On the Thursday before the last weekend in June, our family traveled to Flagstaff for our friend Damon’s wedding. We woke early Thursday morning for our 9:55am flight to Phoenix. The flight was on time and, thankfully, the boys were much better travelers than they were on our first flight to Chicago when they were 13 months old. This may have to do with the fact that we let them watch Toy Story on some iPads and I also fed them gummy bears to keep them happy. Worked pretty well, they seemed to enjoy themselves.
Phoenix was crazy hot, 108 degrees F or so. Boy, I don’t think I could ever live in that sort of heat. After Dan got our rental car and we loaded up all our gear, we stopped at a typical Arizonan Mexican restaurant (Manuel’s) for a lunch just like Dan remembered. Then we got on the road to Flagstaff. It was a surprisingly scenic drive. We ascended what I assumed would be a mountain pass, but as we got to the top it was absolutely flat! It was my first mesa. I just kept looking around in disbelief, my whole experience is that if you go uphill what you find at the top will be bumpy– not flat as a pancake.
Our rental house was located in the Mountainaire/Kachina Village community, 10 or so miles south of Flagstaff proper and very near to our friend Damon’s house (and wedding location.) It was a nice little house, not too dangerous for the kids, but anytime you stay somewhere without childproofing, it requires a lot more oversight. As we unpacked I realized I really hadn’t brought any toys for them. Oops! Luckily we found some in some random drawers in the house, a doll, a pink, purple, plaid My Little Pony with wings and a unicorn horn, a hacky sack and a Simpsons ball. Good thing our guys aren’t too picky what they play with! Dan’s brother, Kevin, arrived after driving in from Colorado.
Friday we drove through campus (Kevin had attend Northern Arizona University for a year as a freshmen) and walked around Flagstaff. A nicely historic downtown. We made our way to Route 66 (not much to see at this stretch really) and visited the train tracks. Flagstaff’s train tracks were very busy, with 3-4 freight trains coming through during the 45 minutes we were near them. Goodness! Ansel got a huge kick out of them and after they were gone, like he did with the planes, he would sign for “more”. Reminds me of this Onion piece about a toddler train junkie. :) Cormac, on the other hand, found the trains too loud and intimidating (even though they weren’t using their horns at the crossings) and wanted to go away from them or be held.
After a trip to the grocery store and a park, I left Kevin and Dan in Flagstaff to have lunch with Damon while I took the boys back to the house for a nap. Which didn’t happen, really, and caused me (and them) to have a slight nervous breakdown. Turns out I really appreciate the mental time off from the kids when they nap! That night they went to bed early (thank goodness) and Dan & Kevin went out for drinks with Damon, Renee and other wedding guests at the local tavern.
Saturday morning we had a yummy breakfast at Macy’s before we drove North to do the 34 mile scenic loop drive from Sunset Crater Volcano to Wupatki to see the Citadel Pueblo ruins. The scenic drive was incredible and though I was between the kids in the back seat, I just kept saying “wow”. Recently Cormac has learned how to say “wow” too and likes to imitate so it was as if I had a little echo in the back seat with me. :) We saw the Painted Desert at a distance and the sagebrush, cinder, black volcanic rock and red sandstone (?) make a striking and gorgeous landscape that I cannot wait to see again. Next time hopefully the boys will be a bit older and we’ll be able to stop and get some pictures! As it was we did stop at the Citadel Pueblo and walked up the trail. Quite the vista and amazing to think of the natives who lived there and built the citadel and other pueblos.
After the boys’ nap we got everyone dressed to go to the wedding. Dan and Kevin were employed to hand out directions from Damon’s house to the wedding site (at a nearby trailhead) so I strolled the kids from our rental to the wedding site down some side streets to a wildflower filled meadow next to a big rock. Quite scenic. The wedding was beautiful and short. Congratulations Damon & Renee! Everyone filed out and drove to Damon & Renee’s house for the reception in their newly redone back yard. It was a great party and the boys had a good time, running around, finding balls to play with and charming the guests. They found the ice in the ice buckets of beer, wine and water bottles fascinating, wanting to eat it, then put it back, then drop it on the ground, then put it back… Ansel also spent some time carefully removing all of the water bottles from the ice bucket and setting them on the ground. Both Coco & Ansel (Ansel more so) enjoyed climbing the brick walls in the terraced yard. Coco focused on gorging on strawberries and picking up the travel-sized bottles of alcohol that were part of the wedding favors and trying to unscrew them. Wait just a minute there! They were pretty tuckered by the time we went home.
Sunday we drove back from Flagstaff on scenic Oak Canyon Drive to Sedona. A beautiful drive, though I would be hard-pressed to pick which I enjoyed more– the Sunset Crater drive or the Oak Canyon drive. Another place worth returning to. The contrast between the bright green of the trees lining the canyon and the red rocks was spectacular. We ate lunch in Sedona and got back on the road to Phoenix, driving through mountainous desert and plenty of Saguaro on the way. The flight home wasn’t quite as smooth as the flight there, but we managed.
So! Last weekend we went with some friends (Michael & Liz) and their son Ryan (who is just three months younger than our guys) to watch airplanes land and take-off at Oakland International Airport (OAK). Dan had scouted out (via the interwebz) a good-looking park near to the airport, Oyster Shoreline Regional Park, so we arranged to meet up there Sunday morning with a breakfast picnic of pastries from Feel Good Bakery and peaches from Happy Child CSA (aka Frog Hollow Farm). Even though we were coming from different directions (Alameda & Oakland), we managed to both arrive within minutes of each other at the wrong entrance to the park that Google Maps had merrily directed us to (it was actually the entrance to the Davis Street Recycling Station.) But that made it easy for us to flip around and follow each other to the real entrance of the park, as found on the park’s website.
Liz, is eight months pregnant with their second, but the whole family gamely walked the half mile to some picnic tables, where we dug into the booty. While we adults stuffed our faces our two little blonde guys (their boy, Ryan, and Ansel) dabbled in the pastries but soon decided they had had enough and went off to explore. Our good eater, Cormac, kept at it for awhile longer before he too wanted to adventure. All the while airplanes were coming in low and slow from a Southeast direction to land at OAK (though funnily, the majority of the planes were of the Southwest Airlines variety.) The boys did not pay them much mind except when we pointed them out.
We were sheltered from a view of the airport proper by a small knoll to the West (I now know that the small knoll is actually a retired garbage heap, covered by a layer of clay) so Dan took Coco & Ansel up to the top of the knoll to see if they could get a better view. While on their scramble through the brush they disturbed a snake, which we are pretty sure was not poisonous. It did not pay them much heed and Dan hastily backtracked. Meanwhile, Ryan was having a great time playing with some giant pinecones that were littered about the picnic table. Despite his younger age, he talks much more than our guys and it was wild for me to hear him count “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 9, 9, 9…” :)
Soon enough we decided to continue on the official trail which wound around the knoll and that we assumed would give us a better view of the airport and planes. We were right. Though the trail had no shade and the scenery was pretty mundane, the views of the planes were great. We watched many a plane approach from the Southeast. It seems wrong to see airplanes going so slow– they almost seem to hang in the sky. Ansel, in particular, really seemed to enjoy seeing the planes and after one would come he would make the ASL sign for more. It was adorable that he thought we could just order up more planes to land for him. As we continued on the trail, which was heading in a Northwest direction, toward the airport (and toward the bay.) we were able to see planes taking off too, though not as well.
We found a good place to stop. Ansel started throwing rocks (with a little help from us on how to throw rocks away from people) and Cormac was intent on treating the stroller as a mountain to be climbed. Ryan seemed content just to be there with mom and dad, though he and Ansel did collaborate on filling my empty coffee cup with rocks. Many excellent pictures were taken, primarily by our friend M, but also by Dan and I. They are sprinkled through this post.
A good time was had by all and I foresee more years of airplane watching, maybe with our friends, in our future!
On Saturday our neighbor hosted an Easter Egg hunt for the toddler set. Though many of us first-time parents had low expectations, the kids took to it naturally. Cormac had a grand time pointing to the pastel-colored plastic eggs “hidden” in the yard. He filled his pail eventually, but at about half the speed of the other kids. Another neighbor with a son 1.5 months older than Coco said “I’m a little envious– does he always move at this speed? My guy is Mr. Energy!” I explained that Cormac is more of a relaxed observer-type, but that Ansel more than makes up for it with his frenetic energy. Unfortunately, Ansel couldn’t come because he had caught a cold. Though I’m sad he didn’t go to the Easter Egg hunt, I’m happy he napped for four hours instead.
Recently I’ve seen Cormac walking backwards several times, often with a silly smile on his face. This is a new thing for him. Surprisingly, he’s walking backwards before Ansel (usually Ansel leads with new physical abilities.) Speaking of which, Ansel can climb up our child-proof fencing like a little monkey, hooking his toes into the little holes in the fence. He hasn’t managed to go over the top yet (that we’ve seen), but we’re keeping our eyes on him…
The boys still don’t have many words– though they have added hot to their repertoire (pronounced “ha”). “Dada” is Ansel’s favorite word and he says it often. I’ve noticed him saying it more in the hour before Dan arrives home from work– does he know when to expect Dada? They’re pretty quiet overall, though they are doing some chattering. My friend Chris Walker says when they start talking it can be like your cat suddenly started talking. I can imagine– I’m so used to them not saying anything now. Today after Ansel woke up from his nap it was obvious what he wanted without words– he grabbed his snack cup and pointed to the cupboard that holds the Cheerios.
In other news Cormac has three freckles now– one on his neck, one on his chin and one on his forehead. Silly boy, doesn’t he know that freckles belong on your nose? Ansel is winning the tooth race: he’s got his eight incisors, top & bottom, his four first molars, top & bottom, and is now working on his two top canines! Cormac has his eight incisors and one molar. He’s not one to hurry.
Ansel loves to put things away. When Cormac came home with the pail full of easter eggs, Ansel spent a good 20 minutes emptying them out of the pail and then putting them back. Unfortunately, he’s still pretty aggressive about taking Cormac’s toys. Cormac doesn’t fight Ansel much to try to keep the toys but now he’s showing real frustration after it happens. Recently Ansel took a Patagonia catalog that Cormac had been looking at and Cormac turned to me afterward and very deliberately picked up a nearby toy and threw it down in anger. I felt like he was trying to say “Why does Ansel always take my toys?” or maybe “Why don’t you keep Ansel from taking all my toys?” We work with Ansel on sharing and taking turns (and are starting to work with Coco on his frustration) but we also know that they need to learn to work these things out between themselves too.
Coco and Ansel were sick through much of March and the nights got pretty bad (a post for another day perhaps.) Just recently the boys have returned to health and we’ve been trying to get our bedtime routine back to what it was pre-sickness: milk, tooth brushing, books, cribs, lights out, sleep. Since their sicknesses we often need to add 15-45 minutes of soothing before they go to sleep. Bedtime tonight was an interesting experience. I turned the lights out and rubbed their backs, talking about it being time to go to sleep (and warning them that I was going to leave soon.) They were both standing in their cribs, seeming agitated, so I kept rubbing their backs. Then Ansel reached up his arms and pushed me away. I was confused. He reached up his arms again but in a way that seemed like he wanted to be picked up. Instead of picking him up I gave him a big hug and told him that I loved him. Then I did the same for Cormac. They still didn’t lie down so I left the room intending to go get my cell phone so I could come back and chill out with them. As I left the room Ansel started crying but after I closed the door behind me the crying stopped within 30 seconds. I’m not sure but I think Ansel wanted to go to sleep but found my presence too stimulating and that’s why he pushed me towards the door.
I’ve noticed Cormac making arm rolling motions occasionally (like you do when you sing Pat-a-Cake) and I thought it was cute, but didn’t think much more about it. Today I noticed that he did it at breakfast when I said “it’s time to roll your sleeves up” and I realized that he was correlating “roll your sleeves up” with the lyrics “roll it” from Pat-a-Cake and I got really excited! They might not say much but their brains are coming up with connections that I never expected!
Also, they love to help us (sweep, vacuum, pick up (sometimes)) and are starting to care for each other, it seems. Oftentimes when we go into the nursery for naptime or bedtime, one or the other of them (especially Ansel) will hunt for their pacifiers and bring them to the other. And when one or the other of them is lying down for a diaper change and fussing about it, his brother will bring over a toy for him to play with while he’s being changed. I’m hoping this is just the start to a lifetime of fraternal affection for these two.
Ten pm on a Wednesday night, March 5th, 2014. I hear the rain falling outside. I didn’t expect it and am thrilled. It’s been a tough day– Cormac was sick to his stomach for the first half of the day and threw up four times (our first real stomach sickness). At nine pm Ansel woke up with a cough that sounds a lot like croup again. Luckily I have a husband who knows exactly what I need– he brought home some Ben & Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup ice cream. That, plus a North Coast Brewery Old Stock Ale (probably my favorite beer) and a funny Saturday Night Live (featuring Beck!) during dinner made me feel much better.
Our boys are experimenting with more words: they’ve mastered “uhoh” and are working on “bath” and “boom”. They love the Diggers Go book that we checked out of the library: its last page is “The wrecking ball goes BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM.”
I’m pleasantly surprised at how much the boys manage to communicate without words. We see/hear a lot of grunting and pointing nowadays. Some of my favorite non-verbal communications are when they see something they know they’re not supposed to touch (like a used diaper or a pile of dirt while I’m sweeping) they’ll stand or crouch near it and point at it, as if to say “Did you know that this is sitting here, tempting me? Take it away!” Today I was looking for one of Coco’s socks and asking out loud “Where is Coco’s sock? He had it on earlier but it’s disappeared!” Finally I look at Cormac who is pointing and grunting at the dirty laundry basket– there it is! he must have put his sock in earlier when I wasn’t looking.
Cormac was super-affectionate today since he felt so poorly. He spent a lot of time in our laps or while we’re sitting on the floor he would come over and lean his head and upper body onto our back in a low-key hug/I don’t feel so good kind of way. Ansel’s copycatting habit worked to our benefit as sometimes he would be inspired to come over and do the same thing after seeing Cormac doing it. Additionally Ansel has his own kind of hug where he runs over and aggressively hugs/tackles Cormac. I can’t figure out if it’s loving, exuberant or annoying, especially to Cormac, who sometimes ends up crying after being bowled over by one of these “hugs”.
It actually feels like a sort of unique experience to look into their eyes and know that they’re understanding so much of what I say, even though they cannot respond in words. Earlier in the week I caught Ansel putting things into the trash. Worried that he was throwing away dishes or toys I looked and it turns out he was throwing away scrap paper. Somehow, without our ever teaching him, he figured out what was appropriate to throw away. Except, of course, scrap paper should go in the recycling bin instead. I explained that to him and since then he’s been putting it in the recycling bin. :)
Tonight I found the “Cat” flash card next to the cat’s scratch box in the kitchen. It’s most likely a random coincidence that the card ended up there, but I wonder whether they might have put it there on purpose.
Part of our pediatrician’s concern about their lack of words is that they might end up having more tantrums because they can’t communicate. Tantrums are coming, but so far I feel blessed with two boys who go with the flow a lot of the time. They do experiment with tantrum-like behavior. These experiments seem to run counter to their normal natures. As you probably know already, overall Cormac is more sedate and laid-back and Ansel likes to move a lot. When Ansel’s upset and doesn’t want to do what we want he tends to go limp and play dead. Whereas when Cormac doesn’t want to do what we want he has a tendency to kick his legs frenetically.
The other day Dan shared an anecdote about the boys with me: he was telling the kids a story about an animal with a tail and they each patted their bottom where their tails would be if they had them (without our explaining.) He mentioned to me how smart they were to figure that out on their own. I agree, sort of. They do seem super smart to us. I think this is because we’ve been with them since the beginning. When they come out of the womb they can’t do hardly anything beside breathe, eat, poop and cry. To watch two little beings evolve from glorified worms into sentient little humans would convince anyone that their children are the smartest in all the land. :)
I am at home with them full-time this week because our nanny is traveling. I was worried it would be hard, but I’m having a great time. I still very much enjoy and appreciate my part-time job but I’m so happy I have the opportunity to stay home and be with our little guys this week.
Today, since it has been so rainy, I plan to meet up with other twin moms (some whom I’ve never met) at the Montclair branch of the Oakland Public Library for a playdate around 3:30pm. The boys (miraculously!) sleep long– from 11:45-2:45 so I rush to get them up and hurriedly feed them a snack. Post-snack, I dress our little guys in their make-do raincoats and adorable rain boots (thanks Zappos!) and we hop in the car.
When we arrive I see that there is only on-street parking for the library (no parking lot) and nothing close. After a few passes (and aborted attempts at parallel parking in the midst of semi-heavy traffic) I finally find a spot across the street and a half a block away that I can pull straight into. It’s a little unfortunate because there is no sidewalk on that side of the street so I have to take the boys out straight into the street to cross it. After I park, I get the boys all unbuckled and stage them, standing in the wheel well, ready to “sprint” (as much as 1.5 year-old boys who have been walking for three months can sprint) with me across the street once we see a break in the traffic.
We wait, and finally I see a good time to go. I get Cormac onto the street and hold onto his hand while I grab Ansel and lift him out of the car. While I’m holding Ansel and still have Cormac’s hand, I close the door and start to put Ansel down. At that point I see that one of Ansel’s rain boots has fallen off his foot on the ground. Hanging onto the boys, I squat down to pick up his boot. I misjudged my squat (or the weight of the boys I’m connected to) and fall down on my bottom on the rainy street. That’s when I look up and see the minivan approaching. This is a low-point. I’ve not been in too many scary situations with the kids, but falling down in the middle of a busy street on a rainy day with a car headed towards us might rank the highest.
Luckily, the minivan seems to have seen us and is stopped, waiting for us to reassemble ourselves. I pick myself up, grab both boys under my arms, hold onto the wayward boot and dash across the street. I almost reach the sidewalk on the other side when I look back and… see Ansel’s other boot has fallen on the ground next to the car. Noooo!! The minivan that almost ran us over has now parked right behind our car. Perhaps they are going to report me to CPS? I see a woman get out of the car, pick up the boot and ask, “Are you Bethany?”
What?!? It turns out that this is Shawn, one of the other moms meeting us for the playdate (and a guardian angel.) Being a twin mom herself, she might understand why I had fallen down in the street while trying to get my kids to the other side. :) She runs across the street, hands me the boot and goes back to get her 20 month-old twin girls. She smartly brought a stroller for them and the rest of our walk to the library is uneventful. I keep thanking her for not running us over and she laughs.
We all have a good time at the library, which has a great area for kids with games, puzzles and baskets of board books. The boys behave fairly well, though I do feel bad for the librarian (or page) who will have to re-shelve the numerous books the kids pull out. After Ansel pulls out a chair and accidentally knocks himself down, I think it’s time to go. But we check out three new board books on our way out (the boys first time checking books out of the library!)
So the boys have been learning the word “uhoh” and today on the drive to and from the library, Ansel, Coco and I kept saying it. It made Ansel giggle up a storm.
After Dan got home, he took the boys over while I I finished dinner. He heard Ansel make a funny sound and I explained it was Ansel saying “uhoh”. Dan started saying it for Ansel too. Everyone was having a jolly good time, even as he was strapping him into their high chairs for dinner time. Dan asked me “Do they understand what it means?” and I said “I don’t know.” I think he wanted to teach them what uhoh means so he took a paper towel, crumpled it up, dropped it onto the floor and said “uhoh”. Pretty soon he realized his mistake– good intention to teach the boys the right context for uhoh, but when we’re constantly fighting their urge to drop their food on the floor, the last thing we need is him demonstrating that if you drop something on the floor you get to say the word uhoh! He backtracked and tried to explain that it’s when an accident happened, but the precedent was set for the night– drop your food and say “uhoh”, it’s all right. :)
Dan and I enjoyed a hearty laugh about today’s misadventures– falling down in the street in traffic and teaching the babies to throw their food.
The boys just keep changing and I’m finding little time to document it! Here’s what’s going on lately:
Ansel seems to really enjoy routines and patterns and is having a lot of fun helping. When we all go upstairs to the nursery to go to bed, he always goes and gets pacifiers for himself and Coco, as well as their lovies (small blankets that they sleep with: blue elephants for Coco and yellow giraffes for Ansel) and makes sure to give the appropriate ones to Cormac. He’s super helpful in general and it is great fun to watch him try to figure out how to help. He doesn’t always get it right, like when I was sorting baby clothes, some of which were clean, so I folded them and laid them on the chair, and others which were dirty, so I threw them in the hamper. Ansel decided that all of the clothes should be in the hamper so he took the folded clothes off the chair and put them in the hamper for me. :)
Cormac is a dancing fiend. He’ll dance to any music (even the noise from Dan’s coffee grinder!) He also really loves to “read” books, I got all wispy-eyed when I saw him spontaneously lie down on his belly to read a book the other day, a position I remember spending much time in while growing up.
It’s easy to make Ansel giggle, by tickling him or bouncing/roughhousing with him. Overall he seems oriented towards movement.
Cormac is more subtle in general, which can make getting him to laugh feel extra rewarding. When he was a baby certain sounds made him laugh– like when Dan or I would bark like a dog. It usually had to be novel, after awhile he wouldn’t laugh at our barks anymore. I have a recent video of Cormac laughing by making my foot slide off the coffee table onto the floor. It’s a long video and if you keep watching (for those of you very into the boys), later on you’ll see Ansel busily throwing things over the fence. When Ansel gets in the mood to move things hither and thither, he becomes quite serious, it’s funny to watch! View the video here (sorry for the poor quality.)
The boys are slow to gain language but their understanding blows me away nowadays. They know their colors, animals, body parts, family members, furniture and more! They can also manage to make a dinosaur “rawr!” and kitty-cat “eow” sounds when we ask, which is super cute.
We are having some problems with irritability as we approach the 2s. Ansel has always taken (or tried to take) toys from Cormac and Cormac rarely objected in the past. Now when it happens Coco cries. We’ve been trying to get Ansel to stop but he seems obsessed. Yesterday morning Coco was playing with a block while Ansel was playing with some animals. Even though Ansel seemed perfectly happy with the animals he decided he needed Coco’s block so he tried to grab it from him. When I intervened to stop him they both fell down. Many tears ensued.
Strangely, when we ask them to share, they do it pretty well (especially Ansel!) Obviously he doesn’t connect sharing with leaving Cormac & his toys alone.
Oh, they’re also loving playing with the salad spinner. Pushing the plunger to make it spin is fun, but pressing the little black brake button to make it stop is even more fun.
I may try making shorter entries to help me keep up, but we’ll see how it goes. No promises.