Kid-Friendly Kitchen Storage

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Categories Household and Family Management, Lifestyle, Organization, ParentingTags 1 Comment

American kitchens vary wildly in their storage options, but I think it’s pretty standard to store silverware in drawers, pots and pans in lower cupboards, and dishes and cups in high cupboards.

My kitchen turns this approach on its head in the interest of being child-friendly, rather than child-proof. Our plates, cups, and food storage are all within easy reach of the children. Many of the pots and pans are up and out of the way.

I chose to keep the dishes within reach to make it easier for the children to lay the table and help put the dishes away. In fact, I have moved dinner plates, bowls, silverware and storage containers to the buffet in the dining room. It’s right next to, but not in, the kitchen.

Initially, I only kept unbreakable dishes conveniently placed for the children, but as they’ve grown older, they have taken on more responsibility. They’re not always the ones to lay the table or empty the dishwasher, but there’s no physical barrier to keep them to doing those tasks.

Perhaps it’s because I’m so short myself, but I rather like having the dishes down low. It’s more convenient for me too!

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House Monkey Update – Donna

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Categories House Monkey, Household and Family Management, Marriage, Older Children, Parenting1 Comment

In this springtime update, entrepreneur Donna talks about the  constant give and take of raising a family, nurturing a marriage, and running a business.

This morning, it’s cold & raining outside. Clearly, it is still very chilly here in the northeast yet I’m sitting here (symbolically wearing my flip flops) thinking about Spring.

The most basic thing in nature is birth, and Spring is always filled with birth. This time around I don’t have a round belly full of babies, but rather a brain bursting at the seams with a vision and a desire to birth our House Monkey dream. Over the last two weeks, my nights have been filled with sketching out the House Monkey website. What should it look like? What information needs to be on the website now (while we are still developing House Monkey itself)?

The list of thoughts go on and on. I realized I needed to gear up and get that website up and running because our magnets (promised to our backers from KickStarter) have the URL address on it… yet the website isn’t up yet. Nightly STRESS!

My days have been spent bursting at the seams with a scientific-based technical project from our day job. Another “birthing” process, but for one of my favorite clients. The guy is smart and I respect him significantly. It has been a great experience: climbing challenging corporate-manufactured “hills” with him to customize this unique product Mike and I have developed together for his organization.

Every day that I work with this client, it helps me realize that people make all the difference in the world. I believe any experience can be viewed as good or bad. I read in a book not long ago that all experiences are like a train that rides on 2 tracks. The good parts of the experience are the right track and bad are on the left track.

Which track we look at from inside the train is up to us. I do believe in this concept but I’ve noticed over time that if I like and respect someone, it is easier to look at the right track all the time! I’m feeling blessed with our work projects right now, despite the stress. I know we worked hard over the last two years to be here, but I can’t help but feel that it is all a gift.

Currently, the work-life balance seems in check (and that does indeed vary from time to time) but 5pm until bedtime has been running smoothly the last two weeks (draining, but running smoothly).

If you read Mike’s last post, you also know we were forced to call a “family meeting” to address the “spring slide” (slide in grades, slide in chores etc.). Thank goodness it seems to have worked. Perhaps it’s why our last two weeks have been smoother! Maybe the kids had a “re-birth” of their own. Or want their iPads back.

The why doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Mike and I are very consciously sticking to our guns with this discipline. So not easy to do. Do you ever feel like you’re the one being punished when you have to discipline your kids? That’s how we feel. Sometimes it is so much easier to give in and let them watch TV.

On the last day of school before Spring Break, my eldest, who gets home an hour earlier than the others, is pitching in at the office. Before Spring re-birth comes Spring cleaning: make room for the new. He did his two weeks without the iPad and now I told him he’d earned back his electronics 2 days early with his efforts! Is that cheating? Am I not sticking to my guns? Or am I giving him the opportunity to make things right?

More importantly, how do handle 3 other little faces walking thru the door in a few minutes who haven’t had the same opportunity? Someone tell the basement that its floor may reappear in a couple of hours!!!! It just depends on how badly they want their stuff back!

So the work-family life balance is for the most part in check, but the work-life-marriage balance has definitely been rough lately.

Our work and family time constraints are draining our couple time. Folks make me laugh when they say, “You see him all day long”! Nothing could be further from the truth. Mike goes in the man cave basement office to work, while I am in my upstairs office. Sometimes we connect in passing in the kitchen when we go grab some grub, but we usually take lunch back to my office. (We’ve gotta stop doing that!) When we do see each other, it is scheduled meetings to discuss work content. Other employees are usually in attendance OR it’s to discuss the family or child “problem du jour”.

Mike already mentioned our trip planned for our 15 year anniversary. It cracks me up how casually he mentions it.

The last time we went away alone was our 10 year anniversary. My parents took the kids (the twins were only 2 at the time) and we went to Bermuda. What Mike seems to forget is how I panicked. It took a lawyer and new wills just to convince me to leave my babies. Who gets the kids was such a deep question I didn’t want to think about.

Then there was the plane ride. Know that even though I fly all the time for work, I hate it! Many years ago, I stood on 7th avenue in NYC and watched a plane crash into a building and it still bugs me. Add on 4 little kids that mean more than the world to me AND add on both of their parents on the same flight! It was awful for me. You know it’s bad when the flight attendant offers to buy you a drink! But we got there and spent 4 glorious days in the sun.

I remember thinking (very guiltily) I could use one more day. The plane ride home was easier – and those 4 days bought me at least a year of sane parenting and a renewed connection to my husband! So yes, I agreed to a 15 year anniversary trip for my parenting sanity and for the ability to reconnect with Mike. But that doesn’t mean I am not already feeling guilty about a trip that is months away.

How do you make time to connect with your spouse?

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Bedtime Routines

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Categories Napping, Overnight, Parenting, Preschoolers, Routines, Sleep, Time Management, Toddlers1 Comment

I’ve been on Spring Break this week, but my husband is swamped at work and couldn’t take time off to be with us. Last year for Spring Break, we took a family vacation to Legoland and LOVED it, so I hoped to be able to do something as exciting with them by myself just around town this year.

We went to the zoo, the park, ballet class, indoor playgrounds, and some museums. Even though most of these places are a short driving distance away, and we could easily stick to our schedule, there was one place about an hour away. It’s called Pretend City, and I’ve only been there once, back when Big Sis was really too young to enjoy it much. I’ve been wanting to go back ever since, but the logistics with napping babies just wasn’t working out. Until this week. I decided we would just have to take a shortened nap in the car on the way there, and get a catnap driving back. It actually worked out perfectly.

A predictable sleep routine is a great anchor on the rare occasion when you diverge from it!  Great thoughts from a mom of twin babies and a preschooler.

As any parent of multiples knows, a tightly run ship is necessary for the successful functioning of a household with many kids. And as I prioritize sleep for my kids above all else, our bedtime routines have always been pretty rigid. Except for very special days such as those once or twice a year on vacation, our schedule rarely shifts beyond a half hour.

What I realized this week, though, is that once a routine is set, it is something that my kids will stick to even if we take it off course. Let me start by describing what our normal bedtime routine looks like:

It actually starts with dinner. Dinnertime at our house is 5:30pm. Every Sunday we eat at 5 because we’re with the grandparents (because we need to account for the time to drive home), and on ballet class days we eat about 15 mins later, but usually we eat at 5:30. At 6 or so, kids are done and baths begin. Twins get their baths first while Big Sis plays by herself or does something on her iPad, but I do baths pretty quickly so she will often stay in the bathroom to talk with us. After the little ones get lotioned, teeth brushed, and diapered/dressed, they go off to their room for stories with Mama while Big Sis soaps herself up. I sit with the twins to read one or two books (sometimes of my choosing, sometimes at their request) before putting them in their cribs and turning on their humidifier and night light. Then they get a last sip of water, tucked in, and lights off around 6:45. Big Sis gets help washing her hair, and she is out of the bathroom lotioned, teeth brushed, and hair dried by around 7. She puts on pajamas and joins me in the living room for stories or some other quiet activity (like Legos or puzzles or paper folding) with Mama. Her bedtime is usually 8pm, unless I know she’s had no nap or an especially long nap that day, then I will adjust it by a half hour either way. She doesn’t require tucking in anymore, so when time’s up she just grabs her blanket and goes to bed on her own.

I have to say that this structure pays off. From the time they were babies, my kids knew that bath time comes after dinner, and bedtime comes after bath time. It doesn’t matter that on weekends Daddy does some of the routine, because they’re always done the same way, in the same order. They know exactly what to expect, and will often ask for the next step in the routine at the end of the previous one. For example, when Baby Boy is finished eating, he will ask to get his bath. And after they get dressed, Baby Girl will run to choose a book for reading. They don’t always like going to bed, but they know when it’s coming, and lights-out means lie down.

Smooth as bedtime usually is, this doesn’t give us much leeway for any evening activities. Rarely do we commit to events that take place after 5pm. Every so often Big Sis gets to stay out later because her bedtime is later and her schedule less rigid now, but the vast majority of our evenings are spent with our comfortable routine.

This is why, when I decided to take the kids to Pretend City this week, I sort of had to force myself to accept any crazy meltdowns that may occur. Factoring the traffic coming home, I debated whether to leave at 3pm and be home for dinner, or have dinner there and stay later. Since we didn’t arrive until noon, I decided to stay late and have dinner with my brother who lives in the area before driving home. We stuck to the kids’ dinnertime and ate at 5:30pm. But it was 6:30 before we got on the road, and 7:30 before we got home, well past their usual bath time. However, I knew that with the half-nap they got on the car ride there, they would sleep some more on the way home (my kids all love to sleep in the car).

Which they did. When we got home, I immediately started the baths and gave them all back-to-back-to-back. Each kid sat in the bathroom half dressed while waiting for the others. I even read Goodnight Moon (nice and short!) with all 3 together. There were no meltdowns, and everyone promptly fell asleep when they got in bed at 8:10pm.

I don’t plan to do this often, but it’s nice to know that I could if required for something special. And it’s all thanks to such a well-defined bedtime routine.

lunchldyd is mom to 2.5yo b/g twins and their almost-5yo sister. She is also a part-time teacher.

 

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Labour Bag Essentials – For Twins

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Categories Infants, Lists, Organization, PregnancyTags , , , 6 Comments

I originally posted this on my own blog after finally finding all my lists and lists of baby notes I made when I was pregnant. I decided to document this list in the hopes that it might be useful to other mommies out there. 

With twins, your chances of going into premature labour rises considerably. So once you reach the seven-month milestone, it might be a good idea to pack your hospital bag and have it ready to go at a moment’s notice. Here’s a list of the items you will need before, during and after delivery for both you and your newborn babies.

Paperwork

Get a file together with written dividers, giving you quick access to the exact paperwork you need This will not only make it fast and easy for you, but also for your partner while you have your hands full with the babies. Paperwork could include any or all of the following;

files

  • Your Id book
  • Hospital Registration Forms
  • Medical Aid card
  • Medical Aid Pre-authorization papers
  • Medical Aid Beneficiary addition papers for both babies
  • Multiple copies of your birthing plan
  • A page with your baby’s names and correct spelling
  • List of people to call

Also leave space for any paperwork you receive from the doctors, hospital, specialists, etc. This could include bills, prescriptions, birth certificates, etc.

Entertainment

This is not only for the hours you will spend in-between feedings and not being able to sleep but also for your partner’s sanity while you rest or feed your little ones. Remember to include chargers for all electronic devices even if they claim to last for days.

entertainment

  • Phone
  • Camera
  • IPad / E-Reader
  • Magazines
  • Novels
  • Baby/Parenting Books

Soothing Items

We all have those specific items that no matter what’s going on, will just take us to our happy place. Take things that will sooth you in the event of both a natural and a C-section birth.

soothing

  • Music
  • Your Favourite Snacks and Drinks
  • A picture of your kids at home (if applicable)
  • Lip Balm
  • Your favourite scented lotion
  • A soft pillow from home

Mommy’s Toiletries

With all the changes in your life, the best thing to do is to make yourself feel as comfortable as possible. Pack mini-versions of all your toiletries to save space, as you will only need a couple of days’ worth. Think of all the toiletries you use on a daily basis.

mommy toiletries

  • Facecloth
  • Toothbrush and Toothpaste
  • Shampoo and Conditioner
  • Shower Gel and Soap
  • Hairbrush, Hair Elastics and Clips
  • Lotion, Face cream, Hand cream
  • Deodorant and Underarm
  • Contact Lenses, Spectacles and Contact solution
  • Sanitary Pads for after the delivery
  • Nipple Cream and Disposable Breast Pads
  • Nail file
  • Hair dryer
  • An extra towel
  • A clock/watch to time contractions (and later for timing breastfeeding sessions)
  • Important medication, especially if you have a serious condition (make sure you inform/alert your doctor and the hospital staff)

Mommy’s Hospital clothes

The maternity ward is definitely not a fashion show, so this is the one time where you can put comfort first. Your body will be sore from both natural birth or C-section birth and the looser and lighter the clothing, the better.

HA0478 - Journey Planning. Lifestyle Images Portraying The Three Main Elements Of A Journey: Planning The Route, Travelling And Reaching Destination.

  • T-Shirts
  • Stretch Pants
  • Socks
  • Slippers
  • Flip-Flops for the shower
  • A Robe
  • Open-front pajamas for breastfeeding
  • Nursing Bra’s
  • Comfortable Underwear (High-waisted underwear in case of C-Section births)
  • Going home outfit
    • Keep it comfortable and pack a jacket and tekkies for incase.
    • You will still have a belly (it unfortunately doesn’t disappear overnight), so stick to your maternity wear.

Baby’s Toiletries

Most baby toiletries also come in convenient mini versions, so even though you might have an entire cupboard with huge 1litre bottles of baby shampoo at home, opt for the smaller versions in hospital to save space and make the trip to the nursery easier.

With twins, it’s only really the diapers, wipes and cotton balls that need to be doubled.

baby toiletries

  • +- 40 Diapers / per baby (2 large newborn packs)
    • With twins it’s important to pack both premature and newborn nappies due to the risk of premature labour.
  • 2 x Baby wipes (for sensitive skin)
  • Baby Bum Cream
  • 1 large pack Cotton Balls
  • Nail Clippers and/or Emery Board
  • Surgical Spirits (for navel care)
  • Mild Baby Soap
  • Baby Shampoo
  • Baby Powder
  • Baby Oil
  • Baby Lotion (preferably aqueous cream, fragrance free)
  • 4 or 5 baby towels (a hooded towel works best)
  • Petroleum jelly (to help remove meconium from baby’s bum)
  • 4 or more burp cloths
  • Infant colic drops
  • Infant saline nose drops

Baby’s Hospital Clothes and Gear

This is where packing for twins becomes a little different than packing for one baby.

So for those having only one baby, just halve what’s in this list.

baby clothing

  • 8 long-sleeved baby grows
  • 8 body vests (long- or short-sleeved according to season)
  • 8 pairs of baby socks (even in summer)
  • 2 beanies or warm baby hats (a baby can lose a lot of heat through his/her head)
  • 2 warm baby jackets or jerseys
  • 4 pre-mature long-sleeved baby grows
  • 4 pre-mature body vests (long- or short-sleeved according to season)
  • 6 receiving blankets
  • 2 warm baby blankets
  • 2 pacificiers/dummies (optional)
  • 2 newborn bottles + small tin of formula (even if you don’t plan to bottle feed, keep something ready as a backup)
  • Breast Pump and Accessories (if applicable)
  • Nursing Pillow
  • In case of planned bottle feeding
    • 4 or more bottles
    • 2 tins Formula
    • Bottle brush and detergent
    • Sterilizing equipment
    • Formula powder holder
    • Bibs
  • 2 Car Seats
    • Install the car seats before-hand, ensuring you know how to use them before placing baby in the seat.

Packing for your Partner

With all the hours of waiting and worrying about you and your newborn babies, it might be a nice touch to pack some essentials for your partner.

  • Toothbrush
  • Slippers
  • Extra Clothing (incase the babies mess on him)
  • Jacket
  • Snacks and Drinks
  • Money for the vending machine
  • Magazines
  • etc.

Nice to Have’s

These are certainly no necessary but might come in handy.

  • Spare cash and Change for vending machines, gift-store runs, etc.
  • Extra Bag for all those hospital goodies and gifts from family and friends
  • Journal and pen to jot down notes and questions for the doctors or to record feeding times and other details of your babies.

These items will help to make your hospital stay as comfortable as possible. Packing all the above items will also have you fully equipped for the first few days with your newborn babies. Some of these items could also be obtained from your hospital pharmacy, but do keep in mind that they run office hours before relying on that fact.

Each maternity ward have their own preferred list of necessities for you and your baby, so be sure to check with them before finalising your packing.

Christine is a first time mommy to two beautiful 17 month old twin boys that have recently started walking and are now running in all directions. She’s wife to her high-school sweetheart – the man of her dreams and also a full-time software/web developer in the financial industry.
She mostly blogs about their experiences with the twins in their daily lives adding some tips and tricks they learnt along the way.

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A Week of Parenting Solo

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Categories Feeling Overwhelmed, Household and Family Management, Lifestyle, Organization, Parenting, Preschoolers, Routines, SAHM, Single Parenting, Time Management, Toddlers, Working4 Comments

Last month my husband left on an impromptu work trip for a week. None of us were happy about it: me because he was ditching me with 3 kids to deal with alone, and him because he hates to fly. Because of that reason, he’s actively sought to delegate traveling to others, and therefore hasn’t had to fly for work since the beginning of his career. We’ve never had to figure out the logistics of 3 children with him out of town. And actually I was kind of annoyed because where is my nice weeklong “business trip”? Nice hotel room all to myself, no kids’ needs to fulfill, maybe even a drink or two at a quiet dinner…

But anyway, it needed to be done, so on short notice I planned it out. Preschool doesn’t open early enough for me drop Big Sis off before work, so I took her with her siblings to Grandma’s and dropped her off at school after picking them all up after work. My mom wasn’t so thrilled about this arrangement either; two toddlers are quite enough for her to manage! But I convinced her that Big Sis would be on her best behavior, and after all it was only for a few days, for only 3 hours. Plus, since the other option of having the in-laws pick her up and take her to school was rejected by Big Sis, Grandma was my only hope.

I would get all the kids’ clothes ready the night before, breakfast/snacks laid out, wake up a little earlier to make sure I get myself completely ready before getting the kids up, and the plan was set. Daddy isn’t usually around for dinner or bedtime, so nothing else would have to change.

But a smooth week was not in the cards for me. Late Sunday evening I checked the baby monitor one last time before going to bed and found Baby Boy sitting up next to a big dark spot… which turned out to be a giant pool of vomit. Surprisingly, he hadn’t cried, maybe he was still half asleep or still trying to figure out what had happened. So I had to give him another bath, run a load of bedding in the laundry, and settle both him and his twin (with whom he shares his room) back down to sleep. We repeated this two more times throughout the night.

The next morning I was feeling nauseous myself, partly from not sleeping very much the night before. Got all the kids to Grandma’s, struggled through my two classes, and picked them up only to find out that both twins had vomited their morning milk shortly after arriving, and Baby Girl had no clothes to wear. Somehow we had all picked up a stomach virus, including my husband, who was enjoying his time away by shivering alone in his hotel room. (Which, to be very honest, made me feel better about him leaving me with sick kids.)

We rounded out the week with some work anxieties: I was almost late to a meeting for which my principal specifically emailed everyone to be on time, I had to refuse to substitute for another teacher even though it was my turn, and I thought maybe my contract may be in question (it wasn’t really).

Goodness! I have to say, hats off to all the single parents out there.

lunchldyd is a part-time teacher and mom to 29mo b/g twins and their almost-5yo sister. She’s glad her husband is back to taking over his morning duties.

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House Monkey: Meet Mike, Entrepreneur and Dad of Twins Plus Two

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Categories Balance, Entrepreneurship, House Monkey, Meet the MoM, WorkingTags 4 Comments

My wife Donna and I are parents of twins plus two. In her first blog she mentioned we have full time jobs and we are building a business together to introduce our organizing solution (called “House Monkey”) to busy families. I might be one of a few males here in the HDYDI community, but I hope you find my side of the journey equally interesting.

Learn how Mike, a dad of four, is working with his wife to turn an idea into a business.

How House Monkey Emerged — Mike’s perspective

Even before we had children we were busy. We both had demanding careers. We were getting married and we had just moved into our home. As you know, the home has a life of its own. Things have to get done. Things have to be fixed and Donna’s favorite, things have to be put away. Translated: the pool has algae; the gate looks like crap; the shovels and hose need to be put away. Besides these recurring fire alarms are the scheduled priorities: vacuum the pool; change the air filter in the heater; shut off the water to the hoses outside. Once we had the children, the “simple” list became a book. Now with twin girls that can walk & talk, volumes!

We needed a tool to:

  • Keep track of things to be done,
  • Get help getting them done,
  • Make sure they were done,
  • Reward the “team players” on allowance day.

Multiple calendars, project planning software, and bingo markers weren’t keeping up as life moved away from our front door. We knew we needed something, but “something” was a black hole of thoughts.

One day the aha moment came. It was a simple thought. We’ve all had it: the “I wish I had that when I was growing up” moment. (Cup holders in the back of the car!) Luckily technology was advanced enough to help get it to where we need it to be. House Monkey became less of a concept and more of a “something”.

House Monkey Today

The last two weeks have been very busy as we have been working diligently towards a summer deliverable for this resource. Donna does the front end part of the business. It’s only appropriate my beautiful wife builds the components (the screens and the way you move around the app) which everyone will see. I work on the back end portions of the business, the stuff no one sees!

Over the last two weeks we have taken delivery of upgrades to our technology, specifically for House Monkey software to organize our development efforts, a server to build a test environment which will be the sandbox in which House Monkey will take shape.

Being so busy, and staying up so late on top of “everything else” has been a challenge recently. Sleep and sanity have definitely been traded in for long hours.

On top of taking delivery for all these technical components, the spring sports season is ramping up. My one daughter had her first horse show. I was very proud of her as she took second place in her first time riding without a spotter. The spring lacrosse season is also starting. My son, the weed, needs all new equipment. Not only a drain on time, as the only lacrosse store is 45 minutes away, but also a large drain on the wallet. With spring comes the beginning of the golf season with outdoor lessons, driving range time and (ugh) tee times.

The only sport winding down is my daughter’s swim season. She swims all year, but her last meet for the winter season was this past weekend. We still need to take her to the pool 3 times a week, but at least the weekends have been freed from long meets in HOT indoor pools. (Don’t tell her I said that, I try to be the dad that smiles… and silently sweats!)

Late winter and early spring have also introduced us to the mid-year slide with school work not getting the proper attention. Donna and I called a “family meeting” recently. We sat them down and explained that this is not ok. It’s their only job. (I think we went on and on a little about how we grew up and what we didn’t have blah blah.)

The hardest part about this time of year is motivating each one. One responds to straightforward discipline (take away TV and the iPad), another could care less about those usual tactics, and we have to take away activities. I find this more challenging because we also believe that when you make a commitment to a team, you need to be there. The third is easy: sit him down and have a “talking to” which will be followed by a “come to Jesus” discussion. The fourth… Oh boy the fourth, nothing seems to work! This is a parenting challenge. We think all of these things could work, but it just takes longer with the 4th. He’s definitely on his own schedule. The apathetic attitude is just frustrating.

The fun part of the last two weeks was St. Patrick’s Day. This is a national holiday in my book and we celebrate it. Irish pub songs start the day on the stereo for wake-up and breakfast. Donna gets the corned beef (60+ pounds this year) in the oven early and it cooks all day filling the house with the scent of St. Paddy’s Day. Friends start coming by around 5:00 pm even though we don’t serve until 6:00 pm…until people stop eating.

Of course there are several hops-based beverages available. The house runs like a diner with people coming and going all night. This year we had nearly 60 people come by with about 30 kids. Needless to say, St. Patrick’s Day is a lot of work but it is worth it because it has become a family tradition. It honors the memory of my father and all he stood for (beyond his Irish heritage). My dad placed a lot of value on family and friendships. He was always the last one to leave an event. We hope to pass down this appreciation of friends and family to our children.

The last two weeks (or years — whichever) have left Donna and I very little time to connect. It was bad, but lately it just seems harder. When the kids were younger and not so involved in everything, it seemed easier. We would book “dates” once a month, even if it were just something very simple when money was tight.

Now, it’s so much harder. Every weekend is filled with something. Swim meets, horse events, lacrosse games, golf games, football games, musical concerts, talent shows…. The list goes on, right? So we made a decision for something big. We booked a 6 day getaway for our 15 year anniversary.

We asked my in-laws to help out and that was it. We booked it!

So, leaving right after House Monkey launches this summer is something we will look forward to. It may take as much planning as the Normandy Invasion, but by God we need some time together that doesn’t include talking about work or the kids!

Can anyone relate?

Linked at

The Twinkle Diaries
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House Monkey: How Parents of Twins Plus Two Are Helping Families Get Organized

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Categories Balance, Entrepreneurship, House Monkey, How Do The Moms Do It5 Comments

My husband Mike and I are parents of twins plus two. We both have a full-time jobs as co-owners and division heads of a thriving scientific agency (where we service pharmaceutical clients). That might make it sound like our plates are full, but we’re also building up a business together to market our organizing solution (called “House Monkey”) to busy families. We were asked to join the HDYDI community to share the process of developing House Monkey as it happens. As a mom of 4 children aged 11, 10, 7, & 7, every day seems like an uphill battle (but we moms of multiples know that rewards on the top of that hill are sweeter).

Amazing story! Donna and Mike were inspired by their busy family to put their professional skills to work to create a fun app to help everyone in the family stay on top of household responsibilities.

Here is our story…

Our family (and the House Monkey idea) grew, starting in 2007

I have a dual BS in Biology and Chemistry and a Masters degree in Microbiology.  I worked in Pharmaceuticals from career inception and moved up through the ranks quickly.  Then I had my first child. When I held that little baby in my hands, I knew I couldn’t go back to my career life, which had me on a plane 3-4 times a week.  Instead, I started a consulting business.

I had another kid and my consulting business started growing. Then I got pregnant… with twins. We were about to have GIRL twins to add to our 2 boys.  I was nervous because I had issues with my previous pregnancies: I was diabetic with my first and second pregnancy involved 3 months of bed-rest for near pre-eclampsia.

This is the point where my story usually sounds different that that of other Moms of Multiples. I had my strongest and easiest pregnancy with the twins!  I “ran”, or rather jogged then down to a power walk, up through the last day.  At 40 weeks and 1 day, I delivered set of twins weighing in at a 7 and a 7.5 pound.

I breastfed my first 2 children for 12 months. I was gung ho that I could do that with twins… until I tried. It was a nightmare. Now I was managing a small business, had 2 toddlers (the 4 kids were born within 4 years), and was trying to breastfeed!  Both my husband and I were deeply sleep deprived.  I had to give in and ask him to feed with bottles in middle of the night.  I managed the day feeding for only 6 months.  I finally gave into the daily logistical difficulties and justified this to myself with “Donna Math” 6 months x 2 twins = 12 months!

Then all the house craziness happened. The dryer broke, and we couldn’t find the warranty, even though we knew it was under warranty. We had bought it right before the twins were born. Then the air conditioner broke!  It was one house-related nightmare after another… with twin baby girls and two toddlers.

That was 6 years ago!  We knew back then there had to be a better way, but didn’t have time or resources to even begin to think about a solution.  The first few years with the twins were all about survival!

The House Monkey idea lingered through 2011

When the twins were 4, life issues happened.  My husband was laid off.  He worked in technology (and had been running the IT for my business on the side).  It was at this point that the boys were starting to become active at school and sports.  Homework needed to be attended to, rides to practices… and the girls were still home needing attention.

So we made a huge decision: to put all our eggs in one basket and have him join my business so that we could better manage our kids.

It was a hard decision because our lifestyle was definitely going to change.  We had one thing in our lives that we would not even consider: selling our house.  Mike and I had built it from the ground up and loved it, but more importantly staying in our town was critical.  Our first son has a life-threatening airborne allergy to peanuts.  His allergy was so severe that one day went into a full anaphylaxis walking past a garbage can that had a bag of peanuts in it.  We had just finished establishing guidelines in our town to have him attend school in a safe manner. Leaving our town was non-negotiable.

Mike joined the business and played (and still plays) an extremely active role as a parent.  We struggled the first year to bring the technology (Mike’s area of expertise) to the pharma consulting work I was doing, but we had a couple of good ideas that helped the business grow marginally.  How our marriage survived that first year is amazing.  Admittedly there was much “loud talking” during that “work-life” merge.  I chalked marital survival up to a shared mutual dedication to our vows!

The big “C” hit in 2012

2012 came in with a bang.  I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  I felt very blessed to find it so early.

I had started “dabbling” in triathlons.  Yes it sounds counter-intuitive when one is so busy, but honestly having a “reason” to go to the gym when the kids went down at night was a saving grace for me both mentally and physically after working and managing 4 kids all day long.

The last month of training before a race, I was working out 6 days a week and eating properly but put on 30 pounds!  Sparing you the intricate details, let me tell you: be your own healthcare advocate.  My blood levels were all normal, and doctors wanted me to wait.  I insisted on a biopsy for this lump in my throat which, it turned, was indeed cancerous.  I did well, but had to stay in the hospital for a week for a non-planned visit due to post-surgery side effects.

Most of my clients did not know I was sick so the business had to keep running.  The kids were upset.  We were very upfront and matter of fact with them.  My chances of full survival and healing were well over 90% (thyroid cancer is tiny pimple of the cancer world- highly curable) but still we weren’t having them visit me in a head and neck cancer floor.  It was too traumatic, my poor roommate didn’t have an eyeball!

Here was Mike running back and forth to a hospital 1.5 hours away to care for me and to go over the day-to-day tasks of the business.

The kids??? Well let’s just say I thank God for my parents. They stayed at my house during the week while the children went to school. The kids bounced from place to place on the weekends with my two besties LC and JD.  I can’t neglect my mother-in-law, who picked me up at discharge because my husband and parents had caught colds.

What do you think got de-prioritized in 2012? Yes, the house!  Upkeep and maintenance was non-existent again.

Building one idea in 2013

While House Monkey was still less a concept and more an idea that “someone should build something for house organization”, we remained focused on our existing business. The technology and science finally merged together into a beautiful product.  It was a rough year building our concept from the ground up.

On the family side, the kids were becoming really, really active.  The twins were 6 and in school full time. The boys were just into everything.  Between the business and the growing needs of the family, with little personalities jetting out from everywhere, our house was one big stress ball. This led to an extreme lack of organization for our house, always the lowest priority!

How House Monkey finally came to fruition in Fall 2014

While I was focused on our technology-based product for our pharma clients, Mike had decided to revisit the house disorganization problem we identified when the twins were born and had progressively become worse over the years.  He approached me with an idea to build this app, thinking it could be a way to manage an active house busy and full of life. I added on the organizational piece.

It became our night time job, filled with many white board sketches before the full concept of “House Monkey” was born!  We decided to put the House Monkey idea on Kickstarter and see what happened.  Not only was this a great way to fundraise to build House Monkey, but interest in Kickstarter would also show us if other busy houses needed something better too.

Don’t let anyone tell you running a crowd-funding campaign is easy!  It was tons of work and involved lots of follow up with people both online and offline.

In essence we were working full time with pharma clients during the day (a job I love with great clients!), caring for the kids when they got home from school until bedtime, and going back to idea stream and plan out House Monkey at night.

We are pleased to say we received a wonderful Christmas gift on December 24th, 2014: House Monkey was financed on Kickstarter!

How do we do it? Where do we find the time?

All this is no small challenge. My husband and I each have two full time jobs, all while balancing our 4 very active children. Their sports range from golf to football and they have several sports and activities in between. Did I mention that Mike is the president of the EMS squad in our town and rides on the ambulance 2-3 nights a week? I was a founder and now sit on the executive committee for the women’s group at our church.

So when a blog named How Do You Do It? contacted me and asked “how are you going to do it?” my answer was “I have no idea how I’m going to do it”! The flood gates are wide open for both our pharma-based business and the House Monkey idea all at once. Plus, we are committed to not letting the businesses get in the way of our family time!

Over the next few months, Mike and I will be sharing our progress and challenges in building this organizational solution for busy families.  We will be focused on 5 key topics:

  • House Monkey App Development: What are the updates, key challenges, and wins in building this resource
  • Parenting: Managing 4 kids with 4 different sets of priorities and interests
  • Marriage: Making it work at work, at home, and as a couple
  • Trade-offs: What stays and what goes at both work and home
  • “What the kids say”: How does running two separate businesses impact the kids?

Our intention is that progress will be reported once a month from each of us….. once from Mike’s perspective as a dad, husband, and business owner and once a month from my perspective as a mom, wife, and business owner.  We hope our intention comes to fruition, but if not, we hope you understand why!

We look forward to reporting on this journey and hope that as we try and find our way, you find some “golden nuggets” that apply to your journey and help you find a “way to do it” as well!

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Managing the Time Change

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Categories Parenting, Routines, SleepTags 4 Comments

(This post was originally published on our local Mothers of Multiples blog site.)

As a mother of twins, my number one piece of advice to new MoMs is to get their babies on a schedule…the SAME schedule. It was that piece of advice that saved my sanity when my girls were infants, and I’ve continued to be very schedule-oriented since.

With the clock being so central to our lives, the thought of the time change twice a year sends my stomach into knots.  While I dread changing our clock every few months, [KNOCK ON WOOD!] our girls have always adjusted to the new time within a few days, and it’s never been quite as bad as I rehearsed in my mind.

I am posting an excerpt I read from a sleep specialist, as to how to manage your children’s schedules through the time change.


Managing the Time Change: A day-by-day plan for transitioning your child's schedule to account for Daylight Saving changes.

In the spring, the clock is moved forward an hour, so we lose an hour.  For the adult and teenager, this typically means losing an hour of sleep.  When we get up on Monday morning at 6am, we feel tired because  our internal clock says it is 5am.  It can take some individuals weeks to feel rested again in the morning.

Although the time change officially takes place on a Saturday night, for the child it actually begins the next evening on Sunday.  The parent should stick with the “old time” all day Sunday for the child’s nap.  Then on Sunday evening, the parent should move to the “new time”.

There is good news for the parents of young children who wake too early: often the younger child starts sleeping later in the morning.  For the child who has been going to bed at 7pm and rising at 6am, this is the perfect opportunity for the parent to change the child’s sleep schedule if a 7am rise time is desired. The parent must be ready, however, right from the first night after the time change: The parent must consistently put the child to bed at 8pm, make the child’s room very dark, and add white noise to the room (if there is a significant noise in the home in the morning from others getting up).

When a child has been going to bed at 8pm and rising at 7am, he is likely to appear wide awake on Sunday night after the time change at 8pm because his internal clock says it is only 7pm.  The parent should consider allowing him to stay up until 8:45 – 9pm for 1 to 3 nights.  During this time, the parent may have to awaken the child in the morning between 7 and 7:30am if the parent wants the child to start going to bed at night again by 8pm.

Most children are back on schedule within 10 – 14 days if the parent is consistent.


What are your tips and tricks for managing the time change?  Wishing us all a smooth transition over the next week!!!

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

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Twinfant Tuesday: Moms Need Food, too!

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Categories Household and Family Management, Parenting, Twinfant TuesdayTags 1 Comment

 

A mother expecting twins recently asked on the San Antonio Mother’s of Multiples FB page how the moms fed themselves after the babies were born. What a great question because we are often more concerned with how they will be fed and we forget that we need to eat, too. But, a mom (and dad) can get very run-down if he or she is not sleeping AND not eating well. Sure, we can make do for a while, but being the best parent you can be (even in those crazy first weeks and months) means taking care of your needs, too

Feeding the MomWhen my twins Marc and Maddie were born, we were living far away from our families and we didn’t know our neighbors every well. I think we had two meals brought over by acquaintances from our church. I remember being hungry, tired and cranky a lot of the time. I was trying to lose the baby weight, but I would go for what was quick and available rather than what was the best choice nutritiously.

We were blessed that my mom and my mother-in-law stayed four weeks each, but honestly, I don’t remember them cooking too much because we were all consumed with our premie babies ( I was pumping and everyone else was taking turns feeding them). I do remember that mom made me some excellent salmon patties and individually froze them so that I could take one out of the freezer for lunch after she left. I also remember my 12 year old “mothers helper” learning how to put together lasagna while I shouted out instructions while walking a cranky baby. (Don’t ask me why I decided that I would make lasagna with newborn twins!)

But, leave it to the mother’s of multiples to have some ideas to help new moms and moms-to-be feed themselves AND their families, especially during those weeks (months!) of sleep deprivation and crazy schedules.

Here are five ideas to get YOU fed after you’ve had the babies:

  1. If you are nursing and/or pumping you’ll be HUNGRY. I remember making myself a fried egg almost every night sometime after the midnight feed. You’re burning an extra 600 calories (which is great for losing the baby weight) but you’ll get HUNGRY. Don’t try to diet during this time to get into those pre-pregnancy jeans. EAT MAMA EAT. But, eat the right things: lots of protein, fruits and veggies.
  2. Make freezer meals or better yet, when someone wants to give you a shower suggest a freezer meal shower. Babies don’t need as much stuff as advertisers want you to think they need. BUT you need to EAT! When someone wants to know what you need, don’t be embarrassed to say, FOOD!
  3. Buy fruit and veggies trays. These are already cut up—saving you precious time—and you can munch on them throughout the day/week. This way you aren’t tempted to go for the unhealthy items beckoning from the pantry–especially when you are hungry but you are trying to soothe two (or more) upset babies.
  4. Make double batches of everything and freeze the extra servings. If you are making spaghetti sauce, stew, soup. . .whatever, make double the amount. Start doing this now while you are pregnant.
  5. Buy an electric pressure cooker. Meals can go from frozen to DONE in about 30 minutes. Soups take about 15 minutes. Really this is my go-to appliance when I need dinner on the table FAST. (And you can make extras and freeze another meal for later on.) Here’s a recipe for Beef Green Chili Stew that literally went from freezer to table in 12 minutes.

 

 

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Thoughts on Working Part-time

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Categories Attitude, Balance, Finances and Saving, Household and Family Management, Lifestyle, Mommy Issues, Organization, Parenting, Perspective, Preschoolers, Routines, SAHM, Toddlers, Working3 Comments

School started two weeks ago, and I’m ready to reflect on getting back to work part-time.

The first week was a little sketchy. I started getting random headaches, my eyes were irritated and red, and I was still pretty exhausted. I was worried that this part-time decision wasn’t going to help anything. But now that I have another week down, I’m feeling like I’m back in the groove. In fact, I’m extremely happy with my new schedule.

I’m up and in the shower at about 6am, out the door by 6:45, twins dropped off at my mom’s around 7am, and at school by 7:10. Not much different from our summer schedule, except I have to actually get dressed instead of wearing tank tops and shorts, and I don’t do breakfast for the kids. Two classes and three hours later, I pick up the twins, give them their snack in the car, and we go home to nap for two hours. This is when I get some downtime, do some of my own things, or take a nap myself. Big Sis sometimes gets picked up from preschool after lunch (I’ve been trying out continuing with a half-day for her), and we go on an afternoon outing, again no different from our summer schedule.

The BIG difference is that I am not so exhausted that I can’t enjoy being with my kids. It used to be that I was completely drained after a whole day of work, but now I get a little break while the twins nap, so I have time to recharge. I now have the time and patience to listen to 4yo stories, soothe 21mo boo-boos, and generally be present and engaged.

By no means is it easy though. The twins are only getting more active each day, and one of my children is a climber. I had never experienced this before (Big Sis is much more low key), so it is completely shocking to me. My boy, at 19m, vaulted his crib rails, landed on his feet, and took off running. He is climbing everything climbable: shelves, beds, TV stands, dollhouses, play kitchens, you name it. We don’t go to the library anymore because he will scale the shelves there. And not only is he interested in the climbing, he also likes to jump on the surfaces on which he’s climbed. So I will come out of the shower to see him balanced on his tiptoes at the edge of the armchair in the playroom, bouncing up and down with a big grin on his face. And when he sees me he’ll say, “Ta-Da!” (Don’t have a clue where he gets that from…) His twin isn’t so much into climbing, but she will find and eat any and all little bits off the floor. I’ve got to keep my eyes on her at all times to make sure she’s not ingesting nasty stuff. These kids sure know how to keep me on my toes. Therefore, I am much more convinced now that my mom would not be capable of entertaining and chasing them all day every day.

Another bonus to this part-time schedule? Surprisingly, I’ve gotten even more efficient. I thought that with three kids I was already very efficient. And I am– consolidated errands, organized outings, great time management skills. I routinely do all 3 baths and bedtimes in 30 minutes. But now that I’m only at work for less than 3 hours a day, I find myself planning even further ahead, making lists and crossing things out right away, not procrastinating on any work stuff. My lessons are prepared days in advance, and I have calendars marked for the entire school year for holidays and days that we’re on a different school schedule. I don’t dread going to work anymore; on the contrary, I think I’ve actually fallen back in love with my profession.

I’ve been feeling happier and more productive. I’ve had interest in reading again, and even planned the kids’ Halloween costumes already. I have energy to think ahead, and I look forward to weekends not just for no work, but to actively plan activities that include Daddy.

Even considering the financial sacrifice we’re making, I don’t see how there could be any better alternative to this. It’s like the other shoe has dropped, after so long of such conflicted emotions about doing this. I’m elated that I made the leap on this decision.

lunchldyd is a part-time teacher and full-time mother to 21mo b/g twins and their 4yo sister.

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