Thursday, April 17, 2014


Now that Calvin is officially two years old, I no longer have 2 under 2! Everything will suddenly be easier, right? Ha ha.

When I was pregnant with Henry, I did a little interweb searching for blogs about having closely-spaced siblings ("Irish twins," depending on your definition). I was looking for advice on how to manage caring for two very little littles. Even before we knew that they would both have special needs we knew we were in for a challenge.

This post is about things that help/helped. My two littles aren't like typical closely spaced sibs. It will be much longer before they are both walking and talking. But I think a lot of our experiences are relatable. I'm not saying I'm in any position to give out advice. But maybe there is another mama out there trying to carry her 13-month-old alongside a 7 month baby bump and looking to read about how someone else survived :)

1. I set up a "baby station" in the living room.
For the first few months after Henry was born I kept our Pack N Play set up with the infant hammock in the living room. In it I kept a stack of diapers for both boys, wipes, and a burp cloth. Henry was not the kind of baby who would chill there happily by himself but it gave me a safe place to put him down where big brother couldn't poke him if I needed my hands free to do something. It also served as a 2nd diaper changing station and Henry could take naps in there.

2. I embraced "Babywearing."

Dear Ergo, Ring Sling, and Boba Wrap... what would I do without you?? I didn't bother with the snap-in infant seat on the stroller for Henry, I just wore him in one of the carriers and put Calvin in the umbrella stroller. Now he's big enough for the seats in our double stroller, so I use it sometimes for the two of them, but the Ergo + umbrella stroller is still really handy. And at the grocery store, Calvin rides in the cart seat and Henry rides in the Ergo. Most stores here don't have those double shopping carts and Henry couldn't sit in one anyway!

I also wear Henry around the house when he is fussy, but I need to do things (laundry, dishes... etc.).

At the playground the Ergo is a must because Calvin loves running around the play structure and climbing and sliding, and though I don't like to get all helicopter-y, he's a teeny guy and he still needs a spotter and maybe someone to play with and show his proud smile to. I can't just leave Henry in the stroller on the sidelines (for one thing, he would probably cry his face off), so Henry stays nestled in the Ergo while I follow Calvin around.

3. I try to be early so we won't be late.
This was especially helpful for those first few ventures out into the world when I didn't have a grasp of exactly what it would entail to make it out the door with both kids and all our stuff. So if we were going out in the morning, I would just start getting ready as soon as we were up. I'd get them dressed during those first diaper changes. I'd start packing the diaper bag as soon as I had my hands free. We'd get in the car as soon as we were ready, and since they were waking up at like 6am, even if it took us 2 hours to accomplish getting dressed, fed, and packed, we were still out the door by 8! Which meant I could make it to gym classes or play dates at 9 or 10. And when we arrived early, we'd just relax. Have a snack. Calvin would play or we'd walk around, depending on the destination.

I do this less now, and as a result we are late more often! I needed to remind myself of this one! It is also nice to do outings just by myself with the boys because then we're not trying to coordinate schedules with anyone else and no one is depending on us to be on time.

4. I joined a gym with a daycare.
A friend of mine talked me into it and I'm so glad I listened to her. I will say that, as with any child care option, it makes a difference if you like the babysitters. I have had only good experiences with the women who work at my gym daycare and they genuinely seem happy to see my kids when we roll in, so I feel very lucky and I feel totally fine leaving them there for a couple of hours while I work out and shower.

That's right! I get to shower without Calvin standing outside peeking into the curtain, and without worrying that Henry is crying in his crib. A yoga class and a shower in peace while someone else takes care of my children. #yesplease #itsthelittlethings

5. I found kid-friendly places where I could bring both boys.
Sorry Calvin... no more Gymboree or swim lessons... until you're 3 and you can take the regular class instead of the "Mommy and Me" class. If I can't bring baby brother, we're just not doing it.

So we got memberships to the California Academy of Sciences and the Bay Area Discovery Museum, both places with interesting things to see and learn about as well as toddler play spaces where both boys can play. We go to the zoo where they can both enjoy seeing the animals. We go to the playground, even though Henry isn't big enough for playground play. Believe me, he's more than happy to be snuggled up in the Ergo enjoying the ride. We visit friends' houses. We go to kid-friendly restaurants.

Getting out of the house keeps us all from being bored and gives the boys a chance for some learning experiences and social interaction outside of our little apartment bubble. Also I get to see grown ups :) It's definitely worth the effort it takes to make it out the door.

6. We bought cloth diapers with adjustable sizing.

Though potty-training Calvin has not been a walk in the park, I am glad to be using (and washing!) half as many diapers! For $$ reasons, we chose to buy cloth diapers which we wash ourselves, though we use disposables for night time and outings. I bought a boat load of Bumgenius diapers used on Craigslist and refurbished them myself.  Since both boys could wear the same diapers, it didn't matter which diaper I grabbed, I just snapped it to fit whichever tushie needed diapering. We didn't have to sort the diapers.

7. I shop online.
I would love to be the kind of person who gets out there and supports small, local businesses consistently and maybe I can be that person one day, but for now I need Amazon Prime! I do run errands with the  boys, but since each outing is kind of a big deal, I'm not going to just run to Babies R Us for one specific item. If they don't have it at our usual stops, then I'm going to go ahead and let Amazon Prime bring it to me in 2 days rather than planning a trip to an extra store.

Also, Amazon's "subscribe and save" program has been great for buying wipes and disposable diapers. We have a delivery scheduled for every other month so our supply of diapers and wipes just shows up without me having to remember that we're running out.

8. I made The Binder.

This one is more about having special needs kids. I use a binder to keep track of all their appointments, therapies, and medical notes.

9. We do "toy rotation."
Here's an article that I used to help me wrap my head around how to do toy rotation.

There are a few reasons that I like organizing our toys this way.
- Calvin really does more focused play when he has fewer options.
- The mess of toys on the floor is bad enough with a limited number of toys. If we had all our toys in the room.... OMG.
- It makes old toys feel like new when they get brought out after being out of sight for a few weeks.
- I can pull out a "new" toy as a Hail Mary if I need to keep Calvin entertained and he's bored with what he's got and I don't want to resort to #10.

10. I sometimes let Calvin watch TV. 
I wouldn't recommend this one, but I'll admit to it.  I generally keep it to one episode of either Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or Sesame Street a couple of days per week. Most often I play the TV card to get Calvin to stay in the living room and stop throwing toys into Henry's crib while I am trying to put him down for a nap. Sometimes it's because it's late afternoon and we're all tired and cranky and we all just need to chill out before dinner (read: I need to chill out before I can manage to get dinner on the table.) I know that TV is not a healthy solution, so please read on to #11.

11. I go for stroller walks.

This is actually my new solution for the late afternoon crankies: I put them in the stroller and go for a walk. Canky Calvin gets to rest, cranky Henry gets to nap, and cranky Mama gets to walk it off.

Another mama once said to me "If they're strapped in their car seats, even if they're crying, you know they're not hurting themselves so just drive!" She was talking about going for drives to regain her own sanity when her littles were making her crazy. Stroller, or stroller + baby carrier, can do the same kind of trick.

12. I try to get them to nap at the same time at least once a day.
It doesn't always work out. But once Henry's naps emerged as a pattern I could kind of control what times to put him down. So I do my best to make it so that Henry's middle nap overlaps with Calvin's only nap. Even half an hour of peace when both my children are asleep and I am alone can be glorious. I love them. But a mama needs a break.

13. I take help where I can get it.

Calvin and Henry's grandparents are on the opposite coast, as are all their aunts and uncles. But we are lucky to have some awesome cousins and friends nearby who are happy to help us out.

My cousin Hartley lives right upstairs, so some days he will just drop in after work to say hi to the kids and see if I need a hand. He'll play with Calvin or hold Henry while I cook dinner, he will even feed Calvin dinner so I can take care of Henry and he will even help with bedtime if James isn't home yet! That is a huge deal for me. Hartley also babysits once a month so James and I can have a date night.

Another cousin, Pam, lives down the street, and our good friends Ben and Rachel live around the corner. Pam and Rachel are sometimes free to watch Calvin during the day, so if Henry has a doctor appointment I can sometimes leave Calvin with one of them so he doesn't have to be bored and stuck in his stroller at the doctor's office. This is also a big help! And it was especially a big deal when Henry's appointments were getting very stressful and upsetting regarding his diagnosis with Dup15q.

We don't have a nanny, and I choose not to put them in daycare (except for a couple hours at the gym a couple days a week). I always wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom. I love it and I'm so grateful to be doing it! But a mama needs help once in a while, so I am glad to have these important people who love my kids and are there to throw me a rope. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

It's crazy and it's hard, and it's only the beginning! But there's also plenty of fun and joy and love. And I know it's only the beginning of those things too.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hip Hop Hooray! Birthday Party Day!

I know. I go a little birthday crazy. Birthdays are a big deal in my book! So even though we had already celebrated Calvin's birthday with a special trip to the zoo, we also had a party the following weekend for Calvin and his friends. We had the party at an indoor play space down the peninsula called Hop'n'Play. It was awesome. The kids love this play space. Lots of stuff to climb up, jump on, and slide down... plus this awesome balloon room with fans blowing balloons all around while the toddlers run around screaming with joy.

Calvin in the balloon room back in January on his first visit to Hop'n'Play
Having the party here made party planning so easy for James and me. Hop'n'Play had the party room set up and decorated for us and all we had to do was get catering delivered and bring cupcakes and favors. Done, done, and done.

Calvin pretty much had the place to himself for a while!

Calvin and Lydia shared a birthday smooch!

Baby brother Henry brought his own chair.

These little guys are getting so big! All sitting at the table and feeding themselves lunch! 

More birthday cupcakes! With little labels made by mama.

Bubbles for party favors... "Thanks for popping by!"

Happy birthday dear Calvin, Haaaaapy birthdaaay to yooooou!

He may have had some help blowing out the candle...

...but he didn't need any help eating his cupcake!

"Whaaat? No cupcake for me?"

"Sooooo, what's the status on seconds?"

Oh my sweet little cupcake monster. I love that guy so much!

Turning Two at the Zoo

Calvin loves animals. His favorite toys are his animal figures and his stuffies and he absolutely loves going to aquariums and, of course, the zoo! So what better place to bring him on his birthday than the zoo??

While I got his birthday breakfast ready, Calvin played with his birthday presents without even realizing they were presents! Apparently my animal habitat gift wrap was entertaining enough. 

I needed a brilliant idea for making my usual brown paper gift wrap extra special and exciting for Calvin's birthday presents. Washi tape felt wishy washy. I wanted something more interesting. So I channeled my inner cut-paper collage artist and turned the wrapped gifts into backdrops for these animal figures he already had!

How much fun to have presents you can play with while they're still wrapped! I saved the wrapping after he opened them. I might mount the backdrops on cardboard or something so he can keep playing with them. 

After he enjoyed his beary adorable pancake, we broke the news that we were going to meet his friends at the zoo.

I used banana slices and dried blueberries to make this bear pancake!

He was So Excited all morning. He was signing nonstop giraffe, lion, penguin, zebra, tiger, monkey, friends, Autumn, go, car, elephant, bird, rhino... over and over and over! Yes, yes! We're going to see those things and our friends! Yes, Autumn is coming! Yes, we're going in the car! Now please please please put your foot in your pant leg! That's about how the morning went. 

It was sunny and warm at our house, so I excitedly dressed the boys in adorable shorts outfits and then had a minor nervous breakdown when we got to the zoo and it was foggy and chilly. I should have known! Visitors please note! It is almost always foggy and chilly at the San Francisco zoo no matter what the weather is anywhere else! So we dug up some sweatpants from the car and borrowed a sweater and blanket from our friends and made do. Not that the birthday boy cared! He was just thrilled to be there seeing all his favorite animals.

Hobbes? Is that you?

Watching some adorable monkeys. Oh and the zoo monkeys too. 
Zoo lunch for the birthday boy! Got the inspiration for the giraffe from Swanky Baby.

Calvin's favorite part of the zoo! It's my favorite too. 

Calvin was signing "zebra."

We went home for nap time and then the birthday boy got to open his presents. 

Wearing his new Mickey Mouse hoodie from Granny Anne and playing with his new work bench.
That evening, we met up with some of our cousins at SOMA Streatfood park, which is a food truck park. Calvin dug into his pork bao (a little Chinese sandwich), but he was really excited about his animal cracker cupcakes! 

Calvin picked the tiger! How appropriate ;) 

And birthday fun was had by all! More celebrating to come later that week at Calvin's Hop 'n' Play party...!

Friday, April 4, 2014

We Can't Believe He's Turning Two!

Calvin's 2nd birthday is next week! Get ready for a bunch of birthday posts! Starting now, with a birthday poem I wrote about Calvin's 2nd year :) This poem is patterned after Maurice Sendak's Chicken Soup with Rice, which I like very much.

Last April we raised a cheer
To celebrate Calvin's first year
Cupcakes all around! Hear hear!
Cheers from me
Cheers from you
And now our boy is turning two!

In May with flowers blooming fair
Daddy first cut Calvin's hair!
With a snip snip here and a buzz buzz there...
Trim for me
Trim for you
This handsome guy is turning two!

In sunny June, our little man
Was glad to greet his Granny Anne!
And smile like only Calvin can
Granny for me
Granny for you
Granny's big boy is turning two!

For him, July was like no other
That month he met his baby brother!
First one sweet boy, and then another!
Brothers for me
Brothers for you
And now big brother's turning two!

In August Calvin had us gawking
At his new skill: he was walking!
And doing so well it was shocking
Walk to me
Walk to you
We can't believe he's turning two!

In September Calvin went
On his first camping trip! And spent
His first night sleeping in a tent!
S'mores for me!
No s'mores for you -
Maybe after you turn two...

October flew for our Cal-bean
With friends and family to be seen
And a Harry Potter Halloween!
Tricks for me
Treats for you
Trick or Treat! He's turning two!

In November we did find
Calvin was quickly learning signs!
More words to say what's on his mind
Signs for me
Signs for you
We can't believe he's turning two.

In December, merrily
Calvin enjoyed the Christmas tree
And learned Jesus' birth story
God bless me
God bless you
God bless the boy who's turning two.

In January he explored
What CalAcademy had in store
Fish and butterflies and more!
Explore with me
Explore with you
We can't believe he's turning two!

In lovey February, then
Calvin went travelling again
To Seattle to see a friend
Planes for me
Trains for you
This travelling boy is turning two!

Like a spry March leprechaun
Calvin showed off his brains and brawn
Zooming over, under, and upon
Climb to me
Slide to you
Our active boy is turning two!

And now we're back in April days
And we can't help but be amazed
Calvin has grown in many ways
Happy me!
Happy you!
Happy Birthday! You are two!