Meet a How Do You Do It? author

Sadia

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 10-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. They live in the Austin, TX suburbs, where Sadia works full time in information technology. She contributes to a number of parenting websites and magazines and also runs The Mommy Blogging Guide, where she answers mommy bloggers' technical questions.

Explaining Being Black in America to Children

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Categories Diversity, Parenting, PerspectiveTags Leave a comment

Lester Davis’s 6-year-old twin boys and 4-year-old daughter had a fun opportunity: they could bring water guns to school. What’s better than a good soaking on a hot summer day? They were excited.

However, the Davis family is Black.

Lester had to have a very difficult conversation with his kids about how Black people are perceived, one he describes as a “right of passage” in many minority homes. He told them about the death of 14-year-old Tamir Rice, a child with toy who was perceived as a man with a gun. He eventually let the kids take the water guns, but these little ones are now a little more aware of how the world may some day perceive them.

This is parenting at its best.

On Parenting | Why this dad didn’t want his kids to play with water guns

A father struggles with whether to allow his three black children to take water guns to camp.

I’m not Black. While I am a minority, the worst stereotype I’ve had to deal with is “Indians are all good at math”.

I am good at math, so it doesn’t affect me personally. However, I am aware of Asian kids with dyslexia and other academic challenges whose access to services was delayed because of their teachers’ assumptions of their abilities based on their race. Even positive stereotypes can hurt.

As I was saying, I’m not Black, but my daughters and I have had the same conversation Lester had with his children. Changing attitudes, preventing the shooting of another Black 14-year-old with a toy, that falls on all of us, not just Black parents. Thank you, Lester, for giving us an example to follow.

You can find Lester’s wife, Tanika, blogging at Davis Family Chronicles.

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Should You Go to MommyCon? Yes!

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What exactly is MommyCon?

MommyCon is an entirely unique event: part trade show, part kid gear market, part mommy meetup, part parenting course. I went in without expectations, and came away thinking, “I have to tell everyone about this!” MommyCon is ideal for expectant parents and those with little kids (infants and toddlers) seeking community and solutions. I found plenty to hold my interest for the full day even though my kids are older. If MommyCon has an event in your area, I strongly recommend that you go.

Expect a large exhibit hall where you can browse products, go shopping, and chat with product representatives. Nearby, find lectures and group discussions on all aspects of parenting and womanhood. I hear that the talk on sex while breastfeeding was a huge hit, although I didn’t attend. I enjoyed chatting with other MommyCon attendees, especially when they were breastfeeding their little ones or taking a snack break. While most of the folks I met were local, some had come to Austin from as far away as Dallas and the exhibitors were from all over the country.

MommyCon is a gathering of mothers, brands and parenting experts designed for babywearers on the lookout for high quality products and parenting insight.

I’d never even heard of MommyCon before Penny over at Foster2Forever mentioned that it was coming to Austin in a local bloggers’ Facebook group. I went ahead and entered Naturepedic’s ticket giveaway and didn’t think much more of it. Lucky me! I won the giveaway. And lucky you! Most of the goodies that I picked up will be coming to HDYDI readers in future giveaways.

If you’re near Washington, D.C., you may even be able to land a pair of free tickets of your own for the July 23, 2016 MommyCon event in town. Naturepedic is giving away tickets! MommyCon also comes to Texas, Florida, and California, with a total of 10 events a year.

Who should go to MommyCon?

MommyCon is definitely targeted at the babywearing, cloth diapering crowd. The products available to try or buy are generally for expectant mothers and those whose kids who are still in diapers. However, there is plenty to do and learn for those of us whose children are older.

The best thing about MommyCon, in my opinion, is how kid-friendly it is.

At @mommycon. So impressed by the @babyganics changing station.

A photo posted by Sadia (@hdydiblog) on

Unlike most other mom events I’ve attended, MommyCon actively accommodates children, providing toys and diapering supplies. Most importantly, every single person there welcomes children into every part of the event. We all understand full well that kids are going to cry, run around, interrupt, and push the occasional button. While the crowd was overwhelmingly female, there were plenty of babywearing dads and expectant fathers, tending to kids, joining in parenting discussions, and shopping.

MommyCon features awesome products and an involved, interested group of parents.

When my twins were infants, I had a baby carrier, but wouldn’t describe myself as a baby-wearer. I used the carrier only when both my babies demanded to be held and I needed a spare arm. I liked the idea of cloth diapers, but my children were in daycare for 11 hours a day. Disposable diapers were the only option, at least on weekdays. I felt completely at home despite being a working mom whose maternity leave ended when my babies were only 11 weeks old… a decade ago. Much as I had wanted to wear my babies back in 2006, I used my single baby Snugli carrier quite rarely.

What kind of products does MommyCon feature?

If it has to do with mom or baby, MommyCon probably has it. I chatted with a local Baby Sign teacher, checked out adorable clothes and toys, looked at all sorts of safety supplies, ate the most delicious yogurt in history, and even tried a better tasting infant iron supplement. MommyCon is a great opportunity for boutique shopping for yourself and baby.

Baby carriers

As far as I’m aware, baby carriers designed for twins weren’t even on the market back in my day. I finally got to try the TwinGo carrier I’ve been drooling over online in MommyCon , where the exhibits include a phenomenal wrap and carrier library where you can try on tens of different baby carriers to find the right one for you and your brood.

The TwinGo carrier lets you wear two babies at once, but can also be separated into two separate carriers, one for each parent.

The TwinGo is genius. It doesn’t just allow you to safely and comfortably wear both your babies at once. It also comes apart into to separate carriers so that you and your co-parent can each wear a baby. If you’re expecting twins, add it to your baby registry now. Really. I can wait.

In addition to the wide array of carriers available to try out in the babywearing area, a number of company representatives manned their own tables. Jess Mann at the Moby Wrap was particularly helpful. Although the company does not promote wearing two babies in a single wrap, Jess did acknowledge that many parents of multiples do so. I really appreciated her taking the time to lament with me the challenges of a top-heavy mother trying to wearing tiny babies.

The founder of Kanaluti carriers was also at MommyCon and made an excellent recommendation: check with your pediatrician before wearing your babies, especially if they’re fragile preemies like mine were. A number of other carrier companies were present, but I didn’t stop at all the booths. My 10-year-olds are a little beyond baby carriers these days.

Car seats

I’m kind of a car seat nerd, so I spent a lot of time chatting with the car seat folks. I stopped by the Britax booth and thanked them for the wonderful information about car seat safety I’d used to educate myself before my daughters were born. I swear to this day that the Britax Marathon gets all the credit for keeping my children entirely safe in the one accident we’ve been in. I was pleased to see that they’re now selling some narrower seats. Despite my loyalty to their brand, I had to switch away to fit three kids in the back seat of my sedan.

I was blown away by the Kiddy brand car seats, which are new to the US market. I’ve been frustrated by boosters sliding around on the seat. The Kiddy seats have a retractable LATCH attachment that allows the seat to push up flush against the back of the car’s seat. They’re also designed to absorb the impact of a crash so that the child’s hips feel less of it.

In addition to safety, Kiddy engineers have thoughtfully designed their seats accommodate children of different sizes. My own girls being in the 1st and 3rd percentiles for height and weight, I’m fully aware of what a challenge it can be when things are designed only with the average person in mind. The Kiddy car seat I looked at expands up, sideways and even forwards to fit longer legs. Some of their seats take kids up to 110 lbs; while I weighed only 2 lbs more than that when I got pregnant, I know that there are kids who because of age or maturity need to be in car seats at that size.

Kiddy is a new brand to the US car seat market. The seats adjust to children of different sizes. The seats even stretch forward to fit long legs.

I’ve been through the expense of car seat expiration before. I asked about their expiration period, and was pleasantly surprised to hear that the Kiddy seats can be good for 8 years. Or was it 7? I should have taken notes!

Strollers

I confess that I didn’t spend much time at all with the strollers. I was, however, deeply impressed by the SCOUT car attachment. This simple smart solution lets you attach bulky (and often filthy) jogging strollers to the back of your car. No more wrestling a jogging stroller into the trunk while your babies scream. No more having to buy a new car because the trunk isn’t big enough.

The SCOUT jogging stroller attachment lets you keep your jogging stroller on the outside of your car!

I had a lovely conversation with SCOUT’s inventor and his wife, and briefly even met one of their sons. This product is lightweight and simple, and it was clear to see how much love and thought had gone into designing a solution to make an outdoorsy family’s life a little easier.

And tons more

The goody bags that they hand out at MommyCon are, of themselves, worth the price of entry. Here’s most of the content of one:

  A photo posted by Sadia (@hdydiblog) on

I’ll tell you more about the eating supplies, cleaning products, body care products, jewelry, and accessories in future posts, since I’ll be giving away most of the stuff in the photo above to readers.

MommyCon Lectures and Discussions

At MommyCon Austin. I went to a great talk on preparing our daughters for their first period by the perfectly named Leah Love. Even though there were no other twin moms present, the entire room weighed in with thoughtful answers when I asked how to handle any awkwardness that might arise if one twin hits this milestone before her more competitive sister. I cried during the Q&A portion of Chasity Boatman‘s talk, where she covered both her experience of post-partum depression and her successful exclusively expressed breastmilk feeding relationship with her son. That talk alone was worth making the choice to go to MommyCon.

Let me just share with you the discussion schedule. These are top notch presentations. I understand that other locations will have some overlap in content, but quite a bit varies from city to city.

Considering whether to go to MommyCon? The talks are well worth it, even without the swag bag and industry experts.

So, yes, you should go to MommyCon

MommyCon is targeted at baby-wearing, cloth diapering moms and moms-to-be. It’s definitely most relevant to parents with little children, infants and toddlers. However, the event has plenty to offer to parents who follow all sorts of parenting philosophies. If you have the chance, go to this entirely unique event! (And then send me a note to let me know how you enjoyed yourself.)

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How to talk to kids about the Orlando shooting: 5 musts

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Categories Anger, Community, Fear, Grief, How Do The Moms Do It, Mental Health, Older Children, Parenting, Talking to KidsLeave a comment

I felt like I was falling. My immediate reaction to learning of Sunday morning’s Orlando tragedy was visceral. I felt my stomach and heart drop before my brain could catch up to put words to my feelings. Grief. Anger. Fear. Above all, confusion. How could someone be so evil? Why would anyone bring a gun to a place of joy?

I quickly confirmed that everyone I knew who had even the most remote possibility of being at the scene of the massacre was safe. They were. My entire focus then turned to my daughters. How was I going to talk to my kids about the Orlando shooting?

Like so many parents, I’ve wrestled over whether to talk to my children about the horrific murders committed by a single deranged man. My daughters are 10. They interact with other children during the day. If they were going to learn about the shooting, I wanted them to learn about it from me, in a way that was honest, age appropriate, and non-sensationalist. I thought long and hard about how I would talk to my kids about the Orlando shooting specifically and mass shooting in general.

The way our morning went Monday, I only got around to talking to one kid. When I picked the kids up from camp, she was the one to encourage me to talk to her sister about the Orlando tragedy.

“Something really bad happened yesterday,” I started.

“49 dead? 53 injured?” she interrupted.

It turns out that she had read about the tragedy in Orlando on the news ticker. There was sports programming playing on TVs at the day’s field trip destination.

I wished I had spoken to her before she’d read those details, but she didn’t seem too traumatized. I got the impression that my willingness to discuss the matter did a lot to counter the children’s fear of this act of terrorism. Their confusion mirrored mine.

My willingness to discuss #Orlando with my kids did a lot to calm their fear. Click To Tweet

My daughters are as goofy and energetic as 10-year-olds come, but they are unusually mature. They, like me, feel empowered by information. You know your children better than anyone. If they are at a stage where they still think that everything that happens is because of or about them, they may be too immature to handle the news. Protect them from the television, radio, newspapers, and unthinking adults. You need to decide for your family, for each individual child, how to talk to them about the Orlando tragedy.

I knew that my daughters needed to talk this horrific event through. I explained that a very wrong man went to a place that is specifically intended to be a safe place for gay people to meet and hang out.

“That’s a great idea,” my daughter interjected. “It’s nice that there’s a place where gay people can know that all the not gay people will be nice to them.”

Obviously, my kids were already familiar with the concept of homosexuality. I told them that boys could marry boys and girls girls when they were toddlers. They’ve since noticed a number of lesbian and gay couples among my friends and met kids with two moms.

“But,” my little girl continued, “that makes the bad man even worse. Because he picked a place that’s nice to be mean.”

She was right, I told her. There were five massive ideas at play in the Orlando shooting, as I saw it. She had already identified two: terrorism and homophobia. She brought up 9/11 and we talked about the parallels between the two events for a bit.

It was then easy to segue into the religion part of the discussion. I told my daughter that a lot of people associate terrorism with Islam. A lot of our Muslim friends and family feared hatred from people who painted all Muslims with a single terrorist brush. I confessed that a small part of my choice to keep my married name after divorce was to avoid a recognizably Muslim name.

“But mostly to match us?” she asked. Yes, I mostly kept my married name to match my kids.

“But Mom,” my daughter realized out loud, “Christian people do bad things sometimes, but I’m not a bad person and I’m Christian.”

She was spot on. “What does it mean to be Christian?” I prompted. “If someone hurts a bunch of people, is that following Jesus’ example?”

“No,” she realized, “and he wasn’t very good at being Muslim either.”

Whenever I can, I let my children draw their own conclusions. I learn far more from them than they do from me.

“That’s three things, mom. You said there were five.”

The other two things were mental health and gun ownership. We have depression in the family, so we’ve talked in the past about chemical imbalances in the brain. I told my daughter that there was probably something very very wrong with the shooter’s brain for hmm to even imagine what he had done, much less follow through.

Next, we briefly touched on gun rights. Her father is a soldier, so she’s familiar with responsible gun ownership. I told her that my personal belief is that guns should be treated like cars, with training, licensing, and insurance required.

It was a great conversation, although one I wish we didn’t have occasion for.

“I understand the five things,” my thoughtful child told me, “but I still didn’t understand.”

I told her the truth. I didn’t understand either. No one would ever understand. There was nothing sensible, logical, or comprehensible about what this man had done. The families who are smaller today will never understand why their loved ones will never come home. The big question – WHY? – would always be out there confusing us all.

My daughter accepted my answer. She was old enough to get that this story wasn’t going to wrap up neatly. She asked me to spend the night in her room, because she was sad. We snuggled up in shared sadness, confusion, and complete love and trust.

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The Summer Childcare Quandary

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Categories Childcare, How Do The Moms Do It, Older Children, School-Age5 Comments

Like most people with full time jobs, my work hours remain the same during the summer when school is out. Like the other 12 million single parents in the US, finding childcare for my children falls solely to me. Technically, the girls’ father has summer visitation privileges, but I need to have a plan in case he doesn’t show up. I also have to choose between missing registration deadlines or forfeiting deposit payments if he does decide to spend time with the children.

Given the enormous variety of summer camps available here in suburban Texas, you might assume that the only challenge for summer childcare for my elementary school children is our custody situation. You’d be very, very wrong.

Most day camps sold as “full day” camps run from 9 am to 3:30 or 4 pm. After-school childcare programs suspend for the summer, so those of us who work fairly typical hours (8 am to 5 pm in the US, plus commute time) are out of luck. Some companies, including mine, can accommodates shorter hours in the office to allow us to work from home to make up the balance. However, that’s not an ideal solution, either. When I’m home with my children, I want to be actively with them, not simply physically present but mentally at work. My daughters aren’t huge outdoors kids, so shooing them out into the Texas heat to play only buys me a few hours per week.

Ever year, starting in March, all the working moms I know begin our summer care hand wringing. It never gets better, though. Given that stay-at-home motherhood is no longer the only norm in our society, I really don’t understand why we haven’t come up with better solutions. Year round school would work. Full day summer camps would be great if their hours mirrored daycare programs for infants and toddlers. After camp care, similar to after school care, including transportation where necessary, would be enormously helpful.

I must acknowledge that most of these options don’t account for how out of reach summer camp costs are for many single parents, often around $150-200 per child per week, more for extended care. I know. This is quite a bit less than infant care, but it’s still a major stressor for families. I know of kids my daughters’ age, 10 years old, who have been staying home along during the summer for years. While that may have worked in past generations, when free range parenting was just called “life”, it not a sustainable way to keep kids out of trouble in 2016.

Childcare for elementary schoolers when school lets out for the summer can be a nightmare for the working parent.

I’m very thankful that we have a full day gymnastics camp only 15 miles out of our way that always makes room for my girls. My boss is open to my leaving an hour early every day to pick the kids up before they close. Neither of my daughters does gymnastics during the school year, but they enjoy the program for the summer. In all honesty, they’d rather attend others, but I can’t meet registration deadlines because of visitation challenges. In a pinch, teacher friends will watch my girls, but I can’t expect that for the 10 weeks school is out.

Any great ideas for fixing our summer childcare culture?

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Respecting Boundaries

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Last night, I scrubbed the girls’ bathroom from top to bottom after tucking the children into bed. I then took a little break on the couch, eating a piece of chocolate while watching part of an episode of Turn on Netflix. Next to me lay my daughter’s sketchbook, closed. She had once again failed to put it away.

I was tempted to peek.

My daughter turns 10 in a few days and her artistic abilities are impressive. Her classmates commission drawings from her. She entertained a 4-year-old a waiting room for an hour the other day, drawing what the littler girl demanded: a ballerina performing on a stage in front of an audience. The perspective was spot on, the stage curtains elegant and heavy-looking, the dancer light on her feet. Some of the seats in the front row were empty, the audience members a mix of children and adults. The kid can draw, not professionally by any means, but well.

I am tempted to share her drawings with you.

I didn’t peek. I don’t share her drawings with you until I get her consent.

image

My daughters have boundaries and I choose to respect them. My little girl will let me leaf through her sketchbook when she is ready. She has shared some drawings with me but says I need to wait to see others.

I am allowed to hug her, but the bedtime kisses on the nose have been banned for a few months now. She was feeling poorly earlier this week and wanted snuggles. I forgot myself and kissed her on the top of her head, then apologized. “It’s okay,” she told me. “Feeling better kisses are okay.”

She shares with me her thoughts on school, life, family, and friendship. I feel like I know what’s going on with her.

She knows that I will respect her boundaries, despite temptation. This is how I keep boundaries from coming between us.

 

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Personalized Christmas Ornaments for Twins and More

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Disclosure: I received a $35 credit plus free shipping from Personalized Ornaments for You in exchange for an honest review. Images are shared with permission.

We absolutely love decorating our Christmas tree. Since my twins are responsible enough to handle breakable ornaments, I trotted out all the special ornaments this winter. These are the one-off ornaments that hold special meaning to us, whether they were a gift from my daughters’ great-grandmother to commemorate their first Christmas or handmade by my daughters the year they learned to write.

Popsicle sticks, paper plates, glue, and paint make for an easy Christmas ornament for little artists.

I’m a sucker for little things with big meaning. Family themed Christmas ornaments? Sign me up.

This ornament commemorates baby's (or in the twins' case, babies'!) first Christmas.

While the Hallmark First Christmas kitten in a stroller is adorable, its true meaning comes from it being a gift from Grandma Great. Let’s be honest, if it weren’t for that, it would be a little generic. Grandma Great was thoughtful enough to buy two of them so that each twin will have one to grace her own Christmas tree when she is grown.

wpid-Photo-20151231121925419.jpg

My girls have recently come to realize how very special their twin bond is. They spend a lot of time with their best friend, who was an only child for nearly 9 years. This friendship has inspired them to express more and more how special it is to have an identical twin sister.

2015 was the perfect time to find gifts for my daughters that would acknowledge their unique connection, and I found them in the form of Christmas ornaments.

This ornament from #POFY was an instant hit with twin sisters. Of course, mommy had to get two of them!

How utterly adorable is that mantle with matching stockings with each girl’s name (which I’ve edited out for their privacy)? The stock text for the ornament was “TWINS’ 2ND CHRISTMAS!”, but I was able to supply my own text for no extra cost. Of course, I also specified my daughters’ names. Adorable personalized ornament! #POFY #twins

The order form is wonderfully easy to use.

 

Ordering affordable personalized ornaments could not be easier! #POFY has a huge variety of family themed christmas ornaments as well as others.

I ordered two of the ornaments. Because, twins. They’re excellent quality and honestly far nicer than I expected them to be, given the prices and rapid delivery. I can’t come up with a criticism, and I’ve tried. They’re nice heavy ceramic with a beautiful sheen and the pride put into the handwritten lettering is clear.

When Personalized Ornaments for You first reached out to us for a review post, I was ready to say, “Thanks but no thanks,” as I do to most companies, since most companies have nothing specific to offer our multiple birth families. Generic family themed Christmas ornaments weren’t going to cut it.

#POFY was completely different. Not only did they offer options for twins, there were so many to choose from that I had to make a shortlist of favourites, step away from the computer, and then decide. In fact, although I went to their site fully intending to order a single ornament, I ended up ordering three, supplementing the company’s generous credit with a bit of my own money. I’ll get to keep my own single mommy of twinfants ornament when my grown daughters abscond with theirs!

An ornament for a single mother of twins? Oh, sure, Personalized Ornaments for You has even this mom covered!(My daughter has been exceptionally camera-shy of late, but she loved these ornaments so much that she even offered to model them for the blog!)

#POFY doesn’t just have stuff for twins, either! Triplets and quadruplets are set, as are larger families with singletons in the mix.

#POFY even has ornaments for triplet families!

How perfect would an ornament like this be to announce a multiple pregnancy? Instead of names, you could go with “Baby A, Baby B, Baby C, Baby D”?

A perfect ornament for the family of quadruplets that has everything. #POFY

Or you could sneak a due date in place of a name and watch realization dawn on Grandma’s face!

A great keepsake for a BIG family! #POFY has great family themed christmas ornaments.

I was going to distribute our ornaments around our tree, but one of my daughters stopped me. “Put them together, Mommy,” she requested, “because it’s our family, and we belong together.”

How cute are these ornaments for a single mom family with twins? #POFY has great family themed christmas ornaments for families of all sorts.

So, have I talked you into wanting your own little tear jerker moment, inspired by a personalized ornament? I’m happy to tell you that Personalized Ornaments for You is hosting their close out sale starting today, through the end of the month. If you’re in the US or Canada, hurry over to grab some gifts for loved ones or treats for yourself to squirrel away until next December.

Of course, I’ve focused on the multiple family-themed ornaments, but you’ll find something for everyone and every occasion on the #POFY website. Happy browsing!

Personalized Ornaments for You offers just that - the perfect personalized ornament to say, "You are special."

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Twinfant Tuesday: Distinguishing Night from Day

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Switching kids from vacation to school mornings is no fun. They’re grumpy enough that vacation is over. The earlier wake up time just adds insult to injury.

The end of winter break got me thinking about sleep patterns. I worked through December, with two days off (Christmas Eve and Christmas Day), but my daughters were out of school for the second half of the month. For the first time, I didn’t send them to daycare or a winter break camp. Instead, I worked from home and let the twins stay home with me.

Although I stayed on my regular work routine, my daughters stayed up later than usual and slept in. They loved having a full day for games of pretend, fort building, board games, and reading. And yes, I allowed them 2 hours of screen time per day, a quantity usually reserved for weekends.

Transitioning from an 8 am wake up time to 6 am for school wasn’t going to be fun for anyone. I did some reading on circadian rhythms and body clocks. Most of what I read, I already knew and had begun to put in place. One thing surprised me: the impact of exposure to electronic screens. More on that later.

Parents fixate on sleep. We worry about whether our children are getting enough sleep, whether the sleep is happening at the right time, and whether our children will ever again let us sleep enough to feel rested.

Parents fixate on #sleep: our kids and our own. #Babies learn to distinguish night from day. Click To Tweet

Whether or not we’re consciously aware, every parent has at least one sleep goal for their newborn: distinguishing night from day. As they grow, we want our children to develop sleep patterns that involve increasingly long stretches of sleep at night and increasing short stretches of sleep during the day.

We’re built for such sleep patterns. Our bodies produce a chemical called melatonin, and how much we produce is tied to the time of day. Melatonin levels, in turn, tell our bodies whether it is sleep time or wake time. The way that our bodies determine how much melatonin to create is strongly influenced by light exposure. It’s very logical. In the thousands of the years humans were around before the invention of the light bulb, we could rely on the timing of sunlight to regulate our sleep-wake cycles.

Consider gradually dimming lights around your little one as part of sleep training.

My daughters have a good friend who is blind. While I now allow some flexibility in my 9-year-old girls’ sleep time, their blind friend gets no such luxury. Without light input to help regulate to her body clock, she is wholly reliant on routine to keep her on the same sleep-wake schedule as her peers. Sleeping in on weekends or staying up late as a treat isn’t worth the disruption that it would cause her.

Electric lights may do something to mess with our body clocks, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to start dimming lights as bedtime approaches. I babysit my friends’ 8-month-old with some regularity, and he goes down for the night easiest when I don’t turn on lights in the house as the sky darkens. He’s an active, curious little boy who tends to fight sleep, but the changes in light quality after sunset have an unmistakable effect on him.

The thing that hadn’t occurred to me until I started to research it more is that electronic screens, even those used for reading, can trick our bodies into thinking it’s still daytime as we’re trying to wind down for the night. After I read that little fact, I adjusted our “Kindle time doesn’t count as screen time” rule to “Kindle time doesn’t count as screen time, but any reading within an hour of bedtime must be on paper.” And of course, no other types of screen time, whether a game or a show, is allowed within that same pre-bed wind-down hour. Ideally, that wind-down hour would be two hours, but a full-time job and commute makes that impossible. When the girls are on the computer until close to bedtime because of homework, I can dim the screen as much as possible.

If rejiggering your family’s light exposure doesn’t work or isn’t an option as your kids are returning to their school schedule, you can actually buy melatonin in pill form. Please, before acting on this option, speak to your child’s pediatrician and go with the lowest available dose, 0.5 mg or less. It seems that the best time to take a dose is around 6:00 pm, which sets your school-aged child up to be sleepy right around bedtime. Unless your child has a confirmed sleep disorder, there should be no need to use melatonin over the long-term. It’s especially helpful when switching sleep patterns, for example after a trip to counter jetlag, or if you work a night shift.

Do you take light exposure into account when you consider your family’s schedule?

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Experiential Gifts

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I pride myself on giving thoughtful and personal gifts. However, my love of gift giving is in direct conflict with my penny pinching tendencies and antipathy toward consumerism. I’m a decent cook and baker, so I tend to give food gifts to friends. Since I feed my kids anyway, gastronomical gifts don’t work as well for them during the holidays, when my oven is rarely off. My daughters love being my quality control department. A gift of freshly made cookies or bread wouldn’t be nearly as meaningful to them as I want their gifts to be.

Two colours are all you need to achieve festive elegance. Food gifts are wonderfully economical, useful, and personal.

Now that my daughters are old enough to appreciate delayed gratification, I can give them gifts that aren’t objects. I can give them experiences. This Christmas, for example, I have enrolled my daughters and their best friend in a children’s sewing class offered at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores. They’ll learn the basics of cutting fabric for a pattern, using a sewing machine, and will come away with a brand new pillowcase for their effort.Turn a mason jar into an experiential gift container with a short and sweet note.

To help the girls feel that this was an inclusive group gift, I chose a colourful fabric for the main part of the pillowcase, with contrasting fabric in each child’s favourite colour.

Achieve coordination and individualization at the same time in the decor of a shared bedroom!

The challenge with experiential gifts is how to effectively fold them in Christmas Day gift-opening wonder. Opening an envelope and finding a gift card is nice and all, but it’s not nearly as tactile as unwrapping a gift. I love seeing my girls wonder what’s inside, then spend anywhere from a few minutes to several hours exploring the contents of each package. My twins, like me, avoid rushing through gift opening, instead savouring each gift as it makes an appearance.

I will admit that I’m quite proud of how I wrapped the three girls’ sewing class gift. I purchased all the supplies they needed for the class, except for the required pincushion and the sewing machines BFF’s mom and I already own. I then hit Pinterest and followed a wonderful tutorial from The Seasoned Homemaker to turn the lids of three mason jars into pincushions. Fabric, pins, thread, measuring tape, and seam rippers went into each jar, along with a printed invitation to the class. I wrapped the whole mess in happy Christmas paper. Sadly, the fabric shears couldn’t possibly fit in the jar, so I wrapped those separately and taped a pair to each jar.

Make an experiential gift one that a child can open with this mason jar sewing lesson kit!

 

I can’t wait to see the results of their effort!

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Make-It Monday: Coffee Filter Snowflakes

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Now that Thanksgiving is behind us, we’re getting fully into the winter celebratory spirit. Our first winter craft of this year has been coffee filter snowflakes.

Coffee filter snowflake. The folded filter has tiny pieces tiny out of it (top left) and unfolds into a delicate work of seasonal symmetrical art.

Any paper can work for a pretty snowflake, but the circular shape and thin nature of coffee filters makes them all the easier to cut. You want to use the circular ones for this project, not the cones.

Circular coffee filters are the perfect material for paper snowflakes.

Depending on your child’s maturity, patience, and hand-eye coordination, he or she may be able to fold the filters or require your assistance. I like to flatten them, then fold them into twelfths, as shown below, but folding them in eighths is easier. The snowflake shown at the top of this post was cut from a filter folded in twelfths, the one at the end in eighths.

How to fold a coffee filter in even 12ths to make a lovely paper snowflake.

The next step is to cut small pieces out of the folded filter, being sure to cut through all layers. You can go with geometric shapes, or something more targeted. Hearts, Christmas trees, and flowers are all shapes with a line of symmetry, so those work well along the fold lines.

Sample cuts for a coffee filter snowwflake.

When you’re done cutting, unfold a lovely snowflake. These can go up on your wall, be assembled into a pretty mobile, or be glued onto cardstock for a cute homemade holiday card. You can also teach your kiddos about symmetry while you make these!

Unfold your paper snowflake and teach your little one about symmetry while you're at it!

Coffee filter snowflakes are an easy art project and illustrate the basics of symmetry.

I’ve been having just as much fun making these coffee filter snowflakes as the girls have. If you do this project, send us a picture on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram!

If you want to get really impressive, check out Anthony Herrera’s snowflake designs. We tried our hands at some of his Frozen-themed ones, and they were amazing!

Anthony Herrera's Olaf snowflake/

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Twinkly Tuesday, November 24, 2015

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Skip to Tuesday Twinklers | Skip to rules | Skip to participant badge | Skip to this week’s links

Welcome to this week’s Twinkly Tuesday, the link party hosted by Lisa at Mummascribbles. This is our final week of hosting for Caro of The Twinkle Diaries and me.

Twinkly Tuesday participants are generous commenters and talented writers. I have met so many wonderful people here, but none more so than Lisa and Caro. They have been friends, cheerleaders, supporters, and counselors over the last several months, and their friendship alone has been worth all the work that goes into keeping this linky running. There are so many others that I’ve met through Twinkly Tuesday, bloggers I will absolutely keep reading.

However, I simply cannot keep up any more as a host. 40-50 posts to read and comment on every week had begun to feel like an obligation rather than a joy, just because of all the demands on my time. The children come first. I look forward to returning to the ranks of Twinkly Tuesday participant.

Twinkly Tuesday will continue

Going it alone means that Lisa will make some changes. She is taking this opportunity to make Twinkly Tuesday less time-consuming to host. As of next week (December 1), look for the following changes will be coming into play.

  • No more reminder tweets on Tuesday mornings. Instead, you’ll get a reminder email.
  • Hosts will no longer comment on every post linked up. This makes it all the more crucial that you comment on the post before yours. Let Lisa know if you don’t receive any comments on a linked post. Twinkly Tuesday is mature enough to self-police!
  • Lisa will still retweet all your #TwinklyTuesday tweets, assuming you mention her @mummascribbles.
  • Lisa will choose a Tuesday Twinkler.
  • If you are linking up for the first time, do let Lisa know so that she can add you to her reminder email list.

We hope that you understand my reasons, and Caro’s for stepping away. Thank you, thank you, thank you all for opening your hearts, making me cry, and making me laugh myself silly.

It’s time. Just link up one post and comment on as many others as you can – including the one directly before yours.

If you are featured this week, be sure to claim your fame by adding the Twinkly Tuesday Twinkler badge to your blog.

My Tuesday Twinkler is a mortifying tale of an outing during potty training from Mummy Muckups with a heartwarming moment of parental solidarity. Just read Anna’s post. Both the content and the storytelling are lovely. Well, maybe just the storytelling.

A tale of potty training woe and parental solidarity.

 

Lisa’s Tuesday Twinkler is Heather’s beautiful tribute to her grandfather on One Crazy Ride. The photos, words, and feelings are uplifting and filled with love. The idea of his having over 100 grandchildren and great grandchildren is more than I can quite conceive.

A tribute from Heather to her grandfather.Caro’s Tuesday Twinkler is a thought provoker from Tiny Tyger, Baby Bear and Me. Now that Lady Nym is reasonable sure that both her children are autistic, she ponders whether she would seek a cure for autism, if such a thing existed. It’s not as straightforward as you might think.

 

Pills

Take a moment to visit these posts, if you can. We would love it if you paid a visit to the other host links, and any others that look interesting.

On with this week’s link-up!

Link up a post, old or new, that you think deserves more readers!

Twitter: Be sure to mention me — @hdydi, Lisa — @mummascribbles, or Caro — @twinklediaries, on Twitter and please use the hashtag #TwinklyTuesday. We’ll be sure to retweet every tweet tagged!

Lisa will pick the post to be featured on the following week’s Twinkly Tuesday page.

There are a few easy rules to follow, to ensure that everyone’s posts get the attention they deserve. Please do make the effort to abide by the rules, in fairness to the vast majority who do.

  • Link up one post per week — old or new.
  • Please be kind enough to add the Twinkly Tuesday badge to the bottom of your post/s or your linky page. (Scroll down for the code.) If you haven’t (yet) been featured, please make sure you’re using this badge and not the featured one.
  • Please comment on at least two other posts including the one directly before yours. Visit and comment on as many others as you can. Of course, checking out the hosts’ posts would make us feel very loved.
  • Please use #TwinklyTuesday in your comments so people know where you found them!
  • By linking up, you give us permission to use images from your blog if featured. You also allow us to add you to a mailing list to receive a weekly announcement when Twinkly Tuesday opens.
  • The linky closes at 23.55 GMT tonight.

We look forward to reading all of your fantastic blog posts and seeing you again next week! Remember to grab our button!

Grab buttons for Twinkly Tuesday

Here’s how to add our badge to your site. Enter HTML editing mode on your post, sidebar, or page. Copy the code in the box below and paste it into your site in your code/html view. Save and publish. That’s it!

Twinkly Tuesday

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