Twinfant Tuesday: Why Not? (And Earplugs)

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Categories Adoption, Balance, Emotion, Feeling Overwhelmed, Frustration, Guilt, Infants, SAHM, Special Needs, Toddlers, Twinfant TuesdayTags , 8 Comments
zoe girl-1466
Yeah, that look on Isaiah’s face? We all had that look in that first year after she came home..often!LOL!

Famous last words! “Why not?” Those were the words that kicked off my first year as a mom of functional multiples!

It was two pm on Friday, November 18, 2011. I was standing in my living-room-turned-nursery, bouncing my four-month old (then) foster son when the phone rang. They had a little bitty girl, a little bitty girl they had thought about calling us for placement ten days earlier when she was first born, but there was a family who “had waited longer for placement of a little girl.” So, they tried placement there first.Thing is, it didn’t work out for that family. I laugh looking back at it now; I didn’t even ask why! I just said “Sure, why not?”

After all, all of our paperwork as foster to adopt parents said “female 0-2 years of age”. Everything. This was the moment we had waited for and dreaming about for years! I had suffered a pregnancy loss of a daughter midterm over 17 years ago. The desire for a little girl of my own never went away.

Of course, we hadn’t planned on two babies. There was nothing in our paperwork that said “boy”. I have four boys by birth! But when they called us for him four months earlier, we just knew that this was our boy. So, there I stood. Nodding, twinkling, smiling at my husband who was shaking his head in wonder, and boom! It began. Our first year of life with two teeny little people!

First quarter. Year one.

Zoe was a screamer. Yes, really. She was sweet. She was beautiful. AND she was a screamer! I already had some experience with having two. We had another little girl for a month, off and on, as a respite baby. Seriously, I thought we had experience! So, yeah–small detail–that other little girl was not a screamer.

We didn’t even make it back home before we knew why it “just wasn’t working out” for the other family. That foster mom was a single mother and had to work full-time. Dealing with that shriek all night every night was just not in the realm of possibility for her. Heck, it pushed the limits for me!

Yes, really! This is survival man!

So, while the other MoMs here have touched on organization, asking for help, and keeping a positive perspective, (all absolutely critical to surviving the first year. I guess that last one could be a part of my strategy as well.) I, on the other hand, will address ear plugs. That’s right. You heard me. Don’t have any, do ya? Ear plugs!

I don’t know about you, but crying babies have always created a great sense of alarm in me. I am really sensitive to sound anyway. On the flip side of this issue, I am very musical. I can get lost in a melody for hours. I can hear a song one time and sing it back to you note for note, verbatim. It’s of like a photographic memory, but in my case audiological memory, for lack of a better word. Unfortunately, this was no melody!

The incredible urgency to fix.it.right.now.whatever.it.takes has always been an issue for me. And that was before I heard Zoe cry. Zoe’s cry could make the hair stand up on the neck of any parent. We finally dubbed her “Sonic” because we were pretty sure that even after she stopped shrieking 24/7, some of the sounds she emitted were dolphin-speak and could only be heard on dry land by canines! Really.

Once in a phone conversation my sister asked me, “Is that a car alarm?” My reply? “Um, no. That is my daughter.” It made me want to pull my hair out. Honey cried all of the time. The first three months were just torture for all of us. There were moments when I had to just go lay her down in her crib, walk away, and cry myself for a few minutes before trying again.

Epiphany

The earplugs entered the game the first time I was alone on a road trip with both babies. I was delivering one of my older boys to college. Holy-Screaming-Banshees-Batman. They both started in. It was dark. Exhaustion loomed. I had already been crying. Dealing with empty nest feelings while raising two toddlers is an interesting experience, but I digress. As the decibel level began to climb, I simply could not imagine enduring the remaining two hours ahead of me!

It was then that I remembered that I had read about a mom of twins who used ear plugs in the car, among other places. I laughed when I first read her story, but suddenly it made sense! And in my fervor for better preparation, I actually had some in my bag.

At first, I felt foolish pulling off the freeway to dig for earplugs. Then I felt guilty.

After a few miles of relief from the most intense of my physical responses to their crying, I was able to think clearly. I realized that there really was nothing more I could do. I had already stopped and fed everyone; Zoe had cried through most of the meal anyway. They had clean diapers. What they needed now was sleep, and to get home. There were over two hours of road between us and home.

The earplugs remained in use. After a few miles of my being calmer and not fussing about them fussing, there was silence. I have never been a CIO mom. I just can’t do it. I wear my babies. But, I had to learn to separate myself a bit from the crying when there was nothing more I could do to help them. And drive. That was a big epiphany for me.

Today

Earplugs are now a very important part of my life in parenting multiples. I have two-year olds, and Sonic Girl is alive and well! Add to that the fact that there are mornings when my son is obviously going to have more sensory issues than on the typical day–or maybe I am just not really awake yet–and you can see where these could come in handy!

They allow me to ignore two-year old tantrums. They enable me to stay calm when caring for a child who has suddenly gone all “exorcist” on me. Have you ever dealt with a tantrum from a child with seriously high muscle tone? They sort of levitate! And it is usually during a diaper change. Earplugs allow me to step back, think calmly, and make good decisions. And they keep me from adding to the stress/tension/chaos.

Please note, the earplugs do *not* make it so I cannot hear them at all. They just take the painful edge off of the screaming/crying/hysteria.

Of course…it didn’t hurt that they were so darn cute!

So, there ya go. My big tip from the first , and now second, year of life with two little screaming babies: earplugs and deep breathing. It saved my sanity more than once! Try it. It just might save yours!

 

Do you have any unorthodox approaches to handling tantrums? How do you stay calm and ignore two-year old behavior?

 

Jeanene

Jeanene (and her husband Kelly) are raising a “second set” of kids together. They have six children by birth between them, ages 17 to nearly 30 (his two daughters, her four sons) and are now parenting boy/girl “functional” twins, Isaiah and Zoe. Isaiah was 4 months old when Zoe was born. She blogs about foster parenting, adoption, and life with two toddlers at www.amiraculousmess.com.

 

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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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Prematurity Is Never Easy

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Categories Guilt, Medical, Mommy Issues, NICU, PrematurityTags , , 6 Comments

M and J were born 7 weeks premature. When we found out we were having twins, my ob/gyn told us, right off the bat, that we could expect them to arrive early. She offered to help us find a new doctor who had privileges at a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit. My husband and I agreed that we wanted her to care for us during the pregnancy, even if she wouldn’t be the one to perform the delivery if it was early.

We didn’t know the first thing about prematurity. When the doctor said, “privileges at a hospital with a NICU,” we were so naïve that we just looked at her blankly. She had to spell out that a NICU was a neonatal intensive care unit and we should prepare ourselves for an extended hospital stay. This pregnancy was high risk, all the more so because I was 5’0 and weighed 112 lbs. There wasn’t exactly a lot of room for expansion, at least up and down. The prospect of gaining the ideal 60 lbs over 9 months seemed challenging, and turned out not to be a goal I could accomplish.

Still, the pregnancy was so relatively easy on me – not so my husband; my temper was terrible! – that I was sure I could carry the girls to at least 35 weeks. I had no morning sickness, and I was floating on air during the second trimester. Thirty-five weeks was our goal, because twins tend to gestate about two weeks faster than singletons, and therefore 35 weeks for them was as good as 37 weeks for a singleton.

We went through the motions to prepare for preemies. An aunt got the girls preemie-sized outfits at the baby shower the family threw for us, even though I couldn’t attend. (My doctor highly recommended that I not fly to Oregon.) We took our Lamaze class with a group of couples 2 to 3 months farther along in their pregnancies than I was. Despite these steps, we hadn’t prepared emotionally, and I was still deeply attached to the idea of a natural birth. I had made a list for my hospital bag, but hadn’t actually packed, when my water broke at 33 weeks, 1 day.

The actual birth was a haze. J weighed 3 lbs 6 oz, M 3 lbs 9 oz. J had a patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), or a hole in her heart. It’s a common condition in infants, and resolved itself within a couple of months. Neither M nor J needed any help breathing. They didn’t need oxygen treatments. Unlike some of the other preemies in the NICU, they didn’t have any issues with apnea of prematurity, which is essentially what happens when a preemie forgets to breathe.

They were really small, though. They couldn’t regulate their own body temperatures because their baby fat hadn’t come in yet. They had to stay in their warmed isolettes, although they were strong enough that we were allowed to hold them for several hours each day, and keep them warm with our own body heat. When they finally downed 31 mLs (1 oz) of formula and breastmilk in one shot, I cried for joy, because that was one of the criteria the NICU had set up for release from the hospital. Days earlier, my husband had fought for my right to breastfeed, fighting formula and the feeding tube while I was being moved out of the operating room, until a doctor kindly, but firmly, told him that our babies were really, really sick, and all our plans were going to have to wait.

We had the healthiest preemies in the NICU, but still, they were tiny.

In the picture above, J and M (in the matching white onesies) are a day shy of a month old. D, a dear friend’s son, is two weeks old. That’s half their age. He was born on his due date at 40 weeks gestation, compared to M and J’s 33 weeks. His legs are twice the size of theirs. His arms are twice the size of theirs. Each of his hands could almost contain one of theirs. M or J would disappear inside the newborn-sized onesie D is wearing. D wasn’t a particularly large baby. What you can’t see is how baggy their preemie-sized onesies are on them.

Remember, M and J are twice as old as he is, if you count from their birth age.

I actually learned not to measure their age from their birthday. When I did use their birth age during their first year, I felt like I had to keep explaining why the girls were so small, or why they weren’t holding up their heads better at their age. Not only that, but my poor friend kept having to defend little D when we were together in public. “He’s not fat! He’s not huge! The twins are just really really tiny!”

Once we reached their due date, the day they would have been born full-term, I began to use their corrected age, that is, how old they would have been if they hadn’t spent the last two months of the gestational period outside the womb. It was so much simpler to tell strangers at the grocery store that the girls were a month old, rather than, “They’re three months old, but they were born two months early, and please don’t look at me like that because I’ve never done a drug in my life and maybe if I’d been on bed rest the pregnancy would have lasted longer, but I did the best I could, and I’m really trying to be a good mother.”

Yes, I was extremely touchy about the fact that the girls were born early. I felt like my first act of motherhood had been to betray them by evicting them from my body half-cooked.

Our pediatrician was fantastic. The entire practice has a lot of experience with preemies. In fact, all the twins I knew in our old town went to one of two pediatricians. (Not all twins are premature. My husband’s now 16-year-old triplet cousins were born full term. However, the rate of prematurity is high for twins, over 50 percent.) The doctor focused always on how M and J were doing compared to where they started, rather than looking at averages. When he tracked their growth on the growth chart, he used their corrected age. When it came to timing immunizations and the introduction of solid foods, we followed the guidelines of the American Academy of Pediatrics, again using their corrected age.

M and J are healthy. They only long-term effect of prematurity appears to be the state of their teeth, although we faced some challenges in the early years with their lung development. We’re the lucky ones, though. Others aren’t as fortunate.

Here’s what I would tell my pregnant self if I could:

Don’t be irritated with he doctor when she tells you that you need to quit working. Listen to her when she says that you’re having too many Braxton Hicks contractions, too early. Working part time and telecommuting was a great alternative to working full-time, but you could have afforded to stare at the ceiling for a few weeks to give those precious girls a better start. It might have made a difference. It might not have. You’ll never know.

I will never know what I could have done differently to give J and M another day or two in utero, but I will always wonder.

Sadia’s daughters, J and M, are now thriving in first grade. They’re a head and half shorter than their classmates, thanks to inheriting Sadia’s (lack of) height. A previous version of this post was published on Sadia’ personal blog, Double the Fun, on honour of the Bloggers Unite Prematurity Awareness event 2009 .

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Toddlers and TV

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Categories Guilt, ToddlersTags , 26 Comments

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.

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