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Month: November 2016

The Meal Plan Mind Map: Cut Down on Waste

The Meal Plan Mind Map: Cut Down on Waste

meal plan mind map

Spurred on by Suchitra of ‘MomLife‘ and her quest to break the seal on planning weekly meals, I have been brainstorming ways of shortening my shopping list. I’m a big fan of the list in all it’s forms but writing the list usually consists of:

  • What do I fancy for dinner?
  • What do I want for lunch tomorrow?
  • Total mind block about tomorrow’s dinner… Lets have a browse on Pinterest for a recipe…

The trouble with this method is you will end up with a very long list. This means:

  • It gets expensive… really expensive;
  • You will spend far too long in the shop going back and forth, trying to find all the silly ingredients you’ve added to your list from Pinterest;
  • You are guaranteed to miss something, even though you wrote a list;
  • A lot of food will be wasted – Money down the drain, guilt over starving people and global warming.

So… is there a better way? I think so.

Mind Map Before List

Do write a list, I’m not suggesting otherwise, but it’s very difficult to write a good one straight off the top of your head. When you go through teacher training (as I did a few years ago), you are told all about different types of learners and how they best absorb information and skills.

different-learning-types
Edited from fundersandfounders.com

Like 65% of the population, I am a visual learner, and therefore a list is not very useful for my brain if I am hoping to purge and make my shopping for the week more efficient. I need something that is going to help me think things through that visually works like my brain does… well maybe a little more organized than my actual brain.

How to Build a Meal Planner Mind Map

  • Start with that something you fancy for dinner. It’s not going to leave your head, you want it. So have it and put it on the list Mind Map by putting the dish name in the centre bubble and each ingredient branched out from it. Tonight, I really fancy Spaghetti Bolognese. I haven’t had it in a while and it’s totally going to hit the spot. meal-planner-mind-map
    The trouble with Bolognese is that is has quite a few ingredients, so my list is already half way down my scrap of paper and I’ve only done one dinner. What we need to do use some of these ingredients in other dishes…
  • Carrots, celery and onion pop out at me… that’s the basis for a stock or soup. I love carrot and coriander soup, easy to make and perfect for lunch. Add it to the mind map and link to the repeated ingredients.
  • You can’t have carrot and coriander soup without a sprinkle of fresh cilantro (that’s coriander leaves if you’re British). But fresh herbs can be expensive and I don’t want the rest of it to go to waste so what can I use it for? Immediately I think of tacos… slow cooked pork, lime pickled onions and plenty of fresh cilantro. Yum, put in on the mind map…
    meal-planner-mind-map
  • This process continues, using ingredients already on the mind map to spark ideas for other meals. Veg Chilli was an easy choice and then I spotted the bell peppers and parmesan. ‘I  bet there’s a good recipe for those two’ I thought… Now I can Pinterest search or Google these ingredients and find something new. I always like one new recipe a week.
  • The mushrooms and parsley sounded like a yummy omelette, and I can also make a frittata with any leftovers that are hanging around the fridge.
  • Although the chicken recipe is a pasta dish, I’m feeling quite carbed up already so opt for some green veg that can double up for our Sunday roast (meat dependent on what looks good while shopping).
    meal-planner-mind-map

So there you have it… I’m pretty much done for the week.

 

I may have only mapped five meals, but I purposely plan meals that can be made to allow for leftovers. This cuts back on the cooking, reduces waste and obviously cost. I’ve planned my meal week from Wednesday, because I want fresh meat for Sunday and it’s unlikely to last for six days. The recipes are linked – I particularly recommend the Marcella Hazan Bolognese… make it immediately.

Wednesday

Lunch: Mushroom Parsley Omelette
Dinner: Chicken Cacciatore with Green Beans

Thursday

Lunch: Chicken Cacciatore with Pasta
Dinner: Pork Tacos

Friday

Lunch: Pork Tacos
Dinner: Veg Chilli with Rice

Saturday

Lunch: *Eat Out* (whenever I plan for Saturday it doesn’t get eaten!)
Dinner: Veg Chilli Nachos

Sunday

Lunch: Carrot and Coriander Soup
Dinner: Roast meat (to be determined) with potatoes, garlic, carrots and green beans.

Monday

Lunch: Roast leftovers frittata
Dinner: Spaghetti Bolognese

Tuesday:

Lunch: Carrot and Coriander Soup
Dinner: Spaghetti Bolognese

The Cost

Before I give you the total I need to be fair and explain a few things:

  • All meat, milk, eggs and most vegetables I buy organic. Not everything, but nearly everything is organic on my list. Therefore if you shop budget produce it will be cheaper.
  • I haven’t included spices for the recipes I use because we have a big stash already at the house.
  • I haven’t included breakfast in my mind map. Therefore I added  berries, bananas, apples, cereal, yogurt and bread to the list.
  • I haven’t included my daughter’s lunch box. She sometimes eats in-house food at school and sometimes not… it’s complicated so I’ve excluded it for now. I am aware that lunchboxes can get expensive so it’s on my radar for improving my planning.
  • I have skipped a meal on Saturday because we are never in and end up eating out.

So… how much did my weekly shop cost? Food for a week, for a family of five (all be it three of them are littles) came to $168, a great budget for us because we are big food spenders. Last week we spent $244 on groceries but because we weren’t organised we ended up eating $73 of fast food and takeout on top of our usual Saturday lunch out. That’s a whopping $317. If we can stick to the meal plan we will save $149 on last week’s spend… amazing!

The only trouble is, I’ve just realised I’ve got to wait until Monday for my Bolognese… ugh.


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Telepathic Twins and Other Freaky Twin Stuff

Telepathic Twins and Other Freaky Twin Stuff

I’m in a Twinsie mood, which means today I’m getting my research hat on, and delivering to you some weird and wonderful tales of freaky twin stuff.

freaky twin stuff

Twin Telepathy

Some time ago, I posted a video of my boys laughing at each other on Facebook. A friend asked me “is that one of those freaky twin things? What are they laughing at?” Obviously I have to share the cuteness…

Likely, they are just wetting themselves over nothing in particular. But maybe they are one of the 20% of twins that claim to experience a telepathic bond. Maybe they were telepathically sharing a good joke… it was obviously a good one. This sixth sense has been documented many times including the story of Gemma Houghton who saved her twin sister, Leanne, when she “just got this feeling to check on her,”. Gemma found Leanne in a bathtub, unconscious after a seizure, nearly drowning.

How about the guy that learned to play the guitar, only to find his twin brother can mysteriously play without learning himself. How handy would this be for exams? You take Math, I’ll take history… sorted.

Twins have even been tested using a polygraph machine, to show they experience emotional changes while the other is exposed to something scary or a change in temperature in another room. Weird.

For more on that… read this.

Twins with Wacky Birthdays

Of course one baby has to come out first. George will forever be taunting Arthur about how he is the big brother, until they reach thirty and then it’s Arthur’s turn to have some fun. But things get really fun when twin deliveries start messing with the clock. If those Twinkies are born across midnight, they can have different birthdays or even birth years.

Freaky twin stuff definitely happened earlier this month when Emily and Seth Peterson delivered their twins across daylight savings in Massachusetts. Samuel was born at 1:39am and his brother Ronan was born 31 minutes later, making him 29 minutes older. Yes, the first born is younger than his brother according to the clock. Too much for a Monday?

Twins that Look Totally Different

Although identical twins share the same DNA, fraternal twins are essentially normal siblings, with totally unique genetic coding. As you may have noticed in your family, some siblings look very similar and others make you take a second look at the milkman. Imagine the surprise Vince and Donna Aylmer got when their fraternal twins came out looking as different as different can be. Their father is fair and their mother is half Jamaican – the results are quite astounding… love it!

very-different-twins
Lucy and Maria Aylmer (source: boredpanda.com)

Find more photos of Lucy, Maria, and their family… here.

When Twins Marry Twins

There are around 250 documented cases of identical twins marrying identical twins. Maybe it’s because they are genetically programmed to find the same person attractive? Maybe it’s the novelty? Could it  just be freaky twin stuff? But what really blows my mind is when they start having kids… Genetically those kids are siblings, not cousins, right? Again, it’s Monday so I’ll stop and share this amazing photo instead… a match made in heaven:

twin-couples
Bring back the shell-suit… (source: oddee.com)

Find more photos of twins marrying twins… here.

Identical Twins Leading Identical Lives

There are a few tales of twins separated at birth that end up leading very similar lives. Maybe this one is a combination of telepathy and tendency to have the same taste? Who knows…

Jim Lewis and Jim Springer met for the first time at the age of thirty nine, after being separated at birth and adopted. Their first wives were both called Linda, their second wives both called Betty. They were both Sheriff’s deputies and drove the same brand of car. They named their childhood pets the same, smoked the same brand of cigarettes, drank the same beer…  And let’s not ignore that despite being adopted and named by two different families, they both ended up being called Jim! 

jim-twins
The ‘Jim Twins’ (source: firsttoknow.com)

More on the ‘Jim Twins’ story… here.

That’s it for today’s freaky twin stuff… maybe I’ll dig up some more another day. And because you know you want more baby twin cuteness… here’s the first time I caught the boys laughing at each other. Adorable.

 


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Totally Impractical Baby Clothes We All Love to Buy

Totally Impractical Baby Clothes We All Love to Buy

impractical-baby-clothes-fb-debug

I’ve been getting into Pinterest this week, and just can’t resist all those adorable toddler outfits that makes 2yr olds look like the’re a mini Justin Beiber. They look great in pictures and maybe Victoria Beckham’s kids can pull it off, but for the rest of us they tend to get worn once for a photo and never again. Because the Beiber look is ridiculous for a baby or toddler. Here is my shortlist for totally impractical baby clothes we just love to buy.

1. Skinny Jeans

I was given my first pair of baby skinnies by a friend when my daughter was born. They were heart-meltingly cute and I couldn’t wait to get them on her. But when I did I soon realised you can’t fold a baby in skinny jeans. So unless you plan on confining your child to stretched out horizontal configurations, I highly advise against skinny jeans for babies.

This guy has made the semi sitting position but may lose sensation to his toes at any moment.

skinny-jeans-toddler
Photo pinned from dezdemon-topfashiontrends.pw

2. Collared Shirts

As my Mother-in-Law once pointed out, newborn babies do not have necks. It suddenly became clear in that moment… this is why young babies look totally hilarious and uncomfortable in collared shirts. I also have a problem with the ironing… come on people, be honest – how often do you iron your baby clothes? So the shirt ends up crinkled, awaiting ironing, which never happens.

And don’t even get me started on the cap in this photo…

baby-outfit-cap-waistcoat
How long to you think that cap is staying on? This cutie can be seen at dottie-d-goods-2.myshopify.com

3. Sunglasses

I’m not talking about those tinted goggles with the elastic head band to fix them on, I’m talking sunglasses with swag… the type Bieber babies are wearing all over Pinterest. Maybe it’s just my kids, but I can’t even wear sunglasses in close proximity to the twins, let alone keep something on their heads for more than 7 seconds. If Babiators want to send me a pair (better make that two), I’ll put them to the test, but it seems so ridiculous to me I’ve never even tried.

baby-aviators
Image courtesy of MitziKnitz at Etsy.com

4. Shoes

Don’t they just make your heart want to explode? There is nothing better than the tiniest of tiny baby shoes to give you case of the fuzzies. But I quickly learnt with my first born there is absolutely no point in trying to keep shoes on an infant. It will take them literal seconds to pull them off, and if not they will just drop off while you’re out in the stroller. The only shoes that stay on babies are the ones with the elastic around the ankle, and I’m pretty shoes you won’t be seeing Beiber in a pair of those anytime soon.

baby-sleeping-uggs
Those Uggs are coming off the second this munchkin wakes up. Photo found at peace-love-and-daydreams.tumblr.com

5. Puffer Jackets

I know I live in the desert, but I haven’t always. When my daughter was new, we lived in wet and windy England… perfect for totally impractical baby clothes like puffer jackets. When it’s cold and miserable outside, you usually want to drive instead of walk, and can you fit your marshmellow baby in the car seat? No. Cue awkward scrambling to take jacket off while cold rain runs down your back… ugh. 

baby-puffer-jacket
Cuteness courtesy of www.pumpkinpatchusa.com

So… if you just love impractical baby clothes (who doesn’t), go for it and buy these wardrobe staples. However, if you want to save your pennies and keep Baby comfortable, keep them in a one piece until they can walk. Come on twinnies… hurry up so Mama can get shopping.

Lastly, in case you want some tips on how to dress like Beiber, InStyle have got you covered with ‘7 Style Lessons we Learned from Justin Beiber’

 


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Why I don’t do parenting books (and what happened when I did).

Why I don’t do parenting books (and what happened when I did).

I am a Mom of three and I can honestly say I haven’t read any parenting books. I’m six years deep and I’ve survived so far without a single case of spontaneous human combustion, despite the lack of parenting books.

parenting books

Reasons I don’t do parenting books:

  • Who has time to read when TV offers shows like The Walking Dead?
  • I don’t like being told what to do.
  • I get enough unwanted advice from strangers and family, why would I want more?
  • If I don’t make plans, I can’t gauge failure.
  • Google and I are friends.

Having lived by this mantra for over six years, I have this month finally cheated on Google, sorry buddy. I was offered the opportunity to review a new parenting book and I figured hey, how bad can it be? Think how awesome it will be to be able to binge The Walking Dead on catch up… yes. Hand it over, pour the tea and let’s get started.

The book that took my parenting book virginity:

Tears Heal: How to Listen to Our Children by Kate Orson

Why I’m ready to pop my parenting book cherry:

A little background here… there was a genuine reason I thought this book may float my parenting boat. If you’ve read previous posts such as ‘Poopcrastination‘ and ‘Whiplash‘ you may have gathered that not only is my six year old daughter a bit of a drama queen, she can at times lack self confidence be very emotional. The trouble is that I am none of the above. I am more of the Robot Mom, full of love but in an awkward non-hugging kind of a way. So there’s a clash of personalities… and I’m just about ready to put my hands up and saying “help!”.

What happened when I did the deed:

I’m all ready to skip to Chapter 1 but I figure I should probably do this properly and start with the introduction. I draw the line at the acknowledgements though… not happening. Does anyone read those?

I settle into the introduction feeling all ready to get fixing up my parenting…

‘We tend to judge the success of our parenting by how much our children cry.’ (Kate Orson)

Shit… my kid cries all the time, total parenting fail. But as the title suggests, Kate’s all up for crying and being all emotional, so surely that means I’m totally bossing it? I figure I had better read further than the introduction to find out whether I’m actually failing or bossing it.

In the chapters that follow, Kate talks a lot about understanding our own childhood and putting together a ‘coherent story’. She suggests setting up a ‘listening partnership’ with a friend you can talk to in confidence. The Book then guides you through a number of exercises to bring you in better touch with your emotions (and therefore your child’s):

‘When listening, try not to interrupt, give advice or tell your own stories while the other person is talking.’ (Kate Orson)

Well my listening partnership is stuffed right there. I am one of those awful people that interrupts and talks about themselves when someone’s mid-story (sorry friends). I continue…

‘Scientific research has shown that the brain is not really a solitary organ, but works in a system with the brains of other people around us, sending out and picking up subtle, non verbal cues.’ (Kate Orson)

Yes… now we’re talking. I love a good telepathic mind control sci-fi movie. The freaky subliminal stuff is right up my ally. What Kate goes on to say is that just being present and having kind, supportive thoughts while your child goes into melt-down is more productive than intervening. Let them melt down, just be present.

‘It’s a powerful boost to our child’s self-esteem to sense that we still think they are a good person, even when they’re having an emotional upset.’ (Kate Orson).

So there it was. I had learnt something useful, something I can actually use, from a parenting book. It made total sense. How many times had I shouted over my daughter’s hysteria to try and calm her down, only to find it made things worse? How many times had I walked away from a tantrum because it was just too overwhelming for both of us? I realised in reading Tears Heal that just my presence and mind vibes could make my daughter feel more secure, loved and supported than any interventions. Thanks Kate, your book help is much appreciated.

six year old laughing

Kate comes up with lots of other useful nuggets such as why using food to distract from an emotional situation is not wise…whoops. There’s even strategies to help getting your kids to sleep that don’t involve the age old tradition of dunking the pacifier in Granny’s sherry.

So if you’re into parenting books (or not), and want to improve a case of the Robot Mom, get yourself a copy of Tears Heal, even if it’s just for the reflection exercises such as:

‘Rent a few tearjerkers, and put on some sad music. Let the tears flow without holding back.’ (Kate Orson)

Oh Gawd… I’m really no good at all this emotional stuff. Does it count if I’m watching The Walking Dead?

 


You can get Kate Orson’s book here on Amazon.co.uk… Tears Heal: How to Listen to Our Children


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The Stopwatch Phenomenon: Helping your Child Get Stuff Done

The Stopwatch Phenomenon: Helping your Child Get Stuff Done

We have a daydreamer of a six year old. She can be mid sentence and suddenly drift off into her own thoughts of unicorns and rainbows. We also share a sensitivity to the stair mind block – you know, the invisible force field that engulfs all stairways, erasing your memory of what is was you went upstairs for. The difference is, I’ll come back downstairs so that I remember what I need to do. She’ll just start building a Lego dog salon instead.

stopwatch kids focus

At the weekend we were browsing the shelves of Crate and Barrel’s kitchen department and I spotted a stopwatch on sale for less than $5. I had remembered a suggestion from my sister the previous week about timing Elsie getting ready for school in the morning. She had to “beat Mummy,” while I had a shower and it seemed to work wonders. For $5 is was worth a try…

She was crazy exited about the purchase, to the extent that a couple of shops later after playing with it she said:

“I’ve always wanted a stopwatch Mommy, now all my dreams have come true…”

Talk about dramatic… I wish all my wildest dreams could be fulfilled by a $5 stopwatch. But still, I was pleased to see her excited about it, even if it did mean I was only given 6 minutes to browse clothes… I could see this was going to get old fast, with Mommy at least.

On the way home I dropped Daddy at the supermarket and circled the parking lot to avoid unpacking the family of five. 2 minutes to park. Timer set to countdown as we sat in the 15mins only space. Despite the short shopping list, she was very concerned about overstaying our slot. To distract her from panic I asked her what useful things she could time with the stopwatch.

Elsie’s stopwatch checklist:
  • “My 3minute Math fact practice tests,” (she has four a week for homework)
  • “Tidying my play area,”(a constant battle)
  • “Timing Daddy in Total Wine to make sure he doesn’t take an hour,”

Later that day she provided much entertainment to fellow wine shoppers as she gave Daddy regular updates of his time allocation for browsing. She runs a tight ship that girl.

So, is the stopwatch phenomenon a good method to help your kids focus? I did a little snooping because as regular readers know, I love an expert opinion.

What the experts say:

“Have a stopwatch handy to reinforce behaviours such as putting shoes away, cleaning off the kitchen table, or taking toys out of the bath tub. The stopwatch gives your child the visual reminder that reinforces your request.”(Richard A. Lougy, David K. Rosenthal, ADHD: A Survival Guide for Parents and Teachers)

Now, Elsie has not been diagnoses with ADHD, but I quickly learnt from teaching, that applying methods designed for my ADHD and ASD kids to the whole classroom helped all my kids, not just the ‘affected’ ones. Therefore, I would say Dick and Dave are underselling themselves a little here with the title of their book. 

“A stopwatch can also help children focus their attention. As their attention to the task increases, the stopwatch can be set for longer intervals.” (Sylvia B. Rimm, Why Bright Kids Get Poor Grades and what You Can Do about it:)

Oh good, going by the title of this book Elsie’s just bright, not ADHD, I much prefer that diagnosis. As you can see, these methods for helping special needs are just good practise for all. I like the idea of increasing the timed periods, there’s no way if I said “you have an hour to tidy your play area and do your homework,” that anything would get done. Small short tasks to start with and we’ll go from there.

What’s the verdict?

The timer has successfully completed homework tests and hurried Daddy up in Total Wine. And the fact that she can operate it herself seems to make all the difference over me using my phone. It is her stopwatch, and because she has ownership she is more motivated. It has however been banished to the fridge because baby brother decided the mini battery on the back looked tasty… eek.

So go… get your little ones a stopwatch for Christmas, and make all their dreams come true.

 


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Diagnosis Mom Flu

Diagnosis Mom Flu

mom flu meme

Symptoms of Mom Flu

Mom Flu is a common condition that affects those with offspring. Symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Throat-on-fire syndrome coupled with ‘it feels like I’m drinking razor blades’;
  • General aches and slow motion walking because you feel your internal organs giggling whenever you move. Everything from your head to your vagina hurts.
  • Feeling cold in three layers, despite living in the desert where it’s still late 20’s in November.
  • Your kids totally ignore that you feel like crap and all your usual Mom duties are completed, despite body functions running at an estimated 2%.

The last of these symptoms is the most crucial indicator of a case of the Mom Flu. However, depending on the age of the child, you may get some acknowledgement of your condition. “You sound weird Mommy.” came from my six year old last night as I read her bedtime story.  

Treatment of Mom Flu

There is no formal treatment for Mom Flu because no Mom has ever had the time or energy to go to the doctor. Therefore treatments usually include:

  • Digging through the medicine cabinet to find mostly out-of-date painkillers, and deciding if you’ll live if you take them.
  • Hugging a cup of tea for warmth and then remembering Mom’s don’t get to their cup of tea before its gone cold.
  • Savouring every moment of driving because at least everyone is strapped down and you can turn the music up.
  • Getting the kids to bed as early and you possibly can so you can follow suit. I was tucked up by 7.15pm last night… new personal best.

I’m going to stop being dramatic now as I’m starting to sound like I have Man Flu. I hate to think what would happen if Man and Mom Flu were combined… The world might just instantly implode.

And because I needed a laugh, here’s the hilarious Meredith from thatsinappropriate.com


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10 Signs You Have Had Family to Stay

10 Signs You Have Had Family to Stay

I’ve been a little distant on social media this past week because I’ve had family in town to celebrate the Twins’ birthday. It’s these family members’ first visit to us since we moved to the US nearly three years ago, so we’ve enjoyed showing off the local sights and eating twice as much as we usually do. We love to have guests, but with all the fun also comes hard work and unplanned inconveniences. You know you’ve had family to stay when:

1. Your kids are behaving like total brats.

Is it because they’re being spoilt? Is it because you can’t face disciplining them in public? Maybe you’re ignoring them more than usual while you desperately slurp at wine, because it’s supposed to be fun for you too, right? No one knows. But sure enough your kids will act like total shit-bags.

family looney tunes brat

2. You’ve lost the ability to multi-task.

Week in, week out, you totally boss at multi-tasking; but be sure it will all go out the window when family come to stay. You’ll wonder how you normally do it and give your previous week self a pat on the back.

3. You feel more hungover and stressed than usual.

looney tunes smoking coffee

4. The dog hasn’t been walked. 

You may have also forgotten to feed it, and accidently locked it outside when you went to bed. Sorry puppy. 

looney tunes sad dog

5. Someone’s ill.

Not only are your kids more accident prone while you have visitors, it is also customary for Family to bring a new virus to share. If coming from abroad, it is only fair to reciprocate this offering and send them home with a local pathogen to spread around their home country. Sharing’s caring after all.

6.Your countertops are full of crap.

What is all this crap that’s floating around my kitchen? Plastic bags, almost empty packets of crisps, cakes made a week ago that no-one’s comfortable throwing away in case someone gets upset. The latter also applies to the contents of the fridge. Suddenly you become a hoarder of left-overs, because everyone’s too polite to chuck away the remnants of Granny’s potato salad.

7. Lunchtime beers have become the norm.

coyote drunk

8. You’ve only just remembered your inflatable bed has a hole and you should have chucked it last time family came to stay.

And will you throw it away this time? Probably not.

big bunny tired

9. You’ve gained 1lb per day.

I’m pretty sure it has been scientifically proven that the 1lb a day rule applies to all members of the family over the age of 18. And remember it will take you 1lb per month to remove the family visit fat… it’s a science thing, don’t blame yourself.

daffy duck fat

10. Your bank account’s empty.

In fact, everyone’s bank account is empty. Money is just so much more fun to spank when family’s here to help.

daffy duck money

I find the recovery period from family coming to stay is usually equal to the length of the visit. Therefore, I will likely spend the next week going to bed at 8pm, drinking just a little less white wine, and folding a lot of washing. 

It was pleasure to have you Auntie Sarah, come visit again soon.

 


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Twins’ First Year: A New Challenge Every Month

Twins’ First Year: A New Challenge Every Month

My boys are about to turn one, hooray! Like all parents at this stage, we will be celebrating their first year, but also our own survival. We made it… high five, cake and champagne all round (don’t worry, I know I’m European but I won’t be giving the babies champagne).

newborn-twins

Twin or singleton, Baby’s first year is something special. I chose that word carefully because there’s lots of joy but plenty of trouble. With every problem you solve, another emerges and those little ones never fail to catch you by suprize. Here’s my month by month guide to first year challenges.

0 Months Old: Feeding

I really did intend to breastfeed my twins… I bought the giant pillow and everything. But despite hospital boob boot-camp I still struggled to master the ‘double football hold’. Partly because I’m not wonder woman, and partly because how the hell do you pick up a floppy newborn with one hand?

Then there’s the fact the boys were born at 36wks. Little did I know that preemie babies aren’t the best feeders, so despite trying boobs, pumping, formula and general desperation, I couldn’t get my boys to stop losing weight. It took each baby an hour to feed, and I couldn’t get more than a few drops in for the first week… so tough! Of course once they got going they became chunky monkeys, but even by the end of the first month it took me a whole episode of Midsummer Murders to feed them both. What do new Moms do without Netflix?

twins first year

But it’s not all bad:

I have two gorgeous happy healthy babies and I can breathe again… no more sleeping upright!

1 Month Old: Sleep

Sleep deprivation is by far the most challenging and cruel affliction a baby brings to their parents in the first year. Although you get less sleep in the first month, it’s during month two you convince yourself you can function as a normal human being… you are wrong. It’s during month two you will invite family and friends to visit and gaze through sunken eyes past them into space as they ask you irritating questions like “Are they sleeping through the night?”.

So was sleep deprivation worse with two? Honestly, I believe there is a limit to what sleep deprivation you are even aware of… once you’re at bat-shit crazy it really makes no difference.

twins-2-months

It’s not all bad:

They’re gaining weight and look totally cute when they snuggle up to each other.

2 Months Old: Crying

By this point those little tikes are alert, have found their voice and know how to use it. Now you’re beyond basic survival it’s time to start making some actual parenting decisions. Should we let them cry it out? Should we let them sleep in the bed (again)? Maybe try rocking them to sleep? Let them sleep in their swing chair until they’re 18 years old? Pacifier? Comfort blanket? Someone help… Google?

twin-3-months

It’s not all bad:

Between the crying spells, the twins smiled for the first time…such a magic moment!

3 Months Old: Sickness

You know that at some point during the first year big sister is going to bring back the playground plague and infect the rest of the family. With twins you have two choices on how to approach sickness:

  1. When one gets sick make sure they dribble all over the other one as quickly and thoroughly as possible just to get it all over and done with.
  2. Separate them, sterilize everything and hope for the best.

We went with option 2 and failed. Sure enough, just as one got better, the other one got sick and so did I, so it felt like an endless battle.

twins-4-months

It’s not all bad:

They are laughing, playing with toys and have become so much fun!

4 Months Old: Routine

At this point the boys were sleeping well and I started to feel like I could take on the world. However, in order to do that I would need a solid routine. I spent a lot of time and energy freaking out about regimented nap times and trying to keep the boys in sync. Of course most days they would start together at 6am like clockwork, but by the end of the day one’s had three naps, the other’s had four and you can’t remember which one you need to put to bed first.

twins-notice-each-other

It’s not all bad:

They’re starting to interact… gah, I can’t handle the cuteness!

5 Months Old: Sleep Regression

At some point during month five, the boys both decided they preferred sleeping on their tummies. Fine with me… except they would roll over, get stuck and cry for help because they hadn’t quite worked out how to roll back the other way. Once manually flipped, I had about 5minutes before the process started all over again. This was fairly shorted lived, but unfortunately the twins’ new skills weren’t quite coordinated, so once Arthur had stopped being a pain in the butt, George started doing it. Boys – Mama’s glad you’re learning, but I’ve only just remembered what 6hrs sleep feels like.

twins-6-months

It’s not all bad:

Rolling is the first real baby trick isn’t it? They’re full of new skills and so pleased about it too!

6 Months Old: Solids

Just when you thought it was safe to leave the house… your babies need to start ‘solids’. I say the term loosely because there is nothing solid about what goes in… or comes out. We were fairly traditional with our approach, pureed bananas, avocado, sweet potato and pears, all resulting in a lot more washing. Washing of clothes, washing of furniture, washing of yourself. I soon learnt to do the mirror check before I went out. Do I have green slop on my breasts? Will anyone mistake my suspicious hair crust for a ‘Something About Mary’ moment?

twins-6-months-highchair

It’s not all bad:

I love watching them try new foods and they look totally adorable with slop all over their face!

7 Months Old: Early Mornings

Although the tummy sleeping had been mastered some time ago, by this point the twins had decided 4.15am was official morning time. We were in the middle of summer, which didn’t help, but despite black-out blinds, the classy towel-nailed-over-the-window method and a third layer of curtains, those boys would not sleep past 4.15am. Were they too hot? Were they too cold? Did they need more dinner? Did they need to go to bed later? Would they go back to sleep if I just rolled over and turned off the monitor? Nothing made any difference… 4.15am. This went on for 3 months and soon I realised the only solution was just put myself to bed at 8pm.

twins-7-months

It’s not all bad:

They can sit up unassisted at last so Mom can stop freaking out about developmental milestones (for now).

8 Months Old: Screaming

Arthur gained himself a new first year skill – screeching to such a volume and pitch that it made his brother cry. George was not a fan of the screaming and neither was I. His favourite time to do this would begin during dinner and onwards towards bedtime. I often ended up separating them, having one downstairs and one up, just to stop the carnage. But don’t worry, eventually George learnt to give as good as he gets and then they were the best of buds again.

twins-8-months

It’s not all bad:

The babies had their first swim and first trip to the beach!

9 Months Old: Teething

So much drool. Bibs help a little but it was still a month of 6-8 outfits a day between them… how do they even produce that much drool? And the trouble with identical twins is they get their teeth at the exact same time… so two dribbly upset babies is it. Thank goodness for drugs.

twins-9-months

It’s not all bad:

They’re finally starting to crawl! Development freak out no. 395 over.

10 Months Old: Crawling

We call their crawl ‘the-wounded-soldier’ because it’s a commando crawl using only one leg. The other leg drags behind, so the whole movement suggests they are pulling themselves to safety with a bullet in the leg. Crawling is a first year mega milestone, but it brings with it baby-proofing. The dog water bowl and the wine rack are their new favourite toys and they are naturally magnetized to anything sharp and pointy. Yep, they’re mobile – this shit just got real.

twins-10-months-standing

It’s not all bad:

They’re pulling themselves up! Development freak out no. 482 over.

11 Months Old: Climbing

Once I had worked out the danger zones in the house, mainly by trial and error which I wouldn’t recommend, things took as sudden turn. I was busy in the kitchen, listening to them giggle to each other suspiciously. Sure enough when I turned the corner they were both half way up the stairs… out of nowhere, they could climb. My personal favourite is when they try to climb your leg, if both of them do it at the same time it creates an overwhelming sense of love claustrophobia, and extraction can be surprisingly difficult.

twins-11-months
Taken by Sara Waterman Photography, Arizona.
It’s not all bad:

They absolutely love each other’s company which is not only heart melting but also very useful when you want a cup of tea in peace.

12 Months Old: ?

This first year really has been crazy, but everyday it blows my mind how amazing all three of my children are. Who knows what challenges and milestones this next month and year will bring… but I can not wait to find out.

Happy Birthday Boys.

 


This post is linked up here:

Mr and Mrs T Plus Three
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Baby Finger Food: Trump Pork and Apple Burgers

Baby Finger Food: Trump Pork and Apple Burgers

I woke up this morning and Donald Trump is President… Didn’t see that one coming. I thought about writing what I think about this turn of events, but instead I’m going to sum up how I’m feeling with this gif:

drinking-gif

So… turn up the music, pour yourself a cocktail and get on with life. Once you’ve sobered up, you may need to feed yourself and your children, so to help you out I am continuing with my Baby Finger Food series, enjoy:

At some point I will have to face teaching my boys to use a spoon, but if they’re anything like my daughter they will be determined to pick up whatever I serve them for some time. So for now I’m keeping things tidy and continue to come up with recipes they will enjoy that introduce new flavours, just like these juicy pork and apple burgers.

pork and apple burgers

Although the twins are getting the hang of chewing (they have eight teeth now!), many meats are still hard work. Minced meat is not only easy to chew but is easy to mix in with other ingredients to make a  moist patty. And my new herb to tickle their taste buds is tarragon… one of my personal favourites.

Pork & Apple Burgers with Tarragon
Yields 16
Juicy finger food for Baby, or garnish in a bun for the rest of the family, delicious!
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 lb minced pork
  2. 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
  3. 1 sweet apple, grated
  4. ½ onion, grated
  5. 1 egg, beaten
  6. ½ tsp dried tarragon
  7. pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl with your hands.
  3. Shape the mix into patties and place on a lined baking tray.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes, turning at half time.
TwinPickle http://twinpickle.com/
And what did the boys think?

twins-highchairs-food

twins-eating-food

If you like the look of the burgers you may like to try one of my other recipes from the Baby Finger Food Series:

Spicy Vegetable Croquettes
Baked Baby Falafel
Minty Pea Risotto Cakes

 


This post is linked up here:

Tammymum
Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com
Mummy in a Tutu
Video Games & Children: Are Yours Hooked Yet?

Video Games & Children: Are Yours Hooked Yet?

video games

Earlier this year, my daughter Elsie started playing video games. I don’t mean one of those free fairy makeover apps, I mean a proper games console. My husband had been waiting for this moment for six years, she was finally old enough to start basic training. Fast forward six months and she’s pretty hooked… but have we started her on it too young? Let’s look at the evidence – As usual, I will be researching important parenting decisions after I’ve already accidently made them.

What the headlines say about video games:

press-headline
I would suggest your headline isn’t exactly genius either…
press-headline-gaming
Saving on therapy bills already, sweet.
press-headline-gaming-children
Visit to the paediatrician… “I would like to improve my child please.”
press-headline-gaming-addiction
Have you tried turning it off and on again?

 So… gaming is addictive, but will create an improved ‘nice but dim’ version of your child. Doesn’t sound too bad to me, my daughter already out-wits me and she’s only six. However, I suspect these headlines are not suggesting making your kid dumber is an improvement, so lets delve into the nitty gritty…

What the experts say about video games:

“If you watch kids on a computer, most of them are just hitting keys or moving the mouse as fast as they can. It reminds me of rats running in a maze.” (Educational psychologist Jane Healy)

Does this only apply to kids? That’s pretty much how I still play games and I don’t always lose. Jane Healy suggest waiting until seven to allow children to play video games, to ‘allow their brains to develop normally’. I’m pretty sure being better at angry birds than Mom by age 4 means Elsie’s brain is already mush, whoops. However, I’m certainly not the only parent guilty of using IPhone’s babysitting services while on a long journey and in a waiting room.

“I think what we’re seeing here is the evolution of gaming in modern society. Video games are now a part of a normal childhood,” (Katherine Keyes, Columbia University)

Ms Keyes believes gaming has become “pro-social” and a child excluded from an activity that has become so normal is more likely to develop social problems with their peers. I can’t see Elsie being shunned in the playground for not keeping up with the latest gaming news just yet, but I get her point. 

‘In 2012, researchers at Iowa State University found that “prosocial games” – titles that encouraged players to co-operate and help each other – increased helpful behaviour.’ (Keith Stuart, The Guardian)

In my recent post about Elsie’s competitive streak, I wrote about collaboration and cooperation as part of competition. This is totally the same thing… I would even suggest that her competitive streak has been fuelled by her love for Mario Cart. It’s a great multi-player game and can be fun to play as a family, but let’s be honest there’s only ever one winner… no collaborative play.

“often parents don’t understand that many video games are meant to be shared and can teach young people about science, literacy and problem solving. Gaming with their children also offers parents countless ways to insert their own ‘teaching moment.’” (Elizabeth Hayes, ASU)

Angry birds is basically a physics lesson on projectiles… Maybe Elsie’s brain hasn’t gone 100% mush just yet.

What I say after doing a lot of googling:

As far as I can see, the press is quick to make sweeping statements but the ‘experts’ are a little less dramatic. Like all things fun… moderation is key. Katherine Keyes suggests restricting screen time to 20mins a day after homework, very sensible.

Most ‘experts’ say screens should be avoided before 2yrs and games should be avoided before 7yrs. I personally think it depends on the child. Elsie has never had the best fine motor skills and I have noticed a massive improvement in that since she started gaming. Also, although she may have become more competitive, games such as Mario Cart have helped her cope with losing. She used to be the worst sore loser but she has slowly learnt that it doesn’t matter if she comes last, next time she will do better. She quite often makes the analogy when working on something tough… “I used to be bad at Mario, but now I’m really good.” This is definitely positive.

Despite this, I also understand that some games are more appropriate than others. I’m not talking about six-year-olds playing Grand Theft Auto… obviously that’s a no-no, sorry Daddy. But some games such as Mario Maker for example, are creative, problem solving, collaborative and are not at all violent. So my ‘expert’ advice would be: Let them play, but play with them and problem solve together. Limit gaming time to prevent brain mush, and choose their games carefully.

 

If you would like to read some of the articles I managed to procrastinate a whole morning’s chores with, here you go:

 
This post is linked up here:

The Secret Diary of Agent Spitback
MrsAOK, A Work In Progress
One Messy Mama
Hot Pink Wellingtons