Guest Post: Design Tips to Make Room for Two (or More!)

5 ways to get your home ready for new arrivals

Multiples can fill up a house quickly, especially if you’re in a smaller space to begin with—but fortunately, there are a few inexpensive design tricks that can make your home feel much more open. Here are a few ways you can organize your home to make room for multiples.

1. Use unifying colors

Photo Credit: coco+kelley

Photo Credit: coco+kelley

One of the simplest ways to alter the sense of space in a room is to change the color scheme. Light, breezy colors like cream, pastel blue or green, and yellow will let more light in and make your home feel much more open. Dark, rich colors tend to soak up natural light and make rooms feel more cave-like. If your walls, art, and furniture have clashing colors, this can also make a room feel busy—so try to create a unified theme for your home, with two or three matching colors.

2. Get creative with closet space

When you bring multiples home, you might need to convert offices, playrooms, and guest rooms into bedrooms—but that doesn’t mean you have to give up the space entirely. Especially while kids are young, you’ll have some unused closet space that can become a home office nook or even a small play area.

For shallow closets, you can simply remove the doors, throw in a desk and good lighting, and you’ve got a place to get things done. With chalkboard paint and creative use of closet storage, the same closet can become a little play nook.

3. Make use of vertical space

Use vertical space

Photo Credit: theloushe

Vertical space is seriously underused in most homes, which can make the floor feel very maze-like and cluttered. This tip is especially helpful for parents of multiples, because your home’s vertical space is a great place to put things you want to keep away from kids, like houseplants, expensive decorative items, etc.

To make better use of vertical space, replace end tables with wall-mounted shelving, and floor lamps with sconces. If you have potted plants on your living room floor, hang them from the ceiling instead. The more you can clear your floor, the more open (and kid-proof) your home will be.

4. Pare down furniture and art

For your living room and common areas, the best way to reduce the “busy” feeling is to cut back on clutter. Instead of three small, mismatched furniture pieces in the living room, go for one big couch. Instead of a wall full of art in various styles and colors, opt for a single statement piece (or even better, a nice big mirror). Especially in your bathroom, keep one rug, one mirror, and one piece of tasteful art.

5. Create visual depth

Photo Credit: emily katherine may

Photo Credit: emily katherine may

The farther into a room you can see, the more open it feels, so make sure you can see as much of your walls and baseboards as possible. Choose thin, leggy nightstands and end tables, and remove bed and sofa skirts. Look for recessed bath cabinets with big, wide mirrors to reflect more light and fool the eye.

In your kitchen, use open shelving instead of cupboards—you can simply remove the cupboard doors, sand down the hinges, and repaint to open up the space. (If you choose open shelving in your kitchen, display your matching flatware up front; the more unified your kitchen is in color and style, the less cluttered it will feel.)

Mike Freiberg is a staff writer for HomeDaddys, a resource for stay-at-home dads, work-at-home dads, and everything in between. He’s a handyman, an amateur astronomer, and a tech junkie, who loves being home with his two kids. He lives in Austin.

Guest Post: Counting Higher Than Two

Mommy, Esq. is a lawyer at a Big Firm and mom to almost 10 month old twins, Edmund (Ned) and Penelope. In between conference calls and deal closings she thanks her lucky stars for an unbelievable Husband (and co-parent) and nanny. You can find her blog about Big Law and the three loves of her life at www.mommyesq.com.

Goddess in Progress has discussed her struggles around whether or not to go for number three and Laura C has also blogged about knowing she is happy with two rambuncious boys. This may shock some of you moms of multiples out there but my husband and I decided to start trying for a third kid right around month 5 with our newborn twins.

If I saw me through a lens I would think we were crazy. After all, I work too much, Husband travels too much, we haven’t even figured out how to be parents – why add another baby into the mix? You may be toying with the idea yourself so I thought I’d let you in on all the discussions we’ve had since deciding to take the plunge:

1. Parenting is Fun. Husband and I originally decided to have kids because “hey, that’s what you do”. If you love each other and want to pass on your values and genetic code you force the next generation to suffer through your parenting mistakes. We both can’t believe how much we like it. It’s not always pretty but we think someday we’ll love our kids not only because of their genetic code but because we helped raise them into loving, self-sufficient (here’s hoping) adults.

2. Did You See My Gray Hair(s)? We started trying for kids before I turned 30. Two years and 2 rounds of Clomid later, we discovered we were having twins. My mom had her FOURTH kid at 32. I’m not getting any younger so I want to have another kid while I can – ideally before I’m 35. The bigger and as-of-yet unresolved issue is whether we undergo any fertility treatments if we don’t have any success in the next 6 months. Husband says no way. I say, hmmm…. [noncommittal noises].

3. TWO MORE? Since I’m a triplet there is some possibility – and every mom of multiples fear – that we could end up pregnant again with two (or more) even without fertility treatments. We’re okay with that. Seriously. I not-so-secretly think having two babies at once is more of a joy than one even when factoring in the headaches that go into two babies. I also think that the third kid might feel a bit left out so why not have another set of twins?

4. Little Helpers vs. Bring On the Chaos. Lots of moms wait until multiples kids are older to have more kids. I’m more of the mindset that we lump the diapers, the potty training, the assertion of independence right in a row so we “get it over with” (can you tell I’m not a big fan of the “newborn” phase?). My brother was 6 years younger than my sisters and me and while yes, we were able to make him breakfast and eventually drive him around we weren’t close or “played” together in any way until he became a full-fledged adult. As my kids have started to go through the development leap phase (as of yet unsuccessful) and I have spent some time with my 2.5 year old nephew I know it will be hard, very hard to have 3 kids under the age of 2 or 3 (since time is ticking without any results). But won’t it be better once they are all 5 and 7, right? Right? Plus if we delay then we could love the self-sufficiency of having older kids so much we don’t dare create new chaos. To be honest I was sort of hoping I would get pregnant my first month back at work so I could keep everything off balance.

5. Logistics/Money. It’s not going to be cheap and it’s not going to be easy. We’ll continue with our retirement savings goals and try to save for their college costs. Our primary financial goal is that we don’t want to have to rely on our kids to support us in old age – even knowing that social security and Medicaid will likely be bankrupt when we retire. I’d like to tell you we carefully looked at our finances but frankly it’s a crap shoot. We have enough faith in ourselves that we can make it work.

Our family would be complete without any more kids; but we have room in our hearts for more. What about you, readers: When is the best time for another kid after multiples (if ever)? Would you go for more if it involved fertility treatments?

Guest Post: Au Pair

Dana and Walker live in Seattle with their 2 year old identical twin boys, Finn and Ollie.  They’ve been blogging about their life with the “Deuce” since they were just a plus sign on a pregnancy stick.  Both Dana and Walker enjoy documenting their family adventures, parenting struggles and hilarious toddler antics… Dana through her writing, and Walker through his photographic expertise. 

 

An Ode to Our Au Pair

 

Parents, be warned… this might sound like a sales pitch.  Over the last year or so, I’ve had many conversations with friends that start with, “So, how’s it going with your Au Pair?” and end with, “Where do I sign up!?”

 

I realize that not everyone can say they are 100% satisfied with their childcare arrangements.  Searching for the right ‘fit’ for your family can be exhausting.  I know, because I haven’t always been so happy with our situation. Believe me, I know what it’s like to stress about childcare.

 

Over the last 2 years we have tried every childcare arrangement in the book.  When the boys were 4 months old, they started attending a childcare center that had good references, and flexible hours.  The staff seemed kind and competent, and the price was reasonable.  And although my hectic workday was book-ended with stressful and exhausting daycare pick-ups/drop-offs, I believed this was all part of being a working parent. 

 

But soon the double-baby-barrel-holds up and down two flights of stairs… combined with serious doubts about the owner’s ability to keep staff members happily employed longer than a month… became too much for us to handle.  And so, for the first time we found ourselves in the horrible position that I do not wish upon any working parent: without childcare. 

 

In Seattle, finding another daycare without a 6-month wait list was impossible (especially for twins).  So we expanded our horizons a bit and decided to hire a nanny and found an incredibly loving and playful caregiver for the boys.  And the best part…coming home every evening (without having to manage the double-baby-barrel-hold in and out of the daycare) and just sitting down on the floor with my two happy babies…made it well worth the extra money we were paying.  But 3 short months later we found ourselves scrambling at a moments notice to find replacement care when our nanny decided to return to school.

 

In midst of my frantic search another twin mom suggested getting an Au Pair.  I had never seriously considered the idea, and even then dismissed her suggestion, since I couldn’t fathom how we could fit yet another person in our house.  But once I heard the cost benefit, my ears perked up, and we quickly starting thinking creatively how we were going to rearrange our living space to make it work (for example, our once family room is now our bedroom). 

 

Since welcoming Anna (from Brazil) to become part of our family we’ve learned first hand the many other benefits to this arrangement.   

 

First, the cost…   When you’re trying to swallow double-tuition at a daycare facility, it is a huge relief to know there is a less expensive option.  When you factor in the annual program fees, the weekly stipend, and other expenses (education, car insurance, and food), we are still paying at least 30% less then what were paying at the daycare.  And that doesn’t include the savings in babysitting fees.  We haven’t paid for a babysitter in over a year, and we go out (are you ready for this??) every weekend for a date night! 

anna-at-gateanna-at-grocery

 

Second, the flexibility… Au Pairs can work up to 45 hours per week (regulated by the State Dept.).  My job is pretty flexible, and I actually only work 4 days per week.  Because of the flexibility of Anna’s schedule I’m able to choose which days I’d like to work, and when I’d like to be with the kids (which is as much as possible!).   And then, as mentioned earlier, we work 5 hours into her schedule each week to baby-sit on the weekends. 

 

Third, the ease of our days…  If the boys want to sleep in before I have to leave for work, it’s OK, they can sleep in and Anna will get them up and ready for their day.  If I need to come home early to cook a big dinner, Anna can watch the kids until I’m finished cooking.  Most days when I come home, I just pick up playing with the boys, where she leaves off, and they never have to leave their Lego’s. 

 

Finally, the added love to our children.  I am sure that most caregivers show kindness and affection towards the children the care for.  But I am positive that Anna genuinely loves our kids, and plays with them like a big sister would play and care for her younger siblings.  Also, the boys are immersed in another culture, in their own home.  She is always singing preschool songs in Portuguese, and cooks them Brazilian treats. 

 

There is probably not a day that goes by where I am not honestly and sincerely thanking our Anna for all that she does with the boys.  But, don’t get me wrong; I am not naïve to what could go wrong with Au Pairs… I’ve heard the horror stories.  It is absolutely necessary to do your homework, go with an Au Pair agency that you trust, and interview many, many, MANY people before you find the right fit.  I also recommend really asking yourself whether your family is open to welcoming another family member in your home, sharing your lives with them… not just hiring someone to work with your kids. 

 

If anyone is interested in learning more about the agency that we used, or you have any logistical questions, I’m always happy to help a fellow twin parent find the perfect fit for their family.  Parenting twins is hard enough… it’s good to know that there’s a childcare option that makes things a little easier! 

 

Guest Post: The Bundles of Joy That Bind You

Mommy, Esq lives in the Boston area (where the winters try their best to get her to move South) with six month old Ned and Penny, and her husband of six years. She is a corporate lawyer by trade, but would love to attempt being a wedding photographer. She says “I love taking photographs and doing storybook photographing – which is why blogging is perfect for me!”

Spending time with my sister and her daughter last week brought back some memories of our newborn days. I can’t say it brought back many memories because frankly I don’t remember a lot – and that is probably for the best. Having a newborn (or two or more) is hard on your marriage. Usually when I cried – which was not that often thankfully – it was about my husband. Husband and I have found a good groove now that I am back at work and things feel more equal. But those early days were all about what I had to do and how I wasn’t feeling supported or appreciated or understood. Here are a few lessons that I have learned along the way…

 1. Roadmap. There is no roadmap for new moms – no matter how hard you know breastfeeding will be, how many classes on childcare you take or even if you have hired a baby nurse (as we did) it is The Mommy who is in charge. The Mommy is expected to know everything – how to change a diaper and sooth a cranky baby. How much and when to feed The Baby. When The Baby needs to sleep. If The Mommy is stubborn (ahem) the road the newly created family travels will be that much harder.

2. Mindreading. Husbands can’t read minds. But The Mommy is expected to know everything so why can’t The Husband be expected to read The Mommy’s mind? Can’t The Husband understand the nuances of when The Mommy is about to break-down because dammit The Mommy didn’t want him just to swaddle The Baby she wanted him to hold The Baby and make The Baby STOP CRYING. Or just sit next to The Mommy and talk about how wonderful the kids are while The Mommy breastfeed even if The Husband hates the HGTV/SoapNet show she is watching. Communication is really hard when you are sleep deprived, when you are burning more calories breastfeeding than a marathon runner and when your mind is consumed by details of poop and last feeding times.

3. Changing Roles. The Mommy was (just) a Lawyer, Wife or some such person 10 minutess before the baby(ies) popped out. Now The Mommy is supposed to be 100% about her kid(s). See #1 – where is the instruction manual? How come The Husband can complain about being sleep deprived when he is only getting up once a night (or not at all)? Suddenly The Mommy is supposed to cook dinner when it used to be all take out; do the laundry when it was a 50-50 job in the past? The Mommy does NOT = Housewife. The Husband shouldn’t be worrying about paying bills or opening mail or anything not 100% baby-related when he is home with The Mommy – that can wait until The Baby is asleep.

4. Worst Time of Day. The Mommy will be calling Husband every 10 mins after 4 pm asking when he is going to come home. Because the time from 4 pm to bedtime is a Soul Sucking couple of hours. And if you are pumping and breastfeeding (or trying to) it is even worse because you are so exhausted from the life being sucked out of you. If someone else tells The Mommy she should be sleeping when the babies do she will probably kill them.

5. Learning to Accept Help. Husband and I were rockstars in the hospital. The nurses told me that they never worried about us – I seemed so together and strong despite a C-Section. The kids roomed in and we did it all with a cheery waive to the nurses – “all under control, thanks!” My sister was smarter – she sent Cameron to the nursery because after all, Cameron wouldn’t be rooming in when they brought her home. Damn, good call. Stacey though can’t let go of the cleaning/picking up of the house. Husband had already trained me in that department. Sort of like #2 it took a while before I was willing to accept help – even from the baby nurse we were paying! Stupid stubbornness. The Mommy needs to be in control and make all the right choices. I found it easier to limit the interactions with the wider world to once or twice a week so I could appear completely in control during those times and let myself be crazy the rest of the time.

6. Nothing Stays the Same. The Husband always complains to The Mommy: “Why do you keep changing things?” See #1 – The Mommy has no idea what she is doing. The baby changes every day. The Mommy will try out a multitude of routines before she “picks” one that will last for about 2 days. This was so hard on Husband. I think he loves that the kids have been on the same routine for more than 2 months now. Hmmm…that must mean it is time to shake things up. This walk down memory lane hasn’t dampened my desire to have another child but it does remind me how friggin’ hard the first kid(s) are on a marriage. I would like to think I would handle things better the next time around but frankly I don’t think I will remember enough so we’ll be back at #1 reinventing the wheel. The Husband will probably helpfully ask at multiple intervals: “Is this what we did for The First Baby(ies)?”

What was the hardest thing in your relationship with your partner when you brought home your bundle(s) of joy?
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Read other HDYDI posts on marriage and multiples:

The State of the Union

Absence

The Man in Your Bed

Guest Post: The Scavengers Hunt

Dan England is one of our dad guest posters. He is the dad of three: toddler Jayden and nearly two-year-old twins Allie and Andie, and also husband to Kate.  He is a writer, poker player, mountain climber, runner and baby wrangler. He has recently written for TWINS magazine, and has agreed to write for HDYDI from time to time. He and his family live in Colorado (hence the mountain climbing.) His blog can be found at: http://pokingandpeaking.blogspot.com/

 

In many ways the twins are getting easier. They are finally – finally – finally – sleeping through the night, for the most part. I’ll take for the most part.  They can entertain themselves for the most part, so we don’t have to constantly carry one around. I’ll take for the most part. In fact, I only want for the most part. I want them to rely on me occasionally. Or else I’m just a guy who wipes poop from their bottom and referees the increase fights over a plastic hot dog.
One thing, though, is harder, and it continues to drive me crazy. It’s the fact that I can’t find anything.
We’re constantly, and I do mean constantly, looking for juice cups, pacifiers and a special toy or 175 that continually get stuffed into dark corners, trash cans, under couches, in the shower and bathtub, in the toilet and behind the TV. For starters.
Now, given my slightly obsessive personality, I allow these things to bother me when they shouldn’t. But they HAVE to bother me after a while, or else we would run out, and then we’re supporting Target’s toddler division by ourselves. Our house is already a potential treasure trove. Seriously, if a pacifier-driven toddler wants to become the next Indiana Jones, he could come to our house and explore. If he didn’t find at least 125 after overturning our house, he needs to turn in his explorer’s license. Let’s not even talk about our own stuff. Hairbrushes, toothbrushes, our cell phones, car keys and even my books (one of which found its way to their bath before we saw her with it) all disappear. We call Allie “Swiper” now because of the way she’s constantly walking off with things.
This is probably hard with one, too, but it’s especially tough with twins because you can’t keep an eye on both of them all the time. Mainly you have to focus on the one who is in the most danger at that moment.  I have to make decisions like, OK, Allie is near the stairs, so I should watch that, and then oops, OK, Andie is now crawling up on the window ledge (don’t get too horrified, the window is shut, at least most of the time), so she needs to come down, and oops, Allie just grabbed something sharp, and….you get the idea.
I’d write more, but the girls are demanding juice, and I can only see one juice cup.

Guest Post by Dan England

Dan England is one of our dad guest posters. He is the dad of three: toddler Jayden and 1 year old twins Allie and Andie, and also husband to Kate.  He is a writer, poker player, mountain climber, runner and baby wrangler. He has recently written for TWINS magazine, and has agreed to write for HDYDI from time to time. He and his family live in Colorado (hence the mountain climbing.) His blog can be found at: http://pokingandpeaking.blogspot.com/

Saturday’s holiday photo shoot at Sears was pretty much a disaster. We’d coax, say, Andie on to the sled, and then Allie would run away. Rinse and repeat. We got, maybe, three shots of the girls together, and they have their pacifiers/heroin needles in their mouths because they would not let us take them out.

Understandably, they were a little nervous, and understandably, I know it’s hard to hold still when you’re 18 months, and understandably, the Sears photographer pretty much just sat there and expected all of our three kids under 4 to pose and smile and be darling little babies, but man I was frustrated. Kate picked out great outfits for the girls, and I got Jayden looking snappy, and I had to settle for a pretty lame shot. We were, quite frankly, lucky to get one.

You get what you pay for.  Sears is $10, and you get 36 prints. we had a limited amount of time, in an unfamiliar studio, and that’s probably not going to yield a classic shot for three active little demon children who think sitting still is a crime. We can’t afford a $175 studio fee, or the prints that would come later. I was kind of wishing for her, since she takes such great shots of her kids. I do fairly well, but a posed, nice shot of the three of them together takes a real, expensive professional, probably in our home, where they are comfortable.

The bigger issueI have long surrendered to is the fact that since we have twins (and a toddler), many of the little pleasures of being a parent aren’t available, like, I dunno, getting a nice photo in a simple, inexpensive studio. All the parents and their adorable little singletons were mobbing the studio, and every time, they were getting great shots of their little reindeers. I mean, the thing is, you’re going to have moments when your singleton runs around, but you’ll also have moments when they are quiet and smiling. We certainly had those moments with one or even two, but three was next to impossible.

 Sunday morning Andie came up to me and handed me a book. The girls are just now really getting into reading. I picked her up and read her a story. She loved it, loved the individual attention and the book and time on my lap, and she grabbed another and held it up.

I would have loved to spend a half-hour or more with her doing that, but I heard noises in the other room. Allie, of course, was in the bathroom, pulling toilet paper off the roll. When I got that solved, Andie was headed upstairs, and the chaos continued. I’ve learned to surrender to the chaos. Sometimes, though, the grind hits bone.