January 2012

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While role-playing with her dolls, Sam uttered this monologue:

I put the ball under here. Now you listen to me. I’m going to tell you what to do. You go over here and  I’ll go over there and then we’ll get the ball…no! That’s not the way to do it. Now I’m going to put you in jail. I’m going to put you in jail for real and you’ll never get out again. But I didn’t know that. Okay, you’ll be okay. Now you listen to me, I mean it. Does anybody want a peanut?

Zoe and Leo are now two very different babies. Different than last month, and different than each other.

 

Leo is growing hair. It’s not as light as it used to be, and it looks pretty funny because it’s just a patch right over his forehead. It’s fun to give him a mohawk.

Zoe is no longer the frail, delicate baby she used to be. She’s positively chubby. We call her chipmunk because of those cheeks.

I was right about their eye colors. Leo’s are a nice blue and Zoe’s have finally morphed over to brown. I’m excited that we can finally sing “Brown Eyed Girl” to one of our children.

Both of them have become much more aware of the world this month. They are both easily distracted while eating, which can be annoying. When I take them out in the car it’s no longer a guaranteed nap – they both try their best to stay awake and observe everything. They are both more aware of people, but Zoe in particular is beginning to have preferences. As I wrote about earlier this month, she did not like our backup babysitter. But she seemed instantly taken with Sammy’s teacher. Leo will bestow his adorable smile upon anyone who pays attention to him.

Because of this awakening awareness, they are showing the first signs of getting bored, or whatever the baby equivalent of that is. I can no longer leave them happily lying on the floor for very long. They often need a change of scenery, and they seem to like it when we have guests or get out of the house. I have been getting them out a bit more, and it’s getting easier. As long as we can make it through the winter, I think we’ll be okay. I’ve been extremely lucky that this winter has been so mild. We haven’t even had to put the sleeping bag thingies on the car seats, let alone bundle up two babies for an outing in seriously cold weather.

We’ve entered the world of drool, especially with Leo. I wish that meant that we were done with spit up, but no such luck. Both Zoe and Leo can pick up rattles and small, soft toys, and put them in their mouths. They love to sit in their Bumbos because it leaves their hands free to put things in their mouths. Everything goes straight to the mouth now. I found a small piece of felt on their blanket yesterday and realized that it’s time to start being careful.

Sometimes I think all these new developments are making things harder, but if I ever need to remind myself of what the first months were like, all I have to do is look at the feeding charts. We stopped charting just a few days ago. I gathered up the papers yesterday to put in the baby box. We have 44 pages of recorded feedings, diaper changes, medications, and baths. In the first days and weeks, if you look at the times, it’s just crazy. Did they really eat at 10pm, 1am, 4am, and 7am? Both of them? For days on end? Yes, they did. Things are definitely easier now.

When it comes to development, Leo continues to be a superstar. He is now an expert at rolling onto his tummy and doing “push ups.” He actually likes being on his tummy and will even sleep that way, although sometimes he can’t get back onto his back and that drives him nuts. One time he rolled quite a ways off of the playmat – it looked like he was heading towards a ball that was on the ground. But he never made it, so he has changed his focus to crawling. He has started the “inchworm” move – while lying on his tummy, he’ll arch his back like a cat and then straighten out, pushing forward from the knees on the ground. He has managed to locomote forward a little bit this way. And he loves to stand up! If you give him just a bit of support and help with balance, he’ll stand for a minute at a time. It’s amazing. You can even get him to take steps if you move him like a marionette. I know that boy is going to be a handful in just a few months.

Poor Zoe is just slower than Leo, so her accomplishments don’t get as much attention. But she is progressing. She is much better at holding and picking up objects than she was last month. She just learned how to roll from her tummy to her back – her preferred position. She hates being on her tummy, but I’ve seen her working on the roll from back to tummy so I think that will happen soon. Her vocalizations have gone from learning new consonants to learning new tones and sounds. She practically sings. It’s adorable. She also seems to be learning to love dolls. Since she loves people and faces, this does not surprise me.

Leo laughs a lot. His joy is infectious and it is filling our house with goodness. But he also cries a lot. He’s entered some new phase where he cries when we leave him in his crib. Sometimes it seems like he is upset about having rolled onto his tummy. Sometimes I think he just wants to be back out where all the action is, or that he is lonely. And there is the possibility that he just needs more Zantac. We’ve even speculated that he might be teething, but it’s been a couple of weeks and nothing has broken through. It’s hard to tell with Leo. He’s very expressive – everything is big and loud and over the top, so subtleties are lost.

Zoe, on the other hand, seems so easy to read. I look into her eyes and I just know what is going on. When she is hungry or tired, she just tells me, and I take care of her. It’s all so simple and easy. The downside is that she does not smile or laugh as much as Leo. She’s not what you would call the life of the party. She is earnest, simple and sweet.

We let them join us for a little bit of The Lion King last weekend. I watched Zoe’s eyeballs flick around, taking in every visual detail, as Leo “sang” along with “Circle of Life,” unable to observe without participating. Meanwhile, Sammy talked and asked questions through the whole movie, as usual.

Three very different children.

First Kiss

So what did you do at school today?
I did a piece of work before I had snack.
Oh.
Yes. And I had snack with R.
Oh, that’s nice. What did you talk to R. about?
Oh no. I didn’t have snack with R. today, I had snack with A.
Oh, I see. So what did you talk about with A.?
He asked me to marry him.
Really.
Yes. He asked me to marry him so that we could kiss someday and he asked me to kiss him and I did.
You kissed him today, at school?
Yes.
Was that the first time you kissed a little boy?
No.
Oh, really?
No. A. is not a little boy. We’re getting married.

Sam used to sing along with Laurie Berkner. Now she hums along with Beethoven.

For a long time, Samantha thought the word “Zappos” meant “box.”

Being a full-time parent to twin infants is much easier than I had expected. In fact, it seems easier than my time with Samantha as a baby, even though she was a singleton, and had no older siblings for me to care for. There is definitely a lot more work involved when you have two babies, but I don’t feel crushed by the weight of it the way I did with Sam.

Of course, one big improvement this time around is that I have experience. That is huge. The change in perspective can be summed up by my new parenting motto, uttered every time some little thing goes wrong: “They’ll live.” Another improvement is that we are now able to afford some hired help.

But there is more to it than that, and all the other reasons fall under one heading: Progress. In the five years since Samantha was born, our society has progressed so much that parenting is noticeably easier. It sounds fantastic, but it’s true. Here are some things that seem indispensable to me as a parent now, which did not exist (or were very expensive or rare) five years ago:

  • Amazon Prime – I buy almost everything from Amazon, and since shipping is free and fast (Prime is free for new moms for about 6 months), I don’t worry about batching up my orders. The minute I realize I need something, from formula to a new nursing bra, I go to Amazon and order it. It’s on my doorstep within two days. Not needing to bundle up two babies in the middle of winter for a trip to Target each week is incredibly liberating, not to mention the peace of mind I have in knowing that I’m not going to run out critical supplies.
  • Online grocery shopping – This is a stretch because we used an online grocery service in Chicago in 2000 and New Yorkers have had groceries delivered forever. But the service we used in Chicago didn’t outlast the dot-com crash, and we did not have anything in Michigan in 2006. I see that Netgrocer now delivers anywhere in the country (although the prices are pretty steep). Our local service here in northern Virginia is good enough and cheap enough so that Zoe and Leo have yet to see the inside of a supermarket. Do you hear me, parents? I have never had to take my babies grocery shopping! Ever!
  • Zappos – Again, a bit of a stretch because Zappos existed before Sam was born, but I had never heard of it, and I think they started with just shoes, whereas they have all kinds of clothing now. Zappos (now owned by Amazon) not only offers free shipping, but free return shipping, which means that I buy all of my clothing online too. You have to rewire some brain circuitry to take full advantage of Zappos. Think about it: for the price of one pair of shoes, you can buy twenty pairs of shoes at a time, try them all on at home, and return nineteen pairs. Yes, you can.
  • The Kindle – Feeding babies is pretty boring work. After a few minutes of bonding, you need entertainment. I don’t like having the TV on during feedings, and holding a book one-handed, even a paperback, is painfully difficult. With Sam, that left me with magazines, and since a new parent’s brain-power is reduced by about 50%, I couldn’t handle anything more than Us Weekly. The Kindle gets all the credit for all the good books I’ve been able to read since Leo and Zoe were born. I’m not talking high literature – the brain-power problem has yet to be solved by technology – but detective fiction and mysteries…what an improvement!
  • The smart phone – Besides reading, during feedings I often use my phone to check e-mail and Facebook. I’ve gotten pretty good at holding it and typing with just one hand. In fact, I take care of almost all my e-mail during feedings. That’s my kind of multitasking!
  • The tablet – I’ve finally found a use for my iPad! When I’m not up to reading or e-mailing, I turn to the iPad. It’s too heavy to hold and use with one hand, but I can set it on the table next to me and watch streaming media or listen to audiobooks.
  • Streaming media and audiobooks – Okay, these things were probably around five years ago, but the accessibility and selection is so much greater now, that they really count as new developments. How many of you were watching whole TV shows online or regularly listening to audiobooks in 2006?
  • Digital cameras that replace camcorders – having just one photo- and video-taking device makes it much more likely that I’ll take video at all, and it’s so much simpler.
  • Single-cup coffee brewers – Now affordable for home use. Need I say more?

Of course, there are many, many other incremental improvements. Our double-stroller is not a new concept, but it is much better than those sold in 2006. And our Honda Odyssey is just a new model, but it’s the first minivan to allow three children to be seated in the middle row, all using the Latch system (the safest method of attaching the car seats). I don’t think Zoe and Leo are receiving any vaccines that weren’t available in 2006, but Rotateq was brand new when Sam was born, and the twins are getting Synagis (more important for preemies), which became available about a dozen years ago.

It doesn’t seem possible that so much could change in so little time, but the wider context is even more staggering. Consider Dr. Harry Binswanger’s brilliant exercise in perspective:

The actual living conditions for Americans of 1826 were essentially those that had obtained during most of human history. If you transported Shakespeare from 1600 London to 1826 London or New York City, he’d find little that was strange to him, only improvements on what he already knew. That would be mostly true even of bringing Aristotle to 1826. But if you took Jefferson from 1826 and transported him to contemporary America, he would think that we’ve become a race of gods. He couldn’t even grasp radio, let alone DVDs, Mars rovers, Googling, gene therapy, and 3-D printing. Yet, it takes only two 93-year lifespans to stretch that 186 years.

In the history of mankind, an awful lot has happened in a very short time.

(Quoted, with permission, from Dr. Binswanger’s e-mail list, HBL)

I imagine a not-too-distant future where mothers are making casts of their breasts so that they can manufacture customized nipples for their babies’ bottles using their 3D printers, where there is a device that automatically removes the white part of a baby’s fingernails, no clipping required, and where we finally have the “brain in the sky,” as I like to call it – the computer from Star Trek that holds all the data you’ll ever need, which you access with your voice and which talks back to you if you want it to. We’re getting close to the last development already. We have Google, wireless access, and Siri. All we need now are the implants that allow us to get rid of those clunky input/output devices we call smart phones, and some refinement. That’s when technology will have solved the new parent brain-power problem.

If you, too, look forward to such an amazing time, take note – you’re  living in it now. We are a race of gods.

Our regular babysitter is on vacation so I’ve hired a temp for this week. Zoe won’t eat well with her. Which means that Zoe noticed the difference. Zoe knows and cares that there are different people in her world!

Every once in a while, either Leo or Zoe will get very cranky and I’ll have to soothe him or her. Not often, but it happens. I think they do it just for differentiation so that I’ll appreciate their normal state of pure contentment.

Adam and I have done a great job not calling Leo and Zoe, “the twins” very often. They are individuals and deserve to be treated separately. But sometimes it just makes sense to refer to them together. When I wrote my first monthly update, I deliberately decided to do one update for both of them because otherwise I knew it would be too overwhelming and I’d drop it. They sleep in the same room, so are we seriously going to call it “Zoe and Leo’s room?” We feed them at the same time so are we seriously going to say, “Time to feed Leo and Zoe?” No. There is something to be said for efficiency in these matters. But because we had it in our heads not to call them “the twins,” in these moments we subconsciously searched for a nickname, and somehow they became “the Beasties.”

Wow – look how much more mature they are at four months! The way they are holding hands is typical. They grab at each other all the time, and if they’re hungry, they’ll suck on each other. I’ve caught Leo sucking on Zoe’s head a couple of times. She might be our Cylon baby, but he’s our zombie baby.

The biggest event in the Beasties’ life during their fourth month was their transition to their own cribs. (See, we’re promoting their independence!) There was really no reason we couldn’t have just started out with two cribs, but we were considering going to a floor bed after a few months so we just bought one crib to get started. That turned out to be a wonderful decision because it was so sweet to have them together in the same bed. But early in December, they got too big to lie them down crosswise, and they were starting to poke each other and scoot around too much. So now we have two cribs in their tiny bedroom. Adam managed to set it up so that they can see each other, we can reach everything we need, and the video monitor can cover them both. It was one of his best packing jobs, ever!

Speaking of cribs, both Leo and Zoe are still sleeping well. Sometimes we have to wake up and feed both of them in the middle of the night, and sometimes it’s just one of them. Once, both of them slept right through. We aren’t pushing them on this issue because they seem to be on board with the project, only having setbacks when they are ill or otherwise discombobulated. They remain on a three hour schedule during the day – Eat, Activity, Sleep, Repeat five times each day. I’ve given up worrying about when they will transition to naps. They seem content this way, and it works for me, too.

Sleeping is their number one job. Eating is number two. They’ve had some issues with eating this month. Both of them are more distractable now. Leo is tuned in to sounds and Zoe is tuned into visuals, but either way, it takes them away from the bottle. Zoe still breastfeeds well and Leo is still lazy, but we’ve kept at it, and I mostly enjoy it. They both went through a brief biting phase but that seems to be over, thank god! The best part is that they are big enough now that I can nurse them lying down. That’s a little bit of heaven, right there.

Their third and final job is play. They’ve been spending the majority of their awake time on their Gymini activity mat.

They lie on their backs and bat at the hanging toys or talk to each other or look in the mirror. But they are getting too big to share the Gymini, and I don’t think it’s worth buying a second one since they’ll be beyond it soon, developmentally. They’ve also been spending time in their bouncy seats (which they hated up until recently), their Bumbos (but only for a minute at a time), and on their tummies in the Boppies. They hate tummy time on the floor, but they seem to like the Boppies, which is nice because they both look especially gorgeous in that position.

I still don’t take them out much. The weather has been mild enough to go for walks, but it’s just too much trouble. But when we do take them out, they’ve been really easy to deal with. When we took the whole family to the mall to see Santa, Adam got his first real taste of what it’s like to be out in public with twins. People want to find out all about them and fuss over them. So far, we both enjoy the experience, but I’m sure it will get old.

 

Individually, Leo continues to be a bit more advanced than Zoe, but not by much. He is only about a half-pound bigger than she is, and because she’s a girl she is actually in a higher percentile on the growth chart. Leo grasps objects very well now. He can hold a rattle and shake it a little bit before he drops it, but he can’t yet pick something up off the floor. Both Leo and Zoe grab their hanging toys, and of course, try to put them in their mouths. Sometimes they succeed. Leo also is working on holding his own bottle, but that just means that he knocks it out of his mouth – but I swear, he wants to hold that thing. Both of them are putting weight on their feet, which is so cool. Leo is amazingly strong and seems to love standing up. That boy worries me, sometimes. I had a dream that he started walking at four months and he ran into the bathroom and slammed the door and wouldn’t let me in.

For a while, Zoe was the more verbal of the two, but Leo has caught up with her. They both make many consonant-vowel sound combinations like GA, BE, WA, and UNG. And everyone but me thinks that they are both laughing. I call it proto-laughter – a kind of repetitive grunting along with a smile. But they did it for a while and now don’t do it as much. I think real laughter is yet to come. I’ve always been amazed that laughter happens so early in human development. I wish I understood why.

We’ve noticed that Leo gets startled more easily than Zoe. If you come at him too fast or make a sudden noise, his arms and legs stick straight out and his eyes get wide and scared, but it’s never enough to make him cry. Zoe continues to be unflappable. But when something is really wrong, boy oh boy, you’ll know it.

While Leo works on physical skills, Zoe is still busy observing. She studies everything in her visual field with such focus. She likes all computer screens, and a row of brightly colored objects can hold her attention for many minutes. Her favorite thing is a face, so when she meets new people she really looks at them and I think, along with her amazing smile and big, expressive eyes, this instantly wins people over.  I swear, that girl is sweetness, personified. Unfortunately, her fascination with the camera means that I rarely get photos of her smiling and Leo seems like the bubbly one. They are both actually very happy, easy babies. When we come into their visual field, there is a brief delay while they try to figure out who it is, and as soon as they recognize us (Sam, Adam, our babysitter, or me), they break out into huge grins and wiggle around and kick their legs. It doesn’t get any better than that.

 

 

Yes, yes, I am in the process of writing Leo and Zoe’s 4 month update (two weeks late already!) and I know that is what you are really interested in, but in keeping with my selfish parenting principles, I thought I’d write about me first.

As you can probably tell by the long pause in blogging, December was a difficult month. Zoe and Leo are doing well, but we had a lot of hiccups. Under normal circumstances, I manage to keep things under control – barely. But if one little thing goes wrong, it gets hard. In December, we had a few little illnesses (just sniffles), I hurt my back, Sam was on holiday from school, my babysitter got sick, there was Christmas itself, and my babysitter spent m0re time with her family. That was enough to put blogging (and a lot of other things) on the back burner. Adam was home a bit more than usual, but he did most of the work for Christmas – setting up the decorations, wrapping presents, etc., so that was a wash in terms of taking care of babies. The back injury required muscle relaxers which meant that I couldn’t breastfeed, which meant that I had to pump to keep up my milk supply. That was a horrible week. Anyway, when you’re living on the edge like this and something goes wrong, it’s like cascade failure. One problem causes another, and another, and another, and that went on pretty much the whole month.

The other thing that happened in December was the onset of mild postpartum depression. Just like with Sam, I was fine for months before I noticed a problem. I’m not even sure if what I’m going through would be called PPD or just “baby blues.” I just tend to find the negative in everything, and as soon as I finish the day’s work, all I want to do is crawl into bed and watch Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Rehab. Even if I had had more time, I didn’t want to blog because I had nothing good to say. I feel good today, so I’m hoping to get two posts done, but I make no promises. I might just crawl back into that hole in a few hours.

Along with the depression came the lovely part of postpartum life when all your hair falls out. Clumps of my hair are everywhere. My psoriasis is worse than it’s ever been, and my mystery pain is coming back. And in December, I didn’t lose any weight. My scale tells me that I gained a tenth of a pound. Maybe I don’t have PPD after all – who wouldn’t be down with all of that going on?

In fact, maybe I’m depressed because I haven’t been blogging. Or maybe it is just the shortened days of winter. Who knows – causality is beyond me right now – I’m just getting through each day.

It probably sounds worse than it is. I’ve done some thinking on paper and have plans to address the things that are under my control. I plan to keep using my babysitter this semester and not to skimp on that help. That’s the thing that keeps me most sane, and allows me to spend time with Sam. Sam going back to school will help too. I have doctor’s appointments lined up to deal with my health issues. The return of the pain scares the crap out of me, but I need to remember that, even if I don’t know why I have the pain, I do have a way to make it better: the PRP therapy I had a few years ago. I’ll do that before I let it get so bad that I’m crawling up and down the stairs. I’m letting go of the weight loss goal for now. I don’t think I have much control of it while breastfeeding, so I’ll just try to maintain, and address it again when my hormones settle down. But so that I don’t cry every time I have to get dressed to go outside the house, I’m buying some fat clothes. I hate to do it, but it’s better than the alternative. With Sam, I refused to buy any new cl0thes because I would not accept my new weight, and I’ve spent the past 5 years wearing whatever I could pick up at Target while shopping for soap and towels and boxed wine. There are other actions I plan to take, too, like setting up regular date nights with Adam and things like that.

But with all the talk of New Year’s resolutions, I feel even more pathetic. I hear people planning to get in shape, travel, start a new career, or other such ambitious notions. My resolutions are to keep showering every day and to eat more sushi. My plans are so small. Really? Going out for dinner with my husband twice a month is an action-item? Yes, it is, and it is difficult to achieve. I don’t know why I find it so hard to accept that taking care of Leo and Zoe has to trump so many other things, but I do. I did this dropping context thing with Sam too, and I thought I learned my lesson: that it is all just temporary. But even though I know that, it bugs me. I want to be doing those ambitious things, too.

And that brings me to my final note. I do have one project that is ambitious. In fact, in my context, it is a BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal). It is time to begin the real preparation for homeschooling. Sam graduates from Montessori in June, and I plan to start working with her in August. I figure if I start now, I’ll be ready by then. And that is exciting. Still, instead of starting at the beginning of January like I had planned, I have to put it off for at least two weeks to catch up after crazy December.

As you can see, my emotions about these things are all over the place. I feel like I’m doing nothing, but I have a huge goal in front of me. I want to hole up and watch tv, but I want to be out pursuing more values. It’s all part of the first year with babies, for me.