Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Twin three month update

We have survived three months!!!! I feel like we should get some kind of prize. Not that having these two adorable babies isn't a prize but having twins is tough. Having one baby is hard so two, you can imagine. This is the last month that Jose works late every day so I have been counting down the days until he is home at 300pm. Even if it isn't just to have an extra set of hands to help (which will be nice), I am looking forward to having another adult to talk to during the day.

Because you can't have an update without a sleeping picture
The girls are doing well. They are eating more and getting bigger. Vera weighs 4 kilos 600 grams and Laura weights 4 kilos 300 grams. We have had a lot fewer doctors' appointments but did get their vaccinations. Laura had her surgery at the beginning of the month and it went great. Her belly button looks good and she had no complications. 

Staring intently 
In the last month Vera and Laura have started responding a lot more to my voice and other stimuli. Laura smiles all the time and Vera has started to as well. They both really like their monster stuffed animals that we named Tony Chip and Tony Dale. In the picture above they are both looking up at him. Thanks to Andie for sending them! They have started tracking things better with their eyes and are beginning to lift their heads in tummy time.

Ready to go out and about
This month we have been venturing out more with the babies. Now that they are a bit bigger it is easier to take them places but we have found that we have to give ourselves about an hour extra to get them both fed, changed, dressed and ready to go. This definitely makes you weigh how worth it it is to meet up. Gone are the days of deciding last minute to do anything. We visited Jose's family's hometown and introduced Vera and Laura to almost all the rest of his family. We also have gone out a few times with some of our friends who hadn't met the babies yet.

Mom and Dad at the baptism
Baptisms are a big deal here in the south of Spain as you might imagine and we recently went to one to celebrate the son of our friends. We are planning on baptizing the girls at the end of summer when we are back from Michigan. We want to wait that long to try to have a baptism with their new cousin Eva who was born in France at the end of this month. Welcome to the world Eva! We can't wait to meet you.

Jose's parents with Eva
All in all it has been a good month. I am still looking forward to the day when the girls will sleep through the night or at least more than three hours at a time. We have tried a few nights to let them sleep longer and they inevitably wake up anyway. Someday. Someday. I have also decided that I need to start to take better care of myself since I have been neglecting myself these last few months (that's what being a mom is right?). 

If you want to read the girls' other monthly updates I will link them below:
One month
Two months

I will be posting some more baby book reviews soon as well!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Books for babies: The Gruffalo

Recently I asked my Facebook friends for suggestions for books to order for my girls and I got a lot of good ideas. Of course I remembered some of my favorites from my own childhood but was also looking for any new books that people have enjoyed reading with their kids. I have placed a few orders for books from Amazon and am discovering my preferences as a mom who will be reading and re-reading the same books over and over. Because of this, I have decided to create some posts here on my blog to review the books that I like and those that I don't (I have found that a lot of books that are considered classics really aren't that great). Maybe it will someday be a resource for other new moms looking to create a library for their baby.

I love this book!!!! You need it in your life.
The first book that I have chosen to write about is one that I had never heard of, I think because it might be British and might not be popular in the U.S.? But I LOVE it. Why did no one recommend this story to me???? It was a book that kept popping up on my suggested books on Amazon so I threw it into my basket and I am so glad that I did. Let's talk about The Gruffalo.

The Gruffalo library
First of all, when I am reading aloud to my girls I like books that have a cadence to them, usually helped along by rhyme. I am of course looking for a good story as well and the illustrations (though not exactly the most important at the moment since the girls are more focused on my voice) have got to be good. The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson with pictures by Axel Scheffler has all of these things. 

To give you an idea without giving away too much, the back jacket of the book says:

"A gruffalo? What's a gruffalo? He has terrible tusks, and terrible claws, and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws. But do all those things make him the scariest creature in the deep dark wood? One brave little mouse with a big imagination doesn't think so!"

The story is really sweet and the illustrations are adorable. The rhythm of the writing makes it easy to read aloud and though I have read it to the girls probably every other night I am still not sick of it. In fact I liked this book so much that I ordered a mini-library of other books by the same author/illustrator team. I will be sure to review the others in the future.

Seriously if you have never read The Gruffalo you need to. Maybe I am the last person on earth to have discovered this book but I love it. I also think this book would be enjoyed by both girls and boys of lots of ages, not just babies and toddlers so get yourself a copy!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Las Palmas, Canary Islands

Last summer Jose and I did a bit of traveling even though we didn't leave Spain. July and August are unbearably hot in Seville and it is miserable to have to stay locally so we decided to get away for a while. I never actually wrote a blog post about the trip we took to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands for a week in August of 2015, so here it goes. 

Las Palmas is the capital city on an island called Gran Canaria in this Spanish archipelago. After a two hour flight from Seville we landed in paradise where we stayed in a hotel right on the Canteras Beach which is famous for tourists. It was actually a lot less busy than I expected it to be which was nice. Our hotel wasn't anything fancy but it was separated from the ocean only by the long promenade or boardwalk which ran the length the beach and which we enjoyed strolling down in the evening. There were tons of restaurants and bars around us within walking distance.

View from our hotel
One thing we always enjoy doing when we travel is trying the local cuisine. The Canary Islands are famous for their papas arrugadas which are the potatoes with a spicy sauce called mojo pictured below. To be honest, I wasn't too impressed with this popular dish but the cherne fish they served them with was amazing. Jose also makes sure to taste all of the beer that is made wherever we are visiting. I had just found out I was pregnant right before we left on this trip so I did not drink any alcohol but I was definitely jealous.

Cherne fish and papas arrugadas
The Canary Islands are well known for having an almost perfect climate year-round. While we were visiting it rained almost every day unfortunately. It was quite out of the ordinary but we didn't let that get us down. Jose and I tried to relax on the beach as much as possible, weather permitting. Then we rented a car and drove around the entire island one day and on the days that it rained we visited the touristy attractions in the city, walked around the local mall and actually went to the movies which we never do.

On one of the rainy days we took a bus from the beach where we were staying into Las Palmas city center where we visited the cathedral and the Columbus house. The Canary Islands were one of the stopping points for ships that were headed to the Americas and the Columbus house serves as a museum which documents this contact and the relationship between the islands and the newly discovered continents. It is known as the Columbus house because he stayed there on his first trip in 1492. I thought this was an interesting and worthwhile place to visit, especially when you compare it to the Museo Canario or Canary Museum where we also stopped. This was basically a poorly organized archeological museum in need of a revamp of its exhibitions. I was not impressed.

Columbus House entrance
When we rented a car to explore the island our first stop was Arucas which is a village famous for its rum factory (which we didn't visit due to my pregnancy). We wanted to visit the city's cathedral but we had arrived on the only day during the week which it was closed. Instead we walked around the picturesque streets filled with houses with their famous balconies, an iconic architectural detail in the Canary Islands.

Street in Arucas with cathedral in the background
Next we headed to a few more villages like Teror before stopping for lunch in the mountains located in the center of the island. Our route first took us north and then we turned south to traverse the entire island. There are several famous monoliths in the middle of the mountains, Roque Nublo and Roque Bentayga. We had an awesome view of both while in Tejeda, another village where we ate lunch.

Panoramic view of Roque Nublo and Roque Bentayga (monoliths)
We ended our roadtrip by visiting the beach at the southern end of the island before returning to Las Palmas. I was impressed by how many different climates there were in what was a relatively small area. The northern part of the island was lush and tropical while we drove through other sections which were quite dry and almost desert-like. 

Cathedral in Las Palmas
Overall it was a relaxing getaway for us. We were able to escape the heat of the south of Spain for a while which was worth having to endure a few rainy days. I would definitely go back to the Canary Islands in the future; they are so close and really offer that tropical beachy type vacation, plus everyone we met was incredibly kind and helpful. I would like to visit another island next time we go back.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Summer in Michigan bucket list 2016

This summer we are headed back to Michigan to see our family and friends! Yay! This means a trip which consists of three flights and almost an entire day of travel with our twinfants. No! The plus side of traveling with them at what will be four months old is that we don't have to pay for seats on the airplane. The down side being that they will be in our laps for lots of flight hours. I am seriously praying that they behave and don't cry the entire time. Hopefully they will sleep. Please let them sleep. For reals.

Anyway, it will have been two years since we have been home by the time we get there this summer. That's a long time. To give you an idea, I have a niece who will be turning one who I haven't even met yet. There are a lot of positives about living abroad and the south of Spain is a beautiful place but often times it sucks because you miss big life events. Most recently has been a couple weddings for both family and friends. I hate it and adding little ones in the family is just making things more difficult. But let's get back to the positive which is that we will be back home for the summer! 

You guys, I basically grew up in a cottage and while space was limited, summers on a lake in Michigan are freaking awesome. I can't wait for my girls to have the same experience. Like we were NEVER out of our bathing suits. We slept in them, went to church in them, what else do you need? Plus my parents have been upgrading stuff around the lake like a new pontoon boat and a new raft now that they have grandbabies, so there are even more cool things to play with. I also wonder what else we could take them into getting.

I have decided to continue with my semi-tradition of creating a summer bucket list which I did the first time in 2013. You can read that post here. A lot of the things on that list had to do with food which is shocking I know. Actually the one for this year is going to probably be quite similar. In 2014 I wrote about the big things that I was looking forward to doing over the summer (it was a super busy time during our visit home). You can read about that summer list here. Last summer we didn't go back to the US. We were doing some fertility treatments so we decided to stay in Spain because it was a huge investment both financially and in terms of our time. But look at our result!!

So here goes our summer bucket list for 2016 with the babies:

1. Go to Dairy Queen (often) for Reese's peanut butter cup blizzards. I had serious cravings for these while pregnant and the closest I could get were McFlurries from McDonald's which are just NOT the same. I love soft serve ice cream. 

2. GAGME (Garber Annual Gathering) which is our new annual family outing with my parents, siblings and their families. Our first trip was to Washington D.C. in 2014 which you can read about here. This year we will be staying more local and are headed to Mackinac Island and the U.P.

3. Visit Chicago and my sister Andie and her husband Eric who live there

4. Have a get-together with my sorority sisters and their new babies. In the last few years tons of my friends from college have had kids and I can't wait to meet them and introduce them to our girls. It is crazy to think how much life has changed for us since CMU.

Already in 3 month clothes
5. Go to as many free popcorn Tuesdays at the movie theater as possible. For the last few summers Jose and I have gone to the MJR theater in my hometown on Tuesday mornings to see all the summer blockbusters since the tickets are cheap and they offer free popcorn. It's a great deal and this year I have already cleared with my mom that she won't mind watching the babies for us.

6. Meet my niece Caroline. Duh.

7. Go to Grand Rapids and spend time with my other niece, Daphne

8. Introduce the girls to our extended family and friends

9. Go to a baseball game

Caught holding hands
So there you have it: our summer bucket list for Michigan. We have about two more months to go before we fly out. We can't wait!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Blue eyes, tummy time and mommy moments

The last time we went to the neurologist we were told that we really needed to do lots of tummy time with the girls since they hadn't been lifting their heads when she did part of her examination. Luckily for us they don't exactly hate it (like I have heard from other people whose kids would just cry the whole time). They do tend to fall asleep though. I am hoping that this isn't a sign of things to come in terms of their development, hopefully they will catch up soon. It is interesting, however, to see changes over time. I am going to sort of ignore the milestones at this point but the best thing so far is seeing them both start to smile in reaction to us. Laura started first and now Vera will smile when she hears our voices or sees something she likes. It is enough to make your heart melt.

We have also been wondering if our girls will have blue eyes or not. Their eyes are not the same color (surprise, surprise since they don't look anything alike). Laura's are a bit lighter than Vera's but they both appear to be blue for now. I don't know if that will change in the future. When they were smaller their eyes were darker and I just figured they would turn brown over time. It also sometimes depends on the light in the room. What do you think? Not that it matters but I had always heard that brown eyes are dominant over blue and all of Jose's family have brown eyes. I guess only time will tell.

I am sure most people realize this but when you become a mom you start to do things you never imagined doing before. What do I mean? Well, for example, the other day I picked a booger out of my daughter's nose without even thinking about it. After I had done it and I found myself with a booger and nowhere to put it I was pretty grossed out and thought: This is what we waited so long for before becoming parents??!! What have I been reduced to??!! What joys of motherhood await??!!  Let's be real, kids are gross but I guess everyone just doesn't think their own offspring are yucky otherwise the human race wouldn't survive. Special snowflakes and all. Mommy moments and all. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

The great earring debate and other colorful commentary

I have to tell you that people lose their damn minds when they see a double stroller. I had heard and been warned from other twin moms that people would be curious, would make comments, would ask questions and would sometimes be inappropriate. I can now say that all of the above is true.

Most of the time it doesn't bother me if people ask about or comment on my girls. I understand that twins aren't all that common (though right now it really seems like they are. It's one of those situations like when you have a new car and you look around and it seems everyone has that same car. For me that is what having twins is like: I see them everywhere!). What does bother me is when people go in to touch them. Please don't. This is especially annoying when we are at the hospital or at the doctor's office. I don't know why you are there or what disease you might be carrying. Don't touch my babies. Thank you. I realize this might make me seem overly protective but if you haven't had the sucky experience of having your child in the NICU then you might not get it. I am not a germaphobe by any means but I do hate it when random strangers feel drawn to touch. I am mostly talking about older women which is why I cut them some slack and don't smack their hands away. Ok please excuse me going off on a tangent there.

The most common questions I get about the girls are:

-Are they twins? 
-Are they identical?
-How old are they?

These are the questions I expected of course and don't bother me (although repeating the same canned responses can get old quickly). Besides those, people are often quite confused about the girls' gender. They are regularly mistaken for being boys even when they are decked out in all pink. Normally in their stroller they have pink blankets and yet people here in Spain usually assume they are boys. Why?? Well because they don't have their ears pierced. It's a very common practice here. In fact, I would say that most parents have their daughters' ears pierced before they even leave the hospital after they are born. 

We have decided against it for now. I think it's something Vera and Laura can decide when they are older. This makes us a minority and seems to confuse the hell out of people. I often get asked whether they are boys and when I reply that no, they are both girls, the most common response is, "oh well since they didn't have their ears pierced..."

Perfect little hole-less ears
Obviously a boy
I don't judge other parents for having their girls' ears pierced, to each their own. (I will only really judge you if you don't vaccinate). I get doing it early before the baby will remember feeling anything. But again, I have had enough of seeing my babies poked and pricked. The NICU experience with its IVs, feeding tubes, incubators broke my heart. I saw my brand new little bitty babies as being so helpless. I couldn't imagine jamming a hole in their ears. People out and about obviously don't know our backgrounds but we hear about earrings from them on a regular basis. Whatever, I have learned to just smile.

Other comments we often receive:

-I bet you aren't bored.
-You've got your hands full.
-Now you don't have to have any more kids, right?
-Two?????!!!! (with a face of oh my god, better you than me)
-I bet you hope it's a boy and a girl so you can be finished (this was while I was pregnant, probably the most common thing that people would say. Apparently everyone wants one of each gender)

I have become quite efficient at just smiling and giving non-responses. I also have learned to laugh at people who try to sneak (not really the word since they have to usually put in quite a lot of effort to see when the stroller's canopies are up) a peak at the girls. I am curious to see if we get the same kind of attention when we are back in the U.S. this summer. Maybe it's a cultural thing, I will keep everyone updated.

In other news, Laura had her surgery this week and it went well. It wasn't a very complicated procedure but required general anesthesia so we spent the night at the hospital. Laura did great and we are all at home enjoying the weekend together.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A day in the life with twins

As promised in my last post I am here to explain and describe what a day in the life with twin babies looks like for us. To be honest there is lots of sleeping and eating but we do do other things as well. We haven't got a strict schedule (besides feedings), just some activities I try to incorporate into our day when I can. 

I have mentioned before that the girls eat every three hours. That means eight bottles a day per baby which adds up to about 960 bottles over the past two months give or take. That is a lot of formula. Preemie formula is shockingly expensive so I was happy when we were able to switch to regular formula recently. With each feeding comes a diaper change plus some extra each day depending on how the babies' digestive systems are working. I will round off the diapers used to about a thousand. Luckily we started to buy diapers when we found out I was pregnant so we had a bit of a stash. Unfortunately since the girls were born so small we had to buy quite a few until they were able to use the normal newborn size we had. 

We are watching you mom
Laura and Vera currently sleep together in their crib. This is the sight I woke up to this morning through the slats. It was just around 9am and Vera was already awake and waiting to be fed. She was still patient at this point but waiting much longer would have been a bad idea. The girls are like alarm clocks for the most part and get hungry about every three hours. They will both wake up to eat around the same time which is ok when there are two people to feed them. Otherwise one has to wait which isn't ideal. There is lots of crying unless the baby not being fed is still sleeping.

Solo feeding and changing both the girls takes about an hour. The three of us usually go back to bed until noon since I have been up every few hours the night before. I sometimes sneak in a shower at this point in the day depending on how well the babies are sleeping. Otherwise my shower waits until later when either the girls are really passed out or Jose is home from work. After the twelve o'clock bottle I usually take them and Cooper outside for a walk in the park by my apartment.

After a walk outside
When we come back in from outside I will have lunch before three pm. During the afternoon between feedings and naps I read to the girls, basically during the windows in which they are awake. For me it is important that they have lots of contact with reading and books. I love reading and know this has a lot to do with my mom having read to me and my sisters from an early age. Lead by example people! Plus this is an easy way to increase the twins' English language input. I am determined that they will be bilingual. Spanish will be easy since it is the language of the place they live. English will be a bit more of a challenge so I try to speak exclusively in my native tongue with them.

Book order from Spain's Amazon
Another thing I try to do every day is sing to my girls. This is sometimes when they are eating, otherwise it is when they are awake or half asleep. Music is something else that I think is important. Besides singing I will find children's songs on Youtube and play that for them while singing along. If there is a video that goes along with the music I won't show that to them (more on this later). There is also a video of classic Disney music played on a piano that I love. It is so calming. I am also guilty of singing along to the radio or finding oldies to play for the girls. Jose is sick of all these songs already.

After bringing both girls home I had to review my baby song repetoire. Some of our favorite songs are:

The wheels on the bus
I'm a little teapot
This old man
Mary had a little lamb
Twinkle, twinkle, little star
Five little monkeys jumping on a bed
Row, row, row your boat
Old MacDonald
There were ten in a bed
Head, shoulders, knees and toes
The ants go marching
It's raining, it's pouring
Rain, rain, go away
Down by the bay
The itsy bitsy spider

We take lots of naps
At our first meeting with the neurologist (we have been going about once a month to track the girls' progress and see if they need any kind of early intervention) we were told the best thing we could do for our babies was to talk to them, sing to them, hold them and NOT put on the TV for them. Most of that seems like a no brainer for me. Jose and I had decided before the twins were even born that we would limit screen time. I just read another article recently which supported this decision. The link can be found here

After Jose gets home from work (and if there are no appointments with doctors which there have been a lot of lately) we will usually have bath time, bottle and then bed for the girls. Jose and I stay up until midnight for one last feeding before we go to bed. Those hours between nine and twelve have not been great for sleep but have allowed us lots of time to catch up on series and to watch movies. I also have been taking advantage of the fact that I have to be up at 300am on Sunday nights to watch the simulcast of Game of Thrones. No spoilers for this girl!

So there you have it, an idea of what we do every day with our girls. For now my life revolves around three hour cycles which is ok. I am looking forward to the time when they will be able to sleep a bit longer at night. Just five hours of uninterrupted sleep seems like such a luxury now. And to be honest I am not as exhausted as I thought I would be. I think it's because I do try to catch some zzz's when they girls are asleep during the day if that is possible.

I should also mention that I am trying to stay on top of laundry and keeping my apartment somewhat liveable. I have most chores on a rotation which means if I get one or two of them done each day then I feel like I have accomplished something. Today for example I cleaned the bathrooms and swept the floors. Tomorrow I might vaccuum. Thank god for having a dishwasher because I haven't done dishes besides bottles in a while. Things aren't perfect but they weren't before the babies anyway. I like to think we are doing pretty well though.