I’ve never done this before, but then again until one year ago I was never an Aunt either. Today, I’m not writing about running or cooking or surprise trips to the doctor’s or even peanut butter (although my supply is running low). Today my adorable, cuddly (and often drooling) nephews turn one! So, today is all about them.
On May 19, 2016, my very first day of training to work as a chef in an assisted living facility, I was sitting outside on a bench, eating a turkey and cheese sandwich, wearing this light green shirt that I wear on the first day of nearly every job overlooking a soccer field, when my phone began to ring, loudly.
I looked down, it was my oldest brother calling. It was just after noon on a Thursday, why in the world was he calling?
The answer? He and my sister-in-law were expecting twins, due in early January.
The exciting news consumed my family. On our trip to Ireland, every time we saw an infant-sized article of touristy clothing I couldn’t resist pointing it out to my mom.
“Should we get that for the twins?”
With many months until their arrival still to go, we refrained (mostly) from any baby-related purchases.
June, July, August, September, October, November…
On a Monday morning in mid-November I was sitting in a journalism class when my phone started ringing once again. When I saw it was my brother, this time I knew what it was. Without even a hesitation I got up and left the class.
“They’re coming today,” was all my brother said.
Nearly two months before their due date, John Phillip and Joseph Leonard came into the world and suddenly my family of seven expanded to nine.
I spent the whole day alerting every relative and friend that were eagerly anticipating the new additions. I skipped a meeting and baked pumpkin pudding instead. I talked to my dad who was across the sea in Spain, my mom who was driving as fast as she could to the hospital, one of my other brothers whose car had broken down on the side of the road and the final brother who was going to rescue him. I continued to hold down the communication fort: cousins, aunts, uncles, family friends and random others who I felt should know. Aunt life had begun.
I had never wanted to skip school before, but that entire week of classes seemed pointless and studying for my exams may or may not have happened (looking at photos of my two favorite babies was now a top priority). All I wanted to do was drive the 310 miles from school to the hospital. And one week later I finally did.
The holidays were all about the babies as both my brother’s and parents’ house transformed into baby central. Having been the youngest sibling I had never seen our house filled with diapers, little blankets, stacks of tiny-sized sleepers, more bottles and bottle parts then I could keep track of and anything else you can possibly think a company could market for baby use.
With an extended winter break, thanks to the typical college schedule, I headed up for four full days to help babysit the twins in early January. I arrived after dinner to find two very tired parents and two very hungry babies.
“I got this,” I told my brother and sister-in-law. “Get some sleep.” Where my confidence came from I’m not so sure. I had never taken care of one infant by myself for more than an hour or two and here I was facing two for an entire night. Within the first 30 minutes, I was thrown up on, covered in what-should-have-been-diaper-contents and totally enamored with my adorable nephews.
For anyone about to dive into babysitting twins, my first suggestion is to invest in the below pillow. It allowed for simultaneous feeding, comforting and when you’re lucky sleeping. It is also wise to pack many more changes of clothes than you could have ever dreamed four days would require.
When I headed back to school John and Joe became my daily motivators. Nearly every morning I’d wake up with a photo from the doting grandparents (my parents). I was constantly showing my friends photos in class, in the library, at random hours of the night.
“Look, he smiled.”
“Look he rolled over.”
“Look….they’re just so cute!!”
I had one friend text and ask, “You had twins?!?!” I set him straight real fast. No, no, I’m certainly not their mom, just the proud Aunt.
One thing I didn’t anticipate was how fast they grow and learn. Every time I saw them they were bigger, stronger, more capable and increased my arm strength a little bit more.
Our whole family was together again to celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday in April. We went to an all-you-can-eat Brazilian buffet (a departure from our typical cheap china buffet style). Despite the venue, John and Joe didn’t seem impressed. They continued with their favorite activity, sleeping, drinking milk and requesting a diaper change with a very distinguishable cry.
As the months went by the adventures continued…
- at the beach (we learned that Joe is a fan of water and John just wants out)
- on the playground (swings may not be their favorite activity)
- meeting cousins at family reunions (despite being three months younger, they were just as big)
- riding their pets (Butters luckily seems to like them as much as we do)
- at Sandy Island family camp (starting the love of Sandy Island early)
- in their brand new house (fireplaces just taste so good and mirrors are so enticing)
- during Grandma and Grandpa’s spontaneous ab workouts
As we continued to be charmed by their cubby cheeks and frequent smiles, they both gained new skills.
Sitting, crawling, loving the Patriots, charming ladies (see photos above) and most useful of all…holding a bottle all on their own, that was a big one.
In August, I moved, and my frequent visits came to an end. I relied on snapshots and snapchats to see their progress.
While I learned that Maryland drivers are the worst, they learned how to stand. While I spent hours talking about fruits and vegetables, they tried their first bites. While I learned how hard homesickness can be, they were learning all the ways to get into trouble in their new home (the baby gates have taken over).
Although I hadn’t planned on seeing them until Thanksgiving, more than a week after their first birthday, I found myself back in New England at the start of November and hiking with a baby Joe strapped to me. (Potentially the most difficult mile I have ever hiked due to my constant fear of falling.) Although it was a lot of travel for just two days, it was entirely worth it.
John and Joe probably won’t remember their first year of life. In fact, if they did I would have a hard time believing it. Most people don’t start forming memories until they are over three years old. But that doesn’t mean, they aren’t part of hundreds and hundreds of beautiful ones.
They have made everyone who knows them (and even many who they may never meet) smile more, laugh more and love a little more.
Happy first birthday to the best nephews around! I love you and can’t wait to see what year two has in store.