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

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Categories Overnight, Parenting, Potty Training, Preschoolers, School-Age, Sleep, Wouldn't Do Without WednesdayTags 5 Comments

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.

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

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Categories Household and Family Management, Infants, Lists, Napping, Organization, Overnight, Routines, Sleep, Twinfant TuesdayTags , , , 3 Comments

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?

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A Reluctant Farewell to Naps

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In truth, my girls haven’t had a nap in the past couple of months.  I’m just now ready to admit it, to see that reality written in black and white.

Since they were infants, our girls have been champion sleepers.  I credit so much of our success to the BabyWise methodology.  We are very schedule-oriented.  I took to heart the BabyWise thinking, that “Mommy determines when naps start, and when naps are over.”  There were times when the girls’ needs would shift for whatever reason, and I’d have to find that new “sweet spot” window of magic during which I could easily get them down for a nap.  Sometimes it took a little experimentation, but I was always able to get back to blissful rest (for them) and blissful quiet (for me).

My unspoken goal was to keep the girls napping until they started preschool, at age 3 ½.  That felt feasible, judging by my mommy friends.  Some kiddos dropped their naps as early as 2 ½, but others were napping until they were four.  [I laugh as I write this, knowing the best-laid “plans” of parenthood are so often laid to waste!]

We went through a rough patch when the girls started preschool at 3 ½.  I can only guess that my Baby A decided that meant she was a “big girl” and so she no longer needed to nap.  My B continued to sleep willingly, though, and A was pretty compliant with my “quiet time” rules.  I would ask every few days if A wanted to nap, and she always said no…until the day – that glorious day! – after Thanksgiving.  She said she wanted to nap…she napped…we celebrated…and she napped every day for the next eight months!

There was no great schedule shift over the summer, but the girls did start talking a bit after I put them to bed at night.  It wasn’t long after that that they simultaneously refused to nap.  It’s hard to recount…one day, they napped, and the next day they played in their beds the entire time.  That went on for a couple of days, to the great stress of this mommy.  I finally asked the girls, “Are you going to nap today?”  They both said no.  I established rules for “quiet time”, and we moved on.

The stress of trying to “enforce” naps was really tough for me.  Although I really missed MY quiet time during the afternoons, holding rules for quiet time is much easier in comparison.

Here’s how I’m keeping things in perspective…

  1. My girls napped until they were 4 ½, which is a full year past my “goal”.
  2. After a (relatively painful) adjustment period that lasted two or three weeks, I am comfortable that my girls are getting the rest they need at night.  Their temperaments are pretty good, which I think is a fair indication.
  3. There’s a lot less pressure to keep our schedule running like a well-oiled machine.  I still value our schedule, framed mostly by mealtimes and bedtime these days, but I didn’t even come close to hyperventilation last week when we were running a full hour behind getting home one afternoon.  Just a few short months ago, I would have been tempted to break the sound barrier getting home in time for the girls to settle down and read books and start nap.  These days, we do the best we can, but it’s not the end of the world if we get caught up doing something else.
  4. There’s less commotion at bedtime.  The girls are ready for bed, so I’ve heard less talking over the monitor and I’ve made fewer treks upstairs.
  5. I’m not quite as stressed out about transitioning the girls to regular beds in the next couple of weeks.  I’d said I didn’t want to make the switch from cribs until they dropped their naps, thinking it would be too tempting for them to stay in bed with the lure of being able to get out.  It seems the stars agree with my game plan.
  6. I feel less guilty about doing housework when the girls are awake.  Particularly when the girls were taking two or three naps a day, I reserved all my housework for their nap times.  It’s not feasible that everything waits until bedtime, so the girls are more involved than ever in laundry, dishes, and cooking.
  7. The girls often choose to do artwork during at least part of their quiet time, so my refrigerator is fuller than ever with their creations.

So…would I love to have an uninterrupted hour to myself every day?  I’d be lying if I didn’t say yes.  But an uninterrupted day with my baby girls does come with its perks, and I’m choosing to focus on those.

Are your kiddos still napping?  If not, at what age did they give up naps?  Was it a smooth transition?  How did you cope? 

MandyE is mom to 4 1/2-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures and her journey through motherhood at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

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Awaken Imagination

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Categories Routines, School-Age, SleepTags , , , , , , , , , 5 Comments

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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Packing Lunches for Daycare, Times Two

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[Ed: It must be organization week at HDYDI; I planned this post before I knew that RaJen was going to post on how to get out the door in the morning. I love accidental themes!]
Some of my friends’ kids go to daycares that provide lunch. What a dream! Maddie and Riley’s daycare is wonderful and amazing and near-perfect: the provision of lunch would push it to the realm of nirvana. Alas, we remain a step away from enlightenment, so every Sunday night, my thoughts turn to what I will pack the twins’ to eat for the week.
I’ve had almost two years’ of daycare Sundays to think about this, and, if I do say so myself, I’ve gotten pretty good at it. When the twins first got to an age that I needed to send food rather than bottles, I would spend time every evening thinking about what to pack for the next day; it didn’t take me long to realize that my time would be more efficiently spent if I would pack a few days’ worth of food at a time. For a while, I packed lunches twice a week. Now I’m down to once. I do it all on Sundays so for the whole week, I just have to grab and go in the morning. Sweet.
I figured I’d break my system down and share it with you, because only spending an hour a week thinking about this is truly one of my major sanity savers.
Here’s how it works. Every day, the twins get:
  • yogurt
  • applesauce
  • a “main course”
  • a crunchy snack
  • fresh fruit
I buy yogurt and applesauce in big containers and parcel out the individual servings; I’m cheap, and it doesn’t take that long. 
For main courses, I have a menu of items from which I choose each week. I plan two different main courses/week, one for M-W-F, one for Tu-Th. My staples are:
  • hummus on mini whole-wheat pita (two pitas per kid)
  • pasta with red sauce and “meat”balls
  • spanikopita (I buy frozen trays at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods; the trays contain twelve triangles, which makes three lunches of two triangles per kid)
  • quesadillas with cheddar and black beans (I cut one each quesadilla into four wedges, which is one lunch)
  • mac’n’cheese with peas
  • grilled cheese (half sandwich per twin)
  • spinach/rice balls (recipe from one of my Moosewood cookbooks; recipe available on request)
  • corn casserole 
  • spinach/rice casserole
I’ll mix it up sometimes with leftovers from the weekend, and I’m constantly adding/revising the main course list, but those are favorites. 
I also have a running list of snacks that I choose from. Again, I do two different snacks for the week, one for M-W-F, one for Tu-Th. Some favorites:
  • pumpkin seeds
  • sunflower seeds
  • dried fruit (raisins, apricots, blueberries, cherries, etc.)
  • plantain chips
  • fruit leather
  • popcorn (regular or kettle corn)
  • crackers (M&R like Annie’s whole-wheat bunnies)
  • rice cakes (sometimes with sunflower-seed butter)
  • carrot sticks
  • Veggie Booty
  • Pirate’s Booty (or the Trader Joe’s equivalent)
  • tortilla chips
  • pretzels
  • Snapea Crisps
  • crunchy green beans
  • edamame
  • graham crackers
On Sunday during the twins’ nap, I cook any of the main courses that need cooking. Then, after the kids go to bed at night, I pack everything for the week. I set out fifteen of these Snapware containers; five of them get filled to the brim with yogurt, five with applesauce, and five hold the main course. (I pack one yogurt, one applesauce, and one main dish each for the twins to share rather than an individual portion for each kid.) Snacks go in Ziplock bags, and fresh fruit is washed as needed and ready to pull out of the fridge or fruit bowl each morning. And that’s it. 
I hope this is helpful to some of you and not just boring. Share your packed lunch tricks and tips in the comments.
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