Some of the things I’ve learned raising twins from one year to eighteen months , I wish I could have read!

Yes I turn on cartoons once in a while, today an old Disney animation about a toad. I go in and play with the babies every few minutes. They don’t have an attention span to actually watch these cartoons. The only one they watch start to finish is The Wiggles, Apples and Bananas, but I save that one for after dinner when I’m cleaning the kitchen. I wanted to write a little piece about the period from one year to almost eighteen months, kind of a summary with tips and things I’ve learned about raising twins during this period. The first thing I’d like to say about this period is most things are very inconsistent, like nap times and food preferences, but one thing stands out, Fierce Independence! Once those little ones get up on two feet everything changes, the places I thought were child proofed no longer are. The things I could do easily on my own with Jack and Fiona like going to the discovery museum or to the padded play areas in the mall became almost impossible. Jack would run one way Fiona the other. With one me it’s really scary. Fiona’s hearing loss makes things more difficult because when she doesn’t have her hearing aids on she can’t hear me call for her and I don’t always have them on for fear they will get lost. Now that she’s a little bigger she’s been great at not pulling them out. When Jack and Fiona turned one year old, seriously the day they turned one year old, they refused any help during feeding time, no spoons or forks held by me were acceptable. I immediately had to start doing finger foods, and I panicked! Here is a list of the foods I’ve had success at in chronological order:

Homemade Chicken Noodle soup. The chicken and vegies cut up for finger food and the pasta shapes were put on the high chair table, I snuck in the broth with a spoon between their bites.

Berries, Berries, and more Berries!

Quesadilla with cheese only at first, then I started adding turkey lunch meat.

Vegetable food packets, for some reason they refused steamed cubed vegies even though I’ve made them and served them pureed since they were six months old. They still won’t eat them!

I have a new trick!Sloppy Joe style meals! This is my new thing and they are eating carrots, celery, squash, corn and either tofu or ground turkey. The trick is to chop the vegies super small and use ketchup! The first version I tried was with turkey, I made it like a traditional sloppy joe and stewed the vegies and turkey with tomato paste, water, thyme, and a bay leaf. Then I served it on a soft toasted bun open faced with ketchup! Success! Last night I made the tofu style one, but I forgot to buy the tomato paste so I used mild salsa and cheese, then I served it in a tortilla with ketchup for dipping, success!

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This is a very important tip, I’ve noticed Jack and Fiona do better when I serve several small meals throughout the day, basically every meal looks like a snack. I realized when I started treating meal times like this, for example: (7:00AM Milk, toast, banana, 9:30AM a snack, maybe berries, cheerios, a food Packet, 10:30/11:00 lunch, anything that they’ll eat even Pancakes and sausage, 2:00PM another snack, we’ve been head over heels For water melon! Sometimes a bottle of Milk, 4:30 Dinner, 6:30 Milk (I still give a bottle!), 7:00 food packet as bedtime snack), the cranky whining has stopped which leads me to believe they were hungry more often than I thought because I was going by the three square meal system that worked from six months to one year. When Jack and Fiona didn’t eat much or threw all their food on the floor I thought they weren’t hungry. (And I got really mad) But I think they ate just the right amount but not nearly enough to make it for more than two hours at a time.

I went through frustration, stress, and feeling really bad when I made a meal the babies hated or wouldn’t eat. There was just as much clean up to do and I had cranky babies. Once I changed my expectations about meal time those negative feelings disappeared. I try to eat the same food at the same time as the babies, this simplifies things even more. The only drawback is less meal times with my husband and having to cook a separate meal for him after I put the babies down to bed at night. But that’s life!

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The other difficult transition during this phase is nap times. When Jack and Fiona turned one year old I was ecstatic. They finally started taking two naps, one at 9:00 and one at 2:00. I could really depend on those times to relax or work in my studio, or clean! This lasted a wonderful three months. Then all of the sudden they didn’t want to take a nine o’clock nap or worse one would and one wouldn’t. This lasted several weeks until I decided I would try to transition them to one nap. It’s unreliable still, for example yesterday they didn’t take a nap until 12:00, and it was only an hour and a half. Today they went to sleep at 9:30 and are still sleeping now, it’s 11:45! I have no idea if they will take another nap today or will stay awake until bedtime and get super cranky at 4:00pm. It’s been hard to plan stuff, like going to the gym or making play dates.

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I just had this flash back of being so frustrated when Jack wanted to stay up and Fiona was sleeping then when Fiona woke up Jack went to sleep! I was so annoyed and stressed. It’s funny looking back on it now from my vantage point, those experiences have made me so much more flexible and accepting of just letting things unfold. (Except when I make plans with people! I’m still fond of having concrete plans with people that include a ball park time frame and day set aside!)

One trick I have learned is when I really need the babies to take an early nap because I want to go somewhere at 11:00 or 12:00 I take them to the park or for a walk first thing in the morning. It really makes them tired and they go right to sleep!

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At around one year old Jack and Fiona did go through a little rough patch at bed time. They’ve been sleeping through the night since six months old. They sometimes would cry for a minute then go straight to sleep. After a while the crying totally stopped and they babbled themselves to sleep. (Of course none of this applies to when they are sick or teething bad) Out of the blue they started to become super needy at bedtime. I had to hold Jack and rub his back, then Fiona, and they would still cry when I left the room. We struggled like this for a few weeks until I talked to Linda from Early Start about it. I told her I let them cry but they wouldn’t stop. She asked me how long I let them cry for. I told her five minutes. She said at this age you can let them cry for up to fifteen minutes. I took her advice, they cried, I didn’t go down, I was sad as I listened to them wail, but they stopped crying in way less than fifteen minutes, it only took a few days of this method and I haven’t had a problem at bedtime since. I leave little books in their bed and they love to read. In the morning when they wake they don’t cry, I go in at 7:00AM and they are both awake reading their books! Success! I know lots of moms can’t let their babies cry it out, but I think it’s the best thing that a mom can do, because it teaches babies to self soothe and be OK going to sleep which is really important as adults! Think about how many people have insomnia or need to take sleeping pills. Maybe those people were never taught how to self soothe?

Sleep and food are the main struggles during this time period! But another development that can be challenging is the quest for independence and the testing of limits. I was upset the day I noticed my little sweet boy get mad and drop to the floor and cry when I said “no, I’m not putting on the wiggles right now.” Or when I would tell him he can’t go outside or “I need to change your diaper” he would drop down and make it difficult for me to pick him up. Fiona hasn’t displayed this yet at all. I don’t know if she’s just a little behind him or if her personality is that different. She has her shrieking that can become SO irritating. The only way to deal with these types of things during this period is to search for my most patient self! And take care of myself so I feel healthy and relaxed. I do this by eating well, going to bed early, and doing Yoga as often as I can.

There’s so much, it seems I could actually go on and on about this time frame! But I think I’ve covered the most difficult ones I faced, and wished I could have read something like this at the time. The cool thing is, I’m NOT going to say it gets any easier raising twins but I will say they have longer attention spans for playing on their own with blocks and books. They have also begun to play games together like chase and wrestling. It’s nice because the day is long and it’s hard to keep “Parenting” for so many hours in a row, I lose steam!

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