Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Little Thing

One of Sam's favorite phrases used to be, "I can't do it - it's hard." Now one of her favorite phrases is, "I can do it - it's easy!"

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Little Thing

It was bedtime and Sammy and I were making up songs. Silly rhymes with funny tunes - anything to get a laugh. I was being very creative but Sammy just kept making up songs about pee and poo and it was getting old. "Can't you make up a song about something other than pee and poo?" I asked.

"Hmmm, how about a song about Jinxy?" she asked.

I was thrilled. She hadn't talked about Jinx much since we put him to sleep a few weeks ago, and I thought her feelings might come out in her song. I'm paraphrasing, but it went something like this:
Oh, I had a cat and his name was Jinx.

And he was cute and beautiful.

And he got a shot and it made him sleepy.

And then he got another and it made him dead.

We had to put Jinx to sleep because...

He peed and pooed in the house!

Now who is the creative one?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Little Thing

Sam injured her toenail and the whole thing was peeling away, so Adam had to cut it off. Sam sat patiently through the whole procedure, and when Adam gave her the toenail to look at, she asked if she could put it under her pillow for the toenail fairy.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Almost There

Last night both Zoe and Leo slept for over nine hours straight! Most people consider this sleeping through the night, and I would too except that they slept from 8:30pm to 5:45am, and I didn't get to sleep until midnight. I'll be happy when they sleep until I'm ready to wake up, say around 7:30am.

Still, it's a win because they both did it together. I see a light at the end of the sleepless tunnel.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Travel for Five

Over Thanksgiving we took the whole brood on our first trip since Zoe and Leo were born. Unfortunately, it wasn't a happy occasion - we were visiting Adam's dad at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. He recently underwent a Whipple procedure - the same surgery that Steve Jobs had - for pancreatic cancer.

Still, the trip was good because it was a trial run for future traveling. We learned quite a bit, and it wasn't as hard as we thought it would be. Of course, Baltimore is only an hour and a half car ride away and we only stayed two nights. We got there in one nap. No airport, no feedings on the road, not even a pit stop for the adults. Still, the packing and planning weren't all that much worse than a trip with Sam. Make a list and take a whole day to pack - no problem! However, it was a bit shocking to realize how much formula we had to bring along, even though I'm breastfeeding about 40%. It's also a little scary because the formula we use (specifically for preemies) is not sold in stores but most be ordered through the mail. I suppose if we did run out, we could have just bought some regular formula. But the whole world of formula is still new to me and man, it sure is a hassle when you travel!

We also had some trouble with the sleeping arrangements. We got a suite with two beds and a sofabed, and brought the Pack'N'Play for the twins. But they were really too big to sleep in it together, so we ended up getting a second from the hotel. It was musical beds the whole two days and I have a feeling that's the way it will be each time. Each place we stay will be a new challenge, as will every age of the babies. Okay, we know that now and we'll deal with it.

Leo had one meltdown, but otherwise all three kids did a great job. Poor Sam. She's used to going on trips and doing new and exciting things. We told her that there was an indoor pool and we packed our suits, which was a huge mistake. It was almost impossible for Adam to even get out of the room to visit his dad, let alone go out for frolicking. But we did manage to get her to the pool once, and to take her on a walk along the water where she got to feed the seagulls. That, plus endless TV time, got her through 48 hours.

And here is the biggest shocker: I felt like I had a vacation! I stayed in the room almost the entire time. I fed babies and changed diapers, but I didn't have to wash dishes or fold laundry or make lunch or pay bills or give children baths or take Sam to gymnastics or write thank you cards or any of that stuff. And since the hotel room was a new environment for Leo and Zoe, they seemed to need nothing more than a few minutes on their playmat and they were ready for their naps. Sam got on my nerves the first night before we figured out that getting her out of the room was just as essential as breathing and eating, but after that it was okay. Almost restful. But really, in two full days, Adam made it to visit his dad only twice for an hour or so each time, and then once again on our way out of town. I suppose if we go on a trip where we actually expect to do something other than sit in a hotel room, it will be much more difficult.

So, we didn't really have a Thanksgiving this year. We called for room service Thursday night at 6:30pm and the hotel told us that they had a free Thanksgiving dinner available in the restaurant, but only until 7. Adam explained that we had newborn twins and there was no way we could get out of the room that quickly, so they allowed him to come down and pick up some food to bring up to the room. So we had turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce and it was all really, really good! And free! Only in America. I'm thankful to live in a country of such abundance and benevolence. And one in which there are Whipple procedures. And formula just for preemies.

I guess we did have Thanksgiving, after all.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Twins Update - 3 Months Old

Constant change is here to stay...

Leo and Zoe have left infancy behind and are solidly on baby ground. I can't believe we got through the first three months already! Unfortunately, things aren't really getting easier at this point. It's more of a mixed bag. Sure, they are cuter and more interesting now, feedings are shorter and less frequent, nighttime sleep is longer, and they aren't so delicate, but the rapid rate of change is often leaving me confused. Should I keep them awake more? Is this a growth spurt or what? Can they handle a road trip? And what the heck do I do when there is no "they," but when one has completely different needs than the other? When things change so quickly, having two babies becomes more than double the work. All the little facts that I need to keep in my head about each baby can be overwhelming.

Still, we love these two little beings. They are each so awesome in their own ways, and they are special as a pair as well. Here are some highlights from the last month.

We finally got Leo's reflux under control and he is a much happier baby! Now we can see which parts of his personality were due to the pain he was in. He is still very physical, but he is not so squirmy anymore. In fact, Zoe might be the squirmy one at this point. He is also not always the first one to cry. Zoe is still the calmer of the two, but I wouldn't call Leo a spitfire anymore. What a relief that he isn't in constant pain! And what a relief that we can put him on his back to sleep again. No more car seat in the crib. That was a huge hassle. Also, how freaking cute is this?

Leo is also a happier guy now that he has found his thumb. I can't believe how cute I find the thumbsucking. It was especially endearing to watch him struggle to get it. Here's a video of him working on it right before he mastered the skill. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I try to keep up with trimming his nails, he seems to cut up his nose and face while sucking his thumb.

Leo rolled over once, from his tummy to his back. Again, it was super-awesome to watch him struggle and succeed. I don't know if he'll be doing it regularly, though. He hasn't been able to repeat it since. I remember Sam did the same thing - rolled over very early but then lost the skill for quite a while.

Zoe, on the other hand, seems almost ready to roll over from her back to her tummy. She likes to sleep on her side, so she can get into that position quite easily, and it's not too much of a leap for her to keep going. Turning over onto the tummy is a more advanced skill than Leo's way, but some babies do accomplish it first. It's all about values!

Zoe's "toaster head" seems to be diminishing. Her skull and face are a bit rounder instead of rectangular. This makes her a whole lot cuter. And I suppose I'm shallow, but the cuter she gets, the more I love her. Hey, they don't do all that much yet so how they look is relatively more important than it will be later, right???

Both Zoe and Leo started out with the standard Caucasian baby dark blue eyes. But Leo's are getting lighter and brighter, and Zoe's are becoming a murky color which sometimes looks green. I'm sure Leo will end up with blue eyes and Zoe with brown. And their hair color seems to have stuck so far: Leo has a dark blond, and Zoe has a rich brown. Oh, they look nothing alike and I love it that way!

Both Zoe and Leo are working with their hands. Leo is a bit ahead, batting hanging objects around with abandon and occasionally grabbing them. Zoe can't grab as well, and you can tell she is less interested in working on it. Her interest lies in the mirror. She can look at herself for an hour and be perfectly content, making her sweet cooing noises. She is also more interested than Leo in other people's faces, and continues to have that searching, questioning gaze that she has had from birth. Only now she'll punctuate her staring with smiles and coos, especially with Sam. Zoe is seriously in love with her big sister. Leo is working on his vision also, be he tends to like the patterns on his mobile more than faces. What do you know, I even have a photo to show the difference between them:

Maybe the most exciting development is that the twins became aware of each other this month! We can lie them down next to each other and sometimes they'll look at each other and coo and make faces. Sometimes they try to touch each other. One time, they were lying this way and I gave Zoe a sucker. As she began to suck on it, Leo started making sucking noises, too. I tried to give him his sucker but he didn't want it. He was just relating to Zoe! That right there makes having twins worth all the extra effort.

Both Leo and Zoe will put a bit of weight on their feet. Leo much more so than Zoe. But they both do it and it's new to me. I don't think Sam did this at all until she was about a year old. Maybe we won't have late-walkers this time around, although I'm not sure that's such a good thing. Sam's way was very pleasant. But who knows, maybe Leo and Zoe will actually crawl. (Sam never crawled, but just scooted on her bottom.) I'd love to have crawlers.

Leo has slept through the night twice, and Zoe has done it once. And I'm not talking about the 5-6 hours that thinks counts as sleeping through the night. Pshaw. My awesome kids have been doing that for weeks. I say it only counts if the adult goes to sleep and wakes up in the morning without having had fed the baby. To my dismay, Adam has reaped the rewards of all three instances - we trade off babies at night and it was his turn each time. I'm sure my time will come.

I continue to call Zoe "Zo-Zo" and it still fits. Adam calls her "ZZ-Top," or just "Z." Sammy made up the combined nickname of "ZZ-Top and Leo-Bop," but otherwise we don't have any real nicknames for Leo. Sometimes we call him our Lion, but that's more of a term of endearment. And then there are the accidentals. Adam calls me Sam when he is angry at me (ha!). Sam mixes up Leo and Zoe occasionally. I've accidentally called Zoe both "Sammy" and "Chloe" (a friend of Sam's). And Leo? For some reason, I have more than once accidentally called him "puppy." It comes out of me just like Zo-Zo does for Zoe. I think I might just go with it, strange as it is.

Here they are, our emergent children:


Friday, November 18, 2011

A Little Thing

My neighbors are done bringing me dinners. Tonight I cooked! Pork with peanut-apricot crust and sweet potato fries. The food was good. The cooking was heaven.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Same Values, Different Context

This week, I took Zoe and Leo to the mall for the very first time. We strolled around, I bought a gift and a new winter coat, and I had lunch. I was very proud of myself for getting them out and having such a nice time doing it. But as I was changing my first diaper in a public restroom in about three years, I realized that by this age, Sam had not only been to the mall many times, but she had been to Arizona and Playa del Carmen, Mexico. She had flown on airplanes, hiked through the desert (well, okay, in her stroller), ridden on buses, and had even taken a ride on a catamaran. She had dipped her toes into the Caribbean Sea. By three months, Adam and I were experienced not only in changing diapers in public restrooms, but in changing them in tiny airplane bathrooms and on countertops in hotel lobbies.

Of course, those types of experiences are totally irrelevant to a baby. What is different is the experience for us, the parents. With Sam, we were determined not to let our baby interfere with our travels and adventures, and that was good. But with two babies and an older child, I am determined to do as little as possible, and to take things as slowly as possible. And that is working out well this time around. I know that we're going to have countless adventures together, all five of us, and this time I don't need to prove it to myself. This time, I can allow myself to take a time out from those things, and just relax and get to know these two little beings in peace.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

30 Down, 30 To Go

Continuing the tradition of putting every little detail of my life on this blog, here's my latest plan: When I reach my weight-loss goal, I'll reward myself with liposuction. It seems like a strange reward, but I think the only way I'm going to be motivated to lose any weight in the first place is to know that if I get most of the way there, I'll have help for the hardest part.

After my final miscarriage fourteen months ago, Adam and I decided two things: we would make the trip to Italy, and I would get liposuction. We did the first, but I put off the second because I realized if there was any chance that I'd be pregnant again, it would be a waste. Well, now I'm done with pregnancy, and I'm putting that goal back on the agenda. Re-reading the post that discusses that decision makes me realize how far we've come in the past year. We went through so much, but now we're here. I'm watching the babies on the video monitor right now. We had our most excellent honeymoon in Italy. And we're no longer in limbo; the world is open once again to the pursuit of new values.

Anyway, I see the weight-loss as the final chapter in the struggle against the negatives of the past two-and-a-half years of my life. I only gained 47 pounds during the pregnancy itself (yes, with twins, 47 can be called "only"), but there were also the 12 that I had gained during the miscarriages. And then, there were the 10 that I never lost after my pregnancy with Sam. Add all that up on top of the 128 I was at originally and I was at a maximum of 197 pounds! I don't think I'll ever get back down to 128 (or the 115 that was ideal in my twenties); I think 130 is a reasonable weight at my age. So, I'm shooting to get myself down to 140 before I'll get the lipo.

I lost about 27 pounds after the twins were born without any effort, leaving me at 170. I hovered there for weeks, and that's when I knew I was going to have to put some serious effort into this project. There is no way I'm going to allow myself to remain at this weight!

I've never really lost weight before on purpose. One time I lost a few pounds by cutting out snacks after dinner and all sugary beverages for a couple of months. But that is the extent of my dieting experience. Since I had success with that method, I'm using it again and I've lost about 3 pounds. But it's slow going because I've been eating tons of sweets lately. Besides the Halloween candy, I've also had dessert almost every night because my neighbors have been bringing us dinners. I mean, I'm not complaining: I haven't had to cook for a month because of the generosity of my neighbors (and before that I had other gifts of food and my mom was in town). But most of them have brought these huge desserts - cakes, cookies, fudge, etc. And it's hard to resist when it's in the house and my lactating body is just screaming out for calories of any kind.

That is all coming to an end now, so hopefully I'll see some improvement in my efforts. I'll be cooking my own meals and not buying any sweets to tempt me. Exercise is also on the agenda, but honestly, I'm not sure I can fit that in yet. I don't have a goal date in mind - I'll be happy if I can just see a continuous improvement. But May or June would be good. Then it's mommy-makeover for me. Hopefully there will be enough money left over to buy yet another new wardrobe.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

More Sibling Stuff

This morning, I discussed with Sammy, for the very first time, the fact that she might get into fights and arguments with her brother and sister when they get older. Here was part of our conversation:
Me: So, for instance, you might be playing with a toy, and Leo might come over and say, "I want that!" and try to grab it away from you. But it's your toy and you want to play with it and you don't want him to have it. What do you think you would do then?

Sam: Hmmm. I think I would tell him that there are a lot of toddler toys he can play with on his toy shelf and try to give him one.

Me: Wow, that's a great idea! I think that might work because toddlers are easily distracted. Now, we also have a lot of toys and things in the house that we all share. Like that book over there. That is not your property - it's for everyone in the house to read. What would you do if both you and Zoe wanted to read it at the same time?

Sam: Hmmm. I think I would tell her that I could read it and she could look at the pictures.

Me: Wow, I didn't even think of that one. Good thinking.

These were her own, original thoughts, based on all the principles we've been modeling and teaching her for the past few years. I was so impressed, not just with the content of her ideas, but with her conceptual ability. Normally, she is the "grabber" and Adam and I are the ones who suggest these kind of ideas, but she applied it all to this new situation.

None of this means that she'll actually do these things in the heat of the moment - that's something she'll have to work on when the time comes. But she has a solid foundation for the challenges of cooperation and conflict resolution. Not bad for a kid who was an only child for five years! It's nice to be reminded that, though I'm still confused and struggle with parenting issues all the time, I'm doing a damn good job.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Daylight Savings Time

I had a whole extra hour of Awesome yesterday.

It's amazing how much you notice a single hour of time when you have twins.

This got me thinking.

Scarcity is not a valid economic theory of value since economic goods are produced by man, and therefore by definition, not limited. That one is easy, the quantity of idiotic economists in existence notwithstanding.

But an individual's time is limited. It is scarce. So is scarcity a valid general theory of value? Steve Jobs explored this idea in his rightfully venerated Stanford commencement address:
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.


No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

I love this speech. I love Steve Jobs. I love what he had to say here. But scarcity is not the ultimate source of values. If it were, hedonism would be the logical ethical ideal. Just maximize your pleasure. Nothing else matters. And the vagueness of Jobs' directives is evidence of this. "Don't waste [time] living someone else's life." "[H]ave the courage to follow your heart and intuition." He can tell you that time is scarce, and he can talk a bit about independence and pursuit of values, but he can't be much more specific about what kind of values he means or what it really takes to achieve them. I think he knew, in his own life, how to achieve values that went way beyond any kind of hedonism, but I just don't think he had the words to explain it.

Ayn Rand has given us those words. She was the first to have taken the next step, and defined a theory of value that is even broader, and yet more prescriptive, than scarcity theory. In her words:
There is only one fundamental alternative in the universe: existence or nonexistence—and it pertains to a single class of entities: to living organisms. The existence of inanimate matter is unconditional, the existence of life is not: it depends on a specific course of action. Matter is indestructible, it changes its forms, but it cannot cease to exist. It is only a living organism that faces a constant alternative: the issue of life or death. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action. If an organism fails in that action, it dies; its chemical elements remain, but its life goes out of existence. It is only the concept of ‘Life’ that makes the concept of ‘Value’ possible. It is only to a living entity that things can be good or evil.

And when tied to her view of the nature of man:
Man’s distinctive characteristic is his type of consciousness—a consciousness able to abstract, to form concepts, to apprehend reality by a process of reason . . . [The] valid definition of man, within the context of his knowledge and of all of mankind’s knowledge to-date [is]: “A rational animal.”

We come to the foundation of her ethics:
Man’s life, as required by his nature, is not the life of a mindless brute, of a looting thug or a mooching mystic, but the life of a thinking being—not life by means of force or fraud, but life by means of achievement—not survival at any price, since there’s only one price that pays for man’s survival: reason.


The Baton Has Been Passed

After writing my last post, I realized that Sammy is now at an age where I really should get her permission before writing all these personal details about her online. She still doesn't understand "online," but she does understand that I write stories for my friends. So after the last post, I asked her if it was okay for me to write stories about her and let my friends read them. She said No.

Wow. Okay. So I told her that from now on I would read the story to her first and ask her if it was okay to share. She agreed. I read her the diaper story and she loved it and said, "Mommy, thank you for writing that story about me." Whew.

So there might be a little less Sammy content here from now on, and I fear that my presentation will be altered because no matter how up front and honest I am with her, it's different when there is a little Sammy sitting on my shoulder as I write. I'll use my judgment to decide when I should seek her approval. I mean, I'm not going to read her every post that mentions her. But if I'm going to talk about toilet training or yeast infections or problems in school, well, she handles a lot of those issues on her own, so I think she is entitled to say that they are her private business. Good timing, actually, since I have two new little ones to exploit.  Ha ha.

And yes, this post has Sam's approval!

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Sammy just reached her last baby milestone: she is done with nighttime diapers. Last night she had her first dry night.

We had so much trouble with potty training with Sam that I just couldn't bring myself to push her on the nighttime thing, even though five years old seems way too old for diapers. We talked her into trying a couple of times over the past year, but she wasn't excited about it and she didn't even wake up when her bed was soaked.

Then, suddenly, she was ready, and she asked to wear her special underwear (training pants). She didn't wear them every night at first, and sometimes she would wear them to start out, but then she'd change into a diaper in the middle of the night rather than use the potty. I allowed her to do it her way. I suppose she might not be completely done with the diapers. I'll leave them in her drawer and let her decide. But her first dry night is such a big deal.

She's peed in the underwear a few times but they have some absorbency, so only once have we had to change her sheets. (And it was cleaning day so the maids actually did it for us!)  I'm sure there will be some middle of the night changing of sheets in our future, but what a relief that we've gotten this far without that ugly chore.

I am using rewards for this because I promised it to her a long time ago and a deal is a deal. We gave her a star for a dry night and when she gets three in a row we'll go out for ice cream. But I know that isn't what is motivating her, or else she would have done this long ago. She's just finally ready.

And that is our Sam in a nutshell. She does things on her own timetable, and that typically is slower than most children. But nothing we can say or do will speed her up. Then, when she finally chooses to do something, she does it expertly.

Another lesson to note for homeschooling.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Kids Can Handle Death

Well, as my Facebook friends know, we had to put our cat to sleep today. I won't bore you with the reasons and details - it's always sad and always hard to make this decision. But I did want to note here that we were completely up front with Sam about the whole thing, from the decision-making process to the meaning of death. Sam even went to the vet with Adam for the procedure. She had intended to watch, but at the last minute, decided she didn't want to see him actually die. She saw the first injection that relaxed him, then left the room for the fatal injection. Then she came back in after he was dead and petted him a little bit. She saw that he was not moving and that his eyes were still open.

I'm really glad we allowed her to choose what she would experience. If she hadn't gone to the vet at all, I don't think it would have been as real for her. And I was gratified that she was so independent in deciding what she wanted to see and what she didn't. I asked her if she felt sad but she said that she was really just curious about it.

I was really worried about how she would take this. She loved that cat. She tormented him constantly, but that was just the form of her love. She spent much more time with Jinx that Adam or I did. But the thing is, she doesn't seem too bothered by his death at all. I'm sure it will sink in a bit more as days go by and he isn't here anymore. But she hasn't shed a tear or even expressed any sadness. The worst thing for her seems to be seeing me cry. (I'm a big baby right now because of the hormones.) And one of the first things she said when she got home from the vet was "Mommy, now that Jinxie died, I hope that we can get a new cat. And when Toby dies, I hope we can get a new dog." I don't know if I should worry at her callousness, or if I should respect her value-focus.

Anyway, we had lots of good talks in the past week about death, expressing emotions, respect for life, kindness to living creatures, the meaning of pets, and how important it is not to allow the investment in your home be destroyed by the smell of cat urine.

Jokes aside, it was a sad day. Goodbye, Jinx.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Alone Time

This afternoon, Adam and our babysitter took over so I could get out of the house on my own. It was the best three hours I've had in a long time. I:

  • went shopping at Bed, Bath, and Beyond and found lots of great accessories for our new master bathroom

  • got the best massage of my entire life

  • bought a roasted chicken for dinner, on sale for five bucks

  • put gas in the car

  • enjoyed the fall colors on a beautiful drive through the winding roads near our house

  • caught "Cum on Feel the Noise," "Safety Dance," and "Dance the Night Away" on the radio and sung them all as loudly and as badly as I wanted to



We Have Contact

Well, things are crazy right now, but I do have to note this most important milestone yet: Leo and Zoe are aware of each other now! They interacted today. They were lying on their playmat and they were looking at each other and cooing and smiling and even reaching out for each other.  Awesome!

We haven't taken any 2 month photos yet. It's probably too late now and we'll have to try for 3 months.

Things have just been overwhelming. Adam's parents came to visit and that was good but exhausting. Then there was the Fall Fair at Sam's school which was also good but exhausting - our first trip out with all 3 kids and no help from grandparents. Then Adam went on his first business trip. (I hired someone to stay overnight with me both nights but it was still a horrible experience.) Then there was Sammy's Halloween party. It was her first real big kid party with about 16 guests (plus maybe 10 adult chaperons, all in our tiny house) and tons of decorations and activities. Total chaos. Kids loved it. Adam handled almost all of it (I've delegated the party thing to him and he's very good at it) but that still meant there was less Adam to go around for other duties for a few days. Then there was Halloween itself. We wanted to bring L&Z along in the carriers, but it was too cold so Adam took Sam and I stayed home distributing milk to babies and candy to children. Now both Sam and Adam have infections of various sorts and Leo and Zoe both went through their first colds. I thought I had a little cold as well but now I'm thinking it's just massive sleep deprivation. I'm not functioning well at all right now.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Italy, Part 4 – Road Trip

Well, five months later, I’m finally continuing my travel journal chronicling our Italy trip. (I've been a little bit busy.) Be sure to read the first three installments, or re-read them just to get back into the mood. I did!

The middle leg of our Italy vacation was the road trip. We were driving from Rome to Florence which is only a three hour drive, but we decided to take it slow and explore for a couple of days along the way.

First, we had to get our rental car. I was nervous about this part, but it ended up being very easy. We got a car seat for Sam, and everything worked in a similar way as it does in the U.S. Adam was the designated driver, but we both had been observing the traffic in Rome and it didn’t seem to be as bad as some had made it out to be. Still, there was a lot to get used to. Adam had studied all the road signs so even when we couldn’t read the Italian, we usually knew what was going on, and we got good directions from the people at the rental place. It helps that Italian is a Romance language so we could decipher some of the more unusual signs. (Otherwise, I’m not sure would have ever escaped the endless loop our GPS took us through the following day, until we noticed the sign saying, “Deviazione.” It made me feel pretty smart to figure that one out. I could only imagine what it would be like to drive in China.)  We got out of the city and onto the highway with no problems at all. Then we hit the Autostrade and headed north. I thought the drivers were very good, but it was hard to get used to the way they ignored the lane markers and just weaved around. I think Adam actually kind of liked that. He’s not an uptight Type-A personality like I am. He seemed right at home on the road in Italy.

There wasn’t too much to see in this area of the country. We did see a cool electric train just outside of Rome. The countryside was hilly and pleasant, but nothing stunning. By the time we got out of the city, it was time to eat, so we stopped at an Autogrille, which is kind of like a roadside diner. Here, we started having our first real problems dealing with being in a foreign country. First, we could not figure out how and where to park. The signs were unclear and we ended up in a truck parking lot, and could not figure out how to get back to the restaurant. Adam ended up having to drive the wrong way on a one-way traffic lane, which scared the crap out of me, but there really was no other way to correct our mistake!

Inside the restaurant, we had our first experience with the stupid Italian system of going to one counter to pick out your food, then another counter to place your order and pay, and then back to the first counter to pick up your food. It probably took us a half hour just to figure that out, even though Rick Steves had told us all about it. Also, once outside Rome, not everyone spoke English any more. There was very little help available, and we were all hungry and frustrated. The food choices were very limited, too. Again, way too much bread and cheese and almost no meat. I was hugely disappointed because I had been told that these places had much better food than you would expect. Maybe it was good bread, but that didn’t do anything for me.

The rest of the drive was very nice. We were entering Italy’s region of Umbria, which is pretty much just east of Tuscany, home of Florence. We passed through Perugia, the capital of Umbria, and the town where a good friend of ours grew up. We had wanted to stop there, but it was actually quite a big place and we didn’t see how we could have navigated around it. We had also planned on taking smaller roads, but we decided to head straight to our hotel just north of Perugia to get settled, and then to explore from there.

The countryside in Umbria is gorgeous. Our friend had told us that the road to our hotel would be beautiful, but we were still in awe. It was breathtaking! We climbed up steep switchbacks and I oooed and ahhhed as poor Adam had to focus entirely on driving. Sam slept the entire time and missed it all.

Our hotel was at the top of the mountain, and man, did I pick a good one! It was a renovated 11th Century castle and it was just as gorgeous as it looks on its web site.

This was our room:

And here are some of our own pictures:

The nearby town that we really wanted to see was Gubbio, but before we headed out, we explored the castle grounds. We met two cats (Sam was thrilled!), named Montefeltro and Cunegonda. I never found out if Cunegonda was named after anyone famous, but Montefeltro was the name of a duke of Urbino from the 15th Century, who was born at this castle. The hostess told us that we would see his portrait when we visited Florence, in the Uffizi Gallery, which we later did.

We also met an ancient Italian lady who lived in a very small house on the grounds of the castle. We tried to talk to her and it was hard to communicate, but we enjoyed it because she was such a stereotype – a small, wrinkled, friendly old woman, who wanted to chat and was enamored of Sam. I wish we had gotten a photograph of her.

We headed down the north side of the mountain road to get to Gubbio. I picked Gubbio because my friend told me that there was a funicular there, which would take us up a mountain to the oldest part of the town, and the pictures of the place on the web looked incredible. The hostess at the castle told us that the main road would take us straight into town and that we couldn’t miss the parking lot, where we’d have to get out and walk. But we ended up driving around the outskirts of Gubbio for about a half hour before we figured out what to do. Again, the Italians and their “directions.” Ugh.

But eventually, we did park and we walked through the extremely hilly streets towards the funicular. Sam did not want to walk so Adam had to carry her. We were rushed because we wanted to get back to the castle before dark. The driveway to reach the hotel was so steep and treacherous that Adam didn’t feel he would be able to navigate it after dark! We were tired, rushed, and frazzled, but Gubbio was our first real experience of a medieval town.  It’s difficult to capture what it feels like to walk through those narrow streets, and photos only show so much. We didn’t even try to take any, but here is someone else’s that captures a bit of the feel of it.

Unfortunately, Sam was too scared to ride the funicular. We couldn’t blame her – it was just a tiny cage on a rope that went up an incredibly steep hill.

So Adam and I took turns riding up and down, but we never got to explore the part of the city on top of the hill, which is supposed to be amazing. I was satisfied just with the funicular ride. As you go up the hill, you can see the old walls of the city, half crumbled, but with their purpose still clear. On an adjacent hillside is an impressive but crumbling castle, which I later found out is inhabited by nuns. The view of the mountains was incredible. Adam had the sense to take a couple of photos before the camera’s memory card filled up, but we wish we had taken many more.

Walking back down through the streets of Gubbio, we bought some fresh berries from a market for a snack instead of our usual gelato. That was a treat. Then we came across a miniature carousel and Sam had a ride. Once again – no planning necessary!

Back at our castle hotel, Adam sat outside and smoked a cigar while Montefeltro sat in his lap. Then we had our best meal yet at the hotel restaurant: scallops, duck, chicken curry, and pasta with meat sauce for Sam. We also had Montefeltro wine and tiramisu for dessert. Our waitress, Isabella, could speak only a bit of English, but she loved Sammy and the service was excellent. After dinner Isabella cut slices of prosciutto right off a cured, whole pig sitting in the corner. I have to admit, I was a little bit afraid to eat it, but I did.

Tuesday morning we had to leave for our next destination: Volterra. We were all a bit disappointed that our stay at the castle was so short. I didn’t have a plan for the day in mind, and Volterra was only an hour or so drive away, but a quick look at a map and chat with the hostess convinced us to head for Lake Trasimeno, a huge lake just west of Perugia.

The lake was gorgeous. We were really hoping to take a boat ride, and we knew there was a ferry in the small town just north of the lake, whose name I can’t recall. Unfortunately, it was more of a commuter ferry and didn’t run often enough for us to stick around. What we did was have lunch at a lovely restaurant right on the lake. Sam took photos.

Another fabulous meal of salmon tartar, shrimp curry ravioli, pasta with lake perch, veal, salad, and pasta with meat sauce (again) for Sam. I noticed that this meal had a similar flavor as the one from the night before, and I identified the common element as the salt, which seemed different than the salt I am used to. I asked the waitress about it and she said it was “mountain salt,”whatever that meant. She said that it could be purchased at any store. I took a look at the bottle but didn’t take a photo, and that was a mistake. Nobody, including my friend who grew up in Perugia, seems to know about any kind of special salt used in Umbria or what the mountain salt really was. Oh well, it was delicious. The food in Umbria was my favorite of the whole trip.

Our next stop was Sienna, a very popular destination in Italy. On our way, we crossed from Umbria into Tuscany. The countryside was slowly changing. Both regions are mountainous, or at least hilly, but Umbria is much more rugged, whereas Tuscany is filled with gently rolling hills. At this point, I was more impressed with Umbria.

Sienna was another medieval town, similar to Gubbio. We didn’t have much of an agenda there, except to walk through it a bit and see the Duomo. Rick Steves describes the Duomo perfectly: “The interior is a Renaissance riot of striped columns, intricate marble inlays, Michelangelo statues, and Bernini sculptures.” He also says it is “heaped with statues” and “plastered with frescoes.” Getting the idea? It’s pretty gaudy. In fact, it’s ugly. However, here, more than anywhere else, I appreciated the whole purpose of the cathedral: to impress, to awe, to astound, and maybe to inspire but maybe to diminish all else by contrast. Even in this day and age, to walk through those narrow, mean streets, and to come upon this wide-open square with its immense, intricate structure is to have your breath taken away.  That is, unless you are four years old. I love this video of Sam chasing pigeons with the Duomo in the background. I wonder if 13th Century children had the same (non) reaction.

In Sienna, we also found a little playground, where I took this photo of Adam pushing Sam on a swing, and she is beyond horizontal. It has nothing to do with Italy, but it’s one of my favorite photos of all time!

On our way from Sienna to Volterra, we had the most beautiful drive of the trip. The Tuscan hills are not overrated. We were lucky enough to climb through those hills at sunset. It was just gorgeous.  We arrived in Volterra at night and didn’t have the time or energy to do anything but grab a quick dinner and go to sleep. This time I picked a really dreary hotel and we had a hard time finding a place to eat and so the night was a bust. We did get adventurous and ordered wild boar and hare ragu for dinner (which Sam tried too), but it wasn’t very good. The restaurant was filled with a huge group of noisy teenage girls. There were a couple of adults in attendance so it seemed like a school group or something. Later I found out about Volterra’s connection to the Twilight books, and I wondered if that’s why the giggling group was there.

The next morning we only had time for a quick walk before we had to head out for Florence, so all I can say about Volterra is that it seemed to be the most dramatic of the small towns we visited. It’s set up high in the hills and the streets are just a little bit narrower and a little bit steeper than the others I’d seen.

The views from the city are incredible.

When you arrive you feel like you are entering a fortress, which of course, it essentially was. The streets we walked were filled with beautiful shops and I bought a pair of earrings - my only souvenir from the trip. Rick Steves claims Volterra is less touristy than the other small Tuscan towns. It’s his favorite. I was very disappointed that we weren’t able to spend more time there.

The road trip was stressful and frustrating at times. We didn’t do or see nearly as much as I had anticipated. By the time we left for Florence we were exhausted. But still, the experiences we had did give us a feel for what lies outside of the major cities of Italy. If you’re planning a trip to one of those cities, make time to take at least a day trip to one of the medieval towns. It’s hard to believe that these places still exist. It’s like another world.

I’ll wrap up my journal in the next installment: Florence.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Twins Update - 2 Months Old

Wow, the second month went much faster than the first! That whole NICU experience slowed time down to a crawl, but now that we're settled in, time is flying by. We'll take the 2-month photos soon so I'll tide you over with these:

Mostly, life with twins has continued to be good. However, things have gotten more difficult in the past couple of weeks. Leo's reflux got worse again. We've upped his dose of Zantac and we'll see how it goes. Zoe has started spitting up more, which is not really that big of a deal, but it caused a problem the other night. She had spit up through her nose a couple of times and the milk and mucus got dried up in there and caused her to have trouble breathing. We ended up calling our pediatrician's nurse line around midnight. (There is nothing more important in choosing a pediatrician than the availability of 24 hour advice and weekend appointments. I don't care how good the doctor is.) Anyway, we just had to put some saline drops in her nose, but it made for a terrible night. And we've been having company and visitors over, which is wonderful, but ends up throwing us off our rhythm and putting me behind on jobs like laundry and paying bills. I think that no matter how boring the baby duties are, I need to limit my outings and visits so that I can maintain that discipline I wrote about earlier. Keeping the routine is the only thing that allows me to sleep, shower, and eat well enough so that I can feel like a human being.

Speaking of outings, I finally got Leo and Zoe out for a walk in the stroller last week. We've had fabulous weather lately and I've been wanting to take advantage of it, but for a long time I just didn't feel ready to go through all that hassle. But I finally took the plunge and we all enjoyed the walk. My Baby Jogger stroller was well-worth the money.

On Friday I took Zoe and Leo to the doctor (by myself!) for their 2-month checkup. Zoe is 8 pounds and Leo is 9 pounds 8 ounces. They are on the growth chart now. For weight, Zoe is 2% and Leo is 7%. That sounds terrible, but that is compared to all two-month-olds, including full-term babies. Their adjusted age is just 3 weeks, and they are both around 50th percentile on the adjusted chart. They are growing exactly as they should be. Leo has one health issue besides the reflux which I'll keep private, but which is not a big deal.  And Zoe has something which will resolve itself but is pretty funny right now. As Adam wrote on Facebook:
Yesterday, Zoe's pediatrician told us that her narrow, square-shaped head is a preemie condition the doctors and nurses call, "toaster head." Jeez, just our luck that one of our twins is a cylon!

We finally have the doctor's permission to let them sleep longer at night. We had been doing it anyway, but now we'll start to try to actively encourage longer stretches of sleep. Cluster feeding them at night seems to help a lot. They can go about 5 or 6 hours between feedings now, but that doesn't happen consistently. We're limited by the lowest common denominator - the baby who gets hungry first sets the schedule. And there's always someone who is going through a growth spurt or not feeling well or whatever. It really keeps us on our toes.

Leo is just a monster - we can practically see him growing. And he feels so solid. I guess it's a boy thing, because he feels about twice as heavy as Zoe. She feels delicate and almost hollow compared to him, but she's really not that much smaller. In fact, in length she's only half an inch smaller. But everything about her is dainty - her hands, her eyelids, even her tiny little butt. Leo is a football player, a bruiser, a solid mass of muscle, in short: a boy. And his butt is huge! It's so wonderful to have a boy and girl at the same time; I love seeing the differences between them.

And are they different! They are becoming more and more different as they get older. When they were born, they looked somewhat similar. There is even one photo from the NICU which we can't identify as of Leo or Zoe. But now it seems like they got exactly the opposite genes from each side. Leo seems to have Adam's eyes but The Italian's face shape. Zoe has Adam's face shape but The Italian's eyes. Their noses are different, their ears are different, their coloring is different, their body-shapes are different (even given the boy-girl differences), and their personalities are different. Overall, I think Zoe got more from The Italian and Leo got more from Adam. And maybe this is why I had trouble bonding with her early on, more so than because of the breastfeeding. From the start, she's just been more alien to me. But now, I'm in love with her alien-ness. She is a mystery to me and I can't wait to find out what she'll be like when she is older. Of course, Leo is a mystery too, but he is so much more like Sammy that it feels familiar. Then again, he's a boy, and that makes him exciting and new, too.

I can't imagine any more perfect set of children than the three that we have. And of course, that is how every parent feels. Because once they arrive, they are yours and they are perfect and you can't imagine life without them. Not just life without children, but life without your particular children.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Video: Zoe and Sammy

Zoe's first smile was for Sammy. Isn't that the sweetest thing ever? And she is learning to use her hands, too! Unbearably cute and sweet:



Friday, October 21, 2011

egg donor

So far, I have no qualms at all about having used the egg donor. It's not that I feel the same about Zoe and Leo as I would have about children with my own genes. There are differences. I can't look at them and say to Adam, "We made them." Even though we did make them in an even more deliberate way than we made Sam, I don't feel that sense of having created them out of nothing that I have with her. That's a real loss. I can face that. But that mystery that I mentioned - that is a positive. It's hard to describe, but it's just kind of exciting. I think I just like the idea of having three very different children, and having to learn how to relate to each of them. I also know that the love that I feel for them comes from all the things that are more important than genes: our choice to make them, their uniqueness, and the relationships that we are forging. Then I look back at Samantha and I know much more clearly what part of my love for her comes from her being a mini-me. It definitely is part of what I feel for her, and since she'll always be my only child in that way, it is precious to me. But I'm pleased to know that most of my feelings for her do indeed come from everything else: how we've raised her, her own personality and choices, and all the shared experiences we have as a family.

So, the egg-donation is really a non-issue. Despite what I've just said, I hardly ever think about it. Leo and Zoe are my children, and Adam's children, 100%. What is more interesting is how my feelings for Samantha have changed and how I see all of them differently now that we have more than one. That is an adjustment that I'm still working on. And I'll have to write about it some other time.


Monday, October 17, 2011


How do I reconcile these two things?

Sam was looking at a picture of six birds on a box, which were in two groups of three, and within the groups, there were two small birds and one large bird. She counted, pointing:
One, two
One, two
One, two, three, four, five, six
So one plus two plus one plus two equals six. And one plus one plus two plus two equals six.

Wow! But the other day, we had this conversation:
Me: Sam, what is four plus zero.
Sam: Ummmm, five.
Me: No. Remember, zero means nothing.
Sam: Ummm, six.
Me: No. Look, I'm holding up four fingers, and I'm going to add nothing to them. Zero. So how many do I have?
Sam: Four!
Me: Yes! Now, what is seven plus zero.
Sam: Eight.
[repeat same explanation]
Me: Now, what is one plus zero?
Sam: Two.
[and so on]

It's really hard to get an idea of what she understands and what she doesn't. I'm thinking this means that she still has to have physical objects to count. The zero conversation happened in the car and the only time she could get it was when I held up fingers.

Anyway, it's all fun stuff! I love to try to figure out what's going on in that budding little brain of hers.


Friday, October 14, 2011


Sammy was angry all morning. Stomping, spitting, breaking the rules, yelling at us. At one point when things were calm, I mentioned that she needed to remove her own toys from Leo and Zoe's toy shelf. (This is something we're working on.) She told me that she wanted to put her scissors on their shelf so that they could use them when they got older. Then it got real quiet.

A few minutes later Sammy came into the living room and looked in her mirror. I asked if everything was okay. She said coyly, "You know what I'm going to say, don't you?" This means she broke the rules, or is about to ask if she can break the rules. She came over to me and was about to whisper in my ear when I said, "Oh, I see it. You cut your hair." She had cut a couple of locks from the front. I said, completely calmly, but with mild disappointment in my voice: "It looks bad. And your school pictures are coming up soon, so it will look that way for your picture. And when you put it up in a ponytail, that part won't go in the ponytail because it is too short."

She said, "Yeah. I miss my hair." I told her that it would grow back, but that it would take a long time.

Someday, that girl will learn that actions taken in anger never do her any good. I don't know how long it can take to learn that lesson, but she certainly gives herself enough opportunities to learn it. I guess it's a difficult one - plenty of adults have never learned it either.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Twin Logistics

Okay, here's what you've all been dying to know: what does a typical day with newborn twins look like? What do you have to do with them all day? How is it different than having one baby?

Well, to answer the last question first, it is not all that different than having one baby. It is more work, and sometimes there are logistical difficulties, but mostly, it's just feeding two babies instead of one. It gets really difficult when Sammy is around - especially if there is only one adult in the house. I try to avoid that situation as much as possible. Two days a week, I am alone with Leo and Zoe and Sam in the morning. If the babies wake up at different times and Sam is helpful about getting ready for school on her own, everything is fine. But when both babies wake up and want to eat at the same time, it gets dicey. That happened this morning. Luckily, Sammy has really stepped up to the plate, getting herself dressed quickly and not throwing any fits. More about how I handle that later.

Zoe and Leo are still on a three-hour feeding cycle, which is how they came home from the NICU. The doctors have told us to keep this schedule until they are at least two months old (they are seven weeks now), except at night, when they say we can allow them to go four or five hours between feedings. The doctors want the babies fed aggressively until they catch up to their peers - meaning when they make it on to the growth chart. Preemies do gain weight faster than full-term babies, and they do catch up, but it takes a while. I used to set my alarm at night and we'd wake them up if they slept too long, but I've stopped doing that. According to the doctors, both Zoe and Leo are eating well and gaining weight extremely well, so I don't see why we shouldn't allow them to sleep if that's what they need. We need it, too. Most of the time, they go four or five hours between feedings at night anyway, but Leo has gone as long as six and a half. And sometimes they only go three, just like during the day. Those are the tough nights. But that's no different than any single newborn, really, except that we can't take turns - both of us are involved in every feeding.

Generally, we've tried to keep both babies on the same schedule, meaning that if they don't both wake up at the same time, we'll wake up the sleeper so we can feed them both at once. Every mother of twins I've spoken to (except one) and every book I've read and every web site I've browsed has told me to do it this way. In fact, keeping both babies on the same schedule was the number one piece of advice. I'm not sure why. It works for us most of the time, but mostly because we are feeding them both breastmilk and formula. Because they are preemies, the doctors told us that they both must have at least two bottles of high-calorie formula per day, so exclusive breastfeeding is out. (I wouldn't have been able to do that anyway.) So, when there are two adults in the house, I nurse one baby and the other baby gets a bottle from the other adult. At the next feeding, we switch. If both babies are on the same schedule, this works out very nicely. If they are staggered it gets confusing because I might have to nurse one and then nurse the other almost immediately, which doesn't work. So I'll skip nursing that one and then go too long without nursing and my milk supply suffers.

But when only one person is home, you want them staggered so you don't have to try to feed both at once. I suppose some parents find ways to feed two babies at once on a regular basis and enjoy the time-savings, but to me, it's more trouble than it is worth. I haven't even tried to nurse two at once, and I don't intend to. The way that Leo squirms, it would be impossible anyway.

But sometimes I have to deal with both at once. Sometimes they both wake up to eat at the same time and I'm the only one home. I've tried a number of things to deal with this. Sometimes, I just let one cry until the other one is finished. That has to mean that Zoe is first to eat though, since Leo needs to be held upright for a long time after he eats and she'd be crying for an hour if she were second. So if Leo is screaming louder and I don't want to make him wait, I'll try to feed them both at once. I've done this by setting one up in a car seat on a coffee table in front of me, or on a chair next to me, and holding the other. I'll nurse the one I'm holding and bottle-feed the one in the car seat. This works, but they never get quite a full feed, and I don't like not being able to quickly burp the one in the car seat. I wouldn't do this on a regular basis, not matter how efficient it is. I did it this morning, nursing Zoe and giving Leo a bottle. While I was doing it, the babysitter arrived to take Sammy to school and I gave her my keys and instructions for the day and said goodbye to Sammy and made sure she took her lunch and her umbrella. I felt like twin-supermommy!

I'm not sure how much longer the breastfeeding will last. My supply isn't that great so a lot of time I'm nursing and giving a bottle to "top them off." Then I have all the downsides of nursing, plus all the extra dirty bottles to clean. Leo has become a pain to breastfeed because he keeps popping off and squirming. He does the same thing with a bottle, but at least he's not scratching and biting me in sensitive places that way. But I'll probably continue, at least with Zoe, mostly because it's still easier to nurse in the middle of the night, and because it does save money. The bonding was great, but I think I'm over that. I've bonded with both of them now, and they are starting to interact with us a bit more in other ways, so it's not as big of a deal. Once they are both bottle-feeding and more mature, one person might be able to feed them both at the same time more easily, especially when they can hold their own bottles.

Another thing we do is keep a log of all of their feeds and diapers. This is standard fare for twins also. I thought it would be a pain and maybe not worth the hassle, but it is so necessary. I can't tell you how many conversations we've had like this:
Adam: Did you do Leo or Zoe last time?
Amy: I can't remember. Don't you remember?
Adam: Well, I know Leo pooped earlier and I changed it, but was that the last feed?
Amy: I don't know. I think I fed Zoe last time. Right?
Adam: I don't know. Oh, wait, I remember - I fed Zoe last time because I remember giving her her vitamins.
Amy: Oh yeah, that's right. And I gave Leo his Zantac. But wait. Oh no, that's right.
Adam: So that means that I feed Leo now, right?
Amy: Wait, now I'm confused. Who did you say you fed last time?
Adam: I don't remember what I just said.
Amy: Me either.
Adam: Let's go look at the log.

I'm not exaggerating. We have witnesses.

Having a video monitor has been super-helpful. We still can't always recognize which one is crying. And it does matter. We ignore Leo's crying much more than we ignore Zoe's. Much of the time, there is nothing we can do to help Leo, but if Zoe is crying before feeding time, it probably means her diaper is leaking or she is lying in a pool of spit up or she has a poopy diaper. Those are things we can fix.

Another challenge with twins is keeping up with the supplies. We go through diapers and wipes at an insane rate. And then, preemies grow so fast! We were short on preemie sized diapers so I ordered another case from Amazon, but then a few days later, they had grown out of that size and we ended up with hundreds of unused tiny diapers. (We'll donate them to the NICU.) Both Leo and Zoe grew quickly out of their preemies-sized clothing, too, and are now growing out of the newborn stuff and moving on to "0-3 month" size. For a while, I was rearranging their drawers every week. We used less than one case of newborn sized diapers as well - they were only in that size for a couple of weeks. Thank goodness for Amazon. I can get anything within two days without leaving my home.

It can also be difficult to keep track of whose stuff is whose. Pacifiers, clothing, half-used burp cloths, bulb syringes, syringes for medications, etc. We have to have a system for everything. Luckily, I enjoy system-building! I've got the whole house set up pretty well right now.

I was really worried about bathing twins because I had it in my head that I'd have to bathe both at once. Of course you don't bathe both at once - at least not when they are newborns! The NICU gave us a little tub that we used a few times, but they grew out of it and then I tried using a little chair in the sink. But that doesn't submerge them in the water and they hate it, so I use it to soap them up, then throw in on the floor and dunk them in the sink to rinse them. They love that. I hate using the kitchen sink, though. I never feel like it is really clean. I just bought an inflatable tub that goes in the regular tub to see how that works. I probably bathe each one about once or twice a week.

Of course, we have to trim their fingernails. No difference there between twins and a single baby - just double the work. Neither one has enough hair to brush, but Zoe has developed a bad case of baby acne and we have to wipe her face after each feed.

Laundry is pretty crazy. I didn't do any laundry until recently because Adam and my parents and our babysitter did it all. Only now am I starting to take over that task. I'd guess we're doing about a dozen loads a week. It's not just the baby clothes and blankets and burp cloths - it's also the 2-3 shirts a day that Adam and I each go through because of the spit up, and the extra outfit Sam wears each day since she has to change her clothes when she comes home from school (germs, you know, since they are preemies and we have to be super-careful about them not getting sick). It helps that we have lots and lots of swaddle blankets and wash cloths (which we use as burp cloths). It's worth the investment to ensure that you can go three days without running out. I'd guess that we have about 50 burp cloths to cover that, and about a dozen blankets.

Speaking of swaddling, we're not doing that this time around, whereas it was a mission-critical skill with Sammy. Leo sleeps in his car seat because of his reflux so can't be swaddled, and Zoe doesn't need to be swaddled to be happy. We keep Leo's car seat in the crib to keep it off the floor, and we only have the one crib, so Zoe sleeps next to a giant car seat, and they can't even see each other. That bums me out, but it's the best method we've found so far. I just discovered that Leo loves to be rocked in the car seat so I'm going to buy a swing and see if he can sleep in that. But our dream of having them sleep together as babies probably isn't going to happen.

Another key with twins: have a place to safely stow a baby in every room of the house. (I call these devices, "baby jails," since they are basically ways to keep the baby from getting out.) You never know when you'll need to put one down and deal with the other. We have a couple of bouncy seats but the babies are really still too small to enjoy them. But we do have a super Ikea changing table in the living room which is like a hammock and can be used for naps. And the extra car seat is usually available. We have the Pack 'n Play set up in our bedroom. They're still little enough to safely leave on our bed or on the floor on a blanket without supervision. This will get more challenging later, so we'll need more baby jails like swings and exersaucers and such.

So what is a typical day like for me? After a night of about 5-6 hours sleep (broken up into two chunks), I'll wake up, feed two babies, and get Sam ready for school. Then I'll have about an hour before the next feeding so I'll try to feed myself and drink as much coffee as possible. (I've stopped worrying about caffeine in the breastmilk. They'll live.) Then I feed two babies again and shower in my time off. There might be time for a quick nap here, or possibly some work on my computer like paying bills or writing a blog post. If I'm on top of things, I'll unload the dishwasher and reload it with the previous night's bottles and maybe start a load of laundry. Then I feed two babies again and then eat "lunch." By around 2pm, I'm usually dressed and fed and ready to go out somewhere if necessary. (I've made a point of showering and getting dressed most days and even though it takes until the afternoon, it's worth it.) Adam gets home from teaching somewhere in here on the days that he teaches. (When he doesn't teach, he usually tries to work from home but will feed the second baby and help with laundry and dishes and everything else.) Someone picks up Sam from school. Sometimes that is me. Some days the babysitter comes around this time and entertains Sam and helps with the late-afternoon feeding. Babysitter or not, if any errands need to be run, someone tries to dart out between feedings. Some days I take Sammy with me to the pharmacy or the post office and call it quality time with her. (And really, we do enjoy that.) If I'm totally exhausted, I might take a nap in here. Otherwise, I'm shopping online or opening Amazon boxes or Putting Stuff Away. I can't tell you how much time I spend Putting Stuff Away. If I go one day without Putting Stuff Away, the house becomes completely disorganized and that's when I start to lose my mind. That brings us to around 6pm. Because we've had so much help with meals, I haven't yet gotten into a rhythm of making dinner, so there might be a scramble here for food, or I might prepare something. But we almost always still sit down at the table - Sammy, Adam, and I - and eat together. Then we have to immediately try to figure out how bedtime for Sam will work, because a feeding inevitably overlaps with that long process. (We really need to get Sam's bedtime down to a reasonable time instead of the hour-long process that it is now.) I wish I were more organized at the end of the day, but we don't keep the twins on a rigid schedule, so we never know exactly how the timing will go. The free time after this feeding is usually reserved for dishes, making Sammy's lunch, more Putting Stuff Away, other chores, and maybe a little bit of TV. Then there is another feed around 11pm which ends around midnight, and the adults go to sleep. Usually, we only have one true middle of the night feeding to deal with after that.

That makes seven feedings a day. Each one takes about an hour per baby, if you include changing their diapers, burping them, bathing them, soothing them, and doing whatever else needs to be done with them. That makes 14 hours per day of hands-on baby duties. (They sleep the rest of the time.) Most days, I only do a little more than half that. Maybe nine or ten hours, tops - sometimes only seven. The rest is handled by Adam or the babysitter. There really isn't that much other work related directly to the babies (laundry and dishes and opening Amazon boxes, mainly), and Adam has been helping so much that it's not overwhelming. (My parents also did a lot of that work while they were here.) And since I've been using Amazon for supplies, Peapod for groceries, and using every short-cut I can think of for meals (frozen food, pre-prepared food from the grocery store, pizza deliveries, ready-to-heat meal services, take-out, and mostly, lots of help from friends and neighbors), I've had enough time to do things like write blog posts, take Sammy to her gym, take Sammy to her dance lessons, attend a picnic, take Sammy to the playground, etc. On top of that, because of technology, I've spent most of the time while feeding babies reading books on my Kindle or checking Facebook or e-mail on my Droid. That time is relaxing and enjoyable. I don't feel harried or overworked most of the time. The worst part is just the repetitiveness of it all - and the feeling that there is no way out of this routine for many, many months to come. And that is no different than it was with one baby. Oh, I take it back - that is the second-worst thing. The worst thing is listening to your baby cry and not being able to do anything about it. Thank goodness Zoe is so mellow and happy so it's only Leo who is crying. If both were crying as much as he is, I'd probably be a wreck.

The biggest difference between my first experience with an infant and this one is not that I have two babies. It is that I have perspective. I know that this time will end. Of course, I knew that last time, but it wasn't real to me. I had no idea how much easier it would get, and how different things would be in a year. I feared that I had given up all my other values forever, for my sweet baby Sam. And that was scary. This time, I know that this period is an investment. And since it doesn't feel permanent, I'm able to enjoy my two new sweet babies, Leo and Zoe, so much more. Some days are torture, and some are just filled with drudgery, but most of the time, I'm enjoying myself. No one is more surprised about that than I am!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Demand Feeding Sucks

Disclaimer: this post was written on little sleep and during extreme stress.

We f-ed up big time last night. We had friends over for dinner and allowed the twins' schedule to fall apart. We wanted to talk and so the minute Leo or Zoe fussed, they got fed just to keep the peace. And they napped in the living room because it was easier than bringing them up to the nursery. Neither one slept more than a few minutes at a time. Today is a nightmare--they won't eat a full meal but cry continuously for more as soon as I put them down. Last night they slept, but not in as long stretches as usual.

What I've learned (well, I already knew it, but it's been reinforced) is that we've been doing so well with the twins because we've maintained discipline. Discipline means never feeding a baby just to stop its crying. They eat when we say they eat (although we take their signals into account and allow for growth spurts and such). Demand-feeding leads to snacking and short naps, which is good for nobody in the family. I don't know how people can think that an infant knows what is best for it when it comes to food and sleep. Sammy is five years old and she still falls apart every time I get lazy and allow her to manage her own food and sleep. It is the parent's job to encourage healthy eating and sleeping habits, which pretty much means consolidation of each. Sure, you let go little by little, and some kids can figure out what is best for them earlier than others, but it is pure insanity to allow a newborn infant to dictate when it eats and when it sleeps. Having two babies just makes it that much more clear. It takes discipline to act in everybody's long-range interest. It takes discipline to hear your baby crying but say to yourself, I know what he needs better than he does, and to wait.

I think the problem for first-time parents is sorting out the difference between taking the baby's signals into account and letting the baby dictate the schedule. It's a fine line, and nothing but experience can teach you the difference. With Sam, I think we fell too much towards not listening to her signals. We were afraid that any deviation would "spoil" her, which was really stupid, in retrospect. A rigid schedule is just as ridiculous as demand-feeding. But the demand-feeding advocates make me more angry than the schedulers, just as subjectivists make me angrier than intrincicists. (And D's make me angrier than M's, if you know anything about DIM.)

Right now, I'm solving the problem we created last night by letting both babies cry. Earlier this morning, I continued with the short-range method of feeding them as soon as they cried, just hoping that they'd get back on track on their own. But they never did. Now I have to suck it up, and writing this blog post is a good distraction (and running the noisy dishwasher helps too). They have clean diapers, they've been fed recently (although neither ate much), they are warm and comfortable. But they can't settle down because their rhythm is off. They will each be fed three hours after the beginning of their last feed and no sooner. In my experience, this "reboot" will fix the problem.

And now the three hours is up. THANK GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Little Thing About Energy

A conversation between Sammy and her Grando (my dad):

G:  Sammy, when does your battery run out?

S:  I don't have a battery! What do you think I am, a statue?

G:  Where do you get your energy?

S:  From all the chocolate!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Little Thing

One surprising joy of parenting a full-day school kid is preparing lunch. I'm absolutely loving putting together Sammy's lunch each day. Because of the twins I haven't been cooking at all, but putting a little lunch together gives me a small version of that value. I enjoy trying to make Sam's lunch just a little bit different each day, and to put a fun variety of things in her lunchbox. There's a real challenge in doing this day after day, especially when my grocery shopping is a chaotic mess and the choices in the kitchen are limited.

Today, she's having half a turkey and butter sandwich (one of her favorites), a wedge of Laughing Cow cheese (which she picked out at the market), a few snap pea pods with a tub of leftover ranch dressing from Popeye's Chicken (I have 2 ounce cups with lids for ranch dressing on order from Amazon but I was pleased to have figured out a way to do it in the meantime), a small plum, a leftover fortune cookie, and a container of shelf-safe milk.

Someday she'll prepare her own lunch and I'm sure I'll be relieved, but for now, I love this little way of caring for her.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

We're slipping a little, but we're still managing!

I think this is going to do it for Sam's 5 year photo. It's almost a month late, but at 5 years old a month doesn't make much difference. Adam made the sign a few days after her birthday, but it sat around so long that it got "decorated." Hey, it just reflects the reality of our lives. And Sam does not like posing, so we had to get her while she had a baby in her lap. Oh well, it's good for perspective, right?

No, those are just rationalizations. The reality is that my new parenting motto is: Good Enough!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Little Things - Zoe Edition

Adam calls Zoe, "Z," and I call her "Zo-Zo." I wonder which will win out as her nickname, if either. We tried to pick two nickname-proof names, but I guess there is no name that can't be mangled.

Zoe had a checkup at the pediatrician today and I took both babies all by myself for the first time. (Adam had to pick up Sammy from school.) It was easy!

Zoe is now newborn size, at least what passes for newborn size in our family - 6 pounds, 8 ounces - 4 ounces more than Sammy weighed at birth. She's gaining weight at exactly the right pace and continues to be perfectly healthy.

While undressing Zoe to have her weighed, a potato chip fell out of her clothing, right in front of the nurse. How embarrassing. No wonder she's gaining so much weight - munching on chips behind my back! (It took me a minute to realize that I had gotten her dressed on my bed, where I had been eating potato chips the night before. Even more embarrassing.)

At the doctor's office they have a computer for self-check-in. You have to enter the first two letters of the patient's first and last names. Zo-Mo. Maybe that will be her nickname!

Best of all, we have the first sign of the twins coming out of the blob stage: Zoe is beginning to make her first cooing noises. Up until now, all we've heard from either of them has been crying or grunting. Now we're getting some real vowel sounds - mostly "ah." And for once, Zoe is first!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What Did I Tell You?

Here they are, doing their Big Things. It was almost impossible to get a photo of Leo when he was not moving. The boy is just constantly in motion! Zoe, on the other hand, kept her eyes open and held still.

[caption id="attachment_4911" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Leo"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_4912" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Zoe"][/caption]

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Twins Update - One Month Old

Zoe and Leo are one month old! Actually, by the time I publish this, they'll be well over that age. I don't think we're going to be able to keep up with the monthly photos as well as we did with Sam.

I'm actually enjoying my babies and all the things that go along with them. I had set in my mind that the first year would be hell and that it was an investment in the future. I didn't enjoy Sam's infancy much at all. It has nothing to do with my feelings for her - I just didn't like the utter dependence of a baby. And with L&Z I still don't like it, but I'm more accepting of it. I also know that it will end soon enough. So I'm focusing on the good parts, and I'm finding that there are enough good parts to make the whole baby experience somewhat pleasant.

Of course, we've had a lot of help this first month. My parents have been here almost every day, doing a lot of the household chores, grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning, etc. My mom has also helped feed and change the babies quite a bit. We also have our "mommy's helper," I'll call her T., who has been coming some afternoons and also helping Sam get to school when Adam teaches. My parents leave in a week, but we'll still have T. I think I'll wait until then to say whether this is easier than I had expected.

There's not too much to report about Leo or Zoe themselves, beyond what I said in my earlier post. Leo continues to grow quickly. He is over seven pounds now. Zoe is still smaller at around six pounds, but she is growing steadily. They still mostly just eat and sleep. Occasionally I'll give them a bath or put them on a blanket for some tummy time (video!), but most days we change diapers, feed them, and put them right back to bed with no activity at all. They usually pass out in bliss after eating and there's no waking them.

We have Leo on Zantac now for his reflux, and he sleeps in his car seat in the crib since he simply can't tolerate being horizontal. We only have the one crib so far, so Zoe is sleeping there next to the car seat. The car seat and the Zantac are helping somewhat, but Leo still cries in discomfort a lot, which is the most difficult thing for me to deal with. We try to comfort him, but there isn't much we can do, so quite often we just have to listen to him cry. Zoe is still the "easy baby." The worst thing she does is that she seems to like to poop during a diaper change. I actually find it quite funny. Sam got to see it happen the other day and it was hilarious to see her look of revulsion after all the poopy hell she has put me through over the years. I really should make her the official diaper-changer. Well, maybe not.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Breastfeeding and Bonding

I'm a huge fan of breastfeeding, but not for the reasons you hear most often. I'm not 100% convinced that breast milk is any better nutritionally than formula. (I suspect they both have their advantages.) I guess breastfeeding is cheaper, but as Tori points out, the typical analysis ignores all the costs of breastfeeding; it is certainly not free. It's more convenient at times, but it can also be a hassle when you have to pump and deal with leakage. I could go on...

What I love about breastfeeding is the bonding. I enjoyed it so much with Sammy. It was hard to imagine having a baby and not breastfeeding. There is just something wonderful about giving your child sustenance directly from your body. But it is also the most interactive thing you can do with a newborn. You spend a lot of time looking at your baby; it's not a passive enjoyment, but a time of active observation that allows you to get to know your child's personality just a little bit. You have to learn your baby's signals and your baby has to learn yours. When you both learn how to do it, you achieve a kind of symbiosis that is very fulfilling. For those of you who've never experienced it, I'd liken it to the feeling you get when you learn how to control a dog or a horse; when you both understand each other and work together, everything becomes easy and you experience the true joy of teamwork. It's also like the concept of flow, but between two people instead of just an internal state. Everything just feels right when you are nursing.

But with Sammy, I had no differentiation for my observations about bonding through breastfeeding. I had nothing to compare it against. I only had one child, and I breastfed exclusively. Not only that, but Sammy never even had a bottle of breast milk because I was unable to pump effectively. All I knew was nursing.

With Leo and Zoe, I've learned so much more about this bonding. Mostly, I've learned that my conclusions were right.

Since Leo was born bigger and stronger than Zoe, I was able to nurse him almost immediately. I can't remember the exact dates, but I think I began nursing Zoe at least four days later. I only nursed Leo once a day, but in those days I felt much closer to him than I did to Zoe. I had a relationship with him that was simply absent with her. I've been able to continue breastfeeding both children at home and to this day, I feel closer to Leo than I do to Zoe. That could be due to other factors, but based on that early experience, I think it has a lot to do with the breastfeeding. But they are only one month old and I expect that to change.

I've also bottle-fed both of them, and I'm surprised to find that the bonding that takes place with this kind of feeding is very similar to that of breastfeeding. You still get a lot of the interaction. Both baby and parent must pay attention and adapt to the other. It's possible that the only things missing are the skin to skin contact and the hormones. Adam never got to bottle-feed Sammy, and he is thrilled to be able to do so with Zoe and Leo. I asked him if he now feels cheated that he missed the chance with Sammy and he gave me a (friendly) sarcastic reply about how, yes, they just don't have a connection between them. (Adam and Sammy have just about the best father-daughter relationship that I can imagine and they are super-close considering that he is not the primary caregiver.)

So in the end, I don't think any of the bonding is relevant to future relationships. I find absurd the idea that, if you don't breastfeed an infant within 5 minutes of their birth, something will be forever lacking in your relationship. My relationship with Zoe is growing deeper by the day and just because it started out slow doesn't mean it won't catch up. And I don't think bottle-fed infants suffer from some kind of lack of love. Of course, I don't even buy attachment theory, so there you go. Breastfeeding can be a wonderful thing, but it's really just icing on the cake.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Both, to the tune of Mr. Sandman:


Mr. Leo
Wearing yellow
You eat so much
As we all know
It is your job
To grow and grow
We love you, Mr. Leo


Little Zoe
So very pretty
We have to clean up
Your poo and your pee
But we don't mind
It's not a duty
Cuz' we love you, Little Zoe

Monday, September 19, 2011


Update 9/20: I fixed the link to the Picasa account.

Finally, I got all the photos and videos of Zoe and Leo uploaded and organized. Here is a selection of the best of them.


Zoe and Leo's First Month



If you want more, you can go to my Picasa account. (There are some great photos from Sammy's birthday there, too.)

A Little Thing

Sammy no longer calls our Honda Odyssey, the "Honda-See." But she still calls hand sanitizer, "hanitizer." You have to admire her creative contractions.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Photos Coming Soon!

I've almost got our photos organized and will have tons of pictures of the twins to share soon. But I just ran across this photo of Sam at her Montessori school from last spring and had to share it immediately. Look how grown up she is!

Saturday, September 17, 2011


So far, one of the most awesome things about having twins (and there are many) is that we have a much better idea about what is common to all babies and what is unique to Zoe or Leo, and even in retrospect, what was unique to Sammy when she was a newborn. We know because we can compare two babies who are at the exact same developmental level at the same time. Their differences highlight their personalities, and tell us that these things are not "just the way all babies are." And when we see something that is common to all three of our children, we have to consider that maybe that is something more universal. We've already discovered things we thought were unique to Sam that turn out to be just common baby behaviors.

Now, we don't want to make the mistake of translating infant behavior into projections of adult, or even childhood personality traits. A fussy baby does not equate to a wild teenager. And we don't want to pigeonhole Leo or Zoe by "labeling" them, something my favorite parenting authors warn against. (I put that term in scare quotes because I'm not completely comfortable with it - I'm not sure it has a clear definition and I suspect it might be a package deal. I have to think about it more before I decide one way or another.) And yet, comparing them gives us such wonderful information about them!

Some things we've learned:

  • Leo loves pacifiers (we call them suckers). Zoe could care less about them. (Sammy never wanted a sucker but we weren't sure if it was her or if we just didn't push the idea hard enough. Now we know it was her.)

  • Leo almost always cries first. Zoe doesn't cry much at all, but when she does, you don't want your ear within 5 feet of her mouth or you'll go deaf. Still, we call Zoe "unflappable." Nothing seems to faze her. Neither Leo nor Sammy could be called "sensitive," but they certainly react more strongly, especially in negative ways. Zoe is just chill and I hope she remains that way. It would be nice to have one like that. (We used to think that Sammy was a fairly "easy" baby, but, at least for now, Zoe seems to be proving us wrong about that. So far, Zoe is the easy one.)

  • Leo seems to have reflux, or some kind of digestive system issue. Zoe doesn't. (Sammy did.) He arches his back and cries in a way that sounds like he is in pain and spits up much more than Zoe. Related to the previous point? Quite possibly.

  • All three of our children are great breastfeeders. Either that, or I'm good at it. Or a combination of the two.

  • Both Leo and Zoe can be calmed quite easily just by picking them up. (When Sammy would get herself wound up, there was really nothing we could do but let her work it out on her own.) I hope this is not something that changes when they get a bit older - I can't remember when it started with Sam.

  • Leo really, really needs to be swaddled. Zoe is happy in a swaddle or a loose blanket. (Sammy needed the swaddle.) Again, I wonder if this is related to reflux, or whatever the problem is.

  • Apparently, all babies make essentially the same faces when they have to poop. And they won't poop while they are eating. It's a whole big production which is fascinating to watch. (Leo is the cutest pooper because he makes these grunts that are absolutely adorable.)

  • Zoe and Leo can sleep through just about anything. Zoe sleeps through Leo's crying right in her ear all the time, and they both sleep through the dog barking, the vacuum, and Sammy's high-pitched happy squealing during tickle-time. Sam was awakened by any loud noise when she was a baby. Do you remember the scene in Marley and Me when Jennifer Anniston puts the kids down for a nap and lies on the bed and takes a huge, deep breath, and you see the tension just flowing out of her into the mattress and you know she's about to fall asleep in an instant but then she hears the beeping of a truck in reverse and she bolts upright and says, "Oh no, oh no," in absolute horror because the dog is about to go crazy barking and wake the kids and that is indeed what happens and she totally loses her freaking mind? Well, that was me when Sam was a baby. Toby is lucky to still be among us. Thank goodness for the NICU with all of its noise.

  • Physically, they are looking more and more different as they fill out. Leo has a triangular face with a pointy chin which I believe he got from The Italian (as I call our egg donor). His nose, so prominent when he was born, now seems just right for his face. Zoe has a rounder face and is kind of jowly. She also has much darker skin and hair than Leo which obviously comes from The Italian.

  • Leo's Big Thing - the thing that stands out the most about him - is that he is physical. He moves, he squirms, he uses his hands in amazing ways for a 4-week-old infant, and he is strong. Within a few days of his birth, he had a reputation in the NICU. We kept hearing how he would escape his swaddle and his diaper and then pull off his leads. We were told "He's all boy." When I asked what that meant, the nurse said that he was very physical. She warned us that he'd be climbing the refrigerator in a year. He was also called a "superstar" in the NICU because of his quick progress in becoming strong enough to go home. (Premature girls usually do better than boys so it was doubly impressive.) He can already hold his head up for quite long stretches. At his first pediatrician appointment, the doctor suggested that we put his mattress up at an angle to help with his reflux, since, "he can't really move around yet so you don't have to worry about him ending up upside-down." Well, we had already put the mattress at an angle, and he is perfectly capable of ending up upside-down, thankyouverymuch. Leo is The Mover. And I love that about him.

  • Zoe's Big Thing is her vision. She looks at everything. When she was first born, she'd open her eyes and her eyeballs would roll up in the back of her head because she couldn't control them yet, but she'd open those lids anyway. By Day 2 on this planet, this tiny little 4 pound baby had her eyes open all the time and was focusing on anything that was close enough. She keeps them open much more often that Leo does, and she looks at faces much more intently than he does. Her eyes are very prominent, and there is something about the way she uses them that is utterly captivating and endearing. Zoe is The Looker. And I love that about her.

  • I wish I could look back and compare Sammy as an infant to these two, to determine what her Big Thing was. But the details are gone now. I remember my own judgments about her - my conclusions - but not so much the facts that gave rise to them. What I do remember is that we always called Sammy "highly opinionated." From the beginning, she seemed willful, stubborn, and independent, and the term "highly opinionated" actually came from one of our midwives and was seconded by her pediatrician. But what particular behaviors made them and us see her that way, I don't recall. Still, I think we were right, because I can't imagine calling either Leo or Zoe "highly opinionated," but it still describes Sam to this day. Sammy is The Rebel. And I love that about her.