Saturday, February 18, 2012

Valentine's Day, 2-14-12

Happy Valentine's Day from Melina and Carrie! I call the ten pictures I took of them in the novelty bibs the "Honey, I love you but I just can't smile!" series. I trilled, cooed, said their names, and failed to make either one crack a smile.

Their valentine sleepers from Grammy are size 6-9 months; I can't believe they're already into big girl clothes! All of the pictures taken by Daddy are in crisp focus, except for the fuzzy feet. That means that my girls are kicking excitedly and don't want to sit still. I love that.

They celebrated the occasion with their first taste of strawberry yogurt. Yum!

Devon's present from Mommy and Daddy was a water painting book. He enjoyed it with a brush in each hand. The masterpiece was pronounced finished when he drank the watercolor water and splashed in the remainder that dribbled onto his tray, sending colored water everywhere.

We also celebrated by swimming, which is a labor of love for Mommy. Filling the pool requires me to carry buckets of water from the kitchen sink because the neighborhood outdoor spigots are icky, stinky irrigation water. Devon decided that all of the balls needed a dip before he did.

We met Daddy at Sam's Club for our Valentine's Day date. We shared a piece of pizza at the cafe (it's Italian food!) and Daddy and Devon picked out some flowers for Mommy.

I'm sure many people got a sitter and enjoy some non-kid time, but we didn't. We're here in Vero without extended family to help us, and our crew at this stage would be a lot for one sitter to manage (maybe even too much for two)!

That's okay by us. There are many kinds of love that a couple experiences over a lifetime. If we're both so much in love with our young family that we don't want to be away from them, it means we're still on the same page.

The only thing missing was candlelight, and we have plenty of time to enjoy that at home. All the kids go to bed before nine.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

We Go Places

Devon barely filled a car seat when we brought him home from the hospital.

Still, I remember thinking how much of a life change it was to have someone going with me everywhere I went. Craig and I were sharing a car as he finished graduate school, so I didn't go many places. Still, finding a cart and plunking the car seat in or snapping it into the Graco seemed cumbersome at first after years of grabbing my keys and traveling light.

When we walked around the neighborhood, I pushed him up and down the Lexington hills in a stroller. When we went to Shillito Park to use the bike trails, I had to collapse the clunky thing and fit it in the trunk. Whew!

Our current stroller makes that tiny Graco seem light as a feather. It took months of searching to find a triple stroller that wasn't a TRIPLET stroller. Finally, we discovered the Joovy Big Caboose, which has tandem twin seats and a little jump seat to secure toddler Devon.

Michael Jackson has his one glove and Jackie O her sunglasses, but the Joovy is definitely my signature piece right now. People slow their cars in the parking lot to watch with frank interest as I load my green machine, get a running start, and then push my crew around. While the occasional family visitor watches the girls, I sometimes go on an outing with Devon, only to hear "I didn't think you made it today. I didn't see your stroller!"

Yes, we make a statement everywhere we go, even if we just need a gallon of milk and decide to make a cameo at Publix. The snowbirds start cooing and clucking when they see the twins looking out and smiling as I thread-the-needle through a doorway. You should see their faces when I then swing wide and Devon pops out from underneath, covering his eyes and yelling "Peeks!"

It's worth the awkwardness of pushing around roughly 70 pounds of babies and gear, or the 10 minutes loading the car with diaper bag, Bumbos, and toys just to make a park stop. It's important for me to go places with my children, even if it requires more planning than the Academy Awards, more feats of strength than the Olympics, and enough gear to justify hiring a team of Sherpas to follow me around like an Everest expedition.

We've been going to a play group at the park on Thursday mornings. I was skeptical of my ability to pull this off, but Devon enjoys the sand and slide while the girls stretch in the Bumbos.

Last week I embarrassed myself by having a freakout moment and screeching Devon's name when he was playing quietly with a truck six inches off my right ankle. With twenty little kids patterning the grass like villagers in a Where's Waldo book, sometimes it's hard to keep track of which ones go home with you.

Devon (red shirt in the background) is in the little boy "parallel play" phase, which means he engages in activities with his friends while avoiding eye contact or direct interaction. So, though he chatters all through breakfast to me about going to playgroup and digging in the sand with his friend "Nickiss", he and Nicholas dig, slide, and toss balls in the air while barely acknowledging each other.

The highlight of Devon's month is going to gymnastics, where he jumps on the trampoline, swims through a foam pit, and climbs on things in a manner that is not allowed at home.

Carrie and Melina enjoy watching the older kids, especially twins Chloe and Addison.

Climbing is also allowed at the mall play area; a rare treat because the closest one is 45 minutes away. I actually wrote the managers of our nearby mall begging them to remodel and add one. Either that or my gas bills will get interesting come May when temperatures hit the nineties.

On weekends, Daddy is home and there are many more options for outings. Here's Devon meeting a real pufferfish (he plays with a plastic one in the tub) at the Manatee Center in Fort Pierce.

Devon enjoys non-stroller time when Daddy can walk beside him. Daddy is a good sport in that way, and other ways, too.

Even a trip to Lowe's for some ant bait can be a fun trip. Too much fun to sit still, evidently.

This neighborhood park doesn't have equipment, but it makes up for that by being within walking distance. Devon watches Daddy fly a kite, kicks a ball, stomps on the storm drain, and picks up interesting rocks as the girls sit on a blanket or watch from the stroller.

When we're a family of five, we usually try to keep as mobile as possible, and that usually means leaving the Joovy in the minivan and striking out with two in strollers and one twin in the Baby Bjorn or Moby Wrap. This was our mode of choice in October, giving us the freedom to mingle in crowds at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Stone Mountain, and the post-remodel Opryland Hotel. Three months later it's getting harder to push the old Graco with one hand while the other hand keeps tugging on the Moby Wrap like a bad pair of underwear and keeping Carrie's feet from digging themselves into my pockets. I think we're going to need a double side-by-side for our neighborhood walks in the future. Yes, it amazes me that we have three strollers and we're in the market for a fourth.

Our most recent weekend trip was to St. Augustine in January, where we toured the old fort by day and the city center by night.

Devon was impressed by the cannons, but even more impressed by walking up the stairs holding Daddy's hand, only to get to the top and want to turn around and go down again.

By far our favorite family expedition is to go to the beach. It's hard to imagine a more perfect afternoon than sitting on a blanket watching the waves and enjoying an ocean breeze break from the Florida humidity as Devon and Daddy meander along the waterline ditching waves and picking up shells.

Craig and I promised each other that we'll go at least once a month, unlike some of the locals who live fifteen minutes away from the beach and never go. We don't want to move away someday and regret the weekends we spent trapped at home with young children. Our kids never trap us at home, although sometimes we make the decision to stay home because it would be easier for everybody. Most of the time, we take out a map, choose which stroller(s), load the minivan, and decide to go someplace.

Six Month Update, 2-1-2012

Melina Mae and Carrie Annabelle turned six months old on the first of February.


The twins find so much more to do with life now than eating and sleeping. It's a great age for Mommy, too, because I spend so much less time entertaining them and more time just watching them enjoy floor time on their big fleece blanket.

While they play with toys, I stalk them like the paparazzi, iphone poised to capture a cute smile or a new gesture.

Both love rattles, rings, and anything that big brother Devon leaves in their reach.

They're starting to get moving! Both can roll each way and scoot across the floor. Sometimes my heart stops for a second because I leave the room for a second and return to find one baby where I thought I left two.

The best part about having six-month-old twin is that they're now fully aware of it! In the newborn phase, having a twin was the-reason-Mommy-puts-me-down. Now they smile at each other, tap each other on the arms, suck each others' fingers, and chase each others' toes.

(NB: the auto-orientation on my iphone isn't 100% and I get an error message when I try to flip them manually, so I'm sorry for the sideways shots)

I'm looking forward to what's ahead: them chattering to each other in a language that only they understand and crying when the other one feels hurt. I got a taste of it last week. I was with Devon when a sharp cry from Carrie brought me back into the room. I looked down at them to see Carrie very upset by Melina, who was projectile vomiting all over the carpet.

Yes, all the kids were sick last week. It wasn't fun. Enough said.

They also take one or two pretty good naps every day. I stalk their sleeping poses with my camera as well. The hand-and-foot.

The half-spoon.

The V-is-for-victory.

Carrie was so proud of herself when she tipped over the box of floor toys. She was the first with a confirmed back-to-front rollover, and the pediatrician thinks that she'll be the first to crawl. She pulls up on all fours in a crawling crouch, now. I've been stalking the pose for a week, but every time I frame a shot she drops down on her tummy and laughs at me.

She has the one-eyebrow-lifted thoughtful expression that Devon had.

She's cheerful in the early mornings, just like Mommy.

She's also my thumbsucker! I'm able to nurse her first in the early evenings. When I put her in the crib for the night, her eyes roll back, her thumb pops in, and her eyes flutter closed. She's usually able to fall asleep on her own, which gives me time to nurse Melina and get her to bed.

Melina Mae still has the wide-open-mouth grin she had at birth.

It makes it especially easy for Mommy. I just say "Hey, Melina Mae!", she smiles, and in goes a spoonful of pumpkin and applesauce.

Melina scoots across the floor, too. Only backwards.

She's fond of sleeping, too, but still has a flair for the dramatic.

Now that the girls are more interesting, Devon has much more to do as a big brother. I'm sure for a few months he thought of the twins as the-reason-Mommy-puts-me-in-the-pen. Now the doors of the pen are open for most of the day, and he can invite his sisters in with him to stare raptly at whatever he shows them.

When he was their age, he would scoot up to an object, grab it with one hand, and beat it enthusiastically with the other hand while his head bobbed up and down in time. We called the gesture "ride-the-pony" after the 80's dance move in Billy Idol's "Monay Monay". Now, the girls come up to him and ride-the-pony as he shows them his "bus" (the Alphabet Town pad that Devon has nicknamed because it plays the song "The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round").

At four months, both of the twins were "Cowie" to Devon. Now he calls the first one he sees "Cowie" and the second one "Ina-May". I wonder how old they'll be when he can consistently tell them apart. He loves his sisters. He chatters to me about them in long monologues:


Devon turns two in March, and is a very busy guy. People say they don't know how I do it, but I honestly think it would be harder to be pregnant NOW, with a very active toddler that needs his mind occupied and his body exercised for 10-12 hours a day. I'm so glad I've recovered and can spend Carrie and Melina's morning nap with Devon.

Devon's finding more Big Boy things to do all the time. He loves Play-Doh. He likes to make smakes, pancakes, and especially balls. Of course.

My goal is to have Devon eating his oaties all by himself by the time Carrie and Melina have morning oaties, too. Devon started practicing with a spoon a week ago, and he gets better every day. He's in the phase where letting him feed himself is harder than just feeding him, but we're looking forward to the day he'll find his mouth without finding the wall, the floor, his shirt, or his hair first.

As you can see, most of the time he eats with his left hand. He still switches, though, so Uncle Tim's early pronouncements about another lefty in the family may be premature.

We tried decorating cookies, and it worked until Devon realized everything tasted good. The row of gumdrops on the train car disappeared faster than it went on. Oh well. I bought the kit on clearance to fill an empty afternoon, and it worked. Devon and I had fun. I've never seen a person coated in that much frosting before.

Yes, we are one of THOSE parents. Our son eats dessert. Here he is after krumkake (traditional cone-shaped Norwegian cookies filled with chocolate pudding).

He also eats a donut on the occasional Saturday. We want our kids to eat healthy, but we want them to learn that treats are fun in moderation and on special occasions. I don't want them gorging on Froot Loops and pizza their freshman year of college to make up for a vegan childhood where all junk food was forbidden.

It would be hypocritical to not allow them to eat junk if I indulge myself, and I have no desire to give up Bluebell ice cream and Mint M&M's to set a good example. So, now that Devon has learned to drink from a straw, he asks for a sip of my soda.


I give him one. Yes, an hour later I sometimes have to deal with the consequences, but Hyper Devon isn't really that different from Normal Devon. He's a little boy. What do you expect?

Not so little any more, though. His 18-month pants are getting a bit short, and he's sprouted two inches in the last month. As you can see, it hasn't changed his manly physique. He may be skinny, but he's all muscle. He's the only toddler I've ever seen with a six-pack.

All the kids love to play in the screened porch in the afternoons as we wait for Daddy to get home. The girls bob in their Bumbos as Devon rolls his trucks off the slide next to them. Melina stiffens her legs, pops her little rear out of the seat, and rolls off the top onto the rubber mat. Devon sees the opportunity and sits in the Bumbo. The girls are highly entertained by him. They ride-the-pony and laugh, which makes Devon, the center of attention, beam back at them.

It's a perfect moment, one that makes the craziness that occasionally overwhelms me all worthwhile. We wanted our kids to be close in age so they could play together as siblings and enjoy a close bond.

It looks like it's working.