Toddler Thursday: More on Gardening

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Our garden has been in the ground for more than a month now, which gives me some fodder for a follow-up and more pretty pictures. Some of my original plants haven’t thrived as well as I’ve hoped, so we’ve made a few updates and generally expanded. As I’ve been working in the dirt and using trial and error to make progress, I’ve had some time to think of more tips that I might want to pass along to others who might like to try gardening with their toddlers or preschoolers. So here are a few.

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Start small. My recent gardening has been largely limited to a flowerbed that has existed since before we even bought our house seven years ago. It had become overgrown the past several years, so I’ve been slowly digging the saplings and weeds out of the bed and expanding my planting space. The goal is not to grow so quickly that I can’t maintain what I’ve done. And allowing my garden to expand as I clear the space gives me some motivation to keep up with the less interesting part of gardening.

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Give your kids a job. Last weekend, we went to the nursery and I assigned my kids to choose four plants each from the annuals table. It allowed them an opportunity to practice their counting and color-identifying skills, and they got to make choices about what we’d add to our garden. Then at home, they each had a trowel, and I had them dig holes for our new plants. Full disclosure: they lost interest long before everything was planted, but that gave me an opportunity to fix plant spacing and group things in ways that I found aesthetically appealing.

A wheelbarrow full of green shiny rocks.

 

Leave room for walking through your garden. Kids never use stepping stones. Ever. So leave them some room to step between plants. And as corollary: Don’t worry too much if things get squished. Most plants will bounce back.

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Use what you have on hand. I’ve got several animal-shaped planters and pieces of yard art. It made a lot of sense to bring them all over to the kids’ garden, where they could add a bit of whimsy.

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Happy Gardening!

Halloween and Fall Traditions

Happy Halloween! Popping in to share one of my favorite Halloween Traditions: Our Annual Pumpkin Patch trip. My boys were born the first week in November, so they were nearly a year old their first Halloween. I went with another twin mom to an Apple Orchard/Pumpkin farm and snapped this picture of them in the field, which became one of my favorite photos ever. It is enlarged and hangs on my wall. Every year since then we have visited a pumpkin farm to snap a photo and watch them grow. Because it is so close to their birthday, these are great milestone photos too. 

This the the only tradition we have kept up for Halloween every year, we have been out of town for the past two years, so my boys are trick or treating tonight for the first time they might actually remember. (we have beeb before but they were 2.)

Go Team Wood Annual Pumpkin Photos

Age: Almost 1

 Go Team Wood Annual Pumpkin Photos

Age: Almost 5

Go Team Wood Annual Pumpkin Photos

Age: Almost 2

Go Team Wood Annual Pumpkin Photos

Age: Almost 3

Go Team Wood Annual Pumpkin Photos

Age: Almost 4

 

Jen lives near Chicago where she is the Mom of these rambunctious, adorable almost-5-year-old twins and a sometimes-blogger at HDYDI.com and her family blog Go Team Wood that is mostly Instagram photos if we’re being honest.

Toddler Thursday: Gardening with Twins

Fall has finally arrived here in Central Texas, though you’d hardly know it by the hot, dry weather we’ve had lately.  Still, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel as we approach the middle of October. My twins turn three this month, and they are very interested in playing outside and being involved in everything I’m doing. It’s put me in the mindset of starting a garden with my kids this fall – a goal I’ve had since before I even had kids. (In the northern climes, most gardening happens in the spring, but here in Texas, where are summers are far more extreme than our winters, the best gardening happens in October and November.)

Gardening is a great activity to do with toddlers as they start to develop their gross motor skills. It allows them to get fresh air and some sunshine, it’s physical, and, with a bit of luck, they can watch their work blossom into fruition! (See what I did there?)

It’s a good idea to consider a plan for your garden before you break ground. First, it might be helpful to choose a theme that appeals to you and your kids. You could choose edible plants, like herbs and veggies, to encourage your kids to try new flavors and eat more plant-based foods. You could decide on a garden full of plants that attract beautiful butterflies or hummingbirds. You could choose all the purple plants you can lay your hands on.  In our case, the garden we’ve been working on is inspired by the sense of touch – plants with interesting textures, herbs that emit lovely smells when the leaves are rubbed, and generally anything that allows kids to get hands-on with the garden.

Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena globosa)

Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena globosa)

You’ll also need to think about the conditions of the area in which you’re planting. We’re working in an existing bed which happens to be located in a shady part of my yard. I’ve done some research to determine which plants with interesting textures would grow well in that environment in my region, and when I went shopping, I took a list with me. Herbs are great for a touch garden, but most herbs require lots of sun, so I had to adjust my list accordingly. Lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantia) is a great choice, and one that I have experience growing. It has thick, velvety leaves and spreads into an attractive ground cover. It even has a pretty purple bloom! I also chose Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima), which blooms feather-soft in the fall,  globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa), which has a bright papery bloom, and a few mint plants, which give off a lovely smell and flavor when touched. (Note: mint is inclined to go wild under favorable conditions. I planted mine in a pot which I submerged in the ground to reduce those tendencies.) Leave a little room open in the budget for getting new ideas once you get to the nursery, and consider a few inexpensive annuals to fill out your garden with colorful blooms. Your kids can help you pick out some plants that they find interesting, as well – however, you’ll want to be mindful not to buy anything overly toxic. This is often noted on the plant’s information tag.

Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima)

Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima)

Plants grow best in soil that has organic matter mixed in. The easiest way to achieve this is to dig your bed and mix the dirt with compost. Your children can help by using a scoop or a pot to pour compost onto the dirt as you turn it, or by using a trowel or small shovel to turn one corner of the bed. Once your dirt is prepared, you and your kids can dig holes for the new plants, pre-watering the holes, spreading the roots a bit as you pull them out of the pot, and depositing them in their new homes. Watering in the plants is also, not surprisingly, a very popular pastime in my garden.

fairy furniture

Fairies throw parties in our little garden every night after bedtime.

If you have some space and are interested in adding a visual element to your garden, you might consider adding a fairy garden. I found a local nursery that sells inexpensive fairy furniture, but you and your kids can make your own fairy decorations, as well. Consider painting a rock or a pinecone and leaving it as art for your garden’s faeries to enjoy! Place a marble in the ground as a gazing ball. If you have older kids, they might enjoy building and painting small wooden structures (like you might find at a craft store), or even making their own with twigs and bark. You’re limited only by your imagination!

Keep your plan a little flexible. Let your kids have as much control as is feasible over the placement of items in your new garden, even if it doesn’t match your mental image. With my three year olds, their attention span runs low before the work runs out, so I can do a little bit of editing to their work, but this is a shared space for us, and I want the final product to reflect that. Ultimately, if you’re gardening with kids, the final garden is secondary to the process of creating it.

Garden in progress.

Our work in progress.

Make-it Monday: Cookie Costumes

Last year was my twins’ first Halloween. Big Sis was 3.5, and her brother and sister were 11 months old. It was my first chance to come up with coordinating costumes for my kiddos, and I ran with it! They were dressed as Cat in the Hat and Thing 1 and Thing 2– top hat, white gloves, blue wigs, and all. We went to Picture People for photos, and I now have irrefutable evidence of how cute they were. (To give you an idea, one picture poses Big Sis in an armchair reading The Cat in the Hat to her brother and sister seated on a bench.)

Obviously, I hope to continue these coordinating costumes for as many years as I possibly can.

This year, now that my eldest is almost 4.5, with many ideas of her own, I included her in choosing their Halloween costumes. I gave her some ideas, but ultimately we decided together. I suggested she be a chef, she changed that to baker. She wanted her siblings to be cupcakes, I changed that to chocolate chip cookies.

Baker’s costume was easy. I found a chef jacket and baker’s poofy white hat and ordered them on Amazon. But after scouring etsy and pinterest, I decided to make the chocolate chip cookies myself.

Materials for two cookie costumes:

1 yd light brown felt

2 pcs dark brown felt

1 yd batting

1 spool dark brown thread

2 yd dark brown thin ribbon

1 yd dark brown thick ribbon

I first found a template to use for my circle cutouts. After looking around the house, I found this SuperSeat base that had the diameter I was looking for, about 16.5 in. I traced it with a Sharpie and cut out 4 disks at a time from a 1/2 yard of felt that was folded over twice. I did it again with the other 1/2 yd.photo 1

Then I freehanded the chocolate chips to the dark brown felt. These came in 9×12 sheets. I pinned them together and cut them out 2-ply.photo 2

Next I randomly pinned the chocolate chips to four of the round circles. I could have attached them with a hot glue gun or even spray adhesive, but I chose to actually sew these on. It was time consuming, but felt much more solid.photo 3

In the middle of the other 4 round pieces I sewed on a 1/2 yd length of the thin ribbon, just attached at the center about 6 inches. These are the straps to tie on the sides. On top I sewed in the shoulder straps, about 9 inches of the thick ribbon each. (I heat sealed all the ribbon ends so they don’t fray.)image

Then I pinned the chocolate chip side to the strap side, wrong sides facing out, making sure the side ties line up. I decided to sew all the way around instead of leaving a side open for stuffing. That’s because I’m horrible at hand-sewing, and I knew that with my skill the cookie would turn out lopsided.image_1

Instead, I chose to cut a slit under the strap, and pulled the cookie inside out through it. I did end up hand-sewing these closed, but there would have been no problem leaving them open.image_3

I stuffed it using the batting I cut from the same SuperSeat template, after trimming it about an inch around for seam allowance. I did this four times. My guess is that they took about 4 hours over three separate nights.image_2

The completed cookies consist of four cookie pads, one for the front and back of each twin, attached at the top with ribbon, and tied on the sides with ribbon. Here’s Baby Boy sporting his new Halloween costume. Baby Girl decided not to cooperate. photo 4

How cute are they? I’m just giddy thinking about Big Sis in her baker’s costume, holding the hands of her chocolate chip cookie brother and sister! Next step, booking a photography session.

lunchldyd has her fingers crossed that all her kids cooperate for another set of adorable pictures. She is grateful that her current part-time teaching schedule is allowing her to think creatively and enjoy time for her crafty pursuits.

Toddler Thursday: Easing Fears at the Pediatrician

The holiday just before my girls were three, they got a toy doctor kit.  Immediately, it was a huge hit.  They checked out all their babies, and each of their stuffed animals took a visit to the vet clinic.

Dr kitWith their three-year check-up soon approaching, I decided to get in on the pretend action, admittedly with a bit of an agenda.

I made a big deal, talking about each of the different instruments, what they were used for…and how they were just like the ones Dr. F, our pediatrician, uses.  We took turns being the doctor, the nurse, and the patient, and I made a point to work into the scenario that someone was scared.

“I understand you feel scared, Mr. Bear, but you know Dr. A.  She’s been taking excellent care of you since you were a tiny cub.  First, she’s going to listen to your heart.  What a cool stethoscope!  Ooh…is it cold?  Does it tickle?  I know it does hurt.”

“Now she’s going to take a little peek in your ears.  It’s OK…there’s no need to be scared!  She’s just checking to make sure you didn’t lose any bananas in there.”

“This little band measures your blood pressure, how fast your blood is dancing around inside your body.  Is your arm ready for a hug???”

The girls got very accustomed to the routine, and soon they were repeating it to all their babies.  They were very encouraging, even to the most scared bear cub.

The real key (advice I got from a friend) was the positioning of the shot.  There’s truly nothing to be afraid of as far as the exam goes, right?  But shots hurt…no way around it.  And that’s the approach I took with the girls.

Mr. Bear, it’s time for a shot.  It will hurt, but ONLY for a second!  Then you’ll be ALL DONE and then we’ll go do something fun / get a sticker / have an ice cream [insert reward of choice]!”

My girls are now almost six, and they haven’t cried at the pediatrician — even for shots — since before they were three.  Empowering them with information and perspective has made visits to the pediatrician nothing to sweat.

(And, as a side note, my girls still play with their doctor kit almost daily.  “Vet” is a huge theme at our house.  That’s what both girlies say they want to be when they grow up, and they make sure to get lots of practice.)

MandyE is mom to 5 1/2-year old twin girls, A and B.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Toddler Thursday: Biting

When the twins were about 15 or 16 months old, I started noticing what looked like bite marks on Baby Boy’s hands. It was an anomaly, as no one had observed him biting himself or being bitten. For a bit I actually thought they were self-inflicted in a temper tantrum, or maybe it was an experiment to leave marks on himself. It wasn’t until I saw a mark at the wrong angle to be self-inflicted that I began to suspect Baby Girl of biting her brother.

Strangely, it wasn’t for another while before we actually caught them in the act. And then Baby Girl began to get these markings too. They were really good about doing it quickly when no one was watching though.

But by now, 5 or 6 months later, we’ve had the chance to see them at it many times. They’re still pretty stealthy about it, but we now know what to watch for: a certain prolonged guttural screech, usually coming from both parties in a fight over something, and then a quick lean-over by one, a pause of silence while the pain registers, and finally the extended agonizing cry of the other.

The problem is when they play in close proximity. And of course that’s how they almost always play. If they are confined in the same room for a while, that’s when the conflicts arise. They get cranky and will start fighting over toys and space. Big Sis actually got caught up in it for the first time this past weekend. We can’t really be sure what happened, but according to her she was trying to play with her brother when sister came and bit her, hard enough to leave a bruise. We think Baby Girl was trying to play with brother. There wasn’t much warning, and they did all this while both myself and their dad were in the same room!

Now I really don’t think my kids are malicious. I’ve watched them bite and get bitten and then go back to playing alongside each other like nothing happened. In fact, after Baby Girl noticed her sister crying after being bitten, she went to comfort her by rubbing her arm and giving her a hug and kiss. (Big Sis was just as loving, forgiving immediately and defending her little sister from our scoldings.) They just get caught in the moment and that is their only form of communication when screaming doesn’t work.

However, the bites are getting more vicious, and they’re no longer on the hands but on the upper arms. And now they’ve bitten someone other than themselves.

Should I be concerned? Is this something that they will grow out of? Is this a twin thing? I certainly wouldn’t want them to be that kid in preschool, the one who bites. We’re at a loss as to what to do, but they seem to be getting over the bites very easily. It doesn’t even faze them that their arms are all bruised up for days, but we are really just baffled at and bothered by this behavior.

Any MoM’s out there who can help us out?

lunchldyd is mom to 21mo biting b/g twins, and their 4yo sister who never bit.

Toddler Thursday: The Cloak of Oblivion

I published this post on my blog a little more than four years ago, when my girls were 16 months old…and I still think about it from time to time.

I’ve reformed my ways to some degree…I haven’t had a soda in over a year and a half…but there are times I **really** wish I could slip a candy bar in the middle of the day.  I miss my cloak!

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As a mother, I feel it is a big part of my job to set a good example for my children…to make sure they stand up straight, are kind and courteous to others, respect the environment, eat a balanced diet, read, exercise…the list is long, and actually pretty daunting.

As I loaded up the girls after lunch today for a quick run through the Sonic drive-thru for a 44oz. Diet Coke, I realized that I am operating under a cloak of oblivion. At 16 months old, they are still oblivious to most of the not-so-exemplary things I do…like drinking a 44oz. Diet Coke.

Today I can easily get away with a quick drive-through run. I sing songs along the way and point out interesting sights (“Cows!”), so I figure the 15-minute round trip isn’t totally wasted.

But one day, in the not-so-distant future, I know I won’t be able to make such a run without them wanting something for themselves. I won’t be able to step quietly away from playing in the den to grab a bite-size candy bar from the pantry. (Sometimes Mama just needs a little chocolate.) I won’t be able to indulge in People magazine while I stand in line at the grocery store.

No, they will see me. And they will want some of whatever-it-is I have.

So one day, I’ll either have to alter my ways and set a better example, one I’ll truly want them to follow…or I’ll have to get better at hiding my indiscretions.

Yes, I’ll have to find a better cloak.

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MandyE is mom to 5 1/2-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Thoughts on Working Part-time

School started two weeks ago, and I’m ready to reflect on getting back to work part-time.

The first week was a little sketchy. I started getting random headaches, my eyes were irritated and red, and I was still pretty exhausted. I was worried that this part-time decision wasn’t going to help anything. But now that I have another week down, I’m feeling like I’m back in the groove. In fact, I’m extremely happy with my new schedule.

I’m up and in the shower at about 6am, out the door by 6:45, twins dropped off at my mom’s around 7am, and at school by 7:10. Not much different from our summer schedule, except I have to actually get dressed instead of wearing tank tops and shorts, and I don’t do breakfast for the kids. Two classes and three hours later, I pick up the twins, give them their snack in the car, and we go home to nap for two hours. This is when I get some downtime, do some of my own things, or take a nap myself. Big Sis sometimes gets picked up from preschool after lunch (I’ve been trying out continuing with a half-day for her), and we go on an afternoon outing, again no different from our summer schedule.

The BIG difference is that I am not so exhausted that I can’t enjoy being with my kids. It used to be that I was completely drained after a whole day of work, but now I get a little break while the twins nap, so I have time to recharge. I now have the time and patience to listen to 4yo stories, soothe 21mo boo-boos, and generally be present and engaged.

By no means is it easy though. The twins are only getting more active each day, and one of my children is a climber. I had never experienced this before (Big Sis is much more low key), so it is completely shocking to me. My boy, at 19m, vaulted his crib rails, landed on his feet, and took off running. He is climbing everything climbable: shelves, beds, TV stands, dollhouses, play kitchens, you name it. We don’t go to the library anymore because he will scale the shelves there. And not only is he interested in the climbing, he also likes to jump on the surfaces on which he’s climbed. So I will come out of the shower to see him balanced on his tiptoes at the edge of the armchair in the playroom, bouncing up and down with a big grin on his face. And when he sees me he’ll say, “Ta-Da!” (Don’t have a clue where he gets that from…) His twin isn’t so much into climbing, but she will find and eat any and all little bits off the floor. I’ve got to keep my eyes on her at all times to make sure she’s not ingesting nasty stuff. These kids sure know how to keep me on my toes. Therefore, I am much more convinced now that my mom would not be capable of entertaining and chasing them all day every day.

Another bonus to this part-time schedule? Surprisingly, I’ve gotten even more efficient. I thought that with three kids I was already very efficient. And I am– consolidated errands, organized outings, great time management skills. I routinely do all 3 baths and bedtimes in 30 minutes. But now that I’m only at work for less than 3 hours a day, I find myself planning even further ahead, making lists and crossing things out right away, not procrastinating on any work stuff. My lessons are prepared days in advance, and I have calendars marked for the entire school year for holidays and days that we’re on a different school schedule. I don’t dread going to work anymore; on the contrary, I think I’ve actually fallen back in love with my profession.

I’ve been feeling happier and more productive. I’ve had interest in reading again, and even planned the kids’ Halloween costumes already. I have energy to think ahead, and I look forward to weekends not just for no work, but to actively plan activities that include Daddy.

Even considering the financial sacrifice we’re making, I don’t see how there could be any better alternative to this. It’s like the other shoe has dropped, after so long of such conflicted emotions about doing this. I’m elated that I made the leap on this decision.

lunchldyd is a part-time teacher and full-time mother to 21mo b/g twins and their 4yo sister.

Ask the Moms: Aversion to Solid Food

What to do when a child won't take solid food? Feeding therapy may be the answer.

Reader Brielle had the following question for us:

I have 1 year old twins (11 months adjusted). My little girl is doing great, but my little boy is slightly delayed in some areas. One area that I’m concerned about is his diet. He. Will. Not. Eat. Food!!! He only wants to nurse! He won’t take a bottle or sippy cup. (I try every day.)

We first started solid foods when they were 6 months, and he has always been a struggle to feed, but there have been times when he will eat. But not anymore.

The doctor hasn’t really given any suggestions. His weight is right on track, so the doctor isn’t concerned about development. I feel like I will be nursing forever! I was hoping to start weaning them, but I can’t if he won’t eat anything else. Has anyone experienced anything similar? Any suggestions??

Brielle, it sounds like your son may have an aversion to solid food. Feeding therapy is available, usually through your local speech therapist. When my daughters’ pediatrician suggested seeing a speech therapist for dinnertime issues, it sounded crazy to me. I quickly realized that speech therapists work with children on all aspects of oral motor control.

Feeding therapy changed our lives. I am not knowledgeable enough to be able to predict what the source of your son’s dislike of solid foods, cups and bottles is. However, my daughter suffered from trouble swallowing (dysphagia) due to poor tongue muscle control thanks to a tongue too big for her mouth (macroglossia). A few months of tongue exercises at age 2 made mealtimes manageable and helped her get the calories she needed.

HDYDI author Goddess in Progress‘s youngest daughter has also been through feeding therapy and Marissa‘s son is working on it right now. Their situations sound more like your son’s. I’m pleased to report that Goddess’s daughter now willingly eats crackers, sandwiches, and other solid foods. Marissa’s son has been seen chowing down on a pickle!

  1. Ask your doctor for a speech therapist referral.
  2. If he/she is not supportive of your going down this path, get a list of available speech therapists in your area from your health insurance company.
  3. Document details of your feeding efforts between now and your first speech therapist appointment. Write down what you try and the details of your son’s reactions.
  4. Once you do start meeting with a speech therapist, make sure that he/she is someone your whole family is comfortable working with.
  5. Do your homework. Make sure your son does any exercises he is supposed to do. Make it fun.

Please let us know how it goes, Brielle. And HUGE kudos for having breastfed twins for a full year!

Anyone have other advice for Brielle? Your own feeding therapy stories?

 

Toddler Thursday: Perspective Taking

At age 3 years, 2 months, my daughter J could spell three words without help: her own name, her sister’s and “No”. So, when she wanted to surprise me with a note, she was left with no choice but to ask for help—my help. She forbade me to leave the dining room, and yelled to me from the easel in the play room.

J: Mama, what’s after ‘S’ in “Sadia”?
M: ‘A’.
J: Then?
Me: ‘D’.
J: Then?
Me: ‘I’, then ‘A’.
J: How do you spell “from”?
Me: ‘F’ … ‘R’ … ‘O’ …
M: ‘M’.
J: Is ‘M’ the end?
M: Yes.
J: Mama, is ‘M’ the end?
M: Yes. Nice work, M.
J: How to you spell “to”?
Me: ‘T’ … ‘O’.
J: Then?
Me: That’s it.
J: How do you draw “don’t”?
Me: ‘D’ … ‘O’ … ‘N’ … ‘T’.
J: And “tell”?
Me: ‘T’ ‘E’ ‘L’ ‘L’.
J: ‘T’ ‘E’ ‘E’ ‘L’?
Me: No, ‘T’ ‘E’ ‘L’ ‘L’. Two ‘L’s.
J: Mommy, come see what I made for you! It says, “To Sadia from J. M, don’t tell.”

I’ve tried to help you parse this in the second image.

This 3-year-old has mastered neither linear writing nor secret-keeping. from hdydi.com

To Sadia from Jessica. Melody, don’t tell.

Toddlers are quite terrible at knowing what others know, their perspective taking skills still in development. I can report that now, at age 8, my girls are much better at keeping secrets. I’m not sure that’s the best thing, but it is fun to distract J at M’s request so that M can sneak a stuffed toy for her sister to the cashier at the toy store.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 8-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering. She is the Single Parent Coordinator for Multiples of America.