A Day in the Life...

After the first month of having the twins home G and I were saying things like, "I thought his was going to be a lot harder, it's really not so bad" and couldn't understand why everyone warned us that the first few months would be "hell." Recently it dawned on me that the reason it hadn't been so bad was because the babies were asleep most of the time! And when we'd think the twins were being "good" it's really that the were SLEEPING! But boy have things changed. Now they are awake ALL the time and holy crap is it exhausting! I still never feel like it's "hell," but it sure is nonstop! 

During the week, except for the couple days my parents come out to help, it's just me and the twins home all day while Daddy is at work. I wake up and change/dress/feed the babies and then it's on! Aside from waking up once in the middle of the night to eat, they sleep through the night because we keep them active during the day (with a few naps in the mix), especially those few hours before we go to bed. So when they wake up in the morning they are bright-eyed and bushy tailed, ready to take on the day. And by "take on" I mean wear Mommy out. River acts like he's been away from me for a week and wants to be held for most of the morning. If I attempt to put him down he flips his lid so I'll hold him with one arm while I clean the house. But then there are mornings where Riley is being the same way and I spend the next few hours juggling babies. Hold one for a bit while other one whines or cries then switch. Sometimes I'll just concede that I'm not going to get anything done and will sit on the couch with both of them draped over me. 

This also only works if the issue is they just want to be held. There are often times when they want me to walk them around the house to look at things, which is fine by me, but as I'm no magician they just have to wait their turn. In that case it's whoever cries the loudest that gets the first tour!

I try to offer them several options for activities throughout the day to foster physical and cognitive development. They have activity mats with different hanging toys I change out, although there's one that is both their new favorite! It's a Lamaze toy specifically designed for baby development called Freddy the Firefly. He's pretty big and the twins seem to love playing with the dangling rings, which is coop because it's helping them with hand-eye coordination...

 I also give them tummy time on either their activity mats or their yoga mat in order for them to strengthen their muscles, although sometimes they fall asleep!

Recently I've added Bumbo chairs to their regimen, as those help them to sit up right and practice head control. River is a bit better at it than Riley. She can hold it up but has a bit of a drunken wobbly look to her...

Half the time I stay down there with them and interact with them, but I also have times that I let them explore and entertain themselves when playing on their mats. They have gotten quite good at batting at the toys and seem to really enjoy it!

Every so often they fall asleep at the same time and the countdown begins. People say to sleep when the baby sleeps but realistically that's never going to happen. Those brief miraculous moments where they are both unconscious is the only time I have to either get in a workout, do laundry (which is seriously never ending!), clean the house or prep bottles so as soon as I see they are both napping I scramble to get things done! But then there are days they rotate who gets sleepy between feedings and I'm "on" all day long and feel like I get nothing done around the house. Those days can be pretty exhausting but I also look at it as time to spend with each of them individually. They seem to alternate who is going to spit up the most each day resulting in a formula shower on me and themselves, usually immediately after I just change them into a fresh outfit. I swear each day we go through more wardrobe changes than a Cher concert! 

I had started taking them for walks in the stroller around the neighborhood, especially if either of them are in a cranky mood, and they are instantly out like a light. 

I have a fun setup where I strapped a portable speaker to the stroller handles (it's one I usually have on my bike) so I plug in my phone and play Pandora as as walk. I try to mix it up each day to give the twins some variety. From reggae/Sublime, to 70s/80s light rock (my personal fav), Motown and 90s hip hop, they listen to something different each day. Music is a huge part of my life and I want to be sure it is for the kids as well! So every day we jam out and take one or two long walks (45-90 min) and it's been great. However, while living in FL must seem great when others are stuck in snow storm after snow storm, the downside is it gets unbearably hot very early and just keeps getting worse. So after two attempts to go for walks this week that ended with River crying and two sweaty unhappy babies, I realized unless there's a cold front or overcast day I won't be taking the babies out for a walk. That sucks because it was breaking up my day and getting me out of the house so I don't go stir crazy. We've been going for walks when Daddy gets home and it's cooler out so they still get to go outside, but I really wish I could go during the day. I see now that future visits to the beach, pool or otherwise are out of the question, especially since it gets to be Africa hot over the summer.   :-(

Anyway, the rest of my day is pretty much the same as above. Eat, play, maaaaybe they nap, then repeat. I've definitely established a routine which is good for the babies AND myself. 
I foresee this being the schedule for quite sometime now until they reach the next phase. It'll be interesting to see how they change and grow in the future although I won't lie, I'm a bit nervous about once they start moving. Right now they just stay where I put them and it's still exhausting keeping up with them. I can't imagine once I'm chasing them around the house!

Wonder Weeks

Being in the field of Education and an avid researcher, I'm always on the quest for as much information on development as possible. Just call me Johnny 5! (iiiiiiinpuuuuut). So you can imagine my delight in finding the motherload of all baby development resources. It's called Wonder Weeks, and it's based on 35 years of research. It's awesome!!

Rather than breaking things down in the traditional milestones, it goes into much more detail about not only the major changes babies' brains go through but also the behaviors surrounding these developmental breakthroughs. These breakthroughs are referred to as "leaps," as in a leap forward in mental development. These leaps are broken down in segments by week which details everything your baby is going through during that transition. It tells you what signs babies show during each leap, what skills could potentially stem from it and most importantly the WHY behind your baby's behavior through it all.

For me, this has been the most helpful part. I now have a completely different view of the twins behaviors. River's whininess and frequent bouts of hysterics. Riley's yappy yell. It all makes so much more sense, and in turn has made us more understanding parents. The book predicts, give or take week, when parents can expect their babies to go through one of these "fussy phases." During these periods, a baby cries for a good reason. They are suddenly undergoing drastic changes in her development, which are upsetting to them. So whenever I start to feel frustrated I remember it's a sign that they are making progress!

It's definitely worth it getting this book if you are the parent of an infant. It's truly eye opening and has really been spot on in everything I've been seeing with the twins. They also have an app, which is a very condensed version of the book but def great to have!!

Just wanted to pass it along!

Spitting Image

It's funny, everyone says how much River looks like G and Riley looks like me- yet they both look like each other. Which makes sense when you think about it... They say that you are attracted to those who look similar to you in features, body structure, etc. and G and I have always felt I'm kind of a female version of him.
Well in sorting through old baby pics of us we are seeing that we sure looked a lot alike in our baby pictures and that the twins each look SO much like one of us (depending on the angle of the shot).

The one that struck me most was this one. The pic on the left is me and on the right is River. It's pretty amazing! Looks like the same baby!!


So last night we tried something different for the twins bedtime routine. Since the previous night was a disaster, we decided to start the whole process earlier and skip the massage since the babies didn't seem to fond of it. (Perhaps we'll try that again after they grow a little more). Right after their 7pm feeding they were alert, so we took that opportunity to do Tummy Time. We put them down face to face on their yoga mat as we always do, and this time the most amazing thing happened... They started communicating with each other!! Granted it was primitive, but definitely not something they had done before. One would make a cooing/squeaking/yappy type noise and the other would do it right back. They did this several times throughout their TT session. It was SO unbelievably cool!

We let them have a long session so they could move around, practice lifting and turning their heads, and push off of our hands with their legs to scoot. After that we gave them each a bath, brought them to our crib in our room, and read them a story. We turned their sound machine on and tip-toed out the door. 

Everything I've read says to try and establish a bedtime routine as early as possible so when they sleep through the night the transition will be smoother. It's to promote a Pavlovian response by having a step by step ritual for them to start to learn that those steps lead up to bedtime. The confusing thing is right now they eat about every four hours, so if we put them to bed at a decent time (830/9) they'll still be waking up twice to eat, at least at this current time... They say to eventually eliminate the middle of the night feeding, but if they eat at 7 they'll be hungry TWO times through the night, so that's the part I'm unsure of on how it's supposed to work. I think for now we are just trying to instill the concept of daytime is for being awake and nighttime is for sleeping.

Anyway, we brought the monitor out to the living room to keep an eye on them and make sure they were okay. Well they were still wide awake and fidgety. We were watching TV but I couldn't help but keep glancing over at the monitor. I just felt so guilty leaving them there all awake in the dark. Up until then we had been watching TV with them laying on us at night before we went to bed. The problem with that is that they sleep their hardest when they are all cozied up on Mommy and Daddy. So they'd drink their bottles around 7 and fall asleep on us until they get hungry again around 11 but then because they slept so well on us once they finish their 11pm feeding they are wide awake and keep us up with their chatter in the crib! So that's no good. We need our sleep to function! 

I tried my best not to let it get to me that they were awake in the other room, but my mom (who has been staying with us along w my dad for a few days a week to help out) kept saying things like, "aww they are wide awake and you're going to leave them in there" so that certainly didn't help the fact that I was already feeling guilty! Then Riley started doing this new thing she began doing this week... she doesn't really cry ever unless it's something bad or she's REALLY unhappy (which is rare and even when she does it's more of a quick screechy cry that doesn't last, just enough to let us know something's not right). Well this week we noticed if she's awake and we leave the room she makes this kind of a squeaky squawk every 10-20 seconds or so, as if to be calling out "Mom.... Dad... Somebody.... Hey...." because when she's done it once I go pick her up she stops. I feel like that little girl is one smart cookie, wise beyond her years somehow. Unlike her brother who will pitch a royal fit when he wants or needs something, it's almost as if she knows she doesn't have to have a meltdown to get what she wants. Just a little patience and persistence before someone will hear her and ultimately come meet her needs. Which is exactly what I wound up doing. It was only an hour away from feeding and they had been awake during the time we wanted them to be, so they would hopefully be sleepy after their next feeding. 

Personally, I felt much better after picking her up but I know a lot of that was because I really love being snuggled up with them. So it's a double-edged sword... it's the only time my hubby and I are home together during the week and it's so comforting to relax as a family at night, but the downside is the babies sleep at the wrong time and then keep us up at night. And that's no good for anyone. Having two walking zombie parents wouldn't benefit the babies at all!

So while we still need to tweak our bedtime routine, I do at least feel one step closer in the right direction in figuring it out. I just want to do the best thing possible for G and I, the twins, and preserve our sanity by getting enough sleep!

Dream a Little Dream

Since becoming a Mommy I have gained a wealth of patience I never thought I had and am immersed in more love than I ever dreamed possible. However, while I'd love to say that every moment of Motherhood is pure bliss, I am also realistic and would be lying if I said I didn't have the occasional bout of frustration. Tonight being one of those nights. It seems the twins have been trying to live the life of rock stars by wanting to be up all night and sleep all day so the Hubs and I devised a plan that was sure to get them nice and sleepy. Shortly before bed we were going to give them a massage, followed by a bath and their feeding. Ideally I wanted to do the feeding first, as I've read it's best not to do it right before bed so they don't associate eating with sleeping. But they weren't due to be hungry again until 11pm and with my husband having to work the next morning he didn't want to start the whole process that late. So we flipped it thinking it wouldn't be that big of a deal. The goal was to get them nice and relaxed and more importantly, sleepy. 

Well the plan started to unravel from the moment we decided to wake them up to start their massages. There is a reason they say don't wake a sleeping baby and tonight we found out why. The same reason we adults don't like getting woken up... it sucks! Although I will say that if someone woke me up to give me a full body massage, I don't think I'd complain all that much! But the babies just weren't having it. Instead of making them feel all warm and fuzzy and good they pretty much hated every second of it, which is odd because the last time we did it they LOVED it. But this time they were cringing and squirming and making faces like they licked a rotten lemon. So we swiftly wrapped that up and got their baths set up (another thing they love) and in quick succession wash, dried and dressed them. Swaddled them up tight and fed them. G and I were fighting to keep our eyes open during the feeding process and couldn't wait to get some sleep, however short and precious that time is. But lo and behold there was River and Riley as wide awake as ever. Somehow our plan backfired and the twins were now completely alert and wired! We brought them into the bedroom with the lights off and their sound machine on (we play soft sounds of rain near their crib so it's not uncomfortably quiet for them at night), put them in the crib an proceeded to get ourselves ready for bed. But River wasn't having it. Wake him up from a deep sleep to pull his clothes off, rub his body and dunk him in water? Oh he'd make us pay. And that he did. He whined and cried in his usual River way and Daddy stood at the end of the crib, talking softly to him and stroking his hair. After a while he got him to calm down a bit and within a half hour he fell asleep. 

As I'm getting into bed I notice Riley's little face on the monitor (which always looks kind of creepy at night because the camera has night vision so you can see their faces clearly in the dark but their eyes look black and almost evil) and her eyes were like saucers. I always feel so guilty going to bed while either one of them is awake because then they are just laying there in the dark all alone. I know it's something I have to get over if I ever want to get sleep myself, but it still makes me feel bad. Usually when they are awake (if River isn't crying) they chatter and it sounds like a barnyard coming from the crib with their various newborn grunts and chirps. But thankfully I was able to fall asleep fairly fast. 

Sure enough only two hours later River woke us up with his mouth siren, an hour earlier than he normally would for feeding time. So G jumped out of bed and tried soothing him, but to no avail.  So he picked him up and walked around the house with him until he fell asleep again before putting him back into the crib. As he did so, he tip-toed away and quietly climbed back into bed saying, "I got him to go back to sleep," to which I replied, "oh just give it a minute." Sure enough the River alarm went off again moments later. Feeling frustrated and exhausted I jumped up and put his pacifier in his mouth and pulled his blanket tight around him, the top of it holding the pacifier in place. When I got back into bed G asked, "what did you do?," referring to River having stopped crying. Trying to be witty and make light of my frustration I responded with: "I smothered him with a pillow." 

We got maybe another half hour of sleep in before round 2 started up. By then it was at least a little closer to feeding time so I just gave in and began the process of warming bottles and getting them changed and fed. Rather than going the usual 4 hours between feedings (which starts from the time they BEGIN drinking, so by the time they are fed and upright for a while to stave off reflux, it's only 2 1/2 hours or so until the next session), this time Riv was hungry an hour early again. How could this be!? He finished his last bottle completely and only 2 hours before!! It was G's turn to feed them so he got up a little extra early for work and took care of them. It's nights like these that really test your patience (and your sanity!). 

So we're going to have to revamp our bedtime routine to find something that works and keeps them awake after their 7pm feeding until their 11pm feeding, to which then they'll hopefully be tired enough to stay sleepy through the night, even after the 3am round. Pshaw... Mission Impossible? Maybe so. But I'm sure as hell not giving up on trying!

A Tale of Two Babies

It is really interesting to see the twins' personalities develop more strongly as time goes on. They certainly haven't changed in the past three months, and, in fact, they have the very same demeanor as they had while inside me...

River: Ah, the one who entered the world first. From the time I could actually start feeling kicks, he was letting me know he was there. As an avid soccer player in the womb, he would kick and move frequently letting me know he was there and it was "game on!" He had the hiccups on a regular basis, which I could not only feel, but would see it whenever we went to an ultrasound visit. We would also see him repetitively kicking Riley in the head! From the word Go I was saying that this kid was gonna be trouble... And sure enough he's living up to that theory in his few short months of life! Actually, Riv started being demanding before he was even born! He wanted OUT before it was time and despite the efforts of all the doctors at the hospital, he got his wish. That 8 days I spent on bed rest in the hospital he kept getting lower and lower trying to make his debut into the world. The doctors could even feel his hair, he was so low!

In the early days at the NICU, the nurses fell in love with River. He was a tiny little guy with a huge personality. He had this thing he did with his leg where they would swaddle him tightly but had to keep one foot out that had his O2 sensor on it and he would wave that leg up and down and stick it straight up in the air. We called this his "mailbox flag" move...

Throughout the two months in the NICU, we noticed he was getting more vocal, especially when changing his diapers. He did NOT like that one bit. But he did love to be held. From the start, he would almost instantly fall asleep on us when we'd kangaroo him. As he got bigger, he was showing signs that he was dreaming. His eyes would move rapidly under his closed lids and he would do things like suck and smile and move his hands. It was SO cute!

Here he is now three months old (one month corrected) and his personality is already in full force! Still hating getting his diaper changed and definitely let's us know it! We've learned to wait until AFTER he's had his bottle before changing him, otherwise he'll scream like you're amputating his legs! He's much calmer on a full belly, and that pretty much goes for anything: Diapers, changing clothes, bath time. As long as he's full, he's a lot less crazy! He is quite adept at letting us know when he's unhappy or uncomfortable by crying, but it's never for no reason. It's just a matter of figuring out what's bothering him (which is sometimes challenging). He LOVES being held and around people in general,  but seems to favor Mommy most of all. Sometimes anyone can hold him and he settles down, but other times he's not happy until he's nestled in Mommy's arms. He'll go from screaming to silence in an instant. It's pretty crazy.

He does love to eat! When drinking his bottle he lays across our laps kicking his feet, crossing and I crossing his legs, or straightening both out in the air throughout the feed. He's pretty entertaining to watch! When holding him upright against us or when doing tummy time he can lift his head up high, hold it there and look side to side. He is even getting some head control when we prop him up. When we put pressure on his feet he pushes off into sort of a drag/slug crawl (which I affectionately call "scooting"). This little guy is very strong! He also loves to sit upright. When he is awake and alert, he will dart his eyes all over the place taking in all the lights and shadows around him. Every once in a while he will focus his eyes directly into mine when I am talking to him and I feel this amazing connection...  but it's pretty rare so far. I'm hoping that will happen more frequently as he develops further.

So... all in all, River pretty much rules the house right now because if he's unhappy, he will make as much noise as possible by crying and whining until he's perfectly comfortable... Which can be quite the production at times! If Riv is happy, everyone is happy. LOL

Riley: This little girl has the total opposite demeanor of her brother. While River was practicing the Can-Can in my belly, Riley was kicking back just enjoying the ride. She was always in the same sideways (transverse) position in the womb (except for the last minute, after River was born, when she flipped breech and caused an emergency C-section!) and didn't kick nearly as much as her brother. Amazingly enough, she did kick when Daddy would get home and talk to my belly! Also, in ultrasounds when we'd see River kicking her in the head, the good news is she was kicking him right back in the stomach! At least we know she wasn't going to put up with his crap!

Initially in the NICU Riley was so tiny and frail, she barely opened her eyes. But by the second half of her stay that had changed drastically. She ultimately became the one who was more alert. I always made sure when I talked to them - in the womb AND once they were out - said the same few lines (Riiiiver or Riiiiley... Mommy's here.... Mommy loves you) --and still say that all the time-- so they'd recognize me and my voice. Well the last few weeks in the NICU, and ever since, when I say that her eyes fling open and she stares with recognition and sometimes even smiles! It's pretty amazing. She was a breeze to change in the NICU and wouldn't make a peep if either G and I were working on her. The nurses said she'd get vocal with them, but never once with us. It was like she just trusted her Mommy and Daddy and felt safe with us. The only time we'd here her let out a cry was when she'd hear her brother cry out. It would actually upset her! She also proved to have great strength for her tiny size. In the incubators they were allowed to sleep on their tummies. Well this little peanut used to push her legs into the bed, putting herself into a Downward Dog position, and would actually flip herself over on her back! It truly baffled the nurses!

Pan to three months later and Riley is as sweet as ever. She still doesn't get upset when you change her, or pretty much do anything to her. She's always serene and content with almost a constant smirk or smile on her face, like she knows the secrets of the universe and just won't tell. On the rare occasion she does let out a shrill wail, so you know it must be something bad. And even then she'll only let out one or two cries. When she's hungry she'll start rooting (sucking on things and snacking her lips) and she'll get fidgety and kind of whimper and moan a bit, just enough to let you know she's ready to eat. She doesn't eat as much as her brother, but she's still gaining wait every day so it's okay. When she's done with her bottle she'll purse her lips tight or push the bottle out with her tongue! The poor little girl gets really bad reflux though. She's on medicine, but still suffers sometimes for a little while after feeding.

Riley likes Tummy Time as well. She can also scoot and lift up her head, although she's not quite as strong and her brother yet. But definitely pretty close! She doesn't like being held as much as River. She'll let you know by either sweetly cuddling up and falling asleep when you hold her, or she'll arch her back and pull away from you if she doesn't want to be held at that moment. I think she is going to be a lot more independent and a lot less needy than River. She's a sweetie pie and so good all the time, the yin to her brother's yang. Riley also occasionally locks her eyes with mine. I have read that right around now they should start being able to mimic your facial expressions if you can catch them while they are alert. I've tried a few times, but usually they are both too stimulated by their surroundings to focus solely on my face. But ONE time the other day I was able to hold her attention so I stuck out my tongue and wouldn't you know she immediately did it right back! It was amazing! Of course then she went back to looking all around her, but it was such a cool feeling. I can't wait 'til they start doing it more!

When the two of them are together they are at their maximum cuteness. More often than not, Riley is much more aware of her brother's presence. While he'll usually calm down when he's close to her, she'll just stare at him with a look of amazement. And KEEP staring for a long time. He can flail and whack her in the face and she'll still be laying there staring at him contently and even smiles a lot! Sometimes she'll immediately lock arms or legs with his and snuggle close to him. Occasionally River will be the one to cuddle up to her if he is the one who is sleepy and she's awake. I can't imagine what they think or know of each other, but they definitely have some kind of connection. I just can't wait to see how it blooms!