Hello Babies…Goodbye Plants?


Jasper the Dracaena Marginata has been with us for about ten years. At over five feet, Jasper has presence. He is dignified at the same time his goofy green poofs remind me of the trees from Doctor Seuss’ The Lorax. I just found through googling that this type of plant is also called a Dragon Tree, which makes perfect sense. He is our dragon.

With his three heads, Jasper is a combination of what were previously two little identical Dracaenas. One I gave to D for Valentine’s Day shortly after we started dating, and the other my sister left with me when she moved across the country.

Jasper is now a massive being who has adapted himself perfectly to his current location in the bay window. WIth his three heads, he looks simultaneously through each of the three panes. At the same time, he guards our bed nearby, watching over it with his shaggy green mane.

Before the twins were born I had built up quite a collection of plants. They took up the large living room windowsill, and overflowed onto the tables and bookshelves. One much-beloved specimen had deep purple leaves on thin white stems; it looked like a flock of butterflies had just taken off from the pot. Every evening at dusk the butterflies shut their wings for the night.

After the twins were born I didn’t have time or energy for the plants. It was all I could do to remember to water them sometimes, let alone fertilize or repot. One by one they died. But Jasper, the oldest and largest, persevered.

I remember one winter, wheeling him in a granny cart from one apartment to another on the coldest day of the year. I put a garbage bag over him, which whipped off in a frigid vortex right in the middle of an intersection. After that all his leaves turned black and fell off. Another, weaker plant I had transported at the same time never recovered, but Jasper regenerated. After that, on the bark of each of his spindly stalks was a rough scar, like a knobby knee, allowing me to chart his amazing growth.

Another time I transported Jasper on the subway. He was giant and unwieldy. D was embarrassed to be seen with me as I whapped people in the head with him each time I turned around.

Shortly after the babies were born someone pointed out that some house plants are poisonous. Sure enough, Jasper doesn’t take being eaten lying down. Though not lethal, he won’t go down without some vomiting and pain. He is a Dragon Tree, after all.

Today I realized that even if we could find a place for Jasper away from the babies in our new house, he wouldn’t survive an eight plus hour drive in the unheated back of a moving truck mid-February.

So we will have to say goodbye to Jasper. I’ll miss you. May you find some new sunny windows and an owner who tends to you better than I can. Goodbye, old friend.

*The title of this post is inspired by a great post at Olivia FitzGerald’s blog, “Hello babies…Bye-Bye Friends?”


Babies with OPINIONS–I Guess They Can Join the Family Now


I think I’ve mentioned that the babies now have very distinct personalities. Well, along with the personalities seem to come distinct opinions. I am enjoying sucking on this rubber ducky. This is a good toy. NO I AM NOT HAPPY YOU TOOK THAT AWAY. Oh okay being carried is okay, I’m happy. NO I AM NOT HAPPY YOU ARE PUTTING ME DOWN ON THE CHANGING TABLE. And so on.

Today, after playing on the mat for a while, the babies seemed to be getting restless. I put Bean in the exersaucer. She was fine looking at the toys until I put M in the doorway bouncer nearby. “Waaaaaaaiiiii”! Lips turning down in outrage. It was so sudden I thought she had somehow hurt herself, but there was nothing wrong. I turned around, and again the scream–she was staring pointedly at M, who was now bouncing one-handed, with relish, like she was riding a bucking bronco. Bean stared, horrified, Not Fair! If she knew how to point she would have. I took her out of the exersaucer and moved her to the Rainforest Jumperoo. Bounce, bounce, bounce and immediately a huge grin. Okay, she said without saying a word. You did good.

These are not two passive little birds we’re dealing with. When mama comes with the worm, they’ve got their mouths open crying for the spoon, upset when it’s going in the others’ mouth. If you pick one up from the crib and walk out of the room, the other cries in outrage at being left behind. They know what they want. They are amazing little people.

Brooklyn, a Love Story


Since we’re leaving Brooklyn, I thought I would take the opportunity to look back on these past ten years, the Brooklyn decade. This is a love story.

After graduating college in Manhattan I found an apartment in Brooklyn Heights, my first apartment in Brooklyn. It was a share with a couple who would soon become engaged. Lovely Orange Street. My room barely fit my full size bed, but it had its own half bath.

Soon after I moved in I met D. He was living in Red Hook. We took walks to the Pier. Such a quiet, peaceful place, water lapping against the old sugar factory, that perfect, secret view of the Statue of Liberty. We cooked our first meals together. Every morning I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to work. Some days it was so foggy you couldn’t see the city at all.

My second Brooklyn apartment was with a friend in Park Slope. Again, my room just fit my full size bed. D and I split our time between this apartment and his apartment in Sunset Park. I remember the constant carrying back and forth of clothes, toothbrush, deodorant. Feeling like an imposition. The sound of birds early in the morning, the fire escape out the window. How chilly it was getting out of the shower. We fell in love.

We moved into our first apartment together, in Prospect Heights. Having our own space was amazing. Everything felt settled. And the bedroom, much bigger than the bed, felt cavernous. I began a love affair with Prospect Park, just a ten minute walk away. D and I took up birding. Then we got married. We had a wedding party in that apartment.

From Prospect Heights we moved further into Brooklyn, to our current apartment in Sunset Park. We had a small extra room. Every morning I walked through Sunset Park on the way to work, gauging the air quality from that panoramic view of Manhattan.

Then came pregnancy. On bed rest, I watched spring arrive on the street trees outside the window. My water broke in that apartment. Our little office became a nursery with two cribs, and the babies grew from preemies to chatty eight-month-olds.

It’s been a full decade. In the future, I see us showing the babies pictures of Brooklyn, telling them the name of the hospital where they were born, how we walked from our apartment to the NICU to hold them, stroke their tiny arms. But they won’t remember this place.

Brooklyn has been our city. This decade the story of our meeting, courting, somehow becoming adults. Now we’re moving to Pittsburgh as a family of four. It will be a new story.

How to Follow Every Single Piece of Parenting Advice You Hear


So this post on tumblr has been making the rounds for a while now, but I just saw it again and thought it was worth sharing here. “I Learn By Going Where I Have to Go,” is a mashup of all the extremely “helpful” baby sleep training advice showered on new parents.

It’s so easy to get all stressy about what we should and shouldn’t be doing with/for/to help our babies that we forget there’s actually no one right answer. Period. It seems like there is one, somewhere, if only you read the right article or ask the right person, but it turns out the right answer is different for everyone. You have to decide for yourself what feels right. That’s true about parenting, and it’s also true of life in general, but I digress.

Lately I’ve been stressing about how to start the babies on finger foods. They seem to want to feed themselves, to move past the tiny jars of mush, but I worry about them choking. Some people use Baby Led Weaning, some start with cheerios, some say just continue with the mush. Everyone has a different opinion.

I bought some Baby Mum-Mum Rice Rusk snack things (try saying that ten times fast) at the store.  They are supposed to dissolve easily in the baby’s mouth. Then I tried one. They didn’t seem to dissolve immediately. Then I looked online… 10-MONTH OLD DIES EATING BABY MUM-MUM and I turned off the Internet and put away the snacks.

Lately, mealtimes have become more interesting. The babies’ personalities are really emerging in full force. When I bring out the baby food, M is all over the place grabbing the spoon dumping it on the floor, leaning way forward to lick the tray, grab the bowl with her mouth, mash her fingers in the mush and smear it around. In contrast, Bean seems content to sit back and let me spoon the food into her mouth, watching M curiously, taking in her surroundings.

Maybe the ideal way to start each of them on finger foods is different. But that’s not my point. I’m trying to get past this “ideal” way of thinking. My real point is, they’re different, I’m different, our circumstances are different, and we’re just going to do what feels right. This morning I finally got out the Mum-mum box and gave them each a piece. They carefully brought it to their mouth and sucked on it a bit, nibbling tiny pieces. They did not immediately shove it down their throats and choke to death. We’re figuring it out.

How Blogging is Like Birdwatching


When I first met D, one of the first activities we took up together was birdwatching. I remember so vividly the first time we took a bird walk in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. The guide led us through parts of the park I’d been to many times before, but this time it was like we were exploring a brand new world.

We were walking slowly, stopping to watch for movement in brushes, listening intently. And as a result we were seeing things I’d never seen before. Red bellied woodpeckers with their brilliant red hoods and bold striped backs, hopping up the sides of trunks, handsome cardinals calling from every shrub, outrageously adorable titmice and nuthatches. It was the same city, but it was as if we’d stepped through the looking glass. I’d discovered a parallel universe.

Blogging, for me, has been a similar experience. For the past year I’ve been somewhat homebound. The first part of the year I was on bed rest at the end of a difficult twin pregnancy. After the twins were born, getting two infants out of my third-floor walk-up didn’t make leaving the house much easier. Needless to say there hasn’t been much birdwatching in my life lately (a gang of starlings landed on the windowsill this morning, and plenty of gulls drift overhead, which I do appreciate).

Then came blogging. I started this blog on a whim, at someone’s suggestion. I like drawing and writing. But it’s happened again. Suddenly here I am in a conversation with a writer and mother of twins in Tipperary, Ireland, and with a woman who does it all with twins, a toddler, and two dogs in Toronto. I thought about Christmas traditions with the most likable mom ever in Colorado, vicariously cleaned out my house with a photographer of pure, perfectly-titled photographs in Derbyshire.

And then there’s the man who loves painting oils of the old west, and a French woman raising a daughter in Brazil, the family living off the grid in Oregon, and even people here in New York City drawing beautiful pictures of animals, painting their claw foot tubs pink just a few miles away in their own universe/apartments. Every time someone “liked” a post it was a ticket into some new universe I never knew existed. The world keeps getting bigger. It’s a good feeling.

Something Like New Year’s Resolutions, But Better


One good thing about New Year’s is it forces you to stop and take stock. I kind of hate making New Year’s resolutions (I break them). But I like the idea of taking the opportunity to try to improve myself. Having kids is good for this, too. What type of example do I want to set?

This blog is inspired by this piece I just read. Those are worthy goals (I’m adopting 1, 3, and 4), and adding these five of my own for the new year (and beyond):

1. Be More Generous

Specifically with money, with information, with time. I want to live in the type of world where people do each other favors, pass things around, share wealth and knowledge. I want to always have a couple dollars handy in an outside pocket, ready to give to a homeless person (as opposed to not and feeling bad every time I pass someone by). I want to be useful.

2. Be Less Impatient

Let the babies grab the spoons and try to feed themselves, even if it takes a long time and more food gets on their bibs than in their mouths. If D is feeding the babies, there’s no rush. If a baby yawns, it doesn’t mean I have to run someone down to get her to a crib for a nap. I could stand to be less rigid.

3. Do More

Stop thinking about the things I want to do and do them.

4. Take Myself Seriously

This is in reference to art and writing. I remember a former coworker who had gone back to school to get an MFA. He said that part of his motivation was that he realized no one cared if he wrote a novel or not. I get that. No one is going to do it for you.

5. Work on My Memory

It disturbs me that not only can I not remember the authors of books I’ve read, I can’t remember the titles, either. And the names of places I’ve been to. And people’s names who I’ve met. I don’t want my life to be like One Art, with all the details slipping away and big things following. I should just keep a blog of everything. But seriously.

Now that I’ve started this list, I really could go on. Anyone feel like sharing their goals for the new year in the comments?

Story Time is Awesome


As part of our going-to-bed routine, we read the babies a story each night. I don’t know what it is about books, but from the babies’ reaction you’d think we’d presented them with a big ice cream sundae with whip cream, or a trip to Disney Land. Books are as exciting as the family photos on our mantel, and even more exciting than Talking Cookie Monster, who has now taken up residence in our dining room.

When the book appears, M gets so excited she’s panting. Bean arches her back and squeals with delight. You can’t turn the pages because they are holding them shut, scratching their fingers on the paper, craning forward trying to get their mouths around the pages. I’m not sure if this is really a “relaxing” bed time routine. I’m also not sure if I’m egging them on, as I now expect this reaction every time a book appears. Anyway it’s pretty fun. They don’t seem to notice that we only have about ten books we rotate through. Here are our favorites so far:

Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? by Dr. Seuss

Mr. Brown makes amazing sounds. My personal favorite is the sound of the rain, “DIBBLE DIBBLE DOPP, DIBBLE DIBBLE DOP DOP DOP DOP.” Try saying that out loud without smiling.

There’s a Wocket in My Pocket, by Dr. Seuss

I like the slightly deranged look on the little boy’s face as he introduces, “That ZELF up on that SHELF! I have talked to her myself,” and all the other goofy rhyming creatures that populate his house.

Brown Bear Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Eric Carle

This was the first book we got. There’s a reason it’s a classic.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle

I love the drawing of the sick little caterpillar after he eats through the two pages of  foods.

Hippos Go Berserk, by Sandra Boynton


The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown

I had this one when I was little. I love the powerful mother. Also the illustration of the mother as a tree the baby bunny-bird comes home to.

Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, by Simms Taback

This one has a nice moral about not letting things go to waste. And a lot to look at in the illustrations.

I Am a Bunny, by Richard Scarry

Very zen. I like that the illustrations are of real plants and animals you can identify, too.

Jeremy Draws a Monster, by Peter McCarty

This one has beautiful illustrations, and a very funny, demanding monster. I think there’s a moral in there, too. The moral might be, don’t be a hermit, get out and be social. Or just, get some fresh air. Or maybe it’s about the monster that is work, or the power of art. Lots to think about here.

And finally My Peek A Book, from Jelly Kitten, which doesn’t seem to be in “print” anymore. I say “print” because it’s a cloth book, really more toy than book, with all sorts of interactive flaps and crunchy materials and dancing animals, and anyway that one really IS too exciting for bed time.

What are your favorite baby books? We could use some new ones in the rotation.

Yes, It’s a DIY Thing


I love mobiles. When I was pregnant with the twins and on bed rest I started one for the nursery. It was going to have cloud and bird shapes cut out of a piece of black foam core I had. I managed one cloud. Cutting things out with an exacto knife while lying down in bed was…a challenge.

We ended up getting one mobile as a gift, which was fine at first when the babies were sharing a crib, but at the point we separated them into two cribs (months ago), it became blatantly wrong. So a couple days ago when D said, “I’m going to buy a mobile for Ellie’s crib,” that was motivation enough.

I rummaged around the cupboards looking for something that might look attractive hanging from the ceiling. There wasn’t much. I must have finally trashed that piece of foam core. But I have some wrapping paper supplies, and there was tissue paper. I knew it had to be possible to make something interesting out of tissue paper. I found instructions on making these pom pom things here. Of course my method involved a lot of wrinkled, mismatched scraps of paper, two extra holes in the wall, jerry-rigged twist ties from the grocery store, two nails I bent out of shape hammering them into the wall, and a bunch of destroyed wire hangers. But anyway, it worked out! The babies seem to like looking at it, too. Not a bad way to start the New Year.


Yogurt Fail, and Some Wins


So I guess we’re committed to this solid food thing now; there’s no going back! Tonight the babies had six ounces each, splitting a jar of sweet potato, corn, and apple puree, one of spinach and potato, and half a mashed banana. We’ve been bringing the highchairs to the table while we eat breakfast. Yesterday we had oatmeal and they had oatmeal and some mashed banana. It’s pretty fun.

Today we discovered that Bean hates yogurt. She cried the moment it hit her lips and kept it up each time we tried to offer the spoon. Even the smell of it seemed offensive to her. Mattie liked it okay. We’ll try it again some other time. It is, after all, a completely new food group. Here are the foods they’ve tried so far:





sweet potatoes








butternut squash







Not a bad list. So far everything has been mashed, though they seem to be tolerating textures better. Also, they clearly want to feed themselves. They grab the spoons and practice putting them in their mouths, they grab at the bowls and jars; their little hands are itching for action. I think finger foods are in our near future.