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.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My Mommy Marathon

I was sitting in my office at work the other day when a colleague who happens to have a two-year-old son started talking about their family's bedtime routine. His little boy goes to bed between 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.

"What?!" I questioned, shocked at this revelation. "Sometimes, the girls and I don't even get home until almost 6:30 p.m.!"

So begins the story of my mommy marathon.

By "marathon," I do not mean an actual road race with chip times, paper numbers and short shorts made from a high-tech wicking material. (All the hours I spent running in the past are now used to do other kinds of rigorous physical activity like laundry and picking up the playroom. It's also why I will not be wearing a bikini this swimsuit season. I know you're disappointed.)

When I say "marathon," I mean the all-out sprint that begins when I leave work, and race to pick up Avery and Lexie from daycare. This pace doesn't slow down until the twins are in their beds fast asleep. Unless I'm going 90 to nothing with my hair on fire, it will be 10 p.m. before the kiddos are in bed.

That is totally unacceptable. One reason? Tantrum city! No one wants to endure screaming in stereo surround sound from an overtired Avery and Lexie. Another? The later the girls go to bed, the less time I have to watch "Gossip Girl" on DVR. When you only have time to watch one or two programs a week, they become pretty essential. Plus, if the girls ever become members of Manhattan's elite, I really should know how to fit in properly. It's just proactive parenting.

Before I share the play-by-play of my mommy marathon, I should mention the competition between the clock and me only takes place on Mondays and Tuesdays when Geof is working the night shift at the TV station. On these nights, I'm physically outnumbered, so when Avery is throwing a plastic sippy cup off the second floor balcony onto the hardwood floor below and Lexie is climbing diaperless into my bed, I curse his schedule and respond as quickly as possible in priority order to the crises unfolding before me based on which one I think will damage the things I like most. In this particular real-life example, I lunge for Lexie first, because I really like my mattress and do not want it to smell like pee pee.

Here's the rundown:

5:30 p.m. - I pull into daycare, go inside and get the girls off the playground. On the way to the front door, I negotiate a squabble over which girl I hold and which one walks next to me holding my hand.

5:45 p.m. - We get to my car. Instantly, I provide apple juice-filled sippy cups and snack food to the hungry twins. Undoubtedly, Avery will not like what is in her snack cup ("NO! No want any goldfish!"), dump it on the floor in the backseat and lie on top of it screaming for more. I wrestle her off the ground and into her car seat while trying not to look to other daycare parents like this is an abusive situation (I'm using the one getting swatted at, by the way), so they won't call Child Protective Services.

6 p.m. - We drive down I-40 to our house. Avery has typically calmed down by this point. She and Lexie take turns requesting songs on CD and estimating when we'll see the two water towers along our route. I pray silently that Avery will not demand to hear "Frosty the Snowman" since it is now April.

6:15 p.m. - We arrive at home, and I unload the girls from their car seats. Lexie tries to climb the ladder in the garage while Avery asks to bring the basketball into the house. I tell both of them "no" and prod them to the door.

6:25 p.m. - Everyone is finally in the house. The twins clamor to go onto the deck. I agree, so I can start dinner without dodging toys and little people under my feet.

6:40 p.m. - I nuke a typical dinner of protein, two veggies and two fruits. By this point, Avery has likely protested eating a number of the items I'm cooking and has scavenged in the refrigerator for other items I will not cut up for her, because I know she won't eat them, either. I juggle this with moving Lexie from counter to counter in the kitchen, so she can see what I'm doing. "Mommy, see! Mommy, I help!" Hmmmm, can you do dishes?

6:45 p.m. - The twins refuse to eat until I put their plates on their picnic table on the deck. I oblige, because I'm watching the clock, and I know we're running WAY late. They eat until they see our neighbor grilling out on his deck next door. They abandon the picnic table and run to the bench, so they can wave and talk to him. Tick, tick, tick.

6:55 p.m. - Our neighbor goes back inside, and the girls eat a little more before deciding it's time for a game of chase, or as they call it, "Get You!" By this point, they have hidden behind me several times, and my favorite cream-colored dress pants are dotted with black bean juice and hints of green from avocado.

7:15 p.m. - Vitamin selection begins. Avery demands two, even though the bottle says for her to take just one. Knowing an argument will take another 10 minutes, I concede and remind myself to steal it back from her later. Lexie takes five minutes to make her selection and ends up with a "clapper." (See previous post)

7:25 p.m. - Now upstairs, we begin the pursuit of bath time. I ferry Lexie to the potty while I try to prevent Avery from filling the garden tub with cold water only. After collecting 10 plastic food items from the play kitchen in the playroom and dumping them in the water, the girls finally get in. I bathe them at the same time as they splash the walls and me. I am still in my now stained and wet work clothes.

7:40 p.m. - Bath time is over. Towel off and pajama time begins. Like mini nudists, they want no part of it and sprint off in opposite directions totally naked. They ignore my calls to come back to get dressed. Fearing urination on my carpet, I race after the closest one and get her dressed. By this point, the other one has announced, "Mommy, I peed. Mommy, I pee on floor." Groan.

8 p.m. - Everyone is diapered and dressed with hair combed. Now, we begin the toothbrushing battle. I let them try to brush their own teeth and then I jump in to help. The girls like me to sing while I brush for them. Avery requests "Jungle Song." Having no idea what that means, I immediately sing "Welcome to the Jungle." She likes it. Lexie does, too, and wants me to sing it her for, as well.

8:10 p.m. - I nudge the girls into their bedroom and shut the door, reducing their play space and hoping they'll calm down quickly, so we can get to bed. We're already way past the 8 p.m. bedtime I was shooting for. Totally amped up from multiple renditions of Guns N' Roses, they jump up and down on their converted crib beds just like trampolines. They are not interested in my attempts to start story time.

8:20 p.m. - Lexie brings me "trophy book," a kind of Where's Waldo book for toddlers, which she adores and wants to read every, single night. Mommy is sick of "trophy book." Putting my disdain aside, I sit her in my lap and speed through "kitchen" page and the search for 10 hidden cupcakes, hoping I might manage to get the girls in bed before 8:30 p.m.

8:30 p.m. - No luck. I put them into their beds multiple times, and they get out multiple times. Each time, they have a new excuse. "Mommy, I need book," says Lexie. "Sweetie, it's going to be dark in here in a minute, and you won't be able to read it," I explain, trying to counter this popular stall tactic. "Mommy, need book! Other one," Lexie insists. I get the book, cover her up and lean in for a goodnight kiss.

At this moment, Avery walks over, hugs me and says totally unprovoked, "Mommy, I sorry for spilling goldfish crackers. I sorry not getting my seat." I am totally taken aback and speechless for, perhaps, the first time ever. Not only did she remember the terrible tamtrum from about 2.5 hours earlier, but she felt bad about her bad behavior! Wow.

I give her a giant hug and tell her how much I appreciate her apology. For that one minute, I forget that the finish line to my mommy marathon is in sight, and I am very close to ending my competition with the clock. I shower Avery with kisses and put her into bed with her beloved "red blanket."

8:45 p.m. - Hearing only muffled protests, I turn off the light and slide out of the room while softly telling the girls how much I love them.

The race to bedtime at my house is long and crazy, and sometimes, it feels like it will never actually end. Just like in a real marathon, quitting isn't an option. I have to see it through even though some of the steps along the way might be painful, frustrating or involve unexpected potty breaks. But, in the end, it's worth it. I may not get a medal or a beer from an event sponsor, but ocassionally, I get a "thank you" or an "I'm sorry," and those sweet words are my own prize, helping melt away the stress and tense moments and energizing me to do it all over again the next night.

Oh, and remember that guy whose son goes to bed as early as 6:30 p.m.? I failed to mention that he also gets up at 5:30 a.m. - even on weekends. I'll take my long nights over early mornings any day!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Funny Little Things

The girls do and say funny things all the time. If my Mommy brain wasn't cluttered already with mental Post-It notes, I'd blog about them every day. Unfortunately, I can't always remember them all. Today, I'm making an attempt to record a few of these moments, so when the twins are both melting down at glass-shattering volumes, I can look back and smile.

Moment #1: People ask me all the time if Avery and Alexa have their own secret twin language that only they understand. The quick answer is not really. When they were little, they would pull up on their cribs and babble back and forth at each other.

It wasn't structured like a true conversation. Avery: "Babble, babble, babble." (Pause) Lexie: "Babble, babble, babbble." They both babbled at the same time. It was very cute... and also a sign of what is likely to come when they start wanting to talk to boys on the phone. Argh.

But, now, Lexie has developed her own unique word that she uses at mealtime. As best I can tell, it's pronounced "DAY-der." I have no idea what "day-der" means or if I'm even pronouncing it correctly. Whenever I ask Lexie what she's talking about, all she does is say it louder and giggle. "DAY-DER!"

When I consulted with Avery to see if she knew what "day-der" meant, she responded by asking her sister, "What 'day-der' mean, Wex?" The answer? Boiterous laughter from both girls.
I sense "day-der" might be a term created to tease and drive Mommy crazy. One of these days, I'll find out its true definition. It will probably be something ridiculous and totally unrelated to eating like "tool box" or "lithium battery."

Moment #2: The twins love providing commentary about the scenery they see on our car rides home from daycare, church, the store or any other place outside of our neighborhood. Their most recent obsession is discussing in great detail the series of water towers that we pass on our route home.

As soon as we get on I-40, Avery will exclaim, "Mommy, we're almost to blue water tower!" The blue water tower is located alongside U.S. 264 at the Hodge Road exit. That's a good 10 minutes from the Gorman Road on ramp to I-40. That's 10 minutes that the anticipation builds in my backseat to see the giant white and blue cylinder that juts high above the treeline.

To Avery and Lexie, the blue water tower is the most exciting inanimate object ever built. As soon as we curve around the bypass and it comes into view, Avery shouts, "Wexie, wook! Blue water tower!" Lexie usually responds with, "It say 'Knightdale!'"

Yes, in fact, it does say "Knightdale," the name of our town.

After we pass it, the girls lament that it is "back there" and then turn their focus to the second water tower on the ride home, the huge white one at the entrance to our neighborhood.

"It say Wokbridge," states Avery. Rockbridge is the name of our 'hood. "Not home yet," says Lexie.

We've trained them that when they see the white water tower, they're almost home. That way, if they ever get lost in the woods and don't have MacGyver to lead them home with duct tape and twigs, they can at least look up and get their bearings. It's much better than what I told myself as a kid: "Follow the creek. It will lead you home." Yeah, right.

Once we pull into the garage, the twins demand to go on the deck, so they can point to the water tower some more. Perhaps, this means they have a future in water studies? Or, maybe bad architecture? Not sure yet.

Moment #3: It's crass, I know. But, it's still funny to our juvenile senses of humor. Whenever Avery or Lexie passes gas, they scream, "(Name) TOOT!" Then, they explode into laughter.

Sometimes, their farts really are manly, which makes the exclamations all the more hilarious. I will take it as a sign that they're eating a sufficient amount of vegetables and hope they don't do it in during the quiet pauses at church.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Food Fight!

This blog post is supposed to be about eating. Somehow, though, I think it's going to end up being about tantrums. Just a warning.

For weeks, I've wanted to write about how well the twins eat. When I say they will consume anything, that is not a lie. For instance, Lexie ate cat food Sunday. (Disclaimer: I didn't serve it to her on one of her colorful Ikea plates, I swear. She grabbed it out of Stella's food bowl in the kitchen and started crunching it until Avery told on her. At that point, I made her spit it out and launched into a thorough explanation of how cat food really is just for cats. At least, it wasn't cat poop.)

The girls eat all the things you'd expect little kids to devour: chicken nuggets, spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, fish sticks and mashed potatoes. But, they also love more diverse stuff like avocado, black olives, cauliflower, peas, lima beans, cherry tomatoes, black beans, blueberries, kiwi, plums, wild rice, casseroles and that polenta-based dinner in a bag from Trader Joe's.

I'm fairly certain I didn't eat "ah-cado" as they call it until I was in my mid-20s. Yes, I realize I lived a sheltered life before then. But, seriously, are you surprised? This is coming from a girl who would only eat three rotating packed lunches - peanut butter crackers, cheese crackers or soup in a Thermos - until she was in middle school.

That said, I'm glad the girls don't have particular palates. Getting them to dine on the recommended five fruits and five veggies a day is no major task. I've often thought that if Geof and I would eat more like Avery and Lexie we'd be a lot healthier. Unfortunately, Geof likes hamburgers and french fries too much to strictly follow their diet.

The family dining experience has been going great. When we'd sit down at the dinner table, they'd say, "We all eat together!" or "Thank you, Mommy, for making biscuits" without any prodding. The girls would clean their plates, and as a reward, they could have one pink and one white iced animal cookie. You know, the ones from the dollar bin at Target. I thought we had a good mealtime routine down.

Until last week.

I'm not sure if it's Avery's recent infection or the fact that we've likely done something to upset the toddler version of Karma, but something has caused the twins, especially Avery, to become defiant little monkeys. The times when they are most likely to put up a fight are at mealtime and bedtime. You'll know, because you'll hear "NOOOOOOOO!" echoing in stereo from our house.

Avery who was once a role model for 2-year-old eaters everywhere will now kick, scream and contort her body in any way possible to avoid sitting in her chair. Even when I've made exactly what she's requested to eat. Her protests aren't just vocal. The other day, she snatched up two fistfulls of noodles and tossed them on the kitchen floor. My reaction probably looked a lot like a volcanic eruption.

This is another reason why I believe Avery will spend the majority of her younger years in Time Out.

Lexie has not shown resistance to quite that degree, but she usually does exactly what big sis does. So, I'm sure it's coming soon. Last night, she refused to eat her gnocchi, but at least, she didn't throw it at me.

Clearly, doctors and child development experts call this stage the Terrible 2s for a reason. But, when you have the Terrible 2s times two, it's more stressful and requires more restraint to keep yourself from booking a one-way ticket to a tropical island.

I know the girls are testing their limits and exerting their individuality. Okay, great. But, if they could just do it at a lower decibel level and not include physical actions that require me to mop the floor, it would be much appreciated.

Until this stage passes, I guess I'll just pray for patience and know that any avocados they don't eat just means more for Mommy and Daddy!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dear Dara: An advice column

Before we had Avery and Lexie, my childrearing skills were pretty much non-existent. I had only babysat a few times, and those kids were old enough to put on their own pajamas and brush their own teeth. I had zero real-life knowledge of what to do with an infant. In fact, I had never even changed a diaper! This just spells Mom of the Year in the making, doesn't it?

Two years later, I still don't claim to know it all, but I have learned a lot from the good things I've tried and the mistakes I've made along the journey.

Last night is a good example. I dropped a bunch of the girls' chewable vitamins on the floor and said "Crap!" I didn't even realize I'd uttered the word until I asked Lexie if she wanted the purple hippo vitamin or the orange lion vitamin. She responded, "No. I want cwap." Not making the connection, I said, "What?" Lexie repeated, "I want cwap one." Inside my head, I said, "Oh, @#$%..." and made up a big lie to cover my tracks. "It's not 'crap'," I said. "It's clap. There's a kind of lion called a clapper. Do you want a clapper?" Giggles. "Yes, Mommy! Cwapper!"

Yes, I do realize this fib will haunt me for days if not longer. But, that's better than having a two-year-old requesting a crap-flavored vitamin, isn't it? I firmly believe in this case the ends justified the means. Or, it was the best my panicked mommy brain could come up with at the time.

I'm going to share random insights like these with a fellow mommy from our childbirth class at Rex Hospital. She emailed recently to announce that she's expecting boy-boy twins and wanted my advice. Knowing that she already has a 2-year-old boy, my first thought was (no surprise) "holy crap!"

We're having lunch on Friday, and I've been pondering what exactly to tell her to prepare her for the whirlwind that is twins. Here's what I've come up with so far:

1.  There's a reason our family motto is "Twice the fun, twice the crazy!" There will no longer be such a thing as a normal day at your house once you have twins, so don't expect it. Wake up each morning with the mindset that you are up for anything, and you'll never get frustrated. Or threaten to sell your kids on eBay.

2. Always allow yourself an extra hour to get to any appointment. Remember, you're having twins, so you have to do everything twice. It sounds easy. Until you actually do it. At our house, we're trying to potty train. The star chart is up, and Avery and Lexie can earn stars for trying, going, flushing and washing hands. Smart, right? Not if you're about to leave for church on a Sunday morning. A last-minute trip to the bathroom means two last-minute trips to the bathroom, because one will not allow the other to out-star her. That's two turns on the potty, two races down the hallway to catch bare-bottomed babes and force them to put on new diapers, two fights over putting their shoes back on and two negotiations over where the stars will go on the star charts. After all this, we're certain to miss the entire beginning of the service. If you ever wondered why the twins go to the nursery at church, it's because Mommy and Daddy are exhausted.

3.  Get a whistle and a striped shirt, because you're about to become an all-star referee. A friend who's a twin once told me that twins love hard and fight hard. No truer words have ever been spoken. I have broken up fights that rival WWE matches over something as silly as a sock. "Mine!" "No, mine!" I firmly believe that Avery, our more dominant little girl, will spend the bulk of her younger years in Time Out. Lexie will continue crying over spilled milk, juice or anything else she finds offending until she starts wearing mascara and it runs all down her face. (She's not much for getting dirty.)

On the flip side, though, they share an incredible bond that can best be explained by actions, not words. They hold each other's hand, share with one another without me even asking and get concerned when "sissy" isn't in the same room. If you ask Avery who her best friend is, she'll say "Wexie." If you ask Lexie the same question, she'll reply, "Avwey." Makes your heart melt, doesn't it?

Geof and I have concluded that although there are many, many challenges with raising multiples, there are even more amazing moments that we wouldn't trade for the world. Plus, what would we do with all that spare time if we'd only had one kid? Psch... too easy! :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mommy's Other Name

Avery and Lexie call me "Mommy." No surprise there. It's what most little kids call their mother. But, it didn't occur to me until last week that they might know I have a legal name, too.

This realization came in the playroom at our house one evening just before "night night." Lexie walked over to me, held up a domino and said, "I have Deeeemi!"

I looked at her with a slightly confused expression on my face. "What?" I asked, thinking that surely she had not just said my last name.

Lexie put the domino up to her ear just like a cell phone and exclaimed, "I talking to Dara Deeeeeemi!"

Geof and I immediately looked at each other and started laughing. This was incredibly funny to us, because we've never had a conversation to explain that Daddy is Geof and Mommy is Dara. What was the point? We always refer to each other by our parental names. And, seriously, the twins are only two years old. It's not like they're going to be filling out medical forms or school permission slips yet. Why would they need to know?

Well, somehow, Lexie figured it out, and our laughter made Avery want to join in the name game fun. Monkey see, monkey do! They both took turns shouting "I want to talk to Deeeeeemi!" in between rounds of loud giggles.

After pondering the source of this outburst, I finally came to the conclusion that they must have paid attention when I was on call for NCDOT recently during two major incidents: a rockslide in the North Carolina mountains and a snow storm that blanketed many parts of the state. (Yes, I realize natural disasters seem to eerily coincide with when I'm on call. Awesome. Watch out for hurricane season!) I spent a lot of time during those weekends talking to reporters - including the one working with Geof - on the phone. The girls who desperately wanted me to stop working and play "destroy the house" with them must have overhead me and replicated the professional way in which I greeted the callers.

If anything, they deserve props for actually pronouncing my name correctly. Ninety percent of the adult population can't seem to master it, so clearly, they're going to be genuises if they can manage it at age 2. I mean, really, it's only eight letters combined. And, it doesn't sound anything at all like "Darin" or "Daria." For the record, I'm also not related to Demi Moore as some have inquired in the past. Sigh...

I thought this whole "Dara Demi" obsession would end that night when we tucked the girls in, and they drifted off to dreamland. Nope. It's an every night thing. Except now it's shifted into song.

The girls aren't really able to do a thorough job brushing their teeth on their own, so we let them try first and then we help them complete the task. They won't hand over their toothbrushes unless we sing them a song. It started with singing "Happy Birthday" to Dora and Elmo, the characters on their brushes. But, this week, that changed.

"Mommy, sing Demi song," requested Lexie.

Oh great, I thought. I had no idea what "Demi song" was, but I definitely knew that if I didn't make one up soon, Lexie and Avery would not let me bat clean-up during the evening brushing routine.

The things I do for good dental hygiene.

I made up a horrendous song that goes like this: "Daaaara Deeeeemi. She-eeee-eee love-uh-uhvs you! Daaaaara Deeeemi. She-eeee-eee is your Mommy, too-ooo."

Of course, they loved it. Now, they demand that I sing it every night during teeth brushing time. My worst fear is that I'm going to forget the words and the off-pitch tune, and the girls' teeth will decay and fall out, because they will except no musical substitutions.

So far, I've managed to file it away in my Mommy brain with the other silly songs I've created about Thomas the Train and Pooh Bear (which Avery adamantly refers to as "Cooh Bear.") I may not be the next Scotty McCreery, but at least, my kids' chompers are clean.

I'm looking forward to trading the first/last name interest for a consistant "Mommy." I like it better. And, I've never heard anyone mispronounce it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

They're All "Growns Up"

This is a big week for the Wonder Twins. (Cue the theme song from The Jeffersons) They're "moving on uh-uh-up" as the song goes to the Middle Twos class at school. Their last official day in the Young Twos class is tomorrow.

I learned this critical information last week when I found a Xeroxed graduation certificate in each of their cubbies in their classroom. Not knowing if anyone had really shared this news with them, I said, "Hey, girls! Guess who's starting in the Middle Twos class next week?" They roared back "Avery!" and "Lexie!" and began jumping up and down.

From their jubuliant response, I gathered they were genuinely excited about the change. That's a good thing, because Mommy is pretty psyched about the transition and has been looking forward to it for a while. Here are a few reasons why:

First, Ethan - the boy they talk about practically non-stop and the subject of last week's blog post - is moving up. Although they have mentioned other "new friends" like Ezra and Vihaan lately, it seems no one can take Ethan's place on the playground. They would be most upset if they didn't get to work puzzles with him and point at his "Hurricane 'Canes" jersey on a daily basis.

Second, potty time all the time! The Middle Twos teachers really focus on constant potty training. The bathroom wall in the Middle Twos room is covered with large, colorful charts. Each kid has one and gets to put a circular sticker on it when they put their "pee pee" and "poo poo" in the toilet. I never thought I would be so thrilled about potty charts, but I am. Lexie is doing a great job learning to "go like a big girl" and will likely be wearing "big girl underpants" in a few months. Avery is a different story. She has no patience for sitting on the commode long enough to give anything the opportunity to come out, so I'm hoping stickers will encourage her to go, go, go! I'm so ready to be done with diapers!

Third, my girls are smart little cookies. At home, one of their favorite activites (besides throwing the contents of my coat closet all over the downstairs while screaming with delight) is playing with our new opposites (think dark/light, big/little) flash cards. They liked the animal flash cards so much that we bought these at a local school supply store. They're for kids age 5+. With the exception of the cards for right hand and left hand, they can identify them all. What can I say? They're going to be nerds. They sleep with books at night like most kids sleep with stuffed animals. I'm okay with that. I'm sure Steve Jobs and Bill Gates did the same thing back in the day.

That said, they really need more challenging activities than sticking cotton balls to a piece of paper. They've outgrown most of the projects in the Young Twos class. In the Middle Twos, they'll do more work with letters and numbers, which they will love!

With all my excitement for the fun days that lie ahead, I am a little sad that the girls are leaving behind two teachers who they adore. And, the teachers love them just as much in return. Miss Laura and Miss Linda are very special people who do a great job with all the kids they teach, not just mine.

I stopped Miss Linda yesterday to tell her how much the girls have appreciated being in her class for the past few months. She said she was sad to see them go, because they are her best helpers. Especially Avery. She shared how the girls gather up the rest of the class for circle time each day and make things like cleaning up a lot easier.

Of course, I was proud. But, I had to laugh, too, because my mind instantly conjured up an image of Avery - the dominant one of my pair - ordering everyone to sit down. NOW. She's a leader for sure, and God help anyone who stands in her way when she wants something. Avery will plow over them in a New York minute. On the flip side, I was glad to hear Lexie was also showing initiative and not letting big sis (by 8 minutes) boss her around.

The class will certainly bring new things - new friends, new songs to sing and new germs to overcome. But, the girls are ready, and hopefully, the experience will only bolster their love for learning, playing and nerding out.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

No Dating until You're 40 (or How We Turned the Twins into Crazy Cat Ladies)

The day we found out that we were having not one but two little girls, Geof vowed to get a shot gun. Not because he likes to hunt and wanted to bring home extra food for his growing family. (Please! Do we really strike you as the family who roughs it? The only camo Geof wears is for fashion, not function in a deer stand.)

Daddy's main goal in buying a powerful firearm was to scare the begeezus out of any boy who dared look at Avery and Alexa the wrong way. Yeah, he's a little protective of his beautiful baby girls.

Well, it's been about three years since that day in the ultrasound room, and we are still gunless. But, that may soon change.

The twins have developed a strong affinity for a certain boy in their class at school AKA daycare. His name is Ethan. And, they talk about him all the time. Thank goodness, they can't text yet. I might lose my mind.

(Sidebar: I just dropped tomato from my sandwich on my laptop. So go the dangers of blogging on your lunch break.)

In fact, just yesterday when I walked into their classroom at school to pick them up for the day, they ran over to me and immediately started pointing at Ethan. "Mommy, Ethan!" "Mommy, Ethan!"

Now, I don't have great vision, but I could clearly see Ethan and didn't exactly need them to point him out to me. He's been in their class since they were 3 months old, so Geof and I know which kid is Ethan. Their excitement made me laugh.

"Mommy, Ethan have hurricane canes," Avery shared emphatically.

"Hurricane canes" is Avery and Lexie's term for either candy canes or the Raleigh-based NHL hockey team, the Carolina Hurricanes. Ethan happened to be wearing a Hurricanes hockey jersey very similar to the one Geof has. This was not the first time the girls had seen Ethan wear it, but you wouldn't have that known from their level of excitement.

The shirt discussion continued well into the 20-minute drive home.

"Mommy, Ethan come upstairs," said Avery. "You mean, come play in our playroom upstairs?" I asked, thinking at the same time that I might need to start implementing the No Boys in Your Room rule. "Yeah!" exclaimed Lexie.

"Ethan, come eat dinner," Avery added. "You want Ethan to come over and play and then eat dinner with us?" I tried to clarify. "Yeah!" Lexie said again. (She's definitely going to be the cheerleader.) "We all eat together!"

Ok, here's the thing. Geof and I generally know Ethan's parents from the many times when we cross paths in the pick up/drop off process at school. They are incredibly nice and make a very cute couple. But, honestly, I don't remember what their names are (beyond my typical default of "Ethan's Mommy" or "Ethan's Daddy"), and I definitely don't have their numbers programmed into my cell phone. Based on that, I think they might find it a little weird if I stop them in the parking lot and say "Hey, my kids talk about your son all the time. Wanna come over and eat dinner at our house? The kids want to take your son upstairs. By the way, what's your name again?"

So, for now, the twins will have to keep making imaginary plans for Ethan with all his sweet blonde curls to come over and play. And, Geof can keep shopping for the shot gun.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Big Stink about Potty Training

Avery and Lexie are almost 2-and-a-half years old, and that has good ol' Mom counting the remaining months until they need to be potty trained. Oh crap. (Pun intented)

Our daycare center, or "school" as we call it, officially requires its students to be proficient on the potty at age 3. Now, I've heard through the mommy grapevine that some of the kids in the Young 3s class do not meet that stipulation, and as far as I know they haven't been permantly pulled off the playground. Yet.

But, my innate obessession with following the rules has me mildly stressed about meeting this milestone. Not so much with Lexie. She regularly goes "pee pee" and "poo poo" in the potty at school and at home. She doesn't do it every time, but she does do it most of the time. It's Avery I'm a little worried about.

Avery will tell me that she needs to go, but she never delivers. In fact, she'll barely sit down on the special Sesame Street character seat that fits on the "big potty" for more than five seconds. Apparently, Geof's self-diagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder is hereditary.

So, since Avery won't sit on the toilet, she won't go in the toilet. We definitely don't want to pressure her or force her in any way if she's not ready. (I've read that only results in really bad bathroom issues later on. No thanks!) But, we do want her to get on a path to potty success sometime soon. It's what's best for everyone's bottom line. Seriously, do you know how much money we've spent on diapers in 2.5 years? Bring on the Yo, Gabba! Gabba! panties!

To help, we plan to institute a sticker reward system for the twins this month. It seems to work really well with Lexie at school, so we think it should work well at home, too. After a successful session on the potty, they can pick out their sticker of choice and put it on a chart. When they get a set number of stickers, they get a prize. From the dollar store. Remember, we spend all our money on diapers and wipes. :)

There are two other key things that are challenging about potty training my twins. First, they're little. Lexie weighs just over 25 pounds. Avery weighs just under 25 pounds, thanks to a tough bout of pneumonia last month. The smallest training pants I've found (that don't cost as much as a car) are 2T. The girls just don't have enough junk in the truck to hold up 2T bottoms. So, we're a little stuck in the diaper department as far as up-and-down ease is concerned.

Second, the girls fight over whose turn it is to sit on the potty. And, by the time I've dried the tears and determined the potty priority, they aren't interested in going. This funny (and irritating) competition takes forever, especially when we're getting ready for bath time at night. The girls race constantly back and forth between the garden bath tub in our bathroom (it's big enough for two girls to "swim" in at the same time) and the guest room bathroom where we keep their Sesame Street seat, vying for prime potty position. It takes a solid 20 minutes for me to referee the contest and get everyone in the tub, which by that point is nearly overflowing with scented bubble bath.

Good times. Just imagine if we'd had triplets! Geez!

Although the potty training trials may not always be fun (or smell good), they will make the time when Avery and Lexie are able to go on their own that much better. Please, let that be soon.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Car Karaoke with Mommy and the Little Song Birds

Whenever the Levine family piles into my green Ford Escape hybrid to travel near or far, I always feel a little bit like a deejay. It's not because the girls are particularly interested in the running mix I have on my iPod but haven't used in roughly two years or want to hear my burned CD collection played in perfect rotation. They want me to sing. Loud and long.

Typically, they're most interested in singing "Old McDonald Had a Farm."

"Mommy, sing it!" exclaims Avery from the backseat on the way home from daycare. "Mommy, sing Old McDonald!" I respond, "Oh, I want to hear you sing it." Lexie chimes in, "Nooooo! Mommy sing it!"

At that point, am I going to do? Disappoint my biggest (and only) music fans? Not a chance.

"Ok, which animal is on the farm?" I ask. "Cow!" yells Avery. "Zebra!" shouts Lexie. I pick the cow, because it has an obvious and easy to imitate sound unlike our striped friend, the zebra. I sing most of the words in a slightly off key voice while attempting to cross three lanes of rush hour traffic on I-40 in Raleigh. The twins fill in the pauses.

I lead them: "With a...." "MOO! MOO!" they sing in unison. I jump back in: "here and a..." "MOO! MOO!" they sing again. My turn: "There. Here a..." "MOO!" You get the picture.

This goes on and on and on and on until we run out of normal sounding farm-ish type animals. I gladly embrace the lions, monkeys and dolphins, which I know don't likely live on Old Mickey D's farm, but at least they have good sounds that are easily repeatable. By Mommy. Who's driving.

When we run out of those, the girls always gravitate towards the animals that they see in our many books at home. The ones that don't really make any noise at all. Let me share an example.

"What other animals live on the farm?" I inquire. "Ladybugs!" shouts Lexie from her side of the backseat. "Uh, ladybugs?" I ask. "Yeah!" she yells emphatically. At this point, I've done enough singing to really rile up the girls. I can't shut down the singing now. So, I start the verse, drop in ladybug request and when it comes to the point when they say the sound, everyone is silent.

Crickets. (At least, that would've been a sound.)

I can't think of anything, so I suggest "crawl." "With a crawl, crawl here and a crawl, crawl there..." Not brilliant in the least. But, it's the best my brain could conjure while driving 70 mph past the I-440/I-40 split.

And, now, it's stuck. My kids think the sound a ladybug really makes is "crawl, crawl." Oh well. At least, it's not an explitive or something worse, right?

Thank heavens, interest in Old McDonald's farm generally wanes within about 5 miles of our home, and I can transition into the other twin favorite: "Alice the Camel."

"Mommy, sing camel," pleads Lexie. Avery follows with, "Mommy, FIVE humps. Camel have FIVE humps!"

Counting humps I can do. No problem. Even though I'm a journalism major, and I don't do math. But, if you ask me to imitate the sound a camel makes when it's on the farm, we're going to have issues. At least until I can park in the garage.

Check out this video of the girls singing in the bath tub and totally dissing my Old McDonald song:

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Bum-Bum-Que and Other Delicacies

When you have children in the south, there are certain things that you must expect as you raise them in this culture. Number one: They will say "y'all" at some point. Number two: They will like sweet tea. Number three: They will love barbeque. And, if you are part of our household, there is only one kind of this sweet, tangy meat treat - eastern North Carolina barbeque made with a vinegar base.

I mention this, because Geof brought some home the other night from our favorite local barbeque joint, Knightdale Seafood and Barbeque, and we served it up to the girls for dinner. Accompanied by a variety of other butter-laden sides like mashed potatoes, green beans, macaroni and cheese, and hush puppies, we assumed that Avery and Lexie might poke at the barbeque a little but really chow down on everything else.

Not so.

They dug into the barbeque like it was their job. It was as if their southern roots were guiding their fork to pleasure their 2-year-old palates. Don't get me wrong. They also ate plenty of the other stuff. I'm pretty sure Avery had thirds ("more 'tatoes!") on the mashed spuds and gravy.

Because Geof thankfully thought with his stomach while ordering, he bought enough barbeque to last us for at least a week. Or through the zombie apocalypse. Whichever comes first.

Not wanting to waste any of the delicious delicacy, we served some up to the twins today for lunch. When we put their plates down in front of them, Avery said, "Bum-Bum-Que! Mommy, I have bum-bum-que!" Geof and I started laughing. Of course, Lexie immediately repeated her sister. She wanted in on the laughter, too, even though she didn't quite understand what was so funny.

You see, Geof and I call diaper cream "bum bum cream." So, when they called the barbeque "bum-bum-que," we couldn't help but chuckle.

We tried to correct them, but I'm not sure it sunk in. We fully expect more orders for "bum-bum-que" to come. Thankfully, Chef Mommy knows exactly how to serve that speciality!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Heave! Ho! Ho! Ho! (How the Levines Disposed of the Family Christmas Tree)

When Geof and I started dating, we launched a tradition of always getting a live tree for Christmas. Since then, the only time we've ever deviated from hunting through tree farms or hardware store parking lots for our trusty tannenbaum was in 2010. We were concerned Avery and Lexie - who were barely one year old at that time - would eat the needles. Considering they put everything within grabbing/crawling/toddling distance in their mouths, that was a valid concern. So, we put a short, pre-lit fake tree on a table taller than they were and called it good.

In 2011, however, the possibility of the twins' dining on Douglas fir wasn't nearly as great. Therefore, we reinstated our tree tradition and bought a beautiful 7 footer from the farm down the road. We decked it out with our least prized ornaments (just in case a cat or kid sent them all crashing onto the hardwood floor). It was wonderful to see the twinkling lights on the tree's fresh boughs, and we enjoyed the delightful smell only a real tree can offer.

The girls really loved the tree. Every morning, they would come downstairs and say "Light on. Mommy, tree on!" Same drill after coming home from daycare in the evenings. If we didn't hop to it and flip the switch to turn on the dancing white lights, tantrums would surely ensue. Trust me. No degree of Christmas caroling can effectively drown out my kids yelling in stereo.

Despite the tree's beauty and the girls' fascination with all its decor, there is only so much Christmas clutter that I can take in my house after the happy holiday has passed. My need for organization forces me to instate serious Christmas clean up before the New Year arrives. And, that's exactly what we did.

We took off all the ornaments, unwound strand after strand of lights and put them all in our big (now overflowing) storage boxes. Avery and Lexie "helped," which really means that they took more stuff out of the boxes than they put it them, but they were so proud of themselves in their Santa's helper hats that I couldn't possibly be mad. See!

Don't let their cuteness fool you. I did have to break up one near fight when Lexie tried to wrap up her sister in tissue paper and put her in the box just like "Jesus and his family" from our manger scene. Of all the things I thought I might have to reprimand them for during the packing process, this was not one of them. Oh well... Now I know for next year!

Because the girls had loved the tree so much, we didn't want to tell them, "Yeah, sweeties, we're just gonna chuck it with the trash." The screams would've been deafening. Instead, Geof came up with a brilliant idea: "Let's tell them we're going to take the tree back to its family." Perfect.

Before the sun set on 2011, we bundled up Avery and Lexie in their warmest coats (think Ralphie) and convinced them to wear their new winter hats for a great journey into the woods behind our house. Avery will not keep anything on her head - except maybe a blanket when she's pretending to be a ghost at Halloween and inevitably runs into something - for more than 3 seconds. The fact that she wore the purple hat with the pom pom for the entire outing shows that she would abide by any rules to send the tree off on a high note.

Appropriately dressed for the chill outside, the girls and I watched as Geof heaved our now crunchy Christmas tree through the surprisingly narrow sliding glass door onto the deck. There, the girls paused for a picture with their beloved tree and told it to "go see fa-mah-wee."

The next sight had to be the funniest. Geof was in front carrying our tree like a lumberjack under his arm through the backyard and into the woods. Avery was tottering behind him, but her little legs couldn't quite keep pace with him even though he was toting a very large tree. Lexie was trying to keep up with Avery but managed to find every small hole and trip on it during the pursuit. I was bringing up the rear laughing at everyone and trying to capture the moment on video. I can only imagine what our neighbors were thinking...

Once we finally made it into the thicker tree line of the woods, Geof put down the tree, so the twins could give it nice "pat pats," shower it with kisses and tell it good-bye. At this point, the girls' hats had wiggled down almost over their eyes, and they had to tilt their heads back to see me to yell "Cheese!"

With a final farewell, Geof heaved the tree like a giant javelin into the woods. As luck would have it, the tree landed at an angle against another tree. Geof told the girls, "See, it missed its family, and they're so happy our tree is back home that they're hugging." Well played, Daddy.

The good thing about permanently disposing of your dead Christmas tree in your backyard is that if you're really bored with your kids and can't think of anything else to do to entertain them, you can always go visit the tree and its family. You just have to bundle up first!

Friday, January 13, 2012

My New Year's Resolution: The Blog Anti-Diet

I hate New Year's resolutions. Mine are always the same: eat better, exercise more (lifting 25-pound twins doesn't count) and declutter the house. At the end of the year, I never seem any closer to my goals than I was at the beginning. So, for 2012, I'm taking all those traditional items off the list and focusing on one singular, tangible target - to write at least once a week in this blog.

It seems a little sad that the last time I shared a story about my wonderful little girls was in 2010. (Sidebar: At first, when I saw the date on my last post, I thought, "That's not so bad. That was just last year!" Then, I realized, "Oh, wait. That was MORE than a year ago." Math was never my strong suit.)

There are lots of reasons why it's hard to find time to write. Doing nine loads of laundry in a weekend is a good one. Another is when your kitchen floor is so gross that your slipper sticks to it, and you have to use a sandblaster to get the dried apple juice off the floor under your kid's high chair.

The unexpected interruptions never stop. There's never a perfect time to sit down and religiously document my adventures with Avery and Lexie. But, I decided that's what lunch breaks, laptops and wifi are for! People in downtown Raleigh restaurants are definitely quieter than the people dining at my house, and chances are they aren't going to constantly ask me to refill their sippy cups with "nana toot punch." (Translation: Banana fruit punch.)

Plus, if I don't make time to record all of our amazing moments, I'm not going to remember them. It appears that since the girls were born my brain's power to retain anything more than what I need to know for the next 8-10 hours has sizeably shrunk.

I don't want my toddler brain drain to prevent me from telling my future grandchildren funny, embarassing stories about their mommies someday down the road. I mean, really, it would truly be a shame not to remember the time that Avery tried to bumrush the manger scene during the Christmas Eve service at church, because she was obsessed with seeing Joseph, or when Lexie enthusiastically ran from tree to tree in the backyard, hunting for make-believe Oskeebugs from the Yo Gabba Gabba TV show.

Through this blog, I can make sure that I document these stories and many, many others that make us laugh, cry or nearly rip out our hair. So, with that, I do solemnly swear to abide by my New Year's resolution and dedicate time each week for blogging our Wonder Twins story.