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Archive for December, 2008

My boys start school in a week.

I found out that two spots had opened up for them last August, but it just didn’t feel like the right time. We had upcoming travel to California. Their nana was moving to town a few weeks later. There was a lot of change in their lives and I didn’t want to push it. After much deliberation, talking to the school administrators, conferring with other moms, we decided they would start with the new year. I marked the calendar. January 5th was the day.

Way back in October, I began my plan to gradually prepare them for this day. We casually talked about school. We regularly looked at a fantastic book called “Wow! School!” that I found at in the dollar bin at the grocery store. We drove past school and waved and marveled at the playground. In November, I scheduled a visit for the boys to meet their teacher and play outside with their classmates. It was a huge success. In December, we had two visits where the the boys and I spent the first hour in the classroom for their day opening activities. We’ve talked about school almost every day.

And now that we are a week away, I’m talking with them specifically about what to expect. That they will stay at school without mommy. That I will drop them off and they will spend time at school without me, like big boys, and they will play and learn and laugh and eat, and then I will be back to pick them up. When we talk about it they are happy and say things like, “school!” and “teetee! (teacher)” and “play!” We started our day today by driving by school and waving and then going to Starbucks across the street for a blueberry muffin. We’ll do this a few more times this week. I feel like they are exhaustively prepared and I’m exhausted just from reiterating all of it!

And yet, I feel completely and utterly unprepared!

How did this sneak up on me like this? I’ve spent almost every single hour of every single day of the past two years with them, and now what? How am I supposed to say goodbye to them? At almost two, are they too young for this? Will they be sick every day for the next six months from all the germs? Where do I get a freaking nap mat and can I get the 1 inch kind or should I spring twenty bucks for the 2 inch thick deluxe version? What the heck do I pack them for lunch? You mean I have to PACK them a lunch every night?!

Emotionally I feel completely ambivalent. On one hand, I feel we are all ready for this. They will strive in a structured Montessori environment. They will learn so much from people who are trained to teach toddlers. They will learn even more from being around their peers. And I know the social interaction is worth its weight in gold. The boys are great around other kids, but I’ve noticed more and more lately how they tend to cling to each other. And define what they are doing by what their brother is doing. I know this is all natural, but I want to give them the tools early on for being socially independent. Or at least giving them an environment where they can choose to be socially independent from one another.

Selfishly, I also crave some social independence. My existence has been crucially tied to them since they were born. I feel such gratitude to my husband, to the universe, for making this possible. But I’ve become increasingly antsy and want to start doing more things for myself. Professional undertakings, health-and-diet improvements, a kitchen remodel – I have goals and lists that make me dizzy. But most important, I want to regain a sense of “me” again. Lastly, the boys are quickly approaching numero dos, which has brought utter joy and hilarity, as well as incredibly intense challenges. Not that I want to cop out, but I’m pretty excited about getting a daily break from this.

But all these very healthy and logical reasons doesn’t stop the ache, the hesitation and the sense of impending loss that has invaded my heart the past few days. More than anything, it’s manifesting me to second guess our choice of school. Our last visit left me wanting. The teacher was running late so the aids were running the class. Things seemed chaotic. An aid grabbed a toy out of a child’s hand without warning. They read the kids an appalling book about a child who does everything wrong at school. I heard a lot of nos and negatives, which isn’t my style of parenting. Kids were coughing all over each other and one girl had green snot spewing out of her nose. I’m freaking out just recalling it. But I also know this is just my brain’s way of trying to flee.

I can’t help but feel a sense of loss in all this. Like this is the last week I’ll spend with my boys. Our last hurrah. Silly, I know. I’ll still see them every morning, every afternoon and every evening. But I think the loss I feel goes deeper. It means I need to let go. Lighten my grip. Allow someone, other than myself, my husband or nana, to care for my boys. I think our last visit freaked me out so much because I had to accept, in some way, an environment that was out of my control. This is a big deal for me. Not because I’m some neurotic control freak. It’s just because I’m a mom. And as a mom I realize that at some point I will have to let go. A little bit at first, a little more later, and a hell-of-a-lot more when they grab the keys to the car and say, “see ya, wouldn’t want to be ya!” This is my first time letting them out of my protective wingspread, and truth be told, I’m scared. So much so I actually had a dream a few months back that they died at school. The worst dream I ever had. Maybe I need therapy?

I know I will get through this and in a month or so I will be singing the praises of school. It’s just weighing so heavy, as I’m sure it does for millions of other parents dropping off their babies (no matter how old they are) at school/day care/etc. for the first time. It’s just going to be a tough few first weeks. Or maybe it won’t. But regardless, things will be very different around here.

Amidst the whirlwind of emotions, I am very excited. Thrilled even. To realize that I’ve gotten the boys this far and now they are ready for the next step. To witness what they soak in and learn in this new environment. To realize that I’m going to have a bit of freedom again in my life, an opportunity to re-imagine and re-identify myself. To seize this time I will have for myself, and cherish, perhaps even more deeply, the time I have with my boys.

Completely scary and completely thrilling. Just like parenting always is.

Dropping them off at school for the first time can't be half as scary as watching them climb an eight foot rope ladder at the same time!

Dropping them off at school for the first time can't be half as scary as watching them climb an eight foot rope ladder at the same time!

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The “twin talk”

Last week, one of my twins Alex was complaining about the tag in his t-shirt. I proceeded to show both boys that everyone has tags in their shirts. I thought it would be easier for Alex to accept the tag if he understood it. But how do you explain tags and sizes to a 2.5 year old? I told them the tag said 2 because it is for a two year old. I asked Nate, “How old are you?” He had a blank look on his face so I said, “How many are you?” He smiled and said, “Twins!”

This was a big shock because we almost never call them twins. We call them brothers. My husband and I never discussed this out loud, but considering the boys just learned the phrase “garbage disposal” last week, we did not think they were old enough to understand the difference between twins and brothers.

I asked Nate who said he was a twin and he said it was their day care teacher.  Since Nate brought it up, I said, “Yes you and Alex are twins. Twin means Nate and Alex have the same birthday. Nate’s birthday is Alex’s birthday. Alex’s birthday is Nate’s birthday.”

Nate thought about it then said, “I want to eat birthday cake.” Alex said, “I want birthday cake too.”

Just as I thought. Clearly not ready to understand their twinness.

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 As always, if you have a topic in mind that you’d like to see discussed on Foodie Fridays, or have a tip or some advice you’d like to pass on, just write it in the comments? We’d love to hear from you.

To those families out there that celebrate Christmas, I hope that you had a wonderful day yesterday. For us, the difference between celebrating Christmas with two 8 month olds and celebrating with two 20 month olds was night and day. In some ways, it was a lot harder—-they are more easily distrupted by new people and different places, as well as exciting things like, well, all those presents—-and yet in some ways this is so, so much better than last year. They actually enjoy the holiday, the people, the attention and the gifts and we could see the first glimmer of what Christmas with two little kids is like. Excitment and loss of routine and fatigue—-and fun. Lots of fun.

Anyway, unlike last year, when we ate our big holiday dinner during their afternoon nap (ahh, days of 2 naps, I miss you so!), this year they were awake and ready to participate. And yet, holiday meals aren’t really geared towards two toddlers. We wrote last week about traditions changing with babies and toddlers, and I think this is true for traditions like holidays meals as well. The days of a long, drawn-out meal with a glass of wine, or two, everyone lingering at the table to chat until later when dessert is served—those days are long gone, for us at least. My childless brother and his girlfriend—-they are free to do that until, of course, one of my kiddos goes hunting Uncle Josh for a story or to beg him to turn on the tv. (Uncle Josh has been known to really enjoy college sports on tv and MY kids, they really enjoy tv, of any kind).

And the holiday meal, in all its deliciousness? Well, not really aimed at toddler appetites either, unless you count dessert. Their favorite foods? Yogurt, blueberries, cheese, frozen peas (only frozen, not thawed—weird little kiddos), oatmeal with blueberries, pears, apples, goldfish—-none of these scrumptious foods are on a holiday dinner menu. Meat? My kids laugh at the idea of eating meat. Mashed potatoes? They’ve never liked the texture of potatoes, white or sweet. Their favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner was the spanakopita that someone brought for the handful of vegetarians there. There was none at Christmas dinner. Well, the spanakopita and the desserts. Desserts they were all over, especially the pumpkin cheesecake. So, for Christmas dinner, I got to watch my kids pick at a pile of food, and then have to feed them dinner several hours later before bed. And no, dinner is not pumpkin pie and whipped cream, as fantastic as that might be. Do I want to raise adventuresome eaters who will try anything? Sure. But, holidays are not the time when I work at expanding my kids’ culinary bounds and pushing them to try new things. Holidays are hard enough—we can have yogurt, AGAIN, for dinner. Merry Christmas, kiddos.

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For All the New MoMs

Merry Christmas fellow bloggers! I am taking the day off to spend time with my family. As such, I leave you with a post from the archives of HDYDI.

Many moons ago, I wrote this little piece while in a sleep deprived delirium. I needed to write it, needed an outlet for all of the emotions swirling around inside. Recently, a good friend had a baby, and I sent her a copy of this. I just wanted her to know that despite all of the glowing reports, fun times and cheery blog posts, I was waging an internal battle as I learned to be a mom. I wrote this almost a year ago…18 teeth ago, many illnesses ago, cross-country travel ago, and yet when I read this I remember that time fondly.

This is for all the new MoMs out there!

Musings of a New Mother

by Kristina E.

 

Numb from the neck down, disoriented and exhausted, the maternity nurses asked if I wanted to hold my babies, while I was on a moving gurney! “No! I can’t hold them yet!” I exclaimed, amazed that they would ask someone who just had major surgery and who was barely aware of her lower half to be responsible for a combined 14 and a half pounds of brand new life! And thus, my journey of motherhood began.

I had an exceptionally good pregnancy, without complications, and carried my babies to my scheduled c-section date of 39 weeks. Jonathan James and Faith Marie were born weighing 7.12 and 6.12, full term and in perfect health.

 

Being a mother has been a profound experience, as I am sure it has been for every new mother that has gone before me. From the first day I knew life was growing inside of me, my battle against myself began. Pregnancy forced me to become less selfish, and I didn’t like it one little bit! I was comfortable the way I was, but suddenly, everything going into my mouth directly affected the health of my babies. Headaches and body aches became something to endure, as my body no longer belonged to me. Speeding while driving was no longer an option with the realization that I was putting three lives in jeopardy. And then one day it hit me…”This is it…from here on out I will always be someone’s mom.” There was no going back to the way things were when it was just me.

 

And on May 15th, 2007, the heavy mantle of responsibility came crashing down upon my shoulders. Shoulders, which, I might add, were still numb from the needle that had been in my spine! As soon as the nurses asked me if I was ready to try breastfeeding, I had another moment where I realized it was up to me to keep these creatures alive! “For crying out loud!” I thought to myself. “I just carried these babies for nine months, had major surgery and major blood loss and now they want ME to take care of them? Can’t somebody else take a turn? Someone without an IV in each hand, a catheter, a fresh incision and whose arms aren’t lead weights? Glad to see you little ones, but SERIOUSLY!”

 

This wonderful thing called “motherhood” was just beginning. My hospital stay contained very little sleep, a lot of pain, and false cheerfulness. Yes, I was ever so thankful to have delivered healthy little ones, but did the resident doctor really need to check on me at 5am? Did I have to be asked to sign my twins up for so many studies? Did the entire hospital have to see my breasts as I attempted to feed my screaming offspring? Was it normal to not feel gushy toward my new little bundles? Was it okay that my son’s cry annoyed me? And that I was secretly dismayed at the shape of my daughter’s head?

 

We journeyed home, having no idea what to expect. Granted, every onesie was washed and placed in the appropriate drawer. I had three dozen burp clothes ready to go. The nursery was in pristine condition and the car seats were installed. We knew the sleep deprivation would be bad, but there is simply no way to prepare for how hideous it really was. It peeked around three weeks, when I found myself sobbing in the bathtub, praying that my c-section incision would suddenly become infected so that I could go back to the hospital, so that someone would take care of me. I was also struck with a strong case of the “baby blues,” in which I though, “surely I am going crazy. How could I possibly feel resentment toward these miracles?” My husband and I received help for our infertility issues. How could I possibly want a break from being their mother? Other women would kill for the chance to do what I was doing!

 

Gradually, things began to look up. The tennis-ball sized knot in my shoulder started decreasing in size. I had my first cup of hot tea in a month. I stopped crying. Dark chocolate and vicodin were no longer necessary tools to get through the day, as my incision healed and my stress decreased. The kiddo’s started sleeping better. My milk supply was established, and I quit beating myself up for giving them more expressed milk than nursing.

 

I have now been a mother for exactly 87 days. It has been a serious crash course in Motherhood 101, but I am loving it! Sure, there are the daily melt downs, the nine loads of laundry a week, the 5am pumping session, the spit-up crusted in my formally clean hair. But I’ve managed to keep these two tiny people alive for three months, and that’s a beautiful thing. And once they started purposefully smiling at me, recognizing me as their mother, they took up ownership of my heart.

 

For the moment, I am very fortunate to have a bedtime routine that works so well. I am up only once a night with them. I find myself rocking my little ones, long after they are done eating, breathing in their scent, savoring these moments, nuzzling their little necks. Sometimes our quiet time in the middle of the night is my favorite part of the day. Now that I am getting good sleep, I recognize how fleeting time really is. I celebrate each achievement and developmental milestone, but part of me aches just a little, knowing that they will never be as small as they are today, this desiring of my closeness.

 

Sometimes I think I would like my husband to get up and do a feeding or two, but then again, I don’t. I don’t want to share my night cuddles, as they too will be gone sooner than I like. I spend our time together marveling at their features, praying for their future and rejoicing in the goodness of Our God, who would bless us with these creatures.

 

Of course, I am not always rejoicing when they both go kamikaze in the store at the same time and both pacifiers have gone AWOL, and everyone is staring!

 

I am a realist. I know that my job as their mom will change, ebb and flow. Motherhood is fluid. I don’t always have good days. I feel guilty when I give more attention to one than the other. I feel badly that I sometimes long for the simplicity of life before children. It bothers me that when they cry incessantly in the close confines of our van, my brain feels like it is melting, and I contemplate parking the car and getting out and walking. And we haven’t even yet hit teething, our first illness, separation anxiety or tantrums. And that only covers the first year! Yet I am trying desperately to capture and record this time, because I know it won’t happen again.

 

Honestly, the first few weeks are a blur of exhaustion and pain medication. But now I routinely blog about the kids, which helps. I keep a little video diary, capturing Faith’s feminine little coo’s and Jonathan’s gasp of joy and delight when his mobile is turned on. We take many, many pictures. I write in their baby books. But somehow, it just doesn’t feel like enough. There simply is no way to freeze time, to convey exactly how much my heart has expanded to hold the love I feel for my babies. I hardly think I have enough capacity in my chest.

 

Today I was wishing that I could take a mold of them so that I could always remember how they felt all warm and snuggly in their footed pajamas, nestled into the curve of my neck. Then I thought about how it is my responsibility to shape these little beings, to mold them into little people, to train them in compassion, integrity and putting others before yourself. And I think this responsibility is molding me in the process.

 

I drive slower now. I am more tolerant of bratty kids acting up in public. I exchange sympathetic looks with pregnant women. My world has expanded exponentially. I am overwhelmed.

 

Yes, I loved the babies when they were inside, closer to my heart. I studied their movements, pondered, speculated, and assigned personality traits. And when I first met them I was glad to see them. But motherhood took hold of me slowly, completely. This journey can not be halted or stopped, and it will be through joy and sadness that I guide my little ones through life. And it will be my life’s greatest work, to mother these two well and to be their Mama.

 

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N.O.

Oh. Yes. The down side of language development. My son has, within the last two days, mastered the word “no.”  Greeeaaat.

For the moment, actually, it’s kind of cute.  He’s been doing the negative-head-shake if you ask him a question and he’s not interested.  But now we have the vocal “no” to go with it.  So far, it’s not a rude-sounding word.  Just a somewhat sweet-sounding answer to a question.  Or, much of the time, simply a sound he’s practicing.  He can be standing off by himself, checking something out, saying “no, no, no, no.”  In his very sweet voice, in response to absolutely nothing.

But it’s coming, oh, it’s coming. Soon, I fear, we will make the leap to the loud, whiny, defiant “NO!”  And I’m not sure how that one’s going to go.

My husband was raised in a household where “no” was not something you said to your parents.  Oh, you might plead and beg and even whine.  But you didn’t say “no!” when mom or dad told you to do something. It simply was not done. I will have to ask my mother-in-law how they managed that one.  Oh, I’m sure they had some of the typical toddler “no,” but I need to find out how they managed to nip it in the bud.

I’ll keep you posted…

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 As always, if you have a topic in mind that you’d like to see discussed on Foodie Fridays, or have a tip or some advice you’d like to pass on, just write it in the comments? We’d love to hear from you.

I think that one of the best parts of the December holiday season is the holiday cooking. Last year, I was too tired to do much but an obligatory batch of Christmas cookies, and I don’t even remember what I made. I was still recovering from months of sleep deprivation, and busy introducing solids and finger foods to 8 month old babies. I paid much more attention to rice krispies and shredded cheese (my favorite finger foods!) than to holiday food. This year, however, I am back in the swing of things! Ok, mostly back in the swing of things—let’s not get crazy, I do have two toddlers destroying running around my house. Yesterday, they tried to unwrap the lights from tree. It’s a small miracle we didn’t have a tree topple in the living room.  

Anyway, I know I talked about cookies a few weeks ago, but I thought I’d share a few more of our holiday favorites.

Panettone Bread Pudding
I really don’t like Rachel Ray as much as my recipe collection suggests I do, but occasionally she has a really great recipe. And, as a bonus for parents of two toddlers, they don’t take too long to make. We’ll leave the complex, multi-step fabulous recipes for a different stage in our life. Anyway,  these are delicious. You can leave out the rum and they are still tasty, but they are even better with it.  This is a great use for stale panettone, when someone forgets to close the bag.

Christmas wreath bread
This bread was so popular at my family’s house one Christmas morning that they’ve insisted it become a holiday tradition. Two babies? Who care?—they want the bread! We try not to anger family on Christmas morning, so bread it is. 

Roasted butternut squash with herbs de provence
This is an old Cooking Light recipe that has become a favorite around here. It’s especially useful since we tend to be given butternut squash by family that grows them—-I guess it’s hard to just grow a few? This is a great use for them. And, the best part is that it tastes like it’s covered with butter. Not so much!

One of our favorite things to do is cook with the kiddos, so there are often two kiddos at the bar “helping” us cook. All of these recipes are good for kiddos helping. Lots of dumping of ingredients and mixing and such. 

Do you have favorite holiday recipes? Share them with us! And, to everyone who is traveling for the holidays—-have a safe (quiet?) trip! If you see two frazzled parents chasing 20 month old twins through the Manchester airport, that’s us! Wish us luck…..

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Hidden beneath my “mommy” exterior, is a temper. A temper which does not show itself frequently, but nonetheless is consistently triggered at one specific place…the play area at the mall.

I live in Pittsburgh. Wet, cold, overcast, rainy, snowy, icy, miserable-during-the-winter Pittsburgh. Where all the outdoor play areas are abandoned for 5 months a year.  Where house-bound mom’s desperately try to create fun outlets for the boundless energy of their toddlers.  Once a week or so, many of us find ourselves at the ONLY indoor kid area for miles.

Here is where my temper and I need help. I know that pre-kids I had all of these noble and unrealistic expectations for myself as a mother: ie. “MY children will NEVER have snotty noses and wear food-crusted jackets in public,” “MY children won’t ever act like brats in restaurants,” “I will always be kind and soft-spoken to my darling little ones.”) Yeah, you could say that reality has been a sharp slap in the face! 🙂

So when I am carefully assisting Faith and Jonathan on and off of the play apparatus, and some giant six (or seven or ten year old) comes ripping through the slides and knocks over one of my kids, steam can be seen from miles away rising from my heated face.  I get SO angry when these young kids are allowed to rush through the play area while their parents sit in the corner and sip coffee. I have complained about this so much to my other mom friends that I feel like a broken record. Yet it never fails that I have to speak up and remind some older kid that all the other kids are little and they need to be careful.

Honestly, my anger is not directed toward the bigger kids. I feel compassion for them. I wish there was an area dedicated to them so they could run around and have a great time burning off their energy. Nope, I get steamed at the parents.  I am a mother bear when it comes to my kids, and I can not understand why these older kids are allowed to run around like they do.  However, I only have 2 kids, only 19 months of experience, and I do not know what it is like to have older kids. I am sure many of the parents figure it is a safe way to let their 2 or more differently aged kids play indoors.

So what do the rest of you do in these situations? Do you address the parents? The mall officials to suggest changes? The kids? Surely I am not the only mama getting hot under the collar about this issue…at least, I hope I am not! So please, educate me! I would love to hear from those of you with older kids, as you are infinitely more wise than I! And what about the rest of you toddler moms? What are your lists of “My kids will NEVER…”

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