Throwback: Our First Sleepover

[I wrote this post when the twins weren’t even two weeks old, but I never posted it. I thought it might be fun to share it now, so here it is.]

Our hospital has a policy that NICU parents can stay up to 3 nights at the hospital while their child (or children) is in the NICU. Usually parents save one of them for the night before their child is discharged. In our case, we decided to save 2 nights in case the twins come home on different days.

My husband had to go back to his new job (6 hours away) for a few days so I decided to have a sleepover with the girls on their 13th night in the hospital.

Holy tiredness. I have never been that kind of tired in my life. Every 3 hours, we take the twins’ temperature, change diapers, and feed them. This process takes about 30 – 45 minutes per girlie and then I have to go back to my own hospital room to pump. Pumping takes about 30 minutes after I wash all the pump parts so that left me about 1 hour to sleep for every 3 hours in the night. Anyway, let’s not dwell on that…

At the 6 am care hour, I had just started changing H’s diaper when she started pooping on the new diaper. I waited until I thought she was done and started changing her again, when – BAM! She pooped all over on my hand. Twin M had pooped mid-diaper change before, but it was just on her blanket, not on me. It felt like a rite of passage. I’m looking forward to the first total poop blowout.

H is a tricky little girl, though. While my attention was diverted to the poopy mess, she pulled her feeding tube all the way out of her little nose. They are both always pulling at their feeding tubes and oxygen cannulas. M especially likes to pull her cannula out of her nose and put it in her mouth. Seems like it would be salty, but she likes it.

One good thing about the hospital is the adjustable bed. I sleep pretty great on it (when I’m not in labor). Another cool thing about this hospital is the unlimited coffee. Also, (most of) the cafeteria food is pretty good and it’s basically free. I had bacon, eggs, a biscuit with gravy, and a banana for $2.63. The NICU bills must subsidize the cafeteria. I’m curious to see what each diaper is costing our insurance company…

But as good as the bed is, and as much as I enjoy bottomless coffee, I can’t wait to take our babies home.

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Why Are Kids So Expensive?

I’ve had this discussion so many times with other parents: why are kids so expensive? How can I be spending so much money when my kids can’t even ask for anything yet? Actually, scratch that – H asks for her “purple stick” c o n s t a n t l y. It’s a purple plastic handle of a cheap sand shovel. That accounts for 10 cents of the baby budget, but as for the rest of the money….

Prior to having kids, the expenses I heard about most often were diapers and day care. Our family only spends about $50 per month on diapers, even with two kids in them. So really, diapers are not that bad for us. Cloth diapers are also in style nowadays and can save a family money, especially when purchased second hand or reused from baby to baby. Day care, though, is definitely expensive. If I didn’t stay home full time, we’d spend at least $24,000 per year on day care. That’s a lot of money, but there are also benefits to day care or preschool – it’s more than just babysitting. On the other hand, the opportunity cost of my foregone salary is more than $24,000 per year. Either way, kids are expensive to watch/entertain/teach all day!

There’s other important stuff too, like food, cribs, car seats, sippy cups, toys, and clothes. We spend a dumb amount of money on Nutrigrain bars and applesauce pouches because they’re so easy to keep in the diaper bag. We’ve also spent at least $100 on binkies in two years, too. And then there’s stuff you don’t need per se, but it makes life so much easier.   I love our video baby monitor and I recommend one for all new parents. I’ve heard people rave about the Baby Brezza formula maker and I would definitely spring for one if we needed to formula feed ever again.

I think the best way to save money on baby stuff is to borrow it, and when that’s not possible, buy used. We have a Bob (brand) stroller that I found used for $50 and it’s by far the best baby purchase we’ve made so far. I also scour garage sales for clothes and participate in a semiannual clothing swap.

I don’t particularly like labeling kids as expensive because it carries a negative connotation. I don’t think you’ll meet a parent who would say their kids aren’t worth the money it costs to raise them. I actually can’t think of a better use of our money. Although I’m an accountant, I admittedly have not used my CPA powers to track every dollar spent on our kids. I suppose I’ve just accepted that “kids are expensive.” However, with future expenses like college tuition to plan for, I think it’s smart to be mindful of spending in the early years when all they request of you is a purple stick.

Let’s Talk About LAHS

Quick disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional and nothing qualifies me to write this besides my personal experience as a teen at LAHS.

In recent years, I have heard a few different discussions regarding the high school in my town (Los Alamos High School). Very recently, I saw a thread on a local Facebook page that voiced concerns that our schools are only worried about student achievement/grades, instead of the mental health and wellbeing of the students. Ever since I was a student there myself, I have heard that only “geniuses” can succeed at LAHS and if you don’t fit in, you would fall through the cracks.

I graduated from LAHS in 2005. Per my SAT scores, I am of average intelligence (and if you look at my ACT scores, I’m below average) but I did very well at LAHS. I enjoyed high school and, overall, my experience was good. I know I had a few teachers who seemed unconcerned about me or whom I didn’t particularly click with, but I also know there were teachers whose doors were always open. I had to study hard, but I never felt an unmanageable amount of pressure. When I got to college, I felt academically prepared and I remember thinking that all the hype about the “excellent” Los Alamos Schools was true.

However.

On several occasions, I have seen or heard former students pinpoint LAHS as the main reason for their failure to thrive as adults (their words, not mine). More worrisome, I have heard that teenagers at LAHS seem to commit suicide at a higher rate than “normal.” I’ve heard it too many times to ignore, but my first instinct is to dismiss these claims outright because I loved LAHS. How could it be that I had a good experience at the same school that is apparently a driving factor for kids to commit suicide?

The thing is a lot of different people have been sounding alarms about LAHS in the years since I graduated. I finally realized that just because my personal experience was positive doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. Because my girls will be attending these schools in the future, I decided to try and research this for myself. After all, who actually cares about my daughter’s GPA if she hates herself?

I went to the CDC website to try to substantiate the most troublesome claim that Los Alamos has a high teen suicide rate. There is a nifty query tool on the website (Click Here) where you can run suicide statistics by county and age range; however, for privacy reasons, statistics based on 20 or fewer deaths are suppressed. Because Los Alamos only has approx. 18,000 residents, I cannot isolate the actual data for the county for teenagers. For the entire state of New Mexico, though, the suicide rate for ages 13-19 for years 2008 – 2014 is more than twice the national average. That’s not a good statistic.

I also found a “Los Alamos County Community Health Profile” report online (Click Here) and it paints a pretty sparkly picture of Los Alamos. According to the profile, Los Alamos residents make a lot of money, rarely smoke, and our teenage birth rate is virtually zero. Oh and this is an actual quote from the report pertaining to homelessness: “According to the 2013 NM Point in Time Survey, In Los Alamos County no people experiencing homelessness were found.” Wowee. But I digress…. When I finally got to the county suicide information on page 24, it shows suicide rates for the county to be lower than the state average, but I can’t really tell the age range used to populate the graph. I wonder if information pertaining to minors available for a “Community Health Profile” like this one? Long story short, I don’t know how much I trust this information.

In the end, I, as a private citizen, am unable to tell (via online research) if the teen suicide rate is in fact high for Los Alamos County. I do know that in a small town, word spreads fast and we all hear about everything, particularly underage deaths. It’s possible that the small town factor makes the rate seem high. Or maybe the rate is high. Even if I had been able to find actual numbers, I probably would have further questions about causation versus correlation, etc.

Mental illness is very complicated and I think it’s a mistake to pin the responsibility on our schools. I know that statistics don’t really matter when it happens to you and I cannot think of a more heartbreaking scenario than a child’s suicide. I sincerely hope that if a teacher observes something troubling involving my child, he would contact me or otherwise attempt to help my child. Additionally, I hope that if we identified something at home, the school would work with us to try and fix it. I cannot say for certain that that would happen at LAHS or at any school, but I hope it would. According the CDC, “[suicide] prevention occurs at all levels of society—from the individual, family, and community levels to the broader social environment.” Our schools cannot do it alone, that’s for sure.

Mom of the Year

Since I’m campaigning for Mom of the Year*, I took the twins to the library for Music and Movement last week. It’s actually a really fun thing to do, and great on a rainy day.

I normally take a double stroller everywhere we go because I can’t chase the twins in opposite directions (and the first law of twinning is they always run in opposite directions). But on this particular day I thought I’d attempt taking them into the library sans stroller. First, M ran away from me in the parking lot before I could get H out of her seat, which made my heart drop into my butt. I recouped from that, we made it into the library, and H was so excited that she barrel rolled down the stairs. It was a horrifying sight, but it scared her (and me) more than it hurt her.   So by now my heart was at my feet and we had a tough time enjoying both the music and the movement.

After the class ended, we played a little bit at the toddler area (our library is so awesome) and then I thought we would try to stay for Story Time.

After quickly determining that the twins are definitely not ready for Story Time, I chased/herded/carried the twins to the elevator.   While we were going up, I thought I better find my keys before we got to the parking lot.

I couldn’t find my keys, but I also couldn’t keep the twins from running out the automatic doors, so I just hoped the car was unlocked. I tricked them both into holding my hands as we made our way to the car and that’s when I found my keys.

They were in the ignition.  Turns out I left the car running the whole time we were in the library. But I also left the car unlocked so I’m going to put this one in the Win column. We made it home without further incident and then stayed inside the rest of the day. #momoftheyear

 

*JOKING

Perfection Problems

Twenty years ago, my mom attended my sixth grade parent-teacher conference. During the meeting, my teacher told my mom that I showed some perfectionist tendencies, and that she feared I might melt down if I earned anything less than an A on a test. When my mom reported this back to me, I thought it was a silly thing for my teacher to worry about. My 11 year-old mind was confused for two reasons: 1) isn’t that why we’re here – to get straight A’s? and 2) I will never get a B, so there’s nothing be concerned about.

Now that I have daughters of my own, I can see why my teacher was concerned. My twins are still very young but I already find myself wondering what parenting challenges lie ahead for us. Among the many hypothetical scenarios I imagine, one in particular pops into my mind the most. I often wonder if my girls will be perfectionists, just like me. I am afraid they will quietly struggle while putting on brave faces, too scared to expose any weaknesses. I am worried they will spin their wheels chasing impossible ideals, only to be crushed when they ultimately learn that perfection can’t be reached.

I’ve come full circle and I’m worried my own daughters might freak out if they get a B in elementary school.

I want to be a good example, but I haven’t actually changed much since sixth grade. The truth is that I didn’t really think perfectionism was a weakness until recently. In job interviews when asked what my greatest weakness is, “I’m a perfectionist” has always been my go-to answer. I knew my potential employer was writing down “will stay late on Fridays” but I also knew it was the perfect answer to the world’s worst interview question. I now understand just how much you can miss out on when you’re obsessed with straight A’s, low body fat, or a pristine home.

In our house, we will expect our girls to study and try hard in all of their classes. We want them to attempt different extracurricular activities and make a commitment to something they love to do. They will have responsibilities, rules, curfews, and summer jobs. We hope they aspire to go to college and have fulfilling careers. However, it is equally as important for them to learn how to recover from failure. I want them to know that even though we have expectations of them, they aren’t supposed to be perfect people.

One of my girls will run to us crying when her MegaBlocks get out of alignment. After we fix her tower by making the corners perfect, she visibly relaxes. My twins are only two years old, but I wonder if there are things I could be doing now to discourage perfectionism. Obviously, much of this will depend on how their personalities develop, but from personal experience, I don’t think I can start too early. I remember sitting in my kindergarten classroom, writing lowercase b’s in a workbook, and erasing them over and over. When it was time for recess, I didn’t have any letters written down.

In my opinion, there is a special kind of pressure on girls to be perfect little princesses and it’s my goal not to encourage that. I don’t want my children to struggle trying to be perfect little girls and, later in life, perfect women. My hope is that my children won’t take 30 years to embrace imperfections because even if things look perfect, they’re not. When you are obsessed with perfection, a small departure from your ideal outcome can be really devastating. For example, instead of viewing a B as an above-average grade, it can feel like a major failure to a perfectionist.

So here I am, trying to nail down the perfect amount of imperfection for my kids. Like I said, I haven’t changed much. However, I give a lot of credit to my parents because somewhere along the way, they showed me how to be resilient (and also how to have some perspective). I didn’t get straight A’s in college, but, contrary to my 6th grade teacher’s prediction, I didn’t melt down when I got B’s. I actually thought they made my A’s feel a little sweeter. Nowadays, I still need certain things to be just so, but I also rarely wash my windows, never make my bed, and sometimes forget to brush the twins’ teeth at night (I’m trying to be better about that last one). Just like everybody else, I’m a work in progress.

Don’t Call Us “The Twins”

I recently read a book called Don’t Call Us the Twins: The World’s Most Misunderstood Minority. It was written by identical twins who are now in their 60’s. While I did not think it was the most well written book, it gave me a lot to think about.

There was a chapter devoted to the term “the twins.” The authors referred to the label as “one of the biggest battles identical twins face in life.” They went on to say they would not recommend referring to identical twins as “the twins,” because it takes away each person’s identity and people who use the label are just lazy. They also think it’s a mistake to dress identical twins alike because it further strips them of their individual identities.

I currently subject my twins (See? It’s a habit of mine already) to both of these cruelties…. As I write this, they are wearing matching neon tank tops and blue shorts. They even have the same ponytail.

At first, I thought the authors’ view was pretty extreme. Is it really that serious if I choose to call my children “the twins” and dress them alike? As I thought more about it, I started to think that maybe the authors were right. While I think it’s pretty special to be a twin, I’ve never been one myself so it’s hard for me to intuit what may be difficult about it.

I am wondering what other people think about this. Specifically if you are a twin yourself, did you hate being dressed the same as your twin and being known as “the twins”? If you’ve raised twins, did they protest these things? If you were best friends with twins, did they confide in you about this stuff growing up? If you’re a psychologist, do you think I will damage my kids if I emphasize their twinness? If you just have an idea about this at all, please help! Comment below or send me a Facebook message or a text or anything. Thank you in advance!

Pre-baby Weight

The scale finally says I’m back to my pre-baby weight. I gained a whopping 70 pounds during my pregnancy and it took me almost two years to lose it all. I remember feeling disappointed on the twins’ first birthday because I still hadn’t gotten back to my pre-baby weight. However, instead of dwelling on the extra pounds (like my pre-baby self would have), I chose to focus on what my body had accomplished 12 months earlier. I appreciate this body more than I used to.

As time goes on, I’ve realized that I can’t “get back” to my pre-baby body. That body doesn’t exist anymore. I look a lot different than I did 3 years ago, even at the same weight. I think most women would agree with me when I say that pregnancy permanently changes your body. It’s just different.

In a fun little switcheroo, the more weight I lose, the more readily my stretch marks show up. Although I wish they weren’t there, I don’t hate my stretch marks because I think pregnancy also changed my brain. I obviously still care about the number on the scale, but having kids gave me more perspective. Like a lot of people, I always want to lose 5 more pounds, but it’s no longer my first priority. It took pregnancy and childbirth for me to respect my body. Two people grew in there, you guys, and I don’t know what could be cooler than that.

I initially started writing this post because I was happy to have lost the weight, but I kept asking myself why I was really writing it. Was it to let other moms know that I did not “bounce back” in 8 weeks? Was it to pat myself on the back? Was it to convince myself that weight doesn’t matter? I think it’s a little of all of that, but, since having the twins, it’s been an unofficial goal of mine to be less fixated on my weight. I have two little girls watching me now, and I don’t want them to have body image issues, like so many (most?) girls and women do. I know that I can only control my own actions and that they will inevitably see magazines and watch television and be otherwise influenced every day with images of what they’re supposed to look like. I can’t control everything that they see and hear, but I hope to give them the skills to know what is real and what is important. Should be easy, right?

IDENTICAL

The Results Are In

Turns out, our twins are identical. Huh.

Since the day we discovered I was pregnant with two, every medical professional told us that our twins were fraternal. I believe the “there’s two in there!”ultrasound tech  immediately told us they were fraternal, but I was in shock so I don’t remember. Then my OB said there was a 99% chance they were fraternal. Later, our pediatrician, who we love, also said that our type of twins (known as “di di twins”) is “textbook fraternal.”

Our girls are diamniotic/dichorionic (aka “di di”) twins, which means they were in their own sacs and had their own placentas. It’s a common misconception that di di twins are always fraternal; however, the only way to rule out identical twins (that are the same sex and have the same blood types) is to do a DNA test. Identical twins can look different and fraternal twins can look alike. It is not possible to say with 100% certainty that same-sex twins are fraternal just by looking at them (but, honestly, if they look really different, they’re probably fraternal). Boy/girl twins cannot be identical…because one is a boy and one is a girl – no DNA test required there.

Right after we got home from that first ultrasound appointment, we started researching di di twins. We’ve suspected since that first Google sesh that there was more than a 1% chance our twins were identical. After our girls were born, we found out they had the same blood type, but we still didn’t get a DNA test right away. After wondering aloud for almost 2 years, we finally ordered a home DNA test. How cool is it that you can get your DNA tested for 100 bucks nowadays? Science!

After we got their results (the likelihood they’re identical is 107,987,712,983 to 1), I immediately started researching. I wanted to find out how common it is for di di twins to be identical.  To my surprise, I couldn’t find much good information. A Google search for “di di identical twins” returns a few articles, but mostly blog posts and forums. Blogs and first-person accounts are only good in an anecdotal sense. A search for monozygosity1 on Amazon returns a single book that is “currently unavailable.” It boggles my mind that it’s 2017 and I can’t find what I need on online. When’s the last time you Googled something and couldn’t find a single suitable result?  I even tried our local library! Although it’s a good library, it only has a couple of twin parenting books, and otherwise carries almost exclusively fiction on the topic of twins (i.e. The Midnight Twins or The Templeton Twins Have an Idea). All I want is a few scientific articles or a book written by a perinatologist or anything other than Sally K.’s personal experience with her di di twins turning out identical.

After some more poking around, the following link is the best, seemingly legit summary of twin facts I have found so far: http://www.twinstwice.com/twins.html

Why does all this matter? It really doesn’t, except that people ask me on a daily basis. As the twins grow up, I’m sure people will ask me less, but I imagine the twins will have to answer the “identical or fraternal?” question for the rest of their lives. It doesn’t bother me at all to field twin questions because I am still fascinated by the whole thing, too. What bothers me is the widespread misinformation that almost everyone has heard, and that even doctors seem to believe it. It would also be cool if our local library carried something other than tacky twin murder mysteries.

I would have bet money they were fraternal, so I’m glad I didn’t do that. According to my identical/fraternal Facebook poll, 59% of voters also agreed with me. So it looks like our twins have managed to surprise us again. I guess twins are funny like that.

 

1 Monozygotic = one egg (identical twins); Dizygotic = two eggs (non-identical a.k.a. fraternal)

Never Sleeping Again

I finally realized that I’m never going to sleep again. Not really, anyway. The twins are 21 months old, I get the recommended 8 (sometimes I even get 9) hours of sleep, and I’m still tired. The first 6 months of parenthood were relatively sleepless for us – my husband and I call it the “dark period” – and I feel like I’m still trying to claw my way out of the sleep deficit.

We did sleep training with the girls when they were 6 months old and, technically, it was successful. Every day, they go to bed at 7 p.m. and get up at about 6:30 a.m. Buuuuuuut, one of them still wakes up crying almost every night. They seem to take turns waking up, so although they are individually pretty good sleepers, when combined, not so great (wahhhhhh! Feel sorry for me!).

Per our sleep training guidelines, we let them cry for at least 5 minutes before checking on them…but that means I’m awake for at least 5 minutes in the middle of the night…and if I’m awake, I have to pee…and then it takes me a few more minutes to fall back to sleep…. It’s a whole thing.

Apparently, the technical definition of “sleeping through the night” for a baby is 5 consecutive hours of sleep. By that definition, my girls sleep through the night every night. Too bad that’s a terrible definition of sleeping through the night. Don’t get me wrong, the first time our babies slept for 5 hours straight, I woke up singing, “A Whole Neeeeeeeeeew World,” but eventually, everyone needs more than 5 hours in a row.

Let’s take last night, for example. The twins went to bed at 7 p.m. I was extra tired, so I went to bed at 8 (it was still light outside). I turned on American Crime and immediately fell asleep. At some point between midnight and 1 a.m. (Look at that! My little overachievers can sleep through the night by 12 a.m.) I woke to H’s crying. I checked on our video monitor to make sure she has her binky and seemed otherwise okay. I also decided that maybe it was cold in our house so I turned up the thermostat 2 degrees. Her crying tapered off and she was quiet after about 6 minutes. Sometime after that, I fell back to sleep. At about 5:50 a.m. I woke again to H’s crying (uh, by that time, she had slept through the night twice in one night). Since I have a personal boundary of not getting them out of bed before 6 a.m., I let her cry for a little while, and she actually fell back to sleep. But I was awake, even though my eyes were stuck shut.

I don’t know why the 15 minutes of wakefulness in the middle of the night is so tiring – I still got over 9 hours of rest last night. Some glorious nights, neither of them wakes up at all. I’m still tired, though.

This morning, with my eyes still closed, I finally accepted that I’m just going to be tired for forever. I know I’m not going to get more sleep when they’re no longer confined to a crib, or when they’re potty training, or when I go back to work full-time, or when I’m waiting for them to make curfew, or when I’m awake just worrying about them. I’m still going to be tired.

I realize this post sounds a little complain-y, but I’m not really complaining, just documenting my current state in hopes to look back fondly and laugh someday. It’s corny, but the tiredness is worth it.

Anyway, how much coffee is too much coffee? [Asking for a friend.]

Fave Travel Tricks

I joined the Mile High Club. Not the sex one – the one where you fly with a little kid on your lap!

My mom and I took the girls to Michigan so they could meet their Great-Grandma Miller. They also got to meet most of my mom’s family, which was so fun. [Huge shout out to my mom for making the trip with us. She chased the twins around busy airports, held sleeping babies, changed diapers, and helped entertain the girls for some pretty long flights. She was (and is) amazing.]

Kids less than two years old don’t have to have their own seats on the plane. It seems like a good deal, but I had anxiety for months about not getting them separate seats. At 20 months old, they don’t generally sit still, and they’re already dabbling in some terrible two behaviors, so it just didn’t seem practical to keep them on our laps for hours at a time. I was pretty much banking on our flights not being completely full so that we could have a whole row to ourselves. With a little luck, flying actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, thanks, in large part, to the smart advice that many of you gave me before we left!

Here were my favorite travel tricks:

  1.  Pretty much everyone recommended I pack snacks, snacks, and more snacks. We had so many snacks. Oh and Dum-dums! Not only did they help the kids pop their ears, but they also entertained them. Two little lollies kept M busy for a whole hour on one flight.
  2. Bring a zillion baby wipes. My girls would stick their dum-dums on the tray table, on the window, on my arm, basically everywhere…. I just let them do it because they were being quiet. I would wipe down our whole area (and my arms) every couple of minutes with baby wipes, so I was glad we had so many with us.
  3. Sit in the last row of the plane. We were on Southwest, and they have Family Boarding after the A group. We would go straight to the very last row and occupy the whole thing. With a twin on either side of the worst seat on the plane (the non-reclining, engine-roaring, bathroom-adjacent, middle seat) we could pretty much count on no one sitting in between us.  And, actually, if someone were crazy enough to sit in that seat, either my mom or I would have had to move because the only one lap child is allowed in a row (because there are only 4 Oxygen masks per row).
  4. Buy a round of drinks for people sitting close to you (this was a great suggestion, Nikki!). Most people didn’t accept the offer, but they seemed to appreciate it.
  5. Take plastic Easter eggs on the plane (This was my favorite idea, Laurel! Thanks!). The girls played with them, used them as snack containers, and opened them to find a surprise (the surprise was always a Goldfish). They’re lightweight and super cheap, so it wasn’t big deal when we lost one.

On the last leg of our trip, which was also the longest, we had several outstanding flight attendants who were great with the twins. I was so thankful for them!

Before the trip, my biggest worry about flying with 2 under 2 was disrupting other travellers’ flights (and getting scolded for it), but most people were very understanding (and probably just glad it wasn’t them in my shoes). It wasn’t exactly relaxing to travel with toddler twins, but it was definitely worth it. Thanks, everyone, for the awesome travel tips!