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Archive for November, 2008

Eva has two year old boy/girl twins, Jordan and Sarah. She works full time as a professor of human development.

What do you think when you hear that someone is nursing TWO YEAR OLDS? Surprise? Discomfort? Disgust? If they’re old enough to ask for it, they’re too old? I might have thought some of these. I cannot explain it, but it’s different when it’s your own children. It’s just Sarah and Jordan nursing, like they have every day since I could walk to the NICU. In the first year of their life, breastfeeding felt all consuming – six times per child during the day, a few more per child at night. I had to plan every meeting, every social engagement, and every attempt to leave the house around nursing or pumping. Now it is in the background, like bathing or brushing teeth. There are moments it is surreal. Recently I was tandem nursing and asking the kiddos about Spanish body parts — “point to your nariz; put your hands on your cabeza…” My son popped off and asked “Bubbie in Spanish.” When your child is asking how to say grandmother in Spanish, it’s a bit odd that they still nurse. On the other hand, it’s our normal.

I recently spoke with another daycare parent. When she found out that my kiddos still nurse, she seemed quite surprised and asked many questions. She nursed her child until 18 months so she’s clearly not against extended nursing. Still, I couldn’t help but feel embarrassed, and caught myself almost blaming my kiddos during the conversation (“they just don’t want to give it up”). Some family members quickly change the subject if I mention nursing and have even expressed concern. At times I feel pride discussing it with others, but there are moments when I feel a bit like the crunchy deviant Mama, like I should be wearing a prairie skirt and braids in my hair.

During pregnancy and the newborn phase when people asked if I planned to nurse I told them I would try and hoped it would work. Once we truly established nursing (after 3 very challenging months) I said I hoped to last a year. After a year I said I’d like to get them through another daycare winter. I have no specific goal at this point.

It has evolved in the past year. At 13 months they still nursed wake up, 10:00 AM, before nap, after nap (their daycare is in the same building as my office), before dinner, before bed, and throughout the night. I gradually weaned them off the nighttime (thank goodness), working hour and pre-dinner ones, finally dropping the lunchtime one at around 20 months. Unless they are sick, they do not nurse between bedtime and 7:00 AM. I never offer, but almost every morning and bedtime they request and I do not deny at those times.

I prefer nursing one at a time. I still occasionally tandem nurse when they are both frantic for it, but over 50 pounds of toddler nursing feels overwhelming. I’m not sure why given that our alternative is just as crazy,  often with one nursing one while reading to the other, book across the nurser’s body, nurser’s feet in reader’s lap. Sometimes when the first nurser seems to be dawdling I’ll give a warning, “three more seconds” and then count off. Other times the waiting kiddo will say “Sarah all done, one, two, three.”

When the kiddos were sick with the stomach bug, I was really happy that they still nurse. The doctor told my husband it was wonderful I still nurse to help them stay nourished and hydrated. I was glad to be able to offer them something comforting, nutritious, with antibodies, and in small quantities. I did at times, though, feel as though my body was letting my daughter down. I certainly do not produce as much milk as I used to (the days of eating with impunity are long gone), and Sarah was so hungry that she would sometimes stop nursing and cry because she could not get enough. I had flashbacks to newborn Sarah nursing for 40 minutes and still not able to get enough, and once again felt a sense of failure at being able to nurture my child.

There are days when I think nursing is less important to the kiddos than it used to be. Sometimes they are distracted and seem more interested in the book that Daddy is reading to their brother/sister than nursing. Other days, though, they cry and beg “Mama nurse…. Mama do one baby… Mama do two babies” as I pick up their sibling first thing in the morning. I still believe that my son as a singleton would have weaned by now, as he’s easily distracted, but if I am around, my daughter insists on nursing at bedtime and in the morning. Sometimes my husband gets them ready for daycare and if they don’t see me before breakfast, they might not ask. I believe twice I have left the house before bedtime and they went to sleep without nursing.

On a recent morning after the kiddos nursed and I was dressing them I asked, “Do you think soon you will want to go to bed and not nurse, just cuddle and read books?” They both looked at me like I’m nuts and said “no!” Then I asked “Do you think some mornings you want to get up and get dressed and have breakfast, and not nurse?” Sarah said “get up AND NURSE.” Tonight I asked Jordan “Do you want to read a book, or nurse?” and he replied “read a book after nursing.” The whole self-led weaning thing has yet to take at our house. I’m not sure how we’ll do it. Perhaps when I leave town? Or a few nights/mornings when I skip bedtime/wake up?  I’ve also read about letting them pick out a present, and saying they can have it when they are all done with nursing. We’ll see what we end up doing. I don’t want to force it in a way that they are dissatisfied with the way things ended.

At any earlier point discussing this topic, I think I would have said that I was not completely ready to be done, or at least, that I’d be sad when it ended. There were nights when Jordan skipped nursing, or a morning on vacation when they both did, and I felt almost teary wondering if the last time had already happened. Today I think I can say that I will be ready to be over when they are ready. I look forward to (mostly) having my body back (no idea what those post-nursing breasts will look like, though). Not thinking about what bra I have on (my son and I actually had a discussion about my wearing the “wrong bra” and “Mama take your bra off” just this week) or how cold my stomach will be when I lift my shirt. Occasionally having my husband say “why don’t you sleep in this morning?” because the kiddos won’t yell “Mama nurse!” until I drag my sleepy body out of bed. Being able to plan a business trip without worrying about clogged ducts and traumatized children. There are certainly things that I will miss, some of which are already long gone. More than two years of multiple times per day, looking down into my children’s eyes and seeing them content and relaxed. More than two years of feeling their warm bodies snuggled into mine. My daughter’s definitive nod when I ask her questions while she’s nursing. My son popping off to laugh or answer a question. I worry about getting enough snuggle time when they no longer nurse, as these days, hugs and kisses don’t always come when requested. Even when we’re done, I hope I find time every day to take each of my babes, snuggle them close, kiss their delicious heads, and tell them how much I love them. The memories of crying, frustration, pumping, bites, and all-night-long nursing are already fading, and I’m mostly left with melty thoughts of the sweet, gentle, cuddly moments. Babyhood is such a short instant in our lives, and I treasure all of these moments with each of them. I’ll miss it and not miss it and never forget it.

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Abigail at Thanksgiving dinner last year

Abigail at Thanksgiving dinner last year

Goddess wrote a week or two ago about the joy….and ease….of going out to eat at friends’ houses as the twins get older. As we were falling asleep last night, full of turkey, stuffing and homemade pumpkin cheesecake (OMG, was that delicious), my husband and I were having the same discussion. Every year, we drive an hour to his parents’ house for Thanksgiving dinner and eat dinner with a hoard of his/my relatives. Theoretically, it’s a lovely tradition. Last year, with 7 month old twins who were battling their first nasty cold, it was…..exhausting. Terribly, terribly exhausting. My brother, who was there as well, remembers our kids doing fairly well. I remember struggling for 45 minutes to get them to nap, only to have them be up 45 minutes later, juggling babies so that we could eat dinner and leaving early as they melted down.

Danny sits down to Thanksgiving dinner

Danny sits down to Thanksgiving dinner

This year—this year was night and day. It was still the same crowd of family members—this time about 30 of our nearest and dearest family. Happily, all we were required to bring was a pumpkin pie, so at 10am, off we went to Thanksgiving at Grammy’s. The best part? I left with 6 diapers and 2 empty sippy cups in my purse. Ah, the joy of leaving the diaper bag at home. We’ve written about it before, but you can’t say enough about it.  Fantastic! The kids napped for an hour in the car, while Seth and I sipped coffee. They were refreshed and happy once we got there, and within a few minutes were off exploring the toy chest and checking out available snacks. They turned down the old-fashioneds that were being offered (so did I–both for taste and because it was 11:45 in the morning. Goodness.) Anyway, they were lovely, friendly, happy kiddos. They sat in big-kid booster seats for dinner, without straps, giving up their traditional highchairs to littler second cousins who were also there. They ate dinner, with forks and no bibs. Abigail wore a bit of cranberry sauce, but no big deal there. Stuffing was a hit, mashed potatoes not so much—pumpkin cheesecake and apple pie? Huge hits! They got no special food or utensils—just dinner along with everyone else. And when another toddler melted down in the kitchen and was rocked to sleep by her mom, my guys ran around the house in circle, meeting new people and charming all. Ok, maybe I’m a bit biases, but I do think they charmed a least several relations.

So, all of you new moms of twins out there, who are dealing with the first set of holidays, times two? Just know, the holidays get so much easier, and, best of all…..more fun!

Abigail & Danny sit and chat with the grown-ups during cocktail hour

Abigail & Danny sit and chat with the grown-ups during cocktail hour

I am already shopping for Christmas for my kiddos, which is just a blast this year. Anyone else have a great, easy Thanksgiving yesterday? I hope everyone got lots of pie and turkey and is happily at home today, playing with kids and eating leftovers.  Me? I’m listening to my brother and husband get through a list of chores, including painting, while I sit on the couch and read a book. Lovely.

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Holidays can be crazy enough when you’re single.  Add in-laws and kids of all ages, and you have the potential for madness!  Following are tips from the HDYDI moms on making it through the big family gatherings with twins in tow.

Respect sleep needs

Whatever stage of daytime sleep your kids are in, do what you can to respect their normal routine.  If you have newborns who will sleep in people’s arms, lucky you!  Just pass them around until people’s arms get tired.  I know last Christmas was difficult with my 4-month-olds, as they were still in the “sleep every few hours” stage, but past the “sleep in anyone’s arms” stage. But the time we violated the “sleep every few hours” rule went very poorly, so, lesson learned.  If your older infants or toddlers have a good nap schedule going, stick to it to whatever degree possible.  Bring a pack & play (or two) if they’re likely to sleep at someone else’s house.  Or, consider doing the hour-long drive right at naptime.  It won’t be perfect, but if you want your kids to do well with lots of new people or places, better that they be well-rested.

At four months old, Daniel was not really into Hannukah last year.  Plus, it was bedtime.

At four months old, Daniel was not really into Hannukah last year. Plus, it was bedtime.

Also, be respectful of bedtime, especially in younger kids. Believe me, a 12-month-old is generally not going to appreciate the “special treat” of staying up well past bedtime.  Instead, you’ll just have a meltdown on your hands.  If you’ll be at someone else’s house and will stay there until bedtime, bring pajamas and change the kids before you get into the car.  That way, if they fall asleep on the way home, it will be one less thing to do when transferring them into their beds.

Consider giving warnings ahead of time, both for the sake of the kids and for your photos-at-the-last-minute family members.  Make it known that you are leaving in 30 minutes… 10… 5.  If your kids are old enough to understand the warning, then even if they still don’t want to go, at least it isn’t a surprise.  And though you may have family members who think you’re being a stick in the mud for leaving “so early,” you know full well what will happen if your overstimulated 18-month-olds stay up too late… it won’t be pretty.  Give everyone warning, try to make sure photos are taken before it’s time to put coats on, and then pack it up and go when you need to.

Pack wisely

Bring comfort items or lovies, but maybe consider bringing the second-string stuffed animal.  God forbid you leave the absolute favorite one at Aunt Judy’s house!  For older infants and toddlers, have a good stash of reliable favorite foods in case of a table full of unsuitable items or picky preschoolers.  There’s a time and a place for enforcing the “I am not a short-order cook” rule, but you’ll have to decide relative to the age and tantrum-prone-ness of your child whether it’s a battle worth fighting at your sister-in-law’s house.  My vote is to make sure you at least have some string cheese and goldfish in your purse, just in case.  If your kids are old enough for most table foods, I’m not saying you should bring a separate meal.  Just have a little bit of backup.

Have cup, will travel.

Have cup, will travel.

If having your toddler’s favorite sippy cups or a strap-on booster seat will make things easier when you’re there, then by all means throw them in the back of the car.  As always, don’t forget standard diaper necessities and maybe an extra shirt.  (Though, hey, a little kid running around in a diaper is always considered adorable at my house.) Really, though, you don’t need to bring the kitchen sink with you.  If your supplies require more trips out to the car than number of kids, you may have packed too much.  It’ll be OK if you don’t bring all of the favorite toys.  A wooden spoon and metal bowl can go a long way.

Advance Prep

If you are going to the home of a close friend or relative, especially one who has an affinity for small ceramic figurines, it might be worth a call ahead to see if some of the low-lying breakables can be put away.  But this works for some hosts better than others, and as both parent and guest, the responsibility is yours to keep your kids from demolishing the joint.  Potentially a pain in your ass?  Yes, but it’s not your house.  So, sometimes we have to suck it up.  Parenting is fun, isn’t it?

Older toddlers and preschoolers may benefit from some preparation of their own.  Especially for those who are wary of new places and new people, start talking it up in advance. [Obviously this advice is a little late for Thanksgiving ’08, but it’s a good time to start prepping for the December holidays, or tuck it away for some other future event.] LauraC makes the great suggestion of getting together pictures of everyone who will be there, and I know some parents even put together their own little photo book of what to expect, inclusive of pictures of the kinds of food that will be served.  Introduce all of the new players, maybe let the kids talk on the phone or Skype with unfamiliar faces whenever possible.  Frequent reminders of who the people are and what you’ll be doing can go a long way towards a smooth adjustment.  Also consider books and stories about the holiday, again to help the kids know what to expect.  Talk about what you say when you meet new people, or about the very special behavior you expect when we all sit at the big table together.

Adjust Expectations

Most importantly, go with the flow.  If you are relaxed, your kids are more likely to be relaxed (that goes for any tension you may have with your in-laws – beware, the kids can and will pick up on it).  Decide ahead of time which rules are most important for you to keep consistent (behavior, bedtime, etc.), and then consider being a little more loose on the rest.  If you never turn on the TV at home, an afternoon of sitting with Uncle Jim and watching the football game is unlikely to do any lasting harm.  If you avoid sweets, having a little dessert is unlikely to be the end of you.  I’m not saying you should let the kids gorge themselves on cookies all day, but pick things that you’re willing to let slide a little bit and just let go.  And have realistic expectations about how long your child can sit at a table, relative to his or her age and attention span.  I know you’d like to sit and chat with Cousin Sal, but it may be better for everyone if you and little Joey get up from the table.

If things crash and burn

… and sometimes they do, take a deep breath.  You’re still the mom, and you’re still in charge.  If your preschooler starts melting down and hitting his brother, and needs a time out, find a way to do it.  If they’re getting overwhelmed, find a quiet room to escape for a little while, or go for a walk around the block.  Fresh air and a change of scenery can work magic.  Remember, they’re just kids, and they aren’t trying to ruin your holiday.  They’re probably in an unfamiliar situation, overstimulated and maybe overtired.

And sometimes, sometimes you just need to cut your losses and pack it up.  It happens to the best of us.  I’m sorry if that means you miss the pie, maybe you can get a slice to go.  But if you can see that you’ve reached the point of no return, say your goodbyes and try again next time.

Readers… any good holiday tricks that have worked for you in the past?  Or mistakes you’d rather not repeat?  Let’s hear ’em!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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A Simpler Time

It used to be that when Brian and I went to stay overnight for a holiday with a set of our parents, we could bring a backpack. Toothbrush, sweats for the drive home the next day, change of underwear, and deoderant. Done.

I have just finished packing for our Thanksgiving overnight (yes, just one night) and I am amazed at the amount of stuff required to travel for four kids under four:
– 4 pairs of pajamas
– 1 package size 3 diapers
– 1 package size 1 diapers
– wipes (flushable and non)
– 4 outfits for the next day
– 4 sets of back-up clothes for the holiday itself
– Infant thermometer
– A stash of “just in case” medications: infant Tylenol, children’s Triaminic, Saline nasal spray
– 3 toothbrushes
– Portable baby swing
– 3 bottles (with liners and milk)
– 2 favorite sippy cups
– Portable potty for the car
– CD with favorite Nursery Rhymes for the twins
– Boppy Pillow
– 1 Miguel

And that’s just for the kids. And I’m sure I’m missing stuff. It’s really quite a hit list. And forgetting or not bringing something could throw the kids (or us) so far off, it’s not worth it to try and save space by packing less.

I’m starting to think the mini-van is not a big enough vehicle…

Oh Well. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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When people get pregnant and ask for advice, I think my biggest tip is going to be “enjoy your laziness while it lasts.” Never again will you get to do so little.
 

In the last 2.5 years, I have done the following things so frequently I think I could do them in my sleep. I mean, I literally think I could close my eyes and perform these entire motions while dead asleep:

* Empty and load the dishwasher. Even the bottle and sippy cup parts.

* Wash, dry, and fold laundry. I might even be able to sort it.

* Wipe noses.

* Hit the light on the clock so I can see whether Alex is waking at a reasonable time or an unreasonable time.

* Change a diaper. This one is so obvious I almost excluded it from the list. In fact, I’m pretty sure I have done this asleep or at the very least, fallen asleep while doing it.

* Say, “We don’t do xxx. We do yyy.”

* Purchase an item related to kids. Toys. Clothing. Bottles. Sippy cups. Silverware. Wipes. Formula. Baby food. Bibs. Books. I might even be able to research feedback on Amazon in my sleep.

* Pat a back and say “Shhhh. It’s ok. Mommy’s here.”

* Recite Hand Hand Fingers Thumb, Goodnight Moon, or Brown Bear Brown Bear. Bonus points for signing all the words to Brown Bear.

* Day care drop off and pick up. The driving while asleep might be kind of tricky though.

* Write a fairly uninspired blog post that somehow sounded a lot better and more interesting in my head.

 What did I forget? What other tasks do you feel like you do every day as a parent?
Cross-posted today at my personal blog, Laura’s Mommy Journal.

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The Best Advice

I’ve been thinking about the title of our blog.  I feel that I need to pass along wisdom about “how I do it” but lately I’m not sure that I’m doing it very well.

My husband and I got through pregnancies, deliveries, infancy, toddlerhood, tantrums and potty training.  We knew it would all pass (although we were pretty sure he would walk one of the girls down the aisle and tell the groom-to-be that she wasn’t potty trained yet).  But now I find myself at a new challenge in parenting and I feel like a newbie all over again.

You see, apparently aliens came recently and stole my lovely 12 year old daughter and replaced her with this creature who doesn’t listen, obey, pick up, bathe, or. . .you get the picture.  It’s positively scary around here, not knowing how this person who looks a lot like our former daughter will behave.

So I’ve been thinking of plunging into parenting books again, and seeking advice for myself.  I’ve also been thinking of advice I’ve heard from wise women that is resonating again with me.  These two things may help someone else, so I’ll repeat them to you as I repeat them to myself.

Little people, little problems; Bigger people, bigger problems

This came from a mom I worked with many years ago.  Her children were much older than mine.  That simple statement has often helped me get perspective.  When kids are little, tantrums and potty training can seem very stressfull.  Hang on, you will all survive and confront bigger issues.  When you look back in the future, this all wont seem like such a big deal.  I’m sure I’ll survive my current worries to face the stresses of my daughters driving and dating.

Pray, and trust

This came from a mother friend in Church, and I wont begin to try to convert anyone to prayer here, but the sentiment rings true – have some faith that things will work themselves out.  I was picky about some foods when I was a kid, and now I love them.  My sister and I fought, and then grew very close.  Release worries to a higher power and know that some things will change with time.  You can only beat your head against the wall so much, sometimes you have to let go.

That is “how I do it” today.

You can meet my twins and their alien sister at Lit and Laundry.

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Mealtime Independence

As they say, with toddlerhood comes increasing independence.  We’re certainly seeing that at my house, and the latest manifestation is with food and utensils.

My kids have always been somewhat independent eaters.  Once finger foods were introduced around 8 months, I found I had to let them have their way with feeding themselves for a little while before they’d tolerate me spooning some puree into their mouths.  As they got a little older, the self-feeding items (pasta, bananas, cereal, etc) became the primary foods and things requiring a spoon were just supplement.  Even then, I’d often have to get an extra spoon for my son to hold, so that he’d let me use the one with the food on it.

I started handing them little toddler forks and spoons with food on them when they were right around a year old.  They did great.  But then they became reluctant to give the fork back to me for more food.  Somehow the phrase “can I help you?” worked in convincing them that I was not stealing the fork, but actually trying to facilitate more food.

daniel and the spoonWell, those days have passed.  Daniel is *this close* to spearing food on his own, though he goes with the wrong end of the fork about 50% of the time. And he loves trying to dip the spoon into the yogurt or applesauce. But I think he knows how close he is, and no longer wants me to help. At all. Any attempt to take the utensil, even to get more of whatever he loves eating, is taken as a personal affront. In toddler world, of course, the slightest insult can quickly turn into a full-blown tantrum.  So you have to pick your battles, and unless imminent injury is involved, I let him rock those spoons on his own. It is messy and ineffective and slow and frustrating… for me.  Daniel, on the other hand, is more or less having a rocking good time figuring out this new fine motor trick.

It’s entertaining and exciting to watch, for sure.  I hope he gets the hang of it soon.  Then maybe we can go through fewer shirts over the course of a day.

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