"They say twins are easy"

The other day I was in Target doing a little shopping with the girls. Picking up whole milk, deoderant, that kind of thing. I get several of the usual "Double trouble" or "You've got your hands full" comments. Then this older woman who's shopping with her grown daughter says, "Oh, someone's got twins!" as she comes over to the girls and stops me by standing in front of the stroller. "Yep" I say. What else to say to such an inane comment? Then she says, "They say twins are easy." I must say, I've never heard that one. I was actually speechless for a minute, then kind of laughed and said, "Huh. Well, not for me." She says, "Oh, my husband is a twin, and my mother in law always said that raising him and his brother together was easier than raising her daughter." Apparently the daughter was a hellion. And there's a whole other issue here related to your mother in law telling you about raising her son that I won't even get into. Suffice it to say you usually need to read between the lines there a little. But I just said, again, "Well, they're fun. But I wouldn't call it easy." And walked away. Easy! Huh. It's news to me.

St. Joseph

So yesterday at the closing, the seller's agent was dragging out stuff to try to entertain the girls, right? And she brings out this bag with ribbon and some odds and ends of wrapping paper in there, and they're sitting on the floor playing with it. And then when I get down on the floor with them, there are a few little boxes with plastic figurines in them. I almost cracked up when I saw what was in there, and I had to stash one in my purse to bring home. (for which, of course, I would go to hell if there were such a place)

Okay, I know that there are several (maybe lots) of Catholics reading this right now. (Donna) But seriously, people. Look at this nonsense. Notice how the box says this is "the authentic" St. Joseph. Apparently the foster father of Jesus has been copyrighted in 1992 by the Micklewright corporation.

And inside there are papers that explain what you're supposed to do. The pamphlet goes on at length about how this legitimate practice has been blurred by people resorting just to superstition, burying the statues. But the point is not the burying (although you are supposed to bury him somewhere on the property) it's the asking and the faith. And the Micklewright corporation has made these statues "...to provide everyone...with the opportunity to personally experience the power of St. Joseph. The sad truth is that, simply because of the overemphasis on burying techniques, many good people are continuing to lose out on the tremendous benefits, which St. Joseph never fails to provide." Yes, that is sad.

There is this caveat, though:
"For this practice to be fully effective, however...sellers must, of course, first do such practical, yet all important chores, as completing all necessary fix-up, properly staging the home and finally, adjusting the price so as to reflect true market value...then...just watch St. Joseph make it happen...!"

I don't want to make fun of anyone's faith. No, that's a lie. I do. I really really do. This is ridiculous. A plastic statue that you say a prayer to and then bury in the yard is not going to help you sell your house!! According to this box, burying it, and focusing on how deep it's buried or where it is, that's just superstition. But if you really believe, and THEN you bury it, it's somehow elevated out of the realm of superstition. And, apparently, if you buy your plastic statue from the Micklewright corporation. Please, someone out there, (Catholics) please tell me I'm not alone here in seeing the absurdity of this and the clear exploitation.

I'd love to be able to organize my thoughts and be more eloquent here. Maybe later. For now, I just had to point this out, because it made me laugh. In a "the world is going to hell in a handbasket" kind of way.

July 1, 2038

That's the day that we will make our last mortgage payment. That's right, people. We are HOMEOWNERS!! We had the closing this afternoon at 4 PM. I didn't really believe that it was going to happen until it did. There were several phone calls between Chris and I today, I met Bruno and our agent this morning for a final walk-through and took the girls along. I'm amazed at the loose ends that have come together in the last few days. Of course, there were a few little odds and ends left, like the garage door opener and my darkroom sink. But plans are in place. The closing itself was a circus. We took the girls with us, and the seller's agent was a woman who we had never met before. We really just went through our agent, and went directly to the builders. She's the agent in name only. She was this really loud, chatty Italian woman who spent about half the time we were there dragging toys out of the cupboards and stuff for the girls. This despite me saying about a thousand times, "Really, they'll be fine. They can entertain themselves." She announced to us all that she didn't have any kids of her own, that she just wasn't with the right guy at the right time, and said over and over, "I'm like a professional babysitter." To be honest, I would have preferred that she pay a little more attention to the closing that we were trying to accomplish, and a little less to my kids. She was so incredibly disorganized, we were there almost 2 hours. By the end, I was really working to keep a smile plastered on my face when she was chatting me up.

Nonetheless, we survived!! And now we own a very beautiful house.

Here's the view of the great room from the above balcony

Here's the shower and jacuzzi tub in the master bathroom

Here's a closeup of the tile border on the tub and the faucets

Here's the floor in the bathroom. Love the little glass tile insets!

Here's the kitchen viewed from the great room (and Rowan)

Here's my library :) The wall to your left is all shelves, I took it this way so you can see the walls, I love the chocolate color. And if you look out the front window, you can see the park across the street with playground equipment for the kids.

Here's the entryway, viewed from the dining room. The library door is just left of the area you can see.

This is the master bedroom window. Love the view of our trees in our backyard, and I am so happy with the way the color turned out!

This is the girls' bedroom. It's huge!!

I know, I know, this is a book. But I just love this house. Chris and I are 32, and this is our first house. It felt like we were never going to be done living like college students. I guess we're done now. :)

What are we doing?

The other day I was at the mall having lunch with Reema, and I was watching these little girls leaving the restaurant with their mom. They looked around 8 or so. Each of them had a toothpick in their hand, and they were pretending to smoke cigarettes. They held them in their hands, oh so elegantly, waving them around and gesturing as they talked to each other. They were even doing a bit of a walk to go with it, sashaying slightly, blowing imaginary smoke rings in the air. I pointed them out to Reema. I agreed with her that it was scary. But it also got me thinking. When we were kids, they sold candy cigarettes. We didn't have to use our imaginations and pretend that mere sticks were cigarettes..oh no! They manufactured little white sticks of sugar and put them in a box of 20, just like Mommy had. (they also made Charleston Chew, in case you preferred to tuck a wad in your lip) My brother and I "smoked" these. This, of course, was about 20 years before my grandpa died of lung cancer.

Anyway, this got me thinking about our kids. There's something in their toybox, I'm sure, that will have us all horrified in 20 years or so. But what is it? I don't mean the plastic from China, or the BPA in their bottles. We already know about that stuff. I mean just something that seems innocuous now, but then will make us all wonder what the hell we were thinking. I can hear myself now, telling Rowan and Saoirse, "Well, everybody did that back then." But about what?

They look expensive...

This is what we have in our shopping carts these days:

Can the heart get any fonder?

Rowan and Saoirse spent Friday through Sunday with Grandma and Grandpa Haack. It sounds like they had a good time, they got some new toys and pj's, played the piano like Jerry Lee Lewis, dipped their toes in the fishpond, and wore out Grandma and Grandpa.
It was nice to have some time alone with Chris. We went out for dinner Friday night with Reema and Bav and went shopping and had brunch on Saturday. Chris got to see a band, watch a soccer match, and go golfing with friends today while Reem and I had lunch. I got to go to the library yesterday and read two books in a row lying on the couch. Pure luxury. We did discover that we're old, because on Friday night we didn't make it to bed until 1 am, and despite our best efforts we were unable to sleep past 9 am. What's up with that? When I was a kid I didn't really understand what older people meant by that. They'd say, "I just can't sleep in." I'd think...what do you mean? Just close your eyes and fall asleep, what's so hard? But at 9 am we were both lying wide awake, staring at the ceiling. We just had to give in and get up.
The girls came home this afternoon. Although it was nice to have a break, I miss them when they're away. We had a big evening, Saoirse took three steps!

And anyway, there's no better way to spend an evening than this. Who wouldn't miss this kid?

What's perfect?

When Chris and I got married here in Ann Arbor, one thing that I was really picky about was the photography. I searched through tons of people, and found Linda, who I loved. She did just what I wanted. Black and white, real film, hand printed, photojournalistic style. Old-school. I loved the photos that she got, felt like it was worth every penny. Through the last year, I lamented that Linda was a wedding photographer, not a family photographer. Then, when we knew we were moving back here, I got on her website to see what she'd been up to. And she had changed! She still does weddings primarily, but she sees some families too now. We've been in contact, trying to work out a time that she can meet and photograph the girls. But, like everything else, it's been on hold while we wait for the house to be ready. Then, this week we decided to meet and do at least some studio headshots, and then meet for more candids once the house is ready. We met tonight at 6:30.

This is always a struggle for me. I absolutely love photography. And I love candid stuff. But I want it to be perfect too. The first pictures we had done of the girls (at 3 mo) were a disaster. So much so that none of you have seen them....;) The girls cried, the photographer was horrible, we were rushed...uuggh. Awful. I cried all the way home from the appointment. At 6 months we got some beautiful photos, but I stressed about it for a week. And it was a hard 2 hours of work to get some great shots. This time, I wasn't as concerned with their behavior. I was more concerned with how they look. They fall constantly lately. They always have scratches or bruises. They're both so active, and daring. And clumsy. They knock each other into stuff. And all week I've been struggling with the idea of taking pictures while they have a scratch on their face (Saoirse) or a goose-egg on their forehead (Rowan). I keep telling myself...it's about documenting our lives. This is our life. Anyone can airbrush the photos. But this is what they really look like right now. But the pictures I fantasize about are always perfect. It's not that I want the photos to be posed and airbrushed. I want them candid. I just want things to actually BE that perfect.

Well. Linda says she's pretty sure she got some good shots. The girls were very wiggly, spent the majority of the time we were with her trying not to look at the camera. Or trying to grab it. I'm trying to just trust my photographer. And life. And my beautiful daughters.

Here are some non-perfect photos from the last few days:

For the readers out there

First of all, let me say in response to Chris's post below that it IS a big deal to take care of the kiddos alone at night. And I appreciate it very much. Book club was fun, good to see other adults. Although sitting in Panera waiting for Reem at 7:00 I realized how exhausted I was. It's rare to sit quietly for a few minutes at 7:00, and I could barely keep my eyes open. Some hot chocolate helped, though. :)

Secondly, I took this quiz:

I am Marianne Dashwood!

Take the Quiz here!

You are Marianne Dashwood of Sense and Sensibility! You are impulsive, romantic, impatient, and perhaps a bit too brutally honest. You enjoy romantic poetry and novels, and play the pianoforte beautifully. To boot, your singing voice is captivating. You feel deeply, and love passionately.

Well...they got the impatient and too brutally honest part right.

I know, geeky. But I do love Jane Austen.

Some quality alone time

I am doing this at work, so I don't have pictures to post, but I just wanted to brag a bit. It is nothing that monumental and Gwen has done it a bunch of times, but last night I took care of the kids all by myself. Gwen had a rare night when she could get away for a short time and see some friends. I had taken the kids by myself one other time. They are not easy to deal with at night with only one set of hands though they are getting a lot better. I fed, bathed and put the girls to bed and we all survived. I think Gwen had a similar post months ago, but I am happy that it went so well and now maybe mommy can have a social life too.

Father's Day weekend

We went to Cleveland for the weekend with the girls, to spend some time with Chris's extended family. His parents both grew up there, it's where Chris was born, and most of his aunts & cousins are still there. There's lots of family there that had never met Rowan and Saoirse before. So we went for Chris's cousin Heather's graduation party.
Chris was thrilled that the hotel had a pool. Later that night, he was not so thrilled to discover that we were staying in the only hotel in America that does not have pay-per-view movies. But the pool was fun. The girls got to try out their new swimsuits. Saoirse loved being swirled around in the water by daddy. Rowan was true to her more cautious nature. She was not so sure about it all, needed to sit with Mommy by the edge for a while. Then she dipped her toes in. Then she sat on the step in a couple inches of water for a while. If given a summer, I'm pretty sure we could get her to let Chris play with her the way he plays with Saoirse.

Being part of a big family was a new experience for them at the party. People everywhere, junk food, other little kids. They took it in stride, for the most part. They got totally dirty, Saoirse spent some time sorting rocks and filling Great-Aunt Jane's purse with them.

Rowan grabbed a brownie almost as soon as we got there. She's a picky eater, but she loves dessert. Here she is getting chocolate cleaned off her face by Grandma Donna. Notice, in this photo, where Rowan is standing. In the grass....:) We made progress on the grass desensitization project in Cleveland. I guess if there are proper incentives (brownies) she'll walk anywhere.

Another first, and an appropriate one for Father's Day. We're 95% sure that Rowan said her first word on Saturday. Donna was holding her, and she reached out her arms for Chris and said "Dada."

Expectations defied

When Saoirse was first born, the fact that her foot was twisted seemed like a minor concern for a baby born at 34 weeks after such a scary pregnancy. But soon it started to sink in that this was something that would require years of treatment, possibly surgery, and may affect her functioning forever. For the next few months, she wore a series of casts on that leg to correct the positioning of her right foot. After that, she spent three months wearing a brace 23 hours a day and having physical therapy 3 times per week. All of this affected what we expected of her, how we saw her. During that time, we started to assume that she would never be as physical as Rowan would be. That sports were probably out of the question, so she would be "the artistic one" or "the musician" or something like that. Even though we have tried really hard to not label them, to not consider them as a unit because they're twins. There doesn't have to be "an athletic one." They're independent of each other in that way. But it's really hard to avoid falling into it when they're right there in front of you, together, day after day.

Once she started wearing the brace only at night, we've discovered some things. She's not as sedate as she seemed when she was only able to move if she dragged a couple pounds of metal around. Although she is still sometimes content to chill and read a book, she's actually more of a daredevil than her sister. She loves speed, being swung in the air, being chased and tickled. In general, she seems to like extremes. Like the way she sleeps. She fights going to sleep, yes. But once she's asleep, she's really out, and she often has to be woken up from a nap so that she doesn't sleep all afternoon.

And although she doesn't walk yet, she does climb. Damn, does she climb.

13 months!

Yeah, today my babies are 13 months old. This last month has flown by. Rowan can walk now, and Saoirse can stand. They look more like children every day, and less like babies. They hit 20 lbs, and we turned around their carseats. So now they face the front, and we can see them when we look back. It's strange what a difference it makes. It means they participate so much more when we're in the car. Before, it was like once we put them in there and strapped ourselves in, we might as well be in another car. We could hear them, but have no other contact. Now we can see them, the passenger can reach back and touch them or hand them things. It's fun.
Saoirse climbs more every day. This was this morning, and she did this without assistance:

Also, they're working on being able to undress themselves. They're not very successful, but they managed to create a Flashdance look for themselves this afternoon:

In other news, I don't want to jinx it, but it looks like the house is almost finished. They were pouring concrete when the girls and I stopped by this afternoon, and our contractor told us we can schedule an inspection next Wednesday. Everyone keep your fingers crossed!!....:) Here are the girls in their new room.

Little apes

Home all day with the girls, one of my favorite things to do is just stake out a spot near them and watch them play on their own. When they were smaller, this wasn't an option. But now, for short periods of time, it is. They'll play around me, sometimes involving me, sometimes on their own. It's like watching a nature show. Anyone who can watch most of what's on Discovery could watch toddlers playing without noticing much difference. Seriously, they should tape this stuff and run it with some anthropologist doing a voice-over, "Notice how the dominant female asserts her power with the display of screaming, and if that doesn't work with physical aggression." I'm reading a book right now called "Beautiful Minds" about the similarities in the intellectual and social evolution in dolphins and primates. The parts about chimpanzees are so funny to me, because they compare them to small children all the time. And it's so clear that it's an accurate comparison. The way Rowan walks and the way chimps walk are pretty similar right now...legs picked up high, arms up for balance. And if Saoirse could get access to trees to climb, she'd be thrilled.

Not long ago the girls ate grapes for the first time. First in a very controlled setting, in their high chair with little cut-up grapes. Then we moved on to a more naturalistic experience. They wanted to check out the bag I was getting them from. I wasn't moving quickly enough, apparently. Watching them experiment, pulling the fruit off the vines, tasting the vines themselves to see if they were food too, trying to edge each other out of the way and get the grapes all to themselves...it was priceless. My little hairless primate babies...

This is why we moved to Ann Arbor

We had a good weekend. Chris's freshman year roommate from Michigan (Sol) came to town with his wife Catherine. Originally when we planned this visit, we thought that we would be in our new house, and that they would bring their two daughters too. But it was still good to see them. We had dinner with them, Sol's brother and SIL, and Rita & Noah at Zingerman's Roadhouse. You may be asking...where were the girls?? Get this...with a babysitter. A real live, non-related babysitter. It was the second time she has sat for them, actually. But the first time in the evening. I have been too nervous to leave the girls in the evening because our bedtimes have always been challenging. Two infants the same age make it difficult at its best, but our routines are on the absurd side. It has involved bottles, cuddling, walking, bouncing, begging, cajoling, raindances....ok, maybe not raindances. But pretty damn close. But there have been recent improvements. So we decided to give it a shot. We put Rowan in bed before we left, and told Lissa that she could put Saoirse down when she seemed tired. When we got home at around 11:00, all was quiet. Lissa said that Saoirse went down at 9 PM, no fights, and hadn't woken up since. Halleluia!!! We left our kids with a babysitter, had dinner with other adults, and the sky did not fall!

Yesterday we took the kids to Rita & Noah's house for a barbecue. Sol & Catherine and Avi & Ginger and their daughter Charlotte joined us. We got another chance to see Noah & Rita's adorable new son, Rohin, along with Milin, of course. The girls have been there a few times now, and they made themselves right at home. They were playing with the fridge magnets within minutes, and soon emptied a cupboard or two. This is why we wanted to be here. When I was growing up, we lived near enough to family to be together often. I spent time constantly in my grandparents, aunts & uncles' houses. I grew up with cousins. But we don't have that. So I wanted to be able to recreate it with out friends. I want the girls to grow up comfortable with their aunties & uncles, with these kids who they'll grow up with. I loved it.

Today was ridiculously hot, and we had a lazy summer day, just the four of us. We went out for lunch at Max and Erma's, stopped by Toys R Us for a kiddie pool. We looked at all these fancy inflatable ones, but settled on the molded plastic one that was like the one Grandma and Grandpa Hales had when I was a kid. It cost 7.99. What did that one cost in 1976? Seriously, 1.99? I think, for 7.99, it's going to be well worth the money. Unfortunately, it did not get christened today, because as soon as we got it home and the girls wrestled into their swimsuits, a storm rolled in and the lighting started. :( So no pooltime today. And no adorable photos of the girls looking like surfer chicks. Maybe tomorrow.

In the meantime, here's Rowan "Hey Dad, seriously, let's play some X-Box" :

And here's Saoirse's latest funny face, the cutest pout I've ever seen:

Did I sleep for 15 years?....

Honestly, some days it's like I have teenagers already. They have attitudes, they're defiant, they throw tantrums, Saoirse is so emotional.

And this morning, at around 8 am, I was making breakfast and heard the TV turn on behind me. The girls know that the remotes are for the TV, and they don't understand which buttons are for what, so they just push a lot of them. Rowan had the TV remote, and had turned it on. Saoirse had the cable remote, and had somehow (accidentally) turned it to Nickelodeon. So I walk into the living room and I see them sitting on the couch, watching cartoons.

A few minutes later, Rowan got down from the couch and apparently decided that she needed to make an urgent call.

Seriously, they're only one, right?

Look Mom, no hands!!

Look what Miss Saoirse learned....

My favorite part of this is how she keeps clapping for herself and it makes her fall. :)