Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Twins: That's TWO Babies

A lot of people have asked me what it's like having the twins now.  And while I should be doing 5,724 other things (like picking up my filthy house or creating wonderful, organic lunches for my kids), I am going to let you in to the secret world we live in. See how nice I am now? Twins make you a wonderful, loving, generous person.  Ha Ha.

My husband works with a friend who has twins who are grown. He recently advised my husband to stop saying, "Last year we had twins."  He said to say, "Last year, we had two babies at the same time." See, when we tell people we had twins, they usually react like, "Oh that's awesome! How fun!" The word "Twins" sounds like a neat little package of sweet baby awesomeness.  When you say, "Two babies at the same time", it can kind of hit people.  I also recently ran into a friend who hadn't seen the twins.  I whipped out my phone to show him some cute pictures, expecting the same delighted reaction.  The first one I pulled up was this one:

Cute, right? This friend didn't react like that.  He let out a huge groan and said, "Oh my gosh." I was surprised, "What?" I said. "Oh man. I remember meal times with ONE baby. It was a nightmare.  How do you do that with two???"

I felt like someone finally got it.  He didn't look at the picture and see the two smiling sweeties.  He instantly saw the reality behind the picture.  So let me share some of the reality.
Two babies. At the same time.  At the doctor.  Think about that.

Oh man I love these guys.  They are super sweet and they are really really good babies.  They are happy, funny and generally good at everything.  Good eaters, good sleepers, very flexible with life.

But it's still two babies, which takes a lot of coordinating.  Add in two big kids, and you have absolute chaos if there's no plan. Those of you who know me know that CHAOS is not really a thing I can adapt to.  It goes against my very being.  Early on, we had to make plans.  Here's a brief look at how we run things.

1.  I have tons of help.  When I was in my delirious pregnant state, I thought I was Super Woman and could handle 4 kids, including two babies, all by myself every day.  That went out the window quickly.  I have a wonderful saint of a woman who has helped me with the babies every week since they were about 4 weeks old, at least two days a week.  I won't name her here because she's also a most humble, "don't thank me" kind of person.  Really I don't even think she's real- she is an angel who appears at my door to step in and do anything and never complains.  She loves my babies like they are her own. In addition to my Angel Lady, I have two other good friends who have come over weekly and helped a ton.  I have family and friends who have come over for a few hours at a time here and there. I have people who help with my big kids.  At any given time, there is usually another adult in this house to help me.. Not always. But a good portion of the time.  I am not sure how I'll ever thank these people, but I will try. Any pride I had about asking for help simply melted away when faced with the reality of my life. There is no other way to handle multiples and additional big kids.
Super Nana- my mom who helps a ton

Sara- a reliable friend who's also a nurse, so bonus.

Karen- not afraid to cuddle a sweet  baby all morning.
2. Systems.  We have plans and systems.
------>First, we work almost round the clock.  There is very little sleep.  We think of our day as starting in the evening when the babies go to bed.  My husband and I get their clothes ready for the next day, wash all the bottles and make the bottles for the next day and put them in the fridge, check to make sure we have diapers and wipes stocked, think about who's coming in and out of the house and when, pick up all the toys/books/food on the floor, and try to have a conversation with each other in there somewhere.
------->We write everything down.  Who woke up when, when they ate, who had a messy diapers, etc. No way could I remember who was doing what.  They are basically on the same schedule now (Thank you, Jesus!), but until about 2 months ago, no matter how hard I tried, they did their own things.  I had to have it in black and white because I could.not.remember.
------->We have a nighttime plan.  In the beginning, we were each assigned a baby who was "ours" through the night.  (To further help us feel good, we called them our "Cuddle Buddy") Now that they mostly sleep through the night (AHEM- Mr. Sammy Brown- I am looking at you with the MOSTLY. Let's fix that, ok? Honey Bunny is a perfect sleeper! And you aren't supposed to compare your twins, you know- it does things to their psyche. I will try not to do that when they can understand what I am saying. But for now, Baby Sister is an A+ sleeper, while Mr. Man gets up in the night still.) Anyway, now we take shifts.  I take the "first shift" from bedtime to about 2 AM, and my husband takes the rest of the night.  If we are lucky and no one gets up during our shift, great.  If not, we know someone's going to back us up so we can get a little sleep.  I would recommend always having a nighttime plan.  No one jumps happily out of bed to get a baby. It saves us from middle-of-the-night arguments.
Cuddle Buddies

------->Now that they're mobile, we have a rule: Either they have to be in a completely safe environment, or they have to have eyes on them at all times.  If I have to step out of the room to go to the bathroom, deal with a big kid, or take a phone call, they MUST go in a play pen or high chair or jumper or something where they are confined.  I can't just pick them up and put them on my hip.  Not with two.  I can't be somewhat distracted on the phone and watching two at once.  They are FAST. And they are MONKEYS.  They are INTO everything and ON everything and UNDER everything and TRYING TO EAT everything. There is no safe place really, but if I am fully with them, I can handle that.
Literally climbing the walls.  With utensils in hand. 

------->The big kids HELP.  I mean, really help.  They have jobs that actually help our family, like swiffering the kitchen floor and cleaning up after their own meals.  They play with the babies when it's "fussy time".  They are learning responsibility and becoming contributors to the household instead of just consumers.  They  love it right now.  I am teaching them that just because they are young boys doesn't make them unable to do housework, cook, do laundry, or play with babies.  They are smart and strong, and helping gives them confidence, and helps me to not drown under the clutter.

3. Vision for our family.  This may seem like a strange one, but I am so incredibly type A, I could get up every day and stress about all the things I should be teaching every one of them.  I stress about not taking the big kids to the Farmer's Market, or that they babies don't have enough sensory toys.  "I haven't made them homemade musical instruments yet! They are probably going to start robbing liquor stores soon.  I am a terrible mother."  See how it goes? Early on,  I asked my husband to help me create a focused list of values for our family that will guide us as we parent these kids.  It helps focus my heart and keeps me from freaking out a ton (I do still freak out, of course. They can't do baby sign language yet! AAAHHH!! They'll never get into college!). With the help of my talented friend Sarah we created a poster that actually lists our family values.  I will do a whole other post about this because I want you to see how cool it is. But this is about me not focusing on the details ("they can't speak spanish!!! AAAH!") and focusing instead on the big stuff ("Are my kids learning to use kind words?")
The reality of meal time.

So that's basically where we are.  There is craziness and clutter, there is laughter and tears.  There is usually someone crying here, and sometimes it's me. Lots of praying.  But I feel like we are moving from surviving to thriving, and I am grateful.  I know we will look back and wonder how we made it.  People always say, "I can't even imagine..."  Yes you can, that's why you say that.  You CAN imagine, and what you're imagining is probably true.  It's tough. And I haven't handled it gracefully.  To quote my favorite artist, Andrew Peterson, "Though I kick and scream, love is leading me. Every step of the way, His grace is making me." I never envisioned myself as a mom to four kids, but that's who He is making me.  I think I'll be better for it. But for now, I'd really like a nap.


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