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?

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 mycutegraphics.com, 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!