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.