Fiction Says It Best

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Today I received a letter from my mother. It is an actual snail mail letter, written with a pen on a piece of paper, and it may be my favorite letter I’ve ever received. Included in the letter were the last few lines of George Eliot’s Middlemarch, which I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never read (I’m adding that to my list next). I thought I’d share them here for anyone who feels unsure of the significance of their life (maybe most of us out here on the Internet). Dorothea Brooke is the novel’s protagonist:

But we insignificant people with our daily words and acts are preparing the lives of many Dorotheas, some of which may present a far sadder sacrifice than that of the Dorothea whose story we know.

Her finely touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who live faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.

Things I Learned from Our First Trip With the Twins

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This weekend we travelled to Ohio for my cousin’s wedding. We drove there and stayed in a hotel, so I’m counting it as our first real trip with the babies (not including our very long drive when we moved from New York to Pittsburgh, or a weekend at a friend’s house). I’d say it was a learning experience for all. Here are a few things I learned:

1. From now on, when we leave a hotel, not only should we double check the bathroom to make sure we didn’t forget any toiletries, but we should also check under the bed, under the chairs, behind the curtains, behind the dresser. Babies are sneaky with the hiding things.

2. My clothes will fit in a small duffel and the babies’ clothes will take up a whole suitcase. It seems like I’m packing too many baby clothes, but I’m not. They went through all of them.

3. Pureed baby food in pouches is awesome for travel. This trip we discovered they can suck the food themselves out of the pouch. They love it and it’s much neater than any other eating option. If they’re still into that the next time, we’re packing a lot more of those and a lot fewer jars and bananas.

4. Somehow travel made me realize the seriousness of the babies’ schedules. Four times milk, three meals, two naps, bed time, at the same times each day. The challenge of keeping to a schedule in a new city, with places to be at particular times, people to meet, really brought this point home.

5. The jury is still out on whether two umbrella strollers or the double stroller are preferable. This time we went with the two umbrellas, but next time we will probably try the double. Advantage of two umbrellas: they fit more places, are more portable, and can double as high chairs for eating. Advantage of double: One person has hands free for opening doors and carrying other things, like luggage, or a baby. One thing we do know, the babies are too heavy to carry: we packed the Ergo carriers and never used them.

Those are a few lessons learned, anyway. Final lesson is it’s tiring…but probably good for us.

First Birthday Party for the Twins, A Summary

 

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This weekend was the babies’ first birthday party. I thought I’d take a moment to record what happened. 

Earlier in the day we had given the babies some presents. They were all over each new object instantly, turning knobs, putting things in their mouth, banging, exploring. E stood over a new walker, gesticulating wildly and making such happy sounds as if to say, “Look at this! What?! HOLY COW!” They loved unwrapping the presents, too. E tore tissue out of a bag and ruffed it in the air like it was wings to take off. They were both so completely thrilled by the novelty it made me want to buy them new things every day. 

We had invited a few new friends for the party. There were a lot of kids, who ran around happily in the back yard. We made carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, blueberry muffins, tea sandwiches, both egg salad and cucumber and cream cheese. There was Orangina to drink, and other tasty snacks. We had a red checked tablecloth, Happy Birthday banners on the walls, party hats, and a pretty clean house. 

The babies wore their new matching party dresses, E in blue stripes and M in orange. M ate a blueberry muffin and an egg salad sandwich and they both ate a lot of fruit salad. We put them in the highchairs and everyone gathered around to sing happy birthday, which I think was mystifying to them. Then we placed a cupcake, each with a candle in the shape of “1” on each of their trays. It took them a while to warm up to the cupcakes, but when they did they each grabbed the whole thing, frosting and all, and mashed it into their mouths, devouring every last crumb. 

By the end they were completely giddy and full of smiles. Even though it was really past their bedtime, they were perfectly happy until we put them in their cribs, at which point they fell fast asleep. 

And that was it, nothing complicated, but we celebrated M and E and this milestone. I think we started this birthday thing off right. 

On the Twins’ First Birthday, Looking Back on the Past Year

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Last week the twins turned a year old. There have been huge changes this year: M and E’s birth and our move from New York to Pittsburgh being the biggest, plus all the smaller changes that those precipitated.

I can remember so clearly when we first brought them home from the hospital, looking down at their little sleeping bodies swaddled in the crib under the window. Their tiny, perfect faces, the hats they wore though it wasn’t cold. I remember that feeling, sleep-deprived, vibrating with nervous energy and wonder. My mom had come for the summer to help, and I remember those hot days we spent camped out with the babies in the bedroom, the one air conditioned room of the house, talking. I remember buying preemie size diapers at Target.

Still, so many things about those first few months are a blur. How many days until the NICU nurses let me hold them? How long did I keep pumping breast milk so that we could offer them a bottle first and then breastfeed after, until they got the hang of it? Until we were confident they were growing. And did we really feed them every three hours, getting only three non-consecutive hours of sleep per night, and for how long? No wonder those months are a blur.

Now suddenly they are a year old and two tiny individuals: eating cupcakes, waving and saying hi, taking little baby steps with help, climbing the stairs, getting the giggles. It’s hard to believe they’ve only been part of my life for a year. They have accomplished so much, and I am so incredibly proud.

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The Many Ways to Follow the Space Monkeys

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Did you know there is an ever-expanding list of ways you can follow this blog? You can follow by email (by clicking the button to the right). You can follow on Facebook. You can follow on Twitter, or you can follow on Bloglovin‘. You can follow in a boat, you can follow in a shoe. You can even follow while you’re rowing your canoe! Anyway, thanks for reading in whatever way! Happy Friday!

 

Impressions of New York City After Having Moved Away

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Three months ago, when our twins were nine months old, my husband and I moved away from New York City in search of an easier life. This weekend I went back for a friends’ wedding, which was my first time away from the babies and also my first time back in New York. Following are a few of my thoughts, not on being away from the babies (more on that later), but on returning to New York where I lived for fourteen years.

After driving for hours in the dark, I first realized I was approaching the New York metropolitan area because of the sky. It wasn’t black anymore but a sort of wan maroon. The pavement was suddenly full of potholes, too, and I struggled to stay on I-95 as I looped over and below interchanges. The thought occurred to me that it felt like entering a rat’s nest.

The next day, at Grand Central, I made my way to the subway and caught the 4 train. It was dank and the lighting made everyone look greasy. People bumped into me as passengers jostled for a spot to hold on. The whole visit, people would continuously bump into me, brush past me, nudge me as they went by, and I’d realized how my sense of personal space had expanded in just a few months away.

At Fulton I switched to the C train, which flew through the tunnel, rattling as if it might fly apart. Everything seemed worn down to a germ-ridden nub. Two women, one with slicked-down bangs and wearing bright lipstick, the other very large and with a beautiful smile, laughed together about something and I found it amazing that until recently riding underground had felt normal to me, too. When I got out of the train I passed a couple lugging their stroller with toddler up the subway steps and it struck me as a sad place to see a baby. The walls were covered in soot.

Then I made my way to a small restaurant for my friends’ wedding. The restaurant was just perfect. A restaurant like you can only find in New York. Cozy, bustling, full of sparkling, intimate conversation and interesting people elbow to elbow, waiters who are also Independent movie buffs. The ceremony was beautiful and made me cry.

As I left I walked by one of my favorite bookstores, still open at that late hour and brightly lit. In the subway, two men were playing lively music. I walked by and stopped halfway down the platform. The music was really, really good–so good I made my way slowly back toward them. The singer wore a black vest, he had a fresh-looking face with a scruff of beard. The other man was playing percussion by hitting his hands on the hollow wood box he was sitting on, controlling a tambourine with his foot. They were singing love songs, rocking out, hitting everything exactly right. People up and down the platform crept closer and closer. Three young men started dancing to the beat. A woman in hospital scrubs got out her cell phone and started filming. An older woman in a flowered blouse and a young hispanic man threw in a dollar, both smiling. The growing crowd formed a circle, everyone bobbing their heads. When they finished there was applause. “Thanks for your good vibes,” the singer told the three dancing men. The subway came, and everyone boarded with a smile.

And then I remembered why I love New York City. There amidst the grime and unpleasantness was this moment among strangers of all backgrounds and walks of life, people who had no reason to know each other, brought together for a magic moment by art. I felt lucky to have been just at that place at that time.

I’m sorry I doubted you, New York.