Thursday, January 30, 2014

advantages to having your children close in age

Everyone seems to have their own arguments for what they believe is the "best" spacing to have between children- whether that be 1, 2, 3, or 5+ years. I'm well aware that we aren't all going to agree on this subject anymore than we will all agree on whether cosleeping or crib sleeping is safer, on cloth versus disposable diapers, homemade versus jarred baby food, breast versus bottle, etc. But this is my little corner of the internet and I feel like I should write about what has worked for my family, because someone, somewhere might find it helpful. So here we go! I'm diving right in. Plus even if you don't agree with me, this post is filled with adorable pictures of my boys together- so it's a win-win ;)

10 reasons why we enjoy have our children less than two years apart

1. If you already have one in diapers, why not have two? Elliot is potty trained now, but up until a few months ago, we had two in diapers. I know people who literally cringe at that thought... but really, it wasn't bad at all. We used cloth diapers for the majority of that time, which saved us a ton of money over having to buy sposies in two different sizes. And eventually, they wore the same size disposables. Once you've gotten used to constantly changing and wiping little bums, the number of bums that need changing doesn't really matter. Your second child is also more likely to potty train sooner as he/she watches their older sibling go through the process. Emmett regularly accompanies Elliot to the bathroom, and he asks to "potty" often. I have no grand plans of attempting to potty train him anytime soon, but I'm confident that he will be ready much sooner than his brother was. He is already showing a lot of interest.

2. One year olds generally adjust to new siblings with far less jealousy than two-three-four year olds. I'm not just basing this on my own experience, either. I can't even begin to tell you the number of pediatricians and fellow parents who told me that children under 2 have a much easier time adjusting than older children when I was pregnant. Elliot was the center of our universe before Emmett arrived- and I was worried that he would resent his new brother. It was the complete opposite though. He was so young that he adapted effortlessly, he seemed to love his brother almost immediately. His universe was not turned upside down when his brother was born. And now, it's hard to even remember what life was like before we had two. Elliot definitely doesn't remember life before he had a sibling. To him, it's just always been this way.

3. One year olds are excellent helpers. Elliot was amazingly helpful right from the start when it came to his baby brother- he delighted in bringing me diapers, wipes or nursing pads, giving his brother toys, tucking his blankets back around him if he kicked them off, and he would often try to pat or otherwise calm his baby brother if he started fussing without any prompting. You see, one year olds typically don't have the "attitude" to refuse. They want to please you, they want to be involved, they want to help in any way they can. I know Elliot sure did! Now that my boys are older, Elliot is great at keeping Emmett out of trouble. He will scold him if he pulls all the books off the bookshelf (and then help him clean them all up), or if he's doing something dangerous, like getting into the cleaning products, he will come running to tell me.

4. They always have a playmate. As soon as Emmett was old enough to play, they played together. This was not only adorable to watch, but it also worked in my favor because if I needed to get something done, I could count on the boys to entertain eachother. I like knowing that neither Elliot nor Emmett are ever lonely. They play together constantly. I was an only child until I was 8, and I begged my parents for a baby brother/sister. It makes me happy knowing that my boys will never experience that kind of loneliness and longing. They always have someone to build block towers with, to figure out the missing piece to the puzzle, to laugh and just be silly with, to get into trouble with- even if mama or daddy are cooking, cleaning, shoveling snow, gardening, at work, etc. Plus, playing with two small children is infinitely more exciting and interesting than with just one.

5. Hand me downs rock! Emmett has been able to wear almost all of the clothes that Elliot outgrew. I know this wouldn't be true for brother/sister pairs, but that crib, exersaucer, stroller, carseat... all of it can be used again before it even gathers dust in the attic. Toys get twice the love. First child wasn't a fan of pacifiers, or blue bowls, or that expensive toy that everyone said you had to buy? Never fear! There's a good chance that your second child may be able to use at least one of those things, making it not a complete waste of your money.

6. Your children learn how to interact with other children. I know many parents will say "but I spend all my time playing with my child. Why does he need a playmate?" Well... there are certain things that toddlers can only learn by playing with other children. They learn how to share, how to communicate their feelings to one another, to play cooperatively, to help one another. Sure, they could also learn these things in daycare or play groups, but when they spend 100% of their time with a sibling, toddlers are generally much better at all of this. They learn simply because they have to in order to coexist happily.

7. You'll lose less sleep. It's no secret that we lose a lot of sleep during the first few years of our children's lives. The way I look at it, if you're already used to waking up early and/or waking up throughout the night with one child, it isn't a difficult adjustment when the second comes along. You haven't yet gotten to remember what it feels like to sleep in again, or get twelve hours of uninterrupted sleep. It feels natural and normal. Both of my boys have been sleeping through the night for over a year now. If we had waited until Elliot was older to have our second child, I would still be waking up to nurse an infant now. It would double the amount of hours we spent waking to care for small children.

8. Your younger child learns more, and they'll be school aged at the same time. Emmett reached almost all of his developmental milestones before his brother did, mostly because he learns from example and is always striving to catch up to his brother. He talked sooner because he heard Elliot talking, he walked sooner because he wanted to be able to follow his big brother around, he learned to copy Elliot's animal sounds, he started eating with utensils earlier because he wanted to be like his brother. I could go on and on.
The fact that they'll be school aged about the same time is also a big one to me, because I do plan to finish my education and stat my career once my children are in school. Imagine, however, how much more difficult that would be if by the time Elliot was entering kindergarden, we had another baby? The whole cycle would start all over again, and unless we wanted to put a child in daycare, I wouldn't be able to return to work for quite some time. Also, it's likely that the majority of the time your children will be in the same school. This cuts driving time in half, and it's also sort of comforting to know that Emmett would have a big brother to stick up for him in school if he were to be picked on/etc.

9. You're still in the habit of all things baby. You haven't yet forgotten what it is like to change a dirty diaper, the ins/outs of introducing solids, the sleepless nights, to clean up toddler messes... you're already devoting a giant amount of your time and energy to another small human being. Bringing another baby into the mix doesn't change your world very much- it just makes you an even better multitasker. ;)

10. The memories- everything is just more fun! Seriously? I don't know what is much cuter than a toddler cradling or loving on a new baby... or two toddlers close in size going everywhere and doing everything together. Holidays and birthdays are more fun. One thing is for certain- there will be great memories. Things won't always be easy, it may be a bit challenging at first as you adjust to having two tiny tots to care for. There will be times where you want to pull all of your hair out. But when you see them snuggling next to each other, sharing a snack, watching their favorite movie together, your heart will melt. When you walk in on them having a little conversation in tiny voices, or you watch the older sibling take the younger by the hand to show them something, it makes it all worth it.

I realize not everyone thinks this way. Some people purposely wait five years before having another child, and some people choose to have only one child. And that's completely fine. There is no equation to make the perfect family. Elliot and Emmett are 16 months apart. Having children less than two years apart isn't for everyone, but it's definitely for me.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

toddler bedtime routines

Routines are important for babies/toddlers. I think that's something that every new parent hears a thousand times from the moment they find out they are pregnant. I couldn't agree more! To me, routine and regularity are as important to a toddler as good nutrition and a good night's sleep- and these things seem to work together. Now, I'm not a firm believer that every single part of the day needs to be scheduled- in fact, we purposely take our boys new places and introduce them to new things as much as possible. Spontaneity can be a good thing! When it comes to bedtime, though, my boys have had pretty set routines since they were very young.

Up until very recently, our evenings looked something like this: 
  • We all eat dinner at the table around 6:30.
  • Once we are finished, the boys retreat to our bedroom for some roughhousing with Daddy. Elliot has dubbed this special Daddy-son playtime ritual "beat up time"- lol.
  • At 7:15, it was bath time for Emmett and Elliot would go shower with Daddy or occasionally tubbie with his brother. 
  • Emmett would be dressed in his PJs, with teeth and hair brushed, and tucked into bed right around 7:30. Usually he's asleep within minutes. He's never been difficult to put to sleep- even when he was younger, he would just nurse himself to sleep for a few minutes after his bath, but he stopped doing that when he was fifteen months and has been quick to get into bed ever since. 
  • Elliot usually emerged from his shower with Daddy sometime around 8, and then he would be allowed to watch a episode of one of his favorite shows while he ate his nighttime snack. Then we'd read him a book and tuck him into bed.

Since the boys are going to be sharing a room when we move into our new house in three weeks, we decided now was as good a time as ever to get them onto the same bedtime schedule/routine. After we talked about it we settled on a target bedtime of 8:30, which is an hour later than usual for Emmett and a half hour-hour earlier than usual for Elliot. We decided they would bathe together around 7:30, then once they were in their PJs, they would sit on the couch and eat a bedtime snack together (for Elliot's sake- poor child has my super fast metabolism and wakes up hungry in the middle of the night if he doesn't eat before bed) while we read them two books. Then they would get tucked into bed at the same time.

We figured getting them on the same page now would make for a much easier transition come February when in the new house- after all, they are already going to have to adjust to a new home, in a new state, with a much colder climate. Just because it may be an easier transition later, however, does not mean it will be easy now. Emmett seems to have adjusted well enough- although he's been napping earlier the last few days (I assume because he's going to bed later now). Elliot is having a harder time, though. He also seems less than thrilled about sharing a room with baby. I'm hoping that changes once the excitement of seeing the new house and his new bedroom hit, though. They're also getting new matching toddler beds so I'm sure he'll be excited about that. For now, we've been giving him extra cuddles and reassurance. I hope he warms up to the idea soon!

What are your little one's bedtime routines? If you have multiples, how did you prepare your older child to share his/her bedroom?

I didn't take any pictures specifically for this post... so instead here are some fun throwback pictures of Elliot in their crib! Which we sadly just sold, since Emmett is now sleeping like a big boy. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

some family pictures (finally)

Some of you may remember me complaining a few months back about how we had no decent family pictures of the 4 of us. Feel free to read the post here. Well, I'm happy to say that one cloudy day in November, when I was doing a family shoot for a close friend of mine, I set up my camera, handed it to her, and told her to snap away. And you know what? We ended up with some cute pictures! Doing it this way actually worked out pretty well, because I could be picky and delete all the pictures I didn't like. ;)

I of course took a bunch of Daddy and the photogenic one, Emmett, as well. Don't mind Elliot's painful-looking cheese face or scowls. Pictures are just no fun for three year olds! And his shirt is really big... which we didn't realize until we got him dressed that morning. Tiny boy fits in 24 month or 2t and drowns in 3t.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

It's finally, really, happening!

"Nothing really ever happens, you know?" -Kipper the Dog

I don't know if any of you are familiar with the show "Kipper the Dog", but it is one of my boys' favorite shows currently. I guess it's glaringly obvious that I spend my life immersed in a toddler world lately, since that was the very first quote I could think of to start off this overdue blog post. I've received more than just one or two emails and facebook messages lately, wondering how I've been and why I haven't been blogging anymore. Well, that quote above, by non other than the animated dog Kipper himself, pretty much explains it all. Up until very recently, we were living our lives in a state of perpetual waiting. We had been enjoying our last months in Texas as best we could, but it's hard to live knowing that you have a looming cross-country move, one that you cannot plan for because so much is out of your hands.

I'm happy to say that the wait is finally OVER! Aaron received his much deserved disability ratings and then finally, finally his orders! The day we've been waiting for all of this time is growing near- we will soon be parting ways with the US Army, closing that chapter of our lives, and starting a new, exciting adventure 1500 miles across the country in northern Michigan.

Let me tell you, after literally months of being unable to plan, the minute we received word, I went to work. I had already been scouring the internet for houses to rent, but honestly, there just isn't much available up there. It's a small, snowy town with no real long-term rental draw. The few places that ARE available to rent are either apartments, scungy, small mobile homes or duplexes, or ridiculously overpriced gargantuan  houses. We are working with a limited budget, but I was determined to find us a house- a house that allows pets (the last 1 1/2 years in a pet-free apartment have left me sort of miserable), and preferably one with a yard for the boys.  The odds were really against me on this one. But guess what? I did it! My writing abilities paid off and I was selected over seventeen other applicants as first in line to what is now our future home.

I still can't believe our luck. I really can't. Our future home is a newly built, 1500 square foot, 2 bedroom 2 bathroom home nestled on 3.5 acres and then surrounded by an additional 100 acres of a tree farm. It has a 4 car garage. Everything inside is clean and new. The living room boasts a lovely wood burning stove which will save us tons of money over heating with propane over the long Michigan winters, it has the big bright kitchen I've always wanted, more windows and natural light than you could ever dream of, and really? It's perfect. It's just perfect. I've dubbed it "our little house in the woods" and I absolutely cannot wait to move in. We've already signed and mailed the lease and deposit, and we move in February 14th! How's that for a move-in date? Our Realtor joked that it would be our best Valentine's Day yet- and I couldn't agree more. FINALLY we will have a home with SPACE, in the country, with room for my boys to roam and play, and no annoying neighbors or apartment managers. I'm thrilled. Even more thrilled that I managed to pull it all off and secure this home while across the country (with some help from my father and father-in-law who met the owner and Realtor this past Monday to check out the property for us.)

So... that's it! We will be back in Northern Michigan, after spending five years away, in just three weeks! I can hardly believe it. That's where I will leave you for today. I have more- so much more- to blog about. But I'll save it all for many more posts to come.

To everyone who has continued to check my blog- thanks for sticking around. I'm sorry to have left you waiting for so long.