Frankly, I would love for someone to encourage me to go to bed at 7:30 pm.

Further to my post of last night:

How do you get two almost-four-year-old wild monkeys to stay in their bedroom after bedtime? I will list below things we have tried, in no particular order, and briefly explain why they did not work:

  • Following a consistent bedtime routine at a consistent time, making sure they have everything they need, asking them to stay in bed. A HA HA HA HA HA HA HA YOU MUST BE NEW HERE
  • Door Monkey (to keep door locked). Successfully keeps them in the room but then they just yell for us. We took it off permanently a few months ago to give them more bathroom independence but now they just run around and come into our room all the time, etc. Obviously. Why wouldn’t they?
  • Making a list of “Sleep Goals” (paraphrase of Weissbluth’s “Sleep Rules”) This involves, like, an actual decorated poster listing the goals, talking about the goals, rewarding them for doing the goals, gently reminding them of the goals every time they come out of bed. (Goals were: 1) stay in bed, 2) stay quiet, 3) no climbing, 4) try to fall asleep.) This sort of worked for a while but they don’t care anymore.
  • Begging, bribing, bargaining, threatening, screaming internally, silently weeping behind a locked door. Results pending.

Ironically, the most popular post on this dumb blog is “Sleep Training Twins Using the Ferber Method,” which worked beautifully for two six-month-olds. I’m at a loss as to how to handle the current reality. If you have any advice or commiseration for me, you can leave a comment or just @ me.

Halloween

I love Halloween and it’s almost even more fun with my kids than it was before they were around. We are lucky to live in a great neighborhood for trick-or-treating (good sidewalks and streetlights, lots of houses who participate, lots of families and groups roaming the streets). The past couple of years, we’ve walked around with a couple of families from our street who we’re friends with (they’ve got kids around the same age as ours) and it makes for such a fun group outing. We meet for a quick drink beforehand (and/or bring one for the road), the kids toddle up the lawns together to ring the bells, and the grown ups chat and laugh and admire the perfect crescent moon.

The week beforehand, my weather app was predicting a high temperature of 72 and rainy, which, frankly, is the absolute worst weather, so I was hoping it was wrong. It was right — but! the way that manifested was that the high temperature of 72 was at, like, 6:00 AM and it just got colder and colder from there. The rain stopped in the middle of the afternoon and we were left with about 48 and overcast for the evening. It was perfection.

The funniest thing was that on the NextDoor app, we had people posting to ask whether anyone was still going to be going out on account of the “bad weather.” Can you even?! Fortunately, questions like that were met with replies like, “I hope so, because we have a ton of candy over at [1234 Chocolate Ave.]!” In the end, it did seem like fewer groups were out this year, but we still had a ton of fun.

They had worn skeleton pajamas and masks to school, where they encourage the kids to dress up, but we saved their real costumes for the main event. (School gets messy, y’all.) E&L dressed as a “llamacorn” and a chameleon, respectively, because I picked the two cutest/funniest fleece costumes that Target had in their sizes. Luckily for me, they loved them and the chameleon proved to be a big hit with all the other trick-or-treaters who were dressed as lizards, dinosaurs, or dragons. One of the moms passing out candy was dressed as a dragon and even asked to take a picture with him.

And just because these are some of my all-time favorite photos of them, I’ll share a Halloween retrospective:

First Halloween, 2016. Almost 11 months old. Dressed as their favorite wubbanub pacifiers. Sheer perfection.
Second Halloween, 2017. Almost two years old. I made the shirts and the feather hats and my living room was covered in cheap electric blue feathers for far too long. Worth it.
Third Halloween, 2018. A pirate and a mermaid. The pirate costume came from Amazon but I made the mermaid dress and tail and I’m pretty darn proud.
Fourth Halloween, 2019. Almost four years old. Chameleon and Llamacorn. This is their album cover shot, obviously.

Hiking

One of our fun weekend activities lately is hiking in the forest preserve not far from where we live. There are several miles of trail, mostly easy for small people to hike, and it’s just so lovely this time of year.

It reminds me of all the weekends I spent doing the same thing in the park with my dad when I was growing up. He seemed to know everything about trees, leaves, plants, bugs, moss, and rocks. I wonder if my kids will feel the same way about me after I point out moss on the forest floor and eloquently compare it to a carpet? Heh.

This is one of my very, very favorite photos. I was such a goof! My dad was so young! My brother in that 80’s hiking backpack!

Nonetheless, I love to see the natural world afresh through their eyes. Being outdoors together is absolutely one of my love languages.

Would you, reader, indulge me if I share a relevant poem? I just adore Maggie Smith, who has a way of writing the things I didn’t realize I needed to read.

Road Tripping with Preschoolers

We just got back yesterday from two weeks on the road visiting family and friends in Iowa, South Dakota, and Mississippi. We road trip to the midwest every summer, and I think this was the first time that I wasn’t dreading being on the road or in strange bedrooms with the twins. They did SO well on this trip.

Of course, there were some tough, cranky moments in the car when we were all feeling cooped up, bored, or frustrated. That’s a given. Bur for the most part, we were a really good traveling team. I’m so pleased.

A few Iowa highlights:

  • The kids got to run around and play outside on the farm as much as they wanted. With grandparents, two uncles, and an older cousin around, there was always someone to play games with or to help them “drive” the tractor or the combine.
  • We went to see Toy Story 4 in the theatre downtown, which was a charmingly small-town experience. They only have one theatre, so it’s one movie at a time. It cost like $20 for tickets for six people and less than that for everyone’s snacks. If we lived here, we’d be at this theatre every week.
  • Thomas, the world’s friendliest and most tolerant cat, enjoyed being petted and loved on by everyone.
This panorama involved a very careful camera handoff in the middle so that everyone could get in the shot. I still can’t believe it worked!

Highlights from South Dakota:

  • We were visiting some of my husband’s best college friends. It had been long enough since the last time this group all got together that a total of FIVE new children had been born among the three families and a sixth one is on the way. We had a total of fifteen people staying in one house.
  • The weather was mostly just bakingly hot and perfect for the backyard pool, but one day we got a cool, windy day and we took the opportunity to head out for a (short, kid-friendly) hike through Good Earth State Park, which was just beautiful.
  • The older kids were so kind and patient and good with the younger kids that we grownups got to sit on the deck and drink wine and enjoy the view of the pond and wetlands while they played downstairs. Actual relaxation!

Our return to the south required three more days on the road, involving one hotel night and then a night with my BFF, Brilliantone and her family in Mississippi. Such a relief to get in from the road into a friendly oasis. They grilled veggie burgers and played Clue with us after the little kids went to bed and it was just what we needed to re-charge and get ready for our last day in the car.

It feels amazing to be home, but this time I’m also feeling a bit sad that our summer road trip adventure is over. I loved seeing how the kids took in new things and got so excited about, for example, wind turbines and corn fields and wildflowers that were taller than they are. They slept in new beds in strange rooms and tried new foods and made new friends. Thinking back to the first time we traveled with the twins when they were about 7 months old, we are worlds apart. It really does get better.

What’s Going On

Fall semester starts today, technically, but for me it starts tomorrow. I’m in back-to-school mode, which is one of the best modes of all. I love the start of a new school year, don’t you?

Here’s what’s been happening this spring and summer:

I went to New Orleans with my BFFs! we all turned 40 this year, so we decided to ring in the new decade with a ladies’ trip. We rented a lovely and perfect house on the bayou where we could hang out at night listening to the noises of the wildlife or relaxing in the hot tub. In town, we ate all the delicious food and drank all the beautiful drinks and had generally an amazing time. We need to do this every year now.

My kiddos started a new daycare/preschool. They started attending at the beginning of the summer, during the “summer camp” mode, which meant they got to have splash days and popsicles on Fridays and they loved it. Now the daycare’s new preschool year has started and E&L moved up to a new class and started taking Gymnastics (they offer classes as part of the preschool extracurriculars) and it feels like basically the next time I turn around they’ll be off to college. They’re doing wonderfully. They’re mostly daytime potty trained at this point now, too — one twin completely; the other uses a pull-up at naptime — and that’s probably not something I’ll write much more about here on the wide-open internet, but suffice it to say: YAY.

We took our summer road trip to Iowa to visit my in-laws and survived the long days in the car thanks to my iPad and Netflix’s selection of animated movies available for offline viewing. The kids had a blast playing on the farm and riding all the various farm vehicles with Papa.

I’ve been reading exclusively women writers this year, and although there are a couple of books on my shelf waiting for when the man-ban is lifted, it’s been completely refreshing. These are a few of my favorites so far.

So what’s new with you?

Use Your Words

Do you ever just feel like making some inarticulate screaming noises? Yes? I do. And so I have total sympathy for my toddlers when their feelings well up and they have to just let it out: low-key whining, flailing, screaming, or full-on wet-noodle tantrumming.

A lot of the time, I can cut off the crying loop if I interject to remind them that I would be very happy to help them but I can’t understand what they need if they’re whining; could they please use their words instead? It’s impressive how often this works. They can stop and say, “MAH CHOO-CHOO” or “NO-NO DOGGIE” or “MO DJOOSE” or “HEP PEEZ.” Of course, they’re at a stage where this trick only goes so far — a lot of the time, the source of their turmoil is as yet inexpressible to them. Still happens to me on the regular, honestly, so I get it.

There are a lot of things they can’t say yet — their own/each other’s names, for example. the names of some of their toys and books and of some of the foods they like. Usually, pointing and asking for “dat” is what helps. “Dat” book on the high shelf, “dat” box of crackers, etc. Several times recently, E&L have been playing together in the playroom when all of a sudden L bursts into tearful wails. When I ask him to try to tell me what’s wrong or what he needs, he just turns to his sister with angry tears in his eyes and points at her emphatically, “DAT.”

And that’s when I see that she has taken the structure he’s been painstakingly building out of his Mega Bloks and threw it on the floor and smashed it. “All my hard work!” “Why does she like to annoy me?!” “Now I have to re-build!” L isn’t able to express that all just yet, so an accusing point and an emphatic “DAT” are the best he can do. I would be lying if I said it doesn’t crack me up every time.

Gifts for Two-Year-Old Boy/Girl Twins

Shopping for birthday gifts for the twins is kind of tough, since Christmas is just three weeks after their birthday. I now have a new respect for my parents (who dealt with the same situation, with my birthday being just two weeks before Christmas). Discussing possible gifts with my husband and our parents (who are all also trying to shop) makes me feel a little itchy and overwhelmed. I don’t consider myself a good gift giver. I struggle to pick the right thing and I wait until the last minute and I always have SO many possible ideas when a holiday is nowhere in sight, but when the giving season rolls around I come up blank every time.

The current task: trying to come up with suggestions for my in-laws (who asked for some ideas) while also trying to figure out what WE want to buy. (My dad & stepmother have already picked and sent stuff.)

I am going to post a list of ideas and then I would love to hear additional suggestions here (or get me on twitter, @ravelingout):

Birthday

(this is coming up in a couple of weeks, so we need to get our shit together)

Backpacks for “school”: (sounds boring, but they’ve never had their own before and they are recently very interested in playing with bags and have learned to say “ba-pa,” so it’d be cute as well as useful). Any favorite brands that make toddler sized backpacks to recommend?

Baby dolls: My husband thinks dolls are “weird” but I loved them as a child and the kids are really interested in both babies and baby dolls (they have some at school) and it’s developmentally appropriate, so. I’m thinking the Baby Stella brand is good, yes?

Books: I already bought them a few Christmas-themed books and coloring books, so I’ll probably wrap these up for them to open.

Grandparent gifts include: some cute stuffed elephants from my dad & stepmother and…we still need to suggest something for my in-laws.

Christmas

(we have more time to decide but now I’m starting to feel stressed)

A play tent for indoors (I’m thinking we could put some pillows and blankets inside for reading books? or whatever?) or a plastic play house thing for outdoors, probably on our porch (I’m not as jazzed about this idea because I don’t like the look, but I’m trying to look outside myself and think about whether this would be more fun for the kids?). Thoughts or ideas?

A wooden train set. I grew up with Brio, but I see there are several varieties now. (E&L have not been exposed to Thomas, yet, so likely will not care about that particular brand). Any good/bad experiences with specific brands? Is the beginner pack enough for a start? We could also suggest expansion packs from the in-laws.

Stockings: Probably some new bath toys (ideas?), toothbrushes, socks, candy, and an orange in the toe, as per KO-family tradition.

Grandparent gifts will include: two plastic trikes, Mega Bloks, a Mozart Magic Music Cube, and something we will suggest for my in-laws.

I also just ordered some Kohl’s magic blankets (on super sale!) for the whole family, so they’ll get theirs at some point this season, probably as a gift.

Any help or advice you have would be appreciated! Especially if you have brand recommendations, good or bad experiences to share, or thoughts about what kinds of gifts your two-year-olds were most excited about, use most, or have continued to love after many years.