Tuesday, June 30, 2009


In recent weeks, we have been visited by numerous wildlife in our Providence backyard. We have a bunny, a skunk who seems to have taken up residence behind our shed, and more squirrels than we can count. On any given night, we can see one or all of them. Throw a naked Vivi into the mix and it's quite a show.

The squirrels are particularly bothersome and my husband is engaged in an ongoing war with them. In the last year, they have managed to eat through the thick plastic of our compost bin in order to feast themselves on our banana peels and apple cores. They then leave the debris all over our yard and on our back porch. They also have built a home in our roof. The squirrels are bold, to say the least. One morning I walked into the kitchen to see one spread eagle on the screen of our back door. My scream was enough to scare it away but I frequently hear them scurrying along our kitchen window (which happens to look out on our garden and compost.)

In the last month or so, my husband got it in his head that it was time to rid ourselves of the squirrels once and for all. (Yes, with newborn twin babies, THIS is what he puts on his to-do list.) He started off by purchasing a metal compost bin and dismantling the pathetic remnants of the plastic one. He then removed their home on our roof and fixed up the hole in the rafters. Then, in the most delightful move of all, he purchased an owl.

Stunning, isn't it? Every morning I look out our kitchen window and I laugh at that pathetic plastic daytime owl. Haven't seen a squirrel in days though...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Is Three the New Two?

Ok, what happened to my sweet little girl? Vivi has gone from utter delight with occasional moments of crankiness to rude, crude, and full of bad attitude. I expected limit-testing and all the things I have been told that go along with being two but our twos were far from terrible. Three, however, is kicking my ass.

It's like a switch was flipped. Vivi repeatedly yells, throws tantrums, and says things in a way that makes me think my daughter is 13 and not 3. She has taken recalcitrant behavior to a whole new level and I'm too tired to do anything but yell back and put her into extended time-outs. It's an ugly scene.

On Friday Vivi and I were butting heads all day and I came very close to spanking her on numerous occasions. (I feel that every parent has the right to make her own decisions about reasonable discipline but I am not in the pro-spanking camp for reasons I won't go into here.) We both made it to bedtime by the skin of our teeth but while I was putting her jammies on, she hauled off and hit me. I was so taken aback that I had to walk out of the room and have my husband take over.

Now, I'm not sooo sleep-deprived that I don't recognize that Vivi's third birthday wasn't long after she got two little sisters. After all , there probably isn't more of a good reason to misbehave than having your world thrown for a double loop! That would be a nice easy explanation for such bad behavior but I think there's more to it. She seems to have an intense desire for independence and to show that she is a "big sister" who can do what she wants.

Like use a black sharpie to draw all over herself...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dress Up

When I was a little girl, I loved to dress up. My mother would buy old prom and wedding dresses from the Salvation Army and we had a trunk stuffed with them. They were big and bright and gaudy dresses which made them absolutely beautiful to our elementary school sensibilities. We prided ourselves on our thrift store finery.

The urge to dress up still hits us even now. Last year on a trip home to Vermont, my sister Jane and I got ourselves dolled up in her old prom dresses and my sister Katie's million or so bridesmaid gowns. (Ahhh... always a bride's maid, never a bride.) We did a very classy photo shoot to boot.

So it is no surprise that upon waking this morning, I find my big girl all dressed and ready to start the day. Here she is:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A New Day

Last night I made a conscious decision to trade in my crabby pants for crafty pants. The evening was no less crazy but the chaos was punctuated by moments of real sweetness. As I was preparing our 10 minute stir-fry dinner, Vivi proclaimed, "Oooh, I love the baby corns and I love the mama corns too!" She also informed me that her hair "looked really curly and cute today" and that one of her peers "has got a lot of problems" because he frequently acts out and makes her cry. A perky narcissist or a highly opinionated shrink-- my child might be both but her comments brought some levity to a normally stressful time of day.

So after we managed to get all the kids to bed, I busted out my sewing machine. I've been feeling pretty terrible that a lot of my green living practices have been thrown out the highly insulated window since the Turtles came along. The dryer runs almost daily and we have gone from putting out one bag of trash to a minimum of three every week. I'm not about to start up with cloth diapers again (at least not until the babies aren't peeing 20X a day) so I thought I could at least create something to minimize our plastic sandwich bag use. Enter my reusable snack sacks:

I took some cotton fabric, lined it with nylon, and attached some velcro and a ribbon. Voila! Something I can wipe out with a sponge instead of tossing in the trash.

Now if I could just get my kids cleaned up as quickly...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ticket to Freedom

I maintained my career the first year of Vivi's life. While I was lucky to have a very flexible schedule, Fridays were often an extended day in the office for me. That meant that I spent many a moment with a pump attached to my breast. There was nothing enjoyable about pumping and I dreaded doing it. Needless to say that when Vivi weaned at 13 months I didn't shed a single tear over my now useless pump.

I didn't think about the pump for a couple of years. It was only when the toy/baby crap store near my house put one on display in their front window did all the negative feelings come rushing back. It was early in my second pregnancy when this happened and I consoled myself with the thought that I wasn't working anymore so I wouldn't really need the pump. Plus, it wasn't like I was carrying twins or anything so I wouldn't even really be nursing that much. Ha!

(By the way, who was the idiot that thought putting a breast pump in a display window would actually bring buyers in?)

Well, several months and two babies later, I have renewed my relationship with the pump. It's not as contentious as it once was. My pump now symbolizes my ticket to freedom and I will willingly submit my body to it in the hope that I can get out of the house. Do I have any place to go today? No, but I pumped this morning and that means that I can find somewhere else to be.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Downside Every Day

I wouldn't say that I am normally a Negative Nelly but these last few weeks I seem to have firmly planted myself on the downside of things. It's been raining since the beginning of June with little respite and I've been bogged down with endless childcare and stories of sadness. I'm tired and I'm fat and I'm feeling that the world just isn't very fair.

I know I should think of my children as blessings and the vast majority of the time I do but there are moments when I want to walk away from them all. Vivi is testing every possible boundary (and peeing on it in the process) and the babies are just heaping piles of endless need. My husband works too much to support us all and I feel angry that I don't get to go to an office and deal with mentally ill people. (Oh, that grass just keeps getting greener...)

Yet, I have so many friends who are desperate to have a child. Beautiful, healthy, and successful women who can't seem to get pregnant. One of my dearest friends called me yesterday to tell me that she miscarried. She is devastated and I am so angry for her loss-- especially when I've been given more than I asked for. My own abundance is embarrassing and I need to get off my ass and start appreciating this because I know that any number of my friends would trade positions with me in a heartbeat.

Mired down by the inequity of it all, I found myself tuning out the crying (my children's this time, not my own) by reading about this book called Every Morning. Two friends on opposite coasts took a picture every morning for a year and shared them as a way of documenting their lives. I think this is the sort of thing I need to do to get my inner Buddhist back. So, fair readers, that's my plan. I'm going to take a picture of something every (well, as close to every) morning as a way to help me appreciate the good things in my life.
Here's today's photo:

This is our dining room. About a week before we got married, my husband and I (with the help of my very generous friend) painted it red. I was working on one wall when I turned around and saw that my husband had painted "I love Sam" on the opposite wall. We never envisioned this room as anything but a dining room but today it is filled with Vivi's toys. We're okay with that. We're not formal dining room people anyway.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cranky Pants

I've been a real cranky pants the last few days. I find myself yelling at Vivi for... well, for being three. It has gotten so bad that her frequent response to my crankiness is to yell back at me, "MAMA! DON'T SAY THAT!!!" I realize on some level that her behavior seldom deserves the response I give her but by the end of the day I am just so spent that it takes very little to push me over the edge. I mean, God, how many times do I have to tell her to stop blowing bubbles in her juice?

My crankiness isn't something I save for home. It has made its way into the public domain too. Vivi and I made a quick trip to Whole Foods to get some milk and, as I've been known to do lately, I bribed her with a cookie so she'd hold it together while I got a few more errands done. As we were waiting behind a man and a woman standing in front of the cookie display, I saw the man reach bare-handed into the cupboard and grab a roll. He proceeded to touch the roll all over and then handed it to the woman to touch. After the big touch-a-thon, the man started to put the roll back in the cupboard. Disgusted I said, "Could you please not return the roll you touched to the cupboard?" He did it anyway and that is when I noticed that the woman he was with was blind. Nice, eh? (Blind or not, I still think they shouldn't be putting their hands all over food that they are going to leave for someone else to buy.)

Now that poor Vivi has gotten to see Cranky Mama in action a lot these days, it seems that she is processing it all through her teddy bear. The other day my sister overheard Vivi saying the following in a very exasperated tone: "Big Ted, I nurse you. I change you. I play with you but still you cry, cry, cry."

Hmmm.... I wonder where she picked that up?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Big Sister

Since the Turtles arrived in early March, Vivi has enjoyed her role as a big sister. While she seems to be holding a grudge against me and my husband for not being as available to her, she doesn't take it out on Jude and Eliya. Vivi adores them and it is not uncommon for me to find her holding their hands while she extols the virtues of being older.

During dinner last night, my husband and I were attempting to eat with a baby perched in one arm. Vivi, apparently feeling that the babies were missing out on something, looked at Jude and said, "Jude Bug, you are too small for quinoa and shrimp but I can give you a snuggle."

Because Vivi has no shortage of love to give, we've had to train her on when it is appropriate to play with them. We've taught her that if she is making faces at them and they start to fuss or turn away, she needs to give them their space. We also have a strict rule that Vivi is not to touch Jude and Eliya while they are sleeping. As I've written before, sleep is a very precious commodity in this house and an "accidental" awakening is a surefire way to send me into psychomama mode. And nobody likes psychomama.

Yesterday afternoon, both babies were asleep in their carseats and Vivi was sitting quietly looking at books. I told her that I was going to run down to the basement and get the laundry. When I came upstairs, Vivi was shaking a rattle in Jude's face. UGH!

"Did you wake Jude up?" I asked in a calm but semi-annoyed tone.
"Mama, I was shaking this ball and she just woked up."
"That's quite a coincidence. Why did you shake the rattle?"
"Because you won't let me touch them when they are asleep."

Outsmarted again.

Monday, June 8, 2009


I hate to admit it but my life seems to involve a seemingly endless amount of shit. I wish I could say that I am speaking figuratively here but I'm not.

Friday afternoon, I was rummaging through our hutch in the dining room when I caught a whiff of poop. I couldn't place the origin of the smell. It wasn't on my shoes or on Vivi. Breastmilk poop has a distinctively different smell so I ruled the babies out. The windows weren't open so it couldn't have drifted in from the outside. Without an obvious origin, I started to think that I was imagining it.

I went about my day plagued by the awful smell. We were leaving for New Jersey at the kids' bedtime so I was doing the usual pre-trip chores when, at about an hour before our departure, I saw Vivi scoot out from under the dining room table. She had a look on her face that told me everything.

"Vi, what were you doing under the table?" I asked.
"Nothing, Mama."
"Did you poop?"
"Mama, it was coming on really fast."
"Vi, why didn't you go in the bathroom?"

"Mama, I wasn't thinking. I'm sorry."

And there in all its fresh and hardened glory, was the poop under the table. Apparently, Vivi had been relieving herself there on more than one occasion. The hardened stuff was what I was smelling that morning. The fresh stuff was, of course, her most recent deposit. I was disgusted and frustrated and set about giving her the silent treatment while I cleaned up the mess and scrubbed the rug.

My husband cleaned Vivi up while I was on my hands and knees in the dining room. It wasn't long before she was at my side repeating, "I'm sorry, Mama. Next time, I go on the potty." I snapped back at her, "You are not an animal. Animals poop like this. You are a big girl and you need to use the potty." I was angry and my tone was sharp.

On the road to New Jersey, I started to feel really sad about the whole situation. Vivi knows better but she is trying to find her way in a family that has grown substantially in a very short time. She sees these babies getting all the attention and my husband and I barely have anything left to give her. So what does she do? She acts like a baby. As soon as Vivi could move, she would hide under the table or under the piano if she had to poop. This is no different except she isn't wearing a diaper. I vowed to have a little more compassion for her.

Our trip to New Jersey was nice and the ride home was completely uneventful. (No small feat with two infants and a toddler in the car.) When we walked into our house upon our return yesterday, however, the smell hit me again. "Damn rug," I thought. But as I sat on the couch in the living room, I realized that the smell was NOT coming from the dining room. It was in the living room.

"Vivi, did you go poop in the living room?" I asked in my new and improved way.
"No, Mama."
"Are you sure? I smell some poop."
"Mama, if I go poop maybe I do it by that lamp."

Sure enough, there were two large poops under the side table. I looked at Vivi, looked at the poop, sighed and thought, "Well, at least it's not on the rug."

Small victories.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Orgasmic Birth

Yeah, that's right. I was incredulous too. Wednesday night I went to a screening of a film with that very title and while it might not have been the wisest idea to watch a birthing video twelve weeks postpartum, I was intrigued by the idea. I wouldn't have described any of my daughters' births as orgasmic by any stretch of the imagination yet I had heard such a thing was possible. I wanted to see if that was really the case.

Since my first pregnancy with Vivi, I've had an interest in birth and how it is regarded in our country. I read the usual suspects when it came to pregnancy books. Everything from What to Expect When You're Expecting (two enthusiastic thumbs down on that one... should be called How to Make You Into a Neurotic Mess When You're Expecting) to the inimitable Birthing From Within. As a childless woman, I feared birth and always imagined I would make the most of what western medicine offered me. Once I became pregnant, however, I wanted to test my body and birth in the way mother nature intended. (She's a mother after all...)

After Vivi's birth, I stopped reading the how-to pregnancy and birth books and started reading more sociological and political books about women's health. Birth: The Surprising History of How We Are Born by Tina Cassidy is a fascinating look at the evolution of how we birth. Marsden Wagner's Born in the USA: How a Broken Maternity System Must Be Fixed to Put Women and Children First made me realize that our medical advancements can do more harm than good. And This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor by Susan Wicklund was a fascinating and sometimes shocking look at what it means to be an abortion provider in this country. All of these books reinforce the notion that we MUST be our own advocate for our own bodies.

Orgasmic Birth shows this advocacy in its purest form. It isn't really a film about women orgasming during birth although it did show this happening. (Wow!) It's about taking our power back and what it can mean when we give our bodies the opportunity to birth without intervention. Not every woman needs to make the choice to have a natural birth BUT there needs to be a choice. Too often women think they don't have an option outside an OB at the hospital because they've been made to believe that the pain will be too much to handle. Orgasmic Birth is the counterpoint to the epidural.

Vivi's birth felt like a transformation. The Turtles' birth was exactly how I envisioned it. Were they orgasmic? Hell, no! Where they exhausting, exhilarating, and empowering? Absolutely.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Do I Know You From Somewhere?

According to all the parenting books and magazines I've read over the last three years, babies enjoy looking at people's faces. I didn't think they had discriminating face preferences which is why I find it so curious that my Turtles haven't seemed interested in each other. It's not a general face aversion-- they are more than interested in everyone else's! When seated across from each other, however, their apathy is stunning.

I'm not sure why this is. (Damn those useless parenting books...) My best conclusion is that they are so used to seeing the face of the other that it's more like scenery than anything else. Babies at this young age don't seem to have a sense of self but maybe they don't see their twin as a separate person. It's all very confusing to me and my conclusion isn't very satisfying.

It has been a challenge at times to adapt myself to my new identity as a multiple-baby mama. Twins seem to bring many more questions about their very being in this world than my singleton ever did. The ability to watch two babies interact with each other on a 24/7 basis makes me think about things I never had to think about with Vivi.

Like all my twin-raising questions, the answer never seems to matter, if it even comes at all, because everything changes so quickly. In one delightfully brilliant moment, the Turtles finally look at each other as if to say, "Hey there, don't I know you from somewhere?"

Silly cousins included!