Bedtime Routines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Week of Parenting Solo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Managing the Time Change

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Thoughts on Working Part-time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twinfant Tuesday: Ever-Changing Schedules (Birth-4 Months)

Ever-Changing Schedules (1)

Schedules. Some moms love it. Some moms hate it. Some grandmothers think that their daughters/daughters-in-law are sickos for thinking about putting their sweet grandchildren on a dreaded schedule.

If you were a student in my classroom or one of my students’ parents, you will know that I love schedules and routines. By reading some of my extensive lists on my blog Doyle Dispatch, you could probably also tell that I like to know what to expect.

Let’s face it, though. Babies like routines also.

Think about it. They spent 9 months in this cozy, safe environment before getting expelled into this crazy, loud, unexpected world. What in the world is going on? As soon as they get comfortable with the way things work, they go through a developmental change and then POOF they have to re-figure out the world again. Scary! That’s why we swaddle our babies. That’s why we live with white-noise machines constantly humming all night long. That’s why we do schedules and routines. We do whatever we can to help guide our babies through the craziness of life, especially during their infancy.

Routines start simply: The Feeding Routine

  • unswaddle
  • change diaper
  • allow to nurse for about 10-20 minutes
  • supplement with milk that was pre-pumped
  • re-dress
  • swaddle
  • sleep
  • repeat

We do that every 2-3 hours. 24 hours a day. 7 days a week. It’s exhausting, but we can make it work.

Then a growth spurt happens, and we think we are losing our minds.

My breasts hurt. My nipples are falling off. My back is killing me. I’m deliriously tired. Can’t we put them back in?

Around 6 weeks, we re-evaluate and realize that, after this growth spurt is over, our perfect little schedule isn’t good anymore. Our babies aren’t sleeping every other minute of every day. They are getting overstimulated when they are held by us, their grandparents, their aunts, uncles, and visiting friends.

Twin Schedules

We come up with a new schedule: The Ideal Feeding Schedule

  • 11 PM
  • 3 AM
  • 7 AM
  • 10 AM
  • 12:30 PM
  • 3 PM
  • 5:30 PM
  • 8 PM

Ha. Like you have enough brain power to stick to that schedule! Think again, Batman!

Playtime within Schedules

You re-evaluate after a week and come up with the Get-Daddy-Back-to-Work Schedule

  • 8 AM: First Feeding
  • In-between: Daddy to work, Mommy and babies 1-1 cuddle or activity
  • 11 AM: Feeding
  • In-between: Babies nap
  • 2 PM: Feeding
  • In-between: Mommy 1-1 cuddle time or activity
  • 5 PM: Feeding
  • In between: Cuddle time
  • 8 PM: Feeding
  • Babies sleep (expect fussiness)
  • 11 PM: Feeding
  • Babies sleep
  • 2 AM: Feeding
  • Babies sleep
  • 5 AM: Feeding
  • Babies sleep

You discover that this one really doesn’t work either. Maybe it’s the fact that your babies are constantly going through a growth spurt or sleep regression. When one stops, the other starts. You give up. You just forget the advice from The Sleep Book (insert whichever theory you are going with now). You give in. You go with the flow. You feed ever hour if you need to. You feel like you aren’t producing enough milk. You are worried that you are starving your babies, but you plug along.

Twin Schedules

Suddenly, you realize that you can predict the type of mood that your baby is in at about 2.5 months. They still hate this thing called “napping,” but you just need a few minutes during the day for your shower/coffee/to clean the spit-up off your 3rd shirt of the day. A natural schedule takes place. It’s marvelous!

The Natural Schedule (Times are adjustable)

  • 6:00 AM Babies wake up and Daddy soothes them/turns on their mobiles
  • 7:00 AM Babies are too hungry and it’s time to eat (Mommy begrudgingly gets out of bed)
  • During the feeding, Daddy gets coffee for himself, tea and breakfast for Mommy, and showers
  • 7:30 AM Daddy takes both babies, changes diapers and enjoys Happy Morning Time
  • 8:15 AM Babies get tired and cranky. Time for naps!
  • 9:15 AM Babies are awake (although this can happen much earlier). Time for play gym, tummy time, singing, stories, talking, and other play activities.
  • 10:30 AM Mid-morning feeding
  • 11:00 AM Happy mid-morning time with activities
  • 11:45 AM 2nd nap
  • When wake-up: Playroom activity time
  • 2:00 PM Afternoon feeding
  • 2:30 PM Happy afternoon time with activities
  • 2:50 PM Nap
  • 4:30 PM Wake-up and playtime
  • 5:00 PM Feeding
  • 5:30 PM Cuddling with Daddy and Mommy after work (“Couch Cuddle Time”)
  • 7:15 PM Baths and Bedtime routines
  • 7:45 PM Final Feeding and Goodnights
  • Possible feedings around 12:30 AM and 3:30 AM (and sometimes at 5:30 as well)

Now, I’m not saying that this is perfect or that this is the schedule that we always stick to, but overall it does what we want it to do MOST of the time. Feed-play-sleep-play is really  a workable routine. There’s a reason that so many moms swear by it.

One other thing that has helped us is this: Whenever David or Audrey shows signs of being tired, we put them down for a nap or let them sleep where they are. If it is in the evening, we will let them fall asleep for a short time wherever they are (in our arms or in their bouncers if it is dinnertime). At this age, we figure that if they sleep, it’s because they need to sleep. Their nighttime sleeping is all over the place anyway, that we just go with it. Napping so close to bedtime hasn’t shown that we’ve had a negative impact on their overnight sleeping. I know that this goes against what the sleep-training advice tells us to do, but it has worked for us, so we stick with it.

Twin Schedules

Lately, I’ve been having some more appointments, whether is it physical therapy for my shoulder (totally different story… you try having shoulder blade issues when you have two babies that want to be held all the time), a class at the gym (free childcare and a hot shower afterwards!), or just sanity visits from other adults. We have tried one more schedule, based off of The Natural Schedule. We don’t have to stick to it everyday, but it does seem to work:

The 4-Month-Old Schedule

  • 7 AM Feeding, Diapers, Play
  • 8 AM Nap
  • 9:15 AM Feeding, Diapers
  • 10 AM Leave for Gym
  • 10:30 AM Class at Gym
  • 11:30 AM Shower and Locker Room Time
  • 12:15 PM Pick Up Babies from Nursery and Go Home
  • 12:30 PM Feeding, Diapers, Play
  • 1:45 PM Nap
  • 3 PM Feeding, Diapers
  • 3:30 PM Out and About (or Home) Activities
  • 5:30 PM Feeding
  • Evening Activities (Walk or Errands)
  • 8 PM Baths, Diapers, PJs
  • 8:30 PM Final Feeding
  • 9 PM Lights Out
  • + 1 or 2 feedings during the night

So, mommies and daddies, do you have a schedule that works? I’d love to hear it! How do you make it work with two babies? Do you hold your breath during “nap time” as well, knowing that one of them will wake up any minute?

Twinfant Tuesday: A Day in the Life with Triplets-The First Month

When people hear that we have triplets, often one of the first comments is “I don’t know how you do it!” So I wrote this post to give folks a better idea of what our typical day looked like for the first couple of months after the NICU. I figured it was fitting to share this post from our blog here on How Do You Do It blog for Twinfant Tuesday.

We read a lot of triplet blogs during the pregnancy and honestly, not very many people keep up the detailed posts after the babies are born. It is mostly just pictures, which I completely understand! (And obviously, I know that’s why most people follow our blog!). But as we prepared for our trio’s arrival, I found myself searching for the details and wanting to ask each family “No, really, how do you do it?!” So this post will give you some idea what our days were like for the first month or two. Most importantly, for any families who are expecting, or just had triplets, this post is for you!

When writing this post I had a hard time figuring out where to start “the day!” Our days didn’t exactly start at 6, 7, or 8a.m. but it seemed weird to start at midnight too! So I decided to start with a “normal person’s” morning (albeit pretty early for most normal people!) and go from there.

**side notes, so the schedule below makes sense: My wife and I both have “M” names so M&M means both of us are on duty.  Oh, and we’re both breastfeeding because I was able to induce lactation to solve the “more babies than breasts” problem!

Here was our schedule for the first couple of months that I pulled from our blog

  • 5am-Both M&M feed babies
  • 5:30-One of us feeds baby #3 while the other starts changing diapers. (If we have a helper for this one, Michelle usually sends me to bed so I get an extra bit of sleep because the late night/early mornings are the hardest times for me.)
  • 6:00-Swaddle and soothe babies and put them down to sleep
  • 6:15-M&M pump to maintain/increase milk supply and get milk for next feeding’s supplements (We had to supplement each nursing session to get enough calories in)
  • 6:30-Wash pump parts and supplement contraption, prep supplements for the next feeding, & take any extra milk to the fridge
  • 6:45/7ish-M&M eat a snack & lay back down to catch an hour or so of sleep before starting all over
  • 8ish-Babies start stirring again and we start the feed, change, swaddle, pump, clean/prep cycle all over again (We often have a helper for this cycle so it tends to go a little faster…sometimes done in an hour!)
  • 9/9:30ish-M&M eat a quick breakfast and either lay down for another snooze or take a shower or do one small productive task like put in a load of diaper laundry, tidy up the zoo of a bedroom, or do dishes.
  • 11ish-Babies start stirring and repeat. This cycle is either followed by a nap or lunch or breakfast if we prioritized sleep the previous cycle!
  • 2ish-Samesies-almost always followed by a nap-particularly for Michelle whose hardest time is the afternoon.
  • 5ish-Surprise surprise…we do it all over again! Mari might start this one solo to give Michelle an extra half hour of sleep or might do it all alone with a helper handling the diapers and prep.
  • 6:30ish-M&M eat dinner–generally something a helper prepared for us or that we heat up from the freezer. Prep night time nursing snacks and bring them to the bedroom.
  • 7ish-M&M lay down for a short snooze before the 8pm cycle. Or, if we’re not feeling sleepy we might actually hang out with each other, check in, & talk over our plans, if any, for the next day.
  • 8pm-Hungry hungry hippos are ready to eat again (did I say hippos?! I meant babies, of course!) and the feed/change/swaddle/pump/clean cycle repeats. We try to do this one quickly and with as little light as possible, trying to help them get the idea of night time = sleep time. So far it doesn’t seem to be helping and they are just as likely to be wide eyed after this feeding as any other. A helper takes baby duty during this time, soothing them if they stir, so we can both get a nice solid uninterrupted hour or two of sleep going into the night.
  • 11pm-Repeat. Same as 8pm with low light and as quickly as we can manage.
  • 2am-Here we go again…This is the hardest one for me and Michelle has had to wake me up for this feeding some nights! Half the time I feel like I’m sleep walking and struggling to stay awake while nursing. Sometimes I have to stand up and move around the room to keep myself alert and functional.

And then it’s on to the next day!  Whenever we had help, one or both of us tried to go sleep in the guest room so that we weren’t disturbed by the little stirrings/rumblings/cries of one or more babies as they cycled through lighter periods of sleep since they were sleeping in our room. The above schedule is like a rough draft. We were not hard core about the clock and the babies really led the way. Oftentimes our lovely 3 hour cycle was shortened to 2.5 hours because of hungry tummies. And occasionally, they’d stretch it to 3.5 hours! This only happened a handful of times, and of course, only once at night. It was amazing how different that extra half hour of sleep made us feel!  For triplet parents to be, our triplets are now 5 months old and I will tell you that we regularly get more than an hour of sleep at a time, but I’d be lying if I said we got enough sleep!

Our GBG triplets at 2 weeks old!

Our GBG triplets at 2 weeks old!

 

Surviving the Holidays with Young Children

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!

Twinfant Tuesday: Morning Routines

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.

Twinfant Tuesday: Things We Live By

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.

Taking Back Our Weekends

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.