If Unemployment Were Like Vacation

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Once, for about three months, I was unemployed. Every day during those months I woke up early, found jobs to apply to, fired off resumes, made phone calls. In social situations, strangers asked me “what I did” and I felt awkward. Friends told me to enjoy the time off, but I couldn’t because I was too stressed about finding a job.

Being home caring for twin babies (while job hunting) feels similar to my experience of being unemployed, except that at the same time as I’m “unemployed” I’m working full time, with no time to write resumes or make phone calls. Also, this “unemployed” job I have is exhausting, involves strenuous heavy lifting, intense mental energy, and no breaks. I’ve never been a procrastinator, and I think the stress of not being able to get things done is building over time.

Amazingly, though, no one else seems worried that I’m wasting my life, or that I’ll never work again. Life changes quickly, and I know these babies are going to be all grown up in about a second. Most of my problems, luckily, are in my head. This morning I had a moment where I really felt at peace, so I thought I’d capture it here:

I set up the babies’ water table in the back yard, under the redbud, taking along a chair and book for myself. It’s summer, and the humidity is thick, though not bad if you aren’t moving. When we all got down and settled, I sat in the chair with the book for a minute and watched the babies investigate the toys in the water. The neighbors have hung a bird feeder, and a few sparrows came to peck at the seeds.  The grass was freshly mowed, the plants in my newly-seeded garden looked healthy. It was quiet. And for a a moment I didn’t think about the things I wish I had done or was doing; life is good, I thought. I am lucky to be here, in this beautiful place.

Tough Life for a Twin

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The other day when I was sitting in the park another mother came by with her baby. Her son was ten months old and toddling around. He was big and jovial and very interested in M’s cheerios, which he took right away and started to chow down on, at some point also accidentally hitting her in the head with her cheerio cup. As I spoke to this mother I got more and more worried. Her baby was bigger than M and E and walking. She is teaching him to drink from a cup. He goes to story time at the library, to music classes, on expeditions.

Maybe, being twins, poor M and E are missing out. I still haven’t taken them to the library in Pittsburgh because I can’t walk there from the house, and the thought of lugging them anywhere in the car is still a bit too much. I’m also not going to haul them both up to the bathtub every day to teach them to drink from open cups. And they have to take turns who gets to come out of the play area to try climbing the stairs or exploring the kitchen, or having me hold their hands while they try to walk. The photo above is exhibit B. This is a picture of some marks on E’s wrist I discovered today when we were out in the park. There can be only one four-toothed perpetrator of that crime. Poor babies. It can be tough having a twin.

But then, they also laugh together and play games, and really I’m just making excuses for all of us. I just looked up the library story time schedule, and maybe we’ll try to go this week. It would do me good to see more of Pittsburgh in any case. And while we’re at it maybe we’ll drink from some open cups.

No Good, Very Bad Day

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Today was a pretty bad day. It started with a short, interrupted night of sleep. Then this morning I ran around trying to get out of the house in the one hour window between baby nap and lunch. My plan was to go to the store and buy whole milk for the babies, then run over to Penn Extension to get a soil testing kit for the backyard.

It was hot and muggy, I ran upstairs and down getting socks, shoes, carrying babies, searching for a sippy cups and snack cups, finally grabbing cell phone and keys and running out the door. By that point there were only about 20 minutes left before baby lunch time, and I basically ran with the double stroller in the ninety degree heat to Penn Extension, on a not very nice route across Penn Avenue, only to realize when I finally arrived that I’d forgotten my wallet.

Somewhere in there, too, I also got bad news about a job I’d applied for, and the landlord emailed to postpone work on our apartment for the umpteenth time.  Also, M dropped her snack trap cup somewhere on our run/walk, which means we now only have one of a very coveted and essential item. I also finally finished House of Mirth, which is partly a good thing, but partly added to the sadness of the day because 1) I felt like a bum that I couldn’t motivate to do anything but lie on the bed and read during baby nap time, and 2) It was the most depressing book I’ve read in years and I sobbed like a teenager.

So it wasn’t the best day, and the babies spent a good part of it being impatient, resentful of each other, crying. Still, we did take a walk out to the park and sit on a blanket for a while, and when I grabbed M and hugged her she laughed and then gave me two kisses. I turned for them to land on my cheek but she planted them right on my lips. They have been working a lot on kisses–E now makes something close to a kissing sound and M can make her little mouth like a guppy. So at least the babies seem fond of me, and I sure do love them.  Hopefully tomorrow will be better. Either that or I’m moving to Australia.

Who Taught the Babies How to Hit?

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These babies are changing so quickly it’s hard to keep up. There are no first steps yet, though they can now walk independently using the walkers, and their words continue feeling vague, though they more often they refer to the correct objects. Still, there’s an unmistakable feeling that they are more and more present. No longer passive observers, M and E know what’s happening and react independently.

When you carry them downstairs they cling to you happily, pointing to pictures and objects along the way, and when you put them down they either scramble off to get a toy, or they start crying immediately to be picked back up. Also, they are suddenly so much more tuned into each other. They play games that involve offering the other a toy, then grabbing it away and laughing hysterically. Sadly, they also suddenly fight. If one has a toy the other wants, they grab it. Then the first fights back by hitting, and it continues. Tonight I kept putting peas on M’s tray, then eating off the ones that seemed too big and/or hard. Finally when she saw me reach for a pea she hit my hand. Hm… Who taught them how to hit? I guess we’re born with that one.

But their new consciousness really struck me the other day when I had a “conversation” with E about eating. M had finished her kiwi, so I gave her some cut-up grapes. E looked and pointed at the grapes on M’s tray and made a sound, “I want that” she was clearly indicating. I pointed to the kiwi on her tray, “But you still have kiwi. Finish the kiwi first.” She watched me as I said this, then she made a whining sound and pointed again at the grapes. “But I want that!” I pointed again at the kiwi and at that point, frustrated at my lack of understanding, she wiped her hands across her tray, scattering the kiwi to the floor. “Fine,” I said, “you win,” and I gave her some grapes.

 

Arty Creative Games for Kids Age 2 to 100

Here’s another arty creative game to try with kids or just to do yourself. This is in the same vein as my post on drawings from scribbles and hair.

I just came across this idea here (and in her blog she links to other really fun blogs of the same). Here’s what you do. Draw some random blob with watercolor. Let it dry. Take a pen and make it into something. Here’s what I came up with. And I’ll admit it took four pages for me to get a whole page of them I thought were okay enough to share here (I’ll spare you Elvis Donkey, Upside Down Backpack Man, Rat Dog and the other characters from first few pages 😉 ) Here’s the before and after. Hope they inspire you to a few moments of creativity! It’s pretty addictive.

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Pushing Buttons, Blowing Kisses and Pinch Me

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What a joy watching these babies discover the amazing things their hands can do. They are both pointing non-stop. If you pick them up they immediately become very serious and point at something, gazing with wide-eyed expectation. “Window” you say, or “toy,” or “books,” trying to see what they’re looking at. E is also taken with buttons and now pushes them very deliberately with one little finger. She’s fascinated by the doorbell, though hasn’t quite figured out how to ring it yet. They pick up slippery little bits of strawberry and banana, pass cubes of bread back and forth between them, and of course they can pinch, hard.

We will have to work on other hand motions like thumbs up. I’ve been trying high five, but though they are extremely entertained by watching me try to give them high five, it hasn’t quite caught on yet.

The best, though, and what is inspiring this post, is that this evening they started blowing kisses. E does it by putting her index finger in her mouth then pointing palm up while opening and closing her mouth, fish-style. M so far just puts her hand on her face. They were both doing it at dinner while sitting in high chairs. D was home and all four of us sat there blowing each other kisses.

Of course blowing kisses isn’t the only meal interruption these days. There are periodic episodes of clapping, where both babies take their cue from each other. Or both of them will suddenly start craning their necks all the way back to look at the ceiling. Sometimes M or E will bang both hands on the high chair tray and then the other follows suit and we have a little drum interlude. These babies are on fire with learning. And also very distractible.