Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Amazing Day

I started writing a posting that was a little anti-holiday spirit.  Not mean, just a little cynical and sarcastic.  Don't worry, friends, that one will appear soon, but it requires video and pictures so this technology-inept blogger needs some time to make that happen.

As a result, here is a filled-with-holiday-spirit post for your enjoyment.

I just finished watching a so-so movie called What To Expect When Expecting.  Yes, it's based on the book everyone knows and loves although it's more of a silly comedy about the ups and downs of pregnancy and parenthood than any kind of instructional video.  It's the kind of movie where you know how everything is going to end 10 minutes after it started.  I knew what to expect what watching What to Expect..

The post is about the scene when everyone gives birth.  There are several pregnancies in the movie and all the moms-to-be, in true Hollywood fashion, deliver at the same time.  Two characters adopt a baby from Ethiopia and we see the adoption ceremony and their first moments with their child while the other moms are giving birth. 

I admit it...I teared up a little.  Yes, Jennifer Lopez and what's-his-name-teacher-from-Glee actually made me tear up.  It wasn't because their acting was so good.  It's not because the movie is Oscar worthy.  It was because I remember exactly what I was feeling when my surrogate called me to say "It's time!"  We are getting close to two years since the day my boys entered my life and the emotions really are still strong and raw. 

I am constantly saying how hard parenthood has been.  I have gray hair, I stress eat, I have no social life, I'm always physically and mentally exhausted, I'm homebound some days, I've given up half of my career, etc.  I am clearly not living up to my first post when I swore I would cherish every day.  What was I thinking???  No one can do that.  Fatherhood days are filled with oatmeal hair and that one of a kind diaper genie smell.  It's hard to cherish sticky hair and I hope to forget that eau de genie smell.  What I can say for now while I'm at my quiet, clean, poop-free work zone is that I know I truly love my kids (and Derek for raising these boys with me) and how much they mean to me.  That day they were born is still inside me more than I realized and remember that day gives me a wonderful feeling.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Potty Training

My friend, A., has a daughter who was potty trained when she was 2 years old.  Not two and 11 months, not two and a month, but by her second birthday.  I was intrigued.  I know that girls tend to be trained faster than boys, but I was hopeful my boys would be exceptional and be trained by two as well.  She told me that from the day her daughter was born she had a potty chair set up.

I remember when Derek and I did the baby registry I told him I wanted a potty seat.  He thought I was crazy.  "No one needs a seat for the first two years," he said. 

Derek may be insanely smart and right about a million things, but I got this one right.

So I can't brag that my boys are potty trained by 21 months, but I can tell you a few stories. 

A friend was recently over our house.  Aaron randomly decided to walk over to the potty and sit down.  A minute later we both knew there was definitely a "Code Brown."  She asked if he always did that.  The truth is he does it quite a bit.  Both boys do.  They seem to know when they're about to go to the bathroom and they love sitting on the potty to do it.

Also, a few days ago I changed Jeff's diaper.  Not 10 minutes later he said "DIAPER!" to me.  I thought he was just practicing his words.  "DIAPER!" he yelled again using the sign for the word as well. 

"Yes, I know.  You just got a diaper change."

"Nooooooo!  D-I-I-I-I-I-APER!" insisted his cute, little voice.

Fine, I thought.  I'll just pull your diaper down and pull it back up.  This will fool that tiny, little brain of yours into thinking you got a new diaper and it will prevent a tantrum.  Sure enough, though, he knew what he was talking about and really did need a new diaper.

Hallelujah!  I'm thinking that potty training might be better and easier than we could have hoped it would be.  We seem to have boys who are understanding the concept of a toilet and dirty diapers.  We're not pushing it at all because we know it's way too early to really train them.  If anyone has any stories about early training or training boys or training twins I'd love to hear them. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

I Love Daddy!

It happened. 

And if I didn't believe my ears, it happened again.

And if I still was in shock it happened again and again and again.

A few hours ago Derek and I were on Skype with his mom so she could talk to the boys.  Aaron has started saying "nana" or "mama" for "grandma" when he wants to Skype with one of the grandmas.  I wanted to show off his new vocabulary and I asked him, "Who is that?"  hoping that he would say her name.

Sure enough, he said "mama" and everyone was thrilled.

Then we tried to get him to say "I love grandma."  What he said was...

I love...........Daddy!

I have to say that was a pretty exciting moment.  Through all the exhaustion and tantrums life with twin toddlers is often a blur, but I'm pretty sure I'll remember this night for a while.  He said it a few times and said it as I put him to bed too.  He also said "I love Jeff" which is pretty amazing too.

You Know You're A Parent When...

Either I'm looking for them more, noticing them more, or there just are more funny articles about being a parent.  Here is one that made me laugh several times.  It's scary how many I understand.  Let's just say grocery shopping has become my replacement for a night out with friends and since I hated laundry before I had kids #19 is a pretty common occurrence these days.  Oh, and while #16 sounds like an awesome idea my life is more like #14 thanks to some interest in potty training.  More on that later.

1. Instead of running from projectile vomit, you run towards it.
2. You do more in seven minutes than most people do all day.
3. Happy hour has become the 60 minutes between your kids going to bed and you going to bed.
4. A night of drinking requires more recovery time than minor surgery.
5. A glass of wine counts as a serving of fruit.
6. You have mini-therapy sessions all day long with anyone who will listen.
7. Going to the grocery store by yourself is a vacation.
8. You can experience heaven and hell at the same time.
9. You think of physical pain on three levels: pain, excruciating pain and stepping on a Lego.
10. You have the ability to hear a sneeze through closed doors in the middle of the night, two bedrooms away, while your SO snores next to you.
11. You'd rather have a 103 degree fever than watch one of your kids suffer with it.
12. You'd rather go to sleep than have sex.
13. A 15-minute shower with the door locked feels like a day at the spa.
14. Peeing with an audience is part of the daily routine.
15. You use baby wipes to clean up random spills and the dash of your car.
16. You lock yourself in the bathroom and pretend to have diarrhea just to get a break.
17. You love Moms' Night Out and Date Night with the Hubs.
18. You have a secret chocolate stash because frankly, you're sick of sharing.
19. You've been washing the same load of laundry for three days because you forgot to dry it.
20. You realize you've been watching Nick Jr. alone, even though your kids have been in bed for over 30 minutes.
21. You can cook dinner, breastfeed, talk on the phone and yell at the kids, all without breaking stride or missing any of the TV show you are watching.
22. You get more excited about the Mini Boden Catalogue than J Crew's.
23. You decide to stick with your car for the next decade because a) you can't afford to switch and b) you haven't found a car wash that knows how to get all the milk stains and glitter removed.
24. By the end of the day, brushing your teeth feels like a huge accomplishment.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

What I'm Thankful For

Alright, folks, it's time to get real and by real I mean say all the things that parents are REALLY grateful for and not just say I love my family, my kids and my cat.  I wrote a little thank you on my surrogate blog a few weeks ago, but since posting that I have thought of a few more things that deserve some thanks.  Here goes.

1. I'm thankful for microwave ovens.  Yes, I know that there is more and more research about how heating plastic in the microwave causes all sorts of health problems.  And yes, changing the light bulb in the microwave is more complex than Sandra Bullock getting home in Gravity.  But let's face it, when you have two screaming kids there is nothing better than nuking some mac-n-cheese in a ceramic bowl in two minutes.  Lord knows how our parents endured our screams waiting for the water to boil, cooking the pasta, melting the cheese, etc.  The microwave also makes pretty good cookies and cakes in a mug for Daddy on those days when his stress level is high from hearing screams.

2. I'm thankful for Costco.  Kids need so much stuff.  If you can't find it at Costco, you probably don't need it.  We get cheap diapers, organic milk, year-round blueberries, toys, clothes and more from there.  Sometimes, for those extra long days of parenthood, we also buy some booze for Daddy!

3. I'm thankful for TiVo and Netflix.  I know the Powers That Be in the pediatric community say no TV until at least two years old.  I did really, really, really well with that for a long time.  At about 18 months or so I came to the conclusion that out of the 50 or so hours I spend with the boys awake each week it really is OK to turn on Barney for 20 minutes once a week.  The guilt that I am rotting their minds and causing ADHD lessens after 5 minutes when, for the first time in hours, I finally get to sit and zone out for a couple minutes. 

4. I'm thankful for Facebook.  It's true, Facebook steals our pictures, hoards our personal information and watches us like we're contestants on Big Brother but it also gives me a pseudo-connection to the outside world when I'm stuck at home listening to The Bear Went Over The Mountain on replay for 7 hours straight.  (Seriously...that's not made up.  I actually heard that song for 7 hours one day.)  Friends on Facebook give me great advice on car seat safety, recommendations on booster seats, where to bring my old baby clothes for tax deductions and, most importantly, links to really important articles like 31 Things No One Tells You About Becoming A Parent.
5. I'm thankful for Skype and Facetime.  Even though reheating dinner in the microwave only takes a couple minutes, it's still great to have Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle M., or Aunt A. show up on video to distract the kids for a few minutes and stop pulling down my pants as I try to put food into (non-cancer causing) microwave safe dishes.  More importantly, it's pretty cool that the boys know their family by face and not just a voice.  The extended family can be a part of Aaron and Jeff's lives in a much stronger way.  Everyone can see Jeff sneeze all over my hand or watch Aaron put puzzle pieces into the VCR.  In some ways watching the boys through video is better than in real life: there is no way to smell when a diaper needs changing.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Parents vs. Non-Parents

When I saw kids throwing tantrums I used to wonder why some parents didn't try anything and everything to console their children.  I couldn't imagine not trying to connect with that distressed little boy or girl.  I would get mad at a parent who didn't try to calm a temper with a hug or some gentle words.  Now, as a parent of kids who throw tantrums, I understand on a totally new level.  There are times that I ignore all the screaming and flailing and kicking.  I usually know when it's a real problem.  If someone slips and bangs his head on a table, that's a problem.  If someone can't get a 14th cracker in five minutes, that's not an emergency and I won't spend my precious energy trying to soothe a wounded soul.  Yes, I know that to him 13 crackers isn't enough and it means the end of the world...but sometimes it's OK to not get what you want in life.  I think at almost 20 months my boys are old enough to learn that lesson.  So, over the last few months, I have slowly turned into one of those parents who doesn't jump through flaming hoops and cross shark infested waters to make sure my child never sheds a tear.

Derek and I recently took a trip to the east coast to visit my family.  It was our second plane ride and the experience was a lot different than the first plane ride for a lot of reasons.  I forgot to write about our first one because so much was happening at that time so let me go back in time for a minute...

The first plane trip was to the west coast for Christmas.  The boys were about nine months old.  Traveling with them was a lot of work just due to the fact that we had blankets, diapers, formula, strollers, car seats, extra clothes, pacifiers, toys, snacks, etc.  Nevertheless, the flights there and back went pretty smoothly.  Both boys slept a good deal of the time, pooped/peed a little (changing a diaper in an airplane bathroom really does look like a contortionist act!) and made friends with the sweet flight attendants.  I found out one attendant had adopted two kids and she was so helpful always checking in on the boys, getting us milk and even cleaning our bottles after the boys had a drink.  I was with Jeff on the way out and the cutest thing was that he fell asleep during the descent with his hand wrapped around a couple of my fingers.

This recent plane trip - about two months ago - was a little more chaotic.  There was less poop but more screaming and wriggling around.  Now that the boys are mobile and more energetic sitting for a few hours is practically impossible.  Most of my pictures these days are blurry because they never stop moving.  

Anyway, when we got to the airport to fly home from our recent trip on Thursday night our flight was delayed.  As Derek talked with the woman at the check in desk - who clearly saw the kids and me with him - she was frantically checking her computer to see if there was any way to get us on an earlier flight.  She checked a lot of things on her computer and twice got up from her desk to check some other things.  She gave us friendly advice on the food situation before and after the security checkpoint and advised us to go to another gate after security to try to get on an earlier flight.

Our flight was soon canceled and we were re-booked for Friday morning.  Our flight took off Friday without a hitch and when we were in the air I asked the flight attendant for a milk for the boys.  She said she would go check.  When she came back to me her answer was, "We only have one milk."  I looked at her wondering why it wasn't in her hand and all she said was, "If you want anything else let me know."  I wanted to scream back, "Sure, my 18 month old kids will take a beer and a diet Coke" but I just said there wasn't anything else she could do.  About half an hour later I got stuck standing by the bathroom holding Jeff as the drink cart blocked me in.  I stayed standing by the bathroom for about 10 minutes as they finished up drink service.  Jeff is always happier being up high so I didn't bother trying to get back to my seat.  The flight attendant moved her cart into the bay and didn't make eye contact with me or even ask me if I wanted a drink so I missed my opportunity to get my free soda.

Which people in these stories do I think has kids and which ones don't?  Probably not too hard to figure out.

I was the second flight attendant not to long ago.  I recently apologized to a friend for my cluelessness about life as a parent.  I said I felt bad when I had told her a few years ago, "Let's go have lunch.  You can bring your kid along.  That's fine."

What I didn't realize is that getting out of the house with an infant/toddler requires planning that rivals invading a small country.  You have to think about car seats, strollers, nap schedules, snacks on the way, what does the kid eat/not eat, how many diapers to bring, will I need toys, is this a kid friendly place, etc.  "Bring your kid along" is much easier said than done. 

I have started to understand why people with kids often are friends with people with kids.  I have been yelled at for missing birthday parties, lunches, plays, and more from people who don't have kids.  I have been told I disappointed people for cancelling plans due to a sick child or because I had good intentions to go out but wound up being too exhausted to get my shoes on and head out the door.  On the flip side, I have had offers of help from people who have older kids and know what it's like to be dealing with babies and toddlers.  One of the things that no one prepares you for in parenthood is how it strains friendships.  On the plus side, it has bonded me with some friends who I haven't seen in a while who have young children too.

This is my apology, on record, to all the parents who have kids older than mine.  I will no longer tell any parent to just make it work.  And to anyone who knows a parent, understand that sometimes we can't just make it work.  Who knows...in a few years I might just get a bunch of apologies when they join this crazy Parenthood Club.

Friday, October 25, 2013

ASL and Language Development

By now almost everyone with a child has heard of "Baby Signs."  It's really an amazing thing.  If you are thinking about learning some signs, please do.  I'll tell you a little bit about my kids.

I remember a few months ago being in the train station with the boys and Jeff started wailing for no known reason.  Derek asked him what he wanted and he put one finger to his lips which is his sign for "water."  We gave him his water bottle and he calmed down immediately.  I remember saying to Derek, "Imagine how much more screaming there would be if he couldn't tell us what he wanted!"

Don't get me wrong, my kids are full of screams.  My poor neighbors.  I feel bad for them.  At 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. (and many of the hours in between) our home often has at least one person screaming.  Sometimes it's a baby...sometimes it's me.

The boys are 19 months now and so many things about their language fascinates me.
  • I love that they are starting to put two and three signs together.  I get sentences like "Dad sleep" and "More banana please." 
  • The boys now hear me talking English and pick up on things even when I'm not talking to them.  If I say things to another person like "I need to get a haircut" they will point to their hair or if I say I'll be going outside later they start signing "shoes" which is their way of getting ready to go out.
  • Aaron kept trying to steal my glasses one day a few weeks ago.  I signed that the glasses were mine and he can't take them about fifty times.  By the next day he knew the sign for glasses.  It amazed me that I could almost see the process of him learning new words!
  • Over the last few weeks I have been able to ask the boys, "Do you want milk or water?" and they can always answer me clearly with signs.  
  • In September we were in the airport and there were three people in chairs two of who were asleep.  Aaron kept pointing to the two who had their eyes closed and signed "sleep."
  • Jeff can tell me when he wants me to get him socks, read a book, hear our Mickey Mouse doll sing, our Tigger doll to jump, and sit in his highchair.
  • I recently was looking at a new book with some animals and both boys were able to sign most of the animals.  It shocked me because the pictures were new and the pigs, cows, dogs, etc. didn't look exactly like the animals we saw in other books.  They boys were able to identify the animals anyway.
  • The boys are also extremely good with puzzles.  I'm no expert in child development, but I think they started doing puzzles much earlier than average and I believe it has to do with the fact that they are learning a visual-spatial language.  Regardless of the actual reason, I'm pretty impressed by their puzzle skills.
Aaron can now say "bye" pretty easily and will sometimes say "hi."  Although he always say "bye" after I hang up with grandparents or after we leave the room.  He doesn't quite get the concept of saying "bye" to a person which makes me laugh.  Both boys are starting to copy our speech a little more.  It's cute to listen to their funny pronunciations of words like "doggie" and "rainbow."  Although I'm excited to hear their voices developing, I love watching their little hands fly as they get excited seeing fire trucks drive by or notice an apple in the fruit bowl.  I'm trying to teach them to sign "I love you."  We're getting close.  I'm sure when I see it on their tiny hands it'll be a moment I remember.     

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Case of The Pee Pee Diaper

Remember those old Encyclopedia Brown mysteries that were popular when we were kids?  Yesterday I became a sleuth like that boy detective.  I figured out The Case of the Pee Pee Diaper

The boys and I had a pretty good day yesterday.  They took a long nap and woke up in a relatively good mood.  I got them out of their cribs and managed to change their diapers before giving them a snack.  Neither one of them put up much of a fuss getting his diaper changed.

We had a snack of yogurt and graham crackers.  Aaron was supsicious of the yogurt and only wanted it after I ate some.  I guess he thinks he's a king and I'm his beefeater who tests for poison.  Jeff enjoyed his yogurt and got it all over his face and giggled in the usual Jeff fashion.

I asked the boys if they wanted me to set up their new toy - a big canvas bus - so they could run through it and pretend to drive.  They nodded yes.  Jeff grabbed a knob on a kitchen drawer like a steering wheel and pretended to drive by spinning the wheel.  Adorable!

The boys ran through the bus, played the keyboard and threw some balls around the house for a while.  I spent a few minutes checking emails on my phone, cleaning up the dishes from snack and putting away some toys. 

Then I saw it.  A diaper in the middle of the hallway.

Hmmm...what is going on?  I had no idea how this diaper had suddenly appeared.  I assumed one of the boys had pulled a clean diaper from a drawer and thrown it on the ground.  When I picked it up I noticed that the diaper was filled with pee.  I was so confused what had happened.  Maybe it was from the lack of sleep.  (Thanks to a sleepless boy *cough-Aaron-cough* I didn't get to bed utnil after 1:00 a.m. and I was up at 4:45 a.m.) 

I threw away the diaper and didn't think much of it.

A little while later Jeff found a new game.  He took one of his chairs and put a sippy cup filled with water on the chair.  He would then tilt the chair to a side and watch the cup roll off and fall to the ground.  This game, apparently, is fascinating to an 18 month old.  It's also fascinating for an 18 month old to watch.  So fascinating, in fact, that Aaron, after watching for a few minutes, had to join in.  Aaron grabbed a chair and a sippy cup and started doing the same thing. 

Sippy cups are pretty good about not spilling, but if the cup falls on the floor over and over again the stopper will come out.  Jeff's stopper came out first and water spilled all over the floor.  A minute or two later Aaron's stopper came out.  I noticed that because his little, light grey sweatpants had a streak of wetness down one leg.  Since there was only about an hour until pajama time it wasn't worth fighting him to change pants especially because this game was making him so happy.

We ate dinner a little late.  Aaron and Jeff tried orzo for the first time.  Jeff dug in and Aaron was suspicious for a while of this newfangled food.  Aaron enjoyed the cheese on the orzo and eventually realized it was fun to mix his peas with his cheesey orzo.  By the end of dinner there was nothing left in his bowl.  Everything got into his tummy or had fallen into his lap. 

Now, fellow sleuths, see if you can figure out what happened before continuing to read.

At about 6:30 it was time to change into pajamas.  I changed Jeff first and put him into cute pirate pajamas and tried to teach him the sign for "pirate."  When that was done I grabbed Aaron and pulled off his pants only to be surprised he had no diaper!!! 

I believe Aaron managed to pull at the tape of his diaper enough to loosen or unfasten it.  He then must have pulled the front part of diaper so hard that he got it through his legs and off his body.  The wet streak on his right pant leg wasn't water from the sippy cup...it was pee.  His right sock was wet too. Ugh!

After a quick "bath" with a few wipes he was good as new and wearing my favorite cowboy pajamas.  This time, however,  I made sure that the diaper tabs were on securely and the pajama pants were pulled up enough to cover the diaper completely.  I wasn't going to take any chances.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Too Many Pictures

I wrote about all my pictures a while ago and after just 18 months I have too many pictures.  My dream of having actual photographs for my kids to touch has just not come true.  I have learned that Shutterfly is much faster, easier, and more practical than my lofty dream of beautiful photo albums with pictures I have printed and lovingly arranged in an album.  Plus, Shutterfly books will probably last longer.  My photo albums from 30 years ago are all faded and the pictures don't stick becasue the glue has dried.  Hopefully I'll have a few special albums with actual pictures, but I think Shutterfly will be seeing a lot of my money over the years. 

Also, I finally gave up and decided to just post my videos online.  My goal was to find a way to load them onto a DVD and make a keepsake for my kids.  Once again, reality took over and the internet won.  At least now my family and friends can see the videos any time they want. 

However, if anyone has a good method for keeping track of pictures and videos and not getting overwhelmed by them please, please, please share them with me.  I'd love to have a good system.  Thank goodness for Shutterfly and YouTube apps on phones...but other options would be appreciated.

I don't share a ton of pictures on this blog, but since this posting is about pictures and videos, I'll share a few of my favorites over the last 18 months.  You know how families have some iconic photos that everyone knows?  Well, here are some of the "famous" or "infamous" pictures in no particular order...

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Playground Culture

Aaron and Jeff are now old enough to go to the playground and enjoy more and more of the equipment.  We've been going to the park for a while and they can do more than just sit in the swing.  While we were in New York we went to the park once or even twice a day.  I have to talk a little bit about what I call "Playground Culture."

I am a little saddened by some of the encounters I have had on the playground.  My boys are only 18 months old and don't understand what they can and can't touch.  Sometimes they look at another child's toy and point to it or try to touch it.  On many occassions a young child yells "No!  That's MINE!"  I tell the boys that the toy isn't ours and explain to the older kids that my children are little and don't understand.  The other kids sometimes give me a dirty look or run away to get away from my kids. 

I know that children at the playground often don't want to share their toys with strangers.  I get it.  That's part of their development.  What makes me sad is that their parents don't ever step in and tell the child not to yell at an 18 month old for just looking at their toy.  I feel like that's a good time to teach kids it's OK to share and to be nice to kids who are younger.

In Chicago we did meet a wonderful mom and her daughter who was probably about two or three years old.  My kids were fascinated by a little pail and shovel and the mom let my kids use the toys.  She even walked away to play in another area of the playground and trusted us with her toys.  In New York my boys were playing on a playground when a four and a half year old came along who was patient as my kids hesitated at the top of a big slide.  The little boy waited, patiently, while my boys decided if they could conquer the twisty slide and was careful as he ran by them on the bridges.  I got to talking with his mother and told her how respectful he was playing around two little boys.

As my kids grow up and become the bigger, rowdier, wilder kids I hope that I teach them to be kind to babies, share their toys with other children, and apologize if they mistreat someone.   I can't expect them to be perfect all of the time, but I can try to teach them some lessons while on the playground. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Derek, Jeff, Aaron and I recently flew to the east coast to visit my family.  This was the boys' second plane ride.  I never wrote about the first one because it was during the holidays and life was so crazy so let me take you back to a simpler time, nine months ago, before the boys were mobile. 

The first plane trip was to the west coast for Christmas.  The boys were about nine months old.  Traveling with them was a lot of work just due to the fact that we had blankets, diapers, formula, bottles, strollers, car seats, extra clothes, pacifiers, toys, snacks, etc.  Nevertheless, the flights went pretty smoothly.  Both boys slept a good deal of the time, pooped/peed a little (changing a diaper in an airplane bathroom really does look like a contortionist act!), and made friends with the sweet flight attendants.  I was with Jeff on the way out and the cutest thing was that he fell asleep during the descent with his hand wrapped around a couple of my fingers.

This recent plane trip was a little -- ok, a lot -- more chaotic.  There was less poop which was good.   There was more screaming and wriggling around and the boys were pretty antsy too.  (Ba dum bum.)  Now that the boys are mobile and more energetic, sitting for a few hours is practically impossible.  Most of my pictures these days are blurry because they never stop moving.  

Back to the September plane ride now. 

We arrived in NYC about 7:00 p.m. and the boys, who hadn't slept for at least six hours or so, were due for bed.  By the time we got to my parents' place we were sure they would want to sleep, although we gave them a little time to get used to the new environment and people..  After a little while we tried to do our nightly routine of low lights, pajamas, a bottle and maybe a book or a song before bed.  We gave them pacifiers and put them into their pack-and-plays.


That's pretty much all I remember from that first night because it was so chaotic after that.  My boys have never really liked going to bed and going to bed in a strange place with a strange bed made it so much harder.

So, long story short, throughout the week they did better and better with their new "beds" but still fought going to sleep quite a bit.  Towards the end of the week they started to realize that a pacifier meant it was time for bed.  As we would put them in their pack-and-plays, they would rip the pacifiers from their mouths and throw them to the ground as a show of 17 month old defiance.  (Aren't baby protests kind of cute in a way?)  We would return the pacifier but after a several times we just let them throw it away and finally had to just leave the room.  Derek and I noticed, though, that each night, after throwing out their pacifiers, the screams lasted less and less time.

When we got back to Chicago we decided this was our opportunity.  The boys had spent the last few days without pacifiers and it was now or never to break the habit.  So we did it.  We stopped giving them pacifiers for their naps and overnight sleeps.

The first night wasn't bad.  The second night I put Jeff in his bed while Derek put Aaron down.  Aaron screamed his head off (he's Aaron -- have you met him?  He likes to use his lungs).   Jeff wasn't crying at all.  He let me lay him down, peacefully, in his crib and then signed "pacifier" to me.

My heart broke.  I had to tell him that the pacifiers were "all done."  He just looked at me, a little dejected.  I kissed him, told him I loved him, gave Aaron a kiss, told him I loved him, and left the room.  Then Jeff started to cry.  I can't tell you how hard that was.

It has now been close to a week since we got home and the no pacifier rule has been going well.  The boys seem OK with the new world order and have asked for a pacifier a few times but always manage to fall asleep without one as long as we do our new favorite song, "Pease Porridge Hot" with lots of clapping, about 73 times before bed. 

On Tuesday, however, I caught Jeff sucking his thumb while I was changing his diaper.

Uh oh...

There might be a new habit to break.

Monday, September 2, 2013

I'm One Of Those Parents

Every parent thinks his or her child is special and smart and amazing, right?  Everyone else rolls his or her eyes and thinks, "Suuuuuure" but will actually respond with, "Yes!  The fact that Johnny is sticking his feet in his mouth does mean he is interested in anatomy and will become a podiatrist."  Then that person posts something on Facebook saying how he or she is sick of parents bragging about their "brilliant" kids.  I have a little more humility than these crazy parents, but I do want to share a cool story with you.

On Thursday I got my boys into their cribs but it wasn't quite naptime yet.  I didn't want to take them out of their cribs and risk a fight to get them back in, so I decided to vamp for 10-15 minutes before starting the naptime routine.  My kids still aren't really into storytime.  After I read two or three pages of a book one will inevitably ask for the book.  I will give it to him and he will usually take it from my hand and then toss it aside as if to say, "How dare you read to us!!!  I do all the reading around here!"

With storytime being nixed I decided to focus on the animal decals.  I do point out the animals from time to time.  I tell the boys the names in English, American Sign Language, and Spanish (the ones I know...what the heck is the Spanish word for ibex???) but I never really emphasize learning the animals like I do when we read a book.

That's why I was totally shocked when I saw how well the boys could identify the animals on the wall near their cribs!  In the take you didn't see, each boy was three for three.  In the video, they got five out of six.  I think "jellyfish" was too hard because there's no good sign for it and I don't know the Spanish word for it so we don't practice that one very much.

I also have the most amazing nanny in the world who loves to do art with my boys and she recently showed me that they are little Picassos in the making.  Here they are having fun with paint for the first time with our awesome nanny.

I know that just because my kids know a few animals or get paint on paper it doesn't mean I believe they will be the Doogie Howser of the vet world or the next Pablo Picasso.  I admit that they still have a lot (of the basics) to learn. For example, Jeff likes to bang his head against the wall.  When Derek or I say, "Don't knock your head on the wall!" all he seems to hear is "Knock your head on the wall."  He laughs the first couple of times but then hits it just hard enough that he has that look of "Why does my head hurt?"  Aaron is no better.  He enjoys drinking bathwater.  He has a cup that he fills with water and tries to drink from it.  The problem is it's a big cup and all he does is douse his face with water.  He scares himself after water splashes his face.  Six seconds later he does it all over again. 

So while I'm proud of my kids for learning animals and trying art, I know that doesn't make them the smartest kids on earth.

Wait a minute.  Now that I think about their behaviors I think Jeff banging his head on a wall is like an engineer testing the strength of his supporting beams.  Aaron getting wet shows he is going to be an underwater explorer like Jacques Cousteau.  

Wow...my kids really are geniuses!!!

OK...go post a message on Facebook about a crazy dad.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Bath Time With Twins

A little over a year ago I wrote my post about story time with twins which was quite an adventure.  I'd like to now explain what it's like to bathe twins by myself.

Normally Derek and I bathe the boys together.  Well, "together" means Derek usually bathes the kids after dinner every other night while I use those 15-20 minutes to run around the apartment like a madman trying to clean up the dishes and toys, sweep and mop the floor, deal with laundry, etc.  When the boys are done with bath time I run into the bathroom and each one of us takes one wet baby and deals with the whole process of drying him off, putting on the butt paste, diapering him, getting on pajamas and brushing his hair while trying to stop him from eating the aforementioned towel, butt paste, diaper, pajamas and hairbrush. 

For the last few months Derek has had a late schedule a few days a week and for the last few weeks I have been in rehearsals at night for a show so one of us is often alone with the boys in the evenings.  Bathing two kids falls now become one person job.

Here is my bathing story from a few days ago...

5:50pm Decide it is time to bathe the kids.  I start to undress Aaron first in the hallway near the bathroom.
5:51pm Open Aaron's diaper only to find a suprise "Code Brown."  I quickly re-tape his diaper.
5:52pm Run into the bedroom to get some wipes to clean up Aaron,  After cleaning him off on the changing table I put him down in the bedroom, naked, to start undressing Jeff.
5:53pm Start to undress Jeff and this time I smell the "Code Brown" so I wasn't surprised.  As I start to change Jeff I hear an odd noise behind me.  I turn to look and see Aaron peeing on the bedroom carpet.
5:55pm Finish undressing Jeff and put him down, naked, on the floor.  Go to the bathroom and turn on the water. 
5:56pm Get my spray bottle for pet stains to squirt onto the area where Aaron peed only to see Jeff peeing (with quite an impressive stream) in the hallway.  I swear the pee went over two feet.  At least this time it is on a hardwood floor.
5:57pm Find some Clorox wipes to clean up Jeff's pee.
5:58pm Go into the bathroom to check on the water.  I start preparing the bath with some bubbles and toys.  Jeff and Aaron follow me into the bathroom.  Jeff, holding a toy, becomes interested in the kitty litter.  He considers throwing his toy into the litter box but decides against it.
5:59pm Finally have both boys in the bath.  We play.  Aaron farts a lot.  I get very wet even though I'm not the one taking a bath. 
6:10pm Aaron decides he is done with bath time.  I can't take him out and leave Jeff in the water.  I open the drain in the tub to let the water out.
6:10-6:17pm Jeff finds it funny to close the drain every time I open it.  As a result it takes forever to drain a few inches of water from the tub.
6:18pm Take Aaron out of the tub, dry him off and run into the bedroom (about 5 feet away) praying Jeff doesn't decide to try to climb out of the tub.  I throw naked Aaron into his crib.  He screams as I run back into the bathroom to get Jeff.  I pray Aaron doesn't pee in his bed.
6:18pm and 12 seconds Take Jeff out of the tub, start to dry him off and run into the bedroom to a screaming Aaron.  I put naked Jeff in his crib.  I pray Jeff doesn't pee in his bed.
6:18 and 20 seconds I get a chilly Aaron out of his crib and start the going to bed process of butt paste, diaper and pajamas.  I only get butt paste and a diaper on squirmy Aaron before stopping due to exhaustion but I'm ok with that.  Jeff cries.  I continue to pray Jeff doesn't pee in his bed before I get a diaper on him.
6:20pm Put Aaron on the floor to play.  He is dressed and his hair is a mess, but I justify not brushing his hair becuase the messy, bed-head look is in these days, right?
6:21pm Get Jeff out of his crib and try to put diaper cream on him.  He clings to me.  He loves to be held; he hates to be on his changing table.  I hold Jeff for a minute or two praying he doesn't pee on me before I get a diaper on him.
6:23pm Get Jeff interested in a light attached to his changing table.  I slather on the butt paste while he is standing up looking at the light.  I do my best to put a diaper on him while he is still standing.  I wonder where Aaron is.  I put Jeff down on the floor to play.
6:25pm Look for Aaron and see he is in the bathroom eyeing the kitty litter box because I forgot to lock the gate thanks to "baby brain" and not having three arms. 
6:26pm Take Aaron out of the bathroom.
6:27-6:43pm Spend the next 16 minutes chasing the boys up and down the hallway trying to get pajamas on them.  I always win in the end but it usually involves a lot of laughter (from the boys who think this is a game), crying (from daddy who thinks this is the universe's way of punishing him for some wrongdoings in a past life), exercise (both cardio from the chase and strength building from wrestling with a baby as I try to get him dressed), and sometimes a cracker (to distract a baby when I'm too tired to chase him any more).
6:44-7:00pm In a daze I manage to give the boys their last bottle of the night, brush their teeth, and get them into their cribs.  Usually they do fall asleep rather quickly these days or they play with a book for a while before falling asleep.  I guess this process wears them out as much as it does me.
7:01-7:04pm I curl up on the couch and tune out the world for a few minutes wondering if this will ever get easier.
7:05pm I realize that a day like today, as hard as it is, gives me a good "Let me tell you about the time the boys peed on the floor" story to tell when they are surly teenagers.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Single Parenthood

I have had this post in my head since May when Mother's Day came up.  It popped into my head because A) some of my single mom friends wished me a happy Mother's Day because they get wished a happy Father's Day for doing double duty as a parent and B) I have single mom friends who blow my mind by how much they do now that I'm a parent myself.

It's no secret that parenthood has been a rocky road for me.   I don't do well with the lack of sleep, I get crazy having a home that is constantly a mess, and I have no self-restraint when my kids cry because I feel I have to rush to their aid.  Can you say overtired, anal-retentive, helicopter parent?  (Hey...at least I'm getting better.)

There are days when the crying gets to me to the point that I can't think straight.  I can't make a decision about how to handle the situation.  Do I give in and let Aaron eat another pound of Cheerios, or do I make him eat his oatmeal?  Do I let Jeff have a tantrum or do I put him in a "big boy" chair knowing that I'm now going to have to sit on the floor for the next 10 minutes making sure he doesn't fall off while standing on an adult sized chair?  And then, of course, there is the ever popular how long do I let someone cry at night before going into the bedroom?

Thank goodness Derek is here to help me through these hard times.
  • Yes, it's OK to give Aaron more Cheerios, Michael.  
  • No, don't let Jeff get used to standing on chairs, Michael.  
  • Go sit outside, you weak-willed wussy, until the kids fall asleep.
I'm pretty sure Derek didn't say weak-willed wussy...it's just what I was thinking as I dragged myself outside wondering how two sixteen month old kids half my size and less than a quarter of my weight get the best of me some days.

I also think about how on earth I'd be able to get two kids up, fed, dressed, out the door, into the car, into daycare and still get to work on time five days a week if I were a single parent.  I can barely drag myself out of bed in the mornings.  Derek usually gets up first and I come out twenty minutes later as hideous Daddy-like monster squinting from the light, unable to talk, and grumpy as...as...well, as grumpy as my kids when they wake up from a nap.

My point to all of this is that parenthood has, at times, beaten me down, chewed me up and spit me out AND I have help.  My single parent friends do it all on their own.  They get up at 3:00 a.m. every time to soothe a sick kid, change every diaper, cook every meal, clean every dish, plan every vacation, and do everything 24/7/365.  It blows my mind to think these amazing parents who are raising some really terrific kids. 

While raising children with someone has its own challenges (Did you seriously take our children out in public wearing a striped shirt and plaid pants???) I know Aaron, Jeff and I are happy to be in a family of four instead of three.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Our Awesome Nanny

From time to time I have days when I think that daycare is the best invention ever!  It's those days when the babies decide to wake up at 5:00 a.m., scream all day, throw all their food on the floor, have three poopie diapers EACH, and refuse to nap.  I think about how nice it would be to have adult conversations five days a week, be able to go to the gym, or even just get a haircut more than once every three months.  But then I think about how fortunate/tired I am to be able to stay home with my little munchkins a few days a week to watch them grow and develop and learn the "Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes" song.

I also think about how different my kids' lives would be going to daycare every day.  We all know some daycare centers are awesome.  The staff truly adores the kids, nurtures their creativity and curiosity and provides a wonderful learning environment.  These are usually the centers that would cost me over $500 a week for two kids and make me live on Ramen noodles until 2037.

Then there are some, shall we say, "not-up-to-par" daycare centers that may be affordable, but may not give my children what I hope to give them.  I'd be wracked with guilt and spend all my free money on wildly unnecessary things for the kids trying to make up for their non-utopian daycare experiences.  I'd be so broke I'd have to eat Ramen noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner until 2047.

I know, though, that most daycare centers do a good job and are relatively affordable.  My kids would get some great experiences, I wouldn't be completely broke, and my whole family would still be happy and healthy.

However, the fact is that Derek and I are able to take care of the kids ourselves with help just one day a week.  But that one day that we both have to work is a joy in so many ways. 

I'm happy to get some adult time, adult conversations, and continue working a job that I really do love. 

I also love that our kids get some time with someone other than their daddies.  I do think it is good to expose them to new people.  We have some sitters who have come just once and some who come from time to time.  All four grandparents, Bethany, Heather, Nannette, Michelle, Susan, Liz, Kirsten, Monica, Lisa, and Kara (I hope I didn't miss anyone?) have been great with the kids.

Of course I also have to mention our regular sitter, Buddy, who is such a blessing.  She started sitting for us when the kids were about three months old and has helped our boys learn, grow, and develop.  She holds them when they're sick, helps them learn right from wrong if they misbehave, feeds them, plays with them, takes them out for walks in the stroller, and does everything I could ever want for them.  She is willing to help us out if we need her at different times.  She cares for the boys the way you want someone to care for your children.  You can see there really is a genuine love between them.  Derek and I are lucky to have her. 

Buddy is an up-and-coming artist who is starting to get more and more work painting.  I took a drawing class in college and was horrible so I'm glad someone can give these kids some visual arts skills.  A month ago Buddy got the same results from Aaron I did when she tried to get him to draw (he tried to eat the crayons) she got Jeff to actually hold a crayon and color. 

Just like our surrogate who has become a part of our family and holds a special place in our hearts, we are grateful for Buddy who is a special part of our family as well. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

We're Officially A Crime Family

As children grow older parents start to notice things about them that came through nature or nurture.  Sometimes you see that a son has mom's ears or your daughter has grandpa's nose.  Sometimes your child loves baseball because dad is a baseball fan or your son wants to play the piano because his older sister takes piano lessons.  Sometimes a child learns to steal because his older brother is a thief.  Sometimes Aunt Suzy instills in yo --

Wait a minute.  What did you just say?

Yep, you read that right.  Apparently my beloved second child has turned to a life of crime too.  Do you all remember my child the thief from a few months ago?  Aaron stole a candy bar from a store a few months back.  He has been a reformed criminal every since and led a mostly good life with the exception of some minor infractions like stealing his brother's toys, smacking a cat in the face and holding out a Cheerio like he is going to feed it to me and then popping it in his own  mouth. 

The theft incident, however, seems to have had a lasting effect on Jeff.  Apparently he, too, has turned to a life of crime.  A week ago Sunday we went to a street fair.  There was a children's play area that had a bunch of toys on a mat.  Derek and I took the kids out of their strollers so they could stretch their legs and play for a few minutes.  Aaron took off like a bat out of hell.  He didn't even look to see if I was following him.  He darted out of the play area (which wasn't enclosed) and zipped through the legs of hundreds of people at the festival.  I let him run for a while and then brought him back to the play area.  Again he took off not caring whether or not Daddy was following him.  He did this four or five times which I have now concluded was just a distraction to take my attention off of Jeff.

After chasing Aaron around the fair for a good 15 minutes I was ready to go.  I got Aaron ready to leave and Derek put Jeff in his stroller.  About two minutes after we left I noticed something white in Jeff's hands.  I looked closer and it was a car.  Yes, I can now say my child is a car thief.  We went from stealing candy to Grand Theft Auto!  (OK...to be more specific it was a toy car.) 

Was this deviant life style from my genes?  I don't think so.  I have heard a great aunt of mine married someone who had ties to the mob but that's not in my genes.  My mob ties are only through marriage.

Did the life of crime come from how we nurture the children?  I don't think so.  Derek and I are law abiding citizens.  We wear our seatbelts, pay our taxes and don't even take too many pennies from a "leave a penny/take a penny" tray.

Did this criminal inclination come from the egg donor?  I don't think so.  She was a successful, advanced degree teacher who seemed like a perfectly lovely lady.

So where does that leave us?

I have to believe that the naughty behavior is coming from a group who tends to be lazy all day, rowdy at night, steal food whenever possible, has been known to break things, stalk anything that moves and gets into fights over territory: clearly I blame the cats. 

Friday, May 31, 2013

Dear Michael of 2023

Derek and I just watched an interesting documentary about how our mind perceives time and motion.  It talked a little bit about how/why time flies when you're having fun and why a watched pot never boils. 

I've been told by many parents how fast the first year goes and how much faster each year seems to fly.  People (usually people with older kids) talk about how envious they are of my little munchkins, how cute they are and how they long for the days when their kids were little.  Friends and strangers tell me how lucky I am to have babies in the house. 

I'm sure I'll find myself saying the same things to new parents before I know it.  However...
In about 10 years, when I long for the newborn/infant/toddler times, I want to remember this --

Dear Michael of 2023,

Hey, it's Michael of 2013.  Remember me?  Probably not since most of 2012 and part of 2013 was a blur.  Let me refresh your memory a little bit of what life was like.

I have to start in about December of 2012 because I don't really have much of a memory of April through November.  You didn't get much sleep for those 8 months.  Actually, you didn't get much sleep for over a year.  You know how you get to sleep at least 6 or 7 hours in a row these days?  Well, back in 2012 you only got to sleep about 2-3 hours at a time...and that's if the boys were on the same schedule.  If they got off then welcome to being awake for 20 hours at a time.  I do remember that day.  Twenty hours of being awake.  Say it with me: twenty loooong hours of being awake.  

Remember that time you got into the shower, put conditioner in your hair and then forgot to wash it out?  No?  You don't remember that?  Probably because you were practically sleep walking that day.  Well, it happened and it was embarassing.  Embarassing like forgetting to zip  your zipper, calling people and forgetting why you called them and wearing mismatched socks.  You did all of those too.

Have you wiped a poopy butt recently?  I did.  Usually 2-6 times a day.  Sometimes it's wasn't so bad.  Sometimes it was, well, let's just say pretty disgusting.  I won't go into details, but poop can take on all different forms and I saw them all.

I'm guessing you also haven't run out to the store in the middle of the night when it's zero degrees out to buy pacifiers/bibs/formula/anything to stop a baby from screaming.  Yeah, I did that a lot.  I never knew what toy or pacifier the babies would like so I'd buy them all and just pray one would help them calm down and be happy.

Talking about being happy do you remember when the kids learned to laugh?  Yeah, that was pretty amazing.  But do you also remember that the kids knew how to scream?  Yeah, that was pretty amazing in a totally different way.  Who knew humans could scream that loudly for that long?  I sure didn't.  And what was it they cried about?  Oh yeah...NOTHING!!!!  Well, I'm sure it was something.  Maybe the cat stirred in her sleep or they noticed their favorite book was on the bottom shelf and not the middle shelf or possibly they got the bottle with the yellow cap and wanted the green one.  Silly daddy, you should have known to predict every movement of every organism in the universe to make sure they aligned just right for Aaron and Jeff. 

Oh, and are you carrying a 50 pound weight all day?  I often did.  The boys don't understand why you can't carry two 25 pound babies while cleaning a home, cooking dinner, washing bottles and doing loads of laundry.  If you put them down on the floor they would scream.  At least that screaming had a clear reason.

Don't think I had it all bad.  I know that I was lucky being the Michael of 2013.  I got Jeff plopping himself in my lap with a book all the time and Aaron playing chase up and down the hallway with me.  I got to watch language emerge and laugh when the kids got food in their hair as they discovered the joy of forks and spoons.  There were a lot of good times.  But I'm a little envious of you, Michael of 2023.  You get to decorate a cake with gobs of frosting and candy with your 10 year old kids for Derek's birthday.  You get to feel tears well up in your eyes as you watch your children perform in a school play.  You get to celebrate with ice cream when your kids compete in a science fair.  You get to feel pride when you watch your kids include the "outcast" child on the playground.  You get to see the wonder in their faces when you take your children to Disney!

Time marches on and there isn't anything you can do about it.  So don't waste time missing the years that have passed.  Enjoy what your kids are doing now and get excited about what the future holds.  When you're missing Aaron's dramatic look of surprise when Elmo pops out of a box or Jeff's head nuzzling your neck enjoy the pictures, videos and memories of that time.  Then go find a screaming, poopie baby and tell his parents that one day they, too, will know the joy of sleeping through the night. 

With love,
Michael of 2013

Friday, May 17, 2013

T-shirts and Evil Spirits

These shirts are cute but they have a little bit of significance to me.  Here is the story...

Being Jewish I grew up knowing that you don't get a baby anything until the baby arrives at your home.  It's bad luck to prepare for a baby before he/she arrives.  I had received a few small gifts during the pregnancy that I quickly gave to friends to stash in their houses fearing that the evil spirits would come if I had a teddy bear or a rattle in my house.  (Isn't religion silly sometimes?)  I understand, though, that in the 21st century we have to do a little preparation before a baby or two arrived.  Derek and I agreed on a starting date that we could bring things into the house.  I think it was February 1st.

In December of 2011 Derek and I took a trip to Cozumel.  It was our last trip before the babies were born - our babymoon as people like to call it.  Our surrogate was about five months pregnant at the time so things were looking good.  Still, my head was filled with all kinds of "what ifs..."

As we walked around Mexico the idea of buying something for our twins was in my head, but I resisted.  I resisted for almost the entire trip, but when I saw these shirts I just loved them.  I remember standing in the store trying to rationalize how it was Derek (who isn't Jewish) buying them, not me.  I planned to ask someone else to keep the shirts until the kids were born.  Or maybe I'd fool the evil spirits by saying that the shirts were for someone else...but would the spirits know I was secretly going to keep the shirts for my kids?  (Again, isn't religious so irrational at times?)

I actually forget what convinced me to buy these shirts.  Obviously the evil spirits never came.  I lucked out and got two healthy sons who, I think, look adorable in these shirts.  Once they grow out of them I guess Derek and I will have to take another trip to a fun location to buy more shirts.  This time I'll feel safe to buy them.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Big News

As the day, weeks and months roll by I think about the posts that I missed.  I meant to write a post about our first plane ride and how precious it was that Jeff fell asleep holding my hand.  I've been meaning to write more about how excited the boys have been going to the park and exploring the outside world now that it's getting warmer out.  I wanted to write a post about how Jeff has learned to use a blanket or a coat to cover his head and then he pops out so someone yells "peek-a-boo."  I had hoped to write an entry about how Aaron loves to chase the cats around and now seems to sign "dog" for any animal he sees.  I wanted to do these, but I didn't.  I don't have time for any of these.  Now that the boys are older I am more exhausted.  They nap less.  They take more of my energy.  By the end of the day I don't have time to blog.  (And for all of you other bloggers out there with toddlers don't think I haven't notice you all blogging less too!) 

However, I did want to share the big news.

After several delays for no apparent reason except for the fact that it's an overworked and understaffed government, the state of Illinois has finally approved the adoption.  Derek is now officially and legally a dad. 

Has anything really changed?  No.  Derek has been a dad since the moment the boys were born.  Still, it's good to know that it's legally recognized now because he deserves the recognition and the title of Dad!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

You Don't Know What You're Getting Yourself Into

When my surrogate was pregnant and I told people Derek and I were expecting I heard two different answers..

Parenthood is the most wonderful, amazing, and beautiful experience in the world. 


You don't know what you're getting yourself into.

I didn't like either one of these answers.  The first seemed to mean that I was supposed to love every second of fatherhood and life would be filled with rainbows and unicorns.  The second answer meant that I was going to destroy my life and everyone's around me and that I couldn't handle what was in store for me.

A year into parenthood I'm here to say what I have heard very few people say - both statements are correct.

I'm going to start by addressing the second statement.  I have had some conversations with people where we have said the unthinkable - What have I done???  Why did I do this???  Can't I return my kids for one with an off switch???  I feel like parents are taught that it's shameful to think this.  Several friends I have and almost all the bloggers I follow have gone through tough, expensive and sometimes extreme measures to have a child -  adoption, surrogacy, fertility treatments, miscarriages, flying back and forth to India, and more - and have sworn that they will never take one minute of parenthood for granted.  I swore the same thing.

However, last week this lofty promise was broken.  My kids were back to (usually) waking up once a night (sometimes twice) and then they would always wake up between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m. for a bottle which didn't make me a happy daddy.  Aaron has started throwing tantrums.  Jeff steals every toy Aaron has.  Neither one of them likes milk from sippy cups.  They won't give up their pacifiers for naps.

I lost my one and only copy of my car key and with a 15 year old car it's not easy to replace the key.  Tax season was upon us and taxes are always stressful.  This week my car wouldn't start thanks to a dead battery and of course it was a day I needed my car to get to the suburbs. 

Add to this the fact that at work my department went from five interpreters to three about two months ago and the three of us left have been overwhelmed.  Plus last week the universe decided to give me tough interpreting situations filled with unfit mothers, violent sexual offenders and terminally ill patients.

Top that off with the fact that I have friends I haven't seen or talked to in a long time and almost no social life. 

With all of that going on I felt like I had given up my career, my friends and my life and was doomed to an eternity of 5:00 a.m. feedings, an overwhelming work schedule for the little bit I worked and wanting to pass out on the couch before 9:00 p.m. after listening to 12 hours of crying in stereo.

Yes, parenthood is messy.  It's exhausting.  It's filled with screams, poop, sleepless nights, drool, spit up, pee, worry, wasted food, endless laundry, endless dishes, fights to put on a diaper, fights to take off a diaper, fights to get kids to eat, fights to get kids not to eat, and the list goes on and on and on and on.  And do I like it?  No, not always.  It's not what I dreamed fatherhood would be.  It's nearly impossible to describe how children affect your career, your social life, your physical well being, your state of mind, your finances, your relationships, etc.  It's hard.  People who have forgotten what it's like to live with an infant or toddler (or two!) may say they can't believe I would say such a thing.  But I bet most of you new parents out there are secretly agreeing with what I'm saying.  Parenthood isn't always fun.


(Here's comes the part that people expect parents to say.)

When you say the word "spin" Aaron spins around once or twice with a smile on his face and Jeff spins until he is dizzy, giggles, and falls down.  Aaron knows the sign for shoes and can bring me his shoes if I ask for them.  Jeff recently showed me he learned the sign for about five different animals.  I see the beginning of language emerging.  As someone who works with language, sees the power of language, loves languages, and keeps considering getting my masters in linguistics to study language acquisition I am amazed by what is happening now.  Words can't describe how thrilled I am to watch communication develop.  I was happy to see my boys roll over, sit up, crawl, and walk.  Don't get me wrong; those were amazing milestones.  But language allows me to know my children, know their thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams.  Language is such a powerful tool and as it begins to develop in my children I do believe that, like people told me, parenthood is the most wonderful, amazing and beautiful experience in the world.

Sleep Part 14: Conflicting Advice

Do we all see that I'm writing this post at 2-something-a.m.?  Yep, that means I'm up with a child again.  Don't worry...it's not that bad.  Things are pretty good in the sleep department.  Just note that pretty good doesn't mean perfect.  You'll see more in a post coming soon.  Since I'm up in the middle of the night I thought it would be appropriate to post a great piece of advice that my friend, B, sent to Derek and me.  It's one mother's summary of what she learned about sleep training.  Here is Ava Neyer's take on what she learned from the (cough cough) experts.

"You shouldn’t sleep train at all, before a year, before 6 months, or before 4 months, but if you wait too late, your baby will never be able to sleep without you. College-aged children never need to be nursed, rocked, helped to sleep, so don’t worry about any bad habits. Nursing, rocking, singing, swaddling, etc to sleep are all bad habits and should be stopped immediately.
Naps should only be taken in the bed, never in a swing, car seat, stroller, or when worn. Letting them sleep in the car seat or swing will damage their skulls. If your baby has trouble falling asleep in the bed, put them in a swing, car seat, stroller, or wear them. Use the crib only for sleep and keep it free of distractions. If the baby is having trouble adjusting to the crib, have them play in it first. If the baby wakes up at night and wants to play, put fun toys in the crib to distract them.
Put the baby in a nursery, bed in your room, in your bed. Co-sleeping is the best way to get sleep, except that it can kill your baby, so never, ever do it. If your baby doesn't die, you will need to bed-share until college.
Keep the room warm, but not too warm. Swaddle the baby tightly, but not too tightly. Put them on their backs to sleep, but don't let them be on their backs too long or they will be developmentally delayed. Give them a pacifier to reduce SIDS. Be careful about pacifiers because they can cause nursing problems and stop your baby from sleeping soundly. If your baby sleeps too soundly, they’ll die of SIDS.
Don’t let your baby sleep too long, except when they’ve been napping too much, then you should wake them. Never wake a sleeping baby. Any baby problem can be solved by putting them to bed earlier, even if they are waking up too early. If your baby wakes up too early, put them to bed later or cut out a nap. Don’t let them nap after 5 p.m. Sleep begets sleep, so try to get your child to sleep as much as possible. Put the baby to bed awake but drowsy. Don't wake the baby if it fell asleep while nursing.
You should start a routine and keep track of everything. Don’t watch the clock. Put them on a schedule. Scheduling will make your life impossible because they will constantly be thrown off of it and you will become a prisoner in your home.
Using the "Cry It Out" method (CIO) will make them think they’ve been abandoned and will be eaten by a lion shortly. It also causes brain damage. Not getting enough sleep will cause behavior and mental problems, so be sure to put them to sleep by any means necessary, especially CIO, which is the most effective form. CIO is cruel beyond belief and the only thing that truly works because parents are a distraction.
Formula and solid foods will help the baby sleep longer. Solid foods shouldn’t be given at night because they might wake the baby. Don't stop the baby from nursing when asleep. Be wary of night feeds. If you respond too quickly with food or comfort, your baby is manipulating you. Babies can’t manipulate. Babies older than six months can manipulate.
Sleep when the baby sleeps. Clean when the baby cleans. Don’t worry. Stress causes your baby stress and a stressed baby won't sleep."
Anyone else feel like they have heard or read every one of these pieces from advice from an expert?  If we all tried to follow these conflicting pieces of advice it's no wonder our babies are confused, stressed and crying a lot...oh wait, I mean it's no wonder the parents are confused, stressed and crying a lot.  That's why Derek and I have learned to do what we think is best for our children.  I think we're doing OK and our kids are too.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Year One

I thought about trying to write a very profound entry and then realized that I don't think my life with my kids has been very different than the first year of any parent.  And, as the supreme court deals with two gay marriage cases this week, isn't that exactly what we want?  We want to show that my family is the same as every other family in this world whether they be "traditional" heterosexual families, gay families, interracial families, mixed religion families, single parent families, grandparents-raising-grandchildren families, parents with disabilities families, etc.  Sure, my journey to get them was probably more complex than a lot of other people's journeys (and easier than some), but every parent experiences sleepless nights, doubting their skills, the thrill of firsts, overwhelming love, etc. 

So instead of focusing on how my journey was unique and crazy, let's focus on my unique family as it is now.  And I'm going to borrow something from the 2 Baby Daddies blog.  While they were expecting I got to read the most amazing Dear Zoey letters.  I hope my letter to my kids will be just as wonderful.

Dear Aaron and Jeff,

A year ago you came into my life.  You were my dream since I was a little child.  I always wanted to be a dad.  It took years of planning to bring you into my life and I'd go through it again in a heartbeat knowing how amazing the payoff could be.

In this first year I learned a lot about my parents.  I understand what it's like to love unconditionally.  I understand why parents would give up their own lives for the lives of their children.  I understand what my parents gave up in their lives to give me things in mine.  So thank you for giving me that understanding.

During the sleepless nights and sleepy days I have cried out of frustration, counted the seconds until the sitter or your other dad arrived and I could leave the house for a few minutes, and wanted to just give up at times.  I have also found moments of joy with you banging on pots, playing peek-a-boo and finding a Cheerio on the floor.

I love watching you learn.  It is thrilling to watch you become more independent as you have figured out how to hold your own bottle, crawl, feed yourself, walk, "communicate" with us, and love us.  I cannot wait to watch you experience new firsts over the next few years.  

My hope for you is to be happy and empathic.  In my life I have learned that people want to be heard.  I hope to teach you to listen and understand the perspective of others who are different from you.  I also promise to do my best to give you happiness in this world.  That doesn't mean ice cream for dinner every night, but a life filled with love and support.  

The next 17 years (and beyond) will have their ups and downs, but don't doubt that Daddy Derek and I love you with all our hearts.  

Daddy Michael  

And then, of course, we have the year one pictures.  The big friends and family party is this weekend, but we couldn't resist giving the boys their own cupcakes tonight.

My cupcake creation documenting their first year

Jeff enjoyed his cupcake

Aaron did too

Friday, March 22, 2013

Sleep Part Thirteen: I've Seen 3 a.m. Too Many Times This Week

Breaking News

We interrupt your regularly scheduled blog filled with good news and cute, well-behaved babies for this important story. 

Wanted for: noise pollution and public disturbance
Names: Aaron and Jeff
Height: approximately two and a half feet tall
Weight: approximately 25 lbs
Hair: Aaron -dark brown and straight, Jeff - light brown/auburn and curly
Eyes: Aaron - bright blue, Jeff - blue-grey
Distinguishing characteristics: Aaron pretends to share his food with Daddy and then pops it in his own mouth, Jeff says "gub gub" and "gobble gobble" a lot

When last we left our hero, Michael, he had posted about his amazing 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.  Apparently the two super-genius/super-villains were just letting Michael and his trusty sidekick, Derek, think that they could sleep for more than three hours at a time.  After a few weeks of sleeping for about 9 hours a night the sly scoundrels decided to reveal their diabolical plan of interrupting sleep at random times.  Let's take a look at their three pronged plan of peril.

Part One: It all started with Daylight Saving Time a couple weeks ago.  Aaron and Jeff had been waking up about 5:30 a.m. for a while.  When the time changed it was logical to assume the boys would wake up at their regular time which would look like 6:30 a.m. on our heroes' alarm clocks.  Our duo of dads knew that their bodies would feel it as 5:30 but were hoping their minds would take over and fool their bodies into saying, "It's 6:30 a.m.  That's not too bad!"  However, part one of the devilish duo's plan was to wake up not at 6:30 and not even at 5:30 but 4:15 a.m. which felt like 3:15 a.m. in Derek and Michael's aging bodies! 

Part Two: Aaron has decided that he cannot sleep unless he knows daddy is in the room with him.  Michael has spent 45 minutes standing by his crib waiting for him to be so tired he just passes out.  It's adorable in a maddening way.  Aaron lays down in his crib.  If Michael strokes his back he'll lay there for a while.  As soon as daddy's hand doesn't touch his body for about five second he gets up from his crib, searches the dark with his hands, smacks Michael's face once or twice, realizes daddy is still there and then plops down in the bed again.  This routine goes on for 20-30 minutes at a time.  And, this is a fact, people, the boy will be dead asleep but as soon as Michael steps out of the room Aaron senses it and starts wailing.  If our heroic daddies let him wail A) it hurts their hearts (especially Michael, the softie) and B) Aaron can wake up Jeff which just leads to even more problems.  Aaron seems to have conquered Michael by manipulating him with his chubby cheeks, blue eyes, and cute giggle.  How will our hero get out of this one? 

Part Three: During this week our hidden camera in the boys' room have shown us the following...
Night #1: Aaron woke up at 2 a.m.  It took 45 minutes to get him to bed.  Jeff then woke up at 3 a.m.
Night #2: Aaron woke up at 3 a.m.
Night #3: Jeff woke up at midnight.  Jeff then woke up at 4:45 a.m. 

Will the twins terminate their terrible tactics? 
Will the fathers fathom the foundation of the fretting? 
Will the dads do dastardly deeds? 

Stay tuned to find out.