Sunday, April 20, 2008

on the flip side

Last weekend has another side and another story, but it deserved its own entry.
Some background:

Erin wasn't fully potty trained until a few months after turning 4. We started working with her off an on right when she turned 3, but we didn't get anywhere. By the time she was 3.5 we really began to give this some serious attention. We did several "boot camp" potty weekends, which many other people recommended as working for them. On these weekends we made her sit on the potty every 45 minutes or so all day long, because she never had any interest in sitting there on her own. Eventually, we thought, she'd start to get it and go, but she never did. These potty weekends never worked. Charts and stickers and rewards and candy incentives and inspirational DVDs and books never worked. Then a couple of months before turning 4 she suddenly started using the bathroom one day.

The following day I enrolled her in preschool (potty training is a prerequisite) and spent the next many weeks taking her to the bathroom at the preschool so that she would become familiar with it and be okay to use it once she started going to school. She still wouldn't use the bathrooms anywhere else outside our home, not even places she knew very well like Grandma's house, for several months. Then finally she would use other bathrooms but she didn't want to be in the stall or the room while we flushed. She was at least 4.5 before she got to the point of being able to use any bathroom, on her own, when she decided that she needed to.

The whole ordeal was insane and left me with a variety of PTSD, I'm convinced. It was either a situation of Erin being the hardest kid in the world to train or we were the worst trainers ever, and most likely, some combination of both.

And at 3.5 the twins have showed us no signs of being any easier to work with. They always objected when I asked them to sit on the potty before bath time, they never showed any interest in this whole topic on their own, and just like Erin, promises of treats and rewards if they starting trying meant nothing.

So as Erin and my trip to San Diego approached John decided this would be "potty training boot camp" weekend for the twins. We want them to go to preschool this fall, they need to be trained, and this diaper thing has long ago gotten tiresome. But oy vey, we've been here before.

John took them to Target to select their own potty seats and underwear, he layed some towels around and kept them in the backyard as much as possible, and when I called saturday afternoon to see how he was doing he reported that they each had actually gone a couple of times. The next day, they used the potty seats many times each. And through this past week, at daycare and at home, they've been doing mostly very well.

Yesterday was picnic day at UCDavis and we all planned on going and spending the day on campus--a very long day including the big drive there and back. I worried that this significant outing would create a setback on the twins' progress. I wasn't confident enough to put them in underwear so they wore pull-ups and I took them to bathrooms everywhere we went all day. To my surprise they actually used the bathrooms in all of these strange places, and asked to flush each time. We are definitely on our way, with Allison just a bit ahead of Kate so far. What an amazing difference in a week.

I can feel some degree of PTSD recovery.

I don't have potty training pictures that I feel like posting on the internet, but here are a few from picnic day. The girls all tried cow milking, saw sheep dog trials, baby chicks hatching, goat milking, dachshund races, cockroach races, and watched the parade and the battle of the bands.

Erin and a friend's daughter, Sophia:
Horsie muscles, illustrated:

Monday, April 14, 2008

tennis trip

For the weekend, Erin and I went to San Diego so that we could visit with Erin's big cousin Laura, who is a sophomore at Colorado State University on a tennis scholarship. She had matches against San Deigo State and UNLV this weekend and we haven't seen her play since she started college. Laura's mom (John's sister Terri) and dad and younger brother were also visiting, so the Rams had a cheering section almost as large as the home team's. Which means college tennis needs more spectators.

The night that we arrived Laura presented us with Colorado State t-shirts so that we could be properly-outfitted fans, and Terri and Randy gave Erin a tennis bag with rackets for her and the twins and some balls. Terri and Randy have been playing tennis for years and all three of their kids have been playing since they were small. Additionally, Terri teaches tennis to young children. Since their youngest is off to college this fall, I think they should start a residential tennis camp where kids become fully immersed in tennis instruction for a good few months. As loving and supportive relatives we'd be happy to provide the first three students. Free of charge even. But I digress.

At the SDSU tennis center (a very nice facility amidst a campus that looks like it was built only last week, and designed by a gay mexican immigrant named Boy Jorge), we took our places with our new t-shirts on to watch Laura et al and cheer them on. Erin was a pretty cooperative spectator for a sport where acting like a typical 5 year-old wouldn't be appreciated. She mixed shouts of "Good shot, Laura!" (usually at inopportune times, but the thought was there) with working in the activity books we brought along for her, and getting an introduction to tennis with Terri.

Tim could barely contain his excitement.

And that's pretty much how it went for Erin. Cheer, color, try some tennis, and cheer again. It was great to see Laura play and watch her teammates as well. And Tim was still rejoicing.

After her doubles and singles matches (where Laura lost in a hard-fought tie breaker) we went to lunch with the team and then a visit at an aquarium nearby.

That night we went to a very nice dinner at a restaurant on the harbor, where Randy asked Erin to make sure she counted all the boats by the time we needed to leave. "I can't count all of those boats! There's millions of them!"

The next morning we wandered along a beach area and found some tide pools, and enjoyed the views before heading back to the tennis center.

On day 2 Laura won her doubles match handily. "Good shot, Laura!" Erin shouted, again alternating between watching and cheering and drawing and more lessons from Terri.

And Tim was still rejoicing.

By the time the matches were over on sunday and we again had lunch with the team, it was time to head to the airport. We had a wonderful trip and Erin has been talking about San Diego and Laura and tennis nonstop. She declares herself a tennis player now and says she is as good as Laura is and someday she'll be even better. We'll see about that. I hope Laura's coach observed Erin's "skills" and is planning on holding a scholarship spot on the team for her, for the year 2020.

Friday, April 11, 2008


Last sunday I went to the toy store with the intention of buying a little soccer goal net for the girls. Kate, especially, loves kicking the ball around. While I was there I noticed some individual swings for sale and we were long overdue in getting rid of the baby swings we had hanging from our deck. We banned Erin from using them over a year ago. She was so huge in them it was completely ridiculous, but they were way too small for the twins too. So I finally bought replacements, better late than never, and the soccer goal, and the girls were thrilled.
In the afternoon John's cousin Brian and family came over for dinner and play time. The kids haven't seen each other since christmas we concluded, and between the five of them I don't think the giggling and squealing ever stopped for even a few minutes all afternoon and evening long. The overall volume level was at a constant "11".
While Erin and Allison occupied the swings for a while I played goalie in front of the new net and took photos as Kate and the boys tried to score. Jacob is nearly 7 and kicks accurately, and HARD. It actually was very challenging to play defense against him.
Before and after dinner there was a lot of chasing, and tackling, and scenes like this:

Thursday, April 10, 2008

rodeo clowns

Today I took the girls to a (usually) huge rodeo that comes to the area every year. This is our third year going and the girls always love it. Erin has been asking about the Big Rodeo in April on a regular basis for many weeks. This is huge on her calendar. All the girls put on boots and their hats this morning and went around the house yelling, "Yee-hah! I'm a cowgirl!" This is former nanny Danielle's lasting influence. This and the random requests I get while we're driving around to change the car's radio station to country. Thanks, Danielle.

The rodeo activities go on for 8 days I think and it all wraps up tomorrow and clearly we made our trip this year a little too late in the schedule. There wasn't nearly as much going on today as there has been in years past. All of the side buildings, normally full of younger livestock of all types and 4H kids grooming them and showing them in small competitions, were empty and being cleaned out. In the past we've been able to see pigs, sheep, goats, rabbits, cows, even a camel once, and the 4H teens are happy to have little kids pet their animals and explain everything the girls would ever want to know. They were really disappointed when I showed them that we apparently missed all of that.

Still, we did visit with some horses and bulls in pens outside of the main arena, and Kate found a large batch of alfalfa so they all spent a long time going around feeding everyone who seemed interested. We also watched some cowboys riding outside, and then watched some riding competitions inside the main arena.

With fewer things to see and do this year it was a much briefer visit. Erin is on spring break this week which is why we waited until now to go as I knew she'd kill me if I took the twins without her. I also heard a rumor today that the arena that hosts this rodeo is closing. I hope not, or that we can find a substitute to attend next year.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

words from erin

Today after school Erin was telling me about a story that her teacher read, about an elephant with all sorts of colorful patchwork squares all over him.

"That's pretty unusual, I never saw an elephant that looked like that," I added.
"Well, of COURSE not...the book was fiction!"

At lunch today Allison was trying to get her sisters' attention by dangling a piece of sandwich out of her mouth.
Erin: "You know, Allison, that's just rude, really rude. You have bad table manners."

let's go letterboxing

The girls have some friends who have been letterboxing for a while now and I thought it sounded like a fun project and we should participate. Several months after first learning about all of this I finally got my act together and got the necessary supplies for us to begin and this weekend we did our first letterboxing adventure. I thought we'd start with a letterbox that a friend planted, the friend who first told me about this fun hobby. This small tribute seemed only appropriate.

The basic idea is you visit a letterboxing website (so far I've only looked at the one linked above, but there are others and there are boxes all over the world) to get the clues to finding a letterbox in your area. You bring a stamp, notepad, ink pad, and pen with you and inside the letterbox you'll find a notepad and stamp. You take their stamp and mark your notebook and record the date and location of the box, and you imprint your stamp in their notepad along with your letterboxing username and date so the result is everyone has a log of who found which boxes. After you complete the exchange you seal the box back up and hide it where you found it so that someone else can find it. We are the "fergyfive". Not original, I know.

I printed out the clues to our first box, located in a nearby open space preserve. The girls were really excited as I was talking up this new "adventure" for them all morning.

"What does the paper say to do next?" asked Kate.

I read an instruction or direction, then Kate and Allison kind of looked at each other, a bit puzzled, and then Erin clarified where to go, "This way! C'mon guys!" and took off running, then the twins rushed off behind her. After several yards they all stopped.

"What does the paper say to do next?" shouted Allison. All of this was very amusing to the other people who were walking along the trails.

I read, and Erin interpreted, and they ran, and on and on it went, until we arrived at the right location and found the prize.

Darn blurry photo, oh well.

I got a stamp for each girl and a pink ink pad. It's hard to see, but this is Kate's stamp, a sleeping doggie:

With stamps exchanged and our first success recorded in their notepad and ours, we placed the letterbox back in it's hiding place.

"Now we have to find our way outta here!" said Allison.
"I know the way!" answered Erin, and they tore off down the trail again.

Everyone agreed that letterboxing was great fun and they were anxious to find another one, which I should have prepared for and printed out, but didn't. We got a late start doing this one and everyone was getting hungry for lunch so it was time to head back home anyway. Maybe next time we'll try a multiple box excursion.

farmer erin

Last week, parents were invited to Erin's class to see the finished "farm unit" the kids have been working on for a good month or so. Each child has a farm plot and plants different crops, buys animals and equipment, and sells the milk and meat and eggs. So they've been learning about domestic animals and agriculture, and counting money. I knew it was a big project but I had no idea how big until the twins and I went to class and Erin gave us the full tour.

Erin's farm plot: the yellow area is wheat, the green is pasture land, the red area is a strawberry field, some of the brown is mud where the pigs are, some of it houses her chicken coop. The white standing paper figures show us what belongs on each area of the farm. They are pictures of different animals, tractors, silo, farm house, scarecrow. And the next photo is with her class farm quilt, with each child contributing a square.

Erin's animal book, a page about each type of animal on her farm:

Her accounting book, showing some of her purchases:

Why Erin would like to be a farmer:

Four-legged farm friends provide a good opportunity to learn about multiplying by four: