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May 2008


A couple of months ago I publicly sneered at the notion that you would want twins on the same schedule. The idea of having to deal with both babies in the dead of night on purpose seemed absurd to me. However, I think I get it now. While I still maintain that it is crazy to try to establish a joint schedule when babies are so little there really is no schedule at all - just a lot of catnapping on your part punctuated by the vague desire to cry - by the time children start to work out their own routines around three'ish months I can see the appeal of having those routines mesh. So my apologies to anyone I might have offended when I asked if you were HIGH to recommend coordinated scheduling. Yes! I see now. Two babies + one nap = a thing of beauty and a joy forever. Got it.

Now how exactly does one go about getting that to happen? My friend with twins (my friend with twins whose entire twin experience reads like a glossy coffee table book on the subject: two seven lb babies delivered at 38 weeks exactly following a complications-free pregnancy who both took instantly and easily to breastfeeding and who are now the best behaved two year olds you will ever want to meet - I try not to dwell on her since the whole thing gives me a complex) gave me the schedule she had gotten from some book or other. Apparently, you put the babies to sleep at seven and then they sleep until seven. After that they are up until 9 and then down for a nap. Wake them at 10. Up until noon and then down for their two and a half hour nap. Up until 4; down for an hour. Two hours for dinner and a bath and voila, seven o'clock bedtime. Other than the fact that it involves rather more math than I like to do in a day; it sounds lovely. So very clean and regimented. I could say "Oh, I'll call you at 9:15 tomorrow morning when Caroline and Edward are asleep" or "Steve, would you mind just keeping an ear on the monitor between 1 and 2 while I get a pedicure and drink this champagne split?"

So far the only part I have gotten down is bed time. Somewhere between 7 and 8 Caroline and Edward go to bed. I always try to push it towards 8 and they keep trying to push it to 6:30. After that it all falls into tiny pieces like a prepackaged cookie. She wakes up and then he wakes up and... would you believe that I actually have no recollection of when I went upstairs last night or who I saw? Literally. I assume that Caroline woke up around 2 (she usually does) and then Edward woke up around 4 but... I shrug. I do know that they both woke up for good at 6 am but that is largely anecdotal as I now just poke Steve anytime after 5:59 and mutter for him to go do something with somebody. Then I put the pillow over my head and SQUEEZE. Our bedroom is right off the living room which I suppose will be great when we are decrepit empty nesters but is a bit of a trial right now since that room has been designated Baby Central (you can tell because the plastic to natural materials ratio in there keeps increasing.) So Steve deals as best he can and I try to ignore the squeals and fussing while having odd disjointed dreams. This morning I dreamed about Patrick's school. Specifically, that three other mothers from Patrick's class asked me what I was doing about Christmas cards since they needed to be distributed before the end of the year. And I was irked by this presumption of Christianity in the public schools and said, untruthfully as it so happens, "Oh we don't celebrate Christmas." So they all looked shocked and one said, "You... don't celebrate... CHRISTMAS?" and the other said, "Well that's funny." And I very coolly said, "Some people don't you know; perhaps you have heard of Judaism?" And it was a terrific moment since they all looked chastened but then I realized that I had somehow implied that we are Jewish and we are not - which is when Patrick's teacher rushed over in my dream and enthusiastically asked if I would be willing to come and share information about our faith with the class. I was too embarrassed to admit that I had lied about being Jewish to make a point so I said, yes, of course but I was mentally deciding that the only solution was to enroll Patrick in another school district. Then Caroline must have pulled Edward's hair (again - she does it a lot) because he screamed in the living room and I woke up. Much to my relief. After all, I like Patrick's school.

In the time that it has taken me to write this I have put Caroline and Edward down for a nap three times. The first two times involved tears and gnashing of the gums but it finally took. Huzzah! Imagine that, both babies sleeping in cribs at the same time. I feel like composing an opera about how great it feels to get rid of all of your children when the sun is shining. Instead I will utilize this time to:

1) finish this

2) use the breastpump while watching something Tivo'd - I am making a concerted effort to wean myself off the baby shows (I watched an otherwise rational and intelligent woman put her 1 week old baby to sleep on her stomach [the baby on the baby's stomach I mean] and I gritted my teeth so hard I almost cracked a molar; it's not healthy for me to sit and judge people like this on a regular basis) so I decided to try recording old seasons of Top Chef for a change of pace. As of three days ago I am a Top Chef addict. I'll be sorry when I am no longer nursing/pumping since it provides such a great excuse for sitting on my couch in the middle of the day watching god only knows what on TV

3) go do all of the work in the vegetable garden that did not get done last Fall so we can get our plants in this weekend - tomatoes and watermelon this year. oh and the asparagus and strawberries that are annual. but that's it. I am done growing weird vegetables that we don't eat. Hey has anybody ever had any luck growing cilantro? I like to cook with it but have been unsuccessful at keeping it from going to seed in about a week outside.

4... oh damn it. OF COURSE the babies are now awake. OF COURSE they are.

Gotta go.

Oh wait, one last thing, do you know of any places that sell interesting dinnerware? The set we currently use is from a... a previous relationship and I hate it. I was just staring at them last night, whispering "I hate you" as one does sometimes with a saucer, when I realized that life is too short to spend breakfast lunch and dinner with bowls you despise.  So I want to look for something new. Something with square plates, I think, and a bit of color maybe. I have looked at all the usual places but I expect there must be a zillion others. So if you know of something and would shoot me a link I would be much obliged.

PS Edward has this weird belly button thing that I have been noticing off and on for months. The lower half of the outer circumference looks red and a little inflamed. At first I thought his diaper was just rubbing there and I treated it with a little Neosporin but I have recently decided that actually the inner skin coil seems to be pulling away from the surrounding skin. Does that make sense? It is particularly noticeable in the evening when his stomach is full. I will ask about it in a month at his next well baby check unless this rings any bells with anyone in which case I can always bring him in sooner.

OK. Now I really have to go.


Before I walked out the door to get Patrick yesterday I poked my head into the refrigerator to get something to drink. I was thinking a Coke but I had already had my cup of tea for the day and more than one caffeinated beverage in a twenty-four hour period finds me wide-awake at 2 am trying to think up anagrams (Steve's full name can be made into nutty serene evils). Coffee - and this is true - coffee makes me so edgy I throw up. But anyway as I was debating my drink options my attention was drawn to a can of beer - all gold and shiny like a fishing lure. And I found myself thinking that a beer might be quite refreshing. I am not normally a beer drinker but the thought of a nice crisp pilsner for the drive was tempting; especially when I remembered that beer is supposed to be good for one's milk supply. So I contemplated it but then I noticed that Steve had gotten some ginger ale  and that sounded even better. I grabbed one and left. It was only after I had driven a couple of miles that I realized how illegal it would have been had I opted to tool over to the elementary school with a beer in the cup holder. Such is the strength of my subsuburban rectitude, such is my bone-deep assurance that I am an adult now and entitled to make my own decisions that the prohibition never even crossed my mind. Since it was such a nice sunny day I had even pictured finishing the beer on the school bench while I waited. Obviously I am sleep deprived but MAN I love being 36. Long into my twenties I was still jumpy from all of the underage sneaking around I had done, but no more! My conscience is so clear that when the Sheriff asked if I knew why he had pulled me over I probably would have said something vague about the tags. Guilt-free living is so liberating.

But let's get back to that beer in the fridge, because it is important.

On Saturday afternoon Steve's birth father strolled through my kitchen drinking a beer he had obviously gotten from his RV (they winter in Arizona and summer in Maine - I guess we were sort of on the way home.) After first noting that it must be happy hour already and wondering why I had not been informed; I was then struck by what he was drinking: a Pilsner Urquell, by all that is holy, in a CAN. The can, you see, was the give-away that it was a BYOB item as all of our beer is in bottles; but the part that flabbergasted me was that all of our beer is also Pilsner Urquell. Steve and his birth father both love the same Czech pilsner; love it enough to travel with it. OK, maybe that doesn't sound as spooky as it felt but the whole weekend was punctuated by these moments of strange... what? Coincidences? Synergies? Like bow hunting. Show of hands, who here bow hunts? Right? Me neither. And it has always been odd that Steve, raised as he was by nice totally urban intellectual types - Quakers, no less; should have busted out all Grizzly Adams upon reaching man's estate. But Steve's birth father took it up decades ago and, like Steve, moved to a more remote part of the country (sorry Twin Citians. I don't mean that Minnesota is remote, heavens no. I mean that we personally live waaaaaaaay out here where no one delivers) specifically to pursue his outdoors'ishness. And I wish I could tell you the most startling one but it involves politics and I have long since learned to steer clear here... let's just say that a week ago Steve and I were hotly debating an issue and he said "Utah" and the same issue came up this past weekend and his birth father said, "Arizona". When I tell you that acceptable answers could have ranged from "Sweet Valley High" to "the solar temples of the Fifth Dynasty" the fact that they both named states, and bordering states at that, was unreal. Obviously these things cannot be genetic traits so what was up with the eerie similarities? I don't know.

For the record we aren't adoption reunion neophytes. In fact, this was his last one; having already met his birth mother, his half sisters through her and his half brothers on his birth father's side. And as pleasant as all of those meetings and subsequent relationships have been I don't think any of them have made Steve go, whoa, weird, in quite the same way. The brothers, for example, were wonderful and charming and bright and interesting and Steve felt a strong affinity for them but offhand I cannot think of anything specific that they shared in common. I mean, besides having a reverence for the Simpsons but hell who doesn't? That's like the Dorothy Parker character who was doomed to tell, from time to time, of her love for color, the country, a good time... and sunshine.

So the weekend was good and Steve seems, I dunno, settled in that area. Like he finally has every last bit of his curiosity assuaged. And from my personal perspective I liked hearing the family stories. I like stories and I like that I can tell Patrick/Caroline/Edward "...and then on the other other side the family was from Latvia and came as refugees to the US after the war but prior to that your great-grandmother completed law school and medical school at the same time... ." Oh and Steve's birth father seemed to take a proprietary interest in the children that was sort of sweet. He took a photo of the Mother's Day card that Patrick had made me (details at REDBOOK under There's Always June 15th) and he seemed prepared to believe, with extreme prejudice, that each kid was unique and wonderful. Very My Genetically Related Grandchild Could Beat Up Your Honor Student.

In conclusion, Steve has had the greatest series of birth family reunions in the history of recorded time. No crazies, no one with axes to grind, no bitterness, no jealousy - just a parade of people prepared to like one another and then get on with their lives. Over the years: his birth mother has become seamlessly attached to our extended family like a starfish arm; his younger half sister sent the very first baby gifts we received after Caroline and Edward were born; the elder half sister thoughtfully married an astrophysicist who studies white dwarves and with whom Patrick could happily converse ALL DAY LONG; the older half brother brought us homemade blueberry jam and talked Shakespeare with me over Scotch; the younger half brother pummeled Patrick  like pizza dough as only a young uncle'ish can while Patrick screamed with joy; and, finally, the birth father showed up with old family photos and a range of interests that was like Steve, cubed.

And if you are wondering how we found all of these people in the first place, I'll tell you. Steve was not told he was adopted until he was ten. Then they took him out for pizza. Apparently that was how they did things back then. So they told him he had been adopted (surprise) and gave him the limited information about his birth family that they had - his birth father was Russian (Latvian, actually - came over when he was seven, but close enough I guess) and his birth mother was of Irish descent - and that was it. Until he was in his late 20s when he was given two additional pieces of information that had been kept: the first was a copy of his original birth certificate that listed his birth mother's last name and the second was the fact that the adoption agency had told his parents that the birth mother had attended an exclusive women's college. And they named that college. If you know anything about adoption search you know that the birth certificate was a rare gift. These records are still sealed in New York but the attorney handling the adoption was a family friend and he squirreled away a copy of the original certificate. Of course all by itself having the last name would have been interesting, but useless as a starting point. How many women were there in New York City with the last name Mc Irishsomething? A lot. But coupled with the alma mater it was  practically a compass and a map with an X on it. I say practically because when Steve took a trip and swung into the college to check old yearbooks he discovered not one, not two, but three women from the right years with this last name.

So that's where he was when I met him eleven (no, twelve) years ago. He was curious about his history and he had narrowed his search for his birth mother down to three possible women. Every now and then he would do a google search and I think he spent some time on adoption reunion forums. I finally asked him if he really, I mean really, wanted to figure out who is birth mother is and contact her. He said yes but he didn't want to send an open letter to three different people because that would make him feel like an ass. And I could see where he was coming from with that: Dear _______, Did you by any chance...? Sincerely, Total Stranger. So I started making a series of increasingly, um, let's say creative  phone calls in an effort to further reduce the field. We knew her basic statistics from his adoption records (height weight hair and eye color) and we hoped to be able to use this information to eliminate one or two of them. Eventually after much lying and some unexpected and much appreciated assistance from another alum who I found online, we were pretty sure we knew who to contact. At that point I hired a private detective to confirm eye color and height and to get us a current address... and voila. Steve sent a carefully neutral letter and she responded and here we are. All reunited. Check and check.

So that's the story. Well my side of it. Or rather, my interpretation of the events. I'm sure Steve's version would be different (although I did just have him read this to make sure I hadn't violated anything anywhere). And actually MY side, my personal side, of Steve's adoption story starts at a very different place. For me the point where his adoption became relevant (apart from being who he is ya ya la et cetera) is when he used it as the bedrock for his obstinate refusal to consider adoption or donor sperm during The Troubles. As you can imagine four or six or ten miscarriages caused by Steve's wonky genetics gave me a vast amount of time to contemplate the alternatives and it was... frustrating to have him refuse to consider any of them. I have no idea if Steve would have been just as adamant without his background but I do know that the conversations would have been different. I literally had nowhere to go when he said, "I was adopted and I want a genetic tie to my children" because, well, what the fuck do I know about it? It's like arguing about the war in Iraq with someone who has actually served in Iraq.  Or, if that metaphor seems a little harsh, it's like trying to describe a color. I might really believe I get it, but how do I know if I do or not?

And not that you asked me, but I think that one of the nicest thing an adoptive parent can do is compile as much information as they possibly can about the birth family or the birth country or anything, really, that can give some sense of heritage. The child might grow into a person for whom this information holds no interest but then again they might not. I think Steve's parents showed a great deal of thoughtfulness and foresight when they stashed as much documentation away as they did, particularly when you consider the hidden nature of adoptions at the time. And I do know that there are many situations in which little to nothing is known about the birth family and I think that is sad but unavoidable. So all you can do is acknowledge that the lack of information might feel like a loss to the child. It is a loss.

OK. Any questions?

PS From a hostessing standpoint only this past weekend was REALLY HARD. It was like entertaining friends of friends with no idea as to their diets tastes politics familiarity with small children etc. I had planned an excursion for Saturday afternoon but the skies opened up around noon and it simply poured rain. Argh.  And trying to get meals on the table - particularly dinner when I usually take an hour to do Caroline and Edward's bed and bath routine - was a logistical nightmare. Fortunately, they drank. Which brings us back to that can of beer in the fridge.



Steve's birth father arrives tomorrow for a weekend visit. I have mixed feelings about this: on the one hand I am catatonic with social anxiety; on the other I am desperately worried about potential awkwardness. Hmmm. Not so much mixed feelings, I guess, as blended feelings. Well blended into a potent cocktail of stress.

Not only have we never met the man (or his wife, obviously) we (and by "we" I mean Steve) have never even spoken with him. The sum total of our interaction has been a handful of emails. And yet, golly, a weekend visit. Friday, meet Sunday. Oh my. So I am doing what I always do and I am making enough food to stuff a legion. When in doubt, feed people. I think, by the way, I need to put up some new recipes. We have been hosting various and sundry people quite a bit since the babies have been born and I have some thoughts on good, make-ahead stuff for lunch and dinner that you can concoct practically with one hand. But I digress. Birth father. Never met. Arriving tomorrow. I told my friend Noelle that if they don't drink I am packing up the babies and coming to her house. Ha ha ha ha ha. I'm kidding, naturally. Of course I would never hope to defuse a situation rife with meaning and angst and whatnot by offering everyone a Sidecar. Wine, maybe.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Caroline started rolling from her back to her stomach a day after her four month appointment and now it is all she wants to do. Back-stomach-back-stomach-back... flip flip flip. Today she went from her back to her stomach to her back again, but this time it was a 360. She rolled and wound up under the couch and then snorted in amusement. Very ladylike. She also studies her hands like a stoner every chance she gets. Edward likes to be on his side and he likes to suck his fingers (or the socks that cover his fingers; he's not finicky) and he likes to screech. He can see faces and I think he can see expressions but I am not entirely sure that he can see details in things. I do know that every time I walk into a room his entire body tenses and then quivers with excitement and pleasure and I don't think I will ever get tired of that.

I wrote a post a REDBOOK on Monday about how Patrick keeps telling me how he likes Steve better. Today he flung his arms around me and said, "I love you. You are just so... lovable!" Then he suggested that we go inside (we were digging for worms at the time) and write poems about how much we love each other. I just cannot shake the impression that Patrick toys with me for his own amusement.

Finally, I call this One Hat, Two Interpretations: