Sunday, October 5, 2014

To Stroller Or Not To Stroller

Rumor has it there are adults in the world who get to leave their homes without a stroller.  I hear it's a magical place where there are no diaper bags, shoes that blink with every step and cars don't even have smashed goldfish crackers in the back seat.

I am skeptical this place exists.  I feel like I visited this land long ago but it's a very vague memory so I'm thinking it was just in a dream.

The stroller is my worst enemy and my best friend these days.  Two years ago it was great.  I could take the kids anywhere because they couldn't even crawl.  A year ago the stroller was pretty good.  The boys were walking short distances and couldn't really complain if I strapped them in the stroller.  Now it's a different story.

Here is the dilemma I face every time I want to go out:

  • If I take the stroller Aaron will want to walk but Jeff will want to sit.  Aaron will want to push the stroller and Jeff will inevitably yell, "Noooooo Aaron!"
  • If I don't let Aaron push he cries.  On the rare occasion he doesn't cry he will run ahead of me and I can't keep up with him while pushing a stroller on narrow Boston streets.
  • If Jeff and Aaron decide that they both want to walk (even though they told me three minutes ago that they wanted the stroller) there is a fight over who gets to push the stroller.  
  • If I don't take the stroller then both boys will want to be carried and I cannot carry two 30 lbs boys around for more than a minute or two.  
  • If I don't take the stroller and both the boys want to walk Aaron usually runs ahead of me and Jeff loves to dawdle and take time to smell the roses.  I'm stuck in the middle trying to make sure no one is running into the street, picking flowers off of someone's front lawn, playing with a garbage can or having a meltdown because the sun is yellow today and he wants it to be green with orange polka dots.  
It's a no win situation.

If only someone would invent a jet pack my problems would be solved.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Boston (a.k.a. The Playgrounds of Misfit Toys)

Oh blog, how I've missed you.  The last month has been hectic to say the least.  I have moved from Chicago to Boston with a partner, twin toddlers and pets.  Life is starting to get into a routine so blogging again might become a possibility these days.

Aside from a few, crazy, sleepless nights while staying with the kids in my parents' place, everything went relatively smoothly.  We had a few broken things and a few missing things but that's to be expected in a move.

The boys seemed to have adjusted to their new surroundings pretty quickly.  Our new place has an elevator so pushing the buttons every time we enter or leave the building is quite exciting.  We also have a big playroom and a staircase which are pretty amazing things for a two and a half year old.  The boys have discovered the joy of the library.  Twice a week the library offers programs for toddlers.  There is a sing-along day and a story time day and the boys (and I) really look forward to those.  I'm grateful the library is so close and we'll have an activity to do in the winter.

There are a lot of playgrounds in our town.  Every time I go to one, though, I feel like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer entering the Island of Misfit Toys.  I'm not quite sure how they get there, but every playground has a bunch of old, half broken toys.  There are slides, baby exercise saucers, toddler cars, wagons and more that are all in that limbo stage of not broken enough to go to the trash but not intact enough to be kept in a home.  I'm guessing people feel that they're doing the community a favor by "donating" these toys but really these toys are just filthy pieces of junk and a lawsuit waiting to happen.  Kids climb on top of rickety kitchens and play in cars with a misaligned wheel or two.  But hey, who am I to complain.  It keeps my kids busy for an hour or so and you know the goal of every stay at home parent is to just to entertain the kids until 6:00 p.m. when his/her partner comes home.  ;-)

A digger truck missing some parts

An old "boat" that just sits there and a scary spinning thing in the background that barely spins

Some broken toy that we pretend is a camera and then I wash his hands well 'cuz lord knows where that has been

A farm and a pink car in a sandbox...apparently that makes perfect sense here in Boston

Friday, August 15, 2014

My Big News

I have so much to say and so little memory to remember what I want to say.  Life with twin boys is definitely hectic and chaotic and exhausting.  It doesn't really get easier.  The boys just get heavier to pick up and the whines becomes louder.  The fights over who gets the napkin in my left hand (because the one in my right hand clearly is inferior?!?!?!?) or who closes the door (because you know once a door closes it can NEVER be opened again so the other child can close it) are frequent.and aggravating.  I heard from a friend that the tantrums of a three year old are less frequent but more intense.  I'm looking forward to that since there are tantrums every few minutes these days.  In another year I may long for the more frequent, usually done in 5 minute tantrums.  We'll see.

Once in a while, though, we get a few, fun moments of playing together.  The boys are becoming creative.  Aaron loves coins and put one in his ear to say it was his hearing aid.  (Yes, only the child of a sign language interpreter and an audiologist would play that game at the age of two.)  Just a few days ago Jeff decided he wanted to put a diaper on his monkey stuffed animal.  I love the creativity that is starting and I know it will just get better and better.  We even made up a story with each one of us contributing a sentence or two.  It had something to do with a penguin getting stuck on a slide.  Then a lion appeared.  I think they were friends.  I'm pretty sure the lion did not eat the penguin.  Next thing I know the penguin went to work to "bring home the bacon" (a phrase they love) and would "be right back" (another favorite phrase).  I believe, in the end, the penguin was still stuck on the slide...I'm not sure.  I don't think I'll submit that story to a publishing company, but I'm hoping for more stories like that soon.

The big news is that we are heading to Boston.  After many, many years in Chicago I am finally leaving.  Derek got a big position at a hospital in Boston and I am happy to be moving closer to my family.  I'm sad about leaving my amazing job as well as my friends, family, interpreting community, irreplaceable babysitter,  and my surrogate.  I had hoped that my boys would grow up knowing their surrogate.  She is part of their identity and she has become a friend.  Thank goodness for Facebook, right?  We never really lose touch with people these days since we can always connect on the internet.

The boys are young enough that the move doesn't mean they will be leaving friends but they are leaving behind what they know.  There are some of my friends who visit often and the boys definitely know those people by name.  The recent playdates have given them some "friends" who they talk about from time to time.  Morgan, Logan and Aubrey will be missed for sure.  The boys keep talking about moving to Boston.  Their trains go to Boston.  The cars we see on the street are going to Boston.  They say grandma and grandpa live in Boston -- totally not true, but who am I to correct them when they seem excited about Boston.  We talk about boxing up their toys and clothes and taking them to Boston.  We tell them that the new place has stairs in our apartment and an elevator which are two very exciting things when you are two years old.  I'm hoping the move goes well.  We will be staying with my parents in New York while waiting for our stuff to arrive in Boston.  I'm sure the next few weeks will be hard on everyone.  The boys will be in new places, new beds, new cities and seeing new people.  I'll have to remind myself things will be scary for them for a while.  Maybe they will surprise me and take it better than expected.  I'll will be home with them full-time which should ease the transition for them.  I do hope to work a little bit if we can figure out daycare.  I'm not sure I'm cut out for being a full time stay at home dad.  Luckily the grandparents are just a few hours away when I need

I'm sure there are a million other things I'm forgetting to say.  Blogging doesn't seem to happen very often these days.  I might get one or two more quick posts before moving, but chances are my next post will be written about 1,000 miles from here.  Wish me luck.  And if you know any families with kids in Boston let me know.  I'll be looking for playdates soon!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Our California Adventure At California Adventure And Other Adventures

I recently got back from a busy week and a half.  We did so much and it included the boys' first day at a Disney park.  Here is what we did.

We flew into San Diego on a Thursday and visited my in-laws.  The boys did well on the plane.  We entertained them with snacks, books, stuffed animals and stickers for a while and then we broke out the iPad.  What did parents do on planes before apps???  The games kept them busy for most of the flight.

Thursday we got to play with grandma and grandpa and the cousins.  Friday afternoon we headed up towards L.A. to visit my cousin who was having his bar mitzvah.  My parents, brother and cousin flew in for the celebration too.

The boys were not happy sitting in the synagogue listening to a religious service.  They were screaming when we took them into the service so we wound up playing with some puzzles in the lobby.  After the service and the reception we didn't get the boys to bed until nearly 10:00 p.m.  Saturday morning was the big service and again it was impossible to get a two year old to sit through a religious ceremony which was half in Hebrew.  After the service, though, was a lunch and that's when the boys realized how much fun their cousins can be.  The boys started warming up to playing with other kids.  There was another party at night filled with games, ice cream and lots of running around.  

Sunday was Disney day.  We headed to California Adventure and spent most of the day at the Bug's Life area.  The boys were miserable when we first got there.  Sensory overload and messed up nap time for three days will do that to you when you're only two years old.  However, after the first ride you could see that look of "Wait a minute...what's going on?" on their faces and by the time we were done with the second ride they were hooked.  They realized this was a day of playing.  Their favorite ride was the spinning ladybugs.  They could have stayed on that all day.  

Derek and I even got to go on one adult ride, The Tower of Terror, while the boys napped.  

It was so much fun to have all the familes together.  

The next few days were spent playing with the family.  

I don't post much online when I'm away.  I don't like to announce I'm out of town.  However, I couldn't resist posting a quick video of our lady bug ride.  As luck would have it my amazing surrogate was in southern California too.  She was staying about 15 minutes from my in-law's house.  We had a big party for all of the San Diego people we know and our surrogate and her family was able to come.  It was so nice to see her, get to know her fiancee and his son, and see her son who has grown up so much in the four years we have known him.  What a nice surprise.

The vacation was crazy, exhausting and so much fun.  I'm so glad we got to spend time with everyone.  

Friday, May 30, 2014

Zoo Day With Twins

I feel it is my duty to explain life with twins to the world in order to get sympathy and gifts.  As a follow up to story time with twins and bath time with twins I now bring you "Zoo Day With Twins."

My wonderful friends Katie and Meghan have started to be my saviors.  We have met up a few times to spend the day together.  They are both stay at home moms several days a week and have two kids and we all know that getting together with another adult during the day is so helpful for a parent's sanity.  Yesterday we decided that we would all go to the zoo together and a co-worker of theirs would join us too.  In total there would be four adults and eight children.  How fun, right?  

Well, remember, fun is a relative term.  More fun than a colonoscopy?  Yes.  More fun that watching a "Real Wives of Some Rich City" marathon?  It's a close call.

8:30am The zoo opens at 10:00 a.m. so I planned to leave at 9:15.  I decide to start getting the boys ready at 8:30 a.m. because 45 minutes should be enough time, right?

8:55am The boys still aren't dressed.  They have been in various states of dress and undress over the last 25 minutes.  The promise of " a snack in the car" is lost on them because their tiny brains tune out after hearing the word "snack" and they miss that it will be eaten in the car.

8:57am  I pack a bag full of snacks, diapers, water bottles, wipes, etc. while being attacked from the hips down and hearing the word "snack" screamed repeatedly.

9:02am The boys finally understand that screaming will not get them their snacks and they have to get dressed and get into the car before eating the most amazing thing on earth that must be eaten right away: Angry Bird graham crackers for Aaron and some vitamin fortified pizza flavored crackers for Jeff.  Aaron still doesn't understand that we have gone from the never-ending winter to summer and that he shouldn't be wearing long sleeves and long pants every day.  He wears a sweater.  I don't mind because it's supposed to be in the high 50s today.  (Note: it was 81.  Thanks, weather-predicting people.)

9:20am I finally get out of the house and to the car.  Jeff insists on doing everything himself.  He likes to open the car door, climb into his seat, buckle himself in and then try to close the door.  He doesn't understand that he can only get himself into the seat and maybe, on a good day, get one of his three buckles snapped together.  If I do any of these activities for him he throws a fit until I let him try.  After 10 seconds of trying he says "Daddy do it."  The buckles, however, he insists on doing.  It's amazing how many ways I can distract a two year old and fool him into thinking he did it.  

9:35am We're on our way.

10:15am I park, get the kids into a stroller and meet Katie.  We walk around trying to kill some time waiting for the other two moms to show up.

10:30am The boys get out of their strollers to go on the carousel.  Jeff insists he wants a to ride on a bear.  There are no bears.  Luckily he agrees to ride on a panda bear.  (In his defense, it IS a kind of bear but probably not what he meant when he said he wanted a bear.)  This is one of those rare moments that logic and reason pops into a 2 year old's brain.

10:35am The ride is done and we start strolling around.  Meghan and the other mom show up.  We agree to go to some small mammal house.

10:40am I take the boys out of the stroller.  Aaron runs across the grass and behind a fence.  Jeff stays by the stroller to do the buckles because G-d forbid the stroller seat belt stay unbuckled when he gets out.  Apparently the buckle holds the universe together.  I run around the fence to grab Aaron and pray Jeff stays put.  I get Aaron to come back around and he runs to the mammal house.  I trick Jeff into thinking he did the buckles on his own while I actually help so I can follow Aaron and not lose him.  I have now lost all the other parents.

10:40am-11:00am The mammal house is dark and crowded.  I'm sweating.  We can't see any of the sleeping animals hiding behind rocks and tree branches.  I spend the whole time worrying if the kids will get lost and can't enjoy the exhibits at all.  Katie, the amazing mom, finds me and helps lift up Aaron to look for animals while still watching her own two kids.  I hold Jeff who has now refused to walk.  Twenty long minutes later, after seeing a couple foxes sleeping and some rats scurrying in a cage, we're out.  Aaron gets back in the stroller and Jeff insists on "helping" by pushing the stroller.

11:00am We make it to the Family Petting Zoo which I think will be great.  I am wrong.  It's a big room with a bunch of little rooms off to the sides...a.k.a. places for children to hide.  My friend volunteers there and even though I am there for about 30 minutes I talk to her for about four minutes.  The rest of the time I run around hoping that I can find the boy who ran off somewhere and return to find the other boy in the same spot where I had left him.

11:35am Katie leaves the Family Zoo to eat lunch.  I entice my boys with the idea of yogurt and I'm unsuccessful for 20 minutes.

11:55am We leave the Family Zoo building and I'm excited to get to eat lunch with Katie and get to talk to her while sitting.  Instead, we get distracted by the Dirt Playground the zoo has in their children's area.  I'm not sure what it's really called, but it's a big circle of dirt and rocks and twigs with a few, old, dirty shovels and buckets that I think are supposed to pass for toys.  My kids spend 20 minutes playing with dirt.  At least they missed the 10 pound tree branches the five year old girls were playing with.  I hear shrieks like, "Honey...I don't think we need to try balance that dirty tree stump on your sister's head" from their parents.  Who designed this place?  Who thinks dirt and heavy tree limbs belong in a children's area?

12:15pm My kids, now dirty and sweaty, agree to go eat lunch.  I can't find Katie but I do find an area with tables, a playground and 50 geese.  The playground was packed with kids.  My boys wanted to play but I had visions of losing them in the sea of children and the older kids pushing and shoving them to get to the ever so popular plastic slide.  So we sit at a table and I give them food while angry geese circle around us looking for dropped goldfish.  We eat lunch as I encourage my boys not to chase the geese.  Aaron gets close to one goose who hisses at him.  That is the end of goose chasing.

12:40pm The boys don't want to get in the stroller to go to the car.  I have to bring out my super secret weapon by promising them a special zoo snack.  Luckily I have some chewy fruit snacks in the car.  I tel them we get these treats at the zoo.

12:50pm I get the boys to the car and we go through the whole process of Jeff wanting to do everything for himself again.  (It's afternoon so I'm more awake and my wits are sharper.  I get him in more quickly than the morning.  After about 10 a.m. a two year old's wits are no match for mine.  Before 10:00 a.m. it's usually a draw.)  After a few minutes I get them in and give them their snacks.  They are happy and keep repeating "special zoo snack."

12:57pm The boys ask for water, tell me they're done with their snack, want a different color water bottle, etc.  I drive as I give and receive water bottles and snack packages for a few minutes.  I yell at them that I'm driving and I can't help them any more.  They are stuck with whatever color bottle they currently have and they must open and close the bottles themselves.

1:04pm After whining for a few minutes Jeff and Aaron fall asleep.

1:05pm-2:10pm I get home about 1:30 p.m. but drive around for the next 40 minutes because no one wants to incur the wrath of a toddler who was woken up from a 20 minute nap.  I eat some disgusting fast food in the car finally park.  The boys wake up a few minutes later and we have survived the zoo.

8:30pm I talk with my friend, Kristine, about getting together next week.  We decide to go to (wait for it...) the zoo!  I guess I'll need to get more special zoo snacks.  

Friday, May 16, 2014

What Will They Be? (Part Two)

I swore that I would be one of those dads who kept up on his blog and saw his friends all the time and yet, here I am, almost a month since my last blog and missing a lot of friendships I used to have.  As the boys get older life does become more complicated and centered around the family.  They do new things all the time and weekends are filled with activities and catching up on housework.  There are a million blog ideas that run through my head but, by the time I get to writing, something new has happened and I've forgotten what was interesting just a couple days ago.

It's not that the boys are doing anything amazing right now.  No one is eradicating world hunger, performing Bach symphony #1 in D Major, or solving derivatives using the chain rule (don't ask me what the's just the most complicated math thingy I could find on a quick Google search).  They are just doing what toddlers do.  They are doing puzzles with 4 and 6 pieces (and working on the 9 piece puzzle but haven't gotten that yet), peeing in the potty from time to time which makes me do an inane "Pee Pee In the Potty" song and dance, and cook me such delicious things in their play kitchen like a drink of orange juice, milk and coffee flavored with hot dogs.  I guess they haven't learned that I'm a vegetarian.

While all of these ideas of funny blog topics bounce around in my head, it has been hard to actually find the time and energy to sit down and write any.  Besides fatherhood I'm busy with planning a trip, making appointments, preparing a workshop, etc.  So, like any good writer, I steal from someone else.  This time, however, I'm stealing from myself.

A year and a half ago I wrote a prediction of what my kids might be years from now.  I keep thinking it would be fun to see how things change year to year and I'm finally getting around to writing the entry.  I hope I'll remember to do this every year.  Here is the update at two years old.

Aaron is definitely the energetic boy.  He needs a job that lets him move instead of sitting at desk all day.  Trains are his obsession.  When he wakes up in the morning and after his nap his first words are usually "Play trains?"  He loves airplanes and buses, too.  He is not a good eater so I think being a chef is out of the question, although in the last few weeks he has tried broccoli (loved it once, hated it once), tasted my sesame noodles and I even convinced him to take a few bites of a pizza although the idea of cheese - especially melted cheese - usually is a turn off for him.  Aaron has also learned to share a lot of the time, is now into Sesame Street, and likes to sing constantly.  His favorite games now are tickle fights and Hide & Seek.

My prediction is that Aaron will be a pilot who sings to the control tower and lives on milk, berries and mac 'n cheese.

Jeff is happy to sit in the swings at the park all day, although now that he has figured out how to climb up the slides he likes doing that too.  Jeff loves books and puzzles.  He has learned to do some simple puzzles with the picture facing down and just use the white backs of the pieces which impresses me.  We have a 10 foot long ABC puzzle and he does that one a few times a day.  Jeff can identify all 26 letters in English and sign language and his signing is better than some students I have taught.  He is usually willing to try new foods and loves to brush his teeth.  He is in a very independent stage now and "Jeff do it" is heard many, many, many times throughout the day regardless of whether or not Jeff can actually do it.  He enjoys watching me juggle and tries to juggle himself.

My prediction is that Jeff will be a linguist who will eventually make the crosswords for the New York Times.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Moms vs. Dads - Aren't They Both Just Parents?

I'm not usually one to say "poor me."

I am part of a couple "privileged" classes: I am white and a male.  I am part of a few minorities too: I am a vegetarian and I am left-handed which are relatively minor in the grand scheme of minorities.  I put up with little inconveniences because of those two statuses like going to steak houses for a friend's birthday and having to order the salad or being forced to play field hockey in my high school gym class which ONLY has right handed sticks.  I am also gay and Jewish.  Being a part of these minority groups make for slightly aggravating situations like some nasty jokes and not having some rights (which is changing ever so quickly!).  For the most part, however, I don't feel like I'm oppressed and I don't have a big need to complain.  I have a pretty good life and I'm treated well in this world.


The one minority that is most frustrating to me now is being a stay-at-home-dad.  When my kids were first born I found some interesting articles about dads being ignored on the playground and not being invited to lunch dates with stay-at-home-moms.  I didn't think much of it.  As my boys grow older and we join more classes and play in the park more I have started to think of it more and more.  Dads as caretakers really are not as welcomed or celebrated as I had hoped.  The thing that is really making me write this entry was this video that is making it's way around the internet.

24 Applicants Were Terrified To This Job. Then They Found Out Why Billions Already Do It.

If you haven't seen it, it basically shows people applying for the toughest job in the world that includes working 20 hours a day, standing almost the entire time, no vacation time, working harder on holidays, requiring degrees in medicine, nutrition and finance, and getting paid $0 in salary.  At the end of the video the interviewer says the job title is "Mom" and people cry and profess their love for their mothers.

Well, what about us fathers?  Don't we do a lot of the same work?  Couldn't we have said the job title is a "Parent"?  Why are moms revered and dads always a distant second?

My mom was a stay-at-home mother with me for many years.  My dad went out to work.  Although my dad was out 40ish hours a week he still found time to teach me to throw a ball, parallel park, ride a bike, read Hebrew, help with my math homework, take care of me when I was sick, mow the lawn, assemble my toys, and attend every single one of my concerts and plays.

If I were in that video I probably would have bawled like a baby saying how much I love my mom.  I hope, though, that I would have remembered to mention my dad as well.

Twenty years from now, if this my sons are in an interview like this, I hope that the job position will be for a parent or caregiver.  Mothers are wonderful, but we need to teach that fathers are wonderful too and can do everything a mom can do.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Thomas The Freakin' Tank Engine Can Cure Insomnia

How did this happen?  Seriously....HOW???  I have no idea how my boys got into Thomas the Train.  I know that we have a couple Thomas books and they liked him on and off for a while.  I know that TV started to enter their lives about 4-6 months ago and sometimes we'd let them watch 15 minutes here and there.  I tried to get them to watch Barney or Sesame Street.  I'm not quite sure how Thomas became the big obsession, but it has.  We now have Thomas pajamas, DVDs, baskets, trains, phones, train tracks, Tivo recordings, paper plates, napkins, etc. and I'm sure that's just the beginning.  I know it'll get worse before it gets better.

I recently posted elsewhere online how much I didn't like Thomas and got a bunch of comments to links about how Thomas is part of a dystopian society.  All very interesting/funny and it made me realize I wasn't alone.  Other parents are just as bored out of their minds watching this drivel as I am.

Over the last month or two I have given up trying to be the perfect parent and learned that Pinterest-inspired arts and crafts twice a day just ain't gonna happen in my home.  The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that children should have no screen time at all until they are two years old.  I firmly believe that the AAP committee who came up with this recommendation are either A) insane, B) not parents, C) insane because they are parents D) financial backers of Pinterest, or E) live in a cabin in the woods and survive on a diet of berries and twigs.

I tried.  I mean I really tried to not give them TV and computer time.  There comes a time in our lives, though, that we just need 20 minutes to boil water to make mac 'n cheese (it's organic, I swear) and microwave some green beans (organic too).

The thing is, though, that I have learned that watching 30 minutes of TV a day isn't going to hurt my kids.  I watched TV when I was young and I think I turned out OK.  I have also learned that Thomas is definitely the best way to get 20 minutes of sleep in the afternoon.  I've started to notice that I put in the DVD and I make it through the first ten minutes sitting upright on the couch.  Next, I start to feel sleepy.  Before I know it one of my boys has hopped off the couch and is pushing the "OFF" button on the TV (which they have learned to do somehow without me teaching them) because the video is done.  I head to the pantry, shove some chocolate chips in my mouth and feel refreshed after my 20 minute power nap.

Here's the thing, though: I'm not sleepy when I put the DVD in.  I don't lay down on the couch.  I watch the first few minutes of the DVD and discuss what's going on with my kids.  I really stay active, but somehow Thomas makes my brain shut down and shut down hard.  Maybe it's my aversion to anything that calls a character a "Fat Controller" which I find offensive.  Maybe it's because I think the trains with moving eyes are a little creepy.  Maybe it's because I feel like these engines really aren't useful considering all they do is cause problems.  Who knows.  All I know is that if I buy some DVDs online for cheap I can sell them for $49.95 plus shipping and handling as a cure for insomnia on QVC at 3:00 a.m.  ;-)

And while we're talking about playing and toys, I thought this would be fun to add just for a laugh...

Friday, March 28, 2014

And Now They Are Two happened.  My boys turned two.  We had a great party with family and friends.  I also think I had my first "Wow...time is passing" moment.  I am the first one to say that the days are long and exhausting and I'm ready for them to be a little older.  For a long time I have been wishing they were four or five or six and they could be a little more independent and I could bring them to plays, movies, carnivals, etc.  I know everyone tells me I'll long for these infant and toddler years again and I believe you just didn't hit me until a few days ago when I thought to myself that two out of 18 years are gone.  But the time didn't go fast.  I didn't feel like I missed out on anything.  I don't wonder where the time went; my body and gray hair shows me the two years I've been through.  It's just that I've realized that two years have gone by.  I'm happy to have had so many days at home with my boys (most of the time) but I am still looking forward to what lies ahead.

I have been trying to think about what has happened in the last year.  Here is what I remember...
  • They went from walking to running
  • Aaron still wakes up in the middle of the night every couple days
  • They probably know more than 100 signs
  • They started talking and definitely know more than 100 words
  • They like to dress and undress themselves even though they don't do it well
  • They like wearing two different colored socks (Jeff especially)
  • They are Thomas the Train addicts
  • They are getting good at brushing their teeth on their own
  • They love bath time
  • They are learning to share (hooray!)
  • They have definite likes and dislikes with food, toys, clothes, etc.
  • Jeff will wear anything with a bear on it
I'm sure there are a million more things I could say about them but these are some of the big ones.  And here are a couple of my favorite videos.  You'll see Aaron at just over 23 months singing his ABCs in his own Aaron way and Jeff at 22 months signing a book.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I Finally Have A Name

A lot of people have been asking me just what the boys call Derek and me.  For almost two years I had said that I really didn't know what names Derek and I would have.  A lot of two dad families have a "daddy" and a "papa" but "papa" just didn't feel right for either of us and neither one of us wanted that name.

I met a two Jewish moms who were married to non-Jewish moms.  They both said that they thought about being called "ee-mah" which is the Hebrew word for mother but neither one of them felt strongly connected with their Jewish heritage to give up the name "mommy."  I had considered using the Hebrew word for "father" as well, but "ah-bah" didn't feel right either.  I kept thinking that I'd sound like my kids were fans of Swedish pop music from 30 years ago.

So Derek and I were "daddy and daddy" for a long time with no real way to distinguish us.

Once in a while, when talking to the boys, we would say something about "your other daddy blah blah blah" and my fear is that we would be known as "daddy and other daddy."  It was confusing for Derek and me so I can't imagine how confusing it was for Jeff and Aaron as they started to really identify us as separate people.

Then one day I became "Michael."

Oy vey.

Yep, my kids had turned into Bart Simpson and started calling me by my first name.  I really wasn't a fan of that, but it certainly was better than "other daddy."  It made sense they picked it up, though.  Derek was always calling me "Michael" so of course they would call me that too.

Over a few months of correcting them it has finally become "Daddy Michael." kids are no longer on a first name basis with me.

As for Derek, he has an official name, too.  And I have to emphasize that I didn't steer the kids into picking this name.  I still called him "daddy" 99% of the time.  The kids, however, have started calling him "Daddy Derek" which, of course, makes sense.  I love watching how their brains figure out language.

I have come to learn, though, that "Derek" is a much harder word to say than "Michael."  So while my name is clear as a bell from both Aaron and Jeff here are their names for "Daddy Derek."

Aaron: Daddy Dee-lick
Jeff: Daddy Duh-guh

Thank goodness my relationship with Michael never worked out.  My poor kids wouldn't know what to do!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Parenthood Is Like Acting Conservatories

A couple of days ago we hit a rough patch.  As the boys approach their second birthday there are definitely tantrums being thrown.  I try to breathe through the ear-piercing screams and sad faces but it is tough.  I have definitely slammed a few cabinets, raised my voice from time to time and possibly muttered a few choice words under my breath.  The most effective technique for me, though, seems to be to lock myself in my room and to play a game of Candy Crush.  That helps me calm down even though there are screams of "Daddy!" coming from the other side of the door.  And, about half the time, the boys are so shocked that I left them for 2 minutes they wind up being good for the next 15-30 minutes.

I have also come to the conclusion that when people say, "I don't know how you do it with twins" I should just respond with an "I don't know how I do it either.  I am pretty amazing."  I used to respond with something like "Well, sometimes it's easier having kids at the same age doing the same thing" but I have learned that doesn't hold true for most stages.  A few days ago Aaron woke up early from a nap and had a major tantrum.  It was so easy dealing with that tantrum without worrying if Jeff was standing on a chair to get to something on the counter or crying about the closed refrigerator or begging me to read a book to him.  I will admit at certain ages twins can possibly be easier, but right now having twin toddlers is like being pulled in 43 different directions at once.

So the recent bouts of tandem tantrums made me realize that parenthood is a lot like an acting conservatory. Conservatories believe that 95% of a student's time should be focused on the chosen field of study.  They tend to be very intense and believe that their particular techniques are the best way for students to learn.  Because of that, it also means that students' habits that they bring with them must be broken down and discarded and then built up again.  It is often not a very compassionate or supportive environment but admittedly a lot of students who make it through the four years without getting cut from the program wind up being relatively successful in a very difficult and cutthroat profession.

While it sounds a little crass this breaking down process feels like it's exactly what I'm doing with my boys.  Their constant cries for being picked up, staying up late, eating non-stop, etc. have to be broken down and their habits must be built up into more appropriate behaviors.

Experienced parents may laugh at my weak-willed and compassionate attempt to create good habits.  It's hard and frustrating and I wonder if I'm doing something good and right while I see them crying a lot.  All of the experts seem to say that you have to be strict and not give in.  I met a woman who had years of daycare experience who told me the same thing.  She told me that crying is OK and I shouldn't feel guilty about it.

So while I secretly worry I'm creating horrendously scarring memories for my kids, I know that this is the right thing to do and all children need to learn limits.  Hopefully, very soon, my boys will learn that screaming is not the way to go to get what you want.  They will learn that Time-Outs really do happen for bad behavior.  (We started those last week.)  They will learn to say please and thank you.  (We are getting that more often.)  And they will become award winning actors pleasant children. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

My Fashionista

Every morning, when I dress the boys, Aaron takes some work.  He usually needs an incentive to get dressed like an apple or jumping on the bed or (yes, we have started TV) 30 minutes of Thomas the Train.  When he is focused on what he will get you can dress him in practically anything.  He isn't very choosy about his shirt, pants or socks.

Jeff sometimes needs an incentive, too, but not always.  More importantly, though, he spends a while picking out just the right outfit.  I thought I'd show you some of his creations. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

I'm Calling You Out, Parents Magazine!

'Tis the season, right?  Well, I'm Jewish and my season was over a while ago.  I'm ready to be snarky and cynical just as I promised in my last post!

My last posting was all warm and fuzzy for the holiday season, but things just got hard again and, for now, I'm through being happy about it.  Let's get real and talk about the the truth behind all the cute pictures.

On Xmas day the boys decided that it was time to make a break for it.  Perhaps they were trying to see Santa before he skipped town for another 364 days.  Maybe they thought there were more gifts coming since Hannukah is eight nights and they didn't realize all the gifts come in the morning on December 25th and there were no more to open.  It's possible they were looking for that fakakta elf sitting on a shelf everyone on the playground talked about that they never saw.  Regardless of the reason, the reality was that both boys learned how to jump over their crib railings and get to the floor. 

Yep, after 14 entries about sleep I thought I was done with sleep problems only to find out that was just the first leg of a marathon of sleep issues.  After doing some investigating on the internet I hear that the next few years hold all sorts of sleeping surprises: negotiating bedtimes, crawling into bed with the parents, fears that the scary wtiches from a movie live under your bed.  Oh wait...that last one was me.. 

I'll admit about a month ago things started to be great.  Tantrum were down and giggles were up in our home.  The boys seemed to be able to communicate their needs more and more and were in better moods about everyday things like getting diapers changed and brushing their teeth.  They were able to make up simple games with "rules" to follow and, once in a while, they even learned how to share or take turns.  This was beginning to look like the fatherhood I imagined.

That time was short lived and we're back to a lot of tantrums because they aren't held 24/7.  "UP!" is one of the most popular words -- or should I say demands -- in our home these days.  "Oooooooopen!" is common too when there is a demand for more milk and the fridge is closed.  Other frequently heard words are apple, cracker, and no usually yelled like a command.  (We don't give in to these demands.  We're like the U.S. government.  We don't negotiate with baddies.)

As luck would have it my new issue of Parents magazine came around the holidays filled with recipe and craft ideas.  Don't get me wrong, I love my $8-for-2-year subscription, but let's just remember that some of these "simple do it yourself projects" have been aided by Photoshop.  Here is the truth of how some of those recipes and arts and crafts projects will go if any of us attempt them at home.

Pinterest failures
My favorite is the parenting advice.  The so called experts make it sound so easy but the reality is they work as well as those Pinterest do-it-yourself-projects.  Let's take a look at some of the advice in the recent magazine, shall we?

Almost anything you might tell your child not to do can easily be rephrased in a more encouraging way.  Don't want her to stand on the kitchen chairs?  You can say, "Chairs are only for sitting, sweetheart."  You'll send the same message but get far better results.

REAL LIFE RESPONSE: When I follow this simple approach Aaron looks at me, smiles devilishly, and then stands up in his chair again.  I give him one more warning and tell him that I'm going to take the chair away if he stands on it again.  He does, I take the chair away and it ends in a tantrum on the floor.

If you get mad when he's having fun chucking blocks across the room, he may be less willing to give up the game because any attention is good attention.  Instead, try saying calmly, "Blocks are made for stacking, not throwing, honey."

REAL LIFE RESPONSE: Jeff looks at me trying to figure out how serious I am.  After a few seconds he decides to throw the toy.  He then looks at me and wags his finger saying "no no" proving that he knows right from wrong but then throws more blocks 10 seconds later.

When your 18 month old has her hands on her brother's toy and he wants it back, redirect her by saying, "Here are your bubbles - let's go blow them together."  Or put her in charge of choosing another activity.  If she's throwing wood chips at the playground, for example, you might say, "Do you want to go on the swings or climb on the bouncy bridge?  You can pick."

REAL LIFE RESPONSE: A week ago I spent about 40 minutes trying to get the boys to share a 99 cent, 4 inch plastic cow.  When Jeff had it Aaron would flail on the ground screaming.  When Aaron had it Jeff would cry and yell, "Moo moooooooo!"  I offered plastic horses, chickens, pigs, stuffed animals, crayons and about a thousand other toys but nothing stopped the fights over that damn cow.

So yeah, Parents magazine, thanks for nothing.  That kid smiling in the picture isn't happy because she listened to your calm voice redirecting her.  She's happy because you promised her if she smiled she'd get to eat as many cookies, donuts and cupcakes as she wanted from the Kraft food services table.  That's why she isn't crying and throwing a fit.  So let's be honest about children's responses to these so called magical solutions all you journalists and child experts.  Come to my house and watch me follow your "advice" and publish those pictures.  They may look a little something like this...