Last week, I borrowed a couple of books from the library with representation of characters that look like my kids. One of them is called Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas and the other is called Bilal Cooks Daal. They are such fun books to read. A bonus is that they talk about things that my kids are familiar with. The first one talks about dosas, which is a thin crepe like pancake that is a staple in South Indian cuisine often eaten with sambar, a lentil stew. Since Bob is South Indian, the kids are familiar with dosa. It is definitely fun for them to see a food item they are familiar with as the central theme of the book. In Bilal Cooks Daal, the main character cooks daal with his dad and his friends. When we got to the part when the book’s characters chose which lentils to use and what spices to add, both my kids exclaimed in delight. The book mentioned about turmeric, cumin, chili. These are all spices that we frequently use in our dishes. Since the kids help me cook every single day, and get to add these spices and other seasoning such as salt, pepper, and garlic powder to our dishes, they were so pleased to see all these things they have hands on experience with get mentioned in a book they read. Both books include recipes at the end of the book for making the dishes that are mentioned in the book. My daughter has been asking me daily to try these recipes. One weekend we are going to do that! I feel so grateful that these books exist so that my kids get to see someone that looks like them being represented in books they read. Diversity and representation in children’s literature are so important. I highly recommend these books!
I used to go on walks daily with the kids separately, one kid at a time. Recently I just feel a bit more icky about the area surrounding our house because of litter and irresponsible dog owners not cleaning up after their pets. I dislike having always to remind the kids where not to walk on or touch. A little while ago, one of our neighbors mentioned about a park in the next city that might be suitable for the kids to run around. I finally drove the kids there a couple fo weeks ago. And I am so grateful we did. This park is about 13 minutes away. There are two parts. One part has a big green field with beautiful and lush looking grass. The other part has another green field with picnic areas and trees. The two parts are separated by a little creek and are connected with two bridges. Oh my goodness. This is practically a toddler heaven. The first time the kids arrived at the park, their eyes widened and their facial expressions told me what a right decision it was to go play there. They freely ran across the grass field and arrived at the fence along the creek. They watched ducks swim in the creek. They picked up all sorts of nuts and grass and leaves from the ground and put them through the fence to the creek. They picked long and short sticks and pretended to fly airplanes, sword fight, or build a tent. Bunny ran across the bridge while Okra carefully tiptoed his way across thinking that he was going to fall through the (tiny) gaps on the bridge. They dug holes in the dirt and buried pinecones. Basically, they were absolutely having a blast having all sorts of freedom to roam and explore a big open space. The best of all: this place barely have more than a few people each time we go. We have been returning quite a few times ever since. I let the kids decide what they want to do. Every time they think of something different to do or explore.
It really beats going on our neighborhood walk with me shouting loudly from behind them “Watch out for dog poop!” I honestly only saw dog poop twice in this new park. It is so clean. Last week in light of the wild fires in our state following lightning events, the air quality has been horrible. Kids and I did not venture out to the new park, and we all miss it. They have asked about it a few times and learned about things like wild fires and air quality. I hope and pray for all the wild fires to be contained very soon, for the air quality to go back to normal, for all the evacuees to return safely to their homes, and for my kids to be able to return to freely roam around our new favorite park soon. During this COVID time, a little outdoor time does our soul a lot of good.
In the last two months or so, Okra has developed some quirks. He started disliking long sleeve shirts. He would fight wearing a long sleeve shirt and if he did put one on, he would pull the sleeves up. Since it has been warm, I let him be and let him wear his short sleeve shirts. On colder days, I put two short sleeve shirts on him. For pants, he often pulls his pant legs up to a point it is almost like he’s wearing shorts. The town we live in is notorious for being foggy and cold in the summer. He does need to wear a jacket when he goes out. Of course he fights the jacket but knows that he has to put one on in order to step outside. He fusses a bit by pulling down the collar part and pulling up the sleeves right away. It was hard for me to determine if whatever he was showing was behavioral or sensory related. Fortunately, a friend of mine is a trusted occupational therapist. I described to her my observations. She saw some photos of him and watched a few videos. She thinks that it is more likely behavioral instead of sensory based. However, she said that it really doesn’t hurt to introduce sensory or tactile play to him and Bunny as it is regulating and calming for any children. She suggested a few tactile plays. One is to just let the kids play in the dirt, which I do already. The other is to let them play with shaving cream. I was a little hesitant because of the potential mess that the kids could make. However, I felt that this could be overcome by a little pretraining. I went over with the kids what they are allowed and not allowed to do during this activity. They agreed, and started playing. Initially the kids looked apprehensive. After I encouraged them, they started to move the shaving cream around the tray and seemed to have a lot of fun searching for plastic animals hidden in the shaving cream. Clean up wasn’t bad at all as I just removed the plastic toys from the trays and wrapped up all the shaving cream with the tin foil that was placed on the tray. The kids smelled the rest of the day like my husband after he has shaven, haha.
I follow someone on Instagram and learned about various sensory bins. I had always wanted to try a sensory bin of rice with the kids. Prior to learning about pretraining the kids on things, I was weary of the mess that it could cause. But now that I know how to pretrain the kids, and they are a bit older with better self-control, I decided to brave it. I bought a five pound bag of rice and a big plastic tub. I dumped a few big and small spoons in there with various containers. I went over the rules with them (no throwing and no dumping). They went to town. I have to say I am very proud of the kids. They do so well with this activity. They scoop and pour the rice in and out of containers in the confine of the tub. I set a timer for about 30 to 35 minutes. I know they can go on for a lot longer if I allow them. They look so calm and seem to have so much fun just scooping and pouring repeatedly.
A few grains of rice come out of the tub occasionally and the kids know to stop their activity to pick them up. All in all they have shown very good self control with this activity. Now that I know they can do it, I plan on getting some beans so that they can feel other textures. I feel fortunate that these sensory play activities are a hit with them. I know friends with twins who do not care for sensory bins. Okra may or may not have sensory issues at all, but these activities could still be beneficial to both him and his sister. They allow the kids to sit and play quietly for a long time. Quiet time is so welcome in this household on days when two kids playing together could sound like five kids running around. Haha.
During this unusual time of being in a pandemic, I always find myself thankful that my kids have each other. Even though they fight each other, they also love each other. One always wants to wait for the other. When we are on a walk, one doesn’t leave a particular area without the other. They’d say, “I wait for Bunny” or “I wait for Okra”. I am impressed by the games that they create with each other. I bought them a play couch called the Nugget that can be arranged into many different things. They wanted to move the pieces to the other side of the living room. They collaborated without even talking much about it and eventually pushed and pulled the heavy (to them) pieces to the desired location in the living room. They proceeded to jump on it. It was just fun to watch them negotiate with each other and plan out their play. The half hour that they were on the Nugget, they evolved the game many different ways by talking about it and moving different pieces. When one didn’t like how the other moved the pieces, they whined a little but also talked about it and someone always agreed with the other eventually. I marveled at their teamwork and collaboration. Yesterday they put the Nugget up like tents which looked more like homeless encampment to me.
They put all sorts of toys inside and visited each other in their own designated tent. They were giggling away for a long time. I was sitting there enjoying the sounds of their laughter and counted my lucky stars that they have each other. My cousin who used donor eggs to make her baby just wrote me a couple of days ago. She said that the twins are so lucky to have each other to hang out with as her 13-month old only has them and when he sees other kids at the playground, all he wants to do is follow them around and touch them. My kids are truly blessed to have each other especially in this challenging time of a pandemic. Even though taking care of two children is at times demanding, I wouldn’t have it any other way because they truly have each other’s back.
It all started when my parenting coach and I discussed about Okra’s behaviors. You can reason with him most of the time, but there are some days when he just doesn’t seem to be able to control his emotions with even a slight trigger (or no trigger at all). He would suddenly throw a tantrum out of nowhere, repeatedly all day long. My parenting coach talked about how the body, mind, and soul all affect a person’s wellbeing, so the body is an equally important part. Okra has had mushy, diarrhea-like, or watery stool ever since he was a baby. I can probably count the number of times he had well formed stool with all of my fingers. I asked our pediatrician a while back and he said that this kind of stool formation was still considered normal for Okra’s age. Now that he is almost three years old, I am a bit more concerned. The parenting coach mentioned about some kids having food sensitivity, such as for wheat, sugar, dairy, or corn. I was determined to look into all of that. Our pediatrician referred us to a gastrointestinal specialist. Surprisingly, she was available for a video visit within a week. Apparently prior to COVID, it could take up to three months to see a GI specialist in person. During the visit, she asked many questions. She said that it seems like Okra’s daily fluid intake is insufficient. His weight is borderline for his age, being 13th percentile which is down from his usual 20 to 25th percentile. In fact, he was historically always about two pounds heavier than his sister Bunny but this week her weight has exceeded his by half a pound. It has to do with him being a picky eater and with her eating more variety and larger quantity of food every single meal. The GI specialist suggested a few things:
1) An abdominal X-ray to see what is going on with his intestine
2) Blood work to rule out various things including a Celiac screening panel
3) Stool samples to rule out various things
4) Increasing Okra’s liquid intake dramatically. For his age and weight, about 40oz of fluids per day
5) Increasing the fats in his diet, so putting butter or ghee in his rice or on his toast, and letting him eat ice cream occasionally as well as having him eat things with good fats such as avocado, eggs, etc.
Okra sounded apprehensive when I mentioned about getting an X-ray and blood work done at the clinic the next day. He said he didn’t want to go. I texted my friend who gave me some tips on how to pretrain Okra on responding to potential pain during the blood draw. I prayed about it that night and the next morning, then I wrote down in my journal the exact details about both the X-ray and the blood draw that I wanted to talk to him about that morning prior to leaving for the clinic visit. After Okra brushed his teeth that morning, I sat him down on my bed and the two of us had a heart-to-heart talk. I told him about his digestive issues and what exactly would go down during his clinic visit. I told him what would happen during an X-ray, and I would be there with him every single moment. And I told him what a blood draw would be like. He might feel a pinch when a technician puts a tiny needle in his arm. We practiced him pinching me slightly on my arm and me reacting by saying Ow and taking deep breaths. Then we practiced that on him. He said Ow and took a deep breath. I also told him that he would need to wear his mask and stay in the stroller for the whole duration of the visit except for the two procedures. He looked at me, nodded his head, and seemed to understand what it all meant. I was a tiny bit worried because he is usually the one that couldn’t tolerate needles and would throw tantrums easily. However, I was also trusting this pretraining process that has been so instrumental in preparing the kids for many things we have been doing in our lives.
I am so pleasantly surprised by what actually went down. First of all, despite pretraining with Bunny, she became sad when Okra and I were about to leave for the appointment. She stood behind the living room gate with a sad face. The first surprise was that Okra walked over to her, kissed her on her forehead, and stroked her hair! How I love seeing tender loving moments between the two of them and particularly for Okra to show his caring side to his twin sister. Okra sat in the stroller once we got off the car and had his mask on the whole time. He sat quietly to watch Little Mermaid that was shown on the clinic TV. During the X-ray, he lay on the table without moving and let the technician take a picture of the inside of his tummy. After we waited for a few more minutes, we were called to go into the lab. I gave him his beloved Thomas and Nia trains. He held onto them in his left hand and sat on me. Without the technician even asking him, he extended his right arm to her. I reminded Okra that if he felt any pinching or pain, he could say Ow and take a deep breath. I am so impressed with my boy! He watched the technician put a butterfly needle in his arm and start filling the 6 tubes with his blood. He did not even flinch. He sat there as still as a stone. The blood draw was completed in no time. No yelling. No Ow. No deep breaths. No crying. He was as cool as a cucumber. I was just so amazed at how mature Okra handled the whole situation at the age of two years ten months. Pretraining for the win as he knew exactly what to expect.
The X-ray shows that Okra’s intestine is full of stool. Apparently he is quite constipated, and it presents itself as watery stool as water was probably leaking from the side of the stool. The GI specialist put him on either Miralax or Calm Magnesium. I opted for Calm Magnesium gummies for him. All of his blood work came out normal except for low Vitamin D. She put him on 400 IU of Vitamin D. We also bought him gummies. So everyday now he thoroughly enjoys chewing his gummies in the morning and in the evening. Surprisingly Bunny hasn’t whined about not having gummies to chew as she understands that she doesn’t need them. As for fats, I have been putting butter on toast and rice for him. He and his sister both do not like the taste of ghee and refuse to touch food with ghee on it, so I have opted to put butter because the taste is milder. I have been trying to figure out how to tempt him to eat cheese, eggs, yogurt, avocado, or drink milk. These are all things that Okra doesn’t touch. And you can’t force him to eat. So I have to use some more thinking as to how to present food to him that is attractive.
Oh and for his water intake? I took out a bunch of water bottles from the drawer so he has something new to drink from. Whenever the kids drink from a cup that is different from their usual cup, they drink more. I even let them choose a new cup on Amazon. I think it is so awesome that Okra chose the unicorn one and Bunny chose the monster soccer one:
Who says that boys can’t use a pink cup and girls can’t choose monster and soccer?
They have been drinking so much more water! I am hopeful that the increase in water intake is going to help Okra alleviate some of his digestive issues. Hopefully he feels better in general and his behaviors will also improve.