Raising My Twins

It's what's on my mind.

In Case You Were Wondering

IMG_8005Having twins is a treat, for the most part. It’s just as charming as can be to watch them play together and care for each other on a daily basis, and it’s fun to ponder how it would be to have a regular partner from birth through childhood—the good and the bad of it. Also, many people in the world love to see twins together, and that’s really fun. It’s overwhelmingly a positive experience.

And of course there are difficulties. I’ve been asked what the most difficult part of having twins is, and…I know what you think I’m going to say: potty training! But no. While that continues to be truly difficult for me with one of my twins, I now know that every kid and every twin set is different.

What’s the hardest thing? It’s the lack of little moments of everyday bonding. This is how that looks:

1. The second girl to get up from her nap bypasses me (waiting for her with open arms and a big smile) because her sister is already up and playing, and that looks more fun.

2. I NEED to talk to Twin A about a safety or learning issue, and Twin B will come and disrupt by physically messing with a) Twin A, b) me, or c) the half-prepared dinner I was working on, which is now all over the living room.

3. I start to ask Twin B about her day or mood, as it seems she needs some individual attention, and Twin A starts a) answering for Twin B, b) talking loudly and disruptively, or c) climbing on my head.

4. I am as much a toy as anything else when there are two of them. Here’s a game: Touch spoon with intent to drop it on the floor, watch mom move quickly to stop you, then make a funny “Eeeeaaah!” noise and laugh with sister at mom. Repeat—alternating twin perps—until mom stiffly removes spoons.

5. One girl climbs on my lap for snuggles, and the other girl MUST join her on my lap. Pushing and crying ensues all around (not excluding me).

Piles of “ruined moments.” I know: it’s all about expectations. The moment is only ruined if I was expecting it to go differently. So do I have a lot of expectations? YES!  I can’t help myself. Over and over, I have lovely nano-moments implode into frustration and disappointment (me) or explode into chaos and crying (them). Most of the time it feels as if I never get to “settle into” the present and really enjoy it. So much for pursuing a state of zen, huh?

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Preschool Angst

Our kids NEED preschool. It’s not a fun luxury item, like I thought it could be. (That was silly, yes!) They both have speech delay and preschool is a necessary addition to their lives. Doc says so. So does the speech therapist.

But I didn’t need to learn about the speech delay to know they need preschool. They’re climbing the walls keeping to a toddler lifestyle here at home. They are 3 now, not 2. They can’t hang around home with the same old things to do without getting into mischief.

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And because they are mischievous and I am often too busy, things are going badly between us more often than I’d like. They need expansion!

So we signed up. Audrey in a traditional classroom, Rachel in Montessori. Back when I was only thinking about the girls attending preschool it seemed like it would be a kind of break, but in reality it has simply added more stress. A LOT more stress.

I already have homework. And they haven’t even started class. I have to buy several items, label all their clothes, print pictures, decorate a poster, make a meal plan. Then I have to find time to volunteer at least once a week in TWO classrooms, in order to make the 12 hours per classroom requirement for the semester.

The square footage of each classroom might be larger than our house (in keeping with the payment). These pictures are from Audrey's class.

The square footage of each classroom might be larger than our house (in keeping with the payment). These pictures are from Audrey’s class.

And did I mention the cost? Oh boy, the cost! Here’s an area in which having twins is really tough. Our new monthly preschool bill is more than our mortgage! How’s that for messing with one’s budget? Have you ever suddenly added an expense that cost more than your housing?!

And no, I didn’t pick an exclusive, fancy preschool. Not at all. It is a “lab school” at a community college where the kids have their regular, top-level teachers, and where college Child Development students also get their supervised “hours”.  There is much observation of the kids here, and the programs are completely up-to-date with modern Child Development theory. (Did I mention I love it here?) Because of the lab format, the cost is actually quite a bit lower than average for the Bay Area. But there are two of them…two kids. Two classrooms, with different rules, and I have to volunteer for 12 hours in each.

But I have to work to pay for preschool! Oh and they’re only there part time! Half days all week.

I know I’m not the first one to face this problem…not by a long shot. But it’s very stressful. And if I stop sleeping, like I did last night (worrying) then everything else will go down the tubes.

I know we will make it work. We always do. But I needed to vent, to relieve some pressure.

I’ve just stopped typing and taken some down-time before consolidating my lists and with that done I already feel better. And most importantly, I’m SO excited for the girls to experience their new school. It looks so fun that it would make anyone want to be a kid again.

When did preschool become so expensive? Or was it always so, and has just become more compulsory? What’s your experience with preschool?

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It’s Been Awhile

swimming-preschoolersThe girls have turned 3 and are as sweet as ever…and more challenging than before. It’s become important for me to spend lots of attentive time with them, which leaves me with less time for blogs and projects and cleaning (no tears shed for that).

We had a big Disneyland trip in May, just before the girls turned 3 (because they get in free until 3). It was a blast. Upon our return, Ray Ray had a week of total potty rebellion. She’d pee in her sister’s bed, in our bed, in a box outside…completely deliberately. And then come to me to point it out. Eventually I figured out I had to have no reaction to it, and it was resolved in a week. HOWEVER…

Next started a couple of weeks of pooping in her pants. She’d just refuse to go into the bathroom even though she was walking funny and stinking…and then she’d cry out “poo poo!” only as the lump was forming in her pants. Depressing? Infuriating? Oh yes.

This mama was pretty beside herself. I was calm (inner defeat) for a couple of days and then I really spazzed out one time when she was pantsless and made a pile on the floor. And another. Well, my hitting the roof made the next days even worse…she was completely out of control. I remembered to react “not at all” and further, I sensed that she needed more positive attention from me, so I stopped trying to get things done and spent more time on the floor with both of the girls.

It worked, to a point. She started going to the potty on our good days. But she requires that I pay close, almost obsessive attention to her, or she punishes me with poop accidents. Not reacting to those is ever so important now. She’s an extremely sensitive and (modern euphemism comin’ up) “strong-willed” child, and if things aren’t going according to her plan (and everything MUST go according to her plan) then she will do something rebellious, usually involving poop. This means that if I tell her she can’t go outside to play in the pool until she pees, and hold her to it even though she doesn’t want to pee (and even though this is SOP in our house as is peeing before going in the car or going to sleep) she’ll later crap in her swim pants…oops! (Yesterday’s scene.)

This is challenging to navigate, because while I think paying extra attention to her in her extra-needy times is kinda sweet, I have to be careful not to alienate her twin sister in any way. So it takes an enormous amount of energy—mostly emotional. I have to be “on” all the time.

I’ve been terrified during this time that sister would become affected by Ray’s potty issues. The Otter had recently come all the way to 100% trained—remaining dry overnight and graduating to undies at night—and felt like my “ace in the hole”. As long as she was doing so well, I could handle a lot more from Ray Ray. I mean, I’m half way done, right?

But then it happened. Audrey stopped wiping herself, demanding that I do it. Then she had a couple of pee accidents while napping, and then she stopped using her little potty in the middle of the night even if she was already awake. Even if I asked her to go. So she had an overnight “accident” in bed. I flipped out at first (I try not to, but it happens) then I pulled it together and told her she was stuck with undies and she could do it.

At night we split up the girls and coach them to near-sleep separately. I’m in charge of Audrey usually, and I’ve decided to use this time to really bond with her as it’s my only solo time with her all day. Just like her sister, when she feels very secure about her relationship with me, she tries really hard to do things that please me. So she was dry this morning. Sigh. Brow swipe.

Interestingly, even though she pooped her pants yesterday, Rachel was also dry this morning (she wears a pull-up at night). So it’s either minor progress or extreme dehydration. But it made for a nice start to the day, so I’ll enjoy the optimistic feeling for now. I never learn.

It’s been 8 months since our potty training start, by the way. I’ll just let that sink in.

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Finding Time For a Hobby

I believe in the importance of having some personal pursuits amidst my stay-at-home-momming. The reasons: a) making time for my own interests is part of leading a balanced life, b) I wanted to take up something (that costs less than golf) at which I can practice, practice, practice and become expert, and c) it’s very important to me to model both of these concepts for my girls.

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How I can keep my project handy but stashable. Can’t ignore the toddlers!

Wanting to try something new, I recently I took up crochet. Turns out it’s really fun and rewarding. I can make things pretty quickly, and even design things myself—and I only started at Easter! I’m thrilled to be able to “put one in the win column” right away. I can already count crochet as a bona fide skill, and I can get better and try many more advanced techniques from here.

There are great possibilities with crochet, including charity—another concept I want the girls to see in action. Many people crochet lap blankets for the infirm or beanies for preemie babies. I plan to donate some things in the future.

Now, how do I crochet with two needy toddlers around? I put the yarn in my left pocket, the project in my right, and that way I can stash it to help the toddlers a dozen times an hour. Crafty!

Below are some pictures of my projects—some are more primitive than others. I’m learning quickly!

One unexpected consequence: When crocheting at the park the other day, a woman asked me if the girls were my grandchildren! That’s a first. I blame the yarn and not my actual age. (Oh, shut up.)

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An Octopus Doing a Somersault

little-buddies

Cute li’l babblers.

The girls are pretty lazy with their speech, I must admit. They do a bit of “twin language,” which although it seems to be a mystery to onlookers, is simply a mash-up of words and phrases they know with lots of gobbledygook thrown in. They do a lot of filling in with rapid sounds like “goota goota goot”, which sounds really fun. There is no indication that they’ve made up their own words for things, unless you count funky pronunciation. All toddlers are famous for cute mispronunciations. Here are some of our favorites from the girls.

The Otter: oatmeal = “hot meal”; banana = “boo-nana”

Ray Ray: zebra = “zweebah”; tomato = “teemo”; cracker = “bwackeh”

An octopus doing a somersault would be an applesauce doing an applesauce.

An octopus doing a somersault would be an applesauce doing an applesauce.

Almost every 3-syllable word the girls know has turned into “applesauce”. They love applesauce. So they know “somersault” but now pronounce it “applesauce”. Then it gives them a hankering for applesauce. It’s all very clever.

Me: “Nice somersault!”
Ray Ray: “Yeah…applesauce!”
Me: “It’s ‘somersault’, not ‘applesauce’.”
The Otter: “Applesauce?! OKAY!”

Tricky bunnies.

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Potty Training Twins, Part Who Cares? I Mean Really, When Will It End?

Audrey swears this guy is wearing a diaper. See? I'm not the only one obsessed.

Audrey swears this guy is wearing a diaper. See? I’m not the only one obsessed.

I know. Listen, nobody is more sick of my singular potty focus than me, trust me. But I must regale you with more torturous accounts of my pain. Because I’ve got little else. Singular. Focus.

For most of December we had  far fewer issues, and life got a less hectic. Then Audrey developed some kind of fear of pooping on the potty.  After being my potty champion—even using the loud and scary public restrooms on the road (with seat covers and our own sanitized chair insert of course)—suddenly back at home she stopped pooping in the potty. Those were weird and terrible times. I had to hug her while she pooped a few times. Once, I turned my attention away from Audrey on the big potty to read a few pages of a book to Rachel on the little potty. Audrey hopped off and came over for a hug, which she often does before going back up onto the big potty. This time instead she um…evacuated on my leg. Yep. I started to figure out she was using me as some kind of security blanket (among other things.) I coached her most every night to get over the fear of pooping on the potty and/or alone. Then, we had to travel again. (Cue ominous music.)

Actually, Christmas was problem-free at the Great Grandparents’, which was really a good thing. But this gave me a false sense of security. Again. When will I learn?

When the holidays were over and we were back home, the girls started having accidents. Pee accidents, which was strange. We started cueing them again every couple of hours and the accidents stopped after a couple of days. Since then it’s been mostly great except: they almost never poop in the potty. They are withholding it again. Every day. So the pees are fine…Audrey especially is a champ with pees, telling me right away and hiking it to the bathroom to go. And Rachel will go when asked. But poop? They only go in the training pants they wear to sleep, or when they can no longer hold out, and then they put up a real fight.

The last couple of days, Rachel has had numerous poop accidents. She tells me she has to go but then refuses to sit on a potty. She ends up pooping in her pants. One time Audrey cut in front of her at the potty (happens a lot) but Rachel was too late anyway. She was standing in front of it bent in half. More poop in the pants. The washer is constantly running.

But today she really surprised me. She had to go, but I tried to let her take charge because, well…she won’t go if I try to persuade her. She would go into the bathroom, then back into her room to play with her sister. Eventually I heard the dreaded cries, “poo poo!” She had crawled into her travel/sleep tent and let it go in there! Ugh.

Darling Rachel is going back to pants-free living here at home for awhile, so she can hopefully get a grasp of the basics over again. And I am eliminating training pants for both girls at nap time too. When I did this before the girls often stayed dry, but I slid back into using them daily and the girls have started actually using them too much.

It’s amazing how much energy this has taken. I know that I missed our magic window, and along with other reasons, that’s why it’s been such a challenge. But I never thought I’d be halfway into our third month and having this many problems. Hopefully we’re about to turn a corner. Anyway, it’s still better to be here than before the beginning, you know?

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Crazy Morning

flowersThe other morning, at 9ish, Audrey came in to wake me after hubby finally heard them and got them up. I raced outside with 4 big donation bags for Disabled American Vets because they were coming through the neighborhood today. When Brian left for inspections about 40 minutes later, the bags were gone—except for the books—and there was no receipt on the door, which could only mean one thing: the tweakers nabbed our donation! Alfonso, our sweet neighbor confirmed that someone from “the tweak house”—the house across the street and to the left— lurched over and snaked ‘em. This had me inordinately depressed because I had dug semi-deep for xmas—including lots of toys—and now I could only assume they’ll mostly get thrown out.

A little while later I was in bathroom for literally one minute and when I came out the girls were on the rolling cart in the kitchen, reaching over the cutout in the wall. I took them down, then discovered they had completely crumpled up and torn one of their favorite books. When I looked up from the book I realized they had—from the rolling cart—hurled my lovely Xmas bouquet onto the carpet in the living room. This mama’s head was simmering pretty good now. I locked them in their sleep tents to clean up without interference.

No more than 30 seconds had passed before I heard Ray Ray yelling “Poo poo!” I rushed in to find she had made a softball-sized crapload in her pants. I got THAT half cleaned up—the flowers and water would have to wait—when there was a knock on the door. I answered in a flurry expecting UPS, instead finding a young man bearing holiday gifties from a vendor of our termite business! I apologized for my appearance and attitude (not mentioning the poopy smell surely emanating from me) and collected huge vats of goodies from him.

I spent the next couple hours after girls went down for naps rapid-firing Danish butter cookies into my maw while trying to tackle some accounting. I will be sharing them with family next week, after I expand my waistline an inch!

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Darling Rachel Receives Special Award

More for the Potty Training Trials file: Rachel has earned the weirdest place to have an accident award.

Last night, I heard her yelling about poo poo, which makes me move fast. I walked into the girls’ bedroom to see Rachel on hands and knees on her dresser, in a puddle of chunky vileness.

She was smart enough to avoid trying to climb down, as she probably would have slipped and gotten hurt.

Surprisingly I don’t run for the camera in these moments, but I did create this nifty illustration to give you the gist of the situation. Yes, she was wearing shorts.

I omitted the chunks in my illustration.

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Potty Training Twins, Part 4 of ?

The girls had a great time visiting family. Here they cuddle up with “Uncle”.

Our annual Thanksgiving trip came in the middle of our potty training. It was supposed to be mostly in the bag (!) by then, but it’s taking my girls a little longer than average, as the previous posts describe.

We were in decent shape with the training before we left for our 500 mile drive to Southern California, even with the um…runny problems. In fact, they had to go so often in the days previous to our trip that they got some really good practice, and seemed to pretty much have the hang of taking themselves to the potty.

But then we had to pack them up in the minivan (with piles of cleaning supplies and baggies and whatnot). We left them pantsless, sheepskins and cloth diapers laid underneath them in the car seats. Apparently this felt too snuggly for them—maybe like a diaper—because there were at least a thousand accidents on the way down, and really gory ones at that. I was cleaning poop and rotating sheepskins nonstop. We put pants on them for our lunch stop and they both stayed clean and dry for the meal (whew!). All told, we only coaxed a couple of successes out of them during the trip…but one was an enormous poop from Rachel! But we showed up in San Diego with a huge bag of revolting laundry (did I mention that Rachel inexplicably threw up her breakfast about 5 miles from home?)

During the week-long visit with family, the girls learned a little bit more about wearing undies and pushing them down to potty. But as expected with this change in the program, they had many accidents. We had one totally accident-free day after Thanksgiving, though. On that day, we successfully reminded/coerced them every hour or so to stop playing and go potty.

The ride home was terrible though. Early in the day, I coaxed each of them to poop on their potties, and was hoping they were done with poops for the day. But for some unknown reason, they had diarrhea again and there were tons of accidents and so much obvious discomfort. Rachel had an especially bad bout and her butt got rashy right away. I ended up putting pull-ups on them for the second half of the 10-hour ride, although I changed them promptly when they pooped in ‘em, and once Rachel asked to be put on the potty to go, which was really cool, as it must’ve been hard for her to time right. The pull-ups were handy for this, although in general I’m not planning to use them much.

So we made it home with more gory laundry and an exhausted mama. Today I am trying to get them on track while wearing pants. Audrey’s had four accidents (two in her pants—ew!) but a couple of pees in the potty. Rachel was holding everything until I made her try to poop before nap and she got a little done. I can’t believe they are sick again! I’ve emailed the doc to see if the diarrhea is something they need to be seen for, or if it’s just some strange side effect of potty training.

I’m pretty tired of cleaning poop, I’ll tell ya.

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Potty Training Twins, Part 3 of ?

Tandem lock in. Not the easiest thing for Mama to manage.

We are finally getting it (she said, cautiously).

Today, there has been one (gruesome) accident by Rachel, but after a lecture and putting Panda Man on a high shelf “until she made it to the potty successfully,” she had two minor “hits” on the potty. The thing is, she’s got the runs today. Ahem. Fun stuff. But no way was I putting on a diaper after yesterday!

Yesterday I made sure both girls were full up with milk and ready to go before I started a lock-in with them. Audrey, who napped for two hours bare-bottomed and stayed dry (that’s my girl!) before drinking a cup of milk was sure to be bursting at the seams, and Rachel had had roughly 14 oz of milk in the last hour before her sister got up. Ready Freddy! Right?

Lock in commenced. Lots of playing, which I allowed for a few minutes but then got more serious. “Girls, we just have to go potty before we can go outside and play, ok?” Playing, stalling, more playing, reading volumes and not going…

After 45 minutes (didn’t expect that much delay), Audrey got the job done and got to go out and watch Sesame Street until Rachel was done. Rachel resented the departure of her sister but would not let it sway her to cooperation. She dug in her heels and would not go. Keep in mind she did it earlier in the day and also the day before. I sensed it was stubbornness and after a little bit I had an inkling that this one would be a record breaking holdout. Previous record: 1.5 hours.

I remained the very picture of a calm, supportive mama. I mean I was channeling some zen master…nothing but smiles and encouragement and empathy. For three hours. That’s right. Three hours. (Do they make trophies with a potty on them? Maybe a crying toddler on the floor next to it?)

Actually, I was starting to really doubt myself. Especially because she looked like she was really trying to go a couple of times and then couldn’t, bursting into tears. The thing was, she had done it under the same circumstances earlier and the day before. So I didn’t totally believe it was a new performance anxiety, but she had me second guessing myself. (“I read their sphincter can refuse to open if they aren’t feeling safe…but I know I am providing absolute emotional warmth and safety…”)

I really could not give in, especially the longer it took! If I had, the lesson she’d get would be “If i wait long enough, mama will give in. And she’s waited as long as 2.5 hours, so I now know I must wait longer than that. I will do it because I really want/need to get my way and turn this whole ridiculous potty idea she’s got around.” (Yes, I know toddlers do not think this clearly, but they are very, very determined and expert at testing limits, so sans-words, this is what I think would be happening in her head, more or less.)

So my hands were tied unless I wanted a power struggle from hell on my hands every day. Eventually, she caved. It was dinner time when we emerged from the bathroom. We had gone in there after naps. Luckily, Dad came home before Sesame Street ended and watched over Audrey. Even though I couldn’t give in, Rachel had shaken my conviction in my lock-in method, and I decided during this time that the next day I’d have to change something.

This morning I told them both that I expected them to take themselves to the potty and that I didn’t think we’d have to do any lock-ins because I knew they knew what to do. (Ehh…heh.)

It worked! And guess what? Rachel is not afraid of the bathroom in the slightest, nor treating me any differently than before. She’s her lovely self. And she’s complying (mostly) with my requests to sit on the potty and try to go, even with the trots…and that’s a tough thing to have while learning!

Today I’ve had two potty successes with Rachel and two with Audrey. Audrey’s moving right along…taking herself in there now. She’s very happy to be in charge of this. This mama’s bursting with pride, even knowing the rug could be ripped out from under me any second.

Two more days until traveling. Seems soon. But I remain cautiously optimistic.

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