May 7, 2008

A Tree and Her Boys



I don't care how muddy, how wet, we are going outside as much as possible. See previous blog post and you'll understand, we need outside (baby fighting on the internet? what's next!?). Actually this post is not so much about trees as it is about my boys (duh!). Like trees, Tsega, Bereket, and Sira are beautiful, wise, epic. . . but speechless. They only speak a few utterances and without more skill than a typical one year old. They turn two in late June. By two they should be saying at least 50 words and stringing some together in short phrases. I've blogged about suspected speech delays before HERE and relative immaturity HERE.

Without further ado, I decided to intervene now before our two year appointment and anticipated cues from the pediatrician. I called back our team of infant/child development specialists, the people who worked on gross mobility in those early baby days (blogged about HERE), and brought the boys in for evaluation. The boys, all three, are about the same on many levels. They're about right-on in their receptive language, but I wasn't kidding when I said their expressive language is about like a normal 12 month old. No surprises since they only utter a few words and seem to have little interest in speaking. Sira probably enjoys sound making the most, while Tsega's got the lung power. Learning abilities may be lagging a wee bit as well. Although I have to remember that These People, though they are great and delighted to see our triplets again (always confessing their favoritism for my boys in past sessions), tend to overly emphasize small delays and go by the book. Sometimes it's lack of experience in the child's world. Sometimes it's differences in children and style. They were all worried about Tsega's mobility and he walked before he hit 12 months. But sometimes it is indeed a problematic deficiency, though not unsalvagable in our case, I'm sure. It's hard being a triplet, it affects the fractioned child in complicating ways, it has to.

But the things my boys excel in aren't scored during these test sessions. We deserve big points for overlooked areas. Like their triplet unification approach to problem solving. Like their dramatic talents. Like Sira fake falling and then fake crying. Or Tsega's ability to get into everything and perform acrobats. And then there's Bereket's infamous physical violence against his brothers (OK, I kid, chill!).

But I also wish these professionals would remind us parents not to beat ourselves up. We walk away and start blaming away at ourselves. It's our fault, we should have done this, done that. . . our poor kids, we've been stifling their talents and suppressing their abilities. What poor teachers we are, what poor role models; using the Triplet Thing as an excuse. Triplets, they're Triplets, it's a Triplet Thing, Triplets talk later. Nurture, my babies need more nurture to get them excelling. Because like trees, it's not enough to rely on just sun, nutrients, and water. Love is not enough either. Interaction, they need complex interactions. No tree stands alone.

We're now pushing the sign language, talking storms about what everybody's doing, calling everything by name, talk talk talk, both Jerry and I. I'm changing your diaper, mama's changing diaper, diaper poopy, see poopy diaper, you like new diaper, all done, diaper clean, pee pee clean, yay!, . . .). As far as therapy goes, it's not exactly speech therapy. The therapists will give us more tools to help our boys with language and other areas as deemed needed. And once or twice a month I bring in the boys for, I guess you could say, play therapy. The exciting part is, they will slowly introduce one, then two, then more toddlers into their group so my boys can get properly socialized and have some talking peers. This is exciting because other than 6 and 4 year old neighbors who live close by (and frequent our yard), our boys never get to play and interact with other children. Yes, we live sheltered lives out in the country (which is why we wanted to adopt siblings in the first place). But first they want to work on a few social graces with our children before introducing them to a bigger circle (gee, I wonder why); like putting toys away, no spitting, tucking in chairs, and the likes (we just got them a toddler table for home too and I'm scared--remember we have removed all dining chairs from our rooms because chair tipping (yes, chair tipping, blogged about HERE) and chair scooting all over the house was getting to be too much and a little dangerous for heads and little toes (and very bad for chairs and ear drums). A little scary though, my kids with other defenseless, tender children. You did watch my last video, right? :)

At the same time we are seriously disciplining and trying our best to remain neutral throughout the discipline process (discipline as punishment, that is, it's a tricky word when you think about it). We've armed ourselves with Dr Sears's Discipline Book (Attachment discipline? This guy is all soul, gotta love him!) and Magic 1-2-3. I'm sort of taking a pre-school teacher approach: lots of high-pitched talk, wide happy eyes, and timely time-outs. Hey, I even did a triple time out the other day and it went well (and they looked so cute all lined up together against the nursery wall). The boys don't cry much anymore when they time out, some never did, in fact they smile a little too much during. But it's less about feeling shamed into good behavior and more about taking a little break to reorganize those neurons and inhale a little peace pipe. Typically, they toddle off after their one whole minute is up (yes, just one minute, they are immature, remember) and move onto something else, away from the drama.

But I wish I had a magic cure for the toy fighting. What to do when everybody is tugging a toy in three different directions and screaming and trying to bite? Yes, I know, take the toy away which results in a whole lot of crying into the floor and can leave certain sensitive babies in low low spirits the rest of the day (which means constant holding and slinging for me and then I'm not happy because he's not happy). It breaks my heart because it isn't Baby A's fault that Baby C wanted to take a toy from him. And most of the time I don't know who had it first anyway. Not that it really matters, who had it first. So we are introducing sharing, the hardest thing for toddler babies. Take your turn, now it's Sira's turn, Tsega your turn now, wait your turn, share share share, now give it to Bereket. . . That's why Sira is crying in daddy's arms above, he didn't want to wait his turn to sit up high in the tree. Ah well, maybe it's those times when you "let them work it out", except for working it out with bites, hits, and pulls. It's a Triplet Thing. You try it and see if you don't bite a brother or two . . .

26 comments:

Stacie said...

I love this post - I love your honesty about your boys. I'm off to look at Dr. Sears book on discipline - we need it!

ethiograndma said...

Cindy and Jerry are doing a wonderful job...when we visited them during spring break Tsega learned to say "Poppy" right away (Grandpa's name) and said it clearly...twice...and that was it...he knew who it was and pointed to him and then went about his business. So its not like the boys can't talk, they just don't see the need for it. I'm sure they will catch up with a little extra help. BTW, the boys adore Poppy!

Cindy said...

Thanks Mom (aka "Babs"-- just kidding!), we adore you too :).

LISA said...

I agree with your mom!Ummmm...but I HAVE to know.....BABS????? LOL!!??

TylerandBrianne said...

At 2.5 my son only babbled. You could understand very little of what he said. He could care less about talking. I guess if I had gotten interventional help they would have told me I did not teach him enough and that I was a bad mom. One day he just changed and now he is a bright 5 yr old that literally will not hush. Some kids just take longer. Don’t beat yourself up!!!!!

Lindsay and Cindy said...

rearranging neurons and peace pipes..LOL. I love the way that you write Cindy.

Jake and Taryn said...

LOVE the pictures of the boys in the tree!! Too cute!!

cathy said...

I agree with your mom. We have good friends that had twins that DID NOT TALK until age 4. They were tested up the wazoo and diagnosed with all kinds of delays, but in reality, these twins just knew how to communicate almost silently with each other and had no need to do so anywhere else. Once they began interacting more in preschool, etc. they talked fine. So you have to wonder how much is a "triplet" thing, and NOT something to beat yourself up over. Still, I like picturing you making 22 sentences about a poopy diaper. Rock on!

Stacy said...

Lucy will help socialize them at family camp this August. She can take them on (she's a toughie and used to playing with crazy wild boys!). Not that you want THAT kind of socialization.

Hi! I'm Laura & this is my blog. said...

one thing that works in preschool (my youngest were 2.5 year olds so this might work when they are closer to that age) was the "two minutes" rule. so, if one boy is playing with a toy that another wants you say 'yes, you can play with it, in 2 min.' Soon they will use the phrase themselves after some modeling--and when they are talking more-- but you wouldn't believe how this works! i had to see it to believe it. almost no fights in my preschool class of 14 because though they didn't understand the concept of time they knew that 2 min wasn't such a long time to wait (and of course you could make that 2 min be 30 seconds or 3 min or whatever works best in the situation). The other preschool tip i have for you is the phrase "you get what you get and you don't get upset". So if you are getting them dressed in the morning for example and sira wants to wear the shirt bereket is getting, you just tell him, 'you get what you get and you don't get upset'. Again, works wonders!! even though now they might not say these phrases, you can say them now all the time so that when they do start talking they will know how to manage sharing and disappointments better. They work like a charm. :-) good luck!

ps the tree pictures are adorable!

FrogMom said...

I agree with the others who have said that the speech thing is probably a triplet/lack of necessity thing.

Our situation is different because Helen is not a multiple, but I do think I might have been anticipating her needs too much. I was getting a little worried about her language development too. She was also only speaking a handful of words, and it might even be a stretch to count some of them as words. Interestingly, when my MIL came to take care of her during the day while I was in ET, her language finally began to take off. I think she was motivated by being with another caregiver who needed more cues to know what she wanted. Now that she has two older sisters here, her vocab has continued to grow. I still don't think she is up to fifty, but she is probably up to 30 and seems to be saying new words each day.

I think IE stuff is usually a good idea if you qualify - it certainly won't hurt to do all of these things with you boys to get them socialized etc but I am pretty confident it probably would work itself out eventually anyway.

Looking forward to seeing you guys (and Stacy and Lucy) at camp this summer! We decided to try the tent thing (gulp), but only for one night...

Deirdre said...

Ooh, I just want to pluck them from those trees and eat them!

Sidamo had speech and physical delays around your boys' age. We got him in early intervention, and that seemed to help. What really helped though was time. He's now 30 months and way ahead of all curves—kids develop on such different timelines, and it sounds like you're giving them all the resources they could hope for. They'll be fighting with words instead of teeth in no time!

Oh, and we love 1-2-3 Magic in this house. Or at least Greg and I do. :-)

LISA said...

Cindy....are we not answering the "BABS" reference?

lmstephenson said...

Don't beat yourself up over your boys having a little speech delay. I've never met you, but I can tell you are great parents. It isn't uncommon for multiples to have speech issues. Candace's isn't a multiple, and her speech is unintelligable most of the time. She gets talked to more than any other child I know. Some kids just need a little push to get jump started.

GOod luck with the sharring thing. Sharring is developmental skill, and it doesn't develop until children are much older. At this point, you will just have to manage the madness. My friend with twins almost always buys two of everything. That solves a lot of problems.

Lynn (TTC Adoption)

Ricki said...

First of all I just want to say that I have been following your blog almost since the beginning and I think your boys are adorable.....in fact they are pretty much famous up here in Canada among the Ethiopian adoptive families....everyone know who the Ethiopian triplet boys are :)
Secondly, I think your mom may have posted a comment on my blog awhile back (she said her daughter had adopted triplet boys from E). Tell her if she wants to contact me with any questions about Canadian Humanitarian and their expeditions she can email me (bruce dot ricki at sasktel dot net). I would be happy to answer any questions for her.
I know you must be super busy with your three boys but keep up the blogging...you have a lot of friends out here!
Ricki

Evelyn said...

Hey, on a side note, where do you get most of your kids' clothes? I especially love the jumper Tsega had on in an earlier post... it has the outline of Africa on it...

I'll have 2 under the age of 3 from Ethiopia soon, I hope, and that jumper is too cute!

Cindy said...

You are all so sweet! I love reading comments on my blog, thank you for the support!

Evelyn: Congrats on 2 under 3, that's fabulous. I love buying kiddie clothes and I get them everywhere from Target to Zutano. Of course Osh Kosh overalls are our staple. Babycenter store, online, has many cute things and that's been my main shopping place. Big Zutano fan here and that's where I get that stuff. The red jumper is from The Gap; from the Project Red line. Little Boy Chic, also online, is very groovy but too pricey for me. Amazon.com has good stuff too if you search for particular brands you like.

Ricki: Famous in Canada, how cool is that!!?? Reminds me of that Tom Waits song, “I’m Big in Japan”; only it’s more like, “I’m Big in Canadian ET-Adoption Circles” (hmm, not very catchy but still cool!). My way cool mom IS going to Ethiopia this fall, I'm soooo jealous! And she is indeed going with a Canadian group for humanitarian work. I can't remember the name of the group; they sprung from an adoption agency after their humanitarian efforts grew so big and work with schools, AHOPE, & families and such. Can you believe she didn't offer to pay my way over with her??!! Outrageous! :)

mars_3 said...

hallo Cindy and Jerry, I visite your blog.... it's amazing... photos are fabulous... sorry for my english, i'm italian. Ciao e complimenti ai vostri splendidi gemelli!!!! PAola

Heather said...

Cindy,
When you get a chance...
I've tagged you for a meme!!!
see here:
http://johnson-mccormickfamily.blogspot.com/2008/05/5-things-meme.html

:)
Heather

Heather said...

From what I've read/learned it is *VERY* normal for multiples to wait to speak (speak with our language). I think as long as they're verbal (in english language) by age 4 or so, you have nothing to worry about! Your boys are all bright and clever and precious! The 'issues' you're having with discipline just show that! :) I always try to remember, precocious and spirited and strong-willed children grow up to be self-confident adults. :)
Heather

Ani said...

Hi! I just found you through Kyle & Owen's blog. I'm a mom to a VERY ACTIVE almost-3-year-old boy and I am just trying to wrap my mind about how hard, challenging, fun, wonderful and amazing it must be to have TRIPLET toddler boys!!!

My son was a late talker, but, like you, I opted to have him checked out right before his second birthday. "They" recommended a wait and see attitude and he's now a little chatterbox.

Thanks for sharing your family with us!

carole said...

Can I leave a completely unrelated comment? My name is carol and my husband and I have a little Ethiopian princess in our home who is just learning to walk. We are moving into a new home with 2 gas fireplaces and beginning to wonder about how to keep her safe! I have noticed in some of your photos that you have some kind of gate around yours. What is it? How did you do it? Thanks!

taylorchloejake said...

Just found you blog. They are sooooo cute! We have "irish triplets, so I can sort of relate. :) We are interested in adopting another baby from Ethiopia. Would you mind sharing what agency you used? Did you have a good experience?

Thanks!

Natalie
Natski81504@yahoo.com

Tarah said...

cinds,
We started speech at 2 for Jack. Honestly, it helped a little. I think the main thing was, he wasn't ready!
Repition is huge for speech! So enjoy talking about pee pee and ball.
Your boys are absolutely adorable. I love how you and Jerry approach parenting. :)

Melissa said...

Hi,
I love reading your blog. I've just started the process of adopting from Ethiopia, and I read your words to keep my eye on the prize. Your boys seem awesome and from what I read, it seems like you're doing a great job.

Heza Hekele said...

Hilarious tree pictures! I love them!