• “How Do You Do It?”

    Date: 2015.11.09 | Category: Family, Home, Life, Luke, Mark, Me, Norah, Sarah, Toddler Time, Twins, Vera | Response: 0

    Next to, “You have your hands full!” And “Are they twins?”, “How do you do it?” is probably the most common thing people say to me. And my most common response is, “I don’t know!”

    And I feel like that often, especially on mornings like today when we’ve been battling back-to-back illnesses with the kids, repeated 4a.m. wake ups, coughs, kid nightmares and my own lingering congestion I can’t quite kick because I can never get enough rest.

    But, the truth is that we do manage to “do it” most days, thanks in large part to the following:

    1. Coffee. I mean a lot of coffee. One morning I made coffee and Mark actually said to me without joking, “Why did you only make six cups?!” The struggle is real.
    2. Consistent early bed times. I have finally learned that Norah needs to go to bed early so she has enough time to settle and go to sleep before Sarah joins her in the room for bed. That means bed time routine starts at 7p.m. And I’m strict about it. We can hedge a little on the weekends, but if we get off by too much, everyone has a melt down at the same time, including me.
    3. Preparation. After everyone goes to bed at night, I set about getting ready for the next day. Bottles are made, folders are signed, snacks and pump bottles are loaded into the car, diapers are stuffed and folded. I learned the hard way that trying to do this while all the little people are awake takes roughly three times as long and adds an hour to our morning routine.
    4. Learn to let some things go. My house is a disaster. I felt terrible about this for a really long time and I still try to fight it from time to time. Here’s what we manage to accomplish most days: dishes, trash, some laundry and picking up one area of the house. Here’s what we fail at: keeping the bedrooms picked up, SOCKS, wiping down things, organized closets, cluttered vehicles and dog hair in general. This past weekend I spent time cleaning our hallways, laundry room and living room. Norah and Sarah destroyed most of my work in under 10 minutes.

    5. The village. People ask me all the time, “Who helps you?” Mark and I do a lot ourselves – we have perfected the two person juggling act it takes to keep things rolling along. But, we also have our families in town who help with watching the kids, and an amazing nanny who helps on afternoons and Fridays while Mark and I work, and a long list of  amazing mom friends I text and call on a regular basis for moral support.
    6. Patience and understanding from other people. I work for an amazing place – a place that has been flexible with my schedule with my children and has always allowed me to be where I need to be for them. I know this isn’t always easy, but I am thankful for it every single day. I don’t sleep much and forget things all the time. When I dropped the kids off at school this morning, I had forgotten a number of things and the teachers quickly reassured me not to worry, they would make it work. Bless you people!
    7. The grace of God. I pray for patience and strength and to be a good mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, co-worker and person every day. I fail a lot, but I keep on trying.
    8. A strong marriage. Mark and I have been handed a lot. Our children are amazing blessings, but they demand a lot from us. It’s so easy to lash out at one another – and it happens, especially when we’re exhausted and frustrated. But being able to realize that it is just the frustration and exhaustion talking helps us overcome these things quickly, and we remind one another that “united we stand, divided we fall.” I really could not do this without him.

    Despite all these things, we still have a lot of pitfalls. Just this morning we couldn’t find anyone’s shoes; Sarah’s uniform sweatshirt disappeared into some dark corner of our house and has yet to resurface; Norah put up a great and mighty protest against wearing pants and hurled a plastic shoe at my head that found its mark; I forgot the diapers and had to turn around once we left the house; I discovered that several ounces of my preciously pumped milk had spilled when we got to school; I realized that I forgot wet bags for the diapers when we got to school; we forgot to get juice when it was our turn to bring snacks for school; oh, and I’ve been awake since 4am with a little boy who is adjusting to his new crib and room and a 4 year old who accidentally saw part of daddy’s zombie show last night and had nightmares and panicked the rest of the morning until we talked about snow angels and unicorns.

    Life is crazy. I feel like every day I must look like someone dragged me behind their car. But, despite all of this, I am really and truly happy. I love my kids. I love my husband and we all manage to make it work.

    This past Friday the director of our kids’ school said another parent came up to her and asked who that mom is who pushes the twins in the stroller and carries a toddler on her back every day (ha!) She told her who I was and the mom said that my kids are always happy and I always have a smile on my face and I inspire her every day. Wow! Talk about humbling. That was exactly what I needed to hear. We ARE happy and, really, that’s the crux of how we’re “making it.”

  • Nighttime Parties and a Giveaway!

    Date: 2015.10.28 | Category: Family, Halloween, Health, Home, Life, Me, Norah, OMG YAY!, Sarah, Toddler Time | Response: 0

    Over the past six months since the twins have come into our lives, I’ve struggled with ways to dedicate time to my older girls. Mark and I constantly “divide and conquer” though, and at night while he bathes and dresses the babies, the big girls and I move to the back of the house to begin their bed time routine – which is always a challenge as I constantly find myself physically wrestling an overtired two-year-old into the bath tub while her older sister screams, “SHE IS SPLASHING SOAP IN MY EYES AND HITTING ME!”

    One night Sarah asked me if we could have a “Halloween Party.” I was hesitant at first, because one more thing, but she looked at me pleadingly and melted my over-tired heart.  Her imagination is boundless and I knew that anything and everything could easily be transformed into a Halloween Party. I agreed and she cheered!

    I began to think of the things I could do to turn bath time into Halloween party time. What does any good party have? Music of course! So I turned on the Pandora “Halloween Party” station. Then I dimmed the lights, but that was a little too spooky, so I got a fall-scented candle and lit it in the bathroom. Perfect. Now as “Monster Mash” and tunes from The Nightmare Before Christmas flood our bathroom, we dance and laugh. Sometimes we add extra fun things like bath foam to make “costumes” or bath bombs to fizz and turn the water different colors (yellow, blue, red!).

    Now, when 7:00 rolls around, there are no more battles to get into the bathtub. Norah enthusiastically yells, “Tub time!” while Sarah says, “It’s time to party!”  and wiggles her hips. We rush to the bathroom, set up our party, shut the door to close out the babies, dance and play and they get mama’s full attention.

    It’s not elaborate, but it is fun and it’s the joyful time we all need together. Now I look forward to getting everyone ready for bed, and the only protesting that happens is when it’s time to get out of the tub (but even that is minor because we keep the music going while they dry off and get dressed).

    One of my favorite parts of all this are the things we use to create our party. The only thing I love more than shopping local is buying things that I know are safe and healthy for my family. My friend Kate owns Zombee Candle and Coven Co., and sells both products at her new store in Shreveport, The Sleepy Hollow: Books & Gifts. For our tub time parties, I’ve been lighting up seasonally appropriate fall scents – L’Automne and Bitches Brew (though the girls call it Witches Brew). Bitches Brew is purple and smells like apple cider, so it usually gets Sarah’s vote for party time. The candles are made with soy and don’t release any kind of nasty toxins into the air.

    Coven Co., is a line of natural and organic beauty products, including bath bombs and body butter (and the body butter even comes in the falltastic Hocus Pocus scent). The girls love waiting to see what color their bath bomb is going to release when we toss them in the tub.

    I am so excited to have the opportunity to share a little bit of our Halloween party joy with my readers! I’m teaming up with Kate during the week of Halloween to giveaway some of these locally made products from The Sleepy Hollow: Books & Gifts.

    You can win this awesome little bundle of healthy, Halloween goodness which includes:

    • 3 x small Coven Co. Aura Bombe bath bombs in Grove [lemon & sage] or Mandarin Royale [vanilla & orange]
    • 1 x 14oz Midi Zombee in your choice of Bitches Brew [mulled apple cider], L’Automne [orange, clove, black tea], Hocus Pocus [vanilla & pumpkin], or Hallowed Ground [tobacco, patchouli, cedarwood].

    Here’s what you have to do to enter. Make sure you complete all the steps – we’ll check!

    1. LIKE The Sleepy Hollow: Books & Gifts on Facebook.
    2. SHARE this post with your friends.
    3. TAG a friend in the comments.
    4. PROMISE to have your own personal Halloween Party, even if it’s just lighting up a spooky scent and relaxing in the tub with your very own bath bomb.

    The last day to enter is this Saturday, HALLOWEEN! We will announce a winner on Saturday. Good luck!

  • Half a Year and Counting

    Date: 2015.10.16 | Category: Baby, Family, Home, Life, Luke, Me, Twins, Vera | Response: 0

    These babies are halfway through their first year of life.

    After saying that, can I just take a moment to give Mark and I a little pat on the back. Man this first six months has been rough. Beautiful, joyful, adorable, but rough. I mean this whole no sleep thing with twins, jeez. I just had no idea. I’m kind of glad I had no idea, but… whew.

    Ok, back to our six month update.

    At six months our babies laugh and smile and light up the room. Luke smiles and laughs easily, but Vera makes you work for it a bit more. But when they both get to smiling it changes the whole mood of our house for the better.

    At six months, Luke is right on track with his milestones. He’s rolling both ways, attempting to sit up (if he can stop rocking himself long enough), and even getting up on his knees and attempting to push himself forward. Oh help me when these twins get mobile, for it is game over.

    V on the other hand really has no interest in any of those things. She can roll front to back (I’ve seen her do it a few times), and she can nearly go back to front, but the thing is, she would really rather you just hold her. Sitting up? No thanks unless she’s in a bumbo chair. Crawling? You’ve got to be kidding her.

    We tried solids a few days ago and while Luke was very interested and then very excited, Vera made the most awful face and choked and gagged. No thanks, Ma.

    At 16 pounds, little man is chunking up nicely, while my little lady is holding her own at 12lbs.

    Both babies  will stand if you help hold them up, and absolutely love all people. That’s probably a by-product of being babies #3 and #4, but it makes things easy! They love their new school and their teachers. We always get great reports, though when Luke gets mad, he can out scream even Norah.

    Vera loves it when I put clothes on her, laughing when the shirt comes down over her face. She also laughs when I kiss the spot between her eyes on her forehead.

    Luke loves it when I smile at him and say, “Hi” in a goofy voice. He smiles back in a way that looks so much like my grandfather who passed away earlier this year. It melts my heart.

    Luke hates his car seat and screams as soon as we put him in it. Vera could care less and seems to generally enjoy the car.

    Vera continues to be our better night time sleeper, and Luke our better day time sleeper, but we are trying to make them both good at day and night.

    At 6 months they are beginning to mimic some of our facial expressions, sticking their tongues out and smiling wide.

    Luke sucks his thumb and Vera sucks two fingers on her right hand. Luke loves chewing on blankets to soothe as well. Both babies love being pulled up next to the dinner table as well as watching their crazy sisters sing and dance.

    I’m starting to see one of the very best things about twins now: they are both constantly reaching for each other. When I tandem nurse them, they hold hands. When I lay them down next to each other, they find each other’s hands (though Luke does occasionally gnaw on his sister’s head).

    I am so proud of my little pumpkins and how well they are growing and developing. Yes, V is still a little behind, but she’s holding her own and we will get there. They wear us out, but they are such a joy and bring just the right amount of crazy to our house.

    Happy Half-Year my little loves.

    P.S. Totally forgot to do their 5 month post or to even take photos that day, but I did take this one on their 5 month celebration!

  • All Thumbs

    Date: 2015.10.06 | Category: Family, Health, Home, Life, Mark, Me, Norah, Toddler Time, Whoops | Response: 0

    Last Friday I had Norah at the pediatrician’s office for her two-year-old well visit.  I had Luke in tow as well. His fussiness and sleeplessness was reaching critical level and his cough was enough to scare me every time it happened.

    Norah, when she and I go places together without the entire crew, tends to be an angel. She readily got on the scale, let them measure her and check her temperature. Put up a small fight at shot time, but didn’t even cry during her finger stick. Our pediatrician, who we have gotten to know well enough that we now call her, “Aunt Monica,” and I discussed and sort of laughed at Norah’s ability to find accident and injury and her ER history, but we were relieved that she had gone a stretch without anything significant happening.

    Luke, it turned out, had a double ear infection, so we got an antibiotic for him and we went about our merry way.

    Fate, though, reared its ugly head that evening.

    I got it into my head that night that I wanted to make one of the girls’ favorite dishes, “yellow soup,” (ie potato and veggie and cheese soup). I knew I had all the ingredients, so I got to work. When I grabbed the chicken broth, however, I discovered that Norah had gotten a hold of it and tried to open it with her teeth in a fit of rat-like hunger, thus opening it and letting it go bad. I grumbled as I tossed the unused box into the trash and dug around in my pantry where I unearthed a still-good can of chicken broth. I decided to use that to start the soup while Mark ran to the store to get more.

    As things often happen at dinner time, both babies started crying, so I went to them while I waited on the soup to cook, not thinking about all the things that were still sitting on the counter top.

    Mark got back, and while he was busy adding the rest of the ingredients and I was tending to babies, Norah decided she very much wanted that open can of chicken broth still sitting out on the counter, so she reached for it. The lid was still attached, so when she stuck her thumb down in the can, it got stuck, she panicked and then she yanked… HARD.

    Mark starts yelling that Norah is bleeding everywhere. I panicked a little and asked if she needed stitches, but he couldn’t tell because there was so much blood. I pinned her down and looked and the gaping wound on her thumb. No doubt, there would be stitches.

    Mark would have to drive while I held my toddler with her gushing thumb, which Mark ingeniously wrapped in paper towels and electric tape, so we quickly began seeking back up help. My mom had my sister’s kids, my in-laws were out of town, my sister was at work… “Call Debbie,” I said, and our wonderful neighbor immediately rushed over to help.

    We darted out the door and made for Quick Care. They took one look at her thumb and sent us immediately over to the Emergency Room.

    When we got there, the ER was empty, thank goodness, and one of our friends was our nurse. In short order they brought out our old friend the papoose board and put Norah in her straight jacket.

    We tried all kinds of distraction techniques while they numbed her up the doctor started cleaning and stitching. The ER doctor encouraged us to sing, “Wheels on the Bus.” I can just imagine the joy and horror anyone walking by would have experienced as they watched a little girl strapped to a blue board getting her hand stitched up while her parents, three nurses and a doctor sang “Wheels on the Bus” complete with hand motions. Norah, however, did not find it at all entertaining.

    Still though, three stitches later we were out of there, but not before our ER doctor commented that we looked familiar. Yes, this was her third trip to the ER in a year, but, I said, “ I swear we’re good parents!”

    It was when we got home and started to get her ready for bed that it dawned on me that it was the thumb she sucks to soothe herself and go to sleep. Oh hell.

    It was a bad night. She had trouble going to sleep without sucking her thumb, and then couldn’t settle herself as she woke up multiple times in the middle of the night, both in pain and in general anger at the thumb situation. When I told her to suck her other thumb, she just looked at it and screamed. Combine that with the babies waking up with painful ears and it was rough.

    That was a Friday night. Monday morning I had a phone call from dear “Aunt Monica,” who could not believe what she saw when she got her files from the weekend. She left me the sweetest and most encouraging voicemail that said many things, but included the phrases, “Oh my gosh it never ends,” and “I firmly believe God only gives you what you can handle and He knows you are a stronger woman than I.”

    It’s now been over a week and things are getting better. She’s missed a lot of naps over the thumb sucking issue, but she had the stitches taken out yesterday and hasn’t resumed thumb sucking… so maybe in the silver lining of things she broke that habit? I’m not ready to swear by it yet, but maybe, just maybe.

    And also, this birthday gift from Cassie showed up in our mailbox last night, and I have to say, it’s perfection.

  • Turning Two

    Date: 2015.09.20 | Category: Birthday, Family, Home, Norah | Response: 0

    As a parent, it’s easy to say that we can’t believe our children are however old they happen to be. Time moves so quickly and before we know it, another year has passed by.

    But I can 100% believe Norah is two now. I actually feel like she’s been two for a long while now. I’m not sure if having the twins has forced her to become independent, or if she’s always just had that in her, but she makes up her mind to do things a certain way and just does them.

    Yesterday we took Norah to a birthday party and I was talking to another mother there. I was pointing out my children to her and when I told her Norah was about to be two, she was surprised. She said, “Wow, she’s so independent and unafraid, I thought she must be three!”

    And that is Norah in a nutshell: independent and unafraid with a hot temper and a sweet hugs.

    This year has been a hard one for Norah. Being booted from the baby of the family to the middle child by not just one, but two babies when you’re still a baby yourself is just kind of mean. I’m sorry about that kid. You didn’t take it well. The first three months of having new siblings were particularly hard. When you couldn’t get mom and dad’s undivided attention, you would attempt to hurt the babies because you knew you would get that attention right away.

    But as much as I lament the trouble we had with you those first few months, I am so proud of you now. You are constantly kissing on your brother and sister and calling them “Uke” and “Baby,” which works fine for us.

    Oh my Norah bean, you are a child of extremes and you want to do everything on your own terms. I attempt to hand you a graham cracker and you hurl yourself to the floor and scream, and when I turn my back you BEG for the same cracker you loudly just rejected. I usually end up just leaving it on the table so you can get up and get it on your own terms. You can throw the loudest, most obnoxious temper tantrums and then snuggle up with the biggest kisses and “I love you mommy.”

    Speaking of, you are an amazing talker for a two-year-old. You have been speaking in full sentences for a while now and I still get tickled every time you tell me, “I excited!” You are so good at saying “Please” and “thank you.” Your vocabulary is so big that it surprises me, but “shoes” and “Sarah” are two of your most favorite words, oh and “Kiki,” which is the lovey blanket that goes everywhere you go. Any time we have to wash Kiki, it’s two hours of crying and begging for, “Kiki! I want Kiki!”. But since you drag Kiki through the mud and bathroom and car and school and garage, Kiki has to have a bath fairly often.

    You know you’re not supposed to hit, but you still do it anyway, but then follow immediately with a kiss. Earlier today you got mad at me, thwacked my arm and then immediately kissed it to try to avoid your time out in your room. It didn’t work, but it still softened up my heart.

    You, my dear, are always the child to get hurt or have some crazy injury or illness. I don’t know if that’s integral to being a middle child, or if it’s just part of being Norah, but you regularly scare the living daylights out of all of us. And even minor scrapes and bruises are an ordeal. “Bo bo!” you cry and dramatically point to your scraped knees that never quite heal before being scraped open anew.

    But oh my Bean, your hugs and kisses and snuggles are my favorite things. At night we read books together, just the two of us. You excitedly proclaim, “Seat!” before plopping into my lap and repeating every word I say. We pray together and your attempt at making the sign of the cross looks like a poorly executed attempt at the macarena – and I love it! To get you into school so you don’t run into the streets in the morning, I put you in my ErgoBaby carrier on my back and you love that too. We’ve figured it out so that once you’re on my back you hold my neck or shoulders until you’re secure, then you hold your kiki and lay your head on my shoulder as we walk in. You love being on my back and snuggled up so close. I’m so glad that even though you’re two now, you still love to go “up up” and let mama wear you.

    You are simultaneously our biggest challenge and our biggest heart. Your daddy and I can go from being so frustrated with you to belly laughing at your antics in the blink of an eye.

    Norah Bean, my sweet sweet two year old, you are so incredibly special and I am so glad you are our daughter. Happy second birthday my love.

  • Four Months

    Date: 2015.08.27 | Category: Baby, Family, Home, Life, Luke, Me, Twins, Vera | Response: 1

    Ok, so it’s been a while since the twins turned four months, but I did snap their pictures on that day!

    I love four-month-olds. They are so engaging. They laugh and smile and watch everything around them, especially their goofy, dancing sisters. Plus, they aren’t quite mobile yet, which makes things easier on mom and dad!

    Luke, however, desperately wants to be mobile. He’s got the rolling from tummy to back thing down, and can even inchworm across the floor and bed. When we put him in his bumbo chair, he works as hard as he can to get out of it. When we hold him, he loves to stand while clutching our fingers. I do believe the boy would run off if he could.

    Vera, on the other hand, is much more reserved in her movements. Opposite of her brother, she loathes tummy time and any time we make her do it, it is met with much screaming and protest. I have been worried about her not meeting her milestones like brother, but she is managing to push through. The day after her four-month doctor appointment, where we discussed developmental concerns, she totally surprised me by finally rolling over! Yes, she’s only done it once, but now I know that little stinker can do it.

    V also has some head and neck problems, but we have been able to do stretches at home so far, and they seem to be working. Of course, as her mama I can’t help but worry about her, but so far she’s showing me that she can do it!

    Also opposite of brother, V loves her bumbo chair and will sit in it quite contently and observe the world around her. She doesn’t mind staying still, which is probably a good thing with all the chaos in our house.

    Sleep has been interesting. For two nights in a row, right as they turned four months old, they slept through the night. But, it was fleeting. Since then, Luke has been waking up at least twice a night, rolling over. I know there is a four month sleep regression, but V and I do not appreciate the nightly wake ups. We are powering through though. In a way, it’s good, because V still needs the extra nightly calories, so Luke forces me to get up and dream feed her.

    At four months they weighed in at 14 pounds and 10 pounds, nearly doubling their birth weights.

    After doing some research, we have opted to wait and start solids at six months. Neither baby is showing any interest in our food yet and with V being so tiny, it feels like the right decision.

    Tandem nursing is nearly impossible for us now. They are so crunched in the football hold that they get fussy when I try to do it. Instead their feedings are now slightly staggered, which is good so mama can have some one on one time with them while they nurse and they can stretch out.

    They are much more content to sit and watch now, not always demanding to be held. Again, I think the constant amount of entertainment from their older sisters  contributes to that, but I’m not complaining.

    I can not believe my babies are four months already. It simultaneously feels like the days are so long sometimes, but the weeks and months are so short.

    Right now Luke looks just like mama and V looks just like my husband’s family. I think that is also a contributing factor to their size difference. My V is just petite!

    Sarah has affectionately nicknamed them “Little Buddy” and “Little Vivi,” and the names are sticking.

    I can honestly say that at four months in, things are better. We are finally finding our groove and getting use to our new normal. I love their smiles (Luke smiles with his whole face, while V gives me shy grins) and I love getting glimpses of their personalities.

    Happy (belated) Four Months to my littles!

  • Doubt

    Date: 2015.08.19 | Category: Baby, Family, Home, Life, Luke, Mark, Me, Norah, Sarah, Twins, Vera | Response: 1

    No one ever said being a parent was easy, and I know that. It requires strength, sacrifice, patience and a force of will I never knew I had. And as we’ve added more children to our family, I’ve found that all of those characteristics need to be amplified: patience, discipline and even a listening ear for four children, instead of just one, is much harder.

    I feel like so many days we are just surviving and it is so hard to actively do things for my kids. We react to what’s presented instead of proactively planning things and doing them. Most of the time, I’ve learned to relax and go with it, but then here lately, I feel like that’s not enough.

    I doubt myself all the time. At the twins’ four month check up, we went through the list of milestones they should be performing. When the nurse asked if they reach for toys placed in front of them, I paused and with great embarrassment said, “I don’t know, because we don’t really do that.” I felt guilty and immediately felt compelled to start explaining myself. “It’s not that we leave them unattended all day, but they are usually sitting in chairs and kicking at things attached to them, or laying on blankets while Sarah dances in front of them or being held and nursed.”

    I don’t consciously think, like I did with my first two, “Oh, I need to be presenting them with things so they can practice reaching and grabbing.” Most of the time, when I’m home, I’m trying to do dishes, pick up, fold laundry and attend to my two very active older girls who demand my attention, and so the babies just kind of hang out for the ride.

    Vera was also not rolling over yet and is having some head and neck problems that I didn’t even realize were going on. Yes, we take them to the doctor regularly, so she caught it, but I did not even realize it was going on. I felt like I was failing her. (On a positive side note, she did roll over the very next day after the appointment, despite her loud and screaming protests to tummy time).

    My doubts creep in with Sarah and Norah too. Norah watches Mark and I intently, and as soon as our attention deviates away from her, she makes a break for any and all forms of mischief: throwing things in toilets, grabbing and throwing cat litter, grabbing bags of food and emptying their contents onto the floor.  All these things make me feel like I only say negative words to her. “Norah!!! Why?!” I find myself saying all the time. And I know why. She’s an attention-starved almost-two-year-old who wants her mama’s attention.

    She has also put up the great and mighty protest against easily going to sleep in her new big girl bed. We can’t let Sarah in the room that they share while we let her go to sleep or Norah will scale our well-placed barricades for the bunk bed stairs and jump on her sister repeatedly, playing a game instead of sleeping. As such, Sarah is kept out of the room until her sister falls asleep, often keeping her up well past when she should be sleeping and making her exhausted for the school the following day. Another failure for Sarah.

    Between the four kids tag-teaming me throughout the course of the night, I have had exactly two decent night’s sleep in the past six months or so, and it’s taking it’s toll on my patience with my children and my husband. Instead of answering their questions with love, I feel like I bark out quick responses. I feel like I’m failing my family all the time and that they must only see me as a mean, grumpy monster.

    But then things will sneak through to make me realize that they don’t feel that way, at least not all the time. This morning, after being up most of the night with Luke, Sarah and Norah, my tiniest little Vera woke up well-rested and all smiles and coos and giggles. While the rest of the house finally slept, we had about 20 minutes together, just the two of us to laugh and smile and just be.

    Before I left for work, Norah yelled, “Mama! Mama!” “Yes, Bean,” I said exhaustedly. She looked at me and said, “Hug you,” and wrapped her little arms tightly around my neck.

    In the midst of the morning breakfast and getting ready chaos, Mark and I shared a look of exhaustion and I walked over to him and we wrapped our arms around each other in comfort and shared understanding.

    On the way to school this morning Sarah chirped up, “Mama, I have something to tell you.” “Yes?” I inquired. “You’re so beautiful and I love you,” she said, before telling me all about her nightmare that woke up half the house at 4:30 this morning (it involved  unicorns, a prince and a pink potion that turned everyone into frogs).

    To be honest, I still don’t feel like I’m doing it all right. I forget things all the time and fly by the seat of my pants. But it is so nice in the midst of being so full of doubt that my family shows me and tells me how much they love me. I may not be doing it right all the time, but we do manage to laugh and smile and love one another, so we must be doing something right.

  • In Transition

    Date: 2015.08.02 | Category: Family, Home, Norah, Toddler Time | Response: 1

    Someone talk me down from the ledge.

    We have begun the process of getting Norah to sleep in her big girl bed instead of the crib… and sharing a room with her big sister. Go big or go home, right?

    The past two nights have been rough. I sort of want to kick myself for starting this process now with the two babies we’re still wrestling to sleep at night, but Norah can now hurl herself out of her crib, and as prone to accidents and ER visits as she is, it’s time we minimize the risk. And so, our plan to start her big girl transition has been moved up a month.

    I have to keep telling myself this is a good thing. It gives Sarah a full week of adjusting with Norah in her room before school starts, and we will hopefully eliminate the late nights soon. Plus, the sooner we get her adjusted to sleeping in her new bed, the sooner we can move the twins into her old room and out of sleeping in our living room (hey, you do what you’ve got to do).

    I tried to prepare myself for this. I’m part of a really good and supportive sleep learning group on Facebook. Granted I joined to get help with the twins, but when I asked for help with this transition into the big girl bed, they stepped up wonderfully with some great tips and ideas.

    The first night Norah thought it was a game. We put her into the bed, she jumped right back out again. Over and over and over. Sarah tried to boss her from the top bunk and then was constantly running to tell us Norah was out of bed again. We finally took Sarah out of the room and let her watch tv while we put up a pressure gate to keep Norah in the room and blocked off the bunk bed stairs to prevent her from toddler base jumping.

    There was a lot of protesting. We tried laying down with her. She was fine until we got up. We tried standing and watching, but then it became a game to jump up as soon as we left. I wanted to give up and put her in her crib, but Mark kept me strong. I grabbed a beer to help me power through. Finally, she wore down at 9:30pm and Mark put her in the bed and she didn’t get back out. She did pretty well and slept through the night, but woke up at 5:30am crying. This is my baby who usually sleeps until 8:30 or 9.

    The next day was HARD. She was exhausted and refused to nap. I thought she should nap in her crib. One transition at a time, right? This was not a good idea. She spent most of the day screaming her head off – both in bed and pretty much any time we looked at her. She was a grouch and kept screaming for her “kilkies,” ie her blankies, all. day. long. And of course we were all exhausted. Norah kept Sarah up quite a bit during the night and early morning, and I was up with the babies at night, and then again at 5:30 with her.

    Second night was even tougher. It was Mark’s turn to want to give up. We were all so exhausted and she was overtired. We went through a two hour repeat of her constantly getting out of bed. I finally caved and went to sit in bed with her. She stayed put, but spent the entire time singing to her Raggedy Ann doll and playing peek-a-boo with her. That would have been adorable if I wasn’t so exhausted and still had crying babies to attend to.

    Sarah loudly declared that she thought it was high time Norah moved back to her crib because she was keeping her awake. I was so close, so close, to granting her wish. But I knew things would just end with hours of screaming. We had started this awful process, and we needed to stick to it. The first three days are always the worst with any kind of sleep training. We were half way through it, we couldn’t stop now.

    Finally, we had to leave her in the room screaming. Poor Sarah. Poor Norah. Poor us. I felt awful for her, but I know her personality and how well she manipulates us, so I had to. Guess what? Less than 2 minutes of protesting and then she crawled back into bed and passed out. She slept until 6:30 this time, a huge improvement I think.

    Today, we decided we needed to commit to the big girl bed for nap time too. It was too confusing going back and forth.

    My new plan of attack included wearing her out and filling her up. I let her play outside all morning, made her favorite for lunch (shells and cheese), and then Mark put her in her bed, put the gate up, turned off the lights and walked away.

    I steeled myself for the screaming that would probably fill our whole afternoon… and it never came. I checked on her five minutes later and she had passed out!

    I don’t know if this will translate into success tonight, but I hope it at least shaves an hour off our protest time. If we can get her sleeping easily in the big girl bed, it will at least grant me the patience to forgive her new habit of putting all the things in the toilet. Maybe.

  • Back to Work

    Date: 2015.07.21 | Category: Baby, Family, Home, Life, Luke, Me, Norah, Sarah, Twins, Vera, Work | Response: 1

    For the third time, I returned to work last week after being on maternity leave.

    Of course there was that inevitable sadness that comes with separation from your baby (or babies in this case), but this time, it was MUCH better.

    I am so thankful that I work in a place that is very supportive of families and has been very willing to be flexible with my schedule so I could enjoy three months home with my babies (three months, I might add, that were crucial to us being able to establish breastfeeding and allowing me to recover fully from my c-section.. *trying hard not to step on post partum recovery soapbox*).

    In the past, when it was time for me to return to work, I took the older girls to a daycare. It was a very good daycare, but it was still a place that wasn’t my home full of people I did not know well. And that absolutely crushed me to have to leave my baby with strangers in a strange place all day long. With Sarah, that sense of “awayness” was the worst. In addition to her being my first child, I had post partum depression and severe separation anxiety from my baby. I would go to work and sob every time I broke out the breast pump as I thought about strangers, albeit very capable and nurturing strangers, taking all my time I should have with her. It was a horrible, dark well of emptiness inside me that made me question if I was doing the right thing constantly. But, eventually, I got to know everyone at the daycare, recovered from PPD and saw how much fun she was having when we took her there and felt better that she was in capable hands and making friends, even though she got sick nonstop for nearly two years while she was there.

    With Norah, it was better. When I took her to daycare, I already knew everyone who worked there and, after watching them with Sarah over the years, had no worries about her being in good hands. But it was still hard. Again I felt like I was abandoning my baby to a strange place away from me where she couldn’t nurse and take comfort from her mother. I bounced back more quickly that time though and again got use to it as I watched my baby flourish and interact with her little friends.

    This time though, things were different.

    Putting four children in full time daycare was financially impossible for us, but so was me quitting my job. So we started on a quest to figure out something that would work. I lost so many nights of sleep and shed many a tear over what I was going to do with my babies when I had to return to work. I prayed over this issue repeatedly, and my prayers were answered. We managed to find someone we know and trust very well to come into our home to keep our children part time, at least until September. Then the youngest three will go to an amazing part-time place where my mom works and their caregiver will be at home with them the other part of the time. All of these puzzle pieces falling into place has been the biggest blessing. Mark and I are still having to juggle our work schedules to accommodate this scenario for now, but it’s working, and for that, I am so thankful.

    So when I had to go back to work again this time, I was able to leave my babies at home with someone I trusted, away from the sickness that permeates day cares, and in a place I knew they were comfortable in. I am so especially thankful for this scenario this time with my teeny tiny little Vera and my son who had oxygen problems initially. It’s such a gift to be able to keep them away from other small kiddos for a little while, at least until they chunk up and get a little older, a little bigger and a little healthier.

    And now I’m going to confess something else: I LOVE being back at work. I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I was back in my office, doing a job that I love. I think my coworkers must worry that I’ve gone off the deep end because I tend to hole up, put my earbuds in and work. True, I have a LOT to catch up on, but I am also blissfully enjoying a little quiet and the time to focus on my work and stretch my creative arms again. It helps that we just won two pretty big awards for our magazine, and it also helps that it is undergoing a major design change and expansion (which thrills me!) Plus I’m getting a new Mac next week at work. Add that all together and I’m practically tap dancing into work every day.

    Do I miss my kids during the day? So much! I love those sweet little smiles and hugs and coos and snuggles. But I also love coming home every day and being inundated with hugs and shouts for “Mama!” My patience with everyone is infinitely better, and I think their patience with me is better too. And, when I tell them their nanny is coming in the morning, they cheer her name and shout, “Yay!”

    Going back to work this time has been better than I could have ever imagined. I am so thankful for answered prayers, both for my kiddos and for myself.

    And now I’m extra grateful for afternoon and night time snuggles.

  • Three Months

    Date: 2015.07.19 | Category: Baby, Family, Home, Life, Luke, Twins, Vera | Response: 1

    I’ve tried to write this post a number of times between now and five days ago when the babies actually turned three months old. But things stay crazy around here and this keeps getting delayed. I think that’s a pretty healthy sign of how things are going to be for a long time.

    But! We’ve made it to month #3, and what a (mostly) good month it is.

    Both babies are smiling now, the big gummy, nose crinkling, dimpled grins that make me turn into a big goofball in order to keep them coming. Luke has even managed a giggle. It’s pretty great!

    Sleep still isn’t amazing though. It takes them forever to go down at night and they get up at least once a night,  sometimes twice. But we did have a surprise night this past week where both babies slept seven hours straight and it was amazing! Too bad it’s only happened once, but it still gives me hope.

    Luke, ever the pace setter, has also rolled from tummy to back. I didn’t see it happen because I was in another room, but when I left, he was on his tummy and when I came back he was on his back, mad as a hornet that he had gotten off his belly.

    Vera still HATES tummy time and somehow manages to put all her arms and legs up in the air while she’s on her belly, effectively turning herself into a rocking boat while she screams her head off.

    Both babies are nursing champs now, however tandem nursing is becoming a bit of a challenge. I put them in the football hold, latch one, and the other one gets angry and tired of waiting for their turn and kicks off with their feet, effectively shoving the nursing pillow out and dropping their sibling’s head in my lap. I get so frustrated when they play this game in the middle of the night, and I’m not sure what to do once they get too big for the football hold. I guess someone will have to wait their turn.

    I had to go back to work last week, and when I did, Luke took the bottle like it was his job. Vera put up a good fight that lasted nearly a week, but finally started to take the bottle as the week drew to a close. All three of my girl babies hated the bottle, but at least V isn’t putting up the year long fiat against it that Sarah did.

    Both babies continue to love bath time and calm down instantly when we put them in the tub. They also both love the swing, which almost always magically calms them down, as well as going outside, even if we are having triple digit temps.

    Both babies love their sisters, especially since Norah has gotten much less violent with them. Anytime the big girls dance and sing, the babies look on in awe and show off their best grins.

    Luke continues to be my happy day time baby, taking naps and sitting contently in his chair, while V is my fussy daytime baby, crying or whining unless she’s being held or entertained. They switch roles at night (of course) and Luke is always the one to wake us all up, where Vera would be just fine if I didn’t wake her up to eat, thankyouverymuch, but I still make her to ensure I get the most sleep possible.

    Still things are getting progressively better: there are longer stretches of night time sleep, more efficient nursing sessions, longer stretches between feedings, and, of course, those awesome grins that make it all worth it. We are all adjusting to our larger family and all the work that often means, but we are getting into a routine and schedule and everyone is learning to share time with mom and dad, and we, in turn, are learning how to better share our time with all our kids.


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