Friday, January 20, 2012

New Year's Resolution, 1-20-2012

Way back in my student teaching days the speech therapist at my school did a language evaluation for a third grader. The otherwise bright girl mumbled, mixed her words around, and used strange, seemingly made-up names for commonplace classroom objects and actions. She was observed for a week in clinic and classroom and the therapist documented all of these problems. This cheerful and intelligent little girl was having serious difficulty functioning normally at school. When my friend thought she had a diagnosis, she made a home visit to confirm.

The girl didn't have a speech impediment. She was being raised by her grandmother, who had difficulty communicating because of a stroke suffered when the girl was two. She learned to talk by repeating words she heard from a woman who could barely speak herself. This became apparent when my friend realized over coffee and cookies that the girl and her guardian sounded just like each other.

This stops me in my tracks.

I taught for eight years, and though I did my best for my students I knew that most of their training was going on at home. Many times I left a parent-teacher meeting thinking "Well, that explains a lot!" Most of the time it was for good reason: kind, thoughtful, intelligent parents were successfully raising a wonderful child.

Sometimes not.

Giggling over morning cereal and filling sippy cups is the easy part of parenting. The hard part is that to truly be successful I have to BE the kind of person I want my babies to become. That means getting up in the morning and doing battle with the parts of my personality I'm not happy about.

There are no secrets in a house with small children. If I think my children won't notice my flaws, and by noticing feel comfortable in accepting a lower standard I have modeled for them in my own life, I'm sadly mistaken.

This weekend Craig and I are sitting down and making THE LIST. On it go words that will not be allowed in our house. Some are profane, some are best left to private conversation and not trotted out in public, and some are best left to older people who can judge each situation and use words to help and not harm. However, THE LIST isn't for policing what our kids say. It's for monitoring what WE say.

It's about time. Devon's vocabulary has gone from 10 words to 500 words in three short weeks. He's putting the words into increasingly complex sentences. It's without a doubt the most fun I've had being a parent. It amazes me that I can say "read" once and find him rocking in his chair with book open saying "" an hour later.

I have a choice to make. I can be stupid (a word on the list, actually) and think that I can continue to act any way I feel like and raise children that don't have my hangups. Or I can choose to learn my hard lessons quickly and not let any of the foolishness I struggle with become a part of them.

People already say my kids look and act like me. I want that to be a good thing.

I hope it's not too late in the year to make that New Year's resolution.

Only twenty days late is actually doing pretty good for me. All three kids are on a really good schedule, but only just. Bedtime routines are firmly established, but things don't always go according to plan. When I take this picture at 8 pm.,

chances are I'll be taking this one at 11:30,

and, finally, this one at midnight.

Mysteriously, Carrie's and Melina's day schedules have flipped. Melina used to keep me company in the afternoon as Carrie and Devon slept. Now for the past few days Melina has been taking the marathon-style naps of a much older baby

while Carrie and I enjoy floor time, do the afternoon chores, or sit at the kitchen table typing a blog and eating cereal.

I cherish every minute I have alone with Carrie. She doesn't have the high-energy needs of toddler Devon or the "all the world is a stage" personality of Melina. She's the one who could easily get lost in the shuffle of my day, the wheel-that-doesn't-squeak that therefore gets left alone. I have to make an effort each day to notice her, enjoying every minute of her serenely cheerful babyhood.

So I do. That's my other resolution, and I make that promise to all of my babies.

Before we had kids, I admired the attitude of a friend of mine who had one child at the time and now also has three. She said she made up her mind to treat her little boy like he was the only child she would ever have, and to give him all the attention and love that he needed without looking ahead to having more or back to when it was just her and her husband.

I want to do the same. Part of living the very public life of parent of three under two is fielding questions about our intentions:

"Are you done?"

"Did you plan this?"

"You're going to end up like the Duggars, you know!" (Interesting side note: they had their first three on our timeline.)

Most people are nice. Some, quite frankly, aren't.

"You just enjoy making things hard for yourself, don't you!"

"This isn't the 1800's! There are things you can do to prevent that!"

"I know the name of a good bankruptcy lawyer! You're going to need it!"

I love my life with my husband and kids. It's amazing now to think of the time I wasted worrying about waiting too long bringing on infertility (HAH!). God gave us three kids before we even asked for two. How amazing! God knows what we want, but he gives us what we need. At this point, that's enough for us. More children would make for some interesting blog titles (6 in 4? 9 in 6?) but we're too busy loving our children like they're the only ones we're ever going to have.

It's easy for me to move through the day in a putting-out-fires state of mind, especially when a small crisis threatens to destroy the peaceful evening I planned. After an evening like last night when I changed eleven poopy diapers in two hours and gave two emergency baths, it's easy to wonder when I'll ever be able to plan an evening out or have late evening hobby time (if by "hobby time" I mean finally starting the girls' baby books). Then I stop, focus on my kids who need me, and make the decision to participate fully in this time of my life.

This morning Carrie woke up at an early 6:30, and after eating she laid on my chest in a blissful milk coma as I checked facebook and email and enjoyed the rhythm of her breath for two hours as Devon and Melina uncharacteristically slept in.

I have to make enough of those moments. Perfect strangers warn me of that all the time.

"They're so sweet! Enjoy them! They're going to grow up so fast!"

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Outfit Lab, 1-14-12

While Devon sleeps (yes, he sleeps like this),

the girls and I enjoy their new room. It's almost "done"; I just need to hang their name plaques.

Grandpa and Devon finished putting the crib together on the morning of Carrie and Melina's five-month checkup.

Melina weighed in at 12 lbs. 14 oz. and Carrie at 14 lbs. 2 oz. Not only are they still exactly a pound and four ounces different, but they've each gained exactly eight pounds since birth! Twenty-seven pounds of baby is way too much to sleep in one pack-and-play, so they've been in separate ones since four months when we split them up to help them sleep through the night. Carrie slept on her stomach and Melina on her back, looking like two halves of the same puzzle. Now that their nighttime sleep routines are well established and they both wake up smiling and cooing around 7 am...

... they can do it in the same crib! I was wondering how they would react to bedsharing again after a month alone. Last night I transferred them both asleep to separate sides of the crib so they could each have their space. An hour later, they had scooted to the middle and were spooning away just like they used to do when they were three days old.

I love the way the room turned out. Mommy and Grammy did the decorating.

It's a good mix of old and new. The new Summer Garden quilt (a special Christmas gift from Grammy and Grandpa) hangs over the old desk that Craig had in his childhood bedroom.

The artsy bug mobile from Devon's baby room is over the pooh pack-and-play with a new pink minkie sheet.

The new cutesy bug plaques match the old changing table with the moss green pad.

"Wow, it looks like we're finally ready to bring the babies home from the hospital!" I quipped to my mom.

The move really interfered with my nesting; I didn't want to fix and then dismantle a room in Lexington. Either way it wouldn't have mattered. New babies don't need monogrammed bedding and a color scheme; they need their parents close by. Carrie and Melina were always either in our room or right outside it.

Now they need a room for their clothes and toys as much as for their crib. Carrie's already in the second outfit of the day. She's developed a habit of grabbing onto anything I'm doing while I'm nursing her, and I was eating crackers spread with Nutella. Since I eat about half my daily calories while sitting with a baby and a Boppy curled around me, I'm not sure what to do about this. Nursing twins is giving me the metabolism and the concave backside of an eleven-year-old boy.

Today us girls are camped out on the floor sorting the laundry.

Away go the kitchen towels, the bibs, and the burp cloths. Devon's clothes go on his bed to put away later; that's how I caught him doing the sleep crawl with Poohbear and Christmasbear tagging along. There's also a small pile of clothes they've already outgrown that I will put into their closet bins with a nostalgic sniff. It still amazes me that people that tiny can actually outgrow things.

I start laying out clothes and soon the floor around the three of us is tiled in pairs of outfits. Most of Carrie and Melina's clothes are hand-me-downs from friends and older cousins. Dressing them in matchy-matchy is cute but expensive, so their matching outfits are usually gifts from friends and family. The rest of the time they wear outfits that complement each other in color and style that I cobble together from what they inherit.

Every few minutes I get up and file the finished sets away in their dresser drawers so that each morning I can grab two coordinating outfits without rooting around for a matching sweater or pair of pants.

I wish my own clothes were as organized. My personal sense of style is suffering right now. I moved from a cold climate to a warmer one where my favorite long sleeves and sweaters are out of place, and I've gained and lost forty pounds twice in the last two years. My weather appropriate clothes come in three different styles: saggy, baggy, or two sizes too big. My shirts start the day large and keep growing as I lift them up periodically to nurse. When I go out, I finish every outfit with a pair of Barney-purple Crocs I bought for $10 at the outlet.

The old wives' tale says that girls steal their mothers' beauty during pregnancy. I had a few people nod sagely and tell me that when I told them I was carrying two girls. They must have thought I looked TERRIBLE at the time. The expression makes no sense to me at all considering my situation. If both of the twins got their irresistible cuteness and universal appeal by taking it away from me, then I must have been indescribably hot to begin with. Really, I wasn't. They're so much cuter than I ever was that it's the highest flattery for me when people see them and compliment their sweetness.

I think fellow twin parent William Shakespeare felt this way, too, which is weird because he was the original deadbeat Dad. He, like me, had three kids in two years (Susanna, Hamnet, and Judith), but then left his family to live and work in London. His Sonnet #2 describes the way parental pride displaces personal pride. I've "translated" his original words below because I get my jollies out of using my otherwise fallow English degree to absorb something more cerebral than Moo, Baa, LaLaLa.

When forty winters shall beseige thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field,
Thy youth's proud livery, so gazed on now,
Will be a tatter'd weed, of small worth held:

When you're five months postpartum and you feel like a deflated sack of skin,
and you shake your head in the mirror and sigh "I'll never be a size two again!"
even though you were only a size two for, like, ten minutes in the fifth grade...

Then being ask'd where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days,
To say, within thine own deep-sunken eyes,
Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise.

When you sidle up to your husband in the pew in church in the middle of the first song and he says "Did you go check on the kids? Where were you? I looked all over!" and you're horrified because you were sitting two rows back in plain sight the whole time and you wonder if having three kids in two years has aged you past all recognition...

How much more praise deserved thy beauty's use,
If thou couldst answer 'This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,'
Proving his beauty by succession thine!
This were to be new made when thou art old,
And see thy blood warm when thou feel'st it cold.

You'll push your girls in a cart around Target and know that the hushed whispers that always seem to be behind you are about them, beaming so animatedly in their brown polka-dotted pants and pink cardigans and the hairbows with little musical notes...

So precious!


How Lovely!

You'll gaze into their faces with the wide set eyes you know are yours and the curved cleft chins that are your husband's, and you'll see that children are a much more flattering mirror than the one above the sink at home.

Then you'll suck in your stomach and smile.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Fussy Morning, 1-6-12

It's Friday morning, and it looks like this post is going to be typed with one hand (like many of my posts these days). I'm dividing my time between composing and holding a very fussy Melina.

Maybe she misses her Grammy and Grandpa, who boarded a plane for home yesterday and won't be back to hold her for several months. If the cascade of drool covering both little fists and running down her shirt is any indication, she's teething. She could even be reacting a little from her five month shots, with so many deadly childhood diseases waging their wars in miniature in order to build up antibodies in her little immune system.

Whatever the cause, if I put her down she's inconsolable. Melina's nasal, operatic scales radiate pure grief, unlike Carrie's drier, throatier mad wail. Since any of my kids crying is nails-down-the-chalkboard on my mommy hormones, Melina has been my morning companion as Carrie bobs her head in the Bumbo. We've made the coffee and oatmeal, shooed the cat off the master bed, and watched Devon play with his new cars on the screened porch.

I really need to get up and do battle with the two textures of childhood: Crunchy and Sticky. Devon enjoyed the chocolate Santa from his Christmas stocking little by little, but the crispy parts unsettled him so he spit them out and flicked them on the floor like peanut shells in a Texas Roadhouse. Then, he learned how to unscrew the cap on his sippy, making a round watermark of apple juice on the floor around his booster seat.

Since I didn't want him to walk on the tile until I could clean up, I relaxed my rules and let him take a toddler snack-catcher cup of goldfish crackers into the living room. I know they're supposed to be for mess-free feeding, but Devon uses his more for entertainment. He shakes it upside down until all the goldfish fall out into his lap, and then beams and picks them up one by one, holding them up to the light to inspect them before crunching down with mouth wide open. Since I was feeding Carrie and Melina their cereal, I shrugged helplessly and watched it happen. The carpet is now spread evenly with a thin layer of artificial cheesy yellow cracker dust. I'm usually a barefoot girl in warm weather, but I've taken to wearing slippers because walking on my own floor makes my feet feel dirty some days.

Toddlers do generate a lot of mess; the five second attention span is probably to blame. Carrie and Melina's socks need sorting after Devon dumped their bin last night. He loves their socks; his favorite thing to do is to pull them off their feet, go to the nearest doorway, and stand in the threshold tossing them up in the air again and again. Every doorway has five or six mismatched socks on the floor, lying there like they're part of the feng shui.

The tree needs to be taken down before one of the kids starts eating needles again. It was a great tree and the kids loved it, but I am so OVER it by now. Worse than that, every time I pass the pen I smell poo and I don't know where it's coming from. I've picked up each of the kids, the cat, and most of the toys to smell them, and I can't figure out what's to blame. That's not a good sign, seeing that yesterday I changed seven poopy diapers.

I better get started, but I look down at Melina and she's sleeping with that newborn open-mouth-breath that puffs on my neck and tickles a bit. If I move her, her face contracts into a grimace and she whines in protest.

"Oh, Melina, it would take a village to raise you," I raise an eyebrow and whisper. It's my favorite saying, the one I repeat to maintain my composure when I start to get tired. Carrie and Devon each have their fussy moments and things that set them off, but if I am ever diagnosed with permanent hearing damage it will be Melina's fault.

Not that she isn't a joy to parent. When I lean over her to pick her up, she arches her back and practically levitates into my hands, squealing with joy that I've finally noticed her. She's starting to stand in her exersaucer for a few minutes a day, bicycling her feet like she's ready to run across the floor. When I carry her around, her hand drifts up and traces my jawline lightly like she's trying to memorize the feel of me.

I suppose it's natural for me to feel most protective of my littlest one, the active but fragile one we almost lost when her heartbeat plummeted during the delivery. I feel like she needs me most of all, and it feels good to be needed even when I'd rather be pushing a mop. Most importantly, Melina reminds me that nothing is more important than sitting down and holding the baby.