A couple of days late, but never mind!
Here they are, on the downhill slide to two!
Hang on, that’s not quite in focus – let’s try another:
Hmm. Third time lucky?
And at that point my models scarpered, so I gave up.
It has been a full on month, as Hattie and Joe seem to have been sick for most of it. It’s been nothing serious – just colds – but that leads to coughs, and then they’re awake a lot more in the night, and are generally miserable a lot more often during the day. And we’ve had ongoing teething for what seems like months, and the now-typical toddler tantrum high jinks. So it’s been a busy time, and I’ve been even more thankful that I do this motherhood gig part time!
I’m very happy to report that the 18 month weaning plan went off without a hitch, and was very peaceful in the end: on the day after they were 18 months old we took them straight to the living room and offered them milk from a bottle, and they were absolutely fine, and haven’t asked for a feed since! So although they were obviously very happy to have that morning feed, they definitely didn’t need it.
Another update: we’re still on the same two sleep a day routine: 8.30am-9am, and 1pm-3pm. Occasionally Joe will skip the morning sleep, but it never happens on two consecutive days, and we often have to wake up at least one of them at 3pm. They’re the only children of this age that I know that still want/need two day sleeps, but it still suits us very well, and if it means that I have well rested kids then I’m in favour of it. However, the bane of our existence has been the continued early wake-ups, which have become closer to 5am than 6am, and sometimes even earlier than 5am (which really is the middle of the night). I could wake up at 6am every day with no problem at all, but 5am is too early and makes me exhausted, so we’re experimenting to see if we can encourage them to sleep in a bit. We’d tried pushing back their 6.30pm bedtime in the past, but it hadn’t made a difference, possibly because we’d only try it for a day or two before giving up. This time, we’ve decided to push back bedtime to 6.45pm for at least a week, and see what happens. Early signs are encouraging, with the kids sleeping until nearly 6am today and yesterday. If we could get them to sleep to 6am from that 6.45pm I think we’d eventually try to push bedtime back further, to 7pm, in the hopes that they’d sleep until 6.30am. Their early wake-up is a real barrier to them dropping their morning sleep because even if their one day sleep was at 11.30am or 12pm it would currently require them to stay awake for around six hours beforehand, which is just too long.
The introduction of potties has gone smoothly as well, although it’s going to remain a very low key “would you like to sit on the potty before your bath” thing until after their second birthday. Surprisingly, although Hattie seemed to be the most likely to go first, she hasn’t yet produced anything, whereas Joe sits there like Joe Cool, looking like he’s waiting for somebody to bring him the newspaper, and has managed a few potty gifts already.
Hattie and Joe are such little kids now. Every day they amaze us with the new things that they’ve learned to do. And their talking is so funny now – they really chatter away all day. A lot of it is parroting the last word of whatever sentence that we’ve just said (which certainly makes you aware of the language that you’re using), but we’re also starting to see them come up with their own things as well. For example, I occasionally refer to Joe as ‘Guiseppe’, and Hattie has now decided that she’s going to call him ‘Seppe’ rather than Joe. And she surprised me with her first simultaneous two word phrase a couple of weeks ago: I was taking Joe out of his highchair after breakfast, and she piped up with “and me!”, which was very cute. I can also report that the early signs of good manners are emerging, which makes me very happy: when Julie gave Hattie her morning tea today, she responded with “thank you!” – it may have been a complete coincidence, but hopefully not!
I know that the time is fast approaching when they’re going to say no to everything, and argue with me at the drop of a hat, but I’ll be really happy when their language skills evolve sufficiently to actually discuss their frustrations with me, rather than dropping to the floor and freaking out. Ah, toddler tantrums… such fun! Hattie is quite volatile at times, but tends to also be quick to get over it, and fairly easily cheered up or distracted. Joe, on the other hand, is challenging in this regard. The boy is tenacious, I’ll give him that! The other day he woke up early from his afternoon nap, and wanted to play with my phone, or the remote control, or the baby monitor: three things that are not considered toys in our house. His response was to have a 45 minute tantrum. That isn’t an exaggeration: he cried and carried on for a full 45 minutes. Because I am Team Nigel Latta about these things and flatly refuse to negotiate with terrorists, I pretty much left him to it, aside from occasional attempts to distract him (and when they didn’t work I’d leave him to it for a while longer). I know that I’m locked in a battle of wills with him when this happens, and that the worst thing I could do would be to teach him, through my behaviour, that having a tantrum pays off. However, I’m fully aware of the fact that my ‘leave him to it’ strategy, while successful at home, has not yet been tested in public! I can totally understand why parents give in for the sake of peace if their kids kicks off in the supermarket or the mall, and so far my tactic is to try to prevent imminent meltdowns with food or other distractions (like holding Mummy’s wallet while in the pram).
The other challenging thing in our house at the minute is food. Because they’ve been sick, they’ve had patchy appetites, and we’ve got to the point at the moment where Joe only wants to eat yoghurt and fruit for dinner, and everything is getting jettisoned off the highchair tray. And Hattie is just as bad at times, and often they decide that the other one is just hilarious for throwing food or refusing to eat, and decides to copy their twin. And Mummy just finds it all so much fun, especially when she’s knackered at the end of the day. The answer is remember that hungry children eat, and that skipping a meal or two won’t kill them, and that pandering to their fussiness is the worst thing that I can do. Easier said than done, though!
Anyway, aside from this assortment of grumbles and observations of the many challenges of raising toddler twins, life is pretty good for us. When they’re not streaming with snot and pitching fits on the floor Hattie and Joe continue to enjoy their play dates with their friends, going nuts at playgroups, climbing everything like monkeys, running around laughing their crazy heads off, reading and getting read to all the time (they are totally obsessed with Hairy Maclary), and giving Tristan, Julie, and me a lot of cuddles. They are the most gloriously affectionate children, both to us and to each other, and it’s just lovely. Joe gives the best kisses, and if he is upset Hattie will head straight over to him to rub his back and make soothing noises. And each bedtime ends with me cuddling both of them in the bedroom, and Tristan cuddling all three of us, and lots of kisses exchanged between all of us, before before long the two of them exclude Tristan and me in order to give each other bedtime cuddles. When I see the way that they interact I remember how lucky I am to have twins, and how lucky they are to be twins: their relationship is just amazing, and they have so much fun together. And now I’m definitely enjoying the payoff of having survived the hard first year with two babies: the gorgeousness of twice as many cuddles and kisses.
What a long blog post! Here’s some recent photos.
This parenting gig is a constant whirlwind of mini-projects, isn’t it? You sort out breast feeding, you get a routine going, you deal with sleep issues, you start solids, you wean from breast feeding, they crawl, they walk, they run around like crazy people, they climb everything, they talk, you try to encourage them to eat a diet more varied than porridge and macaroni cheese, you teach them to play nicely with others, you manage tantrums… And at some point you start to contemplate the blessed day when you’ll no longer have to change nappies.
When it comes to toilet training my very loose plan was to follow the advice of Plunket, Nigel Latta, and various other experts: start it in summer; wait until they’ve had their second birthday; and wait until they’re showing signs of being ready (which is a combination of factors, as I understand it – being physically capable of ‘holding on’, being emotionally capable of understanding what you’re asking them to do, and actually being sufficiently motivated to do it). My only aim was to try to have them toilet trained before they turned three, as the preschools that I’ve visited and may like to enrol them at will only take toilet trained kids.
This plan is still in place, and I’m in no hurry to crack on with toilet training (I think life is busy enough as it is), but Hattie’s recent behaviour had prompted me to wonder whether she might be vaguely interested in the whole thing. Specifically, during the past week or so, when we’d remove her and Joe’s nappies before their rudie-nudie dash to the bathroom for their evening bath, she’d invariably do wees. It seemed like she was waiting until after her nappy was removed before weeing, like her nappy was a pair of knickers. Things escalated yesterday afternoon, when she waited until I’d removed her nappy for a change in the afternoon and then, while I was grabbing the clean nappy, did a wee all over a sofa cushion. What fun to clean up! We’ve also found that they’ve started making it clear when they have a dirty nappy (by pulling out the change mat for us, for example), although I know that in most cases they’re still a long way off actually knowing when they’re about to dirty their nappy, as opposed to just informing us after the event. I say ‘in most cases’ there because I think Joe has occasionally got out the change mat as a pre-emptive move: he’s passed the ‘sniff test’ at the time, but has produced the goods shortly afterwards.
In the interests of fewer puddles on the floor, I figured that it might be sensible to get a potty and offer her the option of sitting on it after her nappy was removed. Off I scuttled to The Warehouse yesterday morning, and spent $14 on two fine specimens (this is Joe’s one prior to being used by a little bottom, obviously):
Last night we took them to the bathroom before removing their nappies, and before doing that we demonstrated how one sits on a potty, using a toy monkey and a toy cow as role models. Hattie and Joe watched intently, and when we took off their nappies they didn’t need any convincing to sit down themselves. Hattie did it all with a characteristically determined look on her face, whereas Joe was very blasé about the whole thing. However, Joe took the honours of being the first one to actually wee in the potty, which prompted applause, cheers, kisses, and general celebrations. Both children were extremely interested to see the wees actually in the potty, and Hattie immediately sat down again to try to squeeze out something. She tried three times in total, and although she didn’t manage to actually do anything, she received huge congratulations for trying.
I’m certainly not fooling myself into thinking that this is likely to escalate the toilet training process, but I figure that it’s a low-stress way to start getting the ‘this is how big kids do it’ message across. A lovely fellow twin mum did something similar with her girls, and now that she’s moved on to proper toilet training it seems to be going very smoothly and peacefully. We’ll keep offering them the option of sitting on the potties before their nightly baths, and if it does mean that we have less wee to wipe up then so much the better!
Can it honestly be only 18 months ago since these two little pickles arrived on the scene? I can barely remember life without them!
The difference between this month’s monkey photo and the 17 month photo seems quite astonishing to me – check it out on the Hattie and Joe page. They look so much older today!
I’m pleased to report that the two of them seem to have passed through some of the developmental upheaval that was causing a lot of mayhem last month. They seem a bit calmer, all of a sudden, and they’re definitely capable of doing more. In particular, we’ve had a real explosion of language during the past week – check out this video I shot after their dinner today.
Life jogs along. Hattie and Joe are still on their two nap routine, sleeping for 30 minutes in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. One reason for all of the sleep could be the need for energy to fuel all of the tooth-growing: after each only having six teeth for several months, in recent weeks Hattie has cut at least six teeth, and Joe has added at least four new teeth to his collection.
I’m making a concerted effort to get to bed at a decent hour each day, so I can’t write anything more tonight, but here are some recent photos.
Lots of twin mothers I know locally have been what the youth of today would refer to as “all up in my grill” about making rainbow rice for Hattie and Joe. Rainbow rice is not colourful rice to eat (although that’s a great idea too): it’s uncooked rice that is coloured, and then gives little kids lots of fun as they measure it out, pour it from one container to another, rub it through their hair, and generally have a good time.
I hadn’t got round to this before because life’s been fairly busy, but the kids played with rainbow rice for the first time at yesterday’s playgroup, and I was stuck at home this morning, waiting for an electrician to arrive (only 55 minutes late – possibly a new world record?), and it’s crappy, rainy weather, so I decided to give it a whirl.
Most rainbow rice recipes involve mixing rice, food colouring, and rubbing alcohol of some variety – the mums in my ‘hood use hand sanitiser. However, at the eleventh hour one of the mums told me that white vinegar can be used instead of alcohol, to help to ensure that the colour sets and isn’t transferable. Given that Hattie and Joe seem to want to taste EVERYTHING, this seemed like a safer option, so I googled and found this ‘recipe’. It worked really well (although I used plastic bags and spread the rice out to dry on grease proof paper, on top of baking trays:
You can just use standard liquid food colouring that you buy from the supermarket, but I’ve got fancy gel colours from a cake shop, from when I baked and decorated the kids’ first birthday cakes, so I was able to produce an actual rainbow:
We don’t have an activity table at the moment (although I just bought one on sale and will give it to Hattie and Joe for Christmas, so they can use it for sand and water play on the balcony this summer), but I improvised with one of those long plastic under-the-bed storage containers. The rice looked so pretty when it was first decanted:
Of course, it didn’t look like that for long. OCD readers, look away now:
I’m very glad that we thought to put down the drop cloth before we got started, because the favourite game of the morning seemed to involve taking the rice out of the big container:
Hattie and Joe loved playing with their new rainbow rice, and they could have happily done so for a long time, I think, but Julie’s and my tolerance of mess reached breaking point eventually, and we put the rice away for the day. It will be good when the weather improves and they can play with this kind of thing on the balcony once again.
I’ve suggested to Julie that she could get busy with the tweezers and sort the rice back into segregated colour bags during the children’s nap, but she’s strangely reluctant…
For a while I’ve been intending to write a sequel to my ‘thanks for the mammaries’ post that set out, in exhaustive detail, how I spent ten weeks getting to the point where I could exclusively breast feed Hattie and Joe. I know that a fair few twin mums, in particular, have found that post to be quite helpful as they’ve struggled to get their own breast feeding routines underway, which is great news.
I last updated that original post when the babies were seven months old. At that point things were going very well on the feeding front, so I’d decided to try to continue until Hattie and Joe were a year old and could transition onto cows’ milk.
When I was pregnant and looking for twin blogs I found this great post by Cara at Twinthusiam, in which she wrote about weaning her two girls at the 15 month mark. It seemed mind-boggling to me that anybody would be able to breast feed for so long, so it’s quite funny that we’ve now reached the 17 month mark, and Hattie and Joe still have a morning breast feed as soon as they wake up.
When we reached their first birthday we were down to three feeds a day: first thing in the morning; afternoon tea; and just before bed. Of these three feeds, the afternoon tea one was the first one to go – I swapped it for a drink of cows’ milk. The two of them seemed to really like cows’ milk from the start (although to this day they refuse to drink it from a baby bottle, and will only drink from a drink bottle with a silicone straw), but Hattie’s stomach rebelled slightly in the early days, producing some truly toxic nappies. I reduced the amount of milk and then reintroduced it gradually, and she adjusted. I was pretty happy to give up that afternoon tea feed, as the two of them were mobile by that stage, and were fond of latching on for a couple of sucks, and then unlatching and running around the living room before returning for another drink.
Not too long afterwards Joe started biting me very hard during nearly every feed. You’ve not known pain until somebody with six teeth has chomped down on your nipple. It was his not-so-subtle “I’m finished with this feed, thanks” signal, and it was very unpleasant. Hattie started only wanting to feed for a minute or so at bedtime, so the signs were clear that this feed would be the next one to go. I swapped it for milk from their drink bottles, and they were totally unbothered. They were definitely ready to drop that particular feed.
However, they’ve continued to be very fond of their morning feed. Tristan gets them out of their cots and brings them into me in the bedroom, and they’re completely disinterested in any cuddles or chatter: if I don’t get my pyjama top unbuttoned quickly enough they start grizzling and tugging at it. And since dropping the bedtime feed Joe hasn’t bitten me.
I really never thought that I’d still be feeding at this stage. It’s funny how these things become such a normal part of your day that you can barely imagine them not happening. This obviously means that I haven’t yet had a night away from the two of them – and man, I can’t even imagine how weird that will be!
I’d assumed that, as with the bedtime feed, they’d eventually wean themselves, or at least let me know that they were over it. So far there hasn’t been any sign of this happening, so I think I’m going to take the lead and declare the milk bar closed when we reach the 18 month mark. They obviously don’t need to breast feed any longer, and it would be nice to draw a line under the experience and accept that my babies are now little kids. Instead of a morning feed in bed, I guess we’ll get them out of their cots and take them straight to the living room for a drink of milk and some breakfast.
Just revisiting how they drink milk: when we started them on cows’ milk I decided that I didn’t want them to see it as a ‘meal’ – I was keen for them to view milk as a drink, like the rest of us do. For that reason the drink bottle of milk works well for us: they have approximately one bottle of milk a day, and are offered it after breakfast and lunch, and at morning tea and afternoon tea time. They’re then encouraged to finish it while having their bedtime stories on the sofa. They don’t always finish the bottle each day, but as they a) also drink water throughout the day, and b) also eat yoghurt most days, I’m confident that they’re getting enough liquid and calcium. The milk before bedtime is particularly at the moment, when they’re teething and being fussy with food, as I know that they’re having something nourishing before they go to sleep.
So that’s our updated breast feeding story: less of a determined tale of battling through the odds to keep the feeds coming, and more a case of taking the path of least resistance! And I don’t have a recent photo of me breast feeding my little big kids (although we’ll have to take one before the final feed), so here’s a shot of Joe about to get stuck into a ‘fluffy’ at a cafe (also known as a ‘babychino’ – frothy milk, basically).
Hattie and Joe are 17 months old – and has this advanced age brought with it newfound abilities to cooperate? They sat very willingly for their monthly photo. Indeed, as soon as they saw Malcolm the monkey they seemed to know what was going to happen.
While this was marvellously helpful and unexpected, it certainly isn’t characteristic at the moment: we have well and truly hit A Phase in which real toddler behaviour has emerged. It’s like living with two little drunks, actually: they are either riotously happy or absolutely desolate, and they can switch between those two states at eye-watering speed. When they’re happy our lives are full of laughter, smiles, fun times, kisses, and cuddles. When they’re sad, our lives are full of screaming, tears, flailing limbs, angry glares, and general mayhem. As you can imagine, dealing with this in stereo is fairly intense and knackering at times, but it’s such an obvious sign that they’re going through a massive developmental stage, so I’m taking the advice of those who have gone before me, like my lovely friend Emma (mother to 20 month old George and Elsie), and holding tight, as this stage will soon pass – and apparently I’ll end up with proper little toddlers at the end of it, able to listen to me, follow the occasional instruction, and everything! And even at its most tantrum-filled, this stage is quite amusing (and not laughing at some of the more outrageous melodramatic behaviour is actually the biggest challenge, in my experience).
Anyway, all that aside our little chickens are absolutely thriving! I’ve had to replace their wardrobes recently, as they’ve suddenly grown long limbs. Any suspicion that Hattie, in particular, might end up taking after the smaller women in our family (her Auntie Pip, her ‘big’ cousin Claire, or her sadly-deceased Great-Nanna Kathleen, for whom she has one of her middle names) has been allayed: she’s looking like she might inherit my height after all. This will be a problem when she wants to buy jeans in the future, but it will come in very handy when she goes to concerts.
Our vague concerns about the children’s speech development are also diminishing, as both Hattie and Joe are babbling away and increasingly saying proper words. Hattie, in particular, is becoming like a little parrot, repeating the last word of most of my sentences. Both children are hugely fond of “DADDY!!”, and on a trip to the supermarket today they jointly chanted it for about five minutes. “Mummy” doesn’t get as much of a look-in, and – curiously – when you ask Hattie to say “Mummy” she always smiles and replies “baby!”, which is adorable, but offers so many possible interpretations. Does she not quite realise that she and I are different people? Does she think that my name is actually ‘Baby’? Does she think we’re playing a game where we say who we are, and is responding accordingly after I’ve identified myself as Mummy? It’s such a shame that, by the time little kids have sufficient language skills to explain their funny quirks, they will have probably forgotten all about them.
In every other way Hattie and Joe are little big kids. They’re feeding themselves, running around, climbing like monkeys, and generally exploring the world around them with unwavering zeal. How can anybody not be happy, with a couple of merry little lunatics around? The best recent suggestion, which came from Emma, was to get a toddler slide for them to play on, so they could practise climbing and balancing (but not on the sofas and other furniture), and it’s been a godsend.
And I’m cautiously delighted to report that today has been amazing on the sleep front, for the first time in ages. Yesterday morning, when both Hattie and Joe were just about asleep on their feet straight after breakfast, I made an executive decision to re-institute the morning micro nap. It was a bid to prevent Joe, in particular, from being absolutely knackered when his main nap rolled around, as for several days he hasn’t managed to sleep past one 45 minute sleep cycle, and 45 minutes of sleep in a day is not enough for a busy little boy. However, after a 30 minute nap at 8am Joe managed to sleep for a full hour at 1pm, and Hattie slept for more than two hours (that girl loves her sleep). They both went to bed reasonably easily at 6.30pm yesterday, and slept until just after 5.30 this morning (which is still early, but is much better than the 4am starts we’ve been treated to recently – we have become hardcore about wake-up times and will no longer get them out of their cots until 6am). Today, Joe resisted the 8am nap and ended up sleeping on Julie’s lap instead – but he was SO fast asleep that it took a full five minutes to wake him up. We went to our fortnightly twin playgroup, and then both Hattie and Joe slept like angels for a full two hours. And this evening they went to bed at 6.30pm and didn’t make a peep. God, I love it when they sleep well!
Here are some recent photos for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!