By: Heather Somaini
I’ll be honest…I don’t have much to write about our babies’ first holidays. Nothing spectacular really happened. But if you’re like me, you love the holidays. It truly starts around Halloween, winds through to Thanksgiving, peaks at Christmas and finally goes out with a bang on New Year’s. I love the smell of the holidays. I love the feeling in the air, the change of colors and the urge to shop. I love how much love there is around me. It’s the time of year when everyone puts their best foot (or heart) forward. I like people best then. I love a little more. I try to argue a little less. Hopefully, I’m successful!
What I do have for you are some really fun pictures from our first holidays with the twins. For Halloween, Tere had to have two different costumes for them. One was for their Mommy and Me class (as Hershey’s Kisses) and the other was for actually going out trick or treating. Now we all know there’s no real trick or treating with 7-month-olds, but they sure did look cute as a bumble bee and a lady bug.
We spent Thanksgiving here in Los Angeles and got a jump on the “take your kids’ picture with Santa” thing. As you can see, sitting with Santa is a little awkward for little ones. Free even lost his shoe.
We also got these awesome shots of the kids in Santa hats…
My favorite pictures from that Christmas though are of the twins with their great-grandmother. She adored their little faces and wanted nothing more than to just hold them as often as she could.
And here’s one last one of the kids in their holiday finest. No mom can resist the temptation to dress their babies or kids up during the holidays!!
By: Kacie Bernstein
When our twins were only a few weeks old I was given some very important advice: always be organized. I am the queen of procrastination but it made perfect sense to me, so I decided to put my best foot forward. I soon learned that with twins, this would be the only way to survive.
When they were infants I would line up their bottles for the entire day. They were, of course, on different formulas, one requiring that the formula be in the bottle first and the other, water first. We were stocked with formula, definitely enough for a rainy day or 20! Every night I would prep multiple bottles, diapers, and burp cloths in my room for the dreaded middle of the night wake-up calls, making sure that everything was an arm’s reach away.
At around two-and-a-half-months-old we started taking classes. I figured it was a good way to make friends and hopefully get some much needed pointers along the way. I would actually pack my diaper bag the night before and have it hanging from the stroller. I was the mom in class that others borrowed from -bottles, diapers, formula -you name it, I had it. Back then I wouldn’t dream of leaving the house without two changes of clothes, infant Tylenol, nail clippers, blankets -the list goes on and on. My husband thought I was crazy, but we always needed to be prepared for the “what if” situation.
As they got a little older and started eating solids, I would actually soak their oatmeal overnight; this way it would just need to be heated in the morning and their food would be on the table before I got them out of bed. Looking back, it might have been a tad neurotic, but it worked for me, and so far so good!
Lately I have been prepping a lot less. Maybe it’s because I finally realized that as long my bag has diapers, wipes, water, and food what can go wrong?
By: Heather Somaini
Once we decided to have kids, life changed – incrementally at first and then in large swings into uncharted territory. No matter what we thought kids and parenting were about, we were wrong. That’s the one thing no one really tells you. The moms tell you all about the cute parts like buying baby clothes and how they smell. The dads tell you all about the hard parts like lack of sleep and poopie diapers. But no one tells you that what you’re about to experience is so outside your realm of understanding that it’s not even worth trying.
Each phase ratchets upwards like some sort of rollercoaster from a planet where rollercoasters are a mode of transportation from the ground to the top of a high-rise building. At first, they hand you this newborn that does nothing but eat, sleep, and poop. You burp them a lot and hope that they’re ok because you have no idea what they need or want. My only thought was to keep moving forward every day. The jolt to my normal sleep pattern was severe. Just. Keep. Moving. Forward.
After three months of that, they sleep less, eat more, and poop like crazy. There was a brief few weeks of euphoria – we made it through the first three months and it was easier! The babies were more than pet rocks, which helped. Life was better. I started talking about having more children. If we could manage so well with twins, one or two more would be a breeze, right? After six months, the euphoria had worn off; we were exhausted and I started to realize that this was like…forever. They weren’t going away.
We had to start sleep training. We had started. Don’t think we hadn’t but we needed to get serious about it. Tere chose the Sleep Easy Solution by Jill Spivack and Jennifer Waldburger. She searched high and low and really felt it was the best combination of sleep training and lack of torture for the parents. I use the term “parents” loosely because the only one who is really tortured during sleep training is the mom. The mom is the one who just can’t stand to let them “cry it out” like in the Ferber Method. In the Sleep Easy Solution, sleep training can start when a baby is a combination of age and weight. At 4 months and 14 pounds, they should be ready but some babies may take longer to hit that goal weight. There’s no crying it out and that’s what Tere liked best.
We read the book and did everything we were supposed to do. It would work for a bit but then it wouldn’t. Tere heard that Jill Spivack was doing a “talk” to promote her book and I happily agreed to go. After listening to story after story, many of their techniques suddenly made sense!
My favorite was the “dream feed”. Jill and Jennifer’s system requires that you determine when your baby actually needs to be fed at night and then “dream feed” them. Dream feeding allows you to feed the baby, usually with a bottle, while they’re sleeping. It avoids not only them waking up hungry and crying their heads off until you wake up, but also you spending a ton of time feeding them and getting them back to sleep. With a dream feed, they eat while they’re asleep and NEVER WAKE UP! It’s pretty awesome because you’re back in bed and asleep in less than 30 minutes.
Although life with babies would change again soon, at least for the time being we were getting a little more sleep and the babies were learning how to sleep through the night! Yippee!
By: Heather Somaini
I know you’re asking yourself what a picture of two babies floating aimlessly in a pool has to do with margaritas or more to the point, why margaritas are your friend. But trust me, they are.
Tere nursed the twins for about seven months. I use the term “nurse” loosely because she never really did nurse them. We had so many complications before the babies were born and then after that a couple weeks in, we abandoned nursing altogether and my wife pumped exclusively. The twins both ate formula with as much breast milk as Tere could produce. Tere always said she wanted to nurse for at least six months. I was happy to go along with whatever she wanted. Six months seemed like a great amount of time to me.
Around five months in, Tere started talking about scaling it back and wanting to stop at the six-month mark. I happily said I was in support of whatever she wanted to do. One night she was struggling with her decision to stop pumping and asking me my thoughts. I didn’t have many so that’s what I expressed. She finally said “Am I the only one around here that’s upset and sad about the end of breastfeeding?” I knew it was one of those moments where I should probably be thoughtful before I answered so I paused…and thought. I finally said “Yes!” Tere was devastated. I guess she thought I was wracked with conflict over this. The truth is, I only think the birth mother is the one that is attached to it. It was actually great for me that the babies took formula – it gave me all the opportunity I wanted to feed them.
So here was Tere, completely wrecked about her decision to stop nursing. And she just couldn’t do it. She tried and she tried but something inside her just wouldn’t let her stop. I’m sure she felt selfish, that wanting her body back as her own was not the selfless act that all mothers should naturally just do. So no matter how hard she tried, she just kept on pumping.
Without me really realizing it, an answer was just ahead of us. We went on vacation. It was just a short four days down in Mexico at a resort that Tere and I knew well. We had actually planned to go the year before but when Tere got pregnant, she didn’t want to leave the safety of our house and our doctors. So, I sweet-talked the resort manager to let us postpone our trip by a year if I booked a second room. We took my parents!
My parents came to Los Angeles a few days before and we all flew down together. It was a bit of a trek with seven-month-old twins but when we arrived, it was paradise. Off season and relatively empty – we had the place to ourselves. After checking in, I promptly corralled my family into the lobby lounge area and started perusing the drink menu. Soon I had the babies asleep in their strollers and all the grown-ups deciding what kind of margarita they wanted. When the waiter came we ordered some food and EVERY MARGARITA ON THE MENU. Yes, I’m serious. We were on a margarita tasting high. We must have looked like raging alcoholics.
Tere did not want to drink at all. She knew that she needed to pump later that evening and any alcohol would be transferred to her breast milk and then ultimately to the babies. After a bit of coaxing, she finally agreed to “pump and dump”. If you’re not sure what that is, it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. The nursing mother pumps her breast milk like normal but then essentially throws it away or “dumps” it. Tere sampled every margarita we ordered.
The next day we spent at the pool. When the lunch order came around, my mom and I ordered a couple of our favorite margaritas from the night before. Tere hesitated but then decided to drink one anyway. She justified it by saying she was on vacation so it would be ok to “pump and dump” one more day. We drank margaritas pretty much every day while we were in Mexico and so did Tere. By the time we left to return home, she hadn’t pumped any breast milk for the babies and came to the decision to stop altogether. Suddenly, it was the easiest decision she ever made.
So there you have it my friends. If your wife is having a hard time bringing her nursing career to an end, just take her on vacation to a warm locale with great margaritas. She’ll feel much better about it very soon.
By: Heather Somaini
Change happens. Sometimes it happens when it’s least expected and sometimes we plan change only to find out it happens much differently than we planned. I sort of love change. It forces me to constantly evaluate my life which can be a big pain but it almost always results in something better. I’ve never truly regretted making a big change in my life although I have had to make a few new changes when the first one didn’t work out. That does happen sometimes.
The year our babies were born held a lot of change for our little family. Tere had been in the hospital for something like three months before their birth. I went from using our big house as a place to sleep and change clothes to suddenly having a house full of people and crying babies.
Tere worked from her bed all during her stay at the hospital and then from home for another four months. When she finally went back to work, she started to realize it wasn’t the best fit for her. It wasn’t anyone’s fault; it just wasn’t a good fit. It happens. In the meantime, my 45-minute, one-way drive to work was becoming a problem. I couldn’t care less about the drive but I just didn’t want any extra time away from the things I needed and wanted to do. When I was done with work, I wanted to be home with our babies.
I had wanted to sell our house for a while. We had remodeled the entire thing. It was gorgeous but unless we were going to live in it for a very long time, there was no reason to hold on to it any longer. To get our investment out, we needed to sell. Tere wasn’t sure where she would end up next but it was certainly west of our house in the Hollywood Hills and I worked much further west as it was. I took the opportunity to press Tere to sell. She took me up on it and soon we were in sales mode. Selling your house is stressful but I love it. It doesn’t get much better – I really should have been a salesman of some sort! Soon we had multiple offers and lots of negotiating happening all around us.
As the end of the year approached, we had increased our family to four, Tere had started a position with a new company, and our house was closing escrow. It was the end of 2007 and real change was lurking around the corner. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
My real point is that even after what was probably the most stressful time in our lives, I look back very fondly on all of it. I see this picture of my wife and our son snoozing in our bed late one weekend morning and it makes me smile. I loved that house. I loved that time. I love driving the kids up that hill and showing them the house we brought them home to. They have no idea what I’m talking about but they humor me nonetheless.
Tere and I have had a lot of change. We will still have more change to come and although sometimes we sweat the small stuff, it’s moments like this picture that make me stop and realize what we’re really doing.
Living. Breathing. Being.
I hope you get a chance today to stop and breathe and maybe remember a great moment in your life when change happened.
By: Kacie Bernstein
We landed in Nice, and besides being utterly exhausted since I was too upset to sleep, I needed to make sure that the kids were okay. We checked in with my father-in-law; he said all was good and so far they didn’t even miss us…which of course was bittersweet.
We checked in to the hotel and started our day of sight-seeing, eating, and drinking. I was fine from that point on and decided it was time to get into vacation mode. Due to the time difference, we would wake up every morning with an update of the kids’ entire day, and that they were doing exceptionally well. We decided to not call or Skype as that might turn everything upset down. Besides my minor meltdown, we had an AMAZING time away. The kids thrived while we were gone and were on their best behavior, that was of course until we got home!
Our week-long getaway was just a faint memory once the kids woke up from their nap, but those were some of the best hugs ever! For one week, they had become independent toddlers and we were able to just live in the moment and be free…and we are already planning our next, adult only, vacation!
By: Heather Somaini
There are tons of challenges with twins that suck up vast amounts of brain power as a new mom. You’re already working on a reduced amount of engine capacity from lack of sleep and being thrown into the deep end of the parenting pool. There’s nothing right about being required to learn a completely new task that constantly changes from minute to minute while under the duress of limited sleep. It’s just not right. Thank God newborn babies are really cute and helpless, otherwise our species would have died off long ago.
Twins are unique and they come with their own set of weird and odd issues. The first is –do you keep them together? Yes, of course you should actually keep both of your twins and not give one away, but what I meant was, should you keep them together in the same crib or in separate cribs? I’m sure there are lots of opinions on this but we were determined to keep our twins together in the same crib. We kept our daughter in a bassinet in our bedroom but as soon as our son came home from the hospital, we put them together in the same crib. I remember that first night when my unflappable mother came running giddily into me and said “You must come see them. It’s the cutest thing I think I’ve ever seen.” It was awfully cute, two small 6-ish-pound babies in that gigantic crib sleeping soundly. Fast-forward six months, and they were rolling over onto each other and kicking each other in the head. It was time they each had their own crib and although we were worried about their separation anxiety, they had none.
Another decision a new twin parent has to make is their attire. Do you dress your twins alike? Lucky for us we had a boy and a girl so it made life easier for us. We had lots of matching clothes in the beginning but soon they outgrow those cute onesies and you move on to toddler and kid clothes that are really cute. But no matter how tempting it is to buy your twins identical outfits, try very hard to not do it. Now, matching outfits are totally fine for holidays like Christmas, the 4th of July, and even family pictures, but be careful; it’s a very dangerous road to go down.
A few years down the road, any mom with more than one kid will know that Conflict Resolution is a mainstay in her house. With twins it’s even worse. Even with a boy and a girl, there is constant conflict over a toy, a game, or even how to make up a story. They each scream and stomp off and generally someone has gotten hit or kicked. Susie Walton teaches a great parenting class called Redirecting Children’s Behavior and with four grown boys, she knew about fighting firsthand. But she told us once that if there’s no blood and no one is in real danger, it’s probably best to let them work it out on their own. That actually works most of the time but resolving conflict is almost second nature to us now. We have found lots of ways for both of them to get what they want and hopefully respect each other in the process.
I’m sure soon we’re going to find out a number of other things that are unique to twins but those are my three for now. Twins are a logistical nightmare but if you’re diligent and plan ahead, you can get it all done. Anyway, my mom tells me the return policy on kids is just terrible so I guess we’ll keep ‘em.
By: Kacie Bernstein
“You guys are going to LOVE this place”, was what I kept telling the kids on the way to the Americana in Glendale. I needed an activity to fill the morning, and their play area seemed like a genius solution!
The kids got so excited when they saw the dancing water. I told them that their surprise was even better than the water. Their little eyes lit up when they saw the awesome climbing structure, and my jaw dropped…in complete shock…there was “caution” tape all around it. The very nice security guard walked over and sealed our fate; the play area was broken and closed for repair. How in the world was I supposed to explain this to my two-year-olds? They seemed to take the news pretty well though, and I let them run free on the grassy area, but couldn’t take my eyes off of my son for fear that he would run straight into the dancing water!!
We went to the bookstore and played with the Thomas the Train Table and even bought stickers for their potty chart. (That’s a whole other story!) I promised that we would be back when the “doctor” fixed it, and our morning was officially a success…unlike our morning a few days earlier when I had to almost drag two screaming children out of Playsource during two full-fledged tantrums. It’s amazing how having twins can sometimes make you feel so empowered and in charge, and then other days I truly believe that they are the ones calling the shots. Do they lie in bed at night and decide my fate for the next day? Sometimes they feel sorry for me and decide to throw me a bone, and other days bedtime can’t come soon enough!
By: Heather Somaini
I love the 4th of July. It’s warm out, the food is generally being cooked by some burly man in an apron over an outdoor grill, and there are fireworks. I mean really, what’s better than fireworks and men cooking for you over an open flame? Fireworks make me think back to being a kid in Vermont. My parents would take us to what was probably a small park but to me it felt like a gigantic field that went on for days. I’m sure there were like maybe fifty people there but it felt like an ocean of people to me. I remember that feeling on a summer night when the air is finally cool and the sun is setting, your skin still slightly damp from the day’s heat. I always loved slipping into that jacket my mom always made sure I had and finally feeling warm; lying down on the blanket and smelling the cut grass. It always felt like such a treat to be out so late with the grown-ups as if something very mysterious were happening at that time of night. I’m sure mysterious things were happening – it was the 70’s in Vermont.
This year we’re celebrating the 4th at my parents’ house in the great state of Tennessee – I say “great” somewhat facetiously since they’re trying to ban the word “gay” there. Is it possible to ban a word? I’m sure we will be requested to engage in conversation about it while we’re there. Not with my parents but instead with some random, slightly intoxicated retiree that is still trying to figure out how we conceived our kids.
But I really want to tell you about our first 4th of July as parents. A few years before the babies were born, we went to a barbeque for some new friends of ours. We had the best time. There were lots of kids running around, great food, and we really enjoyed meeting an amazing group of similar-minded people. Every 4th of July, we would attend this party and as every year passed, we felt worse and worse because they would ask us how the “fertility thing” was going. It clearly wasn’t going well because we had nothing to show for it – no pregnant bellies and no babies. They pitied us or at least we felt they did. I’m sure they didn’t because knowing how busy parents are, they don’t have the time or energy to feel pity for anyone.
Our twins were born in early March and as July started rolling around, I asked Tere if she had heard from our friends about their party. She hadn’t. I couldn’t believe it – did our invite go into our email spam folder or something? I mean, we couldn’t miss this party. We had to show off our newly-hatched spawn! We had to show them that we were finally successful, that we had created duplicates of ourselves, that we weren’t total failures at this thing that everyone around us did with ease!
We called and asked if an alligator had eaten our invite. It hadn’t even gone out! How dare they deny us our moment in the sun? They “had” to have a party, otherwise our entire reason for existing at that moment was for naught! Somehow we invited ourselves to our friends’ “very small” 4th of July party. I swear I think we told them that the only reason we wanted to come was to show off the babies. Luckily for us, the matriarch of that family desperately wanted to hold them. We were in!
Tere and I spent the whole afternoon showing our 4-month-old creatures off. It was awesome. We beamed. I dunked them in the pool. They screamed. Tere cried. It was a hell of a day.
I was happy. Sometimes you just need to show off your newly-hatched spawn to feel good about yourself.
By: Kacie Bernstein
Twins provide double the joy, hugs, and kisses, but also double the tantrums and children to entertain at 5:00 in the morning…
My excitement was heightening in the weeks leading up to our overseas adventure. It would be our first real vacation since our kids were born, and a much-needed getaway! I expected to be sad but didn’t realize how intense those feelings would be when saying goodbye to our kids. I was so over the crazy restaurant antics and continual whining, that saying goodbye seemed like a piece of cake. They are only two, so the night before our departure I started to explain what was going to happen. Since they are so young it didn’t really click and then the guilt set in. How could I leave my babies, was it selfish of me to go on vacation? We tucked them in for their nap, knowing that we wouldn’t see them for an entire week. The water works…I was the only one crying though. I hugged and kissed them like crazy and told them how much I loved them and then made a very dramatic exit from the room…think Gone with the Wind!
I couldn’t stop crying on the plane. My husband was very supportive but I am sure that deep down he was concerned that our entire trip was going to be like this. I just hope my in-laws can make it through the week!