GUEST POST: Allie - Two For the Road

Our guest blogger today is Allie T!  Big Brave Nomad is SO excited to have her guest posting about Braving the Roads with her twin boys.  Thank you so much for sharing your experiences Allie!

About Allie:

 THis is Allie (holding Brooks) and her husband Mike (holding Reagan)

THis is Allie (holding Brooks) and her husband Mike (holding Reagan)

"I’m Allie, first time mom of two wild, crazy twin boys named Brooks and Reagan, living on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. I graduated from Virginia Tech in 2009 with degrees in Marketing, Art History, and Global Business, and a hunky surfer boyfriend from Chincoteague Island.  During college I spent time traveling Europe, which sparked a huge wanderlust in my soul. I married my surfer in 2012, and to our surprise we welcomed not one but TWO new members to our family on December 30th, 2014.  I’m blessed to have two jobs that allow me the flexibility to work from home, and allow me the opportunity to travel frequently.  While most of our travel to date has been confined mostly to car trips, I can’t wait to start branching out and showing my boys the big, beautiful world we live in."

People will stare at you in awe and say “How DOES she do it? All alone, traveling wherever she pleases with TWO babies
— Allie

Two for the Road

"My biggest fear when I found out we were having twins was that I was going to lose my independence.  Now, I know most of you are going “um duh, why even have children if you don’t want to lose your independence?” I was totally prepared, and ecstatic even at the idea of losing that kind of independence.  To have a tiny soul relying on me every moment of every day. To love them. To nurture them.  To (hopefully) be the coolest person in the world in their eyes!  And to then find that I got to do that TWICE over in one shot? Oh, I was so ready to lose that independence.  As an extremely free willed, do-it-myself person, I became afraid that I wasn’t going to be able to handle doing things on my own anymore with two babies.  Even the thought of running out to buy groceries sent me into an anxiety attack. How will I get them both in the car? And then back OUT!? How will I carry them both when they are too small to sit up in a cart? What if one gets hungry? What if one has a blow out? What if, what if, what if.   Let’s not even start thinking about all the travel I do alone for work, that’s not even a vague possibility anymore, right?
And then I got off the big bad scary Internet and away from all of the “you need a live in nanny if you have multiples” naysayers and took a giant breath.  You can do this.  Not only can you do this, you’re going to absolutely dominate this.  People will stare at you in awe and say “How DOES she do it? All alone, traveling wherever she pleases with TWO babies” (maybe not quite that much astonishment but at the very least ever so slightly impressed, or at least not 100% full of pity).  I made the conscious decision that not only would I do everything possible to keep that independence, that lack of relying on others to function, but that I would also view this as the amazing gift it was; I now had two new partners to show the world to and to share life with.
Please don’t get the impression that I am doing this all alone.  I have a wonderful husband who works hard to support us and has really stepped into the role of “twin dad”.  It’s sometimes hard for men to find their place in the new family dynamic, especially when the mother is breastfeeding and the baby is so dependent on her for their needs, but Mike really stepped in from day one (Quite literally, from the moment we found out it was twins and he stayed stoic and positive as I hysterically sobbed “Oh My God” over and over like a mad woman).  But his role as primary provider means that he needs to stay pretty stationary, so a large portion of our traveling is just the boys and I.  
I’m lucky enough to be able to stay at home with my boys, Brooks and Reagan, and still work two jobs.  Both of these jobs do however require frequent travel, and paired with our “just for fun” trips this puts us out on the road about two times a month.  Most of these trips are in a four to five hour radius from home and consist of anywhere from two to seven nights away.  There are a few components to traveling with twins that are different than with a solo baby, so in an effort to not repeat the same things you read over and over again I’m going to just touch on those differences.  It’s taken a little practice, but we are finally getting this down, at least as “down” as you can get with two ever evolving little balls of energy.  While I still make loads of mistakes, I hope that maybe this may spark some ideas and encouragement for all of you other multiple mamas out there to get out and have some fun!

One time I thought it was a great idea to leave before bedtime with the assumption that they’d just keep sleeping when we got there. I was so, so wrong…
— Allie

Let’s do this…

 Reagan in the car with a smooch on his head from mom

Reagan in the car with a smooch on his head from mom

I’m not a big planner.  I love to just pick a place that sounds interesting and venture out with the hope that we just stumble upon something really awesome, or that some kind stranger will point us to the best meal of our lives (this has both worked wonderfully and failed horribly).  Having the boys with me has made me have to be just a tiny bit more responsible.  For example, doing actual research about hotels and planning our time of travel around naps and traffic.
When it comes to hotels, I used to have very low standards.  After spending 4 months living out of European hostels, even the dingiest, sketchy hotel seems 5 star to me.  Now though I find myself shirking off my cheap side in favor of places that will make our trip a little easier.  One thing I consider is proximity to major attractions.  Can I walk there? Will I pass out from carrying the boys or will a stroller be needed? Can I get back to the hotel if things go south or will I be stuck with one screaming child and one covered in poop and vomit all day?  You know, the essentials.  Another consideration is amenities; will they provide me with two cribs or do I need to lug around two pack-n-plays.  Give me two cribs so that I don’t have to cart those dreadful things around and I’m yours.
    The actual travel portion of our trips has become almost a science.  After many experiments with when to leave, we’ve gotten it down to this:  We must leave in the morning, long enough after the boys wake up that they will eventually nap, but not too long because we want them to nap in the later part of the trip and not get all of that sleeping out early and then yell in boredom the rest of the way.  One time I thought it was a great idea to leave before bedtime with the assumption that they’d just keep sleeping when we got there.  I was so, so wrong…

 

And we’re off…

    I can plan as much as I’d like but when it comes down to the trip itself, things rarely follow suit.  Between boredom, hunger, random episodes of psychosis (on both their and my parts), each trip is certainly a learning experience.
One thing about twins that is super fun is that instead of both crying at you at the same time, they will stagger it out.  You know, just to keep things interesting. So for instance, Brooks will scream for the first 45 minutes, and then when he needs a break Reagan, who was previously happy as a clam, will pick up in his stead.  Smart guys. Why waste your energy on one loud 45 minute session when you could use teamwork and make the trip miserable the ENTIRE time?  With that said though, they are actually usually very good in the car and don’t tend to get pissed until they’ve finished all their napping and we are stuck in traffic. Which always happens since most of my business trips involve driving around D.C (am I right fellow NOVA dwellers?).
One of the best boredom busters we found for the boys are Taggies Blankets.  I have no idea why, but they go crazy over some tags.  They also each get a Sophie Giraffe to play with as well.  We don’t even attempt to share things in the car, everyone gets their own and that’s that.  A Raffi sing along now and then doesn’t hurt either.
Both of our boys were born with tongue tie, a condition that makes nursing difficult and weight gain slow.  Unfortunately, they were misdiagnosed for some time meaning that for the first eight months we stayed on a consistent “eat every 3 hours” schedule.  We tried about every trick in the book for feeding them in the car.  When alone the only option that worked well was to find a good, private parking spot somewhere and nurse in the car.  It generally resembled the cow wrangling portion of a rodeo, with me panting and sweating and baby arms and legs in all kinds of awkward positions, but it got the job done.  When my husband is with me we try to keep up momentum and feed them en route.  We’ve tried a few different tricks; defrosting frozen milk on the dashboard (does NOT work as well as you’d think), to pumping fresh milk.  Using a manual pump to fill up bottles seems to be the best solution in for us; it gives them fresh on demand milk and keeps me comfortable-win win!  We also keep some snacks in the car and will bring along some jars of homemade baby food in a cooler for once we arrive.
Choosing travel diapers took some serious trial and error.  Disclaimer: We use cloth diapers on the boys, if you use regular disposables you might want to skip this part, it will probably bore you to death.  It took a few cases of diaper rashes, pee soaked pants, and blow outs for us to find what worked best.  
We use three different types of diapers; All-In-Ones, Flips Covers/Inserts, and Pocket Diapers.  For travel, we stick with the Flips and the Pocket Diapers. The Flips are my favorite for once we arrive, but have been the worst for car rides.  The boys get rashes from where the cover meets their legs and is held in place by the seat belt.  But they are the most efficient as far as storage goes-one cover lasts multiple uses and the inserts are compact.  The Pocket Diapers are our favorites for the car; they can be double stuffed so they wick out a lot of moisture and last the whole trip.   We generally pack half our stash of Pocket Diapers and all of our Flip Covers/Inserts.  I bring enough to get through three days (the equivalent of a weekend trip without doing laundry).  If you’ll be gone longer than that and won’t be somewhere with a washing machine though it may be beneficial to just pick up a box of disposable diapers once you arrive to save yourself the luggage space and the hassle of carrying around tons of stinky diapers.

 Reagan being a ham after he learned how to unclip his carseat strap

Reagan being a ham after he learned how to unclip his carseat strap

Whether it’s a quick bathroom break or that much craved coffee for sanity sake, putting one or both babies into a carrier is my best bet
— -Allie

Someone drank too much coffee…    

Once we hit the road, we try to stop as few times as possible.  Getting two babies in and out of car seats takes the skill and endurance of an Olympic athlete some days.  Add in our dog Flynn who frequently travels with us, and we’ve got our hands full.  And that’s with two parents.  When it’s just myself, my best bet is to not inhale my normal gallon of coffee and pray for no traffic.
Of course, things rarely go as you’d hope and we do find ourselves stopping for breaks more frequently than not.  The two principles I try to follow during our pit stops are 1) do NOT, under any circumstances, stop while one or both babies are asleep and wake them up, and 2) carriers are your best friends.  Whether it’s a quick bathroom break or that much craved coffee for sanity sake, putting one or both babies into a carrier is my best bet.  Not only does it give you at least one free hand (which is essential for maneuvering a public bathroom), but it also helps you move in and out of crowded spaces as quickly as possible.  Depending on the length of the stop, I’ll either put one in a sling and hold one, or throw one/both in the Ergos.  The Ergo gives you support for a longer trek, as well as two free hands (you know, for that 32 ounce coffee and the jumbo bag of gummy bears that are necessary to your survival).  The ring sling works great for a quick in and out, since there are no buckles and straps to deal with.
A long car ride may seems daunting, and lets face it only the very, very blessed few have children who just loooove being strapped in a car seat for hours on end, but with a little practice and patience both you’ll all find a flow that everyone is (mostly) happy with.

Packing for Two

 Allie tandem wearing her boys.

Allie tandem wearing her boys.

Let’s face it, while two babies means two of everything, it also means two less hands to carry all of those things. Making a list helps keep me in line.  While my mother side is saying “ohh but what if we go here, this outfit would be soooo cute” and “I better bring 4 spoons because they may lose one”, my practical side is working over time saying “come on, they will never in their life wear that little sailor suit in public and you know it”.  
I ‘m a list maker. Groceries. Chores. Travel destinations.  I’ve got a list for that.  So when it comes to packing, I automatically default to a three-part list process.  Part one, Mama.  Part two, boys’ clothes.  Part three, necessities for survival.  Most of these things are pretty common for every mother’s packing list, not just those with twins, but there are a few things that hold a greater importance to us because of our situation.
Each trip our lists get more concise and our bags get smaller.  In the beginning, a weekend trip included: one boys clothes bag, one mom bag, two pack-n-plays, a boppy, a cooler of milk and food, a bag of “entertainment”, blankets, carriers, strollers…the list goes on.  After attempting to shove all of that in the back of our car, and then having to unload it all after 5 hours on the road, I quickly reevaluated our “needs”.  Now we are down to a joint bag for all of our clothes, one bag of “other necessities”, and the carriers and boppy (big self high five going on right now!).
One of the first things to go was the stroller.  In my mind, I saw myself getting tired carrying two babies around and being so grateful that we had a stroller for them to nap in.  In reality, this is what occurs (Every. Single. Time):
        Exhausted, I put the babies in the bulky stroller.  They yell at me for strapping them in.  Strangers stare at me like I’m murdering them.  I smile awkwardly, give the babies a toy, and start walking. 25 seconds later babies are bored with toys.  One starts screaming. I take said baby out and am now carrying one baby and pushing one.  Second baby realizes they are not being carried and starts screaming.  More staring. I take second baby out and am now pushing a stroller with my hips and carrying two babies.  More staring ensues.  I knock over all items waist height and lower in whatever store we are in with the stroller and then peace out, muttering vague forms of apology and avoiding eye contact.
While the idea of a stroller seems great, we never, ever end up using it and I always end up putting the boys in a carrier and being stuck with a stroller to simply hold the diaper bag.  And so we cut back on huge chunk of our luggage.
As for carriers, I have six.  Yes, that sounds absurd. But remember that whole “twins means two of everything” deal?  We have a Moby, two Sakura slings, two Ergos, and one 7m Girasol Woven Wrap.  The stroller may work for some people much better than it does us (aka their children don’t become fiends when placed in it), but for those of you interested in utilizing carriers here’s what works for us:
    Moby Wrap-while this worked great when the boys were very small (we used it to carry them in tandem), it was never practical for travel.  The boys outgrew it before we even hit the road, and it doesn’t have the best support for long outings.
    Slings-These come with us everywhere.  They fold up easy and can be thrown into a bag to take with you, and with some practice you can carry a baby on each hip and have semi-good range of motion with your hands. I use these for most quick outings, as they are the easiest to get the baby in and out of.
    Ergos-Both of these also come with us everywhere.  I use them for anything more than a quick in and out trip, and when I know that I won’t need to be constantly taking them out of it.  I put one baby on back and one on front, and my body does very little complaining.  The boys love this too and tend to go to sleep while walking around in it, which is always a plus (disclaimer: you probably know this already if you’re a twin mom, but you will get stared at and receive the generic “you’ve got your hands full” comment frequently when wearing twins.  And when not wear twins. And really any time you are in public with twins…).
    Woven wrap-While I love using this to carry the boys in tandem at home, it doesn’t make the cut for trips.  It takes some attention to detail to get both babies into it, and I still am not 100% confident in my skills to get by without double-checking in a mirror.
Now, I’m not knocking strollers in any way, but personally I absolutely love the freedom and ease that comes with wearing your babies.  I was so afraid when I found out we were having twins that I wouldn’t be able to wear them, but thanks to some YouTube videos and support forums we’ve been able to take full advantage of everything baby wearing has to offer.

 Megan, Allie's Sister, Babywearing one of the twins on a family trip to Philadelphia

Megan, Allie's Sister, Babywearing one of the twins on a family trip to Philadelphia

Sleeping like a baby…

If waking up 30 times a night and tossing and turning means “sleeping like a baby”, then yes, my boys do just that.  Full disclosure here, my boys do not sleep well during travel.  Ok, my boys don’t sleep well period.  We went through a nice “sleep through the night” period from months 4-8, and then they decided they’d been easy on us for too long.   But even during our peaceful sleeper phase they did not sleep well when we were away from home.  
I believe their poor sleeping patterns are a mixture of a few things:
    Over excitement: New places, new sounds, and a go all day schedule leaves them worn out and on edge, leading to a more fitful sleep.
    Discomfort: Let’s be for real, while pack-n-plays are great for naps, most of the basic ones don’t have a very padded lining.  We have one pack-n-play and one co-sleeper that doubles as a pack-n-play, and the baby who gets the co-sleeper generally lucks out. They spent the first four months of their lives sharing an Arms Reach Twin CoSleeper and slept well.  But for that other poor baby that has to use the cheap pack-n-play…
    Confusion:  Their basic wake up, check surroundings, go back to sleep pattern is thrown off by new places.
    And lastly, “mom smell”: We’ve found that when the boys wake up, if I’m in the vicinity they want to comfort nurse.  If they wake up and see I’m not there then it’s much easier to just fall back asleep.  Unfortunately when we’re traveling separate rooms is not practical.

 The boys looking out the window in philidelphia

The boys looking out the window in philidelphia

One tweak that we’ve made to their sleeping arrangements that seems to have an impact is to ditch the pack-n-play/cosleeper.  In the beginning we’d bring just one and they’d sleep together, but then Reagan discovered the world of rolling over and became one of those sleepers that kicks you to death, and Brooks was less than enthused.  We began to bring two, which as mentioned before went poorly due to discomfort and was just a hassle.  Between the high activity level during sleep and general outgrowing of their confinements we decided to start using regular mattresses when possible.  A good majority of our trips are to my family’s home, so we have access to a twin mattress that we lay on the floor.  We use this as a giant crib now and put both boys are opposite ends.  There’s enough room for rolling around and it’s warm and comfortable.  They seem to be doing much better, and it cuts down out the last of our “bulky” items from our packing list.

You can do it. Seriously. At the least it will make for a good story one day.

I’ve actually come to really enjoy traveling with the boys.  Now that we’ve worked out a lot of kinks it’s become easy to retain that sense of independence and awe that comes with being able to go anywhere and see anything.  I want my boys to appreciate the world, to have an understanding and appreciation of what we’ve been given and those cultures that share in it with us.  I am in no means an expert on twin travel, or anything twin related really (just ask the one who had to wear a blanket as pants after being changed on a Taco Bell floor once. High point in my parenting career), but I do feel confident that I can go anywhere and do anything I want with them. With a little practice any of us can get out there and go places.  So what if one of them throws up, or you make a scene trying to use the restroom? Don’t let fear hold you back from a beautiful life of adventure; once you get past that fear of failure there honestly are no limitations besides yourself."

-Allie

 Allie's Mother wearing on of the twins on the front and a backpack on the back at Great Falls.

Allie's Mother wearing on of the twins on the front and a backpack on the back at Great Falls.


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