Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! We had a quiet and cozy feast with just our household this year, then headed into the woods at sunset for a chilly fall hike.
A couple of weeks, ago, I found myself sitting in the kitchen staring at a blank wall and going stir crazy. I realized I spend a LOT of time in the kitchen these days between our pre-dawn grownups breakfast, cooking and dishes, cleaning and prepping bottles, feeding the twins three meals and a snack each day, feeding the baby, and late night dinners with the Man after long work days. I wandered around the house during nap time, picked up half a dozen unused pictures, played with arrangements until I had a combination and number I liked, and hung them. Since everything is so very mismatched I think I can submit a claim for “eclectic” and get away with it.
Here’s the before, with a fully authentic mid-afternoon weekday mess of paperwork, baby gear, and picture hanging supplies. We do try to clean up by dinner every night to avoid a descent into total squalor.
Here’s the after (table now tidy except for one territorial dinosaur):
The pictures on the right are 1) an old print of hawks I found somewhere for a dollar or two in high school, 2) a print of the Statue of Liberty, also from my high school bedroom, and 3) a print of a castle from the Man’s old apartment. This is the twins’ usual highchair corner so everything needed to be attractive but replaceable. Food splatters happen.
The print on the left is a reproduction of a historic map of Vienna under siege by the Ottoman Empire. I bought it for a couple of euros when studying abroad in Vienna during college. I love maps. It’s also a nice reminder of our family’s beginnings since the Man and I met through his father, who was my professor in Vienna.
The light is from Ikea and replaced the old kitchen light that came with the house. I wanted something a bit warmer with a natural feel. My Dad kindly switched it out for me when my parents visited this fall. I enjoy doing electrical work, but not with small children hanging off of every limb. The light works well for us since we have plenty of alternate lighting to supplement it. It’s just what I was looking for. However, if you’re looking for more than a warm gentle glow this is not the fixture for you since it’s only a muted single bulb.
To close, a random baby picture because I know that’s why all the grandmothers read this blog :). This little one is starting to grin and coo, and weighed in at a whopping 13Lb 8oz today. Hard to believe she was a micro preemie!
It’s a parenting shock to turn around one day and realize that your babies have become useful. We’ve slogged through two years of diapers and spit up and dropped food and eager little hands pulling things off tables; we nicknamed our duo The Octopus because of their eight-limbed ability to grab everything in sight. But suddenly, the twins can DO things. Actual helpful things, not just “help” that causes twice as much work. They can clean up a room while I direct from a chair and feed the baby. They take their dirty clothes to the laundry basket. They put dirty diapers in the trash and baby bottles in the sink. They can rinse dishes (with supervision so the kitchen doesn’t turn into a water park). They can put extra food in containers, unpack fruit from the grocery store, and wipe up spills on the floor. There’s a long way to go yet, and Annie tends to run about six months behind her brother in new skills and abilities. Still, it’s thrilling to feel the balance just beginning to shift from “adorable menace to civilization” toward “productive household contributor.”
Of course, all things have a downside. Jack’s increased sense of cleanliness and order means that he is also increasingly aware of disorder. His new hobby is walking around the house pointing out messes. Folding laundry on the kitchen table? The inspection committee is sure to point an accusing chubby finger and announce “uh oh, mess!” Making dinner? Expect a disapproving frown and another “Mess!” declaration over your vegetable peels and cooking utensils. Pile of medical documents? ” Mess!” Mound of shoes? “Mess!” Spilled milk? “Mess!” I’m not sure if his critical eagle eye should produce pride or crushing depression, so I oscillate between the two.
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….
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?
4) 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:
Visiting the farm with family:
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:
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.
For more Seven Quick Takes please visit Jen at Conversion Diary.
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.
After his spa treatment, a morning of play, and a run to the bank, Dino joined Jack at lunch.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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:
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.
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: