Monday, January 27, 2014

Who Needs It? Challenge #2: Get Real

I mentioned SRB's decluttering challenge in a previous post, along with my desire to participate in it.  At that time, I also said I wasn't going to participate because I felt I did not have the time or the psychic energy to devote to the challenge.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that that sort of attitude is one of the reasons the problem exists in the first place.

Also, I want to do more things that bring me pleasure and contentment, and perverse as it may sound, I believe that getting a handle on my clutter and creating more order in my home will actually do that.  OK, I'll agree that it's not on a par with spending a weekend away on a spa retreat in Sedona. . . but it's cheaper and easier, and it will involve less time away from my sons.

I'm probably not going to post before and after photos of my cluttered spaces, but not because I am ashamed to show them.  I'm all about shame as a motivator, and would not hesitate to share before-and-after shots for that reason!

Rather, I'm not going to post before-and-after shots because doing so would require a degree of planning, preparation and organization that are currently absent form my life.  If and when I am able to tackle some of these projects, it will be with little-to-no advance notice and with limited time available to me in which to do so.  Should I be fortunate enough to get that opportunity, I am not going to waste any of that limited time looking for my camera--not even my iPhone camera--or uploading photos to this blog.

So because I don't intend to do the before-and-after shots, I'm jumping right into part two of the challenge and skipping part one.  (The only other part of part one that doesn't involve posting photos is "identifying the areas of my home I feel are cluttered."  That's pretty much all of them, at least some of the time.  A few "highlights," meaning the most cluttered spaces, are our garage, our home office/guest room, the kitchen "junk drawer" designated for my use, our kitchen counters, and our bathroom cabinets.)

  • What is your emotional experience regarding your clutter? 
I often find myself feeling guilt, on various different levels.  Guilt that I have allowed things to pile up, without dealing with them, for such a long time.  Guilt that I am not able to keep my belongings and my space neat and organized.  Depending on what I am decluttering, I sometimes also feel guilt for parting with the items I am getting rid of (like gifts from my mother that are just completely unsuitable, but that I know were selected by her with love and with the best of intentions).

I also often feel overwhelmed by my messes.  Although I have learned through experience that often things take less time to tackle than it seems they will when you are simply contemplating taking them on.

  • What do you think causes clutter to happen in your home?
Living with my husband, who does not have my tendency to allow clutter to collect, has allowed me to gain some insight into this phenomenon.  He lives his life by what some would call the "Do It Now" principle.  A few examples: he immediately puts bills to paid in a designated drawer upon bringing the mail into the house (rather than tossing it on a kitchen counter to be dealt with later, as I am inclined to do); puts his dirty clothes right into the hamper as soon as he removes them or brings them in from the car (whereas I might leave them on the bathroom or bedroom floor where I've removed them "until later"); puts his dishes in the dishwasher right after he eats (while I generally leave mine on the counter or in the sink).

So I think that, for me, a lot of my clutter collects because I tend not to deal with things immediately.  I leave them "for later," and then when "later" comes, I am too tired or disinclined to deal with them.

Also, one reason some types of clutter collect in our home is that we do not have designated places to put certain things.  One example is that one of our kitchen counters becomes a catch-all for these items that have no "home."  The same can be said for many of the items in the garage and home office/guest room; things get pitched in those spaces to get them out of the common areas because we don't really have anywhere that they *should* go.

  • What are your roadblocks to decluttering? 
Historically, my biggest roadblocks to decluttering have been sentimentality and sheer laziness.  There are a lot of items I have had a hard time getting rid of due to emotional attachments to them.  (A few examples: old photographs, gifts given to me by friends over 20 years ago, old home decor items I once loved but no longer use--but think I might again "someday.")  I have made some progress on this front; a few years back, I winnowed down a few boxes of old cards and letters--dating back to high school--to just one shoe box's worth.  There is more progress to be made, though.

Nowadays, my main roadblock to decluttering is simply a lack of time and energy.

  • When confronted with an item or space, what things you do say to yourself about keeping or letting go of an item?
I have found the FlyLady's suggestions about questions to ask about an item when decluttering very helpful.  You can find them on her website (along with lots of other helpful tips about getting organized and keeping up your home), but I am including them below as well:

* Do I love this item?
* Have I used it in the past year?
* Is it really garbage?
* Do I have another one that is better?
* Should I really keep two?
* Does it have sentimental value that causes me to love it?
* Or does it give me guilt and make me sad when I see the item?

  • If you have already started working on your spaces, what feelings came up for you? How are you feeling now?
I have recently had the opportunity to work on decluttering two areas of my home: our home office/guest room and our garage.  Interestingly, I did not feel guilt while I was working on these areas.  My primary emotions were relief at finally getting something accomplished and determination to get more done.

I am feeling inspired to do more but will have to continue chipping away slowly, as time permits.

  • Are there areas you are dreading? Why do you think this is?
I am dreading cleaning out the home office/guest room closet, probably because it contains a hodge podge of items: everything from holiday decorations, to clothes that don't currently fit, to items that fall into the "emotionally attached" category I talked about above.

Friday, January 24, 2014

MJ at 2

Dear MJ,

It is amazing that you now weigh six times what you did on the day you were born, just over two years ago.  You are no longer my little preemie; you are a big boy.

You are confident, loud and exuberant.  A couple of months ago, as you were happily running around yelling at one of our weekly Lit.tle Gym sessions, one of the dads turned to us and said "Can't you just picture him acting just like that in 20 years at a party wearing a Hawaiian shirt?"  We laughed, and I thought then that was a very funny, and apt, description of your personality.

You love meeting other children and seem to make friends readily.  Often times when we are out at a public play area, like a park or a mall, you will gravitate toward one slightly older child--boy or girl--and follow him around, wanting to do everything he can.

Although we have done nothing to foster this interest, you are obsessed with vehicles of all types.  You still call every vehicle a "car," though nowadays larger vehicles receive the appellation "big car."

You love to learn things and to show off what you know.  You like to know the routine and what's coming next, and once you know, you like to let us know that you know.

For the past few months, you have been like a parrot, repeating much of what we say.  (Fortunately, that has not gotten us into any trouble. . . yet.)  One of the funnier things you have repeated--and memorized--was your father's full name (yelled by me in a loud, annoyed voice).

You love the song "What Does the Fox Say," and when I play the video for you, you try to sing along, just singing out the words you know ("eyes," "nose," "ow-ow-ow").  You have ways of requesting your preferred shows and videos by name.

Although you are only two years of age, you have already begun to discard some early babyish expressions.  For a while, any time you said goodbye, you said "Bye, guys!", even if you were addressing only one person, because that's what everyone says to you and your brother.  You have now learned just in the past couple of weeks to simply say "Bye."  You used to say "Isht?" to mean "Where is it?" when looking for a lost object, and you still say "Are you?" to mean "Where are you?" when you are looking for someone.

You are generally impatient with affection and often will run away if your father asks you for a hug or a kiss.  As your mother, I receive slightly more liberal treatment, but most attempts to kiss you on the mouth end up with my kissing you on your teeth because you are laughing.

You do like to cuddle sometimes, but usually only if you are tired or if you aren't feeling well.  Even then, you only want to be held a certain way, and you will place the hands of whoever is holding you where you want them.  I find this particularly funny because your father also likes to be shown physical affection only on his own terms; guess this trait is genetic.

The one exception to the rule when it comes to affection is that you will suddenly decide you need to be held if you notice I am holding your brother.

You like to help with things.  If you find a piece of dead grass that the dog has tracked in, or a piece of paper, on the carpet, you will bring it to me and say "garbage," hoping that I will direct you to put it in the trash can.  You will then carefully carry it to the kitchen trash can and throw it away, smiling proudly.

Earlier this week, I let you help me put away groceries while your brother was napping, and you were so proud of yourself.  You neatly lined up all the bottled drinks in the pantry on the correct shelf and put all the refrigerated and frozen items where directed.

You are funny and often do things for a laugh.  You laugh readily and seem to really enjoy life.

You seek out your brother AJ more often than vice versa.  It is a frequent occurrence for you to push or pull him, or to sit on or tackle him.  I am sometimes unsure if you do these thiings out of affection or aggression.  Either way, it is clear that you want to interact with him.  He finds your antics very amusing; much of his laughter is prompted by something you have done.

You can become easily frustrated but then are just as easily redirected or comforted.  You are passionate; your emotions spring forth easily and strongly.  You remind me of myself in this way.

You are strong-willed but a joy, and I look forward to many more years of being your mother.

I love you,

Thursday, January 23, 2014

AJ at 2

Dear AJ,

As you turn two and I reflect on your second year of life, it is amazing how much you have grown and developed over the past year.  Still, you continue to be our skinny little peanut: slim but wiry and strong.

You are exceptionally agile and can climb like a monkey.  When we are out at public play areas, other parents often seem surprised at how well, and how high, you can climb.  You are not fearless--in fact, you are still very much a "look before you leap" kind of person--but you are doggedly determined when you make up your mind to do something.  You could climb the ladder to the top of the jungle gym at our local park's playground before you were 22 months old--something that I don't see most children a year or two older doing--and you seem to enjoy climbing UP slides more than sliding DOWN.

At The Lit.tle Gym, you are able to hang on the high bar for longer than most of the other children in your class, and you can easily do forward rolls, wheelbarrows and the like.  After initially being a little reticent to give the teacher a "high five" in front of the whole class each session, you have now warmed up to her and happily trot forward. . . sometimes more than once.

Maybe the reason people are sometimes surprised by your abilities is that you appear, in some ways, to be younger than your actual age.  You don't talk very much.  You still have only four teeth, and though you are average height, you are a little on the skinny side and are still wearing 18-month clothes (and those fit you loosely).  Particularly seeing you standing next to your much-larger brother, people might think you are younger than you are.

You enjoy puzzles and shape sorters and will sit patiently until you figure out where each piece fits.  You don't ask for help, and when you finally get the last piece in its place, you clap for yourself.

You also enjoy building with blocks, and you will tear your tower down if you do not get it built  You like to knock down your brother's block towers, too, much to his chagrin.

Your brother takes toys from you often, and eight or nine times out of ten, you don't even protest; you just let him take them.  You then wait until he loses interest and moves on to the next thing--usually only a few minutes--and then go back and retrieve the toy you had been playing with before he took it.  Seems that you already have him figured out.

You continue to have an eye for detail that seems exceptional for a child of your age.  If I change my hairstyle slightly--wearing it straight instead of its usual naturally curly--or wear a blouse that is unfamiliar to you, you notice immediately and will examine my hair or clothing with your eyes and hands.  When you go out somewhere new, or somewhere familiar where there are new people, you quietly sit back and take in everything you see.

Since you and your brother moved to toddler beds several weeks ago, you creep out of yours nearly every night to press against your bedroom door.  If I come to the room to check if you are out of bed, you will generally scurry back to your bed, so I know that you know you are not supposed to be up.  Nonetheless, when your father goes to check on you before going to bed for the night himself, he will often find you have fallen asleep just inside the doorway of your room.  Neither of us is quite sure why you insist on waiting at the door each night.

As you are coming into this developmental phase where it is normal for children to assert their independence, you are rarely openly defiant.  But you will often ignore your father or me and do things we have just told you not to do.  When I have to move or correct you, you look at me and smile and say sweetly "Hi, hi!"  Your nanny and I joke that it's almost as though you're saying "Don't forget: I'm the little cute one, you don't want to scold me."

You are the most compassionate toddler I have ever known.  If another child cries, you will go and investigate and will bring him a toy in an attempt to comfort him.  When I was going through a period of severe daily headaches last summer, you noticed that I wasn't feeling well and placed your little hand on my back as if to say "It will be OK."  I don't know many toddlers under age 2 who even pay much attention to the distress of others, let alone feel moved to give them comfort.

You are an affectionate child, too, and love to give hugs and kisses.  You blow me a kiss any time I leave the house and when I put you to bed at night.  You will happily cuddle and sit in my lap most of the evening once I come home from work, and I suspect you spend a fair amount of many days cuddling with your nanny (who you particularly like) as well.  You even climb into the babysitter's lap when she arrives these days.

You are both a sweetheart and a challenge, and I look forward to many more years of being your mother.

I love you,

Monday, January 20, 2014

Two years old


My sons turned 2 yesterday.  These past two years have been simultaneously joyful and stressful.  Lots of highs and lows.  I would imagine that feelings like these are typical of the first two years of parenting for most parents, especially parents of twins.

Our poor little guys had been fighting a virus (runny nose, cough, low-grade fever, and low energy levels) since a few days before their birthday, so that made their birthday weekend not quite as fun and festive as it might otherwise have been.  But they still had their planned, low-key celebration with family and a few friends, and my dad and stepmom came to visit for the weekend.

Here are a few photos from their celebration, which I will leave up for a week or so.  (If you are reading this post after that time has elapsed, feel free to email me at the email address in my profile, and I will share.)


I really want to write a post to each of them about my thoughts and recollections on their personalities and who they are as they pass this second birthday, but I don't have the time or energy tonight.  For now, I will just share their stats from today's two-year well-check.

Today AJ weighed 24 lb, 11 oz, which placed him in 25th percentile, and measured 34.25 inches, 50th percentile.  These percentiles are exactly where he was at his 18-month and 15-month visits, so he continues to be of average height and less-than-average weight.  (That's why we call him our skinny little peanut.)  Our pediatrician noted that the important thing is that he continue to grow steadily along his own trajectory, and he has fairly consistently.  (He was a bit behind early on, due to his prematurity and early feeding difficulties, but from six months on has done well.)

AJ still has only four teeth, but the pediatrician said that we shouldn't worry about that.  He says he can see and feel that there are teeth right under the gums, just waiting to erupt--they have been "just waiting since his 15-month well-check--and there is nothing that can be done to make them come out sooner.  They don't seem to be slowing down his eating (much: he won't eat meat, and I suspect this may be a reason, though perhaps not the only reason), and he is gaining weight and growing, so we just have to wait and see.

Our other concern, AJ's speech, is improving, though slowly.  He is up to about 25 words.  The pediatrician said he should be using around 100 words and beginning to join two words together.  He uses two words together occasionally ("Oh no!" and "I see" are recent additions to his vocabulary), but is far below target for number of words used.  Our pediatrician encouraged us to have a private speech eval done in the next 60-90 days if he does not make significant progress on this front.

In addition to their virus that both boys are currently battling, we learned that AJ had developed ear infections in both ears.  So it was fortuitous that he had a doctor's appointment today.

Today MJ weighed 33 lb, 10 oz, which placed him in the 98th percentile, and measured 37.5 inches, 100th percentile.  He has increased his percentiles slightly at each well-check visit since birth, and this is the biggest he has been.  Our pediatrician asked today if "height runs in the family."  HA!  Not in mine, MM's, or the donor's, actually.  We can't figure out where MJ is getting these genes.

If you believe those who say that you can predict a child's adult height by doubling the measurement of his height on his second birthday, we can predict that MJ will be 6'3" as an adult.  (AJ would be 5'9.5".)  For comparison, MM is 5'8", and our donor is 5'7".  MM's parents are 6' and 5'4", and the donor's parents are 5'10" and 5'8".  (In case one might want to consider epigenetics. . . I am 5'5", and my parents are 5'7" and 5'2".)

Time will tell, I guess.  I feel so grateful that our sons are both growing and developing normally and are generally healthy. . . their current illnesses notwithstanding.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Grab bag


I started this diet on January 6.  I am on day 11 of step 1, which lasts 8 weeks.  During step 1, you severely restrict your carbohydrate intake (for reasons she talks about at length in the book).  In a nutshell, except for most vegetables, you are only permitted 5 "net" grams of carbohydrates in a 5-hour period during step 1.

The reasons I am dieting are obvious--hello, I'm overweight; have a family history of diabetes and heart disease; and have high cholesterol and a personal history of preeclampsia and gestational diabetes that predispose me to future health problems, most of which are also weight-related --but my reasons for choosing this particular plan might not be.  Specifically, the book resonated with me when I first read it at my sister's recommendation back in late 2010/early 2011, and I had success following the plan in early 2011 before our DE IVF cycle.  (I lost around 15 lbs in 6 weeks by following step 1 and exercising 30-60 minutes six days a week.)

After struggling the first couple of days, I have generally had more energy and very little hunger eating this way.  The biggest challenge I have is finding things to eat when I'm away from home, since burritos, sandwiches, pizza and anything involving any kind of bread are off the menu.  But otherwise, following the plan has been easy for me.

Semi-relatedly, I ran across this video today on NPR.  The idea that sugar is addictive, just like heroin (though not AS addictive as heroin), and has the same chemical effects on your brain, makes a lot of sense to me.  I've often found that I do better eating next to NO carbs than I do trying to eat them in moderation.


Can I share that I so, so, so wish that I had the time and energy to join in SRB's decluttering challenge?  If you are inspired to do so, you can find the link to it here.

I have been yearning for some time to tackle some decluttering and organization projects around my home, and this time last year, I definitely would have jumped right on this.  HOWEVER, one thing I have learned over the past several months is that I need to accept my limitations.

Our sons are going through a particularly challenging time right now in some ways with regard to their behavior.  (Hmm, they will be turning 2 on Sunday. . . so they are right on schedule, LOL.)  In addition to caring for them, I work full time outside the home as well.  I am working on losing weight and incorporating exercise into my daily life again.  Realistically, I don't think I have time to take on anything on top of all that at present.

But I wish I did.  Because I want to declutter and organize.  Badly.


Finally, something semi-related to infertility.  Over the past few weeks, I have learned that six women I know  in real life are pregnant: one due in late April, three due in May, and one due in June.  (These are in addition to my dear blogger-turned-real-life friend Jay, who is due in May as well.)  So far as I know, all of these pregnancies were natural conceptions.  In fact, I know three of the mothers well enough to have had them share with either mutual friends or with me that they were.  (The baby due in June was an "oops.")  And I strongly suspect that the other three were as well, based mostly on their timing (either fairly close after a wedding, or spaced "just so" after the first, naturally-conceived child).

And you know what?  These pregnancies haven't bothered me at all.  Nope.  Not one bit.  Even my friend's "oops" was more cause for me to think "oh, poor thing!" whereas before I might've (judgmentally) thought "how irresponsible of her!"  I even thought "Oh good: someone who might have a need for all this extra baby gear I still need to get rid of!"  (Seriously.  Up until recently, our home office/guest room looked like the storeroom of a poorly organized kids' consignment store.  This despite the fact that I have given LOADS of clothes, toys and other things away on a few occasions already.)

I guess there is something about being completely done with my own family building that takes the sting out of seeing others' easily-conceived baby bumps?  I don't know.  All I know is, I'm glad that hearing about other women's pregnancies doesn't bother me anymore.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The best laid plans

This weekend, like many others, I had high hopes about the things I was going to accomplish during my sons' naptimes.  There are some things that HAVE TO get done every weekend, in addition to caring for the boys: a minimum amount of laundry, grocery shopping and food preparation, and some basic house cleaning/tidying.  Anything beyond these three categories is optional and aspirational most weeks, unless there is a specific errand or task that must be accomplished (example: this past weekend I needed to buy my godson a birthday gift).

I get up at 5:30 every weekday morning in order to get to work on time.  I go to bed by 9:00 or 9:30 most nights.  My sons go to bed between 7:30 and 7:45 most nights, so that means I generally have less than two hours to myself in the evenings.  During that relatively short window of time, I eat dinner, prepare things for the next day, take medications and vitamins, pay some attention to our dog, try to talk with my husband, and oh yes, try to relax.  I rarely get much accomplished on these weekday evenings, primarily because I am too tired, mentally and physically, after a full day of work followed by a few hours of caring for my sons.  I feel proud if I am able to read a chapter or two of a book (instead of simply mindlessly playing Words with Friends, checking Fac.ebo.ok and the like).

I am sure there must be mothers who get things done in the evenings after their children are in bed. . . else who is posting all the things I see on  In fact, looking at the breakdown of how I spend that time, it seems that I would, and should, be able to do that.  I mean, I have two hours.  It doesn't take that long to do the things I do.

Apparently I am not one of these mothers, and I have (mostly) accepted this about myself.

Regardless, one of the ironies of my life over the last several months has been that I have had an ongoing yearning to get things accomplished and organize areas of my home and have lacked the time and opportunity to do so.  Here was my modest to-do list for this past weekend, which went uncompleted:

Things I'd hoped to during the boys' nap and couldn't because they wouldn't sleep:

Cut my fingernails  

(I ended up doing this before bed)
Brush Hunter 

(he was groomed last week and really needs to be brushed at least once a week.  probably more often.  this can't be delegated to MM because he is allergic to the dog.)
Finish organizing photos 

(all my digital photos since the boys' birth are/were simply in folders by the date they were uploaded from the photo card to the laptop, with no further organization)
Back up all photos to flickr 

(I am one computer failure away from losing some irreplaceable photos)
Steam mop kitchen floor 

(it's only been a week since I last did it, but the floor looks awful)
Box up all books in master bedroom and move to garage 

(all our books from three shelves in the living room were moved to our bedroom to prevent their being destroyed by the boys.  they need to be relocated in preparation for my dad and stepmom's visit this coming weekend.)
Straighten up 

(MM ended up doing this in every area but one kitchen counter--which always collects clutter--so yea!)
Spend half hour on cleaning garage 

(garage has not had a good cleaning out since before the boys were born, and it is long overdue for one)

Had my sons slept for their customary and expected two to two-and-a-half hours even one day, I would have easily completed this list, with time to spare.  As it was, the only task I completed was clearing out and semi-organizing all the outgrown baby clothes in our guest room/office. . . and that only happened because I stayed home and did on Saturday while MM took the boys to the park to play.  (I also vacuumed and did two loads of laundry and one load of dishes during that time.)

I guess this is common.  I have asked other toddler moms how they get things accomplished, and most have said that they don't, or that they do so by hiring childcare on the weekends.  I don't want to spend additional time away from my sons after being away from them during the day all week; I just want them to nap!

Lately our sons seem determined NOT to nap for us on the weekends (though they nap consistently for their nanny Monday through Thursday, go figure).  In addition to staying awake during "naptime" both Saturday and Sunday, they also (once again) removed all the clothes from their closet--they figured out a way to circumvent the method we'd devised for securing it--and yesterday actually tore apart two drawers of their I.kea dresser, destroying it.

They are definitely curious and in an exploration phase!

MM and I are concerned that they are not getting enough sleep--Saturday night they fell asleep in their high chairs during dinner--and would just like to get our afternoons back.  :-)

Monday, January 6, 2014

Random observations and occurrences

While the rest of the country is experiencing frigid temperatures, snow and record cold, we had a beautiful weekend here in Ph.oenix: sunny, with daytime highs in the upper 60s/low 70s.  The boys got to go to the park both afternoons.  It was great!

Our weekends are always constant go, go, go.  Our sons require a high level of supervision, as they are "into" everything, and weekends are pretty much the only time we have to get things like laundry, cleaning and grocery shopping done.  We also like to get the boys out of the house to play somewhere both days, and I like to be social when I can.

This weekend, MM and I had dinner out with one of my closest friends and her husband on Saturday night, and I had lunch with my BFF Sunday, followed by a little shopping.  I also had my hair cut and colored; not really "fun" but necessary, as my grays were abundant.

In addition to getting to do some fun and relaxing things, I also got a bunch of little projects done around the house.  Not anywhere NEAR all the things I need, or had hoped, to get done. . . but at least I made some progress, and that felt good.

Seeing a clearance sale at Stride Rite while the boys were playing at the mall play area Saturday morning, I decided to get the boys' feet measured, even though we had just measured them at Thanksgiving.  MJ's feet had grown a full size, and he now wears a 9.5W!  Does anyone else think that this is an exceptionally large shoe size for a boy who is not-quite-2-years-old?  AJ's feet had also grown, and he now wears a 7W.  So they both got new shoes.

MJ pooped in the bathtub last night.  First time that had happened.  Quick action on my part saved this from becoming a bigger mess than it could have been.  I guess we are lucky we had gotten through nearly two years of baths without this happening.

I have mentioned here before that AJ is starting to talk more.  One amusing thing about his increasing vocabulary is that in addition to saying words correctly, he also repeats some of MJ's cute and unique usages of language.  So AJ now also says "I see, I see" to call attention to things he notices and mispronounces the word "cheese."  It's pretty funny.  I guess AJ is learning from his brother as much as he is learning from the adults around him?

Every time MJ sees a vehicle larger than a 4-door sedan, he now says "Big car, big car."  This applies to trucks and vans also.  It's cute.  He is obsessed with vehicles of all types.

Traffic was brutal this morning, with everyone back at work or school and many winter visitors back in town.  There was also a huge accident on my usual route that backed things up for miles.  Ugh.

Happy Monday!