July 2013


When Everett was born we bought two strollers: a BOB Revolution and an UppaBaby Vista. We used both of them extensively. We took them on many trips, some overseas, and over time the BOB became our preferred travel stroller. We used the Vista so much that the treads were worn off the tires and had to be replaced. We saved both of them for the day when we might have more children, but neither of them are well-suited for twins so we started a new search. After an initial market survey for twin-compatible strollers we came up with the following list: Contours Optima Tandem; Bugaboo Donkey Twin; Stroll-Air Duo; BumbleRide Indie Twin; Baby Jogger City Select with extra seats.

Next, Chris made a list of requirements and we formed a decision matrix.
1. Large wheels for low vibration and low rolling resistance (strollers with those tiny plastic wheels that look like they came from office chairs were excluded).
2. Double bassinets (or carrycots as the Brits call them).
3. Seats for when the kids outgrow the bassinets.
4. Good cargo space.
5. Easy to fold and lightweight(ish).
6. Must be well-engineered. This is a category that lacks precise criteria. For example, the UppaBaby qualified as being well-engineered even though the welds were very messy (which bothered Chris). Probably the best summary is that the stroller needs to be durable and non-klunky looking.
7. Fashionable and hiptseresque. Obviously this depends on your point of view. For us this means a stroller that looks like one you would find on a pedestrian plaza in a major European city.

Based on this analysis and several trips to local baby stores Chris chose the Bugaboo.
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Yes, it’s a bit pretentious. However, it best meets our requirements and therefore Chris can sleep well at night knowing that he followed the system-engineer’s mantra of a rational, traceable, defensible process for this decision. We note that since the birth of Prince George this stroller was #3 on the list of the 17 best gifts to give the royal baby.

Here is a stroller that might have been considered but was not available at the time of our analysis. Note the generous size of these wheels compared to other strollers.
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Lastly, this one is an honorable mention but wasn’t considered because it doesn’t come in a twin version.

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The view from our room on the 7th floor of Children’s Hospital looked directly east across Wauwatosa, over Miller Valley and to downtown Milwaukee.
Sunset over Milwaukee
We could easily see the brick chimney on Wilson Elementary, and if the leaves weren’t on the trees we would have been able to see our house. It was a curious experience to spend four days out of the house yet so close to home, and it provided both literal and metaphorical changes in perspective. Here are a few thoughts and observations about our recent family events.

Things we are thankful for
-We have a boy and a girl! Theodore (aka Kitty) was born first and they told us he is a boy. Between then and the time Gwendolen (aka Piggy) came out Chris was hoping and praying for a girl, and the happiest moment for both of us was when that came true a few minutes later.
-No bedrest was required for Melissa during pregnancy.
-No NICU time for the babies.
-Mom did great during delivery, came home on schedule without complications and is healing steadily.
-The nursing staff in the Mother Baby unit was fantastic. It’s difficult to imagine better postpartum care.

New Children
In the months before the babies arrived, Chris and Melissa wondered if we could love them as much as we love Everett. Would we become attached to them, or would we view them as the auxiliary children? About a week after they were born we talked about this again and laughed at the absurdity of the question. We recall what Mimi said several years ago: you can’t imagine that you could love the second child as much as the first, but then you do. At the same time, we have made a consistent effort to give Everett the message that we love him the same way we did beforehand, and that he is doing a great job in his new role as big brother.

After birth the children exchanged gifts: Everett gave the babies toys, and they gave him an Agent P hat and a special drinking cup. Everett has been very affectionate with his new siblings and is diligent about washing his hands before touching them. A few days after we got home he sang Gwen a song that he spontaneously made up to the tune of Puff the Magic Dragon.

By the time Everett was born Melissa had been in labor for almost 50 hours and we were already exhausted. In contrast, we were well-rested the night before the twins were born, so it took a few days for sleep deprivation to take its toll, but it did eventually. In the depths of exhaustion one night after the babies were born Chris attempted to put a diaper backwards on Teddy before being gently corrected by the nurse. A few nights after we got home he brewed a pot of coffee on the kitchen counter by failing to put the carafe into the coffemaker.

According to recent research our happiness coefficient should increase about 50% based on an increase from 1 child to 3 children for parents in our age group (Margolis & Myrskylä, 2011). This was based on analysis of World Values Surveys data gathered between 1981 and 2005 from 201,988 respondents in 86 countries. This graph pretty much says it all.

Presumably they did not interview parents while they were sleep deprived and trying to calm a fussy baby or two in the middle of the night. Interestingly, for people in our age group there were similar increases for both men and women, and income was a very weak predictor of happiness.

1. Margolis R, Myrskylä M (2011) A global perspective on happiness and fertility. Population and Development Review 37:29–56.

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The arrival of our new family members coincided with several meaningful events. First was the return of Twinkies, which was also one of our in utero nicknames for the twins. We haven’t eaten a Twinkie in years, but like many people we were distressed to hear that Hostess had gone bankrupt and that these snack cakes would no longer be available. Cress found a box of them and they were just as delicious and disturbing as we remember. I think we are ready to go another 10 years before having one again.

It seems that we have timed the arrival of our children with the release of books by David Sedaris. When You Are Engulfed in Flames was released 4 days prior to Everett’s birth and we read much of it while Melissa was in labor. Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls was released on April 23rd of this year. Perfect timing. We started reading one chapter at a time together in the days before delivery, and we continued when we were in the hospital.

The twins’ arrival also closely coincided with Bastille Day, which we celebrated in the hospital room with wine and several kinds of stinky cheese.
Bastille Day Celebration
Bastille Day Feast
Melissa felt mildly self-conscious about having an empty wine bottle in the trash the next day, and made it a point to explain to the cleaning people that she did not drink it.

In the race for celebrity babies Melissa came in after Kim Kardashian (June 15) but before Princess Kate (July 22nd). In the spirit of the latter, don’t be surprised if our birth announcements are from Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kavanaugh.

Lastly, our close friends Amanda & Chad gave birth to Katherine on July 17th. Congratulations Amanda and Chad!!!

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Everett has been asking for siblings since he had the ability to communicate the idea. When none arrived within an acceptable timeframe he started asking questions like “Are you sure you are doing everything you can to get me a brother or sister?” We assured him that we were. Several months ago, after he learned that siblings were on their way, he named them Kitty and Piggy.
Several weeks ago he announced that we were having a boy and girl – he said that he put his hand on Momma’s belly and the babies told him so. He was unequivocal about this as he told friends, neighbors and family members. As a result, people naturally assume that we found out their genders. In reality we didn’t know until the moment they were born.

Melissa and Chris had been working on a list of baby names for months. Two important criteria are: 1) Their full names should sound pleasing at graduation when spoken slowly over a loudspeaker; 2) At the advice of our friend Aaron, full names should roll off the tongue when spoken sternly before an admonishment such as “Everett Maxwell Barber Butson, get in the house this instant!”. Because we didn’t know the genders, we had to have names ready for two boys and two girls. Coming up with girl’s names was relatively easy, and we had many top contenders. Boys names did not come as easily. We still had a list of contenders, but there were no clear winners and quite honestly Chris agreed to some names based on the logic that he had to say yes to something in order to avoid appearing uncooperative. Ultimately we couldn’t decide on boy’s names and instead agreed that we had to meet them before deciding.

In the finals days of pregnancy and continuing after the birth we started writing our name choices on index cards and exchanging them at the same time. During this process we discovered that we agreed on our girl’s name. And anyone who is married will tell you that once you agree on something, it’s probably a good time to stop talking about it. The boy’s name was much easier to figure out once he was born. Despite a fair amount of anxiety that we wouldn’t be able to think of a good one, he was clearly a Theodore. Some negotiations ensued about the spelling of Gwendolen and about Theodore’s middle name, and we were done.

After we announced the names to our family Everett said “I don’t even like those names!” Shortly afterward he became upset and stormed out of the room. Chris followed from a distance while Everett tried to stay ahead and out of sight. Finally he said “I’m mad at you and Momma and Gabby and Grandaddy and the babies.” Everett seemed to be upset because he thought we were laughing at him. Chris assured him that if we were it was because he said something funny, as he often does, and we were not laughing at him. He seems fascinated and joyful about the arrival of Gwen and Teddy. Nonetheless, it’s been a tumultuous transition for him.

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We are happy to announce the arrival of two new family members:
Theodore Ansel (on the left in the photo)
6lbs 7oz

Gwendolen Rose (on the right in the photo)
6lbs 13oz

Mother and babies are doing well!

Chris & Melissa

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It is the night before delivery. Melissa has felt ready for the babies to arrive for some time now. Everett and Chris have has been eager to meet them. Cress and Amanda arrived Tuesday night in preparation. The weather today was beautiful, so we had dinner outside on the patio (tacos and tostadas).
After dinner Chris and Everett practiced bike riding.
A betting pool has been setup to guess gender, weight and length.

Everett has recently acknowledged that the babies might not always be pleasant to be around. “So, the babies are going to be sort of annoying but we will be really happy that they are here.” He has also started putting some of his toys away so that the babies don’t get them. This is interesting because up to this point he hasn’t had to compete with anyone for toys or attention, and it’s not clear to us how it occurred to him that he might need to.

In the evening Chris noticed that the word of the day on the screensaver on Melissa’s computer was nuit blanche: a sleepless night.

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This summer Everett is growing much more independent. He has always been very social, and now he has started to take a much bigger interest in developing his own friendships, especially with the kids in the neighborhood. When he was younger it seemed that the kids became friends because of mutual interest by the parents, especially the Moms. This has now reversed: many of the children in the neighborhood are friends, and as a result the adults talk to each other much more often than we would otherwise.

We were home for July 4th this year. Under normal circumstances on Independence Day our schedule would be:
-Chris goes for a morning ride with the Spokesmen. At the end of the ride we roll down the parade route on North Ave and wave to admiring fans of middle-aged men on expensive road bikes.
-Chris returns home and picks up the family. We return to the parade route and watch for a couple hours.
-In the afternoon we go to Hart Park for festivities
-In the evening we watch the fireworks, either from the field behind our house or from Hart Park.

However, these are not normal times. Melissa is in the home stretch with her pregnancy. She is also very uncomfortable and has pretty limited mobility. Bike riding is out for her (though Chris tried repeatedly to get her to ride in the Bakfiets, or on the Pugsley), as is walking along the parade route in the hot sun. So we followed an alternate plan:
-Chris rode with the Spokesmen as usual, including the parade route.
-He rode home, picked up Everett and went back to the parade route while Melissa stayed home. Chris and Everett found some Y-tribe friends, and soon afterward we found Sam, George and Emma.
-We stayed home for the rest of the day. Everett took a nap in the afternoon so that he could stay up late. We cooked a steak dinner on the grill, and afterward walked over to the Marx’s house (two doors up the hill) for conversation and sparklers.
-Chris and Everett joined several neighbors by walking to Hart Park to watch the fireworks.

On Saturday Chris & Everett went for a bike ride to feed the ducks (and rid our kitchen of the many bags of old bread we save for duck food).
Everett played hard the rest of the day at home and with friends in the neighborhood. This activity level is resulting in high sleep inertia at the end of the day. That evening Everett was too tired to eat but too hungry to sleep. He said he was starving and had a stomach ache. Chris served him dinner and he promptly put his head on the dining room table and fell asleep so soundly that he fell out of his chair. Fortunately Chris was walking through the room at the moment and caught him. We gave him a bath, which woke him up enough to eat, and by the time we got him to bed he was feeling back to normal. Melissa and Chris agree that this degree of fun and exhaustion is how summers should be at his age.

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Signs of Summer

Everett’s last day of school was on June 14th.
The last day that Chris and Everett rode to school together was June 12th (Chris was traveling from the 12th to the 14th). During the last two weeks of school we started seeing definitive signs of spring: a mother duck and her ducklings from the bike path under the Mayfair Road bridge; a pair of geese and their goslings in the Menomonee River at at Hoyt Park.
Geese and goslings
Also, this spring and summer there has been a rabbit family living in our backyard: a couple months ago we awoke one morning to see the mother and three babies hopping around Everett’s fort. Since then we have only seen one baby at a time, but we have noticed them pretty consistently. Some animal, perhaps a rabbit, has been helping themselves to the strawberry vine in the backyard. This was frustrating because we finally convinced Everett to pick the strawberries when they are almost falling off the vine. He has been picking them and eating them as soon as they turn red, at which point they are still pretty sour. As soon as we convinced him to wait then some other animal started eating them. We plan to setup Chris’ motion-triggered camera to identify the culprit.

June 16th was Father’s Day. Amanda was staying with us to help out Everett and Melissa while Chris traveled the previous week. We had a delicious breakfast, and spent the day at the pool and around the house, then cooked out in the evening. At one point Chris was working at his desk on the computer and Everett walked up and said “I want you to do something fun on Father’s day. So turn that off and do something fun!” Chris was given an awesome new wallet and a handmade card from Everett. Bonus: every morning for the next week Everett announced that it was Father’s Day when he woke up.

Everett was enrolled in swim lessons and afternoon day camp starting on the first day of summer vacation, June 17th. This lasted for two weeks, and now he is attending morning summer camp until August.

We recently found a giant fungus on a tree between our house and the village.
Giant Fungus
Everett seems intrigued by it and wants to see it often – “the fungus way” is the name of a new bike route we follow to check on it. We cut a chunk off to examine and bring back to the house. Good thing, because the entire fungus was removed a couple weeks later.

Storms blew over our town in the middle of the night on Friday June 21st, and resulted in the loudest thunder we have ever heard. At first Chris wasn’t even sure it was thunder because it sounded more like an explosion than a thunderclap. Judging from the delay between the flash and the time we heard it, the lightning bolts were quite far away. Nonetheless, they produced shock waves that shook our house and reverberated for 20 or 30 seconds. It was phenomenal.

On June 23rd Chris was walking Kyra at dusk and saw the first fireflies of the year. He also saw several bats flying through the air in the field behind our house. They were most likely hunting for dinner, despite the fact that we have seen very few mosquitos so far this year. Everett loves bats because they use echolocation. And he loves fireflies (actually, I think everyone we know does as well) and asks about them daily. Our experience has been that the best way to find them is to sit quietly and watch from our front step. On June 29th Everett took a nap so that he could stay up late, and we did manage to find a few fireflies in the front yard. It wasn’t many, but then again it doesn’t seem quite warm enough for them. We haven’t yet had consistently hot weather this year – perhaps this is why both fireflies and mosquitos have been scarce.

The weather has been very strange lately. We have had a lot of rain, sometimes several rainstorms a day. The cool weather has meant that we haven’t used the air conditioning very much, and instead have had the windows open at night. Normally this would be perfect sleeping weather but instead we are often awakened by train horns. The reason is that about 30 trains a day come through Tosa, and currently the city is in a dispute with the Federal Railroad Administration about an application to continue a train horn ban (also, see here for a little more history). In the past we were dimly aware of the rumble of trains several times a day. Now we (and everyone else in the area) are very aware of the train traffic – the horns are long, loud and are sounded many times. We are about a half mile from the tracks with a large intervening hill, and we can only imagine what it must be like for houses across the street from the tracks. When Chris was Everett’s age he couldn’t get enough of trains. We’ll see how Everett feels about them at the end of the summer.

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