Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Planning Long Term Travel with Twin Toddlers

You have probably noticed I'm blogging a lot less these days.  I've got so much on my mind that I get a bit swamped with 'where' to start.  And so I don't write.  Some of the things I want to blog about seem so trivial and I think "Who wants to read this crap?"  But people have been reading my crap for years, so I guess I'll keep churning out the thoughts in my head.

This blog is going to be dealing with more issues on planning for our year (or more) of travel abroad with our twins.  Of course, life goes on, so it won't be just that.  Plus, who really wants to read a year of posts of how we are 'planning' to do something?
Since we've made the decision of YES, we are going to DO this, we've come up with many (almost too many) options of how we are going to do this.

  1. Save up and travel for one year
  2. Save up enough to travel for one year, but plan to work remotely while traveling...and possibly extend the year to years...
  3. Get hired abroad and do short trips while based abroad (Hong Kong, Singapore and possibly India are our best bets)
  4. Get hired abroad, fulfill the contract and then take off traveling for a year (or more)

There are so many variables to each one of these it's mind-boggling.
How much we need to save depends on:

  • what kind of travel we are doing, 
  • which and how many countries we visit, and 
  • what type of life we expect to live while on the road.
Ideally, we would like to travel for two years when the boys are age 3-5.  We're both big fans of slow travel--spending a few months in each location--as we like to dig into the local scene and really get to know that part of the world.  Neither of us have grand plans for a dash-here-and-there-round-the-world kind of trip.
Also, in the past decade, Chicken and I have both covered almost 25 countries and consider ourselves seasoned travelers who have a sense of the places that would be great with kids and those locations that would be difficult.  That's not to say we are experts, only that we are not newbies who feel like we need to get out there and start crossing things off a list.  We love to see new things, but we're also really excited to revisit some favorite places and see it all over again through our children's eyes.

Traveling with a 3 year old is going to be quite a bit easier than a 2 years old. (It is, right?!) Currently, for our month in Costa Rica, we are having to bring pack n plays, strollers, Ergos, and a stock of diapers/wipes.  We won't have to worry about ANY of that when we they are 3.  They will be old enough to walk further/longer, we will be less strict about naps, they can sleep anywhere and use a variety of interesting toilets.

Raising bilingual children is very important to us and we'd love to spend the first year in Spanish speaking countries.  Perhaps Mexico-Guatemala-Argentina?  Maybe we'll love Costa Rica so much we want to return there for a longer period of time?  It would be great to learn a valuable language while we are traveling and have our kids come back fluent.  They are doing so well with their Spanish right now and I don't want them to lose it, so this is a big concern.

In the second year, we see ourselves in South East Asia.  In the past, we saw ourselves based in Bangkok.  But now that we have toddlers and specifically toddlers who beg to be outdoors every possible moment, a big city like Bangkok with little green space does not seem very enticing.
However, Chiang Mai in the northwest has a wonderful climate and is surrounded by lush mountains and greenery.  Furthermore, I have a very good contact there from volunteer days and it's quite likely I could work.
In fact, I could probably do much more meaningful work in South East Asia than I could ever dream of doing here in the USA.
The second year could be Thailand-Malaysia-Indonesia.
There are so many options in this region and we want to go everywhere!

If we only have one year?  We don't know.  Honestly we go back and forth.  Our knee jerk response is SEA because the cost of living is so low, the weather is wonderful, the people are kind and they love children, the food is delicious and it's safe.
But we love the 'goal' of learning Spanish--which cannot be done in SEA.

If Chicken can find a way to parlay her skill set into working online--then we are set.  I think she can do this.  We're networking and planning and it's just going to take some time to figure out what it looks like, but I believe it's out there.
And....if I can find a way to make some money off my writing, then we are double set.

Next Up:  Budgeting for Our Travels

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Weaning My Two Year Old

Hi There.  Yes, I have 2 year old twins and yes, one of them is still latching on twice a day--more if I'd let him.
I'm quite torn about weaning.  I have loved breastfeeding more than I ever thought possible and really don't want it to end.  I wish I was still breastfeeding both of them but it's only Grunter and I as Whoop Whoop abruptly left the boob with a laugh when he was 18 months old.
When I was pregnant, I vaguely remember being a bit ambivalent about breastfeeding.  I was kinda like, yeah that would be cool if it works.  But did I take a class?  Nope.  Read any of my breastfeeding books? Nope.  Open my breast pump or sterilize the parts or figure out how the damned thing worked until the twins came home from the hospital (by the way, don't be stupid like me and do this)?  Nope.
My attitude was a bit "Eh, it will either work or not and if it doesn't I'll be bummed but lots of people use formula and it's all OK."

I never could have predicted the intense reaction I would feel to the possibility that this might not work.
When it looked very much like a failure, I put everything I had into making it work.
Grunter got it faster than Whoop Whoop and if it weren't for him, I would have quit and gone to bottles.  Whoop Whoop put me through hell.  When I think back to those TEN weeks that we struggled with him latching on, I cringe.  I'd love to have happy memories of the newborn days, but I don't.  That was not my reality.  The untreated PPD, the colic, the low birth weight, the troubles with breastfeeding, the eating every 2 hours, the extreme sleep deprivation, the low milk supply, the slow weight gain.  It was all hellish.

So when the breastfeeding finally 'clicked' and it did, though probably not right at 10 weeks, more like around 4 months for me, I knew that I'd give it everything I had.
And I did.  Through countless clogged milk ducts and painful recurrences of mastitis and yeast infections and more sleepless nights, I gave it everything I had.

At some point, it became joyful.  I LOVED tandem breastfeeding my twins.  I cried when I had to stop using my double breastfeeding pillow, but little did I know it was only going to get better and better and better.

Breastfeeding a toddler has seriously been one of the best things I've ever done in my life.  It is so rewarding and FUN.  Yes, it's fun!
Right after the twins started toddling about we moved our mattress to the floor and it created a giant play mat of sorts for them.  Our snuggle place, our breastfeeding place, our reading books place.  The decision to move our mattress to the living room floor was the best one we've made in a long time.  They love it.  We love it.  Kids over for playdates love it.  And the way they can crawl/toddle and now walk and climb into the bed with us is priceless.  The way one of them will stop breastfeeding to walk to the book shelf and come back to hand me a book to read while they are having "mommy milk".

Whoop Whoop, even though he spontaneously self-weaned, still asks for 'mommy milk'.  For him, this time is snuggle time with mommy in bed.  He's on one side with his 'moo milk' and Grunter is on the other side nursing.  When Grunter commands "Other Side!" W2 knows to scramble over my body and they switch sides.  I hold them both in my arms and my life feels so full and complete.  I love it.  I kiss them both and W2 tries to kiss Grunter and Grunter pushes him away and W2 want to kiss him so badly but Grunter is having none of it.  It's so sweet and I don't have these intimate moments with them any other time of the day.
I'm loathe to give them up.

Around Thanksgiving I cut out the 'after nap' nursing session (which went horribly with much wailing and tears and tantruming of Grunter--it lasted about 2 weeks and was awful).
Now we are down to 2 sessions a day--after waking and before sleep at night.
My supply is dropping and has been for over a month.  I knew it when Grunter started crying and pulling off saying "milk OUT".  Poor thing was so frustrated and pissed out that there wasn't much milk.
There have been nights that he doesn't ask to nurse.  Sometimes 2 or 3 nights in a row and I wonder....what now?  But then he asks again and we're off to cuddle.

I've been explaining to him that the mommy milk is slowly going away and I don't have much anymore that's why I can't give it to him in the afternoons (oh yes, he still asks for it sometimes!).  He seems to accept and understand this and says "Moo Milk".  Yes, you get moo milk instead.  "Moon, mommy milk."  Yes, when the moon is up and it's dark, you will get mommy milk.

We'll be going away in a month and it's going to be even harder for me to nurse him in our house in Costa Rica.  I won't be able to 'watch' Whoop Whoop while he nurses.  Our bed is not on the floor.  It's going to be hot and sticky and sandy.  Nursing a hot, sticky, sandy toddler doesn't sound nearly as dreamy as a clean toddler in a clean bed!
Plus, well....I never in a million years would have dreamed I'd be breastfeeding a 2 year old!  It's crazy considering how it started.
So, I think I'm going to start weaning.  Maybe.  I could change my mind tomorrow.  Or maybe laying in a hammock with a sticky toddler will be dreamy and I'm just obsessed with being clean and sticky-free.