i’m still five months behind on blogging, but i wanted to take a quick break from catching up on the past and write a little bit about the present. i want to bottle up this crazy chapter of life while it is happening.
just this week our regular day-to-day routine has changed. moses went back to his regular school (primary and secondary schools just reopened in england after two months of being covid closed) and gabriel dropped his nap. so before we enter the next phase (which is an exciting one in many ways since england is starting to come out of lockdown, hooray!), i wanted to create a little “snapshot” post of the first few months of 2021.
this is for my own record-keeping (as is the vast majority of this little blog…) and i don’t expect anyone besides my future self to be interested in all these details, haha. in some ways the past few months have been the most grueling time of my life. the cold and dark weather + the strict pandemic lockdown + a huge sleep regression for the twins + lots of uncertainty about the future – all this combined has been really intense and has taken quite a toll on me. but amidst all this i recognise that there is so much beauty and joy around me and i am tremendously blessed and grateful. life is wild but also wonderful and i want to remember this unique slice of time in our family history 🙂
so here’s a walkthrough of our typical days at the beginning of 2021 in london – starting from our move to a new flat at the beginning of january.
due to the new variant of cobid-19 circulating in the uk, strict restrictions were (again) made law in england right before we moved. all primary and secondary schools were closed, but nursery schools were allowed to remain operating. since our nanny lizzy moved back to utah just before christmas, we had enrolled gabriel in a nursery school and when the prime minister announced the lockdown specifications, we immediately contacted that nursery school and asked if moses could attend with his brother. and they said yes! so for two months the boys went to school together. this was really fun for them and totally clutch for our survival through lockdown with four kids four and under. we are so, so grateful! that nursery school is so lovely and has been such a great place for our mo and gabe to learn and play and grow. except for getting to and from nursery school, exercising, and going to the grocery store, we have been required by law to stay at home for all of 2021 so far. we are so glad we chose to move to a flat with a bit more space and especially a dedicated room for ian to work from home.
since i am up in the night several times with the babies, ian spends the first couple of hours of the day with moses and gabriel while the twins and i sleep. they get up to all kinds of fun building magnatile towers, playing rounds of uno, doing jobs like sorting laundry and emptying the dishwasher to earn coins, and then playing with the babies while i sleep and then dash to get ready for the day. when we first moved, the twins were waking just once a night and i felt like i was getting plenty of sleep (thanks to ian’s morning shift with the big boys). then, in mid-january, they hit the four-month sleep regression and it’s been a rough go since. i am sooo exhausted….! at the same time that they’ve become quite terrible nighttime sleepers, august and eve have also become more and more and more fun and smiley and giggly and the joy they bring far outweighs the exhaustion they bring – it’s pretty incredible.
i take over with the kids at 8 and ian disappears into his office (which moses has dubbed “the workshop”). it’s usually a bit (or a lot) of a scramble to get the babies fed, myself fed, and the boys completely dressed and ready. at 8:45, i bring the babies into the workshop and moses and gabriel and i take off for nursery school! i honestly don’t know how we would have survived this chapter of life without ian working from home, and i am soooo grateful that he’s here during the day. this makes school drop off and pickup 100x easier and he can occasionally step in to help with the kids when crap hits the fan and everyone is screaming simultaneously 🙂 it’s also so great that he’s been able to be such a present part of the babies’ first few months of life.
with the demands of caring for all these small children, we’ve had to cut some corners. personal hygiene is one of those…eek. both ian and i are often still unshowered and in the clothes we slept in come evening…
these first few months of the year have brought some weather excitement from both ends of the spectrum – the sheer delight of snow (that stuck to the ground!!) and the pure euphoria of warm spring-y days and flowers and blossoms popping out!
ian at baby-handoff before the boys and i leave for nursery school / moses on the walk to school one snowy morning:
to get to and from school we sometimes use two scooters, sometimes one scooter and the buggy, sometimes the buggy and the ride board. it’s about a twelve minute walk from our new flat to nursery school. we always pass a handful of the same people on our way – one of mo’s primary school friends and his mom, some memorable commuters (because of some stand-out physical characteristic like unique hair) coming out of the tube station, a nursery school pal on his way as well with his dad and red scooter. on our way, the boys and i always watch for the steeple of the pretty old church where the nursery school is housed and when we see it we say, “hey-o!” we listen for the bells chiming nine as we get closer, and the boys love it when we run into their pal leo and his mom and/or their teacher ms tringa on the way. sometimes if we are running late the boys holler “activate cheetah power” and we run! they are always excited to go in the double doors, get their temperatures checked and wash their hands and then skip in to play and learn.
when i come home from school drop-off (the walk home is my one bit of alone time during the day and i relish it, ha!), ian has suited the babies up and put them in the buggy in the hall. they always fall right asleep when they are put in their buggy bassinets in the mornings. a lot of mornings, i take them out for a run while they snooze. most days, we run in a gorgeous cemetery near our new flat, where i have increasingly enjoyed spotting signs of spring.
there’s been runs among sprouting daffodils and also a few runs through the snow (we’ve never seen this much snow in london in the six winters we’ve spent here!).
i’ve done a few longer runs with the babies into central london – once to westminster abbey on a foggy morning and once to st. james’s park to see the daffodils. i ride the tube back (the westminster station and the station closest to our flat both have lifts so this makes it easy to make the journey with the double buggy and sleeping babies!). the daffodils at st. james’s park started blooming like crazy at the end of february and i love, love, loved seeing that sea of yellow (as well as the pretty purple crocuses springing out of the frozen ground). august woke while eve kept sleeping, so auggie got a photo in the flowers 🙂
on the mornings when i don’t run, i try to do a strength training or yoga workout at home while the babies nap. then i have a few hours with just (ha!) two babies to care for, so i try to get as much done as i can before nursery school pickup! housework and meal planning and emails and photo organising and projects (done most days with a double breast pump attached to my body at some point!) are interrupted by tending to fussy babies, taking photos of happy babies, and setting up with my huge breastfeeding pillow for tandem feeds. while i’m folding laundry or doing dishes, i love to connect with friends and family via marco polo (this app has been a lifeline for me throughout the pandemic and recently i’ve reconnected with some old friends and have had some really great deep discussions with some of my favourite people that live far away). i also like to listen to podcasts when i can.
after pretty much every feed, at least when mo and gabe are at school, i hold the babies up in front of me, their cheeks touching, and just marvel at their sweetness and the huge love i feel for them. they flash me smiles and coos and i am filled with joy in a brief moment before rushing to the next task.
the babies are very mostly directly breastfed. at the beginning of february, we started supplementing a little with formula. while eve has followed her 9th percentile growth curve, she is seemingly constantly ravenous, and august had fallen to the 0.4th percentile curve. so we started mixing a bit of formula with expressed breast milk for top-up feeds. i have to say i shed some tears when we first gave formula. i’m just a huge huge fan of breastfeeding and i felt sad that the babies would no longer be exclusively breastfed, and worried about how introducing formula may effect my supply, their preferences, and our breastfeeding journey. but introducing a bit of combination feeding has been a good move for everyone. we have a dear friend who had a baby in january and could no longer use the freezer stash of milk that she had accumulated due to her baby’s discovered allergies, so she gave it all to us. what a gift!! while it lasted our twins were on a diet of mostly my milk with some dashes of brooke’s milk and some dashes of formula. now august is inching up to the 2nd percentile. eve is still hungry a lot; i guess she just takes after her mama and really loves eating 🙂
i tandem feed probably a little more than half of the time. feeding the babies together obviously takes a lot less time than feeding them separately, but i can do so much more multitasking when i feed them separately! i’m practiced enough to clean, cook, build/play/colour, eat, etc one-handed while using the other arm to feed a baby. it’s such a cool experience to breastfeed two babies at once and it’s also very sweet to be able to have some one-on-one time with each baby when i feed them separately. when we are out and about i feed them one at a time with just a few exceptions when i’ve tandem fed out of the flat.
eve is our first baby to have a little bit of chub on her body (we make tall skinny boys!). we can’t stop squeezing her cheeks and thighs! august is a really happy baby but doesn’t smile quite as freely as evie, who only needs one glance to break into a big, open-mouth grin. auggie is more chatty though with his coos and has explored the range of his vocal chords a bit more. they are both starting to roll from front to back and are bearing weight on their feet more. since i know they will very most likely be my last babies, i try to cherish every little milestone and smile and giggle, and to not get too sad about them growing up.
some mornings gabriel doesn’t go to nursery school (in the beginning moses went every morning while gabes went just three times a week; then we increased to both boys going every morning while gabriel was potty training, just for consistency’s sake; now that mo is back at his primary school gabriel is going to nursery four days a week and attending joy school on thursday mornings!). in january and february, on days when just moses went to school, gabriel and i played and worked together at home and tuned into zoom joy school! it was so fun so see our little pals on the screen and do some activities together – gabriel loved it.
the boys have lunch at school and pickup is at 1pm. he boys are insistent that i always bring a snack to pickup and they tell me about their day as they munch on the way home.
gabriel heads to a nap when we get home – usually requesting to ride on daddy’s back to his bed – and moses and i pull out his school work. every school in the uk has done remote learning a little differently and i’m grateful that mo’s school has been pretty laid back about it, at least for his age group. we have a pack of worksheets and activities that we pick up each friday and work on throughout the week, then return the following friday when we get a new pack. it’s been fun for me to get way more insight on what moses is working on at school and to see him improve in reading, writing, and maths. he can read simple books and write full sentences! his brain is definitely wired for maths like his dad. sometimes doing school work during gabriel’s nap is a bit of a battle, and it can get really tricky when one or both babies is really needing attention, but mostly this bit of homeschool has been positive for moses and i. he really loves learning and i want to nurture that as much as possible!
moses continues to be totally obsessed with the babies, totally lighting up with joy when he sees them. his baby talk is intense (sometimes pretty annoyingly intense haha) and he just smothers the babies with love. i say “moses, please give the babies some space” about twenty times a day.
for a while there, gabriel was taking a nice long 2.5 hour nap. while waiting for his kid brother to wake up after he was finished with his school work, mo often did lots of crafts. he’s getting better and better at drawing and he always has some new creative idea of something to make. in january moses and i started reading the chronicles of narnia together. i have always looked forward to reading chapter books to my children, and the narnia books are my very favourite – so this brought me a lot of joy.
gabriel joins the party when he wakes up from his nap! gabes has gotten much more interested in the babies over the past couple of months. when they were brand new newborns he was really timid around them – almost scared! and just didn’t bother to interact with them much at all. now he freely offers the most darling “don’t worry”s when they are sad and “good job!”s when they lift their heads up high during tummy time. he is always so proud of himself when he helps them and was particularly excited about feeding auggie some milk.
since we’ve had a lot of very cold weather, and everything indoor is closed or off-limits (and because getting out and about with all four kids is a bit of a circus that is very exhausting!), we’ve spent a lot of afternoons at home. we’ve played with our toys in new ways, turned the armchair into a slide, made valentine’s day decorations, filled the bath with water beads, learned how to make paper airplanes, had glowstick parties, baked cookies, and played literally hundreds of rounds of uno.
(side note: i really hate our rug. i liked it for a few years and now i am so sick of it. ian and i don’t often fight about how we spend money but this is an argument we come back to with comical frequency – he says it’s a perfectly good rug so why would we spend money for a new one?, and i say i spend so much time looking at that busy pattern and my eyes need a break!!)
when it’s not too cold or rainy, we do make it outside after gabriel’s nap – we usually just head to our garden square! just like with the last flat we lived in, having green space right across the street is such a blessing! our new garden is beautiful and it has a cute little playground and lots of open grass to run and play. signs of spring have been popping up since the end of january! there’s also a gaggle of neighbourhood kids that are in the garden almost every afternoon and moses has loved making friends with them. they are mostly girls and mostly several years older than him but he is brazen in approaching them and they are sweet to involve him, and gabriel too!
the babies always get suited up in their full-body coats before we head outside…
… and we’ve enjoyed the garden in the snow as well as especially in the budding spring.
we have also made it to a few playgrounds in the afternoons. it’s very laborious to get all four kids ready to go and then push them all through the city streets (we usually do a baby in a carrier, a baby in the buggy next to gabriel, and moses on the ride board, and yes we get lots of curious/stunned looks from passerbys haha!). and once we are at the playground i’m quite occupied keeping everyone happy/safe so these are the only two pictures i have from afternoon outings in january and february!:
i try to make dinner while the boys are at nursery school or with moses as my sous chef during gabriel’s nap, but i don’t always get to it. so sometimes the 5pm hour is just complete chaos with all four children at home and awake and me trying to get a meal on the table! the best way to keep gabriel occupied is with a puzzle. he is a puzzle master! he loves them and is kind of freakishly good at them. i snapped these photos of him after he completed this 130-piece jigsaw completely by himself!
there’s usually some more feeding of babies before dinner, and some tummy time (the plastic covering on the rug below was applied for potty training purposes!):
ian said to me the other day, “wow, everyone in this house is very aware when the clock strikes 5:30!” indeed. that is when ian finishes work and we are all knocking down the workshop door at about 5:29:50. everyone is thrilled to have daddy back in the mix in the evenings 🙂
one simple thing that has brought me joy during this slice of life has been meal planning and cooking. i’ve just found it so satisfying to get organised, try new (simple, fast) recipes, and feed my family nutritious, yummy dinners. after a couple of months of eliminating this task from my life (due to so many generous friends who brought us dinners after the babies were born and then flying by the seat of my pants with freezer meals and takeout), it’s been really fun to re-engage in the kitchen. we’ve eaten some tried-and-true favourites, some new recipes that were duds, and some new recipes that were winners! almost every night ian or i tells a story at the dinner table to encourage our boys to take bites. they have to have bites (often of specific elements of the meal) in order to hear what happens next! sometimes there’s a bit of a battle to eat, but mostly the story thing works a treat! i’m usually breastfeeding a baby when we have dinner and it can get messy and loud, but i think i’ll miss those chaotic family dinners with four under four someday.
ian had the brilliant idea to designate a fun activity for each night of the week and make a big calendar to put on our wall and fill in with those nightly activities and anything else we had to look forward to. this has been huge in helping to keep our spirits up throughout winter and lockdown. on monday we have family home evening, then there’s taco tuesday. wednesday is art night and thursday is game night and friday is movie night. on saturday we make or order pizza and on sunday after our church activities we try to do some service and call extended family members. mo and gabe love the big calendar in the hall (which moses calls “the advent calendar” haha) and are always asking “what night is tonight?”
here’s mo with the february calendar, and ian vs the kids in uno at game night.
some hide and seek for family home evening and a snapshot of friday night movie night – we don’t have a tv but just watch on our laptops and the boys love to cuddle up with lots of pillows and blankets and eat popcorn:
(may it also be noted that since ian spends the first few hours with the boys every day he is the one who usually gets them dressed. so there’s been lots of ridiculous mismatched busy outfits over the past couple of months 🙂 )
building cardboard houses for one art night:
and each evening there’s usually a bit of roughhousing with daddy.
we revamped our bedtime routine after having lots of resistance and wildness and crying at bedtime. the new system is:
first a dance party to get all the wiggles out. the boys love to take turns coming up with dance moves that their brother and mom have to copy.
i’m usually feeding the babies their last feed for the day during the dance party or right before, and then i take moses and gabriel into their bedroom and we do a little meditation to calm down. we say “oooooommmm” or do some deep breathing together. then we listen to a “calm song” (always “clair de lune”) while we put on pajamas, read a scripture story and say prayers. if the boys can stay still and quiet during their own prayer and their brother’s prayer, they get to give me a “tingly high five” (just a really big one that makes our hands tingle!). then we go brush teeth and use the potty.
meanwhile, ian gets the babies changed into pjs (if they haven’t been wearing pjs already all day, ha … or if they’ve just gotten the pjs they’ve been wearing all day soiled with spitup!) and swaddled tightly in their velcro swaddles and feeds them a few ounces of 50/50 breastmilk/formula. he then puts them in their little side-by-side bassinet next to our bed and helps them settle to sleep.
back in the boys’ bedroom, moses and gabriel get to each choose a book to read together and then it’s time for gabe to get in his bed. i sing him a song and give him a snuggle, tell him “i love you forever, and nothing will ever change that” and then remind him about a dozen times to stay in his bed 🙂 as he started to struggle more and more with going to sleep … dragging bedtime out past 8pm and past 9pm … we realised we needed to drop his nap. we are in that process now.
moses gets to stay up a little later to do reading time with daddy. he reads one book himself, and then gets to listen to dad read some of a chapter book. they are flying through roald dahl books – started with charlie and the chocolate factory, then moved on to james and the giant peach, and now have also done fantastic mr. fox and are deep into charlie and the great glass elevator.
when all the kids are in bed, it’s as if the whole flat does a big sigh – we made it through another day!! life sure does feel like survival mode a lot of the time. but we’re doing it. ian and i are a team and we are making this four kids four and under thing happen. sometimes we are totally failing but lots of times we are doing pretty okay chugging along. the mess and the chaos is just so unrelenting but we have been amazed by our capacity and i have to say – i’m proud of us. this is a wild situation and we are surviving and sometimes thriving. and while the kids sometimes struggle in lots of different ways, they are thriving in lots of ways too.
on tuesday and friday evenings, we have date nights. ian plans the tuesday date, which is usually something related to spreadsheets haha (budgeting, travel planning, talking about the future, etc) and i plan the friday date, which i try to make active and fun 🙂 we are running out of steam and ideas and i’m sooo excited for the day that we can have a babysitter and go out on a date again! on thursday nights i have a zoom call with my mom, sisters and sisters-in-law where we catch up and discuss a podcast or interesting topic. on sunday nights i have a similar call with my siblings and my parents.
on saturdays we try to get out and have adventures as a family, as much as lockdown allows. i’ll share some of those adventures in other posts once i’ve caught up on the past five months 🙂 on sunday mornings we get dressed up in church clothes (or something close-ish to church clothes, ha!) and tune into zoom church. after a short virtual meeting with our congregation, ian blesses the sacrament and we all partake and talk about remembering jesus and being renewed for a new week ahead of trying to be like him. then we sit at the table and each draw what we want to work on that week to be better. (i wish i had pictures of this stuff!) sometimes there are primary (church program for children) activities over zoom and usually we do a little “sunday lesson” together going through the scriptures with the come follow me study guide. we usually have a family outing on sunday afternoon, too.
i try to go to sleep around 9:30pm. just before i do, i pump some milk and, depending on how much i get, mix it with some formula and leave it out for ian. he does a “dream feed” for the babies around 10:30pm, feeding them each a bottle in their sleep in an effort to get me a longer stretch of sleep. i say i try to go to sleep at 9:30pm because a lot of nights i don’t quite make it until a little (or more than a little) later. it’s just so nice to have some quiet time off for getting things done uninterrupted, spending time with ian, or just unwinding. every night when i go to sleep i try to psych myself up for the adventure of not knowing when i will wake up or how many times in the night 🙂 after a few weeks of pretty hellish every-hour-waking nights, the twins are now mostly predictable with a 1:30-2:30am wakeup and a 4:00-5:00am wakeup (with a few horrible and a couple amazing nights thrown in there randomly). we are planning to sleep train soon and while i am sooooo, so, so excited to get a full night’s rest, i am feeling a little sad about not having any more quiet dark moments with my babies in the wee hours. it’s so exhausting, to the point that it feels pretty painful sometimes, but it’s also so incredibly sweet to cuddle august and eve while the whole world around us slumbers.
sometimes these days feel monotonous. sometimes they feel grueling. always they feel exhausting. but truly, i feel that they are days i never want to forget. these first few months of 2021 have been really weirdly beautiful in their limits and their stretching. i’m really ready to say goodbye to winter, to the 4-month sleep regression, and to covid lockdown, but i’m glad i’ve tried to actively cherish this wild chapter.