Toddler Thursday: 8 Tips for Surviving Halloween with Toddlers

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When my twins were toddlers I was incredibly excited about celebrating Halloween with them. They were finally old enough to walk and we would be able to go out and explore a handful of houses on our street before retiring home to give out treats to older kids.  What I wasn’t expecting was two entirely different Halloween experiences: one with a child who couldn’t wait to show off her costume to as many people as physically possible, basking over how cute everyone was telling her she was and another with a child who alternated between lying on the sidewalk refusing to move and trying to break inside the house of every place we visited (in one case making it most of the way down a hallway before he was apprehended and finally taken home).  Managing exciting, sugar fueled holidays with one child is hard enough….when you have multiples….

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Below are eight tips for surviving Halloween with young children (multiples or otherwise):

  1. Fill them up with a warm hearty meal (that they’ll actually eat) before they start filling up on candy.
  2. Try to meet their costume requests….get creative if you have to. It’s amazing how much you can impress a toddler with your ingenuity.
  3. If it’s going to rain….clear garbage bags can become excellent make-shift raincoats that ensure everyone can see their costume.
  4. Have extra adults on hand in case some of your children tire of Trick or Treating before others.
  5. Go out early…the closer it is to bed time, the more likely you are to have meltdowns.
  6. Be prepared for surprises.  Your child(ren) may decide that there is no way that they are going to wear the costume that they picked out themselves just two days ago.  Yes, it’s annoying, but it happens. The sooner you move on the better, trust me.
  7. Take breaks if you need to.  This is not an all or nothing situation.  There’s no rule that you can’t recharge for half an hour before heading back out.
  8. Remember to have fun, take lots of pictures and enjoy yourself!
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Twinfant Tuesday: To separate, or not to separate?

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Categories Going out, Guilt, Independence, Parenting, Routines, Time Management, Twinfant Tuesday1 Comment

Looking back on our early days with our now two-year-old twins, there aren’t too many things I’d do differently.  (Well, maybe hire a night nurse!)  But one thing that stands out in my mind that I would have changed if I could, is taking one baby out for an outing more often.

I recall having friends ask how often my husband and I would split up with our kids.  At the time, I filed these comments into “you don’t understand because you don’t have twins” category.  On days when my husband and I were both around, we pretty much operated as a family of four.  We did all activities together, or were cooped up in our house together.  It felt essential to have both sets of hands on deck for both kids at all possible times.  For those necessary tasks like running to the grocery store, which, sadly became our “me” time for the first year, one parent would grin and bear it for an hour, while the other blissfully strolled the aisles solo.  This made perfect sense to us: it’s not “easy” to bring just one of the babies on errands, so why wouldn’t we leave both kids at home if we had the option?

However, now that our kids are older, we split up much more often.  We’ll take one on an errand alone, or on a special outing, and the kids light up at that grocery store, like we took them to Disneyland.  (They do often end up shouting the other twin’s name, and/or the absent parent’s name, on the outing, looking for them.  But, it still is so precious to see how excited they get to have their own trip with mom or dad.)

It makes me feel sad that I didn’t realize earlier how special that solo time would feel to them.  Arguably, maybe they were too young to have the awareness of this separation before we started doing it.  But, still, I think there may have been value in us splitting up with them before they did recognize it.  So much of the first 18 months or so of parenting twins was filled with anxiety for me.  Looking back, I think if I had ventured out on my own with one baby more often, it would have built some confidence in me that would eventually have led to adventures with both babies.  I think it also would have led to less mommy guilt: ie, since an hour at the store was my “me” time, I wasn’t “allowed” other time alone.  If we’d divided up with baby, maybe I’d have done more sans baby for mommy.  :)  Lastly, I think it may have been healthier to split them up more than we did, allowing them to be their own person, even if just for an hour.

Katie is a working mom of 2-year-old twins, who makes too many trips to the grocery store, with or without kids!

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Twin Mother Vocabulary

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Categories Birth Order, Parenting Twins, Perspective3 Comments

My only children are identical twins. My entire experience of motherhood has been filtered through the lens of the monozygotic twin experience. I’ve noticed that my twin perspective has had an interesting effect on my mommy vocabulary. There are phrases that other parents use without even thinking about them that I use differently because of our family’s very special dynamic.

It vs. They

When I was first pregnant, I once made the mistake of referring to the growing life inside me as “the embryo”. My (now ex) husband was appalled and insisted that I should refer to our little one as “the baby”. Of course, we didn’t know until 17 weeks into the pregnancy that we were having girls, and I was worried about offending my husband by referring to the baby as “it”. As soon as we learned we were expecting twins at 7 weeks, that eliminated the issue altogether, since I could just use the pronoun “they”.

A funny thing is that I find myself referring to friends’ singletons in the womb as “they”, even after the gender is known. It’s not that I don’t know that they’re having one baby. It’s just that “they” feels like the right pronoun for any person while still in the womb. My friend Julie and I were close throughout my pregnancy, and she said that she found herself referring to her son as “they” in utero. She credits me with that particular quirk.

My daughters have much in common, but many, many differences in personality, preference, and strengths. Still, I often find myself referring to them as “they” and comparing and contrasting them. Talking to their teacher about one child, I found myself including tidbits about the other. I think it’s that I’ve trained myself to be fair to the point of not wanting to devote more sentences to one twin than her sister.

Water(s) Breaking

Mothers of twins mostly share the same parent vocabulary as other parents, but there are some surprising differences in the twin mother vocabulary.Right until I went into labour, I thought of water breaking as something that happened to the mother. “My water broke” says many the American mother when narrating her birth story, or “the midwife stripped my membranes”. In the UK, it’s “my waters broke”.

My daughters’ birth (more on “birth” below) gave me an altogether new perspective. The first sign of labour was amniotic fluid leaking from me, but we would soon learn that it was only Twin A’s inner sac that had ruptured with the twins’ shared outer sac. In fact, Twin B was born en caul, or with her amniotic sac entirely intact.

When I tell my birth story, it’s not “my water” that broke, but rather my child’s. When I hear others tell of the births they’ve experienced or witnessed, I flip the metaphor in my mind to make the membrane belong to the newborn, not the mother. This is certainly because of the very unusual birth circumstances the three of us shared. Neither girl ever tires of hearing how she and her sister was born, and even had me tell their birth story to the school principal’s daughter, so now says, “Good story!” to me every time she sees me darkening the school halls.

Firstborn/Older

I think of both my girls as laying equal claim to the title of Firstborn. The way I see it, they came to be in the same miracle of conception and were, for some period of time, a single body. Sure, one exited by C-section two minutes before the other, but I don’t see that as making her older. Perhaps I would have felt differently if I’d had the vaginal birth I’d hoped for. I know that for most parents, the idea of an older and younger sibling is the most natural one in the world, but I cringe when the world applies that concept to my girls. One of my daughters agrees with my worldview on this point, while the other does not.

Birth(s)

I find myself going back and forth between referring to my daughters’ birth(s) as singular—”their birth”—or plural—”their births”. They share a birthday, of course, and parts of a birth story, a womb, DNA, and so much more, but they are altogether different people. They touch the world in different ways. When I focus on my experience of their birth, is feels like a singular event. When I look at the results of that experience, these two vibrant light beams of people, I can’t help but think of the two girls’ birth as being separate events. My mind can’t contain the concept of so much wonder coming from a single birth, and I find myself calling it “their births”.

To my daughters, it’s all so simple. They were born together. Whenever they talk about, it’s “our birth”. Nine years afterward, though, I still can’t quite believe what our bodies did.

Do you find simple concepts to be complicated by the multiples experience? Or am I alone in overthinking my twin mother vocabulary?

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Twinfant Tuesday: How Drive Thrus Can Save Your Sanity

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8 weeks 057Does this sound familiar? You are driving back from an outing with your little ones and both of them fall asleep in the car. Great! Except now you are faced with the decision whether to continue on home and transfer them to their cribs – which may result in one or both waking up – or keep driving for the length of their naps? More often than not, I chose the latter. After a while, however, driving around aimlessly and exploring nearby neighbourhoods gets boring (and unproductive). Not to mention it could create suspicion as to why the same car is passing their street umpteen times in an hour.

Then I discovered that using a drive thru service can save your sanity! Now I don’t drink coffee or eat breakfast on the go, so my use of drive-thru conveniences was limited until the twins came along. Here are some ways I discovered that using a drive-thru window can be really, really useful and allow Mama (or Dad) to feel like they are making good use of their time. Which of these services do you use regularly?

1) The fast food drive-thru
This one is the most obvious. When it’s naptime for the babies and lunchtime for Mama, there can be a bit of a dilemma. Because we always feed ourselves last, right? With the twinfants snuggled in their carseats, it was time to head to the nearest McDonald’s or Tim Horton’s drive-thru to get some grub… all the while hoping the loud speaker from the drive-thru window would not be heard over the background music in the car.

2) Pre-paying Gas
Okay so this is technically not a drive-thru, but still a useful errand that can be done without leaving your little ones alone. Simply insert your credit card in the slot to authorize gas purchase, pump and away you go, receipt and all! (and loyalty points if you’re lucky)

3) Full-serve gas station
In Canada, we are able to pump our own gas and full-serve gas stations are fewer and far between. However if you can find one, it is totally worth not having to get out of your vehicle during twinfant naptime, wintertime or when you are pregnant.

4) Library book drop-off
Got some library books to return? Check to see if your local library offers a drive-thru drop-off point. The City of Ottawa Public Library does, very handy!

5) Walmart Groceries
Although I have not tried this service, ordering your groceries from Walmart and picking them up at a pre-determined time from your local store is becoming quite popular. I would imagine you could drive there and get the car packed up without waking up the babes (assuming you have some background noise going in the car!)

The only downside I’ve noticed with these drive-thru conveniences is, sometimes a twinfant would wake up if the car turns off for a period of time to pump gas and the like. Oh well it sure beats driving around the same neighbourhood again and again, wasting gas until naptime is finished!

Ambereen is mom to almost 5 year old twins, with a third on the way! Needless to say there will be more drive thrus visits in the very near future. She blogs at 2cute

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Toddler Thursday: Twin Toddler Travel Tips

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This post was originally published when my twin daughters were 2 and a half on my personal blog.

My twin daughters, aged 2, and I flew to Oregon and back, just the three of us, and the whole process was remarkably easy. Sure, we had a few hiccups, but I’d be happy to repeat the experience.

I think a number of things contributed to our positive experience.

The great

Southwest Airlines: The flight attendants on Southwest were just wonderful. On every leg of the journey, they helped me carry the car seats on and off the airplane. They were gentle with the girls, and praised them for being so obedient.

The first leg of the journey home was particularly noteworthy. The flight attendant, Laura, was an identical twin herself and has a 20-month-old and an 11-year-old. Whenever she wasn’t busy helping other passengers, she was chatting with the girls, keeping them entertained. She installed the car seats for me, told me about her relationship with her siblings, discussed parenting philosophies with me, and was just all around wonderful. Another attendant, whose name I didn’t get, walked us all the way out to the gate to wait for our next flight. This all went far beyond the call of duty, in my book.

GoGo Kidz Travelmate: This handy wheeled contraption attaches to the back of your child’s car seat, turning it into a stroller.

GogoKidz Travelmates make travel possible for the outnumbered parent.
The wheels snap off easily, and you don’t have to remove the back to install the seat in the airplane (although the manufacturers don’t recommend that). The security folks at the airport did take the Travelmates off the car seats, but they also reattached them for me. The Travelmates did away with need for a stroller and made it extraordinarily easy to transport the car seats through the airport, whether or not they contained children. Even my husband was impressed with them, and he usually laughs at my affinity for gadgets. The only downside is that there is not convenient place to store the wheels and the bar they attach to when they are removed. Fortunately, I was able to stick them in the overhead baggage compartment.

Car seats in the airplane: I never considered leaving the car seats at home or checking them, but once we got settled in our seats, I realized some benefits in addition to general safety. Since M and J are used to sitting in their car seats during our long commute, they knew exactly where to tuck their toys and sippy cups so that they would stay put. It gave them a great measure of comfort to be sitting side by side in their familiar seats. They almost thought it was a treat that I was able to interact with them and hold their hands, since my rule when I’m driving is that I can’t help them pick up toys or give them more snacks until we come to a stop.

Lollipops: I invested in a couple of packages of ring pops and brought a couple of extra lollipops along. Sucking on this candy helped little toddler ears adjust to the pressure changes of takeoff and landing, and kept both girls entertained.

Rolling backpacks: I bought the girls Disney princess backpacks that they could roll through the airport. When the kids were in the carseats, I just slung the backpacks over the Travelmate handles. I put a change of clothes in each backpack, as well as all the girls’ airplane activities and diapering supplies. The one tray table I had also fit inside the bag. I put a box of raisins in each bag for them to “discover” on the plane. I had them pack up their lovies into the front pocket of their backpack when we arrived at the airport, and put an empty sippy cup in a side pocket of the bag.

Stickers and notebooks: I handed M and J each a sheet of stickers and a plain notebook. They were given a clear admonition that stickers were not to be stuck anywhere but the pages of the notebook. This was all it took to keep J and M entertained for half an hour at a time. The smaller the stickers, the better, since it made it more of a challenge to peel the stickers from the sheet. J made up a matching game involving her stickers, matching them by colour and object.

Mini magnadoodles: These weren’t quite the hit the stickers were, but were good for 15 minutes of entertainment at a time. I ended up doing most of the scribbling, and the girls practiced identifying the letters I wrote out for them.

Lovies: Usually, the girls’ lovies, whom they call “Bee”, are limited to naptime and bedtime. For the course of the trip, however, I allowed free access to their Bees, which I think made them a lot braver and more comfortable in the airplane than they otherwise might have been. I did insist that Bees be packed up in the girls’ backpacks when we were in airports, because if we lost one, it would be the end of the world. They were handmade by my friend Suzanne; I can’t exactly run to the store for a replacement.

The okay

Movies: I took my laptop on the plane in lieu of a DVD player. I hadn’t tested my computer’s DVD playing abilities and discovered myself to be without sound. Mel and Jess didn’t mind, or even notice, in part because the first movie I put on was The Snowman, which has no dialogue. The movies gave them something to do, but I think we had enough other activities that we could have done without.

Star Kids Travel Trays: I had high hopes for these snack trays, but I only received one in time for the trip. Since the last thing I wanted was an argument over unfair treatment, I didn’t pull out the one tray table I had except on one leg of the trip, when Jess was allowed to hold the laptop on her lap. I think the tray table could have been very useful if the girls weren’t already accustomed to keeping themselves entertained in their car seats. The airplane tray tables don’t fit flat over our Britax Marathons, so if the girls had been using open cups, some sort of tray table would have been a must.

Books: I packed a couple of very small board books in the girls’ bags. Although they usually love books, they weren’t too interested in them during our flights. They only provided about 5 minutes of distraction between sticker adventures.

Washable crayons: I’m glad I had them along, but the kids didn’t even get around to pulling these out.

The hiccups

On the way there, M kept dropping things on the floor when she was done with them instead of handing them to me, meaning that I had to crawl on the floor in front of the seats to pick up her toys and trash. By the time we headed back to Texas, she’d seen her sister praised enough for handing me her things that she realized it would be a good idea to copy her. (Subsequent to this trip, it occurred to me that tying toys and the like to my diaper bag with ribbon would greatly simplify life, although there’s a strangulation hazard concern.)

Both girls threw brief tantrums on the way home, but they’d been woken at 4:30 am Pacific time and can be forgiven. Still, when one of them threw a full-on lying-on-the-floor drumming-her-heels tantrum at the gate in Phoenix, I wasn’t having it. I told her that if she didn’t stop screaming and stand on her feet by the time I counted to 10, she would get a spanking. Yes, I threatened a spanking in front of at least 100 hundred travelers, and was prepared to follow through. Perhaps someone would have called CPS on me. We’ll never know. I got to six, and she was good as gold.

There was at least one proponent of my flavour of discipline among the onlookers. From far back in the boarding line, I heard a man say, “She only had to get to six. Wow!”

Have you travelled alone with multiples? What worked for you?

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Twinfant Tuesday: Asleepyness

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I first wrote this post when my daughters were 9 months old.  Looking back on it today is a trip, especially because we just survived a 2 year sleep regression with Emma.  Jane has been a wonderful sleeper, but has dropped naps completely at day care!  Here’s where we stood 2 years ago.

How do you survive the first year of motherhood?

“Sleep when they sleep,” they said.

“Nap when they nap,”  they said.

But what do you do when they rarely sleep OR nap???

It feels like it’s been WEEKS since I last slept through the night.  Between the girls being sick and their 9 month sleep regression (yes, that’s a real thing!), I don’t remember the last time we got a good night of sleep.  Or a good day of sleep, come to think of it.

Needless to say, we are exhausted.  And running out of steam.  Quickly.

So I went on a search desperately seeking sleep advice.  I visited various websites, made about 473 phone calls to doctors and nurses and grandmas and friends.  I felt like I was on a quest for the Holy Grail.  And I may have found some solace.

I stumbled upon a sleep blog where the author’s words caught my eye and made me really think:

“Sleep deprivation… UGH. There’s a reason it’s commonly used as a form of torture!”

SHE’S SO RIGHT!!!  I’ve definitely been suffering from the effects of sleep deprivation.  I’m normally a pretty logical person.  I have a short fuse and sometimes I can be pretty ditzy, but I would say that I can make sense of things and think on my feet for the most part a majority of the time.

But lately, I’ve been feeling sluggish, extremely short-tempered, angry, and desperate.  I realized a couple of days ago that after 9 months of NO SLEEP, I am beginning to suffer from sleep deprivation.

Here’s what I found out.

1.  Everyone goes through this.

2.  It’s all my fault.

3.  It can be fixed.

Let me explain.

We (people) have sleep associations.  When we go to bed at night, we lay our head down on a pillow and pull the blankets up to our chins.  Throughout the night, we wake several times, even if we don’t remember it.  We readjust the blanket, fluff our pillow, and fall back into Sleepyville with little issue.

Now imagine you’re a baby.  To fall asleep, you need your wooby, a blankie, a pacifier or a bottle, and maybe even a session in a rocking chair.  All of these things are supplied by the adult in charge of you, and have been since you came home, since you can’t figure out how to get your little legs to rock the chair or how to make your hands bring your choopie to your mouth.  So your adult provides you with all of these things to help you get to sleep.  Thank you, adult!

In the middle of the night, you awaken, find that your choopie is gone, or that you can’t fall back asleep.  You look for a bottle, but it’s not there.  You try to find your choopie, but that’s missing, too.  And for the life of you, you cannot make your crib rock!  So you cry out, and hope and pray that your adult will bring you one of the things that you have come to depend upon to fall asleep.

I’m totally guilty of doing this to my poor littles.

Luckily, this is a habit that we can break!  It’s not too late!

After speaking with our pediatric sleep specialist, she confirmed all of the information that I had found on the internet.  It is time to readjust our bedtime routine, and take away those sleep props.

Last night, we ate dinner at 5:00, had some fruit at 5:30, and took a bottle at 6:00.  From 6:00-7:00, I changed the sheets on their beds, put them into their pjs and nighttime diapers, and then read them a bedtime story.  Finally, Hershey and I braced ourselves for a fight.  We knew that putting them down in their crib without that bottle that they fall asleep on every night was going to be a war.

We turned off the lights, kissed them goodnight, and placed them in their respective cribs.

They were both asleep before their little tiny heads hit the beds.

Now, we did NOT have a restful night of sleep.  They woke up several times throughout the night.  BUT the awakenings were over by around 2:30-3:00.  I woke up at 5:00 thinking, What did I miss?!

At 5:55, Jane and Emma woke up for the morning.  They seemed happy and refreshed.  Both went down for a nap at around 9:00.  Jane is sitting next to me right now, just finished her mid-morning bottle.  Emma is still sleeping.

I’ve also discovered a couple of other things.

One size does not fit all.  It seems like Emma sleeps longer in the morning, and needs less of a nap in the afternoon, while Jane needs a longer afternoon nap and sleeps for a shorter time in the morning.

Limiting toys with flashing lights and music before sleepy time really does help them to unwind.  Think about if you went on a rollercoaster and then tried to lay down to go to sleep.  Probably wouldn’t work out too well for you.

If they wake up after 20 minutes, play with them quietly for 10, and they will usually go back to sleep.

During this time, they are going through the biggest brain development phase of their lives.  They are busy in their cribs at night practicing new skills in their heads.  Provide lots of time during the day for them to practice their new skills, and once they master those skills, they will sleep better!

And finally, the piece of information that rocked my world the most — THERE IS NO SCIENCE BEHIND STUFFING THEM TO MAX CAPACITY BEFORE BED.  Just because you give them a bottle and put them to bed doesn’t mean that they will happily sleep through the night with a full belly.  In fact, the opposite may take effect (they may be sensitive to pee-pee diapers, in which case they will waken to a sopping wet diaper, begging to be changed).
I hope that you find this helpful, and that you (and I) find some peace soon!  Remember to be patient with them — I often find myself losing my temper because I, too, am exhausted, and I have to tell myself, “They are going through SO MANY changes in those little bodies, and every change is a change to their routine and need.  BREATHE!”

This, too, shall pass.

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Traveling with Toddlers is Not an Oxymoron

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Categories Parenting, Toddler Thursday, Travel1 Comment

Road Trips in our family are a common occurrence. Our kids have been on road trips more often than they have been to the movies or to the grocery store it seems like. We have traveled the 5 hours to Disneyland to and from in 1 day or 1 weekend several times, and similar distances to visit family in Ut, AZ and Ca. But most notably we took my first set of twins when they were just barely 2 across the country. We drove 30 hours straight in the car and we only stopped at gas stations along the way. Oh yeah, and Mt. Rushmore was a pit stop for about 2 hours before we kept going.

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And, just this summer our family of 6 (kids aged 7 and 2.5) traveled across the country for 23 days and hit 23 states and nearly 7,000 miles.

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People think we are crazy. I think we are crazy. But, it was the most fun trip and best bonding time our family has ever had. It is doable. Don’t let a road trip with babies or toddlers frighten you! Frankly, I think it would be worse with teenagers :)

So here is my ultimate road trip guide:

TO DO:

  • Plan for 1 day at a time. What do your kids need for one day? That’s what you put in your diaper bag/front seat.  Food and drinks first, then diapers and wipes, then toys. You can always refill that bag later. I usually pack all my extra diapers, food, formula, etc. in a box or laundry basket.
  • LESS IS MORE! Your toddlers/kids really don’t need extra activities in the car just because they’ll be spending more hours there. Most things end up on the floor in 2 seconds flat! Then you have a tantrum because they dropped it!  Don’t give them anything until you really need to. (I’ll make a list of our road trip toys at the end).
  • Sing, talk and play! Make up games. None of that requires equipment.
  • Gas stops are toddler breaks. We always have 1 adult pump the gas and buy the food, and the other takes all kids to the bathroom and changes diapers, etc. We let them walk and run outside as much as they can. A few minutes is all they need. For a short day drive we stop once or twice at the most. Have a scout go in first to see if there is a diaper changing station in the restrooms! If not–stay at the car to change diapers. Front seats are trickier, but they do work especially if your toddlers are old enough to stand up. Use diaper cream as a barrier helps their little bums not hurt as much for long hours of sitting.
  • Prepare for emergencies.  We have been stuck  on the freeway stopped for hours, and had to change hotels at the last minute because of spiders and had kids projectile vomiting. It’s okay. It really is. What do you need for emergencies?
    • Triple AAA
    • Extra water and formula to make it if needed
    • Plastic bags to put soiled wipes/clothes
    • paper towels
    • disinfectant wipes
    • hand sanitizer
    • extra clothes in a tote bag
    • good phones and chargers
    • fill up with gas often
    • ziplock bags
    • tylenol, benadryl, etc (I just keep a first aid kit in my console always with band aids, neosporin, etc.)
    • You can never have too many wipes!! (for our 23 day trip, I brought 5 packages-1 in the car at all times, 1 in the backpack at all times, 1 in the clothes suitcase, and 2 in the laundry basket).
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  • Prepare your kids: Even young toddlers can understand what a road trip is sort of. We told ours we were going on a long trip and that they had to 1. get in their buckles and 2. sit nicely without screaming. If they did, they would get prizes. :)

DON’T:

  • Overpack-you can buy stuff at Walmart and gas stations. Do you have enough to feed your children for a few hours in case you get stuck somewhere? then you have all you need.
  • Plan too many stops. We plan for our stops to take about an hour. 1 stop for every 3 hours of driving
  • Never stop if someone is sleeping! Don’t even slow down… Trust me, you’ll regret it :)

FOOD:

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  • We let our kids eat in our car as long as it’s not something completely messy, but most of the time we stop and eat on trips. We find that it’s worth buying the fast food especially when we can split meals between our kids. Or we find restaurants where kids eat free. Finding a play place is a bonus. They can get their energy out while we eat and rest. :)  Usually my toddlers share one meal just fine. Sharing in the car is tricky, so I bought little trays from the dollar section at Target. I can divide up the food and they love eating out of the containers. I just would wipe them out with a disinfectant wipe and a little water afterwards :)
  • If we are staying in a hotel, we try to find ones with free breakfast included. 1 less meal to worry about. And if they load up on breakfast, their snack whining goes way down. 20150805_093637
  • I don’t give them many snacks in the car so they are hungry for meals.
  • Everyone has their own water bottle and we bring lots of water with us for refills. We refill at gas stations as much as possible.
  • You have to have some fun: Our go to family road trip snack is gummy worms. Trolli brand only :) If someone is cranky, we might just say, “you need a worm”
  • You don’t always have to eat poorly. We stopped at a gas station and my kids chose to have: a pretzel, cheese, veggie, fruit and yogurt meal. They turned down soda and juice most of the time. Whatever they eat at home they can eat on the road–it is doable.

SLEEPING: We have slept in hotels, friends’ couches, and grandparents’ houses which of course are the best

  • I’ve always used and brought 2 pack n plays with us. I know hotels tend to have cribs available, but a lot of the time they cost a fee, or are not really available.  I have a crib sheet and blankets already rolled up inside the pack n plays plus any stuffed animal so it is all ready to go. (It does all fit in there).
  • For hotels, we send one adult in to check in and bring out a cart. The other one unloads the car. We load it all onto the cart, have our kids hang on and off we go.20150402_182624
  • I pack all of our stuff into one bag. (just enough for 1 night).
  • Big kids are in charge of their own blankets and comfort sleeping items. We get a room with 2 queens. The big kids either share a queen or an adult each sleeps with one of the big kids to split them up if they’re too wild to sleep.20150403_084009 (This was just for fun. Toddlers sleep in pack n plays).
  • Every single hotel room we’ve found has room for 2 pack n plays
  • If we are at a friend’s house then our big kids each have a sleeping bag with a blanket and pillow wrapped up inside. They are in charge of it.
  • We also try to get hotels with an indoor pool or hot tub. I will stay and unpack/organize the hotel while my husband takes the kids swimming. Then everyone can bathe really quickly and get into fresh clothes before bed. Gets them away from jumping on the beds and making our neighbors mad :)

DRIVING:

  • We have always divided our duties up into driving or navigating. If you happen to have extra drivers, the other adult is the sleeper!  The driver drives. That’s it. No other duty. The navigator is in charge of GPS, taking care of the driver, temperature, music, and kid control. If everyone and everything is under control, they become a sleeper :)
  • We have found for days trips that you don’t need to worry about who drives when. Just decide whoever wants to. But for our longer trips we always switch at the 2 hour mark. It doesn’t matter if the driver wants to keep going, we switch. Our motto is: “No hero shifts.”

ACTIVITIES:

  • Yes, we use technology. Our SUV does not have a built in DVD player, but we invested in a portable one with 2 screens. For drives that are 6 hours or less, we just let them watch movies the whole time. They barely watch any tv during the week, so it doesn’t bother me to have them binge watch the whole time. The toddlers don’t have access to a screen though so they just get their normal stuff. (books, coloring, music, etc.)
  • For longer drives, they have to “earn” their movie time by reading, writing, or playing first before they can ask for screen time.
  • We started a point system which worked really well. I had a chart in a plastic sleeve protector taped to the dash that worked as a dry erase board. Every day I wrote the date and where we were going. (For a 23 day trip, it helped to keep everything straight!). Then they were able to earn points for activities such as: getting in their car seat buckles quickly, not whining, sleeping, throwing their trash away, etc.) Then they got to turn in their points for prizes (stickers, soda, gas station toys, etc). My 2 year olds loved this and every time they got in their carseats they would say, “I get a point!”
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  • For a short trip, I give each kid a bag with their stuff for the day. When it’s on the floor or used up, it’s gone. “Sorry.” I do ziplock bags with crayons and pencils. Glue stick and scissors for the older kids. I have a clipboard for each kid with plain paper and coloring sheets. Everyone gets a few books and one toy that is fun. That really is all they need.
  • For our long trip, I had 1 bucket in front with one day’s worth of activities and 1 bucket in back to refill the day bucket. That way they didn’t get board too easily. The best thing I did was get activities that could be thrown away! That way when they fell between the cracks or onto the floor-we just scooped them up at the gas stations and said goodbye.
  1. bubble wrap sheets if you can stand the popping :)
  2. aluminum foil sheets-kid(s are really creative. Ours had a snowball “fight”
  3. clothes pins and pipe cleaners (make butterflies, etc)
  4. window stickers
  5. paper for airplanes and creations
  6. glow sticks were great for night driving (flashlights too if they don’t distract the driver)
  7. balloons
  8. magnets

I hate dry erase boards! They are a nice thought, but the markers are permanent and even the washable ones are hard to get out!  Instead, magna doodles are the way to go. And it’s fun to use real magnets to trace on them too.  Remember, less is more!

MISC:

  • I would get a babysitter for 2 days before you go anywhere. These are the most stressful days-1 day for laundry, the 2nd day for packing. Get a friend who doesn’t mind taking toddlers for the day. That way you don’t have to use too much tv right before you have kids sitting in the car all day.
  • You don’t have to have another driver…I have done a few day drives by myself with all 4 kids! Yes, it is tough to drag two infant seats into a public restroom with 2 four year olds grabbing onto your back pockets, but I did it! I just had to make sure everyone had everything they needed before I started driving. If it fell, or was lost- too bad. Again, same rules as driving around town.
  • If you have young potty training, or fresh potty trained toddlers-never fear! You can still drive to Gma’s for Thanksgiving. Just throw in a toddler potty into the car. If there is a potty emergency, stop and have them squat on the road–I know, toddlers are stubborn and I’m dreaming right? the back of the car works, Pull Ups are great, or if there are accidents–that’s what the plastic bags are for. Just line the carseat before they get in and bring lots of changes of clothes :)
  • Naptimes get all messed up. I do different things depending on the situation. Most of the time I let them have their sleeping blankets/binkis if applicable in the car the whole time. No use putting up a fight. But, sometimes I’ve often saved them in the front and given it to them right at naptime. Even if they don’t sleep in the car, it still signals them for sleep and they can have a “rest”.  Same with bedtime. As soon as it gets dark, we start signaling them for bed. Get them in pjs at a rest stop (maybe), turn on lullaby music, give them blankets, etc.

    SAMSUNG
    SAMSUNG
  • Earplugs are great
  • Redbox is great…you can rent a movie at a gas station and return it in the next city
  • We drive the same route up to family a lot, so we know where there is a cheap pizza place we like. We call about 20 minutes before we get there, and lunch is served.
  • Backpacks-instead of my regular diaper bag, I put everything we need  the day in a good backpack–that way it can go from car to stroller to walking around Manhattan without having to juggle anything.
  • PJs–just make sure your kids are in comfy, weather appropriate clothes. If they fall asleep right before you get to a hotel-it should be no big deal to just put them straight to bed.
  • You do not have to play the Alphabet Game. It’s overrated. :)

    SAMSUNG
    SAMSUNG

PACKING: On any given trip, I will have:

  • a Backpack for a diaper bag
  • my personal tote for purse, books, tablet, phone chargers, etc
  • briefcase (my husband works on the road)
  • a tote with the day’s car activities in it
  • a basket with extra diapers, wipes, formula, toys, etc.
  • a suitcase that is packed for everybody (or 2 small ones). These stay in the car.
  • a duffle bag with our clothes and cosmetics for just that night to bring to the hotel (and a trash bag for laundry)
  • a mesh bag with our swimming stuff if applicable
  • a small cooler with water bottles and a few healthy snacks (we bring this to the hotel every night to put in the fridge).
  • an emergency car kit that always stays in there20150815_204018

Stashed in the console or under seats I have:

  • 1st aid kit
  • paper towels
  • batteries
  • chargers
  • pens/paper
  • gum/mints
  • stickers (I control those so it doesn’t get out of control)
  • everyone has a small travel pillow that is kept under the seats
  • I have stick on window shades, but if it’s really sunny, I keep extra baby blankets to hang from the windows
  • bungee chords always come in handy

 

Okay, that is a lot of information. Mainly if you are having a great time with your family-that is the most important!

I’ll never forget one of my favorite road trip moments:

I was pregnant and by myself with my almost 4 year olds. They had closed the freeway and I was almost out of gas. Needless to say, I was very anxious. But I was able to pull off to one of the only gas stations and fill up. Then I called my husband and he talked me through to an alternate route. So getting home took twice as long on a one way highway through the mountains, but we got home!

At one point, I had to pass a truck and it made me nervous since there was almost no shoulder, etc. I told my kids that they had to be totally quiet since Mommy was doing something “very important.” I whizzed past the truck and then it was smooth sailing after that. The kids were even especially quiet. Only about 30 minutes later, I heard a tiny voice from the back asking, “Mommy, are you still doing something important?”  I knew right then, like I’ve known all along, that I have good kids.

 

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Toddler Thursday: Sharing a Bedroom

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Categories Attitude, Development, Different Gender, Independence, Individuality, Joy, Lifestyle, Love, Mommy Issues, Multiple Types, Napping, Overnight, Parenting, Perspective, Preschoolers, Sleep, Toddlers4 Comments

After obsessively searching for about two years, my husband finally found us a new house. It isn’t too far from our current house, conveniently closer to our chosen dual-language elementary school, and in a nice quiet neighborhood of the foothills. It is a little larger than our current house (which is good because we’re bursting at the seams here), but still only three bedrooms. For a family of 5 with almost-3yo b/g twins, I was really hoping our next house would have four bedrooms, so that all the kids could have their own. With the cost of remodeling prior to move-in (gutting both bathrooms, building a laundry room, moving the water heater, updating electrical, refinish floors, new paint, etc), we are left with not much of a budget for what I really wanted: a bigger kitchen and another bed/bath. Those will have to wait until we can get plans drawn and a permit for the additions.

I was very disappointed that this was how it all worked out. In my mind, the whole point of moving was so my kids wouldn’t have to share bedrooms. All the labor of packing and managing a renovation just didn’t seem worth it if I couldn’t get what I really wanted. It’s true that remodeling this home instead of buying a move-in ready one makes it feel more our “own,” there’s been a lot of stress involved with money spent and making decisions, choosing finishes. Thankfully that’s all now starting to come to a close. I just decided on a floor stain today, after having chosen paint colors last week.

And I feel like I’m also starting to turn the corner on being disappointed on the lack of a fourth bedroom. At this point, I believe the only one who really wants to make sure all the kids get their own rooms is me. For sure the twins don’t care. They’ve literally been together all their lives, even before they were born.

There are times I certainly wish they wouldn’t keep each other awake during naptime, or wake each other in the middle of the night during an illness, but most often what I see is that the presence of their twin comforts them. They are always put to bed together, and always woken up (or left in) together. On the rare occasion that one sleeps longer/shorter than the other, and they become separated, they always look for and ask the whereabouts of the other. Every day I hear their conversations before they fall asleep and when they wake up.  There is talking and giggling, singing and dancing, squeals and jumping. If a strict can’t-get-out-of-bed-during-sleep-time wasn’t imposed (I just transitioned them into toddler cribs), they’d probably be in each other’s beds. I’m not sure they would be able to verbalize their closeness right now, but I know their separation would definitely cause them anxiety, especially during such a vulnerable time as sleeping. It would be too scary. Perhaps they need a few more years together for that security and comfort.

Also, so many big changes are taking place in our lives right now with the move coming up, Big Sis starting kindergarten, and little ones beginning preschool that I’m wary about giving them any more to deal with. I now think that even if we did have a fourth bedroom, I would not be separating the twins just yet. I think it will be a while before they will ask for their own privacy and space. It may be many years before we move them into their own bedrooms. I’ve come to see that this is the connection between twins, and that it doesn’t diminish their independence nor hamper their development in any way. And it’s actually a pretty amazing thing to have in our family.

lunchldyd is sad her days have been filled with contractors instead of fun with her kids (and posting on hdydi).

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Twinfant Tuesday: Sleep Training Twins

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Categories Parenting, Sleep, Twinfant TuesdayTags , , , 3 Comments

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Training one’s baby to sleep through the night can be one of the most challenging aspects of parenting a newborn. With twins, this gets even harder as there are twice as many babies to change, feed, burp, and tuck into bed every night. Also, you can’t just close the door and quietly sneak through the house wearing only socks knowing that only a loud sound will wake your baby, because with twins you’ll always encounter that classic problem of one baby waking the other.

Though there’s really no way to get your little ones to sleep through the night before 2 to 3 months of age (at that age they will still require 3-4 hourly feeds), it’s a good idea to get prepared and put yourself into routine for when sleep training is required. Even with a couple of bumps along the road and the odd teething nightmares, we managed to have our twins sleeping through the night (08:30 pm – 07:30 am) from 3 months of age.

Here’s a list of the things we did.

The Nursery

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For the first few weeks the boys shared a bassinet in our room, but as soon as they started waking each other by either moaning or slight movement, we moved them each to their own crib in their nursery with a baby monitor so we could hear whenever they awoke. This already made a huge impact on their quality of sleep. Our own movements and sounds were no longer waking them and neither were they bothering each other.

We also placed heavy curtains in the room to block out any early morning sunlight, which helped them sleep a little longer in the mornings. Not only did it help at night-time, but also naptime during the day. The twins soon learned that a darker room was meant for sleeping and would fall asleep quite easily as soon as we lay them in their cots.

As far as sound went, we had two choices; a white-noise machine or music. Having grown up with music surrounding me, it was the obvious choice to find some soothing classical pieces that the boys would fall asleep to each night. A white-noise machine would probably have worked equally as well.

The music helped the twins in two ways:

Firstly, it provided a steady and soothing background sound that blocked out other noises – car doors, dogs barking, thunderstorms – that might have woken them.

Secondly, we only ever played their classical music at bedtime, signalling to the boys that it’s time to sleep.

Swaddling was one of our go-to things for the twins as newborns. It was our only safe way of providing them with a blanket for warmth and replicating the comfort of the womb.

There are many different ways of swaddling a baby and also some truly amazing products for swaddling like The Miracle Blanket , Aden + Anais muslin swaddling blankets and Swaddle Blanket by JJ Cole, but if like us your budget seems to have shot through the roof, opt for some breathable  receiving blankets and a good swaddling method.

The Bedtime Routine

Babies tend to thrive on routine. It gives them a way of mentally preparing for what comes next. Following the same steps, in the same order at around the same time each night allows you to form a habit thereby easily remembering what to prepare ahead of time. It also provides a series of cues to your little ones stating that it is time for bed.

A nice warm bath – Some parents opt to only bath their babies every second night or so, and I won’t lie, there has been some nights where I simply gave mine a little rub down as well. For us this made a huge difference in the twin’s quality of sleep. They never slept as deep and long if we skipped the bath and would always wake up a couple of times on those nights. So for our bedtime routine, a nice warm bath is a definite must.

Relaxing massage – When putting lotion on our babies, we always gave them a little body massage. It doesn’t have to include essential oils and a massage class (even though that would probably be even more beneficial), but just rubbing their little arms, torso, legs and feet with a slight pressure and a bit more meaning warms them back up and relaxes their limbs.

Soft Pajamas and a Clean Diaper – Dressing each twin in comfortable, soft  and breathable pajamas as well as a clean diaper will allow them to sleep more comfortably.

Full Tummy – Whether your little ones are still only breast or bottle-fed and whether they are already eating solids, always make sure they have their last bottle just before they go to bed. This will allow them to sleep longer and more soundly. Some babies might not like this, but warm milk also has a positive effect on your baby’s sleep.

Bedtime Story – For the first couple of months this turned out to be more counterproductive than anything else as the twins would fall asleep drinking their last bottle of milk and would then wake up as I started reading. However, from about 8 months we were able to include a bedtime story in our routine while the boys were drinking their milk and would then quite easily get tucked in and go to sleep.

Things are bound to change and get a bit chaotic when it comes to bedtime, so if there’s a spouse or an extra set of hands around, take advantage of that.

The Knitty Gritty

Once you’ve got your nursery and bedtime routine set, it’s time to get to the actual sleep training. I’ve never been a big fan of the cry-it-out method and it breaks my heart every time I hear one of my babies cry. So due to that I could never let my kids cry for hours and possibly fall asleep thinking I deserted them. What worked for us was tucking them in, saying goodnight, closing the door and then waiting a couple of minutes. If they were struggling to settle, we would go in quietly and without talking, re-tuck them, reinsert pacifiers if necessary and then leave the room again. Thereafter we stretched the period between going into their room by an extra five minutes each time, until they fell asleep. It took a couple of weeks for both us and the twins to get used to this, but in the end they managed to fall asleep by themselves with maybe one or two “visits” from mommy or daddy.

This way, your little ones learn that you are always there to settle them, but you also give them a chance to settle themselves by extending the period in-between each “visit”. The key factor is to get your babies to fall asleep by themselves without you rocking them, swinging them or any of those other wonderful methods of making babies sleep.

What if one baby starts crying?

We used to be so scared of one baby waking the other that we would dash into the room, scoop up the crying baby and sneak back out, only to have the other one wake up anyway. Little did we realise that it was actually the sudden absence of the crying brother that woke the other. Twins almost immediately become accustomed to each other’s movements and crying and even find it comforting knowing the other twin is near. It was only once we realised what we were doing and waited a while before rushing in that we found that the sleeping baby never even woke from the crying and that by giving the crying baby that tiny little bit of extra time, he learned to self-sooth and fell right back asleep.

What if both babies start crying?

This scenario can be tough on any mommy or daddy, especially when there is no spouse or extra set of hands around. We found that the best way to handle this was to replicate the bedtime tuck-in routine by going in, reassuring each one, tucking them back up and then leaving the room. This is not really something you can try for the first few months as your babies still need regular feeds and would be waking up because of that fact. However, once you have them sleeping through the night or onto 6-hourly feeds, this is a good way of reassuring them and getting them to fall asleep by themselves again.

The Bottom Line

Setting the stage, following a good bedtime routine and knowing what to do in the case of your little one’s not settling are all methods you can use to sleep train your twins. We used all three methods and it worked wonders. I do however realise that each set of twins are different and that all the above might not work out, so in that case, find what works for your twins and follow that as a routine. If you have one really bad sleeper, place his crib closest to the door so you can sneak him out without causing the other baby to wake. If reading makes them more active, skip the story, you can always read to them at another time of day. If you find another means of relaxing your babies other than a massage, then use that. The point is, sticking to a routine that your twins will come to expect and accept.

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Kid-Free Isn’t Worry-Free

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Categories Divorce, Fear, Making Time for Me, Parenting, Single Parenting2 Comments

As a single mom who shares physical custody with my girls’ father, there is one comment that I hear quite often that makes me cringe: “Well at least you get some time for yourself!”. This comment comes after someone hears some of the basics of my story and finds out that dad is back in the picture and has visitation on a regular basis. My general sense is that people feel sorry for my situation, and feel relieved to know that my life is not quite as bad/crazy as they initially imagined. And while I sincerely believe that these people mean well (I have gotten this comment from several people that I consider close friends and even family), the reality is that I do not feel that way about my time away from my children at all.

Let me start by saying again that I know that the people who make this comment mean well. My hope is that by sharing my story, I can help some people to better understand what it is like to be in a joint custody situation when the relationship between co-parents is far from friendly.

There are two main factors that make my children’s time with their dad different from, for example, a regular babysitter who watches the kids while the adult runs errands or has some “me time”: 1) I don’t trust or like the person they are with, and 2) I didn’t choose to get someone to watch my children- I was required to do so by court order. There are a lot of people, myself included, who end up sharing physical custody of their children with someone they do not trust for legitimate reasons. While I doubt there are many who would say they like their ex-spouse, many who share custody would still say they trust their ex as a parent. In my case, I know that the time my children spend with their dad is emotionally damaging, but I don’t have the kind of proof that a court would need to keep them from spending time with him. And so I send them, week after week, to a person that I do not believe is keeping them safe and healthy. Not to do so would mean risking the time that I do have with them, so I do my best to give them the emotional and psychological  tools they need to become healthy, strong young women, in spite of it all, while they are with me.

Because of these factors, I don’t consider the time my children spend with their dad to be “me time”- that time is not rejuvenating. While I have learned to accept the situation and feel confident that I am giving my girls the best situation I possibly can, I still feel better when I am with the girls than when they are with their dad. When they are with him, I try to spend as much time as I can working, running errands, or helping someone else so that I can keep my mind off of everything and be more available to the girls when they get back. I do make time for myself, but it is when the girls are safe and sound in their beds with me, not when they are visiting their other parent.

So the next time you find yourself talking to someone who shares custody of their children, take a moment to put yourself in their situation and consider if the time they have away from their children is actually helpful or not. In some cases the answer will be yes, but sometimes that may not be the case. I hope my story will help more people understand each other better, and make us better equipped to help and support each other as parents in all walks of life.


Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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