Monday, July 31, 2017

What it's really like to have infant twins: Marriage.

I really wish I had better advice for this topic, but I think it's important to talk about anyway, even though we are still trying to figure it out ourselves. Having kids definitely changes your marriage! Every season is hard in it's own way and has it's own challenges, but now that we have three young kids, we look back at our time before kids and think about what we did with ourselves.

Kids take up so much of your time. It's demanding and stretching, but beautiful and rewarding too. Having kids, especially very young kids, has been really good for our marriage in some ways, but also really hard too. Our twins are almost five months, so we are really still figuring things out. Since our twins came, it's been wonderful to see Kley be a father of three. Watching him interact with our girls has been great. I don't doubt at all that he loves them wholeheartedly and takes great care of them. But, there have been so many times these last months, especially in the first three months when sleep was so sparse, where we would fall into bed at night and say how much we missed each other. Physically we are together and both here, but not connecting emotionally or talking about anything other than parenting/childcare related things.

When I look back on our time in the NICU, there is a tiny piece of me that misses it, though I would never want to go back- it was very difficult and I don't wish anyone to have to endure a NICU stay. But, the tiny piece that I miss was the feeling of us against the world. It was neat to be there together, staring at our two new babies, wondering how we would ever do it, but we have to because there they are and they need to be cared for. You'll do anything to help them. As hard as it was and how desperately we wanted to get home and all be together, somehow having NICU babies bonded Kley and I together in a new way. It was just us two there and we had to figure out what we were going to do and work together. Our partnership was strengthened.

Basically the first three months were pure survival. For the first two, we had to wake them every three hours to feed, and when I say "had to wake them" it's a big joke because they were up multiple times in between feedings too, so there were very few times we actually woke them up. We did have amazing help from our moms during this time or else I would have probably fallen asleep standing up during the day, but we had really no time to connect as a couple because it was constant baby care (and Norah care) and when our heads hit the pillow we were going to sleep. Our sleep was so limited that there was no time to talk about anything together. That was really hard. We'd lay down and say that we missed other, and basically be asleep before we could say anything else. Even after they turned two months, when we didn't have to wake them anymore, it still took awhile before they got used to sleeping through the night, so we took rotations sleeping on the couch so the other could get a couple hours of uninterrupted sleep in bed. That was tough too, because I felt like we were never together. We were always just trading off and helping each other.

Currently, our twins are sleeping much better and have fallen into more of a predictable schedule. This has helped so much. It's still challenging, but it feels so much more manageable than the first couple months. Most nights now they are sleeping through the night (amazing!!), and sometimes wake once in the early morning, so I'm so grateful that I can count on at least a couple good hours of sleep before they wake up. This has brought back a little alone time with Kley after all three are sleeping, because we don't feel like we have to go to sleep immediately to survive. It's so wonderful to have an alone conversation without any children around.

We have gone on a few dates since the twins have been born, and I have new respect for dates. I've always loved going on dates with Kley and thought they were very important, but they are valuable to a whole new level now. We have had so much fun together and really made the most of the time, because we know that alone time doesn't come often and how important it is for our marriage. I used to be pretty stingy about dates and not want to spend a lot of money, but now it has a whole new meaning because eating a meal together, hot, without children, is absolutely incredible. I love eating with my kids too, but dates are so special now and very worth every penny you spend on them. I know it's hard to carve out time together because there isn't a lot of it, but do it! It's been a life saver for us- good for your marriage and good for your sanity. (On our last date night, we commented how special and rare it was to hold hands while walking! Not that we don't want to, but right now it just doesn't happen often because we are almost always carrying children/bags or pushing strollers!)

It's been hard to connect spiritually since the twins have arrived too. We really need help in this area and have acknowledged that. While we really want to try to do better, we also know that this is a really demanding season, so we will try to make the most of the little we can do. We have a devotional we read together before bed, and I admit that way too often I zone out because I'm so tired, but now that they are sleeping better than they were, I really want to try to get more out of it. We've also said that we want to get back into praying together. We were never fabulous at it, but we tried to pray together before going to sleep (not every night, but at least some nights). That did not happen when we were so tired and we want to bring it back!

So, I wish I had better advice, but we are learning. It's been valuable to us to go on dates, even if it's just a few. This sounds silly and simple, but just talk to each other about your day. That can easily get lost when you are in baby land. We try to laugh together and make jokes. Even when you are so busy and so tired, it helps. We have had to apologize to each other a lot when we snap or speak angrily when our patience is worn thin. Try to do little things to help each other. Even something as simple as grabbing the other person a burp rag or diaper when needed goes a long way. Acknowledge that you miss each other, that you value their parenting help, and that you are so thankful to partner together in this. It's just a season. It can sometimes feel like a very long season, but when I think about our girls growing up, it helps me to treasure these months when they are so small.

Kley, these months have not been perfect, and I can't wait to have more time to connect with you, but for now, I will take all the small moments I can get. I love you so very much and you are the best dad in the world. I am so grateful to be married to you and I would choose you again every time. I'm so glad we get to do this together.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Lucy and Ellory- Five months.

Lucy and Ellory are five months! This month has been really good. I feel like we all got into a good rhythm and we've enjoyed each other! Not that we didn't before, but predictability, schedules, and sleep definitely help us all! We have lots of smiles, coos, cuddles, and rolling over (the big event of the month!), and we love it. Norah is the greatest big sister and loves to get in their cribs with them when they wake up, hold them, talk to them, and give them toys. For the most part, they are pretty happy babies! They even handled their first sickness extremely well. They both caught a cold/fever from Norah, but thankfully they only had a fever for one day (7/18 at 19 weeks) and a stuffy nose for a couple days. They weren't even fussy about it, just more lethargic/cuddly.

Feeding: Feedings are going well. I'm very thankful to be able to nurse both and that it's going smoothly. They occasionally eat around dawn if they wake up in the night, but most times not. They have a morning feeding and then go back to bed, and then have late morning, early afternoon, late afternoon, evening, and bedtime feedings. They are still doing at least one, sometimes two, bottles a day. Lucy has done much better with the bottle this month! She has taken it well almost every time, and upped her amount and even beat Ellory a few times! (Doctors wanted us to do bottles to fortify my milk, to make it higher calorie, to help them gain weight. So, they get mostly my milk, but some formula.) We've even added a bit more formula, because they are drinking more in their bottles than I pump. (Bottle drinkers drink more than breastfed babies because they don't have to work as hard with a nipple vs. breast, and they can drink it faster.) They are both drinking 4 oz in their bottles now, and Ellory is very close to bumping up again. There have been several times where they were both mad when it was gone!

Diapers/Clothes: They started wearing 6 month clothes on 7/2, at 18 weeks. They still have a couple 3 month summer outfits they are squeezing in, but mostly are wearing 3-6 month and 6 month. At 20 weeks (7/15) they started wearing size 2 diapers. We pushed size 1 for as long as we could, but ended up returning a couple boxes because they were getting small, especially for Ellory.

Sleeping: Sleep has been pretty incredible! They have been sleeping so well for still being pretty young. There were some nights they woke up once this month (around 5 or 6 am), but more often than not they have been sleeping through the night. Way to go girls! Getting more sleep has made me feel so much better too! They go to bed late, about 11 by the time we get Norah down and then nurse them, and they usually eat at about 8am (sort of like a morning dream feed because they aren't fully awake), and go back to sleep until about 10. They got much better at taking a good afternoon nap this month. I decided to focus on one to start, so I wanted them to take a good afternoon nap when Norah was sleeping, and it's been awesome. They take a long afternoon nap from about 2-4, and usually take a really short morning catnap and two early evening/before bed catnaps. Lucy seems to need a bit more sleep than Ellory, as Ellory occasionally cries going to bed at night and sits with us longer and she usually wakes up from nap first. Once Lucy started rolling over, she became an immediate tummy sleeper!

Developments: Rolling over was the big event of the month! Lucy rolled over back to tummy on 7/11 at 19 weeks and Ellory on 7/15 at 20 weeks. Ellory had a couple tummy to back flips during tummy time, but I think it may have been a fluke because she doesn't often do that now. Ellory can roll over well back to tummy now, but is still learning to prop herself up with her arms and doesn't enjoy being on her tummy as much as Lucy. She usually just lays flat on the floor and rubs her face on the carpet. Once Lucy started rolling over, she never stopped! She rolls over back to tummy and tummy to back (started rolling all the way over the day after rolling back to tummy), and props herself up with her arms and lifts her head high and even lifts her legs. Norah calls her superman when she does that.

Favorites: They have started acknowledging each other more, which is super cute. They will coo at each other and hold hands while nursing. Lucy is a big drooler and loves to try to put things in her mouth. Ellory loves to suck her right thumb, and has started putting her left hand behind her head when she does, just like Norah.. Ellory likes to face outward when being held and Lucy still likes to cuddle on people's chests. Lucy is a huge wiggle worm and is almost always moving. Ellory is more chill and calm. Lucy cries/fusses more and wants to be held more often. They “talk” about equal and love to coo and make noises. Ellory cranes her head up when she's laying down to try to sit up, like she's doing a sit-up, and Norah used to do that too! They've recently started to be interested in baby toys.

Lucy and Ellory, you bring a lot of joy and we love you!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Funny bloopers.

Funny Office, Friends, and Parks & Rec bloopers

I just wasted way too much time watching these during my precious alone time where all three of my kids are sleeping together, but it was worth it and I don't regret. Loved starting my morning with some laughs. Kley and I have watched all three of these shows, and most of these bloopers were quite funny. (Some are inappropriate- beware.) Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Favorite free toddler apps.

Hello! I blogged about some of our favorite free ipad apps before, but that was when Norah was younger, so now that she is 2.5, I thought we would follow up again when some of her favorites for a slightly older age. She is having a bit more screen time than we would ideally like right now (because I'm nursing twins all the time), but we still try to keep her screen time limited. This list really isn't that great, because they are all free and I haven't spent a lot of time researching apps, but this is what we have found and Norah has liked in our little searching.

1. Lotto baby tiny hands first words by Tiny Hands- This is a puzzle matching game that Norah has done many times. You only get access to two different ones unless you pay, but the two free ones have been done a lot. The two free ones are clothes and shapes.

2. Preschool first words by CFC s.r.o- This is another puzzle matching game. You only get two free ones- outdoor and shapes- but Norah has done them a lot.

3.. Mr. Potato Head and Mrs. Potato Head by Originator Inc.- This is basically the same as the real life versions, you can dress the potato heads. They have lots of different background/setting and outfit choices too.

4. Little People player by Fisher-Price- This has 8 different short videos and 10 different songs you can watch, which is quite a bit for being free.

5. Smart baby shapes! by Gennadii Zakharov- This one is probably my favorite. There are different levels, and it works on colors/shapes/sizes. For instance, on the first level, you just have to match the triangle and circle to their correct spots, but then it gets harder and you have to match the big/small shapes or correct color shapes. Norah has played this one a lot!

6. Starfall ABC by Starfall- I like this one because it's very educational. You can click on any letter and it will go through the capital and lowercase letter, say the sound, show something that starts with the letter, and then say the word. You can also click on the short vowel sounds. There are a few other activities to click on too, like a couple math songs, geometry and measurement activities, number songs, seasonal songs, color songs, and motion songs.

7. Laugh & Learn Puppy's Player by Fisher Price- This is another favorite too, and there is a ton for being free. There are 33 different song/videos, 3 books, and 21 games. (Yes, I counted.) They are about a variety of different things, like counting or going to the farm.

So, numbers 5-7 are my favorite, as the parent, with educational/developmentally appropriate content, and you there are lots of activities for being free apps. So many times the "lite" version is free, and it's neat, but they hardly give you access to anything unless you pay.

I haven't spent lots of time researching, so if you know of any neat free apps for toddlers (or any that are so amazing you think they are worth paying for), let me know!

Friday, July 14, 2017

What it's really like to have infant twins: Worries and letting go.

I've been wanting to write about what it's really like to have (infant) twins for awhile now, and I decided to do it in installments, since I kept thinking about more things I wanted to say. During my pregnancy, I had so many wonderings and questionings about what it would really be like, and I found reading what other twin moms had to say helpful (most of the time- it if just makes you worry/freak out, then stop reading, because you will be fine). So, I'm adding to the mix. It's easy to post cute pictures, and not that that's bad, but I want to capture it all- to try to help other moms who are having twins, or just adding more to the family, and also to look back and remember myself.

A lot of the questions I thought about while pregnant are applicable to just adding a single baby to the family too, not specifically twins:

How can I love another baby like I love my first?
How can I handle more when I thought just one was hard sometimes?
How will I parent different personalities?
How will I give them each enough attention?
What will I do when they all need me at the same time?
How will I ever keep the house clean?
How long will it take to find a rhythm again?
How will I let things go? (Because I want to do it all!)

And, to be really honest, I wondered when I felt overwhelmed, why God chose me to be a twin mom. The newborn days with Norah were the hardest for me, so how would I ever do it with TWO babies, plus a toddler? I feared I would be bad at it. I feared I wouldn't have enough to give to two. I feared I would be too overwhelmed. I feared I would cry way too much. I feared I wouldn't be enough. I felt really guilty for thinking those things, because I truly was/am thankful, but that doesn't mean it's always dandy either.

It's okay to worry and be fearful, but don't let that consume you. What a great opportunity to bring your fears to Christ and claim your trust in Him. It helped me to just say my fears out loud to Kley (my husband) at the end of the day. Somehow just getting it out into the air made the weight feel lighter and the immensity of what was to come shrink a little. I remember just crying in the shower one night at about 31 weeks, and Kley eventually heard my sobs and just came in and held me, and then I felt much better even though nothing practically had been done. Just let it out. Don't bottle it up.

I am a very planned and organized person. I like to know what's coming. I like to make lists. I like to be clean. I like schedules. Having twins was very scary for me because all that is basically thrown out the window. Speaking His truth (sometimes over and over if you need to), was and is so helpful. Read and memorize verses that uplift you. When you feel worried, list them off to Him. He wants to hear and is always listening. While I worried why God chose me to be a twin mom, somehow He kept whispering to me that I GET to be a twin mom. That doesn't mean that I don't still wonder during the hard moments, but seeing their faces when they were born really helped. I get to be a twin mom. I get two babies. I get double the love and two sweet faces smiling at me. It's really comforting to me to know that He always knew this was going to happen to us. He planned for this and wrote it into my story from the beginning. We were shocked to find out, but He wasn't surprised by this in the least.

Some people don't care as much about their house, but I worried a lot about how I would ever clean again. I had a good rhythm before the twins arrived of laundry/ironing, cleaning, grocery shopping, rotating Norah's toys, etc. I was scared to lose that. And now that the twins are here, I can look at it differently- you won't lose it, it will just be different. I certainly don't clean like I used to, but it's temporary. One of the greatest gifts that my in-laws gave us when the twins arrived was someone to come help clean our house every other week. It's incredible. My MIL also has ironed all of Kley's work shirts and done some of our laundry. It can be really hard to accept help, but if people offer, let them. And if you really need it, ask. Sometimes I think too much about what the other person might be thinking (story of a woman's life probably), but then I think about how good it makes me feel to help others and how honored I feel if someone asks for my help. That (cleaning help) has been so helpful for me, because I feel like I can handle the daily grind of wiping counters, sweeping, vacuuming, etc. but the deeper things like scrubbing my showers is not happening right now, so I'm so thankful for help with the bigger/deeper things.

It frustrated me, before the twins arrived, when people would answer the tough questions like "you just will" or "you'll let it go because you just have to." I would think, "But you didn't tell me HOW that would happen!" It does just naturally happen because you truly just can't do exactly what you used to do, but just pick what's really important to you. It's comforting to my routine to still do things somewhat normal, just maybe at a slower pace or just not as many things as I used to.

I wish I could have magic words to cure your worries about adding twins, or a single, to your family, but only He can calm your worries. Try to take things a day at a time. That's hard for me, as a planner, but when you have three young children, you just have to pick the most important or highest demanding thing at that time and do it!

It's good for me to remember that Norah, Lucy, and Ellory will not remember our exact schedule or how clean our house was, but they will remember how we loved them and the fun that we had.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

4th of July 2017.

We had a fairly low key 4th of July this year, which is exactly what we wanted with young ones! Norah is 2.5 and Lucy and Ellory are 4 months. Kley's mom is one of eight kids, so her side always gets together in a neighboring town with everyone. We went there and ate/hung out, and grandma/great aunts were generous to watch the twins for an hour while we took Norah to the carnival. We didn't stay late enough for the fireworks, because Norah is scared of them and because it was late, but it worked perfectly because we got to watch them from the car ride on the way home (noise free!). 

My favorite photo of the day. Basically as perfect as you can get with littles!

Norah was so excited all day and kept talking about going on the bounce houses. It was adorable- she kept saying, "I'm so excited! It's going to be amazing!" all day. It's so neat that she can understand time a little more now and can look forward to something. Here's Norah and Daddy waiting in line for the big slide! We were very proud of her patience waiting for her turn.

Big slide fun!

Riding the train! I know having babies around again automatically makes Norah seem older, but she really does seem older this summer. She walked right up to the train and hopped in and waved to us. (There was a time before where she would never have rode without one of us with her.) Watching your kids grow and have fun is the absolute best.

We celebrated on the actual 4th with a trip to the pool in the afternoon and dinner at the De Jong's house with grandparents and Uncle Brett and Aunt Elizabeth. Very fun! We had steak, Kley's absolute favorite. It was also very cute that the next day when Norah was praying, she thanked God for grilling steaks. :)

Watching Daddy and Uncle Brett set off some fireworks. Norah only lasted for two and got scared by the loud noises, so she then watched from the window inside.

Happy 4th of July- thankful for the USA!
(You can see 4th of July posts from previous years here.)

Friday, July 7, 2017

Norah's first hair cut.

I spontaneously decided to take Norah to get her first real hair cut. (When she was about six months, grandma trimmed a couple tiny pieces that were growing longer than the others, but it was so small and quick, so I consider this her first real one.)

I could tell she was nervous when we got there, but she did such a fabulous job! She sat so very still and watched it all. She was very serious and did not crack a smile the entire time, but once she was done she loved it. I also told her that she could have a sucker if she sat really still, so that might have something to do with it. :) 

She never paid much attention to her hair before, but since we got it cut she likes to touch it and show it to people. They also curled it really cutely after it was cut, and she kept fluffing it up. 

Norah, you are beautifully adorable. I love being your mom.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Strawberry picking and swim lessons.

Last weekend my family was here for a wedding, and it was the most perfect cool summer weather, so we headed to the strawberry patch! It was a gorgeous day and so much fun! Norah loved it and came back with a very red face and hands.

Grandma and Aunt Kayla got to come too!

I didn't get to go into the fields because I was nursing the twins in the car, but aren't they the cutest strawberry babies ever? I think yes. We got to all have strawberry shakes after and see the animals at their little petting zoo. So fun!

Here you can see pictures of strawberry picking last year.

This week Norah also had swim lessons. She did so well! It was the parent/child introductory class. She was pretty nervous at first and took some coaxing (like she didn't even want to get into the pool or join the circle), but after awhile she warmed up and did great! She loves to swim, but the class/teachers made her nervous I think. The teacher was fabulous and they even learned some basic stroke moves, which they didn't teach last year. (You can see her first swimming lessons last year here.)

Daddy got to go with her a couple nights and she loved that. She is more brave with Kley than with me and they had a great time!

Blowing bubbles. Great job, Norah!