Baby Picasso

My #3 is a rambunctious little fellow, who has humbled me as a mother and taught me that I’m so much less in control that I thought I was. He came along, a singleton after the twins, and my husband and I said to each other, “This will be a piece of cake!!” And he is, but more like a piece of cake loaded with TNT and then detonated in a small room. Never had that kind of cake? Well, it’s not super popular at parties.

I partially blame one of my L&D nurses that I had when delivering the twins, who told me she had three – a set of twins and a singleton. She said, “that singleton was a breeze! We hardly knew she was there!” My #3 has definitely made his presence known.

He is the sweetest, most precious boy. He has completed and brought so much joy to our family, but we were entirely unprepared for him. Our twins were preemies so they slept constantly. He loathed sleep and vehemently opposed anyone in the household attempting to enjoy some precious shut-eye. The twins would “roll with it” and surprised us how well they adjusted to schedule changes and shifts in routine. He was stubborn from the start and completely inflexible. He liked to remind me who was in charge by regularly breaking routine and laughing at any schedule I tried to establish. If babies could punch you in the face, then this guy was Mike Tyson. 

Prior to the arrival of #3, I had naively credited the relative ease of parenting my twins to my own parenting skills. ::punch:: While our parenting decisions and tactics matter, so do the personalities of the critters we are parenting. The feeding and sleeping schedules that worked so fantastically for the twins were an epic failure with #3. ::punch:: The baby-proofing we had done that had worked for 2.5 years and counting with the twins, was no match for baby Tyson. ::punch:: After getting socked in the face enough times, you’re either unconsious or forced to admit your strategies aren’t working. (Yes, I realize the metaphor I’ve just created is a boxing match with my baby. It’s accurate and I’m pretty sure he’s still winning.)

 #3 is a precocious and ambitious child with no concept for his actual age or physical limitations. His mentors are a pair of clumsy three year olds with questionable judgment, so he’s fearless and constantly trying to keep up. All of his adventures and predicaments are topics for future writings, but one of my main mom struggles is his uncanny ability to open things.

Drawers, cupboards, doors, pens, baby gates, jars, Chapstick, it all started at 14 months. He sits and shimmy-wiggle-fidgets with things until he successfully learns to operate them. The most problematic item as of late is markers. He find them, since the 3 year olds are so great at cleaning up after themselves, opens them, and let’s his creative juices flow all over a long list of surfaces in my home. Since I’ve been victimized in the past by marker misconduct, I only allow ultra-washable markers under my roof. It’s a good thing too, since I keep finding places #3 has been tagging with his baby graffiti. 

I have simplistically entitled the following album: Places my baby has colored.

His Face.

His pants.

His high chair.

The Floor.

His Brother.

The Window sill. 

Most of his work at this point is pretty abstract, but his technique of “press and smear” is flawless. I hesitate to use the term “brilliant,” but I think the kid has a real future. If you’re interested in a commissioned piece, please let me know. 

When Twin-Speak Happens.

I’ve had a lot of strangers say some terribly bizarre and borderline offensive things to me simply because I have twins. As someone regularly guilty of “word vomit,” where it just comes out and I’m left staring the horrifying verbal mess I’ve made, I usually try and give people the benefit of the doubt. I like to consider myself fairly laid back in my approach to being offended. 99% of the time I’m just mildly irritated and I move on quickly from most interactions with an internal eye roll. It took four years and a very ambitious offender, but someone finally managed to actually offend me. I’ll get to that in a minute.

People are fascinated with twins. I get that. While twins and multiple births are much more common than they used to be, they are still a bit of a rarity, so I came to expect some unwanted attention. When I was pregnant with the twins, I never voluntarily surrendered the information that I was carrying twins, mostly because I wanted to keep conversations with strangers as brief as possible. Also, I learned quickly that once that information was out there, the conversations got LONG and WEIRD.

Most people have really kind things to say or encouragement and awe for how difficult it must be to have two babies. Those comments, while lovely and well-received, aren’t nearly as entertaining as the more rare but thoughtless ones. Much like my own problem with “word-vomit,” I think people come down with “twin-speak.” This term usually refers to the “languages” that sets of twins come up with to communicate with only each other. In this case, I’m using it to reference the  mind fog and verbal diarrhea that occasionally overcomes people when they are presented with a set of twins. 

For the sake of general enlightenment and, hopefully, your reading pleasure, I’ve compiled a list of common comments made to mothers of multiples and ranked their offensiveness level based on my own subjective perceptions. Essentially, this list has no real factual or scientific value. Fasten your seat belts, it’s about to get a little snarky in here.

How far along are you? It’s pretty common for strangers to ask how far along you are when they notice you’re pregnant, whether with a singleton or multiples. This carries an offense level of 1, only because it always carries the risk that the person you’re asking is not actually pregnant. Should this be the case, and you’ve just asked a woman who is not pregnant how far along she is, it sky-rockets to a 10 and you should sprint away immediately. Tread cautiously with this one; Or just don’t try and engage strangers in conversations on their gestation at all. 

Wow! You look ready to pop! Subsidiaries of this comment also include Whoa, are you due tomorrow?! Or Are you sure there’s only one in there?! I know none of you would ever say this to a friend or stranger, because you’re all respectable folks intelligent enough to realize that all of these comments have informed the pregnant recipient that you think she looks ginormous. This carries an offense level of 4. I’m moderately irritated with you, but can get over it quickly by making rude comments about the commenter’s appearance in own my head. Since I heard comments on my size quite regularly, this was typically  when I would clarify that I was, in fact, carrying two babies.99% of the time, this was when the conversations got weird. 

Oh, twins! Did you struggle with infertility?  Annnnnnd it just got weird. Most of you would never dream of prying into someone’s personal and deeply private life in this way, but since I’ve been asked this about 7,965,875 times, I have to assume people are mostly well intentioned when inquiring. That being said, I’m not sure what kind of response people are looking for. You are a stranger and have just asked me about my reproductive health. Over the years I’ve mentally prepared a number of responses to this question, including “How was your last Pap smear? Oh, is that too personal? I thought maybe you could share some things about your vagina, since you just asked about mine.” Or “What’s the most difficult or emotionally devestating experience you’ve been through? Oh, you don’t wish to share that with me, the random pregnant person in line with you at Target? Well, neither do I.”  Of course I’ve never actually used any of my cleverly crafted retorts in real life; I typically just change the subject for both our sakes. See, most people are just genuinely curious. However, being curious about something doesn’t make it appropriate for you to inquire about it. I don’t ask the amputee I see out in public if it still feels like his leg is there, or the testicular cancer survivor how everything “works” post-op. I’m curious, no doubt, but it’s none of my business. And honestly, if a stranger just started surrendering that information to you without you asking, it would be straight-up awkward. This is about a 5 on the offense scale for me. Not because you have offended me to the core of my being, but because you put me in a really uncomfortable situation simply because you are curious. Now run along and go be awkward elsewhere. 

Are they natural? “No, they’re cyborgs that we genetically modified to have wolverine claws. We think that will really aid in self-feeding and independence. While they were cooking them up, we thought, go ahead and make two right away and shove ‘Em on up there!” So this question actually bothers me a bit. It’s really the same as the previous question, in that you are prying into my reproductive health, but you think that using the term “natural” somehow makes your intrusion more palatable. It’s not. You are still a creepy random stranger, only now you’ve implied that babies conceived through reproductive assistance or technology are somehow “unnatural.” Babies are babies and it doesn’t matter how they get here. Would you ask, “So how did you conceive? A good ol’ fashioned roll in the hay? Was it an accident? Do you know who the father is?” No. No one asks a mother carrying one baby how they conceived. Having two in my uterus doesn’t make it ok for you to ask me. Yes, twins are special. Whether they were spontaneous or conceived with reproductive assistance, they’re still special…and it’s still none of your business. This is an offense level 6, because what the heck is a “natural” baby anyway? I’m not mad at you, I just don’t want to talk to you anymore.

Are they identical? You’re right, this is not offensive in the slightest. The only reason I included it is because it becomes a level 2 on the offensive scale when you argue with my answer. If you ask me and I tell you, as their mother,that they are not identical, then you believe me. A random stranger with an opinion that my twins look so much alike, that they must be identical, is not going to convince me that such is the truth. 

I’ll walk through this slowly. My twins are a boy and a girl. No matter how much you think they look alike (they don’t) they cannot be identical. (This isn’t entirely true, as b/g twins could technically and extremely rarely be identical if the female has Turner Syndrome, but unless you’re a geneticist you wouldn’t wander around the grocery store inquiring about this.) So when you ask a twin mom, “are they identical?” And she says, “No. They are a boy and a girl, so they are fraternal.” And you reply with “Are you sure? They look identical!” You reallllllly temp me to embarrass you by pointing out, “One has a penis, and one has a vagina. I’m certain they are not identical.” Especially if you’re a nurse at my children’s pediatrician’s office. And especially if you said “Are they identical or paternal?” Let’s all make sure we know what we’re talking about before we start, Mmkay? 

Most people laugh at themselves after they get the answer on this one. ::Palm Slap:: “Duh. Of course they’re not identical! Silly me!”  Then we both chuckle and move on with our lives. I encountered a gentleman at the pharmacy once, when I had my twin babies in tow. He started by questioning if they were identical. Since people were constantly mistaking my daughter for a boy, I clarified, “well they’re a girl and a boy so they’re fraternal.” And I gave him a polite “now let’s both run along so I can get my infant ibuprofen and you can go get your anti-itch ointment” smile. He wasn’t in a hurry, so he continued, “Are you sure they aren’t identical?! They look exactly the same!” I was in a hurry. In case you forgot, I’m the lady at the pharmacy with two babies in this scenario. So I patiently responded “No, they’re definitely fraternal. I don’t really have a hard time telling them apart.” Smile, turn slightly, signalling with body language that the conversation is coming to an end…He jumps right back in, “well how do you tell them apart?!?” Baffled I even had to answer this question for him, I replied, “I take their diapers off.” So this specific scenario counts as a level 2, since it required I discuss my  infants’ genitals with a stranger.

I saved the best for last. As previously mentioned, it took a solid four years for someone to score a 10. We were having our furnace serviced and I was home with my three monkeys when the furnace fixer fellow arrived. “Are they all yours?!” He said as he saw my kids having a snack at the table. Thinking that maybe he had double vision or perhaps interpreted the noise of my house to mean more children than there actually were, I replied, “Well, it’s just the three, and yes there all mine.” It was clear to me we weren’t going to be BFFs. He followed up with “Three is quite a few! It’s a whole troop.” I worked through his annoying commentary on the number of children I chose to bring into the world and managed a forced smile and half-hearted chuckle. “They look real close together too.” He observed. It was true. We had three kids in 2.5 years, so I mentioned, “the older two are twins, so we got a two for one that time around.” I had played the twin card so I knew the conversation could go any number of directions at this point, but I never anticipated the direction he was heading. “Oh, twins! My wife always said she thought twins would be cool, but if she ever actually had them, she’d probably shoot herself.

I’ll just let that marinate for a while.

Well marinated?

Ok good. Let’s reflect. So this man, came into my home and told me, in front of my three children, twins included, that if his wife ever had twins, she’d kill herself. Apart from discussing the ending of one’s life violently with a firearm, which is never appropriate to discuss in front of toddlers, you informed both them and me that having twins would be the impetus for such a rash and horrific act. I simply didn’t respond to him because I was pinching myself to make sure this was real life. I’d never been made to feel like this before, by a stranger. Annoyed, irritated, befuddled, I’ve felt those things, but angry? This was a first! I was angry that he thought that was ok, to imply that having two beautiful children in the same gestation would be so horrible that I would end my life. I was angry that he implied that kids, especially more than one, were a hassle and irritation. Implying that I had not cried and begged and prayed for these children. Angry, that he said that in front of my children who clearly heard and understood what he was saying. Angry that he could make them feel anything less than wanted and dearly loved, simply because they arrived in this world at the same time. Angry that I couldn’t think of an appropriate way to communicate that to him, and angry that he still had to hang around and fix my furnace. Be gone, furnace man!

We should all slow clap for this guy, who managed to score a 10 on my offensive scale, a feat not to be taken lightly. His comment put all the slightly annoying questions into perspective and immediately downgraded them to a level 1. 

So I’ll happily answer your questions and curiosities, all you future strangers brave enough to approach my loud crew in public. I can’t promise I won’t do a mental eye roll or two, but I recognize and appreciate that you think my twins are interesting, special, fascinating, a blessing. Because they absolutely are. 

If You Teach a Toddler to Fish…

My husband took our twins ice fishing. No, you heard me correctly. I love my husband, but clearly not enough to discourage him from taking my two 3 year olds off my hands for the day.

When my husband goes ice fishing, he likes to get an early start so he can savor the daylight hours and get in as much fishing as possible. So his plan for the day started with him waking them up nearly an hour early. I was kind enough to gently express some concerns about bringing mildly sleep deprived toddlers ice fishing for an entire day, but I was quickly admonished. 

“They’ll sleep during the hour drive up north.” He told me. Oh, that’s cute. You have two wired toddlers loaded up into your truck, ready to pee their pants (which they’re likely to do anyway) with excitement over the idea of ice fishing. They’re not going to sleep. The first rule of toddlers is: They never sleep when you want them to. The second rule of toddlers is: never wake a sleeping toddler, and the third rule of toddlers is: AHHHHHHHH! Stop talking about sleeping, you’re going to jinx it!

Ok.” I said in reply. Who was I to argue? I had a day with only one child to care for in my sights and I wasn’t going to risk ruining that by trying to give my husband helpful advice like, “by the way, our daughter usually poops about 3 times before lunch, so have fun with that out in the middle of an ice covered lake!” He’d figure it out, right? “I’ll see you all tonight! Have a fun day!” I said with a smile, as I shoved them out the door and locked it behind them.

Freedom! It was only about three hours later that I got a text that read “I can’t handle another minute of whining! Maybe I’ll try this again when they’re eight.” I resisted the urge to reply, “Welcome to my world, Daddy. I’ve changed the locks and won’t open the doors until our previously agreed upon evening return time, so don’t even think about packing it up and coming home.” Ends up, toddlers aren’t super keen on sitting and doing nothing while they wait for a fish to bite their line. But who could have predicted that?

On the other hand, little dude and I spent the day running errands in record time and remarkable silence. I’d forgotten what it was like to go to the store without fielding 700 questions from the peanut gallery about why we aren’t going to be purchasing ice cream cones or pop tarts. Then, after nap, we kind of just looked at a each other for a while and twiddled our thumbs. I’m not going to lie to you; it was amazing. 

I did feel guilty for a hot second, thinking of my sweet husband and our beautiful children out on the cold ice, attempting to snag fish for sport. I feigned a few “So how’s it going?” messages to satisfy my morbid curiosity. They eventually settled in and snagged a few trophy fish.  Which I’m told they promptly complained about not being able to immediately eat. 

Their day on the ice concluded with my son stepping in one of the holes in the ice and one really cold foot. Daddy brought them home at bedtime very soggy and completely exhausted. My daughter put on her pajamas, climbed into her own bed and literally put herself to sleep. In that moment, as I stood watching that scene with mouth agape, I’m pretty sure I heard angels singing. All the great mysteries of parenting and toddler psychology were clarified before my eyes, and I’d be selfish not to impart that wisdom to all of you:

If you give a toddler a fish, he’ll whine about not being able to eat it. If you teach a toddler to fish, OMG THEY COME HOME EXHAUSTED AND GO RIGHT TO BED. 

The Mothership Goes Down

We’ve been wrestling with a stomach bug for the past two weeks, and by “wrestling,” I mean throwing a couple weak punches and then curling up in submission on bathroom floor while succumbing to my body’s will to empty my stomach contents in anyway possible. It wasn’t a fair fight.

My three year old son was the first victim. I can’t be positive, but there is a good chance he acquired the illness after making it his life’s mission to touch every single candy bar he could find at CVS. He concluded that shopping trip like he concludes most outings, with shoving his germ-ridden hands into every available facial orifice. So in retrospect, we should really be thanking our lucky stars he didn’t catch the Zika virus or Polio.

14 hours later, we were all regretting the trip to the drug store. The wonderful thing about sick toddlers is that it’s the only time they will sit still enough to cuddle. The horrible thing about a sick, cuddling toddler is that they have no concept for proper vomit recepticals. So seven hours of surprise vomit sessions and three loads of laundry later, big guy was on the mend. It was violent, but short. I gave myself a high-five, sprayed some Lysol in my mouth, and started the process of sanitizing any surface the other two kids might have access to. I had survived toddler norovirus, and I didn’t need to see the sequel. 

Fast forward four days later, when I’d convinced myself that he was no longer contagious and that the other two kiddos must have gotten lucky, having escaped the wrath of the stomach flu despite their shockingly unsanitary personal habits. Then the unthinkable happens: The mothership goes down. 

If you think peeing in the company of all your children is unpleasant (and it is.) then I’m sure you can imagine how unpleasant vomiting in their company is. Toddlers don’t have the same sense of disgust that most adults do. I find myself trying not to vomit when my kids do. When it’s my turn, they’re frantically trying to sneak a peak while spewing a constant dialogue of observations and questions.

“Are you frowin’ up, mommy? Why is you doing that? What made you frow up? Why you makin’ that noise? Why is it green? Why you frowin’ up in the toilet? Why are you not talkin’?”

Never mind the fact that you feel completely terrible because YOU HAVE THE STOMACH FLU, but now you’re tasked with desperately trying to keep them away from whatever germs have infested your body. For only the second time in my At Home Parent career, I called in Daddy Daycare. 

Dad took over while I had the first stretch of alone time I’ve experienced months. Unfortunately, it was spent dry heaving alone in my bed. There was no sleeping involved either, since my kids were playing what I can only assume was a loud and spirited game of rugby right outside my bedroom door. 

I had to rebound quickly, since we had a funeral to attend the next day and my house was in desperate need of a bleach bath. I sprayed my kids down with vinegar, every kind of essential oil, put them in full-body bubble suits and crossed my fingers. 

A week later, Valentine’s Day, everyone was all clear. I was finally feeling well enough to make good on our Valentine’s Day plans to order Chinese, drink wine and rent a movie. This, of course, was the most convenient time for my husband to start vomiting. My Valentine’s Day present was solo parenting to the sound track of violent wretching. Romance. 

So, we are infected. It’s taking us down, one at a time, like a long drawn out game of dominos. She’s a devious virus with an extended dormant phase tricking you into a false sense of healthful confidence.  In two months, when it’s finally gone through the whole lot of us, I’m sure it will have mutated enough that I’ll get it again. You messed with the wrong Mothership, norovirus. I’m armed with Lysol, vitamin water, and adult diapers, and I’m coming for you. 

Seriously, let it go.

I did it. I ignored the warnings of those that had gone before me, those that had already traveled to this point of no return. I let my kids watch Frozen.

My nearly four year old twins sat through the whole thing, which was nearly a miracle in itself. It was enough for me to initially think, “This isn’t so bad! Maybe they’re old enough for movies now, maybe we could even go to the theatre!” Initially. Now that Frozen is all my daughter can talk about, I am revising some of my original thoughts.

My son was entertained. My daughter was enthralled. She immediately began referring to herself as “Elsa,” and nonconsensually referring to her brother as “Anna.” She insisted I drape a blanket, secured with a chip-clip, around her shoulders so she could wear a cape. I regularly catch her spinning and singing as she throws imaginary icicles out of her fingers. She wanted cape and long hair, like Elsa, so she put a fitted sheet on her head. Two birds, one stone. Then her brothers thought, “hey that looks fun.” Next thing I know I’ve got Elsa, Anna and Olaf running laps in my hallway. 

I’m constantly fielding questions like, “but why is Anna’s hair another color?” Or “why did Elsa run away?” I’m regularly explaining the major plot points to people who have seen the movie at least 4 times. I mean, three years old or thirty, you see a movie 4 times, you shouldn’t have this many questions. 

Those questions are at least factual in nature. I have more difficulty answering questions like “Why does Elsa have a cape? When will my hair be yellow like Elsa’s? But where does her magic come from? Why can’t I make snowflakes?” Go ahead, try and explain the answers to those questions to a toddler. Curse you, Frozen! You’ve given us more questions than answers!

If you or your children have had the pleasure of viewing Frozen, then you are well aware of the most profusely problematic side effect; the flesh eating brain mole “Let It Go.” It will burrow a hole into your mind and ironically, you will NOT be able to let it go. It will slip into your mind while you’re driving, you’ll be humming it while you’re making dinner, you will be spinning through the house and singing it dramatically. And then you’ll be left wondering why you were spinning through the house and singing it dramatically. 

My daughter asks to watch it on the regular. We don’t watch movies that often, and I feel a bit bad for my son who much prefers other films when the rare opportunity to have a movie night pops up. His twin sister already forces him to pretend he’s Anna to her Elsa, when I’m confident he’d rather be spear tackling her or smashing a tower someone else has built. 

It’s my own fault. I assumed my daughter was immune to Disney’s charms, but Frozen is toddler crack and I willingly handed it over to my children. I was never angling for a Mother of the Year award, but I had hoped to protect my children from crippling addictions prior to the age of four.

I’m telling you to do what I could not. What your kids don’t know, can’t hurt them. They won’t know that they “need” an Elsa braid wig. They won’t know that they “need” to watch Frozen whenever they possibly can.  You won’t, at age 31, end up singing yourself to sleep to a Disney soundtrack. I’m telling you to just say no. I’m telling you to let it go.