Dear Picky Eaters,

Dear Picky Eaters,

You suck at eating. It’s really quite annoying.  I suck at planning foods you’ll scarf down with ease and happiness (do any toddlers eat with ease and happiness?). Daddy sucks at knowing what to do when you don’t want to eat what is on your plate. We all suck at mealtime.

Honestly, the one aspect of parenting I could completely do without and would happily hire someone to sit in my place, is feeding you. I mean, it’s not all bad, all the time. Sometimes it starts out innocently enough. B, all 31 pounds of you, you get hungry when you see us in the kitchen cooking throwing food together to feed you both your dinner. You sweetly come into the kitchen and say, “Eat?” And I say, “Yes, B, it’s time to eat! Go to your chair!” And you sit there, puppy dog eyes on full display as you salivate, wondering what Martha Stewart-type concoction will be served to you.

Dear Picky Eaters,

For breakfasts, you get stuck in a pattern. For a long, long time, you both ate baby oatmeal mixed with pear puree. Then you ate Daddy’s crock pot oatmeal with steel cut oats and apples and cinnamon. Then, in the past month, you both got sick of eating breakfast with a spoon. So we went out on a limb and tried something completely new – muffins!

Dear Picky Eaters,

It was a success. You both love these muffins, which are made with whole wheat flour, unsweetened applesauce, bananas and a few more things. I freeze them and they last me about a week. But it’s time to introduce some other flavors of muffins, because I don’t want you getting too sick of these quickly. Breakfast isn’t really a problem right now.

And see, babies, it should be noted that I do plan your lunches. Granted, it’s the same five things every week – pasta with minestrone sauce, whole wheat couscous “sticks” (which we’ve slipped chicken into), a quesadilla with finely-chopped chicken, sour cream, salsa, and the magic ingredient (corn), chicken-“fried” rice quinoa, and either a repeat or something I’m praying you’ll eat (like our new rice and chicken “muffins” – which you ate the first time, not the second.). And it’s also true that these five meals have been on repeat for oh, 6 months. I’m not a chef. I plan the meals, Daddy cooks them. And he doesn’t do this every night. When we have minestrone, I have enough for you guys to eat it like 7 more times. I freeze it in bags. The same goes for the quinoa and the couscous sticks. It’s all previously frozen in individual bags. I don’t want your nanny to have to go through what we go through at dinner. I want lunch to be a breeze. So in addition to any of those meals at lunch, you get two side veggies – typically either peas and carrots or green beans and squash. You also LOVE broccoli, brussel sprouts, cucumbers and asparagus, which you eat at lunch as well. No, veggies aren’t the issue here.

You still drink your afternoon smoothie, with plain yogurt, frozen fruit, a banana and spinach. That’s going fine too. For drinks – you both drink milk with your meals and water throughout the day. You love your water cups. You get a kick out of drinking from your own and then switching cups, spreading all the germs, I’m sure. But it’s okay. Drinking isn’t the issue.

Dear Picky Eaters,

The issue, twins, is dinner. Your lunches look all yummy and good and whatnot, and so you may be thinking, what’s wrong here? Well see, those lunches are the ONLY things you will eat. There are variations, of course. You both love pasta. And rice. And dairy, veggies and fruits. You like a cheese sandwich, which I can slip a piece of chicken into and you don’t notice. But that is IT!

I don’t want to give you the lunch foods for dinner, because if you have the same things multiple times a week, I’m afraid you’ll stop liking them. No, I need more recipes of things you’ll eat, that I can have on hand for dinner.

Daddy isn’t a fan of giving you two dinners. Neither am I – and I agree with him that you can’t just not even try something new and then be rewarded with something you love. Which happened tonight. Without the reward. But you won’t even TOUCH foods that we think you’ll like, that we think will help our problem with your desire to be stuck in your eating ways. It’s not that you don’t like flavors, it’s that we can’t get you to even put these foods to your lips. Ketchup/BBQ/any salad dressing – you won’t touch it. Peanut butter, won’t touch it. We tried to get you to eat pizza a few weeks ago – you looked at us like we had three heads. Beans – absolutely not. MEAT??? It’s like we’re trying to poison you. You wouldn’t touch the broccoli and cheese quiche tonight, because you don’t like eggs (texture is the issue here I believe). And I didn’t have a Plan B, even though I knew you probably wouldn’t touch it. So I’m having a bit of Mommy guilt.

I’m not sure what the right move is at the dinner table – put out food you may or may not like first, in hopes that you’ll try it? If we put out something you DO like with it – well, I”m afraid you’ll only eat whatever you love and not touch the rest. But if we only give you the questionable food up front – and you DON’T like it, well now you’re hungry. And defiant. And “giving in” would mean giving you something else. Which I will do. But then you learn that if you cry about something yucky, you get something yummy.

Dear Picky Eaters,

(Mealtimes are such an ordeal that I had to dig back to Christmas, when you weren’t using utensils yet and still used high chairs, to find another picture of you eating!)

As we know you both do enjoy many flavors – we think it’s that you both get into a pattern and don’t like to break it. You just hate trying new things – simple as that. And Daddy and I are always so tired. We don’t want to spend every night after you go to bed in the kitchen. We just want you to eat more than the same five meals on repeat. So, picky eating toddlers, I’ll try to be better about planning. About having something you do like with each meal I think you’ll hate, because I’m not about to let these dinners just fail and you go to bed hungry. That’s not how I roll. I’ll start planning more on the weekends and preparing more dinners at night before I go to bed so we aren’t scrambling the next day at 6:00.

But you guys, you have to do your part too. Just pick up the food, open your mouth, and TASTE it. I promise it won’t be so bad.

Love,

Your Exhausted, Drained Parents

As a side, I’ve linked the recipes we do find success with here, just in case you’re in a similar boat as I am. And if not?  What are your secret recipes? They just might be a winner in this house!

The highs and lows of 23 months

They’re just about 23 months, and 2 is creeping up quick. I felt inspired to share this post tonight after coming to a realization. Somewhere in between kisses and snuggles on the couch when I got home from work and at dinner, when C screamed bloody murder because of a bib mix up and B burst into tears when his quesadilla came apart – I realized how quickly our emotions change as parents. My husband and I, on an almost daily basis, have these moments where we can’t believe these little beings are ours; reflections of us. We asked B to go call his sister for dinner. And we watched him go into the living room over to her and say, “C! Eat!” But then, so soon after those precious moments, we look at each other and wonder how quickly we can run the bath and get them to bed, because B didn’t get the towel color he wanted and I didn’t give in when C asked for a pear, and then an apple, and then a banana, and then puffs, when she didn’t want dinner.

This age is starting to get really fun. They are both on the brink of so much language, constant learning, and frequent meltdowns. We’re exhausted.

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This is the scene right before bed: Everyone on the couch, even the dogs. Sometimes B is into the books, sometimes he’s not. Sometimes they want to read right along with us and know every word; sometimes they’re yapping to each other, the dogs are wrestling, the microwave is beeping, and my husband is reading me a children’s book. At least someone is listening. Sometimes we get goodnight snuggles as we carry them up the stairs – and sometimes they insist on climbing the stairs by themselves and take a half hour to do so, pausing on each step, turning around to see where the other is.

B’s skills, in the last week or so, have started to take off. And I’m not just talking about his balance and coordination, although that’s improving too.

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This boy who hated being on any surface that wasn’t flat and hard, who couldn’t bend his body in any direction other than straight down, is starting to understand that it’s fun to twist and turn and swing and bounce. He never enjoyed these things previously, and now he loves the exercise ball. He and C go to a My Gym class once a week and though they are by far the least adventurous kids there, every week they do a little more and try something new. This weekend B walked across a wobbly rolled up mat.

Not only that, but his speech and communication are really coming along. I’ve found that if he identifies something by color, shape or size (which is what he has been doing all along), I repeat what he said and look at him, waiting – and he finishes his thought. His pronunciation is getting better as well and he’s added the long “I” sound. It’s just really wonderful to watch him process, learn, and get excited. It’s even better to see the tantrums decrease dramatically. Where a few months ago he couldn’t communicate effectively and was hitting and biting, now he’s all laughs and smiles.

IMG_1851C is also growing and changing every day. She too enjoys her My Gym class, though she hasn’t come down a slide since the first day.  I find myself both in awe of her and struck by her fierce sense of independence and the growing amount of sass. Out in public she and her brother are both very shy, but at home she rules the roost right now. There’s never a time when she doesn’t know what she wants. And even with her desire to do every single thing on her own, she’s very much like myself, conscientious to a fault, always thinking about others instead of herself. This both makes me so proud and breaks my heart at the same time.

I’m SO enjoying watching her learn. She and B somehow know their letter sounds and now, just for kicks, I’m starting on some sight words. I don’t expect much to come of it, but she soaks it up. She wants to know what the words say and since she has books memorized, we can all kind of pretend she’s “reading”.

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She absolutely LOVES to read. It’s her favorite thing right now, besides kittens and babies. Unlike B who always wants to help me do a task, she’s fine to be on her own, which is quite helpful. You have to steal kisses to get them, but she chooses to be tickled until she can’t breathe. Like her mother and grandmother, she’s addicted to sugar. This is why she doesn’t get much of it 🙂 She’s not deprived, though, I assure you. She eats fruit multiple times a day and eats up unsweetened applesauce and plain yogurt like it’s ice cream. She practically licked her applesauce bowl clean tonight. Once or twice a week they get a little something, and just like their parents, when offered a chip or a donut hole yesterday, B chose the chip and C the donut.

As we round the corner towards 2, my least favorite part about this current age is their desires to do (though it’s also one of their best traits!). They climb stairs at their own pace, they eat at their own pace, they want to put their own shoes on and it doesn’t matter if we’re already late to go somewhere – they want to put on their own shoes. They can’t, of course. But it’s them against us (or me, during the week in the summertime), and if I think I want to get them somewhere on time, well that’s just not happening. Sometimes it’s frustrating. Sometimes I look around at our tiny tornado of a house and our under-walked hyper dogs and I just have to take a breath and know that this IS life with toddlers, and is actually everything I always wanted!

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But my favorite part about 23 months is their growing love for each other. No longer occasional playmates, they have each other’s backs at all times – constantly inquiring about the state of the other, whether one is crying, laughing, or sneezing. They ask for each other the second they wake up. They chase each other down the hall. One won’t eat until the other sits down. Even if they aren’t playing with the same toys, they choose to be in the same room. They’re always together, which seems to be what they want. In short – they’re starting to become friends. And it’s absolutely the most adorable thing ever. My favorite part, hands down.

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Early Intervention – a timeline

In one month, I’ve discovered a new world full of facts, activities, ideas, milestones, and goals – the word of Early Intervention.

Here’s how our Early Intervention timeline has gone thus far:

-B had a speech regression at 19 months (pronunciation). This was my initial concern – he lost his “ooo” sound and it was strange. He was found to have fluid in his ears, drained away with the help of Zyrtec. Went for a hearing test a few weeks later, passed with flying colors. His pronunciation started to come back.

-Birth to 3 (our state’s EI) came anyway for an initial evaluation because of a few of his quirks (throwing his head back on the couch, avoiding certain textures, irritation with things like crumbs and specks of dirt) B was picked up for services: once a week by the developmental specialist, once a month for speech, once a month for OT. At that initial evaluation, the evaluators recommended B have an autism screening because of his delays in communication, sensory processing and cognitive abilities. He was pointing and shrieking, “Eh, Eh!” and we were answering him, furthering that cycle. There was no direct communication with us.

-At that initial eval, we were told to ignore his cries and wait for him to come to us and ask for help. HA! Such a thing would surely be impossible. My fit-throwing toddler who wanted what he wanted and there was no other way would not be asking us for help.

-After a few weeks of once a week services by the developmental specialist, he made HUGE gains. The impossible did happen – we ignored him, and he started to come to us. We taught him the sign for “help” and he used it (while saying the word). His “eh eh”s decreased dramatically. Not only that, but his mood brightened. Fewer tantrums and much more affection for his sister and the dog. The child who never gave his sister a second thought was now fussing when she cried, saying her name again and again, kissing her ouchies. The boy who despised the dog was now chasing her for a snuggle. A few weeks in, and the specialist saw a difference in him, wondering aloud if he would even qualify as autistic.

-The EI women suggested that B would benefit from additional outpatient OT services, since he loves to be put to work; put to a task. I took him for an eval at a local hospital and he was a trooper. His fine motor skills excelled, his gross motor skills – not so much. What I thought was a typical kicking and throwing distance for a toddler under 2 was apparently not too typical. He demonstrated that part of his sensory piece might be the unfamiliarity with spaces that aren’t steady – that will rock under him, like an open platform swing or a balance beam. Yes, this outside OT would pick him up for once a week services for 12 weeks starting in mid-June. Their focus would be to de-sensitize him to certain things and help with the gross motor skills.

-Birth to 3’s OT came for her first session at our house. WOW. She rocked, and she alerted me to something in B that I never read in the pregnancy books. Never saw this one online. Never knew this one existed. Side-to-side range of motion. B never crawled. I know now that this is a huge red flag. Babies crawl. In some form, they crawl. And B did not. He didn’t develop the core muscles that other babies do, that allow them to move one hand and one foot at the same time. To be on all fours and turn a head to the left or right and keep balanced. No, he never learned any of that. She showed us just how far behind B is in his range of motion. When B sits on the floor, if he reaches to the side to grab a toy, he falls over. When B stands up and needs to look to the side, he turns his entire body instead of just his upper half. When the OT sat B and C on little stools and put the sensory bin on the floor, asking them to play – C reached down and instinctively put one hand on the bin to steady herself, and reached in to play with the other hand. B did not know to do that – he bent over and fell right in the sensory bin. B has no range of motion, even though he jumps, runs, moonwalks backwards and stands on his tip toes – all are straight ahead movements. He can’t bend to the side to save his life. This was something I had NO clue about. She gave us excellent ideas for how to help with this:

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Exercise balls – I know this picture is wretched but you still get the idea. Rolling onto the ball, stretching the body. Or sitting on the ball and we sway him side to side from the waist up.

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Tether balls – using balloons. Hang them from the ceiling with string.

There are other ways, too, to increase the side to side range of motion – popping bubbles, spinning a swing around and around instead of back and forth. Anything that gets B to practice turning to the side quickly – helping him to become more balanced and develop those muscles. Three people have also mentioned one of his eyes turning in a bit, so I have a call into his eye doctor, who has been on top of this but said he was in the normal range. Perhaps now he isn’t, and this would certainly affect his balance and coordination.

-Speech came today. In the past month, his words have really increased and he is, for the first time, telling me he’s hungry by saying and signing “eat”. This is new for him. He has a new sound, the “eee” sound – and finally says, “Mommy” and “Daddy”. He even has picked up “yourself” as in, “by himself” and is starting to use it appropriately. But when he wants something, he still isn’t identifying the word. If he wants me to turn the fan on, he is coming to me and saying, “On!” And I’ll say, ” On…what?” And he says, “Fan!”. Sometimes he’ll throw in a “help” for good measure. But the speech therapist wants us to NOT say “what” – because we want him to identify the word in the beginning, not just because we asked for it. Instead of bringing me a plastic pig and saying “Pink!” He needs to say, “pig”. So we need to stop asking him to identify the word – he knows what it is, we know he knows – he just needs to say it. This is a little tough for us all.

-And finally, our timeline isn’t complete yet. We have his autism evaluation in about a month, and I have to admit I was dragging my feet on scheduling it. I don’t believe he is autistic, and I’m just scared to hear otherwise. That said, I do want him to get the services he needs and I want it taken care of now, so we’re going to proceed. We’ll see what they conclude.

I really can’t believe how far he’s come in a month – I mean, this kid was getting up off the grass on his elbows, and now he’s doing this:

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And going to a loud, hot air show, and loving (almost) every minute of it:

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My gut tells me he’s got recurring fluid in his ears, causing his meltdowns and his muffled pronunciation and will probably need tubes put in. And my gut also tells me he’s got an eye issue going on, crossing his eyes, which is affecting his balance, coordination, and desire to not be on any surface other than flat and safe. My gut tells me that once these things are addressed and he catches up to his peers, he’s going to be in a very good place.

This entire experience has been a complete whirwind, and I almost never called Early Intervention in the first place. After all, it was only a little speech regression!

As a side note, an update on Lil C. Such a trooper, she does whatever activities we are doing with B, for B. She copies him and needs him around. She’s suddenly full of SASS – demanding to do a task herself and then purposely NOT DOING IT so I can stare at her and tell her it needs to happen. So she can demand again that she do it and then finally, when the dog is about to eat her tail as C ever so slowly pours the dog food into the bowl, I may have to step in and help. Her pronunciation just took off like a rocket. She’s got all her sounds down and sounds like a kindergartener when she talks – if only she wasn’t still talking in one word sentences! She has books and songs memorized and will read “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” completely on her own if you let her. She sings the whole alphabet a lot and it’s damn cute. She’s suddenly into imaginative play, mostly with dogs, cats, and babies. She’s a very happy toddler, which I’m very grateful for.

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Early Intervention Update

The past few weeks have been unbelievably busy, with hardly a spare moment in the entire day. Most of it is school related, but we also have started Early Intervention services for B, so I thought I’d do a quick update. As it was when I went through infertility treatments, it turns out you’re never alone – there’s lots of people who are always going through the same thing. All of a sudden, it seems like toddlers everywhere are also going through EI services. It does kind of make me feel a little better about the process.

B receives developmental services weekly, OT once a month, and speech once a month – all until his autism evaluation, which if he were to qualify, would kick those services up a few notches. Since EI has started, the developmental specialist has come twice.

Both times she has come, she’s arrived with a giant bag of toys. B and C are dying to get that bag open, of course, and in order for our specialist, A, to open it, she requires B to communicate that desire with her. Once he says, “open”, or “toys”, or “help”, she confirms what he wants and opens the bag. Then, it’s all about choices. She always pulls out two toys and asks him to choose between them – not just by pointing at the toy he wants but by saying what it is. “Do you want the train or the dogs?” she will say – and he has to say the word. Once he’s playing with the toy, she typically gives him choices within that toy “Do you want the blue peg or the red peg?”. She brought a miniature plastic dog set with a tiny little dog bowl and dog beds and B and C just adored it. C is starting to take to creative, imaginative play with her dolls and animals but B hasn’t shown interest. Once A modeled it for him though, he was making his little doggies eat from the bowl and go to sleep. So cute!

They keep playing in this manner until it’s time for A to go. She writes up what she saw that day, the observations I have made over the past week, and she gives me a few tips, “homework” to work on until next time. And that’s it.

As you know, the idea of the possible autism diagnosis has bothered me and I’ve been a little in denial about it. I don’t know enough about autism to make any claim, but it has always been my “mother’s intuition” that B is not autistic. And the first time A came, about halfway through her session, she looked at me and said, “You know – I don’t think he’s going to qualify.” I asked her about that, and she said that he checks in with her constantly. And he does – like other children, when set to a task, he looks at you every two seconds as if to say, “Am I doing this right?” And when you cheer for him, he grins right at you and claps and goes back to work. It may not mean anything but it made me feel better. The second time she came, she said the same thing again. I’m okay with that right now.

I did ask her – what do you make of the fact that he’s obsessed with a color? What do you make of the fact that he really, really loves to see how things move, how things work – that an object spinning is one of his favorite things ever – a ceiling fan, a ball, or even the dog bowl he tips on its side to make it spin around the floor. Aren’t these things a little strange? She said, “Yes, a little bit. He might just be quirky. You might just have a quirky kid.” Right now, that’s what I’m going with.

In addition to the developmental services we’re receiving, a few days ago I took B to an outpatient OT. Two women did an initial “sensory integration” evaluation on him, as the sensory piece was one I did want addressed. And because he loves to be put to a task, loves to work – the EI people thought he might benefit from additional outpatient OT services. Well, when he was there they gave him lots of toys – lots of tasks. As I already knew, his fine motor skills are wonderful and a non-issue. His gross motor skills are apparently lackluster. I had no idea – he can throw and kick a ball. But apparently his throws and kicks aren’t too good. In addition, he can’t catch. They asked me if I noticed that one of his eyes turns in a bit. Funny – yes, we’ve noticed, and when he failed his 6 month eye exam, he saw an eye doctor. Because my husband had a patch as a child for the exact same issue, we have a feeling he’ll need glasses at an early age, but the eye doctor said he was still in the normal range. But for two women who have never seen him to pick that up right away – I’ll be calling the eye doctor again and having it looked at. Yes, if there’s something wrong with his eyes, he won’t be able to throw, kick and catch. Finally, they asked me all about the types of sensory sensitivities he has. There are certain textures he doesn’t like and won’t touch, such as slimy, gooey things (like melted cheese), and on the flip side, there are movements he craves (predictable, rhythmic movements such as swinging, jumping up and down on his mattress, etc.) They wanted to see this in action a bit so they brought over a mini-trampoline, but made him take his shoes off. I knew the shoes wouldn’t be the issue – it’s the socks, so I took them off too. Sure enough, he wouldn’t put his toes on the trampoline because he was unsure of what it would feel like on his feet.

When all was said and done, the women agreed they would be picking him up for services as well – once a week outpatient OT for 3 months. I’m glad for this – it certainly can’t hurt and B will likely love the tasks they put him up to. Unfortunately, he’s on a waiting list, and I hope it starts soon.

In the past few weeks, we have noticed a ton of improvement with B. He communicates MUCH better – and now that he does, I almost can’t believe we all managed beforehand. In the past week, he has finally told me he wants to eat. He has never done that before. He says “help” now right away, because he knows we won’t help him otherwise. The other night he was fussing and I thought he was with my husband so I ignored him. Turns out he was trying to get his washcloth but it was stuck. Finally, he stopped fussing, came and found me and said, “Help!” That’s big improvement right there. With this new communication, this kid is extremely affectionate lately. He’s always been a bit of a Mama’s boy, but now he’s super snuggly with the dogs, who he previously couldn’t stand. He’s affectionate with C, chasing after her for hugs and kisses. This is all new behavior. He seems to generally be a much happier kid. So while he’s certainly got some quirks, and some areas that I still would love to see improvement, I’m very pleased with the process so far and proud of him for tolerating all these new people and places and showing everyone how awesome he is.

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A post for my daughter.

After a long, draining week, I’m re-focusing my thoughts and ready to go. B starts services with EI this week. We’re going to do the Autism eval in a month, so that if he does qualify, he’ll get a lot more services than he will without the label. I’ll be home all summer, ready to be here for all the services, and then when I go back to work, I can choose to go back to just our Birth to 3 plan or keep going wit ASD services.

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This adorable little boy has made some wonderful strides since only the initial EI evaluation. My husband and I keep commenting on the growth we’re seeing, just from simple changes we’ve made at home. To see these changes, we had to ignore him. He had to come to us, or at least name what he wanted and say “help”. He now knows, I won’t turn on the light or the fan until he says, “Fan on.” I won’t help him onto the couch until he says, “Couch – help”. It’s amazing. He is saying these words, he’s doing the signs. We’re practicing the signs for happy and angry. His speech pronunciation has improved greatly. He’s almost where he was before the little regression – he says, “Go” and it sounds like go. He says, “Two” and it sounds like two, and not toh, or teh. An added bonus – he plays by himself more than he ever did before, because after ignoring his “eh eh” for a few days, he figured out how to keep himself happy. These changes are just from one initial evaluation – so I’m feeling very optimistic. Optimistic that he can get back on track and be successful in his toddler world. Optimistic that this new development in our lives doesn’t have to continue to suck up all of my brain space.

And because I’m feeling positive and happy, I’m spending the rest of this post dedicated to my daughter, Lil’ C. Funny how things change – when they were infants, C was so fussy all. the. time. B was all smiles and laid-back. I remember my husband saying how guilty he felt that B was getting no attention. Well, the tables turned. I don’t feel too guilty, because C is independent. She’s well-balanced. She’s my damn-near perfect daughter. But I’ve not focused much attention on her recently, because B has been needy.

The day I found out if Baby A and Baby B were boys or girls, I secretly hoped for at least one girl. I come from a long line of very strong mother-daughter relationships, and I knew I needed a daughter in my life. In a perfect world, I’d have one of each, because I wanted a son as well. Baby A was a boy. I felt a rush of excitement and then an immediate plea into the air: Please let Baby B be a girl. Pleaseeee. I held my breath and then couldn’t contain myself when I was told Baby B was in fact a girl. Yes!!

And ever since then, this little one has been a source of such happiness for me. As she grows, I see a bit of myself in her – in her smile, but also in her brain.

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She’s a thinker. She’s unbelievably conscientious, always thinking of her brother, or the dogs, or whoever – before herself. She’s positive and happy. She loves everyone and everything – wanting to people watch, kiss babies, hug dogs – etc. I can’t think of a single thing she doesn’t like and will say “no” to, unless she’s just following B’s lead.

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She’s thoughtful. When I ask her to go get a washcloth or a bib for herself, she always comes back with two. “B” she’ll say, and hand him the bib she chose for him. She gives him whatever he wants, when she’s done with it. At the “My Gym” class they went to today, while kids were jumping off the walls and getting hung up on every game (or in B’s case, chasing down every orange ball in the place…), C played with one eye on the adult leaders. Was it time to clean up? She’s the first one there, ready to help. Was another child sad? She’s next to them, making sure they’re okay. She follows directions, she likes to please. It’s how I’ve been my whole life and I see that in her.

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She’s a daredevil. While B wants his feet firmly planted thank you very much – she wants to do flips, be thrown into the air, go higher and higher in the swing. She seems to like watching big kids do gymnastics and wants to participate. She’s sweet and she laughs constantly. I’d say she’s giggling just as much as she’s talking. She’s just so good-natured.

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Never did I think, with my dark brown hair and brown eyes, that I’d have blue-eyed, blond children. The gene is in my husband’s family, so I’m not too surprised, but my husband has brown hair too. And even though she sometimes resembles me, her eyes take me aback every time I capture them in pictures like this:

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or like this one, when she was 9 months old, and is one of my favorite pictures of her I’ve ever taken:

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I’m just constantly proud of her, in a deep way I can’t even find the words for but I have a feeling moms can relate to. Because if how she is now is any indication of the type of child, teenager, or adult she’ll be, I know I won’t have to worry about her. She’ll make smart choices, she’ll be kind and considerate. She’ll be successful and happy. She’ll have the mother-daughter relationship with me that I’ve dreamed of my entire life, after the one I have had with my mom, and her with her mom. One more generation of sugar-addicted, thoughtful silly girls.

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And even though twins have been so exhausting since Day 1, with twists and turns I never saw coming, with a messy house and fur-covered rugs I can’t keep clean – I have been nothing but lucky. For my wonderful husband and the perfect dream I was able to obtain: Children. Healthy children. A boy and girl, both so perfect that my life didn’t really start until they were here.

Getting past the labels.

I can’t thank you enough for the amazingly supportive, thoughtful comments on my last post, regarding our EI evaluation. You all made really valid points, points that kind of brought me back to Earth when my head was starting to drift. Again, my feelings and thoughts are kind of all over the place tonight.

Today, my husband and I met with the evaluators from my state’s Birth to 3 program and set up an IFSP for B. Some of you mentioned that this document, different from an IEP, would really reflect the desires of the parents and that we had complete control over it. You were right. We were asked what WE wanted to see change, and rate those areas in terms of importance. Doing that allowed them to choose which services would be provided and how frequently. I found the whole two hour meeting extremely helpful, precise, and what I needed to proceed with this whole process. I think I’m starting to understand exactly how this is going to work, and that makes me feel better.

But. I’m still not past the labels. There’s no label for B – yet. The evaluators do believe that if he was to take the Autism evaluation right now, he would qualify. AKA – he is demonstrating behaviors and abilities that could be on the spectrum. Specifically, his lack of communication with us, sensory sensitivities, and a few other small things (lack of creative play, lack of interest in other children), sounds like Autism to them. I’m having a hard time wording my thoughts on this. There’s nothing – wrong with Autism. I’m just having a hard time right now taking what was so great about my son and putting it above this looming possibility. Which is crazy – I know. He’s a wonderful child. He’s silly, he’s affectionate and loves to snuggle, he’s enthusiastic to learn.

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He’s SMART. I’ve spent so many months in awe of what both of my twins know and how quickly they soak up information. My nanny and I are constantly in talks of how to challenge them next, because they know and can identify, say, and apply all those things that kids this age might know. And then some. And I’ve spent the last few months pursuing my new hobby of finding educational activities that will teach them new things. But now I’m feeling like I need/want to spend time finding activities that will help B “get through” whatever it is he’s struggling with. When I know that’s not how this works.

At the meeting today I came to the realization that B doesn’t know how to play. I know he loves to play, but to him, playing is work. Work is playing. Sorting, stacking, puzzles, sweeping the floor, scooping and pouring, pushing cars, flash cards – those are what he loves. The other day he found a flash card with a picture of a brown square on it and he dug around in the play food for a brown square waffle. He brought them to me, beaming. I loved how he made that connection. And now every time we get those cards out, you can guess which card he searches for. And to him – this is play. But there’s NO creative play whatsoever – no imaginative play. And that’s a goal he’s now going to work on. I’m good with that.

I should be clear – I’m glad we have this program in our lives. I’m glad we could just say, these are our concerns, now please make them your goals. And they listened. But this is only the beginning.

Right now, our plan is to start with the EI services next week. A developmental…something or other will come weekly. Speech once a month. OT once a month. In addition, I’m going to pursue outside OT services, where he will travel to them, not just them to us. This boy loves to be put to work, loves a task, and I think the outpatient OT services would be very beneficial to him. In addition to all that….we are going to have him evaluated for Autism at the end of May. Originally, I wanted to wait a while, to see if the Birth to 3 people and the outside OT would do enough for him to show some significant progress. However, speech and OT at our house once a month is not much at all. If he were to qualify and be diagnosed on the spectrum, the Autism people would take over and his hours of service would dramatically increase. Considering it’s almost summer and I’ll be home every day, it makes sense to have these services crank up while I’m home. And if the evaluators think he might be diagnosed with Autism, then why would I wait for that kind of evaluation?

Well, because then he’d be diagnosed. It’s just a mental leap I need to get over. And I will.

I know he’s young, I know he could be Autistic. Or maybe not. It’s too soon to tell. But to end on a positive note, we have already made changes in the last week and we see a difference. We ignore his “eh, eh” and if he wants us badly enough, he’ll come to us or name what he wants. Sometimes what we assumed was him wanting something (“Couch!”), was actually just him naming what he saw, and we jumped in too soon. Yesterday, he wanted me to turn the fan on. He used to point to it, “eh, eh!”, and I’d say, “Do you want me to turn the fan on?” And he’d say “YEAH!”. Now, after a few days of me ignoring him, he pointed at it and said, “On!”. I waited and then said, “On?” “Yeah!” I then asked, “What is it?” And he said, “FAN!” I repeated, “Fan, ON!” And I turned it on. We might be on to something here.

That Time Birth-3 Came to My House.

I’m back for my second post of the night, Part 2 of my 21 month old B’s story. In Part 1, my husband and I found out that teething can impact a toddler’s speech development, which I was totally clueless about. Unfortunately, even after solving that problem and noticing a slight improvement in B’s speech, his story doesn’t end there and we may be on the cusp of something new. As I did through infertility, a high-risk twin pregnancy, and the newborn and toddler stages, I have turned to the internet for support in areas of concern. These have been topics I don’t know enough about and in the stress of a moment, I want to soak up as much information as I can, so I can do whatever is necessary at home to try and “fix” the problem. So my purpose in sharing these stories here on this blog is in case anyone out there is scouring the corners of the internet for the same reason – to ask questions and find support.

At the recommendation of my pedi (“If you’re really concerned…” he said), I called my state’s Birth-3 program. I was a little nervous in doing so, because calling them meant I had a concern about my child, and I don’t like being concerned about my child. Nevertheless, I called them and the woman I spoke with was very kind and warm – my type of person. I explained to her that I had sought her program out because of a speech regression in my son at 19 months, which Dr. Google said was not good at all. In fact, Dr. Google told me that a speech regression that occurs between 18-20 months might be one sign of autism. The internet also told me that mothers who have autoimmune diseases while pregnant are more likely to give birth to an autistic child. We were 2 for 2. I told the woman that B did have a double ear infection and fluid in his ears, which we believed likely caused the regression, but I still had concerns about a few quirks of B’s. The woman suggested they still come out to my house and do an evaluation, to take a look at those quirks and get a full and complete picture of who B is. The evaluation was free, so I agreed.

What are B’s quirks? I’m a first time mother. I don’t know what’s normal and what’s not. I have a son and a daughter. They are completely opposite. While C nurtures baby dolls, B pushes cars. Some children are calm and easy-going and some are high-maintenance. Some don’t mind getting dirty and some want to stay clean. I just assume(d) that these were normal characteristics of toddlers. And maybe they are, I still don’t know. But B has become very sensory sensitive. He recently was reluctant to touch our shaving cream sensory bin, and doesn’t care for any stringy, crumby, or slimy textures whatsoever. In the last month or two (or is it just noticeable now that the snow is gone?), B has an aversion to touching grass. At first, he stood up using his elbows. Then his palms only, fingers up. B has an aversion to specs of dust, dirt, hair, or crumbs that don’t belong. While eating an egg sandwich, if a piece sticks out, or a crumb is in a weird place, he points to it, fussing, “eh, eh, eh” and I have to take it off for him, or at the least, say, “Wipe your hands on your bib, then.” When his new socks caused a fuzz to stick to his toes, coming off and floating in the bath water, he noticed it right away, again fussing for my husband to take it out. He is not able to problem solve on his own by removing whatever it is he doesn’t like. Where once he didn’t mind spiders and ants, he now makes a sour puss face when he’s close to one, as if they gross him out and give him the shivers. Yes, this was a concern of mine.

B has a few other quirks. He’s madly in love with the color orange. He will play, eat food, and wear other colors, but if given the choice he will seek out orange. Orange socks, orange blocks, orange animals. If we take a walk in the stroller and I say, “Can you hear that airplane, B?” (B LOVES airplanes), he says, “Orange?” I’ll confirm – “You see an orange airplane?”. “YEAH!!!”. Or our newest game, “How many kisses do you want?” “One”, B will say. “Orange”. “One orange kiss?” I’ll ask. “YEAH!!! Neen!” “One green kiss?” “YEAH!!!”. You get the idea. It’s not like he doesn’t know all the other colors or even like them – he does. But he prefers orange and he uses his knowledge of the color in weird situations. Even when he doesn’t actually see the color, he’s thinking of it.

B loves repetitive motion. Many months ago I became a little worried when he started throwing his head back on the couch for fun. He continued to do it every day, only when he was happy and content. Many times, he’d grab two orange blocks and then sit against the couch and slam his head against it. If it ever caused pain, he wouldn’t do it (as he did to the floor during a tantrum once). No, this is happy motion. He loves swings. He loves car rides. He loves jumping in his crib. He loves pushing toy cars and trucks – using his whole body back and forth to do so. Again, I see this as sensory-related.

Finally, he throws fits. Big ones, especially a few months ago but still a few times a week now. He hits, he gets mad and throws things, he whines all the time, constantly, without the words telling us what’s wrong.

So these are a few of his quirks. Birth-3 came to my house today. They did their evaluation. I was hoping they’d say, “No, B’s a normal high-maintenance toddler and there’s nothing to worry about”. That did not happen.

B qualified for Birth-3 services. I’m still wrapping my head around all of it, but from what I understand, here’s what they saw: They saw a child who did not meet the standards in a few areas, one of which was sensory-related (they definitely see the same sensory issues I do). They are concerned about the fact that he doesn’t climb for fun. That he never learned to crawl (though he can now). That he only does these things for practical reasons, like to get up the stairs. That when he meets another child other than C, he takes a look at them and then goes off on his own. He’s not overly interested in other people – he’s interested in things and how they work. Above all else, though, they’re concerned about his communication skills.

Now, I called Birth-3 because of a speech regression, but I was talking about his pronunciation. They saw an issue I wasn’t seeing. I assumed B has plenty of words. The pedi asked me at the 18 month appointment and I couldn’t count his words – it’s probably close to 50. But likely 40 of them are identification words – every letter, color, number and shape. He knows his fruits, his animals, and he can say them out loud. But none of those things are communication. How does B communicate? He whines, cries, “eh, eh”…plus a few words, such as the names of everyone in the house. Birth-3 said he could possibly be on the autism spectrum, something I absolutely dreaded to hear out of plain old fear. We can (and will) request a specific autism evaluation and if he qualifies for that, those people will come to our house every week and take over for Birth-3, as it’s a different program. Next week, we are sitting down with Birth-3 and creating an IFSP, which is the young children’s version of an IEP used in school for special education students. Yes, in a few days I’m creating an “IEP” for my baby, my under-2 little boy. We don’t know yet what exactly he is, or has, or whatever. He’s too young to tell. Even the Birth-3 people said, yes, you can have a sensory issue and not be autistic. Yes, it may just be that he hasn’t been exposed to other kids enough on a regular basis for him to care about interacting with them (true, they’re in my house alone every day during the week). And yes, there are a few things my husband and I were doing that was hindering his development, which when we stop doing those things, he might show improvement.

What are those things we’ve been doing wrong? Well, we were parenting the way we thought was best, and so that wasn’t wrong at all and actually was perfect for C. However, for B’s needs, it wasn’t the right fit. First of all, we both were talking to the twins WAY too much. We’ve always believed it’s important not to use baby talk on toddlers – to talk to them in normal tones using normal words. We speak in complete sentences to them. But for B, there are too many words being spoken to him. The Birth-3 women said it’s too much for him to process. Keep it simple – “fast ball” instead of, “B, look how fast the ball is rolling down the hill!”. Oops. Forget the “please” and “thank you” right now, they said. Just get him to say the content word of whatever he wants. Start there. And above all else – stop talking for him, they said. Oops. B says, “eh, eh, EH” – and to make him happy, to get him to stop crying/whining/screaming we say, “B, what do you want? Do you want this? Do you want that? Would you like to do this and this and this?” UGH (Yes friends – I parent the same way I teach, by talking way too much!). Up until now, all B had to say was yes or no. Pay him less attention, they said. Let him come to us, tap on our shoulder, point, whatever it is – we’re doing all the work for him. Yes, we are. To address his challenges gagging on certain foods and misjudging the size of the pieces in his mouth (an ongoing problem), we were told to start brushing his tongue, insides of cheeks and roof of his mouth so he gets used to feeling objects in those spaces. So we’ve got our homework for the next few weeks until Birth-3 starts their services doing whatever it is they’re going to do. Working on sensory, gross motor, communication, etc.

This post was lengthy and picture-less. It’s more of a vent for me, but perhaps it may help someone else out there. I’m feeling glad that we did this, that we’re getting help for B while he’s young. That I don’t have to stress about how I can “fix” his issues, that someone else is going to come and take that weight off my shoulders and tell me what to do. But I’m also still a little shell-shocked that something isn’t right with one of my children. They’re both so perfect to me that I can’t wrap my brain around something being wrong. So I’m still in denial, hoping that after services and strategies are given to us, B will meet all the standards and go back to just being high-maintenance and that’s it. We will put this behind us and tell him when he’s an adult of the time he needed a little professional help to make him even more perfect.

Speech Regressions & The Ear Connection

DSC_0203I’m straying far from my usual toddler crafts and activities posts, back to my twins and their development. It’s been a while, but for many months I had touched upon B’s increasingly high-maintenance personality and his desire/hatred for certain textures and materials. It was from this need that I started doing sensory bins with the kids, and that’s where my current passion for cheap toddler activities took off. 

The story that’s currently unfolding in my house is quite long, so I’m splitting it into two posts. If I’m in full vent mode, I may just write them both tonight!

When the twins were babies, I had read many times that children will go through regressions as their brains develop and as they learn new skills. For instance, I thought that when a child masters a brand new skill (like sitting up), they might temporarily forget the old skills they have, as this new one takes up all their brain power. It made sense to me, and my twins went through a handful of sleep regressions in their first 1.5 years. I thought nothing of regressions and didn’t give them a second thought. This is why, at 19 months of age, I didn’t worry about B’s slight speech regression.

B & C have a great vocabulary, especially with their knowledge of letters, numbers, shapes, etc. The pronunciation wasn’t always spot on, as is typical, but they would attempt new words and copy me. Around 18-19 months, B’s pronunciation of certain words changed. It was slight, really, but over time more noticeable to myself and those who spent lots of time with him. For example, he used to say the color “blue” as “boo”. But around this time, it started to sound more like “boh”, and then after that, “beh”. He stopped trying to copy new words he hadn’t learned before. There was more pointing at what he wanted, more “eh, eh, EH” to get my attention. I would say, “Oh, would you like ____?” And he’d go “YEAH!” But he wouldn’t try the word himself. (Fast forward to now – he still does this, and when I say, “Say ____”, he says, “No”. Ugh.) But again, I didn’t think anything of it. After talking with a few people who saw him on a regular basis though (family, our nanny), they confirmed that they noticed it too. I decided to call my pediatrician when B was 20 months.

After explaining my observations, the nurse on the phone told me it sounded like B was being “lazy” and was allowing his sister to do the talking for him, since they’re together constantly and her verbal skills are pretty good. I didn’t think the term “lazy” fit young toddlers and I didn’t buy that. Regardless, the nurse gave me the number for our state’s Birth-3 program, which if you don’t know, helps get babies, toddlers, and preschoolers the assistance they need in a variety of areas for whatever concerns are noted. I also was asked by the nurse if we had ever taken B for a hearing check, just in case he may have something wrong with his hearing. I had not ever done it, though it was recommended at 12 months simply because our twins were preemies. I didn’t do it at 12 months because 1) nothing seemed wrong at all and I didn’t want to pay for it (terrible, but true), and 2) the appointment we did make was right when we all had the stomach bug and I cancelled and never rescheduled. Mom of the year over here. The pedi said that since I had not done a hearing check yet, they wanted to send me to a specialist. Before I could do THAT, however, I needed to bring B in to make sure he didn’t have any ear infections.

Before I called Birth-3 and before I went to a hearing specialist, I brought B into the pedi’s office. He was perfectly healthy – no colds, no fevers, no nothing. Imagine my total shock when the pedi said B had a double ear infection and a crap ton of fluid in his ears. I couldn’t believe it. I was asked, “Are B’s molars coming in?” Well yes, yes they were. My easy teethers never had a problem with those front baby teeth, but these two year molars are a different story. Neither of my twins are droolers, but man, they shove their whole fists in their mouths 24/7. Yes, B was teething. Sure enough, I was told that because B’s molars are coming in, he is producing a quart of saliva a night. Laying down flat in a crib, that saliva traveled up to his ears. (The non-scientific explanation.) When it traveled to his ears night after night, it pooled there and built up. And over time, it got infected. Hence, the double ear infection on top of the fluid. I had no idea – he never showed any sign of ear infection and wasn’t sick at all. I actually commented to the pedi, “Perhaps I should’ve brought C in to be checked, as she’s getting molars too!”. The pedi responded, “But she’s not showing a speech regression”. Fair enough – kids are different. We were sent home with antibiotics for the infection and children’s liquid Zyrtec for the fluid.

After he polished off the antibiotics and took the Zyrtec for three weeks, I am more than happy to report that B’s speech has started to progress again. It’s still not back to where it was, but it’s not getting any worse and he is starting to attempt new words again. While we don’t think volume was ever the issue (he could hear us whisper his name across a room), we think he was hearing sounds as one would underwater, all muffled. I have no idea when the fluid started building, but it could’ve been right around 18-19 months, when his speech changed.

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We kept the hearing specialist appointment as my pediatrician still wanted us to go. A few days ago, I brought big boy B and a container of puffs, bribing him to be still to get his hearing checked. He was SO good. They put plugs in his ears, sat him (with me) in a dark room and spoke to him through speakers and put headphones on him as well. Those puffs were key and he did a great job.

We sat down with the doctor. B’s hearing is completely normal and perfect. He is also fluid-free at the moment. Interestingly enough, the hearing specialist did not agree with the Zyrtec my pedi told me to give B, as he said no medication really works to clear fluid out of the ears. Fluid should clear on its own in one month’s time. If it does NOT clear in a month, and sticks around for three months or more, that child should get tubes put in his ears. This from the mouth of the doctor. Now – I’m no medical expert, but after three weeks of Zyrtec, B’s fluid is gone. Was that the reason for the drain? Not sure, but if this happens again I’ll probably try it. B has had a handful of ear infections but not quite enough yet for the specialist to recommend tubes. It needs to be monitored, and you can be sure I’ll be asking the pedi to check for fluid on a regular basis. But we were sent home with no new appointment needed.

Now I know – the fact is, speech regressions in toddlers are not normal. Ever. Once a toddler has gained speech, it should not be lost. And if anyone reads this who is noticing a similar regression, it should be mentioned to a doctor right away. That said, before jumping to conclusions as to the cause of a speech regression, check your child’s ears first!! The molars caused the saliva, which caused the fluid build-up, which caused the ear infections, which caused the speech regression. And I had no idea.

This story does not end here, and in fact may just be beginning. Part 2 (about Birth-3) in my next post.

Stop Stereotyping My Children

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When your daughter was born, what were your wishes for her? Were they different than your hopes for your son?

Soon after finding out I was carrying boy/girl twins, a stranger approached me and asked me what I was having. I answered matter-of-factly, expecting a simple “Congratulations”. Instead she exclaimed, eyes wide with excitement, “Oh! He’ll take such good care of her!” Wait, what? Did I miss something? Was my daughter going to need to be taken care of?

When they were born five weeks early, my son was able to return to us after only 12 hours in the NICU, while my daughter stayed there for 12 days. People commented that my son was “sturdy” and “tough” because he came to us so soon and that my daughter was “angelic” and “fragile”. So sleep deprived and emotional, I couldn’t wrap my head around what I was being told. My daughter and son were both fragile and tough because they were born prematurely. They were twins, they were preemies – they were the same.

Over the course of their first year of life, my twins swapped personalities multiple times. A once calm and light-hearted baby, my son changed into a strong-willed, passionate toddler. My daughter was the opposite. Fussy and easily irritated as an infant, she grew to be all smiles, easy-going, the life of any party. And yet, I was told, “Boys are so much easier than girls. You’ll find out when she’s a teenager.” Will I? Are all daughters doomed to be door-slamming drama queens who talk back to their mothers? (How’s that for a stereotype?) What if my daughter is different?

I heard, “Boys can’t stop moving. They’re so physical. They’ll jump, climb and keep you on your toes. They’re hyper. Little girls sit so nicely and behave.” Is that true? My daughter is currently the “active” one. She yearns to be upside down, thrown into the air, and she’s learning to stand on her head. My son will sit with a bucket of blocks for a half hour and read a pile of books five times in a row. What if he’s different?

I don’t know that they are, because my twins are also the same. They both love pink, wearing sunglasses, and kissing dogs. They both love running and yelling, banging pots and pans, and throwing balls.

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My husband and I know that with boy/girl twins, we’ve been given the chance to raise them as stereotypically as we want them to be. We know that in some ways, they’ll fit those stereotypes and confirm people’s opinions. There’s nothing wrong with that. Sure, we dress our daughter in pastels and our son in vibrant colors sometimes. Yes, my daughter is super social and yes, my son loves to shout “vroom, vroom” when he pushes his trucks. But my daughter also loves to wear blue, play rough and throw herself to the ground. My son asks for his hair in a ponytail, loves stuffed animals and kisses anything that stands still for more than two seconds.

Their second birthday is coming up. There’s no need for them to have separate gifts. Princesses and dolls for her, animal books and cars for him – it’s not necessary. In fact, it’s ridiculous, outdated, and just plain wrong. They share everything. That means you’ll find my daughter riding a toy fire truck down the driveway and my son cradling his pink lovey. At the same time, there’s no need to fight the stereotypes either. My daughter doesn’t need “girl” colored blocks and cars. My son doesn’t need dolls made specifically for boys. They’re going to play with whatever we put out for them. Balance is key. We hope to offer them a variety of toys and games in all sorts of colors and materials. They shouldn’t be limited to any one type.

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The coolest thing about being parents is that my husband and I get to mold our children with the values we believe in. We know we’re not going to feed the stereotypes. At the same time, we aren’t out to prove something to the world either.

We’re going to treat them the same, because they are the same. They’re both toddlers. Soon, they’ll both be just kids. Later, they’ll both be just teenagers.

We’re going to treat them differently, because they are different. Their individual characteristics (not gender specific) should be noted and respected.

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So to whoever told me that my son will grow up protecting my daughter solely because he’s a boy and she’s a girl – I ask that you stop stereotyping my children. They’re still just babies. We have no idea what kind of adults they will turn out to be. Until they’re grown, we’ll be treating them just as they are. Different, but the same.

Stubborn Toddlers & Baby Sign Language

Thank you for the support in regards to my last post. B was throwing some mighty fits for a few days there and since then, it’s decreased a lot.

I figured out the problem. He was sick of his oatmeal. Yes, his oatmeal. Every day for breakfast, B and C were eating 5 scoops each of baby oatmeal, mixed with one ice cube of pureed pears and a few dashes of cinnamon. Apparently, B is done with it. Not only that, but he was starting to associate his orange bowl with the oatmeal.

Those breakfast meltdowns that occurred a few days in a row were because he didn’t want what he had been eating for months. I was confused, because he had insisted I hold him while I made the oatmeal – mixing in the water, stirring it up – and he would even let me give him a taste off the spoon with no complaints. But as soon as I put him in the chair, the meltdown began. I assumed it was the chair, and after my last post, we switched out the high chair tops to the booster seats…and now I know it wasn’t the chair at all. He just didn’t want oatmeal. (We know this because we tried serving it on a plate – no luck. Since then, he won’t touch a bite.)

On the day I couldn’t take it anymore, he also had a one hour meltdown at dinner. No, there was no oatmeal served. However, I put out his orange bowl to put his dinner in – and as soon as he saw it, he started screaming. He even said the word “bowl” a few times, and I thought it meant he wanted it. But he didn’t.

I hadn’t realized how “deep” the issue had gone – he didn’t want oatmeal and he didn’t want the orange bowl because it reminded him of the oatmeal. Now that I’ve figured it out (and B has taken a 2 hour nap for the last three days in a row) – he hasn’t had a single meltdown. The kid was trying to tell me something!

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That said – he’s still extremely stubborn. C would never have a meltdown over a bowl. She’s never had a meltdown, period. And that’s okay – they’re two different children. But man oh man – B knows what he wants. He’s independent and strong-willed: two good qualities that happen to be exhausting for parents.

I have to say that this was a learning experience for me. I learned to start parenting a toddler instead of a baby. I’m much more on my game. I’m trying my best not to be wishy-washy with what B can and can’t do, and my husband and I are on the same page about the little issues, where we weren’t before, which was giving the twins mixed messages. We’re actively parenting now, and I guess we weren’t doing that before. What do we feel comfortable letting B do and not do? Some things don’t bother my husband like they bother me, but he’s great about agreeing to them if he knows it’s something I don’t approve of, and vice versa.

For example – standing on the couch. The couch is pushed up against our big living room window, so sometimes we all look out the window together. But if the TV is on and the twins are looking out the window, they might turn around to watch TV, still standing. My husband and I weren’t being consistent enough with our couch rules – deciding if they could stand on a case-by-case basis. As long as they didn’t jump or move around. Or as long as they didn’t turn around to see the TV. B didn’t understand the rules, and I wasn’t thinking that he was of age to NEED to understand the rules. But he is old enough, so it’s time to be clear.

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The day after the double meltdown, we were looking out the window together, pointing out birds and the snow and cars. They sit up there with us behind them to see better. When we were done, I sat them on the couch. B immediately stood up and moved his foot to the side, staring at me. I said, “You need to sit down now or you’ll be off the couch.” He took another step; looked at me. I picked him up and put him on the ground. He stamped his feet for a second and decided it wasn’t worth it. That was it – he went to play with his toys. This seems so obvious – and we WERE doing this. We just weren’t doing it every time, so B was confused. Now I feel better, and with confidence- we’re on the right track.

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Where I’m going with this post is how we use Baby Sign Language. I can’t say enough good things about it, though I wish the twins knew more signs than they do. The fact is, B didn’t want his oatmeal anymore and he didn’t want his orange bowl, and the only way he could tell me was by saying “bowl” and screaming. I can’t imagine how many more fits he would have if he didn’t have any sign language to use. It has REALLY been handy for these 18 month olds.

We started when the babies were 8 months old. Well, I started. I knew they wouldn’t sign back for a long time, but since they were eating solids and they sat in their high chairs, I would say and sign “more”, “eat”, and “all done”. Again and again and again. As they got used to seeing me do this, they started to smile and laugh, thinking it was a game. I just wanted it to become ingrained in their brains. Those were the only three signs I used for a long time. It was around 12 months or so that B began using his hands to speak to us, and he started on his own. He was obsessed with our ceiling fan and he pointed to it, letting his arm go around and around. That just happens to be the sign for “fan”, so I went with it and incorporated it into the babies’ sign language vocabulary. If you are hoping to do baby sign language, as soon as they start signing just one sign to you, they’re ready for many more signs. They’re in learning mode.

After that, I taught them a few signs that were important to me, such as “water”, “milk”, and “again”, but I also let the twins show me what they wanted signs for, based on their interests. They went through a dog phase, so we taught them the sign for “dog”. We recently taught them the sign for “snow”, because we now have a ton of it and the twins are paying attention. They also learned “please” and “thank you” and use them appropriately all the time.

Before I started this, I was worried about how long it would take them to learn the signs. Honestly, once they start signing, they pick up new ones so quickly. I would show the twins twice, maybe three times and then say, “You do it!” and they would. When they forget (like tonight, they forgot “again”), I just did it two times and they were back on.

One worry that people who have never tried Baby Sign Language have is that it might slow down a child’s verbal vocabulary – as in, they’ll sign instead of talk. That is absolutely NOT the case at all – in fact, it’s the opposite. As long as you are modeling by saying the word with the sign, they’ll do the same. The twins have a great verbal vocabulary of at least 40 words and Baby Sign Language has only enhanced it. I find it amazing when one of them wants something. If their mouths are full, they’ll just sign “please” by itself. If they can talk, they’ll sometimes just say “please”, or sign and say it together. The signs are just another tool in their toolbox to use when they want to express themselves.

Like I said, my only regret is that we (my nanny, my husband and I) haven’t taught them more. Next up on the list (especially for B): “Feeling” signs – “mad”, “happy”, “hungry”, “tired”…etc.

If you’re just starting out, I get all my signs from one source: www.babysignlanguage.com. I would definitely recommend it to anyone!