Toddler Thursday: When Your Toddlers Aren’t Toddling Together

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Categories Difference, Prematurity, Toddler ThursdayTags , , , , , , 1 Comment

We’ve all heard the common question, “How do you do it?” That is how we got our name. Another common phrase I have heard over the years, as many parents of prematurely born twins do is, “They’ll catch up on their own time.” I hate to say it, but sometimes this phrase is like a Band-Aid trying to cover up a bigger “owie” than it can. Sometimes it’s the only thing people can think to say to try to make the mother feel better, when she is wondering if there is a bigger problem to be addressed.

Take my little guys, for example. Growing and progressing a little more slowly than the average baby, but also born much earlier than the average baby. We always take their early arrivals into account. We don’t want to overshoot and stress them out during their development, yet, as a mother I don’t want to undershoot their capabilities by overprotecting or making excuses for them. I believe mothers of premature children may be a little more likely to overprotect their children at times, and that’s okay. Everyone has been through a lot! I also believe there is a balance and it can take a bit of time and self-reflection to understand your parenting style.

My twins are about to turn 4 and when I think back to two years ago, I remember twin b was not yet toddling. Meanwhile his twin had started motoring around on his own. Twin b was able to walk everywhere on his knees, but not his feet. Alarm bells were going off in my head, but I tried to ignore them and give my son more time to figure it out. We shouldn’t compare our twins, as they are individuals and they often do learn things at different times. I kept watching him closely and mentioned it to a few people now and then. I often heard, “he’ll figure it out on his own time.” Hmmm…Are we sure about that?

After lots of watching him in silence, assessing and reassessing; working with him one-to-one to try to get him to walk, I finally trusted my instinct. Something was NOT right. As he approached 24 months corrected/27 months actual we looked at his feet closely. I knew he was able to walk if he had the right support for his feet. I had inspected his feet closely, compared them to his brothers (sometimes comparing twins IS helpful,) watched what he was doing when he tried to toddle and cruise along the couch. I put 2 and 2 together when I realized he could cruise without a worry, but as soon as he tried to stand in the middle of the floor or walk, he’d collapse. His teeny tiny feet just couldn’t keep him standing upright because his feet were very flat and one was practically turning over. We weren’t seeing it because we were trying to promote his walking by keeping him in supportive shoes most of the day, which was supported by his physiotherapist. Once I realized his feet were likely the problem, I contacted our PT and she said my instincts could be correct and he was seen later that week. She yanked off his little shoes, assessed his feet and confirmed that his feet would benefit from the use of orthotics. He was fitted with a custom pair of ankle-foot orthotics (AFOs).

The day we picked up his custom AFOs, the physiotherapist helped him put them on as the orthotist watched. First we had to dig through a box of extra shoes at the centre to fit the larger sized AFOs. Once the AFOs and shoes were on, twin b was set in the middle of the floor…and…HE STOOD…and then…HE WALKED! ALONE. It was amazing to see unfold. One moment he’s a non-walker, the next he’s toddling around the assessment room on his own! I could not hold back my happy tears! They were also likely tears of relief, but I didn’t realize it at the time.

The moral of this story? Trust your instincts and if you feel something isn’t making sense or you’ve said and heard, “he’ll catch up on his own time,” maybe a few too many times, it’s okay to put your foot down (pardon the pun) and ask LOTS of questions to get the answers you need.

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Twinfant Tuesday: You Are Not Alone

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This is based on the first blog post I ever wrote, Me…Start a Blog? when my fraternal twins were 1-year-5-months old. Reading blogs like HDYDI and other MoT, MoM blogs gave me a sense of connectedness, of support and of resources that helped get me through the first-year-and-a-half of parenting our prematurely born twins, who did NICU time in Hong Kong, for 3 and 6 weeks, and then “house-arrest” time for another 5 months.

Once I started the blog, I updated it consistently while in Chengdu, China and even wrote as an author for HDYDI for a while.

For the last year we have been living on a Thai island, a dream come true. Rahul and Leila are 4 now, swimming and running around barefoot with their friends. They go to pre-school and I am doing my yoga practices and teaching again.

I don’t update my blog as frequently anymore, still enjoy it, but there isn’t that same need to get past the difficult, painful experiences of the the NICU time, to express every moment or milestone, to compare with others, or to validate my parenting choices. There continue to be many stories, but for the moment they feature less frequently on the blog.

I have great blogger friends whose ideas and thoughts inspire me, and I found solidarity with many of them at a time when I needed it most, and now I hope some of these posts can do the same for others.

A mother of twins talks about how MoM blogs made her feel less alone in the first year of twin motherhood. from hdydi.com


Me…Start a Blog
Written end of March 2011

Over the last two years my world has revolved around taking care of Leila and Rahul, my almost year-and-a-half twins. So to start a blog now, seems a bit strange. What could I possibly have to say? And when?! I don’t know which regimes are being toppled over, I haven’t seen photos of the effects of the recent earthquake in Japan, I don’t know what yoga workshops are on in the region, don’t know if Federer is still kicking ass, or who presented at the Chengdu Bookworm literary festival; or anything for that matter. Outrageous, I know.

Only a few years earlier I didn’t even know what a blog was until friends in Chengdu complained that they couldn’t access blogspot. Facebook, YouTube, and a number of blogging sites are blocked in China.

After some complications in my pregnancy while in China, I ended up spending 4 months in bed including 7 weeks in hospital, split into 4 different hospital stays.

A number of foreign doctors here, in Shanghai, and Beijing recommended that we leave for the birth, due to the high risk of going into preterm labour and possible lack of high level care for premature babies.

So we went to Hong Kong at 26 weeks gestation. L and R came at 31 weeks, and were cared for at the Queen Mary NICU.

The bed-rest, high-speed internet and open access to all sites meant lots of time on the internet, and my initiation to blogs. But it was only when L and R were five-months-old, after my mum who had spent 9 months with me left, and both of those things coincided with our return to Chengdu that I really got into it.

I came upon some blogs that MoT’s wrote. For the first time in a long time I felt like I could relate. They wrote how exhausted they were, how they only bathed their babies a couple of times a week, rarely dressed them in anything other than pyjamas. I didn’t feel as guilty anymore that L and R didn’t go out everyday. They weren’t the only ones. To have them both ready to go out meant nappies changed, both well fed, not too tired, and a big diaper bag full of provisions.

I remember a post by a father of twins about how his two-year-old girls were finally sleeping through the night, most of the time, anyways. So my two waking up a few times each and every night means I can still be considered in the norm.

One mum wrote about her birth story; similar to mine – it included flights, hospital stays for both mum and babies, pumping pumping pumping, stress, fear, pain, relief.

Then there was one couple that blogged about their micro-preemie twins birth, NICU stay including all the medical details, the obsession with weight gain, the monitors, breathing, digestion, good days, bad days. It wasn’t the most fun blog I ever read. They were born much earlier than L and R, but I could relate to much of it and realised that I would have to deal with this part of R and L, and in fact all 4 of our lives one day, and to be at peace with it somehow.

Reading these stories was like holding a mirror out in front of me, a way to see what we had been through, a way to realize we were not alone – and importantly to let go of it.

There were honest, touching posts as well like the one HDYDI MoT, rebecca, who wrote One Baby Envy. Others complained about the silly questions they got when they took their twins out. If I get started on the questions and comments I got in Chengdu it would never end.

Sometimes the comments on the blogs were funny – MoM’s bitching about how J Lo (on the cover of People Magazine, March 2008) could possibly look as perfect so soon after she had her twins.

I related to these parents and it helped with the isolation I sometimes felt being in China without my family and with no experience with babies whatsoever. Neither of my brothers or brothers-in-law have children. One of my childhood friends has a son in Zambia who I haven’t yet met. I had held one of my friend’s tiny new born baby in Lebanon a couple of times last year feeling clumsy and incapable all the time. So yes, I had that experience.

I had a few parenting books. They only briefly covered twins if at all.

But, we were together again after my 6 month stint in Hong Kong, the 4 of us in Chengdu. That was our main source of strength. I had help from people here. L and R’s nanny or “ayi” meaning aunty as she is called endearingly is a superwoman, a great source of real support and help.

A friend as close as I imagine a sister to be was strong and present when I needed her most.

Another friend lent me lifesaving books at every stage along the way. And there were many others who made up my “village”, both in real life and in my blog life. The crazy thing now is that sometimes my kids both sleep for a few hours at the same time, but silly mama stays up to blog.

In addition to relating to other mums and dads on blogs, I found tips, such as this post that gives advice about choosing a double stroller that works for you depending on it’s use, tips like store big quantities of diapers, wet -wipes, food etc. so you don’t need to go out to the stores until really necessary. Obvious, but hey at least I don’t feel crazy when I walk into my pantry and see the hoarding.

There were videos of calm mums simultaneously feeding their babies. R and L were rarely on the same schedule, so it didn’t apply, but still nice to see how others do it.

So even though I live in this tiny world of eating, playing, bathing, trying to schedule, exploring and sleepless nights, I feel like I am above water now, some of time at least.

I now have the privilege to share my own stories and maybe get some interaction going. Perhaps a new mum, even a MoT will come across it and feel she can relate, find some useful information, or just have a laugh. I would be glad to contribute to that somehow.

These are stories for R and L to read one day if they want to. And if nothing else a way for friends and family to keep up with our lives in China, or wherever.

The other day I read a blog about the therapeutic effects of blogging. That did it for me, a few minutes later I signed up! Not really, I’m exaggerating, but it made me realise that every time I put down my thoughts they rarely came out negative or depressive, but rather I manage to find the “funny” in things, now that I am not sinking all the time, of course. It reminded me of a phrase from a song my dad often used to say to his not so smiley teenage daughter,

When you smile the whole world smiles with you. When you cry, you cry alone.

L and R out in Chengdu. 13 months old
L and R out in Chengdu.
13 months old

 

Natasha is mum of 4-year-old fraternal twins Leila and Rahul. She moved to Koh Samui, Thailand, with her children after spending 7 years in China. Her husband Maher, travels back and forth because work is in China. She has started practicing her yoga more regularly again, and even teaches a few classes a week, after a three year break. She blogs at her personal site Our Little Yogis and at Multicultural Mothering.

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Children Lie

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Categories Discipline, Financial Literacy, Guilt, Mommy Issues, Older Children, Parenting, Special Needs, Talking to Kids, Theme WeekTags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 6 Comments

I’ve gone back and forth on whether to blog about this incident. It’s embarrassing to one of my daughters, but not atypical for children their age. Seven-year-olds lie and even steal. It’s developmentally appropriate, but not socially or morally acceptable. Maybe our story will help another parent know that she’s not alone in tackling these issues. Here’s what happened.

For their 7th birthday, I got each of my daughters a gift card to a local bookstore. I like to use gift cards to teach my girls financial decision-making. The finite balance on the gift card teaches them that paying with plastic should be treated as responsibly as paying with cash. When they run out, they’re out. It encourages budgeting and exercises their basic arithmetic while they’re shopping. They have to factor in sales tax. Whenever possible, I try to set up situations where my daughters spend their gift cards over multiple shopping trips. I figure it helps them understand the idea of debit and the longterm record-keeping required to track their gift card balance is a good exercise.

The gift cards I gave J and M were identical. Although I suggested that we simply write their names on each one, the girls elected to distinguish them differently. One of them decided that she would remove the hangtag from her card while the other left hers intact.

Nearly two months after our initial shopping venture, the girls asked to go to the bookstore this weekend. I asked them to grab their gift cards and buckle up in the car. I gathered up my things while they packed up theirs. The one who’d left her hangtag on let us know that she’d found her gift card, but removed the tag so that the card would fit in the wallet. The other child was upset, feeling that Sissy had gone back on an agreement. It didn’t help that she couldn’t find her gift card.

I happened to know where the second gift card was. Someone had just left her card lying on the floor of the living room last time we went to the bookstore. Despite two reminders, it was never put away, so I picked it up and set it aside.

I retrieved the gift card and discovered that it was the one with the hangtag still attached. My daughter had claimed her sister’s gift card and concocted a lie to cover it up. I showed her the gift card and she instantly knew she was caught. Sister didn’t even realize what she was witnessing. I explained it to her, and she was understandably appalled. Her sister had essentially stolen from her and then lied to cover it up.

The offending party volunteered that the appropriate consequence for her actions was my permanently confiscating her gift card. I didn’t want to do that, but I did tell her that she would not be spending her card on this trip. Sister not only forgave her, but bought the offender a book with her own card.

The next day, I took a moment alone to talk to my daughter about why she’d made the series of choices she had. She didn’t want to talk about it because she felt bad. I reminded her that she had made some pretty bad choices, and one of the consequences of those choices was feeling guilty. She was going to have to talk about it and she was going to have to feel bad. Once she finally agreed to discuss the whole situation, she explained to me that she knew that she’d done wrong by not putting her gift card away. All the wrong actions that followed were to cover up that mistake.

I told her clearly that lying and stealing were far worse than the original offense, and those were the choices I was truly disappointed in. Dishonesty and theft would not be tolerated. Mistakes happen and can be fixed, but lying was unacceptable.

I live what I preach. I admit my mistakes to my children. The only lie I’m guilty of is eating chocolate at work so that my girls don’t know the quantity of sugar I consume. I’m working on fixing that one. I even struggle with the mythology of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Those feel like lies, even if our entire community is complicit.

This is another one of those ways in which parenting gets harder. You leave behind the sleepless nights and the diapers and potty training, only to have to help your children navigate morality and peer pressure.

What would you have done in my shoes? How do you tackle lapses in honesty?

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Our Speech Therapy Journey(s)

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Categories Development, Feeding, Medical, Preschoolers, Solid Foods, Speech Therapy, ToddlersTags , , , , , 4 Comments

M has successfully completed two programs with a speech therapist, and we’re considering having her evaluated again. Twin sister J joined her for the second of those programs, and also benefitted greatly. Watching both my daughters work their way through speech therapy has taught me a few new things, and convinced me all the more of others.

  • There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
  • Follow your gut.
  • It never hurts to get a second opinion.
  • Some lessons are more likely to stick if they come from someone other than a child’s parent.
  • Things are often more complicated than they appear.
  • There is such a thing as knowing too much about something.

The first time we visited a speech therapist was at the recommendation of the family pediatrician. When M was nearly 3 years old, I became concerned about how slowly she ate. I once timed her spending 17 minutes chewing a single piece of meat, and finally had her spit it out. The pediatrician suggested that she had dysphagia, or trouble swallowing. I had imagined that a couple of degrees in linguistics gave me a basic understanding of what speech therapists do, but I was wrong. Speech therapists deal with all sorts of oral motor issues, including problems with chewing or swallowing.

It turned out that M had never quite figured out how to use her tongue to effectively move food around in her mouth as she chewed. Because of that, foods that required chewing would cause her to choke. After six sessions of feeding therapy with an amazing speech therapist and a lot of reinforcement at home and daycare, she could eat successfully. Meals became enjoyable again. It’s been over 2 years, and we haven’t seen any backsliding. In fact, M enjoys food so much now that she plans to open a restaurant when she grows up. Bonus: military medical insurance covered 100% of speech therapy session costs.

It was during feeding therapy that the therapist raised a concern that M might have articulation delays. It had never occurred to me that there was anything off in her speech, since the child talked incessantly and no one who knew her—I, her teachers, or our neighbours—had any trouble understanding her. I thought her pronunciation of yellow as “lellow” was darling, rather than worrisome. The linguist in me had always ignored the nagging doubts, knowing full well that there was variation in the timing of pronunciation mastery, but there should be no cause for alarm as long as the order of acquisition were being followed.

When my husband returned from Iraq and needed me or J to translate for him so that he could understand M, it was clearly time to revisit the speech therapist. My MA in theoretical linguistics hadn’t taught me as much about the practicalities of language development as I’d thought. The practice we’d been to for feeding therapy no longer took our insurance, so we had to find a new therapist. We had both girls, now 3 months shy of turning 4, evaluated at the new practice. They ended up being evaluated by different therapists, and we learned how incredibly subjective these evaluations can be.

J was determined to be 2 standard deviations above the norm for her age when it came to grammar, vocabulary and comprehension, but 2 standard deviations below the norm for articulation, the production of mature speech sounds. She sounded more like a child just turned 3 than one soon to be 4. M, on the other hand, was evaluated only for articulation, and declared to be just dandy. These results didn’t ring true for us. M was, to our ears, far less clear in her speech than J. My husband insisted that M be reevaluated, this time by the therapist who had seen J. When the office staff let us know that they were concerned that insurance might not pay for a second evaluation, we offered to pay out of pocket. Insurance did end up covering it, though. The second set of results was more in line with our expectations. Although J’s need for speech therapy was a judgment call, M definitely needed it. Where the first evaluation had her placed her in the 43rd percentile, the reevaluation placed her in the 2nd percentile for articulation.

Since their delays were along the same continuum, the therapist offered to work both twins together in weekly sessions. The sessions were great fun for the girls. The therapist pulled out board games, and let them each take a turn after they completed a pronunciation exercise. She focused on making them aware of how the sounds coming out of their mouths were different than hers. Soon enough, they could say ‘sh’ and ‘v’ easily. It was extraordinary to see how those two sounds alone helped with others’ comprehension of their endless chatter.

After 3 months, both the girls graduated from speech therapy. All J had left to master were ‘l’ and ‘r’, and the speech therapist didn’t think those needed to be rushed. M had a lisp to work on too, but we were comfortable with the exercises she needed to do at home to help with that. We should keep an eye on the girls, she told us, and consider revisiting a speech therapist if they didn’t appear to be making any headway after a while.

My husband and I think that we’ve given it long enough, and both girls’ ‘r’s are still very baby-like. At this point, speech evaluations are often conducted through the school district, so we need to ask both their classroom teachers what they think of their speech before we go hunting for yet another speech therapist.

If you’re curious about what precisely goes on in a speech therapist’s office, feel free to peruse the detailed tales of feeding therapy and speech therapy sessions on my personal blog.

Sadia and her 5-year-old girls, M and J, do their talking, lisps and all, in El Paso, TX, much to the exhaustion of her soldier husband. They try not to talk while eating, but it’s tough when there’s so much to say. They are happy to report that chewing challenges are no longer to blame for the length of conversations around the dinner table.

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Toddler Truth, Times Two

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Categories Development, Family, Mommy Issues, Preschoolers, ToddlersTags , , , 9 Comments

How anxiously I awaited the onset of actual conversation with my twosome…

So many months were spent gazing into their wee eyes…just hoping  for (and often, projecting) a returned gaze of love.   With the advent of their oral dexterity, surely all the affection so generously lavished upon them would be reciprocally expressed to my eager, and maternally misty, delight.

Alas, as our twins’ language skills developed rapidly and fluently, it became glaringly clear that emotional declarations were not their top priority.

Instead, keen powers of observation and remarkably detailed memories provided them with the motivation for their earliest commentary.

Honesty.  Pure. Unadulterated. Unvarnished. Horrifyingly unedited.

Imagine poor Mommy’s dual-injected reality check…courtesy of my beloved twins, verbally unleashed.  So begins the re-assessment of my self-image, through their empirically-accurate perspective…..

On my housekeeping skills:
….or perhaps more correctly phrased, my lack thereof.
Yes, I have exploited my own children.  Having young twins has provided me with the seemingly perfect alibi for my far-from-immaculate household. When I unearthed the spritzer of Windex to clean our glass-topped coffee table, my son declared, “That’s Grandma’s!” If possession is truly 9/10ths of the law, she’s certainly had it in her hands more than I.  He’s right; it’s hers.

On my musical abilities:
…or perhaps more correctly phrased, my lack thereof. 
For the first 23 months of our twins’ lives I sang along cheerfully with Raffi, the Sesame Street Gang (Oscar and I are blessed with the same vocal range), They Might Be Giants, Cedarmont Kids… all the Billboard chart-toppers.  At 24 months, our daughter began to yell “No!” from the backseat of the car.  Assuming the song mid-play was not a favorite, I’d advance to the next track. By 25 months, she was able to elaborate with greater clarity, “No! Mommy can’t sing!”  So
ended my aspirations of Karaoke stardom on Children’s Song Night.

On my post-twin delivery figure:
Many (okay, most) days, I waited to shower until my twosome was down for their afternoon nap.  On the day of this disheartening revelation, my son’s wailing could clearly be heard over the shower flow.  Concerned about the possibility of his extremities hopelessly wedged betwixt crib slats; or worse yet, his sister pulling aforementioned body-parts against the crib slats like twigs for the snapping, I sprinted to the nursery.

My soggy-faced son, shocked silent by the visage of his naked, dripping Mom, whispered (with perceptible horror in his voice), “Mommy, please put some clothes on.”  Suppose I should be proud.  At least he tried to be polite.

On my grammar :
My daughter sat in her high chair forcefully fork-spearing her banana slices as if they needed to be subdued prior to consumption. Watching the poor slices being mutilated beyond fork-friendly, I suggested, “Honey, you need to do that gentle! Look how mushy the bananas are getting.” Without so much as a glance in my direction, she responded, “Sarah will do it gently.”   Well, at least I don’t refer to myself in the third person.

On my time management & twin juggling skills:
…or perhaps more correctly phrased, my lack thereof.
Before my twosome could inform me that I was mistaken, I took substantial pride in single-handledly taking them on daily out-of-the-house adventures. One particluar day, my daughter, with her shoes on and jacket zipped, was jumping up and
down by the front door chanting, “Let’s go! Let’s go!” In an effort to explain (important note: “explaining” to toddlers is
rarely a useful practice) why we couldn’t leave immediately, I reminded her that she had a brother, also needed shoes and a jacket prior to our departure. In her effort to explain the delay, she declared, “We’ll go in the car as soon as Mommy gets her act together.”

On my personal hygiene:
[Warning: This story is not for the squeamish.]

While in the process of potty training, my husband and I made a frequent practice of allowing/encouraging our twins to “watch” Mommy and Daddy “go potty.” On this particular day, while pulling down my pants for the Potty Parade, I noticed my period was starting a day early. A small spot of darkish flow was in the crotch of my panties. My son, ever empathetic, pointed to the brownish area and sympathized, “That’s okay, Mommy.  You had an accident.” In keeping with my earlier-stated theory on the lunacy of offering explanations to toddlers, I replied simply, “You’re right.  Thanks for making me feel better.”   Wish he could do something for cramps.

On my appearance:
As I was changing my daughter’s diaper, she was reading P.D. Eastman’s classic, The Alphabet Book.  Suddenly, she began kissing a page and cooing, “Ooooh, Mommy!” My mind reeled as I tried to guess which of the illustrations had caused her to think of me so affectionately.  Was I the regal “Queen with a Quarter?”  Perhaps I was the gleeful, fast-moving “Rabbit on Rollerskates.”   No such luck.  When I asked to see the picture of Mommy, lo and behold, apparently I resemble “Walrus with a Wig.”

In an earlier episode, when she informed me that the Veggie Tales’ Archie Asparagus “Looks like Mommy”, I must confess that out of sheer desperation, I took solace in the fact that he was “bookish and lean.”

Now for those of you twin mommies whose twins have yet to share their “truth”, try not to panic.  Not all of their observations are so dramatically ego-bruising.

One Friday night, not long after the walrus incident, as my twosome came down to say “Good Night” to me and my Book Club galpals, my daughter picked up a framed movie still of a young Audrey Hepburn and pronounced with pride, “That looks like Mommy!”  As if that didn’t have me beaming enough, she subsequently picked up the companionate photo of a young Paul Newman and chirped, “And that looks like Daddy!”

Suffice it to say, I think I have decided which truths I’ll believe.

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