Monday, June 28, 2010

Infertility book giveaway extravaganza!

Hopefully you are one of those people who -- when you are ready -- invests in a nice bottle of wine and an Al Green CD and nine months later holds nature's greatest miracle, a baby, in your arms. However, if you are one of those people who -- after months or years of heartache -- invests in injectible drugs and the expertise of a specialized medical team in hopes of getting a miracle pregnancy, this giveaway may be for you.

With the birth of my no-twins-do-not-run-in-our-family-thank-you-EVERYONE-for-asking baby boys, I find myself on the Other Side of infertility. (For the most part. But that's a post for another time.) And despite the fact that I love to read, I've never been a book collector -- save the complete works of Jane Austen, "The Talisman" by Steven King, and a select few others. So instead of keeping these on my bookshelf to remember the good times (ha ha!) of trying to expand our family, I want to hold a giveaway of the infertility books that helped me on our journey.

SET #1

I bought these books after 12 months of negative home pregnancy tests, back in 2006. What to Do When You Can't Get Pregnant by Daniel Potter and Jennifer Hanin contains lots of great info to introduce you to options for family building when good old fashioned knockin' boots gets you nowhere. Unsung Lullabies: Understanding and Coping with Infertility by Janet Jaffe, Martha Diamond, and David Diamond deals with the emotional aspects of infertility. It normalizes the experiences and emotions of the treatment rollercoaster and gives you permission to take care of yourself as needed. The books are a perfect complement to one another.

SET #2

I bought these books when we decided to return to treatments for another child -- which turned out to be children. Of course I had to get Navigating the Land of IF by Melissa Ford, our reigning Stirrup Queen. She expertly blends the technical with the emotional to provide a guide to everything from understanding treatments to surviving other people's baby showers. And I purchased So Close: Infertile and Addicted to Hope by Tertia Albertyn because I enjoy her blog as well. This book is the candid and emotional retelling of Tertia's own journey through IF to her beautiful twins.

To enter is easy. Just leave one comment below and let me know which set of books you'd like. And if you would like either of them, let me know which one appeals to you more. For example:

"I would like set #1 or set #2, but I would prefer set #2."

Brilliantly simple.

At noon (Pacific) on Tuesday, July 6th, I will use RANDOM.ORG to draw numbers that correspond to the comments. The first person selected will get their top choice of books, obviously. Then I'll draw a second number, or continue drawing after that until I get someone who wants the other set. Hopefully this is making sense. It makes sense to me, but I haven't had an entire 4-hour sleep cycle in almost three months.

I am not holding this giveaway to build my "followers" -- so you don't get extra entries for following me or tweeting about it or anything. (Although please feel free to pass the word along to anyone who would like them, or follow me just to make my day.) I just hope the books can be educational, useful, and comforting for someone else, just as they were for me. And as I look at my three precious miracles, I have a bit of hope that there's some luck between the pages.

Oh, and don't forget to leave an email address (if it's not in your profile) so I can contact you if you win.

Good luck!


Friday, June 18, 2010

Drowning in cuteness

Whew! It's hard to blog lately. It's also hard to shower, eat, and get to the bathroom. At 10 weeks old, the twins are at a difficult in-between stage where they are awake for significant periods during the day, but they can't use their hands for playing (currently they are being used for staring cross-eyed at and bonking themselves in the face). Entertaining them both is quite a challenge. If they are awake at the same time, the entire house is at a stand-still. If it's one at a time, then I never get a break because one twin wakes up just as the other falls asleep again. I'm not complaining, though. If I'm going to drown, drowning in cuteness is the way to go.

Not to be outdone, Bean has been upping the cuteness factor lately as well. He's 27 months, for those of you keeping track, and he is talking up a storm in full sentences. Sometimes I forget how young he is, because he speaks so maturely. And he's very particular about words: don't call his baseball glove a "mitt" or you'll be corrected, and he is a "big boy" but not any other sort of boy, such as a good one, smart one, etc. He still maintains a healthy love of sports, he is always asking for one of us to play football, basketball, baseball, or soccer with him -- and he'll show you exactly the spot where you need to stand. My favorite development is his imaginary play. He will reenact scenes from his favorite movies (Cars, Toy Story), or imitate things that my Mom and I do, such as shopping or caring for the babies. Bean will push one of my old Cabbage Patch Kids (which he calls by my first name) around the house in a doll stroller. He will announce that his baby is crying, and then he'll pick the doll up, nurse it ("Baby needs Bean milkies"), and burp it. It is so tender and sweet that I was fighting back tears watching him the other day. He is growing into such a thoughtful boy -- he brought home a strawberry smoothie yesterday from our mommy/Bean date, and he went over to his Grandma and asked if she wanted a sip. I couldn't be more proud of him, I'm a lucky mama.

Also heard around our house in the past week:

"It's like trying to put pants on a frog." -Grandpa, on dressing the twins

"This is like a little date for us!" -DH, rushing me to urgent care with blood gushing out of a bad finger wound while the boys stayed home with their grandparents

"To affinity, and a blonde!" -Buzz Lightyear Bean

And now for the real reason you clicked on my blog today... pictures!

Random shots of the bebes. Can you identify Twin A...

...versus Peanut (Twin B)?

I'm violating about six safe-sleeping rules for infants here. But wook at those wittle baby jeans!!! Awwww!!!

We went to Lincoln Park with some friends. It was l.i.t.e.r.a.l.l.y. the only day in the past three weeks I could convince Bean not to wear his Buzz Lightyear t-shirt.

One of my girls boys enjoyed a nap in the warm sun.

Bean ate a corn chip while Bumpa pushed him on the swing. He found this HI-LAR-IOUS.

I'll let you guess whose head is the 25th percentile and whose is in the 75th. They are both very sweet though, doncha think?

We went to a toddler/preschooler cooking playdate hosted by the MOMS Club. Bean was thrilled to wear his "White-A-Queen" (aka Lightning McQueen) apron.

He was SOOO cute mixing the guacamole and making the quesadilla, very focused and carefully following all directions. My little Top Chef. At this rate I really will be able to realize my lifetime goal of not learning to cook, ever.

The best part: sampling the finished product.

On Friday, Bean painted his very own pet rock. It's nice to have at least one pet at home that doesn't pee on the floor and bark at neighborhood kindergarteners.

The look and precision of a true ar-TEEST.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Two months old

Yesterday marked two months since the twins made their big debut into the world. You can see how excited they were about the occasion.

They celebrated by staring at the toys dangling from their play mat...

...and laying on their tummies.

According to the pediatrician at their well baby visits today, they are both doing great. Much to my surprise, they weigh nearly the same now -- Twin A at 11 lbs 13 oz (55th percentile) and Peanut at 11 lbs 10 oz (50th percentile). However, they are built very differently, with Twin A being 1 1/2 inches longer and having a head circumference in the 75th percentile while Peanut's head is in the 25th percentile. Overall the doctor was very pleased with their sizes and development. They haven't had any formula supplementation in a month now, so I am pretty proud of the old girls for stepping up to the challenge of feeding twins. I still have tons of extra pudge at my waist and can't fit into my pre-pregnancy pants, but at least I'm filling out a respectable bra size. The only concern at the appointment was that Twin A is developing a flat spot on his head because he always lays tilted the same way. We will need to work on keeping his head round, or he'll end up in one of those baby helmets for a few months. Hopefully we can avoid that!

Not too much in the way of other updates. Some things like breastfeeding and sleeping are getting a bit easier, but now the twins are awake more during the day so getting anything done is impossible. My Mom and I have just enough hands to care for all three munchkins if we juggle properly, we are lucky if we accomplish more than showering and scarfing a bowl of cereal.

Speaking of my parents, no news on the sale of their home. Plenty of interest and second showings, but things are slow in the market. Their house hunt here is on hold until they are under contract in Michigan, so they have stepped away from the search. Hopefully soon we'll get word! (Just for their sake. This arrangement is working for me just fine.)

And now, more pictures!

Bean hopped on his "chicken stand" -- aka the kitchen stand -- to help give little "Gax" a bath. (Poor Peanut suffers the indignity of this nickname around our house, as Bean struggles to pronounce his brother's given name. At least Bean is attempting to say it at all now, as for weeks both twins were simply called by Twin A's name.)

The other hero (besides my Mom) in caring for the twins is my Dad. He not only adores the munchkins, but he has the patience of Job in caring for them when they are fussy, whether it's 4 pm or 4 am.

It's not just the twins who benefit from Grandpa's presence in the household. We went to the giant inflatable-house place, and having "Bumpa" there gave Bean the courage to actually bounce with the other kids this time -- and go down the giant slide. Wheeeeeee!

On Saturday, we took advantage of gorgeous weather and headed to a lakefront park. There happened to be a t-ball league playing that day, and 3- and 4-year-olds in coordinating shirts were everywhere. I smiled at the glimpse into the future: Bean wailing on first base because he got tagged out, Twin A tugging on my pantleg and whining to go home nooooooow, and Peanut racing at full speed in the opposite direction of the field with a large stick in his hand. It's going to be glorious!

(Note the sword in Bean's hand. He saw it at Target and asked what it was. He was apparently not satisfied with my answer, because he immediately pointed it downward and started using it like a leaf blower, complete with sound effects. Some kids pretend to be a brave knight; mine pretends to be a gardener.) (Oh, and also? He's worn that Toy Story shirt every day for the past two weeks. So much for the cute summer shirts I got on clearance at Gymboree. *sigh* But I don't mind because at least he's happy. Or that's what I keep telling myself.)

Peaceful moments are rare for us right now and must be savored.

And here is an Evey picture for my Mom's friend Lynnie. (I do take requests!) The pooch and I used to fight over this chair -- she would sit on the back of it 25 times a day and I would shoo her off 25 times. If she heard me coming down the stairs, she'd quickly jump down and then look up at me like, "What's your problem?" when I glared at her. But since the boys were born, who has the energy to police the furniture? She doesn't move a muscle when I come down the stairs and then looks at me like, "What are you going to do? Nothing? Yeah, that's what I thought." The chair is now permanently warped, and the dog has a custom designed $450 dog bed.


Friday, June 4, 2010

Let's talk twins

I recently had some questions from a parenting-forum friend of mine, Tawny. She has an adorable daughter who is Bean's age and found out she is expecting twins in the fall (welcome to the club Tawny!!). She gave me permission to post her questions with my answers because 1) I am suffering from a spell of blogger block at the moment and 2) maybe there are some twin-mamas-to-be reading who would like to know as well.

Do they share a room, or will they in the future? Yes, and yes. Right now the boys are "sleeping" (hardy har har) at night in an Arms Reach Mini Co-sleeper at the foot of our bed. With Bean, we started a slow transition into his own room around 5 months old, and we hope to do that again with the twins. We put a second crib in Bean's old nursery, but we'll probably put both kiddos in the same crib to start so they can continue to snuggle. As they get bigger, they can go into their own cribs, and then eventually their own beds -- but we do plan to keep them in the same room, provided they aren't waking each other up at night with their cries. If they decide they want to split up when they are older, we are fortunate to now have a five-bedroom house, so we could accommodate. But it would take a pretty convincing argument. And maybe an interpretive dance, because that would be super funny to watch.

How is breastfeeding going? What can I expect? It's tough to give advice on what to expect, because just like with a singleton, our experiences can be all over the board. For every new mom plagued with a weak suck, clogged ducts, low supply, and mastitis, there is the new mom whose most difficult challenge is reaching the TV remote while nursing. We struggled the first month, mainly with building enough supply and the fact that each one would fall stone-cold-never-going-to-wake-me-don't-even-try asleep halfway through the meal and then wake up on their own screaming "WTF MOM! I WAS EATING! DO YOU WANT ME TO STARVE?" at the most inconvenient moment possible. With two, that makes for a difficult juggling act. But time, effort, and a crapload of fenugreek have solved those two problems, and we have been doing really well for the past month (they are 8 1/2 weeks now, for the record). Regarding tandem nursing, it does happen maybe once a day, if they both are hungry at the same time. It's not my favorite for various reasons, so I don't initiate it on my own -- even at night when it could potentially save me a few minutes. It gets harder as they get bigger, and I don't want to count on having that as an option. Special pillow is a must for this.

I struggled for months breastfeeding Bean when he was born, and with that experience under my belt, nursing has been SO much easier this time around, even with twice the newborn. I can't say I've come across anything that I didn't expect. For example, you will be nursing A LOT during the day, especially in the beginning. Get a comfy chair and a movie for your toddler. (Hopefully watching Toy Story eight times a day is not doing irreparable damage to Bean.) And the nights are naturally more difficult, which leads me to the next question...

How are the nights? Hell? Amazing guess! In the first few weeks, before they learn that ever-crucial day vs. night distinction, yes it sucks absolutely. You can struggle for hours to get one to fall asleep, only to have the other suddenly staring at you with wide eyes. That's the thing about newborns, they don't give two craps about your plans to get more than an hour of sleep at a time. Is there a solution? I was definitely too sleep deprived (or just stupid) to come up with anything. One of my friends did shifts with her husband -- one of them would sleep from 6 pm to midnight, then the other from midnight to 6 am. But because I was trying to get my milk supply up, I needed to get them latched as often as possible around the clock, so that wasn't really an option. Finally the babies did take pity on us, and extended periods of waking now only occur during the day; the compromise is that they always occur when we are trying to make and/or eat a meal, and total attention on The Twins is required during awake time.

In all fairness to these munchkins, though, they do actually sleep better than Bean did at this point -- which was really horribly, so that's not exactly saying much. But we had our best night ever recently, they slept from 10:30 pm to almost 3 am, and then 4 am to 5:45 am. Haven't repeated it since, but it's moving in the right direction. We do wake them both up when one cries, it's definitely the best method to consolidating your own rest -- so we are only as good as our worst sleeper. The main problem at night now is pretty obvious: we have to change both, feed both, burp both, and get both back to sleep before we can sleep ourselves. It takes about 60 minutes each time they wake up 50 minutes if we are lucky. Some SAHMs do it by themselves when their husbands go back to work. Fortunately my DH doesn't smoke crack so he knows there is no way I'm doing it alone at this point. Eventually, sure, I don't mind. I know the routine will get faster. But in the meantime, he relies heavily on coffee, and since caffeine makes the babies freak out, I rely heavily on my under-eye concealer.

Have you had any behavior issues with Bean? Yes and no. Keep in mind that Bean is two years old, and at this age I think it's impossible not to have at least a few behavioral issues. But fortunately, Bean is a very good kid for his age. Our boundaries are tested regularly, but relatively gently compared with other toddlers we know. I haven't noticed that he acts out more since the twins have come, except for one particularly bad morning when we all went to the pediatrician for the twins' weight check. If my Mom and I are both trying to calm crying babies at the same time, Bean will suddenly proclaim that he needs "Gramma hugs!" or "Mommy hugs!" with a whiny yell. But overall, he has really embraced his roll as big brother -- bringing them his toys, binkies, and beloved Sleep Dog to share completely on his own. I credit that to two factors. First, Bean has always been well-behaved and sweet, which he no doubt inherited from me. And second, I do have my Mom here with me all the time, so he still gets lots of attention. To anyone having twins, and especially twins with a toddler at home already, I recommend soliciting and accepting as much help as possible. When I was pregnant, before my parents had decided to move here, I naively thought I could handle all these kids on my own. I would just have to channel my inner Supermom! But NO WAY. I'd have lost my sanity a loooong time ago. Friends, family, a babysitter, the guy who panhandles at the highway exit -- if someone offers to help, you can't afford to say no. Just keep an eye on your valuables, you really don't know that guy very well.

Are you babywearing at all? Some of you may know that I have a consuming obsession with I have a healthy, normal relationship with my baby carriers. So it may be surprising that I do not, nor do I plan to, wear both the kiddos at the same time. It's certainly tempting, not only because it's completely badass, but it'd be nice to be able to hold both munchkins at once. There are many mamas with more babywearing skill than I have who make it work. (You should see these women and their wraps, it's incredible!) But I haven't had the time or inclination to learn to wear both together. And I have to wonder, once you finally get them both in there, calm and quiet... then what? Besides taking a picture to brag to all your friends, of course. It's not like I could bend over and empty the dishwasher. One baby hinders movement enough, I can't imagine two. And all that weight! Sadly I am no help in the twin babywearing area, but if you are interested, there is a forum called "Wearing More than One" on TheBabyWearer that you can access if you register.

But that doesn't mean my carriers are gathering dust, quite the opposite. It's very handy to be able to wear even one at a time. One of my twins is fussier than the other (you know who you are, Peanut) and sometimes I have to wear him if I'm going to get anything done. My carrier of choice these days is the Napsack Baby mei tai. Moby wraps are great in their own right, but the Napsack Baby has a few advantages. Most notably, they are more stylish and different from the Moby wraps that five other moms in your playgroup will be wearing. And when you are sporting sweatpants and a t-shirt with spit-up on it, any extra boost in appearance goes a long way. The Napsack Baby is definitely as comfortable as the Moby, and much sturdier so the baby doesn't sag over time. Even my mom and DH use it on occasion. Not my dad yet, but I'm working on him. Our hippy/crunchy lifestyle in the Pacific Northwest is still a bit foreign to him.

Here's a picture of Bean in our mei tai, taken back in November 2008 when he was eight months old. With the littler ones, you'd tie the strap in the middle of their back instead of under their butt, so they don't fall out the side.

Did you buy a stroller for all three kiddos? Nope. For two reasons. First, Bean hates riding in a stroller. He never has been a huge fan of it, and ever since he mastered that whole walking thing, it's been an epic battle to strap him in. And second, those triple strollers are huge, heavy, and cumbersome. It just didn't make sense to go in that direction. Any time that we'd possibly like to have strollers available for all of them (e.g. a trip to the zoo) I have my Mom or DH with me, so one of them can push Bean's single stroller while I take the double.

Because we have two Graco SnugRide car seats (one from Bean, and one given to us by a friend who no longer needed hers), we decided to get a Baby Trend Double Snap N Go Stroller Frame. We had the single version for Bean, and it worked really well. We can pop the babies out of the car and into the stroller without having to disturb them. And as we prefer, the stroller frame is lightweight and easy to use. It still feels like you are trying to maneuver a Winnebago down a bike path when you push it, but I'm not sure you're going to get around that problem when you have infant twins.

We will have to buy a new stroller when the kiddos outgrow their infant car seats. I'd love to get a fancy one like the popular BOB double strollers (such as this one). But a quick search for change under our couch cushions reveals that I am still $568.47 short of being able to afford it, including the generous 99-cent discounted price listed today. Even the craigslist prices are prohibitive. So we will probably stick with the double version of the Maclaren stroller we used with Bean, unless something better arises in the meantime. They are practically giving it away at only $265. There are many other options for strollers -- I recommend visiting the Strollers for Multiples forum on Twinstuff to get more info.

Finally, in case anyone was wondering, yes, I dress them in matching and coordinating outfits. Constantly. Because I can.