Retraction

A month ago, I wrote about how having two year-old twins rocked.  My girls had just turned two at the time of this post.  Surprisingly enough, only one MoM, who had herself lived to see the other side of two, commented that I may want to reserve judgment on this issue.

For the love of all that is holy, would it have killed me to wait one month to write a post about raising two year-old twins?  I was most definitely still riding a sugar high from all the Elmo cupcakes and ice cream cake.  Folks, consider this a formal retraction of my prior post.

The past month has been hard – really hard.  Two has hit me like a ton of bricks and continues to seriously kick my ass.  At this point, I don’t even know if I can articulate exactly what it is that I find so challenging about this age.  If I had to answer this question after the weekend I have had, I would honestly say Every.Freaking.Thing.  Lack of self control (being told it’s time to clean up the Play Doh yields Exorcist-like tantrums), extreme lack of cooperation, failure to successfully transition from one activity to another (considered a fail for me if kicking and/or screaming occurs and if said transition takes longer than 25 minutes), mealtimes, bathtimes (specifically, washing of the hair), car rides, bedtimes (fielding repeated requests to put socks on stuffed animals and/or swaddle them like a burrito), and the list goes on…

Lately, I just feel like nothing is easy.  The only time there is any peace and quiet around here is when Sesame Street is on.  Since I limit their TV time to one episode per day, this amounts to about 60 minutes broken down into two, thirty-minute intervals.  Yes, some would consider me a Sadist.

There are, thankfully, a couple of fun aspects of two so far.  Language acquisition and usage is totally skyrocketing and phrases like, “I just love you so much” have been known to squeak out here and there.  I also love to watch the interaction between my girls.  Their relationship has hit a totally cool level now that they are better able to express themselves.

In summary, the village can stop looking for it’s idiot: you have found her.  I will never again make sweeping judgments about an entire year of toddlerhood when I am only a few measly days into it.  Aaaahhh… and some say three is when it really gets tough.

My TWOsome

I flaked on my post last week because my girls recently turned two.  We had their party last Sunday, and it was like Elmo’s World up in here for a day.  Whew!  Glad that is over…

I can hardly believe two years have passed since my girls came into this world.  In truth, most of the first year was a blur.  I often speak of those early days and months, but they mostly seem like a dream to me now — such a dream in fact that I am starting to remember them with fondness.  I am even starting to entertain the idea of having a third child, the mere mention of which would have gotten you booted from my house two years ago.

I am in constant wonderment at how simultaneously fun and utterly frustrating  two 2 year-olds can be.  Amelia, in particular, can go from angel baby to the featured kid on Nanny 911 in under 10 seconds.  And, as quickly as the tantrums come on (and for no apparent reason), they go.  And what’s left is a fun little person with emerging language skills, a quirky sense of humor, and an admirable, albeit unattainable (even with buckets of caffeine) energy level.

Do I think the Twos are Terrible?  Not even close.  Overall, I would say that two totally rocks.  Yes, I am declaring this a mere 5 days into the game.  Is it premature?  Maybe.   But, Amelia and Ella are filled with a such a sense of curiosity and excitement about their world that it’s virtually impossible not to catch some of it.  They think animals are cool people with fur.  They are obsessed with school buses, airplanes, and every other means of major transportation.  They would rather run around outside while it pours cats and dogs than be cooped up in the house.  I told you they rock.

Now that the girls are two, I am starting to feel more like a mom and less like a caretaker.  Don’t get me wrong – at least 60% of my day still consists of wiping butts, picking noses, and feeding on demand (mostly crackers and fruit bars).  But, the other 40% is filled with some pretty fun stuff.

So, Happy 2nd Birthday to my little girls!!  You’ve come a long way, babies:

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The Swine of '09

H1N1: it’s everywhere.  Well, not literally (I hope!), but it is a topic that’s receiving quite a bit of coverage in the media these days.  Nary a day goes by that I don’t come across some reference to the Swine Flu on t.v., online, or in the newspaper.

One of my twin mama friends, who is pregnant with her third child (bless her sweet soul), is currently agonizing over whether or not she should be vaccinated.  Her angst over receiving the shot has got me thinking about my plans for my own family, and the goal of this post is to get you thinking about yours.

In truth, I have been worried thinking about this issue for months.  I am seriously concerned about Amelia and Ella contracting any strain of the flu at only 23 months old.  It’s scary stuff, at least for me (see prior post on hypochondria.  Side note:  I really need to evolve!).   But, it’s also scary to think of them being injected with a new vaccine that was developed and tested in only a few short months; the potential long-term side effects of this vaccine are obviously unknown.  Add to all of this the controversy over the 1976 Swine Flu and vaccine (which I have decided not to get into here – you’re welcome!), and you have yourself a real quandary.  Well, at least you do if you’re me.

So, I decided to do a bit of research on the 2009 Swine Flu and highlight some important points to help you decide what is right for your family this wonderful flu season.  You have some time to think about your plan as the vaccine is not expected to be released until early Fall.  I have separated the fruits of my labor into three categories: 1) General information; 2) CDC recommendations; and 3) Important Statistics.  All of the information I have compiled can be found on the CDC’s website.

General Information:

  • The Swine Flu is spread in the same way as seasonal influenza and is now being transferred by person-to-person contact.
  • The vaccine for seasonal flu does not provide protection against H1N1.  The vaccine for H1N1 can be administered on the same day as the vaccine for seasonal influenza, but in a different site on the body.
  • 98% of  individuals who have contracted H1N1 in 2009 have recovered; most people have done so without medical intervention or treatment.

CDC Recommendations:

The CDC is currently recommending that the following populations receive the first round of the 2009 vaccine and has classified them as high priority (in no particular order):

  • persons who live with and/or care for infants younger than six months of age
  • healthcare and emergency medical service professionals
  • persons between 6 months and 24 years of age
  • persons  25 through 64 years of age who have chronic health issues or compromised immune systems

Important Statistics about the 2009 H1N1 virus:

  • The highest incidence of persons infected is among those between 5 and 24 years of age.
  • The highest incidence of hospitalization for flu-related complications is among those under 4 years of age.
  • The highest incidence of mortality is among those over the age of 65.
  • Although pregnant women represent only 1% of the general population, they also constitute 6% of confirmed fatal cases.

So, what to do?  Personally,  I am taking one to the arm, or the leg, or wherever else they administer shots these days,  as will my husband and my girls.  Why?  It’s simple really: for me, the potential complications of H1N1 are more frightening than any potential side effects of the vaccine.  But, that’s just me.  And let me say that I totally respect those of you who choose not to vaccinate your children.

To vaccinate or not to vaccinate: this is the question.  What are you doing?  How have you come to your decision?

Find the Currency…

Control the Child.  Or something like that.
 
My sister dropped this pearl of mommy wisdom on me recently.  She can’t take credit for it, though – Dr. Phil has it trademarked.  I haven’t watched Dr. Phil in years, so I have absolutely no clue if he has any other parenting gems.  But this one?  This one I like. 
 
Amelia and Ella will be two next month, and in typical two year-old fashion, they have started developing very strong (and sometimes odd) affinities toward certain objects, activities, food items, etc.  Say it with me, people: currency. 
 
Ella’s currency is easy – crackers, crackers, and more crackers.  Keep ‘em coming, baby.  She sat through an entire Easter Sunday Mass with nary a peep (if you discount the crunching noises).  I bring an entire box of crackers with me to the grocery store and sometimes throw another in the cart if things get hairy.  She just cannot get enough.  She is equally obsessed with her “Baby”, a raggedy blue bear that I only allow her to have at nap and bedtime.  I recently started using her love affair with Baby to my advantage.  You may recall my documented struggle with tooth brushing.  Struggle over.  If she refuses to allow me access to the cracker chompers, I threaten to put Baby in time-out.  Man, you should see how fast her little mouth opens! 

Amelia, on the other hand, is my horse of a different color.  She likes crackers but is no fiend like her sister.  And, while she does have a rather strong affinity toward her stuffed kitty, it’s not powerful enough to allow Mommy a decent whack at brushing her teeth.  Hrmph.  She is much more stubborn than Ella (no clue where she gets this), making it difficult for me to find her currency.  But, I think I may have found her one real motivator thus far – dessert.  I got her to eat a serious serving of asparagus tonight just by dangling 7 piddly M&Ms in front of her.  If she is acting up at dinnertime, I threaten to withhold her dessert privilege.  Works like a charm for the half hour that is dinnertime.  What of the other 11.5 waking hours, you ask?  Yep, I got nothin’. 

So, what about your kiddos?  Have you found their currency?  Do tell…

Who's Your Mommy?

After I had the girls, I took a one year maternity leave from work; that was just about the only family-friendly benefit my job offered.  I was with the girls every day, all day (and night after exhausting night) for the first 365 of their little lives. 

During that time, I distinctly remember people making remarks like, “Oh, she definitely knows Mommy!” or “See!  She just wanted her Mommy.”  I can remember being genuinely taken back by these comments.  Although I had definitely bonded with my babies, I never really got the sense that they preferred me to my husband or other close family members.  I knew, for instance, that I was better at calming Ella than anyone else, or that I had the best method to get Amelia down for a nap.  But to say that they knew I was their Mommy?  I wasn’t so sure.  And it worried me.  

When I went back to work part-time, I was sick both emotionally and physically.  I cried many times in my cubicle, often cursing out loud while speaking to clients over the phone (relax: I am a quick draw with the Mute button!), lamenting over what I was missing at home while they driveled on and on about the “crises” in their lives.  I didn’t want to leave my babies.  I didn’t want to miss one smile or laugh or developmental milestone.  I wanted to be the one who comforted them when they were upset or not feeling well.  My inability to relinquish control over their lives was enough to make me go mad.  But, worse still, was the worry that my daughters would not associate me as their primary caregiver, as Mommy, and would prefer my mother-in-law (GASP!) or my husband, who were taking care of them in my absence.

My co-workers often asked me if the babies cried when I left for work.  Sometimes.  Truthfully, that stopped after about a month or so.  And when it did, I was secretly upset.  Are they happier staying with my mother-in-law for 8 hours? (For the record, most people tell me one hour is their absolute maximum with her…)  Do they like her better: the way she makes their oatmeal, the songs she sings at nap time, her eagerness to chase after them outside?  And lest you think this is really about my issues with the MIL, rest assured;  it wasn’t just the girls’ bond with my mother-in-law that had me worried.  At times, I convinced myself that my girls preferred my husband, my mom, even my father-in-law, to me. 

And then they hit the 18-20 month mark.  And I quit my job to stay home with them full-time.  “Be careful what you wish for.”  That’s a direct quote from my husband.  God forgive me, some days I wish my name wasn’t Mama.  Ella barely has one eye open and she is calling for Mama.  Amelia escapes a fall (as in doesn’t even hit the ground!?) and she is screaming at the top of her lungs for Mama.  Someone has a poopy diaper and they run to tell Mama.  Snack cup runneth dry on crackers?  Just throw it at Mama!  My personal favorite: when my husband goes to get Ella up from her nap, which is an every day occurrence, and every.single.day I hear her over the monitor yell, “No, Daddy!  Mama!”  Mama mia!  It never ends. 

But you know what?  I don’t want it to end.  As in EVER.  Yes, it can try your patience.  Yes, it can be exhausting, especially on those mornings when you just cannot bare the thought of another 6am wake-up call (literally) for Mama!, and you realize in your stupor that THIS MEANS YOU, JACKASS!  You know what I do on those mornings?  I drink a cup of coffee, watch my girls laugh and play, and snicker to myself about the days when I was actually worried that they had some sort of attachment disorder.  And I brace myself for the days ahead when the last person on my babies’ minds is their Mama.

I often wonder if multiples take longer to bond with their primary caregivers than singletons.  Caring for multiples is hard work; we know this all too well.  It’s not easy, emotionally or physically, for one person to provide the majority of the care for twins, triplets, or quads.  Having said that, I know that many of us do it.  But, I also know that many MoMs have very active husbands or partners.  Raising multiples is very much a tag team sport and a task that we seem to divide more equally than parents of singletons, and for obvious reasons.  Additionally, grandparents, extended family, close friends, and outside childcare providers seem to play more of an active role in the raising of multiples than is the case for singletons.  I wonder what effect, if any, this has on bond formation between mother and babies?  

So, when did you become the center of your babies’ worlds?  For those of you who also have singletons, did you notice a different bond with your multiples?

The L Word

While I was pregnant with the twins, I did a lot of reading.   I didn’t read too much on multiple pregnancy itself, as it scared the you-know-what out of me!  Tons of negative and downright scary information.  Instead, I focused mostly on the challenges I would face once the babies were born.  I read about breastfeeding, feeding schedules, sleep training — all the tough stuff.  Although I would never sit here and tell you I was prepared for what was to come (because who the hell could be?), I will say that I had a vague notion of my impending challenges.  However, there was one topic that was woefully overlooked and/or underdiscussed in all of the books, blogs, and newsletters that I got my pregnant paws on.

The L Word.  Think about it for a minute, ladies.  You all know what I am talking about.

Wait for it…

Wait for it…

LAUNDRY. 

Holy @#*&!  Why did no one discuss this, like… ever?  Why did no one advise me to buy a house with a built-in laundry shoot??  Because, let me tell you: I would have seriously considered it.  To any of you out there who have a laundry shoot, please don’t brag.  I am ridiculously jealous.  Over the past two years, I have stepped over (and on) dirty clothes and hurdled baskets full of clean laundry like an Olympian. 

Yes, no one so much as casually mentioned that two babies equals at least double the laundry than a singleton.  And neither one of my girls had reflux.  Oh, you poor, poor souls who experienced reflux laundry.  There is a spot already reserved for you in Heaven.

I think the sudden barrage of laundry in my home was especially surprising and/or challenging to me for two reasons: 1) Prior to having twins, I probably did the laundry once every two weeks, or as long as I could possibly scrape by without buying new underwear (and I openly admit to doing so on more than one occasion!);  and,  2) I have never EVER in my life spent so much time and energy on the act of doing laundry.  Before twins, I would just toss a bunch of stuff (colors, whites, who cares?) into the machine and call it good.  Now, I pre-treat every.damn.thing with my beloved Oxiclean spray AND I add a heaping cup of the Oxiclean liquid to every load I wash.  That stuff is magic, I tell you.  Magic.   I mean,  a typical outfit in our house is stained beyond all recognition by 5pm, assuming it is dark enough to mask the stains from lunchtime. 

Since leaving my job at the end of June, I have become a lot more focused on laundry and on establishing a good system so as not to have clothes strewn about the house waiting for me to either pre-treat and wash or fold and put away.  You see, I have no problem tossing the clothes in the washing machine and/or transferring them to the dryer; it’s the before and after parts that really get my goat.  Truth be told, it has been much easier to keep up with the laundry now that I am no longer working outside the home.  But, still, my system could use some improving to be sure.  

So, how do you handle laundry for multiples?  Any ideas or advice from those of you who aren’t hurdling laundry baskets on a daily basis?  What’s your secret?

A Message to the Pediatric Dentists of America…

…Bite me.  No, really.

Disclaimer: I apologize up front if you or anyone you hold dear is a member of this, um, nobel profession.  But, ARE THESE PEOPLE CRAZY??!!

I think it was at the girls’ one year check-up when my pediatrician first asked me how the tooth brushing was going.  Come again?  You were serious about that?  Loud sigh.  So, off I went to Wal-mart to purchase the necessary supplies.  Incidentally, who knew baby toothpaste was so expensive?!   

I drove home with a lighter wallet, but with high hopes for our first tooth brushing session that night.  I was optimistic, and dare I say, excited, to add this to our bedtime routine.  They seem interested when I brush my teeth, I thought to myself.  I’ll just instruct them to open wide and say aah.  Then, I’ll brush their little white stubs for the recommended two minutes, all the while explaining what I’m doing and why healthy teeth practices are so important.  Piece of cake.  Note to self: immediately refill whatever prescription I was on that day.

Holy freaking moly, people!  The screaming, the crying, the flailing about!  It was like wrestling two alligators to the ground, and I strongly suspect, just as dangerous.  Wrestling aside, I didn’t get too upset over their initial reaction, and chalked it up to the unfamiliarity of the experience.  Best not to push too hard, too fast.  We’ll just try again tomorrow. 

Tomorrow came and went.  Lots of tomorrows have come and gone.  My girls will be two in September, and they still hate having their teeth brushed.  I’ve tried everything — battery operated brushes, funky toothpaste flavors, singing silly tooth-related songs — ad nauseum.  They are so not convinced.  Neither am I.   It doesn’t help matters that the dental hygiene portion of our day occurs at bedtime; the girls’ antics are typically at a record high, while Mama’s patience is dangerously circling the drain.  Consequently, I regulary declare  Ladies’ Choice Nights and hand over the tooth brushes.   Brush your teeth or don’t: your choice, ladies!

Several months ago, I even consulted a pediatric dentist for advice on tooth brushing when my concern over Amelia’s swollen gums prompted me to schedule an appointment (Note: see my prior post on hypochondria!).  His advice: keep it up.  Hold them down by force if necessary, and brush for two minutes, or as long as tolerated.  When I told him their duration of tolerance was typically somewhere in the 2-3 SECOND range, he offered me this gem of a metaphor: Kids don’t always like to ride in carseats, but you strap them down nonetheless.  Why?  Because carseats are in their best interests — just like teeth brushing.  Um, so not the same, buddy.  I told you these people were crazy!!

So, I’m dying to know… what are your toddler tooth brushing secrets?  What works for you?

Diagnosis:Hypochondria

First, let me give credit where credit is due.  My husband is the one who actually came up with the idea for this post.  The idea came to him following a recent discussion we had after I observed both of my girls sneezing.

Ella: (Sneeze).
Amelia: (Sneeze).
Me: Ugh!  Do you think they might have the Swine Flu?
J: Um, no, I do not think they have the Swine Flu.  I do think there might be something wrong with you, though.

Anyone who knows me in real life knows that I can be a bit of a nervous Nelly, especially when it comes to all things medical.  I have self-diagnosed myself with a myriad of conditions over the years.  And, yes, I am often wrong.  How often, you ask?  Well, if this was a game of baseball, I would be batting about 1 for 1000.  Okay, maybe worse.  But, for the record, my 1 correct diagnosis has more than made up for the other 999 misdiagnoses. 

Between weeks 30 and 32 of my pregnancy with the girls, I started to get itchy.  Really itchy.  I was scratching my belly raw, and my hands and feet would often burn from the intense itching.  After my OB chalked up my symptoms to normal pregnancy-related discomfort, I decided to pay a visit to Dr. Google late one itchy night.  I just typed in “severe itching during pregnancy,” and I had myself a winning diagnosis within seconds of hitting the enter button.  Obstetric cholestasis.  During my 34th week of pregnancy, I was in fact diagnosed (by a real M.D.) with cholestasis, after going to the ER following a particularly sleepless night due to severe itching (and crying!).  Thankfully, with the help of daily liver medicine and bi-weekly non-stress tests, both of my girls were born healthy and with no ill effects.     

Unfortunately, my somewhat casual hobby of misdiagnosing ailments kicked into overdrive shortly after the babies were born.  It didn’t help matters that our pediatrician diagnosed Amelia with torticollis at her two-month check-up.  Torti-what?  Two guesses what I did as soon as I got home from that pediatrician’s appointment?  Yep, I Googled it.  From Amelia’s initial diagnosis until the day she was discharged from physical therapy, I spent countless hours online researching therapies and treatments. 

And, don’t even get me started on ear infections!  The hours I have spent online (okay, and in the waiting room at the pediatrician’s office) trying to distinguish between teething symptoms and those of an ear infection are innumerable.  For the record, we have yet to see an ear infection in this house, but I am seriously considering purchasing one of those home ear check machines.  I simply cannot suffer the humiliation of leaving the pediatrician’s office with my tail between my legs one more time, apologizing as I go, “Sorry.  I really thought she had one this time.” 

So, there you have it.  I am a hypochondriac.  Since the girls were born, I have Googled everything (probably more than once!) from “diaper rash” to “teething sypmtoms” to “mucous in a baby’s stool.”  Don’t even ask about that last one.  I actually brought the diaper to the pediatrician’s office.  Long story; see above for similar, humiliating ending.  Anyway, I have come to accept this quirk in my personality, and I can even laugh about it now (obviously, since I am sharing it with the blogosphere!).  While I’ve always had the propensity towards hyphochondria, having twins has just brought it to a whole-new, freakish level. 

Please tell me I am not the only one!  Is some of this just part and parcel of being a first-time mom?  Did having two (or more) babies at once bring out the inner hypochondriac in you, too?

Back to the Future

Yes, as in the 1985 movie starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd.  It’s a classic.  But, just in case you are fuzzy on the details (because I refuse to believe that there is even ONE of you out there who missed it!), the basic premise  of the movie is that Michael J. Fox’s character gets the rather unexpected opportunity to travel back in time and change the fate of his family.   

So, why the subject of time travel?  I handed in my resignation at work last week.  My resignation from a super-secure, unionized, full-time, government job with benefits.  Yes, in this economy.  Why?  Despite its security and benefits, I work in a very family-unfriendly environment.  Flex time?  Not offered.  Reduced work schedule?  Not a chance!  Working from home?  Wait… working from where?  You get the point.  

As I work out the final days of my notice, I have been doing a lot of thinking about what I would have done differently had I known 6 years ago what my ovaries had in store for 2007.  And, yes, I do know that hindsight is 20/20, but humor me if you will.  Had I known my household would go from 0 to 2 babies in a mere 36 weeks, I can honestly say that I would not have chosen the same education/career path I find myself on today.  I have a Bachelor’s in Sociology and a Master’s in Consumer Finance.  If that sounds like an odd combination to you, that’s probably because it is.  No real rhyme or reason to any of it.  At the conclusion of my freshman year of college, I decided to pursue a degree in Sociology/Criminology because I liked the coursework , and thought I just might be the next Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs.  Yeah, not so much.  After I graduated, I blew off a second interview at a correctional facility after nearly having a panic attack during the first one when the interviewer described what my actual duties would entail.  Then, after working a year out of college in Human Resources (random, I know), one of my former professors called to offer me a paid research assistantship in Consumer Finance complete with a free Master’s degree.  Eh!  Why not?   So, 6 years and 2 degrees later, here I sit wishing I had pursued a more family-friendly career path.

The truth is, I don’t know what job I would ideally like to have.  Is there any career out there flexible enough to accomodate the first three years with multiples?   I don’t know.  What I can say for sure is that there are some jobs which are clearly better suited for MoMs (and moms in general) than others.  Lately, I have been admiring the nursing profession.  Good pay, flexible hours, meaningful work… oh, and don’t forget the scrubs and crocs!  I defy you to find a more comfortably-dressed profession!  The bummer is, nursing is my ideal career choice in theory only.  I am so not cut out to be a nurse.  This much I know.  And, if you don’t believe me, just ask any of my family members or close friends.  Wow.  Judging by their reactions to my aspiring career change, I would make about as good a nurse as I would a lion-tamer.  

T minus 5 work days until I begin my new career as a stay-at-home mom to  21 month-old twin girls.  My new bosses are sure to be demanding, erratic, and irrational at times (many, many times…).  But, I am going into this new endeavor with my eyes wide open.  Nope, no delusions here.   I know that my old job is going to seem like a cake walk compared to some of the days I will undoubtedly experience in the months to come.  I know this because I can remember on more than one occasion running out the door (like my you-know-what was on fire!) eager to get to “work” when the girls were being especially difficult at the ripe-old hour of 7AM.  Indeed, there is no job more difficult than being a stay-at-home mom to multiple children.  But, you know what?  I wouldn’t change a thing… even if I did have the opportunity to travel back in time and do so.  How could I?   Just look at these two cuties:

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What about you?  If given the opportunity, would you still pursue the same career path, knowing that multiples were in your future?  

P.S.  I didn’t forget that today is Father’s Day.  Really, I didn’t!    So, Happy Father’s Day to all the dads who support us MoMs on this crazy journey!  And, a special shout out to my favorite twin daddy, J!