On January 20th, the kids and we all had breakfast while watching the inauguration. We explained to the kids that we have a new president and vice president. And this is the first female vice president of our country. After hearing that, my daughter Bunny asked, “What about me?” My husband answered her, “This is exactly what the vice president said, that you can be anything you want to be.” There was a twinkle in this three year old’s eye as she pondered what that meant.
I teared up as I watched my little daughter pay such close attention to this historic moment on the screen. Four years ago, days before the previous inauguration, we were about to transfer the two embryos that would become our twins. On that transfer day, I couldn’t have possibly imagined this precious moment with my precious girl on January 20, 2021 given how uncertain the future felt four years ago in regards to parenthood as well as the state of our nation. Our future at this moment is also uncertain with the pandemic and the state of this world, but as the glass ceiling shatters, this is certainly a big step into the right direction. There is hope for a better future for my children.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about my son Okra’s weight gain. At that time, he had gained a pound in a week. I was ecstatic and hoped that he would continue to gain. Last Wednesday was his follow up visit with his gastrointestinal specialist. I was anxious to see if he had gained more weight. Truth be told, I knew he must have been heavier because it had gotten harder to lift him and carry him in the last week or two. He just felt like a load to me. Fast forward to the visit, first thing he had to do was to check his weight and height. I was so pleased to learn that his weight went from 28 lbs to 30.8 lbs. He had gained almost 3 lbs in 6 weeks! Considering that he hadn’t gained any weight for 6 whole months (he had been 28 lbs for 6 months), this is such a shocker. What was more shocking was his height. When the nurse announced that he was 38.5 inches, I thought that she measured wrong and didn’t believe her. I told her that at the visit 6 weeks ago as well as the well check with his pediatrician 5 weeks ago, he was 37.125 inches. I told her to check the previous records and remeasure his height. She did both, and showed me that he is indeed 38.5 inches. Wow! I didn’t even think about the possibility of a height increase for him because I was so focused on putting weight on him. I just marvel at the power of food on his body. Not only did his body absorb all the nutrients to make weight gain possible, the food also made his body grow more than 1.25 inches in 6 weeks. When his GI specialist came in, we were both grinning like crazy people about his progress. She was so pleased that the appetite medication in combination with the Miralax have been so effective in helping him gain weight, and that she and I were on the same page in regards to the same approach and same goals. His weight went from 13th percentile to 30 something percentile for his sex and age. I told her that I was surprised at his height. She said that you could often see kids’ pants getting shorter. I told her that my quirky boy always pulls his pant legs up at home so there is no way for me to know how long his pants look on him. Hahaha. When she examined his stomach, she noted that his ribcage area was filling out unlike the last time when he was bonier. His stomach was also not distended anymore, which indicated that his constipation issue has gotten better. I told her that I did notice his increase in appetite, although he is still picky. But you know, Okra never really told me that he was hungry before, but he started telling me that he is hungry a few weeks ago sometime mid morning. I take it as a good sign. His water intake has become a power struggle. The frozen fruit strategy that I talked about last time doesn’t work anymore. In order to reach his daily fluid goal of 40 oz, I had to do a lot of different things to make him drink his water. Dr. GI Specialist said that life is too short and lowered his daily fluid goal to 32 oz. To me, that is much more manageable. As for his stool formation being mushy (he rarely has good formation), she told me to take photos of his stool a few days prior to returning for a follow up visit in two months, and we will discuss about it then. In the mean time, we will continue the treatment and see how he does. I walked away from the appointment with Okra so happy that he is doing so well. He told me that he was hungry and I gave him the muffins that he refused to eat at home. He happily ate all of that and then some other snacks on the way home. I know my son is still picky and changes his mind about foods that he once liked. It has always been a challenge to come up with new foods to entice him in order for him to eat more. For example, he had loved his “ice cream balls” (frozen balls of peanut butter, cream cheese, and honey), homemade chocolate pumpkin donuts, or raisin cookies. Last couple of days, he rejected all of these items. He recently stopped eating all carbs including his beloved bread and rice. He only eats this paratha from TJs so I slather on some butter and give it to him at dinner. Pickiness has made feeding him really difficult. But seeing his tremendous progress has spurred me on to continue to cook and bake and look up new recipes so that he will continue gaining and growing. That’s all I can do right? To help him the best way I know how.
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?
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!
Like I mentioned before, I have been working with a christian parenting coach via weekly Zoom meeting with a group of parents since May. In light of our current challenges with Okra, I have talked with this parenting coach separately couple of times on the phone to brainstorm strategies to work with him. A suggestion from the parenting coach for Bob and me was to intentionally pray for ourselves as parents and for the kids. We had been lacking a time to chat and pray. We tried it before at bed time but we were/are often too tired to even talk and sometimes we are short or impatient with each other. Once I told Bob about the parenting coach’s suggestion, he said, why not get up early together, read the bible, and pray together? I have never been a morning person. I love to sleep until the last moment possible before I get up. But, since Bob suggested, I accepted the challenge. That was exactly what we did. We started on June 8th, which was 6 weeks ago. We have been consistently getting up one hour earlier to talk, read the bible, and pray. There were a couple of times we got into an argument, but we made a choice to make up and pray before the kids got up. There was one time when Bob really wanted to go for a run so he did, but he got back in time to pray with me before getting the kids. I love this morning time. My mind is clear. The house is quiet. I make a cup of coffee and have five minutes of quiet time/meditation time when I pray to the Lord. I then write down the things I want to work on with the kids in a little note book. I also have a bigger note book that I labeled “Intentional Parenting and Marriage”. I write down thoughts on parenting, on my kids, and on the bible passage that I am reading that day. After Bob is done with his reading, we chat a bit about how each other is doing and pray specifically for the kids, such as peaceful obedience, joy and peace, or self control. After prayers, we get the kids up to give them breakfast. I have really enjoyed this time with Bob. We are so much more refreshed first thing in the morning. We are in a much better mood and have much more patience with each other. I am confident that since we have been doing it for 6 weeks, it is a habit to continue on. We start the day right, and feel the most connected to each other in a long time. It highlights the importance of married couples to connect with and pray with/for one another. I feel so blessed that Bob and I are willing to devote this time to each other.
The meltdown that I am referring to wasn’t the kids’. It was mine. I had my first meltdown since the shelter-in-place started.
We have been doing well all things considered. No one lost a job. We are healthy. The whole family gets to be together. There are many things to be thankful for. But having two toddlers at home all the time can be stressful. I believe that the kids feel cooped up and their behaviors show it. Okra has been acting out much more frequently than pre-shelter-in-place. Sometimes he throws a tantrum seemingly out of the blue and starts throwing toys or jumping up and down in frustration for no reason. There is no trigger that I could see. Or a little something can trigger him into a hot mess. He hits people, especially me, really easily when he is not happy. Bunny has also started to hit me when she is upset, which is a new behavior. Sometimes when one is acting out, the other one comes to interfere. And then there are also the usual fights between the two of them. Day in and day out, this has become too much for me. I am sometimes at a loss as to how to deal with the kids’ tantrums without losing my cool.
Well, I failed miserably yesterday. Dinner last night was pizza that I had to go pick up. The kids were watching a toy train video on YouTube with their dad. When we stopped the video to come have dinner, they were already a little bit upset. They both sat down and started complaining about the dinner. One wanted “mommy’s pizza”. The other one wanted “big pizza”. I tried my best to fulfill their wishes but the end results were them throwing the pizza or tasting the pizza and starting to wail because they didn’t like it. I tried to calmly tell them that they could choose to not eat and go play, but they just wouldn’t have it. Both of them were whining and Bunny continued wailing loudly. After this back and forth of asking for something, me offering them what they asked, and them not wanting it, I lost my cool. I started yelling at the kids which made them cry even more. It was one chaotic scene. Bunny’s crying is usually especially annoying. And she cries for a long time usually. Bob couldn’t stand the crying and told me to give them screen time. I am really against that because to me they are learning that they get to watch TV as a reward for not eating dinner. However, because I was already losing it, I doubt that I could remain calm to turn the whole thing into a teaching moment. What I needed to do was to walk away. Screen time offered me a time to walk away without the kids killing each other. However, I was so upset with the kids and my husband offering screen time to them, as well as the accumulated effect of one month of shelter-in-place, I turned into a crying mess. I went inside the kids’ room and cried and cried and cried. It was a much needed release of my emotions. After I calmed down, I know that giving them screen time last night was not going to ruin them forever. The kids get plenty of face-to-face time with us playing, reading, and drawing. We are trying our best as parents under these circumstances. I just hate myself for melting down, losing my cool, and turning into a maniac. I am thankful that this doesn’t happen often at all. But I do need to seek the Lord’s help in having patience and knowing strategies to handle the kids’ emotions. I do not want my meltdown to become a regular occurrence. Parenting is such a huge responsibility and it is at times overwhelming. I constantly feel like I am doing something wrong. The other day Bob and I had an opportunity to join a zoom parenting session with a parenting coach and got some pointers. It reminded me that God does not leave us to be parents without resources or help from Him or others. Being humble to seek guidance is a good first step.
I bought a used learning tower about eight months ago so that the kids could cook and bake with me. We had used it a couple of times for pizza making but not much else. I think the infrequent use is mainly due to my lack of confidence in controlling the mess. With one child, I might feel a bit more comfortable with preventing the little sticky hands from flinging ingredients all over the place. With two kids the same age, the chances of chaos were too great for me to make the experience worthwhile. Plus we had activities every morning even on rainy days so it made it hard for me to plan for baking with them. Now that the kids are 2 1/2 years old and we are home all day long, I have been looking for ways to kill time with the both of them. I feel that they are mature enough for me to trust them with dumping ingredients in a bowl for baking. So the other day I invited them over to climb on the learning tower to make some muffins. They were so excited! They first put silicone liners in the muffin tin. I let them take turns pouring both wet ingredients and dry ingredients in the bowl. They got to learn the names of all the things we put in the muffins. I am quite pleased with how well they followed directions. They took turns pouring each ingredient and didn’t fight over it. They also helped me mix the batter together. Mess was totally minimal. They watched me patiently as I portioned the batter in the muffin cups.
They drew and colored while waiting for the muffins to be done. At one point they were impatiently sitting in front of the oven to wait for the muffins to finish cooking.
I gave them each a freshly baked muffin for snack that morning.
They both looked so proud of themselves. Since then, Bunny has been telling me “I am a chef!” and was pretending to cook with baking powder in her toy kitchen. She even threw a tantrum the next day when I gave her a muffin for snack because she thought we were going to bake muffins instead. I hope that this has planted a seed for them for their love of cooking and baking in their lives. And now that I know they have enough self-control, we will experiment baking different things in the future.
Concerns of coronavirus are getting more serious in my area. Many companies enact a temporary policy for workers to work from home. My husband was told he could choose to work from home last Friday but he was already at the bus stop, so he just went to work. Our church service was canceled because the city issued an advisory to cancel non-essential large community events for the next two weeks. Of course it makes me think about what to do with the kids. We usually go out every single morning to classes, library story time, dim sum restaurant with my mom, bible study, and indoor gym. The situation with the virus is so fluid that everyday I evaluate where to go with the kids. We still went to the library last week. Prior to the coronavirus scare, I used to clean their hands after the library by hand sanitizer and wipes. Last week after they played, read books, and touched stuff, I herded them both to the bathroom to wash their hands. Let me just tell you that washing two toddlers’ hands and keeping them from touching things AFTER hand washing was such a monumental task. It required a lot of yelling on my part because honestly the kids do not listen to me when I gently tell them not to touch something. And I had to do it after we borrowed the books so I had a big backpack, my crossbody purse, and a bag of books ON me while holding one kid up to the sink and keeping my eyes on the other kid’s hands. The end result was everyone’s clothes getting wet. But we accomplished hand washing without any excessive touching of surfaces in the bathroom. I was quite proud of myself. I took them to bible study and the dentist’s office but skipped the indoor gym. I don’t trust this city-run gym would sanitize their equipments and want to err on the side of caution. Fortunately, my kids are flexible enough and don’t fuss if we don’t go to the indoor play gym. Instead of going indoor, we ventured outdoors. There is a trail that my dad and I took the kids on when he was here last time. They were about two years old and I felt at that time they were not listening as well and weren’t walking as well. We had to push a stroller because the kids wanted the freedom to walk around but got tired quite easily. They also would run off to two different directions and it would be hard for me to watch them both all by myself. Fast forward six months. The kids are so much better with their physical strength, stamina, and the ability to listen. I mean, they do not listen to 100% of the time, but I can trust that I can get them to go in the same direction if I try. I also feel better for them to touch dirt and trees and grass than indoor surfaces. So I have been taking them on a walk on the trail. I mean, it’s a joke to call it a walk for myself because honestly I get no benefit of an exercise when I go with them. We don’t push a stroller anymore. They love to walk and run and stop and move backwards and even sit on the ground. They jump in the grass and talk and joke with each other. Often times after “walking” down the trail for 15 minutes, I would have to turn them back because somehow the way back takes even longer. But I have to say that the kids have taught me to be more relax. There is no agenda in nature. We are not rushing to go anywhere. If they want to watch the birds, talk about the airplanes over our heads, look at berries and flowers, touch the trees, and comment on runners and walkers, I just stand back and watch. We breathe in fresh air and have a great bonding time. It is quite funny that on this trail there are so many Cantonese speaking people walking or running. They often stop to marvel at the twins being able to speak Cantonese and ask me and the kids questions. We get stopped at least 4 to 5 times each time we go. I am thankful for the easy access to parks and trails so we are not trapped at home during this critical public health time. I need to explore new trails that I feel safe taking them myself so the kids don’t get too bored.
Some days I am so tired that I don’t have any energy to do anything else after the kids go down for the night. Bob comes home at 7 or so. The kids have dinner at 6pm. After dinner, they have a surge of energy that makes them run around and climb all over me. They go wild. And when it comes to bed time, they fight every single routine that needs to get done including climbing up the stairs, lying down for diaper change, getting their teeth brushed, and changing into their pajamas. Okra is so strong and determined not to let you help with any of these things. It truly takes three adults every single night to get him to cooperate. Fortunately, my kids fall asleep on their own. That is the saving grace. However, the exhaustion some days is indescribable. Dare I say that toddlerhood is harder than the newborn stage. Maybe because we are way past that so I don’t remember the details, but tiny crying human beings sound a little bit better than two whiny feisty toddlers that yell and protest and fling their arms and hit and scratch. Some of the meltdowns are unbelievable. I have to remind myself that their prefrontal cortex is not going to be fully developed until adulthood so reasoning, logic, and impulse control shouldn’t be expected of them. BUT, some days it is just so hard. I desire to use my me time to continue my online course to learn how to start a private practice so I will be ready to see clients when the kids start preschool in the fall. I want to study the bible and work on my lesson for bible study. These are things that I don’t get to do until the evening. However, some days I just want to veg out in front of a video and drink my wine. During a former coworker’s retirement party, I got to spend time with a number of former colleagues. Some of them have had their first (and only) kids since I saw them last. All of them are exhausted from taking care of their one child and they all asked, “How do you do it with twins?” It is not like I have a choice? The answer is, You just do it. There is no other way. Doing it doesn’t mean it’s easy. Maybe I will be one of the lucky ones that three year old will be easier than twos?? Some of my twin mom friends aren’t too optimistic. I try not to think too much about it, but give myself grace to do whatever I need to do to shake off the tiredness. It is also a part of self care that I need.
One thing that I felt had been lacking in my life was exercises. Ever since I started staying home with my twins, I had been slacking off on my workout. A long time ago, Bob and I attended fitness bootcamp at least three times a week for quite a few years. (Fun fact: The kids gym that Bunny and Okra attended last year was the same gym that Bob and my instructor rented from and did classes at, so we frequented that gym multiple times a week for 5 years way before these kids made their appearances into this world.) A little while ago (back in June), I tried taking a 30-minute walk in the morning. Since our international trip and the later sunrise, it has been extremely hard to be motivated enough to get out of bed to go for a walk. However, the more I thought about it, the more I felt that I needed to do something to improve my health. Not exercising at all is really not going to help me live long enough to see my kids grow to be adults and parents. I figured that if I wanted to do it, early morning has never been a good time because I really have a hard time getting up early. I then asked myself: What if I do it prior to lunch? My kids go down for a nap at 1pm. I could do some sort of workout at 1pm for about 30 minutes before I have lunch. That was exactly what I did. I found low impact cardio exercises on Yout.ube. I changed into my workout clothes and put the kids down for a nap. I turned on the TV and did my workout in the living room. I marched and lunged and jumped and moved around. After a sweaty 30-minute workout, it felt so good. I found myself wanting more the next day, but because we were going to have lunch out, it would be impossible to do the workout prior to lunch. I decided to do it in the morning with the kids in the living room with me. It was hilarious to see them watch me. They were freaking out that I was marching and jumping and side-stepping. They wanted me to hold them. I don’t know why they were nervous. Maybe because they had never seen me exercise like this? At one point I had to stop the video to console them, but I did finish the whole thing! Last week I did three cardio workouts and practice Yoga once. It felt so good to be moving around. I think that this is totally doable if I get in the habit of exercise at that time. Let’s hope that I can keep this one up and don’t quit like I did my walks.