I’m actually keeping my goal of updating this blog within 3 months! Amazing!
The girls are now 21 months old, and over the past 3 months, we’ve conquered another cross-country flight and back for the holidays, met the girls’ donor sibling family in person, received major news on the job front for me, went from me being home part-time to Molly being home full-time, and began pursing the first steps towards thinking about getting pregnant again. A busy 3 months, I would say! Before I go into all of that, first the kids’ updates.
Communication/Language: It’s been clear for quite a while that they are always listening (something I sometimes forget but definitely need to keep in mind!). They both are learning words at the fastest rate I’ve noticed so far, though more in the way of learning the names of objects and following complex instructions, and not as much of imitating the words we say. Over the past 3 months, both have been using verbal language more and more to communicate two-word combinations that express the same idea, such as “bye bye” and “all done.” They’ve also begun using two- or three-word combinations that represent different ideas together, though they usually use one sign and one or two verbal words to communicate these, such as verbally saying “doggie” (with or without the accompanying sign) and then showing the sign for “eat.” That’s pretty interesting to me. We also hear a lot of “all done” or “bye bye” to let us know they have lost interest in whatever we’re doing, like reading a particular book, coloring, etc. They’ve both developed a huge interest in colors and naming the color of every object…which also has led to pretty strong color preferences, especially for one particular child around one or two particular colors. The great thing about being a twin is that even though “yellow” is your favorite color word to say, not all yellow objects are yours and yours alone, and you have to learn to share them. Oy. Also, I will offer a handsome reward to anyone who provides successful advice on eliminating (or heck, I’ll even settle for reducing) whining associated with needing X, Y, or Z right now, especially in the context of two same/similar-aged children. It’s interesting…we don’t (yet) have any issues with, for example, whining about wanting something at the store or things like that; instead, it’s usually things like I want you to pick me up right now, or I want my water cup right now (even though you can plainly see I’m in the middle of filling it), or very often I want that toy/book/whatever that my sister has right now. In dealing with this, I find it’s a delicate balance among:
- Ignoring the demands and just waiting for them to stumble upon how to ask appropriately, which will happen if you wait long enough,
- Encouraging use of actual words, while remembering that the whine at least started out as a (very effective) substitute for using verbal language, before they were using any type of verbal or signing language at all, and
- Preserving at least a tidbit of sanity.
Most often I follow #1, because I’ve seen that it does work. However, the complication is that there is two of them, meaning many times while you are waiting for Child #1 to stop whining and stumble upon the appropriate way to ask for whatever it is she wants, Child #2 has most likely also begun whining (a la Whiner by Association) about something, anything really, so they just end up feeding off of and escalating and escalating each other until they’re both in tears and everything has been blown completely out of proportion. Because they both end up out of sorts, they’re more likely to do something that they know they aren’t supposed to (climb on the table, hit each other, etc.), which only results in negative attention, but at that point they don’t even care that it’s negative, because they’ve gotten the attention they were likely demanding in the first place. So you can see how easy it would be to intervene or engage the whining (ie. some kind of prompting about how to ask appropriately) early on in order to avoid going down that rabbit hole and losing any shot at preserving your sanity or heading off that headache you instantly felt coming on. Hence, my serious offer: a handsome reward to the individual(s) who provide successful advice on curbing the whine. My blood pressure thanks you in advance.
Play: Favorite activities these days are anything that involves running, jumping, dancing, and music. Chunky puzzles, shape sorters, books, and pretend-play items (tea set, baby doll, dress-up) have also been very very popular. And, as usual, anything with lots of pieces is always fun, because attempting to hoard all of the pieces away from your sister is the Best. Thing. Ever.
Feeding: Suddenly and without warning about a month or two ago, they both became able to use a spoon and fork with minimal assistance. I think we introduced utensils around 12 months old, and at first of course all they wanted to do was hold it. Then for a couple months I would offer them a fork and they would ask for help with stabbing things and couldn’t really do it (or weren’t interested in doing it) on their own. I kind of abandoned even offering them a spoon because why would I even want to clean up that mess…times two. Then one day we gave them a bowl of yogurt and a spoon and voila! Major success! I started giving them a fork at almost every meal (every one I remembered to) and suddenly they were amazingly proficient in utensil use. OK, whatever, I’ll take it! But I won’t take credit for teaching them because I swear it just happened. These are the things I need to remember for next time.
Teeth: Our tooth-overachiever is already working on her 2-year molars, while the other still has her two left-sided canines to appear (one has just popped through but not yet grown in at all). Can’t wait for teething to be over with! While this may be more developmental than teething (though it’s probably a little of both), right around 18 months was when both girls dramatically reduced putting objects in their mouths. The tooth-overachiever actually mouths objects less (almost not at all) and prefers to chew on her fingers for teething, which makes me think the decrease was mostly developmental. The other will still occasionally put objects in her mouth, but she’s very responsive to direction about it. Such a welcome and nice change from the mouthing of infancy!
Sleeping: I think we’ve been very lucky in our kids’ sleeping habits, though I do think Molly and I should take a bit of credit for it. Admittedly, we were in the sleep training camp from early on, and with two of them, that was the only way we, personally, were able to find sanity. The hardest part used to be giving them a couple minutes before we went rushing in to soothe; now there’s rarely even a reason we would need to do that. The hardest part now is hearing what we call “the wail of abandonment” as we leave the room (and only from one child). First she initiates us leaving by saying, “bye bye” and waving, as if telling us she’s ready to go to sleep. Then, as we are walking out the door, we hear “Mama? Dada? Mamaaaaaaa! Dadaaaaaaaa!” Less than 5 minutes later, she’s asleep. But still, there is no better way to have your heart ripped out than to hear that wail of abandonment.
Traveling: Similar to last year, our family of 4 flew across 3 time zones to see our families for the holidays, and also similar to last year, we made a short pit-stop in one location for 3 nights before heading to our major destination for the next week and a half. This year we stayed with family, instead of a hotel room, during the pit-stop and we had the girls in their own travel cribs, instead of hotel cribs. The first night was fine, I think because they were so exhausted from the plane ride. The second and third nights were more challenging during the process of putting them to bed, but we made it. It was so very nice to be able to socialize with family downstairs after putting them to bed, which we wouldn’t have been able to do had we been in a hotel room somewhere. And unlike last year, they barely seemed to notice when we finally came to bed, and even if they briefly woke up, they seemed satisfied that we were in the bed and they were in their own cribs. So we are grateful for the warm hospitality, and it was great to be able to see that part of the family that we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to see. At our final beach-condo destination, the girls took wonderfully to all of their extended family (I’m sure the presents didn’t hurt!), they had great time exploring the shells and sand on the beach (with no sand in the eyes!), and Molly and I were even able to have a short two-night get away (a great relationship recharge) thanks to the 4 grandparents. I don’t remember much about the 12+ hours traveling home, and I’m pretty sure I prefer to keep it that way. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the 3-hour time change adjustment seemed like it was more of a problem for me than the kids, also a welcome difference from last year.
Also while we were at our pit-stop location during our holiday travels, we were able to arrange to spend a full day with the girls’ donor sibling family. The 4 adults took the 3 kids to a children’s museum and a science center, with lunch and a stroller nap (for 2 out of 3 kids at least) in between, then we all met my crazy (in the best sense of the word!) cousin and her partner for dinner. I feel so blessed to have our girls’ donor sibling family in our lives. Should we not have met through the circumstances we did, they are exactly the kind of people Molly and I would be friends with. Our kids may be biologically half-sisters, but that’s not what makes them family; we share similar life values, parenting philosophies, queerness*, senses of humor, and they’re just all around good people. I know I will cherish those photos of their first visit with each other for the rest of my life, and even though my kids won’t remember that day, I can only hope they will look at the photos in the future and cherish them, too.
In the past 3 months, I’ve also received huge news on the job front for me. I’ll be advancing my career by participating in a 2-year on-the-job training epidemiology fellowship. This is exactly the type of opportunity I have needed in order to get the mentoring and relevant job experience I need to secure a permanent job. The best parts are 2-fold: 1. I will be working full-time, with the associated salary and benefits, starting this summer, and 2. Because this fellowship requires us to move to a new location, and knowing that I will be able to provide the family’s benefits starting this summer, I am now able to change from part-time to full-time in my current job – meaning family benefits can switch to me immediately, Molly is no longer required to work, and she can therefore stay home with the kids as she has wanted to do since they were born. Talk about taking a load off of everyone’s shoulders! Of course, working full-time – and Molly being a full-time stay at home mom – is coming with an adjustment period for everyone; however, this is what we have been working towards for a very long time, and my acceptance into the epidemiology fellowship is hopefully only the beginning of being able to provide both Molly and my kids the opportunities they deserve and desire.
And if all of that isn’t enough within the past 3 months, Molly and I have also begun pursing the first steps towards getting pregnant again. We couldn’t just get up and start immediately as there were tests and appointments and all that jazz before we could actually start. But let’s just say that we’ve started that process and are looking forward to seeing how that pans out over the next however many months…
*meaning part of the overarching queer community, regardless of actual specific identities