Category: Milestones

10 Truths About Twins … and Matt and Nate Turn 6!

Next week, Matt and Nate turn 6. SIX!!! That means they’ll no longer be part of the early-childhood set. They’ll officially be considered big kids. And I just can’t believe it. I feel like I’ve been through the biggest challenge of my life and have made it through the other side mostly unscathed, aside from a few more wrinkles and gray hairs.

2 month old twin boys
Whaaaaaaat? We’re turning 6 years old???

I started this blog when I was pregnant with the boys and admittedly terrified at the prospect of having twins. Once they were born, it was comforting to write about the challenges of having two babies—the huge expense of buying two of everything, the struggle to get anywhere on time, the lack of sleep.

But at some point—and I can’t say exactly when it was because it just snuck up on me—having twins stopped being so difficult. At some point, once both boys were potty trained and could dress themselves and we stopped having to lug the giant double stroller everywhere—having twins actually got easier than having a singleton in many ways. I’ll explain more here, along with nine other truths I’ve learned over the years about having twins:

  1. Twins become easier than singletons in certain ways. The main reason for this is that they always have a playmate! Two winters ago, we got slammed with a blizzard that closed school for a week. I’d get texts from mom friends saying, “Losing my mind!!! Running out of entertainment ideas! Must get out of house!!!” But Matt and Nate spent hours playing with action figures, having light-saber battles, and building LEGO creations in the basement. When they started kindergarten and got on the bus for the first time, I was significantly less nervous than my fellow kindergarten moms because I knew they had each other to sit with. And when Nate went through a phase where he was afraid of the dark, we got him to (mostly) stay in his bed at night by reassuring him that Matt was right next to him.

    Twin boys wearing Buzz Lightyear and Woody Halloween costumes
    They’ve always got a friend in each other!
  2. If twins are the same gender, people won’t be able to tell them apart. It doesn’t matter if they look completely different or they’re different sizes or they’re wearing t-shirts with their names on them: People, especially kids, will consistently mix them up. Matt and Nate have different eye and hair colors, an 8-pound weight difference, and different face shapes, yet they’ll still get called each other’s names. Kids who’ve known them for months will ask them, “Are you Matt or Nate?” Usually they let it roll off their backs, but sometimes Nate will get tired of being called “Matt” and yell, “I’m NATE!”

    Twin boys in baseball gear
    When we really want to confuse people, we give them eye black and matching Angels shirts!
  3. They’ll develop at different rates. Matt walked at 11 months, Nate at 17 months. Nate potty trained right after turning 3, Matt took until almost 3 1/2. Nate has been zipping around on a two-wheeler for months, Matt is still mastering pedaling. Matt just lost his first tooth, Nate doesn’t even have a loose one. I could go on and on, but my point is that I learned early on to NOT COMPARE THE TWINS. Seriously, don’t do it. All new moms worry when their kids don’t meet milestones as early as friends’ kids, but the worrying can really get out of hand when you’ve got another child the exact same age in the house. Just take a deep breath and remember that even though your twins shared a womb, they are individuals who will develop at their own rates. Relish each milestone as it comes!

    Twin 1-year-old boys eating birthday cake
    At one year old, they discovered a mutual love of cake!
  4.  What’s best for one set of twins isn’t necessarily best for yours. One instance when this becomes true is when they start elementary school. Some schools require twins to be in different classes, while others leave it up to the parents. And that’s when you have to consider your own twins’ personalities and learning styles. The default at Matt and Nate’s school is to keep twins together for kindergarten and then separate them in first grade. But I spoke with the boys’ teacher, who said they are not competitive, that neither one relies too much on the other, and that they each do their own thing at school. For those reasons, we have decided to keep them together until we have reason not to. But other twin parents I know had to separate their twins because they were too attached, too competitive, or simply wanted to be in their own class. So do what’s best for your twins and your family!

    Twin boys' first day of kindergarten
    Headed off to kindergarten together!
  5. They’ll want their own stuff. One of the benefits of having a same-sex twin is that you’ve got double the toys and double the clothes. But at a certain age—for my boys, it was 4—twins start to want to claim things as their own. I’ll never forget the first time I pulled a shirt out of their drawer to put on Nate and he said, “No, that’s Matt’s shirt!” even though they had always just pooled their clothing. That was around the same time the boys started identifying which toys belonged to each of them. Even if they had two identical dinosaurs, they’d somehow be able to tell which one was Nate’s and which was Matt’s.

    They definitely need their own bikes now!
  6. Some kids will find them intimidating. My friend has a son Matt and Nate’s age and our boys get along well. But whenever we’d set up play dates, her son would retreat to the other side of the room or the park and get really quiet. After this happened a few times, she asked him why he did that. He confessed that he felt left out because there were two of them and only one of him! It seemed like such an obvious thing that neither she nor I picked up on. At 4 and 5, kids are still learning how to make friends and interact with others. It’s natural for them to feel insecure around two kids who already know each other so well. So talk to your twins about being sure to play with the other kids during parties and playdates!

    Twin boys wear pirate accessories
    Ahoy, mateys! Ye can play with us too!
  7. People will continue to be fascinated by them. I imagine this is especially true of identical twins. But even my boys, who look nothing alike, still draw admirers. People will look back and forth at them a few times, ask me if they’re twins, and get very excited when I say yes. Then they’ll tell me about their mother’s cousin’s best friend who has twins, ask a probing question like, “Were they natural?” or spout out a cliche like, “You have your hands full!” When I was an exhausted new mom I’d admittedly find it irritating at times, but now it just makes me realize how blessed I am to have twins.

    Boys wearing stormtrooper helmets
    Yes, they’re really twins. No, they’re not really stormtroopers.
  8. You’ll share a special connection with other twin parents. I’m lucky to have lots of mom friends I bond with over tantrums and school struggles and our perpetual exhaustion. But no one gets me quite as much as other twin moms do. I imagine this is similar to the connection shared between military members who’ve gone to war together. Yes, I’m exaggerating … but only a little.

    Mom with toddler twins
    Twin moms, ya feel me???
  9. The twin bond is real. Seriously—my boys are very in tune with one another. When they were smaller and still learning how to pronounce words properly, I’d sometimes ask them to translate what the other was saying for me. If one is in a bad mood and won’t tell me what’s wrong, I’ll ask the other, and his guess will usually be spot on. They also really look out for one another and are generally concerned for each other when one of them is sick. It’s heartwarming to watch. Of course, they can get into bigger fights and arguments than anyone else I know, too. But they always make up in the end!

    Twin boys on bench
    They were fighting about 10 minutes before I took this picture!
  10. Life will never be boring … or quiet. This is true for any parent, but there is something about having two kids the same age in the house that brings a whole new energy. Add in a little sister, and you can be sure you’ll be on your toes pretty much non-stop. You just never know what kind of adventure each day will bring. I recently had a root canal, and when the endodontist walked in to start the procedure, she told me I was the calmest person she’d ever had in her office. I told her it was because it was the first few minutes of peace and quiet I’d had all day!

    Three kids at doctor
    Even a doctor visit turns into a fun time!

Needless to say, having twins has been an incredible experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Though the early-childhood years are behind us, I know the school-age years will bring many more adventures, challenges, and happy times. I couldn’t be prouder of the kind, hilarious, smart, silly, and handsome little men my boys have become. The fact that my preemie twins who couldn’t even eat on their own in their first days of life are now reading, playing baseball, and spouting out the names of all 45 presidents is so amazing, it brings tears to my eyes.

Happy 6th Birthday, Matt and Nate!

A Big Week!

It is Friday afternoon and we are closing out a really busy week for our family! First off, it was Keith’s first week home after a long month in the field, and it’s been wonderful. I can’t believe it’s only been a week because it feels like he was never even gone.

The boys are really loving having Daddy home. As soon as he gets home from work, I no longer exist and they start climbing all over him like little monkeys. They just seem happier. I am thrilled to have Keith back too, off course!

This week, I also started a new work-at-home gig! I am now a senior editor for babygizmo.com. Baby Gizmo is a parenting resource site featuring in-depth reviews of baby and kid products, a baby product price compare engine, travel reviews, kid-friendly recipes, and parenting news and advice. In my new role, I will be writing two to three blog posts a week about a variety of parenting topics. I’ll also be reviewing products and sharing some family recipes. Look for my posts at blog.babygizmo.com!

Don’t worry, I’ll also still be writing about my own family here at doubledutywins.com. I do have some big changes in store for this site, though. I’ll be creating a section on which I will add links to all of my Baby Gizmo posts, as well as to the stories I write for Scholastic News Online, care.com, and more. Who knows—Double Duty may even get a complete makeover. Stay tuned!

Another big thing for us this week? On Thursday, the boys had their first dentist appointments! A couple of months ago, the twins’ pediatrician suggested we take Matt to a pediatric dentist because his incisors hadn’t grown in yet. So, we figured we’d bring both boys in for a checkup. But by the time the appointment came, Matt’s incisors had grown in, and the dentist said both boys have great teeth. Yay!

I wish the actual appointment had been a happier one. The twins were not happy to be at the dentist and to have people poking around in their mouths. I wasn’t surprised that Matt didn’t do well, because he doesn’t even like to have his teeth brushed. But I really thought Nate would do better because he loves when we brush his teeth. Unfortunately, both boys fussed and cried and caused a scene until the appointment was over.

Matt's first dentist visit
Matt didn’t mind brushing the stuffed dog’s teeth, but he refused to let the hygienist brush his teeth!

One thing Keith and I were surprised about? All of the patients were seen in one big, open room. The boys had chairs next to each other, and only a few feet in front of them was a teenager getting his teeth cleaned. Next to them was a little girl waiting to be seen, and there were two other boys getting procedures done across the room.

We’re wondering: Is this how all pediatric dentist offices are? Is it a new trend? Is there some kind of research that shows that kids are less afraid when they can see other kids being worked on, too? Because I think Matt and Nate were actually freaked out by all the people in the room. Their incessant wailing could not have made the other kids feel too good, either.

In any case, I am glad that traumatic experience is over. Matt and Nate got over it quickly, and we have a three-day weekend with Keith to look forward to. I am excited for all of the great stuff we have coming up in the next few months—the new work I’ll be doing, our upcoming move to California, the boys turning two. We’ll be super busy, but we’ll be having a great time! I’m glad to have you all along for the ride!

Nate happy
Dentist appointment over + full belly = happy Nate!

18-Month Update: Better Late Than Never!

On January 19, the twins turned 19 months old! I can’t believe it, because I feel like their 18-month milestone passed by before I could even realize it. And now, they’re closer to age 2 than age 1. Yes, people: The Terrible Twos are quickly approaching!

The boys didn’t get their 18-month checkups until January 7 because we had been in New York for the holidays. It was their last well-baby visit, which means they are officially no longer babies. They’re toddlers. (Sniff, sniff. I’m having a my-boys-are-growing-up moment.) Here were their stats:

Matthew:
Height — 32 1/4 inches (40th percentile)
Weight — 23 lbs., 14.5 oz. (40th percentile)
Head Circumference — 49 inches (80th percentile)

Nathaniel:
Height — 32 3/4 inches (50th percentile)
Weight — 24 lbs., 10 oz. (50th percentile)
Head Circumference — 49 1/2 inches (90th percentile)

The major things you can take away from those stats are the following:

1. My boys have big heads.

2. Matthew has finally nearly caught up to Nate in height and weight and is no longer considered tiny for his age! Considering that he was only 3 lbs., 12 oz. at birth and was not even on the growth chart for a very long time, this is huge. Also, he was only in the 9th percentile for weight at his 15-month appointment, so he’s grown a lot in the past few months. (I guess a healthy appetite and a penchant for mac and cheese and penne all vodka will do that to a little boy!)

But the boys are growing by leaps and bounds mentally, too. It seems like every day, they say a new word or two. Just yesterday Nate called my dad “Pop Pop” for the first time, much to his grandpa’s delight. And last week, when I said “I love you” to Matt, he responded with “Ah lub yoo”, and I nearly died. Died. (Consequently, when I say “I love you” to Nate, he responds by blowing me a kiss. It’s pretty cool how he’s made the connection between kisses and love.) “Ball”, “car”, “Mama”, “Daddy”, “star” and “Uh oh!” (even when a situation does not warrant an “Uh oh!”) are also in frequent rotation in the boys’ vocabulary.

Matt and Nate know most of their animal sounds as well as the “Grandpa sound.” (I will ask them, “What does Grandpa say?” and they’ll make a snoring noise. I guess they’ve seen—and heard—Grandpa fall asleep on the couch one too many times!) They also know their shapes and are starting to learn colors, although so far they seem to only have mastered blue (A.K.A. “boo”).

The boys are still obsessed with cars and trucks. They basically flip their lids whenever they see one. During car rides, Nate will point out the window and yell, “Car!” when he sees a vehicle pass. So you can imagine what it sounds like: “Car! CAR! CAR CAR CARCARCARCARCAR!” The other day at the park, they spotted a garbage truck and waved to it. When the sanitation men waved back, they went nuts.

The boys also still love to read. Nate’s favorite book right now is I Can Be A Real Boy. Matt’s favorite is The Little Engine That Could. But Matt actually prefers magazines over books. (I guess he takes after his mommy!) He’ll become absorbed in any magazine he gets his hands on—Time, Entertainment Weekly, Sports Illustrated, and even random catalogs. He will carefully turn each page and then point furiously at any photo he finds interesting. (Bonus points if he finds a photo of a car or a truck.)

Their favorite toys right now—besides their plethora of cars and trucks, of course—are their KidKraft Around Town Train Set and Table, their Fisher-Price Little People play sets, their ball pit, their Buzz Lightyear Power Wheels, and their flash cards. But they have so many more toys that they love, and it’s amazing to watch their imaginations at work as they play with them. They also still love technology and are thrilled when we let them play with their kiddie apps on our iPhones or iPads. We even got them their very own VTech InnoTab 2s.

And they love animals—especially dogs. If we go to someone’s house who owns a dog, they’ll follow the dog around and pet it and wave to it. If a dog barks, they’ll laugh hysterically rather than get frightened. (Keith says this means we need to get a puppy. I say Keith is crazy!)

The twins are still enjoying Gymboree and Toddler Time at the library each week. They’re becoming much more physically adept, climbing and navigating the play structures at Gymboree and the playground like little monkeys. Believe it or not, Matt is a bit more careful, while Nate is fearless. Nate will dive down a slide head first without even batting an eyelash.

But with all of these wonderful developments comes toddler behavior of the less happy kind: tantrums. The boys are definitely becoming more opinionated with each passing day, and when they don’t get their way, they get angry. That means crying, screaming, throwing themselves on the floor, and kicking their legs furiously. They’re also becoming more independent and wanting to do things on their own, and when they fail, they’ll get really frustrated and throw a tantrum. A good example is when we went to P.F. Chang’s for lunch last week with some friends from Gymboree. Nate insisted on eating his lo mein by himself with a fork, but when the noodles kept sliding off the fork, he started to get agitated. When I reached over and tried to help him, he lost his mind and flew into a tantrum, and Traci (our babysitter) had to take him outside for the rest of the meal. Oh, life with toddlers.

All challenges aside, though, I am absolutely loving this age and seeing the world through the eyes of toddlers. The best part is when the boys drop what they are doing and run over to give me hugs, or when they reach up to me longingly so I can pick them up and cuddle with them. I still can’t believe my good fortune in getting to be Matt and Nate’s mommy. Here are a few photos from their recent 18-month-old photo session. They were taken by Julie Pearson of Julie Pearson Photography. Enjoy!

Boys 18 months

Matt 18 months

Nate 18 months

Matt baseball

Nate baseball

Family 18 months

Honoring Heroes

October 8 marked the one-year anniversary of that horrible day when Keith got shot in Afghanistan. One year since we lost two great Americans, U.S. Army captains Josh Lawrence and Drew Russell. One year since our lives changed profoundly.

We didn’t do anything special on Monday. The twins, who were only 3 ½ months old when it happened and are now rambunctious nearly-16-month-olds, were getting over a stomach bug, which Keith had caught from them. So, we just hung out at home together. We spoke to Josh’s wife and Drew’s parents, who have now become like family to us, on the phone. We talked a lot about Drew and Josh, trying for the millionth time not to ask, “Why?” And we took a moment to thank God for letting us have this otherwise ordinary day together.

On July 4, 2011, Keith held each of our sleeping two-week-old boys for what we thought would be the last time for seven months, when he could get home for R&R. Neither of us voiced our underlying fears. It was such a bittersweet time: the overwhelming love and joy that came with being new parents, coupled with the deep sadness and anxiety about having to be separated. I have no idea how Keith held it together when he got on that plane. I have no idea how any service member holds it together when they leave their families. Their strength astounds me.

4:30 AM on July 4, 2011: Moments before Keith left for Afghanistan

The next three months were a blur for both of us. We were both sleep-deprived; he from the rigors of deployment and me from taking care of two newborns. It sucked, and it was hard, but it seemed to be going by fairly quickly.

And then October 8 happened, and everything changed. On this very day last year, Keith was lying in a hospital bed in Landstuhl, Germany. I was at my parents’ house in New York with the babies, wanting desperately to see my husband. Then Keith was transferred to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

On October 15, the babies and I traveled to Walter Reed and saw Keith for the first time in over three months. The tiny newborns Keith had left were now smiling, bouncing infants with unique personalities. It was an overwhelming moment: We were full of relief and happiness, but also sadness and anger at what had brought us back together so soon.

Our bittersweet reunion—that’s Keith’s sister, Pat!

Keith spent the next three weeks at Walter Reed. It was a humbling experience for both of us. Keith’s injuries were in no way minor: he’d had several surgeries, was in a great deal of pain, and had a long recovery ahead of him. But he was by far one of the healthiest patients in the hospital. His neighbors were double and triple amputees. I’d help Keith slowly hobble down the hallway with his walker, and they’d zoom by us on their prosthetic limbs, strong and smiling and determined. I met some of their wives, whose incredible optimism and sunny dispositions inspired me. I still feel amazed at having been in the presence of such heroes. They are some of America’s greatest.

We headed back home to Colorado on November 9. We spent the next several months bonding as a family; Keith getting to know his boys again. He had endless doctor appointments and physical therapy sessions. Sometimes he’d talk about what happened, and sometimes he didn’t want to. I’d listen and try to help him work through his feelings. Sometimes he’d do the same for me. When he showed me his blood-spattered wallet, and the sandwich bag containing the babies’ little socks and bib that he was carrying in his left pocket for good luck when the bullet tore through his leg, it really hit me how close we’d come to losing him.

One year later, Keith has come a long way in his healing and acceptance of what happened. Physically, he still does not have all of the nerve function back in his leg, and we don’t yet know if he ever will. It frustrates him that he can’t run as fast as he used to, and that he still can’t do certain exercises. But I think the fact that he holds himself to the same standards of physical fitness as his peers is commendable.

His emotional healing has been a lot harder. He misses Drew and Josh. He still wonders why they were lost and he was not. He still sometimes struggles with survivor’s guilt. But as the saying goes, “Don’t put a question mark where God has put a period.” That’s easier said than done.

What Keith doesn’t realize, but I can say for sure, is this:  Every day, Keith honors Drew and Josh’s sacrifice by being the best father, husband, and soldier I know. We’ll never know for sure why he’s been given more time on this Earth, but we sure are not going to waste a single moment of it. We will dedicate ourselves to helping others, and to helping make this world a better place. It is amazing how tragedies like these can give you a much-needed dose of perspective, and a much deeper appreciation for your friends and loved ones.

Help us honor Captain Josh Lawrence and Captain Drew Russell, who made the ultimate sacrifice to help protect us and our great nation, by being the best person you can be.

A Month of Travel

I finally have some time to blog after an incredibly busy month that took Keith, the twins, and me to the east coast, back to Colorado, to the west coast, and back again. I now understand what other parents have meant when they’ve told me they needed a vacation from their family vacation! Since we hit three different time zones during the month, the boys’ sleep got really messed up. And now that Matt and Nate are mobile, very loud, and very energetic, it’s no longer easy to fly with them. (More to come on our airplane adventures in a later post.) But, we all survived and had a great time, and the boys enjoyed many milestones! Here are the highlights:

On June 12, we flew to New York to spend some time with my family. There, the boys took their first trip to the beach. They absolutely loved playing in the sand, and they squealed with delight as they splashed around at the water’s edge.

Us at Rockaway Beach!

Matt and Nate also took their first trip to the aquarium (the New York Aquarium in Coney Island) with their cousin Ava and Uncle Dan. They loved the sea lion show, but then Matt fell asleep in his stroller while we walked around. Nate, though, loved waving to all the fish!

Hi, fish!

And, the boys  took their first carousel ride! Since then they’ve ridden many carousels and absolutely love it.

First carousel ride! They were a little apprehensive at first…

We spent a nice Father’s Day with my parents, brother, and niece. The next day, we drove to Washington, DC. On our way there, we had a milestone of another sort that involved Keith’s arm being covered with poop in the middle of a rest-stop Burger King—but we don’t need to delve any further into that.

We spent four days in DC with lots of family. While there, the boys turned one! We also had a service for Keith’s dad at Arlington National Cemetery. Keith’s dad passed away the day after Keith deployed to Afghanistan, and since Keith had already stayed behind for nearly a month for the boys’ birth, he couldn’t come home. So,the family decided to wait until the deployment was over to hold the service. It was worth the wait—the service was wonderful and very well-deserved for a man who spent 30 years in the Air Force!

We then returned to New York for five more days, where we held Matt and Nate’s first birthday party in my aunt and uncle’s backyard! We had a pool party with an “Under the Sea” theme. Everyone seemed to have a blast, including Matt and Nate. They did get a bit frightened when the whale pinata broke open, and Matt got a little freaked out when 30 people started singing “Happy Birthday” to them. But overall, they really enjoyed “swimming”, playing with their little pals, and eating all the yummy food and birthday cake!

Ready for the big party!

We headed back to Colorado June 26 for three days before hopping a flight to LA. There we spent four days in Santa Monica. We had lots of beach time, explored the Santa Monica Pier, shopped, and ate lots of yummy food. It was our first family vacation where it was just the four of us. It was a lot of work, yet really relaxing at the same time. It also marked the boys’ first trip to California, which is as big a milestone as any in our family!

Santa Monica

Next, we headed to Coto de Caza to visit Keith’s brother, sister-in-law, and niece. Keith’s sister flew in for the occasion, too! We had a lovely 4th of July—we watched a community parade and then barbecued with some family friends. The next day, we went to Disneyland!!!

We weren’t sure how the twins would do at Disneyland. After all, they are so young. We didn’t know if they’d be afraid of the rides or the characters, or if they’d get really cranky during such a long day. But it turns out we had nothing to worry about. Matt and Nate LOVED going on all the rides! Their favorite was It’s A Small World, but they also loved Dumbo the Flying Elephant, the Jungle Cruise, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and so many others. They didn’t even get scared on Pirates of the Caribbean. (In fact, Matt fell asleep on it.) They also loved watching Mickey’s Soundsational Parade and meeting the characters. What a fun and memorable day it was. (Of course, it probably would not have gone so smoothly without all the help from our family.) I only wish we could have gotten more pictures, but it’s so hard with two toddlers to wrangle.

Us in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle
Meeting Goofy!
Watching the parade with Daddy and Uncle Ken in their first pairs of Mickey ears!
Meeting the man himself

We spent our last day in California visiting Doheny State Beach before we headed back to Colorado on July 7. Keith returned to work July 10, and we’ve had a ton of events to go to with his unit since then. So, we are just now feeling like we’re getting settled back in. And for the first time since early June, I actually got a full night’s sleep last night! Whew!

A Busy Month!

Ack! It’s been yet another month (OK, more than a month) since I last posted, and so much has happened! Allow me to fill you in:

  1. We took yet another trip—already the twins’ third round-trip flight—to New York for the boys’ Baptism. It was something we planned pretty last-minute (as is the case with most things we plan) but it turned out to be a wonderful day! The babies looked adorable, they hardly fussed throughout the church ceremony, and we had a really fun celebratory dinner afterward with family and a few close friends. (The plane rides were another story. Let’s just say they’re only getting to be more difficult as the boys get bigger and more mobile!)
Baptism Day!
  1. My parents came to town for a week to celebrate Matt and Nate’s first Easter with us. We did some fun touristy things—visiting Seven Falls, hiking in Red Rocks Open Space—but it was all of the holiday things we did with the boys that were really special. We took them to meet the Easter Bunny at the mall, and not a tear was shed. We dyed Easter eggs. We had a little egg hunt on Easter morning, which was really just a bunch of plastic eggs strewn around the living room. And, we opened baskets from the Easter Bunny himself. A pretty successful first Easter for the boys, if you ask me.
Happy Easter!
  1. Keith was finally cleared from the Warrior Transition Battalion and returned to his brigade. Now that his work hours have increased, it’s been quite an adjustment for me and the babies. It doesn’t help that Nate has developed a severe case of separation anxiety. Every time I leave the room now to go put Matt down for a nap, or to make the boys’ bottles, or—for Christ’s sake—to use the bathroom, he screams bloody murder. Also, there are many things I just can’t do with the boys myself, such as Gymboree classes (each child must be accompanied by an adult) or grocery shopping. And forget about trying to get any work done.

So, we’ve hired a babysitter to help me out a bit during the week. Her name is Tracy, and she’s a Godsend. Right now she only comes two days a week for five hours a day, but we’ll probably increase her hours once the summer comes. Tracy stays with the boys while I go grocery shopping, get my hair cut, and run any other errands the babies can’t accompany me on. She comes with us to Gymboree, and she entertains the boys while I finish work assignments or send emails. They—and I—love her!

  1. The twins sailed through their 9-month birthday and turn 10 months old tomorrow (April 19)! I can’t believe how much they are learning and thriving. Nate finally started crawling, and now he zips around the house and is starting to get into nearly as much trouble as his mischievous brother. Matt climbs everything. He’ll pull himself up onto his alligator clacker toy and push it all around the living room. Both boys are talking up a storm, laughing at everything, and interacting more and more with each other. Matt even learned his first baby sign: He puts his fingertips together when he wants “more.” Matt has four teeth. Nate only has two, but the doctor said he has six more working their way through. And at their last checkup, Nate weighed 19 lbs. 11 oz. and Matt weighed 16 lbs. 11 oz.
Go, Matt, go!
Finally getting around!
  1. We found out Keith would not be returning to Afghanistan with his unit. In a way it’s good, because he gets to stay here with us, and it means his unit will be coming home soon. But at the same time, it was a huge disappointment for Keith. He has worked his butt off for the past six months to return to his guys and come home with the team. His physical recovery has been tough, but his emotional recovery has been even tougher. Keith lost two good friends in the attack: Captain Drew Russell and Captain Joshua Lawrence. They were amazing soldiers, and they are heroes. We have thought and talked about Drew and Josh often, and Keith really felt like he needed to return to Afghanistan to honor their memory and their sacrifice. He also wanted to be with all of the guys he had trained and fought with for so many months. Unfortunately, by the time his doctors deemed him healed enough to return to combat, it was too late.

I think it will take a while for Keith to get over the fact that he wasn’t able to return. He feels, in a way, like he failed Drew and Josh and like he let down his team. But I know that is not the case at all. I’ve seen firsthand how hard he has worked—and how hard he continues to work each day—to get back into “fighting form,” both physically and mentally. The fact that he even got cleared to return to combat only six months after receiving such an extensive injury is so impressive to me. I think Drew and Josh would be proud of him. I know I am—and our sons will be, too.

Keith is now looking forward to his unit returning home. I know it will be so good for him to see all of the guys! And I will be thrilled for all of their families, especially their wives. These women held down the fort and took care of the kids for almost an entire year while their husbands were off fighting. They are some of the strongest women I know, and an inspiration to me.

Big Changes!

Now that the twins are nearly nine months old, life as we know it is changing very quickly.

Take our morning routine, for instance. After play time and bottles, the boys usually sit in their bouncy seats in the kitchen while Keith and I (or just I) eat breakfast. They happily sit and flash us gummy smiles while we eat and drink our much-needed coffee.

This morning, we put Matt and Nate in their seats as usual and went about making strawberry pancakes. As you can see, they were quite content:

But a few minutes after I took this photo, Nate leaned over to reach for his brother—and the entire seat toppled over with him. He screamed, and Keith had to run and rescue him.

We’d had signs for a couple of weeks that the big guy was starting to outgrow his bouncy seat. For one thing, the typically upright seat started to look more like a recliner chair—the back of it got lower and lower to the ground. Also, the fabric  was starting to tear from the strain of holding him. But we were in denial. After all, the instruction manual said the seat can hold babies up to 25 pounds, and Nate is only about 20 pounds! But it seems we now have to face reality—the bouncy seat is no match for Nate’s heft.

That stinks. The boys not only love to chill in their seats in the mornings, but in the evenings we remove the front panels and they wind down in them while watching a Baby Einstein or Baby Sign Language DVD. Now where can Nate sit? He can sit up on his own, but that’s not exactly relaxing enough to help him drift off into la-la land. And what about our breakfast routine? Do we put Nate in his high chair now instead?

Another big change: It seems we may have to stop going out to restaurants for a while. Until now, we’ve typically gone out to eat with the boys once a week. We’ll go early and keep them in their car seats, where they’ll either sleep or sit happily and look around. So we thought we’d have no problem going to a local Vietnamese restaurant at 5:30 on Friday with Keith’s sister, Pato. The restaurant was more crowded than we’d expected, but we thought we’d still be in the clear. Nate was fast asleep in his car seat, and I fed Matt right when we got there. But about five minutes later, Matt wanted out of his seat and began to fuss.

“Why don’t we get him a high chair?” Pato asked.

We were doubtful about doing so because the boys had never sat in one of those low-backed restaurant high chairs. But as soon as we sat Matt in it, he got a gleam in his eye. We put a few of his toys on the table in front of him and he began to play.

Matt takes his place at the table.

Well, right when our steaming bowls of pho arrived, Nate woke up and began to shriek, and Matt began to throw his head back and fling things around. Pato quickly took Nate out of his seat and tried to feed him, but he was too interested in his new surroundings to eat. Keith took Matt and struggled to contain him while I shoveled my food in so I could take a baby. Then Pato put Nate in the high chair, where he proceeded to purposely drop his toys on the floor and then whine until Keith picked them up.

Nate in the restaurant’s high chair.

After Pato hurriedly downed half of her soup, she took Matt so that Keith could eat. Matt immediately went for her hot bowl of noodles. She moved the bowl, so he stuck his hand in Nate’s uneaten sweet potatoes and smeared them around. When he started grabbing for the utensils, we knew it was time to leave, and our dinner was cut short.

Now that the babies are getting more mobile and are not as content to sit in their car seats, it seems the extent of our restaurant-going with them will be to places like Red Robin, where loud children are the norm. Besides, in a few months, the boys will no longer be in their portable, rear-facing car seats. That eliminates even the possibility of them sleeping at a restaurant while we enjoy a leisurely meal. And now we’re starting to wonder: What else will be more challenging now that the boys are so active? Next week, we are flying to New York for their Baptism. Will our airplane luck run out, and will this be the trip from hell?

Yes, life with the twins is going to get more challenging and more crazy. But we are very excited for all the new changes the coming months will bring. We’ll just have to learn to be flexible—and to go to bed earlier. We’ll need all the energy we can get!