Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Potty training and other life lessons.

As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child.  Well, I am soliciting the help of our "village" and sending out a plea for parenting help and/or suggestions.  Some of you know, we have been trying (unsuccessfully) to potty train the crowned princess of the House of Cockrell for months now...  I'm not sure where we are going wrong; maybe I tried to start too early or maybe she's just a stubborn rat.  Either way, Mark and I are getting desperate to figure out a way to potty train this girl.  I think the last straw lately has been when she decides to take off her diaper and poop in the floor but screams and kicks us when we try to put her on the "big potty," or when she poops in the diaper, but then takes it off, lays it in the floor and pees on top of it.  (This post probably will not put us in a great light as parents, but I'm laying it all out there so you know and understand the truth and gravity of the situation; to us this is serious people!!)  You are probably wondering where I am when all this pooping and peeing is going on and I have to admit, I don't know!  Maybe cooking dinner or switching laundry, getting a snack ready or unloading the dishes?  Let me tell you, this girl is sneaky like a cat and she KNOWS when I am otherwise engaged and I truly believe she chooses the opportune (for her) moment to do her business and lately, try to get rid of the evidence (for example, trying to wipe the poop out of the floor with one of her brother's t-shirts...yes, that happened).  I do not like to change diapers per say.  However, I further dislike having to pick up a two-year-old's smeared poop out of my floor.  I'd like to think the problem does not lie with us as parents, but I am afraid it might be so.  So let me tell you what we've tried.  We have tried Pull-Ups, she takes them off.  We have tried putting her exclusively in pretty pink flowered panties, she also takes them off or pees and poops in them and then takes them off.  We have tried offering rewards and clapping and literally having a small party in the bathroom when she does actually go on the toilet (once or twice a month).  We have tried bribing her with getting to put on makeup if she goes on the potty (sad but true).  We have tried simply watching her and rushing her to the potty when we know she has to go (this is usually when she kicks and screams).  Our last good idea is to try to find a super-blingy potty chair, you know, the kind that play music and light up when you go in them...  We are desperate people, depressingly willing to pay $30 for such a frivolous and outrageous parenting tool.  But in our defense, would anyone enjoy cleaning up human poop out of their floor??  Anyway, to make a long and whiny story short, we are asking all of you to please let us know if you have an idea we haven't tried.  The blingy potty is being bought this weekend and given to the princess at her birthday party Sunday (Oh, did I mention I tried telling her that all the real princesses used the potty??).  Maybe it will work.  Maybe she's just not ready.  But I am pleading with the potty gods to please not make me clean up poop smeared with a t-shirt all over a wood floor, ever again.

On another note, we're also in the process of serious consideration of curriculum materials for our little scholar.  He will be old enough for Kindergarten in the fall, but we aren't sure where exactly to begin with curriculum since we used a K curriculum for preschool this year...  He has done so incredibly well with it.  He is reading CVC words very well and sounding out many other words.  We will finish our last chapter of the third book in the Mary Poppins series tonight and he is contemplating either having me read Harry Potter or reread the Ralph S. Mouse series next.  He really excels in math and asks for extra math every day.  Science is also his thing and nothing gives him more pleasure than to hunt for "nature" things to study and observe.  He often does drawings of birds and animals he's seen in the yard or hiking at Mammy's.  He has a pretty good rock collection started, not to mention his other collections, which include feathers, bugs, moths, clover, shells, bird nests....  You get the picture?  So, our dilemma is this:  we have an incredibly intelligent four-going-on-five-year-old who will not technically be old enough for Kindergarten until fall, but who is already reading and adding...but who also is still learning to share and take turns, who sometimes has to work hard at listening and minding and remembering to do his chores.  He's a perfectly normal boy in other words who happens to be academically advanced and have reasoning and problem solving skills beyond his years.  Our search is for a curriculum that meets his academic and intellectual interests and needs but is still at a level that holds his attention and is patient while he masters following directions and hones his fine motor skills...  Our tentative plan right now is to try some diagnostic and placement tools to give us a more accurate picture of his abilities and grade level so we know where to begin with him next year.  We are hoping to find curriculum that is hands-on, slightly advanced but not frustrating, and that gives us freedom to teach things not normally taught in kindergarten but that interest our scholar deeply such as the artwork of Claude Monet or the biography of Barnum Brown (the paleontologist who discovered T-Rex).  We want to keep these things incorporated in his school to peak his interest and so he will understand that school isn't about worksheets or textbooks but about learning.  And learning never stops.  We don't learn to add numbers only because our textbooks says it's time to do so, but because how else will you know how many bones are in a T-Rex vertebrae if you can't add them up??  If you want to become a Park Ranger when you grow up (like he does) or be a wildlife specialist/conservationist and be on TV with Jeff Corwin but you don't know how to read a map, how will you find the animals you want to help!?  Anyway, our educational philosophy if we had to choose one would be a mix of classical education (learning from the works of the masters such as Van Gogh, Monet, and composers like Bach or the scholar's favorite, Tchaikovsky, reading books like Robinson Crusoe) and a philosophy I had never heard mentioned in my four years of college, but whom I found through my own research and the curriculum we chose for this past year; Charlotte Mason.  Her belief was, "Education is a discipline, an atmosphere, a life."  It was God centered and taught students the building blocks of the world through math and science, classic literature, artwork, and music, studied geography and cultures, all in order to give an understanding of the world around them and how God made it, as well as allow them to develop the faith, discipline, and basic intrinsic love of learning that would enable them to learn throughout their entire lives and become whole and moral human beings, caring and compassionate and educated.  Sounds pretty good right??  So, if you know of any books, curriculum, texts, or websites that sound like they would align with those guidelines, let us know!  We have our eye on a few, Language Lessons for Little Ones is one of my favorites, and we're considering Horizons Math with supplemental workbooks like Mathematical Reasoning A.  We're planning on starting geography and life and environmental science, but haven't honed in on a reasonably priced but thorough curriculum.  We'd love to find a good phonics program that doesn't bore us!  If you know of one that uses real picture or chapter books to teach phonics, I desperately want to hear about it!!  We are following Common Core Standards for the U.S. in language and math and our state standards in science and social studies.  We have plenty of time, but as you can see, we're a little hard to please...  We'd love your input and we'll definitely keep you posted how things go with all of this crazyness, from potty training to schoolwork!  In the meantime, we are plugging along a day at a time and loving the little moments like when the little scholar told me the other day that, "Did you know?  The rain makes it's own music sometimes."  And last night when the crowned princess finally asked, "Please!" when she wanted a snack!  Overall, life is good.  Hope yours is too!! 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Vacations, promotions, and other good vibes...

Okay, so I had every intention of posting vacation highlights as soon as we got home... Due to unforseen illnesses and other general busyness, I am just now getting around to it!  Such is life.  Never a dull moment, even when you'd really like to have one!  I'll cover our wonderful and much appreciated vacation momentarily, but first I would like to fill you in on the most recent happenings here at the House of Cockrell.  First of all, most of you probably know, but we have all four been sick since we got home from Florida.  Little Mark actually started getting sick while we were still there!  Anyway, it has been a miserable cold or whatever it is and all of us are STILL trying to shake it.  Little Miss Thing is the only one not finished with her antibiotics, and if she isn't sounding a whole lot better by the time she is done, I am afraid we are going to end up back at the doctor's office with her.  Little Mark is still hanging on to his stuffy nose and a little bit of a cough, but overall is feeling much better. The grownups didn't seem to get it so bad, but we've been fighting the stuffy head and cough and general nastiness that comes with a cold just the same.  Thanks goodness for antibiotics and Mucinex!
On another note, Mark started training for a new job today!!  He is still at the same company and same department and same general office, but he will now be working as an FCAT representative, which stands for Freight Customer Advocacy Team (I think).  It is a promotion as he will now be handling mostly escalated calls and calls with issues that need more in-depth resolution.  In other words, if you call his company's customer service center, have a problem, and ask to speak to a supervisor, you could be talking to Mark!  He is excited to start as this position will give him more personal accountability and is more along the lines of what he did in a supervisory capacity for his last company.  He will be working just fifteen minutes later in the evening (there are only a few of this type of representative, so his schedule had to change to fill in the gaps that there wasn't already someone working), but the job is a good one and it will absolutely mean experience and future opportunity for advancement within the company.  We're all just a little proud of him, can you tell?? 
Last but not least before I get to the fun stuff, our taxes are done!  Yippee!!  According to H&R Block, we will be getting a little money back and we are looking forward to paying some bills and maybe doing a few minor home improvements in the near future.  Overall, not a bad way to start the year; promotions and tax refunds are A-OK with me!

                                          Now, to the really fun and exciting part....
As you all know from last time I posted (and the fact that we saw a lot of you while we were there), through the generosity of MaMa and PaPa, we had the opportunity to take a week's worth of vacation to sunny Florida a couple of weeks ago!!  We had a GREAT time there and got to see and do so much!  By the time we got home exhausted we wondered if we hadn't tried to do too much, but really we wouldn't change it and had a really good time getting to spend time with family and letting the kids experience a lot of Florida firsthand for the first time.  We started off the week by having Christmas with MaMa and PaPa the night we arrived.  The kids were amazed that they got to get more presents and a fancy Christmas dinner to boot!  To quote Mark Jr., the food was "so good I couldn't take my mouth off of it!"  After spending the evening relaxing, visiting, and playing with new toys, we had to rest up for the next day's beach adventure!  The next morning, we packed up and headed to Canaveral National Seashore or "The Turtle Mound Place" as me and Mark always call it.  We had a really nice time, even if it was a little chilly and a lot windy!  The kids enjoyed getting to walk on the trail up the turtle mound, which is actually a refuse mound of shells left by Timucuan Indians "before they rounded them up and took them to reservations," as Little Mark said.  We had a picnic lunch by the visitor's center and then headed to the real beach.  We got there just as the high tide was receding and the waves were absolutely enormous!!  Too bad it was chilly or it would have been the best boogie boarding waves ever!  Haha!  Actually, they were so high, I might have been afraid to get out in them for fear of being washed away...  Little Miss Thing, however, thought it was the best thing she'd ever seen and promptly tried to run out into the water, fully dressed, jacket and all.  We had a hard time keeping her out of the water and I got totally soaked in the process!  Little Mark liked the water and thought it was exciting, but was much more content to sit in the sand doing what else, but digging!  He built a good sand castle and enjoyed using all the beach tools that MaMa had brought.  Mark and I went for a short walk down the beach, which took us back to when we used to go to the beach on our days off and just wander up and down.  Ahh, good times...  (Pause for reminiscent daydream...and we're back)  Anyway, it turned out to be a really exciting walk because we found a three jellyfish that had washed up in the tide.  One was huge and turned out to be a Portuguese Man of War, which was very cool to see.  The highlight of my day was when Mark and I walked close to the dunes and found empty sea turtle egg shells laying on the sand!!!  We also think we might have found a crackpipe, but we avoided that area...  Anyway, we showed Little Mark and he thought it was extremely cool that he got to see real, live sea turtle eggs (even if the turtles were already gone)!  He loves nature and wildlife but he was slightly distracted by his sand castle work too, so we had to tear him away from it to show him, but I think he was glad he came.  Sunday we spent a really nice day visiting with family.  We wished we had had more time to spend with everyone, but we had a good visit in the time we had!  Thanks to Grandma and Grandpa and Sharon and Nathan for grilling us some delicious burgers and all the fixings and for the surprise birthday cake and gifts for the kids.  They were so excited and thought it very cool to have a birthday even when it wasn't their real birthday!  Haha!  Monday we took a picnic lunch to Blue Spring and got to walk, play, and see manatees!!!  When we lived down there, Mark and I had gone once or twice together and when I lived at home we went several times, so I was very excited to get to go there!  It was just as beautiful and dare I say, majestic, as ever, reminding me of a scene out of a movie or maybe a Mark Twain novel, just set on a different river!  We ate lunch first and then walked to the head of the spring but didn't see a single manatee.  We then turned around and went down from the spring toward the St. John's and got almost to the river before we heard the kids shouting, "There's one!!!"  Yay!  Finally, manatees everywhere!  We saw one, then another, then another!  Even a mother with a baby calf swimming next to her!  Cool cool cool!  We also saw the biggest alligator I think I've ever seen in the wild and get this - he was lying on the same log as two big turtles with manatees swimming all around underneath them!  Mark Jr. said he thought they might be having a meeting or maybe church...  I don't know about that, but it was a very funny sight.  Tuesday was our Disney Day and we got up bright and early to head to Magic Kingdom.  We had so much fun.  First off, we went straight to see Mickey Mouse and even got his autograph and our picture made with him.  Little Mark was extremely impressed by this and informed me afterward that Mickey Mouse was real and he wasn't even a guy dressed up in a costume because he had seen him and even had his autograph to prove it!  Oh to be four-going-on-five again!!  It was really fun for me and Mark to see the wonder with which the kids took everything in.  They were especially awed by the characters, the fireworks, the Pirates of the Caribbean, and It's a Small World.  The only part of the day that wasn't enjoyable, at least not for Mark Jr., was when he insisted on riding Big Thunder Mtn. Railroad.  He hated it and told us it was horrid and he would never do it again in his life!  At least he can say he tried it I guess.  Little Miss Thing especially enjoyed The Little Mermaid ride (okay, maybe that was me, she actually slept through most of it...) and really was enthralled by It's a Small World!  We had such a fun day, but I think Mark and I forgot the sheer volume of stuff to see and do there!  We decided that you now need at least two days, maybe more, to see everything in the Magic Kingdom alone!!  Wednesday, we headed back to Orlando and went to lunch at the T-Rex restaurant at Downtown Disney.  I would highly recommend this place to anyone who has a child obsessed with dinosaurs as Little Mark is!!  It was incredible.  We ate between a T-Rex and a Woolly Mammoth, walked through the giant ice cave that changes colors, saw real fish in the aquariums in the ocean room, saw hadrosaurs (dinosaurs with crests on their heads), and even got to see real fossils in the bathroom!!  As if that weren't enough, Little Mark got to build his own stuffed Triceratops at the Build-A-Dino store and dig for giant T-Rex fossils outside!!  He was SO excited about the fossils!  He dug up so many that before we left he went back and reburied some so that other kids could "find" them.  :)  At the risk of dating ourselves yet again, Mark and I were amazed at how much had changed there!  We stayed at a hotel right down the street from it on our honeymoon and had gone several times while we lived down there, and parts of it were all but unrecognizable there has been so much added and changed!  BUT, the Lego Dragon is still in the water and it was fun to get a picture of Mark Sr. and Mark Jr. in front of it and compare it to the one I have of Mark in front of it from our honeymoon!!  We also stopped in the Ghiradelli store and got our free chocolate sample and then had massive ice cream cones and sundaes at their ice cream parlor!  Yum and I don't even like ice cream that much!  The weather was perfect that day and the kids enjoyed walking around and taking in some sights.  Thursday, frankly, we were exhausted and needed to recover from our "Disney hangover"!  We had maybe the best day of the whole week just staying at MaMa and PaPa's house and playing all day.  Some cousins got to come over and play too, so Little Mark was in heaven with a playmate his size!  We went to the park that afternoon and had a nice relaxing time playing and walking by the lake.  We even got to see some nature there, as we saw a massive snake and a small alligator as we walked by the lighthouse.  Unfortunately, the boardwalk trail over the water was closed for construction, but we've got our eye on it for next time!!  It being our first vacation with two kids, we weren't sure quite what to expect.  Next time, we know that we'll plan a little less and visit a little more, allow for more time to do everything, as well as more "down" time to let the kids detox from being on the go, and most of all, plan to enjoy the time off without filling it up with busyness!  That being said, I wouldn't change the trip we took for anything.  The kids absolutely loved Florida and even more, loved seeing their family and being able to stay with MaMa and PaPa and play at their house EVERY day!!  So, thank you.  Thank you to everyone who invited us in, fed us, took time out of their schedule to get together and see us.  For you, our family, we are forever grateful.  Not every kid gets to grow up with such a network of love and affection and family surrounding them.  Lucky for our kiddos, they can look in all directions and see, feel, and know they are loved, valued, and worthy of it all.  Lucky for me and Mark, we also have your love and affection, as well as your support in raising these crazy wild wonderful kids.  It's a nice thing to have roots.  It's comforting for me to raise the kids in a house that's been in my family for years and years, that my great Grandpa Charley worked on in the 1930s, that was an old house, according to my PaPa, when he was a boy around the same time period.  Mark and I can take our kids to places my great, great great, and great great great relatives lived, worked, and even the creeks where they played.  They ride their bikes at the park where the one room schoolhouse still stands that my PaPa went to school in and where my great great Aunt Nancy taught. It moves me nearly every day to watch the sunset in the back field or to drive on a dirt road and see an old well on someone's property and think of ghost stories my Granny G used to tell me about having to carry water up a hill in the woods past an abandoned cabin her and her sister swore was haunted.  It also moved me while we were in Florida to watch Mark get to do the same thing.  He was able to show and tell the kids about his roots, where he grew up and drove his PowerWheels Corvette to the park one time, how he remembered going to Disney when he was their age, how one time, a snapping turtle got in the yard and when his mom tried to move it with a shovel, it bit the metal part of the shovel and twisted it up!  The kids got to see aunts, uncles, and cousins they had never met or didn't remember seeing and took up playing with them like they'd done it all their lives.  That's roots.  Nothing in the world can take the place of that.  Family is everything.  And whether it was by choice, by blood, by adoption, or by accident, we are so thankful you are part of ours!!  Well, I've rambled on way too long, yet again, but the kids' birthdays are coming up fast, so be watching for the party play-by-plays!  I will also try to email a link to our vacation pictures soon, so you can see it all firsthand!  Until next time, love you all!!