Blowing in the Wind

A week ago at the Koh Samui Airport; the four of us are rushing to our plane in an open air buggy.

Leila pushes me. She shouts, “WOW! Mum. Look’t Leila hair,” as she runs her fingers through her hair.

“Yes! Your hair is blowing in the wind.”

“Rawul awso,” she says, pointing at her brother’s hair.

She looks at Maher next, “Papa NOT.”

And then at me, “Mama Yes.”

 

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Between the Lines

It’s 7am. Leila follows me into the bathroom. I notice her reflection in the mirror – fiddling with the drawers that store extra towels – as I brush my teeth. She’s not really interested in the drawer handles or contents.

She’s working on something else.

“Rawul did it!” she says over and over.

Every time she says his name, her lips take on a life of their own. She’s focused. It’s 4 or 5 more rehearsals before I stop her; ask what it is that he did.

She grins; laughs with gleaming eyes. Her cute as crazy cheeks look up at me. I cup them in my palms and kiss her.

I wonder if she’s imitating me, or if she came up with that line on her own. And to what end.

She says it again, intonating every syllable with assertion.

Tattletale

Early this morning, while I was still half asleep R was chewing on one of Maher’s ear phones. It was not the dangerous one where a piece comes off and is a serious choking hazard. I didn’t react to it.  There has been more than enough “No, not that.” A little too much lately and I can see the repercussions.

L was sitting in between us. She turned towards me, her eyes full of concern. She quietly made the sign of biting something with her teeth. She then said “Aya” and pointed at R. It took me a few seconds to realise what just happened. She was telling on her brother. According to Maher, she had done it in the past but it was more vague, and she was more little. This time it was clear. I managed something like “That’s his business,” or, “It’s between me and him…”

I turned away waiting to see what would happen. With the two on each others nerves often lately I wish I had inherited my mum’s super sharp ears and the eyes on the back of her head. A little later she turned towards me again, and bit her teeth together. She said”mama” and without looking at him pointed at R. I was on the verge of laughing.

Things are certainly becoming interesting and intricate around here.

Pacifier-free

Rahul stopped using the pacifier a week ago. I though it would be much harder than it has been. He asked for it only a handful of times since then and never insisted or cried. We simply told him he doesn’t need it anymore.

The trick was that for the first three days we were in Hong Kong, very busy playing in the parks with other kids, eating out, meeting friends, and then traveling home. The constant distraction must have helped. A friend mentioned an interesting point. If we waited untill he turned two or more his attention span and memory would be better, and as a result his attachment to the pacifier stronger. Perhaps this adds to how easily let go of his need for it

The morning we stopped giving R the tetine, the French for pacifier our trial almost backfired. As L and R were strapped up in the stroller ready for the park, L looked at me and said “mama, teti Aya,” which means something like either “Mum can you give Rahul his pacifier,” or “Mum don’t forget Rahul’s pacifier.” “Aya” is Rahul. I was stunned by her timing, worried that he would scream and cry for it. I replied, “He doesn’t need it anymore, neither do you.” She has enjoyed being a social pacifier user with her brother now and then over the last few weeks. Luckily they both dropped the thought as we quickly walked out the hotel room. Maher and I looked at each other, relieved. We tried hard to keep our stifled laughter from exploding!

Medium and Happy

Rahul and Leila have come a long way since their birth at 31 weeks gestation. At 18 months they have caught up with other children their age physically, emotionally and developmentally.

Leila recently jumped from the 5th to the 10th percentile in weight, and Rahul is steady at the 10th. In height they are both at the 50th percentile. All in all, according to the charts (which might be slightly different that the US standard ones?), they are light weight children of average height. Not that it means much anymore. Last month I met a five month old baby who weighed as much as Leila. At their NICU there was a baby born at 24 weeks, much tinier than them. Now however, when I see them play amongst toddlers their own age, they merge right in, size-wise as well as ability-wise.

Since they were born a couple of months early it was normal, even necessary to closely monitor their weight gain. Thankfully we have had no serious problems since they left the NICU. They are both running, playing, and talking a lot. They are full of energy.

It’s time for me to let go of the obsessive monitoring. They need a break from being scrutinized and compared. They inevitably get a lot of it just for being twins. They don’t need any more, and especially not from me. In the big picture a little delay here or there is not a big deal. I have noticed that they are eating a little more than before, sleeping a little bit better, and enjoying each other.

I have found that comparing healthy babies growth and development is useless, and even silly. We all do it though. It’s natural. Parents often compare how soon their babies sit up, crawl, start sprouting teeth, walk, and talk in relation to others. Discussing these things with other mums and dads is important, especially for first time parents. It is necessary to follow-up on certain milestone achievements. If a real problem is caught soon enough it could be addressed more effectively.

There is a wide range of normal. I can see that just by having two babies. Leila crawled by 7 months, Rahul started after 9. They both had issues with digestion in the NICU. They digest differently. R has a strong reflux, Leila a poor appetite. Now L eats all the time and R eats only when he can feed himself! They both got their first teeth around the same time. According to Dr. Sear’s “The Baby Book”, when teeth come out is a genetic trait. Speech seems to be a big “issue”, and especially when there is more than one language spoken. We have 3 languages around us, and so far they are both saying words in all.

My brother didn’t speak until he was 2. My grandmother forced my parents to see doctors about this. Neither did he eat. What a catastrophe. My parents were easy-going enough to let him be. When he was ready he spoke and when he was hungry he ate. Now he talks a lot, and eats a lot. He is a professional sportsman, and a big guy. My brother-in-law spoke “late”, but apparently when he did it was in full grammatically correct sentences!

When asked, I usually responded to questions about my children’s age, weight, birth order etc. And then I asked similar questions back. Sometimes I even initiated such dialogues. I knew it was silly, but I needed to hear that Leila and Rahul are smaller than others to validate their experience of early birth, as well as mine being their primary care-giver. It has not been easy with their tiny milk feeds. After birth they wouldn’t drink more than 1 to 3 ml of milk at a time. By 1 year R could take 120ml. But because of his reflux he had to stop and burp every 30 ml. Each feed was drink, burp, drink, burp… Leila woke up every 2 to 3 hours to drink at night, and still does. Most babies around us sleep through the night and eat comfortably. I couldn’t help comparing.

I was listening to a studio talk by Richard Freeman, an inspiring senior Ashtanga teacher the other day. I am paraphrasing what I understood from it. He said as soon as we realise that our Asana posture is medium, that it could look better, and it could also look worse, there is a release. The pressure dissolves and the breathing starts. It is no longer about having the perfect posture. It is more intrinsic and personal. That’s when the suffering stops and the practice can deepen.

The same goes for size. As soon as we can acknowledge that we are medium, that we could be taller or shorter, fatter or thinner, there is a release. We can move on and think about other things. I once told a close friend that her son was tall. “No” she responded, “he is average height.” Her honesty struck me.

Rahul and Leila are changing all the time, as I am. When I am around them I want to be actually present. I want to encourage them to have fun, and to laugh. They have enough time to follow curriculae and perform in the future. We can all stack 4 blocks and order rings according to size. It makes no difference to me if they can do it now, or in a few months. They are full of love and energy and that is what really matters. I want them to be Medium and Happy.

One-and-a-half

R and L are now officially a year and a half. Their love for music and dance is growing with them. R has a very cute new dance move. He shakes his head and shoulders very fast and then swings his arms around freely. Leila does cha-cha-cha type steps around the house. She also goes down down down and then up up up.

When the moment and music inspires them, they hold hands and look into each others eyes. Their smiles are contagious. They make each other laugh. The couples dance turns into a bear hug. Then there is hair-pulling, screaming, and crying. An adult intervenes. We pull them apart and ask them to be gentle. Sometimes there is a make-up stroke through the others hair, or a peck on the cheek. Other times there is no reaction. This is sort of how our days go – the activity might be different, the fun, laughter, drama, and crying always there.

So what has changed for US?

-We haven’t read anything longer than a few pages on a computer screen in a while.

– We only watch animated movies.

-I hum nursery rhymes all day long, even after R and L are asleep.

-Maher plays children’s tunes on his classical flute. He did take it out of its case after many years though.

-We eat overcooked, car and plane shaped pasta. The big secret we are keeping from the Lebanese family and friends is dinner is at six-thirty pm now.

-My brothers and guy cousins are jealous of my big shoulders and biceps. When I was pregnant a friend with twin sisters told me his mum developed strong arms. I looked at him strangely. Now I understand.

-Maher’s practice takes even longer than it used to. The little yogis don’t miss their chance to practice with and even force feed him.

Now that L and R are eighteen months old they will sleep soundly through the night, eat heartily, drink out of cups, and play calmly with each other. No, but one Mum of Twins (MoT) blogged how things lightened up for her at one-and-a-half. So hey, some positive thinking and hoping can’t hurt!

My not so controlled, not so scientific experiment.

Our sleeping arrangement is as consistent as everything else is with me lately. L and R share a room and have a crib each. For the beginning of every night they are in their room. Some parts of some nights we have one of them in our bed, and sometimes much more rarely both. Having them sleep in our bed is a recent phenomenon. When we went to Koh Samui in February, the two cribs and our big bed all in one room rendered much better sleep than in the past.

A few weeks ago I was trying to see what the nights would be like in the different cases mentioned above. In general the child who is between us sleeps better than when in his [I use his in this post to mean either child] own bed alone, at least for longer periods of time, and a hug or gentle tap on the belly usually gets him back to sleep in minimal time. When I was experimenting with this, I switched the child in our bed each night for about a week to ten days. That one was sleeping better than the other. The one who stayed in his own bed pulled the other one’s hair many times the next morning.

When I had them both in our bed, if either woke up before morning he would cry, fuss, push and even roll over the other one to make sure I took care of him. This happened only when he noticed his sibling was also in the bed. So both ended up awake. That meant that Maher and I were up too. This segment of the experiment lasted two days. I was ready to have them back in their own beds unless necessary, and Maher had a talk with me about this too!

In order to maintain a few hours of sleep and some sanity for myself, especially in the case of simultaneous wakings our nights are a combination of the above situations. We spend a part of the night alone, part with one and sometimes the rest of the night with the other.

The last two nights R and L had a fever and runny noses. They both vomited. L on the first day, R the second. It seems to be a flu. Of course if one has it, the other one is likely to follow. Usually there is a lag of a day or two, but this time, it was simultaneous and intense. Neither accepted to be alone in their own bed. This meant when one woke up and saw the other in our bed, there was the crying, fussing, pushing, and rolling over. All four of us were up, and both children were burning with fever, crying and asking for “mama, mama.” One would climb onto me and push the other out of the way, then a minute later it was the other way around. Maher and I looked at each other, stuck. I laughed awkwardly as we tried to react to the situation.

The guilt that comes with having to choose one child over the other at the spur of a moment eased up a lot as my confidence developed, as our bond grew, since they became more independent (as in could walk and climb up and mainly down from places on their own, eat and drink on their own, etc), and now that their favorite word is “baba” and they tail him all day long. But it comes back, and I guess it always will. Now that they can express what and who they want, it is more painful.

Tonight is better. L is in her own bed and hasn’t had any fever all night. Rahul is getting there slowly,

We had to laugh (in retrospect!) when…

…on our way back from a trip to Hong Kong in October 2010, we missed our flight and had to spend ten hours at the airport scavenging for diapers and formula! Leila had a bad case of diarrhea and so we left the hotel a little late, but I can’t put the blame on that!  Neither one of us wears a watch, and we took our time to get to our departure gate, changed diapers along the way, bought a few things at the pharmacy, and when we got to the gate the plane was taking off. Hey, anyone who travels with a baby, or two, would understand!

…on our way to Koh Samui in February this year we had a delay of four hours after having boarded the plane. This was after terribly long check in and security ques because it was Chinese New Year holiday time and everyone was traveling. We had two cranky babies who were confined in a small space and hadn’t napped all day. Every half hour that passed we went from thinking “we can still make our connection”, to “if we hurry we can make it”, to “there is no way we are going to make it”.  We missed our Bangkok – Samui flight.  Somehow we got on a flight later that night. Leila had managed to fall asleep, but Rahul had a crying fit as we were taking off. We got to Samui around midnight, but our luggage hadn’t.  Thankfully there are hundreds of seven elevens and they sell diapers, formula, and bottle cleaning products!

…Rahul climbed out of the bath onto a ledge and poo’d, stepped in it and then got back in the bath.  I was alone with the two of them. Leila climbed out onto the ledge too. I started to drain the bath while cleaning up behind him, nervously watching that they don’t slip and fall. Leila poo’d!

…after battling to get R and L into warm clothes on a cold, wet day and then into their jogging stroller, the front wheel broke when we were at the top of an overpass on our way to the Sichuan University.  I was on my bike. We walked back home, me pushing my bicycle with the front wheel dangling on my handle bar, and Maher pushing the stroller on the back wheels alone. We had many wheels, not many functional. Leila and Rahul had fallen asleep a few minutes prior to the event.

…Rahul escaped from putting on a diaper and a few minutes later was stepping on his clean potty to climb onto a tabletop. I suddenly heard Maher screaming for me to do something about him. Rahul was peeing. I keep my computer, Ipad, camera, and phone on this table!

…we heard a boom in one room.  Rahul had fallen off a ledge in his bedroom. Naturally the attention quickly turned to him as he was crying. Two minutes later there was a thud. Leila had fallen off the couch in the living room.

5 to 6 am – funny hour

My night shift ends at 6 am when Maher’s begins. If there is a waking after 5 I catch myself asking Maher what time it is, hoping it’s 6 so I don’t have to get out of bed anymore. The last two mornings it was 5:45. We had to laugh because he gets to turn over and keep sleeping!