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Saturday, March 26, 2016

How to Help Your Kids Sleep In: A Parent's Survival Tool

When my oldest daughter was 18 months old, she would often call us into her room when she woke up. Initially this was around 6:00. Considering that she went to bed at 7:00 in the evening, 6:00 didn't seem too bad. Then she started waking up at 5:45. Then 5:30. Then 5:00. All of a sudden our great little sleeper was driving mommy and daddy crazy. No matter what time she went to bed, she was awake and ready for her day to start well before I had my first cup of coffee. We needed a solution.

Enter Momo.

Momo is our best friend. Momo is a life saver. Momo is a plastic monkey clock. We discovered Momo on Amazon as we were looking for solutions to help our little early bird. Here's how Momo works. At night, when you're putting your child to sleep, you push a button and Momo closes his eyes. We turned this into a "Say goodnight to Momo" ritual. You explain that when Momo's eyes are closed, it's still night. Then, at the time you set, Momo will open his eyes and your early bird can begin to gather her worms. There is also the option to turn on jungle sounds when Momo opens his eyes to help wake your little one.

There are many child sleep aids out there - some with lights, some with colors, some with sounds. For us, open eyes and closed eyes were so easy to explain to our kids that we quickly grew quite fond of Momo. In fact, Momo is such a champion in our house that we have two - one Momo for each kid room. And Momo has been keeping Mommy and Daddy sane for the past five years. Our kids like the feeling of knowing what time it is before being able to tell time. Our oldest used to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and she would say, "Is it morning? Wait, I'll check Momo." And our youngest loves being able to announce to the family when it's morning because of Momo.

Thank you, Momo, for all of your service! We want our early birds to get their worms, but not too early.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Tips for Keeping Kids and Parents Sane During Business Trips

My wife has been in Thailand for six days. She comes home in two days. This is an annual occurrence in our house. Every Spring Break my wife has a business trip in Asia. It is typically scheduled around my Spring Break so we do not need to worry about full time child care for the week. This means that for one week every year I get to try to figure out how to do what my wife and I normally to do together by myself. With a seven-, five-, and three-year-old. BY MYSELF. Last year my cousins stayed with me since the trip did not coincide with my Spring Break. This year my mom watched the kids for a couple of hours so I could find my sanity. But business trips are taxing on kids and parents, and luckily, we have discovered some great things that work for us. Hopefully you will find them useful for your next business trip.

Prior to the trip we bag and label some gifts for the kids, one for each day that mom will be gone. These do not need to be expensive gifts; we usually get some prizes from the dollar aisle at Target. We look for things that are not just cheap trinkets, but things that can help keep the kids occupied, which may or may not be cheap trinkets. Some ideas are coloring books, markers or crayons, bubbles, books, or sidewalk chalk. In the past we have had a new movie for a movie night. This trip we had some money for the ice cream man. He was accosted by my kids today and we all got an ice cream treat. That was a hit!

Each bag gets a sticker with the day on it. This is a great visual for young kids to see how many days until mom returns. I have alternated in the past with getting to open the presents first thing in the morning and getting to open the presents after dinner. Every trip I change it up and I really haven't found that one works better than the other.

Throughout the week I try to find things to do with the kids to keep them from missing mommy too much. They get treats that I normally wouldn't let them have, not because mommy isn't here to be the rule gestapo. It's not like I need her permission to spoil the kids (honey, if you're reading this from Thailand, everything is great and I didn't give the kids candy from Sweeties for the movie night tonight, so nothing to worry about). Sometimes I trick them into thinking they're getting treats. One favorite for this is the homemade Dreamsicle that I blogged about two years ago. The kids still think that they're getting dessert, when they're actually just getting frozen breakfast foods.

Technology is wonderful and my kids get to Facetime my wife every day. With her in Thailand, our tonight is her tomorrow morning, so we can easily line up times that work for everybody. But she is extra sensitive about being alert to what is going on here in Arizona with the kids during the call. So if a kid is having a meltdown, she doesn't try to keep asking about their day or telling me about hers. Just a quick, "I love you guys. Don't bust daddy's chops," and we can get back to having the kids bust my chops. 

Finally, for extended trips like this, bringing back prizes really helps. I still remember my parents taking trips when I was a kid, and the excitement of them opening their suitcases with a new stuffed animal, a book, or a shirt. Again, this doesn't need to be anything big or expensive, but just something for the kids, and spouse-left-at-home, to know that they were missed. We try to make the time with mommy gone filled with enough fun that the kids will not dread that time when the next trip comes around.

I just noticed that there is one bag left for this trip. I know that I can survive one more day. Maybe next trip I will request goodie bags that I can open throughout the week.