From Grunting to Sentences

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It’s been 10 months since I started worrying about my then 21-month old’s speech. His twin sister’s speech was quite broken. I don’t think she was even stringing two words together at that point. If she did, it was extremely limited. But she had some signs and she used them. She was able to voice her opinions without using many words.

But her brother wasn’t doing that. He was saying, “Yeah” or “No” appropriately, but when he wanted something or needed our attention, he pointed to whatever it was and yelled, “Eh! Eh!” We didn’t think much of it at the time, and would turn, go towards him and say, “Oh, do you want ____?” He’d say yes or no in reply. He knew the signs “eat” and “water” and “all done” but wouldn’t use them on his own. I would say, “Are you all done?” And he would say “yes” and perhaps sign “all done”. He would not come to me and sign “eat” to let me know he was hungry. Or thirsty. Or tired or bored or anything. We just were so in tune to him, we knew what he wanted before he even had to tell us.

From Grunts to Sentences

It was our Early Intervention specialists who came to our house to help with vestibular input, sensory issues and pronunciation who alerted us to the fact that our son wasn’t actively communicating with us at all. In fact, they were so concerned with this that they had him tested for autism. You can read more about our Early Intervention journey HERE, HERE, and HERE.

I’ve already written about EI before, and they definitely did help us some. They taught us how to ignore B until he came to us, got our attention, and told us what he wanted.

After EI services were over, B’s speech (and C’s) started to pick up. Once they turned two, or shortly after, the words just started coming. First in twos – I remember C did it first, saying “two stars” that she counted on a house and I was SO. HAPPY. Then in threes. Then broken sentences, when they referred to themselves in the third person.

Now, at 2.5 years old exactly, I honestly can’t even believe we had a grunter less than one year ago. It seems like that stage never happened. The twins speak very fluently. Here are a few examples:

B: “Do you want to come in the den, C? It will be fun!”  C: “Yeah, it’s really cozy!”

B: “I’m going to push the stroller towards you, C.” C: “No, don’t take another step until I do my safety buckles first!”

C: “You don’t like pizza, B. You only like pretend pizza.” B: (Who hates pizza) “Mommy, C is trying to tell me I like pizza. I don’t like pizza. Please don’t tease me, C.”

C uses her speech to tease her brother, to exaggerate certain words (like “really”) and to get her point across. Case in point – any time she cries, B starts to chuckle. “CRYING IS NOT FUNNY!” she’ll scream. “I’m just trying to make you happy, C!” “I’m NOT happy right now!” “I want to make you laugh!”

B uses his speech to recall events deep down in his memory. Daily, he recalls something that happened at some point months ago and I watch his brain work. “That boy came to our house, and he played with that orange ball with me. What was his name, Mommy? And he sat right there.” (as he points to the spot on the rug our guest sat)

As I reflect on how far they both have come in less than a year, I’ve wondered how we turned a corner this fast. I think these factors are at play:

  1. Genetics. I know I spoke in complete sentences early as did my husband.
  2. No baby talk. I don’t know if this is the case or not, so I can’t be sure. But my husband and I have never spoken to our kids in broken sentences or mispronounced words to make them “baby” sounding. I know lots of people do that and that’s fine – it’s cute, and if the kids like it then great. But I personally never liked it. At this point, if someone does try to use baby talk with the twins, the twins correct them.
  3. The presence of another talking toddler. I think this one is big. C’s speech needed a little time. B’s speech needed a good role model. I don’t know if B’s speech would be as fluent if he wasn’t constantly talking to, and hearing speech from, his twin sister. They talk to each other non-stop, which is excellent practice! I’m sure in other homes, older siblings or even the presence of other kids at daycare or preschool helps as well.
  4. Early Intervention – They gave us some good tips in the beginning and set us on a good path. I can’t discount their time with us!
  5. Time. I feel confident that I can now say – turning two years old really helped. Kids will learn to talk -they will go to school speaking fluently. It will come. Sometimes it takes a little more time than you think it should!
  6. Toys and books. Our favorite books are Richard Scarry’s “The Best Word Book Ever” and “Cars and Trucks and Things That Go”.  (Find them HERE and HERE). The vocabulary in those books is so rich – it’s page after page of non-stop words. Just yesterday the twins went on a toboggan and recalled that word from a Richard Scarry book. And though I find them boring, the twins LOVE flash cards. Especially C. We have at least ten sets of flash cards, from letters and numbers to “same vs. different” and shapes. They ask to play with them all the time (aka, dump them all over the floor), which just reinforces that practical vocabulary! There are tons of flash card sets at the Dollar Store, Target, and HERE as well.
  7. Songs. The twins were singing songs before they could speak in complete sentences (the brain is so fascinating sometimes!). In the car, after meals, and during free play, we ALWAYS have Pandora radio on – specifically either “Toddler radio” or “Raffi radio”. And for TV – 9 times out of 10 they watch nursery rhyme videos, either “Baby Genius” or “Mother Goose Club”. It’s non-stop singing all the time over here, and all that practice using words can’t have hurt their speech development!

I know that every child is different, and I can’t compare my twins to each other, much less to other children! This was our experience with our twins’ speech development, and I can only speak for what worked for us. That said, I find myself smiling when I hear my toddlers talk..and talk…and talk. They sometimes stay awake for almost an hour after we put them to bed just talking. I’m grateful that they’ve made such big strides in a short amount of time. Of course, the downside of speaking so fluently is that they are quickly learning to debate us, but that’s for another post! 🙂

 

17 Weeks

I somewhat casually mentioned I was pregnant a while ago in this post, and since then I haven’t said a word about it! It’s a different experience this second time around.

I’m pregnant with one baby, not two. I’m crossing all of my fingers that this pregnancy is smooth and doesn’t have, you know, 11 weeks of bedrest (4 in the hospital) and preterm labor at 28, 31, and 34 weeks. Doctors have no way of knowing why I went into labor so early and why my cervix was so short at 23 weeks (which is how this whole thing happened in the first place). Was it because I was carrying twins? Or do I have a cervix issue? And they don’t know. So even though everything in this pregnancy so far has been “normal”, they are taking a few precautions, which I’m grateful for.

I’m receiving the progesterone shot every week, starting this past week. Yes, the one I used to get from my husband right after IVF, every night for the first like 10 weeks. I can’t say I missed having a bruised backside and the sensation of a five-inch needle puncturing my skin, BUT, some studies have shown that progesterone staves off preterm labor. And for even that small chance, I’ll manage these shots just fine. In addition to the shots, every other week they’ll also measure my cervix. This past week was my first time doing that as well. An unexpected perk is that I got an extra ultrasound to see the little nugget. The tech wasn’t checking the baby, but it was a nice surprise. At this point, my cervix is normal (4.1). And so right now, all is well. These precautions may not help or prevent anything, but it’s totally worth a shot.

Other than the constant worry in the back of my mind about bedrest and preterm labor, I’m chugging along fine enough. The nasty nausea has mostly dissipated (except when I’m hungry, thirsty, and tired) and I’m growing a nice bump. I’m super tired at night, and don’t do well the next day if I’m not sleeping by 10:00pm.  I can’t say I’m not whiny about my food restrictions. Besides the basic pregnancy restrictions (boiled deli meat? No thanks), I’m also gluten- and sugar-free too. These restrictions didn’t bother me for the like, 7 years I’ve been gluten-free, and even the almost one year I’ve been sugar-free, but when I’m pregnant….I just want fresh bread and ice cream. And I don’t think that’s unreasonable. No treats for this mama. Sigh.

We’ve told the twins about this baby, but other than knowing it’s in my stomach, they don’t get it. Nor do they particularly care. I do get frequent “baby belly” hugs, which is cute. Sometimes, I’m able to spend time with them and honestly forget I’m pregnant. I can’t think about a little growing baby when I’ve got screaming toddlers at the dinner table. But at the same time, bending over to change diapers on the floor or pick up a screaming 30 pound child or going up and down the stairs to do laundry, put down for nap, wake up for nap, etc – those things tire me out REAL quick. It’s hard to slow life down and take it easy when you have toddler twins.

Speaking of them, other than those meal meltdowns, they’re both doing very well. Their speech is absolutely unreal to me. My husband goes to work on Saturday mornings, so I always spend that time reconnecting with the twins after a long week at work.

This morning, I turned on their “toddler radio” Pandora station after breakfast, and they played nicely while I cleaned the house a bit. C asked for me to hold her when my favorite song came on (“You are my sunshine” – Elizabeth Mitchell version), and we sang and danced. B helped me vaccuum, his little toy version cranking alongside mine. Saturday mornings (when tantrum-free) are exactly what I need to recharge.

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After I cleaned, we made goop (cornstarch and water), and the twins loved it. B surprised me by finally, finally getting messy. He actually stuck his entire hand in it for a long time, squeezing and letting it drip. He’s never done that before. Progress!

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In addition to all of this craziness, I’m trying to get my new blog up and running but I’m copying and pasting many old posts from this blog there first, which is very time consuming and hard to do when I’m in bed so early every night! Baby steps.

 

Why I Gave Up Mealtime Battles

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See that boy? The boy with the empty plate (save for some peas) and the brand new car napkin? He and his sister were driving me absolutely mad at mealtimes, and in fact, most of their meltdowns were occurring right at the table. I’ve had an epiphany this weekend, and it’s like I’ve got brand new kids.

I don’t think I’m the first parent to have mealtime battles with my kids, but I’m not sure how frequently other parents go through the same thing.

B battles me for:

-His bib (can only be the brown one)

-His napkin (can only be the car napkin)

-His plate color (the one above, purple – otherwise orange)

-His spoon (big spoon)

-Who put him in his chair (me) and WHEN I can do it (after he gets his straps set up)

-Washing his hands in the sink

And of course, this doesn’t factor in his food desires!

B currently doesn’t like:

-Meat of any sort

-Milk

-Basic fruits and vegetables he’s liked all his life until like, yesterday.

-Sweet things

-Pizza

C battles me for:

-Her spoon (little)

-Who puts her in her chair (Daddy)

-Who gets her food (she scoops her own cereal out on the weekends from the box)

-Her hair going in a ponytail so it’s not in her food

For her, the issues are more food related than anything else. She doesn’t like:

-Meat of any sort

-Cheese and peanut butter, except when she absolutely loves cheese and peanut butter

-Rice/Quinoa

-Tomato sauce (except on pizza)

She would eat everything unhealthy in the world, plus every vegetable and fruit that exists. But rice? NO.

So each and every night (and lunch on the weekends), I was battling. Again and again. Screaming from C with big crocodile tears while her brother laughed (“B, crying is NOT. FUNNY!!!!”), chair rocking, head rolling from B with occasional hitting. It’s been a disaster.

Most meals went in this fashion: I’d give them something they like, but then when they were finished, they’d meltdown because the only options left were things they didn’t like. OR, I’d make them something new thinking they would love it, but they won’t even taste it, won’t even try it, and then I’d have nothing for them for dinner but some veggies (and only their current favorites, of course). I found myself growing angry when I put C in her chair and she screamed because she wanted Daddy. When I’d give B his choices and he’d scream, “No, those are NOT the options!!!” My husband and I were stressed and frustrated every night.

Except this weekend.

This weekend, I tried something new. If I already knew what they like and prefer – that’s what I gave them.

B only likes the car napkin. Out of all those nice ones I made, he’ll only use that one. If it’s dirty, I was previously making him choose from the rest of the pile. He refused to do it.

But this weekend, I said, “Your car napkin is dirty. You can either have one I made you or a white paper napkin.” He chose white.

He didn’t want to wash his hands in the sink. He got the choice of the sink or a hand wipe. He chose wipe.

I WAITED for him to fix his straps the way he wanted – not hurrying him along or attempting to do it myself.

If he didn’t want milk, he didn’t have milk.

C likes the little spoon – and I knew that already. Why was I asking her what she wanted if I already knew? Little spoon is on the table at the start, and that issue is solved.

As for food? My kids have eaten GREAT this whole weekend. WHY?

Before, I would give them one thing they liked, and a few they might not have. B has stopped liking peppers and green beans (though they are two of his favorites – I think it’s a temporary boycott). Why was I continuing to put them on his plate?

Now, I’m giving them 95% of what I know they like. B likes salad, C doesn’t. C gets cucumber when B gets salad. B likes pasta with sauce or cheese, C likes it plain. So that’s what C gets.

Do I think some of their food choices are gross and weird? Yes. I can’t get them to try ketchup to save their life, so dipping meat is just out of the question. Why am I still trying??

I’ve given up.

I know what they like, and most of what I’m giving them is just that. No more hoping they’ll suddenly take a liking to meatloaf – it’s not happening. They still eat veggies, they still eat bread and pasta, they still eat cheese.

It feels spectacular. My stress level at lunch and dinner is just about gone. We’ve started enjoying each other’s company at the table, laughing and talking. I know what they like, and I’m done fighting it. They’re getting what they like (within reason), and a little tiny bit on their plates that they don’t like. If they try it, great. If they don’t – next time.

This is all temporary, right? So they say. I’m willing to wave the white flag and let them eat what they’ll eat. Happy twins = happy parents.

 

 

Simple Sight Word Valentines

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I’ve had a lovely weekend with the twins. They’ve been in fantastic moods. They’ve been up for whatever I’ve wanted to do with them. And, their mealtime meltdowns have decreased significantly. I can’t believe it – in reflection, the majority of the issues we were having with both of them (but especially B) involved food. I’ve got a post coming soon on the changes I made this weekend and the impact it has had.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about Valentine’s Day coming in just a few weeks. As usual, any activities that I do with the twins needs to be cheap and easy. Sight word Valentines absolutely take the cake.

B and C know their letters and letter sounds, and they also know how to spell their names and those of their immediate family. I’ve been sort of stuck on what to do next with them. However, they love to learn (and soak up whatever I show them), so I thought we might try to learn a few sight words. I found a free heart template online to trace my hearts, grabbed some construction paper and a black sharpie – and that was it. Could not be easier.

When it was time to play the “heart word game”, I taped each heart to the floor in our hallway, and we went to town.

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They just ate this game up. First, I asked them to stand on words they already knew how to spell (cat, dog, and stop). Then, I asked them to locate other words and step on them as fast as they could. I helped them sound out the letters and they were able to find all the words (with some help from each other).

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B loved to hop from one heart to another.

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Choices, choices!

Here are some other simple games we played with these hearts yesterday:

  1. Counting different colored hearts.
  2. Hopping to all hearts of one color.
  3. Identifying their favorite words and stepping on them.
  4. Giving hugs to their favorite hearts.
  5. Getting their baby dolls and finding their favorite words.
  6. Acting out what the words said (when possible).
  7. And of course, reading the words!

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Hugs to their favorite words! B’s was RUN, C’s was STOP. We had fun acting those out!

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B decided he loved ALL the white hearts, so each one needed a full body hug.

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Mommy’s favorite word, appropriate for the day: SNOW. Perfect sized hearts for little toddler feet!

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C demonstrated spelling practice!

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I could’ve taken this picture of B today, because 24 hours later, he’s STILL running to his favorite heart and spelling the rest of them non-stop. He absolutely LOVED this activity.

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Even the baby dolls got into the action.

So this activity was one where I thought, hmm, not sure how much the twins will get out of this. Perhaps it’ll be boring; it’s almost TOO simple! But no – it was perfect for them. I never even considered the different games we ended up playing, and even the next day, the hearts are being carted around the house, acted out, and spelled again and again. This free activity was a winner for sure!

Sidebar: I’m in the process of making a new blog. It’s not ready for viewing yet, but it’s a better site with more features, and it will allow me to take this hobby to the next level. At this point, I’ll be blogging here and copying the posts to the new blog. I’m also going back through my multiple years’ worth of posts on this blog and plan to copy many of them over as well. It’s a long process but it’ll all be worth it. I’ll let you know much more about it (as my Facebook page and Pinterest will be changing names, too!) as it gets closer! 

My favorite season.

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Today was a day off from work. Today reminded me of the time I stayed home for a full year and pretended to be a stay-at-home mom. Today, I had big plans.

I try to remember, as often as I can, that “this too shall pass”. Both in the good way and bad. Sure, the meltdowns will end eventually (right?!), and the kids will be more independent, and perhaps they’ll even argue less in the car (orrrr, maybe not). But at the same time – my kids will be MORE independent (and older!), and won’t want to see what silly crafts and sensory activities I have planned for them. They’ll want to talk with their friends and watch TV (or whatever kids want to do these days….)

Sure, I’ll have a clean house one day. I’ll have a hot meal on the table by the time my husband gets home from work, and supposedly, everyone in my house will eat said meal. But then, the kids will be grabbing a bite between getting home from soccer practice and wanting a shower, or needing to work on a science project.

Life will be hectic, but in a completely different way.

I’ll stress less about the veggies my kids consume, but I’ll stress more about whether they’ll be broken-hearted if they don’t make the basketball team, or if they’ll face the pressures that so many teens do today.

I’ll still be worrying, but about different things.

It’s a passing season, the part of life I’m in right now.

So I try to remember this on days like today, when we hurry out to a new fun place (a museum that totally sucked, by the way. Like, the worst.) I’ll be ready with my camera and can’t wait for them to have a wonderful time until – they don’t.

And I’ll remember this when I look back on how my son stood in the “craft” room at said museum, straining to poop for a good, oh, 20 minutes while the kids around him colored and talked and stared at him. He did nothing but work on that, all 34 pounds of him.

Or when two older girls ran smack into him, and he fell to the ground – not crying, but shocked. Looking for me, he scrambled on his hands and knees across the room to where I was and hugged my ankles tight, as if by holding him I could transport him to his comfort zone and save him.

And after, when we hurried to the restaurant that was my twins’ favorite, and the mac and cheese burned my son’s mouth, even though I kept blowing on it and telling him to wait, and he screamed and spit it out and I caught it with my hand and my sleeve. And when they almost fell asleep in the car which would’ve ruined today’s nap, which wouldn’t have allowed me to sit at this computer right now.

And when one little boy didn’t want to take that nap, and threw a huge fit, flailing and screaming that he “didn’t want to sleep, I just want to playyyyyy!”

When one little girl runs squealing away from me as I try to get her ready for nap, with a huge poop in her diaper that I pray she doesn’t smush, to save me the mess (and her pants).

When it’s too cold to go outside today (at least for my liking, 11 degrees is a bit too much), and I’m wondering how I can make this afternoon fun and different, certainly to make up for the lack of fun we had this morning…..

I try to remember the change of seasons, and honestly, with all of this chaos and exhaustion, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Truly, so far this is my favorite season and I’ll be sad to let it go.

DIY: Cloth Napkin Tutorial

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

Lately, my 2.5 year olds have been using napkins. With the exception of a few times, most meals they eat now aren’t so messy that food is dripping and spewing out of their mouths.

Their bibs, those that they’ve used since they started on solid foods, haven’t seemed necessary. No food gets on them! On the contrary, milk drips off their spoons, peanut butter gets on their fingers – and they’ve asked for napkins. Fair enough, we all use napkins at every meal.

The problem was that they’d wipe one drop of milk on their napkins and that would be it. While cleaning up the table after dinner, I’d be tossing barely-used paper napkins into the trash can. What a waste!

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To cut down on the amount of trash we were producing and to save a few bucks, I made cloth napkins. Personalized, cute, soft and practical, the twins took to them right away and I’m super pleased with how they came out.

I’m really not a sewer – over the past year and a half, I’ve made only a few things: alphabet letters, baby blanket bunnies, and buckle pillows, and out of all these, my cloth napkins were hands down the easiest to make. I’ve found that the more I sew, the more I feel comfortable with my sewing machine, which is similar to THIS one.

I used another tutorial to help me get started, and you can find it here.

If you have any old fabric lying around, use it! I splurged and paid $14 for a few new fabrics, but the rest of my napkins were leftovers from old projects. (HERE are some super cute fabric prints!) Also, I decided to layer my cloth napkins so there was a front and a back side so that they would stand the test of time (I’m hoping to get multiple years out of them!). However, you don’t have to add a back to them.

Here’s how to make them:

First, cut your fabric into 9.5 inch squares (both the front and back fabrics). Layer them right sides together, then pin all around to keep both pieces in place.

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Stitch around all sides, leaving about half of the last side open (unstitched).

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Snip all four corners off and flip your napkin inside out (which will now look correct). Iron the creases down, including the side you have still unstitched (fold the edges down first).

Back to the sewing machine: sew all four sides together, and that’s it! Really, it’s that simple. I decided to sew a line right down the middle of the napkins after for two reasons: 1) to keep them from getting clumpy in the washer and dryer, and 2) to teach the toddlers how to fold napkins when setting the table, as they will fold along the line.

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Here’s how it looks when it’s done! I don’t regret spending the extra few minutes to put a backing on them, they feel super sturdy! This airplane pattern was one of my favorites.

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You can see the long stitch going down the middle in this photo, and it’s perfect for folding practice! As I got the hang of it, each napkin took me about a half hour. I made 10 to start, and we’ll see if that’s enough.

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One of the best parts of doing a sewing project is picking out the fabric! There are so many cute patterns to choose from, and as I said, 6 out of 10 of them came from fabric I already had.

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The 9 inch size seems to be perfect for my toddlers right now, but you can choose to make it bigger.

The first time I presented the napkins was at lunchtime. We ditched the bibs and the twins were super excited to choose a pattern of napkin they liked. I explained how these napkins wouldn’t be trash but would instead go in the hamper with the dirty clothes and bibs.

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B chose the cars and trucks napkin, of course, and spent his meal identifying all the various tow trucks and taxis.

DSC_0203C enjoyed exploring both sides of her napkin and not only wiped her hands and face multiple times, but also her neck and arms! I guess it really was soft!

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You can see how big the napkin is when it’s open – it could almost double as a placemat.

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B might’ve just had the best lunch ever!

After this lunch, the napkins were barely dirty. And considering it took me one evening and one morning to do a project that will last us years, this was totally worth it. Now I just need to cut down on our paper towel waste!

I parented today.

 

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…and it sucked.

 

This morning, my 2.5 year old son came downstairs, ready for breakfast. But he was cranky. And for no reason, he pushed his sister.

In that moment, I must admit, my patience bar was charged to 100%. I slept well and later than typical. I hadn’t seen my twins since the night before and was willing and able to put my best face on (unlike at night, when my battery runs out and I’m running on empty). Therefore, I didn’t let this go – I chose it, not realizing what I might be getting myself into.

After removing him from the situation, he proceeded to hit the dog hard, and then hit me. As I continued to put him back in the living room, I added that he needed to say he was sorry to his sister, to the dog, and to me. Yes, I know that’s a lot of apologies. But it felt right at the time and I went with it.

For the next 45 minutes he stayed in that living room. He wailed, he screamed, he shouted, “I want to HIT! I want to THROW THINGS!” His sister had her entire breakfast and he still wouldn’t apologize. Every few minutes I checked in on him – “Are you ready to say you’re sorry to C for pushing her?” “NO I’M NOT READY! I just want to eat!” I knew I couldn’t back down, and my patience was surprisingly still intact, even through the sobbing, “Let me out, Mommy!”

I held firm. Finally, almost an hour in, over the baby gate blocking him from us, he mumbled, “Sorry, Mommy.” “Sorry for what?” I asked. “Sorry for hitting you.” And he gave me a hug. Fabulous. 1 down, 2 apologies to go.

He wouldn’t apologize to the others even after I told him how proud I was that he did the right thing and apologized to me, and that he could be eating breakfast right now. Stubborn, stubborn. But finally – finally, he did it. He apologized to C, he apologized to the dog. Success!

Unfortunately, the meltdown didn’t end there. It was time now to pick out his bib and the one he wanted was dirty. I sat with him in the den, surrounded by other bibs he could choose and after screaming and throwing himself on the floor, he laid on a dog bed and calmed himself. 10-15 minutes more passed. And finally, he chose a bib.

He was ready for breakfast now, an hour and 15 minutes later. He pulled back his chair, and…..couldn’t get the straps “right”. Didn’t want to climb in himself. Didn’t want me to put him in. Didn’t want Daddy to put him in. Wanted to eat cereal and milk on the floor. (Answer: no.) More screaming, sobbing, and the threat of a hit.

And then – he let me put him in his chair. Except there wasn’t enough cereal for his liking. He typically puts it in the bowl himself but this time he wanted me to do it. Until I did it. Then he wanted me NOT to do it. So I dumped it on the table (no milk, yet). More screaming. Attempts at hitting. I ignored him and his hand hit the table, hard.

Finally, I said, “Would you like a piece of pear?” Yes, he did. Two bites of pear in, the switch flipped – all better. He ate, and he ate, and he ate.

The rest of the day has been fine.

I’ve learned a few lessons after this morning.

1)My son is sensitive to his food and sleep needs. I suppose he got that one from me. When he’s tired or hungry, he can be a bear. I knew that he just needed to eat, and that once he did he would be much better, but I couldn’t let him get away with hitting and pushing. I chose to allow this to continue instead of backing down, which I don’t always do.

2)I can be a good mom. Look, after spending 7 hours a day with 24 5th graders, I come home exhausted, with the patience bar mighty low. Too low. I frequently put the twins to bed and think, “I sucked at mom-ing tonight.” Lacking patience isn’t the kind of parent (or teacher) I want to be, yet it frequently is. The allure of a Sunday with my family, of sleeping an hour later, and being with my children in the morning as opposed to just the evening made all the difference.

And I have to admit – it felt good, when it was finally over, knowing I did the right things. That I didn’t back down, that I remained calm. That B did, eventually, do what he needed to do when I wasn’t sure he ever would.

3)Lastly, parenting is hard. Parenting, I’ve realized, isn’t the goodnight hugs, the “I love you, Mommy”‘s , the sensory bins, the playdough spaghetti, the book reading. Those are the perks that come with having children, the caretaking, the loving. The best parts, for sure.

No, parenting is the worst part of having children. Making decisions and not knowing if they are the right ones. Getting in an uncomfortable, crappy situation with your children and finding your way out. Finding patience when there’s none. I suppose it’ll continue for many, many years. Curfew fights, refusing to let them take the car out into the snow (pulled that one from my own history book), dating, drinking, doing well in school. Oh, and toddler meltdowns. These are hard issues that require a lot from us, and this, now, is what I believe parenting really is.

Today, I made it. Today, I parented.

 

The Insanity of Mealtime

Why Mealtime is the WORST Time of Day

Even a cupcake can’t bring a smile.

I hate meals with my toddlers. It’s my least favorite time of day, all three times that it happens. In fact, if I were rich enough to hire someone, I would pay good money for someone to sit at the table with my 2 year olds and deal with the chaos.

Here are a few reasons why I hate mealtime (and subsequently have few pictures of it, because it’s that bad):

The picky eating. I mean, let’s just call it like it is. I never understood how toddlers could be picky eaters until recently. My toddlers ate a wide variety of foods, and the only ones they didn’t eat they just flat out didn’t like. I can reason with that, there’s a lot of foods I don’t like either. But I didn’t realize that picky eating was an epidemic, an illness of sorts.

My daughter is the picky eater right now. Foods she ALWAYS ATE, she won’t touch. Quesadillas, any rice dish, basic sandwiches. Foods I could always count on for a meal. Won’t touch it. Not only that, but if forced to take a bite, she’ll gag like crazy and act like she just ate poison, when in fact she hasn’t even swallowed the bite yet. It has severely put a dent in the list of meals she will eat. And since I have two toddlers, I generally don’t want to make them separate meals. Hence, her brother hasn’t been eating those meals either.

C is going through a “plain” stage. She wants plain bread, plain pasta, plain crackers. Plain veggies and fruits. Won’t try a dip to save her life.

The whining. This one goes to my daughter as well. I try to always set her up for success, giving her at least one thing on her plate that she likes. But she can’t just eat a plate of snap peas for dinner on repeat. “But I don’t LIKE pasta,” she’ll whine, “I want something else.” Or, “This pasta is not perfect, I need something else that I like.”

The fit-throwing. My son doesn’t whine – he throws fits. He gets EXTREMELY UPSET if food on his spoon or fork drops, especially if it falls on the floor. And if a dog gets it before I pick it up and give it back to him (ahem), all hell breaks loose. He gets so frustrated with each bite that doesn’t go perfectly into his mouth, while C just bare-hands whatever it is and shoves it in. He needs some coping strategies on what to do if elbow pasta falls from his spoon! C doesn’t help – “We don’t THROW things, B! That’s not GOOD MANNERS!”

The RIDICULOUS REQUESTS. And I mean ridiculous. Coming from two toddlers at the same time, I get up from the table about 587 times a meal.

C: “My water is cold. I don’t LIKE cold water, I want warm water!” “I want to shut the ketchup bottle!” “I want to see your water!” “My spoon is too cold, Daddy – make it warm!” (Daddy blows on it in his hands) “Noooo not like that Daddy, that’s not perfect!” “I don’t want a little spoon, I want a big spoon! Not THAT spoon, a different spoon!” (She tries something she hates, bursts into tears and acts like her tongue is covered in burning acid). (“Take a drink, honey.”, and B laughs at her.) “CRYING IS NOT FUNNY!” she screams to him. “YES, IT IS FUNNY,” he replies.

B: “Don’t put me in my chair, Mommy!!!” (I say, “Who is putting you in your chair, Daddy or Mommy?”) “Mommy.” (I reach over.) “NOOO don’t put me in my chair!” “Don’t do my buckles.” “Don’t help me with my buckles.” “My bib hurts!” (the back of his neck) “Don’t wash my stickies!” “I don’t LIKE green beans.” (“B, you love green beans.”) “No, this one has a string so I don’t LIKE them.” “Mommy,” (as he gags), “take this string off. I don’t LIKE strings.” “I don’t WANT A NAPKIN!” (Throws it on the floor. Two minutes later…) “I need a napkin!”

And finally, my own irrational fear of choking. It’s real and it’s running wild as the kids get older. WHY does my daughter take such giant bites? I know it’s precisely to toture me. I mean barely able to speak, her mouth is full to the brim. She grabs fistfulls of small things – cut veggies, peas, chick peas, and I have to look away. And of course, as there’s two of them, they’re constantly talking and laughing throughout the meal. Making each other laugh while chewing – my worst nightmare. Between the both of them, someone coughs a bit everyday. And coughing is not choking, I know this. But it doesn’t help my heart from stopping and having a mild panic attack every. single. time. I know I have an issue but I don’t understand how parents DON’T have this same issue (including my husband). Do you all feel so confident that you’ll be able to save your child’s life by doing the heimlich successfully? Isn’t there any fear of failing on this front?

So yeah, I cut up those damn grapes. Into like, eighths. Raw carrots are sliced fine as well. Clementines – each slice into thirds. And lollipops – they don’t even get lollipops, because what if the cheaply made piece of garbage pops off the stick as they’re eating it?? They will choke on it, there’s no doubt in my mind. Maybe you all can talk me off this ledge, but man, I’m getting out of control with this one.

Yes, meals suck in this house. When you come over for a visit and witness a meal, you’re sure to be running for the door when it’s over. After I’ve reheated my plate up for the fourth time, sometimes it’s just easier to wait until the kids have gone to bed to eat it. Meals never used to be this unpleasant, and I’ll take any suggestions you have to turn it around!

The Secret

*tap tap* Is this thing on?

For anyone out there who even still reads this, I’m returning to this space. I love blogging and I’ve missed it. I’ve happily read your blogs, though, but I’ve neglected just about everything else – commenting, updating my Facebook page, and of course, writing. I’ve been keeping quiet for a few months.

I’m 12 weeks pregnant. I have family that reads this blog, and I wanted to come here and vent and share and question, but I couldn’t and had to wait. I have a lot of thoughts on this; this pregnancy that has come my way, but now isn’t the time to share it. I can tell you that I was lucky. The ease of which this happened is cause for extreme gratefulness and I don’t take it for granted. I also eliminated sugar from my diet (98%) and my husband did too….and that affected my infertility issues in a positive way. For now, for the sake of my husband’s relatives who read this, I’ll leave it at that. Someday, the science of what I think happened is pretty fascinating.

For those of you with three children, I can’t – I’m struggling to fathom managing all of them. Surely, one will get lost in a laundry basket, under a bed, or in the refridgerator eating fistfulls of applesauce. Twins, we manage, but the third – I’ve no idea. No clue whatsoever. But I’ve got time to process and ask questions and think. It’s taken me a long time to even accept that this is happening.

That’s my big secret, finally let out. I look forward to returning to this space often about other things – I’ve got 2.5 year olds with opinions and sass, and love and bickering. I’ve got picky eaters, good sleepers, and long hair  on a girl that I don’t know how to manage besides with a ponytail. They’ve changed a lot in a few months and I’m excited to document it all here for them to read someday.

I have other secrets, too, though none as big. The kids aren’t going to preschool yet (they’re basically getting it here with my nanny), but when they do, I’m deeply in love with the Montessori model. I could write all about it, but will save it for another day. My husband and I feel it’s the right program for our kids and if we can afford it, we might just send them to Montessori school forever. Lately, I’m tired. Really tired. I haven’t been creating activities and a learning environment for the twins like I used to. And I really do want to, but I can’t get off the couch.

Yes, I am a public school teacher. I have always wanted to be a teacher. In the company of happy students, doing fun lessons and putting cute stickers on their work – or that’s what I envisioned when I was a child. It’s a different world now, and my fellow teachers and I sometimes daydream about different careers, not because we don’t enjoy teaching – but because of the garbage that has come with it in our society right now. The pressures and the stress have become so great that we lean on each other to get through the days. Thankfully I have a wonderful, supportive team. But my daydream continues…

I like taking pictures. (Doesn’t every mom? Yes, I know I’m no different.) I like editing pictures. I like taking pictures of my children, but also other children in their own homes, in their own environment. I like eyes – getting a clear, well-lit picture of a child’s eyes is like Christmas morning, and it’s a great feeling.

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An oldie-but-goody

I like lifestyle photography – with the messes of laundry and dirty dishes in the sink. And I like this hobby so much that I’d like to, slowly, explore it. Get to know my camera in and out. Focus on light and shadows and textures. Take pictures of my friends’ kids and of course, my own. And see where it takes me.

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As part of our Facebook pregnancy reveal photo shoot

To start, I’m participating in my first Project 365. As simple as you’d think – take a photo a day and put it on Instagram (or Facebook, or wherever). For me, though my subjects will frequently be my kids, it’s not about getting them to smile and posting it everyday. I want to grow my hobby – so I need to learn how different angles affect the mood of a picture. I want to learn how to really edit, and play with the natural light. My daily photo can be found on my Instagram but will also play out here on the blog, in my sidebar. Some do this project through Facebook, but I’m not sure that’s the right space for me. A picture a day for a year is quite a lot for people to sift through!

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Christmas card photo shoot

It’s hard to know if I have skills beyond the basics, and maybe I don’t and this will continue to be a fun hobby. But I’m not sure, and over the next few years, if I can get my head above water, I’d like to find out.

That’s where I’m at today! Happy to be able to return to this space and find some additional blogs to read. What blogs are you reading right now?

 

 

An Overdue Autumn Update

The twins turned 27 months last week. It’s funny how after they turned two, I stopped counting by months. Two is two, though I imagine it’ll look a lot different as they get closer to three.

Autumn life in this house is always insane. Back to school means back to lesson plan writing, paper correcting, and 1,000 other to-do’s. It means getting back into a routine with our nanny, who has decided to give us lesson plans every month of what she will be doing with the kids, complete with a weekly theme and daily art projects, books, and math learning time (yes, I know we’re lucky). Back to school means trying to get dinner cooked quick, and searching for recipes that are simple and easy yet tasty and crockpot-able. It means we try to fit all the chores, cleaning, bigger house tasks, and family time on the weekends when there simply aren’t enough hours to do these things. And for us in New England, it means beautiful fall weather. We get outside every day, multiple times a day. The long winter will be here soon and the sun will set early, so we get out as much as we can.

This year, our current weekdays mean that when I get home around 4:00, I get shoes and coats on and we head outside until 5:00-5:30, depending on weather. The twins love coloring with chalk all along my car bumper. B goes on the swings. C goes down the slide into giant piles of leaves we haven’t raked up yet. I pull them down the street in their wagon, or they push their little cars and strollers up and down the sidewalk. We step on 5,396 crunchy leaves. We pet the neighbor’s dog, who walks by at the same time every afternoon. When Daddy gets home, they check the mail with him and browse through it on the driveway, C declaring, “I’m reading the mail, Mommy!” They sit in his driver’s seat and honk his horn. And at 5:30, we declare it “TV time”, because it allows us to make dinner in peace as they watch nursery rhymes on YouTube.  It’s all the same, every single day. I enjoy the predictability. I like how I’m able to shut off my work brain in order to declare a leaf “super crunchy” or “still soft”. It’s hectic, but it’s nice. Freezing temperatures in a few months will sometimes take that entire routine apart, so I suppose we’ll have to come up with an indoor plan.

I’m finding two years old to be (mostly) fun. The twins are extremely passionate about everything, all the time. Their vocabularies are taking off daily, with B’s only slightly behind C’s. He still expresses himself in multi-word sentences, but they typically aren’t complete sentences, as C’s are.

B will say things like “B has ouchie on leg.” “B is all done, play again later.” “Mommy wash B, not Daddy.” “B likes orange, not purple.” Those types of sentences. He still hits and throws toys, on occasion. Ever since this day, we haven’t been doing a time-out. I notice still that the more of a deal I make out of it – especially if I raise my voice, he either laughs or smirks at me, which means that doesn’t work. We do remove him from the situation, firmly tell him we do not hit, and I now frequently make him say to C, “I’m sorry I hit you C” and then he “shows her nice” by either hugging her or rubbing the spot where he hit her. I’m not a huge fan of the apologizing but I’m still doing it, because it just seems like…something he needs to do, even if he doesn’t mean it. I’m not expecting him to mean it right now, I’m hoping to help form the habit that we apologize when we hurt someone.

I’ve been watching B’s reactions change when he’s angry as he’s gotten older. In the past if he was upset he would immediately hit. Then over the past few months, he’s started opening his mouth and yelling a loud, long yell, even shaking as he does it. Followed by a hit. Recently, he’s yelling that loud yell, which I don’t make him stop. When he’s finished, I say to him, “You’re very angry, aren’t you B? You can say, “I’m angry right now!” (And sometimes he will.) Or I’ll say, “Why don’t we try again or go play a different game?” And he does these things – without the hitting. Maybe, hopefully, he will grow out of hitting soon. The anger though – I’m not sure what to make of it. C doesn’t get angry much, not like that. His yell is something he can’t control and he does it just once, and looks at you. It seems as if the yell is starting to replace the hit. Sometimes he’ll then even ask you, “B throw this toy?” “B hit C?” As if he wants our permission. I don’t know, I assume it’s normal – he gets frustrated.

On the positive side, B is a little love. He loves to snuggle, he likes to be cozy and wrapped up in warm things. He is able to joke around with us (C hasn’t figured that one out yet). He asks us an easy question and when we ask him for the answer, he purposely says the wrong one, knowing we will respond with a funny look which makes him laugh. He loves to laugh at the silly things life brings him, like a piece of food in a weird shape or a Matchbox car that goes down the ramp sidewise and flips. Speaking of cars, he is absolutely passionate about moving vehicles of any sort. Matchbox cars and trucks are his favorite toys, “The Wheels on the Bus” is his favorite song, Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry is his favorite book…etc. It’s easy to make him happy wherever we go, because any construction or emergency vehicle or loud airplane or even the forklifts at Home Depot making him laugh and shriek. Then he’ll say, “B loves this forklift.” His communication with us has come a long way and we’re pleased with where he’s at right now.

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C is a firecracker. She’s bossy, sassy, and sweet all at the same time. I was very bossy in my youth…this quality doesn’t exactly surprise me. She demonstrates this skill in her tone of voice. “No, B, that’s MY cat. You can’t have it!” She’s sassy – a few weeks ago she suddenly said, “Hey Mom, come ‘ere! I have to show you something!” No clue where she got the “Mom” from, or the direct order to come to her. Or she’ll say, “B come here right now!” We always make her do it again by “asking nicely” and she knows exactly how to do that. She’s much smaller than B, so her speech sounds like a mouse squeaking to me. Which is why it’s comical and adorable when she says these crazy sentences. Like a few days ago, I put on Wheel of Fortune as I put her Pj’s on. She saw an H and said, “Oh, H. That’s the letter we’re learning about this week, Mommy.” And I had to respond with, “What did you just say?”

She is also a little love, but you have to catch her and tickle her first. She loves to laugh and does so constantly. She gives out fewer kisses but loves to seek your approval, sneaking looks at you out of the corner of her eye as she does something cute. She knows when she says something adults will like or find appealing. She’s very aware of what she says to you and chooses her words carefully. She isn’t passionate about any one topic as B is, but she really loves dogs and cats. She’s definitely a dog person and enjoys every dog she sees. She likes to do whatever her brother is doing and plays cars all the time, even though I know she doesn’t really care about them. If he’s laughing, she’s laughing. Basically, she just likes to be where the action is. Though if B isn’t at home, she can completely entertain herself with toys without needing much from me at all. She’s independent and fearless.

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I sometimes feel like they are older than two. For one thing, they’re both pretty smart, as they know all their letter sounds, the full alphabet, numbers up to 30, some basic, basic addition concepts, how to spell their names, and my favorite, their pre-reading and writing skills (C knows how to make a “C”), with both of them “reading” words with their finger. And I have to say those things as their mom, because I’m proud of them as a reflection of my husband and I. And because we have family who read this blog who want updates. 🙂

But more than that, we talk to them as if they are older than two. Sometimes we’re explaining things probably more than we need to (no, Daddy, B isn’t understanding your basic physics concepts you’re trying to teach him), but more often than not, when we take the time to explain things to them, it quiets them. They settle down, they listen. They might not understand, but then again who knows?

They are starting to really like each other as friends, which is lovely. They can play together without me there. Really together, not as parallel play. They have their own conversations. They laugh in their cribs for a good 20-30 minutes at night before falling asleep. This week’s current crib laugh is over the silliness of the word, “pointy”.

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So as always with these long updates, they’re doing great. We’re doing great too, and we’re trying to get through the fall. I’ve got a week to create their Halloween costumes and write an entire math unit, our garage wooden door frames rotted out and fell apart and our rugs haven’t been vacuumed in two weeks. Is it summer yet?