The Seven Year Hole

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Earlier this week I had a dream about my brother.

I remember when Tim was a baby. I watched him in his little swing and wondered, “When will he be a real person?”. Of course, he was a real person, but in my five-year-old mind I wanted to know when we could be friends. When could we play together, talk together, and understand each other?
As Tim grew out of his toddler years, we did become friends, and we did a lot together. My two older sisters liked to hang out, so that left me and Tim to find our own things to do. Sometimes, we were quite creative. I remember playing the “dolphin taxi game” one summer whenever we were at the beach. I was the dolphin who acted as a taxi and gave Tim rides to where he needed to go. Our plot was much more developed than that, but I can’t remember the details anymore.

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I remember that every time we went to the Northwest Michigan Fair, or any other amusement park, I liked to go on the kiddie rides with Tim. I was big enough for the “real” rides, but he wasn’t and I was completely content to ride in circles on cars and boats. That lasted until one trip to Michigan Adventure when the man controlling the ride actually yelled at me because I was “too big”.

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As I graduated from elementary school and moved on to Junior High, my memories with Tim start to fade. Between busier classes, school sports, and new friends in the youth group at church, I started spending less time with my brother.

Junior High turned into high school and I started spending my summers working at a Bible camp. Church kept me busy with mission trips and youth group. School kept me busy with AP classes, orchestra, and the National Honor Society. Then there was boy drama and friend drama and all sorts of time-consuming and emotionally draining…well…drama. And I had so many other things on my mind that I let my brother slip out.

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I never stopped liking Tim. I never stopped thinking of him as my little brother or as my friend. But I inadvertently turned my back to him as I turned my focus to everything else. Even when I was home I was busy with homework, chatting with peers online, or locked in my own room journaling and reading.

And I moved on, without thinking, and left Tim behind. When his best friend switched schools, I wasn’t really there. When he made the big transition to junior high, I didn’t ask him about how it went or even find out if he was nervous. When he had a job that he hated, I didn’t know what he did there or why he hated it so much. Without thinking twice, I missed out on everything that was going on in his life, and I didn’t bother to share with him what was going on in mine.

Seven years have gone by since I graduated from high school and went away to college. For seven years I haven’t been able to do much with Tim because I haven’t been at home. But for seven years before that I had already left him. And now I can’t go back. Sure, there are emails. There are occasional three-day visits when Dan and I have to figure out how to visit about 24 relatives, a few friends, and somehow make time for Lydia (and Mommy) to take naps. So now, as I look back, I miss it.

I miss the dolphin taxi game. I miss the kiddie rides at the Fair. I miss pretending to be the lamb in the car on long trips when Tim would feed me my “milk” from an empty pop bottle. I miss those walks to the Boardman Lake where we fed our dog spicy Cheetos. I miss being the quiet shy ones who didn’t have to be quiet or shy when it was just us. I miss those seven years when I blew it and ignored Tim because I was too involved in all the other bright and flashy things going on around me.

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So you out there who are still at home with your siblings: please don’t blow it. Don’t ignore your siblings because they’re always around, because they’re younger or “less mature”, or because your other friends seem more interesting. Talk to them, play with them, love them, and pray for them. Someday you may need them or they may need you and you may look back and realize you have a seven-year hole to fill.
To you parents, I encourage you not to stop telling your children what my mom always told us when we were fighting. Someday, you’ll move out, you won’t get to see each other even though you’ll want to, and you’ll miss it.

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The Date God Planned

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Last week was a rough one for me. Three days of attempted potty training left me behind on laundry, cleaning, and everything else. On top of that, Baby #2 has been gifting us with lots of hormones that make Mommy very emotional. So it was a long, tiring, emotional week.

My sweet husband wanted to do something special for me this weekend and hatched some secret plans while I was getting ready for the day on Saturday. We spent the whole morning out grocery shopping, and came home to a hurried lunch. Afterward, we got back in the car to go visit some friends at the hospital who had a baby on Friday.

Now, to understand my surprise and Dan’s enjoyment of this part of the day, you have to know a little bit about me and directions. I’m not terrible with directions, I just don’t pay attention. If I drive somewhere or see directions on a map or written down, I can get to where I need to go. Mostly though, I just depend on GUPS (which is what we call our GPS). Dan is great with directions and is super independent on top of that, so he would rather get somewhere on his own than use a GPS anyway. So, for that reason and a few others, Dan is the primary driver in our household. And I happily keep him company from my passenger seat, paying little to no attention to where we are going or how we are getting there.

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This brought Dan much delight as we headed to the hospital, passed the hospital exit and kept on going, took a different exit, pulled into a parking lot, and stopped. I thought we were just turning around. So, when Dan asked, “Do you want a brownie?” I was a little confused. Of course, I said, “yes”, because I’ve been craving brownies for the past few weeks, but didn’t understand why he was asking me this, now, and why he parked in the parking lot that wasn’t the hospital. Dan practically had to explain what was going on before I figured out that he has planned to take me to Zingerman’s Bakehouse to get me one of the best brownies in Ann Arbor (according to Google) and spend a little time on a mini-dessert-date before going to visit our friends and their new baby at the hospital. Oh.

Not all plans work out the way we expect, though, and we didn’t actually have time to do anything but buy the brownie and get back in the car. Oh well. I saved it and figured we could eat it together after Lydia went to bed. We visited our friends, the day ended far too quickly, and we tucked Lydia in for the night. We settled down in the living room and shared our brownie and I got ready for a nice long talk. Minutes later, Dan fell asleep and I was left alone on the couch feeling pouty and miserable. Other than the super-delicous brownie, our attempts a date has completely failed (in my late-night-pregnancy-induced-emotional-opinion)

By Sunday, I was able to move beyond my disappointment and enjoy the day. We didn’t get Lydia tucked in to bed until almost 9:00 and sat down to watch just an inning or two of baseball before going to bed early ourselves.

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But then we started talking. And somehow some random questions about baseball and the related commercials turned into our sharing memories from elementary school and high school. After telling stories we’d never told each other before, we marveled at how it was that we ever ended up together. We were SO different. It was one of those happy and confirming moments when you realize that God had worked something out in a way contrary to logical expectation or even our own best plans. An “inning or two” turned into one hour turned which turned into two, and somewhere along there we turned the baseball off anyway. Around midnight we decided that it was far past our bed times.

Somewhere during that conversation I thought to myself,” I feel like we’re on a date”, just like some of the ones when we were getting to know each other before we were married. Only this was better because at the end we got to pray together and go to sleep and wake up, all without having to say goodbye.

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And so, after a long week, and a somewhat failed date-attempt on Dan’s part (except for the successful surprise and the delicious brownie) God blessed us with our own little date-night, unexpected and unplanned. And we both walked away thinking, “I’m going to be so tired tomorrow” but also “We should do this more”. And it’s moments like these that I can’t help but smile, knowing in my head and in my heart that God really is a sweet Father who loves to give us good gifts.

Proverbs 19:21
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

Potty Training Update

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I had no idea that potty training was such a big deal! Thank you to all who have given advice, ideas, prayer, and encouragement since I recently mentioned our first attempt at potty training Lydia. Here’s the full report on how the week went.

Day 1

The method we decided to use involved letting Lydia go diaper-free all day for three days. Because of the current setup of our home, this required Lydia and I to stay in the bathroom all day, whenever she was awake. After breakfast we headed to the bathroom and brought the laptop with us. To pass the time we would listen to Adventures in Odyssey, watch my sisters latest vlog posts, and click through Swagbucks videos (Swagbucks is a topic for a whole different post, but if in the meantime you happen to decide you want to join, please feel free to put me down as a referral). The day wasn’t as long or difficult as I had been dreading, but it wasn’t as successful as I had hoped.

Lydia either doesn’t go to the bathroom very often or she was holding it in. She had about four accidents all day. Each time I would quickly put her on the potty and explain that we go in the potty. By the end she was saying “woops” if she had an accident and even said “Potty!” once right before she had another accident later.

For lunchtime, naptime, and once Dan got home, I put a diaper on Lydia and she promptly went in the diaper, like she had been saving it up all along.

Day 2

Tuesday morning was similar to Monday, but the time passed more slowly. Much to my dismay, Lydia had her first accident while I briefly stepped out of the bathroom to bring her some watermelon. Later, she had her first real success, but she had been asking to sit on the toilet for so long, I’m not sure she really realized when she actually had to “go”. Nevertheless, we celebrated with a short break outside and some raisins, which Lydia absolutely loves.
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Lydia stayed in the bathroom for lunch and ate while sitting on the toilet. She went in the toilet again, but she had been sitting there for a while and I’m not sure she was actually learning anything. She filled her diaper at naptime.  When Dan came home we decided to continue the training by just putting pants on Lydia without a diaper. She wet herself during dinner but obviously was unbothered because she had no reaction whatsoever and sat there until she was done eating and we cleaned her up.

Tuesday night was my breakdown. I didn’t see any progress, was questioning if I was doing it “right” or just confusing Lydia by putting the diapers on her occasionally. I was bored in the bathroom and not looking forward to another whole day of the same.

Day 3

Wednesday actually seemed like Lydia was making a little progress. She would say potty throughout the day, sometimes right before she went and sometimes when she didn’t appear to need to go at all. She was walking around like she had to go for long periods of time and I suspect she was just holding it in. This day she started crying when I put her on the potty and kept asking for me to put a diaper on her. We were both unhappy by the time Dan got home.

Wednesday night we had Bible study so it was on with the diaper for the rest of the night and Lydia seemed very pleased.

Where do we go from here?

While we’re not declaring our three-day attempt a complete failure, it also wasn’t all we had hoped. We suspect Lydia is (at least developmentally) too young to recognize very far ahead of time when she needs to go. However, we don’t want to confuse her by completely throwing in the towel. So lately I have been asking her throughout the day if she needs to go potty and then sometimes I put her on the potty regardless of her answer.

What do you think?

I have heard from a lot of moms already, but what do you think? I guess I’m not exactly looking for criticism on what we have already done (I’m sure there were lots of points where we did it “wrong” and could have done a lot better), but rather some ideas about what to do next. We’re really ok if Lydia doesn’t potty train for many more months, but don’t want to confuse her by just going back to diapers and forgetting the potty altogether.