Eight Hours in the Car With Twin Babies

This week, for Thanksgiving, we drove eight hours with the babies, from Brooklyn to Pittsburgh. As the day of our departure drew closer, we wondered if we had made the right decision in not flying. We wondered if we were completely insane.

We had decided leaving early, at 4 am, would be our best option. We would put the babies, still in their PJs, in their car seats and hit the road. This, we hoped, would give us a couple hours while they were still asleep, getting us out of New York City before the morning rush hour or Thanksgiving traffic.

What we hadn’t factored into the mix, in addition to baby and traffic schedules, was the storm of the century advisory, which would hit the very night we had planned to leave.

“I can’t even describe it,” the radio commenters said of the traffic leaving New York the night before the storm. “It’s so horrible, it’s so horrible. A parking lot.” There were ice storms, tornado warnings, wind advisories. Batten down the hatches, because we’re blowing away to Oz, was the tone. A friend called me as I was packing. “Don’t forget to pack some emergency supplies for the car.” She mentioned jumper cables. I stuck a gallon of water and some baby formula among our supplies. I imagined us stuck with the babies on the highway in a white out.

That night I woke up at 2:30 a.m. to the wind driving rain against our window panes, shaking the house with a low moan.

At 4 a.m. we convened in the kitchen, where coffee was dripping, set on a timer from the night before. “Should we go? What about the weather?” We watched some online weather videos, looking for clues. The longer we waited the closer it got to rush hour, the closer it got to time for the babies to wake up, while the weather remained just as bad. The wee hours are not the best time for decision-making, but after about a half hour we decided to go for it.

We drove the first few hours out of New York in the dark, frantically. I was still wearing my coat, having jumped in the car so quickly. It was dark and raining, we expected to hit massive traffic at any point, for the babies to start wailing at any second, for the weather to blow us off the road.

But none of that happened.

The babies slept. They slept right through until 9 a.m. when we had to stop and get gas and thought we better feed them, though they weren’t crying. They slept for most of the whole trip. Also, we didn’t hit traffic, and the weather, though there was a bit of snow and rain, was fine.

I think the babies rather enjoyed the whole driving experience. When we stopped to feed them they were so busy chattering away and looking around we could barely get them to focus enough to eat. And they laughed out loud at being changed in our laps in the car.

Clearly we should travel with them more often. They are ready for adventure.

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“It Gets Easier,” a Load of Bunk?

This mantra, heard from parents of older children, from twin parents, this: “It gets easier.” I think I’ve even said it myself to parents with younger babies. What was I talking about? Sure, they’re sleeping better (knock on wood!), but new challenges keep cropping up every day.

Take solid foods. Now there’s more cleaning, more chaos, more sweet potato on my sweater. Today I tried feeding them both sweet potato myself. They were each in a highchair. One started crying. I got confused which spoon was which, there was chaos, gobs of orange, I had to take Mattie out and put her in my lap. I’m not sure how much they actually ate.

I’m starting to wonder if this mantra is like the carrot dangling in front of the donkey. Just keeps him moving forward. But they do keep getting cuter, if that’s even possible. So that’s something.

Sweet Potatoes, Sweat and Tears

It’s been a long day.

It started with one baby screaming at 4:45 a.m. We waited until maybe 5:15 and then decided just to feed them. We tried to put them down again afterward, but no go. D went grocery shopping and the over-tired babies cried. There was no sleeping at all, by anyone. When D finally got home I had one baby in a moby wrap, the other was in the crib still crying, and I was about to lose my mind. He put the second baby in a moby, and when they finally fell asleep we transferred them carefully to the crib.

We had wanted to go to a neighborhood baby play date at 10:30. No way we were going to wake the babies, though. At 11:15 they finally woke up. We tried to feed them quickly and then go. As if getting out of the house is ever quick these days. And today it was frigid. Bone chilling winds rattled the window panes. Bundling the babies took half an hour. Finally, with the babies all bundled, as I was putting M into the moby wrap she spit up all over my chest. I had to unwrap myself and change. We started off to the play date probably about an hour and forty-five minutes after the start time.

“I think I wrapped [E] too tight,” D said, before we’d walked a block, the frigid wind making our faces ache. “I don’t think she can breathe.”

“She can breathe.”

“I don’t think she can breathe!”

“Let’s go!”

“This is stupid!”

By the time we made it to the play date the last two people were leaving. We said hello then turned around and walked back home.

The rest of the day went similarly. I went to get a free high chair from another parent of twins in Clinton Hill. She had asked me to come between 2 and 3:30 because her three year olds would be napping.

“They’re not sleeping,” she said first thing when she opened the door. Her hair was unbrushed and her eyes bloodshot. Her husband appeared around the corner, about to say something to her then stopped when he saw me. “The only thing about these highchairs,” she said, “I sort of wished we had invested in some of the fancier ones with steps, like the Stokke, because…”

“Aiiiiii! Maaaamaaaa!” there was a scream from down the hall. The woman sighed and walked off mid-sentence. They husband offered to help me to the car. “I don’t have a car,” I said. “I’m taking the subway.”

“Can you make it?”

I hoisted the the highchair over my shoulder plus lugged two booster seats they’d given me in a big IKEA bag all the way to the subway, the wind blowing me back one step for every two forward. I was reminded of the scene in the movie, In America, where the father carries the Air Conditioner on his back across town. I was also reminded of an ant.

When I got home we washed and scrubbed the high chairs, we fed the babies, we washed the highchairs again, we washed the babies, we washed everything, we did laundry at the laundromat, we made dinner. Finally we put the babies to bed. They cried for fifteen minutes before finally going down. I don’t know if they were wired from the sweet potatoes or what.

It’s been a long day.

Sweet Potato Extravaganza!

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What a pro she is!

Today the babies had their first taste of sweet potato. This was their first solid since our false start with rice cereal a couple months back. I’d say they definitely enjoyed it. They polished off the jar we opened, and by the end they were grabbing the spoons and opening their mouths for the next bite. 

Sweet potato is very…orange. And it was everywhere. In the creases of their hands, on their shirts, pants, socks, sprayed on the table, on D’s face, smeared on his sweater, my shirt, and of course all over their happy faces. The table was full of soiled crumpled napkins. Safe to say it was about as messy as one tiny jar of orange mush could be. “Next time we should just strip them naked first,” I said. In any case, they enjoyed it, and they’re eating solids now. They’re practically adults. 

Father Makes Video of His Premature Son’s First Year

Well this video just reduced me to tears. Geez, brought me back to the NICU. Though our babies, born at 33 weeks, were bigger than this to start, the NICU is the NICU. Beautiful video.

We just got back from our 6 month checkup and M and E are now seventeen and a half and eighteen pounds, respectively. It really feels like a miracle.

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Did you like this video? You might be interested in this post about a NICU reunion, too:

https://spacemonkeytwins.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/nicu-graduates-unite/

Motherhood, Art, and Money: What Is My Time Worth?

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What should I be doing with my time? I don’t mean how do I fill the days–far from it–as the mother of twin babies, every minute of my days is full. But how can I take control of how those minutes are spent? How much time should I spend on baby care, housework, making money, making art? What criteria should I use for making these decisions: Personal fulfillment, money, family contribution? How do I put a value on investment in myself? I don’t actually have an answer for these questions, but thought I might explore them a bit in this post.

Maybe a little history would help. I am on maternity leave from my job, but it is an extended maternity leave, so for the past six months I have been a stay at home mom. I am also a writer and illustrator, though my job, which paid the bills, was as neither of those things. Being a full-time mother has been confusing, to say the least.

For the first twenty-two years of my life I was a full-time student. I conceived of myself only as a student. Being a student, for me, was bliss. Deadlines, accomplishments, feedback and reward all built into my schedule. Since I majored in English with a writing concentration, and took art classes in college, art was built into school as well.

Graduating into the work world was the first challenge. In work, there are no grades, no graduations, and for me, no art. One similarity between being a student and working full time, though, was that you never had to justify how you were spending your time. You were a student, which meant you were investing in your future, or you were working, which meant you were paying the bills. Art became something I fit into my schedule outside of work–early in the morning, on weekends, at lunch.

Then came motherhood. Motherhood is a full time job. More than a full time job. 24/7. It is also something I chose. There is no time for art “before work,” the babies could wake up at any time, there is no concentrating on anything when they’re crying. And yet, there is no income from being a mother, aside from the income I would have spent on child care were I at my job. Since I’m not currently making money, how to justify spending time on art? What is the “value” of improving my illustration portfolio, for example?

I was intrigued to read this article in the New York Times Magazine, Outsource Your Way To Success. I feel confident that it’s “worth it” for me to spend time applying to new jobs, since this will clearly lead to money and will further my career. But when is it “worth it” for me to spend time on art? Is it “worth it” enough to pay someone for childcare a few hours a week so I can paint?

I don’t have answers. I’m just feeling frustrated, grasping at minutes like straws. Of course, I couldn’t stop spending time on art even if I wanted to. But what if that time wasn’t piecemeal and constantly interrupted? What if I invested in it? By doing nothing I am answering my own question.

There’s a Hole in My Stomach (and Wallet)

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Last week I was on a walk with some friends who are mothers. “Do you find yourself hungrier, with breastfeeding?” one asked.

“Oh man, yes!” I said, enthusiastically. “I go through like a big tub of peanut butter a week!” There was a moment of silence. I imagined them imagining me eating a tub of peanut butter. “Maybe that was an over-share,” I said.

Later the conversation moved to drinking water. “Do you find breastfeeding makes you really thirsty?”

“Oh man, yes!” I said. “I’m drinking constantly! I can’t breastfeed without a big canteen of water to drink at the same time.” I must drink a gallon a day. I began to realize that everything I’m experiencing is double.

My stomach is a bottomless hole. People seem impressed that I’m back in my pre-baby clothes. I’m happy I haven’t shrunk down to nothing. There’s a hole in my stomach (and my wallet–same cause–though that’s a subject for another post).