Baby B

When you have twins, the first baby to come out is Baby A or, in our family, Owen. The second baby to come out is Baby B—James. At 4 lbs., 15 oz., Owen was almost twice the size of James at birth. Owen was released from the NICU first. He slept through the night first. He crawled first and he walked first.

Thankfully, miraculously, the boys have lived out their first 7 years with little competition (an ideal I hope remains although I imagine the teenage years will be different). The few times Owen used the “I’m older” line, we quickly put it to rest. After pushing Owen out, James, who was in distress, was quickly pulled out 2 minutes later. “You are the same age,” I said. “Exactly the same. I was there. I know.”

In that moment, I was giving birth to both. I didn’t give birth to one, stop, and then give birth to the other. Each of those contractions represented my body giving birth to both.

But still, it’s as if the labels given to them when they were still arms and elbows and feet and heads making small but distinct mounds that moved mysteriously across my stomach, one on top and one on bottom, have stuck. In addition to reaching milestones second, James has also always been smaller, fitting into Owen’s clothes only after Owen has grown out of them. James entered our world weighing 2 lbs., 13 oz.; today the heft of his body when he curls up in my lap still surprises me.

To each other, though, and to us, they aren’t Baby A and Baby B. They’re just Owen. And James. With their own personalities and their own approaches and their own ways of handling the rhythms of life. Their pace differs. But so do their tastes. And mostly, such as when Owen won first place in his division at the pinewood derby and James won third, there is excitement for each other. Maybe a little pride. And if there’s disappointment, it’s hidden. I’d like to say this is all because of some great parenting achievement but in reality, it simply has been our reality. They fight, of course, but never seemingly about this. At least not yet. (In the picture below I snapped a shot of one of Owen’s winning races. But what I like most about this picture is James’s hand, patting Owen, so excited for him. I only wish I had captured James’s face, too.)

But still, I have to admit to a bit of gratitude towards a universe that made circumstances align just right so that it was James who made a basket—his first—their first this season—at yesterday’s basketball game. It was the last game of the season, the third year they’ve played, and the only basket James has made during a game, ever.

Like the labels we like to assign seemingly the moment we’re born, this little world of ours likes to celebrate the big things—the solo, the medal, the goals, the first place, the straight As, tonight’s Super Bowl win. But I tend to see more achievement in the B- that was once a solid C. The first steps taken well after the first birthday celebration. The “although you’re not quite there, you’re close, so try again” after 10 years of trying. The first basket after three seasons of not making a single one, while always dribbling the ball down the court with great hope and always still shooting.

I missed it.

I missed James’s basket.

I was digging in my purse for lotion for Sophie who was complaining about her irritated skin thanks to the volleyball pads she was wearing on her knees.

And as I threw both fists up in a belated cheer, my heart sank. For me.

But what I didn’t miss was James’s spark thereafter. He was all in, after that basket. And all smiles. To most everyone in the stands yesterday, James’s basket was no different than the many baskets scored during the many games they’ve played. It was normal. Average. With no need for pomp and circumstance.  But to James, it was everything. And much needed. For it was him coming in first for once. It was Owen giving him the high-five as they walked off the court. It was that label, so terribly sticky at times, being peeled back.

“I don’t believe an accident of birth makes people sisters or brothers. It makes them siblings, gives them mutuality of parentage. Sisterhood and brotherhood is a condition people have to work at.” —Maya Angelou

James & Owen’s “Concert”

About 10 minutes ago Owen and James ran downstairs and started shouting something about a concert.

“What?” I asked.

“We have a concert for you!” they said. “Come upstairs to our concert!”

They were so excited.

And so was I. How imaginative! They did it all on their own! And I had heard no screaming for the 30 minutes prior so they did it together happily, nicely—no fighting at all.

We got to their bedroom door. It was closed, with a little tag hanging from the doorway.

How cute, I thought.

With great fanfare, they opened their door to …


“Ta da!” they said.

“It’s everything in your room in a big pile,” I said.

“Yes!” they screamed. “It’s our concert!”

“I don’t understand,” I said. “When does the concert start?”

“This is it! This is our concert! OUR CONCERT!”

“So this big pile of stuff in your room is the concert?”


“Are you going to clean the concert up?”



“When we’re done with the concert.”

“Is the concert over now?”


I left.

I still don’t understand.

And instead of hearing the concert being cleaned up, I hear things being added to the concert.

“Owen! There’s another blanket! Put it in the concert!”

“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.” —Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Welcome, Isaac Lemond Doench + Anya Lemond Doench!

Aimee, Shruti and I oddly became close friends near the end of high school. Why not all through high school, I don’t know. We spent that summer between high school graduation and college (each in a different state) forging a friendship that still stands strong, even when we only see each other a couple times a year. The summer between our freshman and sophomore year of college, Shruti and Aimee “helped” Andy and I get together. I liked him. I had liked him for a long time. So Aimee called him and invited him to a drive-in movie, with the three of us. He, strangely, said yes. They made a point to sit in the back of my parents’ pick-up truck, leaving Andy and I to sit together near the front. He said he liked the perfume I was wearing (CK One). At my bachelorette party, Shruti and Aimee gave me a new bottle of said scent.

We spent many evenings outside in my parents’ backyard, on a blanket late at night, looking up at the stars. We have some hilarious camping stories (one involved sleeping on top of the tent after we failed to figure out how to pitch it—granted, it was a huge, complicated 10-person tent with many, many poles but still …). We were in each other other’s weddings.

The year we each turned 30, Aimee, Shruti and I traveled to Spain and Morocco (I wrote a lot about that trip—my first post can be found here). After walking around the Medina in Fes we sipped on mint tea on the rooftop of our riad. We had delicious sangria at the Hotel La Fuente de la Higuera in Spain, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever stayed. We bought dresses in Grazalema, went horseback riding in Zahara and started planning our 40th birthday trip in Malaga. I think it’s rare to have three friends you can travel with for 10 days and not fight. We can go for weeks without talking to each other and then have a three-way call and it’s like nothing has changed.

So when Aimee found out she was pregnant, Shruti and I were eager to start planning her shower. Shruti flew in for a weekend in December and the two of us, along with Aimee’s good friend Adriana, celebrated Aimee and Jon’s babies-to-be.

Shruti spent much of the day with me. I told my kids that she’s a doctor so they insisted on checking her blood pressure and taking her temperature.

Adriana took care of all of the food.

It was delicious.

So many of Aimee’s good friends came, several from afar.

We had a draw-your-own onesie table. It’s such a fun idea if you’re looking for a non-game activity.

The beautiful parents-to-be.


And then, they came! Anya was born first at 5.5 pounds and 18.1 inches, and Isaac followed at 7 pounds and 18.5 inches. You must watch their Beautiful Beginnings Birth Photography slideshow here.

Also, I have to share a few snapshots of their nursery. I love the bold, painted ceiling and white walls. And Aimee and Jon made the mobile (isn’t it so cute)?

Congratulations, dear friend. I couldn’t be happier for you.

“Every child begins the world again…” —Henry David Thoreau

Those. Stairs.

Getting out the door with all three children is tough, especially in cold weather. I refill the diaper bag. I check diapers. I remind Sophie to try to go potty. Again. And again. And again. I find six socks. I put on six socks. I find six shoes. I put on six shoes. I find three coats. I put on three coats. Two out of the three want to zip them on their own. I unzip. One can’t zip on his own, gets frustrated and starts to scream. While I’m solving that matter, another one takes off his shoes and socks. While I’m putting those shoes and socks back on, I’m informed that someone has a stinky diaper.

With the wrong attitude, it can be maddening.

But it’s oh-so-much easier than it used to be. Now I can leave pretty much regardless of the time, without thinking about breast milk and pumping and bottles and bibs and feeding times. Now, if they’re hungry, I just pack snacks. And water bottles. And, of course, my favorite Trader Joe’s organic lollipops for any unexpected meltdowns.

But then there’s the run to the car, and by run I mean they love to run the square of sidewalk/walkway/driveway in the front of our house over and over and over until I’m using my yelling voice and hoping the neighbors don’t think less of me. And then everyone wants to climb in “all by myself I CAN DO IT! all by myself.” And then everyone wants to buckle “all by myself I CAN DO IT! all by myself.” (But they can’t.) And then there are tears because someone wants to push the button so the sliding door closes and then opens but they are already buckled in. And then there are tears because someone else wants the interior lights off even though I explain, again and again, that they turn off automatically when all the doors are shut. And then, when I figure out how to manually turn off all the interior lights regardless of the status of the doors, there are tears because someone else wants them on.

Again, with the wrong attitude, it can be maddening.

But I see a hint of light. Sophie, for example, is in a booster seat. Often, she buckles and unbuckles herself. This brought me such unexpected joy. To think that someday all my children may climb in the van and buckle themselves in …

Even as things continue to get easier, though, something changes. Like where we put on shoes and socks. Lately the boys have insisted that we climb to the top of the stairs for this activity.

I learned early on I must choose my battles. This one, I don’t fight. It’s not worth it, when we’re trying to get out the door. I don’t know why they insist on it, every time. Again, again, with the wrong attitude, it can be maddening. With the right one, I like to think of it as extra exercise. Extra exercise, with a heavy sigh.

“My mom used to say it doesn’t matter how many kids you have … because one kid’ll take up 100% of your time so more kids can’t possibly take up more than 100% of your time.” —Karen Brown

A Lesson Among Trains





Last month we went with Angel, Zoey and Mya to Cincinnati Museum Center‘s Holiday Trains Exhibit. Owen kept saying “choo choo” and “wow.” The exhibit included a small train children could ride, sans adults. While waiting in line I kept debating if I should let Owen and James ride it with Zoey and Sophie. I thought of the worst thing that could happen—they totally freak out, the “conductor” has to stop the train and I have to climb through the exhibit to get them. And I decided I wouldn’t let them. But then I thought some more. I thought about how much Sophie did at their age. Because of the boys’ gestational age, they don’t do as much as Sophie did when she was their age. They’re not as ready but yet I worry that I sometimes hold the boys back, because of my own fears—of logistics, for example.

And so, I let them. I loaded everyone into the train.

Owen flipped out. Thankfully, he did this before the train left. So I pulled him out, but let James stay. James did wonderfully. He sat on the seat with Zoey and Sophie the entire time. Sophie said once he tried to stand up and that she and Zoey told him he wasn’t allowed—that he had to sit down—and so he did. I was so proud.

And yet, I felt so guilty. I know Owen and James are two separate people. And I know Owen gets much more anxious and upset with strangers and strange situations compared to James. But yet, I felt sad. Sad that James got the experience and Owen didn’t. Happy that James was so happy and then, it occurred to me. Owen was, too. He loved watching the train go past, waving to Sophie, Zoey and James. He was happier off the train. James was happier on it. Sure, equality is important. I wouldn’t give Sophie and James an apple and not give one to Owen—if he wanted it. But I also wouldn’t force him to eat an apple, just because Sophie and James wanted it.

It seems so simple, but it was a good twin-mom lesson for me to learn. Most lessons are that I way, I think—seemingly simple, once learned.

“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” —Helen Keller