Weekend of July 28: Mommy Brain Again?

This shall forever be known as "Mommy Brain Weekend" or the one where I forget to diaper my child for 3 hours - all the way to church and back home.

I wonder what the ladies in the church nursery think of me!

TV Programming for Toddlers - Our Approach

Yes the twins watch TV! Let me get that out of the way. I started putting them in front of the TV after their first birthday and they showed no interest whatsoever. So, I strapped them in the highchair and stayed with them and we all watched Treehouse (the Canadian equivalent of PBS kids I think). I did this to have an  idea of what shows were available on TV that I actually approved of. It ended up being a very short list and so I went out to look for electronic versions of those shows.

Why eTV? My plan has always been to limit the girls' TV time to shows I absolutely trust and find wholesome and educational in every sense of the word. I would then buy online videos or DVDs of those shows and play them at designated TV times. This serves 3 purposes
  1. The girls are not exposed to a motherlode of advertisement that will culminate in a long Christmas wishlist and a hefty donation to the pocketbooks of Messers Disney and co.
  2. I don't have to worry about "wierd" stuff coming on the screen
  3. It's cheaper than a cable subscription to specialty children's channels. The full season (16 episodes) of Cat in the Hat costs $9.99 on iTunes. The "Family" theme pack on our cable service costs $10 every month
Our fave DVD
How's it working for us now? Apart from the educational DVDs (Signing Times and Your Baby Can Read), we have a Cat in the Hat DVD which I love as much as the girls. I also have 2 seasons of the Cat in the Hat downloaded onto my IPAD. The girls love the show and quite frankly, so does mama. I could listen to the "Here we go go go go!" themesong all day

TV watching times:
Weekdays: On the rare occasion that the girls wake up early and I'm not done in the bathroom, I put the IPad on the floor and they watch Cat in the Hat for 10-15 minutes
Good Weekends: 1-2 hours of DVD watching while I make their hair. Timing depends on the complexity of the hairstyle and it's a great distraction.
Ornery Weekdays and Weekends: Watch for as long as it takes for mama's pulse to stop racing and toddler adrenaline levels to come down (usually 45 minutes)

Other TV shows I love and approve but don't own yet
  1. Yo Gabba Gabba: This one's hit or miss. The girls enjoy the "I like to dance" clip on YouTube
  2. Caillou: I can relate to the kid
  3. Manon: This is a 5 minute filler show that I really like on Treehouse. I don't think it comes in a DVD though
  4. Not TV, but all the old MGM classics (Sound of Music, King and I, My Fair Lady) will be watched at the appropriate time as that is a family rite of passage
I'm open to increasing our  eTV library, so if you guys have any recommendations, let 'em roll. Till then, have a super weekend peeps!

My Toddlers' First Pillow

It seemed like it was time for the twins to get their first pillows, so after sampling some online mommy opinions, I went to Babies R Us and got 2 pillow pets. The pillow pets are currently residing in the basement after being on the receiving end of vicious kicks from babies who did not appreciate sharing their cribs. The babies did not like the $13 fur-coverd ladybird pillow pets. Back to the drawing board!

The perfect toddler pillow must be smaller and flatter than standard pillows and is hard to find. I found it in the most unlikely of places: IKEA. It's the LEN cot pillow. IKEA also had matching pillowcases and sheets but I wanted the girls to use satin pillowcases as that's much better for afro hair. So I went out and bought some pink satin fabric, whipped out the not-so-old sewing machine and decided I was going to make my princesses a few pillowcases (complete with silk thread embroidery) and display my work proudly on the blog and pinterest.

Unfortunately, my sewing abilities could not live up to my sewing ambitions and I was left with 2 pillows, yards of satin and 2 pillow-less babies. One night, Spice wouldn't stop coughing and I thought she really could use a pillow to elevate her head. So I stuffed their itty-bitty pillow into my king-size, fuschia satin pillowcase and gave it to her for the night. She loved it. They both do. It's a bit of a makeshift solution, it's not pinterest-pretty but don't tell my babies that because right now, they think their first pillows are the best things since sliced bread breastmilk.

Positive Words for Positive Behaviour

I got a lesson in the effect of positive versus negative phrases on toddler behaviour last week. 

It was one of those times when we let the girls run around instead of riding in their stroller on the +15 (An enclosed walkway around Calgary's downtown area). The day before, Sugar fell and spent the rest of the evening cradling her arm and saying "owie". To prevent a recurrence, we decided to start encouraging the girls to walk instead of running while on the +15...and that's when I noticed the power of words. 

When we said "walk" the child being addressed would stop running and start walking.

When we said "don't run" the girls would ignore for a few seconds and you could see them mentally debating whether to comply or not. 

Another example is at bedtime or any changing time actually. The baby not being changed is either trying to dismantle the humidifier or do head stands on the rocking chair. When I say "stop that" or "leave that", I get ignored with coy smiles. When I suggest an alternative activity "go sit on your chair and read your book", they comply more readily. Score for positive words.

I first read about how semantics affects toddler behaviour on Mandy E's blog last year and I found the concept intriguing. Seeing this very clear demonstration of how my choice of words influences my toddler's responses is definitely going to make me change the way I talk to the girls. My goal for now is to suggest acceptable alternatives to the unwanted behaviour. It's working so far.

Supermom Cape Stolen

So there I was, rolling down the street in my white minivan with my two kids feeling like supermom "Holla, I'm taking care of two kids y'all!", when I saw this woman who made me screech to a halt, lay my red cape at her feet with a whole load of respect and of course take a picture from the blog.

In case you can't tell from the photo, she's in exercise clothes with 2 kids in the jogging stroller, 1 baby in the backpack, 1 tween on the bicycle AND she's walking 2 dogs. WOW!

2012 Goals Part 3

Beginning of the year, I shared my goals for the year and have been regularly keeping track of my progress or lack of. In the spirit of honest blogging and disclosure, here's whereI stand today.

Goal 1: Introduce the girls to at least one new vegetable every month and share the winning recipe. I'm still introducing the girls to new tastes thanks to my regular visits to the farmers' market. It's not always vegetables though, this last couple of months it's been spicy food (they love rosemary in their pasta) and fruits.

Goal 2: Continue with regular monthly development posts with less focus on the physical data. Yes and my project 52 (at least a picture for every week of their second year) is going quite well. I look forward to putting the photobook together at the end of the year. Just looking at pictures from December when they could barely crawl to today's pictures of them climbing cribs is a heart-warming.

Goal 3: Potty train the girls before their second birthday. Hmmn! Ok, here's my story and I'm sticking to it. We have so many transition points between now and their 2nd birthday -change of daycare classes in July and moving homes in September. I know potty training should not happen at times of transition so I've dialled back my aspirations. All I do now is put them on the potty before bedtime and make them watch the potty training dvd.

Goal 4: Learn to sew. Hemmed a grey pair of pants with black thread. Sewed a hole into the hem of the second pair. Paid $18 to get both pants "fixed". At this point, I'm seriously thinking of selling the machine and investing in a good glue gun. That or find the time for sewing lessons.

Goal 5:  Learn the basics of early childhood education and the Montessori system so that I can create a mind-nurturing home for my babies. ??? Not sure where I stand on this one.

Goal 6: Start weekly excursions to paid-for-by-my-tax-dollars places like free museums, libraries, farms etc The whole idea behind this is sponteneity and not getting trapped by the "I can't go out with two toddlers" concept. So we have random and unplanned trips to the parks (plenty of parks in Calgary), grocery store and even the farmer's market

Goal 7: Implement the divide and conquer weekends - Daddy takes one baby, mommy takes the other and we have one on one time. Very rare. The girls don't like seeing someone getting dressed to go out and have fun while they're not invited. They both run for their shoes and jackets and stand guard at the door. Like "you'll have to go through me to leave this house"

Goal 8: Teach the girls manners. It's easier to teach babies manners than it is to teach toddlers; but we're trying

Goal 9: Incorporate Christian and biblical teachings into our daily life. The girls now regularly say "Amin" after their nighttime prayers. In fact, when they're tired, they lie on the carpet and keep repeating "night night" and "amin". Good progress. Only God can shape the heart of a believer but a parent still has a role to play

Goal 10: Get the girls familiar with Yoruba language and Nigerian culture. All the kids in western countries born to Nigerian parents share one experience in common: parents speak to you in english and yell at you in "the language". My kids are going to be no exception. Imma try to incorporate some Yoruba conversation into our lives but right now, the only know the words I yell out. As for Nigerian foods, they love and eat everything with gusto. Standing right beside pasta as their favorite food is pounded yam and ogbono soup.

Photo Credit

Toys and Play at 20 Months

As 20 month old toddlers, the twins play has evolved. They now seek much more interaction with their environment and enjoy toys that allow them to do that. Imaginative play is also something they are capable of and enjoy. Here's a list of our recreational arsenal at 20 months:

Play Kitchen and Accessories: We have a "previously loved" Little Tikes kitchen with a cupboard and microwave section. The girls love to stir stuff in their pots and give us a taste. Of late, they also put their sippy cups in the microwave, heat it up and remove for a drink. It's fun to watch them play "house". 
Quick note: I get a few of my toy ideas from the moms of other winter 2010 babies (see my sidebar for the list). I didn't think the girls were ready for this level of play until I saw Samantha's blog post on how her twin girls love their play kitchen.
Tip: for this age, keep accessories at a minimum as it'll be a few more months before they are ready for full fledged kitchen and food play. I have just 4 pots and 2 spoons out and it's enough for now. The playfood can wait until they are older.
Warming a pot of food in their microwave
Wagon: We have the Step2 Wagon for Two with trailer and it's parked in the garage. Sugar likes to dive in every morning on our way out for a quick imaginary spin. Generally, the girls enjoy walks around the neighbourhood, and with the wagon we're able to cover longer distances and sneak in some exercise in the process.
Books: They're loving their books and actually sitting down to point out pictures they recognize in the books. For now my book buying strategy is buying books with pictures of things they can recognize. Both girls are big on ducks right now and farm animals in general so we have a few books around that theme.

The Fisher Price Musical Activity Table is still in favor. Talk about a value for money toy, this is it.
I think the girls are bored with most of their baby toys and need more toddler toys. So any other toy recommendations for this age?

24 minus 4 months Update

You can only imagine the panic that set in when I was doing some random  arithmetic and realised that 24 minus 4 is 20. That means in 4 months time, I will be the mother of 2 year old toddlers. Even just typing that gives me mild palpitations.
Weight: Spice is a little under 22lbs and Sugar is 21lbs. I've started adding formula into their milk again because I feel even though their weight is not a health concern, there's a need to keep them on high calorie foods so they don't fall off their growth curve
Wardrobe: is complicated. I have the girls in 24M dresses because the 18M dresses are too short for my liking. Our pants are size 18M but the waists are a little too big. For tops, the girls are in 18M but can still fit into their 12M tops.
Diet: Favorite foods for this season are plums, nectarines and pasta with shredded beef
Activities: This weekend, we gave the big kid slide a spin at the park and the girls loved it. They loved it much. I think I have little daredevils on my hands. They also love touring the neighbourhood either walking or in their wagon.This is another season of lukewarm love for their toys and their activity preference is exploring the house and the world outside

This month, I'm doing things a little different and focusing on their skill development.
Feeding skill: Eating semi-solids with a spoon semi-accurately. That sorta covers yogurt and cereal with milk. I say semi-accurately because it can be quite messy
Exasperating skill: Sugar is now tall enough to reach EVERY light switch in the house and she will not walk by one without a few ons and offs. Even the dimmer switch is not exempt
Annoying skill: Spice randomly taking off her diaper regardless of content
Verbal skills: Spice now has a name for her pacifier - "papis" and she WILL NOT go to sleep without her papis. To think 3 months ago I was under the delusion that I could take away the nighttime pacifier.
E-skills: Spice can find and operate the Elmo app on my Ipad and of course, she's taught Sugar how to do the same. I used to admire my little niece's skill with the Apple products when she was around the twins' age; that admiration has waned now that I have 2 people hustling to use my Ipad with me
Scary skills: Sugar will not only close the front door but she can lock and unlock the deadbolt. She has also figured out all the pedal bins i.e the diaper genie and the kitchen trash can
Feline skill: Yep feline not filial. Both girls are now professional cat-fighters. I'm talking shoving, hitting and hair-pulling. We've been putting a lot of mileage on the apology followed by the hug plus I'm getting to perfect my time-out strategy and yes, I confess I am also doing a lot of yelling
Delightful skill: Both girls will now sit still for us to read to them. It makes for nice snuggle moments

20 months! Sometimes I dress the girls up and I marvel at how much they look like little people. Then they go through the phase where mommy just has to hold them and nothing else will do. That's when I realise they'll always be my babies *wipes tears*. Happy birthday my little blessings!

Differences in Twin Toddlers Developmental Milestones

All kids develop at different rates and with twins, it's easy to see their developmental differences when they hit major milestones at separate times. My twins have always hit their milestones at different times and I've always highlighted those in my monthly growth posts. Now that the girls are full-fledged toddlers, their differences are a lot more obvious but still follow the same trend. I'm writing this post to document the developmental differences in my twins at 20 months and what I'm doing about it as a parent. As always, my hope is that this post will serve as a useful resource to some other twin parent.

Types of milestones 
Social and Emotional - Getting skills that improve self awareness and self regulation. These milestones are subtle and parents have to stop and watch closely to see them. These come easier to twins because they've always had a playmate around. With my twins, I noticed that they graduated from parallel play to interactive play earlier than their singleton peers
Language/Communication - Seen in use of words and signs. Spice is significantly ahead with regards to communication development. She probably uses at least 20 more words and signs than Sugar does
Cognitive - Skills that highlight learning, thinking and problem-solving. This is noticeable when toddlers imitate words, identify objects in books, use objects for the right purposes and respond to instructions correctly. Both girls are at par with each other in their cognitive development 
Movement/Physical Development - Physical milestones are the ones most easily noticed by caregivers. E.g rolling over, crawling, walking etc. Sugar is very obviously ahead of Spice when it comes to movement and physical development. She runs, climbs and descends the stairs at more than double Spice's pace

What the twins do with their developmental differences? 
Language and communication: Spice helps Sugar out in following instructions. Sugar imitates Spice's words and signs until she figures them out for herself
Physical and movement: Sugar always backtracks to her sister and hangs out with her for a bit before running ahead again. Spice watches and learns from her sister's actions like climbing the high chair and turning off light switches and balancing on the edge of chairs and opening drawers, doors and cupboards.*insert mama rolling her eyes here*

What do the parents do with the twin's developmental differences?
*  Don't assume that they have the same linguistic abilities so we take time to demonstrate to Sugar what we need her to do versus assuming she understands our instructions and is just ignoring us
*  Don't compare their abilities or lack of. I believe that splitting them into 2 different classes in daycare will also help prevent this happening with their caregivers. We also firmly discourage any attempts to frivolously compare the girls to each other. In other words, we'll listen to a caregiver who has genuine concerns but will not accomodate a person who compares them for novelty and "fun"
*  Slow down the pace for Spice and ensure she doesn't hurt herself or get frustrated trying to catch up or play daredevil

This is a longer than normal post but one that I'm happy to share. I'd love to hear your take on developmental differences between twins as well.

Have a nice weekend y'all!

Resources for further reading
PBS whole child page
CDC milestone page

2 Easily Overlooked Choking Hazards For Toddlers

Saturday was a choking hazard wake up call for me. There are some items around the house that can be easily overlooked as choking hazards.

First off, magnets. There's this scary story on Babycenter about a child who swallowed 37 magnets. A bit extreme but magnets are a hidden danger on my fridge. You see, I love collecting fridge magnets from every city I visit and mount them on the fridge. Occasionally, I allow the girls to play in the kitchen when it's safe and the magnets are their second favorite toys next to the broom and mop. Some fridge magnets have small round or square magnets to hold them in place and others have a flat magnetic sheet. In the hands of a toddler, the former are a choking hazard. (See the picture below).
See the tiny, bite sized magnets on the top two?
Second hazard? The pretty buttons on an equally pretty dress. I put the girls in bed for their nap and when I pick them up 2 hours later, Spice has managed to yank off 2 of the 4 buttons on her dress.
Boredom? I don't know.
Wake up call? Yes, no doubt.
Top 2 buttons were yanked out by the end of naptime. Please excuse the water stains :)
If you're a fridge magnet collector, take a look at the backs of the magnets and keep the dangerous ones out of sight. Toddlers are a resourceful bunch and every parent needs to be on a choking hazard alert over-drive until they leave the "hand-in-mouth" stage.

See Kai Run Shoes Review

In May, I celebrated the twins moving from crib shoes to big girl shoes. The first pair of shoes I got for them were these size 6 See Kai Run shoes. It's now July and these shoes have been outgrown (I think all the food is going to their feet!).

Here's my review of See Kai Run shoes based on our experience.

The good
*  The shoes are soft and do not cramp the girls' toes. I can see why they are on the APMA list
*  They come in a variety of pretty styles and colors

The Bad
*  The shoes are quite wide (and possibly the girls both have narrow feet) so they never fit snugly even with winter socks. There was always that gap
*  See Kai Run shoes are expensive and usually retail in the $40 range

The Ugly

The shoes are peeling and no longer looking so pretty. The girls spent 80% of the time indoors with no rough and tumble play so I don't understand why the shoes showed so much wear after what's really just 60 days of usage. This effectively means little to no resale or reuse value. I wouldn't want to pass them on to anyone the way they look. The black spots on the shoes in the picture are not dirt spots, they're peeling "leather"
I will always compare other kid shoes to Robeez shoes as I consider them to be the most affordable APMA recommended shoes. The See Kai Runs are sold at a price premium to Robeez so I expected a lot more. I don't think I would be buying any more of this brand except it was priced within the range of Robeez/Striderite which is $25 or less.

Toddler Backseat Drivers

After the twins were born, my driving habits changed a little. I basically started driving like an 80 year old woman because I had my two preciouses in the car with me. It was so bad that for the longest time I avoided highway driving when the girls were in the car because of all those "loony" speeding drivers.

I have slowly gone back to my old pre-baby driving self except instead of a red hot sporty car, I'm rocking a white minivan. Part of that more relaxed mode of driving is that I occasionally have to brake a bit more sharply and noticeably. Over the last one month, the girls have taken to saying "uh oh" every time I brake sharply or make any other sudden maneuvers with the car.

The first time it happened, I felt embarrassed like my toddlers were scolding my driving habits. Now, I just roll my eyes and think "oh puhleez, wait until you start driving!"

Osh Kosh and Carters Free Shipping

This is a deal alert for all my Canadian peeps. For the next 3 days, Osh Kosh B'Gosh and Carters have free shipping to Canada. That's a pretty sweet deal and I've had no complaints about the quality of the apparel from Osh Kosh.

I just trawled the clearance section and there are some good deals on summer dresses, layered skirts and swim suits. Duties will add an additional 30% to the price shown on the screen but even with that, a number of the dresses will still come in at less than $10 which works for me.

Plus, you can shop both Osh Kosh and Carters on the same site AND if you use the ebates, there's an addition 2.5% off. Happy Shopping!

Our Urban Suburban

Have you ever watched the show Urban Suburban on HGTV? It's a show where 2 hosts try to find a family their dream home. The "Urban" host tries to find them a downtown home that won't break the bank and still meet their space needs. The "Suburban" host tries to find the family a unique home in the suburbs. I've caught a few episodes and most recently, we've been living our own version of Urban-Suburban.

Since moving to Calgary, we've been looking for our "perfect home". It's neither urban nor suburban. It's something in-between. The suburb detached homes are nice and big but have long commutes and high maintenance requirements. The urban condos are too small for four but have the lure of low maintenance and easy commute. So we settle for the in-between: a decent-sized, semi-inner city townhouse. 
+   =

AND we found it. And made an offer. And it was accepted. And had an inspection. And it was good. And come September, we'll be the proud owners of a 4 bedroom townhouse (with enough space to grow and no lawn to mow)

You know what that means in terms of blogging right? I'm going to have so many questions to ask, you just may hate me by the time September rolls in. But for now, please share our excitement. We found a house y'all!!!

First Calgary Stampede

Scenes from the 100th Calgary Stampede parade
Beautiful dancer of the Mexican float

A float tribute to organ donors from the people who were blessed by their generous spirit

The first nations (indigenous) people of Canada were well represented. I love the dream of diverse communities living in harmony and peace

We can never be too cool to preach the good news of Jesus and our salvation

Review of Safety 1st Door Knob Covers

This is a picture review of the Safety 1st Door Knob Cover. They're cheap and easily available in stores but as you can see below, my 20 month old baby has them all figured out.

If you're looking to buy door knob covers, I recommend the ones made by Kidco


Splitting Twins Into Different Classes

This is the first week that the twins will be spending in different daycare classes. Before reading Emotionally Healthy Twins, the plan was to split them up in kindergarten but after reading the book and observing how the girls have become really adept at loving up and winding each other up, now seemed like a good time.

The daycare was planning to move the girls from Infant room to Toddler room at 19 months and that seemed like a good time to make the split as well. So far so good, I'm satisfied with the decision and would like to share how it went down and what I learnt in the process of splitting my twins into separate classes.

  1. Involve the school/daycare staff in the decision making process: My daycare has a good policy of respecting parents' choices. When I went to the site director and requested that I would like them to put the girls in 2 different classes once they move up to toddler rooms; she was very enthusiastic and said if she had twins, she would do the same thing. I'm no child psychology expert so I was glad to have that validation of my decision from someone who would know
  2. Ask early: They daycare started planning this move at least 3 months in advance and asking early meant that my requests could be considered without causing a major disruptions to their plans
  3. Match student personality to teacher personality: This may not matter when the girls are older but as babies its important that they're with caregivers of similar temperaments (that's my opinion not backed up by any science or logic). Spice is physically demonstrative and loves hugs and cuddles. Sugar is very physically active, has a high-energy level and is always on the go. So I asked the daycare director to compare the caregivers in the two toddler rooms and tell me who was more lovey-dovey and who was more energizer bunny. Spice went to the lovey and Sugar went to the bunny
  4. Validate the choices: We had a one month transition period of the girls spending some time in their new rooms and that gave us a chance to observe how everything was working out. If it seemed that the baby-caregiver match wasn't going to work, I'd have requested a change at this point but that was not necessary. The girls' first days in their respective rooms really validated the choices we made.
Unlike most kids their age, the girls didn't cry after their first day in the new classes and all the teachers raved about how well behaved and adjusted they were. As their mother, I know there's a little more to it.

Spice: Was looking sad when I picked her up after her first day. Changes to her routine upset her even if she doesn't show it due to her tough chick exterior. I know that being surrounded by new caregivers and bigger kids scared her but she hid it well until she saw me. Next day I asked her teacher how she fared her response "She was very brave". That response made me happy; the teacher saw beyond her facade and could identify the emotions going on under.

Sugar: Her teacher said she was happy with all the new toys and just played away. That's Sugar. She's noticed the changes but as long as there's some new and fun things to do, she' happy.

I think Sugar's teacher may have been fooled by Spice's facade and Spice's teacher would have irritated Sugar to no end if she tried to love up on her. The personalities match and I'm happy.

That's a day two report. We'll see how this works out long-term.

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