Tick-Tock

My baby turned one this week. My big girl started school last month. As I’ve been waiting for things to get “easier” and hoping for the comments and questions about our family to die down, it now hits me: I like the attention.

Sure, sure. I complain about it all the time. I want to be a family that just blends in blah, blah, blah. But the truth is, I liked being the family with “four under four”, “four in three years”. The ones with the visibily “Irish Triplets”.

I like being asked “How Do You Do It?”

Now that they are getting older — and presumably “easier” (although…HA!) — we don’t draw that much attention. And, as much as I complained about it before, I miss it already!

In a world that is crazy and hectic and stressful, the attention being a MoT brings is something that gives me a little extra confidence. A little extra push to keep doing a good job. Keep smiling. Keep laughing. I worry that if people stop commenting, I’ll start doubting myself. I know that sounds crazy, but it something I think about:

When they stop being small and cute, will I stop being perceived as a good mom?

There is a sense of accomplishment when people notice — and point out — how challenging our days must be. I take it is a compliment when people comment on the patience we have, the happiness we are filled with, the laughter that is free-flowing in our lives. When people say, “I couldn’t do it” I hear “You’re doing a good job.”

And there are a LOT of days when I need to hear that I’m doing a good job.

A Tale of Two Big Brothers

Once upon a time there was a set of identical twin boys born into a loving family. They were the little princes to their princess sister. They were cuddled and fussed over; loved and adored.

And then, a new prince came along.

At first, the big brothers were too young to care. They were only 15 months old and, frankly, this new little one spent most of his time sleeping and out of the way anyway. Then, he started to grow.

photo81For a while, he was amusing. A play thing they could tickle and make laugh. And then walk away from to go back to their “big boy” games. Oh, those times were happy.

Then, he started to move. And WALK. walkingAnd, Lord help him, he touched their things. What were the princes to do?

Prince A decided to embrace the littlest one. Despite the slight 1 lb difference in their sizes, he acts the older brother. He “helps” by bringing the littlest one his bottle or snack. He “helps” by dragging him along holding his hand as he learns to walk. He tackles hugs him to show his love.

Prince B has taken a different approach. He has decided to exert his big brother authority. He screams “NO” when the littlest one comes within 2 feet of his toys — whether he is using them or not. He steals food off of the tray of the LO’s high chair. He flat out refuses to let him hold a sippy cup in his presence.

The two princes have taken very different approaches despite being raised the same way, by the same parents, in the same house…and sharing the same genes. Simply another example of how each is his own person despite the label of “identical twin”.

Summer Weather + Relaxation = Potty Training?

With our singleton, every milestone and transition came with a plan. Stopping the bottle, transitioning to a big girl bed, potty training, you name it. We had a well-researched, discussed-to-death plan for all of those things. And, in the end, all of those transitions took longer than I would have liked and almost all came with regressions and tears.

When we found out we were having twin boys, I thought “Oh God, I need more PLANS”. I started analyzing how and when we did certain things with our daughter and trying to mentally alter the plans. But so far, they’ve made all the transitions on their own and rather spontaneously. With NO PLANS. Dropping the bottle and going to cup only. Check. Sleep schedules. Check. Crib-to-bed transition. Check.

We’ve turned the corner on two years and next up on the list: Potty-training. I had always thought we wouldn’t even introduce this concept until they are 3 because, well, it sounds hard! Two BOYS? No thanks. But after reading about other Multiple Mama’s recent potty successes, Brian and I decided to take advantage of the warm summer weather — and fenced in backyard — and have a go.

First, I took to heart a post from Amazing Trips. The blog has documented the struggles of potty training the triplets. The PLANS, the manuevers, the bribes. Everything. But then this post describes the recent success of potty training the youngest child by simply allowing him the freedom to figure it out. Huh.

I mentioned all this to Brian. The next nice day, he took the boys outside and took off their diapers. He placed a potty seat outside and they all poured water into it while Brian said “potty, potty”. There was a lot of excitement and clapping. And they went on to playing as normal (sans diapers*).

Brady

Then, miraculously, out of the blue, Brady ran over to it yelling “pee pee” and WENT. IN THE POTTY. And then proceeded to do this on a consistent basis for the rest of the morning. And afternoon. And the next day. Nice.

Then, building on LauraC’s thoughts of “peer pressure” when potty-training twins, we decided to focus our energy on Brady, since he seemed to be the one so interested. We put Brady in pull-ups and he tells us potty and he tries. He can pee often, hasn’t pooped yet but is putting in the effort. At some point, Aaron will follow along, right? Right. Aaron now grabs himself (lovely boy habit) and yells “PEE PEE”. And then goes. Wherever he is. So he has the concept of the bodily function down, now we just have to get him to the potty. But, he’s interested because Brady is doing it.

We still have a way to go. But I wanted to thank these (and other) Mothers of Multiples for putting two ideas in my head — that went against the PLANS I was forming — that seem to actually be working!

*Sans diapers AND with blue, princess high-heeled shoes. We’re all about fashion.

Cross-posted at our family blog: www.thewjourney.com

Identity Crisis

My boys look alike.
A&B

Thankfully they have distinct voices and personalities. And, for the most part, I can tell them apart by sight as well. Although, occasionally even I will look at a photo and say, “I’m not sure but I THINK that is…..” For example, this photo:
mystery

I could make an educated guess. But I won’t. Because I would likely be wrong.

This concerns me, because if I, the mother who knows them better than anyone (excluding their father, of course) can get confused, that most certainly means the rest of the world will be even MORE confused.

And they are not interchangable. They are unique. They are their own people.

We try to help out the rest of the world. We try to eliminate those awkward moments at family parties where an aunt or uncle wants to call to one of them but really…has no clue which boy it is. Or worse, is confident they DO know them apart, when in fact, they are wrong.

So, we resist the urge to put them in adorable matchy-matchy outfits and we use clothing to provide visual clues to the outside world of who is who. When we are out in public, Blue=Brady. Simple as that. No confusion, no awkward pause. Aunts, uncles and cousins can always say with complete confidence “Hello, Brady” or “Here’s a cracker, Aaron.”

This has been working for us since their birth. Because it goes beyond eliminating the discomfort of others. It provides Aaron and Brady with their own, easily recognized identities with no pause or confusion. And our family and friends can focus more on their other qualities rather than spending entire visits distinguishing who is who. They are almost never referred to as “the twins”. They are Aaron and Brady. “Brady Blue”, but Brady nonetheless.
IMG_2502

Do any other MoMs consciously give the outside world a little friendly nudge? If so, what do you do? I’d love to hear other ideas!

Big Boy Beds!

Remember when I told you of my Mommy Peeping? Little did I know that would be the last time Aaron and Brady slept in their cribs!

Brian and I had mere hours until bed time to decide: crib tents or toddler beds. We had the toddler beds in the attic, ready and waiting. Crib tents would be a trip to the mall and an expense for a temporary fix. And just HOW temporary we had no idea. Since Brian is the one who deals with nap time 5 most days, the final decision was his. He chose to just go for the beds.

After dinner that night, we went for it. We left the cribs set up in the room, just in case. We pushed their dresser into the closet (just in case). We took the changing table out of their room (just in case). We unplugged their lamp (just in case). We set their CD player in their (now empty) crib so they’d still have their music but hopefully couldn’t get to it (they did). But truth is: they went to bed with little-to-no fanfare. There was no production, we just put them in, turned on the music, said “night-night” and held our breath as we walked out. There was a little whining, but in about 15 minutes, sleep. SLEEP.

Nap time the next day: same thing.

Bed time the next night: Brady needed a little extra cuddle time but honestly, is that the end of the world? Five extra minutes of cuddle. Then SLEEP.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Sure, it takes slightly longer for them to settle down for their naps, mostly because we opted to leave their train table in their room. But just yesterday I heard Aaron say to Brady “NO. Night-night.” at nap time. And bed time is not an issue.

We removed the cribs from their room and pushed their little toddler beds together. Sometimes they sleep on their own beds, sometimes they sleep together.

So, yes, it was that easy. I’m as shocked as anybody. Perhaps this bodes well for future potty-training?*


*I know, I’m still laughing too!

Peeping Mommy

I put down my 2-year old boys for a nap 90 minutes ago.

Within 1 minute, Brady walked back out of their room. Proud as a 2-year old can be.

“Hi!” he said.

Um…didn’t I just put you in a CRIB? A crib with no bumper, no toys, nothing to stand on?

I put him back into the crib, left the room and spent the next 42 minutes watching them from the doorway, being quiet as a mouse and trying to stay out of sight, hoping to catch one of them in the act. There were a few false alarms but no more escapes (yet). It was hard being still and not rushing in, but I was blessed with a rare opportunity to watch them interact with each other.

I watched all manner of gymnastics including headstands. I watched the boys holding hands through the crib slats. I watched them pass books back and forth. I watched them talk and laugh. It’s not really eavesdropping if you don’t understand what they’re saying, right? I even saw a kiss.

Then, the sweetest thing. Brady climbed into Aaron’s crib. I panicked but saw the safe maneuver and let it go. The laughter…oh, the laughter. Then the cuddling. They finally seemed to settle down and I walked away.

I normally would not watch them like that. Normally when I put them in their cribs, the clock starts on “me time”. I run away, eat, clean up a bit, catch up on MY stuff. But because I was nervous about an escape, I sat and quietly observed a normally private time in my babies’ lives.

And I loved it. It proved to me what I already knew: they have a bond I can never, ever understand.

I’ve never been so glad to have someone climb out of their crib. (But make no mistake, the minute they — and their sleeping little brother — wake up, we are off to Babies R Us for crib tents!)

How Terrible Will the Two's Be?

I cannot believe that we are less than one week away from having two 2-year olds. It is mind-boggling. Last year at this time, the little ones were creeping and crawling, experimenting with words. Now, they are running, jumping, and talking incessantly (although, we don’t understand a lot of what they are saying, they are sure trying). In a word, we are exhausted.

In reality, these last two years have been tiring but they have been physically tiring. Emotionally, psychologically, we’ve had it easy. I know that is all about to change. First up on the battlefront: discipline.

We haven’t had to do too much in terms of discipline to this point. For the most part, we’ve only had to worry about keeping the boys from causing themselvesharm (i.e. keeping them off of the dining room table, keeping them from eating things they shouldn’t, watching them around the stove, etc.). But we haven’t had to worry about their “behavior” per se.

That is all changing.

As they are increasingly mobile and desiring more and more independence, they are starting to…ahem…assert themselves more: with each other, with their other siblings, and with us. There is more hitting, more throwing, more pushing. Things that cause harm to others. And we have yet to find a discipline strategy that works.

Because they just don’t care.

With our oldest daughter, a mere lookof disappointment was enough to stop her 9 times out of 10. With Aaron and Brady, a look translates to a challenge. “oooohhh, you don’t want me to do that? HAHAHA! Watch me…here I go!”

We’ve tried counting. With Alaina, we have made it past 3 exactly twice in her four years. The boys, ignore us.

We’ve tried time outs. Alaina has had one in four years (the looming threat is enough). The boys enjoy them. What’s worse, is they enjoy each other’s time outs. They laugh, bring each other toys (yes, we interfere, but still…..)

Consequences? Forget about it.

Reward systems? Who cares.

Distractions? Sure. But are they learning anything from that? Not really.

They just egg each other on. And I know when they babble at each other they are really conspiring to get away with something truly bad!

So, MoMs who have survived the “Terrible Two’s”…tell me, how bad is it going to be? And what has worked for you in terms of setting consistent limits with multiple 2-year olds?

What Did You Say?

I have long excused the fact that Aaron and Brady do not speak nearly as well as their big sister did at this age. They are not the first born, they are multiples, they are boys. But as they approach their second birthday and their communication frustrations are now rising along with mine, I’ve been thinking about this thing we MoMs often hear about:

Twin Talk.

Is it true? Do twins really develop their own language? If you listen to Aaron and Brady with each other, they seem to understand each other. They babble back and forth to each other in their cribs when they wake up in the morning and before they fall asleep at night. They “chat” in their car seats in the car. But are they really communicating? Or, do they simply enjoy each other’s company. I used to think it was the former, but the more I watch them and the more reading up I do on “twin talk”, the more I think it’s the latter.

If you truly listen to them and their mispronounciations, they have the same ones. For example, they substitute the “B” sound with the “D” sound universally. I don’t think this is a function of twin talk so much as one started and the other is copying him. And now that the second is reinforcing the first, he’s not apt to change his habits.

So, what to do?

I’m not sure they’d qualify for Early Intervention programs at this point (especially with the level of “need” rising with budgets being cut), but it’s still worth inquiring about at their 2-year check up in a few weeks. I do think, however, that there is quite a bit of work that my husband and I can and should (and don’t currently do enough of) with them at home.

For starters, we are fairly terrible at getting them alone time with us or with other children. They spend a good 90% of their time together, as a unit. The few times we’ve separated them for outings, Aaron has embraced it and Brady has looked lost. For that reason alone we should focus more of our energy getting them apart. But I think speaking to them one on one, without the influence of the other, would help with their language skills as well.

Second, we are also very quick to respond to their communication attempts even when they are not clear. We have identified patterns in their spoken language, patterns in their body language and just patterns in their behavior depending on the time of day that lead us to be able to anticipate most of their needs and interpret their grunts and whines when the words that they do have are not sufficient. This does nothing to encourage them to work on their vocabulary or language skills at all. They know Mommy and Daddy will get them what they need — and we are always the ones caring for them — so they have no need to fine tune their communication.

I hope that by making an extra effort as parents, we will start to see some of the frustrations go away – on their end and on ours.

What about you other parents of multiples? What is your take on Twin Talk and what have you done to get past it?

Please Vote! Thursday, June 4th

Hello Everyone! Enormous thanks go to our wonderful MoM’s who have agreed to “try out” for HDYDI! We are beyond thrilled that so many of you are reading along with us, and we hope you enjoy our contest week. Please vote for the author you would like to hear more from, as the authors with the most votes at 12:00am Eastern Time on Sunday, June 7th, will be invited to write for HDYDI. Enjoy and PLEASE VOTE!


Post #1: Inseperable, by Carissa

Carissa is a reformed lawyer who now stays at home with her 21 month old boy/girl twins. Carissa and her husband, Aaron brought their twins home from South Korea in October of 2008 when they were 14 months old and have been living and loving life with multiples since! While Carissa started out blogging to get through the adoption process, she now blogs to keep track of the daily happens at their house in central IL as well as get advice on everything from childrearing to fitness! Please visit her at Faith, Hope and Love, http://abc123vn.wordpress.com/

I never expected to be a mother to twins, to be honest I was beginning to wonder if I would be a mother at all. See we could not use any of the usual infertility methods and were told we had about a 2% chance of getting pregnant at all and if it was multiples I would have to be on complete and total bed rest due to some of my issues, so we chose adoption. When we started the process we actually said we would love boy/girl twins and the social worker about laughed us out of the room. See twins in international adoption are rare and boy/girl twins are even more rare so we had about as much chance of getting pregnant as we did of adopting boy/girl twins. Fast forward 14 months and we receive the referral of boy/girl twins from South Korea – boy were they tiny in the pictures even though they were five months old, they had been born at 25 weeks 5 days and must have been fighters to make it that far and be in such good health (though not perfect)! By the time we said yes, we knew that they would be about 14 months old when they came home, the whole thing seemed surreal.

Fast forward again to October 12, 2008 – the day we became a family. Little Man and Little Princess had just turned 14 months old but were more like 7 to 9 months old developmentally. No one had prepared me for one baby let alone two. I will never forget that flight home, Little Princess would ONLY go to her new daddy and would scream when I came near her and Little Man wanted to be walked around the plane for the first 10 hours of the 12 hour flight. My husband’s dinner ended up on the floor and some people were giving us dirty looks, though most were offering to help. I begged my mom to have the pilot turn the plane around so that I could give them back, I didn’t want to do this anymore. My mom, who had come with us for this EXACT reason, quietly told me that was not an option and I was their mother through the good and the bad. 

Little Man and Little Princess have now been home days shy of eight months – yep I have been doing this by trial and error for eight months! As I am sure every mother of multiples has experienced the sleep issues, the eating issues, recently the double tantrum issue and the attachment issues, but that was more adoption than multiples. And some have experienced the multiple doctor visits and the numerous therapists to boot. But as my husband and I were discussing the other day, the thing we love the most about our babies is their bond with each other. See we learned after we said yes that due to a few issues one of our sweet babies has if we had not said yes our babies would have been separated and adopted by different couples possibly worlds apart. We cannot imagine the two of them apart, they don’t even like to play apart. They have their own language that they use to talk to each other – while we love it we hope this goes when they learn to talk. They learn from each other and compliment each other – see our daughter has NO fear and our son will not do anything until he is absolutely sure it is safe, so while he learned to walk first she taught him how to climb the stairs! I love when they try to calm each other or even try to get the other to laugh so that they don’t have to cry anymore. 

I cannot imagine the damage that would have been done if these two had been separated. We are not sure our son would have survived, it took him about 7 months to fully open up to us and really start the attachment process even though he started bonding before that, his sister is the only reason we heard laughter from him before that time. And our daughter may not have been so happy and carefree, she shows us what pure joy is every day!   I have yet to separate them for more than an hour or so at a time, mostly because that causes huge fits and massive jealousy (what is the other one getting that I am not) but I know the day is coming when I will be forced to separate them in some way or another. I already am dreading that day as their bond is greater than any siblings I have ever seen and it will break my heart to see them upset because they do not have each other. For now we keep them together and relish the bond that they have and we will deal with the separation when we have to with the help of the moms from How Do You Do It!

Post #2, by Megan

Married in 2000, my husband and I have entered a new chapter in our life:  parents to 3 children.  Often stopped by strangers with the comment, “Your hands sure are full!” I just smile and remember a quote from an online blogger: “If you think my hands are full, you should see my heart.” 

I have soon-to-be one year old boy-girl twins and a 5-year-old son.  Recently back to work at a new job after a stint as a stay-at-home-mom, I’m studying in preparation for my massage therapist Board exams, while searching for balance in life, love, and marriage. 

This new road in life is sure to offer many adventures, headaches, joys, frustrations…what greater bliss, though, than to love one’s children and see them grow every day.

Birthdays are a time of reflection for me.  I’ve never really been one to make New Year’s resolutions; instead, come spring, right around my birthday, I feel the need to take stock in myself, my life, and my goals.  The same is true with the kid’s birthdays.  We just celebrated my son Logan’s 5th and later this month we’ll celebrate the babies’ first.  Some pretty major birthdays in my book.  All I can think about is how far we’ve come in the last half-decade since Logan was born, and how different life is from just one year ago before Kade and Addie arrived.  Remembering that I was so big that I couldn’t make the walk around our block this time last year or how I would go to my pre-natal appointments just dreaming of hearing the words “let’s induce” make me realize how different life is today.  And how both my husband and I were completely, totally different parents and people.  So much has changed since we became parents – and then, parents of multiples.

And yet, I find myself fondly gazing forward, too.  I can’t wait to get an idea of who the babies really are.  Their personalities are blossoming.  And every day, there’s something new that they are learning, each at their own pace and own style.  It’s the same with Logan.  He’s more and more a “big kid” every day; I see him practically growing overnight!  Skills that were once hard or challenging now come easily and he is more outgoing and independent than even 6 months ago.

All of this makes me wonder what and who these little people will become.  I would take a sneak-peek into the future if given the option.  Just to see what they look like, or who they are friends with, or who they choose for partners in life.  Is it possible to be completely enthralled with the future at the same time I’m pining for the past?  It’s as if these children are each a special little gift to be opened one day at a time.  I have to remember to be patient and enjoy the joy of watching them grow.

That’s the goal, isn’t it?  To enjoy each day, each milestone for what it is, and not just where it’s leading.  What about all of you?  Do you feel yourselves missing the stage that’s just passed as you pack up the now-too-small clothes?  Or dreaming of what the future holds?  Or, are you able to just sit back and take it all in?

Post #3: A Milestone, by Jenna

Jenna is a mom of a 2.5-year-old son and 4.5-month-old identical twins daughters, and wife to another researcher and student. At some point she will get back to her PhD studies, but in the meantime she’s at home learning with, and from, her three children. She has considered starting a blog to record her experiences and to reflect on her mothering journey, and maybe some day she’ll find the time to do it.

Today marks a milestone in our house. Tonight our 4.5-month-old twin daughters will sleep in their own bedroom.  They usually only wake for one feeding during the night.  Their milestone is about sleeping in their own room. My milestone is about accepting how my life has changed since we found out we were having twins.

I’m a planner and organizer-type person so naturally, before we even conceived the baby, I decided how I was going to balance work, school, my young son, and a new baby About a year ago we decided to have a second child – and I had a plan. According to my plan, I am supposed to be making the final revisions to my doctoral dissertation while I waited for the date to be set for me to defend it….

Instead… yesterday, I found myself at the library with a crying baby in the baby carrier, a crying toddler in one arm, while I pushed a double stroller loaded down with a second baby and a pile of picture books and board books. Clearly my plan is not working out as I imagined it would.

It all changed the day I had my first ultrasound at five months. At three months, and again at four months, I had been thrilled to hear the heartbeat of my baby. My sister had teased me about having twins and even asked the midwife to check for a second heartbeat. The midwife had reassured us that there was only one baby, placing the stethoscope at several different spots to demonstrate that there was only one heartbeat. My plan seemed to be working out just fine. I could finish my research analysis and rough out my thesis before the baby came, relax with my newborn while my committee read through my work – and I’d be ready to make the final changes just as the baby was getting old enough to be eating a little solid food, thus freeing me a little to resume my academic work.

I settled myself on the ultrasound bed ready to see my little one. Seconds later, I was looking at two little heads! We were expecting twins! Immediately, lying on the ultrasound bed, I started frantically trying to revise my plans, to rescue my well laid-out program that would have seen me graduate with a 9 or 10-month-old baby.

Being pregnant with twins turned my plans upside down! I had to give up my academic work so that I could get the rest I needed. I had to shop for all of what a second baby would need, instead of just checking off on my list what I already had from our first child’s babyhood. I had to figure out how to shoehorn two babies into our small 3-bedroom condo that was already overflowing with the accoutrements that our son had brought along with him. Desperately, I tried to preserve my connection to the academic world by maintaining my office in the third bedroom, and having all three children share one room.

Coping with twin girls and a 2.5-year old son continues to be a series of daily lessons in living in the moment. I try not to plan more than one activity, such as a playdate or going to the library, in a day. In fact, a day when I have dinner ready when my husband gets home is a successful day.  Many days I also manage to get a load of laundry done, the floors vacuumed or the dishwasher emptied – all endless tasks with three small children.  But it is an ongoing struggle not to expect to accomplish more in a day than just keeping them clean and dry and fed and safe.

The reality of my derailed plan is particularly apparent this week. My mom is visiting and with her help, I am converting my office into the girls’ bedroom. Soon after our girls were born, I realized that my office space would need to become the girls’ space, and I’ve spent time moving books, office supplies, and craft materials out and packing files and papers in boxes. But really, I’ve resisted the whole process.

I like what my office, no matter how messy it might be, represents.  It is my space in the house. It represents all my years of work as a student and as a researcher, and all that I’ve accomplished. It isn’t about the mundane and repetitive tasks of diapering, feeding and burping babies, and reading and rereading the same picture books. It is about losing track of myself in ideas that interest and excite me.

I don’t want to give up what my office represents.  Being a stay-at-home-mom was never part of my plan. But, I’m a long way from ready to be back at work or study fulltime. I’m not ready to be away from my children. I don’t want to be away from them from breakfast until dinner every day. I don’t want to come home so exhausted that we don’t spend quality time together. I need to find a way to focus on the present and the riches they bring to my life, rather than on what I’m giving up because they are here. I love to watch my daughters sleeping, holding hands. They are so clearly completely comfortable and contented. Seeing them smile when I come to get them up after a nap is the most wonderful feeling. At these moments, it is so clear to me that at home with my children is where I belong.

The challenge this week, and in the weeks and months and years to come, will be to, as time permits, create a new approach – one that will truly balance my time, that considers our family’s financial situation, that allows me to be actively involved in raising our son and our two daughters, and allow me to enhance, enrich, build, develop my sense of self in the process.

Jenna1

Please Vote! Tuesday, June 2nd

Hello Everyone! Enormous thanks go to our wonderful MoM’s who have agreed to “try out” for HDYDI! We are beyond thrilled that so many of you are reading along with us, and we hope you enjoy our contest week. Please vote for the author you would like to hear more from, as the authors with the most votes at 12:00am Eastern Time on Sunday, June 7th, will be invited to write for HDYDI. Enjoy and PLEASE VOTE!


Post #1: What Happens After the Stroller? by Jennifer W.

Our story begins with two Aggies meeting on E*Harmony in 2005, and getting married in February 2006.  We started our family early; we had our first child in August 2006. While still getting use to our first son we were pregnant again.  Thinking nothing of it I went to the doctor to find out that we were having spontaneous triplets.  So I carried our triplets for 36 weeks 6 days and had the perfect pregnancy with no complication or limitations put upon me. Four months later we were pregnant again with our last child.  So if you are asking yourself, “I do not think they know how that happens!”  We do and we finally decided that we would have 20 children unless we had surgery to prevent that from happening.  So we are a family of 7 with 5 children under the age of 3.  When our children were small we called them the “zoo” because they were gated in our house.  Now that they are older we call them the “safari” because they roam my house.  You can find our adventures, experiences, and the confessions of a tired mother on our blog: The Wilcoxson’s.

JenW1 

After we found out that we were having triplets there were several things that went through our mind, one of them being that we could not logically escape being a minivan family.  With that dilemma out of the way we had to find a stroller.  We decided that we would get a triplet stroller and still have our single stroller as well.  The nice thing about strollers is that you have some protection from the public and some warning when the grandmother or curious mother gets too close to the stroller.  What happens when the stroller is no longer an option or something that your child dreads?

With our oldest almost 3 and the triplets turning 2 they are at the stage where they no longer want to be strapped into the stroller, but want some of the freedom that comes with being in a family with singletons.  With that want and need for independence my husband and I had to find a way to give that desire to our children.  Independence was not going to come at the cost of safety though.  Holding hands was not an option because my husband and I do not have enough hands.  We like to tell people that we cannot play man-on-man with our children but zone defense.  So the searching began. 

There was an option for leashes, but I could see that in the newspaper: “Mother of 5 decides to walk her children like a dog walker.”  We did not need anymore attention than we already receive when we are in public.  Then one day I was looking at educational toys on the internet and found the solution.  With a little engineering and some common sense we were going to make this work for us.  You see I found a toy for beading animals or cars at One Step Ahead.

14463_2We decided that a rope with 5 animals on it would do the trick.  So my husband and I ordered the beads, got some nylon rope and decided that we were going to put the tractor and the barn at the end so that mommy and daddy could have a bead as well.  Each child gets an animal and then there is a loop for their hand when they get older and do not want to hold onto the animal any longer.

JenW2

After we put our “leash” together we had to try it out before we went into public with it.  For about three weeks we walked to the mail box and around our street to get the kids use to the walking together and the distractions around them.  Then we moved up to using it at church for about a month.  Now my kids will not go anywhere unless they know that the animals are in the bag.  I am so proud of them because they do not let the animal go unless we give them permission and they do not let other people distract them from the “mission” at hand.

I have found that as our children grow older the independence and freedom that their singleton friends have will take some strategic planning on our part to give them the same freedom or a resemblance of that freedom.  No matter if we are in a stroller or walking we will always attract attention and people looking on like we are aliens from another planet because we have more than our normal quota of children in our society. 

Post #2: I Have Two Turning Three, by Alix

Alix is mother to nearly-three-year-old identical twin boys, Nathan and Max.  She spends her time in one of the following ways:  working from home (read: balancing her lap top in one hand while reading Cool Cars for the forty-seventh time while simultaneously microwaving leftovers for dinner), staying up late (read:  loading dishes and folding three hundred size-3T tee shirts), and relaxing (read: actually sitting down while the boys run circles through the house).  Luxurious, it is not.  But fun?  Oh, yeah! Alix works part-time, mostly from home and shares child care with her husband, a university professor.

I found out I was having identical twins at 9 weeks.  Just for the record, this is not a post about the always-humorous but repetitive “I fainted on the ultrasound table!” or “My husband threw up on the ultrasound tech!”.  Or even, “I thought I was having a heart attack!” (O.K., I actually did briefly think I was having one, but that’s for another post).  However, I will say that for the most part, the weeks following this very unexpected news are now a total blur.  One of the few distinct memories I have from that period is of my mother-in-law saying to me, “I’ve gathered that parents of twins say the first three years are the hardest.”  She wasn’t saying this in a patronizing way.  On the contrary, I think she felt a bit of the overwhelming sense of awe and fear that I’m sure I was feeling (but can’t really remember now).  THREE YEARS?? That moment I do remember.  That moment is stamped so clearly in my mind I can actually remember the glare of the fluorescent kitchen light overhead as I tried to absorb this concept (and, of course, failed).  Who can absorb three years??

Fast-forward to May 2009.  My identical twin boys, Max and Nathan, will be turning three in one month.  This is definitely not a post about how everything has suddenly become efficient, peaceful and orderly in our home, nor is it a post about how I pine for those oh-so-difficult-yet-magical early days with two babies (really, I don’t, but again, that is for another post).  Rather, this is a post about the evolution of our family, and the ever-changing challenges of raising two boys born on the same day.

My husband and I spent the first year or so reminding each other that the boys would eventually sleep through the night (they did), they would actually use the bathroom and thus eliminate the need for refrigerator-sized boxes of Costco diapers (again, they did) and would become more independent (still waiting on that but optimistic).  And at every point, we were surprised that the things we waited so eagerly for happened so quickly that we only remembered how eagerly we awaited their arrival after the fact.  I have no idea if this is the same for parents of singletons, but certainly we were so busy and exhausted that all sorts of things in our household were only noticed after the fact (lack of clean laundry, groceries, gasoline in the car, etc.).

The second year of the boys’ lives, the death grip of exhaustion lessened.  I was still nursing, but only in the mornings and before bed, which felt incredibly liberating compared to the hours I’d spent nursing every day during the first year.  The boys were now sleeping, eating regular food, and walking.  Somehow, though, people seemed to think that life must have gotten a lot easier for me than it really had.  People would stop me and say, “Wow, that first year with two must really have been rough, eh?”.  Or, “I bet you feel lucky to have survived that first year!”.  And as I madly chased after two toddling boys incessantly moving from one source of danger to another (and often in opposite directions), I thought to myself, “What the hell??  I’m still just surviving here, people!  Isn’t that obvious?!”  And my mother-in-law’s words came back to haunt me. 

And I knew then, I just had to make it to three.

And here we are.

I decided to host a birthday gathering for the boys, their first big celebration of this sort.  They are really excited to have a party, and I realize that I am, too.  I feel as though this celebration is for all of us.  We have made it this far.  We got to three.  We got to three!!

The boys’ third year will, I know, bring its own round of challenges.  The boys will start preschool in the fall and my husband and I are finding it hard to imagine not having them running through the house trailing laughter and chaos all day long.  This will be a big transition for all of us, one of many.  I remember a parent of twins saying to me, “The days pass so slowly, the months and years, so quickly.”  So true. 

Three, here we come.  I think we’re ready.

Post #3, By Sarah

My name is Sarah and I’m a mid-thirties mother of four.   After a seemingly normal full-term pregnancy, my first baby, Abigail, was born sleeping in June 2006.  In an odd twist of fate, I became pregnant with spontaneous identical triplets a few months after Abigail’s death.  Against the odds, the girls were delivered at 35 weeks, 6 days gestation.  I work full time in the wonderful world of tax and enjoy photography, writing and running in my very limited free time.  I currently blog about our daily craziness at http://thegreatumbrellaheist.blogspot.com/

Today, as I pushed over sixty pounds of toddler in our triple jogging stroller, I thought of that common question asked of parents of multiples everywhere.  When does it get easier?  If you peruse any message board for caregivers of twins, triplets and more, you will see that question asked over and over and the response is usually the same.  It doesn’t get easier.  It just gets different.  So now, as I listen to my three toddlers scream in their cribs because going to bed is such torture, I really do wonder when it will get easier.  My husband, Rich, and I have told ourselves that the magic age will be five.   It seems better than choosing three or four and then being disappointed and I don’t think I can make it to seven or eight. 

We moved into our current home approximately 18 months ago.  The girls, who were 6 months old at the time, began to share a bedroom.  It was a new experience for all of us.  My husband and I debate the room sharing situation on what feels like a daily basis.  We can discuss and theorize all we want – the hard truth is that our standard builder’s special only has 3.5 bedrooms.  The .5 room is an office and seeing as Grammy, my mom, sleeps over quite a bit, we only thought it appropriate to give her a bedroom.  That leaves us with three girls in one room.

I have good friends who are twins and they shared a bedroom until their early 20’s.  I remember being slightly jealous of their camaraderie because I was not lucky enough to have a sister.  I have convinced myself, through a sleep deprived thought process, that once the girls are older, they will enjoy sharing a room.  I expect there to be a lot of comforting going on.  You know what I mean.  One of them wakes up afraid of the dark and her sister will tell her that it’s okay.  Okay, maybe if I believe hard enough, it will happen.

When the girls were about 18 months old, we pushed their three cribs together to form a big square in the middle of the room.  We thought it would be fun for them to share books and dollies during that wind down period prior to falling asleep.  For the most part, this crib configuration worked out.   We experienced a few incidents of book stealing and book tossing.  And by book tossing, I’m referring to a book landing on someone (possibly on the head) while she is sleeping.  It’s not very pleasant – I can assure you.  But then there was the night that I crept into their room to check on them and found Emily and Allie holding hands through the crib slats, asleep.  My heart just about burst open.

We, unfortunately, separated their cribs last month after I caught Allie pulling Anna’s hair.  The girls didn’t complain too much about the new set-up – not that they really could, anyway.  We were hoping that having some space between them would lessen the number of times that they awaken each other.  It hasn’t.

Of course, having the girls share a room means that there is a constant source of entertainment for us when listening in on their conversations.  The latest phase is Allie, the oldest of the three by 30 seconds, telling her sisters to go to sleep.  That’s exactly how she says it.  “Emmy, go to sleep.”  You see, although my girls are genetically identical, their sleep habits are not.  Allie seems to require and/or want more sleep than Emily.  Anna, the middle child, varies.  Allie has decided that the other two should conform to her sleep schedule.  

So back to when does it get easier.  At six o’clock Sunday morning, an alarm went off in the girls’ room.  We keep a sound machine and a Bose CD player in there and apparently, one of the girls accidentally set the alarm while they were “exploring” their room before either nap or bed.  And by alarm, I mean the annoying beeping kind.  Rich ran in there to turn it off and optimistically thought he could sneak out unnoticed.  I listened to events unfold over the monitor from the warmth and comfort of my bed.  Rich picked up Emily, who was the first to spot him, hoping to prevent her from awakening the other two.  Anna started in on one of her uncontrollable crying jags while Allie yelled, “Anna, go to sleep.”

In some sense, life is easier, although different, now.  It is far easier for one adult to care for three toddlers versus three infants.  When mornings such as these occur, my husband and I take turns napping.  I can nap at any point during the day so I always offer Rich the first adult nap slot and I take the next one.

And yes, at almost 26 months old, my girls still sleep in their cribs without crib tents.  I am blissfully unaware of any attempts of crib escape.  Believe me, they will be sleeping in those cribs for as long as possible.

Do your multiples share a room?  If they do share a room and you had the resources, would you separate them? 

Post #4: Best-Laid Plans, by Jen from Diagnosis: Urine

I’m a freelance writer, and mom to a 6-year-old, 4-year-old twin boys, and a 2-year-old. I worked full-time until February 2007, and since then we’ve relocated for a job, lost that job, experienced unemployment, and have lived to tell about it. My blog, diagnosisurine.blogspot.com, is an attempt at entertaining people with my angst over transitioning from breadwinner and go-getter to stay-at-home mom to a tiny quartet of destruction.

Like many others before me, I was at my most knowledgeable during my first pregnancy. I had researched it all. I had a birth plan, an infancy plan, and a toddlerhood plan.

But, alas, “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men…” You can guess how long my plans lasted.

Having twins two years later was like my first go-‘round all over again. I relearned everything, from the mechanics of breastfeeding to the mechanics of folding the double stroller. I did it while working full-time, mostly from home, while caring for a 2-year-old as well.

A baby’s cuteness blinds people to the reality of caring for a newborn. “Enjoy every minute of it!” kindly grandmothers admonish in the grocery store, and you smile and nod but fight back tears thinking of how very tired you are, and how the baby only sleeps when you’re out of the house, and how the longest stretch of sleep you’ve had in a week, is 30 minutes.

The baby-blindness goes double for twins. I remember getting a lot of, “Oh! You’re so blessed!” But I didn’t feel especially blessed. My boys were healthy and for that I was grateful, but in all honesty we’d tried for one baby, and we couldn’t afford two. I spent the twins’ first year steeped in guilt for all the times they cried and I could only comfort one of them, for the times I snapped at my daughter, for the way my marriage and the housework were neglected, and for the concessions my employer and coworkers had made for me.

When people saw me out with three kids under three and said, with a chuckle, “It only gets worse!” I wanted to cry or smack them, depending on the day.

I’m here to tell you the truth: It does get better.

My twin boys are four now. My oldest daughter is six, and we even added a fourth – our youngest daughter is two. I work for myself now, so I get to stay home and figure out my own hours. It is worlds easier than our lives were four, three, or two years ago.

Now, because I’m here to tell you the truth, I’ll also admit that it still sucks sometimes. There are speech delays, potty training crises, typical childhood phobias and obsessions that are only magnified by the presence of four children experiencing them simultaneously under one roof. Yes, there are days I hate this.

Today, for example, wasn’t out of the ordinary, but I’m three hours past the deadline for submitting this post. There were fevers and diarrhea and encounters with neighborhood dogs and trampolines, and minor squabbles and tricycle jousting, and that was in the course of about an hour. I do the best I can. Most of us do. Sometimes my best involves a “teachable moment” and a cute blog post with pictures, and other days it turns into me growling at the kids, each word punctuated with brief, terse silence; followed by a blog post lamenting my numerous failures.

So, in case this is the only post of mine you ever read – especially since I am late and will be lucky to be included at all – please know that it does get better. I promise you, what you go through during the newborn and toddler years with your twins is exhausting and punishing and of course it’s worth it, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s not 18 years away.