1/19/17

Twins' 9 month update!

Ira and Roman are nine months old! Month eight may have been their most adorable month yet. They interact with each other now on purpose, making each other laugh as well as fighting over toys. They are affectionate, silly, smiley little babies!

Roman has become especially aware of wanting and getting things. He is almost like a toddler in this way! He gets super frustrated when he wants something and he can't get it but he is also extremely delighted when the coveted thing is in his hands; his coveted things are mainly: me, crackers, and the TV remote. Roman is an incredibly cuddly baby. He gives the tightest hugs and makes the most heart-melting baby noises as he buries his face into our necks. When he isn't frustrated, he is a soft hearted little baby with quiet babbles and an adorable squeaky little laugh.

Ira is generally quite a content baby although maybe he just hasn't gotten to whatever developmental place Roman is at right now! He loves to play and investigate. It is fun to watch his facial expressions when he is trying to figure out a toy. Intrigue, confusion, surprise, and delight all cross his face. He continues to be quick to laugh. One of his favorite things right now is when Roman rolls over on top of him. He giggles and giggles. I'm not sure if Roman is doing it on purpose but I sure love listening to them when it happens! Ira is very social and loves to search for your eyes and touch your face when you hold him.

Neither one is crawling yet but they certainly get around by rolling.  Gone are the days when I can leave them on the floor while I make dinner! They now are confined to their highchairs or jumpers when I can't be immediately available to help them get unstuck from the space between the coffee table and the couch or prevent them from pulling on the lamp cord!

When it comes to eating solids, Roman loves carbs! Crackers, oatmeal, bread, biscuits... he wants it all. He is becoming quite good at handling food too. I can give him a whole banana and he will devour it! He has one tooth and puts that thing to work!

Toothless Ira's favorite food is yogurt. Ira still will only accept purees. Even if we offer him one of those baby rice crackers he will open his mouth for it, clamp down, and do nothing else. We laugh to see him sitting happily with a cracker sticking out of his smile. Eventually he drops it and that is that. He does not yet pick up food and put it in his mouth, though he does love his purees!

Sleep-wise we have seen it all this month! Before Christmas they both got colds and did not sleep very well. Then over the Christmas holidays we travelled and they slept okay; about how "well" they had been sleeping at home, waking every 2-3 hours. When we arrived back home they got sick again with worse colds. Roman's turned into ear infections and Ira's turned into a cough. Oof. That was a wakeful couple weeks.

However once they recovered from their illnesses they started sleeping better! Roman was sleeping 5-6 hour stretches and once slept 12 hours ALL THE WAY THOUGH THE NIGHT! Unbelievable! The next day I exercised, baked all the things, cooked the best dinner, and READ A BOOK without falling asleep! Ira still got me up twice that night but twice for him is a HUGE improvement! And it was way more sleep that I have been used to getting.

Last night unfortunately Roman woke up every 2 hours and Ira did the same for the first half of the night but them slept 5 hours in a row. John says, "Every night is a new adventure with these babies!" and it is true! However in general I think we are improving. This morning Ira woke up while I was nursing Roman and instead of bursting into tears like he usually does, he picked up his lovey and talked to it until I was ready to nurse him. This is huge for Ira and evidence of his being able to self-comfort! I am starting to see a little light at the end of my sleep deprivation tunnel.

For me, I have been feeling good with my mothering lately. It's still hard of course but I feel like I am really getting the hang of this whole "I have three kids" deal. It's not because I have been doing it perfectly of course, but being so tired over the last nine months has given me a strange gift: the gift of not having energy to worry about everything being perfect. I've had to be very selective with what I chose to spend my time and (more so) energy on and in the course of doing so I've learned what my priorities are and been forced to come to terms with what it means for me to do enough and be enough.

When I was pregnant and had my baby shower, all the guests wrote a piece of parenting advice to me on a notecard. The hosts of the shower put all the notecards on a ring and told me to read through the cards when I needed some encouragement. So I slipped the stack into the side pocket of my nursing chair and indeed I did find encouragement flipping through those cards during some endless nights, especially back in those early days when I was nursing AND pumping AND bottle feeding AND sleeping even less than I am now. The toughest part of those early weeks was always listening to one baby cry when I was tending to the other. Or listening to both babies cry when I was trying to pump for them and could not pick them up. I felt like I could not meet their needs. I wished I could clone myself. I wished I could be more and do more.

During those difficult stretches there was one card in particular to which I kept going back. It read:

"Breathe. God chose you for this. For them. You have what you need." 

When I felt overwhelmed I run those words through my mind. Over the last nine months I have learned what it means to be "enough."

I look back at the newborn stage and I know that even when my babies were crying (or when I was crying!) because my hands were full with the other one or because I had to make the world's fastest peanut butter sandwich before I starved to death or when the screamed while I took three minutes to brush my teeth and I felt like I just could not be enough for them... I was doing my best and it was enough.

Today I still have times like this- almost every day actually- when I get Arie home from school and unload him and the babies from the van and somehow need to simultaneously get two screaming babies out of their carseats (because they both want out immediately upon walking in the door), change two diapers (because they poop 100% of the time in their carseats), get hungry Arie a snack, nurse two babies, give Arie attention after his school day, and prepare dinner... I again wish I could be more  and do more. But I'm only me and the truth is that I'm enough for my family. am the mother God gave these children and I am enough for them. 

When it comes to the tasks of my mothering I have learned that being enough often means saying, "enough." I work hard. I enjoy taking care of my home, preparing meals for my family, and mothering my three little boys. But I can't do it all perfectly.

I'm learning to say:

The house is clean enough.
A simple dinner is good enough.
Our calendar is full enough.
Taking a shower every third day gets me clean enough. (Just kidding. Or am I??)

The only standard I'm holding myself to is my best.

When I was a girl I would get super nervous before tests at school and my mom would always kiss me before the school bus came say, "Do you best and God will do the rest!"

Indeed.

Grace not perfection.

I am enough.

I'm doing my best and my best is enough.

Sometimes when I tuck my last sleeping boy in at night, I look at his peaceful face, studying the details of his eyelashes and falling in love all over again with the perfect flush of pink in his little cheeks and silently say to him:

I'm doing best. I know I don't always get it right. But I'm doing my best. 

And then I breathe.

And remember the words my friend wrote on that notecard:

God chose me for this. 

For them. 

I have what I need. 

I'm enough.  


xo

1/6/17

Christmas 2016

Is January 6 too late to say, "Merry Christmas?"

Yea. It is, isn't it?


After our holiday celebrations I edited our photos and then our family was hit with a virus. So we've been sniffling and coughing and wincing over sore throats and I've been trying to be three moms in one as I've juggled two miserable babies and a sick six-year-old whose patience I try hard not to take for granted. To say I've been stretched this week would be... accurate.


But Fridays are my husband John's day off so while he juggles our still-sick-but-thankfully-improving babies (Arie is back to school) I'm taking a few moments to write about our Christmas!


Our first Christmas as a family of five.


This was our fifth Christmas with Arie. Since the tradition of opening gifts on Christmas Eve morning is so memorable, it always makes me notice how much Arie has matured over the years. Some things are exactly the same like the way his body becomes a living exclamation point, jumping and jittering with glee over the excitement. I love that about him. He never fails to add so much joy to our day! Other things have changed as he has grown: he is more interested in watching me and John open gifts (and the twins, this year), and more verbally expressive. Where he used to squeal and shout  over his gifts he now launches into paragraphs of plans on how he imagines using each toy later in the day or in the coming week. "I'm going to... and then... and maybe I can.... or I'll..."


Love that boy.


The twins were at such a perfect age to enjoy Christmas because they were just old enough to take pleasure in the process of unwrapping a gift. They just loved ripping the paper off their new toys! Ira concentrated on crinkling the strips in his hands while Roman immediately wanted to put everything in his mouth. We spent half of our gift-opening time fishing soggy chunks of paper from Roman's mouth.


This was my favorite picture from the morning:


Seeing all three boys under the tree made me think of how thankful I am for them: my three greatest gifts in life!


We spent Christmas Day with John's family...




...and then travelled to Ontario to be with mine on the 26th. Counting Christmas Eve with our nuclear family, Christmas Day with John's, the 27th with mine, and then the 28th with my Dad's, Arie declared with awe that we had, "FOUR CHRISTMASES!" this year. It made me smile to think how hectic we adults think of the holidays sometimes while the children revel in the chaotic abundance. I too loved the wealth of family time I experienced as a child, having Christmas with my parents and siblings, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles.


I was talking about this experience with my mom one evening and she told me, "I remember when we would visit my aunts and uncles over Christmas, I would lay in bed with my cousins listening to the grown ups laughing downstairs and feel so happy."


Same. There was nothing better at the holidays as a child than being infected with the contagious happiness of all the adults in my life. I see it in Arie too: he is never happier than when we are with family, filling the house or rental hall with loud conversation and boisterous laughs. Family and friends are such treasures. Though is was certainly tiring for us to do all our traveling and visiting over the holidays, it was worth every ounce of energy spent. It also helps me to project into the future when our boys will be grown and have families of their own. Though it is exhausting to have three young ones right now, I know they will grow up blessed to have each other as brothers and John and I will someday be beaming to have them and their own families squished around a too-small dining table brimming with food as my parents were this Christmas.



I re-read a blog post by Sarah Bessey as I geared myself up for the holidays this year and I loved this line about these little years:  "We get to hold the wonder and sleepiness, the boring and the magical at the same time, the work and the delight, the mundane repetition and the ferocious love altogether, it’s not one or the other."

Indeed. It's both. Very much both for me right now. I've never been so exhausted and totally sleep deprived but I've never laughed so much, enjoyed so much, cuddled so much, or been so completely fulfilled. Truly I can hardly wait to sleep again but in the meantime, I embrace the both-ness of this season. 

Two wise women spoke into my life and over my sleepiness this Christmas. One was my Oma via my mom. My mom is empathetic to a fault; as she lamented my exhaustion to my Oma- her own mom- my Oma responded in the dually firm and encouraging way that she often manages to do by listing the far more serious struggles other family members are currently facing. "The sleeplessness? It's only temporary," she concluded, "And Jillian is handling it well." (Well, mostly. I do have my moments.) 

Her words helped give my mom a hopeful perspective. When she recounted them to me I laughed and remarked that to a woman who live through such tragedies as: WWII, nursing her own mother on her deathbed, becoming a widow with two young children and a baby, and loosing a son in adulthood as my Oma has, a year or so of sleep deprivation is entirely manageable. There are far worse things! That encourages me that if she can do that, I can do this. 

The other was an aunt, mother two three adult children and grandmother to one- soon two- who replied tenderly to my woes of exhaustion, "People are going to tell you to just let them cry. DON'T YOU LISTEN!" 

I know everyone parents differently but I just cannot leave my babies to cry it out and her words were so affirming to me. The sleeplessness is hard enough without feeling like it is your fault as a mom because you are doing it wrong. My dad and all his siblings are all tender parents and I have been encouraged by their soft approaches on more than one occasion. I remember when my sister-in-law had her baby shower all the guests had to give a word of advice about parenting. My dad's sisters shared encouragement about being a responsive parent, soft and gentle. "Hold your babies," they said. "Wipe their tears." "Pick them up when they cry." I am encouraged to know I come from a family of gentle parents and my choice to pick up and soothe my babies is just fine. These women make me remember that I am not going to look back in my old age and regret holding my babies too much. 

So there it is: Christmas was exhausting and wonderful. I hope yours was wonderful. I hope less exhausting than mine, but if it was exhausting I hope wonderful all the same. 


Happy New Year, lovely readers! 

xo 

12/19/16

Twins' eight month update


Today Ira & Roman are eight months old!


When they were born my mom told me the earliest one of her babies slept through the night was eight months. For that reason I have been looking forward to this age and am hoping to see some improved sleeping patterns for my two little sleep stealing monsters! I am really quite amazed that I am still alive when I think about the fact that I have been awake for eight months.

Yes Ira and Roman continue to wake up a lot. This month John and I averaged anywhere from 6-12 wake ups per night. It's brutal. Just brutal. Just last month I was celebrating three hour stretches of sleep and now those days seem so long ago. I am tired. So very tired.

Some people have asked me if we cry it out with the twins. Oh yes. I cry all the time.

;-)

No, I am too sensitive to let them cry it out.  Also I have an older son who spent his babyhood in an orphanage. It breaks my heart that I was never able to answer his baby cries, so that gives me a different perspective to what a gift it is to be able to settle my babies. Even if I sometimes wish I could exchange that gift for a slightly less frequently needed model. The twins do cry of course- being two in number with only one mom- and I do give them a chance to settle themselves which Roman will do almost every night at the *beginning* of the night, however middle of the night wake ups are another story. Only mama will do then.

Really the only truly good solution to sleep deprivation is SLEEP and a whole night of it, but in the absence of that ability I thought I would share for any other tired parents out there some coping techniques I have picked up in the last eight months:

  1. Nap. Obviously. When you can. 
  2. Coffee.
  3. Find a good show or podcast or book to watch/listen to/read when you are up. 
  4. Imagine your baby is grown and you have come back in time to see your child as an infant again. How precious and fleeting these days will one day seem! 
  5. Think about how safe you are, how cozy and warm in your house. "Comparison is the thief of joy" is true unless you are comparing yourself to those who have it worse and then it is the author of gratitude. 
  6. Talk to a mom or dad with older kids who can reassure you that you WILL sleep again. 
  7. Pray for sleep strength. I pray for sleep every night. So far that prayer has not often been answered in quite the way I would like however God does give the strength to cope with each exhausting day as it comes. (This is a spiritual truth in so many arenas, isn't it? We don't always get what we are asking for but we we are given other gifts- like strength and patience- to help us endure. I do not understand this, but I try to be grateful and trusting that this is the better thing.) 
  8. Remember that this season is just that: a season. And all seasons end. 
Who else has/had a frequently waking baby(ies)? How did you cope? 

Besides the nighttime sleeplessness, everything is awesome. 

Ira and Roman are napping on a pretty consistent schedule (8:30am, noon, and 4pm, "nighttime" being 7pm-6am). They are enjoying solids. Ira still prefers purees and while Roman still wants purees he also eats lots of table food in small bits. I give them both chopped up versions of whatever we are having for dinner. Ira mostly pushes his around his tray but Roman stuffs as much into his mouth as he can! 


I can hardly nurse them both at the same time anymore because they are so distracted by each other! They often end up crying when they reach out to feel each other's faces, poking each other in the eye or getting a finger stuck in the other's nose! Luckily they are much quicker at nursing than they used to be so while I have to feed them separately it doesn't take as long as it would have a few months ago. 

Neither have any teeth yet but they have all the tell-tale symptoms like warm rosy cheeks that come and go, lots of drooling, gumming everything, crabbiness resolved with cold teething rings and/or Advil. Teething takes FOREVER, eh?? 

Both are sitting upright on their own for a couple minutes at a time before tipping over. I am very confused about when I should take their photo with the "Sat up for the first time" milestone card because the process of learning to sit has been so gradual! Maybe when they stop tipping over? 

Both babies say "Mama" and "Dada" now although it is hard to tell if they understand that those words represent me and John. They both cry "Mama" when they are upset so maybe?? In any case it melts our hearts to hear our names on their lips! 

(Whoops guess I forgot to take Roman's "Dada" picture! Sorry John!) 

I've started taking Ira and Roman to story time at the library. They seem to like it! True to form, Ira spent the whole first session smiling at everyone while Roman just glared suspiciously around the room. Roman's resting face is quite hostile and often makes us laugh! 
Example of Roman's resting face. 

The best part of having the twins grow older has been watching their relationship with each other bloom. One of their favorite things these days is when I put them in their high chairs side-by-side so they can hold hands or facing each other so they can babble and giggle back and forth. Ira is the relational instigator, often searching for Roman's eyes and shouting for his attention. Roman has always been the more physical of the two and delights in being close to Ira, touching him and laughing when Ira rolls around on the floor and bumps into him. 

They are continue their obsession with big brother Arie. He can make them laugh like no one else can! They have taken an interest in our cat Jasper lately. They can't crawl yet so they don't go to him but when he enters the room they stop and stare for a while. 

My daily routines with the twins have gotten so much easier lately. I don't find myself rushed and panicked through every household task anymore. The twins still have fussy days where I can't seem to get anything done but mostly they give me a few stretches of play each day where I can fold a basket of laundry or mop the kitchen floor. We now have two exersaucer type contraptions which they LOVE and I LOVE because they give me some time each day to sit down and have a cup of tea while they play. Only months ago I wondered if I could ever have a quiet hot cup of tea again! Well, quiet: no, but hot, yes! Other twin moms kept telling me in the beginning, "It gets better!" and indeed it does. 

This month our highlights were getting our Christmas tree and setting it up (related, out December "lowlight" was having to take it down again last week after the needles began showering off! It has since been replaced with an artificial one), and enjoying some winter weather hikes and tobogganing with the kids. 

Our winters are very long here in West Michigan so while I'm sure it may seem weird to some to take babies out in the cold, I think it is healthy for them to get outside and get some fresh air! Even in the snow, if the sidewalks are passable I walk to the library for story time just to get them breathing some fresh air. A friend told me a Russian saying is, "There is no such thing as bad weather, only poorly dressed people." Short of frost-bite weather and rain, I think that is right. Getting outside is a priority for us and it will be an adventure to see how we manage this winter!

As Ira and Roman are growing older and their babbles get more speech-like, their actions more intentional, their emotions more uniquely expressed, I find myself getting excited for their toddlerhood. I so enjoyed Arie as a toddler! Granted I did not have him until he was two, so age one will be a new experience for me, but I look forward to doing things like playing in the sandbox or with play dough or going to the park (well, maybe. With two adults!) with them. I have so much to look forward to!  

That about sums up the last month! Oh one other highlight was being interviewed on the Mom Life Crisis podcast! My episode was released last week and you can listen to it on iTunes or here. Let me know what you think! 

Happy Christmas to you all! I am already looking forward to my next update with stories and pictures from the upcoming holidays. What a happy Christmas it will be for us this year! 

xo 

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