What Exactly is the BFBN?

You may have noticed that I link up once or twice a month with the girls from the BFBN (that’s Babywise Friendly Blog Network) to swap posts or write about a similar topic.

And because I don’t think I’ve ever explained it, you might be wondering what the heck is the BFBN? Today each of us in the Babywise Friendly Blog Network are posting about what the BFBN is and who is involved.

WHAT IS THE BFBN?

In 2007, Valerie from Chronicles of a Babywise Mom started her blog with aim to help parents with some of their questions about the Babywise book and sleep strategy. And my gosh, has it been helpful. I stumbled upon the site when my first baby was still a newborn and I’ve been thanking my lucky stars ever since. Four years later I still return back to that blog on the regular to get my sleep, schedule, and parenting questions answered.

Four years after she started the blog, Valerie started the Babywise Friendly Blog Network – a network of bloggers who all followed the Babywise method and could work together to create an even bigger resource for parents. Over time the specific bloggers in the group have changed but the goal has remained the same: to aid and encourage readers in finding success with Babywise.

(If you’re reading this thinking what the heck is Babywise, read this and this).

You need only type the word “babywise” into a search engine to discover what a controversial parenting method it is. And don’t you dare bring it up in a playgroup – you’re liable to get steam rolled by angry and ignorant sanctimommies. The BFBN is a friendly place where parents are free to openly discuss taboo terms like “feeding schedules” and “cry it out.” There you can scream from the mountaintops I put my baby on a schedule so I could finally get some sleep! without being demonized or reported to CPS. We are a group of women who raise babies like our grandmothers did, and then write about it.

WHO’S IN THE BFBN?

So now that you understand what the BFBN is, here’s a list of who it’s comprised of and links to a few of their most popular Babywise posts.

Valerie Plowman, from Chronicles of a Babywise Mom:

Valerie is mom to 4 kids ages 5 to 12. She lives in Utah and continues to post on her blog day in and day out, helping countless of confused moms like myself. Her site is a wealth of information, let me tell you. In the last ten years she has covered nearly every single Babywise topic (and more!) and her blog continues to be an encouragement and valuable resource to me. You can read more about Valerie here and check out a few of her posts below.

Your Babywise Baby: First Year Overview
Feed Baby When Hungry
Newborn Index (I find her kids’ summaries particularly helpful)

 photo 1daa1512-284e-4eeb-848a-d0e5e0bd0010_zpsmrwfrwju.jpgCarrie Wiley, from Wiley Adventures:

Carrie is also mom to 4 kids (ages 2 to 9). I just love Carrie. She’s passionate about raising kids who love reading, love others, and love the Lord. You can read more about her here, and check out a few of her Babywise posts below:

Room Time: {how we do} independent playtime
babywise faqs: scheduling
how to cultivate a “book-loving” home

Image result for katrina villegas mamas organized chaosKatrina Villegas, from Mama’s Organized Chaos:

Katrina has a 2 year old girl and another on the way. She is a former engineer and high school chemistry teacher, which offers an interesting scientific spin to some of her posts. You can read more about Katrina here, and view a few Babywise favorites below:

Sample Schedules
Babywise FAQ & A
WHY I DID SLEEP TRAINING AND WILL DO IT AGAIN

Kimberly Cartwright, from Team Cartwright:

Kimberly is mom to 3 kids – a 3 year old and a set of 17 month old identical twin girls (incidentally, one of them is also named Sam!). Kimberly’s twins are just a few months older than mine, so she’s been a built in trailblazer for me in terms of scheduling (and breastfeeding!) twins. I love learning by her example. You can read more about Kimberly here and check out some of her Babywise posts below:

BABYWISE FAVORITES: THE PAUSE
MYTH: BABYWISE AUTOMATICALLY DIMINISHES MILK SUPPLY
Twin Schedules

Emily Parker, from The Journey of Parenthood:

Emily is mom to 3 and is currently pursuing the adoption of a fourth. She is disciplined but fun and loves Disneyland, Dave Ramsey, and Jesus. Read more about her here and view some of her Babywise posts below:

Birth to Six Month Baby Schedules
How to Make Babywise Possible With Multiple Children
Babywise – More than Luck!

IMG_5808Natasha Combs, from Let’s Be Brave:

Natasha is my hero. She has four kids (ages 2 months to 6), three of whom she adopted out of the foster care system. She has fostered numerous other children as well and blogs openly about both the joy and the difficulty involved in fostering. You can read more about her here and view her popular Babywise posts below:

Screen Time Alternatives
Benefits of Independent Playtime
Babywise Works for You (Not the Other Way Around)

Caitlin Rogers, from Rogers Party of 5:

Caitlin is the newest member of the BFBN. She has 16 month old twin girls and a 3 year old boy. We share a love for (black) coffee and wine. She’s a former music teacher and her totally blunt writing style has me laughing every time. Read more about her here and check out her Babywise posts below:

How I Got My Twins to Sleep Through the Night
How I Got My Twins to Stay on a Schedule
5 Tips To Survive Life With Newborn Twins

 

So there you have it, the Babywise Friendly Blog Network. Come back July 10-14 for BFBN week, where we will be posting daily about a (yet to be determined) Babywise topic.

Have a suggestion for a Babywise topic you’d like us to post about? Click here to contact me via email or hop on over to my facebook page Twinning Babywise.

Preschooler Summary: 4.5 Years

I have heard that parenting only gets harder as children get older. I am not fully convinced of that yet; Newborns can be pretty terrible. But I can definitely see how each year and each new stage adds a level of complexity to parenting. The stakes are higher, I suppose. The choices I make as mom and the methods through which I shape my children have more impact.

Parenting Vera requires more thought, intentionality, and effort than parenting the younger three does. And of course, she’s my first pancake, so I do many things wrong the first time. In that way it’s more difficult. But it’s also far more fun. Maybe it’s my stubborn personality, but somehow it all feels like one big challenge to me. I don’t love every moment, but I do love every day. Four and a half may be my favorite age yet.

This is the summary for Vera at four and a half years old.

Schedule:
7:15am Out of room & breakfast
7:45am Chores, get dressed (or sometimes Silent Reading Time here also)
8:15am Play, if there’s time after chores
8:45am Independent Playtime
9:45am Play or read
10:30am Clean up, get ready to leave house
10:45am Errands, park, or play outside
12:30pm Lunch
1:00pm Devotional Time
1:30pm Naptime
4:00pm Up from nap, go outside
5:30pm Dinner
6:00pm Bath, get ready for bed
6:30pm Read
7:00pm-7:15pm Bedtime

017e169786ae1eb73520a9a9135f788050b740a788Eating:
Eating is good. Normal. She is not picky. She is highly motivated by dessert.

Sleeping:
Vera rarely naps anymore. Maybe once every few weeks she will fall asleep during nap time. Nevertheless, naptime happens every day. She is content to play in her room quietly the whole time. Typically she goes down for a nap a half hour later than the others because her and I do a devotion time together first, so her nap time is 2.5 hours every day.

At night it has been taking her a long time to fall asleep. Sometimes she is still awake when I go to bed! During nap time she is allowed to be out of bed and playing, but at night time if she can’t fall asleep she sits up in bed flipping through books and talking to herself.

A few times a week she has been having these strange crying episodes. She starts crying (loudly) and I go in her room to find her completely asleep. Very odd. I hear this is normal, but I hope it ends soon because of the interruption to my own sleep.

She has been sleeping in more lately. Sometimes when I go in to get her up at 7am she has just recently woken up.

Last thing, we finally took the potty out of her room. Now when she has to pee she gets up, comes out of her room and goes in the hall bath. I was worried about her abusing this privileged and coming out repeatedly (that’s why he kept the potty in there for so long) but so far so good.

School:
We debated sending Vera to TK for this upcoming fall. At first I felt like she just HAD to go. That’s me falling prey to social pressures – all of her friends start TK or Kindgergarten in the fall and I didn’t want her to be the only one left at home. As time went by and I mulled it over, I started to question that decision. There just seem to be a lot of things she could afford to learn before leaving the controlled environment she’s in now. I don’t mean school things – letters, numbers, etc. – I mean developmental things like self-control and interpersonal skills. There was one specific moment I remember where she staged a full-on, all-out, whole-body tantrum for nearly two hours because, well, I can’t even remember why now. I put her outside because her tantruming was too loud and I watched her through the window thinking my God, that is NOT a child who is ready to go to school.

So when the school called me to tell me she had not been accepted because she was born a few days too late and if I wanted to send her to TK I’d have to drive across the city to an extended TK program I thought praise God for a closed door. The timing is not right. She is not ready.

So we have another year to work on things before Kindergarten will start in Fall 2018. We did decide we are going to send her to the dual-language academy (for reasons that go beyond the benefits of being bilingual), but I feel a lot more relaxed knowing I have a full year to invest in her before she flies the coop.

Reading:
Vera is not even remotely close to being able to read. At times this concerns me – most of her friends can read at a very basic level and my mom tells me that my siblings and I all learned to read on our own before going into Kindergarten.

On the other hand, her vocabulary seems high. I assume this is because I read to her a lot. Sometimes I wonder if I should spend less time reading aloud to her and more time working on teaching her to read. But alas, I am selfish. I do not like teaching and I absolutely love reading, so that option does not appeal to me. The school will just have to teach her.

Behavior:
Vera is relatively obedient, but it is not without effort. She is not naturally obedient. We have worked on it tirelessly though, and the improvement is visible.

But there is a next step to obedience that until now I think I’ve probably neglected. She will usually do what I ask or command and in that way she consistently makes the right choices. But when I am removed from the equation (for example, when she goes to school), I don’t have confidence that she is capable of making the right choices independently. She has learned to follow directions and submit to authority, but hasn’t learned to consider what is right or good or kind on her own. I’m not sure how to teach this, so for now I’m just trying to have frequent conversations with her intended to get her thinking about what the right thing is without feeding her the answer.

Also, the sass. YUCK.

01c9572b11443d7685f85bcabaff4658d7eb8a3d2f.jpg
BFFs

Chores:
My favorite thing about having a four and a half year old might be their capacity (and willingness) to do chores. My goodness, they are legitimately helpful! Vera’s has a couple of clearly defined responsibilities, like emptying the dishwasher, drying and putting away dishes, putting away her own laundry, buckling Abel into his car seat, etc., but mostly she just does things as asked. Wipe the counters, tidy the books, pick up the toys, dust the shelves, wipe up spitup, throw away diapers, throw away the kitchen trash, help fold laundry, etc.

I am thinking this must be a girl thing, but she is just naturally pretty compliant with chores. She wants to help. There are of course times she protests, but generally it’s pretty easy to get her to do what I ask in this area. At times the constant cleaning required to keep the house in shape can be overwhelming, so I’m super thankful to have a little sidekick to help me out here and there.

Social Awkwardness:
Vera is still socially awkward. She’s shy, and that certainly is a contributing factor, but it’s more than that. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but something is just not quite normal. Or maybe it’s just not quite me. I am doing my best to work on this as I can, but maybe the best thing I can do it just pray that when she goes to school, she finds a good group of friends who embrace her for being her.

Devotion Time:
I have been doing quiet time with Vera in the afternoon after the younger three go down for a nap for the past six months or so. She loves it and I love it. I’ve kind of hopped around, trying different things during this time, but recently we’ve settled on doing a short daily devotional from this book: Long Story Short. It’s great! It is easily adaptable to her age group.

The Questions They Ask:
I just love the thoughts and questions that run through the mind and out the mouth of a four year old. Incessant questioning can get a little tiresome to be around, so I have no problem telling Vera when she’s hit the upper limit for daily questioning, but she manages to squeak out quite a few thought provoking queries before she reaches her max for the day.

The last twenty minutes before I sat down to type this were spent answering rapid-fire questions about birth, for example.

How does the baby get in there?
Do you poop when you push it out?
Who cleans up the poop?
But that hole is so tiny! How does the baby’s head fit through?!
Does it scratch your vagina with its fingernails when it comes out?
Does it hurt for your vagina to stretch that big?
Why would you want to have a baby if it hurts like that?
Isn’t there a better way?

She can think up questions much, much faster than I could ever answer them. Sometimes I want to throw her an ipad and just scream GOOGLE IT!

But no, she’s a joy to be with and a true blessing to our lives. Totally worth the pain of child birth, I tell her.

RELATED POSTS:

Sample Schedules

Preschooler Summary: Four Years Old

 

For the Pregnant Mom Who Wants to Breastfeed Her Twins…

You can do it.

The overwhelming sentiment is that women cannot exclusively breastfeed their twins, or that in order to do so, they require the use of expensive equipment and rigorous pumping schedules. The idea that a woman might go a full year without pumping, without supplementing with formula, and without bottle feeding at all is not presented as a likely scenario – or at least it never felt that way to me. Twin forums, twin books, hospital lactation consultants, and delivery nurses all made me feel from the very beginning that exclusively breastfeeding my twins was an unrealistic expectation.

The babes’ pediatrician told me I was one of only two twin moms he’s had in the last five years that successfully breastfed her twins. I have to wonder if perhaps the very fact that he tells women this contributes to their lack of success. What an unhelpful comment to a woman struggling to breastfeed. Of course no one is succeeding – they are being discouraged from every angle!

Now don’t you go getting your panties in a wad. I am not saying that I think every twin mom should breastfeed. Every situation is different, every story is different. It’s just like with birth: the good old fashioned way is great when it works, but thank goodness for c-sections because sometimes it just doesn’t. Breastfeeding is also great when possible, but praise God for formula because sometimes it doesn’t. There are a multitude of factors that could influence someone’s ability to successfully breastfeed – and not all of them are just physical. Clearly the breast is not always best.

What I am saying is that I do believe most mothers who want to breastfeed their twins badly enough can, and that I think the whole thing would go a lot better if we’d stop making the assumption that it’s impossible and instead actually encourage mothers to try! Yes it will be hard. Breastfeeding just one baby is hard! Yes you will have to work through some things. Yes you will want to quit sometimes. But it’s possible. So possible.

And here is my advice, intended to encourage the pregnant mom who wants to breastfeed her twins:

DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU THAT IT CAN’T BE DONE.
That’s ridiculous. Women have been successfully breastfeeding twins since the bible times! Just because most women don’t do it doesn’t mean most women can’t do it or that you can’t do it.

MAKE A FIRM DECISION TO BREASTFEED.
Decide you’re going to do it. Back to my birth analogy, it seems to me that those who go in with a “wait and see” approach to medication nearly always end up getting an epidural. Women who successfully birth babies without medication go into it absolutely committed to birthing babies without medication. I have never committed my mind to a natural birth and consequently I’ve never had a natural birth (nevermind that I don’t actually care about having one). It is the same with breastfeeding. The “wait and see” approach consistently fails. Go into it with a real mental commitment to breastfeeding and your chances of success are exponentially higher.

TRUST YOUR BODY.
Especially for those who naturally conceived twins, your body was meant to and able to carry and sustain twins within the womb. Why should it be any different once they’re on the outside? Obviously there is a point where you might decide things are not going to plan and continuing to exclusively breastfeed is not what’s best for you or for the babies, but before you jump ship, give your body a chance to do it’s thang.

I had a rough couple weeks around the four month mark where the babes weren’t gaining weight as the doctor thought they should be and I questioned my ability to make enough milk. Keeping in mind my commitment to breastfeeding and my decision to trust my body, I made some adjustments to the nursing schedule and forged ahead. My milk rebounded, the babes gained weight, and my intuition proved true: this body was made to carry twins. This body is capable of breastfeeding those twins.

My hope is that this advice is a source of hope and reassurance to moms who want to breastfeed, not a discouragement to those who aren’t able to do so. I’m not a nursing nazi or a card carrying member of La Leche League. I don’t even know that I really love nursing. I have no stake whatsoever in whether or not other women choose to breastfeed. My only aim is to dispel the myth that twin moms cannot exclusively breastfeed and to instill confidence in those mamas who want to.

You can do it.

You can do it.

YOU CAN DO IT.

FullSizeRender (3)
Check out my other posts about breastfeeding twins below.

Establishing and Maintaining Milk Supply Breastfeeding Twins

How to: Nurse Two Newborns

How to: Breastfeed Twins (4 Month Update)

 

How to Have Consistent Family Time Each Week (BFBN Guest Post)

Today is BFBN blog swap day. I’m over at Wiley Adventures posting about how to foster friendships via an in-home bible study and Valerie from Chronicles of a Babywise Mom is here posting about keeping a consistent Family Night.

ValeriePlowmanGuestHow to Have Consistent Family Time Each Week

by Valerie Plowman

 In our fast-paced world, time spent as a family unit can get harder and harder to come by. With practices, lessons, games, homework, recitals, meetings, work…the pace is fast and we can quickly come to the realization that we are not spending much time together.

Something our family does each week is set aside one night a week that is for our family. This is not easy. It has to be a priority for us to make it happen. It is so worth it though! I have noticed when we do this, we have more harmony in our home. The children get along better and are also more obedient to us, their parents. I have gone so far as to advise parents with a very disobedient child to give this a try for a month and see what changes. The changes are always there, and always positive. Here are the steps to get you on your way.

Enlist the Children
Children love this time spent with each other. Sit down with your children and tell them the plan. Tell them how frequently you want to do this family time and what you will do each time. They will be so excited! If you forget, your children will ask you about it. Children are great to keep parents accountable for goals.

Set Aside a Day
Pick a day that you can do this each week. For us, that is Monday evening. You can pick any day that works for you. You might find that your schedule is too variant to dedicate the same day each day to it. Don’t give up on the idea! If this is your situation, simply get together each Sunday, look ahead at your week, and schedule what day you will do your family night. You only need 1-2 hours. Make sure you put it on your calendar and respect that appointment as you would with any one else. Your children need and deserve your time more than any other meeting or event that might come up.

Have a Format
Involve everyone in this evening. Decide what you want to do each time. We incorporate some gospel teaching to our family night. We have a song (we sing a hymn), opening prayer, lesson, activity, treat, and closing prayer. There are six of us in the family and six aspects to our evening. We rotate who is over what each week. That way, each person gets a turn choosing the activity and giving the lesson. Decide what your format will be and involve everyone somehow. You don’t have to have as many jobs as you have people if you can’t think of enough. Just be sure you have some and that you rotate each week.

Activities don’t need to be pricey nor fancy. 99% of the time our activities are things we can do for free at or near our house. The last time we did family night, we played a family game of soccer in our backyard.

Be Consistent
Do your very best to have this each week. Like I said, the same day each week is ideal. You might have to change which day it is quarterly or so. Maybe one day works well this summer, but won’t work this fall. At that point, pick a new day. If you miss one week, don’t give up on it! Just do it the next week.

Family time is that simple! Give it a try and pay attention to the benefits that come your way after instituting this in your family. You will make great memories that you will all cherish for years to come!

Valerie is the mother to four and blogs at BabyWiseMom.com.

Twin Summary: 13 Months

I have to admit, as I’m sitting here writing this, I’m eating in a bowl of cookie dough ice cream. It’s 1pm and I’ve been thinking about said bowl of ice cream since 11am, but I had to wait until my kids were all napping before I partook. You know how it is. You pop one tiny chocolate chip into your mouth and thirty seconds later the whole crew is at your feet chirping for a bite. Anyway, here I sit with my ice cream thinking it’s good to be an adult. So good.

The babes are 13 months. Here’s what’s happening:

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
4:00-4:30pm Wake
5:30pm Dinner
6:30-6:50pm Nurse, then bedtime

Nursing:
I am nursing 4 times a day now: when they wake up, before both naps, and before bed. There were also two or three times during the month that I nursed in the middle of the night because both babies had ear infections and it was my only defense against simultaneously crying babies.

Mercy likes nursing. As time goes on, she likes it more and more. Even after the milk is gone she will lay there sucking and cuddling. She will also sometimes want to nurse outside of our normal times. Not everyday, but some days. Sam is more of the get ‘er done type. He nurses for a quick minute or two, pops off, and gets in the way while I try to continue nursing Mercy. Honestly, I want to stop nursing him. I’m not even sure he would care. I just feel guilty continuing to nurse one twin and not the other. Is that showing preference? But I do have a preference. I like nursing one and I don’t like nursing the other.

I still don’t have my period back. I know you were all wondering about that (hi dad!). I just think it’s interesting what a range of normal there is. Supposedly if you follow ecological breastfeeding you can stave off your period for two years or more, but I don’t fit within almost any of the ecological breastfeeding parameters, so in my case it’s just luck.

Sleeping:
The babes still sleep great. No signs of dropping the morning nap. There were a handful of nights this month that they woke in the middle of the night with a fever, but otherwise sleeping was normal.

We have started skipping the morning nap once a week so we can go to the 9am service at church (previously we napped them at home and then went to the 11am). They do great. I put them down right after lunch (around 11:30) and they sleep until 4ish.

Eating:
They eat well. I wouldn’t say they eat everything, but they eat a fair amount. I am just continuing on with my strategy of never offering an alternative, and I’m sure any pickiness will work itself out over time. For some reason, the food on the other twin’s tray always looks more appealing to them. A lot of stealing and swapping goes on – which probably explains why they are always sick together.

01783a25545819ebc02ff5d748dbffe3a222b6a949.jpg

Ear Infections:
I mentioned in my Year In Review post that one of the worst parts about having twins is when they are both sick. I changed my mind. It is one of the worst parts about having twins.

I’m not the type to rush to the doctor when kids have a little cold (hello $150 per kid, per visit charge) so by the time I decided I needed to take these babies in for a suspected ear infection, they were pretty miserable. I called at 8am but the soonest appointment was 5pm, which left me with a full day to spend kicking myself for not calling the day prior. It was pretty bad. There was a lot of crying. I did my best, but truthfully there just isn’t a way to adequately soothe two babies at once.

FYI, for anyone with twins who has contemplated doing this, you unfortunately cannot just make an appointment for one of the twins and have both twins checked out. I mean, they’ll look at the other one, but if there is a problem that requires antibiotics, they make you “check in” the other baby before they will prescribe anything. It’s the doctor’s office’s way of saying thank you for your business, NOW PAY UP.

Anyway, the antibiotics seemed to work at first, but we’ve finished the 10 day course and now they have all the signs back: runny nose, low fever, etc. Hopefully it’s just a cold and not round 2 of the infection.

Walking: 
Sam is nearly walking. He will take the 1-2 steps required to get from the coffee table to the couch, for example. Anything further and he sits down to crawl. We tried bribing him to walk with chocolate (that’s how bad I need at least one of these babies walking) but no dice.

Mercy doesn’t even pull up to standing. Her body still has the composition of a toasted marshmallow, so it could be a while.

01c9fbab43ef00d651bad2529e3941ffea98a10a9c

Independent Playtime:
I’ve started the progress toward doing a structured independent playtime with the babes. It has the look and feel of independent playtime, but it’s just not quite independent yet. I put them in their playpen with a few toys for 15-30 minutes a day – usually in the morning. I guess it’s independent of me, which is what I care most about, but eventually I know I will need to separate them and provide some structured alone time. Hey, it’s a step in the right direction.

How many pictures do you have to take to get a good one?
Now that I don’t have an iphone, I don’t take as many pictures. Every once in a while I try to get all four together and capture the moment. I spend enough time on Facebook to know that some moms have figured out how to get all their kids stationary and smiling for a photo. HOW DO THEY DO IT? This is the best I got. We won’t be winning any awards.

IMG_7376IMG_7379IMG_7382 (2)IMG_7381IMG_7383 (2)

How To Run Errands With Kids Without Losing Your Mind

This might come as a shock to some moms, but I actually enjoy running errands with my kids. I mean, let’s be real, I’m never going to turn down an opportunity to go grocery shopping by myself, but being that some amount of errands – shopping, doctor visits, bank trips, etc. – are going to happen with my kids alongside, I’m going to take whatever steps are required to make it a pleasant experience.

The key to making errands enjoyable is to run them with kids who know how to behave while running errands. (No surprise there). As with anything, preparation, expectations, and practice is key.

Here are a few things I’ve done that I believe contribute to a positive errand running experience:

TALK ABOUT EXPECTATIONS BEFOREHAND

The car ride to the destination is the perfect place to talk about expectations of behavior because you have yourself a captive audience. Our conversation usually goes something like this:

How are we going to act in the store today?
Goooooooooood.
What does ‘good’ mean?
Staying by the cart.
Not touching anything unless you ask us to.
Using our indoor voices!
What about whining? 
NO WHINING!

Or

How are we going to act at the doctor’s office?
Gooooooooooood.
What does ‘good’ mean?
No talking when the doctor is in the room.
Yes. Unless he asks you a direct question. Then you can answer. But otherwise, no talking when he’s in the room so I can listen to what he’s telling me. What else?
Keep our bottoms on the chairs.
When mama says no, she means no!
And NO WHINING!

MAKE THEM WALK

As soon as my two older kids could steadily walk, I made them walk. I plan to do the same with my twins. The reason for this is two-fold. First, exercise is good for kids. It is physically beneficial for them to walk around the mall instead of riding in a stroller or cart. It gets them in good walking shape so when we want to walk to the park or go on a family hike they aren’t complaining about tired legs. Second, the only way to teach a kid to stay by the cart and not touch everything on the shelves is to put it to practice. Keeping a two year old in the cart stunts their development of self-control and hinders their understanding of good errand behavior.

GIVE THEM JOBS

I dream of the day I can give my oldest the list and have her call out and cross off the items while the younger three fill the cart with whatever she dictates. Maybe I’ll sit in the car and catnap while they get the shopping done. Until then, I delegate as much as is reasonable with a two and a four year old. Usually they trade off retrieving each item on the list.

Vera, can you get the oatmeal please?
Abel, while she’s doing that, can you find the box of cheerios?
Vera, will you open the eggs and make sure none are cracked?
Abel, can you pick out the milk with the red label?

Kids like helping, but this is only a secondary benefit to giving them jobs. The main purpose is to keep them busy so they don’t start poking the raw chicken or getting on each other’s nerves.

Kids can pick out and bag fruits and vegetables, they can put items in the cart, they can move cans that have been shelved incorrectly into the right spot, they can hold open freezer doors for you, they can push the cart, they can entertain crying babies, they can load items onto the conveyor belt and they can bag groceries, among many other things.

MAKE IT FUN

Kids that are having fun are less prone to get into trouble. In addition to finding jobs for them to do, look for ways to make the trip more fun. My kids like to play I-Spy, so we do that to kill time in a waiting room or in line at the store. I look for things they can count or words and colors they can find. We look at the people around us and try to guess things like where they came from or where they are going, whether or not they have children and if so how old they are, and what they might be cooking with the food in their cart. We have races (who can spot an American flag the fastest? who can find 3 orange things first?). We observe what’s going on around us and look for odd or interesting things. We talk about what they want to be when they grow up and why.

None of that may sound fun to you, but the point is to find whatever it is that is fun and intentionally do it. Make a point to make errands enjoyable and the kids won’t feel like they’re just being dragged along from place to place.

ASSESS THEIR PERFORMANCE

We set ourselves up for a good experience by talking about expectations of behavior beforehand and we conclude the trip by reflecting on their performance. I don’t spend a lot of time doing this – sometimes it’s just one little comment like “thank you for being so well behaved at the doctor’s office. I especially liked how you sat in the chair quietly while the doctor was talking to me.” Still, I think it’s worthwhile to say something (either positive or negative) about how they behaved in relation to my expectations.

>It was really great how you stayed by the cart in the parking lot, but next time remember that you also need to stay next to it while we are shopping.
>You guys were so helpful! Thank you for only touching the items I specifically asked for.
>Wow, that was a rough experience. Next time let’s focus on showing self-control and obeying the very first time.

You get the idea. It’s like a miniature review. It encourages them to know that I notice their good behavior and it prevents negative behaviors from sliding by without being addressed.

Errands Really CAN Be Fun

Not every errand goes smoothly. Sometimes my two year old swipes a stalk of celery and whacks a baby over the head with it, sending the baby into a fit. While I’m busy soothing the baby that same two year old accidentally knocks down a whole stack of blueberry pints that open upon hitting the floor and when I tell my four year old not to eat them she sits herself down in the middle of the aisle as some sort of stubborn protest.

It happens.

And every time it happens, I leave the store thinking, I HAVE GOT TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO NEVER LET THAT HAPPEN AGAIN. Humiliation is a powerful motivator. Using the strategies above, those everything-gone-wrong type of errands are few and far between. Running errands, even with four littles, can actually be FUN.

RELATED POSTS:

“You Sure Have Your Hands Full”

Top 5 Tips for Grocery Shopping on a Tight Budget

Childproofing: Or How to Stunt the Development of Self-Control

 

 

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
IMG_0969 (2).JPG
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.

IMG_0817