November 29, 2005

Morphing Into Mama on Family Traditions

I can’t now remember how I found Morphing Into Mama’s blog but I’m so glad I did. I am regularly awed by her wit and her ability to put parenting into perspective. She says things that I wish I had the nerve to say and I’m never disappointed when I visit. MIM is studying to be a Marriage and Family Therapist – I’m picturing a cross between Dr. Ruth and Dr. Phil – and I’m sure she’ll make a fine therapist. While I would love it, I’m sure the APA would frown upon her blogging about her clients. (Now there would be some great stories!) Oh well. We’ll just have to settle for her blogging about her family – and, trust me, that is plenty enough. I’m so excited that she has agreed to share her family traditions. So, before this gets too long and I gush any further, please welcome MIM to Childsplayx2. And when you’re done reading, go over and visit her – just don’t mention you’re parenting without a license.


Holiday Traditions Made From Scratch

Because my parents divorced when I was three, I had the unique experience of growing up in two very different households, each with its own set of holiday traditions. When I lived with my mother, holidays were usually spent at my grandmother’s house. Twenty of us would show up at her single-wide at noon sharp, eat with very little talking, clean up, and leave no later than 2 p.m. – sharp. By 1:45, Grandma was looking at the clock, instructing us to wash the dishes faster so she could get to her 2:15 card game at the Clubhouse. Everyone was always happy to oblige since Grandma never served liquor at family gatherings. Not that she didn’t drink it, she just didn’t believe in drinking before 7 p.m. – sharp. So, we were always home by 2:30 p.m., and the holiday was finished.

Our two-hour holiday family gatherings were an implied tradition, along with the coleslaw my mother brought and still continues to bring to dinner to this day. Every night before Thanksgiving and Christmas, my stepfather stops at the KFC drive-thru and purchases two quarts of coleslaw and, voila! My mother’s holiday cooking is complete.

Another important unspoken tradition was the television, which had to be on 24 hours a day – even if no one was watching it. Rather than listen to Perry Como, the television provided us with Christmas jingles used to sell beer, toys, and toilet paper. In fact, one Christmas at Grandma’s house we arrived to find the television sitting at the head of the table. Grandpa gladly took his seat to the side since nothing reigned higher than the television. Sigh. Memories.

At my father’s house, you knew the holidays were close when we’d make our annual trip to Liquor Barn to drop $500 on wine, scotch, cognac, port, and more wine. The decanters and brandy sniffers were brought out and cleaned. The cigar box was stocked. And the chessboard became a fixture on our coffee table for the next six weeks. My aunts and uncles would arrive and the festivities would begin. Marathon chess games were played, the television was completely ignored, and the record player only stopped spinning long enough to put on another jazz tune.

For food, we’d nibble on cheese and crackers all day since my step-mother, while an excellent cook, had no concept of time let alone time management. The day of Thanksgiving and Christmas she’d wake up and write her to-do list, which included things such as calling every single relative she had, painting the bathroom before the guests arrived, polishing all the silver, ironing all the linens, cooking a five course gourmet meal with only fresh ingredients she hadn’t yet purchased, and, oh, what the hell, writing the all-American novel, you know, in case she had an extra fifteen minutes. By five o’clock in the afternoon half our guests were passed out from trying to fill up on booze, and the other half of us would be wandering aimlessly throughout the house trying to remember where we were.

Dinner was finally served around nine o’clock. We’d eat the first three courses like savages throwing as much food in our mouths as possible with one hand while the other hand guarded our plates with a threatening fork or knife. Conversation would finally begin around the fourth course, and by dessert, everyone would be laughing, having forgotten their earlier plans to stick an apple in my step-mother’s mouth and roast her for dinner. Aw, the memories.

When Husband and I had our own children, I began thinking about holiday traditions. I asked Husband if his family had any, and his reply was a quick, “No.” So, we decided that we were going to have to make some from scratch. I wasn’t about to eat KFC with the television blaring, nor did I want all of us starving to the point of wanting to kill each other. Thus, we’ve decided on a few traditions of our own. First, no television. Second, stress will be minimized as much as possible with proper planning. Third, since we cut corners on dinners all year round, a gourmet meal with fresh food is a must. This year for Thanksgiving, for instance, I prepared a butternut squash soup with a red pepper mousse, apple and cranberry chutney, green beans with hazelnut butter, a fresh turkey stuffed with chestnut and sausage dressing, and gravy made from turkey stock prepared the day before. Husband made mashed potatoes and two pies: sweet potato with a three-nut topping, and pumpkin served with freshly whipped cream. Fourth, dinner will always be served promptly at five. Fifth, since we’re not religious, instead of grace, we will take time during dinner to talk about the things for which we’re thankful.

I’m sure we’ll add more to this list over the years, but the point really is that we want to create warm, happy memories for our children. We want them to remember the smell of spices, the sound of laughter, warm bonding moments, and the love of family. If any of you have any additional ingredients to add to this recipe, I’d love to hear them.

You can visit Morphing Into Mama at

November 28, 2005

So, you say you want twins

Often, when talking to people who do not have twins, they tell me that they wish they had twins as well. I know what they mean. It’s hard not to want two cute babies at once. And there are benefits to having two at once. For example, they will always have each other to play with. For women, only having one pregnancy and one delivery is enticing as well. For us, we always have a baby to play with. We have never once fought over who gets to hold/feed/read to/play with the baby – because there is always one to play with.

But before you go wishing for two at once, I thought I might shed some light on what happens behind the scenes of twin parents.

Pregnancy Issues
First, there is the initial shock of finding out you are having twins. I walked around the house saying “Two Babies” over and over again. I had to keep repeating that we were going to have two babies in order for my mind to finally start to accept this as fact. So many worries were flowing through my head – most of them of the financial manner. Two childcare payments, two teens driving at the same time, two college tuitions, two young adults moving back home… You get the picture.

Second, the woman is dealing with two babies in there! The morning sickness is unbelievable, and by the time you’re 26 weeks pregnant, everyone around you assumes you’re going to give birth any moment. There’s also the real risk of the babies coming very early. This can be stressful. Thank God Andrea was able to carry the twins to 38 weeks but this is very rare. Often, twins have to spend time in the NICU and that can be scary for any parent.

The Early Days
I used to have sympathy for parents with a newborn baby who would tell me how tired they were. “I have the 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. shift” they would tell me. Well, when you’re breast feeding twins, there is no shift. Mommy needs help getting the twins set up to feed and because twins are often smaller, they are not the most efficient breast feeders. It would often take us close to an hour to feed them and then we’d sleep for about an hour and a half (tops) and then be right back at it again. Sleep deprivation is horrendous. I got, at most, 3 to 4 hours of sleep for the first six weeks of the babies being home. Andrea got even less. Let’s just say you find yourself saying things to your spouse at 4:00 a.m. that you would never say at any other time.

People say the darndest things
Once you are out and about with twins, you get treated like a b-list celebrity. People point and will say things as you pass. Mostly, it’s “How cute! Twins!” The more brave people will ask some of the most moronic questions or say the same things over and over. Here are a sample of these…

1) Are they twins? Not really an inflamatory question but sometimes it’s pretty darn obvious.

2) Oh, a boy and a girl? Are they identical? Um, no. One has a penis, the other does not. Definitely not identical.

3) Boy, you have your hands full. No, really? Thank you for that brilliant observation.

4) (Prior to having the twins) Get some sleep while you can! What? We won’t get to sleep? What are you talking about? All babies do is sleep, right?

5) Do twins run in your family? Andrea is adopted. We have no idea. Our standard reply is “They do now!” This is usually when people start to tell us that twins run in their family (like their uncle’s father’s brother’s daughter had twins). I have started to give people an education about twins. “Actually” I’ll say, “Fraternal twins (due to the release of two eggs at once) are hereditary but only on the female line. I had nothing to do with us having twins. While there is some evidence that identical twins may have something to do with the father, it’s mostly by chance that someone has identical twins.” Also, many times, I get the feeling that people are asking because they want to know if we had the twins naturally or through fertility treatments. Um, is that really your business?

There’s two of them!
So many complications come up when you have more than one baby. Often, I think how easy having one baby would be. Here are some examples of when those thoughts pop up…

1) While playing with one, the other looks at you as if to say, “How come you’re not playing with me?” It’s so hard to have one-on-one time with the twins. It’s rare when I can spend time with just one. And when we do, it’s usually for a pretty short amount of time. I begin to start keeping score in my head. “Okay, I played with TheMonk on my lap for 10 minutes. Now, I have to go get Swee’Pea and do the same thing.”

2) Sleeping. We have been fortunate. Swee’Pea has slept through the night for a long time. Now, we’re trying to get TheMonk to stop waking at 4:00 a.m. We’re using the Ferber method but the first step is to remove Swee’Pea from the room as soon as TheMonk starts to fuss. Otherwise, we have two crying babies at 4:00 a.m. Nap time is also difficult. They get tired about the same time but one usually falls asleep faster than the other. It’s not uncommon to spend 15 minutes trying to get one to nap only to have the one who fell asleep first wake up soon after. They cry and wake the other up. Ugh.

3) There’s no such thing as “running into the store.” With one baby, one could take the baby, put it on their hip and walk into Starbucks to buy an Eggnog Latte. With two babies, you have to get out the double stroller, put the infant carriers into the stroller one by one and then go into Starbucks. Once you’re done, you have to do it all over again – in reverse. Way too complicated. In fact, just leaving the house is like planning a small military operation.

4) When two babies cry, it is extremely frustrating. One baby crying is enough to get on one’s nerves. When two babies cry (or have a major meltdown) you feel like you want to scream “Calgon take me away!” Only there’s no bubble bath in the world that makes two babies screaming worth it.

5) No one wants to babysit twins. Outside of the slightly biased grandmother, no one is willing to take on the challenge of baby sitting twin infants. And even if someone was crazy enough to do it, I’m not sure we’d want to do this to some poor unsuspecting soul. It has taken us 6 months to get pretty comfortable with all the work the twins take but expecting someone who’s never done it before to jump right in is asking a lot.

6) Double the cost. Yes the financial concerns I had in the beginning were valid. We’ve had to purchase double the diapers (a carton of 160 diapers will last us about 10 days) and, even though Andrea has done a fantastic job breast feeding, she hasn’t quite been able to keep up with demand of two – so we purchase formula. Then there’s two car seats, two cribs, two of just about everything. In another week we’ll have double the childcare payment and in another month, we’ll have a car payment we weren’t planning on having because my car does not house twins.

So, that is a small example of life with twins. Don’t get me wrong – we love having them both. I think we’re lucky in that this is our first – we don’t know any better. In fact, I love having both. There’s nothing like seeing two faces light up with joy when they see their daddy or mommy and it’s pretty cool to see two distinct personalities emerge at the same time. But it’s tiring.

So that’s life with twins. I’m sure I’m missing some things (another side effect of twins – your brain turns to mush from lack of sleep) so you other twin parents, please feel free to add some of your experiences.

Before you go, are there any of you that want to babysit?

November 27, 2005

A sign of things to come

We are putting off our holiday pictures for another week because Swee’Pea has a big red pimple on her chin.

Never let it be said we weren’t looking out for our kids. :)

November 25, 2005

RIP Mr. Miyagi

Actor Pat Morita died yesterday at the age of 73. Best known for his role as Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid films, I first remember him as Arnold in the sitcom Happy Days. Whether he was a teen-loving owner of a restaurant or a sage old man teaching a fatherless young man how to defend himself, he always struck me as someone who I would want to know. I did not know him but I am saddened by his passing anyway.

To this day, whenever I pretend to know Karate, I always shout out “Wax on, wax off!” as I defend imaginary blows from a ferocious attacker (Yeah, I need to get a life).

Thanks for the memories.

Rest in peace, Mr. Miyagi.

November 24, 2005


This year I am thankful for…

Vibrating bouncy seats
Disposable diapers
Little Noses brand Saline Spray
Smiles hidden behind binkies
A kitty who wants to sit on my lap
Fast Food restaurants everywhere
Little baby hugs
A beautiful wife becoming a wonderful mother
The Y
Doting and caring grandparents
Family near and far
Stuffed monkeys
Double Stroller
Hands-free bottle feeders
My beautiful home
A little boy
A little girl
Four chubby cheeks
Baby giggles
Digital cameras
The dishwasher
Bedtime routines
Watching babies learn
Old Friends
New Friends
Blog Friends
My wonderful family

There are so many things that I am thankful for this year. What a wonderful year this has been for me and my family. From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.

November 23, 2005

Life Lesson: Family Holiday Dinner

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and I thought this would be an appropriate time to once again pass along the accumulated wisdom of my many years. Yes, today we are going to talk about the Family Holiday Dinner. Pay attention kids because these little tidbits could be the difference between dreading and perhaps even enjoying the holidays.

When to Arrive
Timing is everything. Arriving at the correct time is crucial. If you arrive too early, all of your coping mechanisms may be exhuasted before dinner is even served. Then you’re left hitting the hard cider and telling Aunt Ethel what a fox she was when she was younger. Arriving too late, however, is a waste of time. If you’re gonna get all dressed up and do this, you might as well make it worth your while. So, when do you arrive? One and half to two hours prior to dinner being served is good. This will give you enough time to say hello to cousins you didn’t know you had and to dole out all of your good, “this is why my life is so great” stories you have been planning in your head. And it’s short enough of time so you won’t start in on those “Hey, I ran naked in college” stories.*

What to Bring
Unless you’re hosting the party (and c’mon, whose foolish enough to do that?), you have to bring something. If you’re good, call ahead and ask Grandmother what you can bring. Hopefully she’ll let you off easy and you can bring dessert. If calling Grandmother is out of the question because then she’ll ask why you’re not dating that nice girl Claire anymore (even though you’re now married to Jane), just bring one of the following: a nice flower arrangement to match the holiday or a very nice bottle of wine. The wine will be especially nice to have when the day turns rough and you need a good drink (“Hey Grandmother, why don’t we enjoy that wine I brought you.”).

What to Wear
This falls under the category of “Know your audience.” Now, I happen to know your immediate family and casual wear with a nice sweater will do nicely. Shoes are a must, I’m afraid. However, there’s no telling what kind of family each of you will marry into. So, if your mother-in-law sends you a jacket made from the deer skin your father-in-law bagged last winter, you might want to wear that jacket – along with any other dead, skinned animals you can find. Oh, and shoes, I’m assuming, would be optional.

Who to Avoid
Let’s face it. We all have a black sheep or two in the family. Now, I’m writing this assuming that neither of you are the black sheep in our family. In fact, let me just take this moment to beg of you, “PLEASE DO NOT BECOME THE BLACK SHEEP!” Okay, that’s done. Now where was I? Oh, yeah. Who to avoid. Well, for starters, avoid anyone that drinks entirely way too much. While that person might be mildly entertaining, you could end up looking guilty by association. Now, I was going to recommend you ignore your parents as well but then I remembered that I am your parent. So, don’t do that. At least take the time to tell me how your therapy is going.

What to Drink
Drink whatever you want. How much you drink is an entirely different matter. However, if your grandmother still wants to talk about Claire and your own mother keeps fixing your collar or wiping your face with her napkin, you have my permission to request that wine. But do not drink too much. Bad things happen after the third fourth fifth sixth drink. For instance, you could get into a fight with some guy who insults your sibling after having too much to drink. TheMonk, you might end up getting kicked in the groin by this loser whereas you’ll have to go to the hospital where Swee’Pea will get hijacked/kidnapped by a different thug as she arrives at the hospital.* I’m just saying, drinking too much could leave to some almost mythical-like events. Stranger things (perhaps) have happened.

Topics of Discussion
Oh, man. What can we discuss? While these people are family, it never pays to talk about stuff that’s too personal. In fact, it might get a little crowded with all of the elephants roaming the room but that’s just the way we like it. You might have to quickly get caught up on all of the family gossip, if you haven’t been paying attention, just so you’ll know what to avoid. I’m not going to tell you who that person is in our family but come talk to me later and I’ll tell you.

Your Girlfriend/Boyfriend’s Family

Now, as much as I hate to admit it, one day you’ll choose to eat at someone else’s dysfunctional family rather than ours. I know, hormones does funny things to a person. Now, it goes without saying that you will do anything and everything that the family asks of you. In fact, TheMonk, if the father of your girlfriend is worth anything, he will take advantage of this. Get ready to blow leaves, shovel snow, clean the attic, whatever. (Bri, I can’t wait for you to bring some pencil neck geek nice young man home.) Oh, and when your grandmother sends you chocolates to celebrate the holidays, don’t leave the box on your bed when you go to midnight mass so that the dog of the family you are trying to impress eats it and almost dies.* Killing the beloved family pet will rarely endear you to a family.

Well, that should cover the basics. Have a happy holidays and may your family always put the FUN in dysfunctional.

*All scenarios and examples in this post could be fictional. Any resemblance to my family’s actual Holiday Dinners is most likely coincidental.

Who would love a guy in this shirt?

So, I was perusing the Internet and I came across a picture that I just had to share.

Scott and Colleen

Now, the woman on the right is gorgeous and could have anyone she wanted and apparently she chose the guy in the hideous hawaiian shirt (I’m assuming the only reason she’s wearing an equally ugly shirt is because she’s trying not to show him up – the poor guy already has enough problems, he doesn’t need his wife to outdress him too!). Now, I’m certain he has some good qualities. I mean, I believe he has an Olympic gold medal (not something I have lying around my house, that’s for sure) and, yes, there’s the muscular swimmer’s body that I’m sure is lying underneath that hideous hawaiian shirt (something else that isn’t found around this house, I’ll tell you that) or perhaps it’s the fact that he’s real tight with Muhammad Ali. Or maybe it’s all of that combined with the obvious love he has for her as he would send her scurrying around the Internet visiting favorite bloggers (I’m honored, by the way) on her way to her Anniversary wishes.

Happy Third Anniversary Colleen and Scott – I hope you have a baby sitter!

(By the way, Colleen, your next link lies somewhere on this page)

November 22, 2005

Where are the warning labels?

It’s been about 30 years since I have seriously listened to children’s songs. I can’t say that I remember the entire lyrics to any of the songs but bits and pieces remain stashed away in the part of the brain that’s kind of like your attic or guestroom closet – the place where you put things that you think you might need again but when you go to retrieve them, they come out a little worn.

So, I have been brushing up on the lyrics to a bunch of old favorites. However, as I’m listening to the words I am horrified at what these songs are about. In fact, I’m thinking of tracking down Tipper Gore to see if she can schedule some hearings on Capitol Hill. Here are a few that concern me…

Itsy Bitsy (or Teensy Weensy) Spider
Look I don’t care how small a spider you are I’m not singing about you. I’m squishing you for the frickin’ bug that you are. This has to be a health issue, right? I mean do we really want to encourage today’s youth to root for spiders?

How Much is that Doggy in the Window?
The answer: Way too much. What, I’m gonna pay $500 for a dog that looks like a rat when I can go to the pound and pick out a nice mutt for $35? I mean, with all the unwanted dogs out there (despite Bob Barker’s best efforts) why would I pay for a dog? Keep walking, kids. Keep walking.

Have you seriously listened to the lyrics of this song? Clementine dies! She falls into the foamy brine (which sounds to me like someone should call the EPA on Clementine’s dad). But I’ve been thinking about this. How do we know she wasn’t pushed? No one was there but the ducks and Clementine’s father. And sure, he’s all choked up about her death but it could be a ruse. Perhaps Clementine was going to call the EPA herself. Has anyone checked for motives? Poor Clementine, murdered and no one knows it.

Frère Jacques
Okay, I’m all about teaching my kids different languages and cultures but do we have to start with the French? No. No, we do not. Besides, who is Brother John and why doesn’t he wake his sorry butt up? I think he’s hung over from all that french wine. Great, I’m singing to my kids about a drunk. Just great.

Hickory Dickory Dock
There are quite a few songs out there about mice. I’m not sure what’s so appealing about a disease-spreading rodent. If I see a damn mouse running up my grandfather clock, I’m not writin’ a song about it – I’m getting out the peanut butter and mouse traps.

London Bridge
Okay, now why would I sing about a bridge falling down? So every time we get near a bridge my kids shriek in fear? I don’t think so. I hear the London Bridge is now somewhere in Nevada. I can just see myself trekking the family to see the London Bridge just to prove to the kids that it didn’t fall down. Why don’t they just make a song about cars crashing or buildings caving in?

Oh Susanna

Now, I don’t know about you, but I have high hopes for my daughter. The last thing I want to do is to encourage her to marry some musician from Alabama. She might as well start eating Cheez Whiz and pork rinds. Nope. Sorry. It’s “No Susanna” for me.

On Top of Spaghetti
While this is cute, what does it really say here? One, that people don’t cover their mouths when they sneeze. Second, hold onto that meatball. Now, I think us parents have it hard enough trying to get kids to not play with their food. Do we really need a song encouraging kids to do just that?

Three Blind Mice
While I’m all for teaching my kids about disabilities, I’m not sure this is the way to do it. First, as I mentioned before, these mice are RODENTS! Second, that butcher’s wife is brutal! She cut their freakin’ tails off! Did I ever see such a sight? Well, yes, but not when I was two. It was about 20 years later and I was in New York and… well, that’s a story for another time. Regardless, I’m not exposing my kids to such violence at such a young age. I’d rather have them play a nice video game.

It’s Raining, It’s Pouring

Hello? We’re talking about a man who bumps his head and never gets up! He died people! Is no one concerned about the message we’re sending our kids?

You Are My Sunshine
As a kid I only learned the first verse (or is it the chorus). But now I learn it was written by a former governor of Louisiana and the remaining verses aren’t as sweet. I mean one line is “if you leave me, then you’ll regret it.” So we’re teaching our kids to leave veiled threats to get what they want now? And then there’s the old Sunshine. We all know how dangerous the sun can be. Now I’ll have to teach my kids about the risk of skin cancer while I lather SPF-100 sunblock on them.

So, as you can see, it’s a treacherous landscape when it comes to children’s songs. I’m not sure I can risk exposing my only children to such profane songs. Perhaps I’ll just hum to them instead.

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November 21, 2005

New Babies in the Blog World

Matt at Abbie Update is the proud new father of twin sons, Ian Matthew and Tory Allyn. They were a little early and are in the NICU but seem to be doing well. In his sleep-deprived haze, he neglected to tell us about Mom, but I assume she’s doing well too. Please stop by and congratulate the new papa!

Here’s to Football Fatherhood

I have a tendency to make up songs when I’m spending time with the babies. I often find myself changing lyrics to songs I’ve recently heard. Many times these songs are commercial jingles that are catchy and easy to manipulate for my own good.

Mondays are always fun because anyone who watches ESPN knows that SportsCenter has taken the old Coors Light ad about loving football (and twins) and they change the lyrics each week to match what went on on Sunday. I often find myself singing to the twins a version of this song.

Here’s a sample of my lyrical manipulation (and be thankful you don’t have to hear me sing!).

I love babies having fun
‘Specially when there’s more than one
Wiping drool off chins
Of the Twins

I love babies eatin’ dirt
Messin’ up my shirt
No denyin’ that my kin
Is the Twins

And I love you two!
And I love you two!

I love baths before dinner time
Reciting nursery rhymes
Rubbin’ lotion on the skin
Of the Twins

I don’t love waking up at 4 a.m.
TheMonk, this is gettin’ grim
But that’s the life when…
You have Twins

But I love you two!
Yes, I love you two!

I love Swee’Pea smiling in the morn’
I can’t believe that you were born
It’s not a contest – but I win
With you Twins.

I love baby sloppy kisses
Hangin’ with the Mrs.
Feelin’ pride from within
‘Cause you’re my Twins

And I love you two!
Yes, I love you two!

Here’s to Fatherhood!

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