Stop the Press, We Have a Milestone

eteagarden copy

M took her first steps yesterday. I sat on the floor and put her a few feet away from me, encouraging her to take the steps toward my lap. Maybe she was reassured by the soft landing pad of my belly, because she did. I’m not sure she knew why I was making such a huge to-do about it (after all she’s been walking with help for months), but I think she appreciated the attention.

This morning we went to story time at the library and she walked again, a few feet from the train table to the bookshelf. Then again from the stroller to a shelf. She stands carefully, getting her balance, catching herself with her hands, pushing herself up again, wobbling, catching herself, standing again until she is stable, then looking forward with determination and taking one step, two steps, a quick three four and grabbing the bookshelf. I got out my phone to try to catch it on video, I’m sure I was grinning ear to ear, and I wanted to call over the other parents, “Look! Look what she’s doing!” (but of course it isn’t so amazing when someone else’s baby walks).

Today I noticed E is getting two more teeth on the top, which will give her a grand total of six, four on top and two on the bottom. I’m going to miss her toothy, baby grin with the two teeth on top. I remember how I loved her gummy, toothless infant grin, too. I wish I could pause time for a second, just to breathe and look around a bit and appreciate these beautiful babies as they are now, 15 months old, at this moment sleeping peacefully in their cribs, dreaming about walking.


Monkeys on a Plane

planepic copy

Last week we took the twins on their first airplane flight, for a week’s trip to California. Everything was completely worth it–the babies definitely enjoyed themselves, it was great to see family and to get to go to a really beautiful wedding. But I won’t say the trip wasn’t a challenge. This post is just about the airplanes, so if you’re curious about the experience of flying with twin 14-month-olds, read on.

Our flight from Pittsburgh departed at 12:30 pm, scheduled to arrive in San Francisco around 5 pm (8 pm Pittsburgh time) after a short layover in LA. We checked our four bags and two car seats, which came to $120. That’s $25 for the first bag and $35 for the next, car seats free. We gate checked our double umbrella stroller and carried on two diaper bags and the Ergo carriers.

In the security line, as we began to unclip the babies from their stroller, an agent helpfully informed us that they didn’t have to take off their booties. We put sippy cups full of water through the scanner. On the way there they were waved through without any problem. On the way back, when we had milk plus water sippy cups, we nearly missed our flight as they held up the whole line to wave test-strips over them, put them in a special machine, wait for them to scan, then put them back through the whole scanner again.

On the flight out I had asked for milk from the beverage cart and was informed that milk was only for first class. The flight attendant later snuck me a little carton. We entertained the babies with a wide array of snacks until M started to get over-tired. She refused to sit in my lap, crying, slipping off  to crawl up the aisle. I put her in the Ergo carrier and started walking with her up and down the aisle in the hopes of lulling her to sleep. After we’d walked a cumulative five miles or so, with M kicking peoples’ shoulders as we went by she finally fell asleep.

I sat down very carefully so as not to wake her. D was standing next to me with E in the Ergo, bouncing up and down trying to get her to fall asleep. The person next to me (D and I couldn’t sit next to each other, as two babies aren’t allowed in the same row because of the number of oxygen masks), was just sipping the last of a ginger ale, underlining passages in a book. “I can’t remember the last time I underlined passages in a book,” D said.

While in San Francisco, we ended up buying a big suitcase on sale, figuring we could fit three suitcases-worth inside it and save ourselves $75. On the flight back they charged us an extra $100 for the big suitcase being overweight, so the charge came to $150, $30 more than on the way there plus the cost of buying the suitcase. The flight attendant on our final leg also informed us that Ergo carriers were against FAA regulation. Sometime that night we finally made it home.


Her Earlobes are Ticklish: A Portrait of E

Since I recently wrote the portrait of M, here’s E’s poem to match. They are changing so quickly these twins that even a week makes a difference.

A Portrait of E

Number one, that amazing, toothy grin. You can’t see it and not smile.

When we’re listening to the news and a clip of music comes on, she starts rocking back and forth, dancing to the beat.

She absolutely loves if you pick her up and dance with her. She also appreciates watching you dance alone.

If she’s playing with an interesting toy and M comes too near she says, “Nah! Nah!” and bats her away.

When she’s frustrated, she stiffens her entire body, clenching her fists at her side, and says something like “Arrrrghhh! Waaah!”

When she’s done with her milk, she offers you the sippy cup, then laughs hysterically when you grab a handle while she keeps her hold on hers.

Sometimes when she’s sitting in her highchair, she leans forward to be kissed on the forehead. Usually multiple times in a row.

She points at books and says, “Bu!” She waves and says “hi.” She’ll give you a high five.

If you’re holding her, she points at everything and anything and asks, “Da? Ada?” What’s that?

At the playground, she grips the baby swing with both hands, her little legs straight out, the breeze in her baby hair and a huge smile.

Sometimes when you try to take her out of the swing, she screams like small tyrant and refuses to bend to be buckled into the stroller.

When she meets new people or finds herself in a new situation, she becomes dead serious and stares.

If strange, curious babies in said new situation try to take her toy, she yanks it back.

When you hold her hands to help her walk, she moves slowly and focuses on balance, taking one deliberate step at a time.

She is eminently ticklish, on her neck, her belly, her armpits and the bottom of her feet. Even her earlobes are ticklish.

She loves listening to guitar.

If she gets her hands on the guitar, she touches the strings softly and makes beautiful sounds. She also bangs it percussively like a drum.

She is content sitting in the bath for as long as we let her, playing with the duckies, the fish, babbling to herself.

She can point to her nose and your nose.

She refuses to wear a hat.

When you come into the room, sometimes she squeals, crawls quickly over and raises her arms to be picked up.


Where’s Your Nose? A Portrait of M at One Year

I’ve been wanting to write individual posts about M and E and what they’re up to these days. I’m thinking of this as a sort of one-year portrait, though they are now 13 months. I started arbitrarily with M because I had a sketch of her I was going to include, but then I decided the photo was nicer. Stay tuned for poem of E.

A Portrait of M at One Year

M loves to walk around the house holding both your hands, leading the way to the shoe pile, to the window.

Strangers must earn her smile. Eventually she will make a subtle wave, raising one hand a bit.

She can climb the stairs, climb off of the rocking horse, climb onto boxes left within her reach, climb into the stroller, climb down from the couch.

When you are holding her and she sees something she wants she points to it, leaning her whole body in its direction, and says emphatically, “Dooh! Dooh!” until you take her to it.

Let free to explore a new place she crawls with purpose, lifting her arms high, pulling up on the nearest support. Then she turns to you with that mischievous, happy twinkle.

When eating, she enjoys rubbing her food-smeared hands all over her hair as if applying mousse.

Sometimes she waves with both her hands at once.

If you say, “Where’s your nose?” she puts one finger on her nose.

She will not sit still in the bath but insists on trying to stand and climb the walls, then cries when you try to put her back in place.

Her face lights up when she gets her hands on a light switch; the doorbell is exciting.

If you take a toy she’s playing with, she arches her entire body backward and turns red. If she doesn’t want to do something, like be buckled into a high chair, you will not succeed in buckling her.

She can often be distracted by belly zorbers, being tossed in the air, or hanging briefly upside down.

She smiles if you give her an eskimo kiss (rub noses).

When E takes a toy she’s playing with, many times she lets it go and does not resort to hitting. She does occasionally bite.

She likes handing you things and seeing you take them. Her milk cup, her sippy cup, a toy.

She can sit for an hour concentrating fixedly on a new task. Putting together and taking apart legos, moving blocks in and out of a box.

Her favorite book is “In My Tree” which is a board book that features a little felt owl finger puppet. When she sees this book she leans down and gives the owl a kiss. She also sometimes gives the rocking horse kisses.

She sleeps every night with a Snuffleupagus. When you lay her down in the crib and hand her the Snuffy, she hugs it to her chest thankfully and sucks on the trunk.

She hates having her diaper changed.

She likes holding the snack trap cup open and shaking the cheerios out all over the floor.

She laughs often.


First Library Story Time!

library books

Today we finally made it to baby story time at the Squirrel Hill Library. I’d tried to go to the library for story time when we lived in Brooklyn, but I was a bit late and they’d locked the door. So though this was not the twins’ first visit to the library, it was our first story hour. It definitely gives me new insights into M and E’s characters, seeing them in different settings with other babies.

The Baby and Me program was at 10:30, and we arrived about fifteen minutes early. The room was already full of parents and babies, all sitting in a circle on the carpeted floor. I set M and E down and sat cross-legged behind them. They didn’t move. They sat staring at all the activity, at the babies–a couple toddling around, most sitting or crawling. A couple other adventurous babies came over to say hi, one reaching right for E’s face. Still she sat still, watching that babies’ hand come closer. When one baby came over and tried to take her toy, though, she kept an iron grip, yanking it back. Eventually M and E turned toward me and started pulling themselves up to standing using my legs as support, still not straying from my lap.

Then story time started. We sang songs like “I’m a Little Teapot” and “The Ants Go Marching,” along with some new ones I’d never heard. There was a lot of taking the baby in your lap, lifting them up, clapping, etc., so I took turns holding M or E, with the other sitting in front of me. Once, for a song about riding a horse, I tried bouncing them both in my lap, but my legs got tired. For one song, about the beach, they handed out a silk scarf to each baby, meant to represent waves. For another song, each baby got two little egg-shaped maracas. Those were a huge hit with both M and E. M enjoyed sucking on them. E managed to pick up two with one hand, smiling as she shook them above her head. After the program, the facilitator came around to collect the eggs. When she tried to take M’s, it was a no go. “She’s got an iron grip on those!” she said. “You let me know when she’s ready.”

So I guess my babies know how to stand their ground, at least with their stuff. As the program progressed, M and E were slowly inching further from my lap. By the time it was over and other parents and babies were beginning to pack up, M and E had decided the place was okay and it was time to explore…and then they were off! Crawling to opposite sides of the room, playing with a wall of magnetic letters, picking up teddy bears, and trying to drink from all the other babies’ sippy cups (they weren’t interested in their own).

All in all it was a great excursion. They definitely like exploring new places and situations, and I’m sure we’ll be back for more.


If Unemployment Were Like Vacation


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


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


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?


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.