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.

 

Advertisements

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.

Daytripping to Malahide

Gallery

This gallery contains 35 photos.

In the space of 24 hours, a month’s worth of rain has fallen. There is flooding on certain streets but we are all fine. Yesterday, sitting in some areas of the house where the skylights are above us, I felt … Continue reading

Cutting teeth

Today was Sascha’s first day in the office since officially moving to Dublin, and the poor guy has a miserable head cold. He is clammy and stuffed up, in part because of the sudden change in weather (a 30 degree difference), and in part, of course, because of the great weight upon him these past few months, not only holding down the job while finishing up commitments in the U.S., helping to pack up and move us, but also the responsibility he feels for moving us all here. Parenthood has forced us into some gender stereotypes, a kind of divide-and-conquer dynamic necessary when parenting twins.

So today began a taste of the reality of life here, excepting of course we have my mom, whom Sascha calls “Mary Poppins” and to whom G has developed an incredible attachment. I am hoping G’s attachment to her may make it harder for her to leave. It’s a big plus in our “Don’t leave” campaign, but there are some minuses we are trying to sort through that I fear may send her packing for the easy comfort of her life in suburbia. For example, we are trying our best to figure out the hot water heating tank. She had the great misfortune of deciding to wash her hair this evening only to discover, after soaping up her hair, that there was, in fact, no hot water left. (Having had this experience yesterday morning, I declined showering today.) We also spent some time standing before our oven, perplexed by the half-rubbed off hieroglyphics, which meant we burnt the skin of our sweet potatoes but hadn’t cooked them all the way through. When we first arrived, she gasped at the size of the freezer. For the record, it is probably a bit bigger than the size of the freezer in our old Brooklyn Heights place, for those of you who have seen it. I think she hoped to do as she and my in-laws had done in those first months of life with the boys: to fill our freezer with soups, sauces, lasagnas. After all, she is an Irish woman who had to cook for an Italian man, so at our house on Sundays, it was a pot of sauce on the stove all day with meatballs, and copious leftovers to freeze. We can’t bulk up on bread or other staples to minimize our trips to the store because there is no room to store them. The other interesting adjustment is that the trash collection is only every other week, and you are charged by what you throw out, essentially, which makes you more aware of the trash you generate. That is quite a good thing, and something the States in particular needs more awareness of, but we also have two children in diapers. The trash bin is already full and we’ve another week to go! Thus, our twilight hero:

Sascha: lover, scholar, gentleman, and human trash compactor. We may need to hasten along the potty training.

Last night, we had a wonderful dinner with our friend Chris, who is from L.A. but has been in town for business. We are lucky that her last week here for a while coincides with our first week. It is a fitting bookending of our lives and the unexpected paths they’ve taken since the boys were blips on an ultrasound. We were able to cobble together a decent enough pasta dinner, made better by the wine and bread she brought and her getting to see the boys again, since she last saw them when they were just weeks old and we were more or less catatonic:

We had an impromptu dinner and the boys went down around 8pm and slept through until the morning. We thought we were getting it. But tonight, one after the other, the boys keep waking up. All of our hard work sleep training them when they were 5-6 months old, which I feel is one of the best parenting decisions we ever made, is falling apart. It is even worse, because they sense our footsteps and cry out for “Marmy” (as they call their Grammy), or “Dada,” or wail plaintively, “Maa-ma, maa-ma!” If you have children, you may know that this sort of crying at close range (as in a car) can feel like someone is drilling directly into your brain with a tiny bit through your ear canal. You feel evil for ignoring it and if you give in, you realize you are a total sucker. As I often do when I have no explanation for their behavior, I blame it on teething. Yesterday when C. and I did our pas de deux, (he throws his head back and goes limp in my arms while we waltz), I thought I saw some white peaks poking through. But then again, he really doesn’t have that many more baby teeth to come in, and what about G?

I went out to Ranelagh village while they napped today, to run errands. Namely we wanted to make Sascha chicken soup and I wanted to look for ride-on toys for the boys and a few things from the hardware store. My mom and the boys stayed inside all day, which isn’t ideal, but being so rain-soaked and chilled yesterday made us reluctant to head out. It is going to be very tricky with them and no car to protect us from the elements. A drizzle is one thing, but a rain that falls in sideways sheets conspiring with a wind that tears your hood off is quite another when you are pushing around two cranky kids. My mom and I are yearning to explore the city beyond the villages that lay within a reasonable walking distance, but we feel a bit intimidated about negotiating the double stroller on public transportation, especially with the boys being so unpredictable right now.

I guess we are all just cutting teeth here, trying to learn the basics and figure out our new lives.

PS: I realize you have all seen a million pictures of G & C before, and you are probably dying to see a glimpse of Ireland. So am I!! Also, we have some flash drive/Mobile vodafone thingy that sometimes gives us wireless, sometimes not. So hopefully we can have an incredibly pixellated Skype chat/house tour soon. Congrats to Mike & Crystal–my parents will welcome their 7th grandchild–the 6th boy!–next year.