Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Eve, 12-23-11

These are the photos that make me pity everyone who doesn't have twins.

Even going to the grocery store is a public service these days. The twins are universally cute, smiling, and finally poseable enough to take some really good pictures.

Our house doesn't have a chimney on which to hang our stockings with care, so we make do. Grammy, Grandpa, Mommy, and Daddy have handmade stockings I made years ago, but my kids don't. Even Ally kitty has a stocking with her name on it, but not my kids. In January when all three kids will finally be on an afternoon nap schedule, I'm going to get my act together. I wanted their stockings to all be done for our first Christmas as a family of five, but I spent the three discretionary hours I had last month taking a bath and reading Dare to Discipline.

Our early fears of Devon tipping over the Christmas tree haven't been realized, although he has removed most of the ornaments he can reach. It's pretty much just a lit tree now, a hardy Fraser Fir that sheds needles profusely because it was trucked in from five states away.

Of course, what the area lacks in Christmas Tree Farms it certainly makes up in poinsettias. The one in our entry way is four feet wide. In Lexington I'd spy a nice one and buy it only to have the cold drive home almost kill it. This season I've already bought three and they're all blooming away in the warm weather. When Christmas is over, I'm thinking of planting them outside. Hah!

It's 84 degrees here, and when I complain to my friends about being too hot I get NO sympathy. All our Christmas decorations survived the move, although I spent a month looking for the Caucasian Holy Family. While in high school I received beautiful, fragile, and probably valuable china figurines of Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus. Every year when I set them up I marvel at their blonde-haired, blue-eyed, white-skinned perfection, and then wonder why their makers didn't have a creative vision that was, oh, EVEN JUST A BIT MIDDLE EASTERN!!!!! They were a gift from my Grandma Annabelle (yes, as in Carrie Annabelle), the kindest, least prejudiced person, and it was the kind of thing I'd like to pass down someday. I was relieved when Devon came out of the twins' closet one day holding aloft a reindeer tin that contained their intact, bone china selves. Now I need to find an out of reach place where we can safely enjoy their white-as-the-driven-snow radiance.

Our workaday manger scene is getting heavy use these days. It's a Fontanini, a brand I recommend not just because it's reassuringly culturally accurate. The figurines are made out of durable molded plastic, which can be very comforting when Devon rounds the corner with Gaspar in one hand and the camel in the other. Don't worry about the safety of the Baby Jesus; I'm following the Keathley tradition of putting Jesus in the manger for the first time while reading the Luke 2 story on Christmas Eve. Until then, he's enjoying our anticipation from a teacup on a high shelf.

Devon's having fun acting out the Christmas story as Mommy narrates using phrases from the King James. I know that we're all enlightened now and use NASB, NIV, or even the Southern Baptist favorite the Holman Christian Standard, but I prefer to recite the nostalgic words straight from my childhood.

Mommy: Those are the shepherds!

Devon: Sepperds! There! (pointing)

Mommy: They're abiding in the fields keeping watch over their flocks by night!

Devon: Seep! (picks up the Lambs to the Slaughter and puts one in his mouth)

Mommy: Lo! An ANGEL OF THE LORD came upon them, and the GLORY OF THE LORD shone around them, and then they were SORE AFRAID!

Devon: (tips over all the shepherds) Oh Noooooooooooooooo!

For weeks Devon would only take the sheep out of the creche; I aptly nicknamed them the Lambs to the Slaughter because their presence protected the peace and tranquility of the rest of the tableau.

No, Ally kitty has not seen his star in the East and come to worship the Baby Jesus. She's always been a little confused by the manger. It started when she was a kitten and we laid towels on the furniture to show here where she could lay so she could shed away on a towel and our couch could be hair-free. Every year we roll out a towel, arrange the creche and figures, and have to shoo Ally away every day or so.

Funny, this year it hasn't been so much of a problem!

Since we barely finished sending the twins' baby announcements out in November, we're probably skipping a picture mailer, but we did take a really nice picture.

For those of you wondering about the unfamiliar person, that's what my brother looks like when he smiles in pictures. Stoic Tim didn't make it this year, thanks to the other new person. He and his girlfriend Bojana Jovanovic were able to come out and spend last weekend with us. Uncle Tim and Auntie Bojana made quite a stir with the small set, taking Devon to Walmart and buying him a dozen balls and a Monster Truck that makes him turn purple and quiver with delight every time you turn it on.

There are many more pictures in this series that didn't make the post. Devon, not one to pass up a chance to perform, thought it was hilarious to lift his shirt and display his "Pufferfish Tummy" every time Daddy set the flash on the tripod and dashed for the picture. Mommy tried to keep him distracted by singing "Father Abraham Had Many Sons", an appropriate song because the "right arm-left arm" motions prevented the tummy shenanigans.

White Christmases, fir trees, chimneys, and reindeer are nice, but they're not spiritually significant. Why did Perry Como have to dream of a "White Christmas"? He lived for years on Jupiter Island, about thirty miles south of Vero Beach.

It's ironic to think that spending our first Christmas in Florida in our shorts and bare feet brings us closer in a way to the very first one. Christians don't know the time of year that Jesus was really born, and the Middle East probably doesn't get many feet of snow and subzero temperatures at any time of year. Baby Jesus came to parents who were hot and tired from travel, surrounded by sand, and far from home, all things we can identify with given our past year.

NOT that I'm comparing us to the Holy Family, but it makes me grateful for their journey and what it means to us. We share their story with our children, mostly too young to understand.

That's okay. There's always next year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Payback: December 14, 2011

I swear I remember this happening, although it may be one of those early memories that constructed themselves in my young mind because my parents told me about it over and over. When I was eighteen months old (around Devon's age now) my parents took me to Minneapolis for the weekend. I was usually a really good sleeper, but something about the drive from Sioux Falls, the hotel room, or the unfamiliar nighttime routine got me riled.

I started to sob loudly and refused to be consoled. My tired and bewildered parents tried holding me, walking me around, and letting me lay down. Hours ticked by as I wailed out my fury with the range and decibels of an ambulance siren and my parents contemplated staying awake during the morning's conference schedule.

Suddenly, in the middle of the night the room was filled with that thrumming, echoing silence that comes when a crying child has just calmed. My dad, lying still and hoping that I wouldn't start up again, felt me crawl on the bed next to him, bend over him, and stroke his forehead.

"Oh, Daddy, you're so tired. Daddy, you need to sleep. Go to sleep, Daddy," I repeated over and over, my face a picture of patience and concern. As you can imagine, my advice was not well received, seeing that I was the only one preventing just that.

Thankfully, my parents are forgiving people and let the retelling of that embarrassing story at family gatherings be its own punishment. Maybe they also looked forward to the day when I would have my own children: Their antics would surely pay me back for whatever shenanigans I made them endure.

Oh, yeah.

Craig and I looked forward to Thanksgiving week all through October and early November. He finally had a job with "real time off" and we'd be able to take a week long road trip to Tennessee to see his family and celebrate. We knew the first time we'd traveled as a family of five could have difficult moments, but didn't see a reason to put it off. We'd never go anywhere with three kids under two if we didn't open ourselves up to being flexible and having a good time no matter what. Knowing I needed to be prepared for anything, I went to Walmart the day before and spent $200, buying new leak-proof sippies, toddler snack-catcher cups, three kinds of crackers, two kinds of M&M's, and those bottled iced coffees that are so much better than the McDonalds drive thru coffees when you need a quick caffeine boost.

We got off to a slightly late start because Craig was up with an upset stomach the night before. I tried to stay calm during the loading the car phase, anxious to get on the road. I was also mentally mapping every mile of our drive to Atlanta, knowing we'd be on the road late if we didn't make early progress. Carrie and Melina napped in their car seats for the first several hours. Every two to three hours we'd park at a rest stop and spring into action like a pit crew: nursing, changing diapers, and letting Devon walk around and pick up things. Devon, the best toddler traveler, sang songs to himself and pointed raptly at cars. At 5 p.m. we crossed the border into Georgia.

I set cruise control to 70 mph and watched the billboards on Highway 75 whiz by. All advertised strip clubs and crisis pregnancy centers, making me wonder if the two businesses were somehow related. Craig and I smiled at each other, enjoying one of those moments where we feel like we have three happy children largely due to our parenting prowess.

Two hours later I sighed, thinking I'd given birth to the three unhappiest children on the planet. Devon's "intrepid adventurer" mood reached the end of its shelf life and he started banging his head rhythmically on the back of his car seat. Melina jerked awake with one of her trademark full body startles, opened her mouth, and wailed the opening bars of The William Tell Overture. Devon, suddenly interested in this new development, looked around the side of his car seat and his eyes fell on the round, green paci perched temptingly in sleeping Carrie's mouth. "A BALL!" he said wonderingly, and reached over to pull it out. Carrie's cries added the tympani part to Melina's soprano, achieving an effect exclusive to a pair of crying twins. Unsettled by all the noise, instigator Devon then decided to join in.

We tried stopping to nurse, Craig holding each in turn while I tried to use "the universal pacifiers" to get the twins calm again. Devon, upset at not being allowed to get out and run, fussed.

"Devon," I said in the perfectly calm voice that Dr. Dobson recommends for parental discipline. The face of innocence peeped out at me from around the car seat, lips fixed in the pouty smile of a Hummel figurine.

"Give Mommy the paci, honey," I cooed. I took the offered paci in my one free hand. When we were finally able to start up again, I took the driver's seat and sighed, mentally calculating the number of hours it would take to get to Atlanta, still 180 miles away.

"I don't feel so good," said Craig, holding his stomach. "I hope I'm not coming down with something."

The girls started crying again, apparently not impressed by the extra nursing stop as a show of my good faith. Devon fussed and begged for new car toys only to pitch them over his seat and whine for more. Craig grew sicker by the minute, sipping Coke weakly and grimacing. I concentrated on the road and tried to focus on the miles, not the hours, as the evening crept along.

When we finally reached Atlanta, Craig tried to read the map and my copied-from-Yahoo directions as I scanned road signs looking for the corresponding streets. This division of labor that usually serves us well failed miserably. Three lanes of traffic sprouted up on my right. I was unable to dart across all three without killing us, so I couldn't make our exit. Craig mumbled directions I wouldn't have been able to hear over the din even if he had a bullhorn. I got off at the next exit and found a place to ask for directions. Scantily clad women in high heels and drug dealers in hoodies turned to watch our minivan go by, I'm sure thinking we seemed out of place. I stopped at a gas station and was given competent directions by a clean cut Indian gentleman that also seemed out of place in the 'hood. I'm not given to Hallmark Channel flights of fancy, but I'm not sure he wasn't an angel sent to save us from our predicament (cue backlighting).

Fifteen minutes later we were in our hotel room and things were finally peaceful, except for the sound of my three children crying and my husband being violently ill in the bathroom. The room was not the two-room suite I had reserved, so we would all have to quiet down and sleep in the same room. As I rushed around setting up the pack-and-plays and getting out pajamas, I muttered an incoherent monologue as a nightly prayer:

Lord, I didn't think you were given to sarcasm, but when you said in the Bible that women are "the weaker vessels" you couldn't possibly have had this evening in mind. What about Pastor's flowery, feel-good sermon of a few months ago about a woman being like a piece of fine china, delicate because we're set aside for a special purpose? Right now I don't even feel like a piece of earthenware. Try styrofoam! Pish tosh!!!

We expected our first road trip as a family of five to have some awkward moments, but nothing could've prepared us for that first night. It was my payback for that night in Minneapolis when I cried and cried so my parents couldn't get any sleep. I don't think I was truly capable of understanding how awful that night was for them until now. Children do have a way of making you look at your own memories with renewed perspective.

The rest of the trip went remarkably well considering the rough start. We enjoyed a recovery day at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. Craig looks peaked in the pictures, but we still had a good time as a family.

My mom and dad arrived to spend the holidays last night. Before the kids and I drove to pick them up in Orlando, I tried to give Devon his second haircut. Devon, suspicious of everything from the plastic drape to the barber shears, refused to let me get anywhere near his head. He craned his neck around, presenting his face instead every time I tried to get a snip of hair. I gave up after fifteen minutes, resigning myself to Devon seeing Grammy and Grandpa for the first time in four months looking like a Hobbit.

I've GOT to cut Devon's hair soon. If it gets any longer, he's going to look like Justin Bieber. I think distracting Devon while I cut his hair is going to be Grandpa's job.

What Devon doesn't know is that Grandpa didn't like having his hair cut either when he was a little boy. I've seen a picture of a tearful two-year-old Jerry getting his first haircut. It took four of his much older brothers and sisters to distract him by talking to him and bouncing him on a bicycle seat.

I think it's time for some payback.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Our First Family Picture, Thanksgiving 2011

Want to see our first family picture?

On Thanksgiving 2010, Devon was eight months old. We spent the holiday in Nashville with Craig's family and took photos together just after dinner. I like to think that sometime that day, perhaps between the stuffing and the pumpkin pie, a few cells split off the tiny embryo I didn't even know I was carrying and Carrie Melina Keathley became Carrie and Melina Keathley.

Of course, that single baby probably wouldn't have been named Carrie OR Melina. I had the name Verity picked out for a girl. We decided that since it meant "truth" it wouldn't work well for a twin. If one girl's name means that she's truthful, does the other one get to be a liar? What if the twin named Verity wasn't particularly truthful? Irony?

On the drive home from Nashville, I felt a twinge of nausea contemplating the turkey and cranberry sandwich my mother-in-law had packed for me. The next clue that I might be pregnant came almost a month later when the belt on the dress I had bought for a Christmas party was mysteriously tighter and I was in a serious romantic relationship with The Gingerbread Man.

Now I'm spending the day with three times as many kids as I thought I had back then. If you've wondered why I haven't posted in a while, it's because sometimes I can either be a parent or write about being a parent. I can't do both at once.

This has been a busy time for me because the girls are starting to take a little cereal twice a day. Like any parenting decision, this one was difficult, particularly because the Breastfeeding Mafia recommends ebf (exclusively breastfed) from birth to at least six months.

I caved at four months. I love nursing, but it was taking over my life. One night I was eating a bowl of Raisin Bran at 9:30 and realized that I had skipped dinner every night that week. What did I do instead? Tandem nurse, and not just at 6 pm, but every hour all day except for a short break in the afternoon. Tandem nursing was closing in on showering, taking care of Devon, eating three meals a day, keeping up with the laundry, and checking in with my patient and neglected husband.

The worst thing about spending so much time on the couch is not the backaches. It's that I had hours a day to surf the Internet with my one free hand and learn about all the things I should be doing for my kids. Making my own vegan organic formula from ingredients I buy from a health food store in New Zealand. Pureeing my own cereal from whole grains I cook myself. Wearing my babies on my body until they're old enough to drive a car.

Oh well. Twice a day the twins get 15 ml. of liquid cereal mixed with formula dropped into their mouths with a supplementing syringe. We'll transition to a spoon as soon as they get a little more practice moving a little squirt of cereal from the front of their mouths to the back. Right now it's cute to watch them stick out their tongues as if for a communion wafer, swallow, smile, and open for more. The cereal comes from a box with a smiling baby on it. The formula comes from a canister. The Breastfeeding Mafia says that you might as well feed the packing materials to the baby for all the nutrition they're getting, but the Mythbusters debunked that suburban legend last year before they turned their attention to sending cannonballs through peaceful Dublin homes.

I feel a little like I've gone over to the dark side, but the girls don't. They take a good morning nap, a good afternoon nap, and still nurse 6-8 times a day. What matters most is that they're much happier now...

...which means Mommy is, too.

The girls enjoy spending time in the "baby gym", which works better than a bouncy seat because they can lay side-by-side, or enjoy some tummy time. Melina just dropped her head, twitched her right leg, and became the first twin with a confirmed front-to-back rollover!

Last Saturday morning, we read in the paper about the Vero Beach Christmas Parade. "How quaint! A small-town parade. Let's go!" we cried, and packed up the kids for a rare evening outing.

As it turns out, five thousand people line Ocean Drive (a stone's throw from the coast) to watch handcrafted floats covered in Christmas lights amble down the street. It was part Main Street Electrical Parade, part Almond Blossom Festival, and the event of Devon's young life. When he was handed a flag by a passing walker, he gripped it firmly and waved it for two hours.

On the way back to the car, we ignored passing strangers who ironically hummed "Everyone Loves A Parade" while watching us file by with the twins in the double stroller and Devon still waving his flag in the single. I heard a voice call after us: "Wow, you guys make THAT look easy!"

It's NOT always easy, as you can imagine, but there are other words I would use to describe it: fun, exciting, rewarding. Of course, it's also time consuming. Why shouldn't it be?

It's the one thing in my life that, more than anything, I want to do well.

And blog about it if I have the time.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Countdown to Christmas, 11-17-11

Devon is in his Reindeerjamms already.

I guess he takes after his Daddy, who listens to Christmas music from November to March. Either that or his practical Mommy puts him in whatever jamms are clean if the laundry is late. You decide.

Either way, these two pictures are so precious to me because we came to the end of this era only days later. Frustrated and tired after another three-feeding-night, I made the difficult decision to split the twins up in hopes that their sleeping in separate rooms would keep them from waking each other up. It's working so far. The twins turn into pumpkins every night around 10 and are sleeping in 'till 6 or 7. This could be "just a phase" where they need to be apart to stay asleep longer, and future attempts to let them co-sleep could be more successful.

I hope so. Grandpa is coming in a few short weeks. The twins' crib arrived from Amazon two weeks ago, and is still in its box in the girls' room. I'm hoping that Grandpa and Devon will put it together...

...seeing that they did a pretty good job on our other crib.

But, wait! Doesn't each twin merit her own crib? Of course they do, but one of the cribs is still occupied!

Again, practical Mommy was reluctant to buy three cribs (THREE CRIBS!) if she could get by with two. So, when the twins move into their room and their crib sometime in December, they can hopefully co-sleep for a few more months until Devon is ready for his Big Boy Bed. Then we'll have one toddler in a twin, two babies in matching convertible cribs, and no more beds to buy until the girls are out of toddler beds.

Thanks to a visit from the kids' Auntie Amy, the twins' room is the only oasis of chaos in the house. We also enjoyed visits to McKee Botanical Gardens here in Vero, the beach, and the uber-upscale outdoor mall City Place in West Palm Beach.

We didn't always go out, though. Sometimes we'd just hang out.

Devon enjoyed having someone to play with him while the girls are eating, which would otherwise be "pen time" for him.

Melina had a very photogenic week. Here she is in her "pinup girl pose". Somebody watch out for this kid in sixteen years!

So, to start the season off, I'm thankful for visits from family and friends, Christmas music playing on Pandora (yes, already), and Bumbos...

...or whatever the plural is. Bumboes?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

First Halloween, 11-10-11

My friend Karen has a great sense of humor. When I was in high school, I wondered where she got it from.

Evidently from her mom, who sent the novelty paci's for the girls to enjoy this Halloween. This shot was hard to get, because the girls are in a phase where any eye contact results in a face-cracking smile that makes a paci drop right out.

And yes, we will celebrate Halloween. I don't want my kids to grow up thinking that being a Christian exempts you from celebrating everything, especially a fun holiday where you dress up as something imaginative, eat yummy candy, and spend time with friends. In childhood I occasionally marked the holiday with squeaky clean events like a church "Harvest Party" where we all got down dressed as Bible characters. Believe me, no matter if you're Ruth, David, or King Ahab, everybody came in a bathrobe with towels on their heads. All the adults walked around with goofy smiles pasted on their faces, saying "Isn't this just as fun as trick-or-treating?"

Ummm... Nope, it wasn't.

Yes, the origins of Halloween aren't anything to laugh at. People used to dress up to "fool the evil spirits" and be defiant in the face of evil on All Hallow's Eve.
Obviously, it would be silly to believe that fake blood and bandages are real insurance against bad the things that happen to good people.

Let's face it, evil exists in this world, and it has nothing to do with mummies, slasher movies, or Team Edward and Team Jacob. If you have kids, the things that truly scare you can't be found in the holiday section of Target.




The night before I had the twins, I was flush with pregnancy hormones and suddenly totally overcome with the gravity of the dangerous birth I was to go through the next morning. Odds were everything was going to be fine, but when I came face-to-face with the very real possibility that one or both of the twins could die, odds didn't matter. I couldn't keep it together. So, I locked myself in my bedroom and begged God on my face to spare the lives of my children.

He did.

Don't I love my God who overcomes evil? I think the worst way to honor him would be to stay inside with the porch light off and listen to choir music all night. I want to dress my kids up, give out the good candy, meet my neighbors, go to the party, and be happy and grateful because I'm on the side of good (and good wins).

For Devon, his definition of good meant being a ball. We recently figured out that he says "ball" to mean "good." It must be easier on his language skills. If I go get him up in the morning and ask how his night was and he says "A BALL," that means he had a really good night. It's how he asks for blueberries, his favorite food, in his Big Boy Booster we got for him this week. In the car on trips, he amuses himself by singing "Ballll-eeeee-alllll-eeeee-alllll..."

Unfortunately, they don't make ball costumes for toddlers. All the costumes at the store were ultra-commercial, which is one of my complaints about modern Halloween. If my son has never watched television, he doesn't want to be Elmo, Lightning McQueen, Spiderman, or any of the other characters that he will easily recognize when he's, like, 10. Type in "baseball costume" on Amazon and you'll find a uniform from whatever team you want with everything from the cap to the stirrups, but it wasn't what we wanted.

"Grrrr," I growled at the computer. "What if you don't want to be a ball PLAYER? Isn't there a costume you can buy to just be the BALL?" There wasn't, so my first Halloween with three children was marked by a time-honored rite of passage for crafty moms: locking myself in a room and frantically sewing on a costume three hours before the party started.

Devon's ball costume turned out pretty cute, though. He enjoyed running around and then flopping down hard on the soft tummy. I was afraid that, like many toddlers, he wouldn't enjoy dressing up, but he loved it. It turned him into a perpetual motion machine.

Here he is trying to put a paci in the twins' mouths. He did this once about six weeks ago and has been trying to repeat it despite the lack of the necessary fine motor skills. Sometimes he misses the point and tries for a paci in the eye.

I wanted to get all three kids in a cute First Halloween pose.

We got this close. Not very. Next year, I suppose.

Here's Little-Melina-Bumble-Bee! When they are old enough, the girls can be Disney-cat-fairy-pink-and-purple-ballet-princesses like I was in third grade, but until they're old enough to have opinions I can make them be whatever I want. Goody!

Here's Little-Carrie-Pretty-Flower in her costume. Before I had kids, I thought that parents who dressed their babies up for Halloween were foolish. If this was you and I made a comment about it, I apologize now. I was misguided.

Here's why we dress the babies up: it's ADORABLE! It doesn't matter if they will never remember their first Halloween, or even two or three more. Someday we can show them a picture and smile and say "Look how cute you were!"

We went to a Halloween party at the church we've just started attending. Nobody had to come dressed as Bible characters. They asked that nobody come as a Warrior of the Coming Zombie Apocalypse either, but that was okay. It was fun, and we lasted an hour and fifteen minutes. In terms of an outing with three small children, it's long enough. At home, we gave out candy and showed off our cute kids in their costumes as trick-or-treaters continued to trickle by much later than we thought they would.

It was a good day.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

10-29-11, When this Barge is Rockin'...

Carrie and Melina came home from the hospital at 5 lbs. 14 oz. (4 oz. down) and 4 lbs. 12 oz. (2 oz. down), largely due to competent and caring support from the UK Hospital Lactation staff. Giving birth to multiples meant that I wasn't just first on everyone's list: I had pager numbers! Everyone was amazed how well they were nursing for being so small. As you can see, I barely needed a pillow to prop them up; I could practically tuck them into my t-shirt! Melina, especially, still enjoyed skin-to-skin Mommy time to make sure she kept an even body temperature.

While in the hospital, I supported the decision to feed them formula to keep their weights up since they were premature by normal standards. A half-pound drop in birth weight, perfectly normal for a full-term baby, could have sent them straight to the NICU. On the second day in the hospital, they took a few meals of 5 ml. through a cannula syringe. By evening they were nursing for 20 minutes at a time and getting a 5 ml. formula chaser afterwards.

At home, feeding the twins became what my Dad called a "high tech small-scale dairy operation", thanks to a Symphony hospital-grade pump. I'm not sure why they called it a "symphony" other than it's a nice name and calls to mind a pleasant noise. Of course, when you plug it in and put it on yourself it makes the noise you get in any milking shed. Giving suck gets you in touch with your inner mammal, but it takes a milking machine to really make you feel like a heifer. I think a better name for a pump would be The Milk-O-Matic 2000. The best part about having a pump is you can use it to estimate how many ounces you're producing daily and brag about it to friends and family. While I'd never top the gallons-a-day production of a Guernsey, within the first two weeks I was putting goats everywhere to shame.

I hadn't really pumped with Devon, preferring the natural approach and not having work or other distractions to keep me away for hours at a time. The twins, however, needed to take some pumped milk. Premature babies can have problems getting enough to eat because their little mouths have underdeveloped muscles. When they're tired of sucking, they stop whether they've had enough or not. With pumping, they could have all the milk they could drink "on tap" with an extra few ml. afterward to increase their stomach capacity and add crucial ounces to their weights.

I look back on Carrie and Melina's first month of life and mostly remember being busy with the upcoming move, but just feeding two babies was pretty daunting as well. Newborns need to eat 8-12 times a day, or at least every three hours. That means I was nursing, giving supplement, and pumping constantly, sometimes only to finish a feeding cycle and then do it all over again. If one twin was having trouble maintaining a latch, on the next feeding I'd give the other twin a whole pumped meal so I could concentrate on nursing the twin who was having difficulties.

As with all babies, it was never obvious how much Carrie and Melina had eaten and so it was hard to know how much to supplement them. Since they were born by c-section, they didn't get the mucus squeezed out of their systems and had a few more upset tummy issues. Carrie's problem was hiccups, which would rattle her tiny body and cause her milk meal to slosh around her tiny tummy like a shaken up can of soda. Melina was a champion projectile spitter, able to produce a foot-long arc of regurgitated food that could miss me completely and douse the person next to me.

Even when they ate well, I was amazed at the unladylike sounds that would emanate from my sweet little girls. I remember Devon finishing a feeding, curling up on my shoulder, closing his eyes, and emitting a soft-as-a-sigh little uurp like he was trying to whisper something in my ear. The twins' deafening burps would be more at home in a fraternity's beer drinking contest.

You'd think that nights would be the hardest part, but amazingly I found I could nurse two babies twice as efficiently as one. Devon was a sipper in his early months, enjoying an hour-long feeding twice or three times every night. The twins didn't have the luxury of enjoying both sides, so I could complete a feeding and have everyone burped and back in bed in a half hour! I measure the quality of my sleep in REM cycles, or the number of hour-and-a-half increments I stay asleep each night. Carrie and Melina usually only woke up once, so by their second week of life I could get 4 or 5 REM cycles if I worked in a nap in the afternoon.

This was assuming they both woke up. If not, I had to nurse one baby, supplement the other baby with pumped milk, pump, preserve the fresh milk, get everybody back to bed and put the pump away so Devon wouldn't get up in the morning and think the Symphony was a $1600 toddler toy. This two-hour midnight marathon really did me in, and I'm thankful that it didn't happen often.

The tricky thing about supplementing was that it couldn't come from a bottle, which made them gassy and interfered with their sucking practice. My trusted technique was to stick a finger in a baby's mouth, nail-side down like they showed me in the hospital. Then, when the sucking reflex engaged I would slip the cannula in beside my finger and let the milk trickle out. The cannula syringe doesn't have a needle, but the plastic end is still too pointy to stick in a baby's mouth by itself.

Grammy had the twins and a vial of milk when I went to my two-week checkup.

Grandpa got this picture of Carrie holding Grammy's finger as she delivered the good stuff. We came to call the technique Baby Bird, after the way the twins would stretch their necks out to receive a fast trickle of milk. It was quite a parlor trick for visitors, too, who could wash their hands and experience a newborn vigorously sucking on their finger as I pipetted milk in alongside, a sensation that reverberates all the way to the bottoms of your feet. Then I'd jump up and say "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go milk myself," grab my pump dishes from the cookie pan by the sink, and head to the back bedroom for some privacy. Public nursing is pretty well accepted nowadays, but I don't think public pumping will ever catch on.

About two weeks into nursing, I found I couldn't support twelve pounds of baby on my remaining tummy pooch and a Boppy. Enter My Brest Friend.

The Twins Deluxe Nursing Pillow had arrived by special order when I was still pregnant. It made quite a stir with Devon, who enjoyed playing peek-a-boo with Grandpa through the hole in the middle.

As with many household items, Devon seemed to consider it made just for his entertainment. Poor kid. I probably don't buy him enough toys. I was less enthusiastic about the bigger pillow at first, eyeing the picture of a rail-thin woman excitedly yet discreetly tandem nursing twins on the bag with skepticism. For one thing, it's huge. Here it is compared to the more traditional Boppy. There was no question of bringing it to the hospital with us. It wouldn't just have filled my suitcase. It was bigger than my suitcase.

I think it's funny when women say "breastfeeding" like it's a sacred word, trilling the r's reverently like they are just looking for an excuse to say "breast" a lot. For me, "nursing" does the job just fine. This pillow didn't just trot out the word, it didn't even have the decency to spell it correctly. It went for the cutesy-wootsey pun on Best Friend, as if it wasn't obvious enough. The non-practicing English teacher in me was seriously offended by this pillow. Brest is a city in Belarus, I believe. Every time I looked at it, I thought about the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, one of the sophomore history class random details that pop into my head at odd times.

Well, like the Russians and the Central Powers, the pillow and I needed each other and soon came to an uneasy truce. Craig helped facilitate the accord by renaming the pillow.

"That thing is huge! It looks like a Party Barge!" he exclaimed as I curled it around myself and fastened the strap in back. Indeed, it turned me into a portable flotilla of pleasant beverages, so the name stuck. More often, it's just The Barge. True to its manufacturer's name, it is pretty indispensable if you're going to give tandem twin nursing a serious try, but in order to really be my friend it would have to change diapers and hold up one end of a conversation.

The twins were five weeks old when we left Lexington for Florida. The Milk-O-Matic went back to the rental store, and the twins turned into marathon nursers as they adjusted to the lack of supplement. It was difficult at first, but by the time we were done with the move I thought they had transitioned well enough to go pumpless (or, to borrow a term from the MTV generation, "unplugged").

I still tandem nurse them most of the time, which requires concentration, muscle control, posture reminiscent of typing on a keyboard, and privacy. I don't disapprove of public nursing, but if I waltzed into Panera with The Barge and reached for the twins I'm sure a crowd of curious onlookers would form and the management would ask if they could sell tickets. Usually nursing exposes much less skin than you see at the beach, but tandem pretty much requires full-frontal and is too complicated to cover.

At home, I often get both twins situated, achieve a tricky double-latch, and then sigh and realize that I really have to go to the bathroom and can't do anything about it for twenty minutes. Craig has learned to support me by saying the phrase that makes my heart sing: "What can I get you?" So often I've just become immobile and I realize I want my bedroom slippers, my ipod, or a large glass of half orange juice and half water (my substitute for the soda craving I haven't been able to shake months after delivery).

Here's Carrie on the barge, Melina discarded on the side, and me wild-eyed on too little sleep. Those bat-wings look a little wild, too. One of these days I need to address the arm flab issue (either that or, as my brother's girlfriend likes to say, "If you can't tone it, tan it!"). You'd think just handling the twins would be enough strength training to give me upper arms like Michelle Obama. I can make it all the way back to the pack-and-play by supporting the barge with my arms and keeping it level around my waist as I walk. Sometimes I've changed and bedded two babies, gotten Devon out of his crib, and am making his oatmeal when I look down and notice the barge swinging on my hips like a forgotten hula hoop.

I still have the Boppy for lazy afternoons when Devon is napping well and I have the luxury of nursing on demand. Most days "nursing on demand" for twins usually means "I demand that you nurse because your sister is hungry and if you don't eat now you'll be ready in a half hour and I'll have to listen to you cry while getting Devon ready for his nap." Thankfully, identicals are supposed to be attuned to each others' schedules, so most of the time they are both getting ready to eat at the same time. It's almost intimidating to put them on The Barge and have two babies tossing their heads from side to side and sucking loudly and desperately on their fingers inches away from my face. If I can't get ready fast enough, Carrie will latch onto any part of Melina that gets close enough, usually her head or her elbow. I have to put a burp cloth between them to keep one from jerking and giving the other a concussion.

Before having kids, breastfeeding appealed to me because it sounded easy. Spending hours cuddled up in the recliner with a warm little baby next to me and Lost reruns on TV was preferable to scooping formula powder into a bottle and heating the water to a backdrop of hungry cries. There are no dishes to wash and no hundreds to shell out for canisters of formula. Best of all, it suctions the fat out of the post-preggo muffin top faster than lipo!

With the twins, I made a conscious decision to do what I think is best for them even if it's still difficult, expensive, and exhausting. Just lactating can be an odd experience, like when the checker at the grocery store gives me a worried expression and I look down to see that one boob has overcome the hook on my nursing bra and is flying at half mast. Nursing twins adds a bit more strangeness. Sometimes I would get up at night to quiet a fussy baby, giving in and delivering a ten-minute "bonus boob" snack so she could fall back asleep. When I returned to bed, Craig would ask who was fussing and I'd realize that I had no idea which one I'd just been spending time with.

There was a beautiful moment about ten weeks in when I realized the bizarre and complicated relationship had become manageable and almost routine. Right now I am also enjoying that golden and magical week when the twins are sleeping through the night consistently for the very first time. They need me just a bit less, maybe even enough so that I can grab a minute sometime and redo the polish on my jagged toenails. There have also been many rewarding milestones along the way, like when I weigh the twins and exclaim to myself "Wow, I made another five pounds of baby last month!"