Saturday, August 30, 2008

How Do I . . .

Cook Supper?

1. Put happier baby in a car seat.
2. Put crankier baby in a pouch.
3. Assign tasks to the older ducklings.
4. Pray for patience.
4b. If patience insufficient, send older ducklings to play in room.
5. Assemble supper with one baby in pouch while rocking car seat with foot.

Go Outside?

1. Send older ducklings to go potty and drink water.
2. Check and restock diaper bag.
3. Apply sunscreen and bug spray to all applicable bodies.
4. Set babies in car seats by the front door. (Note: They are probably screaming through this process.)
5. Take tarp off stroller, unlock from porch railing, haul down the front steps, set up and brake.
7. Carry out diaper bag and wrap. Drape wrap fabric over the top of the stroller to provide more complete shade.
8. Apply hats to all applicable bodies.
9. Let older ducklings go out and stand on the porch.
10. Carry babies out one at a time and strap into stroller.

Coming back inside involves the same steps (except 3), only backwards.

Option A:
1. Lie down, start a baby eating, and doze off into a fitful slumber.
2. Wake up a little while later, swap babies and sides, and doze off again.
3. Repeat all night.

Option B:
1. Wake up the non-hungry baby.
2. Put on the monster-big twin nursing pillow.
3. Feed babies.
4. Put both babies back in bed.
5. Now fully awake, go to the bathroom and then get a snack.
6. Get back in bed and lie awake, falling asleep briefly before someone is hungry again.

I haven't figured out which option actually results in the greatest overall sleep, so I keep swapping back and forth.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Turning Point

There are many moments worthy of celebration in potty training. The first successful go. The first time they take themselves. The first dry day. The first dry night.

But the really critical moment--the one where you know it's going to take this time--is when they realize that they have latched on to the universal excuse.

Chores too tedious? I gotta go potty!
Bedtime too early? I gotta go potty!
Church service too long? Older siblings too pesky? Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go.

Smart children learn to ration this precious commodity so that the grownups cannot thwart this new scheme.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Climbing the hill

The sledding part of sledding is always over far too quickly, and then you have the long trudge back up the hill. If you keep watching the top of the hill, it never seems to get any closer. If you keep watching the bottom of the hill, it never seems to get any farther away. If you watch your feet and get mesmerized in the present motion, in the crunch of the snow and smell of the clear air, and then--a little bit after the third time you think you simply must look up--you finally do look around, you find you've come quite a ways.

I think that is why things do seem easier, emotionally if not physically, than they did a few years ago. I've stopped counting. I have no idea how many diapers I've changed or feedings I've done or piles of dishes I've washed since the beginning of the week, or how many are left to be done. I'm learning to just wash this dish, just change this baby.

And I can look around and see things have come a long way. D1 and D2 are suddenly almost big kids, able to dress and feed themselves, run little errands, pick up all that stuff on the floor. Not every task in the house now depends on my personal labor. It's a double deposit of energy. All the thousand little things have begun to pile up into something big.

The other day I commented to DOB, "If I were God, I would have given all these little kids to someone more organized."

He replied, "If I were God, I would have made you more organized since I was going to give you all these little kids."

But perhaps instead God determined that the only way to make me more organized--or even aware of my surroundings--was to give me all these little kids. It turns out I can do a lot of things I didn't think I ever could. I can clean up while I cook. I can make sure we keep the floors picked up. I can follow the same two weeks' worth of menus to spend the minimum time on meal planning and preparation. I can sing another song and read another story instead of retreating into my own head. I can get us to church on time on Sunday morning.

I can even do all this and still enjoy life.

I don't know for how long. I have never lived at anything like this level of physical and emotional intensity for any significant length of time. I'm very tired and the babies' biological clocks seem to be carefully tuned four hours apart despite my best efforts to synchronize them.

But I give myself a personal version of Aragorn's speech before the Black Gate:
The day may come when my parenting strategy degenerates to that of the Old Woman in the Shoe, when I stuff cotton in my ear and hide all afternoon in the closet.
But it is not this day.
The day may come when I duct tape all the children to the wall, when I pack my bags and move to a remote island off the coast of Maine.
But it is not this day.
Today I will get up and smile and find that I can do what I must do, by the grace of God.

More Quirkiness

I have put off this tag from Uncle Steve for some time now, but I'm sure he understands busyness. (My job is cuter, though.)

So, six unspectacular quirks:

1. I'll do almost anything to avoid making phone calls. The internet is a beautiful thing. Now I can email all my friends and do searches to find business information. D1 has more confidence on the phone than I do. (Though she is still harder to understand.)

2. I have an irrational antipathy to pacifiers. I concede that they are easier to get rid of than thumbs; I suffer guilt from the new evidence that suggests they may help reduce the risk of SIDS. But they're just too ugly. I can't bring myself to cover up my babies' beautiful mouths with those things.

3. I always surf away, cursing (uh, metaphorically), when some fascinating link turns out to be a podcast. I hate listening to things. I don't care much for watching things. I never want to wait for something to load. Give me text!

4. I'm shy about tagging people. What if the people I tag don't want to be bothered? What if the people I don't tag feel left out? Too much angst.

5. I tend to get distracted before I finish things.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Mars and Venus Watch a Movie

DOB and I have been watching The Lord of the Rings for the fourth (or more) time, in slow, brief stages, stopping it to analyze differences between the books and movies, debate motivations and plausibility, note subtle allusions.

DOB: Maybe tonight we can get most of the way through the boring part, with all that time in Lothlorien and floating down the river.

QOC: What do you mean, get through it? What's left after that part?

DOB: The battle.

QOC: That is the boring part!

The Mommy 'Do

You have seen this phenomenon. You may have succumb to this phenomenon. A woman with long hair gives birth to a child. She wears her hair in a pony tail for a few weeks, keeping things out of the reach of entangling baby fingers.

Then, one day, a month or so in, the hair is gone.

I've resisted it twice. But I understand. At that stage, your life stinks, in the literal rather than figurative sense: of sour milk and worse things. The contrast of being skinnier than nine months pregnant has worn off and been replaced with being fatter than ever before that. None of your clothes fit, the ones that do need washed, you feel frumpy and sleep-deprived and your hair keeps getting in your face or the baby's fingers.

And it occurs to you: there's only one of those things I can do anything about. So you do it.

This time the lure was too strong.

The extra danger for me is that I can cut my own hair. This has nothing to do with talent and everything to do with hair texture. A beautician told me twelve years ago that my hair would look the same no matter who cut it, and I've never been back to one since. But I usually just keep it in the same safe shoulder-length range.

This time I decided to go farther.

I cut bangs first. I haven't worn bangs since I was twenty. It was rather nice to look in the mirror and see a reprise of myself at twenty. Of course I hated the bangs when I was twenty, but that seemed irrelevant: the point was a reminder of myself when my skinny clothes fit and I had time to think about topics besides meal planning.

Emboldened, I began whacking further. Then I realized my mistake. I hadn't worn my hair short-short since eleven. No one wants to be reminded of themselves at eleven. When I was eleven and had the short hair, I always wore it underneath a shocking pink hat with "Camp Wakoma" emblazoned on it. My primary form of interaction with the opposite sex was arm-wrestling, at which I generally won.

But I'm getting used to it. It is easy. It never hangs down in my face. DOB likes it, and shows no inclination to arm wrestle with me (he says my shorter arms give me an unfair advantage).

D1 commented initially, "When you cut your hair you don't look like Mommy anymore," an ambiguous statement--perhaps, deep down, that was my goal. Except, of course, that I do look more like a Mommy than ever, because most mommies hit this exact same point.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Amazing Feats

People keep asking us, "How are things going?"

And we have been answering, "Fine so far, but Wondergirl leaves on Tuesday."

Now she has left. We have survived the past 24 hours. Actually we have done pretty well, thanks in no small part to all the planning and organizing she did while she was here. For one thing, she made our walls much more fun to look at.

She cut carpet from scraps in the attic to make baby-rocking and baby-playing zones in the living room.

She organized our bedroom to hold babies and baby gear. (Baby clothes are under the bed. Aren't the little bows on the baskets cute? )

She made more room to play in the kids' room, and made sure there was a place within reach for everything so they can keep it picked up by themselves. The "bunk crib" was originally built by DOB's father years ago; they only used the lower area for toy storage, but it has been working great as an extra bed spot for us.

She went shopping for all sorts of little odds and ends we never have the energy to search for, like the tension rod to put into practice DOB's brilliant idea of storing the omnipresent exercise balls in the attic and basement stairwells.

And she did all this while holding babies, potty-training D2, reading countless stories to the big kids, and serving three delicious home-cooked meals a day.

If home management were an Olympic sport, my sister would be the gold medalist.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Getting to Know You

D3 and D4 in typical poses.

It has been four weeks, which is long enough for the babies to start feeling like part of the family instead of unusually uncommunicative visitors. The umbilical cords are gone, the first layer of flaky skin has peeled off, they are taking real baths (not very often) and are starting to feel like they fit in their names.

Having two babies at once gives one an unreasonable opportunity to engage in those obnoxious parental practices of comparing, categorizing, and over-generalizing, even at this early age. D3 gets dubbed the princess, and it's not just a gender stereotype. (D1, despite her best efforts at dress-up, doesn't really resemble a princess, except maybe Elizabeth Tudor.) She admires the world placidly when all is going well, waves with proper beauty-queen style, and expresses her opinion loudly when she is not pleased.

D4 is the perpetual motion machine. If he's awake, he's flailing. He's already rolled himself front-to-back numerous times. He's still noticeably skinnier than D3, no doubt because all his calories go straight into movement. When we swaddle him awake, he settles down and stares around him with big eyes, astonished and apparently grateful to be able to notice that there's something out there besides his own arms and legs. I think we'll be babyproofing early for this one.

Monday, August 04, 2008

A Faulty Syllogism

D1 and D2 are dancing around the kitchen in their swimsuits, waiting for the dishes to be done.

D2: I'm a man with no shirt on!
D1: You're Adam!
D2: No, I'm a man with no shirt on!
D1: Yes, and Adam had no shirt on, so you're Adam!
D2: No, I'm not Adam, I'm a man with no shirt on!