so, you just found out you’re having twins…

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Dear couple staring in disbelief at an ultrasound image of TWO babies,

Hi. You might be feeling a lot of feelings right now, and those feelings may be giving you other feelings too. Like, maybe you’re a little bummed out and the difference between how you feel and how excited everyone else seems to be about this twins thing might be making you feel a little guilty on top of the whole feeling bummed thing. I know.

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surgery for Claire tomorrow

I’m back from an amazing weekend in NYC helping my sweet sister Jessica shop for a wedding dress. Now it’s back to reality in a big way because Claire the Bear is having surgery tomorrow. She’s having a shunt placed to help treat her hydrocephalus (the fluid that builds up in her head because of her spina bifida), which has gotten to the point of causing fluid to build up in her spine. This is called a syrinx, and because it could compromise her mobility, we have to finally do the surgery this time, almost exactly a year after we first thought we’d be getting it done.

I’m glad we could wait this long. Since she’s older, the procedure is much less risky than it would have been on a tiny baby, and that’s always good news. We trust our surgeon completely and know she will be in the best hands. All you lovely folks: please be praying for or sending positive thoughts her way, whichever you do. Thank you for always cheering Claire on. She will be in the hospital overnight, but it should be a fairly quick recovery, so let’s hope that’s true!

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Feeding Miss Etta

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I’ve posted a little bit about feeding my girls, but after a few comments on Twitter and Instagram about Miss Etta’s eating habits, I thought it might be helpful to go ahead and write a more detailed post about my semi-Baby Led Weaning table-food-eating one year old.

We started introducing solids in the form of purees around 6 months, but from the start, Etta wanted little to do with being spoon fed. She likes to do things by and for herself, and the whole thing was largely a very messy battle with her wanting to control the spoon, and very little food winding up in her mouth. By about 9 months, she was still mostly not eating food, so we decided to try “Baby Led Weaning,” which I had mostly heard of on mama message boards. Basically, Baby Led Weaning is giving kids pieces of food that they can feed themselves. I never read the books on the subject, but there are many, as well as websites, so feel free to seek that stuff out. We just started giving her steamed hunks of sweet potato and carrot, about adult finger sized, and from there eventually wound up graduating to just feeding her foods.

These days, my entire fridge is full of little tupperwares of Etta meal components. Then her meals are basically just multiple choice problems. Breakfast is usually fruit+grain+dairy, and lunch and dinner are protein+veggies+grain, with an occasional dairy item thrown in.

Fruits:

  • No sugar added applesauce (the only ingredients are apples and apple juice, but I may start adding cinnamon to give her some flavor), served in a Yummi Pouch.
  • I buy canned/jarred fruit a lot, and either give it to her to feed herself in chunks, or puree it in my Ninja Blender and serve it to her in a Yummi Pouch, often adding oatmeal baby cereal to it. We like peaches, pears, pineapple, and mixed tropical fruit in juice (not syrup).
  • Fresh fruits like pears, sliced into wedges she can hold and gnaw on. Hunks of banana or mango, sliced berries, and clementine segments have also gone over well. I’ve even bought frozen berries, thawed, and served them to her, though they were a huge mess. In the future, I may restrict berries to purees in the Yummi Pouch so she looks less like an extra from a zombie flick.

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Grains/starches:

  • We are big fans of toast+spreads, both for breakfast and dinner. Toast is usually a halved multigrain English muffin or multigrain bread. Spreads include guacamole, butter, hummus, jam, pumpkin butter, tahini, almond, and peanut butter. I cut the toast into strips of about adult finger size, and she goes to town. 
  • Tortillas, spread with any of the above spreads, or as a cheese quesadilla.
  • Earth’s Best baby crackers or graham crackers
  • Veggie pastas, like the kind with spinach and tomato in it, either plain or tossed in some simple tomato sauce (this is messy). Bowties and Penne seem easy to hold.
  • Spinach and cheese raviolis, cooked and cut into quarters.
  • Rice
  • Mashed potatoes, though this is a messy proposition and usually necessitates a bath as she smears it in her hair.
  • Roasted potatoes.
  • The occasional French fry.

Proteins:

  • BEANS! Etta loves beans. I buy organic canned beans (I admit, I’m not stressing about BPA in canned foods at this point, though I buy BPA free items whenever possible), and she likes kidney, pinto, black, and garbanzo beans. I just rinse them and keep them in a container in the fridge. She gets a handful at a time. Hummus on toast, as mentioned above, also counts as a serving of beans. Warning: you will see the bean peels when you change a poopy diaper. Do not be alarmed!
  • Cooked chicken, shredded or cubed. She usually only gets this if we’re having chicken for dinner.
  • Fish. So far she’s just had salmon when we were having it for dinner, but she was a fan. She loves flavorful stuff.
  • Scrambled tofu. She loved scrambled eggs until we had a pretty strong allergic reaction, and she likes scrambled tofu almost as much, particularly flavored up with chili powder and cheese.

Veggies:

  • Frozen mixed veggies have been a staple. They’re easy to steam in the microwave and store in a tupperware, and she gets to try a large variety. I often add butter or olive oil and some sort of spices or herbs, because I’ve discovered through serving her bits of our meals that she really loves flavor. Peas, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, zucchini, squash, butternut squash, edamame, and lima beans are all easy to get in the freezer section.
  • Sauteed, steamed, ora roasted fresh veggies are great too– whatever we’re having for dinner, she often gets some. Zucchini seems to be a fave.
  • Halved cherry tomatoes. She loves these. The acidity often irritates the skin on her face and hands though, so I can’t give them to her as often as she’d like. She noms all the goodness out and spits out the peels.
  • Weird stuff, like hearts of palm from a salad we had, are always fun for her to try, and she often ends up loving them.

Dairy:

  • YOGURT. I make homemade yogurt, and she eats it in a Yummi Pouch.
  • Cheese. Cubed cheddar, jack, or mozzarella are easy, as is pre-crumbled goat cheese and feta. She loves them all.

When I have several of the above components, meals just become a simple matter of pulling out the containers and giving her a little of each category. Any time I don’t think she’s eaten a lot of the food, I give her a pouch of yogurt or apple sauce to round out the meal and fill her up. So far, she’s pretty willing to try just about anything, and she’s not very picky. I will be sure to update with a new post once we’re further into toddlerhood!

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Etta and Claire’s First Fiesta

Well, it’s official. My baby girls are now leaving the baby stage behind and headed toward toddlerhood, as they are ONE! I’d be sad about how quickly time has passed, and continues to pass, but they are mostly so much fun right now that who can be sad about that? They’re exploring and learning and growing and really coming into themselves personality wise. They interact with each other more than ever, and their relationship is so cool to watch. Etta will be walking any day now, and we hope Claire will be catching up soon, as she’s getting started with PT and OT (I promise a complete Claire update soon). Basically: having one year old twins is just crazy and busy and cool, and I don’t have time to be too wistful.

We celebrated the first year of their lives, and the fact that we survived it, with a fiesta full of people we love and who love us. My fashionista sister not only came all the way from Nashville with her new FIANCE and two pugs in tow, but she also took lots of pictures with her big fancy camera. So, now you get to share in what was a truly lovely day, despite gray, drizzly skies that forced what was supposed to be a back yard party indoors. Not that location matters much when you have a margarita machine, you know?

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nothin’ says lovin’ like something from a jar

It’s hard to believe the Bufflo Gals have gone from this:

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To this:

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And as they’ve grown, things have changed with the way we feed them around here. Some things have worked great, others haven’t worked out.

I really wanted to make my own baby food.

And then I met my babies. One wants nothing to do with being spoon fed (as I mentioned in an earlier post) and the other vomits the minute she tastes my homemade food. Not just spits it out. Vomits.

At first, I was sort of offended by this. I thought I had a picky baby, since she would happily gobble down jars of purees both veggie and fruit, and then immediately gag and choke on my homemade stuff that, to my eye, seemed exactly the same as the stuff in a jar. In fact, I remained irritated and offended by this for a few months.

And then I finally googled “spina bifida texture issues” and learned that this is common to many babies with spina bifida, and often requires occupational therapy to fix. And then I felt like a jerk.

IMG_0419We’re looking into our OT and PT options and will be getting a referral soon, but in the meantime, I have accepted that homemade baby food is just not our thing. I can make a few very thin varieties that she will eat (like tomato carrot!), but, since straining every puree through a fine mesh strainer is a huge hassle, I will just be buying jarred purees for Claire. There’s a huge variety of organic Earth’s Best foods available, so that’s mostly what we’re going with. I even got over my aversion to pureed meat, because if she’s gonna be on these things for longer than average, I want to let her have some proteins, and the only other option is lentil dinner.

Meanwhile, Etta is doing a sort of half-assed version of Baby Led Weaning. I haven’t read the books, but I’ve read about it on the internet, and, like most of the rest of my parenting, am sort of doing what feels right. She gets soft chunks of things cut into pieces she can hold in her fist. Sweet potato, pasta, carrot, watermelon, cantaloupe, cheese, and toast are all favorites. It’s going pretty well.

Etta loves eggs.

Etta loves eggs. Or did. Until she had an allergic reaction this morning. No more eggs for a while.

Next step: transitioning from formula to milk in about a month, and also trying to transition from bottles to sippy cups. Anyone have tips on that? Both of my girls still have issues with fast-flow nipples, and they nearly drown in sippy cups.

She'll gnaw it, but she won't drink from it.

She’ll gnaw it, but she won’t drink from it.

Awareness

I found out today that October is Spina Bifida Awareness Month. My first thought was: what a crap choice in awareness months. I mean, everyone knows that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, as pink has pretty much blanketed everything we see.

But then I thought, well, it’s just as well, since I’m generally skeptical of “awareness” in general. I mean, I’m not usually sure of what it accomplishes. Half of the pink I see this time of the year seems to have no real point, as most of us are aware that breast cancer exists, and the pinkwashing is often unaccompanied by anything about breast exams or early detection or risk factors or anything.

Feeding tiny Claire in the NICU.

I guess people are less aware of the realities of spina bifida. SB is a congenital defect of the “neural tube” which is the part of a fetus that eventually becomes the baby’s head and spine. Claire’s neural tube didn’t close properly, and when she was born, she had 4 centimeters of her spine visible from the outside. As a result of this defect, things like nerves weren’t hooked up properly, so she has/will have certain amounts of disability in her legs, bladder, and bowels, in addition to hydrocephalus, or fluid building up in her head (which for many people with SB requires surgery to place a shunt and drain the fluid, though we haven’t had that yet). While her spinal defect was one of the more severe types, she seems to have good enervation and musculature in her legs, and her doctors and physical therapists believe she will walk and will only need braces to support her ankles, though some people with SB require more extensive bracing or even use wheelchairs.

I certainly didn’t know all of this or really much about SB at all, and it really wasn’t even on my radar until my birthday last year, when we went in for a 20 week ultrasound, excited to finally learn our babies’ sexes, and instead learned that the baby we’d later name Claire had SB. It was a really scary, sad day.

But the thing I needed awareness of that day wasn’t just “spina bifida” as some vague concept. I needed to be aware of the beautiful reality that would be my daughter’s life. Yes, we both had a rocky start. She had surgery at two days old. She was separated from me for 9 days. She was in the NICU for two weeks. She had to stay on her belly for 6 weeks while her back healed. But despite all of that, she’s really just a baby. They’re all very needy. They’re all very fragile. They’re all very tiny. They’re all amazing little creatures. If you looked at my two girls today, you might not be able to guess which one has SB.

If I could go back to last December 16 and make myself aware of anything it would be this: Claire is beautiful. She is funny. She is sweet. She has a radiant smile. She loves to eat. She loves her mama and daddy. She is exploring and learning and growing every single day.

I was so worried about all the ways she’d be different from her able-bodied twin sister, but the reality is, they’re both just babies. They are completely different and yet so very much the same. And almost all of my worrying was completely unnecessary. That is what I needed to be aware of: that there was nothing to be afraid of.

So, no, you likely won’t see NFL teams raising awareness for SB this month, or yellow covering all your favorite products in the name of raising funds. And while you may not personally know anyone affected by SB, now you know a little more about our story, and a little more about my baby Claire, who is special, just like everyone else.

Claire the Bear today.

cloth diapering twins 5 months in

My initial post on cloth diapering our girls has been so popular, I thought I’d write a follow-up now that we’re 5 months in, as I wrote the original only a week or so after we moved into our one-size diapers. So, see that post for the most detailed newborn cloth diapering info, and this one for cloth diapering past the newborn stage.

The short version is that yes, folks who keep asking me if I’m “still doing that cloth diaper thing,” I am, and I still love it. Here’s the more detailed version:

What diapers are we using? Which are our favorite? Least favorite?

For daytime, we exclusively use one-size pocket diapers. We have well over 50 changes, as a few friends gifted me some used BumGenius pockets since my last post. We have mostly BumGenius 4.0s, and we really like them. I can see from the used ones that the aplix (Velcro) closures don’t necessarily hold up great long-term, but I still like the aplix best for fit. So that might be something to consider if you plan on using your diapers for multiple kids– the snaps hold up better over time, even if you can’t quite customize the fit as well.

My second favorite diapers are probably Alva Baby, and they’re only my second favorite because they run slightly bigger, and because I just don’t have as many of them. Honestly, though, if I were buying a completely new stash, I’d probably just order Alvas. You could get 24 Alva pockets for $115 and have a great stash of diapers to last from about 10 lbs through potty training.

My third favorite is probably our Rumparooz, but because I don’t absolutely love them, I sold I’m planning to sell the 6 I have (so let me know if you want them!). On the bright side: they’re well made, I like the colors, and I love the inner gusset for containing runny baby poo. Their inserts are probably the most absorbent microfiber inserts I’ve seen. The downside for us is that they just don’t fit our girls great. I often have gapping at the waist. It rarely leads to leaks, but it did cause my one and only poop blowout in cloth, doubly frustrating because we were in a waiting room when it happened… (It came out the waist in the front. Ick.)

My least favorites are Fuzzibunz OS Elite. The PUL (the waterproof outer fabric) is “sticky” on the inside, and the pocket is narrow, which makes them really hard to stuff. I can’t even imagine getting an extra insert into them for when I want extra absorbency. I also had one of the snaps pop off one of my diapers (I’ll be contacting customer service to get a replacement under the warranty).

What about nighttime?

We have a couple methods for nighttime. The most bullet proof is still a Thirsties Fab Fitted with a Thirsties hemp insert in a Flip cover. Fitteds are a popular choice for nighttime because the entire diaper is absorbent, not just the insert, so you’ve got the “soaker,” the outer of the fitted, plus an extra insert, all absorbing. We can go over 12 hours without leaks in this combo. (Some folks also let their kiddos run around in just a fitted and no cover at home, because it allows more air flow which can prevent rashes. You’d definitely need a cover for leaving the house or if you were putting pants over, though, because otherwise you would have soaked pants! At home you can just change the minute you notice the wetness has migrated to the outer layer.)

We also use a BumGenius 4.0 with a Thirsties hemp insert overnight with success. This is also my go-to method when we’re going to be in the car for a while, or when we’re going to be out running errands and I don’t want to have to drag both babies into say, a Target bathroom for a change. (My pockets with their microfiber inserts are good for about 2 hours between changes. Adding one hemp insert really makes a difference.)

How does it work when you’re out of the house?

I still do cloth diapers when we leave the house. They’re definitely bulky for the diaper bag, but my diaper bag is now a Patagonia Half Mass messenger bag that holds all my twin gear. Not a problem. I just change them like normal and stuff the dirty diaper into a wet bag to deal with when we get home. I also carry an emergency stash of disposables in the event we blow through 4 cloth diapers while out and about.

What about daycare?

Our girls go to daycare 3 days per week while I finish grad school. Our daycare does not cloth diaper, and I’ve yet to hear of any in my city that do. I keep disposable diapers on hand at home so I can send them to daycare in a disposable. They supply the diapers they wear all day while there, and then I put them in cloth when they get back home. I’m not so militant that I can’t allow my girls to wear disposables a few days per week so I can get my degree finished.

It’s also good to have some disposables because of what I call…

The diaper rash cream situation

You can’t use just any diaper cream with cloth diapers. Desitin, Butt Paste, A&D, Balmex, they’re all out, because they coat the fibers of the diapers and ruin their absorbency. California Baby is the most readily available cloth diaper safe cream, and I can get it at Target. It’s not very thick and doesn’t sit on the skin as a protective layer, so it’s not the greatest for major rashes. Burt’s Bees is cloth diaper safe according to many, and it’s nice and thick, but I’ve found it sometimes leaves a residue on my diapers that has yet to affect their function, but annoys me nonetheless. If I’m really dealing with a rash (mostly this is with Claire and I believe is specific to her because of her spina bifida and having many many more frequent wet diapers than her sister), I either use a flushable liner in my cloth diapers or put the girls in disposable diapers so I can use an “unsafe” cream.

I also go super hippy dippy and use coconut oil as a moisture barrier and rash preventer. I keep it in a little tupperwear and slather it on at changes to keep wetness off their skin.

The laundry routine

I still don’t find cloth diaper laundry to be much of a burden. I generally wash every day, but now that the girls are in daycare, they don’t go through the diapers as fast. Basically, once the wetbag is full, I start a load of wash in the morning. I have a front-loading Samsung HE machine. I do a cold “quick wash” with no spin, then add my detergent and do a hot/cold “normal” wash with an extra rinse. We use Tide Ultra Original HE powder, and it works great. I wanted something I could buy at Target. I usually tumble dry my inserts and hang my pockets to dry.

Currently, I just toss the dirty diapers right in the wetbag and then they go straight into the wash, but we are rapidly approaching the end of this simple era because it’s almost solid food time. Solid food poops are not water soluble like formula and breast milk poops. With solid food poops, I will have to “plop” what I can into the toilet, and am planning to get a diaper sprayer to rinse them off into the toilet. When we leave the house, I will use flushable liners.

In the evenings, after the girls are in bed, I stuff the inserts into the pockets, usually while drinking wine and watching TV. It’s really no big deal.

Overall, I still love cloth diapering. In fact, I may or may not have made up a parody version of “I like big butts” by Sir Mixalot, dedicated to their fluffy cloth diaper butts.

Update: If you like this post, you might like my later posts on cloth diapering: