ruth crilly baby blog the uphill

I have officially survived having “two under two”. For new readers, I had a new baby (Ted) nineteen months after having my first baby (Angelica) and so, for the past few months, (five to be exact), I’ve had two children under the age of two. I didn’t even know that “two under two” was a thing until people started banging on about it when I was pregnant; I’d certainly never considered that it would be a possibility. It took around six years for me to have a successful pregnancy and so being pregnant again so quickly was never something I’d prepared for!

The weird thing about “two under two” is that it’s so hyped up – or at least it seems to be – like it’s this crazy, mysterious phase that only certain people will experience. It’s true that having a newborn and a toddler – or older baby – at the same time presents some logistical challenges, but I’d imagine that having two or more children with any combination of possible age gaps presents certain logistical challenges. Older children get more jealous, perhaps, or maybe it’s slightly harder if they’re at school because you actually have to drag yourself out of bed (and get dressed, and get everyone into the car) to do the school run twice a day. I don’t know: tell me your experiences in the comments section!

Anyway, I thought I’d put together some ponderings on the matter, now that Angelica has turned two and I’m out of the proverbial woods. Not that anything automatically changes once the older one turns two – I actually think it is getting a bit easier, but mainly because Ted is more awake and is feeding less frequently and sleeping for longer periods. But here are my musings, with a couple of survival tips thrown in, in case you’re in the “two under two” boat. Or about to be. Or thinking of planning it that way. Nutter.

ruth crilly baby blog the uphill

The only way I can really describe having a newborn and a toddler is this: imagine you’re a head chef at two different restaurants in an incredibly expensive hotel. Three Michelin stars for one restaurant, one Michelin star for the other. (Not relevant, but I like to embellish my analogies with a bit of detail.)

One of these restaurants is an Asian Fusion restaurant – there’s lots of wok-frying going on, lots of naked flames setting fire to bits of expensive fish, lots of sharp knives preparing sashimi. This, my friends, is the toddler. Always in trouble, needs constant watching in case your credit card gets posted into the bottom of the sofa – danger danger!

The other restaurant, same hotel, is the one Michelin-starred Italian. The signature dish here is a very delicate lemon, parmesan and white asparagus risotto. It needs constant attention and love, lots of slow stirring. If you leave it for too long, it will all go terribly wrong. The rice will be hard, the sauce will burn, the asparagus tips will go soggy. The risotto is your new baby. Little rice baby in the snug little saucepan.

But how wonderful to be the celebrated head chef of TWO amazing restaurants! The reviewers love you, you have a big flash car to drive and a nice house. You don’t get any sleep (because, two restaurants) but that’s OK because you love what you do and it’s incredibly rewarding.

The one problem is that sometimes you’re the only chef at the hotel. You have to do it all. If your sous-chef is away, as he sometimes is, then you’re absolutely buggered. Half the world wants Asian Fusion, the other Italian. So you’re there flash-frying fresh tuna, but at the same time you’ve got twelve orders for risotto. And the restaurants – get this! – are at opposite ends of the hotel!

That, my friends, is two under two. You’ve got your wok and your risotto, and both need entirely different types of attention. Both are a million miles away, but you still have to perform and meet the expectations of your demanding customers. You can’t let the wok catch fire, and you would hate to leave the risotto, even for short periods of time, so you basically need to run around like a blue-arsed fly all day (and night) making sure it all gets the attention it needs.

ruth crilly baby blog the uphill

My advice for surviving as head chef? Hire as many kitchen porters as you possibly can and keep the menus small! By that I mean (in case you’ve forgotten we’re in analogy land) take as much help as you can find and don’t try to do too much. Just the basics.

And, lots and lots of stair gates. Zone off your areas. Create a series of holding pens for the one that’s walking/running. We have a gate in the corridor between the kitchen and the stairs, so that Angelica can’t even get anywhere near the stairs on her own – or the front door for that matter. We have a door to the utility that can be closed off, and then upstairs we have a lounge with doors coming off it, all of which remain closed for most of the day, and a gate at the top of the stairs. Zoning. It just makes life easier.

When Ted was a newborn, if and when I was on my own with both of them, I just lay on the sofa with Ted and had all of Angelica’s toys on the floor in the living room, and we could while away a few hours like that.

Read: What To Do When Your Baby Won’t Stop Crying..

The most difficult times were feeding times and bed times. I suppose that they’re the parts of the day when your toddler would be used to getting the most attention and then, suddenly, you’re there with your baps out and a newborn attached instead. And the thing is, is that if you try to not feed the newborn and deal with the toddler first, the newborn cries and the toddler gets distressed and you want to go and slam your own head between two paving slabs.

The health visitor told me, “always deal with the toddler first”, but I found that having a quiet, fed newborn meant that I could then concentrate fully on Angelica. If I had a screaming newborn, I was not only stressed, I could tell that Angelica was too. So I was a little more flexible with routine when Ted was newborn – if Angelica had to have twenty minutes of Peppa Pig before bed to let me feed the baby and quieten him down, then so be it. Same with feeding: a bit of CBeebies on the iPhone at the table did wonders now and then, if I desperately had to feed Ted but also supervise Angelica’s dinner.

What else? Oh! Don’t try to actually do anything. And don’t you dare feel inferior when you see others doing stuff. You know these people who go out to coffee shops all the time and Instagram it, and then they’re in the museum with the double buggy, before jetting off to Australia for a long weekend to eat mashed avocados? They’re lying. I can barely get out of the bloody door. It takes me three hours to negotiate dressing the toddler. I’m certain that a lot of people just photoshop themselves (plus double buggy) onto various backgrounds. “Here we are at the Eiffel Tower!” “Here we are wild foraging for our tea tonight – I do love a bit of the great outdoors before Baby Yoga!”

Sod. Off.

If you manage to get them both fed and dressed and you’re all happy and relatively sane by the end of the day, you’ve done good. Even if you don’t feel particularly happy or sane, you’ve still done good. Anything else is a total bonus. A cooked meal is verging on miraculous: a trip to Tesco to buy emergency nappies (hint: use that Amazon fast one-hour delivery thing instead, it’s amazing) is foolish but to be highly praised. Well done you.

ruth crilly baby blog the uphill

When Ted was just a few weeks old, I went back to work. I say “went back” but I work from home, so. Anyway, it was far too soon. I tried to do exactly what I had been doing before, at the same pace, and I think I almost gave myself a minor nervous breakdown. In the end, I realised that I needed to chop my expectations in half, in half again and then divide them by about twelve. My daily to-do list went from ten, fifteen items to ONE. One item per day. I’d put down a work goal (as small as “load images into computer”, which is a ten minute job) and then I’d also, if I could be arsed, write down a domestic sort of task. “Post letters” or – if leaving the house was too much effort – “sort baby clothes”. I liked things that I could do upstairs, in carpeted areas, with the baby on the floor and Angelica clarting about with her toys. And being able to tick things off my list, no matter how small, gave me great satisfaction. If I managed to do actual, proper work that wasn’t on my list, it just felt like the biggest achievement ever. So: reduce expectations, remember that what you’re doing – looking after TWO SMALL BEINGS – is already a massive amount of work. Anything on top is, quite frankly, heroic.

Oh, a note about dogs. Randomly. And cats, but mostly dogs. I bloody love my dog, he’s amazing. I’d be very sad if he wasn’t part of my life and he gives the best cuddles after the babies are in bed. Dexter the dog was in our lives before the babies and, at the time we got him, we didn’t know whether we’d ever be lucky enough to even have a baby. We were sort of at an all-time low about it. So along came Dexter and now, years later, he’s still great – he plays with Angelica, he’s gentle around Ted, he’s generally low-maintenance and gorgeous and we love him. However, he’s also basically an extra child. He needs attention, he needs walking, sometimes he throws up weird shit on the floor that Angelica then tries to pick up… He barks at odd things and wakes the baby, which makes me disproportionately cross, and he chews toys. All the time.

ruth crilly baby blog the uphill

So if you have one baby, and there’s a possibility – even a slight one – that you may have another in quick succession, DO NOT GET A DOG! I promise you’ll thank me when you’re trying to calm a screaming toddler and your newborn is projectiling over the floor and you think to yourself, oh my God, imagine if I had a dog! He’d totally be licking up that baby vom at the moment and then I’d have to let him outside for a poo and he’d pick up a dead blackbird and bring it into the house just as I was about to carry two small humans up the stairs in a possibly treacherous manner! 

Ha. Poor old Dex. He and Mr Bear the cat often look at me with great sadness in their eyes: “why is our home filled with chaos?” But they are so tolerant – I don’t know whether we just lucked out, or it’s the gentle nature of Cockapoos and British Shorthairs, or what. They are very much part of the gang, often joining in when things get heated and stressful – sometimes I’ll be preparing dinner and look down and there’ll be a cat around my ankles, the dog dancing about like some sort of demented court jester and Angelica running in circles with her dolly as baby Ted kicks off in his little high chair.

Read: A Day in my Life, Two Under Two…

I don’t think I’ve really been that useful here, have I? Survival tips for “two under two”: zoning off areas with stair gates, getting all the help you can possibly muster and smashing your high expectation levels into smithereens. Try to go to bed early, as naps are a thing of the past (they will rarely go to sleep at the same time in the day, and even if they do someone will phone you or knock on the door and you’ll want to kick them in the kneecaps very hard), cook double portions when you make things like pasta so that you have a quick and easy lunch for the next day. I often eat lunch straight from the fridge, standing there with a fork – it’s surprisingly peaceful – so things like pasta salads are ideal.

More tips? In the comments, if you please – and amusing anecdotal material is always welcome here.

 

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mum toddler and baby favourites

I’ve been doing a “monthly favourites” feature on A Model Recommends for years and years – it’s usually solely beauty products, but now and then a book creeps in, or a pair of shoes or something random. Recently I’ve found myself wanting to talk about more baby and toddler things, but it just didn’t feel quite right to bundle them in with beauty and so I’ve decided to do a dedicated Mum, Baby and Toddler Favourites feature here on The Uphill.

Here’s the first one – five exemplary things that caught my eye during the month of May. Enjoy, comment, share; the product links, if you don’t mind a spoiler, are below the video pane.

Outbound links are affiliate links, which means that I receive a very small percentage of any sale made. This does not affect my content in any way and does not cost you anything, but you are most welcome to Google the products on a new page if you prefer.

Bloom and Blossom Baby Balm: http://bit.ly/2s2qUgY

Mustela Foam Shampoo for Newborns: http://tidd.ly/e978d678

Weleda Breastfeeding Tea: http://fave.co/2snTHd1

Bloom and Blossom Robe/Shorts: http://fave.co/2sz3Y5g

Eddie & Bee: https://www.eddieandbee.co.uk

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two under two vlog day in the life

I filmed this video months ago – Ted was only nine weeks old! – but forgot to edit the footage. So here it is, better late than never, a whole day in my life with “two under two”. Just in case you were curious to see what I get up to when I’m left toute seule with the babies. (Spoiler: feeding them and getting them up/down the stairs takes me pretty much the entire day.)

I’ve actually done an updated Day In My Life, so I’ll edit that as soon as I can – as you’ll know if you read the last Toddler/Baby Update, there are only two weeks to go until Angelica turns two, and then I will no longer have two under two. It’ll be two under three, I suppose, but it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

OK, here goes – cameo appearances from cat and dog to look forward too, as well as my exploding left tit.

 

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Toddler, Baby and Me: The Four Month Update

Well, we’re almost at the point where I’m saying goodbye to “two under two” – Angelica is two in two weeks’ time. All the twos. It has been difficult at times, having a toddler and a newborn, though not quite as bad as I had anxiously thought it might be. But I have an inkling that the fun is only just getting started. The other day, Angelica tried to help change a nappy and almost catapulted liquid poo around the room, and she’s wont to try and mimic me, attempting to lift Ted out of his baby bouncer and things like that. It’s very sweet but I need eyes in the back of my head at the moment.

toddler blog

I have to say, I didn’t ever anticipate having two babies relatively close together (I didn’t even think I’d be lucky enough to have ONE baby!) but whether you have a tiny gap between children or a huge one, you just have to get on with it, don’t you? I don’t think there’s a magic formula to achieving some sort of “easy ride”, because each and every child is completely different, but maintaining a sense of humour is a must. That would be my number one tip, if anyone is interested: sense of humour. And also accepting as much help from other people as possible, that’s a good one – sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how proud you can be when you have a baby. You feel as though you’re failing unless you do absolutely everything yourself – this time around, I’ve had no qualms about taking naps here there and everywhere and letting other people take up the slack.

Anyway, on with the update: Ted is four months old today and Angelica is 23 and a half months.

Toddler, Baby and Me: The Four Month Update

Toddler

Well, Angelica is a total hoot. I sit there chuckling away at her as she potters about in her own little world, breaking into impromptu dance routines and looking for bees in the cupboards. (I have no idea either.) Her favourite things at the moment are her “backpack” (this monstrosity*) and the paddling pool (bought it for a tenner from Tesco) and a little bee hotel that I was sent with a beauty sample mail-out from Burt’s Bees. It’s like a little wooden birdhouse but with tiny cardboard tubes in it for bees to hide away in – she looks down each and every hole checking for inhabitants.

I find the whole child development journey fascinating – I keep meaning to read some actual child development books to, y’know, have a clue what’s going on, but I never get around to it. I’m hoping that as long as you keep feeding their desire to learn and occupying them with new and interesting things, the development part takes care of itself. I mean my Mum didn’t read a load of books, and look at how I turned out! Ha.

But watching a toddler grow and develop is simply amazing – every day there’s a new word, a new skill, a new little mannerism. Not all good, admittedly – this morning saw a little sulk about the wrong song coming out of the plastic Fisher Price backpack (see link above) and there have been a couple of minor meltdowns over food. I’ve been working on my patience levels, because I’m not actually a hugely tolerant and patient person when it comes to kids – I have a tendency to be a bit snappish when things really kick off, and when the baby is screaming and Angelica isn’t playing ball I sometimes find myself wanting to scream. I think it’s the feeling that everything is stacked up against you, isn’t it – you can’t see a way to easily solve things because you only have one pair of hands, can only soothe one child at a time, and then they are screeching away and it’s so BLOODY NOISY!

So yes, I’ve been working on my deep breathing at stressful times, and also trying to concentrate on one thing at a time rather than aiming to tick off a million things on the to-do list. For example, at lunch I would usually try and get some emailing done when Angelica is eating, or scoot about the kitchen clearing stuff up, but now it’s impossible to do that with Ted there as well. So I just take my high expectations and mentally toss them out of the window. One thing at a time, no matter how absolutely tedious it is trying to get a toddler to eat lunch. (Unless you do what my husband does, when under duress: stick Peppa Pig on the iPhone and prop it up against the salt and pepper grinders!)

Toddler, Baby and Me: The Four Month Update

New words that I adore: backpack (beckpeek), mole, moon, pool, sticker (dicker), ice-lolly (elolly), squirrel (urrel), cake (cake – that one’s easy). She can now string two or three little words together into very, very simple sentences – “no Mama” or “Dada’s tea” or “no bed”. And she loves speaking to Granny on the phone – she hasn’t quite understood the telephone concept, and thinks that Granny can see her as she nods and dances and pretends to jump in puddles, but it’s very sweet and she does a jolly “bye bye!” at the end before cutting off the call by pressing the red button… I swear today’s toddlers will be able to use iPhones better than us before they’re even at school… On that note, I’ve really been trying to cut down on the amount of time I spend looking at it in front of her, because I don’t want her to think that it’s the norm for people to be glued to a tiny handheld screen. Except, as I realised the other day when I went into London, it is the norm. Scary.

The big development of the month is potty training: we’ve had a number of successful poos and wees in the potty (sorry Angelica-of-the-future, if you’re reading this later on in life! These reports are only going to get more embarrassing for you, so I’d stop reading now) and we’ve moved up from nappies to pull-up pants. Quite honestly, I wasn’t even going to get started on potty training until later on in the summer, but Jodi the nanny got started and Angelica cottoned on really quickly. It helped that we were spending a lot of time in the garden, so she ran around without a nappy on – although there were a couple of poos on the grass one day and a little wee on the patio…

Weirdly though, she seems to have regressed and now won’t do anything on the potty. We’re just being very relaxed about it, but my God it’s annoying having to run backwards and forwards to the potty all the time, taking off the clothes and socks and what have you, then keeping an eagle eye out for them running off without a nappy on. I didn’t ever appreciate how absolutely convenient nappies were until I had a bare-bummed toddler on the loose!

Toddler, Baby and Me: The Four Month Update

Baby

Ted is an adorable chubby little cherub. He’s starting to be properly alert and characterful and sits there chuckling away at us – he’s very readily pleased and easy to get a laugh out of. I can’t remember Angelica ever laughing this early on (you can read her four month update here) but then I can barely remember anything about her newborn days. It’s as though your brain just wipes clean after every stage, isn’t it? I mean, I have a really good memory, but ask me anything about how Angelica slept or fed as a baby and I wouldn’t have a clue. Good job I wrote it all down!

Things that are different about Ted (apart from the fact that he’s an entirely different human!): he hates having a full nappy, or even a half-full nappy, and so if he’s crying it’s the first thing I check. Angelica couldn’t have cared less. Ted snack-feeds a lot, whereas Angelica used to latch on for hours and hours. (Though maybe that’s a second baby thing – he senses that I don’t have the luxury of constant feeding sessions?) Ted dribbles constantly and goes through babygrows and vests like the clappers – Angelica didn’t ever dribble or drool, really. My washing load was light with her – Ted needs changing multiple times a day, even if he’s been bibbed up.

I’d say that their sleeping patterns at this age are similar – still regular feeds throughout the night. Although there was one surprise night, last week, when Ted went to sleep at 7pm and didn’t wake up until 7am. I was very disorientated when I woke up and then had a bit of a panic when I realised that he’d slept through, but all was fine and he had a big old feed and I felt rather sad that he had grown up so quickly and no longer needed me in the night. HAHAHA. Well, needless to say that was a standalone occurrence: it’s been every two or three hours again since then. I’m bloody knackered. Though I do love waking to the sound of him chewing on his hands and knowing I’m about to pick up a little warm bundle for a nighttime cuddle…

ruth crilly newborn baby

Me

Yes, let’s talk about me. Slightly deranged, perhaps, but I’m still here and (mostly) unscathed. I have good days, when I feel on top of it all and I bang out emails in nap time and eat salads and pay bills whilst the babies are playing on the floor and then I have bad days, when I wonder whether I’ll ever be “on top” of things again, or whether it will always be this big administrative/domestic ferris wheel of clearing-up and bill-paying and telling the dog to shut up when he barks at the doorbell. Sometimes it feels like Groundhog Day. But mostly it feels as though I’m living fractions of my old life stuck between huge sections of a new life. I love the new life, I loved the old life, it’s just trying to get used to the two lives melded together!

The old bod is faring ok – apart from my knees, weirdly. You’d think it’d be any other body part, wouldn’t you, but my knees are really giving me trouble. The joints feel as though they’re made of chalk. I need to really up my game with my nutrition – I crave milk all the time, but I can’t have it and I think those nut milks are dire. Really: dire. I understand why people have them, whether it’s for eco or health or political reasons, but please don’t tell me they’re tasty. Bloody hell. It’s like water with a speck of cream mixed in. Perhaps they’re an acquired taste.(I’m not drinking milk because when I stopped, Ted stopped throwing up all the time. Recently I tested again and started taking Lactofree in my porridge – the same day, Ted re-started his vomming! It can’t be a coincidence, surely? Though it’s open to discussion..)

What else? Postpartum body is alright, my stomach still looks like one of those half-cooked, lumpy omelettes from the omelette challenge on Saturday Kitchen, but it’s gradually shrinking down and pulling back in. I’m guessing that me cutting out my daily Mini Magnum would help it on its way, but to be quite frank, I have no vices apart from my evening iced treat and I’m not about to give it up. So there.

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