Weighted Blankets, Overactive Four-Year-Olds, and Sleep (Sweet, Elusive Sleep)

weighted blanket reviewI’ve seen this article about weighted blankets floating around social media lately, and since we just got one for my eldest, I thought I’d do a little weighted blanket review today.  I forget how exactly I found this Forbes article saying that weighted blankets are amazing for all sorts of kids (although they’re most often used for kids with sensory disorders) — probably somewhere in my sleep research.  Bedtime was crazy crazy crazy for us for months (maybe years! taking the fourth side off the crib in January 2014 was what I generally view as the start of his sleep troubles), complete with meltdowns, screaming, and more.  We moved his bedtime up, we moved his bedtime back… we set strict routines and stuck to them as best we could with him fighting every step.  Finally I found this article about weighted blankets and decided to give it a try.  (It didn’t help that he had a major itchy rash from May 2015 until recently (more thoughts on eczema to come in the future), and would itch like mad at bedtime unless we gave him Benadryl, which only seemed to help enough to help him fall asleep.

Finally, I found this article and decided to give it a try, even though it sounded crazy — putting an 8 pound weight on my son while he slept?  But you know what: dang if it hasn’t solved a lot of our sleep problems.  The first few nights he refused to use it, and I had to put it on his legs after he fell asleep in hopes that it would help him sleep.  Now, after having it for almost three months, he happily snuggles under it at bedtime and knows it helps him fall asleep. Even if he was crazy just a minute before, if we can get him under the blanket for just 20-30 seconds it seems to really help calm him down.  (Note that it isn’t a bed-sized blanket; it’s more the size of our Dream Blanket.) The one downside is that he seems to sleep so well with it that he has more nighttime accidents than he ever did before, so we’ve started taking the blanket off him after he falls asleep. (But then again, he is 4.5, so that’s probably par for the course.)  The blankets come in a range of sizes, colors, and weights; we paid around $114 for ours with tax and shipping.  The Magic Blanket

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Productivity… and Family Time

productivity and family timeHave you found that your best, most productive hours sometimes conflict with family times that you try to hold sacred, such as family dinner? Have you had success shifting your schedule so you can be productive at other times of the day? Did you find an early bedtime (9:30?) to be helpful, or have you found another way to recharge so you can eke out a few more hours of productivity after putting the kids down for the night?

I don’t know why the other day, but I was really, really missing the days when I could work late at the office (8:00 or 10:00ish usually — sometimes 12:00ish in my younger years!) and get stuff done. I was also missing the days when I could get up “early” at, say, 5 and get a ton of work done before I had to be presentable at work at 9:30 or 10. Because maybe it’s me and my situation, but it seems like those days are gone, at least for the foreseeable future — even if I do work in an office, either for myself or someone else, I’m going to want to be home for family dinner — if not every night, then certainly 99% of the time. “Family dinner is sacred” is the advice I keep reading, and I love that idea — the idea of us all sitting around the table, phones and other devices put away, TV off, to reconnect and tell each other about our days. But… a kid-friendly dinner time is usually in the midst of my most productive time, late afternoon/early evening. Similarly, “getting up early” means something different to parents, am I right? My four year old, at least, laughs at the idea of 5 AM as being “early” — it’s the best time to get up, Mommy! In fact, if you’re up earlier, why shouldn’t I be up also? I feel like if I were really to make an attempt to get up early, I would have to get up around 3 or 4 — and even then I’d only have an hour or two at most to get work done, unlike those long, luxurious mornings where I could get up at 5 and get four solid hours of work done before I had to be at work. Of course, you can always put your partner on “parent in charge” duty, or schedule another caregiver for that time in the morning — so maybe I should try that. (If you do get up, do you work in the house — or leave entirely, like to go to a coffee shop?) As for the evenings… my husband and I often feel like from 5pm to 9pm we go into the family tunnel of dinner, bath, and bedtime (with at least one incident each night of a meltdown, a water-soaked bathroom, or some other bedtime fight) — and when we emerge we’re too wired to sleep and too exhausted to do anything of substance.

I don’t know, ladies, maybe you’ve found The Way — have you managed to shift your productive times to another time of day? Do you swap “sacred times” with your partner so one of you gets a weeknight or early morning spot to yourself?  Or do you think it’s all mental, the way I convinced myself in high school and college that my most productive hours were from 12AM to 3 AM? 

School Break Camps: Open Thread

School Break CampsDo your kids go to school break camps during winter and spring school vacations? With day care, you usually don’t have to worry — just send them to your regular provider. But parents of school-age kids need to find an alternative child care situation.

Good sources for information about school break camps include local parent magazines and websites, and local parent email lists/groups. Last month I asked about camps in a Facebook group for parents who live in my town and got some great ideas. (They included unexpected options from a chess center and aerial arts studio!) Depending on where you live, you might find school break camps from providers like these:

  • Cultural attractions: Check museums, art galleries, zoos, and other institutions. (Think outside the box: Even our local animal shelter offers break camps!)
  • Kid-oriented businesses: Good bets include martial arts centers, dance studios, climbing gyms, or places like The Little Gym.
  • STEM & arts centers: Your kids could spend a week enjoying photography, creative writing, robotics, Lego building, or Minecraft.
  • Grocery stores: Larger stores may offer kids’ cooking classes during breaks.
  • Libraries and bookstores 
  • Gyms/pools/YMCA 
  • Community centers/rec centers
  • Academic/tutoring businesses 

So, let’s talk about what you do during school vacations! Do you ask family for help or hire a babysitter? Do you ask your nanny to work extra hours? Do you enroll your kids in camp? Do you take time off, or go on a family vacation? Also, how do you find out about camps? When you’ve chosen a school break camp, does it usually fit your work schedule? (Or does it seem geared toward families with a stay-at-home parent?) When do you think kids are old enough to stay at home while you’re at work?

Pictured at top: Lego Club — 2012, originally uploaded to Flickr by Clearwater Public Library System Photos

Good Questions: Informed Consent Questions To Keep With You

informed consentWhen I was pregnant with my first, we took a Lamaze class — and I got a great list of “informed consent” questions.  The idea is that, particularly with labor and delivery, a lot of things happen quickly, and frequently you’re only half giving informed consent because you’re so exhausted, in pain, and more.  I didn’t end up asking any of these with my first delivery (although I wish I had!); but we did take a printout of this list with us to the birth of our second son — I made sure my husband and I both knew where it was, and it calmed us both down a bit. (Had we gone with a doula for either pregnancy I might not have felt the need, and trusted she would know enough about the situation, the hospital, alternatives, and more — but every hospital I delivered at only allowed two people in the delivery room with you, and I always wanted my husband and mother with me!)

I still keep the list in my iPhone, to be honest — if ever anyone I know were to be in a health emergency it feels like a list I’d want to have.

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Estate Planning and Kids: Open Thread

estate planning for parentsHave you been on top of your estate planning, ladies? Once you have kids it certainly feels like a pressing issue — and yet my husband and I still haven’t sat down with a lawyer to get our wills or other details buttoned up. Whoopsies. We’ve talked about getting your accounts in order for labor, but estate planning is a bit bigger than that — and it can change with each birth depending on how things are worded and what other situations are (family members living, dying, etc.). How did you find your lawyer for a will or trust? What other estate planning did you do — and did you find any service that simplified it? (Wouldn’t it be great if there were something like MissNowMrs for estate planning for parents?)

 

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Meal Planning Apps for Working Moms

meal planning apps2017 Update: We still stand by this advice on our favorite meal planning apps — but you may also want to check out some of our newer stories on tech for working moms.

Ladies, do you have any favorite meal planning apps?  Have you tried and abandoned any? Reader M wonders:

Are there any resources that you have gathered/written about for meal planning for working moms? I am looking for a good app or system that will help!

We actually have talked about this in general, rounding up 5 family dinner strategies better than delivery, as well as having a nice discussion about how to share dinner duties between two working parents — but we haven’t talked directly about apps (and I have a good one!), so let’s discuss — I’m always curious to hear what people are using!

We keep trying different things here at Casa Griffin.  We fell off The Fresh 20 because the meal prep was just too involved for the time we wanted to invest — we also don’t eat at home reliably 5 nights a week, and adjusting the shopping list to only 4 nights took a surprising amount of thought.  Prior to that we had a system of just cooking 10 easy meals “on rotation,” but we got bored with that.  I, too, was seeking an app that would help with meal planning, shopping lists, and also hold the recipe so I could consult it if I needed to in the store.  (Or am I the only one who, when faced with a food item I can’t find, consults the recipe and says, “well, screw it, they only want 1Tbsp of shallots anyway!” and moves on?)  I really like the free app we’ve found: Pepperplate. It has a web version, as well as an app for my iPhone and my iPad, and I’ve set it up on my husband’s phone as well (which gives him ready access to the recipes and shopping lists as well).  The program can import recipes from some of its partner sites (allegedly), but it’s also easy enough to add recipes manually.  (I like that you can add a picture — they’re always my favorite part when looking for recipes!) When you’re sitting down to do the meal planning for the week you add a specific recipe to a calendar, making it easy for your partner or a helpful third party (nanny, au pair, whomever) to know what the plan is for that night.  And one of the things I like best is that you can add all of the recipe ingredients to a single shopping list where items are grouped by general grocery store section (dairy, meat, etc) and consolidated.  (You can also pick and choose which ingredients to add to the shopping list, which is always helpful when you already have 60% of what you need in the house.)

One tip: I keep a backup of all my recipes in B-Folders (which doesn’t have an iPhone app, so it can’t quite serve the same purpose). Both in Pepperplate and in B-Folders, I organize recipes by putting the meal in the title of the recipe, so if I’m sorting by alphabet I see all of my BF (breakfast) or MD (main dishes) together.  I also put notations like MD:CP in the main title (so all of my crockpot main dishes are together), and I tag them with words like “slow cooker, clean, low carb, etc” since I sometimes go on and off different eating regimens. (Pictured: Spicy pork posole, from Self magazine many moons ago!)

This Lifehacker article rounds up some other apps, including the Lifehacker reader favorite, CookSmarts (currently $6-$8 a month).  Ladies, what meal planning apps do you use? If you’re still on the hunt, what are you looking for in one? If you’ve found a system other than an app, what do you use? 

Social media picture credit: Pixabay.

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