Parent hack: record your songs!

One of the things that helps to calm down our boys when they are crying, is singing to them. I actually love doing that and it was especially nice when the boys were babies.
But honestly, I did get fed up with singing the same songs so often. So one day I decided to record myself on my smartphone.  I recorded an audio file of nearly 5 minutes of different ‘things’ that happen on that bus. The cat on the bus says meow meow meow. The bird on the bus says tweet tweet tweet. The pizza on the bus is yummy yummy yummy… whatever I could think of.

And wow, what a life saver that recording was! After we put the boys to bed I would play the song outside their door. I could clean up while they thought I was still there. It also worked great when I was home alone, had one of the boys out of bed for a feeding and the other one felt lonely. Or when I was so exhausted I could not remember the words to the song anymore.
And in the car, when they needed entertainment, I would just put my phone in the back playing my song. So much easier than singing loud enough to be heard over the combined sound of the engine and the wheels going over the crappy Belgian roads.
It worked so well I made a few more recordings so I could vary the repertoire J (row row row your boat, twinkle twinkle little star…)

Now that the twins are a bit older they like to sing along and they actually ask me to play the songs sometimes, while they are busy drawing or making puzzles. And when they are in ‘a mood’ I get a loud ‘noooo, not that song’, because they want to decide.
But the recorded songs still work at bedtime, when they are completely exhausted but don’t really want to admit that. Listening to my voice ‘usually’ calms them down. (not always of course…)

© Carien Touwen 2017

The feeding logbook

Our first months with the twins were completely exhausting. Our whole day revolved around feeding them, changing their nappies and sleeping, especially sleeping. Their sleeping I mean, don’t count on getting anything more than three hours in a row yourself.

a page from our logbook

With 7-8 feedings per child, so sixteen in total, the difference between day and night completely disappeared those first months. The only thing that endured was the question: what do they need?
As our sleep deprivation got worse, we quickly realised we needed some way to keep track of what we were doing to whom. I breastfed the twins but we supplemented with expressed milk and formula. I often was so sleepy I had no idea who I had fed when. My husband helped out as much as he could, so we had a lot of half asleep conversations to establish what had and had not happened.
We both realised quickly this was not working, so we started keeping a logbook of things. Just a simple chart.

with the boys’ names, the time they had been fed last and which milk they had had, how much they had had etc.. With one glance at the book we knew if the twin that was awake was already in need of more milk or if it could be something else. This made life a lot easier. No more remembering, just writing things down and looking it up.
When we both realised neither of us could not remember if we had changed any poopy diaper in the last days, we added a nice poopy drawing to our log whenever a baby had done a number 2 to make sure all the milk was going down smoothly.
After about seven months we could quit using the logbook (due to less feedings, not due to more sleep and more memory function sadly…) and I started using it as a log of their activities, accomplishments and behaviour.
When I l read back in the book now and see those first pages I can’t imagine anymore how we did it. I guess you just go with the flow. Sleep is for babies anyway.

© Carien Touwen 2017

Family dinners… usually cold

Since the boys turned one we have always tried to have dinner together. I like the idea that a family has at least one moment each day to sit together, share a meal and tell their stories. In theory this sounds great, the practise with small children means that the parents usually eat a cold dinner. In the beginning we would just feed the boys first and then dish up our own food, while they were babbling and messing around with their yoghurt.
But once they were around 20 months they ate quite well by themselves and we actually could all eat together. This is when the boys discovered additions like mayonnaise and gravy (more sauce mommy please) and salt and pepper (I want to shake it mommy!).
Let’s pretend there were never tantrums (I don’t like it mommy, want to play mommy, meh mommy, meh) and say these were lovely times of blissful warm family dinners.
The age of two/ two-and-a-half brought different times again. Mainly due to potty training and the fact that they sit on trip-trap chairs now and can get on and off by themselves.
Before dinner there is always the battle of washing hands. But now we have added going to the loo to that, so it takes forever to get them to be ready for dinner.
One of our boys is already potty-trained and has discovered he gets to walk away from the table whenever he says he needs to do a pipi. As happy as I am to have him nappy-free, the undesirable side-effect is that my dinner once more is going cold due to countless visits to the bathroom. Our other son is about to discover this as well, we have already had some fights about who gets to sit on which toilet or potty so there are many more cold meals to follow. Maybe I should start making salads more often…

© Carien Touwen 2017

My best helper

Life of a (twin-)mom is always busy and you’re always in need of an extra pair of hands. That’s why I am forever on the look-out for things that will help me spend less time on household shores.

People often ask me: what is the one thing a twin-mom can’t be without? When the boys were still baby’s I probably would have said you definitely need two rocker chairs, and yes you do. A washing machine, a dryer and a dishwasher are also on the must-have list. So are a microwave and microwave bottle steriliser.
But once the boys started crawling and eating solids I realised that phase came with a lot more cleaning work. I am not talking about the piles of laundry now that they actually dirtied their clothes, I am talking about the floor. They can’t eat anything without spilling. It was basically useless to vacuum because two seconds later the floor would be dirty again. It was then that we made our best decision ever: buying a  robot vacuum cleaner. I always thought they were really cool but too expensive. But when we finally bought one I never regretted it. Honestly, since then the Roomba is my best friend. When I leave for a walk with the twins I turn it on, when we come back the house is clean. It cleans under the chairs and sofa, spaces I would have trouble reaching, and brings out all the lost toys.

These days I often put the Roomba on when the boys have their bath. Once the boys are in bed, we get to enjoy a whole evening with a clean floor. And it’s even more enjoyable because I did not have to use my valuable time to do it.

© Carien Touwen 2017

The hospital bag – some advice

After week 30 of your (twin-)pregnancy it is time to get your hospital bag ready. It may sound a bit early, but trust me, it’s better to have it prepared. You never know when you have to go.
Usually hospitals provide you with a list of things to bring and a lot of these items are very logical. First of all: think of your ID-document, to register you in the hospital.
Of course you need to bring your chosen ‘first’ clothes for your baby’s, but also important, little hats, socks and body’s and warmer clothes to bring them home in. In Belgium, hospitals will provide you with the other firsts, like nappies, cream etc. So no need to pack those.
Then of course you need to pack your own stuff like toiletries, clean underwear, breast feeding bra’s and pyjamas.

My advice; please make sure your pyjamas fit this description:
– loose and wide fit, so it will not hurt anywhere it already hurts
– big enough so it will cover everything if you need to wander the hallways
– buttons at the top for easy breast feeding
– pretty enough so you can wear them receiving the first visitors ( if you care about that stuff)
– pretty enough to be seen with in the first pictures (if you care about that stuff)

These are all the necessities that the hospital will mention, but I urge you to add the following to this list:
I am not joking. Hospital food is crap and a natural delivery can take a long time. The hospital will not feed you in the delivery room, instead they hang the scary thought of emergency C-section over your head and in the meanwhile you have absolutely no energy to do what needs to be done. (making that C-section more likely to happen I think…)
So please bring energy bars, chocolate cookies, bread sticks etc. and anything else that fits in your bag. If you don’t need it during the delivery be grateful and it will still come in handy when you realise, in the days after, that hospital food is never sufficient. I am talking from experience here, I had my partner bring me fast-food every evening I spend in the hospital to silence my ever growling tummy.


PS. And for those of you who are pregnant now: please don’t worry about a prolonged hospital stay! If that happens there will be loads of time to get other things you may need there. Your partner can bring it and so can visiting family. So don’t look for troubles that are not there, take it one day at the time and prepare that bag so you don’t have to think about it anymore.

© Carien Touwen 2017