Back to Work…

Yes, back to work already. I’m in a much better place than I was last year, when I came off over a year of maternity leave to face a new curriculum, a new evaluation program, a challenging class, and the transition from my 24/7 care to that of a nanny.

This year is different and is going much smoother. First of all, our nanny J is back and the twins love her. She’s amazing and has already planned out themes (along with daily corresponding songs, books, art and math activities) for the month of September. My kids LOVE to learn – they love circle time and grasping a new concept. So this is already really working out for them. So far this week poor J has had to pull two screaming toddlers off my legs multiple times as I escaped out of the house, and that’s hard to hear and witness. However, I know how much they love her. Transitions suck, for toddlers too apparently.

The twins are also in a really good place right now. We’ve reached a sort of “normalcy” that’s taken a long time to get to. Speech is non-stop from them both. So much so that I’ve pondered where their mute buttons are. Mostly because when they say a sentence, if you don’t acknowledge it they repeat it 50 times. “B has teeny tiny little leaf! B has teeny tiny little leaf!” “I is for ice cream cone. Crunchy cone! Crunchy cone! I LOVE ice cream!” It’s just endless. But also completely adorable. I thoroughly enjoy hearing them talk. Except when they bicker, as in, “NO, C!” “YES, B!” “NO, C!”

They eat really well right now. The best they’ve ever eaten before. Of course, veggies, fruits and carbs were never the problem. But now they’ve discovered they actually love chicken nuggets, chick peas, peanut butter, edamame, and other sources of protein we hadn’t been doing before. Thank goodness! While they are still limited in actual meals they will eat, we can change up their sides in 1,000 different ways. And we sneak peanut butter into their breakfast muffins, their afternoon smoothies…etc. I’m feeling good about the way they eat. Phew.

They sleep well still. 11 hours at night(ish) and a 2 hour nap. I know that nap won’t last forever, so for now I’m knocking on wood.

DSC_0586

My favorite picture of B that I’ve ever taken, I think!

Parenting these little ones is my favorite, even though they exhaust me on a regular basis.  And even going back to work for a week now, I’m reminded that it’s good to miss them a bit. It makes those little fights between them easier to bear when I haven’t been a part of it all day long.

DSC_0552

As for school – I’m still facing a new curriculum, a new evaluation system – hopefully not a challenging class…but it feels different. I feel I’ve got a grip on things this time, at least a little. And so here we go – with a countdown to next summer 🙂

Enough with the advice, Facebook

I still read many former infertility blogs. Jos, from My Cheap Version of Therapy wrote a fabulous post that quickly got her readers talking. Instead of writing my own giant response, I thought I’d write a bit more here. 

Have you scrolled through your Facebook newsfeed lately? There seems to be article after article written straight to moms about how to do it. You know, how to be a mom. Every topic is covered – “how to be happy as a first time mom”, “how to feed your children organically while on a budget”, “how to set up a morning routine that works”, “how to keep your toy room organized”, “how to feel guilty while reading this article because you’re not doing things right”. Oh, that one’s not out yet? Give it time.

With regards to new mothers specifically, there seems to be a huge debate on how much kid-free time a mom needs to have to be successful as a parent.

I think we can all agree that mothers (and fathers, but I’ll get to that in a minute) need to take care of themselves. The problem is the underlying message that they need to take care of themselves first in order to be a better wife, or a better mother, or a better friend. How about doing it just for you?

More than that, though, is the argument over what “taking care of yourself” looks like. I can recall how I was pushed, in my twins’ first year of life, to take “breaks”. If I had some alone time, or time with just my husband, I’d be a better mother. It would be good for me. Good practice for my future when the kids….I don’t know. Have sleepovers, I guess. Go off to college.  And for some moms, they need their own time alone on a daily basis. That’s fine. The fact is, I flat out didn’t WANT to leave my twins. I just simply didn’t. I enjoyed them, I felt needed by them, I felt like I was answering my calling. So to do so would be going against what I wanted, what felt right. Simply because I was being pressured to do it, as if everyone knew how to take care of my needs when I knew what I needed. My kids.

What does a “break” look like in Facebook’s eyes, anyway? An hour alone at the gym? A date night with the hubby? A weekend out of state? Because to me, those are all drastically different. Ah, of course the internet isn’t clear about that part.

Last year, I wasn’t ready to “take care of myself first” in this way. I took care of myself by feeding and meeting the needs of two newborns. It was my exhausted, delusional happy place. Of course, it was important for my husband to take care of himself too, and so if that meant we went away from them for one night (which we did), then so be it. He also played softball and had his own hobbies. Hobbies he didn’t have to think twice about, because there wasn’t any pressure for him to “take care of himself”. He just did it.

And let it be known – this summer, I happily went away for a night without the kids. HAPPILY. The breaks I need now are called naps. Silence. That’s me taking care of myself.

Let’s also talk briefly about dads. Dads have a crucial role in raising children. Yet, where are all the Facebook articles telling them how to do it? How to discipline a child? How NOT to discipline a child? How to raise independent toddlers? How to, how to, how to. Where’s the pressure facing dads? I know it exists, but the ratio here is way off. I’m just saying – we’ve got a double standard going on and it doesn’t seem fair.

I have always had the sort of personality that sees almost every issue from both sides. In that same breath, I’m also easily influenced. These pieces of advice I keep reading leave me with a nagging “Oh, I should really be doing that” thought. Yes, I really should try to get my kids to eat meat. Yes, I really should just let it go, because they eat other foods just fine and who cares. Yes, I really should start potty-training because they turned two and the internet says that’s the magic number. Yes, I really should just wait it out until they’re ready. Whatever the article tells me – I’m a first time parent, I don’t know what I’m doing. Tell me what to think! (I’m a bit hypocritical here, as I sometimes even post these articles on my Facebook page without further thought. I don’t want to spread the wealth of pressure and anxiety to other moms! I’ll be watching more closely what I share.)

What I’m saying is, I’m getting a little tired of feeling endless pressure from the internet to do what I’m doing (parenting) just a little bit better. As if you can always better yourself. As if they way you’re doing it isn’t quite as good as it could be, and you, moms, should be aiming for perfection. Facebook certainly is changing, and it’s a constant stream of self-help articles geared towards moms.

However you “mom”, just do it your way. If you take lots of kid-free breaks and it makes you happy, good for you! If you don’t take kid-free breaks and instead you spend every moment with them and it makes you happy, good for you! If you feed your kids Goldfish and pancakes for dinner and you’re down with that, great! If you feed your kids organic, grass-fed beef meatballs and you’re down with that, fabulous. Honestly – we don’t need to be told how to do it. Neither do dads. I’m going to try to stop reading these things (as I tend to read them all) and just trust my gut.

Hey, If I really have a question, I’ll just Google it.

Yup, our food problems are solved.

 

Recently, we saved our receipts for a whole month (which I recommend doing, by the way) – and we realized we were spending a TON on groceries. Like, to the tune of $800-900. There are two adults and two toddlers in this house. We expected to pay half that a month, so what went wrong?

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase using these links, I will receive a percentage of the profits. 

How we climbed out of a food rut and saved money on groceries!

1) Long summer days meant trips to Target and Costco. Costco boasts the double seated cart, which is perfect for my two year olds. Target boasts  – well, everything. You go in for one thing and leave with 20. We went to both of these places too often.

2) Mid-week shopping runs. Making a grocery list every week was taking me a long time. I mean, it would take at least an hour to construct a good list. We ended up getting into the habit of just getting what we could think of quickly, and stopping mid-week once or even twice to pick up more things. Those trips inadvertently cost us, as we would buy even more food while at the store that wouldn’t have made it onto a list in the first place.

A while ago, I stumbled across this post, which got me thinking about how we could cut our grocery bill WAY down. We were already operating with a list, and other than the stores mentioned above, I tended not to shop with my kids in tow. So what else could we do?

Then I found this post. The idea is simple, yet genius. Simply type up what you typically buy on a weekly or monthly basis and print out a bunch of copies. When it comes time to make your grocery list, most of what you need is likely already written down and you may only need to add a few things. No more wasting a Saturday morning writing out a grocery that’s 10 miles long! I decided to try it.

Our Weekly/Monthly Shopping List

That link will take you to my personal list. It’s on google drive, so you’re welcome to print it, edit, copy, share – whatever. It’s what my family might typically eat during the week (from the grocery store) and the items we typically get at Costco and Target once a month.

Now, I’m not scrambling around the kitchen wasting time writing down apples, pears, and bananas when I get those every. single. week. They’re already on my list! I’m just highlighting what I want to buy and adding any extras in. So far, this is saving us some serious money. Example: Our typical grocery bill is between $120-150, and the most recent one since creating this list was $66. Phew.

YES, MY TODDLERS EAT A LOT NOW.

On to the next topic. Yes, C is eating ice cream in the picture. I looked in the archives and struggled to find pictures of her eating anything BESIDES ice cream. She believes it’s a food group. But that just won’t do, you know, health-wise. I’ve written before about how my toddlers got stuck in a food rut. I got stuck in a creativity rut. We were rotating between 3-4 meals for dinner and lunch, and it was frustrating. I wanted my kids to like more foods. We’ve been in this position for a long, long time. But finally, we’re climbing out of it. I’ve got fabulous, SIMPLE recipes, and the twins are eating them up! So what did I do?

First of all, I suck at cooking. Let it be known. Some people love experimenting in the kitchen with various ingredients to create delicious toddler meals. That is not me – I hate everything about cooking.

In addition, I’m lucky that my twins do like a lot of different foods. They like every vegetable and fruit that I throw at them. They love pasta, bread, sweet potatoes and rice. They also love dairy, but B gets constipated very easily, so unfortunately I keep those to a minimum. What they don’t love is meat, and so protein is a little challenging, especially with the lack of dairy.

Here’s how we climbed out of our food rut and found some simple recipes the toddlers love:

1) I found this website. It’s amazing. I learned that I can make my twins’ lunches with separate, simple ingredients – prepared in different ways. Have you ever thought to serve raw carrots using a peeler? Because I haven’t. But I haven’t wanted to give them big chunks of carrots because I’m paranoid about choking. There are tons of simple lunches and dinners, as well as easy recipes to follow. OH, and it’s all allergy-friendly!! I like to keep the kids’ sugar intake pretty low, as I’ve gone sugar free and it’s changed my health. More on that in the future. Anyway, here’s one example, and here’s another one. Healthy muffins for lunch? Absolutely!

2) I found this website, too. Super Healthy Kids flat out blows my mind. I could spend hours on this site, and in fact I did the night I found it and the other, Yummy Toddler Food. Here, there are tons of EASY recipes that don’t take much effort but expose your kid to foods they might not eat (like veggies or protein). Here’s one example and another. Here’s a recipe I’m making this week, as I attempt to get my protein-haters to like beans. And here’s a fabulous chart about toddler constipation, which I suppose is kind of an awkward water-cooler conversation yet is also quite common and problematic.

These websites not only gave me a ton of ideas I had never considered before, but also some simple tips. Here’s one for the sandwich haters (my toddlers only ate one type of sandwich, until recently.) Cookie cutters! In all shapes and sizes! You can get the exact set I bought HERE. I’m telling you, B will eat a sandwich with anything in it if it looks like a truck. So here’s what I did (besides buying cookie cutters).

I made another list. This list hangs on my fridge. It lists all the single ingredients that I could use to throw a lunch or dinner together for the twins. I was only rotating between four veggies every day – how boring! Now they’re munching on fresh snap peas, cherry tomatoes and zucchini sticks covered in parm cheese. But to keep myself from forgetting all that I learned, I had to write it down.

Single Ingredients for Toddler Meals

Here it is! Again, use it, share, copy, edit, print, etc. So far I have found this incredibly helpful when I’m trying to throw together a lunch. It’s obviously tailored to what my kids like and eat, but we were stuck in a rut, and now we’re not. I take a quick glance and think, “Okay, how about edamame, sweet potato, and bread with melted cheddar cheese?” The possibilities are endless here – there are so many combinations to choose from. I also added to the bottom of the document recipes that I am cooking for the kids, hoping to add some regulars to our ever growing list of meals the twins eat. I’m excited to make the honey-cinnamon chickpeas this week for a new protein option!

The fact is, I’m back at work in two weeks. The twins need to eat a larger variety of food so my nanny doesn’t have to struggle with them at mealtime. As a family, we need to cut our grocery bill WAY down because we’re trying to save money and up until this point have been failing miserably. Now, we’re on to something and it feels so good!

Coming soon: My review of the 21-Day Fix, going sugar-free, thinking about preschools and how we made our house nanny-ready!

Check out my Facebook Page for more ways to make life with toddlers cheap and simple! Crafts, recipes, DIY hacks – you name it, it’s there!

Enjoying (almost) every minute

It’s all about perspective, and I should know that by now. It was only a few weeks ago that the summer felt endless, the twins were melting down at the drop of a hat, and we spent many days without driving anywhere. I certainly wasn’t appreciating my time as much as I could have.

And now I look at the calendar and I’ve got one week left. One week until our nanny starts, even for half days as I set up my classroom. The week after that, I’m back to work full-time. Ahh! How can this be almost over already?

So now that I’ve switched my perspective, I’m enjoying almost every moment with the twins. I mean, tantrums are no fun, and they both get angry often, but it doesn’t last long. They are over “normal” toddler issues, like not wanting to wash their hands, wanting the other to have a certain toy that the other one does not want, etc.

Now, I look forward to spending the morning outside, playing with all the push toys one could possibly want, up and down the sidewalk. Pushing them on our swings. Playing “kitchen” and “cars” and whatever else they come up with.

The hard part of two years old right now is their constant STRONG emotions. They’re either super happy, super giggly, super sad, super angry. They all come on strong. But those happy emotions are so lovely, so fun. B squeezes you in bear hugs, C laughs if you even look at her. We’re in a good place.

And with B, we’re in a really good place. His language, as did C’s, took off right at two. He speaks in full sentences, saying things like, “Mommy, play cars please?” or “Put sandals on now.” And of course C does this too (“Mommy, sit right HERE!”), but she wasn’t the one receiving speech therapy. Speaking of it – sorry to say, but our speech pathologist was not the one who helped B make these speech improvements. To this day we’ve only seen her twice since April. And you all know how that last visit turned out. Our developmental specialist didn’t help either, to be honest. She’s nice, and B likes her, but the suggestions she has been giving me are things I was already doing, like trying the “first, and then” technique. However, she came to play once a week, brought new toys, and it kept the twins happy. He also has been going to outpatient OT once a week. This, of all the early interventions he has had, was the most beneficial. He still needs work on using two hands at tasks, which is something kids who crawled don’t need help doing. He still is sensory sensitive, especially to wet, slimy, sticky textures (though it was comical to watch him delicately pick off every piece of corn “grass” on his cob tonight). You know, he might just always be sensitive to that sort of thing. It’s not a problem unless it impacts his daily life – if he can’t complete tasks. He won’t touch sand in a bucket, but at the lake this week, he walked around barefoot and waded into the water on his own, completely fine. (C hates water…) So, he’s okay.

He’s more than okay. He’s doing JUST fine. With school starting soon, we’ve decided to stop early intervention right now. No more speech, no more developmental specialist, no more OT (for now on that one, anyway). And since we decided on a course of action to handle his hitting and aggression, it has decreased. He does not hit, push, pinch or bite on daily basis anymore, as he was doing. We stopped timeout, and instead I always 1) Acknowledge his feelings by repeating back to him what he’s feeling. “I know you’re so mad you have to put on your PJs”, I said tonight. Right then and there, the screaming stops and he’s listening, wondering what I’ll say next. 2) Tell him to show how to be “nice” to C, or to the dog. “Show me how you pet the dog nice.” And he does. 3) Give him the words that calm him down immediately. When he yells at the dinner table, “NO!” I say, “We don’t yell. Say, “No, thank you.” He does it, tone switched just like that. 4) After those things happen, distraction. “Show me how fast your car goes.” And it’s over. No harping on it, no trying to teach him a lesson. He’s TWO.

And C? She’s thrown a few tantrums of her own recently, all out of the same emotion: frustration. She gets mad when she’s trying to set up her dollhouse and the chairs fall over. And when she wants my help but I don’t do it quite like she wanted me to. But it’s normal, and it passes. And we move on.

They’re still exhausting, more so than just about every stage of life so far. Sometimes, between the two of them, I can’t get a word in edgewise. I ponder if anyone can hear me over them yelling, the dogs barking, and my husband singing at the top of his lungs. But the chaos is temporary, and I’m SO going to miss them when I’m back to work soon.

IMG_2759 IMG_2766

I’ve got a couple posts I’ve been waiting to write, one on the changes we’ve made to their play areas in anticipation of this next year at home with their nanny, as well as a post on taking their limited foods to the next level (with success!), tying in to how we are getting organized, grocery-wise, as a family. All before school starts!

Simple Kinetic Sand

I’ve been in a summer rut the past few weeks. I don’t know – I had this first summer after maternity leave built up in my head. I wanted day trips and new experiences for the kids, lots of ice cream and pools, fun with family…etc. I knew we weren’t planning on taking a vacation this year (or last year, or the year before…) but I thought I could still return to school in September with tales of our summer toddler fun. Unfortunately, a good majority of the summer has gone by with little to none of the above happening. It’s for many reasons, including my husband’s work calling him there at all hours the entire month of July, family extra busy this summer – and so it’s mainly just me at home.

 

Today, we had a good, “easy” day. They ate well (new food: edamame!), took a 2.5 hour nap, and played outside happily. At the end of the nap as I knew we were headed outside, I suddenly decided to break out a new sensory bin. With ten minutes to work, I made my own kinetic sand.

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase using these links, I will receive a percentage of the profits. 

DSC_0032

I’m so glad that I did this, because it helped me climb out of my rut. I have always enjoyed this type of play and watching my children explore and discover new experiences. I wish I had been doing this all summer! It really doesn’t have to take a long time to set up and take down.

I’m kind of new to kinetic sand. One day last year, a student pulled some out of her pocket (and five other kids followed suit) and I had to feel it. Kinetic sand is a very cool texture. But I can’t see paying $15 for a tiny box when I want a bucket full. So with a simple recipe, I made my own.

I followed this recipe, which, if you’re thinking of making this yourself – just go straight to her page. Her instructions including using play sand (I bought THIS brand), corn starch (get it HERE), water, and a little dish soap. That’s it! It doesn’t get much easier than that. I dumped out my old colored rice and used our 36 qt. bucket, brought out some jungle animals the twins haven’t seen in a while, and some cups and spoons.

Truth be told, I really should’ve been doing sensory bins all summer, because B dislikes touching many textures and C isn’t all that fond of a few either. The only person today who had fingers under the soft sand was me. C touched it, but barely, and B basically did not at all. We’ll need to do this one often to desensitize them – and maybe buy ourselves a sandbox! Luckily, the twins still really enjoyed this bin and I did as well.

DSC_0037The jungle animals were a good move – we had fun burying them and using them as sand cupcake toppers.

DSC_0042After they were done playing watching me play in the sand, they found a new activity. All those sandy animals needed a bath! C enjoyed putting them in the bowl, scrubbing, rinsing, saying “All clean!” and repeat. Even B was curious and helped with the scrub down.

DSC_0056It was a nice change of pace. These little fiery toddlers spent this exploration time calm, quiet and happy. There was no screaming, no demands, no fits, no whining. Clearly, this is where we need to be for the rest of this summer – around a sensory bin!

*Just in case you don’t have the time or resources to make your own kinetic sand, here’s a small box you can bring inside for those rainy summer days!

And sometimes, things just go right.

B’s been wearing me out for the last ____months. That tends to be where my head’s at when I sit down at the computer to type. And sure, there are some many frustrating moments. But there are also wonderful moments, moments that show growth for both B and C – emotional growth, language growth, developmental growth. 2 is here, like it or not, and it shows itself in so many different toddler forms.

C is growing. Her speech took off right at 2, like I have heard will happen. She speaks in phrases with heavy emphasis on tone. She’ll say things like, “Mommy, sit right HERE!” and “B had a poop!” She sneezes and I hear, “BLESS you, C!” I ask her if she wants peanut butter on toast, and she responds, “No peanut butter, just toast”. That’s a far cry from how she was speaking even a month ago.

DSC_0419

She giggles NON-STOP, sometimes at her brother, Daddy or myself, but sometimes just because. There was a piece of carrot in the sink tonight. She saw it and chuckled, “Hehe, carrot. Hehe, carrot. Hehe, carrot.” She fake laughs in hopes that it turns into the real thing. She hams it up for the camera and when I miss an adorable moment, I can say, “Go back and hug Daddy again, I want to take a picture” and she listens.

IMG_2558

She’s experiencing new things, like swimming. All smiles for warm water, but that’s about it! She likes to learn about something brand new to her, sucking all the information in she can get, and then spitting it right back at you. She trusts what we say and what we do, and is clearly so comfortable in her environment. She has NEVER gotten angry at anyone for more than a second. A meltdown wouldn’t even cross her little mind (maybe just some whining). I’m lucky to have a child with a happy disposition. It’s easy (it’s just a fact!) and enjoyable. And sometimes, she’s just a skinned-knee toddler carrying the biggest rock she can find.

DSC_0351And B, even with his meltdowns and hitting – when stripped down, those actions are just how he expresses his frustration. He likes when things work. He likes to understand something, like how wheels turn on different surfaces. He’s growing too – he’s starting to enjoy imaginative play, cooking up some play food or snuggling stuffed animals. He also LOVES to laugh. With a burst of energy, he’s sprinting up and down the halls, making up words and dissolving into hysterics when I try to pronounce what he said.

DSC_0581

This summer has had lots of firsts for him too. Turns out he actually may be the fish in the family (or as he says, he’s the “starfish in the ocean”). When he’s alone (without C) he does very well, spending a good amount of time reading through books or playing with his cars. It’s a sign that they both need some alone time away from each other, which is hard for me to do during the summer, obviously.

DSC_0552

B is a love. While C is Miss Independent, he is currently clinging to me like there’s no tomorrow. I’m not complaining – it won’t last, and I love when he snuggles in. He’s a passionate kid, a sensitive one – and he loves his family. His speech is really, truly making serious progress as well. He says things like, “More cucumbers please!” And “Mommy (does) little buckles, B (does) big buckle.” And “B likes carrots!”.

DSC_0397

Together, these toddlers are quite a pair. Though they definitely need more alone time, they’re concerned with what the other is doing every second of the day, if they’re not in the same room. Sometimes, I don’t think they realize that they are separate people. And while there’s cons to that, I’m so glad that they (usually) enjoy each other’s company. They know that they go together – and as they’re twins, I want them growing up knowing that they’re special, and to lean on each other for support and comfort.

DSC_0632

Even when raising toddlers feels so frustrating, and it surely has lately, there’s so much growth in this house and so much love to go around.

DSC_0460

And as a sidenote to the last post about timeouts, we’ve gone two days now without a timeout (and we haven’t needed it!) and two days without a meltdown. What changed? Me. When he starts to get frustrated, I validate his feelings, offer help, and move on. If he hits, I move him from the situation, look him in the eye and tell him “We do NOT hit”, (he smiles and waits to see if I’m going to continue being angry) and move on with a new thought, “Let’s go read a book” or “Please bring your PJs to the hamper”. I just move on. And because I’m not making him sit for any length of time, harping on what he did wrong and focusing on it for longer than 2 seconds, neither does he. He forgets that he was just angry and tried to push me, and goes back to doing something positive. From constant timeouts that only escalated his meltdowns to none at all –  sometimes, things just go right!

We’re “officially” parenting.

Since the day the twins were born two years ago, there’s always been some hot topic for that age group stealing my sleep, patience and energy and sending me to the computer to see what I can do to remedy the situation. I mean there was everything from preemie projectile spit-up, to sleep issues in babies (the 4th month sleep regression = worst thing ever), to pickiness in eating…etc. And many more. And for all of those issues, the experienced parents out there gave great advice – try this, and if that doesn’t work, try this. Eventually, things worked. C got a little rice in her bottle and it helped the spit-up, and she frankly just had to grow into her little body. Sleep issues? Time, a handy sleep chart from Babycenter.com, and gentle sleep training that we’ve stuck with to this day fixed that problem. With the occasional weird night, the twins have slept through the night for 11 hours since they were 6 months old. For the most part, my husband and I haven’t had to make real parenting decisions. We just tried Option A, and if that didn’t work, Option B.

Our current hot toddler topic of the moment has required in-depth (and frankly reassuring) conversation between us, with the desire to come to a decision on HOW to parent a toddler…who hits. Pinches. Bites. Screams. We’ve been talking about this for a few weeks now, as B’s original once-a-day hit has morphed into multiple tantrums a day. And it’s hard because we don’t know WHAT to do, and the internet people out there can tell us what has worked for their children, but everyone parents just a little bit differently. We know that we need to be consistent. That’s probably the most important thing. But we haven’t been able to figure out how to handle B, let alone be consistent about it.

First, we tried a straight-up time-out. He had a spot at the end of the hallway where he would sit for a minute. Then I’d let him get up, have him apologize to C or whoever he hit, hugs and then kisses. And on with the day. Well that was great when he only hit occasionally. It worked for a few days but then, as it started to increase, it became ineffective. In our opinion, B’s too young to be apologizing for something he already forgot he did, especially when it’s happening multiple times a day. I didn’t like the way putting him in time-out felt, with a raised voice to try and scare him (doesn’t work – he was smiling)…the whole thing felt wrong. Besides, it wasn’t helping! These meltdowns could last a half hour, with multiple hits and pinches in there. A time out for each one just led to increased meltdowns, which led to more hitting!

Then, we tried a much more passive approach – continuing to tell him “We do NOT hit. You hurt _____” but then not doing anything else…but he couldn’t care less about it. Also ineffective.

Third, we tried time-out again, on a chair this time. Daddy even tried a stopwatch. No – now he couldn’t wait to GO to the chair to see the watch. I sat him on it (without a watch), firmly telling him, “We do not hit, and when you do, you sit on this chair until you calm down” and he grinned and said, “Mmm….cozy.” and snuggled into the chair. So..also not effective.

See, I’m not really counting in months anymore. B and C are 2. But “just turned two” is a LOT different from “two almost three”. When we sat down (over our anniversary dinner, ha) to decide how we want to parent B right now, my husband asked a great question that’s worth keeping in mind whenever I’m losing my sanity – What is the goal after B hits? What’s the desired outcome we’re looking for? B doesn’t walk up to C calmly and hit her – he hits when he’s melting down.

We believe the right answer for a “just turned” two-year old is to get B to calm down. That’s the goal. Not to feel badly. And sometimes, when we were yelling at B and quickly bringing him to a time-out chair, only for him to smile, hit again and meltdown more, we lost the fact that he’s still young. He hurts his sister and that upsets me, because I’m watching my other child get hurt. I want him to know that he hurt her. But why? So he can feel guilty? Because THAT’S not happening, clearly. So he can learn to apologize on his own as he knows he did something wrong? Sure! But not at “just” 2. The goal needs to be for him to calm down and be functional, and that’s it right now.

So with that in mind, tomorrow we’re trying a different approach, with a new desired outcome. We’re picking our battles, first of all. When I go into their room in the morning and Daddy has already gone to work, B sees me and yells “No Mommy!”. Today he followed that up with smacking his crib with his hands, flailing his legs on the mattress and getting the day off to a positive start. After that mini-meltdown, he became very upset when I picked C up from her crib first (when I asked him if he wanted to go first, he said no!), and when I brought a clip up for C’s hair but not for B. And when I changed his diaper. And when his sock fell off. And, and, and. ALL of that – I’m ignoring as much as possible.

What I’m not ignoring is hitting, biting, pinching, or pushing – me or Daddy, his sister, and the dogs. When he does those things, I’m still going to tell him (calmly – no yelling from me) “We do NOT hit. That hurts _____.” But after that, I’m going to redirect him. I’m going to remove him from the space he’s flailing on, but I’m not running him into a time out chair in another room. It makes no sense – he’s loving the extra attention. I’m going to try something like, “It’s time to calm down. Let’s grab a book.” Redirection right now feels right for his age. We have no idea if this will be helpful, but we came to the decision together and just like that, we’re “officially” parents. This new way starts tomorrow, and I’d love to finally be consistent about it. Off we go!

IMG_2540

How do you handle a toddler who hits?

We had a lovely birthday weekend for the twins. Their actual birthday was last week, and my husband and I kept it low key with some ice cream during the hot day and a cupcake and singing at night. While he was at work, we also decorated t-shirts and attempted to find library books about birthdays, but couldn’t locate a good one for their age group. Any recommendations?

And then this weekend we had a small party that was nice and relaxing. I did a rainbow theme and loved how it came out, and will write more about that in a future post. The twins did well with all the people and honestly – we haven’t even opened presents yet. We’re giving them a few a day and they are fine with that.

So besides that, age 2 for us is markedly different than 1. Both of them are so strong willed and opinionated, yet loving, silly and smart. I’m looking forward to sort of charting and updating on how very different they are from a year ago, or really, even three months ago. But for now, I’m at a new parenting challenge roadblock – discipline.

There are many things that seem to come natural to me with regard to parenting the twins. Discipline is not one of them. And we need something in this house, because B is now hitting. B used to hit a long time ago. He was still a baby. He was hitting and staring at his hands like he just figured out how they could slap something. That was not malicious, for the most part. He did get frustrated with his lack of language, and so this was another reason for the hitting. It was easy to handle – we would just tell him a firm “NO, we don’t hit” and then redirect with a new toy. The hitting passed after a month or so and that was that. And of course, once our Early Intervention services got going and B started talking more, he became an extremely loving, affectionate boy. And to be clear, in public – this is the shyest boy who won’t even speak a word. At home, he tries to take the leadership position.

But about three weeks ago or so, the old B started to emerge. It’s not his language, because that has taken off. (He said, “B fold orange diaper” this morning and “Mommy loves B” last night, for a few examples.) He happens to have very little patience, very little determination to do a task. If he’s playing with something and he gets frustrated, he throws the toy out of anger, until I remind him to ask me calmly for help, which he does right away. He melts down multiple times a day. Instead of him matter-of-factly saying, “No”, like he did a long time ago, now he’s screaming, “No!!!!” He screams for Mommy to help him wash his hands, when only Daddy is available. He screams when Mommy wakes him in the morning, when it’s Daddy he wants. He screams when C gets to do ______ first (going down the stairs, washing hands, getting picked up out of the crib, you name it), even though we switch back and forth every time, which of course he’s too young to recall.

DSC_0416

See, they do play nice together sometimes!

That last one – C’s doing the same thing. They fight to go first for EVERYTHING. And I make it “fair”, or fair enough, but they can’t tell the difference. C’s got a few of her own little nuances – demanding that B do everything she does, include take a drink of water or play with the same toy. And of course her desire to do EVERYTHING herself, so much that if you help at ALL to put on her shoe (you know, because you’re in a rush), she screams “self!!!” and takes her shoe off and starts over.

I suppose then, we’ve hit the “terrible two’s”. The demanding, absolutely exhausting two’s, about as tiring as it was with newborns. And I can muster the strength through it all, except for the hitting from B.

DSC_0165

Is a time-out the right, efficient, smart response for a two-year old who hits maliciously? Like, swing back his arm in a fit of rage and clock you in the face while you’re holding him? Because it was that incident where right then and there I realized, this is past the distraction age. This requires  – something. So I picked a time-out spot on the fly, put him down and explained what time out was and why he was there. He sat for a minute or two, I came back over, reminded him again why he was there and had him apologize and give hugs and we moved on. But – I’m not sure it was effective. I’ve never been crazy about making children apologize because it won’t be genuine, but it kind of just came to me in that moment. He’s been to time out about 6 or 7 times since and I’m just not sure….it works for him. All of a sudden he’s in tune to people/animals fighting. He’s saying “fight”, “hit”, “bite” all the time.

I guess it’s sort of a controversial topic, and of course there are mothers who don’t need time out because they have laid back, easy children. Which is C. She’s never tried to be mean purposely, ever. And that’s how I was as a kid, which is why I don’t really know what I’m doing. But B needs – something. I don’t want to come across too hard, because I don’t believe he will benefit from that, it’s just modeling the same behavior from him, and plus, it won’t be genuine coming from me. But I don’t want to be too soft either. I’m really just not sure what to do.

Finally, I spend time thinking about where B finds his success, as I’d rather guide him towards success then set him up in a situation he will fail. He thrives with tasks (putting away the groceries, carrying the stool into the bathroom, emptying the dishwasher). He loves new toys he’s never seen. He loves cars and trucks and things that spin. He enjoys sensory play, except when it’s slimy.He loves to be outside, and he loves to move and jump and bounce and run. He loves my attention. “Mommy, play cars please?” “Mommy, play food please?” But I have another child too, and I need to keep her needs in mind as well. I can’t please him all the time. Multiple children problems.

Tubes Vs. Allergy Meds and Being Behind the Speech Curve

This is a bit lengthy. I really should be writing about all the amazing things that summer has brought me – specifically, quality time with my kids. They turn two in a few weeks, so I’ll do the update then.

Right now I’m looking for advice from you speech people, because I’m confused and slightly annoyed. Instead of our Early Intervention Developmental Specialist today, the Speech Pathologist came instead. And she’s blunt, which I knew. Which isn’t my style, but when it comes to my kids, yes, just get to the point and tell me what I need to know. But she’s also super critical. She admitted to me. In fact, on Day 1, the first meeting of EI, she told me to get B tested for Autism and was sure he was autistic. (Side bar – we did have that Autism evaluation done last week and B is not Autistic. This should probably be a blog post in and of itself.)

NORMAL SPEECH FOR 2 YEAR OLDS?

On that Day 1, B was mostly communicating to us through pointing and whining. I can see now how that was a problem. Since then, he learned to ask for help. Since then, he learned to string up to 4 words together in a mini-sentence, the same as C, just slightly slower and with rhythm. “More…Daddy’s….french fries……please…..”, nodding his head with every word, as if he’s counting out the beats to a song. Since then, he tells me what he wants. “On light please”, ” ‘Self” (Myself) – not just demanding it as C does but also exclaiming it after he’s carried the stool into the bathroom without assistance and stood on it to wash his hands. “More carrots please”, “Jeep – ready set go!” and many new one word sentences that help him communicate what he wants. In only a few months time, he has come a long way. And like I said, though he speaks a bit slower, he’s almost caught up to C.

But when the speech pathologist came today, she let me know that he’s really nowhere near where he should be. In fact, she said, even though he has almost caught up to C, she’s behind too, apparently for what’s normal for 2-2.5 year olds. Really? I guess I’m just confused. When it comes to speech and communication, for almost two year olds – what IS normal? I mean C sings the entire alphabet, says, “I love you Mommy” and her “S” sound is divine. She effectively tells us what she wants almost 100% of the time, using multiple words at a time. So if she’s behind, then I’m just flat out confused. I thought she was ahead. The fact is, there are a few areas where B still needs work, and I know that. B prefers to communicate with us using one, demanding word – and as we have done before, we have allowed him to do this and acknowledged it, which doesn’t teach him anything. For example, when reading books, he’ll yell, “Train!” because he wants us to read the train book. So one of us will say, “Yes, B, go get the train book and we’ll read it.” Or if he wants me to change his diaper and not Daddy – he’ll say, “Mommy!” until we say either, “No, Daddy’s changing you right now.” Or, “Mommy is coming.” He’ll say, “outside”, “downstairs”, “orange truck” – and we know what he wants, and we don’t force him to say each word in a sentence. (Should we? Should I say, “Oh, you want the orange truck? Then say, ‘I want the orange truck'”.) But I guess this isn’t helping him – and I’m frustrated.

I’m frustrated first and foremost because according to the speech pathologist, and of course the whole Early Intervention program in general, B isn’t where he should be, and even though I know this two months later, it still gives me a stomachache. But more so than that, I feel like the natural way that my husband and I talk and react and parent isn’t a way that’s helping B. I mean, I didn’t know this but it now seems to be the case. And so – now I feel like I’m looking at B when he says something and I don’t know WHAT to say back. I don’t know how to respond to my own child. And if I’m talking to him incorrectly, then so is my husband and everyone else he interacts with. We’re all doing it “wrong”. I could do what comes natural, but that seems to be furthering the problem. The goal, according to speech, is to get B communicating without repeating what we say.  Which – we do that all the time. We teach him new words and we ask him to repeat, which he does. But then he doesn’t do it in context, which means he never learned it to begin with.

Such as the pronunciation for “open”. They both always said something like, “Ah-Mee.” Finally, we broke it down and taught the syllables to them. They both repeated it perfectly. We do frequent sing-song reminders as well. C now does it in context, and B doesn’t. And the speech woman told me that B doesn’t learn anything accidentally – he won’t pick up on things easily on his own. It has to be direct instruction with constant reminders. She said she knows other people might say, “Oh, he’s still so young” – but she wants to let me know that this could affect how he does in school, since he’s obviously a hands on learner (yes, this is true, a mini-engineer right now) and only learns deliberately. He won’t just pick things up.  All of this makes sense, it’s just kind of stressful. I’m not sure how to communicate with him naturally, if what I’m doing isn’t working. And really, thinking about how he will perform in elementary school doesn’t help me now, except to know that yes, this is serious and we want to help him. But I just don’t know how off the mark he (and C) are for 23 months – and how to BEST get him to where he needs to be.

And finally – regarding this – the speech pathologist isn’t exactly warm. This was only the third time they met her because she comes once a month. B and C cry a lot, because she’s a little scary and she doesn’t let them get by without doing what she needs them to do. She said today, “That toy isn’t for spinning – use it correctly or I’m going to take it back”. She pretended to give them a shot with a play doctor’s kit and she touched C first and C screamed. Then she touched B and B looked at C, saw she was upset, and screamed too. And she said, “Oh, he’s crying because I touched him”. And I said, “I think he’s crying because he’s sensitive and he saw C crying and followed suit.” I have shy children – and B is EXTREMELY shy. And I think that needs to be taken into account. He won’t perform for strangers. When he’s uncomfortable he looks down at his hands, or hops into my lap. But he’s still little, and I don’t know – strangers are kind of scary. Especially unfriendly ones.

OH and to finish up today’s session, she said (and I echoed) – “You can’t do the puzzle until you clean up the animals.” Wait time. And then, “Clean up first and then you can do your puzzle.” Finally he just looked right at me and yelled, “NO!” And – I was unprepared. Should I put him in a “time out” to make me look like a parent who has this under control, when in fact we have never done a time out before because we haven’t needed one and B has NO IDEA what time out is or means? I said, “That’s not nice, you need to clean up.” “NO!” Ah yes, Baby’s first defiant NO, and in front of Early Intervention people. Fabulous! I can’t even tell you how it ended because it didn’t end. Lolz – Is this how you parent?? Just when I think I’ve got parenting down pretty well, it turns out I have no clue.

TUBES VS ALLERGY MEDS – When doctors don’t agree

I’m so over this right now. Both B and C are constantly getting ear infections. The antibiotics work (most of the time) and the infections go away. But with the smallest cold, C especially gets infections. Neither of them just get little colds. And so it’s constant. Our pediatrician wants them on Zyrtec. So they’re on Zyrtec. And when they’re on it, the fluid in their ears goes away. We know Zyrtec works. But they’ve been on it for months at a time. When they come off it, the fluid comes back. B’s hearing doctor said Zyrtec is bad, it makes them sleepy and is just a band-aid, it doesn’t actually solve the problem. Tubes might be needed. Pediatrician then says, they haven’t had enough infections yet to qualify for tubes, and plus it’s allergy season anyway. Keep taking Zyrtec. Now speech pathologist agrees with hearing doctor, and is pushing for tubes, because constant antibiotics is a bad thing (I agree), and constant Zyrtec isn’t good either (I agree). But the pediatrician isn’t having this tubes discussion right now. Not to mention – tubes fall out. Tubes require surgery and being put under. All of these things might be contributing to B’s speech issues, so we need to get on it but my doctors aren’t agreeing and I don’t know WHERE to turn for that one.

A much happier two year update coming soon!

I need a cleaning schedule.

Well, with only one day left of school, I can pretty much declare – I have MADE IT through this school year. I have made it to summer! It was a very long, draining year. My hardest year as a teacher for sure, and having twins at home after a year of maternity leave only made it that much harder. I’m looking forward to starting fresh next fall, but for now – I get to pretend I’m a stay-at-home-mom again. And I’m really, really excited about it.

One of the things I’m looking forward to this summer (besides spending quality time with my children, of course) is spreading out my tasks and to-dos throughout the day, rather than saving them from 8:00-11:00pm. Not only do I want to get all my nightly chores done as I am already doing, but I want to take on more tasks. See, my house is an embarrassing disaster. I’ve talked about this before, actually. (Funny, I thought the house was messy THEN!) And unfortunately, out of the two adults, two toddlers and two dogs living in this small home, none of us are really the cleanest/neatest, and our biggest issue is that we don’t maintain our clean house (whenever that happens). I have a desire for organization like I can’t even describe, but it all seems so overwhelming, and on a weekend after a long week of work, the last thing I want to do is deep clean my house. So I don’t, and that’s a problem.

photo (5)

It’s also a problem when the twins find the tissues!

Now that I’ll be home for the next 7-8 weeks, it’s time to tackle the mess. Currently, the twins are napping from 1:30-3:15. It’s not the longest nap, and as it is C doesn’t fall asleep for bedtime until at least 8:30, if not 9:00. But I need them to nap this summer as long as possible. That’s my time. I’d like to spend the first 15-20 minutes of their nap doing normal clean-up, maintenance chores (washing dishes from lunch, wiping counters, taking out trash, etc.) – things my nanny currently does and I finish up on at night. But in addition, I’d love to do one or two additional cleaning tasks during the nap. Every single room in my house needs an overhaul. From washing curtains to scrubbing radiators to sorting through clothes – it’s all there, waiting for me. There are receipts everywhere and coats that need washing and couches that need vacuuming.  I can also tell you that I don’t want to spend every single moment of their nap, every single day, doing chores. I’d like to blog more – a few times a week. I’d like to sort through months’ worth of pictures I’ve taken. I’d like to update the FB page I’ve neglected in the last few months. I’d like to get back to my hobbies – even spending only 20-30 minutes would be fine. But the nap is short, and the house is messy. I’m just not sure where to start.

How do successfully clean people clean their homes? Do they just pass by certain areas of the house and say, “That needs to be cleaned, I’ll do it right now”? Because that doesn’t work in my life. I’m in need of a good cleaning chart – one that gives me a sort of regimented schedule. I can’t just clean up “whatever I see”. I get distracted, all of a sudden my phone is in my hands and I’m addicted to the internet, which is frankly an obnoxious habit I need to break. I need specific tasks to be completed on specific days. If anyone has a good one, pass it this way! Otherwise, I’m hitting up Pinterest.

B and C have been doing wonderfully and their language is finally taking off! I’m excited to share an update, and I might actually be able to on the new summer schedule! 🙂