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Archive for April, 2008

This post was inspired during an exchange between my husband and myself at approximately 3:45 am. The scene was something like this:

Aaron wakes up with a wet diaper, crying. I pick him up, change him and just about calm him down when Brady starts whimpering.
Daddy: “let’s get him up and give him a bottle, that way he’ll sleep in in the morning.”
Mommy: “No.”
Daddy (dripping with sarcasm): “Right, because that would just be too easy.”

Exactly my point. It would be too easy. Tonight. But what about tomorrow night? And the night after?

When you have children, often there is some discussion amongst the parents about how to handle various situations: crying in the middle of the night, feeding issues, discipline, etc. Plans are made and a consensus is (hopefully) reached. You vow to be consistent and stand your ground.

However, into every parent’s life, a lack of sleep will creep, or impatience, or a bad day, or even just plain laziness. It is in these times that is more important than ever to stick by each other and keep the one who is tempted to take the “easy” road on track.

With a singleton child, you can recover from these lapses a little easier. Two of you to one of them – the parental suffering can be minimized slightly. But with multiples, not only are the parents (often) equally exhausted, but there are more “trouble” times to go around. And let’s not forget, when you are dealing with multiples, you are not only setting the tone for one child, your actions/reactions to situations are actually setting the tone for both.

Would I like to occasionally give in at 3:45 and give the attention-starved, crying baby a bottle? Yes, I would. Especially on a work night. But then what happens when he wakes up the next night? And his brother too.

And then what happens when they get a bit older and they decide they “can’t like” what I’ve made them for dinner (a phase we are just exiting with our 3-year old). If we are tired of hearing this and finally cave to one and give him something else, doesn’t that encourage them BOTH to pull the same stunt the next night? 

How long can the “easy” route actually be considered “easy”?

I guess my point is that with multiples, Mommy and Daddy really need to work together to help each other through these moments of parenting weakness. Sticking to your guns is hard enough with one.  Double (or triple) that and you need reinforcements. Always remember that you are a team. 

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A quick post today for Ashley, who asked a related question to last week’s post on scheduling.  Once you’ve decided to be the schedule nut, how do you get family and friends on board? Especially when guests are visiting from out of town, or when you’re a guest in someone else’s home. A question near and dear to my heart, with my mom visiting us this week (hence the short post)!

Whether you’re the visitor or the visited, family and friends who aren’t as lucky as you are to spend every waking moment with your children are desperate to get their hands on them.  Hold them, pass them around, sing silly songs, and make ridiculous comments. Sleeping just gets in the way of play time! As the mom who knows her kids best, it can sometimes be a struggle to decide where to draw the lines.

I think the first thing you need to ask is how sensitive to schedule changes are your kids, and how do they deal with new situations.  If you have kids who are really cranky if their morning nap is less than 90 minutes long, or who get easily overwhelmed with a lot of new faces, then it’s probably worth it to step in and be a somewhat forceful regulator.  If you know that your overstimulated child is going to completely lose it if she doesn’t get a break, then insist on what needs to be done, much to the dismay of your visiting aunts.  If, on the other hand, your kids are a little more go-with-the-flow and seem to be having a good time, then maybe let go of the fact that you usually limit a certain activity to 15 minutes and let grandma have a good time.

The other thing you need to consider is your own family dynamics.  Is an overtired toddler easier to deal with than your petulant sister-in-law? Maybe you just decide it’s more worth it to keep a little bit of peace with the extended family and let your kid sleep in the car on the way home.  On the other hand, are you just finding it a little difficult to step out of the role of “daughter” and stand up to your mom when she’s in town? Time to step into your mama bear shoes and be assertive, even if it means giving orders instructions to your own mother, and insisting they be followed.

Another tip that can help is to set up expectations before the visit.  If your kids have a particular schedule that you think needs to be adhered to, start mentioning it (don’t overdo it, but bring it up) well in advance.  That way you aren’t suddenly snatching your child away for an unexpected nap, right when everyone was having a good time.  Talk about activities you’ll be doing together, and work on planning it around the naps.  Better to deal with any of this ahead of time, instead of arguing about dinner time when you arrive.

Really, we all have to find a balance between two competing needs.  The first is to pick your battles.  If you’re on vacation, sometimes schedules get messed up.  It happens.  If your kids go to bed an hour later every now and then, sure, maybe there will be some adjusting that needs to be done when you get back home, but everyone will be just fine.  While predictability is important, so is flexibility.  On the other hand, remember that, you’re the mommy and you say so.  If you’ve had trouble standing up for yourself in the past, it’s time to put that behind you.  Be firm on what your kids need, and if it’s something that cannot be compromised, then don’t compromise.

Alright, my mom is back from her coffee run and the kids are ready to get up from their nap.  Good luck, out there!

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Ringing the Dinner Bell

So at our house, as I think I’ve only mentioned about a million times, dinner is a bit of a struggle. As the mom, I feel the pressure to provide a “meal plan” each week that covers everyone’s nutritional needs while providing fast prep and maximizing our grocery dollars. Add to that active children with evening activities, hubby and I both working full-time and each of us having other activities as well, and the task of making a family dinner seems nearly impossible.

I have developed some shortcuts. One night a week, we generally have frozen pizza or take-and-bake pizza from Costco or Papa Murphy’s. I try to cook a “real” meal on Sunday when I tend to have some time. But it’s the consistency that I find challenging. I feel like each week is so very different in the activities our family is doing that any plan I develop goes out the window by next week.

I’m hoping that I’m not alone in this struggle. So I’m asking for your help and advice – what do you eat for dinner? How do you handle planning meals over the course of a month? Let’s all share ideas here, whether it’s utilizing your slow cooker, planning for full-blown-sit-down meals, or foraging in the cupboards for whatever you can find on hand. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

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One of the hardest parts of having twins, a job outside the home, and a husband who travels for work is finding time for the things that define me as LauraC. I purposefully did not choose the words “time for myself” because I’ve learned to make time for me. What I’ve found difficult in the transition from being a DINK to a working twin mom is finding time for hobbies, passions, outside interests, and things unrelated to friends, family, kids, or my husband. I’ve been missing that extra something something that makes me LauraC.

The first year with twins, I didn’t do these things because I was so busy and exhausted. Right when things got on course, Nate would get another ear infection or Alex had a physical therapy appointment for his torticollis or Jon had to go to Australia for work or or or… life was busy. It was busy in a great way but my entire life revolved around babies, and I had a tough time explaining to my singleton parent friends why having twins was still so busy when they were a year old.

When the boys were newborns, I kept waiting for that magic moment when things would get easy and less busy. My boys turn 2 next month and that day is still not here. Sometime in the last year, I had an epiphany that life with twins (or two kids) was never going to be less busy. I realized if I was going to get some of LauraC back, it had to be in little steps. So I took the first step and started reading for leisure again. Then I took the next step and started running again. Baby step by baby step, I am slowly working my hobbies and passions back into my life.

This past weekend, I ran a 5K race with Nate and Alex in a jogging stroller. I got there by slowly getting back into running over the last two years. It was my slowest race ever but I had a smile on my face most of the time. (I did not smile on hills or when Alex threw a sippy cup or when Nate kicked Alex.) I love running; it is part of who I am. It took much longer than expected for me to get these pieces of LauraC back, but this race proved to me that LAURAC IS BACK PEOPLES, WATCH OUT!

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This is my last week with my babysitter. *sob!* Alas, she’s a college senior, and graduation approaches. So, on Friday, we will say goodbye to her. And while I’ll miss having her, I think I’m ready.

As my kids approached about 4 months old, I decided I was ready to hire a babysitter. In fact, more than ready, I needed someone. Love my kids to pieces though I do, after four months of 24/7 SAHM, I needed a little break. Just the occasional hour or two in the afternoon to run an errand without the Double Snap N Go, without bottles, without meltdowns. Plus, they had gotten to the age where they were a little easier to take care of, a little happier, a little more predictable. I felt comfortable leaving them with a babysitter, without having to write a 500-page instruction manual. (“If the cry sounds kind of like a whine, then she’s probably tired. If she’s screaming so hard that her face is turning purple, then she’s hungry.”)

I found my sitter through one of my two Sources of All Good Things: my moms of twins club (the other SoAGT is Cook’s Illustrated, in case you were wondering). One of the members works at a college where she coaches an athletic team, a bunch of the women on the team love to babysit, and voilà! A match! We met, we agreed she’d come three afternoons per week for two hours per day. The first few days, she came over and I didn’t go anywhere, but instead introduced her to the kids, the house, and all of the “stuff” that goes along with infants. I gave her the list of emergency numbers. And on the third day, I left the house. By myself. It was delightful. I didn’t stay out for long, but still…

It has been a great break over the last few months, especially in the crappy winter weather where we spent so much time indoors. I knew that, three afternoons per week, I could take a little break. Run to the store without kids, go to the gym (OK, that only happened twice), or even just sit at a cafe and have a quiet lunch. As much as I am glad that I’m a SAHM, we all need a little break to recharge the batteries every now and then.

But as my kids got on a more predictable schedule, and as the weather improved, my regular babysitter time felt a little less critical. In fact, I found myself needing to come up with something to do during “her” time, and was sometimes even a little bummed on days she was coming, because I knew she would be there during prime baby outing time (i.e. 3-5pm). Don’t get me wrong, I would hardly send her away. I used the time, even if it just meant going to Whole Foods and picking up something for dinner. But I didn’t “need” it quite as much as I did a few months ago.

And so, on Friday, we say goodbye to our beloved babysitter, and wish her well. In a few months, as fall turns into winter again, I may try to find another sitter to come play with my then-toddlers. I know I’ll still need the time, especially when cabin fever sneaks back into town. But right now, when stroller-friendly weather is more frequent and there are promises of grandparent visits on the horizon, I think I’ll spend my time on long walks around the pond, playdates with our other twin friends, and maybe even using the swingset my aunt is soon giving to me. It’s amazing how a little sunshine and temperatures above freezing can make things seem a bit easier. Even life with two infants.

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I want to share with you one of my biggest regrets about becoming a twin mom that I would totally change if I had a do-over. Not joining a twin club! I heard about them. I even had a nurse at my OB’s office hand me a flyer for the twin club her daughter, also a mom of twins, belonged to. But nooooo, I couldn’t see the benefit at the time. Some background: I have two sets of twins, yes, but I also have another child who is turning thirteen this year. I’d already BEEN a mommy for eight whole years by the time my older twins were born, so I said to myself, “This ain’t my first rodeo!”

But the truth is, having twins is totally different, and I really had no support system in place other than my husband. I had no other mommy friends with little babies, and didn’t know anyone else with twins. Looking back and knowing what I know now, that was a drag. I could have been making friends with other twin mommies, joining playgroups, going to a meeting every month with other mommies, AWAY from my kids…I just didn’t want to be bothered with it. And I was actually a little scared to show up at a meeting, because I wasn’t sure what to expect!

When my oldest was a toddler, we tried to integrate into a couple of different playgroups, and I ended up just withdrawing from the women and doing my own thing, because…they were all psycho. The groups were completely cliquish, and it felt like high school all over again. I was really gunshy about joining any sort of mother’s group after that.

So. I didn’t join a twin club. I just stayed home with my babies and watched Baby Einstein and took walks around the block with the big stroller. Alone. Fast forward a year, and I’m pregnant again, with twins again, and I think to myself, okay. Maybe I should look into this twin club thing. I got online and did a search to find a club in my area. Found out when the meetings were and I started attending. I remember the looks of horror when I introduced myself and told the group I had twins who just turned 1 and was expecting twins again in five months. I put myself out there, and hoped for the best.

Now I wish that I could say my experience was great, and that the club was supportive, and all of that. It just didn’t work out that way in the beginning, though. I had a hard time finding people to hang out with at the meetings and I felt like a real tool just sitting alone in my chair with my giant belly and no one to talk to. I think mother’s groups DO seem cliquish, and I think I’ve figured out the reason for it – as least, in my club. These women know each other really well and get together all the time for playdates and stuff. So on the one night of the month that everyone gets together and leaves the kiddies at home with dad, everyone wants to see their friends and spend time talking, and it’s sometimes hard to remember to look around and find the newbies to take under your wing.

I vividly remember being SO hurt because a couple of months had gone by, and no one from the club had called to check on me and find out how I was doing, if I’d had the babies yet, or if I was coming back to another meeting. At first, I figured they were just busy (Hello? They all have twins!) but I found out that there was another mom who joined the same time I did, due at the same time I was, and she had a “big sister” from the club calling her to check in and give her a little support. It really stung to hear that! I actually ended up sending this huge, “what the hell?” email to all the board members of the club, letting them know how I felt ignored and pushed away and that I wasn’t sure if I should keep coming to the meetings. The board felt a little blindsided by my letter, I think, because I really don’t think they realized how overwhelming and intimidating it all was for the new members. That single incident led to some big changes in how the membership process works.

I’m pleased to say that NOW, I’m a big part of my twin club. I’m on the board myself! I do the website for the club, and it’s one way I’ve gotten to know people in the club a lot better. I think you have to take a chance and just jump right in and make yourself a part of it all. It might be intimidating, but it’s so worth it. The women I’ve met through my twin club are kind, funny, generous people. They’d never intentionally make someone feel left out, and they always try to find new ways to reach out to the new moms.

My story is probably a little different from some others, but I wanted to say…I totally encourage all twin moms to join a twins club! Join, participate, and interact. You don’t have to wait until your babies are born to join a playgroup! Go NOW, while you’re still pregnant, and you can actually have a conversation and get to know some people. It’s so comforting to find yourself in a group of women where you know that every single mom there can relate to what you’re going through, because she’s going through it herself. Go NOW, so they can get to know you. Go NOW, so you can find out about the fantastic twin club sales! Don’t wait until your babies are here to get a support system in place. And, almost all clubs bring meals over to you after the babies are born!

If you’re not sure where to begin, check out NOMOTC, the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs. They keep a list of clubs organized by state, or you can enter your zip code on the front page of the site (in the right sidebar) and find the club nearest to you. Do it!

Here’s a fun little news story where I got to talk about how awesome my twin club is!

(Awww, they were so little then!)

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