Flying with twin toddlers

We did it. We took our first flight with our twin toddlers. I won’t lie – leading up to the trip we were anxious about the flight – what if they cried the whole time? What if everyone around us was going to throw shade? After all, the internet is filled with horror stories of people being hateful and nobody likes sitting next to babies.

It turns out that the flights really weren’t bad. There were a few moments of fussiness but overall the girls were entertained and happy. I attribute this to a combination of my prep and a new environment.

How we keep our twins happy on our 3.5 hour flight

Leading up to our flight to Colorado, I obsessively researched ways to keep babies entertained on planes. I queried my mom groups, my travel groups and my friends. I surfed on Amazon and I quickly realized that there’s a huge, very expensive industry geared towards travel toys.

I was not about to spend $30/per toy per baby just for a flight. That’s absurd. As I was getting ready to head out one day, I noticed that Zoey was playing at my feet with my husband’s toiletry bag. She was hyper focused on unzipping the side pockets and pulling things out. Which gave me an idea, so I headed to Target and raided the dollar section, school supplies and party favors. This is the outcome:

Because we were flying with so much stuff, I wanted something compact. I also wanted things that weren’t going to cost a lot of money in case the girls broke or lost things (inevitable).

I originally was looking for makeup bags, but found that pencil cases were cheaper and had much more fun prints. Inside each case, I put in the following things:

  • 1 Indestructible book
  • 6 soft, shiny poofs
  • 3 Clothes hangers
  • 2 sticky felt letters/numbers
  • Teething toys
  • A koosh ball
  • A plastic spoon
  • Linky loops
  • 2 Balls with suction cups all over
  • Post-it notes

Outside of the bag, I also had a roll of colorful tape that we tore pieces off and stuck to hands, tray tables, etc.

Each item was new (except for the teething toys and linky loops) and had different textures. While they didn’t play with the pouches exclusively, they did enjoy sticking their hands inside and pulling out everything.

The biggest hits were the Koosh balls (they liked pulling the rubbery strings), Post-It notes (all my seat mates were “gifted” Post-It notes on the way there), the clothes pins and the suction cup balls. Noted.

What we ate on the plane

When we booked our flights, we intentionally booked early flights to try to capitalize on naps (for the record, Zoey was way too excited to sleep on the plane on the way there). But I know my babies – they love to eat. Milk was not going to be enough for an almost 4 hour flight, and I didn’t want to rely on crappy plane snacks. So on the way there I packed food for all of us, including:

  • 8 oz bottles of milk for the girls
  • Homemade oatmeal bars with apples and raisins
  • BBQ Turkey meatballs
  • Snack packs of granola for El Hombre and I
  • Baby teething crackers

We gave the girls bottles at takeoff and landing for their ears. As we were flying, we broke off parts of the oatmeal bars for the girls for their breakfast. As we got close to landing, we switched to the BBQ meatballs. This way we had full bellies with real, homemade food. Because full babies are happy babies.

What we learned

Flying with babies isn’t as bad as it seems if you plan in advance. Also, everyone around us was nice and supportive. Several people asked if we needed help, offered to share food, etc. Instead of getting static, we were told lots of stories about our seat mates’ children and their first flying experiences.  I’m sure there were some anti-baby people on that plane, but we didn’t feel any rudeness from anyone.

 

Summer musings

Summer is pretty much here, and it’s got me a bit nostalgic for my childhood. I remember eagerly waiting for the first official day of summer (which, by the way, was the last day of school). It was a countdown to long days outside, pool days and library books. Once summer was here, we knew we were allowed to play outside ALL DAY, catching lightning bugs at night and drink honeysuckles. That was a North Carolina summer.  We didn’t care how hot it was, or if we would get tan lines. We squirmed to get out the door as our mom slathered us in coconut-scented sun screen and we charged like bulls into our kitchen for lunch, only to charge back out and jump on our bikes, or explore the woods.

When my mom needed to get out of the house, she’d load us up into the minivan and take us (with some of our friends if we were lucky) to the community pool. As we got bigger, we’d get to go to the local waterpark if we were lucky. Looking back, both were great ways to wear out three hyperactive little kids.

I also think about our family trips to the beach and the mountains. We’d build sandcastles on big, wide beaches with my dad, while my mom looked on from her beach chair. We’d make “beach friends” – kids near our age that were camped out near us. Friends we never expected to form lasting friendships with, but were fun to hang out with for a few days. We’d ride bikes and go to bed listening to the ocean and the crickets.

Or we’d take a break and head to the cooler, more dry air of the mountains. We’d take hikes and splash in swimming holes and go home to pick blueberries off my grandmother’s trees.

Now, as we have our own kids, I think more about these things than I used to. As an adult, I realize that these were not the more simple times that I remember. There was the stock market crash, the cold war and who knows what else. But we don’t remember that. I remember my dad serenading my mom on the guitar with the song, “even though we ain’t got money/I’m so in love with you honey…” but we didn’t understand the reason why he’d continuously sing that song. We just knew we loved how he’d play the guitar and sing.

These are not simple times. But as we grow into this whole parenthood thing, I want to make sure we build the same sort of adventurous, fun and idyllic memories for our girls. I want to shield them from the darker tones of life without smothering them or painting a false reality. While I plan to vet their activities, I don’t want to over-architect them. I want them to make real friends, play in person and interact with people face-to-face as much as possible.

Friday faves

It’s been a rough week. Both girls are sick and teething so we are all miserable. It’s their first time being truly sick, and while it’s nothing serious, we can’t help feel bad for them. But my personal business has been busy and I’ve been out of the house more for work, which is both invigorating and a confidence booster.

Last week I threw out a post on my favorite things for the week, and I like the concept of embracing the positives in written form, so I’m continuing it this week. Especially because it’s been tough, I wanted to reflect on things that I enjoyed.

Cactus Bloom

Our cactus occasionally blooms, and only in the mornings. There’s something dreamy about padding outside in flip flops with my coffee to see if there are blossoms.

Lizard among our succulents

We’ve been sticking close to home since the girls are sick, so in the quiet moments, I’ve been taking advantage of our front and back patios. El Hombre’s plant game is on point, and it’s nice to sit outside and take it all in. It’s been raining a lot, and the plants are loving it, and so have the lizards.

IMG_3129

I totally get why my mom always made my favorite foods when I got sick. It’s comforting to eat something that makes you feel warm and comfortable inside. Also, it meant I would actually eat. Because the girls’ appetites are down, they get hungry faster, which means they don’t sleep as well and are extra cranky. So I threw together a risotto with sage, using the last of my homemade chicken broth. And I realized that I went from never making risotto in my life, to “just throwing it together” status in the matter of weeks. Cooking is a mental release for me and the more that I can add to my repertoire, the better.

Bengal cat helps me work

This cute little booger has been hanging out with me on the desk, making sure everything is up to par. And by “up to par,” I mean she’s demanding ear scratches.

twin babies playing

At this age, most babies tend to parallel play and my girls are no different. But because they have always been together, they also play together occasionally (when they aren’t stealing each others’ toys and screaming about it.) It’s always so cute to me when they sit right next to each other to play.

Mama Musings

*This post brought to you by copious amounts of coffee*

It was a rough night guys. It’s been a rough night for weeks now. Between growth spurts, developmental leaps and teething, there’s not a ton of consistent sleep in this household.

Today, as I comforted one twin who’s been rocking a low grade fever for a few days, while playing with the other, who’s been getting jealous, I stared wistfully at the cup of coffee tucked safely away on the bookshelf.

And I thought to myself, this is parenting. I’m not saying that there aren’t blissful, amazing moments every day. I’m saying that those moments aren’t all day, every day.

It’s easy to think parenting is easy if you go off facebook and instagram posts. And I get it – I don’t share the pictures of us looking haggard and worn. Sometimes I snap pictures because it’s proof that there were happy, giggly moments during the day.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my children and I wouldn’t change them for the world. But I can see how kids put strain on relationships. It’s tough. Nonstop crying and uninterrupted sleep will make anyone testy. Lack of proper food because a baby is clinging to you all day will make anyone hangry.

It’s days like this that I’m glad that El Hombre and I have been together long enough to understand when we need our own quiet time. And that we have gone through the natural ups and downs of our relationship to know how to communicate.

It’s also days like this that I am glad that I make my own work schedule. Because there’s no way I would be productive in an office environment on a day like today.

Fortunately I know we’re probably a day away from a tooth cracking through, and things will get back to normal. But seriously, why are humans not born with a full set of teeth?

Mama MonDaze – Getting out of the rut

Last week I fell into a major rut. We have two teething babies, which means lots of crying and not a lot of sleep. It’s crazy to think about how lack of sleep deprives you of so much.  It’s no exaggeration to say I probably got a combined total of 3 hours of sleep across 4-5 days.

I now understand the term, mombie (mom + zombie). I lost a week of work because there wasn’t enough coffee in the world to replace those precious hours of sleep. Both el hombre and I were irritable and anxious. I felt myself trailing off in the middle of sentences and having to read things over and over.

So what do you do when your kids can’t sleep and it impacts your life?

When El Hombre and I started snapping at each other in the middle of the week, I knew I had to do something. So I packed up the girls and took them to the park. We walked around outside for 30-40 minutes in the stroller, then went on the swings and the playground. On the way back I stopped at my favorite local running store and bought much-needed new running shoes for El Hombre and me.

Getting out is critical to staying healthy with babies.

Because we are firing up our own business ventures, El Hombre and I are home together much more than we used to. This means that our personal time to ourselves is nil. Combine that with TWO screaming babies all day and all night and you can see how this can be negative.

I know that when I don’t get my blood flowing, my anxiety goes through the roof. So taking the time to walk in the stroller outside was almost magical. Even though the girls were awake, they were calm and excited because they got a change of pace. I got time to think (I find that I get my best ideas when outside on a brisk walk) and El Hombre got a few hours of time to focus on his projects.

Getting the blood flowing is good for mama and papa. And what’s good for mama and papa is good for babies.

The next day our sitter came, and instead of focusing on cramming out work (which would have been crap work), El Hombre asked if I wanted to go to the gym with him. So we left the girls and went to work out. That hour break, what can I say? We don’t work out together so we had our own quiet, exercise time. Absorbed in music, sweating out the stress and coming back to center. At least for me.

Accept that productivity comes in different forms.

Sometimes you just have to accept that you can’t do it all. And last week I accepted that. If the girls are having a rough week, just getting through it while being supportive and caring is better than forcing things.

Baby Tylenol is good.

Getting out and about definitely helped the girls during the day, but the screaming all night was not getting better. They were miserable. And when they were crying real tears half the night, I realized the issue was probably teeth cracking through. So I gave them a bit of Tylenol. Game changer. I was so tired that I didn’t even think of it at first. Especially since I don’t like to use medicine on the girls as an immediate first reaction. But sometimes you need it. And now that more teeth have cracked through, the girls are feeling better. Being in pain plus being sleep deprived is misery for me, so it’s got to be worse for them because they can’t express themselves the way we can.

Sometimes you need a change of pace.

Once we started getting a bit more sleep, we started feeling better as a family. And on Thursday, El Hombre casually suggested getting lunch in the keys the next day. We woke up to rain and my stomach sort of sank, and I think El Hombre saw that. So he pushed me to check the weather and when I saw the storm heading north, it was on.

By the time we got to Islamorada, the girls were up from their naps and ready to get out of the car. We stopped at one of our favorite little beaches where we walked through the boardwalk and brush to scout the perfect beach location. The girls gleefully crawled through the shallow surf, played with sand and hung out on the little beach while we listened to El Hombre’s 70s spotify playlist. By the time we were ready to go, they knocked out for a good nap. After all, what’s better than a good nap after a beach day?

My overall thoughts on challenging weeks with twin babies.

This past week I learned that there are going to be rough weeks. This was definitely not our first rough week, but after a few months of progressively better sleep, this sleep regression plus the crankiness of teething and growth spurts hit us much harder than I expected.

As I felt the struggle of anxiety and failure creep up, I had to sit back and be realistic about my priorities and what I am capable of. To stay balanced I need to sometimes sway away from one priority (work) to keep another priority going (family life.) To do that, sometimes I have to set aside one of the balls I juggle through the week and pick it up when I’m ready to. And that’s ok because that’s life.

 

On raising girls

Yesterday our friend was over with his 7 year old daughter, and as they were leaving, she made a funny (not as in “ha ha”) about being afraid of being a tom boy. My gut response was, “what’s wrong with being a tom boy?” (She didn’t answer).

Her dad immediately jumped into the conversation and told her that it’s good to practice sports now because it’s good for her. And that lots of girls end up going to the gym when they are in their 20s and it’s totally normal.

Our friend is an amazing dad. His daughter is bright and funny and active. She’s spunky and personable. He supports her 100% in her passions – which include dance, skateboarding and cats. It’s clear that he eschews the gender stereotypes of what girls “should” do.

And that got me thinking about raising my own girls.

It’s not uncommon for me to have to explain that my daughters are girls in the supermarket, and I’ve had to defend my choice to not pierce their ears, or dress them in pink every single day. I mean, I like pink but there are other colors on the spectrum that are also awesome.

When a friend gave my daughters a red toy car, someone asked if I was going to exchange it for a “girls toy”. Ummm, no. Why would I make that sort of effort? (Side note, they love that car and it’s good for them, developmentally.)

When I grew up, I had dolls. But my favorite toys were legos and brio and lincoln logs. They weren’t “girls colors” and we all played with them – including my brother. That’s when we were playing inside. Most days we were running around outside with our friends. Whether on bikes or running through the woods around our houses. We got dirty, we scraped our knees and that was ok. My brother, sister and I all played sports – whether we liked it or not. Sure, I took ballet and gymnastics, but not for more than a few months.

My dad also took us outside to play basketball, baseball and soccer. As a family we went hiking and biking very frequently. I doubt it ever crossed my parents’ mind that they should hold my sister and I back from any of these things, just because we were girls.

Now as an adult, I’ve sat in meetings where I’m the only woman and held my own. I’ve spoken in front of large groups of people – including executives and held my own. I’ll never forget one of my colleagues walked past a meeting room and stared – only to ask how it felt to be in a room “with all those men.” My reply, “I didn’t even think about it.”

Yes, I have definitely experienced more than my fair share of gender inequality and it sucks. It happens more often than not, and it’s infuriating. But as I’ve really started analyzing my experiences with this, I’ve realized that I never assume that I’m going to be relegated to a corner because of my gender – not until it actually happens.

So why is this? As I listen to the advice I’m given on how to raise my daughters, I realize this may be part of the problem. When we continue to push a social construct that says that it’s not appropriate for girls to play with the same toys, or play the same sports, or listen to the same music, we ingrain the belief that girls should live by more restrictions because they are inferior, or weaker. That girls should be pretty and soft. That you can’t be both feminine and strong. Well, I disagree.

If my girls love princesses and dresses and frilly things, cool. If they love being outside and sports, awesome. If they love art and drawing or math and science, or maybe all of these things or just some of these things – then I’m all for it.

I want my girls to grow up and be excited for all the adventure that the world has to offer. And if that ruffles feathers, that’s ok.

My food philosphy

Yesterday I cooked up a storm for the babies, and as my husband popped a BBQ turkey meatloaf-style meatball in his mouth, he asked what we would serve it with. I explained I would break it up and serve it with veggies. His response, “this is for the babies? I thought this was for us.”

My baby food philosophy

You see, I know that I was a picky eater when I was a kid. My husband is still a picky eater. I realize you can’t escape this, but my philosophy is that the more I introduce now the more we broaden our daughters’ palates – both in terms of flavors and texture. So they now are happily eating fish, meat, chicken, pork along with rice, pasta, risotto, quinoa and barley. They love veggies and fruits – we are lucky here.

Store-bought vs. home-made baby food

Many people don’t enjoy cooking, or they are too exhausted at the end of the day to fire up the stove. Since I work from home, I take advantage of down time to food prep and cook. I prefer the cook food for all of us because it’s more affordable in the long run, I know what goes in to the food and I enjoy cooking. This last point is important. If you don’t like cooking or you are intimidated by trying, making your own baby food is probably not a good idea.

When I make food for the girls, I divvy up my recipes in to things that I am exclusively serving them and things that the whole family can eat. As they grow older, I am moving away from exclusive food for them and towards family meals. When I look back, I don’t remember my mother ever making individual meals for us on the daily. And as much as I enjoy cooking, this is our home and not a restaurant. I don’t want to build an expectation that we have menus available.

Finger foods & babies feeding themselves

Z & E are becoming increasingly more independent. Crawling, walking and wanting to feed themselves. They are all about their sippy cups (and tossing them to the floor 752,000,000 times in one meal). This independence is fun, but also frustrating.

You see, I believe that they should have the autonomy to feed themselves, but at the same time I don’t want them to associate their meals with play. Perhaps it’s my European upbringing, but I believe that food should be respected and not played with. What I’ve started doing is prepping food that they can eat on their own, and we alternate hand feeding with spoon feeding. For example, today’s breakfast included scrambled eggs, waffles and ricotta mixed with homemade strawberry jam. So I put a piece of small waffle on their tray for them to pick up and eat. Once they were done, I spoon-fed the eggs. Then we finished with the ricotta/jam mix. This makes meal time cleaner and easier for all of us.

breakfast for babies

Z & E’s (and my) breakfast this morning

On toys at the table (or high chair)

When we first started feeding in the highchair, we put toys on the girls’ trays. Perhaps this is surprising, given my above statements about meal time and play, but hear me out. With our girls, we quickly realized that training them to sit in a high chair was actually more challenging than introducing them to foods. They don’t like feeling confined and they are naturally squirmy. So as we were feeding them, we needed a distraction so that they would get used to swallowing their food without being in our laps.

As they got used to the high chairs, we started taking the toys away. We did this slowly – experimenting with removing the toys towards the end of their meal, then halfway, then after the first few bites. Now we don’t use toys during meal times (this will probably change when they are toddlers, but whatever), but we talk (and sing on fussy days) throughout feedings. The theory here is that we get used to sitting and talking as a family over meals, instead of individually focusing on toys, phones, etc.

I realize that I probably sound old-school in my parenting philosophy when it comes to food, and that’s fine. I believe that one of the most important times you have with your family is around the table and it’s important to me to start now with enforcing these eating habits with my girls. I remember always sitting down as a family to dinner (whether we wanted to or not.) Now that I look back, I remember sitting with my family, chatting over dinner and I believe this was one of the things that makes my family so tight-knit.