Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Surviving Two Under Two

Now that Julia is a whopping (and mature) 17 months and Sebastian is approaching his 4 month birthday, I consider myself somewhat of an absolute expert on weathering the storm that is two nonverbal children. Currently, we've just returned from daily Mass (on foot of course), my house is sparkling, all three of us are dressed for the day, we've all enjoyed fortifying breakfasts whilst smiling our widest, and a complete dinner is simmering in the crockpot ... salad, glasses of ice water and all ... and it is merely 10:29 in the am. Just another typical day in the perfectly managed life. 
And then reality happened. And of course, none of that actually ever happens. I'm not an expert on anything, especially child rearing, dinner cooking, house cleaning, (twice for good measure) house cleaning, or smiling. But I'm also not going completely crazy every day (although I have a feeling Simon's incoming text messages might beg to differ if you go snooping around for any proof flavored pudding) anymore. I like to pretend that we've hit some sort of manageable stride thanks to these unsolicited and unhelpful tips I'm about to throw your way. This is an incomplete list and is truly only (obviously) applicable to me (now that Sebastian is not a newborn) but if you feel the need to add better tactics, please do.

1. Know that greater parents have gone before you. I know I'm not special. Wrangling two kids under the age of two is absolutely laughable compared to what many others deal with every day. Multiples, three under two, three under three, four under four, two under one, two under two while working from home, two under two with a husband overseas, home schooling four under four with a husband overseas, etc. Two under two is a complete joke compared to a myriad of other potential situations so stop feeling sorry for yourself. Okay, you can feel sorry for yourself for five quick minutes if both kids are crying, need diaper changes and you are crying.
But only for five minutes and then you need to pull it together.

2. Shower every other day. No, I didn't type, 'get dressed every day' -- just shower. You can put your sweats and holey cardigan right back on but at least you'll feel clean and your hair won't be a grease mop. Dry shampoo/baby powder/topknots don't work for me and if I don't shower and wash my hair I look like I haven't showered and washed my hair. No one ever sees me other than the tyrants and Simon but .... there is definitely a brighter twinkle in Simon's eye if he's noticed that I've showered. Most definitely (I sense my sarcasm isn't coming across the screen like I'd like it to - I doubt he notices but I pretend that he does -- and that he appreciates my toil in the hygiene department). I get the kids to their temporary happy places (Netflix -- highchair and Bumbo) and take a very short shower every other day. More than half the time I'll turn off the shower/blessed noise muffler and one of them will be screaming and I have to scramble back into my uniform and my hair won't get brushed for hours (plural) but at least once it dries it won't be begging for it's mothership: bacon and a frying pan.

3. Exercise every day. Yes. Every day! Nothing crazy. Or crazy, that's fine too. It is my absolute priority that after breakfast and before morning meltdowns, I march downstairs to our teeeeny tiny TV and elevate my heart rate for a few minutes. I don't venture outside when the temperature is below 54 degrees because I am a realist and it would take longer to bundle up the needlings than our power walk would actually last and I loathe the cold so I usually turn to my DVD friends. I used to try to sneak my workout in during Julia's nap but she has dropped her morning nap (thank you, worst nightmare ever) so I just do it while she whines and rubs her snotty face and grubby hands all over my toning-in-progress bod. I aim for 40 minutes but am happy with 10 which leads me to numero four-o.

4. Lower your expectations.  And then lower them again. And again. See the following exhibits: 
a. I used to be able to sew almost every day when it was 'just Julia'. But now, I think I've been able to sit down at the sewing machine approximately 3.5 times since Sebastian has been born. And I don't expect that that will be changing anytime soon. Machine's loss.
b. Julia is far too old to be so attached to her bottle of diluted almond milk. Oh well! It's what keeps the peace for now and I'm not going to pick a war in order to wean her into normal toddlerdom.  Not yet.
c. I often think up (or dream up thanks to Pinterest) elaborate dinners that I will surely have time to prep and serve as Simon is walking in at night but when 5:00 rolls around and Julia is clinging to my kneecap and Sebastian is chewing on my clavicle, the dinner has been forgotten ... which is okay and I try not to curse over unpoured milk. Which leads unnaturally into number five.

5. Try to make dinner every night. Just try! You'll be surprised how quickly and easily those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and dill spears come together and how three minutes of sitting at the table together 'as a family' before one of the piglets voices his/her emergent needs will make you feel a slight semblance of sane at the end of the day. And if you're able to get fancy with cornflake crusted chicken and a tossed salad -- I will bow down. Hats off. Applause. Encore, encore. You get the photograph here.

6. Don't go out in public. What? So extreme. Truth. Sebastian is a very good baby that will sit in his car seat and not complain for a long period of time. I don't know where he came from. I could probably handle a few trips to Target every now and again. But Julia is not a good baby in public (for me! for Simon she is an angel, of course) and I refuse to set myself up for misery just to go to the grocery store on a Tuesday morning. We get our grocery shopping done at night or on the weekends and if I manage to leave the house with both kids I am always headed for a soft landing like the hospital to see Simon or a fellow mother's house.

7. Email people. I don't know what I would do without the internet which is completely and utterly pathetic. I know! But I've met and reconnected with some hilarious and helpful people via the w-cubed. I don't think I would've been able to let Julia cry it out without emailing out my own cries of help and receiving prompt and lifesaving responses. Or how I would've felt less guilty about poisoning Sebastian with formula without the solidarity of others doing the unthinkable same. Or how I would know what Jessica thinks of the (awful, in my opinion) high-low dress trend?!

8. Know how blessed and lucky you are. I won't step onto my 'fertility is a gift!' soapbox but know that there are so many women that would kill to be in your shoes. Kill. While I know 99% of my posts tend to swirl around complaints about the piglets, I'm mostly kidding. I know how blessed we are to have have two healthy and mostly happy children. Very, very blessed. Which reminds me ...

9. Enjoy your kids. 
I know there are whole blogs and books dedicated to this novel concept and this might come easily to many. But I tend to try and 'get things done' when Julia is happiest in the corner chasing a piece of lint and Sebastian is content to sit and stare at nothing in the Bumbo. I've found that if I actually interact with Julia when she's in a good mood and take the time to play with Sebastian when he isn't fussy then I'm more likely to be less annoyed and a smidgen more patient when they do flip into need/whine/grunt/blown out diaper mode.
 Which also reminds me ...

10. Switch from nose to mouth breathing when changing disgusting diapers. Especially when you have days that the dirties tend to explode back to back to back to back.

Lets end here, even though we all know I could type on about other obvious tactics like actual productive prayer and actual unproductive binge drinking/eating/wall staring for years. I will stress again that this is not a complete list. I am not a successful veteran. I only cry every third day in the face of my life with two non-talkers which is a great success compared to the darker days of life with two non-walkers.

You're welcome, as always.


  1. #7 doesn't make you pathetic. Everybody told me that I'd go crazy without having adults to talk to when I quit my job, or they said they'd go crazy if they stayed home with their kids. I find that the low pressure nature of Twitter, FB, blog, and email help me feel like I've interacted with the adult world at the end of each day.

    There's more I'd like to say, but V is crying and C is shoving Goodnight Moon at my neck and yelling, "Read! Read! Read!"

  2. I may print this out and bring it to the hospital to re-read during labor...

  3. Where were you when I had two and was pulling my hair out? Where, WHERE, I ask you?

    Also, regarding no. 7: high-low dresses are vile and should be scrubbed from the face of the earth, and I think in this day and age of such mobile, migratory lives, the intergoogleweb allows us to do what women for six bazillion years have been able to do face-to-face. We need it. We need community. I don't feel that it's necessarily less real of one because it's brought to my by Google.

    1. Well said! And can we just be honest and call those mullett dresses, rather than giving them the dignity of a name like high-low?

  4. How does she make that face? Ah-mazing.

    Mucho helpful tips (even though I don't have kiddos yet)- I'll sock 'em away for later!

  5. great list! I wish I could print this and then go back in time and make myself read it when I was having my second and third babies. I have finally learned that the lower my expectations are the better the outcomes are. Like when I expect to get nothing accomplished and then somehow manage to put one load of laundry away and throw something together for supper- huge deal. #7 is wonderful and not pathetic in the least! Cari is right, it's just a new form of the community of motherhood.

  6. I loved this post. Like loved loved loved it. And I don't even have kidlets yet.

    But, I have to ask...um, what is that stuffed toy/duck/bear in the crib?

  7. Love it! Expectations just lead to failure!

  8. Love the tips! I used to have 2 under 2... then one had a B-day! (mine are 15 months apart)

  9. Great list. Honestly though, as far as the "i realize other people have it much harder than me," you have it as hard as you have it. Just because other people have it "harder," that doesn't make your job easier. If ya know what I mean. I think I've said it before. ;)
    I'm super impressed that you work out every day. I have high hopes of running again once this little one arrives and I'm cleared for real exercise. 'Course, I'm already wondering how the heck I'm going to manage that with an infant (probably the easy part) and a 2 1/2-year-old (probably the hard part because I'm not sure how long he'll happily sit in the jogger).

  10. Hahahaha, this was a great read :) Thanks for the laughs and I will be sure to pass these motherhood tips on to my mommy friends ;)

  11. I was just thinking of doing a 3 under 3 post...:) LOVE your posts!!

  12. Hi! I have commented once before, but I had to pipe in again on this great post. I can SO relate to everything you are saying. My husband is a resident (intern year), and I just had my second child so I now have two under two. It is a unique stage of life to say the least! My little nugget is only 5 weeks old, so I have very little experience with the two under two thing except to say it is so hard! I'm supposed to meet ALL the needs of two very needy littles, essentially by myself, and with little to no sleep! Cruel joke. I love the "lower expectations" section. So so true. A shower is an accomplishment for sure! Love your posts, love your humor, feel your pain :)

  13. At least you try and workout everyday. Today I'm trying to be thankful as I pick up all the bits of apple off the floor and re-vacuum the dirt that was just dumped out of the vacuum canister while I wasn't looking. And no, I'm not typing this comment in my pajamas that I've had on for two days...nope..that would be sad.

  14. You are hilarious and I love this so much. Also, I didn't realize our littles are so close in age - Nat is 16 months. Fun times! Also, I am very very impressed that you manage to work out every day.

    lace, etc.

  15. Love, love, love this...you're a champ with a good attitude :) Your week seems to be going well...hope it continues that way!!

  16. You know how pathetic my knowledge of things outside my house is? I didn't know what the heck a "High-lo" dress was until I clicked on your precious link. What is wrong with people?

    Mullet dresses fo' shizzy.

  17. I love this post. I'm definitely going to keep this list in mind when we start having children. But you'll probably have to remind me of some of it. You know I'll be emailing you needing non-child interaction!

  18. My 17 month old is still sipping diluted almond milk too! We do what we gotta do!

  19. High-low, mullett...finally, a name to put to those awful dresses that haunted the end of my high school years. I guess fads really do come in 20 year cycles.

    I've got three under six and one on the way, but this *still* applies. Though I'd add the disclaimer to not let the internet suck all of your free time from the kids. I've caught myself doing that occasionally and then have to deal with some putty insane guilt- and whatever havoc the boys may have wreaked while I wasn't paying attention.

  20. Love this Grace, just made me think about Woodlawn Dr and the biggest problem we had was the fuse blowing and calavanting down to the dungeoun, or who was sleeping in our roomates room..... without any children attached to go turn it back on....but I wouldnt trade my crazzy life for the world now!

  21. Great advice! I am only surviving one under 1. Does that mean I have to shower daily? I feel like the spokesperson for Tressmee dry shampoo!

  22. And this is why I love you. The mix of practicality, self-love, love of you children, and an overall reminder that perfection is never going to happen. Love it anyway.

    You're my mama inspiration, chickadee!

  23. Wow, Grace, what a wonderful post. And I'm only three weeks in with one bumpkin but how easily I identify with almost every point. Showering really becomes a luxury doesn't it! clean hair makes everything all better.

    You're doing so well. And I love the dry humor that is your writing style. Keep the posts coming!

  24. Genius, that's what you are. Perfection is highly overrated, remember the Stepford Wives... freaky. You've come to a zen state much sooner than the rest of us, okay so it just took me forever and a baby and a set of twins and another baby before I realized that life is more fun if you just take a chill pill man!

    PS- don't tell your "I swear she's manic- depressive" almost 8 year old to take a chill pill, SHE WILL FREAK! Just sayin.

  25. I reallllly thought I was crazy with two 17 months apart and a husband who is never home.

    And now I want another. (????) Clearly the crazy can be taken to another level.

    It's going to be all I can do to keep these two out of jail before they turn 5. Add in a 3rd and who knows what may happen up in here.

  26. I thought I had lower my expectations enough, only to realize that I needed to lower them even more, several times! I couldn't agree with you more.

    Maybe you could find another mom who you can swap kids with for an hour or two. Or send your kids to day care for a day or even a half day a week. A little "me" time to grocery shop, exercise, do absolutely nothing or whatever you want to do is so important. You deserve it!!

  27. I seriously needed to read this. I am having one of those days and trying to stay positive...but I am not not! While I am entertaining the idea of selling my children (not really, but it sounds kinda fun right now) I know that I am too lucky to be extra extra fertile while many women wished they could have one baby and I have two! Thanks for the reminder!

  28. Wow :) You continue to amaze me! I can barely get through some of these with ONE! You Rock!

  29. but how, HOW do you exercise with toddler awake and nearby and being...you know, toddler? I have tried many a time to jump up and down to jillian or something (well, Jillian is only one really) and it always ends up in tears...inadvertant violence tears after toddler was squashed or lordy kicked or nearly jumped upon as he, catlike, threaded his little way literallly underfoot, etc. It was ok, sort of wobbly commitment to exercise when there was sitlla morning nap, but now, sheesh. I hate the jogging stroller I borrowed (besides, it makes him fall asleep and then the one nap is at risk of being spoiled, leaving me insanely, not very maturely, angry and embittered), and I miss classes at gym, only way I've ever enjoyed exercise, but it aint going to happen right now, so videos and early morning seem the best mix, except for my mostly companion here, who makes it impossible to get into the exercise and, as you say, elevate my heart rate for a few minutes. am I just not pushing through enough? gotta train him or somehting? he's 18 months old, lovely lovely, but doesn't think exercise is entertaining or acceptable.

  30. Hahaha this is so true! All of it! It is a tough slog through the rigours of non-verbal, non-self-dressing, non-self-eating toddles! I've got 4 babies 4 and under, and sometimes I rejoice when one kid gets one shoe on themselves, even if its on the wrong foot. I'm throwing a major party if I survive till the time they can dress themselves!

  31. i've gotta ask...does julia smile? ever...?

  32. Just remember that by mouth breathing, you are inhaling little partlicles of what you would normally have filtered out by nose hairs. Just saying.

  33. am loving your blog. :)
    we have one, I often question of we could do more close in age, with how you do it...I see it's possible (and less overly complicated).
    grateful for my kid too, it's good to remember that even when kids drive you to tears, you've got a kid to drive you to tears. ;)

  34. Love this! Just found out we're expecting baby #2 and our kids will be 12.5 months apart! freaking out but your posts have offered some relief! ;)


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