Foodie Friday: Getting Dinner on the Table

Getting on the table can be such a challenge! Some tips for getting it simple and healthy

Recently my long-time friends and I were sharing an email thread describing our shortcoming when it comes to getting a healthy dinner on the table during the work week. We are three intelligent ladies living in different areas of the US, each with different daytime duties and schedules and yet we all have one thing in common: we feel like we are failing when it comes to seamlessly feeding our kids at the end of a long day. I’m no expert, but I did come up with a list of ideas that have made my weekdays easier. Maybe some of these ideas will help make your dinners easier too:

  1. Instead of trying to plan out five meals to cook during the week, pick three.  I have found that five is too many to put together and you can usually float two meals between leftovers and schedule changes that come up as the week goes on.
  2. Make (at least) three of the same things every week.  You can switch up little things like the starch and/or the veggie side dishes (and you can change your three meals monthly if you fear you will get board) but making the same basic things during the week will save time and will help you get into a groove.
  3. Don’t make elaborate dishes.  I’m not sure about your kids, but mine really like individual foods.  Chicken legs, broccoli, avocado, rice.  Done.  Hamburgers (no bun because they really don’t eat constructed sandwiches at this age), sweet potatoes fries, veggie.  Done.  Red meat sauce and pasta, side veggie, yogurt.  Done.  Rice, lightly seasoned black beans, avocado, pork, done.  Pizza with whatever topping we have left in the fridge.  No chicken pot pies, no stews, no chili, limited soups.  I love the thought of them, but my children don’t eat them as well as individual foods, and they take too much time and effort for little return on investment.
  4. Prep SOME things on the weekend.  I have been cutting up a batch of onions, sweet potatoes, washing greens and cutting up broccoli on Sundays.  Then I just grab and go from there depending on what meal I am constructing.
  5. Make some grains on the weekends.  Make a batch of rice and cook some noodles or quinoa to have ready to go with any meal.  You can construct a lot of meals under pressure if you have these things cooked and in the fridge ready to use.  Refill your stock of one grain on Wed.
  6. Make ONE of your weekly meals on Sunday (the one that takes the longest to cook).  Roast a chicken, cook a giant package of chicken legs, cook a pork shoulder (I cook my pork shoulder completely plain then season it for other meals later e.g.  pulled pork (add bbq sauce) or tacos (pan cook it with taco spices), burrito bowls (reheat the meat with Mexican spices add it to a bowl of roasted veggies plus rice and avocado, cilantro, fresh tomato).  Cook this beef, chicken, pork, item relatively plain then add spices later to make it work for whatever you are doing.
  7. Anything you make a batch of (e.g. chili, soup, red sauce), freeze half immediately to be used for another meal.  I found that we get board of leftovers and I was consistently throwing some foods away. Having one meal in the freezer from a previous cooking adventure can be more helpful in the future.
  8. Frozen peas can be added to any meal to round it out :)

Those are my helpful tips and how I have managed to keep meal time somewhat sane.  Feel free to add any insights that have helped to get healthy meals onto your table.

Finding Time for Romance When You Have Kids

Marriage. Complicated at best even before you have kids. Add some multiples in the mix, and hey, let’s just say ‘ain’t nobody gettin’ lucky for awhile ’round here’.

LifeHacker.com recently posted an infographic with some interesting statistics on what makes a marriage happy, so this is definitely a hot topic. In fact, they said that the happiest couples are the ones without kids and that satisfaction levels in marriage drop for 67% of married persons.

Ouch.

So, when you have multiples (or kids in general), how do you keep your marriage relationship healthy? How do you find the time for romance? Well, with today being Valentine’s Day, we here at HDYDI figured we’d offer up some advice.

Before we dive into the juicy tips, I want to share a few resources we’ve found that can help in spicing up your marriage (did you see our giveaway today!?!) and having a healthy marriage after kids.

Healthy Marriage Resources

Books

{affiliate links}

Internet Resources

Alright, let’s get to the tips!

Romancing the Marriage…

Ldskatelyn was sick of not going on regular dates with her husband, and tired of asking the question “what should we do?” when the opportunity for a date night did appear, often resulting in the super over-done dinner and a movie date. So, for Christmas 2012 she planned out a year of date nights for her husband – 24 dates, 1 date night in and 1 date night out each month. All he had to do was pick the day! While some of the planned dates didn’t happen on schedule, or were switched with other dates, or included the kids, she ended up having way more date nights than she would’ve had otherwise. She especially found that date night ins were a great thing to have planned, especially since you can’t always afford the time or the cost of getting out, and it sure beat just watching movies or TV shows every night. For a look at what date nights she planned over the course of her year and how you can make your own ‘year of dates’, check out this post.

Not having family close-by, or a budget to hire a sitter very often, MandyE and her husband enjoy date nights “in” to stay connected with each other. For inspiration, they often think back to what they enjoyed together before their girls were born. While they haven’t made it to a college football game in the past five years, one of their favorite “dates” is to set up a tailgating event, complete with all their most-loved appetizers… even if it means watching the big game on tape delay. They find it’s a meaningful way to relax and remind themselves how much they enjoy each other’s company. See more of her date night ideas here.

SarahP understands that some people have a hard time leaving new babies. She says you should take people up on their offers to watch your kids and get out with your spouse (she’s really big on regular dates). Hanging out at home is great too, but actually leaving your home to do something together is also really vital. She encourages parents to change up their dates too. Do you want to be adventurous by exploring food you’ve never had before? What odd-ball Groupons are available? If you always go out to eat, maybe do something like ice skating or bowling. Do things that help you get to know the area you live in better. She’s very adamant that married couples should be spending quality time with their spouses, and it’s made a big difference in her marriage.

DoryDoyle shares an article on her blog about Love and Marriage and Parenting Twins. This is her first year of marriage with babies in tow, and she wanted to reflect on how to keep her marriage strong while raising twins. She shares that the statistics for couples raising multiples isn’t encouraging, and that it’s important to keep an eye on your relationship-meter. She gives 9 great tips on things she and her hubby do to have both a solid marriage (including romance!) and have fun parenting.

Marissa explains that because of her situation (complex medical needs), she and her husband really couldn’t both be gone that first year. So they did the next best thing – had a sitter come over and stay upstairs while they enjoyed take-out and a movie downstairs. No baby monitor to distract them either, because they were still right there in case of a medical need.

One of our newest contributors, MariTherrien says it’s the little things that matter. A quick backrub or playing with her hair the way she likes. Remembering your first date-iversary with a card, getting your partner’s favorite coffee or little treat at the store. Romance doesn’t always have to be movie-like grand gestures. When you do the little things you send the message that s/he matters!

They’re right. Going out on dates with your spouse – finding that time time bond – is pretty important. But, today is Valentine’s Day already, so how are you going to put together something that will show your spouse you’re serious about this romance thing?

Here’s what I did this year (see pic below). I made mine on HeritageMakers.com, but I also designed some free printable coupons where all you have to do is fill in the blanks and give  it to your spouse. It’s a cute idea that will start getting you on the right track towards adding that romance back in.

valentines gift love coupons

More Than Just Romance…

Now, romance is great and all, but let’s face it, there are other things that are also important to keeping a marriage healthy, like communication.

Sadia emphasizes that a marriage takes two, and it’s about more than just romance (although, that certainly helps!). She gives these tips:

  • ALWAYS say “I love you.” And always mean it.
  • Listen to understand, not just to respond.
  • Acknowledge your partner’s efforts, no matter how small.
  • Choose to be in love every single day.
  • Nurture your partner’s values, even if you don’t share them.
  • Don’t try to be everything to your partner. It’s okay for them to have friends to share certain interests with.

RebeccaD has one add-on to Sadia’s list above: figure out how to manage your own stress. Raising twins is STRESSFUL, especially the first year. If you don’t know how to manage it positively (or if you’re in need of new strategies now that time for workouts, spa dates, and sleep is nil), it will come out negatively at the nearest available adult—namely, your spouse.

I agree with them. Ever flown before? In the event of an emergency, you’re supposed to put on your air mask first, then help your children. Why? Because if you pass out while trying to help them, then you’re both doomed. And that’s the thing. The biggest piece of advice we can give you today:

Take care of your marriage first (or at least make it a strong priority), and parenting will fall into place.

When Romance & Marriage Just Aren’t Working…

This couldn’t go without saying, so here’s a side note from us HDYDI moms that have had a marriage end: We realize that not every marriage is a happy one, even if you’ve tried the above suggestions. So, if one spouse decides that they want out and has no interest in making things work, it’s time for both of you to put the children first and minimize the anguish of what is an unavoidably heartbreaking situation. Don’t get vindictive. Don’t get mean. Help your children know that they will never have to choose between their parents. You can’t convince someone to stay in a marriage after their commitment and heart have left it.

How do you keep your marriage strong and your romance alive? Tell us your tips and let’s all have a happier Valentine’s Day!

Re-Entering the Workforce

My last day in the corporate world was Friday, January 2, 2009, before my girls were born on Monday, January 5.  The game plan has always been that I would stay at home with the girls until they start kindergarten, in Fall 2014, at which time I hope to rejoin the workforce in a similar capacity to what I have always done.

This past fall, though, a couple of months before the girls’ fifth birthday, I was presented an opportunity to manage a long-term project for my former employer.  Estimated at 20 hours of work each week, the hours would be flexible.  I would work mostly from home, coming into the office for select meetings, as necessary.  I jumped at the chance to begin to ease back into the corporate world.

I’ve been clocking hours for the past couple of weeks.  So far it’s been both fantastic and challenging…with a few late nights and a dose of humor thrown in for good measure.

The Good

It’s been nothing short of invigorating to put on my business hat again.  I would never trade a day I’ve enjoyed with my girls over the past five years, nor do I want to wish away one second of the next few months before they start school in the fall.  I’ve relished my role as a stay-at-home-mom, but it’s been really energizing to step into a completely different role for a few hours.

The first time I opened my mouth and industry jargon flowed forth, I had to smile to myself.  I haven’t talked about product details and consumer shopping habits in ages…but those rivers run deep, I was reminded.

While I’m working on this project with a different department from where I used to work, it’s also been wonderful to run into a few of my former colleagues.  I’ve gotten some really delighted smiles and welcome back hugs, which has been so nice.

The Challenging

Re-entering the workforce after children from hdydi.comThe most challenging aspect of the past couple of weeks has been parts of the “work mostly from home” portion of the job description.  It’s true that I can do much of my work at any time, and I’ve been trying my best to consolidate that to before the girls’ wake-up time and after they’re in bed.  However, I’ve had a couple of conference calls to attend during the day, and that hasn’t always gone so smoothly.

During my first call, the girls were relatively well-behaved.  I did have to locate the mute button on my phone (which I’d never used before), but all in all, it went OK.

Since then, though, the girls have gotten a little more “brave”.  I cautioned them that only in the event of an emergency were they to interrupt me.  I forgot that “emergency” should have been more expressly defined to my five-year olds.  During my last call, I was interrupted for lip cream (chap stick) and for white drawer paper.  Afterwards, they explained to me,”…but I NEEDED chap stick!  My lips were chapped!”  Yup, that’s an emergency to a five-year old.

My girls don’t require me to interact with them 100% of the day, but I am usually pretty deliberate about saying, “Mommy will read one more book, and then I need to go make supper,” or, “When we finish this game, you can go upstairs and play while I make a phone call.”  The unscheduled interruptions are a relatively new thing for them.

We still have work to do in this area.

The Funny

I had to laugh at myself when I started combing my closet for appropriate business attire.  I found myself wondering if the tags from the cleaners had an expiration date.  Of the 20 or so pairs of slacks I have, most haven’t been touched in SIX YEARS (since I was wearing maternity clothes the winter before the girls were born).  While most of my pants are relatively classic (or that’s what I’m telling myself), I also had to laugh at the fit of a couple of pairs.  Um, I don’t think this will accomplish the has-it-all-together working mama look.

And then I laughed (to keep from crying) the first day I tried to wear heels for an extended period of time.  Since the girls were born, I’ve always said that I wore heels any chance I got…but in looking back, I realize those were very limited occasions.  Sure, I wore heels now and again out to eat, to a wedding, to a graduation…but I hadn’t had them on for a full six hours in many years.  I started off last Thursday, feeling professional and standing tall.  I did fine until I was rushing to pick the girls up from school…I stepped out of the car and tears came to my eyes.  I don’t know what happened, exactly, but my feet had had enough.  I limped into the preschool, but thank goodness I had some ballet flats in the car so I could make the drive home.

Lastly, I’ve laughed at the former colleagues who didn’t recognize me at all.  Granted, my hair hasn’t been this long since I graduated high school, and the last year before the girls were born, I wore glasses instead of contacts.  Oh, and I’ve lost about 60 pounds since I last graced the halls (during my about-to-pop last days of pregnancy).  Well…maybe I’ll grant them a pass, now that I think about that one.

Have you had any deja vu moments harkening back to your pre-baby days?  Have you re-entered the work force after some time away?  How did it go?  And [PLEASE!] tell me you have some magic to keep my kiddos at bay while I’m on the phone???

MandyE is mom to five-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Twinfant Tuesday: From Two Kids to Four

Looking back on the time that my twins were infants, sometimes I wonder how I survived that first year without significant hair loss and mental duress.

I have four kids. A sixteen year old boy (Trey), a 4-year-old boy (Jonah), and 21 months behind him the twins: 2-year-olds Max and Macy.

Twinfant Tuesday: From Two Kids to Four from hdydi.comI had Trey when I was just a baby myself. I had gotten pregnant my last semester of high school and gave birth to him during my midterms of my freshman year of college. I finished the semester with a 4.0 and nursed Trey a whole year.

After a failed marriage and several failed pregnancies, Jonah came twelve years later. I was a manager at a huge retail store and went back to work within 8 weeks. I nursed Jonah exclusively, so many hours were spent in my office with the horrible sounds of my electric breast pump working itself (and me) to death.

Three months after Jonah’s first birthday, I learned I was pregnant with twins! There was no elation running through my body. All I felt was fear. I couldn’t fathom that I would be the mother to four and I also stressed about pregnancy loss. (I will write my birth/pregnancy story another time.) The further along my pregnancy progressed, though, my fear was replaced with confidence. I figured I survived being a full time student at only 18 and nursing my baby full time. I survived corporate hell and no sleep for a year with a baby and we were great! I could handle twins! Twins were going to be a cinch!

My husband and I decided I’d stay home full time after all the bed rest and child care costs so I was ready to tackle the task! I was superwoman! Ready to conquer the realm of twins with no hesitation.

Well… hats off to all moms out there, but I’ll take my shirt off and give it to you moms of multiples. Infant twins are tough and I’m a proud survivor.

First of all, knowing that it’s going to be twice the work, and executing it are very different. My twins came out with very different schedules and needs. Neither ever wanted to feed together, sleep together, or anything together. I felt my life was a constant cycle of breastfeeding, pumping, changing, bathing, holding and kissing
squirming demons.

I am super blessed my twins came home straight from the hospital, but I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t get Macy to latch on for almost five months. Max was a nursing fool from three weeks on, but my girl needed coaxing. So in addition to eight to ten nursing sessions, I had to pump every three hours. Their toddler brother was very upset he’d been kicked off the mommy milk train and began to throw tantrums at the sight of me doing either.

My house looked like a Babies ‘R Us. I didn’t have much help from anyone because my husband was working constantly and most of my family was far away. My extra hands were swings, bouncers, Boppy pillows and Bumbos. I tried to hold at least one baby at all times because I felt guilty to put them down. I held and rocked my singletons constantly. I cried daily thinking I didn’t bond with my twins the same way.

Sundy with each of her 4 kids.

With twins, I had to learn to just “let it go”. This was the hardest thing to learn and I still struggle with it. My house isn’t the dust free museum of cleanliness it once was. I have relinquished control of laundry, dishes, and pretty much anything that doesn’t need immediate attention. My home is not a pig sty, but my children are evident in every square inch.

The biggest difference of having one infant compared to two was what happened within myself.

I can give lots of advice on what gadgets to use, how to wear twins while pushing a stroller and shopping for six, how to tandem nurse successfully, or how to baby proof anything. I have tons of ‘how-tos’ to hand out.

Those things were helpful to know. The real secret and best piece of wisdom I have though is: Be willing to change.

Be willing to accept defeat. Be okay with crying. Be okay with not being superwoman. You will adapt no matter the circumstances. One baby or three, working or not, single or married. I do so many things I never thought possible.

My twins are now two and it’s a whole new level of difficulty. They run in a dozen different directions every time I blink.

That first year, though… I survived! And so did they.

Mommy is a Person, Too

Did you see this article, “Mommy Is A Person”, circulating on social media recently?  After seeing a couple of friends post links, notated by words like, “AMEN!” in all caps, I decided to see what the fuss was about.

I can’t personally identify with all the examples the author cites as part of her “personhood”…it’s just not feasible for my husband and me to have a date night once a week, or to get 8 hours of sleep every night…but it did serve as a good reminder of something I try to model for my girls.

Until my girls were about 18 months old, I attended to their every single need.  My schedule was completely dictated by their schedule.  I rationalized that they slept so much in a 24-hour period that I needed to be concentrated fully on them when they were awake.

They had my undivided attention, or – if not – the undivided attention of my husband.  I remember how odd it felt one Saturday when my husband was sick.  On week days I cooked supper ahead of time, while the girls were sleeping, but I was in a quandary when Hubby couldn’t play with the girls that particular afternoon and I had a meal to make.  It was such a strange feeling to have my girls playing – by themselves – for a full hour while I made dinner.

Once the girls dropped down to one nap a day, I decided I could (and should) start to peel myself away from them a bit.  I wrote a blog post entitled, “There’s No Such Thing as the Kitchen Fairy”.  That was my move to making breakfast after the girls got up…rather than having it waiting on them, as I had always done.

Over the next few months, I continued to establish time for the girls to spend apart from me during the day.  In addition to meal prep, I eventually instituted “coffee time” for Mommy.  For 45 minutes or so during the morning, Mommy sits down with her coffee (and usually her computer), while the girls play.

It took a little getting used to, but I now see it as a really good thing.

Mommy is always Mommy, but she is a person, too.  Mommy loves more than anything to spend time with her babies, but there are other things she likes to do, as well.

Mommy likes to drink her coffee and edit pictures and journal (and blog!).

Sometimes while Daddy hangs out with the girls, Mommy likes to read a book, or go for a walk by herself.

Once a month, Mommy likes to get her toenails painted.

Mommy occasionally likes to meet one of her friends for coffee on a Saturday afternoon.

Mommy belongs to a Mothers of Multiples group.  She has a monthly meeting during which she learns new things and connects with other moms.

Recently I’ve instituted the policy that we don’t begin eating until everyone is seated at the table.  I’d gotten into the habit of serving the girls first, and sometimes they (and occasionally Hubby) would be half finished with their meals by the time I made it to the table.  Mommy is a person, and she enjoys eating a hot meal, in relative peace, just like everyone else.

Although it was at first hard to work up to, having established this “space” is a real positive.  In particular, the time away is a way to reenergize…to refresh…and to have a chance to miss my babies for a little while.

It’s also an opportunity to model for my girls that being well-rounded, that taking care of ourselves, is a very valuable part of life.

How do you take care of yourself?  How do you show your kids that “Mommy is a person, too”?

MandyE is mom to 4 ½-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Secondary Guilt

This is my fourth week back at work since the birth of our twins 13 weeks ago.  In the weeks leading up to my return, I had many people offer support (sharing their stories of tearful returns to the workplace) and some asking if I was really going to go back.  For much of my maternity leave, I felt this looming deadline.  I wondered how I would feel once back at work.  I’ve nearly always had two jobs since I was 19 years old, and for just as long, have known that I would return to work once I had kids.  But, I also knew everything could possibly change once I met their little faces.

Four weeks ago now the deadline was in front of me.  I re-entered the office that I left prematurely in June for a month of bed rest.  I chuckled a little at the decaf keurig coffee pods in my desk drawer, and my eggless Caesar dressing in the fridge, along with other things I couldn’t ingest while pregnant.  I noticed outdated paperwork and a card from my co-workers meant to be handed over in a shower that I missed due to sudden bed rest.  But, ultimately, I was shocked by how easily I fell back into the flow of working.  Granted, we did have our nanny start a week early, so that I could get to know her a bit.  That definitely helped to ease back into the work force.

I always thought that I would feel guilt about returning to work.  Instead, I felt guilt about how not guilty I felt.  I mentioned this to a close friend, an attorney who is pregnant with her third baby and a working mom.  She said, “Katie.  I work so that I can afford a cleaning crew and a nanny.”  My mom remarked, “Yes, we do need to work to afford these things.”  My friend clarified: “No, I mean, I work so that I can justify getting help with my kids and cleaning and don’t have to do it all myself 24/7.”  I applaud her honesty.  It gave me permission to be more honest about my feelings on this subject.

Let me be clear.  I am a feminist who is absolutely in awe and support of ANY moms, whether you are a SAHM, work multiple jobs, or have tons of help while you lie in bed and eat bon bons.  I am not here to judge, and believe we need to create a society that celebrates all choices that moms make.  I also recognize that I’m blessed that this is a “choice” for me, and that it’s not for many women.  Not to mention, I’m aware that working a mile from home, with pretty sane hours make all this far easier of a decision.  That said, with all the recent talk about “Leaning In,” and the like, this is one perspective.  I already feel like a better mother when I am able to nurture other parts of my identity, in addition to the newest part called “mom.”  I’m so grateful to have a job where I can go use the skills I learned in graduate school and in my work experience, and then go home and completely shift gears for the rest of the night.  I look more forward to the nights and weekends when I can spend a few hours just staring at our daughter’s face light up or listening to my son coo.   I get more excited to meet the needs of our little ones when (as Sadia brilliantly put it in a previous post about working) I’ve already met some of my own needs and am not looking to my babies to meet my needs.  The whole oxygen mask on an airplane metaphor, you know.

I wonder if it’s reasonable to hope that someday our society will make space for women to say they want to be a working mom.  Period.  Without any qualifiers.  Because, while I can write this somewhat anonymously for a blog, why is it that I’d still feel guilty sharing this around certain audiences?

Taking Back Our Weekends

So this is what it feels like to be a full-time working mom of three. My posts have been few and far between lately… because working has been seriously kicking my ass.

With a three-year-old and two ten-month-olds, attempting to do well at another job sometimes is just. too. much. I am thoroughly exhausted most of the time, both physically and mentally. Teaching 120 high school freshmen is both mentally and emotionally demanding. I am “on” every single moment of every single class period, and I honestly think it’s just as difficult as my first job as a mommy. I am flat out drained at the end of each day. And I usually don’t get help with bath/bedtime, so there is no reprieve for me until 8pm, when all the kids are down. But by then there is no energy left for anything else either.

Which is why we’ve been using our weekends as our catch-all. Laundry gets done on weekends, mail gets read on weekends, bills get paid on weekends, grandparents get visited on weekends, grocery gets bought on weekends, chores and errands and trips to the library and keeping in touch with friends. It was getting so that our weekends were busier than our weekdays. It was getting so that any time we had for a breather we were using as down-time. Much needed time to rejuvenate, to relax, to unwind.

But I started noticing that our kids were getting left to fend for themselves. Of course they were fed and cared for, and their physical needs were met, but beyond that we just had nothing left to give. With time at such a premium, we found ourselves arguing about how it should get allotted to each grandparent, how much of our weekends we could devote to any activities, and just to complicate things even further, we still had to account for all that baby-napping we have going on. It’s just really been stressful.

One day I had an epiphany. I don’t want to live my life this way. I don’t want it to be forgotten in a whirlwind of running here and rushing there. I want to spend it together, as a family, enjoying each other’s company, making memories. My children will never be this age again. Our lives will never be here again. I want to cherish our weekends.

So I sat down with Husband and had a serious conversation about how we could rethink the use of our time. By no means are we any less busy, and our time-budget issues haven’t all been magically resolved, but our mentality has since changed. We are now committed to spending quality time together, regardless of what we’re doing. We are going to be present, in the moment, for our children and our family. We do not allow ourselves to hide in another room surfing our iPhones while our children are awake. We eat together, as a family. No electronic devices during mealtime. Whenever possible, we gate ourselves in with our kids to roll around, crawl, jump, tickle, get slobbered on, and giggle with them in the playroom.

What a wonderful way to de-stress.

Twinfant Tuesday: On the Clock

Hello all-

Our twins are 8 weeks old today, and in the past 8 weeks, there have been countless topics I wanted to write about.  Among them: how it’s possible to have a beautiful birth of your babies even after bed rest, preeclampsia and a magnesium drip, how no one REALLY explains how hard breastfeeding is to you before you have babies (much less, breastfeeding twins), and something about the sleep deprivation (if I had more sleep, I could have said that more articulately).

http://hdydi.com/2013/09/17/twinfant-tuesday-on-the-clock/But, what has been the most difficult adjustment, and perhaps the only thing that has truly surprised me about being a new mom, is the grueling feeding schedule.  Feeding two hungry mouths every three hours was much more challenging than I anticipated.  For some reason, it didn’t occur to me that it would really require two adults to do so, and that it would take nearly the whole three-hour window before the next feeding to complete the cycle.  All this made me start thinking about the timeframes I’ve been bound to in the last two years and how a biological clock isn’t just about trying to have kids before various risks increase.

Pregnancy

  • 40 - The number of weeks all multiple pregnancies strive to get to.
  • 38 - The number of weeks we all secretly could tolerate getting to.
  • 35.6 - The number of weeks I made it to in my pregnancy.
  • 32 - The number of weeks in my pregnancy before being put on bed rest.
  • 28 - The number of weeks in my pregnancy before I really had any complications. (First one was pubic symphysis dysfunction, followed by preterm dilation, then preeclampsia.)

Infertility treatment

  • 16 - The number of months we tried to get pregnant before our successful IVF treatment.
  • 9 - The number of months I was on hormone treatments before getting pregnant.
  • 10 - The number of weeks I took daily progesterone shots during pregnancy.
  • 2 - The number of weeks in a cycle I felt I lived my life on before this: the two week wait to ovulate, then the two week wait to find out if I was pregnant.

Parenthood

  • 3 – The number of hours between feedings.
  • 1.5 – The number of hours I usually have between feedings to shower, feed myself, clean bottles or pump parts, close my eyes for a bit.
  • 1 - The painfully slow number of hours it currently takes my daughter to finish a bottle.

I recall being anxious to get off of the “two week wait to ovulate/two week wait to find out if I was pregnant” schedule. Silly me. I didn’t realize how the scheduling would just take another form.

And I recognize that it will be this way always. It just will be a soccer practice, or school or day camp that is dictating my clock instead of ovulation or weeks of  gestation.

In the meantime, my daily goal is to focus on the moment instead of when the clock will alert me to the next deadline.  To try to appreciate my little ones in this very innocent, sweet time.  To take the time to feel the love and support that has been brought into our house by all the visitors and family support, knowing the visits and support will someday end.  To try to laugh at the things that sleep deprivation has caused us to do (ie, pumping without bottles attached for a good 3-4 minutes before feeling warm milk on my lap).  To open my heart and my life to these two little beings I’m getting to know more and more each day.

What was your favorite memory of being in the moment when you first brought your babies home?

Twinfant Tuesday: A Few Suggestions for Finding Time for Yourself

I’m preparing a class for new and expecting parents of multiples, so I’ve been thinking about how I managed those first weeks and months.  I thought I’d share some here.

  1. Take a shower.  Not only does it help to feel clean and to dress in something other than pajamas, but you can’t hear your babies over the running water.  In that first year after my girls were born, I switched from baths to showers.
  2. Get out of the house (with your partner, if possible).  Our first trip out after the babies came home was to exchange my nursing tops for the next size up. We were gone maybe 40 minutes.  The next trip was to the Starbucks drive through.  They weren’t long trips, but they were a break from the babies.
  3. Enjoy yourself while breastfeeding. I got the complete DVD set of Star Trek – The Next Generation. During evening breastfeeding, I could count on watching an episode or two.
  4. Keep eating your favourite foods.  If you are breastfeeding, you actually need more calories than you did when pregnant. Ice cream and grilled cheese sandwiches can stay on your menu as you continue to eat for three or more.
  5. Sleep when your babies sleep.  Good advice!  Take naps rather than worrying about house cleaning and meal prep.
  6. Accept help. If someone offers to do laundry, prepare a meal or hold a baby, take them up on it.  At the very least, having some adult conversation is a nice change.Find support.
  7. Connect with other parents of multiples.  Whether you join a local MoMs group or connect online, it is helpful to talk to someone who shares your experiences.

What are your suggestions for looking after yourself?

In Which I Find My Limits

Army Wife to Single Mom

When my now ex-husband left me last March, there were plenty of things I worried about, but my capacity to be a single mom wasn’t one of them.

I’d been an Army wife during wartime during my entire career as a mother. Our soldier had deployed to Iraq when our daughters were 5 months old for a total of 15 months. He left for Korea for 12 months a year after he’d returned from Iraq. His subsequent tour to Afghanistan was a nice short 9 months. That didn’t even account for his stateside training-related absences, which could stretch to three months. We divorced when the girls were 6; Daddy had been living at home for under 3 years of their lives. While I would have loved to have had a meaningful co-parenting relationship despite the distances involved, we frequently went weeks or months without being able to communicate, so parenting decisions fell to me alone.

I was fully capable of managing our home and children without another parent around to help. I worried how our daughters would cope with the trauma of their parents divorcing, not living with Daddy even when we was stateside, Daddy’s remarriage and associated step-mom and step-sisters. I worried about how I would manage on a single income. I didn’t worry about whether I could parent my daughters “without help.”

I Have Help

“Do you have help?” people ask me, all the time. What they mean, of course, is do I have family members in the area who will watch my children or perform house maintenance or pick them up from school in a pinch. I don’t have family help, but I don’t consider myself to be lacking in help in raising my children and managing our lives. I usually answer, “We don’t have family nearby, but we have a great community network.”

My help comes in the form of daycare providers, camp counselors, and babysitters whom I trust as partners in raising my girls. Do I pay them in money (and sometimes theatre tickets)? Sure, but that doesn’t make their help any less meaningful. My help comes in the form of J and M’s friends’ parents, their teachers and counselors, and their Girl Scout leader. They give me the context of what is age appropriate and help my girls build their social skills and academic skills. My help comes in the form of supportive co-workers and managers, who make my kids welcome at work social events, who let me telecommute to give me an extra hour or two with my kids every week, who treat my kids like their own nieces. My help comes in the form of the company I pay to maintain my lawn. My help comes in the form of the neighbours who will trade a few hours with my kids one weekend for me taking theirs another. My help comes in the form of the HDYDI community.

I Have Limits

Photo Credit: elcamino73

Photo Credit: elcamino73

I started feeling overwhelmed over the last few months. My home, always messy, began to feel dirty too, something I usually do not stand for. My shoulders and hands began to ache without reason, an early warning sign I’ve learned to recognize as a bellwether of a resurgence of depression. I suddenly started fighting dandruff, despite having made no change to my shampoo or diet. I started dropping the ball on work assignments. I found myself avoiding picking up my telephone messages, a sure sign that  depression was looming. Last weekend, I was so clumsy in the kitchen that, after breaking two plates, I avoided any food preparation that might involve knives or fire.

On Monday last week, the weight of life felt too much to bear. I asked my boss whether I could take the rest of the day and all of Tuesday off. With the kids at summer camp, I spent those hours cleaning my house, going to the gym, getting my eyebrows waxed, napping and reading. I talked to a couple of close friends about how I was doing. When I returned to work on Wednesday, my shoulder pain was gone. The dandruff had cleared. I found myself humming on way to my office. When I received an email inviting me to perform in a local venue that would have been on my bucket list (if I had one), I was excited, not panicked at the thought of adding the rehearsals to my schedule.

The 15 Month Cycle

It didn’t take much to set things to rights. I just needed some “me” time. At first, I thought my losing my Zen was a result of the post-adrenalin slump following the completion of a multi-year project at work, but it wasn’t work that had been feeling overwhelming. It was Life that was bothering me, the weight of the entirety of M and J’s well-being falling on my shoulders.

I had an epiphany. This was the longest I’d ever gone being a single parent. While I worried about whether my ex would come home from combat alive, I always believed that after at most 15 months, my partner would be home. I wasn’t alone always going to alone in raising M and J.

Don’t get me wrong. The girls’ father has seen them since we got divorced, but it’s hard for him since we don’t live in the same state. He’s seen them 3 times since last August, when the girls and I moved back home to Central Texas, leaving Daddy behind in El Paso. (He’s since moved to North Carolina.) Much as I love my kids, I did enjoy the childless days and the opportunity to pick up around the house and to go out for dinners and game nights with friends. I didn’t quite feel like I was off the clock, though. Daddy brought the girls home ahead of schedule 2 out of the 3 times he had them, so I can’t completely turn off mommy mode when he has them, unlike when we were married and he’d take a few days off after deployments to be with the kids. Then, it was important that I did stop being Mom to avoid the temptation to try to teach him how to be Dad. Daddy and the girls needed space to get to know each other again. That just isn’t our dynamic any more.

I had hoped and worked for an ongoing co-parenting relationship with my ex, but it hasn’t panned out. He’s just not a phone and email guy and has a hard time making “theoretical” parenting decisions. He needs to be present in the moment to make child-rearing calls, and he’s just not around. J broke my heart a while back, observing, “Daddy spoils us. He’s more like a grandpa than a parent.”

The 15-month respites I could rely on as an Army wife are no longer available to me as a single mom. So now, I need to use my help, in this case summer camp and an understanding boss, to find my own respite.

I have my mojo back and a much better understanding of where my limits are.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school in order to better protect their privacy and was delighted to have the opportunity to keep a foot in the blogosphere through HDYDI. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.