Home / Mail / Wish List / All Pictures / All Videos / So You're Having Twins / Permalink

Dad's Coping Mechanism - 2011

2011 begins with the twins at 2 1/2, and Ellen at nine months.
2008 | 2009 | 2010 | 2011 | 2012

December 24th+

Twenty-one months old.
Liss and I are in Westport, with no children in sight. There are lots of updates coming, but to do them from here seems sacreligious.

December 17th+

It's a good thing Anne Frank wasn't a three-year-old boy.
The neighbor returned what he'd found of our stolen toys. Most of it is fine, though some will need to be taken out of damaged packaging before we give them to the kids. Really, the only things we had to toss were half the crayons and some lip balm.
Ellen's splint is off. New x-rays showed new growth that confirmed an initial fracture, but also that it's stable now. The word from Liss is "two shoes! two socks!" and some stompy walking for now.

We figure we'll cringe when she tries to run or jump for a couple of days, and then realize it's fine when she shows now pain.

In order to reduce the hassle, Liss dropped the boys off at their friend Hank's house to play, which sent Ellen into extreme indignation. My theory is that, while she honestly likes Hank, she really just wanted a solid reason to be mad at going to the doctor.
Last night gave a good, simple example of how toddlers think.

We have a Thomas book with a moveable clock face so the kid can move the hands as the story goes along. Andrew's pretty good at it, as he's, uh, had a lot of repetitions, though he gets flustered beyond one digit.

Last night Ellen picked the book at bedtime, which makes it "her" book, which means she has first say on moving the hands. She'd give it a try, basically moving the hands a bit. Then, Bobby, who's still pretty iffy on what to do with the hands, would try. He didn't ask, but Ellen didn't mind, so all was fine.

A few pages into this, Andrew started to try after Bobby, to which Bobby said "That's Ellen's book!"

See, it was okay for him to butt in without asking, but when Andrew did the same, suddenly Bobby reaches for a false reason (Ellen was still okay) for the rules to smack Andrew down.
"'Cause want to!"

That Ellen's go-to phrase for explaining why she's doing something, or won't stop when we ask.
Updates from the crime post.

At the meeting, a patrol officer said that our neighborhood crime has been flat for a while; so there hasn't been an increase. It just feels that way because we're becoming more likely to hear to about the ones that happen, as we're getting better connected through the Internet and such. In a way, that's helpful, but as this guy put it at the meeting, why are we just now coming together to make things safer? It's a valid question. The robbery-turned-murder certainly brought the point home.

On the positive side, someone found the stolen bags. It looks like the thieves realized they'd grabbed useless-to-them stuff, and dumped them on the sidewalk. A neighbor found them, found Liss's name on the receipt, and posted to the neighborhood mailing list. The stuff is apparently a little worse for the wear, but salvagable. They'll come drop them off after the kids are in bed.
Through a deal, and finagling babysitting from Liss's parent and Amy, Liss and I will be retreating to a Pacific coastal town for a couple of days after Christmas. Our contact with the children will likely involve a phone call or three.

Other than that, we have no plans. In fact, the plan is to do as little as possible. Maybe we'll find a movie theater. Or karaoke. Or, maybe we'll find a warm spot to watch the water that also has wireless. You know, the important things.

Sadly, our sleep patterns will probably not allow us to do much of that. But we'll deal.
Sunday morning I heard, over their monitor, Bobby waking up Andrew. He didn't want to go to the bathroom alone, so he woke him up. Rude.
Liss spent much of Saturday making cookies, specifically to give to other people at holiday exchange parties. The boys were very anti-giving, not wanting any to be allocated to others, only themselves. It was pretty disheartening, but hey, they're three.

Fast forward to Sunday. We'd told them that, in order to make room for the new toys they'd get for Christmas, we needed to pack up some of their old toys to give to other kids. Given the cookie thing, we figured they'd be resistant, but they had a complete about-face. They were on the job for maybe 40 minutes, helping fill three big boxes with stuff. They were even making reasonable decisions - even Ellen - keeping things they still play with, and boxing up what they don't. If anything, they were a little over-zealous; we trumped a few of their give-away choices for fear they'd miss them later.

When their attention span ran out, they lured me upstairs to play, which gave Liss a chance to finish up, especially with the books. There were, quite literally, some 200 books in their area. We kept less than half.

During their quiet time, we took the boxes to the garage. Later, Andrew asked where they were, and I said we'd already gotten rid of them. He said "Without us?" with such sadness on his face, that I had to backtrack and tell him everything was in the garage. So, either we'll have to wait a couple of weeks for them to forget, or take them along to donate.
The wrapping of Ellen's splint has been coming undone more and more; there might now be more duct tape on it than wraps by now, which looks class-y. We're making a point of putting one of Liss's socks over it for warmth and protection, like before, but now it's also a question of aesthetics.

She's going back to the doctor on Tuesday, so maybe it'll come off. If she still needs it, she probably will have to get a new one, which she won't like.
On Saturday we went to Candy Cane Lane, which I'd never heard of. It's two blocks of over-the-top Christmas lights and decorations, which they've been doing for over 60 years. We went for the kids, of course, and they enjoyed it quite a bit, so it was worth the admittedly-minor hassles involved.

As we left, Liss called for pizza pick-up. There's a place near the Lane that does gluten-free, and it was getting late, so no problem.

On the drive home, pizzas in her lap, I asked if she could try to sneak me a piece. She got a couple of toppings my way, but when she tried to hand me a slice, Bobby said "They're eating pizza!" We were, no bones about it, capital-B Busted.

We made up some bullshit story about making sure the pizza was what we'd ordered, and she quickly closed the box.

Maybe we should have told them there was a fire truck "over there!"
There have been a string of crimes in our neighborhood lately, some violent, including a robbery that ended with the victim later dying. This was on the same block as the light rail I take to work. There have also been a pair of attempted sexual assaults of women. Liss bought pepper spray so she can still go running, though she runs very early, when your common thug isn't likely to be awake. That doesn't mean she's not still scared.

Of lesser stuff, our cars, which were broken into in October, were done again. This time, there were smaller presents for the kids in the trunk of the sedan, which are gone. Someone thought it was worth the trouble to take $50 worth of stocking stuffers. Plus, as to not make noise, they didn't close the trunk all the way, so its light killed the battery.

The neighboorhood only ever felt safe-ish, but it's feeling really unsafe lately. I went to a local meeting, and people are scared. Many of the assaults have been by a pack of three at a time. If three robust young men approach me and demand whatever, how would I say no? Everyone fantasizes about winning out in a situation like that, but the reality would likely be starkly different.

Last night, probably triggered by the car break-ins, my brain decided to go through lots of terrible scenarios of what violent people could do to us - all of us - if they wanted to, even in our home. And there's probably nothing I could do to stop them.

December 10th+

Being an Internet junkie, I've seen this picture here and there, and being the father of twins, it creeps me the hell out.
Ellen wants desparately to be Three, like her beloved big brothers, but just doesn't have the tools. This Christmas will see a further gap, as the boys are getting pedalless bikes. They're ready, she's not. Those are the only gifts I know of that will display what she can't do yet, but I expect it to be a big one.

I'm hoping that a boy will let her have his tricycle, in the face of such new awesomeness. She already has a helmet, or at least she will, if I can find it in the garage and wrap it in time.
The very general observation - meaning the average of others' experiences - is that 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 are worse than 2, 3, and 4. That held true for the boys in the past, as 2 1/2 was terrible, while 2 and 3 were ... less so, if not great. As they approach 3 1/2, though, the boys are on a long, upward swing.

Bobby's still a pill, but less often and less severely then a couple of months ago, and way less than a year ago. He argues, but less. He treats me like the jack-booted thug in his life, but less.

Andrew is a leap above. He's turning into a pleasant little boy, for the most part. Our conversations are starting to have a little depth - just a little, mind you, but it's there. He generally does what we ask of him, without breaking down.

Here's hoping they continue to buck the trend.
Ellen's turning two. I don't mean the chronological version, which isn't for another three months, but in personality. A few things are popping up for the first time, notably throwing fits over things like which cup she gets, demanding one parent to hold her and the other to "Go away!," and other annoyances. We already say "she's two" to each other, when she does these things, because hey, we've seen it before. My main hope is that her Terrible time is less than what the boys' were.
I was curious when our children would total ten years of age among them, but didn't have anything but my brain handy, so I estimated June 6th, 2012. When I did it in Excel, it came to June 5th: scary math brain, used to capacity for pointless purposes.

I learned long ago to trust my brain. Even if I don't quite get how it gets from A to D (often like this), I find that D is correct way more than it isn't. When someone calls me on B on C, I can usually figure it out.

The plan is to instill a similar trust in my children, under the assumption that they will have trustworthy brains. The raw tools should be there, given their nature and nuture. The tricky part, I think, will be remembering how immature those brains will be for a long time, what with impulse control issues, and much less experience, and the like. We'll be the ones who call them on B and C.
Ellen got hold of a plier wrench, and was going around pretending to pinch things with it, including Liss and the cat. She's not strong enough to actually do damage, but she could have gotten unlucky - especially with the cat - so we were trying to get it back without pissing her off.

I got down on the floor and told her that it could hurt, by pinching someone, and could I borrow it to show her? She handed it over, and I squeezed it onto my finger and said "See, that hurts. Do you want me to show you?" She said yes, and I did the same on her finger, as gently as I could while still getting the point across. She got it, and said "Hurt!" (but not in an aggrieved way), but wanted it back. She then proceeded to pretend to pinch her own finger a few times, saying "Hurt!" each time, and then gave it back for me to put away.
There's a little bit of roughhousing when the boys jump on the bed, like they want me to grab a leg to knock them over, and maybe also tickle them before they get back up. When I have one boy, sometimes the other will pretend to "rescue" him by pulling him off me, and sometimes the "trapped" boy asked to be rescued.

Bobby invented a new thing, though, where instead of coming to Andrew's aid, he says he's going to eat some "hamburger," and asks me to join him. We both pretend to take a bite out of Andrew.

The first time, Andrew thinks it's funny; the second time, he tolerates. After that, he doesn't "want to be hamburger anymore!"
One of the few benefits of colossal stubbornness is that it can also be very entertaining. We don't let the boys pick the colors of their potty-reward M&Ms anymore, and they're usually okay with that, but Bobby was in a mood and asked for certain colors and didn't get them. Instead of eating them, therefore, he said he was going to store them in his shirt to save for later. This was a button-up shirt, so he'd stick each one through the gaps between buttons, and each M&M would fall to the floor. He'd then pick them up and do it all over again, for maybe five minutes, all the while grousing about the lame-ass colors I'd given him.

Never mind that (a) the shirt has a breast pocket that would have held them nicely, if meltily, and (b) candy becomes much more awesome when you, y'know, eat it.
When I was explaining death a few weeks ago, and my grandparents were part of the conversations, I'd told the boys that they'd died at age 88. That's now their default "inexplicably huge!" number. It used to be 20, and then 37, but now it's reaching impossible, impossible heights. I mean, no number is higher than 88, right?
Ellen will often say she's "all done!" with a meal, to the point of starting to climb out of her seat, when she'll sit back down and start eating something still on her plate.

Make up your mind!
We've all but decided that, when the boys go to Kindergarten, we'll put them in separate classes. I was iffy when they were smaller, but I've come around now that I've seen their personalities develop. Liss has always been a proponent, and she teaches elementary school, so her opinion carries more weight, anyway.

Simply put, they need time without each other, even if they don't know it. Right now they barely do anything apart. Whenever they are apart, they ask about the other frequently. They need to start being a little more individual and a little less co-dependent, and school will be a structured way to do that.

It might even happen sooner, if we find a pre-school for next year that has enough kids to facilitate separation, but it's not a priority.
"Excuse me, what are you guys talking about!?"

We've taught the boys to use this phrase, as they often want to know; when talking to each other, we tend to use higher language. Part of the challenge is getting them to use it at appropriate times, instead of saying it while we're still talking, then yelling it(*) when we don't immediately stop our conversation for them. They're catching on, and we keep an encouraging tone, so it's coming along. We're glad they're curious about what we discuss between ourselves, so mostly the focus is on the etiquette part.

Ellen's nights have gotten a lot better - almost to her normal "no peeps for 12 hours" ways. I did a quick feel of the bottom left of her mouth, though, and I think I felt a molar coming in. Something to keep an eye out for.
Ellen had a horrible night last night, refusing to sleep from about 11:30 to 2:30, waking up screaming. Liss took most of the brunt, but one of the things she tried was bringing her to our bed. Our general stance was that she could stay with us, but had to be quiet and let us sleep. She lay down a little bit, but mostly wanted to play or be taken downstairs or - well, she couldn't tell us. The low point for me was when I rubbed her back to try to comfort her, and she said "Don't touch me, Daddy!" Harsh.

After maybe an hour of that, Liss took her back to her crib but stayed, lying on the floor. She even dozed off a bit, but woke up to Ellen throwing her stuffed animals at her (which if the idea was to wake her up, is better than yelling, but still). That's when Liss put her foot down, said good night, and came back to bed. Ellen cried and yelled nonsense for maybe ten minutes before falling asleep for good.

Based on previous episodes, my best guesses are either a nightmare, or her second set of molars coming in. If it's the former, she can't articulate it, and we can't do much about it, or predict it. If it's teeth, then we might be in for a few more nights of cranky. If it's neither, then ... oy.
Liss and Amy took the kids to the Science Center on Sunday, which was apparently quite a hair-raising experience.
Ellen and I had a very sweet moment Sunday, whereby I was lying in bed and she wanted to play sleep. She asked me to put a blanket over myself, and then she came to lie down right next to me, and I put it over her. She said "close eyes, Daddy," and when I did, she did that pretend-snore thing of heavier breathing. She'd say "wake up, Daddy!" and I'd open my eyes, then she'd tell me to "sleep" again, and we went in that cycle for a while. For all of this, our faces were inches apart.
From my perspective, pillow fights with three-year-olds should really be named You Missed Again - And Thanks For The Ammunition.
The kids have a new game, much like "the hit game" where they just run all over the place. This is "ice skating." It involves running around, but throwing oneself to the ground every twenty seconds or so, declaring that "ice skating is hard!," and then getting up to start over again.

My children are weird.
In order to get their tasty vitamins, the kids have to be dressed and have their hair combed. For the combing part, we count off twenty strokes of the comb.

Andrew always wants it "quiet," i.e. for me to whisper the numbers.

Bobby, in his chronic defiance, only wants ten, and he gets pissy when I count beyond. So, now I only count every other stroke to ten, and he's none the wiser.
Andrew can now use a stool to climb onto the kitchen counters. However, he can't get down.
These are our default cups these days, especially now that Ellen is old enough to only hold them upside down a few times a week. They're pretty airtight at the straw/lid junction, so they rarely leak. When shaking them - like to mix Carnation powder with milk - you can just put a finger over the straw and go to town. Even the boys can do it.

One flipside to the airtightness is that you can't have the straw all the way down in the lid when you put them on. It makes whatever liquid is inside shoot back up and out of the straw. It's comical except for the fact that you have to clean it up.

One way that's a little more fun - when making their "chocolate milk," I scoop the powder on top of the milk. Then, if I can get the straw to just go into the powder instead of the milk when putting everything on, the powder will shoot up the straw.
Ellen is doing something that they boys have done here and there for a long time - claiming the kitty scratched her, and then insisting on a band-aid. Usually whenever a kid needs a band-aid, and Andrew needed two on Saturday, the others will come up with some reason why they need one, too. I don't know why that's a compulsion and not, say, listening to one's parents.
I came home to this and Liss in the bathroom. I guess she couldn't hold it.
Bobby has a new thing he does with his mouth - pursing his lips and then moving it to the side. It's like this horrible picture, sorry. Our guess is that he did it once or twice, and the substitute nanny encouraged him by doing it back; we've seen her do it a lot.

He mostly does it when I think he's stifling a snide comment. Better than that not stifle.

One night at dinner we were talking about it with him. He said he was able to do that and turn off the lights of the Christmas tree, much like Samantha from Bewitched. So, we said go ahead. Empirical evidence denies his claim.
Ellen gets upset when I hug Liss in front of her. I can't tell if she thinks I'm hurting her, or if she's jealous, but it's pronounced upsettedness.
When jumping on our bed, the kids always go in a clockwise circle.

Makes me want to take them to Australia, to test.

December 3rd+

Two handsome boys!
This Wednesday, Ellen is exactly as old as the boys were on the day she was born.

Put another way, she's now half their age.
Ellen update from Liss:
The orthopedist says that it's a very stable fracture assuming it's fractured at all, so we don't need to do a follow-up x-ray today but she needs to wear the split for two weeks and then get follow up x-rays which makes it easy because who's off work in two weeks? Me.
Ellen's already getting pretty good at limping along with her splint.
The morning "greeting" of "May I have Angry Birds?" has been, perhaps temporarily, supplanted by "May I have my [advent] chocolate?"
Head, shoulders, knees and toes (knees and toes)
Head, shoulders, knees and toes (knees and toes)
Eyes and ears and mouth-and-frickin'-nose
Head, shoulders, knees and toes (knees and toes)
Sunday we went to a Santa train. First off, it was $80 for all of us. I'm cheap, so $80 means I have high expectations. I was generally underwhelmed, but with a few positives. The whole thing is for kids, of course, but it's the parents that buy the tickets, and my experience was pretty meh.

The prepare-yourself information for the train starts out with a bold Dress Warmly! So, we did - and by we, I mean Liss, Ellen and I. Andrew refused to wear a coat, and Bobby wore shorts. We brought a coat and pants along, just in case, and made a show of it. They're very stubborn about "sunny = warm" (among many other things) despite a month of contrary evidence.

A little paranoid, we got there early - around 2 o'clock for the 3 o'clock train. There was a long line of people waiting for the 2, so we didn't have much to do for a bit. It didn't take much of being outside, though - it was about 35 degrees - before the boys wanted their coat and pants. "We told you so!"

There was an indoor waiting area, so we all went there after the 2:00 people departed. Around 2:25, though, the boys were clear that they were done with that, and they wanted to go wait in line outside. We found a sign that implied the start of the line, and ... we were it - the first. That meant that, in exchange for getting first choice of seats on the train, we'd be in the cold the longest. Thanks, guys? As it turned out, there were two lines - one to board in front and the other in back - which met at the back of the building; at least four families got in line in front of us, thinking we were at the back, so we got to play Line Police, too. There were roughly 200 people in all.

All the while, we were carrying Ellen, since we were dumb enough not to bring a stroller, despite her splint (see below). She also didn't want to be anywhere but in someone's arms, and that someone was (is) usually Liss.

The train ride to the museum station was pretty short, about 15 minutes. On the way, there was a guy doing narration - boring, lame, loud narration. He clearly thought he was being entertaining and informative, but was neither. It's quite a feat to reach neither the kids nor adults in an audience. Then, after ten minutes, he started a sing-a-long of Rudolph, but not in the cheery, homey way we all know. It was more like bad opera at an Irish pub.

Anyway, so we got to the museum station, deboarded, and ... waited in line. I wasn't even sure what we were waiting for, but everyone else was. I knew there was supposed to be cocoa and cookies - not gluten-free, so we brought cupcakes for the kids - but there was also supposed to be a Santa sit. Half of the wait was inside, and half out in the cold. The boys were starting to get restless. At some point, we determined that we were indeed waiting for Santa, so that kept them going.

Once we got in, the actual Santa layout was very well done. It was a homey den, with a sofa, tasteful tree, and a good Santa. He'd probably been doing his thing all day (we were the last group), but he was still bright and engaged. Unlike mall Santa, we could take our own pictures (which sadly all turned out poor). Bobby asked for a Buzz Lightyear and a train, Andrew for a fire truck and a garbage truck. We'll take those under advisement, as will Santa, I'm sure.

And then back to reality, as one leaves the Santa room into - wait for it - the museum's gift shop.

An old train car behind the gift shop was the last stop, where we got our cocoa and cookies. Hey, just because the boys can't eat them, doesn't mean we didn't pick theirs up, too. About three seconds after I set down the cocoas I was holding, Bobby reached for one and knocked it over, spilling the whole thing. I think that was the third of our four full-cup spills all day; it was not a good Sunday for beverage containment. Fortunately, the train people see it all the time, so they had a mop handy. We ate and drank while warming up, before being nearly last onto the return train.

On the trip back, Santa came through with miniature candy canes for all the kids. Those little ones are good for small kids like ours, so we let them eat theirs. The odd part came later, when Santa came back through with a sticking held out. My thought was that he was taking our plastic wrappers so we wouldn't litter the train, so I put ours in there. In hindsight, though, he might have been looking for museum donations. If it was for trash, that seems like something a Santa's Helper should be doing. If it was for donations, he should have been more clear. Either way, I'm confuddled now.

By the time we got back, fog and darkness had really settled in, at around 5pm. We were worried that the kids would fall asleep on the way home (~30 minutes), but that fortunately didn't happen. Liss made a quick dinner, and we shooed them off to bed.
Bobby seems to slowly, surely be coming out of his hate-Daddy phase.
Possibly related to her fracture (see below), Ellen's bedtime routine might be expanding in ways similar to the boys' at the same age. For the last few nights, she's insisted that Liss stick around for a little while after putting her down. The boys did the same thing, and I still stick around after Liss leaves their room. Liss may be at a crossroads - give in for the calm, or make a stand?

Saturday night, she got out by saying she "Dad to help Daddy with the boys, but I'll be back." After the boys were down, she had to decide whether to actually go back in and risk more clinginess versus her being asleep versus her realizing Liss had broken her word. She went in, and Ellen was still awake, but let her go fairly quickly, so it worked out. Sunday night, she got out for good with "I have to help Daddy" pick up in the kitchen. "Okay." It seems I'm becoming the go-to excuse.
The plural of "knife" is, apparently, "knife-es."
And we have another fracture - sort of.

Friday afternoon, the substitute nanny was carrying Ellen down the stairs awkwardly while playing with the kids; she slipped and landed on Ellen's left ankle. Ellen was clearly in pain that night, and couldn't stand on it, but it looked like it might have been a mild sprain, so we decided to put her to bed and reevaluate Saturday morning. She was feeling a little better, but still couldn't stand without support, so I took her to Urgent Care.

What I mostly remember is that the doctor made it a point to tell me over and over again how much faster the clinic was. It's true, though; we were gone for about two hours, which is much less than previous trips. However, he didn't need to keep reminding me. My little girl is in pain - that's my focus right now, thanks.

The waiting room has a fish tank, which I suspect is there to help distract kids. It worked on Ellen, but maybe even more helpful was a lady sitting nearby, who is clearly drawn to kids. She put on her sunny face and pointed out the different fish to Ellen, showed her the bubbles coming up, and so on. She was clearly in her element.

Anyway, Ellen was being ginger on the leg, so they sent her for x-rays. She didn't like that experience, just like Bobby earlier this year, but at least it was short. However, the results were a little ambiguous. The radiologist(*) noted a little bump in her fibia, but no clear fracture. It might have been a shear, maybe not. However, since the radiologist didn't see her, just the pictures, the doctor decided that her actions spoke louder, and to treat it like a fracture. So, Ellen got a splint (picture), which again she didn't like, and Liss is taking her to the pediatrician on Tuesday afternoon for follow up. There may be more x-rays and a real cast coming.

The paperwork the doctor gave me was for a break, not a fracture. I guess he's treating it as such, just in case.

She was in denial for quite a while, trying to walk on it, get off the sofa to stand on it, etc., but she's getting better about what she can and can't do. She's crawling a bit, cruising quite a bit, and of course getting carried all over the place. Liss has been putting her own socks over the splint to keep the toes warm (and match the rest of her outfits).

Our goal - no more new illnesses this year. We've had an endoscopy, two fractures, celiac diagnosis, multiple respiratory infections, preliminary asthma diagnosis, chronic skin rash, and probably more I'm forgetting. We can make it four weeks without, right? Right?

Oh, except while she's in tomorrow, we're also going to have her checked out for a possible yeast infection.

(*) We've been to that building for maybe fifteen ultrasounds, x-rays, etc., and have yet to meet a radiologist. I imagine them in a dark, cave-like office somewhere, looking at image after image and writing diagnosis after diagnosis.

November 28th+

Liss went to a baking class last night. The sub nanny had the kids out, so they went to bed maybe 45 minutes late, but still before Liss got home. Before she left for work this morning, the boys had gotten up, but not Ellen. So, by the time she sees her late this afternoon, Liss will have gone 32 hours without seeing her little girl.

I'm sure the withdrawal symptoms are already popping up.
I'm going to be one of those dads who takes his daughter to Nutcracker every year. I actually thought about it this year, but next year is looking like a real goal.
I came up with a new idea for the kids' bedtime routine. Before, we'd take turns being the one to take Ellen up, while the other got the boys ready, and then the two of us would end up in the boys' room to read to them and put them down.

Now, we take all three up, and Ellen comes into the boys' room. After books, Liss takes her into her room and puts her down, while I hold the boys (our version of tucking them in), and then I meet the girls and say good night to Ellen.

It's working pretty well, but it's decreased my time with putting Ellen down, so tweaking will occur. I get so little time with just her - there are always boys around - that I consider it precious.
You know that old joke where a newly minted fiance says "It's so hot in here! I think I'll take my ring off!"

Mornings this week have begun with the boys coming downstairs, and saying "It's so dark in here. We should turn on the Christmas tree!"
We still give the kids M&Ms when they use the proper bathroom receptacle - toilet for the boys, potty for Ellen. When we opened this latest bag, though, we told the boys that they couldn't pick the colors anymore. It was just getting too annoying for us to stand there while they deliberated over their choices, when we know they all taste the same. Instead, we now just reach in and grab whatever. Well, to compensate, Bobby pretends that whatever you gave him is what he would have asked for. Last night I got two blues and a brown - "I wanted blue and brown!" It's completely self-delusionary, but there are so many examples of that working against us that's nice to have one on our side.

The bag is pretty low right now. We're debating whether to fill it one more time, or let this be it. All of the kids have been properly indoctrinated to potty/toilet usage, so the candies may not necessary anymore, not to mention it's more candy in their lives, but we don't want them to regress, either. Maybe one more bag.
I bought advent calendars for the kids, and we introduced them last night, since today (the First) would be the first day to break into them. Bobby was more interested than the others, carrying his around for quite a while. However, we couldn't find it this morning. The others' are sitting right where we'd had them before, so ... now the most interested and, let's face it, the most volatile kid might not have his. If we don't find it, we may just see if they forgot altogether, though I'll look at the drugstore near my work for another one. They were a buck, and while Yogi might say a dollar's not worth a dollar anymore, it's certainly worth that much to avoid this potential doom.

Edit: "Found Bobby's calendar just in time. They were all quite pleased."
From Liss:
The mini-dudes are suddenly obsessed with the idea of killing. Even in some dumb book, I'll be reading that the kids chased the dog and they'll insist, "No, they KILLED the dog." It's somewhat disturbing. We've been trying to be clear about how serious death is,

But tonight it got stranger. They were playing in the dining room after dinner and not being especially gentle with the chairs. Most of our furniture makes acceptable playthings, but these particular chairs have seat cushions that were hand-embroidered by James's beloved grandmother. So he asked them to stop jumping off of them and they said why and he said because they were made by his grandma, who'd died.(*) "Why did she die?" they asked. Their "Why"s are getting more interesting.

Well, because everyone dies eventually, he said.

"Not us!"

Yes, even you.

And they lost it. They came running into the kitchen sobbing that they didn't want to die, ever. Buried their faces in my skirt as I pulled them into my lap. I told them they probably wouldn't die for a very, very long time.

Andrew pulled away long enough to ask tearfully, "What day?" Maybe in 90 years, I said. When you're way older than grandma and grandpa. As long as you stay safe, wear your seat belt and your helmet.

"Some people die because they get sick." Yes, but right now we're healthy. "I'm going to eat all my food so I can be healthy." Great.

Eventually they asked us whom we'd known who had died. We told them about our grandparents, who'd fairly long lives. Then I mentioned my Aunt Elaine, who passed away last year, way too young, after a long and horrible battle with cancer. "Why didn't the doctors make her better?" Well, they tried, but they couldn't.

That shook them up either more. They went through our entire family, demanding reassurance. "Are you going to be okay?" Yes. "Is Daddy going to be okay?" Yes. It may not be true in the long run, but it's true right now.

Of course, they kept asking questions about death for the rest of the evening, and they had a rare post-lights-out freakout about "noises" that I'm guessing was related.

These conversations are just going to get more and more complicated, aren't they?
(*) Just clarification, I said she had died, and I didn't have many things left to remember her, and the chairs were one of them.

We also got into how the next one to go will probably be the cat - she's almost 17 - and how their great-aunt had passed from cancer, but the doctors were able to get the cancer out of my best friend before it got him, but he's in a wheelchair for it.
Ellen wanted to try the toilet instead of the potty, so of course I obliged. At first, I held her on the normal seat, but that was a bit precarious. We'd bought a helper seat for the boys ages ago, but they never took to it. However, Ellen did, and she happily sat there, buck naked, for a couple of minutes. I'm not sure if anything came out or not; there was already some Boy Pee in there.

As usual, pictures exist, but sadly will not be transmitted over the Internet for obvious reasons.
We'd previously decided that we'd be getting bunk beds for the boys when they're ready, but we've recently changed our minds. Instead, we'll probably go with one loft bed for each of them. While I think everyone enjoys the idea of twins using bunk beds, the reality is that they'd probably fight over who gets the top.(*) We could likely rotate who gets it, but separation also gives the advantage of being, well, separate. The boys need things they can call their own; they share underwear. Separation, even in the same bedroom, will allow them to claim their own spaces. They already do with their mattress-only beds, but it's pretty informal and roughshod right now.

We just need to wait until they're ready, which I'm thinking will be soon - the summer at the very latest. They don't really toss and turn, so falling out isn't much of a concern, and those beds have rails as it is. Of course, around here we have to worry about an earthquake tossing them out, but we're so unprepared for that already, what's one more thing?

One thing we need to remember is that they don't have to choose the same beds.

(*) Whichever boy was nicer today.
When we got home last night, the kids were watching a children's program on TV that the substitute nanny had put on - no big deal, everything in moderation, etc. However, they didn't even say hi when we entered, so that was a little disconcerting.

Since we'd just gotten home, we adults started talking about our days, standing in a sort of triangle with the kids in the center. Andrew, out of nowhere, shushed us. It wasn't a casual thing, either, he basically told us to shut the hell up, except he doesn't know the phrase "shut up."

He did it twice again after reprimands, so I turned off the TV for the triple meltdown. The boys, in their misery and disgust at me, crawled into Momma's lap. Ellen cried - out of what was apparently only sympathy for them - for maybe twenty seconds before saying "oh well" and finding a toy to play with.

When the boys calmed down, we explained that we'd be happy to relocate or talk more quietly if asked nicely, but simply shushing us wasn't going to cut it. Perhaps tonight we'll practice.
If the boys wait until the green light (8:00) to emerge from their exile beds, they get to play Angry Birds on our iPhones for five minutes. A typical, successful morning begins thusly:
All in all, Thanksgiving was a lot better than last year, not the least of why being that we weren't split up, plus no one was sick. Basically, it was like a regular weekend, only twice as long for me - and much longer for Liss, since she had the whole week off, too.

One of these days, we'll look forward to long weekends again. I'm still not there, but the dread that existed in the past is mostly muted now.
Bobby's starting to come back from his hate-Daddy phase ... a little bit. A sign against - he and Andrew were jumping on our bed, when Drew went downstairs to get a drink. Somehow the conversation got to the fact that he doesn't like me, only Mommy. So, I asked why I should be up here helping him, when I could be downstairs with people who do like me? Because, he said, Mommy's busy making dinner.

A sign for, however, was when he got his shirt dirty at dinner. At bedtime, he was choosing a new one to wear, and picked out a new plaid one. When discussing it with Liss, he noticed that it was like the plaid ones that I often wear to bed. Like their boxer underwear, he called it "Daddy style" and put it on. Eager to suck up to him, I quickly changed into one of mine, which he thought was awesome. Of course, Liss got a picture.

Update from Liss: "Your son wanted to change out of his Daddy-style shirt and save it for tonight so he could sleep in it again without it getting dirty."
At what age does one stop biting an M&M in half?
One thing they don't tell you about helping your kid brush their teeth - spittle. It's a good thing I wear glasses that act as shields, but it still gets on my face all the time.

It gives me slightly more respect for dental hygienists.
Ellen has her first freckle - right between her kidneys on her back. It's only worth noting because we didn't find any on the boys until they were two and change. With them, it was a big deal, helping us tell them apart, but with her it's just "Huh. Okay."
Ellen has a tiny dog toy that I think is supposed to hold on to a car antenna or a finger or something. She likes it, so when we stumble upon it, we try to get it to her. Well, Liss was upstairs with her, and I found it. Instead of marching all the way up, I went a few stairs up, turned around, and threw it over the landing toward their voices, with no warning.

Liss caught it.

She says good throw. I say good catch. Really, it was both. Hell, we could try ten times with warning, and we'd complete ... three?

And, it turns out, Ellen has two of those little dogs. We had no clue. All this time, going on two years now, we thought she had one. When we finally get a chance to purge the house of Stuff, we're going to have a lot of "what the hell?" conversations.
We had an unprecedented event over the weekend - Bobby fell asleep during quiet time, and Andrew didn't wake him up. When the light came on, I think he tried a little bit, but soon came down without him. Ellen was taking her nap, so he had both of us to himself, also very rare.

Liss was playing Tetris on her phone, so he wanted to watch. Eventually, of course, he wanted to play, but either he didn't understand the point - keep the blocks from getting to the top - or he didn't care. When he started playing, he just wanted to "build towers." A direct quote, after one of our rules explanations, was "I want it to lose faster."
The boys' hair is getting long, as shown in this picture. It doesn't really bother us, but it's definitely easier to manage when shorter. They don't want haircuts, though, which we'd overcome if it were a big deal to us, but it's the way they refuse that's going to become interesting. In the past, Liss's dad did them whenever he came for a visit; the boys know he'll be back around Christmas, so whenever we bring up the idea of a haircut, they say no, we'll just wait until he comes. However, when he does come, they're going to have to come up with new excuses - and come with them they will. I guar-ohn-tee it.

Ellen's is coming along, and getting in her eyes a lot. The idea of bangs meets with great resistance in Liss, and I'm mostly on board. It just means we have to keep the barrettes and such well-stocked, but she's getting more tangles as it grows out.

It doesn't help that they all fight having their hair washed.
Twenty months old.

November 20th+

"Most beautiful of all honeybears."
Ellen woke at 5:15 this morning, much to our dismay. Liss took her for a while, and then I took over so Liss could do her morning workout elsewhere.

Ellen's a lot more "chill" when the boys aren't around to rile her up. She spent a lot of that time just lying in my lap, watching me do my morning website checks and such. We played a bit, ate some cereal, she was nude so she played with herself a little ... you know, chill. That's definitely not what we experienced when the boys were her age - except for the playing with oneself; they always needed (and now need) to get up and go, which often gets her going, too.

Around 6:45, she said "sleep" and looked up at me. I asked if she wanted to go back to bed, but she said no. Trying a different tack, I asked if she wanted me to read her a story and then put her to bed. She said yes. So, I took her upstairs and read her a book. However, she wanted another one, and wouldn't go to bed. I reminded her of the deal we'd made - one book then bed - but if she wanted, I could do a second book, but then it was time for bed. No! So, she'd gotten me to carry her upstairs and read a book to her, with no concessions on her part.

She's a crafty one.
The boys can tell time - sort of - on both analog and digital clocks. They can look at it and tell you which hour it is, but not the :25 or whatever part. It's still useful, because they know that bedtime is 7, and the green light usually comes on at 8, but it's just an estimate. It's a good start to the concept, though.
It makes sense when you say it out loud: the boys think "mayonnaise" is plural.
Last night I changed a light bulb in the basement, which involved removing the fixture. There was a small, dead spider inside. When they wanted to play later, the memory prompted the boys to say that I was "the spider," and that I should not eat them, which of course was invitation to grab and "eat" them.

Apparently I bit a little too hard once, because Bobby went upstairs to tattle on me. Liss wasn't very sympathetic to his plight. He came back downstairs, demanding I say sorry, which I did, and all was well. But the precedent had been set. The next time I gave Andrew the tiniest nibble on his arm, he stopped, went upstairs, and tattled.

I tried reasoning with them; I'd said sorry before he left, but he still demanded it when I came back, and the loop started all over again. Rather than have this continue and annoy me, I offered a compromise that they accepted.

I instead became a Smooching Spider.
The kids all play a game they call LeeLa. It consists of getting into Ellen's crib and walking around in a circle saying "LeeLa LeeLa LeeLa" over and over.

It's a good game.
Long-time veterans of the "eww, stinky feet" game with their parents, the boys have started taking matters into their own hands. Andrew, especially, will give his feet a nice big snort at least once a day.

This exchange occured between them recently:
Liss has the kids by herself for three days. Here's that she just texted me: "How do babies get inside you, Mamma?"

And they're off!

November 13th+

Bobby's waking up around 4:30am, screaming for Mommy, about half the time now. He calms down as soon as she gets there, doesn't offer a reason, and certainly won't accept me instead of her. She doesn't do anything particularly endearing that we'd think would encourage this to keep happening, but I guess attention is its own reward.
The substitute nanny had to bring her two daughters - one just turned five, and the other is a day younger than Ellen.

Five kids, five and under, by herself. It's a good thing she's young and energetic.
We're entering a rough few weeks. Our nanny is visiting relatives for the rest of the month, starting tomorrow. We have a friend coming to substitute, but it's a big change for the kids and all of our routines.

Normally, Liss's parent-teacher conferences are the three days before Thanksgiving, but she's doing them all this week so she can take off those days and be the "nanny." So, besides her regular work week, she's squeezing in these conferences, which means she leaves early, gets home late, and barely has time for anything else during their [theoretical] wakeful hours.

Last night was the first, and hopefully the worst. I got home, but Ellen didn't want the nanny to leave, so she stuck around for bit, even though she'd already been staying late. After she did leave, we were doing okay playing The Dirt Game (see below) until the boys fought over which pillows to pretend to sleep on. That set off a chain of events, which ended up with Bobby hitting Ellen and getting a time out, but since he doesn't let me help him when he's off the rails, he just sat in time out yelling for Liss for a good half hour while I tried to corral the other two. They were mostly okay, but Andrew was complaining about the dinner we were trying to have, and bossing Ellen around a bit; my attempts to intervene set him off.

Meanwhile, Liss's last conference parents were, as she put it, late and chatty. She got home about 35 minutes later they we'd both expected. After all of their complaining (Bobby joined in), they actually liked their dinner. They bitch just for the sake of bitching, which I really hope isn't something permanent.

Ellen was mostly okay through all of this, though she had trouble at bedtime, also wanting Mommy. They all missed her while she was late, and it'll be the normal state of things for the rest of the week. Liss has already negotiated with her co-teacher that she'll leave if the last conference of the day is late again.

Then, for the second morning in a row, Bobby cried pitifully for Liss at 4:45, and neither of us got back to sleep. Ugh.
The boys are on a major Buzz Lightyear kick.
There are two games that the boys recently invented that have some unfortunate names.

One is The Hit Game. This involves running around the kitchen island and laughing joyfully. Ellen is a fan, and joins in.

The other is the Dirt Game, where I, playing the role of "dirt," lie on the bed and they roll me off. It only works if they're both pushing - my idea to teach them cooperation - which affords me lots of chances to delay the inevitable through strategic tickling.

It's going to be a long winter.
Bobby says he wants a "handle" for Christmas. We have no clue what he's talking about.

Speaking of which, they went to Santa. It was early, but Liss wants to take them on a Santa train, and wanted to make sure they weren't going to freak out. Ellen did have some trouble with the mall Santa, but she's the least of our worries.

Here is an "old" picture of the boys freaking out two years ago. Last year, I took them, but they refused to go. Now the idea of Santa and OMG PRESENTS is starting to take hold, so sure, we'll sit in this weird guy's lap if that's what it takes. They certainly have no grasp of the naughty/nice deal or anything like that, just that Santa + Christmas = presents, sort of in this way.
Sunday morning Bobby complained that he wanted "wet" bacon, but everything on the plate was dry. So he licked it.

Way to solve your made-up problem, kid.
Bobby's started turning around one of the phrases we've used on the kids, by telling Liss she's "such a sweetie!" It's mostly a transparent attempt to get attention, but she'll take it.
Most of the doors in our house have locks, but with those little holes you can poke with a coathanger or something to unlock. Ours was a new house when we bought it, and all of those doors came with a little tool for unlocking, which fits above the door frame. I'm the only person in house who can reach it, though Liss can with a chair or something.

We're teaching the boys that they can lock the doors to the bathroom if they want privacy, but they abuse it sometimes. I, and I alone, hold the power to quickly disavow them!

It'd be nice to have other spaces where they could just go chill by themselves, but their siblings would never allow it. Yet.
One of the cuter things Ellen does - and that's saying something - is that when you put a barette or similar in her hair, she'll reach up, touch it, and say "pitty!"
Andrew's developed a "heh heh heeeh" laugh that sounds like what a mad scientist might do in the movies, only in an adorable pre-schooler voice. We try not to crack up every time.

He can also open the childproof cabinet under the sink. He opens it to throw things in the garbage, then closes it like it's no big deal that he opened a child-locked door.
The boys aren't as good as they could be about placing their things out of Ellen's reach, which isn't helped by the fact that she's almost as tall as they are in the first place. One of these things is their "chocolate milk" (actually instant breakfast), which Andrew's gastroenterologist recommended to help them gain weight. She doesn't need that, but that doesn't mean she doesn't love the stuff. She'll nab theirs every chance she gets, and ask for her own.

Rather than resist her requests as we've done, we're trying to placebo her by putting in 1/3rd the amount of powder. I'm not terribly optimistic. She's pretty smart.
I've shaved two minutes from the boys' bedtime routine. I used to sit in the chair after holding them but before saying good night, but I've weaned that off, and just go straight from one to the other.

That two minutes in the chair was part of the agonizing negotiation process when they moved to mattresses. They'd boss me into various things that ended up sticking, but the most pointless one is gone, gone!

It's the little things.
Ellen spent about five hours nude on Sunday. I think it's become her preferred state while we're in the house. The way she gets there is to ask us to take off whatever she's wearing so she can use the potty, but it's just an excuse. And hey, she doesn't have accidents often - maybe once a week now - so be free!
The boys pretty much never wear sleepers to bed anymore, just the shirt and underwear they'd been wearing that day. It's lazy of us to let them, but there are advantages. Besides easier access to their happy fun time with the lights out, it's easier to use the bathroom than to unzip and remove a sleeper first. One danger is that it also makes it easy to wear the same shirt and underwear more than one day at a time, though we try to stay on top of that.
Wednesday last, I was held up at work, which Liss knew about. When she told the boys, they, in their toddler wisdom, decided that I wasn't actually still at work, but "lost in a hole." They wanted to go out and look for me; Liss said that we should wait, and besides, she needed to cook dinner. Andrew countered that she could just make toast for dinner, freeing up the time to go look for me.

When I got home, they insisted to me that, despite my protests to the contrary, I had gotten lost.
One morning I was walking outside the kids' bedrooms to listen at Ellen's door - to see if I should get her - when my steps made the house creak just a bit. I then heard this exchange from the boys' room:

And then the next sound was Bobby starting to lose it as he walked toward their door to open it and check. He was like the kid in the horror film who goes into the dark basement even though he knows there's evil afoot. I opened their door and told them that it was just me, there's nothing to get up for, etc. I guess it worked, because he went back to bed.

Bobby doesn't do well when he wakes up early.

November 6th+

Something subtle has happened with the boys at bedtime; the slumber parties have gone away. It used to be very common for us to hear them playing or talking or reading for up to two hours after we'd put them down - thirty minutes was "normal" - but now we rarely hear a peep. We didn't do much to discourage it until they got a little over the top, because they were usually happy, at least.

Now it's just silence. They go to sleep, and random whiny patches aside, stay asleep. It's great, though a small part of me mourns their unsupervised bonding time. It might also be a consequence of their personalities diverging. They're already around each other all the time - and I mean all - so maybe they're just ready to call it a day once they're in bed.
Ellen has single-word names for all of her books (bed, hippo), which makes obsolete my prior method of holding her over the stack so she can pick one.

I read two of them when I put her down; she always tries to finagle more than that, or to get me to re-read one of the two. If it were up to her, I'd just read all of them in a continuous loop.
Ellen's eye teeth have popped through the gum, which goes a long way toward explaining her sleep/attitude problems last week. It looks like at least three of four were coming in at the same time.

October 30th+

Ellen slept through, despite two Whoppers after dinner. Maybe this is over.

Update: Two in a row now. *wipes brow*
The days and weeks go slowly. The months and years zoom by.
Ellen had another bad night, waking up screaming and not going back down for two hours. Liss took care of her and let me sleep, because this is my big work day of the month. She ended up negotiating a compromise where she (Liss) lie on the floor to keep her company, though Ellen was in her crib.

Ellen had had one Kit Kat after dinner, but seemed fine - nothing like the previous night. That lends weight to the idea that this isn't candy related. As Liss said, we really hope this isn't the new normal. In the past, any issues have only lasted a few days - illness, teething, etc. - but nothing's ever been quite like this, either. Maybe it's worse teething, or maybe her brain's creating scary dreams for the first time, or ... ?

We've already bought Ellen's first bed (okay, mattress), but it's still rolled up and leaning against the wall. We'll know we've reached a tipping point if we unroll it one of these nights for ourselves.
What this picture doesn't capture is that Ellen is chomping at the bit to get started. "Walk!" "Go!" "Walk!" That's why she's standing.

It's the best of about six shots, which is typical. About half of them have Bobby giving the same "smile" as this one, which is actually a sincere attempt at a smile, but instead looks like he's just put his hand in a wall socket.
Halloween was a mixed bag.

The kids were mostly ready to go trick or treating by the time I got home (picture), so we set out. A lot of people weren't home yet, but enough to keep them motivated.

It was clear pretty soon that Ellen was going to slow down the proceedings. Liss debated going back for a stroller, but instead chose to carry her around. I tried to take her for a while, but Ellen's clearly in a Mommy phase, and refused, but thankfully I still get Husband Points for trying.

We'd told the boys that some candy has gluten in it, so they were going to need to trade with Ellen later. After any new candy came by, Andrew would ask me "is this gluten free?" If I said yes, he'd happily put it back in his bucket. If not, he'd go put it in Ellen's basket.

Two months ago, Andrew wanted to be a lion, but the place I looked only had a tiger. I texted a picture and he'd approved. However, when people said "what a cute tiger!," half the time he'd "correct" them. "I'm a lion!" It was hilarious, though not to him. He wasn't really upset over it or anything, though.

All in all, we probably hit about 30 houses, and each kid ended up with maybe 25 pieces of candy.

Then came the hard part - rationing. We told them they could pick one candy to have after eating their dinners. Ellen and Bobby eached picked a toostie pop, Andrew gum. These are all problematic, in that they take a long time to finish. Bobby (picture by Amy) actually did well, putting his back into its wrapper "for later." Andrew chewed a little gum, saved the rest, and threw out what he'd had.

Ellen was quite another story. She wouldn't give up her lollipop. After I'd taken it away (last resort after much failed diplomacy) and started getting her ready for bed, she asked to use the potty, which is common. When I let her down, she instead ran to the kitchen, screaming "lah-li-pah!" She screamed for it all the way through the bedtime routines, and for maybe ten minutes in her bed - including another drop-in by Liss - before finally falling asleep.

Once they were all in bed, we went through the candy to get the gluteny ones out of the boys' stacks, put most of those in Ellen's, put the ones she can't handle yet (mostly the really chewy ones) for them, threw some problematic ones away, and then ... now what? We're going to have to be very careful about rationing.

And then, as we were going to bed at 11, Ellen woke again, screaming - not for the lollipop, but in general. There was nothing we could do for her. She wanted to go downstairs, so Liss took her rather than have her screaming so near the boys, but she just screamed down there instead. She asked for milk, got it, and pushed it away, still screaming. She asked for cereal, and ate none. She wanted Mommy; I couldn't really get close to her except for a few seconds at a time before she'd yell "No!" over and over, though she was doing that about nearly everything.

While the sugar crash was the lead suspect, it started to feel like it might be teething, or a combination of the two. We gave her some Tylenol just in case, and later some Benadryl just to help knock her out.

Eventually we decided to take her to our bed, if only to show her what should have been happening at that time. After a little while, she started to calm down, but not fall asleep. We were pretty close, though, perhaps even drifting off a bit. I think it was I who triggered the next phase, though, by turning off the light to get her thinking about sleep. She had been kind of just lying there, but she didn't want the darkness. When I turned it back on, she didn't want to lie down, either, and ... stood up to start jumping. Our entreaties did nothing, so Liss decided on the last resort - take her back to her crib and let her cry if she needed to, turn off her monitor, and maybe we could get some sleep. However, Liss was able to calm her down somewhat in there, and she went back to sleep soon after. She'd been up for over an hour, most of it screaming; it was her worst night in ... a year?

Through all of this, there was a real fear that the boys would wake up and have a similar meltdown - after all, they'd had candy too - but they were silent. In fact, after Sunday night's seven wakeups with whining, they were silent until after I'd left for work. Maybe that's the good version of a sugar crash. So, we were able to get maybe six hours of good sleep in the end.

This morning, the boys awoke and were determined to convince Liss that I'd promised "save for later" and "these take a long time to eat" meant they could eat candy all morning. Uh, no.

I hope she remembered to pay the nanny yesterday.
This weekend is the transition to ending daylight savings time. Since today's bedtime of 7pm will be called 6pm in a week, we'll gradually keep them up later over the coming days. This has never been perfect, but it's always better than the other one, where we have to try putting them down sooner and sooner, as they start out less and less tired.
Friday night we let the kids stay up late, around 8:30, and eat in the living room, because of World Series Game Seven. It went pretty well, but they didn't sleep much later than normal, so we paid the price a bit on Saturday. Andrew, especially, had a regressive and drama-filled day compared to how he's been recently. Ellen fell asleep in the car around 11 for maybe five minutes, and refused to nap later.

So, the experiment was a muted success - good on the front end, not so much on the back end.
The boys earned their monster trucks by Sunday morning, after ten "wait for the green light" mornings. It took about two weeks, which is decent. For the next "surprise" - the other two trucks - they'll have to do twelve, and we'll keep racheting it up from there. Fortunately, they really liked the trucks; if they hadn't, the whole system might have collapsed: "All that effort for this!?"

However, waiting until a certain time to emerge from the bedroom isn't the same thing as having a good night. Last night was an excellent example, as there were at least 7 episodes of whinery over the monitor, but not bad enough for us to need to go in. They earn other things for good nights - a few minutes of Angry Birds, their noisy tow and fire trucks, stickers - which they haven't been earning lately.
Ellen is just starting to learn to run, as in having both feet off the ground. She loves her mobility, so this will just open new paths for her - and therefore us.
Liss carved the kids' pumpkins yesterday with the boys' "help" while Ellen was napping - because of the knives - though the boys' attention span couldn't handle the duration. While they were into it, though, they were doing well, or at least well enough.

Liss mentioned roasting the pumpking seeds to eat, but they were very against the idea. What they didn't seem to understand was that even if she did so, they wouldn't have to eat them or anything. We could eat them, or maybe Ellen would like them. Or, she could bake them into something else. Or we could bring them to work for others to eat.

In other words, it's not all about them. They have yet to grasp that.
The boys went to the concert (below) in their Halloween costumes, and all three to a party that afternoon that got fun after we left, from what we hear.

Tonight is the big one, as the boys are excited at the idea of trick or treating, and Ellen will surely catch on. Last year (video), the boys' hearts were only kind of into it, and by the time they were, it was getting late. I think they'll be a lot more efficient this time.

Afterwards, we'll have to vet their candy for gluten, though Liss found a site that will make that easier. In future years, we figure the boys will trade some of their gluteny candy for her gluten-free. Twix and Kit Kat come to mind. Last year, we doled out the candy one at a time for weeks. That'll happen again this year, of course.

We got lots of Reese's Cups to hand out at our door, so hopefully it'll be a slow night.
Saturday morning I took the boys to a music show designed for kids. It was ... okay. The show itself probably would have been better for them if we'd been closer to the stage, but Andrew still got into it, moving his arms like they were leading us to, and attempting to sing along. I suspect it's similar to a musical pre-school thing they've done once a week for maybe a month now.

Bobby just sat in his chair with his sullen look. Later I asked if they'd had fun; Andrew said yes, Bobby no. Oh well, kid, we tried. At least he wasn't being a pill about it. He did enjoy the little marimba he was able to play in the lobby, which had a much more pleasant tone than the average kids' xylophone; those are often set to "shrill," and some are even are off-key. Ugh.

The show was about 30 minutes long, which given the time to get there and the $12x3 face value of the tickets ... whoa. Ours were free because a friend has season tickets and couldn't make it, but jeez. Plus, the place was packed(*), so I guess supply and demand determines those prices, even with that being one of five identical shows that day.

The two ladies doing the show are identical twins, which makes me wonder if the boys will end up in some similar mutual endeavor. That's pretty unlikely, though, if their three-year-old selves' interactions are any clue. Plus, and I'm being very general here, men are "What can I accomplish?" while women are "What can we accomplish?"

(*) I'm pretty sure every one of us was white or Asian; make of that what you will.

October 23rd+

Thursday morning, around 7 (the green light is at 7:45), Andrew came out of their room, peed into the toilet, put his underwear back on, went back to their room, closed the door, and went back to bed. We didn't see each other; we just heard him do his business and go back to bed like he's supposed to. There is one and only one reason that this didn't turn into a cattle drive to get him back to his room, and why he wasn't distracted to other things: Bobby didn't wake up.

It goes the other way, too; if Andrew wakes up because Bobby's going to the bathroom, then he too gets up and follows him in. They'll do this even if the follower doesn't need to go. It's just a thing of theirs - they never want to miss out on whatever the other is doing, even if it's some mundane thing they've both done a thousand times. Ellen is getting there, too.
Liss introduced a new incentive for the boys to wait for the green light, which has been going well. After ten days of doing so, not necessarily consecutive, they'd get "a surprise." That was her way of being non-committal and building suspense, though it also means we have to make sure whatever they get is awesome.

Well, this past weekend I found some little monster trucks that they'd gotten as gifts (birthday, Christmas, I forget), but were too young for at the time. Problem solved!
We're(*) pretty strict about eating dinner at the dinner table, but tonight will be an exception: World Series, Game Seven. However, it'll end way after the kids go to bed, but that's okay, since they don't get it anyway. In future years, they'll be allowed to stay up late for such things, even.

(*) And by "we" I mean "Liss," but I acquiesced a long time ago.
Bobby's all about gaming the system and doing the minimum necessary to stay out of trouble. If you tell him to stop doing something, he'll do it again, but lessened; if you ask him to stop yelling, he'll just lower the volume. Tell him not to hit again, and he'll tap. Or kick. Yesterday he hit Andrew on the bicycle helmet; when I called him on it, he was adamant that he hadn't hit Andrew. He'd hit his helmet.

He had a couple of time outs last night.
Ellen enjoys nudity. She also wants to try the potty every five minutes she's nude, so there's also a practical consideration. And really, we can't say we're not glad she's taking to the potty, and it's cute having her toddle around with nothing on much of the time. The only real rule we have is a diaper when she sits down to eat ... but we're lax about it.
Andrew's definitely matured in the last few weeks. He's becoming a little boy. I guess this is the transition from toddler to pre-schooler, and it's very welcome.
Nineteen months old.
As part of operation Get More Sleep, we turned off the boys' monitor Friday night, and told them we were doing it. [mostly] Bobby's random whines every few hours were keeping us up, but then we'd go in and he wouldn't even acknowledge us. We told them that if something really worthwhile comes along, they can come into our rooms. That raises the bar from "lie there and whine" to "get off your ass." It's worked for three days, though we did have the monitor on for the next two nights, and Bobby had a more-than-whine deal on Saturday night. They've even slept past the green light a couple of times.

Ellen's not helping matters, as she's been getting up around 6:45 instead of 7:45 for a little while now. That's a big hour.
Liss wonders out loud when she'll be able to use the bathrooms at home without fear of stepping in pee.
The kids all enjoy their nudity, though Ellen is by far the champ.
Andrew's new saying is "No way!," which like any other idiom a toddler learns, he puts in the "wrong" context and overuses to the point of annoyance. However, I also think it's a safety valve that helps him keep calm, so there's that. We started out with the "Way!" and "Yes way!" counter-arguments, so to speak, but we've been getting away from that, as it encourages continued usage.
There's a kitty on Ellen's shirt in this picture that I'd posted before. At the twin sale, we got a dress and another shirt that also have kitties. It's her thing for now; she wanted to wear her new stuff right away ("kitty!"), but we always wash clothes before wearing them for the first time, new or used. So, she wore her new dress on Sunday, much to her delight. However, we took it off at bedtime, which she was not happy about. She was yelling "kitty!" from when it was off until she finally calmed down twenty minutes later. In disgust of the unfairness of it all, she threw her toothbrush some five feet - into the cat food.

This morning, when she woke up, she didn't call out for me, or Liss. She yelled for "kitty!"

While holding her downstairs as she woke up, I showed her that picture on my phone, not realizing there was a cat on the shirt. That was eight hours ago; I think if I hadn't suggested other things, like breakfast, she'd still be staring at it, pointing at the tiny cat, and saying "kitty!"

She's wearing the new shirt today.
The weekend turned out pretty well.

Saturday morning was the twin sale; we had some trouble wrangling the boys out the door - per usual - but it was fine once we were out the door. For the most part, Liss stuck to the clothing areas with Bobby and Ellen while Andrew and I went all around for the miscellany. It was fun when we'd find something near the others, because I'd just give it to him and he'd take it over, put it in our basket, and come back.

Also per usual, we ended up spending a lot more ($99) than we'd expected; as we found later, a little of that was due to Bobby sneaking things into the basket. Those things? Clothes for Ellen.

Saturday afternoon was a photo shoot that we'd bought on Groupon months ago, but we wanted to wait until Ellen was a little older and interactive. It was a pretty good experience; the photographer knew how to get the kids into it. As it turned out, the Groupon was a way to get us in the door and upsell us on more options, which worked. We're in the process of negotiating which four of the 100+ pictures we want to actually buy and get prints, but I think we already have three of those settled. Amy, who came with us, may end up playing tiebreaker.

Sunday morning was our normal brunch with friends. Their little boy is a few months older than Ellen, though bigger than the boys. They all enjoy playing with relatively novel toys - i.e. someone else's - though he never has more than one of anything, so sometimes the whole Share thing becomes a problem.

We were at a bit of a loss as to how to pass Sunday afternoon, except I knew we needed to make a Target run. Our brunch friends were going to take their boy to a pumpkin patch, so we opted that Liss find one and take the boys, while I put Ellen down for her nap and then did the Target thing.

The real takeaway is that there were very few meltdowns the whole time, and we didn't even have to administer any time outs. Bobby was less sullen than he'd been for a week, and Andrew might be getting over the extra-sensitivity of the last couple of months. Ellen was Ellen - our little sweetie.

October 16th+

Bobby's sickness - or at least I hope it's that reason, being temporary - meant that he whined every hour or two, all night long. Liss went to help him just before we went to bed, but otherwise, we just let him whine it out. I turned down the monitor, though not off.. Until he asked for us, we weren't going to go in and give him reinforcement.
The boys have learned to sniffle. I taught them how a couple of times, but they'll only just taken to it in the last month or so. The thing is, they do it a lot, instead of taking the time to actually blow the stuff out of their noses. However, given the lessened snot cleanup we now have to do, it's surely a net win.
Bobby is sick again. He started claiming such around 5:30 last night, but he only had a slight fever(*) of 99.4. The boys and I played a little baseball, then upon coming back in, Bobby wanted to lie on the sofa instead of eating dinner. He was showing other signs, like wanting to eat while sitting in Liss's lap(+). Liss asked if it hurts anywhere, and he said his chest, which means that despite the lack of fever, another respiratory infection might be coming.

After dinner we took his temperature again, and this time it was 100.0. Since the doctor said to start being more proactive about the albuterol, we gave him a couple of hits, and some Tylenol for the fever. He slept about as badly as he has for the last couple of weeks, so it's hard to say if being sick affected that. He had a "9" fever this morning.

One other note, they don't like their new humidifier in general, but he turned it on at bedtime. It's just part of their "sick" routine now, I guess.

(*) We have one of those digital forehead thermometers, and use the rule of thumb that if its display starts with a 1, you're sick, and if a 9, you're not. Part of the reason is that they'll sometimes claim to be sick when they're not, especially when one's brother is sick and therefore gets to have tasty, tasty medicine.

(+) He's still mad at me.
This morning, Liss called my new iPhone "the other woman."
Ellen's entered full-on "reject Daddy" mode, which may just be an extension of "Mommy only" mode, but still. This morning - she was up way too early - we were trying to get her to let me take her downstairs for breakfast and give Liss a few more minutes, but she was having none of it. She'd say "No! Mommy!" and walk back to wherever Liss was. And then the real coup, as I gave up and walked to the door: "Bye bye Daddy!" and waving to me.
Bobby's entered a grumpy phase, exacerbated but not exclusively attributable to the nighttime diaper thing. He readily admits his grumpiness. He's openly hostile to everyone, then becomes subversively hostile when we call him on it. He doesn't want anything to do with me half the time - he'd rather wait twenty minutes for Mommy to finish what she's doing and then help him. It hasn't been fun.
Saturday night, Andrew was whining enough over the monitor that I went in to see what was up. He said "nothing." After I left, I couldn't get back to sleep for almost two hours.

This is not endearing.
Ellen's default nickname has settled into Honeybear. Don't ask, because we don't know.
Our new gold standard Ellen picture.

We send calendars with pictures of the kids as Christmas gifts. Most of my pictures this year have been with the iPod, which only has a 2Mb camera; at that resolution, pictures blown up to calendar size get too grainy. We got the new iPhones this week, which have 8Mb resolution - more than adequate. But, that also means we only have a month or so to get a dozen great pictures.

The one above is a leading contender.

October 9th+

"Such a handsome boy!"

Yeah, we don't know where this came from, either.
As anyone could have predicted, Bobby was pissed at wearing a diaper to bed. Since I was the one to tell him and put on the diaper, he was pissed at me. He insisted that Liss be the one to brush his teeth, he sat in her lap for books (he always wants me), he didn't want me to say good night, etc. He woke around 6:30 screaming for her, except she was out running, and wouldn't let me touch him, let alone console him. So, I hung out with Andrew for thirty minutes while his brother yelled in the other corner.

By the time I was getting dressed for work, he'd come out wanting to wave bye from the window as I left, though he was still mad. There was definitely a "mad at you but love you" vibe about it.

If Liss had been the one to tell him and put on the diaper, she'd have borne the brunt, but it helps us to have a good cop.

In better news, the diaper was dry. Like the initial transition, he needs five dry mornings in a row to go back to underwear.
Bobby wet his bed again last night - that's five times in about ten days - so we have to follow up on what we said before bedtime, and put him in a nighttime diaper tonight.

I bought duct tape.
"Andrew's request," from Liss:
Would you please hold this bear for me so it won't get sad while I'm using the potty? That bear gets sad sometimes.
For the next diabetes study checkup, they want to take our blood in addition to that of the boys, for genetic marker/inheritence testing and the like. Since we've put the boys up for blood draws every three months for their entire lives, it'd be uber-hypocritical of us to refuse. That doesn't mean I'm looking forward to it, either, but at least the boys will see us doing it.

The study people have not asked for our poop in tubes.
One green light reward (see below) that does still work is the ability to help us bring in and put away the Saturday morning grocery delivery. One day, they'll realize that kids aren't supposed to like that kind of thing, but for now, we're happy to milk it, no pun intended.
Both of our cars were broken into Friday night. We found out by a neighbor coming by and pointing out that each had a door open. I went out and checked, and it was one of those quicky things where they open the compartments and looked for easy things to pawn. We don't lock them, you see, so we don't keep anything of value in them. They took $1.25 in change, but left a half-used checkbook that I'd dumbly had in the sedan. This was clearly a kid just passing by.

So. Why not lock our cars? I don't have a quick name for it, but it's the same general idea as harm reduction theory. The idea is that this way, no one's going to have to break a window to get into our cars and discover that there's nothing worth taking. We live in a semi-sketchy neighborhood, and I probably see a new pile of glass every month or so. This person didn't do that; we essentially said "whatever, look, there's nothing here, remember that next time and just walk on by, okay?" I guess they could have stuck around to pee on the seats or something, but skittish petty criminals just want to get in and out as quickly as they can.

Even the cars themselves aren't really worth stealing, especially since that would make noise, which is why I suspect this person didn't close the car doors or open the trunks. They probably could have gotten a few bucks for the kids' car seats, but those are a pain to get out and carry away, and we don't have the expensive ones or anything, partially for this reason.

Now, we're going to keep locking our house doors, of course. We were burgled in 2008 when I left a ground level window cracked, so I was just being dumb, there. But our stuff and we are in the house. Unlike the cars, there are things in there worth protecting.
Thursday the nanny brought the kids to Liss's work, at her invitation. Apparently, afterwards, Ellen told the nanny "Go. Momma. Thanks."
Toddlers are to logic as flour is to pizza - a lot more needs to happen before it's fully formed.

Friday the boys were riding their motorcycles outside, when Andrew stopped to go inside to poop - nice awareness. While he was gone, Bobby wanted to switch to baseball - no problem. Soon, though, Andrew'd finished his business, but wouldn't let Liss wipe him. I had to do it, according to him, and the fact that I wasn't magically standing there anticipating his desire was cause for a meltdown.

Liss, I presume, replied that I was still outside with Bobby, now playing baseball, which just poured jet fuel on the fire. "I want to play baseball!," he shouted through flowing tears of rage.

So, the only way to calm him down was for Bobby and I to come in, and then I wipe Andrew, but what he wasn't expecting was the time out afterwards. When he finally started to calm down, I tried to explain that, if he'd just let his Mom wipe him in the first place, he could already be outside playing baseball. Instead, his brother and I had to stop playing to come in and placate him, but the rest of the tantrum took so long that we weren't going back outside to play; dinner was almost ready.

Blank stares. Too much information to process. No, he wanted these two incompatible things, regardless of how others would feel about them, and he was affronted that we hadn't offered them before he'd told us he wanted them.

Nothing unusual.
The boys don't care anymore about getting stickers if they make it to the green light, except maybe once in a while they'll remember to ask. The tow/fire trucks they can play with for a few minutes are of limited effect. In general, though, they try to make the effort, anyway, even if that means lying. This morning, Liss had this to say about Bobby after he came out of their door upon the green light's illumination:
... his pants were soaked. So was his shirt. Smelled like pee. Stripped them off.

Me: Did you pee?
Bob: No, I just spilled water.
Me: Okay. Is there water on your bed too?
Bob: Yes, there is; I spilled water there too.
Me: Where did that water come from?
Bob: I just spilled water while I was sleeping, that's all.
Me: We need to try to keep your bed dry.
Bob: Well, I won't spill any more water tonight. I just spilled water today.
Yeah, you spilled water, all right - out of your bladder.

When he was sick last week, he wet his bed three nights in a row. I told him that if it happened the fourth night, he'd get a nighttime diaper again, and he lasted a week without. I'll have to tell him the same thing tonight.
The boys - and often Ellen - usually go to the window and say 'bye' as someone is leaving our house, including us. Late last week, Liss apparently had this exchange as she was leaving for work:

October 2nd+

We bought Ellen's mattress, but it's still rolled up and leaning against the wall in her room. Two things need to happen before we can make the transition. The easy one is to believe that she's ready, which she's might be. The other is getting all of our stuff out of there; it used to be a generic office and guest room, and there's a lot still there, and nowhere to put it.

Maybe by the new year.
Andrew and I both caught what Bobby was dealing with, though maybe affected a little less. Still, I asked Liss to take boy duty for the night, which I never do, so I could recover from that and the previous three-hour sleep night. It worked great for me, though she did have to suffer a few incidents. Bobby also wet his bed again just before I went to work, so that's three nights in a row for him. Maybe it's time to revert to diapers for a bit, though he'd go ballistic at the idea.

When Ellen was small, Liss got the short end of the baby-monitor stick, since she'd get up for some milk once or twice a night. Now it's my turn, since she sleeps like a log and the boys get up a lot when they're sick, and maybe once or twice a week when they're not. But, it's not a scoreboard, especially since the score is pretty close.

Update: Andrew was still asleep when Liss left for work at 8:45; usually they hop out of bed as soon as the green light comes on at 8.
Ellen's hair has been agonizingly slow to grow. It's now long enough that a barrette or hair tie can up the stakes, but it's still babydoll-dyke short. I probably need to trim her bangs a little - when Liss isn't looking - but the back barely has anything coming down.

We've seen lots of little girls her age with flowing tresses, but she's just behind in that regard, I guess.
From a book of theirs, the boys have it in their heads that every fire dog is a dalmatian named Sparky. They've played pretend fire truck, using our bed as the truck, and for some reason use a basketball as their "Sparky."

This weekend, Liss took them to a consignment fair, which by grand design had two different dalmatian dolls. Bobby got one that's a pretty standard stuffed animal; Andrew's is smaller but barks if you squeeze it (ugh). Fortunately, it's hard to do it correctly. At first, each boy kept pointing out how his Sparky was superior to his brother's - "mine's bigger!" "mine barks!" - but I think they're over that now.

There was also a monkey about the same size as Bobby's dog, so naturally Ellen has a new favorite.

Liss also picked up a bag of clothes there. This coming weekend is the twin club's sale, so after these two weekends, hopefully they'll be set for a while. We have boxes and boxes of stuff to give away, mostly clothes they've all outgrown.
From Liss:
We could really use a vacation around here. Don't you "London was just 2 months ago" me, we're ready for a chance to sleep in (God willing) and laze around--even one little day. There's nothing particularly bad going on, it's just everyday life that's intense and nobody in this neighborhood delivers gluten-free.

This week's news (and how is it only Monday?): After five respiratory infections in less than a year, Andrew has been given an official asthma diagnosis. Tomorrow I'll go pick up his new preventative steroid inhaler and we'll do a trial through the winter. Then this evening, Bobby had a fever of 101 and refused to eat anything more than one slice of apple at dinner. We read them fairy tales I'd borrowed from the school library and Bobby fell asleep before James even left the bedroom. Ellen, on the other hand, babbled for way longer than usual to her stuffed animals.

And then my male, straight husband came downstairs and put Bring It On into the DVD player.(*)

He rubbed my feet. We played our mindless computer games. There was a tiny bit of ganache leftover and I warmed it and drizzled it over ice cream. One reason I'll never be stick-thin is that it's too nice sharing desserts. We're a good team with the kids, and we still like each other with or without them. I whine a lot (internally, anyway) about wanting a break, but really? I have everything I need.
(*) To be fair, that movie has lots of girls prancing about in cheerleader outfits and spaghetti straps. I suspect a lot of straight men own it.
Sunday afternoon I took the boys to the park down the hill. It was cloudy, but I decided to risk it, but that turned south soon after we got there. A few drops are enough to get the boys running for cover. We took "shelter" in a little house-like thing at the top of a play structure - right next to the entrance to the slide where Bobby fractured his leg. I sat cross-legged and the boys snuggled into my lap. However, the house had a big hole in the roof (by design), so that wasn't the best plan. I moved to a different corner, and that helped a little, but I could tell the rain wasn't going to let up, and we were still getting a little wet. Plus, there was a big hole in the floor, too, because of a ladder going in, and that was scary for them. So, I offered to carry them to a nearby picnic shelter to wait it out in relative comfort, to which they agreed.

However, we weren't there long. To my surprise, they wanted to walk home in the rain. Less to my surprise, they wanted me to carry them home. That wasn't going to happen - 52 pounds of boys uphill? No. Instead, I offered to carry them to a close milestone spot, and then they'd walk.

They didn't walk from there, though, they ran all the way up the hill. It's almost certainly the first time they've done that; they usually dawdle, or at least plod. Maybe the imminent seven straight months of Seattle rain will spur them on more regularly.
It was a bad night. Bobby took sick sometime in the afternoon - maybe finally succumbing to what Andrew had - and it was showing. He wanted to lie on the sofa instead of eating dinner. He had a 101 fever. We gave him some Tylenol, got him to eat a tiny bit, and put them to bed.

At 2am, he called for me. He'd peed in bed and was very sad about it. And cold. I took off his clothes and wrapped him in a blanket while I took off the sheets. He'd done the same thing last week, and we'd removed the protective undersheet and not replaced it since, so the pee soaked through. I soaked up what I could with a towel, flipped the mattress, put on the clean undersheet hanging on a chair nearby (doh!) and a clean sheet, got him new clothes to put on, and held him for a few minutes to comfort and warm him before going back to bed. Standard.

Silver living, he'd pooped in a potty just before bed. Things could have been a lot worse.

I sort of went back to sleep, but then he called me again at 4am - or so I thought, except it was Andrew. He'd wet his bed - and blanket, and stuffed animals. I'm not sure what he was doing there, but he wore no pants to bed, so there was no first line of absorptive defense, as it were. Fortunately, he did have the protective undersheet. However, I couldn't find another one of their sheets downstairs, so I ended up putting one of our old unfitted twin sheet over his bed, with nothing left to put under. Liss later told me that there's a fresh sheet on top of their dresser, i.e. two feet from where I was. Oops. Anyway, new clothes, comfort, etc.

I'm really hoping they're not subconsciously (or not) viewing bedwetting as a way to get attention. They certainly seem miserable in the middle of it, but they do get attention and, later, comfort. These incidents are rare, but this makes three in a week (two for Bobby, one for Andrew).
From last week:
Ellen's become one of those girls that hoards stuffed animals. She has maybe fifteen in her crib now, though most are Beanie Baby sized. When one of us puts her to bed, we hand her several of them: "Here's your bird." "Buhd!" "And a bear." "Bayer!" and holds them close.
It seems I've been short-changing her. I just give her a few. Here she is after Liss recently put her down for the night, which she says is normal. I do, however, give her a blanket.
In her continuing quest to do what the boys do, Ellen peed into the potty ... standing up.

She's not exactly emulating them, though; none of her pee ended up on the floor.
Saturday I got time with just myself and Ellen, which was peachy. Liss and the boys left around 9, when I'd turned on the Aggie football game. We played a little bit, but soon she was making overtures of leaving. After she was dressed and ready, she went downstairs and brought my shoes back up, all the while saying "Go!" Okay, I'm not going to fight that. So, as halftime approached, we loaded up and drove to ... watch the game at a bar.

Now, this is a sports bar where other Ags were watching the game, so it wasn't a random deal. I'd brought the boys there a month ago, as an annual experiment to see how they can handle it. They kind of couldn't, in that sports watchers are prone to sudden yelling, and they had a lot of trouble with that. They ended up running around a lot in the area by the pool tables, which weren't in use at the time. We lasted a half. Also, there's not much on the menu that's gluten-free, so they had fries for lunch.

This time it was Ellen's turn. There were fewer people, but still a lot of random, sudden loudness, but she was just fine. Mostly she just looked at people with an "uh ... okay, whatever, dude" look on her face. She was in my lap most of the time, happily eating the gluten fettucini I'd ordered ("more pasta, pees!" "more chicken, pees!"). With a celiac brother, we're going to have to test her in a year or so, so she might as well enjoy it now - just in case.

Afterwards, I called Liss to touch base, and asked if we should come home or take a side trip. The verdict was the side trip, since no one was home, anyway. We drove to Fry's with the idea of also going next door for our frequent Target run. Ellen fell asleep on the way - which we knew she would - and thus had a 45 minute nap. That's pretty short (Sunday's was over two hours), but it turned out to be enough.

While in Fry's, we came across blond, identical twin boys, so I introduced myself. The boys were turning six the next day, and having a Star Wars theme party, though the dad said the movie(s) were probably too scary to screen at the party, so he was looking for other options. Now, just about every kid my age saw the original movie in the theater - we're talking ages 4-7 - so either parents have gotten more protective from imagery since then (likely), or those boys or some of their friends are just more high strung than normal. Now, I say my boys are high strung all the time, which is very true, so we might delay their introduction to such things, as well. They've been getting their immunizations on schedule, but the correct timing of a first Star Wars screening is actually important.

In departing, the dad said - in reference to Ellen - congratulations on your third, which might have been another soft "you're crazy" comment, which we readily admit.

After a quick trip to Target, we drove back home - this time she stayed awake - and still the others hadn't come back. So, we hung out for a bit, she had a snack, etc. All told, we had about six hours together. The only time either of us seems to get one boy is for a doctor's visit, because they hate to be separated, though more from jealousy than attachment that I can tell.
Ellen's eye teeth (canines) are coming in, so she won't have nearly the time with gaps that her brothers did. All in all, she seems to not be having any trouble with them; she's been her usual self.
The boys have watched the Toy Story movies enough that now when they jump for fun, they'll put their arms out and yell "To infinity ... and beyond!" as Buzz does. Of course, with their limited diction skills, it's more like "To finty - anbiah!" Yesterday Bobby must have done it thirty times from one of the stools.

Ellen, in her constant quest to do everything they do, still sticks to "ready, set, go!" but wants to jump from things she has no business jumping from yet, like those stools. Despite our spotting efforts, she must still tumble harder than she'd like two or three times a day, but then she usually gets right back up and tries again. Brave, or insane?

September 25th+

After his last visit, Andrew's pediatrician got in touch with Liss, saying that maybe it's time to declare him asthmatic and start him on a daily steroid inhaler. After all, he's had five respiratory infections in about a year. Bobby's not close behind, but I think the only reason she's not also talking about him is that he had a better time of it last week than Andrew, so we didn't take him in. If one goes, we'll probably go ahead and do the other.

Liss also says that, at a trip to the fair, Andrew started coughing in the goat pen, which she says just reinforces our gut wrenching decision not to get a pet goat.
Ellen's become one of those girls that hoards stuffed animals. She has maybe fifteen in her crib now, though most are Beanie Baby sized. When one of us puts her to bed, we hand her several of them: "Here's your bird." "Buhd!" "And a bear." "Bayer!" and holds them close.

When we get her in the morning, she grabs as many as she can hold ("heavy!"), and we have to ask her to leave them "so they'll be here for your nap." This morning I said she should leave them, but could bring one downstairs; she dropped her armload and picked up a bear.

There's also cross-pollination with the boys' animals, in that hers sometimes end up in their room, and vice versa. The same goes for books.
It's turning from summer to autumn here, which for Seattle means clouds, a little rain, and maybe some wind. It makes it harder to get the kids out to play away their energy, like on walks or the boys' motorcycles or parks. We went to a local park(*) over the weekend, and it got really blustery, to the point that the boys were stuck with fear. They'd cling to me and not move until it died down, which sometimes took a while.

Anyway, without being able to go out as much, they're limited to what they can do inside. Their first choice is often a movie (and you can guess which that usually is, based on previous entries), but they're starting to go there too often. It's time to encourage more constructive activties, like reading or drawing or just random play, all of which they're capable of but requires a little effort. Unfortunately, most of it also requires a little effort on our parts, as well, so the movie thing does have its appeal.

(*) Made more enjoyable, in my case, in that I guessed the management office's wireless password.
Sunday we were making a trip down the hill to Safeway and other nearby businesses, to pick up a few things, pass the time, and Death March the boys, as we now put it. Having them walk a lot appears to have a correlation with sleeping well.

Bobby was being a bit of a snit, almost to the point that I stayed at home with him instead, but we set off. Soon, though, he got ahead of us and didn't stop when we said to - very dangerous, that - so I picked him up and carried him back home, screaming the entire way (him, not me). I put him in the time out chair, but he got down immediately, which by routine meant I then strapped him into Ellen's booster seat.

Naturally, he was apoplectic over this, but through the yells and screams, I heard unexpected overtures. He wanted to go to the store with everyone else. He was sorry. He would be nice. It only took a couple of minutes for him to calm down, which might be a record; I was fully expecting to just wait with him at the house until the others got home, but he had gotten himself to the point where I thought sure, let's try it.

Lately, when Bob gets mad or sullen or sad, he goes quiet and gets clingy, especially to me, even if I'm the one disciplining him. When he withdraws like that, we revert to asking yes-or-no questions, and still might not get an answer. He regresses.

Anyway, we left the house to catch up to the others. The entire time, he held my hand and silently looked at the sidewalk. I tried pointing some things out that I know would normally interest him - flocks of birds, parked busses - but nothing.

Generally speaking, the boys are on a downward trajectory. They go from zero to meltdown over little things like they did a year ago, instead of making an effort to keep it together like they were a few months ago. We were told to expect it - that 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 are much worse than 2, 3, and 4 - but it's hard to keep an eye on the long term when there's a kid in your face, screaming so harshly that he has a violent coughing fit and throws up on his own shirt.
It takes forever to see a dermatologist in this town; Ellen saw one today from an appointment made ages ago. However, since it's no longer hot and [as] humid around here, she's naturally better than she's been. Still, any advice is better than none.

The derm said it was just dry skin, though, which ... okay. That seems odd to me, given that she'd get raised red rashes, but I'm not the doctor. However, I went to about ten doctors for my own skin issues, complete with blood draws, chest x-rays, various creams and so on, with "dry skin" being the end result. I certainly hope she doesn't have what I have, because it affects a lot of things, but I don't get rashes from mine.
From Liss:
[Upon getting her from her crib in the morning,] Ellen had her sleeper unzipped and diaper unfastened (but not removed). I guess that's one way to entertain yourself while Mom finishes a last-minute pre-work e-mail.
Eighteen months old.

September 18th+

The boys are still obsessed with the Toy Story series, which is fine with us, since it amounts to maybe an hour's peace every couple of days. Earlier this week, though, Bobby declared that he wanted the third movie, but Andrew said he wanted the second. It's often the case, in my informed opinion, that they'll often disagree just to disagree; one will express a desire and the other will then insist on a different course. This is completely opposite of what happens when, say, there is only one of a certain toy, in which case they both want it.

Anyway, Liss and I had already wondered aloud when we'd be able to teach the boys rock-paper-scissors. As a longtime player myself, I can see how it will be useful for getting them to solve their own disputes, i.e. not getting us involved in their petty, pointless disagreements. However, we decided that they're not ready.

Instead, I grabbed a quarter and taught them what the heads and tails looked like and were called, and then showed them about flipping it, then explained that we could use that to figure out which movie to watch. Like you're supposed to do with toddlers, I explained that if it landed on heads, we'd watch TS2, and if tails, TS3. I made sure to get them both to say okay to the opposition-wins scenario, and then flipped.

It was heads, which long story short, meant Bobby had lost. Then the surprising thing happened ... he was cool with it.
Andrew's illness took a turn for the worse last night, while Bobby was getting better.

At some point near dinnertime, Andrew was lying on the couch, half-asleep ("resting"). I gave him some Tylenol for his 101 fever, and he woke up a bit, so I carried him to the dinner table. Then he puked.

Some of it got on me, most on the floor, some on him, etc. To settle his stomach, Liss grabbed a juice box to give to him. Bobby said he wanted a juice box, too, but I said sorry, you hadn't thrown up, and we only have a few. He then spent the next ten minutes telling us how he wanted to throw up. He even went into the bathroom and did some heinous coughing. However, no puke, so no juice box. This is what happens when stubborn meets stubborn.

We sat to dinner, but Andrew wasn't eating. Much of the time, he just lay in his chair. However, he didn't want us to take his food away. Eventually - after Bobby and finished and was ready to go to bed - he started eating, and actually ended up with a fair amount in him. With all of that and potty and so on, they got to bed an hour late. Ugh.

Andrew woke around 3:30 calling for me - "There are dinosaurs in the room!" - and I never got back to sleep. He kept - from what I could gather - coughing up just enough stomach acid to burn his throat, yelling from the pain, and then yelling from the pain that the previous yelling caused. Then he'd fall back asleep until it happened again later. There wasn't much we could do about it - you can't give Pepto to a three-year-old, and he had a bottle of water with him - so we just waited for him to specifically call for us, which didn't happen until 7:20 or so.

We might be taking him to the doctor today, after assessing him this morning.
Update: He puked up his apple juice this morning, so to the doctor's it was. The only time Liss could get was the morning, and she had a busy day at work coming, so I took the train back home. Bobby really wanted to come with us, but I didn't need the potential disruption of that, so it was just Drew and I, as Bobby's wails faded in the distance.

He was, as usual, a model patient. They said it was the same thing he's gotten a few times before - a respiratory infection. This happens about every time he gets a cold, so they're one step away from calling it asthma. We'll be looking for the ear infection follow-up next week, just from experience, though the doctor saw nothing today. This is Andrew's fifth infection in a year (Bobby's had ... three?). It's to where I can just text "resp inf" to Liss.

The only real takeaway from the visit was that we're not recognizing the signs and treating it aggressively or early enough. When they start showing any coughs or congestion, we should go ahead and dose them. If there's any fever, give them Tylenol.

Fortunately, his fever had gone down to normal by the time we got to the clinic, and Bobby's more or less back to normal.
From Liss:
Back in my Girl Scout camp counselor days, I could lull an entire cabinful of homesick Brownies to sleep with a long, overly descriptive story.

That didn't work on sad, coughing Bobby last night.

I got the 3 bears out the door, babbled for 10 minutes about their walk up the hill and alllll the things they saw ... and then Bob very quietly said: "Can you tell me the one about the three pigs now?"
Ellen has a minor obsession with pictures of other babies. She'll come up to one of us (usually Liss) while at our computers and ask for "Fan-sis," which means she wants us to get onto Facebook and go through pictures of Frances, the baby daughter of friends. It's cute. We actually hung out with Frances and family a couple of weeks ago, which blew Ellen's mind a little bit.
The boys are sick, which made for a long night. At first I thought it was allergies, but now it looks like a cold or something. We did get a couple of long stretches where they were both out (two then four hours), so we're not dragging terribly for it.

They broke their humidifier a couple of months ago, so they had to do without last night. I just picked up another one, and maybe they'll treat it more kindly this time. In the long run, I'm not optimistic.

I also double checked cold medicines, which still say Six And Up. So, it's more Benadryl to help knock them out, but not really assuage their symptoms.

One of the times I went to help Bobby, he kept reaching out and pulling me closer. It was nice.

I'd just noticed to myself yesterday that I hadn't gotten ill despite Liss returning to her elementary school job, not to mention the high school kids coming back to my train commute. After last night's closeness to sick boys, though, maybe that'll be over soon.
The boys each have a new favorite toy. The best part for us is that they don't make any noise, but we still don't want them to play with them in front of us. Fortunately for them, they get to take them everywhere they go, including to bed, and there's nothing we can do about it.
I came home last night to find Ellen wearing underwear, which is daring, but not surprising, since she wants to do everything her brothers do. However, Liss's primary thought about it was that she didn't like her wearing their underwear. It's boys' underwear. She's a feminist and all, as am I in the male sense, but Ellen's existence has definitely shown us to be, on many occasions, rampant hypocrites.

Similarly, almost all of my addresses to Ellen include some version of my Honey nickname for her. The closest the boys have is "Little Man," which I do a fair amount, but not to the level of endearedness that she gets.

Anyway, Ellen peed in those underpants at some point, which isn't surprising, but hopefully was a learning experience. The boys are officially potty trained, and they started out likewise, and later.
The boys have been getting more confident about what they can do with their bodies, but perhaps a little too much so; they've been getting some skinned-up elbows and knees lately. It doesn't help that they like to run around outside with no pants (just underwear) on. Kids learn by doing, as they say; if we insisted on pants then they wouldn't notice the difference, so we just have to let them take their lumps and figure it out.
Our nanny is taking three weeks around Thanksgiving to visit family. The original idea was for Liss to take the kids to work in the mornings for some days, and I'd take off work and pick them up for the afternoons. For a few days, I'd just take the whole day off. This was cushioned by the fact that my workplace is making everyone pare down their accrued time off, anyway.

As time passed, though, I came to decide that we'd just find someone else for that time. Liss is in a classroom half the time now. I want to use my time off for myself, or at least for hanging out with Liss or making doctor/dentist appointments, not for the stress I get from having all three to myself. It won't cost us any more money, since we're not paying the nanny during her time away, so ... this just seemed like the better solution.

Liss can handle all three pretty well - witness the summer - but I can't. Maybe it's a male/female thing, I don't know, but I do know that I have a much shorter fuse when someone else isn't there to take some of the load off.

September 11th+

The boys enjoy taking their "motorcycles" throughout the neighborhood. The wrinkle is that we live on a hill. They're pretty good about staying safe with the downhills, so that's not the issue. It's coming back up that puts a damper on the whole thing. They're not strong enough to ride the bikes up, and we refuse to carry them. Liss taught them a way to push them on two wheels, but it still takes triple the time of just walking.

So, we'll probably institute a rule about not taking them around during the work week, or something. Time is tight then, as we have about an hour and a half to play, Liss prep dinner, we eat dinner, and get them ready for bed. We don't want thirty of those minutes to be spent trudging up a hill and having everyone cranky for it.
Bobby's got a bit of an accent or something, in that he'll turn an 'I' sound into 'OI'. For example, he'll say "Oi want milk" or "That's moi underwear." Andrew has a touch of it, but it's not nearly as pronounced as his brother's.

Everyone has linguistic tics. I say "fer" for "for" and "yuh" for "you" a lot, as do many people. Their beginning sentences with "Well, ..." comes from both of us. However, mostly due to subtle peer mockery since leaving Texas, I've had "y'all" mostly stamped out of me, so I guess the kids won't be taking that one to Kindergarten.
Andrew's new thing is for me to count to 20 for him, except he wants me to whisper it ("I want it quiet.") Last night I did it four times in a row during the two minutes I "hold" each boy at bedtime. I'm not sure what the appeal is, but hey, if he wants math, he'll get math.
The kids like playing with water. They do not like getting wet, especially their clothes, not that they think to remove them or anything beforehand.

You can guess the drama that follows. A boy will complain "My shirt got wet!" and our response, shall we say, lacks sympathy.
Sunday we did some divide and conquer, with Liss taking the boys while I stayed with Ellen during her nap. She woke after three hours(!), and after a snack I packed her up to go to Value Village to look for Halloween costumes.

When the boys got wind of what I was doing, after I'd informed Liss of our plans, they announced what they wanted: Bobby a bear, Andrew a lion, and they decided for Ellen in absentia that she wanted to be a monkey. Oh, and they said Liss wanted to be an elephant and I a giraffe. Uh huh.

Anyway, we got there, and it seems we're not the only ones who think of thrift stores for Halloween costumes. They had a large area near the front with a lot of new pre-fab costumes. That worked out fine, since they were cheap and the selection was good. However, there was no lion or monkey. There were also firefighter ones, which I thought both boys might agree to, which ... why else does one have twins, if not for matching costumes? However, while Bobby agreed to the switch, Andrew still wanted to be a lion.

With no lion costume in sight, I texted a picture of a tiger one to Liss to get Andrew's opinion. He approved. Seeing this, Bobby wanted a picture of the firefighter costume. He approved. So, two kids down, one to go.

I also ended up getting five books - three for the kids. It's very nice to be able to preview a book before committing to it, since that commitment may include dozens of readings. Then, it's also very nice to only pay 69 cents for it.

Ellen got a little bored in her stroller, so I let her wander a bit, which she had no qualms about doing. I had to follow her around quite a bit to keep an eye on her, but the only things she messed with - i.e. showed an interest in - were the books, which isn't something to discourage.

Liss says her time with the boys was lovely, mostly browsing and reading books as well.
Ellen's peed in the potty four times now, out of maybe a hundred attempts. Her frequency will improve. Her frequency of asking pointedly for an M&M after an unproductive attempt, however, has nowhere to go but down.
Andrew was overly sensitive this weekend, and we were overly cranky(*), so there was frustration on both sides. It all ended up okay, but he had a lot of quick meltdowns with a frequency we haven't seen for almost a year. Heck, maybe he's sensitive to the "heat."
(*) Work stress and "heat," by which I mean 85, and 80 in the house.

September 4th+

I've been telling the boys a little bit about Santa so they know the score in three months. At some point they asked "Why can't we see him?," which kind of came out of nowhere, since I hadn't said that, but maybe someone else did. Anyway, I said it's because he comes when you're asleep. In fact, I said, there's a song about it.

That's when I launched into that part of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, except I ran into a snag. You see, I did Rocky Horror for some years, and there's a callback line that uses that lyric, which I had to stop myself from completing:

He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows when you've been bad or good
Or when you masturbate


... It's been so long, I had to Google the right words.
One of the fun things about leaving small children to their own devices is that they might come up with something creative. That's also the danger.

Last night Bobby went into the bathroom and shut the door, which we're encouraging now as they need less supervision over time. However, he emerged with the hand towel and gave it to me to ... I'm not sure what. He'd wiped himself with it. While we want them to learn how to do that eventually, they don't have the coordination yet. So, that was a fun bit of sidetrack.
Ellen got an M&M after peeing in the potty, so now when she just sits on it, she demands one. Sorry, kid, that's not how it works. She puts on a highly cute combination of hopeful expectation and scornful indignance, which makes it harder to refuse her, but we're tough.
Something's going on with Ellen. Her occasional fussiness is now a pair of full-blown tantrums a day. She'll howl for reasons unknown - even though she has the words to tell us most things - and won't let us try to help her. We joked last month that she's already two in some respects, but now it's looking more true than ever. It's like she's skipping ahead to the Terrible phase. If that's the case, here's hoping she skips out of it sooner, too.

Before, she was very much a Momma's girl, and that's still mostly the case, but she wants me more often lately. That means rejecting Liss, which the boys already tend to do much of the time. Though that's tapered off, she's still starting to feel like the odd parent out sometimes.
You have served us well, O Diaper Bin, but your time has passed. To make room for the new stool, and given that our need for your services has greatly dwindled in recent months, it was time to put you to pasture. Alas, while your capacity to hold garbage has not diminished after three+ years of faithful service, your chronic stench compels us to relegate you to the dump. Go forth, faithful Bin, and live among that which you held, and may you befriend and share stories with those who shared a similar burden. While your time with us was short, your stalwart service shall live on in our hearts.
We wake up early, even on the weekends, and Liss still goes for her runs much of the time. Sunday morning she was out and I was downstairs when I heard the boys leaving their room for the potty. There's nothing exceptional about that, but it usually means that they'll be trying to find me afterwards to wipe them and/or put their sleep clothes back on. So, I went up preemptively, only to find Bobby doing a first - pooping in the toilet instead of the potty. There he was, stark naked, tiptoes on the stool(*) he'd used to get up there, with his butt barely hanging over the lid. I got pictures. They will not be posted.

I think this newfound self-emphasis is because we told them that pretty soon they'll have to use the toilet instead of potties to their get candy rewards.

Andrew tried the same thing later, but peed at the same time, so it all went on the floor. We'll need to train them to do one then the other until they're comfortable pointing things downward into the toilet, but for now their balance is too precarious. We have a helper seat, but they didn't like it two months ago; maybe it's time to try again.

Usually after these early potty breaks, they're happy to go back to bed, but they don't go back to sleep. It's amazing how well they seem to get along during these times; they can easily spend an hour like that, talking and exploring their room and whatnot, without a single contentious sound coming over their monitor.
(*) No pun intended.
It was only once out of dozens of sits, but

Ellen peed in the potty.
The boys start a lot of their sentences with "Well, ..." They mostly get this from me.

And Bobby has started calling me "Daddy-O" a lot. I have no idea where he got it, but I kind of like it.
I was driving the boys in the sedan during broad daylight, but the half-moon was out. I pointed it out to them. The highway is a little curvy, though, so it went out of Bobby's field of vision. When it came back, he said "There's another moon!"

Being the earth science person I am(*), I couldn't let that go, so I said no, there's only one moon. He said two. We went back and forth, but in a playful way, so we were laughing about it. The road curved again, so pretty soon he pointed out a "third" moon. We had a further joke, and even reprised it later at home.

But there's only one moon, kid. I shall be vindicated!
(*) b.s., meteorology
Our van wouldn't start Saturday afternoon, which threw our weekend for a loop. We can't fit everyone in the sedan, so we had to do a lot of divide and conquer. That's fine, though it limits what the carless person can do. I had a lot of boy time on Saturday, and an Ellen excursion Sunday.

Since our destination before discovering the van problem was the nearby ice cream shop, we opted to walk to the train station to get there. It added about an hour to the trip, which is a mixed bag. Our entire weekend existence is spent passing the time while keeping them civil, but we'd still like to do so efficiently.

August 28th+

It's 8pm on the Friday before Labor Day, and I'm still at work. The family has had dinner, and Liss has put the kids to bed. Ugh.

I guess now, in a twisted way, I'm glad they woke up before I came here.
Ellen's wakefulness has definitely become a pattern, at five times in the last week. Today it was at 6am, and that's after some whinery earlier.

She'd been clockwork for months, not making a peep until at least 7. This may be the start of a trying stretch.
An actual conversation that Liss had with a male stranger who stopped her in our neighborhood:
A routine has developed for the time between I get home from work and the kids' bedtime: This involves being outside for about 45 minutes. Just this week, the automatic lights outside everyone's doors and carports have started to come on before we go back in; they are activated by lack of light. The boys have noticed, so they ask about it, so we've tried to explain how it's going to start getting dark earlier and earlier. The equinox is just three weeks away, and the difference of time-of-sunset each night is the greatest at the equinoces (and least at the solstices). Plus, it's been mostly sunny here for a couple of months, but sometime in September, the rains begin. And then, we'll all fall back with the time change, and it'll be dark before I get home.

The garage is basically storage space for their outdoor toys now, which we may need to enhance in the coming months. All of that outside activity helps wear them down, not to mention giving Liss a break from child care and a chance to start dinner.
Bob's first two nights in underwear were fine.
Bobby's getting more defiant, which is saying something. He was already the headstrong one.

They say the "halves" are harder, so we may be seeing the start of a four-month slide until the boys turn 3 1/2 and then a slow ascent to decency. That's what happened in their twos.

Maybe Christmas will help us - you know, the whole naughty or nice thing.
Last night at dinner, Bobby was counting family members. He was the second in his progression, and once he skipped himself and declared Liss as "two" before correcting himself and saying "two" for himself. It's a small thing, but they didn't used to self-correct like that; any mistakes and they'd just plow through and end up with whatever they ended up with. It's nice to see a little critical thought.
Last evening I was outside with the kids, with the boys riding their tricycles ("motorcycles") and Ellen wandering about and sometimes interacting with us. Along came a neighbor and her almost 2-year-old daughter. We'd seen each other and maybe exchanged a pleasantry here or there, but this time they stopped and we talked for a while.

As is true to form, the boys stopped what they were doing, sat on their trikes near me, and stared. When it's just us, they have strong opinions and desires, and don't hesitate to shut up about them. If a stranger appears - even with another toddler - they clam up.

We call Ellen the social one, but she came over, sat in my lap, and was also quiet. The woman's daughter was much more chatty than any of ours, which again you'd never know when it's just the family together.
It's gotten so that Ellen's usually down at bedtime until after 7am, so it's unusual that she's woken up crying for Mommy twice in the last few days. Once was at 6am, and the other last night at 9pm. Both times Liss was out, so I went in to comfort her, which just intensified the "Mommy!" cries at first until she'd calm down in a minute or two.

For the 6am (Saturday) one, she wasn't going to go back to bed, so we just went downstairs to start the day. Unfortunately, the boys heard her soon afterwards, so everyone was up early. It wasn't a good sign, and there was crankiness later.

Last night's was better; she lie on my chest and shoulder for a while, then I asked if she was ready to go back to her crib, and she said "yeah" quietly like she does, I tucked her in, and that was that. Hopefully, though, this isn't a precursor to worse sleep. She might be starting up a bad dream phase or something.
Bobby made it - five nights in a row with a dry diaper. Tonight we'll put on the absorbent undersheet, and he can wear underwear to bed.

He might have transition issues, but in the grand scheme of things, we're done with diapers on the boys.
"Love that girl."
The bag of M&Ms hanging on the bathroom door is supposed to be the last one that rewards the boys for using their potties. The idea is that when that one runs out, the next one will be only for when they use an actual toilet. However, for all of Sunday, they used their potties but never bothered to ask for the candies. We've instructed the nanny - who starts back up today - to let it be their idea from now on. If that bag depletes, we'll still make the incentive switch(*), but it may not get to that point.

Andrew has been sleeping in underwear for over a week now, with no accidents. We told Bobby that he was under the same standard that let Andrew switch - five days in a row with a dry diaper in the morning. As of Sunday morning, he'd gone three.

They do kind of cheat, in that they'll sometimes come out of their room to use the potties at 6am or so. Actually, I think it's more that Andrew does it and Bobby follows suit. It wouldn't be a problem except that they then don't want to go back to sleep.

At least Andrew doesn't seem to be peeing in their closet anymore. However, he did have a problem during a quiet time, which I got there just in time to witness him naked, dashing to the bathroom with his hand on his butt, trying to keep emerging poop from falling to the floor. Besides his hands, though, everything ended up in the potty, so I'd say that was a success on his part.

Ellen, meanwhile, now wants to use the potties after the boys do, just about every time. It's making her cloth diaper management more difficult, but it's not like we're going to say no, either. I predict she'll produce something within a month, with all this practicing she's doing.

(*)At the same time, we'll also announce that they don't get to choose the color(s) anymore. It slows things down.
We've only just noticed, but all four of Ellen's first molars have broken through. This would neatly explain her relative crankiness over the last couple of weeks.

Like her brothers, and as the chart shows is normal, she'll have a gap where here eye teeth (cuspids) are, until those decide to come in later.

August 21st+

For Wednesday, the boys' pre-school said to bring in two toys per child. Each kid would take home one of the other kids' toys, and the other half would be donated.

Liss enlisted the boys' help to choose which to take, though we wanted to favor the ones that made annoying noises. We ended up only taking one of those, plus five others, so a little extra.

It seems that everyone else had the same plan we did, only they fulfilled it better. The boys brought home two annoyingly noisy toys.
The boys' twice-a-week pre-school is in Bellevue, about a 40 minute drive each way depending on traffic. That's pretty ridiculous, but it's a new place started by a former co-worker of Liss's, and it's a good program. During the summer, Liss has used the time to spend a few hours with just Ellen, which is a nice bonus. When she goes back to work, though, it'll just be the nanny, and only once a week, so the attraction is lessened.

The thing is, there just aren't any good programs near us. We're in a relatively poor neighborhood, and pre-schools follow the money. There's a program attached to Liss's school, which she'll probably give a chance in a year, when it's time to put them in for half-days through the week. We'll see.
When you turn off an iPod Touch, you don't really turn it off; it goes into a kind of sleep mode. There's only one prominent button, so small children will often push it, which brings up the lock screen. You have to swipe a bar across the bottom to unlock it and get to the real screen.

Ellen picked mine up and was playing around with the lock screen when she noticed the lock bar moved when she swiped it a little. So, she did it a little more. And more, until ... she finally unlocked it.

The boys haven't figured this out yet.
Yesterday the boys were jumping from the third step of the staircase, a new record. They might have snuck in the fourth sometime, but we didn't want them to. The rest of us would cheer them on with "yay!" as they landed.

Ellen kept climbing to the first step and "jumping" down, i.e. stepping off the one step to the floor. They she'd go "yay!"

She's sat on the potty a few times. She only stays for several seconds, and nothing happens, but she's just practicing. That's the important part.

The lesson is, if the boys do it, she wants to do it.
Seventeen months old.
Ellen's new-to-her cloth diapers have several snaps on them to grow with the kid. Ellen goes "click!" when you snap them on or off. We refer to them as her click diapers.

We only have four of them, so some shopping may be in order.
From Liss:
Summer is winding down. It's hard work taking care of three little kids on my own, but I'm finding myself far more reluctant this year to return to my job. This SAHM gig isn't as hard as it used to be, and the moments of sweetness and hilarity are becoming more frequent.

The nanny was here for most of today. I was presenting a workshop this afternoon, and I needed part of the morning to finish getting ready. The presentation went smoothly, the technology worked, and I struck the right balance of clear, valuable content with humor and cynicism. The evaluations I saw were excellent. When I walked out, I felt not just smart but prettier, cooler--despite the fact that my topic was by far the dorkiest one on offer.

The person who had asked me to present works for the non-profit that put together the conference. We've been e-mailing quite a bit, but I hadn't seen her in person since late fall of 2009. At that point, I was 5 months pregnant with Ellen, feeling happy but frumpy and round; she was trim and pretty, with a similar librarian-lite non-style to my own. Now she's 6 months post-partum herself and on the round side and somewhat more tired. The thing is, though, when I looked at her I still saw the pretty librarian-lite, not the extra weight. Too bad I couldn't have felt that way about myself. She probably doesn't either.

Anyway, after my session I went and had tea all by myself for an hour, then went home. There the nanny greeted me with news that she has an appointment next Wednesday and will be quite late.

And I almost cried. Next Wednesday, you see, is our first furlough day, but James and I had decided that we'd have the nanny come anyway and he'd take the day off too(*). Since it's a school day for the boys, we'd have the house to ourselves for a while in the morning and then go out for lunch and a movie. Sounds nice, right? But now we don't get the time to ourselves at home. Booooo. Maybe it sounds dumb to whine about that; after all, we're both home most nights. But I'd been looking forward to it--do you have any idea how long it's been? We could have gotten some cleaning done, or painted a bit--or just sat around pretending it was 2006(+).

Tomorrow I have my last math enrichment sessions in the morning. Wednesday is a normal school/Mommy-Ellen day. Thursday I have a school meeting, and Friday we're going downtown to visit James at work. And that's it. I'd meant to take the kids swimming, to see more teacher/SAHM friends, to go to the Museum of Flight and the beach and the farmer's market.

There will be other chances. And now we start our tally to Winter Break.
(*) My work is making everyone deplete down their accrued time off, so I have days to burn. Might as well spend some of it with my wife.
(+) Ah, heady times, when we could clean or paint at will.
Ellen is having a hard time with the concept of possession, i.e. sorry, honey, but you don't possess everything. She'll grab things from her brothers, we try to reason with her to give them back, then she gets mad when we force her hand. She'll even throw tiny tantrums over it, but they pass quickly enough. Liss noted that, in a lot of ways, she's already behaving like she's two.

It's like not she's alone. Bobby, especially, loves the concept of sharing when someone else has to share with him. When he's the one to share ... not so much. He did come around last night in a "chocolate milk" exchange, though.
Blog post, A dialogue with Sarah, Aged 3: In which it is shown that if your dad is a chemistry professor, asking "Why" can be dangerous.

We almost had "Why is the sky blue?" come up recently; when Andrew asked why there was blue light coming in at dusk, I said "Because the sky is blue, and its light is coming in." Liss and I both knew the classic question was coming, except it didn't. My degree is in meteorology, so you can imagine the possibilities. However, I've found toddler-sized explanations for rain and clouds so far, so I guess I would have done will do the same if when they ask.

Also, the post shows how the cascade of "Why?" can be relentless, but you also have to remember that the "Why?" can interpreted several ways. That guy asks his daughter so he's clear what she wants to know, but we don't do that as much as we should.
At the birthday party Sunday, I suggested the boys use the toilet before the long trip home. They agreed, but needed a little help. There was a child stool in there, so they stood on it, but it was still too far ... sort of. They got most of it in, but peed on the seat a lot, which I'd wipe as they got down. It was a team effort.
Whoever said "There are no stupid questions" never raised a toddler.
I can't think of a good way to say it, because I mean it as a compliment - sometimes it's easy to forget that Ellen's around. This happens to me at dinner, especially: as the boys talk and ask questions and we try to have our own chats, she just sits in her chair and eats her food. Occasionally she'll pipe up with requests for more or something, and I'll kind of think "Oh, yeah! Ellen's there!"
How do we fill our weekends? Actually, a more appropriate question is, how do we fill their weekends? They're not ours. We just plan, supervise, drive, feed, change, discipline, etc.

We went to the birthday party of a 4-year-old boy yesterday, and there was another there, as well. Both of their mothers had the attitude of "Oh, he's around here somewhere" while doing whatever they were doing. We just can't trust our boys like that, but neither could those boys' mothers a year ago. Here's hoping for a similar "awakening" of responsibility in ours in the next year.

August 14th+

I think our boys are like Hobbes, and we're Calvin. When anyone else is around - visitors, or we're out in public - they're generally cute and shy and follow us around.

When it's just us at home, they can be tigers.
The boys still resist using toilets, but Liss is starting to think that if we go, they'll go, especially when out and about. While at the zoo, she needed to go, and they went with her, and decided it was a good idea. So, now they've each used a toilet instead of just the sit-down potties.

Of course, they weren't tall enough to whizz in the zoo's toilet on their own. So, they stood on her feet.

She follows up with "When they were done, they told me 'Daddy said we have to shake our penis after we pee' and proceeded to crank them up and down like light switches about 10 times each."
Liss took the brood to the zoo yesterday, along with my visiting dad and step-mother. Apparently, upon being strapped into his car seat for the trip home, Andrew announced to Liss that he was "going to play with my penis the whoooole waaay!"
Most toddler humor is based on simple incongruity, like holding a blue ball, declaring it to be yellow, then giggling about it. Or, after we read the boys' books at bedtime, they both will say "Read my book!" as though we hadn't yet - and then giggle about it.

Andrew's gone the next step. He'll shake his cup of milk (with lid on), and declare that he's making a milkshake.
From Liss:
Now I want another vacation. London was great and I'd like to return, but I think what I'm missing most right now are these things:

- Spending copious amounts of grown-up time with James. It's true that we get at least 2 hours alone together every night, but after working and kid-wrangling all day, we don't have the energy to do much more than watch TV or finish cleaning up. On kid-free vacation, we went to museums. We thought about history and politics. We walked all over the place. We devoured gluten at every meal, dammit. We had the energy to joke and flirt and girl-watch. It would have been fine to do some things separately, but we spent all day together and still liked each other. It was great.

- Being spontaneous. We picked restaurants that were nearby when we decided we were hungry. We decided at 6 pm to go out to a bar for pub quiz. We debated various destinations before deciding on Wednesday to spend Thursday night in Cardiff. We had a lot of gelato. Because we could.

Obviously we wouldn't have to cross the Atlantic or even the state to have these things again. Someday it will be like that even when we're home. We only have 14 years left on our mortgage and we're saving like crazy for retirement. Our golden years are gonna be awesome.

Eventually--maybe in 5 years?--we'll be able to travel with the kids and still be somewhat sponataneous and have some time to ourselves. That will be good too.
From Liss:
3.09 years into this parenting adventure, I'm sometimes wistful for the ease of the pre-kid days, but acknowledge that it's hard to even remember what life was like back then. A few friends' Facebook posts have reminded me of some details.

-- "I can't hang out this weekend, I have to do laundry and pack." People with kids do laundry every damn day. Our suitcases are filled with basketballs and board books if we're lucky, far grosser things if we're not. James and I packed for London about an hour before we left for the airport--when else could we have done it? And you know what? We only forgot one thing: his spare glasses. No big deal. Let's not discuss the fact that we've been home for a week and our suitcases are still not 100% unpacked (nor the pile of my clothes that's been on Ellen's floor since April).

-- "I can't help you with your surgery recovery, I have to clean. I'm having a party next weekend." OK, this one's pathetic whether you have kids or not, but my standards for company were never that high and they have dropped considerably since I had kids. Playing the twin card helped with that. Then again, we now have no way to get home repairs done. To get the carpets steam-cleaned, I took the kids out and James stayed home to wrestle machinery. I really want to re-paint the entry hallway (it's gross), but that's not something the kids can really be around.

-- "Who wants to go see [Awesome Local Band] tonight? It's an early show, so you'll be fine at work tomorrow." Well, that sounds great, assuming I can get a babysitter. And assuming nobody has a nightmare or a diaper blow-out. And assuming my worried little brain will let me get to sleep anyway.

-- "You have to try [yoga, fencing, sous vide cooking, making your own wine]! I'll take a class with you." I'd love to. Can you wait 10 years, or can the kids participate? I work out while you are sleeping. At 5:45 every single morning, I'm running--because I have to get home in time for James to get ready for work. Because of my kids, it's so much effort for me to get to yoga class on time that I spend the first 10 minutes unwinding from that stress and I feel like I'm running behind.

I'm trying not to complain or whine. We chose this willingly, happily. These aren't judgments of others on my part, more ogling at how the Other Half lives. My kids will get easier and easier, physically. Someday we we'll just drag them along to an all-ages show (or, hell, to London). They'll be able to read their own dang food labels and they'll know all the secret names where gluten likes to hide. They'll become more and more useful at doing laundry and cleaning.

Meanwhile, y'all have fun tonight.
The boys started their lives in cloth diapers, because Liss's parents paid for the service that picked them up and dropped off clean ones. When that ran out, we went to disposables. With two infants, it wasn't worth the expense on top of a roughly equal amount of hassle.

On our UK trip this month, a friend gave us a set of diapers and covers, which Ellen is now wearing. It's not as big of a deal now, with the boys in underwear all day and she only needing three changes a day. Plus, she'll probably leak less, since she has no penis, which tend to, uh, introduce stream variability.

If this works out, we may just take the diaper bin out of its bathroom altogether, in order to fit a stool so the boys can use the sink on their own.
Throwing a ball is easier than catching one, but I guess I never thought about it quite as much as I have lately. I've had ample opportunity to do so, as the boys can throw a ball decently by now, but still can't catch one for crap. I'm especially afforded time to think about these things when they have to run to get a ball that's rolling down the street after a miss.

Mathematically speaking, all else being equal, the margin of error is much greater for throwing than for catching. If you throw the ball in the general direction of your partner, and he(*) has catching skills, he will move his body and/or hand(s) to correct for any errors you make. However, catching skills require learning how to make those corrections, in addition to what is the boys' equally faltry(+) secondary problem so far - getting a grip on the ball before it bounces out of your hands.

There's a concept in math called a limit. Whereas x/0 is undefined, the limit of x/y as y approaches zero is infinity. That is, x/y gets bigger as y gets smaller.

As the error of a throw increases, the odds of the catcher compensating decreases. With what we might call an infinite error - throwing the ball infinity feet away from the catcher - those odds approach zero. They're not exactly zero only because this is math. Similarly, as the height of a pop fly increases, the greater the ability of a fielder to get under it to catch it.

However, despite my patient efforts, Andrew has failed to grasp these concepts. When I'm batting and he's pitching from five feet away, and he hits my shoe, he still asks me why I didn't hit it.

(*) "He" because there's no gender-neutral pronoun in the English language that still refers to a person, and I'm mostly talking about my boys. Please don't call me a misogynist behind my back. Or to my face.
(+) That's not a word!?
We've determined that Ellen is now about 92% sweet, whereas before it was 98%. That's okay, but her opinions are becoming more irrational and her clinginess very mom-focused.

We've seen this all before, just from a lower starting point.
Someone else's blog post with an apology to his childless friends.
My life is like finals week in college, and I spent all semester smoking weed and listening to the Spin Doctors.

August 7th+

As background, the routine for getting one's tasty vitamins is to first get dressed; we recently added brushing or combing hair as a new requirement, with ten strokes to help learn counting and make sure they look respectable until they mess it up two minutes later.

Anyway, e-mail from Liss:
We've been having naked Olympics this morning (for those under 10) but all of a sudden she stopped running around, came up and handed me a shirt. "Surt!"

Then she brought me some pants and socks to put on her and announced: "Soos!"
"You want me to get your shoes?"
[Skeptical look]
"Pease, Mommy."

I grabbed the brown sneakers, but she shrieked "No! Pink!" so I brought the pink crocs instead.

Once those were on, she demanded "My-mins!"

I told her we'd need to comb her hair first and started to do so. "One two!" she insisted.

I counted comb strokes like we do for the boys, but I went past 10. When I got to 19, she yelled "Tenny!"

Then we went and got her vitamin.
Measurements from the pediatrician visit: Andrew at 26 pounds, Bobby 25, both four pounds more than a year ago. They're both 2'10" tall. In other words, they're tiny, but we knew that. The ped wants another check in a couple of months to make sure they're still gaining, as their curve has flattened out lately.

Their toenails have always been weird - it seems they have a fungal infection that can be treated by, of all things, Vic's VapoRub.
From Liss:
The boys ripped up a bunch of books during "Quiet" Time. I've been frustrated, irritated, impatient, annoyed -- but this filled me with sadness and fury more than anything they've done. Maybe it's how a fundamentalist feels when she hears her kid take the Lord's name in vain: you're betraying our values. Haven't we taught you that books are precious? I really wanted to spank them, as if that would get them to get them to take it seriously.

But I didn't. Instead I made them pack up the ripped-up pages into a bag for recycling. While they were doing that, I packed up every single book in their room and took it to our bathroom. And of course, at the same time I was lecturing them. They'd acted like babies, I said. And if they wanted to act like babies, we could treat them like babies. They could eat applesauce and mashed peas instead of sandwiches and watermelon. They could play with teddy bears and rattles instead of riding tricycles and shooting basketball. They could go to bed earlier and have a nap instead of quiet time during the day. And of course, they couldn't have books in their room or unsupervised for a long, long time.

It made them cry. "I want books! I want to eat big kid food! I do like books!"

Monday, Bob had an accident at pre-school, for which he had to borrow pants and such.

Today, reports Liss, he used the potty there, which is the first time either boy has done so outside the house.
Ellen got her first time out via the grandparents, for hitting her brother. It begins.
Ellen has begun stalling tactics during naptime, including but not limited to: teeth brushing, spinning the chair in her room, wanting to open then close her door, and choosing a book then changing her mind.

Last night at bedtime, when we were done reading her book, she asked me to read it again. I did the condensed version, and then she asked to read it a third time. No dice, lady.
The boys' three-year checkup is Thursday. When they were tiny and getting them every three months, it was something of a production, especially their height and weight measurements. Now it's more like a curiosity. We know they're small for their age; we'll just get new numbers to prove it.
From Liss:
Ellen was the last one [still] upstairs after a potty trip and it was a bit quiet for my taste. I called, "Come on down, Elliebelle!" and went up to investigate. I found her trying to draw on the bathroom wall with one of those bath crayons; when she saw me she called: "Coming!"
Way back when she was little, I trained Grace on behavior by first using a squirt bottle, and then transitioning to just the sound of a squirt bottle by going "tsst!" at her. It still works some fifteen years later.

The kids have picked up on this. Liss reports that Ellen will now see a picture of a cat and go "tsst! tsst!" at it.

This probably means they now know too much, and we can't use squirt bottles on them. I guess we missed our window.
We're back from London. Ellen is pissed, especially at Liss, for our long absence. The boys are glad we're back, but neither overly so nor bitter like their sister. We figure it's a difference of understanding - the boys knew we were leaving for a while, but would be back, but Ellen couldn't grasp that; all she knew was that her Momma was gone a long time.

We just hope she comes back to us soon.

July 31st+

[Hiatus - London]

July 24th+

Liss has brought up the idea of taking Ellen with us to London. She's only mostly joking. It wouldn't matter, because we haven't gotten her a passport card.

Speaking of which, this page won't be updated while we're gone.
Toy Story 3 in the basement has become a staple of our child management. When the shit hits the fan - or the hair - it calms and focuses the boys, and Ellen just likes hanging out with everyone else. It gives us a little break. They rarely make it past 30 minutes, which helps dull our guilt, as does the movie's overall quality.
So. Here is a picture of Bob. Liss sent me that with her cell phone, with the note "Details after bath."

I thought it was an exploded green marker. No. It's poop. And it's not his poop, but his brother's. Yet, he's smiling in the picture.

The promised details were sketchy, because it happened during "quiet" time. To the best we can reconstruct, Andrew pooped in his underwear instead of walking the ten feet to the potty, threw most of it in their trash can, but then had some left on his hands. That's where things get hazy, but we think Bobby was having fun getting smeared until Andrew put him in a corner, when he started yelling. Liss went up and found them that way. Since he's smiling in the picture, I suppose he wasn't too traumatized.

Andrew claims he pooped in their closet. We're not so sure.

At night, Bobby picked their new fire truck book to read. I opened it up to find dried poop on the first page. He didn't care, but we refused to let him keep it; we wanted to take it downstairs to try to clean and perhaps throw away. Eventually he relented. Most of the smear was on a flap that you lift - it's a kid's book, after all - so I cut off that flap and used a wipe on the rest of the page. That's about the best we were willing to do.

So this is perhaps our introduction to the threes that many have said are worse than the twos. But no matter what happens this year, they will never be two again. That's a large hook to hang our hats on, and I'm going to keep hanging mine there. Two no more, dammit. Bring on the threes.
Now that the boys wear underwear all day, and often keep dry diapers overnight, our diaper waste has plummeted. Two months ago, we'd empty the bin every five days or so, but now it's less than half full from Ellen in time for the weekly trash pickup.
It's getting to where we can't skip pages in Go, Dog, Go anymore. The boys are getting too sharp. This doesn't bode well for our truncated versions of other books we find annoying.

When the boys chucked their books last week, Liss put them in a box so they could earn them back. However, they seem to have forgotten about them. This may afford us a chance to weed out some of the ones we don't like and/or they never want to read. They have a lot of books.

The large-print Good Night, Gorilla was in Ellen's room. One of the boys took it back to theirs - and they haven't asked to read it. Stinkers.
Liss seems to have taken exception to my up-front "very conservative estimate" of Ellen's 60-word knowledge by listing almost ninety. Most of this was done before 6am.
no, yeah, okay, please, thanks, [you're] welcome, head, hair, eye, nose, cheek, chin, teeth, ear. hand, feet, [belly] button, hat, coat, socks, shoes, glasses, eat, spoon, poke, stir, hot, more, apple, applesauce, yogurt, cheese, blueberry, strawberry, cracker, cake, Chex, chicken, apple juice, orange juice, milk, water, Mama, Daddy, Andrew, Bobby, Amy, baby, car, truck, airplane, beep-beep, cat, kitty, dog, woof-woof, dinosaur, bird, ew, yucky, stinky, up, down, pee, poop, flush, again, go, mine, turn, open, vitamins, candy, mah!, book, light, ham, lotion, ball, stool, backpack, mine, phone, hello, [throw] away, binky, lion, monkey
Most of the boys' underwear are briefs, but they have a couple of pairs of boxers. They call them "Daddy style."
My very conservative estimate is that Ellen now knows about 60 words. That's "says in context without prompting," not "understands when others say them." That's probably pushing a thousand.
From June:
I'm starting to address Ellen with "honey" ...
This has mostly morphed into "Honeybun," but there are lots of variations.
Bobby had a really bad Sunday. Andrew wasn't all that great, either, but a paragon in comparison. I'm also convinced that they rub off on each other a lot, which is good in one direction and bad in the other.

The thing about Bobby is that he really wants to cast off the shackles that we place on him - where he goes, what he does, and when he does it. He wants what he wants, and gets pissy when we don't provide it in a timely manner. Asking nicely is for chumps. Sour grapes are a staple of his diet. Sometimes I think these are just going to be permanent aspects of his personality; I hope I'm wrong on that.

This isn't to say he's always like that, but when gets up on the wrong side of the bed, you know you're in for a long day.

Ellen is an exception. He is often genuinely nice to her.

Anyway, in the morning we mentioned that if everyone had a good day, we'd go for ice cream in the afternoon. To make a long story short, Bobby came up short. He was combative, argumentative, and all that stuff.

Andrew had been okay, or at least good enough for us, so I took him and Ellen for ice cream. Bobby had the expected meltdown, but Liss says he was fine after we left - no real surprise there.

We didn't stay long, because we had another errand - trying to find a new toilet. We went to the nearest Lowe's and got one. I put it on one of those big carts to wheel to the front, so I asked Andrew to push Ellen's stroller behind me, which he did for the entire length of the store. Pretty much everyone who saw us stopped to watch the cute.

On the way to ice cream and back from the hardware store, Andrew sat in Bobby's car seat. I'm sure he'd be apoplectic if he knew.
On Saturday we did a divide and conquer - Liss took the boys to the birthday party of three-year-old twin girls, while I took Ellen downtown on the light rail. I don't get much time alone with her, so I was looking forward to an excursion of just Daddy and Ellie.

The plan was to pick the corpse of the closing downtown Border's store, so we took the crowded(*) train and ... it was disappointing. It was just the start of the liquidation, and most items were just 10% of retail, which is still much more than I can pay elsewhere, so whatever. However, pediodicals were 40% off, so I picked up some Archie comics for the plane trip to London. You heard me.

Our next stop was our credit union, to get some traveller's "cheques" for the trip, but I ended up taking a wrong turn, and we ended up in a small and mostly deserted park. I figured it was a good chance to let Ellen stretch her legs, so I let her out of her stroller, but instead of walking around, she mostly just climbed into my lap and snuggled. I wasn't about to discourage that.

We backtracked to the credit union, which was a good ten blocks, only to find the main branch shuttered(!) They just approved a merger with another credit union, but I had no idea it meant closing that branch, especially so soon, so that was time wasted and an errand unfulfilled. Instead, I popped into Starbucks to get her some milk and a scone (gluten!) to share to tide us over until lunch.

We trained back home, had lunch and put her down for her nap. The boys had their quiet-ish time, and then it was time to take them out and give Liss a break while Ellen was still napping. We took another train - just one stop - and walked a couple of blocks to a park. It was a little much for them - slightly big slide, and Andrew just wasn't feeling like playing - so we didn't stay long. Instead, we went to our second destination a few blocks away, a bakery.

With the boys, the first thing you have to ask an establishment is what their gluten-free options are. Usually, this is like going to a pizza parlor and asking what doesn't have tomatoes. This place is no different; they had three options, and the boys picked the chocolate pudding. It was, I had told them, kind of like yogurt, only chocolate. I asked for two, but they only had one left, which turned out to be fortunate, as the boys didn't really care for it. That's right, they rejected chocolate pudding. You heard it here first.

We got back just in time for our couple-swap babysitter to arrive, so that was that. It was a good example of how our weekend days go - keep the kids busy and accomplish very little else.

(*) Due to track maintenance, the trains came half as often - but there was the same number of people.
Sixteen months old.

July 17th+

The boys have had their own little backpacks for a year now (pic from back then). This year, they also got matching lunchbox versions that have a handle on top but not straps. Ellen has become slightly obsessed with them; she'll pick them up and say "bah-pah" and carry them around the house. She can even zip them open, around the arch and all, which is crazy talk.

I've ordered her own lunch-sized one - in monkeyshape.
Five year anniversary.
From Liss:
Ellen fell asleep in the car, so no way she'll nap now. The boys asked if she could have quiet time with them. She said she wanted to. Five minutes down and everyone seems mellow and happy; it sounds like they're trying to read to her.
And later:
Lasted 45 minutes before Ellen started crying for Mama. Win.
The boys' quarterly blood draw for the diabetes study was this past Saturday. They've gotten really good about not freaking out about it, even though they know there are needles involved. In times past, just putting on the numbing cream at home would set them off, but they were helpful this time, pulling up their sleeves and whatnot.

The only really memorable part of the visit was Andrew's failed draw. There he was in my lap, while the phlebotomist missed the vein, pulled back to try again, missed, etc. for about eight tries. Drew was going apeshit, and I don't blame him. And then, since that one failed, they tried again on the other arm (after asking us), and while he got a vein after a couple of tries, the equipment wasn't working correctly and they had to abort.

Afterwards, the guy was trying to comfort me. I can handle the stress, dude - it's my three-year-old that's in real pain here.

Also, according to their fly-by-night ways of measuring, Andrew is a half-inch taller and a pound heavier. Take those with large grains of salt.
Ellen wakes up in time to watch me get ready for work often enough that she can help direct the proceedings - at least to the point of saying "shocks!" when my feet are still bare. This morning I handed her some socks, to her delight, and then after I'd sat down, she brought them over to me to put on.
Quiet Time is often a window of opportunity for the boys to experiment with the fun things in life - as long as it's done quietly and in their room. Their mother reports that today's hilarity involved throwing all of their books into their trashcan, and they weren't even particularly quiet about it.
I thought I'd passed on this seat belt ad before, but I guess not on here.

Yes, it's a seat belt ad, but it chokes me up. It probably wouldn't have before I had kids, but I've found a lot of things are like that - such as animated baby pandas.
From Liss: "At what point do we start to care if the boys trade underwear mid-day?"
Andrew has figured out how to open the doorknob locks.
Popcorn for breakfast: Ellen's idea.
Liss is really looking forward to London and Wales. We're leaving in ten days, but I think she'll be counting the hours soon. It's partially from the fact that it's, you know, London and Wales, and also that it's nine days without the kids.

To test the efficacy of the two forces, we can do a thought experiment - what if we were going there with the kids? What if we were going without them to, say, Afghanistan?

I think the answer to both is still variable, based on the destination.

And don't get us wrong - we love our children like nothing else. But our lives have been nothing else for three years.

Update from Liss: "70% as excited for either London with kids or Afghanistan without."
Whether quality has been maintained with quantity is up to the reader.
I've now written more in 2011 than in all of 2010, which itself had been a record year for this blog thing. By the end of the year, I'm certain to have hit the output of three standard novels.

This includes 141 uses of the word "poop."

Make that 142.
Ever the masochists yet desperate for it to work, we tried another Mariners game. Last time, each of us took one boy while the other did normal stuff with the other two kids. This time it was all five of us, plus Amy and Liss's visiting godmother.

We had many lessons learned from last time, but none of our potential solutions were known to work. Therefore, my goal was to last through the second inning, because our anniverary is coming up and I'd purchased a scoreboard blurb to run then, and part of a surprising good deal they offer.

After the previous games, we'd bought the boys some earphones to help with the noise, but when we took them to the parade a few weeks ago, they refused to wear them. We aimed to get there during the first inning - after the National Anthem and pre-game blather over the speakers, which is what drove Andrew away last time. We bought out a row of five seats to minimize disturbances by (and to) others. Instead of strollers, we had the boys walk to the train station and to our seats - which might have totaled a mile each way - to help wear them down.

Note that none of these preparations involve planning for Ellen to lose it. We popped a binky in her mouth and put her in a stroller, expecting her to be fine. When we took the boys to a game around her current age (a little younger), we were leaving by the fourth inning, but we were in the sun that time. Plus, she's not them.

Before we left, we asked the boys to use the potties. They refused. We packed extra underwear, pants, and diapers. Now it was really on.

I offered their earphones, and Andrew went ahead and put his on. That was the first sign that maybe things would be okay. We walked to the train station, grabbed some food from the street vendors, picked up our anniversary package, and found our seats. On the way, the elevator operator [for Ellen's stroller] gave each of the kids a [worthless] baseball card from the days when I collected in the late 80s. They boys thought they were neat; Ellen was curious.

There were five seats for four adults and three kids. We figured there would be a lot of lap-sitting. However, by the time Liss had gotten up the stairs with Ellen, the boys had already claimed one seat each. We tried to reason with them, but that didn't work, so eventually I just grabbed Bobby and put him on my lap, expecting a huge meltdown. However, instead he just slid off my lap and stood by the rail in front of us. Liss sat down with Ellen - crisis averted. Around this time, Bobby agreed to wear his earphones, too.

We opened a bag of peanuts for the novelty food effect, and that helped ease the tension. The boys are barely strong enough to open some shells, so we helped them a lot. They liked the peanuts themselves. They were too hard for Ellen, but she had fun feeding them to Liss. We broke out other snacks we'd brought, which helped keep things civil.

Things started cruising along. We kept everyone happy with food and attention, and the crowd was subdued. The idea of sequesting ourselves to our own row was a good one. We passed kids amongst ourselves.

The game was fast, which is what tends to happen when one team can't hit; the Mariners' first hit came in the 5th. Maybe I should make videos of the boys to send their scouting team.

Around the 6th, between the boys' ability to lose it on a dime and the fact they hadn't used the bathroom in seven hours, we started to feel like we were pushing our luck. Bobby had fallen asleep - something he rarely does outside his bed - so we stuck it out for a bit. He awoke later, and we decided to pack it in when the 8th started. The important thing to note here is that we decided this. They'd asked a couple of times if it was time to go, but never said that they wanted to, which they're definitely not shy about. I considered anything after the 2nd to be house money, so overall they did really well.

As we were walking back to the train station, two things happened. One was at a large staircase that Liss took with Andrew while the rest of us waited for an elevator. She waved to us from above, which is the first time Bobby noticed she was "gone," and he broke down, I guess thinking he was being left behind despite the rest of us being right there. He ran up the stairs after her, crying all the way. But then he noticed that I was gone - in the elevator - so he didn't regain himself until we emerged and rendezvoused with him.

The other is that the Mariners scored a run while we were just outside the stadium. It's probably a good thing we weren't there, but it would have been good to know how they would have handled the cheering. It was a decent-sized crowd - maybe 25,000 - and our section was pretty full.

The train back was full, so I sat on the floor with the boys in my lap. Ellen was asleep in her stroller. About halfway home, Andrew fell asleep in my lap. Between the two boys and not being able to move, I was pretty uncomfortable by the end, and my foot had fallen asleep. Such are the sacrifices of parenthood.

For the trains, you can get a commuter card that you tap on and off when you board and deboard. I tapped mine at our destination, and then Bobby pulled his baseball card from his pocket and "tapped" it on the console. Andrew saw what he was doing and did the same. It was awesome.

We got home and asked the boys to use the potty, but they still didn't want to. We had to draw the line - no play until potty. They gave in, and all was fine. They'd lasted maybe eight hours, though, which is very impressive. Maybe we should have tried to get them into one of the stadium bathrooms, but that's probably pushing it, since they won't even go in familiar toilets.

So, overall, it went really well. Ellen was herself, and not an issue; we could probably take her to a double header with no problems. The boys want to go to another game sometime. We'll need to remember what worked - earphones, walking, lots of food and distractions - but the real tip for anyone trying this is that it helps to be fans of a team that produces very little to cheer about.

July 10th+

Tonight we're going to see the new/last Harry Potter movie. In order to get there on time, we'll be putting the children to bed half an hour early. We don't often take advantage of the fact that they can't tell time yet, but you see, this is important.
Yesterday the boys wanted me to chase them on their motorcycles, but Ellen was walking around trying to get into the fun, too. So, I put her in her stroller and chased them with that. I'm quite sure that any witnesses found this extremely comical.
Liss picked up a set of basic colored socks, obstentiably for Ellen, but the boys have taken to them. We had to get more to meet demand. So, they can often be seen wearing pink, purple, or yellow socks instead of white, and usually in mismatches.
We bought the boys two pairs of fire truck pajamas in an attempt to supplant the sleepers, in that they're cooler and easier to remove to use the potty, not that that plan lasted (for now). The only real problem is that the two outfits are identical. It's cute to see, but makes it a lot harder to tell them apart. Fortunately, the one time they've both wanted them on, they also wanted socks, and chose different combinations.
We don't know where they got it, but the boys have a new thing at bedtime. After they get into bed, we've always lain next to them (one of us with one of them, then switch) to say good nights and such. Lately, especially Bobby, they'll grab an arm or something and say "Stay!" It's not in the desperate "don't leave us!" tone that you might be thinking - they just think it's funny. When we break out of their, um, hold, they laugh and possibly start it again.
I've become one of "those" parents: I Googled for ways to tell if my children are gifted.

The short answer: maybe.
Ellen wants to do everything the boys do. This would be fine if she could actually do them all. However, she can't ride a "motorcycle" yet, wear a backpack without falling over comically, hit a baseball with a bat, and so on. She will, but she's in a frustration period for now. It may last for years.
I had previously captured Andrew's "The Look" in this picture in the Urgent Care waiting room in February, but I really got it this weekend here. The thing is, while he looks like Frankenstein's monster there, it's really just a look of puzzlement. We laugh every time, which doesn't help sate his curiosity of the moment.
Normally the boys will have quiet time, as [they think] they're getting too old for naps, but a couple of times now Andrew has asked for a nap instead. Bobby never wants a nap. We can't have one and the other in the same bedroom, so we've let Andrew nap on our bed. It hasn't worked out - the novelty of our bed is too much - so we've been trying to think of another solution. The only thing that comes to mind is letting Bobby have his quiet time with Andrew sticking with us, and then switching them out after the quiet time, but I don't think they'd go for that, either. They'd both see it as unfair.
For ages, we've given boys a bedtime warning with "Ten minutes, boys. Ten minutes." Lately they've contested that, but in the opposite direction you'd expect - "Why not five minutes?" Okay, fine, five minutes - and we'd start the routine sooner to no resistance. Recently, we asked if they always wanted it to be five, and they said yes.

The next night, we said "Five minutes, boys," and they said "Why not three minutes!?" Uh, okay - three minutes later, they were getting ready for bed.

Last night we said three minutes, and they pushed back to five, if you want to interpret it as pushing back. They know how numbers go, and can count to ten pretty well, but I'm not sure they know what they're doing beyond what may be their only real goal - attempting to assert control.
We need to give credit where it's due - during the troubles with Drew's illness and birthday party preparations and the general stress of the weekend, Bobby was in top form. He was helpful, concerned for the well-being of this brother, and just relatively low maintenance.
The boys like riding their "motorcycles" and having adults chase them, and they'll shout with glee while it's happening. Andrew and I were out doing this, and I was wondering if his shouts sounded more like pain than happiness. I soon found out, as Liss and Bobby came to the window, because Bobby was concerned for his brother. She said it sounded like I'd dropped dead and he was anguishing over that while someone smacked him around.
Ellen made a five word sentence: "Shoes on go outside, please." It sounded like "doos on go side pees," but Liss knew what she was saying, and they soon joined the boys and I in the afternoon sun.
With the boys' recent diaper issues, there's a lot of redness down there, but when I ask if it hurts (several hours after incidents), they always say no. One night I said to Bobby that that was good, because it's still pretty red down there. He wanted to see.

I said what the hell, and took a picture with my iPod and showed it to him. When I changed Drew, he wanted the same treatment. The next night, they wanted me to do it again, but I refused, saying they'd already seen it.

These are the kinds of pictures that you delete immediately. Do not wait and show wife for the shock value. Do not download to computer. Delete. Now.
Saturday night I did something I shouldn't have, in that I threw a book to Bobby instead of handing it to him. I was trying to get it to land flat on his bed, but instead it hit on a corner, and it bounced and hit him just below the right eye. That's right - I gave my boy a shiner just in time for his birthday party. There were many apologies.

I almost said "and that's why we don't throw books," but figured they'd already gotten the, uh, point.
Bobby's started doing that thing where you face away from the wall, lie on your stomach, then use your feet to 'climb' up the wall backwards while balancing/pushing with your hands. That's impressive, but I've only seen it when he's supposed to be calming down at bedtime, so I can't encourage it.
With a TV in the basement now, we go down there once or twice a week after the kids' bedtime to watch a movie with a little extra volume (it's also about five degree cooler). At first, we'd take both monitors, but now we just take the boys', because Ellen never wakes up once she's down and hers in a pain to remove. Now that I've written about it, though, I'm sure it'll bite us in the ass; we'll emerge to her screams and our associated guilt.
With their birthday, Liss has begun enforcing the deadline of no diapers except to bed. Bobby crapped his underwear twice Tuesday.

Let the battle begin.
Putting a potty in the boys' room backfired. They'd refuse to use the ones downstairs before bed, or use them just enough to get their candies and/or say they'd gone. Then, after the long process of getting them to bed, as soon as I'd leave, they'd get up and use the one in their room. The next step would be opening their door and calling for me to wipe them and dump the results in the toilet. The first time, we learned of this via a naked Bobby bounding down the stairs, yelling "I peed and pooped!"

See, when we put the potty in their room, we said it was for when they woke up needing to use it. They could undress, use it, then call for us (wake us up) to wipe them if necessary. They never did that, just the whole "wait until Daddy leaves" shenanigans.

So, after a warning on a previous night, they did it again, so the potty is gone. We keep emphasizing going before bed; maybe one of these days it'll take hold.
Bobby had a long time out Monday(*) evening, after pushing Ellen then yelling "don't say that!" at me when I gave him his time out warning. The latter is not uncommon.

He refused to admit he'd done anything wrong, so he was there a while - so long that the rest of us ate most of our dinner and dessert before he was done. Since the time out chair is one of the dining room chairs, he was there for all of it. We spent much of our dinner with him yelling about how much he wanted out, though I'd told him what he needed to do for that to happen.

The real point of this post, though, was the endgame. I sat on the floor in front of him, and explained calmly (as I do) that I was trying to help him become a good person. I asked if he'd ever seen Mommy and Daddy yell at each other? "No." That's because when we disagree, we talk about it. Does he like to be around people when they push him or yell at him? "No." Well, neither do we.

I'm not sure how deeply this did or didn't sink in, and most of the conversation wasn't new, but his reaction was new for him. He looked my in the eye - a lot. Normally he'll look away while brooding over the unfairness of his life - not getting to do anything he wants anytime he wants - but instead there were eye contact and a calmness that could either have been interpreted as "I see that you are wise, Father." or "My revenge will be cold and delicious." I hope I'm correct in choosing to accept it as the former. Perhaps there's a Darth Vader / Luke Skywalker dynamic brewing here, though who is who might still be up in the air.

Eventually he said he was sorry, got down and ate dinner. He was very pleasant the rest of the evening.

(*) His birthday, but I don't think having a birthday means you get to be a dick for a day.
Ellen's begun another stage of being fussy and clinging to Liss. It's a teething and/or growth spurt thing, and in the past has lasted about three days, which is just in time for her to be sweet again as my weekend starts. Liss, being a temporary stay-at-home mother, isn't so lucky.
Andrew had had a small but persistent cough for a day or so when Liss called me around noon Friday. He'd gotten a little worse, so she was taking him to Urgent Care, and asked if I could join to help wrangle the other two. I got there about an hour later, where things were already in full swing.

The first thing I did was take Bobby and Ellen across the street to Safeway, as no one (but me) had had lunch. It's times like that where you realize just how hard it can be to find gluten-free options. The rest of us got pre-fab sandwiches, but I eventually settled on a slab of fish and a chicken drumstick for Andrew, neither of which he ate. With those and the single-serve milks - lids are important - it was an expensive lunch for so little.

Getting back, things were pretty calm. Andrew got an albuterol treatment, which helped his numbers but made him a little shaky, but not badly so. We all ate and drank and did the 'hurry up and wait' thing that's so common there.

Soon afterwards, they wanted him down to Radiology for chest x-rays, to rule out pneumonia. He chose me as his companion, which we expected. It's an elevator ride, and he's (they're) now to the point where you can tell them which buttons to push, and they do. It's very a small example of outsourcing labor to your children, but it's a start.

The Radiology clinic was packed, with maybe 15 people waiting ahead of us, though not all for x-rays. We checked in, played with their sand magnet table for a few minutes, then grabbed a pair of empty seats. One thing that was readily apparent was - unlike the dentist's office - a real lack of reading material for kids. In desperation, I grabbed a golf magazine to show him pictures, but that did little. Instead, he was in a good enough mood that he was asking a lot of questions, which I'm sure in that tight space and his high voice carried to everyone's ears, not that he was being loud. I'm pretty sure most were charmed, certainly helped by his little tiger hospital gown.

Soon after we sat, a pregnant woman came in with her I-presume husband for an I-presume ultrasound, and sat down a few chairs away. In the middle of Andrew's and my conversation, I glanced her way, and she was beaming at him. She caught me catching her and gave a little knowing smile.

We were taken back soon enough, though unlike my previous trip here for Bobby's leg, I was made to put on a lead smock and stand in the path of the beam. That was fine, and being so near Andrew clearly helped him get through it; it wasn't traumatic or anything, especially since he's done it once before, but he still needed the gentle guidance.

The pneumonia question came back as a no, but they couldn't tell whether the infection was bacterial or viral. They adopted a wait-and-see posture, and didn't prescribe anything but more albuterol to clear him out. We made a quick trip to a sparsely-populated pharmacy and checked out. However, by the time his last dose wore off, it was too close to bedtime to jump him up with more of that stuff.

He had a little difficulty in the night, but nothing more than normal during illness; it wasn't bad enough for me to go into their room, though we listened to a lot of angst on their monitor.

Saturday morning, he started crying before their green light went off (7:20, it goes at 8), more than loud enough for me to go in. Liss was at the gym. I tried to just get Drew and leave Bobby, but Bobby went from silent to meltdown as soon as I closed the door, so they both came down.

Drew was doing okay, but not great. They both asked for cereal, which I provided, but Andrew wasn't eating. He started to lie on the floor. Some of it was in what Liss later recognized as the child's pose in yoga. I'd ask if he needed anything, but he'd say no. I asked if anything hurt, and he said his head, which had become his default Friday, and is very non-specific. From this behavior alone, though, I was starting to contemplate another trip to Urgent.

Liss came home and saw what was up, and started trying to help, too. A little while in, he was on her lap face up, and she was trying to get him to tell her what was wrong, how she could help, etc., when she started to get scared. He was just kind of staring glass-eyed some of the time, and making a little eye contact the rest. He wasn't saying anything. She said to call 911.

I called, and the fire department medics showed up a few minutes later.(+) I was anxious but not panicked, which I'm sure they're trained to read as being a non-emergency; they took the same attitude we had, which was if something big was up, we'd better find out as soon as possible.

Liss put Andrew on the changing table, and he was suddenly a little better - there were firefighters in the room! To see him! I wonder if he thought hey, I should be sick more often!?

They thought he looked pale, but then compared him to Bobby, and decided that no, that was just his normal paleness.

To get Bobby out of the way for a while, Liss took him to see the fire truck.

I caught the medics up on what had been going on, and they started doing the first-reponse tests to try to see what was going on with Andrew. They didn't find anything internal that worried them (pulse, blood pressure, etc.), but recommended going to Urgent just in case. They were there about 25 minutes, during which he improved noticeably, even giggling a couple of times at their attempts to engage him.

So, we packed a bag, and Andrew and I went back to Urgent. It wasn't nearly as busy as the previous afternoon. The same receptionist was there. These are observations I don't want to be in a position to make.

By the time we'd gotten there and got to a room, he was more like his old self. The doctor got one diagnosis pretty quick - ear infection. Colds and other illnesses beget ear infections, so that wasn't a surprise. In fact, we probably should have thought of it when he was so down at home.

To be safe, the doctor wanted another chest x-ray to check progression of the lung problems. I pushed back, but without much conviction, and we went down. This time there was no one else there, so we got in and out pretty quickly. Unfortunately, the new x-ray didn't say anything new, so we were to just keep doing what we were doing on that front.

The doctor couldn't be sure if the ear infection was viral or baterial, but I wanted to err on the risk-reward of giving antibiotics. So, we went back to the pharmacy downstairs. This time, it was pretty busy. A woman across from us asked Drew how old he was, and he said "two!" with two fingers. I asked how old he could be on Monday. "Three!" with three. The room was suitably charmed.

All told, the Urgent visit took four hours for about thirty minutes of care.

I was keeping an eye on his attitude the whole time, as that's a better indicator than anything he might say. I know he was mostly back to his old self when he started asking "why" question after "why" question. We were wavering on whether to postpone the boys' birthday party, but there didn't seem to be a reason by the time we'd left. He fell asleep on the way home, so he had a decent nap that way.

The bottom line is that he's now had three respiratory infections in the last nine months. The word "asthma" keeps getting floating about, but never as an official diagnosis. Maybe it's coming. Either way, we can probably start giving him albuterol on our own at the first signs, even though it's a prescription medication. By now we've got a little stockpile. On the plus side, the signs have always been "possible pneumonia" because of the similarities, but it's never been that.

(+) And parked in front of a fire hydrant.
Three years old.

July 3rd+

It's a slow, gradual process, but the boys are maturing. They still get emotional, still break down over nothing, and can definitely be stubborn and defiant, but it's also getting better. Time outs are rare now. They'll take 'no' for an answer sometimes. They initiate play and sharing rules.

Bobby's behind Andrew in all of this, but still has an upward curve.
Ellen will be old enough for time outs soon, but will she ever get one? Probably, but at this rate, they'll be a novelty.
One of our biggest surprises in the last year is how good the boys are with Ellen. We had a real dread of jealousy and shunning and the like. At first they didn't really notice her, except as this new thing that took some of our attention, but as she grew and became more interactive, they started to be genuinely interested in her. Now they ask her to play with them, look after her in dangerous places (like around stairs or the edge of the bed), encourage her in new things like walking and basketball, and so on. They've just been really good older brothers so far.
This morning at 5, Andrew whined enough that I checked on him; he'd pooped in his diaper. As it turned out, it had been there for hours, such that a lot of it had crusted onto him. Since poop is caustic, it irritates the skin, so between that and the crust, my attempts to clean him hurt him.

I asked if he wanted to take care of it in the bath instead, and he said yes. While waiting for the water, he leaned on the toilet with his crusty butt to the air. When it was ready ... he didn't want to go in. I finally got him in just to his feet, and he lost it. By this time, Bobby had come in groggily to see what was up, and ... I smelled his diaper.

To stop Andrew's screaming in the bath, I took him back to their room and starting using wipes again. Since it was taking a while, I asked Liss - whom I knew there was no way was asleep - to get Bobby. Minutes later, there were two whiny boys on Andrew's bed, getting their red, raw butts roughed up by our cleaning efforts. Neither of us bothered to try to go back to sleep after that, but the boys did pretty readily.

So we're back to being out of ideas. We emphasize using the potty before bed - and they did, but just enough to say they had. We put a potty in their room, which they used during quiet time yesterday, but I guess they're not with-it enough while asleep to recognize getting up and undressing to use it. For now, we'll probably just have to stick to the script, and keep hammering it into them. At the very least, they need to call for me as soon as they realize they've pooped, to minimize the irritation.
Andrew likes to throw his baseball to me so I'll hit it. Then he runs to go get it, and it starts over again. We did this for maybe 40 minutes yesterday. I can't quite call it pitching yet, but it'll come.

Since it's a toddler throwing, I'm less likely to take a pitch outside the strike zone, so the ball could go anywhere. When it doesn't go straight, he'll ask "why you hit it there?" He'd be a relentless coach.
This post has been making the rounds, about how it's a common impulse to greet a little girl by telling her how adorable she is, but how that teaches her that that's the most important thing about her.
When I got home yesterday, all four of my local kin were on the downstairs futon, eating Pirate's Booty and watching Toy Story 3. Like so.
Last night we brought one of the boys' seldom-used upstairs potties into their room, and put it on a trash bag for safety. The idea is that if they need to poop, they can take off their sleeper and diaper, use it, and then call us to wipe and put on a new diaper. If that takes hold, later we can move it back to the bathroom, where they already are in the habit of rinsing it out and dumping into the toilet.

For the first night, at least, it didn't work. They both woke up with soiled diapers. Tonight we may put them to bed in shirts and shorts instead, to make disrobing easier. However, it's Bobby's turn for the coveted Blue Fire Truck Sleeper, so he may not go for that.
It's been Seattle-hot for a couple of days, but the boys still want to wear fleece sleepers, because they don't know any better. We want to open their bedroom window, but there have been straggler fireworkss, so the risk-reward was too great. I think tonight may be the tipping point for it to be okay, but it's also cooler, so maybe not.
Last night the boys and I were playing baseball outside when Andrew stopped and said he didn't want to play anymore, and started to take his bat and ball back into the garage, as is the routine. I followed with the tee. When he got there, he said he needed to use the potty. I asked if he wanted me to take off his helmet, and he hesitated, which even then I saw as possibly foreboding. I took it off, and wished him luck as he started to go up the stairs.

He didn't make it. Bobby and I went in a few minutes later; Andrew had left a trail of about a dozen spots on the carpet, and was now sitting on the potty finishing the job.

A part of these incidents is reassuring the kid that it's okay, people have accidents. Liss was doing that, so I took the task of keeping Ellen and Bobby away from it. Once Andrew was calmer, we started to clean with wet rags, which went okay. For the cavalry, Liss got the SpotBot from downstairs, and the extra fun began. The boys were scared of it at first - noise! - but I showed them that it couldn't hurt, by touching it. Every time we turned it on afterwards, Andrew would approach and touch it like he had been dared, giggling at his own bravery.
Ellen pretty much walks all the time now, except for special surfaces, like over the threshold of the sliding glass door.
Bobby's allergies have given him a pretty bad cough, especially lying down, i.e. in bed. To his credit, he's been trying really hard not to ask for me to help, which I wouldn't be able to do anyway. Between the cough and itchy eyes and runny nose, he's been having a rough time of it.

The odd thing is that one would expect Andrew to have the allergies, because we already know from the celiac thing that he has an overactive immune system.
From Liss:
I've found a nearly foolproof way to keep the boys (and often Ellen) awake during midday car trips. We sing! But not just any songs, no, and not anything so pedestrian as the ABC song: transportation songs. We sing endless variations on "The Wheels on the Bus." There's "The Wheels on the Garbage Truck," "The Wheels on the Fire Truck," "The Wheels on the Ambulance," "The Wheels on the Police Car," and (new today) "The Wings on the Airplane."

But of course, those aren't real songs so we just make up verses. Many, many verses. Some of them get pretty ridiculous:

The people on the ambulance go "Uuuunnhh, I'm sick, uuuunnnh, I'm sick [etc]." all around the town.
The workers on the ambulance go "Let me help, let me help."
The medicine on the ambulance goes "That feels better, that feels better."

The workers on the garbage truck go "Oof, that's heavy, oof, that's heavy."
The garbage on the garbage truck goes "Pee-yew, stinky! Pee-yew, stinky!"

The police officers in the police car say, "Hey, be good! Hey, be good!"

We haven't tried these songs with James in the car yet, but he'll probably hate them. Sometimes it's worth it to keep them awake.
From Liss:
We were at PCC. Ellen was on the top of the cart. They were giving away cheese samples.

I gave her a chunk of provolone and she gobbled it down. "More cheese, please," she said.

I gave her a chunk of parmesan and she gobbled it down. "More cheese, please," she said.

I gave her a chunk of gorgonzola and she gobbled it down. "Mmm. More cheese please," she said.

I couldn't keep taking apart the cheese display, so I told her she could have some mozzarella at home. I'm not sure that will suffice ever again.
Sunday, from Liss:
I'm writing this down so we can do it again. It's been a nice day.

Slept in a bit (6:30), then got up and went for a run. A wussy run, but a RUN! Perhaps I shouldn't feel so naughty running around the track at the Islamic school in a skimpy top--nobody's there at 6:45 am on a Sunday anyway.

Came home and the kids weren't even up yet. When they got up, I made bacon, eggs and lemon scones for breakfast.

Gave James a break by taking the kids to the West Seattle Farmer's Market. Got strawberries and spinach. Hung out at Coffee to a Tea for a while, messing around on Facebook while they played with the toy trains and airplanes.

Got home just in time to make lunch: sandwiches, cherry tomatoes, strawberries. We ate outside because the boys had been riding their "motorcycles" while I got lunch ready.

James took the boys to Fry's. I put Ellen down for a nap. I need to get her up momentarily, but I've been baking the afternoon away: cupcakes for little strawberry shortcakes, brownies to cool and fold into homemade ice cream, soon I'll make pizza dough for tonight's dinner. Probably what I should have done is start making the parts for the boys' fire truck cakes for their birthday party next weekend, but no, we'll eat all this in the next few days. Tonight, assuming anyone shows up, we're having a few people over for some low-key socializing.

And tomorrow is the 4th of July. I'm sick of the explosions already, but I'm glad we'll have an extra day with James around. I hope it will be as pleasant as today has been.
The boys' deadline for not wearing diapers except to bed is their birthday, less than a week away. Andrew has been especially good at wearing underwear for long periods, and hasn't had an accident in ages. Bobby is a lot further behind, generally preferring to wear diapers, even in the house. They usually end up dry by the time he wants to use the potty, though.

However, neither one has ever used a facility outside the house - even a pristine potty at a friend's house. I suppose it's part of their high-strung nature and fear of the unfamiliar. Regardless of the reason, that and Bobby's stubborness may either push that deadline back or forewarn some tough times ahead.

Meanwhile, Ellen has shown interest. The two times I've invited her to sit on a potty, though, she's come near the bathroom and then turned around and walked away saying "no!" in mild panic. That said, I think she'll be using it regularly by her second birthday next March.
Andrew's been trying for a long time, but is finally strong enough to work the recliner mechanism on either side of the sofa. He'll say "I want your feet up!" and trip it.

We're okay with that.
Liss interviewed/auditioned a couple of neighborhood girls for babysitting today, by just having them come over and meet the kids and vice versa. So far, most of our babysitting has been Amy's monthly gift, swaps with another couple, or the occasional visiting relative. We also try to let the other go out once a week after the kids' bedtime. All of these are either free or the cost of a dinner, but we at least want the option of more flexibility at a price.

She says the boys "preferred the redhead," which should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me us.
Bob peed himself; after I took his clothes off, I asked him to take them to the washing machine. He asked that I do it, instead; in payment, I asked for a smooch. He then took them himself.

The rogue nation ended negotations and recalled its diplomat.
As part of our divide-and-conquer weekend, I took the boys to Fry's for no particular reason. Soon after we got there, Andrew said he was thirsty, and I hadn't brought anything, so I offered to see what their vending wall had. It was mostly soft drinks, which we don't give them, but they had orange juice. However, we always dilute that for them, so I also got a bottle of water (horrifying!) for that purpose. To make room, I drank some of the juice, which got me a "don't drink that yet!" Why the 'yet,' I don't know.

Anyway, that being done, I did the Jekyll-and-Hyde thing where you pour one into the other, then back again, until you think they're mixed properly. This was fine with them, if quizzical, and they were satisfied. With the large mouth holes and no straws and such, I told them that the caps needed to be on whenever they weren't drinking. However, the portions were so big that the bottles lasted two days; every few hours they'd ask for their "Fry's orange juice," have a few sips, then ask to put it back.

While there, they also kept asking where the "French fries" were, so that bit of confusion is still there.
The fireworks have been particularly terrible in our neighborhood this year. They started a week early, and last night was a war zone. Fortunately, it didn't affect the kids much. We reminded the boys every night that there would be noises, especially on the fourth. We gave the boys Benadryl, mostly because of actual allergies, but also to help them sleep. They handled it all pretty well, even though it sometimes woke them up. We counted on Ellen to just sleep through it, and she did.

The kicker was Sunday morning, when someone started setting them off at 5:30am. Looking out our window, it was someone going up the main street shooting them out of his car. Welcome to our neighborhood.

There will probably be straggler pops for days.
Ellen's bedtime routine hasn't been expanding as one would expect, but contracting. It used to be several ounces of milk, then a book, then maybe a milk topper, then bed. Lately it's a sip of milk, two pages of a book before she pushes it away, refusal of more milk, then reaching for the crib. The odd thing is that once she's there and you leave, she'll cry for two minutes ... and then be asleep for thirteen hours.
The three-day weekend was lovely for the most part (Amy's concise word was "sustainable"), though they and especially Bobby started to break down Monday afternoon.
It's really hard to convey just how much of a jewel Ellen is.
An old friend and his wife spent Saturday at our place. He's in a wheelchair, and gets up and down stairs on his butt, so we took away the baby gate to make things easier. The thought was that it could also be a test for Ellen, and whether she was ready for it to be gone.

The verdict so far is that she is, but we'll keep it around for a little while just in case, plus she had a related incident on the outside steps. She'd crawled down just fine, but then pulled herself onto the first step and fell - fortunately onto her thigh first and then cheek, but still scary.

But the real coup was Monday morning, when we were talking about an upcoming trip to the zoo with just Liss and the kids. We didn't notice anything going on until I saw Ellen out of the corner of my eye; she had gone down to where the shoes are, and brought Liss's sandals up the stairs. She walked them another 15 feet to where Liss was sitting, saying "shoes!" the whole way, and dropped the shoes in front of her, as if to say, "Less talk, more action, lady!"

June 25th+

Last night we had breakfast for dinner, which is our transparent way to get the boys to eat something for once. It worked even better than usual, with each boy eating almost as much as me. Seeing as I weigh nine times what they do, that's saying something.

I must confess that I enjoy it, as well. Eggs, bacon, and muffins are tasty anytime.
Last night Bobby refused to use the potty before bedtime again, so I warned him that if he pooped in his nighttime diaper, the next night (tonight) he'll sit on that thing whether he likes it or not. Well, about ten minutes after we'd put them down, he opened the door to tell me he'd pooped.

I put on my best "I'm mad at you" act, which isn't very good, but it made an impression. He just kind of watched me change him, then quickly crawled back to his pillow when I was done.

We've got to get him out of this habit, and we're running out of ideas.
Liss told the boys that some of the summer plan will be to take Ellen to swim lessons while they're at pre-school twice a week. They've latched onto the idea, in that they want to go swimming. We'll see how they take to it; they took swim lessons as babies, but that was ages ago.
Ellen wakes up moaning in the same way Billy Crystal does here: (... which starts at 6:40 here)

It's nothing urgent like the boys often were at her age (or often are now). Sometimes she'll even go back to sleep, though other times it escalates. When you go in to get her, she's usually just lying there, staring at the ceiling. I guess she's bored.

Anyway, Liss had this to say today:

Ellen woke lateish this morning and instead of whimpering or crying or babbling, she just started cheerfully calling, "Mama! Mama!" Oy, I'm in trouble. Just wait til *she's* the one asking for "Itsy Bitsy Spider" at bedtime--I won't leave until 10 pm.
Yesterday the boys and I were playing catch in the basement with very soft balls, as we do, and Andrew kept saying "I'm the catcher" or "I'm the hitter" before throwing. I just had to intervene.

Three minutes later, he was squatting where I'd told him, saying "I'm the catcher" while Bobby held a little toy with "I'm the hitter" and I'd throw it to Drew as the pitcher. We were maybe two feet apart from each other, so we're not talking Major League setup here, but they had fun. Drew and I would throw the ball at Bobby's toy so he could "hit" it once in a while.

Target has a package with three bases and a home plate in their sports section; I don't think it'll be long before we have a set.

I've also been looking at baseball diamond rugs, but they're either too pricey or ugly or the wrong size or whatever - mostly too pricey. It'd be a fun way to teach them the rules in a year or so, though. Then, you know, strategy would follow in another year. For example, what do you do if you've hit the ball into the gap in right-center, and you have a chance to leg out a triple against an outfielder/cutoff man combination with an okay shot at mowing you down there? The correct answer is - what's the score, what inning is it, how many outs are there, and who's the next batter?

These are important life skills.
We have a pretty set routine for the boys' bedtime. They try to extend it through various stalling tactics, and we cut them off and refocus them to keep it short. Last night, however, we let it go on pretty long, because of various new events.

One, new since last week, is that they asked me to floss them. It's still novel to them, but I'm hoping to actually get something tangible on the string sometime soon, before they get bored of it. I don't get their back teeth, just some front ones, so maybe I'll have to go farther.

Two, the big one, Bobby picked a very simplistic book that just has pictures of animals with their word underneath (dog, piglet, etc.). This time, though, I had the idea a couple of pages in to ask "What letters are in 'fish?'" and point to the word. They started spelling out the letters, then we'd say the word again and move on. This turned a one minute book into five, but we were fine with that. It was their first time spelling out like that.

As she was getting ready to leave, Drew wanted her to sing the alphabet song with him. Bobby joined in. Once they were done, Bobby wanted his equal turn; she said yes and he choose Itsy Bitsy Spider. I got it on voice memo. Bless the iPod.

And then, my normal three-minute period of "holding" them after Liss leaves - which mostly just means lying between them - stretched into ten because we were having a nice conversation about teeth brushing, how the dental hygienist was talking down to them, their going to school today, and so on.

Unfortunately, the pleasantness didn't last, as later Bobby was having a lot of trouble calming down. I think there were some fireworks going off that we didn't hear for our own noise, but they did. He opened their door four times, twice complaining about a "storm." One of the times, they'd both pooped. The fourth time, I just picked him up and put him back on his bed, for which I expected him to lose it, but instead he was quiet from then on, thank goodness. By then I'd taken the door lock off the front door to put on theirs - which I really never want to do - but I wasn't called again, and thus didn't need to use it.
Andrew and I were in the carport while he rode one of the motorcycles, when Bobby came from inside the house. He wanted to ride the same cycle instead of the other one, for no other reason than it was the one Andrew was riding. They're identical bikes.

I offered to write an A on one and B on the other in the future, to designate them and get rid of the lame argument. They need to share, but they should have some things of their own, too. They readily accepted, except Bobby wanted me to do it right away. Since both of his siblings were there - Ellen asleep in a stroller - I wasn't about to leave them alone, so I said sorry, I don't have a pen on me. His response: "So go get one."

Maybe someday he'll turn into a conscientious, empathetic person, but clearly not yet.

Anyway, he figured out pretty quickly that I wasn't going to jump. So, he went inside and upstairs to the pen cup, and came down with the correct marker. After making sure they were fine with which bikes they were getting, I marked an A and D on one set of handlebars, and a B and R on the other. And that's how you defuse a pointless source of friction. One down, thirty more per day to go.
Ellen's gone down the stairs many times by now, so we were surprised to hear her fall down them a little bit. We weren't watching - zone defense - but we think it was just a couple of steps. She was scared but unhurt, and you can probably tell I'm trying to smooth over our guilt.
Since the stickers have lost some luster, Liss let the boys pick a fire truck (Bobby) and tow truck (Drew) that they get to play with for ten minutes after waking up if they sleep to the green light. They get them for five minutes for a successful quiet time.

This is all getting very complicated.
This year, my employer imposed a new restriction on health care coverage, in that I couldn't cover Liss if she is eligible to be covered elsewhere. She can - through her own employer - but that's not really the point. We should be able to choose between the two plans, even if we decide to pay more out of pocket or whatnot. We can't pay more or do anything else to get her covered under my plan - unless she loses her job.

They're now auditing us to make sure we're in compliance. The kids are covered through me, so there were questions about them, like making sure I'm their legal dad and so on. Also, there was a question about whether or not they're eligible for coverage elsewhere. They are - through Liss's plan. There's no similar eligibility restriction on children right now, but maybe this question is a precursor to imposing it next year?

In my 15 years of being covered through employers, I'd never heard of this kind of thing before now, but when it comes to health coverage, cost-saving ideas like this spread fast. That begs the question - what happens if Liss's and my plans both impose the same restriction on dependents? Do they both refuse, since they're eligible elsewhere, and therefore our children won't be covered by either?
After several thousand repetitions, the boys still almost never say 'please' the first time they want something. They'll say 'thank you' without prompting maybe 25% of the time. Reminding them of these ... has gotten old. I can see why some kids never learn them; maybe it's not that their parents didn't try, but that they gave up. We won't, but it sure takes something out of you to teach courtesy so many times and still have your kid blurt out "I want milk" and expect you to jump out of your seat.
After the boys' experiences at Mariners games and the dentist, we went to this year's Pride parade fully expecting that we would be staying 20 minutes then coming home. We tried to prepare them by explaining what a parade is, and that it would be loud but fun, but there's only so much they can grasp through words. Since those games, we'd bought little earmuffs for them, but they've liked the idea of them far more than the reality of wearing them. Still, we brought them along.

We took the train, which dropped us off at the intersection where the parade starts(*). Two blocks down, Amy had already staked out a prime spot in the shade. Things were looking up. All three kids were in strollers.

After a little waiting, the traditional leading parade contingent - Dykes On Bikes - started up. Now, it turns out that they don't just lollygag down the parade route; they start things off by going in a block-long ellipse for ten minutes. We were in the perfect position to, uh, witness this and smell the exhaust.

The noise was way over the top. Twenty minutes was starting to look overly optimistic. We repeatedly offered the earmuffs to the boys, but they kept refusing. I eventually put them on myself. After maybe ten minutes, Bobby said he wanted to go home. I said no. He lost it. I carried him away for about ten feet, but he wanted to go back; I set him down and he walked back and climbed into the stroller again. He again refused the earmuffs.

You see, there was a competing force at work: they were loud, and smelly, and really loud, but they were motorcycles!

Ellen, who had a front row seat, couldn't handle the whole DoB thing, but calmed down enough in Liss's arms that we didn't need to leave. She would spend most of the parade in those arms, much to the dismay of their owner's back and neck. I could take her for a couple of minutes at a time, but once the novelty wore off, she wanted Momma again. That's pretty typical.

The DoB finally moved on. The next contingent was a marching band that a friend of ours is in; I held Andrew so he could better see, and I think seeing Cameron hamming it up helped him get into a better mood. The next few acts were even calmer, and things started to settle down. We distributed their fruit pouches, which are treats during excursions only, so that also helped. Please ignore the irresponsible-to-the-environment packaging.

After a little while, we moved the boys' stroller to just behind Amy instead of several feet back, and they stayed reasonable and entertained. Then the swag started coming in, with the contingents giving away beads, lollipops, toy maracas, and lots of other things. Some of it was trash, some useful, and some great. The boys got a little candy, some bubbles, and other little trinkets that kept them interested. The acts were mostly low-to-medium-key. We started to get confident that they could make it for a while, and we ended up staying about 90 minutes. We consider that a big win.

(*) How awesome is that?
The wish list is updated in anticipation of the boys' birthday. That's not an "if you read this, buy something" thing, but an "if you were going to anyway because you're family or whatnot, here's some help" thing.
Fifteen months old.

June 18th+

So Bobby was a lot more recalcitrant than Andrew at the dentist, though not in a malicious way. Basically, he wouldn't talk when anyone else was around, wouldn't open his mouth for anything, kind of tuned them out here and there, etc. None of this is surprising, as he's a little more shy in general. He was excited to go because he knew he'd get swag, but the reality of the visit put him into a cocoon (on my chest).

He was totally fine once we left, though. Like Drew, he picked the train, only this time it was a little more crowded, so he sat on my lap. This just added to his charm of those around us, and by then he was asking me all kinds of questions about the train and the people and so on, so it seemed like he was the social butterfly type. The chatter quickly came to a temporary halt, though, when a lovely redhead said hi to him as she was leaving. Bobby clammed up, too.

Drew had somehow gotten a girl's swag bag and therefore a pink this and pink that, and only later the Batman toothbrush. Bobby got blue everything, including the same toothbrush, so I used some Sharpie to mark it differently. We make them share a lot of things, but a toothbrush ain't one.

We don't care about the blue/pink thing, and neither do the boys, but the dentist's office sure does. And they probably only really care because their clients do.
The stickers are losing their effectiveness, so the boys have been refusing to poop everything before bedtime then filling their diapers, or opening their door before the green light, and so on. I think they've both qualified once in the last week.

Liss had the idea of a larger reward (like a matchbox car) if they qualified for some days in a row, but I'm wary of getting into an upward spiral of rewards versus tolerance. Instead, I was thinking of something - like one of those cars - that a boy could use for the day if he did what currently qualifies for a sticker. If not, it stays up there on the high shelf, and maybe you can earn it tomorrow morning. What that one (per boy) item is may have to change due to tolerance, but I figure that'll slow the spiral down.
Bobby has allergies, which mostly manifest as itchiness of the eyes. He can't stop from rubbing them a lot, either, which just makes it worse. Benadryl helps him sleep at bedtime, but we can't do much beyond that.
One of the words Ellen's latched onto is "help." She's not shy about asking for it, though she'll try herself first. The only time it's an issue is when she wants us to help her do something we don't want her to do, like pull something off the dinner table.
After the boys go to their pre-school on Wednesdays, they come back with a renewed interest in singing the alphabet song. It's pretty cute, especially when they do it over the monitor, lying in their beds.
"Andrew Bandrew."
Liss's school is out, so she's got the kids to herself this week. She has a small schedule of professional development classes coming up, but her summer has begun, if not in earnest.

She reports that "So far today has been pretty low-key and lovely, but 4 hours is not a precedent."
I'm starting to address Ellen with "honey," which is the main way I also address Liss. I hope they don't get confused.
This morning I had Ellen in our room while I was getting ready for bed. She looked at my bare feet and said "socks!" To distract her, I gave her a sock in her size that was sitting around, which she was happy to get. Then I sat on the bed and put one of mine on. By the time it was on, she'd crawled over to me, again saying "socks!" every few seconds. Then, she put her little sock on my still-bare foot.
This was part of the phone conversation Liss had while setting up Ellen's (7/28) dermatology appointment: Ellen does have a job, of course - being awesome - and on her evaluation earned Exceeds Expectations.
After a bath - and only after a bath - the boys ask me (one at a time) to "hold me like a baby" after I put them in their little towels. So, I'll cradle them for a bit, then carry them to our bed to dry them off.
While in the waiting room at the dentist's, Drew noticed a boy outside about his age riding a little bicycle. I tried to explain training wheels, which he sort of understood, but soon after while looking again, he asked "Why he not have a helmet?" That one's harder.
[Ellen] walks about 20% of the time now, which a week ago she was just doing once in a while for the novelty of it.
That was two days ago. She might be above 50% now. Toddler.
A friend posted an old op-ed about cultural differences regarding children.
So yesterday was Andrew's first dentist visit.

The hygienist led us to a "special" room in the back, which I presumed to be the one where you could least hear the instruments in the rest of the clinic. At my suggestion, I sat in the chair with him on my lap; he sat on his knees and faced me. The hygienist then brought out his little swag bag, and went through its items with him - a new toothbrush, travel holder, toothpaste, floss, and an hourglass timer. Each gets it own commentary: Now, the thing about this hygienist is that she kept using the phrase "sugar bugs" for oral bacteria. You want to brush away the sugar bugs, kill the sugar bugs, the sugar bugs are in your mouth so you need to get them out, this thing sucks out the sugar bugs. It was bizarre. She also had an accent, so it was more like "shoogar bogs." She lost Drew about twenty seconds in, but kept talking and talking. She liked to talk.

She started going through the instruments that the dentist would use - the mirror on a stick, hook on a stick, suction stick, and water/air sprayer thing. Drew was having none of it. There were just too many new things going on for him to trust stuff going into his mouth or shooting water or whatever. I let her use the sucker on me to show that it was innocuous, but that didn't help, even after she pointed out the "sugar bugs" - i.e., the tiny bubbles - being sucked down the tube. He was amused by that, though.

Generally, she was complimentary of our efforts with his (thier) diet, routines, and so on, like not giving them milk at bedtime.

After she left and we were waiting for the dentist, I tried to get him ready for the mirror and hook (for counting his teeth), but still nothing. It was too much.

The dentist came in, put the mirror up to Drew's mouth, and he opened up. What the hell, little dude? He saw no cavities or other signs of problems. The next appointment is in a year.

Anyway, I've been wrong this whole time. For some reason I was thinking they still hadn't gotten their second molars, and thus should have 24 teeth instead of 20, despite the chart clearly showing twenty. So yeah, I'm a dumbass.

The way home was the fun part, since it was just us. I asked if he wanted to take the bus or train home, and he said train. We walked the few blocks to the station, boarded, disembarked, and walked home - and all the while, we held hands while he carried his little bag of swag in his other hand. Nearing home, the sun was in his eyes, so I got my knit cap from my bag and put it on him, which of course swam over his head - but it kept the sun out, so he liked it.

When we got home, his siblings wanted to go through his swag. Now Bobby's all pumped to ... go to the dentist Thursday, to get his own. He keeps going back and forth on whether he wants me or Liss to accompany him; it may be a game-time decision. He has also preliminarily decided to take the bus home instead of the train. It's the details of planning, you see, that make an excursion a success.
Andrew was wearing this shirt yesterday. He insisted that the part coming down the middle was not its leg, as we all know, but its penis.
From Liss:
Mama: Ellie, do you want some milk?
Ellen: No. Manana!
Mama: You want a banana?
Ellen: Yes!
Mama: Do you want it big, or should I cut it?
Ellen: Biht.

So she's walking around, watching the boys play/fight and eating half a banana.
She titled the mail "Not today, either," as in "No, today is not the day that we stop being impressed by her."

Updated addendum:

Bob: I want blueberries with my cereal.
Andrew: I want blueberries with MY cereal.
Ellen: Boo-bay! [Walks from white table to freezer, attempts to open]
Last night while putting her down, I said out loud that I'd forgotten to brush her teeth. She started to get agitated - pushing away her bottle and binky(!) as I offered them. "tee!" "You want me to brush your teeth?" "yef."

So, we went to the bathroom, and she giggled when I picked up her toothbrush.
Bobby had a long time out yesterday - maybe half an hour - during which he ended up peeing on the chair.
Three weeks 'til three.
The last of the boys' Wubbanub binkies, Andrew's Duck, finally wore out, a few weeks before it was to be retired on their birthday anyway. I cut the [unsafe] suckage part off to salvage something of it, but what was left did nothing for him, so he asked for me to put it up high on their shelf.

Last night, he asked to throw it away, so I got it down, and he did so without ceremony. I'll admit to choking up just a little bit, as that was one of the last remnants of their babyhood comforts that was still getting some mileage. Part of me was hoping he'd want to hold onto it for nostalgia's sake, though that's also a very dangerous precedent to set.
It's been elusive to get on video, but if Ellen wakes while the boys are awake, they'll help us by opening the door, walking up to and climbing her crib and saying, "I'm happy to see you, Elliebellie!" and being cute with her while she smiles back. I really need to capture it before it goes away.
Quick Ellen notes:

She walks about 20% of the time now, which a week ago she was just doing once in a while for the novelty of it. I guess her record is about 15 feet by now. She's very keen on practicing and improving.

Yesterday I thought I sniffed something, and told her I thought she'd pooped. She crawled to the changing table, pulled (not climbed) herself up, then looked at us expectantly.

She says "thanks" without prompting. ("henk")

When you set her sleeper on the floor, she'll crawl over and lie down on her back over it.

When you set a pillow on the floor, she'll crawl over and lie her head on it.

She's obsessed with socks. ("hock!")

Half the time when you take her to bed, whether for nap or night, she has no interest in a book. After her milk, she pushes the book away and reaches for the crib. In other words, she has the same desires as her parents.

Her favorite food is cheese ("dees!"), followed closely by scrambled eggs with spinach.

June 11th+

We figure that by the boys' age, a lot of children already have the fear of God and Hell hammered into them.
For Father's Day, Liss gave the old conundrum - do I celebrate by spending it with my children, or by getting a break from them?

I told her I'd take Ellen to Fry's.
When we're pouring ketchup for the boys, they say to stop when we reach "five ketchups."(*) Whatever that means, it's a consistent and reasonable amount. If we stop early, they complain that there are only three ketchups, and to keep going.

They've also learned the ASL sign for "I love you."(+) Bobby often wants blueberries in his morning Chex; this morning, instead of "five" or a "medium" amount, he made the sign and said "I want 'I love you' blueberries in my Chex."

This isn't language confusion or mathematical dyslexia or whatever. This is toddler humor, and to toddlers, it's freakin' hilarious.

(*) Which Bob still pronounces "kep-etch."
(+) Which is exactly the same as the heavy metal Satan sign, so I get a little private chuckle each time my boys do it.
The boys' bedtime last night was pretty terrible, or at least Andrew's. They tend to revert to younger behavior when sick, and this was a prime example. Liss left for yoga after putting Ellen down, and he got very upset about it. There was nothing I could do (except "get Momma!"), so eventually I left them to their own devices.

However, Bobby (still sick) puked a little, so I went back and cleaned that up while Drew was still howling at me. Later Bob opened the door because he wanted a tissue. Then Drew called for me, mostly to "get Momma!" again, but that was Bob's chance to tell me that Andrew has scratched his face. I honestly didn't know what to do about that, because taking Drew down to a time out would have just started him up again.

I'd already been searching for something new to try, and had decided to hit their access to the door. I'd taken the knob lock off the front doorknob and brought it upstairs, showed it to them and said that they couldn't open the door again until the green light came on (in 12 hours), or I'd put it on their door.

This did the trick, as Andrew started to calm down and focus. He still didn't want me around, but he really didn't want to lose the door. After a couple of minutes I asked if he wanted me to stay or go; he said go, but calmly instead of the hateful tone. About ten minutes later they were asleep.

A couple of friends with older boys (one a few months, the other a year) have been writing about similar behavior, which we've been dealing with for several months now. Either we got it early and will be out of it soon, or we got it early and are just now entering the 'normal' time for such things and will have a lot more of this coming. (Or, they just got it late)
Bobby's picked up whatever Drew's had, because he puked this morning after I'd already left. However, there's a huge upside - he managed to get most of it in their trash can. That's totally new and with-it thinking, and will be earning him much [more] praise this evening.

Drew's illness has progressed from that to ... the other end, so he's been having diarrhea for a day or so. However, he's still had no accidents, doing a great job of holding it and/or recognizing when it's time to potty it out. For our part, we need to keep reminding him (now them) to drink a lot to replenish.

I think I may have had a brief and very muted version of whatever this is two days ago, and Liss and Ellen have shown no signs.
Ellen can get all the way down a flight of stairs by herself now.
We keep telling the boys that the green light means they can get up, but they don't have to if they don't want to. They, in response, reiterate that no, they'll be coming out then.
I had a bout of insomnia last night, finally getting to sleep for real around 1:45am.

At 3:45, a boy was crying out for me on the monitor. I went to investigate, and it was one of those times where you know what's wrong when you open the door, because the smell hits. Usually it's poop, but this time it was worse: puke. Andrew was lying on his back with puke all over his neck and shoulder, and around his mouth. There was quite a bit on the bed, too, including his bears, blanket, and especially his sheet.

What follows is about the opposite of what I'd have expected to happen, but it's all true. I asked him to stay like he was while I got some towels, and he did. There were no complaints, no attempts to get up, nothing. He just waited patiently, and it took me a while. I turned on the light to help clean; Bobby stirred but didn't wake.

I used a towel to get the really chunky parts off him, sat him up to do more, then to take off his sleeper. Liss came in to start laundry detail while I continued boy detail. After the initial wipedown, I asked if he wanted to have a bath, or just have me wipe him down with wet towels. He said towels, so we went into the bathroom and I turned on the bathtub spigot. By this time, he was just in his diaper, so he was getting a little cold, but still not complaining. I wrapped a dry towel around him while the water warmed up. "Do you want the water hot, cold or medium?" "Medium." I already knew that, but the idea was to use a-few-choices questions to keep him engaged.

As the water was still warming (it takes a while), he said "I don't want to take a bath," in a very "aw, shucks" kind of voice. I reassured him that he wasn't getting one, since he'd picked the wet towels. It was ready around that time, so I started. You know how when you get a haircut, the barber might ask you to look up or down, crane your neck this way, etc? I was asking him to do those things, and he just did them, no problem. Throughout the whole process, he was content to follow directions and let me handle things and instead of trying to take charge of a situation they have no control over - which is what they often, often do.

When he was clean-ish, we went downstairs for a new sleeper. I also asked if he wanted his diaper changed - yes - and there was a little poop in there. Normally, that would have disqualified him from stickers in the morning, but as I told [the enforcer] Liss later, I was happy to overlook it this time. He'd been through enough.

Liss was putting a new sheet on the bed when we got back up to their room, which is about when Bobby finally woke up - crying. He wasn't having a nightmare or anything; he was just annoyed that the light was on in the room, and that I wasn't there to comfort him. Liss tried before I'd gotten there, which just incited him further (it's a damned-if-you-do/don't thing for her). So, I ended up having to calm him down instead of the boy who'd actually been through something traumatic. After he was better and Liss left for bed, I helped Drew for a couple of minutes before retiring myself. Only now, I couldn't back to sleep again, what with the activity and a little residual queasiness from all the sights and smells. So, I went downstairs to pass the time.

I didn't get back to sleep until about 30 minutes before the alarm, after which Liss woke me up off the living room floor.
While we were out on a date night, we ate at a chain restaurant and noticed a family with a pair of blonde, identical twin boys. We approached them to say hi; it turns out the boys were age four, so we got to hear the "it gets better" thing. That never gets old.
The jackassess in our neighborhood have acquired their July 4th firecracker stashes, without also acquiring a proper measure of restraint. I'd like them to try explaining the sudden pops to a pair of almost-three-year-olds at bedtime.
The stoplight is working well for structuring the boys' wake times - well, that's not the right word. They still wake up whenever, but they're doing well at keeping things on the low down until it turns green. Even when they'd pooped in their diapers - thus negating the earning of stickers, as does emerging prematurely - they still stayed subdued until it turned.

Today, Liss started using another one to manage their quiet time - when they don't have to nap, but they have to be out of our hair. I've never seen a sucessful quiet time, which may partially be due to my presence disturbing their psyches, but I've heard rumors. She's determined to get some down time over the summer.
When Andrew woke up Sunday, he used the potty as normal, and then refused to do it again until bedtime. We'd keep asking, and he'd keep saying he didn't want to - not that he didn't need to, but didn't want to. We're not sure what was going on beside stubborness, but he wore underwear all day - refusing diapers - and didn't have any accidents. It felt like we were playing with fire all day.
Sunday also showed a nice development on the part of the boys. We went to a small party at a friends' house; they have a boy who will turn two in a few months. They have the same basketball goal we do. The three of them shot baskets for at least an hour. I think the last basket elicited as much excitement as the first.
Saturday was the best all-kids-all-the-time day in recent memory, if not ever.

The big coup was around 5-7pm, as the boys made up a version of hockey with a broken hand strainer and a dishwasher soap pellet. They played that for a good 45 minutes, then moved to the basketball hoop, where they would pretend to drive diaper boxes to a basketball game, shoot a basket, pretend to drive to a football game, toss a football a couple of feet, then start over again. Most of that time, Ellen was just exploring the toy corner in the living room, quietly and without fuss. It was great for us, and surely a sign of things to come.

That night, Drew did something he's done a couple of times at bedtime now. We normally turn off their lights and then lie on their mattresses to say good night - me on his and Liss on Bobby's first. When I got there, however, he said "I want you to go!" Okay, whatever, Little Man, so I joined Liss with Bobby. He was soaking up the double attention like a dry sponge. When Liss moved on to Drew, he wanted the same treatment. Sorry, kid, you blew it.

A few minutes later, as I went for a final smooch and good-bye, Bobby said "I don't want stickers." That's code for "I pooped my diaper." Since we had just gone through trying to get them to poop in their potties, this was unpleasant news. I went down for a new diaper and some wipes, came back up, and ... he hadn't pooped. What's your game, Little Man?
Ellen's gotten over her rough few days, and was back to her sweet self sometime Saturday.

June 4th+

Like the boys do to Liss, Ellen rejects me when she's emotional. They want me, and she wants her. I guess it's better than three wanting one.
Speaking of not getting what one wants, the boys have adopted a strategy of "next time." I didn't get what I wanted now, but "Next time I'll get the green cup!" in a defiant voice seems to be all they need to start getting over it. It's not a defense mechanism I'd have come up with for them, but it seems to work well enough. That and the pretend grab thing are cut from the same cloth - trying to control their environment when frustrated that they can't.

We'll know they've really entered the Promised Land when they no longer give a shit what color cup they get.

As far as when that happens, my Google search was of no help.
Last night I gave Andrew a quick lesson in how to be a good brother.

Liss left for yoga as they were getting ready for bed - Ellen was already down - and Bobby wanted to say Bye at the window, like they do. Andrew told me that he wanted to turn on the red light of the alarm clock (which is just turning the alarm part on). However, he was looking at the window. I quietly told him that if he wanted to turn on the light, so would Bobby, and now was a good time to go upstairs and do it. He immediately agreed, so we went up. The light won out over yelling Bye to Momma. Bobby soon followed with his visiting Uncle Doug, and noted that the light was already on. He took it in stride, which is the best we can hope for in such situations.

I guess I meant how to be good at being a brother - and knowing when and how to get what you both want, but only one can have.
Today Liss reminded me that we've hit two months since our last Urgent Care trip, which is a dubious milestone indeed.
Ellen's had a fussy few days. Normally she'll sit happily in her high chair with snacks while Liss makes dinner, but she's wanted to be held instead, but only by Liss, who can't really cook with a 23-pound kid on her hip. She cries if I take her, which when combined with the boys' wanting my attention from the minute I get home, is also a bad combination.

I thought it was more teething (number eight has come through) or a new growth spurt, but after last night and this morning, it might be digestive pain. She had a minor blowout last night, and a major one this morning. It had come out of her diaper all the way up to her shoulders in her sleeper. It was one of those where, if it had happened on a weekend, I would have just plopped her in the bath instead of using 15 wipes and a wet rag. It's been four hours and five hand washings, and I can still smell a little of it on my fingertips.

Once she'd gotten that out and was clean and had some apple juice in her, though, she calmed down. So maybe she's done, but I doubt it, and teeth and growth are still on the table.

When she asked for the apple juice - specifically - Liss asked if she wanted it in a cup or bottle. She said bottle. When I was saying my good-byes, she disagreed with several "no bye"s. These are not things 14-month-olds do. Unlike "apple juice," which is two words but a single construct, "no bye" is a true two-word construct. The standard is to have two or three of those ... when you turn two. You know, when she's 66% older than she is now. Maybe we'll stop being surprised by her someday, but not today.
Quick video of Ellen practicing walking. One new thing is that she had always been pulling up on something, like a chair, instead of just from a sitting position. The other is just the amount - before now it's been maybe three steps and maybe three tries before going back to crawling.
The pediatrician referred Ellen to a dermatologist. So, here we go again with the specialists.
The preschool search committee is sucking Liss's soul.
Last night we set up the boys' stoplight alarm clock to change from red (can't get up, but can lay quietly and read or talk) to green (can get up and leave your room, such as to use the potty, but you don't have to). Since I leave for work before the set time, Liss kept me apprised:

At 7:42, little voices said, "Hey, the light is green, we can go out and poop!"

At 7:45, the door opened. "Mommeee, the light is green!"
So, they did well.

She asked when we should set it for the weekend, to which I naturally said 6:30. pm. But really, let's try 8am.
Liss set up the boys' first dental appointment, though I'll be the one taking them; as she puts it, they find me more comforting.

The neighbor girl, it turns out, got a genetic problem with her teeth, and had lots of cavities that required oral surgery. They had to put her under for it. Here's hoping nothing like that will come of these visits.
Some of our upcoming UK trip will be in the company of an American couple that moved there a few years ago on a temporary visa. They live in a tiny town in Wales.

The new fantasy plan is that they'll move to Olympia on their return, then we'll do the same, and the two wives will open a bookstore with bakery. When it comes up, the friend is quick to note that she is not kidding.
Ellen's not taking to the heat well, and by "heat" I mean Seattle's version of it. We hit 75 or so this weekend.

She's a bit of a sweater, being chunky and having to recline in seats a lot and all that, plus her skin rashes have come back a bit. Liss is going to consult her doctor, even if the only result is getting a renewal on the cream that's been working but is about to run out.

We might be getting an A/C unit for her room.
I think Ellen will be taking meaningful steps in a few weeks, and mostly walking by the end of July.
From Liss's gluten-free blog:
We have plans to meet friends tomorrow morning at a restaurant that has gluten-free pancakes. I told the boys about it at bedtime: "Tomorrow we're going to go meet friends at a restaurant that has pancakes that are good for our tummies." They both sat up, cheered and applauded. Here's hoping the pancakes are actually good, right? [They were]

But then Bobby turned back to me and said, "Good for my tummy means gluten-free."

"Wow, that's right, little man, I didn't even know you knew the phrase 'gluten-free.'"

"Why not gluten four?"
But anyway, we have no idea who taught them the phrase, but I guess there was no reason not to.
It was a kind-of uneventful weekend. We did a lot of stuff, but it was mostly to keep the kids busy, per usual. Quick rundown:

For our swap deal, I babysat the lone kid this Friday, but his dads were there for most of it anyway. I just had to put him to bed and make sure the place didn't catch fire. Saturday night was our turn out, for which we saw the new X-Men (very good) and - more importantly - did a Fry's and Target run without kids in tow. It took 1/3rd of the time it would have with them. It was fabulous.

Saturday we had overly expensive brunch with friends, then back home, then to a baby shower, then back home to settle them down before the swap babysitter. The shower hostess borrowed a box of toys for ours to use, which was very useful - novel toys! - but their stereo receiver proved very enticing for Ellen. Really, if you need to babyproof your place, she's at the age where you can just plop her on the floor and let her find the weak spots. The house also had a buff dog, which scared the boys, so they had to sequester him outside.

Sunday was our usual Sunday brunch at friends' - with some nice outside time - then a failed attempt at quiet time with the boys, then visiting a neighbor and her three-year-old girl, then ice cream, and home. That's when we all started having shorter fuses, so we put them to bed early.
I will say one thing for the expensive brunch place - they make a decent gluten-free pancake. Also, an advantage of such things is that you can cut through a whole one with a single stroke of the knife.

However, two adult and two kids' breakfasts with four drinks should not come to $53.
"Missy Miss"

May 28th+

Oh, the mention below is the second time the boys have come out of their room in the morning on their own.
The boys get one plain M&M ("candy") for peeing in the potty, and two for pooping. We never thought the color of the candy would matter, but it's of prime importance. Also, when the bag gets low, they start asking for (or not) ones that are broken.

Sometimes when Bobby earns all three, he'll ask for two browns and one yellow. I don't think it's meant like we might interpret it, but it sure as hell amuses me.
From Liss:
The nanny arrived before the boys had gotten too restless, so I was about to leave without greeting them ... when they opened their door and came out. Drew was crying about not getting a sticker. Bob was gloating about the police car sticker he wanted.

So I went to give Bob his sticker and explain to Drew that while I was very sad that he'd had a bad dream, he had, in fact, woken Daddy. "Do you remember your bad dream?" "Yeah." [Huge sigh]

Bobby got his police jet ski sticker. I got the tape and helped him affix it. Then, as usual, he asked to be lifted to put his sticker "up high." And naturally, that's when I smelled the poop in his diaper.

Dammit. Bad dreams are out of Drew's control, but Bob can control his poop. No fair giving Bob a sticker and not Drew, right? Especially with Drew watching and listening so closely as I quizzed Bobby about his diaper. I could see him getting ready to ask why Bobby could have one and he couldn't. Plus, I was already in too much of a hurry to deal with Bob's reaction if I took his sticker away.

So Drew got a police sticker after all, and neither of them got sports or calendar stickers. They both got a mini-lecture reminding them that next time there will be no lenience.

"Lenience" is the word that got me kicked out of the city Spelling Bee in 8th grade.
So I think our new routine will be to do a diaper check before going for stickers. They really need to try to poop everything out before bedtime, or they'll be in overnight diapers forever. Their bodies need to get into that routine. Right now they'll usually do nothing or just enough to get their two candies, and then fill the diaper later. Each boy currently does it about 1 night in 3.

As far as taking away the sticker reward for having a bad dream - well, we feel bad about that, but what's the alterative? If that's an exception, they'll just start whining and then say it's because of a nightmare, even if they were just bored and wanted to be held. They just have to weigh the reward of being held versus the reward of a sticker.

All in all, though, the sticker thing had been great, since two months ago they were waking me up four times a night.
From Liss:
I was getting Ellen dressed and as soon as she had on her shirt and pants, she said "Socks!" very clearly (and repeated it after I grabbed a pair). Once I had those on her, she said "Shoes!" and when I got them she was so smug. Controlling Mama with her words. It's awesome. I said "Dude!" and she repeated it. We need to teach her to use that one in context.

She also made a joke, maybe. She showed me her tummy, hands, ears and nose several times in a row, so I know she knows them. But after a minute of that she started just lifting her dress to pat her tummy no matter what I asked, and giggling hysterically every time.

If we could guarantee the rest would be just like her, I'd have 3 more. Love that girl.
More reading relevant to our interests, about raising a sensitive child, though it's geared more toward school-age kids.
When they're running, the boys' hard skulls are zooming along at a few miles per hour. They like to end a run with a Daddy hug, head first. These skulls are at my crotch level. I have, in response, developed a habit of protecting myself when they come near.

Perhaps I should start wearing a cup.
The way to tell if a child is using a word - as opposed to just mimicking it - is a combination of context and repetition, without being prompted. Ellen will look at me and say Daddy ("dah-ee"), and has done so many times, so we conclude that she knows that word. The same goes for looking in the mirror and saying her name, looking at her diaper and saying poop, and so on. The danger - if you want to call it that - is hearing what we want to hear, and not what she's actually saying.

The same can be said for the boys, though they're generally pretty understandable by now. Probably their biggest hurdle is rushing through the "don't" in "I don't want," so it's hard to tell if it's there or not. Obviously, that presents difficulties of context.
I don't think I quite believe what this post is trying to conclude, but I suppose it's worth archiving here for our Bright Girl.
Every few weeks or so, I'll ask a boy to open wide so I can see if their second molars are coming in. They're not, and I can't see any signs that they are. The chart says 31 (lower) and 33 (upper) months on the late side, and they're 35. That'll be on the dentist discussion list when the time comes. Now Bobby will sometimes ask me to look, probably just for the novelty of his Daddy staring into his gaping maw.

My teeth were weird as a kid, but I don't know about lateness. I just know that my baby teeth didn't want to come out, even when my adult teeth were coming in. Twelve - yes, twelve - of my twenty baby teeth had to be pulled to make room, up to four at a time. This says that late arrival correlates to late loss, and the boys have always had late arrivals. There may be lots of bloody dental visits and milkshakes in our future.

Ellen is pretty much on the slighty-late side of the normal time table so far.

Update: Liss says she and her brother were also late to the tooth loss party. So, the kids are doubly screwed.
While the idea was for our home to go gluten-free (GF), it hasn't panned out that way, because the boys have been so good about just accepting that some things are "bad for our tummies." So, we still have a few things around for ourselves and Ellen, such as hamburger buns and cereal. We've bought a few GF cereals for them, but they've really latched onto the Cinnamon Chex - and who can blame them? Liss bakes to have something for them to snack on and/or take places that don't reliably have GF options.

One of the victims of the change is our previous routine of going to restaurants for brunch with friends on the weekends. They actually have done okay when we've done it, but we still feel bad (and yet so good) getting regular pancakes when they can't have them. How we reconcile the hypocricy regarding our indulgent hamburger buns and cereal, I'm not sure. The expense of restaurants factors into it, though. We've been sticking to home-based versions.

We're going to have to get Bobby tested for celiac at regular intervals in his life, like every two years or so. For this, we'll have to give him some gluten to trigger the antibodies that indicate celiac, so they can show up on the blood test. Ellen will probably join the test brigade, too, though her odds are less than Bobby's:

If you have a parent, sibling or child with coeliac disease, you have a 10 per cent chance of also developing it. If you have an identical twin with coeliac disease, your chances increase to more than 70 per cent. link
And eventually, they may rebel or at least be careless. Andrew's never showed any symptoms, and Bobby's even further away in that his single test was negative. They'll probably say f-it someday and gorge and see what happens. And maybe nothing will happen, which hey, you probably don't cough up blood after your first few smokes, either. Liss says most celiacs can tell a bad reaction after a little wheat, such as a big loss of energy, but we won't know until they try.

There are drug companies trying to come up with celiac treatments, which of course involve taking a pill a day for the rest of your life. Celiac disease already has a drug-free cure - don't eat gluten - but that doesn't mean there's not a market for such a drug. I can't imagine insurance companies would cover it, though.
Liss is in the home stretch at work, meaning her Summer of Three Toddlers is about to begin. She's both excited and apprehensive. She's trying to fill the days with structure, such as pre-school for the boys and swim classes for Ellen. For my part, I'm looking forward to not paying the nanny her full pay for almost two months. Liss could make more than that by teaching summer school, but she wants to spend the time with the kids more than she wants the net difference; the nanny's pay would take about 2/3rds of her summer school pay.

Update: As it turns out, there's no summer school this year anyway. Budget cuts.
Ellen can say her name now, such as when I hold her up to a mirror and ask "Who's that?" It sounds something like "eh-nuh."
During all of his excursions, traumatic or not, Andrew kept a dry diaper. He's just been holding it, so we still haven't needed to try "the big toilet" in a public place; they still won't try the ones at home. Plan B would be to put him in a diaper after he expresses the need to go, but a toilet would definitely be Plan A.
While Go, Dog, Go has been "missing" for a while now, we still have an inside joke around its recurring "I do NOT!" theme, as shown here. We'll answer that instead of just "no" sometimes, in a haughty voice. The boys are in on it, which we're okay with because it doesn't remind them to ask where the book is.
Speaking of letters, we've started using their ASL signs when otherwise talking about them. It comes up a lot, as the boys will get in a loop of "what starts with table?," which is how they ask what letter "table" starts with. So, we'll say "Table starts with T" while doing the T sign. They like to try mimicking them, and have a few down okay.

There's no direct point to it - they don't know any deaf people - except to impress that there's more than one way to express concepts.

On a similar note, Ellen has started saying "please" with prompting, complete with the sign.
I got the boys' birthday ukeleles, blue for Andrew and red for Bobby. They'll be incognito until then.

When I break out the guitar, they always ask "what's this?" for each string, because they like letters. Last night I turned it around on them ("What do you think?"), and Andrew got 5 of the 6 right. I didn't even think he'd been paying attention.

When they get one wrong, it's often to guess "H," which isn't even a musical note, so I guess they're not quite Jimi Hendrix yet.

Actually, Jimi died young, so let's let them aspire to be the next Paul McCartney instead. Yeah.
There's something extra fun about holding Ellen's diaper up to her, asking "What's this?" and having her answer "poop."
We had a date night this weekend, during which we saw Kung Fu Panda 2, mostly because it fit into a double feature schedule (with Bridesmaids), but also the first one didn't make us hurl and this one was getting okay reviews.

Anyway, so we're watching this, and the main character is learning about why he was adopted - an evil prince was foretold that a "black and white" hero would overthrow him, so he had all the pandas killed. In the midst of the flashback, our hero recalls how his mother, running from the fight, cast her yearish-old son away to the unknown before being killed herself off camera. All we had to do was replace him with Ellen in our heads and ... yeah, we misted up.

At an animated panda.
The boys are getting better at insults when they're mad. I got this one from Andrew:

"You live in the garbage can, because you're garbage."

Way to be creative, there, little man.

It's hard not to laugh and/or be impressed while trying to teach that such things aren't acceptable.
After this weekend, I've decided that the boys aren't high strung because they're young, but because those are their personalities.

Saturday night, the Mariners game went to 12 innings. During the last of those, the broadcast showed a boy of maybe two, just kind of chillin' in the stands. He'd been there for hours, and was still there, no big deal.

Sunday, I took Drew to the game. We were on our way back to the train station in the first inning. It was too noisy, too loud, and that's from the pre-game announcements and National Anthem.

Monday, Liss took Bobby. Learning from the previous day, she kept him away from their seats until things started, so things went great ... until he melted down and they left in the third. Meanwhile, I took Drew and Ellen to Folklife "to watch people make music." We were there for about 90 minutes, including a food stop, which wasn't terrible. But, consider I was taking an almost-three and a barely-one, you'd think the younger one would be the limiting factor. She wasn't. She almost never is. Because she's not high strung.

By coincidence, Liss and Bobby boarded the train (and train car) on which we were also returning home. The boys sat in their strollers, not wanting to get out for fear of the scary train. Ellen was asleep.
As a follow-up to Bobby's diaper incidents over the last few days, he now has a little scab on the tip of his penis.
Ellen has started say "thanks." In context.

What the hell, smart girl?

May 21st+

Ellen took her first steps Thursday night. It was just a couple of them, and then boom onto her butt, but there it was. She's done it a couple more times since, but still just two or maybe three each time.
"That may be the cutest thing I've seen today - and I've seen Ellen!"
The boys' latest thing is that they like to sit with me on the sofa, i.e. lie across my legs and use the armrest as a pillow. It's charming, except for that thing where one twin always wants to do what the other is doing, and there's no room on my lap for both.
Fourteen months old.
Last night the boys peed in the potty before bedtime but didn't poop, despite our multiple entreaties. This morning, Bob woke up early, sobbing, because he'd pooped in his diaper some time prior, and it was hurting him. Poop is alkaline, you see, and eats away at you over time. It had migrated to his penis, too, so that was also red and raw.

This was two mornings in a row, and maybe the fifth time in two weeks. We're trying to tell him the cause and effect going on here, but when bedtime comes, he just doesn't want to go. We can't do something like "stay there until you go," because then he'd just sit there holding it to delay bedtime. He didn't get a sticker this morning, since poop isn't on the approved list, but that hasn't motivated him when it comes to this.

Andrew, for his part, had a dry overnight diaper and had a dual potty trip pretty soon after getting up. You know, like a grown up.

Update: Liss reminded me that Andrew also wore underwear all day Wednesday and kept it dry. He's coming along well.
Ellen likes to go upstairs without supervision. This would be fine, since it's pretty well babyproofed and she doesn't stick random things in her mouth anymore, except for one major thing: she goes straight to the cat's food and dumps it into the water dish. The boys had the same habit at a similar age, so it's a familiar phase that will go away, but until then, we'll have to use the gate or go with her.
I still refer to Ellen as a baby a lot. The boys correct me every time.
Liss had a late meeting at work, so I had the kids for about an hour. It was mostly pleasant; the boys were curious about the guitar, and Ellen explored on her own like she does.

The meeting was about the pre-school at her workplace. The existing place, which she hates, will be gone next year, so it's the perfect time for her to help get a new business in there - one that we can happily take our boys to. However, her initial committee meeting was deflating; she thinks it'll be a popularity contest instead of a search for the best provider and value. We'd like the convenience and savings over the place in Bellevue they go to now, but not if it's to a crappy program.
I've bought the tickets for this weekend's baseball experiments. Liss's mom gives us 'til the third inning before we'll have to leave. She may be right.

The question now is, who gets to see the Yankees, and who has to see the Orioles?

Er, I mean, who has to see a Mariners loss, and who gets to see a win?

Update: Andrew and I will go Sunday for the Yankees so Liss can prep for company coming over that night.
After the good start, Ellen's not nearly as compliant during teethbrushing now.
Ellen's walking-with-help has followed a quick evolution. Not long ago, you'd take her hands from the front, and lead her by walking backwards. Now you hold them from behind her, and she takes the lead.

This weekend I tried a different tactic by holding her from behind by the armpits. She was having none of that; she took my hands and shoved them to where they needed to be - in front of her.
I've been asking the boys to stop picking their noses or playing with their penises "in front of me," to at least start to path toward the whole times-and-places-for-things thing. They don't understand, but they generally comply. Similarly, Liss has insisted that they have a diaper or underwear at the dinner table.

Stifling their self-expression, we know.
We got the boys out of bed at 9am on both Saturday and Sunday. Sure, they were awake a little sooner, but were chatting and/or reading happily, so no problem. Even Ellen got in on the action a little bit, waking around 7:45-8. Bliss.
I told the boys about our baseball game idea, and they were both on board. I asked who wanted to go with which parent, and thankfully they agreed without any prompting - Andrew with me, Bobby with Liss. Bob's gotten a lot more Mom-friendly lately.

Previously, Liss had offered to thumb wrestle - which she usually wins - to see who got to take Andrew first, with the idea that he'd be able to take the new experience better. When I asked them to recount their decisions at dinner, I made sure to disclaim any pushing in either direction, but I'm not sure she believes me.
In deference to his preference, I need to reference Drew as Andrew more.
Since they were tiny, I've bench pressed the boys (and now sometimes Ellen) while counting with their names, i.e. "One Andrew, Two Andrews, Three ..." Now they request it, and tell me how many to do, take turns nicely, etc. It's a little workout for me, and fun for them. However, last night I must have been too vigourous, because Drew started coughing the cough that we know all too well by now - a puke might be coming. And it did. Fortunately, I'd gotten him away from myself [mostly] in time.

We're not ready to stop, though; I just need to be more gentle.
The boys are pretending more and more. Last night, Bobby picked up a dead cell phone that we use to distract Ellen, and "called" several people about his day.
Words that Ellen will say in context without prompting: hello (if on phone), cheese, spoon, no!, applesauce, all done, more (sign and word), bear, lion, monkey, cup, [nanny's daughter], Momma, Daddy, hi, bye-bye, milk (sign and word), bottle, blueberry, strawberry, up, down, kitty, cracker, "mmmm!", uh-oh!, "mwah!"
The last three years of our lives, in microcosm.

May 14th+

My latest brilliant plan that could go horribly awry: on weekends with back to back home afternoon Mariners games, one of us takes a boy to a game while the other does whatnot with the other two kids, then switch parent and boy the next day. There are two such weekends coming up. They can get in free until they're three(*), as long as they sit in our laps.

(*)*cough*And perhaps a shade beyond.*cough*
I like pulling up old pictures of the boys and asking them if they can tell which is which. They're right about half the time.
Ellen's up to six and a half teeth.

Liss brushed them last night for the first time. She just kind of opened her mouth and let the good times roll. I hope that's how it'll be with her; the boys took it for a while, but there was a period where we had to hold them down and do it. Now it's no big deal, but we had to fight to get where we are with them.

We still haven't taken them to a dentist, which is definitely in the Bad Parenting column.
Ellen (or the nanny) found a standalone binky, which I gave to Bob after putting her to bed. So, he gets a hit.
While I was changing Ellen for bed, Bobby climbed up to observe, with Drew in earshot. I asked her if she could say "Bobby," and she looked at him and said "Bob!" He thought that was great, so he asked her to say it again(*). This time, she said "No!" That was even better, and hilarity ensued. He kept asking, and she kept saying no, and the boys would laugh, settle down a bit, and start the loop over again.

Adding to the fun was that all three were nude.

(*) "Can you say 'Bobby,' please, Ellen?"
Anyone who knows anything about military history is aware that each innovation inevitably leads to another. Flight => radar/anti-aircraft guns => stealth flight. Trebuchet => thicker walls => catapult. The same applies to strategy and tactics. Examples are endless.

And so it goes with toddlers. The sticker bribery may be wearing off with Bobby. From Liss:
Bobby was upset about not getting stickers this morning, but not as upset as I'd have preferred. If tonight's bad again, I vote we implement some kind of new reward for multiple sticker days in a row.
Looks like we may be going through more health insurance drama concerning Drew's endoscopy.
The boys don't ask us to smooch their pains as much anymore, just mostly when they're among the worst. However, Liss says that Drew hurt himself a few days ago (I forget how), kind of stopped stunned, said "that really, really hurt!" and went about his business. So, they're starting to not freak out as much at the little pains, either.
Bobby had a Fox and the Grapes moment last night. The boys were having their slumber party instead of sleeping, stuffing their nightstand with books. I guess he got hurt somehow around 8:15, and started crying loudly enough for me to go in, even though he hadn't called me specifically. I explained that since he'd "woken me up" for something other than poop or puke, he wouldn't get stickers in the morning, to which he said he didn't want them anyway, which is uproariously false.

The funny(?) thing is that he had pooped, and was just wallowing in it. He could have called me for that with no penalty. This was also on top of Drew doing the same while I was putting them down, so we need to remember to have them use the potty right before bedtime.

At 4:30, Bob started crying and yelling again for reasons we still don't know. I went to help, but he wanted Liss instead, which is a rare thing; usually some of the first words out of his mouth when I get home from work are "Daddy hold you." My theory is that he thought he'd still get stickers later because he could claim he didn't "wake me up." Sorry, kid.

Edited to add: I'm forgetting my own rules. It's pee leaks or puke that they can call me for, not poop.
I think when most people without/before kids think of a "baby," they think of someone like Ellen - crawling, chatty, eating solids, alert and cherubic. But she's a baby like a 17-year-old is a child - technically true, but don't say it to their faces. I think it's that TV and movies and the like tend to misrepresent, like holding up someone's "newborn" right after birth and showing a clean two-month-old.

To reuse the word I had for the boys, she's a proto-toddler.
Oftentimes, when Ellen does something we compliment her on, like eating lots of spinach, we also add "And so cute!"

Oftentimes, when Ellen does something we sour on, like waking up early, we also add "But so cute!"
At some point Sunday, I was putting Drew into his car seat, when I noticed that it was tilting a bit. I lifted him out, and tried to adjust it, but it just came up in my hands. It wasn't belted in. Looking at Bob's, neither was his.

So, yeah, for some undetermined amount of time, our sons' seats weren't anchored to the vehicle in any way whatsoever.

I'm certain that we used the belts to strap the seats when we installed them last summer, but that's the last firm thought I have on the matter. However, I'd think that the seats would tilt pretty soon after becoming unbelted, or at least I hope so.

It could have been them, us, the nanny, or really anyone else with access, so we'll probably never know what happened. My leading theory is that one boy discovered that he could press the button and make something happen, and the other copied him.

It's a good thing we've adhered to Plan A: Don't get in a wreck.
The monthly chore of putting the boys' poop into tubes for the diabetes study has become something they look forward to, because they get to help. However, circumstances this weekend made it such that we saved one of Bob's diapers from when we were out and about, then I took care of the tube stuff after putting them to bed, and left to mail them before they woke up this morning.

If he were to remember, he'd be pissed. But he won't.
I brought up an acoustic guitar from the garage. The boys are curious, but that has a way of waning quickly.
Liss really wants to open a gluten-free bakery. How much she wants to do it is in direct proportion to frustration with her current job.

We would call it Drewbie's.
Liss got a return e-mail from the Instant Breakfast people saying that they'll be removing "wheat starch" from its ingredient list soon; it's just made on a line that uses it in other products. So, we can continue to use it to fatten up the boys.

Speaking of which, Drew weighed in at 24#11 as he tagged along to Bobby's leg followup last week, which still puts him (them) at the bottom of the chart, but the important thing is that they're still gaining after going gluten-free.

Meanwhile, Bob's leg is fine, though he didn't want to walk around for the orthopedist. He, being two, is stubborn in dumb and random ways.
Asking "why" over and over may not be the most annoying learning-to-converse thing the boys do. Fighting for the top spot is their habit of asking the same questions that we've answered before, like why the trains went so fast (see below). For about two weeks, they accepted a reflective "Well, why do you think so?" to that, in that they'd actually try to answer, but they've taken cues from us and started answering "I don't know" practically before we can finish our sentence. So, it goes around and around.

On the plus side of the coin, they've finally stopped starting most requests with "You have to ..." They still do it a little, especially with the less-offensive "You've got to ...," but the frequency is way down.
The boys play on our bed a lot, and will sometimes pretend they're going to fall asleep on it. When they do that, they'll often get items from the bedtime routine from their room and bring them in, like their pillows and bears. Soon after I wrote about their obsession with a Curious George book, they did that pretend play and brought in the book. As usual, they left everything instead of taking them back, so I casually put the book on the floor on Liss's side, but not really hidden.

That night, they asked where it was, to which we told the truth we tell so often: "It's where you put it." We say that because they need to learn that they're responsible for the whereabouts of their stuff, not us, but it's also convenient to say when we know but don't want them to know. Call it dramatic irony, call it a half truth, we call it getting through the day.

They asked here and there for the next few days, but not so much in the ~two weeks since. It's still there, hiding in plain sight. If/When they discover it, they will have a gleeful moment of pure joy, and we will look at each other knowingly before rolling our eyes.
Some friends with a boy Ellen's age had the same monkey binky as her favorite, and offered it to us because their son never took to it. We were afraid she'd reject it, like the boys did their backup bears, but she didn't. So, now we have a spare, which we were thinking of buying, anyway. The loss of her monkey would cast a pall over the entire house.
They say that the transition from 2 to 3 years is one from "center of the world" to "holy crap it's a big world." I think we saw some of that on Saturday.

Since the fire station open house was near a light rail stop - as are we - we decided to take the train instead of driving, to help kill the time and wear them down with walking. However, we didn't situate ourselves very quickly on boarding, and it started up before the boys had settled into seats, so it threw them off balance and kind of freaked them out. They ended up in my lap the whole ride both ways, though fortunately the initial experience didn't make them balk at the return trip. It's not like we had alternatives. They've ridden the train several times before(*) with no similar incidents.

There were lots of people with lots of kids at the open house. It took the boys a long time to get into it, mostly clinging to us instead. They didn't want to get anywhere on the fire trucks, or even have me lift them to look inside. They were just overwhelmed by the crowd. There were no meltdowns or anything, just shyness and clinging. Thankfully there were no siren blasts or other loud bursts of showing off. Eventually they relaxed a little, but after a bit they offered that it was time to go.

For the rest of the weekend, they asked "why the train go so fast," to which we kept explaining that it really wasn't, or that it was just trying to get people where they wanted to go, or whatever. When we drove on the highway, we mentioned how much faster we were going then the train was. But logic has little place in the minds of two-year-olds.

(*) pic from six months ago
The boys are getting excited for their birthdays. The conversations don't even revolve around presents, like you'd expect, just mainly the fact that they'll be three. They've even started to master holding up three fingers, which when you think about it, is actually kind of hard to do. The hand fights it.

Anyway, my main desire is that we'll be able to do some of the celebration outdoors. Seattle summers, however, can be fickle. It might be 60 and rainy. It might be 95 and sunny. Fortunately, the odds favor 74 and sunny with a little breeze.
Yesterday the boys were riding their "motorcycles" in the garage, in underwear instead of diapers, when Drew stopped. He said he had to poop, so he dismounted, opened the door and started upstairs to the potties with his helmet still on.

He didn't make it.

May 7th+

We are now a formula-free household.
A friend sent us a list of fire station goings-on scheduled for the summer, since fire trucks are the boys' current obsession. There's an open house this Saturday that we'll take them to, which will probably be more awesome than they can comprehend.

I guess the silver lining for now is that their interests tend to converge. Eventually one of them will want to play baseball and the other soccer, e.g., and we'll have to find two disparate things to do instead of one. And then there's Ellen, who's not interested in anything yet, but certainly will be, and likely not the same things as them.
Bobby has a followup with the orthopedist Thursday. He's walking more or less normally now, so that's progress, but they'll make sure. Liss will probably take Drew with her, just to get him weighed so his gastroenterologist can have the data point.

Speaking of which, the Instant Breakfast that he recommended to help the boys gain weight? It turns out that it has wheat starch in it. She's going to send him a "what's up with that?" e-mail and see ... what's up with that.
Sometimes I look at older pictures like this and wonder who the hell those babies are.
As of May 11th, I've now written more this year than I did in all of 2009.
Drew's diapers are now dry more often than not.

It is good or bad parenting, I wonder, to reuse a dry diaper later? Does your answer change when there is no regard to who wore it earlier versus who gets it later?
We've probably bought 30-40 binkies in the last three years, including six wubbanubs of various design. At first, the boys interchanged all four of their wubbanubs, then gradually claimed two each, but then they started to break. As soon as there's a tear - usually from biting - you have to toss them lest a chunk come off and choke your kid. Three of them suffered that fate, so now Drew has his Duck and that's it. Ellen has her Monkey(*) and Lion(+).

And then there are the stand-alone soothies, which have the same issue, but also are more easily lost. We really have no idea how we've lost ~25 of those things, but we have. Bobby was clinging to The Last Known Binky these last few days, but last night he asked "what's wrong with this binky?" It had a tear, and we tossed it. He took the news okay, but still wanted us to look for more.

So now Bobby is binkyless, which happened two months before we were going to impose it anyway. Frankly, I'm a little surprised he hasn't asked us to buy more, but we won't. He understands ownership(^), so I don't think he'll be going after his siblings' binks. We've looked but can't find any more, but if any turn up, he'll get to use it until the deadline - when he turns three.

One of the boys was a little whiny last night; I don't know if it was Bobby or not, but that's my suspicion.

(*) "muh-ee!"
(+) "muh-ee!" "No, Ellie, Lion." "nyn!"
(^) Especially when it favors him.
We find it amusing when the boys hold up a single Chex and call it a Chec.
We encourage the boys to use the potty before bedtime, to get into the habit, plus to minimize the odds of something happening that requires me to wake up to handle. However, more than a few times, they've pooped in their nighttime diapers between then and when we leave them for the night. It happened again last night (Bobby), so I've rescinded the poop exception to waking me but still getting stickers in the morning. That just leaves pee leaks and puke.

The danger is that they'll have some problem that means they can't hold it, or they'll try a little too hard to hold it to get their stickers, but I'll risk it. They're gaming the system, so I have to change the system. It's a neverending tete-a-tete.
Liss took the boys to work for a couple of hours today as the nanny had a family thing to do, but took Ellen. She reported that the boys had a fine time with crafts and food and the general goings on. Now they want to visit "Daddy Work," I guess because obviously it must be equally awesome, and hey, Daddy would be there. However, Daddy is a cubicle drone, not an elementary school teacher.
This weekend at the ice cream place, a set of [fraternal] twins came in - pretty, ~12 year old redheaded girls.

I do not envy the decade their mother is about to go through.
Instead of an endless series of "Why?," Drew will sometimes respond to our explanations with "... Oh."

I consider this to be great progress.
Our weekends are about passing time in the most peaceful manner possible. Whether or not it's also productive time is secondary by a long shot.

Our Saturday is a good example of this. We went to a fund-raiser breakfast (with horrid food), then Target, the train play area, stopped by a bed store (bunk beds: concept good, too early), a bookstore closeout (meltdowns), picked up something we'd ordered, spent forever crossing the 520 bridge, then went home. It all took about six hours, which means we were six hours closer to putting the kids to bed, and they were all still alive and mostly content. Success!

There's a particular amount of freedom to having no real agenda, but the flip side is that you don't get anything done, either. After last year was about getting our finances together, this one is supposed to be about getting the house in order, but we've done very little of it. Most of the list can't be done safely with the kids around, and/or is too loud to do after they're in bed. Or, after 13 hours of child care, we just don't care.
Friday evening gave two excellent examples of what can happen if you turn your back for five seconds. If going from two kids to three with two parents means switching from man defense to zone, one parent with three kids means that your zone will have gaping holes.

It was our work night on the babysitting swap, so Liss went to our friends' place around 4 while I took our brood to a park to pass some time, with Ellen in the single stroller and the boys walking. On my idea, we brought one of the boys' baseball sets (tee, ball, bat), to have the boys do something that didn't require my direct involvement - like the swings or slides do - to free me up for Ellen. It worked pretty well, and she and I mostly played "fetch the monkey" as she tossed hers from the top of the little slide and I caught and tossed it back up, or she watched while the boys and I hit the plastic baseball. She even came down the slide a couple of times with my help, which was pretty daring.

It started to rain a little, so we sought a picnic shelter. At some point, the wind blew the baseball out, so I asked Bobby to fetch it. That was a nice "free labor" moment, and hey, he had a hood and I didn't. A little later, I stepped out to check the rain situation, which was enough time for a woman near us to suspect Ellen was about to dive off the picnic table I'd put her on (better than crawling on cement, eh?). That's not one of my excellent examples, but just a precursor.

The boys wanted to go home, so we started off when the rain let up. Despite the cold (~48 and wind), Ellen kept taking off her shoes and socks, dropping them on the ground as they came off. Fine, lady, have cold feet.

One sign of the boys' maturing is that they don't spend as long on the gaggle of bikes that are in front of a home on the path. This time, though, the dad was outside with a couple of the four kids, so we chatted for a bit. They had one, then twins, then another, so I guess they're even a little crazier than we are.

We soon passed a guy washing his car, who said "That was a long walk!," which meant he'd seen us going to the park, but I didn't register at the time to mean that he assumed we'd been walking the whole time. Yeah, toddlers don't do that. Twenty minutes is about the limit, and that's with a definite goal at the end. He seemed nice, though.

Across the street from his house is the parking lot to the community center near ours. At the entrance to the lot is a tree that's blooming. I asked the boys if they wanted a flower, to which Drew said yes. I let go of the stroller to pick it, which was enough time for that stroller to realize it was on an incline and start rolling across the lot entrance. Bobby had been "helping" push the stroller, so he was either still pushing, trying to stop it, or just trying to keep up - I'm not sure. Regardless, it hit a curb and fell forward, taking Ellen with it, face first.

She was still strapped in, so when I righted the stroller, it lifted her with it, which just added to her indignity. I quickly got her out to check for damage; a few years ago, a friend's son toppled a bicycle onto himself and knocked out three teeth, so that was on my mind. Fortunately I saw nothing, and surmised that she was mostly just scared, which turned out to be the case.

The topple had taken the plastic baseball from the bottom of the stroller, making it roll some 50 feet further down the incline. I started to ask Bobby to go get it when I stopped myself and realized that I was asking my toddler to run after a ball in a parking lot. It's just a ball, dumbass. A security guard who'd been hanging out downhill picked it up and brought it back. I had apparently made quite a startled noise during the fall, as the car-washing neighbor asked if everything was okay from 100 feet away.

When she'd calmed down, I carried Ellen home while the boys and I pushed the empty stroller. Once home, we were eating and whatnot when I noticed that Bobby's diaper had gone afoul, and it turned out to be a bad one - runny, and full of tiny, sticky pieces of blueberry skin that clung to his penis. He opted for underwear after I changed him.

Soon afterwards, we went upstairs to play, which usually is so the boys can jump on our bed. They were doing that and running about like they do, while Ellen was hanging out and getting most of my attention, when Bobby was near our door and expressed ... I don't know what. But when I looked, there were dark spots under him. Some more of his runny poop had come out. He legs were covered and underwear soaked with it.

So, to recap: I've got a boy with poop all over himself and the carpet, about to lose it, and a girl crawler who loves to explore. I need to clean the boy but keep the girl away from the poop - and, for that matter, the open staircase. What to do?

I told Bobby to go into the bathroom, which he started to do, but in his toddler way, stopped to take off his underwear. You know, while he was still on the carpet. Repeated instructions didn't move him, so I picked him up and plopped him in the tub. Meltdown.

Then I quickly picked up Ellen and put her in her crib. It was the only sane choice short of closing her in the boys' room, which is safer than hers overall, but Drew can open the door now, so the crib it was. Meltdown number two. So now I've got two screaming kids, one pooped up and the other jailed through no action of her own.

The water in the tub takes a while to warm up, and I had it on low pressure to keep the cold from freaking Bobby out (more) while I undressed him as he screamed in my ear. However, it splashed enough and he was irate enough that he stepped over and turned off the water. I turned it back on, and he did it again, and that's when I kind of got in his face. I think he could tell my mood, though, because he didn't try again. I turned on the sink's hot spigot to try to speed up the warming process - yay pipe theory.

While the water was warming up, I did a quick triage. The two screamers were the same, so I looked for Ellen's lion binky and tossed it into her crib, to absolutely zero effect. Then I looked for Drew. He was jumping on our bed like nothing else was happening, content and carefree. I could have left him to it, but I asked him to help Ellen. Bless him, he was happy to try, though he asked me to carry him over the spots of poop in the doorway. Of course, little man. I put him in Ellen's crib, and he was trying to hug her and tell her it was okay when I went back to Bob.

By now he'd calmed down a little, so I asked if he wanted a color pellet to help get him into the idea that this was just a normal, quick bath. That worked, so I started filling the tub (to his shins) to let the yellow pellet work, and asked if he could please sit on his butt. "Why?" So I can clean the poop off you, of course. Eventually he did as I asked, and was coming back down to Earth. Months ago this would have taken half an hour instead of five minutes.

Drew's efforts with Ellen were paying dividends, in that she was calming a little bit, but my rearrival to check up started her crying again, because it reminded her that she wanted out. It was too early, though, as I hadn't closed the poopy bedroom door yet, so I went to do that and then got her out.

Then I got Bob out to dry, and we all went downstairs like nothing had happened. I put Bob's clothes in the laundry, and started getting Ellen ready for bed. I asked Bobby if he was done pooping, and he said yes, so I didn't bother to diaper him yet. The boys asked if they could come with Ellen and I to put her down, which I actually prefer, since I can keep an eye on them, but I made sure to remind them to be calm and quiet while I did it, so she didn't get riled up. We went upstairs and I started her routine, but while reading a book, nude Bob started The Dance. I asked if he needed to poop again, and he said yes, so I told him to go to the upstairs potty (about ten feet away, in the same bathroom as that bath). Almost there, he turned around and said he wanted to use the downstairs. "No, use the upstairs!" "Why?" "Because I don't want you to poop on the stairs!" I think he actually saw that as reasonable, because he entered and went. This seemed to get Drew going, as he followed to pee.

Ellen, however, was not amused by this change of events. Her door was open! There was activity! Let me out there! So, she lost it again. Laying her in her crib didn't help, so I picked her up and shushed her, closed the door, and started a quickie version of the routine from the start. That seemed to work, though she still cried in her crib for a couple of minutes after I left before conking out for the night. One down, two to go. Putting the boys to bed was uneventful, which given the nature of the evening so far, was worth celebrating, if only in my head. It still took forty-five minutes, of course; let's not get crazy.

After closing their door, I grabbed some rags and cleaned up the carpet poop as best I could. Not helping matters was that it was so close to the door that opening/closing it smeared the stuff around in an elegant semi-circle. I couldn't use our SpotBot to do a better job than I could by hand, because it's so loud. I did what I could, left the rags to soak in the bathroom sink, washed my hands, and went downstairs to unwind.

Then I read Liss's message that taking care of our friends' kid was kind of boring.

April 30th+

Ellen tried to go down the stairs face-first, so yeah, the baby gate will be staying up for a while.
The boys are going to a half-day preschool once a week, which will double in the summer. Every time they make and bring home some craft or other, but this week the teachers wrote their names on the backs before sending them home - but switched whose was whose. The boys haven't been able to let it go, two days later. "Why this say Bobby? Bobby have pink one." We've tried to explain that sometimes people mix them up, since they're identical and all, to no avail.

Plus, Drew's been indignant that they wrote "Drew" instead of "Andrew."
It's hard to explain a new thing the boys are doing, but it's related to pretending, with a dash of controlling their environment.

One of its more innocuous manifestations is that we might be reading a book at bedtime that has apples in it; they'll pretend to grab them and throw them onto their beds. You know, for later. "I take that apple, and put it on my bed."

When we switched our bedtime seating places, and Bobby was upset, he did the same thing to us - pretended to grab Liss and put her where I was, and vice versa. It actually seemed to help him calm down, I guess by exerting some control where he actually had none.

We don't know where it came from.
We think Ellen's recent fussiness is from a new growth spurt, with maybe some tooth action thrown in. She has three up and three down(*) right now, with another about to come from the bottom.

(*) End of an inning.
Last night the boys wanted to draw on their calendar, which is a dry-erase laminated thing, but it's already messy with other stuff, so Liss steered them to the dry-erase side of their easel. They wanted to write the letter F ("for fire truck!"), but can't do it themselves yet, so I helped. I'd take their hand with the marker and draw the three strokes, and I could feel the glee coming from them. They were so happy that they could use their hands to create something recognizable. I hope the attraction remains.
I taught the boys what a thumbs up means. I think it'll take some repetition to catch on.
Drew's developed a habit of putting his hands in his coat pockets. It's cute. He may or may not be doing it because there are usually a couple of coins in the pockets, but I don't think so.
The thing about the boys turning three is that no matter what happens, whether they get harder to deal with or not, the Twos will be behind us. They will never be two again.
While looking for other things, I found this list of developmental milestones for 3-4 year olds. The boys turn three in July, but I'd say they already have more than half of them:

Milestone Comment
Uses more than 50 single words, with the vocabulary increasing at a rate that is hard to follow. Vocabulary will usually increase to several hundred words by age 4. Several hundred words already. We lost track a year ago.
Uses sentences with 5 or more words Paragraphs.
Starts to use present tense of words by adding .s. (she runs, etc.) Months ago.
Uses pronouns Maybe 80% mastery.
Understand concepts such as less and more, small and big, etc. Ages ago.
Begins to understand cause and effect, such as, .If you push the cup off of the table, it will spill on the floor.. Mostly mastered.
Most words and sentence are understood by others About 96% for us, 60% for strangers.
Comprehends most other speech Yes.
Can describe how objects are used A little bit.
Socializes with others well Not bad, but very shy.
Develops friendships independent of you, such as new friends at preschool Not really.
Enjoys playing with other children Each other, mostly.
Expresses a wide range of emotions Yep.
Uses a pedal tricycle Not tall enough for theirs, but have used others correctly.
Likes pretend playing Just started.
May hold a pen, pencil or crayon the correct way No, but (side note) they're favoring their right hands.
Likes to draw and paint simple shapes and model shapes with play dough Simple in that they bear no resemblance, sure.
Alternate his or her feet when walking up and down the stairs No.
Walks backwards and sideways Backwards yes, sideways a very little bit.
Can balance on each foot for a second or two Haven't tried this.
Can carry and maneuver larger heavier objects and toys I guess? They try, but aren't very strong.
Likes to climb obstacles and climbing frames Yep, especially in the form of Daddy.
Like to dress and undress self Yes, but they can't do their shirts and coats yet, and usually want help with the other stuff.
Uses a spoon and fork All the time.
Brushes his or her own teeth without help Not without help.
May master toilet training No, ongoing.
Uses an adult toilet without training seat Not close.
Boys start to stand at toilet instead of sit Yes.
May stay dry most nights Drew a few times now.

So, I guess they're doing well.
I switched my life insurance company earlier this year, but just now got a notice from the old company saying my policy with them had lapsed from non-payment. I think that means I was double covered for about two months.

Liss could have hit the jackpot!
Last night Bob pooped his customary little bit, so I asked him to sit down for two minutes and try to get some more out. I then walked away, which is my normal thing, except he took exception to the fact that I hadn't given him his reward candies yet. He immediately ran after me, demanding them. Since I'd requested that he sit again first, I did so again, to which he said what's a very typical response - "I did!"

They lie a lot. They lie in the face of overwhelming evidence. "I didn't poop!" "Then what's this in the diaper that I just took off you?" "Chocolate!"

What I think it is, more than lying, is wanting to bend reality to their wishes. Another example is projecting what one wants others to feel as being fact. "I'm sorry, Drew, but Bobby picked the green coat first." "Bobby not want the green coat!"

It's a big part of the Terrible Twoness [Times Two]. I hear that at three, kids realize that they can't control much, and that it's a big world, and it scares the hell out of them. We'll see what happens with that.
Ellen's becoming more aggressively attached to Liss, and more fussy in general.
(*) Loose transcript: "Somebody needs help, maybe it's too hot, maybe they're stuck, take 'em doctor, maybe there's fire!" They do the same thing when they hear a real siren.
We can't shake the idea of getting a different house, even though ours is fine and its value has dropped to where we have no equity. Even so, we brainstormed what we'd want, because it's still fun to dream: I also find the idea of communal living to have some appeal, but I think the reality would be vastly different.
This weekend we [finally] replaced Ellen's infant car seat - handed down from the boys - and put in a new reversible one that's starting out facing the back. The danger with any such installation is that it's really hard to know if you've done it right. We might take it by a police station to ask them to check it, but knowing our track record, probably not.

There are tons of resources and advice about car seats and booster seats and - the really controversial part - when to flip them to front-facing. Each state has its own standards about the progression, many of which omit the flip. Many states (including ours) keep you in a booster seat until you're 4'9", which might be a problem in our future; I was 4'8" when I entered high school.

Our guiding principle to car safety has been pretty straightforward: don't get in a wreck. That's intentionally naive to the realities of driving, but also worth remembering.
We determined that if there had been only one boy plus Ellen, Liss would probably be pregnant right now.
Liss thinks the boys will be able to read by the end of next year.
If Ellen were to stay just as she is for the next five years, I'd be okay with that. I'm in no hurry for her to turn Terrible.
While the boys were jumping on our bed, Bobby starting bucking his legs behind him from all fours. I only point this out as an example of grammatical development, i.e. dropping the gerund (-ing) without any prompting.
Last night, as I got ready to take Ellen upstairs to bed, the boys smooched her as usual, but then wanted to follow me upstairs to do it again in her room. This is a new stalling tactic to delay getting ready for bed themselves, but it's sweet enough that we usually don't discourage it.

When she does it, Liss usually turns on a light that has a red bulb, whereas I use the ceiling fan with its white lights. Bobby, once again showing that toddler disapproval of anything Different, asked why:

At this point, I have a choice. I can repeat my request, emphasizing that following it is more important than re-answering the same question, or I can answer the question again, implying that he can ignore my requests. I chose the former [this time]:
There's a series of very simplistic touch-and-feel books that we and the kids enjoy. Each page has a different texture added that you and/or the kid is supposed to feel before moving on to the next page. We got the monkey version for Ellen recently, since she seems to be gravitating toward them.

However, I took myself aback last night when I realized that I'd just told my little girl to "touch the monkey."
A few days ago, Bobby misplaced one of his bears (they each have two), but I found it downstairs last night, after they'd just been put to bed. I started to go up to give it to him, when Liss stopped me.

She wanted the brownie points.
At the boys' bedtime, we usually sit on the same places on the floor; last night we switched as an experiment. The twin you'd expect to go "okay, whatever" did, and the one you'd expect to throw a fit, did.
Along the lines of the earlier "fag" episode, this weekend one of the boys said "I hate you" to Amy. Also similarly, he didn't know what it really meant, but hopefully our reaction let them know that that's also on the black list. We can only guess where it got it from, but the tween daughter of the nanny is again the prime suspect.
I've never been around to witness it, but apparently the boys have taken to "quiet time" in lieu of naps on some days. They stay in their room for a couple of hours with the door open, and can read or lie down or whatever else, really, as long as it's muted.

Generally, on the weekends, naps are when they fall asleep in the car after we drive to or from something, anything to get out of the house.
I think Ellen looks more like Bobby than like Drew.
Ellen can stand unsupported for a few seconds now, which is the next step toward walking. I've even caught her doing what looks to be overt practicing of the skill - pulling up, letting go, catching herself before she falls, [giggling], letting go, etc.
Ellen's bedtime routine is about ten minutes long: bottle, book, bed. The boys' is more like forty-five, what with the tooth brushing and water drinking and holding and "Daddy sit!" We've tried hard to cap theirs, but we're probably where it'll be for a long while, as they push and we push back. Seriously, if it were up to them, I'd never leave the room and just sleep on the floor all night.

The length of Ellen's routine has nowhere to go but up. If we end up with two forty-five minute versions, we're going to try really hard to combine them into one three-kid routine. Time will tell.
The boys recently got a book that is now a part of the nightly bedtime reading.

Every. Night.

Bobby's more aggressive about picking books, so he usually ends up with it, and he's also more aggressive about wanting to be in my lap, so I usually end up "reading" it. I use quotes because I'm so sick of it that I usually abridge it: "George, yellow hat, fire station [flip], fire chief, pole [flip], fire truck, clothes [flip], alarm, fire truck [flip]," and so on. Liss calls it the noun-only version. The boys don't bat an eye.

I guess this is an example of bad parenting, but it's either this or a parent gone insane. We've "retired" books by hiding them before, but I don't think we can do that with this one without seriously damaging Bobby's ability to function in modern society.
Ellen's skin has gotten a lot better, though it still bugs her enough to itch. We just need to keep at it.
About a week after she learned how to climb up the stairs, Ellen has figured out climbing down. We weren't expecting that for a while; it took the boys about three months. Perhaps she learned from their example; Bobby still slides down feet-first sometimes.

April 23rd+

The friend of ours who had her twins last month - at six months - says that there's a silver lining to their still being in the NICU: she got to recover from the birth without having two new babies to take care of. Now she can prepare for their discharge without much hurry, as they probably won't leave for a few more weeks.

We'll still take our way - Liss's post-op recovery and two newborns but no NICU time - but it's good that she found a positive.
The fact that the boys are twins doesn't define them at all. It's just one part of them. Their personalities are diverging more over time, so the similarities are becoming fewer. Sure, they still look alike, but we're even getting to where we can tell them apart with a lot of confidence, just from facial expressions, vocal inflections and general disposition. We still mix them up once in a while, but that's mostly when one behaves more like we'd expect from the other.

As far as being twins, though, that's the first thing strangers notice about them, especially since they're identical. The boys don't understand why; the people in their lives don't emphasize it much at all. I think of them as "the boys," not "the twins." I don't think they even know what being a twin means yet. They've just heard the word a lot.
All in all, the sticker bribery seems to have worked its magic, especially with Bobby. All it was, really, was replacing one form of selfishness (emotional) with another (possessive).
The only time I'll still carry both boys on stairs is at bedtime, which I've clung to more than they have. I've said I'll stop when they're three, but as that approaches, I think I'll balk and do it as long as I'm able and they want me to.
With the weather improving (a little) and the sun staying out longer (a lot), we should be going to the nearby parks between when we get home and the kids' bedtime. However, instead of stuffing them at bedtime and having something for ourselves afterwards, our new routine is to have family dinner early. I'm not sure how to reconcile that short of later bedtimes, which ... ugh.
Drew's started a new habit. At bedtime, we each lie with a boy (and later switch) to say good night and talk about the day for a minute, but he's now using it to have us smooch his head over and over while he goes "Ew! Ew!" in mock disgust. When it began, I was apparently doing it too slowly, but he didn't really know how to say so; he said "You have to do it ..." and hit the bed with his hand over and over. It worked, though.

Bob's picked up on it, so we end up just smooching our boys for a few minutes. We can handle that. Bob doesn't go "Ew!", though; he just giggles and squirms a lot.
At the dinner table, Drew spilled a little applesauce on his shirt and got whiny about it. Liss wiped it off with her thumb and fed it to him, but he got indignant and said that Daddy had to wipe it. So, he spit it out and rubbed it back onto his shirt.
The boys know that cars aren't supposed to park where there's a red curb. We saw a couple and remarked on them, and soon after saw a tow truck coming by.

The boys still undereat, but they'll generally do well with a hearty breakfast, like bacon, eggs and pancakes rather than cereal. So, we've started having that for dinner a couple of times a week.
No diagnosis on Ellen's skin, just stronger cream and a referral to a dermatologist if she doesn't get better in three weeks. She slept later this morning than any other for two weeks, but that's just correlation, not necessarily causation vis-a-vis the new cream.
From Liss, last week:
One of my earliest memory clips is around age 4. I was with my dad in the hardware store. Kids at my preschool had been throwing around the term "dog doo." I had a guess what it meant, but I wasn't sure and I wasn't about to ask anyone. So as Dad was looking at whatever-it-was, I turned to him, said, "You're dog doo!" and ran to the next aisle over. He followed me and calmly asked if I knew what that meant, what I thought it meant, where I'd heard it, etc. I wasn't in trouble, but he told me not to use words I didn't understand. I don't remember the exact content of the lecture, but it was certainly not the last one I ever got.

This afternoon we were all goofing around singing alphabet songs and stuff, when Drew came out with, "Mom, you are a fag." I thought I'd mis-heard until he said it again: "You are a fag."

Okay. That one, he did not get from us. It's way, WAY worse than dog doo, but also more complex. And 2.75 is a lot younger than 4. He was clearly watching me to see how I'd react.

"What did you say?"
"Nothing. Let's make the popcorn, Mom."
"Did you say 'fag'?"
"Where did you hear that?"
"You said it."
"Nope, I don't say that. That's even meaner than 'fuck.' Who did you hear say it?"
"Daddy said it. Can we make popcorn now?"

Eventually he told me he'd heard it from the nanny's older (13-year-old) daughter, which I can believe. I tried to explain in simple terms: "It's a word that really hurts people's feelings, especially [a whole bunch of our friends]. Okay?"


And then we made popcorn.

The nanny will be back on Friday. Watch out.
All three kids have used the same diaper sizes for months now, which has been convenient. However, it looks like that may change, as the daytime size we're using is starting to get tight ... on Ellen.
I did something dangerous today - Bobby argued with me, and I decided that he was right. All this does is provide incentive for more arguing.
While preparing to fly to Houston and drive to Louisiana for the funeral last week, Liss joked a few times that I should take Ellen, which would have lightened her child care burden and let some relatives meet the baby. In hindsight, it probably would have been fine, except during the service itself; she doesn't really know when to turn off the charm yet, so I likely would have to have been in the way back instead of the front row. Plus, she doesn't like sleeping in unfamiliar places. Plus, we toured a WW2 destroyer, which is very not designed for lugging around a large baby.

During the trip, I kept a running commentary in my head of how I thought each kid would have handled things. My conclusion was that Drew would probably be okay, except it'll be much better when he's potty trained, including the use of public toilets. Bobby isn't as ready emotionally, especially for the long periods of sitting around. Some of this is also dependent on which siblings/parents are also present, since the boys feed off each other and favor me generally, and Ellen bugs the boys when she's bored. We want to travel as a family eventually, but I think that's at least two years away - and that assumes that we can afford to do so with the five of us.

On one leg of the flight home, there were [at least] three sets of twins on board, all fraternal girls. I sat next to and talked to the sister of one [grown] set, who were in front of us, one of which had her twin babies on board. There was another sister for four total women; the fourth sister looked a lot like one of her twin sisters, enough that they were assumed to be twins instead of just sisters more than the actual twins. Another set of babies were further back.
Thirteen months old.
Ellen can get all the way up (but not down) the stairs now. The best part is that she repeatedly says "Up!" on the way.
The boys have now had - through bribery and constant reminders for the potty - two nonconsecutive days of dry diapers.

This is still a far cry from "we're done!," but it's another step. The two big hurdles remaining are being able to leave the house and use public (big!) toilets, and staying dry all night. Drew's done the latter once.
We went to an indie bookstore with friends on Sunday, mostly to get out of the house; it was difficult to find anyplace open on Easter. They're a little odd in that there's a large food court(*). They also have a small play area for the little ones. Since the boys can open doors now, though, they weren't contained by it. Bob decided it'd be fun to run all around the perimeter of the food court a few times; when Drew noticed, he'd try to find him, and when he did, they'd both come running back, which was very Identical-Twin charming to strangers around them. Then the whole thing would start again a few seconds later.

I tried to use the advantageous adult-to-child ratio to browse books on my own, but they were having none of that. I heard them crying for me from across the store, so I made my way back then took them to the children's section. At some point - easy when reading to a boy who's sitting in your lap - I could tell that Bob needed a diaper change. Drew wanted to come with, so they got to be all cute again as they trotted the length of the store ahead of me. I guess it won't be so cute when they're, say, fifteen.

However, Bobby wanted nothing to do with the fold-down changing table in the bathroom. He wanted to lie on the floor while I changed him. I drew the line there, and lay him on the table, so he started screaming. The only other person in there was a guy in a wheelchair who was spending a lot of time emptying his catheter bag into the standing urinal. I guess he was having some trouble, as he had to listen to the whole thing, with the two-year-old's wailing bouncing loudly off the walls. Meanwhile, Drew, who's heard (and produced) it all, was quite unmoved, asking many times why there was a hole in the drywall.

Sometime in the middle of all this, the 16-month-old son of our friends had a diaper blowout. He left the store soon after, san pants.

(*) Gluten-free lunch: french fries and corn chips.
Ellen's skin rash has gotten worse, so Liss is taking her in today. Much of her legs are covered with a rash that sometimes flares red, and certainly bugs her. There are a ton of possible triggers/reasons, so it's the kind of thing that might take a long time to diagnose. Heck, I've seen ten doctors for my adult-onset skin problem, with the most lucid diagnosis being "you have itchy skin" and treatment of "moisturize a lot." I knew that before paying ten doctors.
Sorry for the prior week's hiatus - funeral travel plus a full weekend.

April 16th+

Just in the last few days, Drew's caught on to saying "sorry" when appropriate, though he still looks to us for guidance.
The boys have earned their stickers for seven mornings in a row, by not calling for me except when Drew had one of the Three Acceptable Emergencies - poop, puke or leak(*). He'd leaked, but it was 7:30 or so, so it was time to get up anyway.

The thing is, I think Bobby's a little confused, even in his attempts to game the system(+). The next morning, when I went to get them on my own, he claimed he'd leaked when he hadn't. He must have been scared that I had only arrived under un-Acceptable terms, negating his sticker reward.

(*) A nightmare or other bump-in-the-night would be okay if I could trust them not to abuse it. Instead, they have to weigh self-soothing versus getting their morning sticker. Note how all of the Acceptables require physical evidence.

(+) Oh, if there's a system, Bobby's going to game it. He'll squeeze a poop smaller than a Tic Tac into his potty and demand his two M&Ms for his efforts. You even have to be careful what you say to him, because he'll turn it right back around on you.
The boys' opening their door at night is just a matter of time, but I'm not inclined to fight it. Maybe I'll change my tune when it comes, but for now I figure it's a chance for them to get in the habit of using the potty at night. There will be other consequences, of course, like maybe coming into our room or Ellen's, but we'll deal when we need to. I still want to put up the gate to keep them from going downstairs, though.
From Liss:
Ellen was playing on her own this morning when she started grunting and straining. When she was done, she crawled over, stood up, and said "Poop!" I took her over and changed her diaper. Yay communication!
That's one scary smart girl we have there.
From Liss:
The more I think about it, the more I realize I do kind of kick ass. To give credit where credit is due:

So when I'm feeling fat and boring, I need to remember this stuff.
My maternal grandfather passed away this weekend. He got to meet the boys when they were about five months old, so we're glad for that, but he never met Ellen. I'll be flying out for the funeral tomorrow.
We went to our favorite hipster ice cream shop yesterday. They make their own, and like to put random flavors out there just to see what sticks, or to indulge their creative fancy, or to mess with their customers - it's hard to tell sometimes.

Anyway, they had a pale green one called Geranium. Since they didn't have any blue ice cream, which is what Bobby originally wanted, he opted for this green one. I asked for a taster spoon, just in case, and we tried it. It was horrible. Liss and I agreed that it tasted like flowers and dish soap.

Bobby ate an entire scoop.

April 9th+

The boys can open doors now. However, they don't open their door at night; for whatever reason, they haven't put two and two together ... yet. This is good, because I can't find the hardware that secures the upstairs gate to the wall.
Follow-up from Liss:
Parenting at its finest:

So yesterday Bobby lost it when I gave him "too much" milk and I tried to get him to practice saying "Stop" or "That's enough."

This morning I told him I wouldn't pour him any milk until he practiced again with water, and that he'd get a time-out if he started yelling about the milk. He refused until I put some blocks in the bowl as pretend cereal. Even then, he wouldn't say "Stop" until the little bowl was full and I'd stopped on my own--I guess it's funny to play Chicken with Mom.

When I started pouring the milk, I did Drew's first so he could demonstrate saying "That's enough." No problem. But Bob still wouldn't do it, and threw a fit again when I poured "too much." So I put him in time-out for a few minutes, dumped out ALL the milk in the bowl. When he got back, he said he was ready to say "That's enough." I poured sooooo sllloooooowwlllyyy, but he was satisfied.

And now we'll probably have to do the same song and dance every morning.
We've had four good nights in a row from the boys, though last night was a slumber party and there was a little whinery this morning, I think from Bobby and his leg. Sometimes we'll interrupt a party, but my feeling is that hey, they're happy and bonding. And maybe if they fall asleep later, they'll sleep later in the morning.
While Bobby's cast is off, his leg isn't well. It sat immobilized for weeks, so the muscles weren't used, the joints weren't flexed, etc. He can't walk on it for the pain, so he's crawling again, needs to be carried a lot, and lifted onto chairs and such. In other words, he's a wounded sparrow again. The doctor said it'd take a few weeks or more for its strength to come back, and to - wait for it - bring him back in three weeks.

Also, the skin is peeling like mad, but the amusing part is that it's not any lighter than his other leg.
Carry on, my wayward son
There'll be peace when you are gone

Ain't that the truth?

Lay your weary head to rest
Dontcha cry no more

This morning, Liss says the boys have been pretending to make spaghetti using bristle blocks, but throwing the green ones aside "because they're yucky."

She also contends that this is yet further proof that they're my sons.
When I got home last night, Drew had puffiness under his left eye. He couldn't tell me how he got it, but it was probably just a rambuncious toddler thing. Since she's already taking off for Bobby's orthopedic visit (cast comes off!), she'll also take Drew in to get the eye looked at.

Update: Likely viral, rather than from a trauma. Ew.
Morning e-mail from Liss, subject line "Your middle child":
Bob woke up poopy. In the midst of the triple sticker ritual, he informed me that he wanted cereal before his diaper change. Whatever, dude. He told me he wanted "Medium cinnamon Chex with little milk" and I told him I'd pour slowly and he should tell me to stop when he had enough. After about 2 microliters he hadn't said "stop" so I stopped to check if I'd poured enough. Bobby immediately started sobbing that there was too much cereal AND too much milk and I had to put some back. "You have to put some back, Mommy, you have to put some back!"

After witnessing the nanny take him back downstairs yesterday to stop a tantrum by re-opening and closing the garage door, I was having none of that. I told him if he wasn't eating, he would get a diaper change and a time out. He howled "Daddy" the whole time I was changing him but then condescended to go eat a bit.

While they were finally eating, I brought over a measuring cup and a little bowl and asked him to practice saying "Stop" we wouldn't have to get mad at each other tomorrow. Drew got into it immediately, giggling every time. Bobby just sat there sulking and saying "That's not milk, that's water."
We told the boys they can say they're "two and three quarters" now, but I may have confused them with an improper alternative. I said that if they wanted, they could also respond with "eleven fourths."
If Liss and I were to both lose our jobs, it's very likely that we could not get health insurance for Drew. He's only two, a celiac through no fault of his own, has never showed any symptoms, and insurance companies couldn't give less of a shit.

Reform helped, but its survival is in no way secure, and no particular provision can be counted on in the long term.

Bobby might get the same problem, just because he's the identical twin of a celiac. I've filled out the occasional form that asks "are you a twin?" What is triggered, I wonder, when someone answers yes?
There are no signs that Bobby's clinginess, especially to me, are going to end anytime soon. Last night as I tried to leave at bedtime, he grabbed my collar and pulled me back. This morning, he didn't want me to leave for work, insisting that I change his diaper instead of Liss(*), grabbing my arms, melting down badly, etc.

This is all part of the general trend, which is that Drew has matured faster than Bob. Drew just released our hug then went to the window to wave bye. Last night he forgot to dump his potty in the toilet; this morning I asked him to "go look at your potty," and soon after he was dumping it without a fuss. There's the diaper and binky thing I mention below. He's less likely to need reminding of routines, like putting his plate in the kitchen after dinner. He's more likely to play by himself for a while. The list goes on.

It's worth noting, as well, that Ellen is ahead of where they both were at her age. They say girls mature faster than boys, and so far I believe it.

(*) Which is just a stalling tactic, but still makes her feel like crap. The more emotional they get, the more they push her away.
The boys have earned their fire truck stickers for two nights in a row now.

This morning I heard them chattering together over the monitor, so I decided to get them (and be a little late to work). They were sitting next to each other at the end of Bobby's bed, happily talking about the sticker backdrop that Liss had put over their night light, and which stickers they were going to get.
"You have to 'hhh' my hands."

That's what Drew tells me when his hands are cold, and he wants me to put them in my hands and blow warm air on them.
I think it's every day that Ellen repeats back a word to us that she hadn't before.
Typically, though not always, Ellen gets up before the boys. When she does, we get half an hour or so of just her, and vice versa. We'll feed her, bring her up with us while we get ready for work, and basically give her the attention that one child gets. She's already the easy child, but without the constant demands of her brothers taxing us, we're happy to take her from each other when the situation calls for it, or just when we want a little time with her.
At the follow-up visit this morning, they weighed Bobby with his cast. I told Liss that on the next visit without it, they'll likely express alarm at his "weight loss." As a precursor, the doctor came in gushing about his gain until she saw the cast.
Bobby's cast comes off Wednesday, which will remove a surefire way to tell the twins apart. It's time, though; he runs sprints in the thing.
The boys will turn three in three months. They're already excited for their birthday, particularly after Ellen's party, though theirs will have many of the same people. They also have many ideas about what kind of cake they want - not the flavor, but the design - such as fire trucks and trains. Besides turning three, they anticipate presents, as any child would, though I think this time they get it, whereas at Christmas they didn't until it was upon them. Actually, I'd say Christmas has a lot to do with their new understanding.

The nearness of it helps us through the tough times, despite the occasional "three is worse" from some parents, because at least it means the Twos will be behind us, never to be heard from again. Oh, hi there, Ellen!

I wonder about our mandate that they be potty trained and binkyless by then. I think Drew's going to be able to handle it, albeit with some difficulty, but Bobby's behind him in both areas. Since she spends her summers taking care of them, it'll be Liss's battle more than mine, so my job will be to help enforce her decisions, whichever way she goes.

They were born just a little before midnight. In future years, we may mess with them and tell them that they're not n + 1 years yet, so no presents until then, no party, etc., though only in word and not deed. Right now I'm certain their senses of humor couldn't process that.
The boys have taken a liking to "typing," i.e. pressing and holding one key at a time, especially "B for Bobby" and "A for Andrew." We let them, after loading up Notepad or something else that they can't hurt, but they still hit the occasional Alt key that requires our intervention. Still, it helps take away the mystique of what Mommy and Daddy do with a lot of their time. Here's a sample:
I'm certain that it's Liss that turned on the caps lock key after the first line.
On Saturday we got out of the house, as it were, and ended up at the gluten-free bakery that Liss was tipped to. What struck me was how small the place was - maybe 15 things in the display case, two small tables, all within maybe 150 square feet. I guess when you're in a niche market, you have to skimp on overhead.

The real story, though, was how Ellen charmed everyone. She was her sunny, sweet self, which is good enough, but she was also crawling around to explore the place. She ended up making a beeline for the back, where the bakers were, who stopped what they were doing to coo over the cuteness before (and after) I scooped her up.
There are the whiny nights that I describe below, where I might turn off the boys' monitor, and then there are whiny nights like this past Saturday, where I don't. Both boys started Saturday a little sick, with runny noses and coughs. That night, something was different about Drew and the way he was acting, but he wouldn't (couldn't?) tell me what was wrong. We tried a few things to help him, but nothing was working, and he was getting worse. Eventually I asked if his tummy hurt, to which he said yes, but that's not the same thing as him saying it himself. But, I asked if he wanted to go to the doctor, and he said yes, so we got ready to go to Urgent Care. This was around 1:30am. Bobby was sleeping fine.

The surly receptionist wasn't there this time; to me, the fact that I was glad a particular employee wasn't there says a lot about how often we've been going. It was a slow night, so we got in pretty quickly. The nurses checked him out, then the doctor, who then asked if he'd used an inhaler apparatus before, which he had after a similar episode last fall. He also asked about his early birth and being a twin, which was unexpected, but those are risk factors for asthma. All of that prompted him to check the records; Drew had gotten an x-ray at that time. Rather than subject him to another x-ray, the doctor just assumed it was the same thing - respiratory infection - and went that route with the treatment.

A respiratory therapist came in with some apparatus, hooked it up, and stuck the hose in Drew's face. There was no prep, no explanation of what she was doing, or how long it would take, just bam, hose in your face. He took it pretty well, though I think the fact that he was in my lap was the difference maker. It was an aerosol medicine (probably albuterol) that was supposed to give him some relief. The treatment lasted about ten minutes.

Then the waiting began. Drew was being pretty clingy to me, which would be expected in a strange (though increasingly familiar) place, plus being sick. The downside was that he was being as two-year-olds are, wanting everything his way - where I sat, where he sat (usually my lap), light on, light off, door open, door closed, etc. Whatever, kid. It was about 45 minutes after the treatment that anyone else came in; the nurse checked his vitals again, especially his oxygen level. The doctor came back maybe 20 minutes later, and then the respiratory therapist with another dose of the hose. When the nurse came back to check again, he said we'd probably be here a while. This was around 4am.

While we were waiting around, we'd ended up lying together on the little hospital bed in our exam room. I could tell that Drew was getting better, because whereas he'd been quiet and clingy before, he'd started becoming more inquisitive of his surroundings, and started playing with the sphygmomanometer hanging on the wall, squeezing the bulb and whatnot.

When the doctor came back again, he explained that they were treating the infection like an asthma attack for now(!), and that Drew was borderline to being admitted to the hospital(!!). The two doses had helped, though what convinced him that he was okay was the playfulness. He decided to wait it out.

A nurse brought Drew a teddy bear, though his main focus was that it didn't have a butt. Rather than bring another thing home that he wasn't really interested in, I left it for another kid to receive. He didn't notice.

We ended up dozing off on the bed from all the waiting. The new therapist - shift change, I guess - tried to start a new dose of the hose with him asleep, but the machine's noise woke him up. By then he wasn't very interested in being there, let alone being the subject of all the manhandling and hoses in his face, but he stuck with it for the most part. We waited again - and fell asleep again - before the nurse and doctor came back and told me the medicine regimen he'd get and that we could go. This was around 6:45.

Their in-house pharmacist had no customer service skills whatsoever beyond the p's and q's. It's like she wanted you to know that she hated her life, but couldn't come out and say it.

We got home at 7:30. Liss and Ellen were up, but not Bobby. Drew didn't want to go to bed, but I sure as hell did; we'd slept maybe an hour of the six at the hospital. Liss let me go up, where I got about another hour. The boys were having a difficult morning. Liss told Bobby that Drew hadn't slept much, so he should be nice to him, which apparently prompted many iterations of this exchange: The turnaround came around 10 - after Drew had earned a time out, he asked to go to sleep. Two-year-olds don't ask for naps; I think this is the second time either twin has ever done that. I was happy to accomodate, and Bobby was eager to "help," so it took longer than usual. Once we'd left the room, though, Drew was out for three hours. It was during that time that Liss took the other two out, so I got another hour on the sofa. They all got gluten.

When Drew woke up, we watched a household rarity - golf. He was into it a lot more than I thought he would; even I'll admit it's just hitting a little ball into a hole, especially from his perspective. He was especially befuddled by the players taking all that effort to get the ball into the hole, only to immediately bend down to take it out.

I gave him his medicine - inhaler plus mask - which he didn't like, but fortunately he takes on faith - faith in us, that is. The rest of the brood came back, but only long enough to grab Drew and hand me drive-thru lunch, while they all went to "drive police cars." I love that woman. I didn't sleep any more, but got to watch a stellar ending to the Master's and get a few things done around the house.

When they got back, I gave Drew another dose. Bobby was very jealous. He wanted his own. Little does he know; since Drew's going to a follow-up with his primary care doctor today, and Bobby's tagging along to get looked at since he's also caughing, he might get his own.

Just another weekend.

April 2nd+

It was another bad night for sleep, with Drew taking me up twice to blow his nose, despite Liss practicing with him to do it by himself. This was after a two-hour slumber party at bedtime. The really weird one, though, was Bobby calling me at 4:45 to fix the fire truck sticker that had peeled off his paper a little. For waking me to fix a sticker, he didn't get a new sticker today.

There have also been a few times where I'd go in and they'd both be quiet, so I couldn't tell who had been calling for me. Maybe whoever it was just wanted my presence, or something. So, when that happened around 4, and they weren't looking my way, I closed the door as though I were leaving, and Bobby immediately stirred. Caught!

At one point (12:30), since their whining wasn't part of the puke/poop/leak trilogy of okay-to-call-me, I unplugged the monitor and slept for 3 1/2 hours, when my bladder woke me (no sticker for you, bladder!). I have no idea if they called for me in the interim, nor do I care. That will probably become part of my routine, despite the < 1% chance of a real problem. They're crying wolf a lot.

We're going to tweak (shorten) naps, turn up the heat in their room a little (Drew's taken to sleeping in just his diaper), and maybe other things. Maybe drastic things. This has gotten ridiculous.
Scientists found the first exoplanet in 1995, but things have really taken off - no pun intended - with the launch of the Kepler telescope. This image is a composite of the stars with the relative sizes of the 1,200+ planets found orbiting them so far, from this article. For scale, the lone wolf in the upper right is our sun with Jupiter.

The way statistical analysis works is that with a large enough sample set, you can infer that set's trends to the population at large; with an infinite sample set, any subset will have the same properties. Our universe is so huge and has so many objects - mathematicians say the sample size approaches infinity - that you can treat it like an infinite set. Therefore, if you find one of something while looking around, you can make a reasonable guess that there are billions of that same thing floating out there. Kepler is looking at 0.25% of our viewable space, which is good enough. As such:
Scientists have estimated the first cosmic census of planets in our galaxy ... at least 50 billion planets in the Milky Way.

At least 500 million of those planets are in the not-too-hot, not-too-cold zone where life could exist. The numbers were extrapolated from the early results of NASA's planet-hunting Kepler telescope.
So, if 1 in 1000 of those planets might have life - and now we're going into conjecture - let's say 1 in 1000 do, and 1 in 1000 of those have intelligent life. That would mean 500 planets with intelligent life in our galaxy, and ours is one of billions of galaxies.

Okay, so we're probably not alone. Using similar statistical premises as above, one could say that at least a few of those should be millions of years beyond us technologically, so why haven't any of them contacted us? Our own efforts to find radio evidence of extraterrestrials has so far come up short. And since we've seen no sign of contact - Roswellian sightings aside - there's no one who can contact us. This conclusion actually has merit, except that 500 civilizations in a galaxy means we'd be very spread out, and Earth is way out in the edges of the Milky Way as it is. The approaching infinity numbers are now working against us, not for us.

As an analog to this, mathematicians have been trying to find larger and larger prime numbers for some decades now. However, they know that all they're doing is finding the largest known prime. There probably isn't an actual largest prime, because the set of integers is infinite. Imagine, therefore, that the technology required to talk or travel to another solar system requires that they first discover some law of physics that is incredibly difficult to discover - like some huge prime that we won't find for thousands of years. Let's say 1 in 1000 can ever get that far - again conjecture - which would mean 0.5 civilizations in our galaxy will ever do it, which is like saying there's a 1 in 2 chance that no one ever will. All of these 1s in 1000s are made up numbers to be fleshed out by more research.

And that even discounts the internals workings of the civilizations in question; just because a species could communicate or travel to our planet doesn't mean they would. Imagine if we did in our current state - we'd just fight amongst ourselves over who got to profit from it the most, whether in money or power.

So, you're probably asking yourself what the hell this has to do with a blog about my children. Well, humans have always asked the big questions about our own existence, and these new planets only confirm what we already suspected. With that confirmation, however, we can suppose that not only are each of us a small speck in this planet, but now our planet is but a small speck among civilizations, with other species fighting for survival just like us. One might question the significance of oneself, as we are wont to do - and why bring others into such an insignificant role?

The answer, to me, is that it doesn't really matter. If the goal were to be for one person to acquire all knowledge and experience in the universe, then we'd drive ourselves mad trying. I'd like to eradicate malaria and find E.T. and observe prehistory first hand and write music for millions, but I don't. I can't even do any one of them. Instead, I work a decent job and do the mundane things that are appropiate - if a little out there - for my culture. Meanwhile, I keep up on those who are doing the great things that I'm not, while concentrating on making a life for myself and my family. To the wife and I, that includes children, and that's really the end of it - today.

Then there's tomorrow. Since we made the choice to have kids, we try to make theirs a good life. Maybe they'll do great things, maybe not. Either way, I want them to be ready. But the waftier, space cadet thing is that - in the context of these big questions - they represent our contribution to the future, for good or ill. Directly or indirectly, they will carry our influence forward into whatever is coming. We can't control that, so why fret? Statistics also says that the probability of first contact happening in any particular generation is next to zero. But maybe in a billion years, someone who wouldn't exist if we hadn't bred will be the first to set foot on truly foreign soil.

But probably not.
Every night, the boys say "Tomorrow, Mommy and Daddy NOT have to go to work!" That means they're right 2/7ths of the time, or 0.286, which is a way better batting average than, say, the Mariners.

Speaking of which, Saturday is our turn to go out via the babysitting swap, and we'll be going to the Ms game. We plan to take the kids (or maybe just the boys this year) to at least one game this year, to show them that it's not just something on TV, but we wouldn't expect them to last the whole game. If not, then maybe next season they will. We hope to raise three baseball fans, but you can't force it; I didn't really get into it until I was about eight.
From Liss:
I find a toy bee on the rug. Never seen it before in my life and from the bottom it's huge and lifelike and disturbing. I toss it on the table and the boys are all over it. "Hey, it's a bee!" "I want to play with that bee!" etc. Drew gets there first. He's flying it around going "bzzzzzzz".

Bobby: Andrew NOT make that noise! That's MY bee because I'm Bobby.
Mama: B for bee, B for Bobby?
Bob: Yeah, bee for Bobby. Bee NOT make that noise.
Mama: What does a bee say, then?
Bob: Bee say, 'Bobby Bobby Bobby!'
Each boy woke me up for non-emergency reasons, so they didn't get stickers this morning. They didn't seem to mind. That doesn't bode well for their being motivating in the long run.
Ellen started developing a rough skin rash when she started crawling. The doctor wasn't really concerned, but recommended cortizone cream to help any itching. She didn't show any signs of discomfort until the last week or so - she'll now rub her leg against the carpet in what looks like an effort to scratch it. So, we're trying to keep her comfortable with long clothing, the cream, etc.

I'm personally hoping it goes away when she starts to walk.
Bobby tried to pee standing up, but couldn't manage it, but at least he tried. It might have to wait until his cast is off (in a week).

The attempt came in the middle of triple Naked Time, because Ellen crawled away while I was changing her into her sleeper, and the boys thought nudity was a good idea.

Over the last couple of years, I've taken a lot of pictures that I can't post on the Internet.
This is the kind of fun I'm looking forward to - twin girls, who just turned four, made little snowmen with their dad for their mom to destroy upon arrival.
This morning the boys wanted to know about the wires that I'd attached to my "toy" (iPod), which I don't normally do while at home. I showed them how the earbuds worked, and let them listen to a little music. They got to one song(*) that they wanted to listen to over and over, which Bobby inexplicably dubbed "fire truck music." Fortunately, there's a "repeat this one track" setting. Since we were right by my computer, I loaded the same song onto it to show them that they didn't need the wires or anything, but yeah, they were having none of that.

All of this reminds me that I need to have music playing in the house more often.

(*) That video's a little disturbing.
Ellen got some shots yesterday, including MMR, so Liss joked that she'd probably get autism today. She also mentioned the (untrue) statistic that 80% of couples with an autistic kid get divorced, to which I said that such a number must not, on average, include the stress of also having two older boys.
Drew, perhaps inspired by a potty book Amy bought them that shows it, or by my example, or both, has peed into his potty while standing up at least twice now. It was his idea. In neither case did he miss.

He's also keeping his diaper dry for long periods of time, like a few hours. We'll ask if he wants to use the potty, he says yes and does, and we just end up putting the same diaper back on him. Why waste the 17 cents? Or, he'll wear underwear for a while. He's had three accidents in the last month or so, which isn't bad at all.
When you want to talk about something in front of the kids without their realizing you are, you have to use different words. Some examples we use are: You can also spell out the word, but that's more annoying, plus the boys know most letters now.
Third child? Overstretched parents? Just bad parents? Some of each?

These are the questions you ask yourself when a friend notices that your baby's latest (fifth) tooth has poked through before you do.
Liss bought a lot of stickers, including a few sheets of fire trucks. They dropped everything when she took them out, so at least we had some of their attention when we explained their purpose - if they could be nice and quiet all night, they'd get a sticker when they'd wake up. The real time sink was bedtime, when Liss mustered all of the teacher-like enthusiasm she could to go over it again and again. There were a couple of little whines in the night, but they earned their stickers. This is just one night, though - who knows if it just happened to be a calm night, or if there was actual motivation, or if that motivation can last?
The boys don't ride in the sedan often, since there's only one boy-sized seat in the back, but Liss drove Drew to his gastro appointment in it. The seat is a lot closer than the ones in the van, which let them have some deep, meaningful conversation:
Drew: I love you, Mommy.
Me: Oh, thanks, I love you too.
Drew: And I love Daddy and I love Ellen and I love Mommy and ....
Me: What about Bobby?
Drew: I love Bobby, but he's so Christmas.
Me: He's so what?
Drew: He's so Christmas.
Me: How so?
Drew: He's just Christmas.
We're having great difficulty refraining from calling Ellen our "baby." It's going to take some time.

She's started cruising a little, and is solidly in that stage where wires and flashy things are awesome, especially (in my view) when they belong to Daddy.
From her checkup, Ellen is 22.0#, 28", and a head circumference that Liss can't remember right now, for respective percentiles of 64th, 15th, and 61st. So, short and squat, which we already knew.
After eight wakeups in two nights (one from Ellen), we're going to start trying new strategies to get the kids to sleep through. The seven boy ones were all about wanting comfort and attention, not the actual problems(*) that we keep telling them are the only reasons they should be calling for me. Liss is going to buy something like fire truck sticker sets as motivation.

At the same time, we don't want them to think they can't count on us when they really need us, so there's that fine line. It's more that we should try to get them on board to our definition of "need."

* Puke, poop, leaky diaper.
Liss just texted me that the receptionist called her by name as she approached the desk with Ellen, for her one-year checkup. Perhaps we're there too much.

March 26th+

Liss is trying to figure out how to have secret stashes of gluten around the house.
The boys like the instant breakfast that the gastroenterologist recommended we start giving them, such that they often request it; they refer to it as "chocolate milk." However, I've drawn a line - if I make it for them, I "do it all by myself," as they say. The difference is something like three minutes alone versus fifteen with their "help," and that's not an exaggeration. They want their choice on cup color, lid color, straw color, they want to get the measuring cup, help pour the milk, scoop the powder, stir the powder, help pour the results into the cups, put the cups on, put the straws in, and rinse out the measuring cup.

The tipping point was that they usually ask for it at meals, so while Liss is serving this nice meal she's been working on, we're stuck in the kitchen arguing who gets which lid, everyone's dinner gets cold, and bedtime gets pushed back. Or, they'd want it after getting their morning cereal, so after the chocolate milk was ready, they'd go back to soggy cereal and get pissy about that.

Now, they can let me do it, or they don't get any. That's their one choice in the matter. Because I'm a mean, mean father.
Drew was playing in their room, running back and forth between beds, tumbling here and three, when he tripped and fell forehead-first into the wall. Actually, it was on the light socket. He cracked the plate (pic). It's hard to tell from the picture, but the crack also grabbed several strands of hair on the way out. He cried for a minute, but recovered easily enough, then went to inspect it with Bobby.

Rather than keep a potentially hazardous object of curiosity in their room, I replaced the plate with one from our bathroom, which is now bare. Class-y.
Sleepers don't fit over Bobby's cast, so he just wears the day's shirt and pants to bed. Drew's noticed, so about half the time he wants to do the same; we don't care either way, so we let him. We'll see if Bob wants to go back to sleepers when he can (4/13), and if so, if the fire truck sleeper battles will resume. We got another one at the twin sale, but only just in time to toss the old, holey one.
We've started a babysitting swap with another couple, who have a boy a little older than Ellen. When they go out, Liss goes to their place and watches their son while I deal with our three. On the other nights, one of them comes to watch our three and the other stays with theirs. On the surface, it might seem like an unfair deal, because they have one kid to our three, but the result each night is the same: one parent takes one kid, the other takes three, and the other couple gets to do something.

The guy who comes to watch our three says that the boys believe him to be incompetent, because he doesn't know our routines. He's fine with that, because it keeps their expectations low, plus they help by coaching him through it all - if in a slightly condescending manner.

In later years, we can just bring kid(s) to the others' house and have two parents watch four kids (unless they get a second, then five kids), because we won't have to be so strict about bedtimes and sleep locations, but we're nowhere near that.
Last night was another bad one for the boys, and therefore for us. They didn't get to sleep until 10 or so, with the three hours prior spent whining for us. Then Drew woke early. Bleh.
From an article Liss found:

[J]ust like in women who have the condition, men who have undiagnosed celiac disease seem to suffer from infertility more often than other men.
Gluten free for future grandchildren!
When Liss makes fajitas, she usually has a little bowl of fixings that the boys and I don't like, such as grilled onions and bell peppers. As an experiment, she fed them to Ellen, who ate them without a hitch. In fact, she rarely refuses anything, for which Liss is very happy - she can look forward to cooking for three-plus-two instead of four-plus-herself.
Bob's walking around on his cast like he's been doing it forever. We can't even find the sandal that's supposed to help him balance, but it's looking like it doesn't matter.
Liss has started a side blog about raising and cooking for a celiac toddler.

Since I now work for a company that helps people quit tobacco, I've decided to boil down Drew's celiac diagnosis as this: letting him eat wheat is like letting him smoke a cigarette. The only difference is where the damage occurs.
A tip for giving our boys choices: ask Bobby first. Consider these made-up examples: And:
This isn't always how things go, but the odds favor it enough to heed my advice.
Ellen's birthday party was good, though right around our house's capacity for a rainy day. What struck me was the confirmation that we were the first parents in our social group - there were a lot of little kids there. As they age and get more boisterous(*), and meet more friends of like age, we're definitely going to have to figure out how to have the fun outdoors - or suck it up and pay for a place like Chuck E Cheese.

Liss made little cupcakes as well as the actual cake. Drew, despite knowing that they were for the party, really wanted some cupcakes early. We ended up moving them to a bookshelf in the dining room, out of his reach. However, he was trying to move chairs and things around so he could reach them, while crying at the unfairness of it all. I'd go check on him and he'd yell "Daddy have to go away!," which is toddler for "I know what I'm doing is wrong, but you're the source of discipline, not my actions." Whenever he'd make progress to the cupcakes, I'd just move the cupcakes somewhere else out of reach. It wasn't a good morning for him.

They also were into Ellen's presents more than she was (for now), so we had to remind them that while they could play with them (or read her books), they belonged to Ellen. They understand the concept of possession; they just don't like the concept unless it applies to something of theirs.

The boys can readily point to "my birthday" on the wall calendar, so I guess it'd better be awesome in order to meet expectations.

This post about Ellen's birthday ended up being more about the boys than her, but she was just her usual sweet and social self.

* There was a school-age boy of a recent Seattle transplant, who was probably a good indicator of where the boys will be in five years, which I think will mean a lot of "go play outside!" He was sweet, though, and played quietly with Drew in the boys' room for maybe an hour. Adults occasionally checked on them, and they were just reading books or whatnot. It was awesome, though also further evidence that Bobby influences Drew's behavior a lot.

March 18th+

On paper, we don't like the idea of pushing gender roles, emphasizing overt boy/girl traits in our kids, and all that. In reality, Liss admits that she likes putting a little pink or purple on Ellen to make sure everyone knows she has a daughter. When her hair grows out, I'm sure we'll let it grow out. I anticipate bows.

We draw the line at "princess" and Disney and even "angel" and the general idea that being a girl makes her better than a boy, or vice versa. I think we just recognize that there are inherent differences; the boys are boyish, and Ellen will probably be girlish. We didn't point the boys toward fire trucks and Caillou (a cartoon boy), but they sure latched onto them. Will Ellen do the same, or will she naturally gravitate toward more stereotypically girlie things? Time will tell.

There are subtle parenting things at work here, too - namely, our reactions to their preferences. If Ellen wants to obsess over fire trucks, too, do we steer her toward more "girly" things (hint: no)? But there are the subconscious things, which are harder to recognize, but are still there in our own choices and preferences. When pursuing racks and racks of clothing for the boys at the twin sale, we skipped everything pink.

I read a theory that we (as a society) like to pile scorn onto the little girl pageant scene because hey, at least we're not like them, thereby validating our own not-as-bad efforts. I think there's merit in that, because you see it all over the place - pointing to extremists as proof of one's own moderation, even if in reality you're only slightly less extreme. "I'd never hire a person I thought was gay, but at least I'm not picketing their funerals."

This post ended up rambly.

Addendum from Liss:
Another example is when I took the boys shopping last weekend for Ellen's birthday. When I asked them what they thought she'd like, they were quick to suggest a garbage truck or a fire truck. I shot them down because those are things THEY want, but who's to say she doesn't want them too? Especially since that's the main model of things she sees Big Kids playing with? Their second choice was butterflies, which I readily accepted. Of course, they like flowers and ladybugs and butterflies too, and cooking and art and basketball and wrestling etc, so I guess we're not gender-tracking too much yet.
Relatively speaking, Ellen's first year has been a breeze. A lot of the time, it's felt like we're taking care of the boys, and oh yeah, there's this baby hanging around, too. She's curious, social, chatty, a pretty good sleeper, and eats most of what we put in front of her. If she's fussy, it's for a good reason.

We love our little girl.
One year old.
Growing up in Texas, when we sat on the floor with your legs crossed, you said you were sitting Indian style. Liss, 2000 miles away in Minnesota, learned to call it sitting cross-legged, or something similar. She, being a good liberal, doesn't like when I call it Indian style, so instead I compromise and call it Native American style.

This does not amuse her.

Edited to add: Amy says here in Seattle, it's "criss cross apple sauce." I don't think anyone wants to know what we called a Ding Dong Ditch down in the South.
Ellen is a better eater of solids than the boys are. We're considering the current can of formula being her last, but we'd need to get better at giving her milk instead, including the nanny. We might end up with one more can, but that'd probably be it. And then, bottles away!
"Why you have beard, Dad?"
If you point out to Bobby that he's standing or getting around well, he'll realize his mistake and slump back down to the ground and go back to crawling. After all, you can't milk an injury if you appear to be getting along fine.
The workers finished with our stairs, but when we came home from another short walk last night, Drew still wanted to go around and come in through the deck.

Drew's been intermittently complaining that his stomach hurts. It could be that he's trying to find a way to counter Bobby's leg attention, or his body is finally showing celiac symptoms, or he's having a reaction more than a week after the endoscopy, or it's growing pains, or ... yeah, we'll keep watch. He's not showing any other symptoms of anything.
I'm thinking of getting the boys ukeleles for their birthday. I'd want to get a guitar from the garage to get them into the spirit first, but that won't be a problem. It's not like I can actually play, but they don't know quality.
Our townhouse has three floors, with the bedrooms upstairs. The boys' room is right above the kitchen, and Ellen's is a few feet away, above the living room. I'm paranoid about waking them up, especially the boys, because they're so whiny about it. I keep the TV volume down and try to be quiet as I open cabinets and move dishes around.

We've decided to retreat downstairs, now that it's a fledgling guest room. We'll be putting a TV and surround sound down there so we can watch action movies and sports as they were intended. It's cooler down there, just in time for summer. The baby monitors will reach. Yeah, this'll work.
Liss seems to think that in a few years, I'll be that dad that sits with his daughter and plays Tea, talking to her stuffed animals and dolls in a haughty accent between sips, and sticking out my pinky in an exaggerated fashion whilst I lift my cup.

That "whilst" should give you a clue.
We all went for a short walk yesterday evening, during which I couldn't help my science lessons, each of which held the boys' interest for about ten seconds, which is pretty good for toddlers. When we were going back, Drew insisted that he wanted to walk some more, and eventually broke down when he realized we weren't going to; bedtime was approaching.

The HOA replaced our front concrete steps in fits and starts over the last week, so we've had to use the garage and back deck for entry. When we got home, Bobby wanted to go in through the garage, and Drew around the house to the deck. Since I have to carry Bob, I told Drew to go ahead and go around if wanted. I watched him start, but didn't get sight of him again until I was inside and made my way to the sliding deck door - and there he was, climbing the stairs. That's our stubborn boy. I was nice and let him in.
Ellen's top teeth might be coming in with a significant gap.
We stopped calling the boys "babies" when they turned one, so it's only fair that we do the same with Ellen. That means we have less then three days to get it in, so we're overdoing it.

Then she won't be our baby anymore.
Words that we think Ellen has said in context, at least to the best of her baby ability: Momma, Daddy, hi, bye-bye, monkey, milk, bottle, blueberry, strawberry, up, kitty, cracker, "mmmm!", uh-oh!, "mwah!"

We wonder if she'll be able to tell the boys apart, or just call them both by one of their names for a while, or what-have-you.
A piece about growing up as an identical twin.
"... one of the only ways for twins to be recognized as different is to work together to eliminate as much personality overlap as possible."
The push to go gluten-free has begun, but it's slow going. There's a lot of it in the house, and we'd rather consume it than just pitch it, but at the same time, Liss needs to practice cooking under her new restrictions. Going out, it's hard to find eateries that have any thoughts about it, with the alternative being steering Drew away from bread and pancakes, which he won't like or understand. We don't have any particular desire to go GF, so there's a tepid motivation, there. Bobby and Ellen aren't celiac (yet?), so they'll fight it when they can, and so on.
From Liss:
Bobby has been playing up his injured leg so hard, it's getting ridiculous. At any given moment, whether he can stand, sit, crawl or just lie on the ground like an injured sparrow depends on his mood and what seems most adventageous. He can stand if there's a train table, but if his dirty dishes need to be placed in the sink, then both legs and probably both arms are writhing in misery.

Drew's been pretty patient, but he isn't just putting up with it, either; for that, I'm glad. Today I took both boys to look for a few small presents and supplies for Ellen's birthday. I was listening to them as we drove, arguing about who'd sit where in the cart.*

Bobby: I want to sit on top!
Drew: No, I want to sit on top!
Bob: I want to sit on top because my leg is broken.
Drew: But I want to sit on top.
[etc. forever]
Bob: But my leeeeg is broooooken.
Drew (impatiently): Maybe you can sit on top of the green van.

[A few minutes later, we drove by a fire station, which led to gleeful applause, then the next debate]

Bob: I want to drive that fire truck.
Drew: No, I want to drive that fire truck!**
Bob: But Iiii want to drive that fire truck!
Drew: But, Bobby, you have a broken leg!
* They were mad when I took them to the independent toy store instead of Target, but after about 12 seconds they realized its awesomeness and we stayed and played for almost an hour.
** Detecting a pattern to their conversations? They aren't particularly whiny or upset, but these me-no-me arguments do get old.

March 11th+

From Liss:
Bobby: Why you have boobs, Mama?
Mama: So I could make milk when you were a little baby. Remember when Ellen used to drink milk from my boobs?
Bobby: I'm a baby. Can I have some milk?
Mama: You're a big boy! You drink milk from the fridge and you eat blueberries and pizza [etc].
Bobby: I want some milk from your boobs, Mama.
Mama: There's no milk left. You got some when you were little, Ellen got some when she was a little baby, but now it's all gone.
Bobby (getting his stubborn face): I'm a baby! I want some milk from your boobs.
Mama: Let's see if we can get some out. (Lifts shirt, squeezes each breast, no milk comes out)
Bobby: But I'm a baby!
Drew: Maybe you can have a bottle.
From Liss:
Drew and Mama are reading a book. Ellen crawls up with a dime in her hand.

Mom: What the heck, Baby? (Pockets dime, gives Ellen a toy phone)
Drew: Mommy, you have to say "What the fuck," not "What the heck."
Mom: Nah, we should say "What the heck." It's nicer, we shouldn't say that other one.
Drew: I like to say "What the fuck."
Mom: Well, it's kind of mean,
Drew: No, it's not mean, it's nice.
Mom: Well, when you go to school the teacher will get mad if you say that so we will practice saying "What the heck."
Drew: Can I have some chocolate milk?
From Liss:
I'm in an unusually good mood this week. I'm still tired and stressy, but I feel like I can handle it. Maybe it's the light, maybe it's increased exercise; whatever: I haven't cried in days and I'm feeling very sappy regarding my husband.

James bought our old, bigger-than-me TV mere months before we moved in together, partly because he knew I might veto it if given the chance. We got rid of it couple of years ago after getting a smaller wall-mounted one, but I've missed it because it had picture-in-picture. That meant we could watch a movie while keeping an eye on the baseball game, or play Wii while keeping an eye on the baseball game, or placate me during football season by sticking a cooking show down in the corner. Yesterday morning I asked James, "When can we get a new TV with PIP?" By the end of the day he'd ordered one and it will be here in time for Opening Day. I was surprised; he doesn't normally spend $1,000 or even $10 at the drop of a hat*, but he found a deal fast and y'know, Opening Day is just around the corner. We're big savers, actually; our golden years are going to be awesome.

My husband isn't a huge romantic in the traditional ways, but I don't mind. Planning for our world-traveling retirement together seems romantic enough. And he rubs my feet almost every night, grabs my ass every single day, and never leaves without a kiss. I can go out with friends for fancy dinners and share cookies and milk with James afterward. He's never once brought me flowers, but he's brought me basil plants and huge bags of sugar and bottles of blueberry vodka; those things are more my style. When he says "I love you" I know it's because he means it and not because That's What You Do. And we don't just love each other, we respect each other, get each other, fit each other--those things are just as important.

James is one of the smartest people I know. He tried teaching and wasn't up to the classroom management part**, but he's the best explainer you'll ever meet. He'll have our kids understanding calculus before they hit 3rd grade, I'm pretty sure. He's a good dad and a good person--although he's a skeptical, sarcastic smartass, he's also generous, honest, ethical, kind.

Given that I was a lesbian until he came around, you've gotta believe he's sexy too--I swear it was only 2% about the free sperm. We still like each other even deep in the trenches with 3 under 3, so I guess we're pretty lucky.
* OK, I exaggerate, he'll buy various electronics and he used to buy DVDs like it was his job, but in general he's not a huge spender
** I thought that meant he would be the "good cop" with our kids, but I was wrong.
Bob's new cast.
Last night I put up a dry-erase wall calendar to start teaching the boys days and so on. Bobby was sort of into it, Drew much less so, but neither of them seemed to get it. That's to be expected at their age; I'm just laying the groundwork. When you think about it, it's kind of complicated, and mostly artibrary except for being based on the rotation of the Earth and its orbit around the sun ... which when you think about it, is kind of complicated. And then we lay hours, days, weeks, months, and years around those concepts. The anchors we're using are to mark events and the current day.

"Family" is even worse. "I'm your Daddy, which means you're my sons, but Ellen is my daughter, even though I'm still her Daddy. Mommy is your Mommy, and you're also her sons, and Ellen's her daughter. Most kids have one Mommy and Daddy who are husband and wife like us, but * has two Mommies, and * has two Daddies, and some parents aren't married, so not everyone. Drew is your brother - your twin, in fact - but Ellen is your sister and not your twin. Douglas is your uncle because he's Mommy's brother." And so on. Sure, Grandma is coming next week, but which one is in their heads when we say that?
Bob's new cast is some shade of raver, neon green. This just makes me secure in my desire to keep him away from predators.

He seems to get around with it better than the splint, though. The doctor even said he could walk on it if he wanted, but it looks like that'd be really awkward.
From Liss:
Everybody needs a wingman.

I do have fun with Bobby, but at the more emotional moments it's always Daddy that he wants. Now James has started a "Mommy Is Awesome" campaign. It's super-cute and highly appreciated (if nothing else, it reminds me that he thinks I'm a good mommy). I change the sheets on the bed: "Look how nice Mommy is, giving you the red sheet." I bring him water: "Mommy does so much for you."

Of course, he doesn't care one bit but James and I both keep trying and trying. And trying. Tonight I was attempting our traditional rehash of the day. "So, what'd you do today?" "Nothing." Nothing? What is he, 14? I got a "Good try" from James for my efforts.

If a potential dating partner treated me with Bob's level of hostility, I'd have given up long ago.
Update from the ortho: Bobby's been refitted with a cast instead of a splint - appointment to get it off is in four weeks.
So here's one way that people can go broke via the bureaucracy of the American health insurance system.

Until a few months ago, the kids were covered under Liss's employer's plan. When our 2011 plans came out, we analyzed them and decided to switch them to mine, which is under the same health co-op, but with different benefits and drawbacks. While hers covered out-of-network pretty well, mine didn't, except under referrals for services not normally performed by the co-op, but we never travel, and their referral network is pretty robust, etc, etc.

As you know, the kids have had lots of things done this year - endoscopy, fractured leg, two ear infections, a few other visits, etc. The two gastro/endoscopy visits were referrals out of network, as well as Bobby's folllowup leg visit today. Referrals usually require pre-approval from the co-op; however, Liss's employer hasn't yet sent notice of termination of coverage, so the visits were filed under that coverage. Because her plan includes out-of-network, a review was never done to approve the referrals. If her employer now sends notice saying "oh, by the way, this coverage terminated three months ago," then we could be retroactively charged for care that everyone originally thought were covered referrals.

Liss has had several conversations with providers and her HR departments and so on, to no avail. Her HR department and insurance company are dragging their feet for some reason. Bear in mind, this is the same department that was late filing paperwork on the boys' births; we got a $4000 bill because of that, which required cutting through no small amount of red tape to rectify.

So yesterday afternoon, we went through the whole thing some more, this time making sure that Bobby's appointment was going to be covered, because it's also a referral. Eventually we got a yes, not just to that, but to the other referrals we've had so far, like Drew's endoscopy last week.

If all of this is giving you a headache, I understand, but it's a relatively small bump in the pothole-filled mine field of a highway that constitutes our health care system. For larger health problems than ours, you can see how a paperwork snafu like this could bankrupt a family and destroy their savings - no to mention that we're in the enviable position of both having jobs with health insurance, and getting to choose which one to use.

Single payer, please?
She was only two days late, so I wouldn't quite call it a scare, but we were relieved this morning to know that Liss is not pregnant.
If you ask the question, "for whom will Ellen lift her arms so that person will pick her up?," you might think the answer is Mommy, or Daddy, or some other person for whom she has a particular affection. You would be wrong. The answer is "anyone higher above the ground than where she is now," as then she has a better vantage point for lording over her minions.
Ellen has really taken to her monkey binky lately. She even calls it by name ("mah!"), which is unfortunately the same sound she uses for "Mama," so Liss sometimes gets all excited for nothing.

Bobby's getting pretty good at crawling around with his splint, but I still don't want to take him outside like that. If I were a hawk, I'd want to dive down and scoop him up.
The reason breakfast is the most important meal of the day is that it includes coffee.

The kids slept great last night. I woke up at 3 for no reason and couldn't get back to sleep. It looks like the melatonin thing is a flop.
The twin club sale was this Saturday. We only ended up spending $75, since there wasn't a good-but-well-priced car seat in the place. The bulk of that was on clothes, especially sleepers to replace the ones that are dying, including a larger version of the coveted fire truck sleeper. However, Drew's worn his new monkey sleeper both nights since, so it might become "his."
The boys are more than halfway to starting kindergarten.
All told, this was a pretty good weekend. Drew got time out twice - he can be a stubborn one - but that's not unusual, and Bobby was more pleasant than his reputation allows. Naps weren't all that great, but we did some divide-and-conquer and Liss got out to a fancy dinner Saturday night, so it all worked out fairly well. It's clear that the boys are on an upward trajectory with being able to handle life; it's just hard to tell sometimes when you're still in the daily trenches.
Bobby's getting better at getting around with his splint, even starting to stand on one foot (supported), but he still mostly just sits around and prefers that I carry him everywhere. He has an orthopedic appointment Wednesday, which may involve a walker or crutches or something, but mostly it's to make sure things are healing the right way.

Also, I have a pop quiz for you all. Here are the parameters: 2.5 year old boy, in a splint, wearing underwear, and has a semi-liquid poop accident. How can you remove the soiled underwear such that no poop gets on the splint?

The correct answer is: You can't.

So, they might be replacing the splint, too.
Ellen's becoming a little busybody, getting into everyone's business. We knew it would happen, and we know it won't last, but the boys don't know that. Drew pushed her away a little bit, but Bobby just yells "No, Ellen!" repeatedly, which is to his credit, i.e. he doesn't get physical about it. Maybe he would if he weren't gimpy right now, but I don't think that has anything to do with it.

I brought a dead laptop from the garage to try to distract her from mine, which has been slightly successful. It'd probably do better if I plugged it in, but then that'd be another wire for her to explore.
With both of us taking Friday off for Drew's endoscopy, we had a de facto three-day weekend, but with one only kid for half of one.

Thursday night, we encouraged Drew to eat as much as he could, since he wouldn't be able to again until Friday afternoon. He didn't really get it, so we were worried that he'd complain about hunger, but it never really happened.

Friday morning we left as soon as the nanny got there, even though we didn't need to be at the hospital for over two hours, since we wanted to break the routine and get him away from the others eating breakfast. We ended up at a little covered play park in a shopping center near the hospital, which was a good diversion - since it was early, he had it pretty much to himself, not to mention the rarity of having both parents and no siblings around.

We parked and checked in with no problem. His green beanie bear got a hospital bracelet in case it got lost, which would have been cute if it hadn't been around its neck. We found a place in the surgery waiting area. Liss played games with Drew, I tried to explain what was going to happen (again), and so on. We waited for maybe 45 minutes, though we had been a tad early. Liss noted that, while it sucks that we were there at all, and our little boy was going to be put under, he was still healthier than maybe 98% of the kids there.

A few minutes in, a couple sat a few feet in front of us, but a good five feet from each other. They "kind of" tried to be discreet, but it was clear pretty quickly that they were the divorced parents of a patient, he was the kid's primary doctor and had referred him to the surgery ... and the guy was kind of an asshole. He was very dismissive of her, and I think somewhat enjoying sniping at her. Out of earshot, Liss and I expressed mutual thanks that we're nothing like they are.

When there was a triage room ready for Drew, we all went so he could have his vitals checked - nothing spectacular there. As I write this, I realize that they weren't nearly as "Up With People!" in their tone to him as other providers have been and I've complained about here; maybe they took the cue from us, treating him like we do. The anesthesiologist came in, and offered him four flavors of gas to knock him out, which I whittled down to strawberry and orange for him; he picked strawberry.

Only one parent is allowed in the procedure room, so I went - he's generally calmer around me - and after a little prep, they put the mask over his nose and mouth. They warned me that there might be some disturbing things coming, like his eyes rolling into the back of his head, or flailing limbs, but it wasn't bad. About a minute later, he just kind of fell asleep, and they lowered him onto his back.

Something missing in the instructions - or my comprehension thereof - was that I couldn't stay for the procedure itself. So, I had to go meet Liss in the waiting room. We knew the procedure - camera down his throat to his small intestine - would only take about 15 minutes, but we used the chance to grab lunch at their cafeteria. Yes, there was a little guilt involved, but we worked out way through it like champs.

As we were cleaning that up, the doctor came out to say that everything had gone well, and that Drew was already awake and talking again. He also brought out pictures from the camera, which were a little odd ("and here's your son's stomach lining!"), but useful. One thing I noticed was just how clean everything was in there. It's good to be young. But the small intestine, said the doctor, was a little swollen, probably from celiac disease, but the biopsy will tell for sure. We'll know late next week or so. To a person, the nurses and doctors praised Drew's behavior, with "sweet" and "adorable" being thrown around a lot. I'm sure they get a lot of kids who resist every step of the way.

You're supposed to wait a while after general anesthesia before venturing forth, so we went back to where Drew was to do that and go through paperwork and "things to look for afterwards" stuff, like light-headedness and vomiting. He looked okay, so we asked him if he was ready to eat (a real "duh" question), and he fortunately asked for strawberries. That was something we could just pop by Safeway and grab, rather than wait until we get home and prepare. So, ten minutes later, Drew had some strawberries in him.

On the way home, he fell asleep hard. When he woke up, he had the usual post-nap meltdown that we still don't understand. However, he never showed any unusual signs, so he was back to eating normally by dinnertime.

There's a follow up visit on April 4th, during which Liss will probably learn about going gluten-free. She already has a lot of experience with that because of friends and family, but this would mean [almost?] banning gluten from the house. It's a lot easier to have fewer choices available than to restrict what's right in front of them.
From Liss:
I don't really mind that the boys prefer Daddy. I find it kind of charming, actually, that they have such a secure, affectionate relationship; I know I got a good one. But sometimes when James isn't around or isn't available, they need comfort. Drew will let me help. Bobby will actively recoil as if he's scared of me, and shriek loudly and miserably enough to draw the police in from outside. If James is home but, say, putting Ellen to bed, Bob will continue to scream while trying to go get him. I have to physically restrain him while he fights, pushes at my neck and continues to scream. I can try talking or silence, anger, guilt-induction or tears. He'll just flail and howl for Daddy.

It makes me cry every time. It also makes me want to give him something to cry about. I don't, I won't, don't worry, there's no risk to either of us. I just wish I could get him to stop being scared of me. Yeah, I snap at him occasionally--but so does James.

I made the mistake of asking Drew this evening what happens when Bobby misses Daddy when both of us are at work. "[The nanny] helps him," he said. He lets her help? "Yeah."

The little %^&*(.

Which will come first, a day without kid tears or a week without Mommy tears?

March 4th+

Speaking of which, I write what they boys say, not how they say it. Some other parents do, and it bugs me (like "sowwy" instead of "sorry"), so I don't. However, the pronunciations can be humorous - like how "Daddy hold you" sounds like "Daddy Ho Jew."
We got a reprieve last night, in the form of six hours of straight sleep. Bobby then cried for me at 4:30 just to be held for a few minutes, and then I couldn't get back to sleep afterwards, but it's still an upgrade. The ibuprofen/Benadryl regimen worked way better than oxycotin, which now we'll probably just end up tossing.

Really, though, he seems to be getting adjusted to the splint and all. He's started crawling around a little bit, when it's not worth the trouble to have "Daddy carry you." Usually, though, he thinks it's worth the trouble. The crawling and dragging the bad leg definitely has that wounded bird look to it, so I'll have to be on the lookout for hawks and large snakes.
Night From Hell
The couple we know who went on bedrest at 24 weeks had their twins a couple of weeks ago, at 27. Both are in the NICU, doing reasonably well for being so early, but not expected to come home until May.
We've upgraded Ellen from pre-verbal to quasi-verbal.
We gave Bob his 1mL of oxycotin last night, and it didn't do shit. Actually, it may be that he's one of those people with the opposite reaction than normal, because he didn't get to sleep until 10:15 - three hours after going to bed. Much of the interim was spent whining and crying for Daddy.

When we went to bed, I predicted that he'd wake up crying again at 1:15. She said 3:30. You know you're in a bad place when your optimistic outlook is four hours of sleep. Unfortunately, I was closer. Continued by Liss:
Last night was a new level of hell. Bobby had just stopped making noise when we went to bed at 10:30. Around 1:30, he woke up screaming and inconsolable (and CPS-concern-level recoiling whenever I came near), we let them come into our bed on the condition that they BE QUIET. Bobby whimpered and complained for 2 hours before James took him back to his own bed and Drew fell right asleep diagonally so I had to settle pillowless on the bottom corner of the bed. Today we are telling the nanny no boy naps and to please PLEASE find ways to force [Bob] to crawl around. I don't care if it's by scattering a bunch of M&Ms on the floor and telling him to go for it.
She must not have noticed that Drew was playing with my hair, touching my nose, etc., which was sweet but kept me up. Bobby ended up perpendicular on the bed, so I wound up at the foot. Anyway, between the last two nights, we've totalled about seven hours of sleep, and there's little relief in sight. They won't be in our bed again anytime soon.

Thank goodness for Ellen, who slept 12 straight hours without a peep.
From Liss, details for Drew's endoscopy Friday, to which she says "This is going to be f'n awesome":
Working backward:

Recovery room ~45 minutes
Procedure ~20 minutes
Vitals, etc
10:45 am check-in
8:00 am cut-off for clear liquids
7:00 pm Thursday, cut-off for food
With this weekend also being the time change, normally we'd be adjusting them by gradually moving their bedtimes toward what is now 6pm ("the new 7pm"). However, that'd be more time that he couldn't eat, so maybe we'll just have to cram it into the next two days.

She asked if there were any particular things that comfort him and I said, "Having his Dad close."
But we can also take a bear.
Now that Ellen is mobile, she's getting into everything. Last night she would crawl up to Bobby and smack his leg, he'd say "No Ellen!," and repeat until I'd take her away. Sometimes she'd move over to Drew for the same thing. Wherever I've move her, she'd crawl back and start over again, so I sat in her way. That pissed her off until she got distracted by my computer, and how fun it would be to pull it off the table or yank out the mouse or whatnot.

We went through the same stuff with the boys, and they didn't do it for long. Even so, there's still a bit of sadness to the first real "no"s that you have to give, and how mad they get when they realize they can't just live life doing whatever they want (unless they're Charlie Sheen, I guess).
Last night Bob woke us up five times - three to be held, once to be shifted a bit, and another because he wanted his binky, which was six inches from his mouth. We're unhappy and sleepy campers this morning. During the evening, he was basically playing the invalid, even though we know he can crawl with the splint. We think he's milking this. We might get the oxycotin after all.

This morning, I heard "I want to get up!" several times over the monitor while I was dressing for work, then went to get ... it turned out to be Drew. Barking what he wants is better than crying like they normally do, so it's progress, but I still told him he could stick a "please" in there somewhere. Bob was still asleep, the little sadist.

Update: We got the medicine. Who knows if we'll use it. Also, Bobby was still asleep when Liss left for work at 8:30. I can't remember the last time we were still asleep that late.
Ellen was sick for so long that we were worried she'd turned a corner into becoming a cranky fussbudget permanently. As of Saturday morning, I'm happy to say that she's back to her old sweet self.
Our HOA sent notice that they're going to be fixing our cracked concrete front steps next week, and that it might involve a jackhammer. Fortunately, it's during business hours, so it'll be the nanny's problem.
As of Monday morning, Ellen - motivated by Drew's duck binky, made it up her first two stairs.
So allow me to regale you with the story of our Sunday afternoon. We begin with the boys waking up from their nap around 4. Liss went to wake them with bright smiles and cheer, saying that if they could be nice instead of having their usual wakeup meltdowns - here's Saturday's - that we could go get ice cream and/or go to a park. Drew did pretty well, but Bobby didn't, so it took a while for that to come to fruition. The truth is that we were going to get out of the house no matter what, as they'd spent most of the last two weeks sick and therefore in the house and therefore crankily stir crazy.

We got to the ice cream place, where Bobby picked something called Mexican Chocolate - which was just Chocolate as far as he was concerned - and Liss got a thing called Ube that they often have. Drew wanted the "purple," as well, but his very own, so he didn't get anything for a while, until Liss had the bright idea of getting him a taster's spoon of it. Meanwhile, since a single scoop is too big for one boy and Drew wasn't having any of it, Bobby and I split the Mexican Chocolate. You might think this is a lot of mundane detail, but I assure you I have a reason coming.

After ice cream, we drove to the park down the hill from our house, where we've been several times. The boys wanted to go elsewhere (what "the brown park" refers to, we don't know), but it was this park or nothing. I took Bobby and Ellen to the swings while Liss took Drew to the slides. Bobby didn't last long swinging - especially considering he'll often do that for a long time - so I let him down and he went to the others while Ellen swang.

A few minutes later he started crying like he was hurt, which happens all the time, and he wanted Daddy instead of Momma, which also happens all the time, so I didn't think much of it, but went over. Liss had had him in her lap going down the slide, he stuck the leg out a bit, the rubber of his shoe caught, and the leg was lurched back. He tried to walk but couldn't. We figured it might be a sprained ankle. We decided to go home to drop everyone else off, and Bobby and I would go to Urgent Care - one week after I'd been with Drew. Oy. This was about 5:45pm.

When we got home, Liss had the idea of making us a sandwich to take, which turned into a whole care package once Drew realized what she was doing. By the time those two were done collaborating, the bag had two sandwiches, grapes, crackers, a book, a diaper, and a bottle of water. After all, who better to decide what someone needs than his twin? Between that and the normal diaper bag, we were set. We drove to UC, and I carried him in, taking the care package but leaving the diaper bag. We got there around 6:15.

They had the same no-nonsense receptionist as last week, which is a little disconcerting to me. People go to UC under very trying circumstances, and they don't need the extra stress that a curt greeting brings. But anyway. We waited for a while, got called into triage for his vitals (where he lost it), went back in the waiting room for a longer while ... and sat.

There was a little girl whom her parents probably call "confident," but I call a little sociopath in training. She was maybe four, and walking up to random people and giving them faces, sticking her tongue at them, staring at them, etc. She had that "oh no you didn't" look a lot of the time. You could tell her mother had kind of given up on her. Bobby's tough to corral, but it was a cautionary reminder to me that we don't want to get to that point with him.

The door to the main area of care was actually a big double door (so wheelchairs and gurneys can get through), opened with a switch, so it made noise. This scared Bobby, who was otherwise holding it together pretty well, so I had to assure him repeatedly that it was okay. However, at some point he declared that "I'm all better now" and that we could go home, which was just his way to trying to leave the scary thing. That one was easy to refute: "So you can walk now?" "Yes." And then I'd place him on the floor (supported), the pain would come back to his leg, and we stayed. He's such a stubborn boy that sometimes you just have to get to the point rather than try to reason with him.

We finally got into a room, which we curtain-shared with a lady who had been in a car wreck. So I guess we had it good. Still, we waited there for quite a while, too. A couple of nurses came, then the doctor, who ordered x-rays, so we waited for that to be ready, then they sent us down along with the car wreck lady. By this time it was about 8:35. The boys' bedtime is 7.

The radiology clinic was nearly a ghost town. Car wreck lady went in before us, understandably, so we sat in the new waiting room. The receptionist left for some reason, so it was just us. I started talking to Bobby about what might happen if he had a sprained ankle, like not walking for a while, he might have a cast, and that we'd have to carry him all the time. He replied that no, he could crawl instead. That came out of the blue; I hadn't considered it because I figured the crawling motion would still hurt a sprained ankle, but I asked if he wanted to try it. He crawled away like a champ.

As he started to play with the magnetic table, I noticed the rumblings in my bowels. It was the kind that you know has no snooze button. There was no receptionist. I couldn't leave Bobby by himself, but if we went to the bathroom, they might think we bailed or something. Desperate, I searched the counter and found a business card and pen, wrote "R Munger in restroom" and put it on her keyboard. I picked up Bob and bolted to the john, where the car wreck lady's husband(?) was just getting out (thank goodness), and just barely sat down in time. Meanwhile, Bobby was on the floor, in crawling position, on a public restroom. And here's a little segue into how toddlers operate, as this is certainly not the first time he's asked this: "Dad, why you pooping?"

It was soon after I stood up and looked that I realized the culprit - the Mexican Chocolate! The ice cream place is a hipster, we-make-our-own kind of establishment, but I didn't know they went so far as to make their Mexican ice cream with Mexican water.

The x-ray people were ready soon after we got out of there, so we went into a dark room with the technician, which is where things got a little surreal. You see, our boys aren't often exposed to the overly-enthusiastic vibe that a lot of people do for little kids, which is the same thing the gastroenterologist did with Drew, the diabetes study people do to both of them, and so on. It always freaks them out, or at least makes them look at the adult like they're an idiot. We treat our kids older than they are, I guess, but we also don't like that act in ourselves, let alone in others, so it's just weird to them; they respond by thinking the people doing it are also weird. She even did baby talk, like "scawy" for scary, and "Who's that? Is that Elmo!?" to a sticker. He probably thought he spoke better than she does.

Anyway, between her attitude and shoving stickers at him and inflicting pain on his leg - she needed to straighten it and put his ankle at 90 degrees for the x-ray - he wasn't doing so hot. She was saying things like "let's play a game!" to get his leg in the right spot and the right way, while putting him in pain to do so (again, for the right reasons, but still). It also didn't help that we were in a dark, empty-looking room with a couple of spotlights that made it look like a bad set on Tron. Fortunately he responded to my resassurances, and in the end it only took a couple of minutes.

When we got back into the hall, he started to calm down. I asked if that was scary, and he said yes. "Which part was scary?" ... "Games part was scary." So yeah, I guess her bag of tricks backfired, but I'm sure that's how she trained to handle the little ones. And hey, he got some stickers out of it.

Back upstairs in the room, it was back to waiting, now around 9:10. We started to eat from the care package, which was now very welcome indeed, when I noticed ... his diaper. It was obvious even without looking that my Mexican Chocolate theory had been validated. The problem was that I'd left the diaper bag, and therefore the wipes, in the car. Fortunately, our nurse came by and I asked if he had anything we could use, and they did. It took a bit of doing - he'd had irritation problems down there all weekend - but I was very glad we'd at least brought the diaper. It was around this time that he was starting to behave very sweetly.

The doctor came in with the results of the x-ray. It's an injury so common that it has a nickname - a toddler's fracture of the shin. The deal is that their legs aren't as hard as ours yet, and from the way they grow and later fuse, a fracture tends to spiral up (or down) the leg. It's not a break, but it was almost all the way up his shin, and very unambiguous in the x-ray. She - the interesting doctor that I think we should be friends with - said that if we were in African Bush country, he'd crawl for a few weeks while it healed, then gingerly try to walk until he could, and that'd be that. Here, they'd fit him with a splint - not a cast - and maybe even get him a "toddler walker" from the Children's hospital later. I have no idea if this is what she means, but that's just not a viable option in our house. He can crawl with a splint for three weeks. We're already going to Children's this Friday for Drew's endoscopy, so, y'know, wouldn't it be fun to take both boys and just make a family day of it?

While waiting, he started to be a little more playful, which was very welcome. With toddlers, it's their attitude that really speaks to their mood; words come second.

Soon, while still waiting for the next step, I noticed part two of my own issues, again with no snooze button. It was starting to remind me of the flu we'd all gotten a month ago, except things were only coming out of one end. Another nurse popped by that I'd recognized from the week before - and recognized as not being particularly friendly - but still asked if I should leave him or take him with me to the restroom. She said she'd watch him, but he clearly didn't like the idea, so I agreed to take him with me again. That's when she said "I recognize him from last week!," to which I had to say oh, that was his twin. "Oh, you tricked me!" to him. It was cute.

So, we made another, quicker trip to the restroom. Coming back, however, it turns out that it wasn't quick enough for the nurse doing the splint. She'd already wet the material, but it had hardened too much to use, and she'd have to start over. Oops. She said it wasn't a big deal, and she could use it to fine-tune his measurements, but it was still an unwelcome delay. She came back a bit later, and the splinting started. I told Bobby that it wouldn't hurt, but I was wrong. Like the x-ray technician, she had to bend his knee and ankle, not to mention tightly wrap this thing around his leg. He didn't take long to settle down, though, which is good considering that once an idea takes hold in his mind (like "I want this off!"), he tends to never let go. The nurse also gave him more stickers, adding Garfield and Odie to the stickers of characters he doesn't recognize, along with the Elmos he already had. We've gotten away with not having toddlers who crave a lot of TV, it seems, though that's very deliberate (and tiring) on our part.

The doctor came back to check the splint and advise. She said he'd be in it for a few weeks, so he'll probably be wearing it at Ellen's birthday party. She also said that she'd prescribe something for pain, but we should use it or over-the-counter pain medicines sparingly, because pain will keep him from walking on it and possibly causing more damage. Depending on what she ends up prescribing, perhaps we'll take it ourselves instead. With a little vodka.

We checked out around 9:35. The receptionist seemed a lot softer this time, perhaps from seeing a toddler with a splint. Bobby dawdled in going to bed despite it being three hours after his bedtime - he's already showing signs of milking this for all it's worth - but once we went through the motions, he was out. We weren't far behind.

So, we have a few weeks of adjustments to make. Bobby will be in strollers a lot, can't use the stools he's so used to, might not be able to go up or down stairs, and can't wear the fire truck(!) or any other sleepers, or a left shoe. Only a few of their pairs of pants will go over the splint. Plus, this figures to be a very frustrating experience for him, and he doesn't handle that well. Hey, he's two. ("Two and a half!")

With five-person flu and four-person two-week sickness that we're still getting over, February sucked. Now March isn't starting out that well, either.

Update: The doctor didn't prescribe while we were there because it would have delayed our going home. Instead, she sent the paperwork to our clinic this morning. However, it's for oxycotin, which is kind of hard core - so much so that the clinic won't fill it based on a fax. We're not sure if we even want to give him something like that, let alone jump through any more hoops to get it - currently unknown hoops - so he may just have tylenol or ibuprofen in his future.

Update: Picture. Liss says he's holding it together okay, all things considered.

February 26th+

With toddlers, there are two competing forces - dawdling, and wanting to do things themselves. Left to their own devices, they'll take forever to start doing whatever task they want to do, but God forbid you start it or even walk away and leave them to it. That's led to a natural tendency on my part; as soon as they start to dawdle, I'll make motions like I'm going to do it. That springs them into action, and I very quickly back off. After all, I probably wasn't really yearning to get their fresh diaper out of the box, turn on the bathroom sink, or whatever.

A fun extension of "all by myself" is something like getting milk out of the fridge, which is way too high for the boys to get, even with a stool. So, you'll hear these same two sentences within five seconds of each other: "I want to get it all by myself!"

"Daddy help you!"
Once a month, we package up a little of the boys' poop and ship the two boxes off the Maryland. That in itself is an unusual task, but we don't think much of it anymore. They even "help."(*)

What gets me is that there's some poor schmuck in Maryland who has to open these and analyze them - and not just ours, but probably hundreds of them a month. That's the job - open poop, analyze it, and put the data into the computer. They probably even have a degree in a respectable science, like Biology.

I'm guessing turnover in that position is high.

(*) When it comes to toddlers, "help" is almost always in quotation marks.
Last night Bobby, in his ear-infected state, spent two hours in my lap, struggling to find a comfortable position, which he couldn't do because of the pain. He eventually fell asleep while the rest of the family was upstairs, then woke again when they came down, but was still very out of it.

He refused the optional ear drops multiple times, eventually saying that he wanted it to go away by itself. "Today." Uh, that's not how it works, kid. At bedtime he accepted Benadryl to help him sleep; Drew said no to that, which is a little seed of critical thinking over impulse thinking, so I was impressed by that.
Ellen had another bad night, waking up screaming a few times. Liss is reaching the end of her rope.
From Liss (Wednesday night):
So! With all the drama and clingywhininess around the boys' illness, we kind of forgot to worry about Ellen. Then this morning I realized she'd had a low-grade fever, snotty nose and escalating cough for two weeks. When I called, the nurse was alarmed and told me to take her in ASAP. Mother of the Year, I tell ya. In our defense, we pretty much haven't slept in those two weeks, either.

So this morning I called to make an appointment for her. Of course when I arrived to pick her up, she was dry-nosed and chattering happily rather than coughing. But there I was, feeling guilty, so I took her away (much to the boys' dismay). We had to wait a long time to get in. A notable aside was that when they weighed her, they found she'd only gained 2 ounces in the past 2 months. That's sickness + finally learning to crawl for you. So no, she's not heavier than the boys yet, nor will she be by her birthday as we'd predicted.

Anyway, the doctor listened to her breathe and cough, poked and prodded in her ears and throat, and found no issues whatsoever. She suggested a just-in-case chest x-ray, to which I felt guilty enough to consent (And if she has fertility issues in 30 years, I'll feel guilty again! Does it ever end?). They told us to go ahead and leave and they'd call us with the results; we could come back for antibiotics if needed.

So I strapped her in and headed for the store. On the way there, Children's called to schedule Drew's endoscopy. The choices were March 11th, which is soon and we already have evening plans, or March 25th, Ellen's birthday (and the day before her party), or, like, June. I picked the 11th. They won't tell us what time until 3 days beforehand. Awesome.

Got dinner fixings, went home, let them hang out while I showered, found some food for everyone under age 30. While James was taking Ellen up to bed, Bobby threw up.

So yes, I'm feeling pretty entitled to the mental health day I'm taking tomorrow.
Last night I smacked Liss's butt, as I am wont to do, in front of the kids.

"Daddy NOT hit Mommy!"
"Daddy have to say 'sorry!'"
Bobby woke up this morning [Thursday] complaining that his ear hurt. At first I wasn't sure if he was on the level (see older post), but later signs say he was. Liss is going to try to call our clinic for an appointment, rather than have to take him to Urgent Care. Addendum: Ear infection confirmed.

Ellen's visit yesterday showed nothing unusual - no ear infection, and they even took a chest x-ray that was fine - so we just have to ride it out with her. She was still a fussbag this morning.

After three days on the antibiotics for his ear infection, Drew's feeling a lot better today. Also, the gastro office called with available times for his endoscopy; looks like next Friday the 11th.
Ellen's still sick and not getting better, and Liss has an early release day, so she was able to get her an appointment for this afternoon.
I got one of those trainers that fits over the regular toilet, but the boys haven't tried it. They're a little afraid. The irrational excuse they use is that "I'm not big boy yet."

Whether they're big or not, you see, depends on what they want. They want to avoid the big toilet, so they're not big yet. They want to be the ones to open/unlock and close/lock the baby gate, because they're big boys now. Eat everything on their plates? Not big yet. Climb into the van without the stool? Big.

After the initial shine wore off, they haven't been into underwear at all. They'll be nude for a while, but then ask for a diaper again rather than wear underwear, even if we ask. Because they're not big boys yet.
Liss removed the mats from the bathroom floor, as they blended a little too well with the boys' stray leavings.
One more thing out of the house - the exersaucer. Ellen didn't like it for very long; she prefers the high chair so she can better survey her domain. Also gone are the jumperoo and play mat. We have our eye on the second crib. Chip, chip away.
Last night was misery. Everyone but Liss has been sick for almost a week now, with snot and coughing and vomit and whining and Drew refusing to cover his cough and blah blah, but last night was the worst yet. After bedtime, Drew kept whining but not really accepting any of my offers to help. I'd suggest medicine, or that I hold him, or blow his nose, or even that I leave the room, and he'd either not respond or say no or eventually acquiesce but then go right back to crying. He'd go to sleep for a bit - like 20 minutes - and then wake up again, and the whole thing would start over.

About two hours into this came the turning point, when he said his ear hurt. Red flag, get up, kid, we're going to Urgent Care. He'd had an ear infection before, but regardless, you don't ignore something so direct as your toddler forming that sentence out of nowhere. A silver lining is that he probably couldn't have done that six months ago, and we might never have known or realized.

So, sleeper and all, he rode with me to UC and waited in his sleeper and coat - note the little hospital anklet. His expression is just a bonus - he was actually very sweet the whole time, if uber-inquisitive about everything around him. He had a 101 fever, which isn't terrible but more than we'd read at home, and the doctor confirmed an ear infection. We picked up two prescriptions and headed home. One surprising note is that he stayed awake in the car both ways, even with some Benadryl in him.

Side note, he kept asking why it was dark. They're usually asleep when it's dark, so he's not used to being out in it. That might partially account for his staying awake, even - the curiosity of driving at night.

At home, I put some drops in his ear, which in hindsight I don't think I did right. Then, the bottle cap for the antibiotic was broken or something (or I am); I ended up sawing it off with a knife, which took about ten minutes and gave me visions of slipping and having to go back to UC for my finger, but that didn't happen. Drew was reluctant to take the antibiotic at first ("not quite yet"), but eventually drank it just fine, then went back to bed without a fuss. This was around 11:35.

Then, he and Bobby took turns crying for me around 11:55, 12:35, 1:15 ... and then I stopped looking, but there were more. A few times, whoever it was was able to calm himself before I'd get up. Other times, I'd go in and he'd want me to hold him or blow his nose or some other little thing, or sometimes nothing specific just like before. Ellen, too, had a few fussy and/or coughy episodes that woke us up. And then I have my own illness that keeps us both up. This morning, coffee is my friend - well, like any other morning, just more so.

One would think that, given my age, I'd have already had most of the colds that these guys seem to pick up, but I guess not; I usually get sick when they do. Maybe it's because I'm a transplant, and Seattle's viral base is different than Houston's. However, I've been here 11 years - shouldn't I have gotten the common stuff by now? Apparently, I haven't. Bleh.

Also, I can't help but worry that they (especially Bobby) will use this new-found "my ear hurts" thing for his own purposes. He lies to get what he wants, including attention. A lot.
From Liss:
Even if we win the lottery, I'll never be a full-time stay-at-home mom.

I just finished a week off work with the kids. It would have been a lot more fun if it hadn't been for the sickness. I realized this morning that when I'm just here between these walls without any focus other than the children*, that's when I start to beat myself up the most. I question myself so much as a mother when I get snippy at the latest argument over who gets THAT green cup, etc, that it makes me doubt everything about myself.

I know better than to think I'm ugly and boring and friendless and [etc], but my brain can be an evil, evil bitch. Last night I dreamed that I stopped by a friend's house to drop something off and there was a party going on with all these people I considered friends, and they all looked at me guiltily because they purposely hadn't invited me. It was only a dream, but of course it left me feeling like shit. After a couple of hours at work, though, it was magic: I felt prettier, smarter, sexier, kinder, even better-hydrated. All because I was interacting with adults and feeling successful.

That was a pretty helpful realization, I think. Remind me of it when spring break rolls around, OK?

I'm once again the only healthy one in the family. Everyone else has some kind of gross cold. Our entire house is coated in a thin film of mucous.

James is on the way to Urgent Care with Drew, who hasn't been able to fall asleep because his ear hurts. The other two are asleep, but lightly--coughing and hacking and snuffling and whining. It's gonna be a rough night, I fear.

Ellen's birthday is less than 4 weeks away. We should invite people over for cake or something**. I may just decide to freeze her at 11 months for a while, though; she's such a delight. Yesterday the boys were watching Caillou (What, they were sick, OK, Mom?) and the theme song came on and I swear Ellen sang "Ca-yuh, Ca-yuh." I can't decide whether to be impressed (my smart musical baby!), depressed (we're Caillou addicts!) or both.

It's budget season at work, and it looks like there are a few decent options for me. Most of them may involve a small pay cut but I can handle it.

By choosing the gym over the choir for a couple of months, doing stairs at lunchtime, and sticking to 1250 calories per day, I'm down at least 10 pounds this year. That's even after a not-so-careful week last week. So far the weight is coming off in stupid places like my rib cage (I've had to move to the next bra hook in), but I am determined to get back into my pre-pregnancy clothes.

And back to my pre-pregnancy attitude, dammit!
* Insert obligatory "I love my kids" here, but I'm sure you understand.
** Bitch brain: "Who would want to come to that?"
The weekend was kind of rough, because everyone but Liss is sick. It's not a debilitating thing like the flu we got a month ago, but there's a lot of snot running around, and it turns the boys into whiny clingers. Heck, Friday I said "Bob, you're being very clingy tonight," and he replied "Yes, I am" without missing a beat.

You're not supposed to give cold medicine to kids until about age 6, so that was off the table. The best we could do was Benadryl at bedtime to help the boys sleep, though it certainly didn't seem to help last night.

February 19th+

Eleven months old.
One concern I brought up with Liss is that, when the time comes, will we remember how not to involve ourselves in everything our children are doing? While they demand our near-constant attention now, the glimmer of hope is that they become more and more independent - but will we recognize it when we see it, and be able to adjust and let go?

She says not to worry.
Bobby's gotten pretty good at putting his socks and shoes on without help. The shoes are usually on the right feet, even (more than 50% of the time, at least). It's way too early to have them wear shoes with laces, but we'll need to go down that road eventually. Velcro is great, but there are some things everyone needs to learn by kindergarten, like tying laces and wiping your own ass.

Speaking of which, when they're taking their "showers," Bobby will ask for some [liquid] soap, put it in his butt crack, ask for more, put it there, etc. Most of the rest of his body doesn't get any. I guess if there's one part of your body to keep clean, that's a good choice, but I have a feeling that cleanliness has very little to do with it.
I asked the boys which names for themselves they prefer. The verdicts are Bobby and Andrew, but they like the others, too.
The boys have volunteered to take "showers" four days in a row. We'll ride this fad while we can.
Ellen has a few proto- hand signs: milk, more, all done, and sleep. We never really pushed signs hard with the boys, and it's the same with her, but I guess we're still doing it enough that she's picking up a few. The sleep one is the cutest, where she just puts her hand to her temple, so it looks halfway angsty.
Liss says she wouldn't mind freezing Ellen for a while at this point in her life - a cute, sweet little crawler who usually sleeps well. I can't disagree.
The boys have a little table of their own, with stools instead of chairs. They move the stools around all the time to reach things higher up, like on the kitchen counter, light switches, etc. It's very cute to watch them carry a stool, because each one is about the same size as a boy.

Liss just sent me this picture of a stool at the top of the stairs, with this text:
While I was putting E down for her nap, they brought the stool upstairs to try to reach the Febreeze I stashed on the ledge yesterday. When I came out of her room they said, "Hi Mom. You hafta go downstairs. Maybe you can ... cook something."
Part of the hilarity is that they brought this big (to them) stool up 16 steps, just to get to the Forbidden Febreeze Fruit. (say that five times fast)

Addendum from Liss: They also brought up a basketball, a scarf and a pair of safety scissors, as well as a second stool abandoned halfway up.
It took Ellen about 90 minutes to fall asleep last night, spending most of that time screaming. There's only so much we can do about that, so eventually we just had to let her sort it out for herself, though we'd go in once in a while to reassure her.

The boys seemed okay as we were putting them to bed, but then Drew had a coughing fit that turned into the upheaval of his entire dinner - and lunch - onto his bed. Things took a turn for the ridiculous when he kept asking ask why I was cleaning it up. There was also a little drama later about their bedside water bottles being empty when they really weren't, which was just their way of calling me back up for visits. It took them two hours to finally fall asleep.

As Liss put it, when Bobby is being the low maintenance child, you know you're in trouble.

Fortunately, they all slept after that, and so did we. Waking up at 6:30 doesn't feel luxurious on most mornings, but it did today.

This morning Ellen was mostly pleasant, and I'm pretty sure I felt a new tooth poking through the top, so maybe the worst is over with her for this spell.
While the boys have taken to the potty lately, they haven't yet realized the dangers of dingleberries.
Ellen has learned that reaching up her hands to be held is nearly impossible for us to resist.
"Bobby, when you claim I owe you two candies for pooping in the potty, it helps to actually have poop in the potty."
A friend of ours in Oregon - and a regular reader - warns that age three is worse than two. I asked Liss if, after we put the boys down that night, she wanted to drive down to Portland with me and bitchslap her. She said yes.

You know who you are!
More proof that the boys are in a pleasant spell - Drew asked for a "shower," and Bobby later joined in ... two days in a row. As Liss puts it, "the first tear-free bath since 2009."
Another sign that Ellen's a little sick? While changing her diaper area after a poop, I noticed extra mucus in her vagina.

You're welcome.
The boys are becoming more and more independent, as evidenced by the new common phrase, "I want to do it all by myself."

That's great when you're putting on your pants, kiddo. Crossing the street? Not so much.
Sometimes, you just want to pee without an audience.
Amy came over yesterday afternoon, and we all went to a park. We took turns sliding down the big winding slide with the boys, which we all hate but they love. There were also a couple of 11-year-old boys messing with the swings in a rambunctious but not-malicious way; I told Liss that that's what we'll be living with in nine years. One bonus is that they were, you know, at the park without their parents, who were probably at home reading and sipping hot chocolate.

After a while, it was time for Amy to leave, so she said goodbye to the boys. Drew looked at her with his big blue eyes and said "Could you slide with me one time, please?" She said sorry, she really needed to go. So he asked again, possibly even a little more sweetly. Thirty seconds later, they were going down the slide.

For better or for worse, they're getting really good at asking nicely. Considering the alternative - demanding curtly, which is still the majority - it's a good trend.
The boys got about ten pairs of their first underwear this weekend. When they first got home, we spent about 45 minutes putting them on and taking them off, putting on a different pair, etc. Between them, they might have had them on for about four hours by now, and only had one accident (Drew), which isn't a bad start. That's how they learn.
This was a trying weekend, but not from the sources you'd expect - Ellen had a bad time of it. She'd gotten up around 4:45-5:15 for three mornings in a row, which isn't like her (usually more like 6:45), and as the weekend came she started to get a lot fussier than normal. She's had a low grade fever for a couple of days, but besides that and fussiness, isn't showing any other symptoms, like pulling her ear is a sign of an infection, etc. Our best guess right now is tooth number three, even though she's not drooling or gnawing much more than normal (the first two still aren't all the way in). There's also a spurt around 46 weeks, and she's 47 now.

Sunday she wouldn't nap, so I drove her to Tacoma in an attempt at a car nap, which she did both ways. We also had a nice stroll around one of the business districts, where she charmed in her natural way.

Last night is when it got really bad, as she woke at 2 and wouldn't let Liss put her back down to bed. She wouldn't eat, would only be quiet if held, and screamed much more than even her worst normal episodes. We called the nurse line around 3:30, despite their notorious "just come in" ways, but even she thought the fever was too low (100-101) and Ellen was otherwise too asymptomatic to bring her in. Eventually we resorted to letting her cry herself to sleep, which was relatively easy, as she quieted down after ten minutes, as opposed to a few hours like some babies.

We took turns helping her to give each other a little sleep - it helps that my workplace doesn't care if I'm a little late once in a while - but Liss's "break" is here, so she's taking care of all three today. Fortunately, Sunday and this morning, the boys have been very pleasant (for them), which has definitely helped her outlook for the near future. They also have been sleeping better and not calling out for me at 1, 4, and 5 like they were just a week ago.
Liss's parents gave the boys a set of little wooden letters last summer, which have gotten intermittent use since, but more play recently as the boys are learning what letters are for. They especially know "A for Andrew" and "B for Bobby." A few days ago, they started becoming attached to the A and B from the set, wanting to take them everywhere, even to bed. At one point early Saturday, they hunted for them, and then the E for their sister, M for Mama and D for Daddy (and Drew), handing them out to the appropriate parties.

Like with anything else, though, they sometimes lose track of where those letters are. At one point Sunday morning, after the usual half hour trying to get them ready to go out, Drew was about to have a fit because he couldn't find his A. We tried to reason with him, which you'd think we'd have learned by now, but he was having none of it. We probably could have just gone, and he'd have been okay soon enough, but I tried one last thing - I grabbed a Post-It pad and write an A on the top note. I tore it off the pad and showed it to him - and he thought it was great. He put it in his pocket for safekeeping - which would have been an even better idea with the wooden one, Drew, but I digress. Bobby wanted his own "paper B," which I was happy to provide.

I got a high five from the wife for my efforts, which I consider a strong endorsement.
"Please don't pick your nose."
"But I just getting boogers!"

Oh, well in that case, go right ahead!

February 12th+

The boys have discovered Green Eggs and Ham with their mother's nudging. She read it to them six times yesterday.
Bobby's really exploring the idea of saying and doing whatever is necessary to get what he wants. He routinely claims that Drew was the last one to [whatever, like wearing the fire truck sleeper the previous night], so it's his turn now. He'll pee in the potty for his candy, then come back and squeeze out a few more drops twenty minutes later and demand another one. "But I want it!" is a common and repeated phrase these days.

I don't relish the idea of raising a politician/capitalist.
Drew's [third] celiac test came back positive. We'll schedule the endoscopy soon.
Bobby has been better about not crying for me in the wee hours lately, but he did it last night at 3:30. I couldn't get a reason out of him, like a bad dream or the like; he asked for his water and said he was sad, after some coaxing. I held him then went back to bed, but he whined off and on for the next couple of hours - not enough for me to go back, but enough to keep us awake.

Liss is pretty sure that his whining is what woke Ellen at 5. This evening, we'll be moving her crib so it's not against their (his) wall.

So today we are drag. ging.
A couple we know are pregnant with boy/girl twins, and she just went on bedrest at 24 weeks, as her cervix started dilating already. The initial panic period is over, but she's still in the hospital, and "I have full bathroom and shower privileges, as well as daily wheelchair 'walks' allowed," but that's about it.

Just another reminder that we had it good.
Drew woke me at 3am with a poop, and I had trouble getting back to sleep after changing him. I thought that was why I had so much trouble staying awake at work this morning, but a return trip to the break room at lunch confirmed another suspicion - some idiot brewed decaf, and this idiot drank it.
The twin club's semi-annual rummage sale is in a few weeks. By now, we mostly just shop for clothes, but we still ended up spending $200 last time. In hindsight, I'm not sure how that happened, though half of it was for a monitor and a car seat.

We took the boys last time, which wasn't terrible. Now they'll be six months older, so they'll probably be even better about it, especially since it won't be so new to them. Most of the parents seem to leave their twins at home during the sale, but that just proves that we have more reason to show ours off.
The boys have the same favorite sleeper, so they both want to wear it every night. We started alternating who got it which nights, which worked okay, but a couple of nights ago we'd forgotten who'd had it last. Since they each claimed that the other had, I made both of them wear others.

Last night I set up their first-ever lottery system. I wrote "A" on a post-it and "B" on another, mixed them up behind my back, and presented my closed fists to Bobby, telling him to pick a hand. He was very happy that his pick had the "B." For his part, Drew accepted defeat gracefully and picked another sleeper in seconds, maybe since I'd told him that it meant he'd get it the next night.

The sleeper itself is on its last legs - the feet have holes. We night have to bury it in the backyard with a tender service, or something.
I want a daughter while I'm still young
I wanna hold her hand
And show her some beauty
Before this damage is done

- Arcade Fire, "The Suburbs"
For our fifth anniverary, Liss's parents are giving us the gift of time, i.e. almost two weeks of babysitting. So, we're using it to get away for our first real vacation in four years - to London and Wales - in late July/early August.

Their grandmother asserts that they'll be spoiling our kids rotten; we'd expect nothing less.
Next week is Liss's mid-winter break, so she'll be taking care of the kids full time. She isn't dreading it at all, which is odd considering how hard the weekends are with both of us there. I think there are two forces working toward this. One is that she says her expectations are lowered. The other is that the boys treat her better when I'm not around.
This weekend the boys went to a party attended by pretty girls a little older than themselves, and they didn't get any phone numbers - as though I needed any more evidence that they're my sons.

Most of them are pushing four, and were pleasant the entire time, but then so were the boys, as they usually are in public. So, we probably can't use the older girls as examples of what's to come, since they might be terrors at home, too - but I don't think they are.
We've waited longer than usual to see if the boys are allergic to tree nuts, since Liss is. It's not a "touch and die" allergy or anything, but enough to warrant the delay. This weekend, she bought them a Hershey with Almond bar as a way to make sure they ate whatever it was they were given. However, they just took out the almonds and ate the chocolate. It looks like she's going to have to hide nuts in other foods for now. It's a little bit of irony - watching them to see if something you tricked them into eating will hurt them.

February 5th+

"Keepin' it classy," she says:
  1. Both boys sit on potty.
  2. They pee. Whee! They get candy. "Can you poop, too?"
  3. Drew decides to dump his pee in the toilet.
  4. Noticing the toilet lid is locked, he rests the potty insert(*) on the diaper bin while fetching Mama to open the toilet.
  5. As Drew heads back to the toilet, Bobby opens the diaper bin to discard a tissue, knocking the potty down.
  6. Drew's pee splashes on the floor, wall and Drew. A small amount is left in the potty insert and there are droplets on the seat.
  7. Mama corrals Ellen in the Exersaucer, wipes/washes off the floor, wall and Drew.
  8. Drew cries because he wants "LOTSA" pee and there's only a little left. Mama suggests trying to pee some more.
  9. Instead of dumping the remaining pee, Drew carries it back to sit on the potty again. "LOTSA" pee, coming up.
  10. Before he can sit, Mama wipes the pee droplets from the potty seat and drops the toilet paper in the diaper bin.
  12. "But you don't want pee on your butt, do you?"
  14. Drew opens the diaper bin to get the toilet paper so he can get that pee back.
  15. Fortunately, he was then satisfied.
(*) The white, removable part of this.
(+) They still have trouble with pronouns, i.e. first person versus second.
The diabetes study people reached out to us about Bobby's bad blood draw experience this past weekend, including mentioning that we can opt out of that part for a visit.

Originally, the benefit of the blood draws from our perspective was to get an early indication of onset juvenile diabetes in the twins. So far, though, every result has been negative. However, the study also did Drew's first positive celiac tests, which is the kind of disease you want to catch as early as possible, so that was a definite benefit; we probably wouldn't have thought to do that ourselves for a few years.

From the study's view, they need their data, so we can't just stop all blood draws and stay in the study (I think). So my thought was that maybe we can skip the draws unless they're going to be testing for something in addition to diabetes, like they did for celiac, on the assumption that just-diabetes testing will continue to come up negative. The risk would be that they do develop diabetes during the longer spans between blood draws, but at this point that seems minimal enough. However, I don't know how frequently they do that, let alone if it's often enough for them to feel like they're still getting their data.

We also get a little money for being in the study, but while I can't really assign a dollar figure to when it becomes "worth it" to hold your toddler while he screams as a needle is repeatedly inserted into his arm - not to mention the hour of anxiety beforehand - I can say with great certainty that that figure is way higher than the token amount we get.
"Just another morning," she says:
Bob was eating muffins while sitting on the potty. Dropped a piece in and declared (with considerably less glee than usual), "I pooped!"

We put up the baby gate at the top of the entry stairs just now after Ellen pulled the SuperYard onto herself (the boys tried to convince me to take her to The Doctor). I was wrestling with it and saying totally innocuous frustrated things like, "Get in there" and the boys started crowing, "What the fuck, what the fuck!" I told them I was sorry for teaching them bad words and they should say nice words and they just giggled. They spent 15 minutes taking turns opening it, locking it, and pointing out "You can step by this white bar maybe it's too hard then Mommy and Daddy can help you."

And then Bobby pooped on the carpet (but made it back to the potty for the rest) and Drew stepped in it and sat on it and Ellen grabbed it.

Now they're both whining at me to close the blinds because it's too sunny. My little Seattle boys.
Bobby's still in the phase of yelling for me at all hours of the night, and it's wearing me down. I'm a zombie today.

Liss offered to be the one to respond sometimes - to make it less worthwhile to him - but I haven't taken her up on it yet; besides, we don't know how he'd react, since their rejection of her for me can get pretty tantrumonial at times, which isn't what you want to incite at 3am.
"What's that?" "What's those?" These are the main questions these days, as a boy will point to something, ask either of those, and then immediately move on to the next thing and ask again, ad infinitum. Half the time, they already know what it is, but they still ask. Sometimes I think they're just messing with us because they can.
A co-worker pointed me to a [contains foul language] stand up routine video about arguing with a three-year-old, having to use the facilities when you're the only adult with small kids around, and ... similar topics.
Last night, Ellen figured out how to go from crawling to sitting position, which goes a long way toward her no longer getting mad when she reaches her destination.
I also think [Bobby] might be doing minimal poop so that he can try again a couple of hours later and get three more [candies].
I was right - he was stopping as soon as he got a little to come out. I'm not sure if it was to try again for more candy later, or just because that first bit got him excited to distraction, but it doesn't matter. I just give him his M&Ms, ask him to keep going, and he does.

And here ya go.
The boys' quarterly diabetes study visit and blood draw was this past weekend. They knew what was going on before we left the house; they recognize the numbing cream we're supposed to put on their arms ahead of time.

Our preference is to do the blood draws first, to get them out of the way and stop their mental anguish. So, they brought in the phlebotomy tech, one we'd never seen before, but that's not unusual. And right on cue: I'd already decided on Bobby first, since Drew had had a draw just six days prior. The people blew bubbles, opened a book, and all that distractive stuff that I find weird, but the main event was a disaster, because the guy couldn't hit a vein. He stuck the needle in, pulled it almost out to stick another try, and so on about six times. It was very not-fun to watch, especially since he never got it. Bobby howled in pain. They'd need to try again.

To give him a break, they tried Drew next. He got a vein pretty easily there, and while Drew didn't sit there calmly like last time, he did okay.

Then, they came back to Bobby, who had just started calming down, to try the other arm (which is why they have us numb both). The same thing happened there, with about five attempts before he finally hit a vein. However, the syringe had a microtear and couldn't draw his blood, so they had to abort. Their policy is to stop trying after two, so after all that, they didn't get a sample from Bobby.

The tech was very apologetic, and while I realize it happens and it's not even his fault in a lot of ways, it's hard to be forgiving while your child is still screaming in your arms.

This was also the same weekend we were due to put some of their poop in tubes and mail it to Maryland, for the same study.

Ah, parenthood.
The boys are starting to catch on to the potty better, partially because we're making a point to bring up the idea more often. However, occasionally one of them initiates it, which is a big difference and a milestone of the training process - recognizing when they need to go.
The boys have always enjoyed the spectacle of watching me pee, so I thought nothing of it to carry Ellen into the bathroom and hold her while I did my business. To my surprise, her reaction was the opposite - she started crying and squirming to get away. It took the experience of my many years of practice to keep everything ... contained.
Ellen will turn 1 late next month. With the boys, we were (are) counting down the days to the future, so the future kept (keeps) taking forever to get here. That's not the case with her, so her birthday has kind of snuck up on us. We're in no hurry for our sweet baby girl to grow up.

We'll have people over, give her cake, and celebrate her. Then we'll close the chapter on her first year and look forward to her second.
Ellen's a crawler now, to the point of having carpet burns on the tops of her feet. We'll need to keep her in soft shoes for a while.

When the boys are using their potties, they're her favorite destination, since that's where the action is. And she's a grabber. It's a losing combination.

Speaking of which, I put in my contact lenses yesterday, mostly because she keeps grabbing for my glasses. Liss wants to cut her hair for the same reason, but I won't let her. :-D
As Liss says, "Even the best days are so exhausting."

Since the boys don't adapt well, we've had to. We now pretty much plan nothing for ourselves on the weekends. We just know that it's going to be 13+ hours of child care a day, probably with no breaks, and the boys are so high maintenance that it takes everything out of us.

In passing, I chatted briefly with the mother of a three-and-a-half year old girl, who said she was still Terrible at her third birthday, but in those last six months she'd slowly become a whole other person - sweet, patient, and giving a damn about someone other than herself. We're starting to reach the point of needing that to happen, not just wanting it.

January 29th+

Last night's bedtime saw the worst tantrum I've witnessed in my six child-years so far, and from the unlikeliest kid - Drewbie.

Suffice to say there was about twenty minutes of hitting (him of me) and yelling (him at me) before he calmed down and wanted me to hold him for ten minutes.

Liss says he hit her a few times during the day, too, so this is something we're going to have to be vigilant about.
I think the boys avoid time outs mostly because they don't want to listen to me yammer to them about why they're in time out.

I'm fine with that.
Our house has a "bonus room" downstairs that's sort of like a finished basement. It presents us with a bit of a quandry. After spending a lot of time as random storage and litterbox placement, we've been able to make it into a guest room. By that, I mean we put our old futon and a lamp down there, nestled snugly amongst my DVD collection and several bookshelves. There's no bathroom, and the closet is the kind under the stairs that little kids like to hide in and pretend they're Harry Potter.

Plan A for this space is done - it's a guest room now. Later, though, we might change it into a play room for the kids, specifically so we can get them out of our hair for a while when they've reached the age that they can be unsupervised for more than ten seconds at a time. Seattle winters are dark and damp, so it's useful to have an indoor space where kids can just play and be kids. Right now, that's sort of the dining room and sort of the garage.

However, there are other options. What if the boys end up hating each other? Right now, they share a bedroom, so it's possible that one could move down there, lack of bathroom and closet and all. Kids would trade that for privacy any day. But then we'd lose that space for other things - play room or guest room.

And then there's the next logical step to that - what if we make it a legal bedroom by adding a real closet and 3/4 bath (shower, sink, toilet)? Liss's (architect) dad gave us an eyeball estimate for how much it would cost to do that - an amount large enough that one might easily balk ... but what if upgrading from a 3/2.5 to a 4/3.5 would add that amount to the value of the house? Or, would it add enough that we decide the net loss is worth it?

We realize, also, that huge families share one room and a dirty well all over the world. They're welcome to continue to do so and feel smug about it as we wrestle with our first-world non-dilemma.

We've also been slightly and whimsically talking of just upgrading to a bigger house, but that's just dumb.
Most of the changes we envision in our own lives naturally are dependent on changes to our four small household mammals. An incomplete list:

Mammal Milestone Action ETA
Ellen Sippy cups Throw out bottles forever! Six months tops
Ellen Respect stairs Uninstall baby gates! One year
Ellen Potty trained Diapers, wipes, bins, changing tables, gone! Two years
Kids Can sit still-ish for three hours Mariners games! 2 1/2 years
Boys Can make cereal and keep Ellen happy. Sleeping in on the weekends! Three years
Kids Grow up some Subsidised trips to Scotland! 3 1/2 years
Kids Grow up some Replace carpet with hardwood! Six years
Kids Grow up some, love baseball Road trips to every MLB stadium! Eight years
Kids Grow up Move out! We get our lives back! 15 1/2 - 17 1/2 years
Grace cat Dies Litter/food gone! At this rate, never. (She's 16)
Kids Graduate college Move in! 19 1/2 - 21 1/2 years
Kid Procreates Grandchild! 15*-35 years
Last kid Moves out for real Retire! 30 years
* Mission "freak out wife" accomplished!
The gastroenterologist recommended we give the boys less juice and more milk for weight gain, and took the extra step of suggesting Instant Breakfast to get them more calories and protein. So, they basically have cups of chocolate milk in hand all day long now.
In the last week or so, the boys have caught on to "thank you" without our prompting, and "you're welcome" is starting to take hold. It's especially cute when they say them to each other.
We incent the boys to use the potty by giving them one M&M for pee, and two for poop. Bobby has learned to game the system by peeing, asking for his M&M, and then pooping and asking for two. I also think he might be doing minimal poop so that he can try again a couple of hours later and get three more.

We don't fight it.
Ellen can crawl when she really wants to now, for maybe five feet, tops. Then she plops to her side and gets mad. Anything on the floor between points A and B is swept up into her mouth. If she crawls to one of us, she tries and fails to pull herself up. She'll get better at both soon enough.

She also dove face-first from the sofa to the carpet this weekend, which was the inevitable consequence of her new habit of lunging forward from sitting to crawling position. I'd been distracted by Drew, who'd asked/demanded that I dry him off after he'd been playing with the sink. There are always holes in a zone defense.
I got home around 1:10 Monday, to get ready for Drew's gastro appointment. Liss wasn't there yet, so I explained to the boys what was happening. Bobby, predictably, wanted to go with us to the doctor. It took a while for the nanny to get him and Ellen out the door to go to a random park for distraction purposes. It was just Drew and I for maybe ten minutes after that, which was nice; the boys don't get much one-on-one time with either of us, and especially one-on-two time with both of us.

We got to the clinic at Children's Hospital, which is a pretty big and busy place, but things are organized pretty well. There was a bit of a wait to get called in, during which Liss tried to color with Drew, though he mostly just watched her and hoarded crayons, which he brought into the doctor's later. Upon being called, we went to the vitals area, where they have a scale that's like the ones semi trucks use - it's just a part of the floor, so you just have to get him on it. It's festooned with stickers to help motivate the little kids. He came in at 10.8kg, which is 23.8# - more than I'd expect, but he wasn't nude for it. They also took his blood pressure with a tiny cuff, during which he just looked at it and the machinery curiously. The reading was normal.

The doctor came into the patient room, followed by a student (it's a teaching hospital) and nurse. The doctor seemingly had two personalities - one for talking to adults, and one for kids. Talking to Drew, he had the overly-chipper manner normally seen in pre-school caregivers. It was actually disconcerting, but probably perfected over years of work, and Drew responded positively. I just can't muster it.

Even though Drew had already had two blood tests with positive celiac results, the doctor wanted another one just to be sure, then if positive recommended an upper endoscopy - one of those small cameras down his throat all the way to his small intestine, including a few tissue scrapings for biopsies. They'd have to put him under for it. Since it's the only way to know for sure (even another positive test just means he "might get celiac someday"), we agreed that we'd go down that road. The idea is that if we're going to have to radically alter his (our) diet(s), we need to commit to it as soon as possible, as we won't be able to control his diet as much later, like when he starts school. It'll be a lot easier to engrain new habits now. It's also harder for us to make that commitment if we're just going off maybes.

Then I got to explain to Drew something that we hadn't warned him about - that he was getting a blood draw.

The pediatric phlebotomist had the exact opposite bedside manner as the doctor. He was gruff, no-nonsense, and unsympathetic to our 2-year-old's cries. We're so used to the diabetes study people, who blow bubbles, give them lollipops, etc., that it was a stark change to us. To the guy's credit, he was also very good at getting the vein the first time, which historically has been hard with Drew. To add insult to injury, they have a diabetes study appointment this Saturday, so he'll be getting two draws in less than a week.

So, once again, we're in hurry-up-and-wait mode with the new blood test. We should know by Valentine's.
We're taking Drew to the pediatric gastroenterologist this afternoon to see what next steps (if any) are coming with regards to his possibly being celiac. We really don't know what to expect. Will they draw more blood? Recommended that he (and therefore the household) goes gluten-free? Adopt more wait and see?

We're assuming that we're going to have to go gluten-free; Liss especially has been preparing herself mentally, since she's the cook. We also assume we'll load up on wheat whenever we go out.

January 22nd+

My Oscar Pool is open - free and just for fun. There are 28 people so far, but I expect at least double that; there's usually a rush to join on the weekend of the broadcast.
The boys have invented a new game whereby they take off their pants, run to the other end of the floor, and "fall" knee-first onto the carpet. Then, they come up to us asking to smooch their hurt knees. We've been warning them, but Bobby finally broke some skin and was going on and on about how his knee hurt.

Ya don't say!?

Edited to add this.
Crawling update from Liss: "Ellen went a consecutive and efficient foot forward this morning before forgetting what she was doing and getting mad."
My beautiful Buddha baby.
Another friend-couple of ours is having (or has had) a kid today, and I'm losing count of how many that makes in our circle of friends. Including our three, and depending on the diameter of that circle, it's around a dozen in under three years. Our twins were the first, but after that it's been like microwave popcorn around here. There are at least three couples trying - one for their second.

Something that shouldn't surprise anyone within that circle, but perhaps will surprise some readers, is that four(1) of those kids have queer(2) parents. For example, today's is a lesbian couple.

Generally speaking, a straight couple starts out trying for a kid the old fashioned way. We just have to decide when to stop birth control. If there are issues, then plans B start to come up - artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization, adoption, surrogacy, etc. For queer couples, our plan B is their plan A. The first serious conversation begins with "okay, so ... how?"

The thing is, no one asks Liss and I how our kids were conceived. They just assume(3). Among us heteros, there's generally no talk of plan B, unless the parents decide to bring it up(4). There's no need.

With queer couples, it's the opposite - a plan B is assumed, and that assumption makes people curious. But here's the kicker, and today's lesson for readers outside the circle: if you encounter a queer couple with kids, for the love of Pete, don't ask how they got it. It's rude. One woman I know counters with "What's your bra size? Oh, we're not asking personal questions today?" Snarky, but you get the idea. The onus is on the parents to divulge or not(5); until then, it's just none of your business.

Of the four kids above, there's an adoption, an artificial insemination with a known donor, one with an anonymous (sperm bank) donor, and an I-don't-know. I know those three because I'm in their circles, and they chose to keep us in the loop. For the other, it just hasn't come up. The what (kid) is much more important than the how, anyway.

(1) Seven if you count Liss, but I'm mostly referring to means of conception here.
(2) "Queer" is not a dirty word in the - wait for it - queer community.
(3) There might be a lingering IVF question from someone who equates it with twins - identical twins aren't an IVF thing - but that's very rare. Parents of fraternals get it more often.
(4) Or, e.g., white parents adopt an Asian baby, but I digress.
(5) "Don't ask, maybe tell."
The boys have a pretty good handle on the past tense. This is evidenced by their adding -ed to verbs, which includes constructing sentences such as "I catched it" and "I falled down." Seeing as irregular verbs are something that a lot of adults have trouble with, I'm in no hurry to correct them. We'll just continue to use the correct versions ourselves, and they'll catch on when they catch on.
Ten months old.
The boys have a couple of small personalized piggy banks that are full, which isn't the accumulation of wealth, just a game to play with the shiny coins. Instead of napping Sunday, they played in their room for two hours(*), and ended up opening one of them and regaling in the awesome shininess. That's when I walked in, and showing no remorse whatsoever, they asked me to put it back together.

Later we went to the grocery store, and they fell asleep during the ten-minute drive home. Really, boys?

(*) Which I'll only try to curtail once before I just leave them to it; at least they're out of our hair for a bit.
On drier days, it's fun to see the static electricity crackle through the boys' sleepers as they move around their beds in the dark.

January 15th+

Regarding "dropping phrases we don't like" below, the boys somehow picked up "have to" as the construct to use when requesting something: "Daddy have to get you cereal." Why no, I don't have to, Little Man. However, if you ask me more nicely than that, I might.

We constantly are trying to steer them toward some end goal like "Daddy, may I please have some cereal?" which currently comes out as "Daddy can get you cereal ... [I raise my eyebrows] ... please," which is much better than "have to."
Another microwave-popcorn analogy - I think that's how the boys are going to come out of the Terrible Twos. That is, I can see little snippets of not melting down at things that used to melt them down pop, and using words the way we ask pop and dropping phrases we don't like pop pop, and sometimes taking no for an answer pop and accepting alternative choices pop pop, and so on. It's still the early stages - there are plenty of meltdowns left - but I hope to see an acceleration, until we're inundated with pop pop pop pop pop pop pop pop.

And then we'll need to take them out, so we don't all get burned. Or something.
Despite how difficult they are these says, we still never harken back to any past time(*) when things were better. They weren't better, just difficult in different ways.

If Ellen, however, turns into the kind of high maintenance toddler that her brothers are now, then we'll probably reminisce fondly to how she is these days. Except for getting up earlier than we'd like in the mornings, she's still the best baby ever - sweet, smiley, and rarely fussy without a good reason.

(*) Except perhaps to before they were born, which isn't to say we wish they weren't, yadda yadda.
The kids have a toy phone that Ellen has discovered, which has reignited the boys' interest in it, so it's getting a lot of use. It has lots of buttons, but in one mode, pressing the number keys makes it say those numbers out loud: "Five! Nine! Three! Three! Three! Six!"

... which always reminds me of one of my favorite scenes from Friends.
The boys sometimes make reference to events that happened a while back, specifically when Drew was traumatized by the smoke detector incident in early October, and when Bobby put his finger into their bedroom fan and it "scratched" him sometime last summer. These might therefore be candidates for their first memories, which are hardly things on which to look back with fondness, but we tend to remember trying circumstances, so here we are.
I told the boys that when they're 3, they won't need binkies or diapers anymore. Drew thought about that before deciding: "Drewbie have purple underwear and red bra."

Whatever floats your boat, kid.
Besides his punchline, Liss is throwing down the gauntlet that they be potty trained and weaned of binkies in less than six months. Those are reasonable goals ... to us.

They also got the gist of "presents," after their Christmas haul. One of the first things they said they were looking forward to getting was a new copy of Go, Dog, Go.
One of the boys' new things is money, i.e. coins. They like to say "I need money!" before we go out, so I take a couple of pennies from my key bowl, and they stick them in their pockets. They don't know what it's for, but it's shiny and theirs, so they're happy. The thing we have to look out for is that the coins don't end up on the floor where Ellen can find them and stick them in her mouth.
Ellen has some major cowlick action going on. We keep telling her - between mockings - that it's a temporary and inevitable stage that one must endure on the way to long, pretty hair. She seems okay with it, in that she has no idea.

Unfortunately for her, she seems to be starting out with mousy brown, instead of getting to begin life bright blonde like the boys have, and Liss and I did ... before going mousy brown.
Ellen sometimes wakes up earlier than Liss would like - 5:45 today - but then she has our undivided attention until the boys wake up, so we're providing her with a huge incentive. But what's the alternative, ignoring her? She's too cute for that.
Ellen hasn't been drinking much of her bedtime bottle lately, so last night we cut it back from 8 to 6 ounces. She downed it, then kept holding up the empty bottle, looking at it, shaking it, putting it back in her mouth to suck air, etc. There was a "what the hell?" tone to it. I didn't make more because she usually loses interest during the time it takes to do so.

This morning she had 11 ounces, instead of the usual 6 or 7. So, it looks like it's growth spurt time again.
Tuesday morning I left for work with the boys already up, but not Ellen. Because the concert was close to my workplace, I didn't come home, and Liss met up with me. We had a nice overpriced dinner, got deafened by the too-loudness of one of my favorite bands, and got home late. None of the kids were up by the time I left, so by the time I get home, I'll not have seen the boys for about 36 hours and Ellen for 48.

I may complain a lot, but it's also easy to miss them.
Go, Dog, Go did indeed disappear yesterday, though not by my hand, so I was able to truthfully tells the boys that I didn't know where it was. Liss, however, said no such thing.

It'll come back, but not for a while. It's ... annoying.
From Liss:
I may be slightly biased, but I've always found Ellen to be quite charming. Lately, though, she's taking charm to new heights: she's starting to learn about communication. She's a big imitator, but I think she's also starting to attach meaning to some of the sounds. She may understand "Mama" and "Dada," she probably gets "Uh-oh," but for sure she gets "Bye-bye." Put on your coat and she'll wave and say, "Bye-bye." Walk through the door and she'll wave and say "Bye-Bye."

We're starting to try to teach her more signs, "More" and "All done." "More?" I'll ask when she's finished all her Cheerios. "All done?" I'll say and sign when she slows from shoveling to merely gobbling her applesauce. She looks at me, thinks for a moment, looks at the bowl. Then she waves and says: "Bye-bye!"

Go with what you know, sweetie.
The boys and I went to a grocery store Sunday to get out of the house. They like the "car" shopping cart with its two steering wheels, and we needed a couple of things, so we made the quick trip. When we got there, I lifted Bobby out and, while I was getting Drew, Bobby saw the cart and starting walking toward it - across the entrance lane. I yelled "Bobby, stop!" and ... he did. He'd made it maybe a foot past the van. I guess the "hold hands in parking lots" rule still hasn't completely sunk in, especially in the face of the awesomeness of a car-shaped shopping cart.

The original plan was to get ice cream afterwards, but as we were leaving the grocery store, they said they wanted donuts, which we'd gotten there before. It's my own fault that I didn't tell them up front that getting donuts would mean no ice cream, so when the donuts were eaten and that little bombshell dropped, there was hell to pay.
Some friends of ours are watching the kids and putting them to bed while we go to a concert Tuesday, in a swap deal that'll have us watching their toddler son some other night. They asked for the bedtime routines so they'd know what to expect and to not rock more boats than our departure already will. Ellen's list is 13 steps long. The boys' is 22. I have a feeling they're going to print them out and refer to them constantly, which to me is a hilarious mental image: "Okay, now count to five and tell him to - wait, I lost my place!"

The boys' isn't longer for any unexpected reasons - they put their dirty clothes by the washing machine, pick their own sleepers, brush their teeth, etc. It just means that Ellen's (and the boys', probably) will just keep getting longer over time. We already spend about 80 minutes each night putting everyone to bed.
Grace took her first swipe at Ellen this weekend, as Ellen was reaching for her face and paws and such. It was a "gentle" swipe - for her - but the claws were out. Fortunately, they just landed on Ellen's fleece outfit and no harm was done; she was surprised more than anything else. It is, I'm afraid, a saga that is only just beginning.
The boys have started "feeding" the cat, i.e. use the cup in her food bin to dump a little bit in her dish. It'd be fine if they had any sense of moderation, but left to their own devices, they'll do it over and over until they fill the dish to overflowing - then probably keep going after that. At least once, I've let them do that, then quietly poured most of it back after they'd moved on; after all, it's a peaceful and cooperative thing they're doing, and you learn to encourage those for the most part.
About two months ago, the boys and I went to a grocery store a couple of miles away. It was another harried weekend, which is the only excuse I offer in admitting that I'd forgotten to strap them into their car seats. They'd had no restraint whatsoever. Obviously I felt badly, and I told them at the time that if it happened again, they needed to tell me - to yell it.

Well, it's happened twice since, and both times they performed admirably. This past weekend, Liss and I each thought the other had strapped them in, so as I put the van into gear, Bobby stood up while they both yelled "strap!" So, at least we have their help now. It's still not a good feeling to know you've messed up something like that, but it's better to know before you get somewhere than after.
Ellen is definitely a Momma's girl.
I think it's about time for Go, Dog, Go to disappear for a while. Again.
It was a bad night. Ellen woke up and screamed at Liss for hour at some point. Bobby woke up crying three times, the last one at 6 and incessantly whining to go downstairs. I think he was scared of noises made by the wind storm we're having, but didn't know how to say so. Anyway, we're beat, Liss has the day "off" and is taking care of them by herself.

We'd made plans for her to bring the brood to my work so the boys could see it, and to have lunch together, but with their attitudes this morning, I left it to her judgement whether to do that, drive them around so they sleep, or sell them to the highest bidders.

January 8th+

In any show that uses an imposter as a plot device, there's an awkward period where he does and says things that the impostee would never do, like when Homer's imposter spoke with a German accent. In Die Hard 3, Bruce Willis sniffs out fake police by asking if they know the latest winning lottery numbers. Depending on the needs of the plot, the people closest to him either notice nothing or sniff it out. We, however, are very smart people, and therefore were easily able to see that our boys have been replaced with frauds.

Exhibit A: They asked to take a bath. I'm embarrassed to admit that they hadn't had a bath in two months, but I present that data as proof that these aren't really our twins.

Exhibit B: They said they were ready for bed, and were ready and eager to go up 20 minutes early. Whoever did this really needs to invest more time in their research. I mean, let's be serious, people - toddlers asking to go to bed without prompting, cajoling, or needling?

To be fair, they got the physical part down pat, even down to the ear differences and moles, and believe me, I checked. Their vocabulary and inflection passed muster. They were even both circumsized, which either means these actors already were, or they're really dedicated to the craft.

In an incident that almost swayed me back, "Drew" had a meltdown that I'm sure was well-rehearsed by whomever it actually was, upon discovering that his bedtime milk cup was less full than he wanted. Well played, sir. Well played.

We don't know the reasons why anyone would take away our boys and replace them with these. The danger with an imposter scenario is that they might never get called on it or meet their objectives, thereby dooming them to a lifetime in a fake role. They're probably just struggling little-people actors hired to impersonate for whatever purpose, but after last night's good behavior, we might never let them go.
The boys have learned to say when they're ready to go home while we're out, even though I don't think we ever encouraged that. Fortunately, they've also been mostly good about taking "not yet" for an answer (something they say in response to a lot of requests and questions these days, too).
Soon after I put the boys to bed last night, Bobby starting crying for me. I went up, and Drew said Bobby was "scared." What are you scared of Bobby, I asked?

Monsters. Monsters? I have no idea what prompted it. They have some books with monsters, but they're cartoony and cute.

Anyway, I just held him for three minutes like normal, and he was fine, but I was left scratching my head.
There are lots of ways to look at two-and-a-half. For one, we're halfway between 2 and 3, or theoretically halfway through the Terribles. Another is that they're halfway to five.

Drew lie on his book in bed two nights ago, and Liss made note to him about it - "doesn't that hurt, you silly boy?" Last night he did it on purpose, and waited with a grin for her to say something, then giggled maniacally when she did.

Ah, toddler humor.
Ellen's second lower tooth has barely poked through, and the first has still barely done anything after its poking. It looks like it'll be a few weeks she has obvious teeth. And then, like microwave popcorn, the cascade will begin.
Despite having first done so in August, the boys haven't really taken to the potty. They know what it's for and how to use it - they just don't really care. We even reward with M&Ms now, but it still usually takes us actively bringing up the subject for them to even bother.

We're not in much of a hurry, so it's fine - which is probably also part of the reason for their slowness. If we cared more, we'd make it a priority. Liss thinks they'll be trained before summer. I think it'll be during summer. We might both be too optimistic.
I made a little placeholder page that just redirects to the most current blog page (this one, until next year). If you right-click and Copy Shortcut (or right-click and Add To Favorites), you can replace your bookmark's address with it and not have to change things when I make a page for a new year. You can also use it as the link to here from elsewhere. It's also the new "Permalink" at the top.

Carry on.
The boys can catch. Sort of. It's very gingerly, and it has to be something easy, and it has to go right into their outstretched hands, but ... they can do it. Sort of.

Bobby was first, and is still better at it.
The words may not mean the same thing to him that they do to me, but it sure is nice to come home, have a boy yell "Daddy!," run up for a hug, and say "I love you so much."
There's no doubt that Ellen's mimicking some of our sounds. A couple of weeks ago we were still wondering if it was coincidence, or if we'd just been hearing things we wanted to hear, but not anymore.
My nickname for the boys has been "Little Man/Men" for a while now; it may last years. I also address them as "Mister(s)" a lot.

Like the boys did when they were small, Ellen has a lot of these, most or all of which will fall to the wayside later: And then there are several related to her largeness: chunk, sumo, big baby, big girl, large baby, etc.
Two and a half years old.
Ellen keeps lunging forth from the sitting position to all fours, then getting pissy because she doesn't like to be that way. It's just pre-crawling behavior, but we still call her a dork for it.
The boys' meltdowns are less frequent than they were a couple of months ago, but I think that's more a sign of our adapting than their maturing.
From Liss:
I don't think I'm alone in trying to convince myself that bad things won't happen to me and my family. We take normal precautions, sure, but you have to have some kind of faith in the world and the future, or you'll drive yourself nuts worrying about all the awful things that might happen. But it's not just that, there's a degree of illogical blaming of the victim that I think a lot of us engage in. My kids will be smart because of their awesome genes. We'll always have a roof over our heads because we're responsible with finances. I won't get robbed because I don't walk alone in sketchy areas at night. My south Seattle sons won't get shot when they're teenagers because they won't be involved in gangs (not that that's a guarantee). Blah blah blah--I'm not saying these ideas are reasonable, but it's how we stay sane.

Somebody I don't even really know, a friend of James's (a FB friend of mine, but we've never met) is getting divorced. Her husband is leaving her for someone he met online. She didn't see it coming, thought things were lovely. So now I'm sitting here trying to come up with all the reasons our marriage is better than theirs and always will be. We're more financially stable. We got married older, had time to know ourselves and have our flings, I tell myself. We expect--even encourage--extramarital flirting and we are honest about outside attractions but make sure we always know we're each other's number one people. We leave our computers open to each other and know each other's passwords. *

All of which is true, but all of which is probably unfair to them--they were in love too, they were happy. James and I may be, as he says, "madly in love and highly compatible," ** but you never know what will happen. It's so sobering to realize that we can't be sure. So, we'll just have to do what we can to protect our marriage--stay honest, get healthy, keep having adventures together. And we have to have faith in each other and in ourselves.

So yes, I think we'll make it.
* But we don't go snooping and we definitely don't share e-mail accounts--that's just gross.

** and "also exceptionally lazy," he finishes, which I guess is true as much as is possible while raising 3 under 3, working full-time, cooking from scratch, etc. We were completely exhausted before the plague hit this week. I'd love to have the energy for an affair--it would be with my own husband.
Postscript: I'm not nearly as angsty as blog-readers probably think. Really, I'm not!

January 1st+

So it's not like we have a lot of data on the Ellen side - last night only - but so far the sickness has shown these contrasts while puking in bed:

Boys: Puke where they are, wallow in it for a bit, then start crying for us.

Ellen: Pukes on one side of crib, goes to other side and sleeps.
Whatever bug the boys got - vomiting, diarrhea - has now made its way through the entire family. It's been a long, messy week.
The "Why?" era has begun.
Drew: "Shut up, Bobby!"

We have no idea where he got that.
The inside of Bobby's diaper was a mud puddle this morning, which tells us three things.
It's time to start transitioning Ellen away from formula to milk. It takes a while - you don't want to upset her digestive system or shock her taste buds - so we'll be starting slowly, like one ounce of whole milk in her 8-ounce morning bottle, and see how it goes. She's a solid foods champ, so that's not an issue.
Ellen's hair is getting thicker, but just in the middle area. We could totally put it into a mohawk if we wanted. Not soon enough, she'll have girly long hair.

The boys are getting pretty close themselves - damned hippies.
Liss got home just in time to watch Bobby puke, but he saved some for when I was also home - more than some, really, and on the blankets of our bed. It's fine, just a little disturbing. It was time to change those sheets, anyway.

One nice thing is that he can now tell us when he thinks he's done. Later, though, whatever he hadn't puked got to the other end of his system, so around 10:30 he was crying for me with a burning butt.

Fixing that wasn't a problem, but it makes me wary of trying to break them of calling out for me. Drew did it at 4am, I held him for a couple of minutes, came back to our bed, and lay awake for an hour. This new habit of theirs - waking me (us) once or twice for some comfort - isn't something I want to foster, but neither do I want to ignore burning butts.
The pediatrician said that if Ellen isn't crawling by mid-February, to bring her in - for what, I don't know. But now she has a deadline. We're not worried, though. It mostly just seems that she can't be bothered.
Why are New Year's babies always shown sitting or crawling? Wouldn't they be unable to do that until they'd aged enough - around January 4th?
Speaking of which, our little baby scientist has demonstrated that gravity does indeed work on pretty much every object in the house.
From Liss, more anecdotal evidence that Ellen is already pre-verbal:
I swear Ellen said "Uh-oh" this morning, right intonation and all. She was sitting on the changing table playing with a big piece of foam, and dropped it (on accident for once). And if I hadn't SEEN her mouth go "Uh-oh" and the proud way she grinned at me afterward, I would have thought it was a boy saying it. Then she dropped a sock and said it again.
From Liss:
I started this 24 hours ago and have returned to it several times, and now I give up. Here, take a belated 2010 year in review:

I think 2010 was easier on me than it was on a lot of people. Most of the changes were positive. We refinanced and rearranged the house, we bought a better bed and started sleeping better, I got a cooler office-mate and got to keep my kick-ass job. I passed my National Boards like an f'ing rock star. That's the simple stuff.

More important, but not directly mine: James attended both paternal grandparents' funerals. My brother spent most of the year healthy (for once) and got a book deal. Various friends had babies. Other friends were laid off.

My boys grew from big, demanding babies into demanding, funny little boys; my girl grew from a fetus weighing me down to a sweet, healthy, low-maintenance baby. And breast feeding, while disappointing, was successful for me.

Despite all that, I spent much of the summer being really hard on myself. My self-confidence plummeted. I felt fat and boring and undeserving of ... anything, really. Since then, I've decided that the whole concept of "deserve" is largely stupid and irrelevant. Lots of people get things they don't "deserve," or don't get things they do. As for me, I'm now back to far more self-confidence. And even if my shallow goal (among "increase stamina" and "don't spend a billion dollars on new clothes") is to get back to a point where James would be attracted even if he didn't already love me, at least I know I absolutely have, and deserve*, his love.

My parents and brother came for Christmas. It was great, even if the boys got somewhat overstimulated and subsequently fragile and whiny, what with all the excitement and presents. They love their new "motorcycles" and helmets, and they play "soccer" by shooting a soccer ball into their new basketball hoop. Books, spatulas and play-doh were also well-received. I made salmon again, which after two years may now be an Official Tradition. We actually made it to midnight on New Year's Eve, fortified by fondues and cupcakes, then regretted it when the kids were up as bright and early as ever.

My life isn't ever relaxing**, but it's almost all good.
* whatever that means
** I almost said "isn't easy," but that's just by middle-class, first-world, urban standards.
We've had bad luck with used baby monitors, after being lulled into confidence by our first one - the only one worth a damn. Since then we keep getting models with lots of static or other impairments. The second-to-last thing you want is a monitor that wakes you up with a false-positive* burst of static, which is a pretty stupid reason to wake up, but even worse when you have sleeping problems. I got a new-new one yesterday, and it seems ... adequate.

Assuming this one works out, then with the new bed, we've eliminated three variables that wake us up. The bed doesn't make me feel hot like the old one did, and lets us get out without waking the other person. Those were pretty big ones, though obviously not nearly as big as three small children. I don't wake up my parents in the middle of the night anymore, so I'm confident that my children will eventually return the courtesy.

* The last thing you want is one that doesn't tell you your kid is crying for you - a false negative - because if it doesn't, then what's the point?
Sunday, Liss and Ellen went to a baby shower, and the boys and I were left to our own devices. I had to make a Target run, so I went to the one next to Fry's Electronics. However, I'd forgotten that I can't call it Fry's, because the boys think "fries" and start looking for drive-thrus. Until they understand the difference, I've decided to call it Mecca.

After the two stores, it was clear that they were both tired and hungry, so I had to make a choice; I opted to take care of the tired by driving south. They conked out quickly, but I only got as far as south-of-Tacoma before Bobby woke up crying in his seat about 25 minutes later. I exited so we could eat, then drove back home; they'd stayed awake this time.

It was all a little surreal to me, because we didn't really have an agenda beyond a little shopping, and no contact with the girls. I felt like a single dad of two sons. Liss says she has those kinds of days all the time with all three of them when she's not working, so she doesn't share the surreality.
For each day of the three-day weekend, the boys had chicken nuggets and french fries for lunch.

We are dutifully ashamed.
Saturday was a bit of a weird day, but mostly in the good way. We started out by driving to a local Target for a baby shower gift, but by the time we got there, all three kids were asleep, so we decided to keep driving. Instead, we ended up at a Target about 20 miles away that we'd never been to before. The store itself wasn't exceptional, but the little shopping center it was attached to had a very nice play area with an apparatus shaped like a train. It was also populated by mostly smaller kids - 2 to 5 or so - instead of the 2 to 7 of our local mall, so they weren't so outmuscled. It still took them a while to overcome their general shyness, but after that they were happily going up the stairs and down the slides.

Sunday, I had to go back to Target for other stuff (we should have stock), but they didn't understand that it wasn't going to be the same one, so they kept saying "playground! train!" until they realized it.
The boys got a late Christmas present - two of these T-ball sets, which they wanted to play with immediately. I thought we'd have trouble doing it in the garage (not outside yet, since it's pretty cold here), but that was a dumb worry - they can barely tap it off the tee. They also showed no interest in using the bats on each other.

That's not the real story, though. There hasn't been any baseball on the TV in two months, but they remembered a lot about it. Consider: Crazy.
Grace (the cat) scratched Bobby last night; the boys insisted she get a time out. This was while I was upstairs, and there was no way Liss was going to go near the little furball of doom, so it had to wait until I came down a few minutes later. Since it's not like I can put her in the boys' time out spot - Ellen's high chair - I decided to take her downstairs and put her on the guest bed. Obviously, it was all a show for the boys' benefit, but she stayed down there long enough that when she came back up, the boys agreed that she was "ready to be nice."
Ellen's first tooth has finally [barely] poked through; it's her bottom right incisor. We attribute her fussy few days last week to this.