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"Big Green Chainsaw"

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Well, we all go a little far sometimes. In our work, in our obsessions, in our family life.

Every morning and afternoon Kyle and Owen insist on seeing ‘Papi’s Chain Saw’ [ain-yaw]. Every morning and every afternoon. Which really means we first look at a little electric chainsaw, then the gas chain saw Don gave me for Chirstmas, then we look at the weedeater, then the leaf blower, then the old lawnmower (Sheesh, I can’t believe we have all this stuff). And they have to touch each one in succession and pretend the motor is running – vroom, vroom! So, I thought – hey, they would get such a kick out of it if I started up the weedeater – they love when we start the cars engines.

The boys stood about 3 feet away, I pulled the starting rope, again, again and it started. Kyle was very curious as the motor jumped to life (interesting since he was very worried about the neighbor’s chain saw when a tree fell down in his yard); Owen immediately started crying. ‘No, no, no Papi!’ he called out. He quickly ramped up to full panic. I immediatey stopped the motor and picked him up. Held him; he was so scared and crying. Kyle reached down and made motor noises – vroom, vroom! I held Owen until he calmed down. We had to replay the whole thing in detail (without starting the motor), until everything made sense and was ok. Then we went and played a little golf in the front yard (with the golf tee of course). We’ve been talking about the Big Green Chain Saw since (it’s not even green).

We’re a very enthusiastic family and get a little carried away sometimes.

Dressing Twins: Thoughts From the Front Line

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Being the mother of twins I am pretty sure that I receive way more unsolicited advice from people than regular parents receive. I don’t know what will happen over the span of our lives, but as of now, the biggest subject for which I constantly receive unsolicited advice on raising twins is: HOW TO DRESS THEM.

Everyone — from some of our closest family members, to some of the daycare staff, to some of my co-workers and students, to some total strangers in the grocery store — tells me how dressing twins should be done. The major focus of it all is the question of whether or not to dress them in matching outfits.

  • Cheerily, “Ahhhh! They’re sooooo cuuuuuuuuute! I just LOVE the matching outfits!!!”
  • Skeptically, “So, do you always dress them in matching outfits?”
  • Disappointedly, “Oh. I was really hoping that you’d have them in cute matching outfits.”
  • Educate-ing-ly, “You know, you really should not dress them in matching outfits….”
  • Knowingly, “I am a twin and I think it is GREAT that you dress them in matching outfits!”
  • Knowingly, “I am a twin and I can tell you: do NOT dress them in matching outfits!”
  • Sadly, “I’m the mother of twins and I really wish I had not dressed them in matching outfits.”
  • Sadly, “I’m the mother of twins and I really wish I had dressed them in matching outfits.”
  • Scathingly, “Oh my gosh. I cannot believe that YOU dress them in matching outfits. You!!?!”
  • Approvingly, “Ohhhhhhh myyyyyyy Godddddddd!!! I’m sooo happy that YOU dress them in matching outfits!!! You!!?!”

Personally, before I had twins, I thought that if I ever was a parent of twins I would dress them in different outfits so as to “celebrate difference!” and “allow for individuality!” Then we found out we were adopting twins. Oh, the cute little baby outfits! Oh the cutesie twinsie possibilities of cute little matching baby outfits! Oh, how EVERYONE gave us cute little matching baby outfits!!! Then we got the twins. Could it get any cuter than seeing them in matching outfits?! Another thing: could it get any easier (when shopping, dressing, re-dressing) than doing matching outfits? It is hard to understand until you’ve actually had to do it. I could go into great depth here about all the reasons it is easier — and makes the most logical sense on both practical and philosophical levels — to dress them in matching outfits. Interestingly however, although everyone tells me what they think, no one has ever actually asked me what I think. So, I’ll just skip over that. Anyway, we decided soon after we got the boys home that matching outfits were o.k., and we planned to dress them in matching outfits until they were two. We vowed to ourselves that after their second birthday we would stop the cutsie-twinsie-matching-outfit thing.

Then they turned two.

The problem now is that Kyle and Owen can actually express themselves. And they express their views on this subject clearly and consistently: They want to dress in identical outfits. If it was up to them they’d wear the exact same thing every single day with no variation whatsoever. At this point in time I am trying to do matching-but-not-identical outfits (i.e. same shirt, different color). Even that is a big challenge for them. Celebrate difference?! Forget it! Allow for individuality?! Um, NO! The boys want nothing to do with any of it.

This morning, I picked out their clothes. Same shirts, but different colors. Both in denim, but one in pants and one in overalls. They had a fit. Owen wanted overalls, not pants. He kept pointing to Kyle’s overalls, envious and jealous and full of upset. He begged for overalls. He cried. He sulked. He was so sad. He hung in my arms like a crumpled little boy. Kyle seemed sad too– his attitude seemed to be that he was psyched to have lucked out with getting to wear the overalls, but he would have much preferred to see Owen wearing matching ones. I stuck it out and dropped them off at daycare in their semi-matching-but-not-identical outfits, much to their great disappointment.

When I arrived at daycare the head of the toddler room immediately cornered me to tell me all about how she had gone out to dinner this past weekend with a family friend of hers who has twins. The twins are grown now and in their twenties and apparently extraordinarily well-adjusted and accomplished. She proceeded to launch into a lengthy unsolicited lecture on explaning the source of twin success and achievement: difference and individuality primarily fostered through — get this — clothing attire. I should, she argued quite vehemently, NEVER dress them in matching outfits. As she was explaining all this to me she was standing with her arms crossed, with a very disapproving look on her face, watching Kyle and Owen play in their cutesie twinsie sort-of-matching outfits (the outfits they were still emotionally sore about because they weren’t matching enough). Since I was running late (because of the outfit-produced-meltdowns), I didn’t even have time to attempt to explain my predicament to her.

Photos of the Day (Dressing Twins)

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We’re mad. We’re mad at YOU Mama. We’re mad about these outfits. We’re mad mad mad mad mad.

So sad. I’m just going to sit here and suck my thumb. That’s how sad I am. Sad sad sad sad sad.

But not too mad or sad to hug/strangle each other

Wait?! The Laurie Berkner Band video is on?! Who cares what the heck we’re wearing! Rock on! Let’s dance and pound on the t.v. screen!!!

Ben & Ruth Come to Visit!

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Ben swings Kyle (then Kyle gets down, and jumps up and down looking up at Ben saying, “AGAIN!” Then Ben swings Kyle. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.)

Our friends Ben & Ruth came from Delaware to visit. They arrived Saturday afternoon and left today. It was a short overnight visit but it was jam-packed with fun and Ben-Ruth-Kyle-Owen-bonding time! We went on a horse-drawn hayride, ate kettle corn, threw rocks in the river, and played outside a lot! Ben is my dear comrade from grad school, and with Ben & Ruth both having tenure now (yay you two!), it was a real inspiration for us to hear lots about how great life is post-tenure. :)

Kyle snuggling on Ben’s lap on the hayride

Ben hugging Kyle, Kyle loving every second of it!

Photo Shoot: Ruth, Kyle, Owen, and Ben at Trauger’s Farm Market

Owen “up high!”, Ruth enjoying (sort of) the head massage

Kyle, Ruth, Owen, Ben: A Beatiful Fall Weekend

Our Little Eaters

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One truth about Kyle and Owen: They eat a LOT. Always have. At first their intensity about all-things-food was understandable (it was so sad– they had been starving, literally, for their first eight months of life). But it was still shocking and unbelievable how much they could consume at ages 8-9-10 months old. It would break your heart to watch them eat. My mom still talks about it. It was like watching a “little bird” she says. Really, the entire thing was truly heart-wrenching. I could go on and on about so many food/eating-related behaviors from their first few months home. But instead, I just want to talk about the here and now.

O.k., so they are two year olds wearing size “4-5 year” socks. They are HUGE. And they never seem to not be growing like weeds. Other parents talk to me about their kids’ “growth spurts,” and parenting books and pediatric guides I read go on and on about the ebb and flow of baby/toddler growth and eating — our boys seem to clearly defy all the norms. They seem to be in full-time growth/eating spurt since the day we got them. People who see them eat regularly comment on it: “Oh my god, I can’t believe how much they eat?!!!!!!!!” and “Heather, if they’re like this now, what on earth are you going to do when they’re sixteen?!!!!!! Men seem to love to watch it. They’re like, “WOW! YOU GO BOY!!! YOU GO!” Women are appalled. They’re like, “Heather, do you really think that is o.k. for a little child to eat that much?! Don’t you think you should stop them?” (Believe me, I worry too- that their stomachs will explode, or that they’ll make themselves sick. I’ve talked to our pediatrician about this numerous times: she tells me to just let them go and not stop them. Once I had to ask her, “How many bananas can I let Kyle eat per day?” and that was the only time she ever limited the food intake: she said he shouldn’t be eating more than 2-3 per day on average, so we’ve tried to stick to that. She’s been our medical saving grace throughout K & O’s entire adoption so I never second-guess anything with her, and we just do what she says.) Braydon and I are kind of used to it — to seeing how much our boys can consume. Kyle, especially, is truly shocking to watch. I swear, if they had eating contests for 2 year olds, this boy would win every single one he entered. But still, occassionally, even Braydon and I are stunned. Particularly when it comes to pasta… these boys can EAT!

7:00 a.m. this morning — both boys wake up asking for milk

7:30 a.m. — Owen helps me make yogurt smoothies for the boys. (in it: 2 bananas, 1 tub of peach yogurt, 2 cups frozen strawberries, 2 cups orange juice)

7:40 a.m. Owen and Kyle drink up all of the smoothie from the blender.

By our 10:00 a.m. arrival at The Little Gym they had also eaten 2 bowls of dry cereal each.

12 noon: Kyle is done with his lunch. And happy as can be about it. What did he eat? An entire bowl of Panera Bread’s broccoli cheddar soup (rich!) and a large piece of multi-grain baguette (dense!). This is not a “children’s meal” (we don’t even order off the children’s menu there), this is a fully adult-size-meal. A meal that would make many adults comfortably full (I know it makes me comfortably full).

12:30 pm: They’re asleep for nap. I read in the pediatrics books that children only grow when they are sleeping. Must be why our boys sleep so much.


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Twins are challenging in terms of who covers whom. People often tell me sports analogies: “With one, you can trade off and perform full coverage; with two you have to go man to man coverage.” Then the joke goes that with three you have to play zone defense. Right now we’re with man to man coverage, or parent to toddler coverage with both running backs heading for opposite end-zones.

And when you’re working your butt off to have a balanced marriage (which we do every day – sometimes more successfully than others) and balanced parenting it can be down-right nutty. Whose rules go where, what happens when he bites, or kicks, or runs out into the middle of the street? Instant time-out? One warning and time out? Yelling or total detachment? “Do you think that is really productive?” So you celebrate the little accomplishments when they come.

Last night Owen had a “paci-event”, which translated means his pacifier fell out of his mouth in the night while he was sleeping and he wanted it, but was too half-asleep to figure out that it’s in the same place it always is – attached to his pj’s about 3 inches from his mouth.

I woke up hearing him crying out in a very forelorne voice: ‘Mapi’, ‘Mapi’. I realized then, at 2 AM, that he was combining Mama + Papi to come up with Mapi.

It’s the little accomplishments that matter.

Package from Sadie! And… Pumpkins?

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Oh happy day! Oh happy day! After daycare today ANOTHER package was waiting in the mailbox!! This one: from cousin Sadie!!! When I took it out of the mailbox and showed it to the boys Kyle said, “Let’s go open it!” It still feels strange every time one of them uses a full, grammatically correct, coherent sentence!?! We opened it right away.

Guess what was inside?! One “yummy thing” for each boy! Rice krispie treats with dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds mixed in! “I like it!”, said Owen! They ate them right up! THANK YOU SADIE! :) What a great way to start off the weekend! Since the two of them got to have their “yummy things” Braydon and I thought it only fair to start off our weekend with our own “yummy things”: a big glass of wine for each of us. This has been kinda a long week for us here, so we’re glad it is done. TGIF.

P.S. A side note: O.k., so, here’s the thing: regularly arts & crafts projects come home from daycare. Today these two pumpkins were waiting for pick-up with K & O. So, in all seriousness: does anyone out there realistically think that it is humanly possible that my sons actually hand-glued these little foam things onto these pumpkins? The daycare staff swear that the kids make these things. I can kind of believe that some of the kids might make these things — the really good nice well-behaved kids who sit still for big stretches of time and patiently calmly do nice quiet little craft projects. But the thing is that the daycare staff swear that my kids make these things. They say it with a straight face. This has been going on at daycare since K & O were about 14 months old. I simply cannot imagine my boys doing this. Simply cannot imagine! And get this, tonight, during dinner, when I pointed to one of the pumpkins and asked K & O “Who made this?!” Owen said dumb-foundedly, “Hm?” and Kyle said, “Marcus did it.” [Marcus is one of those really good nice well-behaved kids I mentioned above.]

Package from Mormor!

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Owen & Kyle get care packages from their Mormor quite often! Every single time it is a truly exciting and awe-inspiring experience for them — the thrill of it doesn’t seem to wear off, ever, no matter how many packages come, no matter what is in the package (cookies? YAY! YAY! toys? YAY! YAY! clothes? YAY! YAY!). Mormor can do no wrong: all things good come from Mormor (she could send a box filled with crumpled newspaper and they’d be absolutely thrilled). Yesterday a package was waiting when they got home from daycare! Oh happy day! Oh happy day! Guess what was inside? It couldn’t be better: 2 new motor-noise-making toys! A book that makes motor noises and a wood block toy that makes motor noises (note: how ironic is THAT?! read Braydon’s post from yesterday). K & O were enthralled with them both. After reading Braydon’s post you’ll have an idea of just how enthralled they really were. “THANK YOU MORMOR” they said many many many many times over the course of last evening. Oh, how they love Mormor.

It is 7:08 am and the boys are still sleeping. They are usually up sometime between 6:30 and 7:00. This is the first morning in a couple of weeks that Braydon and I have both managed to be up, showered, bags-packed-for-work, coffee made, washing-machine-and-dryer running, everything-ready-to-start-the-day before the boys wake up. This is our goal for every morning, but so often K or O or both beat us to it. It feels good to be one step ahead of them since so often we’re trailing in the dust behind them!


Will boys be boys?

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Right now the boys are obsessed with motors. All things motors, and everything seems to have a motor. Even Owen has a motor – ‘papi, watch me, my motor’ and he points to his bum and makes a motor noise and takes off running. Going a step further, they are obsessed with the lawn mower, the car motor, the weedeater and the chain saw. Every day they want to see the motors in both cars. ‘papi – white car motor?’ I hear when I get back from work. ‘Don’t touch it – it’s hooooot! [sounds like huuuuut]’ I pick them up (all 70+ pounds together) and show them the motor. They can both consistently point to the “motor”, the “air filter” and the “battery”…not that they have any idea what any of those are, but they can do it!. And they can point to the muffler on the cars, on the weedeater and the chainsaw.

I could easily be one of the people to who says “well, they’re boys, of course they love motors!”, and wouldn’t that be so easy. Maybe there is some predisposition to liking motors. But I seriously doubt that embedded in the psyche are the instructions for “locate battery in 2004 Acura and 2000 Volvo, note that they are both next to air-filter, but not the air-filter”. Or that they come pre-programmed with “Make really loud motor noises when looking at machinery – oh and by the way – that’s a piece of machinery.

They might come pre-programmed with things like: “Papi looks at motors, I love my papi and am interested in what he’s interested in. He talks about cars and trucks and lawn mowers all the time, it must be interesting. I’m hardly a developmental psychologist, but I assume that it’s true that I am having a strong influence on them in a wide variety of things that they do – related to motors and otherwise.

Which of course for me begs the question: Will boys be boys? I know we are trying really hard to make them boys (it appears it’s working based on the picture below). But I really really really want them to be good boys. Nice and respectful, thoughtful, generous and super confident boys. That might be harder to accomplish than interesting them in all things motors.

But maybe when I catch Kyle looking in the mirror with his skull cap on dancing and singing “I’m gonna catch you” by Laurie Berkner, it might be working. Or when Owen gives me and Heather a kiss before we leave for daycare we’re on the right track. Or when they offer their lollipop to someone, or when when Kyle gives Owen his lovey lion when Owen is crying – maybe so.

I got this photo this morning from my phone – that’s Kyle bombing down the drive way on the ‘blue’ truck (that also apparently has a motor) and Owen patiently waiting his turn.

Haiti on My Mind

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I don’t know why it is, maybe the change of seasons, maybe because our next door neighbors are in India to bring their newly adopted children home right now, maybe the fact that last October we hit our 8 month mark of our adoption (8 months in the orphanage, 8 months out = a major milestone for an adoptive family)…. I don’t know why, but I’ve got Haiti on my mind even more than usual these past couple of weeks.

Here is the blog of a U.S. missionary family in Haiti right now. I absolutely love this blog. It helps me keep things in perspective — the *complete* complexity of Haiti juxtaposed with the lives of so many of us here in the U.S. Check it out if you’re interested:

Making Brownies, New Shoes

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You really haven’t made brownies, until you’ve made brownies with twin two-year-old boys! It was a rainy day, we couldn’t play outside after work/daycare… “good mothers” bake with their kids on such occassions, right? I tried it. It will be a WHILE before I try that again. And that was even using a boxed mix (do “good mothers” use boxed mixes?). My quest for “good mother” status seems endlessly fruitless.

By this morning, they were all clean and shiny again, and wearing their brand new fall shoes for the first time. I took a photo to show how well they clean up! Notice I cropped the photo so you can’t see that the kitchen is still a wreck! :)


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Kyle and Owen love the bath. Can you tell from the pictures!? Their favorite things to do in the bath are as follows (in order of their preference):

  • splash like madmen
  • “make coffee” — i.e., fill a cup with bath water and say, “here mommy, here’s your coffee!”/”here, papi, coffee for you! careful papi, it’s hot!!!”
  • “make yogurt smoothie in the blender” — i.e., put a cup filled with bath water on the soap-holder-wall-unit-thingy and make very, very loud blender-motor noises for a very, very long time and say, “here mommy, yogurt smoothie!”/”here, papi, yogurt smoothie for you! it’s cold!!!”
  • pour bath water over each other’s heads and their own heads
  • play with bars of soap saying “it’s slippery” and “don’t eat it” (while putting the soap in their mouths to taste it on the sly, dropping them, and then searching for them on the bottom of the tub saying “where is is is is is is is is it?”)
  • pretend the rubber duckies are swimming, diving, jumping, splashing, etc., etc., etc.

Bathtime is fun fun fun for the whole family! 😉

Start of the week

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It’s safe to say that for everyone, some days are better than others. The two days of this past weekend were great for our family; particularly Saturday. Little Gym was great, there were Frisbees for the first time (K&O throw those at home already so it was a riot to watch them launch them across the room). And Charlie and Sandy had a party next door to celebrate their heading to India to complete the adoption. Our family loves social events – all four of us. The weather was gorgeous – a little crisp, a little frost, light wind and sunny afternoons – perfect fall family days.

But maybe it was that Kyle is getting over a cold and was coughing all night, or that Owen woke up needing help with his pacifier several times, or that Heather woke up with terrible stomach pains and was up from 3AM until we got up. Or maybe those things added up – with normal Monday distress over getting back to a normal week – got us off to a difficult start.

Heather and I got up before the boys (to shower and get ready); I made coffee and moved the car seats from the courtesy loaner car to the ‘Black Car’. I heard Owen and Kyle walk from their room to our room – they were up. When I went upstairs, Heather was sitting on the bathroom floor, half-ready with both boys on her lap in their pj’s with all stuffed animals, pacifiers and thumb sucking present. They just needed a little snuggle with their Mommie. We got them dressed, downstairs, warm milk for both boys (‘not cold Papi, just warm’) and shoes on to go to daycare. Owen had his normal transition troubles before we got in the car – he’s going through a bit of a phase with that. What do you expect, he’s 2 1/2! :)

Heather and I typically call each other after daycare drop off to talk about how it went.

Owen had brought a book with him – “Black All Around” it’s one of their favorites right now. When they went into the preschool room he held it up to show everyone – so proud, but folks and kids were busy and they weren’t really paying attention. When they got back to the toddler room, he figured he would try it again and enthusiastically held it up to show everyone. Heather highlighted it with “Owen brought a book in to show everyone!” but it was time for breakfast and they would look at it later. It’s totally understandable, but deflating none-the-less. Poor guy.

They got into their chairs, got their bibs on and were served breakfast (it’s really a great situation when you think consider it). But Kyle looked up at Heather and quietly said “I want Honey Bunny, Mama.” Heather gently told him HB was in the car and that he could have it after day care. “Please, Mama, I want Honey Bunny.” She said, HB’s twin is up in his cubby, did he want him? He did and she got down the HB that he uses to nap with at daycare. He held Honey Bunny up to his face and sucked his thumb while breakfast was served. “Mama, where’s Sheep?” Sheep is in the car, you can have him after day care baby. There is no twin sheep at daycare. There is Lovey Lion’s twin, but Lovey Lion is Owen’s. Heather left to go to work. I know after a few minutes they got into the day and everything was fine, but it’s just very hard sometimes.

Of course, when I got home everything was fine. Heather, Kyle and Owen were there playing outside in the yard. They came running up the driveway when they saw ‘the white car’ and both boys insisted on driving down the cul-de-sac with me – too funny. Owen likes to grab the steering wheel while sitting in my lap. When I try to correct before we drive into a neighbor’s yard and I am informed ‘NO PAPI!’ and he cranks the wheel the otherway. All in all he’s not a bad driver, look out NASCAR… in 20 years. After driving, Kyle needs to go see Papi’s lawnmower (in the garden shed along with the chainsaw and weedeater – they mimic the sounds of each).

So what started off rough ended right. That is of course what happens with you’re in love with your family.

And one last thing: a picture from going to the park last week. They just can’t get enough of throwing rocks in the little river.