Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mostly May (a.k.a. the Sixth Month)

May was, as I call it, "The Month When Everything Went into Their Mouths." Julia discovers her thumb but doesn't use it for long. James likes to hold your hand and then slowly bring it towards his mouth...

Taking photos involves a lot of removing fingers from mouths

Has there ever been a more adorable thumb sucker?

Grandma is here until mid-month (Grandpa joins her twice during her visit as well), and then I'm on my own for a day until Bubby arrives for a week. After she leaves I'm on my own for a week. May marks the first time I'm really on my own with the babies. I know it sounds crazy but I've been blessed to have so much extra help from our parents that, except for a day here and there, I hadn't really been on my own before. (And that isn't to say that it's been easy with two of us here handling twins - often, especially the first few months - it still seemed like we were outnumbered.) I avoided feeding the babies at the same time in the past but I realize my first day on my own that it's the only way to survive. I also try to stay sane by making a playdate for every day (something I still do when on my own). One time while pumping in the morning, I have to sing (and sometimes whistle) for 20 minutes straight to keep the babies from crying. (When I'm caring for the babies by myself, my pumping sessions often end like that.) While on my own, my skin cries uncle from all the bottle washing and I end up with a bad case of eczema that the doctors says I'll have until the babies are out of diapers. Mark and I go on our first dinner out with the babies (to Shana Thai) which goes fairly well since they just sleep. We think, "We should have done this earlier" until Julia starts crying. I also celebrate my first Mother's Day as a Mom. Bubby gives me a sweet charm bracelet and Grandpa James and Julia give me roses.

Grandpa can't get enough of his Jewel

James is fascinated by Bubby

Someone here is doing the babysitting. It's just not necessarily who you'd expect.

On 5/13 James laughs for the first time. He laughs and laughs when I grip his thumbs while he's seated, pull him towards me a few inches and call out "waterski!" (Since his arms are out it resembles waterskiing.) James's laugh is a cross between a hiccup and a clown nose, and makes me cry happy tears. He also giggles and giggles when I play "near/far" with him. (I am inspired by Grover and go in close and say "near!" and move out and say "far!" He particularly likes the suspense when I gradually creep in and say, "Near... near... near... NEAR!!!" He even turns to look when I say the words "near/far" to Julia as though those are words he recognizes.) Bubby reports hearing James giggling in his sleep.

"Major Giggler, reporting for tickle duty, Sir!"
(I bought this outfit a couple years before the babies were born.)

James's new favorite activity is to sit in the living room inside his car seat with the activity arch hooked on. Well, it's his favorite activity until he gets frustrated. On 5/14 he pulls on the ball on the activity bar on his own for the first time to activate the pinwheel. James starts scratching the crib mattress mid-month, and a few weeks later Grandpa "teaches" him to scratch the chenille armchair. Grandpa also teaches James to make a raspberry sound on 5/18. Our mother's helper, Jessica, tells me that James has really strong motor skills for his age. James moves his legs as fast as he can (what I call "swimming") during tummy time but goes nowhere. Near the end of May he moves a tiny bit forward.

"Hey baby this seat next to me's not taken..."

James making the pinwheel spin himself

James used to be my zen baby who was happy with anyone holding him. This month he's suddenly scared of new people! He cries while looking at them but gets over it after a few minutes. Stranger anxiety is supposed to kick in at six months; I guess James is precocious. He also starts crying when he wakes up from a nap, and to go to sleep he gets upset unless he's rocked and given his blankie square. James always seems to have his arms in the air to be picked up. He also rotates a lot in his sleep - one night he did a full 360! (I know because I checked throughout the night - too bad there wasn't a time lapse camera.)

James giving his blond girl toy a good beating. Violence against women can never start too early, right James?

Julia wears shoes - espadrilles in fact - for the first time on her 5 month birthday and immediately starts hitting them together like she wants them off. (It's also so far the last time she's worn shoes.) Julia sounds like a cat in heat when she squeals, and at the beginning of the month Grandma starts having "conversations" with her where Julia "talks" and Grandma responds by saying, "Is that so?" and then Julia continues and so does Grandma. By mid May Julia loves sitting up and seems to be on the verge of crawling when she moves a bit during tummy time. But this isn't really so since she still isn't crawling.)

Julia really loves the vibrating bouncy chair this month. She starts making raspberry sounds at the beginning of May (no doubt taught by Grandpa) and starts sitting up on her own. One day Julia cries in her sleep which breaks my heart. At the beginning of June, Julia is really hard to read at feeding time. She does what we call her "stiff starfish" impression where her limbs go out straight and stiff and she arches her back, pulling her head back too. We don't know what to make of it - the doctor says she's indicating she's not hungry but she only does this the first few minutes of her feeding and then is perfectly content to drink a whole bottle. The "stiff starfish" impression goes away after about a month.

Julia's first (and last?) time wearing shoes

Julia always seems to poop on this outfit. I like to think she's trying to send a message. (Mark: Is this the ninth time you've used this joke? Me: Don't care. Still funny.)

Julia tricks into thinking she might one day crawl

The babies love "grandma roll" where Grandma holds the babies out in front of her with their feet on her chest as she bends forward taking them with her. They visit the grocery store for the first time when Bubby comes to visit. They get Bumbo seats so they can sit up in them; James barely fits with his Michelin Man legs. Much of the reason we get the Bumbos is because we think Julia will love being able to sit up. However, she hates them and tries to escape (as seen in this video) by launching herself backwards in them every chance she gets. By mid May both babies, starting with Julia, are able to hold their necks up when pulled foward. In April and May the babies sleep in Boppy pillows on the sofa at naptime because it's a smoother transition from our arms to Boppy pillows to get them to sleep. By the beginning of June both babies can bear some weight on their feet when put in a standing position. By the beginning of June, James and Julia really enjoy books and both can open up the pop up area of books (as well as hit them). James shows his love for his book Where Is Baby's Belly Button? by kicking a lot when he's excited.

James with Julia in a rare moment of not trying to escape her Bumbo seat

Everyone but Grandma gets to sleep in a Boppy pillow on the couch

I like to kiss the twins' noses and cheeks - they smile and laugh. They also love when I flutter a blanket over their heads or when they're held overhead like they're flying. We (or really, Mark) continue to work on the particulars of acquiring our house and James comes with us to the escrow agency. (He sits at the table like he's a silent - or at least "pacified" - partner.) Mark freaks me out by pretending that he fed James peanut butter. ("You fed him peanut butter?" "Maybe." "That's really bad." "Oh. I didn't then." "Did you or didn't you?!") See what I put up with?

Grandma and her nudie cutie, Julia, flying before bathtime

Julia and James switch outfits for the night

Friday, September 24, 2010

Video Break: James and Julia Fight Over a Toy... and More

First they fight over (and with) the newest and most coveted toy in the land-- the musical key chain. Then Julia shows off her clapping skills while James massages her foot. The massage quickly devolves into attempted cannibalism.

This was taken 9/05/10.

Monday, September 20, 2010

What I Didn't Realize About Babies Before Birthin' Em: Part III

11) Babies get weird things like baby acne and cradle cap

The baby acne was very minor and only lasted for a few weeks of the first month, but the twins still have cradle cap, which affects about half of all babies. Cradle cap basically is a harmless skin condition resulting in scaly patches on the scalp. We were told that putting a little baby oil on their scalps before a bath might help to slough it off. Julia has quite a bit of it on her scalp, which is currently completely hidden by an uber-cool mohawk. James (and Julia to a lesser extent) has it behind his ears (Cradle cap tagline:"cradle cap - it's no longer just for your cap!")

This is what cradle cap looks like. However, this is not one of my babies.

12) How much lint they accumulate in their hands and toes

Especially when they're little, babies keep their hands clenched at all times so eventually when you pry those tiny hands open you find quite a bit of wet stringy lint. Any socks they wear are constantly shedding tiny lint balls so that accumulates between their toes, too. Similarly their neck folds hide lint, mommy hair, and dried spit up. Yum.

Julia's baby feet! I can actually see a piece of lint in there now (on her left foot between her big toe and the next toe) (5 1/2 months)

Who knows what lint lies within James's rectangular baby feet (or as Mark calls them, "white anvils")?... (5 1/2 months)

Julia grips so hard you have to pry her hand open to get it out. (2 weeks)

13) You will be flooded in spit-up

This depends on the baby since my friend Rachel R. told me that each of her babies spit up a total of 10 times the first year. I don't know what kind of mutant perfect babies she had but ours spit up often both during and after feedings. They spit up less now but since James is on his tummy all the time lately, he leaves little puddles in his crawling wake. In their spit up heyday I had shirts that were literally drenched in spit up. I only wear cotton now. The first couple times they spit up on our purple sofa I'd fastidiously clean the spot, but eventually Mark and I both gave up and just gave the area a quick wipe. Also, there is nothing like spit up in your hair. That's a joy Mark doesn't have to deal with. It's especially disappointing if you finally got to wash your hair for the first time in nearly a week only to have it sticky and matted from spit up.

14) Hot water and soap destroy your hands

When I was the only one washing bottles for two days straight I developed a terrible case of eczema on my hands. Basically all the water and the anti-bacterial soap dried out my hands, and when you're washing bottles and changing diapers - especially for two - there's a lot of hand washing to be done. Apparently this is very common among mothers of small children. I now only use Dove Sensitive Skin bar soap, I make Mark wash the bottles, and I use food service disposable gloves during diaper changes to handle the wipes. At night I have to soak my hands in a tub of water for 10 minutes and follow it by coating my hands in Vaseline, applying two types of medicine, and then sleeping with cotton gloves.

Here's my eczema ravaged hand before treatment; fortunately the thumb has since grown back

15) It's fun seeing their personalities develop and so soon!

If you were to ask me at 6 months based on knowing them only the first week, "Who do you think will be a fussy eater?" and "Who can't wait to be mobile and explore?" (first answer: Julia, second answer: James) I would have guessed correctly.

James loves his toy as a newborn and still loves to figure out how it and other things work (2 1/2 weeks)

James having fun. Or crying. Probably having fun. (2 1/2 months)

Friday, September 17, 2010

James's Big Adventure

Let me start by saying that I'm a terrible mother. I'm not trying to get you to make me feel better or convince me otherwise, I just feel horrible for what happened to James - even if it was two months ago now. When we lived in the apartment I often let the twins play on the bed in the extra bedroom. I know it already sounds like a bad idea but it was sunny in there and it was a different place than the living room that they well, lived in, so it improved their moods. I always made sure to check on them every few minutes. I knew James was getting more mobile - not crawling, just flipping over and rotating - though I still didn't think he'd be able to reach the edge of the bed without a lot of time on his hands. Well, on this particular day I was in the other room getting ready to pick up my mother-in-law at the airport when all of a sudden I heard a loud thud. I immediately knew what it was and went running. (Mark: REALLY? YOU WENT FOR A RUN INSTEAD OF CHECKING ON THE BABY?)

My heart melted when I saw him in the hospital with his bruise and those electrode things. The shirt he was wearing with the dog with the black eye was ironic.

James was at the foot of the bed, lying next to an office chair. He immediately started screaming. I comforted him and was surprised (and later, concerned) that he only cried for about a minute. I saw a bruise start to appear on his cheek below his left eye- I think from hitting the base of the office chair - so I put ice on it. I wasn't quite sure what to do. I started to call Kaiser but realized that it would take an advice nurse forever to get on the line with me, so I called 911. I said I wasn't sure if I needed assistance and asked if they provided medical advice. Stupid, I know, but what do you know - they do have an advice specialist on hand! The specialist said they could send an ambulance for James but I thought it sounded unnecessary since he seemed okay. And then as soon as I got off the phone James started to fall asleep in my arms. If you know James you know this is not typical behavior. This is a boy that fights every nap. So to see his eyes watch me and then roll back I was worried something was seriously wrong. I called 911 back as I yelled, "James! James!" and shook him gently to wake him. He woke up but did the same thing over and over again. I was terrified but tried to stay calm. The 911 operator stayed on the line with me until the EMTs arrived about 7 minutes later.

"See what you did to our son?"

Once the EMTs arrived James seemed to be back to normal - maybe it was because all these new things were happening around him. He passed their alertness tests, and I think they put a mask over his nose and mouth to test his oxygen levels. Since it was a two foot fall onto carpeting (they surveyed the scene of the crime) they thought he was fine, but I could have an ambulance take him to the hospital if I wanted. I did want because of James's unusual sleepy behavior which I described to them. They asked if he usually acts like his sister. I looked over at Julia who's usually all smiley trying to get attention but instead her big eyes silently surveyed the three EMTs. I told them not even his sister is acting like his sister. The EMTs (all male) essentially told the ambulance drivers (all women) that James was fine, but I added that he had tried to fall asleep in an odd manner. Because of his abnomal behavior they wanted to take him to Valley Medical Center instead of Kaiser (possibly because it was slightly closer). They put James in his car seat, his head protected by rolled up receiving blankets, and strapped the car seat to a gurney. I would have liked to have seen that part or taken a picture but at the time I had other concerns, like getting ready to get to the hospital as soon as possible, and hoping my little boy was okay.

Note the smiley faces the nurses put on his electrodes.

To our surprise, James's identification tag listed his name as "YYTwentyfive, Yankee." Apparently when babies are admitted without parents (even though the ambulance had his health insurance information) they admit them with pre-made identification bracelets.

The ambulance could only take one baby and of course I had Julia with me, too, so I prepared to take her with me to the hospital. At the same time my mother-n-law arrived from the airport in a taxi (and saw James being loaded into the ambulance) so she watched Julia while I met Mark at the hospital.

My heart melted when I saw James at the hospital. He was sitting up on a gurney with little electrodes all over his body, and of course a very visible bruise. He was surrounded by three attentive nurses he had charmed. They told me that they thought an MRI was unnecessary and that all their tests showed he was perfectly fine. He got a perfect score on the Pediatric Glasgow Coma Scale. (I never want to have another child have to be measured on a coma scale.) However, they still wanted him to stick around another 4-6 hours for observation. They told us they needed the bed he was in so we'd have to wait on the gurney in the hallway. It felt pretty ghetto not having a room in the hospital. We played games with James on the gurney. I sang songs he knew to make sure he reacted as normal. (And no, that reaction was not, "Crap, mom's singing again?") Mark reached into the diaper bag looking for formula and asked, "Is it all toys in here?" Indeed, I filled the bag with all of James's favorites... as well as formula and diapers.

James hangs out in his hospital room - oh wait, it's just a bed in the hallway.

The doctors thought James was fine and released him after only two hours. I still worried about him. Mark still tells me, "No droppies" when I'm with the babies. On a side note, I've been teaching the babies sign language since they were about three months old and when I make a sign I repeat the word for it three times. As a joke, Mark tried to teach the babies a new sign - he'd point to about the area below the eye on himself where James's bruise was and say, "Neglect." "Neglect." "Neglect."

You know James is feeling better when he wants to put his foot in his mouth

"Don't you know? A foot in the mouth is the best medicine, Mommy!"

Here's Mark's Buzz post about the ordeal:

Jul 24: Yesterday's "minor baby issue" turned out to be a 3 hour trip to the ER as well as Baby's First Ambulance Ride (TM). I wasn't at home to see it, but I'm told the EMTs put him in his car seat and then strapped that to a gurney before loading him in. Missed photo opportunity!

As Kathy discovered yesterday, one day babies stay where you put them and the next day they don't, and sometimes that means they unexpectedly make their way from "on the bed" to "off the bed." But I’ll skip over all the worrisome bits in the middle and jump to the end: James seems to be fine except for a rapidly vanishing bruise near his eye (possible photo caption: “You should see the other baby!”) and he left a wake of charmed nurses at the hospital.

Of course Kathy felt awful about what happened but everything turned out okay, and I’m pretty sure James already has no recollection of any of this, so I think we’re lucky. Fall’s well that ends well...

Monday, September 13, 2010

What I Didn't Realize About Babies Before Birthin' Em: Part II

6) Their idea of a comfortable sleep position is different than your idea of a comfortable sleep position

I often find my babies sleeping with their heads tilted way back (the pictures don't do this justice) and both arms up beside them.

Another punching match in the crib... or is it? Actually they're both just sleeping. (2 1/2 months)

Julia strikes a pose - watch for her in America's Next Top Model Cycle 33 (1 1/2 weeks)

James with his head tilted back and pretzel legs (6 months)

7) Handling spit, ear wax, and boogers is no big deal when it's your baby

I think if it was another person's baby's spit, ear wax, and boogers I'd find them totally disgusting, but since they're my own babies I have no problem being hit with a saliva covered hand, clearing out a little ear wax with my pinky, or trying to pry out some boogers from an uncooperative baby. I joke that they should make baby booger tweezers. When I am able to pull out a booger I usually exclaim, "I got your booger! I got your booger!" And then I realize the jokes on me because I'm holding someone's booger...

I'm not into eating the babies' ear wax or boogers but if I were, I might also have a hankering for these ear wax and booger Jelly Belly flavors.

Oh my. Baby booger tweezers exist.

My new gym shirt?

Mmmm... boogery...

8) It's impossible to sleep in the same room as a baby

The first couple months in the early morning I would sometimes try to sleep on the sofa in the living room where the babies also slept. The problem is they make too many noises! And you don't know what those noises mean. You tell yourself you'll ignore it and go back to sleep, but then you start fixating on it and worrying that a cough you heard might mean they're choking, and before you know it you're up every five minutes checking to make sure they're okay.

9) Another thing you end up doing a lot after babies are first born is checking to make sure they're still alive.

Babies seem so vulnerable that it seems totally possible that they could die and you'd never know it. You end up watching them closely to see if they're still breathing. Mark taught me the easiest way to check their vitals - putting a hand on their chest to feel for breathing. I still do it, though not as much now.

10) You will have dreams where a baby is lying in bed next to you

Babies take over your life (if you haven't heard) and since you're constantly holding one you will eventually dream that there's one next to you in bed. Then you'll wake up and wonder if the dream was real or not, and you end up searching for a baby in your bed just in case. This happened to me repeatedly - Mark would see me searching for babies in the bed in the middle of the night and make fun of me. I knew there probably wasn't a baby there but I'd get up and double check the bassinets anyway to make sure there wasn't a baby on the loose. I wasn't the only one - I know my mom and Mark both woke up at times and thought there was a baby next to them.

Mark asleep in bed with his two babies (Julia and his Nexus One phone). (3 months)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mostly April (a.k.a. the Fifth Month)

James and Julia have a couple visitors this month. First on 4/29 Mark's Uncle Allan and Aunt Linda come bearing pizza (good bribe!). Then, beginning on 5/1, Candice and Dataknife Steve visited twice with their daughter Nora for the twins' first playdate scaredate, as immortalized here. On 5/6 I take the babies around Cornish & Carey, my then place of employment (though I haven't worked there since my first pre-term labor scare). Then I quit. It's Stay at Home Mom-dom for me. When my parents return to San Diego, Mark takes a week of family leave to help care for the twins. When my parents get back up here they're so excited to see the babies that my dad follows the first rule of entering my apartment - take off your shoes - by taking them off in the elevator!

Julia's a tiger!

Mommy and James

For the sixth time in two years we bid on a house, but this time it's accepted! (It's not a good sign when you ask your realtor if any of her clients have taken longer to buy a house and she just hems and haws without actually answering.) With a house the babies won't have to sleep in dresser drawers in our apartment anymore. Actually that's not quite true - we did finally buy a crib for James earlier this month. Which means Julia is upgraded from the bassinet to the Pack N Play. (At first we try putting them both in the crib for several days, and it's cute how they rotate until their feet touch in the middle of the crib. Then once in the middle of the night I notice that James has rotated so his head is next to her feet. After that I declare separate sleeping quarters.) In other personal news I get a blocked milk duct and discover it's very painful.

James, making a guest appearance in Julia's bassinet. He's outgrew his bassinet and his pajamas.

James can't contain his excitement about the new infant carrier.

"Nobody puts ME in a corner!"

Julia, for once, excited to see her brother

James sits for the first time on 4/13 when Mark props him up (he probably could have done this earlier but we didn't try). James starts mouthing everything this month (not just his fist) and Julia starts a few weeks later. Mid-month Grandma and I try to put the babies on a schedule, or at least figure out what their schedule is. They follow a naptime schedule pretty well (10:30 a.m., 2 p.m., and 5 p.m. for 20 minutes each) but feedings are all over the place every 2 1/2 to 3 hours based on when they wake up, which can vary from 4 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. Both babies go through a mid-month growth spurt involving eating more food, more hibernation, and more fussiness. James likes to put his hands on his bottle while being fed so on 4/14 I let go and am impressed as he feeds himself unassisted for 1 minute. (He could've gone longer but the bottle drooped just slightly so I took over.) Julia has been making noises that sound like "hi" and okay" since the beginning of the month. She also likes making the "k" sound (Grandma taught her to k-k-k-kick), and Julia is delighted when I repeat the "k" sound back to her like I understand her. Mid-month Julia starts sitting up unassisted where she pulls herself up to sitting from her reclined position in the Boppy pillow. Both babies prefer to be held facing out so they can see the world and starting 4/17, put their arms out to be picked up, especially James.

James sits by himself for the first time.

"Move aside. My turn."

Julia's a little French girl!

We have a car seat arch that includes a pinwheel that turns if the ball attached to it is pulled down. The problem is the ball is too hard for a young baby to grasp, so since mid-April we've been putting our hand on top of the ball and then James pushes down on our hand to make the pinwheel spin. My friend Leslie, who is a day care teacher, often comes over to play with the babies and tells me that according to the books, babies learn this sort of cause and effect stuff at 4-9 months (and of course James arrived a month early so his gestational age is younger). This is interesting since at 2 months James also figured out the vibrating activity chair (when hanging animals are hit, music and lights come on). Leslie's also impressed that both babies can hold toys and have done so for awhile. (Just a note: I don't write these things to brag, but one day the twins will read these monthly updates and they'll be interested to know this stuff. Also, my kids are better than your kids.)

Julia in the vibrating activity chair with a diaper on her head. I'm not sure what went on here but I blame Mark.

James makes sure Julia knows who's in charge.

Julia's blue period

I notice when James turns four months that his brow turns red when upset or sleepy - it usually means he'll get cranky in five minutes. It's a good poker tell for Mommy. He also has peach fuzz growing in on top so he looks less like he has male pattern baldness. I usually can get Julia to stop crying by smiling and singing her favorite song, "Let's All Sing Like the Birdies Sing" (from The Tiki Room). James's favorite song is "Bicycle Race" which I sing while pumping his legs like he's riding a bike, and "Here We Go a Diaperin'". Mark dances with Music Duck and James tries to join in and moves his arms and legs. James loves books so much he wants to hold them himself and then cries when we close them.

All done!

Our strawberry girl

You can see James's head's peach fuzz growing in as he preps for his role in his next movie, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden James."