Top Ten Toys for Independent Playtime

You guys know I love me some independent playtime. Independent playtime is easily one of my favorite concepts from the Babywise series. I’ve written about it before, but just to provide any folks unfamiliar with I.P. a quick run down of the benefits:

  • It teaches kids to entertain themselves
  • It encourages creativity and imagination
  • It provides structure to the day
  • It improves focus
  • It gives mom a break

Focus and imagination are best developed during Independent Playtime if the child is given only one or two toys to play with during the time frame that he’s in I.P. The point is not to get all legalistic about it, but I have found that some toys seem to reap the benefits mentioned above better than others. Here are a few of my favorite toys for Independent Playtime:

For the record, these are not affiliate links because Amazon denied my application to become an affiliate. Go figure.

Wooden Blocks – I really think every house should have a set of these. Wooden blocks are pretty much the most basic toy you can purchase, giving them the maximum potential for creativity. A one year old can use them to practice stacking (and knocking down towers) and a five year old can build complex architectural cities. Heck, I’m twenty-nine and still genuinely enjoy building little houses with wooden blocks!

Duplos/Legos – This is the same concept as the wooden blocks, but they require more dexterity, making them a good choice for developing fine motor skills.

Lincoln Logs – Lincoln logs take building one step further. They require the creativity and dexterity of wooden blocks and Legos, but they also depend on some level of planning and thinking ahead. They hone skills of focus and concentration.

Shape SortersThis is a great toy for the baby or toddler just starting Independent Playtime. I specifically like the Fisher Price one linked to because the shapes all go through the top (as opposed to the cube shape sorters) and the lid comes off really easily (so even babies can dump out the shapes from the box).

Memory Games – Kids love games, and this is one they can play by themselves. Memory/matching games improve focus, recognition, and memory.

Wooden Train Track – Train tracks are a good choice for the same reasons as Lincoln Logs.

Toy Jewelry Making / Bead Sets – These are so good for little hands! Making necklaces hones focus and creativity, dexterity, and provides endless opportunity to work with patterns and design.

Calico Critters Doll HouseThese are great for imaginative play. Moving the tiny pieces around (like setting the table with that miniature fork and knife) can improve fine motor skills. These are obviously more geared towards girls, but my son has been known to ask to play with the Calico Critters Doll House on occasion.

Animal Sets – We have a set of dinosaurs that I bought for a dollar each from Walmart and a wooden Noah’s ark set. Like the Calico Critters, animal sets provide lots of imaginative play. Kids can come up with infinite story lines about the animals, making them talk or arranging different match ups for fighting. The opportunities for pretend play here are endless!

Books – Generally I leave my kids with a toy and a few books during Independent Playtime. If they are uninterested in the toy and just finish playing with it, they can sit and look through books. Since I am not there supervising, until I can trust my kids with library books I leave them with board books.

In addition to benefits like developing focus, spurring creativity, and sharpening fine motor skills, the toys above are my favorite for Independent Playtime because they are easy to clean up and put away for the remainder of the day. Certainly if my kids want to get out the blocks in the afternoon they can, but because they are tucked away in the cupboard, they usually don’t think to do so. Because of that, when I take them out during I.P., the toys have some level of novelty and tend to hold their attention for longer.

If you’re curious, my lease favorite toys for Independent Playtime are:

Toys that Make Noise – in addition to being annoying, I generally feel like the lights/sounds/colors/action can be overstimulating and basic toys that require active involvement from the user are better suited for development.

Dress Up – Dress up is fun for kids, but until a certain age it requires a lot of help from the parent. I don’t want to be getting called into the room ten times to button this or tie that.

Markers – For the younger child, having markers in an unsupervised setting is just asking for trouble, but even with my older one they have the potential to roll off the table and accidentally bleed into the carpet. I’ve determined that markers are just too much of a hazard to be suitable for I.P.

Well there you have it. My favorite toys for Independent Playtime. If you do I.P. regularly in your home, what are some of YOUR favorite toys?

And  be sure to check out what the rest of the BFBN has to say about Independent Playtime today!

BFBNWaterMark
CHRONICLES OF A BABYWISE MOM
How To Child-Proof Your Space for Independent Playtime
Let’s be Brave
benefits of independent playtime
MAMA’S ORGANIZED CHAOS
Preparing For Baby #2 with the Use of Independent Playtime
TEAM CARTWRIGHT
Transitions: Turning the Morning Nap Into Independent Playtime
JOURNEY OF PARENTHOOD
Independent playtime – simple how to

Five Tips for Getting a Twins on a Schedule

This post was originally written for a BFBN blog swap day and was posted on Chronicles of a Babywise Mom. 

If you’ve recently been or are currently pregnant with twins, you’ve probably gotten lots of unsolicited advice from people who know someone who had twins about the importance of getting them on a schedule (which is funny, because as another twin mom pointed out, it’s the exact opposite advice you get from the peanut gallery on your single baby. For singletons it’s “Don’t be too scheduled!” “Feed on demand!” “Let the baby set the schedule!” but then you have twins and those same people are like “You have to get them on a schedule!”)

Anyway, in this case the peanut gallery is most definitely correct. You want your twins on a schedule as soon as possible. You want your twins on the same schedule as soon as possible. Here are five tips to help you along the way:

Tip #1: Feed Them and Sleep Them at the Same Time

This is the cardinal rule of twin scheduling. If one is hungry, feed both. If one is tired, sleep both. If one wakes early from a nap, either leave the awake one in the crib until the end of nap time or get them both up.

I found this pretty easy to execute during the day. But waking a sleeping baby at night time was always really difficult for me. I’d have one baby crying at 3am and one baby dead asleep and I’d think, how long would this peaceful baby sleep if I don’t wake them? Would they sleep through the night? Am I creating a habit by waking to feed them?

When it comes to newborn twins, always wake the second baby and feed together. How do I know this? First, because on 3-4 occasions I decided to test the validity of the cardinal rule and only feed the baby that was awake. Disaster. DISASTER! I was literally up all night feeding alternating babies. As further proof, my twins slept through the night earliest of all my kids – and were the only ones to do it naturally – even though I consistently fed both when one woke.

I have read that some twin moms have their twins on schedules 30min apart so they can feed and go through a nap routine separately. If that works for you, great, but it sounds totally unrealistic for anyone with more then just twins. My preference has always been to do everything together – feeding, nap routines, diaper changes, clothing changes, baths, you name it. In the beginning it may feel like you’re having to really mess with their natural sleep and eating patterns to make it happen, but it really does pay off in the end.

Tip #2: Be Prepared to Hunker Down at Home For a While

I did far more naps on the go with my first and second children than I did with my twins. There are 3 main reasons:

1. The fastest way to get them on a napping schedule is to nap them in the crib from the beginning.

2. Tandem feeding in public is difficult, if not impossible, with newborns. If I wanted to feed them together I had to be home.

3. Naps are less predictable and controllable on the go. With one baby, if you go out during nap time and the baby doesn’t nap, you just come home, put them down right away and adjust the schedule from there. But with twins, inevitably one twin will fall asleep while you’re out and the other won’t. Then when you get home, one baby is well rested from their little snoozer in the car seat and the other baby is tired and ready for a nap. It’s much more difficult to control who is or isn’t sleeping when you’re out of the house, so to keep them on the same schedule it’s best to stay home.

A few notes on that point: first, your older children will not die if you don’t take them to the park or the library for 6 months. This is just a season. Prepare your older kids by working on their independent playtime skills and getting them used to being at home before the babies come. Once the twins get a little older and can handle more wake time, you can resume your old park routine. Second, invite people over to your house! I lead a weekly bible study from my home where six friends bring their kids over to play while we discuss. This gives my older kids time to play with other children while my twins can still be napping in their crib. Third, when you DO need to get out, be prepared by bringing a pack and play. I’ve been known to lug that thing to the beach, to the park, to friends’ houses, and even to church! I have a portable white noise machine and a big blanket I drape over the top to darken it. Because they are in such a consistent schedule at home, they nap pretty well in other locations as well.

Tip #3: Wake Time is Set By the Lowest Common Denominator

Any mom with more than one child can attest to the fact that babies are all very different and even in the area of sleep, they have different needs. The optimal wake time for your first child may have been entirely different than the optimal wake time for your second child. This is true with twins as well. How does a twin mom balance the unique sleep needs of her babies with the desire to keep them on the same schedule?

For newborn and infant twins, I think it’s generally best to set wake time by the lowest common denominator – by the twin who needs the most sleep. This means if one twin’s ideal wake time is 65 minutes and the other twin’s ideal wake time is 50 minutes, you put both twins down for a nap at the 50 minute mark. The twin who needs the longer wake time will learn to hang out in the crib a few minutes until they fall asleep. Remember the cardinal rule: Feed them and sleep them at the same time.

Tip #4: Lose the Bedtime Routine

I know a lot of people are big on nap time and bed time routines, but until a child is older, I’ve never really found them to be very helpful. An elaborate routine of baby massage, singing, rocking, and patting just creates more work for the parent – ultimately the baby still has to learn to fall asleep independently when you put them down in the crib. With a singleton you may be able to spend time rocking to sleep for the first few months, but this just isn’t a reality with twins. You may rock one until drowsy and lay them ever so gently down in the crib, but what if they start screaming while you’re in the middle of rocking the other one? How can you shush/pat two babies in different cribs? If they’re going to have to learn to self-soothe anyway, my thought has always been that the “nap time routine” should just be to put them down, shut the curtains, turn on the white noise, and walk out. This has served me well. All 4 of my kids, including my twins, have learned to fall asleep without requiring any intervention from me.

Tip #5: Know Where You’re Headed

I think this is one that applies both to one baby and twins. Babies’ sleep needs change very rapidly in the first year of their life. Even just between months one and six they might go from needing 20 hours of sleep split into a night and 4 naps to needing only 16 hours of sleep split into a night and 2 naps. That’s a big change in a short period of time! You may figure out the ideal schedule for your baby at their specific age, but if you just keep doing that exact same thing day after day, they will soon outgrow the schedule and stop sleeping or eating as well.

Schedule changes can either be reactionary (your response to something suddenly going haywire with their sleeping or eating) or they can be proactive (you pushing them in the direction you want to go). A reactionary change might be spurred on by two days of short naps. A proactive change may be made by a desire to get all your kids on the same napping schedule. Either way is fine, but in both cases you have to know what’s ahead in order to make a swift change and avoid floundering. I try to always have in my mind not only what my twins are doing right now in terms of sleeping and eating, but what’s right around the corner. This keeps me moving in the right direction – toward the next goal – and keeps them on the right trajectory as their sleep needs change.

My twins are only a little over five months as I write this so I can’t really comment on what’s to come, but by sticking to the principles above, the first five months have been much easier than I could have possibly imagined. Twins demand a more strict adherence to a routine and a schedule, but if you’re willing to make the required sacrifices, the results are no different than a single baby. Diligence and consistency reaps the reward of two well rested babies.

 

 

Twins First Year in Review

I’ve had these babies a year now, although honestly it feels like longer. Isn’t it weird with children how the time can fly by and yet part of you still can’t remember what life was like before they existed?

Twin moms have consistently told me that the first year of twinhood is the hardest. The year certainly had it’s difficult moments, but overall I’m not convinced it was that much harder than it would have been if we’d only welcomed one baby home last May. On the other hand, twin toddlers terrify me, so the fact that everyone agrees twin newborns are harder than twin toddlers is a huge relief.

To wrap up the first year with these two cuties, I thought I would put together a year in review: the best and worst of. Let’s get the negative out of the way first:

THE WORST OF YEAR 1:

>PREGNANCY
Now I know this didn’t technically happen in the last year, but it’s worth noting that the absolute worst part of having twins so far was the 8 months before I had them. I remember being 34 weeks and thinking if I had to be pregnant one more day I would die. You think I’m exaggerating here, but sometimes it literally felt like it was killing me.

IMG_0771The level of discomfort I reached at 39 weeks with my first two was easily surpassed at 25 weeks in my twin pregnancy. Everything hurt. My back, my hips, my skin, and my stomach. I had trouble sleeping throughout and in the last trimester morning sickness even returned. For those of you who have been pregnant with one baby, just imagine your most uncomfortable moment… and then double it.

When I finally had them at 37.5 weeks and they were both full sized (6.5lb +), it all made sense. I had over 13lb of baby packed in there (in addition to two placentas!), had gained 65lb, and was still lifting and caring for a 1.5 and 3 year old. No wonder I felt lousy!

>LOGISTICS
The logistics of having four under four are not necessarily difficult, but they definitely do add a certain layer of complication to every outing. Once the babes can sit up, things get much easier, but when you have two newborns, outings like grocery shopping require more thought. How do I logistically get all four children through the parking lot? If I wear one and keep the other in their carseat in the cart, where do I put the groceries? What do I do when I’m wearing both babies and my 1 year old throws a tantrum in the middle of Walmart?

Logistically, middle of the night diaper changes with two newborns are a nightmare. Even figuring out how to get both babies out of their crib and onto the breastfeeding pillow takes some practice. The twin breastfeeding pillow itself is a logistical difficulty. It’s like the size of my bath tub and I had to have it with me every time I breastfed for the first five months!

Now that they are older, crawling can complicate things. I’ll set one baby down by the couch to nurse them, go get the other baby, and by the time I get back the first baby has crawled away. When I’m changing one baby’s diaper, the other baby is always trying to reach in and grab hold of the poop.

The worst is when they are sick. How do you adequately comfort two sick and crying babies? You can’t. I do my best, but my best just isn’t good enough. Sick babies want to be comforted individually.

>POST BABY BODY
I don’t know if this is a result of having twins or simply that it was my third pregnancy, but my body has failed to bounce back in the way it did with the first two. A year has passed, I’m close to my pre-pregnancy weight, I run 3-4 times a week, and yet I still look a little bit pregnant. My skin is saggy, my boobs are withered, and the nothing in my closet fits me quite right. I wish I could say I’m strong and confident and it’s the inside that counts! but in reality I feel sad and embarrassed every time I see my naked body in the mirror. I know, I know. This body has done amazing things! And of course it was a worthwhile exchange. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck to be twenty-nine with breasts like a grandma and a belly button that sags into a frown.

Now, don’t go getting me wrong. It’s not all bad. In fact, my year was overwhelming good. The best year I’ve ever had. And here’s why:

THE BEST OF YEAR 1:

>OBSERVING TWINS
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I’ve said this before, but twins are just the neatest. From the birth to breastfeeding to watching them love on each other, it’s been a unique and incredible experience. I’ve loved observing the way they interact – how they used to scoot themselves closer until they were touching in the crib, how they follow each other around the house, and how they smile when they see the other enter the room.

Any logistical difficulties in having twins is far outweighed by how fun they are to have.

>SEEING GOD’S FAITHFULNESS
Perhaps this would have happened independent of having twins, but this year we really experienced God’s faithfulness, specifically in the area of our finances. Having twins was EXPENSIVE and the decision for me to stop working had a significant impact on our already very tight financial situation. There were many times this year we nearly threw our hands up and screamed WE CAN’T DO THIS!, but what followed each of those times was a very real, very clear sign from God that both fixed whatever the financial problem was and also encouraged us in a way we couldn’t have imagined. I wrote about one example here, but that story was only one of many events that occurred just like it over the past year. It has been an amazing year of spiritual growth for both my husband and myself.

>INSTILLING ORDER IN THE HOUSEHOLD
My twins have been a gift to our household in terms of order, structure, and organization. The more kids you have (twins or not), the more structured you must be in order to get through the day. The more structured you are, the smoother things run and the easier your job is as a mother. For that reason, I’d argue that having more kids can actually be much easier than having less kids. When I had my second baby, I became much more organized than I was with just the one, and life became easier. When I had the twins, I became even more organized than I was with just the two, and again life became easier. There is a level of routine and predictability that didn’t exist before I had my twins and it’s had a really positive impact on our household as a whole.

On a personal level, I myself have become more ordered. I am calmer and more in control of my emotions. I am impervious to chaotic moments. Yes, they happen, but they fail to affect me the way they use to.

WRAPPING IT ALL UP

The news that I was expecting twins was met with a lot of gloom and doom. So many people told me that having 4 under 4 was going to be terrible that I started to worry about it myself! I went into the year feeling unsure and anxious about my ability to adequately care for these four kids.

The reality was different. I think it’s probably generally true that people just grow into the role they are given. A mother with two kids is at her max because she’s only ever had two kids. A mother with six kids is also at her limit, but when she only had four kids, she was maxed out then too. With the addition of my twins, my capabilities have expanded, and so my life at this moment is really no more difficult than it was when it was just me and my first baby.

In addition, I would be remiss to not acknowledge what an outpouring of support I’ve received over the past year. So many people stepped forward to help me in different ways – and when I initially turned down the help, the asked again and again until I broke down and said yes please! I look forward to being in a position to pay that forward someday.

Yes, this year has been a GOOD year. A year FULL of joy, of peace, and of thankfulness for the blessing our twins have been. I cannot wait to see what year two brings.

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13 Cheap {Or Free!} Summer Activities

Today is BFBN blog swap day. I have Emily from The Journey of Parenthood here posting about inexpensive ideas for summer fun and I’m over at Team Cartwright posting about getting your kids to go to bed when it’s still light outside.

Summer is a time of relaxation and FUN. I love making memories with my children and enjoy filling our days with different experiences and adventures. But I’m also a self-proclaimed penny pitcher. I enjoy finding deals and saving money and spending wisely is a top priority for our family. I am always on the hunt for fun experiences that don’t cost a lot of money (especially when you factor in that we have THREE kids which can really add up on the spending).

Here are some of my favorite summer activities that don’t break the bank:

Community Helper Visits: Our yearly tradition is to visit our local fire station. I call the station a couple weeks in advance and we typically have a pretty decent size crew of friends who join us. They go over fire safety and give us a tour of the station. But the best part is the firetrucks! They let the kids climb in the trucks and even get to spray the water hose. It’s a summer FAVORITE for our family. My 8 year old son has been going since he was a toddler and it’s still the thing he is most looking forward to this summer!

I have called around and tried to do something similar at a police station but haven’t had as much luck here locally…but it wouldn’t hurt to try. Hospitals may also provide tours (I know ours has a miniature ambulance they use for kids to teach them about what they do).

Library Visits: Our local library has many events during the week such as story times and craft times and even movie times. A visit to the library is a great chance to keep up the skills kids learn during the school year with their reading and to help foster a love for books. Many libraries do reading competitions and the kids can earn prizes throughout the summer for their reading achievements. I did a little challenge with my son last summer for him to read 100 books during the break and in exchange we’d all get to go get donuts on morning. It was a great incentive and something I plan to do again this summer as well!

Transportation Visits: Have a local airport? Train station? Ship dock? It’s a GREAT fun activity that kids really enjoy. We have gone out to our small local airport and enjoy watching the planes land and take off. We’ll bring a lunch and make a picnic out of it. Always make sure to check the scheduled times in advance! Many locations have a spot for people to sit and watch…our airport has a great picnic area that is perfect for this purpose.

Summer Movies: I know many communities have movie theaters that have summer movie specials. Our local theater plays movies every Tues and Thurs morning for $1 entry. This is a GREAT event for larger families as movies are so expensive. I wish ours did Disney movies but it’s still a fun way to beat the heat and get to have a neat experience.

If you don’t have a local movie theater that offers a special…have a movie day at home. I love to plan fun Movie Theme Days for my kids. I’ll make food that fits the theme and we’ll do crafts (most of the time you can find free printable color sheets for popular kids movies) and then watch the movie together. We do this at least a couple times a summer and it’s such a fun thing!

Kids Nights: Even when it’s not summer I still am always on the watch for a cheap kids night. Most fast food chains and family style restaurants (especially national brands) host family nights that offer up cheap or even free kids meals. It’s a great way to feed a larger family on a cheap budget and often they have fun crafts too!

Kids Events: Even non-restaurants often have kid friendly events for FREE. Home Depot has free building crafts for kids each month, Toys R Us often has free events where kids can play and even take home toys, and I know both Michaels and Hobby Lobby have crafting classes geared for kids too. I’ve found by “liking” a lot of my local locations on Facebook that I’m able to stay on top of when they host such events!

Be sure to look at your local community as well! Ours has many fun events throughout the summer such as movie nights under the stars, free concerts during lunch hours, and even Mom’s Night Out for when you need a break 😉

Farm Visits: Depending on the season (and where you live) you may be able to take your kids to a local farm! We have several in our area that have you-pick style strawberry and blueberry patches during the summer months. This is such a great way for kids to have a greater appreciation for the food they eat and to have a better understanding of where it comes from and what work is involved in it. Plus the prices are so cheap that it’s an excellent way to stock up (I freeze a lot of it to use for smoothies!).

Parks: All towns have some sort of outdoor playground/park area. Go exploring! Map out all the parks you can find within a certain mile radius of your home and then take a day each week to explore a different one! Often times there are tennis courts, basketball courts, or other sports offered at local community parks (we even have a skate park nearby) where if you bring your own equipment you can take advantage of the courts for free! Pack a picnic lunch and you’re good to go with keeping the kids happily entertained for several hours (and a good chance to soak in the sunshine too). We even have one local park with a free splash park!

Camps and VBS: Often during the summer local community churches and other groups will host a variety of day and evening camps and events. We live in the Bible Belt so just about every corner has a church and just about every church hosts a VBS. Our VBS is one of the highlights of the summer! Typically ours offers free dinners for all kids who attend and it’s open to the public. It’s not only an excellent way for your kids to have fun and meet friends but also a wonderful opportunity to find a church home if you’re not already a member at a congregation!

Visit a Nursing Home: One of the best things you can do with your children is give back to others and a very rewarding way to do that is to visit a nursing home. Children bring SO much joy to older generations. If your children enjoy reading, take a book along. If they enjoy singing, let them prepare a song to sing. You could even bake cookies or have the kids color pictures to hand out. But even if you just simply go and visit it will be SO special to the residents there and be a wonderful lesson for the kids about spreading joy to others.

Sibling Sleepovers: Just simply switching up where your kids sleep for a night is SO exciting from their perspective! My older two children have bunk beds in their bedrooms so we will let them have sleep overs together and they think it’s the coolest thing ever. Maybe make a fort in the living room and have an indoor camping adventure or even let them all sleep in your bed for a night (I’ve done this once when my husband was traveling…never. again.). Little changes to a daily routine can make for some special memories they won’t ever forget!

Season Passes: Even though season passes to local amusement parks cost money, they can really be a cost saver if you take full advantage of having the pass. We have a local theme park and we always get yearly passes. Typically such passes are cheaper in off-seasons (I always buy ours in October for the next year) so be on the look out for specials throughout the year. I try to make sure we visit the theme park many times throughout the year to really justify the cost of the passes. And by visiting the theme park you are cutting back on money you’d spend doing other things too!

Nearby Towns: Do a little research and look into events that may be happening at a town near you! Free community festivals, their kids nights, other free or inexpensive ways to have some fun! Even just drive over and tour the downtown area of another town. It’s a great way to learn about your local community and you never know what fun you may find!

Wondering how to fit in all these summer fun items without over-filling your summer? You can see how I find that balance in this post 🙂 

Emily is a mother of three and is in the process of adopting. She is obsessed with Disney, finding a good deal, and a good schedule. She blogs over at The Journey of Parenthood and you can also find her on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest!

Twin Summary: 52 Weeks (12 Months, One Year!)

Things that happened this week:

-I found a chewed up cockroach in Sammy’s mouth.
-I failed to rediaper quickly enough after bathtime and two accidents happened within 30 seconds of each other.
-I watched my friend’s kids so her and her husband could have a date night and just when I threw in the towel and put on a movie the power went out.
-Sam took one, tiny independent step, then reverted back to crawling.
-We car shopped for minivans. Minivans!
And best of all, these babies turned ONE.

This is the summary for the babies’ 53rd week – they were 52 weeks (ONE YEAR!) old.

Nursing:
Nursing has taken a weird change. Sam is not super interested anymore. Sometimes he will nurse for 1-2 minutes and then pull off and be done and sometimes he will not nurse at all. Is this self-weaning? I am never really sure what to do with Mercy then. Do I let her finish on her side and then move her over to his (so it feels even) or do I just keep her on the one side and deal with the lopsidedness until the next feeding when I swap their starting boobs? Should I try feeding them separately? Would it be weird to nurse her 5x a day and him only 3x? I guess that’s what I’m doing now anyway.

Schedule:
7:00am Wake, Nurse
7:15am Breakfast
8:50am Nurse, then down for Nap 1 at 9am
10:30-10:45am Wake
11:30pm Lunch
1:00pm Nurse, then down for Nap 2
4:30pm Wake, Nurse
5:30pm Dinner
6:30-6:50pm Nurse, then bedtime

Doctor’s Visit:
Both babies failed the Autism screening. No surprise there – my other two did as well. It doesn’t mean they have Autism (I am 0% concerned that they do), it just means they are developmentally behind other kids their age in ways that would flag them to participate in the UCSD Autism study. I did enroll Vera and Abel in the study after they failed their screening and it was really interesting to be part of but unfortunately at this point I just don’t have the time or energy required to participate with the twins. I’m trying to be realistic about what I can handle.

The pediatrician said that delayed development is not genetic, but that seems hard to believe considering I’m now 4 for 4 on that.

In other news, both babies are growing well. They are still smaller than my other kids were at their age, but are in the 50thish percentile. Sam’s hemoglobin was still low (Mercy’s was not this time) and again the doctor ordered a blood test. If he’s anemic I obviously I want him on iron, but I’m still reluctant to spend the $150 or whatever it costs for a blood test that’s going to show exactly what the (free) finger prick did. I suppose since he has been low (marginally) twice in a row (9mo and 12mo) perhaps I should go do the blood test. Gah!

Birthday Party:
We had a party on Saturday to celebrate the big day. Family, cake, and a pinanta. Happy first birthday, Samuel & Mercedes!

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Toddler Summary: 32 Months

This is not my favorite stage.

Obviously, I love the boy, but the stage.

Blehh.

Where is my sweet, gentle, quiet child?

Hiding deep, deep, deep below the layers of high pitched, uncontrolled, get up under your skin WHINING, that’s where.

We’re working on it. But it feels slow going. I am impatiently looking forward to the day we look back and say “remember when Abel used to whine all the time and it nearly made me lose my mind? Ha! Glad that’s over.

This is the summary for Abel at 32 months (that’s 2 years, 8 months).

Schedule: 
7:15am Out of room
7:30am Breakfast
7:45am Chores (see below for list)
8:15am Get dressed, then silent reading time and/or play time
9:30am Independent Playtime
10:30am Clean up, get ready to leave house
10:45am Errands, park, or play outside
11:30pm Lunch
1:00pm Nap
4:00pm Up from nap, go outside
5:00-5:30pm Dinner
6:00pm Bath, get ready for bed
6:30pm Read
7:00pm Bedtime

Eating:
Eating is good. Last time I mentioned he had become quite picky. We worked on that and he is back to eating a variety of foods. Sometimes he initially refuses dinner, but since he has to sit at the table until everyone is done, he gets bored and eventually starts eating his food.

Sleeping:
Sleeping is a little wonky. He wakes up VERY early in the morning. When I get up at 5am, it is not unusual for him to already be awake. I only know this because I can see through the bottom of the door that he has gotten out of bed and opened the shutters to let the light in. He is quiet until I come get him at 7:15am.

Naturally, having woken up at 5am, he is very tired come nap time. He naps well, but is still tired come the end of nap time. By 6:30/7, he is eager to go to bed.

Have you ever heard of a 2 year old being eager to go to bed? It’s strange. Sometimes when I’m tucking him in I like to lay down right next to him for a minute and stroke his face and in the middle of me feeling the love and soaking up the moment he’ll interrupt and say mom? can you leave? 

He knocks out quickly for bed no matter how early I put him down, but then is up the next morning at 5. Oh well. Not much I can do. Hopefully it all gets worked out before he starts sharing a room with Sam.

Chores:
After breakfast comes chore time. We have fallen into a really good routine whereby I don’t even have to ask them to do the chores – they just start doing them. Abel’s chore list is quite simple:

  1. Clear the table
  2. Empty the small trashcans into the big kitchen trashcan
  3. Pick up and throw away any food under the babies’ high chairs
  4. Make bed
  5. Assist Vera in unloading the dishwasher

Making the bed doesn’t require my physical help, but it does necessitate a few rounds of

“Mom! I’m done with my bed!”
(checks room)
“No Abel, that’s not good enough. Try again”

I am sometimes frustrated by his inability to get it right the first time. He knows what the expectation is and he is clearly able to achieve it eventually, so I can grow tired of repeatedly checking the bed and telling him it’s not good enough. In these moments I have to remind myself that he’s TWO. Relax, woman, you’re not going to be dictating bed making instructions when he’s ten.

There are no set chores the rest of the day except to clean up messes as needed. He is good about this. It is nice to have two workers that can pick up all the toys. I don’t think I’ve cleaned up a toy mess in six months!

Whining:
Boy, oh boy. It’s BAD.

I have tried all kinds of tactics. I have asked multiple people for advice. Here is what we’ve kind of settled into doing:

When it comes to a whiney tone (Plllllllleeeeeeeeeeeeeease? Cannnnnnnn IIIIIIIIII?) I generally just ask him to restate his request, either with the phrase “try again using your big voice” or simply “turn off the whining.”

When it comes to whining about instructions (I don’t wannnnnnnnnt to. Do I haaaaaaave to?! Pleeeeeeeeease) we have started using a chair facing the fireplace. I sit him down there and tell him that when he whines, he is not showing self control with his voice (or his body, if there was a foot stomping or tantrum involved). I tell him “this is the chair where you learn to show self control” and then make him sit there, quiet, facing the fireplace for a certain length of time. I guess for all intensive purposes this is a time-out, but I don’t use that phrase because I don’t think he’d have any idea what it meant. Using the phrase “showing self control” and explaining how sitting still in the chair will teach him that seems to be more clear to him. He does not get up from the chair when I tell him to sit there, but if he did, he does understand that he would be spanked.

If it’s a particularly rough day and I find myself using the chair over and over again, I just put him to bed.

I cannot say that these methods will work, but I thought it worthwhile to record what we are trying.

Thumb-Sucking:
Abel’s had buck teeth for quite some time. Actually, I’m pretty sure they just grew in that way. But in the last few months, his teeth have become so bucked out that he cannot comfortably close his mouth and I often spot him drooling.

Poor guy. I can’t let him go off to school like that. The buck teeth is one thing – I’m sure lots of kids have them – but how will he ever make friends if he’s drooling all over the place? Something must be done.

I am planning to start fighting the thumb-sucking battle this month. Thankfully he doesn’t suck his thumb during the day – only at night. I plan to start with the this Mavala liquid and hope for the best.

Fighting with Sister:
Abel has found his voice and no longer tolerates being bossed around by his older sister. This has resulted in a significant increase in fighting. Somehow the fighting bothers me a lot less than the whining problem. Mostly I just remind them to be kind to each other (repeating Ephesians 4:32 throughout the day) and suggest ways to work things out between themselves. When it gets bad, I separate them.

The only thing that really gets under my skin is tattling. For the most part they seem to have learned that tattling on each other gets them nowhere so it doesn’t seem to happen very often anymore.

This Boy Loves His Mama:
Abel sure does know how to treat a lady. He still regularly tells me I’m beautiful and that whatever I made for dinner is the best thing he’s ever eaten. He voluntarily gives me kisses and never do a few days go by without him telling me he loves me.

Toys:
Honestly, it would be hard to come up with a list of favorite toys because I don’t find either of my older two really play with any toy that much. Is that normal?

When he’s outside (which is A LOT), Abel is most often playing with sticks or Eddie’s old punching gloves.

When he’s inside, Able is usually playing “family” with Vera, which might involve a baby doll, a doctor set, car keys, or items from the play kitchen. During Independent Playtime he plays with his dinosaurs.

Lately he has wanted to wear a cape and mismatched socks for the majority of his waking hours.

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RELATED POSTS:

Toddler Summary: 28 Months

Sample Schedules

Twin Summary: 51 Weeks

You know how you reach a point where all of a sudden you’ve just HAD ENOUGH and simply cannot change ONE.MORE.DIAPER.

Normally this is when you throw up your hands and declare IT’S TIME FOR POTTY TRAINING!

Unfortunately, due to the unavoidable fact that I am changing double the diapers, I have reached that point a bit prematurely. I have the feeling of being DONE without the ability to actually do something about it. Potty training twin twelve month olds is beyond my capacity right now, if it’s even possible.

A downside of having twins, I suppose.

This is the summary for the babies’ 52nd week. They were 51 weeks old.

Nursing:
Dropping the 11am feed (after the am nap) has been a little more difficult than I anticipated. They are fussy from the time they wake up until lunch time. I could offer them a snack, but I don’t want to get in the habit of offering snacks. Plus, it seems completely reasonable that they go from 9am (when I nurse them) to 11:30 or 12 without eating anything. Perhaps they just need more time to re-calibrate their appetites.

Also on the subject of nursing, my sister and I tried to nurse each other’s babies this week. You might think that’s weird, but I think most sisters in our position would want to at least try it.

Her baby (2.5mo) latched on to me right away but it took so long for my milk to let down that she was half asleep from the sucking. Then once the milk came, it came far too fast and she started choking, so there wasn’t any time to see if she noticed a difference in the milk.

My babies didn’t even get that far. We sat them up in the way I typically nurse them and pulled up her shirt. They didn’t even seem to know what they were supposed to do! Sam put his mouth to her nipple and sucked once or twice, but then pulled off, quite perplexed. It does, apparently, matter where the milk comes from.

Sleeping:
Sleeping was good. No changes. Still sleeping more than seems normal for their age.

Schedule:
7:00am Wake, Nurse
7:15am Breakfast
8:50am Nurse, then down for Nap 1 at 9am
10:30-10:45am Wake
11:30pm Lunch
1:00pm Nurse, then down for Nap 2
4:30pm Wake, Nurse
5:30pm Dinner
6:30-6:50pm Nurse, then bedtime

Lifting Babies:
I don’t know how much they weigh exactly, but these babies have gotten quite heavy and it is difficult for me to carry both for anything longer than a moment.

One of these kids has to start walking soon so I can stop with the double-duty carrying.

Which One is Which?
I am working on our 2016 photo book right now. I was looking at pictures from the day the babes were born – almost exactly one year ago – and… I can’t even tell them apart in all the photos. Ha! Isn’t that sad? It would be one thing if they were identical twins, but to me they have always looked so different. It’s mostly the right-after-birth photos that leave me questioning who’s who. They are both swollen and under all that gunk. I guess it goes to show, all newborns really do look the same.

Pool Days:
This week brought some pretty warm weather, and we got to enjoy a little time in the pool. Who’s taking drink order here? Can someone get these guys a pina colada?

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My Summer Commitment To Contentment

Today is a BFBN day and everyone from the Babywise Friendly Blog Network is writing about Summer Break.

Summer break? Oh, is that when someone comes and takes care of my kids for the summer so I can lay out by the pool, get my nails done, and sleep in? No? It’s not?

Ohhhh. I know what it is. It’s the four month span from July to October when moms like myself curse the day they quit their corporate jobs and gave up the benefit of an air conditioned building.

It’s day after day of I can’t turn on my oven or the heat of the kitchen will singe my hair.
I can’t wear makeup because my face will melt.
The seat of my car just gave me third degree burns.
Is it even safe to let the babies fall asleep in this heat?

YUCK.

My husband and I don’t argue much. I can only recall a handful of arguments, and you guessed it, every single one was in the summer. Why? Because it’s hard to show grace when it’s 95 degrees inside your house. It’s hard to be selfless when you’re living on the surface of the sun.

I’m absolute convinced that heat brings out the worst in people. More than hunger, more than sleeplessness, and even more than bumper to bumper traffic. I was thinking this week about the quarrelsome wife in Proverbs (Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.) Why was this woman quarrelsome? Could it have been that it was summer and she was stuck in a hot box nursing babies and cooking dinner over a fire all day? I’m not typically quarrelsome but I do have a streak of bitterness and discontent in me. Couldn’t the same maxim be applied that to those qualities?

Better to live alone than to come home to a bitter wife who won’t shut up about how hot it is. 

Something occurred to me as I sat here dreading the impending heat. Contentment is a choice, and complaining accomplishes nothing. As the woman of this household, I have the power to create an environment where everyone or where no one is happy.

As my husband likes to say: if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

Here’s the reality: Summer is coming and surprise! it’s going to be hot.
It’s going to get over 100 degrees in my living room, and even hotter in my kitchen.
I’m going to sweat.
I’m going to smell.
I’m going to reach a point where I decide what we need is three more fans in every room, only to discover that Target has completely sold out.
I’m still going to have to cook.
I’m still going to have to clean.
I’m still going to have to nurse.
I’m still going to have to handle tantrums.
I’m still going to have to sleep.

So I might as well find contentment in it.

I decided that this is the summer I commit to being content.

(Even when it’s hot.)
(Even when I’m sweating.)

I am committing not only to refraining from complaining about the heat, but to actively choosing to be happy, grateful, and uplifting to those around me. When my husband gets home from work, I’m going to resist the urge to UNLOAD on him and instead receive him cheerfully. I’m going to look for ways to embrace the heat (duh – we live 10 miles from the beach!!). I’m going to dwell on the blessing that I get to stay home with my kids instead of focusing on the absence of climate control.

What a perfect opportunity to practice exercising contentment.

Perhaps this is the summer my family finally gets that break everyone’s talking about.

Check out what everyone else from the BFBN posted about today!

BFBNWaterMark
CHRONICLES OF A BABYWISE MOM
How to Have a Fun Summer Even With a Routine
MAMA’S ORGANIZED CHAOS
When Summer “Break” Is Hardly a Break At All: How to Get By
TEAM CARTWRIGHT
Turn your routine inside out: Updating for summer
JOURNEY OF PARENTHOOD
Summer: Balancing Fun and Structure

 

 

Twin Summary: 50 Weeks

At this point the babies definitely know and dare I say love each other. Little things happen to prove this all the time.

For example, one day Sam got a little swat on the hand for sticking his fingers in the toilet bowl (which he clearly knows he is not allowed to do). He sat down on the bathroom floor crying (not hurt, but definitely offended). Mercy, who had been sitting in the hallway sucking on a spatula, stopped what she was doing, crawled into the bathroom, and started patting Sam on the back until he stopped crying.

You can’t make this stuff up.

This is the summary for the babies 51st week. They were 50 weeks old.

Nursing:
I dropped one feeding this week – the 10:45/11am feeding after the morning nap. I know if you look at the schedule it doesn’t really make sense to drop this one first, but it’s just the most inconvenient. We leave the house at that time almost every single day and it’s so much easier to pick the babies out of their crib and put them directly in the car. Since I don’t have to nurse now, I can have the other two already in the car and everything all packed up before I go to get the babies. This maximizes our time outside the house before the afternoon nap.

So now I am nursing 5 times a day. The next feeding I will drop is the 4:30pm feeding following the afternoon nap. That feeding is already interfering with the before bed feeding. They nurse at 4:30, then eat dinner at 5:30, and come 6:30 they aren’t nursing very well. But I want to let my body adjust to the first dropped feeding before I go dropping any other feedings.

Sleeping:
Sleeping is good. There were a few rough days this week and I put them down for bed at 6pm or even a little before and they slept all the way through until 7am when I got them up. That’s a long time! Maybe they are going through a growth spurt?

Schedule:
7:00am Wake, Nurse
7:15am Breakfast
8:50am Nurse, then down for Nap 1 at 9am
10:30-10:45am Wake
11:30pm Lunch
1:00pm Nurse, then down for Nap 2
4:30pm Wake, Nurse
5:30pm Dinner
6:30-6:50pm Nurse, then bedtime

Teeth:
Sam still only has 3 teeth, but I can see his 4th (the second front top tooth) will be coming in soon. Mercy also has 3, but it’s the two bottom and one of the lateral incisors, not one of the front teeth. It looks a little odd.

Speaking of teeth, the other day I was in the kitchen and I noticed Mercy chewing on something so I bent down to investigate. I put my finger in her mouth and out pops a clove of garlic, still in it’s paper. Who knows how long she had been sucking on it for, but she had garlic breath the entire day.

Theories on Sickness:
I have noticed (not just with the twins, but when the other two were babies as well) that my babies get sick without fail every single time we go to MOPs. (MOPs, for those who don’t know, is a mom’s group that meets at local churches). MOPs is only twice a month, eight months a year, so it’s easy to see the pattern.

We put the babies in child care during church services every week – and they are literally in the same exact room they are in for MOPs, but they do not seem to pick up sicknesses from Sunday church – only from MOPs. Why is this? I have a theory.

When kids are sick, people stay home from church. I’m sure they don’t want to infect other kids, but it’s also a nice excuse to enjoy a relaxing Sunday morning at home. When it comes to MOPs, moms are so desperate for the kid-free social time that they are willing to overlook anything but the worst sickness to be there. So every week we go to MOPs, there is bound to be at least one kid who is probably too sick to be there. Then of course the babies share the toys they slobber on and the sickness passes to everyone in the room.

I assume this is the same reason kids that go to day care are often sick. Parents aren’t able to miss work for mild sicknesses, so they dose a little Tylenol and drop their kids off.

Interestingly, my theory also works out when looking at gym child care. I don’t have a gym membership anymore, but when I did, my kids rarely seemed to pick up any sickness from there. Why? Because just like with church, moms are willing to use moderate sickness as an excuse to skip the gym.

Admittedly, I am not above putting my snotty nosed kid in MOPs child care. But an interesting observation nonetheless.