Friday, April 24, 2009

creative outlets

Back before I had twin babies, crafting used to be a mainstay of my life. Since childhood, I've been more of the type to sit quietly with a handmade project than one who needs to keep moving. I have wished to be more inclined to physical activity, but I'm just not! I'm not a picky crafter, either; at different times, I've been into calligraphy, fimo, knitting, quilting, glass etching, photography, paper craft, gocco and more.

When I got pregnant, I imagined that I'd be full of creative energy, spending my time knitting tons of beautiful garments, piecing lovely quilts, and stitching together fun and inventive toys. I was surprised to experience those eight months as a complete drain of creative inspiration. Even while I was on bedrest in the hospital, I couldn't bring myself to work on anything. It was definitely not what I expected, but I was recently comforted to find out that my experience wasn't unique. For the life of me, I can't find the post, but Totally Smitten Mama recently shared that pregnancy sapped her of creative juice, as well.

Now that I'm a mama, creative projects have taken on a new meaning for me. No longer can I sit in front of the tv for hours with a sweater, or let my mind wander during meetings and sketch new designs for silk screens. Lately, I have honored that creativity by cooking. My sister and I have been trading off time in the kitchen, and making supper really has become a creative and enjoyable process for me when I can, while the meals are relatively simple. Otherwise, the boys demand that I stay present to the moment, and even when they are both napping at the same time in the car, I can't always count on being able to do something as simple as knit, because I usually have to keep the car moving in order for them to stay asleep. Still, car nap time has become my best opportunity, and a couple of weeks ago, I decided to start a new project - a baby vest.

I altered the pattern to knit it in the round until splitting it for the arm holes and v-neck. I couldn't find two needle sizes, so I ditched the garter stitch bottom in favor of a 2x2 rib. I knit happily in 5 or 20-minute increments, whatever came my way. and I was quite satisfied with having needles and beautiful yarn in my hands once again. Until I reached the part where I had to split the knitting to create a front and back. At that point, as in all of my knitting from the past year, I stalled. It's been sitting untouched in the car for the past week.

This is the cruel fate suffered by all of my projects lately: as soon as they require me to pay attention, to count rows, to think strategically (as in the case of the vision board I was making to celebrate the new Aries moon in March), they languish.

And so it was with some real joy that today Laurie and I went over to Twisted in NE Portland, and I bought some simple wool yarn for a baby blanket. Back and forth, knit and purl. No counting, no decreasing, no sleeves or stitch markers or changing needle size. Just a good old boring knit - the kind of knitting that would have driven me mad before kids. Not only do I get to have this simple project to work on, it also makes me happy that I will be knitting for one of my (many) pregnant friends.

I still want to finish the vest I started, and knit a second one in the same size so that both of the boys can wear them at the same time, and I am pretty sure I can pull it off. For now, though, I'm just glad to have something crafty to work on a little bit every day.

ps: that cute knitting otter t'shirt is an original silk screen design by my sister!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

family outing

Yesterday we all went over to the Japanese Garden here in Portland. It was beautiful in its springtime glory. They were also having a paper festival, which was very cool. We visited there last time, too, in October when the whole family was here. We thought we might go to Multnomah Falls, but in the end, the allure of early blossoms and mossy bonsais won.

The boys were only 10 weeks old when my parents and brother were last here, so they spent the whole trip to the garden wrapped up in pouches, sleeping. I'm guessing they were still less than 8 pounds at the time! Just look at how tiny they were:

shoghi drinking his bottle at the garden with Memmae.
look at how big that hat was - it barely fits now!

sleepy, sleepy babies

On this visit, of course, we had two entirely different babies. How can "baby" even apply to them at both of these times? Now they are interactive, smiling, playing, moving creatures who express what they want (and don't want)! Our visit to the garden was so nice - and we got a bunch of great photos to prove it. We had to ditch the stroller when it kept getting stuck in the gravel, and boy, who can live without a good baby carrier? We only had the meitai with us, so Laurie carried Shoghi on her back while I hefted Max in my arms. He may be the lighter one right now (maybe 17.5 lbs?) but jeez, he felt so heavy!

max playing with memmae and popi

shoghi in the meitai

max having a little snuggle with mama

Last night we had to say goodbye to my parents, which was heart breaking for all of us who are no longer babies. They're flying back home at dawn tomorrow, across the 3,000 miles that separate our homes. As a child, I remember quite vividly always being at the door, tears streaming as I watched my grandparents pull away after a visit, and now I find myself in a similar position as I watch my sons' grandparents leave. The quality of relationship they bring to us all is unmatched, and more unique and precious than I imagined. I just love the feeling of being together, and sometimes I wonder how it is that I didn't know what I was giving up by moving so far away while I was pregnant. I can't imagine living in Massachusetts, but I also feel full of grief at not being closer to the majority of my family. How things have changed that we are all so spread out now, with me and my sister out here in Oregon, our brother, uncle and aunt in New Mexico, and the rest of our family in Massachusetts and New York (aside from cousins, of course). I wish I could just gather up everyone I love into one place to share this life with.

look at how unbelievably big shoghi looks on his grandfather's lap!
how did this happen???

Anyway, it was a perfect visit. I loved having my parents here and watching them with the boys. It will be a long three months before we head back East to spend a month with them, but we can't wait. Mom and Dad flew out this morning, and we all miss them already.

auntie laurie took this photo of the 5 of us
on the bridge at the japanese garden.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

this week

we just had a stretch of fantastic, beautiful weather here in the pnw, and during this unseasonal loveliness, my parents arrived all the way from massachusetts for a visit. the boys also have terrible colds, making this our 8th week straight of sickness in the house, so these two factors go a long way to explain my recent blog silence.

thier first experience of grass/clover

s and his grandfather

m getting a big snuggle from his memere.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

day to day

Today was a good day. It started off with a good night for les enfants, and then flowed into a sweet cuddle for we three in bed, the coffee and playtime, our dear and wonderful caregiver was with the boys while Sister and I went to a Marketing for Mama Micro-Business Owners session that I held (part 2 in a series), and then this afternoon proceeded to be easy and nice. Went to post office, shopped for new pants, magazines for Treasure Mapping, and printed photos, came home and made delicious dinner... The only bad thing that happened was that my sis got a migraine and poor little Max has his first ever runny nose, which is unimaginably pathetic and earned him lots of snuggles and extra TLC at bedtime tonight.

Laurie and I have been cooking dinnerfrom scratch almost every night!
We have a core of weekly menu items, and add one new recipe a week. Last week, it was this fantastic butternut squash pizza - we made it with chevre instead of milk-based cheese.

Things are evolving nicely, I have to say. Here are some photos of our daytime antics:

Max, playing with his wooden rattle.

Shoghi is so mobile, he has taken to carrying things around in his mouth!

I just love how they can both manage to find their way over to me, now, and climb all over me. Shoghi is just like a little Sunny Beaudelaire (sp?), biting everything with those two little teeth, so you gotta watch out!

Max can now sit for quite a couple of minutes, completely unassisted!
Just look at that darling smile, would you??

Nights continue to progress. Bedtime is a multi-hour process that takes us all the way back to a 2:30 nap (which sometimes lasts until 4!), then playtime or a walk, dinner, then a full half hour of time without clothing, which the boys LOVE. Their typically challenging late afternoon demeanors are almost always transformed when every last stitch of clothing is removed, and they roll around, cooing, playing, and practicing all of their new moves until the mood shifts again, and it is time for pajamas, bedtime stories, and bottles. Then we bring them upstairs (usually Max first) and do a little crib-side routine for each of them. Actual bedtime still involves mmore unhappiness than I would like, but we're working on it.

Shoghi loves to look at us upside down - it makes him laugh every time.

Snuggling with mama - it's almost bedtime!

One of Shoghi's many amazing physical feats!
These boys can hit more yoga poses than I can!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

getting there

I'm sitting in a quiet, peaceful house right now, at 7:34pm on a Sunday evening. It's been a quiet, peaceful house for about 20 minutes now, after Maxy boy fell asleep with his bedtime bottle in Auntie's arms, and Shoghi fell asleep on his own, in his crib (I still get a bitter little pang, saying that) after only about 8 minutes of wind-down. Sleep training is going well.

I wanted to wait a few days before posting. Unlike my last attempts at getting one or both of my babies to sleep at night, I felt more protective of the experience, perhaps knowing that this was it: the last baby I was going to have to train, and perhaps the harder one of the two. As it turns out, Shoghi was actually easier to train than Max, much to our deep and delighted surprise. He is taking less time to fall asleep with each passing night, and now it has been three nights already of no wakings between feedings.

Let me repeat that: no wakings between feedings!

Shoghi was waking up every 20 to 40 minutes all night long just a week ago, and now he wakes up twice: once at about 10, and again at 2am, and when I put him back down to sleep after he eats, he is going down with hardly a fuss most of the time. He has been sleeping until 6:30 or 7 in the morning. He wakes up happy.

Meanwhile, Max has maybe had a bit of regression, and falling asleep is a little harder for him right now... but he only wakes once during the night, and I'm already in the process of reducing and eventually eliminating this middle-of-the-night feeding. I hope that by switching his feeding to more like 5am, I will be able to get him to sleep in a bit, because that little guy is waking up for the day between 5 and 6 in the morning... not a welcome hour in any way. They might be sleeping better (let the partying commense!) but I still have to get up to feed them, which means that I am up for about an hour two times between midnight and wakeing for the day. Naps continue to be disasterous (we're starting to work on naps this week), so the chances of mama getting to take a nap during the day are zero.

OK, so now that all that sleep talk is out of the way, sorry for having now photos to share recently! We've had a combination of bad light in the house, busy, busy days, and a little boy Max with terrible, terrible eczema all over his dear face. I broke down and brought him to the doctor this week, where we got this official diagnosis. Since I've already switched him from milk to soy-based formula, and goat is NOT an option I am going to entertain, I think the eczema stemming from an allergy is probably not likely. Poor little nugget. It's getting better, though. I'll be able to post some new pics soon, but if you need a fix now, you can click over to my sister's blog, where she's also got a post up about sleep training, and has a bunch of gorgeous pictures of the boys. OK, I have to steal one of them, simply because I think it's such a fabulous shot of Maxy:

I have to say, life with the boys right now is, with the exception of our chaotic napping "schedule", really fun. They are opening up so much, and are exploring our toys and living room with great attention. This means I can step away sometimes for a minute or two for the first time since they were teeny tiny... if I could even do that then. They are also all over each other, which at first was pretty dangerous, what with all the reaching for the ears and eyes, but now they seem to have figured it out a little more and are remarkably gentle with each other. Still, mama has to keep a watchful eye because of course they don't really know what they're doing, and are likely to try to teethe on the others foot or head or something.

Their antics have become funnier and more delightful, too... Shoghi with his crazy poses and gymnast-like body, and Max with his own verbal acrobatics - they make us laugh all day long, as long as we are present enough to the moment to realize what they are doing. The minutes and hours are so packed full of need, and that need can be so exhausting that we do need to be brought to attention many times a day. Maybe I shouldn't say "we" - maybe I should just say "I need to be brought to attention many times a day". I am one tired lady! Auntie is usually my call to the moment - I will be sitting on the floor or doing something in the kitchen, and her laughter will break through and bring me to find Shoghi balancing on the toes of one foot and his hand, with the other arm up in the air and other leg kicked out in front, or she will call me to hear Max's new "th" sound or his funny "deet" or "gook" noises.

It's nice to realize that things have changed, and in some ways are easier now. We were really having a tough time of it for a few months, with a lot of constant fussing. I really do love this stage of babyhood, love watching them discover and learn and comprehend what we have so thoughtfully and deliberately placed around them as their early learning experiences.

This week, we'll be working hard on breaking the 30-minute nap cycle that has me going a bit batty. I'll keep you posted on how that goes, as well as maybe give you the long, long overdue nursing/eating post I have been meaning to do for months, now. Until then, sleep well, fair friends!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

here we go again

Tonight we resume our Sleep Training Schedule.

I'd been waiting for the Sick to be gone and Teething to subside in order to re-start sleep training, but it has become clear to me that there may never be An Ideal Time, as now the teething continues for both wee ones, the mama and little Shoghi are still not completely well, and Seasonal Allergies have descended on our home. (Actually, the allergies are making me a bit fuzzy today, so this post may come and go in its clarity!) Since my parents are coming to town in just under 2 weeks, it seems critical now that we make some real progress before they arrive. It's nice to have a "deadline." They've been very supportive of me and my process of coming to terms with first putting the boys in cribs, and then deciding that they really did need some direct assistance with learning to fall asleep on their own, so it would be nice if we could display some new skills while they are here. Of course, better sleep will also mean better moods for the boys, and it would certanainly be great to be able to have that be the case while they are here.

Before speaking with our sleep coach, I read and re-read Good Night, Sleep Tight by Kim West. I have two mama peers who have used this book to help their babies to sleep better, one of whom also has twins. I felt that West's book provided the most realistic and comfortable plan I've seen, with her no-nonsense conclusion that changing your baby's habits may cause some stress and frustration for your babe (resulting in some crying), and maybe more direct and scheduled strategy (aka the Sleep Lady Shuffle) than the approach in No Cry Sleep Solution, which seemed nice but rather amorphous to me. Sleep training might just continue forever if I take (continue to take) such a "gentle" path. Anyway, I know it probably seems like I'm throwing these names and ideas around without much background... I just thought maybe these book names would be helpful to someone else.

Yesterday afternoon, I spent about an hour on the phone with Suzanne, our sleep coach. We went over the recent sleep behavior of both boys, but focused more on Shoghi, who hasn't really started yet. We talked about how much he's eating and when, his temperament, and my anxiety about working with him due to his high-level upsets. She reminded me that he can and does fall asleep in other situations, and that it involved a process of learning how to do that (as in the car. When he was tiny, he would be so upset in the car, and now he is very relaxed and falls asleep so peacefully there). She pointed out that soon enough he will be displaying the same kind of high emotion as a toddler, and I will be parenting through that part of his temperament always. Not that this served to scare me any less, but it helps to be reminded that this is just who he is, and the more I get used to supporting him through his emotions, the better off we'll all be.

Anyway, tonight we begin. Shoghi's crib is being moved into our extra room, and I will sleep in Laurie's room next door, while she takes up residence in my room with Max, who will have a bit of revising to his own sleep routine. Specifically, we're going to stop swaddling him. He's so ready to be done with the swaddle, but sadly, it means re-training him to go to sleep without its comfort. He goes a little nuts with all the freedom, and does a lot of rolling around the crib fussing, not knowing what to do with himself. We decided to train them both at the same time, so that we can all get back to being in the same room as soon as possible. She promises that if I am really consistent with Shoghi for the next 3 nights, we will be most of the way there. She also asked us to hold off making any changes to our napping routine while we're working on nighttime sleep.

Today is the boys' 8-month birthday. It seems special, given their birthday of 8/8/08... but mostly it makes me reflect on how far we've come in those 8 months. God, how could it be such a short, fleeting time that has transformed them from their 3-pound selves into these substantial, thriving, larger-than-life beings? I'm still in utter astonishment that I have been through this metamorphosis from a woman bearing the burden of 15+ years of infertility to a mama of two sons! I was listening to Carolyn Myss yesterday in the car, and she said (extreme paraphrase warning) that when you live in grace you make bold and audacious choices, and wow, this certainly has been the case for me. Choosing my ultimate path to motherhood was surprising, unconventional, and certainly bold and trusting of the powers of God or Universe or whatever you want to call it. And here we are, living my dream. I like to think that, in some way, it was their dream, too.

I am standing on the doorstep to the next phase in my own life - and this one I am less clear about than the last. How am I going to transform my life from what it is now (stay-at-home mom living on quickly depleting savings)? What is my vision of the next phase? The first part came so easily - imagining getting pregnant, quitting my job, moving across the country - but I have yet to become as clear about what's to come. This month's birth anniversary is yet another reminder that it's my job to be clear, to deliberately create the next part of our story. I thought that the arrival of the new Aries moon on 3/26 would afford me some time and inspiration to gain that vision, but I have had neither time nor dramatic new ideas. If anything, I have been overwhelmed yet again, this time by sickness and exhaustion. Yet another experience of motherhood is the lack of time to think. The fog of sleeplessness and the immediacy of need of the babies has me constantly humming, and leaves me feeling cotton-brained when faced with strategizing my/our future.

It's not a bad thing, necessarily. Being in this new place brings to my attention the need to shift my practices, to make time by expanding brief moments of quiet, to make more bold, concentrated visions of what I want. Reflecting on it this way, it seems a very powerful time in my own life... such enormous developmental changes are upon my children and at the same time my own inner world is being shaken down, to be rebuilt on a (hopefully) more solid, cathartic foundation (can there be such a thing?) that could allow me to continue to live in the life-changing grace that has flowed into my life already. Pretty exciting, really.

And so here we are again. Tonight I begin to teach my dear boy, my beautiful, emotive, passionate-about-being-with-mama son to fall asleep on his own. May I be guided to support him in just the right way, may the angels and the Concourse on High, the essence of grace and the mercy of God surround him as he learns. May it be much easier than I expect, and lead to his growth, his well-being, and ultimately, 12 hours of nighttime sleep.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


On Saturday morning, we awoke after a long night of wake-ups and crying to discover that Sir Maxwell got his very first tooth! Way to go, little one!

Taking a walk later that day, we stumbled upon a shop that sells amber teething necklaces, and got him one of his very own in celebration.