Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Ultimate Transition

Well, those few months flew by! Working more than full time and having so many kids (okay, I know I only have three but man, it feels like a whole lot more most days!) was certainly taking a toll on me. But, here I am now - transitioning to completely mobile infants (crawling and cruising everywhere) and adjusting to staying home with Madelyn, Henry, and Clara all day.

To me, this photo from Christmas morning sums up what Christmas and the last few months have been like for Team Gerker:


Blurry kids (they don't stop moving) and a Sleepy Daddy (it was only 6:30am - not too bad). In this pic, Madelyn had just kissed her new wheelbarrow - she was THAT happy about it. Henry and Clara are everywhere, as usual.  I can only imagine what next year will be like - this year, Henry was happy with a box and Clara just wanted to roll in the paper.

Transitioning to mobile babies hasn't really been all that difficult. I enjoy setting up the environment for the kids - although, this continues to be one of my biggest challenges, setting up a Montessori environment for a preschooler and two infants. Transitioning to staying home has created it's own bundle of challenges for  me (I'm still teaching classes at night). But staying home through the day - wow, I feel as though  I am working MORE now than ever! 

I continue to focus on the kids - the smiles from all three, the snuggles from Henry, the giggles from Clara, and the things that Madelyn says! Several times a day I think how lucky I am to be able to stay with them. And then, I remind myself of those things when moments are rough. 

Observing the babies interact with each other, interact with Madelyn, and the materials out for them....chatting with Madelyn and getting one on one time with her while the babies nap....those are the good times ;)

The not-so-good times include when the babies are climbing all over me for attention and then of course, these times are also when Mads says she "needs Mommy, cause I love her so much." Just today, as Madelyn was sitting on my lap on the floor and Clara was crawling towards us, Madelyn said, "Clara, you have to share Mommy!" It's easy to feel overwhelmed.....it's a constant balancing act. Balancing attention for the babies, attention for Madelyn, for our home, for my husband, and for me. 

Maybe Madelyn has the answer to the balancing act - she seems to have everything else figured out, here are a few things I've heard from her this week:

"See those beautiful clouds!" - as we stepped out on the porch for a quick winter evening walk.
"You're my very own best friend."  - just because ;)
"Your bridge is so very beautiful" - referring to a "bridge" I'd built with blocks
"Mommy, I wish I could be your granddaughter." - hmmmm
"No thank you, I'm saving it for Santa." -response to me when I asked her to finish eating her cheese quesadilla
"Did you hear that??!! It was an eagle!" - as we stepped outside on our way to the library. She was referring to a bird calling - it definitely wasn't an eagle ;)
"He/She's happy now!" - anytime Henry or Clara is upset, she will do ANYTHING to make them happy - dance, sing, give toys, etc. 
"Clara, you have to try new foods because then you'll like them" -  this doesn't make any sense, especially since Madelyn hardly ever tries new foods!

We are only one week in to this SAHM transition, I know I have a journey ahead of me but as long as I have Madelyn around to chat with - I think I'm all set.






Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall...almost.

Although the weather is changing back to the 80's again around here - we can't help from celebrating the arrival of Fall and saying goodbye to hot, sticky Summer.

Matt and I were married four years ago in October. We wanted a nice Fall weather wedding...what we got was 90 degrees and super humidity! But that's okay because each year, we never know what weather we will have to celebrate our wedded bliss...this year, it was perfect. We decided to take the kids to the park for a picnic - a nice way to celebrate an Anniversary and enjoy an end of summer trip to the park.




Madelyn and I have been getting creative in our Fall art work - with the help of a fellow blogger, of course! The first project we did was apple stamping -

Madelyn, concentrating on painting an apple.

The materials.

The finished product.

We've been busy with the paints. But I think the most exciting thing that has happened around our house lately was the arrival (and departure) of Chi-Chi....

I had just returned home from our local Mother of Twins Club Sale - looking forward to an empty house that I could quickly clean while Matt had the kids at a birthday party. When I got home, I realized I was locked out of the house! Normally, I would have been angry about this. But one of the things I've been working on is to appreciate each moment for what it is....hmm, how does one appreciate being locked out of the house? Well, I decided to weed the front yard. 

While doing so, I spotted a caterpillar hanging upside down from a leaf. From my years as a Montessori Teacher, I knew this meant the caterpillar would soon be a cocoon...I couldn't wait to share it with Madelyn. 


When she got home, I showed her the caterpillar and told her what would soon happen. She looked at me like I was crazy. She knows a caterpillar turns into a butterfly but how abstract is that for a 3 year old?! I asked her if she wanted to create a home for the caterpillar and bring him inside...she quickly said yes and set to finding all of our supplies. After getting him settled in, she decided to call him Chi-Chi. 

I'm not sure who was more excited the next morning when we woke up and saw that Chi-Chi had formed his cocoon and was tucked safe inside. Mads still seemed a little confused. Chi-Chi stayed in his cocoon for a couple of weeks but each morning, Madelyn would walk by him and say "Good morning Chi-Chi!"


Finally, it happened. We came home from work and school and there was Chi-Chi once again but this time, a beautiful butterfly. Mads watched him for a bit then said, "Mommy, let's let him fly." So, we took him outside..after a few seconds without a screen blocking his way - Chi-Chi flew off and Madelyn yelled, "Bye Bye Chi-Chi, have fun at your new home!"




I wish I would have been quicker with my camera to catch the look on Mads' face as Chi-Chi flew away - pure joy.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Team Gerker Update


This picture pretty much sums up our days. Sweet little Clara Belle, Giggly Mads (I swear she gets out of bed running, she has so much energy!), and Looking for trouble Henry. Clara is like a little kitten. She purrs instead of crying. Madelyn has enough energy to keep the house going. Always making the babies laugh at her - she LOVES an audience. Henry is seriously looking for trouble. He attacks his sister, Clara, all the time, pulling her hair and trying to put his arms on her. She doesn't seem to mind much! 

These three keep us going, not a dull moment in the house. I feel as though we may be at the calm before the storm though - Henry and Clara are about to be mobile! Henry rolls everywhere and Clara gets up on her hands and knees and rocks. It'll be another big transition in our house - one where Matt and I need to do some serious childproofing!

We are very happy to welcome the Fall-like weather. Although, we are a bit nervous that it could be 95 degrees again any day now - so different from our New England days! But, we're ready to get everybody outside a bit more. Hopefully there are a few day hikes in our very near future - a baby on each back and a running three year old - is there a better way to say hello Autumn?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Who has time to breathe?

I've always wished someone would have taught me how to meditate when I was younger. Honestly, I wish someone would teach me now! It's challenging. I've attended seminars, read books, talked with others who seem to have it down, and have practiced...practiced...practiced but I'm still not sure I have it all figured out.

I think I can meditate. I mean, I can clear my head - breathe deeply - and feel present, aware, and much more relaxed after a "session." But does it make a difference if my so called meditating sessions have been taking place in spaces like the shower, in the kitchen while washing bottles, hiding in the basement (I swear I'm doing laundry), etc.?

These days, my life is so overwhelmingly busy. I fear if I need to schedule meditation I might start to resent it. That being said, I'm not giving up. I'm determined to teach my children that even when life is hectic and crazy busy - you can still find peace. And the only way to teach my children this is to show them.

When Madelyn gets upset about something, Matt and I have always said to her, "take a deep breath Madelyn...slow down, let's breathe together." We started this before she could even talk. I wasn't sure how much it was truly working until soon after the babies were born, Clara was fussy and I heard Madelyn whisper something to her. Clara stopped fussing, Madelyn looked at me and said, "Mommy, I told her to take a deep breath and she's happy now!"

Order at Amazon here.
I've observed Madelyn breathing deeply on her own when frustration rears it's ugly head. I've observed her going to her quiet spot on her own when she knows she needs some down time (even if its only for a few minutes or even seconds). Not only does this make me proud, but it's a constant reminder that I need to take a deep breath...or slow down and focus on my breathing for a moment.

Our dear friend, Alisa, always buys the best books for Madelyn. The latest one was called, "Peaceful Piggy Meditation." I LOVE this book. It's perfect to not only introduce the idea of breathing deeply and walking away when frustrated, but it also explains ways to set up a quiet space for little ones. This has been a bedtime favorite for Madelyn since Alisa gave it to her.

Another great book for children regarding peaceful moments, is called - "At One in a Place called Maine." This book is extra close to my heart since we lived there for several years. Beautifully written with constant references to nature and the joy and peace it brings.

And then there is - "Each Breath A Smile." This is my all time favorite. I used to read this book in my classroom each year, and I'd leave a copy in our yoga center in the classroom year round (I read it to my adult students now!) It's such a simple yet powerful way to teach mindful breathing. The language is inviting, you'll find that you can't read this book without breathing deeply a few times.

"Let us put our hands on our tummy and feel our breathing. Our tummy goes in and then it goes out. Breathing in and breathing out."


These books, and the many others we have, are great reminders of the importance of mindful breathing. I love reading books with Madelyn, but even more so when we are both learning a valuable lesson through the reading.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Somehow...


Somehow, Henry and Clara are now 5 1/2 months. They are growing like weeds. When placed on their backs, they both immediately flip to their bellies. While Henry enjoys this, Clara gets quite fussy about it.


Somehow, we've made it through these first five months and are feeling pretty good about it. I joke with Matt that we just figured it out and now it's about to get even more interesting....they are going to start crawling!!!

Somehow, they are actually big enough to eat cereal each day. Clara isn't such a fan but Henry sure is.



Somehow, Madelyn will be 3 years old next week....


She's talking nonstop about her Pirate/Princess Party we're having. When I asked her what she will dress up as she said, "Mommy, I'm already a princess!" So, apparently she will be simply adding an eye patch to her daily clothes and will become a Pirate Princess.

Mads at the Childrens museum in NC.

Somehow, she has yet to really get mad about the invasion of her brother and sister. She continues to be the best big sister! Always offering to help and singing to the babes when they are upset. Her song goes something like this, "Its okay, its okay, its okay, calm down, calm down, its okay..." I'll have to post a video soon. It certainly cheers me up when I hear it!

Mads and her baby sling.
Somehow, we managed our first family vacation. It was a whirlwind trip that involved approximately 15 hours in the car within a 48 hour time period. But our children are rock stars. They seemed to handle it just fine. As for me, Matt, and my Mom - we were exhausted at the end of the trip!


Cracker Barrel!
Parking lot at Cracker Barrel
Somehow, my days are flying by me. Often, I have to pause, breathe deeply, and make sure that I'm soaking it all in.

Somehow, these three kids of ours will grow to be teenagers and then adults. I'm afraid to blink, for fear I might miss it all!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Robbery, Routines, and Relaxation

Robbery:

We were robbed. I don't want to spend to much time writing about it because I feel like the thief has already won. The more time and energy I put into, the more he wins. So, that's it. We weren't home (thankfully), missing items include my laptop and digital camera....which means the blog posts will be short and sweet until we can afford to replace them.

Routines:

It's amazing how much children need order, routine, and calmness in their lives. I certainly strive to create order and routine in our daily lives but wow, when Madelyn and I went on a  vacation together recently her need for routine was so obvious!

We had a wonderful time and are forever grateful to Aunt Alisa and Uncle Matt for their hospitality. But I must admit, some of the worse behavior I have ever seen in Madelyn occurred during that week. I'm not sure why I hadn't considered this a possibility. I suppose I was so excited to be returning to New England, to see some old friends, and just to have some away time that I hadn't considered the effect vacation would have on Mads.

I also realize that her "bad behavior" is not really all that bad. I think she is just typically so well behaved and normalized that it took me by surprise when she would blatantly ignore me while talking to her....or when she screamed because I said it was time to "rest"...or when she ran from me while shopping in Target. All of these things she did while on vacation.....thankfully, I haven't seen this behavior since we returned a few weeks ago.

After spending some time thinking about this, remembering things I observed in her attitude, and then watching her smoothly transition back into everyday life I realized just how strong her need is for normalcy. Yes, with the addition of our babes her normalcy is quite different, but she needs it just the same.

Relaxation:


Amidst all these behavior issues while vacationing, we made sure we included lots of fun times and relaxation! Madelyn thoroughly enjoyed her first plane ride, as did "Moosie."


When asked her favorite part of vacation, she definitely says the beach. Although the water temperature was a chilly 65 degrees, she had no problem running in it.


We took a trip out to Peaks Island on the weekend of the 4th of July. She enjoyed the boat ride and had loads of fun with her American flag.


This little lady would have stayed on the rocky beaches of Maine all week had I let her. Someday, she'll know this is truly where her roots are ;)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Our Montessori environment.

One of my biggest concerns about my decision not to return to the classroom was that I would really miss setting up the environment. But instead of missing it, I've got more time AND energy to devote to setting up our Montessori environment!

We've always followed Montessori philosophy in our home (often, without spending a dime - see this post here). But, I've also enjoyed creating work areas for Madelyn.

Many of you have asked "How do you practice Montessori at home?" Well, here's a sampling of what we do...


This shelf is in our living room. It's convenient for Mads to choose materials to work with while being a part of the family. From left to right, top shelf: Melissa & Doug makes this peg/color matching work, two sets of nesting dolls (the smaller a gift from our dear friend Gretchen), wooden puzzle (Madelyn calls it a christmas tree- it was also a gift), and xylophone. Second shelf: alphabet puzzle, two wooden dolls that twist apart, bowl of finger puppets, tray with peg game (similar to horseshoes but can be played indoors), and a bowl of wooden beads to string. Bottom shelf: basket of cars and trucks, wooden crane, tray with three infant toys for Henry and Clara, and bowl of different textured fabrics for Henry and Clara. The beautiful stroller in front of the shelf is from Nova Natural Toys and was a gift from Aunt Alisa!


This is Madelyn's reading area in our living room. Her books are in an old crate and the desk on top of the crate flips open (her coloring books and crayons are stored inside). The rocking chair used to be Nanna Jackie's when she was little!


This area is next to the front door. Montessori strongly believed in giving children the tools to be independent. Madelyn will choose her shoes for the day and put them on herself. She is also really good about putting her shoes away when we get home and hanging up her coat. Often, she will offer to hang a guest coat too.

Although, the most fun is watching the clothes she picks out to wear each day. Her teacher gets a real kick out her daily outfits (tutus and stripes are very popular with her these days)!


In the babies room, there is a mat with sheet in front of a mirror on the wall. Clara and Henry love to lay here while Madelyn plays or we work together to put away clothes.


This area is in our dining room. Madelyn has her play kitchen (handmade by her Great Grandpa), a small table and chairs, and an easel for painting and chalkboard. The artwork on the wall is Madelyn's first finger painting, she made it when she was 1 year old!


This is Madelyn's work area in the kitchen. She uses this small table to make food (making peanut butter and jelly in picture below) and to work with her practical life materials. The bottom shelf contains two pouring works and one squeezing (using a dropper) work. Her hooks are on the wall with an apron, broom, and dustpan. Although she seldom wears the apron. She usually prefers to take her clothes off when working with water -She'll pull off her shirt and yell, "Naked girl!" This is probably something we should tell her not to do ;)


I love observing Mads in our Montessori environment. I'm looking forward to the challenge of creating an environment suitable for a 3 year old and two quickly growing infants!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I'm doing my best.

The days are going so fast. Each and every moment seems to be flying by me. I was hugging Madelyn the other day and I probably squeezed her a little too long...all I could think about was that someday she won't let me hug her like that - I'm afraid that day will be here before I know it.



So, I'm doing my best....doing my best to appreciate each and every moment I have with these three. It's tough. Somedays, I'm so tired and cranky but then the Montessorian in me remembers how much my mood affects the children and I switch gears.

I'm doing my best not to lose my focus.

I'm focusing on deep breathing, on little smiles from a babe, on giggles that surprise a little guy just as much as they surprise me. I'm focusing on the funny comments coming from my 3 year old and taking pride in watching her want to "gather enough lavender in the yard for EVERYBODY, mommy!"

I'm focusing on my husband who seems to be much more of a roommate to me these days as we high five each other and pass off a child (Go Team Gerker!) I'm focusing on the every other full night of sleep I'm getting (Matt and I take turns waking with the babes) and on the fact that Henry and Clara are only waking once each night!

And finally, I'm focusing on those moments when we're all in one spot. Matt, Madelyn, Henry, Clara and Me - those moments when Matt and I look at each other and wonder:

"Where the hell did all these kids come from?"

Saturday, May 21, 2011

SAHM or WOTM?

I've officially done it. I have decided to be a WOTM (work out of the home mom).

After Madelyn was born, I struggled a bit with going back to work. I didn't want to leave her with strangers, I wanted to spend all my time with her, and I was really going to miss those middle of the day walks and naps!

But after Henry and Clara were born, going back to work has been a bit easier! I can't help but refer to this Mark Twain quote when discussing what it's like to stay at home with twins -

"Sufficient unto the day is one baby. As long as you are in your right mind don’t you ever pray for twins. Twins amount to a permanent riot. And there ain’t any real difference between triplets and an insurrection."

So true. While we feel very blessed to have these babes, there is NEVER a dull moment in our home....and they aren't even mobile yet!

I am in awe of all SAHM's (stay at home moms). You are amazing. I once heard someone say SAHM's should actually be called the CEO of the family. I agree, you are running the household. I thought I could do it but after two months with the twins, I realized I needed to get back to work outside of the house!

After deciding I needed to go back to work, I needed to figure out what kind of work I was going to do. My undergraduate degree is in Electronic Media, my Masters degree is in Early Childhood Education (emphasis on Montessori education), I've managed restaurants, and I worked  at a jewelry store for several years.

I loved studying for my degree in Electronic Media but my heart just isn't there anymore. I don't think I'm competitive enough for that world. That was an easy decision, one I actually made years ago.

Most of you know, my passion is with Montessori education. We practice the Montessori philosophy in our home and with the general day to day raising of our children (yes, I've turned my husband into a Montessorian). I have also been teaching classes with the Greater Cincinnati Center for Montessori Education, something I plan to continue. I considered going back to the classroom, teaching 3-6 year olds, but wouldn't that be exhausting?! Working everyday with 20-25 children then coming home to my 3 children.....um, no thanks.

The restaurant world is always an option but those working hours are crazy. I would never see my family.

So that left the jewelry store. I started working at The Richter & Phillips Jewelry Company when I was just 19 years old! Yes, I've moved around quite a bit - to Europe, Michigan, and Maine - but the family at the jewelry store always welcomes me back. It's a fun job and there is always something new to learn. I'm able to use most of my training and experience while working there....I help customers, edit the website, I work on jewelry inventory, process jewelry repairs, help with marketing, and I'm currently working on cataloguing estate appraisal items. But most importantly, I leave everyday at 3, have all the kids home by 4 AND I have the energy and patience needed to devote time to them.

My work at Richter & Phillips, combined with teaching at GCCME, and raising the kids is certainly keeping me busy but I wouldn't ask for life to be any different right now.

Everything certainly does happen for a reason.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Ten weeks and four days.



Dear Henry,

You are surrounded by little girls that love you dearly. Nearly every picture we have of you and Clara, she is touching you. Not sure how much of this is coincidence but I'm assuming it's because she likes to be near you. Your big sister absolutely loves to play with you. You sit in your chair next to her or lay on the floor and watch her every move. While pretending with her barn and animals, she likes to give you the horses to play with.

You are a pretty laid back little guy. Although when you want something, you have quite the squeal to let us know.

You weigh almost 11 pounds now and in my book, that makes you chunky. You're a strong baby who seems to grow with each stretch or grunt.

Your smile is contagious. When Madelyn is around, she insists you are smiling because of something she did. It's a goal of hers to always make you happy. When she does, she yells, "He's happy now!" or "Him not grumpy."

You make the best facial expressions, the kind that make me wonder, "what is he thinking?"

I am having so much fun getting to know you!

Love,
Mommy




Dear Clara,

You look so much like your big sister. A lot of people have commented on how much you're going to look like Madelyn's twin instead of Henry's. In fact, you and Henry have very little in common. Although, you certainly enjoy having him around. Often, you will not fall asleep until Henry is in his crib next to you and you much prefer to be laying on the floor by him then anywhere else.

You very seldom fuss and when you do you sound like a kitten. Especially compared to Henry's squeal! Mostly, you get upset because you are tired or hungry.

You've recently started following people around with your eyes. You get very excited when someone talks to you...your arms start swinging and your legs kick as if you are riding a bike. Your big blue eyes get even bigger and more round when someone simply says hello to you.

You weigh almost 10 pounds now. Even though you eat just as much as your brother, you just can't seem to catch up to him.

The last ten weeks have been amazing, I look forward to watching you continue to grow!

Love,
Mommy








Sunday, April 24, 2011

In the weeds

Throughout my college days, and many days after, I worked as a server, bartender, and eventually manager of a restaurant. I spent many days and nights at said restaurant, if not serving than eating and drinking. In fact, it's the place I met many people that remain important to me in my life, including my husband.

For those of you that have worked in the restaurant world, you may understand what it means to say, "I'm in the weeds!" Or you may not, I'm not sure if it was something we came up with or if it's well known throughout the restaurant industry. It's when you are super busy, a fellow server desperately looking for help may say, "Are you busy?"  to which you respond, "I'm in the weeds!" because you can't quite see your way out of the busyness.

Five years later, I find myself using this phrase yet again...although, this time it has nothing to do with serving or bartending.

While serving, when you are"in the weeds" your train of thought may be something like this...

"Table 5 needs ketchup. Refill waters at 6. Hostess just sat 4 at 3. Kitchen is out of rice. I really need to pee. Table 7 is staring at me like they need something. 2 needs more cokes. I forgot to eat dinner and this food looks good. Table 4 needs napkins. Etc...etc."

While mothering 2 month old twins and an almost 3 year old, your train of thought may be something like this...

"Madelyn wants cereal: Life cereal with no milk. Henry is hungry, wait, no that's Clara. Feed both babies. Change Henry. Help Madelyn sit on potty. Change Clara. Put Henry down for nap, followed by Clara. Wash bottles. Make pitcher of formula. Start load of laundry. Build puzzle with Madelyn. Get Henry before he wakes up Clara. I really need to pee. Change Henry. Breathe. Change Clara. Need to make bottles to prepare for rest of day/night. Fold laundry. I forgot to eat lunch and these cheerios look good. Feed babies. Give Madelyn snack. Breathe. Etc...etc."

So, if a fellow mother were to ask me, "Are you busy?" I would most certainly respond with...

"I'm in the weeds."

...and I can't quite see my way out of the busyness.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Letter to Madelyn

Dear Madelyn,

You are such an amazing big sister. The kindness you have shown to these two little bundles that have turned your life upside down makes my heart melt. Just today, Clara was upset and I couldn't get to her because I was changing Henry's diaper....I turned around and there you were - leaning over your little sister whispering, "Shh, it's okay Cara, it's okay," as you patted her belly. Clara calmed quickly and you turned to me with the proudest look on your face, "Mommy, she's happy now!" You really hate to see either babe upset and rush quickly to their side to comfort them each time.

with Clara

You like to play with your brother and sister too, always asking for their toys so you can divide them up between the two. I have a strong feeling you will always be the mediator. You also like to announce, "Henry (or Clara whichever babe is closer in proximity to you at the moment) is my best friend." Yes, it's sounds very sweet. Although, you tend to say everyone is your best friend these days...including Coltrane, our cat.

Sharing...notice the placement of all the toys

You like to build things. You made something with legos...took them to Clara, who was laying on a boppy watching you, and said, "These are for you Cara."

Often, you kiss Henry and Clara on the head and whisper, "Good morning." Although, it isn't always morning when you decide to do this.

I know that someday these moments may be few and far between but for now, I'm savoring every last one.

talking to Henry

Daddy gets a big kick out of the fact that you still struggle to tell Henry and Clara apart. They look nothing alike but 9 times out of 10, when asked you'll say the wrong name. It doesn't seem to phase you...you've even been known to say, "that one" or "this one" when referring to them.

with your hand on Clara and Henry on you

While you've taken the role as big sister quite seriously, realizing this means you are no longer the only child is a different story! Naturally any child struggles with the introduction of a new sibling but TWO new siblings...at the same time! It's mostly the amount of attention you get from me and Daddy that is difficult for you to understand. Yes, my dear, our world once revolved around you and only you. Someday, I'll explain to you that Henry and Clara never had this luxury- they've always had to share Mommy and Daddy!

A few days ago, you were asking me why Henry and Clara couldn't hold their own bottles....I explained that they are babies and babies can't feed themselves. This made you want me to feed you and I told you that you are a big girl to which you responded by looking up at me with those big beautiful blue eyes and saying (in all seriousness), "Mommy, I want to be a baby." Oh, darling - if only it were that simple.

You are really good at playing by yourself now. The other day, you were playing at your table in the dining room, Daddy walked by and asked you what you were doing and you said, "Um, I'm just havin fun."

I've struggled with a lot of "mommy guilt" since these babes have come along. Mostly because I've felt sorry for you. But after a few weeks, I realized just how silly I was being. You are truly enjoying yourself.

Every day holds something new for us and I look forward to watching all the days of you being a big sister.

playing 'this little piggy' with Henry

You are having so much fun.

Love,
Mommy

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How do you do it?

While I was pregnant, I read and heard about the many questions my husband and I would be asked about our twins when we left the house with them but I wasn't really prepared for the stares we would get as well. People will look, point, and then I'll usually hear, "Oh, look it's twins!"

We certainly never fail to turn many heads - It makes me feel like a celebrity.

I try to smile or respond but depending on the amount of sleep I'm operating on, I may keep my head down and keep walking. I think I'm just going to start dressing the babes in this onesie each time we go out-


photo and onesie from http://www.cafepress.com/+identity+baby-bodysuits

Really, it's not fun to answer the same questions or to acknowledge the same comments over and over again - Are they twins? A boy and a girl? You're busy! How old are they? Do twins run in the family? What a blessing! I'm glad we didn't have twins. and my all time favorite -

How do you do it?

My usual response to this is, "We just do." But I've thought about it and here are some things I'd like to say in response to this...
  • One day at a time.
  • Very carefully.
  • Um, I kind of have to.
  • With an amazingly supportive husband who moonlights as a Superdad.
  • I'm a great multi-tasker (the job that most prepared me for mothering twins AND a toddler - bartending).
  • I laugh a lot. I have to...or things could get quite scary.
  • I throw pacifiers at walls. Seriously. Ask my husband.
  • Cry. Yep, I do that a lot too.
  • Warm baths. That amazingly supportive husband I mentioned before often encourages me to lock myself in the bathroom with a good book, a good beer, and a warm bath. Did I mention how amazingly supportive he is?
  • Our family motto is, "You do what you gotta do." It is said often around here.
  • With the help of other moms of multiples. They know what the day to day is like!
It's hard to get used to the attention from strangers...will we ever get used to it? Maybe the questions and stares will slow down once Henry and Clara are older, maybe not.

They are only 5 weeks old and I'm certain this list will change as they do.

If you are a mother of multiples, what's on your list? How do you do it?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Little More Sanity

Needless to say, It has been a challenging couple of weeks. While most days, I honestly feel like Supermom there are moments where I fear I may fall apart.

Those moments of fear have seemed to all rotate around breastfeeding. Yes, I know in my last post I was bragging about my every "three hour pumping routine." Well, that lasted approximately two weeks.

The first two weeks after Henry and Clara arrived breastfeeding was going great. My milk came in while I was still in the hospital. I mean, it REALLY came in. I think I could have put our local dairy company out of business. Then the sleep deprivation started to set in, Clara developed acid reflux and continued to lose weight, Henry still refused to latch, the daily help was slowly disappearing, my husband went back to work...need I go on? It seemed like every time that three hour mark rolled around, someone needed fed, changed, or held. Or my toddler was screaming for attention. By the time I made it to the pump - it had been well over three hours. My milk supply slowly dwindled. I started to only get an ounce or two at the pump - if I was lucky. I would nurse Clara and a half hour later she'd be hungry. It was not looking good.

And then I had that one day - that day where all I could do was cry. Madelyn, our toddler, was home from school sick (diarrhea that required diaper changes every half hour)! Henry and Clara were both gassy, grumpy, and just refusing to be put down. Naturally, this was the day that my postpartum hormones decided to be raging. Getting milk out of these boobs was down right impossible! On this day, I first started to wonder..."Is breastfeeding going to work this time?"

For those of you that know me, you know how passionate I feel about breastfeeding. I proudly breastfed Madelyn until she was 7 months old. For the first three months of her life the only nipples she knew were mine. Which is why the decision to stop breastfeeding Henry and Clara was an EXTREMELY difficult one for me to make. Oh, the guilt we mothers go through!

I'm not quite sure I have come to complete terms with my decision yet and I'm certain this post will illicit some judgemental, negative comments....but I'm hoping it will also help other Moms of multiples (or singletons) understand that breastfeeding is a personal decision - one to be made with extreme care, with the health and well being of all involved to be considered (mom and babies).

I did all sorts of research, talked to other moms, talked to the pediatrician - all in an attempt to make myself feel okay with no longer breastfeeding. Yes, I completely understand the many, many benefits of breastfeeding. But I also know that a sleep deprived and overly stressed mom isn't good for anyone in the household. Not only was/am I sleep deprived and overly stressed but finding the time to eat, let alone eat a healthy meal, is very difficult these days!  I think the Twin Coach says it best on her recent blog post:

"Breastfeeding is HARD... if it will help your sanity, stop earlier."

Yes, it has helped my sanity.

Then why is it that I'm still struggling with the guilt of it all? I keep reminding myself that my babies are getting the love and nourishment they need, that they received the super good for them colostrum at the beginning and continued to get breast milk for two weeks after.....I keep reminding myself that I am being the best mother that I know how to be.....that my children have a mom who is much less stressed with more time and energy for them....I keep reminding myself that I am a little more sane because of the decision to stop breastfeeding.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Surviving the First Two Weeks with Twins and a Toddler

In preparation for the arrival of Henry and Clara, I read several books available to moms of multiples. I did the same while pregnant with Madelyn - read every "new parent" book out there. I've definitely discovered that while reading these books may make you feel prepared for the arrival(s) of your new little one(s), you are never actually fully prepared!

I've also found that the most helpful tips come not from the books but from parents that have been there before....and from trusting your own process!

The following is a list of our top ten, in no particular order. The top ten tips and tricks to surviving the first two weeks with newborn twins and a toddler - we can now officially say we have survived the first two weeks!

1. Crock pot

I can't remember who gave me this idea but it's brilliant! Instead of a commercial bottle warmer, cup of hot water (which takes forever), or using the microwave (GASP!) - use the crock pot you most likely already have in the kitchen for a bottle warmer. Keep it half full of water and turned on low. Put the bottle(s) in, go change a diaper, and it's ready when you return. You can also get the small crock pot version, the kind used to keep dips warm, to heat one bottle at a time (I've talked to other parents who put this one in the bedroom for night time feedings).

2. Special Jobs for Big Sis

Our favorite (and Madelyn's too) was suggested to us by a nurse at the hospital. She is in charge of the "special soap" to give each visitor. The "special soap" is a bottle of hand sanitizer that sits on a shelf (within Madelyn's reach) for her to give each visitor that comes in the door. She is very proud of this job and will often announce to visitors, "This is my job!"

Other special jobs for older siblings include helping with feedings (Madelyn loves to hold bottles), bringing diapers, burp cloths, blankies, and pacifiers when needed, and Madelyn likes to share her favorite stuffed doggie when Henry or Clara is crying.

3. Hospital Grade Breast Pump

This has made it possible and much less painful for me to pump every three hours! It only takes 10-15 minutes and so far, it's been a success. Since Henry isn't a fan of latching on, I've been able to provide him with the benefits of breast milk that his little sister is getting while latched on.

We are renting the Medela Symphony breast pump and highly recommend it!


4. Swaddling twins together and Co-sleeping

Again, something that was suggested to us from a nurse at the hospital. We swaddle the twins together each night and put them in a cradle together. The best swaddlers for us have been the Aden + Anais swaddlers. They are super soft and large enough to fit both babes!


5. Recruit friends and family and Schedule help

Do NOT be afraid to ask for help! Fortunately, we have an extremely supportive group of family and friends who have offered services from cleaning our house while I was on bed rest to cooking dinner since Henry and Clara arrived. Take advantage of these offers. Not only will it help you keep some sanity it will provide you with much needed time to rest.

I'm a planner. The day we came home from the hospital, I got out my calendar and with my mom's help lined up daily help for me for at least two weeks out. Slowly, I'm adding more help for week three!

6. Schedule people to cook/bring dinner several nights a week

My good friend, Shauna, used this website to set up a menu planner for our household. The link was sent to friends and family that offered to help us out and now we have meals coming to us through the end of this month! It's been wonderful. While we have yet to all eat at the same time, it is SO nice to have a hot meal when we find the time to eat it.

7. Making formula in large batches

This suggestion came from one of my favorite "preparing for twins" books - Ready or Not…Here We Come! The Real Experts’ Guide to the First Year With Twins, by Elizabeth Lyons - prepare formula in batches! You do not want to find yourself in the kitchen mixing up formula for individual bottles with two babes screaming in the other room.

I like this container from Pampered Chef.


8. Polysporin for bad diaper rash followed by Fanny Cream

We plan to use cloth diapers for Henry and Clara but they are still too little for our Bum Genius stash. Until then, they are in disposable and unfortunately struggling with some diaper rash issues. Our pediatrician suggested using Polysporin on the rash and my sister-in-law sent us a big tub of Fanny Cream to cover the ointment with. Guess what - it works!


9. Snap and Go Double Stroller

Without this stroller, outings at this point would not be possible!


10. Ergocarrier with newborn insert

It seems like the moment you have completely run out of bottles and need to do dishes is the moment one of the babes decides they absolutely MUST be held. This is when you need the Ergocarrier with newborn insert.


We used the Ergocarrier for Madelyn (actually still can since she is so petite) but hadn't heard of the newborn insert until a friend let us borrow hers. It's been very useful - thanks Faith!

And then there are the *bonus* extras that no amount of money can buy. Bonus extras that I am SO very lucky to have..if you are expecting multiples, I pray you have the following (or at least one of the following) -

*An amazingly supportive husband, one who will tell you stories of times to be had with the twins to get you through labor pains, one who will do dishes and laundry without being asked, one who will go back to work quickly after the babies birth and come home each day with enough energy to play with your toddler and kiss and hug the new babes (and you), and one who makes you fall in love with him all over again after the birth of the babes!

*A wonderfully supportive group of friends and family- especially a mom who surpasses all moms (I can only hope to be as good as a mom as she is to me)!

*An outgoing 2 1/2 year old who will play with anyone - Madelyn has pleasantly surprised us with her thought that all the visitors come to play with her (which most actually do end up doing while holding a baby).

I think that about does it for my list of surviving the first two weeks with newborn twins and a toddler. I'm sure I'll need to update this list when we hit the month mark - who knows what tips and tricks we'll figure out next!