Fostering toddler independence, DIY-style

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

There are some areas in which I feel very confident in letting my twins just do their thing and figuring life out on their own. There are also some areas (ahem, meal time) when I’m slightly obsessed with making sure they take small bites and chew their food 1,000 times before swallowing. I’m working on that.

I can say, though, that I foster independence at home much more successfully when I set up certain areas of my house to be ready for whatever my twins want to do. Then the decision to let them be independent is out of my hands, because my home is already set up for this exact thing. In the past few months, I’ve made a few changes in my house that have really helped the twins make choices and be successful on their own.

First of all, Pinterest is my BFF. I know it’s so stereotypical. My husband likes to tell me that Pinterest is where your wife spends hours on the computer, only to end up serving the dinner salad in a mason jar and calling it a day. It’s kind of true. But I lack creativity. I’m great at following directions. I only save pins that I feel I can and will accomplish. So therefore, all the ideas I’m about to share came from my Pinterest searches.

DIY Toddler Art Station and Art Cart

With our nanny at our house every day, all day, I wanted the twins at age 2 to be able to do arts and crafts on their own. The kids have structured play during the day but also free play. I wanted art supplies to be at the ready for whenever we’re busy and they need to entertain themselves. As is my nature, I also wanted our art station to be as cheap as possible. So I consulted my BFF, Pinterest. Pinterest led me here, and this is what I based our art station and cart off of.

DIY Toddler Art Station

I used a piece of wood I found in our basement and Target’s $1 tin buckets we already had from the twins’ first birthday party. I already had the art supplies as well, though I continue to buy more on sale and switch them out. At the moment, the sticker bucket actually says, “stamps”. I bought the hooks at Target and my husband kindly drilled them in.

DIY Toddler Art Station

We have a small table that the twins eat breakfast and lunch at, and due to lack of space in our tiny cape, I decided that table would also serve as their art area. I found an old TV cart in my basement and I already had the plastic craft trays (affiliate link) from when we started doing Tot Trays. After a little modeling, I taught the twins that when they wanted to color (or use playdoh, stickers, etc.), they needed to grab a tray first, then a piece of paper and carry them to their table. Then they could grab the bucket of supplies they wanted and bring it to their trays.

DIY Toddler Art Station

They love it. These pictures are from the summer but the art station is used daily. At this point, they now know what color tray the other twin prefers and I frequently hear C saying, “Here’s your tray, B!” On the weekends after breakfast, she typically announces, “Let’s do playdoh now!” and runs to gather her materials. It’s been wonderful to allow them to partake in arts and crafts on their own without me needing to run around gathering supplies.

DIY Toddler Picture Schedule

Over the summer, B was struggling with transitions. He was so upset in between everything that happened – from dinner to bathtime, from getting up in the morning to breakfast. It was one meltdown after another. I hated that I was the misdirected cause of his anger. It was me saying, “It’s time to do _____” that got him so upset. Our schedules are pretty solid throughout the week. I wanted him to know what was coming next and even if he got angry, it wouldn’t be at me. So I Pinterested it, obviously. I found many examples but liked this one the best. I used, made my own cards on Microsoft Word and printed them out. Around the same time, I paid $33 for this laminator as well as these laminating pouches (affiliate links). I knew it would get a ton of use over the years. I laminated the cards onto cardstock and slapped some velcro to the backs. I used a foam board (from Walmart – $2 or $3) and now the cards are interchangeable.

DIY Toddler Picture Schedule

I put it at the twins’ height in our hallway. They know to check the board when they aren’t sure what’s coming next but typically, most things stay the same every day.

DIY Toddler Picture Schedule

I have to say, this was helpful for fostering independence. More importantly, it cut down on B’s meltdowns. The bath card is always after the dinner card. He can’t be angry at me for my sudden bathtime announcement – he knew since he woke up in the morning that bath would follow dinner. Our nanny adjusts it as she sees fit. Right now, this is really working for us.

DIY Learning Tower

This one deserves its own post and is months in the making. Almost a year ago, my husband started making the twins’ learning towers. Learning towers are a Montessori staple, but we found it on (….Pinterest…) because we wanted the twins to be able to simply see out the window. We had a lot of scrap wood and my husband said, “I can make that”. And he did. And it took a while, and wasn’t exactly dirt cheap. That said, it was way cheaper to make one than buy one, and I love how I was able to “personalize” them with the twins’ colors, blue and purple. When they were first made (and not even painted yet), the twins were 18 months old. They’re now almost 27 months old, but these towers have already gotten a good amount of kitchen use.

DIY Learning Tower

This was one of the first times we used them. B helped Daddy make afternoon smoothies. He absolutely LOVED being at counter height.

DIY Learning Tower

C loved it too, and though we planned on them helping us cook in the kitchen, I found I could just hand either of them a pot and a spoon and they enjoyed pretending, stirring…

DIY Learning Tower

…and sampling dinner.

DIY Learning Tower

Someday I’ll do a post with the step by step, because my husband did take pictures along the way. I love their quality, and someday perhaps we will sell them. I don’t like how heavy they are. In a big house, they might have a permanent home against a counter but in our house, we have to move them to the mudroom when we aren’t using them.

In case you’re not up to sawing pieces out of wood and would rather invest in a learning tower, you can find a few great ones HERE and HERE! (affiliates!)

So these were a few changes we made that have really encouraged and fostered independence from our toddlers. I am always looking for new ideas, because I truly believe in the concept of independence. The more they can do on their own, the better! Selfishly, I also love that there’s less for me to do – more of it’s on them, saving me time and energy. I did pin many more ideas but haven’t yet tried them – you can find all of them on my Pinterest page!

When Your Toddler Wants CONTROL, Twin Edition

Since going back to work full-time, I find that when I get home at 3:45, I really do miss them. Typically, they give me some snuggles and we go out to play. They make my arrival back at home warm and fuzzy. 

Sometimes we have evenings like tonight, where my husband and I are cartwheeling out of their bedroom at 8:20 (which is later than it should’ve been) and racing to the nearest bottle of booze. To back up a few hours, this is how our evening went down:

-B wouldn’t go outside with C and I because he had to poop, but the poop hadn’t “come out yet” and he didn’t want to go outside “with his poop”. I’d sure love to put him on the potty, but he refuses to sit on it right now. Once he went and was changed, we headed outdoors.

-I took them for a long walk in the wagon where they each wanted a leaf to hold for the ride. B loved his red one, but I couldn’t find another red one right away so I tried to give C a yellow one. That was met with loud protests.

-When Daddy got home, the twins didn’t want to go for their typical stroller jog with him, and so I decided not to fight the battle, as it was already 5:15 and I had a meatloaf still to make. So, they watched TV. TV, of course, is always in the same order: Youtube’s HooplaKidz, the one with “Wheels on the Bus” that plays 8 times in a row, followed by 5 minutes of Thomas the Train and then finally onto an actual episode of Daniel Tiger. This time, B threw a fit when we got to the last one, and we eventually switched to “Garbage Trucks Teaching Colors”.

-Dinner wasn’t on the table until 6:20. C cried hysterically that she didn’t want dinner and wanted to keep watching TV, even though she was eating food she loved (baked beans, sweet potato, and leftover “sticks”). They both soaked through their diapers while watching TV (oops) and I had to strip them down, including C’s wet socks, and wash the couch. I put C in a white diaper before I realized B needed a new one too. He was out of whites, so he wore black. C was extremely upset that she didn’t have a black diaper too. More tears.

-Then the real meltdowns started. B started screaming because his “brown peas” were on a plate (a sectioned one), and not a bowl. C was still screaming because she wanted a black diaper, she didn’t want dinner and once she did, she wanted her beans in a bowl too. Once they ate some of their food, B decided he was done. I tried to convince him to stay for the milk at least but no, he was done. So I got him down from the table and let him know he could go play or come back to eat. He wanted to play, but he wanted me to play with him. He screamed because I wasn’t done with my dinner. “MOMMY ALL DONE DINNER!!!” Threw the cover of his milk on the floor. Threw his straw (and C’s) on the floor. Threw himself on my arm. Meanwhile, C decided she didn’t want her sweet potatoes and was yelling about that. I continued to eat, of course, wondering with my husband where the mute button was.

-When I finished eating, I got up to play with B. A few moments of peace. Bath time was next. While throwing in their bucket of “ocean animals” one by one (and there’s like 85 of them), C’s arm slipped and she smacked her face on the edge of the tub. That was very sad, of course, and I’m lucky she didn’t get hurt. Just a sore cheek and a bruised ego. Lots of cuddles followed and I plunked her in the tub. Only to have her SCREAM because she didn’t have a chance to pick out her own washcloth. B started screaming because he didn’t want to take a bath at all.

-After the bath, B was upset because I wasn’t wearing the correct color bow of C’s that he wanted me to wear. He asked for one as well, but I had to put it in his hair for him, he couldn’t just hold it. And then I had to tell him he looked pretty.

-C wanted to run around naked and I told her “one more time” and she said, “two more times?” with her little sweet face – and I said no. And she cried. When I started to get her dressed, she wanted to hold three chapsticks in her hands, not the usual two.

-Right before books, C realized she wouldn’t have the opportunity to drink water out of their water bottles, only their cups, because I hadn’t filled the bottles today. Tears and more yelling. After books, more tears because she didn’t get to kiss a certain picture on a certain page of a certain book.

-On our way up the stairs, C wasn’t close enough to B for his liking so he began yelling that he needed to wait for C.

-And finally, when two toddlers were tucked nicely into their cribs with all 7 animals accounted for (4 for C, 3 for B)….they started arguing while Daddy and I tried to sing their goodnight song. “I’m a mouse! B is a bear!” “NO C! No BEAR! B is a mouse TOO!” “NO B! C is a mouse! C is a MOUSE!!!”

And then we did our cartwheels and headed to the fridge.

When I got down the stairs tonight at 8:30pm, looking at the damage in the kitchen, dining room, living room, bathroom, den and our bedroom caused by twin tornadoes, I vented to my husband that now, at this time of night, for once, I don’t WANT to spend the following hours 1) cleaning up, which is actually the biggest job, as the dinner mess was still out as well 2) preparing our adult lunches, 3) preparing toddler lunches, 4) preparing adult dinner, 5) and doing laundry. I don’t mind the chores, but I’m sick of starting them at 8:30 at night. I think we need a new schedule!

And that’s what a night with two cranky toddlers looks like! Time for bed!DSC_0535

A face only a mother could love 🙂 First apple picking of the season – here he is, loving every bite. And I mean EVERY bite. Turned away for one second, and the core was gone!


Don’t worry, it’s not poop. My good intentions to let them splash in a puddle turned into a giant mud fest. Sigh. At least her hair stayed clean.

Back to Work…

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

Enough with the advice, Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yup, our food problems are solved.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Weekly/Monthly Shopping List

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Single Ingredients for Toddler Meals

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

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

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

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

Enjoying (almost) every minute

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_2759 IMG_2766

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

Simple Kinetic Sand

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And sometimes, things just go right.

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

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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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

We’re “officially” parenting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Throwing a Rainbow-Themed Party


The twins turned two last week, and this past weekend we had a small gathering to celebrate their toddlerhood. As we’ve only had two parties since their birth, I have to say – party planning on a theme is a lot of fun. I really enjoy scouring the internet looking for ideas, and once I’ve made a decision, working on all the little details to make that theme come to life. Last year for their first birthday, I threw an old-fashioned ice cream party. It was all based on ice cream, of course, and their baby colors, purple and blue. Apparently the whole color idea stuck with me, because I loved the use of so many different colors in the rainbow party. I very much understand that the years of Mommy deciding what a birthday party is going to look like are numbered and when the day comes where the twins tell me what theme they want…well, I guess I’ll be going with it. For now, I utilized a few key aspects of the party to bring the rainbow theme to life.

I kept decorations pretty simple, but I made sure to have the mason jar centerpieces. I used mason jars from last year’s party, bought fake white daisies and cut them down to size. Then, I added food coloring to the water and got the rainbow look I was going for. The picture doesn’t show it well, but there was a nice purple jar on the end! I got this idea for the centerpiece here.

DSC_0075I have to give a shout-out to the best food coloring I’ve ever used in my life. As a non-cook, all I have ever known is the liquid drops that come in four colors. And it’s never very bright unless you use half the bottle. I have now made good friends with this food coloring, which comes in so many colors and one drop alone gives you the brightest hues. I’m addicted to food coloring now, I think. What else can I dye??

We had a few other small children attend the party, and for their favors I kept it very simple with windmills (in rainbow colors), and stuck them in candy jars of skittles and M+M’s.


During the party, my original plan was to put rainbow-colored sensory bins all over the yard. Kids could move around to various stations as they pleased. However, it was insanely hot that day and we stayed indoors, so I only made one sensory bin, rainbow rice. Dyeing rice is very simple and I did it (no joke) one hour before the party. Here’s how I did it.


And I’m so glad I threw it together, because it ended up being a hit with all the kids! Everyone had a blast poking and stirring and pouring the rice.


Finally – I put a lot of thought into the food for the party. Desserts = my world, so our afternoon gathering was dessert only. (I’m no longer eating sugar or gluten, so I didn’t touch a crumb…but that’s a post for another day!) I could’ve gone on and on with the rainbow-themed desserts, but stuck to only a few. First of all – the cupcakes.


I got the recipe here, but let me just say – it’s a boxed mix of white cake. That’s it. With my handy new food coloring, I was able to make really vibrant colors. And even though I personally didn’t eat them, it was strangely satisfying to watch someone else eat one and see the middle looking like this:


Doesn’t that look so satisfying?? Hopefully it tasted as good as it looked. We also had simple rainbow cookies, which I found here. In a nutshell, though, they’re oreos covered in chocolate. Dyed chocolate. That’s it! We made them the night before the party!


We had a few more desserts as well, and our marshmallows were simply dipped in water and rolled in rainbow sprinkles.

DSC_0083All in all, I enjoyed how it looked and the twins had a good time. I suppose that’s the most important part! B ate his cupcake just fine (surprising me!) and checked out his balloons at the table.


C ate her frosting off the cupcake and then that was it (more surprising!) but had a great time running and playing with her brother and friends.


All in all, it was a success. Happy Birthday, twins! I’ll start working on next year’s theme – three year olds don’t have any strong opinions, right?