Surviving with Two-Under-Two

st5a2439melissa

As little girls we spend hours pushing miniature strollers, dressing (and undressing) dolls, emulating how we see mothers care for their babies and practicing for the future.  Just like the real thing, right? Ha! As a child, no one tells you about the diaper blow-outs, catching vomit with bare hands, or being peed on, all while operating on 3 hours of sleep. Taking care of a baby is an all-encompassing job, and while it’s indisputably rewarding in a myriad of ways, it can simultaneously trigger feelings of terror, frustration and exhaustion (in that order) akin only to dodging through crowds of seasoned shoppers at the Saks after-Christmas sale.

In May my husband and I embarked on an emotional roller-coaster as we welcomed our second child when our first was merely 20 months old.  Our cozy family of three had become a quartet overnight and it felt like we were driving a Ferrari without a steering wheel. In the weeks leading up to my newborn’s arrival, I felt a sense of guilt that even surpassed the time I had too many mimosas and purchased full-price Louboutins identical to a pair I already own. How would we preserve what we had with our toddler while embracing the changing dynamic of our growing family? How would I have the energy to keep up with a raging toddler while waking every two hours to feed a seven pound dictator? These were questions to which I would soon have answers.

Having 2 babies under the age of 2 presents its own unique set of challenges, but with patience and an optimistic mindset, it is possible to tend to a newborn’s basic needs while also managing an active toddler. Below I will divulge five of my own tried-and-true strategies for surviving, thriving and even looking chic while caring for two-under-two.

      1. Put the Phone Down

For many Manhattan women, shopping is a competitive sport that requires discipline, stamina and a high-speed internet connection.  If you’re like me, you’re glued to your phone around 11am/12pm EST when the online flash sale sites launch their daily deals. Who wouldn’t be interested to peep all of the discount designer merchandise on RueLaLa, Gilt, Hautelook, etc.? It’s easy to be distracted by the constant presence of our mobile devices and the immediacy of communication and information that they provide. Aside from accessing flash sales, we grocery shop, order dinner, pay bills, read news, and receive social media updates from friends all at the touch of a button. Although it may be difficult at times, it’s essential to disconnect from these digital distractions, especially in the company of your little ones who are competing for your attention. I really restrict my phone usage around my kids and instead use our time together to play games, read books, and focus on being “present”. Sharing these private moments with each of your babies reassures them that they are both loved and an important part of the family. Moms everywhere – Next time you feel the temptation to use your phone, please remind yourself that while the internet will be around for years to come, your babies will be babies only once.

      2. Privacy – It’s Overrated. 

I can’t even remember the last time I was able to take a shower or use the bathroom without the presence of a pint-sized playmate. Now that my toddler has learned to open doors, I’ve surrendered the little slice of privacy I’d been clinging to since his birth. When I’m brushing my teeth, there he is – my steadfast bathroom buddy, excitedly rummaging through my makeup drawer. If anyone needs their toilet flushed 157 times, my kid is available! Need toilet paper? No problem! My toddler has just unraveled an entire roll. Rather than allowing privacy deprivation to get me down, I consider myself lucky to have children who constantly want to be with me and I’ve grown accustomed to incorporating my sweet little sidekicks into my routines, even those that happen behind (once) closed doors. When my toddler isn’t busy ransacking my bathroom cabinets or trying to flush household objects down the toilet, I try to involve him as much as possible in my morning routine. My pint-sized personal stylist loves picking out my clothes and accessories, helping me get dressed, brushing my hair and helping me make coffee.  In the afternoons, I often utilize my toddler’s nap as an opportunity to wash my hair, in which case my infant joins me in the bathroom in a bouncy seat so I can watch her through the glass shower door (with door cracked for fresh air). Sometimes I even add Olbas (http://www.olbas.co.uk/products/olbas-for-children.ashx) oil to my shower if she’s at all congested. She loves the sound of the cascading water and enjoys playing peek-a-boo as I wipe away the fog on the glass door. Who needs privacy when you can have inquisitive smiling eyes gazing up at you at all times?

       3. Distract, Distract, Distract.

One of my chief concerns about having two-under-two was how I would keep my high-energy toddler safe and distracted so that I could peacefully nurse my newborn. This thrill-seeking mini-MacGyver, appropriately nicknamed “The Monkey”, would be right at home swinging from trees in the jungle. In highly calculated maneuvers, he pushes furniture to help reach objects, scales shelving units, jumps from high surfaces, and cannot be left unattended for even a moment. I had heard promising feedback about the Amazon Fire tablet through a friend and figured I would give it a shot. The tablet proved to be a successful means of keeping him engrossed and out of harm’s way, but I didn’t feel comfortable exposing him to so much screen time. That’s when I came up with the idea to create a “breastfeeding basket” filled with stimulating toys that I would make available only during the times when I’m nursing the baby. Worked like a charm! Nesting cups, Tupperware containers and Mister Potato Head have been some of his favorites, but it’s important to switch up these toys regularly otherwise the novelty wears off and the breastfeeding basket will backfire. If all else fails, you can always put your toddler into his crib with some toys.

      4. Mommy & Me.

“Who is this new little creature monopolizing my mommy’s time? Why doesn’t she spend as much time with me anymore? Am I still her numero uno shopping sidekick?” Welcoming a new baby presents many challenges for the two-under-two family, the greatest of which, in my opinion, is helping the toddler adjust to the new family dynamic. He/she may be angry, confused and/or jealous of the new baby and unable to adequately communicate any of these feelings. After my daughter was born, it was very difficult for my son to fully comprehend the concept of having a new sibling. Even though we read books about becoming a big brother and role-played with dolls, it wasn’t until we brought the new baby home from the hospital that reality sank in. Although my son has been smitten with his baby sister from the very beginning, there have been times he has struggled with jealousy stemming from sharing my attention. While verbally reassuring him of how much he is loved is important, I’ve found it much more valuable to show him through my actions.  I incorporate into our daily routine at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted “mommy & me” time and it’s been such a fantastic way for me to remind him I’m still his mommy. We take mommy & me classes, go out for lunch, visit museums and play at the park. Most importantly, giving him my undivided attention every day makes him feel valued and appreciated.

      5. They’re always sick – Get used to it

When my son was an infant he never had so much as a sniffle.  I took him to classes, restaurants, and more shopping adventures than I’m willing to admit. Fast forward two years and things couldn’t be any more different.  On any given day, there is a fairly good chance that someone in our household is sick.  Now that my son is in preschool he’s exposed to countless germs, all of which he eagerly brings home to his baby sister. Despite frequent hand washing and our best efforts to sanitize everything that comes through our door, it seems like we are fighting a losing battle. Ever try quarantining a rambunctious 2-year old in a Manhattan apartment? You would have an easier time going to Hermes and walking out with a Birkin. The first winter with your toddler and newborn/infant will inevitably be an endless onslaught of runny noses and low-grade fevers. No need to panic, however. Armed with infant Tylenol, boogie wipes and a NoseFrida, you will have all the essentials to ride out even the worst cold season. Dust off your Juicy velour separates and take advantage of this time by sharing extra cuddles and allowing them to indulge in their favorite television shows. Most importantly, take comfort in knowing that childhood exposure to germs may help boost immunity and enjoy those snuggles while you can!

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Ready, Set, Shop!

On blistery cold winter days, Manhattan parents often struggle with keeping their rambunctious tots entertained in apartments where space is extremely limited. As the mother of a thrill-seeking 2-year old boy, I’m always searching for new indoor venues where I can set my son free to burn off some energy. For parents in the city’s Upper East Side neighborhood, common rainy-day destinations include The Children’s Museum Of Manhattan, The Museum of Natural History, Barnes & Noble Bookstore, the local library and a variety of pay-as-you-go indoor play spaces. After having exhausted all of the aforementioned resources this winter, this weekend we piled into the car and drove to The Westchester, the county’s premier shopping experience and home to some of my favorite retailers. What could have easily been a series of unfortunate and embarrassing meltdowns with a toddler and infant was actually an enjoyable afternoon for our whole family. Below I will share some easily applied strategies that will help to ensure your shopping day with the kids is also stress-free and delightful.

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Vest ::  Jocelyn (sold out) – similar here  Boots :: Marc Fisher Diaper Bag :: Gucci   Bracelets :: Hermes

Put Them To Work

We all have that one mommy friend whose toddler sits peacefully in a shopping cart while his/her mother leisurely shops. Not my kid! Like most 2-year-old’s, my toddler requires constant entertainment and demands immediate gratification. Boredom is our main source of behavioral issues while in public, so giving him an active role in shopping makes him less likely to seek out mischief and lessens the likelihood of any meltdowns. Because he is also extremely independent and loves a challenge, he really enjoys whatever tasks I ask him to complete. Whether it be finding socks of a certain color or grabbing an item from a shelf within his reach, it keeps him busy and gives him an enormous sense of accomplishment.  At the Westchester, one of his favorite projects was throwing a few coins into the water fountain and making a wish for us. He loved being Mommy’s little helper. 

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Teach ‘Em

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A trip to the mall is generally viewed as an indulgence for Mom, but should really be considered as mutually beneficial for both Mom and babies. Here’s why – shopping presents a unique opportunity for the practical application of basic arithmetic and other everyday skills. “If we buy 2 pairs of shoes, how many shoes in total will we have? One, two, three, four…” Math is everywhere in a store and the lessons can become more complex as the kids grow.  “If we buy 3 barrettes and give one to a friend, how many barrettes will we have left?” A fun game I play with my toddler is finding items of a specific shape as we walk through a store. Kids can also practice reading price tags and comparing the cost of different items. With my infant I focus more on introducing colors and exposure to vocabulary words, but I’m always looking out for those teachable moments. 

Time Out

After combing through the racks at Neiman Marcus, what 2-year-old wouldn’t need a break? I suggest strategically planning shopping trips around either playgrounds or amusement centers as a way of rewarding good behavior and allowing them to burn off some energy after all of their “hard work.” Physical activity also lengthens my son’s attention span and helps him sleep better at night. Fortunately for us, The Westchester had just revealed a brand new interactive play area complete with colossal step-and-play keyboard, fluorescently lit Magna-tile station, wall-mounted bead mazes and a baby-friendly arena with soft, colorful gym equipment. My son had so much fun in this play area and can’t wait for his next shopping adventure at The Westchester!

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Evan channeled Tom Hanks in the 1988 classic, “Big,” as he boogied on the giant electric piano.

Feed Them

Kids sure do work up an appetite (even from a smallish spending spree) and stopping to refuel is critical. Incorporating a fun dining experience into a busy shopping day is an effective method to keep kids distracted and happy while simultaneously providing parents an opportunity to relax. Stopping for lunch also breaks up the day and can actually extend your shopping trip and your toddler’s patience. Mariposa, the newly remodeled restaurant at Neiman Marcus Westchester, serves sumptuous New American cuisine in a fine-dining atmosphere. The sophisticated eatery is surprisingly kid-friendly and offers a traditional children’s menu. As soon as we entered, the waitstaff were warm and welcoming and quickly supplied my son with crayons, paper, and juice. Our waitress was extremely patient and understanding and eagerly brought clean spoons to my daughter as she repeatedly dropped them on the floor.  Mariposa was the perfect backdrop to our lovely laid-back lunch! 

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While none of these strategies are foolproof,  their execution will almost always buy you at least a few more minutes to peruse the shoe department in peace. Children react well to positive reinforcement, so be sure to praise them for even the smallest good behaviors. With a little planning, patience,  and realistic expectations, a trip to the mall can be enjoyable excursion for the whole family. 

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Manhattan Mommy Winter Must-Haves

In the city that never sleeps, not even an apocalyptic ice storm could keep New Yorkers indoors. For Manhattan residents, winter brings with it a plethora of exciting seasonal activities, including ice skating at Bryant Park Winter Village, sledding down Pilgrim Hill in Central Park, sipping hot chocolate at Serendipity, and shopping for the perfect resort wear.  Manhattan is picturesque in the winter, but braving the great outdoors in frigid temperatures with little ones takes a great deal of planning and preparation. It can be downright exhausting to dress fidgety babies and toddlers in multiple layers, hats and gloves and ultimately tuck them into stroller blankets. But with all of the focus on the children, who’s making sure that Mom has everything she needs to endure the frosty temperatures? Below are my Manhattan mommy winter must-haves that will make venturing out in a winter wonderland as enchanting as it sounds. Don’t leave home without them!

Stroller gloves

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Gloves: 7AM Enfant

Manhattan’s Upper East Side neighborhood is home to more families with young children than any other region of the city.  Our sidewalks are lined with stroller-striding moms who systematically weave in and out of sidewalk traffic as if they could do it with eyes closed. Dressed in our heaviest down puffers and thermal accessories, we are often multitasking while running our daily errands. It can be difficult to reach into our wallets, answer our phones, grab a burp cloth or anything from inside the diaper bag, or even touch our babies while wearing cumbersome winter gloves. Continuously removing them and putting them back on is not only an inconvenience, but also a needless time drain. Introducing stroller hand warmers, the no-fuss accessory that keeps your hands warm on the coldest of days while simultaneously making it effortless to attend to our babies needs.  Unlike conventional gloves that always seem to go missing, these mitts are securely attached to the stroller handlebar and impossible to lose! Thanks to these innovative gloves, moms no longer need to choose between warmth and convenience.  Who said we couldn’t have it all?

Tech Gloves 

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Gloves: Echo

Smart phones are pocket-sized computers designed to utilize various communication modalities to simplify our daily lives. Their development has revolutionized the way we keep in touch with family and friends and has literally put the entire world at our fingertips. But why is it that we can’t operate our devices while wearing our finest winter accessories to keep our hands warm? How can a thin layer of cashmere suddenly cut us off from the outside world? I didn’t know either until I did a little digging.  Apparently, when we swipe our finger across the touch screen it produces an electrical current that allows the user to interact directly with what is being displayed on the screen. When we wear gloves, the fabric interferes with the passage of this electrical current, rendering us unable to operate our smart phones. I don’t know about you, but nothing comes between me and a good online sale, not even my favorite winter accessories! This fall I embarked on a quest to find the perfect tech gloves, the kind with coated fingertips that transmit the electrical current from your body to the device. I was afraid my efforts wouldn’t bear fruit as I sorted through pair after pair of uninspiring options that reminded me of shoddy juvenile mittens. And then, just as I was about to give up, I discovered the Echo tech gloves with fur cuffs. These beauties, still available at Bloomingdales, are made from the most buttery soft leather and are equally warm and sophisticated. Most importantly, they are compatible with iPhones, iPads and other touch-screen devices. You really can have your cake and eat it too!

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Echo Leather Gloves with Asiatic Raccoon Fur Cuff – $129, Bloomingdales

Aquaphor

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Aquaphor healing ointment is the first line of defense against your baby’s minor cuts and scrapes and for this reason it’s a staple item in the diaper bags of most moms. It’s best known for its use in healing baby’s sensitive skin and the treatment and prevention of diaper rash, but unlike most other baby products on the market, Aquaphor’s uses extend far beyond the nursery. It’s a multipurpose ointment that can be used to promote healthy skin for moms and the entire family.  Flakey chapped lips are a common cold-weather complaint for everyone in a cold climate, especially Manhattan moms who spend a great deal of time outdoors transporting children and running errands. Sure, you can apply layer after layer of balm to your lips, but this isn’t an effective long-term solution to a chronic condition. Aquaphor, on the other hand, not only moisturizes severely chapped lips, but also adds shine and keeps lips soft by acting as a barrier against cold winter weather. This is one item I cannot live without. Grab some of your baby’s Aquaphor and pucker up, Moms!

Insulated Coffee Mug

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Coat: Moncler   Fox Scarf: Optimal Accessories (old), similar here    Sunglasses: Prada   Gloves: Echo    Jeans: Seven For All Mankind

Rain or shine, Manhattan moms are always on-the-go. We schlep our little ones to classes and play dates even in the most frigid temperatures. We arm ourselves with coffee to warm our bodies from the inside out, but how many of us have taken a big gulp of a venti Starbucks latte only to discover it’s quickly gotten cold? We’ve all been there. A durable, well-insulated, and spill-proof coffee mug is an absolute must-have for java-drinking Manhattan moms. The LifeSky mug keeps coffee piping hot for 8 hours and features a one-hand opening mechanism, perfect for stroller-striding moms who don’t have use of both hands. Fill your mug with delicious brew and drink it at your leisure because this mug will keep your coffee piping hot for an impressive 8 hours. You can buy your own here.

Headgear

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Earmuffs: Surell

All fashionista moms would agree that the one thing sabotaging their perfect blowouts this winter is none other than the traditional winter hat.  There is nothing worse than arriving for an event and removing your hat, only to discover that your perfectly tousled tresses have fallen victim to “hat head.”  But what is a Manhattan girl to do in a city plagued by abysmal winter weather?  Earmuffs and thermal headbands are cold weather accessories that won’t wreak havoc on your hairstyle like hats do. From cozy cashmere to luxurious furs, there are plenty of options in all styles and price ranges. I received a pair of Surell ear muffs for Hanukkah and never leave home without them. Get yours here.