leveling up

I regret not a single minute of this.

I regret not a single minute of this.

For two years and two months, Claire has been snuggled, held, and rocked to sleep. For 19 months of that time, Etta was rocked or bounced to sleep, herself. This could take up to an hour. Sometimes it got annoying– especially after a tough day, sometimes I didn’t feel like the long ordeal. Sometimes, like just last week, my husband and I would talk about maybe it being time to do some sort of sleep training, something anyone who has ever had kids has had strangers recommend, but something I had always resisted. And I resisted because the annoyance was only a rare sometimes. Mostly? Mostly I loved the snuggly ritual of helping my sweet small ones transition from awake to sleep, feeling them grow heavy in my arms, hearing their breaths grow longer, watching their eyelids close. Mostly because I know I’m not allowed to birth any more babies, I felt no need to rush one of the last vestiges of my only babyhood away. I figured eventually, they wouldn’t need me to rock them to sleep, and that when that day arrived, they’d let me know.
And they did. Continue reading

happy birthday, bufflogals!

Etta and Claire are two today. The last two years have been the craziest, hardest, best, most beautiful years of our lives. And every day they just get better. I’ll spare the sap, but here’s a little photo retrospective.

brand new bufflogals

brand new bufflogals

I didn't get to hold Claire, because she had to be immediately transferred to Children's Hospital to prepare for her spina bifida closure surgery.

I didn’t get to hold Claire, because she had to be immediately transferred to Children’s Hospital to prepare for her spina bifida closure surgery.

Still can't get over how tiny they were. I was pretty proud of my 6 lb 34 weeker twins, though.

Still can’t get over how tiny they were. I was pretty proud of my 6 lb 34 weeker twins, though.

First photo as a family of four, 9 days later, in the NICU with Claire.

First photo as a family of four, 9 days later, in the NICU with Claire.

First birthday cake/pudding.

First birthday cake/pudding.

One year as a family!

One year as a family!

And last weekend.

And last weekend.

And now they’re two. I expect a little bit of terrible but a whole lot of terrific.

never say never to say this

photo-4I feel like every day a new post like this pops up in one of my social media feeds. Today it was “9 Things Never to Say to the Parents of a Newborn.” I’ve seen others about things not to say to pregnant women, or twin parents, or even parents of kids with disabilities. And even though I have even shared a post of things you actually CAN say to parents of kids with disabilities (because hey, that one was actually helpful), I think my list of things you should never say is rapidly boiling down to only one bullet point:


  1. Never say a list of things people should never say.


My rules for relationships are all summed up in one very wise quote from the movie Bill and Ted’s Most Excellent Adventure: “Be most excellent to one another, and party on, dudes.” The gist is: be kind to others and yourself. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Know that generally, things said by people who care about you do come from a place of caring. If they ask how your wife who just had a baby is doing, why not assume they are sincerely asking? Instead of writing a blog post about what a moron someone is for asking you to let them know how they can help out with your new baby, why not say “hey, actually, could you come rock and snuggle the baby while we shower and nap?” People LOVE to rock and snuggle babies, and lord knows every new parent needs a shower and a nap.

Being Most Excellent also means assuming that the people you care about and talk with are doing the best they can with what they know, and will generally ask for advice if they need it. Being Most Excellent means that if you can’t make that basic assumption, that someone is doing the best they can to make the right choices for themselves and their kids, maybe what you need is to not be friends with them, rather than attempt to shame them either outright or via passive aggressive article posting about baby sleep/baby feeding/car seats. Being Most Excellent means thinking for just a second before you speak, which would save you from something dumb like asking if boy/girl twins are identical, or offering some unsolicited advice to a mother of a child with a disability.

And Being Most Excellent means that sometimes, you might have to talk with someone about how they said that thing they just said and how it made you feel. I know I sometimes need to give myself a talk about using ableist language like using “lame” as a pejorative, for example.

Rather than publish a list of Things Not To Say to a Mom of a Child with Spina Bifida, I’d rather offer an open invitation to people who know me or read my words: if you have a question, even if you’re worried about how I might take it, please feel free to ask. If you’re coming from a place of Being Most Excellent, I promise to do my best to Be Most Excellent right back. I think if people felt more free to talk and ask about hard things in life, we might spend less time tiptoeing around each other and more time really connecting. I remember being sincerely asked how I was doing when the girls were newborns and breaking down sobbing in the arms of some friends, because it was exhausting and hard and I needed a break. And you know what? Just connecting, and literally crying on someone’s shoulder, and getting a hug and some encouragement? It was way more valuable than some weird polite attempt from someone who’s read too many “never say” lists and become afraid to ask how someone’s doing.

Note: this Be Most Excellent thing pretty much only applies to people you have an actual, established relationship with. A friend asking me about, say, Claire’s leg braces would be quite a different thing than a stranger in a store, where the asking serves to point out her difference and put her on the spot in a way that I don’t want her to be when she’s just going about her day to day life. But if you’re close enough to come over with food or rock my newborn, I promise you are close enough to ask me about just about anything, and I promise not to jump down your throat. I can’t promise not to tell you if the language you use is problematic or hurtful, but I do promise not to be a jerk about it. Let’s all try to Be Most Excellent. Party on, dudes.


In three days my two will be TWO. It at once feels huge and also like no big deal at all. Huge because they are definitely not babies anymore. They’re walking, talking, singing, thinking, hugging, kissing little humans. And no big deal at all because I am a giant sap who Lives in the Moment and Loves Each Phase as it Comes, and frankly, they just keep getting cooler and more interesting and more themselves, and there’s no room to be all that sad about that.

The best thing about firmly arriving in toddlerhood and leaving babyhood behind is the love. I am always telling my girls, “Thanks for the love! I love the love!” This is usually after some tiny arms have been thrown about my neck and a big, wet, open-mouthed kiss planted on my lips, with possibly some snot thrown in. Or after Etta has made a bee-line for me across the room, suddenly dropping all toys and play, to climb into my lap, lay a head on my shoulder, and let out a sweet little sigh before going back to the serious business of filling a doll stroller with play food. Or after Claire, sitting in a stroller pushed by her daddy as we go on an evening stroll, reaches out her dimpled hand to hold mine and holds on tight for 20 minutes to home. They still need me fiercely, but now they are able to reciprocate my affection for them, and I just love it. I can’t get enough of it. It explodes my heart.

On top of all the love, Claire has really really taken off in the talking department. By which I mean, she is constantly talking unless she is eating, pretty much. Etta isn’t much of a talker, and to be honest, I think Claire’s incessant babble wears her out a bit. She’ll actually say to her sister, “Shhhhhhh baby.” She calls Claire “baby” and Claire calls Etta “Sissy” or sometimes “Eddie.” (Claire’s first word was Etta, you may recall.) Sometimes the talking wears me out, too, but mostly it delights me. Her tiny voice is just crazy adorable. She loves to say “puppy,” possibly because what word in all the world could be happier? Her descriptive language is just exploding and the things she comes up with are amazing to me. I came into the room where she’d been hanging out with her dad, and asked her where he was. She said, “Daddy coming. He potty.” And sure enough, he had left to go to the bathroom. She’ll bump her head and say “I bonked it.” She talks about airplanes and elephants and her snazzy new braces and how she uses a cath to go pee pee. She’ll even say “tank you” when you give her something or do something for her. As a wordy mama, it thrills me to no end to hear every little thing she has to say, and I admit I sometimes have a hard time not worrying that her sister doesn’t talk all that much. She clearly understands most of what I say, though, and follows instructions, and does say some words, and luckily I live with a pediatrician who can reassure me there is nothing to worry about and like everything, language develops at its own pace.

My two are two. They are hugging and kissing and walking and talking and getting more interesting and coming more and more into their own. What a lucky lady am I!

nativities and festivity

While I am a huge fan of Thanksgiving and staunchly oppose Christmas Creep, I am becoming more and more of a BIG GIANT CHRISTMAS CRAZY PERSON. A few years ago, I happened to be unemployed and childless at Christmas, so I went origami crazy and decorated our whole tree with handmade papercrafts. This year, I have toddlers, so when a kid-free day opened up during the week of Thanksgiving, I went ahead and put up the tree, BEFORE DECEMBER. Starting on December 1, our constant soundtrack has been my playlist of some 250 Christmas songs, much of which is hipsteriffic remakes of carols accompanied, I’m sure, by mustachioed dudes playing banjos, possibly while wearing vests, obtained free via Noisetrade. I’ve been working like an elf on homemade tree skirts, cinnamon ornaments, felt garlands, and lots of handmade presents.

Our tree, which was (gasp) up before Thanksgiving this year.

Our tree, which was (gasp) up before Thanksgiving this year.

I made this tree skirt, inspired by one I saw from The Land of Nod.

I made this tree skirt, inspired by one I saw from The Land of Nod.

But the surest sign that I’ve gone round the Christmas bend is the nativity.

Rachel Held Evans has a hilarious post today about the conundrum of a childless progressive couple trying to choose a nativity scene. Where to find a biblically accurate, fair trade, child safe nativity? It seems such a fraught decision. Pre-kids, the nativity I chose was a fair trade Peruvian one which features llamas. Perhaps not biblically accurate, but it makes me smile.

Post kids? Well… Enter the Little People. Here is our main nativity now:


Yep. That’s a plastic, light-up, noise-making nativity, in the home of the lady whose rules for her kids’ toys include avoiding plastic and things that make noise. And I don’t care. I love the Little People Nativity. My kids can’t break it, they love to play with it, and when you press the Baby Jesus and he lights up (?!) and the whole thing plays Away in a Manger and Silent Night, well, my kids dance and sway and clap their hands and the entire thing becomes more than worth the $20 I spent on it in the Fisher Price Labor Day sale.

And can you spot my favorite part? Yep. The purple hippo. Strangely not included in the original set, my children decided the purple hippo from their bath toys really needed to be present at the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It kind of reminds me of the nativity scene lobsters from “Love Actually” and definitely reminds me of my sister, whose favorite Christmas song is “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.” It makes me smile. How much has changed. How far I’ve come. But you know what, if they coulda, I’m sure the hippos would have followed a star all the way to Bethlehem too. They could have hung out with the lobsters.

Hours of fun with the plastic, noise-making, non-historically-accurate but much-beloved Little People Nativity.

Hours of fun with the plastic, noise-making, non-historically-accurate but much-beloved Little People Nativity.

doing disney with toddlers (and only one small backpack)


I mentioned that we recently went on vacation. I did not mention that it was to the Happiest Place on Earth: Walt Disney World.  When my husband had a paper accepted at the biggest national conference in pediatrics, and when I found out the conference was in Orlando, we decided to make a family vacation of it and try taking the girls to Disney since kids under 3 get in free.

I grew up in Disney World. This is not hyperbole. My parents have an Orlando timeshare, and we went at least once, usually twice a year, from when I was 8 years old. For me, going back to Disney is almost as nostalgic as going to grandmother’s house. It’s a place full of happy memories that I know very very well. Because we went so often (it and the Gulf Coast were the only places we ever vacationed), my family did Disney a little differently than families who only ever go once. For us, the pressure was off to see and do EVERYTHING since we knew we’d be back, and because we had a season pass, my parents didn’t hesitate to get us out of there when it was time to go back to the condo and nap.

These two lessons formed the basis of my approach to this trip, and should serve as a warning to anyone attempting to take very small people to Disney:

  1. Do not expect to see and do EVERYTHING.
  2. Do not plan to spend a whole day at Disney World with toddlers.

By keeping those things in mind, we were able to truly enjoy our time in the parks with our tiny people. We had a 5 day non-park-hopping pass, which worked out fine. We were generally able to spend about half a day in the parks, and then the girls were done with stimuli, crowds, and the stroller and we had to leave and take naps at the condo. We probably could have come back in the evenings for a couple of hours, but by that point, we were tired too, so we stuck to quiet dinners and early bedtimes (our girls basically stayed on Central Time), and putting our feet up. We did two days at Magic Kingdom, and one day each at Epcot, Hollywood Studios (which will always be MGM to me!), and Animal Kingdom.

One major note: we went in October. The weather was lovely, but warm. We still got sweaty. I would NO WAY, NO HOW take toddlers to a Florida theme park in the summer. It would just be miserable, like pushing a stroller through the most crowded circle of hell. I do not think my sanity could take it. October is better. Nice weather, less crowded, and everything was decorated for Halloween. Also, we took advantage of off-season rates, and used Groupon to secure a two-bedroom condo with kitchen for $400 for the week. Also, the Magic Kingdom on Halloween itself is amazing– everyone we saw was wearing costumes, and some were quite elaborate! I think my favorite was a large family in which grandma was Snow White and every other family member was a dwarf.

Speaking of pushing strollers through hell: this is what it would be like if you rented a Disney stroller, no matter what time of year. Those things are terrible, made of hard plastic which can’t be comfy for little bodies, don’t recline, and I saw more than a few tip over backwards in our time at the parks. On top of that, renting a double stroller at Disney is $31 per day. Insanity. Because we were driving there, and because our resort had cribs and high chairs, we had room in our car for our beloved Baby Jogger City Select double stroller. If you are flying, I highly recommend looking into stroller rental in Orlando. I scoped out the names of several of the companies I saw on the Baby Jogger City Mini Doubles being pushed through the park, and it seems $95/week, delivered straight to your hotel, is a standard rate for a high quality double stroller that won’t make you hate yourself as you push it through one of the most crowded places on earth.

Our beloved Baby Jogger City Select in nap-mode at EPCOT.

Our beloved Baby Jogger City Select in nap-mode at EPCOT.

Another thing about strollers: unless you pack an umbrella (which I don’t recommend, because you’re going to want a sun canopy, basket, and reclining seats), plan on doing a smidge of extra walking. Disney parking lots are vast expanses of blacktop ruled over by attendants in yellow stripey uniforms, often on segways. You will park where they say to park. You will walk to the front of the cars. You will stand behind the yellow line. You will wait for the tram. You will disassemble your stroller and all the stuff you planned to stash in the basket to flatten it all and fit it into the tram while somehow holding on to your two small children. You will say “screw the tram” and leave your kids in their stroller with all their stuff stowed below as you elect to walk yourself to the Transportation and Ticket Center, which really isn’t as far as it seems.

Related: when going to the Magic Kingdom, Thou Shalt Ride the Monorail rather than be packed like an Ellis Island Immigrant onto the slow-moving cruise across Bay Lake on the Ferry Boat. Thou shalt arrive in half the time.

Admittedly, it had been a long time since I went to Disney with/as a small child, and I really wasn’t sure how much my kids would get out of it. A lot, it turns out. There’s plenty of stuff for little kids to ride (my kids are 18 months), and if you know what they can handle, the day will go quite smoothly. I know my kids well enough to know they can’t sit through any stage shows, stunt shows, fireworks shows, or parades. They also have no idea who most of the characters are, and will not get enough out of meeting any of them to justify standing in line for a photo op and autograph, so we skipped all the character meet and greets. They do however, love rides. In the Magic Kingdom alone, they rode and loved: Aladdin’s Magic Carpets, The Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Carousel, It’s a Small World (their fave), Winnie the Pooh, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Dumbo, the Teacups, and absolutely could have ridden Peter Pan’s Flight, the Haunted Mansion (little kids don’t know it’s supposed to be scary), and the People Mover and the spaceships in Tomorrowland had we not run out of time. We were selective about which of the no-toddlers-allowed rides we chose to ride ourselves, utilizing Fastpasses or rider swap to get our turns on attractions the girls couldn’t enjoy, though for the most part, we focused on things that we could all do together.

The whole family on The Jungle Cruise.

The whole family on The Jungle Cruise.

Animal Kingdom was probably the second most fun park for the girls, Epcot third, and we really could have skipped Hollywood Studios entirely. Epcot was super fun for the adults, though, because it was the food and wine festival, and we enjoyed eating our way around the world via reasonably-priced small bites and little glasses of wine. Another good reason to visit in the fall.

Finally, here’s my biggest lesson from this Disney trip with toddlers: you reallllly do not need to be schlepping a week’s worth of luggage through the parks like I saw so many families (often with only one kid) doing. I was determined that we would only need a small backpack to carry all our gear, and I made it happen. Key: I did not pack much in the way of food, and I didn’t pack first aid items that could be obtained at the in-park First Aid or Baby Care centers. What I did pack:

  • A change of clothes for each kid
  • Two straw cups for sharing drinks at restaurants (my toddlers can’t quite handle the average lidded kids cup yet, and need something leak proof with a screw-on lid)
  • Two snack traps full of cereal (these they held in the stroller and did not put in the bag)
  • Two bibs
  • Two toddler forks
  • 4 baby food pouches
  • Diapers
  • Wipes
  • Changing pad
  • 2 catheter kits for my child with spina bifida
  • Sunscreen
  • Hand sanitizer
  • A sippy full of milk per child (which I refilled with milk purchased at restaurants, going insulated with these cups is a good idea to avoid having to bring a cooler)
  • The Nosefrida, because at least one kid always seemed to have a stuffy/runny nose, and this is the only thing that works


If I were going in the warm weather, I might have included a swim diaper for each kid (there are some splash fountains at the parks I know they would like). Other than that, we shared food off our plates at lunch, were never in the parks at dinner, and never once needed anything or wished we had brought something else.

Beyond the contents of the backpack, our other crucial items were an Ergo carrier for each child. What we would do was, navigate the stroller to an area of the park, park the stroller in a designated area, put each kid into an Ergo, and go through lines that way, doing everything in that area before putting them back in the stroller and moving on to the next area of the park. By wearing our kiddos, who are very used to being worn and love it, we weren’t fighting with kids struggling to get down to the ground as we moved through lines, and we weren’t wearing ourselves out holding them. For some rides like It’s A Small World, I even left the kid in the Ergo for the duration of the ride. I cannot stress enough the importance of bringing a carrier that is comfortable for you both if you bring toddlers to Disney. These carriers were stashed under the stroller and easy to get on and off. They were also wearable WITH the backpack full of stuff, so we never had to leave the backpack behind, and because the backpack was small, we could always take it with us, even on the rides.

So, there you have it, my guide to Disney with toddlers. Have you ever taken a very small child on such a vacation? Have any tips or questions?





IMG_8114On Monday, I dropped Claire off at preschool for the first time in over a week after our vacation (more about that later). As I carried her in, she smiled at her teachers, saw that breakfast was being served, and rubbed her chest. “Please? You want some breakfast, huh Claire?” her teacher said. And that’s when it hit me…

It only took us three months, but we finally figured out that they’ve been teaching her baby sign language at preschool. And suddenly, what I thought were just funny things she likes to do with her hands, maybe pieces of songs from circle time (she loves the motions to Happy And You Know It and Itsy Bitsy Spider), became words with meaning– meaning we’ve been missing all this time.

Meanwhile, my mind flashed to what the last few months must have been like for Claire: More, please. Eat, please. Up? What is wrong with my parents? Do I live with idiots? My teachers understand me just fine! How many times do I have to say “more” to these morons before they refill my milk? She must have thought we were incredibly dense.

Now, though, it’s like a whole new world has opened up. This morning she pointed to a book and signed “please.” So I read it to her. Crazy!

Now I’ve got some catching up to do in the baby sign language department, because Claire is way ahead of me.

I must say, I’m super impressed with her preschool teachers– it absolutely makes sense to teach baby sign language at a special needs preschool where a lot of the kids are either nonverbal or speech-delayed. This puts all the kids on a level playing field for at least the bare minimum of communication.

Meanwhile, there’s at least one other area where I have to catch up with preschool: somehow, after a year of struggle, her teachers and her feeding therapist have gotten her off of bottles, the bottles she has preferred exclusively over any other type of bottle or cup since the NICU, and she now drinks from a sippy cup for them. Well, the jig is up now, Claire, and you’re about to switch to sippies at home, too. No more washing and reusing the same 12 disposable nipples that we nabbed from the NICU and have been reusing all this time, over 18 months now. How do I sign “sippy time”?