Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Twin Dilemmas

It's not that cold today.  I dressed both kids in their lighter-weight winter jackets.  I didn't have them wear hats.  I almost didn't wear a coat myself.  Almost.  The weather is decidedly different than it has been these last few frigid weeks.  Perhaps that is why I felt a tad guilty when I sat down in the driver's seat, my kids safely strapped behind me, and reached to turn on the heated seat. 

I was cold, as I am apt to be, and the cool leather radiated through my jeans.  I reached for the heated seat, but my hand stopped mid-air as I thought of my little girl happily singing behind me.  She has the same circulatory system that I do; her extremities are always cold.  How could I justify turning on my "hot-ass" (my husband's term for the heated leather) when I hadn't even bundled her in her warmest jacket?

Then I remembered that she had, only moments before, been happily lying on the blacktop making a "snow angel."  Without a snowflake in sight, she thought it was fun to spread arms and legs in tandem on the hard macadam while I secured her brother in his car seat.

The scene unfolded in the parking lot after music class.  We have been attending music class since my kids were five weeks old, and the routine has changed dramatically in the last two and a half years.  When they were tiny babies, it was difficult for me to make the trek by myself.  The music studio was on the second floor of a building without an elevator.  Unloading them from the car and maneuvering the stroller the two blocks from the parking deck to the studio were difficult tasks for a mama recovering from a c-section.  Carrying twin carriers upstairs was impossible.  Since leaving one on the street while I carried the other to the classroom was not an option (though it crossed my mind, as I'm sure it has every twin mom's at some point), I quickly recruited help for the weekly outings.  Grandparents were more than willing to accompany us, and the tradition continued for quite some time.  Now, however, it is much easier to accomplish music class alone.  Since the kids can walk, I have no problem maneuvering...  yep, no problem at all.

Last night I attended a meeting of a Mothers of Multiples (MOM group).  I overhead one MOM of younger twins asking a veteran MOM how she could get both babies out of the car and into her home/a store/the doctor/etc.  Her daughters refused to sit in a stroller, and she did not think it was possible to carry both of them in her arms at the same time.  She asked if it was okay to leave one in the car while she took the other inside and then reverse the trip.  Another MOM answered her by telling the story of a woman who was recently arrested for leaving her kids in a parked car while it was still running so she could drop a bag at the door of the Salvation Army, a few yards away. 

Next idea?

As a veteran twin mom, meaning my twins are older than 2, I had to smile when the advice given to the newer MOM was to "haul them up under each of your arms."  The MOM giving this advice mimicked a football player in her stance as she demonstrated how she herself had handled the dilemma.  I smiled because I had done the same thing.

Transporting twins from the car poses new dilemmas with each stage.  When they are tiny in their baby carriers, which shift easily from car to stroller, most twin moms are fighting the pain of the c-section.  At this stage of life, the babies are light enough, however, that carrying both bassinets is doable when a stroller is not an option.  For instance, going from the house to the car is easy when you can do it in one trip and not worry about leaving a baby alone for any amount of time.

Of course, babies grow.  Quickly.  So by the time a MOM has recovered enough from the c-section to avoid outwardly wincing, it gets more difficult to carry both babies in their car carriers at the same time.  I was convinced that I was going to pull my shoulders out of my sockets, and I'm sure my chiropractor has still not fixed the damage I did when my twins were between 3 and 6 months. 

Twin car seats pose another problem inside the car, particularly for a twin dad.  It is impossible for twin parents to follow safety guidelines and attach a single car seat in the middle of the backseat.  In fact, it is less safe to put one car seat in the middle and one on the outside.  Thus, a car seat must be placed on each side of the car.  The design of backward facing infant car seats, the ones that make life easier by sharing a bassinet with a stroller, limits the range of motion of the seat in front of it.  For a tall driver, like my husband, it makes for uncomfortably long trips perched atop the steering wheel.  Thus, at the first possible moment, we ditched the car carriers and switched to convertible seats.  (Note:  When backward facing, the convertible seats allow for approximately 1-2 inches more movement.  This is not quite enough to get a tall driver off the steering wheel.  We dressed our daughter in multiple layers, despite the heat of August, on her first birthday so that she would hit the required weight and we could turn her seat around.)

Without the bassinet carriers and with twins who could not walk, there was no option except for me to carry them both when I could not use a stroller.  So I know the football stance well, and I sympathized with the MOM who was facing this dilemma.  What I wanted to tell her, and didn't, was that it gets easier --- but more complicated --- when they walk.

When my kids started walking, people joked with me that they were probably going in two directions all the time.  I laughed, amused at the joke, because in fact, they were not doing it all the time.  Most of the time it was quite easy to keep tabs on the two of them.  The one exception, however, was when we were in a parking lot or someplace equally dangerous.  It seemed that every time I needed them to stay together, one got away ---- and as they grew, they gained speed and agility.

After experimenting with different techniques, like allowing my son to climb around the inside of the car while I strapped in my daughter, we developed routines that worked, most of the time.  Without question when I take the kids alone, my daughter gets unstrapped first and strapped last.  She is much more tractable and easier to contain.  Usually I squish her between my legs and the car while I buckle my son.  Today I was a little more lenient, and I lifted my son into his seat before I had her pinned appropriately.  She took the opportunity to make a snow angel on the blacktop in the empty parking space next to the car.

As I contemplated the cold seeping into my body from the leather seat, I pictured my happy daughter on the asphalt.  She didn't seem to mind the cold then.  And her car seat had to be warmer than the ground, I rationalized.  So I hit the "hot-ass" and joined her in singing her tunes while we trekked home from music class, dilemma solved --- at least for today, anyway.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

My Kids are Smarter Because I Don't Stay at Home

I'm convinced my kids would be a little less smart if I stayed at home with them.  I know I would be.  Max and Ruby would drag me down, I'm sure of it.  Or maybe it would be the never-ending circuit from the "school room", where my daughter likes to color, to the "playroom", where my son likes to drive trains, that would mess with my mind.  When I'm home with the kids, I don't get a break.  While one plays quietly, the other demands my attention. They aren't quite ready to entertain each other while they play, so I'm the on call, go-to gal. 

Except, of course, when I build them a fort.

There is something about a blanket draped over a couch pillow that invites kids to drag every toy they own into the hideaway.  As kids, my brother and I, though five years apart in age, could play together for hours in a well-crafted fort.  When we were about five years old, my friend Abby and I moved all of my toys from my room into my closet in order to play camper.  Our unsuspecting fathers, who were babysitting together for the day, had no idea why it was "so quiet."  I'm pretty sure the cleanup they had to do that afternoon inspired Abby's dad to create a built-in fort in his own bedroom closet when they remodeled it.  If the toys were meant to stay there, he wouldn't need to clean them up at the end of the play date. 

I built forts with everyone as a kid.  My grandparents, my aunt, my babysitters, my parents - everyone at one point or another pulled pillows off the couch and allowed me to set up house.  My kids get it honestly, I guess.  They love forts.  Their forts, however, must be built to specifications that tire me quickly.  We need to use the "downstairs" blankets.  If we are building one upstairs, we need to use the ironing board for maximum space and structural support.  Above all, we need to move every single truck my son owns into the fort.  Oh, and of course, I am "too big" to enter the fort.  What fun is that?

I am writing this while my daughter sits in front of the TV.  I resorted to Max and Ruby, her new favorite show - the only show that will keep her attention for more than 6 minutes - because she didn't nap today.  My husband is out this afternoon, enjoying some much needed guy time at the poker table, and I was looking forward to a few hours to work on my syllabus and my lesson plans for this week.  I tried all of the tricks we use to get my daughter to nap.  She refused.  So while my son naps quietly upstairs, she is currently sitting on the couch, not being intellectually stimulated by interaction with her worn-out mom.  She's engrossed in Max and Ruby, a show that will probably not make her smarter.

But I needed the downtime so the TV won.  It's been a tiring few weeks.  I haven't written a blog post in two months.  Since my last post in November, I've finished the fall semester, hosted Christmas, faced looming deadlines, including the start of the spring semester this week with two new courses and the February deadline for my reappointment package.  Despite the chaos of the last two months, I was feeling rather balanced - until last week.

I had been writing a book chapter for a Friday deadline, working the draft for over two weeks.  My schedule for writing was set by pre-existing doctor's appointments, emergency doctor's appointments, preschool registration, the basement renovation - basically, life limited my time.  With a week left to go, I had my days planned by draft number.  By the middle of the week, I coached my babysitter to write the grocery list and asked her to take the kids to the store so I could avoid the banging and cries for "Mama" as they stood at my office door.  I was running out of time, and we were completely out of food.

On Wednesday night, the sitter called.

"I just wanted to let you know I'm throwing up," she said.  Her words not so subtly informed me she would not be working the next day.  My mind quickly sifted through the images that Thursday would hold without the sitter.  I could see my son sitting quietly in front of the Thomas movie, but there was my daughter skipping into my office, trying to write on my paper.  I flipped forward to naptime and knew that Murphy's Law would mean at least one of them would be awake and in need of entertaining.  I turned to my husband.

"I HAVE to write tomorrow.  I have a deadline."

I have to give my guy credit.  He came home after his morning appointments to help, and I was able to salvage a few hours of writing on Thursday.  When the sitter called Thursday night to say she wasn't better...

Well, let's just say chaos ensued.

In the end, my MIL did the grocery shopping, and I was able to get my chapter submitted by the deadline.  My deadline today isn't making me as manic, and I'm about to sign off because my little girl just came in to tell me she needs help with her computer.  I'm not sure what this means, exactly, but it's time to provide some intellectual stimulation for the next generation.  Or maybe we'll just build a fort.