My Favorite Things

Heavy-duty equipment: Twins on an Island in their BOB Duallie, 2007

"I don't know how you guys do it," say our friends.

They mean to be supportive but really are just pointing out the obvious:

We are permanently exhausted from numerous night-time awakenings; dazed by the constant requests for juice, milk, drawing paper, donuts, TV, chocolate milk, grape juice, more drawing paper, donuts with sprinkles, and Thomas on TV; and at least in my case, ten pounds overweight from eating everything I cooked that our two preschoolers rejected.

So when facing the Question of the Week from my virtual support group at Multiples And More, "What are your favorite products for multiples?" I thought it would be fun to reflect on the things that have helped save our sanity for the last 43 months, especially when most of those months were spent on a shoppingly-challenged third-world island and most sanity-saving items had to be ordered online, shipped to Miami, and then brought over by freighter.

Twins' first arrival at Roatan Airport, 2007 (yes, those are all our bags next to us)
Lounging at Palmetto Bay Plantation, Roatan, 2007
First product category: Transportation. Baby Trend Double Snap N Go Strolleris simply the best invention for dual-infant transport. You just pop up the frame and snap on your baby-filled carseats. The whole thing folds flat and is easy to stow and travel with. I researched this meticulously while pregnant, and even chose our carseats based on which would fit most easily on the Snap N Go frame. I still consider this my best research project ever. Of course, we did sort of look like a multi-car freight train coming and going.

Boat Drink, anyone?

The twins soon graduated to a BOB Revolution Duallie Stroller. Though pricey, it is hands-down the best dual-baby solution for off-roading or jogging (OK, meandering) on sand.

But the same sturdy characteristics that made it ideal for rugged island roads also made BOB virtually impossible to fold and lift into a car. BOB Duallies aren't easy to negotiate in airports either, though we did try.
BFF Allison watches over babies and BOB at San Pedro Sula airport, Honduras, 2007
Which brings us to the next product category: Travel.

With our nomadic life it was good that we had yet another transportation alternative. A shower gift from former colleagues, our lightweight red Peg Perego Aria Twin Strollerwas almost like a third child.  Before we received official status as Honduran residents, we had to leave the country every 90 days for at least 72 hours. This is a nuisance even without infant twins, but in our case the preparation was downright comical: 1-Delaney; 2-Hayden; 3-Red Stroller; 4-Go. 

By now, the Red Stroller has logged enough frequent flyer miles to take us on a trip.

Hanging out at The Grove in L.A., 2007
Another brilliant invention for travel comes from Coverplay.This is a slipcover for pack'n'plays and small hotel cribs. I bought one in brown and pink and one in brown and blue, and never traveled to hotels without them again. So much nicer to know that your baby won't be sucking and drooling on the same metal and mesh as all the other hotel-going babies. Five stars in my book.
Coverplayyard slipcover

Next category: Beach Gear. Two products were indispensable for island life with babies. The Sand Toy Back Pack by Spielstabil made carting two of everything (shovel, bucket, watering can, etc) to the beach easy -- just strap one onto each twin and go. They loved their "bah-paks" and  (generally) didn't mind walking the 10 minutes from the house to the beach with their toys on their backs. 

Down the hill at Dos Palapas to the beach, 2008

The second must-have was the Swim Sweater,a perfect combination of toddler flotation device and complete upper-body sun coverage. We loved our swim sweaters.
West Bay Beach, 2008
What product did I purchase that I could've done without? Probably the expensive Pottery Barn Kids deluxe diaper bag. It wasn't big enough to shlep all the stuff that two kids required. I hardly used it.

Which brings us to the last category of miracle products: Organization.

My Big Bag of choice turned out to be a Scout Bagette Tote Bag.On the right is the one that we wore out completely, going back and forth to the beach, and despite being in shreds is still on duty holding costumes from Halloweens' Past. On the left is the one I just replaced it with, now that we are back in the Land of Easy Access.
Can't have too many Scouts
And though I fell out of love with the PB bag, I do count the Pottery Barn personalized laundry baskets as all-time keepers. I ordered these before we went to Roatan, and made sure they came back with us, too, despite leaving most of our New England antiques behind when we sold our property. On the island, they were perfect for toys and stuffed animals.

PB Kids Laundry Baskets
Now that the twins are bigger and capable of chores like making their beds and putting away underwear, the baskets have become key to the daily clean-up routine. They love lifting the lids and throwing their paint-spattered, mud-stained, jelly-stuck clothes inside. 

Even better, they love reading their names on the outside. "D is for Laney!" says Hayden. 

But the most important sanity-saver since having twins has not been a product, but a service: Sittercity.comWe actually left the island because we lacked a support system like this.

We've found spectacular babysitters in Hartford, Los Angeles, and a few points in between. Need a babysitter? Sittercity helps parents and babysitters to contact each other. We even imported two of our Sittercity nannies four different times to stay with us (not a bad gig, huh?). 
Carrie-Ellen has her arms full, Palmetto Bay Plantation, 2007
Kelsey and the Pirate, Roatan's West End, 2008

Thanks Carrie-Ellen and Kelsey... and all the rest of the wonderful friends we've discovered over the last three-and-a-half years who didn't mind holding a baby or two. We couldn't have done it without you.


Never Ending

Having twins is like hosting a never-ending playdate. As soon as 5pm rolls around, I'm desperately wishing one of them would go home for dinner somewhere else.

But, I'm increasingly aware of how lucky Delaney and Hayden are to have each other. They are never (OK, rarely) bored. 

Last week they started a new school, their second since leaving Roatan in June. They marched in like they owned the place, with that special swagger that comes from already knowing who your Best Buddy is for the day. When they go to the park, they don't care whether or not they meet other kids. When they do, it's like a bonus. Any new situation, and it's off they go -- together.  

Of course, more and more they invoke the flip side of their relationship. "You're not my Friend today!" is a common accusation when one doesn't cooperate with the other. "You're a Bad Guy," is the inevitable retort, as if knowing instinctively that the opposite of friendship is inherently bad.

Despite the occasional shove or spat (or bite or kick), Delaney and Hayden seem ready to face the great big world side by side. A Princess in pink and her Prince in blue. Island attire, of course. 

Note: Sittin' on the Dock photos were taken last month in Massachusetts.


Stage Mama

I have gone from Island Mama to Stage Mama, having dragged Delaney and Hayden (and Mike) to not one but two community theater productions in the last six weeks. First we saw Thumbelina, and yesterday it was Cinderella. 

Even better, I dragged the poor munchkins on stage to meet the King and Queen during intermission. I'll admit this was more thrilling for me than for either of them.

"May I present Princess Delaney and Prince Hayden," announced the Royal Steward to the audience.

Princess D and Prince H were a little confused, so I pushed them forward and told them to curtsey. Or bow. Or just say hello. Actually I wasn't sure what to do myself.

We received our Certificates of Royalty. Hayden was the only Prince in Hawaiian shirt, flowered shorts, and flip flops. In fact, he may have been the only Prince in the parade at all. I guess in that case it doesn't matter what he was wearing. He could've had his pick of princesses. At least we remembered his cape and sword. 

We hurriedly exited Stage Right. Then, with the anticipation of our onstage debut behind us, Act 2 was very, very long.

Princess D: Mommy, when is she going to marry the Prince?

Stage Mama: Soon, sweetie, if she's lucky and if she remembers that it's not the Prince who's saving her, it's her own determination.

Prince H:  I need to go potty, NOW!

Stage Mama:  Mike, can you take him?

Princess D: Mommy, are we going to the lovely Ball, too? Is I can pick my dress?

Stage Mama: Yes, sweetie, we'll have a lovely Ball at home and you can pick your dress. 

Prince H:  Mommy, is this over NOW? 

Stage Mama: Soon, sweetie, if we're very lucky.

And soon, indeed, the fairy tale ended and we turned back into pumpkins. I put my tiara back in my bag. Delaney and Hayden used their make-believe cell phones on the way home to warn their friends that the Stepsisters were Mean and the Prince was a Long Time coming.


Twins in a Mini

30 months in paradise.
Two crazy gringos, two feisty babies, two beautiful houses.
One spectacular view.
No looking back.

We're home. And it's bueno.


A Final Splash

Remember the bag of 100 balls Mike bought a couple years back, to the delight of Delaney and Hayden who threw them all over the house? And all over the yard.... and over the banister... and under the car...?

As an appropriate conclusion to our life at Dos Palapas, Hayden threw them ALL once more into the pool five minutes before we were set to leave for the last time. 

Mike's final job (before loading eight suitcases and six carry-ons into the truck) was fishing those darn balls out of the water.

Look out Hartford, los gemelos de las Islas de Bahia are moving back to the block.


Winding Down the Carnival

Our stuff arrived on Roatan in a 40-foot container.

It's leaving in a 20-foot.

But this time it's without the help of Ron and Rob, the "professional relocation experts" in Connecticut who had a truck full of supplies and burly men. So our sincere and special thanks goes to U-Line for creating a "basic moving kit" that they shipped to us novices, stranded on an island with no moving companies, tape guns, bubble wrap -- or even boxes.

As of this moment, we are up to 115 boxed, inventoried, and labeled items of personal belongings. As we get them finished, we stack them in the foyer for Senor Gomez, our faithful gardener of three years, to carry down to the garage. I can just hear him muttering in Spanish, "This isn't in my job description...."

I've drawn the line at shipping back the contents of the liquor cabinet, which got shipped here from Hartford without anyone paying too much attention. A few weeks ago I started a personal crusade to systematically get rid of the tequila and rum, but frankly I've tired of it. Anything left will be left behind, along with the other 50% of the contents of two fully furnished houses that we sold with the property.

And to anyone who thought I was joking about shrink-wrapping our furniture, think again. Another gracias goes to Plaza Mar for stocking an absurdly large restaurant roll of plastic wrap. They won't stock decent toilet paper or diapers, but they get kudos for carrying 2,000 feet of extra-wide saran right when I needed it.

I've spent so many hours wrestling with the wrap, one blade-torn sheet at a time, that I'm even dreaming about it. Last night, I woke up panicked that I had shrunk-wrapped Delaney.

Fortunately, our final day coincides with the end-of-the-year party at Discovery Bay, Delaney and Hayden's school for the past two years. We're so glad they are finishing the term along with their friends. The next day, however, we'll be on a jet plane bound for the next phase of this crazy life. We've made this eventuality comprehendable to the kids by promising there will be a "bookstore" (i.e., Barnes and Noble) wherever we are going. "I'm going to get a Princess book," yells Delaney. "I'm going to get a Thomas book," yells Hayden even louder.

So clearly, leaving the home they've since known since they started crawling isn't going to bother these two island babies, as long as our first stop in the New World lets them browse and buy books to their hearts' content.

I'd like to say the same is true for their Mother, but I'm afraid the end is bittersweet. It's come so fast. Large properties like ours just aren't selling on the island, so any offer had to be taken very seriously.

In truth, we are happy to say we've done it.

And, happy that we're done with it.

Mike says he won't be needing a beach vacation for a long time.



View from the Shower

If you look to the right: you look through the window of our open-air Balinese shower, over the Spanish tile roof, across one of two thatch-covered palapas that frame the swimming pool, over the lawn and treetops of the deep Palmetto Bay shore, and out across the vast expanse of the Caribbean Sea.

If you look to the left: you look through the glass French shower doors, over the jacuzzi tub, through an open window, out to the lush rainforest encircling the southern side of the house.

If you look up: floating puffy clouds against a blue blue sky.

If you look down: earth-colored travertine tiles, smooth under two pairs of little feet dancing a Happy Shower Dance.

No wonder Delaney and Hayden are the cleanest kids on the block. They take even longer showers than their Mommy and Daddy.


Remembering Sonoma

Sooner than we thought, it's time to say good-bye.

Sonoma died of poison on Palm Sunday. She whispered farewell in a dream, dreamt by my Dad in Los Angeles. At the time we didn't understand the dream's significance, but now we do. We were far away, but Sonoma found us.

Her body was discovered on Easter and she was buried on the lawn of Dos Palapas, our home on Roatan for the last two-and-a-half years and the next four weeks. We will be returning to the United States for good, our island adventure ending.

The good, the bad, and sadly the tragic. Time to say good-bye, and leave a little piece of our hearts behind.


Someday My Prince

Delaney and Hayden have recently discovered the world of fairy tales through the movie Thumbelina.

I still remember the original Hans Christian Andersen film: "Thumbelina, what's the difference if you're very small? When your heart is full of love, you're nine feet tall."

But this remake features new music by the unlikely ensemble of Barry Manilow, Charo and Carol Channing. Try tuning into this more than once a day, starting before you've even had your coffee.

The story's [basically] the same: a diminutive gal finds her handsome Prince, but must dodge a tap-dancing Beetle and an aggressively lonely Mole, or else risk getting frozen in an ice cube.

Or something like that.

Finally they promise to live happily ever after -- "or longer," as Prince Cornelius says optimistically.

My Inner Feminist is thinking that I ought to try to correct this picture for both Delaney and Hayden. Why isn't the Prince conflicted about his own pint-sized-ness?

Why isn't he put through the wringer to fit in and ultimately accept himself for who he is?

Why can't Thumbelina say, "thanks for promising me forever, but right now I'm happy to be living in the moment?"

But then, my Inner Child reminds me that these are young imaginations at work, being inspired by the magic of Disney (which truthfully, despite feminist theory, I'm all in favor of). I'm betting that if Determined Delaney sets out, on the verge of her third birthday, to find a Prince that measures up to the standard being created in her mind (if not in everyday reality) by her twin brother, she'll do just fine.

But I like so much more the legend of the Frog Prince told by Peter Mayle in "French Lessons." Apparently the poor trapped amphibian told his princess that, if she would only kiss him and bring him out of his froggy-spell, he would make her his wife. She would cook for him, clean for him, have his kids, put up with his mother and make life generally good for all. Happily ever after.

Sure, she said. Sounds great.

And then she had frog legs (with plenty of garlic) for dinner.

Bon appetit, and may your prince be right there by your side.


Twice is Nice, but To Each Their Own

This Christmas gave us another opportunity to reflect on gender stereotypes, what it means to have Twins, and the continued relevance of Dear Abby.

Without prompting (we swear), Delaney decided she wanted Santa to bring her a Baby with a Bottle. Hayden decided he wanted an Airplane, with an Airport.

We (Mike, me, and my Mom) discussed (debated) the idea of getting Twin Dolls, one for each, a Boy and Girl. Ultimately I ruled it out. The conversation went something like this:

Mom: American Girl makes Boy and Girl Twin Dolls, and a Twin Stroller. You can choose the hair and eye coloring to be just like Delaney and Hayden's. Would they like those?

Mike: Hayden doesn't need a doll. He wants an airplane.

Me: But shouldn't we encourage boys to play with dolls and girls to play with airplanes?

Mike: Yes, but Hayden didn't ask for a Baby with a Bottle, and Delaney doesn't want an airplane.

In the end, the idea of buying two dolls just because they were life-like twins (cute though they were) seemed to diminish the one strong, well-articulated desire that each child had for his own toy.

Writer and identical twin Abigail Pogrebin tackles the "separate but duplicate" challenge that twins face in a new book, One and the Same: My Life as an Identical Twin and What I've Learned About Everyone's Struggle to be Singular.

I'm looking forward to reading Ms. Pogrebin's insights about being a twin and being your own person, too. I'll admit I haven't spent much time focused on issues of twinship-beyond the complexities of their parenting.... Challenges like getting on (staying on) the same sleep schedules. Whether they should share a room or not. How to keep them from passing colds back and forth. That sort of thing.

But issues of their twin-fluenced identity -- uniquely individual and uniquely linked forever -- didn't register until I had to help Santa decide between one doll or two.

Did I make the right decision? Hard to tell. Delaney ADORES her
babydoll, which does indeed have eyes and hair like hers. She totes "Baby" around wherever she goes.

The airport and airplane, on the other hand, take their place among rotating blocks and lego's and kid versions of heavy machinery and farm equipment. Girl stuff/boy stuff, but in the end they both play with it all.

So I guess that's the answer -- at least for now. Bring it on, and identities will sort themselves out.

If I'm wrong, Ms. Pogrebin has a new "Dear Abby" column on her website. I'm thinking I'll be a frequent visitor.

Dear Abby... why oh why won't these babies sleep all night in their own beds.....?


Hang On

Look, Laney. There's That Man.

That's not a Man, Hayden. That's a Prince. Like you.

Somewhere between Christmas and New Year's, between Los Angeles and Roatan, Delaney stopped calling her brother "Aynee" (rhymes with "heinee") and started calling him
Hayden. Her Prince.

Some things just creep up on you, like this evolution in speech and perspective. Like the all-of-a-sudden ability to climb our 10-feet-tall wrought-iron gates, and the equally startling ability to dress and undress themselves.

Like a new interest in dress-up
and magic slippers.

Like the trillions of marching wee-wee ants, that invade with alarming masses. Armed and ready for battle, against the oncoming storm.

"Lluvia," warns Senor Gomez, our gardener. The rain is coming.

The ants overwhelm and inspire. How is it that Mother Nature foreshadows so much? How is it that time marches on so quickly, just like these darn ants? We can pretend to slow their invasion, but ultimately they wriggle their way in.

Our babies aren't babies anymore. They are Prince and Princess, of their own imaginations and lightening-swift movements. With their own pitter-patter and their own happy endings.

By comparison, the rain is slow to come.