February 26, 2010

Popovers and Kittens

I had a vivid dream last night that I had less than a week to live and that I was mentally composing a blog post where I asked you what you thought I should do/leave for the kids---like, videotapes or letters or what. Ack.

I've been feeling very Low and Listless the last few days. I'm self-medicating with coffee and with the recipe my sister-in-law sent me for popovers. It's from The Joy of Cooking, and the asides are hers:

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Preheat oven to 450. Grease a standard 12 cup muffin pan or 12 six ounce custard cups. If using custard cups dust with flour, sugar, or grated Parmesan cheese.

Whisk together thoroughly in a large bowl:
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt

Whisk together in another bowl:
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1 tbsp warm melted butter
Pour over the flour mixture and fold just until blended. A few small lumps may remain (Me=HA! Lots of lumps remained.) Fill the cups 2/3 to 3/4 full. Fill any unfilled cups 1/3 full with water so pan doesn't burn.

Bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees then reduce oven temperature to 350 and bake for 20 minutes more, until well browned and crusty. Do not open the oven to check on the popovers until the last 5 minutes to avoid deflating them. Remove from the oven, unmold onto a rack, and puncture the sides with a sharp knife to let steam escape. Serve immediately and TOTALLY RUIN YOUR DINNER BUT IT IS WORTH IT or return to a turned-off oven for up to 30 minutes for extra crispness.

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They're easy to make and fun to watch in the oven because they PUFF UP. I like them with Nutella---also the sister-in-law's suggestion. I think they'd be most perfect for breakfast, dipped in maple syrup. Or if I were having people over for dinner (ha ha ha) I think they'd make a fun surprising dinner roll.


On the way home from a shopping trip last weekend, I spontaneously stopped at the animal shelter to look at kitties. Well, as spontaneously as I ever do things, which is to say I thought about it on and off for weeks, then told the kids we MIGHT stop that day, then decided three miles before the shelter to stop there for sure, then reminded the kids it might not even be open, then wondered if I should change my mind, then used my right turn signal well in advance of the turn.

They didn't have any kittens; apparently kittens are seasonal. Did you know that? That kittens are like produce? The shelter worker said we could start to call in mid-March to inquire as to kitten ripeness.

We've mostly decided to get a kitten, but we looked at the cats. I saw one I was drawn to, but she was already taken. I saw several more I liked well enough to get to know them better, but they were labeled as being for homes with no children or no other cats. Another was very nice but was 13 years old. Another was very nice but was in a bonded pair with a cat I didn't like as much. I was happy not to find The Perfect Cat yet, since the shopping experience is so fun.

February 22, 2010

Even More Twin Questions and Answers

Cayt: "Did you dress them in lots of pink/blue so that they would be easier to tell apart later? If so, what would you have done with two of the same sex?"

I did dress them in a lot of pink and blue, to help tell them apart in photos and also because it was so! dang! cute! My mom gave me two three-packs of footed outfits, one pink set and one blue, and those were the best: each set had one solid, one striped, and one patterned, and also there were MATCHING HATS.


I found that I pretty much ONLY wanted to use outfits that coordinated. I used the non-coordinated clothes when I had to change a baby midday because of a blowout or something, but in the morning they were almost always coordinated.







It was pretty easy to coordinate them at first: lots of companies make their infant lines basically the same but one pink and one blue. As they got out of infant stuff, though, the coordinated stuff was way harder and soon I stopped doing it.

If both babies had been girls, or both boys, I think I would have chosen a color for each---probably pink and purple for girls, blue and green for boys. Well, or maybe not, because one of the things that appealed to me about same-sex twins was that they could share clothes. Maybe I would have used a pin-on ribbon or a fake beauty mark or something.


Anonymous: "I have one very important question. How did you come up with their names? Please share with lots of details!"

Oh, man, that was, like, the biggest naming project of my LIFE. "Elizabeth" and "Edward" are pseudonyms, which makes it a little tricky to discuss the naming process without giving away the real names but I'll try. Early in the pregnancy I'd started lists of boy name candidates and girl name candidates. When we found out there were TWINS, I started combining from the lists, making three new lists: Boy-Boy, Girl-Girl, and Boy-Girl. The problem was that our first choice candidates didn't really coordinate with each other---or went together TOO well, like John and Jane.

My IDEAL would have been to have some small gimmick: matching initials, or same number of letters/syllables, or SOMETHING. But we tried again and again to come up with something like that for boy-girl twins, and there was just nothing we could find that didn't mean choosing a less-liked name just for the sake of the gimmick.

Finally we decided to treat each name separately: we pretended we were having a girl, and we chose her name; then we pretended it was two years later and we were having a boy, and we chose his name. We ended up with two names that are very different in style, popularity, syllables, letters, and initials; they have NOTHING in common. The names are something like Joe and Clarissa. I love both names but still wish there was a little Twin Gimmick.

I'm looking at my name lists now, and it's so strange to see names I don't even remember considering. Iliana! Jenica! Laken! Perrin! Brindle! Abbott! Dutch! Cullen! Joren! I still really like Brindle.


Rah: "Have their developmental milestones come together--did they walk/talk at the same time, etc.?"

Sort of, but not much more than any two siblings. The one thing I noticed was copycat developing: if one did something, the other noticed and tried to do the same thing, so this may have made some of their developmental milestones closer than they otherwise would have been.


Shelly Overlook: "I want to know if what you hear about twins developing their own language is true."

My particular twins haven't, though I've heard a lot about this. I wonder if it happens more with identical twins? I HAVE found that they seem to understand each other better: if one of them is saying something and I can't figure out what it is, I ask the other one.


Beth: "What's been the thing that surprised you the most about having twins, either in a good or bad way?"

I think what surprised me most is how little their twinness affects our household. I guess I'd expected it to be more of a big deal, or for Twin Issues to be something we would have to deal with often. Part of it is that they're not only fraternal twins but also boy-girl fraternal twins---so they don't really seem Twinnish. They look different, they like different things, they don't dress the same, they don't seem to have any Magical Twin Bond.


Jive Turkey: "My appetite was INSANE when I was nursing - was it twice as insane for you having to nurse twins?"

I do remember eating quite a lot, but what was amazing to me was that I was eating TONS but LOSING WEIGHT. I dropped all the pregnancy weight and just kept going. I have it written down somewhere but can't find it, but I lost something like 15 pounds past my pre-pregnancy weight. (I got it all back later.) It was like I couldn't keep up. It was fun to see what it would be like to be one of those actresses who says she has to work to keep her weight up.

February 19, 2010

Still More Twin Questions and Answers

Nellyru: "Did the nasty ultrasound tech change her tune at all when she knew she was going to be the one to tell you something exciting?"

She softened slightly, but she stayed brusque. She was working in a fast, panicky way, pressing WAY too hard on the tum and saying things like, "SorryIDon'tHaveTimeToDoMorePicturesButHereAreAFew." We had to go give the results to the OB, and she walked so fast I literally couldn't keep up (I had two little kids with me) and got lost in the hallways. (For all my other ultrasounds I went to the hospital, even though the OB's office was more convenient. The scheduling nurse asked why, and in a rare moment of bravery I told her. That technician was too rough and brusque even when she WASN'T in a rush.)


Eleanor Q.: "Here's what I'm still wondering: How were the early days (months) different with the twins than it was when William was born? How did you have to adapt your 'bringing home baby/dealing with an older child' plan to the twins? How did you feed them? Did you schedule like crazy? Do you think the twins are closer to each other than their other siblings? Do you think that being a boy/girl set takes away some of the difficulty of establishing ones own identity that some twins have or does it not matter? Did you feel awesome when annoying strangers would say 'must be twins' and then you could retort 'actually, it is.'"

YES it was satisfying to say it was twins when strangers made what they thought was a joke! Or someone would say, "You must be due any minute!" and I'd say, "Not for another 3 months." Hee!

Bringing the twins home was easier than bringing William home. For one thing, William's homecoming gave me a toddler and a newborn, and I've written before about how difficult I think that combination is---but when I brought the twins home, I had a 4-year-old and a 6-year old. And during the pregnancy, I'd done some "Independence Training," mostly with Rob but some with William too: teaching them to wash themselves in the bathtub, teaching Rob to make easy breakfasts and lunches, teaching Rob to go get the mail, teaching them both to put on their own seatbelts, teaching William to get himself dressed. So when I was stuck in a chair nursing the twins and feeling half-crazed with all the things I needed to be doing instead, I could set Rob and William in motion like two little Roombas: "Clear the breakfast dishes, please. Now Rob take those letters out to the mailbox and put the flag up. William, can you please get me more water? Now both of you please pick up the toys on the floor." It was much slower and less efficient than I would have done it, but it was GETTING DONE.

Another thing we did differently: we put a bassinet out in the living room. Instead of having to FREAK OUT that if we let the baby cry the toddler would wake up (newborn William had shared a room with toddler Rob), we had a whole different set-up. If one or both twins needed to cry a bit, the crying was still stressful but at least not because it might wake up the other children.

We didn't need to buy much for the twins: not only did we have a bunch of stuff already, but when people found out we were having twins they donated all kinds of things: a second crib, a second bassinet, a second swing, a ton of clothes. We did buy two La-Z-Boy recliners and those were the best and most practical purchases we made. Each of us could rock a twin in comfort, and the recliners were comfortable to sleep in if it came to that and it often did.

I mostly tandem-nursed the twins, mostly using a twin nursing pillow my cousin gave me. I would put the twins on the couch, then strap the pillow on, then scoop up a twin in each arm, then sit and arrange. It took a minute or two, but once we were all arranged I had my hands free to read or do Sudoku puzzles or whatever. It was so awesome and I highly recommend it to anyone planning to try breastfeeding twins.


The only downside is that it was hard to doze with it on, because the back-support pillow kept me so upright. So sometimes at night I would settle into the recliner instead, with regular bedpillows and throw pillows arranged to support the babies. The problem is that this usually resulted in all three of us waking up in the recliner in the morning.

With twins, you don't have to switch sides mid-feeding as you do with a single baby. Some books recommend switching each feeding (Baby A on the right with this feeding but on the left with the next feeding) to keep things balanced; other books recommend keeping each baby to his/her own side so each baby can regulate his/her own supply. I switched in the beginning, but one baby REALLY PREFERRED to nurse on a particular side so eventually they each had their own side pretty much.

I also did some one-at-a-time nursing, and then I would switch mid-feeding and use the cradle hold and a regular pillow (rather than the football hold and the twin nursing pillow).

I didn't do any scheduling per se, but I did keep a rigid RECORD. I had a legal pad where I wrote down EVERYTHING: nursing times and lengths and sides, diaper changes and contents, baths and shampoos and cradle cap treatments, and any medications I was taking. Otherwise I seriously couldn't remember which baby I'd changed or how long it had been. After a long time (months? many months? I can't remember anymore) I stopped keeping track of diapers and nursing lengths and baths, but I still kept track of feeding start-times/sides until they were weaned. I also used it to keep track of when I introduced which solids.

I do think the twins are closer than any other two siblings in our family, but I think a lot of it is being the same level of development. It'll be interesting to see what happens when they're all adults.

Yes, I think being boy-girl twins helps HUGELY with the identity thing. I'd go so far as to say it's barely been an issue. When they were teensy it was easy to dress them in the blue/pink versions of the same outfit/jacket/hat and I did that a lot---but as soon as they were out of baby sizes, it became difficult and we stopped doing it.



Safire: "Aww...this is taking me back 2 years to my own twins' birth. Those first weeks home from the hospital were killer but I feel like I'm coming out of it now. Yes, 2 years later! When did you feel like you had a handle on things and then, when did you have another?! My hubby really wants another baby but I'm not sure I can wrap my head around that yet."

I'm not sure when I got a handle on it. I feel like I mostly have a handle on it NOW, but.... I mean, FIRST I felt like things started going way better when I wasn't nursing them so often. Then it seemed like things were better when they could sit up and play---but that was so quickly followed by MOBILITY, which was WAY WORSE. Then it was about 2 years before they reached their current stage of being relatively easy.

I've read that the average spacing between singleton babies is 2-point-something years, but that the average spacing between twins and the next baby is 5 years. We had an unexpected pregnancy when the twins were 15 months old, which resulted in another baby just before the twins' 2nd birthday. It worked out okay, but it was too close: I think it would have been way better with a 4-year spacing like we had when the twins were born. As it was, I had the Newborn Plus Toddler problem, but with TWO toddlers---ACK.

OMG.


Still, we did get through it (the toddler/newborn thing, I mean), and now I'm glad Edward has a boy just 2 years younger than him to play with. (If Henry had been a girl, I would have been glad for Elizabeth.)

More next time!

February 18, 2010

More Twin Questions and Answers

Sahara: "What did you do about the car/car seat situation? How did specific people (MIL! William!) react? Did you know you would get one boy and one girl ahead of time?"

We bought a used Toyota Sienna minivan, and the process was way smoother than I'd feared: we got an online car loan from the same place that did our mortgage, went to the Toyota place with the blank check, looked at the four used minivans they had, test-drove the one that seemed like the best combination of age/mileage for our needs, and filled out the blank check and bought it. I'd been VERY FRETFUL about getting ripped off (this was our first time buying a car from anyone other than my parents), and what I found most comforting was my friend Astarte saying something like, "Just assume you WILL get ripped off a little bit, and go choose one and get it over with."

For the car seats, I first decided on the double stroller: once I'd chosen the Graco DuoGlider, I bought the pattern I liked best out of those that were locally available and then bought two Graco SnugRide car seats that matched.

...Ha ha ha! Do you see how easy I make that sound? What actually happened was that I read and re-read the Consumer Reports information about both car seats and strollers. Every time I saw a mother with a twin stroller I stopped her and asked her what she thought of it. Then I fretted and Fretted and FRETTED about whether to get a side-by-side or a front-and-back: both had advantages and disadvantages. I finally chose the front-and-back, mostly because the infant carseats could click into it and then later it could be used as a regular double stroller. Then there was a terrific month-long $50-off-plus-free-umbroller sale at a big baby/toy store, but they were out of stock on the stroller all month and no rainchecks (because it was on "any stroller over $100"---not the specific stroller) so I agitated about THAT. Then I wasn't sure AT ALL about the pattern, and I didn't want to choose until I knew if I was having boys or girls or one of each, and when I found out I was having a boy and a girl I wondered if I should NOT match the fabric pattern so that I could choose a girly-patterned seat for Elizabeth. And then all the local stores carried different patterns, but some of them didn't carry the coordinating stroller and ACK!! I think I finally just CHOSE, mostly to be done with it, and I went with matching car seats so I could use either seat for either baby. I think that made them look more obviously like twins, as it turned out.




Reactions. Rob and William were with me when I found out I was expecting twins, and I was all emotional and they were like "Oh really? Huh." I emailed Paul and he emailed back "NO WAY!" and I emailed back "WAY!" He was really happy about it; he likes twins too. My mother-in-law was pretty excited and happy. Most of the people I emailed were satisfyingly "!!!!" about it. The best reactions were from the other moms at Rob's kindergarten: they were screaming and laughing and hugging and getting teary-eyed, and every time another mom arrived they were all like "GUESS WHAT?!?!" The teachers were trying to get class started and we were all still jumping up and down in the coats area.

Yes, we found out ahead of time that we were having a girl and a boy. Because I was expecting twins, I had an ultrasound every 6 weeks. I'd had a quick one at 13-14 weeks, but had the first real one at 18 weeks. I was VERY EAGER to find out, and VERY DISAPPOINTED when they couldn't tell. The first technician said maybe Baby B was a girl, but she couldn't see Baby A at all. She called in the head technician, and she said she thought maybe Baby B was a boy but she couldn't see Baby A at all.

The next ultrasound was at 24 weeks, and this time the first technician guessed Baby A was a girl and Baby B was a boy, and the head technician guessed the same---but both of them would only give about a 70% chance that Baby A was a girl. They were both much more certain about Baby B being a boy. So I didn't take it as a For Sure at all, but I did start looking more at boy/girl name combinations.

At the 30-week ultrasound, the technicians used the word "definitely": one boy and one girl.



Tess: "I want to know about twin DYNAMICS. Like, is Edward closer to his TWIN, or to the other boys? Do you think twins born as MIDDLE children are less twin-y than only twins or oldest twins?"

So far, Edward is closest to Elizabeth because they're the same developmental stage. BUT, he also spends a lot of time with Rob, because the two of them both like video games so much. I think twins are probably just as twinny whatever their birth order, but that boy-girl twins are the least twinny of all the possibilities. I wouldn't say we "forget" they're twins, but sometimes the thought of it surprises us anew. Part of it is that their personalities are so different. They seemed most twinny when they were babies, and they're starting to seem twinny again now that they tell clerks about it ("We're both four! We're TWINS!") and now that I'm registering them for school.



Jess: "Do twins run in either of your families? Or were they just a total surprise?"

One of Paul's cousins has a set of identical twins, but the theory is that fraternal twins are only from the mother's family tree: as I remember reading somewhere, "No man's sperm can make a woman ovulate twice." A family tendency to fraternal twins is actually a tendency for the women in the family to ovulate more than once per cycle.

My great-grandfather was part of a boy-girl twin set, and there was another set of boy-girl twins in that sibling group. So my great-grandfather was a carrier of multiple-ovulation genes, and he passed those to my grandfather, and my grandfather passed them to my mother (who might have had twins if she'd had more pregnancies), and my mother passed them to me. There are a couple other sets of fraternal twins from other branches of that same family tree.

But they were still a total surprise. For one thing, I didn't know at the time that my great-grandfather had been a fraternal twin. I would have said no, twins didn't run in our family. For another thing, even if I'd known, I wouldn't have guessed I'D actually HAVE twins (even my great-great grandmother, who had two sets of boy-girl twins, had another seven pregnancies that were singleton births), though I might have hoped with more realistic fervency.


More next time!

Reminder about $200 Gift Card

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February 17, 2010

Twin Birth, and Going Home

MORE twin pregnancy talk? OKAY!

Linda: "Now where is the birth story? And the difficulties of the first few months?"

I had the twins via c-section---not because they were twins, but because I have c-sections. I got to the hospital around 6:00 that morning, and they did the usual pre-c-section things like hooking up the IV. This was my third c-section so I was pretty calm about it. I got my hospital bracelet and they made TWO baby bracelets.

We went into the operating room and there were TWO of those newborn-processing stations, one labeled "A" and the other labeled "B." There were also more people than usual: I had two obstetricians and they each had a nurse, plus there was the anesthesiologist, plus the pediatrician, plus a representative from the NICU just in case, plus a couple more nurses to assist the pediatrician, plus one nurse to go back and forth. I would describe the atmosphere as "serious party": everyone was cheerful but focused. Once the babies were born safe and well, the seriousness went way down and there was whooping and joking around and people were placing bets on how much the babies weighed. The APGARS were, if I remember right, 9 at the first check and 10 at the second. It was so funny to hear TWO sets of pitiful indignant wails.

My mom was in the operating room with me so I have a ton of good pictures of the births, but all involve a fair amount of blood so let's skip that and go to the part where I get a good look at Elizabeth:


My brother and my sister-in-law-to-be came up for the birth, and Rob and William were there with Paul, and my dad was there too, so when my mom followed the twins to the newborn nursery there were a lot of people waiting for that parade. We set up a jigsaw puzzle in my room and there was lots of happy hanging out over the next couple of days, putting puzzles together and holding babies.

My parents brought three helium balloons for each bassinet, pink for Elizabeth's and blue for Edward's, and that looked very amusing as they were being pushed up and down the halls.



The first day, the nurse asked if I wanted to learn to tandem nurse and I said not yet. The first night was awful: all night long, I was nursing one baby while listening to the other one cry. The second day, I learned to tandem nurse and things were much improved: both babies could nurse at the same time, and whoever finished first was still getting held. But I still had a hard time because I would fall asleep whenever I nursed and I didn't feel like I could safely hold both twins that way. The second night I was up until 3:45 with no sleep yet; I finally had the nurses take them, and they had to come back 45 minutes later because they were hungry. The "this can't be done" feeling was OFF THE CHARTS.

During the day I went to sleep whenever the babies did; this is the nice thing about being in the hospital. Plus, the nurses brought me food: french toast, fruit cups, chicken ranch wraps, turkey sandwiches, milk, warm chocolate chip cookies. (Journal entry from the day we went home: "We're home. I've had four cries already, mostly over no one bringing me chicken ranch roll-ups and chocolate chip cookies." Next day's entry: "Paul has gone to the store for ingredients for chicken ranch wraps and fruit cups.")

Lots of fuss was made over the twins' size. The pediatrician said he'd never cared for such a large set of twins; several nurses said the same thing. One nurse said, "Gestational diabetes, right?" like she knew that was the explanation (it wasn't---they were just nice and big). You wouldn't think twins would cause a fuss in a hospital, but they did. People from other departments even stopped by "to see the twins." When Paul was out in the hallways he said he'd hear nurses saying "We've got twins in room 20!"

Time to go home.
(NO PLEASE DON'T MAKE ME! ONE MORE CHICKEN WRAP FOR THE ROAD AT LEAST!)



Loading into the car.
(PLEASE RECONSIDER! I'LL DO DISHES, MOP FLOORS, ANYTHING! LET ME STAY!)



Bouquet of twins in their bassinet at home.


In some ways it was easier once the twins were home. It's nice to have nurses around, but it can get uncomfortable to be monitored, and to have people coming in and out all the time, and to keep having to prove via bracelet code that your babies belong to you. And my own recliner was a better tandem-nursing station than the wooden-armed chairs of the hospital room; I slept in the recliner with them.

Plus, I'd lost 50 pounds in 8 days. I was feeling a lot better.


In other ways it was much, much harder: I couldn't nap all day as I had in the hospital, and there were two other children, and housework loomed and oppressed, and I had to take them to the pediatrician instead of having the pediatrician stop by on his rounds.



It helped that after two other babies Paul and I had finally worked out our New Baby system, so he was bringing me food, and neither of us were panicking at my moodiness, and we had a changing station set up in the living room, and we knew how to take care of babies in general. But I still got overwhelmed: I'd start by wondering if I'd ever get around to stamping the twins' footprints in my journal, and it was not long before I was thinking about how I'd end up estranged from my grown children because of my poor parenting skills.

Look at the clever leg arrangement.


It also helped that I had a friend with twins. The best advice she gave me was to leave the camera somewhere obvious and take a lot of pictures because otherwise I wouldn't remember anything about the first few months. The best advice I got from a twin parenting book was to consider SURVIVAL the only goal. Both of these pieces of advice are applicable to singleton births, too. Neither piece was helpful in the middle of the night when one twin wouldn't wake up to nurse, and then DID wake up as soon as the other twin was nursed and tucked back into the bassinet.

Okay, that's enough for now. I'll do the other questions next!

February 16, 2010

Reader Question: Twin Pregnancy

Sahara writes:
I think I remember you saying that you originally started your blog thinking that it was going to be about raising twins, yes? But I don't think I've ever heard you describe your pregnancy with the twins. You know, how did you find out there were two in there? What were your immediate thoughts/how did that change (if at all)? That kind of thing. If you're at all interested, I'd love to hear about that!

It is unwise to ask a woman about her pregnancy unless you don't have anywhere else to be that day.

Okay! I will tell you about the twins, and about that pregnancy, and so forth, and I will try---TRY---not to go on so long that everyone goes off for a drink refill and never manages to make it back.

I found out at a routine appointment, when I was nearly 14 weeks along. The obstetrician couldn't find a heartbeat, and he said he'd really like to have an ultrasound done. They had an ultrasound machine/technician in-office, so I went to the waiting room and spent 45 minutes trying to think about how VERY NORMAL it could be not to hear a heartbeat at 14 weeks. VERY NORMAL. Even though they'd heard it at 10 weeks with my other pregnancies. NORMAL.

The technician called me in, and she was brusque and unpleasant: she was already overbooked, and I was the third unscheduled patient an OB had sent her that morning, so she was in a hurry and acting crabby. She found the heartbeat almost right away, and I was so relieved. But then she kept taking measurement after measurement after measurement, and I was puzzled because she was only supposed to check for the heartbeat, and I knew she was in a hurry so why was she doing all this extra stuff? Since she was looking anyway, I said, "Is it too early to tell if it's a boy or a girl?" and she said, "Hang on...hang on...in a minute I'll have something to tell you..." I couldn't tell from her tone if she was answering my question or if she had some bad news about the baby. Then she said, "It's twins." I started laugh-weeping right away.


I know it's hard to see ultrasounds, so here is is again with some helpful lines added. The babies were both facing away and I've drawn them facing towards, but it'll give the GIST anyway:


I was soooooooooo excited and happy. I'd WANTED twins---but then again, I'd also wanted to win the lottery but I'd never thought either one would ACTUALLY HAPPEN.

I went home and emailed everyone I knew. Then I took Rob to kindergarten and told everyone there. Then I went home and started panicking about needing a minivan. Seriously, that was my PRIMARY CONCERN: the stress of buying a car.

I found the whole pregnancy much more stressful than my first two, but also much more exciting. Everyone had been kind of "Oh, how nice" about the third pregnancy---until I found out it was twins, when everyone hit the ceiling. I don't think there was even as much fuss about my first pregnancy as there was about the twin pregnancy.

But I was constantly worried that something would go wrong. I felt like I now had three times as much worry: not just worry about "the baby," but worry about "Baby A" AND "Baby B" AND "the twinness." I was worried that something would happen to one baby, and I'd lose not just that baby but also the twinness of the babies---and plenty of people told me stories about this happening. I also worried about prematurity.

Oh, and I was soooooo uncomfortable. I was close to full-term size at the beginning of the third trimester (at 28 weeks I measured 36 weeks) and I was so discouraged about how long there was to go. I was so tired I used to need to lie down for awhile after taking a shower. I took a nap with William almost every day while Rob was in kindergarten. By 30 weeks I had to stand sideways at the sink to do the dishes because my tum was too big to reach around, and I found it very difficult to walk even from one end of the mall to the other. I started sleeping semi-upright in a recliner because it hurt too much to lie down. I felt crampy and contractiony every time I walked. The babies hurt me when they moved. My legs swelled up from my hips to my toes; I bought backless slip-on shoes 2 sizes larger than my usual size. My ribs felt cold and painful. I outgrew maternity pants a month before the birth and had to wear men's drawstring pajama pants. Every evening I couldn't believe we were only one day closer. It was like the last couple intolerable weeks of pregnancy, but for three months.

This is the night before they were born: 38-1/2 weeks.


And here they are on the outside at last. Elizabeth was born first, 8 pounds 2 ounces; Edward was born second, 7 pounds 4 ounces. No wonder I was a little uncomfortable.

February 13, 2010

Things I Imagine God Saying

"I don't care who started it."

"No, I don't want to hear any more tattling. You just worry about YOUR behavior and let ME worry about HIS."

"You can tell me what he's doing if he's bleeding or on fire."

"What is it now? Did I carve it in stone? No? Then find something else to do or I'LL find something. Listen, I need to get some WORK DONE today, and I CAN'T if you keep BOTHERING me."

"I am truly glad when you take into account what I might or might not condone, but it doesn't matter one half of one rat's buttular region what YOU condone---or, even less important, MIGHT APPEAR TO condone. Are you the parent here? No. So are you in charge? No."

"I SAID NO MORE TATTLING!!! That's it, go clean your room!"

February 12, 2010

Reusable Pads: The Long-Delayed Update

I have been meaning to give you an update on the reusable pad situation for AGES.

The short version: It's going great and I love them.

The long version: What I did was, I ordered 1 or 2 pads from each of a bunch of Etsy sellers. I didn't know what I was doing AT ALL and just tried to get an assortment of sizes and shapes. After trying them out I discovered my favorite type was long, hourglass-shaped, waterproof layer, stitched all around. My top favorites are the regular pads and long liners sold by SugarMonkies.

Here is what surprised me: I PREFER the cloth pads. I would RATHER use them. I'd thought I was making a Noble And Laudable Sacrifice For The Environment, but it turns out I like the cloth ones BETTER and would now choose them even if they were WORSE for the environment. Disposable pads are to cloth pads as disposable underwear is to cotton underwear: the cloth pads are so comfy and nice. This is not the way I'd expected things to be.

If you think you might interested in trying pads but you have reservations and concerns, what I suggest is buying just one or two. When I was considering switching, I got all overwhelmed about it---like, I must CHOOSE THE BEST KIND and then I must BUY A FULL EXPENSIVE SUPPLY and then I must COMMIT TO A STRANGE NEW WASHING ROUTINE, and then what if I don't like them after all, OH WHAT THEN?? So I kept wringing my hands and putting it off. But there is no need to rush and/or commit. Take it slowwwwww.

Last time we talked, a few people mentioned the problem of not wanting to carry home used pads from work or a long day out of the house. Dear me, no, I wouldn't want to either. You can use the cloth pads at home and the disposable kind when you're out, or whatever combination works for you. There is no need to Fully Convert.

Same with Flow Issues: if you try a cloth pad and find them Insufficient (though I've found the ones with a waterproof layer to be the same sufficiency as disposables), you could use disposables early on and cloth later when things lighten up.

Perhaps you hate pads and only use tampons? Then cloth pads are not for you: they are a substitute for disposable pads. If you use a little liner with your tampon or in the last days of your period, though, there are little cloth liners available.

And perhaps you hate the whole idea and don't want to try it or think about it and in fact right now you have the squeemies and feel like you need to go wash your hands? Dude, you will not hear WORD ONE from me about it. Each of us does the mix of Good For The Environment stuff that makes the most sense for our individual situations, and just because this one makes sense for me doesn't mean I think it makes sense for you. Look at all the good stuff YOU do that I don't do.

There are lots of ways to wash them, so I picked the one that most appealed to me. I start by buying the pads in medium or dark colors, which helps tremendously. I rinse each one in cold water, then wring it out and put it in a net lingerie bag hanging in the bathroom closet. When the bag is full I put them in a low, cold load of wash with a cup of vinegar and a full load's worth of detergent, and I let them swish on the vigorous cycle and then soak for a few hours or overnight. Then I set the water level on high and add other clothes to make a full load and then run it. Some people line-dry them; I put them through the dryer. If they don't get completely dry, I put them in again with the next load of clothes I'm drying.

**********

Edit to add some questions from the comments section:

-R- asks:
How do they stay in place? They look like they might snap underneath?
-R-- Yes, all the ones I use have little wings that snap together on the other side.

Jessica asks:
1. when they snap around the crotch, do they slide from front to back? without adhesive like disposables is this a problem?
2. cleaning: is it kind of icky to rinse out or no big deal. Do you use your bare hands and your bathroom sink (I assume you would)?
3. Does Paul mind seeing the used-awaiting-laundry bag (see-through mesh I assume) when he opens the closet?
Jessica-
1. They do slide a little. I generally adjust each time I go to the bathroom. This is one reason I prefer pads that are on the LONG side, and also why I prefer the hourglass shape, which seems to slide less.

2. The first time I had to rinse one I felt kind of RESISTANT about it, but then it turned out to be no big deal. Yes, I use bare hands and bathroom sink.

3. He doesn't mind the bag in the closet (it's with the linens and spare bathroom supplies, so he rarely goes in there), but he doesn't like to find a pad soaking in the sink. I guess I wouldn't either, if it were someone else's pad.

Ashley asks:
I go through several pads in a day (I like tampons at night), so does than mean I'd need the same amount of reusables a day? Do they last longer or do they get gross fast?
Ashley- I find I go through about the same number of reusable as I did disposable. At first I was going to count and compare so I'd know for sure, but it turned out I was too forgetful to keep track. They're less stainy and easier to rinse out if you change them more often.

Wendy asks:
I find myself balking at the prices. Since you have researched this, what links offered the cheapest options?
Wendy- One thing I like about SugarMonkies is that her shipping is only $1.50, which is nice if you're just trying one pad or if you're buying a lot. She takes 10% off custom orders of three or more, which is nice if you decide to use them and start stocking up. Her prices are also the most reasonable to begin with. Randumosity has free shipping on sale pads, so that's like a deal on top of a deal, and also you get one free if you buy three---so I would buy three sale pads, get a fourth sale pad free, AND get free shipping. I also had some success buying "seconds" from various sellers---pads that work just fine but that had little stitching errors. That's kind of hit-and-miss, though---when I was first buying pads I found three or four of them, but I did a quick search now and didn't find much.

********

But the MOST IMPORTANT POINT here is that the cloth pads are WAY CUTER. And most sellers do custom orders, so you can pick the fabrics you like best.


SugarMonkies (my favorites):








Randumosity:







Epicerma:


February 10, 2010

What to Feed a Barfing Child

Would you like to hear some advice? ---This, by the way, is how my mom prefaces advice, and I recommend it for mothers of grown daughters. I always say yes, but it establishes that I have the OPTION to say no (note: this only works if the mother does not go right on with the advice even if the daughter says no) and that I also have the option to completely reject said advice and that she REALIZES all this, which puts down my natural daughterly defenses. Also, it allows me to make some pre-advice requirements, such as "Only if it's NOT ____" or "Yes, but I want to warn you that I am feeling PRICKLY about this."

Hm. In this format it works less well, because you can't say yes or no and I know it, and because I'm going to tell you anyway, and also because you can't make pre-advice requirements. ...I'll come in again.

Hey, I have some advice! Feel free to disregard it and/or modify it to your own requirements, of course! But here it is! Don't feed a barfy child!

This is a lesson we learned with Child One, but we have had to relearn it occasionally. The child seems so ILL, and he/she has been throwing up all his/her nourishment so it seems like he she MUST EAT or surely he/she will be in MORTAL DANGER! But no. Our children have occasionally declined food for DAYS and never even look thinner.

Of course I don't mean DEPRIVE the child of food if the child WANTS food. But our error is always trying to tempt or even COERCE the non-hungry, non-food-wanting child into eating because we feel in our panicky parental way that it is necessary to sustain life. This just makes more work and suffering (i.e., barfing) for everyone.

The very minute the first barfing occurs, we stop all dairy, meat, citrus, and fibrous produce. No pudding, no yogurt, no milk, no cheese, no chicken, no oranges, no orange juice, no grape/apple/etc. skins, no pineapple or whatevs. All those things make barf WAY worse than it has to be. We feed from this list:
  • apple juice
  • water
  • applesauce
  • bananas
  • saltines
  • graham crackers
  • rice cereal for babies, Rice Chex for older kids
  • toast with the tiniest bit of butter and/or jam and/or peanut butter
A child who has thrown up has to wait ten minutes to have anything to drink, and then they get water or apple juice in small amounts with breaks in between to be gentle to the recovering tummy. After thirty minutes they may try something small to eat (one saltine, for example), and then they have to wait twenty minutes before they can have anything else---again, to be respectful to the sensitive tummy. After 24 hours of no throwing up, they can go back to regular foods.

Obviously this is not a good and balanced diet for long-term use: we use it only for the kind of barfing that lasts 1-3 days, gradually improves rather than worsens, and doesn't give us any reason to call in a doctor. And NONE of this is for babies who are still breastfeeding or bottlefeeding---this is all for older children. And OBVIOUSLY I am not any kind of medical professional (I have to think first in order to correctly use a toy stethoscope). But this is the Barf Plan we implement at our house, and it has greatly reduced the Barf Distress around here.

February 9, 2010

Misc.

The winner of the box of misc. Valentine's stuff is The Princess of Quite a Lot! Email me, sweet girl, and I will get this stuff on its way to you. Swistle! at! gmaildotcom!

Elizabeth's hair is driving me batty. It is SO flyaway, and then she leaps around and rubs her head on the couch so she gets this NEST OF IMPOSSIBLE on her head. I try putting it in barrettes or ponytails, but her hair is so fine even the extra-grippy-for-fine-hair barrettes come right out---or worse, half out, so her hair is flyaway AND has things caught in it. I've tried detangling sprays and anti-frizz conditioners, but either they don't work or they make her hair feel like there's chalk dust in it.

Henry threw up last night. And before that, he and I and Elizabeth and Edward all shared a straw at Burger King. So. But what I'm HOPING, since there have been no further Incidents since last night, is that like Elizabeth he barfs when he has a fever (he had a fever last night) and it doesn't necessarily mean anything about a stomach virus.

Today I am in the mood for TREATS. I am having hazelnut-creamered coffee and Nutella'd bread right now, and I'm thinking of pizza for lunch. Then perhaps I'll bake cookies. YES I am on the reminder week of the Pill, WHY DO YOU ASK.

I bought the most. beautiful. dishes at Target. So, so beautiful. Here are my breakfast dishes, before I added the Nutella bread:


Furthermore, they were 75% off. I liked them at full price, when they were $60 for 4 place settings. I wavered at half-price, and even went back a second time to waver some more. But when they were $14.98 they went home with me. I lovvvvvvvvvve them.

February 6, 2010

Embedded Comment Form Not Working

Ack, the comment form. Several of you have emailed me about the embedded comment form not working for you, and don't worry, you're definitely not the only one. I'm not very computery, but I have two suggestions that have solved the problem for some people:

1. Make sure you're waiting for the word verification. The word verification isn't visible as you're commenting, but after you click to leave the comment the page reloads and then the word verification is there. So if your computer is slow or if the internet is being wonky, you could click out of the page without realizing you hadn't filled out the word verification yet, and the comment would seem to have been eaten.

2. Switch browsers. I find I can't do some comment forms in Safari but if I switch to Firefox they work fine.


Has anyone found any other tricks that worked?


I WAY prefer the pop-up comment form, which seems to work better for most people. But! Blogger doesn't let me see/block the IP addresses of commenters, and that's been making me want to switch to another blogging platform. Luckily I am married to a computer guy, and he spent, like, two full free evenings writing me a program that I could use with the Blogger platform to see IP addresses---but, sadly, it only works with the embedded form.

The happy news is that it turns out that four of my most contemptuous and presumptuous commenters are THE SAME PERSON! Yes! So I'd thought my foes were legion, but it's just one person and I'm pretty sure I could take her in a fight. (I bite!) Unfortunately Paul couldn't figure out a way to BLOCK the IP address, so it's possible I'll switch to a new platform after all, but that may take me years to get around to doing and in the meantime it's nice to know how far away the meanies live.

Review: Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)

Tess of True(ish) Story recommended a book to me: Mistakes Were Made (But Not By ME): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts, by Carol Travis and Elliot Aronson. If you like books about why people act the way they do, you will eat this up.

I found it both stress-relieving and stress-inducing. On one hand, it explains in a way that makes perfect sense why someone will defend an illogical position and will continue to do so as if they can't even hear the good arguments against it, and this may relieve some of your frustration and bewilderment. On the other hand, it points out that you do the same kind of thing.

On one hand, it explains why your friend talked about how awesome her marriage was until the day she changed her tune and talked only about how much it has always sucked and was never right. On the other hand, it points out that you do the same kind of thing.

On one hand, it explains why politicians will make COLOSSAL errors and NEVER admit it. On the other hand, it points out that you do the same kind of thing.

I appreciated the kind and understanding tone of the book. It's not saying "You idiots!," it's saying that what people do is absolutely natural and understandable. It even defends people who seem to be lying, saying they're NOT lying---they actually believe what they're saying to be true.

The problem is that once you understand the authors' idea, you will wonder how to make OTHER PEOPLE see the situation. And as the authors point out, there isn't any way to do that. The best you can do is try to reduce your OWN tendencies to justify your wrong actions/arguments, and that is a little unsatisfying when you've just been led to see how wrong the actions/arguments of OTHERS are. Perhaps you could buy them all a copy of this book for Christmas.

February 5, 2010

Valentine's Day Giveaway

OH CRAP. I mean, Hi! Guess what? When I was getting out the baby girl clothes for the giveaway I just chose winners for, I found the giveaway I meant to do for Valentine's Day. I mean, it's not too late, it's more that having two giveaways back to back feels like it would be pretty boring, especially if you win neither one.

Well, poor planning, failure to anticipate, lost track of what month it was, etc., etc., let's get on with it. It's winter anyway and that's a good time to get packages in the mail, and I continue to crave the mood boost of sending packages in the mail.

Last year I did a shopping post about my clearance Valentine's Day haul, and I got some extras of that stuff thinking it would make a good Valentine's Day giveaway for the next year. Which it sure would! Assuming you like pink and red clearance heart crap! Which I DO, very much!

I liked Valentine's Day so much more when I was single, by the way. I liked to celebrate it in that pleasingly morose way where you buy a big heart-shaped box of chocolates and a large pepperoni pizza and you eat them all by yourself while watching John Cusack and/or Hugh Grant movies. Awwww yeahhhhh.

Now I like it for the candy and cute decorative items I buy on clearance afterward.

Anyway! This box is a jumble of misc. Valentine's Day stuff. There are some plastic plates as shown in that shopping post, and one of the bird coffee mugs so I really hope it doesn't break. Heart/bird dishtowels and heart coasters. Heart/bird/owl/turtle paper napkins. Oven mitts in heart pattern and in pink/red stripe. Lovey-dovey googly-eye heart stickers. Oh, you don't want to scroll alllll the way up and click allll the way through to that post? I understand. Here are some photos:





(That is the WHOLE HEAP of towels/mitts, which I've since reduced significantly for my own use and in other care packages.)

So anyway, that is the gist! Package of Valentine's Day stuff! Mailed to you from me! I hope in time for any morose sitting-around you might have planned!

You have to have a U.S. (or APO/FPO) mailing address for me to use (one of these days we are going to have to have a contest where NO ONE with a U.S. address is eligible, just to fair things up a bit), but that's it. Leave a comment saying whatever you want (Do you have Valentine's Day plans? Which do you like better, the color pink or the color red?) and I'll pick a winner on Tuesday the 9th so I can ship it Wednesday. Or perhaps it is not necessary to specify when I'm shipping it. Here, let me show you the hours my post office is open.

Winners!

It's Friday, and time to choose the winners of the "We Love The Children's Place but Their Policies are Getting Kind of Lame" Giveaway!

Winner One: Elizabeth of Princess Nebraska!

Winner Two: Manda of Feed Your Inner Fat Kid!

Both mentioned Set A, so I flipped a coin and it was tails and Elizabeth was tails.

Dudes, email me! (Swistle! at! gmail! dotcom!) I will get some cute baby girl clothes on their way to you!

February 2, 2010

Baby Gift Giveaway!

I was at The Children's Place on Saturday, because I had two $10-off certificates that expired that day and I was NOT about to waste those suckers. I was looking forward to it, because I knew there was a lot of stuff on sale, but then I got into a Loop of Despair: as I browsed the clearance stuff (which there was a TON of: my store usually sends their clearance stuff to an outlet store but this time they kept it in-store), I kept thinking, "Oh this is good!---but we really don't need another one, and in fact I should go through and donate some so the drawer will close."

Finally (and the word "finally" does not adequately convey how many laps I made around the store) I decided to buy the couple of clearance scraps I wanted plus two pairs of yoga pants for Elizabeth. The pants were 2/$18, which I consider wayyyyyy overpriced for thin sweatpants that routinely go on clearance for $2.99 (or, like, $1.24 at Target), but she COULD use them and I had to talk myself around to the idea that it was a matter of using up the free money and not having a cow about it.

I went to the register, and it turns out there is a new policy about those certificates: one per customer per visit (the certificates are purchase rewards, so this is irritating). The clerk, fortunately, was willing to buck this rule by ringing me up in two separate purchases so I could use both---but there was no way to divide my stuff to do that. I had the 2/$18 yoga pants which were $12 each if bought separately, and I had two $2.99 items. I could have done a pair of yoga pants separately and paid $2 for it, and then paid $8 for the other pair and the two clearance items, but I objected to spending $6 more for yoga pants I WAS BUYING two of, just because of the new coupon rule.

So I retreated to rethink. I made another lap around the store. And that is when I realized I was not able to spend the certificates on my own family in a way that would please me. I could buy things we didn't need. OR I could buy things that would make me mad about the "2-for" pricing and the "1 coupon" rule. But there was NO solution that would result in me coming home with things I needed AND a happy attitude.

So instead I bought things for YOU. I looked around, decided what would be most fun for me to buy (baby girl clothes, duh), and spent those two certificates right up. Things were on such good clearances ($.99-$2.99) I was able to get two nice little sets. And so now we are going to have a giveaway, which is good because I am still feeling wan and blue, and I find giveaways cheering.

Set A:
0-3 months flowered corduroy jumper with matching diaper cover
0-3 months pink bodysuit, crammed artlessly into jumper
0-6 months pink tights
0-3 months embroidered jeans
0-6 months two-pack of pink booties (one stripe, one solid)


Set B:
0-3 months embroidered denim jumper with matching diaper cover
0-3 months pink bodysuit, crammed artlessly into jumper
0-6 months pink tights
3-6 months pink velour pants with cat face on rear
6-12 months pink velour hat with ears
0-6 months two-pack of pink booties (one stripe, one solid)


You are eligible to enter if you have a U.S. mailing address (your own or the address of the person you want me to send the stuff to) AND one of the following applies:

1. You are pregnant with a baby girl right now.

2. You had a baby girl about 5 minutes ago (most of the stuff is 0-3 months and that gets outgrown fast).

3. A close friend or family member is pregnant with a baby girl or had a baby girl about 5 minutes ago.

There are two packages so there will be two winners. I can ship the prize to you or I can ship it to someone you tell me to ship it to.

To enter, leave a comment telling me who would get the prize if your comment won. If you have a preference for one set over the other set, mention that too---you might still win the non-preferred set, but if I draw two names and there are preferences I can meet, that makes it even more fun (if both want the same set, I'll flip a coin). If you're not entering but just want to squeee over the baby clothes or vent about annoying "2-for" and "1 coupon" rules, feel free.

I'll choose the winners on Friday the 5th.

February 1, 2010

New Dishwasher

As of today, there is a dishwasher in my kitchen. My dad installed it this morning. I have put three (3) spoons in it already, but then I accidentally washed my salad bowl in the sink. Well, not accidentally per se, but it seemed like when it just had a few smudges of salad dressing in it and all I'd need to do is give it a quick swish in the sink it would be silly to waste all that space. All that space in my 3-spoons-containing dishwasher.

So this means that soon Paul and I will find out if we have any of those Couple Disagreements about how the dishwasher should be loaded! Or if either of us is a "pretend not to notice it needs unloading" person! Or if either of us is a "can't tell if dishwasher is clean or dirty" person! Considering it took us a decade to work out a good sink-washing system and we STILL sometimes have trouble with it, I am GIDDY with anticipation!