Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas Wrap (up)

Well, it’s a wrap.  Christmas has come and gone.  And 2013 is nearly done too.  What a year it’s been.  To say it’s been busy would be an understatement.  But we made it across the finish line. 

Christmas was really special for us this year, and it was a wonderful reward after a year in which our family was apart a good deal of the time.  I was traveling constantly for the first half of the year, including a two-month period when I traveled nearly every week.  Ken was filming in Los Angeles for two months during the summer and I think we didn’t see each other for almost six weeks.  He was also away from Cornelia for a month during the summer and then we were both away from her for a month while we were India in September.  Our travel continued even after we brought Margot and Flynn home at the end of September.  And all of that on top of just the daily rush.  So, although we missed having grandparents, aunts and uncles with us for Christmas, five consecutive days as a family of five in the same place and without work was really memorable.

On Christmas Eve day we all took the train downtown to find Santa.  Coco wanted a new whiffle ball and needed to tell Santa.  A dog chewed her ball in the country and she needed a new one.  So when Santa asked her what she wanted for Christmas she told him right away: “a ball.”  Then he asked her if she wanted anything else.  “A bat for Daddy,” she said.
On Christmas Eve we prepared for Santa’s arrival.  We baked cookies and put them out with a cup of milk for Santa and some carrots for the reindeer.  Santa must have enjoyed them because they were gone the next morning when Coco came downstairs.  The carrots too.

We also coined a new term on Christmas Eve this year.  Early in the day Coco spotted a carton of eggnog in the fridge.  "I want some leche! I want some leche!" she demanded.  I told her that it was special leche and we had to save it for later for the party.  So that night when the guests for dinner arrived and she wanted something to drink, Coco asked for "party leche" and that become our term for eggnog this year.
Coco’s Christmas morning was everything it should be for a two-and-a-half year old.  She found all the presents Santa left for her and it was quite a bounty – a piggy bank, a ferry boat with cars, a tea party set, a box of crayons, markers and other art supplies, ballerina slippers, a tool box, a Play Mobil pirate ship (assembly required!) and of course a bag of white whiffle balls.  Because Coco's only two-and-a-half she played with each toy as she opened it – and we had to remind her that there were more to open.  In fact, we didn’t finish opening presents on Christmas Day and had to finish up the following day.
Many thanks to the family and friends who sent gifts for all three kids. They were all very much appreciated.

The holidays were also filled with friends popping in or coming over for dinner.  Some friends we had not seen for six months or more.  On Saturday Ken and I attended Chip Grant and John Moore's wedding which was a beautiful church service.  (Maybe it made up for missing midnight mass on Christmas Eve.)  We wrapped up the holiday weekend with a family trip to the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park to see the reindeer, the penguins and all the fish in the aquarium. 

Happy New Year to everyone!   

Coco (2 years), Flynn & Margot (4 months)
Coco's Christmas Eve dress

Margot & Flynn - Only spectators this year

Coco helping Daddy make gift wrap for Papa's presents.

Papa and Coco assembling the pirate ship;
three hours and two glasses of wine

Friday, December 20, 2013

A lot like Christmas

Yes, it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here.  The Christmas tree is up, with lights and decorated, and the garland is up too.  The Christmas cards are addressed and in the mail, and the Christmas shopping is done -- at least for the kids it is.   We've watched Rudolph, Frosty and the Grinch.  Even the trip to see Santa is scheduled.  The Advent calendar is nearly finished.  It's hard to believe we've pulled it off amid the year-end evaluation process at Perkins Coie, holiday sales at Kenneth Wingard, appearances on Home & Family, pre-school and bottles every few hours.    

This year we didn't haul a Christmas tree back from our place in Boonville for the first time in six years (since we bought the place, actually).  We decided that with three kids, the annual "Christmas tree hunt" - which includes me traipsing across the hillsides while Ken points from the driveway -would be a bit too much.  And the fact that we miraculously . . . um, I mean . . . mysteriously didn't have anything in the barn to use to tie the tree to the top of the Explorer pretty much cinched the decision not to bring a tree back to San Franciso.  So, it was the Christmas tree lot in the city for us, where you simply point to your chosen tree and they put it in your tree stand for you, throw it up on top of the car and tie it down for you.  Worth every nickel, if you ask me.

Coco helped put the lights on the tree and helped decorate it too.  A few days later she helped put presents from Grandma and Grandpa (Gothams and Wingards) under the tree.  Last night she helped hang candy canes on the tree (and this morning she wanted one for breakfast). 

Of course, the annual Christmas festivities have started as well.  Mark McCormick's dinner party, Bob Sundstrom's cocktail party, the Daddy's brunch in Piedmont and Christmas caroling with the Potomac Street neighbors - to mention a few.  This year we added pre-school events to the schedule.  The highlight was the holiday party for all five Hola Kids campuses at the Randall Museum.  The fete included the kids -- about 40 of them between the ages of 2 and 4 -- flamenco dancing and singing Christmas carrols in Spanish.  We didn't realize that there would be a performance so we didn't have our video camera with us (total rookie move!) -- but we managed to get some footage of Coco's first stage appearance on our iPhones.  I'm sure someday it will be nostalgia video on American Idol, the Voice or So You Think You Can Dance.

Hanging the Red Santa
Editor's Note: Okay, I realize there is no report on the twins in this post. I'll post something soon. Rest assured. They're alive and well!

Coco's outfit for the school party

A special drink at Uncle Mark's annual holiday dinner

Practicing for Christmas Eve with a new flashlight from Grandpa Roy

The best part of Christmas?  The bubble wrap.


Friday, November 22, 2013

The Twins at Three Months

Flynn and Margot at Three Months
The twins are three months old today.  At their check-up last week they both weighed more than double their birth weights.  Flynn has bulked up to 10 lbs. 13 oz. and Margot is not far behind at 9 lbs. 5 oz.  They are 23 and 22.5 inches respectively. 

Their personalities are beginning to shine a bit, I think.  Flynn is pretty mellow for the most part.  He finishes his bottles without a lot coaxing and general falls asleep once he’s done.  He can be content hanging out in the jiminy-thing or sometimes in his crib.  Margot, on the other hand, is a wee bit more high maintenance.  She likes to sip on her bottle; drinking an ounce here, maybe two ounces there.  Then she might take a quick nap and then maybe she might have bit more to drink.  She does not like to be put down; she is happiest when she’s being held, cuddled and rocked. 

One evening recently -- when I was home with them on my own -- I was holding Flynn and chatting with him a bit.  Margot was in her bouncy chair on the breakfast room table across from me.  I glanced at her and, as I watched, it seemed to dawn on her that I was holding Flynn.  Which meant I wasn’t holding her.  As that realization came over her, a mixture of stunned surprise and outrage flashed across her face and – wait for it, wait for it – she erupted into bawling and tears.  I looked at her and was like, “Seriously?  Can’t you let your brother get just a lil’ bit o’ love from time to time?” 
In the past week or so they’ve started to spend a good deal of time watching the world around them, taking it all in.  Just this week they started smiling quite a bit and making their first sounds (other than crying). 

I have to confess that parenting “3 under 3” can be rough, and it’s even rougher with twins in the mix.  When Coco was born, I took six weeks of leave before I went back to work, and Ken took that much time off as well.  By the time I went back to work Coco was sleeping four to five hours a night pretty consistently.  And course with Coco it was two dads per one baby. 

With the twins, it’s been completely different.  When we came back from India Ken and I went back to work right away.  We got home on a Saturday and I was back in the office on Monday morning.  Ken also started traveling to Los Angeles almost weekly for appearances on Home & Family, while I’ve made three trips to Seattle in the last two months.  And the twins are not on any sort of schedule – despite Ken’s continued attempts to impose one.

When one of us is away, the other one is at home alone with three kids.  Ken seems to be nonplussed by it.  I was gone for five days in late October and kept calling and asking, “how’s it going?” “is everything going okay?”  “yep, it’s all fine,” Ken would say.

Why, then, is it not “all fine” when Ken’s away and I’m home alone with the kids?  When it me on my own, I come home from work, Mari leaves, and I immediately start worrying.  “When are the twins going to start crying?”  “What if they’re crying at the same time?”  “How do I get Coco her dinner if both twins are crying?” “How do I make dinner for Coco if she insists on jumping off her stool and both twins are crying?”  (Jumping off things is one of Coco’s favorite things to do right now.)  The worst is when all three – Coco, Margot and Flynn – are crying at the same time.  I admit that a few times I've parked Coco in front of the TV with “Dora” while I tried to make dinner or alternated between picking up two crying babies.

As for sleep those nights?  Forget about it.  I mentally prepare myself to pull an all-nighter every time.  Just like in college, right?  Yeah, except college was 20 years ago.  Okay, more like 25 years ago.  I put Coco to bed and give the twins their 8:00 p.m. bottles.  Typically they sleep for 2 – 3 hours and I logon and get some work done.  Then, around midnight, the “up and down” starts.  Basically I am on call for bottles for two babies who are not on the same schedule and who are not sleeping more than three hours a stretch.  (I know, I know, you’re supposed to get them on the same schedule.  Except I’m not very good at giving them both a bottle at the same time.  So the "same schedule" theory doesn’t work very well for me.)  In the morning I get ready for work before Coco is up and then when she wakes up I get her breakfast – all the time hoping that the twins won't wake up until Mari arrives at 8:00.

Then, a few weeks ago, it dawned on me.  Those kids have figured it out.  They know that Ken is “no-nonsense Papa.”  They know that Ken is like, “Don’t you cry for no good reason!”  Me?  Daddy?  I’m like, “Huh?  What do you need? Bottle? Diaper? Rocking? Cuddling? What do you need?”  Last Saturday Ken left the house to work at the store for a few hours.   As he left, and as the front door shut, I swear Margot and Flynn turned their heads, looked at each other, paused (for dramatic effect) and then started wailing.  Full. Throttle. Wailing.  And, in the same instant, from another room in the house, Coco looked up, cocked her head slightly, and started yelling, “Daddy!  Daddy!  Come jump with me!”  Yep, those kids have figured it out.
Those kids . . . . 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Halloween 2013

Oh, how times have changed . . ..  On Halloween
this year I left the office early.  Not just a little early.  Like, really early.  Like, 2:30 in the afternoon early.  And I don’t even like Halloween.  Never have.  But I was off to the Halloween potluck at Cornelia’s pre-school.  Yes, times have changed.

This year Coco dressed as Dora the Explorer.  Ken created the costume himself and did a great job.  He re-covered Coco’s backpack so it looked just like Dora’s, made a Map to peek out of the backpack, and even created a bracelet to match Dora’s.  To complete the overall effect of Coco’s outfit, Ken dressed as Boots and I dressed as Diego.  Ken even found time to make caramel-covered apples for the preschool potluck (and they were awesome).

Halloween was quite an event on Potomac Street for the second year in a row.  Last year I distributed flyers to all the houses on the block to encourage neighbors to trick-or-treat in the neighborhood and to expect kids to be trick-or-treating.  With so many kids on our block it seemed like we could have fun if everyone stayed close to home rather than trekking off to other neighborhoods.  This year we distributed flyers on Potomac Street and on several other blocks as well.  The turnout was great.  Ken and I think we saw over 100 kids.

Cornelia had a great time.  She definitely understood the drill right away.  “Say ‘trick-or-treat’ and someone hands you a dolce?  Brilliant.”

Chatting on the porch with Sam and Elizabeth from next door we talked about trick-or-treating in the suburbs when we were kids.  First, we all of lived much further north and only remember trick-or-treating in the dark with flashlights.  We also remember lots of long driveways and long walks between houses.  Our kids, meanwhile, are trick-or-treating at twilight and only walk about a dozen steps between porches and those heaping bowls of candy.  They don’t even have to walk up the porch and ring the bell; everyone is sitting on the steps with their bowls of candy.  We also wondered -- as we sipped on our margaritas -- if our parents carried adult beverages with them as they followed us around on the those dark streets with flashlights.  Somehow, I don’t think so.  Who knows, maybe I might just come to like Halloween.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

"Margot go home?"

Ed. Note:  Apologies for the long delay in posting.  Time and sleep are two precious commodities these days.  I’ll try to catch up on all the news.  But, first, this quick anecdote.

So, it happened.  Everyone tells the story of that moment when their first-born child asks when the new baby (or babies) will be leaving or asks that the new baby be sent back from whence it came.  We finally had that moment.  On Tuesday this week, Coco was eating dinner at the breakfast room table.  Margot was in her bouncy chair-thing on the table and she was crying (as she is wont to do). 
     As I’m picking Margot up, Coco asks me casually, “Margot go home?” 
     I’m like, “huh??”
     “Margot go home?” Coco says again.
     And I realize that The Moment has arrived.  Coco wants the twins to leave.  “Well, Margot lives here with us,” I tell her.
     “No!  This my house!” Coco insists, raising her voice and waving her hand around to suggest that everything the sun touches is hers.  “My house!”
     “But Margot lives here with us,” I say again.  “Will you share your house?”
     “No!  Not share!” she says in her little pouty voice.
     “You won’t share your house with Margot?”
     “No!  Not share!”
     “But, that will make Margot very sad if she doesn’t have a place to live.”
     Coco pauses, looks at her dinner plate, and thinks about it.  After a few seconds, she says, “Ok.  I share.”
     And The Moment is over.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mission "Twin Retrieval": Passports and visas secured.

It’s Thursday and our last day in India.  And we’re really excited to be heading home tonight.

Tuesday was a busy day wrapping up passports and exit visas.  The DNA results arrived at the U.S. embassy on Tuesday morning and the passports were ready within a couple of hours.  Ken jumped into a tuk-tuk and dashed over to the embassy to pick them up.  Then we all headed out to finish the exit visa process.  The first stop was Ms. Poonam’s office to get the paperwork to take with us to the FRRO.  Unfortunately, we forgot the photos we needed in our room but Ms. Poonam was able to contact the photographer who delivered new copies to her office within an hour.  We then went to the FRRO for the exit visas. 

The FRRO (“Foreigner Registration Regional Office”) is an interesting place; it’s where all foreigners in Delhi get their visas so it’s a busy place and a bit of a parade of nations.  We met a nice woman from Africa (who of course asked us “Where’s the mother?”), two women from Australia who helped a bit with the babies, and a young African man studying in Delhi.  The FRRO process has changed a bit since we were here two years ago.  For example, now only applicants for visas can enter the building (unlike last time when our lawyer sent someone from his staff with us to walk us through the process) and the babies have to be present (unlike last time when Cornelia was in the car outside just in case she had to be seen).  Overall, the FRRO is a bit like the San Francisco DMV:  really big, bureaucratic, seemingly disorganized, and slow.  (The San Francisco DMV, however, doesn’t have an open fire burning in the parking lot.  I’m not sure if it was a cook fire or for burning rubbish.)  After two hours we were done and on our way.

Lattes.  I'm happy.
High Tea at the Imperial Hotel
Despite running around Delhi for babies, passports and visas, and the every-three-hours bottle feedings, we have managed to have some social time and some very nice meals during our stay.  On our first day in India we met an Australian couple in the waiting room at the hospital who were picking up their newborn daughter.  We met them out several times, including for high tea at the Imperial Hotel and for dinner.  A friend was in Delhi for several days to meet with SCI and we met him for high tea and for lunch.  Last night we went out to dinner with another friend who works for Alliance India, a nonprofit organization working with people with HIV and AIDS.  He brought along a friend who works for the Gates Foundation’s India office.  And, yes, every time we had two infants strapped to our chests.

Margot after one of our outings
Our journey home starts tonight.  We'll leave our hotel at midnight for our 3:00 a.m. flight.  We fly from Delhi to Amsterdam and then, after a short layover, from Amsterdam to Portland, Oregon.  We have several hours in the Portland airport before our flight to San Francisco.  We land at 5:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon, about 30 hours after we leave our room here.

The babies are doing well.  They are getting pretty good at lifting their heads and starting to grab fingers.  

Cornelia and Grandma Connie in Savannah

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mision "Twin Retrieval": A visit with Dr. Shivani

Yesterday we dropped by the SCI offices and had the chance to visit Dr. Shivani.  We think Dr. Shivani is absolutely terrific.  She has created an amazing agency full of wonderful people, and she seems to work 24-7.  Even though she must have lots and lots of clients, she is always responsive to our emails or at least monitoring our communications with everyone at SCI.  We just can't say enough good things about her!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Mission "Twin Retrieval": A Busy 24 Hours

Well, the past 24 hours have been very busy and productive for us here in Delhi!  It's Tuesday night here as I write this.

One Indian Tuk Tuk
Yesterday (Monday) Ken spent the afternoon darting around Delhi running errands. Now, you should understand that Ken is quite happy darting around a foreign city seeing what he can see.  And if he has the excuse of “running errands”, why, that’s even better!  And better still?  Darting around a foreign city running errands in an Indian tuk-tuk!  So, off he went, to "run his errands."  

The first stop was the bank at the GK-2 M-Block
Many Indian Tuk Tuks
market (which is just down the street from our hotel) to get a cashier’s check to pay for the DNA tests at the US embassy on Tuesday.  It actually turned out to be stops at three different banks before Ken successfully completed the transaction.  He  mentioned to me later that standing in line at the last bank was like standing in line for a drink at a bar: you elbow your way up to the counter along with everyone else until the teller gets around to you and then it’s your turn.  

The next stop was SCI to
pick up the twins’ birth
M Block Market
certificates.  Then Ken dashed off to the M-Block market in GK-1 for baby formula and a couple of extra bottles.  While there -- and  because he had some time before he had to be anywhere else -- he did a bit of shopping for baby clothes.  And, wouldn’t you know it?!  Baby clothes in India are both cute and inexpensive!  I think he bought about six pairs of leggings for Cornelia for $1.50 each.  He came home with two shopping bags and quite happy with his purchases (although then I reminded him that we would have to fit his purchases into our luggage).

After shopping, Ken was off to meet with Ms. Poonam, the woman who will help us through the process to get the twins’ Indian exit visas through the FRRO.  Fortunately, she worked at the US embassy here in Delhi for 22 years and knows all the ins and outs of the SCI surrogacy / DNA testing / US passport / FRRO visa process. 

Ken made it home just in time for us to leave for our “five-days-after-discharge-from-the-hospital-to-make-sure-you-can-keep-your-babies-alive” appointment with the pediatrician.  (No, we did not take a tuk-tuk to this appointment.)  The twins are doing great.  They've both put on more weight; Flynn is now 6lb 3oz and Margot is now 5lb 15 oz.  Yes, Flynn has caught up to Margot and is even slightly bigger (or his diaper was heavier at the time . . . ).

Finally, we wrapped up the day with the passport photographer.  It was great.  He came to our hotel, took the necessary pictures and was back within a couple hours with all the copies we needed.  Flynn’s and Margot’s passport pictures are pretty funny.

 Today (Tuesday) we were off to the U.S. embassy for our 10:00 a.m. appointment for the twins' DNA tests.  When we arrived, the folks at the embassy told us they would go ahead and complete the additional steps and paperwork necessary to issue the passports as soon as the DNA test results are returned.  In other words, we would not have to go back again tomorrow (Wednesday) for our second appointment.  Hallelujah!  So, after swabbing lots of cheeks for DNA samples (four swabs for everyone!), filling out a lot of multi-page forms (including, for each twin, an application for a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, an application for a U.S. passport, an affidavit of support (i.e., we promise to take care of these two until they are are at least 18), and an application for a social security number), attaching a lot of passport pictures, and signing a lot of documents in a lot of places - and two hours later -- we were done!
U.S. Embassy in Delhi

Now we wait for the DNA results so that we can get the passports and then complete the exit visa process. At this point I'm optimistic that we will fly home as scheduled.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A glimpse into our new normal . . . .

Papa, Flynn and Margot

Mission “Twin Retrieval”: No updates, really.

"I’m so tired of being tired . . . ." - Ken

"Hmmm . . . I'm not tired.  Are you tired, Flynn?"
"No, I'm feeling quite well rested actually."

It’s now Saturday night in India and we don’t have any news to report.  It’s all about bottles and sleeping at this point.  

We did make a brief venture outside yesterday with the babies, for a bit of a stroll and a quick bite to eat.  Now, I fully admit that I don’t like to venture out in India.  It’s hot here.  Like, really hot.  And I just don’t like the heat.  I step outside and immediately start sweating profusely.  It’s not a pretty sight.  And then of course I’m not keen on getting stared at - and I mean outright stares.  Two foreign men walking around with infants strapped to their chests . . . and the big white guy sweating profusely.  Ken, of course, is not fazed at all.  “Hey, honey, let’s pop into this coffee shop for lunch and give the babies their bottles.”  Uh, okay.

Unfortunately I got quite ill after our outing yesterday and spent the next 24 hours recovering.  Ken had to take care of the twins and me for about 12 hours.  

Tonight we Skyped with Coco, Grandma and Grandad.  They seem to be having a very nice time, and Coco's potty training is coming along nicely too.  

Skyping via iPhone