This is the second part of a two-part series on the trouble – and blessings – of twins.
Double the Trouble: Part One of a two-part series on the trouble – and blessings – of twins.
I set my alarm for 5:30. At 4:00 I turned it off. I have no reason to get up early, except to take advantage of the early morning hours, before the kids get up. I didn’t reset it. I would get up when my husband got up. That way, I’d have fifteen minutes to myself before I have to get my 11-year-old up and make his lunch.
We overslept. I never even heard his alarm go off. All of a sudden, he flew out of bed with a start. I immediately thought, “Oh no. My 11-year-old missed the bus. I don’t want to drive him in!”
“What time is it?” I asked.
“Seven,” my husband answered.
Oh, well, that’s not so bad, I thought with relief.
“I overslept,” he says, planting a little smooch on my forehead. “But it was the best sleep I got all night.”
Every time I make plans to get up early, I end up staying up all night. I should just get things done at night, while the house is asleep, and then sleep in a bit during the morning, huh? I was listening to a pod cast yesterday, and this gal stated she “gets up early – around 7:30, 8:00 and gets started writing right away”. I laughed! That’s early? But then I learned she stays up until two or three in the morning. Although I would never willingly stay up that late, I did have her beat last night!
My husband and I watched Breaking Bad (we are hooked!) until almost ten. And then we resisted the urge to watch another. I visited with my 17-year-old a bit about his college assignments and then hit the hay. Thank God I did.
I went to bed early (11:00 to 11:30 is normal for me) so that I could get up early. I was grateful I went to bed early. The first couple of hours and the last couple of hours is all the sleep I got. And sadly, I wish I could say this wasn’t normal, but it has been known to happen at our house a lot. Not every night. Not even every week. But definitely at least once a month. To those of you with twins out there, sorry. To those of you with twins and a preschooler, well, Good Luck.
Here’s a fun little outline of my night: 🙂
12:30 The three-year-old woke up and crawled in to bed with us. I got up and put a pull-up on him. No way was he sleeping in my bed with underwear on! I hopped back in to bed. Got all nice and comfy with him. He asked for a drink. I got out of bed, got him a cup of water.
20 minutes later…… Baby B wakes up. I haven’t fallen back asleep yet, but I ask my husband to get him. I was just up with the three-year-old, after all. He gets up, slowly. By the time he gets there, Baby B is in a full blown cry.
I find out later that Baby B threw a temper tantrum. Dad put him down on the living room carpet and just let him cry it out. This woke up Baby A. 🙁
I get up with Baby A. Restart his music. Cuddle and rock him in his bedroom to three songs, then lay him back in his crib awake. He goes back to sleep.
Dad returns Baby B to his crib – awake, but calm – a bit later.
20 minutes later…… Baby B cries again. Dad gets up again. Rocks him again. Lays him back down again.
20 minutes later…… Baby B cries again. I got up with the three-year-old and Baby A. My husband got up with Baby B twice. We were even now, so it was my turn. I gave him the run-down:
Did you change his diaper? Yes.
Did you give him Ibuprofen? No.
Did you numb him up? No.
So I got Baby B up again, gave him Ibuprofen, numbed up his little mouth (he is teething….just the two canines on the bottom – otherwise, he has a full mitt of teeth!), got him a cup of water, and rocked and cuddled him for a bit. His spill-proof sippy cup leaked all over me, but I was too tired to change my shirt. I assumed his jammies were wet, too. But he had his little hands wrapped around that cup and it was cuddled up next to him. Oh well. If he woke up again, I’d take care of it. In to bed he went.
20 minutes later……. Baby B cries again. By now it is 3:00 in the morning. We have been up since 12:30. Screw taking turns – my husband has a long drive to work in the morning. I’m losing my patience. I tell my husband that Baby B is going to have to cry himself to sleep. I go in there, turn his music on and stand with him a bit by his crib. He immediately stops crying. I whisper to him that he has to go nu-night. He wails. I quickly and sheepishly put him in his crib and duck out before Baby A wakes up to see me. If I’m not there, Baby A will go right back to sleep. If he sees me, I lost the game.
I carry the three-year-old, who has been tossing and turning all night in my bed, back down to his bed. He will sleep better there. By the time I get back up, Baby B has stopped crying.
I crawl in to bed. “That was easy,” my husband says.
“Yes,” I answer. I’m suspicious.
For the next 40 minutes…… Baby B fusses, whines, and cries periodically. He starts and stops. I listen for a while. He eventually starts crying loud enough that I can’t lay in bed and listen. I head to my old stand-by: the laundry room. I like to shut myself in there, switch over the laundry, and fold clothes while the twins cry in the middle of the night. That way it isn’t so torturous for me – I can’t hear them over the noise of the machines.
Only, there is no clothes to fold! What?!? I am always behind on laundry!! I groan in frustration, switch over the wet clothes from the washer in to the empty dryer, and put a new load in the washer.
I then go get Baby B. I give him gas drops, just in case. I walk through the house, through the living room, pointing out that everyone is going nu-night. “Shhh…..” I say. I show him outside. “See, it’s dark,” I say, “It’s nu-night time.” He babbles something and I immediately discourage him, “Shh…. Nu-night time”. I put my fingers to my lips, “Shhhh…..” I change his diaper, just in case it is uncomfortable, and check his jammies. They aren’t wet in the diaper area. I check up by his neck. Yep, it is slightly wet from his sippy cup. Normally I’d change that. But tonight, I decide he can tough it out. After all, I’m still wet from his sippy cup too, and I’m quite fine. I rock him. Again.
The lull of the washer and dryer hypnotizes me. Pretty soon I hear heavy breathing from Baby B. I guess it hypnotized him too. I put him in his crib and cover him and Baby A up. I return to bed.
It’s 4:00. I turn my alarm off. I drift in and out of sleep for who knows how long, because Baby B still fusses and wines a bit. But he never actually wakes up crying again.
My biggest worry, during nights like this, especially if I am letting them cry themselves to sleep, is that they are sick. I envisioned Baby B puking all over me while I was rocking him. You know? They can’t tell you what is keeping them from sleeping. We have to guess at it. So I numb him, I give him Ibuprofen, gas drops, water, change his diaper in case it’s wet or uncomfortable, check his jammies to make sure they aren’t wet, cover him up, etc. but I can never tell if he has a queasy tummy, or a headache, or the chills, or a body ache, or his ears hurt, etc. So it’s good to have some compassion during the middle of the night. Because you will feel AWEFUL if you let him cry all night long, only to discover he had the stomach flu. He’ll be crying because his little tummy hurts and he wants his mama, and you will think he’s just being difficult. It’s such a tight rope.
The nice thing about all-nighters? They sleep late in the morning. 😉
(Photo from clipartpanda.com)
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.
(photo from accesscal.org)
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! 🙂
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. 🙂
“Just keep them alive, Shannon…just keep them alive. That is all you have to do.”
That is what my boss told me, back in 2014, as time was getting shorter. I was in her office, knowing my days of working there were quickly coming to an end. And my days of being home with three little kids, two of which were going to be brand new babies, were right around the corner. I was panicking.
I remembered being home with my oldest two. I stayed home with them when they were very little. And the days were sometimes long. And I often felt like I was not being a “productive member of society”. Not that I didn’t fully enjoy my boys and love them to death. Because I did. But it is so easy to lose yourself when you become a mom. If you aren’t careful, your whole identity can get wrapped up in “mother of two boys” (or in my case now, “mother of six boys”!).
This scared me. My boss though, always had a way of putting things in to perspective. “Shannon,” she said, “you are doing something wonderful for society. You,” she always paused for effect, “are raising fine young men for our girls to marry!” I laughed. She always did know how to lighten the mood and bring me back to reality.
“Seriously, though,” she said, “your only job is to keep them alive. That’s all you have to do. If you get a shower in, bonus! If you fold a load of clothes, you rock! If you manage to get some supper made, you are a super star! But just keep them alive.”
I laughed at the time, thinking she was nuts. I definitely wanted to strive higher than just keeping them alive! These were my babies we were talking about. They had emotional needs that needed tending to too, not just physical. I had to be the best mom I could be.
Fast forward to a month after I brought the twins home.
The two year old was in the living room, watching his fifth or sixth movie of the day. It was nearing lunch time and he was hungry. And bored.
The twins were in my bedroom, in their bassinette. They were both screaming. They were both hungry. I hadn’t quite figured out yet how to give them both a bottle at the same time. I nursed my babies, all of them, including the twins. But I wasn’t producing enough milk for the both of them and had to supplement with a bottle. But no one showed me how to give a bottle to two babies at once. So I had them on their backs, in the bassinette, leaning so far over it I was barely keeping from falling in, and trying to give them both a bottle. I was watching the clock.
Just keep them alive ’til grandma gets here. Just keep them alive ’til grandma gets here.
Where was that grandma, anyway?
When she finally arrived, she walked in to total chaos. The two year old was hollering for lunch. The twins were still crying because I was not so good at managing two bottles just yet. She just chuckled (she had seven kids of her own, the last three very close in age), grabbed a baby, and asked if I would like some help. Yes! I say, so very, very grateful.
And that is how my days were spent that first year. Just keeping my kids alive. On good days, I had a chance to worry some about their emotional needs. 🙂 On bad days, I didn’t get to eat until two, didn’t brush my teeth until noon, and didn’t get a shower in. At all.
But I kept them alive. And my days were so jam packed that they never felt long. And honestly, I didn’t have time to care about the rest of society. And whether or not I was being a productive member. I had all I could handle. Keeping the kids alive. 🙂
Step by Step Smash Cake Instructions
The first thing I did for a successful smash cake photo session was research research research! I used Google and Pinterest. One site I visited suggested that the perfect-sized smash cake could be made from an infant formula can. That way you don’t have to buy a special cake pan and you don’t have to do any layering. You simply bake your favorite cake mix in an empty formula tin. For the purposes of this cake, I used a basic white cake from scratch, and tinted the batter yellow and green.
As you can see, the infant formula can really left a lot to be desired. The site I had visited insisted the can was perfect and that it baked the cake without a hitch. I, however, had an extremely hard time getting the cake out of the can. The ridges on the formula can did not make for easy dumping! I had to first cut the ridges off of the can with a scissor before removing the cake. Also, my cakes sunk in in the middle. I’m not sure why – I am not a baker – but I assume the formula can is to blame! Still, with a ton of butter cream frosting, any cake can be saved! The finished project was still cute enough to be photo worthy! And most certainly smashable!
Next I enlisted the help of a very talented sister-in-law. 🙂 She helped me set up the photo shoot. I had my heart set on a “vintage” outdoor photo shoot, but we live next to a farm site, so the flies were too bad outside. She helped me create an indoor photo shoot instead. She crafted some “chalk signs” out of basic black tag board and chalk. Wetting the chalk before writing helped to give it a bolder look. My sister-in-law had family write on these boards. Their job was to add characteristics that defined each twin. They are wonderful keepsakes. She then taped each tag board to a poster display board that I found at Walmart, so that the signs would stand up by themselves.
I am a scrapbooker, and so had all the tools necessary to make the banner. I cut out triangles from patterned paper. I then punched eyelets in to the paper using a Stampin’Up eyelet kit. I strung a paper twine through the eyelets to link the triangles and simply taped it to the wall.
We performed the photo shoot during their one year old birthday party, so that their family could witness the cake smash. I am not sure if I would recommend this, however, because the twins spent most of the time watching their audience, which was apparently far more interesting than their cakes! At the same time, it was wonderful to have family there to witness the adorableness. 🙂
We pulled our dining room table away from the wall and simply set them on the floor. I have good lighting in my dining room, because I have a large picture window there. You will want to place your shoot somewhere where you also have good natural lighting. And then I snapped away!
The photos themselves required very little editing. However, I am just learning how to use Photoshop, so I edited the photos slightly. I like the “vintage” look, so I desaturated these a bit, and softened one of them. But that is about it.