Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Life with Two Under Two: The "Vacation" Edition

If you've been following my instagram, you know I've been spending quite a bit of time in Columbus visiting my family.  My mom is a teacher, and I'm on maternity leave, which means for the first time in ten years, we both have extended breaks at the same time. So I'm taking advantage. I took advantage literally when we sent Piper there for a week on her own, but since then I've packed up both girls twice for a week at Grandma's. Only I got to come too. 

I've been sharing tons of pics, but they only tell part of the story...the fun part (The visits even have their own hashtag: #partyatgmiandpapas). And we are definitely having fun, but there's also a fair bit of down time (and some downer time, when a certain little girl decides to throw a tantrum) so I wanted to be transparent about that. (And record it for later so I don't forget what this time was actually like.) Jacci did an awesome job describing the typical issue with Instagram photos (have you read her post yet? Seriously...go do it. It's the best). I wouldn't want any mom of little ones who is feeling overwhelmed to look at our photo stream and think I'm gallivanting off to the pool on my own with the girls everyday without a care in the world. In fact- I'm not doing much on my own at all. And carefree isn't exactly an adjective I would use about our lives right now.
 We got responsibilities...mouths to feed.

So I thought I would share a bit more about our routine. I hope it's encouraging to know it's possible to live it up, even in this crazy season of life. But also helpful to know that no one has it all together- no matter how many smiling snippets you may see online. 

We start between 6:30 and 7:30 depending on when the girls wake up. (I never wake up before them...I don't even try). I give Finley her first feed of the day while my mom gets Piper breakfast. I change the baby, brush my teeth, put in contacts, and then I pump (I'm working on building up my stash of milk for when I return to work). Fin is usually happy to sit in her bouncy chair, and Piper plays with my mom. (If we were at home she'd be watching TV while Dustin got ready for work. That's real, folks).

I've found I get stir-crazy if I don't leave the house during the day, so even though it can be a hassle and tends to add to my exhaustion, I try to plan some sort of outing every day. Afternoon is tough because of Piper's nap, so we have to hit it hard in the morning if we want to make something of the day. I grab a quick shower, and the secret to my success in the last 2 months is finding a haircut that only requires a shampoo every two days. My time in the morning is precious and I hate wasting 30 minutes just putting myself together each day (but I'm vain enough that I won't just throw on a headband and some yoga pants. If I look good, I feel good, and anything to make me feel less frumpy these days is worth the effort.) Oh, and I grab breakfast at some point, usually after Finley is down for her first nap of the day, around 8 or 9.

I plan outings around Finley's eating schedule, so we get ready to roll so that the minute I'm done nursing we can jump in the car. With her only going 2-3 hours between "meals", you gotta get while the gettin's good. This week we really went for it- we went to the pool, helped set up my mom's classroom, went boating, played at the mall cesspool- I mean play area, visited the park, and went out for breakfast. Whew! And I have to say, having an extra set of hands (or two) was crucial. Fin is an easy going baby and typically sleeps for a good portion of our outing, but when she does need to eat again, it's challenging (at best) to keep a toddler safe and happy for 30 minutes while I feed/change/burp the baby. Plus, even when she is asleep, there's the matter of not wanting to abandon Fin in her carrier while I play with Piper, so I try to keep an eye on her, and stay within earshot should she need something. (A little hard to do at the pool).

So if you do see us out, you'll either catch us during an easy time, where Fin is sleeping and my only task is to wrangle Piper while keeping an eye out for baby snatchers, or you're likely to find me sweating at the park under an umbrella (if we're lucky enough to find one) with a baby under a nursing cover while I shout to Piper to please leave the mulch on the ground. Our outings were much more ambitious this week because I knew I'd have a partner to help with one kid or the other, and I was so thankful for the time to spend focus on just one person's needs, while still getting to feel like we were having some fun. 

That's Fin's "I'm having fun" face.
We try to wrap it up by noon, before Piper gets too sleepy. Then we get a quick lunch. I don't know how she does it, but Fin always seems to need to eat at the exact same time as Piper, so if I'm really lucky I have time to plunk some food on Piper's try before having my hands tied up. Or more likely- I have my parents take care of mealtime while I tend to the baby (again). I eat last, which I'm getting used to, it just means I have to pack a snack for the morning or I won't make it. 

Piper's nap is typically around 1, but I'll move it up or back by as much as an hour. Typically the shift would be based on how much sleep she seems to need, but now I move it so it can align as much as possible with Finley's schedule. Ideally I put Piper down just before Fin starts to get antsy, and then I bounce Fin off to dreamland too. I can only count on about an hour of sleep out of either of them (where do I sign up for these 3 hour nap type kids? Did I miss that somewhere?!) so time is of the essence. It's tempting to take that snippet of the day to get something done, or do something I enjoy like reading etc, but I've found I'm miserable without a nap. I'd love to be one of those moms who scurried around tidying the house, or whipping up crafts during the afternoon quiet time, and maybe someday I will be. But for now- I have to sleep, and I'm learning to prioritize that need and not feel shame about it. 

After they're up, I feed the baby again (heaven help us if this overlaps the time when Piper is just waking up, as she tends to need a good 15 minutes at least of one-on-one attention to help her "get up on the right side of the crib" so to speak). We usually only have a couple of hours until dinner, so we'll play around the house and read books until we're ready to eat.

 A preview of what 3 under 4 could be like...yikes.
Dinner is around 5 or 6. This week we went out a lot, which is fun, but I ended up having to nurse a baby during at least 2 of our meals, giving me the choice to try to spoon food in with my left hand, or allow it to get cold until I could finish and hand her off to someone else. Or there was the night when Piper spontaneously puked on the way to dinner and we had to turn around and go home. Or the night when we stayed at the park too long, and ended up eating panera salads at 8:30 after the kids were in bed. So....we're flexible on dinner.
So many helpers!

We do bathtime every other night (Piper has also found a hairstyle that can do with intermittent washings- it's called a toddler mullet!) and have a pretty typical routine of jammies, books, teeth brushing, and bed around 7:30 or 8. Pretty much every night I could count on tip-toeing out of Piper's room (after shushing her and getting her to lay back down no less than 3 times) only to be greeted by Finley's wails, letting me know she'd like to eat again. So by the time she's fed and swaddled up, the full bedtime routine for the two of them takes about an hour to an hour and a half. I mandated a strict 10pm bedtime for myself, based on the "sleep when the baby sleeps" rule. I'm usually exhausted by then anyway, but even if I do have the energy to stay up, I'll pay for it later, so I've found it's not worth it.

 Finley catching a snooze at Vacation Bible School. 
Gotta get those zzzz's when you can.

Fin wakes me another 2-3 times in the night to eat (typically around 1, and 4, with an extra round squeezed in there if she's feeling particularly needy) and before you know it...we start the whole cycle over again.

You'll notice a few things are conspicuously missing from this routine (on my part anyway): grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning. It's been such a gift to not have to worry about managing a household during these two weeks...and it's allowed us the extra bonus of some time for Dustin to get things done around our house without a toddler underfoot (or a baby in his arms). 

You'll also notice a few other things are missing: exercise, hobbies, time to myself, and time with my husband (or any other adult really, without a child wailing for attention nearby). It's hard to feel that my whole day is consumed with the wants and needs of these little people, but I'm trying to remember that it's only for a (relatively) short season. Soon Finley won't have to eat every 15 minutes (ok...it just seems like that often) and she'll get more of a bedtime routine, allowing Dustin and I at least a little time to ourselves each day. But for now, we're in it real deep, as they say. And I'm more than a little grateful for the help I've gotten over the last few weeks, allowing me a little bit of margin to better soak up this time with my girls. Without it, I know I'd be merely struggling to survive everyday, so this "vacation" time with my family has blessed me by allowing me just enough space from the chaos to feel like every once in a while, we might actually be thriving.  

For those if you who stay home full time, raise littles without help from family, or even parent on your own- hats off to you. It is a tough, tough gig. We certainly don't have it all figured out...but we're getting by. And making the most of it as much as we can.


  1. Courtney -- thank you for posting about your "normal people" routines. As someone who researches EVERYTHING, you are a great source of real and refreshing when it comes to showing others/me your life as a young momma.

  2. oh boy, there are some things I haven't thought through very well. outings for one. nursing a baby and keeping the other one from running into traffic. yikes. I'll be flying by the seat of my pants at soccer practices and such in the coming weeks.

    if I think too hard, it's overwhelming at best.
    you're doing an amazing job. amazing.
    thanks for keeping it real.
    sleep is so very important.
    I got the toddler who takes the crazy long naps but doesn't eat a thing except fruit (or so it seems). so the grass is always greener or whatever, right?

    it is such a short season but when you're IN it, you're IN it and it feels like an eternity. keep it all in perspective.


  3. Lovely post. I remember in a previous post when you wrote about your daily routine (pre-Finley), you described how as a new mom you craved some sort of detailed road-map. And I could totally relate. I remember thinkig the same thing when I had my daughter (only a couple months younger than Piper). It's helpful to see these real glimpses into what it's like with two littles. You and your family are doing it beautifully. But enough of that -- your post should have been titled "Moms and Daughters Rockin' Our Swim Suits." You and your mom look fabulous!! As does Piper, of course.