doubling my pleasure at school, take two

When I last posted at HDYDI, it was April and I was speaking with the school principal about my concerns that my twins’ placement testing results had been mixed up, and also that their teachers couldn’t tell who was whom even though they had different haircuts and didn’t dress in matching clothes. And their teachers laughed this off and weren’t interested in my efforts to make telling the boys apart easier.

In kindergarten, P was assigned to an intervention reading group. G was in a higher-level group, but he didn’t read for me at home, and P did. After I asked the teacher several times whether their files may have been confused, she wrote me after winter break and said P had accelerated quickly and had been placed in a higher group than G, and he was moved up again several weeks later. Because I believed she had confused them, giving intervention services to a child who didn’t need them rather than the child who did, and because I felt I wasn’t getting straight answers from their teacher, I worried about their progress for the entire year.

From the moment we found out we were having twins, everything was scary. The statistics are terrifying. The books said I’d lost 20 valuable weeks that I could have spent packing on body fat to sustain the babies in late pregnancy, when I wouldn’t be able to eat as much. I’d been having Braxton-Hicks contractions since 16 or 17 weeks – my doctor didn’t feel that was a good sign. From week 20, when I found out, to week 37 when I delivered my twins, every day and every contraction and nearly every moment was tinged with worry.

I think it’s that way for most of us. I am very lucky, in that I got to stop worrying about my boys’ physical health quickly after they were born.

Now I worry about whether people are able to see them and treat them as individuals, and how the boys feel about being individuals. I worry about how painful it will be when they eventually separate. I worry that their speech problems prevent them from volunteering in class, and that they may eventually get picked on because of them. I worry about P being bored, and G being left behind, because a teacher made a mistake and wouldn’t own up to it.

In our district the kids are given standardized tests so teachers and parents can track a child’s growth throughout the school year and from year to year, to make sure a kid is progressing. Last week I went to the school and requested their scores. The principal came out and sat beside me and handed me a post-it note on which she’d jotted their scores. Tears welled up in my eyes.

They both made great strides last year. They’re both above average. They are normal and doing fine, and oh, it is wonderful to have plain old normal kids who are doing fine!

I cried because I am so grateful that I can stop worrying about their academic progress. I also cried because the scores confirmed that my boys were placed in the wrong reading groups last year. Their math scores were identical, but their reading scores were drastically different. My little boy who struggles with reading spent months in a group that was way over his head, and his self-confidence shows it.

 

Jen is a work-from-home mom of 7-year-old twin boys, and two girls ages 4.5 and 9. She also blogs at Minivan MacGyver, where she alternates between waxing nostalgic over her children’s toddler years, and despairing over the amount of work still required for their upkeep.

Climbing Toddlers

Andrew's infamous window climb. Window was taped off with cardboard shortly after.

I thought I’d given myself enough time for this post, but once again, I’ve procrastinated. …and by procrastinated, I mean I’ve cleaned, chased babies, did laundry, made meals, and cleaned some more. Hello, I’m last minute Margie from Double the Giggles.  I’m so happy to be a new addition to HDYDI, a blog I’ve turned to for multiples advice many times in the past.

As a mom to two very active ‘almost‘ two year old boys, I face many challenges.  Daredevil was never something I’d thought I’d have to deal with…well, not just yet, I guess.  My little Andrew is very strong and loves to jump, leap, climb and flip.   The kid does a better summersault than I did after years of gymnastics class.  That’s problem #1.   Problem #2 is that my little Wesley is not as coordinated (ahem, bull in China shop) however, has a severe case of the Monkey See, Monkey Do’s.

Insert Band-Aid here.

The boy’s latest feat is the bookshelf in their room.   The bookshelf has been stripped of it’s many toys and books (by the boys, themselves) and is now used as a playground toy.   Fear not, it’s firmly bolted to the wall.  My husband and I have come up with all sorts of innovative baby-proofing in our house, but where does it end?  If I tape poster board over the lower shelves to deter climbing, it will only get torn off.   The changing table/dresser has already been removed from their room due to climbing… Is it time to remove the bookshelf now, too?  Is it crazy to have just beds in their room?

My question to other moms of multiples who have dealt with this is:  When saying “Don’t Climb” and/or “Feet on the Floor” don’t work, and your toddlers are determined to climb and jump beyond where it’s considered acceptable (say, at a playground or in a bounce house), what tricks worked for you in keeping them grounded?  I have endless kisses for boo-boos, but all these Band-Aids are getting pricey…

Safety and Danger in Numbers

I’m Sadia. I’m a long-time reader of HDYDI, and have met a number of my closest mommy friends through the site. I’m excited to have the opportunity to write here. I am the mother of five-year-old monozygotic twin girls, M and J.

J and M trying to share a toy, with questionable success.

We’re a two-career family, and our daughters will be transitioning from our beloved daycare/pre-school to public kindergarten. My husband is a soldier, and we’re about to go through our first army move, from the Austin, TX area to El Paso. A new routine at a new school in a new neighbourhood in a new town is sure to bring lots of excitement in the coming months, even though we’re managing to keep the state the same.

This post, though, has nothing to do with those changes. Instead, it’s about one of the constants in every parent’s life–keeping our children safe while letting them explore the world.

The heatwave the rest of the country has felt lately is the norm where we live, so we’re all about indoor play options during the summer. It’s very child- and parent-friendly here in the ‘burbs, and there are a number of establishments that attempt to serve both demographics by pairing a coffee shop with an indoor playscape. They usually have wifi and fancy caffeinated beverages for the adults, and the kids can choose from a selection of snacks, juices and opportunities for vigourous mayhem involving some combination of screaming, jumping, running and climbing. The kids are generally within visual range of their accompanying adults, but different parents provide different degrees of oversight.

One of our daughters’ friends spent the weekend with us, and I had some work to catch up on, so a trip to our favourite play-and-wifi hangout was in order. While my husband savoured his coffee, and I clattered away on my laptop, the girls embarked on a mission to figure out how to go down the two available slides while all three holding hands. They checked in with us every few minutes, with requests for water, hugs, or conflict-resolution. If five or more minutes went by without a check-in, either my husband or I walked over to the playscape for a quick visual verification of all three girls’ wellbeing.

About an hour into our stay, J came running up to us with her friend, less happy-go-lucky than they’d been. M, they told us, was in hiding because of “the scary guy.” We asked what they meant, and they told us that there was a guy sitting at the top of the slides telling all the kids “I’m gonna get you.” We looked over, and noticed that all the kids had abandoned the previously in-demand slides for other features of the playscape. My husband went over to investigate further, and I saw his posture slide into military vigilance mode.

After about five minutes of observation, he came over to me with all three girls in tow, saying it was time to go home. There was a grown man in the playscape, seemingly unassociated with any of the children present, scaring the kids. He was creepy, my husband said, and that was enough to make me pack up my things and talk up how exciting making dinner was going to be. My mother has spent her career working with abused children, so I’m probably more paranoid about these things than the average mom.

This was the second time we’d seen someone suspicious at this location. The time before, we’d left after speaking to the coffee shop management about our discomfort. A man had come into this family hangout solo, accompanied by a puppy, which he was unashamedly using as a kid magnet. My husband and I watched for ten minutes or so before saying anything, but we’d both felt our hackles rise. Perhaps the guy was there awaiting his family. Perhaps friends with kids had asked to meet him there. Perhaps he’d seen the coffee shop sign and not realized it was kid-centred. Still, he gave us the creeps, and we weren’t going to stick around.

This time, we made sure to thank the girls for letting us know that they were uncomfortable. It occurred to me that J and her friend felt empowered to come and talk to us about their concerns because they were together, while M, having broken off from her group, decided to hide instead. I wonder whether I let my children venture a little farther afield from me because there are two of them, looking out for each other. There is safety in numbers, although it is the number of children in this sort of place that makes it easy for creepy folks to hide.

Do you find yourself being hyperaware of adults who don’t seem to belong at a kid venue? Are there child-centred activities you won’t let your children attend for fear of paedophiles? How do you safeguard your children against unwelcome interactions? Do you listen to your instincts about strangers; do you tend to believe the best or worst of people?

I regularly study our local sex offender registry in an effort to memorize the faces I want to keep my children far, far away from. Do you?

Sleeping arrangements for twins – the toddler update

A few weeks ago, with no preparation, I decided to move our girls from their cribs to beds. My sudden decision occurred because when I got them up from their naps, S had her leg caught between the crib bars for the third time in the last few weeks.  I decided that it would be safer for them to move to beds. So, we took down the cribs and set up the beds in their share bedroom that afternoon. So, without talking to the girls about “big girl beds” and without reading any stories about sleeping in beds or any other preparatory activities, we made the move. We moved the cribs out – one to go back to my sister-in-law, the other to go to a friend expecting in a few months. There was no turning back.

Obviously, we, as parents, had discussed this potential step before since we had single beds, mattresses, sheets, Bed Bug Bumpers and everything else we though we’d need already. But, we hadn’t quite intended to do it so soon or so suddenly.  Even at 20 months old, the girls were still happy in their cribs, so there hadn’t been any need to change their sleeping arrangements.  Besides, they’d had plenty of different sleeping arrangements in the early months of their lives but the 10 months or so everything had been stable.

Night 1: The girls wanted to climb and stand on their beds, so we talked about how beds are only for sitting and laying down. The girls both went to bed without any problems. They were probably exhausted from the excitement of moving furniture, cleaning their room, getting everything set up etc.

Day 2 Nap: S fell out of bed. I hurt the thump, then silence, then the scream.  She wasn’t hurt or too scared to go back to bed. I think she fell over the foot of the bed not the side. I kind of hoped this would discourage anymore standing up in bed. In hopes of keeping the from climbing, we told their big brother that he wasn’t allowed in their beds. We thought this would keep them from trying to climb in and out, especially since they are too short to get in by themselves.

Night 2: We repeated the talk about sitting and laying in bed. Again they settled to sleep fairly well… at least that’s what we thought.  When we checked later, R’s bed was covered with hand-me down clothes that had been in a box at the foot of her bed. I moved the box out the room immediately.

Day 3 Nap: The nanny settle the girls for nap time.  She was quite concerned about them falling out of bed, but everything went alright.

Night 3: R fell out of bed once but she wasn’t hurt. Both girls settled to sleep.  We started to think that maybe the transition period was over.  I hoped that I could relax and sleep a little more soundly without listening for anyone falling out of bed.

Night 4: 7 am – I rolled over and shook my husband awake.  We listened to the sound of little feet coming down the hallway to our room.  S had figured out how to get out of bed, and she was sure proud of herself!

Day 5 Nap: We set up the playpens to help our nanny feel more comfortable and to give us a chance to figure out what to do next.

Night 5: We put the baby gate across the door to keep S in her room.  We also left the playpens set up as a back up.  When S climbed out of bed, we put them both in playpens for the night.

Nights 6, 7: we were away visiting family for the weekend so the girls were their playpens.

Week 2: When S climbed out of bed, we’d respond by putting both girls in their playpens for the rest of the night.  At nap time, I’d use the same approach and the nanny would use the playpens. By the end of the week R had figured out how to get out of bed too. The first thing they would do when the got out was take the laundry out of their laundry basket.  I tried hiding it under the bed, but they could drag it out.

Week 3: Bedtime was going better. They knew they were supposed to stay in bed.  If they got out, then they were in the playpens. But now mornings were the issue.  At  6:30 am I would hear little feet hit the ground. So, I had to get up and put them in their playpens until we ready to get up.

Week 4: They now know what’s coming when we open the door.  If they are out of bed, they head to their beds in hopes that we won’t put them in their playpens. I’m looking forward to the day when we can take the playpens out of their room because it is crowded with two beds and two playpens.  I’m not looking forward to the day they discover they can take clothes out of the dresser, too.

When did you make the transition from cribs to beds? What worked for you?

Thank God for Messy Faces

On those days when you don’t have enough eyes to watch all your children or enough arms to keep them all out of trouble.  When you are too tired or distracted or busy to be giving everyone all the attention they need….

When you have a 3 year old who decides he doesn’t like cheese, which he usually loves.  When he decides he has to throw his cheese and the rest of his lunch in the garbage. When you decide that he needs a time out to think about this.  When you decide that he really needs to spend a few minutes in his room. When he’s practically hysterical, all because of the cheese you served him for lunch. When you’re busy comforting him and trying to figure out why cheese is suddenly so unpopular. When you realize you’ve been upstairs dealing with this crisis while your 11-month old twins are all alone downstairs in the kitchen.  When you realize how long you’ve left them unsupervised.  When you start to get worried about what you’ll find when you get back to them.  When you arrive to see this…

Helping myself Feeding myself

Or when your talking on the phone with the real estate agent.  When you’re trying to figure out the details of offers to buy and mortgages. When you turn away for a minute to write something down.  When you finally put down the phone. When you suddenly notice it has gotten very quiet.  When you look up to see this…

Vaccuming

… and nothing worse. You have to laugh and thank god for messy faces because obviously someone is looking out for you and your children.

Back 2 the Future: Child-proofing

Griff Thena Phe recliner3 121605
“Child-proofing” is a term that gives me a good hearty chuckle, like “potty trained.” We child-proofed the heck out of our house when we were expecting the twins. Magnetic locks on all the cabinets, with the magnet stored up high. Gates at the top and bottom of the stairs. Locks on all the door handles, outlet covers out the wazoo, chemicals stored up high (except personal lubricant)… The kids had the run of the living room, kitchen, dining room and hallway, but couldn’t get anywhere else.

That was perfect, until the twins learned to walk.

From: me
Date: 12/20/05 21:09:12
To: NorthernWarrenCountyOhioFreecycle@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [Freecycle] ISO baby gates PLEASE!!!

Please, for the love of all that is sacred, if you have a spare baby gate, would you consider giving or loaning it to me?

I have 16-month-old twins and I just cleaned the kitchen trash off the floor for the 9th time today. This is AFTER I taped the lid shut. They just used their twin powers for evil and lifted the lid right off.

We have two gates but they are on the top and bottom of the stairs. I never would have dreamed we’d need to gate them out of every part of the house. Silly me.

So please, I am nearly in tears because they think they are hilarious but I can’t take this anymore! If you have a gate you aren’t using I PROMISE I will return it to you if you can loan it to me. Or maybe I can trade you for something. We just don’t have any $ for gates until at least the new year, and even then… Gates are crazy-expensive.

Thank you in advance!

[Note: The twins thinking they are hilarious frequently coincides with me nearly being in tears. That hasn’t changed in the last four years.]

This post resulted in an intimidating fencing system cobbled together from various semi-broken baby gates. On the plus side, the boys were finally confined to the living room and hallway and were no longer free to roam and plunder the garbage. Sadly, my 3-year-old had to be able to predict her need to urinate in enough time to press the release button – which only sometimes worked – on the hall gate blocking the babies from the kitchen/dining room/bathroom. And my blog is named “Diagnosis: Urine,” so we all know how that worked out for me.

Any good “child-proofing” stories in your past?

Jen is the married work-from-home mother of 7-year-old Miss A, 5-year-old boys G and P, and 3-year-old Haney Jane. She also blogs at Diagnosis: Urine.

Having twins doesn’t mean you have to buy a minivan

At this time last year, we were shopping for a new car.  When we planned for a second child, we knew we’d need to replace our Toyota Corolla because it wouldn’t hold two car seats.  My main request was a car with power locks so I didn’t have to put everything down to unlock the car.  Then when we found out we having twins, we  knew we’d really need to do some serious car shopping. In fact when we told people we were expecting twins, they often replied with “so, I guess you’ll be buying a minivan.” With a brother-in-law with three kids who sells cars, we knew where to start. He assured us we’d need a minivan, so we test drove a couple of different minivans.

I’ve always driven small cars, and the thought of driving a huge minivan was scary. Plus, I didn’t really want to be a “minivan” parent with all that implied. I endured a few more test drives until we settled on a Toyota or Honda minivan as the best options for safety, layout, fuel efficiency, features, etc. We didn’t like the dealership after the test drive for the Toyota, so we decided to try another dealership.

In between, I was curious about car seat arrangements in the vans so I called the health unit to talk with the nurse who runs the car seat clinic. She answered my questions, including “is it possible to fit three car seats in  a car?”  She said that yes, in a full size sedan you can fit three car seats.  I did some more research on the topic at http://www.car-seat.org.  (They have a great forum where parents share questions and information about car seat safety. Many of the participants are trained car seat inspectors.)

So, armed with two borrowed baby seats and our son’s car seat, we headed to another dealership.  We tried installing the seats in a number of different cars. And, guess what, it is possible to fit three car seats in a car.  So, we abandoned the idea of buying a minivan and settled on a Toyota Camry instead.

Now, with 11-month-old twins and a three-year-old, the Camry is serving us well.  There is room for three car seats and the double stroller fits in the trunk.  We can pack enough stuff, including a playpen, for a weekend trip to visit family.  But, we really look out of place at our local twin and triplets club events where we’re almost the lone car among the vans and SUVs.

I have to admit there are some limitations to having a car.  We can’t take any extra passengers, adult or children.  So, to make our playschool car pool work, I have to borrow our friends’ minivan.  It has only been a few weeks, but I can already see the advantages of a minivan when come to loading and unloading children, and buckling car seats.  The van doors that open with the push of a button are nice when you’ve got a couple of three-year-olds with their backpacks to get to and from playschool.

So, I’m guessing at some point, we’ll be back on the market for  a minivan.  Maybe it won’t be until the children are ready for hockey or some other sport that requires hauling equipment, or maybe it will be much sooner when the girls outgrow their baby seats and we have to figure out how to buckle in three children every time we leave the house.

What decisions did you make about vehicles?  Did you buy a minivan or not? What suggestions would you have for other parents making this decision?

How it happened that I spent an evening on the phone with Poison Control and Astroglide customer service

When my twins were 13 months old, my daughter, Miss A, was 3. My husband and I were both working full time, and we’d worked out an arrangement where he kept the children at home until 1, then brought them to my office. We’d switch cars and he would head to work, and I’d go home with the kids.

After a long and stressful day, full of crying and minor injuries and pants-wetting and whatnot, the kids and I finished dinner. Or rather, Miss A and I finished dinner, and the twins were removed from their high chairs so they could happily eat the veggie rotini they’d hurled to the floor during our meal. While I was doing the dishes I heard a crash, and discovered that the kids had pulled down the dining room curtains, ripping the hardware clean out of the wall. Taking deep, calming breaths, I went back to doing the dishes/wrestling the twins out of the garbage and dishwasher.

Then, Miss A asked to do a craft. Because the dishes weren’t going well and I felt bad for being annoyed, I set her up with a foamie wall hanging kit. She did a great job with it, but took it upon herself to snip the hanging ribbon in two. While she looked for one of her hair ribbons to replace it, I went back to rinsing chunks of curdled milk out of a thousand sippy cups.

Moments later, I heard the slap-slap-slapping of the twins’ feet coming at me, and that’s where this story gets disturbing. We were in the midst of moving the kids’ rooms upstairs, and our room and the office downstairs. Apparently, Miss A had momentarily forgotten about the move and opened the wrong door. The boys followed her and came upon the contents of my nightstand in an open box on the floor.

I heard their sweet little feet on the floor and turned around to smile at them, and I was met with the horrific sight of my sweet, precious, innocent, perfect firstborn son toddling out to the kitchen with my nearly-empty bottle of personal lubricant in his mouth.

 

[Epilogue: Astroglide is safe to ingest in very small amounts.]
 

Jen is the married work-from-home mother of 7-year-old Miss A, 5-year-old identical boys G and P, and 3-year-old Haney Jane. She also blogs at Diagnosis: Urine.

Your Registry Cheat-Sheet

This might be a day late and a dollar short for most of you, but I would love your help compiling advice for expectant mother’s for when they are faced with the daunting task of preparing their baby registries.

Personally, I was completely overwhelmed at the thought of buying/choosing/registering for what seemed like a huge amount of baby gear. In fact, I requested a veteran mom walk me through Babies R Us and I took notes while she pointed out the various items I may or may not need. I was so grateful for her help, because it is a huge job to research all of the items for safety ratings/effectiveness/price comparison. And since most of my friends were all having their first baby(s) at the same time, we tended to fuel each other’s drive for baby stuff…especially any item to help with breastfeeding or sleeping!

Would you please leave a comment about what worked or what you would have done differently in terms of baby gear? Thanks!
—————————————–
Krissy’s Registry Cheat-Sheet

  • As far as car seats go: several friends of singletons have since had baby #2. Many of them had the super cute Chicco travel system (stroller and car seat). The problem is, as far as I can tell, Chicco does not make a double front-to-back stroller, and the mom’s are limited to other brands of double strollers that will accept the Chicco car seat. If you hope to have more than one child, you might want to factor this in.
  • Car seat under mats are a worthy addition to your registry. When you first bring home your newborn, it is hard to envision their little feet hanging over their car seats, dripping muddy or snowy water onto your upholstery, but that time will come, likely around their first birthday.
  • In my humble opinion, the one item that I would insist on buying new is the crib mattress. My son has been sleeping and jumping on his mattress for 2+ years, and it has shown considerable wear and tear. The middle is still nice and firm, but the sides have taken a real beating. There is now enough room between the crib mattress and crib slats for a newborn to get stuck. I know, because his stuffed dog (newborn sized) often ends up wedged down there.
  • The big stuff: exersaucers, bouncy seats, bumbos and swings all have a VERY short life span…borrow them or buy them used if you can. The amount of space they will require in your home is enormous, and you will resent their perfectly matched presence even more if you paid full price for them!
  • One of the biggest wastes of money for many moms are infant carriers. The problem is, you don’t really know what will work for you (how it feels, fits, any area’s of back pain, infant head support, etc. ) until you actually have the baby in your possession. For example, I personally hated the Moby wrap I bought during my pregnancy and never used it. The Baby Bjorn worked for my husband, but hurt my back. However, the consignment store Snugli worked wonderfully for me. Several friends have told me they regretted buying the sling/carrier, etc. that they did because it didn’t end up working for them. If you do decide to buy ahead of time-keep the tags on and save the receipt!

IMG_0093
Jonathan in a borrowed walker.
IMG_0089
Faith in a borrowed Exersaucer…I loved it while we needed it, and loved it even more when I returned it to the owner and it didn’t have to fit in my overflowing storage room!

Okay ladies! Help me out! And for those of you researching your baby gear options, here are a few HDYDI product reviews:

Peeping Mommy

I put down my 2-year old boys for a nap 90 minutes ago.

Within 1 minute, Brady walked back out of their room. Proud as a 2-year old can be.

“Hi!” he said.

Um…didn’t I just put you in a CRIB? A crib with no bumper, no toys, nothing to stand on?

I put him back into the crib, left the room and spent the next 42 minutes watching them from the doorway, being quiet as a mouse and trying to stay out of sight, hoping to catch one of them in the act. There were a few false alarms but no more escapes (yet). It was hard being still and not rushing in, but I was blessed with a rare opportunity to watch them interact with each other.

I watched all manner of gymnastics including headstands. I watched the boys holding hands through the crib slats. I watched them pass books back and forth. I watched them talk and laugh. It’s not really eavesdropping if you don’t understand what they’re saying, right? I even saw a kiss.

Then, the sweetest thing. Brady climbed into Aaron’s crib. I panicked but saw the safe maneuver and let it go. The laughter…oh, the laughter. Then the cuddling. They finally seemed to settle down and I walked away.

I normally would not watch them like that. Normally when I put them in their cribs, the clock starts on “me time”. I run away, eat, clean up a bit, catch up on MY stuff. But because I was nervous about an escape, I sat and quietly observed a normally private time in my babies’ lives.

And I loved it. It proved to me what I already knew: they have a bond I can never, ever understand.

I’ve never been so glad to have someone climb out of their crib. (But make no mistake, the minute they — and their sleeping little brother — wake up, we are off to Babies R Us for crib tents!)