Raising a Blended Family

Time for someone to potty train

At two and a half, we have dabbled in potty training our son but not taken the actual leap. There have been a few half-hearted attempts at starting that were stopped before they really began, and there were a few dribbles in the toilet here and there- but we largely have held off potty training for convenience’ sake. We haven’t had time, we had our 15 hour road trip to Disney, we had errands to run and didn’t have time to stay home with a potty-training toddler, etc etc.

In spite of our own reluctance, it has been increasingly obvious in the past few months that our son is ready to take the leap- even if his moms haven’t been yet. He has shown potty interest, wakes up generally dry, and asks to sit on the potty occasionally. 

The crowning moment of this building momentum towards potty training time, however, came tonight while pax was playing in his playroom solo. Out of nowhere, he came running into the kitchen where we were and we saw that he had stripped himself of both pants and diaper. “Potty!” he exclaimed, “poopoo potty!” We clarified if he was asking to go sit on the potty and he said YES and ran towards the bedroom where the bathroom is. I was expecting him to pee on the carpet at any moment but he didn’t. He lifted up the toilet lid, got his elmo toilet seat situated, clambered up onto the seat… And peed. A full, big stream of pee that he had obviously been holding just so he could peepee in the potty! 

When there was no more pee, he matter of factly said “all done!”, slid down, and went to the sink so he could wash his hands. We did a potty dance of joy and then we ran out to tell mama what we had accomplished. Holy CRAP. My son ASKED to go potty, and then went!

This, more than anything else, shows me that he’s ready. He is not only ready, he is READY. And if we don’t potty train this kid soon, he just might do it all by himself!

So, potty training starts at 0800 tomorrow! Luckily, for the next five days in a row, either shorty or I (or both) are off work anyways. Hopefully plenty of time to train our young sir- wish us luck!

Update- HE DID IT AGAIN TONIGHT! Right before we got in the shower, we were standing there and he climbed up on the toilet and peed! 




Whoooaaaa, we’re halfway there

(Whooo-OO, livin’ on a prayer!)

Can you guys believe it? Time is FLYING by. We are a little over halfway there now and you know what that means- ultrasound time!

We had our anatomy scan this past Tuesday and it was great to see baby girl again since we haven’t seen her since about 8 weeks- and man has she grown since then! She officially weighed in at 13 oz (57th percentile) and was dated at 20w5d (which means she’s caught up, since the last time she was scanned she was running a week behind). They didn’t see any developmental abnormalities whatsoever, but we did get a close peek at her opening and closing her mouth, trying to get her thumb in there (it wouldn’t go. Pesky thumbs).

Shorty is feeling good overall and says she feels FAT (I am constantly reminding her that she is PREGNANT, not fat!). She definitely looks pregnant now and the pregnant waddle has started (sorry honey, you do). She’s been having a lot of hip/ligament pain but the chiropractor she sees has been helping her with some stretches for that which she says are helping. Overall her moods are stable(r) and her energy has increased.

Anyways, here’s some pictures of the ultrasound (sorry about the crappy picture-of-a-picture quality) and a (lazy) bump pic- we simply haven’t had time to do the chalkboard pics here lately!

21 weeks 4 days right now- less than twenty weeks to go now!









We’re baaaaaaaaack!!!! Shorty keeps pestering me to post for y’all, so here I am. Disney was amazing. Vacation was amazing. FLORIDA was amazing. I am going through withdrawals.

The car trips, both there and back, went pretty smoothly. I will say that this was 5% because of all the prep work I did, 15% because of snacks and food (and a few well-timed stops to McPlayPlaces), and the other 80% due to our brand new dual screen DVD system in the car. Yeah, that one was a hit. Frankly, as we were driving neither one of us much cared what the kids were doing, as long as they weren’t screaming! They did spend quite a long time sleeping, since we started in the evening and drove far into the night on the way down, and completely overnight on the way back up.

We stopped for a day at a beach on the drive down so that we could all enjoy a beach day (coming from a landlocked state, this was a real treat). We had an amazing time building sand castles, wading in the (really. fricking. cold.) Atlantic, and enjoying the sensations of sun and warmth for the first time in forever. The beach was beautiful and, being a west coast native, it was my first time seeing the Atlantic! Very pretty, it was. The beach is “home,” to me, and so for me it was a part of the trip that was just as equally anticipated as our Disney stay. The sun, the sand, the water… beautiful.

Of course, for the kids (and my wife), Disney was the highlight of the trip. We stayed on property at a Disney resort, which was a new experience for me despite being an annual passholder to Disneyland, California for most of my young adult life. It was nice, and allowed us to take convenient midday breaks for tired toddlers and cranky pregnant women. This mostly equated to Shorty sleeping while I took the kids to the pool for a few hours each afternoon, but it worked out  because Thing One entertained herself and Pax kept himself mostly busy splashing in the kiddie pool (allowing me to relax and sit down), plus, when I was entertaining him, we were floating together in the adult pool and I got to rest/float/renew my tired tootsies! So it was nice and a good way to allow us to enjoy our time in the parks in the evenings.

We did the Disney dining plan, which was also a life-saver for us. Basically, it allowed us one sit down meal (with table service, like a normal restaurant) and one “quik service” meal (think cafeteria style) per day, per person. Pax isn’t yet 3, so he was free and we didn’t have to pay for his meal plan! Wahoo! We also all got a snack credit per day, plus Disney allows you to bring in your own food and beverages. Ultimately, we ended up eating VERY well at Disney- so well, I think I gained a few pounds, despite walking a kajillion miles a day while there! A lot of the meals were “character dining” where different Disney characters would come out and interact with you during your meal- this was a HUGE hit with the kids. Thing One really liked meeting Mickey at the character meals (and Anna and Elsa later on, not at a meal), and Pooh and friends were a huge hit with Pax-o. I was happy to see that Thing One wasn’t too old not to be swayed by the magic of the different disney characters; she was shy but eager to greet the princesses even though she had previously told me “they’re not real, mom” all skeptical-like. Guess she forgot to be a big kid for awhile. Also, Pax was HILARIOUS with the princesses. There was one time where we were waiting in line for Anna and Elsa and he was just done. He was NOT having it. We were having such a hard time dealing with him in line and I’m sure the other parents around us thought we were horrible people for not controlling our wild child! It was awful. However, as soon as they called our names and we walked into the room where the Princesses were… his eyes lit up and he was 100% Prince Charming from there on out. He was sweet, he smiled, he took their hands, he told them hello! There was zero trace of the tantruming toddler from just minutes before. At the end of it, Shorty and I were commenting to each other that we are in BIG. TROUBLE. with him, because he already knows exactly how and when to turn on and off the charm, as needed.

Rides were fun- we got to ride a lot of stuff together but for bigger rides, it was always Thing One and I off riding a roller coaster or something while Shorty and Pax went on a little kid ride somewhere nearby. Shorty pouted about this a bit, but ultimately agreed that it was much better not to risk hurting the baby and to abstain from the rides. We did a lot of 3D shows which were a big hit with everyone except Pax, who wouldn’t keep his 3D glasses on! That’s alright though. We had a blast and it was the trip of a lifetime. We are already talking about going back- Shorty wants to go back in 5 years for her 40th birthday, which will be when Thing One is 15, Pax is 7, and Shiloh is 5… good ages to return to Disney!

In the meantime, here’s some Disney magic pictures from our amazing trip. So sad to be back in the real world!

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Toddler in a Car (Part 3)- DIY activities to keep Little People strapped in their car seats and busy!

The next component of our toddler-entertainment system is homemade, DIY projects. These are modeled more after creativity/exploration/self-learning activities and specifically tailored to be ones that won’t make a huge mess in the car. Some of them may be simplistic, but all of them are keyed to fit Pax’s specific interests right now, including fine object manipulation (zippers, buttons, etc), “shiny” things, and the simple ongoing-love of getting into anything and everything he can. So, here we go:

First up, a simple magnetic activity board with various activities included with it. The actual “activity board” is just a cookie sheet from the dollar store, with lots of items that either came already-magnetic or to which I added magnets. All that you see here will probably be split up into two different activities that we’ll give him at different times, with the sorting cups and smaller objects being one activity and the animals and letters being another activity. I’ve also added some magnets to a few dry erase markers, to a piece of laminated paper… the hope is that all will stick to the board and make it easier for him to color.

magnetic activity board

I told you some of these would be really simple, and so this one is:

a simple zipper pouch with buttons and wooden spools inside it. Pax currently loves manipulating zippers, and loves taking objects in and out of containers… this is the best of both worlds for him!

zip pouch

Another current love of his is wallets. He absolutely adores getting ahold of one of his moms’ wallets, and will happily sit down for an hour and carefully remove every single individual card and piece of paper, one by one, from said wallet. So, it seemed like a good idea to give him his own wallet to play with this time around, made with an old wallet we no longer use and a bunch of old cards. There are also buttons in the pockets and zippers of this as well, for more exploring and play.


Sticker time! This one is pretty self-explanatory, but we have SO MANY STICKERS for this trip. Elmo ones, disney ones, beach ones, etc… I’m planning on drawing a few “scenes” for him on some construction paper that he can decorate with his stickers. The boy loves stickers.


Random objects: When my wife saw me getting out the stud finder, she wanted to know what in the heck I was planning on doing with it. It isn’t, after all, a toy! But to our toddler is is- and so are other nontoy, household items. He loves to hear it beep and loves the way the buttons light up green and red… and, he hasn’t played with it in a few weeks because I hid it, so it will be practically “new” to him! It’s coming with. 🙂 Phones are another current loves of his, and so this old nonfunctioning one should be the perfect play toy. The other things are just things I think might interest him for a bit. I’m planning on having a random toy/object bin that we can use as fillers for other, bigger activities.


Playdough balloons: I found these on pinterest and I was a bit skeptical. How much fun could they be, after all? However, after making them, both my wife and my daughter have become obsessed with them! So I know they’ll get some use out of them, even if Pax doesn’t.  Basically, you put play dough inside an uninflated balloon (best to have a helper, one person to hold the balloon open and one to shove the playdough in) and tie it closed. All the squishy fun of playdough and none of the mess! It will be interesting to see what Pax thinks of these. Supervision required, of course.

playdough balloon

Glitter distraction bottles: no doubt you’ve heard of these before! I originally saw them in use as a time-out tool; you fill them with glitter and water, turn them once, and when the glitter is settled the child can get out of time out. However, I decided to expand this idea and put interesting things inside as well as glitter- I added some food coloring, beads, rubber bands, tiny figurines… all sorts of things to be spotted in the blue sparkly water. I also threw in some screws, which make fun metal clinking noises when the bottle is turned over. I topped it off with water, oil, and a little bit of detergent to make bubbles (because this boy loves bubbles!) before I hot glued the lid closed. Both Shorty and I have tried our very best to pry the lid off and been unable to… so I feel relatively confident that it’s toddler-proof.

glitter busy bottle

Eye spy: this is actually a look-and-find activity for our nine-year-old (with an accompanying laminated sheet dry-erasable sheet of items in the bottle for her to cross off as she finds them), but along the same lines as the glitter bottle, I’m sure it will entertain him twisting and turning and watching the rice fall!

eye spy

Color-matching activity: This was made using paint swatches and clothespins. Easy-peasy and I’m hoping it will keep him occupied. It comes at a time he is learning colors and getting them right about 50% of the time, so it is well-suited, developmentally.

color matching

Button snake: This was something else I found on pinterest, with a button fastened on one end of a ribbon and various pieces with holes cut in them to “thread” the button through. Not something he’s even remotely done before, so it should be interesting to see how he likes it!

button snake

Random Box: This box was born out of an afternoon spent watching my son carefully and with great concentration spend an hour crouched over a “junk basket” I have, picking out all the items one by one, carefully examining them, and laying them aside until the basket was empty. Then, he reversed the process, all with great concentration and complete immersion in his task. We’ve been slowly adding random items to this box (it is fuller than this now) and we even have a second “rotation” of items in a gallon ziploc bag ready to swap out if he gets bored with the current lot. It’s all about small things he can look at, feel, maybe play with for a minute… it’s all about exploration and discovery!

busy box

Beaded felt board: Saw this one on pinterest as well, in a slightly different form. The idea is that toddlers can push around these beads without actually being able to get them off the strings. This sounds fun but I am tempted to redo this board in a bigger, better version. I fear that this one is too small and simple and that he will tire of it quickly. I guess we will see! I should note, I saw soooo many cute sewing projects out there involving this sort of thing, but I am a strict non-sewer, so I felt rather limited in what I could accomplish. This is a first try but I think it could be better.

bead slider

Magnetic Puzzle: This is another sister-toy that I made simply by putting magnetic pieces onto a puzzle she already had. Wa-la, puzzle-on-the-go! Paxton has a similar puzzle with bigger pieces, more appropriate for his age.

magnetic puzzle

So that’s everything so far! Things I intend to make still include drawing a “road scene” onto a cardboard piece for him to have a road to drive his cars on, and also a pompom activity involving pom poms and stuffing them through holes into a container (again appealing to his love of opening, shutting, putting things in, and taking things out).

If you have any more ideas for me I’d love to hear them! I just want this child to be entertained and not bored! 🙂


Toddler in a Car: Purchased Sanity-Savers (Part 2)

Edit: so, this post had a part one to it but WordPress seriously ate it. It’s just- poof- gone! Instead of retyping my entire post, I will quickly tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly:

We’re going to disney world next weekend.

We’re driving.

It’s 13 hours.

And strapping the children to the top of the car is not an option.

SO, now that we’ve established the facts , this post is about trip preparation, round one. We’ve made things, we’ve bought things, we’re making trip decisions… But this post is about the things we’ve thus far bought to keep our kids entertained in the car!

Item number one is this travel tray from Amazon. One of the first things we realized is that if the toddler doesn’t have a surface to play ON, it’s going to make playING a lot more difficult, which in turn makes our entire car trip a lot more difficult. So, we invested in one of these. They clip around the toddler’s waist to stay secure while in use. They have great reviews, they’re made out of soft foam so they won’t hurt them in an accident, and they seem sturdy enough to support basic eating and playing functions. We’ll let you know how it went after the trip but I’m excited to have it to use!

snack play tray

Along the same lines of functionality, we also bought a few of these:

sippy grip

I know, I KNOW, we’re probably the last parents-of-small-children of EARTH who do not own one of these yet. I honestly don’t know what we were thinking, especially since a favorite toddler game around here (especially while in the car) is “throw the sippy cup, cry for the sippy cup.”  which then morphs into “scream for the sippy cup when moms refuse to pick it up anymore.” Holy crazy-making batman. I am 100% sure that this device is going to save us during this car trip. Does it make me a little evil that I can’t wait to see the look on littleman’s face when he tries to throw his sippy cup down and realizes… he can’t? Muahahahaha. Gotcha now, sucka!

…Ahem. Sorry. Regular-me is back now.

Anyways, another amazing purchase is something I found on another fellow mom blog. A simple yet genius idea, it involves using a shower caddy ($1 at dollar tree or target) to dole out fast food meals/snacks in order to prevent spillage, droppage, and the like. We have already tested it out and it works wonders! It’s so much easier for the kids to hold onto and keep their meals organized when they have them in these plastic bins. Less spillage, less droppage, less mess overall… they’re awesome! These are now a mainstay of my car and will be used not only on this trip but for many trips to come.

road trip snacker

So, besides the dual screen DVD player we bought, that’s pretty much it for the “functionality” purchases. Now, onto the toys. We tried not to buy too many because we already have a TON of toys at home and because we knew we would be making some DIY-car activities as well; however, I am not unaware of the magical abilities of a new toy to spruce up a sulky toddler and so we did make a few small purchases.

Item number one was an impulse-buy from Target, and since I saw that it was on clearance I figured, why not:

crayola dry erase

Reviews for it are so so and I have my doubts, but I’m sure it will be good for a little bit of entertainment, at least. It also has the added benefit of appealing both to my toddler and to my nine-year-old, so it will get good use, I’m sure. And if it doesn’t… it was cheap.

Item #2 I’m much more enthusiastic about, at least where my son is concerned. I KNOW he will have a blast with it:


An Aquadoodle! This particular version is the travel version, but they come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Pax loves to color (preferably on walls, it seems), and this will let him do so (on an approved surface!) with zero mess involved. All you need is water! Amazing.

I also found these cool lacing cards that are, bonus points, Disney themed.

mickey lacing cards

I might have to show him how to start them since he’s never done it before but once he gets the hang of it I think it will keep his attention and concentration for a good long while. They are made by Melissa and Doug- I am a huge fan of their toys and this one does not look like it will disappoint. Thing One might be interested in these as well.

The rest of the things we bought were little things- dollar station finds. Silly glasses, light up balls, sitckers, etc… We plan to individually wrap these and give them out as “gifts” every so often as needed for bored kids. Half the fun will be for them to unwrap their “gifts” and it will take them longer as well to get to the toy which will make the entertainment time of each toy go up. All good things!

So, this is the end of part 2 for how to keep a toddler entertained on a road trip! Stay tuned for part three, which is all the silly things we’ve made so far and things we plan on making to entertain the kidlets.


18 weeks

We have reached the 18 week mark and are just two weeks shy of being halfway! Neither one of us can quite believe it- this pregnancy feels like it is speeding along so very fast.

As the weeks go on, I continue to become more and more acquainted with my new, nongestational partner role. So many things are the same, and so many things are different when you are expecting a baby, but not pregnant with one. I begin to feel a certain sympathy with expectant fathers, and yet for as many similarities as I can find in that sort of comparison, there are differences and flaws as well. the most obvious I can think of is that when a man says he is expecting his next child, no one ever assumes he is the pregnant one! For me, it happens all the time. It happened to me yesterday, in fact, during a slightly awkward, slightly funny conversation with my OB clinical instructor as we were performing baby-care on the mother-baby floor of the hospital. I was holding someone’s very small baby in the nursery, telling a nearby classmate that I couldn’t quite believe I was going to have one of “these” around again (“these” meaning a teeny tiny baby), and up walked my clinical instructor. She isn’t a lady I know well but she is very nice and so when she asked what I meant, I was fine with clarifying to her that I am expecting my next child in August. She was excited and immediately started peppering me with questions, asking about previous children, boy/girl ratios, what sex I wanted this child to be, etc etc. They were all the typical questions one expects to be asked when revealing the expectation of a new child. I answered her rapid fire questions and then the conversation was abruptly over as she was called away to help a classmate.  Never in the conversation was there space or even the possibility brought up that though I am expecting, I am not pregnant, and I am quite certain that she now thinks I am. Eventually, this misconception will be remedied (she might wonder where my baby bump is as we get into the summer months), and that’s okay, but it’s the need to remedy this at all that has me slightly bemused. Last go-round I was the one pregnant, no further explanations needed. This time, there is a sense of owning, and yet not-owning, the pregnancy and expectation of this child. It is happening around me, but not to me. I am part of the story, but I am not the glue that holds the book binding together. I am not the one writing the story this time, and that is a different- but not unwelcomed- role for me to take. It just happens to be one that can be hard to explain to others.

Another difference I’ve noted, is that though we are both pretty relaxed about this pregnancy now, I do find myself worrying comparatively more with this pregnancy than I did with Pax. Or maybe I just don’t remember the worry. Maybe it has to do with a lack of control- it’s not my body it is happening to, and I can’t feel her body or the sensations she’s experiencing as Shiloh stretches and grows and makes room for herself in this world. Thus, when Shorty winces in pain after she gets up, I jump. I have no way of immediately knowing if she is wincing because Something Is Wrong, or if she momentarily stubbed her toe or had a bout or round ligament pain. I never know if it’s panic time, or band aid time. I can’t feel the twinge in my uterus or the aching of the hurt toe, and so I am left in the dark, momentarily blinded, waiting for enlightenment to tell me all is well. It puts me more on edge, this not-knowing. Sometimes, Shorty will try to describe a pain or a twinge to me, to get me to tell her if I think it is normal or not based on my pregnancy and also clinical knowledge. It is hard to walk the line between “it’s probably all fine” and “I can’t feel what you’re feeling/don’t remember feeling that way and this scares me”. In short, I am having to come to terms with playing supportive partner, rather than being the one able to describe the aches and pains because they are happening to me. Such very, very different roles they are!

We had a mini fight the other day, too. It basically boiled down to me needing to realize that I have to give up control, and learning how to do so. This process, the giving-up-control process, is something that started the moment I injected that syringe full of sperm into not-my-body, and it is constantly in progress and underway as we move through the trimesters. To say I am not there yet would be an understatement but I am trying, trying so hard to be graceful and open and supportive. Sometimes I fail. Hence, the fight: We were talking about some sad addicted-baby cases I had seen in clinical, and how some of them were born addicted to things like caffeine and nicotine. Shorty does not smoke, but she does drink caffeine during this pregnancy, and sometime she drinks what I regard as too much, but she regards as “okay,” amounts of caffeine per day. We ended up fighting because I was telling her I wanted her to lessen her caffeine intake so that our baby doesn’t come out addicted, and she was saying it’s fine the way it is and that she’s not hurting Shiloh. Ultimately, I was still mad but had to give in. I had to realize that there is nothing I can do about how much caffeine my baby is exposed to because it is not my body she is growing in and I am not the one controlling what goes into that body. I do trust Shorty but that is still a scary thing, to realize I have absolutely zero power to protect my child while she grows in her Mama’s womb. It’s all up to her Mama, the woman I love, married, and now must trust to carry this baby safely into the world. And I do. I do trust her, even when we disagree on parenting choices. But it’s an adjustment, and sometimes adjustments are hard on those undergoing them. This one is no exception and I am constantly having small moments, little pieces that remind me of my metamorphosis from gestational to nongestational partner.


A Bedtime Story

For your viewing pleasure, we now present a bedtime story read by none other than Mr. Paxton John-Russell.

Enjoy and sweet dreams!