Raising My Twins

It's what's on my mind.

The Problem With Shopping

If I had my druthers, everything edible I buy would be:
• organic
• whole grain
• locally grown/raised
• sustainably grown and responsibly/humanely harvested
• free of artificial colors and flavors (and for that matter, free of natural colors and flavors)
• not loaded with sweeteners of any sort
• packaged responsibly

A frequent “finger food” for the babies when they were smaller was elbow macaroni noodles which I had to buy at Whole Foods because I wanted whole grain, organic macaroni. For whatever reason, in spite of the growing consumer base for organics and the decades-older “trend” (I thought) toward whole grain products, in mainstream stores it is difficult to find the two attributes combined.

And I live in one of the best areas for this stuff. I’m 5 miles from Berkeley, California, where health trends are very broad-reaching and persistent…that is, many people in this area have been at  their various “alternative” food-buying practices for decades. These aren’t “trendsters”, they are the lifestyle sort of vegans, raw food devotees, locavores, wild foragers, etc.

I find it strange and disappointing that my local Raley’s—a store that rides the line between mainstream supermarket and Whole Foods by providing a moderate selection of organics and bulk foods—only stocks two shapes of pasta that meet the criteria of organic and whole wheat: penne and rotelle. And I think it goes without saying that there is only one brand to choose from. This is the same at most local stores I found. Honestly, I don’t really care about the shape of the pastas I eat, but my girls did: they found the elbow macaroni infinitely easier to pick up when they were self-feeding newbies, and macaroni is also sized right for a tiny human. Penne is so much bigger, and babies tend to stuff a whole piece of food—whatever size presents itself—into their faces.

I have to make a lot of choices when shopping. It takes me a longer than it used to, before I collected a long list of must-haves and would-really-likes. I occasionally have to choose either whole grain or organic, and increasingly that choice is organic. But even more often, I just circle through three local stores to get what I need, rather than try to get everything at one place. When I am organized, this does not add time or significant mileage, I just go to a different one of the three each week.

For instance, one week, it’s Raley’s for most things, including all these organic things: fresh fruits/veggies, milk, cheeses, bulk oatmeal, flours and convenience staples like canned beans. They also have fancy cereal for an occasional change of pace, and basic junk treats like Diet Coke. (I’m not a purist.)

Next week, Costco. Now, just about nothing here is going to be locally produced, so as this is the newest druther on my long list, I’ll have to rethink most Costco purchases, but for now: coffee, organic soy milk (convenient cases of 12 quarts that don’t need refrigeration for $15 or so!), organic frozen blueberries (missing from the freezer on my most recent trip…don’t know if I should grieve yet), occasional large blocks of organic cheese, etc.

The next week Trader Joe’s. Same nonlocal problem though. Fresh and frozen organic veggies and fruits, OJ, chocolate, junk food (try their chocolate croissants, found in the freezer section…you have to proof them overnight before baking but they are incredible!)

Of course now it’s summer, and buying locally is incredibly easy—farmers’ markets galore!—unless you keep leaving town and missing them! Aargh. We haven’t been to the market in 4 solid weeks because of trips and recreation. I’m jonesing to grab more big batches of berries and peas before they disappear.

We also started a garden, but found out how woefully underplanted we were as each crop that comes into fruit (and/or veg) is pretty much able to be consumed while standing next to the pot.

Our plum tree is a delight every year, in spite of our inadequacy in staving off tree enemies (trenemies?) like aphids and leaf curl for good. This year looks to be low yield though, due to a late pruning on my part, which had the tree redirecting its energies toward healing its wounds instead of fruiting like crazy. No matter…next year should be a bumper crop!

In any case, I do believe that I am “voting” with what I purchase, so it’s worthwhile to me to find what I really want to purchase instead of compromise. I also plan to learn more with my family about where all our food really comes from, so we have a clear picture of how nature—with us in it—really works.

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Traveling With Two Toddlers

We just got back from Southern California where we watched our lovely nieces graduate high school and middle school. It was a great trip and one we wouldn’t have missed for anything, but the girls being just two years old makes traveling 500 miles a special challenge.

I made a pretty brilliant plan for the trip down, if I don’t say so myself. We would start at the girls’ regular bed time of 7pm and drive past the midpoint to the top of the Grapevine in 5 hours, stay overnight, have breakfast in the morning, drive 3o minutes to a MyGym (indoor playground) for a toddler class and play time, then power down the last 2 hours of freeway, hopefully with sleeping toddlers.

As I anticipated, the toddlers did not like sleeping in the car seats, which is why this overnight plan was made. Just like big humans, our toddlers prefer to be unfettered and free to toss and turn while sleeping (unlike when they were babies and traveled pretty easily even for long distances). So we had a short initial stretch when two babies were sleeping, then Audrey was uncomfortable and loud about it, then Rachel. Eventually both passed out, exhausted and angry. An hour later we reached our stopping point.

Transferring babies into their pods after we move our own stuff in is relatively easy. One parent stays in the car while the other goes in, checks the room and unloads baby tents. Then back to the car where each parent tries to unbuckle and lift a sleeping girl and move her without waking her. Usually somebody wakes up. But our girls are not too hard to coax back to sleep. As long as we get settled and turn off lights soon after they are deposited in their pods, all is usually well.

In this case, Audrey woke briefly for the transfer, then happily and immediately cozied down in her tent pod and closed her eyes. Rachel watched us quietly organizing for a bit, then I moved her into my eye line to sleep, as she seemed to need a little extra reassurance. All was well.

The morning plan went off with just one hitch: a diaper blowout of epic proportions that had us washing laundry in the bathtub. Minus one pillow, we hit Denny’s for breakfast and then hit the road. The play gym was a really fun time for the girls and with that stop we were half an hour further south by nap time. The car naps didn’t last more than an hour, but the girls missing some sleep is better than the girls missing all sleep. And they tolerated being in the car seats for the last hour pretty well.

The way home has Coalinga as the most “convenient” stopping point, if you want to get 5 hours up the road. It’s not a lovely place, unless you are a tiny flying pest or a stinky cow pie scent molecule, in which case it is the place to be. In any case, we didn’t do so well with our overnight here. The place was sweltering and the air conditioning in our hotel room was woefully inadequate, taking 2 hours to cool to what I’d call “marginally comfortable”. Rachel would not settle down until I gave her ice water, but eventually we all cooled off and slept enough to drive the final 3 hours home.

Glad to be home! And the trip was more than just the drive, of course. It was a wonderful family celebration of milestones and we have so many happy memories and pictures.

With this new, more comfortable plan of action for traveling these familiar 500 miles, perhaps we can visit our SoCal family more often this summer.

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Post By A Fellow Blogger: Things I Want My Kids To Learn From Their Grandparents

The link below will lead you to a post from a fellow blogger I follow. Initially I reposted it directly but that makes it look very much as if it is my own post, so I’m re-posting it as a link. Don’t want to confuse anyone!

I loved this post because it’s so warm and I believe these are good values. Enjoy!


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And Now It Gets Much Harder…Or Does It?

The toddler years were the most daunting to contemplate when I was told I was having twins. They still are! These are the months and years I worried about the most. The ones my mom worried about on my behalf. And they are here.

The girls have just passed their second birthday and we had some extremely difficult days leading up to it. The thing is…I know it’s only the beginning. I’ve actually said it—if only to myself—many times recently, “This is the real beginning of the toddler times.” Way long ago last summer, when one of the girls had her first public tantrum at Sea World because we wouldn’t walk in her chosen direction, I thought that was the beginning. And it was. Sort of. See, it keeps escalating…the toddlerness I mean. And I’m scared that I can’t even guess how much further we have to go on this journey of willfulness and contrariness. Hoo boy. I mean…they are just barely TWO now!

Time to be honest. Most of the time, I handle the day-to-day craziness very well. I’m happy to give myself this credit because I actually work really hard at it. But occasionally—always when I have to get something done—I can’t handle it, and I freak out a little…throw my own tantrum.

After the birthday, I spent 9 days toddler proofing the kitchen so that I could finally take the gates (mostly) down in the house. I knew that most of the acting up was because they are getting too old to be cooped up in two rooms. I looked forward to getting the project done so I could let them help me with little tasks in the kitchen, which should help them feel some more power and control, and, in theory, act up less.

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Well, that whole week was terrible because I was trying to get projects done and they were acting up like crazy due to my being less attentive. But I pushed through anyway, knowing that at the end was the best prize they could hope for: freedom!

I opened up the kitchen Sunday night (or was it Monday?) and they have been having a blast. They can now run a circuit around the kitchen/living room wall if they like (I wish they would run some laps), draw on the chalkboard wall in the kitchen, help me with little kitchen tasks, and get into new sorts of mischief.

So the kitchen is organized and looks rather good for a mid-remodel kitchen, and I was right…the girls are acting up a little less now, because they are being allowed to exercise more control over their environment. And I have been having success with the gentle parenting method of firmly but respectfully reminding them of boundaries and giving them the choice to comply before I pluck them (Audrey) off the garbage cans…again…and again. Now that I’ve had a few good nights’ sleep.