January 29, 2016

Five Things That Save My Sanity as a Twin Mom

I've been meaning to write some sort of "must-haves" list for the first year of twin parenting since they turned one, (oh ya know, six months ago...) But every time I sit down to write it I realize something: this list looks really familiar. Because it's just like all those other parenting must-have lists. You already know the things you really need to feed, change and play with your kids, you don't need me to tell you again.  So I started thinking outside the box - things that seriously save my sanity but that I've never seen on a list before. So I guess instead of a must-have list it's more of a hey-if-you-thnk-it-might-work-try-it list to help you keep your sanity.

1. A climber/play structure in the playroom (or in our case, the dining room)

I never really planned on having to squeeze by a slide on my way to bed every night but I also didn't plan on having twins who would age into insane toddlers in the middle of winter. Before they were even a year old I knew I'd need something to help them burn that energy and work out their new skills. I looked at a ton of options but ultimately we put the Step 2 Play Ball Fun Climber on our amazon wishlist because it was small but had stairs, a slide, a chill spot above and below and a cool ball drop thingie. My awesome Dad gifted it to them for their birthday and we set it up a few weeks later.  It is a lifesaver.

Because, what is every toddler's favorite thing to do, besides turn your world upside down? Climb, of course! Climb and explore all of the things! So what do we do when they're climbing on the couch/chairs/TV stand/each other? "Hey! Let's go on the climber!"

So far, it works every time. I walk over and they follow me and get to work going up and down over and over, crawling underneath, just hanging out reading a book or kicking their legs off the side, or dropping balls down the tubes. Now they love to push it around and slide down into different parts of the room (or just trap each other in places.) They even mastered climbing up the slide before learning how to walk which was really cool to see. While it won't last long-term on it's own (hello, we definitely need a jungle gym or something like that) I love that it is (relatively) small, considering the 800 sq. ft. apartment we live in so it is a perfect indoor option.

2. My iPod and a $20 cat docking station

I actually almost threw my ipod away a while back. It was glitchy and I hate earbuds and my dock had died so it just sat in a drawer. Then I was registering for the girls and looking into sound machines and couldn't find one I loved so I thought about a CD player but who even buys CDs anymore? I know I don't have any from the last 10 years. So I'd have to burn them... is that a thing even still? And then I remembered old faithful, who was already chock full of lullabies and our amazing irish relaxation music from daycare days. Perfect.

I picked up a cheap speaker at rite aid while they were in the NICU and had it ready to go in our room when they got home. When they were newborns we added some white noise and the womb sounds to it and I swear to you it was a miracle worker.  We moved it from room to room and often had it blasting in the living room just to cover all our bases on wherever babies might fall asleep. I know entirely too much about what it sounded like in my mom's belly now.

I used the cheap speaker for 3 months but it was a PITA since I had to keep charging both of them and it had this awesome trick where the sound would just cut out at the WORST moment and come back on at the highest volume - that was so fun! Then we got this adorable cat one (affiliate but it's out of stock which is sad because you definitely need it) from my Aunt and it's been on 12 hours straight, every night for over 16 months and hasn't failed us yet! It'll die tonight though, because that's my life.

3. Place-mats in the High Chairs

My genius/mild neat-freak of a husband came up with this one. After only two or three real baby-led meals we realized that those freaking high chair covers are a joke. First, they do little to actually contain the food so you end up having to take them off anyway and they're a pain to clean themselves. Who actually has time to wash and dry them between every meal?

While the mess rarely bothered me, it drove CJ insane. We ditched the covers after a few weeks of frustration but then found that the chairs themselves were so full of food that it was even harder to clean. So while we got used to feeding and cleaning two very messy babies, we now had the added fun of full-blown dumping and wiping down two high chairs after every meal. No way, man, there had to be a better way.

Macaroni, beans and peas got nothin' on us!

Then CJ found a crap ton of these cloth placemats that I bought at yard sales or that were "passed down" to us that we have actually never used. Life changing, I kid you not. We tuck them in between the two parts of our spacesaver high chair (where the booster seat part is) so they don't move and they catch everything! After meals they are easy to remove and clean, we just empty them over the garbage and toss them in the wash. The chairs themselves rarely need cleaning more than wipe down and the covers are still pristine since we never use them. We store the mats in the kitchen and put a new one down every morning or whenever they get really messy (hello, pasta night!) Amazing!

4. The XBox/Amazon FireStick/Roku/Whatever else you have!

We cut the cable cord years ago and relied on our Xbox for any shows via hulu or netflix. While we don't usually watch a ton of TV, I would not have survived the last year without the Xbox. It is so much more than just TV (although the $7.99/month hulu subscription also helps so I can keep up my Grey's Anatomy and General Hospital habits.) We recently picked up the Amazon Fire Stick and it's even better than the Xbox - no more lagging or buffering and we don't have to keep that thing running when we just want to have music on.

 During the day I use it for music with Pandora or iHeartRadio and unlike using my phone (even with a speaker) the sound can be heard all over the house without being deafening. Netflix has these amazing moving art films with gorgeous scenery and music that they just love (many thanks to Stephanie over at Double Crunch for making that suggestion months ago in our twin due date group!)

Recently, I've started playing Pentatonix and Janet Lansbury videos on YouTube and the girls are obsessed. We have dance parties and they ask for White Winter Hymnal by patting their chests and I'll put some Janet on while changing their diapers (one of our biggest battlegrounds) and instead of fighting or running away they chill right out, watching the babies play and listening to her incredibly soothing voice. And I get a refresher on respectful parenting during one of our most stressful times.

I could be so wrong but I feel like I'm helping them develop a positive relationship with the TV itself, since they don't associate it with just watching a show and tuning out. Sometimes it's on all day long but it's not just noise and lights to distract them, it's music to play by or interesting images to look at, things that are meaningful and thoughtful, at least I hope they are on some level.

I'm just so glad there is so much more out there than just Disney Channel or Nickelodeon and that we get to access it like this. Plus, the internet has everything so we got to learn all about David Bowie and Professor Snape in honor of their passing a few weeks ago. Win win for everyone!

5. The Mega Crib

Ok, sorry for the super twin specific last one but it's gotta be one of my favorites of all time. The Mega Crib is amazing! And all you need are two cribs and some zip ties.

Going way back, my girls never slept together. Well, ok, that's not really true, a few times I put them in the same crib for a nap but they always woke up too early. Oh and for 4 months we all shared a bed for half the night, but they were on either side of me so that doesn't really count. They always had separate everything and their cribs (that are solid, not slats, on the ends) were kiddie-corner so they couldn't even really see each other when they were in their room.

When they were about 11 months old I was watching on the camera one night and I realized they were looking for and reaching through the slats trying to reach each other. It broke my heart and we put them side-by-side the next day. Then a few months later they started holding hands through the slats, or stealing each others books or blankets. And then they started pulling hair or hitting to wake the other one up. We took a risk but decided to tear down that wall - and they sleep so freaking well.

They play and chit-chat until they fall asleep, roll all over each other while getting comfortable and then fall asleep, only sometimes snuggling, but almost always touching. When they wake up in the middle of the night they will cry out but sometimes before I can even consider going in they roll over and find their sister and fall back asleep. Best. thing. ever.

Oh and bonus number 6, one that is truly specific to our family: My trusty tote bin from Wal-Mart that I am so grateful to have simply for the ability to bathe my kids semi-easily in my bathtub-less house. Definitely not a must-have for everyone but it is for us!

All of my lists have had some super random items and have definitely been unique to me but I like to think I'm helping at least one parent save their sanity. So please let me know if any of these have ever worked for you!


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