"And a gift is a gift, no matter how it is wrapped."
Oh 2020...what a dumpster fire of a year you have been! In the remaining weeks that are left of this very memorable year, I can only imagine what will happen next. Has the whole year been bad...no. Has the whole year been hard...no. But there have sure been a lot of really bad, really hard hours, days, and even weeks. I never dreamed I would be living and parenting through a global pandemic, and yet here I am.
If you are a “big things parent,” it was an especially hard year. “Big things parents” thrive on creating memories through milestones and experiences. So when many big life moments, like graduations, vacations, and holiday celebrations were canceled this year, many parents felt defeated. They are passionate about celebrating the exceptional, and bringing joy to themselves and their families by throwing a special party, or planning a dream vacation. “Big thing parents” appreciate the destination. This makes for a rough year when you literally have no where to go.
On the other hand, “small things parents” are here for the minutiae. They can appreciate the wonder that exists in the everyday. They can see something remarkable, in what appears quite unremarkable to others. “Small things parents” celebrate bare baby feet in green spring grass, snuggling under a blanket to read out loud (again) a favorite book, or flour handprints left from baking on the kitchen counter. They elevate the journey that is parenting. And while this year was hard for everyone, “small things” can be done daily...even in a pandemic.
This year I was reminded that I can and should be both a “big things” and a “small things” parent. In fact, I started out as a “small things parent.” When you have a NICU baby, you quickly learn about the beauty that is simplicity. Milestones in the NICU are measured in grams and milliliters. So if you are not naturally a person who notices and celebrates the smallest of victories, you soon will become one. Typically, I take the time at the end of a year to reflect upon my accomplishments, and set new intentions for the upcoming year. Since I can’t begin to envision what the future will look like, I’m going to just focus on the past for now. I don’t want to dwell on the pain of 2020, so perhaps I can look at the positives. This year gave me the gift of time that allowed me to remember that sometimes less is more. And a gift is a gift, no matter how it is wrapped.
And just like those NICU days, at some point, I will look back on those hard moments and be so glad we survived them.
Before the emergency birth of my twins at 28 weeks, I had never heard of kangaroo care. But after a stint in the NICU, I will never forget the many benefits of this special therapy.
One of my greatest challenges while dealing with the NICU was time. I had waited so long to be a mother. I just wanted my babies out of the NICU and home with me. It was difficult to go to the hospital day after day, and not know when they were going to be released. And just when I thought the end was near, there would be an issue that would put us back at the beginning. Being so focused on the end goal of going home, made the journey that much harder.
I found that Kangaroo Care grounded me and allowed me to focus on the present. I would purposely think about the future, and life after the NICU to escape the moment I was in. That moment in the hospital with my tiny babies was sad, but it was precious too. Just because it was hard, didn’t mean I should miss it altogether. Several years post NICU, and this realization still impacts my parenting philosophy. I try not to wish away any moments with my babies, because nothing lasts forever. And just like those NICU days, at some point, I will look back on those hard moments and be so glad we survived them.
I must confess that the idea of homeschooling interests me. I have always been open to this method of educating and over the last several years I have consistently supplemented my children’s education with lessons at home on their school and summer breaks. When all the daycares, preschools, and elementary schools closed in my area, I thought this would be a chance to test-drive homeschooling to see what it was all about. I quickly learned, however, that what we are embarking on is not homeschooling at all. When one chooses to homeschool, I can only assume, that they have time to plan and to research curriculum, and time to instruct. So what we are all doing with our kids right now can only be described as crisis schooling. But even so, I am trying to make the experience enjoyable for me and my children, while also ensuring that they are learning something. I know that every family and situation is different, but here are a few things that are working well for us.
Have a Schedule
I love a schedule, so this is a no-brainer for me. Since there is a schedule at school, there is also a schedule at "home school." This schedule is flexible and takes into account when my children are at their most attentive. I also build into the schedule time for picking up and quiet time. This is important to me, so I have a little time throughout the day to accomplish what I need to as well as it setting expectations and boundaries.
Create a Space for Learning
We do not have a “classroom,” yet we still need designated space to read, write, and use technology. I have turned our living room into a make-shift learning area. I pulled my folding table from the laundry room in and removed most of the decor from my bookshelves to make space for supplies like paper, pencils, crayons, and workbooks. It doesn’t look great, but no one is visiting at this time anyway and it is functional for now.
Manage Your Expectations
Are my children learning as much at home as they would be at school? Probably not, but their academics are not a worry for me...at all. I am simply doing that best I can. Once school is back in session (whenever that may be) I am confident that their teachers will course correct and get everyone back on track. My job right now is to guard my kid’s mental health and make sure that they are happy and healthy. We accomplish what we can each day, and we don’t worry about the rest.
I’m not the kind of mom that embraces the dirt, the forts, and the piles of stuff that result from littles at play. But I recognize it's value.
I admit it...I don’t love messes. I’m not the kind of mom that embraces the dirt, the forts, and the piles of stuff that result from littles at play. But I recognize the value of sensory play. I know that when kids are engaging several senses at once, they are building important cognitive skills, learning about cause and effect, and being creative. In fact, sensory play is associated with better outcomes when feeding selective eaters. These are all skills that preemies may need additional help with mastering. Over the years I have come up with a few tips to make sensory play less messy, so everyone can enjoy experiences with materials like play-doh and sand. However, I have nothing to offer when it comes to glitter...that is where I draw the line!
When Possible Play Outside
When weather permits, set up messy activities outside. Just being out in nature is a sensory experience in and of itself. Some of my favorite outdoor sensory experiences are making mud pies and playing in a sandbox/bin. A good rinse off is required before anyone comes back inside.
Play in the Bathtub
Kinetic sand is one of my favorite sensory play materials. I always set my kids up in the bathtub to play with it. I plug the drain, fill the tub with kinetic sand and a variety of scoops and tools. The tub is the perfect container to keep the sand from spreading all over the house, and they are already in the bathtub if a quick clean-up is required. I also find that kinetic sand never sticks to the porcelain bathtub.
Purchase a Wipeable Table Cloth
Whenever it is time to create with paint, I get out my reusable table cover. It is made of plastic-coated fabric and I found it on clearance for a few dollars. It protects my dining table and makes clean-up so easy. Once it is dry, I fold it up and store it away for next time.
Water is a Great Option
Remember, water is a great option for sensory play. My kids really like it when I add a few ice cubes with small toys frozen inside. Gosh, you could even add some soap and a sponge and let them clean stuff...genius
I will never be able to not care about the messes my kids make. But I also don’t want my neat-freak tendencies to keep my kids from the joy of squishing mud between their toes or stretching slime between their fingers. If you have ever felt the same way, hopefully, these tips can help you embrace the mess too!
But as an introvert myself, I must admit, that having twins suits my personality type just right!
I’m naturally introverted. This does not mean that I am shy or that I don’t like people, as is often assumed. It simply means that I need time alone to recharge. As a career counselor who is certified in the MBTI personality inventory, I have helped hundreds of people discover and understand their personality types. But it wasn’t until I had twins that I started to think about how your personality can impact parenting. Certainly, no one personality type is perfect for parenting multiples, but here are 3 times when having twins is an introvert’s dream.
When you don’t want to go somewhere
Every introvert knows the drill. You are invited to a party, or a playdate, or a work event. And you have to come up with an excuse, as to why you can’t go. But guess what... once you have twins, you don’t have to come up with an excuse. Now you have a reason. Taking your two babies out of your house during that first year is so much work that everyone will give you a pass.
When you don’t want to make small talk
Chit-chat is often disliked by introverts, who prefer more meaningful conversation. When you are out with twins, you don’t have time to talk to anyone. Someone always needs your attention. You may start many conversations, but will inevitability be pulled away by a toddler needing a drink, or help finding their toy. This phenomenon hits epic proportions at the park when upon exiting the confines of their car seats, your multiples will scatter in different directions leading you to spend all of your time scanning the corners of the playground to ensure everyone’s safety.
When you just need to be alone for a few minutes
In most cases, more children mean less alone time for their parents. Unless you are talking about twins. One of the many cool things about parenting twins is their ability to entertain each other. Twins are often satisfied playing with each other, which can give you a pass every once in a while when you just need a moment alone to decompress.
Personality theory says that no one personality type is better than any other. And I whole-heartedly agree. But as an introvert myself, I must admit, that having twins suits my personality type just right!
This article was originally published at www.handzies.com
January is the peak of cold and flu season. A season that oftentimes feels like it will never end. The holidays are over and the isolation to avoid germs is in full effect. And some well-meaning family members (or sometimes not so well-meaning family members) may feel that your germ avoiding behavior is too extreme. I have always been a “germ-aware” person, but since having two preemies I have officially crossed over to “germ-phobic.” It’s hard not to be afraid of something that you cannot see, smell, or hear, and yet it can have devastating effects on the health and life of your baby. Cold and flu season can be a really challenging time for families with preemies and medically fragile kiddos. I am not a doctor, but here a few tips and tricks that help this preemie mom get through this tough season.
No Shoes in the House
“Would you mind taking off your shoes?” If I have said it once, I have said it a million times. I have a strict no shoes in the house policy. Not only does it keep dirt out and makes it a little easier to keep those floors clean, but it also helps with the spread of germs.
Wipe Off All the Things
I love that so many stores now have sanitizing wipes available to disinfect carts. But don’t stop there. I wipe off everything! Tabletops, light switches, door handles, even library books (imagine how many little hands have touched those). I am also the person on the airplane that wipes down the seats and tray tables.
Avoid Public Restrooms
Public restrooms are germy and it’s hard to keep little hands from exploring it all. So I just try to avoid them if at all possible. And if you must use one, wash everyone’s hands after.
Avoid High Traffic Times/ Events
Weekends are a great time to head out of the house for some family fun, but everyone else is out and about too. More people means more germs! If at all possible, I try to plan activities during off-peak hours.
Wash Everyone’s Hands
This may seem like a no-brainer, but frequently washing hands is the best defense against getting sick. Cleaning hands before snacks and meals is easy to accomplish at home but things become a little more difficult when you are away from a sink. I typically use an alcohol-based sanitizer, but I am always hesitant to apply chemicals to little hands. Recently I found a great alternative that is made from clean, natural ingredients. Handzies are individually packaged wipes that are as close to soap and water as you can get when you are out and about.
As a preemie mom, I know all too well that you can do everything right, and things can still go wrong. Keeping everyone healthy during cold and flu season can lead you to feel isolated and overwhelmed. Make sure you reach out for support during this tough time. There are many online communities made up of other preemie parents who will totally understand. And on the bright side, connecting online is always germ-free!
It's that time of year again... time for buying and receiving of all the things. Do you have a child who loves to dream about their future? If so, then I have a great gift guide for you. I have hand picked 5 items that are perfect for open-ended career-related play.
Pretend Play Clothes- Pretend play is a hallmarks of career exploration. Let your child try out a potential career with some dress-up clothes.
Game of Life Junior- This is a junior version of the classic game for younger kids. A fun way for the whole family to discuss career development.
Magnet Dress Up Play Set- This magnetic play set features endless combinations of career-related clothes to mix and match. It also comes with a carrying case.
Gifts of Experience- Giving a child the gift of an experience is always a good idea. Passes to a museum, tickets to a show, or classes/lessons are an excellent way to support a child's budding interests.
The Career Explorer- Of course, I have to include a book! I think books are the perfect gift and this one explains the career development process in an age-appropriate and engaging way.
You can see my Toddler Twin Gift Guide here.
Over the last year or so, my kids and I have started a routine of reading a few chapters from a chapter book each night before bed. We read many picture books during the day, but a chapter book without illustrations, has been a wonderful way for them to relax and for me to connect after a long day. An added bonus for me, is getting to re-read many of these classic books from my childhood. So if you would like to add a little additional reading to your bedtime routine, I suggest starting with these...
Mouse and the Motorcycle
Anne of Green Gables
Little House 4 Book Set
James and the Giant Peach
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Hundred Dresses
The One and Only Ivan
My Father's Dragon
A Bear Called Paddington
Some of the links are affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you use the link to purchase the item.
Regardless of how you ultimately choose to feed your baby, if your baby is born early you will probably be encouraged to start pumping breast milk right away. Preemies need more calories and nutrients to help them grow quickly. In addition to providing nourishment, breast milk can also help reduce the risk of NEC, build immunity, and prevent infection. Few preemies are able to feed from the breast or a bottle right away. Therefore, expressing your breast milk and providing it to the NICU in both it’s fresh and frozen form is an important part of your child’s medical care. But, it is not easy. Pumping is a labor of love and requires a great deal of commitment and time. I am not a medical expert, but I did pump exclusively for my preemie twins for 15 months. Here are a few of my tips and favorite products to help make things easier.
Start pumping as soon as possible after your baby’s birth
When I arrived in my hospital room post c-section, there was a breast pump and a lactation consultant waiting for me. I started pumping right away. It took several days for my milk to come in, but pumping early and often was vital for establishing supply. Every single drop was taken to my babies in the NICU.
Establish and maintain a pumping schedule
In the beginning, you will need to pump at least every 2-3 hours around the clock. It is hard to set an alarm and wake up in the middle of the night to pump, but a schedule that mimics the newborn feeding pattern will help to maintain and grow your supply with your preemie. As your baby grows and needs to eat less frequently, your pumping frequency will change as well.
A lactation consultant and your baby’s medical care team are great resources. They can provide you with any specific guidelines you need to follow when expressing and storing your breast milk. Also, make sure to discuss with them how you intend to feed your baby post hospital, so they can prepare and support you in that decision. Lactation consultants are not only available during a hospital stay, you can contact them at any time. They can also help you to identify the signs and symptoms of plugged milk ducts and mastitis, both of which are quite painful and can hurt your supply.
Accept the difficulty
I have said it before, but it bears repeating. Pumping is hard! It can certainly feel like all you have time to do in a day is eat and pump. And there may be times during this journey when that is true! But if pumping for your baby is what you want or need to do, it can be rewarding and successful.
Hands-free Pumping Bra- If you are going to be spending any amount of time pumping breast milk for your preemie, a hands-free pumping bra is a must. Every Momma can benefit from multitasking while pumping.
Hospital Grade Pump- A powerful breast pump and a lactation consultant will set you on the road to success. And remember, you don’t need to buy a hospital grade pump. You can rent a pump for a monthly fee, which may be covered by health insurance.
Car Adapter- At some point, you will want to leave the house. Being able to pump on the go can provide you with some much-deserved freedom.
Insulated Bag- An insulated cooler bag is necessary for transporting pumped and frozen milk to and from the hospital.
Breastmilk Storage Bags- Most hospitals will provide specific storage containers for breast milk while your baby is admitted. But once home, you will need something to keep milk in until you are ready to use it. Some women prefer a storage bag because they take up less space and are less expensive than storing in a bottle. Remember to label for future reference.
Convenient Pump Cleaning- Keeping your pump parts clean is important especially when you are pumping for a preemie. If you are making trips back and forth to the NICU, you might not always have access to soap and water. Cleaning wipes formulated especially to clean pump parts are great in a pinch. Sterilization bags that go right in the microwave and are quick and easy to use.
Some of the links below are affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you use the link to purchase the item.
*this is not an endorsement of any product, just what worked for me
Summer is finally here, which means long days playing outside. While I love enjoying nature with my family, the sun is always a concern. As someone who lived in Florida for several years, I know about the damage the sun can do. So I take sun protection very seriously. If you are looking for a little respite from the sun, here are my favorite products.
1. Sunday Afternoon Play Hat- My favorite hats for kids, and I have tried many. They stay on, don't make the kids too sweaty, and have a safety release on the strap. They are also adjustable, so they can be worn for many years.
2. Long Sleeve Rash Guard- This is a must for us. Because sunscreen has it's limitations, my kids and I always wear protective clothing. There are many places to find long sleeve rash guards, but for kids, I like a budget option because you only wear them for one season.
3. Pop Up Tent- This is a new addition to my summer must-haves. If you have babies or young children, shade really is essential. There are options that are lighter/ easier to transport, but I like that this is large enough for my whole family and doesn't blow away on the beach.
4. EWG's Sunscreen Guide- The Environmental Working Group publishes a list of the safest and most effective sunscreens each year. It's a great resource.
5. Huaaniue Swim Hat- These hats are perfect for the pool or beach. They are made of quick-drying material and provide extra sun protection with a nice long neck flap.
Some of the links are affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you use the link to purchase the item.