Love in a Time of Toddlers

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At dinner I look over at E to find her craning over sideways in her highchair, toward D, making her lips into a kiss.

I’m in the kitchen, chopping something at the counter, and I feel two little arms hug my knees. I look down to find E and hug her back.

M wakes up crying from a nap. When I lift her from her crib she squeezes me tight. I hug back.

Holding both twins in my lap I give them each a kiss on the head. M looks at E and leans over to give her a kiss. E kisses back.

Seeing a cat at a friends’ house, M tries to give it a kiss.

We’re reading a book, Panda Bear Panda Bear, What Do you See? M leans down to give the water buffalo a kiss, and E kisses the lion.

We’re reading a book about shapes. M gives a kiss to the square.

At first, seeing that, I feel disheartened. Maybe they don’t really understand.

But on second thought, I think that square feels better.  I think they know about love.

Sleep Diaries

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Nighttime, for the past couple weeks, has been a bit rough. If this post is somewhat incoherent, I’m blaming it on the lack of sleep.

Last night we almost made it. We slept solidly from about 9:30, through the night with no interruptions…until 4:40 a.m. At that point, the crying in my dream became crying in reality, and D and I were awake in the bedroom in the dark. At first waking, I somehow assumed it was 6 am. My first thought was, “man, I feel tired,” and I had the sinking feeling that I would never wake up feeling rested again. Then I looked at the clock.

When we became conscious enough we could tell the crying was M. This was hopeful. M is usually not so difficult at night. A quick visit crib-side, lay her back down, a soothing tummy rub for a second or two and she’s back out, breathing deeply.

This time D went in for night duty. I heard him make his way around our bed; the babies’ doorknob clicked, then the nursery floor creaked as he crossed to the crib. For a moment there was no crying. Sweet silence. Then the floor creaked as he made his way out…”waaaah” another cry started up, E this time. D’s silhouette reappeared in the bedroom, quickly crossing to his side of the bed. “Damn! Damn! Damn!” We lay in the dark for a moment, not breathing, praying for her to fall back asleep.  The cries continued, increasing in urgency.

After that I don’t really remember (did we go back in, rock her, only to have the creaky floor wake her again as we tried to sneak out? Did they cry intermittently until 6, waking each other? Did I go in fruitlessly after 5 minutes, then 10, then 20? Eventually we brought E into our bed. Or was it M we brought?The nights blur together. In any case, there was no more sleep.)

It’s 9:20. Maybe I should go to bed.

Herding Toddler Twins (Also, Fun In Leaves)

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Trips to the playground with the twins have gotten slightly more nerve-wracking lately (running in opposite directions, two wobbly, fearless toddlers, precipitous play-structure drop-offs), so I thought taking them to run around in an open field in Highland Park might be a relaxing change of pace.

It was a blustery fall day, and as we entered Highland Park leaves were raining from the trees and the sky was overcast. Still, I pushed the double stroller off the path and onto the grass under some tall oaks, got E out and placed her on the ground. Acorns immediately started raining down on us–eighty feet up in the high branches, a group of squirrels had chosen this spot to enjoy a messy nut feast. I grabbed both babies and moved us over to a different tree.

Soon M and E were both up and running all over the place, throwing handfuls of leaves in the air, bending down to look at sticks. At first, they came back every minute or so to excitedly hand me an acorn. Then they just took off down the path, not looking back. I followed a short way behind, but very soon got nervous about the distance between us and the double stroller. The stroller is my only way to transport both twins and must stay close at all times.

I picked up E, who protested loudly, and tried to coax M to walk back toward the stroller. That worked for about a minute until M yanked her hands. I set her down, ran to get the stroller and ran it back, at which point they both took off in opposite directions, both running toward the road.

I finally just ran and grabbed M, then E, carrying both kicking, incensed toddlers all the way back to the stroller, where I bribed them with some snacks. Maybe we need to buy some of those toddler backpacks with the leashes, and who cares what people think.

The Babies are Toddlers

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My watercolor of the twins’ now-retired baby shoes.

It’s funny how when you stop doing something, like running, or blogging, it gets harder and harder to jump back in. I had legitimate reasons for the blog break at first, mostly good things (we bought our first house (!), moved, I got some freelance work and launched my own design business website). But then I got out of the habit of writing, and I had too many ideas to just write one post. Also my desk moved from the middle of the living room to an office upstairs, which is mostly good but also means it’s hard to write a blog post with a minute here and there. And the twins aren’t content to hang around the house anymore, either, or to watch me type on the computer for that matter…

Anyway, I’ve missed my friends in the blogosphere. I miss keeping in touch this way with people I know in real life, too.

And I miss having a way to record what’s happening with the babies–who are not babies anymore, they’re toddlers. They’re tiny people not just walking but running, diving off the couch, pulling plugs from electrical outlets, offering each other toys, giving kisses, hugs, demanding to be picked up, taken outside, given particular plates or toys or spoons, wanting to play with my phone, drink from my water glass, and say words like ball, water, and milk.

There was a big milestone this past month: first haircut. We did it with them in their highchairs at the kitchen table, D held their heads while I did one cut for the bangs and one around the back. Came out sort of like a pixie cut. With the rush and stress of scissors near heads I didn’t do the most even job, but still I think it worked out. You can see their faces now.

What finally pushed me back to this blog, though, is that they got their first pair of real shoes. I finally had to accept that the little brown leather baby booties, their first shoes, were too tight and don’t work well for running around a wet playground. Now they have some proper boots, which is still kind of a shock.

Also, I’ve finally reached a parental milestone of my own: I’ve hired some help. Starting tomorrow, a nanny will come one morning a week. I’ll let you know if that’s life-changing.

Anyway, if you’re still reading this–hi!–how has your fall been?

boots

Stop the Press, We Have a Milestone

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M took her first steps yesterday. I sat on the floor and put her a few feet away from me, encouraging her to take the steps toward my lap. Maybe she was reassured by the soft landing pad of my belly, because she did. I’m not sure she knew why I was making such a huge to-do about it (after all she’s been walking with help for months), but I think she appreciated the attention.

This morning we went to story time at the library and she walked again, a few feet from the train table to the bookshelf. Then again from the stroller to a shelf. She stands carefully, getting her balance, catching herself with her hands, pushing herself up again, wobbling, catching herself, standing again until she is stable, then looking forward with determination and taking one step, two steps, a quick three four and grabbing the bookshelf. I got out my phone to try to catch it on video, I’m sure I was grinning ear to ear, and I wanted to call over the other parents, “Look! Look what she’s doing!” (but of course it isn’t so amazing when someone else’s baby walks).

Today I noticed E is getting two more teeth on the top, which will give her a grand total of six, four on top and two on the bottom. I’m going to miss her toothy, baby grin with the two teeth on top. I remember how I loved her gummy, toothless infant grin, too. I wish I could pause time for a second, just to breathe and look around a bit and appreciate these beautiful babies as they are now, 15 months old, at this moment sleeping peacefully in their cribs, dreaming about walking.

Monkeys on a Plane

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Last week we took the twins on their first airplane flight, for a week’s trip to California. Everything was completely worth it–the babies definitely enjoyed themselves, it was great to see family and to get to go to a really beautiful wedding. But I won’t say the trip wasn’t a challenge. This post is just about the airplanes, so if you’re curious about the experience of flying with twin 14-month-olds, read on.

Our flight from Pittsburgh departed at 12:30 pm, scheduled to arrive in San Francisco around 5 pm (8 pm Pittsburgh time) after a short layover in LA. We checked our four bags and two car seats, which came to $120. That’s $25 for the first bag and $35 for the next, car seats free. We gate checked our double umbrella stroller and carried on two diaper bags and the Ergo carriers.

In the security line, as we began to unclip the babies from their stroller, an agent helpfully informed us that they didn’t have to take off their booties. We put sippy cups full of water through the scanner. On the way there they were waved through without any problem. On the way back, when we had milk plus water sippy cups, we nearly missed our flight as they held up the whole line to wave test-strips over them, put them in a special machine, wait for them to scan, then put them back through the whole scanner again.

On the flight out I had asked for milk from the beverage cart and was informed that milk was only for first class. The flight attendant later snuck me a little carton. We entertained the babies with a wide array of snacks until M started to get over-tired. She refused to sit in my lap, crying, slipping off  to crawl up the aisle. I put her in the Ergo carrier and started walking with her up and down the aisle in the hopes of lulling her to sleep. After we’d walked a cumulative five miles or so, with M kicking peoples’ shoulders as we went by she finally fell asleep.

I sat down very carefully so as not to wake her. D was standing next to me with E in the Ergo, bouncing up and down trying to get her to fall asleep. The person next to me (D and I couldn’t sit next to each other, as two babies aren’t allowed in the same row because of the number of oxygen masks), was just sipping the last of a ginger ale, underlining passages in a book. “I can’t remember the last time I underlined passages in a book,” D said.

While in San Francisco, we ended up buying a big suitcase on sale, figuring we could fit three suitcases-worth inside it and save ourselves $75. On the flight back they charged us an extra $100 for the big suitcase being overweight, so the charge came to $150, $30 more than on the way there plus the cost of buying the suitcase. The flight attendant on our final leg also informed us that Ergo carriers were against FAA regulation. Sometime that night we finally made it home.

 

And I’m Freeeee, Free Standing

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These babies know what they have to do. They want to be upright, walking. If you set them down on the ground they immediately pull themselves up to standing.

This morning, after a session of holding both E’s hands while she walked around the house, I tried to set her down. I kept trying to lean her backward so she’d sit, but she protested loudly, gripping my hands and refusing to bend at all. I kept leaning her backward while she continued straight as a board until I finally just had to lay her down on the floor, crying. Similarly, when you try to lay M down on the changing table she seems to see it as a sort of challenge: can I keep my legs under me and remain standing while you try to lay me down? She’s good.

I can understand: standing is fun. If you sit on the ground, E and M both come over and use your outstretched legs as launch pads to push themselves up to standing and let go. Then they free stand, looking very pleased, for two seconds, four, five before launching back into your lap, laughing. Or they balance upright for a little while, clap once, and then lower themselves carefully to their knees. You can see the thrill on their faces.

Today I spent time placing M a few feet away from me and then encouraging her to take a few steps into my lap. Almost, but she’s still hesitant unless you offer a hand. One friend postulated that they are the kind of babies that don’t take shaky pre-walking steps, but wait until they know they can do it alone. They know what they have to do, and they’re enjoying the journey.