Monday, December 29, 2014

Use Up Those Christmas Cards!

This post may contain affiliate links.  Thanks for your support!  

Every year I struggle to find a way to display the Christmas cards we receive.  We used to use magnets to put them on the refrigerator.  When we ran out of magnets, we used tape.  Then we had kids and anything put on the fridge wouldn't stay, of course!  Then we moved and the fridge in our new home wasn't magnetic, so we put cards on the mantel...again, running out of room in that spot.  So, this year, I took to Pinterest and set up the cards this way:


I wrapped long lengths of ribbon partly around some doors that lead into our kitchen, securing in the back with masking tape (which ended up not being strong enough, so I used duct tape over it).  Then I stapled the cards to the ribbons as they arrived, placing ones with pictures of people we know really well more near the eye-level of my three-year-old twin sons.


Near the top of the door I tied ribbons in contrasting color for a present effect.   It worked out well enough, and I saved the ribbons in case we do it again next year.

But what to do with all the Christmas cards?

Many months ago, I made "prayer sticks" for my sons to use at bedtime.  Our prayer routine had gotten a little stale, so, once again inspired by ideas on Pinterest, I cut out pictures of friends and family, and glued them to jumbo-sized craft sticks.

 

I just used Elmer's Glue, but I'm considering going over the photo portions with Modge Podge or shellac later on to make them last longer.  I wrote the names with a Sharpie.  When our sons pray for someone at night, they can hold the stick, look at the picture, and it generally makes the experience more tangible and less abstract for them.  


We bunch all the sticks into an unused plastic cup, and at bedtime each boy gets to pick one stick, and they pray for that person (with our help).  You actually end up going through sticks quite quickly this way, so we were in need of more.  Enter Christmas cards!  While the boys had their allotted "TV time" this morning, I dismantled the card display, and in the afternoon while they took a quick nap, I cut up the cards, glued and labeled.  Cards without pictures, with pictures that don't fit, or for people the boys don't really know, were recycled.  (Though I did keep a few that had encouraging, hand-written sentiments for myself.) 


Another idea for your Christmas cards is to put them in photo albums for your babies, young toddlers, and even preschoolers to look at.  Even older children and adults might enjoy perusing through old cards in album form!  See an older post of mine on Photo Books for Babies and Toddlers.

What do you do with your old Christmas cards? 

Friday, November 21, 2014

What I Believe

For those who are curious, I'd like to share my own personal, spiritual beliefs.  I hope that no matter what I believe and what you believe, that you can still find useful information and encouragement in the pages of this blog.  But I'm sharing so that others may find hope, if they need it, and because my beliefs do, so often, affect my parenting decisions, and are my source of strength on those days when I want to just lay down in the middle of the Duplos.  (Though I have been known to do that.) 

On a primary level...

I believe God exists, He created the world we live in, He created us, loves us, and is involved in our lives.
I believe humans are flawed.  No one is perfect.  But God is perfect.  Since He loves us, He provided a way for us to be together, a bridge between the flawed and perfection.
I believe that bridge is Jesus Christ.  Fully God, fully man, Jesus lived a perfect life. 
I believe Christ's death on the cross offered up that perfect life as a sacrifice for all of humanity's sins, so that we need not suffer permanent consequences for those sins.
I believe that three days after his death, Jesus Christ rose from the dead and is alive now.
I believe that Christ's resurrection means that sin does not win, death does not win, and God is all-powerful.

"For God so loved the world, that he sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."  John 3:16

On a secondary level...

I believe parenting is hard.
I believe parenting multiples can be harder, easier, worse, and better than parenting any other grouping of children one might have.  Depends on the day. 
I believe we are all doing the best we can.
I believe we should share what we know and encourage one another in this hard, and worthy, work.

"All who would win joy, must share it; happiness was born a twin."  -Lord Byron









Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Brief Bio

I grew up in Wisconsin.  It's a beautiful place...



I  moved to Texas to attend the University of Texas at Austin.  After college I met my husband at church.  While dating, he took a job in California, and after we married I moved out to our first apartment together in Pasadena.


I taught kindergarten in Austin for 3 years, and in Los Angeles for 3 years.  Another job change for my husband took us back to Texas, and after a year in Houston, we settled down again in the Dallas area.  It’s in my DNA to have low energy, and I’m definitely not a morning person.  Then I had twins.  


It was a total shock.  And it’s been shocking ever since.  This blog is my attempt to help other parents of twins, or even parents of singletons, with advice and encouragement.  We all need it!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Twin Z Nursing Pillow

Immediate disclaimer:  I've never used the Twin Z Pillow!  Also, I don't benefit monetarily from suggesting this particular product.  However, I know how important a good nursing pillow can be, so I've done some research on the Twin Z (and mentioned it previously in my post More Tips For Feeding Two Babies.)  I do know some other twin mommas who've used it.  If you're trying to figure out what, if any, nursing pillow to use with your babies, maybe the information I've found can help you make your decision.  (I had the My Brest Friend double nursing pillow, and did have some issues with it, though I know other women who loved it.)   

Image courtesy of Twin Z Company

According to the company that sells them, the Twin Z Pillow has 6 uses:
  1. Breastfeeding and bottle feeding
  2. Tummy time
  3. Support for mom or babies
  4. Propping infants with reflux
  5. Pregnancy pillow
  6. Toddler pillow 
Twin Z Pillow has provided the following pictures to demonstrate how the pillow can be used.  As you can see, nursing and bottle feeding can be done for both babies at once while still supporting your back, and without having to juggle a separate pillow behind you.  This is really important, after a C-section, and for long term back health.  The pillow is roughly shaped like the number 3, so you would pull up on the middle section to create your back support.  Later on, the pillow can be used as a tummy time prop, and as a prop while babies learn to sit on their own.  Also, infants with reflux can lay on it while still being slightly elevated.

Image courtesy of Twin Z Company

Image courtesy of Twin Z Company

Below is a link to a video showing how to use this pillow, courtesy of Twin Z Company:

http://www.twinznursingpillow.com/how-to-use-1/

The Twin Z pillow can also be used during pregnancy.  As you can see in the first picture below, the element I wish I had had in a pillow while expecting is the middle portion: even though my belly got quite large, it grow outward, and when I laid on my side I felt the uncomfortable pressure as the baby bump was pulled down by gravity.  I always had to use a small, flatter pillow to slightly prop up the bump even when side-lying.  And in the second photo you can see how comfy and handy the pillow would be during bed rest, or any other time!

Image courtesy of Twin Z Company

Image courtesy of Twin Z Company

A friend of mine who used the pillow from day one, and loved it, was kind enough to share pictures of her twin daughters using it.  Look at these Valentine's Day cuties!  With or without a blanket draped over it, the pillow can be used as a comfy spot to lay the babies even when not feeding.  In the second photo, the girls are a little older, and then the pillow becomes a handy tummy time device.  Now they are 10 months old, and their mother says they still use it every day to lay on, eat on, or climb on!    



Please leave a comment if you've used this product!

Monday, November 3, 2014

They're Home, Now What?


You can never forget the day you bring your baby, or multiple babies, home from the hospital.  With multiples especially, you sometimes end up taking one baby before the others are ready to leave the NICU (and juuuuuust in case the dear reader isn't sure, that stands for neonatal intensive care unit), in which case, you build up a routine at home gradually.  But we were fortunate:  our boys were born at 34.5 weeks (yes, I count those few days as a half week, because with premature babies, even days can make a difference!), only had to spend 10 days in the NICU, and got to come home on the same day. 

Our first family photo at home!  

Hopefully, the nurses at the hospital at which you have your babies, or your midwife or doctor at home,  will give you some helpful pointers before setting you loose.  We had to sit down for almost an hour of baby-care points, that we frantically tried to remember later, before we were allowed to tuck the boys into their car seats and be on our way.

That first ride home is tremendously exciting and terrifying!  We're going home!  They are coming to their first home for the first time!  With us!  We have kids!  Drive slow.  I can't drive any slower.  Is he still breathing?!  What sound did that other one just make?!  Pull over!  No!  They're fine!

We arrived home around 5 p.m. that day.  Just enough time to take pictures, settle the boys in the pack-and-play for a little bit while we scarfed down dinner, unpack all the items from the hospital, shower, feed and change the babies, and then hunker down in the bedroom for the first round of that silly thing called "trying to get your babies to sleep at night while feeding them seemingly round the clock."  (This link will take you to the page with all of my posts regarding Sleep.)

I'm smiling...but I don't know what to do next.

You may have other young children, and I hope your experience with them will give you some knowledge and wisdom we lacked as first-time parents, but maybe you aren't sure how to juggle all the different needs at home now.  Maybe these ARE your first children and you're feeling uncertain.  Either way, take a breath, you can do this!  Just take it one step at a time.  SUCH a cliche, but still true.  (See my post on "Do The Next Thing.")


The First Day/Night Home:
  • Figure out a way to unload the car and bring everybody/everything inside without leaving either baby alone in the car at any point.  
  • Take pictures!  Share with others.  
  • Quickly sort through the items from the hospital and your things at home to make sure you have everything you need for the next 24 hours: diapers, wipes, place to put dirty diapers, formula, bottles, filtered water, breast pump, milk storage bags, nipple shields, extra changes of clothes/PJs for babies, thermometer (hopefully you won't need that yet!), baby logs, just whatever you've determined you need.  Have it all right next to where you'll be that night, at hand, so you don't have to think about it later.  
  • Figure out where babies will sleep and let them get a little accustomed to it.  
  • At first, try following the feeding schedule or rhythm you had in the hospital.  Some babies need to be fed every 2 or 3 hours.  
  • Feed yourself, preferably a hearty, healthy meal that'll last you.  
  • If there are more than 2 adults, take turns showering.  You don't know when you'll get the chance next.  If you are the only adult at home, it's okay to leave the babies in their crib, bouncy seats, etc, while you shower.  It really is okay!  If they cry a little, they cry a little.  You do what you have to do.  
  • If you have other children at home, or dogs, feed them too!  You'll have to do some juggling that first evening to make sure everyone has their basic needs met.  
  • Decide beforehand what you want the bedtime routine for your children to be, and try to start that very night!  It may sound silly to have it for newborns, but getting into the habit of doing the same things in the same order every night will not only help your kids, but it will help you, too.  It will ensure you don't forget things, and give you more confidence as you figure out how to care for your babies.
  • Then, throughout the wee hours...good luck!  I'm praying for you.  Try to jot notes on what happens, even during the night. 

In our notes, we wrote down which baby was in which color, just in case.  But of course, those outfits may not last the night.  

The First Full Day Home:
  • You'll be utterly exhausted.  But you'll have to get up at some point to feed babies, feed yourself, and feed other people in your house.  If at all possible, plan out your meals for a few days at a time, before the twins are born, so you can have quick, healthy, easy foods on hand and you don't have to think about it as much.  
  • Continue taking notes on the babies' habits throughout the day.  These notes will help you establish routines and schedules later, and can answer questions the pediatrician may have.  You can also refer back to them when you have questions.  AND they'll be handy when filling in those baby books...when your kids turn...3.  (Here's an example of the kind of note system we used.)
  • TRY to squeeze naps for yourself into the day when the babies sleep.  I know there are always dishes to wash, calls to make, etc., but if you don't nap at least once during the day, you'll soon be running on empty and possibly be a danger to others in your sleep-deprivation.
  • If you haven't already done so, schedule the next check-ups for you and your babies.  


Newborns are actually very sleepy.  Whenever they do happen to sleep, enjoy it.  Sleep yourself, get something done, or steal a precious moment.  Here, grandma revels in the peace.  For now.  

The First Week Home:
  • Get some fresh air!  Take a stroller walk if the weather is good, and if not, walk the mall.  If the babies aren't allowed in public yet, take a car ride.  Just do something so you don't start getting cabin fever.  Sadly, even trips to Target with the babies in the double Snap-n-Go were considered "outings" in those early days.  
  • Keep taking those notes and forming a daily and nightly routine.  After a few days you should be able to see patterns of when your babies are hungry, when they sleep the best, when they're the most fussy.  
  • Take more pictures!
  • Try to find a home for all those items I mentioned from the hospital, and for baby gifts or purchases.  If you don't find homes for things now, it just piles up, clutters up, and gets out of hand.  Do it this week so you won't be overwhelmed later.  
  • Try and spend some time with the other people in your house, so they won't feel neglected.  Even just a moment eating ice cream together in the living room can be special.  

The First Month Home:
  • Attend to any lingering phone calls or paperwork regarding the hospital, insurance, etc.
  • Write thank you notes for any baby gifts or help you've received. 
  • Decide if and how you want to send out baby announcements.  Facebook is fun and free, ha ha!  Or if your babies are born in the fall, you can do what we did and combine the announcement with your Christmas card.  
  • Decide if you want to do any photo sessions and plan.  I wish I had done a professional newborn photography session!  We were too sleep-deprived to research and plan that out, but now I realize how easy it is to take pictures of them when they're sleepy and can't move.
  • Start making plans, if necessary, for child care when you return to work.  

Your babies are home; congratulations!



Saturday, November 1, 2014

More Tips on Consignment & Garage Sales

This post may contain affiliate links.  Thank you for your support!

I just recently finished my local mothers-of-multiples club's consignment sale, and thought I would jot down some things before I forgot!  (Most clubs have semi-annual sales, one in the spring and one in the fall.)

Here's my table!  As you can see, I didn't have that many clothes to sell this time, so I could get away with hanging them off the edge of a basket, instead of doing the clothing rack route, which I address below.

If you're selling:

  • Keep seasons in mind.  If you're selling in the fall, it's true that you're probably trying to get rid of summer things, but most people will be shopping for winter gear.  
  • $100 in change is more than enough.  You'll need a couple twenties, some tens and fives, and $20 or more in ones.  The ones and fives are what you'll probably need most.  You may not even need this much change, but better than running out!  Bring a roll of quarters if you're selling things for less than a dollar.
  • Watch your items!  It saddens me to report that at this most recent sale, one mother had a very high-quality coat stolen from her rack.  It's easy to get into conversation with those around us, but be sure to keep one eye on your items.  If you leave your table/area to shop or go to the bathroom, take your money with you and be sure to have the person next to you help keep watch while you're gone.  
  • Racks and hangers.  If you have a lot of clothing to sell, they go faster when hung up, and this is easiest to do with a clothing rack.  Ikea has them for $13 ($10 for a rack without wheels).  At first I thought this would be a frivolous purchase, but the racks really do attract more customers.  Also, a friend of mine uses her rack for guest's clothing at her home, year-round, so if you have no actual guest-room closet, this is a good solution.
    Image from Ikea.com
     As for hangers, not all stores allow you to take the hangers with you when you buy clothes, so it's easy enough to get a pack, such as these from Amazon (Just don't be like me and forget to take the hangers back when selling the clothing!)                                                                                                                                                                 

  • Keep prices fair. When setting up the night before I took a lap around the room to get an idea of how other people price.  Then I had to adjust some of my things accordingly.  If you really want to just get rid of items, price them fairly.  If you need to make more money on things, go ahead and price it high and see what kind of offers you get.  Have a number in your head and stay firm.  (Perhaps something was more expensive, you bought it new yourself, or you never even had a chance to use something.)
  • Be realistic.  You won't sell everything.  You'll sell some things.

    Image from memestache.com

    No, you won't make millions!  In my first sale I made $180, this time I made $160.  You could make more, you could make less, depending on what you're selling and how much traffic can be generated for the sale event.  
  • Remember you can sell elsewhere, too.  If you haven't tried it yet, consider joining Facebook pages for local sales, or perhaps your local multiples club has a classifieds page for members.  Also, a friend told me you can often sell larger things well on Ebay.  If you offer free shipping, then factor that in when setting a price.  Take as many pictures as possible, and note any and all flaws!  If you are overly critical of the product, then you can avoid the scenario of a customer complaining that it didn't meet expectations.  
  • Bags.  Bring plastic shopping bags for customers to carry around their purchases.  Most people won't remember to bring their own, and this will be an added, appreciated gesture.  

If you're shopping:
  • Bring cash!
  • Make a list.  Write down beforehand what you need, and then what you want.  If you're looking for big-ticket items, you may even want to look online to see retail value, so that you'll know what kind of deals you're getting.  Also, with a list, you're less likely to feel overwhelmed walking into a big venue, and more likely to stay focused and self-disciplined when it comes to spending!
  • You can negotiate.
  • Look first, buy second.  Circle the whole venue first, that way you can compare similar or even identical items.  

In case you missed it, I have another post on this subject here:  Preparing for a Consignment Sale.

Happy selling and happy shopping!such as these from Amazon.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Busy Toddler

This post may contain affiliate links.  Thank you for your support!

I just recently finished my local mothers-of-multiples club's consignment sale, and thought I would jot down some things before I forgot!  (Most clubs have semi-annual sales, one in the spring and one in the fall.)

Here's my table!  As you can see, I didn't have that many clothes to sell this time, so I could get away with hanging them off the edge of a basket, instead of doing the clothing rack route, which I address below.

If you're selling:

  • Keep seasons in mind.  If you're selling in the fall, it's true that you're probably trying to get rid of summer things, but most people will be shopping for winter gear.  
  • $100 in change is more than enough.  You'll need a couple twenties, some tens and fives, and $20 or more in ones.  The ones and fives are what you'll probably need most.  You may not even need this much change, but better than running out!  Bring a roll of quarters if you're selling things for less than a dollar.
  • Watch your items!  It saddens me to report that at this most recent sale, one mother had a very high-quality coat stolen from her rack.  It's easy to get into conversation with those around us, but be sure to keep one eye on your items.  If you leave your table/area to shop or go to the bathroom, take your money with you and be sure to have the person next to you help keep watch while you're gone.  
  • Racks and hangers.  If you have a lot of clothing to sell, they go faster when hung up, and this is easiest to do with a clothing rack.  Ikea has them for $13 ($10 for a rack without wheels).  At first I thought this would be a frivolous purchase, but the racks really do attract more customers.  Also, a friend of mine uses her rack for guest's clothing at her home, year-round, so if you have no actual guest-room closet, this is a good solution.
    Image from Ikea.com
     As for hangers, not all stores allow you to take the hangers with you when you buy clothes, so it's easy enough to get a pack, such as these from Amazon (Just don't be like me and forget to take the hangers back when selling the clothing!)                                                                                                                                                                 

  • Keep prices fair. When setting up the night before I took a lap around the room to get an idea of how other people price.  Then I had to adjust some of my things accordingly.  If you really want to just get rid of items, price them fairly.  If you need to make more money on things, go ahead and price it high and see what kind of offers you get.  Have a number in your head and stay firm.  (Perhaps something was more expensive, you bought it new yourself, or you never even had a chance to use something.)
  • Be realistic.  You won't sell everything.  You'll sell some things.

    Image from memestache.com

    No, you won't make millions!  In my first sale I made $180, this time I made $160.  You could make more, you could make less, depending on what you're selling and how much traffic can be generated for the sale event.  
  • Remember you can sell elsewhere, too.  If you haven't tried it yet, consider joining Facebook pages for local sales, or perhaps your local multiples club has a classifieds page for members.  Also, a friend told me you can often sell larger things well on Ebay.  If you offer free shipping, then factor that in when setting a price.  Take as many pictures as possible, and note any and all flaws!  If you are overly critical of the product, then you can avoid the scenario of a customer complaining that it didn't meet expectations.  
  • Bags.  Bring plastic shopping bags for customers to carry around their purchases.  Most people won't remember to bring their own, and this will be an added, appreciated gesture.  

If you're shopping:
  • Bring cash!
  • Make a list.  Write down beforehand what you need, and then what you want.  If you're looking for big-ticket items, you may even want to look online to see retail value, so that you'll know what kind of deals you're getting.  Also, with a list, you're less likely to feel overwhelmed walking into a big venue, and more likely to stay focused and self-disciplined when it comes to spending!
  • You can negotiate.
  • Look first, buy second.  Circle the whole venue first, that way you can compare similar or even identical items.  

In case you missed it, I have another post on this subject here:  Preparing for a Consignment Sale.

Happy selling and happy shopping!such as these from Amazon.

Monday, October 13, 2014

More Tips for Feeding Two Babies

This post may contain affiliate links.  Thank you for your support!

Now we are two years past the time of nursing, formula, bottles, and all that goes with it!  But I am still learning so many things about that important first year of feeding.  Here are a few things I've learned from other parents of multiples.  (This is a continuation of my first post on the subject: Feeding Two At A Time.)
  • One friend of mine said she would nurse one baby, while simultaneously bottle feeding the other baby, who was propped up on a boppy.  That must have taken some juggling skills!  But this way, you could take turns each feeding, and both babies would have the bonding of a nursing session, as well as learn to drink from a bottle if necessary.  
  • One product that seems to be popular is the Table for Two, used for bottle feeding.  I've never used it, though I can see how handy it would be for feeding, impromptu naps, propping babies up to read to them, even for spoon feeding solids when the time comes (but not so easy to clean for that purpose).  However, the drawback for me is that this doesn't allow the caregiver to have any back support while feeding the babies.  It seems as though you have to sit criss-cross in front of the babies and may end up hunching over them.  Please comment below if you have used this product!    https://buytablefortwo.com/  


    Image from https://buytablefortwo.com/

  • Next is a product that I did not have, but wanted to try, was the Bebe Bottle Sling!  This link, http://www.bebebottlesling.com/, will take you to their website, which also sells cute gifts for multiples.  The sling can be attached to a car seat handle, thus can be used for feedings on the go.   


    Bebe Bottle Sling Image from http://www.toysrus.com/


  • A similar product is the Bottle Snuggler, found at www.bottlesnugglers.com, which props the bottle on top of the baby for feeding.  Lots of women of my grandmothers' generation seemed to suggest bottle propping, though I know it's been decried in more recent times.  But, when you have a bunch o' babies, you do what you gotta do...just use these products with your own judgement.  
  • Another option is the Twin Z Pillow.  I've never used it, and haven't personally seen friends use it, but according to the website, http://www.twinznursingpillow.com/, you could use it for breastfeeding, bottle feeding, lounging, and tummy time!  I will say that, judging by pictures alone, this seems easier and more stable for the babies than the My Brest Friend double nursing pillow I had.  It also offers more back support, which is important after C-sections, when breast-feeding, etc.
  • A product that follow your multiples for an even longer period of time is an adjustable high chair or booster seat.  You can strap the babies in and recline the back, and move the seats around wherever you are in the house.  Later you can strap them to chairs when they start to eat solids, or even remove the tray and use as a booster seat when they're toddlers (if the seat will fit under your table, depends on the height of your chairs and table).  We had the ones below, the Fisher-Price Spacesavers.  However, they're no longer in stock at Walmart, so one option is to order online.                                                                                                                                                                                      
Happy feeding!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Strengthening Immune Systems!

When our twins came home from the NICU, they were just 10 days old.  Born at 34.5 weeks, that put them at around 36 weeks, developmentally.  For twins, this was a very good scenario.  But we were still very cautious (possibly paranoid) at first, worried that our precious premies would get sick and we'd land back at the hospital.

Baby A, the day he was born.  He was less than 5 pounds!

Baby A was quick to rip off his breathing tube...ahhh, that's better!  

Thus, the twins spent almost their first two months at home.  They got visitors, but we had people wash their hands before holding them.  We did laundry and sanitized surfaces like crazy.  Born on Halloween, a family gathering at Christmas may have been their first time to venture to a new place with a larger group of people.  We did take them on stroller walks outside, but not places where a lot of people would touch them.

And they were healthy!  Then we started leaving them at the church nursery, moved to a new state and I joined MOPS, where they had childcare.  Eventually they went to childcare for a Bible study I went to, as well, and started going to more play dates.  And then they were sick a lot!

Baby B, a few days after birth, soaking in the blue light for jaundice.  

It's inevitable that your babies and children will eventually get sick.  They need to be sick sometimes, with minor things, to build up their immunities to certain strains of viruses.  But one winter my twins and husband got the flu.  The actual flu, that can be miserable and deadly, not just "stomach flu." The year after that we all seemed to be on an endless cycle of colds and infections, and we all got strep throat several times.  (Though I will say, again, that we've had pretty good scenarios in terms of health in our family, and haven't had to endure the RSV lockdown period that many families of premies and micro-premies have.)

So, tired of being sick, and with threatening reports of rare viruses going around, I'm stepping up my game this season in my battle against illness!

Here's what we're doing:

  • Multi-vitamin for myself daily.  Our pediatrician seems to think my boys don't need one yet, since they eat so well and can get their nutrients from food at this point, but I may be doing further research on this. 
  • Elderberry syrup for the kids and I, daily doses.  This is the brand we've been trying; they also have an adult version that I take.  It's pricey, but the dose is only a teaspoon for children, so it lasts awhile.    
  • Flu shots for the three of us.  Check!  Still trying to get the husband to go in for his...
  • Echinacea tea once a day, If I remember to make it for myself (not recommended for children).
  • Vitamin C supplement.  My doctor recently suggested I take one daily.  She said it can't hurt and anything my body can't use I'll just pee out anyway.  Currently, I'm just using Emergen-C packets, but I'm thinking of looking into more natural options.    
  • Breakfast smoothies for myself:  at least 1 serving of fruit and/or 1 cup of leafy greens, with a source of protein (usually plain, unsweetened, whole milk yogurt, or oats) and sometimes chia seeds.  I also add a liquid of some kind, such as coconut water, milk, orange juice, or chocolate almond milk, and if the rest of the ingredients weren't very sweet, then some honey.  A friend of mine gave me the idea to pre-package smoothie concoctions in baggies in the freezer (just the produce and chia seeds, not yogurt, oats, liquids), so I'll do that now whenever I find a good price on frozen or fresh items.  
      
  • Fruits or vegetables, obviously, and for the boys my goal is 1 serving with every meal and snack.  We're pretty good at meal times, but sometimes I slack off at snack times and they end up just eating crackers. Recent favorites have been apple slices and any vegetable dipped in hummus.
  • Probiotics.  I'm still learning about these, so right now I just make sure we eat yogurt or drink kefir at least once a day.  I recently discovered kefir and we love it!  This is my favorite brand so far.
  • Sleep!  Travels and summertime skewed our bedtime and naptime schedules.  The boys recently started preschool, and naptime there is much earlier in the day.  So we've slowly started to revert back to an earlier bedtime, earlier wake up time, and hopefully thus an earlier nap time.  I also need to resolve to go to bed earlier and get more sleep myself. 
  • Hand washing!  I've armed my purse, the car, and our bathrooms with hand sanitizer, you know the drill.  However, I consider hand sanitizer my "in a pinch" solution, since I don't want to overuse it.  As for traditional hand washing, I've been trying to observe the "20 seconds" rule of thumb.  
Stay healthy out there!




Thursday, September 25, 2014

Get Fresh Air

It's undeniable:  kids need exercise, and they need fresh air.  And it's September!  Which means, here in Texas, we know that soon...okay, soonish...okay in a few months...it will cool off!  And in the north, it means that warm weather hasn't completely given way to snow...yet (hopefully...?)  So take advantage of the autumn and get outside with your kids!  


I belong to MOPS:  Mothers of PreSchoolers (which I praised in this post), and at a recent meeting our speaker was Nell F. Bush, Ph.D, mother of 4 and university professor.  Her talk was "Positively Parenting Your Preschooler," and she emphasized the importance of children's physical development.  For young children, having time to develop their gross motor skills is just as important as developing their fine motor skills.  LOTS of FREE play outside is good exercise for them, and helps build their muscle tone and coordination.  During this outdoor play, a child's central nervous system is actually making the connections they will need when they're older, sitting still and learning math concepts!  




Sometimes our children seem to have so much energy to burn off, and show early interest in sports, that we think an organized sports activity will be good for them.  We think they'll be more coordinated, more disciplined, more socialized, more whatever, if we sign them up for a sports team.  However, Nell Bush pointed out that sports for children has become a money-making industry.  Now that I think about it, that makes sense:  just because the amount of sports and teams available has risen since I was a child doesn't necessarily mean it's because we've discovered how much it benefits children; it's because people figured out that parents would pay for it.  In organized sports, a child must spend more time not moving than if you were to go to the nearest park.  For an organized sport, the child may have to sit in a car seat on the way there, and back, be still while listening to directions, and be still again while taking turns practicing a skill.  According to Professor Bush, in such a structured environment, the child is actually making fewer neural connections than if they were to be running free and using their imagination.  She also pointed out how having too many structured activities can set yourself up for more discipline issues: "I don't want to go to soccer, I'm playing!" or "I don't want to wait my turn!" etc.  (She did concede, however, that swimming and gymnastics are two sports which do tap more into a whole-body experience in which the child can engage with their environment.  Also, it's certainly not wrong to put your toddlers and young children in structured athletics, but keep your expectations low and enjoy the practices and games as opportunities to be outside.)  


And let's face it:  most of our children won't grow up to be pros.  If a child has had plenty of time to freely develop their gross motor skills, then in early or even later elementary and beyond, it can take a child less than an hour to catch up with the skills it takes to play most team sports.  Did you know, Michael Jordan didn't start playing basketball formally until high school?  So, get those kids outside!

I feel strongly about this subject, and I've written two other related posts:

Old-Fashioned Friday: 3 Hours Outside?

How Much Time Outside?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Depression?

Depression can be complicated, since it can be  "caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors."   I'm thankful to God that I've only experienced mild depression.  I believe that, whatever our struggles, as parents we must do whatever we can to be our best for our children.  I also believe in talking about depression.  In certain communities, there's still a stigma attached to depression, and shame in sharing about it.  I don't know why.  I'm a traditional gal, but not always a conventional one, so... here we go!


My depression in the past has been triggered by stressful times or big changes in life.  My first encounter with it was as an adolescent, trying to navigate those crazy times of surging hormones and middle school!  I tried self-diagnosing with encyclopedias, instead of doing what I should have done: talk to my mom about it.  It didn't rear its ugly head again (in full force) until the guy I was dating and loved (now my husband!) took a job in another state.  When we got engaged, it happened again, as we tried to keep up the relationship long-distance and plan a large wedding.  The last time I had a longer episode was when we moved to yet another new city, this time with baby twins in tow.  I felt trapped in our rental with the babies, didn't have many of my own friends yet, and it was too hot to enjoy the outdoors.  (I did eventually learn some coping skills, which I outlined in this post here.)  These were the major episodes, lasting many months at a time, with smaller episodes of just a few days in between.

So cute.  Yet, multiple babies can be very draining, and leave you feeling isolated.  

For me, depression begins with the feeling that a dark cloud is moving in, getting ready to rest right above my head for permanent lodging.  Then the darkness seems to settle into my brain and my heart.  Scary ideas and thoughts that I don't even feel comfortable writing down flash through my mind.  I'm an emotional person to begin with, crying easily, but also easily excited.  The difference when I'm in a depressed episode, is that I seem to no longer take joy in...anything.  I know rationally that I have a good life, yet everything seems muted.

So, as my twins' birth approached, I read up on post-partum depression in particular, and had the number of a counselor at our church all lined up, just in case.  After all, carrying, birthing, and caring for multiple babies can be very stressful, and it was all so new.  I was ready.  I waited for it to happen.  And it didn't.  I was relieved, and pleasantly surprised.  According to this article on WebMD,  I did have some risk factors for PPD, but those factors don't necessarily mean you'll experience PPD.  But if you're expecting, it's a good idea to have it in the back of your mind, just in case.



Below is a list of things that help me.  Maybe it will be helpful for someone else, too.  However, please keep in mind my experience is only with mild depression, and I'm no doctor!  Seeking professional help is always a good thing.

  • Be aware.  Be aware of your family history, of your own tendencies, and of the facts.  Sometimes just knowing what is happening to me makes me feel marginally better.
  • Talk to someone.  Don't keep your feelings to yourself on this one.  Let your spouse, or family members and friends know about what your struggles.  If they don't know about it, they can't pray, listen, or support.  If they love you, there should be no shame in talking about this!  True friends will listen with love.  If someone reacts poorly to you, that reflects badly on them, not you!
  • Remember, you aren't alone.  When you share with others, you may find that they have similar experiences.  You are definitely not the only person who feels this way!  In fact, mothers of multiples are at greater risk for PPD, according to this article.
  • Let your doctor know.  When we moved to our current city, I let my new general practitioner know about my background at my first appointment.  She told me as a good rule of thumb, that if you cannot shake the depression through other means after two weeks, that one really should make an appointment to see their doctor and possibly obtain a prescription.  Do your research and decide who you should see: your regular doctor, a psychiatrist (sometimes you need a referral, so you may want to start with your regular doctor first, anyway), psychologist, or other trained lay counselor.  Sometimes it's good to get recommendations while you're feeling good, and then those phone numbers are right there when you need them.  
  • Eat well.  Obviously.  But when I'm down, my first instinct is to eat junk food, instead of, say, a smoothie or salad.  But healthy food can do wonders for your overall mental health.  
  • Exercise.  My doctor said this can be one of the best ways to keep depression at bay.  Do whatever is easy and fun for you.  For people like me, a walk around the neighborhood refreshes me.  When living in Pasadena in a good neighborhood, I could take hour long walks, pushing the double stroller ahead of me and enjoying the weather.  It's no wonder my health took a toll when we moved to Houston, in the summer, into a sketchy neighborhood:  the heat and humidity and our location kept me indoors most of the time.  If you're in this kind of situation, look for online workout videos for free, order some DVDs, or join a gym that has child care (if you can afford it).  An idea for when your children are much older: a wonderful older-than-I lady once shared that she would leave her kids in the house, and just take laps around the block.  She would close the blinds when she left, and instruct the children to only open them if there was a problem, and then she'd come back in the house.  
  • Follow your routine.  Many decades ago, one family member of mine had trouble getting doctors to believe she was experiencing depression, partly because she had amazing self-discipline:  She was dressed and well-groomed; she continued to care for several children and a home almost entirely on her own while her husband worked hard outside the home.  But doing those daily tasks and having a schedule to follow can sometimes keep our bodies moving along when our mind won't cooperate, something I touched on in my post "Do The Next Thing."  
  • Pray.  Lean on your faith, if you have one, for support.  (If you are a Christian, this article might be helpful.) Sometimes this is all I need.  Sometimes I need other things too.  I believe taking steps towards caring for our physical needs (and depression is a physical thing) should go hand in hand with taking steps in caring for our spiritual needs, and that these two steps together can be powerful in caring for our mental health.  
"...but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint."
Isaiah 40:31

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sleep...and keeping your kids in their cribs: Part 2


You've worked so hard to transition your babies into a crib, and to train them to sleep at night, and knowing they're safe in their cribs gives you peace of mind.  And then they figure out how to get out and it's all over!  Then you have to either train them to stay in the crib and not get out unless you take them out, or if you're worried about safety you have to transition to a toddler bed, perhaps earlier than you'd planned.

I'll never forget the first morning I heard the running feet and noises getting closer and closer...  The boys had gotten out of their cribs one morning for the first time (see my post here) and then somehow forgot about it.  But that fateful morning that they burst into our room I'd left both their door and our door open because they had cried a lot in the evening and I wanted to hear them if they woke again.

What we did:

  • We turned their cribs so the highest side was away from the wall.  This did not deter them from climbing out AT ALL.  (To my husband, "you were right.")
  • I strongly "encouraged" them to stay in their cribs at nap time.  (I actually don't mind if they get up to play in the early morning in their room, but I need my afternoon break!)
  • I put up a gate to the bedroom door even while they were sleeping.  This was mainly for safety, since I don't want them wandering the house at night if they happen to get up and out.  Also, one of my sons had opened the door to the garage for the first time, and I didn't want them somehow unlocking or opening doors and leaving the house while I'm sleeping and not supervising! 
  • We tried sleep sacks.  I ordered super-long, toddler-sized ones.  I chose the Halo SleepSack in lightweight knit, so it wouldn't be too hot over their winter clothes.  As you can see below they did fit my tall toddlers, but the leg openings still allowed them enough range of movement to swing their leg over the side of the crib!



More suggestions from twin moms on keeping your babies/toddlers in bed:

  • Use a "Peapod."  Click here to see an example.  These are portable, zip-up, tent-like sleeping beds.  A member of my local twins club used hers by setting them right inside her cribs after converting the cribs to toddler beds.  She also says twisty ties can keep the zippers in place, since her twins quickly learned how to unzip the pods.  
  • If using sleep sacks, and your child learns how to unzip it, another member of my club sewed her own version of a sleep sack that had snaps in the back instead of a front zipper.  
  • If putting the crib mattress on the floor within the crib itself, don't just lay the mattress touching the floor, as it will too easily slide around.  Unscrew and lay the original crib bottom on the floor, then put the mattress on top.  
  • Pray.  

Some of these things might work to slow your children down or prevent their crib escapes.  Eventually, as you can see from the title picture above, we took the plunge and switched to toddler beds!  Stay tuned for a post on this transition!

Snuggling with daddy after a nap.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

Preparing for a Consignment Sale

It seems my Facebook and inbox are flooded in the fall and spring with notices of consignment sales.  If you're not involved in these, you're likely familiar with garage sales.  Sales can be a great way to make back a marginal amount of the money you spent on your children's gear and clothing.  Here are some tips on preparing for a consignment/garage sale.

Prep:
  • Find a container where you can set aside items you mean to sell.  A shopping bag, plastic garbage bag, laundry basket, anything will do, as long as it won't get confused with other items in your house, and can be shoved into a place where your children won't find it!  I tend to stick things in that spot throughout the year as we are finished with them.


  • Obviously, you want to launder or clean your items as well as possible before trying to sell them. Try to find all the parts, and keep manuals to go with larger items.  
  • If your consignment sale has rules about how to price and label items, follow it to a 'T.'  You don't want to cause unnecessary confusion in receiving your share of profits.  
  • Colored dot circles.  If you're in charge of your own garage sale or table, then labels such as these from Office Max, will do just fine.  Use a sharpie so people can see the price more clearly.  

  • Advertise.  If you're part of a large organization's consignment sale, then they probably do some advertising.  But don't leave it at that!  Get the word out among your friends, family, neighbors, and social media circles about the sale.  The more customers means the more likely you are to sell things.  

Pricing:
  • My local club sale suggests pricing items at 70% off retail value.  Sometimes you can get away with pricing things higher, sometimes you may need to go even lower.  If you're doing a large consignment sale, you can sometimes walk around and peruse other people's tables and prices, and gauge from there.  Start with a higher price and lower prices towards the end of the sale if you aren't selling well. 
  • Negotiate.  Many customers may enjoy haggling, so be prepared to negotiate prices.  If someone won't pay $5 per pair of pants, offer to sell two pairs for $8, for example.  You may want to have in your mind, for larger items, the price you won't go below. 

Showcase:
  • If you have a lot of small, related items that you think may not sell well, put them all in a zip-top plastic bag and sell as one item.  For example, I had several train set odds and ends that didn't fit my children's track system.  I put them all in a bag labeled "Train Accessories," and sold it for $5.  I've seen women sell a lot of little cars or other toys and label them as "Grab Bags." 
  •  Find your items online, and print off a page to show its value.  Circle the retail price in marker, and next to it write your price.  Tape the sheet to the item.  Customers will have a clear visual on what a deal they are getting!  (It's up to you to print off either the lowest online price you can find, knowing customers may be price-checking, the highest price you can find, or somewhere in between.)  


  • Clothing racks.  These make displaying and perusing clothing easier.  I got away without one because I sold very little clothing at my last sale.  The items I did have I put on hangers and hooked them to the edge of my table.  If you can't borrow a rack, some places rent them.  They do say that clothing that is hung up sells better.  
  • Hangers.  For the purpose of hanging, save any little children's plastic clothing hangers that you come across throughout the year.  

What to bring:
  • Folding chair.  You don't want to be sitting down the whole time, and looking like you don't care, but you will get tired eventually.  
  • Food, snacks, and drinks.  If the sale starts early, I like to treat myself to a drive through for coffee and breakfast, and eat it on the way or while setting up the sale.  
  • Change!  If you're in charge of your own table, you'll have to make your own change.  Bring plenty of one dollar bills, and a handful of larger bills.  If you price your items only in dollar increments, rather than in 25-cent increments, you won't have to worry about having quarters for change.  However, it's up to you on what you want to deal with.  Some items may not even seem to be worth a dollar, in which case go ahead and price it lower, and bring coins for change. 
  • Wagon or stroller.  Some larger sales have rolling carts to bring things in from the cars.  If not, think about how you're going to unload your vehicle and carry everything into the sale venue!   
  • Table cloth.  A suggestion from a member of my multiples club, this helps to brighten up your table and draws attention.  It can be any color or fabric, even a cheap plastic table cloth from the party supply section of stores can work.  

Have fun!
  • Remember, if you don't sell everything, that's okay!  There are plenty of worthy organizations to which you can donate, or you can keep things to try at another sale.  Or, you can post your items to sell online.  Lots of options!  
  • Be engaging.  I smile, say hello or good morning to everyone who approaches my table or who even walks by.  I ask what they're looking for, the ages of their children, anything to get them talking to stay longer and take a closer look at my items.  This way I can also point out more effectively what might interest them.  Talk up your items and how useful they were to you!  
  • Have a buddy.  If you're in charge of manning your own table, try to be next to someone you know, or enlist a friend to set up a table of her own next to you.  That way you'll have someone to chat with when things are slow.  You can also take turns watching over each other's tables, while the other person takes bathroom breaks or does their own shopping.  
This is from ConsignmentMommies.com.   I confess that my last sale was a total wash, since I bought about the same amount that I sold!

Happy selling!  (And shopping...)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Feeding Two At A Time: Part 1, Nursing and Bottle-Feeding

Feeding two babies at one time is challenging!  But with practice, you can master all sorts of methods.  In this post I'll just be explaining what we did, and what worked for us.  This post, Part 1, deals with babies; Part 2 will discuss feeding two once you start solids.

When the twins first came home, we were doubly blessed with the two boys, and you might say quadruply (is it a word?) blessed to have both my parents living with us for the first couple of months.


When you have extra people around to help:


  • Nurse one baby while someone else bottle-feeds the other baby.  (Sometimes the bottle had pure pumped breast milk,  sometimes it was supplemented with formula if I hadn't pumped enough, and sometimes it was just formula.)  I kept track so that each baby had the same amount of "turns" nursing.  
  • Tandem nurse.  A few times I had my mom help me to tandem nurse using a large, twin nursing pillow.  But this was always very tricky for me.  It seemed almost impossible to position myself inside the pillow, which wrapped around my waist, insert a back support pillow behind, then balance one tiny, squirmy baby on a side while reaching for the second baby.  Then getting one latched, hoping the other didn't fall off the side of the pillow, getting hot and sweaty, trying to keep clothing out of the way, then doing it all again when the first baby stopped eating and needed to be "re-latched."  It was like a circus.  So, I rarely tandem nursed.
  • Other people bottle-feed babies, while you pump and/or sleep.  Self-explanatory.  One warning, however:  if you're serious about keeping up your milk supply, don't skip too many nursing or pumping sessions in order to rest.  

Eventually, my milk supply completely dried up and the boys became solely formula-fed.  This was bittersweet.  My parents had to go home when the boys were 2.5 months, and my husband was at work every day, so we quickly developed ways for just one person to feed two babies at a time.

When one person feeds the babies:


  • Tandem nurse.  See my description of the circus above!  But I know from first-hand accounts, reading online, books, etc., that this IS possible, and becomes easier with practice.  The "double-football hold" seems to be the most popular position.  The book  Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding and Caring for Twins and More! can be very helpful.  
  • Nurse one baby at a time.  Train babies to wait their turn while they lay nearby you, or adjust their schedules so that they eat one after the other.  Try and keep track of who nursed on which breast and alternate.  That way if one baby is a stronger breast-feeder, you will help to keep the milk supply somewhat more even on both sides.  This is, however, a more time consuming method.  
  • Prop babies on boppies for bottles (say that ten times fast).  You can lay them semi-sitting up and sit in front or between them on your bed, couch, or on on the floor.    
  • Put one baby in your lap, and another propped next to you, also for bottles.  I usually sat with my back against the headboard of a bed and bent my knees.  Then one baby could sit on my lap facing me    
A cheerful morning feeding!  

  • Place babies in seats, sit between them (again, for bottle feeds).  Sit so that you're facing the opposite direction the babies are facing, so that you can have your back supported by something.  Using the car seats was my mother-in-law's suggestion, and while it seemed so simple, it revolutionized the way we were feeding the babies!  I placed a towel or blanket under the babies to pad the seats more.  You could also use bouncy seats.  
Our favorite bottle-feeding position.  

In all of these scenarios, have bibs, burp cloths, bottles, remote, pillows, and anything else you think you’ll need for a feeding, ready and reachable.  Afterwards they took turns being burped.  Being on the floor had its advantages, because if one got sick of waiting around in the seat, I could put him on the floor and let him roll or wiggle to his heart’s content.  I spent a lot of time feeding, propped against our couch, watching Netflix.  It was about that time I developed my obsession with "Downton Abbey."


Spot the historical error in this Downton Abbey promo pic!  We were speaking of bottles...

If I wasn’t watching TV, I also could use this feeding time to pray, either silently or out loud, so the babies could hear my voice.  Sometimes I’d sing to them, or just sit and enjoy the silence.  Occasionally, I’d use it as an opportunity to verbalize what would happen that day, what needed to be done.  This was for my own sake; I figured if I said it out loud maybe I’d remember it!

Happy feeding!