Ask the Moms, part 10 – schedules

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Categories Ask the Moms, Family, Feeding, Infants, Napping, Other people, Toddlers6 Comments

A reader asked through our Features page to talk about the importance of keeping twins on a schedule. While a consistent routine is important for all infants and children, I would argue that the reason it’s even more important with multiples is for mommy’s sake.

Let’s back up just a little and talk about routines and schedules, and what I mean when I use those words. There’s a wide range amongst different moms and different kids. A routine can be pattern of behavior you do regularly, whether it’s the fact that you always feed them yogurt at lunchtime, read two books before bed, or take a walk around the block in the morning. A schedule looks at the clock, whether it be relative time (a bottle every three hours) or “real” time (morning nap at 9AM).

Routines are especially good for babies and young children because it helps them to know what to expect. The world can seem a chaotic and overwhelming place to them, but if they know that the sequence of dim lights, bathtime, pajamas, a bottle, and a story lead to bedtime, it can give them a sense of security and stability. As anyone who has instituted a consistent bedtime routine can attest, it’s amazing how much easier babies will go to sleep once they know what’s coming. The level of precision in your routine is up to you and your kids. Some kids need to have the same story every night, while others don’t seem to mind as long as there’s a story.

A schedule can be a very good thing, though it can be taken to extremes. Some babies are extremely regular, and some require a bit more flexibility. But even if your 10-week-old can’t tell time, you can still use the clock. Again, I come back to bedtime: set it at roughly the same time every night for a week, and watch how quickly your kids will learn to expect it. The same goes for naps and mealtimes in older infants and toddlers. If you consistently put them down for a nap at the same time every day, or feed them lunch at the same time, they will quickly come to expect it.

Why is this such a good thing? Why not keep your kids more flexible and loose? There are arguments to be made both for your kids and for you. For the kids, they will be much less cranky throughout the day if they know what to expect. If they’re not sure whether it’s time to eat or time to sleep or time to play, they get overwhelmed and upset. This is not to say that having a schedule will eliminate all fussiness from your household (ha!), but it should help to keep things predictable for your kids, which will generally help them to be more relaxed and happy.

And, as we all know, happy babies mean happy mommies, and vice versa. While predictability is a very good thing for your children, it is critical for you. You need to know that your kids will take a nap at a particular time (most) every day. You need to know when you’ll have a moment to take a deep breath, to snatch a shower, or to throw in (yet another) load of laundry. You need to know whether it’s a good idea to sign up for that mommy & me class at 2pm, or whether that is likely to be right smack in the middle of naptime. This, too, is why I think that a schedule of some kind is even more important with twins than it is with a singleton. If your singleton baby decides that one day she wants the afternoon nap to be at noon, and another day it’s at 2:30, it’s not quite as big of a deal. You can shift yourself around and do your typical naptime chores a few hours later. But with two babies, I guarantee they aren’t going to make the same shift on the same day. If your two kids don’t have a routine and just take a nap or eat whenever they want to, then you’re most likely going to have at least one baby awake at all times. And that is not a good thing.

Yes, you need to respond to your children’s individual cues, but as we’ve said before (here and here), being a mom of multiples likely means you’re going to have to take charge and perhaps be slightly more rigid and less go-with-the-flow than you may have thought you’d be.

There are tradeoffs when it comes to sticking to your scheduling guns. Getting your kids used to a particular routine can mean that they might not always do well with a change in routine, though that depends partly on the personality of the child in question. It definitely means that you’re going to find yourself making choices about what you do, or don’t do, based on your child’s routine (nap schedule, in particular). People without kids, or even people with singletons that don’t have a strict schedule, will be annoyed with you. They will tell you you’re over-doing it. You may feel a little constrained, even trapped by the schedule (especially when there are still two naps…).

The benefits, in my opinion, outweigh the drawbacks. You have some idea of how to plan your day, you have some idea of what to expect. Having a well-established routine can really help when things are thrown off, like with travel or illness. Though your kids might be a little “off” in a new location, having the same bedtime routine as you do at home will help them adjust.

And, of course, you can take scheduling too far. Being too rigid is not a good thing. Sometimes you decide a particular event or circumstance is worth it to mess with your routine. Sometimes your kids are just having a “different” kind of day. We’re all people, after all, not programmed robots. Flexibility, as with anything in parenting, absolutely has its place. Sometimes your child will (ahem) get up at 4:45 in the morning, and there’s just no way you’re going to make it to that 8:30 naptime. Sometimes you can’t avoid being out of the house when they need to be in bed. You can try to stretch and keep things as close to “normal” as possible, but you’ll have days where it just doesn’t work. The good thing is that, if the routine is otherwise well-established, they’ll get back on the bandwagon quickly.

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A Toddler, and Twins, and a Newborn – oh MY!

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What do you get when you have 9-month old twins and then you find out you are pregnant again?

According to Wikipedia, you get “Irish Triplets”. As of this fall, that’s what I’ll have. I am a lucky girl.

Although two weeks ago when I found out about this surprise pregnancy, lucky is not a word I would have used. I would have gone with stressed, anxious, perhaps even something harsh, like screwed. How will we afford to diaper twins and a newborn? Oh, and then there is our older daughter. What about clothes? Childcare? Food? Will they all fit comfortably in our car?

But having had some time to reflect on my new circumstances I realize, wow, this is an amazing gift.

My husband and I had casually tossed around the idea of a 4th child. Ok, maybe it’s more fair to say that I have tossed the idea at him; he caught the idea and threw it out the window. But I always thought of it as a future endeavor. One we would undertake when some semblance of peace and order was restored to our lives. When I wasn’t changing 16 diapers a day and when we were more rested from sleeping through the night, on a semi-consistent basis.

What was I thinking? If we had actually gotten back to the point of sleeping through the night on a regular basis, having some of the children in school and being able to go shopping without buying a case of diapers – would I REALLY want to go back and start over? Maybe not. And then I would be missing out.

If there is ever a time to add a newborn, isn’t it when your life is already in complete chaos? How can I miss the sleep I will be losing, when I’m not really getting it now anyway? How can I miss going to happy hour after work or going on romantic vacations when I’m not doing that now? We have all the gear in the house and a support system already in the groove.

Aaron and Brady are too young to notice the change in Mommy (and they are too pre-occupied with each other to care) and the newborn will never know the difference. He or she will always just be from a big family. Financially, there is always a way to make it work; we just need to be creative and figure it out. Plus, we did break down and buy a minivan last year….

So, yeah, we’re lucky. It took us by surprise and it’s a good thing. We may have missed the opportunity. Sure there will be some ups and downs, but we will never again complain that anything about our lives is boring. Stay tuned!

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The Incredible Identical Fraternal Twins

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We like to push the envelope around here. Really shake things up. Keep people on their toes. Our boys are a new breed of twin – the identical fraternal variety. Technically dizygotic (or so we were told), but for all intent and purpose, identical in looks and shape. See Exhibit A (3 months):

Our friends and family are in disbelief. “Surely, surely, they must be identical.” No, they are fraternal. “But they look exactly the same!” Yes. They do look a lot alike. But they are not identical. “But how do you tell them apart?” Well, Abel has a rounder face and head. And his eyes are set a little bit wider. Oskar’s face is narrower. And he has less hair. “Is that all?” Well, if I take their shirts off, Oskar has a strawberry on his shoulder and Abel has a freckle on his chest. Is that enough?

Sarcasm aside, I’ll admit it, there was a time when even J and I had a hard time telling them apart. From birth to about 4 months, they truly looked identical. We mixed them up at the doctor’s office…several times. J even mixed them up for 3 hours while I was out one afternoon. He was mortified to find out he thought he was holding Abel when he was really cooing to Oskar the whole time. But as they have grown to the ripe old age of 14 months, their fraternal-ness has become more evident. Well, to us at least. Face shape aside, they just look different from one another. Note Exhibit B (8 months):

But we continue to get barraged by the identical comments. Sure, my fraternal (same and different gender alike) mamas know all to well the public’s funny, “Are they identical?” question, when they are clearly not. But in our case, I don’t begrudge strangers when they ask. It’s when our good friends continue to ask that I start to get slightly impatient, and to be honest, second-guess the DNA status of my sons. What if they really are identical? After all, they could be part of the small percentage of identical twins who have separate sacs and placentas. And then there is the story of our friend’s twins, where doctors swore they were fraternal in utero and upon birth, but after DNA testing turned out to be identical. Could this be us, too?

The other night, I finally worked up the gumption to ask J if he was, without-a-doubt, sure that the boys were NOT identical. Without any hesitation, he proclaimed “they are absolutely not identical. Without question.” Phew! But then I start to wonder if we see such distinction between them because their personalities and mannerisms are so individual and different. They are like night and day in the way they move, talk, hug and play. So I think to myself, maybe we should just solve this dilemma once and for all with a DNA test. Two simple cheek swabs and $160 plus shipping and…whaalaa! We’d have our definitive answer once and for all.

Or more likely we’ll just sit back, relax, and relish in the stunning similarities and the obvious differences that make these two boys the twin brothers that they are. And why would we waste the 160 bucks plus shipping when we never mix them up anymore?! Okay, so there was that one time last month…

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Ask the Moms, part 9 – Laundry mountain

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Categories Ask the Moms, FamilyTags 6 Comments

It’s amazing, isn’t it? Amazing that two teeny, tiny babies can create such a huge pile of laundry, in such a short period of time. Key to your survival as a new mom of multiples, whether you work outside of the house or not, is keeping up. Not only do you not want to run out of burp cloths (holy crap, the pile my kids were going through every day when they were six months old…) and shirts, but you don’t want the laundry monster to take over every room in the house.

And so to you, dear readers, we offer the following strategies:

  • Put in a load (nearly) every day. Many of us have a routine such that we throw in the load just after the kids go to bed, throw it in the dryer before we eat dinner, and fold/sort while watching trashy TV before bed. It may not be the most exciting way to spend an evening, but it’s not like you were going out for happy hour, anyways. If you do a little bit almost every day, then you won’t be hit with 10 loads to do on a Sunday.
  • Share the love. If (like me) you go to bed earlier than your night-owl husband, let him put in a load. If you have a babysitter, ask her to fold the baby things while they’re napping. If you have cleaning ladies, spend the extra couple of bucks and have them change your sheets and throw the old ones in the wash before they leave. Laundry is one of those constant, ever-present things that is easy to get burned out on if you have to do it all the time. Have other people do some, and at least you won’t feel like you’re standing in front of the dryer 24/7.
  • Don’t over-sort. Get a “free & clear” style detergent, and use it for everyone’s laundry. Don’t bother with that specialty baby stuff. That way, if there’s half a load of baby stuff and half a load of adult stuff that needs washing, there’s no reason not to combine them. Most baby stuff is fairly sturdy cotton blends, so don’t make extra work by separating darks and lights (unless you have a piece that you think is a major color-stain risk). Just throw it all in on “warm” and call it a day.
  • Keep multiple laundry baskets. If you don’t do this already, we can’t recommend it highly enough. One for mom & dad, one in the kids’ room, and if you have another frequent laundry-producing area (next to the pack & play in the den, in my house), put one there too. A single, over-filled laundry basket (which will be overfull before you even finish the load you just dumped out of it) is somehow more overwhelming than 2-4 baskets around the house. Maybe it makes you feel like you have a choice as to which one you do next? I don’t know, but it works. Some also find this helpful when it comes to folding and putting away – one load is all linen closet stuff, one is all going in the master bedroom, etc.
  • Waste not. There’s only so much we can do about all of the laundry detergent we use, but if you’re throwing in a smaller-sized load, at least make sure you adjust detergent and water levels accordingly. Also, if you’re using dryer sheets (they do make “free & clear” style ones), use the tip I got from my mom: half a sheet is plenty for the whole load. Tear ’em in half, and the box will last twice as long.
  • Re-wear. This depends entirely on your kids and their mess level. But believe me, if your kids re-wear a pair of pants that managed to avoid spitup and pureed sweet potatoes on the first wearing, we certainly won’t judge. More power to ya. Other common multiple-usage possibilities: pajamas, towels, sleep sacks, sometimes even socks for the pre-mobile set.
  • Let older kids help.  If you’ve got elementary-school kids, let them fold their own laundry! (Under supervision, of course.)  Kids as young as 7 can be taught to do their own laundry, I swear.  If you’re using any kind of positive points system in your house, kids can get points for laundry (and other chores) to be used toward favorite privileges.

Laundry is one of those never-ending chores, especially when there are two (or more) young children and babies involved. No sooner do you think you finally have everything clean, than you discover a stray pair of socks or last night’s pajamas. Sigh. But if you keep chipping away, hopefully it won’t get to the point where you have to run in fear of the monster living in your laundry baskets.

Any comments from the peanut gallery?  Your suggestions for keeping up with the laundry and keeping your sanity?

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A word about baby clothes

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As anyone with a new baby can attest, people love buying baby clothes.  The new grandparents, aunts and uncles, and even just random family friends can barely resist.  They come to visit with a little box in hand, from Macy’s, Target, BabyGap, or wherever. Thoughtful, sweet, generous. And when it comes to clothes, who can blame them for the impulse buy?  Somehow, a t-shirt is just plain cuter when it’s that small.  And when it’s a gift for twins?  Oh. My. God.  Smaller may be cuter, but nothing beats a matched set.  We all have our collections of matching outfits in the dresser, and whether or not you’re into dressing your kids alike on a regular basis, sometimes you just can’t help it.  (Hopefully they’ll forgive thank us later.)

But I have learned several important lessons about baby clothes, and in particular baby clothes as gifts, from my experience over the last 8+ months as a mother of two (very differently-sized) babies. (Forgive me if this all sounds ungrateful. I have actually taken it all as lessons for myself as to how to buy for other babies.)  So, courtesy of Daniel & Rebecca, here is what I have learned about how to buy gifts for other babies:

First, whenever possible, find out what sizes the babies in question are actually wearing.  I don’t expect people to automatically know that, at nearly nine months old, my daughter still wears size 3-6 months. My son, on the other hand, seems to be the rare child who actually wears his actual age range (at exactly 6 months, he switched to the 6-9 month clothing, etc.).  Obviously, people who don’t get my kids dressed every day would not know this, but there are easy ways to find out. Grandparents make good spies.

Second, look at the size of the outfit you just chose before you buy it.  I know that, if you haven’t spent a lot of time with baby clothes recently, they all just look small and cute.  Impossibly small, in fact, so you get the bigger size, because no real baby could possibly wear the 3-month size.  I can’t tell you how many people have lovingly presented us with gifts and, while looking at my kids, exclaim that they should have gotten the bigger size.  But I assure you, my kids have not outgrown the size 18-month shirts at age 6 months.  Really.

Third, now that you’ve learned what size they wear and have actually inspected the labels while in the store, don’t buy too far ahead.  If you want to buy for the next season or two, if you want to buy a size up from what they wear now, that makes good sense.  Buy summer clothes in early spring, in the next size.  Great.  But did you really have to buy the size 2T fleece jackets for my 4-month-olds? (I can’t make this stuff up, people.)  I mean, yes, the jackets are adorable.  I can see how you were drawn to them. Especially the fluorescent pink animal print.  But I have no idea when my kids will wear size 2T, and whether or not that will even be at a time of year when fleece is appropriate outerwear.  Plus, I have to store it somewhere for the next 1-3 years.

Fourth, think for just one moment about the practicality of the outfit in question. I’m not saying all baby clothes have to be practical.  Dresses on baby girls are super cute, even if they make no practical sense at all.  But really… baby cashmere?  Just because they make it doesn’t mean you should spend your money on it.  Take the $60 you were going to spend on that sweater (that my child will wear once, vomit all over, and outgrow), and buy three outfits from Old Navy. You can splurge from time to time, after all, that’s what gifts are for. But be reasonable.

Lastly, and I think this is a good rule for any gifts, please please please include the gift receipt.  We love that you were thoughtful and generous and got us an adorable outfit from BabyGap.  The trouble is that both Aunt Sally and Aunt Kathy walked past BabyGap during the same week, and they both fell in love with the monkey shirt (it’s just so perfect for little Jimmy!).  And while the shirt is, in fact, perfect for little Jimmy, he doesn’t need two.  Plus, I’d rather exchange that 12-month sized sleeveless outfit for something my daughter can actually fit into this summer, instead of wistfully staring at it all season long, until she can finally wear it. In November.

I know, I know.  People are just being sweet and thoughtful and generous.  And I love that someone was thinking of my kids and wanted to get them something nice.  I also know that I’m preaching to the choir, here. But after getting two sets of very strangely-sized off-season outfits this weekend (blessedly inclusive of gift receipts), I felt compelled to put my lessons into words.

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Happy Birthday

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Next month, my babies will turn one. About a dozen of our family members, and a handful of my friends will celebrate their big day with us. Their party will be at our house, with a potluck lunch, strategically scheduled around nap time. There will be balloons from the dollar store on the front fence, quilts on the ground and a washtub of iced down cokes.  I plan on making their cakes, and can’t wait to see their expressions as they dive into their yummy treats.  Honestly, this party is as much about Jay and I surviving our first year of parenthood,  as it is about our little ones!

Our party will be simple. Family. Food. Cake. Play. And it won’t cost me more than any other party we have ever hosted…unless you count the balloons. That is why, it totally floors me when I heard a recent report on the news about lavish parties for kids. I watched the report with my mouth gaping…the idea of spending thousands of dollars on a one year old’s birthday party?! Tens of thousands?! Not in this house, not in this lifetime.

I have wonderful memories of my birthdays as a kids…I clearly remember my receiving my first big girl bike (a Strawberry Shortcake one), hiding under the table at Chuck E Cheese when the animals came out to sing to me, inviting my now-step-dad to my rollerskating party. My family surprised me with a special sweet 16 party, and a surprise party at 18.  But none of these parties were over the top. They were quite modest, with a few balloons, homemade cakes, and the same “Happy Birthday!” banner, every year.

Parenting is competitive. And the competitiveness starts early, with talk of how much weight we gained during pregnancy, which carseat we registered for, and of course, the method of delivery. Seriously? I don’t buy it. Why should I be competing against other mom’s? Other mom’s aren’t me. I am me. And to be honest, I think there are more mom’s like me, who value family over things, time over money, and the simple pleasures of an ordinary life over celebrity hype.

So, will I feel badly about not having a $50, 000 first birthday party? Um, no. Not even close. I think for now, I will just spend my party planning thinking about where I am going to put everyone if it happens to rain!

 

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Far from home

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Categories Family, Infants, Travel7 Comments

This Friday, our little family of four will embark upon our fourth set of round-trip flights. That’s right, fourth. And my kids are only eight months old. And their first trip wasn’t until they were four and a half months old. We’ve pretty much had a trip every month since Christmas. There always seem to be events, holidays, or some other reason we simply must go somewhere. In part, the issue is further complicated by the fact that M’s grandmother, the kids’ great-grandmother, is really in no shape to travel from Florida to the frigid North. (She was freezing when she came to see them when they were born in August.) And so, fly we will.

I’d like to say this will get better with the summer and warm weather. But in my head, we have the potential for four more flights before Labor Day. And this is why, every so often, I think about moving back home to Chicago.

I was always a homebody as a kid. Cried my way through the first week or two of first grade (I missed my mommy), hated the two weeks I spent away at Girl Scout camp (I missed my mommy and hated platform tents). I even transferred colleges to be closer to home (missed my mom and my then-boyfriend). But somehow, at the end of college, I decided a change of scenery was in order. I came to Boston, met M, and eight years later… here I am. Though I’m in some ways more ambivalent about it than I’ve ever been, I also am now very acutely aware of how hard it is to be away from my family.

I have a very large family. Mom is one of seven, Dad is one of nine. Tons of aunts, uncles, cousins, etc live in the greater Chicagoland area. (M’s family is smaller and more spread out, so I’m obviously focusing on “my side,” here.) We’re really into get-togethers. Sunday dinners at my mom’s house, barbecues at my dad’s house (they’re divorced, yet live a mile away from one another… good times!). It has long made me kind of wistfully sad when I’m on the phone with my mom and she talks about my brother and his wife having everyone over for dinner, or when my dad says everyone is going to the White Sox game together. But never more so than now, when I have kids.

I can tell my parents miss them terribly. My aunts and uncles are always asking when we’ll be in town next. I know how much fun it was to grow up in that environment, and I’m sad that my kids aren’t in the middle of all that. And while I’m sure flying with one kid would be plenty of work, flying with two seems somehow exponentially harder. Being unencumbered by a work schedule, I theoretically can go any old time I want. But flying by myself is pretty much not an option, so we are restricted by M’s available vacation days. We discovered that we really aren’t up for the challenge of “lap infants,” so every trip is four increasingly expensive tickets. Ugh.

So I think about packing up permanently for the great, flat Midwest. But of course it isn’t nearly as easy as that. Not only is there the small matter of finding M a new job and selling our house in a terrible real estate market, though that would be daunting enough. But now that I have kids, and the pull to be “home” is as strong as ever, the great irony is that I finally have a social network here. New friends, things I’m involved in… all thanks to the “twin thing.” I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I don’t think I would have nearly the same social support as a stay-at-home-mom if I didn’t have twins. Three cheers for the Moms of Twins club. Not only has it helped me find other MoTs in the area, but it has given me social outings (monthly “support” meetings), a sounding board (yahoo group listserv), and a way to get involved (oh yeah, I’ll be on the board starting in May). I’m hopeful that I’d find something similar if we ever moved, but now that I actually want to move more than ever, I have more that I would be leaving behind.

At the moment, I’m staying put. We have no plans to move any time in the foreseeable future. We will fly to Florida on Friday for a week-early Passover (it was too expensive to fly for the actual holiday). We will go to Chicago this summer, possibly twice. We will keep flying. But maybe, one of these days, we’ll actually live near our (my) family, and save the frequent-flier miles for something else.

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Weekend Warrior!

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Ahhhh, weekends!  

Time to relax, kick your feet up and… SNAP OUT OF IT!  

Relaxing weekends at our house were soooo 14 months ago.  In fact, I think the word “relax” has officially been omitted from our family’s dictionary.  And that’s fine. With B and I both working full-time, by the end of the work week, our weekend To Do list is a mile long.  There are the usual must-get-done-no-matter-what tasks such as laundry, grocery shopping, a trip to Costco, recycling, bills and preparing food for the week.  Then there’s the attempt-to-squish-in-if-at-all-possible tasks that seem to migrate from week to week because we always run out of time.  These tasks (taxes, hem B’s jeans, repair button on kids’ shirt, make prints of photos stored on jump drive, install dimmer switch in kids’ bedroom, etc.) seem to be never ending and, in fact, multiply with every passing weekend. 

So, how does a working-family with twins fit in all of the “must do’s”, a few of the “attempt-to do’s” and still have fun, all within a 48-hour time period? 

You become a Weekend Warrior! 

Back in the day, the term Weekend Warrior meant something completely different than it does to me now.  Weekend Warriors escaped right after work (car pre-packed with needed gear the night before), grabbed a quick bite to eat, and headed for the nearest mountain/lake/cabin/ski slope.  It meant that you seized the weekend and all of its relaxed luxuriousness.

Um, not so much any more. 

Now that we’re parents, we seize the weekend by (unfortunately) cramming as many errands and household chores as we possibly can within the 2,880 minutes that we are allotted.  It’s a bit of a whirlwind, not exactly relaxing and hard on your back, but that’s just life these days!  The good news is, with some efficiency, organization and a helluva lot of teamwork, we always have time to get outside and enjoy the Alaskan outdoors with our kidos (pending any crazy weather and illness, of course).  

Without further ado, here are a few things that help us to be a bit more efficient in completing our To Do list so we can maximize our fun during the weekend:

  • MAKE FRIDAY NIGHTS FUN:  On Friday nights after the boys eat their dinner, we pack ’em up and head to Costco!  Fridays are a bit less hectic than going on a Saturday afternoon, yet they still have the usual array of food samples.  A double bonus!  And, as all MoMs know, Costco (BJ’s and Sam’s Club, too!) is one of the only places that has twin-friendly shopping carts (as referenced by Finn & Reid below).  The boys love riding around in the cart, trying out the massage chairs and looking at the huge TVs during our Costco trips.  Some good people watching for the boys and one less item on the weekend To Do list for us! 
  • Costo Kids

  • BE EFFICIENT DURING NAPTIME:  We try to complete most of the household chores while the boys take their naps. That way, when they wake-up, we can head out the door for a fun activity instead of hanging around the house while the kids play and we finish up the breakfast dishes, bills or laundry.  
  • STAY ON TOP OF THE LAUNDRY:  Now that our boys are feeding themselves, it seems like the dirty laundry is multiplying!  I try to start a load of laundry after I get home from work at least twice during the weekday.  Before we bathe the kids, I transfer the clothes from the washer to the dryer.  Then once the kids are in bed, the clothes are ready to be folded.  I don’t mind doing laundry, but I really dislike folding clothes, so spreading the laundry throughout the week helps cut down on the piles and piles of clothes, bedding, towels, etc. that build up by the weekend. 
  • DO A CLEAN SWEEP AFTER BEDTIME (EVERY NIGHT):  Every night after the dudes go to bed, we do a sweep of their main play area.  We place the 15,000 books back on their shelf, throw the blocks and stacking cups back into their holding containers, gather the toys that were hidden in drawers, baskets and behind stereo speakers, and clean up their booster seats for the next day.  It’s nice to spend the rest of the evening in a semi-organized and less “circus-y” state, as well as wake up to a fresh play space, even if it only lasts 1.25 seconds before the kids destroy it once again. 
  • PAY BILLS USING AUTO-PAY:  Before becoming a parent, I actually enjoyed doing bills.  Writing out checks, placing address labels and stamps on envelopes then sending them on their way really helped me know where our money was going.  After the boys were born, however, this (sick) enjoyment that I once had lasted all of about 2 days.  I barely had time to change out of my spit-up stained sweatshirt, let alone write a check!  Now I’ll all about Auto-Pay.  Not only does it save us money (stamp-wise) and time, we are also saving trees because we don’t receive those pesky monthly statements for half as many bills as we used to. 
  • TRADE OFF:  When the kids are sick or the weather is crappy, it’s obviously going to be an indoor-kind-of-day.  When this occurs (and it happened to us a lot this winter because of well below-zero temps and multiple illnesses!), we trade off playing with the kids every 30 minutes or so.  While B watches the kids for 30 minutes, I can focus on making the boys’ beds, chopping veggies for dinner and cleaning the bathroom without having to refill a sippy cup with water, change a diaper, or break up a fight over the stuffed monkey.  When the 30 minutes are up, I feel like I got a few items checked off the To Do list and I can focus 100% of my attention on the boys while Brook picks up the dog poop in the backyard!  :) 
  • FEED ON-THE-GO:  For quite a few reasons, I used to be adament about being home for the boys’ mealtimes.  But in the last few months, I’ve got I bit more relaxed about feeding the boys while we are out and about.  Although it’s a bit of a pain to pack up the boys food, it’s certainly worth the extra time and effort so that you don’t have to rush home when you’re out running errands or enjoying an afternoon hike.  The past few weeks, we’ve also got in the habit of stopping for lunch at a little cafe across the street from the grocery store.  All four of us eat lunch (although the boys mostly people-watch) and then head over to the store to do our weekly shopping.

How does your family fit in a little bit o’ fun on the weekend while still making sure you take care of those have-to tasks that always seem to be looming over us?

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Ask the Moms, part 6 – 'Equal' time

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Categories Ask the Moms, Family, Infants, Mommy Issues5 Comments

Do you have a question for the moms of How Do You Do It? Ask away in the comments or through our Features page.

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This week’s question comes from Lyna, who has a 3-year-old and 10-month-old twins. She’s concerned about not spending enough time with her twins. After a long day of work, she comes home emotionally and physically exhausted, and finds it difficult to spend time with her two babies. She worries the twins are not getting enough from mom, and that she might be favoring her firstborn at their expense.

First, Lyna, cut yourself a little bit of a break. Being a mom is great, but it’s also hard, frustrating, tiring, and comes with a lot of internal and external pressures. It’s easy to get caught up in what you think you “should” be doing, especially as it relates to things you don’t think you’re doing “enough.” We all deal with it, whether we have other kids or not, whether we work outside the home or not. You’re far from alone.

Also, words of wisdom from LauraC, via her moms of twins club: “Your babies do not know any differently than what you do with them. They do not know that singletons get held more or got more attention. They only know their own reality. The babies have no expectations of you – you have expectations of yourself.” Your twins do not know that they are having a different experience than their older sister had at their age, and frankly, they don’t care. They have learned from day one that sometimes they have to wait their turn (though they might not be happy about it, of course!), and are not automatically emotionally scarred because they were not held as much as their big sister.

Now, on to strategies. First, as is a common suggestion from the HDYDI moms, have you joined your local moms of twins club? Many of them offer some kind of new mom/mentoring/big sister program, so you may want to try to connect with nearby moms who also have an older child and infant twins, or have already gone through it. It will help to see, first-hand, that your experience is not so unique.

Second, just jump right in there. Don’t let your worries about “not being able” to play with or hold both twins deter you from playing with either of them. Ten months is a great age, as they can play more independently, they can sit and probably crawl, etc. They will love it if you just sit on the floor with them, read a board book (or five), play peekaboo. Heck, they even get a kick out of playing with a basket of laundry that needs folding. Like TraceyS talked about last week, consider changing your outlook. Redefine “quality time” in your own mind. It doesn’t have to look the same as it did with your singleton, and in fact, it’s impossible for it to look the same. It doesn’t have to mean lots of holding and carrying, which can often be quite impractical with two babies. It can mean all of you singing silly songs together, or whatever.

Third, divide and conquer. Cynthia likes to switch off which boy she puts to bed each night, while her husband takes the other. A nice little dose of quiet solo time with each baby to cuddle, read stories, etc. And assuming your 3-year-old goes to bed a bit later than the 10-month-olds, that still leaves special time for her after they’re down for the night. Carrie and others are all about having “dates” with one child at a time on the weekends. Trade off with your husband who has which kid(s), and then have an outing. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Go to the coffee shop, go to the grocery store, just go for a walk. But taking time to focus on each child one at a time, even if it’s only once a week or so, can go a long way.

Some other recommendations include, while your twins are still a bit young for family dinner time, postpone adult dinner until after the kids are in bed. That allows you to use as much of their awake time as you can to focus on them instead of other things. Consider a carrier, such as the Ergo, for carrying one baby hands-free (whoever is fussing more or enjoys the carrier more). That allows you to pick up the other when necessary, or play a game with your toddler, while one baby at a time gets some close contact.

While this particular variety of mommy guilt (I’ve heard it referred to as “second child syndrome”) is amplified with twins, it’s not unique to moms of multiples. Anyone with more than one child, especially if you’ve had a singleton first, has to come to grips with the fact that the younger child(ren) will not have the same “infant experience” as your first. All of us with twins (or more) have worried that maybe we aren’t holding them enough, singing to them enough, or any number of things we feel we’re “supposed” to be doing. We each have more than one child, but there’s still only one mommy. Learning to play independently, or to entertain each other, is a good skill. You don’t have to, nor can you, entertain each of your three children precisely equally at all times.

There you have it, words of “wisdom” from your fellow moms. Cut yourself a break, and redefine in your own mind what constitutes meaningful interactions with your kids. Find ways to play with all three of them at once, encourage them to play with each other (I bet the 10-month-olds get a huge kick out of playing peekaboo with big sister!), and try to set aside time with each of them individually, even if you can only manage it with one child per week. It will pay off for the kids, it will pay off for you, and it will allow you to get to know each of your children as well as you know your first. Good luck!

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Siblings at Heart

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Categories Family, Fraternal5 Comments

Dressed, undressed, sleeping or awake, there is no hiding the fact that my two babies are very different people. For starters, one is male, one female. My boy is much taller than my girl. My daughter is petite everywhere except her pudgy tummy. My son? He is shaped like a mini-shrek. They sleep differently, eat differently, have different tolerance levels. My son likes people indiscriminately, my daughter is a bit more reserved. I could type until my fingers were raw and red, listing and highlighting the ways in which they are different.

Honestly, in my mind, they aren’t twins. They are my son and daughter. Sure, I use the magic phrase “I have twins,” but mainly as an excuse. “Sorry my house is a mess,” or  “Sorry that I forgot your birthday, the twins are sapping all of my brain power!”

When out and about with both kiddos, I am often surprised that people ask me questions about them as if they are a unit. “Which one is the loud one?” or “Why is he bigger than her?” I often respond that they were simply womb-mates, and are just siblings to each-other, not 1/2 of a whole person.

Granted, they likely will have a close bond, as they have never been without a sibling. There is no such thing in my house as the first child. Delivered by cesarean, they are 1 minute apart. Hardly enough time to make one the “older” sibling.

I had a couple of opportunities this week to spend time with just my son, and then just my daughter. Mainly it was due to a fluke in the cherished nap schedule, but it sure was fun to focus all of my attention onto one child at a time. I believe that this is a very real stressor, especially early on, when parents of multiples wonder how in the world they will ever get to be with each of their children individually to cultivate their relationship. Lets face it, in the beginning it is about survival. When you are feeding 2 (or more) infants10-12 times a day, it makes sense to feed them both at the same time. Assembly line parenting can become a way of life. But in our home, the fog of newborns has passed, and we are enjoying a bit more flexibility. And I truly believe the kids enjoy having mama all to themselves.

For sanities sake (and time), I bathe the kids together. But occassionally I will sneak them into the bath without their sibling, and it must be so nice for them to not have to share the tub, or the toys, or have someone splashing water into their faces.  This one on one time is also great for cuddling. I can easily snuggle and read to one baby on the couch. But if I have both of them, it is a disaster waiting to happen to try and corral both of their wiggling bodies and keep the books intact.

This weekend, the hubster and I took the kids to the mall in two single strollers. It was the most peaceful outing I have had in a long time. Each kid had space, a new perspective on their surroundings and a parent all to themselves. It is so nice that we can split them up occasionally, and really enjoy them as individuals.

I was thinking about all of this “twin stuff,” and realized that it is a lot like marriage. When you get married, you are one of two. You are part of the whole unit. You function as a team, yet you are still an individual. I know I rebelled a bit when people started treating me just as a Mrs., when I was still Krissy.

It is my hope to raise my son and daughter as siblings with a special start to what hopefully will be a life-long friendship. And I want to be free to take my son someplace special while my daughter is with one of the grandmas. I want to buy my daughter pretty rain boots, without feeling compelled to buy a boy-pair for my son.

I think Valentine’s day might be a great day for my hubby and I to “date” our kids,  and have lunch out with just one of them. I can envision myself holding my son’s chubby hand, walking into a restaurant after dropping off my girl at her daddy’s workplace, and helping him order off of the big-kid menu, and taking time to listen to him and his heart.

Of course, we first need to master walking, eating without choking, keeping public scream-fests to a minimum, and sitting still for more than 30 seconds, but I have no doubt that one day in the future, I will proudly be out in restaurant with my son, and won’t feel compelled to tell the passers-by that he has a twin sister! 

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