90-Day To Do List

08/06/2013

Buzz returned home to his mom on a 90-day trial basis. I really believe that he’ll be able to stay with her and everything will work out but just in case (and because it’s good excuse for a break), we’re not planning on taking any new placements for 3 months. That means lots of time to get stuff done: rest, regroup, reorganize, rearrange, restock, etc.

Here are my goals for the next 3 months:

• Take Ali to visit our friends in Cincinnati

• Visit our previous hometown Erie, PA and introduce Ali to her only great grandparent – Jason’s grandma who she was named after (and other friends and family, too!)

• Clean out and organize the garage. More. Again.

• Clean, rearrange the kids room

• Organize and store extra kids clothing in the closet for easier access

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• Reorganize the playroom (pack up or give away toys that Ali has outgrown)

• Stock the freezer with meals again

• Celebrate the 1 year anniversary of Ali’s adoption day

• Transition Ali into a big girl bed (AKA take the side off of her crib)

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Note: On both Saturday and Sunday I was blessed by a little girl falling asleep in her car seat and transferring easily into her bed. Night time has had a few bumps but overall she’s doing really, really well. I’ll write more about the transition from crib to bed if anyone wants to hear about it.

• Potty train Ali

• Clean out the van

• Clean and store spare car seats

• Sell the Mercedes and get another van (we love our van so much that we want a second one!)

• Take Ali to Dollywood while Jason’s playing there

• provide respite for another foster family

• decide what I want to do with the rest of my life

 

3 trips, lots of cleaning and organizing, lots of time spent with our little girl


At the Nashville Zoo

08/05/2013

One morning last month had the chance to take my little punkin to the Nashville Zoo (my first time, her third time) and it was so fun! She loves animals and has a general zest for life so it was exciting for me to see her reactions to everything. In general I just love hanging out with her; she’s so cool! My sister-in-law got us in as guests with my niece Eliza and a friend. We also met up with Ali’s friend JeeJee (Jaron) for a little bit.

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Ali’s 2nd Birthday Party

07/23/2013

Every time we ask Ali what her favorite color is she says, “yeyow.” Since it’s consistently been a favorite, I decided to make her second birthday party yellow themed: yellow balloons, yellow frosting on funfetti cupcakes in yellow wrappers, yellow streamers, yellow cups, yellow napkins, yellow foods (pineapple, chips, bananas, pretzels, lemon cookies, lemonade…another some other colors of food, like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, salsa, veggies and dip.) I dressed her, Buzz and myself in yellow but never mentioned to anyone else to wear yellow. I was pleased to see how many people decided to come dressed in yellow. Her party was very sweet and special. She got pretty overwhelmed by gift opening time. Overwhelmed for Ali means quiet. After the second gift was opened she dropped it on the floor and went over to sit on Grandma’s lap for a minute. When she finished opening the second to last gift (the book Everyone Poops) from Grandma, she wanted to sit on the couch and look at it; disregarding the room full of friends waiting to find out what the last package contained. I ended up opening it and was then swarmed with kids anxious to open it up and play with it—the Little People Happy Sounds house. The night before her birthday, we met Buzz’s mom at Chik-Fil-A for a visit. She brought Ali a very thoughtful gift: a gray and yellow outfit, the yellow headband she wore to her party, a Curious George DVD and a new baby doll which she has insisted on sleeping with every night since then. Her crib is getting quite crowded!

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Just in the past couple of weeks she’s been obsessed with animal crackers. I saw this idea on the side of the box.

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Jason went along with all of my ideas and planning for the party and graciously did whatever I asked him to do…take out the trash, blow up 15 balloons, make spearmint sugar paste for the pineapple, etc.

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He’s also really good at tossing Ali into the air.

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She’s a Daddy’s girl for sure.

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Ali showed Grandma the new baby from Buzz’s mom.

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Aunt Ginger and cousin Eliza.

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Uncle Dan, Nana (Jason and Dan’s mom) and the birthday girl

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I tried to get pictures of everyone there but I missed 4 of the kids. 😦 Sorry Jaron, Eli, Everly and Ezekiel. I’m blaming it mostly on the little boys being too busy. Did you notice all of the little girls sitting calmly at the table?

Ali starting to get tired and overwhelmed:

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Some of her birthday loot. Jason and I got her the owl puppet (IKEA), two dresses from H&M and the baby doll clothes. She got a bunch of bubble toys. After naps, we went swimming at Grandma and Grandpa’s and had pizza. Once we got home we broke out the new bubble wands, bubble mower, bubble gun, and banana scented bubbles. I think Ali and Buzz could have played with the bubbles for hours!

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All of her old favorites plus the newish Ms. Broccoli and new baby doll from Buzz’s mom, Elmo from Grandpa, and yellow bird from Jaron. I think we need to get her a big girl bed just to fit all of her lovies.

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After her nap she had two more gifts to open from my siblings’ families.  A frog bracelet and butterfly shirt from Uncle Jeff, Aunt Jess and Iris’ latest trip to Costa Rica.

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And a new Jellycat cordy roy Alligator for our Ali-gator from Uncle Aaron, Aunt Laura and Eli.

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It was really a perfectly wonderful second birthday for our perfectly wonderful little girl. We love you so much, Ali, and were thrilled to celebrate you!


Alianna Mae at Two Years Old

07/22/2013

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Ali, I have been looking forward to this birthday for a long time because I am tired of answering how old you are in months. We can now officially count in years! Your current foster brother, nicknamed Buzz here on my blog, is going to be three in two months. That means I can say we have two two year olds for now and it gets a lot of sympathetic responses like, “bless your heart!” and “you have your hands full!” We sure do. We didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into when we accepted a placement for a little boy so close to your age. But God knew. As hard as it’s been, you guys have been so good for each other and have become best friends.

You are growing into beautiful, funny, loving, smart and outgoing little girl. You are friendly, polite and affectionate. You love music, dancing, jumping (high!), swimming, riding Dizzy, bubbles, wagon rides, slides, coloring, playing with friends and with your baby dolls and stuffed toys.  You always remind us to pray before meals, holding out your hands toward us and saying “pway.” Sometimes you pray: “Jesus. Thank you. Food. Amen.” Your current favorite book is Everyone Poops, which makes you giggle a lot. You also request Choco often, as in A Mother for Choco, which is  one of my favorites, too. You like to announce to everybody when “I toot!” You say dubbles instead of bubbles, meno instead of nemo, Nina instead of Nana, boop instead of book… I’ll miss those things when you finally get them all right. You’ve been really into counting and saying your ABCs lately, as well as Old McDonald Had a Farm and some other simple songs. We play our friend Phil King‘s album in the van a lot and you always sing along with “Fight On” and “Real Thing.”

This month Daddy and I took a 9 day vacation and left you with Grandma and Grandpa. I had never been away from you for more than one night at a time since you came to our home at 2 months old. I missed you a lot but we were able to FaceTime and send videos and photos back and forth which helped a lot. When we got back, I just wanted to soak you in. I delight in you, Little Girl! You are so fun and precious and sweet. I love to spend time with you. We brought you back a big stuffed broccoli toy (from IKEA) from our trip—your favorite vegetable ever since you were little—and you love it as much as I was hoping. I love that I know you well enough to know how to make you happy, although you’re such a joyful girl, you make it easy. You always answer that your favorite color is yellow so I planned your second birthday party around all things yellow. I’ll share about the party tomorrow.

You have a unique and powerful blessing on your life and Daddy and I love to see how the Lord unfolds your path. You are a very special little girl and for reasons beyond what we understand, God saw it fit to put you in our family. It was not random; it was not a mistake. Mountains were moved on your behalf and here you are with us now. We are so thankful and blessed to have you as a daughter. You bring so much joy and love to our home and our family. I love you, Alianna Mae!

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Your vocabulary is huge now and you’ll repeat just about anything so I’m not even going to try to mak a comprehensive list. Here are some common phrases and things you say:

I want to eat it.

Ali. Cookie. Just one. Just one.

Animal crackers. (100x a day)

Apple juice please. (100x a day)

I did it!/I want to did it.

I want to pee.

I peed! (in the toilet)

I love you Daddy/Mommy/Grandma/Grandpa/etc

Music please. (every time we get in the car)

I love music.

God bless you Lucy/Daddy/Mommy/etc.

Pray. Pray. Pray. Jesus. Amen.

Ali’s popsicle/shoes/flip flops/broccoli/hat/diaper/sunglasses/etc.

Awesome. (Always matter-of-fact; usually after a stunt on Dizzy)

JeeJee’s house! (when we drive past your buddy Jaron’s house)

Swimming/swim/Ali’s swimsuit (you LOVE to swim so you say it a lot)

Sorry Ali. (When someone else hurts you.)

Sorry/Thank you/Please (you are very polite)

Have more ______ please.

Only one/Just one. (how many cookies you’re requesting/how many bites of your cookie Daddy can have)

For my own records: At 2 years old, Ali is 33″ tall and 25 lbs. which puts her in the 25% percentile for both height and weight.


Ali Mae at 22 Months

05/21/2013

 

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Oh, Ali Mae! You are now 22 months old. This past couple of weeks since Buzz arrived have come at you like a knuckleball. I’m sorry for how difficult and unpredictable it has been for you but I also believe that you are learning and growing so much. You are a sweet little girl but you are not afraid to assert yourself. You are easy going but you have a strong voice. You are a lover but also a fighter. God knew exactly what He was doing when He created You. He knew you would eventually end up in our family and that one day you would become “a foster sister” to other kids in our home.

Don’t lose your joy, precious little girl. Your place in our family, in our home, in our hearts is established forever. You will never be replaced. You will never be removed from us. I pray that God fills us all with so much love for each other that we have more than enough to give out to others. Thank you for sharing with Buzz… Sharing your home, your toys, your parents. It’s a lot of ask of an almost two year old and I know you’re doing the best you can. We’ve all had to make a lot of sacrifices but I want you to know that the job you have in all of this is so vital. You are an amazing sister to Buzz. You lead the way and show him the ropes around our home and our family. Your confidence, contentedness and joy are helpful for him to witness.

Your Daddy and I have noticed that your words have been exploding lately and we suspect it comes from an increased need and desire to have your voice heard. We hear you, sweetheart. We hear you say “Ali’s drink, ” “Cereal please,” “Can I have more?” “Mommy’s Day” “Ali’s Day” “Ali’s Daddy” “Apple juice” “Bubbles?” “Show? George?” (Curious George is your new favorite show.) And when we do miss your words, Honey, thank you for being patient with us. We’re all tired and little on edge lately. You are still an encouraging, radiant ball of sunshine in our home. Everyday I can’t help but marvel at your ever increasing beauty!

You are doing great with your swimming lessons. I’m so proud of your attitude and your bravery. This last Saturday, you hopped in off the side and I let you go under for a few second before lifting you up. You’ve been practicing blowing bubbles and not sucking in water. When I pulled you out of the water you wiped your eyes and said “Good job, Ali!” I’m glad you’re feeling proud of yourself. We’re going to have so much fun in Grandma and Grandpa’s pool this summer. Thank you for being you, Ali. I love you so much!

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Eating Outside: Toddler Solutions

04/17/2013

As soon as it was warm though, I enthusiastically moved Ali’s high chair outside. Food throwing is one of my biggest pet peeves with her lately. (The other is splashing in the bath tub and soaking the mama, in case you were wondering.) Eating outside provided a temporary reprieve. I didn’t change the rules but it allowed me to stay more relaxed while correcting her, rather than getting stressed out about a strawberry smacking the white wall or a green bean getting smashed onto the wood floors. And getting stressed out makes me more likely to lose my temper with my sweet little girl. I’m a work in progress, as is she.

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We’ve also been spending a lot of time outdoors in general. My favorites (during Ali’s nap time) are lounging in the hammock, occasionally joined by a dog…

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Walking around our property and picking up shards of glass (we started a jar for our collection about a month ago)…

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and spotting beautiful creations while I’m picking up glass…

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Ali likes to climb up the steps of the hot tub…

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swing and spin in her swing…

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And play in her giant sandbox…

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Ali Mae: Fashionista

04/15/2013

OK, the title is a little bit of an exaggeration. I have, however, started encouraging Ali to help pick out her outfits and I’m beyond excited about it! She doesn’t really care all that much. It’s mostly just fun to pull things out of the drawers and throw them. This is the first outfit she pulled…and truthfully, it was just based on whatever whatever she grabbed first.

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I added the rainbow socks in an attempt to pull together the pink, green and purple. Later that day, we had a hair accessory party. She pulled out what she wanted and I put it on her head. I think she was up to 9 headbands at one point.

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Then I discovered that she’s OK with hair clips now! Finally! I have so many cute ones made by kind friends and she’s always immediately pulled them out before. Maybe it’s because her hair is getting so long now. Or maybe it’s because she likes how they look. Regardless, I’m excited about all the new hair possibilities.

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Here’s Ali’s second self-selected outfit. I’m really proud of this one. She chose the jeans and the black tee shirt. I suggested the pink furry vest since it was a cool day, and she enthusiastically said “Yeah!” When I opened her sock drawer, she went straight for the leg warmers. And they happen to match with pink and black stripes! Good one, Ali. And she chose her hot pink Dora socks and the green and purple hair clip. Oh my heart. When Jason saw this picture, he said, “She’s so cool!”

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This outfit was all my doing. (We were in a hurry that morning so I picked it.) I love that she understands the concept of posing for pictures now. Right after I snap it, she runs over and says “Ali?” so she can see how it turned out.

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Jason has a hoodie that shrank. It was too small for me, even, so we let Ali try it out.

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Cuteness overload!

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Oh, and girl loves some eyewear! She’s always after my glasses, which she calls “See” because I have to keep reminding her that I need them to see. (In other words, give them back!)

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She can rock some sunglasses while we’re shopping, too.

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And one time she even found Daddy’s glasses and gave them a try.

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Oh, little girls are so much fun! I can’t wait until Ali starts dressing herself.

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Random Ali-ness

04/03/2013

At 20.5 months, Ali is making us laugh with her silly antics everyday. She knows what she wants and how to express it. One morning while I was on a long and important phone call, I managed to get her diaper changed, get her dressed and prepare her a breakfast of toast, fruit and yogurt. When I put her in the high chair and offered her each of those 3 things, she said no to each. When I finally got off the call I said, “You don’t want any of these things? What do you want?” And she answered very clearly, “Eggs.” Duh, Mama. She loves eggs. She also loves to try on Jason’s and my glasses. She called them “See!” because I always tell her I need them to see.

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Everyday Ali asks to go “outside!” She loves playing outdoors, regardless of the weather. When it’s nice I try to get her out to the playground so she can burn off some energy. I’m really looking forward to warmer weather so we can spend more time outside everyday. Spring has been noncommittal this year; we’ve had gorgeous days and then chilly, dreary days.

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We were scheduled to start swimming lessons last month but because of some issues with the pool at the community center, they had to cancel our class. I’m bummed. I plan to spend a lot of time with Ali at my parents’ pool this summer working on the basics. She’s fearless and adventurous so we are taking water safety and survival skills very seriously.

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Ali has always been very social but lately phrases have been coming out more clearly. The other morning she enthusiastically said “Hi, Daddy!” to Jason, followed by “You’re cute!” Some other phrases she’s said: I’m ready, I want Daddy/Mama, Where’s Ali/Daddy/Mama/Lucy/Gramma?, There she is, Where are you?, I love you, Let’s see… (when we open the fridge).

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Ali still says “boops” instead of books, even though she can say “duck.” She also has been informing us when she needs a tissue but saying she has “boobers” which is super cute. She said “uh ho” instead of uh oh and “no no!” instead of “oh no!” I know I’ll miss those words when they’re gone. She still can’t really say Grandma and Grandpa; they sound like “Ma’ama” and “Mampa” but it works and I know they love to hear it. Some other random words she says: hi, yes, yeah, hello, no, bye-bye, goodnight, amen, ball, up, help, see, elbow, knee, eye, hair, owl, Ali, baby, tea, toffee (coffee), picko (pickle), cheese, toast, yogurt, saysu (raisin), Sucy/Ucy (Lucy), sauce, shoes, shocks (socks), stinky, poopoo, potty, bass/baff (bath), aldi (all done), tan to (thank you), peesh (please), dis (this), dintz/ditz (drink… took us a while to recognize this one!), taco, owives (olives), cookie, cacka (cracker), cheese, milk, baba (bottle), cup, diapu (diaper), outside, side (slide), swing, chalk, dubbus (bubbles), duck, doddy (doggy…it sounds a lot like “daddy” which has led to a few embarrassing situations for whatever man is standing near a dog), mama/mommy, daddy, I-is (Iris), Eyza (Eliza), Jeejee (Jaron), Nana (banana), Ninny (Nana), Papa, E-ey (Eli), Awi/Ali, Jesus, Doda (Dora), Gabba (Yo Gabba Gabba), Elmo, fowwa (flower), stickoos (stickers), cuwu (color), nap, musis/deedeedeebababa (music/turn on the music please)… and I’m sure there are more I’m not remembering.  Ali will repeat the whole alphabet letter by letter but hasn’t mastered g, r, n, l yet. She’s very good at communicating in general

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Ali tries to imitate everything we do which is awesome for teaching her things like putting away toys, wiping up spills, putting on pants/socks/shoes and trying new foods. It’s also super cute when she tries to help us with yard work, walking Lucy and in this case playing the guitar like Daddy.

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Along with all of the fun and cuteness, the challenges also increase, but I think that’s just the way it goes with the toddler years. She keeps us on our toes and constantly learning and trying new parenting techniques. Jason and I often comment to each other that she gets more beautiful everyday. We are blessed and thankful to get to be her parents. I’m savoring this time when she has us all to herself as an only child.


Flying Food and the Power of Words

02/06/2013

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Meal times are getting so much better now! When we first moved into our new house, Ali was used to having the attention of 4 adoring adults every meal. It was a big adjustment with just Mommy and Daddy who would occasionally be trying to talk to each other. Her way to get attention was to throw food. And it worked marvelously. She would even seek a scowl face that one of us must have been giving her, because she would throw food on the floor, yell “no” and then scowl at us. I scoured my parenting books for advice and landed on a suggestion from The Connected Child that positive reinforcement of good behavior is really the most effective discipline.

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I was skeptical. But willing to try.

It seems obnoxious to say, “Good job, Ali! You’re doing a great job feeding yourself! Wow, look at you! Can you put that banana in your mouth? [As she dangles it over the floor…] Great job putting the banana in your mouth! What a good eater!”

ButOhMyGosh! It worked. If I would forget to do it—to give her positive affirmation for her good eating behavior—food would fly.

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Above: Messing but she polished off a whole plate of food at our favorite Mexican restaurant!

My eyes were opened to how much difference it makes to Ali’s ability level when she gets verbal encouragement and affirmation. It’s not just eating. When she’s trying to climb up her slide and grunts because she’s stuck, if we encourage her, “You can do it, Ali! You’re doing a great job. What a good climber!” There she goes. Right up to the top of the slide…and then head first down to the floor (that’s her style).

I’ve also been noticing a physical change in her posture depending on what I say. “Listen and obey” is a script explained in The Connected Child as well. Instead of saying “No” I give Ali verbal instructions and wait for her to comply, pending immediate danger. If she doesn’t do it, my tone gets more serious and I say, “Ali, listen and obey. Shut that cupboard.” When the words listen and obey come rumbling through the airwaves, I see her straighten up her shoulders. She knows I mean business.

Likewise, when I praise her actions I see her body respond. The other day she was putting back the glasses case that she had taken from my nightstand (as instructed) and as soon as she put it down, before she had a chance to pick it back up again (as she often does…) I said, “Thank you, Ali! Great job listening and following instructions!” and I saw her head lift up with pride like an invisible string just pulled her up a little bit. She smiled with confidence.

How humbling it’s been to realize what an affect my words have on my sweet little girl. I have the power to crush her or to lift her up, just with what’s coming out of my mouth. I mess up plenty, and she does too I suppose. Thankfully, she’s always been quick to forgive me and I give her grace, too. We’re learning and stretching a lot these days.

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Tinkle Tinkle…

01/15/2013

Guess who peed in the potty yesterday?!

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Ali has been really curious about the whole bathroom process so we’ve been explaining to her how it works for the past couple of months. She’s not quite 18 months old and we weren’t planning on even introducing the potty seat until then. Since Ali got an Amazon gift card for Christmas, I went ahead and ordered the Prince Lionheart WeePOD seat attachment I had researched. One day after she was watching me go, I said “when you get bigger you can go pee in the potty, too.” She immediately tried to climb onto the toilet and I realized she may be ready to try this sooner than we thought. So here we are, after about 10x of practice/pretending on the seat, yesterday she told Jason “poop” and wanted to get on the potty. He put her up there and what do you know? She passed some gas and then peed! I don’t think she’s physically ready to be fully potty trained just yet (to be able to know and communicate that she has to go, and to be able to hold it until she gets to the potty…) however, we’re excited that she’s so interested and determined that she’s going to go how we go.