Thursday, April 26, 2012

Addition to the Family, April 26, 2012

Pink New Baby and Purple New Baby, who joined our family just before our actual twins did, frequently enjoy Devon playing Daddy.  To support him in this, I bought five dollars of happiness off the facebook used toy swap last week.  With three kids in diapers I don't have money to spend on toys, but sometimes I just can't resist.  Devon's toy double stroller was worth skipping a trip to Chick-Fil-A last week.

As I've said before, as far as anyone knows there aren't any genetic factors that produce identical twins.  That would mean that identical twins don't run in families, but we all know of extended families that boast several sets of identical twins.  Either the odds have delivered them some astounding coincidences, or there is a genetic component yet undiscovered.  I heard somewhere that some scientists are now thinking that a genetic factor that produces fraternal twins is carried by women (hyperovulation, duh!) and a genetic factor that produces embryo splitting and therefore identical twins is carried by men.

If this is true, I'm more likely to have twin grandchildren through Devon than through Carrie or Melina.  Interesting.  It's neat to think that Devon, whose early childhood is marked by the arrival and care of his little sisters, could someday be a father to his own twins. 

Devon's a good little parent.  "New Babies some cider (go outside) he says, pushing them out to get some fresh air on our cool screened porch. Then he suggests a walk around the neighborhood.  Whenever he's enthusiastic about something, he says it loudly over and over, as if I'd veto something the first six times and then carefully reconsider it on the eighth.


Okay, Buddy-O, let's give the babies some sunshine on this cloudless Florida day.  Carrie and Melina enjoy a ride in their new Combi (our fourth stroller-- amazing how much gear multiples need!!!)  Devon and the New Babies ricochet like pinballs between the opposite sides of the sidewalk. They cross the street, double back, recross, inspect the fire hydrants, and stop so Devon can peer into garbage cans.

I'm wearing black yoga pants, a faded nursing tank top, silver flip flops, my Jackie O sunglasses, and a wide Audrey Hepburn sunhat, accessorized with a sprinkling of oaties since I rarely shower before ten anymore.  That's why I stay resolutely behind the camera this morning.

 We make a statement pretty much every time we go anywhere, but me pushing twins in a double stroller behind Devon pushing his twins in a double stroller is enough to stop traffic on our quiet neighborhood street.  One sweet older couple leaves their breakfast dishes in the sink to come out and chat with us.  They make the observation that we've already been out a half hour and haven't made it more than the length of five houses.  That's the great thing about staying home with the kids; you get very little done but it isn't stressful because you have very little to do all day.  They ask me how long I plan to be out, and I remember that I have Bible Study in four more hours.  If a quarter of a mile takes two hours, that's okay.

Oops!  Devon overbalances and the stroller wipes out.

My strategy when the kids run amok is to stay calm, because then people think you are on top of things and ignore you.  Devon accomplishes this as he picks up Purple New Baby and growls a low "aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh", patting her on the back and rocking jerkily.  I used to wonder what would cause him to make such an unusual noise, and then realized it's the noise I make when I'm soothing one of the kids.  It's another reminder that my kids learn everything from me, right down to the basic skills of nurturing their own "babies".

I can't explain what he does next.  I think he's headed over to replace Purple New Baby in her little seat, but instead he sits down, rocks Purple New Baby, and spends several minutes spinning the suspended wheels of the stroller with his other hand.  I wonder what aspect of my parenting he's copying at this point.  We've all seen the picture on the Internet this week of the crazy-haired, vacant staring SAHM gathering her wits and sipping her coffee as five children create chaos around her (Thanks, Bettie, for tagging it for me!).  Maybe this is Devon having a Daddy Time Out.

Suddenly, Devon stands up and rights the stroller, leaving the babies on the ground as he fixes the sunshade and adjusts the buckles.  Funny how I can't do that.  Even if nobody called CPS, my wigglies wouldn't be where I left them when I got around to collecting them.

"No," Devon says, "New Babies fussy."  He decides that they need the comfort of his arms and sets off, still pushing the stroller.  I can relate.  I do this regularly. 

I dare anyone to say that all this nurturing is turning my son into a sissy. Devon is still "all boy." He can't pass a truck without remarking over it.  He watched March Madness, or what he called Kentucky-A-Ball, with Daddy whenever we'd let him.  He's fond of dirt, fascinated by bodily fluids, and learning to hit a ball off a tee on the screened porch.

Fathering is one of the most masculine things a man can do.  My husband carries the twins into church every week in their hot pink car seats, arm muscles bulging at the effort. I'm right behind him with a toddler holding my hand, but the frankly admiring stares are all for Craig and the girls. I think being a good father is more a confirmation of masculinity than a black mark against it.  Devon's good at being a Daddy because he's learning from a really good dad.

As the novelty t-shirt slogan says: Real Men Make Twins.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Losing It- April 22, 2012

On the morning of Devon’s second birthday, I decided that my husband and visiting in-laws could help me give him the haircut I’d been putting off for a month. I tried to secure his goodwill with Angry Birds on my iPhone, his musical duck toy, and a few chocolate chips, but my suspicious son refused to cooperate. Whenever I’d swoop in with the scissors, his head would whirl around like Baba Yaga’s hut. I couldn’t get near his hair, nor cut a straight line when I did. His whines turned into tears as I held him firmly, then a little too firmly, and finally in a chokehold with his chin tucked into the crook of my arm.

 “Mommy just wants to give you a straight haircut so you can go to your party and not look like a retard!”

My husband gave me the look. My sister-in-law switched off the video camera. My mother-in-law pretended that nothing was wrong, but neither did she come within five feet of me for several more hours. Unscarred by my outburst, my son ran around two minutes later, singing “A Birth-dee, A Birth-dee”.
I, however, have been musing for weeks about why I lost control.  You’d think that after teaching junior high for six years I’d find it inappropriate to make disparaging references to anyone’s mental abilities or a possible relationship between intelligence and haircuts.  I promised myself that I'd always act lovingly towards my kids.  I resolved to always build them up and never put them down.  Is cutting the hair of a tense toddler all it takes for me to totally LOSE IT?

The answer is that it was more than just the haircut. I was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. I’d spent the past three nights nursing the twins in the recliner, where I achieved a tandem latch without my custom nursing pillow out of desperation not to wake our company.  Daytime would come and I'd have a big cup of sweet coffee and resolve to make time to get some sleep, and then my kids would nap in shifts all day, one popping up like a Whac-a-mole game and screaming as soon as I thought I had everyone down.  One of Devon’s toys was going rogue and singing “Welcome to Our Learning Farm!” even though nobody was going near it. Before the party I had to find matches for the birthday candles, tape for the decorations, and time to shave my legs for the first time in eight days.

The best of intentions can’t change the fact that parenting is a marathon run at the pace of a sprint. I supervise three children for eighteen hours a day who give no thought to self-preservation. If at any moment I am successful in keeping them safe from themselves and each other, then I turn my attention to myriad tasks I find time for that enable my children to wear clean clothes, eat, and run around the house in socks that don't turn black on the bottoms. 

I’m at the top of my parenting game sometimes, and it feels wonderful.  Craig comes home from work and finds three clean-faced, smiling children giggling and rolling on the floor.  Devon greets a stranger on a walk with a spontaneous "Nice to meet you!".  We cruise Target with the girls in matching outfits and the ripples of admiration make us feel like celebrities.  I tuck all three into bed before nine and then pause in the thrummingly silent house to thank God for giving me these kids and my husband for working so hard so that I can spend twenty-four hours a day with them.

Lately, it's disturbing how little needs to go wrong before I get well and truly behind. Melina wakes up screaming at midnight so I put on "Dancing with the Stars" to keep me awake as I nurse her for three hours as she flails and scratches at my chest with her angry little fingernails.   The next morning I round the corner to find Devon at my eye level, perching cross-legged on top of his bookcase cheerfully bending the pages of the nice books we keep up there so he won't, well, bend the pages.  I shake a dry, starchy fluff out of a dryer full of clothes and wonder what it is until I realize I've just washed a disposable diaper.  Just like that, my Zen Mother composure is gone.  I'm thinking back to my teaching days when I never realized how easy it was to supervise a roomful of forty kids until the clock said four and I was DONE and could go home to a clean and quiet house.

It's amazing the difference my frame of mind makes in how I perform the hundred rituals of my day with kids. Here are some examples:

Diaper Change

 In the zone: tickle a pudgy baby leg, apply powder and ointment, kiss a foot, tape on a fresh diaper
Starting to slip: realize that Devon's latest aerobic diaper change didn't get the important part of the diaper anywhere near ground zero and there's liquid running down his leg
Sliding: lay Carrie on her back, Carrie rolls over, roll Carrie over, Carrie rolls over, undo a diaper tab, Carrie stands up, roll Carrie over, Carrie rolls over, roll Carrie back over, undo the other tab, Carrie rolls over....
About to LOSE IT: I smell poo but, hey, those diapers are made to last all night...

Toddler Dinner

In the zone: cubed chicken breast with choice of fun dipping sauces, roasted bite-size potatoes, broccoli
Starting to slip: cubes of scrambled egg-and-veggie omelet, most of which ends up on the floor
Sliding: peanut butter sandwich fingers, banana slices, milk sippy
About to LOSE IT: crackers, string cheese and a multivitamin


In the zone: walk around the neighborhood, three baths with toys, sippy and toothbrush for Devon, two stories, one song, prayer, choice of stuffed animals and kiss goodnight
 Starting to slip: scrub down with a washcloth, three laps around the house with Devon and the sippy, one story that I have to hold away from them because they're trying to rip the pages, an extra “Help me to OBEY my MOMMY!” in the prayer
 Sliding: my knee on Devon's chest as I wrestle him into clean pajamas, one song together, music CD on, dashing out of the room to see what the girls have just pulled off the changing table
About to LOSE IT: sniff dirty pj's in the hamper and decide Devon's better off sleeping in his day clothes

Potty Training

In the zone: reading “The Wheels on the Bus” while I sit on the big potty and Devon sits on the little potty, pants around our ankles in cheerful camaraderie
Starting to Slip: He’s still sitting on the little potty, I’m making a leftover birthday cupcake do a little song and dance on the bathroom counter “If you pee-pee, you can eat me…”
Sliding: He’s running circles around the house, naked from the waist down, yelling “Flush! Flush! Byeee-byeeee!”, I’m holding the cupcake, chasing him, and pleading “Do you want treats? Do you want treats?”
About to LOSE IT: Devon's playing in the gated playroom, diaper back on and already sagging to his knees; I sit on the lid of the toilet polishing off the last of the cupcake

Before I had kids, or back when I had one and he couldn't talk back or run away from me, I remember passing judgment on other parents. I miss that smugness, the certainty that I would never subject my kids to bad parenting. Needless to say, unless you're the mom I saw in Walmart at midnight unscrewing the cap on a Coke so she could pour some into a baby bottle, return the Coke to the shelf, and hand the bottle to a child barely old enough to sit up, I haven't had the time or energy to evaluate your parenting. If you are that mom, I've got to say a big THANK YOU for allowing me to feel superior to someone for just one moment last week.  I really needed that.

Devon's future haircuts will be a tense two minutes instead of a tense forty-five minutes: I told Uncle Tim that Devon had enough trucks and what he really wanted for his birthday was a set of electric barber shears.  He's not the only one who makes my job easier.  My parents are a phone or text away if I need support, and occasionally swoop in to make my dinner and entertain their grandchildren with fifties dance aerobics.  My friends share their failures with me so I don't have to worry that my blog posts reveal that I am the only one who says things that I regret in front of my kids.  My husband rubs my back when he sees my eyebrow twitch after Devon screams so loud that it's agony every time he's happy about something. 

I think we moms are all doing the best job we can in the circumstances we find ourselves.  At night we fall into bed after unbelievably long days, wondering how we're going to find the rest and composure to do all of THAT again.  The truth is, we don't have to. Today my toddler may point and shout "NAKED ADONIS!" every time he catches sight of himself in a reflective surface (note to self: I have to stop calling him that) but next time he'll be climbing back into the undrained bathtub with his footie pajamas freshly on.  Every day is different.  Some are easier.  Some are hard.  All are blessed. 

A few weeks ago, someone cut in line in front of me and my gigantic stroller at Chick-Fil-A. Since people usually feel like dirt for doing anything remotely rude to a mom juggling twin babies and a toddler, that doesn't happen very often anymore. I suppressed a flash of annoyance.  How dare she make my kids wait!  Next thing you know, they'll get overhungry and start fussing and then she'll be annoyed for having to listen to them.  Grrr!

Then I noticed she was holding a toddler and herding three kids behind her.  When she bent over to dig in her purse for her wallet, the folds of her shirt revealed that she was pregnant again, just starting to show and probably still feeling sick.  I felt a warm rush of compassion. This woman was obviously just like me.

 Trying not to LOSE IT.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Eight Month Update- April 13, 2012

Carrie and Melina are eight months old!

It's hard to decide which pictures to post. We crouch in front of them and snap

and snap

and snap as they do one cute thing after another.

Afterwards we grab the camera cord, download the pictures, and the slideshow begins. Or, we click through them in rapid succession, making a jerky, old-fashioned Carrie and Melina video.

The matching dresses are from Grammy, who just woke up back on the west coast after spending the week with us here.

We saw the Easter bunny, even though it's technically a pagan fertility symbol, a holdover from when Christians celebrated their holidays piggybacked to other holidays because they feared persecution from the intolerant. Oh well. Around here, we're not afraid of little fertility.

Devon hunted for eggs with the same joie de vivre he brings to every task. It was hard to pin him down for a picture. Our plastic eggs were traditional colors, and then some more were decorated to look like balls. They were a big hit.

Carrie and Melina watched from the bumbos. They'll be in the back yard joining the fun next time around, running after Devon and squealing with delight. I can't wait.

For now Carrie and Melina are putting their mobility to good use. They've discovered that Devon isn't the only family member who can spread little baby socks all over the floor.

They spend time in the exersaucers.

Most importantly, they spend time in The Pen.

When we moved here and set up The Pen, I thought of it as Devon's playroom. Now he isn't the only one that occasionally needs a confined space. In the past week, the girls have discovered Ally kitty, her litter box, the cord on my laptop, the on/off switch on our router, the taste of a fresh newspaper, and that it's really fun to put your hand in Mommy's coffee and splash her in the face.

They've also learned to pull up. I see a standing child at the edge of my peripheral vision, do a double take, and find that it isn't Devon watching me soberly and hanging on to the edge of the coffee table. We're predicting early walkers. How early? Hmmm...

It's more important than ever to have a safe place to play. Devon still has what you could call "supervised visitation" with the girls. That means that I try to let them play together for fifteen minutes twice a day so they'll develop a good relationship, but I have to be right by them every second. Hyper Devon tends to come out, and I have to make sure he is gentle with Carrie and Melina and doesn't tip them over.

Right now Devon's favorite game to play with his sisters is still "huggin' the babies", where he bestows affection on one and then the other before he gets a little too aggressive and I have to pull him off. His second favorite game is to wait for them to pick up a toy, scream "Mine!", grab the toy, and put it on the rocking chair where they can't reach it. All three seem to think this is wildly funny. They do it over and over, resulting in a precarious pile of toys on the rocking chair. One of these days, I predict that my assertive Melina will realize the unfairness in this game and haul off and sock Devon. That'll be interesting.

Our first hot Florida summer is coming up. The snowbirds are leaving, which makes traffic thin out in Vero Beach. We're gearing up for four months of outings in the early mornings, quiet afternoon naps spent in an air conditioned house, and walks in the evenings.