The business of toilet training

Sometimes I take too long to write my next posts… I wish I have more time to write. I really wanted to write this one because I remember documenting the boys’ toilet training journey. It seems like a milestone that will be lost and forgotten if I don’t write it down.

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Our baby is in the midst of being toilet trained. We started last week and she’s doing really well now.

Just today her diaper was dry in the morning.  Which meant that she stayed dry in the night. And she hasn’t had an accident since yesterday afternoon. She’s really good at controlling her bladder when she’s awake now. She still wet her diaper during her afternoon nap today but that’s normal for the beginning stage of toilet training. I think she’s learnt the art of toilet going pretty quickly and we’re so pleased with that.

As I was putting her to bed, she said she needed to go wee wee in the toilet. And she did. She’s learnt to recognise the need to go and to articulate it.

I declare her daytime toilet trained at 2 years, 2 months and 18 days. ☺

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What works for us in toilet training our kids:
1) Start after they turn 2 and are able to talk enough to tell us when they need to go to the toilet.

2) Switch to training pants in the day. If they’re using pull ups, they may not feel the wetness when they wet themselves. Being able to feel the wetness and discomfort will encourage them not to wet their pants. (Anna would say Eww and that she doesn’t Eww in her pants!)

3) Use a sticker chart to encourage them. (We’ve tried punishment and it doesn’t work. Actually I feel bad thinking about it, that we used to punish Caleb. We were first-time parents!)

Every child reaches different milestones at different times and not every method works for every child. These are just some tips that worked for us. The boys were fully toilet trained by about 2 and a half. But some kids have a harder time being night toilet trained. If we push them to be ready before their time, it can have an adverse effect and make learning the new skill a traumatic experience. Kids need our affirmation and assurance when trying new things.

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Anyway, now we can save some money on diapers!!

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Carpe Diem with your children

It’s not easy to ‘carpe diem’, or seize the day, when you have young children. On most days it’s just hoping for the day to pass and for you to have survived another day. (How many of you are like me and keep checking the clock and counting the minutes to bedtime?!)

Sometimes parents put their dreams and ambitions on hold to focus on giving their children the best they can, both in monetary terms and in time. That is noble and truly sacrificial.

On the other hand, there are parents who neglect their children in the midst of pursuing their own careers and ambitions. I think none of was want to be in this group.

Although it is noble and sacrificial to put our own dreams and ambitions on hold for the sakes of our kids, sometimes we lose sight of those dreams. Sometimes these dreams move further and further away and we begin to settle.

I don’t wish to settle.

I don’t think I’m overly ambitious, but I do have my dreams that I hope to see come to pass. One of my desires is to travel on mission trips. I did that every year through my university years, but I got married a year after graduation and had my first kid the following year. Traveling on mission trips was put on hold for a whole 5 years. I did get back on traveling at least once a year after the second kid was 2 years old. (The perks of being married to a missions pastor – lots of trips to go on and a husband who supports and believes in missions!)

When I share with others my love for travel and missions, some of them would tell me, with every good intention, that I can travel more when the kids are grown up, even more when they are out of the house. And yes, of course that’s true and I nod in agreement, but deep down I’m thinking, “I don’t want to wait that long!”

I think we need to carpe diem, when we are young, even when the kids are young.

Involve the kids in ministry

Like I said, I did go back to traveling some, and it’s been such a blessing and privilege to be able to do that. I’m thankful for the help I get for the kids when I travel. My husband and I hardly travel together (I only travel about once a year) so that at least one of us will be home with the kids.

The key, I feel, is to share every experience with the children; to carpe diem with the children. It is not, “This is my thing, my career, my hobbies” but to make it “our thing”.

This is important when it comes to being in a minister’s family. We have heard of pastors/missionaries’ kids who grow up not liking the ministry because they feel that they have lost their parents to the ministry. We pray, by His grace, that our kids will never feel that.

God first, family next. And ministry (or what we think is ministry) is not God. It cannot become our idol.

So we make sure to involve our children in the ministry we do as much as we can. They are there with us in church services, in volunteer programmes, in dinner meetings, even in church clean ups. And last year, we brought the whole family on a mission trip to visit some orphanages in Surabaya, Indonesia. (read Caleb’s post about it here.)

When we visited Surabaya
Surabaya

We explain to them the things we do. And I think we send a powerful message when we model serving God. If they see our love for God through our ministry for Him, we hope they will also have that same love for Him and desire to serve Him. They have to see that we put God first above everything and that if God wants us to serve Him in some way, we will all serve Him together.

At a big conference service
At a big conference service

I have seen how letting our children into our lives have really benefitted both us and them. For one, we spend more time together since we bring them where we go when we can.

When we were pastoring the African Congregation in church and I was teaching Children’s Church, my boys would tell me I’m their favourite Sunday School teacher (I’m sure that’s not a biased statement!)! I’m not sure I’m the best, but at least I’m their favourite. 🙂  And the funny thing is they behaved for me as if they were in ‘school’, not quite the same as they would be at home, even though they’re good boys. 🙂

Supper with ex-youth
Supper with some young people from church. So thankful for these ones who help with the kids when I need help!

Now that Caleb is older, he would go to work with Daddy sometimes and they spend a lot of time in general talking about different things. Daddy also brought him on a trip to the Philippines last year. One thing Daddy does is to let Caleb read his sermon notes, so Caleb knows some of his recent sermons. A few weeks back, Caleb showed me a sermon he had written. He really surprised me, it was so good! It sounded like something I heard in my theological studies! It was about the Pharisees. But the funny thing is he outlined his sermon like his Daddy does for his sermons, including a story, some questions pointed at the audience, down to an altar call at the end! (tears…)

Talk about your life and your dreams

When I come back from work, I talk to the boys sometimes about what’s happening at work, especially about the youth I work with who come from troubled families. I can see that the boys are developing empathy as they ask questions about my students. I also tell them funny things that happen in school and we enjoy laughing about what happened in school for me and for them.

I believe in what I’m doing, and I want my children to be right in it with me. I don’t want them to think they’re losing me to work or to ministry. Sometimes when I ask them about whether they’d want me to go to work or stay home, they’d tell me I should go to work. One of their reasons is so they can come to my staffroom and visit (kids’ logic??) and another is so that I can continue helping the students who need help.

So instead of begrudging what we cannot do when we are ‘tied down’ with young children, let’s begin to involve them in our lives, in the things we do, even in the mundane tasks. (Even though they are boys, my boys love to help me in the kitchen. I think they have grandiose ideas of being Junior Masterchefs!)

So go ahead, carpe diem with your children. And share with me how you do it. 🙂

“Mothers, expect the Lord to speak to you about your children.”

It’s always nice to visit and have time to chat with my mother-in-law. We see eye to eye on many things, including parenting. It’s been hard to find time to chat with kids constantly running around, so it was nice to get some time to chat one night just before we came home.

We were talking about the wisdom that God gives to mothers when it comes to their kids. She told me the advice she always gives young ladies is to “Expect the Lord to speak to you about your kids”. And she told me a few stories about how the Lord showed her things that were happening to her children (my husband and his younger sister) and how He would lead her to pray for them.

I’m of course interested in and amused by the stories I hear about my husband. Don’t we all love to hear stories about our spouses or friends from when they were young? He’s told me some of these before. So here’s one I’m sharing to show how true her words are, to expect God to show us things about our children so that we can pray for them.

When Cameron (my husband) was about 19 years old, he went to Bible School in Waverly, New York. One day, his mom woke up with an impression of something having happened to him. She saw him walking up the hill to the school in the winter cold. She thought he must have wrecked his car. And he didn’t have a coat with him so he was freezing! Not long after, he called, and he told her he was picking up bread for the school in the school’s van, and the van had gone off the road in the snow and he’d had to walk up to the school to get help. And… he didn’t have his coat on so he was freezing the whole way up! But he wasn’t hurt. No one was hurt. 🙂

This is just one story of many and it’s so true that the Lord shows things to parents. I have a story of my own to tell too.

When Caleb was about 6 months old, he was sleeping on our bed with us one night. I dreamt that he fell off the bed, and within the next minute, I heard a thud and he had indeed really fallen off the bed! I remember being jolted out of my sleep and thinking, “God must have been warning me but I didn’t respond to the warning!” And my baby fell off the bed. Nowadays I take my dreams more seriously. Over the years, God has given me dreams about different people so that I can pray for them and maybe even give them advice on something they’ve been praying about.

God works through dreams. He’s done that in Bible times and He still speaks today. So for all believers, do stay alert to what God is saying and may we recognise Him when He speaks to us.

And to moms, pray for your children, trust that the Lord will give you wisdom for your children. He will also hear the prayers of a praying mom. And expect the Lord to speak to you. 🙂

(For children of praying parents, you can’t run away! Oh and btw, from my experience, God can also speak to your youth leaders and pastors. It’s really by His grace and mercy that our sins get found out before it’s too late and we get to a point of no turning back. I’d rather get found out and repent than to lose my salvation because of a hard heart that refuses to repent.)

 

Here are some pictures of my dear in-laws with their grandchildren!

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Teaching a kindergartener to write b and d, p and q

I went for a course this week (although it’s the school break) and I must say the most useful thing I learnt was at the end of the course when I happened to talk to a father who was there.

I was asking him tips on teaching a kindergartner how to differentiate and write b and d, and p and q, as Evan was still getting them mixed up. This tip he shared with me has been so helpful! Evan learnt to spell and write bad dad (I just happened to randomly pick these words!) and pig pen this week. And I’m a happy mom.

This is how you do it.

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From his viewpoint, his left hand helps him see b and his right hand shows how to write d. To help him remember, we write from left to right and b comes before d.

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This is for p and q!

When he’s writing now, I see him doing this without my prompting to help him remember how to write. I think we’ve made a little progress.

Now to help him sound out words and work on his spelling. The fact that English words aren’t always spelt the way they sound doesn’t help… keeping my fingers crossed.

I hope this is a helpful tip to parents who are also struggling with their kids on writing those same letters!

Creative Play brings fewer quarrels than Games with Rules!

I’m taking a break in working (creating a resource booklet on writing and feeling like my brains are about to burst!) to write about a new observation/fresh revelation!

I brought my 2 boys (aged 7 and 5) to work with me today as they both don’t have school today. I brought them to the student care room where we have after-school activities with our at-risk students because there are games and room for them to play here.

They started off playing Jenga, which they found in the room. It didn’t last very long because they got into a disagreement pretty soon. It was along the lines of someone is cheating and not playing by the rules. So I got them to play by themselves for a while. After a while I heard them talking about ‘exploring’ and playing explorers. They took their backpacks and asked if they could explore outside the room. I said they could and they went on with this game they invented. They drew up maps and made up stories about what they saw as they explored – a lion’s den, the rainforests of North America (??), mountains etc.

I realised they had been playing together without a quarrel!

Maybe, perhaps, just maybe, there’s something we can pick up from here? Maybe playing a ‘game’ without rules takes away the desire to be right and to win. Because there are no winners in this game. And no rules for anyone to cheat on.

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Drawing out their map for exploration

Creative play is always good for kids. And I sure agree and appreciate this as they play together now in peace and harmony so I can work.

Oh and by the way, they were wearing bedroom slippers on their arms because those were the special tracking devices…

Now to go back to that booklet…

Meet every kid’s needs

With three kids it seems there is always somebody needing something at any one time. ALWAYS.

But today it suddenly dawned on me how important it is to meet every child’s needs. Please note, I do not say every child’s EVERY need, but we do need to make sure we meet their important and essential needs, so that they do not feel neglected or pushed aside.

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When Evan (#2) was born, Caleb (#1) was only 2 years old. He had to grow up fast. He was made to go up stairs on his own by 2 (instead of being carried up stairs). He learnt to feed himself and articulate his needs and wants early. He was very independent. As they grew, I think sometimes I took for granted that Caleb is the older one and is more sensible, and sometimes I forget that he is still a kid. Being the firstborn, expectations were higher for him. Even though we are not the typical kiasu Singaporean parents, I think somehow he still feels the need to be perfect, born out of a desire to please us. No matter how we affirm him, there still remains that pressure, although I think it’s quite minimal.

Every child shows and receives love differently. The 5 Love Languages is a way you can look at these differences, in a general sense. Caleb is one who does well when he receives words of affirmation, and in turn, he likes to write notes and messages for us to show he cares. Evan loves PRESENTS! Everytime Daddy comes home from a trip, he eagerly stretches out his hands and waits for his present. In turn, he likes to give presents to us (even though it may be an old toy of his).

Yesterday we were at a friend’s house watching something on TV and Caleb came over to lean on me on the couch. As I held him, I realized how little we’ve been doing this, since Evan was born, which means in the last 5 years! And I felt a tinge of sadness. Because I know how much Caleb actually loves to be held and touched. Evan has ‘stolen’ a lot of my cuddles the last 5 years because he was the little one. He was my Cuddly Wuddly. And now, with a 5-month-old baby in the family, guess who’s the new Cuddly Wuddly on the block?

As we were in church service today, I thought about this again – how I must not forget to give Caleb the cuddles he needs. And although I am tough on him (I think I’ve loosened up a lot since I’ve been making a conscious effort not to treat him over his age!), I also give him a lot of affirmation. I try to at least. My husband reminds me of my own 5-to-1 rule sometimes – with every negative remark, we should make 5 positive ones. But more than that, it dawned on me how we need to meet every kid’s needs.

I also thought about how nice it is when the baby is sleeping, when I’m not tending to her needs, that I can have time to play a game with the boys or do something with them. And I resolved to make time for every child, to meet their needs, at least their emotional needs. With the physical needs (or wants, because they are always hungry or needing a shower), someone else can help, but only us parents can provide them the love and security they need. I resolved to listen (really listen, not just appear to be listening) when they come home from school and tell me about what happened in school. I resolved to hold each of them more. And I resolved to not neglect the older ones even though the younger ones need more attention. Maybe it’s a case of the one who cries the loudest gets the most attention, and of course the baby’s gonna get all the attention she needs! And I’m a softie when it comes to babies, so it’s easy to lose myself in cuddling and caring for the baby.

Somewhere in between my day job as a secondary school teacher reaching out to teens and my soft spot for babies, I need to be there for my kids who are in between. I need to learn to mother primary school children and pre-primary school children. I need my kids to know that I love them all the same. Because I do. But my actions need to show that.

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Blessings,

From a mom-in-training

Anna turns 4 months and catches a cold…

It doesn’t seem like a good milestone to arrive at for Anna to catch a cold at 4 months. But this is the first cold she’s gotten so it’s yet another thing we can be thankful for – her good health.

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Anna is growing well and eating well now although the cold threw her off her eating for a while. She is inquisitive and looks around when she’s awake. She loves interacting with people and most of the time, has a ready smile for anyone, even strangers.

She’s also learnt to hold things in her hands for short periods of time and to bring her hands together. Of course like any other baby, the next step would be to put her hands or whatever she may be holding into her mouth.

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Anna with Daddy on her 4th month

My favourite part of this stage is definitely the chuckles we get from her. She laughs easily and spreads so much joy to those around her. It’s infectious.

I also have to say she’s such a pleasant baby to care for. So far she’s the easiest of my babies and sleeps through the night much better than her brothers did. Maybe boys are just always hungry. They still are. After her feeds, she would lay on her bed or gym mat and play happily on her own for a while. That’s quite rare for any baby I would think. But she welcomes anyone who would come talk to her or play with her. She smiles and coos when her brothers sit next to her and talk to her.

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So happy 4 months baby. And I pray that you’ll always be full of joy and have good health.

Love,
Mommy