Thursday, March 22, 2012

Transitioning to Two part 2

(Read Part One and Part Three if you missed them!)

-Every season is very fleeting. It’s amazing how fast time flies! Even as I write this, racking my brain and drifting back to the first couple months, I can’t believe how many seasons we’ve gone through. The season of recovering from birth- not being able to move around and (ouch!) having to rely on everyone else for almost everything. Dealing with Vivi’s outbursts and “purposeful” disobedience as she figured out how to handle the changes. Exhaustion and severe hormone headaches. Nights of pacing the floor till 11. The sweet season of spending all day long cradling my baby. The season of having two little ones who couldn’t walk. And so many more seasons.

Every time something hard seemed like it would stretch on forever- change was just around the corner. Every time I thought I finally had Timothy pinned and a routine that was working for all of us…change was inevitable. Every time I was enjoying a new stage of one of the kiddos- change was about to happen. My head spins when I think about just how many changing seasons we’ve been through in the past 4 months. It’s incredible to realize it’s only been four months, and yet our routines and life and struggles and triumphs have changed so many times!

I remember Mom saying that after 6 or so weeks, the baby balances out so much. Sometimes, in a lonely 11 o’clock moment with a fussy baby who didn’t want anything I could offer, that sounded like a long time. But it was over in a flash- and one day I realized, “Wow, he’s so changed. He’s not a newborn.” Of course, your newborn might be very content and go-with-the-flow and fall asleep easily, in which case you can hope the first 6-12 weeks last a long time! J (At least, a whole lot of people claim that’s the case…)

-Plan your day ahead. Meal plan. Proactively accomplish your to-do list early in the day. Make lists and stay organized. I thought about making different headings for these topics but they overlap so much, we’ll just do one long one. I’m pretty sure this is the single most important “tip” for me, the thing that makes our days run smoothly. Yes, we have our long days, our rough days, our tired days, our teething days. But by and large, and with many thanks to these strategies- our days run very smoothly. They’re relatively relaxed, the essential to-do list gets completed, and we have time to enjoy the beautiful moments.

*As a small aside, it’s possible the reason this helps me so much is because it melds so well with my personality. I’m production-oriented, I also like lists. I like to tackle things immediately, and can not, for the life of me, enjoy leisure when I know more stuff lies ahead in the day. Even though it’s one of my biggest things, it might not help you at all…because you might find it really relaxing to cook or clean or whatever while littles nap in the afternoon.*

Here’s why I love using all these tips (and below you’ll find a bit more space devoted to the different categories, and what exactly I do): A newborn’s fussy period is most likely to typically fall between 4-8pm. Smack-dab in the middle of most people’s dinner prep. Plus, late afternoon is also when other kiddos are most likely to be cantankerous and through with the day. Plus, especially after long nights, I’m tired. And, for us, Ben gets home from work between 3-4. Plus….I like having my day all wrapped up early. Also, right now, Vivi usually has at least 1-2 days a week when naps don’t happen (b/c it’s really hard to coordinate her naps with Timothy and get everything to align perfectly enough for long enough!). For quite a while, it was 3-4 nap-less days a week. On days when she does nap, I often fall asleep with her for 10-15 minutes (having gotten Timothy to sleep and put him in a bed while working with Vivi), and then get woke up by Timothy. With only one kiddo, it can slow the afternoon down- or I might be fully occupied, if Timothy isn’t feeling fully-rested. If one or both don’t nap, they’re really cranky and need lots of extra attention and love. Not a good time to try making dinner, especially under the deadline of needing to have it done by a certain time! And if they do both nap, together (1-2 hours), which currently happens about once every other week….delicious. With everything done, I get to indulge- in writing, extra sewing, quiet activities, etc. It’s fun every once in a while! J If it happens to be a day I got behind in, I play catch-up. If the kids had a fussy morning, I use nap time for normal stuff, if we get a nap time. And that’s okay too.

If your kids take consistent naps, and if you like spending that time doing your day-to-day stuff and/or making dinner, have at it! I just don’t like the idea of using up quiet time that way…and I know what happens when I try to accomplish stuff while kiddos are crabby- and it’s not pleasant. That is to say, I’m not pleasant.

Due to typical fussy time, waiting till 4-5 to start working on dinner prep is kind of begging for trouble and stress and all sorts of things you don’t need in your house! So- meal plan! Each week-usually towards the end of the week, since right now my shopping trip happens on Saturday, when the vehicle’s available- I jot down a menu plan. I might even spread it out over a few days so I can just fill in an idea when it comes to mind, instead of actually having to brainstorm. If that fails, I’ve also just put together a list of all our current meals, which gets added to as we add new dishes….it’s so helpful when I’m brain-dead!

My most productive time of day is usually from 6:40 (when Ben leaves for work) to 10:30, give or take. We tackle the day, and then we’re done. Sometimes we work on projects all day, it just depends. I like to be busy and productive, so if I’m not extra tired from a long night, and the kids aren’t either, and we’re still able to fit in plenty of breaks for play and going outside, then we keep the whole day rolling. But in general, getting the productive stuff done early allows lots of time for extra stuff….extra things with the kids, extra/optional to-do items, etc.

I usually write out general to-do lists for the week, and more specific ones for each day. I divide it into “essential” items (regular cleaning, cooking, etsy orders etc.) and “non-essential” (bigger cleaning projects, flexible cooking ventures, extra sewing, and so forth). We run through the essential items and I do other things if I feel like I want to be more productive, have extra time, the kids are having an unusually great day, etc. That keeps everything balanced and manageable- usually! I’ve also made it a habit to write things I want to do with the kids on my to-do lists, to make sure they happen. Remember, I’m a task-oriented person. If I don’t watch myself, I could easily not make fun play a priority. So “going outside” or “reading books” gets put on the to-do list. Makes me feel more productive, too! :-)

-But, on a completely different note, start your life with two out with really small expectations! You’re not superwoman, don’t expect to act like it. The above has been, more or less, our routine for the past few months. But the first 6 weeks? Nah. We cheated, we did minimal, we ate from the freezer. We read stories, we nursed, we changed diapers, we adjusted. The end. That’s okay too….different seasons for different things. Expect in the early weeks - and in difficult seasons (teething, illness, pregnancy, etc.) – to be relatively unproductive- to just meet the basics.

As you get back into the swing of things, start small. Add one thing at a time. First day you plan to grocery shop with the kiddos? Make that your only to-do list item. Plan plenty of time for changing diapers, packing diaper bag, nursing, doling snacks, loading the van, possibly repeating some of the above activities, getting there, shopping, getting home, unloading, caring for kiddos, etc. Your first trip it really might feel like an exhausting and daunting task! I remember my first trip, when Timothy was 2 or so weeks old. I remember feeling like I was clumsy and in everyone’s way as I kept readjusting Timothy in the sling in attempt at making him happy while maneuvering the cart and trying not to hit anyone or go to slow. I remember searching for a partially-empty aisle so I could get Timothy into a nursing position and fight with him for several minutes, trying to get him to latch on. Neither of my newborn’s have liked shopping- Timothy still doesn’t. It’s too hard to time it just so perfectly between sleep needs, especially when one is unpredictable and doesn’t take a long enough pre-shopping nap! I remember breathing a sigh of relief when we were back in the van again, out of everyone’s way. And that’s with a toddler who loves shopping (LINK: and consequently, is quite angelic!

If you need to be somewhere at a certain time, you might do well to pack your stuff well ahead of time and start getting ready to go 30-60 minutes beforehand. You never know how many times you’ll have to nurse and change diapers before you’re actually out the door!

-Freezer meals. Have freezer meals on hand. At all times. I prepped a bunch prior to Timothy’s birth, but I always like to have a handful of options on hand, and plenty of meal starters, too. I accomplish it simply by making double or triple any time I cook something that would do well in the freezer and/or be easy to do extra of. No extra dishes, and only a bit of extra time, and home cooked meals on the rough days become possible!

Another possibility is to generally cook enough to eat something for two dinners in a row, instead of freezing it. I prefer to vary our day-to-day diet (usually), plus I often use leftovers for lunches. However it works for you, I’m a strong advocate of cooking for more than just one meal!

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