Roll & Play: A Game Review

Toddlers go through toy phases. B is currently into Thomas the Train and all 70 of his friends. C loves Daniel Tiger. B loves cats, C likes dogs. Both of them like the “teeny tiny baby” in my belly.

Up until recently, I didn’t think toddlers were quite ready for games. Simple activities, yes. But games? I was a little hesitant when we received our kids’ first actual game, Roll and Play. Or as C calls it – “The Cube Game”. In fact, I didn’t open it right away. I wasn’t sure my two year olds would be able to follow directions, though if they enjoyed just looking at the cards and throwing the cube, I’d be fine with that.

Let me tell you – not only were my toddlers ready for their very first game, it’s a huge hit around here. C, especially, is obsessed with it and plays with it at least three times a day. This game is an absolute winner, and it inspired me to write a review post.

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

Roll & Play: A Review

As you can see, our box is getting a little beaten up due to overuse! C asks to play “the cube game” multiple times a day, and she takes care to dump out the box and sort the cards into their six colors (which could be an activity in itself!). She sometimes plays with B, sometimes with us, and sometimes alone. It can be used with many players or solo. C loves it so much, she doesn’t care if she plays completely alone.

Roll & Play: A Review

The idea of the game is quite simple. The child rolls or throws the cube.

Roll & Play: A Review

Whatever color is shown at the top of the cube is the color card the toddler grabs. Each card has a descriptive picture on it as well as written directions.

Roll & Play: A Review

Here are just a few examples (each set of colors has eight cards, I believe):

Roll & Play: A Review

As you can see, the directions are very simple and clear. There’s a theme to them, as well. All the yellow cards ask the children to make faces. All the blue cards involve locating something around the room that’s a certain color. C dislikes the green cards the most when she doesn’t feel like making animal noises.

Roll & Play: A Review

She must’ve found a good one! Obviously, my 2.5 year old can’t read a sentence. That said, the pictures are very clear and easy to understand. She also plays so often that she knows the cards by heart. She can see a picture of a girl stomping and locates the number six, and because she knows her numbers, she knows just what to do.

Roll & Play: A Review

It’s very cute to watch her pick up a card, “read” it aloud, then perform the action completely on her own. This is her “make a sleepy face” interpretation.

Roll & Play: A Review

B plays as well, though I’d say only about once a day. 🙂

I can’t recommend this game enough. It’s not only perfect for toddlers but also preschoolers. It would make a fabulous gift for a birthday party or the perfect addition to a toy room. If I had to clear out all of the twins’ toys but could only pick one thing for each of them – B would get to keep his trains, and C would keep “the cube game”.

You can find Roll & Play HERE, and with the amount of times it gets played in this house, I’m so glad I finally opened it up!

Roll & Play: A Review

Here’s C’s “Play Peekaboo” interpretation.

Roll & Play: A Review

Peekaboo!

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. I have not been paid to review this product. All opinions and thoughts about this product are my own!

Dreaming of tomorrow

His body goes limp in my arms, still young but not-so-little. He screams, thrashes, brings himself to the floor.

He didn’t want to brush his teeth, but he didn’t want his twin sister to have teeth time with me either. He wanted to be first, and to also not brush his teeth.

I stay calm, for now. Looking at the clock. Bedtime is here, and every minute we wait is one more minute this child is tired. Very tired.

The meltdown continues for a long, long time. Through the brushing of his sister’s teeth. Through the reading of a story to her that he couldn’t bear to listen to or be a part of. Following us into the next room, eyes full of tears, screaming, getting close to my face and saying, “Mommy, I want to HIT you.” Waiting for my reaction as he says it again and again. He never does hit me.

Knowing my patience will save me (and possibly him), I keep repeating, “I know. I know you do.”

Sister’s book is over, she’s ready to head up to bed. He wants to brush his teeth with me now and I give him one more chance. “Are you ready to brush your teeth right now?” “YES!” he screams. I head over to the table and he….collapses onto the wood floor. He’s not ready.

With no time to spare at a time where this boy desperately needs to sleep, I’m forced to carry his 35-pound self up the stairs, giving him the choice along the way to walk. He can’t do it – he can’t stop screaming, thrashing, doing anything he can to get out of my arms.

Pregnant, guiding sister up the stairs ahead of us (and praying she doesn’t slip) I hold on as tightly to his wriggling body as I can. Knowing in my heart that I won’t drop this child. And I don’t. We make it up and I know it won’t get any better.

The sadness starts to creep in. He’s so angry he’s simply screaming a sound with no words. How sad to end our day together this way. The night before I have to go back to work. Where we could be doing hugs and “I love you”‘s, and we’re not. I can’t even communicate with him.

Sister starts to get upset, as her routine was disrupted too. The hug they give each other before cribs – he can’t accept it. She wants to give it, open arms ready. And I just won’t do. At that moment I feel sad for her, too. She wants a routine, she’s ready to comply, she loves her brother. And he can’t see that right now, he can’t see through his own tears.

Into her crib she goes. Into his crib he goes, kicking and screaming. Jumping up and down and grabbing the sides of the crib. I wonder if this will be the first time he is determined enough to climb out. I sing her the song. I sing him the song as he screams, “Don’t sing! Don’t sing!”

And when it’s over, I turn to tell her goodnight, and I hear in a sad voice, “Mommy, a kiss! Kiss me!”

I can’t believe it. He never asks for a kiss. How could he have known that asking for this little tiny thing brings me full circle, from angry to frustrated to sad to…the deepest level of love. This boy puts me through the ringer.

He gets his kiss (or 5) and I promise him that I love him, that everyone loves him, that it’s okay to be sad. And then, that his lovey is sad too, and could he make Lovey feel better?

He lays down, finally. Snuggles Lovey. I say goodnight and “I love you”‘s to both babies; there’s a little protest but he’s still lying down.

By the time I get down the stairs he’s snuggled up in sleeping position (always on the belly).

I’m mentally drained, still sad, still full of so much love for both of my perfect, imperfect children that my heart might just burst. The carton of ice cream and a spoon join me on the couch. This night is effectively over.

Many minutes later, his sister finally whispers, “B? You’re happy now, B?”

But he doesn’t answer. He’s already dreaming of tomorrow.

From Grunting to Sentences

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

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.