One more plane ride

I’m back in CT and got to spend my mom’s birthday with her. As she pointed out, this is the third year in a row, completely unplanned.

I have shin splints from the two mornings I did Jennifer’s 6-mile walk with her in Winston-Salem. We got a lot of good talking in over 12 miles and it helped clear my head of the jet lag. This is the first major exercise I’ve had besides the hike last Friday with Bela & Abby. When I get back, I need to prioritize exercise somehow. Also, last night was the first night the jet lag was starting to go away, which is really great, considering I go back tomorrow night.

I spent a long time catching up with Ron on Wed. I’m not sure when I’ll get to see him again. We worked out that the last time we saw each other was the book release party in NYC in March 2009. Since Dublin has an Innocence Project, I want to see if I can get them over for a speaking engagement. I really want the boys to meet him.

Sascha is doing wonderfully, all things considered. Two work days for him were pretty much vanquished by flash fevers: first G, then yesterday C. Today Sascha took C to the doctor and he has bad tonsillitis. Murphy’s Law, or something: he was the sickest he had ever been last summer with roseola when Sascha was out of the country. Hopefully, the antibiotics will do their work soon.

C was thrilled to see me on Skype Monday, but today he turned away.  I expect a bit of attitude when I get back. G has been acting out. Today he is at daycare by himself, and apparently doing well.  Maybe some time apart from each other is good?

It was good for me. I compartmentalized. I spoke to adults and had clean clothes on at all times. According to this article, if I could work part-time consistently, I’d be happier and healthier. Then again, most part-time working moms I know don’t have the consistency, especially if you had any non-traditional career path. Like me, they have sudden work opportunities that send them frantically searching for childcare, a way that laundry might do itself (if you leave it long enough, maybe the organisms thriving in it would get up and start walking around?), and figuring out logistics with a military-like precision. It also requires a very understanding spouse.

 

Advertisements

Driving on the other side of the road

I have been driving since I was about 13 or 14. My mother saw no great harm in my brothers and me getting behind the wheel when we were a few blocks from home. After all, my dad had a ride-on mower that we would steer while sitting on his lap when we were young; in beach towns we’d ride bumper cars and go–karts in between eating fried dough and ice cream. So after gymnastics practice, she would pull over and let me drive the blue Bonneville home.

She didn’t know that one of our favorite suburban pastimes would be sneaking out of the house and taking the cars. We had nowhere to go, really. It was the kind of town where the lights usually started blinking at 10pm. But driving on the empty streets and blasting the radio, we just reveled in our freedom.

I passed my driving test on the first try. Driving school was not mandatory at the time, so I never had any formal lessons, beyond my mother and my brothers, who would blow off noontime Mass to let me practice in parking lots. I did fail miserably in my efforts to learn stick shift, which I chalk up to a father-daughter clash. My father had no patience to teach me, and I gave up too quickly.

I owned exactly one car, when I was a junior in college. It was a Dodge Shadow in the strangest shade of blue you’ve ever seen. My friends dubbed it the Teal Mobile. When I moved to Japan, all that I kept of my belongings was what fit in the car.

Sascha is a borough-bred, meaning Manhattan born and raised. He got his license when he was twenty-two, after college in CT, where he wouldn’t have to parallel park. The years we lived in NYC we had no car. When we first moved back to L.A., we had a series of rented company cars. I remember feeling absolutely adrift on the massive span of the 405: five lanes in each direction, an endless swarm of headlights. I had once negotiated the freeways and exchanges effortlessly– the 10 to the 110 to the 5 or the 405 to the 10 to PCH or the 5 to the 134 to the 101, but in the time I was away from California, I had forgotten them and crucial shortcuts. My friend V., who has a special passion and talent for L.A. routes, was extremely disappointed in me.

When the boys were coming, (and the job was ending). Sascha and I knew we’d have to buy a car in California to ferry around our new family. We agonized over what car to buy for months, going on test-drives, with me waddling across lots and into showrooms to use the bathroom. It was actually one of our first big parental decisions, and because we thought we were too cool for a minivan (we just couldn’t do it as our first car purchase), we narrowed it down to SUVs. (Go on, judge us. We did at least buy a hybrid.) We consulted Consumer Reports endlessly. This is the thing responsible people seemed to do. The type of people who are becoming parents. I realize more and more how insane modern parenting is. We are so fearful, so anxious (even though we think we aren’t), and people make a big profit off selling us the illusion that we have some control.

When we left CA, we shipped the car we bought to CT. In our limbo year there, we careened around the state to every fair we could find on the weekends; during naptimes or bedtimes we’d drive the dark stretches of narrow parkways between CT and NYC to visit friends in the city and let the boys run through the sprinklers at the American Museum of Natural History.

Here we hoped we’d be able to forgo a car. Sascha bikes to work and everything essential is within walking distance of our cottage, though the gale-force winds, rain, and early darkness make walking with the stroller less enjoyable. The trouble is in seeing the country. We don’t know if we have a year here or many, and getting on the trains or the buses with the double stroller and luggage is extremely difficult. (Buses, for example, won’t take you on if there is already a buggy/stroller on board.) The biggest problem, though, is that the public transport system doesn’t link up, which is disappointing for a European capital. The LUAS, or light rail, near us, for example, doesn’t connect to the DART line, which runs along the coast. So three months in, we caved when a car came to us from a friend of friends who were repatriating to the States.

Meet Blue Steel, a ’97 Nissan Micra:

Who needs luggage?

It looks like the Matchboxes my younger brother used to play with. It is so tiny I’m nearly positive that it would fit in our American SUV if we folded down the back seats. But by some miracle, the double stroller fits perfectly in the hatchback boot, as well as our car seats. You may recall that our lane poses some challenges:
So finding this car, which actually maneuvers down the lane without scraping the houses and fits the four of us plus stroller, and is automatic, was kind of miraculous.

We each took a driving lesson. We almost didn’t, and just rented a car for some post-holiday exploring, but again, now that we are parents, we are more cautious. Like we should, for example, make sure we actually feel comfortable driving on the left side of the road before we strap in our sons. Welcome to the Age of Overparenting, indeed.

I was a confident driver in the U.S., but here my long-honed habits, now second-nature to me, are useless, even potentially dangerous. I must train myself to let my eyes drift up and left to the rearview. I must reverse with my head turned over my left shoulder instead of my right; stop my right hand from reaching for the gears. The signals are on the right side, so we set off the wipers almost every time we try to indicate a turn.

I should tell you I’m a terrible back-seat (passenger seat) driver. I slam on imaginary brakes; wince at cars coming too close. I don’t like being in a car unless I’m driving. So it was comical to be in a driving school car, where the instructor has his own set of brakes, and the car has a sandwich board up top and all around the doors announcing the driving school. I kept getting annoyed when he would press the brakes as we were approaching other cars. Then again, I’m glad he was there because Dublin has a shocking lack of helpful things like, say, lane markings. And bus lanes: you are in a bus lane, now you’re not, oh wait it’s a bus lane again, and you can’t be in it except maybe sometimes on Sundays or late at night. As people have told us, once you are outside of the city, on the large national roadways, it’s much easier. But within the city, at least at first, it feels much more stressful. I was fairly certain, for example, that a big street right near us was one-way. That’s how narrow it is. Sascha’s tip was to drive in the middle like it is one-way and move only if another car is oncoming. That helps a lot with holding my breath for fear I am going to sideswipe all the parked cars to the left of me.

We are ready to do some exploring of this fine little country we are lucky enough to be living in.

The boys like our "yittle" car

Stay tuned for our journeys on the road.

On having twins

Dear everyone who remarks, “Having twins is the way to do it! Just get it done and out of the way!”

Having twins is actually, to quote another twin parent, better put as: having two effing babies. AT THE SAME TIME.

Convenient? Heck no. Economical? Nope. The easy way to do it? Are you joking?

Having twins is not like bulking up on toilet paper so you don’t have to go out and get more for a long time.

And please don’t tell me, “Mine are so close in age, they’re just like twins!” It makes me feel stabby.

I feel incredibly lucky to have two healthy sons. I can’t imagine not having them both, and them not having each other. I feel privileged that I get to watch them develop their own relationship with each other, and for my extra moments of morning dozing courtesy of their morning “chats” with each other. I also adore the ringside seat of their nightly WWF bouts. At times their twin relationship is loving, and at other times, it is a terrifying glimpse into Darwinian principles in action.

But it is not some great shortcut into parenthood. It is really, really hard. I was lucky enough to meet two women at an expectant parent of multiples group who were due around the same time. This is us at a Mommy and Me movie in Los Feliz. We texted each other all throughout the first WTF months. You need other parents of multiples friends because you will not be doing Mommy & Me yoga or going to grab coffee with your baby in the freaking wrap which takes like twenty minutes to put on but which everyone said was so great.

Once when we were out together, some guy asked us which one of us was the mother! As if one of us was the mom of six newborns and the other two were just nannies.

At times, I question our sanity leaving the safety net of my parents being around the corner during this stage in development when the boys are not listening to anything I say asserting their wills. I used to be able to corral them fairly easily by myself, simply by saying, “Come on, it’s time to go inside,” or “It’s time to go upstairs for a bath.” And like little ducklings, they’d follow behind me. Around 17 months old though, my boys started understanding that they had a choice. I read somewhere that toddlerhood is like a mini-adolescence. It makes sense. They are sort of like two extremely short, moody little teenagers.

If you have twins (or bless you, supertwins), you know that life must be about schedule and routine or else there will be a complete and total collapse of the world order you need to simply get through the day. Parenting twins of this age is a lot like running relay: Sascha taps me to run the next leg after he’s had them so he can go nap/shower/eat.

The books will not apply to you. (And I say “the books” in a collective sense meaning the bougie tomes parents like myself read to feel like they are doing the right thing or because they expect somehow, somewhere, there will be a way to Google an answer to some inevitable parenting conundrum.) For example, when one of your toddlers takes a dish and throws it on the floor in a restaurant, the books will suggest something like removing the child from the restaurant, either by taking him outside until he can behave better or simply going home.  If you have twins however, one of you may do this with Twin A, and then Twin B, who had heretofore been eating and behaving just fine, will suddenly start screaming  and crying, “Daddy! Daddy!” and frantically try to run out of the restaurant, afraid he is missing some amazing experience or being left behind. Or, when one has a protest tantrum, where he simply sits down in a park because you won’t carry him, you cannot do what “the books” say, which is ignore him, unless you have back-up. If you are alone, your other child is likely running off in an entirely different direction.


It means that even if you get the EXACT. SAME. TOY. for each of them, one will inevitably scream, “I need THAT!” and try to tackle his brother to get the identical fire truck to the one he is holding.

Never, ever believe a parent of a single child who recommends doing something and says it will be “so relaxing.” Exhibit A of our “vacation:”

Sincerely,

A mom of twins

Special Guest Post: Sascha on not so super-supermarkets

As promised, our very own Sascha is here to regale you with his tale of shopping while I have a night off to wander around Grafton St:

Life with twins is great. Dublin is great. And grocery shopping can, under the right circumstances, be great.

However, grocery shopping with twins in Dublin is most definitely not great.

Exhibit A: Last Saturday morning. I volunteered to take the boys to the supermarket, optimistically thinking I could accomplish three major things in one fell swoop:

1. Get some much-needed groceries for our Hobbit-sized fridge.

2. Bring the boys out to get some air.

3. Be a good husband and son-in-law by giving my wife and mother-in-law some quiet time after being with the boys nonstop for days.

I can report that I did achieve those three items, however there was a great human cost involved. The boys and I survived, but barely. And things will never be the same.

The scene of the actual incident. Looks spacious according to this photo from Daft, but don't let it fool you.

I arrived at our local grocery store, the Superquinn, around 9:15am, knowing that I had a challenge ahead of me. Since I had the double stroller, I had a choice of two maneuvers:

1. The Two-Handed-Backwards-Shopping-Cart-Plus-Forward-Facing-Stroller Roller

OR

2. Balance-the-Basket-on-Top-of-the-Stroller-and-Try-Not-to-Drop-Groceries-on-my-Sons’-Heads

I took one look at the aisles of that supermarket and knew that option number one wasn’t happening. There was barely room for a cart, let alone a double stroller and a cart. That must be why they charge you a Euro to use a shopping cart – as a deterrent.

So, I had no choice. Balance-the-Basket. I rolled my extra large, Americano double stroller down the super narrow, dainty European aisles as I balanced the empty cart on the handles. Look, I appreciate that things in Europe are smaller than they are in the United States. There is less waste here and that’s good. But why cut corners on supermarket aisles? That just isn’t right.

I admit that when it comes to grocery shopping, I am an overachiever. I like to get everything on the list, and plus it out so we don’t have to shop again for a while. That basket was full in no time, and I was feeling pretty proud of myself for not dropping any plums on my sons’ heads. They were pretty mellow, too. But then it was time to check out.

The cashier was ringing me up when it happened. I tried to push the stroller through the aisle so I could bag the groceries, and then…creak. The stroller was stuck. I couldn’t push forward. I couldn’t pull back. Behind me, the line started to grow, people started looking impatient – this was the only aisle open. My formerly mellow sons started to cry, no doubt fearing that they would be stuck in a Superquinn check-out aisle for months. I was suddenly the center of attention. Friendly Irish people didn’t seem so friendly anymore. I apologized meekly. The crying got louder, the stroller wouldn’t budge. What would I do?

When Erin talks about worst-case, nightmare scenarios of living in a city with twins, these are the pictures she paints: being out in public, the twins screaming, causing a scene, being the center of attention. I realized at that moment: I was living her nightmare.

I knew I’d have get the boys out and fold up the stroller to get it unstuck. So as they continued to wail, I unbuckled them. Unfortunately I was stuck on the other side of the stroller from them. C. went limp like a ragdoll and slid to the floor as he does when he’s angry, and G. stomped off towards the ice cream case in a huff. The cashier dashed from behind the counter and tried to distract them with Superquinn super-saver circulars while I madly tried to fold up the stroller. It wouldn’t fold. The line behind me was growing longer. I tried to stay Zen. As a coping strategy, my mind took me miles away. I imagined I was in a nice, spacious, comfy, enormous Target in suburban Connecticut. The check-out aisle was the size of a football field. Bliss.

Things were simpler then. Our shopping carts were SUVs and the aisles stretched on gloriously as far as the eye could see. Target, how we miss ye.

I snapped back to reailty and somehow found the strength to fold the stroller, wrangle the boys, unfold the stroller, get the wriggling boys back into the stroller, bag the groceries in my eco-friendly reusable bags, balance them on the handle, and then promptly slam the stroller into a bucket of flowers, causing the water to spill out across the floor of the store. The last thing I remember is sprinting through the inch of water in my sneakers, pushing the double stroller out of the narrow doors as fast as I could as the boys’ cries rang throughout Superquinn.

From now on, we will be having our groceries delivered.