A Morning at the Botanical Gardens

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Over the weekend we visited the local botanical gardens. We haven’t stopped in since the twins were infants. It was a nice surprise to see how perfect the gardens are for toddlers. They are thoughtfully planned with lots of “little worlds” of half an acre or so each centered around lakes, fountains, meadows, and pine forests. The adults enjoyed the beautiful landscaping and lush flowers (even if I totally failed to capture any of that in the pictures). The toddlers loved dashing between bridges, exploring pagodas, climbing on rocks, and running through viney tunnels and arbors into the next “room” of the garden.

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(Yes, I really am in the third trimester and feeling very pregnant. I’m just carrying 100% straight out in front so you can’t tell from any other angle or if there’s a lanky toddler on my lap.)IMG_7533.JPG

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(nomnomnom….yummy Ergo carrier)

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Recent Quotes

1) We often remind the twins to wait nicely for their food, say “more, please” and “thank you”, “help” wipe up their booster chair trays, carry their cups to the counter, and put their utensils in the sink. To the uninitiated this might sound like we have decent civilized standards for our toddlers. Let’s shoo that illusion away; at least three times after meals this week I told them to “Please pick up the food on the floor under your chair and either put it in the trash or eat it.”

 

2) I turned around to see Annie peacefully sitting on the floor trying to page through a favorite book, and Jack doing his best to annoy her by body-slamming her, flailing, bumping into her, and generally interfering:

Me: “Jack, are you being kind to Annie?”

Jack: *pausing to evaluate the situation* “Uh oh.”

 

3) We took a family trip to the local botanical gardens on Saturday. At one point Annie stopped to admire a cactus then turned to me with her standard squawk that means “what is this?”

Me: “That’s a cactus.”

Annie: *pausing to process, then repeating* “…radish

At least she knows her veggie names.

 

4)  “I said ‘no sweets’, I didn’t say anything about gluttony.” – The Man, prepping a post-church second breakfast for himself toward the end of Lent.

 

5) “Dzzzzzzzzj….aaooo!…oooo!….gchhhhhhh” – The Baby. We’ll check back in for more intelligent commentary from her in a year or two.

 

6) “………………………………………………………….” – The Littlest Baby. There’s not much one can say while immersed in amniotic fluid.

Now Arriving: Spring

Spring in this part of the South is stunningly beautiful. It feels like everything blooms here. Though the days still fluctuate between frigidity and t-shirt weather, for a few weeks walks really have a fairlyland quality. Gorgeous Dogwoods, Almonds, Crabapples, Bradford Pears, Forsythia, Tulips and Daffodils flower abundantly in every direction. Despite the southern Spring’s visual drama my husband and I both feel that the season has a bit less impact here than it does up North. There’s nothing like four or six months of hypothermia and blizzards to prime you for gleeful hysteria at the first warm moist breeze, crocuses pushing through the snow, or fragile green buds on bare trees.

We’re getting outside as much as possible to enjoy the pleasant weather. Some days we just play in the backyard or let the twins ride their bikes on the driveway. Other days we walk in the neighborhood or take the kids to a park.

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We try to hike every Sunday after church year ’round unless it’s pouring rain. It’s fun to watch the incremental seasonal changes week to week as we walk the same local trails.

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We’re also spending lots of time on the screened porch. It’s a handy place to let the kids be outdoors but contained if the adults need to focus on something else. It’s also nice if it’s rainy or I just can’t face another day’s mud-covered laundry. As the weather warms up we try to eat family dinner on the porch whenever possible. Lately I’ve also tried to be more conscious about making each chore as pleasant as possible. While some jobs only take a minute or two, if I’m preparing to do something longer it makes sense to make the task as pleasurable as possible. Why do laundry inside when it’s lovely out and the porch table is clean and ready for folding? Why not listen to something interesting while doing the dishes and making the baby’s bottles for the day? Parenting and running a home are never-ending jobs. It helps me enjoy both so much more when I try to bring pleasure into each activity versus wishing for a break to relax.

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Normally we’d be hard at work getting the vegetable garden underway. With much regret we’ve decided to skip it this year. I’ll be sorry to forego the fresh and frugal produce right from our yard, but with pregnancy tiredness now and a new baby arriving at the start of summer it made sense to take a break for a year. My Mom helpfully cleared out the plot and took down the ramshackle fencing. The plan is to pick up a bunch of flower seeds and let them take over the veggie space for the summer.

A Getaway for the Grownups


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Back in March my Dad took two business trips in quick succession. The Man had a week’s training in Fort Polk, Louisiana at the same time. Since we were both spouse-less my Mom graciously volunteered to come down and help out with the child juggling. My very tired pregnant self could not say “yes” fast enough. Before the Man left we were even able to get away for two nights while my Mom watched the grandbabies.

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This was our first real getaway together since bringing the twins home two and a half years ago. We did attempt one last Spring – my mother-in-law kindly flew down and we headed off to lovely Savannah, GA – but the Army started off our first morning there with a flurry of texts and calls about a work emergency and my poor husband spent literally half the day on the phone. By the end of the day the Army had cancelled our leave and ordered us home. Not exactly the idyllic time of relaxing and reconnecting we’d imagined! Thankfully things went much more smoothly this time around.

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We headed to Durham, NC because we’d spent half a day there a few years ago during a camping trip and wanted to go back for further exploration. Normally, our trips and special events are pretty frugal; our anniversary tradition is heading out for a hike followed by tacos from a trailer in a nearby town and I’m not sure we even exchanged any gifts for our birthdays this year thanks to adoption/newborn chaos. This time, though, we decided to spoil ourselves on the food front with fancy dinners out and multi-course meals. Special extended time together and leisurely meals are a rare treat with this many small children! We kicked off our trip with dinner at the unbelievably delicious Lantern in Chapel Hill, NC. It was the highlight of the trip, and some of the best food we’ve had in years. That’s not surprising; Gourmet rated it one of the top 50 restaurants in America! We’ve been home for three weeks and I can still taste those fantastic flavors.

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We stayed in the Hilton Garden Inn close to Duke University and can’t recommend it highly enough. It was new, clean, and pleasant with warm and helpful staff. The next day we grabbed breakfast at a nearby bakery and cafe while playing card games, hiked all morning at cold-but-beautiful Eno River State Park, enjoyed lunch at Parker & Otis in Durham, and spent a lazy afternoon napping, reading, and wandering around Duke University’s architecture, botanical gardens, and mostly-closed-for-renovations art museum. That evening we hit the also-fabulous Spanish tapas restaurant Bar Mateo for dinner. I even *gasp* ordered a room service hot fudge brownie sundae when we got back to our hotel. On our last morning we enjoyed a final breakfast at the same bakery/cafe and returned home to my Mom and the kids. Annie, especially, was a bit upset by our absence, but the great thing about toddlers is that they’re easily distracted. All it took was pulling out a cookie from the bakery for each of them. If only frosted bunnies and basketballs worked that well for all of life’s ills.

 

Dining with the feral children

This week the two year olds both threw tantrums because I wouldn’t give them a second serving of roasted butternut squash. The next day the twins hovered around my knees begging “Kale? More kale? Kale?” as I washed and sliced vegetables for soup and passed them leaves for munching. Apparently we’ve accidentally raised hippies, not toddlers.

…or so it seemed until I turned around to see they’d abandoned their most recent scraps of kale on the floor and were instead devouring styrofoam plates from the pantry. Either they’re still hippies and really serious about recycling or they’re just omnivores.

This week’s toilet incident argues for the “omnivore” option. I turned around when I heard a soft splash to see that Jack had thrown a toy in the toilet for the first time. I firmly told him that we do not throw things in the potty and asked if he understood. He beamed and nodded: “Yes, Mama!” Then, before I could stop him he leaned forward, scooped a handful of water out of the toilet, and took a drink instead. Well…he did obey me…*shudder*

Also arguing against the “tiny hippies” classification is Annie’s behavior at dinner. I’d stepped over to the fridge and heard her begging, then bellowing in increasingly urgent tones: “nuke? Nuke? Nuke? NUKE! NUKE! NUKE!” Pretty sure she was asking for milk not an ICBM launch, but you never know with this kid.

Meanwhile, Baby Jenny is just tentatively starting solids. We delayed introducing solids because her nutritionist wanted her post-NICU gag reflex mostly eliminated before messing with her feedings. Even now, at 8 months’ adjusted age she really isn’t interested, but her reluctance to put things in her mouth voluntarily (she never puts toys in her mouth) means it’s time to start coaxing solids into her rather than waiting for her to attempt it herself. Too-late food introduction can further complicate feeding issues in preemies. It’s going swimmingly, if by swimmingly you mean:

Me, tentatively working a tiny dab of oatmeal into her mouth: “Mmmm! That’s oatmeal! What do you think?”

Baby: *disgusted theatrical retching and gagging*

At this rate we’ll most likely be eating her birthday cake on her behalf next month. Also, she still has a hard time reaching for things in front of her because she has such a strong arms-flung-backward brace instinct all the time (another micro preemie trait – we’re working on it in therapy). That makes the odds of her actually reaching forward and smashing any first birthday cake quite low. Consider this an advertisement for adopting preemies: not only do parents get extra birthday cake, it might be intact!

Baby Blueberry

You can see why we lovingly call the baby “The Blueberry” these days.

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Every so often she tries to adopt a disguise, but only with limited success.

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Overall, though, she doesn’t seem to mind her helmet anymore and it is rapidly correcting her skull unevenness and facial distortions. All with no negative effect on her cuteness, obviously:

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