Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Twelve Months of Take-A-Ways

Now that Nolan and Judah's first birthday is here, I can't help but reflect a lot on how incredible and life-changing these last twelve months have been for me (and for Josh).  While I know there will be enough gushiness in other blogs I will write, I decided to give a nod to the not-so-glamorous take-a-ways I've had throughout this last year.  I have leaned A LOT A LOT A LOT

Here are the twelve most practical things I learned during Nolan and Judah's first year (one for each month):

MONTH ONE: Breast feeding is NO joke... it is difficult and time consuming and not without it's struggles and set backs.  We were not naturals at breastfeeding and had to work at it a LOT before we got it right.  With that being said, I am SO grateful I stuck with it!

MONTH TWO: Smiles from babies can cure just about anything, including, but not limited to: sleep deprivation, witching hour, having awake babies in the middle of the night when they should be sleeping, etc. 

MONTH THREE: My kids are more flexible than I am.

MONTH FOUR: Being a part-time teacher was absolutely, without a doubt, the right decision at this time in my life.

MONTH FIVE:  I never knew how much I would talk, think, and worry about the sleeping routines of my kids... it consumes my thoughts during the day, consumes my dreams at night, and consumes Josh and my daily conversations.  Nolan and Judah getting the right amount of sleep is EV.ER.Y.THING.

MONTH SIX:  Teething is also NO joke.  Having your kids be in pain, for any reason, is difficult especially when you can't really do anything to take it away.  Teething can disrupt routines and sleep and can make for very unhappy children and mamas when they get bit while nursing. 

MONTH SEVEN: Trying to child-proof the house is no laughing matter either. No matter how hard I try/tried, my house was/is not baby proof; crawling changes everything.  I also want to throw away every single thing I own so my boys can run wild and free in an empty house with nothing to break, run into, or eat.

MONTH EIGHT:  Christmas is amazing to celebrate when you have kids.  And also, power outages, snow storms, and ice storms are TERRIBLE when you have kids.  No matter how much time goes on and how much of better sleepers Nolan and Judah are, I live in constant fear that I will not sleep.

MONTH NINE:  Things you buy to baby proof may not work; you must be quick on your feet and think outside the box.  If you have to use extra strength rubber bands to keep drawers shut, you do it.  If you have to use Pack N' Plays to close off areas because the gate you bought sucks, you do it.  Tasks like cooking dinner now take FOREVER when you are constantly having to go chase after someone so you may as well order pizza! (just kidding....kinda).

MONTH TEN: You can make time to take care of yourself and your body and your babies will love watching you fall over, cry out in pain, and sweat profusely while working out.  There is hope to be in shape even after carrying out 65 extra pounds!

MONTH ELEVEN: Traveling with young children is SO much more difficult than traveling alone as a couple, but planning for a family vacation, looking forward to a family vacation, and even packing for a family vacation is SO very fun :)

MONTH TWELVE: Wise parents aren't kidding when they say 'the days are long, but the years are short.'  This has been BY FAR the fastest year of my entire life.  Time really does fly when you're having fun.

Are There More Twins in Florida?

While on vacation, Josh and I were out in public a lot more than we typically are at home.  Part of our goals on this vacation was to try and take more risks and also be outside as MUCH as possible to take advantage of actually being somewhere with nice weather after the winder we had endured. 

While out and about, we were constantly being approached by people.  We have become accustomed to this (see blog about us being freak shows from several months ago), but there was something a bit different in Florida.  At home, people always stare, sometimes whisper, and occasionally come up to us asking if the boys are twins.  In Florida, though, people were coming up to us wanting to talk all about the twins in their own life.  One example was an elderly couple who came up to us at a restaurant while we were eating dinner to tell us that their own twin boys were turning SIXTY-ONE this year. 

In addition to being approached by more twin families, we saw twins all over the place.  Whether it was walking in the historic part of downtown St. Augustine, taking an evening stroll by the ocean, shopping for groceries, or getting ice cream, it seemed as though twins were everywhere.  I can't tell you how many twin strollers we saw! 

Even weirder than this, there were more twins around us than we are used to.  At the complex where we rented our condo, there were 20 month girl/boy twins that we saw pretty much everywhere we went: on walks, at the pool, at the 5K race I ran in.  Although their twins had went down to only taking one nap, our schedules were awfully similar.  The time we saw them every time was our evening walk around the complex.  We'd put the boys in their PJs and just go stroll slowly around the pond to chill them out before bed.  Their family was always out doing the same.  We instantly connected with the parents (of course) and stopped to chat every time we saw them and had great conversations.  There was another family at the complex that had twin teenage boys.  I loved that mother instantly when she stopped to offer to take a family picture of us.  Finally, at the airport, there were five-year-old boy twins traveling with their parents on the flight we were on.  Those parents came right up to us talking about how brave we were to take our boys somewhere so young.  They shared they went absolutely nowhere until their twins were three.  After experiencing travel, I think that was probably a smart decision ;)

I don't have a singleton so I'm not sure if mothers with one baby get stopped a lot or if they feel the kind of connection I feel with every parent of twins I have ever met.  Even if we don't speak to each other, there is a look and nod between us that is so heavy with meaning.  That nod and look say I get you, I truly get you...we have done something special, rare, difficult, and so amazing. 

When talking with the twin parents, they understand Josh and I in a way that others never will.  They get how important it is to keep twins on the same feeding/napping schedule, they understand the strange looks and weird question we are always asked, they can joke around about how their friends 'don't get it' sometimes, and genuinely laugh about how much the dads of twins have to do, especially at first-be up with every feeding, be a part of every diaper change- that other dads don't (although, to Josh's credit, I'm fairly certain he would be a very hands on dad no matter how many kids we had at one time).  I wish I had more time with these twin families because I always wonder if they too if their twins were fertility twins like ours.  I wonder if they too had miscarriages or had to be on all kinds of medicines or had to endure lots of bad news before having their twins.  This would deepen our connection. 

It really does feel like you're in some kind of a club and it's one that I am beyond grateful to be a part of.  It was fun to be surrounded by all these twin families, but seriously, are their more twins in Florida or what?   

Spring Break 2014: St. Augustine, FL

Since I have already blogged about how difficult the traveling aspect of our trip was, no on to the great stuff: the actual vacation part of our trip! 

St. Augustine, Florida was a perfect spring break destination.  It had beauty, history, absolutely perfect weather, and plenty of ways for us to spend as much time outside as possible.  Here is a little play-by-play of our time there...

Thursday April 10th:
Our first real day in St. Augustine started with a morning walk to the ocean.  At 8am, as we walked down the fishing pier, we quickly noticed the that beach was basically deserted, which was awesome!  St. Augustine has beautiful white sand beaches. 

After that, we unpacked and got our condo to be more baby friendly.  We moved a big chair into a bedroom so we could have our story time before naps and bed, hid fake trees and books, put glass items and safety hazards up high and completely out of reach, and put plug protectors on all the outlets (okay, it was tape... the grocery store didn't have any plug protectors).  While the boys took their naps, Josh and me laid out in the grass by the pond with monitors in tow.  That evening, we went out to dinner at the Sunset Grille, an airy two-story restaurant within walking distance from our condo.  We went to bed that night feeling amazing and a bit burned ;) 

Friday April 11th:
The first thing we did was go out to the ocean to see the sunrise, which was gorgeous and peaceful.  I've seen may sunrises, but seeing it through Nolan and Judah's eyes was special. 

For our morning outing, we decided to pack up Nolan and Judah and drive to downtown St. Augustine to take our walk.  As soon as we started driving on the Bridge of Lions, I knew I would love LOVE this place.  Their downtown is absolutely gorgeous and the fact that some building date back to the 1500s ain't too shabby either.  One of the first places we visited was Flagler College.  All the research I did on St. Augustine kept saying to stop by there but I was skeptical. Why would I want to see a college?  But, as we got there, I quickly knew how wrong I was.  This small college was charming!  The main building had been renovated from a very old hotel, there were fountains and cobblestone streets, and student housing in dorms, apartments, and houses that looked like old plantation mansions.  After falling in love with that, we walked up and down St. George street, a pedestrian walkway with shops and restaurants.  This area was also amazing and historic, but in addition to that, it was clear how clean and well taken care of it all was.  I felt a little like we were in Disney World, that's how fake looking and spotless everything was.  We ended our walk by Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in North America.

The boys fell asleep on our drive back to the condo, which wasn't the plan, but turned out to be a great opportunity for us.  We were able to drive around and see tons of stuff in St. Augustine. In fact, Josh dropped me off at places I wanted to see so I could walk around a bit and take pictures.  I saw the Mission of Nombre de Dios, St. Augustine Lighthouse, Fountain of Youth Archeological Park, and Magnolia Street. 

In the afternoon, we got the boys dressed up in their swimming trunks and took them to the pool to swim. This was the first time they've been in a pool.  Nolan loved it immediately; Judah hated it immediately.  Actually, I'll take that back, Judah was scared of it immediately.

Saturday April 12th
After the boys woke up, we went down to the pier and I ran in a 5K.  I needed to exercise anyway so why not run in a beautiful city in beautiful weather?  It was great and it was great having my family there to cheer me on. 

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful.  We got pizza from Pizza Time downtown, spent lots of time outside and took our evening walk, which had become something we did every night.  

Sunday April 13th
Sunday started with an interesting trip to church.  As you all know, Florida is known for having a lot of senior citizens.  I've noticed that they either LOVE or don't necessarily love kids too much.  The church was mostly senior citizens and it was huge and packed on Palm Sunday.  As mass started, the boys were great, but they weren't bad either; just making playing noises and I felt like there were a lot of dirty looks pointed in our direction.  Maybe I was being paranoid, but, this congregation didn't seem to accepting of two little boys.  We went to the back of church where they had a family room.  In that area, Judah was in heaven; there were other young children he could laugh at, which is exactly what he did: loudly and constantly.  It was extremely cute and all, which is why I could not keep from laughing myself, but it was inappropriate church behavior.  We decided that Judah couldn't handle being in there either so I took him out of that room and into the foyer area of the church.  This space had high ceilings and tile everywhere so it was echoey.  Judah discovered this and started yelling as loud as he could to hear his echo.  Again, not appropriate church behaviors.  Suffice it to say, we kicked ourselves out of church. 

The rest of the day was pleasant; lots of outside time, walks, and good eats. 
Monday April 14th
Our last day in St. Augustine brought us back to downtown.  After walking around, we got breakfast.  Later in the afternoon, we went to the splash pad at the pier and spent some time by the ocean.  In the evening, we went back downtown to see the sights when people were actually awake :)  
Tuesday April 15th
Day to go home :(  You can read my travel blog to find out about how that went. 
This trip was amazing, relaxing, and a great opportunity to try new things.  It was great to have Josh and I be around all the time for a whole week.  St. Augustine is certainly a city we would go back to! :) 


Traveling with Twins: the good, the bad, and the incredibly ugly

Between Wednesday April 9th and Tuesday April 15th, Josh and I took Nolan and Judah on our first official big family vacation.  We have been up north, visited friends, and went to my parents' cottage, but this would encompass our first plane ride together as a family and we were gone for longer than we've ever been away from home.  In order to fully help my readers out there comprehend what the vacation was really like, it was imperative that I split up the actual vacation part from the traveling since they could have not been more different...

Our traveling starting Tuesday when we would drive to the Detroit Airport and fly to Jacksonville, Florida and then drive a little less than an hour to St. Augustine. 

We left relatively on time (it is completely different trying to get a family of four dressed, fed, packed, and buckled in to leave than it was when it was just Josh and I) and got to USA Park, the parking lot we always use when we fly out of Detroit. 

Our "luggage" consisted of these things:
-Three suitcases (one to check, two to carry on)
-Two umbrella strollers
-Two car seats and two bases
-One Pack N' Play
-One gym bag
-One large bag
-One diaper bag
-Two children

Before you judge and think me crazier than you already think I am, I can assure you, now that I've gone to St. Augustine and back, that we packed the most necessary of items; we used everything we brought. 

Getting all of this on the shuttle bus wasn't too bad; it was parked right next to our car so we could go back and forth, back and forth loading things on it while the babies sat in their car seat until the very end.  Right before the bus pulled out, we realized we hadn't gotten their car seat bases; not a crisis, but it did freak us out and Josh did run back to the car and get those faster than I would've ever imagined. 

The most difficult part was when the shuttled dropped us and all of our stuff outside the airport.  Josh and I looked at each other and both thought what in the WORLD do we do now?  I said aloud to him, "I want to go home.  N.O.W."  It is impossible for two people to carry all those things mentioned above.  Thankfully we were able to find a cart to use, which was truly a life saver. 

After checking the car seats and our bag, we lightened our load a little, which helped a little.  We got to our gate just in time to board so we learned we needed to leave even more travel time than we had anticipated.  Our flight left at 4:22.

The plane ride was pretty good actually; we listened to other parents' advice and had stuffed our carry ons full of toys and snacks to entertain the boys with.  Every few minutes we would get out something different to play, eat or read, and put the old toy, snack, or book away.  It was work and was very different from how I like to spend a plane ride (zonked out...I'm afraid of flying), but it was a success. 

Our hiccup at the Jacksonville airport, was having to wait for our rental car for almost an hour and a half.  What do you do with a cart full of luggage and two 11 month olds in an airport for ninety minutes?  You pray... a lot!  Judah was cranky, Nolan was exhausted, and Josh and I were freaking out thinking about the hour drive to St. Augustine.  They would surely sleep the whole way and then what?  Would bedtime be a disaster? We still had to set up their Pack N' Plays, get them dressed in PJs and fed somehow also.  This was not going to be good and we were right. 

Between the wait, the drive, and trying to get everything figured out for bedtime, the boys were beyond tired and beyond cranky.  Bedtime was late and difficult.  We made it and could finally start our vacation.  I told Josh I didn't care how much fun we had on this trip, I was never leaving my house again ever.

We used everything we learned from our first experience with airport travel to set us up for better success on the way home.  We left earlier, got to the airport earlier, got a cart right away, and checked more baggage.  So far, so great!

Or plane was set to leave Jacksonville at 10:30am.  Because the boys usually nap around 10:00, we were hoping to get on the plane, feed them, and try to tire them out so they would sleep at least a little.  Our plane did not, however, take off on time.  In fact, at 11:30am, we hadn't moved since pulling out of the gate.  Apparently there was a computer problem with the airplane; mechanics were good, but computer wasn't connecting or something.  They pulled the plane back in, shut it off, and tried to restart the system.  Josh and I again exchanged a very heavy look at one another.  The boys had been sitting now for almost a full flight time... how would they EVER be able to make it once this plane actually took off.  When a plane is shut down, it gets super super hot, which was an added "bonus" to our already terrible ride home.  Restarting the computer system did nothing; our plane was not leaving any time soon.  And here we go, I thought. 

They deplaned us and Josh and I quickly tried to problem solve how we were going to make this work.  Our first idea was to feed them right away, again, in hopes that they would then tire out and fall asleep.  Trying to get two kids to sleep in a busy airport in the middle of the day turned out to be impossible.  You can imagine how tired and cranky they were while waiting for whatever was going to come next for us.  Also, they had now been sitting in a car seat or held since 7:30 that morning, it was 12:30pm by this point and it was easy to tell my boys wanted to play and crawl around.  All I could think of was how dirty the floors and chairs of an airport must be... Yuck. 

A new plane came to our rescue and we were in the air around 1:45pm.  To remind you, our plane was supposed to leave at 10:30am.  My boys have still not napped and they were a disaster for the beginning of this flight.  No matter what we did to try and entertain them or sooth them, they were past the point.  Judah finally fell asleep on me and Nolan was bad enough that Josh ended up taking him into the bathroom for about 15 minutes to sooth him.  Eventually, both boys were asleep.  Whew.  They slept for about an hour of the flight. 

When we finally pulled into Detroit safely, I couldn't be happier.  We had finally made it home!  We then came to find out that we could not pull into the gate because they didn't have enough ground workers to wave us in.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!  DO YOU NOT SEE I'VE GOT TWIN BOYS AND WE ARE BARELY KEEPING IT TOGETHER HERE PEOPLE?!

We sat in the gate for 30 extra minutes and FINALLY GOT OFF THE PLANE.  around 4pm.  We had been traveling since we left our condo in St. Augustine at 7:30am.

We got all our things with a cart and were maneuvering around the airport going up and down elevators to get to where our shuttle would pick us up.  Then, we hear from the shuttle people that they are really backed up and it might be a long wait.  Super.  Also, there was a small planned power outage where we were in the airport and we couldn't use an elevator or escalator for about fifteen or twenty minutes.  This is getting comical, seriously.  When the power turned back on, Josh, Judah, and our cart full of luggage got stuck on an elevator while Nolan and I walked around looking for them not having any idea what had happened.  We FINALLY piled into a crowded shuttle with all of our stuff and finally got to the parking lot and our beloved Saturn Vue. 

While driving home from Detroit, about halfway there, I realized that we had never picked up the Pack N' Play from baggage claim.  The hits just seemed to keep coming and coming and coming.  Upon calling the airport, because this was our fault and not theirs, they would not ship our Pack N' Play to us and would only keep it for a couple of days before getting rid of it. 

When we arrived home around 6:30, we ate, put the boys to bed, and Josh drove back down the airport again to pick up our bag.  Finally, when he got home around midnight, our traveling was officially over.  In total, with all the crap that happened, our travel home took about 16.5 hours.   

Yes, this story was long, yes, it seems like we could've made this stuff up for how crazy it was.  Yes, I have thought about never traveling again. 

But on the Brightside, we learned A LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT about how to travel with little kids and also how Josh and I would react to crisis situations as parents.  Although we both had our moments of complete and total unraveling and break downs, they never happened at the same time.  One of us was always strong, positive and 'with it' when the other was not any of those things.  I, surprisingly, laughed off a lot of these crazy hits that kept coming.  What else can you do really except laugh?

We also interacted with some amazingly nice people during these crazy travels.  People who offered to help carry things, people who opened up doors for us and found carts for us. People who had to sit next to us on these flights and were kind, understanding, and even complimentary to Josh and I.  Although this did make me second guess my love for travel, it also restored my faith in the human race and you can't put a price tag on that.