Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Found, while cleaning up and culling items from the playroom:

Two birthday candles (one pink, one blue), saved since Lila's birthday party in early June.

One handful of chestnuts and smallish rocks. Date of entry into the house is uncertain.

Numerous Stumptown "coffee cards." These are the little cards our coffee store uses to identify the type of whole bean coffee we've purchased. Ada believes they are very valuable, and has a sizable collection.

Two plastic hippo pellets from Hungry Hungry Hippos game. Retrieved from under bookshelf, probably lost in the spring when pellets were used as food for the dolls.

One baking powder container, empty of original contents but housing a mid-sized lumpy rock.

A plastic top to a yogurt container, an empty honey bear, an empty lemon juice bottle and several ribbons. To be fair, the bear and lemon juice have been part of her kitchen play, but having found them under the bookshelf I declared them no longer in active rotation and eligible for elimination.

random crap I collect
I wonder where she gets this penchant for collecting?

Monday, September 28, 2009

We May Need to Eat Our (Incredibly Soggy) Words

Chris and I have always been very anti-bib. Or rather, we have a long-standing practice of making derisive comments about people who put cloth bibs on their kids in order to catch drool.* The fact that Ada was not especially drooly cemented our belief that this all-day bib thing was pure parental vanity. Plus, if your kid was going to drool, didn't the use of a bib just create more laundry?

As recently as this weekend I stared in confusion at the bibs a friend included in a huge box of clothes her boys have outgrown. Should I put them in the drawer or take them to Goodwill? We wouldn't use them, right? But this morning Chris said, "I'm beginning to have more appreciation for why people put bibs on their kids. I've changed Ian's clothes three times today."

It was 10:04 am.

Ian had been up since 7, with an hour nap at 8.The boy is a drool machine.

We have not busted out the bibs yet. Thanks to the generosity of our friends and their hand-me-downs, we have a ton of baby clothes. But now I see the advantage of bibs. Instead of taking off a whole outfit and dealing with the attendant squirming and crying, you can quickly swap out a soaked bib with minimal fuss.  I get it, but I am still resistant because it just seems so fussy.

We'll see.

4 Months - take 5
Apropos of nothing, I finally got around to taking a 4 month picture. After 500 tries in which one kid wasn't smiling or wasn't looking at the camera or was drooling profusely, we got this one with them both at least kind of smiling. Don't be fooled into thinking Ian is reticent. We have a lot of photos in which Ian is smiling broadly while Mira stares at him in disbelief.

* I am a huge fan of the mealtime use of bibs made of oil cloth or plastic. We made heavy use of such bibs when Ada was a messier eater.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Random Quote and Unrelated Photo of the Week

beefy cakes in sf

Jesus died for our sins. All R. L. Stine did was make a book for us. That's the big difference.

Edwin (quoted by Rachel Aviv)
Like I Was Jesus

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

4 Months - Is it possible the trenches are getting less muddy?

All those well-wishers might actually be right
You know how everyone always says "it will get easier" and no matter how much you want to believe them you don't really feel it? That is, until it starts to get a little easier, which maybe it has. Life is still crazy, but we sleep for slightly longer stretches (and would more if Ian hadn't responded to sleep training with a giant infant "screw you" (suddenly deciding to wake a midnight after weeks of sleeping until 3am). Also, now that they have shown themselves ready for some more consistent nap scheduling, the babies are more fun to be around when they are awake.  

We see this all the time

Earlier this month my mother came to visit for two weeks to help me deal with the transition from having Chris around all the time to being with the kids without him. I learned that the problem is not so much being alone with the babies (though this is a challenge as at 3 months they were not yet sleep trained and thus not napping on their own) but being with the babies and Ada. Even when there is a second adult in the mix this is hard, and when I am with her and the babies I often end up in tears. This is fantastic for all parties concerned. Can't really respond to Ada's "Mama, why are you sad?" with "because you are driving me up a wall, kid."

Also earlier this month Ada got sick, which meant the babies got sick and finally I got sick. Chris managed to dodge the illness, but I licked his pillow and all the coffee mugs, so we'll see what happens. We also traveled to San Francisco for our friends' wedding. While I can now say that traveling with twin infants is possible and maybe even worthwhile, it is certainly not easy. People were very nice about the babies, from the flight attendant who (without me asking her to) reseated my cross-aisle neighbor so that Chris could sit by me, to the car rental woman who took one look at our babies and upgraded us to a bigger car. Or maybe she was looking at our pile of bags and crap. For a two day trip we had two checked bags, a breast pump, a double stroller (plus two car seats), a diaper bag and a purse. As crazy as it sounds for such a short trip, the stroller was totally worth bringing. We stayed in the Mission, where parking is iffy and strolling the carseats to the car and back was way better than shlepping them by hand. And speaking of nice, our brother-in-law Anthony gave up his apartment to us and camped out at a neighbor's while we were in town, which was especially kind given how busy he was that weekend. (He catered the night-before the wedding party.)

Mira, almost 4 months

I got carried away
While my mother was here I hired a mother's helper, to deal with the fact that I have two arms and one (tired) back, which is not enough body to carry around two 15 pound babies. I put an ad on Craigslist that got me a ton of responses, from a 13 year old girl to women with masters degrees and decades of infant care experience. (If I needed evidence of the impact of our crappy economy, I got it in the education level of some applicants.) Also, after we saw a woman wearing one while we were out to lunch, my mom got me a great new sling. This brings our baby conveyances up to 6 carriers and 4 strollers. (Chris has a sling and a baby bjorn and I have 2 slings, a borrowed moby wrap and an ergo carrier.)  This new one is a maya-wrap type made by an outfit in Los Angeles that makes their slings with great fabrics. Mine is a black and cream bamboo print with red on the reverse. Mira is sleeping in it as I type.

I can see you, and I know what you do (with apologies to Devo)
And where's Ian? Lying on a play mat, holding on to one toy while kicking another with his feet. Earlier this month the babies figured out that they could use those things at the end of their arms to grab and hit things, and wow was that a fun revelation for them. My mom, on seeing Ian do this: "I think he's very talented." No doubt.

Ian and Mira also finally started to really notice one another. Or rather, Ian finally started to notice Mira, and she responded by looking at him again. For a while at about 3 months, Mira was interested in Ian, who was oblivious to the attention. After repeated failed attempts to get his attention, Mira noticed she was getting nowhere with Ian and stopped trying to catch his eye. A couple of weeks later they both simultaneously turned to one another and liked what they saw. Much cooing and giggling ensued. The rest of us are highly amused by this and now place them face to face whenever we can. I found some used bumbo seats and sit them facing one another in them. Hey, it is adorable and if it buys us 5 uninterrupted minutes to eat breakfast, all the better.

Ian is Hilarious to Mira
Ian's hand-chewing is hilarious to Mira...

Ahhh, I've heard that one before
...that is, until she realizes he is a one-note

I spent the past month crossing the days off in anticipation of reaching Ian and Mira's 4 month mark. Then on Friday I realized we could just as well start sleep training them now instead of waiting for their actual anniversary date. We trained Ada with the "extinction" method (put the drowsy baby in bed and walk away, letting her cry for 45 minutes or until she gives up and goes to sleep). This worked well for her, and we "chose" this method in response to her having cried for HOURS in our arms. There is nothing like being inches from a writhing, screaming baby for extended periods to make sleep training seem like the easy choice. With Ian and Mira, we did not have the motivation of ceaseless crying. Wanting the babies to be able to soothe themselves, we have been using a less intense version of sleep training. Get the baby calm and droopy, place her in bed and then leave after snuggling and patting and all that. If the baby cries, wait five minutes before returning and doing whatever you have to calm her (including picking her up, rocking her, shushing, etc). Then put the once-again droopy baby back in bed. Now wait 10 minutes before responding to her cries. Then 15. The first night Mira fell asleep during the 10 minute round, Ian during the 15 minute. By the third night neither baby cried at all when put in bed. They just mootched around a bit and went to sleep. No doubt they are just setting us up for a fall. I hear twins like to conspire like that.

The boys

One important note on sleep training is that any success we are having is thanks to Chris. He is so much better at saying "hey, let's try this" without getting locked into what we have been doing and what could happen and and and. Before trying anything new I have to wring my hands and discuss options and fret a lot. I'm not saying I'm a failure as a parent, but Chris is so much better at this kind of parental problem solving than I am. It almost makes up for his tendency to leave his dirty socks around the house.

Thankfully, No
The other day Mira and I were at our local play space/swap group when I ran into a woman I'd met there before. She cooed at Mira and noted that the last time she'd seen me I had been pregnant. I said something like, well, I was pretty big, since I was carrying two. She looked at Mira and then looked stricken.

"Did the other one not make it?" she asked.

"No, he's with his father," I said, to her visible relief.

My first thought was that her question was an odd (and very Portland-y overly intimate) thing to say, but Chris reminded me of someone he knows who did suffer the loss of one of his twins. I think I have blocked out the memory of this man and his wife, both because it is scary to think about such things happening, but also because thinking of them reminds me that I was at one time jealous of them.
During one of our failed rounds of IVF we ran into this couple at the clinic. When Chris later told me that the wife was pregnant with twins, I felt sorry for myself, knowing we'd been going through the same thing at the same time. Now I wonder whether the woman might think of us and feel that same sadness. From my current vantage point, her loss seems immeasurably harder than mine, but thinking that does nothing for either of us.

I am not sure what I want to say about this. Maybe I'd better just go kiss my babies.

** * ** * ** * **

Overall, this month was a series of moments in which I was despondent followed by elated followed by despondent... Karen has reminded me that any moment is just that, and that I can expect a happy feeling to be followed by a hard one, and vice versa. Knowing this does not make those hard moments much easier to bear, but neither does it much dampen the good moments either.

Monday, September 21, 2009

In your face, Slovenia!

My mom sent me this video about the USA's rank (37) in the World Health Organization's ranking of countries' health systems. Sigh. Guess there is still work to be done, huh?

(To my British and Canadian friends: STOP LAUGHING. Some of us are trying, really.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I am not a shill (f)or a clown

(or: it is posts like this that may explain why I don't get a lot of offers from marketers)

I recently got an email from a marketing rep. inviting me to an event hosted by Ringling Brothers/Barnum and Bailey (you know, the circus people), targeting "mommy bloggers". The deal was: free pedicures and a chance to mix with the circus elephants.

At the time it seemed like a good idea to check it out. Tuesday was my first day with a new mother's helper and all three kids, and I did not have anything planned with which to distract Ada. When Ada gets bored, things go south quickly. So, despite my misgivings about mentioning to this new helper that I am apparently the target market for a mom blogger event (not to mention my pride at accepting an invite at the last minute), we all piled in the car to see the elephants.

The invitation did not note where exactly the event would be held. The email said "the Rose Garden" (the sports arena where the Trailblazers play) but did not mention exactly where in this vast sports and parking complex we should go. No problem, your intrepid mommy blogger played up this uncertainty as an adventure and Ada actually went along with my cheerful subterfuge.

clown feet
I love me some clown shoes

When we figured out where to go (we followed the clowns) the marketing executive recognized me right away (I'd written to her about shlepping my 3 kids along) and offered Ada a clown nose and circus coloring book. For her part, Ada only brightened up when she realized there were juice boxes and cookies for the taking. She wasn't entirely sure about the friendly clown who tried to chat her up. I think she doubted he was telling the truth about having a 5 year old son. She gave him a look that suggested she doubted whether clowns can really have children. I'll admit that I kind of wondered about this myself.

Ada confronts a clown

When it got close to time for the elephant to make an appearance, several protesters appeared with signs that read "Barnum Beats Elephants." I don't know the veracity of this claim, but the whole rest of the time I kept flashing to scenes from the novel Water for Elephants. I also recalled that Sarah had written about why she would not be taking her kids to the circus. No actual beating occurred in my presence and actually the elephant trainer seemed nice and interested in answering questions about the herd of Asian elephants it keeps. Frankly, I probably would have cared more about the protestors if they had not been holding PETA signs. I mean, I eat meat and wear leather shoes and have a family zoo membership, but I do care about animals getting beaten. But PETA has not won my heart with some of their tactics and campaigns (the whole holocaust campaign, for one). Nonetheless I felt my enthusiasm for the whole circus elephant show wane. It didn't help that it was very warm and sunny and Ian was squirmy in my arms. A lifelong vegetarian, he apparently doesn't like animal shows either.

 Larry and Asia
She was a cute elephant, and a big fan of watermelon

So let's just say that I am not planning on going to the circus this weekend. It is maybe a little because I am squicked that the marketing firm tried to buy cheap press from mommy bloggers for the price of some pedicures and juice boxes, and a little because the circus animal thing is a little worrisome, even if I am not yet totally convinced by PETA. I'm sure Ada would have a good time, but I think I'd be uncomfortable and unhappy and oh who knows, we just won't be going.

Actually, I am only a little bothered by the marketers. That's their job, right, even if they do it sort of transparently. But I was really squicked by a posting from another mom who'd been invited. I won't link to her post because I don't know her and don't want to be (too) rude. But seeing her post about her efforts of the past year to social market her ass off and how this was her reward and evidence of what a good blogger she was, it made me question why I went at all. I hope this other woman enjoyed the pedicure and cookies.

Oh, and I didn't end up getting a pedicure. It was too hot in the sun and Ian and Mira were too squirrelly to make it worth waiting for, free or not. The elephant did get one though, and I can say that her toenails now probably look a bit better than mine.

(I was totally amused that the snack table included a bowl of circus animal cookies. THAT was funny. It almost made up for the fact that the email inaccurately noted there would be "elephants" with an S. Maybe they were counting the ones in the cookies.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Walk the Walk

Did anyone else read this article? It is about how many parents won't allow their children to walk to school (or other places), even when the walk is as short as a block or two. Included in the article is a bit about a mom who let her 10 year old son walk a mile to soccer practice. Not only did several people call 911 to report a child walking alone, but the officer who found the kid drove him to the park (before chewing out the mom). I'm knocked out that (a) multiple people found the sight of a kid walking alone worrisome enough to report it to police, and (b) they called 911, the emergency number. The kid was 10, not 4.

This article busts into the fantasy I have had since we moved to this house that my children will get to walk themselves to school. We live 5 blocks from our local elementary. Of course I will be walking Ada to kindergarten, but will I be expected to walk her to and from school until she graduates from 8th grade? When Ian and Mira are ready for kindergarten Ada will be entering 4th grade. At what point can she escort them without me along for the stroll? Why couldn't a 4th grader walk her younger siblings to school?

The other thing that really bugs me is that refusing to let kids walk to local schools is an environmental nightmare. The article may have picked out really extreme cases to make a point about modern, fear-based parenting, but wow. A mom let her kid walk the five houses to a friend's place, only to have the kid driven home at the end of the play-date. Really? Driven? The host mom was what - too busy? Too lazy? to walk the length of five houses? (ok, so she could have dropped her off on her way to the grocery store, but really - five houses away?) All these parents who drive their children to school because they are afraid to let them walk are contributing to greenhouse gases out of fear that something will happen if they don't.

As a kid I walked to my best friend's house, which was 5 blocks away. But we also had the freedom to wander the neighborhood, from the residential streets right around our houses to the busy business strip near by and the even busier corner with the convenience store. I wasn't wandering the sidewalks alone at 5 or 6, but by 10 I had a fair measure of freedom. And - I lived in Los Angeles, not exactly small town America. Not to mention that my parents were pretty strict when compared with many of my friends and classmates.

Where you live, do kids walk to school? Do you consider it safe for children to walk alone to the park or school? How old is old enough to walk alone? How far is close enough?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sympathy for the Papa

Ada: Do you want a nap?

Me: Yes.

Ada: Why?

Me: Because the babies wake up every few hours and need to eat. So Papa and I need to change their diapers and feed them.

Ada: But Papa feeds them with a bottle. That's not much work.

Chris: I have to come all the way downstairs to get the bottles!

Ada: Down here? That's some work. I feel tired for you.

We had this conversation about a month ago. Things are better than they were then with regard to the night-waking, thankfully. That notwithstanding, Chris and I still want a nap.

Ada's motto is "no rest for the preschooler"

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Random Quote and Unrelated Photo of the Week

faces on belmont

If his soul isn't a chickpea or a sea urchin, then what is it? "I'm seeing a handpainted ceramic toad," Giamatti said. "A nice one, though. Not a crappy Chia Pet one. Something decorative for the yard. It doesn't pull the room together or anything, but it's out there, and occasionally you notice it and you say, 'Oh, I kind of like that thing, that -- what is it? -- that toad thing.'"

Tad Friend
Soul Man

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Lost and Found

Lost: my keys (house, bike lock, friends' houses). I might have left them at the coast, or they might be in the bottom of a diaper bag, or somewhere in the car. It has been more than two weeks.

Found: the shirts I thought I accidentally donated to Goodwill have resurfaced. I put them away when I got pregnant, but then forgot where. I searched all the closets several times and then gave them up for lost. This week while looking for something else in the closet I thought, "hmm, what's in this storage box labeled blankets?" and YAY! My summer wardrobe has been more than doubled. Just in time for fall.

Lost: the clicker for my car. One of the things we most wanted in a minivan was remote key-less entry. Without the clicker, no auto-sliding doors. The crazy thing is that I lost the clicker in my front yard. (I think. That's the thing about something being lost, right?) I used the clicker while standing near the car, and then walked back up the sidewalk to the porch.  I looked at my key and saw the clicker was not looped to the little flimsy metal connector dealie. My first thought was that I could call it. This is what I do whenever I can't find my phone, but as you might have realized, this won't work for the clicker. Then again, neither did walking around muttering "fuck. fuck fuck fuck."

Found: my keys. Well, Chris found them (while I was midway through constructing this post), but I am thrilled nonetheless. Still no sign of the clicker.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Stubborn, redux (or rather, reduced)

Ada's swim lessons went from bad to worse over the first week. At first content to sit with the parents and watch, after a few days Ada was crying that she did not want to go to the lesson. A couple of days Chris got her to sit on the side of the pool with her legs in the water, but that was all.

Week 2 started with her screaming to sit in my lap during the lesson. I refused, so that she did not see snuggle time as the alternative to the lesson. I felt like a horrible, unloving parent, but I knew that giving in was not the right tactic. The right tactic was apparently to refuse to take her any more, leaving this job to Chris. On Wednesday Chris bribed Ada with a snack, and she got in but didn't really participate in the lesson beyond following with the other kids on a little trek along the wall to deeper water where the others took turns getting out and jumping back in. Despite her limited participation, Ada returned home very happy with herself. She was proud that she'd gotten in.

Thursday involved another bribe, this time for participation. And the amazing thing is - it worked! After a few minutes of looking back at Chris and hesitating about joining the others, Ada finally decided the teacher could be trusted. She joined the kids in their mid-pool games and jumped into the water when it was her turn. She came home triumphant. My mother, Chris and I rewarded her with lavish praise (and a slice of pie which I'd just happened to purchase for dessert). I know it is probably not a great idea to make food the motivator for things we want her to do (especially when those things are actually fun once she finally decides to try them). However, at this point, she is so resistant to anything we want her to do that I am just thrilled that she let go a bit and participated - and enjoyed herself. Ada was so thrilled with herself, and we were thrilled with her too. Friday was a repeat of Thursday, but if possible it was even better. Ada participated in the the whole class, including the part where the teacher pours water on the kids' heads. While I was putting her to bed I asked Ada if she wanted to take lessons again. Yes, she does.

How nice to have a moment of positive experience and positive reinforcement of that experience. I am savoring it while it lasts.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Horses and Family

Chris's grandmother was in Oregon for a couple of weeks, so we drove the family out to his aunt's house so that grandma Lois could meet the twins and see Ada. Ada was very interested in the horses, and "helped" Aunt Camille (from the non-horse side of the fence). I would be happy for Ada to ride a horse, but I am not comfortable with her milling about at the feet of three horses, particularly when one of them is a bit testy and unpredictable.

At Camille's

Grandma Lois (who is 91) enjoyed the visit with the little ones, though she did blame herself (and her cold hands) when Mira cried in her arms. I think Mira was just tired, but there was no convincing Lois of that.

Camille, Mira, Grandma Lois
Getting two of the three to smile was good enough.

Chris's dad was a bit worried about Ada being near the horses. He has a bad memory of one of Camille's horses almost kicking Chris's brother Dylan. Camille had no memory of this, but when she heard that the horse's hoof was a foot away from Dylan, discounted the danger involved. In any case, Ada did not get that close to any of the horses on this trip.  Maybe next time we'll bring carrots and see how that goes.
Bunka and Ada
Camille's dog kept a close eye on us, lest we make any sudden moves that warranted her attention.