Thursday, August 30, 2007

Some Videos

Here are a couple of quick videos to brighten your day

Lorelai vs her socks

Reece trying to crawl

Latest Images

Yes, i am getting caught up on all kinds of stuff while I am on vacation, including uploading these.

Eclecta's Flikr Site

So for all of you who come here just to see pictures of babies, and not to hear me rant and rave about life in the the business world, here is a set of pictures of the babies, taken by my sister, aka Eclecta on her visit last month.

By the way, this is my fist blog post written on my bitchin new 22 inch widescreen LCD monitor.

Monday, August 27, 2007


I don't take a lot of time off work for personal downtime. I'm always saving it up for a rainy day, or some trip I've dreamt of taking, or just to have a bunch of time to cash out should I ever move on to another job. But this week is going to be different. I'm taking Wednesday-Thursday-Friday off, and I'm just going to putter around. Maybe I'll run a few errands, do a little yard work, take a little drive. Of course I'll spend time with the kids, but the nanny will be here, and they'll be in good hands.

I think I just need some time to step back and relax after a really bad couple of weeks at work. Any week on call is a bad week, but this has been the worst in three or four years. The phone has not stopped ringing, going off at all hours of the day and night. I nearly chucked it today. It 'fell' from my grasp a couple of times, but the damn thing still works but luckily it still works.

I've often considered the question 'What else am I good at?'. Could I do anything else that would allow me to support the family in the style we've become accustomed to, and to be happy at the same time? My view on happiness has sure changed in the past few years. I use to measure my success solely on the basis of my career. Then my health took a turn for the worse as I consistently went through the push and crash so inherent in the software industry. Meaningless release cycles, driven by arbitrary due dates made up by some asshole sales and marketing dweeb who just wanted to make sure he got his yearly golf trip to the Cayman Islands in on schedule while he embezzled thousands of dollars hidden in corporate expense accounts, while the axe fell on hundreds of hard working employees just trying to make ends meet. I use to sleep on my office floor, work 60-80 hours a week for no ovetime and the only recognition was a little plaque saying 'Department Employee of the Month.' Not hard in a department of 5 people.

These days, I pretty much stick to the 40 hours a week required to make my salary, and it drives me absolutely bonkers when work intrudes into my personal time, especially since we are not paid for our on call. In the last 4 years, I've been on call for over 35 weeks. That's 35 weeks of 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, never supposed to be more than 15 minutes from a computer on which I can log in to work. And I haven't received one dime of overtime or special bonus for keeping the company on its feet.

So when I wonder, what else am I good at? I just stop, look around me, at my beautiful wife, our two incredible kids, neighbors I like and trust and talk to almost daily. And I think, it's so much better to be lucky than good.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The End of the Spear

We watched a pretty good movie last night, called The End of the Spear, about missionaries in Ecuador during the 1950's and 1960s, and the tribe of warriors they worked with. Very, very well done. Don't watch it if you don't like subtitles or violence, as it has both, though the violence is never gorey, just true to the story. My wife and I were still talking about it today. I used the word riveting to describe it to her. It took her a while to agree, but that seemed to be the perfect word for it. That and fascinating. And stick around for the credits at the end, because there are some funny stories told by the real life man behind the story.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Twins For Daddies: They're Here!

Okay, you've got all the big ticket items. You've made all the arrangements, the babies have been born (I'll cover that in another entry), and now you're coming home. What the heck have you gotten yourself into? Here are some of the lessons I learned.

Your time is no longer your own. Face it, accept it, get over it. Even if you've had a kid before, twins are not the same. Not that I'd know what having a single is like, but we can imagine that it must be pretty sweet. As my brother in law, Eric, said, before our twins arrived, 'Don't worry, having twins is actually only two thirds harder than having one baby.' And he should know, since he and his wife had three singles before their twins.

Forget everything you know about being tired. Forget everything you used to do on the weekends, like golf, play video games, watch movies. For the next 6 months, every spare moment you have (and there won't be many), will be spent sleeping. And that's only after your wife has gotten her nap. Because no matter how hard you think you've been working, your wife has done more. It may not seem that way, because she's always sitting on the couch, looking at the babies, maybe watching a little TV, but if you look behind those glassed over eyes, you'll see a woman who has been up for four straight weeks. Not hours or days, but weeks. If she has gotten more than 2 hours of sleep in a row, it's only because you had help from someone else keeping the babies from waking her up. You may be the father, and in months and years to come, there will be that special bond between dad and babies, but for now, you are just the person holding them until momma feeds them. And they want to eat, ALL THE TIME.

I can't emphasize enough how important having help is. You need someone else living with you, doing everything you do. Changing babies, doing laundry, doing dishes, holding baby, taking out the garbage. You will wear them out. They too will be walking zombies, tired, cranky, and needing their space as well. Rotate people through if you can, a week at a time. The longer the better. We had constant help for the first 6 or 8 weeks, then frequent visits for a couple of nights here and there, and some for as long as a week ever since. At some point, you'll be ready to handle it on your own, but as long as people are offering, take them up on it.

One thing I read frequently in books on multiples, was to make a list of things that needed doing around the house, and if someone asks if you need any help, show them the list and let them choose. Well, I have a little caveat to that. What most people mean, is, 'Do you need help holding/feeding a baby?' What they don't mean is 'Would you like me to re-stain your fence?' I got lots of offers on the former, but not a single one on the latter, despite it being on our list of things that has needed to be done for the past year or so. It can't hurt to try, but don't bet the house on it.

Okay, now that I've scared the bejesus out of you, you're wondering, how am I ever going to survive?

First, get the babies on a schedule as soon as you can. This is usually around the 3-4 month mark. Start with a bed time, and work from there to make sleep time a little longer. We noticed that the babies were usually getting really tired around 10:30 PM, so we started developing a routine leading up to 10:30 that included bath time (every other night), feeding, walking / bouncing on the ball of shame and rocking. Once we had them down 3 nights in a row by 10:30, we started the ritual 15 minutes earlier until they were down at 10:15PM. This usually takes 3-4 nights. Don't adjust it by more than 15 minutes per night, and use those 3-4 nights even though it seems like it worked on the first night. Within a few weeks, we had their bedtime back to 8:00pm, then finally 7:45, and months later, they are rarely up past 8:15 PM unless something has broken our routine. We stick to the routine religiously. We leave parties early, and make sure our walks happen about the same time each night.

Night time wake ups: Once you have the bed time set, you'll want to start reducing the night time wake ups. Reece would wake up at 11:30, 1:30, 3:30, 4:30 and 5:30. After a little bit of work, we've eliminated all but the 4:30 wakeup for him, and Lorelai sleeps up to 12 hours at a time. The trick is to make a pre-emptive attack. We waited to go to bed till 10:30 PM,and Lisa picked up Reece, woke him up a bit, and fed him, and put him back down. He basically ate in his sleep, never fully woke up, and went back down really quickly. Within a few days, the 11:30 wake up was gone.

Dealing with the 1:30 wake up involved a little more effort on my part. The babies had to learn that they wouldn't get fed every time they woke up, and mom's presence just woke them up too much. So, for a couple of weeks, I got up and walked them back to sleep. I handled any wake ups before 2:00 AM, and Lisa got everything after that. Eventually, they just stopped waking up at 1:30, and stayed down until 4-4:30.

The other key is to figure out what is their best sleep position. You'll hear a lot about "Back to Sleep" and SIDS, and the idea of letting your kid go to sleep on their tummies is truly frightening at first, but once they are able to lift their head up with ease (around the 4th month), it's doable, especially if that is their position. Reece is a side sleeper. Lorelai is a tummy sleeper. We all sleep better when we put them down in those positions to begin the night.

Another key to keeping your sanity in those first few months is to go for frequent walks. Our babies just loved being outside, and loved the Baby Bjorns. Once we were past the first month or so, we walked a couple of times a day. The folks down at the local Starbucks know us by our first names, and have watched the babies grow up. Even when the weather was a little chilly (just not pouring rain), we walked.

You will also come to realize that if you are not organized with twins, you will regret it. Getting out of the door in the morning with two babies takes a couple of hours, by the time they are fed, changed, you're showered, they're fed again and changed again, the diaper bag is put together, the car loaded up and ready to go. Keep the diaper bag stocked, and remember when they grow out of a diaper size, to upgrade the diapers in the bag.

Do laundry whenever you can. Don't let it stack up until you find yourself without clean onesies. The washing machine is the chokepoint for the family routine. If the babies clothes get behind, then they will take priority over yours, and the next thing you know, you're asking yourself, is it easier to just go and buy another pack of underwear, or is it really okay to wear them two days in a row if you just turn them inside out? That decision is greatly impacted by how much sleep you have been getting up to that point. If you decide the latter, that's a sign that you need more help (and maybe not just around the house).

Take lots of pictures and lots of videos, and post them on your blog. It helps everyone stay in touch and keeps the phone from ringing in the middle of the babies' naps.

Most of all, enjoy the time with the twins, and with your wife. In all likelihood, you will never have another experience like it, and you will be able to share that experience with only those who have aso had twins. You'll smile and nod when another new parent of a single starts complaining about having no time, and you'll tell your wife about their complaints, and she'll smile too. You'll answer the question 'Do twins run in your family?' a bajillion times, and regardless you it happened, you're best response is almost always 'Well, I guess it does now'. You'll hear people say 'I always wanted to have twins.', and you'll think, they're are completely insane.

But then, there will be that moment, when you wife has one baby asleep in her arms, and the other is curled up in yours. And you'll think to yourself, it really doesn't get any better than this. And it doesn't.

Unless you didn't get the housekeeper.

Out on the town!

This week saw some rather momentous firsts. Our new nanny, Courtney, started this week, and after a few hours of guidance with Lisa, we took the training wheels off and Lisa went shopping! While she was out in the free world for the first time in nearly 7 months, she stopped off at my work, and we went out to lunch. Together. To a real restaurant . For real Thai food. Mmmmm, yumminy! What odd is that because we go for walks together most nights, and talk so frequently, that we didn't really have that much new to talk about. We just enjoyed not having to wolf down our food, and didn't have to worry about a constant demand for Baby Mum-Mums (little rice crackers that our kids just can't get enough of.)

Yesterday, I got home from work fairly early, and we decided to go for a walk to this little Italian bistro a few blocks from here. We'd never been there before, but we had heard the rumor that they served Gelato there, and we were both up for that.

During the walk there, Lorelai fell asleep, and Reece was in a great mood, so we decided to grab a table on the patio of the restaurant and have dinner. It was the first dinner out with the kids. The food was excellent, and the Gelato was perfect. We forgot to bring Mum-Mums for the kids, but Reece did okay, just sitting there in the stroller. He lasted about 25 minutes before he got fussy, and then Lorelai woke up, and it was time to hit the road. Hopefully, we can do that again soon.

We've also started the kids on real human food, i.e. something besides baby food, oatmeal and ground up rice. Last night, they each got pieces of frozen Whole Wheat bagels, and we're going to try potatoes, carrots and sweet potatoes in the next few days as well. It seems like they are getting pretty bored with the current selection of pureed peas, apples, pears, green beans, squash, carrots, peaches and sweet potatoes, and often make a huge mess in retaliation for us feeding them rather evil mixtures of the above fruits an veggies. Peaches, pears and peas all start with 'pea', but that doesn't mean they mix well.

The only down side to the week is the fact that I have been on call since Tuesday for work, and it's been one of the worst weeks in a couple of years. We've lost out production database (twice), one of our production servers (twice) and had a rollout of a major application go really wrong. All these events would have been prevented with a little common sense over the past few years, but that would be a little too much to expect. From, in a review of the book In Search of Stupidity by Richard Chapman, "... success in software is a matter of just not doing stupid things.". We haven't had much success lately, and now we know why.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Twins for Daddies, Part Two

Okay, here are the things we found we couldn't live without

1. DoubleBlessings EZ-2-Nurse Twins Nursing Pillow.

2. Britax Companion Carseat. It's expensive, but it's the best rated one we found, and we loved it. It's also the only carseat rated for babies under 5 lbs, and since ours were around 4lb 8 oz when we brought them home, the hospital was okay with it. They won't let you leave if the babies don't fit properly in the seat.

3. Baby Trend Double Snap and Go Stroller. This thing is a god-send. It's light, compact and easy to use. However, the instructions we got directly from the company for using it with the Britax Car Seats are completely wrong. I played with it for a while before I came up with a setup I thought safer, and that worked much better. We used this stroller until the babies could sit up and look around for themselves.

4. Once the babies could sit up on their own, we bought a Combi Twin LX, which we love. It fits through doors very easily, and is very light. Some strollers weigh in at 45-55 lbs. This one is 21 lbs, and folds up really small to fit in the back of our Camry and leaves plenty of room for other stuff.

5. Bright Starts Rrroaring Fun Play Gym. The one in this ad isn't quite the same as the one we bought, but it is really close. The kids still play with it every day, and the song the lion plays is kind of addictive, and not annoying like most toys. The kids played with it so much that the batteries on the lion died after about 5.5 months, and we actually shed tears and considered buying the set again just to replace the lion.

6. Arm's Reach co-sleeper. We bought a crib, but the babies spent very little time in there until they were about 5 months old. They slept on the side of the bed in this sleeper, and Lorelai still sleeps in it now since Reece is a crib hog and we haven't bought a second crib yet, since this still works. It was so easy just to reach over and pick up the fussing baby and pull them into bed to feed instead of getting up and having to go to the crib. Totally worth the money.

7. Baby Bjorns x2. We absolutely loved our Bjorns, and were very sad that we couldn't use them once the babies hit about 15 lbs, because we're weenies, and the babies just got too heavy to lug around. But it was great to carry the babies up front, and we always got compliments on how cute our kids were, and the that's the whole point of having kids, right?

8. Fisher Price Space Saver High Chair. We didn't buy these until the kids were eating solid food, but we have a small dining area in our kitchen, and it was nice to not have it all taken up by more chairs. They're a lot cheaper than free standing chairs as well, and very easy to clean up.

9. Diaper Champ diaper pail (x2). So much cheaper than buying a Diaper Genie. It uses regular kitchen trash bags, and the piston in the mechanism pretty much keeps the odor inside the can. We have one upstairs and one downstairs.

10. Baby swing. This one is optional, because some babies won't have anything to do with it. But luckily ours took to it after a months or so, and it's a really big help when you are home by yourself and have two grumpy and tired babies. We only have one, and have occasionally thought we could have used a second one, but they are rather large and take up a lot of floor space.

11. Baby Bouncers. Buy two of the ones listed below. Our kids don't sit much in them any more, but they do love to stand in front of them and dance and watch the lights. It's a good way to calm a grumpy baby

12. Baby Jumper. Reece absolutely loves his jumper. Lorelai enjoys it too. This one is free standing and doesn't take up a doorway, but it does take up a lot of floor space, and because it's for a baby, it looks absolutely garish.

13. We highly recommend breast feeding, but there will be times where your wife will need to pump. Get a really good electric dual pump,

14. You'll need 2 rockers, or one rocker for your bedroom and one at least one in the room you send the most time.

15. Crib. You'll need one of these, though the only thing you'll use it for in the first 4 months will be for collecting the piles of clean laundry. We haven't decided whether or not we are getting a second one yet, or if there is a way to go straight to a toddler bed. We'll see once they hit that toddler stage I guess.

That's about it for the big products, but here are some other products to get

1. Diaper rash Ointment: Boutreax's is the stuff we put on the really tough rashes. It usually works overnight

2. Quilted Multiuse Pads So much easier that washing the whole changing pad. Get about 10

3. Contoured Changing Pad, one for each changing area. Stops the little ones from rolling around with a poopy diaper. We changed the babies on the floor with this under them so we never had to worry about them rolling off a dresser, but still, the pad helps contain the mess. Get about 6 soft covers as well, as you will have have them in the laundry, especially if you have a boy.

4. Dad Gear Sport Diaper bag. So far, it's worked great. It's not huge, and is only good for day trips, but pack a duffel bag if you're going for longer than that.

5. White Cloth Diapers. About 40 of them. Not to use as diapers. Use them as burp rags. They're soft, durable and washable. When the babies sleep in bed with us, we always put a burp rag down under their heads, just in case. With twins, we go through about 6-10 a day

6. Electric bottle warmer. We tried to do the warm bottle via tap water for a while, and couldn't believe how much easier life was once we bought a couple of warmers. One for upstairs next to our bed, and one for downstairs.

7. Bottle sterilizer. This is great for that added peace of mind, and it's fast and easy too. You'll stop using this once you see your kids start chewing on the carpet.

8. 65cm exercise ball. aka, the Ball of Shame. If you make the baby cry, you get to hold him/her and bounce on the ball of shame, sometimes for hours. Great workout too.

Twins for Daddies: Pregnancy Tips

My sister asked me to put together a Twins for Dummies, er... Twins for Daddies.. post to help out some of her friends who are about to experience the joy of deux et newborns. So in no particular order, here are the things we found to be really helpful. Prior to the arrival of your two bundles of joy, do the following, if you can afford to.

a) Hire a house cleaner to do the bathrooms and the floors and a deep clean on the kitchen every 2 weeks. Get them started by the time your wife reaches the 7th month, because by then, you'll already think you are overworked and you'll think that your wife is just saying she can't get down on her hands and knees to clean the bathroom floor, even if she's already down there routinely, puking her guts out. Not that this ever happened in our house, but you'll find that you won't even want to make a joke like that by the seventh month. Either way, you'll have enough on your mind once the babies come that cleaning the bathrooms and the floor will be the last thing you'll have energy to do on your Saturday mornings.

b) Line up help for as long as you possibly can for after the babies arrive, and make sure every one knows what they are getting into. They are there to help, to do dishes, laundry, middle of the night baby holding, grocery store trips, phone call interceptor, anything that will give you and / or your wife even 10 more minutes of sleep. Make sure the people who are there to help are people you and your wife are comfortable being around 24 hours a day for days at a time. Your wife needs to be able to be fully exposed during feeding times, and she needs to be completely free to be able to do it, anywhere in the house. Have just one person there at a time if you can, and make sure that you limit visits for others to an hour here or there, and reserve the right to change the date and time at your whim and desire. Avoid having any other children that aren't your own in the house until the babies are 3 months old, especially if your babies are preemies, as many twins are. The first few months are all about the babies, the mom, and you (in that order), keeping everyone healthy, happy and sleeping as much as possible. It is your job as daddy to keep the external stresses and pressures during the last few months of pregnancy and the first few months after the birth to a bare minimum. We found that you need to have n+1 people in the house for baby care, when n is the number of babies due to arrive.

c) Make sure you always have at least a half full tank of gas, every day. I went to lunch one day, and had about an eighth of a tank left, and thought I'd be able to fill up on the way home. 45 minutes later, I was on the way to the hospital to meet my wife, and I had to pull off the interstate to fill up with gas so I didn't run out. Luckily I knew the area pretty well from my days hanging out at country bars, so I knew shortcuts to the hospital once I got off the highway.

d) Read the book "What to Expect when you're Expecting", but skip the really scary stuff in there. If the scary stuff does happen, nothing you read is going to prepare you for it. If the scary stuff doesn't happen, be happy you didn't worry about it.

e) Talk to your babies before they are born. It's an amazing thing to do, and it does help. Greet them with the same phrase every time you do it. Mine was "Hi , it's Daddy". When my daughter, Lorelai was born, and she was crying and screaming in the hall while her brother was on his way out, I was able to go up to her bassinet, and say 'Hi Lorelai, it's Daddy', and she looked up at me, grabbed my finger with her little fingers and stopped crying. The nurses just went 'Wow.' It was a pretty amazing moment, and something I'll never forget.

f) Go to all the ultrasounds you can. It's just amazing to see the development, and just makes the whole pregnancy thing more real for you.

g) Go out to dinner / movies / hang out with friends as much as you can possibly stand. Our twins are now six months old, and the only 'restaurant' my wife and I have gone to together since the birth is Starbucks. We now have long conversations about going out to our favorite Italian place, or reminisce about the crab wontons and plum sauce we had on our honeymoon in Hawaii, or the Bao we had in Chicago. It sorta-kinda gets us through the baby dinners of rice cereal with peas and pears mixed in. But not really.

h) Get a DVR to 'time-shift' your favorite TV shows. If the babies go down at 9:04 PM, your ass should be in bed by 9:12 PM, no later. It is totally not worth it to stay up even 20 minutes longer to watch the end of 'Lost' when you could be sleeping

i) Find someone who is 3-12 months ahead of you in the pregnancy/baby thing, and see if you can be the target of their hand me downs. It will save you a small fortune, and you'll get past the whole 'it's not new' thing really quickly when you see just how fast they grow out of stuff.

j) Get a digital video camera and a good still digital camera.

k) Start up a blog to share news with friends and family, and get used to posting. It makes it a lot easier to communicate with everyone, far and near.

l) Buy a freezer and stock it with meals, like casseroles, pasta like ravioli and home-made pasta sauce, ice cream bars, and whatever else you can fit in it. We really didn't start to dig into it until after our help started to leave, but it's a real saviour when you've already had your fill of pizza, teriyaki and sanwiches. Our favorites included: Souper Skillet Pasta (a family recipe I'll try to post here someday), Easy Chicken Chili, Red Beans and Rice, the aforementioned pasta sauce and store bought ravioli, tuna noodle casserole, and various soups.

m) Stock up your time off from work to take a t least 3 weeks after the kids are born. Now, if you live in a country/state where they insist you take time off for kids, or work for a reasonable company that says 'Having twins is not considered a vacation', then more power to you, but I had to fight and scream bloody murder to get my time off qualified under our Employee Illness Leave policy because I didn't give enough notice. Well forgive the fuck out of me for them being born 5 freaking weeks early. We didn't get enough freaking notice either. And yes, this is a bitter point of contention for me to this day, and the main reason I can't stand the business world in general these days.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Recent News and Thoughts

We've kind of settled into a rhythm these last few weeks. The babies generally sleep through the nights, with maybe one wakeup each after 4:00 AM. Last night we had a couple of wakeups, but the good nights far outnumber the bad nights now.

Reece is rolling with reckless abandon and is constantly trying to reprogram our DVD player. He's close to crawling and is bound and determined to figure it our soon. Lorelai is learning at her own pace, and generally cheats by watching Reece struggle with something, and then doing it herself once he figures it out. She has taken a sudden liking to standing, much like Reece had done a couple of months ago, but she's not yet walking like he does, but it doesn't seem very far away.

Two weeks ago, my parents came out for a visit for a few days, and had a very good time,
holding babies, going for walks and occasionally just sitting quietly and enjoying time with the little ones. Both babies loved all the attention, and went into a bit of withdrawal after Nana and Grandpa left. They were a little grumpy for a couple of days, and kept looking at the door to see if someone else was coming through it.

Last weekend, we took it pretty easy, and both Lisa and I found time to finish reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, without staying up till the wee hours of the morning. Great book, well ended, and as one who still has dreams about telling the business world 'goodbye', and writing for a living, it was very inspiring. Now I just need to find time to write.

Since Lisa is going back to work this month, we had to find suitable childcare for the babies. We decided to hire a nanny instead of trying daycare, since it works out to close to same amount of money, and it's nearly impossible to get 2 babies out the door in a reasonable amount of time each morning. We hired a nanny agency to help us find someone, and to do all the background checks, and signed the contract with our new nanny Courtney last night. Courtney will be starting on August 16th and will be with us on days Lisa is at work, and will also allow us to have an occasional date night for ourselves, which we really look forward to. Gino's Bistro, here we come!

My sister, Cindy, is due to arrive tomorrow night for a few days to get her niece and nephew fix. The weather should be good, so we've got a full weekend planned of oil changes on both vehicles, pulling weeds in the flower beds, adding more brick edging to the flower beds, spraying weeds and just getting stuff done. So once she's done all that, she may have some time to hold babies. Just kidding, Cindy. You can hold the babies while you're doing all that.

We're trying to get better at taking pictures, and I did post some tonight, but we usually think of the camera right after they are doing something cute. With twins, it's really hard to have a free set of hands, and the camera is never where you need it.

Finally, NFL training camps are now open, and the football season is a month away. It's time to start planning for my fantasy football draft so I can defend my title. Lisa is pumped for the pick'em pool at my work, and we're finding ourselves tuning in to the NFL Network more frequently all the time. The only issue is trying to figure out how to get the kids to sleep through all of the games every Sunday for the next 20 odd weeks! Any ideas?