Seven Quick Takes: Siblings, Snow, and Books

1) It’s fun watching sibling relationships grow. Sometimes relationship “development” means the toddlers wind up banished, screeching and flailing, to separate timeouts for mauling each other. On other days we watch their imaginative play or hysterical laughter and see the potential for real friendship as they grow. The big kids adore their baby sister; the feeling is mutual. Jack makes a beeline for the baby when he gets up. Nobody is better at coaxing belly laughs out of Jenny than her big brother. [That’s a giant red loaner bag of maternity clothes in the back because in one week I went from “everything fits, won’t need bigger clothes for a while” to “all pants too small, all shirts too short.”]

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2) Unfortunately, our sweet brown-eyed son has accidentally developed the mouth of a sailor. Toddler pronunciation is adorable but, well…he conflates clock and lock. And he just can’t properly pronounce fork. Or stick. Or shirt. Or half a dozen other things… Basically, we live in a truck stop right now. He makes up for his endless stream of profanity via cuteness, though. From yesterday’s walk: “Garbage truck! I love you, garbage truck!” Yes, he’s definitely male.

3) We finally got a little dab of actual snow (vs. last week’s ice). Just in time, apparently. Next week’s forecast calls for 80 degrees (27 C). As usual, the South melted into a puddle of hysteria and the kids and I stayed home, played in the snow, and avoided the Southern drivers. Every single winter here when it drops to freezing our dear southern friends dash from building to building thinly dressed and complaining about the cold. Their excuse is that nobody bothers to buy warm clothing here because it’s so rarely cold. After four winters in this location I regret to inform them that it gets chilly here for a couple of months every winter. And one doesn’t have to spend that time curled in a ball of misery on top of the heat vents, even if the county does only own one snowplow.

So, beloved southern friends, here’s a very brief tutorial on dressing appropriately for your winter, based on six years of careful and highly scientific observation *cough* of southerners in their natural habitats. You can implement this bit by bit as the temperature drops. I know some folks here that would require all these layers once it hits 50 degrees, and Chicagoans who are still in flip-flops in a foot of snow, so the cutoff is arbitrary based on your personal comfort. The basic premise is that in winter, the first goal of your attire is to layer and stay warm, not look cute.  A) Ditch your sweet little thin ankle socks (or *shudder* adorable sock-less flats). Put on a pair of long thick socks, preferably knee-length vs. shin-length, preferably wool or ski-sock material. Smartwool socks are great and machine washable and can always be found on clearance sale at this time of year. One pair will last you through a lifetime of southern winters. Around the house, add some slippers. Outside wear your sneakers, hiking boots, or even rain boots or muck boots. B) Wear a long camisole or close-fitting shirt tucked into your pants to create a warm inner layer that traps your body heat and prevents cold air seeping in between the cracks in your clothes. C) Put on a long-sleeved overlayer shirt or sweater. I usually wear an undershirt, long-sleeved shirt, and fleece or sweater around the house and keep the heat set low. Unless your underlayer is high-necked, avoid low V-necked sweaters. I can’t tell you how often my coworkers in Texas wailed about the cold as the wind whistled down the fronts of their lacy-knit low-necked cotton sweaters (with no underlayers), while stating in confusion “but I’m wearing a sweater! I AM dressed warmly! And I’m still cold!” D) If you are still cold, wear a pair of close-fitting long-john (long underwear) pants under your jeans and long socks. You can get them for $3 at Walmart and they’ll probably last you for the remainder of your southern winters. However, if properly layered, you’ll most likely be too hot with them indoors and might want to save them for walks or playing in the once-a-year snow. E) Hats, scarves, and gloves are for warmth first, cuteness second. My friends here all wear loosely crocheted fashion hats and gloves and filmy style scarves as they shiver. Instead, for the same price invest in a closely knit hat or warm fleece, preferably with a double layer around the earband. Winter scarves are for blocking wind and cold around your neck, not elegant draping to accentuate your neckline. F) Everyone wears a hoodie or one of those thin waist-length fake wool fashion coats open wide at the collar here in winter. No. They don’t insulate, and they don’t block wind. I’ve seen many name brand parkas for $5 in the thrift stores here for truly bitter cold. Otherwise, to go outside, put on a warm layer or two (wool sweater, fleece, hoodie), then top it with the most wind-proof thing you own – your raincoat, a windbreaker, your spring trench coat… If you’re cold or it’s windy, zip it up to your neck.

Snow pants and snow boots are generally not worth the investment here for the once-a-year snow. The Man and I only keep ours for trips to see family up north. We don’t even own a snow shovel because it’s always melted off the driveway within a day for all four years we’ve spent in this house. No need to layer up as much as Annie here unless you’re planning on rolling in the snow. She, however, loved it and grinned ear to ear the whole time we were outside.

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4) Once Jenny woke from her nap and started crying on the monitor I had to bring the kids in from the snow. We spent much of the rest of our morning curled up on the couch reading A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. It’s the perfect chapter book to engage toddlers as they play nearby. There’s a small line drawing on almost every page, so it holds a nice mid-point between familiar picture books and longer text-heavy kids’ novels. The text also varies frequently between songs and poems, conversations, and description so there are lots of opportunities to vary your voice and engage small kids’ interest. Ours are especially enamored because the classic 1970s Winnie the Pooh movie is the one movie they’re allowed to watch (it’s the gentlest and slowest-paced movie we could find). They’ve seen it half a dozen times in the last six months and are familiar with the characters and basic story. Actually, the book is pretty fun to read as a parent, too. My mother read us countless books when we were kids, but somehow we missed this one. I’m having fun discovering it now. The language is creative and the British humor always leaves me chuckling even though it goes over the kids’ heads. For example, after Pooh’s attempt to reach the bees’ honey by hanging onto a balloon fails, he asks Christopher Robin to shoot the balloon with his cork gun to bring Pooh back to earth:

‘….you aimed very carefully at the balloon, and fired.

Ow!” said Pooh.

“Did I miss?” you asked.

“You didn’t exactly miss,” said Pooh, “but you missed the balloon.” ‘

Or, when Pooh and Piglet are tracking an unknown set of animals through the snow (with some concern that they might be “Hostile Animals”):

‘And still the tracks went on in front of them… Suddenly Winnie-the-Pooh stopped and pointed excitedly in front of him. “Look!”

“What?” said Piglet, with a jump. And then, to show that he hadn’t been frightened, he jumped up and down once or twice in an exercising sort of way.’

5) I owe Rosie many thanks for suggesting this music cube on her blog a year or so ago. It is Annie’s favorite toy. She will play with it for up to an hour experimenting with instrument combinations, listening to the music, and getting up to dance. We’re not big fans of noise-making electronic toys, but this one’s a winner.

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6) On the grown-up front, The Man just finished re-reading Anna Karenina. I’m inching through Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom (it’s hard to hold thick books one-handed whilte feeding the baby).

7) The baby just woke up crowing up for her morning bottle, and The Man and the twins are stirring so it’s time for this late quick takes to go up. Enjoy your weekend!

For more Seven Quick Takes please visit This Ain’t the Lyceum.

What’s in a Name?

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I don’t know about you, but I love naming kids. I love playing with name combinations, looking at lists, scrolling through ancestors’ records, and surprising family and friends with our final choice (we don’t tell in advance). However, the difference between “real life” kid names and blog names is that real life imposes deadlines. The adoption agency contacted us to ask if we’d adopt the twins, then immediately followed up with a request for names for legal paperwork. We named the twins in the process of a walk around the block. Luckily we already had a short list at that point since their original adoption fell through two months before. The baby got her real name after just a couple of days – we had general favorites, but since we learned of her existence one week, met her a week later, and adopted her the week after that it wasn’t exactly a lengthy process! However, with a blog I have license, in theory, to play with names forever. And I probably would, if I could. There are so many blog options without taking names you’ve “saved” for real life. There are the names you love, but that won’t work with your last name. The ones that saddle a kid with embarrassing nicknames or initials. The ones already claimed by close relatives. The ones where you like the nickname but not the full name. At this point, though, the deadline on calling Kid #3 “the baby” is…the next baby. So, after months of procrastinating and calling her “the baby” here on the blog, the current baby will henceforth be known as Jenny.

Before social workers and the adoption agency got involved our baby had no NICU visits from parents, family, and friends. She didn’t even have a name. The NICU staff, volunteers, and hospital providers went above and beyond to make sure she was nurtured and loved during that time. Various hospital staff who knew about the lone baby in Pod D would stop by during work breaks to hold her. Volunteers snuggled her; one elderly man (a retired doctor) rocked and cuddled her for hours on a regular basis. Doctors and hospital social workers checked in regularly, advocated for her needs, and set the ball rolling when it became clear that going home with her birth family was not an option. And through it all, the huge nursing team provided round-the-clock care and love. As she got bigger they even pooled their own money to buy her clothes, blankets, and hats so she had things of her own instead of having to use the hospital’s supply. Her primary nurses, Jennifer and Lisa, cared for her several shifts each week throughout her hospitalization. Jennifer, especially, was there from the beginning. She helped admit her when the helicopter brought her to the hospital, and continued to shower her with love, nurturing, and prayers for three and a half months until she was released from the hospital. Jennifer took the baby’s clothes home to wash and even gave her a temporary name so that those caring for her wouldn’t have to keep calling her Baby Girl. [The name she picked, by the way, was a lovely name – it just happens to be waaaay overused in our family so we didn’t keep it as her permanent name]. When we met our daugher-to-be for the first time, Jennifer placed her in our arms. So, in honor of her foster mother Jennifer, Baby Jenny it is!

Barbershop Quartet

We’ve always cut Jack’s hair at home. However, this morning I took him out for his first barbershop haircut. The Aquaphor incident left Jack’s hair looking patchy, gummed, and motheaten despite our best attempts with scissors and scrubbing. Our clippers pieces are broken and distributed among three cabinets, and it was $6.95 cut day at Great Clips.

I settled into a styling chair with Jack on my lap. We were the first customers of the day so all four stylists gathered around to chat and watch his 1.5 on the top/1 on the sides materialize as they waited for business.

“Awww. Look how good he’s being!” “Is he talking yet?” “How old is he?”

“Two and a half.”

The clippers continued buzzing round Jack’s head while he sat silent and wide-eyed (a rare state for him).

“He’s so cute! How many kids do you have?”

“Three, with number four on the way.”

“Oh, so he must be the youngest then.”

“Uh, well, no…he’s the eldest.”

*clippers freeze in midair* *blank wide-eyed stares from four pairs of eyes*

What can I say. We’ve yet to mail Christmas thank you notes and last summer’s vegetable garden still needs to be cleared, but we’ve been extremely efficient about accumulating children these last two years.

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} – Call Week Edition

PRETTY

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That might look like just any old cute baby slurping on her fingers, but really it’s a huge milestone. This little one came home from the NICU with a severe gag reflex. 3.5 months of ventilators, CPAP gear, and feeding tubes will, understandably, make an infant pretty sensitive to anything around her head, nose, or mouth. We struggled with her feedings for months. She wanted to eat, but regularly choked or thrust the bottle out of her mouth. She gagged constantly and sent massive spit-ups out her nose that left her gasping and requiring suctioning. Because she wouldn’t put anything in her mouth, her primary method of self-soothing was (and is) holding her hand flat over her face and licking her palm (it’s adorable). It took many months of careful work before her gag reflex relaxed enough for regular easy feedings. A month or two ago she started hooking one finger just inside her lip occasionally. From there, she worked up to sucking on a finger and licking toys. A week ago I turned around from changing one of the twins’ diapers and there she was, contentedly bouncing in her infant seat and slurping away on her whole hand. She’s pretty, and we’re pretty happy!

Also not surprisingly, 3.5 months in the NICU left her with a squished and lop-sided head (plus a malformed ear and flattened nose from her CPAP headgear). When her head measurements did not show any improvement after months of therapy and home positioning she earned her very own helmet for skull molding. It’s been a (very) rocky transition (see the above section about “hating anything on her head or face after months of breathing support”) but we’re getting there and finally seeing our happy-go-lucky baby reemerging from the crankiness. We’re also very glad that all she needed in the end was a helmet for a cosmetic issue. Before everyone settled on the helmet we spent months passing between her therapist, pediatrician, testing, and neurosurgery as the floated questions like premature suture closure, hydrocephalus, and surgery. Just a helmet? Just fine.

HAPPY

IMG_7200 IMG_7198We finally got some winter(ish) weather here. It looks like snow in the pictures, but was really ice. Our ice day coincided with the Man’s day off. After eight brutal days of hospital call where I barely saw his face and he only saw the kids awake once we were so happy to have him home. Besides, nobody wants to get on the road with a bunch of southern drivers after an ice storm; they have no clue what they’re doing! With the Man off work, the baby’s appointment cancelled, Annie’s therapy rescheduled, and nothing on the calendar we enjoyed a peaceful winter day together. We made waffles for breakfast, then played outside with the kids. The kids loved the ice, despite frequent faceplants from slipping. Later we read, enjoyed more family time, bathed the kids, and kicked back with a movie after we’d packed the little folk off to bed.

FUNNY

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Is it just me, or does my youngest sometimes resemble the Grumpy Cat internet meme? She’s the happiest baby you ever met, but the weight of those enormously chubby cheeks does tend to drag her face down into an expression of disapproval…

REAL

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This most recent eight day stretch of hospital call nearly did us in. Can we get holiness points if we just call it early extreme Lenten penitence? Five days of crippling pregnancy headaches plus eight days of pregnancy exhaustion plus minimal sleep plus three kids plus one cranky sleepless baby in a new helmet plus a crazy patient load = Mom sick alone with the kids and Dad at work exhausted for the hardest stretch in many months. As a snapshot, in one week the twins broke: 1) a crib, 2) a rocking chair, 3) a window frame, 4) the elliptical, and 5) several toys. And then, of course, there was the Aquaphor incident. One headachy day I finally had a little time to take a nap while the kids all slept. I woke to odd thumps coming from the twins’ room. This, it turned out, was the day my son learned to climb out of his crib. With his unsupervised freedom he found an open bulk vat of Aquaphor and proceeded to smear it over his whole room: floor, the oriental rug, the furniture, his clothing and bedding, the diaper basket, and his head all received a generous coating. Significant cleaning and one impromptu home haircut later my son’s head looks a bit motheaten but things are mostly tidied up. Like I said…rough week. We’re all so happy to be back to our regular non-hospital call routine!

For more {p,h,f,r} entries please visit Like Mother, Like Daughter.

Library Finds

It’s always nice to find picture books that your kids love. It’s nicer still if the books don’t drive you crazy.

(Go insane, who me? Never…)

I freely admit that any very annoying or very ugly book that makes it past our front door usually goes straight out the back door into the donate box before the kids can form an attachment. Life is too short to die from bad books. Here, though, are a few really good picture books we’ve enjoyed lately from the library. I’ve linked to Amazon for each item so that you can preview pictures with the “click to look inside” option.

My Grandfather’s Coat by Jim Aylesworth, illustrated by Barbara McClintock

McClintock’s lively and detailed illustrations bring this retelling of a Yiddish folk song to life. A young boy immigrates to America, trains to be a tailor, and sews his own coat for his wedding. The story follows his life as he and his wife move to a farm and welcome a child, grandchild, and great grandchild. Along the way the coat wears out and the tailor cuts it down and transforms it for new life events – first into a jacket, then a vest, then a tie for a wedding, and so on. In our household kids and adults alike love the pictures and story. This is the kind of book I would have read and reread as a child, both for the warm pictures and the “something becomes something else until every last scrap is used” storyline.

Roadwork by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Brian Lovelock

The twins, especially Annie, adore this simple board book with rhythmic text and bright interesting pictures. The story follows construction of a road from planning to completion. Every page has lots of accurate details and construction equipment like graders, bulldozers, oil trucks, and backhoes. As a parent, I think it’s a bit more interesting than the typical board book – simple enough for little ones, but with plenty of details to keep young kids engaged, searching, and picking up new information on each re-reading. Annie wasn’t particularly interested in trucks or construction before we brought this home from the library but she’s officially obsessed with this book. If nobody is free to read it to her she sits on the floor and flips through it over and over again muttering sound effects. We maxed out our library renewals with it. It also wins a prize for magically bribing our terrified-of-strangers daughter to sit on the couch with her Grandpa so they could read it over and over (and over, and over…). As a parent of black kids I also appreciate that it has a naturally diverse cast of characters without feeling forced or “requisite rainbowy” like some newer picture books. Sutton and Lovelock have also collaborated on two other books with similar layouts: Construction and Demolition. They’re all good, but we like Roadwork best of the three. Most have a couple format options – it’s worth noting that the board book version of Roadwork doesn’t come with a key at the back identifying the construction vehicles, while the full-size versions of Construction and Demolition each have one.

Following the Tractor by Susan Steggall

Following the Tractor is an ideal picture book for young children, although older kids might find it boring. Steggall’s creative and somewhat unusual collage illustrations recount a year on the farm from plowing and planting to summer growth, harvest, and winter. The simple poetic text is well done, and there’s lots of detail for children to spot and learn from on each page. Our kids beg for this book, and the Man and I enjoy the art even though collage-style books usually aren’t my cup of tea. It’s worth noting that we checked two of Steggall’s other books out of the library (Red Car, Red Bus and The Life of a Car) and both books drove my husband and I insane. The children loved the bright pictures, but we found the text too bland to tolerate and the bright primary-colored illustrations visually overwhelming. Following the Tractor has a lot of natural scenery on each page to break up the visual impact, something the other books lacked.

Happy reading!

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A Day in the Life

I wrote a “Day in the Life” snapshot during both the twins’ first and second winters, though I’m not sure I ever published them. It’s fun to go back and see how life changes. This particular “Day in the Life” was actually recorded back in January. I’d been waiting for an “average” day to record, then decided there’s no such thing. This day was abnormal because we had three appointments/engagements in one day (I usually try to keep that number down because I like my sanity), and because the Man attended a mandatory “transitioning to civilian life” class with much shorter hours than his usual job (8 or 9 hour days instead of 12+ hour days). So, on the one hand things were a little extra crazy with back to back obligations and none of our usual morning playtime or picture book reading. On the other hand, two adults at home for significant portions of the day is a rare bonus! In contrast, for the last seven days the Man has been on call at the hospital. That means we’ve been up by 4:30 almost every day, and he’s been dragging home from work exhausted at 8:00 or 9:00 or 10:30, sometimes with calls at night. He finally got to see his kids awake for the first time in a week yesterday. Anyhow, here’s a peek at life with two two year olds, one 8.5/5 month old, one pregnant mother, and one preparing-to-get-out-of-the-Army father.

5:00 The second alarm goes off. This is sleeping in – usually it goes off at 4:30. I have no idea when the first alarm went off because I’m not responsible for my actions until I’ve been out of bed and vertical for at least five minutes. The Man makes sure I get up every morning; otherwise I’m very capable of hitting snooze 20 times without ever waking up. It’s not that I’m not a morning person. I just require a crowbar to get out of bed and realize that morning is indeed here.

5:10 Vertical state achieved. I dress, head downstairs, brew tea, and toast a bagel for breakfast. Meanwhile the Man gets ready for the day and changes for his workout upstairs. Normally the Man and I like to eat breakfast together, but right now enough dregs of morning sickness remain that I still need to eat and sit still for a while right when I get up. I check my email/fb/news/feedly as I eat.

5:45 I turn on a podcast (one from this series by A Slob Comes Clean, which I’m enjoying very much), clear the table, and empty and reload the dishwasher while listening.

6:20 The Man comes into the kitchen after finishing his workout and we chat as he wolfs some cereal and yogurt. Normally he’d already be out the door for work by now. It’s a rare treat to have him home for a little extra morning time together. It’s definitely worth it to spend the time together instead of off doing chores! He heads upstairs for a shower and I tidy around the downstairs, and sort, clear, and put away the clutter (mostly books) that’s accumulated on a low bookcase. It only takes five minutes, but of course it’s taken me a month to stop procrastinating and tackle the pile.

6:55 I prep the baby’s medication, heat bottles, and get the baby up for a diaper change. Mornings are crazy around here so I like to get a peaceful half hour of one-on-one time with her before the twins are up and requiring lots of help. She’s so undemanding and easygoing that she’d happily wait all morning for a little attention. I like planning for intentional one-on-one time so she doesn’t get ignored. The baby and I settle into an armchair with a new book (Noel Piper’s Treasuring God in Our Traditions) for a morning snuggle and bottle. The Man pokes his head in to kiss us both goodbye before heading out the door for class. He usually doesn’t get to see any of the kids before work so he’s enjoying this week of baby smiles at the start of his day.

7:20 Annie is up and chatting in her crib, but she sounds happy and Jack’s still asleep so I leave them be, finish feeding the baby, and quickly throw notes on the morning so far on my phone. I’m deliberately not recording them on my blog or computer so I’m not tempted to peek at the internet every time I update.

7:40 Jack wakes up as well. The twins are usually happy to wait a couple minutes in the morning. They gleefully chat and play together in their cribs and sing snatches of their favorite songs. I pop the baby in her swing (she has reflux and needs a bit of upright time after feeding), collect laundry from around the house, put in a load of whites, set a timer so I don’t forget the laundry, prep part of the twins’ breakfast, and gulp down a glass of water.

7:48 I pick up the happily squealing baby and we head upstairs to the twins’ room. I put the baby in her bouncy seat, hand Jack his favorite toy (a couple of plastic rings), pass Annie a book, then lay out clothes for the kids. The baby chuckles and chatters at us all as I change and dress the twins. I set their fan and diaper basket in the hall outside their room so they don’t play with them (they like to scatter the clean diapers, eat the wipes, and stick their fingers in the running fan), then scoop up the baby and leave the twins to play in their room for a few minutes.

8:05 Cut up grapes, mix plain yogurt with a mashed banana, and set out books to read during the twins’ breakfast, all while the baby watches from the swing. Pause frequently to give her kisses, tickle her chin, or hand her a toy. The twins are happy upstairs so I take a minute to throw out some dead flowers, rinse the vase, and take my medication. I peek in to make sure the twins aren’t destroying anything, then put in my contacts, brush my teeth, wash my face, and set up Annie’s pack n’ play in the guest bathroom (the darkest room in the house) so I don’t have to deal with it at nap time. She has to nap alone – otherwise she’ll keep her brother awake for hours with loud talking, singing, and social overtures.

8:20 Direct the twins through cleaning their room, then head downstairs with them. They climb into their booster seats. I move the baby to her bumbo seat near them so she can be in on the action and put grapes and sippy cups of milk on the twins’ trays. Switch over the whites load to the dryer, then sit down with the twins to read them some of their usual morning books while I spoon feed them their yogurt (I cannot handle the level of mess when they spoon feed themselves something this soupy yet…). This morning it’s a couple poems from a children’s poetry anthology collected by Julie Andrews and a story from a children’s Bible.

8:40 We run out of time before I can move on to the other picture books in their stack. I dole out cheerios to keep small hands occupied and start in on Annie’s hair styling. We usually condition and detangle her hair once a week, then style it the next morning. A complicated style can easily take three or more hours. This morning I settle on something simple that will only take half an hour. The Man calls from a class break and we chat on speakerphone for a few minutes. The baby watches happily, sucks her fingers, and chats at us.

9:15 Finish Annie’s hair. Change the baby’s diaper and put her down for a nap. Throw a load of darks in the washing machine. Wipe up the twins, sweep the floor around their chairs, wipe their trays and release them from their chairs. Change a poopy toddler diaper, and put a screaming Annie in time out.

9:35 Annie’s speech therapist arrives. She always lets Jack tag along during sessions because his speech is much more advanced than Annie’s and he’ll often model speech for her. They adore her – to them she’s a beloved Mary Poppins figure who magically appears twice a week with a bag full of special toys and endless supplies of patience and good humor. They all head into the living room together. I tidy the kitchen, pop dishes in the dishwasher, put away the hair styling supplies, and prep part of the twins’ lunch. I grab the kids’ shoes, and pull their coats out of the closet and get myself and the diaper bag ready to go.  I collect the baby after a much shorter nap than usual and strap her into the car seat.

10:05 The therapist leaves. Instead of our usual picture book time on the couch we need to head to an appointment at the hospital. Shoes and coats all round, then out to the car. Due to her extreme prematurity the baby gets monthly Synagis shots to protect her against RSV during the winter months. It’s a bit of a pain with two extra hospital trips a month (one for weight so they can prep the immunization dose and another trip for the shot itself). However, it’s well worth it to keep her healthy. RSV can be extremely serious for children with immature lungs like hers.

10:30 We arrive at the hospital. A friend spots me in the parking lot and stops quickly to say hello before I bundle the twins into the stroller, strap the baby to my chest, sling the diaper bag, and head into the hospital pediatrics clinic with the herd. The wait and the shot itself are quick. Thankfully its not the kind of immunization that gives kids nasty after effects like swelling or fevers.

10:45 We’re back at the car. I strap everyone in, stow the stroller, and we head home. Lately I’ve been listening to the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy on CD in the car. I’ll have to shift my audio book selections soon as the kids get bigger and capable of understanding what we’re listening to.

11:15 We’re home. I heat a bottle for the baby. The twins climb into their chairs and I serve up a quick lunch of sliced tomatoes, whole grain bread, and cheddar cheese with sippy cups of water for them. I feed the baby while they eat. About halfway through the bottle I glance at the clock and set the baby down to preheat the oven and throw together a quick batch of scones.

12:00 I wipe the twins up and let them down, then finish feeding the baby while directing the twins through cleaning up their toys and books in the living room from the couch.

12:20 The baby gets a clean diaper and goes down for a nap. I follow the twins’ up to their room, change them into clean diapers, pull on their sleep sacks, and pop them into their beds for nap time with kisses and hugs. I turn on their fans, close the curtains and door, and head back downstairs.

12:25 I do a couple of minutes of final cleaning before a friend arrives for a visit. Thanks to a combination of the baby’s vulnerability to illness and Annie’s loathing of strangers, a peaceful chat with a friend is a very rare treat these days. This is the first time I’ve had a friend over just to relax while the kids sleep in many months – the last time was before we brought the baby home from the NICU in August! I set up a pack n’play for her baby, then shape the scones and pop them in the oven while she settles her daughter for a nap. We enjoy a couple of hours of chatting with tea, coffee, and scones, with occasional pauses to check on sleeping kids or mix up tomorrow’s batch of preemie formula.

2:45 The friend leaves. I take a few minutes to put final dishes in the dishwasher and clear up.

3:20 The first child is making noise upstairs. I pretend not to hear since it’s just one kid and glance through email, facebook, and feedly.

3:37 Both twins are awake and chatting upstairs. Oh fine. Wave of pregnancy exhaustion notwithstanding, it’s time to get back into parenting mode. I get them up, change their diapers, work with them to tidy their room, and bring them down for a snack.

3:50 The Man texts to say he’s coming home! Unheard of! He never ever gets off this early – on a normal day (let alone a call day) he’d usually be gone from 6:15 in the morning until at least 6:00 at night. I settle the kids with a snack – rice cakes, water, and dried apricots since I need to go to the grocery store and we’re running out of fresh produce – then step into the garage to switch over the laundry. I leave a message with a possible babysitter about covering the twins during a medical appointment later in the week, then put on some Mozart and chat with the twins while they eat and I fold laundry.

4:11 The twins are done and have resorted to playing with their food. I sweep up under their chairs and wipe their hands. Daddy arrives homes! The twins are shocked and delighted to see Daddy so early (as am I). Everyone gets hugs and kisses, and we release the kids to wreak havoc. I send a quick email to a possible babysitter.

4:15 The baby is making noises over the monitor. I bring her down, change her diaper, and pop her down for some tummy time while I heat her bottle. I’ve found reserving special toys for the kids’ pre-dinner witching hour very helpful. This afternoon I get out a big basket of balls to go with the basketball hoop. Before I sit down to feed the baby I discover a toddler with a stinky diaper and stop to change it.

4:30 Finally collect patient baby for her bottle. In the afternoon the twins usually hang out in the room with me while I feed the baby and sing through sections of the hymnal while they play with their reserved “special treat” toy. With Daddy home, they’re bouncing back and forth between us like yo-yos instead. He works on paperwork in the kitchen while I feed the baby in an armchair in the front room and sing (we work through half a dozen hymns from the hymn book during most afternoon feedings). The kids bounce off the walls from excitement. After 15 minutes they simmer down a bit and start to enjoy their toys.

5:00 The baby is fed and content. The Man takes over baby bouncing/toddler wrestling/book reading duties so I can run upstairs and put away three loads of laundry.

5:15 The Man heads upstairs to take care of more work responsibilities and paperwork. I prep dinner (tweaked leftovers, plus fresh veggies), set the table, switch over the laundry one last time, and coach the twins through cleaning up their books and toys. The baby watches placidly and occasionally spits up in approval.

5:45 We’ve just shifted the baby’s bedtime earlier. On the upside, she’s better rested and not cranky in the evenings anymore, and the adults get to enjoy an hour of quiet kid-free time each evening before bed. On the downside, it means a lot needs to coordinate between the start of mealtime and all three kids landing in bed on time. We’re compromising by all being in the same room together chatting even if we’re not all putting food in our mouths at the same time. The Man starts spoon feeding the kids their applesauce while I sit next to them at the table and eat my dinner. Then I stand, heat the baby’s bottle, and change her for bed at the table while the Man eats his dinner and the kids continue to munch on theirs.

6:10 The Man pops the last couple dishes into the dishwasher then sits to read the kids some picture books while they finish their meal. I take the baby next door for her evening bottle and some one-on-one time with Mom.

6:30 The Man takes the twins up to get them ready for bed. I keep feeding the baby.

6:50 One final diaper change for the baby. She’s transitioning from a Moses basket in our closet to her crib in the guest room this week. The first night did not go well because she’s used to our very dark closet and the guest room has a bright street light shining through the blinds – we had to move her back to our closet after two hours of babbling from the wide-awake baby. Tonight I hang some dark sheets over the blinds to see if some hillbilly blackout curtains will do the trick, and tuck the baby into bed.

7:00 I pop into the twins’ room for bedtime kisses then head downstairs to tidy, change the diaper pail liner, and update these “Day in the Life” notes.

7:10 The Man has finished with the twins’ bedtime story, song, and prayers. He kisses them goodnight and closes the door. The baby is quiet and still. Success!

7:20 We each eat a bedtime snack (me for my pregnant self, him because he always has one), then sit peacefully together, read (Noel Piper for me, a re-read of Anna Karenina for him), and chat. It’s so rare to have a quiet evening together without a late work day or parenting or urgent household demands; we’re relishing it. Of course there is always more laundry to fold, a kitchen floor that (desperately) needs vacuuming, bills to sort, and work to do, but there is not always a chance for time as a couple. We read Bible together, then head upstairs.

7:50 I discover that the Man has sneakily made our bed (a chore I never got to) and tidied our room as a surprise. It is so nice to end the day in a peaceful and orderly room. Yes, he’s awesome, no, you can’t have him. I shower, and we get ready for bed, lock the doors, and check the kids. The day is over by 8:30 or so.