Dear Kali Joy and Sully Luke,
We have a big milestone coming up: this Sunday you will celebrate your half birthday, which means one thing: it’s time for your biannual letter/update. And we sure do have a lot to catch up on. You might not change as much from week to week as you did as newborns and babies, but during these toddler years, six months can make a world of difference.
Most of this letter will be glowing and positive, because I love you both SO MUCH and because I like to focus on the good parts about being your mom—there’s a lot there to focus on! But it would feel disingenuous to paint life with twin toddlers in too rosy a light, so I’ll go ahead and mention that two two-year-olds is no joke. Life these days is very loud, filled with sibling squabbles and lots of screaming, tantrums, power struggles, short fuses, and copious “Dear God, pleeeeaaaaase help me out here!” moments for Mama. Each day is a roller coaster of emotions and incessant demands, and I often feel at a complete loss as to how we will navigate each moment’s crisis.
And yet. . . as hard as the days can be, I wouldn’t trade life as a twin mom—and especially as mom to YOU TWO twins—for anything! It’s crazy and stressful and demanding, but insanely rewarding. I love that there is never a dull moment with you two as you flood my heart with sweetness, my eyeballs with adorableness, and my ears with your darling questions, songs, and quirky comments. In some ways parenting two toddlers is a whole lot harder than parenting just your big brother, but the joy I receive through watching the gift you are to each other is priceless.
It would be impossible to write an update that included everything I want to remember about you at this stage, but a glimpse at a day in the life with you two will paint the most complete and accurate picture, so here we go. . . .
Your days usually begin around 6:00 when Sully begins crying to get out of the crib—often because Kali is antagonizing him. (At two-and-a-half, you might be getting a little old for the crib [especially one that is shared], but it still is working for us so we don’t feel a need to make any changes just yet. I’m almost positive you could climb out if you tried, but no attempts have been made.) The crying stops the minute I come into your room, and your faces light up, eager for morning hugs and to tell me about your night. We settle onto the floor of your room where you nurse (something else you’re probably getting a little old for, but are not eager to relinquish). Not long ago you settled into your “sides,” and now Kali always nurses on my right and Sully on my left and you get upset if we try to change things up. After a few minutes, one of you will walk over to your bookcase to grab a handful of books, and we read several of your favorites. You chant along with the lines you know, comment on the pictures, and we practice our counting and colors as we look at the illustrations. I’m always amazed at the small details you notice, or the connections you make.
Around 6:30 we move on to diaper changes. You both (especially Kali) are showing signs of potty training readiness (asking to use the potty, knowing when you need to be changed, etc.) but for now we are still doing the diaper thing. Sully is very particular about which diapers he wears (why oh why can’t all diapers have the same picture, that would save me so much grief!) and Kali is particular about her clothing, so this process can take some time. Thankfully we have moved past the stage of screaming through changes. You like to be changed on the floor, side by side at the same time, often holding hands or commenting on each other’s outfits as we go. Once you’re dressed, I hug and kiss you goodbye and set you up with a few toys (blocks or a train or a play food set), then leave you in your room to entertain yourselves while Charlie and I get our schoolwork done. You are fantastic about playing together and we rarely need to come in to intercede with a squabble or to prevent you from getting into something you shouldn’t. Kali is able to open the door to your room, but never does without permission. We are able to keep an eye on you through our nest camera, but you are also good at letting us know when you need us by shouting under the door.
We eat breakfast at 8:30. You are always excited to see Charlie when he comes into your room to get you, but you resist his incessant requests for hugs and kisses. (He’s been a tad too overbearing in the past, and you are both over it, much to your big brother’s sadness.) You run down the hall squealing “it’s breakfast time!” and are able to climb into your high chairs and pull your plates onto your trays, then wait patiently until everyone is ready and it’s time to bless our food before eating. Breakfast is your best meal of the day and you always finish quickly without much fanfare. Kali is our speed-eater, Sully takes a slow-but-steady approach, and we listen to Adventures in Odyssey during the meal.
When breakfast is done we face our big challenge of the day: getting into the car. You both are pretty terrified of the garage and want to be carried to your car seats. There is often quite a bit of screaming and bargaining involved, but we eventually make it to the van where you climb into your car seats (negotiating who will sit where) so that I can get you buckled in. Then it’s off to that day’s destination: the gym, to drop Charlie off at school (always a tearful separation), Bible study, gymnastics, or a morning play date. We listen to kid songs in the car and I get endless requests to turn the music louder. I love hearing you belt out the songs from your car seats. I don’t love trying to understand and answer your questions as we drive, or having to hold Sully’s hand and drive one-handed (if he happens to be upset, it’s the only way to get him to stop screaming). I know, though, that once we make it to wherever we are going you will be angels. You are almost always well-behaved in public and do great with drop-off situations. We all hold hands as we walk to wherever we’re going, and you are good about reminding each other and big brother to stay close and not run in the parking lot.
You tend to doze on our way home from our morning outings and Daddy loves helping get you out of the car, because it means he gets a few moments of sleepy snuggles. I nurse you and we play in your room together for a while, then I leave you on your own in the playroom where you prepare food at your play kitchen or color while I make lunch. This is a hit-or-miss meal, sometimes you eat and sometimes you don’t; I read our daily Bible story and some of our chapter read-aloud while you eat, though it can be tough to get to the reading in between constant requests (for ice in your water, or different forks, or napkins, or needing to have your chairs moved).
After lunch it’s playtime! If it’s nice out we might go out into the yard where you love to jump on the trampoline or be pulled in your toy cars. On chilly days we stay inside and you follow me as I clean or fold laundry, or Charleston helps you set up your toy tunnel or build a blanket fort. By 2:00 you are getting pretty fussy and the bickering begins to escalate which tells me it’s time for nap. Our naptime routine has gotten pretty involved. It begins with nursing, followed by a few books and then a mini dance party to the Encanto soundtrack—always for a video, per your request. Kali takes the lead with the dance movies and Sully follows along with the elaborate spins and arm moves and shakes. It’s hilarious! After a few songs it’s time for the Crib Monster. which means that you run and “hide” in the corner so I (the Crib Monster) can come and scoop you up. Sully always goes first: he says goodnight to the moon and sailboat pictures on your wall, I cradle him like a baby and give lots of hugs and kisses, then count him into your crib. Once we’ve done this with Kali, too, you ask me to take your picture before giving one more hug and kiss and then leaving you on your own. Some days you’re out like a light, other days it takes an hour or more for you to fall asleep. You wrestle, snuggle, hug, laugh, dance, chat, and look at books together while you wait to fall sleep. If only one of you is tired the other will keep the other up, but for the most part you entertain one another until jointly lying down and falling asleep—almost always with Sully’s hand cupped around Kali’s ear.
Though IT takes you a while to fall asleep, you nap long and hard and Daddy almost always has to come into your room to wake you at 5:00. You generally wake up grouchy, but Daddy is great at boosting your moods in time for a bath. You both have come to love playing in the tub, even though you hate getting scrubbed up at the end. By 6:00 you are clean and pajama-clad and ready for dinner. This meal is even more challenging than lunchtime. You often won’t eat much and are fussy and demanding. It’s not my favorite time of day, but I know it will get easier eventually and I think it’s important for us to keep trying. Once the
food battles meal is over, it’s teeth time. You run into the bathroom excitedly, but that excitement evaporates when the brushes come out, and there is much fanfare over which parent is brushing whose teeth and where you will sit and how we will brush. You keep getting good reports from your dentist, though, so we must be getting the job done alright.
I absolutely love the final half hour of the day. Around 7:00 we all gather in your room for some family playtime. There is lots of hugging and giggles and dancing until we finally gather around in a circle and hold hands for blessing and prayer. You are too cute closing your eyes and holding in your giggles during this time. And after we say Amen we all put our hands in the middle for a “Jernejcic!” chant and sendoff. Then you hug Daddy and Charlie goodnight and the three of us follow our nighttime routine—which is exactly like the naptime routine we’d done just hours before. Occasionally this can be tedious, but I know I’ll miss these elaborate rituals when you’ve aged out of them! By 7:30 I’ve said goodnight and you are snuggled in for the night. You usually fall right to sleep but even on nights when you don’t drift off right away, you are calm and either chat or sing until you both go out.
And there we have it—a day in the life of Kali and Sully at two-and-a-half! That covers what you do, but it doesn’t come close to covering all of who you are.
Kalinda, we were at Indigo Play last week and another parent commented on your “big personality”; I hadn’t thought of you in that way before, but she was right. You are a very big presence! You are always singing, dancing, running, and chatting. You were slower to start talking than your brother but now you don’t stop! You ask questions and point out everything you see, and you have lots of demands. You can swing from being incredibly sweet and happy to enraged and rolling on the floor in a tantrum, then back to your sweet self. You like to do things your way, on your own, and get upset when anyone tries to intercede. These are the challenges of that “big personality.” The rewards are incessant entertainment for me, and the development of confidence and resourcefulness for you as you figure things out on your own. You march to the beat of your own drum and find so much satisfaction in forging your own path. In general I would say that you are the more dominant twin, but you get very upset when Sully isn’t nearby, and in social settings you are slower to warm up to others and want to cling to Mom.
We are becoming more “girly” as you get older. You have strong preferences about your clothes and love wearing anything pink and sparkly. You like to accessorize with necklaces and hats and enjoy having your hair done (we’ve graduated from headbands to pigtails and ponytails which you love). You really like matching Mama and always point out when we are wearing the same color or have our hair the same way, and you talk about how you will have earrings or wear jewelry or paint your toenails like me “when I’m a big girl, okay?”. You are obsessed with the excessively girly character of Isabella in Encanto (you literally hug our speaker when you hear her singing on the soundtrack).
Kalinda, you are in awe of everything and very easily excited—I hope you can keep that! I also hope you hold onto your love for music and dance; I have never seen a child move the way you do. You are a natural dancer and gymnast, moving gracefully and creatively in your moves—whether you are copying someone else or coming up with your own. You adore performing and being the center of attention. Your Oma says that I was exactly the same at your age, and I definitely can see the similarities in our personalities and approaches to life. (I have to admit that like you, I hate to share and I really like getting my own way.)
Sullivan, you can tend to disappear in the shadows of your sister’s big presence but those of us who know you well are smitten by your charm and sweetness. You are the most polite child I have ever met, saying “please” and “thank you” and “excuse me” for just about everything. (You regularly will say “Thank you, Mama, for changing my diaper!” Or, “Mommy, can I please have some ice in my water?” What two-year-old talks this way?!) You are very sensitive: you are often observant, low-key, and easy-to-please, but when you’re upset you scream for help and needs lots of soothing, attention, hugs. Whereas Kali pushes away from me when she’s upset, you require my presence. You like to hold hands and snuggle (with Kali, with me, with Daddy) and are quick to notice someone is sad or hurt and offer kisses and condolences. You love to share and to help. (It’s not uncommon for you to finish cleaning up your toys, then come and give me a high-five and say, “Good job, Mama, thanks for cleaning up my toys for me!”)
Though Kali uses more words, you are more articulate. You speak in complete sentences and you will parrot almost anything I say. You are very invested in being understood and I can’t get away with passive acknowledgement of your words: you know when I’m placating you and shout “Mom! No!” when I don’t demonstrate understanding of something you have said by repeating your words exactly. You like to narrate what Kali is doing and tell her what to do; you can be bossy, and you get upset when things don’t go as usual or if anything is out of place. And though you are generally easygoing, you can be ridiculously stubborn: once you sat on time out for over an hour because you refused to make a needed apology. I see so much of your daddy in you: sweet, smart, loyal, logical, and deceptively opinionated and strong-willed.
Sully, you have some of the funniest ways of saying things: penguin is “pin-u-in” and music is “news-ooh-ack”, mine is “mys”, and you were the one who started calling Kali “Kinda”—a nickname we all now use. You don’t have your sister’s grace, and you remind me of an awkward colt when you copy her dance moves, running, and jumping, but you get SO PROUD of yourself for trying. (You also try to copy her tantrums but, thankfully, have yet to reach her fortitude in that arena.)
Kali and Sully, watching the two of you together never fails to amaze me. I often reflect on how fortunate you are to have each other and how perhaps every human was meant to have a twin because your dynamic is so natural. You speak up for one another and watch out for each other. You are great playmates and occasional squabbles aside, you are one another’s best friend. I love seeing you hold hands or hug, offer each other encouragement, or copy each other’s silly antics. Two and a half years in, I am still in shock that I have twins and still overwhelmed with gratitude for the gift that is the two of you. Happy half birthday, kiddos!
Love, Mommy/Mama (or, if you’re Sully, Kendra, because you get a kick out of calling me by my first name)
CLOTHING SIZE: 2T
FAVORITE FOODS: ice cream, milk, yogurt, sweets (cookies, cake, donuts), pizza, cereal, anything with ranch or cream cheese
FAVORITE ACTIVITIES: imaginative play, being outside, reading, coloring, blocks
DISLIKES: Roomba vacuum, getting in the car
OTHER LOVES: Encanto music, Daniel Tiger music, helping me clean, giving hugs and kisses, going to gymnastics, Xavier the stuffed teddy bear
NICKNAMES: Sulls, Kinda (rhymes with Linda)
FAVORITE BOOKS: God Made You to Be You, Pajama Time, Snuggle Puppy, Mother Bruce, Goodnight Moon, Night Night Prayer
SULLY’S FUNNIEST MOMENTS: When asked what he wants to talk about, laughingly responding “I don’t want to talk about Bruno, no no no!” Jumping up and down and shouting, “Hooray!” when he’s excited. Teasingly saying, “It’s my birthday today! Noooo. My birthday’s September.” Un-ironically wearing his Mr. Potato Head glasses upside down on his forehead for hours on end.
KALI’S FUNNIEST MOMENTS: Spontaneous Saturday Night Fever dance moves. Tapping her chin and saying, “think think think. That’s what Winnie-Pooh says!” Shouting, “it’s Pena!” when hearing Isabella sing on the Encanto soundtrack and going to hug the speaker.