Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The New Adventures Begin

This is the last post to Elise's Blog. With the birth of Ellie's little brother, Lucas Wolfe Molloy on 9/29/08 at 10:09 AM, we can no longer simply report the skinny on Elise. The new adventures can be read at our new family blog at http://themolloyclan.blogspot.com/

To all our friends and family - We love you all... SOOOOOOOOO MUCH!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New Obsessions

Elmo has been at center stage in Ellie's world for just about a year now, which I think is a pretty long time to seriously hold a child's interest. I was beginning to think that her love for Elmo was here to stay. But now I can see that new things are cropping up on the horizon. It's not that she doesn't like Elmo anymore. She still loves her Elmo dolls and gets excited when she sees an Elmo balloon in the grocery store. And actually, this weekend Gram and Grandpa took her to see an appearance by life sized Elmo at a local orchard and she hasn't stopped talking about how much fun it was to see Elmo and dance with him on Grandpa's shoulders. But the out and out obsession that she used to have has now simmered down to a mere adoration.

These days, Ellie is all about Dora. We don't have cable and we only have one Dora DVD that she has watched twice ever (she's not that interested in it), so her obsession is not about watching Dora on tv, it's about Dora STUFF. Ever since all the other girls in her class came in wearing Dora underwear, she has been all about Dora stuff. Dora toothbrush! Dora band-aids! Dora socks! Dora underwear! And the last few times we've been to the library it's also been all about Dora books. The Dora books are filled with words and phrases in Spanish, which I am miserable at pronouncing (and Marty constantly teases me about it even though his pronunciation is not that much better than mine) so they are not my favorite, but she loves them so I am working on my Spanish skills. (I can't believe I wasted my time taking French in high school - seriously everyone should have to take Spanish if only to be able to read Dora books to your children).

On the TV front, she used to only want to watch something if it had Elmo in it and otherwise was not at all interested in TV. Which was fine with us. This summer, as her Elmo obsession dwindled, so did her interest in TV. We went weeks and weeks without watching a single minute of tv at all (not that she was watching all that much before - maybe 20-30 minutes a day or every other day, but still). Then came that fateful day a few weeks ago at the beginning of potty training when I was trying to figure out a way to entice to her stay seated on the potty for more than 5 seconds so that she could poop and I put in a Wiggles DVD.

Boy was that a mistake! Now all she ever wants to do is watch Wiggles. Not just any Wiggles, just this one specific DVD (Pop Goes the Wiggles). That's all she would ever do if we allowed it. We let her watch some of the DVD almost every day after she cocks her head to the side and says "Let's watch a little bit of Wiggles. Okay? Just a teenie, tiny bit?" How can you deny that? For those not that familiar with the Wiggles, they are these annoyingly energetic Australians that sing and dance (badly) with a Dinosaur and an Octopus but man does she love it! This DVD is all nursery rhymes, and I must say that in the month that she has been obsessed with it, she has learned every nursery rhyme under the sun and is constantly singing them. I guess knowing all your nursery rhymes at 2 is pretty cool, but Marty and I are always singing them too because you can't get those songs out of your head! Ever! I am currently working to wean her from the Wiggles Nursery Rhyme addiction so that I can have my sanity back and stop thinking and talking in rhyme.

Another new thing that she is obsessed with is her stuffed Winnie the Pooh. She has had it since she was a baby, but in the last two weeks she has really grown a bizarre attachment to it. Pooh is apparently a very, very sad bear, because she is always telling us that "Pooh is sad" or "Pooh is crying" and she walks around with him on her shoulder shooshing him and patting his back to make him feel better saying things like "It's okay Pooh, don't cry" , "What's the matter?" and "Do you feel better?". None of her other dolls or stuffed animals are ever sad or crying - just Pooh. She wants to carry him around with her all the time now (he needs the comfort!), push him in the stroller and sit him at the table at mealtime. He has become a (sad) little part of our family.

P.S. Marty is recovering from surgery well (still a bit sore, but almost as good as new), Juan is growing and kicking like a champ, Ellie has done an excellent job with her new classroom at school and continues to rock the house with potty training and I continue to have a great pregnancy (which my doctor recently called "textbook perfect" - does that jinx me and guarantee that I will have a horrible labor?) as I quickly approach the 39th week!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Curve Ball in the Bottom of the Ninth

It was dark and stormy this Friday night. There was a lot pain and a late night rush to the hospital. Something was extracted from the patient, followed by a two day hospital stay for recovery. Ellie missed her hospitalized parent very much.

This is a very similar story to Ellie's birth and the fact that I am full term would make it seem like this is Juan's birth story. But, alas, Juan is still rolling and kicking in my uterus. It's Marty that went to the hospital and his appendix that was extracted (and his surgeon's name - I kid you not - was Dr. Butcher)! What started out as some stomach pain on Friday turned into an appendicitis, which led to an appendectomy early Saturday morning. Poor guy actually drove himself to the hospital (because Ellie was sleeping) and then had to go through the whole ordeal pretty much alone because the hospital doesn't allow children under 10 to visit patients (except in the maternity ward). Thankfully Marty's parents came over and watched Ellie so that I could visit with him, get our car and then pick him up from the hospital on Sunday afternoon. Appendix-less Marty is doing as well as can be expected for someone who just had surgery - he's pretty sore and not exactly moving around at lightning speed, but luckily the surgery went well and after some recovery time should be good as new.

Elise is a little confused as to why now BOTH of her parents are claiming they can't pick her up, can't roll around on the floor with her (although Mommy is trying to do a little of that since that is Daddy's forte and he REALLY can't do it) and now everyone in the house is saying "be gentle around my belly!"

Seeing as how Marty can't do any heavy lifting, can't sit up without wincing in pain, can't drive (due to the Vicodin) and can barely walk, we are hoping beyond hope that Juan stays put at least for another two weeks so Marty has some time to recover before we are swept up in birth and newborn baby craziness. Cross your fingers for us!

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Transition to Transition

This week at daycare, Elise had what is referred to as her "transition week" to a new classroom. She has been in the Infant-Toddler class since she started at this day care, and now (along with most of her buddies right around her age) she is moving into the next class which is called the Transition Class (the in between stage of toddler and Pre-K). The Transition Classroom is a little more structured than Infant-Toddler, the kids naps in sleeping bags, and they really focus on important skills they'll need for Pre-K like potty training and education basics like the alphabet and numbers. They're also encouraged to be more independent and self-sufficient.

At this day care, when a child moves into any new class (or beings the program) they have a "transition" week where they are slowly introduced to the new place/room. For her transition week (which began on Monday), we dropped Elise off at her regular Infant-Toddler class, and one of the teachers took her over to the Transition Class for a few hours, then brought her back. The second day, the teacher took her over to Transition for a few hours more than the day before, then came back to get her...etc for the rest of the week until the last day when you drop your child off in the new classroom and pray that they are going to be relatively adjusted to the new surroundings. Elise does not always do so well with strangers, so we have been a little worried about how she'd transition to Transition. She's seen these teachers on the playground and in the hallways and they all know who she is (and vice versa) but Ellie does have quite an attachment to a few of the Infant-Toddler teachers and she really isn't one to take to change too easily (when it comes to people).

So when we picked her up on Monday afternoon, we were shocked to hear that she had an absolutely terrific first transition day! Apparently she didn't want to go over to the Transition Class and was being shy when she first went in, but her buddies Sara Jane and Audrey came running over to greet her (they both had their "transition" last week) and welcomed her into the new class with open arms. After that she was much more comfortable and apparently made herself at home. One of our biggest fears was that she would not feel comfortable enough with the new teachers (Kim and Denise) to tell them when she had to go to the bathroom and that would lead to lots of accidents and regression (potty training has been going really well - she rarely has accidents anymore, averaging maybe one accident every four days and it's usually a situation where she is trying to go, but just doesn't make it to the potty on time). Turns out Ellie was too shy to tell them when she had to go, but she took it upon herself to just go by herself whenever she had to go and never had an accident all day! Apparently the only break down she had the whole day was when all the other kids were getting ready for nap time and Ellie didn't have her sleeping bag (they hadn't told us to bring it in yet) so she couldn't nap with her friends. The good thing that came out of that was that she finally let Kim hold her! First day = success!

On Tuesday, things were apparently very similar to the first day. She really didn't want to go over to the Transition Room at first, but got more comfortable once she got there and started hanging out with all of her familiar pals. This time, we did bring her sleeping bag. The sleeping bag came in a backpack, which might have been the highlight of her day. She was REALLY excited to wear her backpack to "school" and I have to say it made her look really grown up and it made me have a little panic attack about how quickly she is growing up! Anyway, the second that she walked into the Infant-Toddler class that morning, she excitedly showed Panela her backpack and sleeping bag and was in a wonderful mood and seemed really excited about napping with her friends. Turns out that she didn't end up napping over in the Transition Class though - apparently she missed her favorite teachers too much and chose to nap back in Infant-Toddler. Other than that, Transition Day number two was a huge success.

Elise doesn't attend daycare on Wednesdays and Thursdays, so for those days we were really playing up how great it was going to be in her new class on Friday. Turns out all of our talking about it didn't really help. When we dropped her off on Friday morning, we took her to her new classroom. First of all, as we passed her old class, she ran over to the door and then started throwing a fit when we reminded her that wasn't the class we were going to. Marty had to pick her up and carry her to the new class - on the way pointing out all the same things that she sees every day that are still there and familiar. She settled down a little and Marty sat with her at the breakfast table while she ate some waffle and blueberries. She seemed like she was getting comfortable and got excited when her friends Max and Sara Jane arrived and were happy to see her. Ahhh, maybe this wasn't going to be so bad after all!

Ellie and Daddy pushing Tasha and Lauren (her dolls) in the swings
Then, another little girl named Elizabeth was dropped off right just as we were about to make our exit. Elizabeth is new to this school (she just started last week) and apparently has some separation anxiety issues. Elizabeth was a crying, screaming wreck ("MOMMY! I WANT MOMMY!"). Elise, who had finally seemed fine with being in the new class, suddenly started crying ("I want Daddy!"), seemingly egged on by hysterical Elizabeth. She flung herself onto Marty and latched on so tightly, he eventually had to actually pry her off of him. Denise (the teacher) took her and encouraged us to go ahead and leave, as Elise screamed and reached for Daddy and tried with all of her might to get the heck away from Denise. Elizabeth, meanwhile, stands up and runs over to Denise, even more hysterical because first her Mommy, now Denise abandoned her. Marty and I left poor Denise to deal with the insanity (Elise screaming and squirming in her arms and Elizabeth screaming and clinging onto her leg and Sara Jane and Max yelling about Cheerios) with pits in our stomachs. Leaving your screaming child is completely heartbreaking - even if we know that it's likely that she'll be totally fine in just a few minutes. You leave with that image of your child screaming and reaching for you, eyes begging DON'T LEAVE ME! and you feel nothing but crushing GUILT.
The Molloy's with the Wolfe's (Oma, Opa and Uncle Wolfe)
At 4:00 on the dot, Marty and I headed out of work and rushed over to pick up our poor little traumatized daughter, hoping that we hadn't scarred her for life by leaving her with strangers (and screaming children). I walk in and Ellie is on the floor playing with Little People. I put my hand on her back and she looks up and smiles "I'm playing Little People Mommy!" she tells me excitedly and goes back to playing. Seriously. I mean, she was happy to see me I guess, but really Little People were much more exciting. After a few minutes I tell her we should get her stuff so we can go home and she tells me "No, I want to stay here." I felt guilty all day long about leaving her in unfamiliar territory and now she tells me she never wants to leave! Urgh! But, we were happy because obviously the day quickly turned around (unfortunately we only got to see the rough part!). She used the potty with no problems and was accident-free all day, played and had fun and even napped in her sleeping bag without a problem. Kim even said that Ellie was warming up to her - she wanted Kim near her (but not touching her) at all times.

I'd say that all and all, it was a successful transition week, and I think that she will quickly grow to really love her new class. Obviously we hope the Monday drop off goes more smoothly (perhaps we should find out when Elizabeth usually comes in and make sure we get Ellie there 30 minutes before that) but at least now we know with that even if there are some tears at first, she's a trooper and a big girl and she's going to be ok.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

We're Ready! (Sorta)

It's hard to believe that I am already 36 weeks pregnant (!) and that we will have a newborn in the house in just a few weeks. After much discussion and deliberation, we finally decided to leave Ellie in her room and set up the nursery in the room next to Ellie's (the former playroom). I was the one hedging about this because 1. the nursery would be right next to Ellie's room and Ellie is a notoriously light sleeper and 2. because that "room" is teenie tiny and doesn't even have a closet. But people talked me into it - and they are right - it is just not practical to have the baby up on the third floor. No one wants to trek up the stairs multiple times in the middle of the night, and really how much space does a baby even need? When Juan gets to be about Ellie's age, we'll probably move both of the kids up to the rooms on the third floor and they'll have an entire floor to themselves to romp around on (ok, I say it like it's tons of space, but really it's just two small bedrooms and a tiny bathroom and a minuscule hallway but whatever. That probably seems like a lot of space when you're two and four). And Ellie is going to have to learn how to deal with the baby crying in the night, regardless of where Juan's room is and she will eventually get used to it.

Anyway, we left Ellie's room the way it was (with the exception of her new big girl bed) decorated in jungle theme and we went with a barnyard theme for the nursery. I bought a bunch of adorable barnyard stuff off of Craig's List (such a second-time around parent thing to do) and Shoshana's friend Tammi loaned us a matching mobile and some wall border (thank you!) so the theme came together nicely. Oma and Opa then put the finishing touches on the room with an adorable paint job and it the whole thing looks really cute. In the past two weeks, we've also dug out and washed all the newborn unisex clothes we could find, pulled out the infant car seat and made a baby diaper run at BJ's, so I am feeling like all of the basic elements are in place. We've also come up with several plans for what to do with Ellie should I go into labor at various times of the day.
Oma hanging out in Juan's room
I went to my regular baby check up last week and the midwife started grilling me about having my hospital bag packed and my birth plan written (neither of which I'd even thought about) so I guess we're not totally prepared, but I plan to do that this weekend. But what we really need to work on now is our mental preparation. I am sure that sounds silly, seeing as how we've had 36 weeks now to mentally prepare for this, but we are still both feeling pretty nervous about balancing a newborn and a toddler, and every day that Ellie gets older and becomes more of a big girl, the more foreign the whole infant thing seems. Yes, it was only about two years ago that Ellie was in the infant stage, but so much changes so fast that it's hard to remember any of the little details from the first year, never mind the first few weeks. Looking at the tiny newborn diaper, I have no recollection of Ellie ever being so small (and she was a small baby!).

Ellie seems to be prepared for her little brother or sister too. She talks about the baby regularly and talks to Juan and gives Mommy's tummy a good night kiss almost every night. I am still not completely sure that she understands what's actually happening, but she did say the other day that she would share Tasha (one of her favorite dolls) with the baby, so I take that as a good sign of things to come.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Taking Care of Business

We are potty training. And no, this is not one of those times when the presumptuous man says something annoying like, 'we are pregnant.' No, I've recently learned that when your child is potty training, the whole world is potty training with her. Whole world in this case being:
1. Me
2. Meredith
3. Oma
4. Opa
5. Gram
6. Grandpa
7. Panela, Serita, Ameena, Melinda, Belu, Teri and everyone else working at her daycare
8. All the other kids at the daycare
9. People at the BJ's in Plymouth Meeting
10. All people driving on Ridge Avenue at around 6:00 PM on Sunday
11. All the people at the playground in Whitemarsh
12. Kristin Sladen
13. Everyone enduring this ranting blog

Indulge me please as I explain Ellie's approach to taking care of business this fine Sunday.
Ellie and her second cousin, Cassin
As long time readers of this blog already know, Sunday is Meredith's day to sleep in, so I got up with Ellie that morning. Now, we've been very seriously potty training this whole week, but up to this point, daycare, Oma and Opa and Meredith have done all the heavy lifting. I've only had to cheer, participate in some "Potty Parades" (I'll get to that) and generally tell Ellie with all sincerity how incredibly proud I am of her. Ah, how I miss those laid back days at work.

We start the morning as usual, with your basic playtime. I had changed her from her overnight sleeping attire (including diaper) into some clothes for the day including her big girl underpants. We were playing Sesame Street when all of the sudden it's Niagara Falls in our basement. Ellie wet her underpants, the rug, and I'm pretty sure the cement underneath that. It caught her by surprise - she is crushed and frankly, I don't think I was as positive as I should have been because from that moment on, Ellie wanted to switch back to diapers. It's not that I was negative at all, but this situation had left her in a state of shock and I was busy cleaning, not comforting.

This sucks for many reasons. Not only had everyone else that week been tremendously successful at the training, this was the first time Ellie and I had been alone for hours and I blew it. All the efforts that came before me from so many people and now, she's not going to be out of diapers until she's five. (I do tend to exaggerate.) Nevertheless, this is what is going through my mind. Finally, Ellie and I get out of the house, avec diapers, and get ourselves thoroughly distracted with the playground and coffee at Wawa. I explain to her that when we get home we're going to make pancakes, wake mommy and try to sit on the potty again. She's an open -minded-get-back-on-the-horse kind of gal.
Daddy and Ellie in a Potty Parade
Fast forward past two mini-tantrums with Meredith about going on the potty and around 10:30 - she pees on the potty. This is big. This calls for an all out, bust a move, run in circles like an idiot singing your heart out Potty Parade to get her back in the swing of things. What pray tell you ask is a 'potty parade'? Why, it's only a huge celebration of all things Ellie going on the potty. Whenever she goes, we all look in the potty. Then we start to sing and dance and march around in circles to the glories of Ellie going on the potty. It may seem forced and contrived to the outsider, but the sheer excitement and joy a parent feels when their child is beaming with pride at their opus in the toilet is quite genuine. She has not been inspired to use the potty by offerings of stickers or toys or other rewards/bribes. Nope, it's the Potty Parade that our little one loves.

This is just the beginning, because after that it's a litany of poop and pee in the potty all morning and early afternoon. Truly it was exciting, but the real test comes after her nap. So, fast forward past the nap. We're heading to BJ's for some major shopping. The tension builds as Ellie asks for some juice in the car. Oh boy. Juice runs through her like the Mississippi. The clock is ticking. We get parked and get in the store and Ellie says she has to go potty. Oh boy. Fortunately, on the suggestion of her mother, Meredith purchased a literal port-o-potty yesterday that is collapsible and fits in the diaper bag. Ellie's never used it and we've certainly never gone in a public restroom. Oh boy. They rush off to the bathroom. I wait anxiously for the news dreading the sense of defeat that can only come when a star on the rise suffers a terrible defeat (see: USA relay teams trying to hand off a baton.)

They emerge and Ellie spots me and runs over with a huge grin, 'Daddy, I peed in the potty!!!!' I throw her up in the air, kissing her on the way down with cheers and high fives. You did it, Ellie!!! You listened to your body and peed in the potty. Announcements come over the loudspeaker: Attention BJ's shoppers, Ellie Molloy has peed in the potty! The place erupts in an ecstasy of pride and joy. ( I tend to exaggerate.) Nevertheless, people around us must have thought we were crazy.

Our potty break in the parking lot (yes I had the camera!)
The tests came fast and furious after that though. Later we're leaving BJ's and as we approach a particularly long light, a tiny voice in the car seat in back says, 'Daddy, I have to potty.' Oh boy. "Hang on Ellie, as soon as we get though the light I'll pull over, can you hold it?" Oh boy. The light of course takes longer than ever and the other side has a left turn arrow of course, C'MON!!!!!! We pull into the vacant restaurant parking lot right on a major road and like a Chinese Synchronized Diving Team, Meredith and I are working in perfect harmony. We get Ellie over near a wall and within seconds she is peeing out in the middle of the wide open air without a misappropriated drop to be found! Of course, we do a HUGE potty parade on this one throughout the whole parking lot. Drivers staring at us be damned, we are potty parading like there's no tomorrow.

But wait, we're not done yet. For those of you still reading it actually gets more exciting. We stop at her favorite playground on the way home and she pees again. This is big because she actually stopped playing, communicated she had to go potty, and we ran like lightning to the public restroom and again, a perfect potty 10. We stayed at the playground for a really long time and ended up having a little BM accident, but in the grand scheme of things, we'll just gloss over that.
Ellie and Meredith with Ellie's Great-Grandmother (Nanny)
At home she goes two more times, but it was this last one that was the most exciting. Ellie had already eaten her dinner and so we let her go watch Wiggles while we ate our own. Silence from down stairs... I check on her. Everything is fine. As the meal wears on, silence still from below. The phone rings and Meredith needs to take it (it is Kristin returning her call) so I go downstairs to check on things. I get to the bottom of the stairs and ask her if she needs to go potty. Ellie casually tells me that she went to the potty, and points it out to me. And she has, in fact, used the potty. Completely and totally on her own. Neither of us there to ask her if she needs to go, neither of us there to help her get her undies down, neither of us there to help her on her seat or hold her hand as she goes (she likes to hold hands while she goes and frankly, wouldn't you?). She went to the potty and was pulling her undies up all by herself. My little girl was taking care of business. And this is one of the best days of my life.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Training Day

Spending the past few weeks watching the Olympics really had me thinking about all of the rigorous and persistent training that goes into getting someone to compete as an Olympic athlete. The hours and hours of effort and work to get those athletes to that point. It also made me realize that potty training is well named. It is training. It is hard, tireless work. And we are knee deep.

That's right, the Molloy family has taken a real plunge into potty training. Potty training involves lots of reminders, patience, persistence, and a delicate balance of support and encouragement without being overbearing and obnoxious. And feeling like you can never leave the house. And talking about bodily functions so much that you cannot remember the last time you had a conversation that did not involve some variation of the words "potty" "pee" or "poop". (It's a good thing we aren't going out much because no one would want to have a conversation with us right now!) Training, we have found, is all-consuming. We have been dabbling with the idea of potty training for many months. Elise been interested in it for a while now and has even successfully used the potty several times in the past six months. But we never really did anything proactive about it - no real training, I think in part because we were hoping that she'd one day say "I don't want to wear diapers anymore" and magically start using the potty all the time. You hear stories about that happening all of the time. Everyone I know has a story like that! So, as it is in our nature to be lazy, we were hoping that's how it would be with Elise.

About a week and a half ago, we went to pick up Elise at daycare and Panela (the head teacher in her class) mentioned in passing that Elise's pal and classmate, Sara Jane, was completely potty trained after just two weeks. We were amazed. Sara Jane is only a few weeks older than Ellie, and Sara Jane's mom and I were talking about the possibility of potty training just a month ago. What this means is, if we want Elise to be potty trained, we, like Sara Jane's parents, are going to have to actually do something about it and not just sit back and wait for it to magically happen. It boiled down to this: either we give it a real shot now, or we wait until the spring or summer so that we're not trying to potty train with a new baby in the house. After much debate and discussion between us and some of the teachers at daycare, we decided to go ahead and go for it. She is showing an interest now, and she might be inspired by Sara Jane, as well as another classmate, Andrea, who had also just started training.

The first few days did not go so well. Panela suggested having Elise sit on the potty every 30 minutes throughout the day to get her comfortable with sitting on the potty, and to help determine her regular schedule so we can anticipate when she'd have to go. Being the headstrong child that she is, Elise suddenly never wanted to sit on the potty (even though she loved doing it before she was asked to) and tended to pee the nano-second I put her diaper back on. So after one frustrating weekend, I was ready to give up. Then last Monday she went to school and suddenly the momentum was back! She came running out to greet me, telling me that she used the potty and wanted some Dora underwear (apparently she easily caves to peer pressure because Sara Jane and Andrea both wear Dora underwear). Turns out, she'd had a very successful day, wearing underwear all day at school and successfully using the potty three times! I immediately jumped on the Dora underwear bandwagon.

Since then, we have been making strong and steady progress. She is still not able to make it through nap or the night without an accident, but for the most part, she is averaging about 1-2 accidents (while she's awake) per day. I am so pleased with the progress she has made in just one short week! Of course I know that any kind of training is going to be on-going and yes, we will face setbacks along the way. But I also feel invigorated by Ellie's success and by the efforts of all of the many, many people involved in the training process thus far. It's amazing the overwhelming, beaming pride you feel for your child for doing something as simple as peeing on the potty. I totally know how Michael Phelp's mom feels...