Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Triplets and sharing... or not

I've been teaching the girls a new word, "mine" (myne). I don't want them to push/shove/bite/pull hair when someone takes something that's theirs. I want them to be able to verbalize it. They don't yet have all of the words to ask nicely. So, even though I know I'll regret it, I'm teaching them to stand up for themselves when a sister pounces to grab and run away with a favorite lovey or blankie.

Of course, I want them to learn to share too, but they share almost everything already, and this is mostly an effort to stop Ada from bullying Emma and constantly taking her blanket or lovey. Ada does it to get my attention, I know, so I'm making a concerted effort to give her other positive attention throughout the day, and to make sure she can locate HER blanket/lovey when she wants it, instead of taking her sisters'.

It's working, but takes a ton of discipline from me to step back in those moments, not get frustrated, and say to myself, "Why is she doing this again?" And the answer is almost always, "because she wants my attention." It's my biggest challenge to divide my attention somewhat equally between the three of them, and still give each child the 1:1 attention they crave and deserve. So this behavior targets my achilles heel.

I try not to physically intervene each time unless there's bullying. I want them to (eventually) learn to amicably resolve their own battles. But I do pipe up with words they can use when they start showing frustration. They don't actually repeat those words yet, but I'm hoping it'll start sticking at some point. In that regard, I've often treated them like much older kids, even though I don't expect a big kid reaction from a toddler. They've often surprised me.

Mostly, a redirect/distract with a "new" toy/book works wonders. Sometimes, it's more difficult to solve, and it requires me playing with them 100% actively to keep the peace. Quick! Sing a song!

I find that they play fine on their own after they wake from naps, and I can play with them for about 10 minutes, step back but still be in the room for a few minutes, etc. But when they're tired/hungry, it takes everything I have to maintain the serenity in this household. Even my 100% attention isn't enough at that point to keep the meltdowns at bay. It's hard.

There is, however, lots of great sharing of toys happening already, which amazes me for their age. Julia is such a compassionate kid, who will easily take something to her sisters (sippy cup, toy, blanket), or give a toy in exchange for another toy offered by her sisters, or simply give it when it looks like her sisters really want it, and then go find something else to play with. She'll even prompt them to say, "dankie!" (thank you). Melts my heart. She's also figured out that if she wants something, she can hold out her hand to her sisters, and say, "dankie!" and that often results in her getting her way. Sneaky.

Emma will just wail if anything of hers is taken. She's starting to want to bite in an effort to fight back, hence me teaching her words like, "mine." She's my gentle, sensitive kid, and I try hard to empower her. She has more words than anyone, is starting to form 2-word sentences, and will most likely be the first to verbally express her needs. But Ada walks all over her (figuratively speaking).

Ada has such a strong personality, and is the self-appointed leader of the trio. She is immensely sweet, but can also be very demanding and independent. She figures stuff out that her sisters pay no attention to, like how to work the vacuum cleaner, she'll pull the garden hose to the splash pool in an attempt to fill it, and she knows how latches, snaps and locks work. Stuff that's supposed to be way beyond a 1.5 year old's interest and capability. When the other two see her making a discovery, they're all over it too.

Emma is really into her dolls at the moment. She loves them, hugs them, rocks them to sleep, and says, "Du du" to them while patting their backs. We're seeing more pretend play with all 3, and we often drape a blanket over dolls to pretend to tuck them in, or offer sippy cups or snacks to the dolls and soft toys while they're eating/drinking.

Today, I'm proud to admit, we took it to a whole new level. I "diapered" a Panda, Raggedy Ann, and a Hippopotamus. Because these soft toys aren't potty trained, and I don't have enough kids to diaper as it is. The trio thought it was hysterical. I told the hippo - in particular! - to lay still because he's such a wiggle worm, and blew pretend raspberries on the soft toy tummies (not as easy as it sounds... *cleans fuzz out of mouth*) I'll often blow raspberries on the trio's tummies when I change their diapers, so I went through the whole routine. Then they blew raspberries and helped me fix the soft toy diapers. Soooo cute.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Early July Update: 20 months

As we started running out of time with the packing prior to our move, we started tossing stuff that clearly didn't belong into boxes to co-habitate during the move. Everytime I'd unpack something strange (think baby potty packed with laundry detergent) or books with paper towels (we needed to balance the weight!), we'd get a chuckle out of it and say, "Another priceless contribution from the Department of Random."

My blogging feels like that too lately. There's no time to organize a coherent post, and if I waited until I could get my act together, I'd have a ghost blog.

So, without further adieu, another priceless contribution from the Department of Random:

- Ada figured out how to eat with a spoon (July 3).

- Emma gently nudged Julia ahead of her on walkway, and said, “stap stap” (it sounded like, “tap tap.” It means to “walk walk”.) I was very impressed that she didn’t push or shove, and used a verbal cue to let her sister know to hurry up ahead of her.

- A friend spent some time teaching Ada how to open a stainless steel water bottle. She now knows how to turn the cap, release her hand, and turn the cap again, until it comes off. Oh, the trouble we're in.

- We are discovering our new backyard. Playing in the sandy soil, splashing in the baby pool, sliding down the slide. The bonus is that our friend – lover of all things living – found a resident box turtle in our yard and showed the girls. They loved seeing the real live turtle.

- Our friend also has 3 little baby birds that he’s hand rearing, and the girls watched him feed the “triplet” birds. They now say, “cheep cheep” whenever he walks by! Oh, and another new word, "triplet!" Sounds like "tippet" when they say it, and I just get all warm and fuzzy when I hear them saying that word.

- They can all climb into and out of the Choo Choo wagon by themselves now. This is astonishing to me, because of the motor planning and coordination it takes to do that. Pretty impressive how far they've come on the PT front.

- Ada gets her toes over the railing of her crib. I think we’ll have a climber soon. Emma copied her, but because she's shorter, there's less immediate risk. We have a crib tent II on standby and we're not afraid to use it.

- Julia ate whole peas for the first time on July 3, and cooked, cut-up carrots for the first time on July 4. I’ve offered that a bazillion times before, but she’s always refused to eat any vegetable that wasn’t pureed or somehow hidden in a marinara sauce. All of this running around is making this kid H-U-N-G-R-Y and she’s suddenly eating all sorts of things she’s never wanted to touch before. She didn’t want anything to do with the cut-up potato in front of her, but then grabbed (the same) half a potato from my plate and nibbled away at it. What a sight!

They are exerting their will more often. They give very clear signals to indicate what they want to eat, and when they’re done. (Sometimes they'll rip their velcroed bibs off midway through the meal, which drives me crazy, and then wipe it through the food that's left on the feeding table. Because, you know, eating isn't messy enough yet.)

They have the cutest and most definitive way of saying, “no.” It’s not a mean and disagreeable “no,” it’s more of a “nope.”

Every now and then they don’t throw a sippy, but actually hand it to me. They're starting to want to put it down upright, instead of sideways.

If they're venturing away from me and into an unsafe area (e.g. towards a road at the rest stops while we were in the midst of our moving extravagaza), Emma will stop and turn around, and come back to me when I ask her to do so. She isn't always compliant, but she is certainly our most compliant kid. It helps me so much when at least one listens, because then I have 2 arms free to keep the other 2 out of harms way. Fortunately, friends came along, so I wouldn't be outnumbered. I'm just trying really hard to teach them to stick with me in case I take them places by myself. Wouldn't want them to bolt in 3 directions!

eagle, burra (kookaburra), bakkie (container), beker (mug), koffie (coffee), wit (white) (only Emma says this), koppie (cup), “djaff” (giraffe), vaal (oval), swaai/swing, fan, draai (turn), leeu (they pronounce it "deeu"), lion, hoender (chicken), eendjie (only Emma says this), pampoen (pumpkin), pynappel (pineapple), mielie (corn), ertjie (pea), skop/kick, bytjie/bee (Emma), plane, copter, digger, bus, tractor, masjien/machine (pronounced, "sheen!"), fiets/bike, donder(weer)/thunder, reen/rain, brood (bread), (s)nack, komkommer (cucumber), -matie (tomato), boontjie (greenbean).

Tonight, there were cut greenbeans on their plates (a mom can dream), and Emma called them, “chips” (french fries) because they were the same shape. I went with it, but it didn't help much.

When they hear the distinctive beep-beep of a truck backing up, they say, “truck!” I’m amazed at what they hear and recognize. Julia is fixated on tractors, trucks and machines right now. When given a choice of a million and one books, the one with the various methods of transportation is all she cares about. Her fixation with trucks happily peaked during and after our move. Imagine her surprise on our "packing" day when there were suddenly two HUGE trucks in our driveway. She was equally pleased to see them at our new house.

Today, a delivery truck came by, she heard it, shouted, "Truck! Truck! Truck!" I lifted her up so she could see out the window, and that made her day. When the truck left, she cried inconsolably, 'Twuuucckk! Twuccckk! Nooooo!." Maybe she thought someone she knew was in the truck? I don't know, and have been trying hard to explain it all to her.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Our new life

The news is that my husband accepted a job offer in another state and that we have done the seemingly impossible. We have completed the move and are now in our new house. But let me backtrack.

He accepted the offer late Friday evening a few weeks ago. We met with a realtor the Saturday morning, staged the house, took photos, notified our employers of our intent to resign, and listed our house the Monday afternoon. We asked for 24 hr notice of any showing, because it's no picnic getting ourselves, 3 toddlers and a dog out of the house, with the house looking spotless. On Tuesday, the realtors called.

On Wednesday early evening, the first couple came and looked at the house, and later that same evening we had a solid offer. We were in shock at how fortunate we were, because of the stagnant housing market. We continued showing the house just in case, and one of the couples made a backup offer the following evening.

We started packing, searching for rental homes, finishing up our respective jobs in a way that would enable a seamless transition to the new hires at our respective employers, writing resignation letters, begging friends for help on the home front, and panicking about everything that still needed to happen.

Our house passed inspection, we negotiated some more, and with two weeks to go before our move, we finally found a rental home. Phew. Whirlwind. Getting the lease agreement signed was a humongous pain in the neck. The house we wanted to rent had been on the market, and when it didn't sell, the owners switched from the realtors to a property management company. They did this, after we had completed the realtors' lease agreements and submitted our documents. So we needed to redo everything and then some. Because once, with feeling, is not enough. They made us jump through hoops like you wouldn't believe. It seriously is easier to BUY a house than to RENT one. Blegh. Even with a stellar credit rating. Anyway, that's done now.

We tried to keep the disruption to the kids' lives to a minimum, and didn't pack their stuff until the very last week. They received EI therapy services until two days before the move. We talked to them about all that was happening and I think that helped a ton. It certainly helped me process it all. I reassured myself as I reassured them. Everything will be okay.

They have adjusted perfectly fine to our new surroundings. There was one gutwrenching moment when we drove away from our house with two Penske trucks and 3 vehicles, and Emma said she wanted to, "Climb out. Go home!" I envisioned hearing that whine for the next 9 hours, but she settled in nicely for the long drive. It was her first two sentences strung together, and prize winning ones at that. Heartfelt in its sincerity and comprehension of the situation.

Part of me wanted to stop the runaway train we were on several times before, during and after the move, but there's no looking back. So onwards and upwards we go.

I have resigned from a job that I loved, with smart, innovative colleagues that I adore. I doubt I will ever find anything as fun, fulfilling, meaningful and joyous. So for now, at least, I will do the only other fun, fulfilling, meaningful and joyous job that I can think of: being a stay-at-home mom to my children. And that is a wonderful gift and dream come true.

I have wanted to feel less pulled-in-a-million directions, but selfishly didn't want to give up my job that I had pre-kids. My previous employer allowed me such flexibility, and made it possible for me to return part-time after I had the girls. It's been challenging juggling it all, though, and constantly feeling like I wasn't able to do my best at work or at home on a part-time schedule with minimal childcare. My solution was to have returned to work full-time this past month, since I felt confident that the girls have reached an age where they would thrive in a daycare environment. We started acclimating them to the daycare in anticipation of my return to work full-time, but then my husband's job offer happened out of the blue and everything changed. Fast.

I'm still spinning, adjusting and processing what this all means. Do I want to work again? Can we afford for me not to work? Will I be a good mom if I'm with my kids full-time? If I work, how will we afford daycare for 3 in our new hometown, where it is much more expensive? I just don't know, and I'm trying to catch my breath before diving into any longer term decisions.

We have been in our new rental home for a week, and closed on our old house on Friday. I have to set up EI services from scratch starting with evaluations (boo! so inefficient that our IFSP's can't be transferred) and there are many other time-sensitive things left to do before we can officially claim to be more fully settled. Car registrations, licenses, address changes. Fun times.

Hopefully this will all be worthwhile. At least my husband has had a great first week in his new job, and the kids are doing great. That's 80% of the battle won. As for the other 20% of the equation (me) the jury is still out, but here's to hoping.