Category: The First Year

A Nifty Little Tip for Your Kids’ Toys

I tried posting this on my Face Book page, but it really didn’t work.  I wonder if the post was too long?  So I apologize, this post will be too short on Making Mommas.  It probably really belongs on Face Book.  But I think it is a good tip, and worth posting, regardless.  🙂

So, A nifty little tip regarding your kids’ toys:  Rotate them!!

My kids have a lot of toys.  The twins have inherited a lot of their older brothers’ toys – some of them are dang near 17 years old now!  And, they continue to get their own, new toys as well.  So what is a mom to do with all of these toys?

Well, we naturally purged them when we moved.  We cleaned out all of the toys, and got rid of a lot.  Trashed them.  I didn’t have time to bring them anywhere or to put on a garage sale.  We don’t miss them.

But for those we kept, I rotate them.  I have some of them stashed under the stairs, to pull out occasionally when we need some new inspiration.  I have a closet and toy box downstairs full of toys.  I have a basket in the living room upstairs, full of toys.  And the twins have a basket in their bedroom full of toys.  The three year old has only a select few in his bedroom simply because he shares a bedroom with his 11-year-old brother, who really doesn’t appreciate having that many toys hanging around.

I often will bring some selected toys from the toy box downstairs to the basket in the living room upstairs. I then will move some of the toys in the basket in the living room in to the basket in the twins’ bedroom. And then I will move some of those toys out of the bedroom and back down to the toy box. I do this for big items as well, such as the kitchen and the Lego table. It’s amazing what a new setting, i.e., new room in the house, can do to an old toy!

How do I know when it’s time to rotate? When I get tired of cleaning up the same toys again and again! I was sick and tired of cleaning up the Duplex Blocks for the umpteenth time today. So rotate we did! It’s also a good time to rotate when you need something to capture your kids’ interest for a bit longer than usual. Some “new” toys can do the trick. Maybe rotate when you need to get some Christmas preparation finished up! 😉

And with Christmas around the corner, it’s a good time to go through all of the toys as well. Clean them out! Tuck them away, chuck them away, or haul them away. Give them to the Salvation Army or The Boys’ Ranch, or bring them to a second-hand store.

Happy Cleaning!

 

(photo from accesscal.org)

I Can Assure You, That’s Not Yay!!

That’s what I heard, last night.  My husband had taken the boys downstairs to play so I could do the dishes in peace.  He mentioned he felt like a nice “family night playing together downstairs”.  I haven’t actually played with the kids for a while.  I let them run around and play while I’ve been busy with Christmas preparations.  It takes a lot, to get this house ready for Christmas, because I have to do it in such tiny little increments of time.  A few minutes here, a few minutes there, after the dishes are done, before I fold my fifth load of laundry for the day…..  😉  So playing sounded nice.

I was listening to all the clapping and all the “Yay!”s as the boys bounced balls, made baskets and ran cars down a long, narrow tube.  They were having a blast.  And then, as I was scrubbing the floor (I have to do that after each meal and snack – the twins feed themselves.  Nothing more needs to be said.) I heard my husband say, sternly, “I can assure you, that is not “Yay!” and I literally LOLed!  (I love “LOL” because, really, did you really ‘laugh out loud’?  Don’t write it unless you really did it!)  Yes, I really laughed out loud.  It was hilarious!

And I thought to myself, “ahhhh…….”

This is it.  This is the time in each of my boys’ lives when my husband falls madly in love with them.  And I absolutely love it.  Up until now, they were infants.  They didn’t do much.  They didn’t react much.  And they were (and still are!) a lot of work.  It is harder for a man, I’ve learned, to bond, with such a small, helpless little creature.  Us moms seem to do it right away.  But we carried them for nine months and felt them grow within us.  There’s a connection there.  A man, he watches it happen.   And knows the child is his.  And loves it from the get-go.  But that connection isn’t the same.

I’m not sure exactly when it happens for my husband.  But I can see it.  He raced home from work the other day because it was snowing so beautifully outside.  He wanted to get the youngest three dressed up to go out and play.  (It is sooo much work for me to do alone.)  By the time he got home, it was getting dark. And I had to be the fun-killer, by pointing out that I needed him to shower and go pick up the 11 year old from basketball practice.  That night, in bed, he reminisced about a winter wonderland he took our oldest out to play in at night, back when we lived in town.  Seventeen years ago.  Maybe 16 or 15.  He was probably two or three.  It was so much fun.  Such a good memory for him.  Such a fun age.

I realized, as I finished scrubbing the floor, that my life is about to get a little more fun.  My husband has always been the fun-initiator.  He has always been the one to tell me to put down my work and play.  He is the one who has taught me that playing with the boys is the absolute most important thing we can do.  And what can be more fun, than playing with the man I love, three big boys, a three year old, and two bubbling little twins?  🙂

 

Merry Christmas!!

 

Shannon’s Bedtime Tips

  1. Routine, Routine, Routine – set a bedtime routine and stick with it.  Consistency is key.  This is so crucial.  A child’s head can be wired to get sleepy by this routine.  Once the routine starts, his brain signals to his body that it is bedtime.  And sleepiness commences.
  2. Set a bedtime – this may sound elementary, my dear Watson, but you have no idea how many parents just let their kids crash whenever.  A bedtime is so important.  Again, their little bodies can be wired to fall asleep at a certain time, if that is what they are used to.  Good bedtimes for the little tykes are between seven and 8:30.  As they get older you can stretch it out to nine or ten.  But even my teenage boys try to be in bed by 10:30.
  3. Hold the sugary drinks and snacks after six o’clock – Seriously.  No kid needs pop or sugar after six.  It honestly does keep them up.
  4. Give them a warm, calm bath – it does set the tone for settling down for bed, and can make a child sleepy.  Not to mention, the cleanliness and quality time together are great too!
  5. Have a light, healthy snack – kids sleep better on a full tummy.
  6. Dim the household lights – it sends a signal to the brain that things are calming down now.
  7. Turn off the TV – or any other media device.  It is good to do this an hour or so before bed.  There is a lot of research on the effects that “screen time” has on little brains.  Do not let your child fall asleep to a movie.  (I am so, so guilty of this one!)
  8. Read a book – or two, or three.
  9. Play some soft music/sing a song – music also sets the tone and can signal to the brain that it is bedtime.  Plus, it drowns out any outside noise from the rest of the house.
  10. Say bedtime prayers – if you are a praying family, it is just a good habit to get in to.  Plus, if it is part of the bedtime routine, it signals to the child’s brain that it is time to get sleepy….
  11. Have a little quiet, snuggle time – everyone likes to fill loved and valued.  There is no better way to end the day than with snuggles, kisses and hugs from those who love you.
  12. Put your child to bed awake – it is so important that he learns to fall asleep on his own.  For more information on this, read “Sleep….it’s Overrated”.

 

Sleep….it’s Overrated

At least, that’s what I tell myself. It helps me get through. See, I haven’t slept good in, oh, three years.

Since my three-year-old was born.  He is a very strange beast indeed.

My kids all slept through the night quite normally.  With my 17 year old, well, you know, I was a new mom.  I was going to do everything “right” and “by the book”.  Literally.  There was an author popular at the time, Dr. Richard Ferber, who wrote on the “Ferber Method” of sleep training an infant.  I knew of this not because I was an avid researcher, but because I loved the TV show, Mad About You.  Coincidentally, Helen Hunt’s character was pregnant at about the same time I was.  Her character was going to use “Ferberization” to teach her little baby to sleep through the night.  She sat outside her door all night bawling just as hard as the baby did in the show.

“The Ferber Method” goes something like this:  You do whatever routine you want to set up for your baby before bedtime, but you put your baby to sleep awake.  The whole point is that Baby is supposed to learn to calm himself down and put himself to sleep.  Then you set the timer.  Baby is going to cry. You let him. After five minutes, you go in and calm him down, reassure him.  Rub his back.  Talk, sing, whatever works.  But YOU DO NOT PICK HIM UP.  After he’s calm you set the timer for six minutes, and let him cry again.  You do not go in until the timer beeps.  And you keep doing this, over and over again, inching the timer up each time, until he falls asleep.

I did this with my oldest.  And it sucked.  It went against every instinct in my little momma bones.  If my baby was crying, I needed to comfort him.  Plain and simple.  Still, I stuck it out, and sat right outside his door, and cried right along with him, just like Helen Hunt’s character in Mad About You.  I don’t remember how old he was when I started this, probably around six months.  I’m not sure.  He was whatever age the book said he should be, that I am sure about.  😉  He was also my best sleeper.

With my fourteen year old I decided to rock him to sleep.  Ferber was out, mommy was in.  Same with my eleven year old.  I never had any troubles with them sleeping through the night either.  They slept through the night by the time they were a year old.  The only trouble I did have was my now-fourteen-year-old often asked me to come lay with him.  Sometimes I would, and sometimes I told him I would after I did the dishes. Then, I would take a very, very long time to do the dishes. By the time I got back in there, most of the time, he would be asleep.

ON A SIDE NOTE:  If you tell your child something, you need to follow through.  I would never lie to him.  I wouldn’t tell him “after the dishes” and then never go lay with him after the dishes. Why?  Because trust is crucial to discipline. If you consistently tell him “after the dishes” but don’t go lay with him after the dishes are done, he is going to catch on. And eventually, when you tell him “after the dishes” he is going to know you don’t mean it, and will cry and fuss and throw a temper tantrum. That will be counter-productive; it will teach exactly the opposite of what you are trying to teach. Always follow through with whatever threat or promise you give your child. (So choose your threats and promises wisely!)

But my three year old was a different beast entirely.

From day one he was a HORRID sleeper. My husband always said the baby was the one who had post-partum depression; it was like he wanted to climb right back in the womb! He would not let me put him down, day or night. I spent every night on the rocking chair with him in my arms. That is how we slept when he was an infant. If I laid him down, he screamed.

As he got older, it got a little better. He learned how to sleep in a crib. He had to at daycare, so it was a little easier for me at home too. We still spent a lot of nights out on the chair. I still was out with Ferber and in with Mommy, so I rocked him to sleep. I didn’t mind. I was exhausted, but I didn’t mind. He was my last baby. His older brothers grew up WAY TOO FAST. I knew this stage would be over and gone before a blink of my eye.

And then we were pacing the floors at night. And rocking for three, four hours. I worked a full time job. I had to get up in the morning. I was operating on three, four, five hours of sleep every night. He was older now, around eight or nine months. He was, of course, teething. Life was miserable. There was one day, when I had only two hours of sleep, that I did call in to work and go in a couple of hours late. Just so I could sleep a little longer. I’m not even really sure how I functioned at work.

Those closest to me told me over and over that I had to let him cry himself to sleep. So I tried it. For maybe four or five days. He literally sounded like someone was skinning him alive. I am not exaggerating that description one bit. Not at all. That is, no joke, what he sounded like. I could not handle it. We went back to rocking and pacing.

When he grew in to his big boy bed, nothing changed. He still needed us. He still cried like we were peeling his skin off if we weren’t there. So we laid on the floor by his bed, holding his hand, until he fell asleep. I was hugely pregnant with the twins at this point. It didn’t take long before I could no longer do it. I eventually had to refuse. It was at that time that I was no longer working. I was home for nap time with him.

Because I couldn’t lay on the floor by his bed, he did learn to fall asleep on his own. He did it, every single day, during nap time. But at night, he still cried for Daddy, and Daddy gave in. (Don’t judge – he was exhausted too!)  At this point, he also started climbing in our bed in the middle of the night. We’d bring him back to his, and lay on the floor by his bed until he fell asleep again. I’d often wake up and have to go in and wake up a snoozing Daddy so he could come back to our bed. Sometimes we were so exhausted that we just let him sleep with us.

He is a wild and crazy sleeper. He screams and hollers and has nightmares while he sleeps. He kicks and punches. When he was a baby, he didn’t even close his eyes all the way while sleeping. That used to freak my boys out. I was used to it – my mom does some pretty freaky things with her eyes too, so it didn’t bother me. 😉 But the boys joked that he was possessed. And I have to admit, for a time, I watched him for night terrors, which, along with horrible sleep patterns, is a sign of Bipolar Disorder (which runs in my family).

But he is normal. Just a crazy, awful sleeper. And there is no doubt we should have used the Ferber method with him from day one. I know that now, looking back. But hindsight is 20-20. After we moved, his sleep patterns got worse. So we bought a king sized bed and he crawls in with us in the middle of the night. Most often, aside from the nights of kicking and screaming, I don’t even know he is there until morning. It’s not the “right” way to do things, but it is survival.

And survival is good, because we also have twins who do not sleep through the night! After the normal feedings required for infants, they still weren’t sleeping through the night. Baby A was the worst. He was up for three, four hours at a time, screaming, crying, wanting to play. If Baby B got up too, it was miserable. I was again at my wits end. This time, my husband joined the insanity. And two tired, crabby parents and two screaming, crying babies is not a good combination.

When they were 11 months old I had had enough. I was not going through this again, like I was with my three year old. I posted an SOS for help on Facebook. And a friend of mine hooked me up with a momma of twin boys, just a couple of years older than mine. Everyone was telling me to separate them and let them cry themselves to sleep. I did not want to separate them. I wanted them in the same bedroom. This other momma of twins was so amazing.

She supported me and coached me through Facebook Messenger. And she told me not to separate them. She assured me that they would learn to sleep through each other’s noises. And she told me to let them cry themselves back to sleep. So here we are, back at square one, 17 years later! Welcome back, Dr. Ferber!

But it worked. They go to bed beautifully now. They sleep through each other’s screamings. (Because they do still have some nights when they have to cry themselves to sleep). And they are starting to sleep the whole night. If they wake up, they can often calm themselves down and go back to bed. If they can’t, we can get them back to sleep easily, after a bottle. (Soon we do have to take the bottle away though – yikes!)

Now that I’m catching a little more shut-eye than I am used to though, I am finding myself feeling more tired than I usually do! My poor body….it’s so messed up! 🙂

 

 

She Seems Perfectly Sane…..

I was at a football game with my boys last night. In the fall, we have elementary football games to attend, Junior Varsity football games to attend, Varsity football games to attend, College football games to watch and/or attend (my nephew plays) and the Vikings to watch on TV. It is a season of football for us! My boys love football season….even my biggest boy (my husband!).

So we were at the game and the twins were running around, playing. My oldest had practice but no game, so he was watching his brother play and visiting with us as well. He just naturally helps out when he is around, so my husband and I were relaxing a little and my oldest was keeping the twins from running out on the field. It was nice.

And then he stops and looks at us and says, “You know, that lady in the mall…with the leashes….I’m starting to think she was perfectly sane after all!” We laughed!

When the twins were still babies and in their strollers, my two oldest and I went to the mall to buy shoes for track. It was a chaotic shopping trip. We had the twins and our then two year old. It was hard to keep track of everyone, keep the youngest three happy and quiet, and still be able to concentrate on what we were buying.

We were exhausted. As we were packing up to leave (it is a time-consuming process), we saw a mom walk out of Scheels with two toddling children….on leashes. They were pulling on her and the leashes like a dog pulls on the leash when his master is just not walking along fast enough. And she was (gently) yanking back, trying to reign them in a bit. One boy, one girl. Cute as buttons.

Behind her, at a leisurely pace, was the daddy.

We just stopped and stared. All of us.

She saw us looking. So I hollered over, “We are just taking it all in. We have twins in the stroller.”

She laughed knowingly and hollered back (because she was still walking with her twins) “It’s never a dull moment!”.

“I bet not!”, I answer.

After they pass, I turn to my boys and say “I will never put my kids on a leash.” And then I correct myself and say “I hope I never put my kids on a leash!”

They just laugh, and agree with me, that it looks totally wrong. But who knows, they suggest, it might be necessary.

So now, at the football game, my oldest explains his suggestion, “They just need enough room to run, with a little bit of restraint.”

I’m still not running out to buy a couple of leashes…..just yet. 🙂

Confessions of a Momma…..If I had a Dollar

Oh…..if I had a dollar for every time I have heard the words “she sure has her hands full!”, well, I’d have a lot of dollars!  Not enough to be rich, but enough to maybe buy me a burger at McDonald’s!  😉

Every Monday for the first year, my mom tried to be there to help me with my grocery shopping.  My mom would take the two year old in her cart and go. She’d run her errands and he’d love that time with grandma, away from ‘the babies’.  I’d take the twins, one in the front (in his car seat) and one in the basket (in his car seat).  And then I’d pile my groceries around them.  I used to think shopping with one baby was difficult.  It’s funny – “difficult” is just your perspective.  Looking back, shopping with one baby was a breeze!

It didn’t always work out, though, for my mom to be there.  And on other days, I was simply just too stubborn, and didn’t want to have to rely on her. I wanted to manage on my own.  And manage I did.  Just barely.  😉

The first time out, I was prepared for it to take all day.  And it did.  Loading and unloading alone took almost a half hour in the beginning.   I don’t remember which Grandma timed it, but one of them did.

Halfway through Walmart, that first time out, we had to take a bathroom and bottle break on the bench in the back of the store. Other times, I simply pushed one cart with my hip, balanced a bottle on a blanket (that was so hard for me to learn! I always believed a baby should never have a bottle “propped up”. After having two, I learned it is a necessity!) and pulled the other cart behind me. Yes, we shopped with two carts. The two year old was not quite able to walk along in the store. He did think we made a lovely train though!

Sometimes, I’d have a baby in my arms, because they don’t always just sit nicely in their car seat carriers, unfortunately. And then I’d push one cart a step or two, reach back and pull the other a step or two, and continue on. I’m sure there is an easier way to do it, but I didn’t know it. And was too exhausted to be creative.

And I’m sure we were a fine sight to see!

Thus, all the comments. Some people would just come right up to me and tell me that it looked like I ‘had my hands full’. Others would whisper it as I passed by. For the first few months or so, I thought it was funny. I thought, “Yes, that’s right! Look at me! I can manage just fine!” as I inched along through the stores. I imagined their awe as I passed by.

But eventually the feeling of ‘super mom’ wore off. And I got tired of hearing their comments. I’m not sure why, really. The onlookers all meant well. They weren’t saying anything to be mean. And I wasn’t taking it as anything mean. I was just tired of being the “side show”, as my husband describes us. (Everywhere we go now, we are a spectacle. Try sneaking in to church a little late with eight people – it just doesn’t happen.) I just wanted to go to the store and go home without drawing so much attention to myself. Is that too much to ask?

Yes. Because I really do have my hands full. There’s no doubt about that! And if I had a dollar for all the times I heard that….

One of these days, when I have time to visit with those folks in the store, I’m going to tell them, “You don’t know the half of it! It may look like I have my hands full now, but I actually left the other half of my family at home!”

Ha!