Raising twins

The morning starts just past 7am with the four-year-old blasting into my room. “It’s morning!!!” he shouts.

I look over to the baby in my bed, the one I brought in around 3am who finally fell asleep somewhere around 6. He is now flailing his arms and legs, squealing with delight. I put a movie on in my room and hope to stay in a sleep-like state for just a little longer.

The five-year-old bursts in and for about 15 minutes we all snuggle together and watch the movie. (My husband is in the nursery with our baby daughter and I’m hoping they are sleeping through all of this. Because having both of us start the day exhausted is so much worse.)

The cuddle time is short lived. As I nurse the baby boy, the big boys start to do Karate in my bed, which Drives. Me. Crazy. They ignore my warnings to stop, to sit down, to calm down. It’s barely 7:30am and I’m already yelling. I actually see my day spinning down like a tornado. It’s not even 8am and I’ve already lost.

I try to pull out of it. I change the baby. We go downstairs. I make a pot of coffee.
I have to get out of the house today, I think as I start slugging dirty laundry down to the basement. Because with four children, if I don’t keep the machines going every day, I’ll never catch up.

There’s noise from the living room. A lot of it. The tv, and the rambunctious boys, and one of the babies. And the grime. How did my house get so grimy? All I can see is the grime and I just want to get rid of it all, wipe it all away, and the baby is fussing but just one more minute I’ll be right there I’ll be right there I’ll be right there.

Oh fuck it. The bathroom is half clean and the kitchen floor is half swept and my coffee is half cold. I sit down with the baby. I try to redirect the boys. I have to get out of this house today I have to get out of this house today. How cold is it, again? How cold is too cold to take babies out? Where can I go that doesn’t involve spending money and isn’t sensory overload? I have to get out of the house today.

It’s not that I want to escape them. I want them. I want the kind of moments I have with them when it is just me and one of them. Why can’t we have those moments all together? And now the four year old is screaming the most jarring scream, big hot tears streaming down his face because yet again their rough play got too rough. I have to get out of this fucking house.

My husband wakes up and takes over for a bit.

In the shower I think of Newtown. And how those moms would give anything for this day. And that gets me through the next few hours. I clean my bathroom. I put on a skirt and a little makeup and go back downstairs.

My husband suits up the boys and takes them outside. It’s 19 degrees and there’s snow on the ground. I roll the twins’ highchairs over to the big kitchen window so they can see their brothers sledding down the hill in our backyard. The babies eat black beans and toast and cheese and apple sauce, all while watching their brothers with big huge eyes.

I make quesedillas for the boys and keep them warm in the oven so when they come inside, freezing cold, they will have a hot lunch waiting for them. Because I love them and I want them. They are just so loud so loud so loud and if I could only get out of the house.

But it’s freezing cold and finally the grime is starting to fade. After lunch, I get them to help me, the big boys. What is more exciting than spraying Windex? I soak up their remaining pre-school-ish-ness. Still such ernest cleaners they are. I try to enjoy the moment, the temporary respite from arguing and whining, without worrying about the fumes of the toxic chemicals. The babies’ lungs.

Juney dances to ukelele from britta alexander on Vimeo.

A musician friend is staying with us and he plays music constantly, which helps. My baby daughter wiggles her bum every time he picks up my ukelele. My heart melts. My boys thank me for their lunch.

The day goes on much the same. Ups and downs. Moments of calm in between meltdowns, spills, tears, grumpiness, yelling, sweetness, and all the while, little Juney shaking her bum. I catch myself counting the hours until bedtime. Then I think of the Newtown moms.

I get four loads of laundry done. My husband helps me fold. I wash at least 5 sinkfuls of dishes throughout the day. I don’t get to the vacuuming and I never get out of the house. Everyone’s kids are sick. But I do get a nap. And a string of funny texts with a good friend throughout the day.

All along I calculate, What would make this better? And usually I can see what is needed. But weekends, lately, are just so hard.

Is it because it’s 19 degrees out and our options are limited? Should we become one of those families whose kids do activities? Would it be better if we all split up? Would it be better if we all piled in the car together? Where does a family of our size even go???

I don’t get out of the house because the only thing I come up with is to go shopping, but I think going shopping would feel worse. And getting out takes so much effort. Winter. Stuck. Loud. Newtown. Painting. LEGOs. Karate. Music. Books. Babies naps all off schedule. Crying it out. Inside. All of us. Enjoy them now they grow so fast. Newtown.

Next weekend I really will get out of the house.

juney and paul

breastfeeding twins

This is the first post in a series I’ll run on breastfeeding twins. So male readers may want to sit this one out.

Hello ladies!

My boy/girl twins are 8 months old and still going strong on the boob. As someone who has now breastfed four children, I have some hard-earned tips to share.

Disclaimer: This post is not a brag about how I breastfeed twins.

My twins have received varying amounts of formula as supplementation, almost from the beginning. At times I was totally driven to make 100% of their milk. I’d think, “If only I could make 10 ounces more…” Which then became “just 20 ounces more…”  But in the end I determined that a bottle or two of formula per day was the sane thing to do.

Okay? Okay.

Now, in the spirit of helping each other out:

Here are my top tips for making f-loads of breastmilk.

1) Drink ungodly amounts of liquids.

My favorites are water with lemon, electrolyte water, Gatorade (horrible ingredients but a splurge in the name of hydration), fresh orange juice with sparkling water, and more water. A super treat is going to Elevation Burger where they have Powerade on tap. A nursing mom’s dream.

Keep water bottles stocked all over the house, and threaten anyone who drinks from them. I know we’re all trying to be environmentally conscious, but having six fresh bottles of water stocked beside my bed and beside my nursing chair is the best thing ever.

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2) Eat constantly.

The caloric needs of a breastfeeding woman are higher than a pregnant woman.

For real!

The recommendation is 500 extra calories per baby, per day. I notice a dramatic shift in my supply if I didn’t eat enough the previous day. Some nursing moms swear by oatmeal, and the web is full of recipes for “oatmeal lactation cookies.” I never went down that road, because I focused more on protein.

nursing cape cod

3) Focus on protein

In the early days, if I didn’t eaten enough protein, I’d actually get dizzy and nauseous while nursing. (This never once happened when I nursed my singletons.) It was especially bad when tandem feeding.

The drain on your reserves is no joke when you are nursing twins. If you are serious about making enough milk, you should pretty much be grazing all day long.

Favorite quick hits of protein: hard boiled eggs, greek yogurt, cheese sticks, nuts, trail mix, cottage cheese, protein shakes.

Tip: Keep a basket of snacks next to the area where you nurse most frequently. You’ll be so in love with yourself when you realize, at 3am, that you left yourself a little care package.

4) Nurse. A lot.

Even if it seems like you are completely tapped out, keep nursing. This signals the body to make more milk.

This is why I was so terrified to use formula in the early months. So when I did use formula, I’d usually spend that missed nursing session cozied up to the pump. Romantic!

If your goal is to make 100% milk for your babies, pump every single time you miss a nursing session.

How long to go between nursing sessions depends a lot on your body and how old your babies are. In the early days, you need to nurse every couple of hours.

Then it stretches out to 3-4 hours.

If you are really struggling to increase your milk supply, do not go longer than 3 hours between feedings or pumps.

5) Check baby’s latch

A good latch is super important. Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt after the first couple of minutes. If your nipple hurts while baby is nursing, something’s not right. Take him/her off and start again. If you don’t have access to a lactation consultant, there are tons of great resources on YouTube.

6) Use your pump

Pumping after a feed is another way to tell the body to make more milk.

Even now (with 8-month-old twins), I pump 2 times a day: Once in the morning after the babies feed. And again at night a couple hours after the last feed, just before I go to bed (usually around 10pm).

(Even superheroes use their pumps.)

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7) Take naps seriously.

Of course you are exhausted. And there’s no way you’re getting a good night sleep any time soon. So you need to change how you think about sleep. Sleep in spurts.

If you wake up at 6am after a brutal night, remind yourself that your babies will be back down by 10am. You only have to make it till 10am. And when 10am comes, DO NOT DO THE DISHES! Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. The more run down you are, the less milk you will make.

8) Try herbs.

I was popping Fenugreek like crazy in the first few months. Others have had luck with Mother’s Milk tea, or a combination of both.

For me, Fenugreek works quickly. I usually see an increase the day after I start taking it. I continue taking it until I feel like my supply is re-established. Then I do fine without it.

9) Think happy thoughts (and have a beer)

This must be what biofeedback is all about. When I sit down to feed, if nothing is coming out, I’ll take a deep breath or picture a waterfall. Presto magic.

Another great way to relax? Have a beer! Yes, while you nurse. It’s what my Irish lactation consultant taught me, and I trust her completely. (Notice I said “a” beer.”)

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10) Remember that supplementing with formula is not a failure

This was such a tough one for me. In the early days, I actually HID those 2oz bottles of newborn formula in the drawer of my nightstand. If I ended up using one in the night, I’d bury it in the trash so no one would know that I had failed to make enough milk.

For some reason I thought if I supplemented, I was no longer getting that invisible gold star for breastfeeding twins.

This kind of stress is not going to help you make more milk. Conversely, letting yourself sit one nursing session out could be the ticket to increasing your supply. Especially if you spend that time meditating at the pump. (I know that’s brutal. But at least it’s nice and quiet in your room, right? Hopefully?)

That’s it. Now go get something to eat, mama!

Last year was one of the hardest years of my life. But it came with so many gifts.

My twin pregnancy was the biggest physical challenge of my life.

The unexpected gift: As it turns out, my body is stronger than I ever imagined. So much stronger than my mind.

I carried my twins to 36 weeks gestation. They weighed six pounds each. And both of them came home from the hospital with us five days after they were born.

Bonus: My mom felt so bad for me she spent months at our house last year. This woman has three children and two step-children. Nothing phases her.

not afraid

I spent all of 2013 either pregnant with twins or with newborn twins.

Which meant my brain was worthless.

My short term memory? Obliterated.

I couldn’t even remember my newborn son’s name in the hospital when the nurses asked me. On multiple occasions.

atlas not his name

The unexpected gift: It forced me to release the goals I set up for my business and ignore the dirty kitchen floor while I spent most afternoons unconscious in my bed.

Note to pregnant twin moms: I promise you it’s easier to have newborns than it is to be pregnant with twins. You are experiencing the worst right this minute. It will get better. Especially after the first four weeks, which are so brutal you won’t remember them anyway.

I feel like my preschoolers were cheated out of a whole year with me.

The unexpected gift: Even though I spent every afternoon in bed, they probably saw a lot more of me than they did when I was working. And just like when I was a working mom, when I showed up for dinnertime, bath time and bedtime, I was all there. Even if I couldn’t get my belly to fit on my son’s bottom bunk for storytime.

Also, I think they’re handling it all okay.

happy boys

We were crazy stressed in the financial arena.

Providing for a family of six, plus our beloved 22-year-old au pair, is no small responsibility for my husband. When we go food shopping, we buy four loaves of bread at at time. Every trip to the grocery runs at least $300, even when we’re trying to be careful.

A trip to the pediatrician to get the twins’ ears checked for infections runs $70. We have one child in preschool, which costs more than my first year at Florida State. Even buying socks for all these kids is expensive!

The unexpected gift: We are blown away by the kindness of our friends and neighbors. We are constantly on the receiving end of bags of clothing and toys, even for our older kids. And even better is the feeling of passing these gifts on to other families when we our children no longer need them.

Another unexpected gift is that I’m dipping my toe back into work this year. Which means I get to hang out here.

EATagency hq

I’m sure I could go on, but I’m ready to MOVE ON.

Here’s to 2014. Let’s do it.

homework in pajamas

Here’s a tip for making your fall and winter evening routine more sane:

Bathe the bigger kids before dinner.

Here’s why:

The after dinner hour is one of the craziest times of day — kids are tired, babies seem to nurse constantly, dad gets home and everyone wants to climb all over him, parents are hungry, and there’s tons of basic household stuff to get done in the evening. Getting baths done before dinner takes one big thing off your list.

Older kids don’t get very dirty during dinner (we have a 5 year old and almost 4 year old)

Our kindergartener prefers to do homework after dinner. Having him in his pj’s already means we can take more time with homework, look through his school papers from the day, and turn homework time into quality time together. (Like the photo above, which my husband took before coming into the house one night.)

Having kids in pj’s sends the signal that the day is winding down.

It’s cold and dark. PJ’s are warm and comfy.

Having your older kids in pj’s for dinner means they have more time for quiet play, books, or free time before bed. (While you make lunches, clean up from dinner, and take care of younger kids who need more hands on attention.)

It also means more quality time with working parent(s) who tend to come home right in the thick of nighttime to-do’s.

It results in a much calmer evening routine.

So that’s what’s working for us right now.

What’s your tip for making the evening madness more sane?