Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Potty Wanderer and Other Tall Tales about Short People

Avery and Lexie do hilarious things every day that make me laugh. But, because I've never caught up on the sleep I missed during the first 1.5 years of their lives, my Mommy brain can rarely remember what those things are more than an hour after they happen.

By some miracle, I've managed to recall a few magic moments from the past few weeks that don't warrant their own individual blog posts but are chuckle-worthy enough to mention. Let's hope I won't need a dose of ginkgo biloba to keep from forgetting them as I type...

Story #1: Lexie the Potty Wanderer

Lexie is doing a great job potty training. She rarely has accidents and enjoys making visit after visit after visit to the restroom at church, the grocery or anywhere else where we might be for more than five seconds. It's not like you can say "no," right?

At home, however, her potty preferences are very specific. Recently, she has decided that the commode in Mommy and Daddy's water closet is the best throne in the house and the place where she should relieve herself.

Apparently, though, she also wants it to have all the amenities of the bathroom that she shares with her sister. Since those amenities are portable, she carries them with her to her toilet of preference. It's a funny sight to see a 2.5 year old lugging a creme-colored step stool in one hand and a Sesame Street-themed potty seat in the other, bumping into every wall and door between her bathroom and our bathroom.

She's like a mini gypsy. All she needs is a sign: "Have potty seat; will travel."

Sometimes, she will delegate responsibility for toting her potty training tools to me. "Mommy, you get Elmo seat. Mommy, you bring it," Lexie says while nodding in affirmation. Knowing that refusing to help will only further delay what is already a ridiculously lengthy process to pee, I always offer my assistance as lavatory lackey.

After the pieces are in position, Lexie often instructs me to sit on the stool and talk to her while she sits atop her throne. The stool can't just sit anywhere. It has to be scooted against the wall. I guess you're allowed to give orders when you're the queen of the bathroom castle.

Once her pee pee is put in its proper place, we deconstruct the whole set up and return it to its home in the twins' bathroom. More bumping into and banging against the walls, which terrifies Stella, our cat.

Although this new restroom routine is cumbersome and the opposite of efficient, it seems to give Lexie great joy. If she can get this excited about making a journey to the bathroom, I can't imagine what she's going to do when we travel to Disney World.

Story #2: No Room in the Stall

I swear, potty training isn't all I'm going to blog about for the rest of my children's lives, but since it requires a lot of my attention these days, you get to hear about it a lot. Lucky you.

As you might guess with twins, Avery and Lexie are very close. They like to play together, dance together, read together... you get the picture. That's why it's not totally unexpected that the girls also like to go potty together. Much to Mommy's dismay, though, that includes an odd obsession with looking at each other's poop.

When Lexie is on the throne, Avery will wedge herself in between the wall and the commode. After the potty princess does her business, Lexie immediately yells, "I go poop!" In response, Avery will say, "I want to see it." At that point, Lexie will lean over, so her sissy can get a good glimpse.


It's not like I'm just sitting idly by while this is happening. I have tried to physically drag Avery and Lexie out of the bathroom to give the other some "private time." But, they want none of that. They will kick, scream, cry and attach themselves to the wall all in an effort to stay in the room where the stink is. I don't get it. Maybe you have to be a Wonder Twin to understand.

Story #3: The Artful Drawers

Avery and Lexie are now in the Older Twos class at school, and because they go every weekday, they never miss a single art project. The stuff they bring home is incredibly cute - giraffes with yellow cups for noses, brown ants made from their tiny fingerprints and rocket ships on popsicle sticks that can really fly... with a little imagination.

We like to display their pretty pictures on the windows of our kitchen, so everyone who comes into the house can applaud their artistry. Apparently, that's what they truly consider it.

On the ride home after the girls' first day in the Older Twos, they kept talking about colors, so I asked if they used those particular colors of crayons to draw pictures in class. Avery replied, "No, Mommy, I make art."

Oh, excuse me. I meant no insult, future Picasso.

I fully support her interest in all things paint, Play-Doh or crayon. Who knows? Maybe she's got my grandfather's talent. If I can sell her artwork on eBay to make money for college tuition or maybe that new black pair of heels I've been looking at, I'm all for it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Daddy's Home... on a Weekend!!

Geof and I starting dating almost 12 years ago. And, in the time since we declared ourselves an official "couple," we have never, ever been on the same work schedule. If I worked nights and weekends, he worked days. If he worked days, I worked mornings. It's always been next to impossible to have a meaningful conversation when both of us were awake and alert, much less plan a vacation.

That's what happens when you work in the world of television news. Clothing allowances, free haircuts and interviewing the president are perks. Crappy work shifts are not.

I'm happy to announce that Geof, the kids and I will no longer be like ships passing in the night. We will not have to try and deduce if, for example, Geof told me about his new-found love for dubStep music or the reporter he spent the entire night riding around with in the car. I have seriously said to him, "No, you've never told me that. Yes, I'm sure. I bet you told Kevin or the assignment desk, instead."

I'm pleased to report that Geof has left the crazy world of television news for an exciting new opportunity at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh. His schedule? Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., except in the summer months when he works four 10-hour days. No more night shift. No more working every single weekend. No more covering wrecks and fires on Thanksgiving, Christmas and all other holidays. 

Plus, he gets a lunch break. Every day. This is unfamiliar to him, considering a lunch/dinner break for him used to consist of eating sandwiches and chips out of a lunch pail while driving the live truck from Raleigh to parts unknown. Now, he can actually heat up a meal and sit still while enjoying it.

Geof will serve as the Media Productions Manager at Wake Tech's North Campus. He will oversee events in the school's brand new 300-seat auditorium/lecture hall, which is currently under construction. It will feature edit bays with Final Cut Pro where Geof may eventually teach courses on how to edit video. He'll also shoot good news stories to showcase the unique people, programs and opportunities the college offers.

It's a great fit for Geof's photojournalistic skills, and it will offer countless creative outlets - something he really needs after covering his fill of shootings, kids killed in car crashes and other sad stories.

And, did I mention that schedule?

I really excited about this move, because we can finally help each other raise the Wonder Twins. Before now, we've operated a lot like married single people. Both of us were never home with the girls at the same time for more than a few waking hours. Honestly, I'm not sure how we made it through the first two years of Avery and Lexie's lives without more help. We certainly saved money on daycare, but we missed out on true family time.

No more of that! We're now both at home in the morning when the girls wake up, and we're both home at night to tuck them into bed (when they'll let us). We can spend every weekend playing in the plastic pool in the backyard if we want to, or we can take a long-awaited road trip to the beach to play in the surf - one of the reasons why we moved back to North Carolina in the first place.

The girls seem excited, too. They now go to school five days a week instead of three, so we pay more than our mortgage for childcare. But, it's worth it. They adore school and on Monday just moved into the Older Twos class. Miss Tina said they were ready for the promotion and enjoyed a great first day with their friends.

The only thing they seem to notice about our transition is there is no longer a WRAL vehicle parked in our driveway. Dubbed "white car," one of the girls will often ask where it is. The other typically responds "Daddy share it." That essentially means Daddy had to give it back to the station and now drives "grey car" regularly for the first time in years.

We look forward to having all sorts of new adventures as family as we take full advantage of the new schedule in the days ahead and months. So, start inviting us to your holiday picnics and weekend get-togethers. Now, we can actually come!!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

It's Dance-y Dance Time!

All parents who endure children's television programming are familiar with the show "Yo, Gabba! Gabba!" It features five odd and suggestively shaped creatures (Muno, for example, looks like a tall, red, bumpy pretzel stick) and DJ Lance Rock, the orange clad, fez-wearing, magic-like leader of the pack.

During most episodes, the characters have "dance-y dance time" - an opportunity for a celebrity to show off his/her dance moves and allow the creatures to copy them. My favorite "dance-y dance friends" are Jack Black and Andy Sandburg doing various disco and alligator chomping motions. You know this has to be totally embarassing for them to "go crazy" with a bunch of plush costumed creatures, but the cool points they score with their kids or young relatives for simply being on the show surely overrides the ridicule of their drinking buddies.

I mention this only because the girls are really into dancing these days. I'm not sure if it has a direct correlation to their affinity for Gabba (or "Jabba" as Avery calls it), but it's possible. I mean, seriously, they each have a set of Muno, Foofah and Brobee dolls, as well as the Gabba dance mat. Birthday presents that other people pay for are awesome!

Lately, after bath time, Avery and Lexie have been racing into the playroom and hitting buttons on the activity table they've had since they were one. Each button plays a different song. Avery has certain songs she likes. Lexie has certain songs she likes. Sometimes, they fight over which song to play like married people argue over which radio station to listen to in the car. But, that's not what this blog post is about.

It's about the hilarious dances they do when they agree to let one song play for more than five seconds. Lexie does these crazy moves that Geof and I have dubbed "The Bum-Bum Dance." It looks kind of like "I'm a Little Tea Pot" on crack. Allow me to explain.

She puts both hands on her hips, bends her legs slightly and swings her body from side to side with as much force as possible without totally tipping over. It's done to the beat of the music. The dance makes us laugh, which makes her laugh, and that makes the whole thing even funnier.

I enjoy "The Bum-Bum Dance" so much that I try get Lexie to perform it for others who I know would appreciate its hilarity. Apparently, she's a closet dancer, because she has yet to bust a groove on command in a public setting.

It appears that Avery is not as coordinated in the rump shaker department as her sissy, but she does try. Her dance-y dance originally looked a lot like a Jumping Jack that didn't actually jump. Instead, she kind of swayed back and back with her arms and legs spread out like a human star fish.

It was only after Lexie received so much acclaim for "The Bum-Bum Dance" that Avery started stepping up her game. She now does a variation of her sister's signature moves that involve less violent side-to-side swinging. Essentially, she puts her hands on her hips, bends her knees and jumps up and down. It's no Macarena, but it's still pretty funny.

I can't tell just yet if I have two budding Commando cheerleaders on my hands. But, it's possible. They've certainly got the pipes for stadium-silencing yells and a love for bustin' an awkward/awesome move.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Potty Chronicles: Avery Advances!

My plan is working. (Cue evil laughter here.)

Lexie is doing a tremendous job using the big girl potty. She hasn't had an accident in weeks, even during nap time. She tells us each time she needs to go and gets this surprised/excited look on her face (think Macaulay Culkin in "Home Alone") when she hears the pee pee flow into the commode. It's hilarious... unless it's her 35th trip to the restroom at the grocery store in a one-hour time period. At that point, I feel more aggitation and less adoration for her potty prowess.

Avery gets equally excited at these moments. She insists on standing right next to Lexie when she's on the throne, so she can immediately look into the bowl at whatever has just been expelled. It's gross. And, a little weird. "Mommy, I want to see! Lexie poo poo!" But, it is generating within Avery exactly what I wanted - interest and a little potty envy.

Lexie's success in the bathroom department has driven Avery to exercise her big girl potty bathroom option more often. She's gone multiple times at school, and she demands to go at home, as well, especially before/during/after dinner. This is why the evening meal often now takes an hour to complete.

The thing is one kid can't just go potty. Both kids have to go potty. There are fights over who gets to go first, and one turn is never enough. My multiples always want to make multiple attempts at expelling their bladders. Inevitably, one of them ends up running around downstairs buck naked while I sit by the other on the commode. Contrary to popular belief, some people do not like to use the restroom in private.

Eventually, I corral them, they finish dinner, and we make our way upstairs for bath time. At this point, the demand for potty time rears its head again. Avery wants to go in our bathroom; Lexie usually selects the Sesame Street seat in the guestroom bathroom. I go back and forth between the two, blazing a trail on the hallway carpet.

Avery's goal is to poop. For her, dropping off the kids at the pool is the equivalent of winning an Olympic gold medal. Physically, it's just not always possible. I'm beginning to get slightly worried that she's going to burst a blood vessel at some point, but I hesitate to do anything that will dissuade her attempts. As soon as she's delivered the goods, she shouts, "Mommy, I wear big girl panties!!"

I clap for her and cheer, and then gently explain that while she's very close, she's not quite ready yet for the Hello Kitty underpants that await her when the magical day comes that we can ditch the diapers. She understands and sometimes says, "Mommy, I not ready yet."

Juggling multiple pottiers is not easy. In fact, it makes me really want to clone myself. A few nights ago, I was helping Avery on the potty while Lexie was playing in the bathtub. (My bathroom is steps away from the tub, so don't call CPS.) I was talking to Avery about trying to go more at school when I hear Lexie giggling. I look over and see her pouring water from a Harpo's cup onto the bath mat.

I sternly say, "No, Lex! Stop that." She thinks this is very funny and proceeds to pour two more cupfuls on the mat before I can extract the old college booze cup from her hand. As I'm disciplining her, Avery is sliding off the potty and hasn't wiped.

It's moments like these when I wonder how much a one-way plane ticket to Aruba costs this time of year. Thanks to daycare, which is the equivalent of toddler college tuition, I can't afford to go. I just have to keep trying to not let the twins flush my patience down the pipe with their, well, you know.

Some day soon, they'll both be wearing big girl underwear without accidents, and going to the bathroom will no longer be a novelty. Mother nature, I've got next Friday free, if that works for you!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Twin Love and An Emerging Diva

Growing up as an only child, I always thought it would be cool to have a sibling. In my young mind, it would've been even cooler to have a twin. Nowhere in my rose-colored multi-child household vision was there any fighting, backstabbing or arguments over who got to have the last cookie. There was just love and Parent Trap meets Dora the Explorer kinds of adventures.
Now, that I'm a mommy of twins, I understand that there is no such thing as a peaceful, hold hands in a circle and sing kum-by-yah in unison kind of environment. There are fights over crayons, accusations of toy theft and the regular shedding of tears. We live in a very energtic, active house.

But, at the end of the day, when the disagreements over which episode of "Yo Gabba Gabba" to watch have been resolved, I still want them to appreciate the special bond that only they have and love each other regardless of who has the coveted book of the moment in their bed.

I got a glimpse that Avery and Lexie are heading in that direction this week at bedtime. After saying our nighttime prayers and reading two (which rapidly morphed into six) favorite books, I asked the girls to get into their beds. They still sleep in the same room.

Before doing so, Avery went over to Lexie's bed and said, "I want to give Wex a hug." Avery leaned in and gave little sis (by eight minutes) a big squeeze. "Awww, that's very sweet, Avery," I said.

Lexie returned the favor. She walked over to Avery and gave her a hug. To trump her sister, Lexie added a kiss. "Nice girls," I said. At my prompting, they each told each other "I love you" and proceeded to bed.

Lexie, the child who can fall asleep faster than a narcoleptic, snuggled in immediately. Acting fast to seize this opportunity to keep her in bed, I covered her up with her favorite duck blanket and kissed her goodnight.

As I went to turn out the little lamp in their room, Avery alerted me that she was not quite done with her sweet expressions of love. She walked over to her sissy's bed and said, "I want to hug Wex, Mommy." As she tried to climb into bed with Lexie, I realized this was probably going to erupt into a fight over personal space and territory, which would only delay bedtime, incite tantrums and cause Mommy to miss "Gossip Girl." So, I said, "Oh, bug, that's really nice, but I think sissy is tired and wants to go to sleep. Why don't you blow her a kiss and get back in your bed?"

I should've known that suggestion would not do. Avery did the exact opposite. She wiggled her way into Lexie's converted crib and attempted to hug her, despite the fact that the only part of Lexie's body visible above the duck blanket was her head. No limbs were available for hugging. And, Lexie was not interested in changing positions.

"No, Avery, I'm tired" was Lexie the Mimic's response to Avery's display of affection. Avery burst into tears. "Oh no," I thought. This was not how I expected the situation to roll out. Instead of avoiding conflict, I had unintentionally created it and, apparently, a diva at the same time.

I comforted Avery and tried to convince Lexie to sit up and give Avery a hug. No dice. Lexie stuck to her diva guns and responded, "No! I'm tired." Remind me to never say "tired" at bedtime again.

After 10 minutes of CIA-like negotiations, I finally convinced Lexie to give Avery a big hug. As soon as they parted, I hugged them both and whisked them both into bed. I immediately turned out the light, said my "I love yous" and scurried out the door before another hugging war ensured.

The morale of the story? Be careful what you wish for. Twin love is not easily shared at 8:45 p.m. when the diva extraordinaire needs her beauty sleep.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Best Birthday Present EVER!

Last Friday was my birthday. Yes, Friday the 13th. (I feel it's important to mention that I came into the world on a Wednesday, which carries far fewer superstitious concerns.) I'm at the point in my life where I don't really get many birthday gifts anymore. That's okay. Most of the things I want (a Diane Von Furstenberg dress, a beach house, the chance to sleep in until 9 a.m. just once) are not really feasible anyway. That's why the unexpected surprise I got during my birthday week was so incredibly awesome.

I was picking the girls up from school and happened to look on the chart on the closet door. It lists things like how long each kiddo napped, her mood and her bathroom behaviors on that particular day. In the potty slot, it said in big letters "Alexa is ready for big girl underwear!"

YES! Finally! I started having visions of all the things I could buy with the $50-$75 a month I would save without having to purchase gigantic economy boxes of diapers and pull ups from Target each month! WooHoo! Babysitter money!

Under the exciting note about Lexie's panty prospects, the teacher had written in smaller letters something to the effect of "Yeah, Avery's not really ready yet, but if you want to start her at the same time, we can do that." Um, no thanks. I may masquerade as Super Mommy, but there are seriously only so many simultaneous accidents I can handle at once. Plus, I'm not sure there are enough pairs of Yo Gabba Gabba panties available in the world to outfit both of the Wonder Twins during this special time of transition.

So, Avery is waiting. It's actually part of our super secret strategy to get Avery to go. Geof and I hope that by letting her see Lexie succeed at toilet training, she'll want to follow suit. For once, the leader of this dynamic duo will become the follower. At least, that's our plan.

So far, this approach seems to be working. Avery has peed once in the potty at school this week, which is huge, and she's tried to put Lexie's Minnie Mouse underwear on over her shorts. She cried when we told her to take them off. "No! I want some!" Nope. Not until you bid diapers bye-bye and get serious about potty time. It's the old "you want what you can't have" mentality. Sort of like me and size 2 pants.

Lexie is definitely unknowingly aiding and abetting our plan to get Avery potty trained. She started wearing her big girl panties last Friday and has been doing impressively well ever since. There have been accidents, but like Elmo says in his potty training DVD, "Accidents happen, and that's okay."

Don't get me wrong. Cleaning up after the accidents is not my favorite thing in the world. But, I understand it's a necessary evil and a means to an end. Sometimes, though, it's really gross. Let me give you an example.

On Saturday, Geof went golfing, so I took the twins to the Knightdale Public Library for storytime. Mommy did not check the schedule before leaving, so I was unpleasantly surprised to learn after we arrived that the library is not having Saturday morning storytime in April. Fail.

Instead, we made a craft out of a paper plate and cruised the aisles for books about animals, Sesame Street and mice who eat cookies. With the librarians' help, we checked out five stories without disrupting too many of the other patrons. (It's hard to maintain the tomblike silence in a library when you're traveling with two toddlers.) At the librarian's recommendation, we then took a walk on the pond-side trail next to the library.

I knew that it was probably not too smart to be that far away from a potty (the woods doesn't count in this scenario, since we're not camping or on a Farmhouse fraternity hayride), but I took them to see the water anyway. On the way back to the car, Lexie said, "Mommy, I need go potty." My response to try and beat the pee? "Run!" I yelled.

The twins went thundering down the path to the parking lot. I scooped them up and hustled back into the library (I know all the old people were thinking, "No! It just got quiet in here!") and straight to the potty. I corralled the girls into the handicapped stall, which is the only one large enough for all three of us and the enormous diaper bag full of spare pants, and got Lexie turned around appropriately in front of the commode.

Just as I was breathing a sigh of relief and feeling victorious over Lexie's bladder, there it came. A puddle around her feet. ARGH.

When you think about bathroom accidents, you think wet pants, wet underwear. Oh, no. It's much more than that. It's wet socks and wet Crocs, Lexie's primary shoe of choice.

So, here I am trying to mop up the pee, remove the soaked clothing and footwear, get Lexie on the potty and yell at Avery for crawling under the stall door and repeatedly flushing every commode in the restroom all at the same time. 

Probably 20 minutes later - after threats of Time Out and no lunchtime trip to see Ronald McDonald - we left the bathroom with clean hands, dry clothes and minimal remaining patience. (Well, that was only me.)

I had to laugh when a woman witnessing this ordeal in the restroom commented, "They're so much fun at this age. Enjoy it while you can." I must have looked at her like she had four heads, because she quickly added, "My son is 17." I replied, "Bless your heart."

I'm sure when Avery and Lexie reach their teenage years, Geof and I will look back on life, say "Remember when we thought potty training was hard?" and burst into laughter. It's similar to our response to people who talk about how hard raising one child is.

We'll get through it some day, but only after doing copious amounts of laundry and enjoying some premium adult beverages.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Teaching Toddlers the "No, Nos" of Life

Growing up, I was a perfect angel. I was never spanked, because I never did anything wrong. Ever. Excuse me while I polish my halo.

Geof also claims he was a "good kid." Although, apparently, it took a few swift meetings with the paddle to get there. I can't imagine that anything he did was that bad, though. Seriously, he went to private Christian school for the greater part of his life. Those kids aren't typically known for blowing up urinals with fireworks or calling in fake bomb threats like the delinquents in public school. (I can say that with humor since I am a product of the public school system. And, my uncle did once try to blow the urinal off the wall at his public school back in the day. No joke.)

It seems Avery is going to take more after Geof in her attitude towards following the rules. This week, I've been told two days in a row that she was telling the daycare teacher on the playground "No! No!"

No such report for Lexie. It's clear she's following my shining example. Minus a few bad choices in college.

I certainly don't want Avery to think it's okay to disrepect her elders. But, how to you explain that to a precocious 2.5-year-old girl? I need the Toddler Whisperer.

After the first offense, I made her apologize on the playground in front of her friends to the teacher and give her a hug. Then, I explained that if it happened again, toys would disppear. She seemed to understand and told me again later that night she was sorry.

But, the next day, she became a repeat offender. When I walked onto the playground, she came running over, saying "Mommy, I being mean. I being mean."

"What are you talking about?" I asked. That's when the teacher walked over and explained that Avery had once again told her "No! No!" on the playground. The teacher stood there looking at me as if to say, "Okay, discipline her now." I couldn't do anything, because I was still processing the fact that Avery was told she was a mean girl, and now, she was repeating it.

I wasn't sure who I was irked at more - Avery for being defiant again or the teacher for programming my kid to think she was mean.

I'm no daycare teacher, and I don't pretend to know how they keep their cool while dealing with a dozen whiny, green-nosed children begging for attention and getting into trouble left and right. But, I do think there are better ways to explain to a child that her behavior is unacceptable without resorting to labeling and name-calling.

The challenge with disciplining Avery and Lexie (on the rare occasion that she does something wrong) is that whatever I threaten to take away, they decide they no longer want.

Here's an example:
Me: "Avery, you better sit down in your chair and eat dinner, or we're not going to Marbles tomorrow."
Avery: "No, Mommy. I no wanna go to Marbles. I want to stay home."

Great. I know that you are lying, because Marbles is your favorite place in Raleigh. But, nevertheless, you just eliminated my leverage with your comment. Now, how I am supposed to get you to sit still without forcibly restraining you to the chair?

Last night, I decided to teach Avery about consequences for her actions at school. I explained that when she chose to not do what teacher was asking, she chose to not get to play with any toys all night. She also opted herself out of after-dinner dessert. For good measure, I made her sit at the dinner table while Lexie ate her chocolate bunny cookies. I know. I'm the mean one now.

Avery cried off and on, but I'm not sure if the lesson really sunk in. I guess we'll find out in about three hours when I pick the twins up at school.

What I do know is when I was tucking Avery into bed last night, I told her she was beautiful and smart and very special. Her mouth spread into a wide, sleepy smile - a look I hadn't seen all day - and she rolled over, content and ready to put the day behind her.