Monday, July 10, 2017

How I'm handing three under three

"You must be busy." -Some random person to me, almost every day.

Hello, all. Justine here. I realized I haven't shared much about how these first few months have gone with having three little loves so close together. I've stressed, prayed, and talked to no end before Clive was born, but I haven't shared any stories from the trenches really.

So here we go.

At first it wasn't as bad as I anticipated it would be. My two year old wasn't potty trained yet and had just made the adjustment to a toddler bed, so she wasn't needed as much immediate attention. I was recovering from a c-section, but the baby was still sleeping when he wasn't eating, so with lots of help from family and friends I was able to ease into the transition.

The first couple days home without Joel weren't so bad, but it didn't take long for us to prepare ourselves each morning for a few--we'll say "louder"--moments of the day. Usually when it rained, it hailed. When one kiddo was crying, there was usually at least one more joining in for whatever reason. We quickly fell into survival mode. I set the bar low and worked my way up from there. We're still getting used to it, but here are a few of the ways that we made it work.

1. Get out of the house. - With kids and without them. Mom needs time away from being needed. All moms do, but especially moms of toddlers and babies because they're so much more dependent and can't do as much for themselves (even though they say otherwise). I can think of more than a few occasions when everyone's cabin fever was getting out of hand, so we piled everyone in the car to go... well, anywhere.

2. Park next to a cart corral. - I learned this tip from reading about Grace's experience and I have never looked back. We're getting much faster at our little system and now the girls are used to it too. They get unbuckled and wait in the van. Clive's carrier goes in the big basket. Monica sits in the seat. Then Celine walks and holds on to the side of the cart. Items we're shopping for go... well, wherever they can fit. Big items go on the bottom shelf. We make it work.

3. Play to everyone's strengths (literally) in the parking lot. - I had to do a lot of asking around to figure this one out. When there isn't a cart corral around, there has to be some way to get from the car to inside the building without leaving anyone separated. So here's what we do. our 1 1/2 month old is a runner, so she has to be held. I use the other arm to carry the baby carrier low enough for our 2 1/2 year old to reach. She's big into helping and is pretty good about following directions, so I have her "help" me carry the baby. She holds on to the carrier handle, I hold the middle kid and the baby, and we walk as quickly as I can so I can get to a cart (or reinforcements) before my arms fall off. Bonus: I'm going to have sculpted arms at the end of all of this.

4. Order what you can. - Our local grocery store recently added a service to order our groceries and deliver them right to your door. Umm, yes please. I don't have to worry about how I'm going to fit the groceries, carrier, AND two toddlers in the cart without anything extra getting grabbed or anything we actually want getting smashed (or eaten). It's saved us a ton of money, too. There is a small delivery fee if you order less than $100 worth of groceries, but even if we don't need to order that much, we avoid the impulse buys we're used to just tossing in while we're in the aisles. Highly recommend.

5. Put them to work. - Toddlers love to have a task. Even if they're not great at it or it's not something that actually needs to be done, they love to help. When I'm changing diapers on the floor, I like to ask the other ones to put clothes in the hamper, hand me things from the diaper caddy (even if I don't need them), put them back again, and seek out random objects in other rooms. They feel good for being helpful, I feel good for teaching them selflessness and having them out of my face for a couple minutes. Everyone wins.

6. Plan ahead. - The mornings are usually the hardest for us. Not because any given task is especially difficult, but moreso because everything seems like it needs to be done simultaneously. All diapers changed, clothes on, breakfast served (with milk), cleanup, and then I get a chance to eat and go to the bathroom. However, when I take the time the night before to pre-pour milk into sips cups, lay out clothes for the next day, get the coffeepot ready to brew, and prep breakfast as much as I can, mornings run a little more smoothly.

7. Stay organized. - I love having my Lily Jade diaper bag handy. I've got a billion pockets and I need my hands for the kiddos, so the backpack option is perfect. However, it doesn't matter whether I have 2 or 200 pockets if I don't utilize them. Once every couple months, I empty the whole thing and reorganize so I know in the moment where each item is and I can get to whatever I need as quickly as possible. We have a new system in place for the kids' toys, shoes, and clothes (complete with labels), so cleanup is quick (and mostly painless) and everyone knows where everything is. Bonus: this also helps with giving toddler tasks and fostering their independence (or whatever), so... yay!

8. Keep it simple. - The peanut butter doesn't have to be perfectly spread on the sandwich and the cut doesn't have to be exactly down the middle, or even straight. Toddlers don't know that they're not getting an organic, nutritious lunch that's meticulously cut and laid out in the shape of a zoo scene. They just want to eat. Maybe someday I'll have the time and energy to make them beautiful meals like I see on pinterest, but not in this season of my life. Unless someone wants to come over and do it for me. For free. And have it all ready before it's time to eat. If you are that person, please email me. Until then, half a banana and ham wrapped around a cheese stick will do.

9. Roll with it. - There will be public tantrums. There will be times everyone is crying, even Mommy. All you can do in the moment is just to acknowledge what it is and keep moving forward. Maybe you need to hide in the kitchen with a pudding cup, maybe you need to shut yourself in the room and cry to your husband, or maybe its sending a long text to another mom in the trenches. Take a minute, catch your breath, and then pull up your bootstraps and keep going. It could always be worse (but it's not) and it always gets better. This is life with toddlers and babies. They struggle communicating, finding independence, and everyone is as stubborn as hell. But it's time to shrug and move forward. If you have to help one at a time and someone has to cry for a while until you get to them, that's just the way it is. You're all going to be ok.

10. Pray, hope, and don't worry. - I definitely feel like I'm losing my marbles more days than not. I joke that we're a traveling circus or that I'm drowning in little people. However, I know this is a beautiful season of life, growth, and wonder. I know that it's tough, and I'm sure glad I didn't just jump into life with three under three. God knew that I needed to be eased into this, and he also knew that I'd be able to handle this crazy, even when I don't think I can. I don't always get the floor swept or the dishes washed, but I know its all going to work out in the end. Our home is absolutely bananas, but it's filled with love.

If there's anything I'm missing from this list, let me know! I'm all ears and I love when other experienced mommas (no matter how many kiddos or their ages) share their survival tips and tricks. ;)

Have a great week everyone!!