potty training, The Sisters, twin logistics, twins, TwinsDay

TwinsDay Wednesday: The Big Girl edition

This week, in line at Wal-mart:

One has curly hair and one has straight hair.

Yes, you’re very observant.

I bet they got different personalities, too. Usually with twins, one’s real talkative and one’s not.


How old are they?

They’ll be two years old next month. (Two years old! How did that happen?)

Two? Wow, they’re really small.

They’re not small. They’re just right.

Well, were they small when they were born?

No, not really.

How much did they weigh?

How much did you weigh when you were born? Better yet, how much do you weigh NOW? I think that’s a more pertinent question. Have you considered Weight Watchers? I know a lot of people who really love it!

(Perhaps I don’t have the nerve to have this last part of the conversation in real life, but just keep pushing me, Wal-Mart cashiers and hostesses at Cracker Barrel. One of these days, one of you is going to get lucky and find out how I really feel.)

No-frills potties- no lights or music. Kind of hard to find, actually.

Anyway, despite their (apparently) incredibly small stature, our girls are growing up. Last weekend, we bought two new potties. Nora has been trying for a week to climb up onto the toilet to use the bathroom, so I figured we needed to do something.

Because I belong to the Lazy School of Potty Training, I do not start the process until children are begging me to do it. It’s kind of the opposite of Elimination Communication. Instead of trying to read my children’s bathroom signals and get them to the potty before they go, I wait until they are pulling at my leg and saying, “Mama, I feel kind of uncomfortable using the bathroom in a diaper these days- would it be okay if I started using the potty instead?”

Waiting has advantages. The process moves quickly, and I don’t have to ask them fourteen times every hour if they have to go potty. The Potty Process went very smoothly with SuperSam, but I’ve been dreading it with the girls. Potty learning for two people at the same time seems like an insurmountable challenge.

We may just stop leaving the house until they have it figured out.

Since we brought home the potties, Nora has been sitting on hers completely naked with a book in hand a few times each day. For her part, Lucy will only sit on the potty with all her clothes and her diaper on. I do not ask her to sit on it. I don’t even mention it to her, as that would be breaking the cardinal rule of the Lazy School of Potty Training. The only reason there is any interest in potties on Lucy’s part is because Nora is sitting on one. (Or possibly because Curious George has been doing it so often lately?) Even though we got two potties at the same time, I am guessing they will probably still find a way to fight over them.

Along with the potties, we got two car seats. The girls had finally outgrown their infant seats and needed upgrades. Lucy got a new Big Girl Seat, and Nora got SuperSam’s hand-me-down. (He graduated to a larger seat that will convert to a booster later.)

Once upon a time, there was extra space in those car seats.

Nora is in love with her Big Girl Seat, (which she calls Sammy Old Car Seat) and insists on climbing up from the ground into the seat herself and trying to buckle her own seat belt. Woe to anyone who tries to help her before she is ready for help. You will be met with rage and tears and repeated screams of, “I DO SELF!”

In the final installment of “oh, wow, they’re getting so big,” George lowered the girls’ cribs to the final notch this evening after Nora crawled over the crib rail (and fell onto the floor) at nap time today. This provided a great opportunity for some mattress bouncing. Glee ensued.

It’s hard to believe that just two years ago, we were trying to keep them from being born to give them the best possible chance at being strong and healthy. Now they are climbing out of cribs and jumping on mattresses and generally acting like Big Girls.

They’re doing great…no matter what the Wal-Mart cashier thinks.

grocery shopping, twin logistics, TwinsDay

TwinsDay Wednesday: Surviving Grocery Shopping

I often write about surviving daily life. Sometimes I’m kidding. Sometimes I’m exaggerating. But this grocery shopping thing?

It really is all about survival.

For months after I went from being a mother of one to being a mother of three, pulling into the parking lot of our local Wal-mart would make me break out into a cold sweat. I would not go there alone for anything. Too many things could go wrong…multiple poopy diaper blowouts, preschooler tantrums, tiny babies screaming simultaneously to nurse…

(And to think I used to take SuperSam to the grocery store for fun!)

After about four months of avoiding the grocery store, I had to take the plunge. Waiting until George got home to take everyone out together was making life difficult in the evenings. I had to face my fear and figure out a way to shop on my own with the kids.

Maybe you like grocery shopping…the neat, orderly aisles, the carefully arranged produce, the endless number of cereal possibilities. If you enjoy your trips to the store, I’m happy for you.

For those of us with multiple young children, though, grocery shopping is one thing and one thing only:

I do all my grocery shopping at our local Wal-mart. I don’t love it. I feel guilty sometimes about their business practices. At this stage in my life, though, I’m only going to go to a store where I’m not even tempted to hang around longer than absolutely necessary, and Wal-mart is the place where I have all the aisles memorized. It’s not especially pleasant, but I can do it quickly. It’s close enough to my house that I can transfer children to their beds if they fall asleep on the way home. Their produce is better than the other grocery store. It has some advantages…and when my kids are older, I can shop with a conscience and go someplace else.

Through trial and error (lots and lots of error), I have developed a Super Awesome Grocery Shopping Strategy. A certain mindset is required. When I shop, I am Calculating, Focused and Organized. This is no time for free-floating browsing. This is serious.

Here’s my game plan for shopping with multiple little kids in tow:

1. Your List- don’t leave home without it. Mine is organized by aisle. Part of that is because I’m my father’s daughter (an organizing freak), but in the grocery store game, efficiency is key. I can’t be looping back and forth across the store to pick up stuff I forgot. I keep a pad on the refrigerator so we can add things as we run out of them during the week. My husband almost always asks me where he should write something before he puts it on the list. After 11 and a half years of marriage, he’s learned I’m just weird about the grocery list…but now that time is of the essence in the store, my weirdness is coming in handy.

2. Your Parking Space- know the best space and be willing to fight for it if necessary. When we visited the UK, Tesco (a major grocery store) had special spaces for families with young children. Here in the US, we are all about equality, which means that nobody is getting any special spaces without knowing someone at the DMV who can score them a handicapped hangtag for their mirror. If I’m shopping alone with my children, there is only one acceptable kind of parking space for me any more- the ones right beside the cart return.

Upon exiting the store, I push the cart to my vehicle and unload everyone into their seats. Once they are safely buckled in, I can unload the groceries at my leisure and pretend to be oblivious to their protests and requests for McDonald’s Happy Meals.  Then, I can return the cart without feeling bad about leaving them sitting in the car.

You might think I should park close to the store, but being close to the store isn’t as important as it seems. I can carry them all into the store if I have to, but I am always exhausted on the way out. If you have to choose between “easy in” and “easy out,” making a quick and simple exit plan is the way to go.

If you’re not in critical need of the spaces surrounding the cart return, please have pity- save them for me.

A Wal-mart plus: the garden center makes it easy to replace dead tomato plants.

3. Your Cart- pick carefully. Make sure it has working seat belts for everyone before you start buckling people in. Stick your crew in their seats and tie them down as quickly as possible. Once they’re in there, you’ve got to roll. If you picked one with a messed up wheel or an annoying bump, you’re going to be stuck with it, because the effort of moving everyone to a new cart is such a huge pain.

When the twins were too tiny to sit up, I wore one in a carrier and put the other one in her carseat into the basket of the cart. SuperSam rode in the little seat up front, and we piled the groceries carefully around the baby in the basket. It was always a gamble to decide whom to wear and whom to put in the basket…the honor of being worn always went to the one most likely to melt down mid-trip. 

Learn to love the giant cart.

If you can shop someplace with the super-size giant carts (you know, the ones you almost need a commercial driver’s license to operate), it’s worth it…especially if they have little kiddie steering wheels built in. (Ours don’t.) They are just about impossible to steer because of their size. The sheer mass of them makes them hard to stop, too, so don’t be coming out of the end of that aisle too quickly without a clear turn signal.

Don’t expect people to move out of your way, either. You’d think they would, seeing as how your cart weighs as much as a tractor trailer and could squish them flat…but they won’t. People in grocery stores seem to have a special, all-encompassing need to have the right of way (even when they are obviously in the wrong).

You might be tempted to let a kid who is on the edge of being too big for the cart walk along beside you. Resist temptation. Don’t let anyone walk until their legs are too big to fit in the little legholes. It’s our rule. Yes, they are all capable of walking…and if we are all together at the grocery store, none of them are allowed to do it. Buckle them in and fly, mama.

4. Have a built-in motivator. This is ours, positioned perfectly as we leave the checkout line and make a beeline for the exit:

Yes, you may cheer loudly for your coin as it circles around.

Bribing children is not inherently wrong, especially if it benefits a good cause. If I had a nickel for every nickel I’ve given the Children’s Miracle Network, I’d have a lot more nickels than I do.

5. Plan and execute your checkout line strategy.

Let the kids put stuff on the conveyor belt so they will be distracted and won’t bug you for candy. Find the non-candy aisle if you can. I’ve been known to check out in gardening or electronics to avoid the front end lines with their rows and rows of candy and toys. Only do this if you don’t have any produce that needs weighing, or the electronics guy gets really, really irritated. (Lesson learned.)

This, in the checkout line, seems to be mocking me.

Checkout is so, so boring. It makes me physically itchy with longing to leave the store, and I’m 34 years old. How do I expect little folks with 4 or less years of life experience to survive it without some entertainment?

I try to always be prepared to dance and sing in the checkout line if I don’t want my children to scream.  People might look at me funny, but I’d rather them stare at me for being silly and proactive than for snapping reactively at my crabby kiddos.

Sometimes I play peek-a-boo with them using a baby picture of SuperSam that I carry in my wallet. (I don’t have any wallet pictures of my girls because I got a smartphone and I’m kind of lazy.) Sometimes I sing Itsy Bitsy Spider with funny voices and extra made-up verses. Sometimes I pretend my fingers are a little bug crawling up their legs and arms. We play I Spy, recite poems, and count fingers and toes…anything to get through that crucial ten minutes.

 (Lord, have mercy if it is more than ten minutes.)

One more helpful tip that makes a big difference for me- if the children are doing a good job (or even a marginal job) in the store, tell them. More than once.  Maybe you don’t have the energy to write out your list and illustrate it so they can help you find what’s next even if they can’t read yet. Maybe you don’t have the stamina to let them touch and smell all the onions or to compare the different types of cruciferous veggies or to count all the bananas in Mandarin.

Whatever. Nobody’s sending scouts into grocery stores to look for Supermom.

It doesn’t take much extra effort to converse with children when they aren’t doing something we want them to stop doing…yet so many times, if they don’t need help or a correction, we leave them to their own devices. Try this: while you are cruising around the store picking up your stuff, just talk to them about what you’re doing (“Look! Crackers go into the basket,”) and tell them every now and then that they are doing great. It takes some real concentration, since your brain is busy trying not to forget stuff. Just do it anyway. Don’t stop telling them the ways that they are doing a good job. It helps them remember that this is your expectation. It has the added benefit of making other people in the store think that you are a really great parent.

And guess what? You are.

Take a deep breath. You can do this. And then you can go through the drive-thru and get yourself a Diet Coke on the way home.

The Sisters, twin logistics, twins, TwinsDay

TwinsDay Wednesday: It’s bathtime!

By now, all of you know that we have our hands full.

Although two hands hardly ever seem like enough, when it comes time to bathe our twins, the hand shortage is clearer than ever. Wrangling two wiggly, slippery, wet, and often screaming little toddlers is no small feat.

Special Note: I do not attempt twin bathtime without a partner, and I am a trained professional. Please do not try this at home, no matter how much fun you think it looks…unless you’re a twin parent, of course, in which case you have no choice. Carry on, friends…may the force be with you.

Once upon a time, they were just tiny babies. Here’s how bathtime worked then- Mama helds (nursed) one baby while Daddy and SuperSam sponge bathed the other one. After the clean one was wrapped in a towel, she came back to Mama for comfort (nursing) while the other Sister had her bath. When the second bath was finished, Mama put the babies to bed (more nursing).

Basically, as in all the early Twin Activities of Daily Living, Mama nursed at least one baby at all times.

Simple enough, right?

SuperSam and Daddy give screaming Nora her first at-home sponge bath.
Tiny Lucy chills in her giant diaper and monogrammed towel- so stylish.

When they were a bit bigger, we put the baby tub in the kitchen sink and laid out all the towels and supplies on the counter. I put one baby in the exersaucer and washed the other one. Then, I switched them. It wasn’t too bad unless they both got upset at once.

Nora and her Dad, a seasoned bathtime professional

When they could both sit up well, we bathed the Sisters side by side in the kitchen sink. This is how similarly-sized cousins and siblings were always bathed in my extended family, and it works so well…it really saves your back from having to chase multiple wiggly bodies around the tub (particularly when they are both trying to stand up at once).

Before long, they outgrew the kitchen sink, too, and it was time to move to the big girl tub.

We tried them first with SuperSam for company.

A moment after this was taken, all three of them were screaming. Seriously.

Then we tried just the two Sisters. It worked…twice.

Nothing like having a Sister to shampoo your hair and wash your back…

On the third attempt, one Sister started freaking out at the mere suggestion of a bath. This trend has continued every single time since then. (Oddly enough, we couldn’t ever figure out why they were upset, and it seems to rotate between them.) The bath hatred has settled with Lucy, who absolutely positively does not want to be washed for any reason. Blood-curdling screams of terror come out of her mouth if we so much as open the shower curtain and start to move the toys around.

Upon being put into the water that third time, she shrieked and tried to climb the sides of the tub, endangering herself and her previously-calm sister, who began crying and trying to climb out, as well. With both girls flopping around and trying to stand, leaning over the tub to manage them no longer felt safe. George was doing his best, but he couldn’t really reach Lucy.

Desperate to ease her anxiety, I instinctively climbed into the tub (with all my clothes still on!) to help her and to manage the situation before someone got hurt.

This reminds me of a completely unrelated story in which my swimming instructor dove into the pool with all her clothes on to “save” me when I was veering off toward the deep end while doing elementary backstroke for my swimming test. I had tried unsuccessfully to convince my mother that I should skip the test, having missed the second of two weeks of class due to the chicken pox (which I had on my tenth birthday, mind you). My mom insisted that I go, reassuring all the other parents and the swimming instructor that I wasn’t contagious, “just scabby.” (Attentive readers may notice an unfortunate rhyme with my first name.) The swim instructor allowed me to take the test. As I began swimming what was supposed to be one width of the pool on my back, she hollered that I was going the wrong way. When I didn’t respond (since my ears were under water!), she dove in, chased me down, and grabbed me, totally ruining her white leather Reebok hightops and scaring me half to death. I swallowed so much water, spluttering and coughing, that I was probably closer to drowning at the moment of rescue than just before, when I was calmly swimming, blissfully unaware of the imminent peril of the lane rope and the 10 foot end. I never really got into swimming after that.

Fortunately for me, it’s no longer the 1980s, and I was barefoot when I got into the tub to save my panic-stricken daughter.

The novelty of having Mama in the tub seemed to help calm both girls down, and we played tea party together for a few minutes to distract them while I washed them both and rinsed their hair. It went so well (no one even got water up her nose!) that I have continued getting in with them both every time for the last few weeks. We will eventually run out of room, but for now, it’s fun to play with them and help them wash each other’s hair.

I’m grateful that we are years away from needing to convince them to take showers, which will undoubtedly be traumatizing in some new way. Until then, this is what’s working.

Got any interesting bathtime stories?  Any horror stories about swimming instructors in dated footwear? How do you manage bathing multiple little ones at the same time? Or do you run them through, assembly-line style?

The Sisters, twin logistics, TwinsDay

TwinsDay Wednesday: How our twins share space

Bringing twins home from the hospital to our house wasn’t all that different from bringing home a single baby, at least in some ways. The early weeks were blurry, just as they were with my first child…sleep lost, diapers changed, and nursing all the time.

When we first brought our girls home, they slept in our room together in one pack ‘n’ play. We divided the night into shifts. I went to bed in our bedroom right after SuperSam did, around 7:30 pm, and slept until the girls woke up to nurse sometime after midnight. George (or one of our amazing helpers) kept the girls out in the living room or in their bedroom and gave them a bottle around 10:00 pm.

After about 8 weeks, we moved them to a full-size crib, which they shared in their own room. We also had a double bed in their room, where George and I took turns sleeping.

The girls shared their crib until they were just past 6 months old, when they really started to need their own space. They rolled over each other in the night, and no one was resting well. We put up a second crib in their room and took out the double bed.

Now that our girls are full-fledged toddlers, we have moved some things around in the room to give them more space to play. Part of the reason for arranging things this way was so the girls could take a more active role in their self-care. Their diapers are on a low shelf so they can help get them out. They can reach most of their clothes and their hamper, so they put the dirty ones away when we take them off at night. They choose their own pajamas (or sometimes choose for each other). They can put their wet diapers in the diaper pail. They both enjoy getting dressed and combing their hair in front of the mirror on their wall, and they like to put their shoes away.

I expect when they are ready to move out of cribs, we’ll do toddler beds for a while. Eventually, we will probably do bunks or loft beds to give them some more space. I always had my own room growing up, but my younger sisters shared. I often felt envious of them when I heard them giggling and playing rummy after we were supposed to be asleep.

I hope that as they grow up, The Sisters will feel that sharing a room is a positive thing. They’ve been sharing space since conception, after all…they don’t know any different.

Do your children share rooms? How do you have things set up?