What It Means to Have Two Babies at the Same Time

DSC_7951-18_WEBOnly one pregnancy but two babies!

One pregnancy but a lot more risk, worry, and monitoring.

Both mom and dad get to hold and hug a baby. No jealousy.

If multiple visitors come over, there are two babies to hold and snuggle. Babies all around!

Every time I give one baby a big hug, I feel the need to give the other baby a hug too, lest he feel left out. Same with saying I love you, cooing over cuteness, etc.

When one baby is making developments/meeting milestones, I worry about the other one if he’s not.

When I need to take them upstairs to nap and can only take one at a time, I have to think who I carried up first last time. I don’t want to always do one first and make the other one feel left out.

Same thing when they wake up from a nap–who to take first and make sure I’m alternating. (Our nanny has the same thoughts on this one, by the way.)

It is quite a feat to feed and burp two babies at once. Especially if you’re simultaneously pumping.

I worry about posting pictures unevenly, and as a corollary I often purposely alternate individual shots of them.

As another corollary, I’ll take similar shots of each and make a diptych so I’m not showing photographic favor of one over the other.

I don’t always like listing out their developments (even in my head) because inevitably one does something first and I don’t want the other one to feel bad. You know, in fifteen years when they’re reading internet antiques through their mind chips.

When they were itty bitty newborns, I could put both of them on my chest at once. Holding one baby on your chest is awesome. Two is exponentially more awesome.

I can’t pick up both of them at the same time (or at least not without hurting myself). So if they’re both crying, I can’t equally comfort them both.

I can sit down and hug them both. As they’ve gotten older, though, they’ve gotten not just bigger but also squirmier, so it’s tough to keep them both in my lap.

They will now try to comfort their upset brother: Hugs, gentle pats, fetching of lovey or bottle.

It’s a calculated risk to change one diaper because the other baby/toddler is now free to get into mischief.

They fight over toys. Even if they are both holding identical toys, each wants brother’s toy.

Every time you go to buy something, you have to decide if you should buy only one, or if you really need two.

The cost of most everything doubles. And/or, things last half as long.

Sometimes things come in sets of two already, which feels like a secret hat tip to twin parents.

Double strollers, though they can be great for what they are, will always be way more unwieldy than single strollers.

You can’t–well, I can’t–push a double stroller and a grocery cart at the same time. Therefore going shopping before they’re old enough to sit up in a cart is pretty much a no-go.

Once they are big enough for the cart, only one baby can sit in it, while the other baby has to be stuck in a carrier. (Except for Costco with their double carts!)

It’s really hard to take two babies to a class or solo outing. For one, you have to make sure that you can take one out of the stroller and leave the other one safely. Then, you have twice the work and twice the weight to carry/adjust.

They crawl and walk in opposite directions.

They entertain each other and themselves.

They will play by themselves, independently.

If they’re both into mischief, you can’t carry them both away. Once you move one, the other has gone back into the mischief, so you move that one, but the first made it back again…etc etc.

If one wakes up crying in the middle of the night, he might wake up the other one. If so, you can only pick up one at a time. Which then means a terrible cycle of pick one up and calm him, listen to the other cry. Put first one down, pick up and calm the second one, first one starts crying again. And so on.

If one makes some noise in the middle of the night, you may not know who it is unless they’re still actively crying.

They may not nap at the same time, or for the same amount of time. Which means that you can’t always bank on naptime for things like cleaning, reading, tv, or mama naptime.

If one is sick, both have to stay home from daycare.

The pediatrician co-pays really add up fast with two babies who rotate getting sick.

You don’t always have time or brainpower to use their names, and refer to them as ‘this one’ and ‘that one.’

When you pick up two babies from daycare, that means two sweet faces to light up, and two sets of little legs to crawl or toddle over, and two sets of little arms to hug you.

Nothing is ever easy with twins.

Life is never boring with twins!

The Mama Matters

I’m in a lot of online groups, and many of them revolve around parenting or babies/kids. Often there are posts from moms who are exhausted and frazzled and emotional. I never have much actual advice, but I like to chime in and say something like, “Your mental health and sanity is really important. You matter too, mama!”

A few weeks ago, it hit me like a brick: I’ve been talking to myself.

*I* matter. My subconscious has been hard at work trying to convince me, all this time.

The first few weeks (months? I have no idea) of life with twins, I cried about many things (though I did my best to do it quietly or out of the way. It wasn’t all the time or anything. I don’t think?). I felt frustrated at many things, and I was trying really hard to do All The Things. I kept trying to make my husband take it easier, or not do as much–like go take a nap, or watch some extra tv or something. And he never listened to me. Which I found (and still do find) extremely, extremely frustrating. He would say something about me taking a nap or taking some time ‘away’ or whatever, and I would say, “No, I don’t matter.”

And then I would tear up or actually cry. Because at the same time, I felt two conflicting emotions: that I and my needs truly did not matter, and that it made me fucking sad that I thought I didn’t matter.

Now, my husband was and is pretty much the best partner in this baby thing as anyone could dream of. It’s never been a question that he does the babycare/parenting work. He’s not a babysitter or an “involved dad”; he’s just a parent. No question. So even though we have twins, which is fucking hard, our twins have been good babies, and I’ve had it really pretty good. We got a nanny two days a week when the babies were 2 months old, mostly so that I could do things like take a nap and go outside by myself. Seriously, I have nothing to complain about.

But those first few brutal weeks, I still felt like I didn’t matter. That I was not important, unworthy. The least important person in the house. I stopped saying it, because it made my husband upset (rightfully so!), but I continued to feel it.

Once a new baby arrives, all the attention is directed there. When new twins arrive, there is lots and lots of attention! Not just out at the grocery store, but at home. And not just between the nuclear family, but also the extended family. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, everyone’s so excited and thrilled about the adorable squishy baby! And well they should be–babies *are* exciting! (Well, more in theory than in practice; generally they just sit there.) But the parents–especially the mother, I think–get lost in the baby shuffle. Nobody  pays attention to the new mom.

Plus there is or was some remnant in my head of the idea that anything the dad did, was extra, bonus, not to be expected. So I felt guilty, and extra grateful, and extra dependent, and extra beholden. And I was beholden–I physically needed him to do a lot of work those first days, as my body recovered from the c-section.  But I also didn’t want to put him out too much. I didn’t want to be helpless.

Listen to me: I didn’t want to put him out too much? Like I would have to tiptoe and hope and beg for such a favor as to please change diapers today because my torso was sliced open a few days ago and my drugs aren’t doing enough?

There’s a lot of culture at play here–I would have sworn I was immune to this patriarchal nonsense. But look at these words coming out of me without even realizing it! It’s a real thing that women, especially mothers, do and want to and should (????!!!) put themselves last. Because they don’t matter. Or because what their kids or spouses want is more important, and the mom has to make sure to accommodate all of that and mitigate all of that, because her own needs have to take a backseat.

It’s hard to really see and escape this kind of thinking that’s embedded in our society. Sorry, I didn’t mean to get political, but it’s kind of really the core of the issue here.

I didn’t think I mattered.

If that’s not something to make you/me tear up, I don’t know what is. It’s heartbreaking! But apparently it’s taken me this long, and the impartiality of a social network screen, to learn the lesson that I matter. That I was and am an important person, not just for the sake of my children, but for my own sake, as a fully functioning human person. I’m not a vessel or a robot. I’m allowed to have space, time and opinions of my own. (How very 20th century of me!)

So, listen. No matter what: YOU MATTER, MAMA. Always. Along with your partner, you are one of the two most important people in your new baby/ies’ life. Of course your baby needs a lot of attention, and grueling, tedious attention it is for the first few endless weeks. (But you’ll also get to snuggle with your sweet new baby!) Parental needs get pushed to the back burner for awhile.

But, please please remember: You are a person too. You are not just a feeding/diapering machine. You have wants and needs, and you are allowed to have them. And! you are allowed to get them. Sleep is a biological need, not a selfish want. So naps aren’t indulgent, they’re necessary! You deserve to be at your struggling best–you probably need some rest, time and space away for a few minutes. Away from everything and everyone, blessed quiet for your frazzled new-mama mind. It doesn’t have to be a day at the spa (though you certainly deserve a massage at the least!). Just a few minutes to breathe. A few minutes to take a shower, walk through the grocery store aisles, feel the sun on your face–all without a tiny person all up on you, demanding all of your attention and energy. A few minutes to be YOU.

Maybe that means your partner hangs out with the baby/babies solo for awhile. Maybe it means that your free time is only in the evening. But go find that time. Ask for it, demand it. Figure out a way for each of you to get some naps, some alone time, to get some you time, to get that space and that silence. It is so, so important.

You’ll feel better, and you’ll be a better parent for your sweet new baby. Your baby deserves healthy, rested parents

YOU MATTER.

Things I still think about, six months later

I wrote this over a year ago, when my babies were only a few months old. I never published it at the time partly because I wasn’t sure how it would be received–I never read  about these kinds of opinions and experiences. And partly because after I wrote this, I realized that I felt a lot better. Getting it all out on virtual paper proved to be truly cathartic, and a year later, yes, I’m still annoyed, but nowhere near as upset and emotional. I decided to publish it now in order to get it out there for anyone else who might be able to relate. I have edited a few details and fleshed out the links at the end, but kept it mostly how I wrote it. Sorry that it’s a little disjointed.

If you talk about or read about birth, chances are you’ll hear about a woman who is devastated about her birth plan going awry and having to endure interventions that she didn’t want. That the birth went completely opposite of how she wanted a beautiful, natural experience. You might also hear about someone who was ‘forced’ or coerced into using formula, or who wasn’t encouraged or supported in breastfeeding.

I had the opposite experience.

I’m still irritated, angry, sad, about breastfeeding. It wasn’t my attempt, it wasn’t something I wanted to happen. For two solid days someone was poking and prodding at me, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t want it. I didn’t know why it was happening.

I think during the intake questions before the c-section, the nurse asked if I wanted to breastfeed. I think I said, sure, I’ll probably try it. I guess I thought they were asking just for informational purposes or something? But that was it. Nobody laid out what would happen or what that would actually, logistically mean for me and these two new babies.  Nobody asked me anything about it after the babies were actually born. Certainly nobody told me that whatever I had said would result in such a frenzy of unwanted activity.

It literally only occurred to me like 5 months post-partum that I could have said STOP. I had just had two people cut out of my abdomen, and my system was full of various drugs. I felt completely helpless and I was completely out of it, physically and emotionally.  Half the time I wasn’t sure if I was awake or asleep. I had no idea what was happening but this stupid breastfeeding thing CLEARLY wasn’t going to work with no milk. Duh. What the ever-loving fuck did they think was going to happen?!

It never even occurred to me to say no, any more than it would have occurred to me to start tap dancing on the ceiling. I was in the hospital and nurses were taking care of me. They knew what was going on. I didn’t know what I was doing; I had never done any of this before!

I think back to that recovery room. My first minutes with these brand new babies, but I didn’t get to enjoy them–I mostly remember that dumb frazzled nurse trying unsuccessfully to latch two 36-week-old babies to my very dry boobs. Seriously, what did she think would happen? Even I knew it wouldn’t work! Why couldn’t they have just left me alone? Why couldn’t they have ASKED me what I wanted to do? If someone had asked me if I wanted to breastfeed–as in, right then, not as in a hypothetical, sure I’ll try it–I would have said no.

She (and the other nurse she brought in because she couldn’t handle two babies) must have eventually backed off or given up. I so wish that I had a better memory and know why and how. Did I tell them to give it a rest? (No. I so wish I had.) Did they just get tired of trying to force something that wasn’t going to work? What made them finally go away?

It makes me kind of mad, and kind of sad. It’s such a frustrating thing to remember and I really wish I could go back in time and slap that nurse’s hands away from me.

But again, it literally didn’t seem like it was my decision. It’s like my body wasn’t mine.

And I feel like I’m the only one who feels this way about breastfeeding.

The hospital was a great hospital, and I loved the rest of the nurses during my stay there. I felt cared for and cared about. This hospital–and many hospitals–boasts of being ‘baby-friendly.’ The more I learn about what that actually means, I’ve come to think of it as ‘mama unfriendly.’ There’s no nursery to give you a break. One nurse sort of broke a rule and took the babies for two hours one night. And those two hours of blessed silence made a huge difference for us. If we had had that first night to sleep and rest and, I don’t know, start to RECOVER FROM THE MAJOR SURGERY I’d just had, I would have felt so much better and more with-it. I understand that rooming in with your baby gives time to bond and a better chance at breastfeeding. But why didn’t we have an option? A choice? Why weren’t my boobs allowed to be in peace? Why on earth are the baby and the boobs more important than the mama who owns the boobs and who just birthed that baby?

I think that’s a key factor–all these well-meaning lactivist folks are thinking about the baby. I guarantee you that the baby has no idea what’s going on. The mama is the one you need to worry about. There need to be guidelines, sure. But why can’t there be very clear questions, options, or statements given before and after the birth happens?

They need to re-name “baby-friendly” to “breastfeeding friendly” because, really, that’s all they’re trying to do.  Apparently that’s all that matters–not what mamas may actually want or need. All the things they do are done solely to encourage breastfeeding. (That’s not hyperbole, either–go look at the policies.) If the goal were to encourage bonding, they would give mothers the OPTION to get some goddamned rest. Our hospital apparently no longer had a regular baby nursery, so we were forced to be woken up every ten minutes by our two newborns. I can tell you that both my husband and I would have been exponentially more sane had we had at least one night of good, solid sleep in the hospital. And I promise, our bonding with our new babies would not have suffered one bit. It might have even been better, if we hadn’t been so desperately exhausted.

Here are two semi-relevant articles that really spoke to me:

America’s Post-Partum Practices

We were in the hospital for four nights, and I would have happily stayed a lot longer (well, if they would have stopped waking me up every two hours, that is). It was a relief and a blessing to have knowledgeable people coming in to help and advise us all day long. To not feel alone.

“The problem is that no one recognizes the new mother as a recuperating person, and she does not see herself as one.” I actually did–but didn’t always have the luxury of acting like it, with two babies to care for.

“Perhaps if we started talking about the time and energy it actually takes to recuperate from childbirth, women wouldn’t feel the need to return as quickly as possible to “normal.””

And a Jezebel piece about that same article: Stop Acting like Bouncing Back from Labor is Even Possible

THIS: “What’s really cool is that, on top of all this you’re-on-your-own-sucker bullshit, the conversations a new mom will likely encounter are along the lines of: “Do you love it?! Is it everything you dreamed?!””

I have no doubt that many women have a blissful, zen-like post-partum experience. I was not one of them.

Things Right Now

I have mentioned the hugging in a couple other posts. But seriously. It is the best thing. Especially when I pick them up at daycare: when they see me, they get this big smile, walk over to me, and put their arms around me.

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Babies have started getting into our trash cans. They know how to open the flappy lid of the kitchen trash, and they like playing with the lever of the diaper pail. Also, they like to put things *in* the diaper pail (the hole in the top–we have a Diaper Champ).

They love yogurt. They will happily lick the Chobani lid, and try to lick the empty container.

Best of all, I once found Malcolm with a yogurt container that he’d just fished out of the trash. Nice.

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They’re walking all the time, no crawling for weeks now. And they’re climbing–up and down stairs; clinging onto the highchair; I saw Emmett climb up and onto a kitchen chair! I can’t believe that my little babies are legitimate toddlers now!IMG_3962_WEB

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They still don’t have any words. I’m not too stressed or worried, because they’re my only babies, so to me they’re normal. But as the months edge up and they still mostly grunt and babble, I will wonder. They do sort of repeat general noises/cadences. Malcolm makes an “uh oh” sound, kind of.

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They finally outgrew their 12 month clothes last month. I didn’t stock up at the fall resale because I had no idea how much they might grow. I quickly cobbled together a little 18-month wardrobe. But…those are already getting a little tight, especially on Malcolm. I go back and forth between “buy more clothes!!!” and “don’t buy anything!!”

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We’ve been trying to expand their food/meal options. So far Malcolm is pretty open to new things, and Emmett is pretty closed-off. But sometimes they hate everything new, which makes me feel all frantic–let’s try this, and this, and how about this? And of course, one day they’ll love something and the next day hate it. It’s pretty funny when they don’t like something–they make an “ewwww” face and then push the food back out of their mouth.  They love to spill things out of their bowls/containers, whether it’s applesauce or peas. Their spoon use is getting really good, but if they get excited or upset, they flap and fling the spoon so the food on it goes flying.

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By January, they were sleeping all the way through the night with zero wakeups. They’d been “sleeping through the night” since about three months old, but with very short crying wakeups for a lost pacifier or whatever. It has been REALLY nice to have quieter nights! Of course they do have wakeups and make more noise when they are sick and/or when we have visitors. Naturally.

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They love getting out of the house. Now that they’re walking, sometimes we let them go into our front yard. But it didn’t take them long to figure out that it extends around the side of the house and then to the street, and they love walking down the street. They most decidedly do NOT like being stopped from where they want to go. So we’ll have to figure out how to contain and corral them this summer. I can’t wait to be able to play in the front yard in the sunshine!

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Emmett loves grabbing the pens off my desk, and pretending to write with them and also chew on them.

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They go through these phases of book favorites, where they will pick up the same book and flip through it over and over, or just look at one page for a long time. So interesting. Generally I don’t think they notice differences between books in our book bin, they just pick one up and want to read it/want us to read it to them.

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They are getting so helpful and attentive! We can ask one of them for help getting something for brother, and he’ll toddle over, get it, and present it. So cute! They also like to do things we don’t like, like banging blocks on the window, or standing up (and doing a jig) on a closed bin. We tell them to stop or to get down, and they just smile. Frustrating!

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They really are figuring so many things out. Like unloading the dishwasher. This week I saw Malcolm ‘brushing’ his hair! (We only do that after baths–their hair is thick and not terribly obedient, so we just let it stay messy most of the time.) And he put my shoes ‘away’. Which we’ve never done obviously or consciously or even mentioned with words–I guess he just sees where the shoes normally hang out. It’s really fascinating and delightful to see their little brains learning things.

Life and schedule update v9 (25 months)

The Sunday before their first birthday (late November), the babies dropped their morning nap. They stayed up until 12 or 1230 and then crashed. I was like, okay, they’re down to one nap a day now! It took a few weeks of being very cranky in the late afternoon, but only occasionally taking what we call a bonus nap, to get into the groove of being one-nap babies. (They’ll still take an extra nap sometimes, if they don’t sleep enough for the first one. But sometimes they’ll be super crabby and refuse to nap again.)

Their wakeup time has fluctuated just a bit, but is generally in the 7-30 range. This is pretty great, we think. I mean, we would rather not get up that early, but obviously it’s better than anything in the 6:00 hour!

Since that nap transition, we’ve also completely weaned then off formula and to (organic whole) cows’ milk! They go through a gallon every 3/4 days, which costs $6 at Trader Joe’s. In comparison, a can of formula used to last the same amount of time and cost $17. Slashed that budget by two-thirds!! They’ve also dropped a feeding/bottle, so now their schedule is the easiest yet: Bottle at wakeup, breakfast an hour later, lunch around 1130, two-hour-ish nap, bottle in mid-afternoon (between 2 and 3), dinner at 530, last bottle at 7, bedtime at 730. Additionally, we’ve been reducing the amounts in the bottles, so far to about six ounces each.

Yes, we still give them bottles, even though they’re over a year old. I know that they aren’t “supposed” to have bottles anymore, and “should” be using sippy cups or actual cups by now. I don’t even care. I don’t want to fight that battle, and I know plenty of people/babies who do bottles past one year old. We’ll get them to cups/sippies someday.

The babies have been going to daycare for a few months now. Except only sort of, because they keep getting sick and missing days. At daycare they’ve still been in the infant room, though the teachers started offering them the toddler lunch. It seems to be a crap shoot if they eat it, and sometimes only one wants any. The bigger issue at daycare is that they don’t really nap. For the first month or more, they only slept for like 20-40 minutes, instead of two hours. Ugh.

At home we’ve been a bit lazy about doing more “solid” solid food, so we still give them a lot of soft/runny foods (like applesauce and yogurt) and purees. We have started to work on giving them whole foods: small chunks of bread or bagel, actual peas, bites of pulled pork, chunk of cooked chicken, bits of fruit. So far we don’t have any big winners or foods that both babies will actually eat. Often they’ll eat a couple bites and then make a face and let the food dribble out of their mouth. Sigh. I’m trying not to fret too much that they aren’t eating all real-people food all the time yet. Last night we all went to an American restaurant and they ate most of a grilled cheese sandwich! I was pretty psyched about that. I do “know” that babies need several (or more than several) introductions/opportunities to try foods….I am just impatient and I want them to eat whatever we give them. 🙂 So like I said, we’re trying. We’ll get there eventually!

Sleep is definitely getting better in general. There aren’t many night wakeups. Lately since they’ve been sick, they get these big coughing fits randomly and sometimes they’ll wake themselves up. This tends to happen before we go to bed, though, and often they’ll be totally quiet the rest of the night. HOWEVER, there is supposed to be a 13-month sleep regression. The last two sleep regressions hit them about a month and a half late, which would put this one in February. That’s gonna be really hard after us all getting some good rest!

They’re really working on so many things–Malcolm is almost a walker, and they seem to be picking up a few signs, and they are into exploring everything. We’ve gotten to the point where we can’t eat or drink anything if we’re near them. Well, actually, I guess that’s been difficult for months now, but now they make all this noise (this kind of EEHHHHHH whine, like give it to me I want to tryyyy itttt) and dang, they can reach so far now! They like to play with utensils and food containers, they still like banging things together, and they still like opening and closing babygates and kitchen cupboards. They continue to aggressively love lift-the-flap books–they keep ripping off the flaps. Just this past week they suddenly figured out how to climb on and climb off their riding toys! So much going on in those little baby brains and bodies.

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!