Multiples and software identity management

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Categories Childcare, Family, Parenting7 Comments

My husband Jon works in an increasing popular sector of software development called identity management. If you’ve ever been billed by a hospital, you know you can end up as a patient in the hospital database, the surgeon database, the customer care database, on and on.  This happens in many situations, not just hospitals, because software systems are not always integrated (their computer systems can not talk to each other). Jon’s company’s software helps customers determine unique people in those databases – for example, this person in the surgeon database is the same person in the customer care database – and links the databases together so they can communicate.

Since I share a small home office with Jon, I overhear a lot of his (boring) conversations. The most frequent conversation is what makes a person unique. In most software systems, name, date of birth, gender, mother’s name, and social security number (SSN) make a person unique. Many of his work conversations turn to twins.

In most cases, twins share a date of birth and mother. Their SSNs are usually so similar that a one digit difference could be someone fat-fingering the number. If there is no SSN available, most systems use the mother’s SSN, further confusing matters. Gender is the same for same-sex twins, but even boy-girl twins could be a user entry error. Frequently, the most unique item about a same-sex twin… from the standpoint of a computer system… is their name.

One real-world example of similarly-named multiples is boy-girl twins Alexandro and Alexandra. In that case, they were different genders but their names were so similar it could have been a typo. In the computer system, this was flagged as “possibly the same person” and someone had to manually review the record. In a less complex computer system, these two patients could be considered one person. That’s scary to me from a medical standpoint!

This can happen with differently-named multiples when software systems rank date of birth as “more unique” than name. Cynthia mentioned in a post last week that she always has an issue at her pharmacy filling prescriptions for both twins because they consider her boys the same person. Her twins are named Aaron and Brady – not even close!

In an era where computers are used to manage everything from billing records to patient history to school grades, I found this a fairly thought-provoking real-world application of having twins.

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This Post Is Long Because Getting Out Of The House Each Morning Starts A Week Before

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Categories Childcare, Infants, Working10 Comments

We are a two-mom household of boy/girl twins. We both work, although I did take 12 weeks of maternity leave. Or, from my employer’s perspective, vacation. We had a nanny from the time they were 9 days old (yes, we did have help while I was home, and yes, we know that’s cheating), but long before their birth, we had committed to putting them in daycare around 15 weeks.

Today, the twins are one day shy of 17 weeks. Which is also two weeks into our experience with daycare. And in the world of parenthood, two weeks of anything done consistently and relatively successfully qualifies you as a veritable expert.

It is with the confidence of a seasoned rookie that I come to you with how it is we get ourselves out of the house each morning in a two-parents-that-work-outside-the-home household. It is working for us. So far.

To keep track of all of this, I made a checklist using my therapist also known as Excel spreadsheets that I laminated and keep on the kitchen counter next to a dry-erase marker. We may not always take the time to check all the boxes, but it serves as a visual cue of what needs to be done.

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The moment I find ten minutes on a Sunday, I pull clothes out for the kids – for the WEEK – and put them in a shoe organizer in their closet. I do the same for their pajamas. There are two advantages to this method: (1) by the time we get home with the kids after work, we’d rather have those precious minutes to play with them than to fumble through drawers and find PJs, and (2) in selecting clothing, I’m likely to come across clothes or PJs that no longer fit them and I can take those items out of the closet and put them in my to-sell-at-the-next-mom’s-of-multiples-garage-sale bin in another room. I’m constantly stood still by how quickly they grow. And notice I said Ten Minutes. Those mornings I imagined babies babbling happily in their cribs while I spent an hour pairing the cutest outfits and maybe even ironing them while birds chirp outside? NOT HAPPENING.

Sunday through Thursday nights, after the kids go to sleep (usually around 7:00 p.m.), our fast-paced preparation begins. First, one of us gets the wash cloths, towels, diapers, and PJs set out for the next night’s bath/bottle/bed routine. The other person goes to the kitchen and makes enough formula for their next morning and next evening bottles. This way, all we have to do is warm them up. And since prepared formula lasts 24 hours, making the next night’s bottle allows us more time with the kids. (Before they were sleeping through the night, we made enough bottles for the night, too.)

Next, one of us washes all the bottles and nipples while the other writes down their intake for the day on some books I created. We continue to track this, along with notes about disposition and poopie diapers because we can note trends and changes and discuss with caretakers and health care providers, as needed.

After that, we make enough formula to fit in a sports bottle, usually 32 ounces (which, by the way, only gets them through early afternoon the next day) – we also keep formula and water at the daycare so they can make those afternoon bottles. We do this for them as a courtesy, not a requirement. Most of the time, I remember to grab that from the refrigerator the next morning to take to daycare. Whoever isn’t making formula is preparing our dinner.

After we eat, we look at the BabyGrams – notes sent home from daycare – to see if we need to restock anything like bibs, extra clothes, blankets, formula, etc. We put these items, along with a clean pacifier, two clean bottles, and cloth-diapers-used-as-burp-cloths into their bag. Then we put the bag INTO THE CAR. We used to leave the bag by the door leading to the garage because tripping over the bag would make you remember to take it with you when you left, right? NOT NECESSARILY.

After a quick dinner, showers, catching up, bills, etc…

Then.

We.

Sleep.

The twins begin to stir beyond the a-pacifier-will-hold-them-off stage between 5:15 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. So depending on level of movement and squeaking, we sometimes feed them before we dress or dress ourselves before we feed. The ideal would be the latter, but babies have a way of altering your intentions. Thankfully, though, if we feed them first, they both easily go back to sleep. Usually it’s our son that stirs first, but either way, when one eats, we get the other one up to eat, too.

Shortly before we are ready to leave, we get them dressed. Their reflux gave us that hint. Remember how we put their clothes in the shoe organizer? It’s completely possible that The Reflux might get us through to Wednesday’s outfit before we’ve left the house. On Monday.

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We leave the house each morning around 7:00 a.m., arriving to daycare by 7:40 a.m., and I pick them up each evening by 5:15 p.m. In order to avoid Certain Meltdown – hunger mixed with tiredness – I ask the daycare to top them off with a bottle at 4:00 p.m. no matter what time they last ate.

By the time I get home, it’s close to 6:00 p.m., around the time my partner is arriving from her job. At that time, we’ll either play upstairs or load the kids into the stroller and get some fresh air. By 6:30 p.m. there is a lot of eye-rubbing and yawning going on. And the twins are doing it, too. So one of us starts warming bottles (to room temperature only!) while the other is giving the first baby a bath. So that we can have relatively equal time with each child, we alternate babies each evening. So whichever baby you bathed and fed, you also keep watch over during the night. This last part was recently added because somebody wasn’t swaddling too well and somehow I was ending up with that baby during the night. At 2 a.m., 4 a.m., 5 a.m. And guess what, the swaddle’s got better.

We also found a groove doing these ancillary items on certain evenings.

Friday’s – Boil/sterilize nipples and pacifiers. Launder car seats and other baby laundry. Inevitably, the car seats get spit up in, so we wash them on Friday’s to be able to let them air dry over night without having to wake up EVEN EARLIER the next morning to reassemble them.

Wednesday’s – baby laundry, as needed – sometimes we run out of swaddle blankets or they may have spit up on their blankets that they take to day care.

Sunday’s – My mother made quilts for the twins and we use these on the floor in the living room where many of their toys are. Tummy time equals wet burps, so on Sunday evenings we wash those with maybe a load of towels and/or the swing and bouncy seat chairs that they drooled over and sat in over the weekend. We do these items on Sunday’s because there is no big rush to reassemble them since they’ll be at daycare the next day. This is also a good time to wipe down toys, as needed. While we watch In Plain Sight. The one from three weeks ago.

Just the other night, we were doing our dance of preparation and Jennifer asked, “What the heck were we doing with our time before we had kids?” And neither of us could remember.

And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

You can read more of Rachel’s family journey on her blog, RaJenCreation.

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Our son, “Mater” (L) and daughter, “Boo” (R).

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For every sitter, there is a season

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Categories Childcare, Infants5 Comments

This is my last week with my babysitter. *sob!* Alas, she’s a college senior, and graduation approaches. So, on Friday, we will say goodbye to her. And while I’ll miss having her, I think I’m ready.

As my kids approached about 4 months old, I decided I was ready to hire a babysitter. In fact, more than ready, I needed someone. Love my kids to pieces though I do, after four months of 24/7 SAHM, I needed a little break. Just the occasional hour or two in the afternoon to run an errand without the Double Snap N Go, without bottles, without meltdowns. Plus, they had gotten to the age where they were a little easier to take care of, a little happier, a little more predictable. I felt comfortable leaving them with a babysitter, without having to write a 500-page instruction manual. (“If the cry sounds kind of like a whine, then she’s probably tired. If she’s screaming so hard that her face is turning purple, then she’s hungry.”)

I found my sitter through one of my two Sources of All Good Things: my moms of twins club (the other SoAGT is Cook’s Illustrated, in case you were wondering). One of the members works at a college where she coaches an athletic team, a bunch of the women on the team love to babysit, and voilà! A match! We met, we agreed she’d come three afternoons per week for two hours per day. The first few days, she came over and I didn’t go anywhere, but instead introduced her to the kids, the house, and all of the “stuff” that goes along with infants. I gave her the list of emergency numbers. And on the third day, I left the house. By myself. It was delightful. I didn’t stay out for long, but still…

It has been a great break over the last few months, especially in the crappy winter weather where we spent so much time indoors. I knew that, three afternoons per week, I could take a little break. Run to the store without kids, go to the gym (OK, that only happened twice), or even just sit at a cafe and have a quiet lunch. As much as I am glad that I’m a SAHM, we all need a little break to recharge the batteries every now and then.

But as my kids got on a more predictable schedule, and as the weather improved, my regular babysitter time felt a little less critical. In fact, I found myself needing to come up with something to do during “her” time, and was sometimes even a little bummed on days she was coming, because I knew she would be there during prime baby outing time (i.e. 3-5pm). Don’t get me wrong, I would hardly send her away. I used the time, even if it just meant going to Whole Foods and picking up something for dinner. But I didn’t “need” it quite as much as I did a few months ago.

And so, on Friday, we say goodbye to our beloved babysitter, and wish her well. In a few months, as fall turns into winter again, I may try to find another sitter to come play with my then-toddlers. I know I’ll still need the time, especially when cabin fever sneaks back into town. But right now, when stroller-friendly weather is more frequent and there are promises of grandparent visits on the horizon, I think I’ll spend my time on long walks around the pond, playdates with our other twin friends, and maybe even using the swingset my aunt is soon giving to me. It’s amazing how a little sunshine and temperatures above freezing can make things seem a bit easier. Even life with two infants.

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The Dreaded Daycare Dropoff

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When you become a parent of multiples, the word “logistics” enters your daily vocabulary. One of my least favorite logistical activities with my twin boys is what I call the Dreaded Daycare Dropoff.  I naively thought things would get easier as the boys aged, but each stage brings a different challenges. Here’s what I’ve learned at each stage along the way.

While still in infant seats:

* Keep them in infant seats as long as possible!

* Prepare as much as possible the night before – bottles prepared and labelled, clothes picked out, extra diapers and clothes packed

* In the morning, do everything else you need to do and pack the babies last. This way, you can pack them up, put them in the car, and be on your way. No worrying about poop explosions or vomiting on clean clothes.

* When unloading them at day care, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Can someone help you unload babies? Can someone help you unload bottles? Is there a place to store your double Snap n Go and car seats on site?

Out of infant seats but not walking:

* We tried two methods over time – double stroller and single stroller while carrying another. Overwhelmingly, using the double stroller was easier because it kept our hands free for bottles, diapers, opening doors, and anything else.

* Again, prepare everything the night before and pack up the kids last.

* When arriving at day care, take the kids out first so they can begin playing while you unpack everything. Again ask for help wherever possible.

Once they are walking:

* Use the stroller for as long as you can. You will miss it!

* Decide early on if you are going to be a hand-holder or a leash-user (no judgement on either) and use these methods consistently from an early age. They are more amenable to these methods when they are younger and it will become second nature to them.

* Expect things to take just as long, if not longer. They are now full-blown toddlers and everything is interesting to them, which means lots of stopping and starting… times two.

* Expect some crying, fussing, and clinging when you leave them. Talk to your care provider about how you’d like to handle it together. Will you have the provider distract them while you exit quickly? Will you stay awhile to make them (hopefully) feel more comfortable before leaving?

* Have them help where possible. They are starting to understand directions, so can they get their coats out of the cubby? Can they line up at the door? Can they carry something while they walk?

 Now you tell us… do you have any advice on doing solo day care dropoffs and pickups?

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