Monday, March 21, 2011

Things I've Learned the Hard Way

[Tip: Anyone who's not interested in the minutiae of life with little ones should skip to the bottom of this post and enjoy the photo portion only!]

Having two kids in sixteen months is really an experience unto itself. As Finny approaches the age at which Will became a big brother (he's about six weeks away from that marker), my brain has had a little breathing room--just a little--and I find myself being both intro- and retrospective.

So here are some things I've learned about having two closely-spaced babies. Most of these things I learned the hard way, or at least not without some amount of mental resistance.

1. When you can carry your little baby in a Bjorn or an Ergo (aka, for the first seven or so months of his life), that is THE EASY PART. People made remarks about how easy I made it look, but the reality is that--at least compared to now--it WAS easy. Because Finn was a winter baby, I had to nurse him in the car in those early months--but when the weather was warmer, I nursed him right there on the woodchips while Will caroused on the playground. Fitting in frequent feedings was something I had to think about, but not much. I basically followed Will's schedule, and Finn did too.

My point is not, "Pshaw! Anyone can handle two under two!" My point is: It's going to get trickier logistically, so  insofar as it's possible, enjoy the convenience of the baby-as-accessory phase. I'm SO HAPPY that I can look back fondly on those days of Finn sleeping through Will's MyGym classes and playgroups, instead of feeling like I took them for granted.

2. You must use Munchkin straw sippy cups if you don't want milk to spill all over and therefore ruin a $36 lunchbox.

Let me clarify: I didn't mean to purchase a $36 lunchbox in the first place. I was out with the boys one day when it was flurrying, and we were at Legacy Place, and they weren't happy in the stroller, but they were dressed for the weather, and Will was about to start preschool. I grabbed a trendy robot lunchbox whose vinyl looked hardy enough, and I rushed to pay for it, and there was no way I was backing out after she'd rung me up and I was staring at that ridiculous receipt. Neither I nor Will even particularly like robots! And if anything, I go out of my way to avoid looking like a hipster who wants to pay a chunk of change for a trendy lunchbox! But I was stuck!

And then I threw a few of our B-list sippies in there and the milk seeped into the insulation of the lunchbox, and that thing was TOAST. No amount of scrubbing or machine washing could undo that doozy, so I trudged out to LL Bean to buy this lunchbox. I love it--it fits two sippy cups standing right-side-up, and a hard ice pack, and a couple of food containers, and it's not at all trendy.

But the other lesson was, stick with the greatest straw sippy cups ever, which are these Munchkin ones. I know that everyone has a different experience with every cup, but it's so weird to me that one review here says "not for biters," because Will is most definitely a straw-biter, and these are the only ones that have held up in our household. They really also are the most spill-proof we've found, and they're top-rack dishwasher safe, and I trust them. My only complaint is that some of the two-packs have traditional "boy" and "girl" colors mixed in, and I can't always order specific colors.

3. Going to the playground is a workout, and the diaper bag has become all-important again.

I still don't believe the celebrity moms who say they've maintained their figure "chasing after their kids," mostly because I think that since they have people who work for them and help them (which is great!) and many of them still work part- or full-time jobs (also great!), it's hard to buy that they're getting an hour of pure chasing-kid time in per day. But now, I sort of see why they might *think* they are toning their calves on the playground, because one semi-competent mobile kid plus one incompetent and fearless kid equals an epic morning of sprinting in many directions.

In the last two days (our first playground-worthy days of the season!) I have developed a timing strategy for keeping track of both boys without panicking. I've named it (come on, you all know I like to name things) the 5/2 strategy, and it's making me suspect I was a QB coach in a former life.

It's simple: if both boys aren't right next to me, that I need to trail Finny much more closely. The maximum ratio in terms of distance from each is 5:2, so I could be 15 feet from Will but only 6 feet from Finny. You all can do the math.

The more important piece of the 5/2 strategy is the timing, though. I try to keep my attention on Finny for 5 seconds, and then I locate and check in on Will for no more than 2 before returning to my little loose cannon, who thinks that if he just walks off the top step, the next one will magically rise to meet him.

So, the diaper bag. It faded from the spotlight for a while, and now it is back with a vengeance. Here is what seems to be necessary for an hours-long playground visit:

  • Diapers and wipes, of course (Although I try not to change diapers while we're out, if I have to, I do it in the car because I am a totally unabashed MINIVAN WORSHIPER and I CAN.)
  • Those Munchkin sippies filled with water or milk for the big boy
  • Nuby sippies like these for the non-straw-using little boy (least spillage for a straight-up sippy in our usage history)
  • Snacks in little containers or plastic baggies
  • A book or two to keep them focused while they're sitting down to snack
  • Layers and baseball caps
  • Sunscreen stick
  • CleanWell hand sanitizing spray
  • Vaseline (I used this to get jelly off my hands when I was out of wipes AND to dab on Will's hands when he tripped and scraped up his palms today)
  • Tissues, napkins, washcloths

The notable items left off this list are things I brought to the park when Will was this age that fall into one of two categories: So Rarely Used That It's Not Worth Packing and/or Huge Pain to Keep Track of When You Have Two Toddlers.

Extra set of clothes/socks, little toy cars or balls of any size, diaper cream, an entire lunch--these all fall into one or both of those categories.

Now for those playground photos:


The Welsien Family said...

We have one of the munchkin flip up straw cups and somehow recently LOST the straw part. Nothing here is as good so I can't wait to get home and get some more! Nice review :) Nice blog!

LWF said...

What cute little boys -- need to see them in person soon!!!

Grandpop said...

GP says, "Fintan is going to be a professional playground user. He fits in so well with his brother, I have to call him the "natural".