Home-to-work transition

Okay, just so everyone knows, I’m aiming to be in bed by 10:00 tonight. If that happens, it’ll be a new record. I haven’t done that in weeks. 

As the transition period for stay-at-home Mom to full-time teacher Mom comes to a close, I’ve been finding myself almost in awe of how you working moms do it. 

When I stayed at home with the twins for a solid year, I declared it to be very challenging at times – and it was. Because little babies don’t sleep, they fuss, they have reflux, they have eating issues and regressions, and you’ve never been that tired in your life – and with two, I wanted them on the same schedule and wanted to maintain that schedule in order to find some sanity. I was able to achieve those goals and I never regret being able to stay home with them for a minute. I’m also very lucky that I was able to go back to work after we were through the baby period, because babies are just so needy. And I truly feel for those (ahem, YOU) who are making their home-to-work transition with much younger, much needier little ones. 

But man oh man. Yes, being home with two babies full time is SUPER hard. It really, really is.  Especially if they don’t nap at the same time – there’s not one MINUTE of downtime. Never a point in which all the children are sleeping – one baby is always awake and needy. And by the end of the summer, I found myself less motivated to work with my babies on new skills (which I really should’ve been doing a little more) and more motivated to get them (and myself) out of the house. There were weekly trips to Walmart, Target, Costco. C perfected her charming grin at every stranger, and my arms bulked up as I got used to pushing C in the carriage and holding B in my right arm (for multiple reasons, but in short, it cut down on the meltdowns from both babies!) And we were never short on groceries. But now – well, let’s put it this way. I STILL don’t have a minute of downtime! Except now, I’ve pushed back bedtime to around 11:30 every night. It’s just madness!

I was recently talking to a friend, describing being back in the classroom. My job, educating my group of twenty 5th graders, is probably 50% actually teaching, 40% crossing off and adding on items to my endless to-do list (planning, copying, emailing, etc), and 10% fighting with a copy machine. The teaching is great. My group of kids are great. But the other stuff, the endless tasks, and the absolute nightmare that is the copy machine (how can 5 copy machines ALL BE BROKEN?!)…those things take up all my time. And my brain space. And so it’s such an odd, weird feeling, when I get into my car, head spinning with things I never got done in my day and things I still need to get done, make decisions about, contact colleagues about – and I see a baby toy in the front seat of my car. Oh yeah. The babies. 

And it’s rush home, hit every light, get stuck behind every bus, wash my hands, peel off my work clothes and the jewelry which would no doubt be pulled from my neck, head upstairs where the babies are playing with the nanny or with my mother, and take over. From that point on, until it’s bedtime for babies and even hours after that as I’m still doing baby-related chores, school just leaves my brain and Mom mode takes over. Correcting papers what? No – I’m cutting carrots, making smoothies (best thing EVER) – etc. You get the idea. It’s totally insane. 

There are a few things that are going so well that without them, this whole thing would be downright impossible, and the first is my nanny, J. She’s been at this now for a few weeks and she’s amazing. Because of her, I honestly don’t worry one little bit about what the babies are doing with her when I leave. I thought I’d have a harder time adjusting, letting someone else make the decisions about my children’s well being but it’s not so. She keeps them on the same schedule I had them on, she feeds them what I prepared the night before. She does with them what I would have, but in addition, she does arts and crafts, games, and teaches them things. So because of that, I am able to go about my day at school with my brain ONLY on school things. And that’s really a big deal. My super supportive team – they’ve made it feel like I was never gone for a year and a half. I am very lucky to be given a binder full of whatever I need that I don’t have, and I know I can just follow along and play catch up until I get this back-to-school thing down pat again. My husband, of course, because even after his long day, his long drive, and his end of baths and bedtime (typically he does the baths, I do the PJs, and we each do a bottle), he gets down to his 2-3 hours of chores, which include making dinner for the next night, cleaning up dishes, washing bottles, and cleaning and straightening up the house.

And really, the babies themselves. Because they transitioned perfectly. Because B THANKFULLY came out of his sleep/behavior regression after 5 weeks. Because they don’t even cry one little bit when I wave goodbye and head out the door in the morning, and no, I’m not sad about it. They have each other – they’re besties. They can do so much now and every day it’s something new. Today I got home from work and C finally took 3 steps, pointed to her arm (which we hadn’t taught her yet), and said “please” and “Sadie” (the dog) clear as day. B ate up his minestrone soup like a champ, said the perfect “apple” (another new one), snuggled in, giggling as he repeatedly pointed to my nose, and only had a minor meltdown in the bathtub because C decided to climb in with him and they thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company. I have to admit – I said to my husband tonight, as we were each bending over the tub, getting soaked with water as we each washed a squealing baby who were refusing to sit down – “Is this what we had in mind when we heard we were having twins?” And the answer is no – I never could’ve imagined the controlled (sometimes uncontrolled) chaos that is our everyday life. 

This CAN be done. It is super-rewarding to know that I can be both a good teacher and a good mother. But this 11:30/midnight bedtime every night…..it’s got to stop. Mommy needs her beauty sleep!

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What DO toddlers eat?

Okay, so this may be my last post for a while, though I hope not. I’m officially, really back to work on Tuesday, as it’s the first day of school. My nanny, J, is AMAZING and the transition has been perfect over the last two weeks. I miss the babies, but I feel like I’m leaving the twins in good hands. My biggest brag about her is that the kids do a different activity every day, and she has yet to repeat herself (though I told her she shouldn’t feel like she needs to come up with something different daily!) Two days ago it was birthday cards with baby fingerprints, and on other days she’s created sticky balls out of tape, used a muffin tin to play and sort plastic balls, cut paper into strips to play with, had a dance party, stuffed an empty wipes container with scarves to practice pulling them out – etc. She rocks. And she takes pictures and videos and checks in constantly. So I’m very lucky to have her and be out the door on time in the morning. In fact, when she arrives in the morning a chorus of cheers erupts from the high chairs. When I get home in the afternoon……meh? That would be the babies reaction. Meh. But it’s all good. 

So food. As soon as we switched from purees to finger foods, and from finger foods to table foods, it’s all been a mystery to me. I have to admit I miss the puree days when I’d just throw a few cubes of this or that in a cup and mix them all up. There’s been many a pinterest and google search on what to feed these babies. I still feel strongly about the things I want them to eat and the things I don’t want them eating at this age, but yet, sometimes my plans don’t go like I thought they would. And by sometimes, I mean 90% of the time. I just wish that I could say, “Feed the twins ______ with guaranteed success”. I can say that, if I want them to exist on a diet of melon, banana, and peas. But otherwise – what they like to eat changes day to day. I hate the lack of consistency!

Breakfast – thankfully, I’ve got this meal down for the most part. They have their milk, then baby oatmeal mixed with leftover milk from their sippies or just water, and I usually add a cube of pureed apple or pear for flavor, though they will also eat it plain. They each eat about 3.5 tablespoons of oatmeal. Then they split half a banana. For the most part, it’s an easy, predictable meal – as long as I don’t show them the banana until it’s time – otherwise all bets are off. 

Snack – their 3:30 pm snack WAS consistent, until today. I always gave them a cheese stick, either to share or they each ate one, followed by whatever veggies I had cooked and chopped. Every night I prepare two veggies for the next day to cover two meals and a snack. They’re some combo of peas, carrots, butternut squash and green beans. These are veggies they will always eat plain. I try to mix spinach, broccoli, and zucchini in with other foods, but I’d like them to eat these veggies plain as well. But then today, C flat out refused her cheese. She LOVES cheese. Today, she aggressively signed “all done” while saying one of her newer words, “no” over and over again (she’s also started saying “please”, so that helps make up for it!). And when she has made up her mind, there’s no tricking her. After veggies have been consumed, I sometimes give the babies fruit – whatever I have on hand that both babies like. B currently is into cantaloupe, bananas, and watermelon …so any other fruit like blueberries and grapes C gets in addition to whatever she’s eating. So C’s snack today was peas and watermelon. 

Lunch and Dinner – these are the meals that drive me a little nuts. I’m trying to get them to eat table food – what we eat, they eat. They can’t just have peas and cheese forever. The problem is – it’s a total crapshoot on whether or not they will like it, so even though I have my backup veggies and fruit, I’m typically scrambling for more food. On the one hand, I DO agree with the idea that kids need to eat what the adults are eating – without Mom or Dad cooking 5 other meals to make all the kids happy. I agree. It’s just that..at this age, with my babies just starting to eat “real food”, they don’t know what they like. I don’t know what they like. We’re all learning. I know their tastes will change as they get older as well, so for now, I just feel like I need them to eat something, even if it’s not what I prepared. What they LIKE is pasta. Plain pasta, pasta with red sauce, pasta with white sauce…they like pasta. But I’m not giving that to them every night. They loved it in minestrone soup, they loved it with a white broccoli and chicken sauce. Up until TONIGHT, they also loved cheese quesadillas. I snuck some chicken into theirs tonight and B was hungry – he ate almost an entire quesadilla. Which was fine, because C was still on her “no cheese” kick and cried over the dinner I had figured she would eat. I had some backup sweet potato and a little leftover avocado..so she ate those instead, (and more watermelon) but I didn’t call that a MEAL exactly.

Sometimes we’ll make a dinner and just one baby will like it, or tolerate it even, and the other won’t touch it. Earlier this week we made black bean/sweet potato enchiladas (this website as a whole is totally amazing, I highly recommend it), but with a slightly spicy taco sauce on top – B wouldn’t touch it. C on the other hand ate pieces of sweet potato and black beans. Sometimes C will eat the food if it comes off of my plate, or if it comes off my fork, but she’ll refuse it as finger food. Sometimes B screams and points and I can’t for the life of me figure out what he wants, but he refuses to eat what’s on his tray. Maybe 3 out of 7 days a week, both babies will eat a meal and say together, “yum!”. And it usually involves pasta. It’s a daily struggle. I want them to eat well, get their nutrients, and I’m not ready to cave to foods that “all” toddlers will like – foods that I don’t consider the best for them. Once in a while is totally fine, but I feel like once I give it to them, it’s all they’ll want. I recently read a comment on someone’s blog from a registered dietician that children should order off of adult menus at restaurants – kids menus are usually just those typical “mac and cheese” “hot dog” type meals – when there’s no reason they can’t eat what the adults are eating. That made sense to me. I just wish it was a little easier getting my twins to like different sorts of meals with different textures and different spices. I know they’re still young – they’re only 13 months. But I’m not really digging this daily battle. At what age does picky eating become the toddler norm?

On top of all this, we are trying to prepare our dinners better ourselves. Going back to work means an even crazier day – so dinner needs to either be ready in the crock pot when we get home, or it’s very quick to cook. And that means we need to plan ahead. So I spend my late nights scrolling pinterest, looking for meals that are 1) easy, 2) healthy, and 3) tasty to children. And that’s a struggle. 

So far for this coming week I’ve found a good tomato soup recipe (that for the babies, will likely involve pasta…sigh), yummy chicken burgers and tacos. Yeah – only one of those the babies will eat. So it’s not like the twins can just “eat what we eat”. They might be able to eat some of the ingredients in what we eat, if I disguise it as something else. I mean, on taco night, does it count as “eating what we eat” if they eat only cheese and avocado? Or if on chicken burger night they eat the chicken….mashed up into sweet potato? As of this moment, I’m still at a loss as to what to feed these babies in the upcoming week. 

What I have found, however, are a few recipes for breakfasts/snacks/backup foods that would work for both myself and my husband rushing off to work and for the babies. Those include sweet potato banana bites, quinoa breakfast bars, and my biggest hope, the toddler smoothie. So in my spare time this weekend (HA!) I am going to make these things and hope for the best. Meanwhile, I’ll be up til midnight reading those food blogs that make it all seem so easy!

I can’t leave without a few pictures of course. Today, the babies went apple picking for the first time. I gave them each two apples to hold (after washing them of course), more as toys than anything. And sure enough, B treated them like balls and threw them around, playing fetch with himself. After a few minutes, I noticed that C dented her apple with her teeth and realized there was juice inside. So she started gnawing on it and by the time we left…she ate half an apple. By herself. One for the record books – today was the first day C (or B for that matter) ate something she held onto herself, that wasn’t off a spoon or cut into tiny pieces. I wondered when that day would come!

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Here we go!

Somehow, since my last post, things have come together. Life is taking on somewhat of a schedule and we may be emerging from this 12 month sleep/behavior regression relatively unscathed. Like I was told, “it’s just a stage”.

1) We cleaned our house. It took an entire weekend, and it’s not TOTALLY done, but we did a top-to-bottom clean of the majority of the rooms, especially those that the nanny, J, would be in. And since we cleaned, we’ve maintained some organization by dividing them each night and taking on a chore list. I never thought a chore list would be something we’d have to resort to, but my husband likes it because he knows exactly what he needs to get done, so he just cranks it out and then heads for the couch. Myself – I tend to take a quick break after the babies go to bed, and then I get cracking on my chores. We’re still spending at least 2 hours a night cleaning/cooking/prepping food, but until we get in the groove of things, I don’t see how to make these chores happen faster. At least our house is clean(er).

2) B is climbing out of his Wonder Week 55 fog. Like C’s 4th month sleep/behavior regression, B’s lasted about 5 long weeks. As suddenly as it came on, he changed again. He isn’t as easily irritated. He’s eating (a few) more foods. He throws fewer fits in a days time – and when he does, it is easier to manage and he recovers quickly. And most importantly – he’s sleeping through the night again. He’s back to taking 2 naps (I’m glad we didn’t keep pushing for the one nap – it was all part of the regression and he’s not quite ready for 1 nap yet). He is re-sleep trained and if he wakes up and cries (which is now becoming rare) he will get himself back to sleep. Ahhhh. It was a long 5 weeks. 

3) We made progress on the food. I had to just sort of make the decision – either the babies would eat what we eat and learn to like different kinds of foods, or they would eat extremely healthy, but only rotate between like 10 things. So we chose the first option – mostly for dinner. We have made friends again with the crock pot and use it every. single. day. (This is part of what takes so long for those nightly chores – making dinner!) When the babies eat dinner at 6:00, we eat with them. And now that we’re throwing all these new food combinations at them, I’m not expecting them to like or eat all of it – so I do have backup veggies and cheese and that sort of thing. But I’m at least getting them to try the dinner – and some they’ve loved, some they hate. It’s an interesting game for us as parents – figuring out what they hate. It’s not that I’ll never make it again, but I want to make sure they have something they like at least every other dinner. And so far, they really love anything with cheese or pasta. So whenever we have meat, if they won’t eat it by itself, I tuck some into a whole wheat wrap with cheddar cheese and make it a quesadilla. I’ve put ground turkey, ground beef, chicken, and pulled pork in there that way. For pasta – they absolutely gobbled up minestrone soup, whole wheat gnocchi…etc. And the soup was great because there were veggies and beans in there, and they didn’t even notice. They just dug in. Two meals they have hated were beef stew and shepherd’s pie. I assumed they would love shepherd’s pie, with the potatoes, cheese and veggies, but I’m coming to the conclusion that they do not like the flavor of beef. So the beef stock that was in both of those meals was a no go for them. It’s this daily challenge, but hopefully we’ll continue to expand their palates. I’m not giving them pasta more than a few times a week. We’ll just have to try new things.

4) Finally, and this is a big one, our nanny, J, started with us. After 13 months with these babies, I’m going back to work. I spent all last week setting up my classroom, and this week and next week we’re back for real. The first day was all adrenaline. The second day, I have to admit I was sad, but not devastatingly so. And that might be because J is awesome. She’s young, she has fresh ideas – she does a different sensory activity with them daily. She has found her groove quickly and the babies took to her right away. She’s even good with the dogs. She sends me pictures and doesn’t mind me asking questions. So I really can’t complain. The transition was as smooth as it could possibly be. 

So progress is being made!

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How do you do it?!

And by YOU, I mean WE – we mothers (and dads) out there. We teachers, stay at home moms, and all the jobs in between. How does A PERSON manage it all, especially in that first year of a baby’s life?

And my answer is I don’t know. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, and the topic keeps popping up in my day to day life. I guess that means it’s time to write it down. 

I’ve been struggling with this stage in the twins’ lives. Yes, they are 13 months old and therefore we are past the first year, but I’m extending it because this stage comes in second behind the newborn stage as the hardest for us so far.

B is a total walker now, C a complete crawler. They can’t be left alone unless they are in “baby jail” – the play yard made of baby gates – and even if they’re in there, they will bicker and fuss after a few minutes. With B switching to one nap and C still on two, I have babies napping at 9, 12, and 2 and NEVER during my day do I get even a five minute break with both babies sleeping. I’m not complaining, I’m just…whining.

B is still going through a sleep regression with middle of the night wakings and terrible naps. His one nap today was a whopping 40 minutes long. His personality has changed, and he’s become very head-strong, with many a temper tantrum every day. In the same breath, in recent weeks he has learned how to share (still a rare occurrence), he has learned many words he can say on cue (Daddy, Mommy, doggy, ball, spoon, cheese), many signs he can use (more, all done, eat, water, milk) and such random tasks as throwing and kicking a ball, sorting items into baskets, and retrieving anything I ask for (my shoe, the toy pig, etc.) He grins like crazy as he scampers down the hall. He runs full speed into my legs, clinging for dear life as he says “mama, mama”. He has learned how to play “chase” with his sister, a very cute game that sends them both into hysterical giggles. 

And C is no different – she can do all of those same things B does (except walk), with an emphasis on language development – saying the word “more” (“mo”) as she signs it, trying out different words on her tongue such as “purple” and “yellow” that aren’t too far off the mark. She LOVES to sort and will put toys in different baskets for a long period of time. She also loves books and points to each creature with eyes and talks in her little baby language. She’s finally on to the sippy cup instead of the bottle and they both are done with formula. She’s an absolute charmer, batting her eyelashes for people in the grocery store and giving her best toothy grin when the camera comes out.

They’re getting big. They’re just BARELY babies – I’m holding onto that for dear life, but it’s almost over. They’re basically toddlers. And all of that is SO wonderful. And yet, I feel like I can barely keep my head above water!

For one thing, I’m going back to work after 1.5 years of being out of the classroom. One day in April 2013, I told my students I had a doctor’s appointment and would be back in the morning, but I never came back. I was on bedrest from 23 weeks until 35, when the babies were born. When I go back to work in a few weeks, I want to

1) teach our brand new curriculum that I haven’t yet seen, much less planned for,

2) have a classroom that looks decent,

3) NOT bring much school work home, but

4) NOT stay late at school to get it done, as I have a nanny and don’t want to pay overtime.Not only do I want to get home early enough and not do work at night, but I want to

5) have dinner ready in the crock pot 9 times out of 10 because if we don’t, we won’t be eating until midnight and

6) spend quality time with the babies when I get home from work at 4 until they go to bed at 7ish. And of course, after they go to bed, I want to 

7) get my chores done right away (make everyone’s lunches, clean up from dinner, wash sippy cups, walk dogs, straighten the house, etc. – my husband I split these) so that I can make a firm dent in my couch, only to 

8) get to bed at a reasonable hour so I can do it all again the next day.

Now, looking back on this list – it gives me some anxiety. This is CRAZY! But yet, it’s exactly what I want and in a way, expect of myself. Notably missing from my list are 9) QT time with the husband and 10) EXERCISE. Number 9 is important, and number 10 isn’t happening in my near future, so I’m letting that one go right away. 

I just don’t know how to make it all happen. But some moms have this work/parent/dinner thing down to a science, so I want to know – how do they do it?? How do you find the balance, and how do you know what things to just let go?

While being a stay at home mom, the babies have come first. I have had first hand experience in “letting things go” – and the things I chose were exercising, the organization and cleanliness of my house, and our dinners. My nanny has spent a few hours with us, just getting to know the babies and myself. I’ve found myself telling her not to go into the basement yet because it looks like an episode of Hoarders (true story – but not the hoarding). Or opening up the garage to get the stroller and asking her to watch her step over the recycling items pouring out of the bin and onto the floor of the garage. Or the fur balls that C is picking up as she crawls around the floor. Or our lawn that hasn’t been mowed in weeks.  I mean, I’m embarrassed. It’s BAD. I wonder how we don’t manage to find the time on the weekends to deal with these things, but we don’t. And we aren’t taking the babies to the zoo or hanging out watching movies (I haven’t sat and watched a movie since I was on bed rest). I don’t even know what we’re doing, but I can tell you this – it isn’t relaxing. So I let it go.

When does “Don’t worry, you have twins” run its course as an excuse for ANYTHING? Because I’m still applying it, but I think time may be running out.

And if I couldn’t keep my house together and get dinner on the table (or get my husband to get dinner on the table – ha) while being “home all day” – how will I do it when I’m at work?

I’m just struggling here, thinking about how to find the balance. I haven’t found it yet, but I keep assuring myself that when I go back to work, I’ll find it. Likely, the exact opposite is true and I don’t like how that feels. 

 

I read once, and have heard it again since (from my own parents), what I’m finding to be the BEST advice I have heard in regards to what it’s like with a baby(ies). I only wish I heard it sooner and could’ve let it sink in. That piece of advice is this: When a new baby comes into your life, the things you used to do, you won’t do. The things you want to do, you can’t do. You may carve out a little time for a few of your most valued hobbies, but even then, you won’t have the time you used to. Your life will change for the better, absolutely, but you won’t live the same lifestyle that you’ve spent ___ years creating. It’ll be a full year years before you can return to it. You used to be clean, healthy and fit? You prepared elaborate meals while doing your hair and makeup daily? You walked in a patient, slow manner and had time for friends and your expensive hobbies? Well now, that’s over. Really over. But it’s temporary. It’ll all come back, it just may be years down the line. And one day, I’ll have a clean house. But when I do, my babies won’t be babies. They might be entering school for all I know – and they’ll make their beds in the morning and argue over whose turn it is to load the dishwasher, saving me a few chores to do myself. And do I really want to rush to that moment? No, no I don’t. And maybe there’s my balance after all.

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