Spending that Works for Me

Now that I am on the brink of returning to work, I can start to assess where we have been financially as well as where my income will take us. For the first 3.5 months of the twins’ lives, Husband stayed home on “paternity leave.” Actually a lot of it was accrued vacation time, and then it became unpaid. He went back to work with a new job, and took a slight pay cut for less stress and better hours. I stayed home starting at 28 weeks gestation, so really I was only around for the first month and a half of last school year. After that there was disability, and then unpaid FMLA (but we kept our insurance). I had no idea what things would be like financially after all of that, but surprisingly we’ve come through just fine. Getting the new minivan actually saved us a little money, since the payments and insurance are cheaper than the previous leased BMW, our tax refund helped quite a bit, and of course now that Husband is back at work we have the steady income again.

My working will necessitate some childcare costs though. I will be back to subsidizing my mom for watching the twins, and Toddler’s preschool will be a new expense. My income will be further reduced by the rising cost of health insurance (with the addition of two more family members we also need the next tier of coverage). But I think we’ll do alright. Probably not going to be socking away any impressive amount for that new house we’re dreaming of, but we’ll be okay.

Nevertheless, maybe we should cut back on some things just in case. Although we’re not extravagant spenders in general, we could probably do without spending so much on take-out and junk food. But some things we spend on are really worth every penny.

Cleaning

We have a cleaning lady. She comes every other Thursday for a few hours and cleans everything we don’t want to clean. A long time ago, Husband and I decided it was worth it to get someone to do it for us when we were spending way too much time and energy arguing about who cleaned what when and how often. We go shoeless in our house, but with 3 young children now running, crawling, and rolling all over the place, the floor needs to be very, very clean. Half our house is floor, half carpet. The floor part needs to be swept and steam mopped. The carpet vacuumed. Just this alone is a 2-3 hour endeavor with all the moving around of baby equipment and stuff that’s strewn all over the place. That’s time we’d rather spend with our kids, not arguing (about cleaning anyway) or getting sweaty mopping floors. I still do our dishes and laundry, and Swifter just about every other day, but no floors/kitchen/bathrooms! Hurray! Best money spent, in my opinion, if you’re able to find someone you can trust.

Ready Meals

I’m not much of a cook. In fact, the only meal I actually enjoy making is breakfast. I can do eggs well, several different ways. Toast, pancakes, waffles, fruit, muffins, all good. The other meals? Forget it. One meal a day is enough. I don’t do meal planning, no good at grocery shopping, can’t handle the prep and cleanup. I just don’t like it. That’s why ready-to-eat is made for me. I love the meal-in-a-bag types. And the casserole style ones are great too. I do a biweekly trip to Costco, and maybe weekly to Trader Joe’s or other market for our fruits and vegetables. To be honest we rely quite a bit on our parents and take out as well. I know we should be more focused on nutritious fresh food for our family, but it’s so. much. work. I don’t know how other people do it. I once tried a prepared meal service for a summer, where I would go once a month to a location where recipes and ingredients were provided, using which I would assemble many meals at once, and then take them home to freeze and just pull out and cook. That still wasn’t convenient enough for me. Oh well, can’t be great at everything. What works for now is pop in the oven or microwave and eat. Perhaps I should look into using a slow cooker.

Amazon

I am an Amazon Subscribe and Save member, as well as an Amazon Mom and Prime member. Though Amazon makes it way too convenient to buy other random stuff we don’t need, the discounts, two day shipping, and recurring delivery features can’t be beat. Besides the obvious diapers for two, I’ve bought baby food, jumpers and swings, feeding accessories, toys, teethers, bathing supplies… almost everything baby (and toddler) in our house is from Amazon, except for clothes and strollers. Especially in the early days, getting out the door was an effort of heroic proportions, and getting a delivery of necessities at home was a lifesaver. A click gets me something on my doorstep in two days, sometimes even as fast as the next day. With their generous return policy, selection beyond compare, and ratings from other buyers, who needs to acutally go to a real store these days? (I see that they’re doing groceries now too– need to check it out!)

What other sanity saving ways do you spend your hard earned money?

Twinfant Tuesday: Why Not? (And Earplugs)

zoe girl-1466

Yeah, that look on Isaiah’s face? We all had that look in that first year after she came home..often!LOL!

Famous last words! “Why not?” Those were the words that kicked off my first year as a mom of functional multiples!

It was two pm on Friday, November 18, 2011. I was standing in my living-room-turned-nursery, bouncing my four-month old (then) foster son when the phone rang. They had a little bitty girl, a little bitty girl they had thought about calling us for placement ten days earlier when she was first born, but there was a family who “had waited longer for placement of a little girl.” So, they tried placement there first.Thing is, it didn’t work out for that family. I laugh looking back at it now; I didn’t even ask why! I just said “Sure, why not?”

After all, all of our paperwork as foster to adopt parents said “female 0-2 years of age”. Everything. This was the moment we had waited for and dreaming about for years! I had suffered a pregnancy loss of a daughter midterm over 17 years ago. The desire for a little girl of my own never went away.

Of course, we hadn’t planned on two babies. There was nothing in our paperwork that said “boy”. I have four boys by birth! But when they called us for him four months earlier, we just knew that this was our boy. So, there I stood. Nodding, twinkling, smiling at my husband who was shaking his head in wonder, and boom! It began. Our first year of life with two teeny little people!

First quarter. Year one.

Zoe was a screamer. Yes, really. She was sweet. She was beautiful. AND she was a screamer! I already had some experience with having two. We had another little girl for a month, off and on, as a respite baby. Seriously, I thought we had experience! So, yeah–small detail–that other little girl was not a screamer.

We didn’t even make it back home before we knew why it “just wasn’t working out” for the other family. That foster mom was a single mother and had to work full-time. Dealing with that shriek all night every night was just not in the realm of possibility for her. Heck, it pushed the limits for me!

Yes, really! This is survival man!

So, while the other MoMs here have touched on organization, asking for help, and keeping a positive perspective, (all absolutely critical to surviving the first year. I guess that last one could be a part of my strategy as well.) I, on the other hand, will address ear plugs. That’s right. You heard me. Don’t have any, do ya? Ear plugs!

I don’t know about you, but crying babies have always created a great sense of alarm in me. I am really sensitive to sound anyway. On the flip side of this issue, I am very musical. I can get lost in a melody for hours. I can hear a song one time and sing it back to you note for note, verbatim. It’s of like a photographic memory, but in my case audiological memory, for lack of a better word. Unfortunately, this was no melody!

The incredible urgency to fix.it.right.now.whatever.it.takes has always been an issue for me. And that was before I heard Zoe cry. Zoe’s cry could make the hair stand up on the neck of any parent. We finally dubbed her “Sonic” because we were pretty sure that even after she stopped shrieking 24/7, some of the sounds she emitted were dolphin-speak and could only be heard on dry land by canines! Really.

Once in a phone conversation my sister asked me, “Is that a car alarm?” My reply? “Um, no. That is my daughter.” It made me want to pull my hair out. Honey cried all of the time. The first three months were just torture for all of us. There were moments when I had to just go lay her down in her crib, walk away, and cry myself for a few minutes before trying again.

Epiphany

The earplugs entered the game the first time I was alone on a road trip with both babies. I was delivering one of my older boys to college. Holy-Screaming-Banshees-Batman. They both started in. It was dark. Exhaustion loomed. I had already been crying. Dealing with empty nest feelings while raising two toddlers is an interesting experience, but I digress. As the decibel level began to climb, I simply could not imagine enduring the remaining two hours ahead of me!

It was then that I remembered that I had read about a mom of twins who used ear plugs in the car, among other places. I laughed when I first read her story, but suddenly it made sense! And in my fervor for better preparation, I actually had some in my bag.

At first, I felt foolish pulling off the freeway to dig for earplugs. Then I felt guilty.

After a few miles of relief from the most intense of my physical responses to their crying, I was able to think clearly. I realized that there really was nothing more I could do. I had already stopped and fed everyone; Zoe had cried through most of the meal anyway. They had clean diapers. What they needed now was sleep, and to get home. There were over two hours of road between us and home.

The earplugs remained in use. After a few miles of my being calmer and not fussing about them fussing, there was silence. I have never been a CIO mom. I just can’t do it. I wear my babies. But, I had to learn to separate myself a bit from the crying when there was nothing more I could do to help them. And drive. That was a big epiphany for me.

Today

Earplugs are now a very important part of my life in parenting multiples. I have two-year olds, and Sonic Girl is alive and well! Add to that the fact that there are mornings when my son is obviously going to have more sensory issues than on the typical day–or maybe I am just not really awake yet–and you can see where these could come in handy!

They allow me to ignore two-year old tantrums. They enable me to stay calm when caring for a child who has suddenly gone all “exorcist” on me. Have you ever dealt with a tantrum from a child with seriously high muscle tone? They sort of levitate! And it is usually during a diaper change. Earplugs allow me to step back, think calmly, and make good decisions. And they keep me from adding to the stress/tension/chaos.

Please note, the earplugs do *not* make it so I cannot hear them at all. They just take the painful edge off of the screaming/crying/hysteria.

Of course…it didn’t hurt that they were so darn cute!

So, there ya go. My big tip from the first , and now second, year of life with two little screaming babies: earplugs and deep breathing. It saved my sanity more than once! Try it. It just might save yours!

 

Do you have any unorthodox approaches to handling tantrums? How do you stay calm and ignore two-year old behavior?

 

Jeanene

Jeanene (and her husband Kelly) are raising a “second set” of kids together. They have six children by birth between them, ages 17 to nearly 30 (his two daughters, her four sons) and are now parenting boy/girl “functional” twins, Isaiah and Zoe. Isaiah was 4 months old when Zoe was born. She blogs about foster parenting, adoption, and life with two toddlers at www.amiraculousmess.com.

 

What a Nightmare

Just a heads up. This is a post in which I vent.

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I am miserable. Everything I’ve been stressing about for the past several months is now starting to come to a head. I start work next week, with the official first day of school on the following Monday. With this deadline in mind, I feel like I’m fighting on too many fronts.

On Weaning

I’ve done the whole pump at work thing. Not fun. Not part of my return to work plan. But I’ve hit a slight snag trying to wean. 2.5 years ago with my first it wasn’t hard at all. I wanted badly to stop pumping, so I used the week off during Thanksgiving to step it down, and then Christmas break to finally end it. It was blissful to be finally done. But the point is that I was highly motivated and I had the time to make it a very gradual process. With the twins… I’m actually enjoying my pumping ritual. Pumping for two is not easy, and I am proud of having done it for this long. It just feels wrong to be letting it go. With that said, I still refuse to go back to pumping at work. So, starting about a month ago, I began lengthening the time between pumpings to 3 or 4 hours. I got a clogged duct. Well, the solution to a clogged duct is to pump MORE. So, in pain and running a fever, I went back to every 2 hours and finally it stopped hurting. Then I started over and to 3 hours, then 5, now 6… and guess what? I feel another clog coming on. I’ve never once experienced a clogged duct pumping for Toddler; this time is the 4th painful clog. Oy vey!

On Twins’ Sleep

For the last few days, we’ve been experiencing a sleep upheaval around here. The babies are not sleeping their normal times and durations, it’s affecting their feeding schedule, and they’ve been crying inconsolably much like they used to 4 or 5 months ago. I can only guess that they are transitioning to 2 naps now. It’s wreaking havoc on my nerves. This transition is probably never easy (I remember some headaches when Toddler went through them), but with twins it really is difficult x2. Maybe one is ready for a new schedule and the other isn’t? Maybe they both are but they need me to do something differently? I haven’t figured it out yet. I want to have them firmly set in the new routine before shipping them off to my mom’s, but right now it’s just survival.

On Twins’ Childcare Arrangement

So my mom decided she’d rather have me bring the babies to her house where she’s more comfortable instead of coming over to mine. I’m not altogether sure this is the best way to go, but it’s what she chose so we’ll have to work it out. Husband, his brother, and I spent quite a bit of time last weekend over there (while she was at our house watching the kids) clearing out, cleaning, assembling a second crib (Toddler’s will now be babies’), and installing a baby gate in the babies’ room. We are nowhere near done. The carpet needs to be cleaned, toys sanitized and organized, and all the baby paraphernalia x2 need to make their way over there. Did I mention this room is upstairs?

On Toddler’s Childcare Arrangement

Yesterday I registered Toddler for full day preschool nearby. It isn’t the most ideal place (Husband would say that I don’t think anywhere is good enough for her), but it will have to do. Mandarin is spoken, it’s close to home, the price isn’t too exorbitant, and the teachers seem caring enough. I paid for the month of August and gave a $250 deposit. Like all preschools, no discount for holidays (teachers get lots!) and 6 months’ attendance is required before the deposit can be refunded. No turning back now. She better like it there. I’m so scared what will happen when I have to leave her, or worse, at nap time. If she cries, I think I will cry too.

On Start of School Anxiety

After so long of being a SAHM, I truly dread going back to the frantic life of a working mom.  Not that life isn’t frantic staying at home with 3 young children, but in a different way I guess. I don’t look forward to waking up at the crack of dawn, getting myself ready as well as Toddler (before I didn’t really care how she looked to go to grandma’s house– she went in pajamas and unbrushed hair), remembering to get the day’s stuff ready for 2 babies, and rushing out the door to make it to school at 7am so I could get things done since I can’t stay after school. I also don’t have any appropriate clothes. Seriously, I haven’t worn real clothes or shoes for over a year. My wardrobe since the twins were born consists of camis and stretch pants. Before that I was wearing maternity clothes. And I literally have been only wearing a single pair of flip flops since the beginning of last summer. My shoes probably don’t even fit anymore. There is certainly some shopping to be done, which I don’t have time to do with 3 kids around.

On Other BS Stuff

Of course when one (several) bad things are happening, life has a way of throwing a bunch at us at the same time right? Our washing machine has been on the fritz for weeks. Buy a new one or attempt to repair it? No clue how to answer that question, but wondering every time I put in a load of laundry whether it will spin is not a way to live. I haven’t seen the dentist in at least 4 years. It’s probably time to go, but time and money and my fear of the dentist are all prominent factors here. Do baby clothes ever manage themselves? I find that I am frequently taking piles of outgrown clothes, some still with tags, and throwing them in huge storage bins. Here is another instance where two babies is definitely worse than one. I have had intermittent back pain ever since the twins were born. Keeping up with two mobile babies really does a number on me. Add in some stress and physical exertion and I start to feel like I’m breaking in half at the waist. You know what else? Our cleaning lady is vacationing for the month of August.

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Ok, I’m done. Whew! That feels a little bit better (not really). If anyone has any advice how to get through this, I could use it.

Wanted: 2 Bubbles for My 2 Boys’ Wibbly Wobbly Woes

Wanted: Two Bubbles for My Two Boys

My preemie twin boys turned three years old recently. They are still working on catching up to the average three year old and we’re respectful of this fact and we work hard to help them along the way. It takes a lot of patience.

I mean a lot…

Of patience.

But there are those days when I am at a loss. My patience is worn thin. And I wish there was a bubble I could stick each of them in to protect them from themselves! I mean this in the kindest, gentlest and most protective mommy way. I love these little dudes and I hate to see them get hurt!

Case in point…last week, the end of a long, busy work week I found myself sitting in an Emergency Room waiting area for over 4 hours, past 12:00 AM, to have Twin A’s damaged eyebrow looked at and stitched up. Did he get hit in the head by a toy? No. Did he get in a scuffle with Twin B or big bro? No. He stepped on his own foot, lost his balance, and keeled over right onto the only kind of pointy edge on the baby gate…which is meant to protect him!

The boy is wobbly!

This event took place after a week of appointments and additional stress of both boys having allergic reactions to mosquito bites and becoming puffed up little children. First I thought I had to worry about West Nile Virus and now I have the additional worry of puffy little boys covered by gigantic swollen bites. Which then leave scars!

Then this evening we went out for a walk at the park. I slathered my boys in mosquito repellent in order to avoid West Nile and puffy reactions. My husband and I each manned a “baby” and kept an eye on the big boy. Three kids running in different directions on big, scary jungle gyms.

They are scary to me. Not to my kids.

It’s 3 against 2 in these situations and sometimes it really does feel like we’re losing from the start, so to speak. When we’re at these playgrounds the object of the game is to not get hurt. That is all. The level of stress can be high. The ability to relax can be hard.

We made it through the playground okay. No falls. No injuries. No tears. YES!

I relax…

Too soon.

No sooner do I turn my back to Twin B to take the big guy on a washroom run, when Twin B takes a single step, trips himself up and lands on his head. Not his bum. Not his side. He doesn’t try to break his fall in any way, shape or form; maybe because it happened so fast? Instead his head broke his fall. His head. The twins are not identical, but sometimes I do wonder. They do so many of the silliest things in the same ways. This is where the desire for a couple of nice, comfy bubbles made of Kevlar comes to mind. We try so hard to protect them from things, yet we know we can’t do it forever. So we try to relax.

When my three preemies came up in conversation when at a doctor’s appointment a few years ago, my doctor advised me to try to avoid being an over-protective parent, knowing that this is something many preemie parents deal with (she is a preemie parent herself.) Our little premature babies make it through the hardest of times and we want them to be safe and boo-boo free, but it’s hard to decide what really is “over-protective” vs. the average caring parent. Just like there is no specific instruction manual on dealing with a preterm birth, there isn’t one for raising preemie kids or any kid for that matter.

We just have to take it one step at a time…and hope we don’t fall flat on our faces!

Twinfant Tuesday: How I’m Rocking Year One (so far!)

I was having a completely awful day a few months ago. After I put Jack and Mara down for their nap, I grabbed my computer and googled “when do twins get easier” and “first year help with twins” and “getting through year one with twins.” Through that search, I found this website, and for the next hour I absorbed article after article, tip after tip. I felt as if I had found a whole new and amazing twin group of moms to talk to and get reassurance that yes, things will ultimately be okay. Because during the first year, that is so important to hear.

That being said –  ten (!) months in, I am so close to that amazing milestone – my twins will soon be turning one. Granted, I realize I titled this post “rocking”, and there have been many, many days early on (and many times even now!) when I was definitely not “rocking” anything and am really just surviving day-to-day, but overall, I think I got this whole twin thing down for now. At least at this age!

Here are some things, looking back, that have truly helped me so far this first year.

Remaining positive about having twins

I am sometimes taken aback about how negative some parents of twins can be about having twins. I have heard parents say they cant help to think what if their situation was different, or wishing out loud that had both children but at different times.  In a recent article I read on raising twins, a mother commented that she wished she only implanted one embryo, not two. How sad!

Trust me – I do understand that twins can be incredibly challenging, but not once have I ever let myself go down that line of destructive thinking. If I let myself worry about whether the grass would have been greener with a singleton, I would miss out on what I have. My babies are blessings and I truly believe twins (and multiples!) in general are incredible blessings. I think my positive attitude has had a lot to do with how well my first year is going.

Getting help in the beginning

A fellow twin friend told me that one of her friends (also a mother of twins twins) had cashed out her 401k to get round the clock help during the first few months. While that initially sounded like an extreme situation, I can relate to the importance – and almost the sheer desperation – of getting help.

I am fortunate that both of my parents are retired, and that my husbands entire family lives within ten minutes of us. I could not have gotten through the first three months without help from our families. My mother lived with us for the first three months, for four days out of the week. She cooked us delicious meals each day, did our food shopping and most importantly, helped take care of the twins. I could not have done it without her. My mother in law would stay with us the remaining three days those first three months. She was also a saint. My husband’s father and step mother have been truly amazing as well.  And now, almost a year later, they continue to be an incredible support for my husband and I.

I understand I was fortunate to have so much (free) help from family members. My advice for others expecting twins would be to enlist the help of friends, family, baby-sitters, neighbors, mother’s helpers – anyone willing to help. Take anything you can get! And don’t be shy about asking for what you need, whether it’s an hour alone to run errands, or someone to grab groceries for you, or even let you have a few hours of sleep. I remember my sister-in-law and her husband watched the twins for me for two hours when they were about two weeks old so I could get some sleep. I couldn’t have been more grateful.

Dry shampoo

Yes, I know this is silly but trust me, its been a huge help for me, especially this year. Using dry shampoo, I am able to extend my hair washing to three days. When you don’t have a ton of time to wash and style your hair, this comes in handy. I was able to catch up on more sleep, get my house in order, gleefully waste a few precious moments trolling for celebrity gossip on the internet, cleaning bottles - anything instead of washing my hair. Gross? Perhaps, yes. But sooo useful.

Being able to carry two babies at once

My husband recently watched Jack and Mara for an afternoon while I ran some errands. When I returned, I asked him what the hardest part was – feeding, changing, nap time. He replied, “carrying them up the stairs at the same time.”

Really? I guess by now its second nature to me. I scoop up each baby and cradle them under my arms, almost in the nursing “football position” but back up and stomach down. I’ve gotten incredibly comfortable with the dual-carry which has saved me from transporting two babies upstairs at different times. I am sure they will soon be too big to do this, but it has really helped me this first year.

The schedule

One of my all-time favorite bloggers, Pam Kocke, author of Pyjammy’s Triplets wrote one of the my favorite blog posts ever on raising multiples, delightfully entitled “Are three kids easier than one?” (Check it out here.)

In explaining why sometimes having multiples is easier than a singleton, Pam describes why having a strict schedule has enabled her to get all three of her boys on track. She also shares that her boys sleep better than a lot of singletons she knows.

Jack and Mara have slept through the night since month four or five, and continue to take two consistent naps a day. I take pride in this, and almost feel like it was a reversal of fate after a really super hard beginning four months. Jack and Mara sleep better than any of the singleton babies I know around the same age. Why? We have been adamant about keeping them on a schedule. I NEED that hour or two during the day to myself. Its my sanity. The babies now know when its nap time and bed time. I don’t have another one of me to rock two babies to sleep, or coddle them into snoozing. By putting them down awake (my only choice!), they have successfully learned to self soothe.

My jogging stroller

I was one of those twin moms who gained a TON of weight – probably close to 75 lbs. While the first 65 came off pretty easily, the last ten were very stubborn. Trying to fit in trips to the gym and working out at home was pretty much impossible. When the twins napped, all I wanted to go was nap. So this left me with little free time to exercise.

I purchased a jogging stroller in January, when the twins were four months old. As the weather got nicer, I began to take them out once a day. I am the first to admit I am not a runner by any means. However, I began to really enjoy jogging with Jack and Mara. It was a way for me to get some exercise, it allowed the babies to get some fresh air and a change of scenery, and it gave us another “activity” to do during the day. A few of my friends purchased the highly coveted double BOB strollers, but I opted for the Schwinn Jogger, which was about half the price and still continues to do the job just fine.

Lowering my expectations about what I can handle …

When Jack and Mara were born, I left my job in corporate communications to be a stay-at-home mom. I was recently offered a pretty great consulting gig – one that I could do from home. While I initially accepted it, I had to turn it down. Why? I just can’t juggle it now. If I tried to take on something that time-consuming, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with my new, main job – raising the twins. It would stress me out and put me over the edge. So, I said no. It was a difficult decision but in the long run, I know my sanity is most important. I can’t do everything right now, and I’m okay with that.

… and lowering my expectations about nursing

I went into my pregnancy gung-ho about breast-feeding. I would tandem nurse both babies each day exclusively. I hired a lactation consultant to help me in the beginning and put me on the right path. I rented a hospital grade pump to help with my milk production. I bought every book written that included sections on nursing multiples. Yadda yadda yadda. I WOULD DO IT and I WOULD BE SUCCESSFUL.

To make a long story short, I was able to nurse and pump for about three and a half months before I gave up. It was a difficult decision to throw in the towel, but in the end, it was the right decision for myself and my family. I tried not to be disappointed in myself for only lasting three and a half months. Instead, I was proud that I was able to last that long. I did my best, and that’s all I could do.

My nap nanny

Oh, nap nanny – why did you get recalled?!!?? A fellow twin friend introduced me to these amazing devices when my babies were just a few weeks old. This slanted foam seat was my savior the first eight months. In the beginning, my twins napped, relaxed and even slept in them (on the floor, buckled)  as they dealt with some pretty typical baby reflux issues. I would use them for dual bottle feeding, to anchor one baby while I bathed the other. I took them to other people’s homes as a place for the baby to sit while I tended to the other. Although they got recalled in December, around the time my twins turned three months, I happily continued to use them (with no issues!). At ten months, Jack and Mara wont sit in them for more than a minute or two, but man, they really were a lifesaver to me during this first year.

What has helped you parenting multiples during year one?

Decision Made

Well, it’s been decided. Not in a definitive moment of inspired epiphany kind of way, instead a slow but sure realization that there wasn’t ever any other option. Who was I kidding? (Myself.) There is no long-term way that we would be happy living on one income in Los Angeles, especially now with three children who are only going to get more expensive as they require activities and demand stuff. And by no means do we spoil our kids, but we don’t want them wanting for anything if we are able to provide it.

So there it is. Decision made. I will go back to work for the next school year, continue my career, strive to impact the lives of young people, and hopefully sock away money for the enough-bedrooms-for-everyone next house.

To be really honest though, I’m not sure I was ready for the uncertainty of taking a few years’ break from my career. As a teacher, my job is comparatively secure. There have been layoffs in my profession in recent years, but it’s not nearly as bad as in others. However, I currently have 10 years in my district, which represents a pretty solid seniority ranking– one I would lose if I left and started working in a different district in the future, not to mention a loss in pay as well for basically starting over. And even if we are able to afford me staying at home full time in the future, am I really ready to completely let go of my career? What will I do when my children all go to school?

I do even look forward to time away from my kids. Not that I don’t love being at home with them, but I do need some time to myself, time that isn’t precariously contingent upon nap schedules and baby mood swings. I can get up in the morning, shower, get dressed, and go on my way like a normal person. I can interact with people who are over the age of 3. I can have an intelligent conversation with someone who isn’t my husband or a mommy friend. And then I can run home and enjoy my more-precious children at the 3pm bell.

But that’s not to say this isn’t a heart wrenching decision that comes with its own dilemmas. I will need to not only part with my 3 year old every morning, but also two more kids who will by then be in the throes of separation anxiety. Their lives will drastically change after almost 9 months of Mommy-all-the-time. What the heck, my life will drastically change and I will suffer baby withdrawals. No more mid-morning trip to the park, afternoon visit to the library, or classes with Toddler. And it will be the end of naps for Mama. No more break while the kids are all taking their midday nap. I will be gone for the relatively easy naps/feeds/happy children during the day but retain the craziness of getting out the door in the morning and dinner/bedtime/cranky children in the evening. All while putting in a full day of work. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

And I haven’t exactly locked down where Toddler will be going to school come fall. We’ve decided she is definitely ready for more structured socialization, but the preschool hunt has turned up nothing spectacular. My requirement of Chinese instruction is what really holds us back, but that is also the one thing I cannot compromise.

Nor have I really figured out what to do with the twins. My mom has been coming to take over one feeding with the babies two mornings a week while I spend time alone with Toddler. She does great with them, and I always come home to well-fed and back-asleep babies. But she’s only here 3 hours, and they’re napping for almost half of that time. She’s an aging grandma with her own ailments, and I think caring for crawling-in-different-directions twins might break her. Ideally we’d have the exact same setup as with Toddler: Drop them off at her house in the morning, drive 5 minutes to work, and pick them up 10 minutes after the last class. But schlepping two around this time, with stuff for two, up and down stairs with two, two additional cribs, highchairs, two everything… and picking up Toddler somewhere along the way, that’s just daunting. So maybe she will need to come to my house? Maybe I will need to hire an additional helper? Maybe I need a nanny instead?

I am very anxious that this isn’t all worked out by now.

So, it is ultimately with a heavy heart that I will be going to be back to my classroom in a matter of weeks, unpacking boxes from cabinets, putting up bulletin boards, and preparing to meet the 120+ teenagers who it will be my job to mold this year. Maybe I can reassess next spring…

lunchldyd is a high school teacher and mom to 3 kids 3 and under.

Maternal Instinct?

I think on some level, I’ve always wanted to have kids.   But, I wasn’t in a rush.  I’m the person who is a little unsure of how to hold my friends’ infants when I first meet them.  When we go over to friends’ houses who have kids, the kids often look at me and ask where my (fun-loving, young-at-heart, AKA-more-fun-to play-with) husband is.  While I can connect with older ones, I’ve always felt a little ill-equipped at dealing with kids before they can talk about their emotions, or at least tell me what they want or need.  Even a few weeks ago, my husband pointed out to me that I drooled over a woman’s super sweet pit bull, while she also pushed a stroller and I hardly even looked at her kid, all while sporting a big pregnant belly.  What the heck is wrong with me?!?  This has always been an anxiety of mine: should I still have kids, if this is the case?  When do those “maternal instincts” kick in? What do I do if I have kids and I feel like it doesn’t click?  What if I don’t like spending time with preverbal kids?  The anxiety has only heightened since getting pregnant, yet not feeling that instinct kick in yet.

I’ve explored this with other colleagues in the mental health field, and I find I’m not alone, particularly on the front of feeling more comfortable when kids can express themselves.  (Yes, my kids will probably have a feelings wheel in their bedroom before it’s entirely appropriate.)  A friend who is a mother of twins, and also a therapist, explained a similar feeling to me when her kids were about three.  She said she is “still waiting for her moment to shine” as a parent.  She told me her husband seems to have shone while the kids were young, and, given her background, she’s anticipating that her moment is when her kids are adolescents.  I related to this so strongly, and ever since have secretly hoped my husband can carry us through until our kids have an emotional vocabulary.

This week, I’ve seen a different side of myself come out.  We have had an 11 and a half-year old black lab that my husband had before we met, and I had a boxer-pit bull mix who is now 7 and a half-years old.  These two girls became fast and furious friends when we introduced them four years ago when my husband moved to the area and we ended our long-distance dating.  They never fought, my girl shared her space with the newcomer right off the bat, and our hearts were warmed daily by their instant connection.  On Monday, we had to make the decision to put down our older dog.  I could write an entire separate (and somewhat unrelated to MoMs issues) blog post about the pain of this decision and the heartache that goes with it.  But, I’ll spare you (and myself, the tears welling up again).

A few friends and family who have known my fears about being able to connect with kids when I have them have always said that they see a maternal gene in me when I’m with our dogs.  But, the skeptic in me thought that this was what people said when they don’t really see you as a “mom” type and just want to make you feel better.  However, this week, the momma bear, protective part of me has come out in so many different ways.  One part of me has been grieving the loss of our older, sweet girl, while the other part of me has kicked into caretaking mode of our younger girl, in full-force.  I haven’t wanted to leave her for a second, and have brought her to work with me, spoiling her, letting her nap on the couch in my office and giving her treats.  When I left her last night for the first time since her friend left us, I cried all the way back to work, texting my husband about the sad face she made, the refusal of the treat I gave her, and all the other signs I saw in her that she was not handling the loss well.  Sure, some of this could be the hormones of being 31 weeks pregnant with twins, or me projecting my feelings onto the dog.  But, she is definitely not herself, and knows that something is off.  I can’t shake the knowledge that she has spent more of her life with her old friend than without, that she has not lived in our current house without a canine friend, etc.  Today, having too full of a day to have a dog in my office, I’ve asked my mom to go check in on her, and I’m planning on bringing her back to work tomorrow.  Am I overreacting?  Maybe.  But, it hit me that there IS a maternal gene in there, wanting to protect the surviving “child,” ensuring that she’s still happy and that life can go on as normally as possible for her.  (Until, of course, in 6-7 weeks, we bring home two little bundles of joy that she’ll sniff until her heart’s content and she’ll likely be demoted on the priority totem pole.)  It just may surface differently than it does for others.

The other dynamic shift that has felt bittersweet, is the ability to take care of my husband again.  I haven’t loved the part of pregnancy that puts you in the spotlight, requires you to need help from others, and essentially be more vulnerable than other times in your life.  Since our elder dog spent 6 years with my husband before we met, he has countless memories with her that I’m not in, and got to see her in her youthful, bouncy days.  While we’ve both been grieving, it’s been so nice to step out of the “patient” role for a moment and be there to help him process this event and what it means for him.  This, too, gives me hope for my caretaking gene.

This whole event has made me realize that it’s not black and white: you don’t either have or not have a “mom” gene.  I like the way my friend looked at parenting, as all of us having moments when we may “shine” more than others, which often has to do with the skills we bring to the table, and those we develop along the way.  I’m so grateful to have a partner who can naturally run around the backyard with a couple three year olds or play hockey in the living room with a five-year-old.  But, I’m also grateful that I may have skills that might be helpful in times when others may lose patience.

How did others fare with new babies who may have once worried about their ability to connect with kids?

Katie lives in the Chicago area with her husband and surviving “child” dog.  She’s 31 weeks pregnant with twins and hopes she knows what to do with them once they’re here.  

Planning a Date Night for the Whole Family

Last week Chris and I realized that although we manage to get out and away from the kids once a week, that this time is usually spent with our friends. We counted it up and we generally make it out together “alone” on a date less than once a month.

We wouldn’t change the quality time with our friends for anything, however we are unable to finance a ton of extra romantic evenings away from the kids on top of our “wildly” busy social lives. There are limits to how often we can call in the grandparents, because I’m pretty sure that they didn’t retire so Chris and I could go out to dinner and stare lovingly into each other’s eyes. Also, if we go out on a work night it generally means that Chris and I have seen the kids for less than an hour that entire day, which we both hate, added to the expense of hiring a sitter to take care of our twin munchkins.

We decided to come up with a few economical solutions to give us a “date” when we feel that we haven’t had enough couple time. As a part of this solution we’ve found the ideal couple to double date with – our 22 month old twins.

560450_10150995661177110_2068335716_nMe and Miss Molly on a “date” at Granville Island Brewery in BC

Drive In Movies

I have a real soft spot for the Drive In that started in the early 80s when my parents would take my sister and I in the hatch back Celica and we’d watch the first movie (or most of the first movie) from our sleeping bags and then fall asleep giving my parents a night at the movies. As a parent of infants The Drive In appeals to me because the car provides some shelter from disturbing fellow movie goers if there is a melt down, you have space to comfort and cuddle babies if they need it and Molly and Jack are generally really good in the car. I’ve found that our car is surprisingly sound proof! As the kids get older we’ll bring special snacks, play Frisbee outside before the movie starts, and watch them fall asleep during the first feature.

Backyard Romance

Getting out and organized with enough supplies can be a giant hassle and sometimes we’re too tired to make the effort. Now that the nice weather is here, we’re trying to celebrate in the evening by bringing a couple of beers or some wine out into the backyard, along with the baby monitor.

Brunch is Best

We go out at the time of day when our children are best behaved (for us this is generally late morning/early afternoon). I am a huge fan of brunch with kids because: 1) You can get something a little bit fancier for cheaper 2) The food is served quickly 3) There are often a lot of other children around even if the establishment isn’t a “family” restaurant and people seem to be generally more patient and understanding of kids being around during the day 4) Many places offer special child friendly menu options, colouring books and crayons. Our kids are usually really well behaved at restaurants, but they aren’t silent, not even close to it. It’s nice not to have to worry about offending other patrons or having to shush your children when they’re just being kids while you enjoy a meal out together. We always order the bill with our food, just in case we need to jam because of a meltdown.

Dinner & Movie

This is a bi-monthly tradition we started BC (before children) in the colder months to beat the winter blahs. When the minions get older this is something that everyone can enjoy and work on together in teams. Right now one of us is on childcare/bed time duty while the other person prepares for our late dinner in. Essentially how it works is that you alternate turns where one person selects a movie and prepares an appropriately themed dinner to go along with it. Chris is much better at the dinner and movie selection than I am. Personal favorites: Casablanca with a Moroccan Feast including sweet mint tea, The Godfather with spaghetti, meatballs, garlic bread and red wine, or Cool Hand Luke with Southern fried chicken and a dozen hard boiled eggs.

Hopefully this will allow us, and others to carve out a little together “alone” time and start some great traditions!

*This is an excerpt from a post on my blog.  Read the entire post click here

SaraBeth is a Toronto based writer.  Her blog Multiple Momstrosity was named one on Toronto Mom Now’s 2012 Top 30 Mom Blogs.  She is a two-time veteran of the Three Day Novel Writing Contest.  She lives in The Junction with her husband and fraternal toddler twins (Molly & Jack).

Breastmilk, Meet Formula: Part II

A while ago, I wrote about starting formula with my until-then exclusively breastfed babies. Three months later, things are evolving again.

Here’s our schedule at nearly 9 months:

7:30-8am – Wake and breastfeed

9am – Breakfast (solids)

10ish-11:30ish – Bottle and Nap

1pm – Sometimes breastfeed, Lunch (solids)

3ish-4ish – Bottle and Nap

5:30pm – Breastfeed

6pm – Dinner (solids)

7:30-8pm – Bottle and Bed

11:30pm, 1:30am, 4:30am, sometimes 6:30am – Breastfeed

It’s pretty great. Except that last bit, where I’m STILL up 3-4x per night. I can’t quite figure it out. M used to sleep 8-12 hours without feeding. R could go at least 6. What happened? Is this a sleep issue (they’ve gotten into the habit of waking and needing a snuggle) or an eating issue (they’re not getting enough during the day and are making it up at night) or a combination of both? It’s not a growth spurt; it’s been going on for weeks. Our pediatrician assures us that they are growing well, staying right on their own curve, and that they certainly could sleep 11-12 hours.

As we approach one year, I know that the boys will gradually drop milk feeds and rely more on solids for nutrition. But which feeds will be dropped? They are already less interested in the mid-day breastfeeding.

I’m faced with what feels like a major decision: Do I prioritize sleep, and make a plan to drop the night feedings? Or do I prioritize breastfeeding?

On the rare night that the boys wake only twice in the night, I feel like a different person. I’m happy, calm, have perspective. On nights I’m up 3, 4, 7 times, I’m thrust back to newborn days all over again – I’m achy and depressed and my mind is in a fog. I’d love to regularly get more sleep, but it means that half the breastfeeds would be cut out. Meanwhile, would my boobs explode in the night? How would it affect my supply? Then there is the whole crying aspect of any kind of sleep modification. Isn’t it easier to just get up and take twenty minutes to soothe rather than to endure seemingly endless minutes of tears?

Then again, it’s not as if breastfeeding isn’t work too. I’m taking domperidone, and despite being assured by a lactation consultant that I would be “overflowing with milk,” I’m not sure it’s making much difference at all. I’m also taking an herbal milk supplement 4x/day. M gets frustrated waiting for let-down, and R has started biting. All the necks of my shirts are stretched out. Sometimes they are too distracted to take a full feeding, which drives me crazy. Other times they are ravenous and I just don’t feel I have enough to satisfy them. I get tired of stripping every time someone is hungry. There are days I want to just stop – go with the order, predictability, and data-friendly formula and close this chapter of mothering. I mean, they have to stop at some point.

Other times, I cling to the connection with my boys, and frankly, the self-righteousness of doing “the best” for them. I love that they are getting the perfect food, and feel horrible guilt that I can’t give them more. It’s such a breeze to be out and be able to feed them without any prep or clean up. I love their cuddles and sweet little milky breath. It isn’t like when they were newborns – I have many other ways to comfort them now – but there is a special peacefulness about it, especially since I’ve stopped tandem feeding and can focus on one little guy at a time.

I could attempt to return to exclusively breastfeeding by one year (over the next three months) by phasing out the formula feedings. Or I could focus on phasing out the night feedings and get some much-needed sleep. Or I could keep doing what we’re doing, take my cues from the boys, and let things evolve naturally. Why does that last one seem so right and yet so hard?!

Anyone successfully transition from formula supplements to exclusively breastfeeding, or vice versa? Do you lean toward guiding their kids through transitions, or are you able to follow their lead?

They’re Still Twins

During pregnancy, my husband and I had many conversations about all the things we would do for our twins to let them know they were loved and valued as separate individuals, not just half of a set. That they cohabited in utero was only a very small part of who they would become, and we wanted them to always know that.

I dealt with all the comments during pregnancy—the “better you than me”, the “double trouble”, the “my cousin’s neighbor has twins”, the “I always wanted twins” (or, bizarrely to me once: “I almost had twins”…a story which did not result in the loss of a twin, but rather a woman who, prior to ultrasound technology, knew all along she was having twins, but never heard two distinct heartbeats and only delivered one baby). I joined twin groups, mentally prepared myself for the barrage of twin-comments we’d receive everywhere we went.

I never imagined how much it would sting to lose that.

I am luckier than many in the twin world: both my twins are alive and thriving.

But.

They do not reach developmental milestones within days of each other. Not even within months. They do not wear the same size of clothing, and haven’t since D outgrew the preemie size (while A was still a 3-pounder, outfits hanging on him like Doby’s pillowcase). They will probably not be in the same class at school (except perhaps preschool). Strangers do not ask me if they’re identical or fraternal, or even “Are they twins?” They ask me, “How far apart are they?”

The first time I got that question, the boys were 9 months. Now, D quickly outgrew the “adjusted” charts and was over 50% in height quite early, and has been slower but always on-the-charts in weight. Even so, he looked at most 11 months old. With A, who yes, (yes, believe it or not, I know), is small. But at 9 months, he looked perhaps 4 months, but probably closer to 5. Just what gestational length did these questioners have in mind, anyway??

But now, at 16 months, D could easily pass for 2. And A could be a tall-but-skinny (95th and below-zero) 9-month-old. Which is probably about where he is developmentally as well. The question is no longer absurd.

And it hurts. Selfishly, it hurts, as it is not what I imagined. It is not what “twins” entails in popular culture, mythology, anyone’s mind. But it also hurts for them. They are and always will be brothers, but I feel like they each are missing that twin-thing: the sharing of clothes, sharing of friends, sharing school books, mastering new skills together.

I rarely comment in my twin group. I feel like so much of it just does not apply.

A lot of it does, though. A lot of it applies, and then some. Feeding twins is so hard! Feeding twins when one of them has a feeding tube? Even harder. Getting any sleep with twins is hard! Getting any sleep with twins when one of them has several alarms hooked up to him, which give both real and (thankfully) not-real alerts? Harder. Dealing with extended family who plays favorites? Whoooo, boy, let me tell you. Finding time to {x}? You get the picture.

A and D will never know a different life. As brilliant as they are, I highly doubt either of them pondered the concepts of twinhood while womb-mates, probably not even recognizing that other kicky-squirmy creature with a heartbeat from my own intestines. They are twins, and this is what twinhood will mean to them, even when they understand that it may not hold true for the greater world. In some ways, they are wiser than I am.