Our Fun-Filled Autumn Weekend

The month of October was a crazy-busy blur. Between Apple-picking, planning for Avery’s birthday party, having Avery’s birthday party, Thanksgiving and hosting family from out-of-town, our weekends were jam-packed. October is my favorite month of the year and autumn is my favorite season. There’s just something about wearing sweaters, seeing all the beautiful fall colors on the trees, feeling a chill in the air while sipping a warm cappuccino and eating a pumpkin muffin from Starbucks 😋. I was not about to let this month escape me again (last October was weeks 39-40+ of my pregnancy and then the adjustment period of bringing home child #3).

We had ourselves a fun-filled autumn weekend with all the activities that we would have done over the month joined by their Nonna for some of them.  We began early Saturday morning with a hike on the mountain to look at all the fall colors.

After a quick lunch we hurried back home to carve our pumpkins. Greyson wanted a spooky face and Cameron wanted a shark, so together we drew, cut, scooped, and admired our hard work. And of course a yummy snack of homemade roasted pumpkin seeds was provided.

IMG_2876

We made a yummy pumpkin tart for dessert and had a Halloween movie night featuring a family favorite: Hocus Pocus.

The next day we went to an outdoor Halloween party where the kids received a passport full of sorcerer’s apprentice activities. They made magic wands, got their faces painted, took a tour of the jack-o’-lantern museum, took a walk in the enchanted forest, and a spin on the spooky carousel. They had so much fun and I’m very happy that we went.

We had a super fun weekend and got to complete all of our autumn family traditions, have a great time, and create new memories!

Avery’s 1st Birthday Party

My baby boy 👶 turned one-year-old on October 18th 2017. We gave him a big birthday bash to celebrate the wonderful joy-filled year he has been in our lives. I fell in love with elephants when he was gifted a big elephant which was included in his 7 month picture update. IMG_1933

The theme was obviously going to be elephants and the colors were blue and grey. These colors made up most of his wardrobe up until now and fills his nursery.

Here are a few pictures of the decorations:

 

 

I made a memory box for Avery to open on his 18th birthday. Inside I included a picture of him on his first day with his mom and dad, an ultrasound picture of him, his first pacifier, his first pair of slippers, his hospital bracelet, his letters that I have written and will continue to write him, and the notes that everyone wrote to future him at the party.

 

I had organized an activity to keep the older children busy and keeping in the spirit of October, we used pumpkins 🎃. They got to decorated their little pumpkins with spooky stickers and this kept them occupied for a magnificent 15 minutes.

 

Then of course came the cake. We had an elephant cake and Avery had his own little cake to tear into and make a mess he could call his own.

 

I had made sugar cookies shaped like an A, 1, & an elephant, which I decided to wrap up and give as party favors.

IMG_2740

It was a very nice party and I was lucky to have help from my mother, mother-in-law, aunt, and grandmother. I tend to obsess and focus only on decorations, so without my family, it would be certain that all our guests would starve in a well decorated house 😜.

December Activity Advent Calendar

Is December not the most exciting month of the year?! The excitement, the magic, the preparation, the beautiful mild snowfalls, the maxing-out of credit cards. Christmas has to be the most anticipated time of the year for kids and as a parent, we get to relive this holiday with childlike joy.

When my boys were 3 years old, I made a December activity advent calendar which is the same idea as the chocolate advent calendar only everyday we get to do a new winter/Christmas related activity. Don’t get me wrong, this in no way replaces the chocolate calendar. They still have to have their daily dose of sugar! It just adds more fun to the month of December and is also a way to keep us organized and make sure all of our Christmas tasks get done.

This will be my second year doing this with the boys since I missed the last 2 years 😅. I think the first time was so much work, it took me the next 2 years to recuperate. It happened to be the year that I returned to work and I was not organized (I was making the calendar and writing out the activities the night of November 30th). I chose to do lots of arts and crafts activities with the boys since they were only 3, but that required me to run out on almost every one of my lunch breaks to pick up our supplies needed for that evening. Pair that with trying to think of awesome scenes for elf on the shelf every night and you got one burned out momma! This is what our first calendar looked like:

This year, I am starting earlier in the hopes that this will go smoothly and be enjoyable for me as well. Here is a list of the 24 activities I have chosen to do this year:

  1.  Write a letter to Santa
  2. Decorate the Christmas tree
  3. Buy a new Christmas book
  4. Visit Santa
  5. Make an awesome hot chocolate bar
  6. Build a snowman
  7. Make Christmas cards
  8. Go skating
  9. Build a gingerbread house
  10. Watch a Christmas movie and make caramel popcorn
  11. Make Christmas tree cones
  12. Candy cane experiment
  13. Make Christmas gifts
  14. Winter hike
  15. Donate toys
  16. Christmas lights viewing in pyjamas
  17. Make Christmas cookies
  18. Go tubing
  19. Make fudge
  20. Christmas scavenger hunt
  21. Make Christmas bark
  22.  Picnic by the Christmas tree
  23. Family slumber party under the Christmas tree
  24. Open our Christmas Eve box

This year I purchased an advent calendar which saved me lots of cutting, painting, sticking, and arranging.

FullSizeRender (7)

Here’s to a magical joy-filled December full of new memories! 💗

My Boys’ 6th Birthday Party

I’ve always put a lot of thought into the birthday parties that I give my kids. Here are a few pics from each of their previous birthday parties.

  • Their 1st Birthday was Sesame Street themed but other than the decor and food, there wasn’t much else to plan for one-year-olds.

 

  • The theme for their 2nd birthday was the colors of the rainbow since they were in the process of learning all the different colors. But again, not much planning went into this party except for decorations and food.

*I have an awesome friend who makes awesome cakes, thanks Jessie!

 

  • I had loads more fun planning their 3rd birthday party since my boys were a little more kid-like and a little less baby-like….wah! :(. We had a construction themed party because what 3-year-old doesn’t love loud machines and getting dirty playing in the sand? I provided construction hats and vests for the kids to dress up in and I put a plastic tarp down, emptied out a few bags of sand on top and the kids had a blast playing with their toy construction vehicles. We also had another amazing cake made by Jessie.

 

  • Jake the Pirate became an integral part of their lives and so their 4th birthday naturally had to be pirate themed. We had pirate hats for everyone to decorate and make unique, along with pirate swords, made out of foam of course, (there will be no accidents on my watch) to play with. The kids took turns hitting the pirate ship pinata, attacking the candy and making off with their treasures. This year I decided to try and make their cake myself. I have another awesome friend Lindsay, who helped me ice it and make it look extra awesome! All the kids left with a personalized treasure chest filled with all the goodies, any pirate would enjoy.

 

  • By the time my boys turned 5, I was 36 weeks pregnant and had little extra energy for anything and party planning was not a top priority for me at this point. I thought that maybe they were old enough to decide on their own, which theme they wanted. So I waddled my way to the nearest party store with two soon-to-be 5-year-old boys and one soon to be over 8 pound baby, and let them run free. “I want a minion birthday”, said one. “I want a fireman birthday”, said the other. While gathering all our supplies in the carriage, I hear, “No, wait! I want a policeman birthday instead.” and “Can I have a minion and a dragons birthday?”. After another 30 minutes of gathering supplies, putting them back on the shelves, and trying my best to tame the dreaded laying-down-on-the-floor-temper-tantrums, we left the store empty-handed. I decided to give my boys a G-E-N-E-R-I-C- birthday (OMG!) partly out of my ever-diminishing-energy-induced-by-insomnia state and partly out of punishment for not being able to make up their wonder-filled-not-fully-developed-minds. I got a few balloons with blue and green decorations, which I put together in a hurry the morning of, an ordinary piniata and a regular cake from Costco. The nerve! *drops monocle from pure shock*.  Despite planning a rushed birthday party, the kids had a blast and enjoyed every minute of it, teaching me a valuable lesson: my kids couldn’t care less about having an extravagant birthday which takes months to plan. Give them candles to blow, a pinata to beat to a pulp and family and friends to surround them on their special day and they’ll be none the wiser that mommy’s overly pregnant body just couldn’t muster up the energy this year.

 

This year my boys turned 6! My husband tried with all his cunning and reasoning to convince me to have their birthday at one of the indoor play centers that our son’s enjoy. I stubbornly refused but in hindsight he was probably right. Please don’t tell him I said that. I felt like I had to finish off their home birthdays with a bang! At the risk of repeating last year’s fiasco, I let them choose their themes, but this time I limited their choices to 4 themes, giving them a pinterest preview of each theme instead of browsing the aisles of the party store. Thanks Pinterest!

This year, Cameron chose dinosaurs, which makes perfect sense, since Jurassic park is constantly playing in the background now at home and he can name more dinosaur names and facts than I ever thought he can contain in his I-can’t-remember-to-bring-home-my-water-bottle-from-school brain of his. And my harmlessly eccentric Greyson chose creepy crawly bugs for his theme this year, which also makes sense, since he races to go outside and look for worms right after it rains so that he can gross his brother out. And when wearing his spider-man sweater, picks up spiders in his hand (yes you read correctly) and lets them crawl all over him because he thinks he has the power to control them.

And so once again the party planning began! I made individual dinosaur invitations for Cameron and bug invitations for Greyson, to hand out to their friends.

I decorated the party area with theme appropriate balloons. We had a Jurassic world balloon, a giant balloon, which I attempted to decorate with eyes and legs to resemble a spider, and a balloon caterpillar hanging off the bookshelf, smiling oh so creepily.

IMG_2481

We had five activities planned for the kids to do:

  1. Dinosaur/Bug egg hunt
  2. Dinosaur/Bug egg hatch
  3. Dinosaur/Bug dig
  4. Dinosaur/Bug melt
  5. Pinata

For the Dinosaur/Bug egg hunt, I made eggs out of baking soda and water with a toy dino or bug hidden inside and hid the eggs everywhere in the house. I gave the kids clues; they went running up and down stairs, all over the house, to find all the eggs.

We then had to help our eggs hatch with our hatching potion (vinegar).

IMG_2498Outside on the balcony, we filled a kiddy pool up with sand and buried dinosaur bones, toy dinosaurs, toy bugs, and the kids were given tools to dig everything up.

IMG_2499

Our last activity was to help melt the dinosaurs and bugs who got frozen during the ice age. IMG_2500

The kids had a lot of fun and got to keep all the dinosaurs and bugs they collected during the activities.

They also enjoyed taking turns hitting their dinosaur and frog (it was the closest thing I could find to a bug) pinatas.

Finally, cake time! We were blessed with yet another creation from “Cakes by Jessie”.

We had a bug cake, a dinosaur cake, and a half bug/half dino cake for our family party that evening.

We can’t forget the party favors. Each bag contained dinosaur and bug candy, a dinosaur egg to crack open, grow bugs, a magnifying glass, dinosaur and bug stickers, and all of their toy bugs and dinosaurs from the activities.

I am really happy that we had this party. All the kids enjoyed themselves, the boys had a blast, but now I have to say I am officially done making house parties for the boys! Growing bodies means growing space requirements. Now, onto planning Avery’s 1st birthday which is only a month away.

Looking at these pictures from the last 6 years brings up all the wonderful memories we have made together as a family. I can’t believe my boys are already 6 years old! It really is true, “With kids, the days are long but the years are short.”.

Sleep Training Baby

While pregnant with my twins and being bed-ridden, I took to reading to fill my days. I was gifted “The Baby Book”, written by Dr. Sears. He has many parenting books out, which all promote attachment parenting. You can find out more about attachment parenting HERE. In short, there are 7 practices to follow in order to be an attached parent which include:

  1. Bonding with your baby at birth
  2. Breastfeeding
  3. Wearing your baby for many hours in a carrier
  4. Co-sleeping
  5. Soothing your baby as soon as it cries
  6. absolutely NO SLEEP TRAINING
  7. Find balance (don’t neglect yourself)

So, being a young and inexperienced mother, this sounded perfect to me. A way of parenting that would bring out the best in both baby and parents. I knew it would be impossible to wear both babies all day long or to co-sleep with two babies in a queen sized bed without having my husband sleep on the couch, but I would do my best with the other practices I read in Dr. Sear’s book.

I tried as hard as possible to bond with my babies after birth while:

  • Having my arms tied down during my c-section and not being able to hold them.
  • Feeling so loopy and out of it after the operation.
  • Dealing with extreme itchiness from the histamine reaction of the morphine.
  • Family members rushing in as soon as I got to the recovery room, and having to delay my first breastfeeding session.
  • Postpartum hemorrhaging scaring me to death; thinking to myself, “I just brought 2 tiny humans in the world and will be leaving my kids motherless”.
  • Not being able to move for a few hours until the effects of the spinal and epidural wore off, and later experiencing intense abdominal pain with every shift in bed.

Despite all that, I breastfed those tiny babies, weighing only 5lbs. 10 oz. and 4lbs. 12 oz. at birth. But after the first day, when they were losing weight, the nurses had me supplementing with formula.

It was hard for me to wear my babies in a carrier for the first 6 weeks. I had a lot of back and abdominal pain. However, once I started wearing them, I realized I didn’t quite like it and I felt needed some time to myself. I figured I actually didn’t want to constantly have a baby on me all day long.

I was able to room-share with my babies for a few months. And as soon as they woke up in the morning, I brought them in our bed for cuddles.

We were very good at soothing our babies. It was kind of easy. They slept a lot. We had to wake them up every 3 hours to feed them. And around 6 weeks, when colic usually starts, we only had one baby who suffered from it.

We never had to sleep train our babies. Because they slept so much in the beginning, they got used to being put down in the crib and falling asleep by themselves from the beginning. Except for  periods of teething and sleep regressions, they were excellent sleepers.

I was able to shower, cook, clean, and spend time with my hubby after bedtime, every single day. I had balance while being a mom to twins. “I rock at this!”, I thought to myself.

Four and a half years later, I got pregnant again. We found out that it was, ONLY 1 BABY. We were ecstatic. How easy would this be. “We had been successful with twin babies, one baby would be a piece of cake”, we said.

I knew before he was born, that I needed my space. I did not want to wear a baby all day. I did not want to sleep with a baby, I need room to toss and turn. But, I would try and exclusively breastfeed, since I hadn’t been able to do that with the twins. And, I would soothe this baby as soon as he cries. And, he will never be sleep trained.

Then, my precious little Avery was born! This 8 pound, 4 ounce baby was born extremely alert and extremely hungry. Yes, I got to hold him as soon as he came out. Yes, I got to breastfeed him exclusively. Yes, I soothed and fed him every single time he cried. But I was exhausted! I thought that the first night after birth, was supposed to be the easiest. That babies usually sleep well that first night in the hospital. So why, was my baby crying to be fed every 30-60 minutes ALL NIGHT LONG? Why wouldn’t he let me put him down in the bassinet after he had fallen asleep at the breast?

This behavior continued. He nursed all day long. He would drink after waking up for about 5-10 minutes, fall asleep, wake up as soon as I tried putting him down, and this would continue the entire day. He would cry while I changed his diaper or his pee-soaked pajamas, because he wasn’t being held in my arms. My husband was back at school 2 days after Avery’s birth, which meant that without a second set of arms in which Avery could find comfort, the luxuries that we often take for granted like showering, eating and yes, even peeing were a lot harder to come by. In fact, if it weren’t for my mother who would come visit every afternoon after work, I would have been a starved, dirty and depressed mom, sporting a pee soaked diaper.

SLEEPING ON MOMMY

I continued to nurse and soothe every cry away. I quickly learned, that if I didn’t want to be attached to the couch all day long, I would need to wear him in a carrier. If I wanted him to have normal nap lengths, I would need to wear him in a carrier. If I didn’t want to fall asleep and drop him while feeding him in the middle of the night, out of exhaustion, then co-sleeping would be necessary. So the two things that I absolutely convinced myself I did not want to do, I ended up doing anyway. He made me do it! He demanded attachment! I gave in.

After 3 months of 24/7 attachment (and I really mean 24/7 attachment), he finally began to nap in his crib and go down on the floor for tummy time. But, by then, he had gotten used to being helped to sleep. Things were better but, he continued to nap for 30-45 minutes, and wake up to nurse 2-3 times per night until he was 10 months old. My husband started his long shifts in the hospital and I got almost no help from him day or night. I was exhausted and had enough! So I scoured the depths of the world wide web and searched for advice on sleep training. Every day I thought would be the day I would start sleep training Avery, and every day my skepticism got the best of me. I was overwhelmed by this irrational fear that I would psychologically damage my sweet little boy and turn him into a mom-hating psychopath. But I needed to give it a try. I deserved to give it a try.

I first attacked his 30 minute naps. Like clockwork, after 30 minutes of napping, he woke up and started crying. I told myself, “just wait five minutes. What’s the worst that can happen from 5 minutes of crying?”. After those five minutes, his crying subsided to more of a whine and I decided to push those five minutes to ten minutes. After all, five minutes was harmless, I thought, and what’s ten minutes but two small five minute intervals? After the 10 minutes were finished, I went to lay him back down and gave him his pacifier. He was so tired from crying for 10 minutes, that he fell back asleep. He did this one more time before the hour I thought was ideal for babies his age was over. The next day was the same. On the 3rd glorious day, instead of waking up, crying, and having to go put him back down, he only fussed for a few minutes before falling back asleep. Sleep training for naps had been so successful, I decided to start trying the same process at night. After 2 nights of this approach, he would only fuss a bit and then go right back to sleep. Success at last! He sleeps. The baby actually sleeps. She sleeps. The mom actually sleeps.

Now, 1 week later, I have a baby that naps for 1.5 hours two times per day, and he sleeps from 7:30 PM-6:15 AM at night sans wakings. To be honest, I only found the first two days to be difficult and now I feel like a brand new person. I am so happy that I tried sleep training. I still wouldn’t feel comfortable doing it with a younger baby though. But at 10 months, I had the impression that he needed to sleep longer during the day, and that he did not need anymore nighttime feedings.

A lesson comes with this tale dear moms and dads of the fussy infant. I had spent so many years envisioning how I would parent my kids. I’ve read the books. I’ve read the mommy blogs and watched the mommy vlogs. I’ve scoured the parenting forum world, compiled all the information the infinite web had to offer and developed a mental picture of what I thought would be the  “perfect mom” who employs “perfect parenting” and creates “perfect kids”. The truth? There is no one-size-fits-all approach and in the end your baby will turn you into the parent that he or she needs. The twins never needed sleep training. And that was fine. Avery needed help learning how to sleep. And that was fine too. Parenting is not a battle between parent and child.  It is about guiding your children and letting them guide you.

*stands up in a crowded room* “Hi. My name is Lydia. I have a super attached and sleep-trained baby. And I love him to pieces!”

IMG_1680

 

Am I ruining my Kids?

“Am I ruining my kids?” I think to myself as I’m scrolling down Facebook and see a post from an awesome and deservedly proud Mommy that I know. It is about her 5-year-old child, the same age as my boys, who has decided out of the kindness of her heart, to raise money for those in need. I’m in awe! I see this post on a day, where keeping my boys from killing each other is considered a victory.

Some of my top goals as a parent:

  • To raise happy children who love their parents unconditionally
  • To raise kind people, and will help improve the lives of others
  • To raise respectful people
  • To raise hard-workers

At the end of every day, I reflect and rate how my day was. I have concluded that I experience 3 types of days;

  1. The “I’m an awesome mom Day”, when I feel like I’m finally succeeding at reaching my goals above. These days include giving my kids my undivided attention, cooking them full well-balanced meals, and keeping the happiness level to FULL MAX.
  2. The “Average Day”, when I feel like I could do better tomorrow. Or, that my kids are just kids after all. These days might include crying over spilled milk (sometimes literally), having to put them in a time-out for talking back, or raising my voice when I’ve asked them to clean up and it hasn’t been done.
  3. The “I can’t do this Day”, when I feel like I’m not able to be the mom that I want to be. Or, despite all my efforts, my kids are horrible and need to see a specialist. These days can include, non-stop bickering and screaming. Cold peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for supper and a skipped bath to expedite bed time.

From the moment I saw 2 pink lines on not 1, not 2, but 3 pregnancy tests, I was a Mommy. I was put on preventative leave from work, because I worked in a daycare. And, was also put on bed rest at 13 weeks with my twins, due to bleeding. So, what do you do all day alone in bed? You read. What did I choose to read? Pregnancy and parenting books. Why not learn all that I can, to be the best parent there ever was? I began to see parenting as a science, that one had to study. As a test, that one had to ace. And if you didn’t, you would have awful kids, that didn’t listen, and would make your life hell.

I put a lot of effort into being the kind of Mommy that I wanted to be. My twins were born, they quickly turned one, then two, then three, then four. Most of my days were categorized as “Awesome mom Days” and “Average Days”, which were also okay, because hey, I had twin toddlers and I’m only human!

Then everything changed…

They turned five! They started school! Their baby brother was born! They saw a lot less of Daddy!

My days have turned into mostly “I can’t do this Days” with a sprinkling of “Average Days”, and a rare appearance from “Awesome Mom Days”. Sometimes I feel so defeated. It pains me so much because I put so much effort into this job starting way back during my bed-ridden days, as a hopeful 23-year-old new mom of twins.

Did I do something wrong? Did I not follow-through enough? Did I not punish enough? Did I punish too much? Did I not develop a close-enough bond with both kids? Was I too close, and coddled them too much?

My husband tells me that I’m not strict enough. My mother tells me that I’m like a drill sergeant, making 3-year-olds make their beds and put away their shoes when we come in the house. I have others telling me to start yelling or smacking bums. I have my grandmother telling me to stop yelling at them and I should be boosting their self-esteem more.

I’m clueless now. I’ve read too much. I’ve received too much advice. What is the right way? Is there a right way? I’ve read books that say not to punish at all. When your child misbehaves, to tickle them. The worst thing you can do is send a kid to time-out all by himself, and let his anger grow, while not teaching him any valuable lessons. I’ve also read books that say to count to three and if they don’t listen by three, to send them to time-out or take away a privilege.

After much experimentation, I’ve concluded that one of my boys responds well to 1-2-3-TIME-OUT, because he needs the fear of impending doom to come to the realization that the current situation he’s in is serious business. And with the other, 1-2-3 TIME-OUT just makes him furious and lash out. He has less anger when I forego the time-out, and instead, calmly provide an explanation for why his behavior is unacceptable or provide him with some independent play time, where he can color or read books in order to calm down). But how can I punish one and not the other? Is one of these methods wrong and causing me to mess up my children? Is parenting supposed to be this hard?

After many of my “I can’t do this Days”, I start looking up child psychologists. And then, the next day happens to be a better day and I put that idea aside at the back of my brain, only to resurface again after my next bad day. Many times I think that my kids are just reacting to so many changes happening in their lives all at the same time. But am I just making excuses for them? Am I ruining my kids? Sometimes I feel like I can’t do this alone.

But then, at the end of the day, when I check in on them sleeping and looking like the innocent children that they actually are, I am so filled with love and content, which fuels me with the power and desire to get up tomorrow and do it all over again. I can do this! I’m ready! Bring it.

IMG_2440