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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

20 answers for 20 questions

Wow, those were all really great questions -- thank you! It was hard to choose just 20 (we did fudge it a little and answered a whole bunch in answer #7). So hold onto your horses, here comes the longest blog post in the world (I think we're going to find out if Blogger has a character limit with this one):

1. Did they have salsa in China? TubaDad: Kind of... It definitely didn't stand up to Grambob's homemade salsa or our favorite storebought Santa Barbara Texas Style salsa, but we can now say "YES, they do have salsa in China!" (this pic of M, Ree, and a bowl of salsa was taken in Guangzhou)

2. How do you tell them apart? Do the bracelets help? M3: The bracelets definitely help other folks tell the girls apart. Ro's is on the right wrist (think Ro-right), and Ree's is on the left -- using different arms was a lucky accident the day we met them, by the way, it wasn't planned in advance. Plus we almost always dress Ro in some type of telltale pink item to tip folks off.

But those are really just to help other people (including TubaDad, heh heh). The funny thing is that they don't even look alike to me. I think they definitely look like sisters, and I can see a really strong similarity in certain pictures, but I guess their different personalities and facial expressions are so pronounced to me that there's no mistaking who's who. For other subtle tips, Ree's jaw and smile always look a little more "square," while Ro's jaw is usually more pointed. And Ro is usually the one smiling sweetly while Ree is making any number of her trademark funny faces or looking like she's about to do something really mischievous. Also, Ree was jumping around during her last bang trim so hers are very uneven, and a little higher on the left side right now.

TubaDad: I've just tried my best to learn what they look like, and most of the time I'm right. (insert subtle coughing from M3 here...) They change so fast at this stage that a couple of days away on a business trip really sets me back! I don't ever really look at the bracelets, they're a safety net. Their smiles are my real clue.

3. I can't keep a house clean/orderly with one immobile 5-month old. Do you have a cleaning lady? God Bless you for keeping up with two!!
M3: Ah, sadly we don't keep up, we're buried by a few more pounds of crap each day. The mess is unrelenting. We have a cleaning lady who comes in every other week to do the "heavy lifting," but other than that we spend a good deal of each day and evening trying to shovel out from a towering, teetering mountain of mess. It's incredible (and kind of depressing) how fast our house can go from pristine to condemned, thanks to the twinadoes. One day this week (I've blocked out which one), I couldn't face cleaning during the day, and neither one of us could get motivated to do it that night. But when we woke up in the morning, the entire kitchen and highchairs were so filthy that we couldn't use any of it and had to have a "breakfast picnic" in the family room. No joke, I took a picture as proof of the wages of slovenliness.

4. I cannot believe how intentional you seem with the girls daily schedules but keeping it laid back and fun at the same time. Can you shed some light on what your day looks like? I remember once you writing about doing something fun, creative and musical (or something like that) all in one day. Now you're playing school! I would love to be more intentional with things like that....help!
M3: I definitely make an effort to do regular things each day -- although it's probably more to keep us all from going stark raving mad rather than any kind of brilliant planning on my part. ;-) Each day I try to fit in one thing from each of these categories: Calm, Happy, Artsy, Outside, and School. The timing is totally flexible, except that the "outside" thing happens in the cool morning hours. The rest of the time, except for meals and naptime, we go with the flow, so if we're all sitting around blinking at each other and getting cranky I'll think "hm, which one haven't we done yet today?" and away we go. It really does help! Some examples are:
  • Calm: Reading books, snuggling, brushing the cats, watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or Sesame Street, etc. Basically anything where I can finally SIT down. Ahhhhhh.
  • Happy: Haha, I just threw this one in so the initials would spell CHAOS, we don't really try to do something happy, it just happens.
  • Artsy: Baking, drawing, musical instruments, painting, Playdoh, or anything where clothes get incredibly messed up and Wela mutters under her breath when she helps with our laundry.
  • Outside: Going for a neighborhood walk (it takes about an hour to walk one block and back since we have to stop to inspect every single flower, bug, dog, rock, and staircase), going to the pool, playing outside in the backyard, filling the sandbox with water instead of sand and letting the girls skinny dip in the backyard (apparently as big of a thrill to an almost-two-year-old as it is to a college student), going to a local park, that kind of thing. We usually do outside things a few times a day, by the way.
  • School: Working with any type of book, toy, or game that teaches them counting, shapes, colors, memory, or fine motor skills (see pic for things we're using this week).
5. We used to hear about the cats more before the cutie pa-two-ties came home. Do your girls chase them around or pull tails?
M3: We had serious Toddler vs. Feline wars when we first came home. The kids would chase the cats, corner them, scare them, or commit any number of "come any closer and I'll scratch your eyes out" offenses. And they sported the scary red welts to prove it. They weren't trying to hurt the cats, they were just fascinated. Well 10-or-so months later, the cats mostly ignore the kids and the kids mostly ignore them. Which seems to work just fine for everyone. Based on their reactions any time they see one, I'm pretty sure the girls would really prefer it if we got a DogDog! (pronounced in a high-pitched squealy voice).

6. Will you be making separate bedrooms for the girls when they get older, so as to give them their "own identity" or do you plan to keep them together to encourage a close relationship? Or is it a "play it by ear" kinda thang?
M3: They're in the same room right now,which they definitely like. And we'll probably keep them in the same room unless/until they want their own. We don't have any strong preferences, so we'll kind of follow their lead on this one. We are careful to have certain clothes, shoes, and toys which are exclusive to either Ro or Ree. I read somewhere that it's important not to have to share everything when you're a twin.

Along the same "developing their own identity" lines, we're really careful not to label the twins, although it's the standard question we always get. We're constantly asked "which one is the braver one?" "who's the outgoing one?" "who's the athletic one?" "which one is the shy one?" and we pretty much refuse to say, especially when the little girls are listening. And believe me, they hear and understand everything. We just answer truthfully: "You know, they're both really good at xxx," or "Ro really enjoys xxx and Ree really enjoys yyy," or "They seem to take turns at who's the more outgoing/shy at any given time." We want the girls to develop their own ideas about what they can or can't do or who they are, without us unintentionally putting them into neatly labeled boxes.

7. Where did you get xxx?
Digital scrapbooking software: Scrapbook Factory Deluxe
Collage software: LumaPix FotoFusion (the $40 version)
Clothes for the girls: All over the place really. I mix and match a lot. Fave places are the Gymboree outlet, Children's Place, online boutiquey stores like Polka Dot Patch, Hanna Andersson online, Macy's, hand-me-downs from other awesome twin moms (the best!!), custom sewing by Wela, Osh Kosh outlet (for denim staples), and Cafepress.com (for humorous t-shirts like the Monkey See/Monkey Do and Twincess ones).
Digital camera: The larger "house" camera is a Nikon D70 -- you hold down the button and it will keep firing off shots until your finger gets tired. The "purse" camera (which also takes a lot of the video I post on the site) is the Canon Powershot 500. It's really compact and really fast, something like 1.5 seconds from "off" to "on and took the first picture." Nice!
Learning Tower: Go online and Google it to find the best price. We paid something like $170 I think? Anyhow, it's great for drawing, baking, etc., where you want the kids up high but not in danger of falling. But, and this is a big one, if your kids are climbers, like ours, they'll push it all over the house and use it to get up on the counters and anywhere you don't want them to be (even if you remove the bottom platform). So the jury's still out on it over here...
Cute aprons: A gift from a friend who got them at a cute little wine store called Joseph George.
First class upgrade when you traveled to China: We had purchased full-fare business class tickets for the trip over, and when we checked in we asked for the upgrade and made sure they saw the pictures of our girls that we had brought. Next thing we knew they were calling our name and grinning...
Tools/books to teach them sign language: "Sign with Your Baby" video by Joseph Garcia (for us), and "My First Signs" board book (for the girls). Both of these came from friends Jeff and Liz, come to think of it, and they also taught the girls their first sign. Thanks guys! We also used an online sign dictionary for any additional signs we wanted.

8. Do the girls look for each other when they're separated, or do they just revel in the brief moment of being the only baby? Are you or TubaDad able to spend time with each of your girls alone? If you are, how do you work it out?
TubaDad: The girls don't appear to enjoy being separated for any significant length of time. That said, the only time we really get to spend time with one of them alone is when Ro or Ree wakes up earlier than her sister in the morning or at naptime. Whoever wakes up early will have fun being alone with us for a few minutes, but pretty quickly she will start to look for her sister. We have talked about spending time with them individually or taking one of them on little excursions with one of us, but their schedules and demeanor at this stage of the game make that challenging (plus it would mean neither M nor I would ever get a break like we do now when one of us takes both girls somewhere). It will be interesting to see how this plays out when they are older and can verbally communicate their preferences.

9. Most of the pics we see are of happy little girls. do you have to discipline them often and if so, do you find it difficult? i am having a very difficult time starting a family and i always wonder if i'm ever lucky enough to have a child, if i will be too "soft" because of how hard it was to get there.
M3: The girls are wicked cute, but wickedly impish. They are constantly pushing the limits, testing the boundaries, and testing us. So we use timeout a lot. Sigh... It's not hard for either one of us to do, probably because TubaDad and I are both kind of strict, and also because the girls have taken to it like ducks to the water lately. Plus it doesn't hurt them at all and they do get the idea really fast.

10. Do you have to buy two of everything in regard to toys, or will the girls happily share?
M3: We only buy two of the really important stuff -- the things we know they'll absolutely want to do at the same time, like bikes, musical instruments, or doll strollers. But mostly we buy one of something and they either share it or completely ignore it -- there's no in-between. They usually share pretty well or can be distracted with something else, and if not, the toy gets taken away and put into "timeout." (I learned that from my friend Risa.)

11. The girls seem so well adjusted and your blog without attachment angst. I've been reading since before referral and now Ro and Ree seem like they never could have belonged to any other family. Do you just not blog about the issues much or has your family well and truly blended? As a follow-up to that, what made the difference for your family regarding attachment?
M3: You know, we really don't have many issues to date. There are definitely private topics we don't talk about on the blog, but this isn't one of them and we're not censoring. After some pretty intense grieving for their foster family at the very beginning, the girls adjusted remarkably well and continue to do so. To be honest, I don't think it's been due to anything we did or said or read or practiced. I think the girls' personalities played a huge part, as well as the fact that there are two of them so no matter what they've never been alone, and the fact that they were loved by and attached to their foster family. We'll see what the future brings. I know for certain that it won't always be easy, and we're trying to get ready for anything -- we talk to other families about this and I read everything I can get my hands on about this subject.

12. Are the girls personalities what you suspected they might be when you first saw their pictures?
TubaDad: You know, I think their personalities are pretty close to what we suspected when we first saw their referral pictures and picked their names. Ree is definitely the little comedian that we detected from that first referral smile, and Ro can be a little more thoughtful and reserved at times (although the past couple of weeks Ro is the one plunging first into any adventure). I suspect the referral pictures were selected to give us these insights into their personalities, but who knows if that's what really happened. One thing is true with the girls: as soon as you expect one of them to act a certain way, she will do something different and surprise you!

13. How do you talk to the girls about adoption? What stupid comments do you get?
M3: We don't talk extensively about it yet, they're still so young, but we have been talking about it a little from the beginning. We work it casually into conversations and read books and watch tv shows (like that recent Arthur show) that talk about adoption. But they really don't have any awareness/understanding at this point. I guess the main reason we started early is so there isn't ever a point where the girls hear "adoption" or "birthmother" or something like that and say "Hey, what's that?! You never told me that before!" It also helps us practice so we feel more comfortable with what we're saying -- right now it's kind of awkward as we feel our way around, but hey at least we're learning.

We do get some lame comments, but they're usually not malicious, the folks just don't know how to say what they want to say. I will tell you though, that I've gotten more "Oh China! They throw away their girls there!" comments than I care to remember. I can usually see this one coming a mile away though, and it's usually from strangers. And now that the girls are old enough to understand what people are saying I'm just going to calmly walk away before the person can work up to this comment. I simply refuse to stand there and let someone talk like this in front of my girls, and I'm not going to try to educate the world in front of them.

14. I remember that one of your dreams has been to write for a living and I am wondering if you are finding any time to do that and if so when can we expect to see your first novel in print? BTW, if you tell me that you are finding time to write with the twinados around I will be extremely amazed :-):
M3: Yes, sadly, I haven't written a thing (except for this blog) since coming back from China. I made really great progress on my book right up until then, but it abruptly stopped, go figure. ;-) Interestingly, I'll bet if I took a blog hiatus and used my blog writing time as book writing time I'd finish up pretty quickly. Something to think about...

15. My question: as a professional cellist who is raising a little violinist sweetie (adopted from Hubei in '03), is there any chance TubaDad would encourage your sweeties to study strings before brass??!! ;)
TubaDad: Sure, if it was the cello or bass. Or maybe viola. M has an aversion to high pitches, so the violin is probably going to be discouraged. I would readily encourage them to study a string instrument before brass, since the employment prospects are infinitely more promising if they were to decide to pursue music as a career. Hey, a dad has to be pragmatic! I studied Bach Cello suites on my tuba in college, and it would be nice to hear them worked up on a cello. Maybe their Aunt Kate, who is also a professional cellist, could give them a few lessons!

16. I have a different take on the "Can you tell them apart?" question. Can they tell THEMSELVES apart? Like when you show them pictures of each other, can they recognize whether it is them or their lovely sister? If so, are they generally better than it than you are? I always wondered what it must be like to always be somehow always "looking in a mirror" when you're hanging out with your sis. I wonder if they even realize that they look alike?
TubaDad: The girls can usually pick themselves out in a picture or video, and they really enjoy seeing themselves in action. They are definitely individuals with different personalities and mannerisms, and they don't seem to realize they look alike. The other night M asked Ree if she looks like Ro, and Ree emphatically said "no." She then asked Ro if she looks like Ree, and she also said "no." M then asked the girls if Michal and Kenna (the Tolman twins) look alike, and the girls enthusiastically said "YES!" I think when they get older they will realize they look a lot alike, and then the games will begin.

17. What item that you packed for China was used the most? (we both answered this one without looking at each others' answer)
M3: Our parents! ;-)
TubaDad: Baby bottles and the gear we used to wash and sterilize them in boiling hot water.

18. When will we be able to see the video or pictures of the great saltine smackdown we've heard so much about?
M3: Shoot, thanks for the reminder. Here ya go, this was taken on Oct 26, so the girls were 12 months old and we had known them for about 48 hours at this point.

19. At what age do you think you will take the girls back to China to see where they came from?
TubaDad: We've talked about taking them back to China when they are 8 or 10 years old, but I think we'll have a better sense of the right time to go as the girls grow up. For me, the big factors in the timing are their curiosity about China and their ability to go on such a long trip and enjoy themselves. I wouldn't want to force them to go, and I wouldn't want to present them with a challenge beyond their capabilities. I think it would be ideal to take them when they are young enough to view the trip through a child's innocent eyes, but also old enough to remember the trip when they are adults as a positive and fun event from their childhood. I'm really looking forward to taking them back to China one day when the time is right.

20. And, finally, the big question that my mother just said the entire family is waiting to hear the answer to, which surprised me: Do you think y'all will adopt again, or are you DONE? (And do you want twins again???)
M3: If you'd been talking to me 8 months ago and asked this question, I probably hadn't showered for 4 days, had eaten one meal of cereal that entire day (standing up), and was wearing only one slip-on shoe. At that point I might have laughed like a crazy woman and said something that needed to get bleeped. But now, feeling (slightly) more in control of life with the twinadoes, and wearing both shoes (although I still don't have time for shoes that tie), I would smile hugely and say "Hey, never say never, but I really, really doubt it."

This is the most amazing, fun, funny, heart-melting experience, and I am the luckiest girl in the world to have these two incredible daughters. But... it is so mentally and physically exhausting that I can't even imagine having more children right now. By the time bedtime comes around each day I feel like I've been run over by a truck (or twin trucks to be more accurate). So I think for now, and for always, we are a perfect family of four. :-)

TubaDad: I think we're probably done. Like M says, never say never, but for now I'm very happy with the size of our family (and we can still play man-on-man defense!) As far as being lucky enough to adopt twins again goes, I'm not sure we have the energy to survive that adventure again! ;-)