Toddlers and TV

I’ve started this post about 25 times and I just can’t get it right.

Toddlers and TV. Let's be honest. Some of us let our toddlers have TV access, but we feel so guilty about it! From hdydi.com

When you get right down to it, here’s my problem. I’m suffering Parental Guilt about the fact that I let my toddlers watch TV.

TV was one of those things that I was a little *ahem* high and mighty about when Maddie and Riley were born. Oh, no, my kids weren’t going to watch TV! Baby Einstein is for the weak! No licensed characters in my home! Blah blah blah. Well, yeah. From the age of a year or so on, they watched an occasional video, but without much interest. It would hold their attention for ten minutes or so, then they were on to other things. I was so proud. They didn’t even like TV! Then, around when Maddie and Riley turned two, I decided that we should try to have Family Movie Night on Fridays. We get pizza and make popcorn and I put in one of the many videos they have received as gifts from family and friends.

At first, it was as it had always been: ten minutes of interest, then off to other things. But then we found Dora, the Explorer. Maddie and Riley adore Dora. And Diego. And Boots. And Swiper (“No swiping!) Soon, Friday Movie Night had become Friday Plus Any Rainy Day, then Friday Plus Rainy Days Plus Days Any Household Member Shows Vague Signs of Crankiness. Lately, our house has been a Dora zone on any day that ends in “day.” I’m trying not to feel bad, but I’m obviously failing.

Frankly, it’s not so much the TV watching that bothers me. I’m worried about where the TV watching will lead. M&R are starting to recognize licensed characters on products in the store. Now they want the Elmo crackers and the Dora toothbrush. I still don’t let them watch commercial TV, so they begging for toys they see on ads has yet to commence. I know I can’t shield them from this stuff forever, but I’m not holding off as long as I could or as I had planned.

I also have some guilt around the fact that I really enjoy tucking in on the couch and watching a video with Maddie and Riley. I usually put the video on after the kids have their pajamas on, and we’ll all get under the blankie on the sofa and answer Dora and Diego’s questions, implore Swiper not to swipe, and reach out to catch the Three Kings Cake that Dora dropped. Sometimes we’ll share a snack (Ack! Eating in front of TV! Another can of worms!) It’s peaceful and cozy and fun for all of us. Why do I feel bad about that?

Do you let your kids watch TV? How much? What shows? Do you feel bad about it? I know there’s plenty of debate and writing on this already, but it’s on my mind a lot lately and I feel a need to beat the proverbial dead horse. Humor me.

Going It Alone: Solo Air Travel with Twins

Maddie, Riley, and I spent the Thanksgiving holiday with my in-laws in the Detroit suburbs. While the kids and I have taken a number of flights together, this was actually the first time I’d ever flown alone with them. In the past, I’ve been lucky enough to have a grandparent (Thanks, Ba!) available to help us on on the plane, and, while I could imagine how I could manage on my own, I’ve dreaded the day that I had to make a solo journey.

 

Dread no more: we did it, and it was so easy I’m embarrassed to write about it.

 

Here are a few things that I think made our trip go so well and some things to think about if you find yourself traveling by yourself with your kiddos.

 

1. Talk it up before you go. I told the kids we’d be getting on the airplane, that they’d have their carseats, that we’d eat a snack and take a nap. I told them who we’d see when we got off the plane. We talked about the trip a lot before we left, and all the talk got them really excited about it all.

2. Travel at off-peak times. We left at noon on Thanksgiving day. The airport was empty. When we went through security, it was us and about ten TSA agents. That’s it. Not feeling the stress of the busy holiday crush made me feel more relaxed and made all of the logistics that much easier.

3. Check in ahead of time online. I had our boarding passes all printed out and I’d even paid for our checked luggage online so we had fewer logistics to deal with at the airport.

4. Hitch a ride. If you can, get someone to drive you to the airport. I was lucky enough to have a friend drive us in our own car, so I was able to have the carseats ready to go and our luggage loaded in advance. Our friend just dropped us at curbside checkin and we were all set. A taxi would have worked fine, too, but it’s nicer when a friend can see you off.

5. Limit your carry-ons. (Please stop laughing. Really. Stop.) You can do it! You can keep your carry-on luggage to one backpack. In my backpack, I had: a change of clothes for each kid, two coloring books, a bag of markers/stickers/crayons, a bag of new board books, a bag of snacks, two empty water bottles, and my essentials (wallet, boarding passes, phone, etc.) I also packed the twins’ hats and jackets in our checked luggage so that I wasn’t dealing with those bulky items in addition to the two kids, carseats, and my backpack. I packed my own purse in our luggage to use once we arrived at our destination, although I could have just used the backpack the whole time. I was able to wear the backpack through the airport and thus have both hands free to manage the twins. 

6. Speaking of managing the twins, they rode in style in GoGo Kids Travelmates. I love these. They are amazing. I attached them to the carseats the night before, then strapped the seats into our car with the wheels on using the seatbelt instead of the LATCH system. Once at the airport, I lifted the seat—kid and all—out of the car and we literally hit the ground rolling. At security, we just popped off the quick-release wheels, and the carseat and handle went right through the scanner. On the airplane, I pushed on kid ahead of me down the aisle and pulled one behind me; when we got to our seats, I lifted the kids in their carseats one at a time into their airline seats and strapped them in. I have no idea how I would manage two kids and two carseats without our GoGos.

7. Let the kids run around a lot before you put them on the plane. This is pretty elementary, but always worth repeating. They are going to be stuck in those carseats for a long time and they will get fidgety. Run them around in the gate area before you board. You won’t regret it.

8. Travel during naptime. We took off at noon, when the twins usually start their nap. They slept from before the plane leveled out until it was parked at the gate in Detroit. Awesome. Of course, all those new toys and books I packed were for naught, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay. We’ll play with them eventually.

9. Be willing to bend the rules. I never let Maddie and Riley have their special frog and duck and their special blankies out of their cribs, but I did let them have those comfort items on the airplane. Even better, I packed them into little animal-shaped backpacks, so Maddie and Riley each had her and his own carry-on bag. They loved having the responsibility of caring for Duckie and Froggie as we went through the airport and really loved having them to snuggle on the plane. I also let them eat all manner of things that I would not normally let them eat, at least not all at once: fruit snacks, endless crackers, juice, cookies, and a lollipop each. It’s one day. It will be fine.

 

I’m sure you all have more tips, so feel free to share them in the comments. I have to say that travel, even solo, was much easier at 2.5 than it was a year ago at 18 months. I’m hoping the worst of the travel nightmares are behind us. Of course, ask me that again after I fly cross-country and back with the kids at Christmas . . .

Peer Pressure

As with so many things, I thought I had more time on this one. I figured that when the kids started school the pressure would be on about what to wear, what to watch, what to play. I didn’t bank on feeling the effects of peer pressure at the age of 2 years, 5 months, with Maddie and Riley still in daycare.

 

Every day, I send a Tupperware container filled with plain, unsweetened yogurt to school with the twins. Yogurt is one of their favorite foods, and they’ve always eaten no-frills, no-sugar, full-fat deliciousness from an economy-sized tub. A couple of weeks ago, on our weekly trip to the grocery store, we stopped at the yogurt display. I reached for our usual.

 

“I want a LITTLE yogurt!” cried Riley.

“No that one,” added Maddie. “I wanna yogurt for the BABIES!” she gestured at the colorful YoBaby containers.

“Please, Mama, the little yogurt!” reiterated Riley.

“But this yogurt is SO GOOD!” I cheerfully pandered, putting the plain, white tub in our cart. “You LOVE this yogurt!”

 

Ha. Well. They did eat their usual yogurt over the weekend, and that Monday, I packed them off to school with the requisite Tupperware full for lunch. When I picked them up that day, their daycare provider said, “They don’t want to eat yogurt anymore. They see the other kid with this one [YoBaby], and they want that. Can you send them that?”

“Let’s see if it was just a fluke today. I’ve got their yogurts all packed for the week. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.”

All week it was the same story. “Can’t you just send them the baby yogurt?” Ruth queried.

 

Hmmm. In theory, yes, I can. It would even be easier for me to do so: one less thing to dole out into individual containers when I’m packing up our lunches on Sunday night. But while there are certainly worse things for them to eat, I’d rather not add another source of sugar to their diet if I can avoid it. And more important, they’ll still eat plain yogurt at home without complaint, even with gusto. The only time they demand the “little yogurt” is when they see other kids eating it. Pressure’s on.

 

This weekend, when we went to the store, I had a plan. When we got to the yogurt section, I was prepared.

 

“Mama! The LITTLE one!” said Riley.

“Well, guys, those little ones are for babies, and you’re big kids. But we can try this kind if you want!” I picked out a few containers of the only brand of yogurt on Whole Foods’ shelves that still uses plastic lids instead of foil tops. Maddie and Riley were giddy, and each of them grabbed for a container to hold. I also put a tub of regular yogurt in the cart. “These little ones are for you. The big one is for Mama,” I explained.

 

Maddie and Riley held their yogurts during our whole trip through the store. When we got home, I let them eat their little yogurts, some crackers, and some fruit for lunch. While they were napping, I rinsed out those little yogurt containers, and refilled them with plain yogurt from the big tub. I packed those repurposed little yogurts in their lunch bag for school yesterday.

 

“Did they eat their yogurt?” I asked when I picked them up.

“Yes, they were very happy to have a little one like that,” said Ruth.

“Oh, great. Could you be sure to send those containers home with me each day?” I requested. Ruth was happy to do so.

 

And so for now I have foiled peer pressure. I got off easy this time, and this kind of pressure was hardly something to fret about anyway. As they get older, the stakes will get higher. I worry about balancing my principles with Maddie and Riley’s desires, about giving them what they need to be part of the group without having them get lost in the herd. Being a parent becomes less physically demanding as your kids get older, but I can see that I’ve barely scratched the surface on the drama of social interactions and the complexities of interacting with peers. I need to remind myself to take a deep breath: this week, it’s just a yogurt. That I can handle.

Whining

A new era has begun at our house: The Age of Whining.

 

These days, it feels like every word that comes out of Maddie and Riley’s mouths is said with a whine. A lovely phrase such as “Please can I have more milk?” sounds like nails on a chalkboard when uttered in the plaintive toddler tone. I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve said, “Can you say that in a nice voice?” in the past couple of months, but if I had a dollar for each instance, I might just be able to stop worrying about my retirement funds and the fate of the stock market.

 

It’s the age. It’s a phase. It’s just a whine. What’s surprising to me is just how draining it is. When Maddie and Riley were first born, I knew that there would be times when one of them would have to cry while I tended to the needs of the other; I am one woman, they are two children, and I can’t always meet both of their needs simultaneously. While understanding that intellectually, I was totally blown away by how upsetting and stressful it was to have to listen to the crying. It made me feel like a failure, and it totally jacked up my blood pressure. 

 

I’m finding that the whining has much the same effect. OK, not quite: it doesn’t make me feel like a failure. But it does stress me out and cause me to lose my patience unless I really watch myself. Most of the time, Maddie and Riley are using a whiny tone for no good reason, and if I just remind them that they need to speak nicely, they do. Thank goodness for that. Now if they could just remember to use the nice tone in the first place . . . I think I’ve got a few years on that.

 

I guess sometimes we all just need to whine, and I right now I needed to have my own moment to whine about the whining. I’ll end with a story about Riley; those of you who read Snickollet have already seen this, but it’s worth repeating:

 

Riley: [endless series of demands issued in obnoxious tone] I no wanna eat dinner! I no wanna play toys! I no wanna go home! I no wanna wash hands! [and on and on]
Me: Riley, please, I’m begging you just tell me ONE THING that you WANT to do! Anything! One thing! That’s all I ask!
[pause]
[pause]
R: I wanna WHINE!

 

Pretty smart answer for a two year old! Here’s to a whine-free evening for us all. Or some wine to go with the whining? Maybe that’s the answer!

Potty Training, x2

Last week, Maddie (age 2.25) got up from her nap and announced that she was going to “make wee-wee on the big girl potty.” Which she did. And with the exception of naps and nightttime, she’s been wearing underwear and using the potty ever since. One accident. That’s it. Part of me is waiting for the other shoe to drop. It can’t be that easy, can it?

No, it can’t. The joy of having twins is that Maddie is only the first (and clearly the easiest) part of the potty training battle. Riley awaits. Throughout their whole short lives, Maddie and Riley have been extremely close on developmental milestones. They sat up, crawled, and walked within days of each other. Their verbal ability is nearly identical. If Riley climbs something new at the park, Maddie is right behind him. Even physically, they’ve always been within a pound of each other in weight and 1/4 in. of each other in height. What one does, the other does, too.

Potty training seems to be the end of their like-minded behavior. I have never seen Riley less interested in something in his whole life. The Baby Bjorn potty has taken up permanent residence in our playroom; Riley has yet to sit on it. There is a stepstool next to the toilet so that Maddie can climb up and sit on the potty ring if she chooses; Riley hasn’t tried that, either. My mom was visiting over the weekend and she brought underwear for both of them; “I wear PANTIES like MAMA!” crowed Maddie.* Riley took one look and walked the other way.

To be honest, I don’t care. One potty trained is better than none, and I don’t want to push Riley if he’s not ready. At least not yet. He’s barely two! So I don’t mean to sound like I’m complaining. It’s more that I’m fascinated by this first instance of Riley’s total lack of interest in Maddie doing something that he is not. It’s like he hasn’t even noticed! Normally she can’t even walk into the other room without him scampering off after her.

So I’m curious: for other readers with multiples, have your twins hit developmental milestones at the same time? Do you feel like they push each other to learn and try new things, or do they seem to follow separate paths?

*Maddie has become fascinated by undergarments of all kinds recently. I was getting dressed the other morning and she said as I put on my bra, “This mama’s boobie thingie. I want a boobie thingie!” I told her that there was no rush on that.

Toddler Fears

Hi, my name is snickollet and I’m a week late with my post because I’ve been too busy swooning over and kissing a boy. Sorry. Kinda. OK, I’m not really sorry at all! Will you forgive me?

I actually had a post in mind for last week and then, well, yes, see above. But since the post was not time-sensitive, it should do for this week. The topic is fear, toddler fear. Not fear of toddlers (although goodness knows there are times when they scare me) but rather fears that toddlers have.

I don’t know about your kids, but mine fear some interesting things. They are scared of dogs (not entirely irrational, except that they have never had a negative interaction with a canine), cats, bugs, butterflies (!), grass (!!), having their toenails cut (!!!), and having their hair cut. The other day, Riley looked at the clock in the playroom—the same clock that has been hanging in the playroom his entire life—became wide-eyed, crept onto my lap, and announced, “I no like that clock, Mama. I scared.” ?????

With the exception of the clock, the common thread that I can find among Maddie and Riley’s fears is a lack of control. They love the idea of dogs and cats, and will enthusiastically wave at them from across the street and even express interest in petting them. But as soon as the animal approaches them rather than vice-versa, it’s all over. The tears pour down and the pitiful cries of, “No doggie hurt Riley! No doggie hurt Maddie!” begin. Same thing with the hair and toenail cutting. They like to cut my hair and toenails, or Elmo’s. But when I wield the scissors or clippers? NO WAY. They’ll walk on grass, but if it brushes into their stroller, unannounced, when out on a walk? Let the panic ensue!

Their fears seem to be contagious; if Riley decides he’s afraid of something, Maddie will inevitably follow suit. I wish it worked the other way: one expresses a fear and the other reassures. Alas, no. I do a lot of reassuring—what else can I do? But it seems to fall mostly on deaf ears. As near as I can tell, I just have to be patient and wait for them to outgrow their unusual (to me) concerns. I’ll admit that it can be frustrating; there are a few friends we can’t visit because Maddie and Riley are so fearful of dogs and there is not a place to secure the dog when we come over. We make do by hosting those folks rather than going to them, but I hope that someday it won’t be an issue.

What unusual things do your toddlers fear? How do you handle it?

Recipe: Spinach-Rice Balls

When I did my post on packing lunches for toddlers to take to daycare, I mentioned that one of the things I often pack is Spinach-Rice Balls. The recipe was requested, and now, a mere 2+ weeks later, here it is! Enjoy! It’s vegetarian, and vegan if you leave out the cheese (which is actually an optional ingredient in the original recipe).

 

The recipe comes from the fantastic cookbook Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites. Like every vegetarian, I’m a fan of all of the Moosewood books, but I particularly enjoy this one.

 

My notes are in [square brackets]

 

INGREDIENTS

2 lbs. fresh spinach, washed and large stems removed [or use 1 10 oz. box frozen spinach, thawed, with liquid squeezed out]

1 c. chopped scallions

2 t. olive oil

2 c. cooked brown rice [I use a medium- or short-grained rice, which is stickier, so that the balls are easier to form]

2 T. finely chopped fresh dill (2 t. dried)

1 1/2 T. lemon juice

[1 c. or so of cheese (crumbled feta is most fitting with the Greek theme, but I've also used shredded cheddar or mozzarella, or whatever other cheese we have around)]

salt and pepper

1 c. bread crumbs [or cracker crumbs]

 

Steam spinach; drain and chop.

Saute scallions in olive oil until slightly browned.

Combine spinach, scallions, rice, dill, lemon juice, cheese, and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly, breaking up the rice grains by mashing them against the sides of the bowl with your mixing spoon. Combine until mixture holds together.

Using damp hands, roll spoonfuls of mixture into bite-sized balls. [Original recipe calls for 1/4 cup-sized balls, but Maddie and Riley found those overwhelming. I go for something larger than a marble, but smaller than a golf ball.] Roll balls in bread crumbs and place on baking sheet–they can be placed very close together.

Bake at 350°F for 20–25 minutes, until lightly golden brown.

These freeze really well.

Packing Lunches for Daycare, Times Two

[Ed: It must be organization week at HDYDI; I planned this post before I knew that RaJen was going to post on how to get out the door in the morning. I love accidental themes!]
Some of my friends’ kids go to daycares that provide lunch. What a dream! Maddie and Riley’s daycare is wonderful and amazing and near-perfect: the provision of lunch would push it to the realm of nirvana. Alas, we remain a step away from enlightenment, so every Sunday night, my thoughts turn to what I will pack the twins’ to eat for the week.
I’ve had almost two years’ of daycare Sundays to think about this, and, if I do say so myself, I’ve gotten pretty good at it. When the twins first got to an age that I needed to send food rather than bottles, I would spend time every evening thinking about what to pack for the next day; it didn’t take me long to realize that my time would be more efficiently spent if I would pack a few days’ worth of food at a time. For a while, I packed lunches twice a week. Now I’m down to once. I do it all on Sundays so for the whole week, I just have to grab and go in the morning. Sweet.
I figured I’d break my system down and share it with you, because only spending an hour a week thinking about this is truly one of my major sanity savers.
Here’s how it works. Every day, the twins get:
  • yogurt
  • applesauce
  • a “main course”
  • a crunchy snack
  • fresh fruit
I buy yogurt and applesauce in big containers and parcel out the individual servings; I’m cheap, and it doesn’t take that long. 
For main courses, I have a menu of items from which I choose each week. I plan two different main courses/week, one for M-W-F, one for Tu-Th. My staples are:
  • hummus on mini whole-wheat pita (two pitas per kid)
  • pasta with red sauce and “meat”balls
  • spanikopita (I buy frozen trays at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods; the trays contain twelve triangles, which makes three lunches of two triangles per kid)
  • quesadillas with cheddar and black beans (I cut one each quesadilla into four wedges, which is one lunch)
  • mac’n’cheese with peas
  • grilled cheese (half sandwich per twin)
  • spinach/rice balls (recipe from one of my Moosewood cookbooks; recipe available on request)
  • corn casserole 
  • spinach/rice casserole
I’ll mix it up sometimes with leftovers from the weekend, and I’m constantly adding/revising the main course list, but those are favorites. 
I also have a running list of snacks that I choose from. Again, I do two different snacks for the week, one for M-W-F, one for Tu-Th. Some favorites:
  • pumpkin seeds
  • sunflower seeds
  • dried fruit (raisins, apricots, blueberries, cherries, etc.)
  • plantain chips
  • fruit leather
  • popcorn (regular or kettle corn)
  • crackers (M&R like Annie’s whole-wheat bunnies)
  • rice cakes (sometimes with sunflower-seed butter)
  • carrot sticks
  • Veggie Booty
  • Pirate’s Booty (or the Trader Joe’s equivalent)
  • tortilla chips
  • pretzels
  • Snapea Crisps
  • crunchy green beans
  • edamame
  • graham crackers
On Sunday during the twins’ nap, I cook any of the main courses that need cooking. Then, after the kids go to bed at night, I pack everything for the week. I set out fifteen of these Snapware containers; five of them get filled to the brim with yogurt, five with applesauce, and five hold the main course. (I pack one yogurt, one applesauce, and one main dish each for the twins to share rather than an individual portion for each kid.) Snacks go in Ziplock bags, and fresh fruit is washed as needed and ready to pull out of the fridge or fruit bowl each morning. And that’s it. 
I hope this is helpful to some of you and not just boring. Share your packed lunch tricks and tips in the comments.

Memories

Maddie and Riley were only nine months old when their dad died.

 

Up until two days before his death, John was actively involved in caring for the twins. He conserved every ounce of the waning energy he had to spend with them. He’d sleep all day so that he could change Madeleine into her pajamas, give her a bottle, and read both kiddos a story. He’d rouse himself in the morning to sit in the kitchen while Maddie and Riley ate breakfast, and he’d kiss them as we headed out the door to daycare. Being a dad was something that John always wanted, and I don’t think anything about dying so young was harder for him than knowing he would not be around to see the twins grow up.

 

We have pictures of John up all around the house. There are wedding pictures, photos of John and me together, photos of all four of us, photos of John with the babies, snapshots of John with his parents and siblings. Not a day goes by that we don’t talk about Daddy. I’ll mention that I’m wearing his favorite color, or that we’re eating one of his favorite foods, or that he loved to read stories. I often tell the kids that I miss John, that I wish he were around, and that there are certain things about parenting that he would have done much better than I do. Every night before Maddie and Riley go to bed, I remind them that no one loves them more than Mama and Daddy.

 

In the weeks after John died, Riley had frequent nightmares, and his sleep has frankly never been great since John’s death. While he can point Daddy out in pictures, he rarely spontaneously brings up John, as opposed to Maddie, who will speak about him completely out of the blue. She’s been known to say, “Maddie miss Daddy,” and “Maddie love Daddy.” Sometimes when I yell at them or am cross or impatient, the kids will say, “Mama miss Daddy. Mama sad.” Yes, it’s true.

 

I don’t know how much of what they say is coached and learned from me, and I don’t know how much they understand when they say, “I miss Daddy.” They understand that a daddy is a parent, but they have yet to understand that some kids have two parents, some two mamas, some two daddies, some one of each. They certainly haven’t asked where John is, or why he’s not at home.

 

For now, I choose to believe that they harbor active memories of John, that they can recall spending time with him as babies, that they can still feel him holding them and have a physical sensation of his love. I know that I can still recall what it felt like to hug him and to hold his hand. I want to believe that they can still remember that, too. In fact, I want so much to believe it that I have hesitated to do any research into infant memory less some scientific study prove my romantic belief wrong.

 

I know that Maddie and Riley won’t have the real memories forever. I can already feel my real memories slipping away. It gets harder and harder to reacall the sound of John’s voice, the feel of his hand. The line is getting blurry between what I actually remember and what I only think I remember as I look at a photograph. And I don’t know anyone who holds real memories from when they were four months, six months, nine months old. So all I can do is keep making memories for the twins. Better created memories than none at all, or so I hope.

We have a winner!

Thank you to everyone for your interest in the Chicco Twin Trevi giveaway. One-hundred and seventy-four people entered by the deadline—awesome. I loved reading all of your stories and hearing about all of your great kids. 

 

I’m not kidding when I say that I wish I could give all of you a stroller, but we do have a winner. Three entrants had children who shared Maddie and Riley’s June 22 birthday: Commenter #115 (Sara Smiles), Commenter #142 (Barb), and Commenter #158 (Aimee). I made the executive decision to break the tie by giving the stroller to the twin mom, Aimee. 

 

Congratulations, Aimee! Please e-mail me at snickollet at gmail dot com or leave a comment with your contact information so that we can work out the details of getting your stroller to you.