I feel like I'm really getting the hang of this whole two kids situation. Most days, things go quite smoothly and we're all happy and healthy. Here's what a typical day looks like for us:
At night, Mira sleeps from about 8pm to about 8am. Ellowyn sleeps from about 8pm to about 5:30am (yes, a 9 to 10 hour stretch, I know exactly how lucky I am), is up for 30min to one hour nursing on and off, then goes back to sleep from about 6:30am to 9am (usually). So in the mornings, I'm up from 5:30am to 6:30am with Ellowyn in her room, nursing and rocking until she goes back to sleep (she sleeps in an inclined bassinet in her own room- the incline helps with her reflux as opposed to lying flat in a crib). Then from about 6:30am to 7:30am I can get a few more winks of sleep. Then I get up to get my shower before the girls are awake. By the time I'm dressed, Mira is usually stirring and I'll go in to get her.
Since Ellowyn is usually still asleep, I can spend some time alone with Mira over breakfast. After we eat breakfast we can play a bit together and I'll pack up the diaper bag so that it's ready for the day. Ellowyn wakes up around 9am and I'll nurse her and then is our time to be out of the house. We spend most weekday mornings at a playdate: either at the park or a friend's house or at one of the many cool kiddie places around Austin, spending time with some other wonderful stay-at-home-mommies and their children. (I'm so thankful for my mom's clubs; it's such a supportive network and it's so nice to have friends to spend the weekdays with.) Some mornings we'll run an errand too, but that depends on Ellowyn's mood.
Then it's lunch time. If Ellowyn has slept at the playdate (usually in my moby wrap while I chase Mira), then we can sometimes go get Daddy from work and take him to lunch. As long as Ellowyn has had a morning nap and I nurse her right before the meal, the girls are both very well behaved when we go out to eat lunch. If we eat lunch at home, I get lunch for Mira and once she's seated eating, I'll nurse Ellowyn down for her nap. Then Mira finishes lunch and I'm free to read books with her and then put her down for her nap. Somewhere in all that I grab a few bites of something for myself.
I'll usually have a few minutes to myself in the afternoon while the girls are napping. I can get some dishes done, catch up from the busy morning, eat lunch if I didn't get time to while the girls were eating, and take a break. Ellowyn usually wakes up before Mira and then I can have some quiet time with just Ellowyn: nursing, doing tummy time, cooing at each other, etc. Around 3 or 4pm, Mira wakes up from her nap. We can sometimes squeeze a quick errand in before rush hour, but usually we just spend the afternoon playing at home. We play in the backyard with the swings, slides, sandbox, chalk, or if it's warm enough I'll turn on the water hose for Mira. Or if the weather is not good, we play inside with crayons, play-doh, puzzles, baby dolls, or Mira will cook something for me or Ellowyn in her play kitchen.
The evening is the most demanding time of the day. Brian usually gets home from work at around 6:30pm, but in order to get the girls down for bed, we need to eat right as he walks in the door. So that leaves me juggling dinner, a toddler, and an infant. It's challenging, but as long as I plan ahead, it's usually ok. So that's another thing I'll usually do while the girls nap: figure out what's for dinner and do as much prep work as I can so that when it's time to make dinner, I just start up the stove/oven/grill and everything's ready to go. Brian gets home and we all have dinner together, with Ellowyn sitting in her bouncy chair at the table with us. (I think it's very important for the family to sit down to dinner together on a regular basis, so it's a juggling act for me to accomplish, but it means a lot to me so I make it work.)
Right after dinner, I take Ellowyn up for her bath, giving Mira a chance to play with her daddy for a bit. I give Ellowyn her bath and then nurse her down for the night (it's an epic feeding, easily lasting half an hour or more). While I'm nursing Ellowyn, Brian will bathe Mira, then read stories with her. Usually when I finish nursing Ellowyn, Brian and Mira are finishing up their bedtime stories and Brian and I can both tuck Mira in together. It's usually about 8pm when the girls are in bed, so then Brian and I can spend a couple hours together before going to bed ourselves.
It's all hard work, but it at least goes smoothly most of the time. Some days are harder, like when Mira is being needier than normal or when Ellowyn refuses to nap. On those days, I have a few tricks that I can pull out of my hat. A big one is nursing on the ground: me lying on my side on the floor, Ellowyn pulled in to my chest to nurse and Mira sitting up by my head so we can play with some toy together (or read a book or work a puzzle or color or whatever Mira wants to do with me). Another trick is baby-wearing. This works especially well on the days that Ellowyn is fussy/not napping. Technology is another great trick: I have apps on my phone for both girls: white noise for Ellowyn, games for Mira. And there's the old TV trick, though I use this as a last resort because I don't like Mira to get more than about 2-3 hours per week, Mira will always sit quietly through an hour of Sesame Street, which is nice when I just have to get some task done.
So, yeah, I'm feeling really good about my abilities as a mother and my coping mechanisms and the things my children are being exposed to and how much time I'm able to spend with each of them, separately and together. Now if only I could figure out how to do all that and also keep up with the chores... I'm starting to think maybe it's not possible.
Edit: I forgot to mention another of my tricks: dual diapering. Whenever Mira needs a diaper, I change Ellowyn's at the same time, laying the two girls down side-by-side, and changing one, then the other while they lay next to each other, keeping each other entertained with faces, talking, smiling, etc. Just before Ellowyn was born, Mira was in a toddlery stage of resisting diaper changes, but dual diapering solved that problem completely.