time flies: a nursery grows up

It’s been months since I posted. It turns out life with twins as a grad student is a little busy, and then you add in the holidays, and you end up with a bit of a hiatus. I also think I’ve sort of been stuck in this rut where, unless a post is some sort of profound meditation on life and parenthood and whatnot, I don’t post it, and frankly, inspiration isn’t easy to find for the sleep deprived whose days are an endless cycle of feeding, changing, snuggling, and playing with babies. So, I’m going to try to get back into posting with less pressure on myself for every post to be some sort of major epiphany.

I figured I’d start with showing you the girls’ room lately, which has gone from a baby space to a space that better functions as a twin toddlers’ room. We’ve changed it around a lot to meet their needs as they are now very nearly ten months old. I know. Two months away from ONE YEAR. It’s insanity how the time has both crept and flown. (You can find the original nursery reveal here.)

I wanted the girls’ room to be more of a play space as they are now starting to be mobile and into everything, and I wanted them to have a safe space to explore. They got a lot of awesome toys from friends and family for Christmas, so we desperately needed some toy storage. Luckily, my husband is a super handy guy, and he built something amazing after seeing a few of my ideas on Pinterest.

To make space, we took out the futon and put in a secondhand chair. I will say, I am SO GLAD we had the futon for the first 8 months. Just to be able to lie down in there, or to rest the babies on either side of me in Boppies and feed both at the same time, was wonderful. I highly recommend a bed or couch in a nursery.

Anyway, here’s the space now, with before and afters for comparison.

Then:

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Now:

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Then:

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Now:

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Here’s a closeup of the new toy storage, built by my awesome husband!

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The girls can crawl right up and grab blocks and toys out of the bottom bins, and if they’re sitting up, they can reach the shelf. As soon as they’re pulling up, it will be even more accessible. It was important to me that the toys be in view so they could easily see their options and get them for themselves. I had a feeling this would work better than a box or bin, because stuff on the bottom of a bin would be forgotten and never played with.

Then:

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Now:

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Here you can see the bucket we got to store stuffed animals, as well as one of my favorite things in the entire room, the canvas with the Vonnegut quote. It was a gift from a friend I met through Twitter, a “you survived” gift after all I went through getting the gals into the world. It is from a story in which a character is delivering a baptismal speech for twins, so it’s super apt. It says, “Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies– You’ve got to be kind.” I think it’s a great rule.

Overall, the girls have the best-decorated room in our house, and we still haven’t bought a single new piece of furniture beyond the cribs, which were a gift from their grandparents. As I type, the girls are playing in the floor and I’m sitting in the chair.

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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.

5 months

Technically the gals turned 5 months on August 28. So this may not be the most timely of posts, but I wanted to share the results of my little photoshoot with them (I’m going to eventually have a photo book of their monthly photos). I have zero photography skills and usually end up using my iPhone, so I’m lucky my subjects are adorable.

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:

lovin’ spoonful: the bufflogals meet solid food

Recently, our doctor told us it was time to start feeding the gals some rice cereal, to let them practice eating from a spoon and start them off on a solid least-likely to cause an allergic reaction (food allergies may be an issue with Claire’s spina bifida). Claire, who is already our happiest eater when it comes to bottles, took to the rice cereal immediately. Etta seemed to think we had devised a fun new way to kill her. The results were pretty funny:

“What do you think that stuff is for?” “I dunno, man.”

I think she’s looking rather Most Interesting Man In The World here. “I don’t always eat solid food, but when I do, it’s rice cereal.”

And for my friend Stacy who said Etta needed to be a meme:

Major side-eye here.

 

 

I don’t know how you do it

You should stop whatever you’re doing right now and go read this amazing piece called “What My Son’s Disabilities Taught Me About Having It All.” I really love what she has to say about how realizing that we have “enough” is the greater key to happiness than “having it all.”

This is kind of a tangent, but one thing that really struck me about the post besides the much-needed reminder that I do in fact have more than “enough,” is the author’s annoyance at everyone constantly telling her they “don’t know how [she] does it” with the “it” being get through her life with a severely disabled son. I don’t share her challenges, but I also get this a lot. People tell me they don’t know how I do it, with the “it” being twins, or a daughter with spina bifida, or my own near death experience and health issues. She writes, “Other friends declare, ‘I couldn’t do what you do.’ If I am to conform to their expectations, I’m not sure what I am supposed to do.” I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be doing, or what people think I really am doing, either.

How do I “do it?” Well, for starters, I don’t always “do it” well or with any amount of grace. I get frustrated, and angry, and overwhelmed. We “do it” because we have no choice, because we love our kids, because we want to survive, because we have a lot of help, because I have a great partner, because there is no other option, because there’s a lot of beauty in it, because it could be much worse, because, because, because…

I guess the bottom line is, for every person who says something like “I don’t know how you do it” to someone, there is that someone thinking, “Well, what other option is there?” A lot of the time, it feels like a nice way to say, “I’m so glad your life isn’t mine.”

We all have challenges. We get through them. We all have our blessings, and we need to be grateful for them. I’m thankful to Marie Myung-Ok Lee for reminding me to do just that. Particularly as I write this after a challenging day that led to me having to set down my screaming baby to go take a breather in my bedroom. And I am thankful that in that moment, I had a husband to take over, to transfer her to her bed when she almost immediately fell asleep, and to clean up the kitchen and give me a hug when I returned from yoga breathing and listening to the sound of our ceiling fan.

How do we do it? BOUNCY SEATS ARE THE KEY.

little animals

Let’s face it, although they’re getting much more interactive, there’s not a lot very nearly 4 month olds can do. And so I make them pose for ridiculous photo shoots. Because I can, and because the cute is unbearable. The theme of my most recent insanity? Baby animals. Admit it: twins in animal hats with stuffed animals equals the cutest thing you’ve seen in a while. Only thing that could make it cuter is if there were an actual baby animal in the photo. Unfortunately Tinycat wanted no part of these shenanigans (the babies probably wanted no part of them either, but they lack claws of fury and the ability to hide under things).