Parenthood

We Don’t Sleep Around Here

Davey has not been sleeping lately.

Correction: Davey has been sleeping in two- to three-hour intervals, often interspersed with 2-hour awake periods, all night long. Thankfully, Micah is taking up the slack in the sleep department by going to sleep easily and sleeping soundly all night. So we only have one yo-yo baby to deal with. I’m not sure how I survived the newborn weeks when we did this all the time with both babies.

Small Great Things

28587957So in the moments when both twins are actually asleep and the house is mostly together, I often light a couple of candles and collapse on the sofa, only to realize I have no idea what to do with that precious nugget of time. Clean? Do the dishes? Read? Write a blog post? Knit? It’s rough, folks.

In my last post, I mentioned that I picked up Small Great Things and intended to start reading it soon. Since then, I have indeed finished the book. Because I don’t trust myself to formulate a coherent few paragraphs about it, I’ll boil it down.

Things I Liked

This book made me uncomfortable. It forced me to question my own attitude about race issues, and it left me thinking that I might not be as unbiased as I’ve always thought. I haven’t read many of Picoult’s books, but I am finding that she forces her readers to ask themselves some pretty probing questions. That’s a hallmark of a great read, as far as I’m concerned.

Of course, there’s a twist at the end. I remember reading once that a fiction writer should put her characters in the hardest possible situations, just to see how they react. Well, Picoult does this in a very unexpected way at the end of Ruth’s trial.

Things I didn’t like

The ending. The ending and the epilogue both seem a little too deus ex machina, happily-ever-after, Disney storybook perfect for my taste (sorry if that’s a spoiler). As much as I wanted to see Ruth, the protagonist, win her court case and come out on top, I didn’t expect it to be handed to her with a cherry on top.

Overall, I loved it, and I did end up reading it in just a few sit-down sessions after the babies were in bed for the night and before Davey’s nighttime wakefulness sessions began. Small Great Things definitely has a new home in my home library.

Dabbling in Minimalism

In other news, I’ve been throwing stuff away like crazy. Basically, tossing or donating as much *stuff* as possible–the things that fill up nooks and crannies with “I might need this someday” intentions. Baby clothes, unused cooking gadgets, clothes that don’t fit me anymore, half-burned candles, trinkets that I’ve held onto out of a sense of obligation to whomever gave them to me. It’s all going.

The progress is slow–sometimes painfully so–but I’m simplifying, because life is so much more enjoyable when you’re not tripping over accoutrements while trying to live it. Also, when you have fewer things, there’s less to clean.

I’m thinking I might add a few books on simplifying, minimizing, and decluttering to my reading list in the next few weeks, so if anyone has suggestions on excellent books of that sort, please let me know! I will streamline and minimalize many things, but my library isn’t one of them.

9 Reasons I’m Not Taking a Nap Today

No Naps

  1. The prospect of having to wake up again is prohibitively depressing.
  2. Naps cause responsibility-free breaks to go by far to quickly.
  3. Naps aren’t really responsibility-free, because I need to do laundry and folding laundry is somewhat easier when twins aren’t systematically unfolding it at the same time.
  4. If I go to sleep, babies’ naps will be 50% shorter, and they’ll wake up 100% more grouchy.
  5. I would spend a quarter of my naptime thinking about what needs to be done after naptime is over.
  6. Deadlines. Clients that actually want things to be turned in by 6 a.m. And there’s no way I’m getting up at 3 a.m. tonight/tomorrow to make that happen.
  7. If I’m smart about it, I can get a load of laundry washed, a sinkful of dishes cleaned and put away, the living room vacuumed, the dogs fed, the mail checked, the counters wiped off, drink a pot of coffee, and still squeeze in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy while babies sleep.
  8. If I’m not smart about it, I can stare into space in the blessed silence for half an hour.
  9. I do what I want.

Twins Go To Colombia

Before the twins were born, I swore I wouldn’t let them stop me from getting out of my comfort zone and traveling. What I didn’t realize was that sometimes a trip to the grocery store would qualify for both counts. Nevertheless, when Mom asked if I wanted to take the boys and join her for a week in Medellin, Colombia, of all places, I decided to commit and then figure out the rest later.

That strategy–commit, then figure it out–sometimes works, and it sometimes backfires.

Say you’re at the grocery store, and on a whim you buy all 30 ounces of cream cheese for a cheesecake. No matter how you feel about it later, you’ve got to actually bake it. Because there’s no way you’re eating enough bagels to excuse that purchase. You bake the cake and act like it was totally planned.

When you buy airline tickets to Colombia, you go. Even if, as the days before the trip approach, you find yourself wondering what on earth you’ve signed yourself up for.

In this case, the strategy was a good one. I’m glad I went, I’m glad the babies had the experience–even though they’ll never remember it–and I’m glad I got out of my comfort zone enough to make it happen. With that said, there were many moments during the trip that I longed for a childproofed playroom, for a husband to dump the babies on long enough for me to take a nap, and for wonderful English-speaking baristas at familiar local coffee shops.

The following are some of those moments.

  1. When stuck on the metro wearing a screaming baby while sandwiched between 25,734 complete strangers.
  2. When on the metro alone with one twin, after Mom got off the metro at an unknown previous stop with his brother.
  3. When desperately trying to explain that I want a hazelnut latte, not a cafe americano con leche.
  4. When trying to remember the Spanish word for “upstairs,” drawing a blank, and feeling like an entire university Spanish minor course of study is failing me.
  5. When fumbling with Colombian pesos and trying to disguise the fact that I have no idea how much the jumble of coins in my hand is worth.
  6. When staring blankly at a menu of traditional Colombian food and realizing that none of it is remotely appetizing.
  7. When the standard, already-annoying twin questions (how old are they? are they twins? which one is older? are they walking yet? are they identical? are you through having kids now? you must have your hands full? is this one bigger? are their eyes more like yours or their dad’s?) are even worse when presented in rapid-fire Spanish but blending in is impossible with blue-eyed, fair-skinned babies.

My memories of Colombia will forever be misty mountains, lush flora, gently swinging cable cars, plywood “beds,” incredibly kind locals, and various iterations of the above seven situations. I would go back in a heartbeat–but I’d definitely arm myself with more mental preparedness and basically just prepare to function in survival mode for the duration of the trip, should that become necessary.

In other news, I’m still recuperating, because some vacations are relaxing and some vacations are exhausting and this was the latter.

The Big E, and Reading About Twins

Babywearing at the Big E If you want a fried martini, a Philly cheesesteak, maple cotton candy, apple crisp and fresh cranberry juice all in one place, the Eastern States Exposition is the answer. You’ll also find hot tub displays, vendors selling magical steam cleaners, kids showing off their 4-H projects, sheep being sheared, chicks hatching from eggs, and sideshows featuring miniature horses and rescued bears–$1 per person to take a peek.

When we went to the Big E last year, I was 30 weeks pregnant with the twins. I basically stopped to sit and rest 10 minutes for every 15 that I walked. This year, I had one baby strapped to my front and a backpack with baby supplies on the back, while Manny carried the other twin.

So yesterday, the most frustrating part of the adventure wasn’t walking. It was trying to eat funnel cake while wearing a squirmy, greedy toddler on my front. I’m just going to let you try to imagine that one.

We watched a Great Pumpkin Weigh-Off, wandered through the huge buildings representing each state’s representative offerings (always including a wide array of maple products), and caught Marcus Gras beads thrown from a parade float drawn by Clydesdale horses.

The entire experience felt a little absurd.

But cool autumn breezes, babies’ wonder as they ogled the turns of the Ferris wheel, and the mingling aromas (well, some of them) made it worth the expedition.

Reading has taken such a backburner over the last year for obvious reasons. But a group of twin mamas I know on Facebook decided to start a book club, and the first book was something I probably wouldn’t have chosen on my own.

Entwined is a memoir about fraternal friends, one of whom had Down syndrome, that were separated as young children when the parents sent the Down syndrome child to live in a state institution. That twin later went on to become a world-recognized fiber artist. The memoir is written by Judy, the sister that stayed at home, and follows both their story as it twists apart and then back together again later in life.

It was interesting to read about the incredibly unique connection the girls shared as twins. They communicated (rather well!) without needing words, which is handy, since Judy was completely nonverbal.

The story was both gripping and infuriating. Repeatedly I found myself thinking, How many horrible things can possibly happen to one person? The attitude toward children–especially special needs children–in the 50’s and 60’s was depressing at best, and these kids’ parents seemed particularly unable (unwillinrg?) to deal with the fact that they had procreated, and that one of their kids was unique.

But Joyce, the author of the book, was a bit infuriating, too. Sometimes she seemed rather oblivious (it took her 35 years to start thinking about taking her sister out of the institution) and dramatic (going to a “silence retreat” where a dozen women lived together for a week without saying a word). Still, the pieces of the picture she paints with words are so vivid that about two chapters in I felt like I was one of the kids playing in the front yard with them.

All in all, Entwined was definitely worth the read. Now I’m slowly reading Misspelled Paradise: A Year in a Reinvented Colombia, mostly because I’ll be in Colombia myself in a couple of weeks. So far, the account of a recent English grad going to teach at tiny a school on a little coastal island has many similarities to my own experience teaching in Saipan. It also makes me thankful I’m going to Colombia to be a tourist, not a teacher.

Babies are not my full-time job.

IMG_2097The other day, someone congratulated me on how much stuff I manage to do with the twins.

As if going anywhere with them requires the kind of motivation and perseverance that only marathon-runners or those with a penchant for self-punishment possess.

Have we really set our expectations of life so low that we think it’s all over once we reproduce?

Though it’s very well-intentioned and flattering, this attitude surprises me every time I encounter it. I’m not some kind of superhero for going places with my kids–for traveling with them, for taking them on hikes or long walks on rail trails, for going shopping with them strapped to my body.

Doing things with my babies doesn’t make me a remarkable parent. It makes me a human with a life to live. It has never made sense to stop going to the fun, unnecessary places because I have two small humans who keep getting clingier by the day. On the contrary, those small humans probably need to experience those new, unnecessary places more than I do.

Babies are NOT my full-time job. They are part of the life rich, varied God gave me.

I don’t do things despite babies. I do things because life needs to be lived. Because staring at the same four walls drives all of us crazy. Because sometimes you need fresh air, and not from your own backyard.

When I was pregnant, I swore I wouldn’t let babies stop me from having a life. Obviously they’ve changed the life. And I won’t lie and say that it’s always easy (as if anyone would believe me if I did). Some days, I revel in being able to stay home, wear pajamas all day, and do nothing–except feed hungry mouths and change diapers and cuddle and bounce and dance in the living room, of course.

Other days, I do go on an adventure despite the exhaustion and spend the entire adventure putting out fires (world-class poopy diaper in the middle of a hike. angry crying for no apparent reason in the middle of a shopping mall. forgetting the pacifier/toy/extra bottle). But even on those Murphy’s Law days, it’s still worth the effort.

In general, I choose to let kids continue the adventure rather than replacing it. And that’s one of the best choices I will continue to make.

Which is why the slightly cooler weather is making it more inviting than ever to go take babies to the farmer’s market even if I don’t really need anything. Or to pack everything up and walk six miles on a tree-lined rail trail. Or to book flights to South America with my mom so the babies get to spend their first birthday traveling the world. Or to splash in the little kiddie pool on the back deck.

For me, having kids means having adventures with kids.

I’m backing the blue (and camo) because I’m not willing to do what they do.

I’m not willing to die for my country.

I’m not willing to take the oath. I’m not willing to go to war for the constitution, for the political freedom of others, or for patriotic sentiment. I’m not willing to consign my life to the federal government–and that’s not just a statement about the current political situation.

Maybe it’s a statement about my own ungratefulness, selfishness, apathy, or fear. I should be braver, stronger, more of a patriot, etc. But that’s just how it is.

I do solemnly swear that…I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me.

On my honor… I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions.

-Excerpts from the Armed Forces’ Oath of Enlistment and the Law Enforcement Oath of Honor

I’m not willing to die for my country, but I’m married to someone who is. I’m not willing to die for the safety of my town or county, but I’m so grateful for the law enforcement officers who put on blue every day and go hold others accountable for their actions.

Whether they see it as a personal challenge, a legacy, an obligation, or just a job with decent benefits, our military and our law enforcement officers–every single one–have jumped through countless hoops to earn the right to work and fight for us.

Every single one has sworn to protect their badge or their country at incredible personal sacrifice.

They have trained, they have studied, they have left their homes, they have been poked and prodded, they’ve waded through the bog of beaurocratic stupidity along the way, they’ve been insulted, they’ve been treated like children, they’ve tested themselves and been tested–repeatedly–all the time, in every way.

All for a less-than-stellar paycheck and for people who aren’t willing to do the same. That doesn’t make them all superstars. It doesn’t even make them all heroes. There are selfish, power-hungry, immature, irresponsible, bigoted jerks in the military and on police forces all over the country, and pretending there aren’t does a disservice to those who do bring integrity to the job every day.

Not every police officer or soldier is a shining star in the community. But the fact is, they were willing to take the oath. They were willing to do what it took to earn the right to sacrifice themselves. And every day, they’re willing to get out of bed and do it again.

They deserve all our support until they’ve demonstrated otherwise. We can and should back the men and women in uniform until those individuals have proven that they don’t deserve to put it on.

It’s time for us to pause at both the gross injustice that has been inflicted on Black people and the sacrifice of those willing to die for people (like me) who wouldn’t do the same.

And now that I’ve got that off my chest, I’m going back to my knitting, copywriting, and momming, because thanks to my husband and people like him, I have the freedom to do so.

Twin Summertime

The first time Davey tore a piece of paper in half, I was enthralled. My tiny human being who weighed 4 pounds yesterday managed to impact his environment enough to actually destroy something. The feat seemed magical at the time.

Today I have one baby crawling, one baby just a hair shy of crawling, and two babies capable of wreaking a great amount of havoc. I’m convinced that if I left them alone long enough, I’d come back to find an entire room reduced to dust.

Sometimes life seriously feels like just putting out fires. Feed one baby, feed second baby, change diaper 1, change diaper 2, comfort Davey because he faceplanted (again), comfort Micah because Davey touched him.

Today, the babies woke us up at 3am, 5am, and, ultimately, 7am. Because I’ve decided that my Life Plan involves torturing myself on the premise that it’s good for me in the long term, I went on a run. Then I came home, packed my backpack, and headed to Starbucks to finish a couple of marketing articles with approaching deadlines.

Hitting my deadlines means leaving babies with Manny a few times a week so I can head to the coffee shop. If coffee shops disappear tomorrow, so will my copywriting career. They’re that essential.

Manny took both babies to a squadron picnic, and I picked them up from base a couple of hours later. While I was putting in my coffee shop hours, we also heard that Manny made tech sergeant this year–despite twins and all that they entail. That’s a feat, folks.

I came home and scrubbed the upstairs bathroom to celebrate.

At the end of the day we put the tiny humans to bed. I scramble to make the living room floor look less like it was bombed by Toys ‘R Us. I wash the dishes if I’m motivated, pawn them off on Manny if I’m not, drink a cup of tea if I have the energy to boil water, and pass out around 11 or 12.

We work adventures in somehow. Like excursions to Old Sturbridge Village, or a drive to New Haven experience the wonders of Ikea that I’ve heard so much about.

When a living history exhibit and an oversized department store are the most exciting things you do in a two-month span, there’s something wrong. Thankfully, the rest of the summer is looking up.

This weekend, we’re dog-sitting two of our friends’ dogs and one of my roommates from college is bringing her one-year-old to visit for a few days. We’ll see how much the crazy escalates when you add another tiny human and two more pups to the mix.

The weekend after that, another college friend and her husband are coming to stay for a few days (this must be the month for mini-reunions!).

The weekend after that, we’re heading down to PA for a get-together with an amazing group of twin mom Facebook friends I’ve never met (more on that later).

Sometime in September, a Costa Rica (or Colombia, or possibly Ecuador) trip is in the works for myself, my mom, and one baby who gets to go on his first ever international expedition, while his brother enjoys a staycation with his dad.

Things are happening! I’m going to need a lot of coffee to make it through the next several weeks, particularly if Micah keeps trying to climb everything in sight. But things are happening. I’ll take it.