Toddler Thursday: Twin Toddler Travel Tips

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This post was originally published when my twin daughters were 2 and a half on my personal blog.

My twin daughters, aged 2, and I flew to Oregon and back, just the three of us, and the whole process was remarkably easy. Sure, we had a few hiccups, but I’d be happy to repeat the experience.

I think a number of things contributed to our positive experience.

The great

Southwest Airlines: The flight attendants on Southwest were just wonderful. On every leg of the journey, they helped me carry the car seats on and off the airplane. They were gentle with the girls, and praised them for being so obedient.

The first leg of the journey home was particularly noteworthy. The flight attendant, Laura, was an identical twin herself and has a 20-month-old and an 11-year-old. Whenever she wasn’t busy helping other passengers, she was chatting with the girls, keeping them entertained. She installed the car seats for me, told me about her relationship with her siblings, discussed parenting philosophies with me, and was just all around wonderful. Another attendant, whose name I didn’t get, walked us all the way out to the gate to wait for our next flight. This all went far beyond the call of duty, in my book.

GoGo Kidz Travelmate: This handy wheeled contraption attaches to the back of your child’s car seat, turning it into a stroller.

GogoKidz Travelmates make travel possible for the outnumbered parent.
The wheels snap off easily, and you don’t have to remove the back to install the seat in the airplane (although the manufacturers don’t recommend that). The security folks at the airport did take the Travelmates off the car seats, but they also reattached them for me. The Travelmates did away with need for a stroller and made it extraordinarily easy to transport the car seats through the airport, whether or not they contained children. Even my husband was impressed with them, and he usually laughs at my affinity for gadgets. The only downside is that there is not convenient place to store the wheels and the bar they attach to when they are removed. Fortunately, I was able to stick them in the overhead baggage compartment.

Car seats in the airplane: I never considered leaving the car seats at home or checking them, but once we got settled in our seats, I realized some benefits in addition to general safety. Since M and J are used to sitting in their car seats during our long commute, they knew exactly where to tuck their toys and sippy cups so that they would stay put. It gave them a great measure of comfort to be sitting side by side in their familiar seats. They almost thought it was a treat that I was able to interact with them and hold their hands, since my rule when I’m driving is that I can’t help them pick up toys or give them more snacks until we come to a stop.

Lollipops: I invested in a couple of packages of ring pops and brought a couple of extra lollipops along. Sucking on this candy helped little toddler ears adjust to the pressure changes of takeoff and landing, and kept both girls entertained.

Rolling backpacks: I bought the girls Disney princess backpacks that they could roll through the airport. When the kids were in the carseats, I just slung the backpacks over the Travelmate handles. I put a change of clothes in each backpack, as well as all the girls’ airplane activities and diapering supplies. The one tray table I had also fit inside the bag. I put a box of raisins in each bag for them to “discover” on the plane. I had them pack up their lovies into the front pocket of their backpack when we arrived at the airport, and put an empty sippy cup in a side pocket of the bag.

Stickers and notebooks: I handed M and J each a sheet of stickers and a plain notebook. They were given a clear admonition that stickers were not to be stuck anywhere but the pages of the notebook. This was all it took to keep J and M entertained for half an hour at a time. The smaller the stickers, the better, since it made it more of a challenge to peel the stickers from the sheet. J made up a matching game involving her stickers, matching them by colour and object.

Mini magnadoodles: These weren’t quite the hit the stickers were, but were good for 15 minutes of entertainment at a time. I ended up doing most of the scribbling, and the girls practiced identifying the letters I wrote out for them.

Lovies: Usually, the girls’ lovies, whom they call “Bee”, are limited to naptime and bedtime. For the course of the trip, however, I allowed free access to their Bees, which I think made them a lot braver and more comfortable in the airplane than they otherwise might have been. I did insist that Bees be packed up in the girls’ backpacks when we were in airports, because if we lost one, it would be the end of the world. They were handmade by my friend Suzanne; I can’t exactly run to the store for a replacement.

The okay

Movies: I took my laptop on the plane in lieu of a DVD player. I hadn’t tested my computer’s DVD playing abilities and discovered myself to be without sound. Mel and Jess didn’t mind, or even notice, in part because the first movie I put on was The Snowman, which has no dialogue. The movies gave them something to do, but I think we had enough other activities that we could have done without.

Star Kids Travel Trays: I had high hopes for these snack trays, but I only received one in time for the trip. Since the last thing I wanted was an argument over unfair treatment, I didn’t pull out the one tray table I had except on one leg of the trip, when Jess was allowed to hold the laptop on her lap. I think the tray table could have been very useful if the girls weren’t already accustomed to keeping themselves entertained in their car seats. The airplane tray tables don’t fit flat over our Britax Marathons, so if the girls had been using open cups, some sort of tray table would have been a must.

Books: I packed a couple of very small board books in the girls’ bags. Although they usually love books, they weren’t too interested in them during our flights. They only provided about 5 minutes of distraction between sticker adventures.

Washable crayons: I’m glad I had them along, but the kids didn’t even get around to pulling these out.

The hiccups

On the way there, M kept dropping things on the floor when she was done with them instead of handing them to me, meaning that I had to crawl on the floor in front of the seats to pick up her toys and trash. By the time we headed back to Texas, she’d seen her sister praised enough for handing me her things that she realized it would be a good idea to copy her. (Subsequent to this trip, it occurred to me that tying toys and the like to my diaper bag with ribbon would greatly simplify life, although there’s a strangulation hazard concern.)

Both girls threw brief tantrums on the way home, but they’d been woken at 4:30 am Pacific time and can be forgiven. Still, when one of them threw a full-on lying-on-the-floor drumming-her-heels tantrum at the gate in Phoenix, I wasn’t having it. I told her that if she didn’t stop screaming and stand on her feet by the time I counted to 10, she would get a spanking. Yes, I threatened a spanking in front of at least 100 hundred travelers, and was prepared to follow through. Perhaps someone would have called CPS on me. We’ll never know. I got to six, and she was good as gold.

There was at least one proponent of my flavour of discipline among the onlookers. From far back in the boarding line, I heard a man say, “She only had to get to six. Wow!”

Have you travelled alone with multiples? What worked for you?

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Traveling with Toddlers is Not an Oxymoron

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Categories Parenting, Toddler Thursday, Travel1 Comment

Road Trips in our family are a common occurrence. Our kids have been on road trips more often than they have been to the movies or to the grocery store it seems like. We have traveled the 5 hours to Disneyland to and from in 1 day or 1 weekend several times, and similar distances to visit family in Ut, AZ and Ca. But most notably we took my first set of twins when they were just barely 2 across the country. We drove 30 hours straight in the car and we only stopped at gas stations along the way. Oh yeah, and Mt. Rushmore was a pit stop for about 2 hours before we kept going.


And, just this summer our family of 6 (kids aged 7 and 2.5) traveled across the country for 23 days and hit 23 states and nearly 7,000 miles.


People think we are crazy. I think we are crazy. But, it was the most fun trip and best bonding time our family has ever had. It is doable. Don’t let a road trip with babies or toddlers frighten you! Frankly, I think it would be worse with teenagers :)

So here is my ultimate road trip guide:


  • Plan for 1 day at a time. What do your kids need for one day? That’s what you put in your diaper bag/front seat.  Food and drinks first, then diapers and wipes, then toys. You can always refill that bag later. I usually pack all my extra diapers, food, formula, etc. in a box or laundry basket.
  • LESS IS MORE! Your toddlers/kids really don’t need extra activities in the car just because they’ll be spending more hours there. Most things end up on the floor in 2 seconds flat! Then you have a tantrum because they dropped it!  Don’t give them anything until you really need to. (I’ll make a list of our road trip toys at the end).
  • Sing, talk and play! Make up games. None of that requires equipment.
  • Gas stops are toddler breaks. We always have 1 adult pump the gas and buy the food, and the other takes all kids to the bathroom and changes diapers, etc. We let them walk and run outside as much as they can. A few minutes is all they need. For a short day drive we stop once or twice at the most. Have a scout go in first to see if there is a diaper changing station in the restrooms! If not–stay at the car to change diapers. Front seats are trickier, but they do work especially if your toddlers are old enough to stand up. Use diaper cream as a barrier helps their little bums not hurt as much for long hours of sitting.
  • Prepare for emergencies.  We have been stuck  on the freeway stopped for hours, and had to change hotels at the last minute because of spiders and had kids projectile vomiting. It’s okay. It really is. What do you need for emergencies?
    • Triple AAA
    • Extra water and formula to make it if needed
    • Plastic bags to put soiled wipes/clothes
    • paper towels
    • disinfectant wipes
    • hand sanitizer
    • extra clothes in a tote bag
    • good phones and chargers
    • fill up with gas often
    • ziplock bags
    • tylenol, benadryl, etc (I just keep a first aid kit in my console always with band aids, neosporin, etc.)
    • You can never have too many wipes!! (for our 23 day trip, I brought 5 packages-1 in the car at all times, 1 in the backpack at all times, 1 in the clothes suitcase, and 2 in the laundry basket).
    • 20150810_133559
  • Prepare your kids: Even young toddlers can understand what a road trip is sort of. We told ours we were going on a long trip and that they had to 1. get in their buckles and 2. sit nicely without screaming. If they did, they would get prizes. :)


  • Overpack-you can buy stuff at Walmart and gas stations. Do you have enough to feed your children for a few hours in case you get stuck somewhere? then you have all you need.
  • Plan too many stops. We plan for our stops to take about an hour. 1 stop for every 3 hours of driving
  • Never stop if someone is sleeping! Don’t even slow down… Trust me, you’ll regret it :)



  • We let our kids eat in our car as long as it’s not something completely messy, but most of the time we stop and eat on trips. We find that it’s worth buying the fast food especially when we can split meals between our kids. Or we find restaurants where kids eat free. Finding a play place is a bonus. They can get their energy out while we eat and rest. :)  Usually my toddlers share one meal just fine. Sharing in the car is tricky, so I bought little trays from the dollar section at Target. I can divide up the food and they love eating out of the containers. I just would wipe them out with a disinfectant wipe and a little water afterwards :)
  • If we are staying in a hotel, we try to find ones with free breakfast included. 1 less meal to worry about. And if they load up on breakfast, their snack whining goes way down. 20150805_093637
  • I don’t give them many snacks in the car so they are hungry for meals.
  • Everyone has their own water bottle and we bring lots of water with us for refills. We refill at gas stations as much as possible.
  • You have to have some fun: Our go to family road trip snack is gummy worms. Trolli brand only :) If someone is cranky, we might just say, “you need a worm”
  • You don’t always have to eat poorly. We stopped at a gas station and my kids chose to have: a pretzel, cheese, veggie, fruit and yogurt meal. They turned down soda and juice most of the time. Whatever they eat at home they can eat on the road–it is doable.

SLEEPING: We have slept in hotels, friends’ couches, and grandparents’ houses which of course are the best

  • I’ve always used and brought 2 pack n plays with us. I know hotels tend to have cribs available, but a lot of the time they cost a fee, or are not really available.  I have a crib sheet and blankets already rolled up inside the pack n plays plus any stuffed animal so it is all ready to go. (It does all fit in there).
  • For hotels, we send one adult in to check in and bring out a cart. The other one unloads the car. We load it all onto the cart, have our kids hang on and off we go.20150402_182624
  • I pack all of our stuff into one bag. (just enough for 1 night).
  • Big kids are in charge of their own blankets and comfort sleeping items. We get a room with 2 queens. The big kids either share a queen or an adult each sleeps with one of the big kids to split them up if they’re too wild to sleep.20150403_084009 (This was just for fun. Toddlers sleep in pack n plays).
  • Every single hotel room we’ve found has room for 2 pack n plays
  • If we are at a friend’s house then our big kids each have a sleeping bag with a blanket and pillow wrapped up inside. They are in charge of it.
  • We also try to get hotels with an indoor pool or hot tub. I will stay and unpack/organize the hotel while my husband takes the kids swimming. Then everyone can bathe really quickly and get into fresh clothes before bed. Gets them away from jumping on the beds and making our neighbors mad :)


  • We have always divided our duties up into driving or navigating. If you happen to have extra drivers, the other adult is the sleeper!  The driver drives. That’s it. No other duty. The navigator is in charge of GPS, taking care of the driver, temperature, music, and kid control. If everyone and everything is under control, they become a sleeper :)
  • We have found for days trips that you don’t need to worry about who drives when. Just decide whoever wants to. But for our longer trips we always switch at the 2 hour mark. It doesn’t matter if the driver wants to keep going, we switch. Our motto is: “No hero shifts.”


  • Yes, we use technology. Our SUV does not have a built in DVD player, but we invested in a portable one with 2 screens. For drives that are 6 hours or less, we just let them watch movies the whole time. They barely watch any tv during the week, so it doesn’t bother me to have them binge watch the whole time. The toddlers don’t have access to a screen though so they just get their normal stuff. (books, coloring, music, etc.)
  • For longer drives, they have to “earn” their movie time by reading, writing, or playing first before they can ask for screen time.
  • We started a point system which worked really well. I had a chart in a plastic sleeve protector taped to the dash that worked as a dry erase board. Every day I wrote the date and where we were going. (For a 23 day trip, it helped to keep everything straight!). Then they were able to earn points for activities such as: getting in their car seat buckles quickly, not whining, sleeping, throwing their trash away, etc.) Then they got to turn in their points for prizes (stickers, soda, gas station toys, etc). My 2 year olds loved this and every time they got in their carseats they would say, “I get a point!”
  • 20150813_172636
  • For a short trip, I give each kid a bag with their stuff for the day. When it’s on the floor or used up, it’s gone. “Sorry.” I do ziplock bags with crayons and pencils. Glue stick and scissors for the older kids. I have a clipboard for each kid with plain paper and coloring sheets. Everyone gets a few books and one toy that is fun. That really is all they need.
  • For our long trip, I had 1 bucket in front with one day’s worth of activities and 1 bucket in back to refill the day bucket. That way they didn’t get board too easily. The best thing I did was get activities that could be thrown away! That way when they fell between the cracks or onto the floor-we just scooped them up at the gas stations and said goodbye.
  1. bubble wrap sheets if you can stand the popping :)
  2. aluminum foil sheets-kid(s are really creative. Ours had a snowball “fight”
  3. clothes pins and pipe cleaners (make butterflies, etc)
  4. window stickers
  5. paper for airplanes and creations
  6. glow sticks were great for night driving (flashlights too if they don’t distract the driver)
  7. balloons
  8. magnets

I hate dry erase boards! They are a nice thought, but the markers are permanent and even the washable ones are hard to get out!  Instead, magna doodles are the way to go. And it’s fun to use real magnets to trace on them too.  Remember, less is more!


  • I would get a babysitter for 2 days before you go anywhere. These are the most stressful days-1 day for laundry, the 2nd day for packing. Get a friend who doesn’t mind taking toddlers for the day. That way you don’t have to use too much tv right before you have kids sitting in the car all day.
  • You don’t have to have another driver…I have done a few day drives by myself with all 4 kids! Yes, it is tough to drag two infant seats into a public restroom with 2 four year olds grabbing onto your back pockets, but I did it! I just had to make sure everyone had everything they needed before I started driving. If it fell, or was lost- too bad. Again, same rules as driving around town.
  • If you have young potty training, or fresh potty trained toddlers-never fear! You can still drive to Gma’s for Thanksgiving. Just throw in a toddler potty into the car. If there is a potty emergency, stop and have them squat on the road–I know, toddlers are stubborn and I’m dreaming right? the back of the car works, Pull Ups are great, or if there are accidents–that’s what the plastic bags are for. Just line the carseat before they get in and bring lots of changes of clothes :)
  • Naptimes get all messed up. I do different things depending on the situation. Most of the time I let them have their sleeping blankets/binkis if applicable in the car the whole time. No use putting up a fight. But, sometimes I’ve often saved them in the front and given it to them right at naptime. Even if they don’t sleep in the car, it still signals them for sleep and they can have a “rest”.  Same with bedtime. As soon as it gets dark, we start signaling them for bed. Get them in pjs at a rest stop (maybe), turn on lullaby music, give them blankets, etc.

  • Earplugs are great
  • Redbox is great…you can rent a movie at a gas station and return it in the next city
  • We drive the same route up to family a lot, so we know where there is a cheap pizza place we like. We call about 20 minutes before we get there, and lunch is served.
  • Backpacks-instead of my regular diaper bag, I put everything we need  the day in a good backpack–that way it can go from car to stroller to walking around Manhattan without having to juggle anything.
  • PJs–just make sure your kids are in comfy, weather appropriate clothes. If they fall asleep right before you get to a hotel-it should be no big deal to just put them straight to bed.
  • You do not have to play the Alphabet Game. It’s overrated. :)


PACKING: On any given trip, I will have:

  • a Backpack for a diaper bag
  • my personal tote for purse, books, tablet, phone chargers, etc
  • briefcase (my husband works on the road)
  • a tote with the day’s car activities in it
  • a basket with extra diapers, wipes, formula, toys, etc.
  • a suitcase that is packed for everybody (or 2 small ones). These stay in the car.
  • a duffle bag with our clothes and cosmetics for just that night to bring to the hotel (and a trash bag for laundry)
  • a mesh bag with our swimming stuff if applicable
  • a small cooler with water bottles and a few healthy snacks (we bring this to the hotel every night to put in the fridge).
  • an emergency car kit that always stays in there20150815_204018

Stashed in the console or under seats I have:

  • 1st aid kit
  • paper towels
  • batteries
  • chargers
  • pens/paper
  • gum/mints
  • stickers (I control those so it doesn’t get out of control)
  • everyone has a small travel pillow that is kept under the seats
  • I have stick on window shades, but if it’s really sunny, I keep extra baby blankets to hang from the windows
  • bungee chords always come in handy


Okay, that is a lot of information. Mainly if you are having a great time with your family-that is the most important!

I’ll never forget one of my favorite road trip moments:

I was pregnant and by myself with my almost 4 year olds. They had closed the freeway and I was almost out of gas. Needless to say, I was very anxious. But I was able to pull off to one of the only gas stations and fill up. Then I called my husband and he talked me through to an alternate route. So getting home took twice as long on a one way highway through the mountains, but we got home!

At one point, I had to pass a truck and it made me nervous since there was almost no shoulder, etc. I told my kids that they had to be totally quiet since Mommy was doing something “very important.” I whizzed past the truck and then it was smooth sailing after that. The kids were even especially quiet. Only about 30 minutes later, I heard a tiny voice from the back asking, “Mommy, are you still doing something important?”  I knew right then, like I’ve known all along, that I have good kids.


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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, Toddlers3 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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Toddler Thursday: How Twin Toddlers Are Like a Grouchy Old Couple

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Categories humor, Toddler Thursday, Toddlers45 Comments
  1. They think they’re the centre of the universe.
  2. They are completely committed to each other…
  3. but they know exactly how to get under each other’s skin. They do so as often as possible.
  4. They have questionable bladder control.
  5. They can’t hear a word you say… unless you include the phrase “ice cream”.
  6. They have no sense of time or urgency.
  7. Logic is an unknown concept.
  8. They need no words to understand one another completely.
  9. However, they have a pathological need to talk over each other.
  10. They pass gas without apology or embarrassment.
  11. They’re far less likely to suffer injury if they use a walker…
  12. but they’re completely unwilling to accept their bodies’ limitations.
  13. They are creatures of routine and habit. Don’t mess with their schedule. It can only lead to grief.
  14. They prefer their food bland and mashed.
  15. They teach you to look at the world with new eyes.

Toddlers may have a whole lot in common with the elderly... but the elderly are sometimes right.

While toddlers are like old people in thinking they know everything, the old couple is probably right on this score. The toddlers, however, are entirely wrong.

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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. Making Time for Me 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. Making Time for Me 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. 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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Can Chores and Work Be “Me Time”?!

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As a part-time working mom of triplet toddlers my most consistent version of “me time” typically consists of doing things I have to do anyway, but doing them by myself! I am an early intervention physical therapist and drive around quite a bit to do home visits. Some of my coworkers complain about all the drive time, but sometimes that is one of my only moments of solitude and I cherish it! Sometimes I listen to music or NPR, but most of the time I am listening to podcasts that I downloaded on my phone. It’s really kind of lovely sometimes to just drive in silence as opposed to driving while singing “ABCs” or “Happy Birthday” 500 times in a row! I think the lives of MoMs generally tend to be pretty overstimulating so embracing a bit of quiet time, wherever you can find it, can be so refreshing!

On my days home with our triplet toddlers, naptime is as close as I get to me time. The naptime “to do” list is always long and sometimes I get so caught up in the business that I forget to enjoy the solitude! I am working on this and when I am mindful of it I find that I appreciate and enjoy naptime even more. I love to cook, so I try to make that a naptime job (at least the prep work) because cooking is actually fun for me when I don’t get pulled away to referee a toddler spat every couple of minutes! Sometimes I’ll even sit down (gasp!) and watch a show on Netflix while I fold a couple loads of laundry.

Some days I remember partway through the nap that I should be appreciating this time. On those days when I’ve been in go-go-go mode I try to take 5, maybe even 10 minutes, to just sit and take a few deep breaths and do something relaxing. Sometimes that means scrolling through my Facebook feed; other times it means sitting on our deck with an iced coffee and just being. The trick I have learned is that I have to stop and do this in the middle of naptime and not be under some illusion that I can get three more things done and then sit because inevitably when I do that the moment I sit down is the moment I hear one or more toddlers waking up!

My other “go to” me time that I only manage to do a couple times a week is to get up early before the kiddos wake up. For a while one of our trio was consistently waking at 5:30 or 6 but then going back to sleep; that was a great time for me to get up and have a little time alone. But that only works for me if I actually went to bed early and got a decent night’s sleep so it definitely doesn’t happen every day. When it does, though, it is often one of my favorite times of day. I can make a pot of coffee, cook a delicious breakfast, and maybe even sit in the hammock and drink my coffee without reheating it five times! That is often my best time to write too. Sometimes I only get five minutes and then this


turns into this…

IMG_20150813_195342or this…20150809_082030but, I love this time too and I know it’s going to be gone way too fast!  So I’m also going to embrace this mommy time!


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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Toddler Thursday: How Not to Potty Train

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What I did wrong when potty training my twin daughters.I did potty training all wrong.

I tried to potty train my twin daughters for 19 months to abject failure. I remember thinking, “People keep saying, ‘No kid goes to college in diapers’ but maybe college kids are just really good at hiding it.”

My husband, home for 2 weeks during an Army tour in South Korea, ended up accomplishing it with a few words: “You’re going to the 3-year-old class. That’s for big kids and big kids wear panties!”

“I want to wear panties,” said M. And she did. She went to bed in panties that night and never wore a diaper again. I only remember a couple of accidents, and they happened weeks later. When her sister J saw what a fuss we were making over M, she too demanded panties. I was left with 3 boxes of size 4 diapers I ended up giving away a few months later.

What I Did Wrong

I skipped the research

I remembered potty training my (much) younger sister. Although I carefully researched almost every other area of parenting and child development, I decided to rely on my experience for potty training. I remember my sister being on the potty at under a year old, so I starting trying to potty train my daughters as soon as they expressed an interest in my own bathroom habits.

I thought very early potty training was possible. I was only when I was months into the effort with my daughters that I realized that the adults were the ones who had been trained in my sister’s case. She was far too young to be able to use the potty, but between the nannies and maids we had in Bangladesh, there was always someone there to read her signs and rush her to the potty when she was about to go. That just wasn’t reasonable as a functionally single working parent with twins in a daycare program.

I didn’t understand potty training readiness

I completely misunderstood my kids’ readiness. I thought their interest in the potty, paired with an ability to communicate verbally, was enough. Physical developmental readiness to give up diapers actually has four parts, which may well develop at different times:

  • Awareness of the need to go.
  • Ability to hold the urge to go.
  • Ability to release on demand.
  • Ability to hold the urge to go during sleep.

My daughters’ interest in my use of the bathroom was all well and good, but until they developed their own awareness and muscle control, it was all theoretical to them. I took their waking with dry diapers every morning as a sign that they were able to control their bladders, but they just happened to develop that control out of typical order. They were clean and dry through the night for months before they were could identify potty time during the day.

I took it personally

I got into something of a battle with the children’s daycare teacher. (We only lasted at that center for the 2-year-old class and then went running home to the one my daughters had attended in infancy.) She insisted on treating my daughters as a set. The teacher and I agreed that M was ready to potty train and J was not. She wasn’t willing to work with them until they were both ready. I insisted that M was her own person and should be potty trained, regardless of her twin’s readiness. The girls were getting inconsistent messages about potty training at home and at school.

I took ownership

I didn’t put onus of owning potty training on the children. Sure, I got them all excited about Disney-themed panties, but I saw potty training as my personal accomplishment rather than theirs. Their father did it right. Instead of making potty training a favour they were doing him, he put all ownership of their success on them. And the toddlers rose to the challenge!

What potty training mistakes would you encourage other parents to avoid?

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Toddler Thursday: Letter Recognition Activities

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We all want to give our children the skills to make the most of their educations. One basic concept that we can encourage our toddlers to develop is letter recognition. Children who know their ABCs early are at an advantage, and may quickly move onto becoming fluent and critical readers.

My girls are well beyond learning their letters now that they’re 9 and reading at a middle school level. When they were younger, I had a repertoire of alphabet toys and “ABC games”, as a I called them, at my disposal. I think that these, in combination with constant access to age appropriate books, regularly being read to, and observing me read, helped my daughters become the strong and willing readers that they are today.

Alphabet Toys

I don’t believe that toys, in isolation, can teach our children to read, but educational toys have their place alongside literacy experiences shared by parent and child. In my experience, Leapfrog is the leading brand when it comes to toys that help to teach literacy and numeracy skills.

The LeapPad2™ Power is one of several literacy-related toys produced by Leapfrog.

I personally prefer their hands on toys, such as their Fridge Phonics set, to their tablets for getting toddlers excited about the alphabet.

Fridge Phonics' music may get stuck in your head in the worst possible way, but it does help your toddler learn the letters of the alphabet!

We had a much older version of this toy nearly a decade ago. Its repetitive song of “‘B’ says /b/, ‘B’ says /b/, every letter makes a sound, ‘B’ says /b/” may have driven me a little batty, but my daughters did learn their letters! The letter magnets are interchangeable on the base. Press on the magnet, and it sings to your child the name of the letter. The musical note button sings the Alphabet Song.

I apologize for the vacuum cleaner in the background. Loved that Roomba!


I picked up a cheap set of letter flashcards at our local dollar store and kept them in the car. When we were stuck in traffic, I could hold a card up over my head and show my toddlers a letter. At first, I’d just tell them what the letter was. After a few weeks, they were able to tell me the name of the letters I showed them. Next, I started listing all the words I could think of that started with that letter. As my twins got older, they began to offer up their own words.

Scavenger Hunts

As I mentioned in my college campus post, one simple activity involved writing each letter of the alphabet, in both upper and lower case, on a sheet of paper on a clipboard. We went outside or looked through books and magazines, crossing out each letter on the list as we found it.

Alphabet scavenger hunts are great fun for a toddler, who doesn't even realize she's learning!Label Reading

One way to keep my kids occupied when we were running errands was to assign them each a letter of the alphabet to find. They could last an entire grocery shopping trip, hunting for the first letter of their names or looking for every “E” in sight.

Keep your toddler occupied at the store by having him scour the labels for a particular letter or number.

What games do you play with your toddlers to teach them the alphabet?

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Toddler Thursday: Toddler Fears

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Overcoming Fears

We toddler parents know what it feels like to see fear in our little, precious kiddos! It’s that awkward age where two-way, toddler-to-adult conversation is sparse. Without the use of words and conversation; it’s hard to know what they are afraid of!

In my “bucket o’ toddler tricks”, I have a solution! Children can develop fears from visual and physical experience(s). If they get startled by a loud noise coming from a red lawnmower, they may fear red lawnmowers — or they may fear any red, moving object. If they are left in the dark or trip over the stairs, they may fear the dark or fear the stairs. Some children have a higher tolerance for fear and overcome it rather quickly; some take more time. It’s how we help them deal with the experience (visual or physical) that can limit the length of time that a fear “festers”.

We’ve instituted a method in our child-rearing process: Immediate Facing of Fears.

ACK! Well, it’s not as harsh as it sounds. All it means is that when a fearful experience occurs, we immediately repeat the experience (to a safe level of course).

Gwen & Owen - Park 2015

For example, today Gwen fell off the steps at the playground. She was on her way up to the slide; she had a goal to conquer that slide, and boy were we going to get her on it! As soon as she fell off, we put her right back on. Tears and all. We made sure she wasn’t injured, comforted her and offered her a little extra assistance. Then we let her own the completion of that goal. She didn’t have the opportunity to build up any fear of those steps!

The smile on her face while she slid down that slide was precious and she forgot all about that bloody lip!

A word of caution: make sure they are safe and make sure they understand WHY they got hurt or scared. Just communicating with her about the situation helped her to be more careful.

You might think that this is dangerous and that it instills reckless behavior in children. I can assure you, the exact opposite is true. My kids understand situations better and rarely get injured or scared. They are tough and they’ve been taught to be that way!

An article on sums it up nicely: “The key to resolving fears and anxieties is to overcome them.” — D’Arcy Lyness, PhD

Kids are resilient. They are learning every day. If we give them the opportunity and time to experience life, they’ll carry that resiliency into adulthood.

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Toddler Thursday: Toddlers and a Clean House? Choose Your Battles

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We are about 2 or 3 years out since the toddler years, but I remember those days very clearly. I’ve got twin boys and their older brother, who is two years older. In the early days, when the twins were babies and not walking, it was a bit easier to keep our household clean. My biggest worry was whether or not the main floor washroom and front hall were presentable for guests who came often. The rest of the house stayed pretty orderly and clean.

As my two year old became more independent and turned three and the babies turned into one year olds, crawling and cruising around, playing with more toys and progressing to solid foods, my priorities began to change. Feed three kids and wait to clean up the disastrous mess on the floor and the dishes and play with them to keep them entertained, or feed them, clean the mess, wash the dishes for 20 minutes and let the kids entertain themselves with their toys or a TV show? I often chose to hang out with the kids and let the mess wait. I’d get to the mess…eventually!

Messes build up fast, however, so I also tried to pick the spots I wanted to keep “mess free” or as mess free as possible, because my boys seem to leave a trail of stuff here and there, no matter how hard I try! I didn’t have the energy to be constantly cleaning every room of the house. There are three of them and only one of me!

So I chose my battles. I chose the rooms I was willing to see get a bit chaotic and messy, such as the TV room, which quickly became the toy room, because I could see it from our kitchen and know the little ones were safe, while I did take care of other business…like nursing my cold cup of coffee at a distance.

Aside from that mess under the highchairs and the piles of bottles and sipToddler twins in high chairspy cups in the sink waiting to be washed, the kitchen was a “mess free” zone. I kept it kid free and mess free if we were not having a meal. I was not the mother who allowed my kids into the cupboards and bottom of the stove to pull out pots and pans to clang on for hours on end. They had other noisy toys in the toy room just for that reason! I kept a baby gate up so there would be no toddling or crawling throughout that mess free zone. Pots and pans strewn across my kitchen floor would have been yet another mess to have to take care of and for any mother of twins or more, you know the minutes in the day seem to whiz by and before you know it it’s time for you to go to bed. I did not have time to be picking up these random messes in every room of my house.

Other ways I tried to contain the mess included:

interlocking mats
As found on

Using foam interlocking mats beneath the twins’ high chairs, which worked as a catchall and were easy to either sweep or pick up and shake off outside or in the sink and wash down. Sometimes I’d throw them in the tub and soap them up for a really good wash, then air dry. They were really helpful with avoiding constant mopping of the kitchen floor.

I chose to keep the pile of toys contained in decorativstorage boxe closet boxes, such as sweater boxes, which looked like they were just a decorative part of the room. I stacked them at the end of the couch, which was farthest from the toy room (aka TV room) entry and the least visible spot.

I am sure there are many other ways to keep a house orderly when you have little toddlers going two or three different directions all day long, but these were a few of my proven and favourite ways to go about it.

Moving forward in life, when toddlers grow to school-agers, I can’t say that containing the mess gets any easier and the messes will begin to move into other rooms, but you can always strategize, strategize, strategize new ways to fight the mess!

Yet there will always be the kind of day where you’re getting ready for work and come out of your closet area doing the “I just stepped on a Lego Storm Trooper head” painful dance that will remind you that you can’t always win the battle of the mess.

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