twin life

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.

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’ First Ren Faire, Poetry, and Very Expensive Boots

Over the long weekend we packed everything up for a quick jaunt to spend a weekend in PA, including a day at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. This was my second time visiting the fair. Manny took me to the fair for the first time a year ago when I was pregnant with the twins. I spent much of this visit relishing the cooler weather and the fact that I’m about 40 lbs. lighter than I was back then.

But my first impressions were generally the same.

Smells: Pine trees, roasting meat, and whiffs of handmade soaps, candles, and leather from the many stands.

Sounds: Laughter, “G’day, Lady” x100, strains of bagpipes and small vocal groups from different directions, the click of stilts and performers assuring guests that the more they drink, the better the performances.

Sights: people wearing tails, very large skirts, chain mail bras, kilts, masquerade masks, and all the staged buildings and vendors set up to look extremely old-world-ish.

100 Great Poems for Boys CoverFrom the stationer, I bought 100 Great Poems for Boysdespite the title. It’s a brilliant collection for kids. Actually, it’s a brilliant collection for me. Since the purchase, I’ve driven Manny crazy with dramatic readings of Poe’s “The Bells,” Christopher Smart’s “For My Cat Jeoffrey,” and Henley’s “Invictus.”

And from Catskill Mountain Moccassins, I bought $700 shoes.

Hopefully this is the first and last episode of Major Purchases That I Might Regret Later you’ll read about on this blog. They aren’t Jimmy Choos or Prada or any other brand that garners that kind of price tag (I mean, seriously, who has those at a ren fair?) But they are custom leather boot-ish footwear made to fit the foot of each individual buyer, trimmed and finished to completely custom specifications. And because Manny has a pair (received his joyfully, in fact, a few days before he proposed four years ago), he insisted I order some. They’ll last for twenty years, he said–and they’re the only shoes you’ll ever have MADE for your foot, so you should indulge.

So after staring at color swatches, conferring with a friend (who had been convinced to order a knee-high pair of her own), and agonizing over all the button choices, I stepped up on a little platform for my feet to be traced, ensconced in a sock, then taped with gaffer’s tape to create a comfortably snug pattern that would form the basis for the soft leather mocc.

The sad part? Even after they’re fully paid (we put a third down for the pattern tracing and design), I still won’t get them for the better part of a year–and by that time I might not even remember what they’re supposed to look like. But what’s done is done, and in the meantime, I’m going to try not to think too much about how many poetry books or skeins of sock yarn I could have bought with that money.

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.

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.

I Calculated The Value of a (hand knit) Sock

I’m pretty sure my blog is schizophrenic. One minute it’s a parenting blog, then a diet blog, then a travel blog… I originally wanted it to be a “look at the fascinating/exciting things I’m doing and places I’m going!” blog, but I don’t do enough fascinating things for that to happen, so what you see is what you get.

Brace yourself, because I’m going full-on knitting mode.

Hand Knit Sock In Progress

I promise I’ll try to make it interesting, but if making amazing things isn’t your  jam, feel free to skip this one.

We recently took the boys to Texas. They experienced their first flight, a series of long road trips, and two weeks of visiting and sweating (June in Texas is no joke, y’all). The longest we spent in any one place during the whole trip was three days. Throw eight-month-old twins into the mix and that’s a recipe for crazy. BUT I had plenty of road trip time to knit socks.

The most knitting I get done lately is in the car, when we’re in transit. That’s the only time the boys are guaranteed to be safe (and likely asleep) that I don’t also have other pressing responsibilities. So I use that time to make things. I knit. And the very best travel knitting is sock knitting.

Hand Knit Socks Cascade Silk

I did some math. One pair of socks includes well over 20,000 individual stitches, and depending on the pattern, takes me about 10-15 hours to finish.

Which is why I laugh when occasionally (very occasionally) people ask if they can pay me to knit them socks.

The yarn for a pair of hand knit socks costs $20-$30. There’s cheaper sock yarn out there, but I won’t knit with it. If I’m going to spend 10-15 hours of my life running the stuff between my fingers, it’s going to be soft and beautiful.

Hand Knit Socks Araucania Huasco

At a modest rate of $10/hour plus yarn, a pair of handknit socks could easily cost $150 or more. But that’s assuming I would be willing to work for $10/hour. I probably wouldn’t.

This is why hand knit socks are special. You can’t buy them (unless you’ve got a pretty hefty sock budget). You can bribe a knitter, but if that knitter doesn’t already like you a lot, it’s just not going to happen. In fact, if someone gives you a pair of hand knit socks, you should reevaluate your relationship with that person and consider thanking them with coffee. Or chocolate. Or a sports car. Because they gave you a pair of priceless socks and they probably deserve it.

You can go to the store and get perfectly serviceable socks for a dollar. You can get high-end Smart Wool socks for $20, if you want to be fancy. And neither of these options requires hours of running yarn between your fingers, rubbing needles together, putting to use all the skills learned over many years of trial and error and how-to videos.

That makes it crazy to knit socks, right? I mean, who does that? Why do that? If you realize that time is the most valuable currency, why knit anything–let alone socks?

Hand Knit Socks KnitPics Stroll

For me, knitting doesn’t replace other things I should be doing (most of the time). It is my entertainment, the thing I do when I would otherwise be sitting motionlessly watching Netflix, listening to an audiobook, or riding in the car (and I’m not good at sitting motionlessly). It’s an activity I enjoy that results in actual things I can keep or give to someone I really, really like.

You can’t pay me to knit socks or much of anything else. I have no desire to open an Etsy shop to sell the things I’ve made. I can make better money taking on extra writing work.

It’s about watching that beautiful yarn run through my fingers until something priceless comes out. Watching actual things come out of those little snippets of time is fun. It’s my version of PC gaming, movie watching, music listening, time-wasting amusement. And though I’m a little biased, I consider it superior to all of those–if only because in the zombie apocalypse, I’ll be able to enjoy myself and clothe my feet.