Monday, January 21, 2013

Potty Training 101

I'm going to share a fun story with you.  If you're pre-potty training, listen up.


In the fall, I attended a potty training conference.  Everything shared within this post came directly from the conference, and none of these ideas are original to me.  
{You can find more information here:}


Guess what?  I have a secret.  I've been waiting to spill the beans until I was really, really, really sure.

Carter is potty trained.

Oh my word.  

I confess that I always just assumed Carter would be 6 - 7 - 8 years old before he was potty trained.  I thought that was the norm for kids with Ds.  And many times, it is.  But there IS a better way.  It IS possible to potty train a 3 - 4 - 5 year old with Ds.  

Want to know how?

As I said - these ideas are NOT my own (Certainly, if I were this smart, I would be cashin' in.  I'm not.)  But I want to share this method here, because I know there are SO many of you who might benefit from this information.  And shame on me for keeping it to myself.  And SO many have asked HOW we did it - now I can just say 'go read the blog!' instead of going into a 20 minute tangent.

So here's what we did.

+ We waited for a 'quiet' time.  For us, the perfect time was after Christmas.  Haleigh was not here for most of the week, and I had no plans, no school for Carter, etc.  I woke up on December 26th and knew that it would be Carter's last day in diapers.  On December 27th, we bought Carter big boy underwear, and we haven't looked back.  

+ The process is intense.  Be warned.  But the results - well, the results speak for themselves.  For us, the process looked like this:

{1} We set up camp outside the bathroom.  I grabbed favorite toys, favorite games, and the one HOT item that Carter can't live without - An iPad/iPhone/laptop and B-I-N-G-O from YouTube.  I also had paper towel, spare underwear, & a not-well-liked toy near by.  I also had him guzzling water.  Because in order to potty train, he actually has to go potty.

{2} Carter spent most of his time standing.  The point is that when he feels he has to go, we don't want any distractions in his way.  Even standing up could be an excuse for him to just have an accident.  So he played standing.  

{3} On the first day, if I thought he had to go I would gently prompt him into the bathroom and sign potty/make him sign potty.  It was important that Carter led himself into the bathroom, instead of being pulled in.  He needs to learn how to do this on his own, without my help.  Once he was in, I would help with underwear (because he's just not there yet) and he would sit on his potty chair.  Each time he went potty, he got a treat WHILE ON THE POTTY.  I think that was the key for Carter.  He knew that as soon as he went, he got the treat.  

{4} When he got off the potty - he would get to watch Bingo and a few other videos (about 10 minutes worth).  The purpose is to show him that going potty ON the potty is fun - rewarding - exciting - etc.  

This was after several days, as you can tell, because he's laying down instead of standing.
{5} Uh-oh, It's an Accident...  :)  Does anyone else listen to Potty Time?  'When you bonk your head, or when you wet the bed...Uh-Oh, it's an accident...'  :)  Okay.  Moving on.  When Carter had accidents, I would make him 'clean it up'.  Usually there wasn't anything to clean, really.  But the purpose here is to reinforce that accidents are NOT fun.  For Carter, the clean up time wasn't a big deal.  He didn't care.  He even laughed sometimes.  But regardless, I made him 'scrub' the floor while repeatedly saying 'Oh no!  You had an accident!  Oh no!'.  I didn't sound angry - but I didn't sound happy either.  I tried to keep my tone somewhere between surprised/shocked and frustrated.  And remember that not-well-liked toy I mentioned in {1}?  After the accident is cleaned up, I would get out that toy.  And that's what Carter got to play with for 10-15 minutes.  Again, reinforcing that going ON the potty is lots of fun - and accidents stink.  

{6} Once Carter initiated using the potty himself (without me prompting him to go in) I stopped prompting.  The way it was explained to me, is that Carter needs to trust his own body to tell him when he has to go - NOT when mom or dad or teacher tell him to go.  When I stopped prompting, there were a few more accidents, but I looked at those as teaching opportunities to reinforce that accidents were not fun.  

{7} We did 'dry checks' every 20 minutes or so.  We would celebrate when he was dry, and if he wasn't, we would go through the accident process.  It was a good reminder for him to stay dry.  

Even sweet Haleigh got to enjoy the benefits of Carter going on the potty :)
+ That's the process, in a nutshell.  We did this process - hardcore - outside the bathroom - for about 4 days.  At that point, we felt he had a very good understanding of what was expected of him and we branched out into the livingroom/play area/etc.  We would still go through the accident process if necessary, and treats for going on the potty.  He went back to school on day 7 and did pretty good, considering the drastic change in routine.  Day 9 & 10 were filled with accidents - and we figured we needed to change things up.  I emailed the teacher from the conference, and she suggested giving minor rewards for dry checks to continually remind him to stay dry.  It worked!  Day 11, 12, & 13 were almost accident-free, and he even made it through a whole morning at church without accidents.  

+ I have to say, when I was sitting at this conference, a part of me thought 'I can NOT do this...'.  It seems a little scary, but it's so doable.  You just have to commit to it, and then DO it.  Don't switch back to diapers - don't put diapers on when you go to the store - it just creates confusion.  Carter still wears diapers at night, but we take him up to bed, lay him right next to his crib, and put his diaper on RIGHT before we put him in bed.  He understands that diapers/'accidents' are JUST for bed.  

+ It helped me to have a been-there-done-that mama waiting in the wings.  I shot her a warning text the day before Day 1 and my phone lit up with things like 'Stay strong!' and 'Call if you need anything!' and 'Good luck!!!'.  I only called her a few times in 4 days :)  Then finally, 'So excited for you!! Congrats, Mama!'.  Sigh.  

I did it.  We did it.  HE did it.  

+++++I cannot say it enough - these are NOT my ideas.+++++
+++++I'm only sharing them with you so that you can maybe benefit from them as well.+++++

That's it.  So proud of our boy.  

One Thing I Know For Sure: Done with diapers!!  Done with diapers!!  

Thursday, January 17, 2013


It's done.  After over two months of being terribly ill, Moses is asleep.  For good.

I can't even tell you how Jake and I have agonized over this decision.  Moses first showed us he was sick the week before Thanksgiving.  He mouthed his food and dropped it - which was so out of character for this oink of a dog.  We thought he had a tooth problem, and it wasn't until the diarrhea started that we started to worry.

{Yes, I said diarrhea.  I'm sorry.  Diarrhea has been our life for over eight weeks.  The word no longer makes me squirm.}

Weight started melting off of him, and we knew we had a serious problem.  The doctor did her best to diagnose him, but just couldn't figure out what the problem was.  We put him on every medication - every treatment - even did an exploratory surgery.  Nothing helped.

Eventually his appetite dwindled to nothing, and his hips started bothering him.  Jake did a Google search, and came up with something called Addison's Disease.  He called the vet, and she agreed this was a likely diagnosis.

We never did the testing for Addison's.  The vet believed it was Atypical Addison's, because it didn't present on lab work like Addison's usually does.  Atypical Addison's is very costly to treat, and treatment would be life-long.

That just wasn't an option for us.  And we had to make a decision.  So we did.

Monday, we agreed, would be the day.  Why wait until Tuesday?  Why delay the inevitable?

As I was doing the dishes Monday afternoon, Moses slithered off the couch and assumed his position - directly behind me, back against my legs.  This is something he hadn't done in many weeks.  It felt so...normal.  And I knew it would be the last time.  No more slobbery kisses - no more walks - no more trips to St. Germain - no more chasing bunnies - no more food sneaks from the counter.  Break my heart.

I always imagined Moses growing old and gray with Carter by his side.  They were meant to be buds, and now....well, you know.

This picture.  Oh, this picture.
Taken in St. Germain this past summer, Jake made it into a canvas for my birthday.
It hangs in our living room now.  Sweet Moses - next to his buddy - looking off into the distance.
Break my flippin' heart.
It was time, and Moses was such a trooper.  He laid so nice while the tech's made several attempts at finding a vein.  He didn't even blink when they had to stick him over & over.  Dude knew it was time.  Finally, they found a vein and the doctor came to inject him.

Moses got up - looked around - and gently fell right into his daddy's arms.  And that was it.

We sat there for a few minutes, and pet our little furry friend.  Every bone in his body stuck out, every rib was traceable.  This is not our Moses.  This is not the Moses we'll remember.


In all of this, I've been looking for the good.  I found it.  Here it is.  On Monday, we said goodbye to our dog.

Our dog.  Not our child.

Thank you, Lord.  It could be so much worse.  The pain we've experienced has been gut-wrentching.  Because of the love we had for our dog.  Our dog.  Not our child.  We are so, so blessed.

It could be so much worse.  It can always be worse.

And that's all I care to say about that.

One Thing I Know For Sure: "The average dog is a nicer person than the average person." - Andy Rooney

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Today's Slaves {Follow-Up}

The response to this post, about human trafficking, was overwhelming. Your eyes and hearts were opened to something so terrible - so spirit-crushing - so unbelievable.  You were outraged over monsters preying on kids before they even leave the orphanage.  Disgusted that there are over 200,000 slaves on American soil.

Slavery is real, and it's happening today.  In our neighborhoods, in our schools, and - dare I say - in our churches.  

Because of the huge response, I thought it appropriate to do a follow-up post.


I mentioned in my last post that America is the second-highest destination country in the world for trafficked women.  It's real.  It's everywhere.  Even here.

Here are a few clues to look for:
Evidence of being controlled
Evidence of inability to move or leave their job
Bruises or other signs of physical abuse
Inability to speak for themselves
Non-english speaking
Appears malnourished
Has few or no personal possessions

If you notice some of these clues, and are beginning to suspect that someone is being held or forced to work against their will, here are some questions you should ask:
Can you leave your work/job situation if you want?
Can you come and go as you please?
Are you being paid?
Has anyone threatened your family?
Have you been physically harmed in any way?
What are your living conditions like?
Do you have to ask permission to eat, sleep, or go to the bathroom?

If you suspect someone is being trafficked - report it to The National Human Trafficking Hotline by calling 1-888-373-7888.  They receive an average of 1000 calls per MONTH, and all calls and tips to this number receive immediate follow-up.

Although much of my previous post referred to the sex slave industry, there are MANY other forms of slavery that some of us have likely come into contact with directly - maybe without even knowing.  View an eye-opening list of typical calls that the hotline receives here.  Some of them may really surprise you.

To view in-depth local information and resources in YOUR state, view this interactive map.


We've talked about what you can do to help those that have ALREADY been trafficked.  But what can we do to stop it before it happens?

In my last post, I described the bleak situation when a child ages out of an orphanage at 16.  There are some GREAT ministries out there that reach into the orphanages and prepare kids for aging out.  They teach them life skills - and some even give them a place to stay after aging out.  You can do the research for yourself to find these ministries all over the world - there are many.

My favorite, and the closest to my heart, is True Hope Ukraine.  True Hope not only works with hospitals and orphanages, but also has a presence in several dormitories for orphans that have aged out.

True Hope also runs two transitional homes - one for boys, one for girls - with a 'house mom' or 'house dad'.  These orphans receive care in a family-like setting as they learn life skills like caring for a home, cooking, budgeting, and finding a job.  Most importantly, they are given a safe place to find emotional healing through the acceptance and love of God, their true Father.  True Hope is planning to open an additional home for unwed mothers soon.

This ministry is the real deal.  If you're looking for a ministry that will take your donation, and use every last penny for God's Kingdom - THIS is it.  We have personally met Max and spent time with him both in Ukraine and the states.

I know, not everyone can adopt.  But - I've said it many times before - EVERYONE can do something.  Share - Advocate - Donate - Pray.

Reece's Rainbow has several kids listed who are close to aging out of their orphanage.  Think it's scary to adopt an older child?  Well, it is.  But this story might break your heart just a little bit and make you think twice about saying 'No way!  Not me!'.

Meet Larisa - at fourteen years old, she is close to aging out.

Her status of 'orphan' will follow her the rest of her life.  This girl deserves the love of a family.

This is Vlad - his profile says he's a 'super boy - optimistic - polite - and obedient'.

Could you welcome him into your family?  Could you donate to their grants, to make them a bit more noticeable?  Could you share their profile on Facebook, Twitter, or your blog?  Could you pray that someone would step up and welcome these kids into their family?

Those are just TWO children out of hundreds of thousands that will be aging out of the system during the next 2 years.  Don't be fooled into believing that you can't make a difference.  You absolutely can.

Shining light on a dark problem will always make a difference.  The more we know, the better we can do.


The human trafficking crisis is huge, but the only way we can make a difference is by stepping out from where we are, and doing what we can.  For more ideas on specific ways to make a difference, see my previous post here.
friday favorite things | finding joy

One Thing I Know For Sure:"You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know." - William Wilberforce (Abolitionist, 1759-1833)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Today's Slaves.

What do you know about slavery?  When you hear that word, what do you think of?  Dred Scott?  Abraham Lincoln?  Emancipation Proclaimation?

When I hear the word 'slavery' I think of history.  The past.  Something that used to happen.  A long time ago.

Until my eyes became open to the modern day slavery crisis. There are more people in slavery today than at any other point in history...including the 300 years of trans-Atlantic slave trading from Africa.

Let's talk about Human Trafficking.

Let me start off by saying that most of the following facts and statistics have come from my Aunt Lisa, who works with F.R.E.E International.  They are a 501(c)3 organization designed to Find, Rescue, Embrace, and Empower those affected by human trafficking.

As we move on, this information might make you cry.  It might make you angry.  It might disturb or disgust you.  I will not apologize.  We are talking about real human lives.  This is reality.

What does human trafficking look like?  Well, it looks a whole lot like slavery.  Because many people who read this blog are familiar with Ukraine, I'll start there.  In a typical orphanage, children age-out when they turn 16.  Because they have no parents or family to claim them, they are homeless.  They are released from the orphanage with the clothes on their back, and maybe a small amount of money.  They have no job training.  They have no life skills.  They are completely helpless.

And just outside the orphanage gates, monsters are waiting for them.  Monsters who are trained in deception and manipulation.  Traffickers.

These traffickers usually have someone working for them inside the orphanage.  Did you read that?  Read it again.  Traffickers usually have someone working for them INSIDE the orphanage.  It's usually a director or staff member who might get a financial kick-back from the trafficker.  This person will supply the trafficker with a list of the children who are about to age-out.  Before these kids are even released, the traffickers are already preying on them.  The traffickers sometimes promise a 'new life' in an exotic country, and employment as a waitress or some other job.  Without knowing it, these kids fall into a trap.  They agree to becoming modern day slaves, without even realizing their fate.

These kids have nothing.  No parents - no homes - no identity.  What does that mean?  If they go missing, nobody will notice.  Nobody will miss them.  Nobody will be looking for them.  And that's why they are a prime target.

So once these kids are taken by the traffickers, they generally are taken out of their country of origin.  When they arrive in their destination country they are immediately put to work, usually working as prostitutes.  No - prostitute is not the right word.  Sex slaves.  That's more accurate.

Where are these kids trafficked to?  Belgium, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Thailand, Turkey, and the United States are countries ranked 'very high' as destination countries of trafficked people.  Yes, the United States is a common destination country.  In fact, the United States is the second highest destination area in the world for trafficked women.  Does that astound you?  It should.

This is an octopus of a problem with tentacles all over the world.  No country is untouched.  Not even America.

Human trafficking has recently exploded, and has almost caught up with drug trafficking, as traffickers have realized something horrifying.  Humans are reusable.  Drugs are not.  Humans can be re-sold over, & over, & over.  Drugs cannot.  Clearly, traffickers are realizing that selling humans is much more profitable.  The average price of an individual slave is $90.  And last year, the slave industry made more money than Google, Nike, and Starbucks - COMBINED.  Almost not believable.

This is not someone else's problem.  This is OUR problem.  Sex trafficking cases have been reported in all 50 states and in more than 90 cities across the country.  In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that there are 200,000 slaves.

Two hundred-thousand slaves in America.  Land of

We are all familiar with the orphan crisis.  When we look at the numbers - it's daunting.  More than 143 million orphans, world wide?  How can we even make a dent?  By helping one at a time.  It's the same with the human trafficking crisis.  You can't save everyone.  You can't eliminate the problem.  But you can help to make a difference on an individual level.

"Once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do..."

Now, you know.  And so you have a responsibility.  Here's what you can do.

Pray for those already enslaved, and those who are about to age out.  Pray for nations to rise up against traffickers.  Pray for traffickers to fall on their knees before a Holy God.  Just Pray.

Memorize a few statistics.  Become familiar with the facts.  And share them with your friends.  Be prepared to educate people.

Give to causes that you KNOW are fighting human trafficking.  Here are some GREAT organizations.
F.R.E.E. International
International Justice Mission
Truckers Against Trafficking - LOVE the work this organization does.  They donate FREE materials and information to trucking companies.  The truckers can clip a card to their visor which lists all the red flags, and has an 800 number to call.  Between 2003 and 2009 there were over five hundred arrests of underage trafficking victims - ALL called in by truckers!

Tell your politicians that they have the ability to stand up and do something about the human trafficking crisis.

Put together a 5k run/walk.  Host a neighborhood rummage sale.  Whatever your 'thing' is - do that.  These organizations rely on donations, and cannot do what they do without some financial backing.

When human trafficking issues come up, vote.

High-risk kids who are sponsored through organizations like Compassion, International are much more likely to escape the grips of traffickers than those who are not sponsored.

Find a local organization and offer to volunteer.  Hand out brochures.  Hold signs.  Whatever it takes.  Do whatever you can to get the word out.

So - now you know.  Slavery is real.  It's everywhere.  Even here.

Do something about it.

One Thing I Know For Sure: "You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know." - William Wilberforce (Abolitionist, 1759-1833)

+++++ Like what you read here? Read my follow-up post here.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Top 12 from 2012

I thought it would be fun to re-live some of my favorite photos of 2012.  I often wish we had endless wall space so I could keep my favorites on display from now until forever.

Not happening.

So, I'll 'frame' them here (in semi-chronological order, because I just can't pick a favorite - along with links to the original post), and we can enjoy them just a little while longer :)

{1} After nap one winter morning - when waking this little toddler up from his nap was still exciting & being a mommy was so very new...

{2} Using those little tippy toes to peek out the window at his daddy...

{3} At a celebration with our local Down Syndrome group - for World Down Syndrome Day...

{4} Happy Birthday to Carter.  Fourthst birthday - fourth, but first with a family.  Fourthst...

{5} On our spring vacation to St. Germain, Wisconsin.  Love this smile...

{6} Just before taking his first plunge in a swimming pool...

{7} Carter loved the horses at this horse show, he never ceases to amaze us...

{8} Family day in Green Bay - we visited Lambeau Field & the N.E.W. Zoo...

{9} On our summer vacation to St. Germain - on the boat.  Nothing special about this picture, except that I love a 'why-not' family picture.  And I happen to love this family a whole lot, too...

{10} On the boat in St. Germain - the smile screams 'vacation contentment'...

{11} At the pumpkin patch on my birthday weekend.  Tell me, can you look at this photo without smiling?

{12} Christmas (okay, this link doesn't really talk about getting our tree, but it's the only post that you'll find this image on - bonus points if you can find it!  It's tiny!) Tree day - Carter was full of smiles, AFTER our photographer left :)

There are my top twelve photos of 2012.  To be honest - I had a terrible time narrowing down my choices.  Would anybody here mind if I added a few more?

Well - it's my blog.  And I'd like more.  So there.

Here are a few more that didn't quite make the cut...

 + Snuggle time before bed - which doesn't exist in this house anymore.  So I treasure this photo even more...

+ Because I LOVE this lady.  I know she doesn't love having her photo taken, but she was a good sport, and I'm so glad to have this picture!

+ The smile.  The tub.  All of it is so very good.

That's it.  I wonder what my photos of 2013 will look like....


One Thing I Know For Sure: "Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second." - Mark Riboud 

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

New Year, New View

New Year, New Me.
I just re-read my New Year's post from last year.  It was encouraging and completely depressing all at the same time.  Did I do everything in 2012 that I wanted to?  No.  Not by a long shot.  But did I try to be a better wife - mommy - Christ follower - servant - giver....of course.

Isn't that the point?  Perfection is unobtainable - which is exactly why I need Christ.  But making an effort to be better than I was before?  That's something I can do.  And shouldn't I always be changing and growing and allowing myself to be renewed and transformed?  Every single minute?

In this New Year - that's my goal.  My resolution.  To be better - know better - do better.  In all areas.

New Year, New Blog.
It was time.  I have to say, not having photos of Carter all over is a little sad.  But in this New Year - my goal is to blog about more than 'just' Carter.  I know, he's the reason most of you come here.  And there will still be PLENTY to read about Carter.  But I'm making an effort to blog more frequently, which means some new topics.  Something you'd like to see here?  Let me know!

Do you like the new layout?  Click around - there are some new things like the tags to follow me on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and even a link to my own etsy shop.

New Year, New Goal.
Remember how I was trying to raise $1,000 for sweet Dennis on Reece's Rainbow's Angel Tree?  He made his goal - but not because of anything I did.  I failed, miserably.  He happened to get to his goal by lots of random people (and some very sweet friends) donating to his account - the ThirtyOne party and Etsy sales were a very small portion of that $1,000.

{side note: someone please remind me next  October that I should NOT sign up to be an Angel Tree Warrior - what was I thinking?!}  

But regardless - I'm thankful that this little guy has another $1,000 in his grant - which could mean that he's $1,000 closer to a family finding him.

Oh, I pray his mama finds him soon.

My new goal for Dennis is to find him a family.  I will share his face until someone steps up...because this sweet boy is so very worth it.

One Thing I Know For Sure: Here's to fresh starts & clean slates...!

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