September 28, 2006

Change of Mood

You know what I love? It's when a baby is working up to a real pisser of a fit, avoiding eye contact and resisting being held and generally communicating that nothing you could ever say or do would make up for the wild injustice that has been done here today--and then you offer the baby something fairly basic, like a piece of cardboard that came in a package of shirts, and the tantrum shuts off like a switch. The baby is riveted, full rapt attention snap-focused on the item in a way that would only happen to me if you handed me a check for a million dollars. In fact, it couldn't even be you handing me the check, it would have to be John Cusack, handing me the check while holding a boom box over his head--I guess the check would be in his teeth, which is even better. Also, it would have to be cash, not a check.

Our Own Personal Population Explosion

I had a dream the other night (I'll make this brief: other people's dreams are deadly boring) that I was in the waiting room of the OB/GYN. I was there to find out if I was pregnant. It doesn't take a dream interpretation book to figure this out. I've weaned the twins, so this is the last month before I'm back on the Pill. My period is due any day now. I've been thinking of how funny it would be to get to the month before going back on the Pill--and then be pregnant that month. Not so much funny-ha-ha as funny-oh-my-god, but still.

I think I am in real trouble: I have four children--FOUR--and I still want another baby. I keep thinking about pregnancy and baby names and finding out what the new child is like. This does not bode well for future happiness. I hope I'm not going to be like my mom: in her 50s, through menopause, married to a man who's been snipped for over 30 years, and STILL hoping every month that she's pregnant. I'm doomed, aren't I? Genetically doomed.

I've even thought, "Well, maybe we should have another." It really hardly seems to matter at this point: one more baby? We're already inundated with them, we'd hardly notice the difference. There's room in the minivan for another car seat. I still have time before I turn Scary 35. But then where does it end? I always thought my mom's problem was that she had only two children when she wanted to have three, but if she'd had three or even four I'll bet she'd still have wanted more. Evidently we're hardwired for endless baby production.

About the population explosion--I know, I know, don't even tell me. Tell my ESTROGEN.

September 27, 2006

Tantrums

Elizabeth has been Little Miss Tantrum McFusserton. She pitches fits about EVERYTHING, and we rarely know what her current problem is. Edward took something away from her? She got stuck momentarily? She doesn't like her outfit?

I don't think any of our babies have pitched fits in this classical style: the arched back, the slammed-back head, the squeezed-shut eyes, the entire tiny body contributing to the roars of rage. Right now, as we enter the stage, it seems so comical, it just makes me want to squeeze and smooch her more: Who does this child think she IS, to have such loud opinions when she is only as big as two atoms? I'm sure in time this urge to squeeze and kiss and laugh will fade, to be replaced with the urge to muzzle and sequester.

Good Guy

I have been known to complain to my girlfriends in great detail about Paul. He doesn't clean enough, and when he does clean he does such a crappy job I suspect him of being deliberately incompetent in the hopes that I'll say "PLEASE don't help." He can be inconsiderate, grabbing my towel when he forgot to get a fresh one for himself, and then leaving mine wet on the floor next to the toilet. He can appear to listen to me for ten minutes or so, when actually he is doing a physics problem in his head and hasn't heard a single word. He'll put a huge load of laundry on the low, hot cycle, because he doesn't think to set the cycle, and then he'll leave it in the dryer to get cold and crinkled--and moldy, because he didn't set the cycle for a large load. He'll step over cat barf to let me find it later. Spiders? My job.

But in many, many ways he SAVES us, he saves our family. He comes home from work in a good mood, and he plays actively with the children. He doesn't expect to have time to relax right away, and he knows he has only a short time per day with the kids and so he takes all of it, waiting to do his own things until after the kids are in bed. When I'm falling apart, he makes a funny remark that puts everything back in perspective. He never says "Oh, you must be PMSing." When I'm cranky, he doesn't escalate it by cranking back at me; in fact, he acts extra affectionate, like he thinks I'm being cute when I am actually being a total bitch. He doesn't give me a hard time about the messiness of the house. He doesn't go out partying with his friends. He doesn't spend all our money, leaving me wondering how we're going to pay the bills.

Things like "doing a good job cleaning the toilet" pale in comparison. (Though I still would really, really like it if he could do a good job cleaning the toilet. I mean, it's not rocket science.)

September 26, 2006

Cart Problems

It is difficult to shop with twins. Aside from problems with fussing, crying, grabbing things off shelves, etc., there is the problem of where to put them.

A shopping cart has only one child seat. I'd read on twin sites that it was possible to put the twins in that seat together, one leg of each twin bent and the other leg of each twin through a leg hole. That did work, but only in the window of time after they were old enough to sit alone and before the shoving and hair-pulling began (about one month; your results may vary). Also, the seatbelt isn't big enough to go around both of them, which is nerve-wracking if you depend on the seatbelt to be Officer Safety.

The other twin can ride in the back of the cart, but not if he keeps pulling himself to standing, threatening to plunge his top-heavy little self right down to the hard polished floor. Even if he stays sitting, he has access to everything you put into the cart.

Some places have enormous, heavy, awkward carts with an attached 2-seater section. The sticker on these carts says that only children older than a certain age, usually 2 years, may ride there, but I've used it with my 1-year-old twins. The primary problem is that the two seats seem to be arranged to give the children maximum kicking and hair-pulling access. Edward will grab enthusiastically for Elizabeth's hair time and time again, pulling her head down nearly to the floor as she yells, or he'll cheerfully kick her again and again.

The best solution for keeping the babies restrained and comfortable is their double stroller: two seatbelts, low access to each other (I put Elizabeth in the back seat because she is unlikely to pull Edward's hair or kick the back of his seat; and from the front seat he can't reach her), comfortable seats. But then I have only a stroller basket for whatever I'm buying. It's a nice big basket as strollers go, but it's not big enough for much more than a 12-pack of toilet paper.

I read (again, on a twin site) the idea of getting two carts, and putting one twin in the child seat of each. You can push one cart ahead of you, and pull the other cart behind you. This also gives you double the carrying space for purchases, which is great for minimizing trips to the store. I've tried this in times of desperation (we need toilet paper AND diapers AND paper towels AND laundry detergent AND cat litter AND cat food AND...), but it leaves me a wrung-out wreck. It's hard to keep track of both babies when they're spread out like that, it's hard to steer around corners, and there's the social discomfort of taking up ALL the room in every aisle you go down.

The only solution we've come up with is to wait to go shopping until the twins are in elementary school. (Actually, I wait for Paul to get home from work, and then I run to the store with only one twin.)

Common Sense

My mother-in-law sent me one of those dumb email forwards. This one was one of her very favorite sort: it lamented the passing of Mr. Common Sense, going on to say all the things old people believe: that children don't respect their elders anymore, that nobody spends within their means anymore, that no one dresses properly anymore, that no one bothers to learn their sums anymore, that no one knows the meaning of hard work anymore, and so on. Also, everything's so expensive, the portions in restaurants are huge, and you kids get off my lawn.

I'll say this: Mr. Common Sense's passing must not have been recent, because GENERATIONS of old people have been talking about it. It is astonishing that anyone who isn't elderly manages to raise children or keep to a budget or hold down a job, or that the human race manages to continue on at all, considering how the elderly are the last of the people with any common sense.

September 25, 2006

Identical or Fraternal?

"Are they identical or fraternal?" is one of the most common questions parents of twins are asked. ("Did you use fertility drugs?," "Are they boys or girls?," and "How much did they weigh when they were born?" are others.)

If one twin is a boy and the other is a girl, the twins are always, always, always fraternal. They can't be identical. As my mother says when anyone asks her if her grandtwins are identical, "Take a peek in their diapers and see."

If there are two boy twins, or two girl twins, the situation is more complicated. Fraternal twins can look very similar, and identical twins can have some differences. When I was pregnant and didn't yet know I was having a boy and a girl, I looked into the subject and found that DNA testing is the only accurate way to determine if same-sex twins are identical or fraternal. There are lots of casual ways for guessing, but it's the DNA that tells you for sure.

Of course, if you have one red-haired blue-eyed boy twin and one brown-haired brown-eyed boy twin, you may want to save your money for their college education instead.

Baby Corral

When my firstborn was little, we didn't have enough space for a playpen unless we wanted to jettison the couch--which was actually a loveseat, because there wasn't room for an actual couch, either. When my secondborn was little, I didn't think of a playpen: I was on auto-pilot, using whatever equipment we already had.

As soon as the first twin started crawling, I knew we were in an entirely unfamiliar world. Here is a glimpse into the world of twins, free of charge: unless you can unhinge your eyes so that they'll move independently of each other, it is very, very, very difficult to keep track of two babies at the same time. Childproofing helps, and we ramped that up to previously unachieved levels. But what really helped was something that goes beyond the word "playpen" and on to the word "corral."

It is the North State Superyard XT Gate. Ohhhh, yeahhh. Eighteen-and-a-half square feet of toddler patrol. There's enough room in there for two toddlers and a heap of toys, and if you have triplets or an extra-big living room you can get the extension kit that doubles the inside area. We bought the extension because my grasp of spacial relations is tenuous at best. We've never used it, because my grasp of spacial relations instantly improved when I saw how the original gate without the extension used up nearly all the floor space in our living room.

It is such a relief to have a safe place to put the babies down if I'm bringing in groceries or folding laundry. Or, you know, finishing just one more chapter. It's big enough that they can crawl around, and they don't have the pitiful look of a babies in a cramped prison cell. An adult can easily sit in the pen with the babies, if an adult feels like having babies crawling all over her.

The whole thing is plastic, so you can hose it down if the need arises. It folds down accordian-style to the size of one panel (but thicker, of course), and can be brought outdoors or to the beach if you're ever feeling brave enough to attempt such a thing. My aunt says she has seen the same play yard advertised in her pet catalog, for use with dogs and puppies. It can also be used to keep children (or dogs) OUT of a place: I read online that one mother said she used hers to surround the Christmas tree, protecting it from all those little curious grabby hands. I'll keep that in mind for next Christmas: this Christmas, it's still more needed as a corral.

September 23, 2006

Earned Praise; Also, More Bitching About Dishes

Paul and I split the dishes, as I've mentioned. I end up with more, because I'm home during the day with the kids, and so I'm responsible for all the dishes they generate during that time, which I believe is fair; I also do my own dishes, of course, and any that I use making meals for the children. He is responsible for his own dishes, and for the dishes he uses when he makes dinner for the older kids. Whichever one of us makes dinner for the grown-ups, the other one does those dishes. We treat this as an agreement that, while not actually carved in stone, is at least written on stone in Sharpie marker.

When I do my share, I don't mention it. When he does his share, he mentions it. "I did the dishes!," he announces, leaving me in a quandary. If he did MY share for me, of course I would thank him--but that's not what's happening here. If he routinely thanked ME for doing MY dishes, then I guess I would thank him for doing his, too--but that's not what's happening here, either.

What IS happening here, I think, is that he's revealing what he doesn't realize he believes: that I'm only doing what I should be doing anyway, whereas he is doing something special, something that isn't really his job to do.

It has been suggested to me that I should be grateful for what he does do, since other men do less: look at our fathers' generation! our grandfathers' generation! They did SO MUCH LESS. I think that's like saying I should be grateful to a stranger for not mugging me, since there are other strangers who would. People should be compared not to people who are in flagrant disregard of what is fair and right, but to people who are in compliance with what is fair and right.

I may have gotten a little beyond the dishes problem here. This is what can happen with household matters: they seem like small things on paper, but they can represent larger issues. The problem comes when one partner sees them as symbolic of a larger issue, and the other partner sees it as a small thing. Paul: "I did the dishes!" Me: "Why not just MUG me while you're at it, 'Grandpa'?"

September 22, 2006

A Little Romance

Paul and I have this thing we do. It flies in the face of an almost sacred convention: that families should eat dinner together. That's what we fly in the face of. I'm flinching, anticipating produce (produce if we're lucky) flung in our faces in return for this admission.

Paul and I have four children, ages 7 and under. One of Paul's friends said it best: we're no longer playing one-on-one, we're doing zone defense. (Or it was something that that effect, anyway. Sports metaphors don't quite reach me.) Dinner time is a difficult time of day: I'm tired and I've had my fill of children; Paul is tired and has spent an hour with children climbing all over him; the children are tired and getting hyper and wild and crabby. So what we do is, we divide and conquer. Paul takes the older boys and handles their dinner at a table we have in the living room. I take the twins and handle their dinner in the kitchen.

When the children are fed, we continue the division for their bedtime routine: Paul supervises Robert and William as they brush their teeth and get into their pajamas, and then he reads to them; meanwhile I read to the babies while they're still in their high chairs, and then I get them into their pajamas and put them in their cribs.

Then, when all the children are theoretically asleep in their beds like little lambs, that's when Paul and I have our dinner. We eat together, just us.

September 21, 2006

Tipping Point

I'm re-reading Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point, about how a situation can be going along steadily with a slight increase or slight decrease of something, and then abruptly there's a BIG increase or a BIG decrease. This happens with fashion fads, he says: a few people will be wearing something, and then suddenly everyone has to have it. It's not a steady slope, it's a big plummet.

Where I notice this concept in action is the mold on our shower curtain. There will be a few little dots of grey, and I'll think, "Huh. Probably should get around to cleaning in here some day." A day later, there will be a colony of little dots, and I'll think, "Better move that up the priorities list." And a day later, the entire curtain is covered in gross, bad-housekeeper mold, and I'm frantically spritzing it with Tilex Mold & Mildew, trying not to scream or breathe.

Twin Feeding: 15 months

At 15 months, the twins are eating almost exclusively bite-sized finger foods. I make a peanut butter and jam sandwich and cut it into little bites. Cheese, cut into little bites. Fruit, cut into little bites. Dry cereal. Goldfish crackers. Quesadilla, cut into little bites. Fried egg, cut into little bites. Toast, cut into little bites.

I do still spoon-feed them a few things: applesauce, yogurt, and the "vitamin A fruit or vegetable EACH DAY" so firmly demanded by the handout from the doctor's office, which for some reason I have trouble facing in any other form (carrots, which take so long to cook; cantaloupe, which goes all mushy if you don't use it quickly; peaches, which are only briefly in season). I have read that other children this age are spoon-feeding themselves, to which I say "Bwah ha ha ha ha! No way." I am not giving these children a "spoons and mushy stuff" combination until they are DRIVING.

There are a few things I give them whole, and let them take bites of: graham crackers, mostly. They CAN take bites of other things, like sandwiches and bananas, but given the opportunity to do so, they will more often get transfixed by the way those foods mush through their fingers when squeezed. And so in the interests of my sanity, I mostly still cut their food up for them. (See "take so much, a mother can only.")

They drink milk from sippee cups. If they are allowed to keep the sippee cups on their trays, they will sometimes take sips and then gently put the cup back down until they want another sip. More often, they will wait until I am lulled into thinking they will do this, and then they turn the cups upside down and shake them vigorously until their trays are lakes of milk to be splashed in until milk coats the walls.

I have finally given up on bibs, except in extreme circumstances such as pasta. Both twins would rip their bibs off and fling them to the floor, again and again and again and again and again until I was nearly going mad. I hear my mother-in-law in my head, saying in That Voice, "So they WON, huh?"--but too bad. The twins are tidy eaters. My firstborn practically needed TWO bibs, he was so messy, but these two babies only occasionally get anything on their clothes.

We have two high chairs, side by side. Edward always sits in the one with the seatbelt, because he is the only one of the four children to figure out that he could turn around and then stand up.

Each twin tries to jettison food he/she doesn't want by putting it on the other twin's high chair tray. If they are sharing a cup (if, for example, I have only one that's clean), they will hand it back and forth.

If I'm spoon-feeding them, I use one bowl and one spoon, and I alternate bites between them.

I have to stop myself from feeling as if they have to eat the same amounts of everything. The other night I made them fried eggs and buttered toast. Edward was eating tons of toast and only a little egg; Elizabeth was eating tons of egg and only a little toast. This made me feel agitated, and as if maybe I should start giving Edward only egg and Elizabeth only toast so they'd "even out." Then I thought about how if either of them were a single baby and eating that way, I wouldn't give it a thought, and so I continued to offer both twins both foods, but didn't worry that Edward was favoring the toast and Elizabeth the egg.

September 20, 2006

They Can Just Sit There

I'll tell you this, I'm not doing those dishes. Paul and I, we have a deal: we each do our own dishes, plus each person does the dishes created by any meal he or she prepares for the children. This comes out pretty even.

Here's what lights me: when he leaves his own dishes and the kids' dishes from the night before, and skys off to work. I have to look at those dishes all day, thinking about the possibilities. I could do them and end the issue--except that I've learned that if I give Paul an inch, the next day he'll take the same inch and those dishes will be left there again. Plus, I'd feel like a patsy.

I could leave them there for him, but then I have to see them there, all messy and bad-housewifey in the sink, reminding me every time I'm in the kitchen that I have an inconsiderate husband who is sitting in his totally clean office (cleaned by an actual maid) while I languish in squalor. And then he'll do them that evening, and I'll sit there thinking, "Since it takes the SAME AMOUNT OF TIME EITHER WAY, why couldn't you have done that LAST NIGHT?" And he will not sway under the force of my thoughts, but will hum a tune as he dries his hands.

Third possibility is today's favorite: fling them out the window to shatter on the driveway below. No, I'm not going to do that: they'd just sit there until I cleaned them up.

September 19, 2006

Barely Holding It Together

Some days I feel like I am this close to falling apart. I'm getting the twins dressed for bed, and there are diapers all over the floor of their room from earlier when they unpacked the entire cupboard where I keep diapers and then broke into a fresh pack and scattered those too. There are toys all over the floor that I keep stepping on and nearly tripping over, because right now the twins think the best fun is taking things OUT of things--but then they don't want to play with those things, they want to find a fresh bin to take things out of.

I try to get Edward out of his clothes, and there's food all over the front of his shirt because he kept flinging his bib off during dinner and I couldn't work up the caring it would require to fetch it yet again, and when I try to remove his shirt the food gets dragged across his hair, which I finally washed this morning when it was so crusty I was starting to wonder if it would start snapping off like little twigs--and now there's food in it again.

I get his clothes off, and I take his diaper off, and immediately he's grabbing at himself so ferociously I'm worried he's going to tear it OFF. He's itchy, and I guess I should remember to take him in to the doctor about that. I try to keep him from doing permanent damage to my future grandchildren, but I only have one hand to restrain him: I need to get a diaper off the floor, using my foot to pull one closer and then grabbing it with my "spare" hand. I get his sleeper on, and he's trying to twist over on the table. His big brother Robert has left a bunch of blocks up there in a special pattern, and I finally fling them across the room in frustration because Edward keeps grabbing them. There's also a baggie on the table (suffocation hazard!) and a pencil (stabbing hazard!), and a piece of paper (paper cut hazard! soggy choking hazard!) that I need to deal with, but geez, why do Robert and William keep leaving these things in here? Do I have to tell them they can't even come in here anymore?

Meanwhile, Elizabeth is crying and whining in her high chair, this whole time.

I put Edward in his crib, and I get Elizabeth. She's happy while I'm taking her clothes off, but as soon as I put a fresh diaper on her she gets suspicious. When she sees the sleeper, she knows the score and rips out a bunch of grating screams. I get her into it anyway, but I'm reaching my limit. Edward, meanwhile, is tossing all his blankies out of his crib.

I put Elizabeth in her crib, stepping on two toys on my way over and hearing one crack in a way I'm going to have to deal with tomorrow. She's still screaming. I accidentally put her in her crib lying down, which she hates; when I correct this by sitting her upright, she arches and cries and won't accept her blankie. I give Edward's blankies back to him, and I get the hell out of that room, using the very last scraps of my life force to say "good night, babies" in a pleasant tone over the angry cries. I switch off the light, and go out into the rest of the house, where there are lightbulbs burned out, toys on the floor, papers to file, months of photos to go through.

Now Elizabeth is working herself into a real fit. Edward is starting to cry tiredly; she is keeping him from falling asleep. Downstairs, Robert and William are supposed to be in bed, but I can hear them starting to fight. Some days I am barely holding it together.

September 18, 2006

Weaned

They've weaned, I guess: the twins are weaned. It happened gradually, and it snuck up on me.

With my first two children, the weaning was cold turkey. This wasn't a good way to do things, for me. Afterward, I had all these unhappy feelings, thinking I'd made the worst mistake of my life by weaning and that I should go back to nursing. I know that must have been hormonal: I don't even enjoy breastfeeding. I do it because it's cheap, it's easy, it burns calories, it lets me sit there reading a book many times a day without anyone being able to say boo about it, and it lets me feel like I'm making at least one right decision out of all the millions of things I feel like I'm screwing up.

But that doesn't mean I enjoy it. I feel trapped and restless in the chair, waiting for the baby to be finished. I hate the cracked nipples in the beginning days: La Leche League says that won't happen if you do it right, but that's just to make you feel like it's your fault if you're not sitting in a sunbeam-ensconced rocking chair feeling the sweet joy of beautiful breastfeeding. It makes total sense that if a baby is sucking the hell out of a nipple many times a day, and if that nipple has previously entertained only brief, gentle visitors, there will be an adjustment period during which some women will experience "discomfort"--by which I mean the kind of pain that makes your baby's sweet rosebud mouth look like a pirahna's maw. I hate the leaking milk, which makes me feel like a damp cow. I hate the lumpy breasts that get increasingly uncomfortable as I wait for the baby to wake the hell up and nurse already. I hate the way nursing makes my breasts feel off-limits to my husband. I hate the way I have to nurse furtively in public, worrying that someone will come up and say something to me about it. I hate the way I'm the only one who can feed the baby.

As the twins' first birthday approached, I started looking into ways to alleviate the bad feelings I got when I weaned before. I found lots of advice about tucking cabbage leaves in my bra, taking Tylenol, expressing little bits of milk, using ice packs. Mostly the advice about lessening the emotional (and also the physical) side effects was "Don't go cold turkey," which I already knew.

Fear and uncertainty kept me nursing them beyond their first birthdays. I cut down to four nursings a day, then three, then two: one in the late afternoon when they were fussy, and one in the middle of the night when they woke up crying. The next nursing to go was the afternoon one; I gave them graham crackers and sippee cups of milk instead.

This left the middle-of-the-night feeding. I worried: what would I do when they woke, if I couldn't nurse them? I'm so tired in the middle of the night, I can't think reasonably about strategies for dealing with crying babies. Nursing always works.

Then Elizabeth stopped waking up most nights. And one night when Edward woke, I felt like I didn't want to nurse him, and I felt awake enough to try other things. I offered him his sippee cup of milk instead, and he took several long drinks from it, and when I put him back to bed he went back to sleep just as if I'd nursed him.

Since then, I've offered the sippee cup to anyone who wakes. Edward is fine with that, as long as it's accompanied by a snuggle. Elizabeth hardly ever wakes.

I feel some hormonal effects, but hardly any. I'll notice that I'm feeling low and sad, but that's all. No feeling as if I've made the worst mistake of my life. No wondering if I should go back to nursing. No leaking milk all over the bed during the night. Really, a vast improvement.

For those of you who breastfed babies, how old were they when you stopped? Do you have any excellent weaning advice to impart? Has anyone tried the cabbage leaves in the bra? Because that sounds interesting, but no way.

September 17, 2006

The Best Grape

I'm making lunch: a sandwich for William, a sandwich cut up into little bites for Edward and Elizabeth to share. Grapes. Whole milk for the twins, in the pink sippee cup. Water for William, who will otherwise fill up on milk and not eat his lunch.

The twins are still young enough to need their grapes cut, so I'm cutting grapes into quarters. Periodically I eat a grape. Now we're down to three grapes, one for Edward, one for Elizabeth, one for me. I select the best grape, and eat it. Then I think maybe this makes me a bad mother.

That's the 1950s I'm thinking of, though, right? The days when what defined a good mother was that she put everyone ahead of herself. She ate the burnt toast, as Teri Hatcher recently put it, or I guess that's how she put it, from the title of the book I haven't read. She took the piece of cake with the frosting peeled half off, the piece of pie that got all cheesed up because it was the first one out of the pan. (Mmm, cake. Mmm, pie.) She served everyone dinner, and then didn't get to eat much of her own because she kept leaping up to get things for everyone. My grandmother was this kind of woman: my grandfather, standing in the kitchen, said he'd like a glass of water, and she hopped up from her chair in the living room to get it for him. That's screwed up, though, right? We can agree on that?

Still. Taking the best grape. Probably a bad mother.

September 16, 2006

The Little Things

Kids are legendary for making their parents notice the little things in life, by which we are to understand we mean the Truly Important things. I've read the diaries of many other mothers, and it's a recurring theme: the flowers in the crack of the sidewalk, the shape of the clouds, the busy little ants--all the beauty and wonder that life has to offer. Mine? Tacky novelty lamps.

While Robert was in school, William and Elizabeth and Edward and I went to Target. I was walking right past the lamps when William found the lamp that rises above all other lamps in his estimation. It is made up of shiny silver round cut-outs, dangling in rows. I never would have noticed this lamp, except to think, "My god!" The lamp is 75% off (because everyone else had my "My god!" reaction), and so I bought it for him. I like it better than standing around looking at the stupid ants.

September 14, 2006

Eating Out of House; Also, Home

I can't believe how much these children already eat. I remember when we had only Robert, and he was about 18 months old, and it cost me about a dollar to feed him if we went to a fast-food place: he'd eat one taco, or one hamburger, or one order of chicken nuggets.

Now Robert is seven years old, and it costs about three dollars to feed him: he can eat two hamburgers, half a thing of fries, and half an order of nuggets. My five-year-old William costs about a dollar-fifty to feed: he can eat a hamburger and the other half of the fries. The twins cost about 75 cents each: between them they can eat a hamburger or an order of nuggets, plus some fries.

The cost of raising children, brought to you for the first time in fast-food terms.

At home, where we USUALLY eat, Mr. or Miss Critical Thoughts, I now need to make three full 2-slice sandwiches for four children, plus four mozzarella cheese sticks, forty grapes, and four cups of milk. When peanut butter goes on sale, I buy eight jars.

I am wondering: should I even be thinking of the teenage years, when I will have THREE teenaged boys chewing up the sofa in their ravenous, ravenous hunt for food?

September 13, 2006

Joy's Way

I have a new friend I met on the internet. I read her blog and liked it; she read my blog and liked it. Now we're feeling out a friendship. She writes to me, and I wait a day to reply so I don't look too clingy. I volunteer a little personal information--but not too much. She volunteers a little more personal information than I did, but then she makes her email shorter so it evens out. We're playing it cool.

One of the first conversations I had with Joy was about how little we cared if other mothers made choices that were different from ours. We agreed that our attitude was this: That of course we think our own way is the best way, since that's the way we've chosen; but that we don't think that is the best way for OTHER mothers, necessarily. Other mothers are other people, and their children are different from our children, and their families are different, and their priorities are different. Obviously we won't all choose the same selection from the cafeteria of choices.

Even though we've had this conversation, I still worry that Joy will disapprove of my way. She mentions feeding her daughter Annie's Cheddar Bunnies, and I look sidelong at the bag of Goldfish crackers I'm feeding the twins and think, "Dang."

September 12, 2006

Laundry

The laundry, HOLY CRAP the laundry.

I don't understand how I can, with Herculean effort, get the piles down to scraps on a Friday, and by Tuesday have all the baskets full again. It seems as if the other people in this family must be changing clothes three times a day in order to generate this much. Even the twins contribute huge piles of little dressings. Maybe all four kids are genetically programmed to do what I caught Paul doing one day years ago: when he took out a shirt and it wasn't the one he thought it was, he tossed it into the laundry basket rather than fold it back up and put it back in the drawer. (Can you imagine the discussion we had at our house about that? It was loud, and there was swearing.)

Some days I feel like such a drone, drudging away down in the basement with the washer and dryer running constantly. The same shirts and pants I saw last week, dirty again, washed again, folded again. Everyone else humming a little tune as they carelessly toss an item stained with spaghetti sauce into the basket to sit for a week until I discover it AFTER it's gone through the dryer to permanently set the stain.

Also, who is this person discussing stain removal? Golly gee, what a MOM.

September 11, 2006

Pediatrician

I am so hopelessly lame around the pediatrician. I stammer, I tell rambling self-deprecating stories about myself that make me sound like a bad mother, I ask stupid questions I know the answers to.

Our pediatrician is the kind who listens intently to every word I say, as if he is humbled in the presence of my knowledge. When I am done speaking (assuming I manage to stop), he is silent, digesting my proclamations and considering how best to incorporate them.

This listening, this silence, is what turns me into a blithering idiot. At home I feel like I have to jump up and down, waving wildly, to get anyone's attention at all. I have even had to say, "Are you LISTENING to me?" So you can see how the undivided attention of this man, this doctor, is not something I have practice with.

I'm worried about Elizabeth, who is 15 months old and has only said a couple of words: "dah" for clap, and "baba" for baby--but she only said "baba" for one session of looking at a book with a baby in it, and then ever after refused to participate. Edward is the same, but he is a boy; I'm always reading and hearing that girls are ahead of boys in communication (well, DUH). I tell the pediatrician, and he listens silently, eyebrows low and focused, eye contact intense. And so after I have finished saying what I need to say, I go on to tell him that my mother said I started talking at 12 months and never stopped. (Me, to self: "Shut UP!!") Then I say that I had thought Elizabeth would be the same, even though I didn't think that: why would I think my child would be a clone of me? (Me, to self, "HOLY CRAP WILL YOU SHUT UPPPPP!?!") There's a pause, and I add, inanely, that I guess she's her own person. ("OH MY GOD YOU STUPID CRAZY WOMAN.")

The pediatrician, to his credit, tried to generate a reply to my idiotic speech. "Yes," he said. "They certainly are their own little people, aren't they?" Me: "Yes." (*biting tongue clean off in attempt to keep from starting the blither again*)

I had been hoping he would tell me I was being silly to expect Elizabeth to be talking more at this point. I was hoping for his "Babies move at their own pace; as long as they're moving forward, they're fine" speech, which I love like a soothing lip balm. But no: he said that he would expect a 15-month-old girl to have at least 6 clear words by now, and that 18-month-old girls are often speaking in 3-word sentences. He says that if she doesn't make "significant advances" and "leaps and bounds" before her 18-month check, he'll refer her to Early Intervention for "testing" and "services." He also says that both twins are "floppier" (looser, more flexible, less resistent to manipulation) than he'd expect.

Considering what a constant worrier I am, this should throw me into a blind panic--but I feel fine. Evidently I only worry about things that are CRAZY and WON'T HAPPEN, like that Cujo will trap me and the babies in our minivan right after I've loaded in the groceries, and that we'll have to live on whatever I've just bought. "The milk and meat would go bad quickly, of course, but the flour and crackers would be GREAT. And the pop would be good, too: we'd need fluids. Shoot, I should put a can opener in the car."

September 10, 2006

Follow the Leader

Edward follows Elizabeth all around their playroom: whatever she's doing looks good to him. (We speculate that this is how we got twins: "Hey, you're going down the fallopian tube now? Me too!") This drives Elizabeth crazy. She crabs and cries at him, and looks at us in appeal. She's oppressed; he's oblivious, unaffected, unrelenting. She keeps moving away; he keeps joining her.

September 6, 2006

Whodini

When we go to Target, we get one of those carts that has two baby seats instead of one--theoretically perfect for twins. The seats are facing each other, close enough that Edward can kick Elizabeth relentlessly, and also reach her hair to pull it.

Here's what I DID see: Edward tumbling--HARMLESSLY--head-first out of the seat onto the carpeted floor. Here's what I did NOT see: which twin figured out how to unbuckle his five-point safety belt.