January 2014

Winter 2014

People often regard winter in Wisconsin as some kind of hardship. In fact, we love it. And it looks like the state is embracing the idea with the slogan “Winter Becomes You”:


One day recently we bundled up the kids and went to the lakefront when it was about -10F.
It’s really quite beautiful.

Lake Michigan Panorama

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Six Months

Teddy & Gwen turned six months old on January 12th. To celebrate we did what we do on most days: try to avoid the feeling that our life is unraveling while we attempt to care for three children, two of whom are tyrants (ok, lovable tyrants). We took Everett to Sunday school and then the entire family went to church. Afterward Chris and Everett tromped around in the snow for a couple hours and tried to take advantage of the warm temperatures to clear the ice off the driveway. Teddy and Gwen were outside with us and took a nap in their bassinets. Later in the day Chris took all three children on a trip to REI so that Melissa could have some quiet time.

Our experience with the twins has been rewarding but also exhausting. Every night is an unpredictable odyssey, yet we are always hopeful at bedtime that we (and everyone else) will sleep through it. I think it’s safe to say that neither Melissa nor Chris has experienced this degree of sleep deprivation before. But the babies are extremely cute and lovable, and our impression of them is the same we had with Everett when he was their age: soon after they were born we developed the impression that they are the way babies should look. Somehow this feeling isn’t diminished by having twins.

Teddy is extremely sensitive to and aware of his surroundings. We have now reached the point where we need to feed him in a dark, quiet place that is free of sensory input simply so that he will stay focused on eating. He is also very active. He has started scooting across the floor to reach his toys and other objects. In contrast, Gwen seems quiet and relaxed. There are many times when we will go into the nursery and find her wide awake but content and quiet, something that we have rarely observed with Teddy. She is very interested in eating. Actually, that’s an understatement – she seems to lurch forward and attack the food as it approaches her mouth, and she sometimes screams if there is too much time between bites. We have given her bananas, avocados and oatmeal. Teddy has been far less interested. He is curious about the spoon, but otherwise doesn’t seem so curious about what’s on it, or figuring out how to swallow it.

Each of them develops at their own rate. It seems that one of them will surge ahead in some new capability and then plateau, and later the other one will catch up. Teddy seemed to be out in front for a while with physical development. He is still very active, but Gwen has made a lot of progress, even if she isn’t as wild as he is. For example: Teddy will get into the exersaucer and slam his bottom down as hard as he can, causing the springs to compress and the whole thing to lurch to one side; Gwen will interact with it, but sometimes put her head down and go to sleep while upright. Teddy also started vocalizing earlier than Gwen, but this week she was the first to start using a recognizable word: “Dada”. Other recent observations:
-The bottom two front teeth have now poked through the gums in Teddy’s mouth.
-Teddy has invented his own eponymous dance.
-Everett has come up with several new renditions of Beyonce’s All the Single Ladies: All the Sleeping Babies; All the Crying Babies; All the Screaming Babies; and All the Stinky Babies.
-Over the last week Teddy has taken a much greater interest in eating, though he has a different style than Gwen. She gets right down to business and seems to swallow most of the food. He takes a spoonful of food and then follows it up with his thumb while grabbing the spoon with his free hand.
-Both Teddy and Gwen have started outgrowing clothing and baby equipment. We are getting ready to give some clothing away, and their bouncy seats are going back on Craigslist. Actually, the latter is more for safety: one day we found that Teddy had folded his torso over his feet and off to one side. His head almost hit the floor, and he could have easily tipped the entire chair over. This was an experience we have never had with Gwen or Everett.
-Both of them can roll over at will, and we often finding them sleeping on their stomach.
-Lastly, both now sit at the table with us for dinner each night.

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We are in the middle of winter in Wisconsin. Among other things, this means that the ground is covered in snow, ice and salt, a lot of which gets tracked into the floor in the new minivan. To better preserve the fabric we ordered rubber floor mats which arrived a week ago. After unpacking them, Chris and Everett started playing around with the boxes and in the process Everett got hurt. Without going into too much detail, he hit his head on the floor pretty hard while Chris was trying to hold him upright. He cried, which almost never happens from physical injuries, and this added to our sense of alarm. We laid him on the couch, put ice on his head, put Phineas and Ferb on Netflix and kept a close eye on him. For the next hour Everett seemed to start feeling better while Chris started feeling worse. By bedtime Everett seemed back to his normal self and was pouncing on Chris while getting “settled down” to go to sleep, but it took a few days before Chris could start to get the event off his mind. Afterward Everett agreed with Chris it was a bad idea to be playing with the boxes the way we were. However, using Dad logic it might be more accurate to say that this was a questionable idea, and that the reason it made the transition to “bad” was because Everett got hurt. It’s worth noting that Dads come up with a lot of questionable ideas that seem, in retrospect, benign. Some even get spun as fun afterward. But the most memorable (and gut wrenching) ones seem to be those when your child got hurt and you could have prevented it.

On a related subject Chris has noticed that he and Everett are roughhousing less often than we used to, and the most likely explanation is that when we do someone often gets hurt. This is probably due to the simple facts that Everett now weighs close to 50 pounds and he is getting stronger everyday. Continued roughhousing will likely require a safer play area than we have in this house.

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Star Wars

Melissa and Everett watched The Empire Strikes Back while Chris was traveling for work this week. When Chris returned he discovered that Everett was pretty concerned about what happened between Darth Vader and Luke (spoiler alert!).

“If Darth Vader is Luke’s father then why did he cut Luke’s arm off?”

We tried to explain, though it didn’t seem to help.

“But he is Luke’s father!”

Then he asked Chris “Would you cut my arm off?”

Fortunately we were able to inject some humor into the situation with the book Darth Vader & Son, which Everett received for Christmas. I hesitate to give too strong a recommendation for humorous books because it can get expectations too high, but if you enjoy Star Wars and children’s books then this one is worth reading. Here is one of my favorite pages:
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Lastly, we note that despite the angst caused by The Empire Strikes Back, Everett is very excited to see The Return of the Jedi.

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As a Christmas present this year Gabby and Grandaddy took us to Disney World along with Matt, Katie and Trinity. Everyone was in on the secret except Everett, who we told on Christmas Eve. Remarkably, he didn’t find out beforehand despite several close calls at home and in Cincinnati. After a few of these we concluded that Melissa is probably not cut out to be a spy.

The Disney trip was exceptional. We arrived about midday on Saturday with our wristbands on and went straight to the Contemporary Hotel. It seemed too late in the day to use a park pass, so instead we went to the pool in the afternoon and went to bed at a reasonable time that night. We didn’t know if at the time, but this would be our last reasonable bedtime for about a week. Most days we got up to have an early breakfast and then went to one of the parks, then came back to the hotel to rest in the afternoon, and then went to the parks again in the evening. This time of year was high season and the parks were open long hours which were extended even further for people who were staying on Disney property. We could have gone to the Magic Kingdom from 7am to 3am almost every day of the week. A photo gallery of the trip is here.

Day 2: It was raining so we went to Disney Studios, which seemed the best option for the weather. One highlight of many was the Star Tours ride. After returning to the hotel and resting in the afternoon, we went to the Magic Kingdom for a couple hours where we got to experience short lines and lots of repeated rides like the Barnstormer roller coaster. This was our first roller coaster of the week with Everett and he loved it. We also went on Splash Mountain a few times. On the way out of the park that night we discovered that there is a magic system where kids can become sorcerers and interact with seemingly inert objects and window displays around the park.

Day 3: We went to the Magic Kingdom during the day, and Everett practiced more sorcery.

Day 4 (New Year’s Eve): We went to Animal Kingdom. The safari was by far the best attraction. That night we had a fantastic dinner at Sanaa before returning to the hotel for a toast and nightcap.
At midnight we watched the fireworks from the hotel.

Day 5: We had an early start with a 7am character breakfast at Chef Mickey’s.
Then went to Epcot. It was raining off and on, but we were still able to get in all of the rides we had planned on. And Everett was able to experience the magic of becoming a secret agent. Like the Magic Kingdom we discovered that there is a whole other world at work within Epcot. It is brilliant, simply too cool to describe in words. The short of it is that you get to be a secret agent who is trying to defeat Dr. Doofenshmirtz, and there is a different adventure in each country. In each adventure you use a cell phone to communicate with headquarters to receive your mission instructions. Then you use it to interact with seemingly inert objects all over the park.

Day 6: On the last day we had a quick breakfast and went straight to the park to ride the Thunder Mountain Railroad. Then we met the rest of the family at the front of the park for photos,
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and then went on two more rides before returning to the room for our midday rest. By late afternoon we were ready to go again, so we dropped the babies off with Gabby and Grandaddy and took the monorail to Epcot where we did an Agent P adventure in Mexico, had dinner in Germany, rode Maelstrom, and finally had dessert in France. We took the monorail home and as we passed the Magic Kingdom on the way to our hotel Everett realized that this was our last day. Chris and Melissa were both really tired, but Everett looked deflated and really wanted to go on one more ride. So he and Chris stayed on the monorail and went back around to the Magic Kingdom where we arrived just in time to see the fireworks and watch Tinker Bell fly down from the castle. Then we rode Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain one last time. As we got off Splash Mountain we realized that the train back to the park exit had closed and that we had to walk, which worked out ok because we saw the parade once more on the way out.


-We have never seen so many strollers in our lives. There were huge stroller parking lots in many areas of the park, each with attendants.

-The twins and Everett were fantastic during the trip. We got into a daily rhythm of breakfast, park, lunch, nap, dinner, park (with Everett). The daily nap seemed to be the key element to keep everyone sane and happy. Many nights we accepted the generous offer from Gabby and Grandaddy’s En Suite Babysitting Service to watch the twins while Chris, Melissa and Everett went back to the park for the evening. Everyone in the family did surprisingly well considering how tiring it can be to have fun all day.

-We learned Everett’s signal when he is ready for a ride on Chris’ shoulders. He walks right in from of Chris and stops, then puts his arms straight out to the sides and says “I’m ready for the comfy seat!” Interestingly, Everett often reported that he was not tired, but that he couldn’t walk any farther. That must be another manifestation of the magic in the Magic Kingdom.

-Everett observed during this trip that Gwen looks right in your eyes when she cries, while Teddy closes his. Also, Gwen’s eyebrows turn red when she is upset.

-Disney is much more advanced than when Chris or Melissa were kids, and even more than we imagined. Examples are the Fast Pass system, the bracelets, the line system for families with infants.

-Everett worked his way up the roller coasters from Barnstormer to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad to Expedition Everest and finally Space Mountain. He never expressed the slightest reservation about getting on any of them. In fact, he used the word “awesome!” pretty often.

-We never anticipated that a platypus would have such a huge role in our lives. Everett doesn’t ask for much in the way of toys, so when he expresses interest in something then people try to do what they can. He now has Perry the Platypus pajamas, curtains, 3 platypus stuffed animals, Mickey Mouse ears, shoes and several other things that I am probably forgetting. The amazing thing about this is what an odd superhero Perry makes. He doesn’t talk, and in fact he makes on one sound (kind of a teeth-chattering grrrrr). His major appeal seems to be his intelligence, sense of adventure and the mystique of being a secret agent. Good stuff.

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