Toddler Thursday: Toddlers and a Clean House? Choose Your Battles

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We are about 2 or 3 years out since the toddler years, but I remember those days very clearly. I’ve got twin boys and their older brother, who is two years older. In the early days, when the twins were babies and not walking, it was a bit easier to keep our household clean. My biggest worry was whether or not the main floor washroom and front hall were presentable for guests who came often. The rest of the house stayed pretty orderly and clean.

As my two year old became more independent and turned three and the babies turned into one year olds, crawling and cruising around, playing with more toys and progressing to solid foods, my priorities began to change. Feed three kids and wait to clean up the disastrous mess on the floor and the dishes and play with them to keep them entertained, or feed them, clean the mess, wash the dishes for 20 minutes and let the kids entertain themselves with their toys or a TV show? I often chose to hang out with the kids and let the mess wait. I’d get to the mess…eventually!

Messes build up fast, however, so I also tried to pick the spots I wanted to keep “mess free” or as mess free as possible, because my boys seem to leave a trail of stuff here and there, no matter how hard I try! I didn’t have the energy to be constantly cleaning every room of the house. There are three of them and only one of me!

So I chose my battles. I chose the rooms I was willing to see get a bit chaotic and messy, such as the TV room, which quickly became the toy room, because I could see it from our kitchen and know the little ones were safe, while I did take care of other business…like nursing my cold cup of coffee at a distance.

Aside from that mess under the highchairs and the piles of bottles and sipToddler twins in high chairspy cups in the sink waiting to be washed, the kitchen was a “mess free” zone. I kept it kid free and mess free if we were not having a meal. I was not the mother who allowed my kids into the cupboards and bottom of the stove to pull out pots and pans to clang on for hours on end. They had other noisy toys in the toy room just for that reason! I kept a baby gate up so there would be no toddling or crawling throughout that mess free zone. Pots and pans strewn across my kitchen floor would have been yet another mess to have to take care of and for any mother of twins or more, you know the minutes in the day seem to whiz by and before you know it it’s time for you to go to bed. I did not have time to be picking up these random messes in every room of my house.

Other ways I tried to contain the mess included:

interlocking mats
As found on www.walmart.com

Using foam interlocking mats beneath the twins’ high chairs, which worked as a catchall and were easy to either sweep or pick up and shake off outside or in the sink and wash down. Sometimes I’d throw them in the tub and soap them up for a really good wash, then air dry. They were really helpful with avoiding constant mopping of the kitchen floor.

I chose to keep the pile of toys contained in decorativstorage boxe closet boxes, such as sweater boxes, which looked like they were just a decorative part of the room. I stacked them at the end of the couch, which was farthest from the toy room (aka TV room) entry and the least visible spot.

I am sure there are many other ways to keep a house orderly when you have little toddlers going two or three different directions all day long, but these were a few of my proven and favourite ways to go about it.

Moving forward in life, when toddlers grow to school-agers, I can’t say that containing the mess gets any easier and the messes will begin to move into other rooms, but you can always strategize, strategize, strategize new ways to fight the mess!

Yet there will always be the kind of day where you’re getting ready for work and come out of your closet area doing the “I just stepped on a Lego Storm Trooper head” painful dance that will remind you that you can’t always win the battle of the mess.

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Toddler Thursday: 5 Things Moms of Boys Must Do

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Even though I’ve never had a little girl, and things like tea parties, flower necklaces and pretty pink dresses are not part of my day to day life, I’m sure there are things that a mommy of girls simply must do, get used to, or prepare for.

Being a mommy of only boys however, means that my list differs a little. Gone are the pretty dresses and cute little teacups and in its place we have mud-stained jeans and monster trucks. Here’s a list of the things that moms of boys must love, prepare for and simply accept if you have the privilege of only having boys in your life.

1. You must love bath time.

By “bath time” I don’t mean you sitting in a luxurious, warm, lavender-scented tub with candles and a glass of rose’. I mean you must love giving baths, because boys require a lot of them. You must love sitting on a soaked towel, receiving drenching splashes every few minutes whilst laughing yourself silly at the funny sounds your kids can make by blowing air into their toys or pouring water all over each other. You must love the smell of bubble-gum scented bubble bath on the floor, the curtains, your clothing, and the new set of clean towels and outfits you just took out for them.

Twins Bath

2. You must think farts are funny.

Why you may ask? Boys think farts are funny: period. The way you handle that will determine your stress levels. If you try to get them to stop laughing about it, it will only make things worse. They might actually end up laughing in spite of you. If you laugh with them, you’ll all benefit. Right now I have no control over my little one’s inappropriate timing when it comes to letting out a fart, but I’m sure once they are older, I could stress the fact that there are appropriate and inappropriate times to letting one “rip”.

3. You must prepare for chaos at all times

Whether it’s their entire toy collection lying on your 1.25 x 2.2 lounge carpet, the kitchen sink filled with plates, spoons, sippy-cups and bowls in all the colours of the rainbow or the aftermath of a nuclear bomb that hit their bedroom, boys are messy. It doesn’t matter how many times you pick up all the toys, sort them accordingly and place them in their respective bags/boxes, as soon as you turn your back they WILL take that box and turn it upside down. Resigning yourself to the fact that they are having fun and that the chaos is not life threatening could save you a lot of time and even help you enjoy their craziness a bit.

Boys Chaos

4. You must rethink your “safety” standards

You know those mommies who religiously sterilize their baby’s bottles and pacifiers, run behind their toddler with hand wipes and gasps loudly every time her little angel takes a fall. Well I used to be one of those mommies or at least that was the plan. With boys, you can’t be one of those mommies. Boys are rough and will always be rough. They jump off things, drive into things, run over things and climb up things. They taste dirt, grass, old food, papers and basically anything they find goes straight to their mouths just out of curiosity. They try to run or drive their scooters faster than the other and with multiple boys; you’ll even have to break up a full blown fist to fist fight every so often. The best thing to do for your own sanity is to stock up on some Band-Aids and look the other way every now and then.

Twins Sea

5. You must be prepared for a constant battle of wills.

Just like girls, boys are strong-willed, yet unlike girls they will easily start a war just to have things their way. Whether you have multiples or boy siblings, be prepared for constant fighting. It could be over the same toy, who gets to sit on mommy or daddy’s lap, or even just getting in each other’s way that could start a battle between the two. My “go to” thing in a situation like this is DISTRACTION. It doesn’t matter what you do; make a funny sound, point out something, or pull a funny face, just distract them as quick as possible.

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Toddler Thursday: What’s Your Religious Holiday? We Call Ours “Eid”

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How to get toddlers involved and excited about a holiday when you are strung out from months of lack of sleep, the twins can’t stay up past 7:30 p.m., and are too little to really understand anyway?

First, some background on this holiday I’m talking about. Last week, millions of people across North America celebrated Eid-Ul-Fitr to mark the end of Ramadan, a month of daily fasting. There are two Eid holidays that occur within a few months of each other. The second one, Eid-Ul-Adha, marks the pilgrimmage to Mecca which millions of faithful followers perform each year.

These days, many Muslim families with young children are looking for ways to adapt the customs and rituals of Eid celebrations from “back home” and adding a North American twist.

Eid is usually celebrated by dressing in new clothes, going to early morning community prayers, visiting friends and neighbours, and noshing on delicious spreads of sweet, salty, and fried foods that you normally wouldn’t eat all in the same day! Growing up, the excitement of Eid was always in dressing up in cultural clothes, going to “Open Houses” where the aforementioned food would be laid out, and getting small amounts of cash in envelopes from older relatives and family friends, called an “Eidee”.

The first couple of Eids we dressed our little ones up in cute outfits, skipped the community prayer due to it being a logistical nightmare, and instead visited close family for lunch and dinner. When they became toddlers, I searched online for trendy, printable decorations to hang up on our fireplace to make things festive. They were only 2.5 years old that summer, but old enough to get excited about parties and Christmas. I found some adorable, free printables for Ramadan and Eid banners at Sakina Design.

Our first EId banner
“Eid Mubarak” (Happy Eid)

For the stairs, I wrapped thick, multi-coloured ribbon from Michaels around as you would tinsel. And of course, there were the gold star decorations which I bought from Christmas clearances past. (Anyone else buy shiny Christmas decorations and use them for other holidays?) When Mister and Missy came home, their reaction was “Wow, niiice” and “Star!” By the next day they didn’t take notice.

For Eid Year 3, I invested in some Eid-inspired cookie cutters from an online Ramadan and Eid decoration store called Eidway. They come in the shape of a five- and eight-point stars, moon crescent, lantern, and mosque, which are all recognizable symbols of the faith.

Eid and Ramadan cookie cutters by Eidway
Unique cookie cutters shapes by Eidway

Since Mister and Missy were experienced play dough shapers, they loved making shapes with the cookie cutters.

Twin Bakers hard at work
Twin Bakers hard at work
Mastering the cookie at three years old
Mastering the cookie at three years old

This year now that the twins are four and a half years old, Mister and Missy were very excited about making Eid cookies. The only problem was, lack of time! Although they are off school since it’s summer, we are still working full-time, and it’s been hard to find enough time (and energy!) to start the four step process of making the dough, rolling and doing the shapes, baking the cookies, then decorating. It took us a few days, but we managed to hold a few sessions of cookie cutting and decorating. All for four cookies which they get to eat all by themselves. (the rest I set aside and decorated for friends and family)

Other things I had planned which I didn’t get to do was make sheer korma (traditional sweet vermicelli in sweet milk dessert), make cookies for more neighbours, put up more Eid decorations including lights, and doing some craft activities. Oh well there’s always next Eid!

How have you incorporated a unique holiday or celebration into your family lives? What new traditions have you started (or are thinking about starting) as your children get older?

Ambereen is a proud Canadian-Muslim MoM of 4 year old BG twins. She is already making plans for fun activities to do with the kids for the next religious holiday. You can find her blogging at 2CuteBlog.

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Toddler Thursday: Two Year Check Up + Milestones

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Last week was our 2 year check up.  I am desperately awaiting the once a year days.  We went from every other day when we first brought Jane and Emma home from the hospital 2 years ago, to twice a week, to once a month, to every 3 months, to every 6 months, and here we stand.  Some of the things that we look forward to these days at each check up include:

Weigh-ins.  The girls went from not even being on the growth chart at under 5 lbs each when we brought them home, to quickly gaining weight and staying steady.  At this past visit they weighted in at around 25 lbs., which is in about the 40th percentile for their age.  Tell you what, I’m just happy that they are ON the chart!

girls

Height checks.  Let me start by saying that I am pretty short.  I am only 5’2″, and my 6’3″ husband picks on me constantly for not being able to reach things on the middle shelf.  I am prefacing my daughters’ current measurements this way because they are only in the 10th percentile for their age.  They are peanuts.

Different Developmental Checks.  I had to fill out a very involved developmental survey prior to going to our appointment.  They asked about walking, running, jumping, different reactions in situations, speech, etc.  Turns out that not only are Jane and Emma just fine, but a bit ahead for their age.  They are speaking in simple sentences and following directions (sometimes), and can even “dress” themselves (although the clothes are usually backwards by the time they are finished, IF they haven’t thrown a total s-fit in the process).

janey

Vaccines.  There.  I said it.  The word ‘vaccination’ seems to have become a dirty word in Mommyville, but having our children vaccinated was not even a discussion that Hershey and I had.  We just said “YES” when they asked us in the NICU.  And we’ve followed the recommended schedule closely ever since.  And although we didn’t actually get any vaccines DURING this visit, the girls are scheduled for their 2 year old vaccines next Tuesday and we have to schedule some blood labs for them in the coming summer months.  Never a fun time when Daddy has to hold the unsuspecting ladies down and Mama cries even more than the girls do, but such is life.  They forget about the shots before we walk out the door, and usually only run little TINY fevers a couple of days afterwards, along with the crankiness and weepiness that is typical.

I like to ask every question that I can think of during these visits, knowing that the doctors specifically put aside extra time for wellness check ups.  This time around, I asked about

  1. eating (toddlers are only expected to eat one GOOD meal a day, and if they throw the other 2 meals all over the floor, “it’s ok, and normal”);
  2. milk (switch to lowfat at this stage, as they no longer need the full fat for their brain development and the cholesterol is no good for them);
  3. pacifiers (try to get rid of them, as they are damaging their pallets);
  4. SLEEP (toddlers at this age are expected to get 12 hours of sleep a day, between nighttime sleep AND naps, and getting up at 6:00 every SINGLE morning is “normal” – ACK!!!)
  5. potty training (get a potty seat for the toilet and spend some naked time in the summer, but understand that in America the standard age for potty training is 3 years old, so not to push them or get discouraged if it doesn’t happen now because 2 is considered “early” in our culture); and
  6. dentist visits (yup, it’s time!).

I was happy to hear that Jane and Emma are in the normal range, even a bit ahead, considering they can sing their ABCs from start to finish, count to 14, and are even starting to be able to identify letters.  Another thing that they do now that I think is REALLY cool is that they sit and read by themselves, reciting the words on each page of their favorite books the way I did when I was itty-bitty.  I’m hoping that this means that I have trained little fellow readers, because I am DYING to have someone to talk about books with, as my students are all sick of hearing me talk about how much I love reading!

emma reading

I also had to ask about the CONSTANT fighting, as the girls seem to have some sort of the-first-rule-of-baby-fight-club-is-that-you-don’t-tell-mama-it’s-baby-fight-club-time pact going on.  We were also assured that this is “normal”.  Not so sure about my hair loss due to baby fight club, though.

crash

What are some milestones that your little ones have reached that you are super excited about?  Anything shock you?  Anything worrying you?  I’d love to hear from you!

We are almost done with the school year which means that it’s almost summertiiiiiime, when the living is easyyyyy….

Happy Thursday, friends!

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Toddler Thursday: Division of Labor

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I love life with my 20-month-old twin boys, but man, they are a lot of work. There’s the cooking, feeding, cleaning cycle that never ends, as well as the getting dressed, packing up, going out cycle that only leads into the coming in, who-knows-what-happens-after-that cycle, and that’s about eight hours of your day. Not to mention all the ways curious little hands undo things you have just done and find ways to totally reconfigure an area of the house from functional to…let’s call it “experimental.” In contrast to twinfancy, when Mom the Boob was on call 24/7, toddler years are a perfect time to set up a more balanced work load between parents. My husband, a full-time teacher, and I, a SAHM (going back to teaching part time in August), are enjoying (mostly!) this special time with our young children through a healthy division of labor.

tumblr_n5u9a2IUaY1snhui7o5_500

I started making a list of my tasks and my husband’s tasks, but the totally un-even-looking columns stopped me in my tracks. I realized that the number of items isn’t as important as how much work you feel like you’re doing. A good division of labor means that both parents are happy with the arrangement.

Some Tips to Maintain a Healthy Division of Labor

  1. Let go of some control. If you want everything done YOUR way, then you have to do everything, and that’s no fun. Accept that an alternative approach is fine.
  2. Play to your strengths. Discuss the tasks that you prefer and listen to your spouse’s preferences too. It is actually more stressful for me to let go of certain tasks, like making breakfast, than it is to do them. Doing the dishes may feel like 90% effort for you, but it’s only 30% effort for your partner. A certain time of day may be a low point for you, but your spouse needs a break at another time. Feelings may change, so keep talking about what tasks take less effort for you and even which tasks you might enjoy.
  3. Be transparent in your process. Did you already pack the diaper bag? Let everyone know. Plow through the constant interruptions from the children and keep talking to each other instead of making assumptions. We’ve started saying to the boys, “Mommy and Daddy are going to talk to each other about our outing now.” Then we focus fully on our conversation for 3.5 seconds (bliss!).
  4. Recognize, state, and honor your own needs. If you don’t take care of yourself, someone else will have to, and that places a burden on your family. It’s better to say, “I need a 10 minute break,” than it is to become a weepy, angry, chaotic mess (I know from experience!). What kind of model do you want for your children – a martyr or a healthy person capable of self-care?
  5. Remember that your partner is working hard too, and therefore should get some credit for all that they do. It’s easy to see all that you are personally doing to keep the family ship afloat (and I bet it’s a lot). Some of your spouse’s daily acts may go unnoticed. Make it a point to thank each other, compliment each other, and generally acknowledge the many positive actions that are going on amongst the two of you. One word, smile, or hug goes a long way.
  6. Even if the labor is divided, it’s still a lot. There are times, especially during transitions and illness, that you and your partner will both be working to capacity. I sometimes get frustrated with my husband when I feel like I never. get. a. break. Then I pause the pity party and notice that we’re both overwhelmed (see #5.)
  7. Cut yourselves some slack. Guess what happens if the dishes don’t get done? The kids don’t eat a meal prepared from scratch? The toys don’t get picked up? Actually, nothing. Let it all slip once in a while, even if just to remember what’s really important – the people in the family. The infrastructure is just there to support them.

What does the division of labor look like in your household? How do you keep both parents from taking on too little or too much?

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Premature in Hong Kong: My Twins Born at 31 Weeks

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Prematurity Awareness Week 2013: How Do You Do It?

World Prematurity Day November 17In the United States, 1 in 9 babies is born prematurely, 1 in 10 in Canada. Worldwide, over 15 million babies are born too soon each year. While not all multiples are born prematurely, a multiple birth increases the probability of an early delivery. Babies born prematurely, before 37 weeks gestation, are at a higher risk for health complications in infancy, some of which can have long-term effects. Full-term infants are not all free from their own health complications, of course.

In honor of November’s Prematurity Awareness Month, led by the March of Dimes, How Do You Do It? is focusing this week’s posts on The Moms’ experiences with premature deliveries, NICU stays, health complications, special needs, and how we’ve dealt with these complex issues.


Leila and Rahul were born 2 months early, at 31 weeks in Hong Kong, where I temporarily moved a month before the birth, to access better NICU facilities.

At 29 weeks my contractions became more frequent, every 5 minutes. I was immediately hospitalized, for the 4th time during the pregnancy, given another round of steroid shots to speed up the babies lung development and put on a magnesium drip. The contractions were controlled at this fancy private hospital that didn’t have an NICU. So at 8am on Sunday morning, exactly 31 weeks gestation the doctor announced that I was in labour and had to be taken to the Queen Mary, a public hospital with an excellent NICU facility.

Rahul was low in the womb so a Cesarean section was risky. Leila was under my rib- cage and in a transverse position. A natural vaginal birth carried the risk that she might not turn head-down and an emergency C-section would then be needed.

Until then, my doctors had all been men who said I would need a C-section. That morning though, my husband Maher and I had to decide what to do on the spur of the moment, while I was contracting and in an emergency delivery setting.

The doctor on call was refreshingly a young woman who was insinuating that I opt for the natural birth. We didn’t have my blood-type on paper, so they couldn’t operate until they got the results. They drew blood soon after I arrived, late morning. They could not administer an epidural for the same reason. I secretly wanted to give birth naturally, and for the first time in the entire pregnancy I realized that it was possible, with risk of course, but we were accustomed to that by then. I felt I was in good hands. The efficient and natural way in which my case was being handled made me realise they did this often.

A sweet nurse called Angel held my hand through many of the growing contractions and Maher was by my side. I breathed in a gas mask, which would ease pain from the contractions. I remember frantically asking for Maher as I was being transferred from the ambulance stretcher that brought me in from the ambulance. I was wheeled through blue hallways, metallic elevators and ended up in the little delivery room. He wasn’t with me and I had no idea if he’d found his way.

He doesn’t speak a word of Mandarin, forget about Cantonese. The contractions were getting stronger, and longer and I didn’t realise that it wouldn’t be until 5pm that the babies would arrive. He made it. I relaxed a bit when as I saw him.

It was lunch time. The nurses insisted that he grab something to eat. There would be a wait before the delivery. My parents were waiting outside by then too. He took them down to the Starbucks that I would get to know very well over the next 6 weeks.

Between contractions Maher drew my attention to the view from a window next to my bed. It was beautiful. The afternoon sun was shining, the blue sea was glistening, and there was an island. The gas relieved some pain, but as the contractions became stronger I started to do bhramari (humming bee sound), and sheetali (sucking air in through a rolled tongue) breath work. It all came back to yoga, during the pregnancy and now. It was spontaneous. It kept me calm, grounded, and connected to a familiar practice. I used ujjayi breath all the time, contractions or not.

Just before 5 pm, I had fully dilated. The room suddenly filled up with nurses, doctors and two teams of paediatric specialists, one for each baby. Maher caught a glance of Rahul when he came out, right before he was rushed to the NICU. In the meantime a doctor was pushing on my belly to help baby 2 turn around. Another doctor had already given me an episiotomy and was ready to enter and manually turn Leila if needed. She turned on her own and was born 7 minutes after Rahul. She didn’t cry. There was some quick movement and maneuvering around her incubator for a few moments. They resuscitated and rushed her to the NICU.

A few minutes after all the delivery procedures ended Maher went up to the NICU to see our babies and to get some information about them. Only parents were allowed in during the visiting hours, 9am to 8pm. In the span of a few minutes, the room I was in went from being full of shouting nurses and doctors, to empty. I found myself alone, eating a bowl of rice and Cantonese beef or pork. I don’t remember which. There were two attendants who came in to ask which I didn’t eat – beef or pork. To them my brown skin automatically meant that I was either Hindu or Muslim. I asked for chicken.

The women then wheeled me to a room with thirty little cubicles separated by green plastic curtains. Each space fit a single, tiny bed and a little cupboard. I was to spend the next 3 days and nights there.

It was almost 8- o’clock, the end of visiting hours. My parents and brother-in-law who had just flown from Chengdu, made it in for a few minutes. They put my clothes, mobile phone, and whatever food they had on them in my little cupboard. I could reach for it from my bed. Maher came by for a minute with no news of L and R yet. The doctors were still preparing and assessing them and he hadn’t been allowed in. He rushed back to catch the 8pm deadline.

The attendant on duty who was changing sheets, cleaning the cubicles, handing over babies to their mums for feeds, and bed pans to others was not in a good mood, obviously bored and exhausted from her day in and out of dealing with new mums and their crying babies, and especially lacking patience for one who doesn’t speak Cantonese. I was exhausted but the adrenaline was pumping through my veins. My husband had seen the babies and sent me photos by SMS but they didn’t open on my phone. I spoke to family and friends. They were all upbeat and congratulating me. Maher was worried and I was reassuring him.

The room I was in was always awake, day and night, with the 30 mums trying to feed their babies, sleep, use the toilets and showers, and contain their excitement and pain.

A nurse came by to check my blood pressure. It was high as it had been for the last few weeks. I was not to leave the bed until early the next day. She also handed me a syringe and showed me how to express milk by massaging down on my breast, and then pushing in and down, but not squeezing. I slept for a few hours before I had to pump again, and then again. In the future I was to wash my hands thoroughly before expressing, clean the nipple and make sure the syringe was always in its wrapper. This I did every 3 hours that night, and for many months after. The nurse was surprised by how much colostrum I managed to express. Each syringe had to be labeled clearly and precisely with the date, time, and babies names, and then kept frozen until I could take them to the NICU in the morning.

The NICU story is a post on its own. After the stressful entrance into the world L and R are now healthy 4-year-olds. For almost a year now we’ve been living on Koh Samui, a magical island in Thailand. Living a dream.

photo(2)Natasha is mum of 4-year-old fraternal twins Leila and Rahul. She moved to Koh Samui, Thailand with her children after spending 7 years in China. Her husband travels back and forth because work is in China. She has started practicing her yoga more regularly again, and even teaches a few classes a week, after a 3 year break. She blogs at her personal site Our Little Yogis and at Multicultural Mothering.

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Foodie Friday: Pizza for Toddlers, Made by Toddlers

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My plan was to do a pictorial story of when Little Mister and Little Missy made their own pizzas for dinner one evening after daycare. Unfortunately, my portable hard drive (aka photo treasure chest) is corrupt and I have so far been unable to salvage photos and videos taken of our twins from the last two years! Our toddler pizza experience was one of the collections which is unsalvagable so far.

So I will be up to you, the reader, to… PICTURE THIS…

It’s the night before TGIF and I am inspired to do something different for dinner to take us into the weekend. After looking at what ingredients (aka leftovers) we have available: a packet of Indian naan, can of tomato paste, green peppers, ground beef and chicken. I settled on making “plate-sized” pizzas. And hmmm why not take it one step further and let our 2 1/2 year olds design-their-own?

After doing a quick google search for pizza sauce, I came across this super easy recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/easy-pizza-sauce-iii/ Why not make homemade pizza sauce so you at least know what goes into it?

My goal was to get all the ingredients ready beforehand, and like craft time, get the kids to “assemble” it. The pizza sauce needs to be chilled so it’s the perfect thing to do the night before. The ground beef was already cooked with spices, and we had some leftover cubes of cooked chicken ready to use as another topping. Half a block of cheese was grated the night before also. After work the next day, and before going to pick them up from daycare, I quickly sliced up the mushrooms, tomato and green pepper.

When the kids came home from daycare they donned their aprons and got to work preparing their masterpieces. Each got a small round baking pan (used by Mr. Mama for making nachos) to hold their naan (flatbread). Each got a small stainless steel bowl with spoon to hold their pizza sauce. I showed them how to spread the pizza sauce over the naan and they got really into it! Luckily it didn’t get onto their clothes.

Next up we had several toppings. It was neat to see what types of flavours they were choosing. The sliced apples they were munching on while they worked went on there…. sliced mushrooms, and very few green peppers and tomato slices (not their favourites). The meat toppings of ground beef and cubed chicken were carefully arranged as if part of a puzzle. Finally the grated cheese… oh the cheese.. In two containers of course, one for each! A chunk of it was eaten, the rest was fought over. But finally it perservered and the pizzas were complete!

Here’s where I wish there was a photo to show you what their finished products looked like. Picture a tandoori naan pizza shaped like, well, India (coincidence? hmm). With apples as a base layer, some random vegetables and meat, and topped with lots of cheese. It looked like a cheese mountain. Then in the oven it went. Luckily, it didn’t take long as all it needed was to be toasted until the cheese melted (since all the beef and chicken were pre-cooked).

As I wasn’t sure whether Mister and Missy would be able to wait for the pizza to be ready, I gave them another meal while we waited. But when those pizzas came out of the oven, they wanted “Mow !” (more)

Would we do it again? For sure! At first Mr. Mama wasn’t too thrilled about the idea of an apple pizza but I gotta say, the sweetness of the apples gave it a nice flavour.

Sometimes we don’t give toddlers enough credit. Future chefs, perhaps?

Ambereen is mom to almost 3 year old B/G twins and is always looking for ways to let them help in the kitchen. Aside from fulltime work and planning meals for the week, she maintains her blog 2Cute – Adventures in Twin Parenting

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Breastfeeding Buddies: Twin Brothers Nurse while Living in the NICU

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Categories Breastfeeding, Emotion, Feeding, Frustration, NICU, Prematurity, Unique needs, World Breastfeeding Week Blog CarnivalTags , , , , , , , , , , , , 4 Comments

World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center

Welcome to the World Breastfeeding 2013 Blog Carnival cohosted by NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center!

This post was written for inclusion in the WBW 2013 Blog Carnival. Our participants will be writing and sharing their stories about community support and normalizing breastfeeding all week long. Find more participating sites in the list at the bottom of this post or at the main carnival page.

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We all hear it. We all know it. “Breast is best.” Being able to breastfeed babies is something to strive for and many new mothers are bound and determined to be successful breastfeeding mommies. But it’s not always that easy.

What happens when you have more than one baby at a time, each demanding to be fed as newborn babies do? How do you balance the needs of twins, ensuring they are being well-nourished? How do you handle your own needs as a mom, such as getting enough sleep, managing your own diet when you are trying to balance the needs of multiple babies? How do you learn to nurse your babies if they are born premature and are living in a NICU? Each situation is challenging, but each of these needs can be achieved. I am telling you, because I have done it for three premature babies, including twins while in a NICU. I’m not going to lie. It’s not easy. You might shed a few tears. You might want to give up. People might try to talk you out of it. But I’m telling you now, it can be done!

While in the NICU for over three months with twins, I learned to nurse each of my babies when they were ready. Unfortunately we found ourselves in contact isolation for about 9 weeks of this time, all the while trying to learn to breastfeed and nourish my babies enough to be able to go home when they were ready and continue on with breastfeeding for as long as possible. Wearing gloves and gown while in isolation, I learned to work through the awkwardness of breastfeeding while in my isolation “get-up,” along with dealing with numerous wires and sticky things about my babies’ bodies. It truly was awkward, yet I wasn’t going to give up because of a rash of a bit of bad luck. The one thing that was natural and I could do for my babies, I was going to do.

Here are my 5 tips for you to try with the hopes that you will be successful while breastfeeding in a NICU and beyond.

Why Do You Want to Breastfeed?

First things first, ask yourself why you want to breastfeed. Is it for your own personal satisfaction and goal of providing for your children? Is it because you feel it is best for your children? Or is it because someone else told you that you should? If it is because you either want to gain something out of it such as the feeling of satisfaction of knowing you are providing nourishment for your babies or because you feel in your heart it is what needs to be done and you’re going to do it, then you’re on the right track. To be successful at breastfeeding babies, who are living in a NICU, when you are already under an enormous amount of strain and potential mental, physical and emotional stress, you have to be sure breastfeeding is important to you and you’re not doing it because someone else said so. If you are not mentally prepared to breastfeed, you’re headed for a rocky road.

Communicate Your Breastfeeding Goals to Others

Make sure you tell your babies’ NICU nurses, lactation consultant, and medical team your goal to breastfeed your babies when they are ready. Remember, because your babies have arrived early, they may not be able to start nursing immediately due to their size or health situation. Give it time and be patient. Begin using a breast pump as soon as possible and on a regular schedule, which you will expect to follow when the babies are ready to begin breastfeeding. Most hospitals will have you begin to get accustomed to an every three hour pumping and eventually breastfeeding schedule. Now is a great time to allow your body to what it was designed to do, which is produce milk for your newborn babies. If you find you are experiencing challenges with producing, consider being in a NICU a blessing in disguise. If you are struggling in the early days, you will have a bit of time to investigate and figure out how to have your milk come in. By being in the NICU you have access to the nursing team, as well as lactation consultants, which you wouldn’t have if you went directly home after the birth of your babies.

Use the NICU Resources

No one wants to be in the NICU. I know that. The way I looked at it though, is that it was a chance situation that put me in the NICU, surrounded by medical experts and a team of lactation consultants, occupational therapists and dieticians, so I was going to make full use of the medical team there to support me and my babies. Each of these experts has a different way of looking at the breastfeeding process. Your lactation consultant can discuss tips and tricks for positioning yourself and your babies for optimal comfort and breastfeeding success. An occupational therapist can also be brought into the picture to assess how babies are handling the “suck, swallow, breathe” process and make any necessary adjustments needed for your breastfeeding technique. The dietician may discuss your dietary needs, what’s best to eat while breastfeeding, as well as possibly discuss your infants’ dietary needs and possibility of higher caloric intake, which may depend on weight and rate of growth. These people are a quick phone call away and they will come to help you when you ask. Where else can you get a team of experts like this practically at your fingertips?

Find Your Comfort Zone

Each mother is different and thankfully there are different ways to breastfeed your babies. Figure out what works best for you by trying things out. Once again, since you are in the NICU, now is the best time to hammer out the best approach for feeding your babies. Having premature babies often means they are very small in size. It can be very uncomfortable in the early days when it comes to figuring out how to handle their little bodies and having the confidence that you are not actually hurting them as you move them around getting settled to breastfeed. It will take some time to get comfortable with these things. Ask the lactation consultant if they have a variety of nursing pillows for you to try. One mom of multiples might swear by nursing pillows made specifically for twins, while another mother might prefer a different style which fits her small premature babies on it. Some moms are quite content layering a few pillows across their lap and adjusting based on the babies’ needs for positioning. You may find your babies also have a preference for a certain breastfeeding hold over another. Once again, your time in the NICU allows you the unique opportunity for “practice,” as well as bedside coaching from the nurses and other staff involved in your babies’ care.

Before Discharge from NICU

The day you get to take your babies home will eventually arrive. Make sure you plan how you will transition yourselves from the NICU with constant access to experts to your own household, which will not have a 24 hour staff on call. How will you and your partner handle your breastfeeding schedule once you have brought your babies home? Will your partner be able to support your goal of breastfeeding by helping you keep on top of your feeding schedule and by helping you get up in the wee hours of the night to feed them? These are all important points to consider and prepare for before being discharged from the hospital. To help make a smooth transition from NICU to home, consider contacting your local multiples organization to see if they have a breastfeeding support person, or your local public health office and even your children’s pediatrician’s office. All of these organizations will know how to put you in touch with a lactation consultant or formal breastfeeding supports. Knowing that you can build your own “team” outside the hospital will hopefully help you keep on track with breastfeeding your babies until you are ready to wean them, whenever that day may be.

Landing in a NICU with your premature babies is not ideal, but take it is a chance to accept help you would not have received otherwise. Consider this your opportunity to get breastfeeding right. You are in a place with some amazing experts that you never would have had access to if you’d had your babies and went directly home. The NICU is likely a whole new world to you, so take the time to explore it and the unexpected opportunities it has available to you. I am confident I was able to successfully breastfeed my three children for 13 months and 9 months based on the fact I had supportive experts rooting for me and showing me the way from day one.

Carolyn (Twintrospectives) writes for How Do You Do It? and has three boys born premature, including fraternal twins. She is the proud mom of NICU Grads 2008 and 2010! Carolyn and her family live in Canada.

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World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center Visit NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center for more breastfeeding resources and WBW Carnival details!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Below are a list of links for today’s participants; you can find a complete list of links (updated throughout the week) at our main carnival page:

(This list will be updated by afternoon August 3 with all the carnival links.)

  • Breastfeeding and NIP: A Primer — Rachel Rainbolt of Sage Parenting, featured today at NursingFreedom.org, uses her informative and candid voice to share with you everything you need to know to breastfeed successfully in public, from the practical how-to’s to handling the social stigma.
  • Lactivist Ryan Gosling — Breastfeeding mamas, the time is long overdue for a Lactivist Ryan Gosling. Fortunately, Dionna of Code Name: Mama has created some for your viewing pleasure.
  • In Defense of Formula — Amy of Mom2Mom KMC, guest blogging for Breastfeeding in Combat Boots, asserts that formula is a medical tool rather than a food. She examines how this perspective supports breastfeeding as normal and eliminates the negative tensions between breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding mothers.
  • World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival – Breastfeeding Tips & Tricks — Throughout her breastfeeding journey (since March 2009), Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy has shared countless tips and tricks on the topic of breastfeeding.
  • Nursing in the Wild — Meredith at Thank You Ma’am posts about how seeing other moms nurse can make all of us more comfortable with nursing in public.
  • Normalizing Breastfeeding — Sara Stepford of The Stepford Sisters confronts the social stigma vs. the reality of breastfeeding and opens up about the steps she takes to make herself and others more comfortable with the process.
  • Breastfeeding Alrik at two years old — This is where Lauren at Hobo Mama and her second-born are at in their nursing relationship, two years in.
  • Perfectly Normal — Stephanie from Urban Hippie writes about the way she and her family have done their part to try and normalize breastfeeding in a society that doesn’t get to see breastfeeding as often as they should.
  • Diagnosis: Excess Lipase — Learn about excess lipase and how to test if your expressed milk has it. That Mama Gretchen shares her own experience.
  • Redefining Normal — Diana at Munchkin’s Mommy reflects on how we can normalize breastfeeding in our society.
  • Nursing Openly and Honestly — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work feels that the most socially responsible thing she can do as a mother is to nurse and nurture her children openly, honestly, and with pride.
  • Wet-nursing, Cross-nursing and Milk-sharing: Outdated? — Jamie Grumet of I Am Not the Babysitter shares a response to the Wendy Williams quote about milk sharing being akin to slavery, by giving a brief history of the wet nurse.
  • Tackling Mastitis with an Older Nursling — Much of the advice available for supporting recovery from mastitis seems to be aimed at mamas with younger nurslings. Juliet of Twisting Vines, posting at Natural Parents Network shares tips for dealing with mastitis while breastfeeding a toddler.
  • Milk in the eye — Gena from Nutrition Basics discusses how breastmilk cured her 3 year old’s case of pink eye.
  • Boobie Biter — Rachel Rainbolt at Sage Parenting offers guidance on how to survive and thrive a boobie biter with your breastfeeding relationship intact.
  • My take on breastfeeding advice — Diana at Munchkin’s Mommy shares her insights on nursing for both new moms and new dads.
  • My Top Five Breastfeeding Tips for Delivery Day: Think “A-B-C-D-E”Mothernova shares how her continued success at breastfeeding with her second child rests on a foundation of five key things she did to prepare for baby’s arrival, along with things she did when she and baby first met. Easily enough, these tips can be categorized as “A-B-C-D-E”: Access to lactation consultant, Baby-friendly hospital, Communicate your plan to breastfeed exclusively, Demand, and Expect to room in.
  • Breastfeeding Buddies: Twin Brothers Nurse while Living in the NICU — Twintrospectives at How Do You Do It? shares her 5 tips for learning to breastfeed multiples while in the NICU.
  • Breastfeeding on a Dairy-Free Diet: Our Journey and Our Tips — Finding herself nursing a baby with food allergies, Jenny at Spinning Jenny embarked upon a dairy-free journey with her son for eight months. Here she relates her reasons for making the decision to give up dairy in her diet, why it was worth it, and tips for moms on the same path.
  • Normalizing Breastfeeding in my Home — Shannah at The Touch of Life shares how she plans to help keep breastfeeding normal for her own children, even when her breastfeeding years are over.
  • A Year With My Nursling — The more you see and hear, the more normal it becomes, so That Mama Gretchen is sharing her heart on the last year of breastfeeding – the ups and downs, but mostly the joy of her priceless relationship with her son.
  • From Covered to Confident — Krystyna at Sweet Pea Births shares her personal NIP evolution: she started by covering up from neck to ankle while nursing in public. Eight years later, she has gained confidence and the ability to nurse without stressing about flashing a little skin. She shares her views on normalizing breastfeeding – what influenced her and how she hopes to help others.
  • Normalizing Breastfeeding for Older Kids — Sadia at How Do You Do It? hopes that openly discussing breastfeeding with her (now weaned) daughters will help her children feel comfortable with breastfeeding and their bodies in general as they grow.
  • Nursing in Public — Listen up, mammas. Those other people around . . . they don’t matter. It’s not about them. It’s about you and that beautiful baby. Nurse on, says The Swaddled Sprout!
  • How to Nurse a Teenager — Sarah at The Touch of Life declares: the purpose is to help normalize breastfeeding a toddler.
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Twin Advantage – Playmates and Best Friends

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I’m sure we’ve all heard it before.  We’ve heard it in those comments from strangers who said that they always wished they had a twin.  We’ve heard it from other parents of multiples.  We’ve heard it from multiples and twins themselves: there’s something very, very special about being a twin.

It’s often this twin connection, this twin bond, that strangers like to inquire about – Do they have their own twin-speak?  Is one more dominant?  Do they like to hold hands or snuggle together?  Do they get along?  Do they always want to be together?

A twin has a built-in playmate and, hopefully, a built-in best friend, too.  I mean, twins can’t have a sibling any closer in age!  And I know that I loved having siblings close in age to me (my sister is 16 months older than me, and my brother is 15 months older than her) as I spent so much time with them and they became my best friends.

And I have to say this ultra special sibling connection is one of the greatest blessings and advantages about having twins.  While twins are especially demanding in the first year or two of life, part of the reason I think they get easier with the passing days and months and years is that they have each other.  As a parent, I don’t have to entertain them myself all day long.  I don’t have to come up with things to do for them.  They can play with each other.  They can talk to each other.  They are siblings, playmates, and best friends, as well as being twins.E13My twin daughters may not be identical, but they still have this great bond.  Now, at the age of three years, I love hearing them play together, hearing them giggle, watching them smile, holding hands and hugging of their own fruition, apologizing, kissing boo-boos, and pretending.  I love how they encourage each other (though sometimes it may mean double trouble for mom and dad!), share, care, and love each other.

My daughters will always have each other to share their lives with, step by step.  It’s so unique!  And I know it must be that bond, that connection, that people are often jealous of!  They want their children or themselves to have a best friend for life.  They want to have someone who has always been right there with them through all of their lives, through the good, the bad, and the wonderful.

While I know that some twins don’t stay best friends forever (sad!), and often end up going their separate ways, I hope that I can continue to foster their love and affection towards each other, so that when they are grown and have their own lives and families, they will still have each other, though maybe not in a physical way.

Twins are a blessing indeed, aren’t they?  Even if some days that blessing only seems to be for their benefit and not ours.

Are your twins best friends? Do they share a special bond?  What have you done to foster it through the passing years?

ldskatelyn is the proud mama of twin daughters and a four-month old bouncing baby boy.  She counts her multiple blessings everyday and love that her kids have each other, as she loved having all of her own eight siblings growing up!  Find out more about her and her family at What’s up Fagans?

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Twinfant Tuesday: Three Things That Helped in the First Year Blur

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first year blur

It’s the third week of our new HDYDI feature, Twinfant Tuesday, and I’m racking my brain trying to figure out what to write about. I’m supposed to give you some insight into how I made it through the first year with multiples…

The truth is, I don’t really know.

My two survivors are 19 1/2 months now (16 1/2 adjusted), and the first year was truly a blur. Between spending the first four months in the NICU and dealing with the loss of one of the triplets, I don’t think I really even recovered until after the first year was over. My first year didn’t even really begin when they were born, but rather, when they came home.

But there were some things that made a huge difference my first year.

Getting Organized

get organized

I’m not just talking color-coordinating things or having a system for washing bottles, I’m talking making sure you’re on top of all the to-do list items. That was one of the hardest things for my husband and me – making sure we didn’t miss any appointments, therapy sessions, follow-up visits, or other important events. We hung a dry-erase calendar in the kitchen and kept all of the appointments listed – in color code of course – to keep us and anyone looking after the babies in the loop. Yes, we also had important dates synced on our iPhone calendars, but this way, we could see it at a moment’s notice and everyone would know who was doing what.

We also set reminders and alarms on our phones for everything – when medicine was due, when it was time to get them up to feed (in case we fell asleep, which happened often), to remind us to change the laundry, etc. I even set an alarm to remind me to eat. It may seem insane, but these alarms helped keep me on track when I was sleep-deprived and still recovering from mommy-brain.

Finding Help

get help

I don’t think I ever would have made it through all the chaos without help. I was lucky enough to have family close by that pitched in when I needed them. My mom on the weekends, my mother-in-law several days a week, and the occasional babysitter just to help me deal with all the things I was overwhelmed with. It’s not a bad thing to need help. Whether you need someone to help with the babies, the house, or just to give you some much-needed time to yourself, getting a helping hand will make those first few months a little more bearable.

If you don’t have family nearby or can’t afford a sitter (we paid ours less than one we’d pay who would watch our babies if we were gone, because they were helping, not in charge), consider trading help with another mom friend. Giving each other a few hours off will at least provide you with a much needed break. And, if that’s not an option, at least set up a play date so you can have some adult conversation.

Having a Positive Attitude

surviving lockdown

Lockdown. The six month long side-effect of having preemies. From October 1 – March 31, we never left the house other than for our mandatory doctor’s appointments. It’s hard to keep a positive attitude when you’re forced to be hermits. We weren’t allowed to have visitors other than family (and they had to be up-to-date on their shots and free of illness), we couldn’t have kids over – so no play dates, and we had to make sure the house was sterile and that my husband changed clothes as soon as he came home. I think our hands got raw from all the washing. It also was a major downer that their first birthday fell during this time and we weren’t able to have the type of party we wanted to have.

Surviving it was a challenge, but there were things we were able to do to help. It was okay to go outside, we just couldn’t be around other people. So, I would often load them in their wagon and take a walk around the block. They loved it, I got exercise, and we all got fresh air. Another thing I did to keep sane was talking to at least one friend a day. Most of the time, it was someone who was going through the same thing as I was. If you’re in a situation like lockdown, know that there are a lot of moms out there who are in your shoes and understand. One of these moms in particular helped me understand that I shouldn’t think of it as the jail I saw it as. Instead, I should put a positive spin on it: I should appreciate the time I had to bond with the babies without the added outside distractions. Learn about them. Enjoy them. So that’s what I did, and it was an invaluable way to spend my first year as a mom.

What about you?

Have you tried these ways to get through? If so, did they help, or do you have another suggestion? Sometimes, it’s all about perspective…

AngelaAngela is a stay-at-home mom raising surviving triplets. She lost her first-born triplet, Carter, after 49 days, and her survivors, B & T, keep her pretty busy with their ongoing needs as a result of their prematurity. She manages to find time for her business and personal blog. Her goal in blogging is to share with others that it’s possible to survive after loss. She and her husband live in the Houston, TX suburb of Cypress. She also blogs at Thirty-One:10.

 

 

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