Breaking My iPhone Addiction: Escape To Fiction Land

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Every night after the babies have gone to sleep and I’ve written my blog post, I get in bed and check email on my iphone. It sounds wrong just writing it. I’ve had a smart phone for less than a year but already I’m disturbingly addicted.

Happily, yesterday for the first time since the twins were born ten months ago I started a novel, Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth. I’d pulled it off the bookshelf earlier in the day when I had a moment during baby nap time and read just a couple pages–enough to get hooked. So last night when I climbed in bed, it was with my book.

The babies were peacefully asleep, the house quiet, and in the pages of the book I was transported away from these walls, which surround me day after day, and to New York at the turn of the century. Grand Central Station, and Ms. Lily Bart all bright rustling silk amidst the drab summer crowd. Mr. Selden spots her and they set out in a hansom for a cup of tea.

Lily Bart is troubled, but her problems are not my problems. Her concerns are completely absorbing and engrossing, but they are her concerns. For those moments turning the pages in the quiet house, there was nothing else but Ms. Bart smoking a cigarette in Mr. Selden’s dark, comfortable library, and tea and cake being served by a beautiful lady in a lurching railway car. How delicious. How different from the Internet, which is less a portal to another world and more a black hole of insecurity about this one.

This afternoon when I got back from my walk both babies were asleep. Excitedly I parked the stroller and ran to get my book. But it wasn’t the same. I kept waiting for the babies to wake any second, looking up to check on them, which was too distracting. I couldn’t really escape.

Tonight, though, it’s back to Lily Bart. Internet and iPhone, you have nothing on good fiction.

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Bedtime Is Bliss

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It’s a good thing I write these blog posts at night, because if I wrote them during the day they’d be much more depressing. Depressing and short.

Luckily I write them at this magic time of night after baby bedtime. I try not to make the whole day a march toward this time. But truly the evenings are amazing. Right now D is making dinner. I’m sipping a beer, sitting at my computer in the quiet house, writing…life is good!

But daytime is another story. Alone between these walls: me, non-talking babies, and the Internet. It’s the stuff of insanity. It’s feeding time, walk upstairs with a baby, change diaper, carry baby downstairs, feed babies, clean one baby, clean the other baby, clean highchairs, carry upstairs, change diaper, carry downstairs, it’s nap time, swaddle first baby, into crib, swaddle second, into crib, it’s feeding time, carry downstairs, etc. etc.

Meanwhile there are glowing screens everywhere. I can’t walk past my computer without checking email. Internet nonsense balloons out of proportion. There is no one around but Internet. A post appears on my Facebook feed, someone is anti-vaccinations and I can’t help myself from commenting. Facebook has its ugly talons in my brain. My heart is pounding, blood pressure rising.The future seems bleak.

The babies skip their morning nap. I sit with them in the play pen and begin to build towers out of cups and soft cubes. They are curious but hesitant to touch the tower I’ve built; they reach toward it lightly, but I’m suddenly petulant. I knock it down myself. I build more towers and knock them down. I throw foam cubes against the playpen walls, and that’s when I start to worry about myself. Also I narrate everything I do out loud constantly (for the babies). I don’t think I can stop even when I go outside anymore. My brain is turning like a dog who can’t lie down. Time for more chocolate!

Luckily I don’t blog during the day. And luckily, these things pass. The babies and I get out of the house and take a long walk, then come home and make some actual progress on projects. I talk to family on the phone. And then it’s bedtime, reliable like the weekend. I love these babies more than words. I know this time at home with them is limited, and I am so grateful for every minute. Still, stay-at-home parenting is not for the weak.

A Few Pittsburgh Observations

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I remember having a bit of culture shock when I moved from California to New York for college. Everything around me felt new, and at the same time I suddenly saw myself through other people’s eyes. In our recent move from Brooklyn to Pittsburgh there’s been some of that, too. (For one, I must talk fast, because here I’ve found myself jumping into breaks in the conversation too soon and accidentally interrupting.) Of course being stuck in the house most days with babies, my perspective this time is a bit limited. Still, here are a few differences I’ve noticed so far:

1. Here people just ring your doorbell to say hello. The landlord, friends, neighbors, acquaintances. They drop by. In New York even your best friend wouldn’t ring your bell unannounced. You’d have to schedule with them a week in advance. If anyone was coming to your house (with plenty of notice) you’d have time to clean the place up and put on a good show. Of course, when people drop by they see the real you, in your pajamas at noon, dust bunnies all over the rug, unwashed bibs all over the table.

2. Not everyone looks totally put together all the time. Maybe this goes with the just-ring-the-bell mentality. It seems acceptable to wear whatever beat-up tshirt you happen to be wearing. That was different in New York.

2. People acknowledge and greet each other when they pass on the street, smiling or saying hello. In Brooklyn, skeezy men say hello if you’re youngish and female, everyone else respectfully avoids eye contact.

3. It’s very quiet at night. Very quiet. If I went outside I bet I could see stars. Actually, hold on a minute…Yes. I just went outside (that fast) and saw stars. Actually first I saw the moon, which is very full and bright, brighter than the streetlights. The sky is deep night blue, not the maroonish color it is in New York. There was nobody outside, just dark, and the night-lit houses.

Tonight at dinner D and I agreed that we feel a fondness for Brooklyn, though we don’t miss it.

Two Can Play This Game

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Bean lifting the blanket to play peekaboo with us was really a breakthrough. They are not just watching anymore, they’re interacting.

Last night at the babies’ dinner I lifted the spoon to feed Bean and she blocked my spoon with hers. In response I tapped her spoon with mine. On guard! Then she tapped my spoon with hers. It was a game. We kept up our spoon sword fight until all the food fell off my spoon. Not sure who won that one, but it was pretty fun.

At bed time we read a book to the babies, Bunny’s Garden. Each page has an extra little flap to lift, with a picture hidden underneath. As we turned the pages, M began searching around the page with her hand for the flap to lift. When she found it and opened it a few times we’d exclaim excitedly, and she’d put her hand in her mouth and pant with glee.

Today M was sitting in the highchair with the wiggly giggler (a rattle that makes an interesting sound when you shake it). She was sucking on it. I made a shaking motion with my hand and in response, she shook the rattle.

So fine, these are small things, but they feel big. They are the beginnings of communication. Yesterday I came into the living room to find both babies facing each other in the super yard, laughing away. They each had one hand in the air, waving at each other, and something was absolutely hilarious. It seems they’re communicating with each other, too.

The Peekaboo Master

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This weekend we discovered that the Bean has a new skill: peekaboo. Not just laughing when I do it, but actively initiating the game. On Saturday morning, after their first feeding, we were relaxing with the babies on the bed. I held Bean on my lap in a standing position. They’d both been playing with the afghan, but Bean suddenly gripped it with both hands and lifted it up so it covered her face. When she lowered it, D and I said “Peekaboo!”  She smiled and giggled, then did it again…and again, and again, and again. “Peekaboo! Peekaboo!” we kept saying each time she lowered the blanket, making the motion, getting the reaction, smiling at the sheer joy of it all. She must have gotten a workout for her arms, too, with all the lifting up and down.

Now for three mornings in a row we’ve had a game of peekaboo. This morning I handed her one of D’s shirts to peekaboo with, and in the afternoon a pair of pants. I’m not sure which of us is more thrilled. I’m also not sure which of us is the one being made to perform. Lift and blanket! Yell peekaboo! Lift the blanket Yell peekaboo! We’re a good team.

First tooth!

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The Munchkin has a tooth! Just poking through barely on the bottom. I tried to get a picture but it’s only just barely appeared and she covers it with her tongue. So I did a sketch instead.

I noticed it when I was feeding her breakfast. I put the spoon in her mouth and heard it click against something. What a happy surprise. She seemed to know something exciting was happening in there. Smiling away sliding her tongue over her bottom gum and putting her fingers in her mouth.

These babies are somewhat obsessed with teeth, I’d say, judging by the frequency and intensity with which they put their fingers in my mouth. Almost every time I hold them they get very serious, then reach a hand up to feel my bottom teeth. I usually fake bite them and then they giggle. Makes me feel like a mother lion or something. Teeth! Roar! Someday, little cubs, you too will have your own set of pearly whites like these! Ah, to be at the top of the food chain. Big-mouth lion yawn. Snap, snap.

Wonder when Bean’s will poke through. They are getting so big these babies.

How to Worry Correctly

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Babies give us plenty to worry about. They aren’t growing fast enough! They’re going to choke on this food I’m giving them! They aren’t stimulated enough! Worry, of course, is rarely productive. But what hadn’t occurred to me was that worry might actually be a weapon…to be used against one’s spouse.

Here’s what I mean. With twins it’s impossible to watch them both at all times. Sometimes one needs a diaper change, and you can’t just carry them both upstairs. Or you have to take a shower, or you’re changing one, or putting the other one down for a nap, or maybe you just have to sit at the table and breathe for a minute. To keep them safe and happy we’ve been putting them in a super yard in the living room. But now this has created another opportunity for worry. Parents of just one baby don’t seem to have super yards. I don’t want my babies to get to explore less because they’re twins. (And I wouldn’t mind having the living room back, either.)

Last night I brought the idea up to D that we might make the whole living room into a big super yard by gating it off from other rooms and baby proofing. He took one look around, walked over to the cold hard fireplace edge and banged on it. This isn’t safe, he said. I took it as an accusation. I’m not concerned enough.

Of course, MY worry of choice for the babies is choking on coins, coins which D leaves all around the house in little piles which he empties out of his pockets. Hm. Something about these worries suddenly seems a bit arbitrary…or maybe not arbitrary at all.

“Well at least together we cover all the bases,” he said. True. And then it was kind of funny.

Discombobulated

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Moving is so disorienting. I feel a bit like I’ve been thrown off the merry-go-round. There are no longer any mindless tasks; everything takes mental energy. You want to mail a letter–where’s the mailbox? You want to make a salad–where did you put the olive oil? You want to take a walk–which way? But more than that, now that you don’t know any of these things, who are you?

I used to be a Brooklynite. Or maybe I was a California transplant living in Brooklyn so long it had become home. Now I’m in Pittsburgh. This is of course not the first change in my life. We’re constantly changing…surroundings, circumstances, attitudes.

I used to live in California’s Central Valley; then I moved to New York. I used to be a conscientious student of the humanities; then I graduated. I used to be the youngest in a tight-knit family of five; then my parents separated. I used to be single and dating; then I got married. And suddenly I’m a frazzled non-working twin mom living in Pittsburgh.

My stuff is around, but it doesn’t quite feel like home yet. The more I think about it the more I realize how fragile our conception of self really is. Our brains must have to work pretty hard to maintain anything as constant.

Luckily, even though those past iterations of myself now seem utterly foreign, some things remain constant. I love and have always loved the arts. The people I love are still around me. I have probably always been a home body, which is maybe why moving is so disorienting. But I will get all this stuff we hauled in boxes into its right spot. I’ll create a new mental map, like roots.

And really, it’s good for me. People aren’t trees. We’re meant to move.

Hello Point Breeze, Pittsburgh!

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So somehow we landed in a pretty amazing neighborhood in Pittsburgh. Or maybe every neighborhood in Pittsburgh is this awesome? What do I know. Anyway here are a few pictures from my walk around trying to get oriented. Above is the entrance to Frick Park, which is just a few blocks away. Birding, here we come. And maybe we can actually motivate to go running again when the weather improves. I remain ever optimistic.

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Here’s a picture of our bodega. Okay fine it isn’t a bodega. I think it might be Italian. Anyway it’s a corner store! It’s a few blocks from us and we can get a quart of milk! Or some Italian Wedding Soup. Or some candy for 10 cents. That’s all we need, really.

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Here’s what the houses around here look like. I’m pretty much in love with the houses. Porches! And the blue sky down to the horizon is nice, too.

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Also, our neighborhood has a little downtown. There is a cafe and restaurant within walking distance, and they both look great.

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Finally, here’s the adorable snowman now gracing our front yard courtesy of my niece and nephew, who live nearby (which is pretty much the best thing).

So all in all, yay Point Breeze! Yay Pittsburgh! More soon on the house, the twins, and everything. The babies have not taken the week off, despite being squeezed amidst a sea of packing material and boxes with some very distracted parents. They’re now babbling (ba ba ba, da da da, bla bla bla). Also just today M started smacking the buttons on the exersaucer with real purpose, clearly knowing that would make them play, whap whap whap (“moo”, “meow”, “cat”, “gato”, “duck”, “woof”). They’ve also developed necks–much easier to keep clean. And in the mirror, they’re looking back and forth between me and my reflection–it’s all beginning to make sense, this mirror thing.

A lot happens in a week! I’m so happy to be back blogging! And so happy the move is behind us and now the fun part can begin.

 

Movin’ and Groovin’ Babies

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I think I mentioned that M is all roly poly now, rolling here and there and the other place getting into all sorts of trouble. As of yesterday she is also pushing herself up on all fours getting ready for a proper crawl. D went in the other day and found her that way in the crib, and all day she’s been pushing herself up, not moving from there yet, but strengthening her muscles.

The Bean doesn’t seem as interested in rolling around or crawling yet, but she can’t get enough of standing! When you try to put her down in a sitting position her knees lock so that you have to hold her up standing. And she beams. She is so darn happy with herself about standing. It’s pretty much the best thing ever. Today I stood her in front of a little bench so she could support herself. Her smile is contagious.

This afternoon both babies were fussing, so I put on some Jack Johnson and took a turn dancing around the room with each of them. Bean especially can’t get enough, though M seems to prefer bouncing games in my lap, “This is the way the ladies ride, the ladies ride, the ladies ride…”

They are discovering all the amazing things their bodies can do. They lift their hands in the air and rotate their wrists, waving like Miss America. They reach up and rub the hair on top of their heads, then grab their toes. They grab a slippery piece of banana between thumb and forefinger. And mouths! Mouths are awesome. Bean was making farty mouth sounds the entire day. Throat clearing noises, lip smacking noises–it’s amazing what lips and tongues can do! They are completely delighted with their bodies, with life.