Raising My Twins

It's what's on my mind.

An Octopus Doing a Somersault


Cute li’l babblers.

The girls are pretty lazy with their speech, I must admit. They do a bit of “twin language,” which although it seems to be a mystery to onlookers, is simply a mash-up of words and phrases they know with lots of gobbledygook thrown in. They do a lot of filling in with rapid sounds like “goota goota goot”, which sounds really fun. There is no indication that they’ve made up their own words for things, unless you count funky pronunciation. All toddlers are famous for cute mispronunciations. Here are some of our favorites from the girls.

The Otter: oatmeal = “hot meal”; banana = “boo-nana”

Ray Ray: zebra = “zweebah”; tomato = “teemo”; cracker = “bwackeh”

An octopus doing a somersault would be an applesauce doing an applesauce.

An octopus doing a somersault would be an applesauce doing an applesauce.

Almost every 3-syllable word the girls know has turned into “applesauce”. They love applesauce. So they know “somersault” but now pronounce it “applesauce”. Then it gives them a hankering for applesauce. It’s all very clever.

Me: “Nice somersault!”
Ray Ray: “Yeah…applesauce!”
Me: “It’s ‘somersault’, not ‘applesauce’.”
The Otter: “Applesauce?! OKAY!”

Tricky bunnies.


My Rough Weekend (That Kept Giving)

DISCLAIMER: This is an account of our family getting sick, so don’t read it if this will bother you. Remember, this blog is first and foremost for my distant family to keep up with our goings on, so that will hopefully answer your question, “Why would she write about that?!”

The four of us in tent Sunday morning.

The weekend before last we had planned to drive 4 1/2 hours down to Pismo Beach with the twins to visit my husband’s dad, camp on the beach and ride “quads”—4-wheeled motorcycles. It was only to be one overnight because of the difficulty of wrangling twin toddlers.

My husband’s two boys are in town for a month-and-a-half summer vacation—they are staying with Grandma—and it occurred to me that this was just the type of thing the boys would like, so we invited them to come along too.

Friday night, the boys went to dinner with their grandparents at a Hometown Buffet and Brian and I made jokes about food poisoning (we will NOT eat there), which later did not seem so funny. The boys came over to spend the night, and in the morning we learned that the oldest boy had gotten sick overnight.

My first thought was to take them back to the grandparents, so he could be comfortable and not in the car (!) for half a day, but hubby was anxious to leave town and didn’t seem to welcome the detour, so he just asked the kid if he was okay, and the kid—not wanting to miss out—said yes.

Well he was not okay. He ended up vomiting in the back seat in spite of our regular inquiries about his state of queasiness, missing the bag we had equipped him with. We stopped at a quick mart and he helped clean up the backseat with lots of cleaning spray and paper towels.

We got to Pismo and the weather was not ideal—it was incredibly windy, which meant incredibly sandy. The sand was whipping into our faces already. Well we put the girls in their pods in Grandpa’s RV and Brian went for a ride with his dad.

The play tent before I packed it up. See all the sand?

Rachel’s nap did not take, and I ended up setting up a little dome tent on the lee side of the RV and trying to play with her in there. It was rather ridiculous and I found myself chuckling when every swirling gust of wind outside sent a shower of sand through the tent’s air vents. I made Rachel a peanut butter and jam sandwich, and never has the term been so appropriate. She ate some anyway, my little superstar.

When the guys returned, Chris said we should really get out of there. The wind was not expected to die down until late that evening, so he called a local campground and got a spot. We packed quick and got over there.

Opening up our old tent revealed that we had forgotten to set it up for clean up after last summer’s rainy departure from the twins’ club’s camp trip. Major oops. Ugh, moldy tent. Not recoverable. A quick trip into town had us set up with a Coleman Instant Tent (link to a similar model—ours must be an older one) which we had wanted anyway. (Did we sabotage our old, 90-pole tent unconsciously on purpose?) This new tent really does set up in one minute! Love it.

Tent set up, things got a bit easier. Toddlers were allowed to run around in there and play on the air mattress. We had dinner and shortly went to bed.

Middle of the night, other big kid is wretching…in camp. Dad went to help him. He was very sick but was able to crawl back in tent maybe an hour and a half later.

At this point, I started to really be anxious. I had that hot pins and needles sensation around my head that signals physical symptoms from anxiety. I know that fears and negative feelings are much worse at night for me, so I tried to breathe through it, but I couldn’t help feeling that my own little family unit was in danger. I’m talking about the deep-seated sense of “get away from the sick people” that helped humankind live through plagues and epidemics in our history.

Now, I’m well aware that given the modern context this sounds a little irrational, but as I said, anxiety is always worse for me at night and also—it should be said—my 2-year-olds had never had a vomiting virus. I admit I was devising escape plans to remove the girls from the influence of what was clearly a communicable illness.

In the end, I had to accept that there was nothing to do but try our best to stay sanitary and wait it out. I also accepted that the upcoming days were most likely going to be filled with sick babies and probably a sick me and a sick Dad too, and I just hoped fervently that we would at least end up sick with decent spacing so I could care for us.

The next day, Sunday, we had to contain the babies in the tent all morning while we packed up camp because there were toxic sick spots all over camp. This was irritating, but I tried my best to be sympathetic rather than selfish.

Rachel at a fun moment with Dad on her little three-wheeler.

Later on down at the beach, I got to go out for one very fun ride with hubby on the quads, and after that we got out of town.

We stopped for dinner and everyone was able to eat well except me…I wasn’t super hungry and I figured that was probably ominous, but whatever. I just longed for home.

At about 7pm, Rachel had fallen asleep in her car seat as that was her usual bedtime, but woke up with a violent bout of vomiting. This mommy was pretty distraught…I was leaning over the seat (hubby trying to pull over) just wishing I could, like, hold her together. Watching her spew like that kind of felt like watching her come apart. She was crying from pain and confusion—it was her first experience of this sort.

15 minutes later, car seat and baby cleaned up. And back in the damn car for another hour and a half to home. I was stressed and little despairing. I was so sad I couldn’t hold my little girl while she felt rotten. And both my girls were going down for sure now.

Back at home, when Rachel was sick a second time (I watched her turn whitish green this time) the bathroom was occupied. At this point I was not a picture of calm. I verbally, loudly ejected a boy out of bathroom and told him to get his dad, where he reported, “She’s swearing a lot.”

The fun of having twins is illustrated by this story: I’m helping a girl vomit and trying to clean her up, but also trying to stretch and bend my eyes around the corner to see that second girl is not playing in the vomit left behind. Ugh. Fortunately Audrey was quietly playing with a toy across the room and made no moves toward the mess.

Rachel back in bed. Boys picked up by their Auntie and taken back to Grandma’s. Lots of messes cleaned and laundry hot-washed. (See here for cleaning tips for the norovirus). Dad and I afraid to go to sleep because we were waiting for the inevitable next round from Rachel. When it came around 1am we were still up and we both held her and comforted her while she was sick in a lined wastebasket we had brought into her room. Dad was really very comforting…he told her she was okay over and over and encouraged her to “get it all up.” I was warmed to see this for the first time. And Rachel was really calmed by it.

The next day I felt much more calm. I knew the rest of us were still at risk but we were HOME. So much better to deal with sickness at home. I had just put the girls down for a nap at noon when Audrey sat up, crying. This could only be one thing, but it was so imminent I felt I could not move her for fear of making her feel worse, or even feel pain if I touched her tummy. So she was sick in the crib. I got her all cleaned up and scoured the crib while she slept in the pack-n-play. There was another incident—easily contained—in there, and one more later. And that was the worst part for Audrey.

1am. My turn. I’ll spare you those details, but I will say the misery of this illness is profound. Interestingly, I had noticed that each case was almost exactly 17 hours from onset to onset, except mine (11 hours) and that the vomiting only lasted for 6 hours each person. What I could not know until it was my turn is that the next 24 hours are absolutely rough. B had to work and so I was alone with the girls and I had to just rot their little brains with TV all day because I literally could not function. I struggled mightily through diaper changes, and threw crackers and breakfast bars—total junk food!—on the table to feed them. This is utterly unlike me but I really couldn’t do better. Not that day.

And there ends the saga, pretty much. Thankfully, Big B was lucky to escape the bug. Now, what was it? We at first thought—naturally—that it was food poisoning. When second kid got it, we weren’t sure any more. But it was. It’s both food poisoning and contagious stomach bug. It’s the norovirus—the one that infects hundreds of cruise ship passengers at times. Hand sanitizers and Lysol don’t kill viruses, which left us vulnerable in the car. Bleach is the ticket. And when you can’t bleach, such as doing laundry? Lots of baking soda and vinegar in the wash. Here are more tips to sanitize for norovirus if it comes your way.

My house and car are cleaner than they’ve ever been now.


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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Update On Four Meals, and a Recipe

We’ve been adhering to a four-meal-per-day system for over a month now (read this post to see why we started it) and I have to say, it’s been a huge success. Not only is it easier for me to plan and serve four meals, rather than 3 meals plus 2 snacks (seems not a big difference, but it is…what can I say?) but the girls are hungrier at each meal, and so they eat more with less fuss.

I do not force anything on them. I give them three to four choices. Often they won’t eat one of them, and that’s okay. Because like every mom, I do have some go-to meals that I know give them their needed nutrition. This helps me to relax when they eat NO dinner, and that happens at least once a week because they don’t like what we’re eating (falafel, anyone?) Rachel always tries the food now, which is fun and encouraging, and if she doesn’t like it, she doesn’t eat more. Audrey will still size things up by how they look and sometimes reject without trying. But she’s slowly getting more willing to have a taste.

Dinner is always with us at the “dining room” table (it’s in the living room). And for this last meal, I’ve continued to offer whatever we eat to the girls, with occasional exceptions…lately we’ve eaten a lot of salads, and I don’t expect 22-month olds to eat those, so I offer them some components of the salad, like chicken and avocado, with, say, a quesadilla. At the end of every meal they get milk, in a regular, open cup. They love this part. They are getting really skilled at drinking this way. Rachel didn’t spill a drop of her OJ this morning!

Since starting the four-meal days, trips to restaurants are less stressful—they know what is happening (high chair always means meal time) and they are considerably more patient, as well as attentive to their food. It’s amazing! Truthfully, we have only put this to the test once since the last post, I think, but still…it was a good experience. They were amazingly well-behaved, and it was a somewhat-lingering dinner at our friends’ restaurant.

So the early benefits have lasted. I’m completely sold on it. Oh, one other thing: it matches with my philosophy of showing the girls that every family member’s needs and time are important. They are old enough to wait for their meals to come at predictable times, not demand that mom drop everything and get them a snack. (Not that they did that before, but they are under 2, and eating all day would seem to cultivate an appetite for immediate gratification eventually, and that’s something I don’t want them to grapple with any more than necessary.)

And now, here are some fun food standbys that make my life easier.

Rachel scarfs some "Half and Half Soup." Here's a tip on boxed organic soups: Imagine Foods has the lowest sugar content by far...much lower than Amy's.

The first is “half and half soup”—a lazy creation of mine that I think is fun. The girls like tomato soup by itself but they don’t like butternut squash soup as much, for instance. So I started getting them to eat a bit more of the latter by pouring yogurt on one side of the bowl and the soup on the other. And now I do this for tomato too, to cut the sodium down and give them more calcium and protein. And here’s the best part: I serve it cold…so I pour the sides simultaneously right out of the refrigerated cartons. So easy for mom!

And below is my recipe for Zucchini-Banana Bread (AllRecipes link—easier to print), which is quite beloved by my family and friends. I wanted a good snack to give the babes when they started eating solids, that didn’t contain too much sugar and did contain some protein, iron and vitamins. So I made batch after batch of zucchini bread with various modifications until I got some I really loved, and the girls always go for it. Now I usually make it in large batches of muffins and freeze them individually. It is lightly sweetened with molasses and bananas, and it’s egg-free (but not vegan) because little Audrey gets hives from eggs, sadly.

Often I make this lower fat by substituting apple sauce for half of the canola oil, and that’s how I’ll regularly make them when the girls are older. Also, if you don’t have that much zucchini, shredded carrot works great too!

Zucchini-Banana Muffins the whole family loves!

Low-Sugar Zucchini-Banana Bread


  • 3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 3/4 cup whole milk yogurt
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups grated zucchini


  1. Grease two 8 x 4 inch pans, or 4 mini loaf pans, or muffin tins. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon together.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, mashed bananas, molasses, yogurt and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix well.
  4. Fold in zucchini and pour into pans.
  5. Bake for 50–55 minutes for 8 x 4 inch pans, 40–45 for mini-loaf pans. 25 minutes for muffins.
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Food Wars: Finding Peace Time

My almost-two-year-old girls have (typical to their age I understand) slowly slid from awesome, adventurous tryers of most things, into rather particular and petulant eaters.

I sensed that catering to their whims was probably reinforcing their pickiness, and maybe two weeks ago I somewhat meekly started—at dinner only—a program of offering the girls only what we eat—no special meals just for them. And milk is always offered when they are done eating.

Rachel tucks into some fried rice—with vigor and mad big-fork skills.

Well, I was emboldened after reading an article sent from my dad, which described how French parents give three meals and one late-afternoon snack to their children, to start a four-meal-per-day schedule, which I started last Thursday. I also decided to extend my “take-it-or-leave-it” dinner plan to all four meals. So dinner has remained as it was, where I serve a healthy dinner without thinking about what they like (very much). Breakfast is, and has been, the same for a long time—oatmeal with cinnamon and blueberries. Goes like gangbusters most days. But now “Lunch 1” and “Lunch 2” as I like to think of them (because I offer hearty stuff at each, unlike a “snack”) each consist of 3-4 offerings, which I get ready before they are in the chairs, and show them to the girls as they are seated, telling them that’s what their choices are.

If they reject everything, then mealtime is over. If they throw their spoon, they must eat with their hands, etc. You get the idea. (And if they only eat two orange slices, then I resist the urge to rifle through the fridge for something they like, or hand them an easy snack food.)

I’d been thinking about doing this anyway, to formalize eating and thereby start to institute manners. But the article gave me much more conviction to follow through. So meals now require the girls sit in their high chairs, either in kitchen or dining room, rather than my former “lazy” lunch/snack method of handing them sandwich pieces or forking tofu cubes into their mouths as they play. Or piling some cheese and crackers on the table for them to graze at. (Oh yeah, I did that…often.)

At first, the girls rejected most of dinner as usual—didn’t even try a bite of very delicious lasagna no matter what we tried. But soon they started at least trying more items, especially Rachel. And then, almost a week into the new schedule, they ate broccoli again! And tons of it. They hadn’t eaten broccoli—formerly one of Audrey’s tip-top favorites—for months now, at any meal, probably because there was always the possibility of something more interesting if it was rejected.

That night’s dinner was broiled flounder, broccoli and red potatoes. A hungry Rachel tried the fish immediately—no suspicious eyeballing—but didn’t like it (no problem) and she even tried the potatoes, a food she’s rejected since birth, inexplicably. And she liked the potatoes enough to have maybe six forkfuls. Audrey tried a bite or two of potatoes, wouldn’t try the fish. But both girls saw in the broccoli an old familiar, it seems, so it went down the hatch…in droves!  It seems they were hungry enough to eat what was available. I actually had to run and cook two extra “trees” of broccoli for those maniacs! Rachel was downright scowly with impatience as we tried to cool pieces rapid-fire for her!

It’s been a few more days since that night and both girls are eating so much better than they were with the old system (which was based on the current American mainstream advice of three meals and two snacks) and I am happier and more organized. I haven’t even thought of handing them a cereal bar since I started the new schedule, and here’s why: I can easily, happily make four meals with a few healthy items each. Especially when I am not concerned about whether they eat or not. Before, it seemed like it was always time to think about yet another nosh for them, and it was so exhausting, prepping or thinking about toddler food all day like that, that I’d end up just handing them cereal bars sometimes, or a pile of bunny crackers. When we went out, I’d pack four or five varieties of finger foods, to be sure they liked something. Now I plan to bring one complete meal. And I’ll reserve “snacks” only for an unlikely car breakdown. Oh, I should mention too, that I’ve dispensed with the term “snack” for now as well, as it was causing me to choose cruddier options, I think, because of their “snackiness.”

The new way is working much better, and the girls seem brighter and more interested at mealtimes as well. I am not rigid with the times…if they are having an extra hungry day, I’ll feed them early. But it’s still only four meals each day. I think they like the formality better too. They know the rules (no throwing) when they are in their chairs, and this way I’m not compromising these new manners by feeding them in the living room or wherever. Bonus: they get an attentive, relaxed mother again, who typically eats with them and goofs around a little. I used to love mealtimes and feeding these girls. And now I do again!

Cross your fingers it lasts a while.

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