Thursday, July 29, 2010

NAFTA - Newborn Animal Free Toy Agreement

I recently had some at-home work, and will soon write about my experiences trying to get work done with two tots who are fascinated by my laptop.  Today, however, I would like to discuss the Newborn-Animal Free Toy Agreement.

Help!  Our Superyard has finally expanded to encompass the entire living room.  No longer are my little ones content to stay in a playpen-like area, no matter how large, for any length of time.  The living room in its entirety is now the baby play area. 

We have the entertainment center blocked off, the fireplace cushioned, the outlets safety-fied.  As long as Dad and I are careful to not leave things on the coffee table, the living room is a safe place where everyone can happily play, as long as Mom doesn't have the audacity to go to another room for a minute.

The only problem is this is the dog's play area as well.  I have not been able to find a way to convince either the dog or the boys that some of the colorful toys on the ground belong to one, while the other colorful toys belong to the other.  The kids and the dog are, naturally, more than happy to share their things. 

Besides the gross-out factor, however, there are other issues with this.  First off, there is always a little concern that the dog will not take kindly to the boys matter-of-factly taking a toy out of his mouth.  So far this hasn't been a problem, but it is always a worry.  Secondly, the dog toys often have buttons and pieces that can come off and will not be safe for babies.  Thirdly, the baby toys do not hold up to dog chewing, meaning our lovely set wood blocks that we searched for no less than 45 minutes at our local Target to find is now short about five blocks. 

The biggest concern, however, is that as the dog destroys both his toys and the guys' toys, he leaves behind shrapnel.  I constantly scour the floor for splinters, bits of stuffed animal stuffing, shards of chewed plastic, resin eyeballs just the right size for swallowing, etc. 

Right now I separate the play area by timing.  When the boys are in play mode, the dog is barricaded out of the living room.  When the boys wind down to cuddle/nap or are eating, he has free reign.  I still have to comb the carpet, however, each time I put the guys down to play.  Otherwise, I find them happily squeaking on an AKC toy duck or investigating a piece of toy innards.

Exhausting!

Monday, July 19, 2010

So Hard to Say Goodbye to the Food Processor

I think I may be accidentally holding the guys back a little on their eating.  They are 10 1/2 months old, but their adjusted age is 7 1/2.  I've been looking up what an 'on track' eight month old is supposed to eat, and we're so not there.

Is this a side effect of making food at home?  Maybe.  Without those little jars with the ages and the pictures of kids at different stages, it is too easy to keep doing the same old thing.

Three times a day, they each get about three tablespoons of food and a bottle.  Twice a day they just get bottles.  While I've been trying to ensure we keep expanding what foods they eat, I have not been changing the texture of their foods.  I have been pureeing all of it into something between a stage one and stage two consistency.  Recently we added little finger foods like cereal puffs, cheerios and biter biscuits.  I stand close by, finger at the ready to scoop food out of the back of a little throat at the slightest sign of trouble!

According to the AAP, at eight months they should be getting about a cup and a half of food 3x daily, two snacks that can be either formula or finger foods, and should be in the process of being weaned off of bottles altogether.  They are supposed to be learning to feed themselves.  By a year, they should be off the bottle entirely, and be eating like a toddler -- cold cuts, cheese squares, fruit bits.  What!?!?  But . . . But . . . They're babies!

I just worry so much about them choking.  After all, they don't have back teeth!  Plus, I have taken much comfort in knowing that they are getting the nutrition they need from their formula.  It's scary for me to start relying on foods.  I think this is going to be a much more difficult transition for me than it is for them.

To jump start myself, I put the food processor in the cupboard last week.  When baby food day came around. I cooked the snot out of everything so it would be plenty soft in their little mouths, but I used a hand masher to mash up their foods to a much more chunky consistency than I was getting with the food processor.  I even cut up some of their carrots and apples so they can start learning to feed themselves at meal times.  Up to now, the little cereal puffs and such have been more like a game we give them to play.

So far, the finger foods really don't make it into their mouths much.  Despite my constant worry about the chunkier baby food, however, the guys are taking it like champs and don't even seem to notice the difference. 

Now I need to concentrate on beefing up the amount of food they get. I am hoping that as they eat more food, they will naturally start reducing the amount of formula they want.  I give them bottles after the food.  I'm not sure about introducing water at mealtimes, how that works. 

In short, I don't know how to make the transition from bottles to food at all!  The books seem to skim over that part.  I imagine I will muddle through, but would have appreciated some guidelines.

Meanwhile, I need to start feeding them proteins.  I have some chicken cooked up and suppose that will need to be pureed, so the food processor will be making another appearance.  Can I resist the urge to zap the carrots in it for a second?  Only time will tell.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The 'Mango as Finger-Food' Experiment

Hypothesis:  Two babies who enjoy mashed mango and feeding themselves cereal puffs will greatly enjoy feeding themselves mango bits.

Experiment Group:  Twin Boys H and K

Method:  Cut ripe mango into bite-sized bits.  Present to babies on booster seat trays.  Observe while preparing mashed sweet potatoes and bottles.

Observations:
  1. K is uninterested in feeding himself bits of mango.
  2. The dog is uninterested in eating bits of mango that have fallen onto the kitchen floor.
  3. It appeared H was enjoying the mango, but further inspection revealed a pile of mango bits discarded on the chair beside him.
  4. The dog remains uninterested in assisting with the cleanup efforts, which is a distinct departure from previous food experiments.
  5. Despite thorough wipedowns with a damp cloth, babies remain sticky until bath time.
Conclusion:  Try the carrots next time

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Why Taking this Picture Made Me Cry

It's just a couple of car seats, right?  Why did taking this picture reduce me to a wet blubbery mess? 

It's because of another picture.  The pic in question was taken way back before diapers, strollers, and pediatricians - before midnight feedings, unexplained rashes, and apnea monitors - before the heart wrenching three months in the nicu, the terrifying night in the hospital, and the agonizing weeks of bedrest leading up to it - before the first glowing months, the elation, the nausea and sore joints happily endured.

Four days before our recommended pregnancy test date, we gave in to the urge and I peed on a stick.  It showed two lines.  I peed on another stick.  Another two lines.  We kept buying sticks and orange juice, and I kept peeing.  The results were all the same, and we wound up with several pictures like this one:
This isn't the picture.


Blood tests confirmed a strong pregnancy.  After a few weeks, I went in for my first ultrasound.  I had much experience with ovary ultrasounds, but none with pregnancy ultrasounds.  Still, when I saw two distinct black pockets in the sea of grey, I had an inkling what that meant.  My heart stopped as the ultrasound nurse said, "Here's your twins.  They look fine.  I'm just checking to see if there's a third baby in there."  The room was silent for a little bit, then Hubby said, "Wait, you're not kidding?  It's really twins?"  Apparently it was obvious from my blood tests, so the nurse thought we already knew.  I will always remember that day, which gave us this photo:
This is not the picture that makes me cry.

Later that day, Hubby said that I had not stopped smiling.  He had never seen me look so happy.  I said, "I'm having two babies!"  He took a photo of me, to always remember my "having two babies" smile.
Despite the desperate unflattering-ness of the photo, it is not the one that makes me weepy.


This one is.



I believe this picture was taken two days after the ultrasound.  Suddenly we needed things.  Strollers, cribs, changing table, a larger place to live . . . the list seemed endless.  We knew, however, that hospitals don't let you take the babies home unless you have a car seat.  Hubby found a sale and we bought these.  It was in this moment, seeing the infant seats unpacked in our apartment, that we began to realize that we were going to be parents.  After all these years, it was going to happen. 

Up to this point, we had spent TONS of money trying to get pregnant, and had made lifestyle changes to support a pregnancy.  We had not, however, bought anything or prepared anything for any actual babies.  The moment we made this purchase was the moment our life changed.  From this point on, everything we do is for or about the babies in some way . 

Now the boys are outgrowing this first purchase.  As I unpacked our new car seats, I remember the day we bought the first pair.  We knew we were embarking on a difficult yet wonderful journey, but we really could not have anticipated all that would transpire over the next year and a half.  We did not yet know our little men, or even that they were little men.  We did not even know if my body would accept a pregnancy, never having been through one. 

So much has happened during the life of those infant seats.  I wonder what experiences the new car seats will see us through.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Yet Another Specialist for My Little Man

We are unspeakably fortunate that all of our medical issues with the guys have been minor and/or cosmetic.  Still, sometimes, I wonder how much my little K can take!  He seems to have caught the brunt of the 'preemie' issues.  Are all premature twins like this?  Is one child often more 'premature' seeming than the other?

So far, since coming home from the hospital, K has seen:
1. A Neurologist to review a slightly abnormal MRI (turned out OK - thank goodness!)
2. A surgeon to correct a hernia
3. A prosthetics specialist to correct his head shape
4. An opthamologist to unblock a tear duct (we are so glad we did this)
5. An Ear Nose Throat specialist to ensure that the c-pap nose is only cosmetic and resulted in no structural damage.

At the pedi this morning, she confirmed he will also need to see a plastic surgeon to correct his cpap nose, which we did expect. 

She ALSO, however, said she would give us a referral to a different kind of specialist for his recessed chin.  I had noticed that K's chin was 'weak' from the get-go, but kind of thought that was just how he looked.  It turns out this is another preemie thing.  His jaw did not fully develop.  In breast feeding moms, this can inhibit proper latching but other than that I don't know if it is a health concern.  I don't know if his jaw is too small, or if it just sets farther back.  I don't know if this is a retainer type of device situation, or a surgery situation.  Either way, it's just one more specialist he has to see, and he's not even a year old.  Poor thing. 

He also has a third nipple.  Possibly a fourth.  And a birthmark on his butt.
Basically, K looks like a preemie and H doesn't.  The more we remove K's preemie-ness, the more he and H look identical.  I wonder if K will always look like a preemie to people who know about that sort of thing.

I'm doing a lot of wondering today.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

"Please Feed My Grandchildren Healthy!"

This is what the mother-in-law said to me while visiting over the 4th of July Weekend.  Laughing while she said it, she also had a hint of desperation in her voice.  Apparently she fears our kids are doomed to a life of poor health misery.  Ah, well.

According to Hubby, this all started when he was a small child and his mother declared sugar to be evil, claimed that ice cream causes diabetes, and threw out all the candy and ice cream in the house.  This would have been in the early eighties, way before most people were worried about carb or sugar intake.  As it turns out, she was not entirely wrong.  She lost over 100 pounds in recent years and kept it off, so she knows a thing or two about a thing or two.  Still, she frequently subscribes to more radical views of nutrition and health.  Currently she is a vegan, aspiring to living a raw foods-based lifestyle, and does not believe in 'good fats,' trying to eliminate all fats and oils including those in avocado, salmon, etc.

We try to convince her that we eat healthy foods, just in unhealthy amounts.  We are not vegetarians, but believe lean meats can be part of a healthy diet.  Our insistence that we eat healthily is somewhat undermined by the bags of potato chips frequently found in our pantry, however.  It's kind of a hard sell that we don't eat processed foods when we have corn dogs in the freezer.  ;)  I admit, it wouldn't kill us to have a little less meat and a little more salad.

When we started the boys on solid foods, MIL shocked me by stating, "there's no nutrition in formula."  She was being supportive of our decision to start the boys on food, but it blew me away!  No nutrition in formula? 

Shortly after starting them on cereal, carrots and squash, I compromised my own desire to introduce several more veggies before beginning fruits, when she just would not let go of the idea that we should give the guys bananas.  This event did lead me to a new understanding of children:  BANANAS ARE CRACK FOR BABIES.  We love feeding them 'naners because it makes them so happy, but it is the one thing they will eat until they literally 'overflow.'  We walk around smelling like banana spit up the rest of the day.  It did not, however, interfere with our introduction of more veggies so all was well and we are glad we offered bananas and later apples.

Lately we've introduced finger foods in the form of animal crackers and biter biscuits.  Apparently MIL just sees that we are giving the kids cookies.  She sees our chips, sees us giving the kids 'cookies,' and now we are terrible parents leading our kids down the path of obesity and diabetes.  This is when she begged us to feed the kids well.

I try to take it with a grain of humor, but it really hurt.  I put a lot of work every week into washing, steaming, and pureeing veggies and fruits for the guys.  They don't get any jarred food.  They don't drink juice -- only formula and water.  I am really, really trying to make sure they get a variety of wholesome foods.  I'm proud of what I have done for their nutrition. 

This is one thing I'm doing right, dammit!

I don't need a medal or anything -- although it would be nice.  Just recognize my efforts, please!

Please note, I love MIL, but she is trying to get me to give the kids Green Tea, refuses to understand why they can't have tomatoes, and twice a week gets a McGriddle for Hubby's 15-year-old brother.  Maybe, just maybe, I know what's right for my babies?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Helpful Hint for Shopping with Twin Babies

Check the shopping cart seat belts before you start transferring the kiddos.

I don't know how other moms of twins do the shopping, but here's my method, now that they are sitting up:

Before they could sit, I used the simple strategy of pushing them in the stroller and not buying more than I could carry in a basket on any trip.  This, of course, meant that what we ate that week was largely determined by which side of the store I started shopping.  When the basket was full, I had stashed a couple of items below the stroller, and was trying to balance a couple of more things against my hip, it was time to go whether or not I had made it to the salad dressing aisle.  It also meant that heavy/bulky items such as our all-important Diet Dr. Pepper had to be purchased by Hubby on his way home from work.  It was an imperfect system, but was all I could muster.

Now I shop at a local grocery store that has double-wide carts.  I find a cart corral that already has carts in it, as far away from the store (and other cars) as I can find.  I park right next to the corral so I can grab a cart and deposit the boys into it without having to involve the stroller.  Parking next to the corral also ensures that at least one side of your car won't have someone else park impossibly close.

Yesterday, however, I parked next to the farthest out corral, got K out of the car, put him in the cart seat, and only then realized that the cart only had one working seat belt thing.  Aaagh!  It was the only cart in the corral.  Now I am faced with a small but pressing dilemma:  load K back into the car, take off my diaper backpack, and drive to another corral?  Nope.  I belted K in to the side with the seat belt, took H out of the car, and carried H, pushing K, to the nearest corral with carts.  Ever try pushing an unequally loaded shopping cart with just one hand?  I bet you have.  It isn't pretty.  Thankfully, one of the carts in the new corral had two working seat belts.  I transferred both guys to the new cart, leaving the rejected cart in its place.  Also thankfully, this was during a very brief break in yesterday's pouring rain.  I wouldn't have been able to maneuver an umbrella into this business.

The rest of the shopping trip went as per usual.  I made the mistake of dressing the guys in matching outfits which ensures twice as many people will need to stop us and talk to the guys.  Of course, it was pouring rain when we left the store and I never retrieved my umbrella so we all got quite damp but didn't actually melt.

In any case, I say to you:  If you employ the park-near-the-carts method as I do, inspect the carts before you start the car unloading process. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Oh, the Horror! - First Major Ouchie

As the mom of twin boys learning to walk, I am accustomed to bumps, bruises, scratches, and the accompanying screams.  The guys bonk their heads on the ground an on each other's heads, they bonk themselves and each other in the face with their toys, they climb on each other and take things from each other.  Little scratches and the occasional red mark or light bruise is kind of par for the course at this point in our family's life.  This morning, however, K had his first actual injury.

It is not serious.  He is totally fine, and did not even require a call to the doc.  I would like, however, to share with you the events AS I SAW THEM as they were happening.

The boys are happily crawling around the entryway, exploring the tile floor.  The electric receptacle has been covered and the coat rack is secured to the wall.  The laundry room is blocked off with a baby gate.  The room is 'safe.'  Suddenly, a sharp cry from K.  It sounds harsher than the usual I-fell-while-crawling-and-bumped-my-forehead cry.  I leap from the sofa where I had been on hold with health insurance, dropping my phone on the floor so the battery falls out (again) and pulling something in the back of my knee.  I drop down in front of K, who is lying face down on the floor next to the baby gate.  He must have been trying to pull to standing and fell harder than usual.  I didn't predict that. 

Cursing myself, I pick him up to discover blood gushing from his mouth and a huge puddle of bright red blood on the floor!  I hold him close as blood soaks my shirt.  I need to look at him, but I comfort him first.  I need a wet cloth.  Run to the kitchen.  Wait.  I don't want to use a dishrag.  Should I get gauze from the bathroom?  No, too far.  Run to the living room, grabbing a clean burp cloth.  Meanwhile, K has stopped crying.  He is not unconscious, but has calmed from the action.  This is good, right?  If he was seriously hurt, he wouldn't be so easily consolable, right?  I hope his tooth isn't broken.  He worked so hard for that tooth.

I stop in the living room to check on H.  He has found the dog's squeaky toy and is happily munching away on it.  Ignoring the 'Ick' factor, I am thrilled to see his is safe and happy to amuse himself for the moment.  When I stopped moving, K started crying again.  My attention returns to him.  I run to the kitchen, wetting the cloth with cold water.  I clean off his face, and let him chew on the cold wet cloth.  Red blooms of blood appear on the cloth.  How much blood has he swallowed?  Can't that make him sick? 

We sit in the rocker and he allows me to have a brief look at him.  His teeth, while bloody, appear to be in tact.  Phew!  Is it his gums that are bleeding?  I can't tell.  I alternate between holding him close, swabbing the fountain of blood, and looking for the source of the bleeding.I tart to notice the swelling on his top lip.  Crap.  Swelling.  I look, and sure enough, I can see where his brand new teeth have cut his lip.  Will Motrin stop the swelling?  Can I give him painkillers, or should I wait in case  we go to the doc? 

The big question, of course, is whether I need to take him to Emergency.  He's swelling.  He's bleeding.  I'm starting to freak.  H has started with sympathy crying, so I must put K down for a moment to placate H.  He is relatively happy in his walker.  Back to K.  I get a grip on myself.  What would they do at the ER?  Give stitches if he needs them.  Does he?  No.  The cut is not large or deep and has pretty much stopped bleeding.  Is the swelling dangerous to him?  No.  His lip is getting puffy but it's not like his throat is swelling.  Is he inconsolable, like the pain is overwhelming?  Does he seem dizzy or out of it like he bonked his head too hard?  No.  At this point, he does not seem to feel much differently from how he feels on a bad teething day.  I give him some Motrin, and rock him for a while.  He falls asleep.  I put him down in his crib, hooking up his apnea monitor just to be safe.  I play with H for a while until he, too goes to sleep. 

I then go to address the blood in the house.  I go to the entry, prepared to mop up a pool of blood.  There is nothing there -- just some drool.  I go to change my bloody shirt.  There is a tiny spot of blood on my shoulder, but mostly the shirt is just damp from the wet cloth.  Could I possibly have exaggerated the situation in my mind?  Is his injury possibly not that bad?

As I sit typing this, K and H are climbing around on the pillows I set on the floor for them.  K has taken a bottle and his lip didn't seem to bother him at all.  It is a bit puffy, but not even swollen enough to show up in the photos I tried to take to send to Hubby.  Looking at him now, it seems ludicrous that just a couple of hours ago I was considering loading everyone up and taking them to the hospital!

Ahh, mommyhood.  How you color my vision of the world.

Here's something to make your toes curl, though:  Upon further inspection, it appears he tore that little flap of skin that connects your top lip to your gums. [shudder, blech!] 

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Second Cranial Band ?!?!?

Aaagh!  Here's something we did not know was a possibility.  K has outgrown his helmet, but his head is still on the narrow side so we will need a SECOND one!  Here we were hoping we were at the end of this.  The poor guy has had to wear this helmet for months, and now we have to go through at least a couple more months. 

Not to mention the cost.  I think that the second helmet should be discounted if not free.  We paid to have our child's head corrected, and it is not my fault that it did not work with one helmet.  Hanger Orthotics, however, does not see it that way.  They feel we paid for one helmet and we have to pay again for a second one.  Making matters worse is that Hubby started a new job a couple of months ago, which means new insurance with a whole new deductible.  We will essentially be paying for this out of pocket.

I wonder if it would hurt anything to wait a while and see if his head keeps rounding out on it's own?  K's adjusted age is almost 7 months, so he has plenty of time to take a month off, but on the other hand we don't want to cause setbacks. 

Sigh.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

My Plan Was Puny!

I thought I could work on the flowerbed while the boys played in the yard.  Nope!  LOL

That's not entirely true.  I can, but it's not very efficient.

See, we bought this house almost exactly a year ago.  It was brand new at the time, and it didn't take us long to realize that the very pretty flowerbed out front had no garden fabric under the mulch.  It's not so much that weeds grew in the bed; it's more that weeds and grass filled in the entire flowerbed.  We tried to keep things in check with liberal applications of RoundUp, but at this point what we have is a bed filled with dead weeds and grass, with a few bushes struggling to survive amongst it all.

I need to make it clear at this point that I am NOT a gardener.  I don't enjoy it, have no idea what the different plants are, and have no interest in spending a hot summer morning on my knees digging in the dirt.  I do, however, appreciate the value of a nice looking front yard.  The flowerbed has therefore been slowly making it's way to the top of my to-do list.

Here was my plan:  After their 8:00 meal, the boys have a couple of hours of extra happy and active time.  Usually this is when we either do 'serious' floor time (working on motor skills) or we go for a walk.  I thought it would be a fun change of pace for the guys to lay a blanket on the grass and let them crawl around outdoors while I tear up the weeds and put down garden fabric.  I figured it would be okay if they crawled off of the blanket, because kids get dirt on them and that's okay.

Today was a perfect day for it -- not too hot in the morning, and the sky was cloudy so their eyes wouldn't be assaulted by the sun.  After the meal, I put fresh diapers on them, and then sunscreen since they wouldn't be under the protective cover of their stroller canopy.  I gathered all my garden supplies and set them out front, then loaded the boys into their wagon, pulled them outside, and set them on the blanket on the grass.

Problem #1:  the sunscreen and dressing process took longer than I expected.
Problem #2:  you can't go back inside for items you forgot.  I forgot the scissors, so was trying to cut and tear garden fabric with the limb shears and it wasn't working out.
Problem #3:  you can tell yourself it's okay for the kids to put dirt or sticks in their mouths, but you can't let it happen.  I spent most of my time outside picking up the boys and putting them back on the blanket.
Problem #4: you worry they're getting too much sun.  With the sun behind clouds, I couldn't tell if they were really in the protective shade of the house.
Problem #5:  you can't go back inside to tend to baby needs.  K had a stinky diaper, which signaled the end of our outing.  I had not brought the diaper bag out.

I got about three feet of garden fabric laid down.

Once we got inside, I started to worry about their skin getting irritated from the grass or sunscreen, or even about them getting chigger bites, so we immediately hit the bath.  The entire experience took about three hours.

All in all, I'm calling it a success!  The guys had a great time, and are now snuggly and soft from the baths.  The neighbors can at least see evidence that we are putting forth some sort of effort.  Maybe finishing the project will need to wait for the next grandparent visit.