Archive for October, 2015

How We Do Bedtime

Friday, October 30th, 2015

20151011_163232Our bedtime routine has gone through many various transformations throughout the years. New home, new sleep space, new baby, nursing baby/toddler, and weaned baby/toddler are some of the main factors impacting our bedtime routine.  We also try to take into account the individual sleep needs of each family member.

We are currently in a pretty good rhythm as far as bedtime, but to be honest there were periods when I completely loathed bedtime.

Before jumping into our nighttime routine it might be helpful to share some background:

  • We are a family of 6; Dad, Mom, and 4 boys ages 8, 6, 4, and 14 months.
  • We are a cosleeping family.
  • My 14 month old nurses to sleep.
  • The older two boys share a bedroom. They have twin beds that are pushed together.
  • The 4 year old has his own bedroom with a queen bed in it; he will eventually share this room with his younger brother.
  • We have an “open bed” policy. Kids are welcome to sleep in our bed when/if/as needed. We have a king bed in our room.

Here’s what currently works for us. It’s a bit of the divide and conquer approach.

Bedtime routine starts at 7:30ish with the goal of lights out at 8:00pm.

First, the kids eat a snack at the kitchen table. Then they brush teeth, pee on the potty, and put on their jammies. Most nights my husband reads from a chapter book on his e-reader (so the lights can be off) to the older two boys in their room. He has a chair he sits in next to their bed and reads to them for about 20 minutes a night. Sometimes they listen to an audio book or read to themselves for that 20-minute period. Nighttime reading is very important to us; mainly because they attend a Dutch school and therefore get no exposure to English reading/writing outside the home. We need to continue to foster their English literacy skills so when we eventually go back to the States they are roughly at grade level. Once the 20 minutes of reading is done, daddy leaves the room and the two boys talk themselves to sleep each night. We don’t mind them talking as long as it is quietly and they are not being silly/wild. I actually really enjoy eavesdropping on their bedtime conversations. Most of the they speak to each other in Dutch and it’s always fun for me to listen in.

While daddy is with the older two boys, I lay with the younger two boys. My 4-year-old picks two picture books for me to read to him. While I’m reading to him, I nurse my 14 month old, who will generally fall asleep at this time. My 4 year old falls asleep really fast; like literally the second I finish reading he rolls over and passes out.  The two of them spend the first part of the night together in the bed. When my 14 month old wakes to nurse, I either nurse him in the bed there or bring him in the bed with me. It mostly depends on what time of night it is and/or how tired I am.

The above is all best-case scenario of course, and there are so many things that can hijack bedtime. There are nights it seems we play more musical beds than I would care for but as the boys get older this is happening less and less.  And I feel like solid sleep is happening more and more. I have a Fitbit that allows me to track my sleep and I always feel a huge sense of accomplishment when I meet my sleep goal, lol!

When Your Kids Compete

Thursday, October 29th, 2015

When Your Kids CompeteSibling rivalry can easily be one of the most difficult parts of child rearing. In our house, no day is complete without a battle between our two boys, ages 3 and 6. When they wake up, they are racing to my bedroom to see who can get there first. It continues throughout our day: Who got the bigger piece of pizza? Who got to the car the quickest? Who is the better Lego builder? Even when they show affection for one another, it’s not uncommon to hear my one say, “Let’s see who can hug the tightest!” Sometimes my house feels like the sibling Olympics, yet everyone seems to be losing.

Recently, in an effort to make our house a little more harmonious, I started researching ways to fix this issue. Subconsciously, I think we had been fueling the rivalry between our boys. We knew we were doing something incorrectly; the problem seemed to be getting worse, not better, with age. When I asked my friends if their children were as competitive as mine, I’d get a mixed response, but for the most part, most assure me that it is normal for two same-sex children close in age to fight. I agree that a lot of the fighting is normal, but research suggests that although it can be inevitable, there also techniques that can lessen these types of squabbles. Here are a few that we’ve found to work.

Bickering Spouses =  Bickering Kids

According to psychologist Jocelyn R. Miller, kids whose parents argue are much more likely to be competitive with one another. Although arguing might seem like an obvious learned behavior, it can be pretty humbling to admit that the same behavior that drives you nuts in your kids is also something you may be doing with your spouse. Although I would say that my husband and I are very happy with each other, we do tend to bicker quite often, mostly in a teasing way. We have always laughed this off as “just the way we communicate,” but when it affects the children it is time to re-learn ways to express disagreements.  We’ve been trying to get out of the habit of jokingly arguing, which we seem to do a lot, and instead use kindness and compassion with each other. There is a definite correlation between our own kindness to one another and our children’s kindness to each other.

Plan One-on-One time with Each Child Regularly

Another big part of sibling rivalry seems to stem from one or more children not feeling like they are confident in the relationship with their parents. Until recently, our family did almost every single activity together. Our kids were never apart except at school or when they had individual play dates. Incorporating parental one-on-one time with each child can help them feel valued and an important part of the family. We are now trying to make sure that each of us gets a “mom date” or a “dad date” with each child separately, giving them time to have our undivided attention.

Give the Older Child an Important Role

I feel like my kids are most connected when my oldest is given the task as nurturer, teacher, or protector vs. competitor. One strategy that we’ve been trying is have my oldest show his younger brother how he does things, such as pouring his own milk in his cereal, to putting on his shoes. When my oldest takes the attention off of “winning” and instead becomes the teacher, both kids seem to focus more on the task and less on the competition.

Avoid Labeling

I am the first to admit, I am absolutely terrible at labeling my kids. For years I have always introduced C as the “rule follower” and the R as the “wild child.” It is hard not to take notice of your children’s differences, both positive and negative. But as soon as you start putting them into a specific box, such as the “smart one” or the “adventurous one,” you’ve pigeonholed them into a specific category and set them up as competitors and not teammates. If you refer to your oldest as the smart one, then your other children will inevitably rebel or battle for that title.


Thankfully, there are many resources available if you are experiencing a similar sibling rivalry like ours. Some of my favorite ones were Dr. Sears and Supernanny. And don’t fret; sibling rivalry is common and normal. With time and small habit changes you can make your home more harmonious and less conflict-driven.

Tessa Wesnitzer is a health and wellness coach who lives in a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah. She loves her husband, two boys, green tea, long runs, and snowy winters.

Mom Seeking Mom: An Introvert’s Plea

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 2.56.25 PMHey, Moms. Allow me to introduce myself. I’m the mom at the park who always has her headphones in.

You know, the one you see occupying the bench as you approach with your tiny children, unsure if she is staring intently at her offspring, or has completely checked out as she looks into oblivion. I’m usually oscillating between feeling terribly guilty that I’m not playing with my kids like some of the other parents and also feeling immense relief that I can sit down for a spell. And while I fully enjoy the company of Ira Glass in my ear, I can be found glancing in your direction and running through scenarios of how I could initiate a social interaction.

It’s at times like these that I so desperately wish someone would create a dating website for introvert moms. The notion of attempting a social interaction only to find a complete lack of compatibility is enough to make me want to take a nap (though, lets face it—it doesn’t take much these days to make me want to take a nap. #parenting). The unfortunate reality of being an introvert, though, is it doesn’t eliminate the need for human connection, it simply makes it that much harder to achieve it. So wouldn’t it be great if some Internet elf could do all the exhausting small-talk work for me?

Seeking: Other moms with preschool- to kindergarten-aged children
Interests: Improv comedy, running, and anything that isn’t crafts
Parenting style: Free-range with occasional swearing
What I Have To Offer: Excellent listening skills, sarcasm, and nonjudgment when you talk about how you pooped in the birthing tub. All moms who wear sweatpants to drop-off invited to reply.

Until someone answers the plea of introvert moms everywhere and creates this website, I anticipate many of my park outings will involve the company of my podcasts and my social anxiety, with the occasional interruption from a very determined extrovert here and there. In the meantime, feel free to say hello. I very well may awkwardly acknowledge your ability to human more appropriately than I.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway.

My Pregnancy: Week 12

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

Cat’s out of the bag! We are officially having a baby. We are at about 1 person hoping we have a boy, 3 who don’t care, and 47 others who insist, hope, and even pray that we have a girl. I nod, smile, and say I’d really be excited either way. It’s the truth. There is the possibility that when we find out in a couple of months I will feel some disappointment. Right now I can see great joy in having another little guy or a little gal. No matter what our family make-up, it’s the love that makes us complete.

Of course there was the woman who said we “need to have a girl so that [our] family is complete.” There are the two family members who refer to my fetus as a “she” as smoothly as if it were true. These, predictably, come with the comments about knowing how babies happen and now we’ll really go crazy.

Only one single person of the fiftyish who have made a comment actually asked what I wanted and just listened to my response. There were a few who asked and when I said I’d really enjoy a girl or a third boy, they would follow up with “well I really hope you have a girl.” It definitely felt like they just dismissed my feelings and almost felt like fake interest, asking me only so they could then espouse their thoughts on the matter. I feel a little like a point of interest mostly for the sake of other people’s opinions. I feel a little lost, unheard, and annoyed.

Not to mention the smidge of rage I feel at some of the borderline sexist comments of two boys and a girl being just perfect. Do we still live in the time of an heir, a spare, and the lone girl as a political pawn to be married off for advantage? But maybe that’s not what they mean at all. Maybe they just go with what we have and believe in the value of reproductive anatomical variety. I try to just assume the best but often wonder if that is feminist of me. These could be opportunities to confront silent sexism, you see. The sociologist (and woman!) in me regularly considers investigating further.

I have many wise sisters-in-law. I refer to them often. The eldest, with three boys and a girl, gave me some advice upon my request. In asking how to deal with all the comments she said she tried to remember people were just trying to connect to her. We often don’t think to connect by simply listening; we also aim to connect by sharing stories, thoughts, and opinions. I could make the pregnancy a time to talk only about me (or at least a little about me!) but I can also see it as an opportunity to connect with other people.

I’ll be honest that I’m still struggling a bit with the idea of connecting because it feels like I’m giving a whole lot in all these conversations and so few people are listening to me in return. But I’ve concluded it’s not kind for me to take the compounded annoyance I have built up from conversation after conversation and put that bitterness on the next person who shows interest. I have snippy remarks I’ve considered and even put out there a time or two. They leave me as dissatisfied in the end as saying nothing at all.

The only person who doesn’t care is our three-year-old. He has learned a lot about anatomy lately. First he learned that mommy has a baby in her belly, and he does not—a very important clarification. He then learned there is a stomach for food and a womb for baby in the belly. Now he knows we all have hearts “way up here,” and got to hear the “wooshymoosh” of baby’s when at the doctor this week. When asked if he wants a brother or sister, he thoughtfully replies, “I just want a baby!”

Me too, son. Me too.

Annie is a mom of two toddlers finding comfort in breakfast foods and the excitement of one little baby on the way. If only she could find time for even more sleep. 

Photo Credit: Peaceful Parenting

Remembering Your Pre-Mom Self

Monday, October 26th, 2015

Remembering your pre-mom selfFor many of us, we were born to be mothers. We grew up playing dolls, and we just knew someday we would have children of our own. For me, this dream became a reality 3 days before my 28th birthday. I had graduated college, lived alone, been married for 5 years, and moved across the country all in my first 28 years. I had interests, a career, and so much in my own life. Then, I became a mom, and I soaked up being a mom with all I had. I quit my job and started this new adventure. Here, I sit, over 3 years later, and it’s hard to remember that girl before. Sure, she’s still me, but how do we hang on to that person we were before kids?

Continue Your Hobbies

What did you like to do with your free time before kids? Free time with kids is usually non-existent, but it does exist if you look hard enough. For me, I loved to read. I would read before bed. I loved Christian self-help books. Now, I still love to read. However, these days I start a book and it goes back on the shelf unfinished or my reading consists of bedtime stories to my little girl. Running was also a favorite hobby of mine. I ran with my friends, we did local races, and I made a point to keep my IPod up-to-date with the latest tunes. Today, if I run, it is with a double jogging stroller that is a beast to push. I run at the local YMCA on a treadmill, and I don’t really listen to my IPod because it has songs from 2011 on it, and my 3-year-old likes to play with it.  Whatever you enjoyed before kids, try to continue doing, even if it seems a little different than it was before.

Maintain Relationships

Before kids, I loved spending time with my friends. I loved to go out to eat or to a movie. Going to concerts, grabbing Starbucks, or walking around Target was my cup of tea. These days, when I see friends, it is other moms who I am close with. When I do get time with my good friends back home, it is limited or with my kids. However, this time is still precious and these people are still valuable to me. Maintain the relationships you had before. Sure, some people will move on and not understand this whole new role you have taken on. But the good ones, the really important people, will be there for the long haul. These are the people who buy your kids birthday presents and don’t get annoyed when you send yet another video to them of your kids doing silly stuff. Hold these people tight.

Be Kind to You

We get one body, one life, one chance at this thing. Sure, we gain weight and get wrinkles. But, mommas, we need to be kind to ourselves. We are still in there. I may not wear as much make-up. My pants may be a size larger. I may accessorize in Chewbeads and Ju-Ju-Be rather than fancy jewelry and trendy bags, but I am still Karyn. Under the wrinkles and saggy eyes, there is a 31-year-old woman. Every once in a while, wear something nice. Do your hair. Put on some make-up. If not for you, do it for your spouse. He will appreciate it. Remember that life changes so quickly and time is so precious. It’s okay to be in the stage you are in, and honestly, that person before mom was pretty boring anyways. (Even if she did nap and have much more pleasant meal times.)

Karyn Meyerhoff is a mom of two in Northeast Indiana where she reads, runs, and loves being a mommy.