Surviving the Holidays with Young Children

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Categories Celebrations, Holidays, Organization, Parenting, Routines

From hdydi,com, where mothers of multiples tell it like it isMy boy/girl twins have just turned a year old. And they also have a Big Sis who’s 3.5. So our holidays have been adjusted to meet the needs of these kiddos. Here’s how we’re surviving:

Schedule Around Their Schedules

First and foremost, we plan events around the babies’ sleep schedules whenever possible. Thankfully, the family is well trained to our kids’ strict habits so this was not particularly difficult to arrange. We even had extended family visit during Thanksgiving week and most events went without a hitch. From the babies’ first birthday party right before, to New Years’ dinner next week, everything is timed so we disrupt the kids as little as possible.

For example, we opened Christmas gifts before dinner. That’s what we’ve done since Big Sis was a part of the picture. And we eat early. Which is fine because for Thanksgiving and Christmas everyone eats a late breakfast and no lunch or just a light lunch anyway. So, when dinner is over at 6:00 or 6:30, we hightail it out of there so we can rush through our bedtime routine and get them to bed at just about the same time as usual.

Nothing is good with cranky babies, so everyone does their best to accommodate.

Don’t Get Too Ambitious

There was a time when I would have loved creating handmade gifts for the holidays, go all out with decorations, prepare all kinds of goodies. But, since the arrival of our first child, our Christmas ramp-up has gotten more simple. Our Christmas tree has gotten smaller and smaller. We still get the good-smelling live tree, but it has now shrunk to the size of my 3yo. This way, I can spend just a half hour stringing lights and hanging ornaments, Big Sis can reach to help, and it still looks very festive.

I will admit, however, that I did undertake a bout of baking this year. Since I get two weeks winter break as a teacher, I’ve always done a lot of baking during this time of year. There are a couple of recipes that my family always asks for, and it’s really too time consuming to make batches and batches of cookies any other time. This year I continued with the baking tradition, but probably at only half of what I used to make.

Only Buy Online

For years I’ve shopping on Amazon for Christmas gifts. This year, I exclusively shopped there. Even if I had the inclination to circle for parking and fight the crowds, I no longer have the time. To work around naps and get the entire family ready and out the door is just not an undertaking I want, not for something so mundane as shopping.

I can’t think of anything better. Prices are just as good online, if not even lower than in stores, and everything arrives right on your doorstep, already boxed. No carrying gifts from the trunk, hiding purchases from the preschooler, surreptitiously unhiding and wrapping. And also, it’s pretty darned exciting to find boxes at the door every so often.

Prepare Early

I started working on the kids’ holiday outfits right after Halloween. It’s amazing how many coordinating pieces there is to find with 3 kids. Don’t forget the hairpieces, stockings, socks, and shoes! I did not have to scramble for any of them because I was already done by Thanksgiving! I do need to work on getting pictures taken early as well though. This year we did our usual Picture People at the mall on a weekend about 2 weeks before Christmas. Bad idea!

I made full use of Amazon’s wish lists. Since before Thanksgiving, I’d browse a little bit online every chance I had a free moment (in line somewhere, after the kids have gone to bed, hanging out at the inlaws’), and put together some stuff at different price ranges for the kids. Sent it out to the family, and picked off whatever was left over when it got close to Christmas. And I’d buy a little bit here and there, when I saw a sale, or when a gift idea struck me. So the gifts would trickle in and I’d wrap them when I had a free moment, so it never got overwhelming. But the key is definitely getting this all going by Thanksgiving.

Fight Off Illness

I’ve been battling a bad cold since before Thanksgiving. Don’t know what exactly is going on, but it may have even been a couple (few?) colds back-to-back. Achy, chills, sore throat, congestion. At some point it got so bad I lost my voice for 4 days.

Even with all the preparation, with 3 young children the stress of the holidays will still get you. I am doing all that I can to combat this. Sleep every chance I get, try to go with the flow more. I’ve always had the mentality that I would just power through illness. Which may have worked pre-children, or with only one child, but that tactic is no good against twin babies plus a preschooler. You just don’t get downtime unless you create it for yourself.

Ultimately, these holidays come only once a year. By the time next Christmas comes, our kids will be another year older. Treasure these moments, love on the kids, and try not only to survive but truly enjoy. Wishing you and your family the best of the holidays and a happy 2014!

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Twinfant Tuesday: Morning Routines

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Categories Household and Family Management, Infants, Organization, Parenting, Preschoolers, Routines, Time Management, Twinfant Tuesday1 Comment

I wanted to share with you my hectic morning routine, along with some things I’ve discovered that help to relieve the chaos.

First of all, our morning routine is timed down to the minute because the adults need every possible extra second of sleep. We prioritize sleep in this family, so anything not essential is never done at the expense of sleeping. I’m not actually complaining about sleep, because all our kids sleep through the night: lights out for the babies is between 6:30 and 7pm, for their sister at 8pm. I know it could be much worse, so we do highly value the sleep we get.

It also helps that I’ve never been the type to labor over my appearance every morning: never liked to wear much make up, always had a wash and wear hairstyle. And my job as a teacher doesn’t require wearing a suit or anything fancy, so it’s basic business casual attire and comfortable shoes.

However, that doesn’t mean mornings aren’t crazy around here anyway. With two adults and three kids to get out the door, it’s truly a coordinated effort. The secret to most of it is to have a solid routine and prep what I can the night before.

6:00        I wake up

6:20        I am showered and mostly dressed

6:30        Bottles prepped for the day

Breakfast heated

Pack snacks (if preschool’s serving something I don’t approve)

Grab packed lunch

Husband wakes up

Big Sis gets out of bed

6:45        Hair and makeup done

Big Sis dressed and hair done

Babies changed and loaded in car (by Husband)

6:50        Out the driveway

7:10        Arrive at Grandma’s

7:20        At work

Husband takes care of giving preschooler her breakfast while he showers and gets ready. He does his chores in the morning (like unloading the dishwasher and picking up dog poop) since he gets home so late at night, so Big Sis usually doesn’t get to school till after 8am, but they get to spend some time together in the mornings.

Some things that have helped shave minutes off our morning routine:

Formula mixing pitcher / Take & Toss sippy cups

This is a great invention! I have the Dr Brown one that holds 40oz, and it’s perfect for four 9oz bottles. No clumps, no foam, just a few presses of the handle and you get formula ready to pour. Similarly, the handheld battery-run ones are useful too if you’re only making one (or two) bottles.

When they are done with bottles (can’t wait!), I teach them to use these sippy cups. They’re just one solid top with a spout that snaps onto a cup, great for washing in the dishwasher. Also good for teaching babies to drink from a real cup, no tiny pieces to take apart or silicone to sanitize, and very inexpensive. In fact, when I need Big Sis not to spill, like if she wants to have warm milk while lying down in the morning, we still use these.

Laundry basket / hamper / large bag

This is a lifesaver for all the knick knacks that always seem to accompany babies everywhere they go. At least once a week I transport clean/dirty bedding, soiled/backup clothing, rotating toys, food/snacks, new diapers/wipes– anything I need to remember to take to Grandma’s I dump in this basket so in the morning Husband just needs to load it in the car.

Ditto for Big Sis’s preschool, except hers is a bag.

Light up clock

clockWhen I switched Big Sis to her toddler bed, I got her this clock to prevent her from getting up at all hours. I didn’t think it would work as well as it did! She never gets out of bed until this light turns green at 6:30am, and not having a barrage of toddler questions come at me when I’m getting ready in the morning is definitely a sanity saver. Bonus: it teaches time!

Footed pajamas / leg warmers

My babies always sleep in footed zip-up (never buttoned) pajamas when the weather turns cold. It’s perfect for not requiring blankets, and nice and cozy to put on right after baths. We don’t change them in the mornings. Grandma might change them if it gets too warm during the day, or if their outfits get soiled, but usually they’re in them until they get changed into the next one the following evening. Big Sis wore these right up until she was potty trained.

When it’s too warm for footy pajamas, I have a couple sets of baby leg warmers both at Grandma’s and at home to keep tender knees from getting raw from crawling while wearing cooler short or long-sleeve onesies.

A dedicated Grandma who lives five minutes from work

No amount of money can buy this one. If you’re lucky enough to have one of these like I am, things are exponentially easier. I am literally five minutes away from my babies during the day. I can even visit them if I wanted to, but I’ve never had to. My mom makes soups and stews for the babies that I blend into baby food that they LOVE. I never have to worry about them while I’m working, and the peace of mind that I have dropping them off is probably the most stabilizing aspect of my mornings.

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Twinfant Tuesday: Things We Live By

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Categories Development, Household and Family Management, Lifestyle, Napping, Overnight, Perspective, Routines, Sleep, Twinfant TuesdayTags , 3 Comments

Since we’re still in the midst of Year One, this is not so much a look back as a look at right now. I’ve thought long and hard about how I could write a post to enlighten others with the wisdom I’ve gained through raising my b/g twins to the age of 10 months.But it turns out that other than the fact I have two babies the same age at the same time, I haven’t had too much adversity to really overcome. We’ve been really lucky. There was a month or two when Husband first went back to work that I struggled with coordinating the babies’ sleeping and eating schedules, but to be perfectly honest I feel fortunate every single day. I look at my chubbas and life is good. My babies were full term 38-weekers, have had no health issues, and are inquisitive normally developing crawler/cruisers.

But, for what it’s worth, there are some things we live by, to keep these babies the healthy and happy (and from wreaking havoc).

Sleep

This is BY FAR the most important thing when raising young children, in my opinion. I attribute all my children’s great dispositions to regular, undisrupted sleep. We sacrifice a lot to give them extremely rigid times for sleeping.

When our first was a baby, Husband and I had many arguments about this. I always had to take her home at about 5:30/6:00pm for bath/bedtime. This meant I often took her home by myself while he stayed to finish dinner with his family. So we would either take two separate cars or someone would drop him off when they were done. It got so I earned myself the nickname Sleep Nazi from his family.

But I stuck to my guns and continued to insist on what I believe in. He didn’t really “get it” until he experienced some late afternoon meltdowns firsthand with the twins. Now, with clear results as my proof, no one dares contest my methods. Dinners are scheduled at 5pm with the knowledge that we will bail.

Schedule

It was a challenge getting twin babies on a concurrent schedule, so much that I call those few weeks psychological warfare. But the good thing is that I won, and our whole family is better for it. These babies eat and sleep by the clock. Starting with a daily wake up time: 6:30am. If they wake before that, they know to hang out in their cribs until 6:30 when their older sister is also allowed to get up. Then they’re changed and strapped in the car for the ride to Grandma’s. Bottles are given at 7 when they arrive. On weekends I’ll make french toast or bake some muffins while Daddy dresses them to come sit with us to eat as a family. Nap 8:30-10, meal at 11, nap 12:30-2:15, meal at 2:30, nap 5:45-6:15, bottle 7pm. These times are all very solid, except they’re starting to transition out of that last catnap. Some days they don’t need it, and I just move their bath and bottle up a half hour.

Obviously there are some great advantages to this kind of regularity. Days are predictable for them as well as for me. I know when we can schedule outings, we don’t usually have cranky babies, and all our kids know what is expected of them. All of them are scheduled to take their midday nap at the same time.

However it’s not a foolproof plan. Last summer when our family took a two week trip to Asia, all our schedules were completely thrown off. We discovered that our daughter lacked the ability to adjust quickly. She was pretty miserable for about a month. But that’s a trade off I would easily take for daily predictability. No way we would plan another international trip before the twins are much older anyway.

Space

Independence is a trait I value highly, therefore it shapes a lot of my parenting philosophy. I know “attachment parenting” is trending right now, and many of my friends seem to want to raise their children in that way, but I feel my laissez-faire approach gives my children the self-reliance and self-confidence that they will need early in life, and gives me the peace of mind not to have to worry about them.

My 3.5-year-old rarely throws a tantrum. She will always attempt to solve problems herself first before asking for help. She is fully independent on the potty, can get dressed, does not require assistance going to bed, and always throws her own clothes in the hamper. She is secure in our love for her and has no problems with separation. She’s so self assured I don’t even worry about her being bullied.

This training began when she was a baby, and we are doing the same with her siblings. We don’t jump the second a baby makes a noise. We give them time to try to figure things out. They don’t need to constantly be picked up or held. Our presence is not required for them to go to sleep, or for them to be happy.

Therefore, our 10-month-olds rarely cry. They don’t fuss. If they take a small tumble, they will look to us for reassurance, and then they go right back to playing. When I take them out in their double stroller, they just sit side by side checking things out. They have easy smiles and aren’t afraid of strangers. I am always getting compliments on how well behaved they are.

Luckily our house has the layout to allow us to gate off a playroom for the kids. Space for them to roam and explore. Space to test their limits relatively safely. Space to be confined while Mama does her mama-things.

But the space kids need is much more than physical.

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Taking Back Our Weekends

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Categories Attitude, Balance, Family, Organization, Parenting, Preschoolers, Routines, Time Management4 Comments

So this is what it feels like to be a full-time working mom of three. My posts have been few and far between lately… because working has been seriously kicking my ass.

With a three-year-old and two ten-month-olds, attempting to do well at another job sometimes is just. too. much. I am thoroughly exhausted most of the time, both physically and mentally. Teaching 120 high school freshmen is both mentally and emotionally demanding. I am “on” every single moment of every single class period, and I honestly think it’s just as difficult as my first job as a mommy. I am flat out drained at the end of each day. And I usually don’t get help with bath/bedtime, so there is no reprieve for me until 8pm, when all the kids are down. But by then there is no energy left for anything else either.

Which is why we’ve been using our weekends as our catch-all. Laundry gets done on weekends, mail gets read on weekends, bills get paid on weekends, grandparents get visited on weekends, grocery gets bought on weekends, chores and errands and trips to the library and keeping in touch with friends. It was getting so that our weekends were busier than our weekdays. It was getting so that any time we had for a breather we were using as down-time. Much needed time to rejuvenate, to relax, to unwind.

But I started noticing that our kids were getting left to fend for themselves. Of course they were fed and cared for, and their physical needs were met, but beyond that we just had nothing left to give. With time at such a premium, we found ourselves arguing about how it should get allotted to each grandparent, how much of our weekends we could devote to any activities, and just to complicate things even further, we still had to account for all that baby-napping we have going on. It’s just really been stressful.

One day I had an epiphany. I don’t want to live my life this way. I don’t want it to be forgotten in a whirlwind of running here and rushing there. I want to spend it together, as a family, enjoying each other’s company, making memories. My children will never be this age again. Our lives will never be here again. I want to cherish our weekends.

So I sat down with Husband and had a serious conversation about how we could rethink the use of our time. By no means are we any less busy, and our time-budget issues haven’t all been magically resolved, but our mentality has since changed. We are now committed to spending quality time together, regardless of what we’re doing. We are going to be present, in the moment, for our children and our family. We do not allow ourselves to hide in another room surfing our iPhones while our children are awake. We eat together, as a family. No electronic devices during mealtime. Whenever possible, we gate ourselves in with our kids to roll around, crawl, jump, tickle, get slobbered on, and giggle with them in the playroom.

What a wonderful way to de-stress.

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(Un)Foodie Friday: What I’ve Learned from a Lack of Family Dinners

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Categories Childcare, Feeding Older Children, Foodie Fridays, Parenting, RoutinesTags , 2 Comments

My daughters attend a YMCA after school program located at their public elementary school. At the end of the school day, when the other kids rush off to their parents, my girls and their friends head over to the school cafeteria to check into after school care. Well, this year, their teacher often lets them help around the classroom with her daughter, M’s best friend, so my twins can avoid the check-in chaos in the cafeteria.

(Un)Foodie Friday: What I've Learned from a Lack of  Family Dinners from hdydi.com
Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks

New this year, they’ve started offering children dinner at 5:30. The kids who are still there are fed food from the next day’s school lunch. It’s a win-win situation. The school’s food doesn’t go to waste and the after school kids don’t get crabby from hunger.

When I picked up J and M on their first day of second grade, I was surprised to learn that they had already eaten. Part of me was sad that we wouldn’t have our family dinner together. The lack of family dinner went against one of my core parenting philosophies. I was miffed not to have the opportunity to assure my children a homemade meal in which every ingredient was high quality and nutritious.

It took me less than a week to fall in love with dinner at the Y. We suddenly have an extra hour or more together in the evenings. Instead of a mad rush to make and eat dinner, check homework, and get ready for bed between 6:30 and 8:30, we have time to talk and play between the homework check and bedtime routine. Instead of hungry, grumpy kids who haven’t had a meal in nearly 7 hours, I have happy, energetic little girls bursting with news from their day.

We get home and there’s no sense of urgency. Once the girls put their backpacks away, our time is our own. One night this week, J sat down with her knitting and phoned her grandmother while M and I read, snuggled up on the couch. Another evening, M entertained us with a high energy 45-minute rendition of Feliz Navidad, switching between a hairbrush and a remote control for her microphone and her sister’s head and mine for percussion. Last night, M spent an hour telling me, in great detail, all about her PE lesson, while J played with our cats, drew ducks and swans, and worked on some optional math homework. I can’t remember the last time M told a complete story on a weekday, in her own way without me trying to rush her along.

There’s been a lot more laughter in our house since the school year began. There’s been a lot more singing and dancing on weeknights. My house is cleaner than it’s been in a long time; I can fold laundry and dust while I’m talking to my daughters. I now wait until they’re in bed to eat my own dinner.

Providing excellent nutrition to my children has always been high on my list of priorities, but I’m now reevaluating those priorities. Nutrition is important, of course, but the school lunches aren’t awful. Yes, they’re mass produced and include some processed foods, but there’s a large number of dishes produced from scratch, and they, like me, include a whole grain, protein and vegetable in every meal. Far more valuable is the time I spend with my kids, and spending it over food didn’t work nearly as well for us.

I say good riddance to weeknight family dinners, and welcome weeknight family time.

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

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What a Nightmare

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Categories Attitude, Balance, Childcare, Feeling Overwhelmed, Frustration, Mommy Issues, Perspective, Routines, SAHM, School, Sleep, Working5 Comments

Just a heads up. This is a post in which I vent.

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I am miserable. Everything I’ve been stressing about for the past several months is now starting to come to a head. I start work next week, with the official first day of school on the following Monday. With this deadline in mind, I feel like I’m fighting on too many fronts.

On Weaning

I’ve done the whole pump at work thing. Not fun. Not part of my return to work plan. But I’ve hit a slight snag trying to wean. 2.5 years ago with my first it wasn’t hard at all. I wanted badly to stop pumping, so I used the week off during Thanksgiving to step it down, and then Christmas break to finally end it. It was blissful to be finally done. But the point is that I was highly motivated and I had the time to make it a very gradual process. With the twins… I’m actually enjoying my pumping ritual. Pumping for two is not easy, and I am proud of having done it for this long. It just feels wrong to be letting it go. With that said, I still refuse to go back to pumping at work. So, starting about a month ago, I began lengthening the time between pumpings to 3 or 4 hours. I got a clogged duct. Well, the solution to a clogged duct is to pump MORE. So, in pain and running a fever, I went back to every 2 hours and finally it stopped hurting. Then I started over and to 3 hours, then 5, now 6… and guess what? I feel another clog coming on. I’ve never once experienced a clogged duct pumping for Toddler; this time is the 4th painful clog. Oy vey!

On Twins’ Sleep

For the last few days, we’ve been experiencing a sleep upheaval around here. The babies are not sleeping their normal times and durations, it’s affecting their feeding schedule, and they’ve been crying inconsolably much like they used to 4 or 5 months ago. I can only guess that they are transitioning to 2 naps now. It’s wreaking havoc on my nerves. This transition is probably never easy (I remember some headaches when Toddler went through them), but with twins it really is difficult x2. Maybe one is ready for a new schedule and the other isn’t? Maybe they both are but they need me to do something differently? I haven’t figured it out yet. I want to have them firmly set in the new routine before shipping them off to my mom’s, but right now it’s just survival.

On Twins’ Childcare Arrangement

So my mom decided she’d rather have me bring the babies to her house where she’s more comfortable instead of coming over to mine. I’m not altogether sure this is the best way to go, but it’s what she chose so we’ll have to work it out. Husband, his brother, and I spent quite a bit of time last weekend over there (while she was at our house watching the kids) clearing out, cleaning, assembling a second crib (Toddler’s will now be babies’), and installing a baby gate in the babies’ room. We are nowhere near done. The carpet needs to be cleaned, toys sanitized and organized, and all the baby paraphernalia x2 need to make their way over there. Did I mention this room is upstairs?

On Toddler’s Childcare Arrangement

Yesterday I registered Toddler for full day preschool nearby. It isn’t the most ideal place (Husband would say that I don’t think anywhere is good enough for her), but it will have to do. Mandarin is spoken, it’s close to home, the price isn’t too exorbitant, and the teachers seem caring enough. I paid for the month of August and gave a $250 deposit. Like all preschools, no discount for holidays (teachers get lots!) and 6 months’ attendance is required before the deposit can be refunded. No turning back now. She better like it there. I’m so scared what will happen when I have to leave her, or worse, at nap time. If she cries, I think I will cry too.

On Start of School Anxiety

After so long of being a SAHM, I truly dread going back to the frantic life of a working mom.  Not that life isn’t frantic staying at home with 3 young children, but in a different way I guess. I don’t look forward to waking up at the crack of dawn, getting myself ready as well as Toddler (before I didn’t really care how she looked to go to grandma’s house– she went in pajamas and unbrushed hair), remembering to get the day’s stuff ready for 2 babies, and rushing out the door to make it to school at 7am so I could get things done since I can’t stay after school. I also don’t have any appropriate clothes. Seriously, I haven’t worn real clothes or shoes for over a year. My wardrobe since the twins were born consists of camis and stretch pants. Before that I was wearing maternity clothes. And I literally have been only wearing a single pair of flip flops since the beginning of last summer. My shoes probably don’t even fit anymore. There is certainly some shopping to be done, which I don’t have time to do with 3 kids around.

On Other BS Stuff

Of course when one (several) bad things are happening, life has a way of throwing a bunch at us at the same time right? Our washing machine has been on the fritz for weeks. Buy a new one or attempt to repair it? No clue how to answer that question, but wondering every time I put in a load of laundry whether it will spin is not a way to live. I haven’t seen the dentist in at least 4 years. It’s probably time to go, but time and money and my fear of the dentist are all prominent factors here. Do baby clothes ever manage themselves? I find that I am frequently taking piles of outgrown clothes, some still with tags, and throwing them in huge storage bins. Here is another instance where two babies is definitely worse than one. I have had intermittent back pain ever since the twins were born. Keeping up with two mobile babies really does a number on me. Add in some stress and physical exertion and I start to feel like I’m breaking in half at the waist. You know what else? Our cleaning lady is vacationing for the month of August.

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Ok, I’m done. Whew! That feels a little bit better (not really). If anyone has any advice how to get through this, I could use it.

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Twinfant Tuesday: How I’m Rocking Year One (so far!)

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Categories Balance, Breastfeeding, Family, How Do The Moms Do It, Infants, Parenting, Parenting Twins, Routines, Sleep, Twinfant TuesdayTags , , , , , 5 Comments

I was having a completely awful day a few months ago. After I put Jack and Mara down for their nap, I grabbed my computer and googled “when do twins get easier” and “first year help with twins” and “getting through year one with twins.” Through that search, I found this website, and for the next hour I absorbed article after article, tip after tip. I felt as if I had found a whole new and amazing twin group of moms to talk to and get reassurance that yes, things will ultimately be okay. Because during the first year, that is so important to hear.

That being said —  ten (!) months in, I am so close to that amazing milestone – my twins will soon be turning one. Granted, I realize I titled this post “rocking”, and there have been many, many days early on (and many times even now!) when I was definitely not “rocking” anything and am really just surviving day-to-day, but overall, I think I got this whole twin thing down for now. At least at this age!

Here are some things, looking back, that have truly helped me so far this first year.

Remaining positive about having twins

I am sometimes taken aback about how negative some parents of twins can be about having twins. I have heard parents say they cant help to think what if their situation was different, or wishing out loud that had both children but at different times.  In a recent article I read on raising twins, a mother commented that she wished she only implanted one embryo, not two. How sad!

Trust me – I do understand that twins can be incredibly challenging, but not once have I ever let myself go down that line of destructive thinking. If I let myself worry about whether the grass would have been greener with a singleton, I would miss out on what I have. My babies are blessings and I truly believe twins (and multiples!) in general are incredible blessings. I think my positive attitude has had a lot to do with how well my first year is going.

Getting help in the beginning

A fellow twin friend told me that one of her friends (also a mother of twins twins) had cashed out her 401k to get round the clock help during the first few months. While that initially sounded like an extreme situation, I can relate to the importance – and almost the sheer desperation – of getting help.

I am fortunate that both of my parents are retired, and that my husbands entire family lives within ten minutes of us. I could not have gotten through the first three months without help from our families. My mother lived with us for the first three months, for four days out of the week. She cooked us delicious meals each day, did our food shopping and most importantly, helped take care of the twins. I could not have done it without her. My mother in law would stay with us the remaining three days those first three months. She was also a saint. My husband’s father and step mother have been truly amazing as well.  And now, almost a year later, they continue to be an incredible support for my husband and I.

I understand I was fortunate to have so much (free) help from family members. My advice for others expecting twins would be to enlist the help of friends, family, baby-sitters, neighbors, mother’s helpers – anyone willing to help. Take anything you can get! And don’t be shy about asking for what you need, whether it’s an hour alone to run errands, or someone to grab groceries for you, or even let you have a few hours of sleep. I remember my sister-in-law and her husband watched the twins for me for two hours when they were about two weeks old so I could get some sleep. I couldn’t have been more grateful.

Dry shampoo

Yes, I know this is silly but trust me, its been a huge help for me, especially this year. Using dry shampoo, I am able to extend my hair washing to three days. When you don’t have a ton of time to wash and style your hair, this comes in handy. I was able to catch up on more sleep, get my house in order, gleefully waste a few precious moments trolling for celebrity gossip on the internet, cleaning bottles – anything instead of washing my hair. Gross? Perhaps, yes. But sooo useful.

Being able to carry two babies at once

My husband recently watched Jack and Mara for an afternoon while I ran some errands. When I returned, I asked him what the hardest part was – feeding, changing, nap time. He replied, “carrying them up the stairs at the same time.”

Really? I guess by now its second nature to me. I scoop up each baby and cradle them under my arms, almost in the nursing “football position” but back up and stomach down. I’ve gotten incredibly comfortable with the dual-carry which has saved me from transporting two babies upstairs at different times. I am sure they will soon be too big to do this, but it has really helped me this first year.

The schedule

One of my all-time favorite bloggers, Pam Kocke, author of Pyjammy’s Triplets wrote one of the my favorite blog posts ever on raising multiples, delightfully entitled “Are three kids easier than one?” (Check it out here.)

In explaining why sometimes having multiples is easier than a singleton, Pam describes why having a strict schedule has enabled her to get all three of her boys on track. She also shares that her boys sleep better than a lot of singletons she knows.

Jack and Mara have slept through the night since month four or five, and continue to take two consistent naps a day. I take pride in this, and almost feel like it was a reversal of fate after a really super hard beginning four months. Jack and Mara sleep better than any of the singleton babies I know around the same age. Why? We have been adamant about keeping them on a schedule. I NEED that hour or two during the day to myself. Its my sanity. The babies now know when its nap time and bed time. I don’t have another one of me to rock two babies to sleep, or coddle them into snoozing. By putting them down awake (my only choice!), they have successfully learned to self soothe.

My jogging stroller

I was one of those twin moms who gained a TON of weight – probably close to 75 lbs. While the first 65 came off pretty easily, the last ten were very stubborn. Trying to fit in trips to the gym and working out at home was pretty much impossible. When the twins napped, all I wanted to go was nap. So this left me with little free time to exercise.

I purchased a jogging stroller in January, when the twins were four months old. As the weather got nicer, I began to take them out once a day. I am the first to admit I am not a runner by any means. However, I began to really enjoy jogging with Jack and Mara. It was a way for me to get some exercise, it allowed the babies to get some fresh air and a change of scenery, and it gave us another “activity” to do during the day. A few of my friends purchased the highly coveted double BOB strollers, but I opted for the Schwinn Jogger, which was about half the price and still continues to do the job just fine.

Lowering my expectations about what I can handle …

When Jack and Mara were born, I left my job in corporate communications to be a stay-at-home mom. I was recently offered a pretty great consulting gig — one that I could do from home. While I initially accepted it, I had to turn it down. Why? I just can’t juggle it now. If I tried to take on something that time-consuming, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with my new, main job – raising the twins. It would stress me out and put me over the edge. So, I said no. It was a difficult decision but in the long run, I know my sanity is most important. I can’t do everything right now, and I’m okay with that.

… and lowering my expectations about nursing

I went into my pregnancy gung-ho about breast-feeding. I would tandem nurse both babies each day exclusively. I hired a lactation consultant to help me in the beginning and put me on the right path. I rented a hospital grade pump to help with my milk production. I bought every book written that included sections on nursing multiples. Yadda yadda yadda. I WOULD DO IT and I WOULD BE SUCCESSFUL.

To make a long story short, I was able to nurse and pump for about three and a half months before I gave up. It was a difficult decision to throw in the towel, but in the end, it was the right decision for myself and my family. I tried not to be disappointed in myself for only lasting three and a half months. Instead, I was proud that I was able to last that long. I did my best, and that’s all I could do.

My nap nanny

Oh, nap nanny – why did you get recalled?!!?? A fellow twin friend introduced me to these amazing devices when my babies were just a few weeks old. This slanted foam seat was my savior the first eight months. In the beginning, my twins napped, relaxed and even slept in them (on the floor, buckled)  as they dealt with some pretty typical baby reflux issues. I would use them for dual bottle feeding, to anchor one baby while I bathed the other. I took them to other people’s homes as a place for the baby to sit while I tended to the other. Although they got recalled in December, around the time my twins turned three months, I happily continued to use them (with no issues!). At ten months, Jack and Mara wont sit in them for more than a minute or two, but man, they really were a lifesaver to me during this first year.

What has helped you parenting multiples during year one?

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Baby Sleep Books: A Review

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Categories Books, Infants, Napping, Overnight, Products, Routines, SleepTags , , , 2 Comments

This post has been put on hold for quite a while. First, it was because I was in the depths of sleep training hell, then when that got better I was waiting to finish up several chapters, and after that, well… I guess I just started to feel like I was writing a book report for school or something. But though I know these books have already been reviewed in the archives of HDYDI, I think the insight I’ve gained from them may possibly help some new MoMs. So here we go:

Weissbluth

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This is the book I started with, because it is more specific to twins, and I just needed a refresher since I already read a friend’s copy before the babies were born. It’s a very easy read, comprised of extremely intuitive advice that completely makes sense to me. I think it helped validate exactly how I’ve always felt about sleep for babies. There are a couple chapters in the beginning regarding his research and theories that are very interesting. If you’re looking for a quick fix for a common problem (e.g. how to create a schedule for both babies, how to stop bedtime crying, etc.), this is probably a good book to start with. The best gem of this book: “Sleep begets sleep.”

Pantley

no_cry_sleep

I bought this one because I wanted to get a perspective that wasn’t “cry it out” related. This book is geared towards parents who are opposed to letting their babies cry themselves to sleep. I was never really one of those parents, even with my first singleton, but now that I have two more babies, Pantley’s strategies really wouldn’t work for me. This book requires creating some pretty extensive sleep logs and QUITE a bit a patience. By that I mean, probably no one desperate for sleep would be able to hang in there for what may take weeks, if not months. But if the sound of your child crying is making you miserable, or if your baby requires a slower approach, you might want to give this a try. It really is a much gentler way.

Ferber

ferberbook

This is by far the most comprehensive book of the three. It includes very detailed information about sleep and virtually every sleep disorder there can be. Definitely some interesting reading in the later chapters (head banging, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, etc.), but you really only need to read half of Part II and Part III (Chapters 4-6, 9-12). Ferber is known for “cry it out”, but in his book it’s called “progressive waiting”, and I don’t find it particularly harsh at all. In fact, this method is probably the one that works the best and quickest. It’s written in a case study format, with some great charts for reference. There are also some great instructions for shifting nap schedules. I think this is the one I will come back to if I run into trouble transitioning my babies to new schedules in the future.

 …………….

So, while going insane with my babies not on any kind of feed/sleep schedule, I scoured the internet and bought these 3 books after reading some Amazon reviews. I believe they pretty decently represent the different schools of thought that are out there (except Sears’ attachment parenting, which I am not interested in). A word of warning: Most of the content of these books can be found on the internet, often even verbatim. I’m sure it’s copyright infringement, as the text is not quoted or cited. I probably could have read enough online to piece together what I needed, but the books definitely lay it out nicer and I feel better that I didn’t “steal”. Ultimately I cobbled together a bit from here and there. I don’t really even know what came from where because I took what made sense to me from different sources and internalized them. I think once you read enough you just start to allow your instincts take over.

The other thing I’ve noticed that really helped with my babies was when became able to find their own sleep positions around 4 or 5 months. Both my babies are stomach sleepers. More often than not, they will find a comfortable position face down sucking on a blanket (Baby Girl), or the two forefingers of his left hand (Baby Boy). And for those of you following my sleep training journey, she’s been good through morning for well over a month now. And they do sleep day/night in side-by-side cribs in the same bedroom. We’ve come a long way from these days. Fellow new MoMs, there is hope!

lunchldyd is mom to 6mo b/g twins and their 3yo big sis, happy to take compliments on her now-well-sleeping twins.

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Breastmilk, Meet Formula: Part II

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Categories Balance, Breastfeeding, Development, Formula, Infants, Mommy Issues, Overnight, RoutinesTags , , 2 Comments

A while ago, I wrote about starting formula with my until-then exclusively breastfed babies. Three months later, things are evolving again.

Here’s our schedule at nearly 9 months:

7:30-8am – Wake and breastfeed

9am – Breakfast (solids)

10ish-11:30ish – Bottle and Nap

1pm – Sometimes breastfeed, Lunch (solids)

3ish-4ish – Bottle and Nap

5:30pm – Breastfeed

6pm – Dinner (solids)

7:30-8pm – Bottle and Bed

11:30pm, 1:30am, 4:30am, sometimes 6:30am – Breastfeed

It’s pretty great. Except that last bit, where I’m STILL up 3-4x per night. I can’t quite figure it out. M used to sleep 8-12 hours without feeding. R could go at least 6. What happened? Is this a sleep issue (they’ve gotten into the habit of waking and needing a snuggle) or an eating issue (they’re not getting enough during the day and are making it up at night) or a combination of both? It’s not a growth spurt; it’s been going on for weeks. Our pediatrician assures us that they are growing well, staying right on their own curve, and that they certainly could sleep 11-12 hours.

As we approach one year, I know that the boys will gradually drop milk feeds and rely more on solids for nutrition. But which feeds will be dropped? They are already less interested in the mid-day breastfeeding.

I’m faced with what feels like a major decision: Do I prioritize sleep, and make a plan to drop the night feedings? Or do I prioritize breastfeeding?

On the rare night that the boys wake only twice in the night, I feel like a different person. I’m happy, calm, have perspective. On nights I’m up 3, 4, 7 times, I’m thrust back to newborn days all over again – I’m achy and depressed and my mind is in a fog. I’d love to regularly get more sleep, but it means that half the breastfeeds would be cut out. Meanwhile, would my boobs explode in the night? How would it affect my supply? Then there is the whole crying aspect of any kind of sleep modification. Isn’t it easier to just get up and take twenty minutes to soothe rather than to endure seemingly endless minutes of tears?

Then again, it’s not as if breastfeeding isn’t work too. I’m taking domperidone, and despite being assured by a lactation consultant that I would be “overflowing with milk,” I’m not sure it’s making much difference at all. I’m also taking an herbal milk supplement 4x/day. M gets frustrated waiting for let-down, and R has started biting. All the necks of my shirts are stretched out. Sometimes they are too distracted to take a full feeding, which drives me crazy. Other times they are ravenous and I just don’t feel I have enough to satisfy them. I get tired of stripping every time someone is hungry. There are days I want to just stop – go with the order, predictability, and data-friendly formula and close this chapter of mothering. I mean, they have to stop at some point.

Other times, I cling to the connection with my boys, and frankly, the self-righteousness of doing “the best” for them. I love that they are getting the perfect food, and feel horrible guilt that I can’t give them more. It’s such a breeze to be out and be able to feed them without any prep or clean up. I love their cuddles and sweet little milky breath. It isn’t like when they were newborns – I have many other ways to comfort them now – but there is a special peacefulness about it, especially since I’ve stopped tandem feeding and can focus on one little guy at a time.

I could attempt to return to exclusively breastfeeding by one year (over the next three months) by phasing out the formula feedings. Or I could focus on phasing out the night feedings and get some much-needed sleep. Or I could keep doing what we’re doing, take my cues from the boys, and let things evolve naturally. Why does that last one seem so right and yet so hard?!

Anyone successfully transition from formula supplements to exclusively breastfeeding, or vice versa? Do you lean toward guiding their kids through transitions, or are you able to follow their lead?

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Summer Vacation? What Summer Vacation?

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Categories Activities, Childcare, Frustration, How Do The Moms Do It, Mommy Issues, Parenting, Perspective, Routines, SAHM, School-Age, WorkingTags , , , 1 Comment

I have a variety of mommy–or rather parent–friends. I’m a single working mom of twins, but the families my daughters and I spend time with run the gamut from large home-schooling ones to two-income families with one child.

When we moved back to Central Texas last August after a year living in El Paso, we reconnected with old friends and also made a number of new ones in our new neighbourhood and at J and M’s school. The majority of these new mommy friends are either stay-at-home moms or teachers. Another friend with whom we try to spend as much time as possible is going to college. All their routines change drastically during the summer. No school, no work.

As the kids’ school year drew to a close, people’s excitement was palpable. Mom after mom talked about the plans they had in place to entertain and educate their kids during the summer. They proposed fun and exciting events and activities. One mom is even going to host Spanish language activities for five kids, including my daughters, so that they don’t lose the huge leaps in Spanish fluency they’ve made this year in dual language first grade.

Although I work at a university, my work schedule is not impacted by the academic calendar. I need full-day childcare for my daughters when they’re not in school. When they were littler and in daycare, our summer routine was no different than the rest of the year’s. Now that they’re in school, I replace after-school care with summer camps.

A letter from J describing her first day of Girl Scout camp

Our old friends quickly learned that our social calendar was limited to weekend activities. After all, I went back to work when M and J were 11 weeks old. Our new friends are learning this now. Just yesterday, I had to turn down two invitations for midweek play dates. I’ll still be at work at the times my friends proposed. A couple of times, we’ve been invited to weeknight events; my daughters’ friends can sleep in the next day, but my girls have to be dropped off early so I can be at work on time.

A complication in our attempts to schedule play dates is that my daughters have a number of friends who, like them, have divorced parents. Birds of a feather, you know. M and J’s dad lives in North Carolina, and we’re in Texas. He sees them when he can. Many of the girls’ friends spend alternate weekends with their dads, and I’m friends with the moms. On the Daddy weekends, none of the girls’ “divorced” friends are open for play dates.

My daughters’ routine gets switched up during summer vacation, but mine remains the same.

Does summer bring a marked change to your family’s routine? Do your kids’ social calendars put yours to shame?

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