Monday, October 27, 2014

Mandy Hose, She Knows

The alternate title of this post should be "Sleep Training-- It's Not The Devil. It Saved My Life". Buckle up because this one is going to be LONG.

I've mentioned a few times that "sleep training" i.e. cry it out was not my style. It still really isn't. The sleep issue, however, has really taken a toll on me the last couple of months. My day consisted of literally feeding and rocking babies to sleep. Once I did get them down for a nap they slept for maybe a half hour. Night sleep was a total joke. Getting either girl down for the night was an hours long process. Eleanor was up every 1.5-2 hours.

In short: I was ready for a change because what we were doing was not working for anyone anymore.

That's when Mandy Hose entered my life. I am not kidding-- she walked in right in the nick of time. I was on the platform ready to board the train to CrazyTown. Or rather, she FaceTimed into my life in the nick of time. Mandy is an Early Parenting Consultant. I like to think of her as a Magic Sleep Lady. She specializes in sleep and settling support to help teach parents how to have their babies sleep better. She's based in Melbourne, Australia, but that works out to be a huge advantage that I'll get to in a bit. In Australia they have these things called Sleep Schools where parents can go to the hospital, check in for a week, and the staff there helps you learn how to settle your baby so you can all sleep better. And this is offered by the Australian government. There's no resource like that in America. There are private sleep consultants that tend to be extremely expensive, believe me I looked at them. Mandy worked in one of those sleep schools for a long time before opening her own business as an Early Parenting Consultant. She's a twin mum too, so she knows what the logistics of getting two babies to sleep is like.

Mandy FaceTimed with me last Monday evening for over an hour. We went over my pregnancy, how the girls eat/nurse, what our current sleep issues are, what my goals for sleep are, what is reasonable to expect for babies at 13 months old, and how we were going to accomplish this. We discussed how I was not on board with cruel cry it out methods where you stick the baby in the bed and just let them scream for a long time. We formulated a game plan, which she typed up and emailed to me afterwards, and Brad and I picked a day to start our sleep-learning (which was Friday).

You guys. I was DREADING sleep training because I didn't want to listen to the crying.  I was prepared for crying because babies get mad when you switch up their routing because they don't know what's going on. I was ok with some crying because to be honest I had tried the no cry sleep solution which was really the no sleep, no solution method. The first nap was rough-- they cried a lot and didn't sleep. Second nap was better; there was some fussing for about 45 minutes. By bed time that night they basically went right to sleep. Eleanor woke up twice that night but re-settled. Surprisingly, Amelia had a harder time with it. But through all of this, since it was the middle of the day in Australia, Mandy was giving me support and encouragement via Facebook messages. She told me exactly what to do and encouraged me to stay the course. Talk about a HUGE advantage! I had support during the hardest part of sleep teaching! By Saturday, they were acting like old pros. I put them in their cribs and they....just...went to sleep. This method did involve crying but it was NOT uncomforted crying, so that made me feel better. I actively reassured the girls when they needed it.

Since saturday, which I realize is only three days, the girls have put themselves to sleep for every sleep. They actually nap. Eleanor has slept entirely through the night, in her own bed, two nights in a row. This is a game changer. I have gained hours of my day back. They girls are more rested. I know it sounds so dramatic but my life has changed. It's like a giant weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I am more rested, I have energy to engage more, the girls are well rested and in better moods, I can get things done during nap instead of having to cram everything in between the hours of 11am-1:30 pm. It's awesome. I think we had a very easy transition because everyone was ready for it. I can't get over how much life feels just better.

 I cannot sing the praises of Mandy Hose enough. If you are desperate for help, for an extremely reasonable price, Mandy will help you. Just shoot her a message on her Facebook page and you'll never regret that you did. I promise.

If this was too long and you didn't read here's a summary:
I sleep trained the girls and life is now awesome. If you need help with sleep and your baby/ies get in contact with Mandy Hose and maybe you can get some sleep too.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

13 Months- Pumpkin Patch

I was uploading these photos and realized that after Christmas of last year I don't have any pictures of  "events" we've done. And then I realized that's because we didn't really do a lot of big things. I was kind of sad about that because I felt like I *should* have been able to get out more and do stuff. Twinfancy is no joke. I was probably weaker than some out there, but I just did not have the energy or wherewithal to go do many big things, especially since sleep and feeding were so challenging. Only recently do I feel like I can go out and do more things, but we still battle nap schedule and limited time out. Anyway, all that to say I'm excited that the babies are getting big enough to enjoy an outing between naps. Watching them at the pumpkin patch was so fun. They're not used to walking around outside so they were very confused and unsure of everything. I sat them down for pictures and they just sat there unsure of everything, it was cute. They did warm up to it the longer we were there and they seemed to have fun! 

Eleanor is walking more and more. She's still a little wobbly on her feet, but is walking a lot more every day. She's really taking off with her motor skills too: she stacks two blocks on each other, she plays the toy drum we have correctly (i.e. using the stick to bang on the drum), puts rings on the stacking blocks, and will put toys in and out of the toy basket. Sleep is still a big battle. Lately she's been getting up at 9pm and if Brad goes in there to settle her she screams and screams until I go in there. Usually by the time I get in there I just nurse her because it's been a long time of screaming, but tonight I'm going to try going in there first and seeing if I can get her to go back down. It's been a frustrating couple of days, especially today because she was up from 9-12 last night. Boo! But until the past couple of nights sleep was going a bit better. Always about the time I get comfortable and say "Oh, sleep is getting a bit better, I might survive this!" it all falls apart, haha. Basically, never celebrate parenting wins. ;)
Amelia is practically running now. She loves to climb up the stairs (heavily supervised) when we go upstairs for a nap. She actually gets mad if I try to carry her. She's been sleeping a lot better lately-- usually sleeps all night! She might wake up at 5 or 5:30 but in general isn't waking at night except maybe once or twice a week. Brad has been able to actually get up early and do school work in the morning instead of fighting with her to go back down. She's also fully on whole milk. That transition was much easier than I thought it would be! She's started clapping (correctly), playing peek-a-boo, stacks items, and empties the laundry basket of diapers and then puts them all back.

As for me, I'm getting over a cold this week which was pretty brutal. The cold went through everyone starting with Brad and ending with me. The girls have been too snotty to go to church two weeks in a row, so we're all staying home tonight. Brad and I both managed a nap today so that improved my outlook on life a lot. Lately I've been trying to be more active with the girls. Too often I'm too focused on everything I "have to" get done or just messing around on Facebook and I just let them entertain themselves in our living room. I don't think there's anything wrong with free play, but too often I don't play *with* them. I just occupy the same room as them. That's not really engaging with them. If I want to foster a good relationship, I need to get into the habit of engaging them-- even if that means just throwing bibs around and playing peek-a-boo. It's just something I need to cultivate as a habit instead of automatically reaching my phone and messing around on FB.

I'm taking this opportunity to brag on my husband: Brad has been awesome. Brad is great with the girls. He's the primary bed time rocker,  he has picked up housework where I haven't been able to, and he gives me a break every single night when he gets home from work. He deals with my unfortunate attitudes and grumpiness. He is my sounding board, rant listener, and he gently reminds me of truth. He's up a lot at night and very early in the morning to work on school work. And he does it with way less complaining than I do. Actually, I don't think I've heard him complain about it. He does it all with a smile. A tired smile, but a smile nonetheless. :)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fit Mama: Progress Report

I totally had intentions of doing a weekly progress report...but..uh... that didn't happen. #twinlife.

BUT. Here is a progress report as I finished my 8 weeks of Jillian Michaels.

  • I have only missed ONE workout and that was due to being sick.
  • I have progressed through all of the levels, but I can't do the advanced moves on all of them. 
  • I have lost almost 10lbs since I started, bringing my total weight loss to date to 21lbs. 
  • Since June I have lost 3 inches from my waist and 2 from my hips. The stubborn muffin top/baby tummy is not budging as much as I would like...but there's progress there too!
  • Eating is going well. The only sugar I've been eating is honey or maple syrup and both are used very sparingly. Oh, I also occasionally eat something with turbinado sugar in it.
  • I've been able to go running on Saturdays (or Sundays depending on the weather). I'm up to 2.5 miles. I've noticed it's easier to push this time around than it was when I first started running.
What's next? Well, the girl's routine is naturally changing a little so I think I'm going to start hitting Mt. Trashmore with the double BOB running stroller. We shall see! I'm hoping to do some sort of strengthing workout two times a week and to run three times a week. I need to get going on the running because the half I want to do is in March.

 I'm also investigating gym membership options that fit my (small) budget for when it gets too cold to run outside with the babies. I have a while until that's truly an issue, but I'm keeping it on the forefront of my mind. Ideally, I would like to get a Y membership because they have childcare. A less expensive option is Planet Fitness but then I have to figure out what to do with the girls. Anyone local willing to watch them a couple times a week so I can hit the treadmill?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Mama Eats Clean: Super Easy White Chicken Chili

On Sundays our church meets at 5pm so we don't get home until well after 6. Since the girls need to go to bed pretty early, I try to do a crockpot meal for us so there's no cooking when we get home. I like to throw together hearty soups so we also have lunches for a couple days. This one is super simple and came straight from my brain (and inspired by several white chicken chili recipes I've collected over the years).

Super EasyWhite Chicken Chili:

1 16oz jar of green salsa (pick a clean brand. I really like the Whole Foods one).
2 Chicken Breasts (cooked or raw, your choice. I'm paranoid and always pre cook).
2 Cans Cannellini beans (white kidney beans)
1 quart Chicken Broth
1/2 medium onion, diced
shredded cheese for topping

Throw everything in the crockpot and cook on high for 5-6 hours (longer if using raw chicken). I throw the chicken breasts in whole and then break them up after cooking. You could pre shred or cube before cooking if you wanted. When you're ready to eat, serve it up with a smidge of shredded cheese on top. Yum.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

12 Months!

My little photo shoots are increasingly more complicated these days. It's so hard to get good pictures of babies who just do not want to sit still! So this time I divided and conquered and did Amelia's on one day and then did Eleanor's the next day. Well I tired to do hers at the same time but I only got one good picture. Warning: this post got really long. Not sorry about that. ;)

Amelia Claire transformed into a toddler on her first birthday. She hardly ever crawls, she's great at throwing fits, she learned how to chuck toys across the room, and she is in constant motion. She's doing so many fun things and is so interactive with us and with Eleanor. The way she interacts with her toys is very toddler like. We've moved beyond just banging stuff around (though that does happen) to putting things inside other things, stacking things, and knocking things over.

We are in the thick of teething. Amelia has two bottom teeth and one top tooth, but basically all of her top teeth are RIGHT there almost through. We had a rough week of not sleeping while the teeth were ridging up a lot. I hope they pop through with no big deal because we do not want more weeks of bad sleep. After her bad week or two she's been sleeping through the night for the most part. She occasionally gets up once. Unfortunately, she also wants to be up for the day at 5 and sometimes 4:30. It's unfortunate because Brad wants to get up to do school work at 4:30 am before work (ick) but he's been thwarted more often than not. So that sucks a lot for him, but I'm glad he takes that one for the team and at least lets me sleep until 6 when he has to leave. Edited: this post literally took me a week to put together. I typed this part about sleep on Tuesday night. Ever since then we have had really bad sleep. Rule 1: never celebrate any sleep victories. ;)

We had our 12 month check up and all is well. Amelia's growth chart is amazing. She's in the sixty something percentile for weight and is basically the same height as Eleanor now. I can't remember the exact percentiles right this second, but the Ped is very pleased with where she's at. She is also not anemic nor has she been exposed to lead, according to the blood work we did. (Side note: People have told me this is weird, but I thought at the 12 month appointment all Peds send kids to the lab to do a CBC and lead test? Did everyone else do this?).  Probably the biggest thing is that we got the OK to switch to whole milk and get off of formula. Yay! Milk is much cheaper than formula. ;) We are slowly switching over, but I'm almost out of formula so it will be soon that we put the cans of formula behind us for good! 

Eleanor Jane is taking steps independently, but isn't walking full time quite yet. Her favorite game to play is peek-a-boo followed by knock down the block tower. She spends a lot of time putting rings on the stacking toy, throwing things, and putting other things inside bigger things.

Eleanor has developed a ton of expressions. She scrunches up her face and makes a little piggy noise sometimes and it's so cute. She smiles a lot and she laughs a lot (usually at Amelia). I give Eleanor a cup of water with meals and sometimes in between but I don't worry about giving her whole milk. She still nurses a lot so I don't think it's necessary at this point. Eleanor wasn't feeling well last week so she didn't eat a whole lot, but since her appetite has returned she eats a lot of things I didn't expect her too. I made some cheesy quinoa last night and she tore into hers like it was the most awesome thing. I don't mind. Quinoa isn't a bad thing for her to like!

The Ped was also pleased with Eleanor's growth at her 12 month check. She's in the fifty something percentile for weight and her growth curve is trucking right along where it should be. We did have to go back last week because Eleanor was having some tummy troubles, but after some probiotics everything is back to normal again.
I just liked this picture. It makes me laugh.

It's been so fun watching them over the last couple weeks go from babies to toddlers. Just the way they play is so different from what they were doing a month ago. Everyone said they would start going in opposite directions, but I haven't found that to be the case. They go everywhere together. They make each other crack up in ways no one else can. They reach out to hold each other's hands at lunch time. They get into things together. It's a very special bond I get to see them form.

Since this is getting very long, here's just a quick blurb about their birthday. We didn't do much, but we did give them cupcakes at community group to celebrate. Amelia ate some of the cake part but wasn't a big fan of the frosting. Eleanor just was not a big fan in general. I'm actually ok with that though. Cake isn't something they need to love. ;) One of the traditions we have started at gift giving occasions (Christmas and Birthdays) is to follow this rule in selecting presents: something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. As they get older we probably will do less and less combined gifts but this year we got them a baby einstein music table (what they want) as their big gift. Amelia got "Iggy Peck Architect" as her book and Eleanor got "Rosie Revere, Engineer" as hers. Instead of a card Brad and I both wrote a note in the cover of their books. Each girl got a pair of shoes and a sippy cup (what they wear and what they need). Unfortunately, the style of the sippy cup isn't one they drink from but hey. Whatevs. haha.