The toddler survival kit

It seems I blinked and now I have not one but two toddlers on my hands. With two boys, aged 3 and 1, I have certainly learned a thing or two about life with toddlers.

In no particular order, here are my must-haves for surviving life with toddlers.

A hand-held vacuum

Toddlers and mess go hand in hand. Get used to it. Meal time mess used to be restricted to the floor under the highchair but toddlers prefer to eat on the go. This means nothing is safe! The floors are constantly covered in crumbs, squashed fruit and week old sultanas. Don’t even get me started on the couches, walls and windows. Enter hand-held vacuum. You can easily whip that baby out and quickly clean up the floor, lounge or child’s lap without the fuss of a bulky corded vacuum.

A bubble machine

Kids LOVE bubbles. A manual wand type situation will work just fine but if you really want to up your bubble game and keep your toddlers occupied while you remain hands free, you need to get a bubble machine. These suckers can pump out hundreds of bubbles a minute all at the push of a button. Genius! Just be careful where you use this. If you are out in public you will very quickly attract all the children within a 500m radius.

A “beach” caddy

Toddlers require lots of crap. Yes, even more than babies if you can believe that. A simple trip to the park or family outing requires precision planning and packing. Between food, drinks, toys to keep them amused, changes of clothes in case of accidents or mess, hats for in the sun, jackets if it gets cold. The list goes on and on. One of the best things we have ever bought was a “beach” caddy from Kmart (hint, most of the things on this list can be purchased at this wonderful store). It folds up and is big enough to hold all of the crap and a kid or two as well. Every time I use this I get comments about it. God send.

Snacks… a lot of snacks

I never really understood the power of snacks until my second toddler. Toddler one can easily survive a week on nothing but milk and kinder surprises but toddler two LOVES his food (got it from his mama!). Snacks can be used for loads of different purposes including a diversion tactic, tantrum diffuser, boredom cure, oh and sometimes even for hunger.

A happy place

Toddlers are assholes. This is not new information. But if you’re like me you always thought that seemed a bit harsh. Nope. It’s true. Toddlers have a way of breaking you down. They may be small but they can make even the most mindful of mums lose their shit from time to time. Your spirit will break a little every time you have to wrestle a toddler to the ground to brush their teeth or drag them out from under the desk because they think running away and hiding from you at bath time is hilarious (or is that just me?). At some point you will need to walk away from your child, close the door and punch the air or scream into a pillow. Then find your happy place before emerging to try again. Don’t worry, bed time will come. Eventually.

There is never a dull moment with toddlers around that’s for certain. And though none of the above is ground breaking, life changing advice, hopefully it helps you to navigate the mine field that is life with toddlers whilst keeping a shred of sanity in tact.

What are your toddler survival tips?

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Our babies are growing up (sniff, sniff)

Sometimes I feel quite sad that I no longer have a baby. Jesse is three so basically a grown up and Jasper is heading towards 16 months and embracing full-blown toddler-hood.

Sometimes I miss those blissful new mama days when you feel so exhausted but so elated at the same time. I already feel a bit out of the loop especially since I’m surrounded by new mums and first time mums in my job.

But, as much as I miss it, I also absolutely adore the stage we are at right now.

The other day I had a lovely lunch date with my boys and I was relishing in the fact that, though they are still dependent on me, its very different now to life with a new baby.

We sat in a cafe (kid-friendly of course, let’s not get too carried away!) and enjoyed a meal together. Well, I ate a meal while Jesse consumed an entire giant cookie and Jasper shared my chips and dropped his sultanas all over the floor. There was also a few clean ups of spilled beverages. But all in all it was really nice.

Then afterwards they both went in the play area and played together while I looked on. I didn’t have to intervene. I didn’t have to nurse a baby while trying to keep an eye on a toddler. I could just sit. And be quiet. And sip my coffee. And watch as my two little boys played and laughed together.

In that moment I really appreciated how things are right now.

Now, I do need to say that it’s not always rainbows and unicorns. Just days before this I was absolutely hating life as I tried to hostage negotiate my way through the basic morning routines.

I still have just enough night wake-ups to keep me coffee dependent and a heavy reliance on nursing bras and easy boob access. So I’m not out of the woods just yet.

As crazy as it sounds I will miss all of that. But getting past the baby stage and seeing your babies grow into little people is also pretty great.

My week as a stay at home Mum

Last week, I took some recreation leave from work.

I would say that I had a weeks holiday, but as I quickly found out, it was about as far from a holiday as you could possibly get!

Let’s call it… ‘My Week As A Stay At Home Mum’.

Okay, let’s start at the beginning. Initially, I was thinking of just having the Friday off, as I was heading to the Broncos match Thursday night and considering I was planning on consuming one too many beers that night, I didn’t want to be hung over at work. I then offered my services to help Renee on Wednesday, and at that point I just though, bugger it, I’ll just take the week off instead.

So here I was coming out of the weekend excited about not having to go to work, and excited about a week of taking it easy and enjoying some down time. Well, after looking at the schedule I had been given I quickly realised that this week was going to be far from a relaxing weeks “holiday”. It turns out, that stay at home mums lead very busy lives. And it was my turn to experience the hectic, non-stop, balls to the wall existence that these mums live every… single… day…

So my schedule went something like this: Monday was play group. Tuesday was Kangatraining. Wednesday, Teddy Bear Picnic. Thursday, Kangatraining and footy. Friday was Music Class. Saturday I cleaned the house. And Sunday, we had Jesse’s third birthday party.

Holy f*** balls batman, how the hell do you mums do this every week!!!

Now I realise we only had one event on each day (except for Thursday, but the footy doesn’t really count), but the organisation, preparation, and even the wind down when you get home with two kids is exhausting! I literally required at least a 1 to 2 hour nap each day just to cope with the stress of it all!

It was non-stop. Like Liam Neeson in that movie… Non-Stop. It was like trying to navigate and escape a skyscraper on Christmas Eve with the name John McClane. It was like… well you get the idea… it was fully hectic as bro!

I know that I’m sort of joking around about it, but in all seriousness, it really was exhausting. I have joked on occasions to Renee that when I go to work every day it’s like my break from the kids, but it really is like that. I now have mad respect for those mums (and dads) who are full time stay at home parents, because it’s a tough job. It pays nothing. And it’s a 24/7 job.

So well played stay at home mums. I take my hat off to you.

The question from here however, is would I do it again? The answer, is absofreakinglutely. I loved every single minute being able to spend every waking minute with Renee, Jesse and Jasper. And I think they loved it too.

Dear Mums, you’ve got this!

The other day I was escaping the Brisbane heat at the local shops with the boys. We stopped by the indoor playground and I sat and watched Jesse play while feeding Jasper and then he eagerly crawled off to join his brother.

At that moment I was struck with a memory of being at this same playground when pregnant with Jasper and I remember wondering how I was going to cope with two children in moments like this. How could I tend to nursing a baby while keeping a watchful eye on a toddler? It seemed incredibly daunting, impossible even.

I then thought back to a particularly difficult night with Jesse. He just wanted to be held. My back was aching but I held him close anyway. His bottom propped up by my pregnant belly and his long legs draping down either side. I sobbed quietly as I wondered how I was going to cope on nights like this with two babies. How could I possibly give them both the comfort they need if they need me at the same time?

I smiled.

I can do it. I am doing it. What seemed so impossible is now normal.

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Soon after, I struck up a conversation with a fellow Mum watching her children play. Two little boys. And she was nursing a 3 week old baby boy. Three boys under three. I was in awe.

I could tell she was exhausted. But the smile she wore as we chatted told me she would not have it any other way. I asked her how she was doing. We talked about the challenges of breastfeeding and the joys of raising boys. I was struck by the rawness of our conversation. Two complete strangers but we just understood each other.

It’s a crazy thing this being parents thing. Being a mother. It stretches us to our limits and so often passes them. It breaks us down and builds us up at the same time. It makes us want to do better, be better. Having children is like constantly looking into a mirror that exposes everything about us. All of our flaws and imperfections. All of our funny little quirks. And suddenly we realised how much like our own parents we’ve become.

I guess all I’m trying to say is mums and dads, you are amazing! You’ve totally got this. And on days when you don’t, tell someone. Even if it’s a stranger at the shops. She’ll get it.

Jesse’s Hat

A blankie… a teddy bear… a favourite toy… a dummy (or pacifier for you international readers out there)…

Most babies/kids go through the phase of becoming attached to that one particular item that they just can’t possibly live without it. They must know where it is at all times and if they don’t, well, you don’t really want to have to deal with the repercussions of that.

Well, it would seem that Jesse is currently smack bang in the thick of serious attachment mode. But not with a blankie, teddy or his favourite toy. Oh no, he is seriously head over heels in love with his hat!

That’s right… his hat! This is a kid that used to hate wearing hats so much that whenever you put one on him, he would rip it off strait away, throw it to the ground and give you death stares as though it was the absolute worst possible thing you could have ever done to him.

He is so attached to his hat in fact, that there isn’t a single moment of time from when he wakes, to when he sleeps, that it isn’t glued to his head. Oh yes, that’s right. As soon as he gets up in the morning… BANG! On goes the hat. And there it stays right up until bath time where his head gets a 5-10 minute reprieve. But as soon as he is dressed and ready for bed… BANG! On goes the hat again.

He even wears it to bed, and will only remove it once he feels like he is ready to fall asleep. Don’t you dare try to take it off his head before then. Because you will be told in no uncertain terms that you are in trouble for touching his hat.

I mean look at that thing… it doesn’t even look like what’s it’s supposed to look like any more. He’s worn it that long that it’s completely lost its shape. The brim has the major droops going on. And if you can believe it, it’s actually supposed to be a fedora, not a straw bucket hat that looks like it’s come from a bad scarecrow Halloween costume.

But with that said, every single day when he wakes up only to make his way over to his hat to put it on for the day, all we can do is smile and giggle at the absolute adorableness that Jesse and his well-loved hat brings.

So the question of the day is, have your kids become attached to something? And if so, is it something unusual like Jesse’s hat, or something more common like the family teddy or blankie?

And with all that said, I am no sitting here wondering how Jesse will react when the hat no longer fits, or finally falls apart on him.

Shit… I don’e even want to think about it…

Life Before and After Kids

I miss my old life.

I miss OUR old life? Yes, I’m pretty sure he said ‘our’.

I mean, does anyone really have a life when you’re a teenager? We’ve been together since we were 19.

I guess it doesn’t really make a difference which word he used. It still sent a shock wave through my body and hit my heart with a thud.

I suppose it’s normal for parents to feel this way. I miss parts of our life before kids sometimes too.

I (vaguely) remember being able to just pick up and go out on the spur of the moment with no hesitation. Now, it’s a good solid hour of intense planning, preparation and packing just to leave the house for an hour at the local Westfields.

I remember dragging out the single mattress to the lounge room floor and snuggling while we binge watched our fave shows (on DVD might I add), drank beers and ate junk food until we were nearly falling asleep. Now we’re lucky to get in an episode of anything without interruption.

I remember the days of spontaneous weekends away. Spontaneous sex. Spontaneous anything really. And now we consider it a good day if we remember to kiss each other a few times and maybe even go to bed at the same time.

But ugh… is our life now so terrible?

I also remember a time when we longed for a baby. When every month was met with disappointment and the ache of not knowing whether we’d ever have a child.

And now we have two. Two beautiful, healthy, cute-as-all-get-out baby boys.

Two is a game changer, no doubt. A toddler and a baby is down right exhausting sometimes. It has required a big adjustment for the both of us.

And when they go to school we will have to adjust again. And when they’re teenagers we will have to adjust again. And when they grow up and leave home we will have to adjust again. And when they have families of their own we will have to adjust again.

I always try to remember how fleeting this time is. Pretty soon they’ll be too big to carry. They won’t need us to help them go to sleep at night. And they won’t want us to kiss their knees better or wipe their runny noses. They won’t always be dependent on us for everything and we will gradually get back pieces of who we used to be.

And then, we will miss these days. We will miss scooping up a baby in our arms. We will miss tiny hands wrapped around our fingers. We will miss all the bodies in our bed at night and waking up to their little smiles in the mornings. We will miss little arms wrapped tightly around our necks and hearing the sweet sound of baby giggles.

So, my dear Husband, please hang in there. This season of our life will soon give way to the next one. I know it’s hard right now. Trust me, I feel the weight on my shoulders (and my hip) each day too.

But I also feel the magic, the beauty and like I’m the luckiest girl in the world.

I count it all joy for everyday I wake up next to you. And no matter what season of life we’re in, that I can count on.

40 Weeks In / 40 Weeks Out Part II

And there you have it. Just like that our second baby boy has hit nine months old. Today he has been on the outside exactly the same amount of time he was in my belly.

40 weeks in and 40 weeks out. Exactly.

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40 Weeks Pregnant (3 hours before Jasper’s birth)

I remember everything about the day Jasper was born. I remember so clearly how happy I was to finally be in proper labour after two weeks of start / stop. And literally within a couple of hours he was in my arms. At 3.9kg, over a kilo bigger than his brother, 55cm long and with whispy dark hair, we welcomed another little boy to our family.

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Jasper James Barton

Nine months on Mr Jasper has grown….and grown! His once dark hair has turned golden, just like his Daddy and big brother. He has chubby legs and a big round tummy, a throaty giggle and heart-melting dimples. And now, a big toothy grin with nearly six teeth.

Jasper James Barton – 40 Weeks 

He crawls at lightening speed and just loves to stand up. He pulls himself up on everything every chance he gets. He is Mummy’s boy through and through currently either glued to my hip or strategising the fastest route to get to me.

And if we thought our lives had changed significantly after having one child….well two is an absolute game changer.

Happy nine months Jasper James, we love you Bubba.