Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Potty Trained by 3?

This is the lofty goal I have set for our family – to have our toddler fully potty trained by the time he’s 3 years old. In past decades, children were potty trained much earlier than they are now. So, I don’t think this is an unattainable goal. We started introducing the potty when our little boy was 18 months old. He wanted nothing to do with it. So, in response to his disinterest, we’ve started and stopped the potty training process many times since then. He recently turned two and was still showing no signs of readiness. He treated the potty like another one of his toys mostly.

In his resistance to using the potty, our son became very good at holding his pee and poop. This alone let us know that it wasn’t a matter of readiness. It was a matter of willingness. He could use the potty. He just didn’t want to. We decided to take the bull by the horns. We were not going to wait until he was ready or even until he was willing. We were going to help him understand that it was time to start using the potty - now.

Since we decided to abandon the whole readiness/willingness idea, I went in search of books that would support the potty training method we were going to use. I settled on two books – Diaper-Free Before Three by Jill M. Lekovic and Mommy, I Have to Go Potty by Jan Faull . Diaper-Free Before Three advocates starting potty training in the 9-to-12 month range when children are more pliable and less mobile. The author maintains that waiting until later can lead to the power struggles that most parents want to avoid. The first part of the book talks about everything that’s wrong with the whole “readiness” theory. Although I found some useful bits of information – which I’ll discuss in future potty training updates - overall, I was disappointed in this book. The author has no real method and other than not waiting until your child is ready to potty train, there is nothing here that can’t be found in other potty training books.

I did appreciate her overall message of consistency and realized that not being persistent was our first mistake with Cayden. He learned that all he had to do was resist a little, hold his pee and poop, and we would give up. I also liked the way she explained establishing a potty training routine and designating certain times of the day as “potty time”. Up until now, we’ve been putting him on the potty only if it’s painfully obvious that he had to go. She acknowledged that most families today are too busy to dedicate the time that potty training takes but offered no real solutions other than finding/making the time.

Mommy, I Have to Go Potty has a softer approach to potty training but she stresses that parents should expect resistance. While it’s OK to wait until your child is ready, there is nothing wrong with starting potty-training before then. So far, this book has offered reassurance that we are not going to cause our child to have future potty issues by potty training him before he showed signs of readiness. As long as we’re not abusive or demeaning in our effort to potty training him, he will be fine. I’m not quite finished with this book yet and will write more about it as I get further into it. So, based on what I’ve read so far, here’s our plan.
  1. Establish special potty training times at least twice day. No pressure. This is mostly for practice. If we have some success, great.
  2. Don’t ask him if he has to go potty. Just announce that it’s potty time and lead him to the potty, even if he resists.
  3. Do not give up when we know he really does have to go and he’s just holding his pee and poop waiting for us to put his diaper back on so he can go.
  4. When he does have accidents, tell him it's OK but gently reinforce that he has to go in the potty.
 That’s as far as I’ve gotten. We’ll see how this goes.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My Publix Trip This Week

It's rare that I post details about my grocery shopping trip because my savings aren't usually that great. But, I think yesterday's trip was a good example of how I shop and my basic philosophy with couponing. Sale or not, coupon or not, if it's not something we need, want, and will use, I don't buy it. Some things - produce, milk, and eggs for example - are staples for us, so whether they're on sale or not, I buy them. I tend to choose produce that's on sale but sometimes that's not possible.

My total before coupons was $40.15. After coupons, I paid $26.87.

Coupons used:

2 - $1 off coupons for Pompeiian olive oil (had raincheck from last BOGO sale)
$1.25 off 2 Del Monte pineapples
2 - $.50 off Eggland's Best Eggs (each coupon doubled to $1)
$2.68 Publix penny item coupon for apple juice
$5/$30 purchase Winn Dixie coupon (competitor coupon)

The only things I bought that aren't on sale were the milk, broccoli, and onions. I stock up on meat when it's on sale so meat is not something I purchase regularly. I've gotten to a point with couponing where I pretty much go to the store each week for our staples and a few other things that I may have a coupon for. No extreme savings here but, savings nonetheless.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Experience as a Newton County Juror

Well, it finally happened. I've been a resident of Newton County Georgia for over 7 years but have never been summoned for jury duty. I finally got a summons in early May. This may sound crazy, but I was actually excited about it. I have been waiting for this opportunity for years. After filling out and mailing back the juror information form, I showed up at the appointed time with bells on. Potential jurors are kept in a large room away from the court rooms. The Newton County clerk seems very organized. I was instructed to check in at the window and have a seat. The clerk then started calling names off the juror roster and we were seated in the order she called our names, Apparently, all the people who had been summoned were already  assigned as potential jurors for specific cases and she was making sure the right people were seated together.

After they arranged us the way they wanted, I was seated in one of the first rows. When our "panel" was called, we were ushered into a courtroom where the judge informed us that we were potential jurors for a DUI case. He instructed us to stand up and introduce ourselves to the attorneys. The attorneys then proceeded to ask us general questions about our experiences with the police, car accidents, prescription drug abuse, etc... Based on our responses, certain jurors were subjected to extra scrutiny by the attorneys. Since neither attorney had any extra questions for me, I pretty much knew that they would pick me and I was right. I mistakenly thought that the trial would happen the same day. No. Jurors are picked for all the cases scheduled for that week. So, the first day is just to seat the jurors for each trial. Depending on when the case you get picked for is scheduled, you have to come back later in the week. Lucky for me, my case was scheduled for the next day.

I arrived at the courthouse thinking that the case was a run-of-the-mill DUI case and we should be out of there in a few hours. It turns out that the case involved prescription drug use, not alcohol. The defendant had not submitted to a drug test so other than the officers' suspicions, there was no clear evidence of her guilt. Alcohol cases are so much easier since most people can't cover up that telltale smell. I was surprised to learn that the defendant had actually run off the road and crashed into a building. When the officers arrived on the scene, the fact that she was disoriented and a little incoherent made them think she was under the influence of something. Every time the prosecutor mentioned her demeanor, I thought to myself she just had an airbag explode in her face. What was her demeanor supposed to be like?

The trial was over around noon. We took a short break for lunch and then came back to deliberate. Everyone was pretty much in agreement that the county did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant may not have been completely innocent but we really could not identify any proof that she was guilty of DUI. We deliberated for a little over an hour and let the bailiff know that we had reached a decision. We had to wait for a little while because the judge had another trial in session. We were escorted into the courtroom, the judge read our verdict and then we were excused. About two weeks later, I received a check for $50 in the mail for my two days of service.

I know people tend to think of jury duty as a chore but I was happy to be chosen and I really enjoyed the experience. When the clerk said that jurors who were selected wouldn't be called again for at least another year or so, I was disappointed. It might take another 7 years but I'm sure I'll be called upon again. I'm already looking forward to it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sesame Street Elmo and Cookie Monster Birthday Cupcakes

I was inspired by the Cookie Monster cupcakes on Amy's blog. As I searched the internet looking for assembly instructions, I found thousands of sites with different variations of this cupcake. The Elmo cupcake idea came from the Wilton baking site. Since I used sugar Elmo decorations, they were super easy to decorate. The Cookie Monster cupcakes were a bit harder. I bought two single serve bags of chocolate M&Ms thinking that they would have all the brown M&Ms I needed for Cookie Monster's eyes. Each bag had exactly two brown M&Ms in them. Is there a brown dye shortage that I don't know about? I had to finish the rest of the cupcakes using the blue M&Ms for the eyes.

I also thought that buying the Wilton colored frosting in the tube would save me the trouble of dying my own icing to get that really intense blue Cookie Monster color. The icing was from the tube was really hard to work with and the icing tips that I bought were too big for decorating a cupcake. For the  first cupcake, I used a star tip but quickly abandoned that idea because the icing from the tube was not sticking to the cupcake. I ended up just piping the icing on the cake in circular shapes to cover the top of the cake and frame the mouth.

I didn't realize when I decided to use this design that Oreo cookies would be so hard to break in half perfectly. I ended up eating quite a few of them because the cookies kept breaking every which way. A super sharp knife might help get a clean break but I didn't have one handy.

Since I found lots of pictures and very few assembly instructions for the Cookie Monster cupcakes online, here's what I did. I also included some of the things that I will do differently next time.

1. Make and tint your own icing. The frosting in the tube is a nightmare to work it.
2. Apply a prep layer of frosting before you start piping Cookie Monster's "fur". In hindsight, I honestly don't think a piped layer to make the "fur" more realistic is necessary.
3. Gently stick an Oreo half on one side of the cupcake. It's best to separate the cookie so it doesn't sit too high on top of the cupcake.
4. Pipe Cookie Monster's "fur" around the edge of the cookie and the rest of the cupcake. Be sure to cover the edge of the cookie so it looks like the cookie is in his mouth.
5. Cut a marshmallow in half and place each piece smooth side up slightly above the Oreo cookie mouth.
6. Dab a little untinted frosting on the back of brown or blue chocolate M&Ms and stick in center of marshmallow.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Recipe: Queso Lime Chicken Wings

The food served for my son's 2nd birthday celebration was served hot off the grill. Chicken wings are a staple in our house. We absolutely love them. I joke with my husband that I should go on the chicken wing diet because it's probably the only diet I could stick with. This recipe was inspired from a recipe I found on Allrecipes.com. I made the original recipe and thought the marinade would be great on chicken wings. So, I tried it at my little ones party and they were a big hit.

Queso Lime Chicken Wings

5 pounds chicken wings, tips removed and cut into individual wing pieces.
1/3 cup canola or olive oil
1/3 to 2/3 cup fresh lime juice (depending on how strong you want the lime flavor)
2 packets Desert Gardens queso dip mix
salt and pepper to taste

Mix oil, lime juice, and dip mix to make marinade. Rinse and clean chicken wings. Put in dish and season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour  marinade on top and mix to combine. Marinate in refridgerator for at least 3 hours. Thoroughly cook chicken wings on grill. These can also be baked in the oven but you may need to put the wings under the broiler for the last few minutes to crisp the skin.

Notes: My mother taught me to always clean chicken in hot water with some vinegar or lemon juice added. I also have this thing about feathers on my chicken so I inspect each one and pick out any feathers I find. I used 1/3 cup lime juice but didn't think the lime flavor was strong enough so I'll probably up the amount to 1/2 cup next time. I'm also thinking that adding a splash or two of tequila to the marinade might add even more kick.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Elmo Sesame Street 2nd Birthday Party

My freshly baked cupcakes, 6" round cake, and homemade icing.
I've been busy planning my little one's Sesame Street 2nd birthday party. I used Elmo as the main character since he's the only one he really knows. Although they hardly show him, he's getting more and more acquainted with Cookie Monster now too. I tried my best not to spend too much money since his only memories of this event will be from looking at pictures when he's older. But, I still think I went a little crazy.

- I spent about $65 on Partycity.com buying Elmo Sesame Street decorations and utensils -  half of which I did not even use. I was serving cupcakes - more on that later- so the dessert plates were really unnecessary. I bought two table covers but only needed one. I also bought matching Elmo Sesame Street themed cups. The adults preferred to use larger cups so those went unopened. Same with the matching red and yellow utensils and themed napkins. I think the biggest waste was the Elmo table confetti. Seriously, what was I thinking?

- I spent $10 getting balloons at the grocery store. In my defense, I did blow up balloons the day before completely free but my child couldn't resist and popped most of them while trying to play with them.

-I bought too much food. In my experience, only about half the people I invite actually show up. I let the "what ifs" take over though and had plenty of leftovers to show for it. It will all get eaten but still, that's money I could have kept in my pocket.

-I was brave enough to make my own cakes this year. I used a chocolate cake recipe from Cuisine at Home magazine. The cake was easy to make and was egg and dairy free. The recipe also didn't have baking powder so I was worried that it wouldn't rise but they came out beautifully, albeit a little denser than I prefer. My son had his own personal 6" birthday cake and everyone else had cupcakes. So, at least in this area, I saved some money.

-Once again, I was out buying cake decorating supplies. You would think I had enough from last year. At least with my 40 and 50 percent off Joann coupons, I was able to save something. I've decided I need to take a cake decorating class too if I'm going to keep making his cakes every year.

At the end of the day, it was a fun small 2nd birthday celebration for my little guy with his two favorite Sesame Street characters, Elmo and Cookie Monster. I think I just have to work on not trying so hard. I do so many unnecessary things and end up exhausted when its all over.