Friday, October 28, 2011

Survivor: Schumacher Island Edition

Ashley masters two at a time!

Travel buddies Grant and Jenny, Julie with Evan and Ashley with sleepy Jaden.

Guest writer, Ashley Bennett Ewald, shares her experience after surviving a weekend at our house.

It's been almost a week since I got to experience life with twins, and truth be told, I am *still recovering.* The care and feeding of twins is not for wimps. Frankly, it's not even for regular humans. I'm convinced Julie either has super powers or a secret caffeine IV-drip.

I arrived late on a Friday night, and since the flight was late, I knew I had already cut into Julie's precious sleep time. Julie was completely relaxed about it, and handed me a baby as soon as I walked in the door. It was Jaden, whom she dubbed the "easy one." He snoozed in my arms, and I thought, "hmm, this won't be so bad." He promptly peed on me (and himself) while I tried to change his diaper. I noticed that after that debacle, Julie did the rest of the diapers. Still, I was not about to be deterred. I gave Jaden his pre-bed bottle and managed to successfully burp him (beginner's luck). Meanwhile, Julie got Evan fed, she pumped, and we were all in our respective beds, cribs, or carseats (Evan has to sleep on an incline) by 12:30/1 a.m.ish. Three and a half short hours later, Julie and I were up again feeding the boys for round 2. Jaden is the slowwwwest eater, while Evan wolfs down his bottles. Since Jaden ate so slowly, I stayed up a bit longer rocking him to sleep (Evan was already in dreamland). I realized at this point that I had become a contestant on Survivor: Schumacher Twins Edition. I insisted I was "in it to win it" and decided that to do that, I just needed to outlast the baby. (Outwitting and outplaying weren't viable options at that hour.) Easier said than done, especially in a very comfy glider chair in the middle of the night. I prevailed and was back to sleep by 5:10 a.m.

Little did I know that Jaden was just lulling me into a false sense of security, as he woke up again at 6:30 a.m., or at least, I think he did. . . I may have just been delirious. When I got to the nursery, both babies acted like they were sound asleep. "Which one of you is crying in here?" I said before realizing that the monitor was on, and I probably shouldn't be vocalizing my early morning thoughts lest Julie think I'm crazy. Jaden did stir a bit, so I grabbed him before he could wake up his brother. We rocked for awhile, and I was back to sleep by 7:20 a.m. but up again minutes later when my travel buddy and her 7 month old came in to say good morning. They are lucky they are cute, that's all I have to say about that. A few minutes later, Julie was up and at 'em, looking bright eyed and bushy tailed as my grandmas would say. Not only was she totally coherent, she actually made us caramel rolls for breakfast. Leave it to her to be an incredible hostess while simultaneously mothering 7 week old babies!

Saturday went well, and we got to visit with old friends both in person and via video during our baby shower for the boys. Evan would not sleep (but wasn't fussy either -- just wide awake). I kept looking at him and saying, "How are you awake right now???" because I felt like I might collapse at any moment. After the shower was over, we all got second winds and went for a gorgeous autumn walk, which caused the boys to fall asleep in their stroller and snooze right through the grown ups' dinners. When they woke up, Julie and Nathan helped the twins demonstrate an awesome feat of twin strength known as Baby Racing. I'm not going to divulge the details, because you really have to see it to believe it. I'm hoping Julie will post a video of this phenomenon soon. I can say that Evan totally smoked Jaden (lapped him, actually), which is impressive considering Jaden must be 20% bigger. Then again, he has a lot more weight to haul around, while Evan is a lean, mean fighting machine. Plus, Evan is just awake more, so he probably learns a lot of tricks while Jaden is out cold.

The 10 p.m. feeding went well (I got to feed both babies at the same time and managed not to cause any permanent damage), and I was in bed by 11:30 p.m. or so. The next thing I knew, it was 3:30 a.m. I had totally slept through the 1 a.m. feeding and forfeited the game! Noooo! Those boys are sure lucky their mama was there to prevent them from starving. As it turned out, Jaden had been up for the past couple hours, so Julie and he had hung out downstairs (couch and swing respectively). I did manage to feed both babies at the same time again and get them to sleep by 4:30. As I rocked them, I noticed first Evan and then Jaden smile in their sleep. When they did that, I felt like I was in that scene in the Grinch Who Stole Christmas where the Grinch's heart grows three sizes. Those two little smiles just made me melt. But it was too late. . . I'd missed a feeding and been voted off the island. My flame was extinguished, and as I boarded the plane for my early morning flight home, I realized three things:

1) I was nauseous -- physically ill, people -- from lack of sleep;

2) Those babies sure are cute and cuddly. It's hard to believe, so you will just have to take my word for it that they are even cuter in person than in their photos; and

3) Julie might actually be a robot. At every feeding time, she has to change both babies, get their bottles warmed up, feed and burp them both, get them both back to sleep, and then pump and store more milk for next time. Seriously, she's a machine, and in fact, I'd be convinced of that except that I've known her since kindergarten (I can actually remember what she looked like when she was only 5 years older than Evan and Jaden -- freaky!). Seeing her as a mom is extremely cool and a touch surreal. She is relaxed yet super organized, calm but very loving, and even better (and what surprised me most), she is still the same Julie. She hasn't let motherhood make her grouchy or obsessed or paranoid or any of the things I assumed it would do (and have witnessed it do to others). She still has a great sense of humor, finds time to work out and do her hair and makeup, meal plan, answer students' emails and teach a class. . . I could keep going and going. Of course, she also has an awesome co-parent in Nathan, who is a master bottle washer, baby whisperer, and chef.

I feel very lucky to have met the twins while they are still so brand new, and I'm grateful that Julie and Nathan let me get a tiny taste of what their lives are like every day. I'm also grateful that I get to sleep for 8 hours straight tonight, but let's keep that between us, ok?


  1. Ha!! Ashley, this was very funny to read an 'outsiders' perspective! You were such a great help....not many volunteer to feed two at a time, let alone smack-dab in the middle of the night!! And yes, you found my secret......a caffeine IV infusing at a continuous rate of 60 ml/hr to advance as needed after sleepless nights!!