Monday, June 30, 2014

14 Weeks: The Twins' Daily Schedule

Before Emmett and Oliver were born, I read so. many. blogs/articles about daily schedules and what to do with newborns. It felt like I was starting every sentence with "So I was reading this blog..." Some people recommended very strict schedules with no deviation whatsoever or oh.em.gee your newborn will be confused and cry all day! Some recommended a loosely based schedule revolving around baby's feeding schedule. I'm an easy going person. I chose the laid back style schedule and made a few changes to it. I read about an acronym "EASY" that refers to basic scheduling.

E - Eat
A- Activity
S- Sleep
Y- Your time

Sounds easy enough, right? That's what I stick to. As best as possible. Now here is where I deviate. Our day DOES NOT start before 7 a.m. - it just doesn't. That is not something I'm willing to tolerate as I enjoy sleep entirely too much. So sometime 7 a.m. or after, the babies get up and eat. They play in their activity center or activity gym, do some tummy time, have dance time with me, whatever. This goes on until they start to get tired. Learn to recognize signs of tiredness in your baby!

Once I see that they are getting tired, I put them down for naps in their swings. This is usually the longest nap time for the day, about 2 hours. I shower, eat, clean, cook, whatever I need to get done for the day during this nap! It is vital to my well-being that they take this nap. Then the cycle starts all over again, but I make a few changes just for the heck of it. At the next activity time, I put them in a different gym, their Pack'N Play, make them have tummy time facing each other (they are really starting to enjoy their "meeting" times!) anything to bring some variety to the routine. 

Oliver enjoying "tummy time" in his jungle tunnel!

The cycle repeats itself. Again. And again. Activities that the boys can do at 14 weeks include:
  • Sitting in their swings with toys to grip on to/put in their mouths.
  • Playing in their jungle tunnel either on their backs, batting at dangling toys and kicking or on tummy time facing each other and chatting. 
  • Tummy time, propped up on their nursing pillows.( They just started to be able to press buttons on a table toy that I prop up for them and they love that it makes noise!)
  • Going for a walk in their stroller through the neighborhood.
  • Laying on their backs in their Pack'N Play, batting at various dangling toys. 
Emmett practicing "tummy time" propped up by a nursing pillow.
These boys are busy, busy, busy! Activity centers, stimulating toys, listening to Pandora ---Anything to stimulate their little minds without me having to work double time to entertain them constantly!

Essential Items:
  • Wubbanubs - We have the patterned monkey and blue dinosaur
  • Boppy nursing pillow with cute cover
  • Baby Einstein Jungle Safari Tunnel (discontinued) What a bummer.
Wondering what the boys are up to next? Take a look...

Did I mention that it is absolutely mandatory for them to be on the same schedule? I would go crazy if I allowed them to set their own schedules! So at 14 weeks, we have a good thing going and I know it's just going to get better! What daily routine camp do you fall into? Any tips for first time moms?


Friday, June 27, 2014

How We Save Money With Twins - Part 1: Yard Sales!

Don't forget to follow Oh.em.gee it's Nikkie on Facebook  

As soon as I would tell someone I was pregnant with twins, after the initial "Do twins run in your family? Do you know what you're having yet?" questions, it seemed like everyone wanted to tell me how expensive having twins would be. Like that would be encouraging at all? Like I had planned to have twins just so I could spend ALL THE MONEY?! I'm here to tell you that babies (even more than one at a time) do not have to be expensive. Sure, there are the basic costs of feeding, watering, diapering, etc but there are even ways to save money there. I'm going to share some secrets of what worked for us, and what didn't... the inside scoop, if you will. My FAVORITE way to save money is by shopping yard sales! This also happens to be a hobby that my husband and I both share and enjoy so it makes for a great Saturday morning out with the babies.

I'd like to think that I could be considered a "professional yard-saler" at this point. Not like I should be on Hoarders or that show where you place a bid on a garage full of junk to see what you can re-sell. And definitely not Antique Roadshow because really my only specialty is baby things.

At any given time I can almost guarantee that one or both of my children will be wearing some article of clothing that was purchased at a yard sale - onesie, socks, bib... don't care!

Shopping yard sales - what works and what doesn't:

Boys wearing yard sale outfits and bibs
1. There is such a thing as "yard sale season" here in Pennsylvania. It seems to run from April through September. So stock up on all the next 2-ish sized clothes for your baby during this season and it will hold you over on buying baby clothes until the holidays! Buy only what you will need or use until Christmas-time or your baby's birthday rolls around because if I have learned anything so far, it's that babies get spoiled. By grandparents. By aunts and uncles. By baby-loving co-workers. The boys just grew into six 6 month clothing so I have been shopping for 9 and 12 month clothing.
2. Shop early. Yard sales in this area tend to run Thursday through Saturday. Shop on Thursday when you can! There will be fewer people out and you will get first choice on items! This also means getting out to the yard sales as early in the morning as possible - 8 a.m. - I mean, it's not like you were sleeping anyway!

3. Be picky. You're not saving money if you're buying things that you won't use. Sure, someone might be selling baby toys for 50 cents each but if your baby has outgrown them, they're in bad condition or you just don't think you will use them it is okay to pass on them! Same goes for clothing --- if it's not in good condition or if you don't like it enough to be excited about putting your baby in it, pass!

4. Yard sale in the right towns. You know what I mean. There are always some yard sales you can drive right by because you can see that there is nothing but junk sitting out. This year we went to a huge community yard sale in a development that is WAY out of our price range. We were drooling (I was oogling mostly, but Andy may have actually drooled a little) over some of these houses, the well-manicured lawns, the swimming pools, etc. The benefit of this? These people all seemed to have kids. They had really nice baby items and LOTS of them. I did notice the prices tended to be a little bit higher but the quality of the items was amazing and they were in excellent condition.

5. Know what you can buy at a yard sale and what you can't. This one is pretty common sense (not that it seems to be all that common anymore...) You can get awesome deals on clothing, books and toys at yard sales. They're everywhere. Sometimes you can even find nice, larger ticket items like a stroller, Exersaucer, Pack'N Play, etc. I would not recommend buying your car seat from a yard sale (this might even be illegal in some states.) Be cautious about buying a crib, bottles or anything that looks used or in poor condition regardless of the price.

We got all of this (minus Bubsy) for $22!

6. Facebook Yard Sale Groups. I did not know these existed until just a few weeks ago but now I am obsessed, addicted, whatever. We found a swing that retails for over $150 for only $30. The only downside is having to sift through everything that people post and having it show up on your news feed. Also, site admins can be a real PIA constantly making up rules and threatening to kick people out of their groups. So if you don't mind a little drama and some news feed clutter, this is a great way to shop yard sales from the comfort of your home!

How's your luck with yard sale shopping? I'd love to hear about any deals you have found or any additional tips that you could share!


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What I Ate Wednesday - Italian Sausage Pasta with Peppers and Onions.

Follow me on Pinterest for more recipes

Disclaimer: I got really excited when I was done cooking and forgot to take a picture of this dish! So while you will not see the finished product, you can rest easy knowing that it probably looked delicious. Since I ate it. All. Before taking a picture. Again, I am so sorry!

My husband does not like Italian food. I'm pretty sure his family never ate Italian food when he was growing up and now he just doesn't understand how good pasta is. Especially with veggies. I don't think his family made him eat veggies either. Every once in a while I just can't help it. I crave pasta. Really good pasta. In fact, this week I was craving Italian food so badly, I planned our entire week's meals around it. Italian everyday!!!

Italian Sausage Pasta with Peppers and Onions

I guess this is an appropriate place for a second disclaimer... I don't measure things. For some reason, measuring while cooking really irritates me and throws me out of the cooking groove. I'm pretty sure the only things I measure are baking powder and baking soda because if you mess that up, you're screwed! So this recipe has vague estimates --- use your imagination and do what feels right!

  • 1 lb penne pasta
  • 3 Italian sausage links (mild, sweet, hot, whatever you like!)
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1/2 pint of cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Pinch of Italian seasonings, red pepper flakes, etc Again, whatever you like!
  • 1 jar spaghetti sauce
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of pesto (I use jarred - ain't nobody got time for fresh pesto right now!)
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
Now here is where it gets really fun! Chop all of your veggies (we call this prep work!) Cook your pasta and set aside. De-case (is that a thing?) your sausage links and throw the sausage, veggies, minced garlic, and seasonings into a large skillet.

Chop up the sausage while it's cooking and stir and cook until meat is done and veggies are cooked. Add pasta to the sausage and veggies then add the spaghetti sauce and pesto. Stir until combined and let simmer for a few minutes for the flavors to combine. Dish up and top with Parmesan cheese.

Now can you understand how I forgot to take a photo of the finished product?
I thought so.  
Don't judge me!

** Disclosure 

Monday, June 23, 2014

3 Awesome Baby Shower Gifts

Follow me on Pinterest for ALL THINGS BABY

I did not even realize these items existed until I received them as gifts but oh.em.gee are they awesome! When I was putting together my baby registry, it was overwhelming. Like so overwhelming that at least twice I broke down crying in Target and Andy had to comfort me all the way home (seriously.) As a first time mom, I had no idea what I would need or even what kind of baby items existed. I am so grateful to my friends and family who gifted these items to us because they have become some of our favorites! These items are ah-maz-ing. Like 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep amazing. Like not having to share your dessert with anyone amazing. Like... okay, I'll chill. Here's the list. 

1. Summer Infant SwaddleMe Swaddlers. My babies loved to be swaddled like I love to eat. So, a lot. These come in cute colors and patterns. They velcro-close in all the right places to get a snug fit. They're easy to use and saved me a lot of time at night since I didn't have to re-swaddle anyone. When my babies started to roll, I cried. I did not want to be done using these swaddles. Pair these swaddles with some pacifiers, a book and some lavender lotion and call it a "Sleepy time kit." Or be more creative than I am, that's fine too.
2. Fisher-Price Papasan Cradle Swing. This is not your average baby swing. It's like a super deluxe baby swing on crack. You can just forget all other swings. We purchased one off of a Facebook yard sale group for only $30 and my cousin gave us a hand-me-down one for free. It is a big ticket item, so put one on your registry and hope for a generous gift-giver or two! This swing goes in 2 directions, has a mirror-type thing that baby can see his reflection in and a moving mobile. It runs on D batteries but they last a good, long time. The neutral color fits in perfectly with our living room, too! (Side note: I am obsessed with the idea of baby things not taking over our house... three months down still holding strong!)

Look at that face!
3. Wubbanub - the hug-able pacifier! This is BY FAR my favorite baby item EVER. There is nothing more annoying than giving your baby a pacifier, going downstairs and before your feet even make it to the bottom stair, hearing your baby crying because his bink fell out. Again. And again. And again. Times two, if you have twins-ies! At first, we had to tuck the pacifier into their blankets or arms to help them keep a hold of it, but now at 13 weeks they can hug the stuffed animal themselves. And they come in so. many. animals. We have the blue dinosaur and a patterned monkey.

The only down side I have heard (but not experienced) for this product is that some of the animals do not lay as nicely against baby... particularly the elephant because his trunk gets in the way. Oh and did I mention??? It is nearly impossible to lose them because they are attached to the stuffed animal! Someone needs to give the inventor of these things a medal or the Noble Peace Prize.

So the moral of this story is, if you do not get these items as baby shower gifts - go buy them IMMEDIATELY.

If you have a favorite baby item, do you gift it to new mothers? What's your go-to awesome baby shower gift??

**Disclosure statement

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Great Controversy: Rice Cereal.

Follow on Facebook! Pin it! Tweet it! 

The Great Controversy: Rice cereal. Should you add it to baby's bottle? 

Don't Google it. Save yourself. I Google'd this great controversy and I read every opinion on every message board and every article from this pediatrician or that one. Just don't do it. It's overwhelming and ridiculous and I am about to save you hours and hours by summarizing the internet.
At eight weeks, I decided to stop breastfeeding after a lovely bout of mastitis (it really does blow. I would rank all time worst illnesses I would wish on people starting with 1. Lyme disease 2. mastitis 3. stomach bug. Yes, it's that bad.) Once the babies were strictly on formula I knew I would be able to keep track of how much they were eating. At 8 weeks, they were eating 3-4 ounces every 2-3 hours. They were still getting up multiple times a night to feed even though they had doubled their birth weights and were getting enough calories during the day. What's a tired momma to do at that point?

Several people had suggested putting Gerber rice cereal in their bottles at night to help keep their tummies full. As usual, before making any decisions, I have this obsessive need to Google (everything!) and use multiple sources to make an informed decision of my own.

Pros and Cons of using rice (or oatmeal) cereal in bottles:

  • It may not have any effect at all. You and your baby may not notice anything. 
  • It may not help them sleep through the night although, in our experience, I believe it did help stretch their feedings. Read: slightly more uninterrupted sleep for a tired mom.
  • Some articles say that you're teaching them unhealthy eating habits for later down the road and they WILL BECOME OBESE because of this. (What?!?)
  • Some refuse because the pediatrician didn't tell you to do it. Fair enough. But I know our pediatrician is very by the book and scripted. It's like talking to a machine. Insert question, receive computerized answer.
  • They could choke/aspirate due to the thickness of the liquid or the size of hole in the nipple allowing milk to get through too quickly. This is the only con that I found but can be avoided using [not so] common sense.
  • It CAN (and in our experience, does) keep their tummies full longer, it really does.
  • It helps them learn different textures, consistencies, and even flavors.
  • Your baby is getting the same nutritional benefits (cereals are fortified) but with fewer feedings and more sleep in between. Think about it this way. The rice cereals are fortified with vitamins, nutrients, iron, etc. If your baby drinks a 4 ounce bottle at bed time and you add a scoop of rice cereal to it, you are adding calories, yes. But you are also extending the amount of time between feedings, which balances it out. 
  • It is one of the treatments/recommendations for babies with reflux. So a minor case is usually treated by adding rice cereal to the bottle (weighing down the milk) to make it stay in the stomach. In essence, this is what the "special" acid reflux formulas are. 

Starting solids, like a boss!
Now, here's the basics to get you started. Yes, your baby could choke or aspirate the mixture but here is where some common sense comes into play. Sit your baby up to feed. You don't eat soup laying flat on your back, so don't try to feed your baby that way. Use an appropriate nipple. This is not the time to become a surgeon and perform a procedure on a nipple you already have. Spring for the next level up in whatever brand you are using. (Yes! Nips come in different levels!) Don't make the mixture too thick. You're not trying to feed solids to your baby yet - you're just trying to thicken the formula a bit. If you would feed it to your baby off a spoon, you've gone too far. Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Once your baby can eat solids from a spoon, you can stop adding cereal to the bottles.

We started with the basic Gerber rice cereal and by 13 weeks, the babies had expanded their collection of cereal to include Oatmeal and Banana, Oatmeal with Peach and Apple, and Rice with Banana and Apple. Maybe we'll move on to caviar and stinky cheeses next to expand their palates even further!

The night we started adding cereal to their bottles (just one teaspoon/4-ounce bottle) was the same night that both boys started sleeping a 6 hour stretch. They would then wake up for a night time feeding with another 4-ounce bottle with cereal and then sleep for another 4 hours. You cannot believe how ecstatic I was the first night they slept for 6 hours. Unless you know me personally and my love affair with sleep, then you might have some basic idea.

I am not a pediatrician, just a mom trying to figure out what works best for her family. These are my experiences and I hope that I can help out some new moms trying to figure out the world of babies!

Leave me a comment with your experiences!

**Disclosure statement

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sleep Basics for Baby

Follow Oh.em.gee it's Nikkie on Facebook and Pinterest

SLEEP. 4 months ago my most favorite-est thing in the whole world was sleep. Or even just lying in bed, snug and warm - with or without the hubby. Then my babies happened. Sleep became a thing of the past literally overnight

(Side note: Why must people start every conversation with "Are you getting much sleep?" or the even less amusing question, "Are the babies sleeping through the night yet? WHO HAS A BABY WHO SLEEPS THROUGH THE NIGHT AT 2 WEEKS OLD?!? ... but I digress...)

Now my babies come in first on the favorite list, closely followed by sleep. While I was pregnant, I researched a lot about teaching your baby to sleep and also about the every 2-3 hour feedings as newborns. It didn't really hit me what every 2-3 hours felt like until I was doing it night after night. Some nights I barely clocked in 5 [interrupted] hours of sleep. And at 7 weeks, I had to go back to work. So I did what any sleep-deprived momma does and turned to Dr. Google to find out how to fashion my babies into champion sleepers.

After reading the entire internet's worth of sleep training advice, all of the experts' contradictions and each and every side of every controversy (disclaimer: I did not actually read the entire internet) I put it all together and this is what I came up with: I have no idea what I'm doing. To swaddle or not to swaddle? If I use a white noise machine, will they ever be able to sleep in a quiet place? And oh-em-gee, if I don't cradle and rock my babies until they are in a dead sleep and then tiptoe out of the room, will I be the worst mother ever? Everything I read was exhausting, truly exhausting. And I had newborn twins so I know exhausting.

Here are the basics:
  • Babies need a routine, something consistent and predictable. Start early. Babies should be in bed at a way earlier time than I thought. We start our routine around 6:45 p.m. and everyone is in bed and asleep by 7:30 at the latest. Our routine goes as follows: dinner of pureed something, quiet playtime in their nursery, bath time, pajamas, warm bottle with added rice cereal*, swaddle, sleep.  
  • Swaddle. We use the Summer Infant Swaddlers because they are amazing... you can read about WHY I love these things so much here! Swaddle until they no longer want to be swaddled or they begin to roll over. We then switched to sleep sacks around 5 months and footed pajamas at 8 months.
  • White noise. We do use a white noise machine for bed time and naps. And we use it at a moderately loud setting. I have slept with white noise on at that volume and it is comfortable and comforting. 
  • Put baby down awake. One very important point that I would like to stress is that we put our babies in their cribs drowsy, but awake. And we have from day one. They learn to fall asleep on their own instead of putting themselves in a food coma before they hit the mattress. I honestly believe that this is key the key to a good night's sleep. I do not need to rock the babies to sleep or tiptoe out of the room. I mean, seriously, who has time to do that every night for a year with one baby, let alone two at the same time? It would be a different story if these guys were singletons, I'm sure.
At 4 months, the boys are only waking once in the middle of the night for a bottle (with cereal added to that one as well*) and then waking between 5 and 6 a.m. - we will be working on extending early morning wake-ups next, with a goal wake time of 7 a.m.

If you've liked (or heck, even if you didn't like) what you read in the post - tell me about it! 

*Yes, I understand this is one of those controversial topics... please do your own research to find out if adding rice (or oatmeal) cereal to bottles is the right decision for your family. You can read this post for the pros and cons on this topic and much more information, as I am quite passionate about it!

**Disclosure statement