What’s new in April (besides snow)

Hey everyone! Today is a little like a mystery flavor post. There’s just way too much great stuff going on to make cohesive sense, so I’m just going to mix it all together and call it good. It worked for Airheads, right? Anyway. It’s April 1, and it’s snowing. I want to say it’s some sort of April Fool’s joke, but who am I kidding. It’s just Minnesota.

First and foremost:
This month, we’re starting a month-long series on self-care around here. Why self-care? Have you ever heard the phrase, “When mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”?

Right.

For the next three weeks, I have three different voices lined up to give you their thoughts on how they take purposeful care of their personal lives in order to help them in their vocations. I hope you can glean something from their ideas and find a few new, practical ways to care for yourself. Check back in on Thursday for our first post!

Second:

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Well rested babies are happy babies

Sleep training for the twins is complete. No more crying it out. No more muscle jerking, ear-splitting, teeth clenching wails at 3:00 am. We are finally all sleeping through the night – as in 7:00 pm to 6:00 am most days. The twins stopped wanting their “dream feeding” two weeks ago, and since then, it’s been a solid, 11 hour stretch of beautiful sleep.

No swings. No rocking. No more pacing the floor required. Our bedtime routine now consists of changing diapers, putting on pajamas, and then bringing them to their dark room to lay down with their nuks and loveys. We turn on the fan for white noise, and off to dreamland they go.

It was a long, dark road. But we’ve now emerged in a pleasant place. God is good.

Third:
The twins aren’t the only ones who got trained. Some sort of switch went off for Ellis, and she is suddenly potty trained. I’m dumbfounded.

Two weeks ago we did another round of undies training (same as a year ago). This time she had a 50% success rate, and I ran out of carpet cleaner. Then she got sick, and we put it all on hold. I figured she wasn’t ready. But this Wednesday, she requested undies again, and kept them dry all day. Thursday was the same. Since last Friday, she’s only had one accident.

I have no idea why now was the time. Nor do I think I’m any sort of oracle for potty training wisdom. Best I can say is that she was ready, and in typical fashion, just made her mind up and went with it. She never ceases to amaze me, my spirited, sassy, stubborn little Swede.

Fourth:
We’re going to learn how to make yogurt! Okay, maybe I’m the only one super excited about this. But my friend Lacey offered to show me her tinkered, tested, and perfected method for homemade yogurt, and I feel like I inherited the moon.

We are going through yogurt like WATER at my house these days, and it’s eating my grocery budget alive. So if you A. hate paying $4.50 for a tub of organic yogurt, B. hate paying $9.00 for two tubs of organic yogurt, or C. HATE paying $18.00 for FOUR tubs of organic yogurt a week, you should probably check back in next week.

That’s all I’ve got. If you want a good giggle, here’s an adorable video of Ellis making the twins laugh. We are loving the 8 month stage.

 

 

 

 

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Sleep Training the Twins

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Dual Swinging

I didn’t know how good I had it. That’s usually the way it goes, right? We went through our days of infancy on a pretty routine schedule – eat, activity, sleep. Except by sleep, I mean that I put the babies in their swings and let them fall asleep there.

Every. Single. Time.

In my own defense, what else can one person do with two crying babies? I only have two arms. The swings seemed like the perfect way to keep them sleeping and secure. But when I went anywhere that didn’t have my magic swings, the girls had a difficult time taking any sort of nap. I chalked it up to different environment, but what I didn’t realize was this.

The swings had created a monster. (Two adorably sweet monsters, to be exact.)

I have a theory here – and it’s just a theory mind you – that the girls didn’t learn how to calm themselves down at an early age because whenever they fussed, I put them in the swings to calm them down. The constant motion lulled them to sleep, yes, but it took away the need for them to do one very important thing. Self soothe.

This was a problem, as were a couple of other things. So we took a giant leap right after Christmas.

1. We moved the girls into separate cribs

Hey sister-friend, what do you think of the whole arm-out system?

Hey sister-friend, what do you think of the whole arm-out system?

2. We stopped using the swings to lull them to sleep for naps and bedtime

3. We quit swaddling their arms

4. We moved Ellis into a big girl bed (so that now she can climb in and out with ease, open her door, and demand such things in the middle of the night as “a wittle drink”, help finding the tag on her blanket, and my personal favorite, to go poop.

In short, we started sleep training. Here’s why we decided to give it a go.

  • The girls were no longer sleeping through the night. Since four months, they had been getting up once or twice per night to eat. And because Jason had to go to work and Ellis was sleeping next door, I would rush in, feed them as quick as I could, and stumble back to bed. NOT sustainable.
  • When one twin woke up, it was almost inevitable that the other would wake up as well since her sister was literally screaming an inch away from her ear.
  • They were totally unhappy with their arms swaddled. Half the time we’d find them in the morning with one escaped arm waving like a defiant little flag. It was only a matter of time before someone got punched in the eye.
  • The swings… oh the glorious Fisher Price Cradle ‘n Swings. We used the heck of these contraptions until just a couple of weeks ago. In fact, we even had to replace one of them after only two months because we burned out the motor. But the problem that the girls were fast outgrowing my surrogate arms, and something else was gnawing at me. It seemed like they couldn’t go to sleep without the aid of the swing.

All of these things added up to one huge problem. The girls had not learned how to self soothe. Using swaddles meant that they couldn’t reposition themselves in the night if they were uncomfortable. Using swings to fall asleep meant that unless we had the swings with us 24/7, (or Fisher Price decided to come out with the giant toddler version) the girls didn’t know how to get to sleep on their own. And sleeping in the same crib meant that the twins could always rely on one another’s presence as a comfort and sleep aid.

So began one of the longest periods of sleep deprivation I’ve ever experienced.

The first night we tried just putting them in separate cribs. Up five times. Strike One. The second night we tried putting them in separate cribs again. Up six times. Strike Two.

The third night something had to change. It seemed like they were kicking a lot, so I unzipped their swaddles and left their feet out. This is not how swaddles are meant to be used. Miraculously, no one suffocated. The twins were up four times, and Ellis up three. Strike Three.

The fourth night I was out of my mind exhausted. I tried putting them to sleep in the same crib again, in case they weren’t ready for separation. They screamed bloody murder for 20 minutes with a soothing period between until I separated them again. I don’t know how often they woke up that night. I lost count.

Rice cereal rocks. And I'm not even a messy eater....yet.

Gabby thinks rice cereal rocks.

So on and so forth. We tried formula before bed. We tried rice cereal. We tried laying them down earlier. Later. We tried swinging and singing, less pajamas and more pajamas, white noise and pacifiers, stuffed animals and warm bean sacks. It all started to feel a little like voodoo. You know. As in, maybe if I stand facing west, sing three verses of Children of the Heavenly Father, two in English and one in Swedish, bounce 37 times and put you down when your eyes are half-open, you’ll sleep.

I felt like I was going crazy.

Let’s be real. I am going crazy. We’re not out of the woods yet. But we are settling into a few things that seem to work after trial and error. Here they are, in no particular order.

  1. I nurse them and bottle feed them 4 ounces of formula before they lay down between 7 and 8. This ensures they have really full tummies.
  2. I have a fan going in their room for white noise, so if one wakes up, there’s a little background to help keep the other one sleeping.
  3. I no longer swaddle the girls’ arms, and when they grow another inch or two, I’ll stop swaddling all together. They just seem more comfortable this way, and can achieve the touch down position if they want – which, by the way, is an indication of complete and deeply comfortable sleep.
  4. I give them a “dream feeding” around 10 or 11pm – not waking them up at all, but simply nursing them for about 5-10 minutes and then putting them directly back to sleep. My doctor said this was a good transition method, so why not.
  5. I’ve tried to create a little bedtime routine, which includes diaper changes, calm swaddling time, and holding them while I sway and hum a few verses of whatever song comes in my head (usually it’s Peter Pan’s “Stay Awake” lullaby. Reverse psychology.) I give them nooks to suck on and loveys to clutch, and after a few minutes, I put them down when they are mostly asleep but still a tiny bit awake. Apparently this will help them learn to fall asleep on their own, and it actually does work.
  6. Unless the situation is dire (RE: Bombs away double crying madness), I do not nurse them in the middle of the night anymore. I also let them cry it out for ten minutes before I go in and soothe them. Yes, sometimes one twin wakes the other up, and then it’s double duty soothing. But since we started to cry it out, they went from 60 minutes of off-on crying to only 20 minutes at a time now (and always a soothe session after 10 minutes.)

The sad part is that all of this progress combined only yields 6 hours of sleep for me at the most (and that has only happened one time). But after the past couple weeks, 6 hours seems like a gold mine. So it’s my new goal.

In the meantime, Ellis has all but decided to stop napping, the average temperature high has been -10, and I finally mailed my Christmas cards yesterday.

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Plum and Posey design

I’m not complaining. Just weathering the storm. My mom got me a beautiful wax seal cast in a silver medallion for Christmas – it’s a picture of a thistle flower and the inscription reads Dulcius ex asperis (Sweeter after difficulties) – it’s a perfect reminder that difficulty can produce good things if approached the right way.

I’m measuring my approach. I’m exhausted, but I’m praying to be given the strength to do what I can for my girls on the day I’ve been given. Most days, amazingly enough, it comes.

Meanwhile, sleep training continues. Here’s to hoping for a better report soon.

Why I don’t sleep anymore*

exhausted-cyclist1. Not waking up every hour and a half to two hours to comfort my screaming babies might make me miss them too much. I prefer helicopter parenting, especially at night.

2. The dark shadows around my eyes are kind of like a Vogue smoky eye, which makes me look in the mirror and think, “Wow. I did my makeup today! That’s an accomplishment.”

3. Puzzling why the babies and Ellis are not sleeping is a little like problem solving – so at least I’m not totally losing all my workplace skills.

4. I’ve been needing to get to know the force mechanics of the upstairs door knobs (old house) better ever since the time I put on lotion after holding one of the babies and effectively locked myself in their bedroom. At 2 in the morning.

5. Waking up to my toddler shuffling in the room and proclaiming she’s happy and would like to wake up now just fills me with energy.

6. It’s been cold here in Minnesota – cold enough that after I’m up with a baby, I now automatically go downstairs and throw another log on the fire. This effectively ensures I wake up enough not to burn my hands or my forearms off and can go back to bed wide awake, counting down the minutes until the next cry.

7. I haven’t been sick enough this year. Not sleeping is a great way to get sick. So it’s a win-win, really.

8. I’d be missing out on seeing all the phases and cycles of the moon, hereby planting the seed for my next endeavor: astronomer. After all, I need something else to do.

9. I really like hearing my toddler take on the roll of drill sergeant when she says, “Don’t lay down, mama. Get up. Play wiff me.”

10. Trying to calm the babies before they wake one another or the rest of the household up skyrockets my blood pressure in the middle of the night. I pretend it’s a cardio rush and go back to bed feeling like I squeezed in a workout.

*More on the actual mechanics of sleep training to come.