Bath Night

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.

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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”)

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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.

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(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.

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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.

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(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.

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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.

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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.

Writing is Hard

Writing has been hard lately.

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My recovery from pneumonia got set back some by a bout with bronchitis because nothing can be simple. I’m doing much better now–a combination of prednisone and codeine have got me basically back to normal functionality–but up to this point, it’s been something of a wringer. I couldn’t even make a lap around Target without getting exhausted, so I spent the last six weeks going absolutely stir crazy, having to rely on Kyle to do grocery runs and help with the kids. And that has, of course, thrown off the equilibrium of the house as a whole–he’s stayed home to take care of both us and his own bronchitis, so we haven’t really had any “normal” weeks since the year began.

Which is probably bad for Sam.

But anyway. Writing has been hard because I’m both exhausted and bored. That’s not to say that life with a four-year-old and almost-one-year-old twins is boring, per se, just that it’s not interesting. A lot happens, but it’s not very thought-provoking stuff unless you’re coherent enough to turn your children’s attempts at mobility into a metaphor for life, which I am not.

Instead, I just report. Isaac is about as mobile as he can be without properly crawling, and has realized that he can pull himself up on things, which means that our usual repositories for the household stuff have ceased to be safe. With Sam, this meant an immediate rush to clean everything, but because I’ve been so sick and Kyle’s been so sick, it’s been more of a slouch in the direction of cleanliness and a lot of “hey, don’t touch that!”

Carrie is about as immobile as she can be and still be an almost-one-year-old, because twins are opposites sometimes. We’ve had her evaluated by both her pediatrician and early intervention, and I don’t think anything is wrong with her, per se, just that she’s less eager to learn new things than Isaac, at least when it comes to mobility. She’s still an amazing communicator, but she’s not interested in crawling or scooting or pulling herself up when she can just grab a toy right here and bang it on the floor and be perfectly content.

Isaac, meanwhile, while not a bad communicator, doesn’t quite have her finesse. Even without her using English words, it’s pretty easy to figure out what Carrie is trying to communicate–between gestures, tone, and syllables, she’s really good there. Isaac… eh, not so much. He whimpers and whines in a similar tone for most problems, where Carrie’s whine changes depending on what she needs or wants.

And Carrie has had a second evaluation from early intervention and is now getting physical therapy twice a month in addition to her once a month general therapy. We have exercises to do with her, but the problem is that she refuses to do them with us, or with me at least. One of the exercises involves having her sit on my thigh while using the other leg to hold her feet down so that she has to balance with her core muscles instead of resting against someone or something, but if I’m the one holding her, she immediately wrenches herself out of that position to cling to me.

And I mean. I’m not made of stone. I can only cope with her doing that so many times before I give the fuck up.

I know she’ll get there, just like Isaac did. When he was very wee, he was the one lagging behind in movement, but once he hit around four months, he soared ahead. Now it’s Carrie’s turn to lag.

(see what I mean? Not boring, but not interesting; it’s all very routine)

And then there’s Sam in the day to day. He’s still very much himself, still my little bundle of clever energy and love. We are counting down the minutes until he starts kindergarten, both eagerly and nervously, on both his and our parts.

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I’d thought, for a heartbeat, about redshirting him (for those not in the know, this does not mean sending him down to a hostile planet with Captain Kirk as a necessary no-name sacrifice; it DOES mean holding him back in preschool a year to make sure he’s emotionally ready for a kindergarten that’s very different from what I remember it being), both for his excessive energy and for his lingering potty training issues (in short, and without too much depth: pooping in the toilet is a hurdle much higher than we realized it would be). I’d thought about it, and then I realized it wouldn’t go well for him. He’s still got a few hurdles to jump over, but they aren’t ones that he can’t reach, and intellectually, he’s more than ready to move forward.

He’s adding and subtracting, he’s doing a little bit of multiplication. He’s sounding out words, slowly but surely. He can write his name and a few other words, he draws good representative pictures, he can mostly remember the plot of a movie or story when asked about it. He’s curious still about science and nature, and I hope that sticks with him. I think he’s ready.

Just. You know. Kindergarten is so DIFFERENT now. When I went, back in 1987-1988, most of the learning was the stuff he’s going over in preschool–letters, numbers, colors, days of the week. Very basic stuff. And lots of playtime and naptime (I got to skip naptime because I could already read, so I spent naptime in the first grade class, learning to read better). Now it’s like… all the grades have been shuffled and kids are expected to be tiny adults before they even hit middle school. And that’s what makes me nervous.

…fun kindergarten stories to distract from my nerves.

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NUMBER ONE. My kindergarten was in an extension of a church, and our only play area was near the cemetery next to the church. We used to play in that cemetery, which was honestly so green and enchanted, until somebody broke a headstone–not someone in our class, but somebody.

NUMBER TWO. We had a tally behavior system, and the only unfair tally I received, at least in my mind, was when some other kids in the class decided to hide behind a car instead of going inside at recess (how the teacher missed them, I’ll never know) and I stayed behind to tell them that they should go inside. When they didn’t listen, my guilty heart sent me to go and tell the teacher what was going on, and I got in trouble–both for not coming in with the rest of the class and for tattling (??). I am still not over this injustice.

NUMBER THREE. Because the school was about forty minutes from where we lived, I’d ride there with my dad in the morning and ride home with my mom in the afternoon. My dad drove a little red Toyota Corolla, and I would sit in the front seat and sing along to Amy Grant tapes with him (because back then, children could sit in the front seat; it was a different time). My mom drove a blue Monte Carlo with my brother and sister in the back seat, and her car broke down approximately every fifteen seconds or if you sneezed funny. Every afternoon, we’d listen to the radio, and while I remember exactly nothing else of what we listened to, I remember hearing Bobby Darin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” at the same time every day, and it was awesome.

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Anyway, back to my nerves. I don’t want Sam to be overwhelmed, is what I’m getting at. I don’t define success as necessarily having fantastic grades or being class president or anything; if he attains that stuff, great, but I’m more concerned with that he’s progressing and that he’s doing what he needs to do in order to progress. And I want to make sure he doesn’t lose a love of learning. I’m afraid that entering a more structured class environment will be rough for him there, but at the same time, I also don’t feel like I’d be able to give him what he needs by homeschooling him (which I used to dream about doing, but now that I’ve got three kids, ELL OH ELL). He’s a REALLY social kid–he needs people, loves people. And even if I brought him to co-ops and homeschooling groups, I don’t know that I could provide what he needs in that sense.

So we’ll see what happens. I think he’ll be okay; he’s a resilient enough kid, and we’re a pretty good support system, if I do say so myself (I do), but.

Well, you know. I’m a mom. I worry.

But at the same time, there’s not a lot I can do at the moment. I’m talking to his teachers, asking if they think he’s ready. I’ll talk with the kindergarten principal. I’ll see what we can expect. And then I’ll buckle the fuck up.

In the meantime, the twins are turning one in less than a month, which is its own level of surreal. I had all these enormous plans for their birthday party that are kind of puttering now because of how sick I’ve been and the way I’ve been side-eyeing our finances (we thought we’d be getting a pretty decent tax return, but then student loans). Now it’s turning into more of a “well, we’ll all hang out and eat pie” party than anything else. Which, you know. They’re one.

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I have no idea what, if anything, to get them. We still have most of our baby toys from when Sam was that age (we are terrible and need to do a toy purge, but Sam still plays with so much of it? So it’s weird?), so they’re not really lacking for anything. I guess probably I’ll end up getting them some leash backpacks, for when they do start walking (I use leashes on my toddlers, and I am so not ashamed, because it’s SO much easier than trying to make them hold your hand and reduces the overall number of meltdowns). Clothes. Maybe some plushes–Sam’s favorite lovey is a stuffed dog that Kat got him for his first birthday.

And then there will be Sam’s birthday, which is even more intimidating because he wants a party this year (specifically, a pirates-and-Star Wars party). Our house is definitely not set up for a party, even assuming maximum cleanliness of both the house and the front and back yards, solely because we have no parking. We share an easement with our next door neighbors (to everyone’s chagrin) and our driveway is really narrow, so if we did have anyone come and visit, they’d have to leave in reverse order that they came, which is just inconvenient for everyone.

Part of me wants to see about doing Sam’s party At A Place (like all the cool kids did when I was in school, and it was usually the roller skating rink, and this is making me sound so old), but another part of me is like “that costs money!” and then I feel bad. We’re verging on out of the woods in terms of financial stress, but we’re not quite to a point yet where I can drop a bunch of money for a party At A Place.

But we’re also not at a point–and won’t be, unless we ever move–where we can have a party at home.

Grumble grumble sigh. I want to give him a good party. I want to give my kids great birthdays. But it’s… hard.

Like writing.

It’s Time to Let Go

I didn’t get to see The Incredibles 2 this summer for a variety of reasons, most of them being “I have twin babies and no money.” I was a little bummed about that and also a little bummed about not getting to see the new Pixar short “Bao” that aired before the movie (though less so about the short, because as much as I like Pixar shorts, I’m not committed to them as a Thing). This week, Disney released the short for free viewing, so I finally caught it, after a Slate article showed up on my Facebook feed. I’d read a couple of articles about it, most talking about how deeply it spoke to the Chinese immigrant experience, and one talking about how people laughing at a certain point towards the end didn’t get it at all. Without having seen the short, I had no idea what these articles were talking about, and assumed that because my heritage is a mixed bag of various shades of white, I wouldn’t really get the short either.

And then I watched it.

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(shown: me watching “Bao”)

I’ve got a link for it right here, but it’s only going to be up for a week, so what follows is a summary of the short (though even if you read the summary, you should watch it for yourself, because it’s truly well done).

A Chinese woman stands making bao buns for herself and her husband in her San Francisco kitchen. Her husband eats his buns before rushing off to work; the woman takes her time and, as she’s biting into the third one, is surprised to hear it cry out like a baby. She drops the bun into its steamer, where it proceeds to sprout a face, arms, legs, and a body. Though at first horrified, the woman takes an immediate liking to her new child and cuddles it up to her cheek.

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The bao boy begins to grow up. At first, he toddles around his mother’s legs while she works around the house, gleefully helps her choose produce at the open air market, and does tai chi with her in the park. She dotes on him, helping him maintain his plump shape with delicious pork and measuring his growth on the door outside of his bedroom. But as he grows older, the bao boy begins to balk at his mother’s affection and attention. One day, he sees other boys playing soccer and longs to join him, but his mother pulls him away. When they reach the park for tai chi, he sneaks away to play soccer and ends up denting his dumpling head in the process. As he and his mother head home, she tries to clean the dirt from his face and share a pastry with him, as they had on every ride before; but he chafes at her attention and, when they get home, closes himself in his room, and does so regularly from then on, only emerging to eat out of the fridge.

After being shut out of her son’s room when he’s on the phone, the mother thinks she knows how to reach him. She works hard in the kitchen to cook him a grand feast and invites him to join her when he finally emerges. He rejects her offer, however, and breezes out the door to join his friends on a nighttime drive. While he’s gone, the mother stress eats the whole feast herself; when he returns, it’s alongside a blonde woman, a woman who’s sporting an engagement ring. She’s thrilled to meet the bao boy’s mother and gives her an effusive hug, while the bao boy goes to gather his things. He gives his mother a sweet hug and begins to head for the door, but she slams it shut before he can leave. She pleads with him to stay, to choose her over his fiancee, and when he doesn’t, she eats him.

(this was the point of confusion for a lot of people)

Instantly regretting her actions, she drops to the floor and sobs. Later, she remains heartbroken and sobbing on her bed. Her husband moves to comfort her but pauses as he hears their door open. A moment later, the bao boy appears in the door; she blinks a few times, and her vision clears to reveal her very human adult son.

(dear reader, at this point, my tears went from a trickle to a full-on sob)

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She refuses to acknowledge him, at first, but he sets down a box of their favorite pastries beside her; she eventually sits up and begins to share with him, and they both cry and hug each other. In the final scene, the woman tries to teach her son and his fiancee to make bao buns of their own; he’s abominable, but his fiancee has an apparent natural talent for it.

As Pixar has an apparent natural talent for making me sob hysterically.

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(I’m looking at you, Up)

Parenting is, above all, a long exercise in the art of letting go. For whatever else you do in the years you’re a parent, you’re ultimately working your way to the points where you trust in your ability to parent and let your child go, in a multitude of ways. You send them to school for the first time. You bring them to college. You help them move out after college. You give them your blessing for their wedding.

You give them last words of wisdom before you pass away.

Or worse: you hold onto their hand and tell them not to be afraid as they pass away.

And you let go.

And it’s a dreadful and wonderful thing. The wonderful part makes itself apparent on the hard days, like yesterday was for me, the days when it’s all bodily fluids and no rest. When your four-year-old comes staggering downstairs in tears because he wanted to wear his favorite zip-up pajamas but couldn’t unzip them in time to get to the toilet, and then when you remove his pajamas and undies, a huge ol’ turd falls out on your living room floor, and no sooner have you cleaned that up than the baby starts screaming hysterically, and when you pick the baby up to soothe him, he vomits untold quantities of partially digested formula down your back.

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And in those moments, you think, “Oh man, I cannot wait until the four-year-old doesn’t need any help with the toilet and all the kids can run themselves to the bathroom if they need to puke. And when they’re all in school for the day and I don’t have to pretend to be interested in whatever inane programming they’ve found in the bowels of Netflix. And when everyone can feed themselves so I don’t have to try and wrangle the babies with their bottles or break my back leaning over to feed them with a spoon.”

But.

It’s also dreadful.

Sam, for example, wants to be an astronaut. I don’t expect this ambition to be permanent, though it’d be cool if it was permanent. Anyway, he wants to be an astronaut, and more specifically, he wants to go to the moon. He adores the moon, has a glowing one to hang in his room, and dreams of being there someday. And gosh, I want him to be able to go to the moon someday. I want him to reach for that dream and hold it tangibly and never let it go.

But then I imagine saying good-bye as he boards a rocket ship and blasts off, my heart choking me as I know that statistically, nothing will likely go wrong, but images of the Challenger clouding my vision anyway. And I imagine looking up at the sky every night and knowing that my son is as far from me as one human has ever been from another.

And it hurts.

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I remember the big “let go” when I transitioned from a child in the house to an adult in my own house. I was 25 years old and moving from my childhood home in Massachusetts to an apartment in Texas in order to pursue my graduate degree (and what a mistake that was, though I’ll talk about that some other time). Not only that, but my parents had just sold my childhood home and were moving to a new house, not far away but still not my childhood home. As Kyle and I wandered around the house, packing up my life in my little green car, I remember freezing in the basement and starting to cry. I knew I was making the right move. I knew that it was time to let go and be let go of.

But it hurt.

The other night, we had Finding Nemo on while everyone got ready for bed. In a quiet moment, as I fed one of the babies on my lap, I overheard one scene where Dory says to Marlon (entirely unrelated to his personal conflict), “It’s time to let go!” Later, Marlon has to trust his son to perform a big task and literally let go of him, and although he does so, you can still hear the pain in his voice as he acquiesces.

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Because it hurts.

So if I had one piece of advice to give to any new parent, I’d say to start practicing letting go as soon as you’re holding them. You won’t want to do it, because your hearts are already knitted together, but you need to not just acknowledge that you’ll have to let go eventually but actually practice it and remember that it won’t destroy you utterly to do so.

Because right now, she’s small (though bigger than ever, at nearly nine pounds!) and tries to lift herself up into your arms, but soon enough, you’ll be watching her run for the school bus. Right now, he’s small (though tipping the scales at nearly twenty pounds!) and stops crying when you hold him against your shoulder, but soon enough, he’ll be shrugging off your hugs as he runs to greet his friends. Right now, he’s small (though so tall and lanky that he almost looks like he’s eight) and curls himself up on your lap and promises that he’ll never leave you, but soon enough, he’ll be on the moon (hopefully).

And you need to practice letting go so that, even though it hurts, you won’t ever hold them back from learning to fly.

I Review Movies: Ralph Breaks the Internet

So! Today, my mom came and watched the twins and gave me money to take Sam to see Ralph Breaks the Internet, which was awesome enough that I wrote a review of it! And talked about how it plays into my parenting a little, but mostly, this is all review.

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For those of us who came of age with the internet, a physical manifestation of the internet would aesthetically resemble nothing so much as Panem from The Hunger Games–a dangerous wasteland of scum and villainy punctuated by a handful of shining clean and innocent beacons that grow fewer in number by the day (not that the cleaner and shinier parts of Panem were actually innocent; I mean this more from an aesthetic point of view). In that, the idea of Ralph Breaks the Internet, Disney’s sequel to the 2012 film Wreck It Ralph, scared me more than a little. The idea of Disney turning the internet into a living, breathing, physical world ran the risk of being far too sanitized to speak any real truth while simultaneously being oversaturated with product placements so numerous as to make even the staunchest capitalist reach for a barf bag.

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Thankfully, Ralph Breaks the Internet manages to steer clear of both risks, instead turning out a film that surprised me with its intelligence, insight, and humor.

(spoilers ahead; spoiler free review: this film was so much fun and so thoughtful that it genuinely surprised me, and I really liked the first movie!)

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The film picks up six years after the first, and life is pretty good for Ralph: he spends his days “working” (i.e., being the villain in the Fix-It Felix, Jr. arcade game) and his nights hanging out with Vanellope in various other games–Tapper, Tron, some variant on a Madden title. Vanellope isn’t so happy with this arrangement, however, as her joy over being a legitimate racer has dimmed now that Sugar Rush has run out of surprises for her, with all of the secret tracks unlocked and every race she’s in coming out with her on top.

Ralph doesn’t understand her apathy, which introduces the film’s primary conflict: in deriving all of his happiness and self-worth from Vanellope, Ralph takes any unhappiness on her part as a swipe against him. It isn’t, of course; Vanellope has other avenues of happiness besides her best friend, and she’s understandably distraught when her home–the game Sugar Rush–is unplugged because of a broken part. Ralph once again takes this as a personal attack because, to him, as long as he has Vanellope, he’s happy. She is his one source of happiness, and it’s exactly as toxic as it sounds.

It’s not something that a lot of kids’ films and especially a lot of Disney films delve into with a great deal of frequency, since it’s not only a nuanced plot but one that goes against the general trends of storytelling when there’s a main male and main female character. It’s obviously not the case in every movie, but a relationship in which both partners’ life problems are magically fixed because of one special person in their lives is rarely one that’s given close examination in film media. In real life, that sort of relationship would be toxic as hell and drowning in red flags; but in films, it’s accepted as yes, of course, this is the way things are supposed to be.

And when you think about it critically, you find yourself asking, what message is that sending to people in general?

Another interesting thing about this is that Ralph is trying so hard to be the only one that Vanellope needs to be happy. When she expresses boredom with her game, he goes to the trouble of creating a new track for her to race on, which inadvertently causes the game’s steering wheel to break. When she’s too miserable about losing her game to hang out with him, he decides that they’re going to the internet themselves to find the replacement part for her game so that she won’t be homeless any longer. Even his more villainous actions–manipulating Vanellope away from the game that made her truly happy (a sanitized version of Grand Theft Auto called Slaughter Race) and eventually releasing a virus into that game to make it too boring for her to want to stay there–have a mask of concern on them: he fears for her safety outside of her game, as characters that die outside of their games don’t regenerate.

But ultimately, it’s Ralph’s insecurities that serve as the greatest villain in the film, a decision for which I applaud the writers of the film. A handful of recent Disney films (okay, okay, it’s mostly Frozen I’m talking about here) have villains shoehorned in when they aren’t really necessary, largely because that provides a safer route for the studio: a man vs. man conflict is much easier to translate to the screen for younger viewers than a man vs. self conflict. Here, though, Disney takes the risk and makes the story about a man figuring himself out: Ralph has to literally deal with his crushing insecurities in order to save both his and Vanellope’s lives.

(I do mean literally)

And GOSH, but I appreciate that in a film that’s marketed as being more for boys (because, let’s be real here, Disney very much sticks to a boy-girl dichotomy in their marketing, but that’s another discussion for another time). As a stereotypical “boy” film, it was incredibly thoughtful and nuanced–nobody solves any problems by fighting or punching, but with mindfulness, compassion, introspection, and communication. The most objectively badass characters in the film are all women (for those who keep track of such things, this film more than passes the Bechdel Test, with heavy-hitters like Gal Gadot and Taraji P. Henson providing the talent behind the newest characters), but their badassery doesn’t necessarily come from them being given traditionally masculine traits. Instead, Gal Gadot’s street racer Shank, while also falling into stereotypical “badass racer” tropes, acts as an almost mother figure for her gang of racers and, eventually, for Vanellope herself. Taraji P. Henson’s Yesss, an algorithm, is tough and outspoken, but at the same time excited, sociable, and wise.

This may seem like reading a lot into a cartoon film, but I’ve found that since I have kids, I read a lot more into what films are saying than I used to. As much as I’m able to influence my kids’ feelings and mindsets, I know that they’ve got TONS of other influencers that I can’t control, and a lot of those influencers are in media. And while I’m perfectly happy for my kids to see heroic and stereotypically masculine heroes and plots (Star Wars, I’m looking at you–or at least at the original trilogy), having a film to balance that out, where the male lead solves his problems not by punching or fighting them but by working through his feelings–that’s pretty sweet.

So overall, I really liked the film and its primary message: that you shouldn’t derive all your happiness and self-worth from one person, that it’s okay if best friends have separate lives because if your friendship is strong, it can withstand distance and difference. And I liked a lot of the details, too.

Like the depiction of the internet. Again, when I heard that this film was going to involve Disney characters going to the internet, my first response was “oh no.” The internet is like a Mad Max film with a few suburban oases scattered about. Aside from a few specific hideouts, it’s a PvP enabled zone, and I couldn’t conceive of it being depicted in any way that was sanitized enough for Disney standards.

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(shown: what the internet is really like)

It seemed to me that Disney understood this as well, because the film is littered with hints of the darker side of the internet that will fly over most kids’ heads but will have adults chuckling knowingly. At one point, a pop-up ad (here behaving much like street vendors outside popular tourist destinations) tells Ralph that “Sassy housewives want to meet you!” Once Ralph and Vanellope enter eBay (the location of the missing part for Vanellope’s game), Vanellope spots a section of “baby clothes” marked lingerie (which she adorably mispronounces). And, of course, Ralph’s insecure quest to control Vanellope eventually leads him to the Dark Web, of which we thankfully don’t see much.

(for those unversed in internet lingo, the Dark Web is the lawless underbelly of the internet; in the film, it’s mostly portrayed as a place to buy viruses and stolen credit cards, while the real Dark Web is home to infinitely more sinister pursuits)

The film is also littered with internet and pop culture references, somewhat like the film Ready Player One, which came out earlier this year. That said, however, the cultural references here come about mostly organically and serve to further the plot, rather than to show the viewer how many references the filmmakers know. The only sequence where the references get a little heavy-handed is the Oh My Disney! sequence, which isn’t terribly surprising: these are Disney’s IPs, and they’re going to use them, damnit.

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But even that sequence actually served a purpose, instead of just existing to be like “whee, we’re Disney, and we own Star Wars and Marvel and, if you’re a parent, most of your money!” The first princess scene (there are two, and they’re both honestly delightful) serves to help Vanellope realize that she’s been denying her own dreams because she’s afraid of upsetting Ralph (and to realize it in a bizarrely clever way that made me think, “gosh, I hope Vanellope gets official Disney Princess status”). And, of course, Sam loved seeing the references to Star Wars and other Disney films he enjoys.

My only disappointment with the film (I can’t call it a criticism because I don’t think there’s really a way to fix it without the film suffering) was that we didn’t get to see more of Calhoun and Felix, the side characters from the first film. They show up, but I think they have about half a dozen lines between them. Their plot (in which they take in the orphaned racers from Sugar Rush and serve as their adoptive parents) sounds like it would’ve made a hilarious side story, but it would absolutely have taken away from Ralph and Vanellope’s story, which is excellent. I’d love it, though, if maybe on the BluRay release, we had a short featuring Calhoun and Felix figuring out how to parent these miscreants, because we learn by the end that they exceeded everyone’s wildest expectations for doing so.

Other bulleted thoughts:

  • One of the most delightful things about both this film and Wreck It Ralph is the animation of the video game characters and how that animation flows with the character’s game. Characters from older games move in a choppier fashion, while characters from newer games have much smoother animation. In this film, the trend continues into new avenues: people’s internet avatars move choppier or smoother, depending on their connection to the internet; in Slaughter Race, the played characters position themselves, jump, and move in a way that’s all too familiar to anyone who’s played any sort of MMO.

  • Okay, maybe I did cry a little at two points. First, I teared up when Ralph breaks the number one rule of the internet and reads the comments. The comments on his viral videos (which he created to raise money to pay for the steering wheel for Vanellope’s game, after he and Vanellope naively jacked the price up to more than $20,000) jab at all the insecurities he thought he’d lost because of his friendship with Vanellope and leave him more vulnerable to impulsive bad ideas, even after he’s succeeded at his stated goal. And second, I teared up at the end, when Vanellope–whose code has been integrated into Slaughter Race–says good-bye to Ralph before he heads back to the arcade. Both characters know that they’re going to find real happiness where they are, but the separation still hurts, and it reminded me more than a little of the velcro tear feeling of a long-distance relationship. Ouch, Disney. Ouch.

  • The Pancake/Milkshake scene didn’t make it into the final cut of the film, but it’s worth sticking around through the credits, because it does show up there, and in an adorably winking way that I really appreciated.

  • I honestly couldn’t stand Yesss’s name until it became clear that she was an algorithm… at which point, she made perfect sense, and I loved her.

  • Also Shank. There needs to be so much more Shank merchandise because she was an amazing character. And I am not just saying this because Gal Gadot is everything. Just seriously. I love all the cozy princess stuff and would absolutely spend money on it if I hadn’t had to replace like nine pieces of technology in the last two weeks, but Disney, if anyone there in marketing reads this, I promise that if you make more Shank merchandise, like maybe a Shank doll in the same tradition as the princess dolls and the Yesss doll, I will totally buy it.

In conclusion: a solid A, a rollicking good time, a delight, and a surprisingly thoughtful film.

I don’t really have a title?

I’ve been trying to write a blog entry for about two weeks now, but I keep getting stalled because I find myself just complaining and complaining and venting and venting, and I don’t want to do that. I want to be honest in my blog, but I also don’t want to come across as miserable and ungrateful, because I’m not. A lot about this is really hard, but it’s also really good. I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone–controversial opinion of mine, not everyone should be a parent–but for me, it’s good. I miss my kids when they aren’t around, even though during the day, I have this emotion of “why are people on me so much?”

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The adventures of parenting as an introvert, right?

So let’s see. Where are we, from a not so bad point of view?

Sam started preK about two weeks ago, and it’s got him stressed. He’s my most routine-oriented child (at least so far, who knows if the twins will be all about routines when they’re his age?), so mix some change into his life, and he gets stressed. He doesn’t know to call it that, yet, though, so it’s mostly coming out as him being clingier than usual, acting out more than usual, whining more than usual, the works. It’s frustrating because it ends up building until we speak pretty harshly to him, and we know what’s causing it, but he’s also not exactly the most open kid emotionally. I give him words to talk about his emotions, and he sort of nods and says, “But you see, Mommy, this ship here can fly with seven kitties in it!”

We all have different coping strategies, I suppose. His is to create rocket ships.

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He’s doing well enough in school, learning how to make the letter “A” and that “umbrella” does not begin with the letter “A.” He goes two days a week, and I wish he could go more, but it’s out of our reach, financially, at least as long as he stays at this school (and I’m not switching his school–his best friends are here, and that would just  make things crazy). I just hope it’s enough that when he transitions to kindergarten next year, it’s not too overwhelming for him.

We’re prepping for that now, because it’s a REALLY big change, probably the biggest in his memory. He’s going to a new school, all day, and he might not–probably won’t, actually–be in the same classroom with the friends he’s known since he was a baby (unless I can work with his best friends’ moms and CONSPIRE, but I think the kindergarten teachers might be overwhelmed by having Sam and his crew all together at once). He wants to ride the school bus (meanwhile, I’m like, look–we live 10 minutes from the school, the school bus takes 45 minutes to get to the school from our house. Why don’t we stress less and drive? Yes? No? Bueller?). He’ll be getting a backpack and other school supplies. He’ll have to learn in a calmer environment.

The latter part has me a little nervous, because he’s always been learning in this playful environment, not quite a Montessori setting (I WISH, but the local Montessori school is WAY out of our price range), but still mostly informal. I haven’t had any complaints from his teachers since he went through a biting phase when he was about eighteen months old (his principal tried to talk to him about what he was doing and why he shouldn’t do it but eventually gave up because he kept repeating everything she said with a lisp, since he was still learning how to talk). I think he’ll be okay, that he’s just saving all his anxious energy for us because he knows we love him no matter what, but I still worry.

I mean. Not a lot, because if he does have issues, we can work through them together, but you never want your kid to struggle.

Otherwise, though, he’s doing well. We’re working to make sure that he feels included in things with the babies, and that he has a really great school year. And he’s planning to be Jack Skellington again this year, so we’ll have to make sure that costume is ready for him. His school is hosting a Trunk or Treat, and depending on what we can scrape together for paint and other supplies, we might make ourselves a spooky pumpkin patch and participate with a trunk.

The babies are going for Halloween as pumpkins, with little jack o’lantern onesies I got from Carter’s, stripey leg warmers, and cute socks. The onesies came with beanies, which I plan to measure tomorrow to see if they fit over the helmets, to which both babies are finally adjusting well.

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It’s been an adventure! Carrie’s helmet was giving her a lot of trouble to start, and she got a pretty gross friction burn on her forehead from it one day (the burn has since healed, but there’s still a scar), but we’ve reduced friction and misery with the liberal use of cornstarch (which has replaced talc in baby powder and also smells really good). Even without wearing the helmets 23/7, they’ve seen about a millimeter of improvement, which isn’t a LOT, but it’s something.

I dove into some craftiness and decorated the helmets myself with some stickers I had lying around from adventures in decorating a calendar at work (aside: did you know that having a day planner is apparently a craft now? Because I did not, but you can get all sorts of stickers for them and it’s kind of bizarre), along with about five coats each of Mod Podge, which theoretically will allow me to remove all the stickers at once when I’m ready (probably around mid November? Or something; whenever I feel ready to do Christmas stickers instead). It’s the craftiest I’ve been in a while, and it was fun–I think I need more excuses and time to be crafty or decoupage or something.

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Both babies remain mildly developmentally delayed. They hit their six month birthday on Friday, but they’re more hitting four month milestones at the moment. Isaac has just figured out rolling over as a method of transportation, so he tends to roll around the living room floor like an alligator trying to steal a chicken from its handler. This gets especially hilarious when he forgets that he can roll from his belly to his back again and wails about the injustice of being on his tummy until someone comes and flips him like a pancake.

Carrie can roll in both directions, but she mostly chooses not to, preferring to just chill in whatever position she finds herself in. She’s a cheerful baby still, or mostly a cheerful baby. She’s an emotional baby, we’ll say that, and you always know what she’s feeling. If you pick up Isaac but not her, she’ll stare at you in cross and stern judgment until you rectify the error. If you walk past her without picking her up at all, she’ll shriek–not just a cry, but an actual, all-out SCREAM, like someone is tearing out her fingernails, until you rectify the error. On the other hand, if you smile at her, she’ll give you the biggest, sunniest, gummy smile ever.

They both babble, in entirely different voices. Isaac’s voice is throatier, and it involves a lot of “Lll” and “Gh” sounds, which is weird, but okay. Carrie is the more traditional baby sound maker, with a lot of “ooh” and “ahh” sounds, and some “buh” and “mah” sneaking in. She’s also learned to make raspberries, which is hilarious on many levels, since it’s her main way of showing relaxed pleasure now (e.g., “I am not HAPPY, per se, but I can see the little toys on my bounce seat move with me, and that is good”).

So they’re okay. We’ve got their six month appointment on October 2, and please GOD the pediatrician will tell us that we can switch to regular formula, which will still be expensive (because we’re shopping for two instead of one; hello, sole reason I wish my tits produced milk instead of just existing like useless 20 lb fleshy funbags), but not as expensive–like $20 or so less a week. So we’re not talking the miracle that will happen in May, when the twins switch to cow’s milk (technically, April 25, 2019; no, I’m not counting down the seconds, my wallet is), but it’ll still be a small relief.

They’re also starting on purees, which is fun. We give them the purees at dinner time, in hopes that it will make them sleep better, but the problem is that they’ve got so many developmental milestones hitting one after another that their nights are very fussy. Isaac graciously gave us a break from his bad sleep pattern for about two nights, but he’s back on it, so I’m expecting he’ll start running triathlons any day now.

It’s all, of course, got me thinking philosophically about a great many things, all sorts of things that I’d love to write about for ages, but when you’re running around after three small humans as a lifestyle, your brain words kind of get jumbled by the time you get around to putting them on paper. And all of the things I’ve been thinking philosophically about are things that could get things a little gross if I word them wrong, so I’ll just not.

Instead, I’ll reflect on the good and the random:

  • I’m counting down the minutes until I can start Christmassing. Don’t get me wrong, I love Halloween, but dressing everyone up for Christmas, pictures with Santa, all of that? Is my JAM. I also know that I won’t be able to do any Christmassing until at least November, so I’m Planning (with a capital P) outfits and pictures and all of this stuff so that I can JUMP ON IT the second I can.

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  • We’re being mostly good with our budget, which is both surprising and nice. Kyle and I have both started paying more attention to what we buy and are learning which things we can get off-brand (most pasta, milk, cheese, pretzels) and which things we’d rather spend the extra dollar on (Ramen, fried onions, ice cream treats, frozen pizza). We did flub up a bit this week, BUT the next pay day is Thursday, so it’s not the end of the world.

  • I’ve been to a playgroup for other moms with kids who are developmentally delayed (as the twins are), and it was… I don’t honestly know. Not BAD, but it felt like a lot of effort for not a lot of reward. I have a mom tribe, and I love them so dearly–they were there for me through a lot of infertility struggles and the stress of the twin pregnancy and I’ve tried to be there for them as well–so I’m not really in the market for another, which seemed to be the overall purpose. The person who sent me to the group through Early Intervention told me that there would be physical therapy there as well, which is what I wanted for Isaac, but we didn’t have any of that. Still, it wasn’t a bad experience, but was it really worth the effort of hauling two babies out of the house at naptime in the rain? Not for me.

  • But maybe when they’re older it would be? I don’t know. I’m bad at figuring out socializing things, and my attempts at making mom friends in the real world largely amount to “haha yeah, babies, aren’t they small?”

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  • And I’ve been done with IVF for a whole year. I still haven’t figured out if I want to do pregnancy again or not, but unless there’s a very big surprise between now and when I figure it out, it’ll be after spending $3000 or so to test the remaining embryos and going through an FET cycle, and won’t that be fun.

And that is all!

For now.

The Measure of a Head

We’re in the countdown for helmets, having been measured officially on Wednesday. We’ll get the helmets themselves on Friday and be able to wean the twins into them over the next two weeks, at which point they’ll be wearing the helmets 23 hours a day, 7 days a week.

I’m weirdly excited about it, because it’s progress. It’s helping them to take steps forward that they otherwise wouldn’t have taken, and it’s fixing a problem before it becomes unfixable. I was scrolling through Instagram the other day (I’m @threelittlesith if you want to stare at pictures of my kids), just browsing the plagiocephaly tag, and I came across images of a kid who had a form of synostosis that caused his skull to fuse too soon, so his plagiocephaly couldn’t be corrected with a helmet, and he needed to have parts of his skull removed.

Which… yikes.

They’re not that bad. Ultimately, they’ve still got soft spots and you can tell that their skulls are still in pieces, which means we’ve got time to fix this, and that’s good. They’re pretty misshapen, to the point where you can tell that they need helmets, but the guy at the orthotics place said that he didn’t expect them to be in for too long, since they’re so little and starting early enough.

So.

You know.

The fitting, on Wednesday, went exceptionally well. Both twins were very well behaved, sitting still and quiet while they were measured and not crying much throughout. The office itself was filled with mostly diabetes patients coming in to get diabetes shoes, and they were all SUPER EXCITED to see even one baby, never mind two. So we did the “are they twins?” dance about 50 times and had a lot of old people smiling at them and cooing and saying, “Oh, you must have your hands full!”

We were the only ones in the waiting room by the time we were called, and we shuffled into a decent-sized office full of measuring gadgets and a medical table and cabinets and the like. Shortly thereafter, our measuring guy (I have no idea what his official title was) came in and used a handful of tools to take manual measurements of their skulls. He then had each twin wear this funny little sock that had just a space for their face to come out and, after attaching a device to said sock, took digital measurements that made a 3D picture of each baby’s head.

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(basically like this, but these aren’t Isaac or Carrie)

The twins were unimpressed throughout, except with the glowy spinny toy they got to watch while being measured. And then they promptly fell asleep.

The only slight glitch in the system came when the receptionist came in to take our payment. We knew that our insurance was covering all but 20% of the helmets, which meant we’d be responsible for $360 of each, a total of $720. We also knew that we’d pay that in two installments: one after the measuring and one after we received the helmets. Whether due to my lack of sleep/brainmeats or just an overall miscommunication, the way the receptionist phrased our bill made me think that we owed $720 after the measurement and another $720 the next week, which we could’ve theoretically scraped together somehow, except we’d only planned for the $360 that day, graciously given by Kyle’s family.

So I had a brief heart attack and Kyle had a brief heart attack, and we both panicked until the receptionist clarified that no, we only owed $360 on Wednesday and the rest next Friday. Okay.

We ordered the twins’ helmets in white, since I want to be able to (a) dress them in whatever clothes I feel like and (b) decorate for the seasons. They had options like a galaxy print and MURICA and what have you, but the white will work just fine, especially as I learned that you can use just regular stickers and ModPodge on them, so there’s no need to spend $30 for decals or more if you go through an Etsy store. Some stickers from Michael’s will do the trick just fine, and Kyle bought like a gallon of ModPodge about a year ago (he was feeling crafty), so we’ll have fun.

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(almost as much fun as my favorite person on the entire internet)

I’m determinedly not adding to my mom guilt list (which includes: son has too much screen time, do not have eight arms, naps instead of like making seasonal wreaths or something, does not own ironing board) that my twins are wearing helmets, because the more I think about it and look at them, the more I’m aware that it was unavoidable. Between the pregnancy and everyone being smushed, their prematurity, and the fact that they spent the first six weeks of their lives sleeping and doing nothing else, it’s no wonder they’ve got flat heads. The deck was stacked against them. And it’s fixable. Very much fixable.

I know some perfect parent exists somewhere who’d screech, “WELL IF YOU JUST HELD THEM MORE” to which I say

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Saint Carrie and I will have none of your shaming, and you should go have a hot toddy and watch The Great British Bake-Off to calm yourself down.

Expectations vs. Reality

It hit me today, between stress about money and trying to keep Sam’s excitement to a dull roar, that we’re coming up on five months with the twins; they’re three months adjusted as of last Wednesday. That’s nearly half a year, comfortably out of the “fourth trimester” and rapidly moving towards the baby stage I like the best, which is the 6-12 month stage (when they’re independent enough to play by themselves and sometimes hold a bottle, but still small and cute).

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(this is Sam in that bracket, and my GOD, what a cute kid)

Twin-wise, things are good. They’re healthy babies, they’re happy babies. Isaac is needing all sorts of interventions and what-have-you, but it’s nothing that’s going to affect him long term, at least not as far as anyone has guessed yet. They both smile and laugh, they both eat heartily and sleep through the night.

So I found myself thinking, in retrospect, how is early twin parenthood different from what I expected? And thus I give you:

EXPECTATIONS VS. REALITY: THE FOURTH TRIMESTER WITH TWINS EDITION

EXPECTATION: Feeding them will be a nightmare. I’ll have to get bottles that allow for hands-free feeding because otherwise, things will be utter chaos, always.

REALITY: Well, I mean. Things are utter chaos…

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…but the better strategy here is to just stagger feedings by about half an hour or so.

It also helps that being in the NICU kind of got them prepared for a feeding schedule right from the get-go. With Sam, we were just reaching a feeding schedule around the three month mark, but these two have been strictly on a schedule since they came home, and it’s made things significantly easier. We know exactly when they need to eat and how much, and as a result, we’re almost never baffled by their crying for any reason. It’s always either, “I am hungry and my mealtime is fast approaching” or “I have pooped and you can smell it three counties away” or “I am falling asleep and keep dropping my pacifier, please replace it for me.”

The hardest part of it all is deciding who eats first. On some level, I like to take a “squeaky wheel gets the grease” approach, but that inevitably ends with the one who wasn’t loud before suddenly being inconsolable not thirty seconds after I start feeding the first. And there’s nothing I can do! That’s the weirdest part: when you have twins, you have to get used to one of them screaming their head off and not doing anything about it because a lot of times, you CAN’T do anything about it. If the bottle is in Carrie’s mouth and Isaac starts yelling because he accidentally batted his Wubbanub away, welp, tough titties, Isaac. And even when it’s a legitimate need, you sometimes just have to shrug and say, “I want to help you, but I’m in the middle of helping your sibling.”

Speaking of…

EXPECTATION: The twins, being newborns, will be really hard. Sam will be a helper and/or self-entertaining.

REALITY: HAHAHAHAHAHA!

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Oh, that’s a good one.

The twins are, comparatively, easy. They’re not wholly self-entertaining, obviously–tummy time is a thing, and they get bored with their dangly toys–but for the most part, I can plop them somewhere if I have to do something and then go do it and not worry about being interrupted.

Sam, on the other hand, is understandably more needy since acquiring siblings. Oh, he loves them, don’t get me wrong. He thinks they’re great, and they think he’s great. Both twins laughed for the first time at something Sam did, which is just going to go down in family lore forever.

But Sam is, of course, jealous and desperately in need of assurance that Kyle and I still love him at all times, but specifically when we are attending to the babies’ needs.

The scene usually plays out like this: Kyle or I are feeding one baby; the other is fussing or screaming, maybe both. Sam approaches, leans on our legs, starts shoving toys in our face and begging us to play with him. Or Sam backflips over the arm of the couch, we yell at him not to do that (unable to take him to his room, as we typically would have, because we’re feeding a baby), and then he says he wants Tostitos or pretzels or Frosted Mini Wheats (my son’s diet is 99% beige, and it should be better, but I’m barely treading water here, folks). Or we hear a yell from the bathroom that he’s done pooping and needs his butt wiped or that he’s still pooping and needs his Kindle.

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It’s understandable, of course. It’s a difficult adjustment, and even before the twins arrived, he’s never been much of an independent kid. Capable of independence, absolutely, but he vastly prefers to play with us or other kids rather than playing by himself.

And, well, it’s hard. I find myself relieved that he starts kindergarten next fall, so he’ll be in school full time and around other kids his age who can play with him during the day, relieved both for his sake and mine. In the meantime, there’s still a year to go, and we can’t really afford preschool that’s more than the two days a week he has right now (and even that’s stretching our budget really thin).

SPEAKING OF!

EXPECTATION: We will be totally broke all the time.

REALITY: Yeah, basically.

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This was sort of the case with Sam as well, mostly after we moved from our apartment to our house. The mortgage, though a good $300 less than it would’ve been to get an apartment the size we needed, was $300 more than we were paying for the apartment we were in. Sam was a formula baby (as are these two), and we added things like water bills and garbage collection to our monthly debits. As a result, when Sam was about 13 months old, I got a job, and a year later, I got a better job. Even with the cost of his daycare tuition, Kyle and I made enough between us that money was almost never an issue, and we were able to live comfortably, with dinners out on weekends and even the odd trip to Disney World.

And now we’re back here again. I knew I’d have to leave my job when I had the twins, simply because daycare for a baby is just too expensive, never mind for two babies, and even with discounts. We did the math, and even if we’d pulled Sam out of the daycare he attends (and loves) and went to one of the least expensive places in the state, we’d still be out $400 a week more than I’d be making, so the idea of me working any time before the twins are in school is just not feasible.

The trouble is that now, we’re down my income, and the bills haven’t gone away. Kyle makes more than he did back in 2015, but most pay periods feel like we’re racing against an invisible enemy to make ends meet. Unexpected expenses have us panicking and using credit cards in the last days of the pay period, and he and I are sure Sam’s picked up on our stress over the whole thing (we haven’t hidden it very well).

We both know it will get better in about a year. Next May, we finish with the more expensive car payments, and the twins will switch to cows’ milk. Next September, Sam starts kindergarten in our local school district. All told, that will free up about $1100/month for us.

BUT in the meantime, we rely on the kindness of our families and friends and shop for nonperishables at Walmart.

And shopping-wise…

EXPECTATION: Until the twins are old enough to dress themselves and choose their own clothes, I’m just going to dress them alike ALL THE TIME. They will be adorable in boy-girl matching outfits, maybe even adorable enough for an Instagram channel that’s ONLY ABOUT THEM.

REALITY: Listen, do you know how rare it is to find outfits that match for baby girls and baby boys?

I’m serious! It’s ridiculous. I’m not even talking about outfits that look like clones of each other, only one is pink and the other is blue or something. I just mean things that are thematically similar, because I guess baby girls can’t love sharks and baby boys can’t love birds?

I have occasional good luck with Carter’s; usually about once a season, they have a couple of outfits that match enough for me to want them very badly. The most recent set were in the three month size, and they had dinosaurs on them, because I guess dinosaurs transcend gender. But other than that, matching outfits are so ridiculously rare, and the ones you do find end up being so expensive that you wonder if the person selling them has ever met a real parent, one who recognizes that her twins may very well grow out of these clothes in a week.

Like they did for the three month clothes.

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(I guess that’s why they call it growing like a weed)

VERY fortunately, I’ve been blessed with dear friends and grandmas who heard the call of the “I can’t afford clothes for my babies” bird and delivered in BOXES with adorable clothes, some of them matching nicely! And I do find the occasional matching outfits, even if they just match thematically.

BUT. I wish there were more, or even just that I could afford the ridiculously pricey ones.

(though I’ll admit that if I could afford the pricey ones, I’d probably use that money on a crib or an exersaucer instead and just keep the babies in their generic white onesies)

But then there’s this weird point…

EXPECTATION: After having two babies, I’m so done. No more babies for me. Nope. Never again.

REALITY: Well…….

I’m not pregnant. Thank GOD for that, because I couldn’t handle one-year-olds and a baby and Sam all at once. But the doneness I felt when I was pregnant has kind of faded, at least partly because even as twins, these two are just such easy babies. They love being held, but it doesn’t ruin things if they’re put down. They eat well, and aside from some reflux issues and constipation issues, are good with that. They smile readily and learn fast. They’re ridiculously cute.

And I love the baby stage. I really do. And what’s more, I don’t feel done. I feel like I’d be okay with being done, but if I had my druthers, I’d ruther eventually do PGS testing on our remaining embryos and transfer another girl to give us a round four kids. I’ll be fine, I think, if that never happens, but…

Well. It’s very different having babies when you’re not dealing with postpartum depression than otherwise. I’m a whole new level of exhausted, but I’m loving it, and I feel like I could do it again, someday.

Just, yanno. Not any SOON someday.

Evaluation

When I was a kid, I mean really young, my younger sister got to have occupational therapy. I say “got to have” because her therapy seemed so cool to me as it helped her work through the tactile defensiveness that would later prove to be a symptom of autism. She’d do things like play with shaving cream and eat popsicles and all the stuff that, to a five-year-old like tiny me, seems like the best thing ever. Now, of course, because she was tactile defensive, she hated all of that, but I was so jealous that she got to do these things and it was called “school.”

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(I think I did this once? in school? It must’ve been third grade because my third grade teacher was amazing)

And it all came through Early Intervention, a program for infants and toddlers who either have developmental delays or are at risk for having developmental delays, with the aim to reduce or remove those delays. And I’m thinking about it quite a lot because Isaac has officially qualified for Early Intervention, as of today.

He is developmentally delayed, meaning that he’s failing to hit a handful of milestones, all thanks to his torticollis. Apparently the doctor we saw about a month ago, who seemed entirely useless, actually referred us to Early Intervention, and after some telephone tag, I scheduled an evaluation for Isaac for this afternoon. The idea was to see if he qualified to receive their services and, if so, what services he should receive. And, as it turns out, he does.

His delays aren’t cognitive or social, which is a huge relief to me–not that motor delays are fantastic, but at least we know that whatever caused his torticollis hasn’t negatively impacted his cognitive and social development much. The ladies who came to evaluate him–all some version of a Platonic Form of “mom”–all fell in love with him the second he smiled (and I can’t really blame them; he’s got the best gummy little grin. They both do, really).

The evaluation was mostly playing with him to see how much he could turn his head, if he would move and interact with stimuli, if he’d interact with people, things like that. Like Sam before him, he’s infinitely more interested in people’s faces than in objects, no matter the object in question. One of the evaluators and I had to hide our faces during some of the testing because he kept ignoring the toy he was supposed to focus on to smile at us.

His trouble comes entirely in his movement, and that’s what we expected to hear. His torticollis isn’t absolutely impossible to fix–he’s able to get his head to turn to face forward briefly, at least, which is good–but it’s bad enough that we definitely qualify for assistance in that regard. In the meantime, we have exercises we’re supposed to do with him to stretch out his neck. With any luck, between those and the helmet, he’ll be doing well enough in a few months that this–like the NICU–will all be backstory.

The helmets are pretty much a given for both twins, even though Carrie doesn’t have the torticollis as obviously or as badly as Isaac (the EI people said that they’d do a free evaluation of her if we wanted, which I may take them up on, but not until we’re in a more settled pattern with them–probably next month). I’m trying to keep reminding myself not to feel guilty about the things they’re delayed on and the flatness because those delays and the flatness are both byproducts of their prematurity and their twin gestation. Still, it’s hard when you read “your four-month-old should be able to roll over” and your four-month-old is mostly just doing mini-pushups when you give them tummy time.

Still, their social development helps me to focus on the good, even when the physical development lags behind. They’re both absolutely delightful. Isaac has developed a fantastic giggle that comes out whenever we change his shirt for the day for some reason, and I may have changed his shirt multiple times a day just to catch that giggle in action. Carrie is still just a sunshiney girl overall, and they’re progressing well. Both on the curve, both hopefully ready to graduate to real people formula and save us some dollars in the process.

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(how to buy formula when you have twins, illustrated)

The dollars are a stressful thing because our budget right now leaves us basically no wiggle room, even with as many things cut out as we can (i.e., in the year of our Lord 2018, it is not practical to cut out internet or wireless, and while I’d love to downgrade our cable, we’re in the middle of a contract, and doing so would cost more immediately than it’s really worth). This particular pay period is tight because we had a surprise antivirus autorenewal (Kyle had been talking to me about when we could renew that subscription, only to find out that it had renewed itself! Surprise!), the cat needed a trip to the vet that cost more than the $75 I usually expect (because she’d inexplicably grown troll claws that embedded themselves in her paw pads and so we needed to have her claws clipped while we were there, which seems simple enough, until you factor in the antibiotics she got afterwards), and our water bill was due. Without these unexpected expenses, we can do our budget really well and get along with slightly tightened belts. With the surprises, things get… tense.

I remind myself constantly that we’ll be in a much better place by this time next year. We’ll have paid off the car with the larger payments, and the twins will be off formula and onto cows’ milk. Our tax return should look really good: we’ve added two dependents, and I quit my job, which is a significant decrease in income since last year. In September (or August, school years are weird now), Sam will be starting kindergarten, which means no more preschool tuition (I love his preschool, but I’ll be glad to stop paying that every week). When all is said and done, we’ll have an extra $800/month by next summer and an extra $1100/month by next December.

Which is very comforting, but it doesn’t help right now, when I’m more than a little on edge because the twins went through a growth spurt, and now the 3 month clothes I expected to last them the summer are all too small.

Sigh. Money is dumb. But we’ll make it, I’m sure. We’ll be stressed out and poor and exhausted, but we’ll make it.

And in the meantime, early intervention is free, no copays even, so that’s pretty nice.

But it’s not all bad news

I realized after I made my last post that I probably give off the impression that I either hate being a mom or hate having twins or both or am just living in a special circle of hell designed for those of us whose thought process when applying for college was “which school will get me married off the fastest?”

(if anyone was wondering, my alma mater was NOT that school… at least not for me, though not for lack of trying)

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(and trying… and trying… )

But either way, that’s not true. There’s this weird thing that happens when you’re truly doing something you love, where it drives you crazy, where you’re at your wits’ end, where you reach the end of every day and just want to collapse like someone has stolen all of your bones…

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…but you love it.

And I do love it. I love the weight of the babies in my arms and the weight of Sam leaning against me. I love how they have their unique ways of sitting: Carrie like a little ball of squishy love, Isaac resisting all comfort but reaching for it at the same time, Sam luxuriating like a pampered cat. All unique ways of cuddling with me, which is something they all seek at various times: me. Just me. Warts and thorns and all.

(I don’t have any warts or thorns, but I do have a cyst named Clarence)

Last night, Sam woke up around 12:45 a.m. to use the bathroom and called for Kyle, and when Kyle slept through that (as he is wont to do; he could sleep through WWIII happening in our bathroom, I swear), I came up and fetched Sam and brought him downstairs with me. He was skittish about being alone in his room for reasons known only to him (no new media lately, no changes to his normal routine except that there was a holiday this week, nobody coming or going, probably just a run-of-the-mill bad dream or need to be near Mommy), and I was too tired and too busy with babies to try and negotiate him back upstairs.

So downstairs he stayed, initially sleeping on the chair but eventually shuffling over to sit with me and a recently-fed Isaac on the couch. I knew that he wouldn’t sleep while I was up and while the babies were fussing, so I didn’t try to make him. Instead, I just quietly talked to him while Isaac sat on my lap, wide-eyed, and participated as babies do. I was, admittedly, frustrated at Sam being downstairs somewhat–it’s easy to calm his fears and help him relax when the babies are asleep, but notsomuch when they’re awake and hungry–but at the same time, I was glad for that time. He was sleepy enough that his usual boundless energy had settled to the dull roar of bedtime, and he just wanted to quietly lean on me and watch cooking videos on my phone.

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I’ve missed those quiet moments with him; they used to be far more common, but now, I just snatch them when I can, when he’s quiet and at peace and happy. Like this afternoon, when he was overtired and whining, so we just sat on the couch and watched videos of people carving soap (look, don’t ask me why, it’s just really relaxing) and tornadoes (again, don’t ask me). The babies fussed from time to time, but Sam and I just sat there and talked about the soap and the tornadoes. He talked about how he likes soaps that have two colors, like blue and white or purple and pink, and how tornadoes are big and scary but cool. It felt like connecting with him, just talking and being on his level. My little boy.

The babies, too, are growing into that wanting to be with me. Lately, they’ve started fussing if they’re in their rock-n-plays and I’m out of line of sight, which is both flattering and frustrating. Flattering because it’s great to know that your mere presence eases someone’s troubled mind; frustrating because, dear sweet children, Mommy does have to pee sometimes.

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They’ve started smiling for reasons beyond “I have been tickled,” and that’s been pretty rewarding, too. Isaac is the readier smiler of the two–no matter what mood he’s in when things start, just seeing someone or getting his Wubbanub or being patted gets the biggest toothless gummy grin out of him. Carrie, on the other hand, needs a little coaxing. You have to talk sweet to her and remind her that yes, she is a beautiful girl (“the beautifullest” as Sam says, usually in a death metal screech: “OHHH THE BEAUTIFULLEST!” as he pets her head) and she’s a funny girl and you love her very much. Then her entire face goes sunshiney sweet, and she sticks out her tongue in happiness.

They’re a little behind, but not as much as they could be. I admit that any delays they have–although completely understandable, considering the circumstances, send me into a spiral of impostor syndrome.

For the uninitiated, impostor syndrome is when your brain basically tells you that you’re not as good as people think you are, that your successes and happiness are unearned. It’s really common in successful creative people–authors, actors, artists, musicians, that sort of thing. You get it in your head after one off-handed comment or dressing down that no, you’re not really as good as people seem to think you are, that any day now, they’re going to find out that you’re faking it, and then you’ll lose all the happiness you think you have, and then where will you be?

It’s how I end up sabotaging myself in whatever job I work (“I don’t really deserve this job/the praise I’m getting for this job, and it’s only a matter of time before they find out” …and then cut to me being so anxious about this imaginary situation that I actually end up messing up and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy), and it’s how I often feel about being a mom. I hear a lot of “you’re amazing! You’re a great parent! You’re kicking ass!” and I want to believe it, but then the impostor syndrome shows up and says, “Hey, by the way, the twins aren’t picking up their heads and chests yet, both of them have flattish heads, Sam acts out all the time, your house is a mess, you need a nap every morning, and this is all because you’re actually a TERRIBLE MOTHER.”

The most I can do is try not to listen to it, try and tell that voice to shut up. That the twins are delayed because they’re not actually almost 4 months old but closer to two-and-a-half months old. That their heads are flat because of all sorts of reasons, none of which are me. That Sam acts out because he’s adjusting to this new life, that it can take a while. That it’s okay for the house to be a mess, as long as it’s mess and not filth. That I have infant twins, for crying out loud, and even when they’re being good (like they are tonight; Carrie needed 2 oz at around 11:30, but they’re otherwise sleeping peacefully), they’re a lot of work.

I tell myself all of those things, and eventually, I hope I’ll believe them. That’s the best I can do; that and do everything in my power to make sure my kids are happy, healthy, and kind.

In the meantime. The twins are getting bigger and bigger, and I love it. They were such little peanuts when they came home, absolutely drowning in newborn size clothes. Now they’re on the cusp of switching from 3 month to 6 month clothes because they’re both on the curve, growth-wise. As of last weigh-ins, they were at 5th and 7th percentile (Isaac and Carrie, respectively) for their actual ages, not their adjusted ages, and that’s awesome. With any luck, being on the curve will translate to us getting to stop the expensive formula and move on to formula that’s even slightly more affordable and comes in larger canisters.

And we’ve learned that Sam is slowly but surely transitioning to the pre-K classroom at his school. I shouldn’t be at all surprised by this–after all, he’s four and will be starting actual kindergarten a year from September–but it’s still a little jarring to know that my first baby is moving towards real school. He’s learning to read and add and subtract and multiply and sometimes write (sometimes; he’s not much of a pen holder). He LOVES numbers, loves to ask “what do 2 and 3 and 5 make?” when he sees a time displayed digitally (and if you explain “it’s 2:35” he says, “no, what do they make?” and you have to tell them that 2+3+5=10). He still adores space and wants to be an astronaut when he grows up.

And he loves his brother and sister and they love him. And all together, I love my three kids. I love being a mom, even when it’s hard, even when the impostor syndrome devil is sitting on my shoulder and telling me I’m a fraud and my kids are going to suffer for it, I love it. I know exactly where I belong, and it’s right here, with them all around me.

Nothing about this is normal; everything about this is normal

Nothing about this is normal; everything about this is normal.

I’ve been trying to write this for a total of two weeks now, probably more, but I feel like I’ve lost count. I get writing done very late at night, at a time I used to reach without even thinking about it back when I was in college and graduate school but that now seems like the latest of late hours (seriously, the sun is coming up in three hours, WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND IS AWAKE NOW and WHAT WAS I THINKING). It’s only then that the new normal calms down enough for my brain to start processing everything that’s gone into making the new normal… well, normal.

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(this time of night was previously known as “way too early” and “why are you waking me up?”)

We’ve been trying to make incremental adjustments to this normal in order to improve our overall functionality. The twins are creeping ever closer to sleeping through the night, but it’s still a process. The first half of any given night typically involves Carrie being wide awake and unhappy unless she’s being held; she doesn’t care what’s going on while she’s being held, she just wants to be held. As she’s being held, she’ll contentedly babble to herself or look around or chew on her hands, but put her down at your own risk. Isaac, meanwhile, conks out at promptly 8:00 and doesn’t wake up again until 7 or 8. And Carrie typically conks out after a midnight-ish feed of 2-3 oz., so really, it’s mostly just a long night for me.

BUT I wouldn’t trade it because I can’t do early mornings to save my life. I’ll stay up until 4 if I have to, but don’t make me get up at 4.

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(no, I don’t understand it either)

So with the twins creeping towards sleeping through the night, Kyle and I have tried at least once to actually make it through the night sleeping, but that hasn’t happened. The twins’ daytime schedule got thrown off the last time we tried, which resulted in them freaking out all night and poor Kyle getting no sleep (per his suggestion, he slept downstairs with them, since he’s better at sleeping on the couch than I am; he got me up at 5 a.m. and slept until 9 a.m., when he started work). Worse, I didn’t get any sleep either, because when your body and mind are used to staying up until 2 a.m., you can’t shut them down before at least 1.

This is the new normal: so little sleep that when allowed to just wake up “whenever,” both Kyle and I will easily sleep well into the afternoon, which didn’t seem like a big deal when I was younger, but now I panic because most of the day is gone, and I have STUFF TO DO.

The new normal is chained inexorably to a schedule from which I hate deviating because deviating from that schedule ruins everyone’s day. It’s the twins’ eating schedule: bottles at 7 a.m., 11 a.m., 3 p.m., and 7 p.m., plus a mini bottle at 11 p.m. for Carrie. Deviating from that means that trips out of the house must be postponed, that the night will be fitful at best, that the adults’ meals all get thrown out of whack (or at least breakfast and lunch), that everyone is cranky and exhausted. Even when we leave the house, I’m adamant that we follow the schedule until the twins reach a point where we can drop one of the daytime feeds and just feed them three times a day, like we do with Sam.

That, I figure, will happen around the time they’re able to hold their own bottles, which is one of those milestones you don’t really think about before you encounter it, and then you’re suddenly like “oh my god, I have HANDS!”

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(shown: me when feeding the babies at present)

This is the new normal.

Sam has a hard time with the new normal, because he has to share us with the babies, and even though it doesn’t (usually) make him mad or sad, he still struggles with it. I try to keep him in the daily schedule as well: a movie of his choosing in the morning, lunch, learning time, Kindle time, dinner and cuddling, bedtime. This doesn’t always happen, particularly the after lunch stuff. Sometimes, I’m just so exhausted that I give him a second movie after lunch so I can try and sleep. Sometimes, I rush through learning time and give him his Kindle early so that I can help whichever baby is panicking because I’m no longer in their line of vision (I forgot about this phase; it’s exhausting, and I miss leaving the living room).

I miss being able to give Sam more consistency, and I know a billion people will comment places and say, “You just have to…” and to them I say, no, you come and try and do this. This is not. easy. It’s never just doing anything. There’s a schedule that I want to be ironclad because if it’s not ironclad, if anything gets slightly thrown off, everyone struggles through it.

Honestly, I think that’s the most frustrating part: when you’ve got twins, you get a lot of unsolicited advice. Thankfully, it’s rarely from people Kyle and I know well, so we can just brush it off, but you still get the occasional, “Oh, you should do XYZ!” suggestion that’s completely unhelpful, if well-meaning. And those are the worst, because you want to tell the person with that suggestion “hey, go eat a diaper,” but they mean well, so you put on a pasted smile and say, “I’ll try and remember that, thanks.”

(also funny, whenever someone sees that you have twins, they’re compelled to say, “Oh, my brother’s best friend’s cousin’s coworker’s nephew has twins!” especially if they’re a stranger, and you’re just like, “…okay?”)

This is a little bitchy. I apologize. I’m tired.

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Unhelpful suggestions abound towards a new corner of the new normal. We took the twins to have their heads looked at and came away with an official diagnosis of moderate-to-severe positional plagiocephaly. The doctor was… kind of a jerk about it, honestly. You could hear the “this is all your fault” laced through every sentence, and I came away feeling chastised and clutching only a confirmation of a follow-up appointment in 6 weeks. He mentioned physical therapy, but he didn’t give us any details. He said, “They’ll definitely need helmets,” but didn’t do anything else at the appointment.

And, well. It was frustrating. I came away just this side of furious, because it’s like… dude, can you come down off your high horse and put yourself in our shoes for a minute? These guys were born six weeks early. They didn’t reach the newborn phase until they were six weeks old, and they’re behind on a lot of things because of that. They’re only just now starting to be more awake during the day; up until probably 2-3 weeks ago, they just slept. A lot. They were born with weaker necks and softer heads that should’ve had at least 4 more weeks in utero to move around and get firmer, but they came early and slept in cribs when they should’ve been sleeping in me. Their neck and chest strength isn’t where it would be for four-month-olds born at term because they weren’t born at term. And all the tummy time and holding and therapy in the world isn’t going to change that.

I don’t know. I may be reading some of my own guilt into his tone (though Kyle picked up on it, too). I wish I could be as ON them as I was with Sam. I wish that I could reach a point with them like I did with Sam where my arms felt empty without him, not because I was like “Gosh, I wish I was still holding a baby” but because I literally held him so much that it felt weird not to have him on me.  I wish we’d be at the point where we’ve moved from survival mode to the previous sense of normal, but.

Well. Here we are. Normal helmets. Normal babies. Normalcy that’s anything but.