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Dad's Coping Mechanism - 2010

2010 begins with the twins at 17 months, and Liss pregnant with Ellen at 27 weeks. Here is her birth story.
2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012

December 25th+

Ellen's stats from the ped: 20#8 (78th percentile), 27" (16th)

I've started taking melatonin in an attempt to get my sleep back on track. I think it's working, even before the two-weeks-to-kick-in period has finished. It's meant to be a temporary solution, to kick-start things back to normal, but so far I'm bullish.
You know how you might barely touch a pot to check if it's hot, or when you were a kid, you'd enter the local "haunted" house for two feet before running off? That's how the boys are with the cat. When she's lying about - and we're very nearby - they love to slowly reach out and pet her, then jerk their hand away like the pot was hot after all. Then they giggle at their courage.

Of course, if she just casually walks by, they avoid her and get all angsty. "Kitty not hurtyou!"
I got home from work after the kids had gone to bed, but the boys were still awake, so I decided to risk it and go in to say good night. There was a little drama ("Drewbie want to go downstairs"), but it was a good choice.
From Amy:
I've been reading the story of a woman from Ohio for a long time. She is another infertile blogger. I think I mentioned her to you about eight months ago. She has an older daughter - two-ish through IVF. She did IVF for #2 and after transferring two eggs, one of them took and split and she was having identical twin girls.

They were delivered today. At 34 weeks. Between TTTS (the little one hadn't grown in two weeks), gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and something else I can't remember - it was time.

The big twin died. I don't know how/why - it doesn't really matter.

The little twin had to be taken to Children's.

I'm so sad. I'm so thankful for your healthy, smart, rambunctious, funny, wonderful children.

We are so overwhelmingly lucky.
I'm at work late, and just said good night to the boys over the phone. Now I completely understand those who've all said they could barely make out a word they say.
A nice side benefit of the boys' frequent desire to ride their "motorcycles" is that it gives us chances to work in the garage. There's a lot to do down there.

There's also a box in there with a play toolset that Liss's dad sent here months ago, for us to gift to them when they're ready, which they're not. However, it has a picture with the set and two small boys playing with it, so they keep asking what it is. They seem to have gotten that it's "Grandpa's box," as I tell them, but they're still curious. I keep forgetting to rip off the picture when they're not around, because I'm never really down there without them.
The biggest Christmas hit with the boys so far are their new tricycles, but don't call them that - they're "motorcycles" according to them. Every few hours over the weekend, they asked to go down to the garage to ride them. That involves getting (re-)dressed, including shoes and coats and sometimes gloves, but it's worth it to them. They thankfully took to the helmets easily enough, so that's also part of the routine. When they're done, they take off the helmets and hang them on the handlebars.

The best part is that they go "vroom! vroom!" while ... not pedaling. Even though they adjust for size, the trikes are still too big for the boys, so they just scuffle along. They need at least three more inches, which at this rate will happen by high school.

It's too wet and cold to go anywhere but there and the carport, but they've been mostly okay with that. Even if they weren't, the van is parked in a way that mostly blocks them, and - more importantly - the driveway inclines just enough to keep them from going up and out. A bonus for them is that it's a slight downslope to hit the van. We hope they'll be taller and able to really ride them to the local parks and such by the time the weather is good for such things (late May).

If Bobby backs into Drew, Drew will say "Oops, sorry!"

Like with other things, Bobby has found that blocking his brother's progress causes him great frustration, which apparently is a good thing.
As the next step in encouraging the boys in the kitchen, Liss's mother got them their own spatulas.

As a "Weird Al" Yankovic fan since middle school, this is strongly linked in my brain with part of this "commercial" from his 1988 movie UHF, which you should all have memorized by now. Like me.
A constant dilemma - do we allow the boys to go at it with each other, thereby developing their conflict resolution skills but causing strife with themselves and us, or do we remove the source of conflict? It's a case by case decision.

An example is the basketball goal that they got for Christmas. The goal itself is a hit, but the basketball isn't. Instead, they want to use the soccer ball I got them. They refuse anything else, so I have to keep telling them that one shoots, the other gets it and shoots, etc. The thing is, I got three of the soccer balls, and intend to defer giving the others until later. I could just go get another one and thus have one for each of them, but I'd rather use the learning opportunity. So far, what Bobby has learned is that if he holds the ball, he loses the enjoyment of shooting it, but at least he keeps Drew from getting his turn.

Playground basketball court rules for fewer balls than people are subtle but universal. If you make a hard enough shot, anyone who rebounds gives it back, and you get to take another shot. The slang is that you gave more than you had to, so you get "change." "Hard enough" is a little short of the three-point line. If you miss, whoever gets it takes their shot, but if you get your own miss, you can probably take one more shot before you start to stretch the unwritten rules. If you make that shot, you should refuse your change. Also part of the equation are the person-to-ball ratio and whether it's your own ball.

That's way too complicated for the boys yet, so we'll just stick with one shot per turn for now, but their education has just begun. Not included in the curriculum - congratulatory butt-smacking.
During a short childless outing given by Liss's parents, we went to a bakery for coffee and treats, and ran into an old acquaintance who has a 16-year-old. She finally told us what we wanted to hear, that 3 is better than 2 and everything after that is actually good until teenager time. She noted that a lot of people forget the bad and remember the good, which is a proven thing (it's how so many people can have more than one child). So, it was good to hear something positive about the 3s after so many "it's worse!" stories.

She also brought up the same bellweather moment we've been waiting for for ages - when they can make their own cereal in the mornings and leave us to bed.
As should be expected during a four-day weekend, I got a little snippy and Liss got a little weepy. Now she has to deal with all three by herself for three days before another three-day weekend, this time without her family to help.

Ellen's nine-month ped visit is in a couple of days. She's around 19-20 pounds, so she hasn't quite caught the boys yet (~23), but my original calculation was 16 months, so she's still on track, if not ahead of that.
The boys don't recognize our superior wisdom and experience very often. Here's a typical conversational example: I'm sure I was the same way, but I knew everything, so at least it was warranted. They, however, don't know squat.
Ellen's been fussier the last few days, especially at bedtime. I'm hoping it's just a growth spurt or otherwise temporary; we don't need a third high maintenance child. It's not that she's not still generally sweet and playful - just that fussiness has been more frequent and harder to soothe.

No crawling yet. Liss says that maybe she's not "crawling by Christmas" yet because she's Orthodox Christian, so she has another ten days or so. That's stretching it, but Liss has to use her Religion degree for something.
Nine months old.

December 18th+

Drew was preemptively approved by our health plan to see a pediatric gastroenterologist for his celiac referral. Also covered in the approval - a colonoscopy and subsequent biopsy.

Maybe we'll wait on that one.
Liss, "My Life on the B-List."
This isn't based on anyone or any particular event, so don't feel like you have to be all, "I like you! I do stuff with you!" It's just me being grouchy today. Move along.

Sometimes I feel like I'm on almost everyone's B list. Unlike some of our favorite people, we don't have family in town. Seeing friends is an effort. We never throw parties, though I invite someone to brunch with us (in or out) at least once per weekend. But we don't have a regular Thing or a regular group whom we see all the time. Whenever I go to parties, I feel like most people there knows each other better than they know me. They're all friends from Queer PEPS, or they all have a weekly gaming night, or craft group, or whatever. If you diagrammed their friendships, it would look kinda like a caffeine molecule and if you diagrammed mine, it would look more like ethanol ... which seems like it takes more effort to keep connected, especially when I am the one doing so much of the inviting. We were invited to only three holiday events this year, and none of the sparkly evening parties of years past. Did they not happen because everyone else is as getting as old and boring as we are, or were we not invited because we've said no too many times, or we did something offensive, or just aren't cool enough? Because all I talk about is my damn kids*?

And even when we do see people, it's hard to have a real conversation with my tiny entourage in tow. I can think of specific conversations I want to have with specific people, but it's hard to make that happen except online, which really isn't the same. I just need to keep seeking people out and reminding myself that this stage won't last forever.

* Insert standard "I love my kids" disclaimer here.
The boys prefer Daddy. It's not like I beat them or yell at them, I swear, but they've been rejecting me more and more. Sometimes when they fall down or make a mess and cry for him, they won't accept my comfort even if he's not home.

And the more they scream for Daddy, the worse and worse a mother I become.
Half a day into grandma's visit, Liss says Bobby already favors her over his own mother.

Update: Okay, I may have exaggerated based on two "Grandma do it!"s. He has now refused her even more than me.
We had a couple of "was it really closed?" moments over the weekend, in which Drew may or may not have opened their bedroom door. Monday, says Liss, all doubt was erased. She's certain that she had completely closed the front door and watched him open it.

We're not sure where our little doorknob safety things are. They're cheap, so I guess it's time to order more, lest we have our own version of this incident.
The boys' new video obsession is Caillou, which isn't a terrible thing, neither better nor worse than the garbage trucks were, I suppose. PBS still airs reruns, but we're sticking to YouTube; we want to put off having them want to control what's on the TV for as long as possible. That's ours, dammit!
The boys wanted to "clean the refridgerator" - bonus picture.
Liss says that a wrapped package arrived, and - knowing what he does now about Christmas - Drew simply walked it over to the tree and put it with the others.
Liss's family arrives this week for the holidays. They were last here in August. The thing we expect them to notice most about the boys is their language. We see them all the time, so we have trouble gauging four months of progress, but we know it's been big. They construct their own sentences now, instead of just repeating what they've heard before, and can usually articulate their thoughts clearly - or at least clearly enough for us. We've stopped being taken aback by sentences beyond ten words.

They've also started talking to each other - addressing each other - a lot more. Usually it's some form of "stop that!," but hey.

They're using pronouns more often - mostly third person - and correctly by gender (his, her). Also, they're using singular versus plural - "what's those?" as opposed to "what's that?" when there's more than one, and appending an 's.'
Continuing on the theme from last week, Ellen's context-appropriate babbling has become more than coincidence. It's a dual thing - when the cat isn't around, she doesn't use a 'k' sound, and when she comes by, Ellen often uses it. The same goes for 'd' for me and 'm' for Liss. It's just a little too on-the-nose to be nothing ... we think.

The boys were late with words. We're starting to expect that Ellen might be early.
The boys' clinginess to me has continued to accelerate. They don't want to go anywhere without me, I'm always the one they cry out for when they wake up, they want me to change their diapers, go upstairs with them to pick their clothes, brush their teeth, etc. Basically, if it's not universally acknowledged as Liss's responsibility, i.e. if there's a chance I might do it, then I'm doing it.

In a lot of ways, it's endearing. It's nice to be wanted. I also know it's laying a foundation where they know they can count on me. A long time ago, we started saying "[Mommy/Daddy] always comes back" when leaving and arriving to/from work or other excursions, which seems to have stuck. It's a little exhausting, but in the positive sense, which is much better than the alternative.

Liss has the opposite problem - constant rejection.

It's just a phase, though, and they'll probably switch back and forth from time to time.

December 11th+

Despite my long-ago predictions that Ellen would be crawling by Christmas combined with the fact that she's not doing it yet, I'm still cautiously optimistic. She's really close.

The boys are starting to be annoyed by her curiosity in them, because she keeps reaching out to grab their shirts and whatnot. They have no idea what they're in for.
Liss's uncle bought this thermometer off our wish list. It rules - you just swipe it across the forehead, and you're done. No more trying to convince our irrational toddlers that the oral thermometer isn't a needle!
Bob's gotten into a habit of crying out for me at the wee hours to hold him; he's done it maybe 8 of the last 10 nights. This doesn't help my sleep problems. I read up on it, like here, and last night (at 1:15am) decided to try telling him I was only going to stay for three minutes. I counted down each minute (as best I could figure), then left, and there was no problem. I was actually surprised about that; I fully expect him to melt down the next time I try it. However, the idea is to make my arrival less and less rewarding, so that he starts putting himself back to sleep instead of crying out. It's very similar to the general sleep training of smaller babies/toddlers, but a little more sophisticated, since he can understand me - and he knows how to manipulate better.
Yet another illness - Bob has a fever, though he doesn't seem to have any other symptoms.

Update: vomit. I guess that's a symptom.
Ellen's 529 is set up.

One of the weird things about the 529 is that we have to use it for education. If Ellen (or the boys, who have their own) decides not to go to college or vocational school, or gets a full ride, or whatever, we can't just withdraw it and stick it in her 401(k) or fly to Rome. We can transfer it to a family member, and having three kids means we'll have flexibility in that case, but it's still possible (though not very) that we'll be looking for places to spend it come 2032. If that happens, having one kid do something post-bachelor's would make it easy.

Speaking of which, my mother told me some years ago that she and other relatives were deliberate in assuming I would go to college, so that I would also assume it. That's pretty smart, and we'll probably be the same way, consciously or not. There was a disconnect somewhere along the line, though; when I graduated college, my grandfather was surprised to learn that I had no plans for grad school. Setting up these education accounts is part of a process that will include those kinds of conversations later.

Our financial advisor says "they can always get loans," and to fund our own retirements before their educations, but I'm not so sure. If those loans are too large, they can be a huge burden well into adult life. You can do the math and figure that our working one more year can offset five years of that burden, but then there are three of them ... decisions to be made when the time comes. I'll be a few weeks from 60 when Ellen turns 22.
We didn't end up going to the twin club meeting for an after-bedtime experiment. However, there's something similar this Friday that's closer to home and not as late, so we're eyeing that one.
A note to any furniture delivery people who happen to be reading this: late delivery is acceptable. Late delivery that interferes with childrens' bedtimes is not.
We've started our 2011 goal of getting the house in order, with this past weekend being The Hard Part. We hired our nanny's two sons to move the heavy stuff. It was a big game of Tetris - clear out the basement by putting things in the garage, then moving others into the now-available basement space, and so on. The main idea was to make Ellen's room hers instead of a guest bedroom, and make the basement the guest room instead of where the cat poops. No guarantees on that last part, future guests.

We decided to leave the remaining boys' crib where it is, as it's still a credible threat.

One consequence is that we've given up parking in the garage, though we hadn't done so for months; it's just now official. One day we'll clear it out enough to do that again, right? Right?
In three years of writing, the word count of this blog is approximately that of two full-length novels.
We did something unusual Sunday, having one boy nap and not the other. Bobby was being Terrible despite the nap threats, to the point where I had to follow through. He was having none of it. I essentially ended up playing goalie to keep him on his bed while he took turns yelling, attempting to leave, and throwing himself down. After maybe ten minutes of that, he asked me to hold him, and ten minutes later he was asleep, to be out for two hours. Yes, Bobby, you needed a nap. He actually woke up happy.

It was a snap decision to not make Drew part of the nap scene, because he was being fine. However, I failed to communicate with Liss correctly, and he didn't follow my instruction to go downstairs to her, and he ended up closing the door on himself in our room. I thought he was yelling just from Terribleness with her; she thought he was doing the same nap-rebellion as Bobby. Oops. However, he later reveled in not having to share attention while his twin was sleeping.
Tuesday we might take the boys to something past their bedtime - a meeting of the toddler-age subgroup of the twins club. We never go to their things, because they're always later, but we figure it's time the boys start to learn that sometimes we can do late things as long as they're "nice." We just have to work under the expectation that we'll leave if their attitudes start to crumble.

One of us will go, while the other stays home with a sleeping Ellen.
Poor Liss has to hear the brunt of my complaints - many more than end up here - but at least she shares most of them. My rant last night was at the nameless but plentiful parents of older children, who invariably tell us that while the boys' Twos are indeed Terrible, the Threes are worse, though the Fours are nice. Right now, I don't care - I want to move past this shitty phase to the next shitty phase, because this one is really shitty, and while the next, apparently-even-shittier phase is coming, at least it's not-so-shitty for a while after that.

At which time Ellen will be two.
Out of context, having my boys ask me to hold them in bed is endearing and a touching bonding experience. In context, however, when it's 6am and they'll start screaming pitifully again if I leave - you know, to get ready for work - and they both want to be held but won't budge from ten feet apart, then

yeah, not so much.
If I were one of those parents that took the slightest hint of a child's prodigiousness and crowed it to the world as solid fact, then I'd be telling you all about how Ellen said the words "kitty" and "daddy." But I'm not, and she didn't?, so I won't.

Being a skeptic is hard sometimes.
A lot of the traffic that hits this blog are searches for things like "twin ultrasound." For those in panicked surprise, I've set up a FAQ on coping with the news, since there's a lot more stuff on here that they wouldn't find useful. Hopefully the search engines will stop plopping them into the sea of self-important information I've written, and instead plop them into the new harbor of self-important information I've written.
The boys have been drawn to alphabet books lately. Like the ones you grew up on, they all have example words that begin with each letter. "A for airplane." "B for ball." In an effort to make them relevant to the boys' lives, we might use other words they already know, like "B for Bobby" and "M for milk." Some of the obscure letters, however, have little or no use so far, and they don't have any perspective on the books' stock words ("V for volcano"). So, you go with what they know.

"V for vagina."
Ellen has discovered her genitals.
From Liss:
Drew cried yesterday when I handed him the milk he'd requested.

The boys reject me constantly. Daddy has to do everything for them, every second he's home. Things I'm not allowed to do include: carry them, brush their teeth, get their milk, help them dress or undress, dispose of their poop. If James were a better cook, they would probably throw tantrums if I entered the kitchen, too. I know better than to be hurt by it, but I can't really help it. It's not just a preference for Daddy (which would make some sense because they see a lot less of him), it's a refusal to have anything to do with me.

I know it will pass. And I know I'll be rejected and taunted by them a lot more in the years to come, but maybe it hurts right now because I know they're not trying to be mean. I'm a teacher, after all--my 10- and 11-year-olds are masters at trying to get a rise out of adults ("You're racist!" is a brilliant favorite), but we can spot it a mile away and just laugh. Teenagers can try to hurt my feelings and I'll know that's their intent, but these guys don't know what they're doing--they're two.

And they're mine.

December 4th+

At their insistence, Liss painted all twenty of the boys' toenails - Bobby in lavender, and Drew in red. The colors are similar enough that we can't use painted toenails to tell them apart anymore.
Some of the signs that a relationship is abusive: Something not listed is that outbursts seem random or unpredictable - you never know what will set the other person off, and it might be something that they were perfectly fine with the last five times.

Anyway, this describes a lot of the Terrible Twos, if not quite as tragically.
Dear Uterus,

I get it, I do. Everyone dreads the day their services are No Longer Needed. Nobody likes being put out to pasture. It must feel so insulting, really, considering how you've gone above and beyond for us. You and your team have been prompt and gentle on me for over twenty years. More important, you work perfectly: you accepted your missions with relative ease and grace. And who else could grow such adorable twins and then follow up that act with a big, beautiful sister just 20 months later? Nobody.

But Uterus, couldn't you just kick back and enjoy your Mirena-fueled retirement? You seemed to enjoy relaxing for nearly half a year after our last big project, but now you keep popping up to remind me: you're still here. However, your recent painful and messy methods aren't making me want to sign you on for an encore. They're just making me wish you'd go away.

I appreciate you. You'll always have a special place in my abdomen. Let's keep our memories together good ones.

We'll always have Group Health Birthing Center,

We estimate that we've used 20,000 baby wipes so far.
We're slowly getting rid of baby stuff as Ellen outgrows it. The latest are her swing and 6-month clothes; her car seat will hit the trash soon (it's about to expire). Unlike with the boys, we're not planning to have another kid, so we can start purging in earnest. It helps that some friends are about to have a girl, and some others are due in late May with twins of unknown sex. There was even a friend-of-a-friend who had an unexpectedly small full term baby (she's fine), so they got our old preemie stuff.

Later will be the bottle station and high chair, then the diaper pails, cribs, and so on. It will be a couple of years and several rounds, but every one is a relief.

We might actually keep the changing table; it would convert nicely into a serving table for the dining room. Just don't tell our future dinner guests that thousands of diapers were changed on it.
Last night included a microcosm of the terrible twos thing. I made cereal for the boys, but they wouldn't eat it because they were too busy trying to sit in the same spot at the table. Drew pushed away Bobby's bowl. They pushed each other's stools. Each rotated the table so his brother had a table leg in the way.

In my lecturing-father persona, I took away the cereal and held them and explained how they'd have to agree on where to sit before getting it back, and that meanwhile, it was getting soggy (oh no!). Eventually they calmed down, but that doesn't solve the problem. Finally, after about 20 minutes of fighting and negotiating, Bobby agreed on another spot, and all was well. I was actually surprised it ended okay, especially that they still ate it despite it no longer being crispy.

And then Bob dropped his on the floor.
From Liss:
(don't tell the boys i said this)

I was looking back at old writings just now, from 2005. I can't decide whether to be reassured or depressed. I used to go out and DO stuff? And I used to flirt? I was cuter back then too. My clothes fit better back then and I was way less tired.

But I'm happier now. For all my exhaustion and body annoyance, life is pretty good. I have a better job now, and the best partner I could ask for, and my lifelong dream of children has been fulfilled. I even have my daughter. My deep dark secret is how much easier it is to love her than it is to love anyone else I've ever known. I pretend it's not a sexist thing, that it's because she's so mellow and there's only one of her, but a lot of it is that she is my girl, the one I've wanted since I was three. She was practically perfect all the way from Seattle to Maryland and back, and she didn't mind too much when the doting relatives tore her away to give me a break. She's still not so interested in the locomotion; sitting is fine by her. But she'll steal your snacks before you can blink, and then she'll tell you a story to cheer you up.

It's gotten to the point where when folks at work randomly ask how my kids are, I say, "Well, Ellen is a big mellow baby and the boys are terribly two." But they're also a delight. They're learning pronouns and letters and how to make a joke. This past weekend was the sweetest we've had in several months. We decorated the tree, made cookies, visited friends and the KidsQuest children's museum, and didn't watch a single garbage truck movie.

I'm pretty sure I'll get back into my old clothes next year. I hope eventually I can also find the energy to go out and DO stuff, to do some challenging singing again, or at least to flirt.
Not only is Daddy's throwing popcorn in the air and catching it in his mouth a great source of toddler amusement - it also incents the boys to share their popcorn for a change.
It's cute when the boys get the vacuum cleaner attachment and "blow leaves." It was also cute when Bobby and I segued that into a similar game, but it had the rather unfortunate name of "blow Daddy."
It's gotten close enough that we've started saying the boys are "almost two and a half" when people ask.
We'd tried to get the boys to talk on our cell phones before, but only in the last few days has anything come of it. Now they ask to call various people in their lives, though we try to steer them toward the relatives who live elsewhere. I believe the average conversation consists of the other party asking how [boy] is doing, and hearing random smatterings of phrases like: And other exciting happenings.

And then, since they have no phone etiquette skills or attention span yet, they move on and abruptly shut the clamshell.
For the second time, I dreamt that Bobby died. The last time was from SIDS when he was little; this time it was ... worse.
Ellen has decided that 6am is a good time to get up for the day, but it's not terrible, since I'm normally up by then anyway. She's so low-maintenance that Liss can take her into the bathroom while she showers, or I can give her a bottle and have her sit with toys while I eat, or whatever else.

She pretty much only has two states - happy or fussy. If she's fussy, it's because she's hungry and/or needs to sleep, maybe that her diaper's getting uncomfortable. Piece of cake. Best baby ever.
This morning Liss and I realized that if Ellen had been a boy, we'd probably be making plans to try for #4 soon.

As it is, we're done, but still no permanent fixes for the forseeable future.
The boys will melt down at some really dumb stuff. The problem is that they get so worked up, they can't tell us what the problem is. Even if they try, it's too muddled amid the crying for us to understand, which just frustrates them (and us) more.

That's what happened when I was getting Drew ready for bed last night. He lost it over ... something, and we didn't know what, and he couldn't get it across. We waited patiently for him to calm down, and we were just able to make out what he'd said: "Drewbie can take diaper off." Translation: "I wanted to take my diaper off, but you did it, and that made me mad." Of course, he hadn't told me he wanted to, and he usually doesn't care, but that means nothing. So, what's a father to do? In this case, the solution was to put his soggy diaper back on his butt and let him take it off.

This is actually fairly common. "I wanted to close that door!" Okay, I'll open it and let you close it. "I wanted the green cup!" Okay, I'll pour the perfectly good milk from this pink cup into the green one. We don't always comply, but it does help keep the peace.

The harder problem is when one's brother does something that the other then decided that he wanted to do. It's not nearly as easy to convince the "slighted" twin that we can just redo - he wanted to do it first. And then if we do try, the originating brother complains that that was his job. It becomes a cycle.

Then there are the scenarios where we can't do anything, like fixing a broken candy cane.
Someone replaced our whiny, sick toddlers with pleasant boys before this weekend. It was eerie; they were making an effort to "be nice" and not melt down. It was the easiest weekend in a long time.

Our fly-by-night strategy was to forgo their naps. Instead, we used the threat of naps to keep them focused.

November 27th+

Christmas gifts are starting to arrive in the mail. One is a toy basketball goal, and it shipped in its normal box, so the boys could see what it was - and they wanted it. I was wavering on whether to just open it, but Liss wasn't - they have to wait. We tried to explain the concept of Christmas as well as we could, but they certainly don't understand "three weeks" yet - or waiting for something, for that matter.

So, I put the boxes in the garage when they went to bed - out of sight, out of mind. Plus, Liss is going to get a couple of advent calendars to help them count down the days and be a reminder of what's going on. I'm getting a tree tomorrow, so we'll start putting gifts under there, and so on. Hopefully they'll let them sit there ... but we still have those collapsable fences ... yeah.

Next year I have a feeling Christmas will be A Huge Thing to them.
The boys are sick again, this time with sore throats and stuffy noses. I was up at 3:30 comforting them in turn, though that's not something they're very good at taking turns with. The three of us eventually ended up in a little pile between their beds. Drew was the whiny one, Bob the demanding one - no surprises there. This weekend might be bad; we're already cancelling plans involving other children.
There are a lot of temporary gaps in the boys' language knowledge that are interesting and mostly cute. For example, when they want us to do something or are about to do something themselves, they'll say (e.g.) "Daddy can change you." "Bobby can sit at table." That's probably their main sentence construct.

The words "want" and "I" are starting to creep in there, and maybe "you" in the correct context.
Something for us to remember:
The strongest known risk factor for Celiac Disease is genetics. Studies of identical twins have shown that if one twin has Celiac Disease, the likelihood that the other twin also has the disease is 70-75%.

Bobby's sole test was negative.
Drew's second celiac test also came back positive.
The boys have started lying. The most common example is claiming that they've pooped when they haven't, usually as a stalling tactic, like keeping me from leaving after we put them down at bedtime. Fortunately, the test of this is easy.

Does this early age mean it's just human nature to lie to get what we want? Oy.
Probably the best part about having a sweet baby is that she breaks into a smile every time she sees me, even if it's only been ten seconds since the last time.
When I got home last night, the boys were sitting on the kitchen counter smelling the spices (pic) as Liss supervised. It was cute seeing Bobby dig his way through the spice rack to find the next sampler - would it be the strong cloves, or subtle ginger? They had blank slates, after all, so it was all new. Said Liss, "this is the kind of thing I signed up for."

Ellen and I, not having had any quality time for days, went elsewhere and left them to it.

(Later Drew asked for a turkey patty and then screamed for twenty minutes because Liss cooked one instead of sausage, so it was fleeting, but hey.)
There's no way around it - Thanksgiving weekend sucked. It wasn't horrible, but it shows why we dread long weekends. I told Liss that I felt like a complainy complainerston writing about it, so she suggested I make you opt-in to reading it. :-D [+]

We took Wednesday off to see Harry Potter and shop for a bed for ourselves. We'd told the nanny we had "an appointment" that couldn't be missed. My PTO is precious, dammit. The movie was a very good addition to the series. Bed shopping was informative, but we didn't pull the trigger; the one we most wanted wasn't available in king, according to the place that had it, and our number two choice didn't hold up to later Internet research.

Thursday, Drew's skin rash was in full swing, so we didn't go to our friends' for the holiday dinner so he wouldn't infect the other kids that were going to be there. He seemed to feel okay, though. Liss improvised with what was on hand, and the Ags beat texas, so it wasn't too bad.

Friday Liss and Ellen left for the airport to a wedding on the east coast before the boys woke up. We hadn't even told them what was going on, but they took it in stride when they got up. As far as I can tell, they think their mother and sister were in a plane for three days. I'm sure Liss thinks it only felt that way.

Friday morning I took Drew to the doctor with Bobby in tow. He was doing better, but we had the appointment and weren't sure if it was a reaction to the amoxicillan he'd gotten while sick the previous week, or roseola as the last stage of the illness itself. The doctor concluded a reaction without doing any tests, so I'm still not sure, but ... she's the doctor. He'll have the drug allergy on his chart forever now, but we might still experiment when he's older. We took a trip to Target (Black Friday having died down by then) to keep them busy and pick up some essentials.

Naptime was when things got bad. For some reason, they seem to nap fine with the nanny, but not us - specifically, not me, since we haven't tried with just Liss yet. They like to play, and their new beds allow them to roam around and do that. I ended up putting Bobby in the crib that we still have in there, which he hated, but whatever. They finally napped maybe half an hour. When I went to get them, I saw the many Kleenex that Drew had gotten from the box and either shredded up himself or given to Bobby to do (or both). So, that's another thing we can't trust them with now. In the end I called the day "tiring but not terrible."

Saturday was more distraction and not napping. Drew's skin rash was showing signs of actually going away. Around 9 the nanny dropped by with some food - she lives a block away - but the boys thought she was there to take care of them while I left. That didn't go over so well, especially with Bobby. I was able to calm them down after she left. We went to a mall to shop for a bed (I had authority from Liss to buy one, now that we had narrowed things down) and a Christmas tree, getting neither. There was a Santa and no line, but they were firm about not wanting to see him, and I wasn't about to have them melt down for no good reason, even though this picture from last year is pretty awesome. They'll get it one of these years, maybe next. There were also some carolers who were giving out candy, which greatly helped their mood.

There was a place near the mall that had the kind of mattress we wanted in a king, so we ended up there and got it. We even stayed a little afterwards because the boys were having fun ("it's like a maze when they're that short," said the salesman). They fell asleep on the way home, which I counted as their nap, though it was maybe half an hour. Here's a tip - if your car automatically shuts down the battery-related stuff after a while, just let it go, because turning them back on will BEEP a lot and wake your toddlers.

Amy - bless her - had offered to help that afternoon, so she came over and told the boys that she was going to take them out, but they were having none of it. I had to come, too. They probably would have been fine after a little while, but whatever. We ended up at a grocery store (car-shaped kids' cart!) and the ice cream place before going back home and Amy made food for them. That night Bobby was sad about being in his crib instead of the bed, and wanted me to pet him through the bars for a while. I'm glad he doesn't hold a grudge against me for it; I don't think he quite grasps the cause and effect yet, either, but at least that includes the "who" as well as the "why."

Sunday my fuse was starting to run short from the constant ... constant. It started out well enough; when they woke, I asked if they wanted to lie in our bed for a while, and that ended up being a relaxed half hour or so. The morning in general wasn't bad, though the funny part was that they starting asking to go see Santa. However, when I verified after getting them dressed, they'd changed their minds, and wanted to go to "baby Hank's house" instead. So, I called his parents and we ended up there for a couple of hours, playing with Hank's toys and eating his yogurt and drinking his milk (oops). After that we went (just the three of us) to our usual brunch place.

At naptime, I gave Bobby another chance with his bed, but that was a bust. They basically had no nap. Instead, Drew later hit his head and fell asleep on my chest while crying about it. Bobby fell asleep on the ride to go pick up the girls.

Conservatively, I think they watched about five hours of YouTube garbage truck videos over the weekend. I tried to expand into fire trucks and tractors, but those videos were much worse - too short or adding songs or lame narration or whatever else. I have a new appreciation for the guy whose garbage truck videos have four million views. Just show the damned trucks in action and get out of the way, people!

Liss had her own experiences, which I'm sure she'll write about. The general gist I get is that Ellen was being clingy from the travel and new people and all, so Liss never really got time away from her, but Ellen was still generally pleasant.

Anyway, now that I have a job that never requires travel, the whole thing just solidified that we have only two reasons to disrupt our routine - weddings and funerals - and each will be evaluated on a case by case basis. I just had no energy for anything but child care, and that energy wore thin. It doesn't help that I have a chronic aversion to asking for help.
Somewhere along the line the boys have thought it funny to say they're going to throw a dirty diaper in the washing machine instead of the trash, even though they have no intention of doing it. It's actually a funny joke of misdirection, but we have no idea where they got it from. If they came up with it themselves, that's pretty sophisticated humor creation.
Bobby was carrying around a little trial size of maple syrup that he couldn't open. He was walking around and saying over in over in that toddler way that he wanted it open. "Bobby want open." "Daddy can open for you." We'll often reach a point where we'll probably get a little more sarcastic and adult in our responses than we should be: "Well, that's tough shit."

"Bobby want tough shit." "Bobby open tough shit." "Bobby want ..."
The boys have their first moles. As parents of identical twins, this is a glorious thing; we now have more than one permanent physical difference (their left ears) to fall back on. I've found three on Bob and one on Drew; the one to use for now is on the top of Bobby's right foot.

When we put the boys to bed at night, we often recap their day and ask questions. Drew's mole is on his left leg, so I asked him "You have your first mole! Where is it?"

"In sleeper!"

November 20th+

Eight months old.
I have a minor obsession with the idea of the kids being musically inclined.
One thing that's sorely lacking from our parenting experience so far is the parenting of experiences. For example, we had snow this week. The boys will not remember it. Ellen had no capacity to acknowledge it. This weekend I might take the boys to the city's Christmas tree lighting, but not for a memorable experience, but to get them out of the house.

And we again trot out the "someday" mantra that currently guides us. Fortunately, the boys are about halfway there. Someday, we'll take them to Mariners games, and they'll 'get' it. I'll take Ellen to the Nutcracker. They'll sled down a snowy hill. But not today.
Bobby cried for me around 6:30am due to a large poop. After changing them both - I know enough to just bring two diapers in these cases - I tried to get him to settle back down to bed, but he was having none of it. After a couple of tries, he started saying "Bye bye Daddy!" over and over, and getting angsty that I wouldn't leave despite this emphatic request. Instead, I sat in the rocking chair while he bemoaned my presence, all the while Drew just kind of lying in his bed, amused.

Eventually Bobby settled a bit, so I said good bye and got up to leave. So, he said "Hi Daddy!" That's their way of telling me to stay.

Make up your mind, kid.
"Would you not rub Ellen's binky on your penis, please?"
All right boys - the bar has been set.
To prepare for our impending Lisslessness for three days, she's going to make food for me to nuke and portion out while she's gone. I can't cook - the boys are probably better at it than I by now - so this is her way of making sure we don't eat at the McDonald's near the house for nine meals in a row. I told her that it's not worth worrying about - there's also a Wendy's just up the road.
A disturbing conversation that's happened several times now: In other words, it's perfectly fine to subcontract the work, but only to approved bidders. Or something. Eventually they'll learn that by working together - like the other twin refusing in solidarity - they can really stymie us ... and I think that day is closer than we care to admit.
The boys have gotten good at blowing their noses, with help. This is a tremendous upgrade from before, when they would just leak snot until they wiped with their hands and onto whatever else. Now they ask us to help them blow into a tissue.

I know - enthralling. It's what keeps you coming back.
From Liss:
While I was wiping his butt, Bob and I had this conversation (to be clear, it had been a very pleasant morning, I hadn't been cranky and no tears had been shed by anyone): Hmph.
Bobby woke up crying around 3:45 Sunday morning, perhaps from a nightmare. I went to comfort him, and ended up lying with him (and dozing off a little) for maybe an hour, when he said:
We're both kind-of dreading this coming holiday weekend. It will have positives and minuses.

Liss will be taking Ellen on planes across the country to a wedding. She'll leave Friday morning and get back Sunday evening. There is at least one long layover. All the while, she'll try to keep her sleep schedule, such as it is. She'll get to see some family she doesn't see often, and they'll get to meet Ellen, who generally likes new people. How things go will mostly depend on the weather, and perhaps on how thorough the sexual assault pat-downs are. She's been promised downtime via babysitting.

I'll have the boys. Before, I didn't think it would be a big deal to have them by myself for three days, but their behavior lately tells me it's going to be a long, long weekend. I'm honestly having trouble thinking of positives. It's not like we'll be watching football together and playing catch outside at halftime; that'll be when they're six. It's more likely they'll ask where their mother is every other minute that they're not fighting over which of two identical cups they want to drink from. I expect that we'll be braving the holiday shopping crowds as that'll be better than staying in the house. Or watching videos of garbage trucks for the hundredth time.
When Ellen wakes up for the day at 5:30, she's very sweet and cuddly. That doesn't make up for it, but it helps.

I'd previously thought a few bad nights last month was her eight-month sleep regression arriving early, but this feels more like it, besides actually turning eight months old this week.
Ellen's become quite the little chatterbox.
Because of his ear infection, Drew was prescribed oral antibiotics. As with any antibiotics, you're supposed to finish everything you're prescribed, even after you feel better, which he does.

Therefore, I'd like to thank the anonymous researchers in the industry who probably worked very hard to make an oral antibiotic that a toddler thinks tastes good.
We got a big bag of plain M&Ms as potty bribes. "One for pee, two for poop." They get it, but didn't do it.

After I used the facilities myself, which they witnessed as usual, I got myself two M&Ms. You know, to provide an example.
The boys have really gotten into watching movies of garbage trucks. There are a few videos that they prefer - you see, it's important that most of the trucks are green - and they'll generally sit and watch them over and over.

The main two that they watch each have almost two million hits on YouTube - about three and a half million between them. Garbage trucks. Two million hits. Really. My theory is that there are a lot of toddler boys and exasparated parents out there.

A side story is that it started snowing lightly on Sunday. I interrupted the boys' viewing to tell them that "I had something better than garbage trucks!" They were all excited - what on Earth could be better than garbage trucks!? "It's snowing!" They went to the window, and sure enough, thought the snow was pretty neat.

Three minutes later they were back to the garbage trucks.
We spent all of Saturday morning trying to keep the boys occupied with excursions. They wanted to go to the park, so we (they and I) walked there, but didn't stay long for the cold and wet (it had rained). So, we (all five) took the light rail to Columbia City for hot chocolate. Even though it was the kids' version and cooled down, it was too hot for them, but they liked the lemon pound cake. Bobby brought his hot chocolate home, while I left Drew's for waste.

About six hours later, Drew saw Bobby finishing his now-cold cocoa, and wanted his. I told him that sorry, since he didn't want to bring it home, I'd left it at the cafe, and it was gone. He started crying (which they do at everything now), but went downstairs to get his shoes, and also brought socks. He wanted to go back for his cocoa. It was very cute and very pathetic. Liss offered repeatedly to make some new hot chocolate, which she does all the time, but of course that just wasn't going to cut it. But we didn't go.
Presumably because of their lack of a nap, the boys were both asleep before I left their room Sunday night. I went downstairs, stood in front of Liss, and pretended to catch a ball from my right and throw it to my left.

"What was that?"

"I must have just turned a double play, because they're both out!"
Compared to last weekend, this one wasn't too bad - but only compared to last.

First off, Ellen's just being generally fussier and sleeping poorly. I expect teeth soon. Liss isn't enjoying the 5:30 wake-up-for-the-day that we thought were gone a while ago. It's looking like sleep training is in the cards in a month.

The real challenge, though, were the boys' naptimes. Bottom line, they didn't nap at all. A few times I thought I'd gotten them calm enough for it, but as soon as I'd leave, they'd slowly start up again. Eventually we'd just leave them to their own devices for a while, so we could get something resembling a break. The results, though, say that a new strategy is needed.

Saturday I put Bobby in the crib that's still in their room. He didn't seem to mind a bit. It was next to a bookshelf full of clothes, so when I was gone, he pulled them all off and dumped them on Drew's bed. When I went to get them, Drew was lying on the floor near the door.

Sunday Bobby ripped up a book that he actually liked - that we'd borrowed. That night we made a big show about collecting the pages and throwing them away. He wanted us to "fix it." Sorry, kid, it doesn't work that way.

Bobby is the instigator, Drew the follower, or maybe just the innocent bystander. We're considering moving the crib away from the bookshelves and putting Bobby in there at naptime.

Terrible Twos Times Two.

November 13th+

Ellen's hair has started to grow. It makes a nice little mohawk.

I'm certain that the day it's long enough, I'll come home to see her with a bow in her hair.
Various meta-information about this blog, for no real reason.
The boys were much better last night, and by today may have kicked their illness. Thank goodness, because it's been a looong week.
Liss passed her National Boards.
A very important PSA video for parents of my generation - Talking to your kids about Star Wars.
With King Felix winning the AL Cy Young today, Liss brought up the concern that while that's great, the Mariners need to have some consistent winning seasons in the coming decade, lest our children become - worst case scenario - Yankees fans.

This is not a trivial matter.
For those who are planning to get Christmas presents for the kids, we've done some updating to the wish list, and will probably tweak it here and there in the coming weeks.
After a bad night, the beginning of the next night is always an exercise in cautious pessimism. That is, you have to expect more of the same, but know that it might be fine. Fortunately, last night was fine, at least as far as the boys were concerned.
One of those things you never thought could be made into a toy - the long attachment to the vacuum cleaner. They walk around with it and "blow leaves."
For all of the wonders of the modern pharmaceutical industry, it's kind of hard for their products to positively affect your child's condition when he throws them up two minutes after you forced them down his throat.
Lissa will know the results of her National Board portfolio this Friday. For the new readers, she did the bulk of it while pregnant with Ellen and raising two one-year-olds; you see, she would have done it a few years ago but was in the midst of planning our wedding, which we still laugh about in hindsight.

Anyway, the state and district provide incentives to their NB certified teachers, equating to a raise of about 20%. The pass rate is pretty low, but they don't publish how low; I think 4 passed among the 17 who tried it last year at her school. A lot of our household budgeting is on hold pending this result.
Both boys are sick. It started with just runny noses on Monday - and they slept fine that night - but by the wee hours of Wednesday, Liss was in Urgent Care with Drew, where he was diagnosed with an ear infection and "probably not pneumonia." In between Liss and I were taking turns taking care of him and less so of Bobby, who isn't showing the downward spiral yet, but also seems to have caught it second. Ellen is unaffected so far, knock on wood.

When Bob woke at 6:20 to find his brother gone, and I told him where he and Mommy were, he was adamant about also going to the doctor himself. I think he thinks it's a fun excursion, or something.
We might get some snow this coming weekend. That would be a nice distraction.
Withholding their first wheat doesn't seem to have kept the boys from being celiacs (though we don't have the official results yet), and some new research says it doesn't help, so we said f-it and let Ellen have some wheat on Sunday via cinnamon rolls. For those who remember the Hungry Hungry Hippos game, her arm reached out kinda like that - gimme! This is how she's becoming about everything, though; she grabbed oatmeal out of my bowl Saturday morning and shoved some in her mouth before I could even react. So, the rolls weren't even her first gluten.

Anyway, she had a diaper blowout at 3am Monday morning, and again around 7am. However, it could have been a coincidence, or instead an egg allergy (the rolls were also her first eggs, which are among the Big 8 food allergens), or whatever, so ... more experiementation is needed. But we might have three celiacs on our hands.
From Liss:
A friend of ours who swore she would never spank her child has found herself doing just that. Some days I can understand how parents reach that point; some days I get close myself, but that's not what I'm here to confess. This is: I bribed my children with candy, and I'll do it again.

Yesterday [Saturday] was horrific*. The boys were needy, whiny, crying for no apparent reason. We'd have done almost anything they asked to make them happy, but they said "no" to every suggestion and nothing we tried helped. After their nap, it just got worse. Thank goodness we had our date night, so we got to escape for a few hours.

There's no rhyme or reason to their hard or easy days. It doesn't seem to matter how long they sleep, whether they have a ton of activity or none**, what they eat, etc. But we were determined that today would be better than yesterday. It started well, with a morning at friends' house, eating some of the boys' favorite brunch food. When we got home, we didn't have long to play before naptime. But it's always post-nap that's the worst.

So when we heard them stirring, I went up and made this offer: "If you can be nice until dinner, and eat your dinner, you can have one piece of candy. Can you do it?" They both agreed right away, and It Was On.

After that, all I had to do when they started whining was to ask if they were being nice. They weren't perfect, but they were trying, and there were no random meltdowns or stupid fights. Bobby was reluctant to eat his meat (though he scarfed down the carrots and the applesauce), but at least he ate something in the midst of hard, un-whiny playing.

So I let each of them choose a piece of their Halloween candy. They were delighted.

And we'll never know if their improved behavior was because of the candy bribe or just random coincidence unless we try again. But if it was the bribe? I guess they're off to a lifetime of unhealthy relationships with food, because we'll definitely do it again.
* for the boys. Ellen was, as usual, lovely, thank God.
** though they're almost always fine when we're not at home

November 6th+

We're switching up our life insurance, which means new blood tests. The guy came to draw mine last night. Beforehand, I warned the boys that someone was coming over to take Daddy's blood, like what happens to them at the diabetes study place. They didn't quite get it at first - imagine Drew holding his arm at the elbow and looking scared - but with enough repetition, they understood that "only Daddy" was getting drawn. So, after the guy arrived and started the draw, they watched with fascination. "Daddy not crying!"

The guy also needed my pee, which I'd forgotten from three years ago (the last time we did this), and they didn't tell me beforehand. I'd gone maybe 20 minutes before. So, I drank two glasses of water, and we waited. Over the toilet. With a cup. And by "we" I mean myself and the boys, because Liss had taken Ellen upstairs to bed, and I didn't want them to be out with the guy, since they're not his responsibility. There was the usual toddler commentary, and then they got bored, so they were wiping the seat with toilet paper, raising and lowering the seat, pretending to grab the cup, etc. It gave me a bit of performance anxiety, especially since the well was dry. Eventually Liss came back down and distracted the boys so I could do my business. I'm sure the tester guy was both annoyed and amused by the spectacle. For us, it was just another evening at home.
The daylight savings transition wasn't a big deal this time, mostly because we had outside activities to pass the extra time.

One of those was a neighborhood planning meeting, during which I had the dumb idea of having a good idea. They have some project money, and I thought it would be useful (and safer) to have a communal supply of sand and/or salt handy for the heavy-for-us snows we're forecast to get this year. We had them two years ago, and the area was paralyzed for a week.

The dumb part was that by having the idea, I'll be in charge of implementing it. While it probably won't be a big deal, it means adding to my list of responsibilities. Maybe I can teach Drew to keep inventory ...
We estimate that 60% of the food prepared for the boys goes uneaten.
Now that Ellen has learned how to flip from back to stomach, she does it all the time, especially in bed. The problem is, she still doesn't like being on her stomach, and the flip leaves her in an awkward position for flipping back, so she's likely to get fussy and wake up.
The boys' favorite cereal at the moment is Life. "Drewbie want Life." "Bobby want more Life."

Me too, kid. Me too.
So it's now been two nights in a row that Drew hasn't screamed for me in the middle of the night, but he wants me to "holdyou" by lying in his bed before I leave for the night. It's not the routine I want to be in (because he's so clingy about it), but it's certainly better than the 4am versions, so ... I won't push back too much for now.

Both of those nights, he didn't want to stop "drinking" (i.e. holding and occasionally putting his mouth on) his milk, so I had to count to ten and take it from him. We can handle some stalling tactics, but when they get open-ended like that, we need to put a foot down. Unfortunately, he doesn't handle it well.
While the boys have had "no" solidly in their vocabulary for almost a year now, they're finally starting to say "yes." Before, they'd answer a yes-or-no question in the affirmative with a complete sentence.
The new [used] video monitor we got at the twin-club sale is a bust. caveat emptor, as they say. The video part actually works great, so we'll keep it around for that. It's the audio; it picks up bursts of static all the time - enough to keep me awake. Since these false positives constitute some 98% of the "audio" during sleep hours, it's pointless to keep it as a sentry. Of course, I turned it off last night about an hour before Drew actually started to cry for me. Maybe we can tweak the channel and get something better, but I'm not optimistic.

Fortunately, I picked up a cheap audio-only at the same time as insurance.

One of these days, we'll trust the boys enough to keep their door open, but we can't really keep our door open; the cat wanders in at wee hours meowling for attention. She didn't used to do this, so I guess it's a crotchety-old-cat thing (she's 15), or part of the larger dammit-I-used-to-be-your-favorite thing that's plagued her for a while now. Anyway, we may have to train the boys to knock on our door if they need us, or find the opposite of a doorknob toddler-proofer, or some other way that they can judiciously wake [one of] us for some reasonable purpose.

The whole idea seems preposterous, though, in their current phase.
The boys have had their beds for two nights now, and a disturbing pattern has already emerged with Drew. He might be developing a taste for having one of us lie down next to him for comfort. That sounds nice (and mostly is), but not when it starts with violent screaming at 3:45am. However, I wasn't about to turn down the softspoken "Daddy holdyou again" as I was trying to leave after the first time.
At this rate, I just might become opposed to giving the boys candy, like, ever - not for reasons of their health, mind you, but for mine ... mental, that is.
Bonus movie.
Me in five years.
We have a little piano bench that's apparently just a little taller than the stools from the boys' tables. This weekend, the boys discovered that they could use it to climb onto the kitchen counter.
Ellen has gotten through the period of becoming alert and attentive, and now her brain is working on motor skills. She's already progressing well on the use of her hands, and is starting to notice her feet more, and so on. She might still be crawling by Christmas. She may have a tooth or two by then (which isn't a motor skill, but still). She should be able to pull herself up by, oh, Valentine's Day, and start gingerly walking by summer. By this time next year, perhaps she'll have a few words.

She's already our little baby girl, but soon she'll start turning into our little girl. We can't wait.

Liss replies:
I think you overestimate her timeframes. I'm guessing pulling up by mid-January, pushing the wagon soon thereafter, probably a few words around her first birthday, walking solidly by summer. She seems more into the back-and-forth babbling than the boys ever were, might even recognize when we copy her sounds; I won't be surprised if she talks early.

Time will tell, I guess. And no, can't wait.
The boys are around - or approaching - the age when they'll have the experiences that become their first long-term memories. Maybe they've already had them. I sometimes wonder what they'll be.
Every time I read an article about autism, I can't help but be glad how the kids aren't showing any of the signs.
The boys are parrots, which is neither good nor bad, really, since they don't understand what they're saying half the time. That's definitely true with "I love you" when I leave them for the night, but it sure is nice.
I don't have time to write the novel that's brewing in my head.
I don't have time to write the novel that's brewing in my head.
I don't have time to write the novel that's brewing in my head.
So we set up the boys' new beds (i.e. mattresses) in their rooms. To do so, we had to halfway dismantle Drew's crib so it would fit through their door (and then into Ellen's room to reassemble for her). We also moved out one of our two chairs, putting it into Ellen's room and taking the chair that was in her room downstairs. We rearranged the dresser and shelves in the boys' room, and so on. The boys watched the whole time. This is just the first of what will be many games of Tetris around the house in the next year or so, which we've resolved to be the year we get it in order (2010 became the year of getting our finances nailed down, which is in the final stages).

Then came the real test - naptime. We sat with them and told them the rules - that we made up on the spot: you had to stay in your bed unless you were getting a new book, getting your water cup, or joining your brother in his bed and with his consent. Otherwise, it was a place for quiet, whether sleeping or "reading." If things got too rowdy, we still had Bobby's old crib that we can put you in. Then, we went through the rest of the put-down routine, except now on the floor instead of in chairs.

As with any new project, there were glitches. The first was that we didn't put their water next to (or in) their beds. They'd get up, get a sip, go back, get up, get a sip, etc. Plus, they were just generally playful. This actually isn't a change from the norm, but with cribs, at least they were physically contained. I had to get curt with them a few times (probably to Liss's amusement, over the monitor), and they eventually settled, kinda sorta. It was half an hour after I left that they were actually quiet, though that included a poop from Drew that he cried about; he might have had an internal conflict about making noise to alert us to change him, even though we told them to do so. The actual nap was a fine two and half hours.

Bedtime went a little better, though Drew had a small crying spell and they fought over whether or not I should turn off the night lights (I turned off the bright one and left the dimmer one). Bobby was being playful enough that I had to ask if he wanted to spend the night in his crib, and that got him in line pretty well. One huge advantage of the new bed was that I could lie next to Drew to calm him down, instead of holding him in a chair and then having to transport him back later.

Ellen, meanwhile, seems to have made the move to her crib just fine. As a bonus, she finally flipped from back to stomach for the first time, sometime between 3 and 7. Maybe she'd just been waiting to have the space to do it.
Drew has taught himself how to tumble.
Pictures and video. Twin on the left is in [brackets].
From Liss:
I've been wanting to find more local mom friends. You know, the kind where I could just call on five minutes' notice to meet us at the park and chat while our kids tear around the playground. The kind who share babysitters and carpools and sneak off to happy hour during soccer practice. There are plenty of kids in our neighborhood whose parents seem pretty cool, but we haven't gotten to know them much so far, our contact is limited, and I'm not really sure how to change that.

So I was probably WAY TOO excited to meet a new mom at the park a few months ago. Her family had just moved back to Seattle from DC, staying with her parents but looking to buy close by. Over several chance meetings, we hit it off, talking about The Schools and Real Estate and most of all, the joys of combining careers (she works for the State Department!) with parenting (her son is a few months younger than the boys). She slipped me her card one day with instructions to call anytime we were headed to the park. Not wanting to seem overeager, I thought I'd wait a few days ... and of course then followed three weeks of rain and/or late work schedules. Then they all got the flu. I e-mailed, suggesting brunch. It was going to be a few weeks before we were all free at the same time. We decided to get together on the 6th.

This evening, I called to figure out the details. And they have to cancel. Because they're busy moving this weekend. Not to any of the dozen houses for sale in the immediate neighborhood, no--to West Seattle.


I am making plans to get together next month with some nearby parents of 3- and 4-year-olds to talk about the school where I work. This neighborhood is assigned there, and while most of our fellow middle-class, native-English-speaking (and, yes, mostly white) families are committed to public schools, they're also concerned about Van Asselt's test scores. I'm going to try to be very honest about VA's strengths and shortcomings, especially since my own kids will probably be there in a few years. And maybe some of these parents can become friends--maybe even before we're in the PTA together in 2013.

October 30th+

Actually, I'll want credit for both, but she can have some, too.
From Liss:
If I had been a student teacher in my classroom today, I would have run home and written a scathing critique in my Reflection Journal. It's like all those things our parents did that we tell ourselves we won't do, but we totally will. Only I'm doing it at work, too.

Let me say first that I hate the Handwriting part of Kindergarten math. I'm all about counting, number games, simple word problems, patterns, basic shapes, graphs: fun. But the kids also have to learn how to write the numbers, and we're supposed to care, like, whether they start at the top or the bottom of the line, whether they curve clockwise or counterclockwise, etc. I simply don't, but I try to play along so I can do all the early math stuff too.

So I was lukewarm about this lesson from the start. I was in a class where I haven't spent much time, co-teaching "Writing 2, 3 And 4." They were supposed to trace some examples, write several on their own, then draw the appropriate number of some object of their choice (generally stars or hearts). I was walking around coaching kids about things I don't care about, when I came across a kid doodling on the 5 page.

I assumed she'd hurried and done a crappy job, or hadn't listened to hear which page to turn to, or whatever. So I accused her of rushing, asked her if she'd listened. "We're not doing 5 today; you need to stay with us," I snapped.

She turned back to the 4 page to reveal two rows of perfectly-formed 4s and a detailed picture of a castle with four turrets. I! Was holding her back! Although really, how challenged would she have been even if I'd allowed her to race through every page in the dumb number-writing book?

And how will I respond in three years when one of the boys comes home with a story like this? I'll be pissed. I'll want to know how the teacher will challenge my precious baby angel. I'll point out that "Write numbers from top to bottom" is not one of the state standards.

I'm sorry, 23-year-old Liss. I'll try to do better.
Inventing new stalling tactics - annoyance, or proof of intelligence? I'm going to say both.
It was time to buy overnight diapers for everybody, and we usually get quite a few boxes at a time. We got two months' supply of Ellen's, thinking that'd be when she'd be ready to go up a size (to where the boys are). Instead, she leaked two of three nights, so we'll go through those during the day, and she's now caught up with the boys in all diaper types.

If this keeps up, maybe one day they'll be wearing her hand-me-downs.
So, there are really two things going on here. The first is that "please" isn't taking hold as something they just say. They almost always need to be reminded, if only by our raised eyebrows. The same goes for "Thank you" (even more so) and "Sorry" (maybe in between).

The more subtle developmental thing is the differentiation between kinds of juice. A few months ago, we'd have to explicity list choices, whereas we don't anymore. This is one of the more simplistic examples, since we don't carry several kinds of juice at Cafe Munger, but it extends to things like books, colors, nearby parks, and other things where there are many choices.

It's nice that they can usually tell us what they want, even if the answer is still sometimes no.
Lately, when I clean the boys after a poop, they'll often say I "need tubes," i.e. the paraphernalia to save and ship the poop for the diabetes study. Whichever twin I'm not cleaning might go to the empty boxes to try to bring me one. They seem genuinely disappointed when I tell them that it's not time for that. However, this weekend it will be time, so I'm sure great fun will be had by all.
It happens twice a year - scarier than Halloween, worse than fireworks on New Year's, more dreaded than a trip to the doctor ...

... transitioning bedtimes for daylight savings time.
Halloween was low-key, and mostly fun. After lots of ideas but no implementation, we got the boys a couple of Amazon Fresh worker outfits, which they were selling cleaply in honor-system exchange for sending them pictures. The pants alone were worth the cost; they're actually pretty good quality. We spent the morning telling them the deal - that they needed to put on costumes, and people would give them candy. They didn't quite get it, so they resisted the costumes at first, but the repeated word 'candy' kept the real tears at bay. When they were ready, the whole thing reinforced the theory that while one is cute, two dressed the same is more than twice as cute.

So anyway, our local hipster store area (where our brunch place is) has a community Halloween deal in the afternoons, so Liss took the boys there (while I took Ellen to Target. We're lame and practical). That's where they got it. They came home with a couple of handsful in their (Amazon Fresh) bag, but Liss had been telling them that we were also going trick or treating, so they know we weren't done. She'd been rehearsing with them - "trick or treat!" "thank you!" and the knocking/bag procedural stuff. We went a couple blocks away, and hit maybe a dozen houses.

The tough part came when we got home, as their sweet tooth came out. They only had about three pieces each, but had a bout or two of aggression and defiance - "sugar monsters," she said - especially when it was bedtime. It wasn't terrible, but we'll be judicious about doling out the rest.

The pictures we took didn't turn out very well, but a couple of videos did. Will post when I can. I have quite a general backlog now.
I experimented with not wrapping Ellen's arms in the miracle blanket at her bedtime. She seems to be sleeping better - one feed-me wake up a night - and really was making it known that she was ready to stop the blanket. Last night we tried a sleep sack, which might already be too small for her, but we have others.

Sunday she didn't get to her first nap until 11:15 (normally about 10), then napped for 4 1/2 hours. Seven months is supposed to be two-nap territory, but maybe she's ready for us to at least think about the transition to one. If nothing else, we appear to have flexibility.

Liss has been putting off sleep training her while all this sorts out, and because they're flying across the country in a few weeks; she'll see how things go as her winter break approaches and maybe do it then. While getting up once a night to feed a baby isn't bad at all, zero would be even better.

October 23rd+

Like his brother, Drew seems to have no trouble throwing his brother under the bus. When they went for their flu shots, Bobby got his first. As they got Drew ready, he yelled "Do Bobby again!"
We have a big baby girl, so this SNL skit caught our interest, but it made us cringe more than anything else. Her bigness is a good thing.
Ellen's definitely going through ... something ... again. Just a few weeks ago, we thought she had a growth spurt or similar, though it only lasted a couple of days. So far this time it's been two or three days, but the difference in her temperament and sleep habits is very noticeable. Since compared to her normal behavior, there's never anywhere to go but down, this might be a long weekend.
So many things could go on the y-axis of this.
We recently saw The Social Network, a true-ish story which includes a pair of identical twins who later became Olympians. At some point, one of them wants to beat up the protagonist, arguing that "I'm six-foot-five, 220 pounds, and there's two of me!"
The kids got their flu shots yesterday. Ellen slept from 6:30 to 6:30. The boys hadn't made a peep by the time Liss left for work at 7:50, so that's more than 12 hours as well.

Can they get flu shots every day?
Flipping over from back to stomach is a six-month skill, and Ellen still has never done it at seven. Stomach to back is three-month, and she's done it twice that we know of.

We're not worried for her gross motor skills or anything; it'd just be nice to tick it off. We don't think she's incapable - just that she doesn't care.

And honestly, just like with the boys, we're in no hurry for her to be mobile.
Seven months old.
It's common knowledge that as one ages, time seems to speed up. A big part of that is the perspective of experience - four years ago doesn't seem like much to me, but to a kid it's eons. A year to me is 1/38th of what I've already been through; to the boys it's about 2/5ths.

Think back to high school, when all sorts of milestones were ahead of you - driving, finally being a senior, graduation, college or a job or the military, drinking age, a career, and so on. At the time, they seemed an eternity away, and reaching one just meant it was time to look forward to the next one. Those things fade into memory as they pass; in hindsight it seems like they happened in quick succession.

I've written before that I think men - certainly I did - imagine their future children as sentient, talking, catch-playing kids, whereas women imagine babies.

With the kids, I think time has slowed down for us, because of perspective. We're both ready for kids that can occupy themselves without our supervision (or worry), can let us sleep in because they pour their own cereal, can walk to their friends' houses, can accept a "no" without a tantrum. I want to take them to Mariners games where they "get it." These things are a few years away, and to us it feels like eons. We're still living through this day to day, week to week, and we'll get there a thousand days from now, if we're lucky.

And then, after all of these things happen, we'll look back later and think "it happened so fast!" just like with adolescence. It seems that every parent of older kids says something like that. But for now, it's taking for-ev-er.
For both days of the weekend, the boys didn't have a proper nap. We put them down at the normal time, but they just had a slumber party for two+ hours instead of sleeping. They eventually settled down, but we had after-nap plans both days, so we had to get them up. Besides, if we'd let them sleep later, they wouldn't go to sleep at bedtime, and everything would get (more) out of whack.

Both nights, they were lights out pretty much when the lights were out. Sunday morning, they woke up after 8, which is unheard of. They were still quiet-ish, though, so we let them lie there until 9, when I went to get them. They were both "reading" the books they'd taken to their cribs.

I set up the video monitor, but I can't get both of them in shot with their cribs on either side of the room. We'll take that into account when setting up their as-yet-unpurchased beds.

Meanwhile, Ellen's nap schedule is coming along just fine. She'll have a short one around 10 (an hour at best), then a long one from maybe 1 to 3:30. Whenever she's woken up in the last few days, she's usually been content to lie there and babble to herself for a while.

The miracle blanket is supposed to be for 0-3 months, but we still use it with Ellen for the long nap and bedtime. She breaks loose pretty easily now, but its purpose is to help her get to sleep, which it still does. We'll switch her to sleep sacks soon, though.
Part of the blood draw was also to do Drew's follow-up celiac test, which we fully expect to come back positive. We've kind of been steeling ourselves to the idea of becoming a [mostly] gluten-free household since his first one came back.
Unofficial measurements at the clinic:

Boy Height Weight
Bobby 32.5" 22.5#
Drew 32.5" 23.5#

In all fairness to Bobby, however, he'd pooped just before the appointment.

But seriously, they've only grown 3 inches and 1.5-2.5 pounds in nine months. No medical professionals seem concerned, but jeez.
The boys had their quarterly visit to the diabetes study clinic this weekend. The clinic now sends us numbing cream ahead of time, so we can apply it at home and make sure it's taken effect before the boys get their blood drawn at the clinic. They know what it means, so they naturally lost it when we started to put it on. They were okay once we got going in the car, and decent until Bobby went first to the needle.

My favorite book is 1984. At the climax near the end, Winston's spirit is finally broken by the Party when he gives up his love Julia when faced with his worst fear - rats - crying out to have them eat her face off instead of his own.

When the phlebotomist sat next to him with the needle, Bobby shouted "Drewbie turn first!"

Meanwhile, Drew just kind of watched. They gave Bobby a lollipop, which he just held without eating, but certainly wasn't going to drop, either. Fortunately, she got his vein on the first try, and he was done with that.

Then it was Drew's turn. His veins have always been hard to hit; they've had to prick his foot for the blood more often than not, which is even less pleasant than the arm, because it takes a long time. We always prepare ourselves for the worst.

However, as she tried and failed to hit a vein in his left arm, he just sat there. He watched what she was doing. He crunched on his lollipop. When she gave up there and started to prep the other arm, he still was fine. Not finding a vein there, we decided to have her try his left again before going to the foot, and this time she got it. And again, he just sat there and watched while the blood was collected. *crunch crunch* went the lollipop.

It was ... freaky, but in the good way - my brave little boy.

October 16th+

We have a huge list of things to do for the house - making the boys' room their own, clearing out Ellen's, making the basement a guest room, and lots of other things. It's so big, in fact, that we'd reached the point of being paralyzed into inaction by too much choice. So, we picked one thing to focus on - getting beds for the boys and their cribs out - before picking another later.
I must be predictable. Twice now, when I've stood up to leave after sitting with the twins at bedtime, Bobby has said, "All right, good night boys."
I've taken lots of pictures of the boys naked here and there, but I have to admit it feels weirder doing so with Ellen.
Speaking of mellow, Ellen's started crying less often when I take her upstairs to bed. It's not all the time, but I try to recognize it when it happens, and use the opportunity to read to her. I only have one book in her room for now, but she loves its colorful pictures, and tries to grab it the whole time it's open.
There is still no time in the boys' past that we miss. Even if they have a bad day, we still look forward to greener pastures, not backward into some mystical time that they were easier, because they weren't. They're just a different kind of hard (on the bad days).

The same might not hold true for Ellen. She's such a mellow, happy baby, that if she ends up touchy and bossy like her brothers in a year or two, we might look back fondly to now.
Our foray to the twin-club sale was mostly a non-event. We ended up spending more ($200) than we thought ($120?), mostly because we found a video monitor and a reversible car seat for Ellen. We also stocked up on winter clothes, shoes, and socks.

Drew, especially, was a little overwhelmed by the size of the place, and all the strangers. Liss and I split up for efficient searching, and he kept wanting to go to whoever he wasn't with. A few minutes in, he wanted me to carry him at all times, but be near Liss at all times, yet we wanted to stay separated. He tried to hold it together, though, and mostly did okay. Meanwhile, Bob was actually helpful in deciding which clothes to get or not. As usual, Ellen just sat strapped to her sling and observed everything quietly.
For the first time - and given their similar weights, maybe not the last - someone asked if our kids were triplets.
We think the boys are ready to get out of cribs and into beds. The only real barrier is that we'd have to get beds and take out the cribs.
Fathers: here to help.

October 9th+

Both boys seem to favor their right hands. This is about the age when handedness gets settled, so it looks like that's where they'll end up.
The boys have started stating which names they prefer. Bobby definitely prefers "Bobby," over Bob or Robert or anything else. When we're going through the possibilities, he'll say "NO Robert!" or whatever. So, I go all out and exaggerate rolling the 'r' in "Rroberrto?" The toddler attempt at "NO ... Rrrroberto!" is freakin' hil-ar-ious; I really want to get it on video.

Drew isn't quite so sure, kind of rotating among Drew, Andrew, and Drewbie. Since they still refer to themselves in the third person, he'll even mix them in the same sentence: "Drewbie drink Andrew's milk."
My new iPod has a camera (and video), which the boys haven't figured out yet. That means they're no longer stopping what they're doing to look, like they do with the regular camera. The resolution isn't nearly as sharp - it's basically like my cell phone camera - but between their indifference and the fact that it's always in my pocket, it's the main source of pictures now.
Pictures and video.
We keep offering to let people borrow our children, but never get any takers.
We've opened 529s for the boys. There's no convenient "click here!" for contributing; I have to send you a form e-mail. I didn't want to assume with anybody, though - so, you know, if you're into that sort of thing, mail me.

Ellen will get hers in a few months.
One particular positive from this weekend was going to a new "pancake!" place Saturday morning. Including our friends, there were four kids under 3, and we were seated in a prominent location. There were lots of passersby cooing over the kids, and said kids were all pleasant. Our usual place has kind of a large DINK vibe - though lots of families go there - but this one had none of that.

One waitress in particular had that gleam that I've come to recognize - the young woman who can't wait to have her own.
At my old job, I used to joke that I went to work to relax. Toward the end, it wasn't so true, as the company collapsed down around us. It was merely equally bad. Now that I'm at a stable place again, it's true again that work is my stress reliever, even though it's busy around here.

That's because our weekends are exhausting. The boys have boundless energy and little ability to reign it in or direct it in a positive manner. Instead, a lot of it is channeled toward demanding, negotiating, pleading, ignoring, whining, breaking down over nothing, and otherwise fighting us over the stupidest shit. They are the center of their own universes, and we have to check them on it now (constantly) or it'll be even harder to corral later. I noted to Liss today that we're a quarter of the way through the 2s. It's the little victories.

What made this weekend worse were two things - Ellen caught the boys' cold and was sick Friday and Saturday, and it's started raining in earnest here. For the first, our famously mellow baby was cranky all day, then wouldn't eat or sleep. It took her almost three hours to finally fall asleep Friday night; we'd given up after about two - more like ran out of ideas - and just let her cry. By Sunday morning, though, she was her old sweet self again, and even napped for almost four hours in a stretch - another sign she was ill and getting over it. As for the rain, there are things you can do to replace going outside and running around, but mostly they just involve going to larger indoor spaces ... and running around.

Three day weekends, to which most of the working world looks forward, are sources of dread.

The real difference, though, is that if I need a break here, I can just take one. If I need to use the restroom, I just go. And this is where I can be coherent enough to update this thing.

In the last couple of weeks, "like" has entered the boys' vocabulary - specifically, that they don't like things. That's totally fine, because they're using it to get to the point, whereas before their dislike might just lead to a tantrum, because they didn't know how else to express it.

Kind of a brain turning point was one morning this week, when I got them out of bed and they came to our room. Our clock radio was on a station that we don't get very clearly, so there was a lot of static. Drew pointed and said, "No like this music." He wasn't insistent or anything, just "hey - that's kind of annoying." I hit snooze, and that was that.

A funnier one was last night. Bob wanted water, but not tap water - we had a two-liter of carbonated unsweetened lemon-lime stuff on the counter. I told him it wasn't like normal water, and he might not like it. He insisted, Liss approved, and after a little fight with him about which cup to put it in (no, really), he was happy to get his water. Then not 30 seconds later - "Bobby no like!" and went to get the normal water that had been sitting on their table the whole time.
Bobby was a little sick a couple of nights ago, but seemed to kick it pretty quickly. Then Drew got it, and heaved ice cream in his crib. I was still sitting there, though, as I do at their bedtime, so it wasn't a big deal. In fact, the big deal was how not a big deal it was. I took him to the bathtub just in case he wasn't done, which he was nervous about - they still hate baths - but I told him "no water" and he was okay. He stood there while I cleaned him, then sat on the bedroom floor while I changed his sheets, and got back in without a fuss. Bob watched and made minor commentary. No sweat.

I mean, it's still not awesome having your kid throw up, but at least it's no longer a night-killer.
Slowly but surely, the "use a nice voice" thing seems to be working with the boys. We've been pretty consistent with going there when they get whiny and escalate into yelling, so they might be getting it. To be fair, that consistency isn't because we're conscientious and steady - it's because we're sick to death of the whining and yelling. Almost every time, they answer with just "please," but we goad them into more.

We'll weather this age come hell or high water, but neither hell nor high water sound appealing.
Ellen's sitting up pretty well now, though she still plops over a lot. She seems more alert by the week, and more into the goings on with her parents and brothers. She's trying more foods and enjoying the novelty. In other words, she's developing as a baby should.

Her sleep problems may just be part of a growth spurt instead of a sleep regression. If so, it should only last a few days. Regardless, she's only a few months away from crawling - I've been saying "crawling by Christmas." I have a feeling that's going to greatly change the dynamic between her and her brothers. We're expecting the crawling; they're not. All of a sudden, this passive lump will be all up in their business, as the kids say. Plus, we'll have to put up the baby gates, hampering their current free roaming. Toddlers don't like change in general, so such an upheaval to their little world might result in stockings full of coal. We'll need to be very on top of their behavior toward her, making sure they don't cause her harm, even if accidentally. We'll also have to go through another round of baby-proofing, as they've been out of the "stick everything in your mouth" phase for a long time, but Ellen's already there. She just lacks access ... for now.

When she turns one in March, we'll have to break ourselves of the habit of calling her Baby Ellen, lest it stick. It's been our way of helping the boys cope with the new addition (with their like of babies). The other babies in their lives will turn one before her, so we can ease them into it.
I was late from work Monday, which only gave me an hour with the boys. Liss offered to put Ellen to bed (normally my job) so I could have time with them. It was a very pleasant hour - they were polite, calm, and reasonable.

Oh, if but that were the norm.
We're a wreck today. Two nights ago, the smoke detector outside the bedrooms starting to beep! about every minute around 3am, with no discernable pattern. The common thing with that is a low battery, but ours are wired to the house. They even have markings saying "this will not work without power." The only thing I could think of was to turn on the bathroom fan to try to circulate the air. Google told me to use canned air to clean it out. Whatever I did worked, because it stopped.

Last night it started up again, again at 3, and wouldn't go away. I tried the same things and a couple others, to no avail. Eventually, we more or less resigned ourselves to the torture, except I started to watch the one in our room. It seemed to blip its red flash just before the other one beeped. Because the six detectors in the house might be connected somehow (we're still not sure), I decided to take a closer look at the beeper. This time I noticed a little compartment, which I was able to pull out to find ... a battery. It turns out that despite the wiring and markings, there's a battery in there. And that's when Drew woke up crying from the noise.

I picked him up, but Liss was already awake, so I asked her to console him while I tried something - I took the dying battery to the detector farthest from us (the basement) and brought its battery up. That did the trick; you could still hear the basement beep, but it was better. Then we sat with Drew while he calmed down; he was freaked out but keeping it together pretty well. After a while, I asked Bobby if he wanted me to hold him. He agreed, but it seemed like he just wanted to be part of the action; he wasn't phased at all. About an hour after we left, Drew wanted me back, so I went and held him for a little bit. When my alarm went off (6:15), I drove to Safeway to get new batteries and replace the beeper; the others can wait for the weekend.

The net effect of these two nights and Ellen's bad sleep and job stress for both of us is that we're wiped. out. And it's only Tuesday.

I'm now a firm advocate that such beeps should only occur during grocery store hours. Obama and Congress need to reach across the aisle and get this done.

Oh, and we had this exchange around 3:45: Someone alert Dick Cheney.
Ellen has had a couple of very bad nights of sleep. There's another sleep regression at eight months; maybe hers is coming early.
As soon as I'd written about how the boys are never apart, they chose different parks to go play. They were very clear on their opposing choices. I took Bobby and Liss took Drew and Ellen, and no one had a problem with splitting. Bobby asked about Drew every three minutes, but Liss says Drew didn't reciprocate.

So Bobby was having a fine old time on the swing, until I dared to start pushing with my left hand instead of my right, and he lost it. This kind of irrational, pointless thing happens all the time, and forces us to make a decision - to resist or not? A lot of things weigh into it - your mood, their mood, their siblings' moods, if other things need to get done soon, whether the game on TV is close, etc. In this case, everything was in my favor - just us! - so I could take it to the limit and be irrational right back: "They're my hands, and if you want me to push you, I get to choose which hand to use. I choose my left hand." We got into a cycle of him calming down so he could swing again, then losing it when I used the "wrong" hand, so I'd remove him and explain that they're my hands, and back again. He really wanted to swing, but really wanted me to push with my right, so it was interesting - if difficult - to watch the two sides of his brain fighting each other.

Obviously, I don't give a damn which hand I use to push a swing. It's just one more in a constant, exhausting series of battles for control. We give them a lot of leeway to make their own choices, but we have to draw boundaries somewhere. For the most part, we don't think we're strict enough. Worse, Liss thinks the nanny might never resist, so they always get what they want by complaining, so they get especially cranky when the weekend comes around and we're less easily pushed over.

As an aside, I don't think Bobby was grasping the idea of right and left - just using the names I used. They express a preference of which leg of ours they want to sit on or which arm to carry them all the time, and lately it's by pointing and saying "this one." We should probably start responding with "My left leg? Okay."

September 25th+

From Liss:
I'm sitting here eating spaghetti that I didn't make, and feeling grumpy.

Daycare costs being what they are, we have a nanny this year. I like her pretty well. She's prompt and attentive, smart and energetic and kind. I've taught two of her kids, who are responsible students and decent humans; so I like that I feel good about the effect she may have on my own children.

What I don't like is having a nanny.

I don't like having someone else in my home all day, even if the alternative would be rising even earlier to dress them and load them into the car to drive to a daycare center. I don't like that she's the one introducing Ellen to all these new foods. I don't like needing the cleaning she does, even though we do. I don't like keeping track of the food she's used up, cooking lunch for the boys and attempting to be nice by cooking dinner for us. "You need to relax," she says. That's sweet, but I want to cook. And I can't decide if I actually WANT to cook because I enjoy it and I prefer my cooking to hers (which is true) or if really, REALLY what this is about is me wanting to feel like I'm in control.

If I'm just being a control freak, I need to figure out how to just deal. I do miss my kids, I do have too much going on at work, and I do need more time to myself to exercise or read or just be. It should feel okay to have help, but right now it doesn't. It's only October and I'm already yearning for summer.

I'm considering making weekly meal plans and posting them prominently, and giving suggestions every day about what the boys could have for lunch. That would help me feel more in control without taking a lot of work.

Then I just have to get over the paper towels she leaves all over, the clean dishes stacked where I want to put the dirties ... and, of course, myself.
We need to start looking into pre-schools starting next fall for the boys, and figure out how to juggle that with the care of a toddler (Ellen) who won't be ready for that.
The boys are almost never apart. The only times I can think of that they were separated for more than an hour are the few times we've had to take one to Urgent Care. They've started expressing their individuality just fine, but when push comes to shove, they don't like to be apart. They'll ask about the other pretty often.

There's only one person I can stand to be around 24/7, and I married her. That doesn't mean we want to be around each other all the time, but at least constant promixity doesn't cause tension. The boys don't really have much choice, though, so it's good that they get along as well as they do - a lot of twins, especially fraternals and especially boy/girl, don't.

Maybe we could experiment by starting to take one twin out to the store or wherever else (leaving one of us with a twin and Ellen). Right now it's always the two together, to the point that if we were to try separating them for a little bit, it might blow their minds, and not in a good way. They just assume that whatever they're doing, they're doing it together, and we've fostered that notion, if subconsciously.

Maybe one of these days they'll realize on their own that they don't have to be together. Our joke is that Bobby will move to New York and Drew will move next door.
The boys have started sabotaging our picture-taking. Whenever I get out the camera to take pictures/videos of whatever cuteness they're doing, they stop and come over to ask to see the pictures already there. We might have to start lying and turn it off to make them think it's boring, just to get them out of the habit.

It's accidental sabotage - unlike the tongue-sticking-out of Liss's youth - but the result is the same.
How to hold a [boy?] toddler's attention: picture
Liss has developed a sleep problem where she lies there while her brain waits for the baby to wake up, so that she can feed her and then get to sleep herself. It's an especially bad thing on times like last night, when she didn't get up until 5:20. Normally that should be cause for celebration.
We were at the house of some friends who are looking to adopt. They have those handle-type doorknobs all over the place, which the boys figured out pretty easily - much like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park. They had great fun opening and closing the back door repeatedly.

Home toddler-proofing - just one more service we provide.
Tip: Never hand a spoonful of peanut butter to a naked toddler.
Regardless of what Liss dresses Ellen into, our nanny routinely changes her into something pink and girly. The thing that's quirky is that it's always "she was cold" or "it got dirty" or "oh, I just found this." She can't seem to just say that she likes her in pink - which would be totally fine.
Ellen is the only girl child in our social group, so it was good news to us that some friends are pregnant with a girl. Besides the obvious future-playmate thing, our more pressing concern is that we'll need to start getting rid of her baby stuff soon. It's part of the much larger project of purging a lot of stuff from our house. As Liss puts it, "we'll need to hire some burly people."
In the cyclical world of calm-and-pleasant versus whiny-and-clingy, the boys have definitely dipped into the latter. That means they lose it at the slightest thing, wake up crying in the middle of the night (them, not us ... mostly), are generally more defiant and insistent, and so on. These are trying times, but we've gone through a lot of them by now, so we just deal and wait for the storm to pass.

This isn't meant to imply that the calm-and-pleasant phases are all calm and all pleasant, nor the other. It's a ratio thing, though a very noticeable one. It seems to switch down overnight, then slowly creep back up over a couple of weeks.
Six months old.

September 18th+

It's worth noting that Bobby was tested for celiac at the same time as Drew, and came back negative, even though it's a genetic disease. However, the most likely explanation is that his body is just doing a better job of fighting off the inevitable.
From Liss:
The boys are in a study because they have elevated genetic risk (3% as opposed to 1%) of developing juvenile diabetes. They were screened at birth as a regular public health thing, and we've collected monthly poop samples (for which we get $10 each) and taken them in for interviews, height/weight measurements and blood draws every three months ($25-$40 each) since then. Sometimes they take mucous and toenail clippings, too. It's tough to take them in for a blood draw and listen to them sob, but the most annoying part, really, is the 3-day diet records we have to do beforehand.

They test their blood for diabetes antibodies and recently started screening for celiac antibodies as well. We laugh because usually the checks and the "Your child does not have diabetes" letters for each boy all come in separate envelopes--not very efficient for a non-profit establishment. We got the letters a couple of weeks ago and tossed them in the recycle bin.

But today I got a voicemail. "Hi, it's Claire from the TEDDY study with some information about the boys' results." So I called her back. She put on her best bedside manner, sympathetic voice to tell me that Drew's test had come back positive for the celiac antibody. I'm sure that was less distressing to me than it is to 90% of the other parents she breaks that news to; my Dad has celiac disease and I've learned a lot about cooking gluten-free. But, ugh: I'm a big fan of wheat.

So we're in wait-and-see mode. Sometimes (we're hoping this time!) the antibodies clear themselves out. Because of this, we're NOT supposed to stop giving him gluten yet unless he develops symptoms because that could cause a false negative on the next test, next month. If that one comes back positive, though, we're off to a world of pediatric gastroenterology, cooking with weird grains, and sadness at classroom birthday parties.

Keep your fingers crossed.
While the boys can "count" to ten now, they're not counting as we understand it. They're saying a series of words that they kind of understand relate to a number of somethings, but the connection isn't quite there yet. We get this from the fact that when reading a counting-type book, they count to ten for every page (which gets old when there are 20 pages).

As far as we can gather, they actually understand up to three - maybe four - when we're dealing with concrete objects like crackers.

We'll often use number-of-times instead of timing counts to ease out of an activity, such as "okay, you can each jump [off the bottom stair] three more times" and then "okay, two more times" then "okay, last time!", and they're pretty good about it. One reason we know they get the first few numbers is that I might say "one more time!" and one of them will counteroffer "two more times!", which is a whole other skill (and post) entirely.
Ellen's started solids, in that cautious baby way. She likes carrots and Chex the best, that I can tell, though the Chex are (thankfully) a glob of drooly goo by the time they get down the hatch.

Accordingly, the poop changes have begun.
Ellen's weight at the ped: 17#2. 2'1" tall, which is four more inches in less than two months.

So here's a fun one. This "six-month well-baby" appointment was made six weeks ago, and its agenda included some shots. However, when there, they informed Liss that because Ellen wasn't yet six months old, she couldn't get her shots. We have to go back when she's old enough - which happens in five days. So, we have to go back sometime soon just for that.

On a plus side, it appears that since switching health plans to that of my new employer (same provider, different plan), we're no longer having to pay co-pays for the kids' visits - and it's a cheaper plan.
From Liss, heard over the monitor this morning ("come back" means "come upstairs and get us out of bed"):
  • "Daddy, come back!"
  • "NO, Daddy WORK! Mama, come back!"
  • "No, Daddy come back!"
  • etc.
  • "Drewbie have stinky poop."
  • "No, Bobby have stinky poop!"
  • "NO, DREWBIE have stinky poop!"
  • etc.
Ah, boys.
Rather than have to get up to set the timer on the microwave to mark when the boys need to switch turns at something they both like, Liss found an online timer with a bell and everything. Now we don't have to get up off our butts.

It would be even better if they could each want two different things at the same time among the seemingly thousands of options at their disposal, but that doesn't look like it's going to happen for a long while.
For the sake of comparison, here is a picture of Drew at the same age that Ellen is now. He now looks basically nothing like that. Therefore we can conclude that Ellen won't look anything like this in 20 months.
Random thought experiment - what if, say, at age eight, the boys wanted to switch names? Assuming their medical records weren't too different, what would prevent it?
For this afternoon's ped visit, I've guessed Ellen at 16#15 17#2 and Liss guessed 17#2 292#18.

One might say that putting it in writing invites invited mockery upon us me if we're I had been far off, but that would only be have been true under the assumption that I can't didn't just edit it later.
In the last few days, Ellen's laugh and babble have changed.
Friends of ours have a son about a year older than the boys. A few months ago he opened the front door and wandered off; when he was found a couple of blocks away, CPS took him overnight while they somehow proved they aren't actually negligent parents.

So, y'know, something for us to remember, and motivate us to put those rubber things on the doorknobs. I'm not sure what to do about the sliding glass door once they're strong enough to open it, though.
The boys' latest obsessions:
While we were at our regular brunch place yesterday, Bobby starting hitting his fork on the table, which I asked him to stop for being too loud. A little bit later, he did it to the underside of the table, which was much softer, so I told him that was okay.

Later, he was doing the top again, do I asked him to stop again. This time, he looked at me while moving the fork under the table to start tapping there, which I repeated was okay. It wasn't a defiant look, more like seeking confirmation.
General MO when the boys eat, especially out - Drew eats his right away, while Bobby dawdles. Later, Bobby starts to eat, but now Drew has nothing left, and wonders why Bobby gets to have food and he doesn't.
Just a little thing ... Drew started pronouncing "blue" with the L, instead of "boo." Bobby might be catching on, too.
Another sign of our big baby and small toddlers? They're wearing the same diaper sizes.
Drew, sitting on my lap and seeing the little not-annoying electronic drum a few feet away:

"Drewbie turn on drum come back sit on Daddy lap."
A pair of videos.

September 11th+

Regarding Ellen's ped visit on Monday: I guess she's hoping to prepare the boys so they don't freak out.
Lately the boys have been pretty much equally pillish, i.e. Bobby doesn't seem like the more challenging twin recently. It's hard to tell if it's from Drew being more so or him less, but I think it's a little of both.
Bobby put himself in time out last night. It was just for a minute, and he wasn't being obnoxious or anything; we think he just needed to cool off.
The semi-annual twin club sale is in a month. We've already been to four, so it's old hat by now, and unlike when Liss was pregnant with the boys, we don't need much - mostly clothing, and then more fall/winter stuff. With our small needs and therefore ability to lollygag, maybe we can bring the kids - because if there's one thing the boys can do, it's lollygag. Besides, they might see some other twins and charm the socks off the adults, as they so often do.

There's a pattern among club members, where they start as panicky and pregnant (as we did) and eventually transition to elder states[wo]men. Those are the ones who are selling stuff at these sales. There are over 700 families in the club, so it's no wonder that they have to turn away sellers despite filling up two gymnasia. Maybe one day we'll sell there, but their procedures are a pain in the ass, so we're just as likely to give everything away and save ourselves the trouble. Even if we don't have any takers for something among our friends, we've always had things disappear when we put them on the curb.

The club does surveys every year or two as to what their focus should be, and as far as I've seen, it's always heavily in favor of helping the pregnant and new parents. Everyone's been there, and lots of them had the same help, so they understand that that's where the need is. It's not a good return on investment - monetarily, at least - but that's not the point.

The sale is the only way in which we're active, because all of their meetings are at bedtime, but it's worth it, both for early access to the sale, and the whole club-focus thing.
We're going to have to just take it on faith that the boys will be able to get along as they get older, because they'll be sharing a room. If they don't, our house isn't really made for any easy alternatives. Do we clear out the basement, with its lack of facilities? Curtain off part of the dining room?

The whole idea is very Western, anyway; whole families still share single rooms all over the world.
For things like life insurance, we've naturally set each other to be the sole beneficiary in case the other croaks. You're also supposed to designate secondary beneficiaries, i.e. if we both check out together. However, they don't let you just say "one third for each of my three kids." They want whole numbers.

Across the board, we've set Ellen to get 34% and the boys 33% each. There's no real reason, other than not giving one twin more than the other, but it's also fun to imagine the looks on all their (older) faces when it's revealed to them. "What does it mean? Did they love her more? And no fair, she already grew up with her own room!"
For the past two nights, Ellen has downed a full bottle and then lie there awake, sometimes fussing, eventually getting to sleep after another half hour or so. This is not a good change to our bottle = sleep routine, but maybe now I can get to reading to her more.
Our new nanny is using words we don't, like calling it an "owie" when the boys hurt themselves. I know it's just the beginning of the end of our being almost entirely to blame responsible for their development, but it's still a little disheartening. Drew is calling himself Andrew ("An-doo") instead of Drewbie ("Doo-bee") more, so we think that's what she calls him.

Yesterday we were at a park where some teenagers were saying - no, yelling - much worse. It'll be harder to bear the absorption of that, especially actions rather than words.

And if they end up voting Republican ... well, let's just say that wills can be changed.
The boys' response to running out of, say, crackers?

"Buy ... more ... cack-ers."
Ellen has her six-month ped visit next week. Liss is slightly obsessed with being able to say "yes" to the milestone question of flipping from back to stomach. She can roll to her side just fine, but hasn't gone all the way over yet. This might our project for the week.
Until I can get the new computer and its files squared away, here are a couple of pictures Liss took to keep y'all placated. Sorry, nothing of Ellen handy.
Just for a day or two, we need to keep track of how many times each kid breaks out crying or otherwise gets inconsolably emotional. I think it'd be about 25 for each toddler and 5 for the baby.

September 4th+

My laptop looks like it's dead. As in, I killed it. I may have lost almost a year's worth of pictures in the process, but that's yet to be determined.

Update: Recovery successful - just need to reorganize it all. I know you'll all hungry for new pictures. :-D
There's been a kind-of-disturbing change in the boys' behavior - contradiction for its own sake. It doesn't matter what the topic is, which is really the part that makes it frustrating. It could even be something we know they like.

The real fun comes when they get into a loop: "Bobby flush Drewbie's poop!" "Drewbie flush Drewbie's poop!" "BOBBY FLUSH ..." Another twin mom said that it's just part of establishing themselves as individuals and the center of their universes; while it's not just a twin thing, the back and forth of simple contradiction is, since most toddlers don't have a sibling at the same developmental stage who deals with the concept in the same irrational way. She also said to just let them have the last word versus us (and let them figure it out between themselves when it doesn't get escalatingly loud), and that it'll change around the time they turn three (ugh ... that long?).

And sometimes we like to mess with them:
After a week of duct tape, we didn't put any on the boys during their weekend naps. Their diapers stayed on. Perhaps we've won this round.
Over the weekend, we tried a thing where Liss and Amy took the boys somewhere, and I took Ellen. I decided we'd try to run some errands. We went to three shops; she'd be fine when we'd enter, then a few minutes later start crying. Then, on the way back, she fell asleep - well beyond my 4:30 cutoff for letting her do that. The whole took maybe 90 minutes and was just a complete bust.

Sometimes I think she's doesn't like me all that much.
The boys like the concept of driving. When we got somewhere, they say who will be doing the driving, and they like to "drive" their little truck around the house.

They have a little book of cartoon cars that they like, and we tolerate. In just the last couple of days, the boys have starting saying (for example) "Drewbie drive egg car" and "Bobby drive fire truck" as though projecting themselves in the roles. That's something of an abstract developmental hurdle.
We still put the boys' poop into little tubes once a month and box and mail them (to Maryland) for the diabetes study. However, we were a little shortsighted this month, and did it at the start of the three-day weekend. Rather than let it sit out for two days before getting into the mail, we put the boxes in the fridge. Because we're classy like that.
While I was brushing Drew's teeth, I was telling him how he needs to spit his toothpaste into the bathtub instead of swallowing it (so we can switch them to fluoride toothpaste). I made a little *ptt* to the side without really spitting, to show him what I meant. He copied me by spitting onto my chin.

Good job, kid.
Ways in which we tortured the boys this morning: Ways in which we theorized we could continue to torture them, since they don't trust us right now anyway:
While practicing on the potty, the boys keep taking in the pumpkin muffins from this morning.

Liss: "I should have made bran muffins!"

August 28th+

Slowly but surely, the Terrible Twos are coming on. We get "no!" a lot, sometimes jokingly, sometimes in-your-dreams. There's hitting, grabbing, refusals, tantrums, "I want that!" and of course the nap-diaper-removal thing. Word is that it'll get worse over the next few months, then start to taper off as we all "agree" on limits of behavior. It won't be fun, but we've spent a lot of effort to have tools at our disposal. Some of them even work:

Counting to ten (or five) works well. We do it for a lot of general discipline things, like the amount of time they have to get a book at nap/bedtime, stir a pot while "helping" cook, brush their teeth before we help, and so on. There are also a lot of ad hoc time where we'll pull it out to refocus them and hopefully transition to, say, taking turns with whatever. Another plus is that they've both learned to (sometimes) count to ten without our help. They've started to do this when they want a turn, which is hilarious.

We don't do time outs often, which is good, because I wouldn't want them to lose their effectiveness. The rule is that they have to sit on the stairs until they're "ready to be nice," which allows them to define "nice" (which we often veto). A lot of times, they've rejoined the rest of us in less than a minute, already pleasant.

They'll usually be okay if we warn them that a certain activity (like being at the park) will end in n minutes or we can do it x more times (like going down the slide). The first one's especially nice because they don't understand lengths of time at all yet, so we can say "ten minutes!" and pack it up in two, or vice versa.

I used to be a teacher. Liss is a teacher. We both have "the look."

Neither of us gets mad very easily, so when we do, they know it. They don't really get it yet, but they'll learn.

And as an aside, it's hard not to laugh when they get mad at a reprimand and slooooowly move their hand to again do whatever they got reprimanded for.

Some parents tell us it's the Threes that are really bad. We'll cross that bridge ...
Sometimes I wonder what the boys' earliest memories will be.
The boys can throw like champs, but they can't catch for shit.
We had lots of conversations about television and other "screen time" even before the boys were born. They like seeing pictures and videos on our computers and cameras and the like, but it's not the obsession we feared it might be, and they haven't asked for the TV to be on in months. Part of it is that we know them well enough not to show children's programs that we might hate; we've heard far too many stories of Barney or Teletubbies or whatnot over the years from exasperated parents. When I pop in a movie to calm them down for a while (about once a month), it's always something I think I wouldn't mind their getting obsessed over, whether it's a cartoon (Iron Giant, Up!) or a musical (The Sound of Music, Hairspray). While they seem to like them, they don't request them again later, and their attention is never held for the duration of the movie.

All of this is great, with the caveat that it also means that we're their "TV." They don't have the attention span to just sit and play quietly yet, so we end up taking them to lots of places, or playing outside (while we still can), or letting them run back and forth, or jump on me, etc. They don't really play "together" yet. We're their playthings, which we've encouraged, especially now that they're so talkative, though it's also a big part of our constant exhaustion. Given the possible alteratives, though - such as indifference to us in favor of endless Elmo - we'll take it.
We live so far north that mid-summer means the sunlight doesn't go away until after 10pm. It's getting close enough to the equinox now that it won't be long before it's dark before we put the boys to bed (at 7) - after turning the clocks back, it's dark before we get home from work.

None of this really matters yet for our sleep, because of our fabulous blackout curtains. However, I expect that next summer, the boys will protest being put to bed while it's still light out. (It's entirely possible that their bedtime will be later by then, but certainly not 10). It's going to take great exertion on my part to not make a deal with them around this time next year that goes something like "Okay, boys, you win; your bedtime is now sunset" and watch - with stifled glee - their increasing horror as their bedtime gets earlier every day.
Ever since I instituted the rule of thumb that Ellen not sleep or eat within two hours of her bedtime, she's been pretty easy to put down. I haven't had to use the bathroom sink as white noise on her for weeks, which was starting to lose its effectiveness anyway.

The only real issue is that she recognizes that my carrying her upstairs means bedtime, and she doesn't like it. With the bottle, she goes from screaming baby to sleepy baby, leaving me no merely-calm-baby window where I can read to her. Maybe we'll have to ask our nanny to do it when the boys are napping.
Someday the boys will stop fighting over whatever one of them happens to start playing with. Or eating. Or reading. But it doesn't look like it'll happen anytime soon. When I got home last night, I spent 20 minutes alternating which twin was setting the microwave timer to 2 minutes while his brother played with the purple guitar, after which it would be his turn to play with it, and his brother would set the timer, and so on. Otherwise, they'd just yell "Bobby turn!" "Doobie turn!" in a seemingly infinite but increasingly loud loop.

Their being physically identical probably exacerbates the issue. Older siblings can use their superior strength and cunning, or at least grab and run away faster. When these boys get to actually fighting, I don't know if there could ever be a winner. We'll just all lose.

We probably say this at least once a day: it's a good thing they're cute.
My fourth annual NFL pool is open. Please spread the word if you know someone(s) looking for an outlet that's a little different than most.

One of the great advantages of programming is that if it's done with flexibility in mind from the start, doing its business again is usually just a matter of dropping in the new data (in this case, the schedule). I wrote most of the NFL pool before the boys were born, and have done very little to it since. With the same kind of low-maintenance thought ahead of time, keeping the scores and such updated is also very simple, so actually running it is pretty easy, too.

That's good, because there's no way I'm going to be able to do major work on the hard parts of the site anytime soon - which is sad in its way, because I have lots of ideas. The same goes for writing music. The kind of "in the zone" such creative efforts require means more than just "take the kids to the zoo" blocks of time. We're talking "take the kids to summer camp."
Liss mailed me from her first day back at work:
I'd never want to be a SAHM forever, but even with the poop and snot and "no" and two, I'd much rather be there than here.

It'll get better when school actually starts, right?
From Liss, beginning last Friday:
This is going to tarnish your image of my beautiful, brilliant, charming children. Tough shit, they deserve it. Perhaps they can win their way back into your good graces--OR MINE--another day. Most of you should probably stop reading now, because this is going to be gross.

We've had some ... issues lately with the boys taking their diapers off during naptime. At first it wasn't such a big deal because they'd poop and then take their diapers off and the poop would stay contained and whatever, I don't want to sit in my own shit either. I almost saw it as a positive step because it showed they were aware they'd pooped and wanted to do something about it. Especially when last weekend also saw them actually starting to use their potties too. Every day before naptime, we all chant: "Don't take diapers OFF, keep diapers ON."

But Thursday, Bobby pooped and then flung. Fortunately, it landed on one of their books that I hate, so I just threw it away. I made him sit in his crib until I was all done cleaning up, and I told him it makes me sad and mad when he makes a mess, and it makes me happy when he keeps his diaper on. They're starting to understand "sad" and "mad" and "happy." Honestly? Times like this make me understand why parents would spank little kids. Maybe this will help you understand. But we don't.

Yesterday, I took them on a morning death march hike so they'd be extra-tired at naptime. I fed them only low-fiber foods. Then after our chanting, I said, "If you poop, you just yell, 'MAMA, BOBBY POOPED' and I'll come help you."(*) I made them practice saying that a couple of times. And I made them wear pants to nap in, where they prefer diapers + shirts.


You can guess, but you don't want to. Oh, it was bad. They had both gotten their pants off, a feat since my mom took in the waistbands last weekend. Drew had pooped and removed his diaper. Most of it was contained, but when he sat up, he'd smeared it a bit on the sheet. He was sitting in his crib, legs hanging down through the slats and peeing on the floor. Bobby? Had decided poop = Play Doh. It was crusted on his hands, spread on the crib railing and the sheets and the wall, wiped on his ear, little bits in his hair. Plus some on the floor--not on Humpety Trumpety but on the light beige carpet.

And, AND? He didn't want me to clean him up. He sobbed the whole time I was scrubbing him down, yelling, "ALL DONE" and trying to wiggle free. But, you know? This isn't an area on which I'm willing to compromise. A little snot on your cheek, overgrown hair, strawberry stains down your shirt, mismatched shoes? Whatever. There will not be a single speck of poop anywhere outside the toilet, potties and diaper bin. Ever.

It took almost an hour to clean up. Ellen laid on the futon, examined her binky and cooed the entire time. Thank God for Ellen. And thank God for James, who has taken the boys off on excursion this morning and left me alone with a napping baby. I think they're going to pick up some duct tape.
(*) I told them the same thing that night without her telling me she'd already thought of it. Great minds, I guess.

And from Saturday:
But wait! Then today after lunch and just before naptime, both boys used their potties for the intended purpose. Perfect, we thought, no need to tape; let's see what happens.

What happened was, after we read stories and drank milk, James sat in there for 15 minutes with them while they settled. Three minutes after he left, the giggling started. He went in to find both diapers off, Drew having pooped and Bob having wet through the sheet.

We won't make that mistake again. He put on fresh diapers and wrapped the tape all the way around. Took a picture to show their future love interests.
And Sunday:
The males in our household are all sick. Bobby started a week ago with a runny nose. Drew caught that and has also done some impressive vomiting (including ohgod in the car seat on the way back from the zoo today, where Amy and I'd taken them all to give James some rest). James stayed home from work Tuesday with a sore throat, stuffy nose, and general sickiness; he improved a bit toward the end of the week, but it's back with a vengeance(*). They've all been droopy and cranky and exhausted.

I've had nothing. Credit my over-active immune system: I may have lupus, I may have arthritis, but I almost never get infectious diseases. Good thing, 'cause I don't even want to think how it would be if we were all sick.

Ellen has had nothing. She's as healthy and cheerful as ever. James brought it up this afternoon: "Must be all that breast milk."

... Huh. Maybe, maybe not, but it was the exact right thing to say. I knew I loved that guy.
(*) We didn't know it was the new strep infection until Monday morning.
While I was holed up sick in bed, the boys would sometimes visit. Upon conclusion, Bobby would ask me "close door?," to which I'd say yes, and he'd close it behind him on the way out. I prefer to think of it as a nice gesture, rather than "closing doors is fun!," which is backed up by his relatively somber tone.
It's been an interesting week, in the Chinese proverb sense of the word.

First, the good. The boys have taken to the potty in a big way. We haven't had to set up a reward system or anything (stars! treats!) beyond praise. They just do it. With that is the longest sentence I've heard yet: "Bobby take diaper off poop potty?" Yes, they ask permission before taking their diapers off, except ...

The bad. They think it's hilarious to remove their diapers at naptime and fling the results all over the room. We now duct tape their diapers shut at naptime. Yes, there will be pictures (of the duct taping, not the poop). We'll let them try restraint again on the weekends until they get it right. It seems that if it happens, it happens as soon as they're alone, so we can catch them "red" handed.

Finally, the ugly. First Bobby was sick, giving it to Drew and myself, though Bobby and I got better after a couple of days. Drew's still coughing, and mine came back hard. However, mine wasn't the same cold, it was strep throat that just felt similar, as a 4:30am trip to the hospital found. So Liss took them to their doctor who said ... no, Drew doesn't have strep. Huh. So, it's just a bad cold that's made him projectile vomit a couple of times - once in the car. And there's been a lot of snot. Fortunately, the ladies of the house have shown no signs of contracting either ailment.

And more good, Ellen is starting to learn how to use her hands, discovering her feet, and by virtue of being easier than either twin was at five months, feels like the most low-maintenance baby ever.

We'll need to figure out how to get the boys to potty outside the house, and maybe transition them to pull-ups, but those can wait a little bit. It's only been a week.
The boys' four-month sleep regression lasted two and a half months.

Ellen's lasted four days.

August 21st+

All of our hand-wringing over when and how to wean the boys off binkies may have been for naught. They appear to be losing interest in them.
Drewbie over-exerted himself outside this evening, as he wasn't completely over his cold yet, and barfed up his dinner and possibly lunch. The topper was his guilty look; we had to assure him that it was okay.

On the plus side, this cold has afforded us the opportunity to teach them to cough into their sleeves, for which by now they only need a little reminding. It's very cute, but then again, so is just about everything they do ... except maybe barfing.
From Liss:
On Tuesday, I return to work full-time. How is this possible? How is this even legal? For the most part, the summer's been much easier and more fun than I expected. Sure, there are tantrums after most naps and the boys insist on pizza for lunch every single day, but it's also fun to play with them, talk to them, take them on adventures to the beach, the Museum of Flight, a boat ride. They're making progress with the potty. They loved preschool, though today was their last day. They've gone from 2-word to 4-word sentences seemingly overnight. One favorite from yesterday (they have colds): "Drewbie needs medicine mouth." A reasonable argument. Of course, today it was "Bobby flush Drewbie's poop," "No, Drewbie flush Drewbie's poop!" which is such an irritating argument to referee, but still: Language! Good! And while they nap I play with Ellen, who is a delight of a baby: patient with her demanding brothers, quick to smile or laugh, still sleeping pretty well despite "regressing" away from 11-hour nights.

We've had a fun but exhausting string of relative visits this month. It's been lovely, but it'll be nice to have some time to ourselves. Now as the days get cooler and I settle back into work, I hope I'll also find more time for myself (walking to work 3 days a week is my goal: expensive, but it'll help me fit into my old clothes and give me time to think) and more time to write.
Five months old.
Two days after his brother, Bobby pooped in the little potty.

It doesn't quite have the same feeling at the Apollo 12 landing, but it doesn't help that I wasn't there to see it.
Some word amusements:
Liss jokes that the boys are pleasant 90% of the time - Drew 95 and Bobby 85.
I'm hoping the boys take to football this year. It would certainly be convenient, since it will be on the television a lot.
Liss's cousin is getting married on Thanksgiving weekend on the opposite coast. We've all been trying to figure out the logistics of getting her out there, as it's unrealistic that all five of us should go. At first the idea was to have her take the red-eye and come back about 36 hours later, but there are advantages to another plan - she take daytime flights and take Ellen with her. Besides relieving the stress of two days with the kids by myself on a holiday weekend, she wins points by introducing the baby to the family. The trade-off is the two six-hour flights with an eight-month-old, and having her in tow around the wedding, but she's been promised help.

Honestly, I would have been fine with the three of them for a couple of days, but this works out much better for me. I figure I can take care of the boys on my own pretty much indefinitely without much stress. Sure, they (we) won't eat as well, and they (we) may do and learn things Liss doesn't want to come home to, but I think this is a good middle ground.
A month ago, three-word sentences were pretty rare. Now, four-word sentences are common.
Bobby has a cold, which means he's a snot machine. Fortunately he's now okay with us putting a tissue to his nose and having him blow. It's much easier and less invasive than the nose bulb, not to mention more sanitary. However, if we're not on the ball, he ends up with a lot on his hands and cheeks from wiping. Generally speaking, we're not on the ball.

The real fun came at our bedtime, though. We can tell the difference between whining or bored crying versus "No, I really need help" crying, and he was doing that. It turns out that he'd pooped in his diaper, which they don't normally do overnight. I took him downstairs to change him, and it was definitely the product of his being sick. They'd had fruit just a few hours before, and his diaper was filled with little unchewed pieces of apple skin - maybe two dozen the size of your thumbnails.

The thing I've found when helping them at night is that they're very sweet. He listened when I talked to him and said my plan - clean him, new diaper, medicine, crib, water. He sat patiently while I brushed my teeth and drank my own water (part of my bedtime routine). He wanted to say good night to Momma again before going back to bed. And so on.

I wasn't sure how much Benadryl to give him, so Liss looked it up - 5mL. Now, that's double what it was for an infant, which seemed a lot at the time, but this was one step short of just pouring it down his throat. But, as part of the sweet-boy thing, he sucked it down like a champ. Of course, Benadryl doesn't cure colds; the idea was to knock him out so he (and I) could sleep.

Around 4 he was coughing enough that I went in to check on him. His water cup was mostly full, and he didn't seem to want to drink any despite my entreaties. What can you do? I had an answer - I turned down the monitor.
Mark it - on Sunday, August 20th, Drew pooped in one of the little potties. The story itself is pretty funny, if a little gross.

It's common now for them to ask to sit on the potty between diaper changes, which we're happy to oblige. This time I went in with him and sat on the [closed] regular toilet to keep him company and encourage. A few minutes in, he stood halfway up and looked under his own legs - quite the flexible boy there - and watched himself.

Of course, we showered praise upon him, which he echoed. "Doo-bie. Poop. Potty!"

Bobby took notice, and got jealous; he went and sat on the same seat, and said "Bobby. Poop. Potty!" Nice try, kid.

Completing the procedure, I took off the potty's detachable bowl and dumped(*) it into the toilet, which he flushed, and I wiped him. However, a few minutes later, he came back and deposited one of those little follow-up poops, then tried to take the bowl to the toilet himself. It would have worked if it hadn't been so sticky, so I had to help him with it. More praise.

Now, we're not sure how this happened, but around that time, Liss saw Bobby in the dining room ... holding some poop. She thought he'd stolen Drew's to claim as his own, but I'd accounted for what Drew had produced in the bathroom, so ... it's a mystery. And it can stay that way. Either way, I suspect Bobby will repeat Drew's feat soon, if for no other reason than jealousy at the positive attention.

While I'm not obsessive enough to have taken pictures of the event or its evidence, this perfectly safe picture from the annals(*) of the Internet should decently express the mood around the house at the time.

Still no pee, which I'm actually more worried about, since that goes out instead of down.

(*) No pun intended. Well, maybe a little bit.

August 14th+

"Bobby ... time ... out."

"You don't need to gloat, Drew."
Liss's luck ran out with the whole "pooped and took off diaper during naptime, but it wasn't messy" thing. I came home to new sheets in their cribs.
My new public transit commute has allowed me more reading time, which I've firstly used to read Pride and Prejudice. Reading tends to make me want, for a time, to speak and write like that which I've read, but as Jane Austen's writing style is of her time and thusly more florid than we would consider the norm of contemporary prose, I must endeavor to refrain from those illucid tidings that might disengage otherwise rapturous readers.
E-mail from Liss, titled "Pride and Joy":
Bob: Booger!
Me: I'll get you a tissue after I change Ellen's diaper.
Bob: Booger! Finger!
Me: Just let me clean up this poop and I'll help you.
Bob: Booger! Booger!
(ignoring, ignoring)
Bob: Boooogeeeeerr!
Bob: Mouth!
This is all part of a new thing whereby we're trying to ignore repeated statements after explaining our response.
We're pretty sure Ellen's started her sleep regression.

I'm going to start endeavoring to use the first and second persons with the boys more, i.e. "I'm going to work" instead of "Daddy's going to work," and replying "Yes, you pooped" instead of "Yes, Drewbie pooped" (hey, go with what they know). They're already starting to grasp it, so it's time to reinforce it.
There's a not-unrealistic chance that Liss's teacher's union will strike soon.
I've called it a rule of thumb rather than a rule, but I don't want Ellen to be asleep after 4:30 or fed after 5. When I put her down at 6:30, she needs to be at least a little tired and hungry, or the process is a long scream-fest (her, not me). Liss is on board - she can hear it all - but we need to make sure the nanny follows through. Right now she's only here a few hours a week, but when Liss starts school again in a week-ish, she'll be the keeper of the routines.
We don't mind the idea of all three kids sharing our bed during scary or hot nights (our wind storms can get pretty noisy), but it's only a double, and we don't like it all that much anyway. It's a little hot and the springs make enough noise that we sometimes wake each other up after a nighttime excursion.

I floated the idea of upgrading to a queen, but after saying a queen would be too big just a couple of years ago, Liss said why not go ahead and get a king? With five of us plus the cat ...

I've looked into Tempurpedic and the like, but I just think it'd be too hot for me, of which my skin is very sensitive. Perhaps the next "what if" idea would be a nice firm waterbed.
In an effort to get into air conditioning and eat dinner, we went to the Rainforest Cafe for the first time, so we didn't really know what to expect. It's one of those places that sells its environment as much as its food.

It turns out it's just too much for the boys to handle just yet. Every once in a while animatronic monkeys growl and move, or there's some fake lightning and thunder, or water drips from the ceiling, and so on. For the monkeys and storms, they'd get out of their seats and climb into my lap, burying their faces into my chest (which I have to admit I find very endearing). Besides "all done!," their way of trying to get out of it was to ask to go look at the fish, again, because that area was calm, or to ask to go back to the car. After a little while we had to ask to move to "a more boring table," which ironically was right next to the bar.

In two more years they'll be begging to go, just as Ellen reaches the age where she'll get freaked out by all the stimuli.
We went to our favorite ice cream joint this weekend. At some point, Drew decided it would be a good idea to:
  1. Dispense a little water in a cup at the cooler in the corner.
  2. Walk over to the trash ten feet away.
  3. Pour the water into the trash can.
  4. Take the cup back to the water cooler.
  5. Repeat.
After a few circuits, I had to tell him that water doesn't go in the trash can, and he lost it. He's been losing it a lot lately, as he comes up with these creative ideas on which we can't let him follow through.

I used my Mom's camera to make some video (of the circuit, not the meltdown) so I'll post it if I can.
Seattle is going through a hot spell, with a few days of highs in the low 90s. Laugh if you must, but when it's 88 inside the house at bedtime, it's kind of hard to expect your kids to sleep well. Last year we tried having the boys sleep in our room (with its window A/C unit) during similar heat, which was a total fiasco.

To compensate, I've been putting Ellen to sleep in our room. Besides the cooler air, its white noise helps the process. The hard part is transporting her to her room and bed, which I've already bungled once.

The boys seem to be fine with the heat, choosing to wear their sleepers even though we'd offer diaper-only arrangements (despite the removal risk). However, Bobby started crying at 4:30 Sunday morning, to which I went in and offered him water. His whispering "wa ... ter" answer was straight out of the crawling-through-the-desert cliché. I brought some for both him and Drew, which they both slurped down before easily going back to sleep. I know this because his "Daddy ... sit" was equally pathetic, so I stayed with them for a bit before retreating back to the A/C.

Ellen, meanwhile, is so chunky that she sweats easily, so whenever Liss tends to her at night, she's in her own pool. There comes a break point where an open window is better than not, so she has to attune to that.

This is supposed to end tomorrow or the next day, so hopefully that's the last of our real summer heat. In another year (maybe two), the boys will understand things better and maybe sleep in our rooms without incident, but I think I thought the same thing last year.
Sometimes - often enough that it's not a coincidence - you can put a binky in Ellen's hand, and she'll get it up to her mouth.
An obvious couple of signs in the update below mean that it's time to start potty training for real. They've taken to the little green potties, so I've ordered another pair for the upstairs bathroom.

My Mom and step-dad were here this weekend, and didn't know about not putting toilet paper on the roll, as the boys will happily unroll the whole thing. Instead, though, Drew sat on the little potty with no diaper for a few minutes with no one else in the room, then started walking over to the TP, taking a few sheets off, walking back and putting in the potty, walking back for more TP, etc.

We need to find a reward system they'll buy into. Stickers? Gold stars? I have no idea what might work with them.
Lots of little-to-moderate changes with the boys just this week or so:

August 7th+

Last night I got home a few minutes earlier than usual; I walked in on Liss getting the boys ready to come out to run to greet me. Drew freakin' lost it, just like Wednesday. However, this time I refused to walk all the way back so he could do it, because I didn't want to set that precedent (again). It's just not viable. But when the timing is right and it does happen, it's pretty awesome.
There are a couple of things I heard over the years about language development that stuck with me for no real reason. One is that you're not supposed to correct pronunciation when a toddler just doesn't know how to produce a certain sound yet - such as when they're trying to say "three" but say "free" instead. As far as they're concerned, they know what they meant and said it correctly, and think you should think so too, and just know that the "th" sound will come in time. The boys still have a lot of these phonetic gaps.

The other example was "Would you like an apple?" Later, the kid might say something like "May I have another napple?" They haven't discerned the difference between a/an before a consonant/vowel. For that one, correction should be indirect, with something like a simple "Yes, you may have another apple."
Drew's name isn't "Drew," it's "Drewbie" - at least, that's what both boys call him. We alternate a lot among that, "Drew," and "Andrew," but they stick to that one when they talk. (Of course, it still sounds like "Doo-bie.")
The boys have started taking vitamins. They're the sweetened children's kind, so Liss came up with a brilliant plan. They're not "allowed" to have their vitamins until they're out of their sleepers and dressed for the day.
One of the twins might have corrected us for the first time upon hearing us call him by the other's name. Liss called Bob "Drew," and almost immediately, in what might have been an indignant voice, he said "Bobby!"
The boys like spotting me coming home from work and running toward me, which I also heartily enjoy. Today, however, they didn't see me until I was almost to the door. This upset Drew so much that I had to walk back almost to the origin point of that picture so that he could run to "greet" me.
It's difficult to ride out hearing "Daddy! Come! Back!" on the monitor after leaving them at bedtime.

And then "Daddy! Op[en]! Door!" in the morning.
From Liss, perhaps their first interpersonal argument. Yay.
(pushing/grabbing/yelling at each other for the Most Favored Milk Cup)
B: Mine's milk!
D: That milk!
Me: This milk is just the same.
D: That milk!
B: Mine's milk! Bobbyou's(*) milk!
D: That milk!

etc. So I refilled both cups.

This is language and social development, right? Not just How to Waste Milk and Annoy Mom?
(*) Bobalou.
Two years and one month old.

This'll be the end of marking months for the boys. I'm sure I'll mark their half-years.
We call the ice cream truck the "music truck."
The whole "count to five" or "count to ten" thing is remarkably effective. For the most part, they'll respect it, whether it be time to pick a book at bedtime (okay, Bobby's bad about that), or time between taking turns stirring a bowl, or whatever. We figure it's also helping them learn to count themselves, with all that repetition.

One of the first manifestations was Penis Time. When changing their diaper, we'll give them "five more seconds of ..."

No decision yet on how we'll handle the Ellen version.
We secretly and mostly-jokingly refer to fraternals as "fake" twins.
On Friday, we're signing the paperwork to refinance our mortgage, moving it from a 30 to 15 year. The difference in amortization is remarkable; instead of 73% of our payments going to interest instead of principal, it'll be more like 43%.

Another big bonus - assuming everything goes okay, we'll be paying it off a year(*) before the boys go to college.

(*) Well, see next post.
We'll have a decision to make in about two and a half years - whether to put the boys into Kindergarten at 5 years and 2 months old. With twins, especially, there are often developmental delays - mental, physical, and social - that would mean their being dwarfed by their classmates in those respects.

That's pretty much the only reason we might keep them back - they'd be two of the youngest and smallest kids.

The case for enrollment on schedule, though, is much more compelling to me. That is, from what I see, they'll be ready "academically," and with more pre-school coming - and our friends having kids - will have plenty of chances to interact with other kids better. Right now they're very shy with strangers, but they also don't have the vocabulary or experience for it. Also, holding them back would be one more year of paying for child care, and delay everything else in their lives for a year until the end of college. By their teens, I'm sure I'd be kicking myself for setting it up so they don't get the hell out of my house until they're 19.

And then there's the other twin conundrum - do we try to get them into the same classroom or not?
We got a lot of snow two winters ago - eight different snow days totalling maybe 24 inches - but zilch last year. We'd even bought appropriate warm clothes for them in anticipation, but for naught. We really hope for some amount of playable snow this year, for the boys' sake, but it's also entirely possible that some of those clothes will still fit them by then.
Because we live in a place famous for its rain, we've started enforcing the rule that shoes come off when you're in the house. The boys haven't taken to it very well, so it might be a few weeks before it's routine. It doesn't help that I often don't take mine off when I get home, because if it's dry, I figure they'll want to go play outside anyway. So, it needs to become routine for me (again), too. Our rainy season won't begin until the end of September, but best to get it ingrained now - in all of us.

Speaking of which, the toddler group of the twins club had a meeting dedicated to ideas for keeping toddlers from going stir crazy when it rains a lot. As usual, though, the meeting started right when we put the boys to bed. In fact, we haven't been to any club meeting since they were three weeks old, for that very reason. It'd be much more convenient for us if such things were on weekends, but alas.
Between Wednesday's doctor visit and the Blue Angels noising up the airspace all weekend, the kids haven't had a normal nap in five days. Liss is hoping for a return to routine today, to save her sanity.

July 31st+

Overall, Ellen is a very easy baby.
Judging from what other toddler parents say, it's amazing that neither twin has tried to climb out of his crib yet. I think they'd definitely be able to do it if they put their minds to it; Liss says one of them climbed up the changing table yesterday.
A surely-incomplete and ever-growing list of ways the boys try to delay naps or bedtime:
  1. Eat!
  2. Juice!
  3. Slide! (down the wagon)
  4. Upside down!
  5. New diaper!
  6. Poop! (*checks* "No you didn't. Nice try.")
  7. (sit on the) Potty!
  8. Run!
  9. Hug!
  10. Smooch!
  11. Pay attention to the baby. (naptime only)
  12. Just plain being coy.
  13. Socks on!
  14. Socks off!
  15. Hide in their little tunnel.
  16. Piano!
  17. Dawdle while getting diapers.
  18. Dawdle while picking a sleeper.
  19. [Other parent] change/dress them.
  20. Dawdle while tossing old diaper.
  21. Dawdle.
  22. Point out a noise, like an airplane or car horn outside.
  23. "Momma coming?" while she's getting their milk ready.
  24. Dawdle going up the stairs. (They're fast when they want to be)
  25. Stop midway up the stairs and point out the cat's water bowl.
  26. ... and/or food bowl.
  27. ... and/or litter box.
  28. ... and/or the cat.
  29. Insist on brushing their own teeth. We count to ten while they do it then take over.
  30. [Other parent] teeth!
  31. Wash hands!
  32. Dry hands!
  33. Close door!
  34. Wait! *I* wanted to close the door!
  35. Dawdle while picking a book, especially Bobby.
  36. Point out their cribs.
  37. Put their milk cups to their mouths but don't suck.
  38. [Parent] ... night! (As in, "come say good night to me.")
  39. Daddy ... sit!
  40. [Bobby] playing in his crib.
And then, four times out of five, when it's time to get up, they're not anxious to.
This morning, Liss was lying in our bed with an alert and happy Ellen, who was fascinated by the rattle in her hand.

It was difficult to leave for work.
So the evening was crappy - cranky, whiny boys, though Ellen mostly held it together - but overnight was fine. I usually sit in the boys' room for about 15 minutes after we put them down, but for the first time since I started doing that months ago, they were both *out* when I left.
From Liss:
I have lunch with the boys every day, crouched on one of their little stools while feeding Ellen and eating whatever they're having. Every day, we have a version of this conversation:

Bobby (holding a piece of apple near Ellen's mouth): Eat apple!
Me: Can Ellen eat the apple?
Boys: NO!
Me: Why not?
Boys: Ellen drink milk!
Bobby: Baby Hank eat apple?
Me: Can Baby Hank eat apples?
Boys: NO!
Me: Why not?
Boys: Baby Hank drink milk!

... and so on, listing all the babies they can think of.

Today, we got even classier:

Bobby (wiggling on the changing table): Bobby wipe butt!
Me: No, Mama needs to do it. I don't think you would get it all clean. But when you're grown up you can wipe your own butt. Grown-ups wipe their own butts.
Bobby: Mama wipe butt.
Me: Yes, Mama wipes Mama's butt.
Bobby: Daddy wipe butt.
Me: Yes, Daddy wipes his butt.
Bobby: Grandpa!
Me: Yes ...

... and so on.

Someday we'll talk about physics and philosophy and stuff, right? Right?
After the boys' ped visit and shots today, they didn't nap. As I'd predicted earlier:

It might make for an interesting evening, and by "interesting" I mean "crappy."
Ellen could start trying solid foods now, but we're not really in a hurry. She eats enough, as evidenced by her weight, and formula is easier than preparing something else. We'll probably start trying some simple stuff on the weekends soon, but I don't think it'll become a regular thing for a few months.
Data from the ped:

Kid Weight Height Head Circ.
Value %-ile Value %-ile Value %-ile
Ellen 15.0 73rd 21" 7th 40.5cm 30th
Bobby 21.5 0.5th 32" 3rd 47.5cm 19th
Drew 22.0 0.9th 32" 3rd 48.0cm 30th

So Drew's still slighty bigger than Bobby, but at this point it takes these measurements to be able to tell.

Additional comments from Liss: "The boys were PISSED OFF the whole time, saying 'All done!' about 400 times. Ellen was fine. We're eating McDonalds."

And: "She also included weight-for-height. Ellen is above the 95th percentile on that one...." In other word: chunky.
I have to admit a certain level of frustration with reading to the boys. Mainly, it's that it's way below my own level (obviously), but also that they fixate on the same few books at a time, so we end up reading the same ones over and over. Nowaways, they're not interested in the words, but the pictures, so they point out what's on the page, we acknowledge or correct, then move to the next page. Frankly, it's boring - important, but boring. We've actually hidden books where the obsession/boredom combination is too high.

Eventually they'll be into books with plots, and reading on their own. However, there will be an overlapping period where they'll be able to [adequately] understand books we actually enjoy, while still allowing us to read to them instead of doing it themselves. We each have a mental checklist of what we'd read to them during that time. Both lists include the Harry Potter series(*), but diverge after that as far as I know. Mine includes the Master and Commander series, but at 21 books it's probably not realistic, especially because the second one is a slog.

How far into these mental lists we get, of course, is contingent on how long they'll let us read to them. Will it be a few months? A few years? We'll have to prioritize.

I have a similar internal quandry about when to introduce them to Star Wars, but that's another post.

(*) So we might have to draw straws to see who gets to read them. Maybe the loser gets Ellen's overlap as consolation.
Liss and a fellow twin mom have started a blog about taking tasty but unhealthy recipes and reworking them to be healthier but still tasty. I think she's also using it as an excuse to post more pictures of the kids.
We had the baby gates up for the boys for only a few months. They showed enough respect for the stairs that they didn't seem necessary after a while. However, Ellen will need to learn the same respect when she starts crawling, and we're going to need to have the gates up for that. I have a feeling that it's going to piss the boys off to suddenly have gates impeding their currently unfettered access to the stairways.

She won't crawl for a few more months, and the gates have two lock settings - easy and hard. It's a good bet that we'll just put them on the easy setting, and teach them how to use them as long as they re-lock it behind themselves. At least, I hope they'll be at that point by then. It took a lot of repetition to get them to close the screen door to the patio behind them, but it's pretty routine for them now.
We can say with certainty that the boys aren't color blind. They point out the colors of objects they've never seen before (especially cars), and the only thing they're usually wrong about are shades, such as saying white for silver. They definitely know green, blue, red, orange (often for yellow), pink, white, and black - and purple is putting down roots. Color blindness is one of those things that can slip through the cracks, so while we weren't worried about it, it's nice to know.
Liss is taking all three kids to the pediatrician on Wednesday. It's a good sign that the part we're most curious about is their weights/heights, as opposed to something major or worrisome. Even the boys' tinyness isn't a concern anymore, since they're progressing so well in everything else. Ellen is doing the things babies are supposed to be doing by her age.

However, all three will get shots. It might make for an interesting evening, and by "interesting" I mean "crappy."
Both boys had a bad night. Drew whined and cried on and off until about 11. Then, Bobby started up around 4 - it turns out because he'd pooped a couple of hours before and was starting to get diaper rash from it. They're usually good about staying clean overnight, but he'd had a lot of fruit the day before ...

They both reach this state where it seems I've soothed them long enough, they're good to go, and I can leave their room, but then as soon as the door closes, they start wailing for me again.

I've started employing a new argument in my arsenal - "Daddy needs to sleep." They're old enough to understand that other people have needs and feelings, too - Ellen's existence helps - so I think they kind of get it.

Edited to add, from Liss: Bob was all smiles this morning. I said, "It seemed like you were kind of sad during the night" and he said, "Bobby poop. Clean diaper. Bobby cry. Daddy hug. Okay."
Is it unusual to consider your four-month-old the low maintenance child?

July 24th+

My Dad is in town this weekend, but when we tell them Grandpa is coming, they can only reference the last visit from Liss's father:

"Cut ... hair?"
Bobby: technically, a middle child.
At this same time in future years, I suspect the following:
Year Boys' Age Ellen's Age Naive prediction
2011 3 1+ How cute - they're reading to her.
2012 4 2 Boys, please remember that your sister isn't quite as advanced as you.
2013 5 3 Kindergarten? So soon? Well, at least there are no more diapers in the house.
2014 6 4 Baseball games!
2015 7 5 Summers at grandparents' houses ... without us!
2016 8 6 Boys, where are you going? Take your sister with you.
2017 9 7 Can't you all pick the same night to sleep over at your friends' houses?
2018 10 8 Major road trips begin. We hold fast on personal electronic devices in the car.
2019 11 9 Major road trips continue. We cave on personal electronic devices on the car.
2020 12 10 Ellen, can you please instruct your brothers on the importance of personal hygiene?
2021 13 11 Two teenagers and a tween. Honey, can we trust them long enough to take a trip on our own?
2022 14 12 No, seriously. I don't care if it's a trip to Tacoma. We have to get out of here!
2023 15 13 (In front of Liss) Boys, your sister's friends are not a good source of dating material. (Not) Go for it!
2024 16 14 Boys, where are you driving to? Take your sister with you!
2025 17 15 Grocery bill: $500 a week.
2026 18 16 Since you're moving to college soon, perhaps you'd like to bequeath your car to Ellen? No?
2027 19 17 Okay, Ellen, it's just us and you. Wait, where are you going!?
2028 20 18 Three kids in college? Who needs retirement, anyway? At least the nest is empty. Yay! *sob*
The whole "kiss it and make it better" thing is a staple of our household now. Whenever the boys stumble or fall or in any way make contact with another object accidentally, they'll come to us to "smoo leg" or "smoo head" or whatever body part, if they know the word for it. It's impossible to refuse.
Yesterday, I was sitting next to Ellen in her swing when Liss brought me lunch. A minute later, I felt a boy approaching, so I looked - Bobby had taken the full glass of milk off my laptop table (with both hands) and brought it to me, without prompting or spilling a drop. It could have been a disaster, but instead it was just a thoughtful act.
Advice for visitors of toddlers, brought to you by parents of toddlers: Don't start, introduce, or teach anything you aren't willing to do over and over and over and over and over.
Liss asked by text if she could call me at work because "D is wailing for you." However, their concept of the telephone isn't very solid right now, so it didn't really help.

He "wails" for me a lot lately, like last night around 8:30. Liss went in to generic cries, to which he started crying "Daddy!" over and over. I went up, she left, and after a five-minute hug I asked if he would lie back down and go to sleep. He did, though I sat with him for a little while.
After not going to work for two days because of the weekend, Bobby correctly deduced that I was getting ready for work Monday morning. I think it was when I was putting things into my pockets when he said "Daddy ... wook?"

And then the delaying tactics began. "Smooch!" "Juice!" "Hug!"(*) Since the other alternatives are "ok, whatever, dude" or a meltdown, I'll gladly be five minutes late to accomodate. Heck, normally I'm gone before they wake up.

(*) Okay, that one was my idea.
We've been pounding "please" and (to a lesser extent) "thank you" into the boys for months now, and it hasn't really stuck. We still have to remind them almost every time, though once we do it usually comes. Usually the only reminder necessary is a raised eyebrow. One of these days it'll sink in, but for now it's mostly just become a habit for us to remind them rather than them actually doing it.
With the relative heat and humidity we've had up here, the boys have gotten their first diaper rashes, especially Drew. We've tried to stay on top of it, but it's hard when one poops in his diaper at 3am and then it sits there until morning. In just the last couple of days, they've been requesting new diapers on their own, though they'd already been doing that after pooping for a few weeks.

There's an ointment called Butt Paste (that's the actual brand name) that we'll put on the sore parts, which they now ask for: "butt ... ceam?" At least it's better than outright refusing it, since it certainly helps.
I think Drew used the pronoun "I" in correct context yesterday. Maybe.
Four months old.

With the boys, we kept track of how many weeks old they were for quite a while - maybe to six months. That's not the case with Ellen. I guess it's partially because of the boys' potential health issues at the time, partly for her apparent robust health, and also that we've been using the same by-month thought process with the boys for quite a while now.

She also flipped front-to-back for the first time this weekend, which she probably would have done sooner were it not for the fact that she hates being on her stomach.

July 17th+

Yesterday each twin wore a shirt that his brother would normally wear - Drew in orange! - which Liss says they thought was hilarious and highly subversive. However, they didn't do anything else that might confuse. They still sat in their normal car seats, Drew was still sweet, etc. I wasn't fooled a bit.

I'm sure they'll get better at it.
I installed the smaller black-out curtain in Ellen's room, but it's a black-out curtain like I'm a ballerina. A lot of light gets through, unlike the ones we got for all of the larger windows. However, it's better than nothing, and we had a devil of a time finding something that was even small enough, so it'll have to do for now.
We don't drink soda very often, but when we do and it's around the boys, we call it 'juice.' Specifically, it's Daddy's or Mommy's juice. We don't want them to have it for some time yet, so it's good that they just acknowledge and move on.

One reason this works is that they've developed a sense of possession. Liss says it's strongest when it comes to my things for some reason. Just today, they brought home cupcakes; a normal hedonist would insist on keeping them for themselves, but Drew brought them to me with no fuss. After all, Liss said they were for Daddy.
Yesterday while Ellen was in her swing, Bobby decided that he wanted to smooch her. However, despite my efforts to have him think otherwise, he insisted that she be out of the swing first. Since I was too slow for him, he started trying to lift her out himself. He weighs 24 pounds and has the strength of a cup of decaf. She's 14 and chunky. It was comical. Eventually I lifted her out and he got what he wanted. By then, Drew had come over, and he did the same.

A third of the time they "smooch" her by licking her head, another third with a headbutt, and the rest are actual smooches.

I forgot to have them smooch her when I took her up to bed. They insisted that they climb the stairs to her bedroom to get it done (via headbutt).

Soon I'll teach them to blow kisses.
A father brought his little girl onto the light rail of my morning commute today. I guessed that she was maybe three and a half. During the whole ride, she was calm, polite, and inquisitive.

Something to look forward to.
I'm trying to get away from using the bathroom sink as white noise for Ellen to fall asleep by. She's getting heavier, plus it's lighter in there than the bedroom, then I have to delicately carry her back, it uses water, etc.

Instead, I'm been using a white noise app on my iPod and putting it by her ear while she lies on the bed. As long as she's not wailing, it does the job. It's a pretty geeky thing to do, but a friend of ours says she's done it for months with her boy, so I feel some solidarity there. We both have found the "pouring rain" setting to work best, as opposed to "thunderstorm" or "crashing waves." It also gives me a chance to read to her while she lies there, which I've started doing. However, I haven't thought far enough ahead with that, so I end up grabbing whatever's on the shelf in her room, like America: The Book.

Taking it to another level, we used it on the drive to and from Portland last month by hooking up the iPod to the car stereo and cranking it. You can't really soothe a baby physically while driving, and we were getting a little desperate ...

And as a final "throw up my hands and admit stuff" thing, I'm now using it for myself. At my new job, I'm temporarily among call center people, and it's very hard to concentrate sometimes with all that chatter. However, music in earphones can be distracting when you really need to focus. So, put in the earphones, turn on the white noise app ...
I can't wait for this kind of thing - from a friend:
One of the cutest little girls I have ever seen just stopped dead in her tracks and pointed her finger at me with my motorcycle helmet and riding gear and asked in an excited voice, "Mommy, is he going into space!?!"
Rest assured that such emanations from my own children will be documented here.
If you've got an hour, here's a fairly depressing New York Magazine article about modern parenting.

"All joy and no fun."

And Liss found a rebuttal that picks it apart.
Liss asks the poignant questions, like "when does a broken cracker stop being a crisis?"

A friend says in about six more months.

My Mom said age 18.
Drew (and by extension, I) had a rough night last night. He started screaming for Mama around 2, though I went because the boys are my overnight responsibility - which usually means nothing. My guess is that he had a nightmare. It took about 90 minutes for him to fall back asleep; any attempts to leave him before that just started his screaming again. Then I couldn't fall asleep myself, which has been my MO for at least a year now.

Bobby squirmed and fussed a little, but mostly just slept through the whole thing.
I think Ellen will have a single dimple on her left cheek, like Drew does.
Pictures. Liss says she knew I was still recording because my voice gets higher when I do that.
Nothing quite says "fatherhood" like cleaning migratory poop out of your baby daughter's vagina.
It's one thing for your toddler to willingly smooch, but quite another to have him initiate it.

July 10th+

While we were in Portland, I noticed that the host family's 21-month-old toddler's room had a little plush bed next to his crib. Today I asked if it was there to get him used to the idea before he left the crib, to which his dad said no, he's been out of the crib for a few months now. So, he's been out since 18 months, and our boys just hit two years and are still on cribs. That begs the question - is it time?

Half of me says no ... and that half is Bobby. When we put him down, he's whiny, defiant, playful, and noisy. Drew mostly just lies in his crib and observes Bob and maybe reads his book.

The danger, in my guesstimation, would be giving them (him) the idea that they don't have to sleep in cribs. It happened with their car seats - once they tasted front-facing, they hated the mere thought of using the rear-facing seats. Right now, cribs are just how it is and has always been. But ... there's an alternative!?

That friend also said that while his son took to the bed right away, another's pounded the closed door every night for three weeks wailing to be let out. So, there's that.
Last week I mentioned how sometimes older siblings will "interpret" for their youngers before the latter can talk, to the point of knowing what they want even better than the parents. Well, we think Bobby's started.

A couple of days ago, Liss was holding a fussy Ellen and trying to give her a bottle. Bobby pointed at Ellen and said "binky." We got a binky, put it in her mouth, and she got quiet.

Never ones to take anything at face value, today we experimented. Ellen started to get fussy, and a binky wasn't working, so we simply asked Bobby what she wanted. After a few seconds, he pointed and said "eat!" We made some formula, and she drank a full seven ounces.

While this still doesn't prove anything, it's not like he's 2 for 23. He's 2 for 2. A few more and we'll believe.

We say that Bobby's the less empathetic twin, but maybe he's just more sensitive. Or maybe he's paid more attention to his sister than we give him credit for.
From Liss:
My Mom spent her whole career with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. When asked about their jobs, my Dad would say, "I'm a historic preservation architect" and my Mom would say, "I work for HUD." It took me until I was at least 10 or 11 to realize that HUD wasn't a guy.

Now I wonder what the boys think when I tell them "Daddy's at work" or "Daddy rode the bus to work." They know these things: 1) Daddy leaves for "work" before they get up; 2) Daddy rides on a bus; 3) Sometimes Daddy sees their friend Hank's Poppy, Ash, on the bus. So now when I go get them in the morning, they Say, "Daddy work. Ride Bus. Ash." I wish I could tell what this looks like in their heads. Probably Daddy and Ash are on that bus all day long.

Yesterday I was de-glazing a pan with a little water while they watched from the counter. They noticed the steam and that the water was disappearing. "Water all gone!" they said, so I told them the water was getting hot and going up into the air, waving my arms to show the air all around. Later they saw steam on a TV commercial and said, "Water - air - all gone" and waved their arms around. What such little scientists!

We have little moments like this every day, where I marvel at how their brains are developing and wish they could tell us more.
We're moving Ellen into her room this weekend. She's entered a phase where she'll make lots of noises in the middle of the night - squirming or just babbling - that don't require our attention but keep us awake.

First, I need to install a black-out curtain(*) over its small window. We did the same for all of the other bedroom windows, and they've been great.

She's maybe a month away from outgrowing her bassinet, after which we'll put her in a pack-and-play.

(*) A wise investment.
My new workplace has blocked access to this site. "Games." Lovely.
From Liss:
The boys started a summer Montessori preschool program today. They're going two mornings per week until sometime in August. Today they were both crying when I left and when they got back, one of the teachers said, "We went for a walk and Bobby helped make muffins." Just Bobby? "Well, Drew was still crying." Yikes, poor guy. But naturally, by the time I got back 2 hours later neither of them wanted to leave. There are other kids there! And racecar tracks! And kid-height counters for cooking projects! And balls you're allowed to throw indoors!

And with them in preschool, I get a chance to give Ellen a bit more attention. She's getting more and more aware of the world, able to enjoy predictable games and figuring out her hands.

Of course, taking care of just Ellen is also much easier than taking care of 3. But SAHM Summer MMX is lot easier and more relaxing than I'd anticipated. It helps that I don't think I need to do much else other than take care of children. While the boys nap, I watch True Blood or work on dinner. Every once in a while I even get to shower. And as much as I crave some kind of life of my own, I'm enjoying these days with my children.
Two years old.

July 3rd+

This morning, Drew climbed onto my piano bench - the first time I'd seen him do that. I showed him the power button - he had trouble pressing it only once so it would stay on - and he went to town. Bobby climbed up and joined him.

They don't "play" (i.e. pound) for long, but the interest is apparently there. It's probably just another toy in their minds for now, but it's nice to see them noticing it.
The chronology of Ellen's emotional states when I put her to bed is usually like this: Note that there's no good place in there for reading to her, which I need to start doing. Last night was the first real exception - after her bottle, she lay there quietly, so I was able to grab a couple of books and read them to her, after which she fell asleep pretty easily. Here's hoping that's the new trend.

She's been fighting the miracle blanket pretty hard, so it's probably time to switch her to sleep sacks.

The four-month sleep regression should be starting any week now.
Now when we ask the boys for a smooch ("mooch!"), instead of lowering their heads for a scalp kiss, they pucker up and let us smooch them on the lips. It's very sweet and surely fleeting.
I did a really quick weigh-in of Ellen on the spring scale - 13.5 pounds. However, her legs were halfway dangling over the makeshift platform I'd put her on(*), so she may be heavier than that.

(*) The large version of the Goodnight Gorilla board book.
Some of the boys' old words are changing to sound like some new words. For example, "binky" used to sound like you'd expect, but now sounds more like their "pancake" ("BAN-kay"). The same goes for "strawberry" ("taw") now sounding like the letter W ("dub-oh-yew").

We estimate they have a little less than 200 words right now, but really, it'd take Rain Man to figure it out.
One of the nice new phrases that Drew's started saying, when he finishes a tantrum:

"Cy-ing. All done!"
Of the five reasons listed here that a child might start talking relatively lately, the boys had three - preemies, multiples and boys. They started a little late, but have since gone way past the two-year benchmark of 50 words and a few two-word sentences.

Ellen has one reason - being a younger sibling. However, I've heard lots of stories now about how common it is, and how if the boys take a great(er) interest in her later, she might not bother talking until maybe age three. I think we'd prefer to cut that off at the pass by engaging her directly and asking the boys not to intervene too often, but I don't think we'd be insistent, either. After all, it'd be a way for the three of them to form their bonds.
We went to Portland for a wedding last weekend (taking Ellen but leaving the boys here with Amy). The host family has a 3 1/2 year old daughter. Liss, who's grown accustomed to the boys' noun-centric talk at nearly two, wasn't expecting this exchange when talking to her: So, at least now we have an idea what we can expect by the end of next year.
Liss's parents gave us a small wooden board with the alphabet and colored wooden letters that go into the board. We keep the letters in a bag, because otherwise they'd strew all over (and they still kind of do). The first day or two, the boys were pretty into it, but like all new "toys," it faded into the rotation of their stuff.

After about a week of not playing with them, Drew asked for the letters. After I dumped them out, he picked up the M and said "dub-oh-yew."

There was no way we were going to correct him on that.
As part of our continued but reluctant emergence into responsible adulthood, we've applied to refinance the house to a 15-year mortgage. With the way interest rates have gone lately (we'd go from 5.75 to 3.875), plus the amortization of 15 versus 30 years, we'd be saving some $200,000 over the life of the loans. And it looks like our payment will only go up about $100 a month.

Another advantage is that, assuming we make it through, we'd have the house paid off before Liss turns 50. My goal is to let her retire at 53 - after 30 years in the schools - but it's way too early to know if that's realistic.
In a couple of weeks, we'll be moving Ellen to her room. It's currently a combination of guest bedroom and storage, mostly of books. However, it doesn't have to be completely cleared out right away. At first, it just needs to be able to hold her bassinet, then crib or pack-and-play or whatever else we end up putting her in to sleep. We'd prefer not to buy a third crib, but the boys just aren't ready to move to a bed yet - especially Bobby.

We'd been saying that Ellen might not need to be sleep trained, since she was doing so well, but this last week hasn't been so great, so we may have to after all. If so, it'd be in mid to late August.
The boys are now out of day care. After this three-day weekend, I start my new job and Liss takes care of the kids by herself until school starts again. She'll have our new nanny come for half-days twice a week, but otherwise it's just her. She plans to be out of the house a lot, as all three tend to do better out in public than around the house.

It looks like my commute will be a little longer, despite being only 6 miles instead of 17. It's downtown, where I have no intention of parking, so I'll be taking either the light rail or bus; I'll experiment to see which is better/faster, but either way, I'll heave to leave earlier and get home later.

One major logistical challenge is putting all three down for their naps. If it's just the boys or just Ellen, it's not a big deal, but all three? She may have to just let Ellen be by herself while putting the boys down, and if she cries, she cries. That's preferable to leaving the boys to their own devices, to get into who-knows-what while trying to calm Ellen enough for sleep. Plus, the boys are on a good nap schedule, so that needs to be adhered to.
My week off between jobs hasn't been terribly relaxing, as we made a point to use the opportunity to get some important things done. We didn't get to it all, but made some good progress.
Because she was starting to spit up a lot, we switched Ellen to a sensitive formula. It seems to have had the opposite effect, making her more cranky and fussy, though she doesn't spit up as much. It's probably gas. The spitting up is vastly superior to the screaming, so we're switching back.

Of course, it could always be something else, like a growth spurt or teething or just being a cranky baby, but we think it's the formula.

June 19th+

Three months old.
From Liss:
I promised myself and Ellen that I'd try to give her milk for 3 months. Friday marks that day, and I haven't decided whether to continue after that. Reason against: We're* going to an out-of-town wedding this weekend and I refuse to tote the big pump**. Reason for: The hand pump works pretty well, though. Against: My supply is down since I ran out of fenugreek, but For: I still have 2 weeks' worth of domperidone left. Against: she now refuses to latch at all, even with the supplemental nursing system or in the early morning. For: we start a new play group on Tuesday and the antibodies could be useful.

So I'll probably use up the domperidone I have and then see what happens. For all my frustrations and disappointments, this breastfeeding journey has been pretty positive.

To be honest, I'm a little nervous about the wedding. How silly is that? I'm excited for the bride and groom; they've had a very tough year and I hope their day goes splendidly. I'm excited to get out of town; it doesn't happen often. But since J is a groomsman and since we won't have as much gear (e.g. swing, play mat) I'm also anticipating holding the baby pretty much all weekend. There's a bachelor party Friday night, which most of the people I know there will probably attend while I sit in a darkened hotel room and Ellen sleeps***. I feel like a terrible mother, whining about spending time with my baby. And I'm sure it will be fine, I'm mostly worried that I won't feel comfortable asking other people for help, or I'll ask J for help in stupid, passive-aggressive ways. I will figure out how to have fun, dangit!

* including Ellen, but the boys are staying home with the amazing Amy
** we're already taking a sword fercryinoutloud
*** must must MUST get a new book
Interpretation of Bobby:

"How dare you give me the green juice cup instead of the purple one!"
"I'm insulted beyond words!"
"It's a travesty, I say! A travesty!"
Ellen's sleep is all out of whack, but not in the sleep regression way (which will be worse). Either she has trouble getting to sleep then sleeps for ten hours, or goes down easily but wakes up early.
Oh, and Bob calls his brother "Doo-bie" a lot now, since we still call him "Drewbie" all the time.
When choosing a book to read, the boys tend to favor the biggest one in sight. Imagine, if you will, this trait stayed with us after toddlerhood.

Critics' jobs would be a snap. "It's huge! Buy it!"

And paperbacks would only be for poor people.
The boys are learning a lot, and mostly positive.

June 12th+

The baby son of some friends has reached his four-month sleep regression, of which we'd warned them. It's a sign of things to come for us.
The boys are learning their colors. So far orange, blue, red, white, black and green are pretty solid.
I've been lax lately. Things are crazy. The big news is that I have a new job starting early July, and am in the middle of my notice at the current job. Maybe things will settle down soon.

June 5th+

Twenty-three months old.
I finally sold my old but huge television. The guy took it while the boys were napping, but they asked where it went, so Liss told them that the TV went bye-bye, and that some men had put it into a truck to take it away.

Since then, every time they go into that room, it's "TV? Bye-Bye! Truck!"
I'm typically the one to put Ellen down lately. It's become my one-on-one time with her, and I'm pretty good at it. Her silver bullet is the bathroom sink - it produces white noise that at least keeps her quiet, but usually goes beyond and gets her sleepy. I need to add reading to the routine somewhere, though.

Usually whoever's doing it is done before it's time to put the boys down, but not always. We've each had our fair share of one-on-two.

Speaking of which, Liss revealed something insightfully self-aware. No matter whether she's putting Ellen or the boys down, she's been feeling like she's gotten the easier of the two chores. Of course, that's completely illogical, but it touches on something we've both felt since this whole parenthood thing started - we've both constantly felt like we're not doing enough, and that the other of us has it harder. We also know we're both wrong and being stupid about it, but that doesn't help much.

All of this contributes to our constant exhaustion. We have this irrational fear of seeming to the other like we're slacking, so we overcompensate.

May 29th+

Ellen's sitting up pretty well now, though she still has a ways to go before we don't have to be right there making sure she doesn't lean over and plop to her side.
The boys have gotten on board the concept of "kiss it and make it better," so when they hurt themselves somehow, they'll let us do that and they immediately feel better. Drew took this to a new level, though - we were outside on the porch, and he kept going under the stairs and emerging holding his head as though he'd bonked it, then coming to me to smooch it. However, he then proceeded to do it another six times in a row, and it was obvious that he wasn't actually hitting his head. The silly boy seems to think we need an excuse.
It's become our main social thing to meet rotating friends at a local diner for breakfast/brunch on a weekend morning. I think we've gone about 12 times so far this year. The boys love it; we can tell them we're going to go for "pancakes" later and they'll happily exclaim "pah-cay!" until we get there. I think they've named the place "pancakes." The manager has twins a year older, so he understands our needs.

Whenever we're there, the boys eat a ton - pancakes, chicken sausage, scrambled eggs, fruit. It's almost getting to the point where we have to order a plate just for them to share, but we're not quite there yet. Mainly they eat off our plates and we get a separate short stack for them.
For weeks, Drew would cry and yell for me at bedtime. Gradually I adopted the Ferber-like method of going in after five minutes to assure him, then leaving, coming back in ten if he was still crying, etc. It worked pretty well, and he stopped about a week ago. All that time, Bobby would just lay in his crib quietly.

Two or three days after Drew stopped, Bobby started.
We don't look forward to three-day weekends like most people, because that's when we perform child care for three full days instead of two.

I got a little snippy about it this past weekend, but it's not like I have much of a safety valve to complain to, either; Liss has it worse than I do. Well, that's not entirely true lately, since her weekday job for now is just Ellen and studying math, and she loves the job she'll be going back to. After another month, though, she'll be taking care of all three seven days a week for the summer, plus my being there nights and weekends.

What really kind of pushed me over was the realization that this will be my life until I'm at least 40. The last two years of my 30s are already booked. I know we asked for it, but ... man.
Ellen's producing her first tears.

But only on one side.
The boys' second birthday is only six weeks away(!). We've updated the wish list for those in the market.
Practice makes perfect
Holiday weekends aren't relaxing around here. We spent about 15 hours Saturday engaged in child care. Sunday and Monday promise to be similar. Ellen might be popping an early tooth - at least, something's up with her - and Bobby has the warning signs of a growth spurt.

May 22nd+

I think the boys are starting to discern colors, especially green.
When Liss's father was here, we all speculated on how much Ellen would weigh at her two-month appointment. I believe the guesses ranged from 10#1 to 10#9 or something. Instead, she's 11#9. She's a big one.

However, true to form, her percentiles are like this: In other words, she's still a squat, stout thing. By contrast, the boys have consistently been 1/3/30 their whole lives.

If she keeps to these percentiles, by the time she gets to the boys' age, she'll be 28-29 pounds (they're 22) and 32-33 inches tall (they're 30.5). Looking at the chart, they might be the same weight (26) when she's 16 months and the boys are turning three.
Two months old.
At their Saturday visit for the study, the boys were weighed at 22 pounds (with clothes but not coats) and 30.5 inches tall.
Ellen will usually sleep straight from about 7-8pm to about 3-5am. For two months old, that's fabulous. We have to keep that in mind, because she often won't go back down easily after waking up. The boys were much worse in the long term, still getting up for the day at 5:30 well beyond their first birthday.

She'll likely have the dreaded four-month sleep regression, which is scheduled right when Seattle gets its hottest summer nights(*). The boys' regression lasted two months, and was simply a horrible time for us. Here's hoping she does better, but at least there's only one of her.

(*) Tell me more, tell me more.
The boys called Liss's dad "GAH-pah" the whole weekend, so it looks like they're getting good at attaching names to certain people.

I think they've also learned the concept of "two" - specifically to ask for two green bears at bedtime. I guess whatever works.
From Liss:
Sooo, I tried going back to work. It was OK, going in with the baby and teaching a few classes, running some data and starting the planning for next year. But it wasn't great. Ellen would sleep in the sling pretty willingly all morning, but after lunch she wanted more attention. I felt like I wasn't doing my best at either job. I had a hard time keeping to my work schedule because Ellen doesn't have much of a schedule at all. It was difficult to fit in our nursing-feeding-pumping routine.

I'd worked it out to have 2 days off per week until the end of school, so I was feeling like I could manage for the 5 weeks we have left. But then my substitute got a better offer: full-time for the rest of the year at a tough school. The sub pay scale is set up so the more days they work in one position, the more they get paid per day; but she'd been willing to do my 2 days per week until she got offered 4 weeks in a row. All the other good subs are of course booked up by now ...

Which made it easy to decide to stay home after all. We might even pull the boys out of daycare 2 weeks early to save the money (though that's not set in stone). The best part? The principal agreed to let me work from home a bit, doing the data and planning stuff, and to cover the sub for that time. That means I'll still have 3 weeks of sick time to get us through the next school year. Considering we'll have a nanny and not daycare, that should be plenty.

So clearly, I need to claim this [video] as my theme song, even if I don't play the trumpet.

May 15th+

The estate planning stuff is getting overwhelming. We should have tackled one thing at a time, which we kind of did, but almost everything is throwing important paperwork back at us to read and sign before proceeding. The estate lawyer sent us 20 pages each, E-Trade wants more paperwork to put Liss's name on my accounts, we just got a 27-page lump from the credit union about refinancing the house, the credit union called me about additional fees to close our home equity loan, our life insurance agent is sending us information about our policies and potential policies for the kids, and a financial guy I've been working with sent me 529 contracts for the boys that I may not want to even do. With all that and my job being stressful this month and Liss going back to work and our evenings being focused on the kids, something might have to give.
At my job, I have to work a Saturday every few months, including this coming. Fortunately, Liss's father is flying in for a weekend visit today, so that will offset my absence. However, the boys happen to have their next diabetes study visit, which involves blood draws and so on, so she's also found a sitter for Ellen while they take them in.
Whereas we'd been putting Ellen down around 9-10pm, we've now made a concerted effort to change her bedtime to 6:30 or so. We were just getting tired of constantly dealing with the children until our own bedtime. At first, Liss would try a routine that waited for Ellen to fall asleep in her arms, but she still has the propensity to wake up a few minutes after seemingly sleeping. A couple of nights it took two hours to feel comfortable enough to leave her. What Liss found - through desperation - was that Ellen can be put down with open eyes, and she might just lie there for a while before falling asleep. I put her down last night, but she woke up 15 minutes later, so there are still kinks in the system.

In order to help get herself through the process, she's started downloading podcasts onto the iPod I won her for Christmas. The task can get boring.

The other tricky part is that the boys' bedtime is still 7, so we try to get Ellen down before then. If it doesn't happen, then the other of us (so far me) puts them down while the other works on Ellen. However, it's gotten to the point where putting both boys down can be a one-person job without too much trouble. However, Drew still cries the first few times I leave the room, so it's just best that I be part of it.
I overheard Liss calling our daughter "Elliebean."
Now that the weather is warming and the evenings are lighter, the boys go out to the back porch a lot. We have a few outdoor toys, including various fat colored chalks that they like to ... throw. Sometimes they'll use them to mark up the concrete.

However, they still don't really understand that when it's 70 degrees and sunny, they don't need their coats. We spent a while last fall getting them in the routine of putting coats on when going outside, and now we're having trouble breaking it. They'd rather complain about being hot than take off a coat, because they can't make the connection. Of course, by the time we break the old routine, it'll be fall again and ... yeah.

In that same vein, they still tend to choose their fleece sleepers at bedtime, even when it's 76 in their room.
Liss is back to work, but taking Ellen with her. She's not in a classroom, so it mostly works. Surely at some point there will be an inconsolable baby at the worst possible time, but she'll deal with that when it comes.
Liss may have jinxed herself by saying how easy Ellen was at night, because she's having trouble getting back to sleep now. That'll learn her.
Bobby's definitely getting an early start to his terrible twos. In just the last couple of weeks, he's become more defiant and "I can't heeeaaar yoooou!" Probably 80% of the time outs we issue to the boys go to him. Fortunately, they tend to work; he just forgets the lesson within a couple of hours.

The most common thing he'll do is touch someone against their will, either by hitting, shoving, or pinching. He's not strong enough for it to hurt, but it's annoying, especially to Drew, who is affected more due to his similar weakness. We'll tell Bob 'no,' and then he'll usually look at us while slooowly moving his arms to do whatever it is again. It's hard not to laugh.

He's already learning that if I have to get off my ass, he's in trouble. So what does he do? "Mama!" and runs to her. She offers no sympathy, but I guess he has to try.

During a walk this weekend, he got out of hand to the point that he was unsafe with regards to the street, so I had to overcome him physically. That's never fun, but when they're starting to endanger themselves, it's time to bring out the big guns. They have no concept of "run into street, hit by car, dead" yet.
From Liss:
I just realized that between the domperidone and fenugreek, the lactation consultants and the pump rental, my breast milk costs at least a dollar per ounce. That's like t-bone steaks, halibut fillets, or a decent wine. It's less than Copper River salmon or filets mignons. It's way, way more than formula--even the preemie stuff.

I know that's not the point at all, but it amused me to realize.


My maternity leave is over; officially, I'm back to work on Monday. I'm taking Ellen with me and I've asked the sub to stay for at least 3 days so I can figure out what's going on. And then come back 1-2 days per week until the end of school (June 22). Maybe more. Have I mentioned how much I enjoyed being on leave? -sigh-

Then again, I'm lucky enough to have a job I love. I'll just love it more in September.

May 8th+

The clinic weighed Drew with his clothes on - 22 pounds.

These are some tiny, tiny boys.
Random article reinforcing what we already knew - to generally talk to our children as though they were adults and could understand us.
It's a banner evening around here, and not in the good way. Drew has a little rash, which I'd noticed but didn't think much of. Bob has nothing like it. Around 11 the day care lady called about Drew, pointing out his rash and saying she'd monitor it for spreading, etc. When I picked them up, she said that since she was going to be watching her infant granddaughter on Friday, she wanted a doctor's note that he wasn't contagious. The thing is, she has an incentive to declare our children sick, as she can refuse to care for them and still get paid. That's always bugged me, especially since she has no other (official) charges to be infected.

So as soon as I brought the boys home, Liss took Drew to urgent care, leaving me with Bobby and a sleeping Ellen. Seeing Mommy leave so soon set Bobby off, which woke up his sister. A hungry baby always gets priority, which a toddler doesn't understand, so it was a vicious cycle. Every few moments, he'd ask for Doo or Mama, and not understand my answers. Meanwhile, Ellen's going through her six-week growth spurt; there was about a single 20-minute window in which she wasn't eating or fussing, which thank goodness was right at Bobby's bedtime. As that time approached, I realized he hadn't eaten dinner, so I shoved as much yogurt into him as he would take. A classy eating establishment are we.

Liss didn't take any supplies to the clinic, thinking they'd only be gone an hour or two, but they didn't get back for three. So, Drew was getting hungry and past-my-bedtime cranky with a full (but not poopy, thankfully) diaper, etc. (Apparently he got to wear a little toddler-sized gown with a tiger print.) In the end, the test showed that it was a contagious virus, but one that poses no danger and whose only symptom is his painless rash. The nextly important part is that the doctor's write-up specifically says "can attend day care."

They got home with some drive-thru, which kept Drew up even longer - he just went down two hours after bedtime, not crying for me like usual. He was also very sweet to me, and was reportedly like that for much of the time in the clinic.

Tonight I felt like a Dad, and Liss felt like a Mom, but really we feel that way every day now, but not usually to this degree.
We're [finally] in the process of creating our wills and other estate planning business. Included in the process are all sorts of 'what if' questions that are necessary, but not comfortable. If one of us dies or becomes incapacitated, things are simple. If both of us, however ... who gets the kids? Who gets our meager net worth? It stands to reason that if someone gets one, they get the other. We're pretty big on not splitting up the kids, either.

As it turns out, we only have one blood sibling between us, so it's not that bad. Our parents are in their 60s, so that'd be quite a burden, though I'm sure they'd do what they can. This is the legal guardian and money stuff.

During all of this, I found out that Liss is the person - you have to designate a person, not a couple - to get the baby of a local couple if they were to both die. They got him through an open adoption, meaning they have a relationship with the birth mother, with the idea that their son will know her. Therefore, if Liss were to get him, we'd have the double task of (a) making sure I also legally adopt him, and (b) continuing the birth mother relationship, not that we've met her.

It all gets complicated, especially with powers of attorney and medical directives and potential conflict of interest to have one lawyer draw up both wills, etc. Washington is a community property state, which means every dollar we earn (or borrow) since getting married is shared by law, but what we bring to the marriage is still our own, as are inheritances. We've chosen to waive those exceptions and pool everything together. That might bite us in the ass if we were to ever get divorced, but really, if you had to bet on one couple for 'til death do us part, pick us.(*)

Sometimes I miss the days when my biggest worry was which Saturday morning cartoons to watch, but not often.

(*) On top of being madly in love and highly compatible, we're also exceptionally lazy. Seriously, pick us.
Since Liss and I are both baseball fans, we're glad that the boys already recognize the game when it's on TV ("BAY-bah"). We took them to a game last year and had to leave by the 4th inning due to meltdowns, but I want to try again within the next couple of months. With Ellen in the picture, we'll either need a sitter for her or invite more adults than kids to join us, to keep the ratio sane.
Twenty-two months old.
Pictures and video.
Similar to the counting video, I got annoyed with how the boys were asking for their snacks, so I stopped Drew and tried to get him to ask nicely, taking him word for word:


He was very pleased with himself ... not that he "gets" it, but practice makes perfect.
I went to Houston this past weekend for my grandmother's funeral. Liss seems to have coped just fine, though with help. However, it apparently had its moments.
From Liss:
I love how, even though I hardly make any milk, Ellen still loves the boob. She just fell asleep suckling, as she does most evenings. It's sweet, and it gives me a bizarre sense of success. I haven't pumped in days, just let her nurse (and followed with bottles, of course). Not sure how this will work when I'm back at work on the 17th, but we'll deal.
I once heard some baby guru say she thought most people get the baby they can handle. Patient people get the developmentally delayed kids, energetic people get the ones who never sleep, like that. While I don't necessarily agree (more likely, folks adapt to their kids--or, often enough, don't), I think we have had the babies we could handle. Our marriage was (and still is) solid enough that we could care for teensy newborn twins and still like each other. And now that we have a couple of toddlers running around, going from gleeful to despondent and back in a minute flat? We again have the baby we can handle, in that she's muuuch easier*. She fusses in the evening, yeah, but she settles in a sling or on the boob; and at night, she sleeps. Only one time in her life have I had to feed her more than once overnight. And I really can't complain much about James's absence these past 3 days because last night and the one before, she slept 8.5-9 hours in a row.

I think we'll keep her.
* that, or, everyone should have twins first.

May 1st+

As expected, the new ceiling fans kind of freaked out the boys the first night. However, that changed quickly. They now want the fans to be on at all times. When I bring them home from day care, they'll walk over to one fan, ask us to turn it on, then walk over to the other and do the same. The first motion of each fan illicits giggles of glee.

We'd hoped that the next logical step to getting a little stool for the minivan was that the boys would grab and place it themselves before using it to get inside, instead of waiting for us. They've done exactly that - for the subset of the twins known as Bob. Drew just waits for Bob to do it, which for his part is either sloth or genius.
It's embarrassing, but we want to be smooched by the boys, and they don't do it. We smooch them all the time, and they emulate it ... on their stuffed animals. We flat out ask, and they act sly and/or confused. It's pathetic behavior on our part, and it will continue.

They've got us right where they want us.
Remember how terrified you were the first time you drove onto the freeway as a teenager? Maybe you do, maybe you don't, but it's likely that if you're an adult now, you no longer feel any such panic.

In that vein, we're experiencing something every second-time parent must go through - a general feeling of "been there, done that." Just about everything we're doing with Ellen, we were doing in 2008 with the boys, and with more urgency given their small size and two-of-them-ness and the fact the we'd not done it before (especially me). We didn't need to buy much for her, compared to everything for them. And so on.

The thing is, Ellen will always be behind the boys ... until maybe puberty. By the time she's crawling, the boys will be in the middle of potty training. When she says her first word, they'll talk in complete sentences. Her first day of school will come two years after theirs. They'll have almost two years of memories of times she'll be too young to recall.

The only way I've thought to assuage her future laments is to tell her that it also means she'll get to live with us by herself for two years, though that probably will only work ... until maybe puberty. Perhaps then I'll switch to saying she'll likely live longer, but I may not want to get that macabre about it.
It's now standard for me to wait in the boys' room after we put them down, because Drew goes ballistic if I don't. Friday night, we changed three variables: the new ceiling fan in their room was installed, it was on, and the installer had moved their cribs and we didn't move them back. Instead of their cribs being against each other, they're now on opposite sides of the room. We figure that'll help curtail the slumber parties, and I think it's done that a little bit.

With all of this change (I guess), Drew was especially needy. After one of my visits, I decided to leave their door open a crack, and that time he was okay. So, the fourth variable might have done the trick. Doing the same thing on subsequent nights (but also after I stay for a few minutes), he seems to be okay, so maybe we're over the worst of it.

There's something very bittersweet about a crying child calling for you specifically. It's nice to be wanted, but ... oy.
Last night was pretty terrible for Liss, as Ellen was up and fussing for three hours in the middle of the night. I was awake for maybe half of it, but she's trying to let me sleep; my getting-back-to-sleep problems have come back, as Friday night showed. After getting Ellen to fall asleep and putting her down after about twenty minutes, I was up for the next hour and a half just twiddling my thumbs.

April 24th+

I don't bother setting my alarm clock. It seems ... redundant.
One month old.
Liss's milk supply problems continue. One of the worst parts is that it's terribly inconsistent. She'll get 10cc through the pump one time (hope!), and then nothing the next (despair!). There's no way of knowing how much Ellen actually gets when she goes to the boob directly, but at least she usually finds it soothing.
In our continuing efforts to have the boys do things for themselves, we got a few little step stools. The main reason was to have one in the new van, to allow them to use it as a stair to get in on their own. Bobby took to it right away; Drew tries but still needs a little boost.

This morning they both got out of the van with no help for the first time.
Some routines the boys get into, like crying when I start to change them in the morning, are quite annoying, but there are some that are endearing. The most obvious one is when I drop them off at day care - after they put away their coats, they walk over to hug my legs and say "bye bye."
Last night I asked Liss a hypothetical - if the boys had split into triplets instead of just twins, would she have still wanted to try again. She said she probably would have. That's how much she wanted a girl.
The boys don't quite understand the 'twin' thing yet, but they're finally starting to consistently call each other (and more tellingly - themselves) by the correct names ("Doo" and "Bah"). We haven't been holding them up to mirrors so much lately - toothbrush time has suddenly become difficult - but that was still confusing when we were.

Eventually they'll understand that they're a rarity.
Last summer it got to 90 degrees in the house at 10pm for a few nights, which was wholly miserable. So, we bought five ceiling fans yesterday - three bedrooms, dining room, and living room. We should have them installed in the next few weeks (before Liss goes back to work). Hopefully they won't freak the boys out, but they probably will at first. For such agents of chaos, they sure don't like change much.

According to her architect father, getting central air conditioning would have been triple the price, but it was still tempting despite being a real rarity here in Seattle. What really tipped the scales in favor of fans was the energy cost.
We knew having three small children would be difficult, but we weren't quite prepared for how all-encompassing it is. I estimate that I spent about two waking hours on Saturday and Sunday not involved in child care. We spent much of that picking up. Amy, bless her, has stuck to her monthly gift of a date night, which has gotten all the more harrowing with Ellen's arrival and nightly witching hours.

We've fallen into a pattern whereby I mostly take care of the boys, and Liss mostly takes care of Ellen - because she can't lift them and I can't nurse her. Liss is hoping that her limitation will be waived during her OB visit this Thursday, but I don't see mine being lifted anytime soon.

This is also my short version for why pictures and updates have not been quickly forthcoming.

April 17th+

Ellen's witching hour is in full effect. From about 7:30 to 10:30, she'll whine and cry and fuss, with little recourse despite our constant efforts. We just end up passing her back and forth so the other can get a break, like eating dinner. It's supposed to end by about the end of May. Yes, please.
Our Boomer parents will be proud of the passive resistance techniques the boys are perfecting.
Liss's mother's response to the next post down:
Wow! Does that post ever bring back memories. At the boys' age, she would ONLY wear her yellow shirt with a big #1 on it.... We would wash it out. Finally Bob asked what could be done to make other shirts acceptable. She decided that if you put the (less desirable) shirt in a brown paper bag and put in just a little water, and shook the bag, that then the alternative shirt would be wearable. But not just any alternative shirt. Good luck. If the yellow shirt is still around, I am sure that one can see right through it.
The boys had a rough weekend, with lots of meltdowns over seemingly nothing. In one case, Drew refused to wear a shirt until I found a particular one - the one he'd worn the previous day - but he didn't have a way to tell me that's what he wanted. That's indicative of what they're going through right now; their brains are coming up with all sorts of ideas and emotions and opinions, but they haven't learned the words to articulate them yet. If these last few days are any indication, it's going to be a rough ride until their mouths catch up. Even then, we might not like what we hear, as "no" has become more and more prevalent lately.
This Monday is my first day commuting to work instead of working from home. Since the boys were still going to day care while I was doing that, the only real difference was that we had gotten into a later routine that got them there at 8:30. Now it's back to 7:30, so that small luxury is gone.

April 10th+

You know that thing immature people do with their cars when someone is about to get in - they lurch it forward just a little bit, forcing that person to chase a little - then stop, start, stop, start, etc?

That's Ellen and sleep. It'll seem like she's out, so you lay her down, and then 5-10 minutes later, she'll start fussing again.
The boys enjoy a good show, such as when I pee. If I announce that I'm going to the bathroom, they'll usually stop what they're doing to join me.

This week there was a new twist, however. They requested it. Drew pointed at the bathroom, looked at me and said "pee?" When I said sure, they went gleeful and walked in ahead of me.

I believe this makes me a public performer of the lowest order. Except for mimes.
From Liss:
After having such a low milk supply with the twins, I did a lot of research about my condition and this time I tried to do everything right.

Some things didn't work out. I was supposed to use natural progesterone cream during the first half of pregnancy, but I didn't get the doctor's OK until week 20. I was supposed to stay naked, skin-to-skin, in the hospital as much as possible, but Ellen ended up in the NICU for 3 days with her breathing issues.

Other than that, I've been vigilant. I pump at least six times a day (in 19 days' worth of pumping I have already read 3 memoirs, probably totaling over 700 pages). I have her feed directly another four or more (though I gave up the supplemental nursing system after 10 days). She latches pretty well, though she's clearly on to me and knows there's an easier way. She doesn't mind the snuggles, though. I'm taking herbs: fenugreek, thistle, borage, goat's rue; I've also been taking domperidone from a Mystery Internet Source since it's not FDA-approved.

With all that, I still only make about an ounce per day. One ounce. When the lactation consultant weighed her to see how much she was getting from direct breastfeeding, it was 2 grams. We both agreed that she's probably actually getting more, but still not much. Is it worth it? My mother, friends, the LC, they all praise my efforts, say "It's really about the antibodies," which is true enough. "Breastfeeding is love!" trumpet the posters in the LC's office, proclaim the parenting websites. Sure. The bonding argument bugs me more, as if I haven't properly bonded with the boys since I couldn't even try to put them on the boob.

But here's the weirdest thing: Even if I've pumped and fed the baby 2.5 hours before, I wake up every morning with my shirt soaked through with milk. It happens during the day, too, if I'm not careful. I wish I could wring that out for her--it seems such a waste, but what can I do? I know what They would say: stay naked and just keep her on the boob 100% of the time: it's the sign of a mother's love. Well, this mother needs company sometimes, needs to get out of the house sometimes, and is shy about flaunting her dysfunctional breasts and puffy, pasty, postpartum belly. So, no.

It bothers me so much for so many reasons: it's natural, it's something Women Are Supposed To Do. I've never been a huge fan of my boobs anyway and, turns out, I was right to scorn them. Everyone else can do it, why can't I? But there's also this: I have never worked so hard at something I wanted, only to fail this spectacularly.

(I can hear you: You're not failing. Well, but I am, and honesty hurts less than misplaced optimism.)

So I don't know how this will go. I'm willing to keep trying for now--it's not that arduous when the boys aren't home and I'm not working. A research-minded friend with a 4-month-old told me she'd read that domperidone doesn't always work in the first month. Okay, so I'll keep going until then. Or until I go back to work. Or until summer, when the boys quit daycare. Maybe it will get better; likely, it won't. I've been trying to convince myself I'd rather be able to make babies than feed them, since we have easy alternatives for feeding. Isn't that a healthy attitude? A fake attitude, for now, but I'm working on it.
Drew had a bad night Monday, but Tuesday was just awful. It's one thing to not sleep, but quite another to constantly scream instead. It's bad enough that Liss dug up a toddler sleep book we've had for a while but haven't needed to really study.

To Bobby's credit, he didn't join in, even though it was obvious that Drew was keeping him awake some of the time.
Just in the last couple of days, I've started coddling the boys a little less. Last night, Drew was being whiny in bed, which happens to both of them - and a little more often lately. Usually one of us will go soothe the crier after a while, which I generally seem to be better at doing. After doing so last night with Drew, though, he started up again. The next time I went in, I told him it was time to sleep, time to be quiet, and good night. I didn't hear anything else from that room until morning.

This touches on somethihg that Liss mentioned recently - back when we started, we both thought I would be the good cop to her bad cop. The way things are shaping up, however, that doesn't appear to be the case. I guess the gist is that I'm ready for these guys to start being more self-sufficient.
The boys' personalities are diverging - Bobby's becoming more defiant. He's been working on a 'look' that can be described as disdainful. He'll touch people aggressively, continuing when told to stop. I had to put him in time out twice this morning, which is a new-ish thing, but so far has worked well.
Ellen's settled into her witching hour, that's for sure. Last night it was 7-11. Unlike with the boys, we can take turns with her and give each other breathers, but it's still a bad way to spend an evening. It may have been related that she then slept until 3:30, but as I said at the time, it wasn't worth it.
The boys have slept with these bears since they were tiny, and have gotten attached to them. They had four between them, but we've misplaced one and had lost another for a bit. In a minor panic, we bought four more. We introduced them during the normal routine, and ... no dice. They saw right through our little ruse. I hope we find that fourth original soon.
Twenty-one months old.

April 3rd+

"I ghee?"
"I ghee?"
"I ghee?"

"No, boys, we're not having ice cream for breakfast."
The boys were born so small that they went to the pediatrician every week or two for the first few months, just to make sure they were gaining weight and hitting their developmental milestones. After her two-week, Ellen doesn't go in again until she's two months old - the end of May. Looks like we're going to have to break out the kitchen scale again.
From last June:
One reason for me to want a girl next is the diaper situation. Based on my own observational experience, girls don't poop.
... I stand corrected.
"His cup bunneth over?"
Bobby's had some pretty bad diarrhea for a couple of days - bad enough that their day care lady has been on the cusp of sending him home. The worst part is that he's gone in his overnight diaper the last two nights, filling them from front to back. Ew.
At her two-week checkup, Ellen measured 8#8 and 19.5". Those were both quite a bit more than just five days prior (8#2, 18.25"), so I'm not sure how much I trust either set. The important thing is that she's getting bigger, and she's certainly behaving like it.
Ellen has definitely begun her first growth spurt. Oy.
With DNA testing a standard crime-fighting tactic these days, it's worth noting that identical twins can render it moot.
We have a simple picture book of animals - one per page, with the kind of animal in a caption on the bottom. They like it, but it's not very interesting to us, so we sometimes mix it up a little bit. For the 'piglet' page, I'd sometimes say "Mmm ... bacon!"

The little piglet is now called an "Mmm!"

March 27th+

Ellen had her first well-baby visit, which was mostly uneventful. She'd gained back one ounce of her discharge weight, to 8#2.

The only weirdness was her height measurement. In the OR, they got 20". Here, after four attempts, they settled on 18.25". Assuming the OR was wrong, it means she's even chunkier than before - mathematically, at least.
Ellen's definitely starting to express her opinions more, i.e. stay awake and fuss about things we don't get. We had our first 'witching hour' last evening.

On the plus side, she's only woken once on each of the past two nights.
So far, Ellen sleeps 18-20 hours a day. She'll usually wake up to eat, only stay awake because we're changing her diaper and/or clothes, and then drift back.
Skills that I've retained since the boys were newborns: Skills I've lost:
Sunday night: Up at 12:30, 3:00 and 5:30.
Monday night: 2:00, 5:30.

We've been taking her up with us at our bedtime, but she's been sleeping downstairs while we unwind after the boys are down. In all, she's been sleeping at least 18 hours a day, and eating during most of the wakeful periods. There's another twin-club sale in April, during which we'll look for a second baby monitor, after which we'll probably start putting her down upstairs at an earlier bedtime.

The important thing is that she'll usually just eat and go back to sleep, though there have been a few fussy episodes. As Liss puts it, it's not so terrible. Each twin was worse than her at first, so we have that baseline, and she's only one.
A silver lining to the scheduled c-section: Ellen had been showing no signs of wanting to come out. She was already a pound more than estimated, and chunky; if Liss had waited her out, it's no inconceivable that she would have gone on long enough to have to push out a monster baby.
I had a running joke while Ellen was in the hospital. Whenever we'd mention her brothers, I'd speak for her with ".... my whatnow?"
Some notes about Ellen so far.

March 20th+ - 39 weeks

Ellen born.
Sorry this is coming on E+4. The hospital's wireless restricts secure logins, which updating this site requires.

So, Ellen is here. The story starts out pretty mundane; we went in early Thursday morning for the scheduled c-section, got a room, and got ready. However, another woman's labor was going badly enough to warrant an emergency c-section, so we got bumped. I had time to be amused by this sign next to the operating room. Instead of 8am or so, we waited around for a while, and Ellen came at 11:52am on 3/25.

The first thing the nurses said when she came out - she's one large girl, at 8 lbs. 6 oz. and 20" in length. Note the rolls of fat on her. Eating for two, indeed. Her Apgar score was 8 of 9 at both 1 and 5 minutes, losing a point for having purple-ish hands and feet, which went away after a while.

So things looked good, they sewed up Liss, and sent us to our room with a nurse. If you're going to try to breastfeed, you're supposed to try as soon as possible, so we did. Ellen was hooked up to a portable monitor that showed her oxygen saturation levels dropping to worrisome levels when she fed ... then when she rested ... then when she cried. So, a couple of hours after birth, she was moved to the level 2 NICU (I call it the NICU-lite) for observation, and admitted soon after.

So here we were, parents of twins born at 5 lbs. and 4 lbs. 3 oz. that didn't need help, and a baby twice the size who did. Compared to the other babies in the ward - mostly pre-term births - she was a hulk.

Since they weren't sure what was causing the problem, and it might have been an infection, they started her on some antibiotics with an IV. When those results came back a couple of days later, however, they were negative. She had a nose tube with a little oxygen just to help her along. The prevaling theory is that there was fluid in her lungs that she needed to work out of her system. In all, it was probably the mildest NICU case ever. Here she is with a few wires, but the real point of that picture is to show how much hair she had at birth, and how dark it is. The boys didn't have that much until maybe their first birthdays, and very fine blonde. However, hers is very soft.

One oddity - we were moved to the NICU floor before we knew if she was being admitted or not. It was just that they needed to make room on the birthing floor, but since no doctor had updated us yet, we didn't know what it meant, if anything. That ties to another thing we noticed - outside the NICU, we barely saw the same nurses or doctors twice. It seemed like a stranger was always walking in our door for one reason or another. Part of it was because we were there over a weekend, and switched floors, but still.

Liss was discharged Saturday night, so we ended up going home without Ellen. By then we knew what it would take for Ellen to be discharged - no desat alarms for 24 hours - so we just had to hope for that. As it turned out, she passed that mark Sunday morning, and we went back to get her (after dressing her).

Now, the boys love babies, so they were naturally curious about this new arrival. However, I think they sensed that we were treating her a little differently than the other babies that just visit. It didn't take them long to take turns regressing. They were attention-starved and whiny all day.

Speaking of all day, that's pretty much how long Ellen slept. The overnight shift showed why - she's nocturnal. We're going to have to do something about that.

And here are two more pictures - one of Liss's mother with Ellen, who took this picture of her, and another of her face while resting with Amy.
Catching up, here are some pre-Ellen pictures.
Long-time readers of this thing may have noticed that I've been a lot less "doomsday" about this pregnancy than the boys'. Simply put, twin pregnancies are a lot more perilous, more likely fatal or defective, usually early, twinnage means a higher SIDS risk, etc, etc. Relatively speaking, a singleton pregnancy is a cakewalk(*), especially after you hit the preemie milestones.

Of course, that doesn't mean everything will be perfect. It's just that after being put through the wringer of worry last time, the odds favor us this time. It also helps that the boys came out as well as they did.

(*) Right now, Liss is throwing something at her computer monitor.
Lately bath time is torture for them, and torture for our ears. Drew is the worse of the two - last night he started crying before I put him in - but Bobby definitely still doesn't like having his head washed.

However, if you run a faucet, they'll insist on running their hands under the water.

Something we're seeing more often now that the weather is warmer and we keep the windows open - the boys notice sounds. If a dog barks somewhere outside, they'll say "daw?" for dog. Same with "bee" for a car honking or the microwave beeping a floor away. In other words, they're connecting a sound with an object even though they can't see the object. It's just one of those developmental things to look for. In fact - probably because we're so accustomed to such white noise - they notice those sounds better than we do.

The flip side is that is that they don't like a lot of sounds - the fan above the stove, my electric razor, the vacuum cleaner ... even the fans in the bathroom ceilings. We have to balance their reactions with the immediate need to use whatever it is.

A similar part of this age seems to be that they will ask if something is what they think it is until you acknowledge yes or no. For instance, they have a book with dozens of cartoony drawings of cars in it, with animals driving them. They will flip to random pages, point at one of the cars, and ask "caw? caw? caw? caw?" until you say "yes, that's a car." A simple "yes" is insufficient. If there's a cat driving the car, the next question will be "kee? kee? kee?" until you say "Yes, kitty." Sunday I must have said those two sentences a combined one hundred times in twenty minutes.

I keep having to remind myself that older children don't behave that way, and that "this too shall pass."
I plan to spend most of the ~three days that Liss and Ellen are in the hospital with them, but with a trip or two home to see the boys and help their Grandma put them to bed. Between that and caring for Ellen and getting some sleep myself, I should still have time to post pictures and keep my pools updated. :-D

They say you're supposed to bring something with a new baby's scent to help prepare pets before the arrival; maybe I'll show the boys some pictures of Ellen to do the same for them. However, they still won't differentiate between the many pictures of babies they've already seen and that this one is ... permanent. I guess I should have pictures of her with Liss to maybe bridge that gap, but I don't think it's really going to hit home for them until she's been there a week or so. Here's hoping they react positively - or at least neutrally.

Same with the cat, for that matter.
Well, here we are - 39 weeks. Ellen will come this week, whether on her own or by force.

We still haven't packed for the hospital. Or reinstalled the newborn car seat.

March 13th+ - 38 weeks

Thursday OB visit: "Still boring, BP fine, size estimate 7.5ish, no other news."
The boys' sleep has been back to normal for the past few days (knock on wood), and their random meltdowns have subsided, so maybe the worst of that era is over.

We've pretty much stopped counting how many words they can say. A lot of it is still just mimicking the sounds, but a lot of it isn't.
Because we would never do such a thing in purpose, we had the TV going when the local news broadcast began on our local Fox affiliate. It began - literally - with the phrase that has become so cliché and indicative of our times: "It's every parent's worst nightmare!" Having heard such things before, we figured it was something pretty heinous - some form of unimaginable violence, a kidnapping, disappearance, molestation, etc.

No, it was nothing like that. As it turns out, day cares keep supplies of pumped breast milk on hand, given by and marked with the names of the children's mothers. The director of one of the day cares had accidentally fed one kid the milk from another mother.

It's entirely possible that you're squicked out by this, and that's okay. But to have it be a "parent's worst nightmare!," and the lead story? I'd say that's hyperbole at best, and ignorant, irresponsible scare reporting at best.

For some perspective, our lack of wet nursing is a very Western thing. From the link, it was common here until the 1950s. This incident is but a toe in the water compared to how things used to be.

In our case, since Liss had production problems, our doula brought frozen milk from another client who made too much. We thawed it out and fed it to our boys. Sure, it was a little weird, but only because it was a new concept to us. In fact, breast milk costs a lot of money, so that was a nice free gift.

Anyway, it stuck with us as an example of the supposed dangers to our children that aren't really dangers, and the alarmist hand-wringing that accompanies them.
To do.
Sunday we all went upstairs to replace three bedrooms' worth of curtains with the blackout kind. With summer approaching, we figure the boys will start giving us the "but it's light out!" bedtime defense, plus I think morning sunlight might be contributing to my sleep problems.

After we were done putting them up, Liss and I lay on our bed while the boys explored a little. Things got a bit too quiet, so I went to check on them. They had gotten my hairbrush off the counter, which isn't uncommon, as they (especially Drew) like to mimic its usage. This time, however, he was using it to stir the toilet, which I had failed to lock. Keep in mind that we follow the "if it's yellow, let it mellow" school of water conservation.

It's a good thing I looked, because they know to put the hairbrush back when they're done with it.
From the "be careful what you wish for" department, this age is mostly fun, but I'm ready for the next.

Besides, we'll go through all this again with Ellen.
Free American Idol and March Madness pools are open, for you games people.
One day isn't a pattern, all right. Oy.

March 6th+ - 37 weeks

The boys were their old pleasant selves Friday morning. One day isn't a pattern, but here's hoping it's the beginning of the end of this rough patch.
Two weeks or less to go.
Twenty months old.
Liss's mom thought of something we hadn't: "Ellen may have her brothers coming to get you every time she cries."

That might make sleep training ... interesting.
'... four people have commented this morning: "You look like you've dropped!"'
Husbands, don't try this at home. I'm a professional.
The boys have had a pretty rough couple of weeks. Besides being congested and snotty a lot more than before, their sleep has suffered here and there - mostly one of them waking up early, sitting up and crying while his brother sleeps. After a few minutes to make sure, I'll go in and hold and whisper to him for a while, which usually works fine. It actually hasn't been horrible - it's just that they were doing so well before.

A small part of me wants to let them sleep in our bed, but that's just not practical. Besides that they might get addicted to the idea and refuse cribs thereverafter, our double bed is already housing two adults, a cat, and a fetus.

Similarly, they've been more high strung during waking hours, losing their composure at little things that didn't bother them a couple of months ago. One of the sure-fire ways to set them off is to change their overnight diaper in the morning, which I think they take to mean we're getting them ready for day care (which is usually correct).

This may or may not just be the latest growth spurt, after which they're supposed to enter a New Era of self-awareness - vocabulary skyrockets, articulation clears up, they don't get rattled as easily, etc. I certainly hope so, and I really hope they're over this by the time Ellen gets here and rocks their predictable little world.
We finally got batteries for the van's keychain fobs. I probably shouldn't be as jazzed as I am about how it automatically opens the sliding side doors.

February 27th+ - 36 weeks

Pictures and video.
"The biggest difference between two and three kids is that you switch your defense from man-to-man to zone."
A new thing - the boys hold our hands while we walk. It takes very little prompting - one will walk off a ways, I'll call out for him to take my [extended] hand, and he'll come back and hold it. Sometimes they even take the initiative. For us, it's very useful for keeping them nearby, but mostly I just think it's sweet.

This also affords us the opportunity, when each of us has one's hand, to pick up and swing him.
Liss's idea for helping the boys transition to older-brotherhood is to have them help out. They're already generally helpful in a lot of ways, so this shouldn't be too difficult to get going. Having them involved will reinforce that helpfulness while getting them precious attention.
The boys definitely have their little obsessions:

Balloons, one of their first. "BAOOOO!" It was probably the first thing they started pointing out in their books.

Cars. When we're on a walk, they point out every car and vocalize it with "caaaaaa?" They ask to ride in the car. As we strap them in, they let us know that they're in a car. Driving along, they'll still point out other cars, though thankfully not all of them. Trucks are cars. Motorcycles are cars. Trains are cars.

Lights. If a light is off, they want it on. If it's on, they go "hite!" and point at it.

Babies. Their "beh-BEEEE?" sounds French. They like them and are curious about them, but all of their baby interactions have been fleeting. We'll see if their baby-love sticks around when a certain baby does.

The moon. This is a minor one for now, because they can't see it very often; their bedtime is too early. They know about it, though, and have seemingly made the connection between the real "moo" and the ones in their books.

Cats. We have this book, which has elaborately-drawn dinosaurs on every page, a few people, toys, etc. They never point to anything until the last page, which has a small cat on a bed, about 5% of the size of its dinosaur. "KITTY!"

Swings, specifically the ones at local parks. They'll sometimes ask me "WHEEE?" when I pick them up from day care. They'll point them out when we drive by a park. When we get to one, all they want to do is have us push them while they observe the older kids. Bob will go "whee?" when he wants me to push him higher. I predict a lot of swinging as the weather gets warmer and evenings stay lit longer.
So. It's March.

Sometime this month, I'm going to have a little girl.

A baby daughter.



In like a lamb, out like a lioness.

February 20th+ - 35 weeks

From Liss:
Tomorrow marks 35 weeks, 6 days of this pregnancy--the gestational date I delivered the boys. This time, though:
  • My rings still fit
  • My shoes still fit
  • My blood pressure has been 115/60 all week
  • My lab tests keep coming back normal
  • I can and do still tromp up the stairs at work several times per day
So maybe baby girl won't get kicked out early after all. My back hurts, my hips really hurt--are they spreading? She's in a good position; am I tough enough for a VBAC too?

I finished my last paper for my Boards, and tomorrow I'm supposed to drive to Tacoma for a peer-editing session (meh) and information about the June assessment center piece (which I could really use). I haven't been cooking or cleaning or arranging baby clothes (hell, we still don't know where her clothes are going to go), I've been writing. No, it's not a traditional way to nest; but I'm seldom accused of being particularly traditional.
One of the sweeter things the boys will do (as shown in this picture) is sit next to each other. That is, one will sit with a book or whatever, and the other will find something of his own and then go plop down next to his brother.
The hospital shuffled everyone for some reason, so the scheduled c-section is now on March 25th instead of the 24th.
Bob's developed a runny nose. Fortunately, he knows exactly what to do - wipe it off with his hand. What happens to it after that is immaterial.
A woman in Liss's PEPS group has twin girls about the same age as the boys, who are even smaller. She took them to a pediatric nutritionist, who basically said to try to sneak as much fat into their food as possible - feed them butter straight up, let them have ice cream every night, etc.

Liss spends a lot of effort trying to do the exact opposite - removing fat/sugar/salt while keeping things tasty. The irony is not lost on her.
The boys are addicted to their binkies. Ad-dic-ted. I'm talkin' hard-core, Betty Ford Clinic needin', hit your arm lookin' for a vein, sellin' yer class ring for a hit addicted.

However, they work. They soothed the savage babies, and now the savage toddlers. Therefore, we have to assume that Ellen will use them similarly, so there will be binkies aplenty for a while, so ... no need to wean them yet.
I smack Liss's butt all the time, but this weekend I noticed Drew staring at us one time while I did it. That brought to mind a scenario whereby they go to kindergarten and proudly announce that "daddy hits mommy." Adding to the fun is that they're very likely to attend the elementary school where she works.
Pictures and video.

February 13th+ - 34 weeks

From Liss:
I can't help it: I'm a teacher. I see what happens when kids' parents don't talk to them (we do!) or when they don't get early intervention if there are problems. All kids develop at different rates, some of the smartest people talk late, boys talk late, twins talk late. Check. Still, you can't blame me for having worried when 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 months went by with no words.

The milestones, for what they're worth, are 1 word at age 1, a dozen at 18 months, 50 words and some 2-word constructions by age 2. I think I can stop worrying now.

eat, more, milk, thank you, water

Understandable by anyone:
Mama, Daddy, binky, no, yeah, up, down, moon, baby, knee, nose, ball, hi, bye-bye

Understandable by us, usually:
kitty, dog, car, shoes, socks, mouth, eye, cracker, bunny, juice, meat, swing ("whee!"), coat, Drew (only B), book, cook, penis (you knew that would make the 50), diaper, poop, pee, pillow, spoon, eat, keys, read, pants, button, hot (always followed by puffing), light, balloooon!, teeth

2-word constructions (Bobby):
Car! Baby! (the day after visiting Baby H--we are trying to make Babies seem like The Awesomest Thing Ever, and H is a good test subject)
Drew, hi! (after we'd "divided and conquered" for an afternoon and B was missing his bro, he said that all the way home)

And they understand plenty more. It's pretty cool watching them turn into little people.
(They probably have several more that we just haven't deciphered yet.)
Unless something happens with the scheduling office, Liss will be set for a c-section on Wednesday, March 24th.

Of course, this assumes that Ellen waits that long. If not, Liss will probably try labor for a while - to signal the body to produce milk - then decide on a c-section versus VBAC.

From the OB visit, Ellen is now head-down in birthing position. Liss's blood pressure is still a little high, but not enough for them to cry foul yet. If she goes pre-eclamptic again, this whole process will be sped up real quick.
Whereas Bobby was extra fussy last week, Drew is this week. Meanwhile, Bob's been very pleasant.

The new stuff with Drew is that he'll start wailing when we leave them at bedtime. He also did it this morning when I left him in the kitchen to go to the bathroom. It might be a residual effect of being away for two days, but that might be a leap.

To calm him last night, I went in to pick him up and carry him for a while. It didn't really work until I hummed a long, low note with him against my chest. I figure it works on his mother, so why not him? In this case it did the trick, and - after several more of those - I was able to put him back down without incident.

The whole time, Bobby just lay in his crib, eyes wide open, sucking his pacifier once in a while. It's a good thing these meltdowns usually only occur one-twin-at-a-time, especially when their other parental unit is out of the house.
From Liss:
We're back from Portland. I'm very relaxed.

We left on Saturday morning, managing to sneak out the back door while the boys were playing with the shoes by the front. I'm sure they were mad when they realized we were gone, but we didn't have to deal with it. We took the train down on Saturday morning, which was an excellent idea--so relaxing, so easy.

- Three trips to Powell's, many used and one new book purchased for ourselves and others
- Sleeping in until 7 and 8, which probably doesn't sound like much if you're not the parent of a toddler or two
- The last two movies we'll see in a theatre for a very long time: The Young Victoria and An Education. (We decided we're like Victoria and Albert, except for our utter lack of power. And the part where we won't be having any 9 children--I'm too old to be the liberal Duggars.)
- NO Valentine's Day reservations or rip-offs: street food, coffee shops, Voodoo Donuts, and the $20 "Cheap Date" special at Kenny and Zuke's
- Instead of spending money on traditional romantic stuff we picked up cute Dansko sandals, tax-free
- Lots of walking, plenty of lazing
- The boys met us gleefully upon our return, said "Daddy" and "Mama" and wrestled us to the ground
- At my request, Grandpa cut their hair in our absence.

- Best of all (mostly): continued pregnancy.

I'm off work all week. I meet with my Boards mentor tomorrow afternoon, then spend the rest of the week editing my 3 portfolios. The goal is to have everything ready to mail by the end of the month. If I get enough done by Thursday, I'll take time for a pedicure after Friday's OB appointment: all the better to show off the new sandals, my dear.

February 6th+ - 33 weeks

In just the last few days, Bob's pronounciation of "binky" has started to actually sound like "binky," to the point that a stranger could probably tell what he means. His "k" sounds like "k" instead of "ch." They're supposed to have at least 50 words by July, and I think they're around 20 now. It becomes a snowball effect at a certain point, but they're not there yet.

He's been quite a pill the last few days - clingy, fussy, inconsolably whiny, wants to be held more often, etc. These are the signs of a growth spurt, though it may just be from teething pain. I'm going with the growth spurt, though, because of the "binky" thing. Fortunately, he's been sleeping just fine.
Not that this has anything to do with the children, except it's more or less my only hobby these days, but this year's free Oscar pool is open for business.
From Liss:
As the story goes, I was born 2 months early. Knowing what I do now about prematurity, especially in the dark ages of 70s, I doubt I was quite that early, because I went home with my parents less than a week later. So either I was a miracle or let's go with 4-6 weeks early, but still--a 4-something-pounder.

This came about because my mother was on a business trip to Milwaukee, WI--one state over. They still smoked at work then, and she was allergic, and somewhere during the meeting she coughed so hard her water broke. Voila--a baby.

I've never been back to Milwaukee. We're going to do a baseball road trip someday, and maybe we'll drive by St. Whoever's (either Mary or Joseph) Hospital and give a little wave.

In the meantime, I've been thinking about this lately because James and I will be going to Portland, OR--one state over--this weekend. I have a completely irrational fear that this girl will take after her mother and arrive at ~34 weeks in the wrong city. I'm gonna panic every time I cough this weekend.

More than that, though, I'm getting excited about the trip. I'm on track to have all the drafts of my Boards finished by then and the rule is No Work. My parents are flying in to take care of the boys.* We'll laze about the hotel room and go to Powell's and see some movies and eat** and ... I don't know, do other stuff you suggest. We haven't decided whether to train or drive, but it might be getting a bit late for that.

But first, this week of work. And Boards. I'd write more often, but that's all I'd talk about so, just say, "Oh, Liss is playing with toddlers and working on her Boards."
* they'd been planning for years (yes, pre-twins-conception) to come to let us go to the Olympics, but I'm too pregnant and James doesn't have the time and we can't spare that much money. So, Portland.
** where? James is cheap and boring***, I am moderate and flexible.
*** which I say in the most loving way--he'll admit it himself!
Nineteen months old.
Bob's pronounciation of 'binky' sounds a lot like 'bitch.' Or, if you prefer, 'beach.'
This is a very common sequence of events: This is fine when it's something like "milk sounds good right about now" or "I think go I'll downstairs and play with dad's shoes for the hell of it," because there's no sharing necessary. It's not so nice when there's only one of something, and twin 2 will grab - or worse, hit and grab. For the most part, it just means trying to have two of everything especially cool, or getting good at redirecting their attention.

However, I've also learned to use this to my advantage. I love having them sit in my lap, so all it usually takes is for me to convince one of them that it's a good idea. Or, once one of them starts to put on his coat, the other will soon follow. You get the idea.
This morning I noticed that Bob's top "gap" teeth are just starting to poke the gumline. I didn't have time to check Drew.

On a similar note, Liss gave them each a small apple, and Bob was able to bite into it with no help. Drew needed me to "prime" his with a single bite, but he was fine after that.
Two blue cups of sippy
Held the juice of moo
Two nights past one vanished full
This morn was found as goo

January 30th+ - 32 weeks

From Liss:
The daughter I've imagined for at least 30 years is only a few weeks from birth. Don't tell anyone, but I'm getting completely terrified.

If this baby comes as early as the boys did (my BP has been up a bit, though not scarily yet), that's 3 weeks from now. It's only 2 weeks left of work, since we have mid-winter break the week after next. I know there's no way to know, but I kinda feel like we have to be READY by then: work good to go, Boards basically done, teeny diapers acquired, cradle back upstairs, newborn clothes located, plan made.

Plan made, that's the hard part.

I still haven't decided whether to go for a VBAC, go into labor and have a C-section, or schedule a C/S. Labor would help with milk, but a) I'm resigned to not making enough anyway and b) the phrase "uterine rupture" is pretty scary even if it is only 1% odds. C-section is a known experience, and the last one wasn't nearly as bad as I'd feared. I think that's what I want, I just wish I wanted the VBAC more. My mom would come deal with the boys if we schedule it, but there's no guarantee the baby will wait for the schedule. Otherwise, we have to figure out who can take care of the boys when, and where. And ask them to do it. And have their stuff in order so taking care of them is as easy as possible.

And then have 3 kids.

I'm ecstatic and relieved ... and completely terrified.
Almost every night, there's a mini slumber party in the cribs after we put the boys to bed. Sometimes it's fleeting, but other times it lasts 90 minutes or so. We'd be okay with that if we saw any correlation between falling asleep later and getting up later, but we haven't. We don't want to go in to shush them, because our entrance might just wake them up further - and give them incentive to party again next time - but we'll probably have to start doing so as they mature.
Just a quick reposting of this link to emphasize the importance of 32 weeks.
It's a long, gradual process, but it's getting easier. The boys are getting good at communicating what they want, and will often (but not always) accept when they can't get it. The dreaded 18-month sleep regression hasn't really materialized, though a couple of friends' kids didn't have theirs until 21 or so. In general, they're of good cheer, just go with the flow, and seem to enjoy our and each other's company.

Of course, Ellen may shatter all of this.

January 23rd+ - 31 weeks

Some friends brought over their 6-week-old son last night. The boys were attentive and interested. After all, he was a novelty, then they went to bed, and he was gone in the morning.

Ellen, however, will stick around. After all these fleeting experiences with other babies, that might be a shocker. Lots of toddlers regress when a new baby comes, including "loss" of words or other milestones, so we need to be alert. They already help around the house some - fetching or putting away clothes or diapers - so we can try to get them to help with Ellen as a way to cope. Fortunately, unlike most first-borns, they at least have each other.
We ordered a couple of practice potties. While they're not ready for potty training, it doesn't hurt to have the apparati around so they get used to them, and it's not some sudden scary thing when the time comes. For all we know, they'll enjoy mimicking us like they do with other things. We still use the restroom in front of them sometimes, so they know the drill.

One question was, do we get one or two? If experience is any indication, they'll both get attached to one of them and ignore the other. However, I went ahead and got two - one for upstairs and one down.

In about two years, Ellen will get the worst hand-me-downs of her life.
The boys have picked up the word 'mama' in the last couple of days, specifically to ask where she is. In other words, they don't say it often in front of her, but I heard it ten times yesterday. Fortunately, they both said it this morning as I carried them downstairs - where she was - so she got to hear it. Unlike previous nebulous usage, it now means what it's supposed to mean.

She says they're the same way with 'dada.'
We're starting to figure out the logistics of Ellen's birth. When it was the boys, all we really had to do was put food in the cat dish. This time, there are two toddlers to consider. Labor and delivery could conceivably take two days and nights, and then 2-3 days of recovery and getting Ellen's initial tests done, etc. Day care will help, but I'll still have to split my time between being home with them or in the hospital with "my girls" during recovery, and not home at all during delivery.

Anyway, we're going over what-ifs, and all this is one more factor in favor of a c-section, which sounds highly Western culture in the "life must go according to my plan!" sort of way. "Major surgery instead of natural birth? Well, if we could do it during her Spring break ..."
Friday's OB appointment was pretty boring, as they should be. Now that things are getting close, she'll be going every other week for a while, and then every week starting around March 1.

Half the time they talked about the pros and cons of VBAC versus another c-section. She's on the fence, but later said she might be talking herself into a c-section. What probably pushed her was his description of uterine rupture in 1% of VBAC cases.

She's also getting a referral to a lactation consultant who has an M.D., as she's very underwhelmed by her provider's normal cadre, and will probably need prescriptions to produce.

No ultrasound, but the heart monitor picked up Ellen just fine, beating right at 140 bpm where it should be.
The boys had their quarterly checkup and blood draw for the diabetes study they're in. They get unofficial stats - Drew came in at 21 pounds (with clothes) and Bobby at 20.5, with both up to 29.5".

They said that their young patients tend to notice that "this is that place that causes me pain" around 18-24 months, and Drew fit the bill; he started crying when we walked into the foyer. Bob caught on later, especially when the nurse put on her gloves, which triggered both of them to wail. That was nothing compared to the actual blood draws, which are bad enough when they can hit a vein (Bob), but worse when they can't and have to prick and squeeze the foot (Drew).

During Drew's draw, two of the employees were alternately blowing bubbles or shaking a toy to distract him from the pain, which kind of worked, but he was still screaming. On the way home, I opined that if someone were causing me great physical pain, I wouldn't take too kindly to someone blowing bubbles to distract me from it. To counter, Liss tried to think of the adult male equivalent, and asked if I were in that situation, would I really yell "get those boobs out of my face!"?

She had a point.
We got a used minivan on Sunday, which is just the latest of many admissions that the children have taken/are taking over our lives. Neither of our sedans could have fit two boosters and an infant seat, so here we are. The idea is to have this one last seven years (it's an '01), then get another until they're out of the nest and/or driving their own. We both usually drive cars until they quit on us - my car's a '96, and her old one a '99 - so we aren't the kind to get antsy for newness.

In cleaning out her old car, we found quite a bit of nostalgia. It was archaeology, but messier; all I needed was a pith helmet. Unfortunately, the dealer lowballed us on the trade-in, so we'll probably donate it.

This purchase seems to be one of those bellweather events that people dread, for the reason I mentioned above, especially men. Maybe it's that I've never been a Car Is An Extension Of My Manhood guy, but it doesn't bother me in the slightest. We need to move the family from A to B safely, in a cost effective manner, sometimes with some stuff or visitors added. That's really about it.

It doesn't hurt that we came in under what I'd budgeted, either.

January 16th+ - 30 weeks

From Liss:
Let me say this: I love my family. I have the job I want, I have financial stability, I'm relatively healthy, I have friends. I can't imagine what I'd really want to change, but sometimes James is out of town with his charming distracting self and I'm sick of typing BS about teaching and I go on a maudlin streak.

The sex ed unit I used to teach had a self-esteem lesson. We were supposed to teach kids that everyone needs to feel that they belong, they're capable, and they're needed. For some reason that list has been popping into my head this week. I think my self-esteem is fine, but I wish I could say I feel needed or even a sense of belonging outside of my own little family. Lately, no.

Parenting has changed our lives for the better, but I know I've been feeling lonely lately. We don't have many parent friends here; and those we do have, have local family for support. For us, we don't have a real circle. We have friends, sure, people we enjoy talking to and spending time with, but after a day of work and toddlers it sure is easier to just hunker down with your spouse and re-charge. We don't have a group to fade into, every interaction has to be planned. We're nobody's "usual suspects." We don't have a standing Friday night beer group or Sunday evening game get-together. Even the parent group we joined (which I'd hoped would be The Answer) fizzled: they all already had their circles, so once the shock of new parenthood wore off, they didn't need us any more.

I've had friends tell me they don't want children because they think they're "too selfish." While I can respect that sentiment (and certainly don't think anyone should have kids who doesn't want them!), I also know this: parenthood has made me more selfish. I am not nearly as fun or involved a friend as I once was, I'm not up to intellectual sparring or even keeping up with pop culture that doesn't appear in Entertainment Weekly.*

And it's not that we can't be friends with non-parents, but it's hard to be spontaneous and it's hard to be all Intellectual. We're not going to be anyone's "call in case of crisis" people when we're so baby-focused. I work (with kids). I go home (to kids). If I'm not cooking, cleaning (ha), or snuggling/Scrabbling with my spouse, I'm working on my National Boards.

I don't know what the answer is. We could try a different new-parent group when Ellen arrives, but we're too anal about the 7:00 bedtime for an evening group so we'd just end up with the Microsoft SAHMs again. We could join ... I don't know, something else. We could try to set up a "regular" with some of our existing friends. **

But really what's going to happen is that in a couple of months, Ellen will arrive. The small amount of sanity we've established around here will be shattered. Friends who can will help us, despite our inability to help anyone else right now.

And in a few more years we'll poke our heads out and see if we can re-establish some sense of community outside these walls.
* which is the only thing I can be counted on to read lately
** I keep thinking we could do something here at, like, 7:30 very easily, but we seldom get there. And now we're on borrowed time again.
Liss had a late night at work, so it was just me and the boys. Sometime during the bed routine, I got them mixed, to the point of putting them in each other's cribs. I also was the one who got them out, so she only "knew" who was who based on the names I was using, but she was suspicious. The turning point came when "Bob" smiled at me and showed prominent dimples, though Drew's are much more pronouned. That's when I looked at his ear and realized my mistake.

Soon enough they'll be able to tell us when we're wrong. Later they'll agree to just let us be wrong and see how long it takes for us to figure it out, or see which of them cracks up laughing - whichever comes first.
Love is removing the large dried booger from your son's cheek.

January 9th+ - 29 weeks

We throw random instructions at the boys to see what they do and don't understand. Last night Drew moved an empty laundry basket across the floor, out of sight of the living room. Later, Liss opened a box of maternity clothes that had come in the mail, and asked him to put a blouse in the laundry basket, without motioning where. He promptly walked it over and put it in, then repeated the task three times. We therefore conclude that he knows the word "basket" - though he can't say it.

We tend to be overly cautious about declaring a word known or not. If I point to an object and tell one of them that it's to his left, and he looks left and grabs it, that doesn't mean he understands left from right. He might have just been reacting to my pointing - or even the act of projecting my voice to his left.

The opposite behavior is to jump to a conclusion: "My child said 'mama,' and therefore knows the word for 'mother' and attaches its meaning to me." We've seen that kind of thing a lot.

We joke about it between ourselves, though. In the last few days, Drew's taken to rearranging things (like that laundry basket), so we say he'll make a good interior decorator.
I'd like to propose a social experiment for my readers.

The idea is just to pass along the very specific feeling of "which is which?" and realizing you're not sure. It's very harrowing to feel that about your own children. That's why we waited to cut off their hospital bands until we had to, still paint Bobby's toenails, never dress them alike, and thank whomever constantly for their ear differences.

You might find yourself doing the same with this experiment - looking for subtle differences even though you're not supposed to in this case. It's natural.

Ideally, 100% would get it right. If everyone got confused, they'd hit it 50% of the time. I predict around 90%.

If you remove the mark (or mark the other the same way), repeat but with the idea of seeing how long it takes before you give up keeping track.
More Onion.
Eighteen months old. A year and a half.
Since it was twins last time, and therefore a very risky pregnancy, Liss had an ultrasound every few weeks. This time, she had the one halfway-point ultrasound and then occasional spot checks at the OB's office, but it's nothing like last time. She got used to seeing the boys all the time.

Fortunately, Ellen's quite the little kicker, which reassures Liss. The boys ran out of room for that right about now, which - added to the high-riskiness in the first place - made her a little paranoid.
This weekend we met some friends-of-friends who are expecting identical twin boys about the same time as Ellen. We crossed the line into advice-givers instead of takers a long time ago, when it comes to taking care of small twins. The boys did a good job of showing them many weaknesses in their baby-proofing.

While our boys never developed TTTS, these did, and had a procedure done to correct it. Still, one boy is measuring in the 95th percentile and the other in the 20th. Their mother is 26 weeks along, and has already been on bedrest (and not working) for seven. That's exactly the kind of thing we were dreading when it was us, but never happened. It happened to these folks.
Liss is working on her National Board certification, despite having two toddlers and being pregnant. Every year she's had a reason not to (active outside interests, wedding to plan, spend time with new husband, pregnant with twins, baby twins), but there's no end in sight to that. In hindsight, she wishes she'd done it while we were engaged, because planning the wedding was nothing compared to taking care of two toddlers. The difference is laughable.

She'll soon have three kids instead of two, so she figures she might as well do it before that. The final portfolios are due right around the time Ellen is, so she's planning to finish a month ahead of time. You can't count on everything going to plan in the last phases of a pregnancy - one of the women in our online due-in-March community had her boy last week. (Fortunately he's doing well).
The "bizz-oys" nickname seems to have been short-lived, now replaced by "boyses."
It's hard to gauge the boys' progress, since we're around them so much, whereas visitors always remark to how much more grown up they seem than the last visit - even those that come over every week or two.

Bob's definitely the wordier of the two - more likely to copy a word, pronounce it more clearly, or use it later in a context we can understand. He might have fifteen not-just-copying words by now to Drew's ... ten? They understand many more, though, perhaps a few hundred.

Meanwhile, Drew can zoom up and down the stairs with ease. Bob is still more cautious about it - especially going down - but can generally keep up. Drew's pretty close to true running. I expect them to be outside kicking soccer balls around by summer.

They both ask permission before doing certain things, like taking the stairs, which is why we went ahead and took down the gates.

Both of them have had their 11th tooth erupt recently - the last incisor, though on opposite sides.

There's also a step back - they don't like throwing their diapers in the trash anymore. Drew's also clinging to his nighttime stuffed bear and binky more, but the silver lining to that is that he doesn't throw them out of his crib as much, so they're available to soothe him when he wakes up. Bob's only done that once so far.

January 2nd+ - 28 weeks

Liss is getting pretty big - enough that she asked me to find her 6-month picture from the boys' pregnancy. She was notably bigger in that one, so I guess she feels better now.
I think I might have jinxed us with the previous entry.
I've noticed that the boys have become more mellow in the last few weeks and months. They're having fewer random tantrums, don't whine as much, and tantrums/whining don't last as long. The prospect of taking care of them by myself for long stretches of time doesn't concern me anymore, because they've just become more manageable.
Start of third trimester.
Pictures and video.