Merry Christmas!

Tons of photos – no words really necessary. 🙂

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Getting Ready for Christmas

December has been a busy month! DSC_3260-47

We got our tree on the 8th, put lights on it on the 10th, and finally got some ornaments (and living room lights) up on the 21st. Oops. (We also got some larger outdoor strands for the front of our house…those are still in their boxes.)

Pictures with Santa was on my list, but we kept putting it off and I was afraid we’d never actually get to it. But on Sunday morning before Christmas, we went downtown to the Macy’s Santaland. The line wasn’t long at all (and much better to wait indoors than outside for the Pioneer Santa, though I heard he was a great Santa), and there were several neat Christmas displays in the waiting area, like the animatronic reindeer.

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The Santa part was really quick and really easy. Santa himself was very nice–I realized that one baby was stinky right when it was time to put them on Santa’s lap! I told Santa and he didn’t mind. The babies did not scream and cry; they did their classic, slightly-nervous staredown like they do in all new places.

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In comparison, here is their first Santa photo from last year, when they were only a month old!

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There was more neat stuff past Santa–an old monorail car and this awesome train display:

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A quick photo of me with the babies, too:

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The last piece was our stockings! I grew up with two handmade, personalized stockings–my grandma knitted one for all of us on my dad’s side, and my mom sewed matching/coordinating ones for all of us when I was little. So I wanted to have a new set of stockings for this new family of my own that was also handmade. Last December I asked my mom if she would make some for the four of us. We bought fabrics but there was no time to do anything last year. But this year, my mom was ready to go! She was down here for a day to finish everything up. They turned out really nicely!

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Next year, we will figure out a place to hang them, and we’ll fill them with goodies!

First Birthday Party

At first we weren’t going to do anything for the twins’ first birthday.

See, we still don’t know that many people here, and their birthday falls near Thanksgiving, when a lot of people leave town, plus I didn’t want to plan a “thing” or even have an official “to-do.” Plus of course, the babies don’t know anything, a party wouldn’t mean anything to them.

But after going to a friend’s baby’s first birthday party (which was nicely put-together and well-attended), we thought about it and decided that we should mark the occasion with some kind of event.

So we decided on  the Sunday after their birthday, and invited all of our friends with babies. We found some decorations at Party City, and I looked up a few recipes to try for snacks, and I made a plan for cake. Just a casual get-together, really.

For decorations, I kept things really simple. No pinterest here–nothing chevron, no striped straws, no drinks in mason jars, no hand-lettered signs labeling the cheese and crackers. That is not my style, at least not for this kind of thing. (If that is your style, awesome!)

There was a banner, because a) it was a great backdrop and b) we can use it in the future:

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I made this fun streamer ‘curtain’! It was supposed to also serve as a fun photo backdrop, but I never got around to that.

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I printed out all of the babies’ monthly and holiday photos from this past year, and strung them up on a ribbon. (Here it is at the end of the night, on the floor.) It was neat to see them all together like that! I always like looking back and seeing how much they still look like themselves, only smaller and slightly less-fully-formed.

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Somewhere on a facebook page, I read about a recipe for Carrot Apple Cheddar Bites as a tasty toddler snack. They stunk horribly of egg while cooking, but got good reviews by all who tried them!

I decided not to deal with making a cake from scratch and got some box mixes and frosting. I made a batch of chocolate cupcakes and two chocolate cakes in loaf pans (one for each baby, of course), because I found this adorable first birthday cake idea from Betty Crocker:

No. 1 Cutout Cake

So cute and so perfect, right? Here’s what mine ended up as:

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Nailed it! Bahahaha!!!

I made the cakes that morning, and they were so light and fluffy! Cutting out the shape with the paper template actually worked pretty well. But I learned a good lesson: pay attention to the part that says refrigerate cake before frosting it! Should have made it the night before. Also, get extra frosting.

We only had a few people, and two other babies. Everyone played for awhile and then it was time for the celebrating!

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We put the cakes on their high chair trays and sang happy birthday to each of them. They were not sure what to think about any of it! They poked and stared at the cakes. Malcolm did figure out that he could eat it, but Emmett didn’t–I gave him a piece. Neither really wanted much, and neither really wanted to dig in their hands. Oh well. More cake for mama. 🙂

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I ended up being really glad that we did the little ‘party.’ First, because I wanted pictures of it, but also, it was nice to make it an event: to purposely think about and celebrate a whole year of these wonderful babies, and us as a family of four. Even better that we got to share with a couple other people – I hope that we continue to build a community here in Portland in the coming years. I can’t wait for these guys to be old enough to actually play with our other baby friends!

Second Haircuts

After the babies turned eleven months old, they had some seriously shagadelic hair going on. It was getting ridiculous, so I bit the bullet and booked for their second ever haircuts.  IMG_2051-22

After the fiasco last time, I decided to do the haircuts on a day our nanny was here, so that she could go with me as an extra set of arms and hands to hold and soothe babies.

This time, though, there was no freaking out and no crying! Both babies stayed calm the whole time. They weren’t, like, laughing and happy, but they were not upset. Emmett even started playing with the car chair he was in!

PHEW.

Also phew to get some of the masses of hair cut off–it was so thick everywhere!

But I was dreading how suddenly grown-up they might look…and I was right. 😦

What I didn’t plan on was the Dumb and Dumber hairline cuts around the babies’ faces. I wanted a lot cut off the front so that their bangs wouldn’t grow back in like five seconds, but isn’t it possible to have short hair at the top and front without it being shaped like a circle? At least Emmett’s hair sticks up at the back, so that hair height takes away some of the roundness. But Malcolm’s hair sits flat and so his whole head looks round. :/  Clearly I need to find an actual haircut to suggest next time we go to a salon.

Regardless, I’m still glad that they got a haircut! And I’m so glad they were calmer this time. Maybe someday they’ll be more animated and happy when we’re there.

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Look at these grown-up babies!!

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10 Surprising Things I’ve Learned This Year

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(two weeks old, E on left, M on right)
One of the scariest things about being pregnant was not knowing how it would be to actually have a baby, and not knowing how I would deal with the various challenges. Being new at this, I was pretty worried that everything would terrible and horrible and super crazy hard. And some of it *was* terrible and difficult. But some of it hasn’t been so bad–in fact, there has definitely been some good stuff. And I have learned a lot–some practical, and some philosophical.
1. Turns out I love babies.

I never hated babies, but I was never a baby-fever kind of girl. Some people dream for years of being a mom–that wasn’t me. But now that I do have babies of my own–babies are awesome! I can never get enough of them. They’re so tiny and cuddly and sweet! That’s why I am so excited when I find out someone is pregnant–they get a sweet little baby to snuggle! There is NOTHING better than cuddling a tiny baby.

[I now know that there are “baby people” and “non-baby people”, which makes me even more nervous for the toddler/older kid stages, if the baby stage was my favorite.]

2. I can be a lot more patient than I thought.

In general, I’m not a terribly patient person–I hate slow walkers and slow drivers, and other things that seem to take too long. But as it happens, I’m a lot more patient with babies (most of the time). I think it’s because the babies don’t know any better and they can’t help it. They can only cry, and they have zero tolerance for frustration, because they’re like proto-people still. (I am worried about how I’ll be with bigger kids who DO know better.)

Juggling one or two babies is hard. Especially when it’s the middle of the night, again. Or when both babies are crying at the same time. Talking it out loud helps me get out some of the energy and I always hope that something is reaching the babies–at least my voice if not my arms at that moment. Also, when they were smaller, this is when the baby swing or the sling were lifesavers. (Why can’t they make stationary swings for toddlers??)

When I do get overwhelmed, sometimes my husband is around to help or take over if I need a break. And when he’s not, I just try to take a deep breath and try to get through it, remembering that at some point it will be over. Sometimes I panic and feel really annoyed and frustrated–I’m no saint! Sometimes, honestly, I have to just laugh because it’s so ridiculous and there’s nothing to do. I took a video once, when I was home alone with babies, I was pumping and they were on the couch on either side of me, screaming. And we were all just kind of stuck. I couldn’t do much but roll my eyes and shake my head. And then record it for posterity. 🙂

3. Baby farts and burps are funny.

I’m not one of the tomboy girls who thinks it’s funny when grown-ass dudes burp and fart all over the place. However–that same fart ripped from baby butt is somehow hilarious. I guess that means I’m not as grown-up as I thought. 🙂

4. Babies are noisy in general.

I knew that babies cried, and that they most likely would cry a lot, all the time, for no reason. I didn’t know that when they weren’t crying, they still make a lot of noises. Especially while sleeping, our babies made all kinds of sounds–it was like a barnyard! We heard pigs, horses, hyenas, and sometimes an old movie villain.  There were also squeaks and peeps and snorts and grunts. At night, these sounds would startle us awake to go check on the babies–who were often still asleep! It also made it hard for me to nap while they napped nearby–too noisy!

5. I can indeed survive on less sleep.

This was honestly one of the things that scared and intimidated me the most about having babies. I love to sleep in (which was never as often as I wanted) and I also love to stay up late, which meant that I rarely got enough sleep. The prospect of being awake all night every night for months on end was a little (a lot) terrifying. The reality wasn’t much better. You’re thrown in to a new situation–a time when you really need as much as rest as you can possibly get. And then you get hardly any. The first couple weeks, we would ‘go to sleep’ after a feeding at like 2am and set an alarm for 4am and good god, it’s like torture. Inhuman.

Things did get a lot better, eventually! (Partly because my husband and I built ourselves a better schedule.) But god, it’s really hard sometimes. (There’s another sleep regression coming soon….help me!) A lot of times, there’s nothing to be done, you just have to get through it. And that *sucks*.  If an opportunity for you to nap comes up, TAKE IT, FOR GOD’S SAKE, TAKE THAT NAP.

As an aside, I tend to believe that sleep is necessary for sanity, so I would encourage parents to do whatever they need to do to get more/some rest.

6. New babies are boring.

I mentioned this months ago–but I didn’t realize that since newborns just sleep and eat…they don’t do anything else. Which means that, in many cases, you can’t do anything else. [C-section recovery plus the logistics of lugging two babies and their stuff meant I didn’t do anything or go anywhere at all for at least four weeks. An easier birth/recovery and a single baby means that you can use a carrier to get out and about easier and faster.]

I always figured that since new babies are so overwhelming, it would mean that you’d be busy. And you are, for some parts of the day. But if the baby is sleeping 16-20 hours a day (which is what newborns do, especially pre-term babies, I think), then you have a lot of time to just sit around. In small chunks. However, you’re way too braindead to *do* anything with that time, since you’re not getting any sleep (naps often made me feel more tired and groggy, so I didn’t try to sleep every time the babies slept). This is why you want a Netflix subscription.

7. I do not have those classic attachment issues.

Some people don’t sleep well in the first few months even when they’re able, because they worry about the baby, or they want to constantly check on the baby. I have never had that problem. If I had the chance to sleep, I slept, and I slept hard, thank you very much. Yes of course, I checked my babies’ breathing every night before I went to bed. But once it was bedtime, goodnight ma’am, I’m out. If there was a trusted visitor here for a chunk of time, see ya, I’m taking a nap. (Again, sleep is precious!)

That’s another thing–some people are anxious about other people caring for their babies. I am not one of those people. As long as it was a trusted family member or friend (or a qualified childcare provider), I knew things would be fine. I wanted to sleep, or to go outside by myself for a bit for some air. Possibly it makes me a bad or selfish mama, but I have not had any issues with putting some of my own priorities at the forefront for a few hours and leaving someone else in charge.

8. I am not quick to accept change.

I like to think I’m adaptable and can easily go-with-the-flow. In some ways I can be, but in a lot of ways, I hate change and new things (especially if they aren’t my idea). I tend to gripe and groan, and I definitely tend to hold on to the past. None of this is actually a surprise, just one of my bad qualities that has played a part in this baby-having adventure.

There are plenty of good changes that we’ve had (sleeping more! adapting schedule!), but the sheer amount of change has been startling. *Everything* is always changing! I’m not ready to give up my little babies yet! Not fair!

Ahem. I’m working on taking in the details every day and enjoying things as they are right now. It’s tough sometimes. 🙂

9. There is no such thing as too many photos.

Okay, anyone who knows me knows that I love taking pictures. And that I take too many pictures. In the last thirteen months, I have taken thousands of pictures of my babies. And I still want more.

Most importantly, I desperately want more quality photos of the early days of *me* and my babies. I have a number of dark, crappy iphone selfies and only a handful of photos from my real camera (with the speedlight flash, because it was December and practically always nighttime). Since I’m the photographer in the family, I had to set up the camera and then ask my husband to take a picture. Who wants to do that every other day?

I also really, really wish I had more photos of me interacting with the babies. Most of the ones I do have together are the posed on the couch type, where I’m smiling at the camera. Over the months, I have captured a lot of adorable moments of my husband and a baby or two playing together, just casual snapshots that captures them having fun and loving one another. I have hardly any of me having fun with the babies, because again, since it’s my camera, I have to set up the thing and ask for it to be captured. My husband is always willing to do it, but there’s something about expending the mental energy to ask, and of course losing the spontaneity of the moment. And really, it’s hard when I can visualize the photo I want, but I can’t magically import that vision into someone else’s mind to take it the way I’m thinking, so there goes more time and effort and shots and babies are done now.

However–see point number 8. I need to remind myself that I *do* have some precious photos of me with my babies this past year. And that I can resolve to do better in the future.

But please, learn from me. Take pictures, and then take more pictures. And videos of noises and movements are so especially priceless! Make sure you AND your partner look to capture fun and beautiful moments of both of you and your new snuggly babies. 🙂 (And then print them out. But that’s another post!)

10. Did I mention how awesome baby snuggles are??

 

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Did you learn anything surprising about yourself or about babies in your first year of parenting? I’d love to hear it! And/or–what interesting things have you parents of toddlers learned about the second year of parenting? I know there is SO MUCH still to learn and experience! [But don’t scare me more than I already am! :D]

Intentions

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One of the great things about a very tiny baby is that you have explicit permission to do whatever works. Anything that gets you through the day, anything that gets that baby to sleep or stay calm, DO IT! Guilt-free! Safe in the knowledge that you are helping your baby be happy and healthy! It’s temporary anyway!

But then babies get older, they ‘graduate’ from the ‘fourth trimester’ and then…things count. You want to start creating routines and work on healthy expectations.

And now that they’re A YEAR OLD,  we’re staring down the barrel of toddlerhood. Big babies and little toddlers know what’s going on. They have some opinions on things, rudimentary though they may be, and they will let you know what those opinions are, in their rudimentary way!

Routines and expectations are starting to seem really important now. Things are getting a lot more permanent, or pre-permanent, if you will. We’re building the foundation for the next couple years and the rest of their lives. No pressure! We have to give them and teach them the ‘right’ skills and habits.**

And so of course I worry about being intentional enough, about being attentive enough, about knowing enough of what to be intentional and attentive about!

I’m not singing to them enough–we didn’t even start any singing until they were like five months old. I’m not doing movement with them. I’m not doing any classes with them. I’m not pointing out and naming enough objects. I haven’t done sign-language with them. I’m not rocking them all night while looking blissfully at their faces. I’m not wearing both babies 24/7. I’m not teaching them Spanish or Mandarin. They’re not watching Baby Einstein or listening to baby genius podcasts (I hope I’m making that one up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it exists for real). I let them play by themselves for whole minutes at a time. They even have plastic toys that make noise!

In this age of endless books and online articles and Pinterest, there’s just SO MUCH. I don’t want to do it all. I don’t want to worry about it, really, but part of me does anyway. How can I not, with all this “make your baby the best” that we’re constantly bombarded with? Does everything our babies eventually do now really make or break their future selves? Really?

I want to say that we’re doing the best we can: that we are loving our babies, and trying to teach them and give them experiences when we can. They love ‘reading’ books and playing with blocks in addition to the plastic crap. We take them on walks. We give them hugs and kisses and tell them we love them. I hope that’s enough for now. I hope that will help them grow into good little people.

If they don’t, I guess it’s all my fault.

**According to this asshole, our babies will grow up to be depressed, drug-addled sociopaths because we fed them formula, let them cry for a few minutes sometimes, and put them in cribs in a separate room. Yes, that’s really what she says. I guess we should just give up now.

One Year

A whole year. Twelve months. 52 weeks. A year.

A year of being a mama.

I’m terrible with time anyway, but these months have been both fast, slow, easy, hard, and many other cliche opposite extremes. They have flown by at a snail’s pace.

Sometimes I try to remember last year, the experience of two babies on the inside of my body, and what a very strange and scary prospect it was. I remember how much it hurt to move while I was lying down, and I try to remember how really freaking cool it was to feel two babies rolling around in my tummy.  The kicking and the hiccuping and the salsa dancing on the inside of my body.  I also remember the uncertainty, the questions, the unknown of our future.

And now I have these giant babies, with faces and personalities, and I try to think back and reconcile, and think about them still being them, just on the inside. And it blows my mind.

I am still in such wonder and awe that these no-longer-tiny creatures grew inside my body. I mean, it’s a freaking miracle! And it happens all the time and everyone thinks theirs is a miracle, and it is.  But of course, mine are special, because they’re mine.

My birth experience was strange and surreal for me–it wasn’t wondrous or blissful or full of maternal joy. But when I held those little bodies up to my own body…it was perfect. Wonderful. Absolutely the best feeling I have ever felt. Not loud or obvious or fireworks. It was a quiet feeling of fullness, happiness, amazement, comfort, relief.

When the babies were teeny tiny, I would lean close to them to check their breathing, and every time I would be amazed and awed at the sound of their breath. They were breathing! Like real people! Who used to not exist! And now they did! Because my body literally gave them breath and life! Seriously–it’s incredible.

As they have grown and learned so many things, I have been truly amazed and agog to see the process of these tiny creatures growing and becoming. Once helpless blobs, and now moving, curious thinkers and explorers. Turning into people. It’s like a little miracle every day.

One of my favorite parts has been seeing my babies recognize me and smile at me. They know me! Their little faces light up, and my face lights up right back. It melts my heart a smidge every.single.time.

Every morning I am so happy to see my babies. Of course, every morning I am also exhausted and want to still be asleep, but it’s not an exaggeration to say that when I see them, I’m not tired anymore. (Well, temporarily, at least.) I can’t help but smile at them so big and feel so happy that they’re there, and that they’re mine.

Every evening we do bedtime stories in our living room. The babies are big enough and steady enough now that I can get them both sitting on my lap, and while my husband reads them a book, I just get to hold them, and squeeze them, and I kiss their sweet faces at almost every page. I can’t possibly hold them close enough or kiss them enough or memorize it enough.

They are so wonderful. And they’re mine!

I have two babies. This never ceases to surprise me and amaze me. I am a parent, a mama. A mother. To two small children, two small sons. These are common everyday words, but it still feels uncommon to me.

And they’re not technically babies any more. This never ceases to break my heart. It’s such a struggle to embrace the present, their presence, to live in the moment of what they’re like right now. My default seems to be wistful. They were so tiny at first. I didn’t pay enough attention, I didn’t know how much and how quickly it would change. I didn’t embrace it or memorize what it was really like. I was just trying to survive the days. And then the early days were suddenly over and I wasn’t quite prepared to move on so quickly. I’m trying to be more conscious about absorbing the moments now.

I hug them and hold them tight every day as much as I can. It’s never enough, is it?

Every day I get to hug them is the best day. It boggles my mind to think of all the days and years and changes to come, and what a privilege it will be to watch these little babies grow up. I hope I am worthy to be their mama. I am so happy and grateful I get to be their mama.

Oh, my sweet babies.