Saturday, January 30, 2010

outside!

The weather here has been so nice recently. After being bound to the inside walls of the house for about 6 weeks in November and December due to rain, we've been thrilled to open the back door again and let the boys loose on the yard.

A couple of days ago, Shoghi even pronounced his first word with two different syllables: outside. It was so exciting for him and us! He is also signing the same word in this video:


video

Friday, January 29, 2010

newton's law applies to toddlers


A toddler in motion will tend to stay in motion...

Life is so fast-paced these days, especially since we're in our second week of trying to transition to one nap. Today, for example, Shoghi had one 30-minute nap in the car from 9:45 to 10:15, and Max slept at home from 10:20-11. By 2pm I had two desperately tired, uncoordinated, biting, whining, hungry children who didn't want to eat in their exhausted state. No opportunity for a second nap though, since we then had to go see the pediatrician for an official diagnosis of impetigo.

The boys are now in bed (it's 6:31 and they are already asleep), and after this long day (on top of about 3 weeks with an average of 4 hours of sleep for me) I'm about ready to collapse. I'm thinking an 8 o'clock bedtime is in order.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

hand me downs


My cheeky little guys wearing Ruby's sweet hand-me downs. It's hard to believe Shoghi's wearing these 24 month overalls while Max is still in the 12 month ones... Ruby was wearing these after we moved here. She seems so much older in these baby/toddler perspectives, but really what's a couple of years? Not much, and Shoghi's a giant!

Does this even make sense? I'm quite tired after sleeping only 2 hours in the past 36. Here's a few snaps of the boys posing in their Ruby-wear.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

potty learning begins

I'm easing into the whole potty learning phase with the introduction of books, the occasional wearing of training pants, baby proofing the downstairs bathroom, allowing the boys to see their new potty, as well as drawing regular attention to their... elimination. I've always used proper body part names with them, and we use the words "pee" or "pee-pee" and "poop." I just talk about it in the context of changing diapers or them peeing on the fl0or if they're naked or wearing training pants. Unlike some of my friends, I don't make up silly song about poop. It's just not my style!

So, all I can say, having just received in the mail my new copies of Everyone Poops (My Body Science Series) and Once Upon a Potty -- Boy, is I don't think I'm ready for this.

"Just like you, Joshua has a body, and this body has many nice and useful parts..." (ok so far)

"A Pee-Pee for making Wee-Wee...." (oh, Lord... Wee-Wee???)

"A bottom for sitting and in it a little hole for making Poo-Poo." (oh, my.... "a little hole"?)

A Pee-Pee? Wee-Wee? Poo-Poo?

Why are they capitalized? Why are we using the word "Pee-Pee" for a p*enis?

Seriously? I'm such a prude. The pile of poop on the floor on Page 28? Gross! And while I'll admit Everyone Poops is pretty funny, it still grosses me out to see all the piles of turd on page after page!

Why on earth must so many books about potty learning involve the child putting the potty chair on their head??? How would they ever conceive of it being a hat without such a prompt?!?

I'm all about the books, though, so I'll put up with all this silliness in the name of getting these guys out of `diapers. They seem to be fascinated, anyway.

There you have it, my friends. Thus begins what will surely seem like a lifetime of potty talk and potty humor. I'll say it again:

I don't think I'm ready for this!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

experimenting with toddler passtimes

fridge lotto magnets


I've been trying a lot of new activities with the boys lately, experimenting with what they're ready for and what is still too much of a challenge, too dangerous (to the other twin), or too messy. I'm pretty resigned to cleaning up messes, and believe strongly in allowing the boys to explore objects that engage their senses. That said, all of these were from over a week ago - for several days, I've just been too tired to deal with it!

Here are some of the ways I've modified our space and activities we've tried.

Table and Chairs

This little table is set up in our kitchen/dining area. I use it right now to put snacks out - I'm working diligently (and not yet successfully) to help the boys learn to keep their food on the table, both here where they have the freedom to come and go, and at the big table we all use for meals. I have tried placing activities, like sorting games or stacking rings, on the table, but that really only works when I am sitting with one of them. I had to replace the chairs that came with the table with these shorter stools - although they both loved the idea of having chairs, they were just too tall for now.


Fridge Lotto


Shoghi has been captivated by flowers for quite a long time, but recently he has learned to actually say "flowers," so we hear about these spring beauties all day long. I got the book "Planting a Rainbow" for him at the library a couple of weeks ago, and he's been quite delighted by the colorful blooms on the pages. On a whim, I whipped up this little fridge matching game. I simply drew a bunch of different flowers and a sun, which at the time was Max's newest word, and stuck it to the fridge with a piece of contact paper cut to a larger rectangle size. I glued corresponding images into baby food jar lids, and stuck a magnet on the back.

Although they both point to the flowers and sun, the magnets mostly just get thrown. We've already lost two of them! Clearly, this matching game is too advanced. They love magnets, though, so I think we'll make more.

Frozen Colors


I got this idea browsing the forums on Mothering. I just took a silicone ice cube tray, putting one drop of food coloring in each cube with water.


This has turned out to be a nice activity for the floor in the kitchen. It's messy, and I have to make sure they don't walk away with these potential carpet stain cubes, but they both liked handling the frozen ice. If you're sensitive to the idea of the kiddos ingesting food coloring, look for a natural version at your local health food store.

We have many books about colors right now, so this is a great hands-on activity to reinforce color differentiation. Some of the favorites this month: Flaptastic Colors and Planting a Rainbow: Lap-Sized Board Book.

prepping the colors



Fingerpaint



This speaks for itself... Max in his typical full body exploration style has taken to fingerpaints with relish, but I think I'm going to have to get some paint brushes for Shoghi, who seems pretty grossed out by the feel of it.

What are some of your favorite toddler passtimes?

Click these links to see more photos of our activites or join our flickr group and share your toddler fun photos?

Monday, January 11, 2010

somewhere beyond here

The picture doesn't show it, but I feel so adrift, so stressed out, so lost these days. My patience has washed away under a flood of anxiety, and I find it challenging to make it through the days without terrible feelings of failure - failure to discern my path, to find enough creative and engaging things for the boys, to manage this household calmly and with the finesse I tell myself most adults possess. I ask myself every day how I ever thought I could do this myself, and then I remember that I am doing it, that I couldn't have imagined how it would be to parent twins in this situation (or that my pursuit of parenthood would give me the blessing of having two babies at the same time), and that I would not change any of it, no matter how hard it is for me right now.

The fact is, I am trying. I am digging deeper than I have ever had to in my life. I do come up with new things for us to do every day, we get out and spend time with friends, and I am working hard to prepare good meals and bake bread. These things are important to me, and despite my inner turmoil, I am doing them. I have no choice but to reach for something better, to find myself in the midst of this personal crisis.

To make sure I have various kinds of support and a structure to focus my thoughts of creating a more healthy life, I've decided to take Mondo Beyondo again - the online class I took in October that guides participants through a process of becoming clear about their dreams, and then pursuing them.

This is all in line with my stated goal of 2010 of finding my voice. I'm relieved that the class starts today and I can place my frenzied mind into a calm, positive space.

Friday, January 8, 2010

crazy friday

Dear Mom,

Sorry I missed your call today. I forgot to charge my phone last night, and it died this afternoon right after I heard your voicemail. You asked how things are going, and wanted to check on Shoghi and the new shift to forward-facing car seats.

Little guy is doing much better - the fever passed, but left behind it those horrible canines doing their nasty work on his mouth. He's been pretty possessive of Mama (something new) and has started hitting all of us in some brand new (and very long) temper tantrums that started up right after the sickness had gone. His way of talking also changed. I'm glad this dramatic behavior shift didn't come after a vaccine - it seems very pronounced, and I definitely would have been concerned. As it is, I guess it's just a developmental shift and we'll just continue to try to think creatively about what he needs from us (i.e. me and Laurie) to help him feel secure.

As far as the car seats goes, they're quite happy with them, I think. Max especially is really talking about things he sees, which is fun. The photo of Shoghi sleeping is from the day after his fever passed. He has been sleeping a LOT these past few days - as in 12 or 13 hours at night and 2 naps of 1.5 - 3 hours during the day. Poor guy is pooped. See the french fries in his sleepy hands and his furrowed brow/pout? Damn those teeth!


Today was such a packed day - why do I try to squeeze so many things in on the same day? I was really smart last night, though - I laid out everything I would need for us to get out the door, which sometimes can take a full half hour! From the moment we woke up, I was on the go - first morning snack (grapes and mozzarella), then breakfast (scrambled eggs with avocado and cheddar, sliced orange, waffle with jam), and morning nap. Max decided to skip his nap, so instead of doing some of my planned prep, I spent about 30 minutes trying to get him down. Finally I gave up and Laurie took over so I could shower. I packed our diaper bag and hopped in for a 5-minute wash.

We were out the door by 9:45, and I have to say I was pretty impressed with myself. It wasn't as stressful as usual, and I was excited to get to our first destination - a Reggio Emilia-inspired daycare/preschool just 7 minutes from our house.

Sadly, I was disappointed by the experience. The school was in a nice facility, but that's just what it was - very functional and institutional feeling. Fluorescent lights felt very harsh in the classrooms, which were set up exactly the same way as the traditional preschool I worked at in high school. The 18-30 month room felt very small, and I was very disappointed that they didn't have a single climbing apparatus, either inside or on the small toddler playground.

When I asked about their philosophy and how they characterized it as RE, the assistant director told me that they were very proud of their educational focus and curriculum, which from what I could see was just basically a plan for what the kids would do every day, moving them from free play to art, to gross motor play, etc. She told me that the teachers give an art project and show the kids what it "should" be, and then let the kids do what they want with the materials.

Another question that's very important to me is how they deal with normal toddler aggression. I listened to the teacher tell me that they use redirection and comfort the hurt child, but when I pressed them for further actions they take with biting children (I told them that Shoghi is just growing out of a biting habit), they immediately jumped to telling me about having the kid removed from the program for two weeks until they stop the biting behavior. Needless to say, that landed pretty hard on me. A truly experienced toddler program should have a detailed explanation for how they deal with behaviors such as this, and not simply indicate to a concerned parent that things could go from redirection to expulsion. It just seemed to lack expertise and certainly didn't seem to involve the parent in any kind of strategy.

I guess I figure if I have to pay someone $1500 a month to watch my two kids 3 days a week, I'm looking for something that is a much more creative environment - one that feels relevant to my children and one whose approach and curriculum will support the kind of development I want to give them. Not that I can even dream of affording such a huge sum of money to send my boys to daycare... I find myself more and more wishful that I can somehow afford a Montessori program. Going back to school to become an ESL professional is seeming more and more like the thing I should do if I'm going to find my way back to working a job that will support us.

From there, we went to visit our little twin friends. The boys and girls ran around getting into stuff while Elizabeth and I shouted fragments of conversation at each other from opposite ends of the room. (ok, I exaggerate a little, but you know what I'm talking about if you've spent time with 4 curious 1-year olds). We had a fun visit and left there in time to come home for a snack of peanut butter and banana (a first, which they gobbled up!) and a nap.


You might think this meant a break for me, but nope. I didn't even sit down for the next hour and a half. I had signed up to bring dinner to our former babysitter, who just had a baby two weeks ago. I actually succeeded at making my weekly menu (for the first time!) and had planned on making sabzi pollo, that wonderful Persian rice dish with baby lima beans, dill, parsley, and garlic. Being slightly delusional as I always am when it comes to estimating how much time things will take, I had decided to buy fresh herbs, which meant 30 minutes of washing, pinching and chopping. Oh, and our garbage disposal has been broken for a week, which also disables our dishwasher, so I had to do quite a lot of dis washing before I could even start cooking. Max woke up while I was in the middle of making this meal, so I set him on the floor with a canister of dry split peas and let him go at it.

I was pleased with how he played with this Montessori-inspired activity. I gave him the canister with the peas and a 1/4 cup measure, and showed him how to scoop the beans into a second bowl. This was the second time I tried this with him - the first being just last week when he was only interested in eating the hard, dry legumes, which didn't thrill me. This time he played with them for quite a while, which bought me enough time to finish most of the prep.

Here's Shoghi, meeting the baby on Wednesday. He's really starting to grasp the concept of "gentle." Both the boys really love seeing babies - they've started asking for them when we get in the car.
I won't bother going into the bizarre baby fever that seeing and holding this little peanut is provoking in me.

We didn't get out of here to deliver the meal until 3pm, which is basically the start of the last two hours of their playtime. We got back to our neighborhood at 4, and I decided to drive right to our good old quiet mall and let them run wild. It was pretty exhausting for me keeping them corralled by myself, but it was good for them to run around for a while.

Home again, then dinner, cleanup and our bedtime routine, and now the boys are in bed at 6:45. I have an entire kitchen of dishes to wash, but my new strategy of getting the floor wiped down and the toys put away while the boys are awake is really working well - it's not quite so overwhelming when I finally get them to sleep.

Well, that's how our day went! I just thought since it was already too late to call that I'd send a little (ok, a very long) note your way.

Love to you and Dad!
c

Thursday, January 7, 2010

a little shout out to you

Hi, all of you! How's it going this week? How's the new year treating you?

I wanted to take a moment out of chattering on about our little familia to say a warm and friendly hello to all of you I don't actually know! I've been watching my visitor stats, and find it so amazing to be having repeat visitors from all over the world. Not just in a "that's cool" sort of way, but in a very connected, deeply happy kind of way.

I was lying in bed last night, waiting for Max to fall asleep, thinking of all of you out there. You don't know it, maybe, but just the thought that you all check on us, wonder how the boys are doing, post comments, and simply think of us every once in a while felt to me like a cloud of goodness I was resting upon in the night.

When I was a youngster, I wanted nothing more than to travel - to know people from all over the world and have a sense of the whole planet being my home. I sought out pen pals from all over the place - France, Japan, India, Costa Rica, Canada and the US from what I can recall - and eagerly awaited their letters in the mail. I had my paper correspondence then, and later I was able to travel - to Japan, Canada, around the US, Brazil and China. Since returning to the States back in 2002, I have felt disconnected from the global community. But suddenly, through this little blog I started so my friends and family afar could see Max and Shoghi, I feel like my connection to people in other cultures, countries, and communities is growing.

So, I just wanted to say thanks. To my friends and my family, to those I've met online, and to those of you who I haven't met yet, I appreciate your interest and caring, and wanted you to know that it makes a difference in our life.

Warmly,
Celeste

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

messfast


This right here is why we have eggs for breakfast almost every day. Max is a very, very messy eater. It's really a full body experience for him.

While we're on the topic of breakfast, it took me a while to figure it out, but Max's word for eggs is "wee". Very cute.

On this particular morning, we were having cream of wheat with chopped dates and raspberries. Yummy in the mouth, pretty disgusting all over a squirmy toddler. You know this is why I have to drink so much coffee, right?

mid-way through breakfast...
video

and here at the end... (he's talking about Auntie leaving for work)
video

Monday, January 4, 2010

calling it in


Sometimes you just have to call in favors. Yesterday was one of those days. It wasn't a bad day for me, but Max was finally back to his normal goofball self at the same time that poor Shoghi fell under the curse of whatever illness is going around. Laurie pointed out this morning that it seems like the second twin to get sick over here always gets something worse... why is that? Shoghi is burning up with fever and completely lethargic, and poor Max just wanted both of our attention for playing. I asked on facebook (also known as facecrack to those of us who spend most of the day alone with children and feed our desire for connection through our daily postings) if anyone could take Max for a while, and sure enough, soon I had both a friend to take him out and another friend saying she'd bring over dinner. Seriously, how lucky am I??

You know the best part of it? It's when the favor you need ends up making someone else's day better! Here's Korin's post about taking Max and her daughter shopping yesterday.

pool in the kitchen


If there's one thing I know about getting through the day, it's that late afternoons before dinner time are of critical planning importance. No matter if the little fellas wake up from afternoon nap at 2:30 or 4, they whine, cling, and cry their way through until dinner is on the table. By this time, I am also tired, and sadly, I rarely have a solid dinner plan. I do a lot of wandering around the kitchen, looking blankly into the cabinets the same way a person like me might look under the hood of a car, dumbly expecting the solution to emerge with neon lights and a happy little tune.

As I enter this new year, I have rededicated myself to planning this time of day ahead of time. I have reserved Sunday nights for menu planning, and unlike many of my friends who only make dinner menus, mine will include all three meals plus snacks. How much easier is my life going to be when I know what needs to be cooked when, which snacks to pack up or set on their little table, and what meals are on the way? It is a relief just thinking of it.

Last week, the whining was really wearing me down. Typical meal-prep video distraction was not working. I was too tired to try to make dinner with one 30-pounder on my back and another 20-pounder in my arms.

making dinner is challenging with only one hand.

I ran out in the rain and grabbed the summertime wading pool, flicking off those ugly Portland slugs as I jogged towards the door. I carried it in over the pulling hands and whiny cries and dumped it on the floor, then put two small bins filled with warm, soapy water into the pool right in the kitchen and let the boys go at it.


We turned up the heat, stripped off their clothes and dropped in some toys, and I bought myself 20 minutes to get dinner ready. Granted, it resulted in a wet floor and extra cleanup for me, but this is definitely a trick to remember for hard days that I will no doubt be using again.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

weekend contrast

Back when I was first really learning about the law of attraction, I learned about contrast. That is, I learned that sometimes the things that are resonating as DON'T WANTs are there to provide you the contrast to see what you DO want. You might have a dishwasher you hate. Either you can focus your attention in a negative way on the situation, saying over and over "I hate this stupid dishwasher," or you can choose to create an alternative in your head, so you might say instead, "Wow, this is dishwasher of my dreams!" even as you are loading an unloading the current one. You're not denying that you have a crappy dishwasher, but you're focusing instead on the dishwasher you wish to have. What you're going for is to elicit the emotion you wish to have in relation to your dishwasher (or whatever). Does that make sense? It's a little Depression Era psychology, perhaps... a little trick of the mind.

Weekends are a particularly contrast-ful for me. My sister who lives with me and the boys works on the weekend days, and most of my friends here spend family time on the weekend, doing chores around the house, spending time together, going on outings. This leaves me by myself with the boys most of the time. I often find myself throwing a little weekend pity party out of loneliness and the wish that I had someone I was sharing this with.

It's just not how I ever imagined I'd be raising children. Having been married before, I had every expectation that I would be hanging around in my pajamas with my hubby and kids, drinking hot coffee, eating a warm breakfast, shuffling around the house on Sundays (at least sometimes). It's the feeling I liked to cultivate when I was married, and it's the resonant memory of my childhood home. Instead, it's just another day, and if the boys are particularly whiny or bored, it makes me all the more grumpy that there isn't anyone else who can just take over as their parent for a moment.

I guess it would be different (jeez, soooo different) if I was working, and the only long days I had together with the boys were on the weekend. It surely will soon come to pass that this becomes our rhythm, and realizing this gave me pause.

As I was driving today, I was thinking about all of this, and I remembered someone's recent facebook (or was it on mothering?) comment where they were remarking how we often don't see a milestone until it's past. It made me think that these long days of babbling, whining, playing, toddling, and diapers are indeed fleeting, and that there are things I will miss when they've moved onto other things which will, no doubt, bring me equal amounts of delight and frustration. It's just life, and time, and we don't get to do this again, no matter how tired or bored or lonely the mama feels.

Maybe I'll try to think up something special (and free) that we can do every weekend. Since a relaxing day with a life partner isn't happening right now, I should think of a way to give to the boys in a fun and memorable way. I need to set the stage for the emotion I desire.

In the end, all these months of weekend loneliness have brought me to this place. It's provided me with contrast, showing me what I ultimately wish for --- the relaxed, homey feeling of my childhood Sundays. My task now is to figure out how to make it happen - to create the emotion I wish for, rather than dwell on the feeling of lack.

Tell me, what are your happy weekend routines and traditions? Have you ever blogged about it? Let's hear your ideas!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

dead mall

People often say to me "I don't know how you do it." I'm sure most of the time, it's meant as a kind of compliment, or as a form of support. Sometimes it touches a nerve, though, as if I am up against some kind of impossible task -- this version of hearing is more of a reflection of my own self-frustration at not doing better at coordinating our daily life. It shouldn't seem so daunting to take care of two kids. I shouldn't be so lazy, tired, or whatever other self-defeating word comes to mind.

The fact is, just like most of the parents I know, I'm making it up as I go. I have a lot of good moments, though sometimes the bad moments seem much louder. I have routines that have worked for several months, and new possible additions several times a week. Toddlers have their own timelines for development, and what might work for one of my twins might not work for the other.

Although it's been a mild winter here in Portland, it's been nearly impossible for me to bring the boys outside to play more than twice in the past 3 or 4 weeks. They still resort to crawling when they're in a new environment, and all the rain has just made it too wet and cold for them to get that wet. Besides, they both have colds.

We all get a little stir crazy at home, but with all the school kids on vacation, I haven't felt comfortable taking them to the science museum's discovery room or the play area at the big mall. Being by myself, I just spend all my time corralling the boys, and that's really no fun for any of us.

Last week in a moment of desperation, I loaded us up and went to our closest mall where our Target is located. We almost never venture outside Target, the mall is just a vast, dark, one-story ghost land. When you google this particular defunct shopping center, deadmalls.com is one of the first entries.

Imagine my happiness, then, to realize that this is the perfect location for the boys to blow off some steam. We park the stroller at the tiny play area, but I let the boys run around. When other people are around, they don't seem to mind the squeals and squeaky shoes - they ask questions about twins and tolerate the boys with a smile.

Here's Shoghi at the entrance of the weird Asian-style portrait studio shopfront. His newest word is "flower."

video


At this mall, I can let the boys run around in the halls in opposite directions. It's great to be able to let them have such a wide berth.

Max, so confident on his legs now, walks towards the door to Home Depot.

video

Friday, January 1, 2010

resolution

I've never been much of a resolutions person. As a teen and young adult when these kinds of rituals get established, I suppose, I felt more like I was straddling two calendars. As a young Baha'i, I saved my heart for Naw-Ruz on March 21st... it always felt like a better time for resolutions, being the first of spring. Without a real sense of greater community and culture behind it, though, my dedication to marking the beginning of a year began to fade, especially as I became more and more enmeshed in Chinese culture and began celebrating yet another new year on the lunar Spring Festival. For several years, I've also been using the renewing energy of the Aries new moon to launch my true resolutions and focus on what I wish to come to pass in the form of a treasure map (or vision board). I love this ritual and plan to revive it this year!

Now that I have kids, and maybe more importantly now that I am trying to regain my sanity after a year plus of being a mom of twins, marking the new year with some kind of a plan seems refreshingly appropriate. I feel like it's a time to a least set one big intention and imagine what I want to be saying on New Year's Eve a year from now.

My wish for myself, and my resolution for the year to come is to find my Voice again. For so long my life was ruled by the deep and all-consuming desire to be a mother - that was the voice I most identified with. I knew what my goal was, and now I have these two beautiful children.

Now for many months I have been struggling to find what's next. I'm so busy and generally overwhelmed, I haven't been able to really hear what I even want. Do I want to continue staying home full time? Do I want to pour myself into making Bamboo Village Press a business that sustains us financially? Do I want another child? Do I want to stay in Portland with my chosen community, or does my constant guilt over not being close to the elders in my family need to be acted upon? By the end of the year, I would love to know the whispers of my deepest heart on these matters, and allow them to emerge as clear, joyful intention.

Often when I think of blogging, I feel full of complaints. I want to vent and moan about how hard this is, about how I have no idea how to keep going, about how lost I feel. I don't want to be that voice, though, which is why I often remain silent. I don't want to be mistaken for someone who is not living on a strong foundation of abiding gratitude. I don't want my friends and family to interpret my frustrations and think that their abundant support isn't already enough. Half the time I go to post an update on Facebook, I end up deleting it for fear that all I do there is give voice to my discontent.

Last night, I decided that I do have a positive story to tell - one that is genuine and perhaps even helpful. I've decided to focus for a while on our daily strategies - I think this will help me to acknowledge the things that are working as I try to continually provide an interesting, fun place for the boys to learn and grow, as well as the things I do for myself to engage my voice, creativity, and sisu! It should help to ground me in our daily successes, rather than give in to the feeling of exhausted defeat I often feel. I'm even hoping to interview some other toddler moms and mama entrepreneurs to learn their tips and tricks. I hope by the end of the year, this will have unfolded into a story of successfully learning to guide the boys and myself into the next phase of living!

Happy New Year to all of you - thank you for continuing to ride along with me on this crazy journey!