FamilyLifestyle

Reflections on 2017: a tough year in the world and our entry to toddlerhood

For many people, 2017 was a pretty rough year. The world seems to have gone crazy with political tensions running high. No one is getting along and people are more divided than ever. Yet, for me, 2017 was a fairly good year. As our first full year with the twins, we had a lot of milestones and fun times over the year.

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At the beginning of the year, the boys started daycare. We were fortunate enough to have adequate parental leave and saved vacation days to make it from their birth to the new year with them at home. My wife used a combination of her company’s leave as well as New Jersey’s leave. I then took my company’s six weeks of paid leave. After that, we alternated vacation weeks, working from home, and holidays between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. With the boys as toddlers now, I barely remember what working from home and actually getting work done while they were newborns, napping all the time, was like.

In January, they started daycare at a school near my wife’s office. After a long search, we chose this school for the combination of friendly and engaged teachers, great curriculum and facilities, and healthy included meals. They quickly moved from the infant class where they were mostly kept occupied all day, to toddler class where they have an actual curriculum including music, art, math, and science. They also go outside nearly every day, even in the winter.

On the downside, they seem to bring home a new sickness every other week. Sometimes it’s a minor cold and others something requiring a doctor visit. Positively, they are already showing signs of increased socialization. They also come home with new things they’ve learned like washing their hands, putting toys away, and even a few words. We’re very happy with our choice as the boys are thriving there. We knew we made the right choice the first day we arrived and they got super excited to get into their classroom.

It’s incredible to look back at how much they have changed over the course of 2017. They went from six-month old infants, basically immobile blobs, to active and curious toddlers of 18-months. They don’t nap nearly as much and need way more active attention to stay happy. We get much better sleep and their mood swings are a little easier to understand, but keeping up with them all day is exhausting. Toys and books keep them entertained much longer, but require us to engage with them most times. Our living room used to be just a play mat where the boys would stay occupied by the music and sounds for hours, often falling asleep on it. Now, nearly every night it is covered in toys from one end to the other.

The boys are certainly becoming more individual and more like actual people now as well. They are developing personalities and unique characteristics. They enjoy similar activities, but each is starting to develop preferences for different foods, toys, and books. Of course most of the time they want to play with the exact toy the other one wants, causing trouble and often resulting in biting. One has even started to prefer singing while the other loves dancing.

In just a few months, they went from not moving, to crawling, to rockily walking, to running around the house. They seriously run now, arms extended like zombies for balance. Our game of running around the house from each other often ends in them catching me now, and I’m not letting them win. They even climb the stairs now and one of them is starting to figure out how to go down, though half the time it works and the other half he ends up on his face.

They have also started talking way more. We don’t know what they are saying most of the time, but a few words like mommy, daddy, dog, and plane are their favorites. They also learned sign language for “more” and “all done” at school. They also love to chase the dog chanting “Hershey” at him. Other times they seem to string together a whole sentence in a language we just don’t understand.

With their newfound personalities, we’ve begun to test boundaries more often. They are just starting to learn to say “no” back to us. They get upset when we tell them not to do something. It gives us a lot of opportunities to practice discipline and teaching them rules. It’s only going to get harder though as they get harder to redirect and distract. We have had absolutely no luck in teaching them not to feed the dog from their high chairs. Though in fairness, the dog hasn’t learned either.

This year, I also continued my running with a few half marathons in the spring, some shorter races where I focussed on speed in the summer, and culminating with the Chicago Marathon in the fall. With the boys, it was often hard to find time to run, especially on weekends. During the week, I fell into an early morning routine I would have never believed possible. I get up at 6 and get the boys ready for school. My wife then takes them to school and I head out to work immediately. I get to work by 7:30 and run there. This year, I discovered a great running path through a park near my office. I head there daily for my 3-5 mile runs. Once it got cold again, I rediscovered the gym’s treadmills. After several months of running exclusively outside, I dread running on the treadmill now.

The Chicago marathon went great and was the first race I ran where the boys were interested enough to actually notice me. Their excitement was a great motivator for me. I didn’t break my goal, but I smashed my personal best. I promised myself I would take the rest of the year to recuperate and run without the stress of an upcoming race. I made it about two weeks before entering the Berlin Marathon next fall. At least I’ll have my great support crew with me and even more active in cheering me on.

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We also continued our outdoor adventures with the boys with some great hiking this year. My goal has been to get them outside and in the great outdoors as much as possible to build an appreciation for nature and activity. We take them on frequent hikes at the parks near our house though it’s been harder lately as they are tough to carry in the Baby Bjorns and the stroller doesn’t work very well off-road. We still found lots of great walks with them on our trips to Chicago, New Hampshire, and Delaware.

Without the boys, my wife and I got to explore some great hiking trails in the West of the country. We hiked pretty intense trails in Zion and Bryce National Parks as well as Valley of Fire and Red Rocks. We also did a small segment of the Appalachian Trail at the Delaware Water Gap. We still seem to insist on strenuous hikes without actual hiking gear though. Maybe we’ll get better about actually bringing water and wearing hiking shoes in 2018.

The bucket list for hiking with the boys keeps growing. I have long wanted to wait until they are older to take them hiking in the High Sierras in California and on parts of the Pacific Crest Trail. I’d love to through-hike the Appalachian Trail too. Patagonia also looks incredible. Machu Picchu is definitely a life must-do. There’s just so much to do without enough time before they grow up.

We also began increasing our travel again to our pre-children levels with the boys. We got back to Europe, the first time out of the country with the boys, to Norway. While the flights were challenging and the time change made sleep a bit precious, we had an incredible trip with a bunch of experiences we’ll remember forever with the boys, like seeing real reindeer in the wild, days without the sun setting, and their love of bread and live classical music on the cruise ship. We’re already planning 2018’s trips.

We also traveled quite a bit domestically. After the difficult flights to and from Norway, we decided to drive places instead with the boys. We drove to Chicago and had a great day exploring the city before the marathon. We also explored New Hampshire and Maine breweries and landmarks, and Delaware’s beaches, their first time on a beach which they loved. Without the boys, we got to spend time at Utah’s Naional Parks after a conference in Las Vegas for work, Northern Michigan for a wonderful wedding, and I even got to return to Seattle, though very briefly, for work.

2017 was a busy but rewarding year for us, and a year of a lot of change as parents. Entering toddlerhood changed a ton with our lives and it’s been exhausting, but things have also become more fun and rewarding with the boys. We’ve still managed to find the opportunity to do the things we love and share them with the boys like traveling, hiking, and running. 2017 hasn’t been easy for anyone, but we’ve been fortunate with many good things to look back fondly on. 2018 promises to be equally dichotomous with vast challenges, but also fun and opportunities. I’m just hoping we can continue to balance the things we enjoy doing with the increasing demands from the boys.