- On Saturday, Isaac got norovirus.
- We did not know, at the time, that it was norovirus.
- We thought he just had a cold and had too much mucus in his system and it was just coming out all ends.
- So we took him to the ER because he couldn’t keep fluids down.
- He could have been there for two hours so that the Zofran would work and he’d be able to drink again.
- By hour five, Kyle called me to ask me to bring Isaac’s usual bottle so that he would drink the fluids.
- So my mom came to put Sam and Carrie to bed while I drove all the way to the hospital.
- Only for Kyle to call as I was about to turn into the parking lot and say that just kidding, Isaac just drank the whole bottle.
- Kyle and I were supposed to go on a date Sunday afternoon, but since Isaac had norovirus, that was out.
- Instead, my dad came over and ate cake, and that was fine.
- Monday was a holiday, and that was fine.
- On Tuesday, Kyle worked from home.
- Which he does every Tuesday.
- So when he finished work, he decided to take Sam to our local CVS to get a flu shot.
- Despite having lost three hours of work to a random power outage halfway through the day.
- (it was also pouring rain)
- They were also going to buy groceries.
- While they were gone, Isaac vomited profusely.
- It was impossible to clean.
- And Sam couldn’t even get his flu shot because the power outage had caused the clinic’s supply to go bad.
- On Wednesday, things mostly seemed normal, except I wasn’t hungry.
- But mostly things were okay.
- My mother visited for an hour in the afternoon, and I had dinner with the kids.
- After dinner, the kids started climbing on my lap.
- I started feeling seasick.
- Uh oh.
- After Kyle got home, I barely made it upstairs before I, too, fell victim to the norovirus.
- Cue six straight hours of running to the toilet every twenty minutes and not being sure which end was exploding.
- And after that, cue the next eighteen straight hours of brutal muscle aches and a low grade fever.
- Norovirus is a bitch.
- Cue six straight hours of running to the toilet every twenty minutes and not being sure which end was exploding.
- BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!
- Kyle and I share a toilet.
- Sharing a toilet is a good way to pass norovirus from person to person.
- About twelve hours after I first got sick, guess who also got sick?
- (it was neither Sam nor Carrie)
- So now we have two adults sick as can be, zero backup because we’re not inviting people into our plague shack, and three hyperactive children.
- Child Sam is on break from school and will not stop running and scream singing “DIGGY DIGGY HOLE” all the time.
- Child Isaac is HUNGRY but he’s also not 100% feeling better so he’s ANGRY because he doesn’t want any of his usual favorite foods and he’s very tired of Pedialyte.
- Child Carrie is playing with Child Sam all the time at 9000 MPH and scream singing either “INTO THE UNKNOWN” or “BABY SHARK” while running around the living room.
- My head.
- Everyone finally seems somewhat recovered today, Saturday.
- (this after completely losing both Thursday–when Isaac was supposed to have his ABA assessment–and Friday to illness)
- Kyle and I feel well enough to start cleaning up after our illness.
- We start a load of laundry.
- When Kyle goes to switch the laundry, he discovers that the water did not drain.
- He tries to fix the washing machine.
- He finds $5 in change!
- He does not fix the washing machine.
- We cancel tonight’s D&D session so one of us can go to the laundromat.
- At bedtime, we’re changing Isaac.
- He has hives.
- We have not started new foods.
- We have not used new detergents.
- He is not on new medicine.
- So we call the nurse line.
- Nurse line says that this can happen at the end of a virus and we should give him Benadryl.
- We don’t have Benadryl.
- Everything gets pushed back an hour or so while we hunt down Benadryl and give it to him.
- He has hives.
- Kyle just now got home with the laundry.
- It is 10:30 p.m. on a Saturday.
- I need a vacation.
It’s coming, sooner than I want it to, mostly because I feel wholly unprepared.
It, of course, is my life as a stay-at-home mom of two two-year-olds. March 14, the twins turn two, and even though it won’t technically be all that much different from the day before, things are already starting to take a turn for the chaotic.
The biggest preview of things to come happened about two weeks ago. As part of Isaac’s therapy, we’re taking him (or trying to take him) to a parent-and-child group through our local Early Intervention center. I’d tried it before, when the twins were really young, but it hadn’t worked out because being a singular mom hauling around two babies with the exact same needs is… well, it’s rough.
The twins were, I believe, barely past 5-6 months old at the time, not quite sitting up independently yet, and certainly not in a place yet where I could really settle them down and let them frolic. I mostly just sat on the floor, cross-legged, with the two of them lying in front of me, immobile and baffled by the suddenly crazy world around them. The other parents were chatting back and forth about how their kids were doing–this one had a GI appointment later this week, that one was finally taking a bottle without any struggle–but I could barely pay attention for more than a few seconds because the twins just. Didn’t want to be left alone on the floor.
I couldn’t do it alone, I realized. Whether it was because of my own sensory issues making classroom settings stressful for me (too. much. talking.) or because having two infants and one parent makes doing things impossible, I couldn’t do it alone. And anyway, we didn’t really need group back then. It was mostly a playgroup for parents to come and talk about their struggles and get support, and while I’ll be the last one to suggest I don’t need support, I prefer the one-on-one kind or else support in chat windows. Face-to-face support is… stressful.
But then Isaac got his diagnosis, and one of the recommendations from his doctors was some sort of playgroup. Right now, he’s just old enough for the parent-and-child group, like before, and because Carrie is also in Early Intervention (at least until she stops being a little turd during evaluations and shows people what she can really do), she gets to come along, too. It’s a two hour session, once a week, and because Kyle works, I’ve asked my mom to join me on group days (which is great because half of the other adults there are grandmas as well) because otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to do it. And she’s graciously agreed to join me, and it’s all fun, we expected.
Except. The first day of group, she got a stomach bug, and she got it right as I pulled up to the center.
So I tried it alone again.
What you first must understand about having twin two-year-olds is that unless a place is easily accessible by stroller, you’re going to have a helluva time getting in. I was recovering from bronchitis at the time (more on that in a second), and I had to haul these two children, neither of whom wanted to be carried, down a couple of flights of stairs to the classroom. I don’t blame the EI center for this, since they technically do have access around the back of the building, and they have an elevator as well (“elevator” in this instance meaning “manager’s lift from back when it was an industrial building”). I mostly blame my thought process of “well, we’ll just go in the front door because that’s less of a hike than walking around back.”
So twin two-year-olds down two flights of stairs, both of them wanting to get down but also not wanting to let go of me, and there’s no space on the stairs for any of us whatsoever. We finally got down to the classroom in time for the end of free play, and the twins had their first encounter with washing their hands in a weird place. By this age, Sam had been in daycare for about a year, so he was an old pro at washing his hands in strange places, but the twins have mostly just seen the inside of our downstairs bathroom and me coming after them with wipes. Carrie wanted nothing to do with the process and screamed and cried and refused to get her hands wet. Isaac, on the other hand, kept climbing up the step stool to play with the faucet again and again and again.
Now here, one might ask, “well, why didn’t you pull him away?” or “why didn’t the teacher pull him away?” and I might say, “because my hands were full with Carrie, who was melting down utterly; and because the teacher had half a dozen other children plus the classroom schedule to take care of, as this is a group that has a more one-on-one dynamic.”
Yes, Carrie was melting down, though Isaac recovered quickly from being prevented from making his dreams of flooding the room come true. He spotted a peg board like one we have at home and set to work making the tallest possible tower of pegs. Carrie, once she’d adopted a pouting acceptance of her fate, dutifully marched around the room to see what toys she could see, often coming over to sit on my lap and cry against my shoulder some more at the misery of it all.
They both finally shuffled over to the play kitchen, which pleased me–they love watching me cook, they love watching cooking videos, and now they were getting a chance to try it out for themselves. Isaac hummed and babbled to himself as he tossed plastic ingredients into a pot (carrot, fried egg, doughnut?), and Carrie became… oddly enamored of a plastic spatula and a plastic watermelon slice. For a few minutes, they were very happy.
I, too, was happy–happy enough to play with the Little People someone had scattered on the floor by my feet. I set up a summoning circle, and the Little People called forth the Little People Pope in his Little People Popemobile, and it was great.
And then, it was time to stop free play.
The other kids were, I think, seasoned pros about this, or at least more of seasoned pros than either Isaac or Carrie, whose days at home have all the structure absurdist literature, which is to say little to none. Their switches between activities at home are fluid, and I don’t make them put away their toys before settling them in their high chairs or bringing them up to bed because I am tired and I don’t want screaming. At group, however, once free play is over, the free play toys need to be put away. Isaac was fine with this (hilariously, my autistic kid had the least issue with change) because he loves cleaning up, and seeing that these New Toys also had a Place basically made his life.
Dear, sweet Carrie. Carrie, who has developed an almost obsession with me lately, where even if I just step outside the room to go to the toilet, it sends her into a meltdown. Carrie did not want to give up her spatula and watermelon.
I’m pretty sure I did it wrong. I asked nicely for the toys and, when she wouldn’t give them up, pried them from her vice like grip, which resulted in another tantrum. And I say tantrum, rather than meltdown, because there is a difference between the two. She wasn’t overtired or overstimulated, she just wanted to hold onto those two toys in particular and having to give them up made her Very Angry. It didn’t matter that it was circle time, and circle time meant songs. It only mattered that fuck you people, I want my spatula and my watermelon.
And all the while, Isaac was running around the rest of the room. He discovered the trash can, which the teacher promised would be put away the next time we came (but for that time, it was not put away, and Isaac liked how the lid flipped around).
I tried, I tried so hard to wrangle them both to the circle, but I could only hold onto one at a time. When they’re calm, I can do both. They rest their heads on my shoulders and conform to my body, and we’re happy. But Carrie was angry, and Isaac was excited, and their existence was chaos given form. Letting go of one to catch the other made it worse. Other children in the circle were less than happy to be there, but those other children had a parent apiece to keep them from running amok. Isaac and Carrie just had me.
(sidenote here: I’m not mad at my mom for not being there; she got sick, and that happens. I’m just recounting how crazy it was and how it’s helped me realize that oh man, am I in over my head)
Circle time was all about songs, with the kids who’d been there before maturely choosing a song they liked and adorably doing the hand motions. My kids, who had not been there before, either ran around the room like a crazy person (Isaac) or screamed and cried like I was tearing out their toenails one at a time (Carrie). Carrie did pay enough attention, however, to fall in love with the “fishy” song and how it ended with “bubbles… bubbles… bubbles… SPLASH!” I think it may have been the only thing she truly enjoyed about the experience.
After circle time, it was time for snacks, which prompted another ruckus from Carrie because hand washing. Isaac washed his hands once, went to the back of the line and washed his hands again, went to the back of the line and washed his hands again… while Carrie had to be forced to touch the water (she’s not like that at home at all… she’s kind of my little fish) and continued to sob hysterically when she couldn’t grab a bowl of peaches all by herself.
It felt like I was upending this poor teacher’s entire day by having these two unruly kids. Everyone has a first day in group, I know, and all kids have bad days, but they were out of my control entirely. If I had one calmed down or under control, the other was off in the corner summoning Baphomet from the ninth circle of hell or something.
But at least the snack was okay. The other parents sat nicely with their kids who’d been there before, all of them using utensils in some approximation of correctness. My twins have little experience with utensils, since finger foods are just easier when you’ve got two, but Carrie gave it the old college try and ate her peaches in about three seconds flat. Isaac had no interest in peaches and instead dumped the bowl over with glee. They both selected pretzels and goldfish as part of their snack, and they would have done well, except they were next given open cups of water to practice with.
Like. Okay. I know that I need to get them started on that. I know it’s something I should’ve been doing for a while. They’re almost two. Bottles should be ancient history.
But I remain tired and maybe I don’t want to deal with wet milky clothes every day all the time.
Carrie gave it a try again, and she got thoroughly soaked, though she got some water in her mouth. Isaac grabbed the cup by the lip, and while I know I should have repositioned his hand and let him try again, all I could think of was how I was about to have two drowned rat children and it was 19 degrees outside.
So I took the cup away.
Undeterred, Isaac took Carrie’s cup and sat there merrily squishing every goldfish and pretzel he could find into it until the teacher finally came and took snacktime away, replacing it with craft time: black construction paper and chalk.
Isaac ate the chalk, but it’s nontoxic, so whatever.
Carrie actually did a very good job, scribbling and stabbing and giggling all the while, which is probably why her next despair-a-thon started when it was time to give the chalk back in exchange for bubbles.
I like bubbles time. Everyone likes bubbles time. All of the children calmed down and started laughing and chasing the bubbles. Blowing bubbles is a soothing breathing technique, and I felt some of my stress dissipate. Carrie even managed to blow a bubble of her own and squealed with pure joy when I caught it on the wand for her.
And then it was time to move on. Free play, circle time, snack, craft, bubbles, and now gross motor play in the gym area two rooms down. The twins aren’t very good at being escorted places while holding hands because… well, a lot of reasons. With Sam, we had one child, so we took him out everywhere by himself, and we could hold his hands, and he got good at it. I took him out alone a lot. When Kat lived with us, she came with me. Taking Sam out was easy at most ages, and it still is; he’s a delight to have at any store, behaving himself quite well in exchange for a trip down the Lego aisle.
But the twins… I’ve been afraid. For good reason. I have two hands, exactly two, and any outing with two children requires more than two hands. You need at least one hand, probably two, for each child. You need hands for the stroller and hands for the diaper bag and hands for the inevitable “NO DON’T TOUCH THAT… oh, sorry, I’ll pay for it, sorry!” Being that I only have two hands, I don’t take the twins out by myself very much yet. I need to, I need to start doing it because how else will they learn? But…
But. That’s basically the moral of this whole story. Everything is twice as hard with twins, which is why I haven’t been doing any of it, which is why they came to the parent-child group as a hot mess.
Somehow, I wrangled them down the hall and let them free. It was… something. Isaac is bad at following commands and ignored everyone who told him that slides are for sliding, not climbing, but later found a rocking horse and pure joy. Carrie just… up and slapped everyone she met. Hauled off and just, SMACK! Right in the face. I thought I saw it once or twice, turning around from helping Isaac to stop climbing up the slide, buddy, what did I say? but I only really caught it once, as I was bringing Isaac back from something else. I turned around, Carrie was facing this other little boy, and she just smacked him right across the mouth, twice, before heading off to do her own thing.
“Carrie!” I admonished her, hurrying to find some way to scold her without dropping Isaac. The little boy seemed mostly unfazed, though he did lean against his mother sadly, and I was so embarrassed that I couldn’t bring myself to fess up and apologize.
And then the twins got stamps on their hands and the group was over. I wrangled them back up the stairs, and right when I thought we were going to be okay, Carrie broke away from me, running past the receptionist’s desk and into a meeting room filled with heavy and dangerous office supplies. I had Isaac on one hip, the diaper bag on the other, my purse slung around my neck, and zero energy. “Carrie!” I cried again, and the receptionist looked concerned while doing nothing.
I put Isaac down. He dissolved into sobs because I was clearly leaving him to be eaten by wolves. I put the diaper bag down. I put my purse down. I marched into the office after my little escape artist, who giggled merrily until I picked her up and then began screaming. I scooped up the diaper bag. I scooped up the purse. I scooped up the sobbing Isaac. I got us all out to the van, somehow, and got everyone buckled in, somehow, and I sat in my front seat and sobbed.
It was just so much.
Group is a challenge for me from the start, because group means interacting with strangers, which is not something I do well. It means an unfamiliar environment. It means too much noise. It means new situations and strange schedules, and it means that I’m already parenting on hard mode just by being there.
But add twins.
Two little adorable kids, one of whom can’t talk at all yet, the other of whom is an impish diva gremlin child. They’re freaked out because it’s a weird place. They’re freaked out because it’s a weird schedule. They’re freaked out because there’s so much noise and so many people and everything happens so much.
And congratulations to me, I think I just did parenting on hard mode tournament level.
I congratulate myself mostly because they came out in one piece, nobody got seriously hurt, and against every sense of self-preservation I have, we’re going back on Thursday (after missing last week because Isaac had a merciful 100 degree temperature, the exact cut off for “you can’t come to group today”). But man oh man do I feel like I’m shitting the bed on this parenting thing. I need to push them and teach them new things, but group made me realize just how behind I’ve been and just how ill-equipped we are for that sort of thing. Worse, it made me feel utterly incapable of doing… well, anything that involves them. How am I supposed to manage twin two-year-olds on a day-to-day basis if I can’t even keep them from wreaking total havoc in a group environment?
I remind myself that my mom will be there this time (hopefully), and that once Isaac’s ABA therapy starts, his therapist will be there. That it’s neither a race nor a competition. That they’re happy, healthy, and perfectly fine children, technically around where they’re supposed to be.
But I also can’t help but look at it as a test where I didn’t exactly fail, but I won’t be getting a lot of praise, either.
It also caused my bronchitis to relapse, and now I’ve got a nebulizer, so that’s fun.
I don’t know. I shouldn’t be in my feelings about this, I shouldn’t still be kicking myself about the whole situation, but I am. I feel like I’m failing them on some level that they’re nearly two and don’t have these basic things going on–the ability to transition from one activity to another without falling apart, the ability to drink out of a cup without a lid, the ability to not slap the living daylights out of other children who happen to exist. They’ve not had a lot of opportunities to practice those things, and I know that’s largely my fault, and it’s something I need to work on going forward, but I feel shitty that I haven’t… I don’t know, I guess been doing more to this point.
I don’t know. I don’t know. Two year old twins are a lot.
There’s a weird thing that happens to me after Christmas, as I look at January on my calendars and realize that I have no plans whatsoever. I don’t need to figure out baking specifics and schedule supply runs for specific pay days. I don’t need to make sure the kids have specific outfits at specific times. I don’t need to do much at all in January, and even this year, when I’m looking at a whole bunch of specialist appointments for me and for Isaac (geneticist for Isaac, geneticist and endocrinologist for me), the first couple of months are so calm and nice.
I mean. That won’t last. And it’s mostly just January because the twins turn two in March and then there’s vacations and Easter and Sam’s birthday and basically from March until July 4, I’m going to be screaming like a velociraptor…
…BUT FOR NOW, everything is copacetic!
Christmas was honestly pretty nice and lowkey, despite everything I ended up putting into it (lots of baking, lots of stuff for the kids, lots of everything), and that tends to be the case year after year, and I won’t complain about it. I was utterly spoiled this year, with SO MANY KITCHEN THINGS, ranging from a food processor (I can make pie crust now!) to a gloriously sweary oven mitt…
…and then, of course, Kyle added a winter coat and a lovely necklace to the mix, so all-in-all, I feel quite loved and appreciated.
Kyle does as well, but that’s more in spite of me than because of me because GOSH but I hecked up his Christmas.
The initial plan was to get him a nice, new camcorder because he’s always been about video production and editing. He has a degree in it, even! And although we had a camcorder, it was old and didn’t seem to work well, so we never used it and mostly just depended on our phones to commemorate special occasions in 60-second snippets. And that’s fine, but I kept thinking about how nice it was when I was a kid to have longer videos of our family life and how much fun Kyle has when he’s editing videos.
So I ordered the best reviewed camcorder on Amazon, at least in our price range, and did so after talking to him about it, as I have a personal policy on not buying big gadgets for people until after I’ve cleared it with them. Kyle was excited about it, the camera came with all sorts of accessories, and once it arrived, he set to work putting it together and trying it out…
…and found out that it does not, apparently, work with his computer or mine.
We’re not really sure why. It didn’t manage to record ANY video, despite us taking plenty, and connecting it to both of our computers just got a lot of “?????” from all devices. On the plus side, we discovered that our old camera works really well and has a TON of pictures from Sammy’s first birthday stored on it, so we do have a camera in the end. On the minus side, I still have to go and return the damned thing because what the hell even.
And ALSO on the minus side, because I figured the camera would be such a hit (and it would have been if it hadn’t sucked), I kind of got lazy about Kyle’s other Christmas presents. I got him a couch slipcover, with the mindset of “now we can put off getting a new couch for longer without stressing about our couch being disgusting!” because finances or something? I don’t know. I genuinely don’t know what I was thinking, and anyway, it doesn’t matter because the damned thing doesn’t even fit on our couch. It’s big enough, oh yes, but it’s designed for a specific shape of couch and that shape is not our shape.
So I’m 0 for 2, but I didn’t fail entirely. I also got Kyle a beard kit that includes a sheet to keep beard hair from falling in the sink and some beard shaper tools and combs and such, and he liked that a lot. And he liked the things I got him from the twins.
Just. You know. Not from me. Womp womp.
The kids also had great Christmasses, and their gifts have been overall hits. Sam benefited from Minecraft only being $6.99 to put on his Kindle, so even though we’d stuck to our self-imposed limits of four presents from Santa and four from the family (from each of us: Kyle, me, Isaac, and Carrie), we added that to the list, and it’s basically made his life. And it’s been great because even though he’s in love with the game, he’s still been really good about sticking to his screen time limits without getting angry or complaining, so I’m pleased as punch there.
Isaac has been the hardest to shop for because his interests are a bit more complex than “Sam likes MInecraft” or “Carrie likes Elsa.” He likes figuring out the mechanics of various objects–how they work, how to turn them on or off, how to make them do what he wants–and he likes climbing on things. Eventually, once we’ve got off our asses and cleaned up the backyard some, he’ll have plenty of places to climb around, so we mostly focused on puzzles and mechanical toys, which have all been hits to varying degrees. He mostly just seems happy that he’s got a week with both me and Kyle home to play with him, because he’s too sweet for words.
And Carrie, sweet Carrie, has discovered (though not to her disadvantage!) that having narrow and specific interests makes Christmas very easy for people. She received a grand total of three different plush Elsas, all of which she adores (though only one of which is she allowed to bring to bed every night) along with a periwinkle blue “Elsa” cloak that she asks for by adorably saying, “coke! coke!” at us. She is also confused by Kyle having this week off, but is mostly happy about it… though also sometimes prone to tantrums about it if she realizes that, despite there being two parents home, neither is currently paying her All Of The Attention.
So overall: good times. I’m excited right now about having the Christmas-to-New-Year’s Fugue Week to eat all the candy we got for the holiday, return the camcorder and slipcover, and basically just exist without any conscious understanding of the passage of time; and then I’m excited about having January be a much slower month than the last ~3-4 have been in terms of Stuff To Do, because this year is going to be absolutely wild once it picks up steam.
But in the meantime, it’s time to breathe.
I love the holidays, though my definition of “the holidays” differs from most people’s in that I firmly believe “the holidays” begin with Halloween and end with New Year’s because those are the temporal boundaries of my other busy season (the primary busy season lasting from March through July). During what I’ll call a twelve week span (because let’s be real–October first is the very latest we all start celebrating Halloween), I’m constantly baking and getting the kids ready for things and wrapping presents and baking and traveling and baking and did I mention baking?
(for the record: I love all the baking I do, but it’s a lot between October 1 and January 1)
As of this writing, my holiday season has been in full swing for about a month, with the first holiday happening last week. Halloween was unseasonably warm this year, and that turned it into an adventure for everyone. I baked the cupcakes I’d signed up to bake for Sam’s class party…
…and they were apparently a big hit! And honestly, they were great fun to do, at least partly because Kyle helped with the decorating. We spent two evenings together in the kitchen baking and mixing and mixing and decorating, and per his report, the whole experience was highly satisfying (his favorite part was rolling the cupcakes in sprinkles after they’d been frosted, and I can’t blame him).
Our Halloween plans had otherwise been to attend the school’s trunk or treat (since our neighborhood is garbage for trick-or-treating–no sidewalks and halfway up a really steep hill that people like to drive down at about 300 MPH) and show off the kids’ costumes. For Isaac, we ended up getting an embarrassingly cheap dragon costume (and I say “embarrassingly” because it was horrible quality and way larger than the site suggested it would be, leading to a very difficult time when he eventually did wear it), and Carrie got a very floofy version of Rapunzel’s dress along with a gorgeous braid headband. Sam was, of course, Darth Vader.
But anyway, we wanted to go to the trunk or treat, but that first got rescheduled because of mosquitoes (Massachusetts was having a pretty bad EEE outbreak this year, but we had a hard frost a couple of days ago so TAKE THAT YOU BLOOD SUCKING MONSTROSITIES) and then it got cancelled because of rain. This left us without any sort of trick-or-treating for the kids (because our hill is dangerous in good weather, never mind when it’s pouring out) until my mom gamely agreed to come with me and take the kids to a local mall for trick-or-treating there.
This was something of a mistake.
Our local malls vary from “pretty nice, actually” to “why is this still open?” and this mall tends towards the latter category. Thirty years ago, it was a really nice place with fancy restaurants and a really posh feel to it, a classier version of the typical 80s mall. As is the case with most malls, however, time and changing trends in retail chipped away at its poshness and left it somewhat of a shell. It’s still got a singular anchor store (there’s a Sears, which gives me questions, and the other anchor spot is now taken by a doctor’s office) and the skeleton of a food court, along with a handful of mall fixtures (American Eagle, Victoria’s Secret, Journeys, etc.), but it’s definitely a shadow of its former self.
A disheartening number of storefronts were vacant when we got there on Halloween, and the fronts that were open ran out of candy pretty quickly–I don’t think anyone at the mall anticipated the entire county coming to trick-or-treat there rather than face the rain. Sam had a grand time because he’s five and got lots of candy (a full set of Dum Dums! I’ve never seen one of those before!), but the twins were wailing by about 10 minutes in, and my mom and I were both exhausted at the end of the adventure.
So. Here’s hoping that next Halloween has pleasant temperatures and no rain.
(but at least the kids looked cute! For all 5 minutes they all stayed in their costumes)
And now it’s today, which is my birthday.
Did I do anything to celebrate? Well, I wanted to, but the kids shared a wonderful cold with me, so I spent most of last night with a throat too sore to allow talking and most of today wishing I could be horizontal. Kyle, being the star that he is, stepped in and made the batch of brownies I’d planned to make for myself and, since he was working from home today anyway, let me get a nap in while the twins were napping, which will hopefully help me recover from this cold quicker and without any trips to urgent care because of breathing (because the last thing I either need or want is to get pneumonia again).
So things have been lowkey, but I need that. We’ve been juggling a lot of adventures lately with the twins especially, namely that Isaac has been fast tracked on the path towards an autism diagnosis and Carrie still qualifies for early intervention services.
Carrie first: she had her annual evaluation today to see if her development has caught up to where it should be, and the hilarious thing is that she’s basically where she ought to be when she’s not being observed. When she is being observed, as we discovered today, she’s pretty behind in a couple of areas, namely fine motor and receptive communication.
But she’s not actually behind.
Most of the areas where she scored “behind” were items on the test that she knows how to do and does often, but today, when asked to do them in front of the EI evaluation team, she gave an impish little smirk…
…and ran off giggling to hide behind the couch. Cue my little genius communicator getting much lower scores in fine motor skills and receptive communication than I know she’s capable of. On some level, this should bother me, but I’d rather she get services and not need them than need them and not get them. Worse comes to worse, they reevaluate in six months and she doesn’t get services anymore after that, or else she just gets a little supplemental help and EI helps with her preschool placement in 2021 (wow, that’s an actual year, that’s bizarre).
And then there’s Isaac.
A couple of months ago, I mentioned my concerns about him relating to autism… well, less concerns, more “I’m autistic myself, my entire family is autistic, I know what it looks like, and he looks like he’s going in that direction.” Our wonderful services coordinator got the ball rolling for diagnosis, but because he was only 17 months old at the time, we couldn’t do a lot because most diagnostics won’t say much until a kid is at least 18 months old (which I hate because if you’re living in a bright, loud world and can’t filter out sounds and sights, important to unimportant, and get so exhausted because of it and have a hard time having conversations or learning language because you’re so overwhelmed… like, wouldn’t you want to name that and learn coping skills ASAP?).
But we started anyway. We took the ASQ and the M-CHAT, both of which mostly look at autistic traits–that is, traits that are common in people with autism. Things like lack of eye contact, stimming, repetitive behavior, the typical “that child has autism” traits, you know. Those both kind of bugged me because they felt like they were reducing autism to a checklist of traits, which I haaaaaaaate.
BUT then came the RITA-T, which we did last week. The RITA-T actually looks more closely at behavior that makes sense when you understand how autistic brains function (i.e., it’s hard to split your focus because so much sensory input is competing for your attention, and you can’t automatically filter it like a neurotypical person would). The test focuses on something called “joint attention,” trying to split your attention between a toy you’re playing with alongside another person and the person sharing the toy with you. It also focuses on how you’re interpreting sensory input (e.g., how Isaac reacted to me pretending to cry, how he reacted when I called his name with a blank expression, etc.).
And, well. Isaac scored high enough to qualify for fast tracking towards diagnosis at our local hospital.
Fast tracking essentially means that instead of us having to play telephone games trying to get in touch with someone, the EI specialists send in the paperwork for us. Fast tracking means that instead of facing a 6-18 month wait for an appointment, we’re looking at a 6 week wait. And that’s a huge difference. Six months would put us at Isaac being two years old, skipping over a lot of development. And eighteen months would put us at Isaac being three years old and aging out of EI services altogether. That it’s been fast tracked means that if he gets a diagnosis (which seems very likely at this point), he’ll be able to receive the services and therapy he needs to help him cope with a very overstimulating world and hopefully start preschool already better prepared than he would otherwise be.
So. We’ll see what happens there. In the meantime, I’ve got 16 days until we do something absolutely insane and pack up the whole family in a rental car to drive down to Texas for Thanksgiving! Until next time and a wild trip report…
(oh also I have purple hair now)
You know, if you’d asked me six weeks ago what everyone in the house was going to be for Halloween, I’d have rattled things off so easily that I’d have seemed like a mythical Good Mom, someone who’s got all her shit together and actually does the stuff she pins on Pinterest.
(I do not have all my shit together, and Pinterest scares me)
And now I’m in a wild spot because while Sam has committed to being Darth Vader (“I’m going to do every other year, Mom! This year, Darth Vader; next year, Jack Skellington; the year after that, Darth Vader…”), I cannot decide what to do with the twins.
A few weeks ago, Sam decided that he wanted to be Peter Pan, and I thought, well, that makes things easier. He’s Peter Pan. Carrie is Tinkerbell. Isaac is Captain Hook. I’ll be Wendy, Kyle can be Mr. Smee, and life’s fantastic.
Except the next day (fortunately, before I bought anything), Sam informed me that he didn’t actually want to be Peter Pan. He was married to Darth Vader as a costume. Historically, he’s been unlikely to waver from a chance to dress up like Darth Vader, so I went ahead and ordered that, and it should arrive any day. I’m hoping it arrives while he’s at school so I can lay it out during the twins’ nap and he can try it on once he gets home.
(the infamous Darth Vader costume when he first got one, three years ago)
So he’s set. It’s the twins. Wayyyyy back months ago, when I naively thought that maybe I could convince my five-year-old to go along with my Halloween ideas, I thought that we could do a Toy Story thing. Sam would be Buzz Lightyear, Isaac would be Woody, and Carrie would be Jessie. It would be adorable, we’d get some great pictures, everyone would have a laugh. But nope, Sam wants to be Darth Vader, and I’m not about to tell my five-year-old that he can’t wear what he wants on Halloween, and the Toy Story thing doesn’t seem worth the expense (because Toy Story costumes are expensive, at least when you’re buying them for more than one person) if we’re not going to fully commit.
Some ideas I’ve had and discarded:
- Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. It’s the obvious choice, but (a) finding a Luke Skywalker costume is very difficult when your costumee is younger than nine; (b) making a Luke Skywalker costume involves time that we don’t have; and (c) I kind of want to save that for when they’re old enough to understand the implications of what they’re wearing. So nope.
- Grapes, purple and green. On the one hand: cute, easy, and cheap. On the other hand: there’s no way the twins would do anything besides sob wearing a costume made entirely of balloons. So nope.
- Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. If you want the costumes to match somewhat (like, look like they’re of the same quality and you didn’t decide to save on one twin’s costume so that you can splurge on the other), you’re SOL. Tinkerbell costumes exist at every price point for kids Carrie’s size, but Peter Pan costumes seem to only exist for kids Sam’s size and older, which makes no sense to me, but I only ever did B2B construction marketing, so maybe I just don’t know the market.
- The tortoise and the hare. Cute, but what statement is it making about the child we dress as the hare?
(flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood, you’re an asshole)
- Literally any famous male/female pairing in history. They are literally all romantic couples, and I cringe out of my skin whenever I find pictures of twins dressed as, like. Danny Zuko and Sandy or Fred and Wilma Flintstone or Mickey and Minnie Mouse. No offense intended, because finding boy-girl twin Halloween costumes is WAY harder than you’d think, but my twins are not Lannisters.
(if you’re not up to speed on Game of Thrones, first: you are luckier than I am; and second: these are the Lannisters, Jaime and Cersei, and they are twins and they have three children together. My twins are not Lannisters)
I keep coming back to Carrie being a princess of some sort, which narrows things down basically not at all. She loves princesses and all things sparkly and traditionally girly, and a princess costume would serve possibly quintuple duty at Renaissance Faires and Disney World and a couple of Halloweens. Theoretically, I like dressing her as Rapunzel, and I like dressing Isaac as Pascal the chameleon to match…
…BUT then it ends up getting to the heart of the issue, that being Isaac not having a lot of identifiable interests yet. Well, no, that’s not true. He has interests. He likes climbing and cleaning. He’s a voracious eater. He loves laughing and exploring and going into and out of things. He likes things being where they belong, whether it’s a shoe on a foot or toys in a toy box. He likes it when I sing “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic” to them at bedtime.
But how do you costume any of that?
With Carrie, when someone asks me to describe her, I have the easiest time ever. Picking her up is like picking up a baby made of cotton candy and bubble gum bubbles. She’s a princess with delicate aires and a constant song, a love for sparkles and prettiness and animal companions, a need to have things Her Way Or Else. She’s a gremlin, picking up dirty things off the floor to eat, hiding in dusty places, making weird collections of stuff. She’s a bottle of Diet Coke and Pop Rocks shaken up. You can’t help but adore her.
But Isaac. He almost defies description. He’s determined and needs things to be in their place at all times. He needs his routines to be followed and will get genuinely upset if the Thing that usually follows The Other Thing does not follow The Other Thing. If he wants something, he will get it, no matter how much you try to deter him. He’s fast, voracious, and beyond clever. And then when he smiles, you just absolutely melt, because his smile is incredible, the kind of smile that makes you feel loved to the core.
Which… I guess is a fine description, but honestly, which one is easier to costume: stereotypical bubblegum candy princess or a clever, determined, fast, voracious sweetheart?
I think he can be a dragon.
I know it doesn’t matter a TON one way or the other because they don’t even understand Halloween yet. When Sam was their age, I dressed him as an owl because I told myself, “oh yes, he likes owls!” which he didn’t super like owls, but whatever. He refused to wear most of the costume and cried about it a lot, and I got zero pictures of him in the full costume. It wasn’t until the following year, when he dressed up as Darth Vader, that he really started having fun with Halloween.
So I know it doesn’t matter, and they won’t care, but I still feel a bit like I’m letting Isaac down because finding a costume that matches who he is and what he likes feels impossible.
So maybe he’ll be a dragon.
In other decisions news, over the last week, I’ve been asked more times than I realized (at first) if Kyle and I were planning on having more kids.
Honestly, I have no idea, which is what I’ve said. Whenever people asked me during my pregnancy with the twins, I’d say “NO” and wax eloquent about hysterectomies, but twin pregnancies are awful, and when you’re in the middle of one, it’s hard to feel positively about growing any more humans. Kyle and I were talking today about one incident during the twins’ pregnancy, when Sam told me “Mommy, the poop is everywhere!” and he’d gotten poop all over his bedroom and I was so pregnant and so exhausted that I couldn’t deal with it and begged Kyle to come home from work to save me.
So I can say with confidence that, given a choice in the matter, I will never have more twins. Absolutely no, not ever, never.
And there’s plenty of reason to have an overall “NO” on the books. Three kids is a fine number. I have my girl. Our bedroom setup works very well with three kids. A fourth kid would be a wild ride, financially speaking. I don’t know how my body would handle it. I’m just starting to get my body back into normal person shape after spending upwards of seven years either trying to get pregnant or being pregnant (that’s an additional +60 lbs that came from those seven years, too, which is fun). I want to gain some sense of identity and self outside of making babies. I want to have days with all my kids at school and me writing (or playing video games or, like, cleaning I guess).
But on the flip side, there’s seven embryos on ice, and I went through hell to make them. No, I don’t want seven more kids, but I’d love one more girl someday, if we’re speaking from an emotional sense. I’d like to go through a pregnancy where (a) I know what I’m doing (like I didn’t with Sam); and (b) I’m not high risk solely because I’ve got more than one baby in me. I’d like to just do things normally and not be in a blind panic and then do the newborn days on Comparatively Easy Mode (because after you do twin newborns, any singleton anything is Comparatively Easy Mode). I’d like to have a matched set, two boys and two girls. I’d like to go into a delivery room knowing what I’m doing and how I’m doing it and with a playlist that I didn’t get to use with the twins.
Also I love babies.
So. I don’t know. And we’ve got time to make a decision. As long as we keep paying the $85/month storage fee, our embryos will be stored indefinitely. It’s the only way we CAN grow our family again, if we decide we want another child in the future. But I’m not thinking about it now (and I very much know Kyle isn’t), not more than off and on, as a back of the mind kind of thing. I’ve earned a respite from thinking about what my uterus is doing outside of my once-a-month adventures, from spending money on pregnancy tests and obsessively charting everything my body is doing. And I’m going to enjoy that respite.
Starting with the Halloween costumes.
MUSHROOM & MUSTARD STUFFED PORK CHOPS
I have no idea where this recipe originally came from–I learned it from my parents, and I think they learned it from a magazine somewhere? Maybe? It probably dates back to around the 1970s in this incarnation, but it’s still good… if you like pork. And mushrooms. And mustard.
- 1 boneless pork chop for every person eating (i.e., two for two people, three for three people, etc.)
- 1 lb pasta of your choice (we always use tri-color rotini, but see below for notes)
- 1 can cream of mushroom soup
- 1 cup heavy cream for every person eating
- Butter to coat frying pan
- Mustard powder
- OPTIONAL: As many or as few sliced mushrooms as your heart desires.
Preheat oven to about 175 degrees F (should be the “keep warm” setting if your oven has one). Melt butter in frying pan over medium heat.
Use a fork to STAB THE EVER LIVING DAYLIGHTS out of each pork chop. Coat the stabbed side in yellow mustard.
Place pork chops in frying pan, mustard side down. Use fork to STAB THE EVER LIVING DAYLIGHTS out of non mustard side and coat that side in mustard. Now there are two mustard sides.
Let pork sit for 5-7 minutes before flipping, then cook on opposite side for another 5-7 minutes. Remove pork from frying pan and place in warmed oven.
Add can of cream of mushroom soup to frying pan without rinsing (gotta keep all those good pork bits in there!), along with yellow mustard (to taste; I like to taste a LOT) and cream. Add mustard powder, tarragon, parsley, pepper, salt, and mushrooms as well.
Combine ingredients and set to simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes.
Serve pork sliced into bite-size pieces over bed of pasta and sauce. Enjoy.
- You can use whatever pasta you like for this dish, but I’ve found it works best with short cut pastas, usually either tri-color varieties (rotini, penne, and radiatore are perennial favorites) or with egg noodles to make a sort of pork stroganoff. If you use a longer cut pasta, you’ll want a pappardelle or else a spinach linguine/fettuccine for best results.
- Your pork should cook thoroughly between the frying pan and the oven, but make sure you check it for doneness! Pork should not be consumed when it’s under 145 degrees F. Unless you’re super into parasites and salmonella poisoning, in which case, go nuts.
- I’m a bad Millennial and use canned mushrooms when I make this dish, usually just a can of sliced mushrooms that you can pick up at pretty much any store. If you’re a fancier Millennial than I am, you can slice your mushrooms yourself; just make sure they have time to cook down to a nice tender consistency before serving.
Sam has been in school for a grand total of two weeks now, which seems both like an eternity and like no time at all. We’ve all sort of slid into a routine of getting things done at night or in the morning, of going to the bus stop for a certain time in the afternoon and spending the school hours on various baby things until that afternoon time when Sam gets home. Of setting out clothes the night before so I don’t have to get up super early to help him choose an appropriate outfit and making sure everything he needs is tucked neatly into his backpack before he leaves. Of newly enforced strictness about the TV (after all, his pre-K didn’t care much if he was a couple of minutes late) and less screen time.
He’s come home with plenty of stories for us. After a particularly rough day last week, his teacher made him star of the day the next day, which mostly meant that he helped out more around the classroom, but it still made him happier about being there. He’s had to hang out on the wall at recess twice, once by himself (for pushing another kid in line while they were heading outside, which he knows not to do) and once with his best friend Hunter, together but far apart (they were… “blowing on each other” he says? And weren’t mad about it? But were still on the wall? Sigh, I miss getting daily reports from his teachers). He’s doing well, as far as we can see, where academics are concerned, but then again, academics thus far consist of sorting things by color and shape and spelling the words “the” and “red,” which he’s been able to read for about six months now.
(small personal victories: I was determined that he’d have the basics of reading down before kindergarten and HE DID! Now to try that with the twins…)
So it’s… a process. A transition. I hope he doesn’t end up being That Kid, who always starts recess on the wall (I’m pretty sure most of it’s just that transition period between the sort of relaxed structure of his old school and the stricter one of the new school), which has mostly meant just trying to talk to him when the day is over.
BUT as any parent with kids in school will tell you, that’s harder than it seems. Instinctively, you want to draw out every detail about your kid’s day the second they step off the bus. You want to know everything. Who did they talk to? What did they play at recess? Did they like their lunch? What new words did they learn? What new books did they read? (They read “Red” and I’m so excited about it!) What special class did they have today? What did they do in the special class?
And then your kid is like “I don’t want to talk about it” or their post school answers end up being one-syllable grunts. “Stuff. I dunno. Yeah. Fine. I guess.” And you wonder if they actually were at school or if they’re leading a secret double life as a teeny tiny international super spy.
What we’ve mostly discovered with Sam is that he needs time to decompress at the end of the day, and that we’re most likely to get the full story of his day at bedtime, after the twins are in their room and he’s had a chance to wind down with some screen time and ruckus and little boy things (ranging from Legos to “WHY ARE YOU THROWING THAT???” to “STOP TRYING TO SUPLEX THEM THEY’RE BABIES”). That’s when he’ll say, “Okay, I’m going to tell you,” and Kyle and I listen and affirm his feelings and help him to feel better about the day. If he has a rough day, we tell him that we’ll try again tomorrow. If he has a great day, we tell him that tomorrow may be even better. We try to end the day on a positive note.
We’re not always successful, but we try.
Most of his communication nowadays is about science, and I’m dying to chat with his teachers about how much he loves science, because I completely forgot to list that on his “things he likes” paper (I listed “Minecraft” and “Legos” and “Star Wars” because those are his top three Things, but science legitimately trumps all of them). He’s so incredibly curious about the natural world, and he loves learning everything he can about it. Mostly, he focuses on space–it is, after all, the scientific gateway drug–but thanks to Octonauts, he’s also been really into animals lately; and then he’s also been really into weather the last couple of days.
(today, we watched a bunch of Weather Channel augmented reality videos–I can’t recommend them highly enough–and Sam just fell absolutely in love with Jim Cantore, which is the cutest damn thing)
(I also adored a weatherman when I was five. His name was Dick Albert, he was my parents’ age, and I once made him a Christmas tree ornament that I labeled “For Dice” and my mom still has it)
I maintain what I think is a healthy amount of worry about his schooling. I hope that he’s challenged but not so challenged that he loses interest. I hope he behaves himself but doesn’t lose his spark. I hope he makes new friends but doesn’t lose his old friends (so far so good on that one–we are, per his reports, batting 1000 in terms of playing with old best friends Hunter and Kaia at recess)
(they had one day last week where they were, apparently, all Spider Man: Sammy as Peter Parker, Hunter as Miles Morales, and Kaia as Gwen Stacy)
Then there’s the little ones.
Isaac, in particular, has me gnawing my fingernails in worry. He’s right where should be with his fine and gross motor skills–he’s our little runner, and he never stops moving. When it comes to communication, though, well…
You’re not supposed to compare babies, which is 100% impossible when you have twins because you have another baby RIGHT THERE, so even when you don’t mean to, you end up just looking at the one who’s ahead and then looking at the other who’s behind and being like “…well? Aren’t you going to do that too?” You don’t mean to and you’re not supposed to, but the dumb part of your brain that doesn’t listen to what you’re supposed to do does it anyway.
Communication-wise, Carrie’s doing great. She’s slowly moving into my favorite phase of language acquisition, which is the parrot phase, where your child just repeats everything you say right back to you as a question, and you want to get mad because you’re trying very hard to explain that they shouldn’t bite other children, but when they look up at you with big eyes and repeat, “We don’t bite our fwends?” in that high-pitched voice, your willpower crumbles. She’s got a good dozen or more words consistently (to either my shame or my pride–not sure which yet–three or four of those words are Disney princesses), and she’s got hand signs for two or three more words. She’s frequently able to tell us when she wants something and what that something is. It’s very nice.
Isaac, not so much. At best, he has three-ish words: mama, dada, and Wubba. He also makes kissy noises at the cat. The trouble is that he doesn’t do any of that consistently or in a way that’s helpful for literally anyone, least of all himself. If he loses his Wubbanub (which is his pacifier with a stuffed animal attached, they are perfect, buy one for your baby today!), instead of saying “Ba! Ba!” like I know he can, he’ll stand in front of me and yell, constant long “AAAAH!” sounds at higher and higher volumes.
Worse than the yelling, though, is the expression on his face. I don’t want to read too much into it, but it seems like pure frustration that I’m not understanding what he needs and that he can’t communicate it back to me. The longer he yells without me getting it, the more distraught he looks, the more his eyes fill with tears, and the more my heart breaks.
I want him to have words or some way of communicating with the world. If it turns out he’s autistic, I don’t want him to be neurotypical or anything but himself, but I also don’t want him to be unable to express his wants and needs. I don’t care if it means he has a sign with pictures on it or sign language or a computer or what; I just want him to be able to express himself because I can see how much it hurts him when he can’t.
Anyway, I say all of this because he has a meeting with a speech and language pathologist on Friday for an evaluation and sort of game planning session, hopefully to move forwards into speech therapy for him. Which, again, I don’t want to force him into a mold he doesn’t fit, but I want to see that pain and frustration go away when he’s able to actually communicate that his Wubbanub is missing or that he needs a diaper or wants a bottle.
As for Carrie, she’s just an absolute peach. She’s honestly dangerously cute, always posing with her chin on her hands and saying, “Cheeeeese!” for me. It should be illegal, really, being that cute, but I can’t complain.
She and Isaac have started bonding together more now that Sam is in school most of the day. They bring each other their respective lovies when they see the other is upset, or they’ll bring each other clothes and try to get each other dressed. It’s a relief; I was wondering if they’d ever like each other or if it would always be World War III between them. And battles still break out very easily, but they’re usually because we have one of something and they both want it.
(this even applies when we have two of something but Carrie’s is prettier–Isaac, for instance, is not terribly impressed with tortoiseshell sunglasses but adores Carrie’s sparkly rainbow shades)
They’re sweet. And they’re good. All three of them. And as always, I just hope I’m doing right by them, overall.
1 ¼ cups bread flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking powder
¾ cup white sugar
¾ cup dark brown sugar
1 cup butter, toasted
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 ½ cups chocolate chips
Stuffing (hot fudge, Nutella, peanut butter, marshmallow fluff, caramel), chilled
- Melt one cup (2 sticks) butter and bring to a boil, stirring constantly to ensure an even brown. Once you notice dark flecks in the bottom of the boiling butter, transfer to a liquid measuring cup and allow to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. *note: if liquid butter does not reach the 1 cup marker, add water until it reaches that line*
- Sift or whisk together flour, kosher salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl.
- Cream cooled butter, white sugar, and dark brown sugar in a large bowl.
- Add vanilla extract and eggs to the large bowl and combine thoroughly.
- Gradually add dry ingredients to the large bowl (about ⅓ at a time), mixing until just combined.
- Fold in 2 cups of chocolate chips and other add-ins.
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours (overnight if you’re an A+ student!).
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Use 3 oz. ice cream scoop to form large balls of cookie dough. Flatten balls between the palms of your hands and rest on cookie sheet.
- Place fillings (about ½ tbsp per cookie) in the center of the cookie and seal cookie dough around the filling.
- Top each cookie with chocolate chips and other toppings.
- Bake cookies for 10-13 minutes. Allow to cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to cooling rack.
I use salted butter for my cookie recipe because I really like the contrast of a saltier cookie with sweet chocolate chips (using unsalted butter is a bit too cloying for me), but unsalted butter will work just as well!
I usually only mix standard, semi-sweet chocolate chips into these cookies, but other add-ins can really boost them to a new level! Try any of these:
- Chopped dark chocolate. Use a bar of dark chocolate (not bitter chocolate, unless you’re REALLY into that) and give it a rough chop before folding it into your dough alongside the chocolate chips.
- Mini chocolate chips. Substitute for about a cup of regular chocolate chips to give some texture contrast to your dough.
- Espresso powder. Add one tsp after creaming your butter and sugars.
The possibilities for fillings and toppings are absolutely endless! I tend to stick with just chocolate chips and rainbow sprinkles (to give the cookies a celebratory flair!), but you can top and fill with any number of things! Experiment; that’s what fun in the kitchen is about!
I always hate when I’m looking for a recipe for something and I have to scroll through hours of reading on somebody’s life before I get to the actual recipe. I get that it’s a THING, and I get that it’s all about self-expression, but look. If you’re coming to my blog because you googled “chocolate chip cookie recipe” and this somehow popped up instead of the Food Network or Epicurious or something, here you go. The recipe is at the top, and if you want to read about my life, you can keep going while the cookies bake or something.
(they’ll look like this after they bake, for reference)
It’s early August, and Sam is less than three weeks away from starting kindergarten. I’ve got all his supplies here in my office, still sitting in Target bags (more supplies than needed, because I was a bad student and tried to find his supply list online… and the list I found was The Most Wrong, so now I have a bunch of pencils and erasers and things that he’d probably need at some point, just not this year). I’ve got his metaphorical Hogwarts letter with all of the instructions and a little fish with his teacher’s name on it. I know his best friend from daycare is going to be in his class with him. I’ve no idea what bus he’ll be taking home in the afternoons, but if this year’s routes are similar to last year’s, he’ll be getting home a little past three in the afternoon–hopefully while the twins are still napping.
We’re winding summer down slowly with trips to the beach and company picnics. This past weekend, we packed everyone up in the van and drove up to Hampton Beach in New Hampshire, an experience that fell squarely in the middle of the stressful things scale. On the one hand, Isaac got carsick three separate times during the drive and then had a huge diaper blowout after about two hours on the beach. On the other hand, he, Carrie, and Sam seemed to have a blast despite the sickness. Sam and Kyle built a sandcastle together, and the twins huddled with me under our beach umbrella, experimentally playing with sand and eating Goldfish crackers (and sometimes eating sand, too, because they’re babies).
It was a typical outing for a family with young children. Kyle and I looked at it as a balanced affair, with frustration that having young kids meant we couldn’t do as much around Hampton as we otherwise would have (they have some great arcades and candy shops, and even though I’m trying to lose weight, I have a hard time turning down a beachside candy shop), relief that things went smoothly aside from Isaac’s bodily fluids, and happiness that it was a good day overall. It lasted just long enough that everyone was happily tired when we got home, not so brief that the hour and a half drive seemed a waste of time, not so long that we were exhausted.
And today was Kyle’s company picnic, at a conference center about 40 minutes from our house. I say “conference center,” which makes it sound like it was some sort of buttoned up meeting space and very dull; really, it was more like a summer camp-slash-carnival, with lawn games and bounce houses and cotton candy and face painting and so on. They had some great typical cook-out food (not quite barbecue–hot dogs, hamburgers, and chicken, plus a bunch of sides) and some free ice cream, and all-in-all, it was a nice set-up.
Trouble was that it was LOUD. This is par for the course at every company event I’ve attended for every company ever. The DJ always has the music turned up to 11, the fans are always going to keep the tents cool, there’s a lot of talking and buzzing and noise. I gather that this isn’t something that bugs most people, but it makes it hard for me to engage with anyone–my brain just won’t filter out unimportant sounds like the conversation way over there, the constant roar of the fan, the faint buzz of some fly that wants my lunch.
Basically, I spent most of today staring blankly into space and probably looking really strange.
The times I didn’t spend staring blankly into space were fun. The babies enjoyed their cook-out fare, mostly (good: chicken, corn, pasta salad, hot dogs; bad: bell peppers, zucchini). Sam played in the bounce house and obstacle course until he was too sweaty and exhausted to do much more than whine at us. Kyle and I split a cherry cotton candy, and Sam and I giggled our way through a pair of ice cream sandwiches. The twins were adorable, my hair and lipstick were awesome… it was mostly good.
But I am tired.
So is Isaac, for that matter. He didn’t nap at all today, which meant that the afternoon following the picnic was flavored with his exhausted sobbing at all points, with him nearly nodding off while standing on my lap and then crying when he realized he wasn’t actually completely asleep. I wish we had a clearer picture of what’s going on with him, if only so that we could plan for days like today, maybe with noise cancelling headphones or with frequent breaks or with one of us staying home with him.
He can’t go for an evaluation most places until he’s 18 months old, which is frustrating. He and Carrie turn 17 months old less than a week from today, but the Early Intervention autism specialist can’t test him until he’s 18 months old, and I really want to go through them because otherwise, wait times for an autism screening are many, many months long. And like I’ve been saying, if it turns out that he’s autistic, I’m not bummed out or even slightly disappointed; it’d be nice to have another brain that works like mine in the house, someone to sympathize with me when everything is just too much.
BUT I also want him to have better coping skills than I have, and to know from a decently early point if he’s going to need more assistance in any area–if he’s going to be like me and deal with frustratingly heavy executive dysfunction and sensory overload issues; if he’s going to need help communicating with us; what accommodations he’ll need to live a happy and healthy life. And I’d like to know that stuff sooner rather than later.
Sigh. I don’t know. It’s not a super rough waiting game, because at the end of the day, we’re probably only waiting another month, and the screening centers our service coordinator suggested to us haven’t gotten back to me yet anyway. But it’s still frustrating to have no news whatsoever, not in a good or bad way, just because we’re waiting.
And then there’s Carrie, just running laps past every milestone, perfecting her toddle, adding new words to her vocabulary every day. She’s frustratingly cute; she’ll say ‘uh oh!’ or shake her head while saying ‘mm-mm!’ if she’s caught doing something she shouldn’t be. She has her stuffed Bear that she found after my mom brought some boxes to our house a couple of weeks ago; said Bear is now her constant companion, and between him and her stuffed Ariel doll, she’s constantly on about her favorite little friends. She’s impish and giggly and basically everything you’d want out of a little girl, almost stereotypically so. All she needs are the little pigtails and she’ll be sitting squarely in the “Platonic form of Daughter” box.
She and Isaac get along better these days than they used to, though they still fight over toys and books and my lap. They give each other kisses pretty frequently, team up to accomplish whatever baby feat they’re working on, hide in their “clubhouse” (which is underneath and behind their high chairs, against the wall), and find each other’s lovies whenever the other is crying (Carrie will actually toddle around calling “Wubba! Wubba!” when Isaac loses his pacifier-slash-Wubbanub; Isaac throws Bear at Carrie whenever she cries). I think that’s my one fear with Isaac having autism; I worry that it will affect their relationship. I don’t think it will, but I want them to be close, or at least as close as they can be.
But. But but but.
School starts soon, and there are cookies to bake. Good night.
It’s been a minute, blog.
It’s not that I’ve had nothing to talk about; it’s more that every time I sit down to write, my brain gives me a loading error and I end up getting stuck about three pages in without ever making a point. And it’s not that blog writing NEEDS a point, but if I’m writing like I’m coming to a point, I should probably have a point to come to. Right? Right.
So I’ve kind of lost my points. I was going to write about travel and roadtrips, but then I got bored of that writing because it was mostly just me recounting stories I’ve told a million times before. I was going to write about cathedrals because Notre Dame had me sad for about five minutes (until it wasn’t actually destroyed and it’ll be fine), but I got bored describing my favorite cathedrals halfway through. I had all sorts of threads I was going to follow, but I kept losing them.
In conclusion: I’m just going to ramble about random things.
In real life, it’s Easter today, and it was a fun one.
The kids got all dressed up in matching outfits (or attempted matching outfits; those pants and that dress looked a lot more similar online, but I love them all anyway), and we went to my parents’ house for dinner. Sam has had a TON of sugar, and so have we, but it’s all been good. The only bad was that we bought Peter Pan for Sam to watch and have been unsuccessful in finding the remote for our Blu Ray player, so I’m hoping he’s still interested in it once we manage to summon said remote out of the ether, whenever that happens.
But it’s overall good. Everything’s honestly overall good. We paid off a large debt recently, and that felt great. We’re moving in a decidedly positive financial direction, and that feels great, too. Going from “how are we going to get groceries this week?” to “oh yeah, we can totally afford to get the kids some nice pajamas and also to get a new frying pan” is both stunning and fantastic, especially because it happened so quickly. The last year, so much money went towards formula, and now the twins are on real food and whole milk, and we’ve got many more dollars and cents.
The twins themselves are doing very well. They’ve both caught up to where they should be developmentally, in a lot of ways, and they’re continuing to make progress at fantastic paces. They both still have therapists, and we’ll see if they still need them in another year or two, but seeing them progress physically and mentally by leaps and bounds does my heart good, especially remembering that they shouldn’t even be turning one for another four days.
And Sam… that boy, my god. He’s so scary smart. He’s been really into Legos lately, and he builds these amazing machines while taking engineering needs into consideration like he’s some sort of actual professional engineer or something. And then tonight, on the drive home from my parents’ house, he was doing multiplication in his head. Not just tiny numbers, but double digits, which I didn’t even learn until fifth grade. This kid, my god.
His kindergarten registration starts on Tuesday, and I’m pumped for it. Part of me is like “my baby 😦 ” but I’m mostly really excited to see him start school. He’s SO smart, and I hope that he’s able to really flourish in a more structured setting, because otherwise, it would be a goddamn shame.
I know he has plenty of areas that are ripe for improvement, too, but I think he’s at just the right age for kindergarten. He’s vacillating between excited and terrified of it, one day talking about how he can’t wait to go to school every! day! and the next getting all teary and talking about how he just wants to stay home with me and the babies forever. It’ll be a huge adjustment, I’m sure, and I’m expecting some rough nights around the start of the school year, a lot of tears and meltdowns.
But that’s what we’re here for: to help him work through it and learn to adjust. I always keep in mind that he’s not gone through something like this before. He’s been at the same school since he was just past a year old (aside: GROSS SOBBING ABOUT HIS GRADUATION), and the shift to a more structured learning environment in a place that isn’t his daycare will be really huge for him. He’s never done something like this before.
And, well. We were all there, once. It’s easy to forget, when it’s 30 some-odd years in the past, but it’s all new to him. I just hope we can give him the support he needs to really succeed.
Back to the twins. Being one has already been an adventure for both of them, but more for Isaac. The day of their birthday party, he woke up with a low grade fever, utterly miserable. He seemed to improve for a few days, but then in the middle of the night, three days after the party, he woke up in the middle of the night with another fever and with really rough sounding breathing. At the recommendation of the on-call nurse, we brought him to the ER, where he was diagnosed with RSV, bronchiolitis, and pneumonia… and the only reason he didn’t end up hospitalized for that was that he’s just old enough and we caught it just early enough that it didn’t turn into something terrible.
He’s better now, even after a couple of days of being a really picky, slow eater and losing some weight during recovery. He’s back to chugging milk, eating everything he sees, and zooming around the living room at top speed. He’s such a speed demon, and so sneaky, that we’ve had to triple check our gates every time we go through them. The other day, I was on the couch, half watching them and half browsing Game of Thrones spoilers (look, I like to be prepared to say good-bye to my favorite characters, and I did my unspoiled time when I watched Lost) when I heard the gate moving. I saw little blonde heads near it and figured the twins were just playing with it, like they do, but a beat later, I looked again and only saw one little blonde head, and she turned and giggled at me.
So now I’m up and in a mild panic because where did Isaac go??? Fortunately, though he’s a fast crawler, he’s not THAT fast. Unfortunately, he’s fast enough that he got into the cat’s room (she’s old and senile and pees on a lot of things, so she has her own room) and was, as I barged in, happily noshing on cat food.
The gate, mind you, had been closed. So I’m not sure what happened there, except that Isaac apparently does not care what goes in his mouth, ever.
Carrie, on the other hand, remains my delicate little drama queen. She is, by far, the most loudly opinionated of my three kids; if she is having an emotion about anything, you will hear about it. This sounds like it’s a negative, and it is sometimes (mostly when she wakes up from a nap or in the morning and isn’t in her parents’ arms), but my favorite is her scream of joy that just happens. It happens when one of us comes in to get her in the morning/after naptime. It happens when someone who’d gone out comes back. It happens when she discovers that a toy is particularly fun to play with. And it’s adorable.
She’s also taken to imitating the cat for obvious reasons (I mean, wouldn’t you?). So she’ll sit there, in the middle of the living room, matching Tinkerbell’s tone perfectly, and saying, “Bowwwww! Bowwwwww!” (because I guess “meow” is very difficult) I’m leaning into it and getting her a bunch of kitty-themed clothes for the summer, because GOD that’s cute. It’s ridiculously cute, y’all. It’s SO cute.
The only rough thing with the twins is that they don’t quite like each other yet. Or, rather. They like each other, but they don’t know how to express that without hurting each other, and that makes interactions very stressful.
Consider: at their age, their love and tolerance for a person is primarily demonstrated through face pats. The problem is that they aren’t very gentle, so when they try to pat each other’s faces, it results in both scratches and slaps, and someone ends up crying. They REALLY want to show each other that, hi, I like you, but they’re so bad at people-ing that it’s kind of sad.
Oh well. They’re getting older, so hopefully, within the next year or so, they’ll learn to express affection in ways that aren’t slapping each other in the face. Bless them.
And then there’s Kyle, who’s working from home until Monday the 29th, while his office goes through some rearrangements/changes. This is largely a blessing, but I expect it to turn VERY rough when he actually goes back, and I suddenly have three kids missing their dad being there all day, two who just don’t understand what’s going on and one who understands but REALLY DOES NOT LIKE IT.
(shown: Sam when Kyle goes back to the office)
His being home has made literally everything much easier, from meal times to nap times and everything in between. It’s also made things just emotionally easier: instead of holding onto everything all day and then letting it all out in a torrent when he gets home, it kind of trickles back and forth between us throughout the day, and that’s an enormous stress reliever for everyone involved. Problems still exist, but it’s easier when two people carry something heavy than it is when one person tries to go it alone.
We’re a month away from our eighth wedding anniversary, which is more than a little crazy, and we’ve finally found ourselves in a place where we both (a) can afford and (b) can find childcare for dates again. We’re off to see Endgame this Friday, and we’ve been spending our Sunday nights cuddling on the couch while watching Game of Thrones (and then staying up WAY too late talking about our pet theories about the show). And then, of course, Saturday nights are for D&D and our stream (twitch.tv/mtnmama1, Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. EST), and all in all, it feels like we’re getting our lives back from the haze that was a year with two infants.
As for me, I’m still mostly kid-focused because these three take up a LOT of my energy. I used to joke, back before I Knew, that I’d do well with twins because Sam had the energy of two children, so ho ho ho, two kids wouldn’t be that bad. Now I know better. Now I know that at least once a day, usually more than, during the Witching Hour (5:00 in our house, a.k.a., dinner is cooking but not yet ready and in everyone’s stomach and we’ve all just realized that), all three kids will need to be On Me. And I love them, and I know someday, I’ll probably be sad that nobody wants to be On Me, but during the Witching Hour, when the twins are having slapfights on my lap and Sam is leaning against my back, it exhausts me.
There’s the chasing of the twins all day through the house, because even when you have every barrier and gate up, every outlet covered, every dangerous thing out of the way, your toddler will still find a way to get themselves in trouble. So you look down at your phone to read a news article or something and then you look up, and they’re smiling deviously at you as they begin performing feats of danger and daring and you’re back up again, chasing them around to get them to chill out and stop trying to break their bones for five seconds.
I love it. I absolutely love my days. But by the time I get to the end, even with a nice chunk of time taken out so the twins can nap, I’m beyond exhausted. And that frustrates me because I’d love to be able to settle down and write when the kids are all in bed, and I try to, but every time I try, I get about a paragraph in and end up stuck.
Writing is on hold for now, I suppose. I hate that, but it is what it is. I’m stuck unless I’m lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, trying to fall asleep, and then a scene will start writing itself in my head, and I end up at war with myself: do I get up and make sure this all ends up on paper or do I let myself sleep?
I let myself sleep. And maybe the words will come during the day again soon. I hope.
One year ago today, I was in the hospital, hooked up to all sorts of monitors, plugged into all sorts of IVs, waiting to walk back for my C-section. I won’t lie–I was pretty nervous. Even though I know a lot of people who’ve delivered via C-section and even though I knew statistics, major abdominal surgery isn’t something that you skip into scattering flowers on the road as you go (though if I ever do have another C-section, I’m going with that route). And, you know, I ultimately loved my C-section and would 100% do it again (should the need arise), but at the moment, it was scary.
Also scary was the future, in a different way than I’d known before. Having Sam was its own variety of scary (the variety that says, “wait, you want me to be 100% responsible for this small human’s life? Have you seen me? Are you sure that’s a good idea?”), but this was something entirely new. With Sam, I knew so many people who’d had one kid at a time and were telling me, “Oh, yeah, I remember when little Hippocrates went through that phase. Try giving him a large sock to chew on” and things like that. With the twins? Notsomuch. I’ve got a couple of friends who also have twins, and I can’t seem to go to Target with the babies without someone saying, “Oh! My grandniece’s manager’s sister’s brother-in-law’s best friend has twins!” but it’s not quite the same as having people really close to you, people in your tribe, who’ve been where you are.
It’s a learning curve, more than with Sam. A delightful learning curve, but a learning curve, just the same.
So. What have I learned?
1: C-sections aren’t scary. I talked about that last week.
2: The NICU is scary, but it can also be weirdly convenient. I would not want another baby in there for all the money in the world. I still can’t watch videos from when the twins were in the NICU without feeling sick to my stomach. The other day, I was reading a chapter in a visual novel (shh, we all have our hobbies and apps), and a character’s baby ended up in the NICU, and I was there sobbing about this Dollar Store brand Grey’s Anatomy and a pixelated baby in an incubator.
Because it was scary and GOD did it hurt. I internalized a lot of it. I never really cried about it much, not as much as I probably should have, but I felt it all. The moment when Isaac stopped breathing in my arms because he was eating too fast is burned into my brain. I can’t let it go.
It was weirdly convenient. We hadn’t expected the babies to come this early, so we needed the time to get things ready for them at home. I’d been panicking about the recovery time for my likely C-section, wondering how–even with Kyle home–I’d take care of two babies and a four-year-old while recovering from major abdominal surgery.
And we got two weeks. Two weeks to finish preparing, two weeks to recover. I never want to see the inside of a NICU again, but man, it was infuriatingly convenient.
3: Nothing about having one baby is at all like having two babies.
When you have twins, people comment in two different ways: they either talk about a distant acquaintance who had or has twins OR they talk about how their experience with one crazy child was like having two children at once.
It is not.
No matter how crazy your singular child is (and I say this from the perspective of also having a crazy child), you only have one at a time. When you have two, everything takes twice as long, needs to be twice as much. A singular crazy child only needs to have their diaper changed once at a time, and yes, they may have bouts of diarrhea and such, but pretend you have two people with diarrhea and you’ll see where I’m coming from.
You can feed one child at once easily. When you have two children and you’re alone, someone else is always screaming while you feed the one… at least until they can eat solid foods and you can distract the one who drew the short straw with some tiny goldfish or something.
The twins are REALLY good babies, but there are two of them. No matter how good they are, there will always be two of them. This means double diapers, double formula, double bedtimes, double potty training and baths and walking. And yes, that’s what it’s like having two kids, but most of the time, you can stagger it a little bit. There’s no staggering here.
I love it. I love it a lot. But it’s a LOT of work.
4: Wrangling three children is VERY hard, and when two are infants, it’s basically impossible without another adult around to help.
5: Special needs happen. And they’re not easy to deal with, but by the same token, you have to deal with them and put aside your own worries (will the helmets be enough? How will we afford it if they need a second set? Will they ever catch up to where they should be?) so that you can focus on helping your kid.
And furthermore, when your kid has a special need, no matter what it is, their need is not about you. Their story with whatever it is–developmental delays, physical handicaps, neurodivergence–is your story. You’re part of it, but I guarantee that if you make your kid’s special need about you, you’ll make it a thousand times harder for everyone involved.
6: Even when you live on a really strict budget, even when you’re technically better off than a lot of people your age, it’s still possible to reach the end of the pay period and overdraw your account at the supermarket, not because you’ve been throwing cash at frivolities or not paying attention to how much you’re spending, but because sometimes, every bill hits at once or you miss something or you run out of a necessity before you thought you would, and at least you’re not losing your house or anything, but you wonder how you’re going to feed your kids this week.
We’re mostly out of that woods. This coming Tuesday, the twins have their one year appointment, and we’ll see if they can switch off formula completely, which I hope they can, because that’ll save us about $200 a month (like. Not completely because we’ll be buying a lot of milk, but even buying a gallon of milk a day won’t add up to the cost of formula). Next month, Sam has his kindergarten orientation and registration, and in September, his tuition goes away. Another $400 a month we’re not having to throw around.
But twins were a monkey wrench in an otherwise pretty smooth system. They took away my ability to work, mostly because daycare is so expensive, and they’ve added a lot of costs to our lives. And again, I wouldn’t trade them for the world, but it’s been a financially stressful year, to say the very least.
(like thank GOD we’re not still giving them the formula that cost us $120 a week, that was awful)
7: Every baby is different. For myself, I think it would be hard for me to recognize this without having two babies at once. Like, I intellectually know it, but I think so much about statistical averages and things like that, I’d be likely to factor in mitigating factors. Like oh, my second child is doing this at this time, and Sam did it at this time, but we were still in the apartment when Sam was that age, so he couldn’t really crawl around, and wow, Sam was way faster at this than this baby, but he was slower to talk…
When you’ve got two babies at once, you can’t really attribute their differences to anything but that they’re different babies. And they’ve both been very different, from the moment they were conceived. I don’t know how much I attribute it to personality, since I feel like a lot of that is nurture more than nature, but I don’t know what else to call it. They’ve just been so different from day one, not just developmentally but in the way they interact with the world, and while I suppose there have been miniscule differences in the way we treat them (like maybe we smiled more at one than the other or maybe one was having a poopy week or things like that), it’s nothing that would necessarily create this much of a difference in the way they behave.
8: Especially when babies have developmental delays, you need to let go of expectations. I don’t know about anyone else, but when I went into parenthood, I read a lot, and I still do read a lot. When Sam was a baby, I got especially focused on milestones, particularly around when he’d have a doctor’s appointment. If I saw a milestone that he hadn’t hit quite yet, I spent the next several days coaching him until he got it, and he always hit his milestones before those appointments. He followed the book, as they say.
The twins? Not so much.
I knew that going in, too, but I really learned to let go of expectations when Carrie started to fall behind Isaac in terms of milestones. For a little while, they were neck-in-neck and mostly hitting milestones about where they should have with their adjusted age, but around the 8-10 month mark (6 ½ to 8 ½ months adjusted), after Carrie learned to sit up, she kind of… stalled out. I think she just likes sitting too much, since it’s neat and easy and lets her play when she wants to, but because she liked it so much, she was foregoing crawling and that… that isn’t good.
When we had her evaluated, the therapists who saw her explained that it didn’t seem to be something inherent or unchanging, just that she’d slowed herself down to probably develop another skill a lot more (in her case, communication, my little chatterbug). But it was just this stark reminder that (a) babies are different and (b) I had to let go of what I expected the twins to be like. They’re their own people, no matter how you shake it.
9: Everything is easier when you’re doing it as a team.
Which is a funny lesson to learn because, in a scholastic setting, I hate group work. It’s a friendship killer.
But in family and marriage, having a partner there who really sees themself as your partner and who remembers that you succeed or fail as a family makes all the difference in the world. I can’t pretend this last year, despite how great the twins are, wasn’t hard… but I also can’t pretend that having Kyle as my partner and co-team lead didn’t make it a helluva lot easier than it could’ve been otherwise. From switching off shifts at night to tag-teaming poopsplosions to just lying in bed at the end of a long day and laughing together, he’s made the last year even better than it otherwise would’ve been.
10: I love my life. I really do.
I love my kids. They’re amazing, even when they’re driving me crazy (Sam is so smart that he spends his days going 95 MPH around the entire house; Isaac has entered the “let me hit and scratch your face because I’m curious about it” phase; Carrie has entire chunks of the day where she screams at an eardrum shattering pitch because she doesn’t want to be put down ever). I love to hold them, love the feeling of their weight against me when they settle down to rest, love their three unique giggles, love the way they interact with each other, love them to absolute pieces.
I love being at home with them. Oh, sure, I miss getting out of the house and, to an extent, I miss working (mostly because it meant getting out of the house and thinking about something that wasn’t poop for 8 hours at a time), but I love having days with my kids. I love cooking them meals and playing with them and making sure they stick to something resembling a schedule.
I love my husband, because he’s the best.
And I wouldn’t trade this life for anything in the world. No, not even for paid off student loans (but please pay off my student loans anyway).
So it’s been a year, and I’ve learned a lot, and at the end of it all, I’m very happy. I think Isaac and Carrie are, too. And having a happy family–myself included–feels pretty good.
So with all that brouhaha about writing being hard last night, here I am, writing again. And this time, I am writing about Bath Night.
The twins are little, and getting Sam into a bath is difficult, so Bath Night happens once a week in our house, and it’s the same night for everyone. I know that once they’re older, once they get dirtier, and once I can more reliably trust Sam to wash himself, bath night will become more frequent, but for now, it’s a once a week thing. Typically, it’s a Sunday night, but if the Sunday is very busy, it might get pushed off to a Monday night or pulled back to Saturday. It’s always a night that Kyle hasn’t needed to drive home, since the nights he needs to drive home, he doesn’t get here until around 7, and that’s well past time to start baths and expect to do anything else ever.
Kyle has the kinder job of Bath Night, and he goes into the bathroom first. The tub was rinsed out after the last Bath Night, but since we have a weird cat who likes to drink from the bathtub faucet, and since lord only knows what Sam does when he’s in there, the tub gets another quick clean so that it’s suitable for bathing. Kyle then goes and fetches towels from either the upstairs closet (why they’re upstairs when we only bathe the kids downstairs I don’t really know) or the dryer, and while doing that, he grabs pajamas suitable for the night’s temperatures (because while we are not opposed to the kids sleeping in underwear and little more, bath night means that everyone will soon be cold).
Then I come into the bathroom. I get the unkind job of doing the actual bathing, and the kids all have varying levels of tolerance. I fill the tub not too deep for the babies, and I make sure the water is just above lukewarm or else I will hear about it in varying levels of screaming. I fill a smaller basin with clean water and set it aside so that the soapy water doesn’t get used for rinsing. I set aside a cup to rinse hair and bodies, and I set aside Mustela shampoo for cradle cap, Johnson & Johnson’s lavender lotion bath, and some Suave stuff that smells like white grapes.
(this is how your purchasing decisions change as your children grow older: when they’re babies, you pluck This Specific Item from This Specific Shelf to solve This Specific Problem, and when they’re older, you’re just like “eh, that smells good and says ‘No Tears,’ but most importantly, it’s on SALE”)
While I do this, Kyle gets Carrie undressed, because she gets the first bath, being the littlest. She used to like baths, when she could lie in the baby bath seat and just chill about it, but since she’s grown big enough to sit up in the tub, bathtime is hell for her. She’s more tolerant when you give her toys to bang together or slap against the water, but overall, she feels that as she’s not being held and Water is Different, it’s a waste of her time. So I get the naked Carrie into the bath, and I try to be quick about everything. I try to be careful about not getting too much water in her face or anything like that, but typically, by rinsing time, she’s so ANGRY about taking a bath that she’s flapping and flailing her arms about, so water gets in her face anyway.
So I do things quickly. I rinse her once, then wash her hair with the Mustela and the special anti-cradle-cap brush, which probably isn’t necessary, but we still have it. I let the Mustela sit in her hair to do its job and then quickly use the Johnson & Johnson’s to wash the rest of her, all while she’s screaming like I’m slowly pulling out her fingernails one by one. The screaming only briefly stops when I rinse her hair, but this is because she’s holding her breath instinctively, as a few drops of water have gotten onto her face, and we can’t have that. As soon as she’s convinced she’s not drowning, though, it’s right back to the screaming. The whole process takes less than two minutes, but those two minutes are enough to make her regard me with a look of utmost betrayal when I lift her from the water onto a clean towel and give her a cuddle for her trouble.
We have those towels with the hoods, which are great for babies, because babies are bad at keeping towels on any part of their body without a hood like protrusion. I drape the hood over her hair and she sniffles and pouts at me, and then once her hair is dry enough, I give it a quick run through with a fine tooth comb and bring her out to the warmer living room so that she can get dressed.
Here’s where things can sometimes begin to go awry, because it’s hard for Kyle to time the undressing of the next child (usually just Isaac, but sometimes Isaac and Sam, which is dangerous) to right when I bring Carrie out to the living room. You don’t want to undress the baby too soon, or you risk the baby getting cold and peeing all over the place. By the same token, you don’t want to undress the baby too late or the first baby will get cold and pee all over the place.
But usually, it ends up being Carrie who gets the short end of the stick there. Kyle sees me come out and quickly helps Isaac out of his clothes and diaper, and then I bring Isaac into the bathroom while Kyle dresses Carrie.
Isaac is far more tolerant of baths than his sister and brother, especially when he has things to look at. Because he’s such a curious child, he likes to smack his hand against the water or toys or bubbles and see what happens. He also likes to pick up any number of floating toys and put them in his mouth, which looks disgusting to me (they’re usually covered in soap suds), but it keeps him content enough that I can wash his hair and body the same as I do Carrie’s without him making more than a contented “hmm” as he chews a purple letter X.
(shown tonight, being very tolerant)
The danger, however, is that Sam will want to participate. Carrie’s bath happens quickly enough that he usually hasn’t caught on to something happening without his involvement yet, but by the time Isaac is in the tub, Sam wants to be involved. On good nights, this means he’ll come and take his bath with Isaac, which means he’ll be calmer overall, wanting to put on a good show for his baby brother. On bad nights, this means he’ll be squeezing in between me and our bathroom caddy, dropping who knows what sorts of toys into the tub for Isaac to play with and generally being in the way (but I can’t get mad at him because he’s “helping”).
Eventually, I tell him to go wait in the living room for his turn, and he does for a minute before coming back, usually over the sound of Kyle yelling, “Sam, get back here!”
But then Isaac is done. He gets dried and gets his hair combed and gets his jammies on, and I go back into the bathroom to prepare things for Sam.
Sam doesn’t like baths. At best, he tolerates them, but more often than not, Bath Night for Sam is a time for screaming and crying because he doesn’t like to wash himself. I hope that changes eventually, at least once he’s old enough to have BO, but for now, it’s all I can do to make baths as painless as possible for him.
The first ingredient is water of the right temperature. Sam, for reasons I do not understand, does not like warm baths. Me, I don’t like burning hot baths, but the sensation of sinking into a tub full of genuinely warm water is one that fills my dreams, often. But Sam doesn’t like warm baths. He doesn’t even like lukewarm baths. He prefers his baths to be chilly, which is part of the reason he’s the third bather in the family. After Isaac gets out of the tub, I fill it up a little more because Sam is bigger than the twins, and I always have to resist the temptation to add warm water just to make it feel a little bit less like Sam’s about to get a kidney removed.
The second ingredient is some sort of Bath Accessory. On the cheap end, this can be bubble bath or some sort of soak that you can buy at the drugstore, and if Sam is feeling good about Bath Night, this does the trick. No further assistance needed, we’re all fine, here, now, thank you. On the more expensive end… well, let’s just say that I’ve been making more frequent trips to LUSH than I have at any other point in my life or would if I didn’t have a child who needed a lot of love at bathtime.
(I mean. I love me some bath bombs, but our tub is functional at best, definitely not wide enough for me to soak in, and by no means deep enough. I do have an open invitation to use my parents’ soaking tub, but I feel more than a little weird making a 20 minute drive with the kids just to take a bath)
So we add a Bath Accessory. Tonight’s accessory was a sparkly bubble bar that Sam chose over the weekend. It turned the water the color of urine. Healthy urine, at least, but urine. But it smelled good, and it sparkled, and he was appeased for the moment.
The third ingredient is an array of toys. I’m picky about the toys he can bring in, because if he can splash stuff out of the tub, he will splash stuff out of the tub, so I mostly try to stick to things that don’t shoot jets of water or create large wakes. We have foam numbers and letters, we have rubber ducks, we have a submarine. That should do the trick, I figure, but Sam often manages to sneak water cannons in (or, more accurately, water cannons find their way into the bathroom during spats of cleaning and then Sam says, “Hey, I was looking for this!” and brings it into the tub and that’s why Bath Night includes me getting an unwanted bath), and since the bath is already fraught, I choose to fight that battle later.
And the final ingredient is a basin of clean water for rinsing, lukewarm at most, more accurately slightly chilled. When I was sick with pneumonia, Kyle took over bathtime and skipped this step, and you’d think he was pouring boiling acid on Sam from the way he screamed because the water was too warm.
All ingredients assembled, then, and Sam naked as the day he was born. He asks for help climbing into the tub because he’s got this weird fear of water getting into his butt (blame the use of glycerin suppositories when he was dealing with constipation years ago) and sits with his legs straight in front of him. I begin the negotiations by informing him that I will be washing his hair before he plays.
This doesn’t go over well. He doesn’t mind washing the rest of his body–even the dreaded butt–but washing his hair makes him freak out something fierce. I can’t wholly blame him; I used to hate having my hair touched, and even now, I have to really psyche myself up before going to the hairdresser. That said, the boy’s hair needs to be washed, and he’s not happy about it. I prepare him by saying that I’ll dump water on his head three times, then wash, then rinse three times.
He starts crying after the first dump because water is on his face and he can’t wipe it out with his hands because they are wet. I pause, retrieve a hand towel, and wipe his eyes. We do this twice more, and he whimpers while I scrub his hair with the Suave white grape stuff that I don’t even care what it’s supposed to do except it doesn’t sting your eyes unless you squirt it right in there.
The next step is tricky, because it’s a question of how long I want to put off more screaming. When I’m feeling smart (I was not tonight), I rinse his hair immediately and direct him to wash the rest of his body before he can play. When I’m not feeling smart, I tell him he can wait to have his hair rinsed until after he plays, and as he’s a four-year-old, he usually takes this option, wanting to put off the unpleasant experience of getting his hair rinsed. Either way, though, I direct him to wash the rest of himself, which sometimes actually works but more often means he vaguely rubs his hands on whatever part of his body I point to and I call it good enough because I’m already looking like a drowned cat at this point.
On smart nights, I rinse his hair next, and we have another round of tears and wailing and hand towels and eye wiping. If he’s not too devastated by having water dumped on his head, he then plays for a little while–either until the timer I set runs out (usually 5-10 minutes) or until he splashes water out of the tub (usually 30 seconds). More typically, having his hair rinsed has turned him off to all types of water, and he wants to get out of the tub.
I help him stand and rinse off the last suds from his body, and then I wrap him in a beach towel. He sniffles and cuddles me, because everyone needs a hug after getting clean, heaven forbid. I drain and rinse the tub, and he and I go out to the living room, where I comb his hair and help him dress in a one piece pajama set.
I hate Bath Night.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the results of Bath Night. I love my kids being all fresh and clean with their hair soft and combed and their skin all rosy and warm. But oh, the drama! Nothing else in our house, not even bedtime or naptime, is quite this dramatic. Two out of three children spend the entire time sobbing as if baths are some sort of medieval torture, and the third seems unaffected more by chance than anything else.
I feel bad because there’s not much else can be done to make Bath Night easier on everyone. Carrie just needs to grow into the idea that sitting on your own is not a form of torture devised to make you sad. Isaac– well, he’s fine. And Sam… the only thing I could do to make him not hate bathtime is not washing his hair, but that is super not happening.
Sigh. I know that once they’re teenagers, the real trick will be getting them to stop bathing for five minutes, guys, you already took three showers today, you’re not even paying the water bill STOP IT. And I know I’ll miss the little sudsy cuddles and the smell of Mustela (despite the name, it smells really good) and the fun with bath bombs.
But I hate Bath Night. And I can never let them know. That would be showing weakness, and that’s all they need to win.