Planning a Date Night for the Whole Family

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Last week Chris and I realized that although we manage to get out and away from the kids once a week, that this time is usually spent with our friends. We counted it up and we generally make it out together “alone” on a date less than once a month.

We wouldn’t change the quality time with our friends for anything, however we are unable to finance a ton of extra romantic evenings away from the kids on top of our “wildly” busy social lives. There are limits to how often we can call in the grandparents, because I’m pretty sure that they didn’t retire so Chris and I could go out to dinner and stare lovingly into each other’s eyes. Also, if we go out on a work night it generally means that Chris and I have seen the kids for less than an hour that entire day, which we both hate, added to the expense of hiring a sitter to take care of our twin munchkins.

We decided to come up with a few economical solutions to give us a “date” when we feel that we haven’t had enough couple time. As a part of this solution we’ve found the ideal couple to double date with – our 22 month old twins.

560450_10150995661177110_2068335716_nMe and Miss Molly on a “date” at Granville Island Brewery in BC

Drive In Movies

I have a real soft spot for the Drive In that started in the early 80s when my parents would take my sister and I in the hatch back Celica and we’d watch the first movie (or most of the first movie) from our sleeping bags and then fall asleep giving my parents a night at the movies. As a parent of infants The Drive In appeals to me because the car provides some shelter from disturbing fellow movie goers if there is a melt down, you have space to comfort and cuddle babies if they need it and Molly and Jack are generally really good in the car. I’ve found that our car is surprisingly sound proof! As the kids get older we’ll bring special snacks, play Frisbee outside before the movie starts, and watch them fall asleep during the first feature.

Backyard Romance

Getting out and organized with enough supplies can be a giant hassle and sometimes we’re too tired to make the effort. Now that the nice weather is here, we’re trying to celebrate in the evening by bringing a couple of beers or some wine out into the backyard, along with the baby monitor.

Brunch is Best

We go out at the time of day when our children are best behaved (for us this is generally late morning/early afternoon). I am a huge fan of brunch with kids because: 1) You can get something a little bit fancier for cheaper 2) The food is served quickly 3) There are often a lot of other children around even if the establishment isn’t a “family” restaurant and people seem to be generally more patient and understanding of kids being around during the day 4) Many places offer special child friendly menu options, colouring books and crayons. Our kids are usually really well behaved at restaurants, but they aren’t silent, not even close to it. It’s nice not to have to worry about offending other patrons or having to shush your children when they’re just being kids while you enjoy a meal out together. We always order the bill with our food, just in case we need to jam because of a meltdown.

Dinner & Movie

This is a bi-monthly tradition we started BC (before children) in the colder months to beat the winter blahs. When the minions get older this is something that everyone can enjoy and work on together in teams. Right now one of us is on childcare/bed time duty while the other person prepares for our late dinner in. Essentially how it works is that you alternate turns where one person selects a movie and prepares an appropriately themed dinner to go along with it. Chris is much better at the dinner and movie selection than I am. Personal favorites: Casablanca with a Moroccan Feast including sweet mint tea, The Godfather with spaghetti, meatballs, garlic bread and red wine, or Cool Hand Luke with Southern fried chicken and a dozen hard boiled eggs.

Hopefully this will allow us, and others to carve out a little together “alone” time and start some great traditions!

*This is an excerpt from a post on my blog.  Read the entire post click here

SaraBeth is a Toronto based writer.  Her blog Multiple Momstrosity was named one on Toronto Mom Now’s 2012 Top 30 Mom Blogs.  She is a two-time veteran of the Three Day Novel Writing Contest.  She lives in The Junction with her husband and fraternal toddler twins (Molly & Jack).

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Summer Vacation? What Summer Vacation?

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Categories Activities, Childcare, Frustration, How Do The Moms Do It, Mommy Issues, Parenting, Perspective, Routines, SAHM, School-Age, WorkingTags , , , 2 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The 4am Feed

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I confess. I am lazy.

That’s the secret to my efficiency. For example, I’ve got the 4am feed down to a 20-minute science. It took some tweaking for the babies to cooperate, but now most days they do. Actually a lot of what I’m doing now is what I did with Toddler, only I had forgotten until I had to rediscover it all over again. So, if you must do a middle-of-the-night feed, here are some tricks I’ve found that work great for me.

First, not part of the efficiency thing, but greatly helpful to set your babies up for sleep, dim the lights down to one very low wattage bulb. I think mine is 10 watts. It sits in the corner of the room farthest away from the babies. The babies get a clean diaper, swaddled, then placed in their spots in the cosleeper. I sometimes play soft music from my iPhone for them (Pandora’s Lullabye station). Then…

1. Feed babies as much as possible before going to bed. In our case, babies load up before sleeping for good, often 6 ounces over a couple of feedings starting at around 9:30pm. They’re usually out by 11pm.

2. Before going to bed, get all bottles and pump accessories for the night/early morning ready. For me, this means putting nipples on and labeling all bottles. I usually have two bottles of formula made also, as backup. All pump flanges and bottles are clean and screwed together, ready to use.

3. Pump one last time and go to sleep at the same time as the babies. It’s tempting to watch a little TV or get things done while they’re asleep, but I’ve noticed they sleep better with me nearby and I really value my own sleep. I’m sometimes already drifting off while they’re still rustling to settle in.

4. Do not get up before they’re supposed to. If they loaded up on milk before going down, they don’t need to be fed until 4am. Usually all I have to do is replace the paci for the rustling baby and they’re back out before they can really wake up. Toddler never took a paci, so I would just jiggle her bassinet a little and she’d go back to sleep.

5. When the time does come to feed, pop a bottle in the mouth of the hungry one and prop it with whatever you have (I use their blankets). Then do the same with the other one, even if he/she is still fast asleep. They’re still swaddled, so no chance of waving arms knocking the bottles out. My babies will eat while asleep and keep sleeping afterwards without even waking up. I also no longer burp or change them (unless there’s poop) in the middle of the night.

6. While they are eating, pump. There’s a way to secure the flanges with the insides of your elbows by resting the bottles on your thighs, so that you can read your iPhone or reprop a bottle  when necessary. When I’m done, babies have finished eating and have probably also fallen asleep. All I have to do is retrieve their bottles. I leave the flanges on the bottles I just pumped, and everything is left on the nightstand until morning.

7. I can usually do this while still half-asleep myself. Sometimes I will get up to drink some water, pee, and read my phone for a bit in bed before sleeping again, but I can just as easily go right back to sleep. My babies will sleep until 9am, if I replace the paci for them a couple of times starting around 7am. I am usually up by 8ish to watch Toddler after Husband leaves for work, so I can get in a pump and have breakfast with her before they wake up.

Another plus to this is, they usually wake at the same time! That means the day starts off with them on the same schedule. It usually doesn’t stay that way, and I’ve given up imposing a strict togetherness, but sometimes they can stay within a half hour of each other all day.

I’m looking forward to them sleeping all the way till morning and taking regular solid naps (Toddler did it before she was their age), but I think this is as good as it gets for a middle-of-the-night feeding (for twins). But I’ll gladly take any other suggestions to streamline things even further!

lunchldyd is mom to an almost 3 yr old daughter and 4 month old b/g twins, taking whatever sleep she can get!

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The Rotten Ringworm Runaround

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M snuggling her new kitten.We adopted this sweet little boy into our family in November. We also unwittingly adopted the ringworm he brought with him from the animal shelter. While our new kitten, Scout, has brought us much joy and laughter, his ringworm has brought with it a reign of tears and terror.

I’ve learned several things about ringworm:

  • Ringworm isn’t a worm. It’s a fungus. Either way, it’s nasty and gross and, like lice, something that can’t be completely avoided just by keeping a clean home and maintaining good hand-washing habits. If your child interacts with others, she runs the risk of bringing home lice; if your pet has ever been outdoors, he runs the risk of ringworm.
  • Some strains of ringworm defy all attempts at identification. Our little boy’s failed to glow under UV light and didn’t initially make his fur fall out, so the vet misinterpreted the lesion I pointed out at our first visit as a bite from another kitten at the shelter and gave the all-clear for him to interact with my kids. I should trust my gut.
  • This stuff is contagious. All three of the humans in our house had a red itchy patch or two within 3 days of the new kitten’s cuddles.
  • Washing bedsheets every night, plus vacuuming and disinfecting even a single room every day is overwhelming and all-consuming.
  • A ringworm infection to the scalp can’t be treated with topical ointments alone. My poor little J had a bald spot on her head, which I’m thankful can be hidden inside pigtails as it grows out. Our pediatrician referred us to a dermatologist, and J now has a nightly bowl of ice cream to mask the taste of the pulverized pill (griseofulvin) she has to take every day for a month.

We’ve literally been fighting this thing since November. The kitten received weekly lyme sulfur dips as well as a liquid suspension of the same meds J is now on. He’s currently completely free of ringworm, but has to stay in isolation in my bathroom. He was clear in January, too, but I made the mistake of letting him interact with the girls, and he contracted a fresh round of ringworm from them. Thankfully, our adult cats have thus far made it without become hosts for this nasty parasite.

M has developed eczema on the spots where ringworm used to reside, and J is beginning to do so too. We’re all using antifungal shampoo, just in case. I’m exhausted, and I hardly have the energy to give the kitten the attention he needs once my human children are in bed.

A pharmacy worth of medications is accompanied by a typed schedule with a column for each of 6 people and cats.I’ve trotted out a technique I used with newborn infants. I’ve written up our medication schedule and posted it by the meds.

I keep reminding myself that all this is nothing compared to what we went through after bringing our 33-week preemies home 6 years ago. The need to keep on top of a schedule and maintain a sanitary environment was much more critical then. I was getting way less sleep. I had far less experience. This ringworm stuff is child’s play in comparison.

When the girls were babies, I had a notebook in which I wrote down every diaper change and every feeding, since in my sleep-deprived state, I feared double feeding one baby and forgetting to feed the other. It also helped coordinate things between me and my husband. I’d take my notebook with me to visits with the pediatrician.

This ringworm thing? I don’t need a notebook to keep track.

This, too, shall pass.

What techniques have you developed to manage parenting multiples? How do they translate to the rest of your life?

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Awaken Imagination

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It’s still dark when I step into my daughters’ room. I find myself tiptoeing, even though I’m there to wake them for the day and noise is my friend. Much as I need to wake the kids, I dread the tears that will accompany their rise.

Everyone in our family has to wake up painfully early for work and school. We’re up at 5:30 Mountain Time in El Paso, allowing me to start telecommuting to my job at 8:00 Central Time. (I get easily confused about what time it is.) M has been struggling particularly hard this week. Her environmental allergies have left her completely exhausted, poor thing.

I’ve used all the tried and true techniques to get her to wake up happy. I’ve climbed under the covers with her and wiggled her toes. I’ve played her favourite music at her bedside. I’ve put her socks on her while she sleeps to grant her a few extra moments of sleep. I’ve asked her about her dreams. None of this have kept her from tired, self-pitying tears and anger at having to go through the morning routine.

Mommy's helper in waking the kids with a smile on their faces!

This morning, something finally worked. I asked M to tell me not about her own dreams, but about her stuffed toy du jour’s. She has a Care Bear, the music one (Heartsong), that she has named Fuey. (The naming of toys is a discussion for another day.) She was instantly awake.

“Fuey had a dream about going to my school, which is my work. She is going to my work to participate in my choir club. She’s going to be the audience. She dreamed of wearing her Easter dress and sitting with Caitlin who is her favourite my friend because Caitlin loves her. Mommy, I’m awake! I’m ready for the big light! I need to brush Fuey’s teeth. I will squeeze the toothpaste just to let air out which is imaginary toothpaste and brush her teeth!”

That’s the little chatterbox I had been hoping to see! She finished breakfast on time, managed to navigate a disagreement over shoes without tears, and got on the bus cheerful and ready for her Friday. I’m just hoping she’ll remember to turn her homework in.

What helps you get your kids out of bed in the morning or, for those you with early birds, keeps them in?

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Governed by Clocks

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Robin Williams is credited with saying, “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!'” Last weekend’s “spring forward” time change here in the US was a major party pooper. We groaned at the prospect of a 23-hour day as we dutifully turned all our clocks forward an hour.

We’re a routine-bound household. Between my 40-hour work week, my husband’s much longer and less predictable hours — nights without a text or two from work between midnight and 5:00 am are a rarity — and our daughters’ school schedule, there’s not much wiggle room. We expect J and M to be under their covers at 8:00 pm precisely; “Eight zero zero” was the first time they learned to read on a digital clock. We don’t vary bedtime on weekends, staying up past 8:00 only for very special occasions, like the first night that the grandparents arrive for a visit.

The hour time change pushes the girls’ wakeup time from the horrendous 5:45 am to what our bodies tell us is the even uglier time of 4:45. On Friday and Saturday, we shifted lights out to 7:30 pm to prepare for the switch, but wakeup time on Monday morning was brutal. Poor M reported that there was “something wrong with [her] eyes,” as she struggled to start her day. J just wrapped her blankie around herself and stared at the floor as she waited for her brain to switch on.

Things weren’t much better for the girlies the rest of the week, and waking up wasn’t any easier for me. I may have hit the snooze button a time or 5 this morning.

The logic behind Daylight Saving makes some sense: get an extra hour of evening sunshine. The problem at our house, though, is that the morning is what sets the mood for the day. If we start our day grumpy, tired, and out of sorts, we’re not too likely to think much of the afternoon sun. In addition, we live in Texas, where summers get very hot, so Daylight Saving actually means less outdoor time at the end of the day.

When J and M were younger, I had an elaborate plan to adjust their bodies’ clocks, 15 minutes per day over 4 days. This year, we threw them in the deep end, and we’re all paying for it.

Good night. My clock says it’s bedtime even though my body doesn’t.

What are your feelings on Daylight Saving? Do you have any techniques for making the switch easier on your kids? Do they even notice?

Sadia, her husband and their 5-year-old twin girls live in El Paso, TX. He is a soldier, she a software geek, and they first graders.

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