Sunday, January 16, 2011

Further thoughts on potty-training

On July 8, 2010, I declared the end of our struggle to potty train Sophia. I thought I'd give it 6 months or so before trying again, especially given that conventional wisdom is against potty training that will soon be interrupted by moves, high-stress times, or Christmas traveling. In those 6 months, Sophia initiated peeing in the potty several times; some times she actually did produce some pee, but usually this proved to be merely a successful way to postpone going to bed at night. When she produced pee, we let her wear panties and play for ten minutes or so before putting a diaper back on her.

When we returned from our Christmas travels, I wasn't sure how long we should wait to let her feel settled, before trying the training again. Maybe I was postponing the stress and feelings of rejection... And then, on January 8, 2011 -- exactly 6 months later! -- Sophia initiated it all on her own.

Back in July, my mom had sent Sophia the book, Once Upon a Potty. It introduces anatomy and peeing in a potty -- and the fact that you have to wait and wait and wait for pee to come... it ALSO introduces the vocabulary of "I have a feeling." One day, the main character (Prudence) "has a feeling" that something's ready to come out, and she goes to the potty, and finally, she has success! Somehow, in early January, this concept clicked for Sophia. She started saying "do you have a feeling? like Prudence had?" While holding back a chuckle at her pronunciation of "Prudence," Ben took Sophia to the potty. She peed, chose panties, and since then, she's been telling us when she has a feeling and peeing in the potty all the time (except when sleeping or out of the house), with only 3 accidents in 8 days. I like this potty training SO much more than what we went through 6 months ago!

We don't really have a goal, or deadline, by which we hope she'll wear panties for sleeping and when we leave the house. I'm hoping that we can just keep following her lead on all of this... a couple days ago she asked if she could pee in "Momma's potty," and I put her up there, held her, and she went. And then she went again and again in "my" potty -- several times in a couple minutes. So yesterday, we went to the store and she picked out a bright red seat that goes on my potty (I don't want her to be afraid of falling into the big potty) and came with a matching red step, so that she can climb up onto the seat…

We have, of course, made some more mistakes… like giving her PEZ (from her Christmas stocking) as a reward for peeing in the potty. She’d already been going just fine on her own, but one day it seemed fun and appropriate to reward her. She caught on quickly and figured out how to stretch the contents of her bladder of over several back-to-back pees, so as to earn a lot of candy. So we dropped the PEZ thing in less than a day and she’s totally fine without it. We also haven’t figured out what to do about wiping… and it seems that a funky smell develops quickly when she doesn’t wipe. So now she goes through the motions, but not effectively, and we just bathe her more regularly.

I’m delighted that she really has told us when she was ready, and that it’s been so smooth and easy and full of fun and celebration this time. I’m glad we dropped it when we did back in July. And I’m grateful that she picked it back up.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


I, Jen, have been on the Editorial Board of PAX Quarterly Review since the Spring of 2010, and am now the Managing Editor. This is the first issue we've produced since I've been in that position, and I have to say that I am proud of the work we've done.

Ben wrote the feature article on page 6, A Goodly Heritage: The High Churchmanship of John Keble.

Here's an excerpt:

We who believe in the Nicene Creed must acknowledge it a high privilege that we belong to the Apostolic Church.  (John Keble, "Adherence to the Aposotlical Succession the Safest Course," Tracts for the Times, vol. 1 no. 4)

The Reverend John Keble is undoubtedly one of the bright lights of the Anglo-Catholic tradition.  Keble was a poet and one of the primary forces behind the religious revival known as the Oxford Movement (along with E.B. Pusey, R.H. Froude and J.H. Newman).  His collection of verse for the Sundays and feasts of the Church calendar, The Christian Year, went into 109 editions between its publication in 1827 and Keble's death in 1866.  The immediate success of this work helped earn him the Chair of Poetry at Oxford, a position he held for almost a decade.  His edition of the works of Richard Hooker, published in 1836, remained influential well into the twentieth century.  His contributions to the University and the Church led to the establishment of Keble College, Oxford in 1870.  Many of his poems, such as “Evening” (also known as “Sun of my soul, thou Saviour dear”) continue to hold a prominent place in many hymnals.   

However, Keble was not primarily a poet, professor, nor the leader of a religious movement.  His primary commitment was to his office as a parish priest.  This role was central to Keble's identity and the motivation for all of the other work he did.  As a priest, Keble believed he was fulfilling an office in an institution which began with Christ's commission to the original Twelve Apostles.  This institution, the Church, possessed and transmitted the sacred treasure of the Gospel from one generation to the next.  The priesthood was God's chosen channel to communicate his sacramental grace to all Christians.  The Church had survived wars, persecution, great wealth, extreme poverty, heresy, corruption and reform.  Through the grace of God, the protection of the Angels, the prayers of the Saints, the faithful service of the clergy and the quiet obedience of all Christians, the Church would continue until the end of the world.  It is this view of the Church and his role in it – not elaborate liturgy, incense, or richly coloured vestments – that marks the High Churchmanship of John Keble.

Read more on page 6, here: Michaelmas PAX 2010.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Lead, Kindly Light

Ben wrote the lead article for this week's issue of Regent College's newspaper, The Et Cetera:

Lead Kindly, Light: The Life and Afterlife of John Henry Newman
Ben Amundgaard

This past Sunday, the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman was beatified by Pope Benedict. Beatification is the third step in canonization (the process of declaring one a saint). The first step is declaring the candidate to be a ‘Servant of God’ and the second step is declaring the candidate to be ‘Venerable’ (i.e. heroic in virtue). When the Church beatifies someone, she declares it to be ‘worthy of belief’ that the candidate is in heaven, enjoying the beatific vision. Prior to the beatific vision, all Christians perceive God mediately: through Sacraments, prayer, worship and nature. The beatific vision is the eternal and direct ocular perception of God. It is the great hope of all who believe. For John Henry Newman, the longing for the beatific vision made him feel unsettled throughout his life. If the Church’s recognition of Newman’s status is accurate, then this restless pilgrim has finally found his rest.

Born in 1801 to an independently wealthy London family, Newman was profoundly influenced by the Evangelical faith of his Grandmother. At the age of 15, Newman had his own personal conversion experience. Throughout his life, he regarded this experience as an essential part of his Christian journey. "I received it at once, and believed that the inward conversion of which I was conscious, (and of which I still am more certain than that I have hands and feet,) would last into the next life, and that I was elected to eternal glory."

Read the rest here...

Photos by Dallas Bittle

Our friend from St. James met us at the park on Wednesday and brought his camera along. He took some amazing photos and we're soooo grateful that he gave them to us!

We uploaded some more to facebook -- you can see them even if you don't have an account.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Since March of this year, I've been looking for a job that would allow me to stay at home with my daughter, Sophia, for most of the day. I love being with Sophia, and Ben and I think it's really important that we focus our time, energy, and love on her -- even if it means that we don't have "successful" careers.

As Dr. Jim Houston said in an interview with John Gardner, of Regent College's Et Cetera,
And a depleted self is a professional self. Success is a trait that is associated with reductionism. ... if you want to be successful on Wall Street, you may have to neglect your family. Whatever you focus on, you can be successful. But what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, yet forfeit his own soul? Well, that's success. Success is a relational failure.
Those last two sentences continue to fascinate me. Especially because they were written by a man who is, himself, successful. He has a nice house in an expensive neighborhood and is friends with wealthy and famous people all over the world. I wonder what he would say about himself: is he a relational failure?

What would I say about myself? 
Certainly, the fact that I don't have a successful career at the moment does not translate directly to my having successful relationships. But it might, perhaps, allow for them. In truth, I have no career at the moment. I have an impressive resume and I currently work three different jobs (tutoring ESL students one-on-one in Vancouver; tutoring ESL students in Beijing over the Internet for Opal; and tutoring students in reading and writing with Dr. Tang), but I spend the vast majority of my time with my two-year-old daughter, Sophia Marie Amundgaard, and my husband, Ben. Usually, I enjoy those relationships, but sometimes they are very hard for me. Perhaps success in these relationships is indicated by faithfulness. All three of us continue to spend time with each other, support each other, and grow with each other. We are committed to each other much more than we are committed to anything else (including financial success).

Early in the above quote, Dr. Houston said "Success is a trait that is associated with reductionism." I think he's totally right. At the moment, I am focused on relating to my immediate family -- all other candidates for my attention are severely reduced. I never thought that I'd be this way. I thought I'd always have lots of hobbies and friends and a full calendar. There is a real way in which life feels reduced. And at the same time, there is a real way in which life feels abundant, full.

I pray that I would always be protected from the temptation to forfeit my soul. And I know that this means that I may always feel poor. Lord, have mercy upon us.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Some of our favorite pictures

As August draws to a close, and we plan Sophia's second birthday party (a Mad Hatter Tea Party), I find myself feeling really nostalgic about the summer. It went by fast, but it was full of blessing. I am more than satisfied.

We spent a lot of time on the beach, in the sun. Sophia learned to love the sand and the waves and will run into the ocean now, instead of needing us to carry her and let her just touch the water from within our arms. We picked wild blackberries there, and spent many hours chasing wild bunnies into the blackberry bushes. We picked blueberries with friends at a U-pick farm, too! Sophia began saying "so many berries for us! means that the Father loves us."

Sophia started walking to our neighborhood park on her own two feet and fell in love with dandelions. She started to notice butterflies and we even chased one together. We took advantage of several neighborhood water parks and bought a little wagon with shovels and other sand-digging supplies. Sophia handled her first bee sting like a warrior, not even crying. And now she knows all about putting ice, stickers (band-aids), and special cream on her owies.

I've been totally defeated by my job search, but upheld by the prayers and gifts of family and friends. I once thought I would be "great" in some very important way -- as well as being a mother. Now I am most importantly a mother, and a wife, and not doing much else. This chapter/season has been confusing and humbling, and I want to move on to another, but I think it's probably deeply good for me, for our family, and for the Church.

8 July: DAY 4, The End. (Jen)

This morning I woke up (at 8:30am) to Sophia yelling “Owies! Owies! Momma come change the diaper?” I thought that might be the “sign” I needed that we should continue on with panties and potty-training and turmoil. I got out of bed with a weight in my stomach but went to get her, planning to change her into a pair of panties. She was happy to see me and wanted to go play Legos immediately. I told her that we needed to change her diaper first. She happily said “Sophia gets to wear panties? Keiki ones?” Someone gave us a book on counting in Hawaiian and there’s a “keiki” in it (Hawaiian for “child”); when I identified the girl on Sophia’s new panties as Strawberry Shortcake, Sophia began calling her “Keiki” (short for Cake?). I told her that she needed to go potty first, and then she could put on her Keiki panties. She looked almost scared and said “No! No potty. No!” So I asked her if she wanted to just put on her diaper instead, so that she could pee in the diaper. She didn’t hesitate, said “okay,” and got down on to the change pad.

I was so relieved to start the day with a fresh diaper. This meant that we could plan to go to the park together, and maybe even the grocery store, like we used to (I can't believe I'm getting nostalgic about a trip to the grocery store!)! And I could relax and wouldn’t have to spend so many ten-minute blocks huddled on the bathroom floor next to her little potty, one arm around Sophia and the other supporting Are you my Mother? or I Have to Go! or Mr. Brown can Moo, Can You? or Once Upon a Potty. She was totally content to get dressed and go on with her day. And so was I.

By the time we were en route to the park, it was as if the last three days had never happened. We were back in sync, laughing and singing and totally relaxed. I was shocked when she got out of the stroller, took a few steps, and then stopped. I asked her if she was pooping and she said “yeah… pee pees.” And then she looked down at the ground between her legs, as if she was expecting to see the pee pooling there. My heart sank. She had learned something in the last three days! And just now, we undid it. The reinforcement she probably needed just disappeared. It was probably a big mistake to put the diaper back on today. I feel like I can’t trust my judgment on this at all. I feel so lost!

We played for a while at the park, but she was very clingy. She wanted to hold my hand for everything. Since we started potty-training she’s been more clingy around the house, too. And she asks Ben for me, which is shocking, as she totally adores him and can’t get enough of him usually. I chose to take note of the change, but not dwell on it and enjoy the time outside to play closely together. As we were leaving the park, I noticed a large yellow butterfly flying near the path. I pointed it out to Sophia and squatted down next to her stroller so that our eyes were at the same level. We stayed like that for several minutes, taking turns pointing and exclaiming “it’s coming to us!” She said that she wanted to catch it and hold it and she asked me to get it for her. Something about the beauty of that moment made me want to burst. It was as if time had no meaning and the butterfly had called us to join in an unimportant and yet deeply good dance. And Sophia and I were on the same side again. We were watching, sharing, loving together. I got her out of her stroller and we chased the butterfly a bit, walking around in circles, looking up instead of looking where we were going. We let ourselves get lost in the beauty and it felt like perfect freedom… freedom which ended abruptly when Sophia said “Sophia needs carrots. Go home?” But I was reset and re-filled and somehow rested.

There’s been no more talk of panties today, but at a couple of diaper changes Sophia has insisted that she wanted to go potty, so we let her run to her potty, bare-bottomed, and sit there with her books by herself for a while. Eventually she’d say “all done!” and wash her hands and leave her empty potty to come back for her fresh diaper. A few times she announced “Sophia has gasses!” and I thanked her for telling me, and warning me before they came out. I still don’t feel totally good about going back to diapers, but I feel much better than I did when I was fighting with her to use the potty. There must be a better way to do all of this, and I’m determined to seek it out before our next try at this. Maybe it will be a gradual thing… maybe Sophia will show us a gentle way. Or maybe I’ll find some strength somewhere.

A couple of nights ago I read the two-page section on Toilet-training in our copy of Parenting with Love and Logic. It made me feel better and worse. Better, because they described exactly what Sophia was doing, so I don’t blame myself as much for Sophia’s behavior – it seems to be quite common:
All that hassle just getting kids onto the potty chair? Then when we get them there, you’d think they’d go, right? Think again. They sit there for a few seconds and then stand right up, declare, “All done!” and head off to the corner of the living room and do their dirty work there.
Worse, because their solution – to keep things happy and light – is what I’ve already been trying to do, but it isn't helping her to pee in the potty. Maybe Sophia can tell that I’m faking it. Maybe I should have a shot of whisky every few hours just to keep things loose and light (just kidding!). I honestly think the best solution for me would be to go camping for a week – or to a friend’s farm – and let Sophia run around naked, getting used to pee running down her legs and how it feels just before that happens.

I don’t know why this whole process is so upsetting to me… maybe it’s the first thing that I feel like I really can’t help her to do…? I remember feeling like I couldn’t teach her to sleep, either. But I could close my eyes, slow my breathing, and try to lie absolutely still – and tell myself that she’d follow my example. I’ve been peeing on the potty with her, but that doesn’t seem to help at all. I’m hoping that taking some time off will be good for me, and in turn, be good for her. I’ll update you as anything potty-related comes up -- or down, as it were.