Meet a How Do You Do It? author

SaraBeth

Sara is a Toronto, Canada based writer and working mom of multiples. Her blog, Multiple Momstrosity was named one on Toronto Mom Now’s 2012 Top 30 Mom Blogs. She is a two time veteran of the Three Day Novel Writing Contest and has written an unpublished novel, This is You Without Me. She lives in “The Junction” with her husband Chris and spontaneous fraternal toddler twins (Molly& Jack).

Toddler Thursday: 8 Tips for Surviving Halloween with Toddlers

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Categories Holidays, Parenting, ToddlersTags , , 30 Comments

When my twins were toddlers I was incredibly excited about celebrating Halloween with them. They were finally old enough to walk and we would be able to go out and explore a handful of houses on our street before retiring home to give out treats to older kids.  What I wasn’t expecting was two entirely different Halloween experiences: one with a child who couldn’t wait to show off her costume to as many people as physically possible, basking over how cute everyone was telling her she was and another with a child who alternated between lying on the sidewalk refusing to move and trying to break inside the house of every place we visited (in one case making it most of the way down a hallway before he was apprehended and finally taken home).  Managing exciting, sugar fueled holidays with one child is hard enough….when you have multiples….

IMG_4533

Below are eight tips for surviving Halloween with young children (multiples or otherwise):

  1. Fill them up with a warm hearty meal (that they’ll actually eat) before they start filling up on candy.
  2. Try to meet their costume requests….get creative if you have to. It’s amazing how much you can impress a toddler with your ingenuity.
  3. If it’s going to rain….clear garbage bags can become excellent make-shift raincoats that ensure everyone can see their costume.
  4. Have extra adults on hand in case some of your children tire of Trick or Treating before others.
  5. Go out early…the closer it is to bed time, the more likely you are to have meltdowns.
  6. Be prepared for surprises.  Your child(ren) may decide that there is no way that they are going to wear the costume that they picked out themselves just two days ago.  Yes, it’s annoying, but it happens. The sooner you move on the better, trust me.
  7. Take breaks if you need to.  This is not an all or nothing situation.  There’s no rule that you can’t recharge for half an hour before heading back out.
  8. Remember to have fun, take lots of pictures and enjoy yourself!
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The Me Time Bandaid

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Categories Babysitting, Finances and Saving, Going out, Making Time for Me, Organization, Parenting, Time ManagementTags , 1 Comment

Like most parents-to-be my husband and I envisioned what our life would be like after the arrival of our fraternal little bundles of joy with keen optimism. We decided that our version of parenthood would involve a budget that would always include a babysitter fund.  We were happy to accept hand-me-down clothing, take more local vacations and make other financial sacrifices as a trade for some more time to ourselves as a couple.

A month before Molly and Jack’s c-scheduled arrival we opened up an account with a nanny site and posted an advertisement for a handful of regular babysitters.  I wanted a sitter who would be available during the day from time-to-time so I would be able to get a break or a nap when my husband was at work and another sitter or two who would be available for our evening date nights.  The well-thought out plan allowed us time to receive resumes, review them together towards the end of my pregnancy/ first few days of the twins’ lives, schedule phone and face-to-face interviews and then test out our sitters while we went out to a restaurant walking distance from our house, so we were nearby.

A few days after our new family returned from the hospital my husbands’ grandmother’s health took a turn for the worse.  He received a call from his father urging him to head to the hospital immediately at around 2:45AM, while we were finishing up a middle of the night feeding of Molly and Jack.  Chris drove to the hospital while I put the kids back to bed and waited for his call.  He returned home, just after breakfast and the family had already begun to make funeral arrangements.

2.5 week old fraternal twins

Molly and Jack were barely a week old and we both knew that it would be difficult to manage their care at a visitation and a funeral.  We hadn’t even called the babysitters who had applied to care for Molly and Jack and over half of our family would be attending the funeral.  On the night of the visitation, less than two weeks after their birth, we separated from our newborns for the very first time, under the charge of my best friend and my brother.  I believe I provided a laundry list of highly unnecessary instructions and then we took a deep breath and we left our children for a few hours that evening. We came home to sleeping twins and our babysitters watching a Storage Wars Marathon on TV – hardly the difficult situation that I had written a novel to prepare them for.  The next day we left Molly and Jack in the care of my parents, and a significantly shorter set of “care” instructions, while we went to the service and the visitation (but not before a milk pumping pit stop).

We knew that we’d be leaving the twins under the care of others early on, however we certainly didn’t think that we’d be doing it that soon.  We both wish that Great Grandma Hazel had been able to meet Molly and Jack and we are so thankful for the people in our lives who stepped up during our VERY early days of parenthood.

When we interviewed our sitters and left Molly and Jack alone as intended that fall, it was just a little bit easier knowing that we had done it before.  We still have two of our original babysitters who have cared for Molly and Jack since they were just a month old and nowadays they look forward to their time with their sitters just as much as we enjoy getting out for a date.

To view a post I wrote on my personal blog on interview questions to ask a potential babysitter click here.

 


Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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Mommy Judgment and Me Time

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Categories Diversity, Guilt, Mommy Issues, Multiple Solutions, Other people, PerspectiveLeave a comment

Generally speaking, parents are supportive of one another. We share parenting tips, recommend kid-friendly restaurants, and set up playdates. However, we can also be brutally judgmental of each other.

“Me time” is an area where otherwise accepting and supportive people dive headfirst into the mommy wars.

Just the other day, Sadia found herself nodding along in disbelieving and disapproving agreement when a summer camp counselor mentioned that another parent had arrived half an hour late to pick up her child because she’d fallen asleep. “How dare she,” Sadia thought, “make use of summer camp time to take a nap!” The fact is, we don’t know this other mother’s circumstances. Perhaps she works nights. Perhaps she’s unwell. Perhaps she fell asleep at work at her desk. Perhaps she has a newborn. Perhaps she fell asleep at her desk while suffering from mastitis.

SaraBeth receives a lot of “it must be nice” comments on getting a sitter and doing so regularly. It used to annoy her, but that time together as a couple is more important to her than big vacations or fancy name brand clothes. It’s her choice, and her husband’s, to make that time a priority.

Elizabeth, a single mom, is frequently told that she shouldn’t be running errands when her girls are with their dad. Instead, she is told  she should be doing more stuff for herself, such as getting coffee with friends or setting a massage/hair/nails appointment. She has her “me time” set up just how she likes it, and it isn’t when the girls are with their dad. She stays as busy as possible during that time running errands and getting things done that are harder to do with 2 preschoolers in tow.

Sadia is also a single mom. Lots of people (most recently her dentist) tell her that she should be grateful to have several weeks child-free during the summer when her ex-husband exercises his visitation rights. She doesn’t see it that way. She only has 9 years left before her twins leave home to build their adult lives. She wants to make the most of their time together while they still enjoy her company. The teen years and parental rejection that will come with that aren’t far off. Call her boring, but she doesn’t spend her nights drinking and clubbing when the girls are away. Instead, she ends up spending more hours at work and the gym. She’d much rather be adventuring with her daughters.

As a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), SaraC finds a lot of people asking her, “What do you do with all that time?”. Three of her 4 children are still in diapers, so we MoMs know exactly what she’s doing: primarily feeding and cleaning four people, keeping them safe, and letting them know that they are loved.

MandyE received negative feedback for a blog post she wrote one time about “me time”.  The commenter challenged her that “’me time’ begets ‘me time’” and if she continued to “indulge”, she would grow to resent her children.  She admits the harsh words threw her for a loop and caused her to question herself.

Amy is her own worst critic. She criticizes herself for having help with childcare and housekeeping even though she’s a stay at home mom of four (two sets of twins). If she didn’t have help, she would never get “me time”. She deserves to go to the store by herself too!

Jen Wood gets judged for not taking “me time” at all. During the time she was a SAHM, she couldn’t justify paying someone to watch her kids unless she was making money to offset it. She had a high school girl, an assistant at the boys’ preschool, watch the boys ONCE. After paying her $30 for 2.5 hours out, Jen just could not do it again. It felt far too indulgent for a mother making zero dollars an hour. She doesn’t have family nearby, so free care is off the table. Most of Jen’s “me” time is at home with the kids, doing something in another room while they destroy the one they are in.

People ask SaraC, when she’ll go back to work, judging her for being a SAHM. Her answer is that she’ll return when it’s right for her family. She also meets working moms who feel they need to explain themselves to her! SaraC responds by letting these moms know that she worked when she just only 2 kids, so she completely understands the working mom’s lifestyle. She also fully recognizes that each family is different. She has no time or desire to judge a working mom and would appreciate them withholding judgment too!

During Sadia’s early Army wife days, she was informed by other military spouses that she was an abhorrent mother for working outside the home. She was told that a good mother would stay home with her babies. Her response then was that she was a better mother when she didn’t look to her children to fulfill her intellectually and socially. The outlet of work allowed Sadia to focus on being for the babies what they needed. Her response now is that her job provided stability, both financial and psychological. Her divorce three years ago would have been much more traumatic to the children if they weren’t already accustomed to Sadia working full time. If she didn’t have an established career to fall back on, with a salary to match, they would have noticed a rapid decline in their quality of life, one from which Sadia was able to shield them. 

Michelle finds other mothers expecting her to have far more free time now that her children are older. There is a hope (maybe a fallacy) that “me time” increases with our children’s age. That hasn’t been true at all for Michelle. The children don’t nap and they stay up later. Their demands are just as insistent. There’s as much, if not more, to stay on top of. Michelle’s husband has asked her to consider quitting her job, but with the cost of extracurricular activities, the family relies on her paycheck to help defray the cost of five kids in five different activities.

We’ve all been judged for how we spend our time. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve probably judged other mothers. We hope that our perspectives have shown how different “me time” can be and there is no single approach that works for every family.


Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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Indoor Toddler Games for Rainy Days

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Categories Parenting, Preschoolers, Toddler Thursday, Toddlers7 Comments

It's so hard to keep toddlers occupied when they're cooped up! 10 great ideas for indoor fun. We have all been anxiously awaiting spring and taking every possible chance we get to go outside. That being said there are days, even in the warmer weather, where you can’t or don’t have the energy to tackle the great outdoors, particularly with two or more toddlers as your sidekicks. Here is a list of 10 indoor games and activities (most of which we’ve tried successfully) to enjoy with your toddlers:

  1. Under the table picnic We eat most of our meals at our kitchen table, but sometimes it’s fun to mix it up. Why not make lunch or dinner a little unusual by enjoying some traditional picnic fare (think finger foods) under the table?
  2. Drive-In Movie Park your toy cars in front of a family friendly movie.  Kids can sit in/on their toy cars for the “real” drive in experience.
  3. Take Play Dough to the next level and try making some Cloud Dough for everyone to play with.  I found this recipe for cloud dough online
  4. 1356Play Dress-up and host a tea party in all your favourite old Halloween costumes and silly hats.
  5. Get Cooking or Baking and make something delicious all together!  Toddlers can pour, measure, stir and taste as you go along.
  6. Host an Indoor Car Wash or Animal Hospital to mend and clean toys who have been well-loved This is something that I wrote about a while ago on my personal blog and my kids love this spring cleaning type activity.
  7. Build a fort together using pillows and blankets.
  8. Favourite story marathon.  Have everyone pick out two or three of their favourites and get reading.
  9. Explore a local green house  They are often free to visit (or with nominal donations) and the bright colours will get everyone in a better mood or spend the day planting your own window box.
  10. Get artistic and let them use some of your best art and most cherished craft supplies….even the sparkle stickers, it’ll be worth it!

What are your favourite indoor activities?

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Asserting Positive Discipline

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Disciplining children is tricky, it’s a controversial topic with no one size fits all answers. As parents of multiples, or more than one child you quickly find out that what works for one child doesn’t necessarily work for the other(s).  For the past month it seems that Chris and I have been victims to Jack’s ongoing Karate Kid montage.  He has been hitting and kicking like crazy and despite our best efforts it hasn’t seemed to have let up on its own.  Our focus on Jack and speech therapy continues to help him better express his feelings, but that doesn’t provide much solace when you’ve been hit three times because you’ve insisted that, “No, you can’t have Halloween candy for breakfast today.”  After a recent Pre-School Speech and Language assessment the assessor commented, “I don’t know if he has delays, or if he’s just being stubborn.  This isn’t going to be a very accurate assessment.” This commentary highlights one of our main struggles with Jack as we question, “Is he struggling with language or just being a jerk.”  Truthfully the jerk genetics in my family are super dominant, ask anyone.

One of the items that stands tried and true when it comes to children is the importance of consistency. The big stumbling block that we hit (pun intended) is that Jack’s karate kid moments often happen when we don’t have the time to properly apply positive discipline – which is a problem for all parents, not just parents of multiples. When we are trying to get four people out the door at 7:30 in the morning, we simply don’t have time for lengthy solutions. I am fully aware that you don’t use a band-aid on a gaping wound, but sometimes I need ideas that can help us keep somewhat on schedule until we hit an incident where we have some time for teachable moments. Most of the time I don’t need 20 minute solutions, I need 10 two-minute ones. It took some digging but here’s what I’ve found.

timeoutTime-out at the park

How to Assert Positive Discipline in Two minutes or Less

Consider triggers and time of the day and avoid the trigger as much as you can – AKA Polly Wants a Cracker
This one is easy when it comes to a hungry child. My purse and our car has become a travelling buffet and about half the time we just need to get crackers into the mouth of Jack to calm him down. Bed time can be adjusted if you’re dealing with an over-tired child. The big Everest here is dealing with morning meltdowns.

Stop the Blow, But Don’t Retaliate
Basically block the hit, reinforce (as calmly as you can) that we don’t hit and walk away for a minute or two. In the mornings I generally use this time to get Molly ready because it gives Jack a chance to settle down a bit.

Model Good Behaviour
This one goes against every fibre of my being when I’m trying to get out the door and have just endured an upper cut to the jaw over insisting that my child wear socks. We noticed a while ago that Jack often goes for affection after he’s hit or kicked one of us and clearly he’s struggling with getting positive attention and communicating what he needs. Try saying “Hugs not hits”, give a hug and then walk away.

Redirection & Distraction
Basically avoid eye contact, remove them from the situation and let them calm down. Another option is to offer them something to distract them. “Look at this book while I go get you some apple juice, because you must be thirsty”. Leaving the room to focus on another task for a minute not only works on them, but it will help you chill out too.

Time-Outs
We usually don’t have time for them in the morning (or more than one or two), but they’re still an option. Dr. Sears suggests saying, “If you hit, you must sit.” Since toddlers (especially mine) are big fans of rhymes, this will help them remember.

Don’t Demand an Apology
This is another one that is tough for me. I want him to be sorry and I want an apology, but when you’re both frustrated all that this does is waste even more time. It’s suggested to delay this conversation, “Later you might tell your child, “That really hurts” or “That hurts my feelings. If I have done something to hurt your feelings, I would like to know about it so I can apologize. When you are ready, an apology would help me feel better.” suggests Dr. Jane Nelson.

Tag, You’re It

Sometimes when we really need to get moving it’s best to have the other person tag in – if/when you can. If they’re not “mad at daddy” they’re more likely to let him help them into their coat. This also gives the other caregiver a chance to calm down.

A Cool Drink of Water
When the tantrum is over, offer a drink of water or a face wash. If you’re still heated have one yourself. This will literally give your child a chance to cool down. (resist the urge to throw said water in their face and yell, “Snap out of it”)

Encourage Gentle Play
This is more modelling. If you notice little Billy is beating the crap out of Teddy Ruxpin, suggest he hug him or give him a kiss instead.

Counting Game
Count backwards from ten and remember this too shall pass, and likely be replaced by a different, equally annoying behaviour.

What works best for you to stop unwanted behaviour from your toddler or pre-schooler?

This post also appears on my personal blog Multiple Momstrosity.

I have been nominated for VoiceBoks Blog Influencer of the year. If you have a moment please visit and vote for me and if you’re feeling extra generous share this message:  http://voiceboks.com/multiple-momstrosity/ You can vote daily.

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Potty Training: A Boot Camp Diary

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Our daycare has a fee structure that dictates that if your child is potty trained when they are in the pre-school room your monthly cost goes down by around $200 a month. When you have two children in daycare this is more than a big deal. In the beginning of July we received the potty discount for Molly and crossed our fingers that Jack would get there shortly after – he did not. After several conversations with other parents of boys one recommendation for getting Jack toilet trained kept on coming up: The Potty Training Weekend (AKA 3 Day Potty Training Boot camp). Our goal: to have two day-time potty trained toddlers.

Essentially: you take off the “training wheels” or diapers and put them into underwear and pants as if they were potty trained, ask them if they have to go every hour or two and by the end of the weekend….they SHOULD be potty trained. Some people recommend having the child wear no pants all weekend, we did not go that route. We put on diapers for nap and bed time, handed out stickers and a lot of congratulations for any successful trips to the potty. We fed both kids a lot of water, watered down juice, freezies and watermelon to keep their bladders full and had purchased boys underwear in bulk from Target to ensure that we didn’t run out.

 

Here’s a summary of how it went:

Day 1
There have been nine costume changes today for Jack and three for mom because of what I like to call “pee and sit” which is when he pees and then sits in my lap. There has been absolutely no success. In fact, Molly, who is jealous of all the attention Jack is getting, has backslid and had three accidents today. She hasn’t had as many accidents as she’s had this afternoon in ages. This evening I will scour the internet to find out if this level of failure is normal, result: definitive yes, sometimes. Sigh.

Day 2
We now have a toilet or potty on each floor of our house including a Winnie the Pooh potty sitting on the tile floor of our front hallway. In the morning we have a 50% success rate for Jack. We hand out stickers to both Molly and Jack whenever anyone has any success on the potty. As recommended we let the children carry their chamber pots to the toilet to flush. In the afternoon Jack has three accidents at Nana and Papa’s house. By the time we leave he’s wearing a skintight pair of Molly’s purple floral leggings because we’ve run out of clothes for him. At nap time we hear a commotion in the nursery. I go upstairs to investigate and find both children completely buck naked. The only thing that Jack is wearing is a pair of snow boots on the wrong feet.  Later, both minions are so excited about the front hall potty that they routinely run to the front of the house to pee and chat with our evening company while they drop trou. Molly has no accidents.

Day 3
Jack has a 75% success rate this morning and tells me mid-poop that he has to poop. Albeit incredibly disgusting I consider this a major victory. This afternoon we head to an outdoor market in the distillery district where both children will be strapped to our chests. We opt to utilize diapers for those few hours to avoid spreading E. Coli around the city and all over our torsos. Nap time ends yet again with buck naked Jack parading around the nursery, only without the boots. He has peed all over the “Quiet Town” road carpet and terrorized toys everywhere. That evening we have a 50% success rate for Jack before we call it a day.

QuiettownQuiet Town Pre-Pree Destruction
RESULTS:
Jack is by no means potty trained and I will wholeheartedly admit that the weekend was exhausting, frustrating and pretty darn gross: but this is the most success we’ve seen from him in potty training to date.  Previously we’d be lucky to get one successful trip to the potty an evening with a handful during the day at daycare.  Last night he asked and successfully used the potty twice, with minimal coaxing from Chris or I.  As thrilled as I am about the temporary piece of furniture on the main floor of our house and two toddlers bent on carrying a little bucket of pee through the house to dump, It’s going to stay in the front hall a while longer.  We are going to do some diaper free evenings and days in the coming weeks and put Jack in Pull Up diapers more often to help him with his Independence.  We will be providing a new meaning to the Labour Day Weekend as we embark on the Three day Potty Boot camp number two next week…stay tuned.
This post originally appeared on my blog Multiple Momstrosity but I thought I would share it as a part of HDYDI’s Toddler Thursday Series.
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Toddler Reality

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The other day it occurred to me that the minions are seriously misinformed about a number of realities of the world and even though we often try to correct them, they insist on their own unique versions of reality and we entertain a number of them because they are cute.  I don’t want to correct Molly when she tells me that she loves “Honeydude melon”, but I do because that’s my job.

Below are 10 tongue and cheek truth bombs that I would love to lay on my toddlers, should they ever believe me and it not completely shatter their worlds.
boydog
10 Truth Bombs I Would Love To Lay On My Toddlers
  1. Any man with grey hair over 55 is not your Papa or Grandpa.  This became particularly awkward when Jack tried to sit on a friends father’s lap because he wanted to spend time with his grandpa.
  2. Just because the guy who installs the new hot water heater is a tall Eastern Asian man who kinda of looks like a friend of ours doesn’t mean that they’re the same person.  I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t want to play with you and thinks you’re a little bit racist.
  3. Those aren’t your “Elmos” they’re your elbows.
  4. Those aren’t my “elbows” they’re my breasts.
  5. Whenever you tell me that you’re, “never going to cry again” I don’t believe you.  Also when you’re laying on the floor throwing a tantrum screaming, “I’m not a baby!” you’re kind of being a giant baby.
  6. Your stuffed Bunny isn’t really a bunny, it’s a dog.  Sorry.
  7. That picture at Nana and Grampa’s is of a Polar bear, not a dog.
  8. Your concept of ownership is ill conceived: The last time I checked that is not your car or your house, but we can share.
  9. Your assortment of candles, candle holders, wine corks and contact cases are not actually toys, they’re random objects that you’ve collected like some sort of weird hoarder.  When you ask other kids to come over and play with your “toys” they will likely be disappointed.
  10.  That old man with the big bushy white beard who wears a red t-shirt and hangs out smoking in front of the local legion/recreation club is usually drunk and definitely NOT Santa.

This post originally appeared on my blog Multiple Momstrosity but I thought I would share it as a part of HDYDI’s Toddler Thursday Series.

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Toddler Thursday: Potty Training at Different Paces

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Categories Parenting, Potty Training, Toddler Thursday, Toddlers2 Comments

It’s been 8 months since we dipped our big toe into the waters of potty training, and we now have one child who is completely day time potty trained  and the other who is not.  Basically daycare started the training in September when they moved from the junior to senior toddler room and for nearly two months now Molly has been in big girl underwear with minimal accidents (maybe one a week).  Jack however continues to use the toilet two to three times a day and is content to tell you when he’s just gone so you can change it immediately, he’s make strives towards training, but he just isn’t there yet, so we’re encouraging him slowly.

538px-Toilet_with_flush_water_tankImage courtesy of wikipedia

When we first started Potty Training I came up with a list of things that we didn’t know but should have probably guessed about the early stages of potty training, below is the revised version to reflect things I didn’t know about Potty Training toddler that I do now, 8 months later.
1. The potty is a “cool” hang out spot when a toddler is bored, plus it also is a great excuse to delay bed time and insist on stories at nauseum.

2. The first significant leap was when the toddlers told us when it was time to change their diapers, not that they actually have to go, next comes the two minute warning, and eventually the five minute warning (most of the time).

3. Toddlers don’t realize the odious nature of fecal matter, they think it’s an extension of their body and don’t understand why you don’t want them to touch it.

4. The girl thinks that any sound or function that comes out of her body is “poop” and recently, on taco night, after Daddy passed gas she proclaimed, “PooPoo Daddy! Tell Mommy!”

5. The cup in the potty can also double as a hat and will, more than you can imagine.

6. Reading stories about potty training on the toilet is an effective way to “inspire” your toddlers. (I recommend My Big Girl/Boy Potty by Joanna Cole).

7. Be prepared for accidents, especially when you take the training wheels off.  Keep a spare set of clothing (including socks) with you at all times.

8. The training toddler will generally be more upset than you are about the fact that they peed their pants in the produce section of the grocery store, but only a little bit.  Remind them that everyone has accidents.

9. Never underestimate the motivational power of “big kid” underwear to a toddler, especially when it has Smurfs or Disney characters on it.

10. Be prepared to spend a lot of time in the bathroom.

11. Be patient, they’ll get there at their own pace, not yours.

SaraBeth is a Toronto, Canada based writer and working mom of girl-boy twins. Her blog, Multiple Momstrosity earned fourth place in voiceBoks’ Hilariously Funny Parent 2014 competition and was named one of Toronto Mom Now’s 2012 Top 30 Mom Blogs.

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Toddler Thursday: Rewards & Sharing

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My twins have shared nearly everything from the moment they were born: from sleepers to soothers to favourite toys. It’s only been recently, now that they are toddlers, that they have started to accumulate individual belongings.

There are fights over toys and sometimes playtime degenerates into  a game of hot potato where one child demands the other “share” as they pass the coveted object back and forth every two seconds until a fight erupts and the offending toy (peach bunny) ends up confiscated by my husband or I.

That aside, Molly and Jack have always been a part of team TWIN. When Molly asks for a cup of water, she demands a cup for both her and her brother.  If Molly is trying on boots, so is Jack.  If Jack is wearing a hat, he asks for one for his sister. If one is going to bed, then the other will follow.  They demand equality, most of the time.

teambaby

This makes the implementation of a reward system for potty training complicated.  The first time Jack went number two on the toilet we praised him endlessly for what a big boy he was.  This resulted in Molly losing her cool and throwing an epic tantrum.  We let her cry it out while we took Jack for “ice cream and unicorn rides”.   Last weekend Molly came home from a four-hour excursion with a dry diaper and then successfully used the potty.  It was a huge accomplishment, so we praised her and gave her a sticker to reward her.  She was thrilled!  She put it on her hand and marched away.  A few minutes later she came into the kitchen and asked me, “What about a sticker for Jack?” I tried to explain to her that the sticker was for her because of her using the potty and having a dry diaper.  She didn’t care, she asked again.  She refused to leave the kitchen until she had a sticker for her brother.  So I gave it to her.

My children are a team, and they are very proud of that.  When one is upset the other sibling, so long as they aren’t the one who’s inflicting the tears, comforts their twin by rubbing their back or giving them a hug or kiss.  At first I wasn’t sure how to handle this, but the more I think about it the easier the solution is.  If Molly or Jack want to celebrate their achievements by giving a sticker to their sibling so be it.  I predict a big investment on dollar store sheets of stickers as we achieve a diaper free existence.

SaraBeth’s personal blog Multiple Momstrosity,  was nominated for VoiceBoks Top 50 Hilariously Funny Parent Bloggers – If you can please take the time to vote: http://voiceboks.com/top-50-hilariously-funny-nominated-parent-bloggers-2014/– Just click and vote for (Multiple Momstrosity)

 

 

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Ask the Moms: How to Organize Kids’ Clothes

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Categories Ask the Moms, How Do The Moms Do It, Multiple Solutions, OrganizationTags , , , 7 Comments

Reader Manojna P., currently expecting twins, asked us how we organize our kids’ clothes. Organization is key. Manojna, you’re already on the right track by asking the question!

That said, reader Michelle W., who has two sets of twins, commented, “Organise… what’s ‘organise’??” Several other readers made similar comments. There are times when you need to dress your kids right out of the clean laundry hamper and that’s okay too.organize

Modify your system as children grow

Ask any two parents how to organize kids’ clothes and you’ll get two different answers, even from parents who share a home! Different organizational systems work for different families. Different systems work for the same family at different times. Don’t be afraid to change things up if what worked a month ago isn’t cutting it any more.

Some siblings share all their clothes. Others have separate clothes from day one. There is no wrong way or right way to approach this.

Early on, RachelG dressed both her son and daughter in gender-neutral stuff, so keeping their clothes apart didn’t matter. Sadia‘s girls share clothes to this day, at age 7. Wiley‘s girls are slightly different in size, but she upgrades them both at the same time. Little Allie always looks like she’s growing into her clothes, but it’s worth it for the simplicity.

Reader Kristin G. wrote, “When my [quadruplet] daughters were first born I had everything organized in drawers labeled by the type of clothing: onesies, sleepers, socks, etc. Around preschool they started picking out their own clothes, but I realized that they were only picking from the clothes at the top of the drawers. I now hang all of their tops in a closet and, because I once worked retail and can’t fathom hanging any other way, the tops are hung by color (ROYGBIV). It makes it easier for my girls to figure out what will match with their pants and skirts. For whatever reason they have figured out which tops and dresses are “shared items” and which tops belong to a specific sister (given to them for birthdays, Christmas, etc) and so far there have been no arguments over one sister wearing another sister’s special top. This, I am certain, will change once they get closer to their teen years!”

Find an organizing principle

Photo Credit: MT_bulli
Photo Credit: MT_bulli

Keep things predictable so you don’t have to scrounge up brain power in the middle of the night when a baby needs a new outfit after a diaper blowout. Keep like with like, whatever that means to you.

For Beth, organizing is her closet hobby (ker-ching!). She reorganizes closets and drawers as often as once a month, searching for that perfect set up. She’s still searching, but the process of seeking order works for her. Check out the great closet section dividers she made.

Jen Wood has always hung all her boys’ clothes except for diapers and underwear. When they were in infant sizes, she organized clothes by size with dividers. She stores similar/coordinating outfits together.

SaraBeth has one drawer for pajamas, one for tops and one for pants. She has two separate drawers for fall/winter clothes in the next size up and spring/summer clothes.

Sadia has one small drawer of pajamas, one small drawer of socks and panties, one large drawer of tops, one large drawer of bottoms and dance clothes. Dresses, jackets and dress-up clothes are hung on a clothes rack inside the closet, since the built-in rod is too high for her daughters to reach.

RachelG doesn’t have a dresser. She confesses that she lives out of bins and baskets and is unsatisfied with the current arrangement.

A note of caution. What makes sense to you may not make sense to your spouse, other caregivers or even the (older) children themselves. Balance the effort of finding a compromise with the effort of finding the clothes you need. If you’re the primary caregiver and your spouse only needs to look for baby clothes every few days, do it your way. If you anticipate a more equitable division of duties, talk it through until you find a mutually agreeable system. If your children are old enough to be responsible for dressing themselves and/or putting their own clothes away, let them have a say in how things are organized. Sadia‘s daughters tried sorting everything by colour alone before they agreed that it wasn’t a sustainable system.

Systems by developmental stage

Infants

Infant clothes may be the easiest to sort because you don’t have little hands constantly undoing your work. They’re also the hardest because you don’t really know what to expect. Aim for convenience. If you’re going to be changing your babies’ diapers and clothes on a changing table, store clothes and diapers within reach of (or inside) the changing table. If, after the babies show up, you realize you’re more of a sit-on-the-floor changer, move the clothes around to put them within reach. Don’t forget to have a convenient laundry hamper nearby for the dirty clothes!

Make sense of a jumble of baby paraphernalia by storing like with like. Photo Credit: unfurl
Make sense of a jumble of baby paraphernalia by storing like with like. Photo Credit: unfurl

Itty bitty clothes may not be worth folding. If you’re the type of person who folds your panties, fold those preemie and newborn shirts and pants and bloomers to your heart’s content. If you think that’s ridiculous, consider storing onesies, burp clothes and cloth diapers flat (or even crumpled, if you have the room) while hanging footie pajamas and other outfits. MandyE hangs just about everything that can be hung.

We all streamline where we can. For pants and onesies that went together to make a single outfit, Sadia used to place the pants flat on the onesie, fold both in half together once, and place them in the drawer. There was no need to search for the pieces of the outfit because they were always stored together.

RebeccaD started out with the top drawer for daytime clothes, the second drawer for nighttime clothes and the third drawer for bundling layers. When her fraternal boys got to be different sizes, she switched her system. Her top drawer became for diapering stuff, medicines, and the like. The second drawer was for Baby B and the third drawer, for Baby A.

Hanging clothes can be a nice alternative to folding and stacking them. Photo Credit: katypearce
Hanging clothes can be a nice alternative to folding and stacking them.
Photo Credit: katypearce

Beth uses a closet and tall dresser for her boy/girl twins. The top drawer has 3 baskets, one each for her socks, his socks and hats, bibs, and whatever else lands in there. The next drawer down has her pants on the left and his on the right. The next drawer down is clothes they will grow into soon. Most baby clothes go in the closet, with each baby having his or her own rod. Within each section Beth groups onesies, then shirts, then overalls and dresses and, finally, pajamas.

Mytwintopia takes a minimalist approach. She limits her daughters’ wardrobe to enough everyday clothes for one week. That way she doesn’t procastinate with laundry or end up with too many clothes. She hangs almost everything, and hangs the clothes complete outfits on each hanger to avoid the struggle to match clothes in the morning. The underwear and socks go in bins or drawers in the same closet. For now, the girls do decide who owns which item without parental intervention.

Toddlers

An alternative to stacking folded clothes in drawers is to place them vertically, with the fold up. This allows you to see all your kids' clothes at once. Note that this system is frustrating for kids who put away their own clothes. They can retrieve their favourite item easily, but putting the clothes away and keeping them folded requires some mature dexterity. Photo Credit: peyri
An alternative to stacking folded clothes in drawers is to place them vertically, with the fold up. This allows you to see all your kids’ clothes at once. Note that this system is frustrating for kids who put away their own clothes. They can retrieve their favourite item easily, but putting the clothes away and keeping them folded requires some mature dexterity. Sadia uses this technique, but needs to tidy her daughters’ drawers at least once a week because items have come unfolded.
Photo Credit: peyri

Toddlers’ clothes can be tricky. You may find yourself needing to toddlerproof your clothing storage if clothes turn out to be an obsession. Sadia had to put child locks on her daughters’ dresser drawers because of midnight organizing extravaganzas on the part of her daughter M. Shoes had to go in a childproofed drawer too, after Sadia caught both girls trying on different shoes in the middle of the night.

Generally, though, infant clothing organization strategies still hold.

Your kids’ growth will probably slow and you won’t have to switch to the next size up quite as often. However, as your toddlers lose their baby pudginess and begin to run around, you may discover that you need to be pickier about finding clothes that will stay on and be comfortable. Around this age, those of us with slimmer children can find that pants and skirts with adjustable waists work best.

If your kids share clothes, there’s no need to find a system to keep them separated. Many boy/girl twins, though, will have separate clothes, especially as they get older. Also, your twins may end up being drastically different sizes such that they’re wearing different sized clothes. They may simply have different preferences, or you may choose for each twin to have individual clothes. In each of these cases, it may be simplest to organize all your multiples’ clothes similarly, for the sake of consistency, as Beth described doing above.

Preschool and school age

This is exactly what an elementary schooler's closet often looks like. Clothes are hung and shoes paired and in their place. Sports jersey are up and out of the way because it's winter. Everyday clothes are within reach of their wearer. There's overflow on the floor, which is why Mommy needs to come in an enforce cleanup every so often. Photo Credit: master phillip
This is exactly how an elementary school kid’s closet often looks. Clothes are hung and shoes paired and in their place. Sports jersey are up and out of the way because it’s winter. Everyday clothes are within reach of their wearer. There’s overflow on the floor, blissfully ignored by the kids in question, which is why Mommy needs to come in and enforce cleanup every so often.
Photo Credit: master phillip

Reader Nancy C. commented on our Facebook page, saying, “When they shared a room, each had a dresser and half the closet.  Although identical, my boys did not wear the same clothes as each other. In fact, they would adamantly protest if I had accidentally put one of their brother’s shirts in with their shirts.”

Mommy Esq. started out with her boy/girl twins splitting their closet. One had the upper half, the other the lower. Each had a drawer. As she points out, “That only works though for the ages/stages where mom dresses them. Now everything has to be at their height since they pick their own clothes.

Sadia’s daughters, at 7, are old enough to dress themselves. They share everything but panties and socks because they have different preferences for those items. All their clothes are within reach of the children. They have a clothes rack inside their closet since they can’t reach the built-in rod. They share their drawers. Their socks and panties get lumped together; they know which belong to whom.

Sadia is working toward giving her girls complete ownership of their clothes, apart from wash/dry time. She still helps them fold clothes, but putting them away is completely the children’s responsibility. If the girls complain that they can’t find room for things, she encourages them to purge items they no longer wear to make room. Sadia no longer answers the question, “Where is my [insert name of clothing item here]?” mostly by responding with, “I am out of the business of knowing where your clothes are. Your clothes, your business.” If a child wants to be sure a particular item of clothing is ready to wear on a certain day, she must give Mommy at least 24 hours notice.

Claroux also has 7-year-old girls. She writes:

They share an 8-drawer dresser. I have these nylon bins from Ikea in each drawer to separate the sizes since they wear two different sizes now. That is, the underwear drawer contains a bin for M’s panties, a bin for C’s panties and a bin for undershirts. The same is true for socks, pajamas, leggings and tights).

Everything else is hung by type (dresses, pants, skirts, tops) and then grouped by color. That makes it easier if one is looking for their ‘purple soccer shirt’. As far as ownership of each item, they just know what fits them and what doesn’t.

Teens

The oldest of our combined kids is Sundy‘s son, making her the resident expert on all things teen. In short, teenagers are old enough to take care of their own clothes. Arrangements can run the gamut from the teen being required to wash, dry, fold and store his or her own clothes to being required to honour Mom’s organization scheme. As above, you’ll make more headway partnering with your child to develop a system that’s mutually agreeable than by decreeing a system from on high.

Children of different ages

Several of us with multiples often have kids of different ages living under the same roof.

When Wiley‘s oldest son, Trajan, outgrows things, they are stored in boxes for his younger brother Chiron. Once Chiron has outgrown those clothes, with a few exceptions kept for his younger twin sisters, they are immediately evicted to find new homes with children that fit them.

For day to day storage, Elizabeth uses dressers in each room. Her two older boys share a room so their clothes are kept together. They wear the same shirt size but different pant sizes. They each know what size they need and check the tags. She puts labels on each drawer so they can put away their own clothes. Mom doesn’t care if the clothes are folded but the drawer has to be able to close. Key to making any system work is knowing which battles are worth fighting!

Elizabeth’s 2-year-old Oliver’s clothes are in a labeled dresser in his room. The boy/girl twins share a dresser. The top drawers are boy clothes and the bottom drawers are girl clothes.

All the kids’ shoes and socks are kept in baskets by the garage door. Elizabeth’s house has a mud room with a bench and shelves, so storing them there is easy. Backpacks, Elizabeth’s purse, the diaper bag, and infant carseats are also kept in the mud room. One shelf in the mud room is filled with kids toiletries (brush, hair spray, lotion, tooth paste, tooth brushes). The children use the half bath in the mud room for teeth and hair. She organized things this way so that everything the family needed to get out the door is in one contained place. She hated running all over the house for shoes and trying to keep up with who still needed to brush their teeth.

By size, season and child

jackets
Winter jackets can be very bulky to store, so consider using space saver bags from which you can suck out the air with your vacuum cleaner hose. The bags will expand some during storage, but not if they’re packed together tightly enough in some out-of-the-way corner!
Photo Credit: dharder9475

Most of us have various sizes of children’s clothes in the house, even if we have only one size and gender of children. Whether we have hand-me-downs from friends and family, clueless friends who bought clothes much too big, or we’ve shopped in advance of the next growth spurt, we likely have clothes that aren’t in circulation.

All the HDYDI moms divide kid clothes in our houses into those that currently fit, those that are too big and those that are too small. Those that don’t fit are separated out and put away. Some of us also sort things by season, putting away bulky coats in the summer and shorts and sleeveless tops in the winter. Let’s talk about how to manage the clothes that aren’t in use.

Clothes to grow into

Photo Credit: if winter ends
You could store future sized clothes with the tag on for easy identification, but it’s wise to wash new clothes before dressing a baby in them, since sizing can irritate delicate skin.Photo Credit: if winter ends

To manage clothes that don’t yet fit, SaraBeth and Sadia both use big plastic bins stored in the garage, sorted by size and clearly labeled. Victoria has a different bin for each size, which makes it very simple to grab the next size she needs. With space at a premium in ldskatelyn‘s apartment, she stores some extra clothes at her in-laws’ house.

SarahP has three drawers in her kids’ dressers that contain both the size they’re currently wearing and the next size up. The rest of the clothes are organized by age in a box in storage. She always has the next size up because she’s found that her kids grow into some items faster than others depending on the brand. Clothing labels that display the same size may be attached to drastically different sized clothing.

Jen Wood keeps the next size of clothing in her sons’ closet. She always has a bin with the next sizes, picked up at clearance or on resale, plus hand-me-downs. She goes through the bin as needed.

Wiley has plastic sweater boxes from the Container Store which are all labelled by gender, size, and type of contents. Current clothes are kept in each child’s dresser or closet. The next size up resides in its boxes in the top of the closets while other sizes are stored outside.

Outgrown

Photo Credit: raffik
Photo Credit: raffik

If you have or are planning to have more kids, it makes sense to hold onto outgrown clothes for the next child. Otherwise, purge, purge, purge!

SarahP and many of the other moms donate their clothes to friends, Goodwill, or other charities. SaraBeth divides her kids outgrown clothes by gender (boy, girl and neutral) to simplify passing them on.

When Victoria notices that items are getting too small, she puts them aside to be donated and take out the next larger size. For instance, if she’s dressing her girls and notices that the pants she tries on are too small, she puts them aside immediately and takes out a larger pair of pants. If she didn’t do it right away, it could get out of control because she’d forget.

Sadia didn’t know any other girl/girl twins in her area who were smaller than hers, so she ended up dividing up all their matching outfits from the first year (except two preemie footies and two Christmas dresses kept for sentimental reasons). She sent each of two friends across the country a huge diaper box filled with baby clothes. She now keeps a donation bin in the kitchen next to the trash and recycling to make it part of daily life to identify things ready to be rehomed.

RebeccaD goes through her kids’ drawers to move out the old and bring in the new about every 3 months. “The key,” she says, “is to get rid of stuff immediately and be realistic about how many clothes your kids really need. Mine are only in T-shirts and diapers unless we leave the house anyway.”

Elizabeth has an especially effective system for handling hand-me-downs. She and her sister-in-law have 5 boys between them, all very close in age. They share clothes. They keep them organized by size in clear plastic tubs with lids. After an item has been outgrown it gets washed and thrown back in the tub. They don’t separate by season.

Once a size has been completely outgrown by one boy, the next mom who needs the size stores the tub. The sisters-in-law use their individual judgment as to when to get rid of an item or replace it. If they have a sentimental attachment to a particular outfit, they either keep it out of the bin or mark the tag with the word “save”. As you might imagine, this has worked really well for them.

Now that the biggest boys are getting older and have an opinion as to what they want to wear, they do find themselves buying and keeping more clothes. Elizabeth still keeps them sorted by size in tubs to hand down to 2-year-old Oliver.

Photo modified from original by Micah Sittig
Photo modified from original by Micah Sittig

How to organize kids’  clothes, in summary

The short version of everything we’ve said is this:

  • Avoid clutter.
    • Sort clothes by size.
    • Keep handy only those clothes that fit.
    • Give away outgrown clothes unless they will be reused in your home.
    • Don’t keep more than you need or have space for.
  • Find a system that works for you.
    • Drawers, hangers, or some combination of those two seem the norm for current clothes.
    • For clothes that don’t fit, labeled bins work well.
    • Pick your battles.
  • Change the system when it stops working.

How do you manage your kids’ clothes?

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