Sunday, July 27, 2008

Once Upon Ben's Potty

This is the kind of post I won't be cross-posting to my community-based blog Red Pens in Wausau, which is hosted at Citizen Wausau. My audience there is not composed of mommy bloggers or my family, so they probably don't want to hear a blow-by-blow of my haphazard potty training adventures with Benji Boy.

But you do. :)

It all started last week Wednesday evening while Chris was at class. I was home alone with the kids, and Ben was tearing around the house (as usual), finding mischief where he could. At one point, he asked me if he could sit on the potty.

I said, "Sure! I'll blow bubbles in your face while you sit!"

He sat there for what felt like an hour, but was probably only 20 minutes. He produced nothing, but while he sat, I talked to him about how Anna has to wear a diaper because she's a baby, but Ben is a big boy, and he has a choice. He can go pee pee on the potty instead of wearing a diaper, and then he'll get to wear big boy underpants just like Daddy. It's the time-honored method of gentle pressure.

After he got off of the potty, we went into the bedroom to get a diaper on, but at the last moment, he squirmed and got down and said, "No boop-boop [diaper]!" And he ran around the house without the protective covering of a diaper.

Over the next two hours, we went into the bathroom periodically to sit on the potty and blow bubbles. I brought out a wooden dining room chair to put in the living room so he could watch TV without making me almost have a heart attack in fear that he would go pee-pee on my couches. No pee-pee was made anywhere. Not on the floor, not in the potty. He waited until he had a diaper on and was in his jammies. That's okay.

The next day, I made a big production of buying a Bob the Builder foam toilet insert so he would have a more comfortable perch on the seat. He was so excited about that; we spent at least three total hours on Thursday in the bathroom. When I tired of blowing bubbles, I squirted foam shaving cream into his hands, on his bare legs, etc. (followed immediately by bathtime). Still, no pee-pee was made. That's okay.

Friday evening, the no-diaper tradition was carried out at Ben's request. Sunday as well, though I was smart today. In addition to the foam toilet seat in the bathroom, I brought his little potty into the living room and sat him in front of videos he hasn't seen in a while. I even served him lunch on the potty. Still, no pee-pee was made.

I'll be patient. It's not like I'm actively trying to potty train the kid. I was waiting until he was more verbal, more aware. I know some children are potty trained sooner, but Ben never seemed interested, and every time I would cajole him or ask him about the potty, he would freak out and run away in terror, sometimes running into the bathroom to slam the lid down to make his position on the matter quite clear.

Now that I'm no longer working, maybe the extra home time will induce a potty-training-perfect boredom, and the potty play will be the most fun thing EVER.

We watch "Once Upon a Potty" at least once a day, and we sing and dance along to the accompanying song. Thank you, youtube.

I recently made the new rule that I will not blow bubbles again until *after* he has put his pee-pee in the potty. I don't know if that will help, but I know I am very sick of blowing so many bubbles. Besides, it covers the bathroom in a fine film of soap, and that's just icky.

What's your potty training story? Are you scared of it (like I am)?

Nana Update: After her consultation with the surgeon in Madison last Wednesday, she has good news to report. The surgeon doesn't think that she'll necessarily need another surgery. He says that the muscle isn't completely severed. If it was, her eyeball would have flipped all the way back, with nothing to hold it steady while she looks forward. He suspects that with healing, her eye will recuperate and either heal itself back together or it will accommodate the weakness. She'll be reevaluated in six weeks with an MRI in Madison. Until then, she has no restrictions, and she reports that her vision is getting better every day. We think we got our miracle!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Quiet Now Please

It's a quiet night here at the Mathis house. Chris is at class. Anna is eating something she found in the corner. Ben is tearing around the house with his huge Tonka truck, pausing to come get a kiss for his owwies after he crashes too hard into something. Yes. Quiet.

This is my last week of employment. Bittersweet, but not as bitter as it was leaving the first time. I know what I'm getting into (and out of), and I have a full life without work. I have projects on the back burner (Val's quilt, painting the living room) that I haven't had a moment to work on much this summer. And time away from the kids is rarely happy.

My mother is okay. Thanks for asking. She meets with a couple more doctors in Madison on Wednesday, and we're all expecting a miracle. The surgeon up here was unable to reattach the muscle to her eye, but we have a positive outlook on it. Once this is fixed, we'll have so much to celebrate, because the blessing will be even sweeter because it will be a miracle in our lives.

Anna continues to struggle with daycare. I wish it were like it usually is, where babies scream and cry when the parent leaves, but minutes later is fine. She really did cry the whole afternoon... wouldn't eat, wouldn't sleep. Totally breaks my heart. She'll be there all Wednesday. Positive spin #2. Without my mother having an injury, we wouldn't have this opportunity to get Anna over her stranger anxiety. After Wednesday morning, I have no doubt that she will be cured, and will love playing with other kids even when Mama isn't there. The last time, she was marginally better than before. Though she wouldn't eat, she did sit in the exersaucer and watch the other kids.

This coming weekend, we'll be traveling to the UP of Michigan to visit with my dad's side of the family at a reunion at Twin Lakes Campground, the site of so many of my childhood memories. The rocky beach, the playground, the trees, the boat rides. I'm not looking forward to the hours in the car, but the rest will make it worth it.

Thursday morning, Chris and I are participating in a one-mile fun run at work. I will do it mainly for the possibility of prizes, but the exercise will be nice, and just to prove to myself (and others) that I can do stuff like this now.

I told Ben the other day that life wouldn't be such a struggle if he went potty on the toilet instead of in a diaper. Last night, he asked, in his way, to sit on the potty. So we sat there, and I blew bubbles in his face. This morning, I bought a smaller foam potty insert for him (Bob the Builder), and he's sat on it frequently today. Lord, give me patience to blow so many bubbles. He hasn't produced anything yet, but I'm glad he's interested in it finally. Maybe once I'm done working, we'll do a potty boot camp. I have no idea.

Anna's black eye has followed the usual course of black eyes. What had first presented as a bruise above her eye on her temple has traveled down her brow and now rests on her eyelid with some shadowing underneath her eye as well. I'm so impatient for it to go away. It's rather embarrassing, and it detracts from her sparkle and charm, though she's still the cutest baby I've ever seen.

Did I tell you the tree in the backyard is finally gone? During ChalkFest, Chris and a bunch of guys from work were here with a couple of chainsaws. They didn't hurt anybody, and the tree came down. Unfortunately, now we have a backyard full of brush and logs since they didn't have time to haul anything away to the local yard waste site. I'm hoping that will get taken care of this week. I saved some of the big chunks of trunk for Ben to use as an obstacle course and generally as things to climb on. I've seen shows on TV where they've put huge boulders in the backyard for that purpose, and it seemed like the natural thing to do.

Our little family went for a bike ride together last week. Chris mapped out a 5.5-mile route on the north side of town, and off we went. It was lovely and fine until we found some hills, some gradual (those are killer), some steep and kind of scary. At least now we know that we should drive the new routes first just in case. We had to walk up a couple of the hills, and we were drenched in sweat when we got home, but we were pleased with our accomplishment. We are a family of vim, vigor and vitality, and we are not couch potatoes. We do stuff like ride bikes in the evenings and walk to parks.

How is your week starting out?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Chalk Dust

After the four-hour grueling ChalkFest time on my hands and knees last Saturday, I'm feeling more confident with the art medium. Not necessarily sidewalk chalk, but art pastels. I have almost an entire box left of artist's pastels, and I think I might create some pieces to hang in our stairwell. Big, bold, playful. Now I just have to pick a subject matter. I have four boards to decorate.

So ChalkFest. That was fun. Sponsored by Wausau Area Events, coordinated by the Center for the Visual Arts, it's a huge, family-friendly event that takes place on our "400 Block." This is a city-block size piece of property, a green oasis among the buildings of our downtown, with sidewalks surrounding the green space and cutting diagonal slashes to make an "X." For ChalkFest, the sidewalks are measured off and marked, and each artist is given a piece of sidewalk to decorate.

Oh my goodness, the beautiful art created that day (and the next day). It was fabulous to be a part of it. The biggest compliment was for a passer-by to click a picture of what I was doing, and it happened a pleasingly amount of times while I was there.

During the Citizen Wausau board meeting a few weeks ago when we were discussing the block we had purchased at the upcoming ChalkFest, the silence after asking if anyone knew any artists was uncomfortable and telling. "If you don't mind a childlike effort, I'll do it."

I can't freehand. I can't draw from memory. But as I've explained before... I can copy like a champ.

Once Chris and I laid out a grid and the rays element and started some circles with a compass, the rest was relatively easy. The impact of the graphic I copied (a square version of our site's masthead without the text) was in its geometry, the bold contrasting circles that became clouds and trees depending on the color and placement, the rays that became sky and grass, the blocky buildings that easily call into mind the recognizable buildings of our downtown skyline. Without needing much detail work, I was able to create a work of art that was striking and impressive looking. But it only took me four hours. Many artists better than I, with more detailed plans, took all day and the next morning.

Will I do it again? Hell yeah. I think I'll practice over the winter with the medium, and I'll choose a piece of art to imitate with more detail, and I'll knock everyone's socks off.

It was so much fun and so rewarding to do this bit of PR for Citizen Wausau, but it was even more enjoyable to meet some of the people that I have just known virtually through the site. We are a crazy cool group of people, and I'm proud to be a part of it.

Nana Update. The surgeon was able to sew up her face and the laceration on her conjunctiva, but he wasn't able to reattach the muscle to her eyeball. He's never seen a cut so deep. He called a colleague who he considers to be one of the best eye surgeons in the country, and that doctor has seen one so deep. The odds that it can be reattached are slim, but we are putting our hope in the next surgery. I found the fated sunglasses in the bike trailer last night, tossed there after the accident. They were bent, but intact. It is anyone's guess how that thick plastic was able to do so much damage. Thank you for your healing thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Why Helmets Are Necessary

A quick post so I don't have to twit/plurk the story.

Last night after my mom, Ben, Anna and I got back from Walmart, we all piled on our bikes to drive to the ice cream parlor a mile away. Just as we were pulling out of the parking lot to head back, my mother lost her balance and fell down on her face.

She was wearing sunglasses and no helmet. The sunglasses shattered on impact, scoring her face and eye area with slashes. She stayed face down, holding her face, the blood dripping through her hands. 911 was called. Paramedics arrived, and I rode in the ambulance on the way to the ER.

Besides some deep lacerations on her nose and her cheek that needed stitches, the major damage was to her right eye. The conjunctiva (the thin, transparent tissue that covers the eye) was slashed from side to side, and it quickly became apparent that she had severed one of the muscles that connect to her eyeball.

She came home with me at 1 in the morning after 4 hours of grueling eye exams and cat scans. She goes back to the hospital campus after noon today for eye surgery to reattach what needs to be reattached.

She's not in a lot of pain, but she feels humiliated and embarrassed by her klutziness. We love her dearly. Accidents can't be planned, and they can happen to anyone.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Anna Dumpling, Age Nine Months

Oh Anna Kathryn of my heart. You are nine months old today.

Your black eye shines back at me, not managing to shadow the intense sparkle of your blue eyes. Your brother Ben figured out that he could pick you up yesterday, and shortly after, you learned you could take a nosedive to the floor and land on your face.

And you smile, "a grin with limbs," still, finding joy in small things like a long lost pea or a plastic bag, finding ecstasy in fireworks and brother hugs. Your voice is deep and husky, and your chuckle and laugh doesn't quite escape your chest, though it rumbles and shakes your body with mirth.

Daddy loves how your personality is shining through. Ever the Mama's girl, you are stubborn and determined to get what you want, and now that you can crawl, you don't let anything get in your way. Put you in a room full of people, and you'll be smiling and gurgling at everyone, but only if you are being held by one of three people — Mama, Daddy or Nana. No one else will do.

Developmentally, we are starting to notice waves when you see people. You've mastered the commando crawl, and on certain surfaces, you do a modified monkey walk, one knee and one foot. No teeth yet, but that doesn't stop me from serving you peas, corn niblets, carrots, raisins, green beans, graham crackers, etc. You rake it all into your mouth eagerly, and you pulverize them with your gums.

You still don't sleep through the night, but for the most part, you are willing to get shushed back to sleep only every two hours, requiring only one night feeding now. You sleep in the big white crib in the dining room now, so when you nap during the day, I try to keep Ben in our bedroom with a movie, because if he sees you in the crib, he wants to join you and entertain you.

You two are so incredibly cool together. He's generally willing to let you maul him with your pinching fingers and your slobbery mouth. He in turn loves to coo at you and find ticklish patches of bare skin. He brings you his toys and balloons, though he sometimes pulls them away quickly to assert his dominance. Never mind, you love him completely, enthralled by his activities and exploits.

I'm coming to the end of my little sojourn into part-time employment this summer, and I'll always remember how much fun we had on Friday mornings when your Daddy would drop you off at work for a few minutes, and I'd steal you away to the lactation room. I'd nurse you in privacy, feeling like I was the luckiest woman in the building, luxuriating in your soft skin and warm body pressed against mine, while everyone else in the world was relegated to that cold, sterile "adult" world with spreadsheets and campaigns. Afterward, we'd walk back to my cubicle to call your Daddy, and you'd right away grab for any stray papers I had left within reach.

If I would let you be in a room alone with your favorite toys, I'd come back to see you wrapped up in Mardi Gras beads, tissues pulled one by one from the box and strewn across the floor, soggy bits of paper that you had chewed and spat out, balloons wet with your saliva, books with your favorite pages ripped out, and laptop cords snaking a path through the whole glorious mess.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Maze In My Head

The day after Independence Day, we followed my sister's family down the road to Sawdust Days in Oshkosh, WI. Instead of throwing ourselves into the crowds around the fairgrounds, our destination was "Little Oshkosh," the amazingly intricate wooden city in a corner of Menominee Park. Wow.

We could spend all day there, and hopefully this summer, we'll actually do that.

There's something so peaceful about being in a place that is the object of so many people's talents and imaginations. It felt like a locus of creative energy, and I felt revitalized. The toddler fairy tale land with carvings and paintings to remind you of Mother Goose's family of stories was especially enchanting. This place is a dream for me.

I didn't even get a chance to explore much of the older kids' section, a maze of narrow and steep bridges and steps, tunnels and entryways, corridors so low you have to crawl and rooms in the far reaches of this children's castle that are perfect for hide-and-go-seek and princes who are devising their fortress' defenses.

I'm living so much in my head this summer. It's not necessarily a bad thing; it just is. I feel like I'm in the center of a whirlwind hurricane, but here inside the Eye, I am calm and still, separate from the chaos, but surrounded by it.

Sitting there in a tucked-away corner of Little Oshkosh nursing Anna, I looked out across this fanciful landscape of dreams and triumphs, and I felt deeply comfortable in my heart. I'm having so many new experiences now, I've opened myself up to so much more, so many more people, I'm left breathless at the transition. For the most part, I am just leaping with my eyes wide open, not looking back, not looking down, just looking ahead towards the unknown, having faith in my intuition.

Right now, I'm looking ahead to a very special project I'm calling the Scott Street Stories in my head. With my new BFF Dino, we're going to craft a book together. I was so deeply honored when he asked me if I would write it with him, and it felt like a puzzle piece had gently clicked into place. I've always felt there was a book inside me, but I kept slamming up against the brick wall of my empty imagination. I don't have characters and stories percolating in my head. I never have. Whenever I've tried to draft a story, I end up writing myself. I can write, but I had nothing to write about.

Enter Dino, a 37-year-old hurricane with a breadth of experiences behind him, notably a career on the sidelines of a live music industry, a career full of interesting stories. He's giving them to me, a precious gift, an immaculate rough diamond for me to carefully hone into a jewel. That's right, folks. I'll be writing a book about live music and bars. Tell me. When you think "Cheryl," don't you think about live music and bars?

He knows about my lack of history with the subject, and his encompassing faith in me is humbling. I think I'll have a fun time hearing his stories for the first time, entering into this world that is so foreign to me, finding a voice, and writing.

Friday, July 04, 2008


The wind took ownership of my hair, and I nuzzled Anna's bald little head, savoring her warmth, relishing her soft skin, her barely-there strawberry blonde hair.

My own hair flipped and flew, twisted and tangled as we soared over Lake Winnebago.

Crazy hair, swept and swirled. Crazy soul, ruffled by the wind, shaken by the speed.

I felt the same freedom I felt when I was younger and enjoying boat rides, but now with a new weight as my worried heart lurched with each bump that, in my wild imagination, could send Ben flying overboard. Another new weight was perched on my lap. My daughter snuggled awkwardly against me in her life jacket, her eyes squeezed tight against the wind.

Memories. Their first boat ride. Gage's and Ben's blonde heads in a row as they sat side by side, enjoying the ride together. A pair of rapscallion toddlers, braving the wild world together. Taylor, the experienced older sister and cousin, hovering with the care and attention that makes me smile every time I remember.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Great Big Gigantic Family Extravaganza!

Sometimes I feel a bit isolated from my siblings. They all live within 45 minutes of each other on the eastern side of the state. If I ever move away from Wausau, I will want to move over there to throw myself into that mucky, wonderful mess of people.

Tonight after Chris gets done with his last economics class ever, we're driving a couple hours to Oshkosh. It'll be the middle of the night, but she's leaving the door open for us. A saint. A very pregnant, beautiful saint. Tomorrow morning, we're getting up at the butt crack of dawn to get ready to drive to a 5K race that benefits wounded soldiers.

Everyone and their grandma will be there. That is, everyone in my family will be there. I'm not sure who all is racing, but we managed to guilt everyone into showing up for the occasion (Hi Everybody!). My parents will even be there, though my father would rather be in the UP.

Afterwards, we're having a great, big, gigantic, blowout of a family picnic back at my sister's house in Oshkosh. After that? I have no idea. We might even stay another night, we'll be having so much freakin' fun!

I'm excited to see everyone and show off my kids. I'm excited to walk (not run) a 5K "race." I'm excited to show off my new rykä Tri Trainers for the festivities. I'm excited to see my nieces and nephews and lovingly rub my sister's tummy.

What are your plans for the holidays?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Evidence of Joy

I don't think I've ever embedding a viral video on this site before. Hell. I don't even mention them. I watch them, though. And this one rocked my world in such a good way.

The guy's name is Matt Harding. He's a goofball. He's the "star" of the following video. It basically shows him dancing in various places all around the world. Something fantastic happens, something that wrapped my spirit in joy, something that leaves me with happy tears sliding down my cheeks every single time. I can't pinpoint where in the video my heart overflows, but it's definitely there.

Chris had this to say about it, "Neat. It makes you feel like maybe there is a chance. Maybe the world isn't going to hell in a handbasket." Okay. I paraphrased.

You can read more about Matt Harding and why and how he made this video by going to his site. I found out about this video from a post on ParentDish. If you watch the video, please watch at least two minutes of it. The video takes a little bit to get into the good stuff. There's no talking, just some music over a slideshow. But what a slideshow!

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.