Seven Quick Takes – Early Fall

1) Everybody says pushing through the little years really pays off when your older kids are big enough to babysit. They are so right! Off to dinner and a movie. Don’t let the baby stay up late or watch TV, ok kids?…….maybe not….

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Did I mention she’s eating well? Really well? Look at that juicy baby!

2) This will be the twins’ first year trick-or-treating. This will also be the first year we hand out ethically-sourced candies for Halloween. Previously, I’ve always bought the “normal” chocolates such as mini snickers. I saw posts and even videos about child slavery on cocoa farms and either ignored them or rolled my eyes. “It’s normal for young kids to work ‘over there'”, “the ‘fancy’ chocolates are too expensive”, and other excuses rolled off my lips. Perhaps it’s having kids of my own that changed my mind. How could it possibly be acceptable for us to support child slavery? If a treat is only “affordable” if produced by forced child labor, our household should forego it altogether. If my kids were the ones being sold into hazardous conditions with no access to education, I would hope a mother in Africa would refuse to demand their servitude so she could buy cheap treats. We’ll be handing out these mini chocolates (on sale, and quite affordable if you search google for their 10% off + free shipping coupon code) and these bulk lollipops because they had the best price per piece I could find. Tsh Oxenreider has an excellent summary of this issue and alternative sweet options for Halloween on her blog. We probably won’t win any “best candy on the block” awards from the brand-loyal neighborhood kids, but I’m okay with that. Besides, I’ll never beat my Great Grandmother on that count. She used to hand out full-sized candy bars. Decades later, strangers in her town would hear our last name and go starry-eyed over sugary childhood memories of her.

My family stopped celebrating Halloween when I was about eight. My parents had excellent reasons, and I respect their choice and appreciate their thoughtful approach to parenting. However, because the Man and I both loved Halloween as kids in a very innocent way – making costumes, running around the neighborhood after dark with other kids, knocking at doors for candy – we’ve decided to let our kids dress up and trick or treat unless we notice problems beginning to develop. Our church has a Reformation Day celebration as a Halloween alternative, but it’s the one day of the year our normally sane and welcoming brethren get a little carried away with the anti-Catholic rhetoric so my (Catholic) husband and I skip the party to avoid any awkwardness.

3) The new baby. She’s still cute. I’m having an embarrassingly hard time picking a blog name for her – I only like a small handful of girls’ names, and want to save them for future kids. It works well for many people, but personally I find it distracting when bloggers use unusual nicknames or abbreviations for their kids: “so then RainbowToes said to DS3…” feels awkward. Meanwhile, around our house the baby is affectionately known as Winston. Our chubby-cheeked pouting infant and the chubby-cheeked pouting former Prime Minister Churchill have a lot in common. See?

IMG_6157.JPG4) While it’s wonderful to prep meals in advance, sometimes meats cooked in a slow cooker develop an odd texture. Also, many slow cooker recipes call for shortcuts and additives that aren’t particularly fresh or nutritious – packets of fake flavor, pre-canned soups, etc. In our current life Williams Sonoma’s Essentials of Slow Cooking is a life saver. I bought it after checking it out from the library repeatedly. The recipes are all made-from-scratch dishes, impeccably tested, with really fantastic flavors. Each recipe has instructions for making the dish two ways – using the stove/oven or using a slow cooker. If I’m home for the day I usually prefer the oven option, but for a busy day out and about (or if your small children think the oven is fascinating), the crock pot option is handy. Because these are all dishes that need long low cooking times,they generally use less expensive meats. These meals are perfect because I can start them during nap time and not worry about any last minute prep during the daily pre-dinner triple meltdown. Last night’s barbecue-style brisket was the best thing I’ve cooked in months. The Man put one bite in his mouth, stopped, and moaned “Wow”. The toddlers and I agreed. The baby doesn’t get a vote.

5) What else have we been up to? Hiking:

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Parks:

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Visiting the farm with family:

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6) Lauren sewed this gorgeous quilt for the baby. Part of her post-NICU therapy involves lots of tummy time with distracting objects for her to look at while stretching her stiff neck muscles . I think this fits the bill! Apparently it’s soft and comfy, too:

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7) I leave you with Super Dad. And no, he’s not wearing a dress. This baby is a spitter (though not as bad as Jack, mercifully). We have to change clothes less frequently if we cover up with a beach towel during feedings.

IMG_5998.JPGFor more Seven Quick Takes please visit Jen at Conversion Diary.

Tender Loving Care, Jurassic Version

The new baby awakened Jack’s nurturing instincts. Now that they’re up and running, she’s not the only recipient. Today he walked up to me tenderly cuddling his T Rex and giving it gentle kisses. When he caught my eye, he insisted I give the dinosaur a smooch as well.

A bit later, I set my hairbrush down after braiding my hair, then turned around to see him carefully brushing Rex’s scales.

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After his spa treatment, a morning of play, and a run to the bank, Dino joined Jack at lunch.

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Tyrannosaurus Rex seemed to enjoy the roasted butternut squash and crackers Jack forked into his jaws, but he’d probably have been happier if someone had shared their chicken, too.

Lunch over, Jack sweetly snuggled his dinosaur against his shoulder just like we hold the baby for burping, then unceremoniously flung him on the floor. Toddler love is a fickle thing.

First Parade

A couple of weeks ago the Man was working a seven day stretch of call. When on call he leaves before the kids are awake and comes home after they’re in bed every day. Somewhere toward the end of a week alone with little children, sanity starts to slip. In hopes of regaining it (or because I’d already lost it) I packed up the kids and took them to our town ‘s international festival for their first parade.

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The twins viewed most of the parade with polite indifference. Annie sobbed whenever the crowd clapped or cheered (…often), but the flags, music, and dancers were a hit.

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After a couple years as an interracial family we’re used to gawkers. They don’t bother me anymore. With twins in the stroller and a baby strapped to my chest I certainly got almost as many stares as the parade, though!

After the parade the twins and I shared tasty Indian food from the festival booths. By far their favorite treats from the festival were free sunglasses from an insurance rep, though. Stylish, no?

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New Wheels

The twins turned two in September. Granny surprised them with their first trikes. Jack and Annie adore their new rides. I adore them too – I haven’t had such long stretches to sit and read outside since the twins were born! They haven’t figured out the pedals yet, but love scooting to the top of the driveway, then racing down its gentle slope toward the street (over and over and over…) while screaming with delight. I park the van across the street end of the driveway, then sit by it in a folding chair with a book or an infant and bottle.

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We also have a new-to-us stroller courtesy of old friends. To date, when taking the three out alone I’ve had to carry the baby while pushing the twins in their double stroller, or have one twin walk holding on to the stroller while the baby and the other twin ride. Both options work but aren’t ideal thanks to my back injuries and the distractable nature of two year olds. We spend a lot of time in doctors’ offices these days, and I hate letting my toddlers out of the stroller in waiting rooms. There are so many sick people touching every surface as they, too, wait for the doctor. We’re avoiding illness as much as possible this year because of the risk to the baby’s immature preemie lungs. Toddlers licking germy arm rests and rolling on the floor do not help.

Most new triple strollers are very expensive, and Craigslist in our area did not have any good options. I asked for stroller reviews on facebook, and an old friend offered me a free triple stroller she’d gotten used when her bigger kids were small. My parents picked it up, vacuumed and steam cleaned it, broke it down, packed it up, and shipped it off to us. It’s heavy (what would one expect when pushing three children…) but does a great job containing our herd of babies:

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The twins had mixed reactions to their new sister. During a normal pregnancy there are many months to talk about a new baby, read books, and watch parents prepare the home. Even with all that warning sibling jealousy may flare. In our case, there were two weeks between “hopefully we’ll adopt again in a couple of years” to “Surprise! New sister!” In addition, the twins’ weren’t even two yet, so they barely understood what was happening. We ordered a few books from Amazon about being big brothers and sisters (“I’m a Big Brother” by Joanna Cole, “The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby”, and “The New Baby” by Mercer Mayer) and read them a few times a day with the kids to introduce the idea while waiting to bring the baby back from the NICU. When we brought her home, Jack responded very well. From the books, he’d learned that you rock the baby, give her kisses, etc. and he jumped into big brother role immediately with almost no negative reactions. Annie, on the other hand, exploded. She was already upset from having Mom gone so much (the NICU was a three hour round trip away), and from having family and friends in the house caring for her (not a fan of strangers). Add in a severe speech delay that makes it hard for her to say what she thinks, plus a loud new blob disturbing her sleep, monopolizing Mom’s lap, and upending the routine and Annie morphed into an outraged, screaming, tantrumming toddler. The moment we let down our guard she would try to hit the baby, claw at her face, or pull off her legs. After a week Annie started to settle down. These days, she loves her sister. At the beginning, though, one thing that helped was the classic “look, we have a new baby and she brought you each a present!” trick. The kids love helping to push the big strollers, so we got them each a doll stroller. They love racing around the neighborhood pushing their babies and stuffed animals, and the new surprises helped tire them out and keep them occupied in those first crazy new baby days before naps had developed.

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The last set of new wheels around here is our van. I bought my first car, a Subaru Forester, in the half year between graduating from college and getting married. It served us well on many runs around town, cross-country road trips, back road drives, wilderness camping expeditions, and kayaking runs. In six years it hasn’t had a single maintenance issue and we love it. We planned for it to be the family car, but couldn’t predict that we’d start off our family with a double baby special. Suddenly, our roomy car didn’t feel so roomy. There was no room for a third car seat in the back, even with the twins strapped into the narrowest car seats on the market. When we found out we were adopting again we had to get a new, three-kid capable car in a rush. After a lot of research and test driving we settled on a Honda Odyssey. My pride hurts a bit at moving from an SUV to a minivan, but it’s an ideal car for hauling a host of young kids, with plenty of room to carry visitors and accommodate future children.

All in all that’s…how many new wheels around here? 22?

Here’s a gratuitous baby shot to wrap things up:

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Two

My parents came down for a four day visit this week. One afternoon we went to our friends’ farm for homemade ice cream. Before leaving we stopped by the back pasture where a draft horse stood munching grass along the fence.

Me: Look [Jack], a horse!

Jack: Cow.

Me: No bud, it’s a horse.

Jack: Cow.

Me: It’s a horse.

Jack: Cow

Me, changing tactics: What does the HORSE say Jack?

Jack: Moooooooo

Me:………..

I’d never realized that two year olds would be so like teenagers in their firm belief that parents don’t know what they’re talking about.

Explaining the recent blog silence….

Born in early May at 26 weeks gestation weighing just 1 Lb 10.8 oz or 1 Lb 13 oz (roughly 790 grams, but medical records disagree on the exact weight). Placed on a ventilator immediately after birth and rushed by helicopter from small regional hospital to major state medical center.

Spent almost three months in the NICU with no name and without visits from parents or friends.

Introduced to very-surprised-not-expecting-to-adopt-anytime-soon-not-even-signed-with-any-adoption-agencies-wait-we-only-adopted-twins-20-months-ago couple on July 30th:

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Adopted on August 6th. Couple slightly shocked to find themselves with three children. Blink and try to remember where the new baby appeared from.

Released from the hospital on August 17th after 97 days in the NICU. Finally free of breathing assistance, feeding tubes, IVs, and monitors.

Home for six weeks. We are all in love. Baby Girl is delightfully chubby, sweet-natured, and doing well thanks to a large team of medical professionals coordinating her care.

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[Not surprisingly, three children under two will keep a household very busy and a blog very quiet. Bear with me, please.] 

Satin Crib Sheets for Hair Protection


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(Pretty quilt by Lauren)

Many African Americans with longer hair wear satin or silk sleep caps at night to protect their hair from breakage and preserve complicated styles. Ideally, they also use a satin or silk pillowcase for a double layer of protection. With proper maintenance a hairstyle can last for weeks at a time. At 21 months our daughter is not very interested in “proper maintenance”. About 90% of the time we find her sleep cap on the floor in the morning. Her styles only last a few days at best thanks to rubbing on her cotton sheets, and her hair easily dries out and breaks. Like many toddlers, Annie wiggles laps around her crib at night, so there’s little likelihood she’ll keep her head on a pillowcase either. Satin sheets seemed like the next best option. No local stores carried them and online options ran around $30-$40. For a toddler? No, thank you.

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I grabbed a few yards of navy satin from the JoAnn’s (on sale for $2.99/yd, not including the two additional coupons I used) along with a pack of quarter inch elastic. Two crib sheets came together quickly following this tutorial. The measurements are perfect. Many fitted sheets only have elastic at the four corners. I like that this pattern calls for one piece of elastic all the way around the hem. It holds the sheets snugly against the forces of thrashing toddlers. Next up, a pack n’ play sheet and some pillowcases. I’m also stitching up a few Christmas gift bags while the machine is out.

Lest you think the kids’ room always looks that pristine, let me show you what happens when I think “Oh, they’ve been doing so well playing alone in their room lately. I’ll give them an extra ten minutes.” This:

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