Travelling With Multiples

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Categories Ask the Readers, Preschoolers, School-Age, Toddlers, Travel3 Comments

Who else has Spring Fever??? So many people have been slammed with snow, us included, that I’m getting slightly tired of it…and it’s only February! Colorado had a rare 70 degree day yesterday and it got me thinking about our travel plans this Spring.

My family lives here in Colorado close to us. Special K’s family lives in Kansas. Google Maps says it takes 5.5 hours door to door.

We have four kids…we know this isn’t true…for us.

All in all, it takes us under 7 hours to get from our house to my in laws in the van. And we’re actually pretty good at handling it…both the kids and the grown ups. Here are some of my road trip survival tips with multiples (or with multiple children):

  1. Start them early.We began doing this trip when each child was about a month old. It wasn’t always easy, but it was worth it because now they are used to being in the car for long periods of time. You may be thinking, “thanks jerk, my kid is four, this tip is worthless.” Sorry! Read on, I have more up my sleeve. :)
  2. Plan ahead. Before we go on any trip that is longer than an hour, we plan for potty breaks and possible leg stretching breaks. We will alter our route to ensure that there are ample opportunities to walk and pee if necessary. If no one needs the break, we just cruise on by. We also pack snacks, diapers and extra clothes. These may seem like “duh” moments, but a few weeks ago we had a trip to the aquarium, which is just over an hour from our home. I packed snacks just in case, thinking we wouldn’t need them…but there was a HUGE car accident that left us sitting on the highway for about 45 minutes. If I hadn’t packed those snacks, there would have been an uprising! 3 of my kids are in diapers, so this seems like a silly thing to add to the list, but again, I always plan for more than I could possibly need, because I am terrified of running out. If it’s a day trip, I still bring at least one change of clothes because spills happen and diaper leaks happen and no one wants to sit in wet clothes!
  3. Leave right before nap time or bed.The bedtime one might be hard on the grownups if you’re cool like me and go to bed by 10, but it is soooo nice to have a quiet trip the whole way! Typically, we leave right before or right after lunch…that way, there is some activity in the car as a distraction (food), and then the littles have their nap afterwards. This can buy us anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours of silence.
  4. Pack comfort items.This is critical, especially on our long road trips to Gramma and Papas house. H still uses a binky, but we are strict that she only gets it for nap and bed time. The one exception to this rule is long road trips. It’s her way of soothing herself and if it keeps her happy, then we all are happy! M likes her monkey and her blanky…she gets those too. Whatever it is, even if you don’t pull it out unless you are desperate, bring it. It is way better to have it and not need it then to need it and not have it (I’m talking one item per kid…don’t use this logic for the whole toy box!).
  5. Pack activities.My oldest is seven, so she can have things like a book or coloring pages. Sweet Pea also enjoys a folder of coloring pages. For this I simply print up free coloring pages that I find online, hole punch them and put them in a 3-ring binder. Each child also gets their own pencil box with crayons/washable markers. I get some of the free coloring pages from PBS Kids and others from my favorite mom bloggers. Do a little looking on Google and you can find a whole lot of free goodies! As for the Twinkies, I simply pack some toys that they haven’t seen or played with in a while.
  6. Electronics. I know, I know…they are young and electronics are so pervasive, but seriously, it is a seven. hour. car. ride. We have a Kindle Fire, kids version, that has an account for M&M and Sweet Pea, as well as a dual monitor DVD player that the Twinkies use to watch shows and movies. The kids only get such electronics in the car for our long haul trips, which keeps them special…and highly effective.

Now for the fun part. We just booked a trip to visit my Grammy in Florida this May. YAY! Here’s the kicker…we’re flying. The Twinkies are 2, so they need their own tickets now. Okay okay, even if they weren’t two, I would buy them their own seats because who wants to have a wiggly kid on their lap for 6 hours? Not me! Only M&M has been on a plane…my three littles are total newbies.

So what did I do? I read about 3715 blog posts on how to travel with toddlers on airplanes, but none of them really addressed the issue of multiples. Three of my children are under the age of four, and all of them are in diapers. I know that this will be challenging. Thankfully, some of my above tips can be modified for the airplane, but I’m still wondering how to manage this?

Here’s our current plan:

We have two flights with a nearly 2 hour layover in between (the gates are really close together and they are with the same airline, so we didn’t feel the need to factor in more time there).

We are bringing the car seats with us so no need to worry about renting them in Florida.

We will be bringing above mentioned coloring kits, Kindle Fires (we have two) and our laptops. That brings us to one coloring kit and electronic device per child.

I am planning on packing lots of little snacks that they will have to spend time opening (like presents!), and am considering giving them things like mini M&M’s that they don’t normally get.

We are also seriously considering purchasing a Trunki for each child.

10835410-1375201107-272949Have you ever seen such a thing? Have you ever heard of these? There are loads of rave reviews on them, and according to the website, they can handle all four of my children. Well, not at once. But one at a time! The kids can sit on them while we wait in various lines at the airport, and there is a “leash” attachment where we could drag them behind us…or they could drag each other.

If you’ve used these, could you please let me know what you think? We might buy just one and see what we think, before committing to three more.

Okay dear readers:

What have I missed? 

What tips do you have for travelling with multiples? With toddlers? 

Do you have any advice specific to airplane travel?

Happy travelling!

 

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Gifts Even (Twin) Toddlers Can Make!

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Categories Activities, Celebrations, crafts, DIY, Lifestyle, Make-It Mondays, Preschoolers, School-Age, Toddlers1 Comment

Since our girls were about two, I’ve been working to involve them in our holiday gifts, at least in some small way.  I took a quick trip down Memory Lane to find pictures of some of our creations.

gift7Our longest-running tradition is gift tags.  The first one we did was a fingerprint wreath.  The girls finger painted big sheets of green.  I used a scallop punch to make a wreath shape.  I used a hole punch to make “berries”, and the girls glued the wreaths on red card stock for the berries to show through.

[The girls’ involvement has evolved over the years.  “Gluing” with a two-year old, at our house at least, meant that I used a tape runner to apply adhesive to the item to be glued.  I handed a piece at a time to the girls — nestled securely in their highchairs — to place where I pointed.  My girls are almost seven, and I finally (sorta-kinda) trust them with actual glue.]

Since then, we’ve used finger prints (using washable ink pads, which I LOVE!).  At four years old, the girls were old enough to make these reindeer themselves.  I love how different they all turned out!

gift4

The following year the girls made snowmen using non-toxic washable paint.  After the paint dried, they used markers to make the snowman’s features.

gift8

And this year we’re in the process of making penguins.  I love seeing some of our relatives keep these as ornaments year after year.

gift2We’ve also made gift bags.  I cut out the hat and mouth from card stock.  We used buttons for eyes, orange felt for a nose, and a bright rhinestone for the holly berry.  The girls glued everything onto a brown craft bag.  They were so proud to give these to family and friends!

And we’ve been making these gift card holders for a few years now.  I love the personal touch these add to the gift cards we give to the girls’ teachers.

gift6

And in the way of gifts, bookmarks have been big hits at our house.  We’ve done these several different ways.  When the girls were about 18 months old, they did some crayon scribbles, which I cut into strips…put the strips back to back (so they both had representation on the bookmark)…and had them laminated at the office supply store.  I punched a hole and let the girls choose a ribbon and a bead to top it off.  We’ve done similar bookmarks with fingerpaint and water colors.  Most recently, the girls in kindergarten, they wrote notes to each family member.

gift1I love my bookmarks so much.  They’re a great little token of the girls’ art ability, and they’re very functional, too.  Who can’t use a bookmark or two???

The girls look forward to our yearly projects.  I relish the opportunity to involve them in making something from the heart!

I’d love to hear what other mamas have done to involve their kiddos in gift-giving.  This is one of the great joys of my holiday season, for sure!

MandyE is mom to fraternal twin girls who will soon be seven.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

 

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Toddler Thursday: Sharing a Bedroom

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Categories Attitude, Development, Different Gender, Independence, Individuality, Joy, Lifestyle, Love, Mommy Issues, Multiple Types, Napping, Overnight, Parenting, Perspective, Preschoolers, Sleep, Toddlers4 Comments

After obsessively searching for about two years, my husband finally found us a new house. It isn’t too far from our current house, conveniently closer to our chosen dual-language elementary school, and in a nice quiet neighborhood of the foothills. It is a little larger than our current house (which is good because we’re bursting at the seams here), but still only three bedrooms. For a family of 5 with almost-3yo b/g twins, I was really hoping our next house would have four bedrooms, so that all the kids could have their own. With the cost of remodeling prior to move-in (gutting both bathrooms, building a laundry room, moving the water heater, updating electrical, refinish floors, new paint, etc), we are left with not much of a budget for what I really wanted: a bigger kitchen and another bed/bath. Those will have to wait until we can get plans drawn and a permit for the additions.

I was very disappointed that this was how it all worked out. In my mind, the whole point of moving was so my kids wouldn’t have to share bedrooms. All the labor of packing and managing a renovation just didn’t seem worth it if I couldn’t get what I really wanted. It’s true that remodeling this home instead of buying a move-in ready one makes it feel more our “own,” there’s been a lot of stress involved with money spent and making decisions, choosing finishes. Thankfully that’s all now starting to come to a close. I just decided on a floor stain today, after having chosen paint colors last week.

And I feel like I’m also starting to turn the corner on being disappointed on the lack of a fourth bedroom. At this point, I believe the only one who really wants to make sure all the kids get their own rooms is me. For sure the twins don’t care. They’ve literally been together all their lives, even before they were born.

There are times I certainly wish they wouldn’t keep each other awake during naptime, or wake each other in the middle of the night during an illness, but most often what I see is that the presence of their twin comforts them. They are always put to bed together, and always woken up (or left in) together. On the rare occasion that one sleeps longer/shorter than the other, and they become separated, they always look for and ask the whereabouts of the other. Every day I hear their conversations before they fall asleep and when they wake up.  There is talking and giggling, singing and dancing, squeals and jumping. If a strict can’t-get-out-of-bed-during-sleep-time wasn’t imposed (I just transitioned them into toddler cribs), they’d probably be in each other’s beds. I’m not sure they would be able to verbalize their closeness right now, but I know their separation would definitely cause them anxiety, especially during such a vulnerable time as sleeping. It would be too scary. Perhaps they need a few more years together for that security and comfort.

Also, so many big changes are taking place in our lives right now with the move coming up, Big Sis starting kindergarten, and little ones beginning preschool that I’m wary about giving them any more to deal with. I now think that even if we did have a fourth bedroom, I would not be separating the twins just yet. I think it will be a while before they will ask for their own privacy and space. It may be many years before we move them into their own bedrooms. I’ve come to see that this is the connection between twins, and that it doesn’t diminish their independence nor hamper their development in any way. And it’s actually a pretty amazing thing to have in our family.

lunchldyd is sad her days have been filled with contractors instead of fun with her kids (and posting on hdydi).

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Me Time in the Morning

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Categories Balance, Divorce, Feeling Overwhelmed, Making Time for Me, Mental Health, Perspective, Preschoolers, Routines, Single Parenting, Theme Week, Time ManagementLeave a comment

Yep, I’m one of those people. I love mornings. I love the calm anticipation that it often holds, and I love the feeling of getting a head start on my day before everyone else. I know that mornings have fallen out of favor with a lot of people recently, but I’m here to tell you about some of the reasons I get up early to have some time to myself every day.

Waking before your kids may be the way to find time for yourself.

First a little background: I’m a single mother with twin girls who are currently 3.5 years old. I am a full time music teacher in a public school and also run my own online business. I am also an introvert and a homebody. Because of all of these factors, having some quiet time for myself is essential to my ability to function with a positive attitude each day. There are 3 reasons why I think having some “me time” each morning makes a huge difference for me: 1) my brain has time to process everything from the previous day, 2) I can think through and prepare for the upcoming day’s responsibilities, and 3) I can start the day feeling more in control.

1. My brain has time to process

I have a lot of stress in my life. I work in a Title I school with a lot of behavior problems. Communication with the girls’ father is full of conflict. My girls are both 3 years old. Did I mention I have two 3 year old’s? Often when I try to deal with problems that come up during the day before going to sleep, I don’t respond well. When I give my body rest and my brain a chance to process everything, I usually find a much better perspective or solution the next morning. Getting up early for some time to myself, rather than staying up after the girls go to bed, allows me to deal with life’s ups and downs in a healthier way.

2. I can prepare for the day ahead

I know that, in theory, this can be done at night. And if you are a night owl rather than an early bird, it is probably completely effective for you to get ready for the next day the night before. But if I try to get ready the night before, I always miss something. My brain and body are shut down by the time I get the girls in bed- there is no organized or logical thinking happening! By getting up early enough, I have time to think through my responsibilities for the day and make sure I am ready before the girls wake up. For me at least, even when I am able to effectively prepare the night before, I find that I don’t remember everything I had set up by the next morning. Doing everything that morning gives me a better chance of remembering what I had planned the rest of the day.

3. I feel more in control

There’s something about setting an alarm, and waking up when it goes off, that makes me feel more successful. Maybe just that small success of getting out of bed while others are still sleeping is enough to make me feel like I am capable of following through on my decisions. Having time to sit with a cup of coffee, reflect on the previous day and the day ahead, and calmly prepare for the day helps me to feel like I am in control of my life and that I am equipped to deal with whatever challenges may come my way.

Are you a night owl or an early bird? Do you take time for yourself in the mornings? I really believe that taking that time, even when I would rather sleep in sometimes, makes a big difference in my ability to handle everything life throws my way. What do your mornings look like? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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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TV is a Tool

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Categories Balance, Feeling Overwhelmed, How Do The Moms Do It, It Gets Different, Making Time for Me, Parenting, Perspective, Preschoolers, SAHM, School-Age, ToddlersTags Leave a comment

I learned a long time ago that I was a much better parent before I actually had kids. I thought picky eaters were the result of indulgent parents. (Guess what! I introduced my duo to the same foods at the same time off the same spoon and one only eats things that are beige and crunchy. He came like that, I didn’t do that to him.) I also thought my kids wouldn’t watch a lot of TV. That one makes me laugh now!

While we are at it, I also sort of thought I would have ONE baby at a time and well, that didn’t happen either.

I am not ashamed to admit thatI use TV as a tool to give myself a break and distract my kids from mayhem. I have been home with them since they were one, and with no family nearby and no babysitters to speak of, I rarely had any time for a break. Not long before my boys turned three I started trying to work from home. I had a small Etsy shop and did custom sewing. I enjoyed the quiet time while they slept and the creative outlet helped me refresh. I was able to use the 2-3 hours they would nap to work on projects and promote my business online.

In contrast, while these two were awake, there was rarely a quiet moment. Here’s a small snapshot of the chaos my duo managed from a very young age. I didn’t include any of the photos where there was blood — and there was blood, more than once. Nor did I include any naked shenanigans, which was also incredibly common. You’re welcome.

HDYDI.com Making Time for Me
HDYDI.com Making Time for Me Teamwork: Trying to remove outlet covers with a pretend screwdriver, escaping through the dog door onto the concrete patio, trashing a closet, using an entire box of tissues to decorate their room, working together to escape their play area and unrolling all the toilet paper.

Remember when I said my kids weren’t going to watch a lot of TV? That didn’t last. They were nearly two before we ever turned on the TV for one single half-hour of something with educational merit each day. But then guess what? They turned 3 and all bets were off. Three, in our house at least, was the worst. Ever.

But before that, when my boys were not even two, they figured out and verbalized to me, “There is one of you and two of us and we want to do this!” when I was home alone with them. Most of every day they worked together to outsmart and out-maneuver anything I did. They overcome any childproofing efforts we made and they were giving up naps.

They gave up their nap long before I gave up their nap.

HDYDI.com Making Time for Me
HDYDI.com Making Time for Me The dresser was moved into the closet, which also had a lock, which did not dissuade them from pulling every stitch of clothing out. They also raided the fridge and the pantry, took a Sharpie to the carpet, and flushed things that should not be flushed.

When they were awake, which quickly became all the time, they were in constant seek-and-destroy mode. BUT, when the TV was on they sat, quietly and slack-jawed and provided me a brief respite. They weren’t trashing toy bins or flooding the bathroom. They weren’t trying to escape baby gates or scale cabinets. They just sat. And it was quiet.

In the beginning, we stuck mostly to educational stuff. They were picking up songs and letters, colors and numbers. And more importantly, they were giving me the break I needed to do crazy indulgent things like shower and cook meals.

At age 5, they still watch mostly stuff with educational merit, but there are more and more mindless shows thrown in there too. By age 4 they could each name 100 superheroes (give or take) and they knew all sorts of crazy phrases and giant words they probably wouldn’t have learned otherwise. They have picked up all sorts of cultural references and they incorporate storylines and theme music into their play.

So there’s the truth: My kids watch too much TV. Way more than they should, for sure. But it helps me get things done and it keeps them from clobbering one another or trashing our house. Judge if you want, but TV in our house keeps the peace. Now that they know how to turn on the TV and navigate around, my work is done and I can retire from Mommyhood.

HDYDI.com Making Time for Me
Look how sweet and well-behaved!

Allow me to share some things I have learned since becoming a Mom who uses TV for distraction to get a little time to myself. (It’s OK, I give you permission* to use TV as a tool to entertain your kids.)

  • Streaming is awesome. Get yourself Netflix or Amazon Prime or something on-demand. My kids have only ever watched on-demand shows either from Netflix or from our own personal video library, which we stream to our TV via AppleTV. They also have channels on the AppleTV you can stream if you do have cable. (We don’t. We canceled it when I was pregnant to cut our monthly bills.) Plus there is a PBS channel my kids love too.
  • Paying for a streaming service means my kids don’t watch commercials, ever. They never have to flip through channels, hoping there is something decent on. They just pick something and watch it. We stayed in a hotel recently and they were so flummoxed not being able to control what was on, but subsequently asked for every single thing each commercial endorsed. That was only about an hour’s worth. I can’t imagine living with that every day. Netflix is less than $10 a month, a fraction of the cost of cable and without the commercials.
  • Making them agree on a show and take turns picking has helped them understand sometimes you do what someone else wants. Is it always peaceful? Nope. But then, neither are kids sometimes.
  • Netflix streaming truly is unlimited. Believe me, we’ve tested it. More than once I have thought, “Gee I am glad we don’t get a monthly usage report showing we watched the same episode of Octonauts 437 times so far.”
  • Use parental controls. I mean, if you are going to plop your kids in front of a neglect-o-magic, at least be a little parental. My kids have their own profile and they are locked into ratings for 8 and under. They can’t accidentally watch Orange is the New Black.
  • Be careful trying to replace paid streaming content with YouTube. It’s crazy easy for kids to click on the next thing YouTube thinks is related and find something you’d really rather not have them seeing.
  • Not everything on TV is terrible. My kids are actually pretty smart and know a lot of things because of TV than they would be otherwise. Sometimes they will start talking about some creature they learned about and will tell me 32 facts about it and I am blown away they retained so much. They also smash things like Hulk so there’s that.
  • Try to quiz them after they’ve watching something to make sure they are actually learning. Tell me something about [whatever] that you didn’t know. It makes them recall what they learned and it creates a dialogue. Even the mindless stuff has morals sometimes. How do you think he felt when that happened? What would you do if that happened? Especially great for kids who might struggle with emotions.
  • When they were in preschool in the afternoons, we had a no-TV-before-school rule, because sometimes it is hard to turn off without a fit. We made the rule and stuck to it. It was disputed the first week or so then they accepted it. Now with them starting Kindergarten we’ve made a no-TV-on-school-days rule so they can stay focused on their schoolwork and activities. They know it’s the rule and it’s non-negotiable. (Exceptions made for sick days.)
  • We do a LOT of stuff that isn’t watching TV, I promise. They are exposed to lots of things in real life too. We try to get out of the house every day and we’ve filled the past 5 years with tons of educational and mind-broadening activities. And a lot of TV.

I know the recommendations of nearly everyone who recommends such things say kids should limit screen time, and TV is not a babysitter and it’s bad for developing brains. All of which is probably true. But in our house, my kids watching TV is essential to MY mental health.

* Permission granted in this instance has zero actual authority and is offered without guarantee or responsibility.

 


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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How the 1-2-3 Magic Approach Supports Parental Consistency

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Categories Books, Discipline, Parenting, Preschoolers, School-Age, Toddlers44 Comments

I’m a huge believer in parental consistency. When the parent is consistent, it gives each child a feeling of security. In a world in which they have little power and even less context, they can trust that their parents will always follow through on what they say and can be relied on implicitly. By demonstrating self control, we teach them lessons that will last their whole lives. Yes, I know. It doesn’t much seem like they’re learning any self control at all at ages 2 and 3, but they are.

The challenge is that consistency is hard. Being sleep-deprived and pulled in eleven directions at once as a new parent makes it even harder. 1-2-3 Magic is a book by Thomas W. Phelan that provides parents with a practical approach to achieving consistency.

An overview of the 1-2-3 Magic approach to disciplining your kids. Actually, it's more about disciplining yourself to be predictable, which results in better behavior from the kids.

MandyE wrote a review of 1-2-3 Magic that is a good counterpoint to the summary I provide below.

I have to confess that I came to the book late, when my kids were at the tail end of the Terrible Awful Horrible Threes.  What I discovered was that I’d been practicing its tenets already. I had a leg up, though. My baby sister is 10.5 years my junior so got some parental practice as a pre-teen and teen. I also spent a lot of time in therapy before getting pregnant talking through exactly how I wanted to parent, in my attempt to break harmful family patterns. As my former husband put it, 1-2-3 Magic is just a matter of common sense, but it’s common sense spelled out with practical steps for application.

Premise

The basic premise of 1-2-3 Magic is that structure can help parents achieve consistency.

Phelan’s approach also assumes something that child psychologists know well: the ultimate reward any child seeks is attention. If a kiddo gets attention from her parent for bad behaviour, then she’ll continue it. If you withdraw attention for bad and give attention for good, you’ll quickly retrain his expectations.

That’s where time out comes in. Time out is simply the withdrawal of parental attention. It doesn’t have to have special chair, unless that’s what works for you. It certainly doesn’t involve talking or eye contact.

Goal

So, what is consistency? It boils down to two things:

  1. Parents do what we say.
  2. Parents are predictable.

Technique

The 1-2-3 Magic approach is a combination of counting and time out.

First, you set expectations. Tell your children that you are going to count 1, 2, 3 if they’re naughty. At 3, they’ll go to time out. Don’t worry if they don’t understand. They’ll pick it up.

When they do something against the rules, say 1. The next time they do something inappropriate, or if they don’t stop the original behaviour, say 2. At the next infraction, you say 3 and put them in time out.

If they come out of time out, don’t make eye contact. Don’t try to reason with them. Just gently pick them up and place them back in time out. The total time for time out should be one minute per year of age for neurotypical children.

When the time out is over, don’t try to reason with them or tell them what they did wrong. You can go over basic rules at a point when they’re not already upset. Don’t go back over examples of early indiscretions. They’ve already paid for the rule they broke, and listening to a lecture is a second punishment that accomplishes very little.

I’d recommend waiting a few hours, maybe until the next day.

My personal approach — I can’t remember if this is in the book — is to talk about rules when we’re happy and having a good time together. I don’t even bother trying to reason with the kids when they’re upset. I just say to my 9-year-olds, “I love you, but we can’t have a discussion like this. When you feel calm, we can talk if you want to.” What cracks me up is that my girls now use that on each other!

If you stick with the 1-2-3 Magic approach, your kids will know that you’re serious. Don’t let them get away with someone one day and punish them the next (except the day you start implementing 1-2-3 Magic). It gives them a feeling of safety to know what the rules are, and this is far more effective than talking it through. Yes, there’ll be a lot of screaming at first, but they’ll figure out you’re serious.

Personal Example

An overview of the 1-2-3 Magic approach to disciplining your kids. Actually, it's more about disciplining yourself to be predictable, which results in better behavior from the kids.

I haven’t had to count past 1 with my girls in at least 3 years. Seriously. I don’t think they have any idea what would happen if I got to 3. I don’t even know what would happen. My daughters are 9 and are generally reasonable human beings. But when they hear me say, “One,” in an I-am-not-messing-around tone, they straighten right up.

An even better example of effective use of the 1-2-3 Magic philosophy occurred with my nephew. By the time he was two years old, he hadn’t had consistent nutrition, much less consistent discipline. I had to go to London to take care of him for a week while his custody was being determined.

It took 6 hours for him to figure out the system. Six hours.

Sure, I had to pick him up and place him on the chair I designated for timeout 26 times the first time, but he got it. I just picked him up and placed him in a chair, saying the word “time out”. I avoided eye contact. Every time he slipped out of the chair, I gently picked him up and placed back on it. When the fifth time out came around, he didn’t try to escape. He sat there, crying, for 120 seconds. When the time was up, I picked up him up, hugged him, and told him that I loved him. We returned to playing with cars.

At the end of the week, when he saw his mom, he begged to stay with me (which broke my heart, because I couldn’t bring him to the US to live with me because of immigration laws). He didn’t see me as Mean Auntie. He knew that I was predictable, and that predictability made him feel safe.

If you want a much more well written explanation of the whole thing, buy the book. It’s a very quick read.

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Early Readers: Children’s Books Based on Movies

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Categories Books, Education, PreschoolersLeave a comment

My daughters, now aged 9, are fluent readers, several years ahead of where they need to be. Their elementary school librarian regularly requests books from the local high school library, since her shelves are targeted at less fluent readers than M and J.

Going through my old videos, I found this gem, taken when J was 4 years old. Yes, at that age both M and J wore butterfly wings more often than not. Seeing J’s hard work reminded me that, although reading came extremely easily to both my daughters, it took work and patience. In the video, J is reading a book based on the Disney movie Chicken Little.

I’m generally leery of using television as an educational tool for young children. However, one way to tempt a new reader is to offer him or her a book based on a film they know and love. Disney Little Golden Books are a great resource for this approach.

5 years later, J and M watched the first Percy Jackson movie, only to be appalled by the liberties taken by the producers. J pointed out error after error compared to the book by her favourite author, Rick Riordan. I agreed with her that I found film versions of my favourite books to be disappointments. I smiled inside about being able to share a love of literature with both my daughters.

What books got your kids over the hump of needing to spell things out?

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Toddler Thursday: Outdoor Photography

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Categories Attitude, Parenting, Preschoolers, Toddler Thursday, Toddlers26 Comments

I’ve posted before about photography sessions in general with young children here, but this one will be specifically about photography outdoors.

Since the twins have been born, it seems we’ve actually begun taking more professional photographs. We used to take one annual family portrait around Thanksgiving for our  Christmas cards, but it’s gotten to be too difficult for me alone to capture all the kids in the same frame, much less looking in the same direction. And having only the most rudimentary knowledge of photography, I don’t know enough about how to get the right look I want (or get the shot in time to catch the right moment, or to avoid the blur of kids running around, etc etc). Now we do another photo shoot sometime in the spring/summer too.

So it was about time for our semi-annual photography session, and I decided to finally try an outdoor session in natural light. Many friends much prefer this type of photography, and I love the natural light too, but I’ve always been too terrified of my three kids running loose out in an open space. The great thing about studio photos has always been the controlled environment: the contained area, the comfortable room temperature, the choice of backdrops and props.

However, an acquaintance does freelance photography, was charging an affordable price, and had some time available during my spring break. I went for it. It did not end up being the experience I had dreaded; in fact, it was quite nice. Below are some contributing factors:

Logistics are important.

We chose a location very familiar to the kids. We are members at a local arboretum because the kids love it so much; we go almost once a week. It’s only about 15 minutes away. We like to go let the kids stretch their legs, be with nature, and see some peacocks. Turns out all the giant trees and gardens also makes for a great backdrop for photographs!

We made sure to chose a good time for them too, steering clear of their nap. Mornings usually work well for us, so after breakfast and getting ready, we got there at 9am. It was an hour session, so we were done and home well before naps at 11. The hour was nice too, because it gave the kids time to warm up to the photographer and get comfortable with the situation. (This is usually missing in studio shoots that I’ve taken. Those are more in the 30 minute range.)

Spring 2015 (8 of 28)

Preparation is also crucial.

I planned their coordinating outfits weeks in advance. Matching three children is not an easy task, and I always work hard not to spend too much money or pick pieces that could only be worn once. I made the skirts and hair clips this time too, so that required getting the proper materials and time learning on my sewing machine. I also had the kids try everything on and make adjustments to ensure all the outfits work together and everything fit.

I was prepared with snacks and juice for the kids. We usually do snacks around 10:30, but I thought I’d bring stuff just in case they needed a break from the camera. They did, and it worked. We bounced back from our 5 minutes of crackers and captured some more great images afterward.

Spring 2015 (66 of 124)

Luckily, some things just worked out for us.

We had some great cooperative weather. It was a slightly cloudy, brisk morning. Most of our photos were taken in some really beautiful, soft ambient light. The kids were not hot and sweaty running around. Towards the end of the session, the sun was just breaking through.

I gave the kids freedom to go where they wanted. I didn’t want to force them to be unnatural, but I was also worried that without my husband we’d have trouble keeping the kids together. It wasn’t a problem though, because we were able to focus their attention on things along the way. There were some sculptures that they played with, some fountains they all looked at together, and benches that were able to hold their attention for a bit. It took a little coaxing at times, but they did not scatter in three different directions as I feared.

Spring 2015 (43 of 124)

I learned to step back and let the photographer do his thing. He had a very laid back quality about him, never forced any poses on the kids, let them go where they wanted, and was very patient. I did not intervene except to fluff the skirts when they got ruffled and reposition a cap when it got out of place. As a result, no one was stressed (I am usually extremely stressed during photography sessions), and everyone was pretty relaxed and happy.

Spring 2015 (23 of 28)

 

lunchldyd is mom to 2.5yo b/g twins and their almost-5yo sister. She loves taking and looking through photographs of her kids.

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Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday: Our “OK to Wake” Clock

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Categories Overnight, Parenting, Potty Training, Preschoolers, School-Age, Sleep, Wouldn't Do Without WednesdayTags 5 Comments

I originally wrote this when my twin girls were three, as a review on our local MoMs’ group blog.  My girls are now six, and my love for this little gadget is still as strong as ever.

***

Since our girls started sleeping through the night, until they were about 18 months old, I could usually count on them waking up around 6:45 in the morning.  And then, when they dropped to one nap during the day, they began sleeping until about 7:30.  Those were the days!

When we began potty training, around 27 months, though, we experienced a drastic change in the girls’ morning routines.  I appreciated that they woke to use the potty…but there were some painfully early starts to our days for quite some time.

I then discovered a wonderful gadget that has made a huge difference in our morning routines, the “OK to Wake!” clock.  [There are several iterations of these in clocks and stuffed toys…just search “OK to wake”.]

OK to Wake

I set the clock to 6:30, at which time it glows green.  (As much as I’d like them to sleep until 9am on the weekends, I wanted to set a “realistic” goal.)  I tell the girls, if you wake up and the clock isn’t green, you can roll over and go back to sleep.

There are times when I hear them stirring shortly after 6:00, but they don’t usually call for me until 6:30…on the dot…and then I hear, Mommy!  The clock is green!  I slept well!

There are times that they wake up early, sometimes needing to sit on the potty.  After they use the bathroom, it’s been great to have an “impartial party” — the clock — to cite.  “The clock isn’t green.  It’s still sleep time,” I’ll tell the girls.  They almost always accept that they need to go back to bed.

I was worried that the clock would somehow wake them up in the mornings.  Its glow isn’t so bright that it disturbs them, though, and a handful of times they’ve slept an extra 15 or 20 minutes.  The green glow lasts for 30 minutes, so they still get to call out to me when they wake up (which they get a big kick out of).

I would love to one day get back to our blessed 7:30 rise and shine…but for now, I’m so thankful to at least have a consistent wake-up time.

***

(This is not a sponsored post.  I am in no way affiliated with the companies that make or sell these awesome gadgets.  It’s just been a lifesaver to us…for close to four years now!…and I wanted to share.)

MandyE is mom to six-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

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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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