start cracking down on Lane until she was two and a few months, so I suppose we'll tolerate Noel's pickiness (but not cater to it) for another few months. I've noticed that she is big on texture. She doesn't like quinoa although she likes rice. She doesn't like pesto. She even turned her nose up at spaghetti sauce last week even though she used to really like it. She goes through phases with fruits, veggies, and varieties of crackers that she likes, though, so I think she's just a typical toddler. We'll focus on it more when life regulates itself a bit.

So there you have it. I'm sure there's more but as anyone can see from my lack of posting, I'm busy, busy, busy. So this will have to do. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Hello, Cyprus!

Four weeks ago today we flew out of Istanbul and headed to North Cyprus for some much needed vacation. We hadn't been on a real vacation in two years (since we went here), so it was definitely needed! It was so good to just relax and swim and visit with friends. There doesn't seem to be much to do on North Cyprus, but that was fine because between two preschoolers, a toddler, a baby, and a rental car that wouldn't hold all of us (in our own seats) and our stroller, we just ended up staying at the resort most of the time.

The view from our balcony of the offices, pools, restaurant, and shops at our resort.

The view off our balcony toward the water. We watched the sun set every night.

Our living room.

We were headed to Istanbul (and I got LASIK while we were there!) so we investigated places we could visit that wouldn't cost too much to get to. North Cyprus is what we found.

Noel had fun!

The harbor in Girne.

And while North Cyprus itself didn't seem to have much to offer, we did have a good time at the resort, just swimming,


and playing in the sand at the beach.

We also left the resort a few times and ate out,

drove on the wrong side of the road, 

spent some time together as a family,

(Sadly, this is the best family photo we have from vacation!)

and climbed some castle walls.

All in all, we just hung out, chatted, ate out, and got some sun.

And it was great. It's seeming that our pattern for a "real" vacation is about once every two years. Any suggestions as to where we should go in 2015?