Almost two months ago, I wrote about my son Okra’s gastrointestinal issues. This is the latest. He and I had an in-person follow up visit with his GI specialist almost three weeks ago. His weight gain was stagnant. Upon palpation, he still had a lot of gas, which meant that his constipation issues were still there. She didn’t think that he had any wheat or lactose sensitivities. His lab work showed that he is a healthy toddler on the skinnier side who is maintaining a good gain on height. Since there is a weight gain issue with constipation issues, she reintroduced Mirala.x to help with his bowel movement and a medication to increase his appetite. She said to start the appetite meds first for two weeks, initially with it 30 minutes prior to dinner for one week, and then adding a dose 30 minutes prior to breakfast. Then after two weeks of that, start Miralax. The kids’ three year check up was the week after the GI visit. Our pediatrician read Okra’s x-report and recommended us to start Mirala.x right away instead of waiting for another week. He said that the moderate severity of his constipation could really cause Okra to feel unwell and be moody, which was what we had been experiencing. At that visit, Bunny’s weight exceeded Okra’s weight by 11oz. Historically, she was often two pounds lighter. He hadn’t had a weight gain in six months, and she gained over 4 pounds in the past year. Okra is not exactly diagnosed with “failure to thrive” but he is closer to the low end of normal for his age. So this has been the situation with Okra medication-wise, water-intake wise, and food-wise. In the morning, he takes a dose of the appetite medication upon wake up time. I try to delay his breakfast so he has about 20 to 30 minutes before he eats. After food, I give him Miralax. Thirty minutes prior to dinner, he has another dose of the appetite medication. Good news is, he somehow likes the appetite meds because of its taste? But he fights drinking water with it as water intake has become a power struggle. Mirala.x is a powder that has to be mixed with 4 to 8 oz of water. He fought that with all his might in the beginning. I have tried my best to tempt him to drink water. I tried different cups and different straws. I even bought another Funtainer bottle that has Thomas on it. Eventually I discovered that the best method to encourage water intake is to put frozen fruit (blueberries, strawberries, mangos, or pineapple, or a combination of any of them) in the water. This has been a saving grace. He (and actually Bunny too) somehow loves frozen fruit and is willing to drink the water so that he can eat the frozen fruit at the end. Because of the frozen fruit lure, Okra has been drinking the required amount of water each day to help with hydration hence his constipation issues. In terms of food, I have been adding high calorie food and healthy fats whenever I can. I add butter to his toast, muffin, and rice. I make smoothies with coconut milk, flax seed, avocado, and full fat yogurt. I use the same for making popsicles which he loves. I add half and half to his milk. He does not eat eggs, avocado (by itself), yogurt, or cheese. Recently I made cream cheese with peanut butter and a little bit of honey into frozen balls. I call them ice cream balls. Okra totally bought into it and ate a ton. I add a lot of stuff in these “cookies” and he likes them. I have introduced adding cocoa powder, crushed peanuts, and a little bit of honey to oat meal and now he eats it. I have even gotten chocolate sprinkles for whole milk yogurt with apple sauce but Okra refuses to touch it. His appetite seems to wax and wane but I can see that he has been eating and drinking more than before. I decided to weigh the both of them a couple of days ago. I weighed myself first and then weighed myself while carrying the kids. I subtract my weight from the total weight. To my huge surprise, Okra seems to have gained one pound. ONE WHOLE POUND. He and Bunny actually weighed the same, which means he gained more than Bunny in the past week. I can’t begin to tell you how huge it is. He had been stuck at this one weight for months. Sometimes his weight even went down. So for him to gain a pound in a bit over a week of adding higher calorie foods and fat, I am so encouraged that the diligence will be paid off. Maybe my scale is off. Maybe he didn’t gain one whole pound, but he definitely has gained some weight as I can feel it when I lift him. I really hope that we are off to a good start with his weight gain and he will gain more consistently from now on. Who would have known that my own child’s weight gain would be a source of stress and concern?
Bunny and Okra are now three years old. I can hardly believe it.
The last three years seemed to have gone by very fast. People say that the days are long but the years are short. I look back and find that to be true. Sometimes old photos or old posts pop up on my phone or on FB. I see how tiny the kids were back then and how big they already are and often wonder how they are already three years old. The last six months were especially a blur. The days all blended in because of sheltering in place. That doesn’t stop the kids from growing. You blink and they are little human beings with a lot of opinions.
We couldn’t (and wouldn’t) have a real party but I still wanted to make that day special for the kids. I picked up the kids’ favorite buns from a bakery two days prior for their birthday breakfast and picked up food from the kids’ favorite taqueria the day before for their birthday lunch. Way ahead of time, Bunny selected a birthday shirt that has excavator on it. Okra chose one with Thomas. Because of their different preferences, I decided to buy decorations that had construction and Thomas themes. The day before their birthday, a chain party supply store delivered Thomas balloons, a huge number 3 balloon, letter balloons, and some wrapping papers to us. I ordered a construction birthday photo backdrop online. After the kids went to bed the night before their birthday, I couldn’t get started with decorations until after 9:30 because of a prior Zo.om meeting. Bob was already at work putting the kids’ new balance bikes together. I put the construction backdrop on the living room wall above the couch, placed the giant number 3 next to the picture, and placed the Thomas balloons on the other side. I blew up the letter balloons and spelled out Bunny’s name on one side of the wall and Okra’s name on the other side of the wall. I wrapped all the presents and put bows on the bikes. After all that was done, it was already 11pm, way past my bed time. It was worth it for the kids though and I couldn’t wait to see their faces the next morning.
The air quality in the 7 days prior to the kids’ birthday was at the Unhealthy to Very Unhealthy level. I said to my friends the day before that it would take a miracle for the AQI to get down to an acceptable level for us to take the kids to the zoo and for cake cutting in the backyard with my brother’s family to take place. I opened my eyes on the kids’ birthday and the first thing I checked was AQI. It was down to the unhealthy for sensitive group level (instead of very unhealthy). I wasn’t sure if it would go further down but there was a glimmer of hope that a zoo visit could be possible. The kids woke up and were very excited about putting their birthday T-shirts on. Where they sat for breakfast they couldn’t see the decorations and the presents in the living room. After their teeth were brushed, we opened the gate and led them into the living room. Their facial expressions were priceless! They looked so genuinely surprised and happy about the decorations. It was worth all the time and energy. I checked and rechecked the AQI. It was down to the low end of the Unhealthy for Sensitive Group level. I was confident that it would get down to the Moderate level. So it was truly a miracle that we got to pack up the kids and go to the zoo. We all had a blast! It had been a long time since Bob made it back to the zoo. He especially took a day off, and it was a delight to have him around to celebrate the kids’ birthday on a weekday (as their first two birthdays were on the weekend). The air quality was getting progressively better. By the time it was the kids’ nap time, I was certain that we could have a birthday cake cutting time in the backyard with family.
I had gotten a local mom from one of my mom clubs to make a cake for us. It was an awesome cake with Thomas on top and a track that ran under him, and an excavator and traffic cones on the side of the cake. This just matched my kids’ strong individual preferences. I was pleased with the final product.
The kids didn’t know that their uncle, auntie, and cousins were going to show up. Although Okra woke up being cranky and threw a tantrum, he recovered fast and was very excited about the cake and our family showing up. The sky was bright and the air was good. We had a wonderful time celebrating with family. The kids are so grown that they actually could blow the candles all by themselves this year and nobody ate the candle (unlike last year when Bunny took a bite out of her number 2 candle).
The day finished with dinner from the kids’ favorite restaurant. But even with their favorite food, Okra was done with dinner after a couple of bites because he couldn’t wait to go play with his new toys. Bunny followed him. We ended up having plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day.
We were supposed to have a picnic to celebrate the kids’ birthday the previous Saturday. It didn’t happen because of the air quality. This past Saturday we finally made it as the air was/is good. We had dim sum at a park!
It was wonderful to see the kids interact with their aunt, uncle, and cousins. Life is so much better when you can spend time with family. This year the kids really understand the meaning behind a birthday and it was a bummer that they couldn’t celebrate it the way we normally could. And I am really missing my dad. He was here the last two years for the kids’ birthdays and I really feel the void of not having him here this year. The pandemic has made it so hard for many to make in person connections. One can only hope that next year we will be all back to normal and the kids can spend quality time with everyone on their 4th birthday.
The zoo reopened some time in July. At first I was hesitant to return there with the kids. Pre-COVID, the zoo was our stomping ground as it is only 7 minutes away. We went almost once a week. It was closed for a few months. Finally they got the OKAY to reopen with COVID precautions in place. I wanted to learn about first hand experiences from people I know before I even considered going back. Plus I needed time to drill in the kids’ mind that their masks and the stroller are a must when we go to the zoo. Everybody who went said that their experience was good and they felt safe. Indoor exhibits, playgrounds, and family farm are all closed. The train and carousels are not running. There are red lines and orange circles for visitors to stand behind or inside to maintain social distance. It sounded doable to me. My twins’ third birthday is coming up. As I started to plan their birthday, and knowing that a birthday party with friends and family is not going to happen, a trip to the zoo seems special enough. Okra was the one who resisted wearing a mask, but has since converted to a mask wearer as we started going to the park. With the confidence that he’d keep the mask on, I booked tickets for last week to the zoo as a trial run for their birthday zoo visit. Oh yes. You now cannot just show up at the zoo with your membership card. To control the flow of visitors, both members and nonmembers have to book tickets ahead of time. You are allowed to enter into the zoo within the half hour of your reservation time. The tickets are open two weeks prior to the reservation dates. The morning times are popular for members and you will need to make a reservation two weeks ahead of time. The day prior to our visit last week, I spoke with the kids about the rules (i.e. staying in the stroller until I let them out and masks on at all times) and told them what we would get to see and what we wouldn’t. It had been almost six months since our last zoo visit. We went on March 10th, just a week before the shut down. We had so much fun then. I am looking at the pictures right now as I am writing this post. I didn’t always ride the Little Puffer Train with them since we had made it a special thing to do when daddy comes with us. But on that day, somehow, I wanted to ride the train with them and decided to do so. The kids weren’t even 2.5 yet back then. Looking at the videos and photos, they were looking much smaller and babylike. They had so much fun riding the train. I am so glad we did on that day as it is not an option anymore until COVID is under control. Fast forward to the day of the visit, it felt kind of funny to get ready the night before as I hadn’t had to get ready for anything in a long time. I was also worried about the smoke in the air because of the wild fires and the air quality hadn’t been good. The day of the visit, I decided to still go because if air quality got worse, we could always come home. Because the zoo is by the coast, the air on that day wasn’t bad at all. With a mask on, I didn’t quite smell the smoke. The kids and I had a blast! Since we got there at the first time slot, many animals were still inside. We waited for a long time for the gorillas and had to return later to see them when they were out. It was the male lion’s birthday that day so many people were there at that exhibit. The kids were really good at staying in the orange circles and behind the red line. They hardly touched any hard surfaces. They asked about the sloth, the spider, the goats, or other indoor animals. I had to tell them sadly that these were temporarily not available. Okra of course asked about the train and I told him that it wasn’t running. He asked, Can I see it? innocently. I felt bad that I had to say no to him. But it didn’t dampen the fun he had.
Everybody had fun and no one threw one single tantrum during that visit. On the way back to the car, Bunny said, “The zoo is so much fun! Let’s come back again.” Even though it was weird that they had to wear a mask and many of the things they wanted to do and see were not available, kids adapt fast and they still think it was cool and fun. I felt safe. All the adults wore masks. It was easily to social distance as the zoo keeps it at 50% capacity. So that’s the plan. On their 3rd birthday in 1.5 weeks, Bob and I will be taking the kids to the zoo and do a cake in the back yard with my brother’s family after the kids’ nap. That will still be a memorable birthday I am sure.
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.
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.
I used to have difficulty finding time in the kids’ waking moments to do some of the chores, such as laundry or changing bedsheets. I had to wait until the kids’ nap time or bed time to do them, but often times I would feel tired myself and did not have enough energy to tackle these chores. And for cooking I’d always have to have my mom watch the kids when I cooked. On the days when she was sick, I would have to turn on the TV for them in order to make dinner. I have been on Zoom session with a Christian parenting coach for the last almost two months. One thing I learned was to involve the kids in chores including meal preparation and setting the table and cleaning up for meals. It has been eye opening to see how much a two year old can do and is interested in doing. Bunny in particular loves cooking. She calls herself “Chef Bunny” and proudly tells everyone that she has made muffins or dinner. Okra also likes it when I really like him do stuff. They do basic things such as putting cut-up vegetables in a bowl, putting seasoning in the vegetables before baking, or pouring ingredients in bowls for making muffin dough. I would hold the can openers for them to open cans with me. Nowadays I don’t quite need my mom to watch them as they stand in their learning tower to watch or help out in the kitchen. The kids now set their own table with their utensils and set the utensils for the adults as well. When they are done with dinner, they put their utensils and plastic bowls in the sink. It does take longer to make dinner with them “helping” but I really cherish that time I have with them. Same thing with other chores. A couple of weeks ago I had been dying to change bed sheets but I hadn’t because I didn’t have time when the kids were awake. One day it dawned on me that I could use them to help me change the sheets. We did just that! I had them help me remove pillow cases, undo the bedsheets, and pull the pillow cases back on the pillows. They helped me unzip the duvet cover and stuff everything in the laundry basket. They looked so so proud of themselves! On laundry day, they help put stuff in the washing machine and close the door. We would pull the knob together. Having them do these things doesn’t take up too much extra time, but the sense of accomplishment that shows on their face is priceless. I am hopeful one day the kids will start to learn how to do these chores independently and doing chores will become second nature to them. Start them early and they will become useful adults.
My beloved niece graduated from college. Just like many other high school and college graduates this year, her graduation ceremony had turned virtual. Her parents set up a drive-by celebration for her. She was wearing her cap and gown and a mask in her driveway for an hour in the evening of her graduation day. Her friends and family drove by to congratulate her with social distancing. Bob and I, my kids, and my mom were there too. This was the kids’ first time seeing their cousins and auntie and uncle in person since the shelter-in-place started. They had only been seeing them on Zoom prior to that. I am quite sure the kids knew that something was up because it must have been strange for them to see everyone that they love wearing masks. But they were so good. I prepared them ahead of time that they were going to sit in the car seats for the visit. They sat peacefully and didn’t fuss to get out of the car. The rear windshield of my niece’s car was decorated with her college’s name, her name, and class of 2020. We were able to take a photo with her by having her on one side of the car and us on the other side without our masks on. The kids returned to the car seats after the photo without any issues. We are so proud of my niece! I remember this post that I wrote when she started college. That was when we hadn’t even made the embryos that became our children. I was feeling sad that she was going away for college and it seemed impossible for my future children to know her well. I was feeling like I was missing out on an opportunity for my children, if I were to have any, to know their cousin really well. This is what I said,
“I just can’t believe my niece is already 18… As we celebrate a new chapter in her life, I hope that somehow in the future my children will get to know their fun-loving, cool, and joyful oldest cousin in a way that I have never imagined before. Knowing my niece’s character, she’ll love our children regardless of how big the age difference is between them. I know I can take comfort in that.”
And now that my kids have been on this earth for 2 years 9 months, I can truly say that my niece loves my children to death, and my children can’t get enough of their oldest cousin. Prior to the shelter-in-place order, my niece would come see the kids every chance she had. She would drive home from school and text me to see if she could come hang out with them. The kids ask for her all the time. After graduation day, I told my brother that they should come visit the kids at the window. (He was afraid a visit without coming into the house would upset the kids.) I guaranteed him that the kids are used to people visiting at the window and won’t get upset if my brother and his family don’t come in. This is exactly what happened. My brother’s whole family came with cupcakes. My brother showed up with windex and a cloth and started cleaning my windows! I was wondering what that was all about, then I realized that my niece and my sister-in-law were armed with window glass markers to draw pictures on the windows for the kids! My niece drew Thomas, Percy, a bridge, trolley, swing, slide, airplane, hedgehog, and many more. The kids had the best time even though they did not get to touch or hug or kiss my family. Now that we know that the kids are okay with having my brother’s family visit just outside of the house, I am sure that my niece will come often to hang out with them. She does love my kids regardless of the big age difference. Infertility and the delay in having my kids didn’t rob me the joy of my kids being close to my niece. Even if she moves far away in the future, I am certain that my kids will continue to be close to her.
My kids haven’t seen my brother, my sister-in-law, and my niece and nephew ever since the shelter-in-place started. In the beginning, I did suggest to my brother to come drop off stuff for us when the kids are awake but he feels that seeing the kids through the window is going to make the kids more upset than not. So they come whenever the kids are down for the day already or napping. My kids’ favorite person is my sister-in-law, who they call “Kau Mo”, which means their mother’s brother’s wife. Pre-pandemic, they would see her and the rest of the family at least once a week if not more often. My SIL sometimes meets up with us at the indoor gym to play with the kids. We sometimes head over to her place to play with her toys. The very last time the kids saw her was the Friday prior to shelter-in-place order. She came to Golden Gate Park with us for a walk. Kids and she were drawing pictures in the dirt, picking up leaves, playing hide-and-seek, and basically just having a grand time hanging out. In the beginning of the stay-at-home order, the kids would FaceTime with my SIL once in a while. A few weeks later, we had a Zoom meeting during Easter dinner with the rest of my SIL’s family. The kids stayed on the call with Kau Mo for a bit longer. Ever since then, Kau Mo has been on a Zoom call with the kids once a week, usually on a Saturday morning. As an experienced teacher who is very creative, she knows how to capture the kids’ attention. She prepares books, toys, drawings, drumming to keep the kids entertained for over an hour. Sometimes the sessions last for an hour and 15 minutes. During that time, I could usually do chores like folding laundry, preparing for lunch, etc. Last weekend during the Zoom call, Bob was sitting there assisting the kids, and I dusted, vacuumed, and mopped our master bedroom, bathrooms, and the kids’ room. Kau Mo is the best babysitter ever. I always joke that she should make this into a business because the kids really have a lot of fun with new activities every week with her. We are so blessed to have her as an auntie to the kids. And my brother has been a great brother too. He has come numerous times to drop off stuff for us. One time I asked where he got his toilet paper. Instead of letting me go shopping somewhere myself, he helped me order some toilet paper from Amazon Fresh (since we signed up but haven’t been allowed to shop yet). He received the toilet paper the same day and delivered it to us (by walking 15 minutes from his house) that evening. We didn’t even have to leave the house to get those toilet paper rolls. Even though we haven’t been able to really spend time with them physically, we can see and feel the love from our family in so many ways. We hope that the kids will be able to finally touch them and hug them some time soon. When they ask to go to Kau Mo’s house one day, I hope that I can tell them yes instead of saying that it is “closed”.