Ask the Moms: How to Organize Kids’ Clothes

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

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

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

Modify your system as children grow

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

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

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

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

Find an organizing principle

Photo Credit: MT_bulli
Photo Credit: MT_bulli

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Systems by developmental stage

Infants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Toddlers

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

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

Generally, though, infant clothing organization strategies still hold.

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

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

Preschool and school age

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teens

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

Children of different ages

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

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

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

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

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

By size, season and child

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

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

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

Clothes to grow into

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

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

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

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

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

Outgrown

Photo Credit: raffik
Photo Credit: raffik

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to organize kids’  clothes, in summary

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

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

How do you manage your kids’ clothes?

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Twinfant Tuesday: The Logistics of Feeding Two Infants

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Categories Feeding, How Do The Moms Do It, Infants, Solid Foods, Twinfant TuesdayTags , , 4 Comments

My fraternal twin girls just turned five on Sunday.  Over the past week, as I do every birthday, I’ve done a lot of reflecting.  In thinking back to their infanthood, the complicated logistics of feeding are still very clear in my mind.  By now they’re fond memories…but at the time, I remember any new stage bringing about great stress.  Here are the highlights from our journey…

My twin girls, born at 34 weeks, came home after 10 days in the NICU.  While we don’t have family nearby, my husband is a teacher and he was able to take an extended leave to be home with me those first few weeks.

During that time, we generally each fed one baby.  (I would breastfeed a baby, then supplement with a bottle, and then pump…rinse and repeat, again and again and again.)  During those first few weeks, we were mostly waking the girls to feed them.  On the rare occasions when I had solo duty, I woke one baby (the faster eater) and fed her, and then fed the other baby immediately thereafter, trying to keep them on the same schedule as much as possible.

As my husband neared the end of his leave, I began to panic.  How would I ever feed both babies by myself?  Keeping the girls on the same schedule was a huge priority for me, and I knew the wake-one-baby-at-a-time method wouldn’t serve us long-term.

I reached out to the only other twin mom I knew at the time for some advice.  (Actually, I didn’t know her…she was the daughter of a former colleague who lived about 150 miles from me…but she was kind enough to take my phone call at random.)  She described how she bottle-fed her infant twins, who were about three months older than my girls.  She somehow held both babies in her lap, facing the same way, her arm wrapped around one of them from behind.

Mar4'09 036
Two Boppy pillows were a lifesaver at our house!

I couldn’t begin to imagine how I’d manage my girls in that fashion, but her advice encouraged me to try propping up the girls in different ways.  I remember the look of astonishment when my husband came home to find me feeding both girls…with a huge smile on my face, to boot!

This set-up worked for us for many months, until I started giving the girls bottles in their highchairs, probably around 7 or 8 months old.

Once I finally had bottle-feeding under my belt, I was feeling pretty good about myself…until the pediatrician told me it was time to start feeding the girls cereal.  WHAT??!!!  I **just** got comfortable with milk!!!  Can a twin mama get a break??!!!

I set the girls up for their first feeding, their highchairs side by side and the husband and the camera at the ready to capture what I knew would be the most adorable faces.  Their faces may have been adorable…but the MESS they made wasn’t.

Getting Ready for the First Feeding! 051709 (2)I quickly decided I would take to spoon-feeding the girls one at a time to curb as much of the MESS as possible.  That approach I never changed, although I did have to devise a system, as one of my babes wasn’t very patient once she learned how yummy those fruits and veggies were.

While I have since read about some twin mamas who adamantly rotated which baby was fed first, I never did.  I put Patient Baby in her swing and fed Anxious Baby first.  When Anxious Baby was finished, I could sometimes put her in the swing to feed Patient Baby.  There were times, though, when I would position Super-Anxious Baby in a bouncy seat at my feet.  I would wedge my foot under her and bounce and jiggle while I fed Patient Baby.  Once the spoon-feeding was complete, I would load both girls into their highchairs for bottles.

It was not until the girls graduated to finger foods, around 14 months, that I let them eat at the same time.  And I was right there in front of them…yes, to make sure they didn’t choke…but also to try to keep the smearing of avocado cubes in the hair at bay.

So…in looking back through the trials and triumphs of feeding two babies during that first year or so…I can’t say I had a consistent, or even judicious approach.  But I did manage to experiment to find a methodology that worked for us through the various stages.  It’s OK by me that the girls don’t read this post in a few years, though.  Unless they have twins themselves, may they never know that one was temporarily labeled Patient Baby, and one, Anxious Baby.

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

DSC_0761This picture was taken on the girls’ fifth birthday.  Yes, they’re still wearing bibs, as this mama still tries to avoid messes, when possible.  And yes, they’re still a mess…but in their partial defense, they requested homemade blueberry syrup for their French toast…and this mama just let them go to town.

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How do you do it? Parenting Link Up! #2

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Categories Ask the Moms, Ask the Readers, How Do The Moms Do It, Monday MoM Blog Picks, Parenting, Parenting Link Up3 Comments

Skip to featured posts | Skip to linkup rulesSkip to this week’s links

How Do You Do It? is a community of mothers of multiples. We believe in supporting each other, in sharing our experiences and questions, in friendship, and in encouragement. And what better way to do that than to do a weekly parenting link up party, a link party open to all of our readers, whether you have multiples or not, where you can share your wisdom, your favorite posts, your insights, with our online community here at HDYDI.

We want to know: How do YOU do it?

How do you handle pregnancy and everything around it? What’s your potty training secret, your housekeeping kryptonite, or your trick for a good night’s sleep? How do you handle colic or cold, flu and RSV season? How do you handle being a stay-at-home mom, a working mom, or a single parent? How do you find time for your partner?

If you are a blogger and a parent, caregiver, or parent-to-be (no multiples required), we want YOU to link up! When it comes to parenting: How do you do it? How did you do it? How will you do it? Let us all know!

Link parties are a great way to connect with other bloggers, to share your wonderful content and posts, and to be inspired! Plus, each week we will be picking some of our favorite posts and featuring them the following week on our site! Plus, we’ll pin them on Pinterest, tweet them on Twitter, and share them on Google+ and Facebook! Talk about exposure for you!


This week’s featured posts:Get in the Christmas Photo, Mom! Get in the Christmas Photo, Mom! – from Twins Times Two!

We loved Michelle’s five reasons why you, Mom, (and your spouse too for that matter) should be on your Christmas cards!

How I cut my laundry folding time by 30% - scruggbugcorner.comGift of Time: How I cut my laundry folding time by 30% – from Scrugg Bug Corner

This easy DIY tutorial from Herchel for making kid-sized shirt folding boards is awesome! She is saving time on a less than favorite household chore by getting her kids excited to use these awesome folding boards. Win win!

The Sparkle Box - A Christmas Service TraditionThe Sparkle Box – A Christmas Service Tradition from de Jong Dream House

We loved Jen’s post about a Christmas book called The Sparkle Box and how she’s adopted and implemented its premise in her family, helping to teach thankfulness and service to her children.

If you were featured above make sure to grab our featured button and sport it on your blog!

How Do You Do It? Featured Post

 


Parenting Link Up Party

Rules for the How Do You Do It? Parenting Link Up Party:

  1. Follow and connect with HDYDI on the social media platforms that you use. Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Google+ | Blog Lovin
  2. Link up to 3 great parenting posts below! Please, no recipes posts! Of course, link directly to a post, not your main page.
  3. Check out at least 3 other links! This is a party, so mingle!
  4. Leave an awesome comment for those you visit and tell them you found them at the HDYDI link party! And pin them/share the posts that you really like.
  5. Tweet about the link party, pin our link party badge, share it on Facebook, or otherwise promote this party! The more the party grows, the more exposure your posts will receive, the more fun you’ll have, and the more encouragement and ideas we’ll all receive!
  6. HDYDI Parenting Link Up PartyPut How Do You Do It?‘s Parenting Link Up badge on your site! Put it in your side bar, at the bottom of the post you shared, or on a party page!

Link up!

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Twinfant Tuesday: You Are Not Alone

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Categories Blogs, Community, Family, Feeling Overwhelmed, HDYDI Blog, How Do The Moms Do It, Other people, Twinfant TuesdayTags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Leave a comment

This is based on the first blog post I ever wrote, Me…Start a Blog? when my fraternal twins were 1-year-5-months old. Reading blogs like HDYDI and other MoT, MoM blogs gave me a sense of connectedness, of support and of resources that helped get me through the first-year-and-a-half of parenting our prematurely born twins, who did NICU time in Hong Kong, for 3 and 6 weeks, and then “house-arrest” time for another 5 months.

Once I started the blog, I updated it consistently while in Chengdu, China and even wrote as an author for HDYDI for a while.

For the last year we have been living on a Thai island, a dream come true. Rahul and Leila are 4 now, swimming and running around barefoot with their friends. They go to pre-school and I am doing my yoga practices and teaching again.

I don’t update my blog as frequently anymore, still enjoy it, but there isn’t that same need to get past the difficult, painful experiences of the the NICU time, to express every moment or milestone, to compare with others, or to validate my parenting choices. There continue to be many stories, but for the moment they feature less frequently on the blog.

I have great blogger friends whose ideas and thoughts inspire me, and I found solidarity with many of them at a time when I needed it most, and now I hope some of these posts can do the same for others.

A mother of twins talks about how MoM blogs made her feel less alone in the first year of twin motherhood. from hdydi.com


Me…Start a Blog
Written end of March 2011

Over the last two years my world has revolved around taking care of Leila and Rahul, my almost year-and-a-half twins. So to start a blog now, seems a bit strange. What could I possibly have to say? And when?! I don’t know which regimes are being toppled over, I haven’t seen photos of the effects of the recent earthquake in Japan, I don’t know what yoga workshops are on in the region, don’t know if Federer is still kicking ass, or who presented at the Chengdu Bookworm literary festival; or anything for that matter. Outrageous, I know.

Only a few years earlier I didn’t even know what a blog was until friends in Chengdu complained that they couldn’t access blogspot. Facebook, YouTube, and a number of blogging sites are blocked in China.

After some complications in my pregnancy while in China, I ended up spending 4 months in bed including 7 weeks in hospital, split into 4 different hospital stays.

A number of foreign doctors here, in Shanghai, and Beijing recommended that we leave for the birth, due to the high risk of going into preterm labour and possible lack of high level care for premature babies.

So we went to Hong Kong at 26 weeks gestation. L and R came at 31 weeks, and were cared for at the Queen Mary NICU.

The bed-rest, high-speed internet and open access to all sites meant lots of time on the internet, and my initiation to blogs. But it was only when L and R were five-months-old, after my mum who had spent 9 months with me left, and both of those things coincided with our return to Chengdu that I really got into it.

I came upon some blogs that MoT’s wrote. For the first time in a long time I felt like I could relate. They wrote how exhausted they were, how they only bathed their babies a couple of times a week, rarely dressed them in anything other than pyjamas. I didn’t feel as guilty anymore that L and R didn’t go out everyday. They weren’t the only ones. To have them both ready to go out meant nappies changed, both well fed, not too tired, and a big diaper bag full of provisions.

I remember a post by a father of twins about how his two-year-old girls were finally sleeping through the night, most of the time, anyways. So my two waking up a few times each and every night means I can still be considered in the norm.

One mum wrote about her birth story; similar to mine – it included flights, hospital stays for both mum and babies, pumping pumping pumping, stress, fear, pain, relief.

Then there was one couple that blogged about their micro-preemie twins birth, NICU stay including all the medical details, the obsession with weight gain, the monitors, breathing, digestion, good days, bad days. It wasn’t the most fun blog I ever read. They were born much earlier than L and R, but I could relate to much of it and realised that I would have to deal with this part of R and L, and in fact all 4 of our lives one day, and to be at peace with it somehow.

Reading these stories was like holding a mirror out in front of me, a way to see what we had been through, a way to realize we were not alone – and importantly to let go of it.

There were honest, touching posts as well like the one HDYDI MoT, rebecca, who wrote One Baby Envy. Others complained about the silly questions they got when they took their twins out. If I get started on the questions and comments I got in Chengdu it would never end.

Sometimes the comments on the blogs were funny – MoM’s bitching about how J Lo (on the cover of People Magazine, March 2008) could possibly look as perfect so soon after she had her twins.

I related to these parents and it helped with the isolation I sometimes felt being in China without my family and with no experience with babies whatsoever. Neither of my brothers or brothers-in-law have children. One of my childhood friends has a son in Zambia who I haven’t yet met. I had held one of my friend’s tiny new born baby in Lebanon a couple of times last year feeling clumsy and incapable all the time. So yes, I had that experience.

I had a few parenting books. They only briefly covered twins if at all.

But, we were together again after my 6 month stint in Hong Kong, the 4 of us in Chengdu. That was our main source of strength. I had help from people here. L and R’s nanny or “ayi” meaning aunty as she is called endearingly is a superwoman, a great source of real support and help.

A friend as close as I imagine a sister to be was strong and present when I needed her most.

Another friend lent me lifesaving books at every stage along the way. And there were many others who made up my “village”, both in real life and in my blog life. The crazy thing now is that sometimes my kids both sleep for a few hours at the same time, but silly mama stays up to blog.

In addition to relating to other mums and dads on blogs, I found tips, such as this post that gives advice about choosing a double stroller that works for you depending on it’s use, tips like store big quantities of diapers, wet -wipes, food etc. so you don’t need to go out to the stores until really necessary. Obvious, but hey at least I don’t feel crazy when I walk into my pantry and see the hoarding.

There were videos of calm mums simultaneously feeding their babies. R and L were rarely on the same schedule, so it didn’t apply, but still nice to see how others do it.

So even though I live in this tiny world of eating, playing, bathing, trying to schedule, exploring and sleepless nights, I feel like I am above water now, some of time at least.

I now have the privilege to share my own stories and maybe get some interaction going. Perhaps a new mum, even a MoT will come across it and feel she can relate, find some useful information, or just have a laugh. I would be glad to contribute to that somehow.

These are stories for R and L to read one day if they want to. And if nothing else a way for friends and family to keep up with our lives in China, or wherever.

The other day I read a blog about the therapeutic effects of blogging. That did it for me, a few minutes later I signed up! Not really, I’m exaggerating, but it made me realise that every time I put down my thoughts they rarely came out negative or depressive, but rather I manage to find the “funny” in things, now that I am not sinking all the time, of course. It reminded me of a phrase from a song my dad often used to say to his not so smiley teenage daughter,

When you smile the whole world smiles with you. When you cry, you cry alone.

L and R out in Chengdu. 13 months old
L and R out in Chengdu.
13 months old

 

Natasha is mum of 4-year-old fraternal twins Leila and Rahul. She moved to Koh Samui, Thailand, with her children after spending 7 years in China. Her husband Maher, travels back and forth because work is in China. She has started practicing her yoga more regularly again, and even teaches a few classes a week, after a three year break. She blogs at her personal site Our Little Yogis and at Multicultural Mothering.

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Grocery Shopping with Twins and More

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Categories Ask the Moms, Household and Family Management, How Do The Moms Do It, Multiple Solutions, Parenting Twins, PerspectiveTags , , , , , 2 Comments

 

You Can Do This!

Twins in a shopping cart: Grocery Shopping with Multiples from hdydi.com
Yetunde‘s pair are ready to roll!

You can run errands with twins or more, including multiple infants or toddlers. You can do this. Yes, alone. If you must do so alone, or just want to, you should give it a try. We’re going to tell you how The Moms go grocery shopping with kids in tow, from twins to quadruplets, with some singletons thrown in for good measure.

This post assumes that you have access to a car, are walking, or are riding a bike. Taking public transportation with multiples is a topic for another day.

Leaving the House

Plan and Pack

As with most things related to caring for babies, grocery shopping with twins or more starts with good planning. Pick a time that works for you and your kids. Do your babies fall asleep in the car and nap well out and about? Consider going shopping during nap time so that they can sleep through the whole thing. Are they happy and social in the morning? Go shopping then. Make a complete shopping list so that you can minimize followup trips required to pick up things that you forgot during your main shopping haul.

diaper bag and contents from hdydi.com
Photo Credit: dhgatsby

Pack your diaper bag with the things you’ll need. The basics usually include things for diaper changes, something to wipe up spills and messes, changes of clothes in case of mess, something for the babies to eat, and something for them to play with. You’ll also need to have a transportation solution at the ready, whether it’s a stroller-carseat system, baby wrap, wagon, or all of the above.

Twinfant Tuesdays: Errands with Lots of Little Ones from hdydi.com
If your child is old enough to sit in a cart but not big enough to stay propped up, a rolled up blanket can help, as demonstrated by Sadia‘s daughter J at Ikea. M is wearing, or rather worn in, an Evenflo Snuggli. Please see our baby carrier post for our thoughts on wearing twins.

Older kids don’t need all the diaper paraphernalia, but they might need something to keep their hands and minds occupied, like books or toys. A small container of fruit or cereal is a good thing to have on hand for when blood sugar dips and tempers rise. Depending on the ages of your children, you may have traded in your diaper wipes for antibacterial hand gel… although you may find yourself wishing you had wipes, even with school-age kids!

Before you head out the door, make sure that your kids are clean and fed. If they’re just fussy, and you have a constitution that allows you to drive with a fussy child in the car, just move on to loading up. Sometimes you’ll need to drive through the crying to get to your goal.

Don’t forget your shopping bags, cooler or insulated bag, and transportation solution.

If you do make a habit of shopping with your multiples, you’ll need to be prepared to be a minor celebrity. Especially during the first couple of years, when it is obvious that your children are the same age, people will want to stop and talk to you about multiples. Budget extra time for discussion with curious strangers. Arm yourself with standard answers for common questions.

Load Up

3 infants buckled up at home: Grocery Shopping with Multiples from hdydi.com
3 infants in a car: Grocery Shopping with Multiples from hdydi.com Sadia’s daughters and a friend’s son went shopping together regularly. M wasn’t too happy about it.

Put your kids in the car last. That way you’re not distracted by their demands while you pack up. Make sure that they’re somewhere safe, like a crib, swing or playpen, while you pack your car with your stroller (or wagon or baby wraps) and diaper bag and other equipment. Janna kept bouncy chairs in the front room and strapped her boys in on the way in and out of the house.

If you’re using bucket-style infant car seats, it may be easiest to load and strap your babies in in the comfort of your home, then install the seats in your car, complete with babies.

If you’re walking or bicycling, the same general approach holds true. Load the kids last.

Out and About

You’ve loaded up and arrived at your grocery shopping destination with your twins. Now what?

Parking

If you’ve driven to the store, check to see whether they have designated Customer with Child parking spots. If you can score one, it will likely be near the cart return closest to the main entrance to the store. You can maximize your chances of reasonable parking by shopping at off-peak hours such as weekday mornings, but this isn’t feasible for everyone.

Walking and Biking

Janna and RebeccaD walk almost everywhere. RebeccaD purchases only what she can fit in the undercarriage of the stroller. She hits the store with her boys every couple of days. She uses her double stroller for most errands. Janna walks to the pharmacy, grocery store, post office, thrift store. The workout is a bonus!

Once her boys turned a year old, Janna switched to a trailer behind her bike. This isn’t always possible, of course, if your errand is too far away or the weather is too hot or cold, but it works great for her family most of the time.

Implement Your In-Store Strategy

The Moms have a plethora of ideas for containing and transporting kids at the grocery store. Yetunde has actually written about this in the past on her personal blog. If you’re planning to use a store cart, parking near the cart return can make it easier to snap up a cart without having to stray far from your car.

  • A common solution for infants is a double car seat/stroller system, such as the Double Snap-N-Go or Graco DuoGlider. MandyE was once able to run three quick errands within an hour thanks to the ease of baby transfer! Where do the groceries go, we hear you clamor. One option is to use the basket under your stroller as your cart. This severely limits how much you can purchase at a time. Another option is to push your stroller with one hand while pulling a store cart behind you with the other. It looks a little crazy, but it works well.
  • 3-seater cart: Grocery Shopping with Multiples from hdydi.com
    Target has carts that seat 3 kids with ease, demoed here by MandyE’s precious duo.

    More and more stores are offering shopping carts that seat two or more children. In our experience, such stores include Costco, Sam’s Club, Target and many branches of the Texas grocery store HEB. Sadia found it to be worth driving a few extra miles to go to a store that had two-seater carts standard.

    Twin boys crying in a two-seater shopping cart: Grocery Shopping with Multiples from hdydi.blog
    Jen Wood‘s boys don’t seem to appreciate two-seater shopping carts as much as The Moms do.

    Don’t have any stores nearby with carts that accommodate two seated kids? Let your store manager know; the company may simply be unaware of the demand.

    This brings us to another point: “Shop” around and choose stores that work for you. Find places where you can maximize your effort and where you can shop effectively. One-stop shopping is your friend. SarahP typically goes to Costco first, then to Walmart because she can price match there and get all the other odds and ends. Use the grocery store pharmacy. Look for wide aisles. You may find it worthwhile to invest in a cover to keep little fingers off germy cart parts and/or disinfecting wipes to wipe down the cart before transferring your kids.

  • MandyE (in the photo) and Sadia both used the wear one/drive one approach to shopping with twins.
    MandyE used the wear one/drive one approach to shopping with twins. Note that most car seat manufacturers recommend placing car seats inside the car rather than in the seat area. Check your manual!

    You can wear one baby and put the other(s) in the shopping cart. Wiley typically wore her twinfant girls, had her toddler son seated in the cart, and had her school-age son walk. The trick to reaching things on low shelves without spilling a baby is to squat. You’ll have thighs of steel, so that’s a benefit of this approach. Note that many car seat manufacturers advise against placing car seats in cart seats the way MandyE demonstrates and many of The Moms do regularly. Try using the cart strap to secure the seat the way you would with the seatbelt in your car.

  • Twins hiding in the paper towels: Grocery Shopping with Multiples: hdydi.com
    Jen Wood’s guys remind us that our kids are also pretty creative, so be careful when letting them walk in the store.

    Get creative. SaraBeth has seen parents bungee two carts together. Sadia has shopped with her kids in a Radioflyer wagon. SarahP keeps one baby in the car seat in the main area of the cart, puts her 2-year-old in the sitting area of the cart and straps the other baby to herself in a Baby Bjorn. The groceries go under the cart and around the seat. It may look like a circus, but it works! Carolyn – Twintrospectives used her stroller as her cart. When she had too much bagged stuff after paying to fit elegantly back under the stroller, she used a couple of mommy hooks to hang bags off other parts of the stroller. Janna used to hang reusable grocery bags from the double stroller handles.

  • 7-year-olds helping mom push a shopping cart: Grocery Shopping with Multiples from hdydi.com
    Sadia’s daughters can help her steer the cart, although they’re just at the height where they can’t see where they’re going. They now prefer to walk alongside the cart and help calculate the best values and keep mommy within budget.

    Kids don’t have to be contained. If your kids are old enough to walk and trustworthy enough to be free, invite them to help you push the cart or give them carts of their own. Sadia’s kids still, at age 7, walk between her and the shopping cart, embraced within her arms and “helping” her push. If they wish to walk alongside the cart, they are each assigned a spot on the side of the cart to keep a hand on. They are not permitted to let go without explicit permission. SaraBeth determines which twin goes “free range” based on who has been better at listening that day.

  • Twin boys push miniature shopping carts in the store: Grocery Shopping with Multiples from hdydi.com
    Jen Wood’s sons are on a mission. Having his own cart keeps each boy close to mom and focused on shopping.

    Avoid the store altogether. Shop online. Subscribe to a CSA that delivers to your home. Use a drive-through.

There will be days when your kids will be in rare form, screaming bloody murder, and you’ll wonder how essential food really is. We’ve been there. On balance, though, shopping is doable, often even fun. If you treat it like a fun outing, your kids will have fun too. MandyE and Sadia will talk about making grocery shopping fun and educational in a later post.

Ask for and Accept Help

Twins in a double shopping cart seat: Grocery Shopping with Twins from hdydi.com
The Moms love these double seat shopping carts, modeled here by Carolyn – Twintrospectives’ boys. If your store doesn’t have them, see if a manager can order a few. Once they see how popular they are, they’ll get the message!

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Janna often asked strangers to hold doors for her. Sadia asks store staff to help her lift things down from tall shelves. Carryout services offered by some grocery stores is golden. If you let the staff member load groceries into your car, it frees you up to load up your kids.

Unique Circumstances

Special Needs Children

Marissa‘s son A was very sick as a newborn and was essentially quarantined until he was 6 months old, by order of his doctor. This meant keeping D in too until he had his 3rd DTaP. Marissa’s husband, mother, and grandmother ran almost all of the errands, since A required extensive care when not hospitalized. We know, we said you could do it, but sometimes it’s best that you don’t run errands with your kids, for their sakes.

Grocery cart with infant seat attached: Grocery Shopping with Twins from hdydi.com
Some grocery stores provide shopping carts with infant seat already (and securely!) installed. If you wear one baby, these are great for parents of twins.

Now A is doing much better, but he couldn’t sit in a shopping cart until he was about 14 months old. Marissa wore him most of the time and had D sit in the cart. In addition, A is tube-fed and she does not let that stop them from participating in any activity, even though people are far more likely to stare than when witnessing public breastfeeding. One of Wiley’s daughters needs to drink thickened liquids to prevent aspiration, so they keep individual servings of thickener in their diaper bags now. Due to the aspiration issue, she had to drink pumped milk, so Wiley and her family had to travel with a cooler even though her twin sister could just breastfeed on demand.

Sadia’s daughter’s frontonasal dysplasia does sometimes force her family to contend with awkward comments and questions, but she has a stockpile of canned responses at the ready. She also talked to both her daughters about others’ perceptions and comments, since keeping them out of earshot is not a realistic option.

Higher Order Multiples

Mrslubby‘s husband loves to take her quadruplets and their 4-year-old big sister shopping, if nothing else to prove he can! He loads up two babies in one cart and two babies in another. With their older singleton standing on the end of a cart, he pushes one cart and pulls the other. While Mrslubby cringes at all the looks she gets from strangers with her brood, her husband basks in the acknowledgment of his juggling skills.

Pregnant MoMs

At the moment, Marissa is too pregnant with her third baby to wear her son A facing out in a front-carry. Unfortunately, he doesn’t like back-carry much, so she usually only take one kiddo on errands. Once again, her husband does most of the errands, because that’s what works for her family. As we said earlier, asking for help is an important MoM skill, as is accepting help when it’s offered.

Single (or Functionally Single) Parents

Janna and Sadia were both functionally single parents when their twins were very young, thanks to Janna’s husband’s extended work hours and Sadia’s (now ex-)husband’s repeated deployments. They had no alternative but to run errands with their kids, so it never occurred to them that it should be difficult. On the other hand, RachelG and her husband share equally in family tasks such as grocery shopping, so there is no need for either of them to master solo groceries. Do what works for your family’s needs.

If you’re a working single mother like Sadia, chances are that you have very little flexibility in your schedule and no one to watch your kids without prior planning. Work a weekly shopping trip into your routine so that your little ones know to expect it. Consider having a backup supply of canned and frozen goods to carry you through if you hit a week during which you just can’t make it to the store. Moms do occasionally get sick. Cars break down. Roads flood. Don’t be caught without food and toilet paper.

Unloading at Home

Unloading your groceries with young kids around can also take some planning. Your multiples and other kids may be especially demanding on returning to the safe environment of home. As on the way out of the door, make sure that you have a safe place to keep them while you bring your shopping inside.

Grocery Shopping with Twins and More from hdydi.com
Photo Credit: malloreigh

Consider using a cooler or insulated grocery bag for frozen or refrigerated items. This allows you a bigger window to tend to your kids before you return your attention to the groceries waiting to be put away. If your store has an especially competent bagger, do what you can to get in their checkout line and avoid careless baggers. Alternately, you can oversee the bagging yourself or simply communicate to the checkout staff that you need your things bagged in a particular order. It helps them out if you load groceries in logical groupings while you’re checking out.

Sadia keeps a tote in the trunk of her car to help keep things sorted. Refrigerator items go in the tote, everything else straight into the trunk. When she gets home, she can pick up everything that needs to be put away quickly at once. The rest can wait.

Not Just for Moms

The post has been written about moms going shopping with kids because we’re moms who go shopping with kids. This advice is for everyone else too, though: for the DoMs who do just as much in the way of home and family maintenance as MoMs, for nannies and au pairs who are out and about with the kids, for grandmas and grandpas, whether the grandkids are visiting or are in your permanent care.

Katelyn‘s husband carries one kid on his shoulders. Marissa’s husband wears a Moby like nobody’s business. Just yesterday, Sadia had a lovely conversation with a dad of 9-month-old twins while he wore one baby and had the other lying in the built-in infant seat in the store cart. When she got fussy, dad just scooped her onto his hip. He still had a free hand for the cart. Wiley’s nanny tends to wear one girl, put one in the cart seat, and put her middle boy in the body of the cart while the oldest is at school.

We all find ways to get things done, even if it takes some creativity.

Do you have specific types of errands, family situations, or location-related limitations on which you’d like The Moms’ advice? What grocery store trip tips did we miss?

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Potty Training Twins – It’s not Twinpossible!

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Categories How Do The Moms Do It, Perspective, Potty Training2 Comments

There’s been some discussion of HDYDI having some more Potty Training Multiples posts. Here is my original post from a little over a year ago, transcribed (with some updates) from my personal blog, Double the Giggles. Ultimately, there is no single successful method, so my suggestion is to read up on as many theories as you can, and see what works best for your twins. Most likely, it won’t be the one that works best for you and your busy schedule… but nothing is ever simple when it comes to multiples, right? Enjoy reading about our experience (below), and good luck in your potty training adventures!

Twin boys and potty training. Ugh. I was seriously starting to think that my little Andrew and Wesley would each be hauling a diaper bag off to college, (preferably a paid-for-by-two-full-scholarships sort of college). We started getting them both familiar with the concept of using a potty around 18 months and we are just now reaping the benefits of not buying diapers and Desitin just weeks away from their turd birthday. (Sorry, couldn’t resist the pun).

By getting familiar with, I mean with potty books and the actual potty (read: 47 potties): The adult potty, the toddler potty, the tiny seat that goes on the big potty, portable seats, outside in nature (yes, I have boys), everything. You name it, we have it. I swear, I have at least 7 potties in addition to the two that came bolted to the floor of our house. We’ve tried them all. What ended up working? The permanent fixtures in the house. That’s right. You heard me.

Andrew was first to succeed, but what we didn’t know (18 months ago) was that we just had to wait until HE was ready… I wouldn’t believe this unless it actually happened.  And it did. Andrew decided when it would happen all on his own.  About 18 months of on and off, very stressful “trying to potty train” and one day, out of the blue, the kid just decided “today is the day.” It was wonderful.  Magical. (Insert angelic voices, here.)

Throughout this adventure, I’ve learned how difficult it is to have a mom (and/or dad), a curious second sibling and three dogs all in one tiny 4×5′ bathroom at the same time. Distraction, distraction, distraction. I decided to weigh my efforts more towards the child that seemed to have the hang of it instead of trying to train both at once. WAY EASIER, and Wesley wasn’t jealous or competitive at all. We always called him in after to help us wave ‘bye-bye’ to our flushable friend(s), but one at a time was the way to go for us. Give this a try if you are struggling with two at once.

Wesley is now (finally, about 3 weeks later) getting the hang of things, but that ‘light switch’ hasn’t been flicked quite yet. We are in the constantly-reminding-him-to-stay-clean-and-dry phase, and sometimes he’d rather continue to play then take a much-needed potty break. That being said, I’m refusing to buy any more diapers and still have a brand new pack that I’m not planning on busting open any time soon. All undies, all the time. (Pull-Ups at night, but that’s a whole other can of worms). Now that I see how things went with Andrew, I’m trying to stay as positive as possible with Wesley, even though their approaches to the concept are different. When an accident happens, I have him remove his clothes (and I’m sure to tell him “Yuck! I don’t want to touch those clothes!”) and after he visits the potty, he helps me clean the area he messed in. No yelling, no judgements, just matter-of-factly. You made this mess, kid… you clean it.

There is hope out there. We didn’t find hope in a toddler potty, or by using Cheerios as targets. We found it by sitting backwards on the regular old toilet, “making as many bubbles as possible” and by categorizing the end product, (Ex: “Wow! You made a dinosaur/crocodile/daddy-{yes, daddy}-sized poop!”)… and a sticker or M&M work well, if you’re into bribery!  Do some research for new and fun ideas if the ones you are trying aren’t working.

Hang in there. I truly think we give them the guidance they need, but it is up to them when it happens. Stay positive (so difficult, but sooo important), be prepared to do some extra laundry and buy stock in Lysol wipes. The day will come when they are ready for it and you’ll be their biggest cheerleader.

Rereading this post a year-or-so later, I need to add that it took another 6-8 months for the boys to stay dry through the night. I never realized that nighttime potty training was a whole other thing. I wanted my sleep, and feared that they’d be unable to go back to sleep if I woke them every few hours, so PullUps were what we relied on for quite some time. There was a lot of praise given on the mornings where dry PullUps still existed. The boys are now 4 and have been in “big boy undies” at night for several months now. Currently, the boys go to bed between 7 and 8, and I usually get them both up once a night (between 2 and 3am) to use the bathroom. I’m a light sleeper, so I’m usually up several times a night, anyway. This prevents any accidents in their beds (which if I didn’t get them up, might occur once or twice a month) and saves on unnecessary loads of laundry.

Whether you have one child in that stage or four, potty training is definitely an adventure. Not a hey-I’m-totally-living-vicariously-through-that-friend-of-mine-backpacking-through-Europe type of adventure. More like the adventure I had white water rafting where I was glad I was wearing protective safety gear, I was glad when it was over, and I never needed to experience it first-hand again!

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Mothers More Fatigued than Dads…

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Categories Emotion, Feeling Overwhelmed, How Do The Moms Do It, Mommy Issues, Parenting1 Comment

Ever feel exhausted? Mentally drained ring a bell? This is how I feel these days.

ALL. THE.TIME.

Why, you ask?

Because I’m a mom.

I’m a mom to two very active, 100mph, hysterical, wouldn’t-trade-them-for-the-world four year old boys.

Sometimes I feel like the only people truly capable of totally understanding this can’t-shut—my-brain-off-even-when-I’m-sleeping feeling are other mothers. It’s a little extra bonus gift we get with those stretch marks, I guess. I swear, I wake up tired from all the thinking I get accomplished during the night.

My husband loves reading the news. (How does he even find the time?) He came across this article in the Washington Post yesterday that pretty much sums up what we (us moms) already know all too well.

Mothers More Fatigued than Dads… – Washington Post

I guess I just found some comfort is seeing it in writing (a fancy, schmancy “report”, no less!) and knowing that I’m not the only mother feeling this way. Nothing is more reassuring than knowing what you are feeling is not indigenous to you and you alone. Support in numbers, right?

Take a moment to read through the article and share with fellow moms who you know are experiencing the same exhaustion and mental fatigue. Even moms that may appear to have it all together have rough patches here and there, and that’s PERFECTLY NORMAL! Moms get worn out. Thanks to the aforementioned report, this is now a scientific fact! (Take that, naysayers!)

As important as it is to support our fellow moms, it’s even more important to share this concept with those who might not realize the amount of work that goes into being a mom. It’s something that we cannot turn off. We can’t, and we don’t want to. It’s all part of being a wonderful, amazing, superhero mom.

Margie P. is mom to fraternal four-year-old, redheaded boys, and the voice behind Double the Giggles.

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Twinfant Tuesday: Baby Carriers for Twins

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Categories Ask the Moms, Multiple Solutions, Products, Twinfant TuesdayTags 8 Comments

Reader Kimberly S. asked our advice on purchasing a twin carrier. The Moms put our heads together and came up with some pointers. We’re a mix of proud baby-wearers, occasional carrier-users, and arms-only mamas.

Twinfant Tuesday: Baby Carriers for Twins from hdydi.comSadiawithBabes

Wiley is our resident expert. She regularly wears her 1-year-old twin girls and their 2-year-old brother. Her babywearing even made the paper!

Twinfant Tuesday: Baby Carriers for Twins from hdydi.com

She recommends wearing your bigger child on your back. When her twins were tiny, Wiley started wearing them both in front in a Moby. She then moved to one in a pocket sling in front and one in a Beco on her back. As the girls got bigger, she alternated between Becos front and back or ring slings right and left.

wpid-Photo-Oct-1-2013-811-AM.jpg
Photo: Suji Donnelly

Early on, when she wore her youngest trio–she also has a school-aged son–she put her twinfants in front in a Moby and her son on her back in an Ergo. Next, the two girls were switched to hip carries in ring slings and their brother, 18 months their senior, on Wiley’s back in an Ergo or Beco. These days, she tends to wear her girls front and back in Becos and her older toddler in a ring sling hip carry on top. The benefit of his being on top is that he can get up and down repeatedly with ease.

Wiley’s currently experimenting with the Tula. Perhaps we can convince her to come back and let us know how she likes it!

 has used the Moby, the Björn and the Boba . She still wears her 21-month-olds, who weigh 32 and 27 lb each, although she no longer wears them at the same time, for hikes and city adventures. Her preference is the Boba for its versatility and continues to be her go-to carrier. She notes that the Boba doesn’t require an infant insert to carry small babies, as some other carriers do.

 has used 2 Ergos , both front/back and side/side, but doesn’t do so often. She prefers to wear one child and carry the other. These kids get heavy! She really likes the Kelty backpacks for hiking and long walks. Several of the moms elected to wear one baby in a carrier and carry the other in her arms.  usually uses her Ergo or Björn for one child and carries the other in her arms.

MandyE (in the photo) and Sadia both used the wear one/drive one approach to shopping with twins.
MandyE (in the photo) and Sadia both used the wear one/drive one approach to shopping with twins.

 used to use her Evenflo Snugli for one girl and carry the other in her arms or in a carseat for errands like grocery shopping.

Sadia received a hands free car seat strap from a friend that was just perfect for stroller-free trips to the grocery store. She’d wear one baby in a carrier in front and the other in her carseat across her hips. This left her hands free to load groceries and open doors.

 still, on occasion, carries one almost-4-year-old in the Ergo on her back and the other in her arms. Her adorable boys weigh 30 and 40 lbs.

wpid-Photo-Oct-1-2013-814-AM.jpgKatelyn never wore her twins. They were her first children. She liked having dad hold one, or she’d just carry both, one in each arm. Now that she has a third child, she does wear him.

One of the things we all agreed needs to be considered is the size of your children. If they’re very small, like Sadia’s (1st percentile), you might be able to wear your babies comfortably into the preschool years. If, like RachelG’s twins, yours are 95th percentile, take her advice and encourage walking as soon as they’re ready.

If you’re up for informative laugh, check out DoM Brian Rosenworcel demonstrating (or rather figuring out) how to wear his newborn twins using a Moby wrap.

Please also check out triplet mom ‘ review from 2008. She discusses 3 slings: the HotslingPeanut Shell and an Infantino Sling. She loved her Moby Wrap. She preferred the Beco Butterfly to the Baby Bjorn, but her husband liked the latter. She also discusses the mei tais Baby Hawk and EllaRoo, and notes a couple of places you can find baby carriers.

Did you wear your babies? What worked for you?

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How to Afford Twins: Reviewing My Finances

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Categories Divorce, Finances and Saving, Financial Literacy, How Do The Moms Do It, Theme WeekTags Leave a comment

To me, money is a tool I use to accomplish my goals, not a goal itself. There’s nothing wrong with money accumulation being a goal. Nothing at all. It’s just not a goal of mine. My life goal is joy accumulation. Money matters to me in that it helps me and my children find our joy through fulfilling relationships and activities.

I needed to review my finances after I got divorced. I don’t create a monthly budget as many families do. Instead, I have a general idea of where my money is going and where I want it to go.

I pride myself on being financially independent, as does my ex-husband. When we split up in March of last year, we didn’t see any need to bring lawyers into the mix. We just split our shared savings down the middle and each walked away with our own retirement savings. He took the house. I took the furniture. He took the cat. I took the kids. We agreed to a child support payment based on the difference between rents on a house for three and an apartment for one, plus half the kids’ groceries.

Reviewing My Finances from hdydi.com
Photo Credit: photosteve101

The split was amiable. My ex is prompt with his child support payments. I was the primary breadwinner in our marriage. Our 7-year-olds attend public school. Despite all these marks favouring my financial health, there simply wasn’t going to be as much money coming into our family as there had been before. I couldn’t just tighten my belt for a while until things got back to normal, because my income plus child support is now our normal. I took some major steps in adjusting my expenditures to make things work.

My ex-husband and I had purchased supplementary life insurance from Primerica and reviewed our finances when we were married, and I was happy with the experience. Once the initial whirlwind was over–my ex moving out, signing the divorce papers, my buying a new house and moving back to Central Texas from El Paso, the kids getting settled at their new school–I met with a rep from Primerica and took a serious (but free) look at what my finances looked like. I could always follow up with a real financial planner later if I needed. I looked at what was coming in, what was going out, what I had saved, and where I could cut. I was already in the market for additional life insurance. If something were to happen to me, I wanted money not to be a concern for my ex, since he would likely have to change careers to raise the children.

I highly recommend meeting with a financial planner, but aware that not all planners are made equal. Choose carefully. Look for someone who is ethically bound to put your interests first (a fiduciary), not someone who earns a commission for selling you something, unless you’re fully prepared not to buy and have the wherewithal to see through self-serving advice. I wasn’t looking for a new job, so I knew I’d stand firm against the whole recruitment aspect of the Primerica experience.

The most important short-term goal I had for my finances was for my children not to see a major change in their lifestyle. Divorce is hard enough on them without the girls picking up on the financial challenges that come with it. My ex-husband and I have kept our discussions during and after our divorce focused on the kids’ well-being. Co-parenting, for us, just is not about money.

Here’s how I go about being financially responsible as a divorced single mom:

  1. Know how much money is coming in and how much is going out

    This is hard and painful and ugly. It makes me twitchy thinking about it. I wrote out all my monthly expenses: bills, groceries, entertainment, clothes, pet care, school costs, childcare, healthcare, gas, parking. I looked at what comes into my bank account in the form of my salary and child support. I decided that I could afford to keep my lawn service, but that I needed to stop eating out with the kids. The girls could take dance lessons, but piano would have to wait. Now that I had closed on my house and paid off my college and car loans, I could afford to put the annual maximum in my Roth IRA again. I’d reduced my contributions when my ex informed me that he would be leaving.

  2. Prioritize retirement

    This is a little counterintuitive. You might think that saving for college would be the most urgent focus. I think of my retirement investments as a gift to my children, in that supporting me financially in my old age won’t be their problem. The more I put into retirement now, the more I’m earning interest on for longer. I looked at my current health, my lifestyle choices, how old I’d like to continue working and how much I’d like to have to live on, and mapped out how much I’ll need squirreled away for age 70 and on.

  3. Expect the best, but plan for the worst

    I don’t expect things to go wrong. I seem to keep landing on my feet, thanks to amazing friends, exceptional daughters, and years of therapy. I try to plan for the worst. I have a will that specifies who would take custody of my children if something were to happen to me while they were still little. (Their dad first, of course, but if something happened to him, his parents. If something happened to them, it would be close family friends.) I have life insurance that would cover the girls’ needs through college tuition in the event that someone else did have to raise them without my income coming in. I may let my policy lapse once they’re done with the college. They won’t need my financial support any more at that point, most likely.

    I have health insurance and go to all my scheduled check ups. I upped my car insurance, paying an extra $5 monthly for a $500 reduction in my deductible. I don’t plan to get in any accidents, but I’m willing to pay for the peace of mind that comes with knowing that I could manage if I did.

  4. Set priorities on all other expenses

    I want my kids to grow up to be happy, healthy, wholesome, productive adults. I invest in the things that contribute to that goal. I don’t need to pay for anything else. It’s a challenge for me, but I choose to prioritize for my family, not keeping up with the Joneses. My daughters take tap and ballet lessons because it fulfills them and brings them joy. They’re not longer taking soccer, which is Daddy’s passion, or piano lessons, which is mine.

    Do I need to buy as many books as I like to? No, I can check them out of the library and move my margin scribbles to a notebook. Do I need to hire a babysitter once a week so I can go to choir practice? That’s a hard one, but I really just can’t afford it.

    I’m celebrating my birthday tomorrow night with friends. My birthday was in May, but this weekend happens the girls’ paternal grandparents are in town. It’s not just a matter of being able to afford a babysitter or cashing in on a babysitting favour. It’s also that I enjoy the time I have with my children, which is limited since I work outside the home. I don’t particularly feel like leaving them to go out without them. This weekend, though, they’re brilliantly happy to be spending time with their Grammy and Grampy, so it’s time for me to hang out with my friends for a bit. Budgeting isn’t just for money. I also budget my time.

  5. Make wise investments

    I could have rented a home after I moved, but I knew that I wanted the money I spent on housing to be an investment. I swallowed my pride and accepted a gift from my mother to help with the down payment. It helped that I had near-perfect credit. In order to keep it that way, I avoided anything that could negatively affect my credit until after I closed on the house. I didn’t apply for anything that might involve someone checking my credit. I kept my credit card balance at zero. I had paid every bill on time for the previous decade or more. My mortgage payment came out to $450 less per month than rent for comparable homes in my neighborhood, per month.

    Do I miss the granite countertops and tile floors of the first home I owned? Absolutely. Given my current financial reality, though, I can’t afford something like the house I had when I was married. If you already own your home, look into refinancing. Yes, rates are going up, but they may very well be less than what you already have. It doesn’t cost you anything to look, and costs surprisingly little to complete.

    I also take advantage of the flexible spending accounts offered by my employer. I can put tax-free money aside for childcare and medical expenses, up to $5000 per year. I max out my daycare allotment, since I’ll spend significantly more than that on after school care and summer camp. I just have to send in my receipts on a monthly basis to get reimbursed. I put less aside for medical expenses, enough to cover our prescriptions, my glasses and contact lenses, our dental co-pays and my medical co-pays. Thanks to the army, the girls don’t have co-pays or deductibles.

  6. Pay off debt

    I’ve generally avoided credit cards, using them only to build up my credit and paying off the balance in full every month. Last year, though, I allowed myself to go into debt immediately after I got divorced. Moving from El Paso to Central Texas wasn’t cheap, and I had to pay for help moving, since I knew hardly anyone there. Even with the gift from my mother, paying for all the little things that go into setting up a new home added up, and I felt that it was very important to buffer my children from the financial fallout from the divorce. (Perhaps that was wrong. I just didn’t want to pass on the type of bitterness I’d seen during the unravelling of my parents’ marriage.)

    Now, I’m really focusing on paying off my debt. I’m choosing to pay extra on both my mortgage and the card that is costing me the most in interest in any given month. Of course, that requires me to think and review my balances and interest rates monthly. Some people advise to just put extra against your debt with the lowest balance. When that’s paid off, shift all the money you were paying into that debt into the next highest debt until you’re debt-free. There’s something to be said for paying money for convenience or simplicity. There’s no one right way to get out of debt beyond making the effort and prioritizing it.

  7. Minimize debt accrual

    I’m not putting anything new on credit cards or taking out any new loans. I want to be getting out of debt, not getting deeper. Some people cut up their credit cards. I’ve even heard of freezing a card in a block of ice to keep from using it on a whim, but having it around for an emergency. Fortunately, I have the self-control to carry my cards and not use them.

  8. Know when it’s worth paying more

    Saving money is not my highest priority. Joy is. There are some things that are worth paying for, slowing the march towards my financial goals, to maximize joy. My lawncare service and pest control company fall in that category. So do my chocolate habit, my love of baking for friends, our annual cookie decorating party, the occasional theatrical production. There are luxuries worth spending on. I hope to never be in a financial position to have to cut every one of our wants out of our budget.It really boils down to wants and needs, that simple dichotomy I keep preaching to my children. We fulfill our needs first: love, housing, nutrition, safety, kindness, education. Then, with what’s left, we choose carefully between our wants to decide where we want to spend what time, money and energy is left.

Do you plan out your finances?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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How to Afford Twins: Free Used Stuff

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Categories Finances and Saving, Household and Family Management, How Do The Moms Do It, Theme WeekTags , , , , , 3 Comments

There’s a lot of free used stuff out there for kids, if you know where to look. Children go through stages and sizes so quickly that there’s often a lot of wear left in their things after they no longer need them.

Hand-Me-Downs

My girls, M and J, are small for their age, so they end up receiving hand-me-downs from their friends. I’m not too proud to accept used things from friends, or even strangers. I see both the offer and its acceptance as gestures of love.

Getting free used stuff, from hdydi.com
Photo Credit: reinvented

One former neighbour kept my girls in shoes for 2 whole years. I didn’t buy a single new item of clothing this summer beyond splurging on birthday dresses for all 3 of us. My kids have had a constant influx of new clothes from an older girl on our street, a classmate and a former neighbour.

Of course, it helps that M has no interest in wearing clothes that match her sister’s. If your kids wear matching or coordinated outfits, this may not work for you. I do find, though, that many of my friends buy the same things in different colours for their girls, and there are usually 3 hot shades that are “in” in a given season. Completely different brands will feature exactly the same colour scheme. You might be surprised by how many coordination opportunities you can find with hand-me-downs.

When two of my ex-husband’s high school friends announced that they were both pregnant with girls, I split my daughters’ matching infant and toddler clothes in two and mailed two diaper boxes of gently used clothes to Washington State. I’d been holding onto them in case any friends had twins, but everyone seems to have b/b or b/g twins.

Getting free used stuff, from hdydi.com
Photo Credit: EvelynGiggles

J and M determined told me that they no longer play with their doll house. I asked them to sit on their decision to give it away for a couple of months, but they’ve held firm. We’ll be passing their dollhouse and furniture to another little girl, the daughter of an old friend of mine from grad school. We hope she’ll also get many years of joy from it.

Trades

Getting free used stuff, from hdydi.com
Photo Credit: Renee Silverman

My daughters’ dance school has a fantastic shoe exchange program. Since they teach tons of growing children and know how expensive dance supplies can get, they have a big  bin of ballet, tap and jazz shoes in the office. When a child outgrows their shoes, their parent can add them to bin and go through the shoes that are already there to find a replacement, one size larger.

I do still occasionally have to buy new dance shoes, but the majority of my girls’ shoes have come from the bin in the 4 years they’ve been taking lessons. If your kids dance, play soccer, or use other specialized equipment, perhaps you can look into setting up a similar exchange.

Freecycle Exchange

Here’s how the Freecycle Network describes itself:

It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers (them’s good people). Membership is free.

Participating in Freecycle groups has been a great motivator to keep me decluttering. If I don’t use something but it still has life left in it, I no longer hold onto it in case it comes in handy later. Unless it has sentimental value or I see a real use for it, I offer up unused things to people who will give them new life.

Getting free used stuff, from hdydi.com

I’ve been in 3 different Freecycle groups in my time. They work similarly, with some variation. Some groups allow pet rehoming posts, while others don’t. My two adult cats came to us through Freecycle offers. Their previous family had lost their home and couldn’t keep them. Some groups ask you to offer at least one thing for each thing your receive. Some groups are sticklers for you specifying the area of town you’re in, while others are less stringent. Some ban people from the list if they have a history of asking for stuff and then not showing up to pick it up. As long as you use good judgment about who to share your personal information with, you’ll be fine.

In general, you sign up for an email list and quickly learn the format and etiquette for offering your unused stuff to others for free. Watch the list, and when something comes up that your family needs, send a nice email to the offerer. Some people use a first come-first served policy, but I always took at least a day to try to identify the most needy people for my girls’ hand-me-downs. Clothes and shoes are frequently offered in Freecycle messages, but I’ve seen washers and dryers, exercise equipment and even food given by people who won’t use them to people who will.

Since I work outside the home, I often leave bags or boxes labeled with the recipients’ names on my front porch for them to retrieve at their convenience. There’s something very satisfying about blessing others with clothing that came to my girls through the generosity of strangers in the first place. I gave my girls’ cribs away, one to a newly widowed mom of 6 who had recently taken in a pregnant high schooler, bringing her brood to 8. That was a pretty great feeling.

Craigslist

Freecycle, mentioned in Getting free used stuff, from hdydi.comCraigslist is a service similar to that of the Freecycle network, except that the majority of things posted are listed for a price, often negotiable. Instead of being primarily email list-based, Craigslist has a public website for each region that it covers. In addition to stuff, people also advertise services, jobs, housing and ridesharing opportunities.

I don’t troll Craigslist looking for free stuff, since my Freecycle lists cover me on that front, but I have occasionally gone looking for long-term investments. I bought my daughters a fine electric keyboard at a fraction of its cost new ($250 for a $900 instrument) and have been keeping my eye open for the right playscape to go in my backyard. I had a coworker watch Craigslist for me for the keyboard. I’m a singer, not a pianist, and he fixes up older keyboards as a hobby, so he was far more knowledgable than I. He was able to point me towards a solid instrument at a decent price and I snatched it up.

As with any activity involving meeting strangers, be smart about who you share your address with and whose home you choose to enter. Consider meeting in a public place or bringing a friend with you. Meet during daylight hours. Don’t share a whole lot of information about your kids.

And please, don’t forget to pass your own things on to others when you’re done with them.

What’s your approach to free stuff for your family? Do you love it? Think it’s tacky?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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