Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How I do it

One of the most asked questions I get when people find out I have twins and 2 older kids is, "How do you do it?" (among many, many others).

My answer to them most of the time is just saying, "You do what you have to do." To me, twins and 4 kids total is just the new normal for us and we just do it- just like anyone else does each time they have another baby and add another member to their family. You just do what you do with what you have- it's not rocket science. But for some people, twins is just an unfathomable phenomenon and they just cannot comprehend how anything gets done in a day with twins and how I am even remotely functioning. I will admit while it may not be rocket science, it is baby science and each parent of twins comes up with their own scientific formula on what works best for them in caring for these two wonderful, but busy, additions.

My best kept secret for "how I do it" is this: My fabulous five year old Chloe. I honestly could not do half of what I do in a day without her help. I am very hard on her at times, but I think it is because I expect so much out of her after all the help she willingly gives me. I often forget that she is only five (just four when the babies were born) and that I shouldn't depend on her as much as I do- she's just a kid and needs to play and have fun. But I have never seen someone so eager to help. Being a mom (and sometimes OCD), I decline the help she offers, thinking that I can do it faster, more efficiently and in a much cleaner way. She has proven to me time and time again that her help, albeit messy sometimes or done in her busy and loud way, is a true service to me and our family.

Since the babies have been born, I have been trying to capture on camera some of the ways that she helps me.

First and foremost, this little girl is addicted to her twin sisters and loves holding them, bouncing them and playing with them. She will fetch binkies, diapers, wipes, clothes, bath towels and whatever else I need, sometimes without even being asked. She can anticipate their needs almost as good (or better sometimes) than I can:

"Mom, Leah is getting tired and needs some milk."

"Uh oh, Lexi is crying- let me go put her binky in."

"Are you sad, Leah? Let me hold you, sweetie."

"Mom, Leah/Lexi pooped...." Me: "No she didn't, I just changed her." "No Mom, she really did. Come look." Sure enough, 9 times out of 10, she knows better than I do.

When the babies were little, she would willingly hold one of them and put them to sleep while I attended to the other baby, or took a shower. Now she will go hold who ever is crying without even being asked- a baby cries, she runs to them. She pops a binky in, bounces one on her knee, cuddles with them, rocks them, sings them songs, anything to try and quiet and comfort them. I am amazed at how wonderful she is with these girls, especially for only being five. The way she handles them is mature beyond her years.

She started begging months ago to change their diapers. For the first few weeks of this new help, I made sure to be right by her side (for cleanliness and safety reasons) and double checked her work meticulously. Now with a few months practice, she is fabulous at it and I rarely even check her work. She does not change poopy diapers, which is totally ok with me. With the amount of wet diapers we have in one day, she is plenty of help with just doing those.

She even has taken up changing Mitchell's diapers (just the wet ones). One morning after they both woke up, she changed his diaper and got him dressed before they came into my room. What an amazing help this has been as well. (Mitchell even requests Chloe sometimes for this job over me).

Chloe loves washing the dishes for me and begs to do it. Again I was amazed at how well she did this.

She pulls a chair up to the sink, turns on the water, grabs the scrub brush, pours soup on the dishes and scrubs them until they are sparkling clean. She even loads them all into the dishwasher, too. (I can't look too closely to the loading job- not done quite the way I like it or in a way that maximizes space, but the fact that she does it is enough).

I have had to teach her a few things, though. The first time she washed the dishes, she used an entire bottle of dishsoap to scrub the dishes with. Oops... That same bottle lasts me a few months. Oh well, live and learn, and love the help you get!

She decided one day she'd like to give sweeping a try, and was awesome at that too. That is something that could stand to be done everyday, and you can't really do it wrong, per se, so she does this often. Excuse me, she asks to do this often. She asks to do all of these chores (begs, sometimes).

If my laundry basket is too full, I have to throw clean clothes out into the hallway and fold it there. One day Chloe saw the pile of clothes and started folding without being asked. Now she is a regular at helping me fold her clothes and put them all away. Can't wait until she is tall enough to hang up all her shirts and dresses!

Folding Mitchell's shirt

She is great at putting babies to sleep and snuggling with them.

She loves to help me empty the dishwasher. She can't put away very much stuff- a lot of the dishes are too high in the cupboards to put away- but she is great at unloading the silverware and Tupperware.

She is usually more than thrilled to feed Lexi a bottle when asked to. This is a rare treat because she doesn't get bottles very often (just once in a while so she'll keep taking them), and Leah won't even take one. Chloe and Mitchell fight over who gets to feed Alexis the bottle. They have to take turns. Having two babies has cut down on the fighting of getting to help with them because most of the time they each can hold one or "help" with one, but not when it comes to bottles anymore- curses that Leah refuses to take a bottle anymore!!

One of the main things I get asked "how I do it" is grocery shopping and running errands. Most people assume I wait until the evening when Ben is home and do all shopping alone. Before the babies were born, I thought that was going to happen as well, and it did for the first month or two. But once the kids are in bed, I am tired and don't really want to be going out to run errands or grocery shop- I'd rather be at home getting things done there or relaxing and doing nothing.

So I started running some of my errands during the day with the kids. It can be crazy, for sure (errands can be crazy with just one kid), but it's so nice to get it done during the day and not have to save everything for the evening. If I did that, I would never have a moment's peace during the evenings.

We are quite the zoo when we go out- especially if it is just me with the kids. I have been told point blank in public that I am crazy, but we are all still alive, we get our errands done in one piece, and I get some relaxing evenings, so I'm ok with being crazy!

Here is "how we do it" at the grocery store. I buckle Mitch in the front of one cart and put one of the babies in the back of the same cart and Chloe either pulls or pushes that cart. Here she is pulling it.

Here she is pushing it, with my cart in view- I have the other baby in the front and our groceries in the back.

It works for us. We get lots of stares, and we've only knocked over one thing (it had to be a glass pop bottle, too) but the store worker was so kind and quickly cleaned it up for us and told us the pop bottles shouldn't have been standing where they were.

Of course in a perfect world, I would love to do my grocery shopping solo (who wouldn't?) but if we go prepared with a list and when everyone is well rested and well fed, we can usually escape with few tears. Sometimes I have two crying babies and two whining big kids for part of or for the entire trip, but life goes on. Some things just have to get done.

Chloe is a huge help on these grocery trips, as she allows me to have an entire cart to put food in by pushing the other cart full of kids. I went grocery shopping once while she was in school and could only buy enough food to fit on the bottom of the cart and Mitch had to walk. It is much easier with her. And luckily for me, Mitch has been a champ for grocery shopping lately (I'm sure the endless snacks and suckers I supply him with don't hurt...)

Chloe is also a wonderful entertainer and caretaker for Mitchell. I spend lots of time changing, bathing, feeding, holding and putting babies down for naps that she and Mitch have to fend for themselves. She takes such great care of her brother. She is bossy and sometimes acts too much like a mother ("Mitchell- if you don't come here right now, I'm putting you in timeout!") but she does so much for him and for herself that otherwise wouldn't get done or would have to wait until I had my hands free. She can feed him breakfast, get him snacks, help get him dressed, brushes his teeth, gets him drinks, puts on shows for him, finds lost toys for him and can entertain him like no one else.

I love to watch her care for him- she can yell at him better than anyone else, but she loves him better than anyone else, too. We recently went on a field trip to the fire station with Chloe's preschool and she made sure Mitch did not miss out on any of the fun. She tightly held his hand all over that fire station.

She is also my extra set of hands in public when I am pushing the babies in a cart and she holds Mitchell's hands in the parking lots and in crowded stores so he doesn't run off or get lost.

Mitchell sure loves her (he calls her "My Chloe") and we sure love her too. She makes every day easier for me in more than one way with all of her offers to do chores, taking care of babies and entertaining and taking care of her brother.

Everyone needs a five year old! Well, maybe everyone needs MY five year old! That's "how I do it!"

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Solid Foods, Times TWO

I have not been very motivated to start the twins on solids. With Chloe and Mitch, I got excited about it, then when we started I realized how much work it is to not only have to nurse them, but also sit down and spoon feed them 1-3 times a day. Plus, it is a HUGE mess and I hate messes. It is super cute though, but now with four kids and not much spare time, I keep going back to how time consuming it is and all the work it will be, so my lack of motivation for starting the twins stems for this. And, they are much smaller than Chloe and Mitch were at this age (or any age so far) and I decided they didn't really need the food yet.

Well, recently they have started showing interest, especially Leah. She is usually on my lap or Ben's during dinner because she gets fussy right before bed and needs some extra attention. I noticed a few days ago that she watches my every move and follows the fork to my mouth and will open her mouth when I put a utensil up to her mouth. And in the last few weeks, both babies have been nursing like crazy, wanting to eat all the time and for long periods and then not seeming totally satisfied afterwards. Supplementing with formula isn't really an option- Leah will not take a bottle anymore (I want to cry about that) and Lexi will take a bottle, but doesn't love formula unless she's super hungry and I don't have the time or extra milk to pump more for her. Hmm......

Yesterday morning Chloe suggested that we feed the babies cereal after dinner and she was so excited about doing it that I couldn't let her down and figured the work was worth a shot to see if a few bites of messy cereal would help with their insatiable hunger.

Leah was first and I guessed she would do the best, but right as I was about to feed her the first bite, she burst into tears for no apparent reason (a typical Leah trait). Through her tears, she knew just what to do with the food- she chewed and swallowed like a pro. I have video of this sudden crying, but I have been trying to upload it for hours and it's not working. I'll post videos later, hopefully.

To finish with her, I had to take her out of the high chair and hold her on my lap.

She did very well and seemed to enjoy the food. Look at this bite- she looks like a pro!

She was even very clean!

Lexi was next (I think she may be second for everything in life, poor baby- that's what you get when you're amazingly patient) and she was very laid back about it, but did not know what to do with the food once it was in her mouth.

This may be a good thing, as Mitch put a goldfish cracker in her mouth a few weeks ago when my back was turned and when I discovered it, the cracker was still in her mouth in full form and she was not even moving her mouth.

As soon as the cereal went in the mouth, it came right back out. She'll need more practice.

Chloe and Mitchell could not wait for their turns to help feed the babies.

One good thing is that when the babies do catch on and can eat well, Chloe will be more than happy to feed them for me. She is such a good helper.

Good thing we have 2 babies so the older kids don't have to fight about getting to feed them!

Lexi and Leah after their first experience with solids.

I love this picture- they found each other and held hands, looked into each other's eyes and Lexi seems to be saying, "What is the big deal with solid foods??" She was not impressed. Leah liked the food, but it was an emotional experience for her (most things are, the poor thing). Ben and I both were shocked- we never thought one of our kids would ever cry about eating!!

Monday, March 1, 2010

4 month pictures

We took the girls' 4 month pictures this past weekend, and here are some of my favorites. The babies were very happy for them, but Lexi was not super smiley. We got some great grins out of Leah, but we had a very hard time getting shots of her without her hands in her mouth. I didn't put any of the shots with her sucking on her hands, but there were dozens of them. For as much as she likes to suck, it boggles my mind that she won't take a binky (or a bottle)!! Stubborn little girl....










Leah (my favorite shot of the day)







Leah and Lex

Leah and Lex




Leah, pledging her allegiance to milk, sleep and her mommy (her favorite things)



The last professional pics we had taken were when they were 2 weeks old. Wow, how they've grown. They were both tiny little spindly things back then.