Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Truth About Toddlers

Here's my confession: I've always been a little afraid of toddlers. Or at least uncomfortable around them. Babies I could handle: they want to be held, they want clean diapers, they want to be fed, they want to sleep. Their needs are straightforward, they let you know when something's not right, and when you go through that checklist you've got a 95% chance of fixing the problem.

Toddlers, though, are a different story. They can get around on their own, they invent intricate little games involving using toys in ways they were never intended to be used (I still don't know why there are little piles of alphabet tiles all around the play room today, and I don't know that I ever will), and while they know exactly what they want, they're discovering new things that they want every day and don't yet have the language to communicate them. I just never really understood how to interact with toddlers. I didn't speak the language.

What no one told me (and I suppose I never asked, so why would they?) is that your own toddlers are an entirely different thing.

Because you're part of their world. When they develop their funny games, you're part of them. As they start to communicate, you recognize what they're trying to say or trying to get across because they're mimicking something they've heard you say or they've seen you do. You know, somehow, the difference between a "wet diaper" dance and an "I just spilled milk on myself" dance and a "this is a really good meatball" dance and an "I love this song" dance. You discover that it doesn't actually matter if you don't know the point of the game; they don't really know either, they're just playing, and when you participate you just add another element and it's that much more fun.

As it turns out, the sheer delight in the realization that you do know what they're trying to ask is immense. I'd also never realized that toddlers are always trying out jokes. They're regular little comedians. Nearly everything they do is hilarious to themselves or each other, and all they really want from nearby adults is a laugh (but not too much of a laugh, otherwise Eleanor won't understand why you're laughing more than she is, and think you're laughing at her, and get upset - she has a very nuanced way of seeing the world already). Even though they don't have many words at this stage, they're amazing communicators. "UH-oh" conveys a multitude of things, mostly having to do with dropping something, which happens a lot, or planning to drop something. "Doddy" and "Daddy" somehow get across half the things they want to communicate, since I suppose the doggies and daddy (and mommy, who's also "Daddy" for now) make up most of the world they see every day. They're also already fluent in Whinese - irritating, but effective. Mostly at telling me it's time for a nap.

The truth is, if you'd asked me before I had kids what stage I'd love the most, I'd have said babies. Squishable, sweet-smelling, snuggly babies. If you were to ask me now?

I wouldn't trade toddler-time for anything in the world. I don't even have that nostalgic "oh, wouldn't it be nice to have another squishy sweet baby in the house?" thing. Which may be partly because I've got a sweet, squishy (but growing every day) nephew to snoogle, but is also because my toddlers are so. much. fun.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Take It or Leave It?

So we're a year and change into this parenting thing, and I have a lot of friends having babies (a lot of them their firsts), so I thought I'd revisit my post about baby products from almost a year ago, since the kids have outgrown all those things and I'm now consigning/selling most of them.

So first of all, which of the things on that original list are we still using? The diaper caddy, we still use daily - and will till they're potty trained. I still use my ring sling sometimes - they now sit in it swing-style, with their legs hanging out, and it's pretty convenient. I also have an Ergo, which I love, but it's only useful if you have another adult to help you put it on.

I can sometimes manage to use it in a front carry, but most of the time I can't reach far enough behind my back to fasten the clip to keep it on. They're also pretty expensive - they show up infrequently at consignment stores, and I got mine pretty cheap on craigslist, but had to drive across town and then wash it half a dozen times to get a funny smell out.

That's actually all from the original list we still use - the Burt's Bees diaper ointment sometimes, but I tend to rotate through three or four types that we have on hand.

In the stages we've experienced since that post a year ago, we've found some products to be very much worth it, some not at all, and some worth it but for such a short time you're better off borrowing.

Worth it:

Cloth diapers. I could write a whole post on that, but really, Amalah's already done that for me (for real, that is pretty much the most comprehensive-yet-understandable-and-also-funny set of information about cloth diapering in the world). I guess the big difference for us is twins - but I don't think that's made it any harder. I don't even feel like we have that many more diapers/covers than she seems to. I wash every other day, hang out the covers to dry, hang out the diapers if it's sunny or toss them in the dryer if it's not, and it's all good. We do use disposables for nighttime, because we never could find a good cloth combination that wouldn't be soaked by morning, and didn't really have the dedication to invest in an entirely new system just for nighttime. We started out with two of the basic Newborn Packages from Nicki's Diapers, and ordered a couple of extra sets of bamboo prefolds  - and actually, looking at that link just now, I realized that we're still using the Small size. To be honest, we've stretched a lot of our covers way past when they were supposed to have been too small. As they've outgrown covers, we've bought more at our local-ish diaper store. We use about half and half covers/prefolds and pockets/prefolds. We don't really mess with the various specialized inserts that come with some of the pocket diapers - prefolds work fine for everything.

One thing that's been a complete life saver is our discovery of flushable diaper liners. They make it so much easier to be sure that everything solid goes into the toilet and doesn't end up clogging up the drain pipe of our washer.

Also worthwhile: the big plastic Rubbermaid bin that I repurposed from storage to use as a toy bin. No, it's not terribly cute, but it's so easy to clean up the play room. Just throw everything in, tuck it under a desk, and we're done. I'll probably replace it with a proper toy box some day, but one thing the kids like about it is that it's lightweight enough that they can push it around the room for whatever games they're making up.

Two other things in that photo that are great: good sturdy shutters for peek-a-boo, and the push toy that I picked up at a consignment store. I was sort of regretting getting the plastic noisy one instead of the fancy Melissa & Doug wooden one, but the 450th time one of them ran over the other's toes or mine, I was really glad I hadn't gotten the heavy one. And the music's not so bad. It gets them dancing every time.

We have 2 different high chairs, which are both worth it in different ways: we have the Ikea Blames chair, which is great-looking and easy to clean, but the tray is a pain in the rear to take off and put back on. We recently took the trays off altogether, though, and moved the chairs up to the table, and it's perfect for that. We also have the slightly older version of this Graco high chair, which is great as well - the tray is easy to get on and off, and when we moved them to the table, I took the legs off the chair entirely and now it's a nice booster on a regular kitchen chair. It's a little more complicated, with more straps and the cover and legs and things to keep track of, but in the end I like it as much as the Ikea one.

OMG look at those bald little heads!!!

What else do we love? Bean bag chairs, our play table, and our water table. Oh, and a set of simple musical instruments they got for their birthday - I think it's actually a couple of sets from a couple of different people, but anyway, all the musical instruments are a huge hit.

Leave it:

I'm trying to think of anything we had recommended to us or felt like we needed that ended up just not being that useful/fun. There's not much - I did spend too much money on breathable mesh crib bumpers, which seemed like a necessity at the time to keep the kids from sticking their legs out and getting stuck, but they're almost impossible to keep in place - they got scrunched down and messed up almost immediately. I can't think of much else, really.

Borrow it:

A Bumbo seat. Everybody knows somebody who has one sitting around taking up space because they can't sell them at the consignment store because they were recalled. They only use them for a month or two when they want to sit up but can't on their own yet, and they're not actually unsafe if you're using them correctly, so find that friend who has one in a closet, borrow it and get the free safety strap kit, and use it for the month or two that you need it. Then, bonus, when your friend has their next kid, the safety straps will be all ready for them.

(Or, you know, talk to my family.
I think we have about half a dozen
floating around by now.)

A baby bath tub. Another one that takes up space, and you'll use it for a little longer, but if a friend has kids the right age and has one to pass along, go for it. They're just so basic and so completely cleanable, there's really no reason to buy one new.

Yes, this is pretty much my favorite picture ever.
That's why it keeps showing up.
I'd better wrap this up because I think the kids are about done with their nap - please feel free to add your own recommendations (or anti-recommendations) in the comments!

Oops, one more to borrow: a shopping cart/high chair cover. I liked ours a lot for similar reasons to the Bumbo - they gave the kids a little extra support and cushion when they were aware enough to want out of their car seats, but not quite steady sitting up on their own yet. But that's such a short window of time, it's much better to borrow one or pick one up cheap at a consignment store.

And one last cutie. You're welcome.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Day to Day

I feel like, in the last month or two, we've crossed the threshold from the giant thrilling milestones to the everyday little miracles. It's like Steven and Eleanor are picking things up so fast, so constantly, that there's not one light bulb moment to make a big bloggable celebration of, but hundreds of them every day. The way they play together, the way they swarm all over any adult on the floor to beg for a "boo," the way they chatter incessantly at each other in a stream of "ba!" and "uh-ooh" and "doddy, doddy, doddy" (well, that particular one is always directed at the dogs).

The way they're these rough-and-tumble little explorers, who will climb on anything and find a way to make anything into a game - right this minute, they're sitting at the window, watching the doddies and putting alphabet letters in my shoes. They'll dance at anything - the tiniest snippet of music from the cheesiest electronic toy will have them both stopping in their tracks to bop around till it's over. Sometimes they'll both crack up laughing, and I'll look around to see them kneeling in the middle of the toys, foreheads pressed together, giggling at some private joke I couldn't hope to understand.

I was thinking about why I wrote so much here and in my journal when they were so little, but have written so much less recently - it's not because the newness and wonder have worn off, it's because they're so constant now, and I'm involved in them. When they were tiny and sleeping all the time, I had a lot of time to write about what they were doing when they weren't. Now, they're on the go all the time, exploring and discovering and playing and wanting me to read books and needing me to build forts and begging for "didi" (my phone), and the newness and wonder of every one of those things is just as amazing as those early days.