Are you bored of this yet? I am.

Blog silence on my end wasn’t planned, but the transition to toddler beds has been a major upheaval in our lives.  Things actually deteriorated since the last post. And I haven’t been writing about it because it is so banal.

According to the internet of crazy, desperate Googlers like me, “Twin Escalation Syndrome” is a major factor. In other words, the fact that there are two of them means they do not get bored with quiet time and lack of parental attention and just fall asleep. Oh no.  Case in point: one day, during nap time, I went to check on them (our video monitor is in storage in the U.S., with the rest of our belongings) and discovered that they had pushed over their beds, climbed up on the dresser (thankfully this was bolted to the wall), and pulled down all the diaper ointments. They opened the can of Sudocream, and had smeared it all over the floor, themselves, the sheets, and the curtains. They also emptied the dresser drawers. Sudocream, in case you aren’t familiar, is kind of like white grease paint. Here are some pictures from that afternoon.

In Galway, they climbed out of their pack ‘n plays every few minutes until about 9:30pm, launched themselves into the tub, ran into our adjoining room, etc, and then had complete tantrums by day out of sheer exhaustion.

It has been very discouraging, because before this the boys were good sleepers on the whole, and we worked hard to achieve that.  But I don’t want to keep blogging about it. “This too shall pass,” we tell ourselves. It must.

Here is the last I will say on the matter–I know the next sleep hurdle is the loss of the nap, but I cannot bear to think of that now. I don’t want to call them tips, but learn from our mistakes:

1. If you have rambunctious, very curious children, consider a mattress on the floor. Otherwise the junior bed may seem like little more than a climbing apparatus. C got two black eyes from jumping on his bed and hitting the edge of it.

2. Bolt furniture to the wall. I always thought this might be an over-the-top move as far as baby-proofing goes, but if we hadn’t done that, the dresser would have fallen over when they were climbing up on it to reach their diaper creams.

3. Do not expect this transition to happen in three days, or a week. Expect a massive disruption, especially with naps. Expect to feel as underwater from sleep loss as the early months.

4. Toss all parenting books. In your sleep-deprived state, inane advice such as “Set the ground rules: tell them they must stay in bed until it is light out/Mommy and Daddy come get them,” will only enrage you.

5. If you have twins or other multiples, you’ll probably need to separate them. We bought another security gate for the guest room. At first just putting one in there for a few minutes was upsetting enough that he would decide he would return to his room and stay in bed. However, if the other one was up as well, it presented a big problem. Basically they just chatted through the gates to each other and threw things out into the hallway. So, the next step was me saying I had to “lock” the doors (the doors don’t actually have locks, so this required me to stand in the hallway holding both doorknobs)

My beautiful boys. They don't look like they'd tear a room apart right?

We shall return to our irregularly scheduled programming shortly. Things to look forward to:

-A visit to Newbridge Farm

-Passover and Easter in Galway, Kinvarra, and Ballyvaughan including the not-friendly toddler activity, the Ailwee Caves at the Burren

-A trip to Paris…city of lights, city of romance…with toddlers…and my parents, celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary

Advertisements

An update on our toddler bed transition

For all of you who are fearing for us, or for the boys, a little update. We stayed the course, though we wanted to crack on Day 5 and revert to cribs. It was already too late; they were propelling themselves over the side of the remaining crib and onto the toddler bed. No cribs would be safe anymore, and I don’t love the idea of crib tents. I imagined little hands and faces pressing and pawing against mesh for what? We would only prolong the inevitable.

This particular milestone is certainly made more complicated by the fact that they are twins. G suddenly understood he had a playmate for his antics. You would have thought we installed a jungle gym in their room. Opening and closing the door, jumping on each other’s beds, throwing any object not too heavy or bolted down out through the safety gate into the hallway. And for all his fuss, C seems to have made the transition to the bed faster. Then again, perhaps he is staking out the opposite position from his brother, as he often does. S spent one night on the tiny extra crib mattress in their room, gently chiding them to get back into bed every few minutes. It took two hours for them to settle down.

Naps are the worst, likely exacerbated by having to move the clocks forward an hour. Many days they have not napped at all, and I have been really, really worried that perhaps this switch would mean the end of the nap.  It was complete mayhem for several days. I would leave them and go and check and find varying scenes:

1. G asleep on the floor, clutching one of my shoes that I had kicked off before getting into bed with C. The top dresser drawer is open and all the socks are strewn about.

2. The two of them sitting together quietly, utterly destroying the push-and-pull board book we read before nap. Shreds of the book surround them.

3. G asleep in the bed, C sitting next to him, watching.

4. The two crib mattresses we have on the floor near the beds as cushions have had their sheets removed and thrown into a ball. The beds are askew. G partially under his bed.

We are all suffering the cumulative effects of lost sleep. When I picked up the boys at creche earlier this week, their teacher told me one day that mid-way through lunch, G stopped eating, pushed his chair back from the table and fell asleep sitting up. S told me he fell asleep sitting at his desk. Another day, C fell asleep on our walk home, and he was so out, I easily moved him into the bed. C is actually sleeping much better at this point. He drops off faster for naps and bedtime and he tends to sleep through the night. G wakes at 2 and/or 5, and we sometimes lay down with him or take him to keep him from crying and waking up C. Last night he was in our bed and he fell asleep with his head in the opposition direction from ours, and we were regularly pummeled by his little feet.

But there has been progress. S-L-O-W progress. The amount of time they are up before bedtime is getting shorter. There is no big battle over being in the beds. The other day they fell asleep before 3pm. The biggest issue to conquer is the night waking. I think what it boils down to is sleep training all over again, now that everyone has adjusted to the idea of the beds.

The upside? Such a rush of new sweetness and cuddling because we can get into the bed with them. And finding them like above.

 

Transitions: on switching to toddler beds

The truth about living abroad when you are a parent is that for most things, you could be anywhere. Details will be different (what kinds of diapers, what kinds of medicine, what size cribs, how often do you have to shop to stock the fridge) but all the rest is much the same. There is nothing exotic—nor particularly adventurous—about potty training or transitioning to a bed. Those days come whether we are in Dublin or Paris or Brooklyn or Los Angeles or suburban USA.

We talked about it, and rationalized how long we could put off switching the boys to beds. I thought age seven sounded good. At what point would they be cages and not cribs? We are hanging on to sanity by the thinnest of fraying ropes. We didn’t want bedtime to turn into bedlam any more than it already is. Twin behavior can be kind of contagious, meaning if one is amped up, the other one tends to get amped up.

So much depends on sleep (theirs, ours).

Last Sunday night, (of a bank holiday weekend), the day we feared for some time arrived. At 8pm, to be precise. We heard a distinctive ping! pop! crack! and then discovered the bottom of the C’s crib had completely broken. Our only solution for that evening: have them share a crib. G at first was really excited about this idea. He pointed to where C could sleep. His brother got in. The usual wrestling matches and giggling ensued.

When it came time for lights out, G changed his mind about the whole sharing thing and was furious that he didn’t have a choice. Screams and crying, “No!” “Don’t”  “Out!” dragged on for an hour and a half. At one point, I heard muffled screams and panicked, thinking one was smothering the other. I opened the door to check on them.

C: “Dajuta pushed me down! He’s steppin on me.”

Me: “G, did you push your brother down and step on him?”

G (breaking into a huge smile): “Yeah!”

Me: “We don’t do that.”

C: “I pooped!”

After I finished changing C, G announced he had pooped as well. Sometime after 10pm they conked out.  They woke up twice in the night.

DAY 1

Monday morning they were up somewhere before 6am. Sascha and I looked at each other with resignation. The day had begun, like it or not.  We were facing a trip to IKEA and flat-pack furniture assembly on poor sleep with two toddlers on even poorer sleep.

I asked G if sharing a bed was fun or hard. G said, “It was hard.”

By 9:30am, we were in the car and bound for IKEA. Inside IKEA, just as we were about to get into the lift, an alarm went off and the power shut down. I blanched. (IKEA, you may recall, triggers mental instability in me.) Would they shut the store down? I really didn’t want to get into the IKEA maze and daze if we were going to be cast out halfway through. A manager told us they had been having power outages. We looked at the perilous floating staircase and our massive double stroller. He helped Sascha carry it up.

Guess where families go in the recession on a bank holiday? By the time we hit the children’s section, there were swarms of families and poorly controlled children everywhere.

We made a really big deal about them picking out beds. I knew it really came down to the sheets (they picked cars over animals) so I told S whatever was in stock in the self-service was fine. Oh, and we had to buy completely new mattresses, because the crib mattresses are different sizes than the toddler or junior beds.

We arrived back just as it was naptime. The boys were exhausted and cranky but there was no way to get the beds set up in time, so they had to share a crib again. This time, they were enraged from the get-go and did not sleep at all. After an hour and a half of crying, laughing, singing, and chatting, I got them up and S set to task of putting the beds together, only to discover he had forgotten two essential parts. Back to IKEA he went.

It is early evening when he returns and the boys are predictably irritable. I try to keep them busy while S sweats out the incomprehensible IKEA directions. Pre-screwed holes were slanted, the materials shoddy. It was suddenly 8pm and I needed to get two over-tired children to bed.

It was probably a huge mistake to leave one crib in the room, but we were all exhausted. There was no time to deconstruct it.

G squealed with delight when he saw his bed. “My cars!” he said. We read books on them before C informed me he didn’t want to sleep in his bed. “Kib,” he told me. I decided not to push it. Everyone needed sleep.

G and C fell asleep pretty quickly. G in his bed, C in the crib.

DAY 2

I wake up at 7am to G calling. I am relieved. This went wonderfully! Phew. Why were we worried? We make a really big deal about G sleeping in the bed and he seems proud. We call it the “big boy” bed (I later discover this is a mistake.)

Today at naptime G was very excited about his bed but it took about an hour for him to settle down. He insisted on the door being open. When I went to wake them, I found G fast asleep.  On the floor.

Night time. Lots of protest, night wakings. How many? What day is it?

DAY 3

I try to prep C: “In a few days, we’ll have to say good-bye to the crib because there’s a baby who needs it.”

C fixes me with his enormous blue eye, purses his lips a little, crinkles his tiny nose, and drops his head to one side. This is the signal that we disagree.

“No buh-bye,” he finally says, shaking his head. “We need it.”

He clutches at my heart with this. We both know what he is really saying. I am not ready. I am still a baby.

And he is. He is 26 months old. He runs and tries to pump his arms, twisting side to side and looking more like he is doing some Jane Fonda aerobics move from 1990. He uses a fork and drinks from a cup and can take his clothes off before the bath. (In fact, another IKEA purchase is the boys’ own laundry bin, so they can put their dirty clothes in. C took this job very seriously, and began to take clean, folded clothes out of his dresser and dump them in. I explained that those were clean, and that only dirty ones went in the hamper. At which point C took the clean pjs, one at a time, and wiped his nose on them. He then pronounced them in his vaguely British accent,“DUR-tee.”)

Toddlerhood is so difficult because it is an in-between age, and at some level, they know. One minute they insist, “I do myself.”  The next it is “Up! Up, Mommy!” and you are carrying them. C ran out the open door the other day and halfway down the lane. They are both making leaps in development but they want to decide on the steps. The wild vastness of a bed without bars is seemingly too far out of C’s control.

S lays down with G for a long time to get him to go to sleep.

DAY 4

I get in bed with G at naptime. He is very chatty. Every few minutes he says, “Hi! Hi Mommy.” He requests songs. He grabs my wrist and asks what it is. C is sleeping the whole time. I try to get G to be quiet. We nuzzle noses. We pop each other’s puffed up cheeks. I am not helping him get to sleep but I sure am amusing him.

“I not a big boy,” he says. At night he points to the crib and says he wants to sleep there.

DAY 5

Things seemed to have gotten worse, not better. All our work sleep training in the early days is shot. Night wakings. Refusals to nap. We have not experienced this level of sleep deprivation since the early days of their infancy, but even then we didn’t have to spend our waking hours chasing them the way we do now. Last night they went to sleep some time after 9:30 and were up at 5:30.

I tried to leave the boys alone at nap time. The door would open and slam shut every few seconds for about an hour, and I just let them be, until I realized C’s voice sounded too close. I went down and found them both jumping on C’s bed, with one of the beds moved across the room. G had obviously pushed over the bed to help C climb out. Now the bed, which was pushed up against the crib, provided a convenient ledge up on which they climbed, and then would hurl themselves into the crib before climbing out on another side and running around the bed to do it again as if they were on a jungle gym.

At bath time, they both tell me they are “babies.”

S dismantles the crib. I check a sleep book. It recommends not switching them until they are closer to three, unless their safety from climbing in and out was a concern. (It is, as this afternoon demonstrated.) It also says to call it a “new bed;” do not label it a “big boy” bed. Oops. No useful tips for twins as usual. And it helpfully points out not to switch if anything else major was going on, like say, daylight savings time. Guess what tonight is in Ireland? We are losing an hour to jump forward in time. So many lost hours this week.

For fun: Ian Frazier on the feeding of children

My mother-in-law found Laws Concerning Food and Drink; Household Principles; Lamentations of the Father, an old humor piece Ian Frazier originally published in The Atlantic and sent it to me. For all parents of young children who must suffer the demoralizing experience of children’s mealtime, this is for you. Here’s a sample, but click on the link to read the whole piece.

Drink your milk as it is given you, neither use on it any utensils, nor fork, nor knife, nor spoon, for that is not what they are for; if you will dip your blocks in the milk, and lick it off, you will be sent away. When you have drunk, let the empty cup then remain upon the table, and do not bite it upon its edge and by your teeth hold it to your face in order to make noises in it sounding like a duck; for you will be sent away.

Special Guest Post: Sascha on not so super-supermarkets

As promised, our very own Sascha is here to regale you with his tale of shopping while I have a night off to wander around Grafton St:

Life with twins is great. Dublin is great. And grocery shopping can, under the right circumstances, be great.

However, grocery shopping with twins in Dublin is most definitely not great.

Exhibit A: Last Saturday morning. I volunteered to take the boys to the supermarket, optimistically thinking I could accomplish three major things in one fell swoop:

1. Get some much-needed groceries for our Hobbit-sized fridge.

2. Bring the boys out to get some air.

3. Be a good husband and son-in-law by giving my wife and mother-in-law some quiet time after being with the boys nonstop for days.

I can report that I did achieve those three items, however there was a great human cost involved. The boys and I survived, but barely. And things will never be the same.

The scene of the actual incident. Looks spacious according to this photo from Daft, but don't let it fool you.

I arrived at our local grocery store, the Superquinn, around 9:15am, knowing that I had a challenge ahead of me. Since I had the double stroller, I had a choice of two maneuvers:

1. The Two-Handed-Backwards-Shopping-Cart-Plus-Forward-Facing-Stroller Roller

OR

2. Balance-the-Basket-on-Top-of-the-Stroller-and-Try-Not-to-Drop-Groceries-on-my-Sons’-Heads

I took one look at the aisles of that supermarket and knew that option number one wasn’t happening. There was barely room for a cart, let alone a double stroller and a cart. That must be why they charge you a Euro to use a shopping cart – as a deterrent.

So, I had no choice. Balance-the-Basket. I rolled my extra large, Americano double stroller down the super narrow, dainty European aisles as I balanced the empty cart on the handles. Look, I appreciate that things in Europe are smaller than they are in the United States. There is less waste here and that’s good. But why cut corners on supermarket aisles? That just isn’t right.

I admit that when it comes to grocery shopping, I am an overachiever. I like to get everything on the list, and plus it out so we don’t have to shop again for a while. That basket was full in no time, and I was feeling pretty proud of myself for not dropping any plums on my sons’ heads. They were pretty mellow, too. But then it was time to check out.

The cashier was ringing me up when it happened. I tried to push the stroller through the aisle so I could bag the groceries, and then…creak. The stroller was stuck. I couldn’t push forward. I couldn’t pull back. Behind me, the line started to grow, people started looking impatient – this was the only aisle open. My formerly mellow sons started to cry, no doubt fearing that they would be stuck in a Superquinn check-out aisle for months. I was suddenly the center of attention. Friendly Irish people didn’t seem so friendly anymore. I apologized meekly. The crying got louder, the stroller wouldn’t budge. What would I do?

When Erin talks about worst-case, nightmare scenarios of living in a city with twins, these are the pictures she paints: being out in public, the twins screaming, causing a scene, being the center of attention. I realized at that moment: I was living her nightmare.

I knew I’d have get the boys out and fold up the stroller to get it unstuck. So as they continued to wail, I unbuckled them. Unfortunately I was stuck on the other side of the stroller from them. C. went limp like a ragdoll and slid to the floor as he does when he’s angry, and G. stomped off towards the ice cream case in a huff. The cashier dashed from behind the counter and tried to distract them with Superquinn super-saver circulars while I madly tried to fold up the stroller. It wouldn’t fold. The line behind me was growing longer. I tried to stay Zen. As a coping strategy, my mind took me miles away. I imagined I was in a nice, spacious, comfy, enormous Target in suburban Connecticut. The check-out aisle was the size of a football field. Bliss.

Things were simpler then. Our shopping carts were SUVs and the aisles stretched on gloriously as far as the eye could see. Target, how we miss ye.

I snapped back to reailty and somehow found the strength to fold the stroller, wrangle the boys, unfold the stroller, get the wriggling boys back into the stroller, bag the groceries in my eco-friendly reusable bags, balance them on the handle, and then promptly slam the stroller into a bucket of flowers, causing the water to spill out across the floor of the store. The last thing I remember is sprinting through the inch of water in my sneakers, pushing the double stroller out of the narrow doors as fast as I could as the boys’ cries rang throughout Superquinn.

From now on, we will be having our groceries delivered.

Making a mountain out of peanuts

The stress of packing and everything we have to do in these final weeks before leaving the U.S. has finally gotten to me, in what should be known as the Great Crib Fiasco of 2011, or, How I Ended Up Crying Over Boxes of Peanuts (not even the corn-based water soluble ones, which hurt my green little heart even more.)

We are renting a lovely house in Dublin that is fully-furnished, except, of course, that no place would actually come set up with two cribs. G. and C. are at the age where they are likely to launch themselves out of the crib any day now, but to transition right into toddler beds when we get there and are adjusting to the five hour time change seems a bit much. I know that time is coming, but why rush it? At that point, I will surely be consulting with my friend Vivian. Her method of keeping her son in his room involved something like a tale of a monster waiting for him outside the door and her creeping up to his room to hold her hand against the door, which he interpreted as proof of the monster’s existence.

I didn’t break the bank on their cribs, but their mattresses were all organic cotton and wool, because I didn’t want them breathing plastic or chemical flame retardants. They were expensive, but because our cribs came with the toddler rails for conversion to beds, I expected that they would be in these for at least three years. Though the boys were born in southern California and we knew we’d be leaving at some point, I believed they would grow up with these beds.

We got an estimate on shipping the crib frames and mattresses, and it appeared that though expensive, it would be around what we might spend to re-buy new cribs and mattresses there anyway. Trouble was, we had to get them shipped within a few days to ensure they would arrive exactly when Sascha was there the following week. Otherwise, the only other time to set up cribs would be when we stumbled in at dawn from the overnight flight that would be delivering us into our new lives later in September. This seemed ill-advised, on account of the jetlag fog that would surely cling to us and the fact that the boys would be bonkers from the break in routine.

We spent an entire day and a half on this project, which involved breaking down the cribs, setting up borrowed pack ‘n plays, going to the local shipping store to make sure they had boxes big enough, taking out the car seats from our car to make room, and then bringing the crib frames to be professionally packed. At the end of the second day, when we had the final dimensions and weights of the boxes, we hit some major snags: the shipper revised their estimate to be hundreds of dollars more, and also the box containing the crib frames was so large that the shippers couldn’t pick it up, but instead we would have to drive it out to a facility near the airport. We quickly realized that if it was this hard to get it out of there, what would we do in Ireland, on our tiny hobbit-ville like street? Sascha warned me he wasn’t sure delivery trucks could even make it down the street, since we have to put our trash out on a neighboring road.

Option B was to send only the mattresses. I quickly jumped online and trolled around IKEA.ie and IKEA (US), Mothercare, and other baby stores, and frantically did inches-to-centimeter conversions, because there were varying differences in crib (or cot, as they call them) sizes. It was hot, late, and we were tired. This is where my brain began to melt down. (Decision fatigue, perhaps?) I realized that even if we got the mattresses there, they wouldn’t actually fit in anything. And suddenly I started crying. Because my sons’ beds were not going to make it, and they were just large reminders that our life was in total chaos, and I had no idea when we would ever have a permanent home, with our own things. A vital day in our preparations had been wasted on an utterly futile endeavor.

While sniffling, I knew it was absurd to be crying over the waste of the peanuts and the fact that their chewed up cribs would go into storage, along with most everything else in our lives. But because I lack information about the future, every small decision is fraught with emotion. Perhaps we will stay only a year. Perhaps it will be five, or we will move to somewhere else in Europe, since Sascha is a dual citizen and can work anywhere in the EU.

I also knew the next day I would be better. The cribs would not be a global issue in my life, but a minor detail. But at that moment, they came to symbolize my fear that we have no plan. This never bothered me when it was just us, but now that my sons are here, the future is more present for me. I want to map it out. I want them to have some stability.

The next day, Sascha and I spent a few hours removing the packed up cribs and mattresses, which required shoveling an amazing amount of suddenly liberated packing peanuts that threatened to blanket our neighborhood.

The thing about having children, though, is that you will laugh, every day, despite yourself. Sweating in the humidity, we put together their cribs and made their beds for the last time with the sheets we bought in Pasadena when I was huge and happy and feeling them move inside me. When they woke up from their naps, the box of useless peanuts transformed itself into a magical playpit:

Joy in a Box from Other Side of the Road on Vimeo.