oh to preschool they went!

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This week, Claire and Etta Jane started school for the first time. We found them the school of our dreams– a Montessori in an old house in a historic neighborhood. The classroom is calm and airy. The staff is warm and caring. There’s a giant outdoor classroom where the kids spend a lot of time. It’s homey, sweet, and peaceful, and we’re really excited to have found it and gotten in despite our late-summer move. I had been convinced there would be mile long waiting lists at any school we actually liked, but we ended up finding 3 good options to choose from.

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Purchasing uniforms with Claire, who is not a ham at all, why do you ask?

One thing I really liked was they allowed us to choose if the girls were in the same classroom or not. I know people have lots of opinions about separating twins in school or keeping them together, but I think it’s one of those decisions individual twin parents should be able to make for their unique kids. Etta and Claire have a special relationship. They are best friends (they not only share a room but sleep in the same bed), but not overly dependent on each other, so we didn’t think them being together would be a disruption, nor did we think separating them would be particularly traumatic. It’s just…they’ve always existed together. And when they embarked on their own into school for the first time, it felt natural and right that they would do it together. I love, for example, that they can look out for each other. Etta’s had a rougher transition than Claire has, but Claire has assured us that Etta does just fine at school and has a great time. They were scheming in the car today to get all the girls to sit at the same table for lunch. Another upside? This scatterbrained mama only has to keep up with one class’s crap.

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It feels pretty strange to suddenly have 4 hours a day to myself after 4 years of 24/7 twins. I’m really glad we skipped preschool for their 3 year old year. We had a really wonderful year together going to the zoo, library, and children’s museum each week. And yet this summer I think we were all feeling that we were ready for some space from each other. They were bored with me, and I was frustrated with them, more than before. If I had any doubts that they were ready, the Open House at their school alleviated them. They happily entered their new classroom, pulled out some Works (it’s a Montessori thing), and got busy. They didn’t want to see the playground, they didn’t want to leave, they just wanted to work. On the first day of actual school, Etta was ready to leave us at the curb, and Claire, our sensitive little heart, shocked us by not even crying (EVERYTHING makes Claire cry). When it came time for pickup, Claire didn’t want to go home!

It has also been amazing for my mental health (more on the anxiety thing in a future post) to have some time of my own. I can grocery shop by myself! I can run errands at super speed because I don’t have to constantly put kids in and out of car seats. I can blog! I can read! I can sew! (I’ve already been whipping up headbands and am thinking about selling them.) I can get lunches packed for the next day, dinner prepped, and even do some actual housework (if you think my floors like, ever, got swept with those two underfoot, think again)! I can even volunteer for the Clinton campaign! (More on that later, too)

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Now I think I know why my dad always sang “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” as we shopped for school supplies. School is wonderful. The girls are thriving, learning, and making new friends, and I GET TO HAVE SOME SEMBLANCE OF MY OWN LIFE.

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little talks

This girl knows how to stay positive.

This girl knows how to stay positive.

Most days, as I drive her to preschool, I hear Claire’s sweet little voice giving herself a pep talk in the back seat. It goes something like this:

“Claire Bear be OK. Mommy come right back. Daddy come right back. Etta come right back. Claire Bear be OK. Claire Bear see friends. Claire Bear see Miss Freddie. Claire Bear eat snacks. Claire Bear go outside. Mommy come right back. Claire Bear go outside. Mommy come right back. Mommy always come right back.”

By the time we get to school, she’s psyched up like a player for the big game. She waves bye bye to her sister and me. She walks happily into her classroom, where she will see her friends and beloved teachers, eat snacks, play with toys, sing songs, read books, work hard with her therapists, and then, at the end of the day, where her mommy will come right back to her.  Continue reading

signs

IMG_8114On Monday, I dropped Claire off at preschool for the first time in over a week after our vacation (more about that later). As I carried her in, she smiled at her teachers, saw that breakfast was being served, and rubbed her chest. “Please? You want some breakfast, huh Claire?” her teacher said. And that’s when it hit me…

It only took us three months, but we finally figured out that they’ve been teaching her baby sign language at preschool. And suddenly, what I thought were just funny things she likes to do with her hands, maybe pieces of songs from circle time (she loves the motions to Happy And You Know It and Itsy Bitsy Spider), became words with meaning– meaning we’ve been missing all this time.

Meanwhile, my mind flashed to what the last few months must have been like for Claire: More, please. Eat, please. Up? What is wrong with my parents? Do I live with idiots? My teachers understand me just fine! How many times do I have to say “more” to these morons before they refill my milk? She must have thought we were incredibly dense.

Now, though, it’s like a whole new world has opened up. This morning she pointed to a book and signed “please.” So I read it to her. Crazy!

Now I’ve got some catching up to do in the baby sign language department, because Claire is way ahead of me.

I must say, I’m super impressed with her preschool teachers– it absolutely makes sense to teach baby sign language at a special needs preschool where a lot of the kids are either nonverbal or speech-delayed. This puts all the kids on a level playing field for at least the bare minimum of communication.

Meanwhile, there’s at least one other area where I have to catch up with preschool: somehow, after a year of struggle, her teachers and her feeding therapist have gotten her off of bottles, the bottles she has preferred exclusively over any other type of bottle or cup since the NICU, and she now drinks from a sippy cup for them. Well, the jig is up now, Claire, and you’re about to switch to sippies at home, too. No more washing and reusing the same 12 disposable nipples that we nabbed from the NICU and have been reusing all this time, over 18 months now. How do I sign “sippy time”?

cloth diapering update: into toddlerhood

tips for cloth diapering toddlers // the adventures of ernie bufflo

I’ve written about cloth diapering newborns and infants, but I figured now that the girls are 17 months, it’s time for an update on the toddler phase of this operation.

I still LOVE LOVE LOVE my cloth diapers. I still think they’re no grosser or more difficult than disposables. I still think they’re 10 times cuter ;)

One new development: a diaper sprayer is a must in the toddler years. (I’m about to talk about poop. There’s no way around it. You’ve been warned.) While newborn and infant poop is water soluble, once baby is really eating solids, you’re gonna need to get most of that off the diaper before you wash it. For us, this was around 13 months. Of course, you could be lucky and just have a kid like one of ours (not naming names because they’ll be Google-able someday), whose poops are just little turds that easily roll off the diaper into the toilet. No sprayer necessary, pretty much ever, if that’s the case. But for our other kid, her poops are just a sticky mess and must be sprayed off. We have a sprayer from BumGenius, and my husband easily and quickly installed it on the toilet in the girls’ bathroom. It works great, just like the sink sprayer you probably have in the kitchen.

Also, toddlers pee more. Their bladders hold more, so you may find yourself needing to up the absorbency in your diapers. This is one reason why pocket style diapers are my favorite. It’s super easy to add an extra insert, preferably in a natural fiber like cotton, bamboo, or hemp, when you need to add absorbency, like nap time, or when you’ll be out and about. I like bamboo inserts from Alva Baby and hemp from Thirsties.

This also means you might have to find a new system for overnights to keep baby from waking up soaked. Our girls are such heavy wetters that I have yet to find a disposable diaper that doesn’t leak overnight, so even if we’re traveling and using disposable diapers, I put a cloth cover over the disposable to prevent leaks. Meanwhile, through trial and error, I’ve found cloth diaper systems that help them go more than 12 hours leak-free. For our heavier wetter, we use a Flip cover stuffed with one Flip organic overnight insert with a Flip stay dry insert over that. For the other girl, we use either a Thirsties Fab Fitted stuffed with a small Thirsties hemp insert inside a Flip cover or a Green Mountain workhorse fitted with a small Thirsties hemp insert and a fleece liner to keep her feeling dry (I cut up an old sweatshirt) inside a Flip cover.

Another new toddler cloth-diapering development is that Claire goes to pre-school:

Cloth Diapering and Daycare or Pre-School

When considering cloth diapers and daycare/pre-school, remember: it never hurts to ask, and the ask is easier if you Show And Tell. I asked if our pre-school would consider cloth diapering, and they said they were open to the idea. So I took in a few of our pocket diapers for them to check out. Once they saw they were all one piece, just like a disposable diaper, they said they’d give it a shot. And it’s worked out great! Some other things to keep in mind:

  1. Make it as easy on the caregivers as possible. For us, this means I take pre-stuffed pocket diapers all ready to go. I also don’t require them to spray poops or unstuff the diapers. Since their changing table is right next to a toilet, they dump the ploppable poops in the trash, then fold up the diapers and stuff them in a wetbag. I unstuff them when I get them home and throw them in the wash. I also didn’t try to rock the boat with cloth wipes. Just getting them to cloth diaper is enough for me! I also made sure the only diaper cream we provide is CD safe, which isn’t a problem because each kid supplies his own cream.
  2. Ask how many times a day they change kids, and send enough changes plus a couple extras. Our center changes kids every 2 hours, and she’s there from 8:30-3:30. I make sure they have 6 cloth diapers in Claire’s cubby at all times, along with a medium wetbag (we have 2 medium wetbags that get rotated according to which is in the wash).
  3. Make sure you tell them: “Put it on tighter than you think it needs to be.” I have found that putting on diapers too loose is the number one reason non-CDers have leaks when they try cloth diapers. I explained that the key to keeping wetness in was a tight seal around the waist and legs, and while they had a couple of leaks at first, our teachers eventually got it down. I also reassured them that a little redness from the elastic is normal, but we don’t want deep red marks.

Do you cloth diaper a toddler? Have any tips to share? Any questions?

 

new routines

On Monday, Claire is starting SCHOOL!

While I have images of my tiny person with a tiny backpack sitting at a tiny desk, the real story is that she’s starting at a developmental preschool at the same place she currently has all her therapies. For the past 6 months, I’ve been getting her to 6 therapy appointments per week, which presents a bit of a problem for someone with twins– something must be done with Etta while Claire’s working on her skillz. So, for all this time, Etta has been attending the fabulous daycare at the hospital where my husband works.

Meanwhile, the therapy place has this “preschool,” which would be fully covered by Claire’s insurance and TEFRA, but we were waiting on a spot. This is a better situation because Claire will be able to get all her therapies in house, and not have to have them back to back, ever, which I know she will like, because when she has to have two therapies back to back, she mostly falls apart through the second session. And, on top of that, she can finally start the feeding therapy we’ve been waiting on because adding another appointment each week to the mix seemed a little nuts. It’s also better because she’ll get to be in a class with other kids with similar stuff going on, including another kid about her age who also has spina bifida! I really like the idea of her having a picture in her head that kids like her are “normal,” and I like that this preschool is a mix of kids with physical/intellectual/social disabilities, but also typical kids.

So, with Claire starting at the preschool, Friday is Etta’s last day in daycare. After 6 months of lots of one-on-one time with Claire, I have to confess, I’m really looking forward to some time with my Etta girl. And I’m REALLY looking forward to seeing Claire’s progress once she’s finally getting all the therapies she needs.

She’ll be in “school” from 8ish (let’s be real, I’m just striving to have her there by 9) to 4:00 each day, Monday-Friday, which is a big schedule change for us. Just getting the three of us out the door, Etta dropped off at daycare, and Claire to therapy by 9 three days a week has been a struggle for me. I think I’m going to have to start (sob) getting myself up early enough to shower and get myself ready before the girls wake up. I have been enjoying getting to sleep in to 7:30! (Can someone please go back and tell 22 year old me that one day I’d think 7:30 was sleeping in? She’ll laugh in your face.) And I’m really going to have to get better about having bottles and bags ready for the night before.

Who knew we’d be arriving at “first day of school” so soon?!

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