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.

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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. 

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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!

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 Babycenter.com, 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!

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Stubborn Toddlers & Baby Sign Language

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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