Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday: Daddy Dolls

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Monday was Memorial Day, the American remembrance to honour all who have given their lives in service to the USA.

Too often, we get caught up in the excitement of a day off work, family barbecues, and widely advertised sales, forgetting the Memorial part of the day altogether. My daughters’ father is a career soldier and has served 3 combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. While we’re thankful that he has never been injured, I’m very aware that not all military families are so fortunate. On this day of the year, I always remember a waitress I met near where we live. We started chatting about our families when she noticed that my girls were twins. She was pregnant with her twins, she told me, when her husband was killed on duty at the Pentagon, on September 11, 2001. She moved back to Texas so that her parents could help her raise her three children even as she grieved.

It’s easy to overlook how war, especially war that takes place far from our shores, impacts children. It does impact them, though. My daughters have known all their lives that Daddy goes away to catch bad men. They know that he carries a gun, and so do the bad men. They also know that most of the people in Iraq and Afghanistan are just mommies and daddies and kids who don’t want any fighting. They just want to be together.

These conversations with my daughters were not easy. They were at least as hard as the conversations we’ve had about divorce and that mommy and daddy don’t love each other any more. Now that M and J are 9, they can verbalize how they’re feeling. When they were younger, it was much harder, especially with Daddy away more often than he was living with us at home.

To help my daughters talk about and process their father’s absence, I turned to Daddy Dolls, a company started by two Marine wives. They turn the full-length photo of a loved one into a doll for your child to interact with. Ours came out wonderfully. They held up through 2 years of daily hugs and countless runs through the washing machine, looking just as they did they day we received them. Sadly, they’ve been left at the bottom of the toy bin since shortly after the divorce, despite my efforts to bring them out to play.

I ordered the girls’ dolls the day that my now-ex left for his 3rd combat tour. We took photos of L in front of our garage the morning he deployed to Afghanistan. The company removed the background image and printed a smiling picture on each of two camo-backed dolls.

Daddy dolls give the military child something to hold onto while a parent is deployed.

When our then 4-year-old daughters received their dolls, they were completely enamoured. You can see their reaction in this video.

A few days after we received the Daddy dolls, we I walked over to J’s bed after brushing M’s hair. J had her doll in her hand, facing me.

J (age 4, as Daddy): Hi Sadia!
Me: Hi L (ex’s name)!
J: So, how are you doing?
Me: I’m fine, but I miss you. I have a hard time falling asleep.
J: I just came by to say, “You’re welcome.”
Me: I see.
J: You’re welcome for the dolls.
Me: I love you!
J: I miss you all, even Penelope (the cat).
Me: And we miss you.
J: (as J, addressing the doll) You and me only have the … What’s the hole called?
Me: A dimple.
J: You and me only have a dimple.
M (age 4): Mommy and me have moles!
J: Does Daddy have a mole?
Me: Yes.

Of course, the utility and value of these dolls isn’t limited to families with a deployed parent. Any child suffering loss might benefit. I gave a gift card to the site to a friend for her son when her husband passed away. Moving away from the morbid, when it comes time for holiday shopping, a Daddy (or Mommy or Grandma or Sister) Doll might make for a good present. We received ours in less than two weeks.

Wouldn't Do Without Wednesday at hdydi.com: This week, the gogo Kidz Travelmate.As with all Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday posts, I received no compensation for this review.

Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday: Common Sense Media

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We’ve come a long way from my early concerns about young children and screen time. My initial knee-jerk attitude that TV is evil has matured into a more nuanced one.

There’s no reason for children under 2 to watch television. In my opinion, some touch screen apps may be appropriate for toddlers, in a very limited way, since they are interactive and respond to the child’s actions. Older children can consume film and TV shows within reason, but I strongly encourage parents to watch with them to make for a shared and interactive experience. I also think that it’s important that parents preview the media that their children will consume to make sure that it’s appropriate and that any lessons not in keeping with family values are discussed. Advertisements should be limited and any that are shown should be explained as an attempt to sell and not a reflection of truth.

My children are 9 years old. They are allowed 2 hours of screen time on each weekend day. On rare occasions, if they’re done with homework and we have some time before bedtime, we’ll watch a movie together on weekday evenings. They are also allowed unlimited screen time to research and write their independent study projects, which are usually worked on in Google Docs.

There are occasions on which M and J want to watch a show or movie on Netflix that I haven’t yet seen. Very rarely, we go to the movies to watch a new release. My kids will learn about a new kids’ website at school and ask if they can visit it. In these cases, I turn to Common Sense Media. This website and its associated app are a goldmine of practical information for parents.

When you search for a book, show, game, or movie, the resulting list includes an age appropriateness rating for each result. This rating isn’t the one given by the movie/game studio or publisher, but is based on developmental criteria and the specifics of the content of the media.

Common Sense Media gives clear age ratings for books, games, and movies.

More detail is available for each item, including commentary about themes that might be worth discussing with your child. You can also read reviews and comments from both parents and children.

Common Sense Media provides helps parents decide whether a show, game, or book is appropriate for a child.

I recently turned to Common Sense Media when it occurred to me that my children might be old enough for Who Framed Roger Rabbit. I hadn’t seen the movie in 18 years and couldn’t remember how overt its sexual content was. The review’s first sentence answered my question: “Parents need to know that some of the nuances of the storyline and much of the film’s innuendo-laden humor will go right over children’s heads.” Although the site recommended the movie for children 10 and up, I felt confident that my daughters could handle it. And they did. They loved it. They caught onto some of the darkness in the storyline, but completed missed the innuendo in the midst of all the slapstick. There was a teeny bit of language I could have done without, but the Common Sense Media review ratings had warned me of that.

If you haven’t visited the site before, I strongly recommend a visit to Common Sense Media at commonsensemedia.org. I wouldn’t do without it.

Multiples in the Womb – National Geographic documentary

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As if we needed any proof that our multiples are miracles, National Geographic has a wonderful documentary about the life of multiples in utero. See 4D ultrasound of siblings interacting before they’re even born.

The In the Womb series also includes a video entirely about identical twins in the womb, which we just loved. Do be aware that there’s a scene in both films with a silhouette of the act of conception that you may want to skip through if you haven’t had The Talk yet. There are also diagrams of male and female anatomy. You may want to watch it all the way through without kids at least once.

Sleep Challenges, Big Kid Edition

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When I went to check on my daughters last night before I went to sleep, I found J’s Kindle lying on top of the covers. It should have been under her pillow. I sought out her 8-year-old twin M’s bedtime reading and found her book under the pillow, but on the opposite side from where I’d seen her put it at lights out.

When it was time to get up for school, J was the first to wake.

Me: J, have you guys been reading after I turn the lights out?

There was a long, pregnant pause. J sighed.

J: Yes. Yes, we have.
Me: By flashlight?
J: How did you know?

I had to laugh, loudly enough to wake M.

Me: Because I used to do the same thing. Thanks for being honest with me. I know you were tempted not to.
J: You did it too?
Me: I did.
J: What did your mommy say?
Me: She never caught me, but my Nanu (maternal grandmother) did.
J: What’d she say?
Me: That she used to do it too, but by candlelight or moonlight. And that sleep is important.

We shared a laugh. This time, M wanted to know what we were laughing about.

Me: M, I know about your reading by flashlight.
M: Am I in trouble?
Me: Do I look mad?

She studied me.

M: No, I don’t think so. Why not?
J: Because she did it too!
M: You DID?
Me: I did.
M: Mom!
Me: I know. But here’s the thing. Sleep is important. Sleep is when you form your memories and…
J: What memories?
Me: All your memories you’ll keep forever. Everything you’ve learned and everything you’ve seen and your friends and silly things M says. Your brain needs time to rest and recuperate, and so does your body. A lot of the chemical in your body that tells you to grow is made while you sleep.
M: Did you have to stop?
Me: Well, my Nanu didn’t tell, but she made sure that I got more sleep, because I was tired.
M: Do we have to stop?
Me: Yes.
J: (disappointed) Okay.
Me: You have plenty of reading time. We can try to adjust things to give you more reading time. But you need all the sleep time too.

M handed me the flashlight she’d just dug out from under her pillow.

I’m not sure I handled this the right way. Perhaps I should have been harder on the children for actively misleading me. Perhaps I shouldn’t have confessed my own childhood disobedience. Maybe the consequence of not respecting bedtime should have been the loss of reading privileges.

I really didn’t want to punish the children for loving literature. I didn’t want to make them afraid to admit their mistakes to me. I didn’t want them to feel that it was safer to build lies upon lies instead of coming clean.

Our bedtime check-in seems to indicate that I made the right choice. When I asked J what she’d learned today, she answered, “I learned that I can’t get anything past my Mommy. I have lots of examples! Like reading… and wearing perfume… and brushing my teeth.”

What would you do if you discovered your kids reading after bedtime?

Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday: Crane Humidifier

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I originally wrote this post singing the praises of our Crane humidifier in 2009. Almost exactly six years later, it’s still serving us well. Now, it helps keep J’s nosebleeds at bay, since we seem to be past our lung issues.

We run a cool-mist humidifier in the girls’ room every night. Our pediatrician recommended getting one during J and M’s first bout of bronchiolitis, at age 4 months. (Bronchiolitis is an infection of the bronchioles of the lungs. Preemies are particularly susceptible because their lungs are put to work before they are fully developed.)

We noticed an immediate improvement in both M and J’s breathing during that first attack of bronchiolitis when we increased the humidity of their room. The first couple of years, I ran the humidifier every time either of them started coughing. [In the winter of 2008], I realized that the humidifier seemed to prevent coughing in the first place. It ran every night, and walking into the nursery relieved the pressure in my head caused by lovely Austin allergies.

During the first horrible round of bronchiolitis in our tiny infants, my ex ran out to the grocery store and bought the first humidifier in sight, a Vicks Cool Mist one. It did the job, and we dealt with the annoyance of cleaning it. When I noticed mold (eeeeeeew) on the wire, I chucked it in the trash and decided to upgrade. After reading a number of reviews, I got a Crane humidifer.

I’m in love.

This cool mist humidifier is an unobtrusive element of nursery decor and can help decrease a number of respiratory difficulties. Okay, so the thing is cute. In addition to the penguin I selected, Crane makes frogs, bears, pigs, elephants, and other animals. They have an elegant modernist line too.

These crane humidifiers are effective and perfect for nursery decor. What I’m really in love with, though, is how well it functions. The humidity output is adjustable, unlike my old humidifier. Also, and this should be standard on any electronics, but wasn’t present on my Cool Mist, the penguin has an on-off switch. Imagine, not having to unplug the darn thing every morning! I can see the mist being produced, and my sinuses are a testament to its effectiveness.

Cleaning couldn’t be easier; I actually look forward to cleaning the water tank on Saturdays, because I feel like I’ve accomplished something and it’s so easy. Changing the filter is foolproof. The Crane humidifier takes up less room than our old one, but be aware that the instructions recommend not setting it on the floor.

Plus, did I mention that it’s cute?

Humidifer in nursery. cute and effective!If you’re in the market for a humidifier, I can attest to the durability of these Crane ones.

I am no way affiliated with Crane USA and received no compensation for this review. This product has served us very well for many years.

Wouldn't Do Without Wednesday at hdydi.com: This week, the gogo Kidz Travelmate.

Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday: Our “OK to Wake” Clock

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I originally wrote this when my twin girls were three, as a review on our local MoMs’ group blog.  My girls are now six, and my love for this little gadget is still as strong as ever.

***

Since our girls started sleeping through the night, until they were about 18 months old, I could usually count on them waking up around 6:45 in the morning.  And then, when they dropped to one nap during the day, they began sleeping until about 7:30.  Those were the days!

When we began potty training, around 27 months, though, we experienced a drastic change in the girls’ morning routines.  I appreciated that they woke to use the potty…but there were some painfully early starts to our days for quite some time.

I then discovered a wonderful gadget that has made a huge difference in our morning routines, the “OK to Wake!” clock.  [There are several iterations of these in clocks and stuffed toys…just search “OK to wake”.]

OK to Wake

I set the clock to 6:30, at which time it glows green.  (As much as I’d like them to sleep until 9am on the weekends, I wanted to set a “realistic” goal.)  I tell the girls, if you wake up and the clock isn’t green, you can roll over and go back to sleep.

There are times when I hear them stirring shortly after 6:00, but they don’t usually call for me until 6:30…on the dot…and then I hear, Mommy!  The clock is green!  I slept well!

There are times that they wake up early, sometimes needing to sit on the potty.  After they use the bathroom, it’s been great to have an “impartial party” — the clock — to cite.  “The clock isn’t green.  It’s still sleep time,” I’ll tell the girls.  They almost always accept that they need to go back to bed.

I was worried that the clock would somehow wake them up in the mornings.  Its glow isn’t so bright that it disturbs them, though, and a handful of times they’ve slept an extra 15 or 20 minutes.  The green glow lasts for 30 minutes, so they still get to call out to me when they wake up (which they get a big kick out of).

I would love to one day get back to our blessed 7:30 rise and shine…but for now, I’m so thankful to at least have a consistent wake-up time.

***

(This is not a sponsored post.  I am in no way affiliated with the companies that make or sell these awesome gadgets.  It’s just been a lifesaver to us…for close to four years now!…and I wanted to share.)

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

Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday: Baby Bjorn Bibs

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No parent enjoys the mess that is mealtime with young children.

Luckily, I found something to help us with that problem. As babies, all my kids wore cloth bibs during their waking hours, especially during teething, to catch all the drool and milk. We had several dozen cheap thin ones, lined with plastic on the back so they didn’t soak through. We changed these frequently as they got wet/soiled, and tossed them in with the wash. They worked wonderfully well.

However, as they began their rice cereal and then graduated to other messy colorful purees, the thin cloth bibs didn’t cut it anymore. Soft foods usually just slide right down a flat bib, and there is no mechanism on them for catching any solid foods (or food your child decides to spit out).

That’s when I discovered a new kind of bib: ones with a pocket! There are actually many brands out there, but the style is basically the same. It’s a molded plastic bib that catches food in its pocket. There are some made of just a thin piece of plastic with a flat pocket, which doesn’t seem very effective in catching any food at all. And there are some softer varieties that bend and move around with your child, which means the spilled food probably doesn’t stay put.

My favorite is the Baby Bjorn Bib. These are a little bit more rigid than the others, thicker, and sturdier. They attach around the neck via a sort of corded band across the top that you just press into the fastener at the other side, completely adjustable as your child grows or how close you want it to the neck, and much more secure than velcro. They come in all different colors, including gender neutral ones. But they are also somewhat pricey: Amazon currently lists these for about $15 a two-pack, which is a great deal because they sell for about $10 singly. th These best thing about them is not just that they are good at catching food, but they are incredibly easy to clean as well. After each meal we just rinse them off and they’re dry for the next meal. If we’re out, I just run around them with a wipey and go. And they are dishwasher safe! When I start a load of dishes, I just toss them in on top of the sippy cups and they get sanitized too.

Big Sis has for the most part grown out of using bibs. She is almost 5 after all. But sometimes at home when she knows she’s eating something messy, she will put her bib on to keep her clothes clean. But the twins have these bibs everywhere and use them at every meal. Over the years I have accumulated 9 of them: 3 for use at home, 2 at Grandma’s, 2 at in-laws, and 2 clipped to our diaper bag in the car. I wouldn’t be surprised if we get years more use out of these bibs yet!

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

Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday: “Crayola My Color is” Packs

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Do you color code your multiples? Or do you have a kid who only likes one color? In our house we haven’t been very strict about color coding, but over time, one twin adopted blue and one green. The Blue Lover ONLY loves blue. He only wants to color in blue, drink from the blue cup, eat off the blue plate. So when I saw these at Target, I knew they had to show up in the Easter basket. I mean, Crayola gets the mentality of a toddler. How brilliant are these?

Crayola My Color Is packs

I am not sure if these are a new product or a limited time thing. I tried to find info on Crayola.com and it turned up nothing. These were in the art section at my local Target, there were lots of different color packs. I know two little boys who will be getting the blue and the green packs on Sunday. These would also be great for schools or sports teams as well as picky kids.

This post is just to share and was not sponsored in any way by Crayola, who only maybe knows who I am because they “liked” my photo when I shared it on Instagram. They certainly didn’t pay me or send me free blue coloring implements.

Wouldn't Do Without Wednesday at hdydi.com: This week, the Crayola's My Color Is single color packs.

Jen Wood is the stay at home mom to twin 5-year-old boys who are newly registered to start kindergarten in the fall. They live in the Chicago area where it recently hit 40 degrees so they have packed away coats in optimistic folly.

Foodie Friday: Schlotzsky’s Review and $25 Gift Card Giveaway

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$25 Schlotzsky's gift card giveaway at http://hdydi.com My daughters and I don’t make a habit of eating out, so when we do go, it’s a treat. We have a relatively limited list of places we frequent, mostly because M is very particular about what she’ll eat.

When I mentioned to my 8-year-old twins that I’d been invited to a Schlotzsky’s blogger event to sample their new Italian menu items, my daughters cheered, very loudly. Very, very loudly. They both absolutely love the sandwiches there, and it doesn’t hurt any that Schlotzsky’s also serves Cinnabon buns. 8-year-old J is chowing down at Schlotzsky's We’re lucky to live in the Austin suburbs, a reasonable drive to Schlotzsky’s flagship location. Our usual location is across the driveway from the autoshop where I go for oil changes. A Schlotzsky visit is part of our monthly car maintenance routine when eating out is within our budget.

At the promotional event, we got to sample everything new on their menu, the Viva l’Italia line. I have to admit, it was hard to limit myself to just a taster’s bite of each dish. Any one of them would have made a delicious and satisfying meal. With these Italian offerings, including oven-baked pastas, pizzas and more, Schlotzsky’s is going well beyond the local sandwich joint we’ve known and loved. I’d now consider it a bakery café. Even the pickiest of eaters was delighted with the menu! Of course, this being a promotional meal, Schlotzsky’s put their best foot forward, but the food spoke for itself. My daughter M, the picky child, had three servings of the tomato basil canestrelli. She quite literally scraped her plate and told Chef Paul that she’d be coming back to order it again. He’s a member of the team that created these dishes, and his passion for quality was clearly quite as deep as his affection for children. M immediately adored him, although J was too busy chowing down to notice. Schlotzsky's tomato basil canstrelli is part of their oven-baked pasta line. While J joined me in sampling everything, M would try only one of the ciabatta sandwiches. (Oh my, were they good!) The Tuscan had avocado: “Yucky, mommy.” The Caprese had tomatoes: “I only like ketchup of tomatoes.” She consented to eat the Sicilian, but deconstructed, so as to get at the shaved ham, pepperoni and salami, while bypassing the provolone, roasted red bell peppers, balsamic onions, olives, pepperoncini, field greens and tomato. Usually, stock photos from restaurants bear little resemblance to the real thing, but our sandwiches looked just like these. The Tuscan_Ciabatta CapreseCiabattaThe Sicilian_Ciabatta See? Ciabatta sandwich tasting at Schlotzsky's So, M wasn’t sold on the sandwiches, although J and I were. The pasta, though? She loooooved the pasta. (So did I. There was this Andouille sausage and goat cheese pasta that makes me drool to just think about.) I’m tempted to keep going on and on about the pastas and the pizza and the desserts (Austin only), but I know you probably want to get to the gift card, so I’ll hold back.

Note that Schlotzsky’s has locations in 35 of the 50 states, in addition to Russia, Turkey and Azerbaijan. Please make sure that you have a local location before entering.

Use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter the giveaway. You could win a $25 Schlotzsky’s gift card. If you feel like using all the options, go for it. If you just want to put in the simplest possible entry, just leave us a comment on this post telling us about your favourite Italian food. You can follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest, tweet about this giveaway, or leave a comment here or on another HDYDI post.

Please don’t forget to let us know in Rafflecopter which you’ve done so that your entries count!! In bocca al lupo e buon appetito. (Hey, two years of Italian in college is finally useful beyond listening to my favourite operas!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Why not up your chances by entering the #HoorayItaly contest? Schlotzsky’s is offering 10 $100 gift cards for selfies with their Viva l’Italia menu items.

Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday: gogo Kidz Travelmate

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Today marks the beginning of a new occasional series, brainchild of our own MandyE. We’re calling it Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday. (Insert your groan here, over my abominable abuse of alliteration.) In short, the HDYDI MoMs will share with you various products, services and tricks that have made our lives easier.

Wouldn't Do Without Wednesday at hdydi.com: This week, the gogo Kidz Travelmate.We will not accept advertising pitches. The stuff featured in Wouldn’t Do Without Wednesday consists of things we genuinely use, that we feel moved to share. We think you may not have heard of these items, or perhaps we’ve found secondary uses for household things that you might like to try.

gogo Kidz Travelmate

My pick for this week is the gogo Kidz Travelmate. Forgive the goofy spelling and capitalization. This contraption attaches to your convertible or toddler car seat, and its wheels essentially turn your car seat into a temporary stroller. In my opinion, if you’re flying with multiple toddlers, you have to invest in a few of these.

With my children asleep in their car seats, I was able to get from airplane door to my car without waking the twins. The only help I needed was that of the flight attendant who sat with one child while I carried the other out, carseat and all. It took a little creative positioning to drag a seat and suitcase behind me in each hand, but it worked.

gogo Kidz Travelmate in use. This is the easiest way to get a car seat through the airport.I wouldn’t recommend the Travelmate for everyday use. You probably still want a stroller. For getting through the airport, though, I have yet to see anything better than the Travelmate. I’m a big proponent of having non-lap baby smaller children fly in their car seats over being loose in the airplane seat. At least for my kiddos, being in the familiar confines of the car seat was a sign of the behaviour expected of them, and there was no risk of them sliding out. Plus, our car seats weren’t going to be crushed or mishandled in transit

Here’s how I used mine:

  1. When the Travelmates arrived in the mail, I grabbed my screwdriver and attached the bottom to the handle.
  2. The kids rode to the airport as usual.
  3. When we got out of the car, quickly attach the Travelmate to the back of the car seat.
  4. We rolled through the airport, stopping at least 10 times to answer questions about where you got this miracle
  5. Security was the biggest pain, which should come as no suprise. I had to take the pieces apart because our Britax Marathons wouldn’t go through X-ray otherwise, but it took only seconds to put it back together. Of course, the kids had to get out of the seats to go through security.
  6. I wheeled the car seats quite literally to out seats, one pushed in front of my and one dragged behind down the plane aisle.
  7. I popped off the wheels, stuck them in my carry-on and installed the car seats using the airplane seat belts.
  8. I then did everything backwards at the other end of the flight.

gogo Kidz Travelmate

 

Have you ever used the Travelmate? Did you find it as useful as I did?