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Hello Everyone! Enormous thanks go to our wonderful MoM’s who have agreed to “try out” for HDYDI! We are beyond thrilled that so many of you are reading along with us, and we hope you enjoy our contest week. Please vote for the author you would like to hear more from, as the authors with the most votes at 12:00am Eastern Time on Sunday, June 7th, will be invited to write for HDYDI. Enjoy and PLEASE VOTE!


Post #1: What Happens After the Stroller? by Jennifer W.

Our story begins with two Aggies meeting on E*Harmony in 2005, and getting married in February 2006.  We started our family early; we had our first child in August 2006. While still getting use to our first son we were pregnant again.  Thinking nothing of it I went to the doctor to find out that we were having spontaneous triplets.  So I carried our triplets for 36 weeks 6 days and had the perfect pregnancy with no complication or limitations put upon me. Four months later we were pregnant again with our last child.  So if you are asking yourself, “I do not think they know how that happens!”  We do and we finally decided that we would have 20 children unless we had surgery to prevent that from happening.  So we are a family of 7 with 5 children under the age of 3.  When our children were small we called them the “zoo” because they were gated in our house.  Now that they are older we call them the “safari” because they roam my house.  You can find our adventures, experiences, and the confessions of a tired mother on our blog: The Wilcoxson’s.

JenW1 

After we found out that we were having triplets there were several things that went through our mind, one of them being that we could not logically escape being a minivan family.  With that dilemma out of the way we had to find a stroller.  We decided that we would get a triplet stroller and still have our single stroller as well.  The nice thing about strollers is that you have some protection from the public and some warning when the grandmother or curious mother gets too close to the stroller.  What happens when the stroller is no longer an option or something that your child dreads?

With our oldest almost 3 and the triplets turning 2 they are at the stage where they no longer want to be strapped into the stroller, but want some of the freedom that comes with being in a family with singletons.  With that want and need for independence my husband and I had to find a way to give that desire to our children.  Independence was not going to come at the cost of safety though.  Holding hands was not an option because my husband and I do not have enough hands.  We like to tell people that we cannot play man-on-man with our children but zone defense.  So the searching began. 

There was an option for leashes, but I could see that in the newspaper: “Mother of 5 decides to walk her children like a dog walker.”  We did not need anymore attention than we already receive when we are in public.  Then one day I was looking at educational toys on the internet and found the solution.  With a little engineering and some common sense we were going to make this work for us.  You see I found a toy for beading animals or cars at One Step Ahead.

14463_2We decided that a rope with 5 animals on it would do the trick.  So my husband and I ordered the beads, got some nylon rope and decided that we were going to put the tractor and the barn at the end so that mommy and daddy could have a bead as well.  Each child gets an animal and then there is a loop for their hand when they get older and do not want to hold onto the animal any longer.

JenW2

After we put our “leash” together we had to try it out before we went into public with it.  For about three weeks we walked to the mail box and around our street to get the kids use to the walking together and the distractions around them.  Then we moved up to using it at church for about a month.  Now my kids will not go anywhere unless they know that the animals are in the bag.  I am so proud of them because they do not let the animal go unless we give them permission and they do not let other people distract them from the “mission” at hand.

I have found that as our children grow older the independence and freedom that their singleton friends have will take some strategic planning on our part to give them the same freedom or a resemblance of that freedom.  No matter if we are in a stroller or walking we will always attract attention and people looking on like we are aliens from another planet because we have more than our normal quota of children in our society. 

Post #2: I Have Two Turning Three, by Alix

Alix is mother to nearly-three-year-old identical twin boys, Nathan and Max.  She spends her time in one of the following ways:  working from home (read: balancing her lap top in one hand while reading Cool Cars for the forty-seventh time while simultaneously microwaving leftovers for dinner), staying up late (read:  loading dishes and folding three hundred size-3T tee shirts), and relaxing (read: actually sitting down while the boys run circles through the house).  Luxurious, it is not.  But fun?  Oh, yeah! Alix works part-time, mostly from home and shares child care with her husband, a university professor.

I found out I was having identical twins at 9 weeks.  Just for the record, this is not a post about the always-humorous but repetitive “I fainted on the ultrasound table!” or “My husband threw up on the ultrasound tech!”.  Or even, “I thought I was having a heart attack!” (O.K., I actually did briefly think I was having one, but that’s for another post).  However, I will say that for the most part, the weeks following this very unexpected news are now a total blur.  One of the few distinct memories I have from that period is of my mother-in-law saying to me, “I’ve gathered that parents of twins say the first three years are the hardest.”  She wasn’t saying this in a patronizing way.  On the contrary, I think she felt a bit of the overwhelming sense of awe and fear that I’m sure I was feeling (but can’t really remember now).  THREE YEARS?? That moment I do remember.  That moment is stamped so clearly in my mind I can actually remember the glare of the fluorescent kitchen light overhead as I tried to absorb this concept (and, of course, failed).  Who can absorb three years??

Fast-forward to May 2009.  My identical twin boys, Max and Nathan, will be turning three in one month.  This is definitely not a post about how everything has suddenly become efficient, peaceful and orderly in our home, nor is it a post about how I pine for those oh-so-difficult-yet-magical early days with two babies (really, I don’t, but again, that is for another post).  Rather, this is a post about the evolution of our family, and the ever-changing challenges of raising two boys born on the same day.

My husband and I spent the first year or so reminding each other that the boys would eventually sleep through the night (they did), they would actually use the bathroom and thus eliminate the need for refrigerator-sized boxes of Costco diapers (again, they did) and would become more independent (still waiting on that but optimistic).  And at every point, we were surprised that the things we waited so eagerly for happened so quickly that we only remembered how eagerly we awaited their arrival after the fact.  I have no idea if this is the same for parents of singletons, but certainly we were so busy and exhausted that all sorts of things in our household were only noticed after the fact (lack of clean laundry, groceries, gasoline in the car, etc.).

The second year of the boys’ lives, the death grip of exhaustion lessened.  I was still nursing, but only in the mornings and before bed, which felt incredibly liberating compared to the hours I’d spent nursing every day during the first year.  The boys were now sleeping, eating regular food, and walking.  Somehow, though, people seemed to think that life must have gotten a lot easier for me than it really had.  People would stop me and say, “Wow, that first year with two must really have been rough, eh?”.  Or, “I bet you feel lucky to have survived that first year!”.  And as I madly chased after two toddling boys incessantly moving from one source of danger to another (and often in opposite directions), I thought to myself, “What the hell??  I’m still just surviving here, people!  Isn’t that obvious?!”  And my mother-in-law’s words came back to haunt me. 

And I knew then, I just had to make it to three.

And here we are.

I decided to host a birthday gathering for the boys, their first big celebration of this sort.  They are really excited to have a party, and I realize that I am, too.  I feel as though this celebration is for all of us.  We have made it this far.  We got to three.  We got to three!!

The boys’ third year will, I know, bring its own round of challenges.  The boys will start preschool in the fall and my husband and I are finding it hard to imagine not having them running through the house trailing laughter and chaos all day long.  This will be a big transition for all of us, one of many.  I remember a parent of twins saying to me, “The days pass so slowly, the months and years, so quickly.”  So true. 

Three, here we come.  I think we’re ready.

Post #3, By Sarah

My name is Sarah and I’m a mid-thirties mother of four.   After a seemingly normal full-term pregnancy, my first baby, Abigail, was born sleeping in June 2006.  In an odd twist of fate, I became pregnant with spontaneous identical triplets a few months after Abigail’s death.  Against the odds, the girls were delivered at 35 weeks, 6 days gestation.  I work full time in the wonderful world of tax and enjoy photography, writing and running in my very limited free time.  I currently blog about our daily craziness at http://thegreatumbrellaheist.blogspot.com/

Today, as I pushed over sixty pounds of toddler in our triple jogging stroller, I thought of that common question asked of parents of multiples everywhere.  When does it get easier?  If you peruse any message board for caregivers of twins, triplets and more, you will see that question asked over and over and the response is usually the same.  It doesn’t get easier.  It just gets different.  So now, as I listen to my three toddlers scream in their cribs because going to bed is such torture, I really do wonder when it will get easier.  My husband, Rich, and I have told ourselves that the magic age will be five.   It seems better than choosing three or four and then being disappointed and I don’t think I can make it to seven or eight. 

We moved into our current home approximately 18 months ago.  The girls, who were 6 months old at the time, began to share a bedroom.  It was a new experience for all of us.  My husband and I debate the room sharing situation on what feels like a daily basis.  We can discuss and theorize all we want – the hard truth is that our standard builder’s special only has 3.5 bedrooms.  The .5 room is an office and seeing as Grammy, my mom, sleeps over quite a bit, we only thought it appropriate to give her a bedroom.  That leaves us with three girls in one room.

I have good friends who are twins and they shared a bedroom until their early 20’s.  I remember being slightly jealous of their camaraderie because I was not lucky enough to have a sister.  I have convinced myself, through a sleep deprived thought process, that once the girls are older, they will enjoy sharing a room.  I expect there to be a lot of comforting going on.  You know what I mean.  One of them wakes up afraid of the dark and her sister will tell her that it’s okay.  Okay, maybe if I believe hard enough, it will happen.

When the girls were about 18 months old, we pushed their three cribs together to form a big square in the middle of the room.  We thought it would be fun for them to share books and dollies during that wind down period prior to falling asleep.  For the most part, this crib configuration worked out.   We experienced a few incidents of book stealing and book tossing.  And by book tossing, I’m referring to a book landing on someone (possibly on the head) while she is sleeping.  It’s not very pleasant – I can assure you.  But then there was the night that I crept into their room to check on them and found Emily and Allie holding hands through the crib slats, asleep.  My heart just about burst open.

We, unfortunately, separated their cribs last month after I caught Allie pulling Anna’s hair.  The girls didn’t complain too much about the new set-up – not that they really could, anyway.  We were hoping that having some space between them would lessen the number of times that they awaken each other.  It hasn’t.

Of course, having the girls share a room means that there is a constant source of entertainment for us when listening in on their conversations.  The latest phase is Allie, the oldest of the three by 30 seconds, telling her sisters to go to sleep.  That’s exactly how she says it.  “Emmy, go to sleep.”  You see, although my girls are genetically identical, their sleep habits are not.  Allie seems to require and/or want more sleep than Emily.  Anna, the middle child, varies.  Allie has decided that the other two should conform to her sleep schedule.  

So back to when does it get easier.  At six o’clock Sunday morning, an alarm went off in the girls’ room.  We keep a sound machine and a Bose CD player in there and apparently, one of the girls accidentally set the alarm while they were “exploring” their room before either nap or bed.  And by alarm, I mean the annoying beeping kind.  Rich ran in there to turn it off and optimistically thought he could sneak out unnoticed.  I listened to events unfold over the monitor from the warmth and comfort of my bed.  Rich picked up Emily, who was the first to spot him, hoping to prevent her from awakening the other two.  Anna started in on one of her uncontrollable crying jags while Allie yelled, “Anna, go to sleep.”

In some sense, life is easier, although different, now.  It is far easier for one adult to care for three toddlers versus three infants.  When mornings such as these occur, my husband and I take turns napping.  I can nap at any point during the day so I always offer Rich the first adult nap slot and I take the next one.

And yes, at almost 26 months old, my girls still sleep in their cribs without crib tents.  I am blissfully unaware of any attempts of crib escape.  Believe me, they will be sleeping in those cribs for as long as possible.

Do your multiples share a room?  If they do share a room and you had the resources, would you separate them? 

Post #4: Best-Laid Plans, by Jen from Diagnosis: Urine

I’m a freelance writer, and mom to a 6-year-old, 4-year-old twin boys, and a 2-year-old. I worked full-time until February 2007, and since then we’ve relocated for a job, lost that job, experienced unemployment, and have lived to tell about it. My blog, diagnosisurine.blogspot.com, is an attempt at entertaining people with my angst over transitioning from breadwinner and go-getter to stay-at-home mom to a tiny quartet of destruction.

Like many others before me, I was at my most knowledgeable during my first pregnancy. I had researched it all. I had a birth plan, an infancy plan, and a toddlerhood plan.

But, alas, “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men…” You can guess how long my plans lasted.

Having twins two years later was like my first go-‘round all over again. I relearned everything, from the mechanics of breastfeeding to the mechanics of folding the double stroller. I did it while working full-time, mostly from home, while caring for a 2-year-old as well.

A baby’s cuteness blinds people to the reality of caring for a newborn. “Enjoy every minute of it!” kindly grandmothers admonish in the grocery store, and you smile and nod but fight back tears thinking of how very tired you are, and how the baby only sleeps when you’re out of the house, and how the longest stretch of sleep you’ve had in a week, is 30 minutes.

The baby-blindness goes double for twins. I remember getting a lot of, “Oh! You’re so blessed!” But I didn’t feel especially blessed. My boys were healthy and for that I was grateful, but in all honesty we’d tried for one baby, and we couldn’t afford two. I spent the twins’ first year steeped in guilt for all the times they cried and I could only comfort one of them, for the times I snapped at my daughter, for the way my marriage and the housework were neglected, and for the concessions my employer and coworkers had made for me.

When people saw me out with three kids under three and said, with a chuckle, “It only gets worse!” I wanted to cry or smack them, depending on the day.

I’m here to tell you the truth: It does get better.

My twin boys are four now. My oldest daughter is six, and we even added a fourth – our youngest daughter is two. I work for myself now, so I get to stay home and figure out my own hours. It is worlds easier than our lives were four, three, or two years ago.

Now, because I’m here to tell you the truth, I’ll also admit that it still sucks sometimes. There are speech delays, potty training crises, typical childhood phobias and obsessions that are only magnified by the presence of four children experiencing them simultaneously under one roof. Yes, there are days I hate this.

Today, for example, wasn’t out of the ordinary, but I’m three hours past the deadline for submitting this post. There were fevers and diarrhea and encounters with neighborhood dogs and trampolines, and minor squabbles and tricycle jousting, and that was in the course of about an hour. I do the best I can. Most of us do. Sometimes my best involves a “teachable moment” and a cute blog post with pictures, and other days it turns into me growling at the kids, each word punctuated with brief, terse silence; followed by a blog post lamenting my numerous failures.

So, in case this is the only post of mine you ever read – especially since I am late and will be lucky to be included at all – please know that it does get better. I promise you, what you go through during the newborn and toddler years with your twins is exhausting and punishing and of course it’s worth it, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s not 18 years away.

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And I’m not even talking about work here. No, it’s about the stuff in our home leading to The Incredibly Shrinking House. I accept responsibility for my overpurchases, previously justified by some “need” for the kids. My latest purchase? A custom cut-mirror (think Montessori) for the playroom. And another child-size chair for learning how to eat at their child-size table.

I ascribe to many of the basic tenants of Montessori – simple, non-brightly colored, non-battery operated toys that allow a child to explore and discover without a button or sound that prescribes exactly what should happen with said object as the child passively observes. This is not to say that we don’t have brightly colored, battery operated toys, because holy crap do we! I think it’s more of wanting to have a more simple, Montessor-like environment because it looks cleaner and provides suitable justification for purging the house of plastic objects, and promotes independence.

Big Brother
A keeper toy: wooden push-cart. well, and we’ll keep the kids, too.

But no matter my intentions, the more commercially available objects still find their way into our home. And if I’m guilty by reason of insanity for acquiring those objects, then friends and family are complicit. They are the reason we now have four walker/ride-on toys, three sit and spin four-legged creatures, five different sets of Little People things, and a fleet of flexible cars, trucks, and trains.

All I’m trying to get to here is that one day, we wake up, and we’re humming the tunes to any number of toys and there’s no more storage space for “rotating” them in and out, and the two moms are having a little tiff over all the shit everywhere even though technically, it’s all put away in it’s proper place.

Prior to their first birthday, when we got to this brink, I’d simply put the objects, the objects purchased from Craigslist or our mother’s of multiples group, back up for sale on Craigslist or through my mother’s of multiples group. That was easy, because more often than not, we had actually made the purchase. Dust to dust and all that. Turns out, by the time I resell a toy and net the initial purchase cost from the sale cost, , I’ve essentially “rented” it for a period of time, only expending about 0%-10% of its retail price. Wicked.

Post first-birthday, however, I’m not sure what to do with a lot of the stuff, but all I know is that we can’t keep it all either because we won’t use it, it’s a multiple, or because we simply don’t have the storage space.

I could sell it (my preference – need diapers), but do I need to tell the gifter that? And if I don’t, but they come around asking “does Mateo like the SMART bounce and spin pony, the one that interacts WIRELESSLY with the television?”, (I am not even kidding.) THEN what? Or I could donate it, donate it with some batteries to an organization that will ultimately hand it out to someone in need who may or may not have additional batteries and may or may not have a wireless router. Or I could hang onto it like the Bibles received as gifts over the years (I was a Young Life’r and I went to Baylor University for undergrad so HELLO? BIBLES.) Because I mean seriously, how do you throw away a Bible? But I digress.

And when you conclude that yes, you’ll keep one, maybe even two battery-operated walker/push-toy car-ish thingies, what is the criteria for deciding which one(s) will face the firing squad? Is it how little (or how much) sound it makes? Color neutrality (we have boy/girl twins)? Toughness of the plastic? Fewest Batteries? The taller ones so they can grow into?

How do YOU go about addressing the multiple-objects-of-the-same-basic-thing, provided you do NOT have space to store and rotate out fourteen sets of nesting boxes? And what, if anything, do you tell the gifter?

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Shopping, Twin-Mom Style

This weekend marked my MOT club’s semi-annual tag sale, and it was a doozy. The tag sale (consignment sale, yard sale, flea market, whatever your region calls it) is yet another reason to join your local MOT club, if you haven’t already.  Most clubs I know of have sales twice a year, and they’re awesome both for selling and for shopping.

It was my second time selling, and for those who have never participated in such an event, I thought I’d tell you all about ours.  First of all, you obviously have to plan ahead and get all of your items ready for sale.  Sort out the clothes by gender, size, and season.  Toss the ones with stains or missing snaps. Purge the toy room, get the high chairs out of the garage. Write out a price tag for each and every piece.  My club puts everyone’s items together (i.e. one large area for clothing, one area for toys, etc.), so your tags also need your name written clearly so you can get financial credit for the sale.

Tag sale setup

The sale takes place on a Saturday morning, so setup begins Friday night at a nearby high school cafeteria.  Racks are assembled for hanging items, tables are arranged everywhere, clotheslines are hung.  When the space is set up, you can start hauling in your items from your car (the parking lot is a sea of minivans).  And at the end of the evening, sellers get a chance to do a little early-bird shopping.  People nearly trampled each other getting to the Kettler tricycles.  I decided I had to have my friend’s Maclaren stroller.  So 15 minutes before seller shopping began, I grabbed my Peg Perego out of the back of my van, cleaned it off, and slapped a price tag on it (the same price for which I was going to buy my friend’s).  It’s easy to get caught up in the madness.  And that’s just Friday night. Don’t stay too late, chit-chatting with your friends and perusing the stacks of clothing.  The fun starts again at 6AM on Saturday.

Toys, games, and booksSaturday morning arrived.  Barely slept at all.  Still dark when we arrived at the high school.  Sellers who couldn’t come the night before arrived with even more stuff to distribute.  The mountain of clothing, especially the 0-12 month stuff, threatened to topple and we grabbed extra tables to further sub-divide the sizes.  The bookshelves collapsed overnight, so we had to reassemble and rearrange all of the books and videos.  Tables full of toys needed to be better categorized, the piles of board games and puzzles needed major straightening.

Sellers got another shot at early shopping once everything was set up and ready.  I was at the front of the line this time, and tried to pretend I had a shred of dignity remaining as I all but ran back to the large equipment area to snag a Radio Flyer double wagon.  Haha, victory is mine!

But we had to get our purchases quickly back to our cars.  All sellers are also working the sale, and people have been assigned to different areas.  Clothing, books, toys, cashier, accounting, large equipment.  This was my second time back in large equipment, which is a section with it’s own procedures, rules, and even storage so you can keep shopping without dragging around your new double stroller or swing.  Before the doors opened, it was packed to the gills with strollers, carseats, swings, high chairs, outdoor toys, and the like.

Large Equipment area

Finally, at 9:30, doors open to fellow twin club members, who get a half-hour jump start on the general public.  The line at 9:29 was well out the door.

Line to get in

Shopping is barely-controlled chaos.  No lie, nearly seven hundred people came. Unreal. The large equipment area was a madhouse.  There were four cashiers just in our part of the sale, probably another six or eight at the main exit.  The whole thing was mobbed, from toddler clothing all the way back to bouncy seats.  It was hot, it was loud, it was crowded. I won’t lie, every time I saw someone buying something of mine, I heard a little “cha-ching!” in my head. But I tried not to do too obvious of a happy dance.

Shopping chaos

It was a particularly busy and successful sale, maybe because it was a nice day out, maybe because of the crappy economy.  But there was still a line to get in at 10:30, and there was still a line to pay at noon.  It was non-stop.  It’s fun, but completely exhausting, to work the sale.  By the time it ends at 1PM, you’ve worked a fairly grueling 7-hour shift.  But hey, you get to hang out with your MOT friends, get rid of all of your stuff, and make a little cash in the meantime.

End of the sale

And yes, that last picture is what the large equipment area looks like at 12:15.  If you want a stroller or a cozy coupe, you’d better get your ass there bright and early.

As a shopper, there are bargains that can’t be beat.  Strollers for less than half their retail price. Nearly-new high chairs for $30.  Books for 50 cents, toddler jeans for three bucks.  You can probably score a whole season’s worth of clothing for under $40.  As a seller, you not only get to unload a truckload of gear and old clothing, but even after the 10% of proceeds that go to the club, you can make a nice bit of money.

When the doors closed at 1PM, I scoured the remnants of the tables for anything of mine that didn’t sell.  All I could find was one toy and a couple of assorted items of clothing (maybe 10 shirts out of the huge tub I had brought in).  I took one cute outfit of Rebecca’s home, and put the rest in the big bags to be donated.  Because I had worked Friday setup, I thankfully didn’t have to stay for the entirety of cleanup.  I got home, took some ibuprofen, and all but collapsed into bed.

It was a good day.

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My boys are just under three years old and we celebrated a major milestone this weekend – Nate is in underwear only during the day. Ironically, this means I need to start traveling with more in my diaper bag. We had reached the point where I would throw a Diapee Wipee full of diapers and a pack of wipes in my purse for any outings. What’s a Diapee Wipee, you ask? Only one of my favorite products – a fabric case for storing diapers so they don’t get scrunched in the bottom of your diaper bag. (I’m sure crafty moms could make this very easily!)

diapeewipee

When we go out, we still need to bring along diapers for Alex, but now we have to bring changes of clothes. However we get to bring along another one of my favorite products, the Ju Ju Be Mess Shuttle. It is a reusable waterproof pouch that holds wet items and contains the smell. Previously I used it for wet bibs and soiled onesies. Now it will get used for accidents out of the house. It’s just big enough to hold a pair of wet toddler pants, wet toddler socks, and wet toddler underwear.  

messshuttle

What are some must-have products in your diaper bag? I like to travel light but I am always looking for ways to organize!

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What’s That Smell?

Years ago, when I would visit friend’s with kids, I would leave their homes with my nose wrinkled, thinking haughtily to myself “When I have kids, my house is never going to smell like dirty diapers.” I even made my mom promise to tell me if my house began to take on that oh-so-distinctive aroma.  Well, folks, I can honestly say that most days my house smells like S***!

My duo likes to do their dirty business four times a day each (they are almost 22 months old), and let me tell you, that is a lot of poop!

So, dear HDYDI readers, what is your solution to this nose-wrinkling problem? We have a diaper genie  in the nursery, which I hate because it does not complete contain the smell and the liners are over $4. When we are downstairs, we end up chucking the dirty diapers into the kitchen garbage can, which we empty every evening.  What is your favorite  tip, solution or product that helps you to avoid this problem!?

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