Tuesday, June 3, 2014

James and Julia 24-28 Months, Part VII: James’s First Non-Sister Kiss, Almanzo Stinks, and Dog Fears and Tantrums Begin

Here is Part VI: The Crib Tent, Booger ‘Stache, and “Come on, James!”

Interaction with Peers

One day I ask Julia who her friends are and she says “Telly, Elmo, Gaga, Papa, Big Bird.” James responds “James, Maya, Brandon, Maya, Mommy” (probably because they know two Mayas). Later he adds “Julia.”

My friend Kashi visits with her twins Maya and Brandon for the first time in six months. James and Julia play Ring Around the Rosie for the first time with Kashi and Maya, and Julia, James, and Maya walk together holding hands. Kashi and I suggest to them they kiss and Maya and James kiss each other. It’s his first from a girl his age that’s not Julia. They jump to action as soon as they hear the word “kiss” as though they’d been thinking about it.

Kashi plays Ring Around the Rosie with the toddlers.
James makes his move.
Mark decides to try teaching the babies to say “Almanzo stinks.” (Almanzo is the name of one of their friends whom I no longer see, and his name has been changed for this post. Mark chose the pseudonym “Almanzo” possibly because he got sick of reading the kids the Little House book, County Fair.) Mark teaches this for no reason other than to cause trouble. (It’s nothing against Almanzo whom he barely knows.) Mark acts surprised when they start repeating it as though this couldn’t be predicted. One day Julia says, “Almanzo stinks” and James responds “Julia stinks.” He’s such a brother. Mark then tries to cover his tracks by teaching “Almanzo nice” which sounds insincere when it comes out “Almanzo niiiiiiice.” Another day Mark says to James, “Can you say, `Mommy stinks?’” (That Mark. What a charmer.) and James replies, “Mommy no stink. Almanzo stinks.” (Thanks, James. I am also impressed that he answered in two sentences.)

James and Julia seem to interact most with Oliver of all their playdate friends. Usually the kids stay to themselves until only Rachel P. and I happen to be the last ones left at a playdate. Then Oliver and the twins go through the tunnel together or gather pretend food with him to give Rachel P. to eat. Sometimes with our prompting James and Julia try to hug Oliver though he doesn’t often hug back. One day we suggest hugging Oliver to James and despite Oliver’s refusal, James keeps trying not unlike Frankenstein with his arms out in front of him repeating, “hug Oliver, hug Oliver.” When Bubby is here she asks the twins after their playdate about Oliver and James tells her, “Oliver poop” (he did), and Julia informs her, “no hug.” (Julia had tried to hug and kiss him but Oliver was not game.)

Oliver and Julia feed Rachel grapes and a potato.

James and Oliver hug. Where does James's shirt end and Oliver's begin?


In February we visit Rachel P.’s for a playdate, but as we enter the house her Boston terrier, Ripley, excitedly runs up to Julia which scares her causing her to cry. At the same time I try to block their cat, Luna, from getting out the front door and it hisses at me. The rest of the visit Julia and James are afraid of the dog and cat. Ripley even stays behind a sliding glass door but they don’t understand that she can’t get to them. Whenever Luna gets near they clamber onto my lap. Once when it sniffs James’s shoes three feet away, James tells me worriedly, “Eat shoes.” And then later when Luna sniffs my backpack and purse, “Eat backpack! Eat purse!”

However, at Su Hong a month after the Ripley incident, James and Julia see puppies in training to be guide dogs. James keeps his distance but Julia pets one. The twins get an audience because of the cuteness (babies + puppies). Julia announces, “dogs eat dog food,” and “broccoli cake” (which is what they decided one day that dogs eat). One onlooker comments that she was surprised Julia wasn’t afraid of the black lab. This is all very ironic given Julia’s fear of dogs that really presents itself in the months that follow. She was fine that day but both seem to really develop a fear of dogs and cats after the incident at Rachel P.’s house and they are very anxious every visit there.

Tantrums (It’s not a good sign when this topic now has its own subheading.)

Generally both are “easy babies” and they’ve had good dispositions since they were six months old. I am grateful because it would be so different if one baby was really hard. There is no need for time outs because they’re not aggressive with each other. They have very few tantrums overall. Julia has one every two weeks, while James never really has one - he just has fleeting meltdowns when he wants a toy. Sometimes when one is upset the other, unprompted, will deliver the sad one’s favorite stuffed animal.

At the beginning of the year I notice that the twins begin to have more and longer tantrums. Clearly they have hit the terrible twos. Just after their birthdays they both show a definite preference for me to do everything for them, like buckling them in their car seats, brushing their teeth, and tucking them into bed. Julia preferred Mark before for some things and previously he would tuck James into bed (because James would go along with it), but because of their more vocal preferences I begin to do it all (until they’re a little over 3 and I put an end to some of it).

Toothbrushing time on Daddy's legs
In February I notice that my parenting style consists of me constantly saying “Do you want to walk or do you want me to carry you?” Since they want to walk everywhere themselves it seems to work. I also seem to be counting to five all the time, either to encourage them to go faster (“let’s see if you can climb into your seat in five seconds”) or to threaten them that they better do something by the count of five.

Starting at the beginning of the year (and lasting only a few months) James does a unintentionally funny sort of mini tantrum when Julia takes something he wants. It’s hard not to laugh. His fussiness hits a new level when he cries over everything. It should be noted that James doesn’t really have tantrums per se, he just gets intensely upset and then gets over it within a minute or two.

Julia, on the other hand, has some memorable epic meltdowns and does the classic toddler boneless-and-lying-on-the-floor-kicking routine in addition to being moody during and after her tantrums. One tantrum upon leaving Oliver’s house lasts 1 hour and 40 minutes. Another time she has a tantrum when we leave Su Hong and she flails so much we can’t strap her in her car seat. As a result I end up trying to reason with her for 15 minutes, and our stand-off finally ends when she acquires a pink bendy straw from dinner. (Thankfully Papa had collected a bunch in different colors at dinner for the twins.)

One of these bendy straws ended a Julia parking lot tantrum.
One day at Bubb Park, Julia and James both have big meltdowns when it’s time to leave. It takes me over 15 minutes just to leave the park (both kept running back to the play structure so it was hard to gather one while I had to watch the other). And when I put an end to it, Julia struggles with me so much getting into the stroller that twice it starts to tip over. Then they fight over the same book on the way home. I sing The Alphabet Song so they’ll take turns but Julia refuses to give it up. When she does that for a second time on the way home, I tell her James gets it for the rest of the trip. It’s a long run back. And it’s fun trying to sing to them to distract them. Over the screaming. While also running.


The twins enjoy the nose kisses we start giving them, and they also come up to me and say “big hug” for a hug. When he kisses, James leaves his mouth open, sometimes with his tongue out. Julia is the opposite and has a super puckered mouth. James really likes being held when he wakes up from naps which is very sweet, and then we look at pictures on the computer. He especially likes to see ones of Papa. I often wear pajama pants around the house and James keeps clinging to my legs and inadvertently pulling my pants down next to the front window. Hey neighborhood, free show!

Morning goodbye kisses for Daddy from James and Julia!

In December my mom reports to me that Julia hugged Bunny while Gaga hugged Julia and Julia announced, “two hug.” A few days later Julia hugs me and then says “more hug” so I hug her again. She eventually says “more hug” ten times. I think she would have continued but I distract her with a book. Still, the sweetness melts my heart. One day Mark asks Julia how many kisses she’ll give him and she decides on ten and thinks about each one and counts it aloud. She ends up doing this to both of us at bedtime. With mine she keeps her face super close with her lips nearly brushing mine the whole time and she loses count and has to repeat a few. With Mark she backs up her whole body after each kiss. The whole time in between kisses I crack up.

And then there are the kisses and hugs they give each other. In March, James goes through a stage where after he kisses Mark and me he insists on kissing Julia, too. This is while I’m holding him up so he ends up kissing her nearly upside down like he’s Spiderman. One day, unprompted, Julia runs over to give James a hug but hugging him from behind knocks them both over. (Aw, the cuteness.) Another day Julia is upset and Mark tells James to hug her. James goes at Julia with his arms out like Frankenstein on a mission and she gets annoyed and he gets frustrated and keeps trying. Even though hugging Julia in this state is like hugging a bobcat, he tries anyway as though he’s been programmed, repeating aloud, “kiss kiss.”

Julia’s more affectionate overall, but neither wants me to hold them anymore before sleeping, preferring instead to sit in their little Pottery Barn chairs.

Their Memories

I never expected two-year-olds to have such good memories and they astound me at times. In December I watch James read Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and he announces the animal on the next page without seeing it, and only misses once. (See video.) He’s memorized the order of the animals that appear in the book and knows it much better than me. In January, Papa takes the twins on walks around the neighborhood and points out house numbers to Julia - 1, 8, and 9 were special on a particular walk - and she remembers them when he asks three weeks later.

In April they point to places on the sofa and say “Michael, Gaga, and Papa” showing us where the three of them sat when they visited at Christmas. Both seem to still remember where the big vase of flowers were and our light/flowers game before I moved them six months ago.

In February, Julia sees a picture of Anzu restaurant in San Francisco and tells me “macaroni and cheese.” That’s not in the picture but she obviously remembers what she ate there a month ago. As mentioned previously after visiting Benihana for the first time, for months the twins recite the five foods they ate there.

James sees a picture from a playdate and announces, “Josh and Sam’s house.” He’s correct even though there’s not much in the background to indicate where they are. I then show him other playdate settings and he correctly identifies Oliver’s house and then he and Julia recognize Ronan’s house. In March when they see a picture of a driedel in a book Julia says “Josh and Sam’s house” and James agrees. They must be remembering the Hanukkah latke playdate there 3 ½ months before!

Mark starts playing a game with Julia where he hides the five Sesame Street characters and Papa and Gaga figurines under five different colored bowls and then moves them around shell game-style. Julia always figures out who is under each bowl and tells us in four word sentences (e.g. “Papa under white bowl.”).

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