I will start by saying that the one thing I knew I would not be good at going into parenting was potty training. This is pretty much all me and my issues. I'm a control freak, I hate messes, and as a child my own potty training process was unpleasant. Long story short: the woman who watched me during the day tried to train me way before I was ready and basically did all the things that current parenting books tell you not to do. I had issues using toilets outside of the home for years, and I really, really did not want to mess my own kids up in this particular way.
On her third birthday Margaret was still in diapers. I knew she was physically ready for potty training because she was staying dry through the night for a while, but she showed just about zero interest in using the potty. I'd put her on in the mornings, and she'd pee in it and receive praise, but she just wasn't interested in letting us know when she needed to go. I had been hoping that it would just magically happen when she was ready, but I was starting to feel pressure from the grandparents. Harder to ignore were the fact that she needed to be at least in pull-ups to go to preschool and the fact that diapers are expensive. It occurred to me that perhaps I needed to be slightly less than completely lame about potty training. Having her in diapers was easier, but it was starting to get unacceptable on other fronts.
I switched Margaret to wearing underpants during the day and diapers at night. Since it was summer I could let her run around the house without shoes and socks, thus minimizing the laundry load when she had accidents. She did have accidents, lots of them. The good news is that they upset her. She's pee, and make a big puddle, and usually get her dress wet and she'd immediately cry when it happened. Normally I hate it when my kids cry, but it was good news because a) I immediately knew about the mess before it spread and b) it meant that she had an incentive to learn how to prevent this. It took a while, but she caught on. Because I am lame (see post title), I put her in diapers or a pull-up whenever we left the house, because that was way easier than packing with messes in mind and/or dealing with urination in my car or anyplace else I didn't feel like cleaning it up. Did having her in diapers part time make it take longer for her to catch on about the potty? It could be that it did, but I really don't give a damn because it was easier and less stressful. I also didn't proactively tell her to go potty except first thing in the morning and last thing at night, because I am lame.
By the time she started attending preschool in the fall Margaret was peeing in the potty pretty consistently at home. She wore a pull-up to school for the first few months until she started wanting to wear underwear to school. She had accidents at school all through the fall semester. I'm pretty sure this is because she didn't feel comfortable asking the teachers for help, and I told them as much when it came up in conversation. I think I've mentioned previously that I don't need to tell Margaret not to talk to strangers, she can see a person on a regular basis and not be willing to talk to them for months, and I know from the inside exactly why that is: talking to people is SCARY. Eventually the school staff passed her rigorous screening process, and she hasn't had an accident at school in months.
One thing that was frustrating about the process was that long after Margaret was trained as far as pee went she was still pooping in her underwear. On the one hand I found this entirely reasonable. I myself have a memory of pooping in my diaper even though I knew I wasn't supposed to, but pooping is hard, and sometimes hurts a little, and I wanted toys to play with to distract me from the whole unpleasant process. I understood where Margaret was coming from on that. On the other hand, it was gross and especially unpleasant when it happened outside the home. On more than one occasion I did tell her in an exasperated tone of voice that she really should be doing that in the potty. I don't know what make it finally click, but by the spring she was pooping in the potty on her own. In the mean time some little girl underwear got thrown out because it was just too gross to bother washing, but you can get pretty cheap princess undies at Target.
So that's how we did it. Margaret still wears pull-ups at night, though I've been "forgetting" to change her to pull-ups lately unless she reminds me because she hasn't had a night-time accident in ages, and the last one she had was caused by her being sick. I'm not recommending my method to anyone, assuming you could even call it a method with a straight face. If I have a message at all it is that you can be nigh incompetent at this whole potty training thing, including going in without anything that even looks like a plan, and still wind up with a fully trained child.
On a final note, I will say that I have no clue what to do about Duncan. He's almost the exact opposite of Margaret when it comes to the potty. He's interested in going, and will happily ask to use the potty at random intervals, and will pee a little bit. On the other hand he clearly doesn't have the bladder control for it yet as he still wakes up with a wet diaper more often than not, and the few times I've put him in underwear it seems like he is the last to notice when he's wet. I'll probably have to do something different with him, but for now I think I'll keep him in diapers until he starts staying dry through the night, because I am lame and too lazy to try to be proactive about the whole thing with a boy with dubious bladder control.