Monday, August 1, 2011

Not Terrible, but Certainly Not Terrific Either

We have been going through a bit of a rough patch with our delightful two-year-old twins. Elliot, in particular, has been making our lives a little more challenging than we would have it be in a perfect world. Basically, the boy won’t nap for us. He has not napped in my presence in at least two, if not three, weeks. He will generally nap for Lina, but for Craig and me, he just screams, cries or generally acts up in his crib until he is removed. It would be one thing if the kid didn’t actually need a nap, but he does. Very much. When he doesn’t nap, he destroys. He throws and hits and is generally naughty until bedtime. He doesn’t like to eat when he’s sleepy. He can’t sit still and gets steadily more insane throughout the day. And it’s just a long day with no break. Leah still naps well, unless Elliot works his magic and keeps her awake by engaging her in his antics (pulling the curtains open, throwing lovies/blankets/animals out of cribs, banging cribs against the wall, jumping, singing etc.). We tried separating them yesterday to no avail. Leah slept well, but Elliot threw a total fit and wouldn't calm down until I removed him not just from the pack-n-play in our bedroom, but totally from the scene of the non-nap. Then, when he should be napping and Leah is napping, he just wants to visit her, saying “go see Leah!” and crying when we tell him “no”. Good times. I would desperately like to fix this problem, since his constant state of overtiredness on weekends robs me and Craig of our time with Elliot at his best (which is really quite good). By Sunday afternoon, after three missed naps in a row, he is a disaster.

Here’s the rub though: Craig and I are somewhat to blame. With summer comes a lot of schedule/routine disruption. First there was the trip to Maine, then a week with me at home, then two weeks in daycare. Now every weekend we have something to shake up our schedules and prevent optimal napification. We basically lived by the routine for two years with these kids, and now we want to have experiences as a family that take us out of our comfort zones, so I will accept some of the blame for this.

This weekend was another such weekend. On Saturday, we drove down to Newport for the Folk Festival. Yes, we took two two-year-olds to an all-day, outdoor, sold-out, music festival in 90-degree weather. Admittedly, it began rather stressfully. We parked in a lot we were guided to and immediately realized that they were busing people to the festival grounds. We had brought the huge BOB stroller, that we barely know how to fold, and a bunch of crap with us, not to mention a couple toddlers. We ended up walking over a mile in the mega-heat, down a rather steep hill to the entrance. It actually didn’t turn out to be terrible, but it was frustrating to note that we probably could have explained our situation to the people directing parking and gotten a spot closer to the venue. The biggest issue with the entire event was the heat. It was really, really, really hot. And there was very little escape from it. Thank goodness for kind festival-going folks though. We had parked our meager blanket close to the back of the grounds, right in front of the people smart enough to bring along tents and other shade shelters. The people directly behind us were our lifesavers, in the end. They warmly welcomed us into their tent and seriously tolerated Elliot and Leah touching all their things, eating the food they brought back from vendors, sitting in their kids’ chairs and, in Elliot’s case, literally snuggling with them. I truly wish I had their address so I could send them a token of our appreciation. We wouldn’t have been able to stay at the festival anywhere near as long as we did (almost eight hours!) without them. Also saving our bacon was the Lego tent set up for kids which had millions of Duplos and toddler sized tables for the kids to build on. We spent quite a bit of time in their too. Kids weren’t technically allowed into the area where beer was served, but I was able to talk some really nice state police officers into letting us take the twins onto the Beer Pier so their poor, exhausted parents could have a quick beer. Clearly we looked too desperate to deny.  For the trip back to the car, Craig convinced me to take the bus, which was a good idea.  I had to carry both kids, plus our huge diaper bag, which was interesting, and Craig took the enormous stroller, which we clearly are not folding entirely.  The bus driver had Craig sit in the back so he could open the rear door.  Leah and Elliot were pretty popular with all the nice kids (yep, I'm calling people in their 20s "kids" these days) on the bus.  And, OMG, did I mention that the bus was a SCHOOL BUS?!  Elliot and Leah got a huge kick out of that.

In all, it was a really fun day and good experience. The kids held it together incredibly well in the heat, with no nap and subsisting on a huge bag of Pirate’s Booty (which Elliot did share with our friends in the tent), frozen lemonade, half a hot dog each, free chips from the Lego tent and a huge blondie. Well, okay. Reading this now, it’s really no wonder the kids didn’t fall asleep in the car on the way home and were rather cranky the next day. That’s borderline child abuse right there! 

Sunday was Uncle Joshua’s 40th birthday party at their house. Elliot was pretty good at the party, but had a bit of a blank stare on his face as he ransacked all the toys and drank the dregs of all the juice boxes abandoned by other kids. Leah was also good until The Balloon Incident, where her blue balloon (that she wouldn’t let me attach to her in any way) got loose. She received a new, inferior green balloon (sweetly donated by cousin Sasha) and proceeded to freak out when anyone so much as looked at it. She was a teary, clingy, toddlery mess. It was actually pretty funny. She got over it after a while, but she certainly made an impression on the party, especially since she is generally so well behaved.

I’d like to say that things are about to calm down and we are going to settle back into a nice routine, but I can’t. This coming weekend, we are going out to Pittsfield to hang out as a family to celebrate Papa’s 70th birthday party for three nights. The week after, we’re hauling everyone all the way to Philadelphia for Sarah’s baby shower and to see Grandma and Grandpa’s new home. Hopefully after that, with kitchen construction complete and no more travel for a long time, things will settle down a bit and all our good sleep habits will return. Hopefully.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Two Years Old?!

I don’t know why I have such an insurmountable mental block when it comes to writing about Elliot and Leah and our lives together. Actually, I am pretty certain it is just a lack of confidence in my ability to adequately express the impact that these two small humans have on every aspect of my life. How can I describe how brilliant they are? What comic geniuses they are? How incredibly adorable they are? How skilled they are at pressing every one of my buttons when they are in the mood? It’s intimidating and overwhelming and therefore I just don’t do it. However, in honor of their second birthday, which came on way too fast, I am ignoring my urge to procrastinate for another month and I will publish an update, however inadequate.

Leah continues to be our independent little smarty-pants. Someone told her she was two years old and she grabbed the reins of that label and hasn’t let go. She is able to have a legitimate conversation. Ask her what she did today, and she will tell you exactly that, in full sentences and the correct tense. Ask her what she wants for breakfast and she says “I want waffles.” We’re working on adding “please”. Leah is still a cuddlehound. She loves hugs and kisses and general affection just as she always has. She is very good at playing by herself and, over the past month or so, has begun imaginary play with her toys and dolls. It is achingly cute to watch Leah play with her “little babies” saying “baby needs milk!” or “baby tired”. Leah and Elliot have been in back-up daycare over the past two weeks while Lina is on vacation, and Leah just loves to play mommy to the babies in the room. She will walk up to a crying baby to offer it a toy and she talks about them when she gets home. She loves her doll, Baby, and I can occasionally get Leah to do something (allow me to apply sunscreen, cut her nails etc) if I do it to Baby first. She also enjoys taking care of her brother and loves to give him bites of her food and to try and help get him dressed. It’s incredibly cute.

Leah is expressing her independence and desire to control her little world in some amusing ways. She hates buttons, and says “no buttons!” whenever we put her clothing on. We have to either close the buttons prior to putting the clothing item on her or just leave them open, which isn’t ideal, especially for pants. Leah must put her shoes (crocs only) on by herself and the strap *must* be “up not down,” which is actually a slightly annoying requirement, as the shoes do not stay on nearly as well with the strap up. Leah refuses outright to wear any diapers other than “Cookie dipey’s,” which means the diapers with Cookie Monster on them and represent less than ¼ of the box. This requires a battle of wits every diaper change when I have to present her with a Cookie diaper and then pull a last minute switcheroo, which she often catches. When we get in the car, we ask Leah which seat she wants, because she will freak out if we put her in the wrong seat. Elliot, thankfully, is cool with whatever.

Leah is the sweetest sugar pie in the world, but watch out if she doesn’t get what she wants. The tantrums over the last couple weeks have been epic. I am talking about 15 minutes of screaming, kicking, crying and just outright anger. And one just doesn’t know when they are coming or what will trigger them. The past month has been a bit of an upheaval with a lack of continuity in our routine. Prior to the past two weeks in back-up daycare, I was home with them for a week and prior to that we were on vacation with Grandma, Grandpa, Tia Sarah and Tio Jon in Maine, so I am eager to see what baseline is for Leah after we get her back into a routine.

Elliot is, well, Elliot. As anyone who spends time with him says, “Elliot is such a boy!” And he really is. Elliot is super mellow about most things. He doesn’t have the need to control everything like Leah does and can usually go with the flow. He has an incredibly vocabulary and loves exclamatory statements like: “look at them all!” and “it’s SO BIG!” He also often calls large things “a little scary!” and Leah says “No, Elliot! It’s a nice [car/moose/truck/tree/etc].” Elliot loves music and loves to sing. “Mary Had a Little Lamb” continues to be his favorite song. He is a super sweet boy, as long as he is kept very busy.

Elliot doesn’t have the attention span for sitting down and participating in activities like Leah does. He can sit down with play-doh or crayons for about 3 minutes before he starts throwing or climbing or knocking over all the toys in the room. He throws literally everything. Food, toys, art supplies, everything. For that reason, he tends to spend a few minutes in time-out each day. So far it hasn’t been a particularly effective disciplinary tact, but consistency is key, I hope, and I’m not sure what else to do. Elliot can definitely be a troublemaker. He will look us in the eye as he is about to do something he knows he is not supposed to do and he will do it anyway. He can be incredibly infuriating, but it’s impossible to stay angry at him. It is because of Elliot that it is necessary to get out of the house and do something active twice a day. Keeping him in the house is a recipe for incredibly frustrated parents.

Elliot is still pretty athletic (as two year olds go). He can drop kick a ball, no matter the size, and can throw with more accuracy than I can. I definitely want to get him into a soccer class as an energy outlet, but also because I think he will love it.

The funny thing about Elliot, is that while he’s “such a boy,” he is far less independent than Leah. While she marched right in and began to play at each recent daycare drop-off, Elliot was clinging to me until the bitter end and crying when I left. It was sad, but also kind of cute to see my little guy so upset to see his mommy leave. And he is very happy to see me at the end of the day. What? I like to feel loved, okay?

Both Elliot and Leah are great little climbers. They can climb the mini rock walls at playgrounds, as well as wooden and rope ladders. They love chasing each other up and down slides and are really willing to do anything at playgrounds, even activities meant for much older kids. I have had more than one person tell me how impressive they are for two year olds to be able to do some of the things they do. Yes, I’m bragging a little. Other than exploring all the local playgrounds, they are also enjoying “swimming” or wading at Crystal Lake and they loved the ocean in Maine and at Wingaersheek Beach in Glouchester. Leah took to the ocean (“moving water” according to Elliot) with no problem. Characteristically, Elliot was a bit more cautious, but quickly acclimated to beach life and looked like a little surfer boy by the end of our Maine trip. They both, particularly Elliot, love to get wet at the splash park in Brookline.

Since I have been driving them to and from Boston for daycare these two weeks, I have enjoyed quite a bit of time with them in the car. Their conversations have been hilarious. Mostly one of them points something out and the other either says it louder or denies its existence and says it’s something else. This can go on for a long time. They sing songs together and laugh at each other for reasons unbeknownst to me. I love that I have twins for many reasons, including the privilege of witnessing their interactions with each other as they grow up. It is hilarious and really amazing.

This past weekend we hosted a birthday party at our house. Many of our friends and relatives came to celebrate Leah and Elliot and summer and the gorgeous day. Craig cooked up an incredible Mexican feast with pulled chicken, pulled pork, homemade beans, guacamole, fresh margaritas etc. The kids bashed open a piñata and played pin-the-tail on the donkey and just ran around like little animals. It was awesome and Leah and Elliot, despite picking up colds in daycare, and Leah having a pretty bad rash, loved it (mostly the cupcakes). The second year was even better than the insanity of the first year with these guys. Everyday, even the most frustrating ones, I am so thankful that I have these two crazy kids because, just as I suspected it would, life with Leah and Elliot keeps getting better.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Flowers, Rocks, Water and Sand

We had a great weekend, spent mostly enjoying the spring weather that we've been waiting on for months and months.  We began with a trip to Volante Farms to buy seedlings for our raised beds.  Elliot and Leah were very happy to help Craig push the wagon around and Leah enjoyed all the PINK flowers.

Somewhat helpful.

Gratuitous (PINK) flower shot.

Our first vegetable garden!

On Saturday, we went to a birthday party for a boy turning four years old.  Elliot was thrilled with the balloons and both kids loved the treasure hunt that was set up in the back yard.  It makes me so proud to watch Elliot and Leah get in there with the other kids, even though they were relatively young, and participate in these activities.  Leah especially was excited to find a rubber ducky with a PINK hat and some little plastic buggies.  They loved going through their goody bags in the car on the way home and showing off their stickers and pencils. 

Later in the day, we stopped by the local Kid's Festival.  Leah and Elliot were especially into the little dance floor that was set up with tons of hula hoops.  When a song would end, Leah would get sad until another one started up again.  Elliot tried to abscond with multiple hoops, but we managed to reign him in.

She would like to know how to use these things.

"Don't even look at my hoops."
 On Sunday morning, I drove the kids to JP to cruise around Jamaica Pond with nanny.  We enjoyed watching the ducks and doggies, but mostly throwing pebbles into the "big water!"

Gifting some rocks to Nanny.
Snoogling with Nanny.
Sunday afternoon, after a failed nap, the family shipped off to Home Depot to buy sand for the new sandbox (thanks, Nanny!!).  Leah is very meticulous in her sandbox play.  Making appropriate use of the buckets and shovels and toys.  Elliot is not so much meticulous as he is aggressive, throwing sand everywhere, including into Leah's face (which resulted in an ineffectual time out). 

A sandbox moment of zen.
Elliot was actually a bit challenging all weekend.  He is honing his skills as a master of pushing limits and pressing buttons.  He is an adorable sweetheart, but man, can he get Craig and I riled up.  Welcome to the almost-twos, I suppose.  Elliot is also a comic genius, I'll have you know.  Last night he ran over to me and instead of jumping into my lap, like I expected him to do, he fell like a board on top of the book I was reading.  It was pretty funny, so I laughed.  He immediately got up and did it again and continued to do it until I had tears running down my face and Leah was saying "poor Mommy!"  He kept a totally straight face the whole time he was doing it, just looking over to make sure I was still laughing at him.  It's hard to explain why this was so funny, but it really was. 

This kid is a clown.

And she's my sweet little love bug (tantrums excluded).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Grandma & Grandpa

True story: I sent a short iPhone video of Elliot and Leah singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" to my in-laws and they arrived on our doorstep a few days later.  I will definitely remember that trick for the future.

Ahoy There, Bloggy!

Yes, it's been awhile.  Oddly, I find myself rather busy these days, what with the twin toddlers, the full time job, the sub-par social life and the running.  My intentions are good, but they also line the road to hell, or something like that. 

Elliot and Leah continue to do incredibly well.  At 21 months, they are quickly overtaking their father and I in intelligence.  Their vocabularies are enormous, in both English and Spanish, and they speak in logical phrases like "doggy barking" or "Elliot sleeping" or "Daddy watching TV".  They know the alphabet and can recognize some letters in any context.  Both kids know the words to quite a few songs love to sing and be sung to.  Songs they know include "Twinkle, Twinkle", the alphabet song, "If You're Happy and You Know It" (called "Happy Know It" or "Clap Hands"), "Happy Birthday" and "Old MacDonald" (called "E-I-E-I-O").  When they sing songs to me, I die of adorableness and love.  Don't puke, please.  They also love playing "I Getchoo", which is when I chase them around the house saying "I'm gonna get you!"  But they are happiest when they are outside running around and getting dirty.  Thank goodness spring seems to be finally arriving.

Eww, Garbage Truck!

Not as innocent as she looks.
Elliot has this problem where he can be just so incredibly bad, but also so incredibly cute at the same time.  It makes it really difficult, as his mother, to dole out appropriate disciplinary actions for such indiscretions as dropping every single food item he can grab from the table to the floor.  Or throwing very hard toys trucks at Leah's head.  Or running in the opposite direction when being called after.  He tests Lina, Craig and I on a daily basis however he can and fully understands what he is doing at all times.  We have been implementing time-outs, but it is hard to be consistent about it.  Or, I should say, we are not terribly good at being consistent with it.  On the other hand, this boy is so cute that being annoyed at him for any length of time is difficult.  Even after I've scraped the 25th smushed pea from the kitchen floor, or wiped the milk from his sippy cup off the coffee table for the 17th time, I still melt in his big, brown puppy dog eyes.  And then he says "boom boom?" which means "Please sing "The Ants Go Marching" song for me, Mommy?" and I sing the damned song. 

You try staying mad at that face.
Leah continues to be incredibly affectionate and totally bonkers.  She is intense in everything - her laughter fills the entire house for most of the day, but when she is unhappy, the whole house will be well aware of that too.  Leah loves to be held.  She gives out big hugs with abandon.  She is also a dare devil and loves to be thrown in the air or spun around as fast as possible.  She already has a penchant for pink and it's one of the only colors she will identify without fail.  Leah has incredibly strong opinions and preferences about everything.  Often, if we want her to do one thing, we'll offer her something else, knowing she'll assert her opinion in the other direction (examples being which car seat she will sit in or cup she'll drink from).  She is a full-fledged toddler in an almost textbook way.  Except smarter.  And cuter. 

Not expressive at all, that one.
Truly, life is very good at the moment.  We are lucky to have two thriving, growing, learning, loving, brilliant, adorable kids who surprise us and make us laugh every single day.  There is not much I could ask for beyond that.

At the Boston Marathon.  The runners used Leah's hair as a wind gauge.
I'm going to try to post a little more frequently, mostly photos since I am now the proud owner of a beautiful new Canon T3i camera.  All photos in this post (except the Marathon shot) are what I've come up with in the first couple of days with it.  I hope they improve quite a bit as I learn more about my new baby. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

17 Months

Month 17 was the month of “no”. “No” is the catch-all answer to almost all questions directed at Leah and Elliot:

Q: Want to get up?
A: No
Q: Want to get down?
A: No
Q: Want to go to bed?
A: No
Q: What time is it?
A: … No?

The only questions that elicit enthusiastic responses follow the template of “What does a (insert animal/“car”/“Santa”) say?” or “Where is your (insert body part/clothing item/relative name/etc)?” These questions we can, and must, repeat ad nauseum every day, all day. We understand that their tendency towards “no” is perpetuated by the necessity for Craig and I to use that word a lot in response to their actions, so it’s not surprising. It’s actually cute. I love that we can have little conversations that make sense as long as I only ask yes or no questions.

Language in general continues to flourish. Amazingly, they both continue to develop words at basically the same rate. Elliot is quicker to string words together (mostly “big car/tree/truck/anything, even if it’s not at all big”) and Leah picks up on new words a little faster, but in general, they are both on track. New words and phrases this month include: all gone! (for food in their bowls), zipper, clock, sink, “tubby”, “sticky” (Leah’s word for sticker), niño (Elliot’s word for Leah and all other kids), and tons more. We are on an awesome eating streak, which I am sure is about to end. Sleeping has been going well too, though I do think Elliot still needs less sleep than Leah.

Leah currently is really into accessorizing. If there is a hat on the floor, she must wear it, even if it’s my sweaty hat that I just ran in. Same goes for socks (dirty or clean) and golashes (both love their “Boots!”). She also loves bath time (“dubby!”, not to be confused with “dobby”, which is strawberry), her lovey, and Craig. She’s into her dad right now. Leah also loves Elmo and Mickey Mouse despite having seen very little of either of them. I thought I would discourage our kids from becoming too infatuated with commercialized characters, but it’s actually really cute, so screw it. She is still extremely stubborn and will submit to a full-fledged rigid-on-the-floor-turning-bright-red tantrum at any time. We are currently struggled to eliminate bottles and Leah is not thrilled about it. We’re on day three of no bottles except right before bed and it is going okay, so hopefully we’re almost done.

Elliot is just such a boy. He is constantly on the move, which is why our ratio of Leah to Elliot photos is about 10:1. He loves balls, trucks, cars and books. He actually seems to have a knack for throwing and kicking balls (though I’m sure every parent out there thinks their 17 month old is athletically gifted, right?). Seriously though, his aim is better than mine and he dribbles a soccer ball and keeps it under control. Athletic prodigy? I think so. He loves giving kisses to his sister and to animals, stuffed or not. He continues to share anything and everything with Leah. If she is crying, his first inclination is to offer her whatever he is holding. It’s truly the sweetest thing, though he’ll still give her a swat if he’s in the mood. Elliot also loves the moon, fires in the fireplace, planes (which he still calls “sky” though he knows the correct word), his lovey and the train (choo-choo). He also seems to be a big fan of people in general. Whenever we are in public, he makes eye contact with as many people as he can and gives them cute little smiles. At Whole Foods the other day, upon having that interaction with him, a stranger commented on how much “personality” he has. She doesn't know the half.

This month we had another trip to Glenside, PA for Christmas. Leah and Elliot definitely didn’t understand what was going on, but they loved the tree and the ornaments (Leah cradled one of Tia Sarah’s ballet dancer ornaments lovingly for a while until I noticed it was missing an arm which she hopefully didn’t swallow). They played on the stairs at the house a lot, which was great because they are now quite proficient at both up and down stairs. They were both a little under the weather, which made feeding them a struggle, but they were generally pretty happy and definitely enjoyed all the attention from the Greiner clan. The mechanical singing Grinch was a huge favorite and they had a good time dancing with him. Sarah and Jon gifted Grandpa Jer Ber with a “Daddle” which is a saddle for him to wear so the twins can ride on his back like a horse. Yes, it’s as awesomely insane as it sounds. We ended up staying in Glenside an extra night due to the huge blizzard hitting on the days following Christmas. This was not a terribly big deal, but during the blizzard, which brought very strong winds, a branch destroyed our back passenger-side car window. We couldn’t get it fixed, so Craig and Grandpa Jer-Bear doctored it up with some heavy duty plastic and duct tape for the ride home. Amazingly, it worked quite well and really didn’t affect our drive home at all. It was a pretty smooth drive, in fact.
For New Year's Eve, we attended the traditional party at Josh and Erica's house.  We were a little worried about putting the kids to bed in their bathroom (fan on) and then transporting them home right after midnight, but they did incredibly well.  They went to sleep without a sound and, despite a very disruptive wake up that involved being carried through a house full of drunk people, into the car and home, they went right back to sleep in their cribs. 

In general, things are really great. We regularly get comments on how good and well behaved Leah and Elliot are, and I actually agree. We are fully away that at any moment things could change, and they certainly have their moments.  But, so far, we are blessed with two extremely good kids and we feel very lucky for that.  I'm looking forward to all the awesomeness (and not-so-awesomeness) that the second half of our second year with Elliot and Leah will bring.  Cue shit hitting fan.