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Archive for August, 2008

Lately I have been feeling pretty guilty. I was always a little worried about how my attention would be divided between the boys. Thoughts would swirl in my head as the boys floated in utero. Would I have a preference? Would I treat one differently than the other? Sure, there have been moments along the past 19 months where I’ve wondered if I do give preferential treatment, but honestly, those moments have been fleeting. On the whole, I feel pretty solid about the attention my boys get. It’s my dog that I’m worried about.

Oh Matilda, where do I start? How about with this picture.

Mati jumping off cliff into Barton Creek (not photshopped!)

Free spirit. Up for any adventure. Fearless. Snuggle bunny. Best friend. Totally compassionate. Unconditional love. Never wavering. Protector. By my side. Always. Before the boys were born, J and I would say, “how could we possibly love anything more than we love Matilda?” She was, and still is, our daughter.

But something has changed.

At first it was neglect via exhaustion. How could I take care of our dog when I had two infants to constantly care for? Heck, I could barely take care of myself. Walks were fewer and farther between. Attention whittled down to the bare minimum. Then it was all about the shedding. I would swiffer and mop almost daily, getting more and more frustrated that I had to spend my precious rest-time picking up dog hair. Ugh! Next it was her need to always be in the mix, laying down in the middle of where the boys were playing. Just getting in the way. Now it’s her carelessness, barreling down the boys as she runs to the door to go outside. She’s knocked them down more times than I can even count. Today was a doosey, as she thought a ball was being thrown for her and she ran, full speed, into Abel. We were all on the driveway and Abie flew a good two feet and head planted into the concrete. We all heard the thud. At the same time as my protective concern for my son flooded my body, crazy anger at Matilda coursed through my veins.

I have to keep reminding myself (over and over again) that Mati is just a dog. She doesn’t know any better and she doesn’t know any worse. She obviously doesn’t mean to do the things that make me frustrated or angry, let alone hurt these precious boys. It’s apparent that she loves these boys like they are her own and she endures anything and everything from them on a daily basis. Hair pulling, smacks, eye probing, teeth inspections, tail pulling, using her as a chair or stool, lots of hugs, lots of kisses, lots of treats, lots of smiling and lots of laughter at her antics. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s a give and take on both sides of the coin.

Mati is unfazed by Abel's foot in her eye!

The boys think Mati is the most comfy reading chair.

I’m trying hard to manage my feelings, because I truly do love this dog with all of my heart. I hate that I harbor any feelings of resentment or anger towards her. It also makes me sad that I can’t (or don’t) give her the attention that she wants and deserves. She is nothing but goodness. And so I’m trying, consciously, every day to show her how much I love and appreciate her. Aside from our cat (who doesn’t care anyways), Matilda has been demoted to low-dog-on-the-totem-pole. Her world has been turned upside down. And she has weathered it like a trooper. No lashing out. No destructive behavior. No jealousy. Just patiently, albeit closely, waiting for her turn for some love.

Playtime in the closet. Mati wedges herself in.

And so I try to be a better parent – not to my kids, but rather to my dog. More kisses, more hugs, more snuggles, more “I love yous.” More patience, more understanding, more keeping my frustration and anger in check. And I guess in so doing I do become a better parent to my boys. Because I want to be a good example for managing frustrating/challenging situations. I want to demonstrate, every day, how to treat Mati (and all animals) with compassion and respect. But more than anything else, I want them to grow up loving this dog more than I do.

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Recently, the contributors to this site were asked if any of their husbands would be willing to give their perspective on what is like to be the father of multiples. Shortly afterwards, I was informed that I had accepted the invitation. All kidding aside, as a past contributor, I am honored and pleased to be able to speak on behalf of the other half, and hopefully, my answers will help bring understanding to many of the issues couples face when parenting a set of twins, triplets, etc.  So here I am, Rosetta Stone to the male psyche, decoding the Martian language for the inhabitants of Venus, and putting an end to the myths of Multiple Parenting. Let the questions begin!

* What do you wish your wife understood about being a dad?

That I am always eager to help and to do my fair share, but often times, I just don’t think to do it. My schedule prevents me from assuming a routine so thinking about parenting does not always come automatically. There is a reason why no man refers to his “Paternal Instinct.”

* What have you had to “give up” to be a good dad?

Irresponsible living. From immature nights out with the boys, to vegging out on the couch, to driving a little bit over the speed limit, everything now has a consequence for someone else, not just myself.

* What don’t you miss about life before kids?

Lack of purpose. Since I adopted my oldest when I married my wife, my life before kids is also my life before marriage. I remember towards the end of bachelorhood feeling like all the things that I used to do for fun had become tiresome and pointless. I started to feel like I was not accomplishing anything with my life. Getting married/having kids changed that.

* How do you want to parent the same or differently from how you were
raised?

I want to instill the manners and etiquette I was raised with into my children, but I want them to be free to express themselves without worrying about what others may think. I think there is a fine line between being courteous of others and being true to ones’ self. Hopefully they will be able to define that line a little better than I did.

* How has becoming a parent affected your marriage?

Since we had our eldest when we got married, I will say that the multiples have reduced the big things, but not the little things that make our marriage so special. With less time, money, and energy, romantic dinners and expensive gifts have nearly gone the way of the dodo, but we have been sure to improve our communication. Also, we try to have “date night” once a week. Usually it is take-out and tv, but it is time for us and that is all that really matters.

* What character traits do you hope to instill in your children?

HARD WORK for when it would be easier to be good, but they are eager to be great.

DEDICATION for when the reward for that hard work is still just out of sight.

LOYALTY for when the right decision may be the most difficult one.

COMPASSION for when they need to walk in the other person’s shoes.

INDIVIDUALITY for when others want them to be just like the rest.

CONFIDENCE for when they are scared what’s in their heart may be wrong.

And finally:

SENSE OF HUMOR for when they fall so that they can shake it off, tap into the above, and get themselves back up.

* What is the funniest/grossest thing that has happened to you since
becoming a dad?

My third of four, Ella, “projectile pooped” across the room as I was changing her. I feel that meets both criteria outlined in the question.

* How has having multiples affected your relationship with your other children?

What other children? Just kidding… I have done my best to make sure as little as possible has changed for my eldest. It has enabled me to acknowledge just how mature and responsible she is capable of being when given the opportunity and that, much like myself, she is deserving of a break.

* What about having multiples is different than you expected?

I don’t think I realized just how fast things can happen. I realized that I would have to watch James when he is walking so he doesn’t fall down, make sure Ella wasn’t near the outlet, and comfort Cameron if she wasn’t getting enough attention. I just didn’t realize that all of these happen simultaneously while I am on the phone with a telemarketer and 5 minutes late for an appointment.

If you have any more questions for our Dads, just leave a comment and let us know what you wish to know!

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Recipe: Spinach-Rice Balls

When I did my post on packing lunches for toddlers to take to daycare, I mentioned that one of the things I often pack is Spinach-Rice Balls. The recipe was requested, and now, a mere 2+ weeks later, here it is! Enjoy! It’s vegetarian, and vegan if you leave out the cheese (which is actually an optional ingredient in the original recipe).

 

The recipe comes from the fantastic cookbook Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites. Like every vegetarian, I’m a fan of all of the Moosewood books, but I particularly enjoy this one.

 

My notes are in [square brackets]

 

INGREDIENTS

2 lbs. fresh spinach, washed and large stems removed [or use 1 10 oz. box frozen spinach, thawed, with liquid squeezed out]

1 c. chopped scallions

2 t. olive oil

2 c. cooked brown rice [I use a medium- or short-grained rice, which is stickier, so that the balls are easier to form]

2 T. finely chopped fresh dill (2 t. dried)

1 1/2 T. lemon juice

[1 c. or so of cheese (crumbled feta is most fitting with the Greek theme, but I’ve also used shredded cheddar or mozzarella, or whatever other cheese we have around)]

salt and pepper

1 c. bread crumbs [or cracker crumbs]

 

Steam spinach; drain and chop.

Saute scallions in olive oil until slightly browned.

Combine spinach, scallions, rice, dill, lemon juice, cheese, and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly, breaking up the rice grains by mashing them against the sides of the bowl with your mixing spoon. Combine until mixture holds together.

Using damp hands, roll spoonfuls of mixture into bite-sized balls. [Original recipe calls for 1/4 cup-sized balls, but Maddie and Riley found those overwhelming. I go for something larger than a marble, but smaller than a golf ball.] Roll balls in bread crumbs and place on baking sheet–they can be placed very close together.

Bake at 350°F for 20–25 minutes, until lightly golden brown.

These freeze really well.

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What were you doing five years ago? I can tell you exactly what I was doing. Five years ago today, on Friday, August 29th, 2003, I was writing a blog post about it being my last day as a mother of an only child. I was packing up my hospital bag, calling my friends, giddy about the fact that my doctor was taking pity on me and FINALLY going to induce my labor, at 38 weeks!

Five years ago today, my husband and I had lunch at Le Peep, and I specifically remember trying to find something on the menu that would

  1. Satisfy my cravings
  2. Fill me up, since I knew it would be my last actual meal for quite awhile, and
  3. Not give me gas, since I was worried about all the poking and prodding in my immediate future!

Five years ago today:

And five years ago tomorrow:

Paul and Laura with brand new Pablo & Mallory

Paul and Laura with brand new Pablo & Mallory

Five years ago, these two precious babies entered our world:

Five years ago, I knew nothing about parenting twins. I had no idea I’d become an expert on diapering. I didn’t know what Early Intervention meant. I never dreamed I’d soon be facing speech delays, occupational therapy, or an autism diagnosis. And I didn’t have a CLUE how much joy there would be in our family in the years to come!

Today, those little punkin babies are big kindergarteners!

It doesn’t seem possible that they’ve been ours for five whole years! Happy Birthday, Pablo and Mallory! You’re the light of our lives!

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I have to admit that one of my biggest fears (among many) when I first found out we were expecting multiples was the suffering that my relationship with my husband would endure.  I know how much stress a new baby can place on any relationship, especially a marriage, so I was concerned that 3 new babies would do triple the damage.  And they did…sort of.

After the first couple of months of having 3 premature newborns at home, the sleep deprivation began to take its toll and each evening would find our family in a funk, often with my husband and I snapping at each other over the tiniest little things.  And then it got to the point where I was becoming more and more needy and my husband was becoming less and less present…which of course led to an enormous disconnect between us and very little satisfaction.  But, thankfully we recognized that things weren’t quite right and we made a decision to do something to make things better.  It took quite a bit of work, but I can honestly say that our relationship now is better than it has ever been.

We now try to go out once a month, alone.  No kids in attendance, no kids in conversation.  We don’t always make that goal, but we do try.  And our biggest relationship saver has been that we set aside every Wednesday night (our older daughter heads off to Nana and Grampy’s for the evening) after the babies go to bed for date night.  They aren’t always glamorous evenings, but it brings back memories of our early days of dating and the days before the triplets were born.  Oftentimes, we make dinner together, enjoy a bottle of wine and play a game of scrabble.  Or we stick in a movie and snuggle on the couch with some popcorn. Sometime we just spend the evening talking about the things we don’t have time to discuss in our day to day chaos. But it helps to know, that no matter what, we have at least one night to ourselves, when we can be a couple instead of parents of multiples.

I am curious to know if other MoMs experienced the same funk, and if so what have you done (or do you do) to keep the romance alive?

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To Answer My Husband

Recently, my husband earnestly asked me, “Are you sure that our kids are normal? Are they really supposed to act like little juvenile delinquents? Are we doing something wrong?!”

After a bit of thought, and a quick trip to my trusty child development book, I have come to the conclusion that our children are indeed normal. Jay, this one is for you!

Taken from the Complete Book of Baby and Child Care:

“Would you like some water?” you ask innocently, holding his cup.

“No!”

You put the cup on the counter.

“Waaber!” he cries, reaching for it.

You fill it and give it to him.

“No!” he pushes it away.

You put the cup on the counter.

“WAABER!!” he howls.

“You offer him the cup.

“NO!!” He swipes at the cup, nearly knocking it out of your hand.

What fuels this temporary insanity is, in fact, a very simple premise: If it wasn’t his idea, he won’t have anything to do with it.

 
So, sweetheart, does that answer your question?

Jay and I both have pretty high standards for our kids behavior, and low tolerance for whining, fighting, and disobedience. So toddlerhood has proven to be quite challenging to us! I don’t feel badly being a “stricter” mom. I feel it is imperitive to my childrens’ safety, and my sanity. But boy has it been challenging to find ways to correct, re-direct and discipline in an age appropriate manner!

One of the issues we have been experiencing in our home is the lack of sharing. I came across this poem in my childcare book, and laughed in relief:

THE TODDLER’S CREED

If I want it, it’s mine.

If I give it to you and change my mind later, it’s mine.

If I can take it away from you, it’s mine.

If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.

If it’s mine, it will never belong to anyone else, no matter what.

If we are building something together, all the pieces are mine.

If it looks like mine, it’s mine.

(Dr. Burton L. White)

Phew! Another issue explained! Apparently this is a stage, an aspect of normal childhood development. As is the fighting, biting, tackling, hitting, hair pulling and general household destruction. That said, I am not going to stop breaking up the fights, or signing “share,” and “gentle!” I am not going to stop saying “No!” when it needs to be said. I am not afraid to discipline in public. But I am relieved to know that we aren’t raising criminally minded toddlers just because they refuse to share. I am thankful for this normal developmental stage. And I am confident, that I can now add “Professional Referee” to my resume.

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PURGE [purj] ~ verb.
To rid, clear, or free

HOARD [hawrd, hohrd] ~ verb.
To accumulate for preservation, future use, etc., in a hidden or carefully guarded place

I used to donate two items to charity for every one article of clothing I purchased. My rule was, if it hasn’t been worn in a year, it’s out the door. I like clean, balanced lines and earth tones. I don’t like piles that become permanent fixtures. I envy my younger days when everything I owned could fit into my Toyota Corolla. Order calms me.

And
then
that
lifestyle
crumbled
under
the
Blessed
weight of
Life With Four Month Old Twins.

Now, I am not so good at getting things to their proper place before the end of the evening. My living room is riddled with primary-colored plastic objects that play music that will inevitably run through my head at 2:00 a.m.

DSC_4503.JPG

The mail now gets checked once a week only to end up a pile on the dining room table slash changing table slash high heel storage area slash office space. Unopened. I still feel calm, but only because I altered the boundaries of my definition of Order.

Still, a purger by nature, my purging and order instincts bubble to the surface of my consciousness with relative frequency. For example, on my list of things to do is to take pictures and price a 4-door sedan, two bicycles, a stereo receiver, and a coffee table to put on Craigslist. When I mention the “C” word, my partner, Jennifer, starts to get a little antsy because she doesn’t know what all I’ll get rid of while she’s not looking.

On the kid front, I am preparing for the semi-annual Mother’s of Multiples Club Buy/Sell (Garage Sale) Day. For this, I am separating clothes by brand, then subdividing by ascribed sex (boy/girl/neutral), further breaking down by type (onesies/long-sleeve/rompers/etc) and then deciding which are worthy of scarce hangers and which to package in multiples. Then sizing, labeling, and pricing.

DSC_6190.JPG

Can I borrow your shirt-sleeve to wipe the drool from my chin?

Oh, I cannot describe the joy I get out of getting rid of things. And yeah, maybe I was a little over-enthused when showing a friend the guest bedroom, strewn with categories of children’s clothing, calling my name out to be tri-folded and packaged.

So you can imagine my stupefaction when my friend said “but aren’t you going to keep any of their clothes for them as a keepsake? What about the outfits they wore when Jennifer adopted them? Those are meaningful.”

Oh. Ummmmmm…

Well, uh….

“BUT WHY?”, I say.

I suppose there are entire populations of parents who tenderly hang their baby(s) Coming Home Outfits in a shadowbox frame. Or bronze the shoes. Or pickle their removed tonsils for display in the family china cabinet.

My parents didn’t keep my Christening outfit and if they had and had given it to me, I honestly don’t know what I would have done with it. A picture of my being held by my Godparents over the Baptismal waters is good enough for me.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with keepsaking. I’m just saying I have never been one to be emotionally attached to clothing – or most tangible items for that matter – so it is my natural inclination to get rid of stuff not being used. I remember when we found out at least one of the twins was going to be a girl. I called my sister to see if she’d give me some of the clothes that her daughter had outgrown, and after several conversations, she finally told me she wasn’t ready to part with my niece’s clothes yet. It didn’t make any sense to me, but I completely respected her feelings.

As for memory preservation plans in my household, and in my minimalist frame of mind, I had planned to upload pictures over the course of each major age category, type in some milestones, and make photobooks for the twins on Blurb. And then Copy/Paste/Print more copies of the same for the grandparents.

But maybe that’s not sufficient? Maybe I need to get in touch with my inner-Hoarder? And to think, this is just the beginning. What about when the kids get into school and start bringing artwork home? What to do with the first tooth that falls out? Where does it begin? And where does it end?

If you are a Hoarder, what do you plan to do with that/those item(s) you’ll keep for you or your child(ren) for posterity? Are you uncluttery, or would you be one of those eccentric people they write about in the newspapers, the ones that have every issue of National Geographic since 1948 and an attic full of Folgers coffee cans – just in case you’ll need them?

If you are a Purger, how do you decide what’s a keeper without becoming a Hoarder? Where do you draw the line without compromising the memories?

If you are currently pregnant, what are your keepsaking goals, and where in the spectrum do you fall?

Who knew that sorting through 0-3 month clothing for a damn garage sale could snowball into this weighty quandary?!

Rachel’s personal blog can be found at RaJenCreation.

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