Category: Parenting

5 ways to survive your first winter with twins! – Twin Tuesday

Today, we are officially over halfway through January and so begins the time of the year that I slowly start to lose my mind from being inside all the time. πŸ˜‰Β  December is always full of fun with Christmas activities and seasonal temperatures but January, February and most of March (if you are in the Midwest like we are) can be tortuous. This year we have already had a bunch of windchill warnings and have another one issued for tonight, which makes getting out of the house to do anything with young children very difficult! They are too little to understand why they have to keep their hats and mittens on at all times and cannot express to you if they are cold or what body part may be exposed to the temperatures. As they get older, it gets much better but those first few years can be really difficult! Especially when you have twins!

When our twins were born premature in late September, before we were discharged the NICU doctors recommended to me that we keep them away from people and at home as much as possible during the next few months. It was daunting to think about the winter ahead stuck in the house all the time!

Today’s Twin Tuesday is all about how to survive your twin’s first winter. Because that first one is HARD. If you can survive the first one, you can do anything momma. Here are 5 things we did to make it through the winter with our infant twins.

 

Accept the realities

Our oldest son was born in January, so I didn’t have to go back to work until spring. We snuggled in and barely left the house his first few months of life. Since we didn’t have any other small children at home, we were all able to stay healthy during the traditional cold and virus season. Fast-forward to December right before he turned one and all 3 of us caught every single cold and virus that went through his day care. We were sick all the time his first real winter. I was super concerned and mentioned it to our pediatrician who said “Oh yes. A baby’s first winter, they get sick all the time. Don’t worry. It builds immunity.” And that was that. The same was true with our second baby’s first winter but I knew what to expect and didn’t sweat it.

I was more concerned though when we brought our premie twins home who had a much less mature immune system than our older two did facing their first winter. Our pediatrician warned me that we had to accept the reality that with two other children at home the odds of them not getting sick at all were slim. She told us to expect common colds but to call her if they had a fever or had trouble breathing.

Basically, we did our best. We kept the older boys away from them when they had a cold. We washed our hands like crazy and we limited visitors (and made them wash their hands too!). I was breastfeeding on demand and I felt comforted that would help them fight whatever they were exposed to also. They each got a small cold or two but nothing that concerned us or that I hadn’t expected.

Expect that your twins will probably get sick. Do the best you can to limit their exposure to germs and follow the advice of your pediatrician when they do. Try to appreciate that anything they do get will increase their immunity and hopefully make all future cold and virus seasons easier on all of you!

 

Find some inside activities outside your house

When the cold winter days seemed endless, I would sometimes pack up the babies and go walking at the mall before it opened to shoppers. It was pretty dead early in the morning so there wasn’t anyone wanting to touch the babies or get close to their faces (as strangers feel they need to do). Josh and I would also on the weekends sometimes take everyone to a local indoor Sports Complex on off hours just to get everyone out of the house. The older boys would watch whatever high school sport was being played while I walked around with the babies in the stroller. Again, no crowds so no people trying to stop me and get a look at the babies.

 

I loved using these car seat covers instead of having to dress the babies in thick coats inside their car seats. I would dress them normally in long sleeves, pants and a hat with a lightweight blanket and this cover. In the car and at our destination, I would unzip the sides of the cover so they didn’t get too warm. I was amazed at how nice and warm it kept them!

 

Attempt to get out without the babies

I know it’s hard, but attempting to get out of the house without the babies is extra important during the winter months of being constantly stuck inside. I find that if I’m not conscious of getting out of the house (even now!) it can really get me down. Mental health is so important with brand new babies and it’s difficult to be stuck inside without sunshine or interaction all day. You could plan for your significant other to keep the babies for a bit while you meet a friend, go grocery shopping, grab a book from the library or run some errands! It makes such a huge difference.

 

Enjoy the drive

When my twins were infants, the car was kind of our happy place. Sometimes they would nap, sometimes they wouldn’t but they were almost always quiet. We would go for drives in the winter for a change of scenery. I would listen to the radio or a podcast and sometimes I would stop for coffee at a drive-through. A drive for 30 minutes of the day did wonders for my outlook on being stuck inside!

 

Find a routine inside your home

I’ve always been a person who thrives on routine and I found when we were stuck inside that was even more the case. When we couldn’t leave the house, it helped to have a routine of even moving rooms of the house at the same time every day. For example, maybe we would start the day doing tummy time in the family room for awhile, then move upstairs while they played with a few toys in their bouncers and I folded laundry, then read books in the kitchen as I got lunch ready, etc. It seemed like so much work to move them from room to room but it gave us a purpose for our day and something to do. I still do a version of this with our two year old twins during the winter!

 

Don’t forget. You will make it through this too and it’s okay to count down the days until spring!

 

You can find more Twin Tuesday posts here!

 

Lucky number seven

I was saying to Josh yesterday that 7 years and 1 day ago we were just Amy and Josh. We weren’t Mom and Dad yet. How crazy is that to think about? Now there are days that it seems that is all we are! All those years ago we had no idea what being a parent actually meant.

Yesterday Caleb, my very first baby boy turned 7. And it has gone by in a flash. As I do for all my kiddos in honor of their birthdays, I’m sharing some fun facts today about the sweet boy who made me a mommy!

  • He takes his job as big brother to 3 very seriously. He reads to them, he helps them find toys, and he explains life to them. It’s really the most beautiful thing to watch.

  • He loves art and wants to be an artist when he grows up. He has this amazing artistic and creative ability that reminds me so much of Josh. He has an eye for patterns and can just sit and sketch for a really long time.

  • He has such a sensitive soul. When he feels things, he feels them HARD.
  • This kid can RUN. Josh and I always say that he’s going to be a cross country or track star. Those little legs can go so fast! If only we could put a small track inside our house for winter use. πŸ˜‰

  • Some of my favorite moments are sitting and having long discussions with him. He has so many insightful questions and has learned so much this past year. The difference from 6 to 7 is seriously amazing.

  • I can always count on Caleb to eat and love anything I make. I can probably count on one hand the number of things he doesn’t like which is such a huge blessing to balance out our Eli who is the complete opposite. For his birthday dinner he chose chicken pot pie. πŸ˜‰

  • I see myself in him so much. He and I just really understand each other. I think we process and feel things the same way so I can understand the things he goes through differently than Josh can. I hope we always have this unique kind of bond that we do now.

 

I know that seven will be a big year and I know he is ready! I can’t wait to see what this year brings for our sweet boy.

Oh and if anyone figures out how to slow down time… you let me know.

 

And just like that. FIVE.

Happy New Year everyone!

We’ve had a quiet few days as we seriously hibernated from this insane arctic blast going through the Midwest. It’s been too crazy cold to do just about anything outside which has meant a lot of movies, a lot of new toy playing and a lot of hanging out trying to stay warm. This morning, one of our pipes in the kitchen froze! Apparently it’s towards the outside of the house without much insulation behind it but luckily we noticed right away and Josh was able to thaw it and add more insulation before it caused a huge problem.

 

Before this crazy cold snap while I was taking a blogging break for the holidays, our sweet Eli turned FIVE. Five just seems like a big one doesn’t it? His birthday is a couple days after Christmas and it’s one of my missions in life to make certain that he always has a wonderful birthday like all of our other children. Even though it is close to the holiday, we make sure we are back from any holiday travels and we leave Christmas behind and celebrate BIG.

 

This year we had donuts for breakfast and went to a local Children’s museum in the morning. We had pizza at one of our favorite restaurants and played at an indoor play gym until everyone was tired, sweaty messes. He finished the day with gifts and his favorite chocolate cupcakes. I’d say he had a pretty good day. πŸ˜‰

 

Plus, now he can show his age with his entire hand which was incredibly important to him. So in honor of his very special 5th birthday, I’m sharing some fun little facts about my sweet Eli!

  • He loves (LOVES) the number 45. It’s the most hysterical and bizarre thing. If we are watching sports and a team scores 45, he gets so excited. He always guesses that people are 45 years old and tells them it’s his favorite number. It is so funny!
  • He has a truly amazing imagination. That kid can play and play with his little action figures all day long. He invents stories and makes them talk to each other and solve problems.

  • You will not meet a happier boy than my Eli. He has a constant giant smile on his face and finds joy in everything. It’s hard to be unhappy when he’s around. πŸ˜‰

  • He’s just now starting to find things that HE really loves to do. He loves his big brother so much that often he has just blindly followed Caleb into activities and things he enjoys. I love seeing him really explore his own things lately like playing basketball, making his own friends and taking the lead on games at home.

  • Whenever a commercial comes on about a charity that needs help (this week it was for sheltered animals), he so desperately wants to help. His heart is SO big and I love to see how much he cares about others. We’ve been encouraging him to take action and do little things he can to help and I love to see how he has responded.

  • Eli has always been our earliest riser and continues to be. Even when everyone is up late and the other 3 boys sleep in the next day, Eli never does. I honestly think he just needs less sleep than most people. It’s kind of frustrating now but I bet in college it will start to pay off for him. I’m a little jealous! πŸ˜‰

I’m so proud of all he has accomplished this past year. We love him so very, very much. Five is BIG. Five is kindergarten and homework and big kid stuff. I can’t wait to see what five brings!

 

 

6 tips to help you through your baby’s time in the NICU – Twin Tuesday

About a month ago, I included my feelings on World Prematurity Day in my November WUW post. Looking at those pictures brought back so many memories of that time in our lives and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it! Today the older boys and I made some Christmas cards to send to families with babies currently in the NICU. I know firsthand how isolating it can feel when life goes on around you but you feel just stuck and helpless. These families and sweet babies are in my prayers this holiday season.

 

 

Thinking so much these past few weeks about our experience after our twins were born gave me today’s Twin Tuesday post. I’m going to share the things we learned while we were there that helped us get through our experience in the NICU. While our babies were only there for a short time in comparison to babies born much earlier, I hope that the things we learned will help other mommas facing a similar situation. Please know that you are NOT alone. This is part of my Twin Tuesday series but whether you have one baby or two or more, this is for you!

 

 

It’s okay to not be okay.

I woke up the morning before our babies were born at 35w4d with no signs of labor, assuming that they were in the same optimal position they had been in to try a vaginal birth. I went to work just like always and around 11:00, I just started feeling weird. I worked at a hospital so I walked over to labor and delivery just in case. Our babies were born via c-section and whisked away from me for emergency medical care accompanied by my husband by 2:25pm. I was so completely unprepared for every moment of that almost 3 1/2 hours.

Now, coming down from post-partum twin hormones is NO joke paired with struggling to come to terms with an unexpected c-section and the fact that my babies were not with me. I spent the first few days in pretty much constant tears. My twins were my third and fourth babies so I knew how to be a mom and I knew what to do after my babies were born. But this situation was so far out of my control, I literally just didn’t know what to do. It was really, really hard.

It wasn’t until weeks later after our babies were home that I was talking to one of my neighbors and she innocently asked how I was doing with everything. I said I was doing “just fine!” through tears. (Lies. ALL lies.) She said “It’s okay to grieve the birth experience you thought you would have. It’s okay.” And I realized then that’s exactly what it was.

I was so sad that the birth my doctor and I had hoped for went out the window with no warning. I was so sad that I wasn’t able to be the first one to hold my babies after they were born. I was so sad that I didn’t get to place them on my chest and look at their tiny fingers. Yes, I was unbelievably grateful for the immediate care they received. Those doctors literally saved their lives. But it was okay to grieve the loss of the birth and the days following that I had hoped for. If you have those feelings too – it’s okay to grieve that loss.

 

Ask questions!

When members of your health care team are in the room, ask your questions! If they say something you don’t understand, ask. If you don’t know what one of the monitors or machines do, ask! It’s incredibly intimidating to walk into a room full of machines helping your baby but understanding what they each did helped me feel better.

I became overwhelmed with all the different stats they would collect and possible problems they would find on a daily basis. We found it so helpful to be in the room when the healthcare team came around for rounds so that we could hear the report and know what questions to ask.Β  I became close with one of the residents on our team and asked her to explain what each thing meant and what that potential problem or success would mean for us. It helped me process what was going on and feel more involved in their care.

Mom as much as you can

For the first few days when I would visit Reid, I mostly sat in a chair and watched him. It was such a weird feeling to have to ask someone else for permission to hold your own child. One of the night nurses asked me if I wanted to change his diaper but I was nervous about all the cords and monitors. She taught me how to move everything properly and how to hold him when I wanted to. She said that as nurses they love when parents get involved and honestly, I didn’t know I could! From then on, I changed his diaper whenever we were there, Josh or I tried to be there for every feeding and I cuddled him every chance I got.

I immediately started feeling like his mother again doing those simple tasks to care for him. It helped us bond and helped my mindset so much. Certainly it depends what level NICU your child is at but ask the nurses what you can do to help. Ask them to teach you!

 

Take care of yourself

I know this one is hard. I sucked at it. Try to remember to take care of yourself too. Drink water. Eat something that isn’t donuts. Take a breath for a few minutes. Rest when you can – especially if you’ve had a c-section. Your healthcare team is there for you. Trust them to take care of your babies when you leave the hospital or try to get some rest. Our hospital had a phone number that we could call to check on our babies or tell them that we would be there for the next feeding. Ask if your hospital has something like that.

You have babies to take care of but you can’t do it running on empty all the time. You’re a better momma and better able to handle this emotional situation when you take care of yourself too.

 

Take advantage of family programs

Our NICU offered a lounge for parents with good snacks, couches and a tv. They had signs for support groups, free meals and they would give you a free pass for the parking garage. We didn’t know about some of these things until Reid was almost discharged so ASK! If your hospital offers some of these things, don’t be afraid to use them. In these difficult situations, every tiny helping hand makes a difference.

 

Allow other people in

Having your brand new baby in the NICU can be all consuming and no one really understands what it is like until faced with that situation. I found it exhausting to explain the details to anyone what was going on so I just didn’t. I thought it would be easier but in the end it was actually incredibly isolating. By not letting anyone in on what was going on, I had to bear the burden and stress alone.

When Luke was released to come home and was having trouble gaining weight, my doctor talked about him being readmitted to the hospital. I reached a total breaking point and called my mom to unload. It helped me so much that I started calling her multiple times a day when we would have updates. It’s not like she could really do anything to make the situation better but just knowing someone else was thinking about us and praying for the specific problem changed everything for me.

Let people in. Lean on your spouse and support system and try to talk about how you are feeling. They can’t completely understand but having people in your corner makes a big difference.

That’s Twin Tuesday for today! There is so many things on my prayer list these days, but those strong NICU mama bears are sure towards the top.

 

For more Twin Tuesday topics, check out:

How to live life with newborn twins

How to include older siblings when you have infant twins

Preparing for your twins

 

Christmas Gift Tags – Free Printable!

Happy Wednesday everyone! We’ve been having some really beautiful warm December weather in Iowa the past week or so which has left my boys with some serious concern about Christmas not coming if there hasn’t been snow. I will admit that I’m usually all about the snow in December! The feeling lasts until mid-January when I am OVER all the snow and ready for spring. My older boys have been super annoyed about having to wear a winter coat in the morning to school and then – and I quote – “roasting like warm marshmallows” in them by recess time. I think this warm weather is about over and I think we are all ready for the weather to feel like Christmas time too.

It was time for my annual trip to the Dollar Store for Christmas wrapping paper last night and made out like a bandit. πŸ˜‰ I love getting all my wrapping supplies there: paper, tissue paper, boxes, ribbon/bows and TAPE. All. The. Tape. Partially because I go through a lot and partially because I always misplace half of it. Tell me I’m not the only one.

I love buying wrapping supplies at the Dollar Store because then I can afford to buy a bunch of different pretty papers plus the character wrapping paper that our kids love without spending very much. Our Santa always wraps his gifts in gold paper (or puts big gold bows on larger items) so I dig through the wrapping paper bins and buy up all the gold too. πŸ˜‰

One thing I never buy there though is gift tags! I love me some cute gift tags and the ones in stores just don’t really do it. I created these gift tags forΒ  our gifts this year and you can download this FREE printable too! Right here! Print them, cut them out, tape on or string them on a ribbon and a super cute gift you have! OR you can buy this label paper and print them on that instead. I love using label paper because you cut them out, peel off the back and they are stickers ready to go!

And don’t forget about those gifts from Santa!

PLUS, I also created these cute Santa gift tags! You can find those to download here.

I considered trying to have all my wrapping done this week so I didn’t have to worry about it but then I realized that wrapping to me isn’t a chore. I love to wrap gifts! Josh and I always settle in with a Christmas movie and hot chocolate while I wrap gifts a little every night the week or so before Christmas and I like it that way. πŸ˜‰

 

Do you dread wrapping gifts or look forward to it like me?

 

Don’t forget to pin for when it’s time to get your wrap on. πŸ˜‰ (Hover over or tap the upper left corner of the images above.) Happy wrapping!

 

If you like these gift tags, check out the Christmas printables in my Etsy shop!

 

 

How my strong willed child changed everything I thought I knew about motherhood

I’m sharing a big piece of my heart today that I hope many mommas can relate to.

From the moment we found out we were expecting our sweet second child, Eli has turned what I thought I knew about motherhood completely upside down. We found out I was pregnant with Eli when first baby was just over a year old. Right when things were starting to get a little easier and I felt like I had my life under control again. πŸ˜‰ While Caleb was born two weeks early, Eli arrived in his own time. Three days after his due date, two days after Christmas. My doctor was so sure that he would be early, that I bought him Christmas outfits that were never worn.Β  I didn’t know it then, but that initial stubborn streak was our first clue to what our sweet boy had in store for us.

When I worried about loving a second child the way I loved my first, Eli changed that the moment I laid eyes on him. When I worried about balancing a career and two very young children at home, my maternity leave with Eli brought me such immense joy that I knew my career had taken a backseat and for the first time, I was perfectly okay with that. When I worried about how Caleb would feel about another tiny human coming into our family, Eli made it impossible for us all not to completely fall in love with him and forget what life was like before.

 

My sweet go with the flow baby, slowly grew into a very opinionated, affectionate, and strong-willed toddler. Eli showed us (and our pediatrician) that he absolutely could meet milestones at the traditional times, however he wouldn’t until he decided he was ready to.

I attempted to parent my second child the same way that I parented my first. I struggled to find a way to encourage him to do things like I thought he should. I heard so much talk about a ‘strong willed child’ but assured myself that was not what we were dealing with. That term sounded so negative and my sweet boy was anything but. At some point I reached such a level of frustration that I wasn’t getting through to him that I read article after article about how to parent a ‘strong willed child’. I thought about him and worried about him all the time.

 

At a Church picnic one day, I was talking to a fellow mama of four born close together and we were commiserating over our ‘difficult child’. The one we struggle with and stay up late at night worrying about. She said that she thought she and her child butted heads often because they are so much alike. I realized then that I think the reason I struggle sometimes with being the mother Eli needs is because we are so different. Caleb and I are so much the same that I understand his feelings, his disappointments and what he needs from me. Eli thinks and feels differently than I do and I don’t innately know how to relate to him.

He’s stubborn like his Daddy. He is enthusiastic about everything and finds great joy in the tiny things. He loves SO fiercely. He is so independent that he scares me and I think his biggest wish in the world is that he would wake up tomorrow the same age as his older brother. He acts and speaks without thinking and goes a million miles an hour at all times. He’s joyful and loud and leaves a trail of toys and goldfish wherever he goes. He jumps into new things without a second thought or worry about the unknown. In other words, he is NOTHING like me.

 

 

I finally realized (in an Oprah-type lightbulb moment) that it wasn’t him that needed to change – it was me. He’s not only nothing like me, he is nothing like his big brother. He’s uniquely Eli. As it should be! From that moment on, I tried to try to be the mother that Eli needed and I stepped back and let him be who he is. And you know what? I don’t think it changed him but it absolutely changed me.

Eli has taught me to to let go. That’s it’s okay to lose control in every sense of the phrase – from dancing crazy in the kitchen after dinner and letting those dirty dishes sit to not needing to micromanage every piece of our lives. That you need to pick your battles and trust God that you are picking the right ones to let slide and the right ones to fight. That life doesn’t need to be so serious and moments of pure unfiltered joy should be experienced daily. That sometimes you just need to jump and experience and enjoy – and not think so darn much about it all the time.

 

 

It took me awhile to realize that my job as his mother wasn’t to try to change him to fit the mold. Yes there are things I have to put my foot down on. We have to wear pants when we leave the house (we just do!), his feet can in fact walk and not run at times, there are times we can be loud and crazy and there are times we need to slow down and listen, AND one cannot sustain themselves on goldfish and blueberries alone. My job as his mother is to encourage and nurture and accept the parts that don’t fit the mold. And I started to be excited that he doesn’t fit, because that is Eli. The things he will do in his life will be amazing and THAT is something I’m sure of.

I will always love him unconditionally but I’m also learning to love him for who he is right now not who I think he should be. He has the biggest smile that lights up his whole face. He is the first one (and sometimes only one) of my children to notice when I’ve done my hair or put on a real shirt and makes sure to tell me I’m beautiful every. single. time. He is full of such joy that his enthusiasm can break through your hardest day.

 

 

Hardly ever do we get to really see God’s whole plan for us or can even attempt to understand it. He knew what our family needed when we didn’t and I think Eli was the one I most NEEDED. For me to become the mother He knew I could be. Each of my four children need different things from me and I learn different things from each of them. But my beautiful, strong willed, sweet, ‘most difficult’ child? Eli has taught me the most.

What has been the most valuable lesson that your children have taught you?

 

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