Friday, February 28, 2014

Five-Minute Friday: Choose

The cry cuts through the night, bringing me bolt upright with a pounding heart and a discerning ear at 3 AM. It's a lost pacifier, and although my legs are stiff as I crawl half under her bed to retrieve it, my heart is soft. I tuck her back in, quietly smooth her sister's covers, too.

On my way back to my room, yawning, I see it. The light is on again.

He's taken to sleeping with it on every night now, flooding his room with bright at a time when our bodies crave dark and quiet. He won't say why, really...but as soon as we leave him prayed over and kissed and tucked in snug with his nightlight, as soon as the door is closed,, up he bounds to flip the switch again. He prefers to shut his eyes with the overhead light pressing down on them these days.

I sneak in, gently turning off the switch, noticing the still-nightlight-bright room and his tiny sleeping face above the planet-covered comforter, illuminated by the string of Christmas lights he insists on leaving plugged in for good measure..

By the time I've pulled the door to and tiptoed across the hall, the light as bright as day is pouring forth again, illuminating the strip of carpet outside his door.

I pause in the hallway, resting my head against the doorframe. 

I could make this into one of those defining parenting moments- one of those hills-I'm-willing-to-die-on, dig-my-heels-in-and-fight moments, the kind of moment that shows me what kind of mother I am.

And I do, because it isn't about leaving the light on.

It isn't about the lights at all.

I climb back into my bed, still seeing the chink of light streaming from under his door, knowing he's bounded out from under his covers again to keep the dark at bay with 60 watts of streaming reassurance.

It's probably ruining his sleep.
Tonight, though, it isn't ruining mine.

Five Minute Friday

Five-Minute Friday is a chance to write in response to a prompt- to throw five minutes' worth of words into the air and see where they land- without worrying too much about editing or self-critique. Head over to Lisa-Jo Baker's to see what other writers said about "Choose."

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Stitching in honor of sacrifice

This may not have been the best week to decide to do a blog post every day, since it is also the week I am stitching for my life to finish my square for the Quilts of Valor project.

Last month, Jenna from Call Her Happy posted a vlog all about hand embroidery. It started a wave of interest with other bloggers. In my typical "sure, I'd love to take on something else" style, I thought, "Hey, that looks fun! I'd like a cool gallon-size ziplock bag full of needles and thread to call my own. And why don't I know how to embroider? I should learn." Then Cari from Clan Donaldson took things a step further by introducing the embroidery-along Quilts of Valor project. In no time, a group of bloggers and otherwise crafty people had joined together to embroider squares for a quilt for this worthy organization. Cari's mom will put the quilt together, and we will send it off with gratitude for one veteran's service and sacrifices on our behalf.

When I think about how each veteran has a story- a home, a family, a background full of childhood memories, it isn't hard to imagine what he or she might have given up to serve in the defense of our country. I wish it was harder for me to imagine. My father, a pilot in the US Air Force, made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty 29 years ago this past Tuesday. It's hard to believe it has been that long. I can still remember the way his flight suit smelled and the creased black leather of his boots as he polished them.

This year, marking the anniversary of his death has been especially tough for me. I was five when he died, and my own son is five now. When I look at Sam and think what it would mean now for him to lose a parent, my sadness for five-year-old me hits me hard. My dad gave up the chance to see us grow up, to walk us down the aisle at our weddings, to meet his grandchildren this side of heaven.

The rest of us gave up him. 

Mostly, I wish he hadn't done it. I admire his courage, his ideals and his willingness to serve, but I'd still rather have him here.

My sister and I try every year to do something to observe the anniversary. Usually I plant something or start seeds for the garden. This week, my Tuesday was busy caring for my three little ones, and I decided to put off the official act of remembering until the weekend coming up. 

It didn't hit me until tonight that my last-minute embroidery sessions were a perfect act of memory already.

Being able to work on this square for Quilts of Valor this week feels especially appropriate. Even though I haven't embroidered before, I feel glad to be able to offer this small gesture on behalf of one of our country's heroes...and in memory of my one of my own heroes.

May God be with the men and women who put themselves in harm's way to serve in our country's military, and may God be especially close to their families. We know your sacrifices, and we don't take them for granted.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

TwinsDay Wednesday: A Birth Story

It has taken two and a half years for me to write this story.

It's not an easy story to write, because it makes me feel fragile and a little bit powerless.

I have put off writing the story for a long time. I even spent an hour peeling broken crayons with my fingernails yesterday afternoon instead of writing it. Finally, though, it's written, because you asked to read it, and I'm sharing it with the world.

My pregnancy with my twins was my second. My first child was born after an uncomplicated pregnancy at 40 weeks and 6 days. I labored at home, arrived at the hospital in transition, and gave birth to him 3 hours later. He weighed just over 10 pounds. It was a perfect natural labor- no interventions needed. I had some nerve damage and some difficulties afterward because of his size, but his birth was just perfect. I felt like after that, I could do anything.

The first thing I learned about a twin pregnancy was that no matter how smooth and uncomplicated my prior singleton pregnancy was, twin gestations are considered "complicated." Whether or not there are actual complications, there are going to be "complications." My complications began right from the start, just before 7 weeks, when I had bleeding and went in for an ultrasound thinking I was losing my baby. Instead, I found out I was having two babies.

Everyone was excited. "What a blessing!" we heard, over and over. I knew we were blessed- instead of losing one child, we were getting two- but I mostly felt overwhelmed and anxious at the news. Now, instead of worrying about the safety of one child, I was responsible for two. As the shock began to wear off, I told the midwife that I still wanted to do everything as naturally as possible. She smiled wryly and told me that "everything is different with twins- you're going to be getting a lot more attention around here."

She was right. The bleeding continued for a couple of weeks, and I was convinced the end was around every corner. We had weekly ultrasounds for months. Once, I was sent to the hospital for monitoring to rule out preterm labor when they thought something looked off with my cervix on the ultrasound. Nothing was happening- no contractions were detected. On every ultrasound, the babies were always doing great. They were the best case scenario for twins- dizygotic, diamniotic (meaning they were fraternal twins with two separate egg sacs). They were in good shape, and so was I. I was even able to be in my sister's wedding and was feeling pretty good, although everyone commented on how big I was.

Just after the wedding, around the 23 week mark, the medical team discovered my cervix was shortening and sent me to the hospital again for monitoring. I still wasn't having any contractions, but they decided to put me on complete bedrest to keep things from progressing any more. It was the day before my 32nd birthday. I spent the next three months in bed, lying on my left side, working from home, watching borrowed movies, reading books, learning to knit and trying not to go crazy while my husband was away at work and my two year old was away at day care. Thanks to the prayers and the support of friends and family who helped clean and cook and care for us, we made it through. It was the hardest twelve weeks my marriage has ever endured.

I went in for an appointment at 36 weeks and was released from bedrest. It was finally okay for the babies to be born. I expected they'd fall out on the way home or something, but they didn't. In fact, as I was leaving the midwife's office that day, the scheduler informed me that she'd be scheduling a planned C-section for 37 weeks. "That's when twins are full term," she said, "and we don't want them to go much past that."

I was floored. After spending three months constantly worried that I was going to end up with two premature babies in a NICU somewhere, they were planning a C-section? I told the scheduler she could do whatever she wanted, but that if they scheduled a C-section for my twins (both of whom were always head down), I would not show up.

She smiled and said we could wait until the next visit to schedule it.

At 36 weeks and 4 days, I went into labor all by myself. George and I went out and walked, and things picked up nicely. After laboring at home for a while, when contractions were 5 minutes apart, we called our doula to meet us at the hospital. We had decided a doula would be helpful, considering there would be two babies and no one quite knew what would happen during labor. A friendly extra set of hands and a like-minded, calming presence seemed like a good idea. We checked in around 11 AM. Things slowed down on the way to the hospital, but I wasn't worried- I knew once I got settled and was able to start walking around again, everything would be fine.

That was my first unpleasant surprise.

"Oh, you can't walk around," the nurse said. "You'll have to stay put. They want you on constant monitoring." Even though I told her I had discussed intermittent monitoring with my midwife, she was insistent that it was against the rules for twins and that the doctor on call (who supervised the midwife) wouldn't allow it. I told her I needed to see the doctor. She went out and came back a while later, saying the doctor was busy but that they would not budge on the monitoring. Two monitors, two babies, constantly on.

The trouble with those monitors is that they never stay put. Every time the nurse (or two nurses, or in one case four nurses) were able to get both babies' heart rates on the screen, one baby would move. The alarm would start sounding and nurses would come running to fix the monitor. Each of these episodes took about 45 minutes to correct. Then they would leave, turn off the lights, I'd have a contraction or two, a baby would shift position, and we'd repeat the whole process.

I tried sitting in a rocking chair for a while, then on a birth ball, but any movement dislodged the monitors. They finally told me I just needed to lie on my side in the bed and avoid moving. It felt like this labor was all about the equipment.

They kept coming in. If it wasn't the monitors, it was something else- check blood pressure, check temperature, check the endless strip of paper being produced by the monitors, change the strip of paper when the paper ran out, introduce the new nurse coming on at the shift change, set up incubators and scales for the babies hours ahead of time to prepare for their arrival. I was ready to get down to the hard work of labor, but they just couldn't leave me alone. Finally, my midwife came in to check me and said I wasn't making adequate progress.

This led to the second unpleasant surprise.

"There's a first-time mom here who is also having twins," she said. "Your labor is going to go faster than hers, because you've done this before. We need you to make quicker progress- we don't have enough people on the floor to handle two sets of twins coming at once, so we need your babies to be born first. We're going to start pitocin."

I shook my head, my eyes filling with tears. I knew the risks. I knew that it was likely to make my pain unmanageable without additional medication (especially since I couldn't move from my left side for fear of disturbing the monitors), and I wasn't willing to do it. I knew I was strong and that my body could labor naturally if given the chance to do its work. I begged her to ask the doctor to let me out of bed to walk. "You and I both know it will get things going," I told her. She agreed to talk to the doctor. A few minutes later, she came back and said the doctor had agreed to let me off the monitors for ten minutes to walk.

Ten whole minutes.

I walked laps around that floor like my life depended on it. As soon as I got out and started moving, contractions picked up. They got harder and closer together. I had to stop a few times to work through them, but I walked as much as I could. As we rounded the corner, I saw the doctor standing in the doorway of my room, ready to intercept me. My ten minutes was up.

I got back into bed. The nurses descended on me to hook up the monitors. 45 minutes passed while they tried to get things set up, and the contractions faded back again.

The midwife came back after an hour, checked me again, and said I had no choice but to do the pitocin.

This was my third unpleasant surprise.

Once they started that drip, everything was different. I was no longer in control at all. I couldn't tell when a contraction would start, when it would peak, or how long it would last. Every time a nurse came in, she turned up the drip a little more. Eventually, I was suffering through incredibly long, incredibly painful contractions with no ability to shift position or do anything to lessen the pain. The hours passed slowly. George and the doula did their best to help me through contractions, but there was no discernible pattern. After several contractions that double-peaked and one really memorable one that lasted eight minutes, I told them I had to have an epidural and that I didn't want anyone to question me or make me feel bad about it. There was no end in sight, and I just couldn't take it any more.

The anesthesiologist came to administer the epidural, and my fourth unpleasant surprise happened almost right away.

My blood pressure suddenly dropped, and I passed out.

When I came to, they had given me some other drug to counteract this side effect. George's face was white as a sheet. I imagine mine must have been a similar color. He said later that while he stood and watched the numbers on the blood pressure monitor dropping lower and lower, he thought I was going to die.

Once the epidural was going and the pitocin was going and the other drug to counteract the blood pressure drop was going, things went smoothly and were easily managed by the nurses. They liked the new, less combative, placid me, who felt nothing and didn't ask to get up or move or talk to the doctor or anything. They put me on my back, informing me when it was time to push and when I was having contractions.

The other twin mom had her babies first. A nurse came in and told me.

Finally, mine were ready. We had been praying for them by name for months, willing them to stay put and grow as long as possible. Now it was time to meet them.

Baby A, Lucy Clare, was born at 5:15 AM, weighing 5 pounds, 5 ounces.
I held her for a few minutes, then reluctantly passed her to George. The hospital doesn't like there to be a break between the birth of twins. The nurses said we needed to get Baby B out as quickly as possible.

Baby B decided to flip over and move up under my ribs to take advantage of the wide open space that she was no longer sharing with Lucy. The doctor, now in the room, was able to wrestle her back into position from the inside. It was probably a good thing I had that epidural at this point. I watched the doctor's grimacing as she struggled with the baby, her arm invisible from the elbow down. I felt nothing. I stared over my left shoulder at Lucy, who was lying in the warmer, taken from George so they could examine her. She was staring at me with wide, calm eyes. I remember thinking I should be holding her, that when her brother was born, no one took him away. It was the first time I felt like I couldn't give her what she deserved.

Baby B, Nora Lillian, was finally born at 5:55 AM, weighing 6 pounds, 6 ounces. Her face was bruised from her struggle with the doctor. I didn't get to hold her then, because they were afraid she was blue because she needed oxygen. (She didn't.)

The girls were 36 weeks and 5 days old.

When it was time to deliver the placentas, the second one didn't detach. There was traction and pulling and a great amount of blood loss that just wouldn't stop. There were a lot of people running around and doing things. They finally stopped the bleeding with a special balloon, inflated to keep pressure evenly on the inside of my uterus. Then they said I couldn't eat or drink anything but ice chips. They wouldn't tell me why.

At this point, I hadn't eaten or had anything but ice chips in over 24 hours.

I pleaded with them, but they were resolute. No food, no drink, no explanation. After another 12 hours, when we had all been moved to a different room (though I still wasn't allowed to sit up or get out of bed), the nurse finally agreed that I could eat something. My mom and stepdad went out and got Chick-fil-A for me, and the smell of it made me cry. I was so hungry. Suddenly, our nurse burst in. "You can't eat that!" she yelled, grabbing at the box of chicken nuggets. "You can only have light food! Clear liquids! Broth!"

By then, I had been through enough. My voice shaking, I told her that I was hungry, exhausted and at the end of my rope, that I was tired of them telling me what to do without explaining the situation, that she could send my doctor in here to explain what was going on, that I wasn't taking any more information from her. The doctor (again) was too busy to come and explain, but after a long time, one of the midwives came and told me they had been worried I might bleed out and need major surgery. That's why they wouldn't let me eat.

I have never felt so controlled, so tied down, so kept in the dark about my own condition. I was angry and sad and frustrated.

The story ends sweetly because both my girls were born healthy with no complications. I didn't need a C-section. No one had to go to the NICU. I was able to keep both girls in my room with me. I was able to nurse them both easily. We had to stay one extra day because Lucy had jaundice, but it resolved on its own, and I was able to advocate to stay at the hospital with the girls instead of being discharged and leaving them behind. The extra day in the hospital gave me a chance to figure out the positioning for tandem nursing on my own, which made me feel pretty awesome.

I am so grateful that the girls were fine. We spent months praying that we could keep them inside long enough that we would be able to bring them both home when they were born, and we did. That is the most important thing.

I met with the midwife a few weeks after the girls we born. She said things hadn't gone exactly as she'd have liked them to go but that rules are rules and we had to follow them. She encouraged me to see the vaginal delivery and the well-being of the babies as a positive outcome.

I agree with her- this was, in many ways, a positive outcome.
So why was it so hard to write this story? Why do I still feel conflicted about it?

I do not think "the birth experience" is more important than the welfare of my children; however, it's not enough to say, "Well, all's well that ends well, and you should be grateful that the babies were fine."

In a situation where an invisible doctor and a group of nurses were holding all the power, I as the laboring mother felt I had no power. I felt I had no choices. I felt that I was kept out of the loop about what was happening to me and that I wasn't able to speak up for myself or my children. After my son's birth, I felt like a superhero. After the girls' birth, I felt like one who had come through the great ordeal (with the scars to show for it). For now, I have to hold the feelings of gratitude and frustration in tension. Feeling upset about how some things went doesn't negate the joy I felt in bringing my girls home with me. These things don't have to be mutually exclusive.

The truth about birth stories, even the perfect ones, is that they're just the beginning. Once the girls were born, I felt such freedom and joy at being able to hold them, to look at them, to do what I knew was best for them. I'll be forever grateful for the moment that we left the hospital, George driving with me sitting in the back squeezed between their two car seats.

My twin pregnancy and twin delivery was just the beginning, and I don't dwell on it. Some of the memories of the birth still cause me pain and regret, but I survived. They survived. The real story started once we were all together, heading out into the world to be each other's family, and we're more overwhelmed every day by the blessing of having them in our lives.

Joining in with Rosie's Twin Birth Story Linkup at A Blog for My Mom- pop over to read how some other twins decided to make their entrances.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I got smacked in the face by a word.

I was completely determined NOT to follow the crowd this year and choose a Word of the Year.

Instead of making new year's resolutions, All The Cool People were choosing a word of the year. Sometimes they even prayed about their word, asking God to lead them to just the right one. They shared their words on their blogs, often with lovely photos of their word written artistically on a chalkboard or carefully lettered on a canvas. They were generally positive, encouraging and inspiring about the whole process.

Somehow, I just wasn't feeling inspired.

I did it last year. I had a word. I even wrote about it for someone else's blog. I know it's a thing. I see the benefits.

This year, though, I just couldn't get into it.

Sometimes, getting through the day-to-day, nitty-gritty details of life like cleaning toilets and planning meals takes enough energy. Who has time to choose a word?

(I know. Lots of you did. I just kind of opted out.)

Last weekend, I found myself without my children, alone with my husband, walking slowly through Carytown in Richmond and going into vintage shops. It felt unhurried, relaxed, and amazingly easy. I couldn't believe how much joy I felt simply from being able to look at things without hurrying, without someone tugging on my clothes or calling my name or crying that he or she had been hit in the head.

While waiting for a call that our table was ready for lunch at a restaurant up the street, we wandered into an antique shop that specializes in jewelry. George had bought me an antique rosary there many years ago, and I'd always wanted to go visit the shop myself. We browsed around a while and came to a case with a bowl full of old silver charms.

I still have (and wear) my old silver charm bracelet. My grandmother gave it to me for Christmas when I was in sixth grade. At the time, it had a snowman and a tiny piano dangling from it. I've continued to add charms to it. Every time we take a trip or hit a major milestone, I put something on the bracelet. My mom gave me a tiny silver wedding cake when I got married. I added a little turtle when we visited Hawaii, a pair of baby shoes after each of my children was born, a running shoe after my first marathon. I often wear the bracelet to Mass, because it's the perfect thing to keep a small child quietly entertained in a pinch. They all love to turn it slowly around and look for their favorites: the dinosaur, the double-decker bus, the Squirrel Nutkin.

Other people's charms fascinate me. They're like tiny windows into people's lives, and I love looking at them. Staring through the glass case at the pile of antique charms, I saw the state of Iowa, a boy's silhouette with the name "Thane" on it, a tiny baby rattle. Then I noticed a flat, silver disk with a single word engraved on it:


Let us rejoice.

George is the Latin scholar in our home, but from SuperSam's jump into studying Latin this year, I've grown to really appreciate the way that endings shape the words' meanings in that language. It didn't say "Gaude!" or "Gaudete!" - either of which would have made more liturgical sense, either of which would have been more commanding.


Let us rejoice.

It felt gentler, somehow, a call to something forgotten, a reminder that we do, in fact, rejoice. Sometimes, when things are rough and we're distracted and overwhelmed and struggling, we forget...but somewhere, deep down, the desire is there. The impulse, rooted in our very being, is to rejoice, even when we can't think of a single good reason to do it.


Let us rejoice.

We wandered to the back of the store, where we snickered at some porcelain Kewpie dolls and exchanged glances about an icon of the Infant Jesus of Prague that was the very definition of kitsch. We saw some lovely jeweled pins and an entire case of clip-on earrings like my Nana always used to wear. In my mind, though, I kept on seeing the simple engraved text, and I knew I needed the charm on my bracelet and the word in my heart.


Let us rejoice.

When I forget there is a way forward, I'll remember the word. On the days when I have to reheat my coffee five times before I get to drink it, I'll remember the word. At times when it seems like nothing is going right and it's never going to get any better, this is the word that will come to mind.


Let us rejoice, even the most stubborn among us, because we're made to do just that.

(Sometimes it just takes a while to realize it.)

This is Day 2 of the 7 Posts in 7 Days challenge hosted by Jen at Conversion Diary. To see the other blogs participating, go here. You might find some new favorites.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Olympic Catapult

We are seriously inspired by the Olympics around here.

Since SuperSam is also going through a fascination with all things Viking and Middle Ages, he has been wanting to build a catapult. I saw this great post last week with a number of different designs. After looking through them, we decided together that this one would be the simplest for our first attempt.

SuperSam gathered the materials, read the instructions, and put the pieces together with some help. I did the rubber banding- it seemed a little beyond his fine motor capability that day, and he was impatient to get to the "shooting."

He loaded up the catapult with a variety of plastic barnyard animals, dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. He shot them across the kitchen for several minutes before deciding to go Olympic with it.

"We need trials!" he proclaimed. "We need to measure who goes the furthest and give the winner a medal. They get two attempts, but we throw out the low score and keep the furthest one." Walking in frenetic circles around the kitchen, he stopped suddenly and said, "I need the tape measure."

We duct-taped the tape measure from my sewing box to the floor and lined up the catapult. SuperSam wanted to make a chart to track the results, so I helped by writing the names of the four competitors in his notebook. After the first few trials, he took over writing down the results in the appropriate column.

Once everyone had two turns, we examined the results. SuperSam circled the highest score for each participant. He struggled slightly with figuring out which numbers were bigger- he was fine as long as he only compared two numbers to each other, but trying to decide how to work in all four numbers was confusing him. I had to strongly resist the urge to tell him how to figure it out.

Finally, he decided to just place each animal on the measuring tape at the point of its furthest distance traveled. "That way, I can just see who went the furthest," he said.

He laid the animals out on the tape measure and was able to easily tell who had flown the furthest.

What a great idea that was! I'm not sure my "help" would have given him any greater understanding of the distances he was trying to compare. I'm glad I kept my mouth shut.

In true Olympic fashion, he made "medals" out of colored twist ties (one of those things I always save without any real idea of what we'll do with them). Once the animals were wearing their medals, he arranged them on a podium and asked me to sing the national anthem. (All three medalists happened to be from the United States.)

Finally, he made a pair of glasses out of some twist ties, put them on my cactus plant and had "Bob Cactus" interview the winner. I wish I had video of this part, but sometimes being present in the moment is more important than recording it. The iguana had a really squeaky voice and kept saying, "Well, I really just decided to try my best."

All in all, this was a really simple activity with lots of really practical, hands-on math built right in. Having plans to follow for the catapult design made it possible to do the whole thing in one morning. Although it might be a better engineering experience for SuperSam to design his own catapult, I think having the plans this time helped him understand the mechanics behind the catapult better than pure experimentation would have. I think he's actually more likely to experiment with making his own design now that he's built one using someone else's plan.

My favorite part was definitely the Bob Cactus interview...but I'm guessing everyone's catapult experience has a different kind of ending.

Let us know if you try making one!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

7 Quick Takes: The Olympics Edition

We are a dedicated bunch of Olympics-watchers in this household.

Since we moved into our new house (nearly 2 years ago), we haven't had TV. We have a Netflix subscription that we occasionally use on our TV, but usually we just don't have it on much. Since NBC and the cable companies were so stingy about their online coverage during the last Olympics, though, we got cable just for this month so we could watch in prime time.

We've been staying up way too late every night. Our oldest child has been staying up way too late every night, too...but he's clearly caught the Olympic spirit, because he's been staging his own events all this week.

We have two new celestial residents at our home. Sam saved up his allowance and did some odd jobs to earn enough money to buy Venus (pictured above with her gold medal from the first-ever Celestial Snowboard Cross event). George's mom then sent the Comet for Valentine's Day.

Sam took Mars and Venus outside in the snow to compete (complete with snow goggles and snowboards made from the tops of his Lego storage boxes). Mars wiped out, so Venus got the gold. At the last minute, Mercury also competed so that there could be a third planet on the podium. Flags were hastily assigned to everyone. When it was time to play the anthem, though, Sam pointed out that none of the planets are from Earth, so they couldn't appropriately have a national anthem from one of Earth's countries. (Earth wasn't even competing.)

For the anthem, he chose California Dreamin' by the Mamas and the Papas. You can debate its appropriateness as a Winter Olympics event song. I think it kind of worked.

Speaking of the national anthem, I'm really bothered by how many US athletes start singing along with The Star-Spangled Banner and then don't seem to know the words. George thinks I'm overreacting, but it just bugs me. It's not a hard song to learn (not the words, anyway). Doesn't it seem reasonable that if someone is going to the Olympics, he or she could either learn the words ahead of time or just not sing?

I propose sending all our summer games teams with a little leaflet and CD to help them learn the anthem on the flight to Rio. It would help pass the time. Or, we could substitute California Dreamin' - I think everyone knows the words to that.

Not to be outdone by their brother, Nora and Lucy have been creating their own Olympic events. Lucy slides back and forth on the coffee table on her tummy and calls it "snow sliding." I've decided never to let her watch skeleton, because I'm afraid she'd actually try it. For her part, Nora has been putting Sam's sock puppets over her hands and feet and "speed skating" on all fours across our kitchen floor. 

We have yet to experience any major injuries from these events.

The girls have also been putting me through some crazy, diaper-related, potty-training Olympics. They take their diapers off as soon as they're behind closed doors (like at nap time), which usually relates in potty-related messes. Some have been worse than others. I was able to get the upper hand for a few days by putting onesies under their clothes during nap time, but this morning, they were both completely naked when we got them up. The pajamas were unzipped on the floor with the onesies beside them...and the onesies were still snapped.

Maybe they should consider training as escape artists instead of Olympians.

With all the pregnancy-related tiredness (which I've exacerbated by staying up way too late watching Olympics every night), I've been in a lazy slump with our cloth diapers and have just been using disposable ones. We ran out of our favorite disposables from Target, so George picked up a box at Costco the other night while Sam and I were at violin lessons.

Oddly enough, the Kirkland brand diapers have lots of French on the outside of the box. How very global of them! Do a lot of French speakers shop for diapers at Costco?

Sam noticed that, despite the international flair of including the International Olympic Committee's official language, there were no Olympic rings anywhere on the box. "Costco doesn't support the Olympic Games!" he concluded, eyes widened in slightly judgy disbelief.

Come on, Costco. Be a team player. If Home Depot and McDonald's can do it, so can you.

I'm banning styrofoam from our house until further notice. Always a fan of recycled materials, I saved some big pieces of styrofoam from a packing box for Sam's endless projects. After turning a piece of it into a birthday cake for Saturn, he crumpled it up into itty bitty bits all over his floor. The bits are stuck to everything- his hair, our pants, our bath towels, the carpet in every single room. They cannot be vacuumed up, no matter how hard we try. We have to pick them up by hand and put them way down inside the trash can by sticking them to something already in there- otherwise, they adhere to the underside of the lid and escape again when someone throws something away.

They kind of remind me of the granular spring snow that everyone is complaining about in Sochi.

Thanks, as always, to Jen for hosting this party.
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Five-Minute Friday: Small

It's impossible to reason with her, standing in front of me defiantly with the little white box clutched in her hand, all ear-to-ear grins and wide eyes.

She's eaten her brother's violin rosin. Again.

She's taken all the toilet paper from the bathroom and run with joyful abandon down the hall, dragging the rolls behind her in her own kind of parade.

Maybe she's smeared stolen lipstick all over the side of the bathtub or colored on the side of the china cabinet with markers. Maybe she's put all the forks in the trash can or stuffed a handful of dishtowels into the toilet or helped herself to a nearly-empty can of Diet Dr. Pepper.

Whatever it is I've just found her doing, it probably wasn't the first time.

She leaps to great, gymnast-worthy heights on the sofa cushions no matter how many times I ask her not to, my voice getting bigger (not smaller) with every repeat performance. She dashes around the house after her bath without a stitch of clothing, singing, "I'm nakey! You can't catch me!"

"Come here, please, so I can help you put on your diaper, " I say, and she (all giggling and wild eyes and crazy curls) shrieks, "NO! I WILL NOT!" as she dashes away from my reach.

God, she is so tiny. She's just a little itty-bitty wonder-girl all lit up with the power of her ability to declare her intentions and act on them.

In the face of her amazing will, though, I'm the one that feels small.

Help me to guide her, not to squash channel her strength of spirit as she rejoice in the wildness and the wide-openness and the confidence that are her trademarks, her gifts, her tools for taking on a world that will not always be kind or respectful to her. And God, when my frustration bubbles over and I want to erupt, give me the strength to remember that sometimes, the best way to parent her wild out-of-bounds-ness is to kneel down to her level, look into her eyes, hold her, and remember that I, too, am small...and you never, ever yell at me.

Five Minute Friday

I'm linking up again today with the lovely community of word-wielders over at Lisa Jo Baker's for Five Minute Friday. It's a chance to write for five minutes in response to a one-word prompt and see what self-criticism, over-analyzing or backtracking allowed. Come check out what other writers think about Small...or give it a try yourself! You don't need a blog to play along- you can leave your writing in the comments on Lisa-Jo's blog.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Theme Thursday: Dishes

Once upon a not-so-distant time, the photo prompt "dishes" would have made me think of a sinkful of dirty ones.

No more. I have a little love affair with our dishes.

I don't love doing dishes, but I love these dishes. I love being able to choose my cereal bowl based on my mood. I love how the colors look all stacked up in the white cabinet. I love that every dish is a different color- since they don't "match," they all go together. They're like art...just waiting for me to add some pancakes.

 For more Theme Thursday takes on dishes, check out Clan Donaldson, where Cari hosts a weekly linkup for actual and aspiring photographers to share pictures with their takes on a theme. (I'm not really an aspiring photographer...I was just looking for a reason to take pictures of my dishes.)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

TwinsDay Wednesday: The naming of things

This TwinsDay Wednesday, I need to share how The Sisters have been adding their special creative naming flair to our discussions about possible names for the newest Dupuy, due in late July or early August.

Their suggestions so far have been really entertaining, to say the least.

I'm not sure what to make of their out-of-the-box naming style. SuperSam has always been a conventional namer. As a toddler and young preschooler, he named his toys categorically or by species. His stuffed dragon was Dragondy. His blue bear was Blue Bear. His sheep was Sheepy. Every now and then, a more inventive name slipped in (like the spotted Easter bunny named Io because the spots reminded Sam of Jupiter's moons). Generally, though, he stuck to basic, serviceable names.

The girls are not like that.

Nora, barely talking, began insisting early on that she have two dolls at all times. Why not, right? Her mama carries two babies at once, so that's obviously just how things are done around here. Whenever she held a baby in one arm, she would turn and demand that we give her "Other Side Baby." I didn't realize at first that this was his given name. To this day, though, even when he is not the second baby in the equation, he is simply called, "Other Side Baby." It seems pretty permanent.

When a friend gave the girls some dolls for the bathtub, Nora declared right away that her doll was named "Jack." She didn't even hesitate, and he has been called Jack ever since. Lucy wasn't into the naming thing yet, so Nora also christened her doll. His name? "Refill." Jack and Refill are usually inseparable, so if one Sister is holding them both, the other one has to be content to use Other Side Baby.

Refill and Jack (not their typical order of appearance)

Once Lucy started naming her own things, she quickly demonstrated a style all her own. Her first named doll was "Jesus." Pictured below are some members of Lucy's Sisterhood of the Uniquely Named.

From left to right: Blue Eyes in the Curtain, Pocket, Little Lord Jesus With The Poopy Diaper (not to be confused with "Jesus"), Yellow Submarine, Banana Hair, and Purple Baby.

Now that our children know they will have a new sibling, they have been contributing to the name pool. Nora's initial prophetic-sounding declaration: "If the baby is a boy, he will be named Penis."

The baby is, in fact, a boy.
All semblance of prophecy ends there.

We managed to convince her that another name might be better, and she settled on "Little Cute Brown Baby." SuperSam is not in favor of this name, seeing as how "no one can know until someone is born what color that person is going to be." Lucy's number one suggestion is "Dude."

I think we need some other ideas. Feel free to make suggestions. If you need to see him before you can think of good names, here's a sneak peak:

Just one little baby, who will not be named after his body parts

If you are into the twin thing and want to read more, check out Rosie's great list of twin blogs!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The "Dino Do List": Handling Chores and Allowance with young children

I'm always curious about how other families handle allowances with their children. What do you do when kids start wanting to spend their own money? 

A few months ago, SuperSam started needing money for things. He started asking to buy things when we went out and started paying attention to how much things cost. This told us he was ready to begin learning how money works. George and I worked together to develop a plan for how we are going to handle allowances and spending money with our children. SuperSam is the first and oldest child, so he gets to be the guinea pig.

As we came up with our plan, we discussed the things we hope our kids will learn about money before they leave our house. (It often helps to keep the long-range picture in is our handling of this issue now going to affect them when they start getting credit card offers as freshmen in college?)

The things I want our children to learn about money are:

1. It's not unlimited. You have a certain amount, and when it runs out, it's gone.
2. If you spend it today, you won't have it tomorrow.
3. You have to save it up over time if you want to get something special.
4. We don't have to spend lots of money to have fun.

The best way for SuperSam to start learning these lessons is to have a little bit of money of his own.

We decided that a dollar was a reasonable amount for him to have in spending money each week. We felt strongly that he also needed to be putting money in savings each week and sharing part of his money with those less fortunate. So he gets $1.50 allowance- a dollar and two quarters- every week. One quarter goes in his savings jar. One quarter goes in his jar for the church offering. The other dollar goes in his spending jar and is his to do with as he pleases.

In our home, allowance is not tied directly to chores. You get an allowance as part of our family, and you contribute to our family life and work in the ways that are appropriate for your age. SuperSam has a chore board with four jobs that he needs to do every morning and four jobs he needs to do in the evenings.

Here it is:

The magnet board came from the dollar bins at Target, and the wooden dinosaurs came from Michaels. SuperSam painted them himself (yellow for morning jobs and blue for nighttime ones), and we glued magnet strips on them. He has a basket on his dresser next to the board where the dinosaurs live when they are not on the board.

SuperSam is responsible for getting his "Dino Do List" done each morning and evening. He gets a reminder. If he doesn't comply or doesn't do his jobs, we tell him, "No problem, we will take care of it." I clean up whatever toys or make his bed or put the clothes in his hamper for him, but I invoice him for those chores. This keeps me from having to ask repeatedly or get into power struggles with him on more difficult days. I might charge 10 cents for picking up his dirty pajamas or 15 cents for cleaning up all the Legos from his floor- my rates are subject to change. The invoices go on the refrigerator so we can see them during the week.

At the end of the week, when we give out allowance, he brings the invoices to the kitchen table. We work together to figure out how much he owes us, and we break down the dollar into change so he can pay his bill. Anything left over is his to spend or keep for later. We do not get involved in his decisions about how he spends his money. If he has enough money to make a purchase, he can make that purchase. Even if it seems like an unwise decision to me, I do not put restrictions on what he may buy with his own money. I do remind him about big things he has been saving for or experiences that are coming up (our trip to California back in December, for example), but if he decides to blow his money on cheap toys or gum, I let him deal with the consequences of that decision.

Since we implemented this system back in the fall, we have had fewer arguments about chores and have seen SuperSam gradually taking more responsibility. He initially spent all his money quickly, but he successfully saved for his trip to California (where he bought a stuffed wooly mammoth for $14 in the museum gift shop at the La Brea Tar Pits). He also took on some extra work around the house to make additional money he needed to get the newest Celestial Buddy for his collection.

The very best way to learn how money works is to use money. I'd much rather him learn now how these things work than to wait until he is out on his own and the risks are much higher.

Do you give your children an allowance? How do you handle children's requests for money or for things when you are out shopping? What kind of system for chores is in place in your home?