In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. ~ Proverbs 3:6

Saturday, May 30, 2015

When You Don't Have a Village - How we survived our twins' first year without having help.

They say it takes a village to raise a kid, but for some of us....we don't have a village.  

We don't live close to family.  Our closest family, my side of the family, is about an hour away.  That's close enough for an occasional visit, but not close enough for regular help when we had our babies.  

And by regular help, I'm simply referring to someone to watch the the twins, so I can: occasionally go to the grocery store without two babies (especially when it is the middle of winter with snow, slush or below zero wind chills), go the gym a few times a week, go to the doctor with just one sick baby instead of dragging one sick baby and one healthy baby to the appointment, have an extra set of hands in the evenings when my husband is traveling out of town, or have an occasional date night with my husband.  I'm not talking about watching my kids for a few hours every single day.  I'm just talking about the normal help that you get when family lives close.

All of my husband's family is at least one state away, and his mom is a twenty hour drive or a plane ticket away.  We had twins....but we didn't have family that lives close enough to help out with the twins.

We're also not super social people....ok, we're not social at all!  I'm an introvert by nature, and my husband does not have any apparent need to speak more than two sentences at a time to anyone for any reason...Ha! He's a quiet man, and I love that about him.  Because, we live somewhat of a hermit life, we really don't have any close friends.  We have acquaintances, but no one that we "hang out with" on a regular basis.

When we had our twins, we were the only ones at the hospital.  My mom and brother stopped by for a few hours, but that was it.  There wasn't an entourage of people ready to greet our double blessings, and we were ok with that....actually, we were sort of happy about that....I wouldn't have wanted an entourage. 

My husband and I came home from the hospital, and he had one week off of work to help me out with the babies.  The following week, we had his mom visiting with us to help me out. After that, we were on our own!

My mom does occasionally come up for a visit. She came to visit the boys at our house for the first time when the twins were one month old, and she tries to come visit every six to eight weeks for 48 hours at a time.  I love when she comes!  Life with twins is so much easier with Grandma in the house!  If you have twins, or even one baby for that matter, and are able to live close to your mom or other don't know how blessed you are! I am completely jealous of you!  I never cared that we didn't have family living fifteen minutes away until I had kids.  

Since my twins were born, I have said to myself numerous times how much I wish my mom lived ten minutes away....or even better, lived in my neighborhood....or how about just living with us, that would be best, haha!  Even having my sisters or my mom live close enough to drop by for an hour a week, would have been such a blessing when my little guys were tiny! 

Now don't get me wrong, this is not a woe is me post.  We knew when we saw two heartbeats on the monitor at our seven week ultrasound that we were going to have "our hands full", as they say.  We knew we were not going to have family close by or be able to pay for any kind of hired help 1-2 days a week.  We knew we wouldn't have a village, and that never bothered us. 

Lot's of people parent one, two, three or more kids just fine without having a big support system.  I'm simply saying that I believe it would be easier if new parents, particularly parents of multiples, had a built-in support system to encourage them and help them during the first year.  But for those of us who don't, and I know there are many of us like this, I'm here to say to you .....You Will Survive!  

You may feel more exhausted than you ever have in your entire life, but I promise you that your exhaustion will not ruin your babies' lives!  Your babies will have no memory of the sleep deprived, hasn't showered in three days, no make up, hair in a messy bun, still wearing the same close from two days ago self, because all of your days and nights run together and all you do is change diapers and feed babies!  Your children will only remember the hugs, kisses and love you gave them as they grow up.  That first year of parenting multiples, will soon be a distant memory.  Just do what I did and take lots of cute pictures of your babies, so when you look back, you'll think the year was nearly perfect and you'll forget about all of those rough days and nights, ha!

Sure, having family nearby would have been awesome, but we got by just fine on our own.  That's not to say that you are any less of a parent  if you do have help or family that lives close to you....or that you don't have rough days!  I'm just saying that is it is possible to get through the first year of twin parenting on your own!  Here are some things that I would say to other couples who find themselves in a situation similar to ours.

Parenting is a Team Effort!
Not having our family close to us, just makes me and my husband realize how much we rely on each other.  Daddy may be gone at work all day, while I'm at home being a mom to twin boys, but the moment he gets home from work we parent together.  He doesn't sit on the couch and watch TV, while I continue to solo parent.  He helps out.  And with twins, he was just as much a part of the night time feedings as I was.  We had a system.  We were a team.  We made these babies together, and we take care of them together. 

Schedules and Organization
I really can not stress this enough.  I know I already shared about the importance of organization in this blog post, but makes my life and my babies' life easier when we stick to a routine!  For me, it is all the more important, because for the most part, I'm doing this twin mom thing on my own every day from 6am-6pm!  And because every six to eight weeks my husband will need to travel for work,  I find myself doing this twin mom thing on my own for up to 2-4 days at a time, depending on how long my husband is out of town!  When you need to get stuff done....and you don't have your mom, your sister or a BFF nearby to give you a thirty minute break to get stuff done....keeping things as organized as you can is very helpful!

Take it one day at a time.....
As organized as I try to be, there are some days when life just feels chaotic....and that's ok!  I can't control what comes my way every single day.  There will be days where I deal with  colic, teething, ear aches, more teething, sinus infections, stomach bugs, teething again....and the list goes on.  Sometimes my days get interrupted with doctor appointments or unexpected errands.  Sometimes  my nights are sleepless from comforting a little one or two.  When these days come, it's ok to let the laundry pile have the bed go let those snotty nose prints, sticky messes and cracker crumbs go unwiped.  It's ok to get nothing done but babies some days.  In the beginning, there will be a lot of those days.  It doesn't make you a bad mom when you put your babies down for bed at night, look around you and realize that your home appears to an explosion of baby gear, and then look at yourself and realize you haven't showered, brushed your teeth or combed your hair at all that day ~ it just makes you a normal mom who survived a rough day!

Sleep Whenever You Can!
They say to sleep when your babies sleep, but if you're a mom of multiples you want to throw two bottles and a couple of dirty diapers at the person who says that to you!  

For one, nap times are when you get stuff done!  Without naps NOTHING WILL GET DONE!  When will the laundry get done? How will dinner ever get prepped and made? And what about that pile of dishes in the sink?  Oh, and the bottles?  The never ending pile of bottles....they need washed don't they?  I'm not even talking about keeping a spotless house...I'm just talking keeping up with the necessities of everyday life.  And when you don't have any help, it's up to you get stuff done when you can... which for most of us is nap time! 

Secondly, even if I didn't have stuff that needed to get done, it was very rare for my twins to sleep at the exact same time for the exact length of time.  Usually I would get one baby to go to sleep....then twenty minutes later I finally got the other one asleep....then twenty minutes later one starts fussing and I have go shush him back to sleep....then twenty minutes later the first one wakes up for good, but we still have to try to be quiet so the other one sleeps a little bit longer....and so on and so on.  Get my point?  

I say you sleep whenever you can.  If that means nap time, then great!  For us, we caught up on sleep as best as we could on the weekends.  My husband and I would each be in charge of one baby.  When it was time for naps, we would go lie down with the baby in our bed and fall asleep with our baby.  When our baby woke up, we woke up.  And yes, we had one twin that was a horrible sleeper, so to be fair we took turns with him, ha!  

Seriously, this is the part where I do not think that people can relate unless they have had multiples, because when you have more than one baby.....a solid amount of sleep is rare!  I never slept a full eight hours of sleep until after my twins turned one!  Seriously, it took one of my twins almost a year to start sleeping through the night, and even now he still won't sleep past 5am. The little guy wakes up screaming every morning long before day break.  He will eventually fall back asleep for an hour or so, but our sleep still gets interrupted every morning between 4 and 5.

Take whatever help you can get....
You might not have family that lives near by or have close relationships with anyone that can help you out on a regular basis, but when someone does offer to help out....TAKE IT!  The truth is that most of us are not going to ask for help.  You might have people say all the time, "if you need anything, just let me know", but in reality most of us are not going to call someone up and say, "hey, remember when you said if I needed anything...."  For us, we got the biggest blessings from people who showed up and did stuff for us without asking us what they could do.
  • The first 4-6 weeks, it was not uncommon to have someone from our church show up once a week with dinner.  We greatly appreciated these nights! Making a meal for anyone with a new baby is always a huge help!  They did call us ahead of time and tell us they were going to bring dinner by, so I knew I wouldn't need to cook that night.
  • I also had friend from our church who was an avid walker, and once in awhile she would volunteer to take the babies for a walk if she was in our area during a time of day where taking the babies for a walk would be helpful to me. It seems small, but something like that was a great help to me when my boys were tinyl. Sometimes, she would call and it wouldn't be a good time for us, due to the babies sleeping or a scheduling conflict.  That's ok....the point is that when it worked out, I gladly accepted her kind gesture.
  • When we first had the boys, there were a couple of times a few different people volunteered to watch the boys for a few hours, so Matt and I could get out of the house for a bit.
  • Within the past few months, we've have two ladies from our church volunteer to babysit for us a couple hours once a month, so we can have a date night.  This has been a real blessing for us.  We maybe had two or three date nights total during our twins' first year, so we gladly accepted their offer to watch our twins once a month  Getting away from the babies for a few hours and being able to focus on time with my husband is priceless.
  • When family does come to visit, we let them have ALL the baby time they want, and we often take advantage of the visit and get out of the house ourselves!
  • We do have a sweet lady who is like family to us that lives nearby.  She and her late husband were like grandparents to me when I moved to their area.  The first six months after the boys were born, she was recovering from a surgery, so she wasn't able to visit with us as much as she liked.  Now that she is better, she stops by and sees her boys often, and is always willing to do whatever she can to help, as long as it is within her physical limits. But for the most part, my husband and I parented our first year with the twins without any help....and we survived. 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Staying Organized with Twins

If I were asked, "What is something that helps you stay sane as a mom of twins?", my answer would be, "attempting to be scheduled and organized".

My life certainly isn't perfectly organized.  I have a junk drawer or two.

Shhh....don't tell!

I may even have a catch-all- closet that I plan to get to "some day".  If you've been a guest at our house and opened the guestroom closet door, I  apologize for the mess you saw.  

My husband often claims that I am a "Monica"'ll get that if you've seen every episode of Friends a hundred times like we have.  Much like her, I like things that I can see to be clean and tidy....but much like her, I don't mind so much if I can't see it....cue the episode in your mind where Chandler breaks open her secret closet.

It's easy to be overwhelmed when trying to sooth two fussy babies while being surrounded with piles of diapers, bottles and bibs.  And the first few weeks....ok, so maybe the first few will feel overwhelmed OFTEN!  Sleep deprivation will be taking a toll on your body, and you'll find yourself covered in poop and puke more often than you like, knowing that a five minute shower is likely not in your near future.  

In the early stages of twin parenthood, you are living in survival mode.  You just do what you gotta do!  For us, that meant that Saturdays were chore and nap days.  We were each responsible for one baby and a list of chores while the babies were a wake.  When they napped, we put them in the bed with us and we napped too!  If your baby woke up...well, sorry about ya, so did you! That was our survival mode to catch up on sleep and housework.

Eventually we got past survival mode, and life became a little easier.   The babies finally used their equipment around the third month (yay!), and I was able to have a few moments of my day where I wasn't attached to an infant.   We adapted to our new life, and I found a schedule.  And well, life just felt better when it didn't feel so chaotic. Here is how I manage to keep my sanity by keeping a somewhat organized life.

Keep to a "flexible" Schedule!
I say "flexible" schedule, because I'm not going to stop something at exactly 9:30, if my kids aren't tired but it's time for morning naps.  But for the most part, we live by a schedule.  We put our kids to bed at 8:00 every night....they wake up around the same time every breakfast at the same time....take naps at the same time....and so on.  Our days are pretty predictable, and that works really well for us.  Even when the boys were tiny, I still kept to a schedule.  Schedules can keep mommies sane, while bringing the comfort of predictability to children.

Tackle one chore a day.
Don't worry about cleaning your entire house in one day.  You won't be able to take care of your little ones and clean your entire house in one day without completely stressing yourself out.  For me, I keep toys picked up every day....I run the dishwasher every night....and I tidy up the kitchen after every meal.....but I only "clean" (vacuum, mop dust etc) a small amount each day.  Sometimes our loft needs cleaned more than once a week, as that is our primary baby zone that gets filled with sticky hand prints and cracker crumbs.  But for the most part, I break up my cleaning into these categories each week:  kitchen, downstairs, loft, upstairs bedrooms, bathrooms.

Do one load of laundry a day.
I do a load of cloth diapers every night and put them away the next morning.  As far as regular laundry goes, I'm content to get one load washed, dried and folded every day. I usually do baby clothes twice a week.  Bathroom towels get done once a week. Kitchen towels, cleaning towels and mop heads get done once a week.  I fill in the other days with mine and my husbands laundry.

Use a check list.
I confess, I'm a list maker.  Dork alert!  I like post-its and daily check lists! For years, I've kept a daily planner, and I write down every little thing that I plan to get done in a day.  Everything from laundry, to errands, to appointments, to blog all gets put on my daily to-do list.   I find great delight in making a big to-do list and checking things off of the list as I accomplish a task.  Make fun of me if you want, but as they saying goes, "if you don't plan to do something, it won't get done."   

Pick up before naps and bedtime.
I find that I am in a much better mood when I'm not surrounded with messes and clutter.  I make a habit to pick up before naps and bedtime and to pick up a room before moving to another room and making a mess. 

Don't get me wrong.  I let my kids make messes.  Here is proof.  This is their bedroom before lunch today.  

My preference to keep things tidy, shouldn't prevent them from being kids and having fun. But before afternoon naps, their bedroom looked like this.

Utilize bins, baskets and shelves!
I know bins and baskets can be pricey, but to me it's totally worth the investment!   It's where I keep diapers....pacifiers...teething toys.....diaper changing supplies....and more!  Shelving helps with books, puzzles and bigger toys that don't fit in bins.  It's how I keep toys organized, especially since our kids have a lot of stuff. Plus, bins and baskets just make things look more visually attractive! 

Take advantage of nap time!
Babies won't take naps forever, so take advantage of them while you can.  For me, nap time is when I get things done....when I make a little time for myself....and when I even occasionally take a nap myself if I feel my body really needs it!  While I can't make both of my babies take a 90 minute nap at the exact same time, I can try to keep their naps scheduled.  When their sleeping overlaps, even if that's only for 45 minutes,  I am free to get stuff done!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Baby Registry - What Do You Really Need?

I remember being overwhelmed when we went to register for our twins.  The stores will give you a baby registry check list, but I didn't know exactly what I needed....or how much I needed...or what I only needed a little of ....or what I couldn't get enough of....

You get where I'm going with this?

My husband actually helped me with this blog post, as we are sitting in bed and talking about what we wish we would have done differently with our baby registry.  Our list doesn't have equipment on it.  I wrote this blog post a few days ago about baby equipment for twins.  Check it out if your are wondering what you need to buy or what you will need to buy two of.

Tonight's post is more about the general items on a baby registry that an average baby shower attendee is likely to purchase.  Because let's face it, most people are not going to buy you that $100 piece of equipment.  Most people are either going to give you a gift card - which I think is great, by the way - or they are gonna spend $20-$30 on an outfit and baby supplies.  

So if you're pregnant and wondering what should you register for, well this one's for you!

What you can't get enough of....

Most babies pretty much live in sleepers the first several months of their lives!  We could never get enough sleepers!  And if you are registering for sleepers, try to register for the ones with the zippers instead of the snaps.  You'll thank yourself for that decision when you are trying to change a sleeping baby's diaper in the middle of the night!  Also be sure to register for sleepers in several different sizes.

Bibs, bibs and more bibs!  I went through so many bibs each day!  I had my bib drawer organized with stacks of bibs in the following categories: nice bibs that matched outfits, yucky bibs with stains for feeding baby food, every day bibs for puke and snot, bibs with plastic backing for excessive drool during teething months.....and of course you are going to want a few of the Tommy Tippee Catch All bibs for easy wipe down when you start feeding table foods!  

Burp Cloths:
I went through burp cloths like crazy.  One of my boys was a projectile puker....nough said!  And even now, we still use our burp cloths as snot rags when my boys have constant runny noses from teething!  Using too many tissues makes their nose raw.

You can never get enough diapers! Register for all sizes, and I recommend Pampers Swaddlers to avoid leaks.  That's what most hospitals use on newborn babies.

Baby Wipes:
Pretty much the same as diapers!  You can never have enough!

Baby Bath Wash:
You might be tempted to register for the same amount of bath wash as shampoo and lotion....but don't.  You will go through way more bath wash than shampoo.  And get a variety of bath wash.  We really like using the kind with vicks in it for when the boys are congested.  

Gas Drops: 
If your babies are like ours, you can never have enough of this stuff!  Our boys had some real tummy issues the first few months!

What you don't need that much of....

Super Cute Outfits:
I know....I hate to say it...but it's true!  Of course, you want  a few cute outfits for all of the pictures you will be taking, but most of the time your baby is going to be in a comfy sleeper.  They will probably only wear the cute stuff once or twice!

Newborn sized clothes:
They grow so fast! You will want to make sure you register for all different sized clothes!

Baby Shampoo:
It doesn't take much shampoo to wash a babies head.  It will take months to get through one bottle, so you don't need to register for too many bottles.  

Baby Powder:
One bottle last awhile

Baby Towels:
I must have registered for a lot of these, because we probably have twenty hooded towels.  I do baby laundry every 2-3 days, so I really don't need twenty towels.

What you may forget to register for....

Sleep Sacks:
Sleep Sacks are safer than blankets at night.  We used the swaddle ones the first few months.  Once the boys started rolling over, we used the kind that didn't swaddle.  We used Sleep sacks instead of blankets until the boys could pull themselves up and stand in their crib. 

Infant Hats/Caps:
We kept hats on our boys when they slept for the first few months.  

Infant Tylenol and Ibuprofen:
As much as you might not want to use Tylenol, you'll be surprised how fast you go through it when your little ones are screaming from teething or ear infections.

Baby Orajel:
Get both the day time and the night time Orajel.  You'll eventually thank yourself for having some the night time Orajel on hand.

Baby Saline Drops:
You can't do much for a baby's cold except for use saline drops and a vaporizer.  We went through a lot of saline drops during the first year.

A good thermometer:
A good thermometer is around $40, so you'll want to register for one instead of  buying one later.

Between teething and winter, our boys spent many nights congested!  We had to go out and buy a vaporizer, and we used it all of the time last winter!

This served a dual purpose as our noise machine at night!

Baby Food Making Supplies
Only if you plan on making your own  baby food....see my baby food making post here.

Breastfeeding Supplies
Only if you plan on breastfeeding.....see my breastfeeding post here.

Sippy Cups/Toddler bowls and spoons
You'll be using them before you know it.

Diaper Rash Cream
Butt Paste, A+D ointment, Desitin....and the list goes on.  We used them all.  We never really dealt with bad rashes, but we were glad to have a variety of creams to choose from when we were dealing with red bottoms.

Shoes are expensive, especially when you are buying for two babies!  I wish I would have thought to register for shoes in all different sizes....specifically the bigger sizes.  You may be tempted to only register for the cute new born know, the kind you will get very little use out of because your baby is wearing footed sleepers all day!  What I wish I would have done is register for some bigger sized shoes!

Saving Money with Multiples

When we got married, we talked about what I would want to do when the kids came along.  Would I want to stay at home?  Would I want to go back to work?  For me, I wanted to be a stay at home mom.  I wanted to stay at home and take care of our kids while they are small.  That's something we have always planned for.  We always budgeted off of my husband's income, so I never felt like I would be forced to go back to work to help provide for our family.  

Even though we never depended on my income, my income was the "fun" money...the "let's save for this" money....the "let's invest in that money".....the we have a "big emergency" money.  So yes, there was still a financial adjustment for our family when we went from a two income home to a one income home. 

On top of the financial adjustment, we had some major medical expenses from our pregnancy and birth.  Insurance coverage has changed in recent years.....covering less and paying more!  That meant that if I wanted to stay home with my babies....which I did want....then we were going to be looking at ways to keep our spending down.  Here is what we planned on doing when we found out we were having twins.

1.  Breastfeed if Possible
Breast milk is much cheaper than formula, seeing as how it's free!  It's also a healthier choice for the baby and mother.  For those who struggle with breastfeeding and milk supply, I completely understand.  I had a really hard time providing enough milk for my twins, and we always had to supplement breast milk with formula.  You can read more about my struggles with breastfeeding here.

2.  Use Coupons and Store Deals for Formula and Use the Off Brands if Possible
For those who choose to use formula instead of breastfeed, or for those of us who had no choice but to use formula, be sure look at store deals when buying formula.  When we were using the Up and Up brand, we would always stock up on formula when Target had their store deals and made sure to combine the store deals with coupons.   

Formula was our biggest baby expense during the first year.  We would go through two big Up and Up containers a week, a cost of over $50 every week.  If you have twins, you can join Similac mailing list and will be sent discounts and coupons. Fortunately, both boys could stomach the off brand formula after they turned six months old, but in the beginning we were using Similac Sensitive. If your baby can handle it, off brands like Up and Up and Parent's Choice will save you a lot of money on formula.  You get more and it cost less.  
Make sure to get free samples of formula when you can.  The hospital gave us a good amount when the boys were born, and our pediatrician always gave me samples at every well-check.  Honestly, they have a ton of formula with expiration dates on them that they need to get rid of anyway.  If you join a twins group, you may also be able to get some free samples.

3.  Make your Own Baby Food
Making our baby food saved us about 50% compared to the store bought foods.  You can find my post on making your own baby purees here.

4.  Invest in Cloth Diapers
This is the area where we have saved the most money.  We invested in cloth diapers when the boys turned six months old, and I love it!  We went from buying one super pack of diapers a week to buying one super pack of diapers every six to eight weeks.  We still use disposables at night and when we leave the house, but we save a lot of money by using cloth diapers at home!  You can read my post on cloth diapering here.

5.  Use Coupons and Store Deals for Diapers
When we do buy diapers, we always make sure to use coupons or store deals.  Also, put diapers on your baby registry!  You can find my post about stocking up on diapers here.

6.  Buy Clothes Gently Used
You'll find that your little one will quickly outgrow your baby shower clothes!  When it comes time to buy clothes for your growing baby, buy gently used instead of brand new!  I have had the best luck with buying clothes at seasonal consignment sales.  You can read more about my consignment sale experiences here.

7.  Find Used Baby Equipment from Goodwill, Garage Sales, Facebook Resale Groups and Consignment Sales
I posted about twin baby equipment in this post.  There is no getting around it.  You're gonna have to buy all sorts of "stuff" for your baby.  When given a choice, buy used over new.  Check out garage sales and thrift stores, put the seasonal consignment sales in your calendar and ask to join your local Facebook kid resale groups!

8.  Keep Christmas and Birthdays to a Minimum
I'm one to talk about keeping birthday's to a minimum, after I recently shared on my blog our big first birthday party for the twins!  But in my defense, I made just about everything to keep the cost down.  And we've talked about how our kids don't need a big birthday party every year.  We can still celebrate their birthday without breaking the bank!  As far as Christmas goes, we try to keep that simple too.  Having fun without spending a ton of money is key!  Your kids don't need you to buy them the entire toy department to be happy!  Spending time together and making memories is much more important.

9.  Cut Cable in your Home
We did this after our twins were born and were surprised at how we don't really miss cable.  See how we save $100 a month in a post I wrote about cutting the cord on cable.

10.  Eat out Less and Cook More

We didn't eat out too much before our twins were born, but I know for some people eating out 1-3 times a week is part of their lifestyle.  If you're trying to cut back on your spending, learn to cook more and only eat out on special occasions.  Also, cut back on those gourmet coffees!  You'd be surprised how much those $5 cups of Starbucks can add up!

11.  Start a Garden
We started a small backyard garden for the first time this spring, with the hopes of eating fresh produce this summer, and having enough produce leftover to can or freeze.   I'm not sure if we really know what we are doing yet, but we're learning as we go.  

12.  Minimize the Grocery List
Stick to a list when you go to the store and don't be impulsive when putting things in your cart!  Plan a menu ahead of time....base that menu off of what is on sale that week at your local grocery store....stock up on meats and pantry items when they are on sale....use coupons when you can.....and only buy what you NEED and will USE!

13. Make your own Cleaners 
I save a lot of money by making most of my own cleaners.  I've shared all of my recipes on the blog.  If you are curious about making a cleaner, get on Pinterest, and you'll find hundreds of DIY cleaning recipes!

14. Keep to a Strict Budget
Get on the computer with your spouse and create a budget that you can visualize together!  Make a spreadsheet, so you can see what money is coming in and what money is going out.  This will help you determine if you have a surplus for spending and saving, and how that surplus should be designated each month.  

15.  Make BIG adjustments if Needed and Pray for Provision
If all else fails, and you find that you are still spending more than you are making, you may need to look at other options like downsizing or better job opportunities.  

We were living on a really tight budget the first few months after the twins were born, as we were using every bit of our extra income to pay off all of our medical bills. I don't think we were ever worried about our finances, but we did pray that God would provide and that He would give us the grace to accept any changes that came our way.  

To start with, I looked into finding part time work 1-2 days a week to help out with the hospital bills and to get a break from the boys every now and then.  That fell through, and after child care expenses, it really wouldn't have benefited us too much anyways.  

Matt was also seeking better job opportunities within his company, and at one point he got a job offer that would require us to move out of state.  That position fell through, and a few months later, another positioned opened up that did not require a move.  He took that position with better pay, and that gave us enough cushion in our budget to get by financially.  We were making it financially before the new job opportunity, but it was certainly tight those first few months we brought the babies home.

We also considered downsizing our home as a last resort.   We got a really good deal on our home when we bought it, knowing that if we ever got in a difficult financial situation, we could sell it for a profit and downsize.  We never got to a place where we had to sell.  Thank goodness...I'm sort of attached to our home after all of the work we've put into it. But as attached as I am to our home, I would rather have a smaller home than our big home, if it meant that I could still stay home with my babies.....but that's just me.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Baby Equipment for Twins

So you found out you're having twins!  Congrats to you!  After the initial shock wears off, you may find yourself wondering what kind of baby equipment you need to buy... and what you'll need TWO of!!!

For starters, you don't need everything there is to buy in the baby department....but if you have the space in your home, I found that having different stations to move your babies to, helps keep them entertained.....which translates into you being able to get something done!

I think space is key when determining what to buy for your babies.  If you are on limited space, you may want to pick and choose what you really need.  We are blessed to have a lot of space for a growing family, so I had just about two of everything!

Secondly, you may be saying to yourself that you don't want your home to look like the kids have taken over.  Ha! I laugh at that thought now, because I was one of those moms!  We've managed to keep our downstairs adult-friendly, but our entire upstairs was turned into a baby zone from the moment we came home from our baby shower!  For the most part, I have always kept the equipment nice and organized when it isn't being used.....

.... this is very beneficial for my own sanity, but most of the time our house looks like this..... two babies and all of their "stuff" exploded all over our home!

Lastly, if you are trying to decide what to get because of cost, keep in mind that what you don't get from your baby showers, you can find used from garage sales, resale shops or consignment sales. I'm amazed at how much baby gear we have, and how little I spent for all of it!

So let's get started.  Baby gear 101 here we come! I can only share with you my experience.  Everyone's babies are different, but this is a post about what I discovered about baby gear for twins. I'll share what baby gear I much use I got out of it.....and how long we used it!

Boppy (0-2 months)
Yes, I used my boppies a lot in the beginning! I had two regular boppies. One was passed down to me from a family member, and one was a gift from my registry.   I often used them both at the same time, so I would recommend having two.  I probably used them the most the first two months.  When I would nurse one baby on my bed, I'd feed the other baby their bottle in the boppy.  I also used my pregnancy pillow a lot for the first month!  While it's not technically baby gear, my boys loved being snuggled up in it together, as it was the perfect size for two babies!

Boppy Lounger (3-4 months)
No, you don't need two boppies and two boppy loungers.  I had heard great things about the boppy loungers, so when I saw two matching ones at a consignment sale for $10, I picked them up.  I only used them, because I had them. I used them the most during months 3 and 4.  Turns out, they really weren't a necessity, and if I had to choose the original boppy over the boppy lounger, I would choose the original.

Nursing Pillow 
No, I rarely used a nursing pillow for nursing.  Technically, the boppy is a nursing pillow....but I used it more for the babies to be propped up in, than I did for nursing the babies.  I was gifted a Mombo. It was the kind that vibrates, so I used it more as an alternative boppy for the boys than I did a nursing pillow.  It took the boys a while to be able to be propped up in the Mombo, but it was a nice change for them every once in awhile to rotate to the vibrating Mombo. My Breast Friend is a very popular nursing pillow, although I have never owned one.  Some moms swear the twin version makes breastfeeding twins easy.   

Bassinet (newborn - four months)
Yes and no.  Yes, if you don't plan on co-sleeping but want your babies close to you at night. No, to needing two bassinets if you can find something like what we used.  I found a twin pack n' play that was also a twin bassinet for $60 from Once Upon a Child.  We LOVED it, because it didn't take up too much space! We kept it in our room, and the boys slept in it until we moved them to cribs when they were four months old.

Bouncy Seat (newborn - six months)
Yes, these were my most used pieces of young infant equipment.  I say you definitely want one for each baby.  My boys didn't really like any equipment until they were three months old, but when they did start using these chairs, they were great for lulling babies to sleep without the attachment, and great for fine motor skills with the attachment.  When my boys started reaching out for things, they really started liking their bouncy seats. I could get the boys to sit about 20-30 minutes at a time in the bouncy seats, which was enough time for me to get something done!  I seriously used these for as long as they would fit into them, so I could get my shower every morning! They were easy to carry into the bathroom, and they kept the boys entertained!

Swing and/or Rocker (newborn - 6 months)
Surprisingly, no.  For me personally, my boys did not like swings or rockers at all.  They did not like the movement.  I couldn't believe it!  I always heard a sympathetic "aaww"  when I told people that my boys hated their swings, haha!  It's as if they knew how awesome swings were for them, and they knew I was missing out!  Maybe it was the kind of swing that I bought.  I bought two portable swings with gift cards from our baby showers.  I wanted to save space, so I didn't buy the big swings that take up a lot of room.  I'm not going to say you shouldn't invest in a swing.  I'm just saying we didn't really need them.

Activity Gym/Play Mat (newborn - 8 months)
Yes, I had two and would often use them at the same time.  My boys loved their activity gyms. They loved to watch the mobile and listen to the music. We got several months of use out of the mats.  Both of our play mats were from my baby registry.  I'd say you could probably get by with just one if you needed to.  Two babies can fit under one mat when they are small.  The gyms fold up and don't take up much space, so if you're not worried about space, two play mats is convenient to have.

Bumbo Seat and Tray (3-5 months)
No, my boys did not like their bumbos.  They lasted maybe five minutes in them each time before crying to get out of them.  Both of our bumbos were passed down to us from family, but I could have lived without them, only because my boys didn't like them.  I had planned on using them for spoon feedings and play time, but that didn't quite work out for us.  When the boys were starting to sit up and were still wobbly, I would just surround them with pillows so they wouldn't hurt themselves when they fell.

Exersaucer (5-10 months)
Yes, and I say you will want two of them!  God bless the day my boys were finally big enough for exersaucers, sometime around 5 months.  I found both of mine at garage sales for $15 and $20.  Some will say to just do one exersaucer and one jumperoo for twins. The problem with that is that the exersaucer was more for quiet activity and the jumperoo was for burning off energy.  I liked to keep the boys quiet in the exersaucer if I was trying to get something done.  These were also great to keep right outside my bathroom door during my morning shower, once they outgrew their bouncy seats.

Jumperoo (6-10 months)
Yes, I only had one, because of space.  Ethan LOVED it!!!!  He would jump forever in that thing!  Aaron like it too, but Ethan was my little ball of energy....and still is! Because I only had one jumperoo, I had a door jumper too.  The boys preferred the jumperoo to the door jumper, just because of all of the noise and toys on the jumperoo.  The nice thing about the door jumper was that it was a big space saver.

No, I never had them. I don't think you need them if you use push toys,  and in recent years a lot people are questioning their safety and whether they actually help with development. 

Push Toys (10 months and up)
Yes, you will want two!  They are great for helping babies walk.  Both my boys started walking around 11 months.  Even now that my boys are great walkers, they will have running races with their push toys! One push toy was passed down to us from a family member, and I found the other one at consignment sale for less than $10.

Riding Toys
No, these really aren't a necessity, although we have four or five of them in our living room, ha! All were garage sale finds from grandparents, and I'd be lying if I said the boys didn't play with them.  They do have fun with them, even though they don't really ride them yet.  If you are looking to save space, don't worry about them.  If you have plenty of room in your home, they make fun entertainment.

Learning Table (6 months and up)
Yes, but  you probably don't have to have two.  They can learn to share one.  We have two, and that is certainly convenient.  Having two prevents fighting. One learning table was passed down to us from a family member, and the other one I found at a consignment sale for less than $10. Learning tables are great to keep babies entertained before and after they start standing.  The legs come off for when they can't pull themselves up, and then attach for when they can stand. 

Double Stroller
Ok, so let's talk strollers!  I can not say enough good things about the snap and go double stroller frame! This is a compact light-weight frame that can only be used with infant carriers.  I found ours on Craigslist for $50. Even though it can only be used the first year, for me it was well worth the investment.  I would put it on a "must have" list if you have twins.  I love how compact it was and how much storage there was!  Best stroller ever!  I hated when the boys outgrew it!  It made traveling with twins easy...or as easy as can be expected.  I still use it as a cart for when I shop the seasonal consignment sales. When we moved the boys into convertible car seats when they were 11 months old, we started using our Graco Duo Glider that I found on Craigslist for $30. In my research this is the most compact tandem double stroller and is one of the most popular double strollers out there.  I chose a tandem stroller over a side by side stroller, because I would be using mine for shopping trips and wanted something that could get through tight aisles. The tandem stroller stays in my car. Call me crazy, but I would also like a side by side jogging stroller to keep in the garage for our daily walks. I also bought two light weight strollers fro $10 a piece at a consignment sale.  We plan on using these on vacations, as these are easy to fly with and a regular double stroller takes up all of our vehicle trunk space.  We're also considering buying stroller connectors for them, so one person can push them if needed. 

Baby Slings/Carriers (3-8 months)
Yes, you will want some sort of baby carrier for taking the babies out when the terrain isn't stroller friendly, like the pumpkin patch or the apple orchard.  You do not need both kinds of carriers, such as moby wraps and baby bjorns, but I would recommend two carriers of some kind, one baby per adult.  We were given two baby bjorns, so that's worked out well for us.  I liked them because the boys could be facing in when they were smaller, but facing out once they got bigger.  We used ours a lot on our summer weekends at home when we were trying to get our weekend chores done.  Many many times I'd be cooking and cleaning, hands-free with one baby in my carrier, while Daddy had the other baby in his carrier watering the plants or putting away laundry.

No, you don't have to have a wagon, but it is on my wish list, now that I have toddlers.  I want a collapsible one with a canopy for summer beach trips.  It would also be good for the zoo and other warm weather activities.  I'm keeping my eye out for a used one, preferably under $50!

Pack n' Play
Yes and no. Once we turned the twin bassinet into a pack n' play, I really didn't use it too much.  It was too small for my boys to play in with out them hurting each other.  They always wanted to move around too much, and there just wasn't enough room for the both of them. For awhile I did use the pack n' play in my room to split the boys up at nap time, basically making my life easier:) Now I use it more for timeouts.  I didn't want them associating their crib with timeout, and the pack n' play helps keep them contained.

Baby Play Yard
YES!  I really think this was a great investment! I have used this thing in so many ways! I bought the eight panel play yard with a door from Craigslist for $50.  When the boys first started getting mobile, there was enough room in the play yard to contain them.  As they started needing more freedom, the play yard was an excellent way to block them out of things they shouldn't get into, as I could contort the panels into several different directions. I currently have it set up in my bedroom, so I can put them in the play yard with toys and a movie while I get a ten minute shower every morning!  It collapses into a small space and can be carried anywhere in the house.  It would also be good in the back yard for summer cookouts.

Foam Floor Mat
Yes, only if you don't have carpet.  We don't have any carpet in our home, so these foam mats were great when the boys started crawling.  I found the one pictured for $3 at a consignment sale, which is crazy-cheap!  I found another one for our loft at Goodwill for $5.

High Chair
Yes or No.  You are going to want something with a tray to feed your twins table food, whether that is a space saver highchair that can be attached to a dining room chair or a regular highchair. I was really specific with what I wanted when it came to highchairs.  I registered for two that would match my house decor and received both for our baby shower.  I really like our highchairs for both looks and function. We keep our high chairs upstairs, as that is where we pretty much live as a family and where I feed the boys breakfast and lunch on my own.  I recently found two booster seats at a consignment sale for $10 each, and we keep those down stairs at the kitchen table for family dinners. 

Baby Bath (0-6 months)
No, you can bathe you babies in the sink, but having one of these baby tubs made bath time convenient by sitting it on the counter and bathing with ease.  I just wish ours had a sling in it.  I got all excited when I found ours at a consignment sale for $3, but I wasn't thinking about a sling at the time.

Bath Rings (6-11 months)
Maybe,  There will a be a time period when babies are too big for the baby tub, but too small to sit up in the bath tub.  For us that was 6-11 months.  I've seen some people put their babies in laundry baskets during this time period, but we used the bath rings.  One was given to us, and one was found at a children's resale store. They are hard to find, because in recent years many have been recalled.  They are not safe unless you are not right there with your babies.  They can tip easily, even though they have suction cups on the bottom.  If you are going to use them, be smart and safe.  They were a must have for me to bathe my twins at the same time.