Learning to walk

I’m supposed to post about toddlers today, but that seems like such a long time ago. My girls are now thinking about kindergarten. My toddler experiences are distant memories now, but I’m reminded of them as I watch our babysitter’s son go through the same phases again.

Our girls didn’t start to “toddle” until they were 19 months old. They learned to stand and walk cautiously, but once they took those first steps, they didn’t want to stand still.  Within a month they went from just starting to stand independently to walking. The result was lots of bumps and bruises. About a month after learning to walk, our MoM’s group visited the zoo.  The paths at the zoo sloped up and down as they curved around the animal enclosures. As a result, our girls – who insisted on walking by themselves – spend lots of time face down on the ground. By the end of the day, we joked that we could tell them apart by the bruises on their foreheads. Fortunately, they had lots of time to practice walking in the warm summer weather, and their balance improved.

Last fall the girls start jiu jitsu, where they once again seemed awkward and unsure of their movements. Compared to the more experienced students in the class, they seemed like toddlers again. Though the context is different, it reminds me of those early days of walking, experimenting with new movement. It is interesting to see how the same patterns reappear at different points in our children’s development.

Twinfant Tuesday: A Few Suggestions for Finding Time for Yourself

I’m preparing a class for new and expecting parents of multiples, so I’ve been thinking about how I managed those first weeks and months.  I thought I’d share some here.

  1. Take a shower.  Not only does it help to feel clean and to dress in something other than pajamas, but you can’t hear your babies over the running water.  In that first year after my girls were born, I switched from baths to showers.
  2. Get out of the house (with your partner, if possible).  Our first trip out after the babies came home was to exchange my nursing tops for the next size up. We were gone maybe 40 minutes.  The next trip was to the Starbucks drive through.  They weren’t long trips, but they were a break from the babies.
  3. Enjoy yourself while breastfeeding. I got the complete DVD set of Star Trek – The Next Generation. During evening breastfeeding, I could count on watching an episode or two.
  4. Keep eating your favourite foods.  If you are breastfeeding, you actually need more calories than you did when pregnant. Ice cream and grilled cheese sandwiches can stay on your menu as you continue to eat for three or more.
  5. Sleep when your babies sleep.  Good advice!  Take naps rather than worrying about house cleaning and meal prep.
  6. Accept help. If someone offers to do laundry, prepare a meal or hold a baby, take them up on it.  At the very least, having some adult conversation is a nice change.Find support.
  7. Connect with other parents of multiples.  Whether you join a local MoMs group or connect online, it is helpful to talk to someone who shares your experiences.

What are your suggestions for looking after yourself?

Time together and apart at playschool

My daughters (R and S) are starting their third year of playschool next week.  They’ve been going to the same mothers’ day out program for those three years.

First day of Playschool - 2011 (age 2)

The first year, they went together to the toddler room. I don’t think the teachers learned much about their unique personalities that year, probably because even as parents we didn’t see many difference developing.  The teachers tried to support the girls as individuals by taking them to the bathroom separately, but it was challenging with a group of 1.5 and 2 year olds to be that structured, especially when potty training.

First day of Playschool - 2012 (age 3)

Last year, the girls went together one day a week and by themselves each one day a week in the 3 year old room. This gave the girls time at school by themselves and time at home by themselves with me.  It was during this last year that they really started developing their own unique personalities.  Their classroom teachers also recognized those differences. They told me how the girls behaved differently when they were together and apart.  R was more interested in crafts and writing her letters.  She also enjoyed helping the teachers.  S liked playing with the dolls and stuffed animals but sometimes she’d play with the cars and trains.  When they were at school together, they usually played together with each other but not with the other kids.

On the days they were at school alone, they made their own friends and ate lunch with other kids. R, who could write her name, even visited the 4-year-old class, which challenged her social and academic skills a little. The teachers encouraged this independence by separating them in different work groups or seating them apart at lunch time. R and S’s classroom teachers and many of the other teachers at the school could tell them apart. At home, I was able to include the girls in different activities like doing errands with me, playing their favourite games and helping in the kitchen.  I don’t need to tell you how much easier some tasks are with just one “helper.”

Soccer camp - Summer 2013 (age 4)

Next week, they’ll start going together one day a week and by themselves one day each again. I’m excited to see how they develop their own personalities even more over this year. At home, I’m going to work with R on her reading; I think she’ll be reading by Christmas. I think she gets bored without a challenge and that leads to potty accidents and baby behaviours. With S, I’m going to go at her pace. I think she has ideas, but she’s a little quieter so her sister and brother get to lead more. I’m curious to see what interests of her own emerge.

Even though kindergarten is still a year off, I’ve been talking to the girls about it.  They are quite definite they want to be in separate classes. I ask if they’ll be lonely by themselves, and they tell me “we will ride the bus together every day.” Since they look so much alike and their personalities are very similar, I think the time apart will let them explore their interests and develop their own identities.

The Toy Takeover – Part 2

You can read the first post about The Toy Takeover here.

I was inspired by the TV show Consumed to take another step in tackling the toys in our house.  In this show, families with way more stuff than us agree to put most of their belongings in storage for a month.  After surviving with the bare minimum of dishes, furniture, clothing and personal items, they are supposed to realize they don’t need all the clutter. I thought this approach might work for toys too. 

Before Christmas, I packed up a large cardboard box with all the stuffed animals in the living room. The truth is, I was tired of cleaning them all up every day. I put in the basement with the expectation that I’d be searching through it for someone’s favourite in no time.  After they didn’t mention the missing items for a few days, I thought I’d pick a day to go through it with the kids to pick out their favourites.  That was almost two months ago.  Guess what?  No one has mentioned the missing stuffies.

Since this unplanned first step went so well, I thought we could move further.  I was tired of the toy area being a mess and of the kids being overwhelmed when it was time to clean up.  So, I talked with the kids about how having so many toys meant there lots of cleaning up and not very much room to play. I tried to keep it simple by suggesting that we put some toys in the basement to make more room for playing.  They seemed to agree my idea was worth considering. 

All the toys

(Almost) All the Toys

On a weekend, I set out all the toys for them to look at.  I brought up the ones that had been “rotated out” and were being stored in the basement. With everything laid out, I suggested that they each fill one bin with their favourite toys. I expected them to protest or argue, or at least to negotiate for more toys, but they didn’t.  So, the rest of the toys went in the basement. I made it clear they could bring up a toy from the basement if they took one downstairs. That was about a month ago. Guess what? Again, no one has asked me to trade the toys. In fact, they are playing with more board games and puzzles now.  I think that having fewer options provides a space where they can see what is available to them.

 

R's Bin of Toys

R's Bin of Toys

 

S's Bin of Toys

S's Bin of Toys

 A chose to keep his train set, a hotwheels track, some cars and Perplexus.  

I won’t end with an overused quotation like “less is more.”  But, I will say that less is okay. All three kids were okay with choosing their favourites.  They were okay with watching us take the toy organizer and the other bins of toys downstairs.  And, they are certainly okay with clean up being so much easier.

 

Jenna is mom to a six year old singleton son (A) and 4 year old MZ twin girls (R & S).  She is also okay with less. In fact, she looks forward to moving toys out of the basement for the next multiples clothing sale, but she realizes that will take some negotiations.


Favourite Colours and Shared Bedrooms

At around age 3.5, S and R selected their favourite colours. So, like I did with their brother, it was time to paint their bedroom.  Their favourite colours were purple (R) and orange (S). I looked on Pintrest and searched the internet for ideas to combine their favourite colours in their shared bedroom. Eventually, I gave up. There was no way with my limited skills in decorating that I could make purple and orange fit together.

Fortunately, S also liked green, which I could combine with purple.  After quite a bit of searching, I found green curtains I liked.  From there we chose the paint colours, and we happened upon some flower art that matched perfectly.  The final touch was the rug that Santa snuck in to their room while they slept on Christmas Eve.

As with their brother, the girls got to help paint their room.  On the first day, we painted two walls purple paint:

Painting in Purple

Painting in Purple

Working hard

Working hard

They got a little messy, but it was fun

They got a little messy, but it was fun

The next day, we painted two walls green:

Painting green

Painting green, you can see the purple in the background

Teamwork!

Teamwork!

If you decide to let your three-year-old twins paint their rooms, here are some suggestions:

  • I got all the taping and trim painting done before they started helping.
  • They did the first coat of paint.  I did the second one after they lost interest.
  • They wore their “paint clothes” which definitely got dirty.  They were barefoot to keep socks clean.
  • There was newspaper and cardboard on the floor.
  • Right after we finished, I carried them straight to the bathroom.
  • I kept extra paper, a roll of paper towels and garbage bag close by.
  • We did this project over two days. One day for each colour.

The girls love their room.  They show it off to everyone.  The girls seem to believe they each have their own rooms now – R has a purple room and S has a green room. Here are photos of the finished room:

S's Green Room

S's Green Room

R's purple room

R's purple room

The curtains that started the whole colour scheme

The curtains that started the whole colour scheme

The perfect rug

The perfect rug

 

The artwork that tied it all together - 1

The artwork that tied it all together - 1

 

The artwork that tied it all together - 2

The artwork that tied it all together - 2

 

The closet with the doors removed is a great place for the dresser

The closet with the doors removed is a great place for the dresser

 

Jenna is mom to a six year old singleton son and 4 year old MZ twin girls.  She rallies all her artistic skills and lots of patience for projects like this one.

Ask the Moms – Twin vs Singleton Pregnancy

source http://www.sxc.hu/photo/335717

We’re going to try a new feature on the blog.  There used to be an Ask the Moms column.  I’ve decided to resurrect it to address your questions about having multiples.  If you have questions, email them to me at hdydiblog @ gmail DOT com.  Be sure to put Ask the Moms in the subject line.  I’ll post the questions, and our contributors and you (our helpful readers) can provide your responses.

 

source http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1358376

Here’s the first question.  Shelly posted this question on a post about twins vs singleton pregnancies.  Please share your experiences to help her out.

I need help. I currently have twins and just found out I’m 4 weeks pregnant. I really need to know details on how it may differ for me if now it’s a singleton pregnancy. With my twins I had no pregnancy symptoms at all other then heart burn and delivered via c-section 10 day prior to what would have been my 40 week due date. I had no complications but had several prenatal visit. I really want or need to know how different it may be with singleton. I’m already experiencing symptoms this time around such as dizzy, nausa, headache, backspin, mad tired, irritable as hell. Besides all that, I want to know how many prenatal visit I will have opposed to the tons I had while pregnant with twins. Thanx to all in advance.

Shelly,

Congratulations! My first thought it that every pregnancy is different. The number of prenatal visits will depend on your doctor or midwife, your health, the baby’s health, whether there are any complications or other health concerns, where you live (Canadian moms seem to have fewer ultrasounds than American moms), etc.  Just for comparison, I had 2 ultrasounds with my singleton and 6 or 7 with my twins.  With the singleton, I had one appointment a month in first trimester, and 2 month in the second and most of the third trimester.  In the last month I had weekly appointments. Jenna

The Toy Takeover – Part 1

One of the biggest challenges for me over the last year was keeping the house tidy. We had already hired a cleaner to help with the floors, dusting, bathrooms and kitchen. What was left was the daily clean up the trail of bits and pieces that seem to come with pre-schoolers.

Every time I entered a room, I’d be overwhelmed by the mess: the single sock abandoned in the corner, the hill of Lego pieces on the floor, the stuffed animal dormitory on the couch, the crumpled piece of paper with stickers that was someone’s “favourite craft,” a water bottle without a lid, and a doll shoe.

The girls were are still in their “in and out” phase where they could spend the day filling bags, boxes, containers and bins with bits and pieces.  They would put the game pieces and dice, hair clips, marbles, rocks, magnets and pompoms in a little box in their play purses.  Then they’d put the purses in bags.  The bags would go in a stroller, draped with a blanket.  As they trekked through the house on various adventures, the bits and pieces would be disturbed through the kitchen, under the dining room table, between the couch cushions, and on the stairs – times two, of course. Needless to say, getting everything back where it belonged, or a least off the floor, was more than could be expect of a three-year old with limited guidance from an exhausted parent.  And, I wasn’t much of a help since bending over was certain to make my world spin.  Over time, I gave up my level of tolerance for disorder increased. But this wasn’t a solution; it was just a reminder of where I felt I was falling short of my responsibilities as a mother.

One-at-a-time Cupboard Top Shelf

One-at-a-time Cupboard Top Shelf

So, I borrowed an idea from my mom:  the “one-at-a-time” cupboard.  I filled two cupboards with all the puzzles, games, cards, and toys with little pieces. The kids could each select one item from the cupboard.  When they finished with one toy, all the pieces were cleaned up. The lower cupboard had the puzzles and games they could play with by themselves, while the upper cupboard held the ones that need more parental supervision.

One-at-a-time Cupboard Bottom Shelf

One-at-a-time Cupboard Bottom Shelf

Did this help?  Yes and no.  The kids liked being able to see all the boxes of games arranged on the shelves.  They could easily select what they wanted and often asked to play games. But, I couldn’t contain all of the chaos in one set of cupboards.  I’ll share the next step in managing kids toys, in my next posting.

Finding Balance

I have to start with a thank you to Sadia for taking the initiative to get a publication schedule set up and to recruit some new bloggers for HDYDI!

When you have three preschoolers, including twins, managing home, childcare, work, volunteer work and everything else that comes with motherhood is a continual balancing act. It doesn’t take much to upset the delicate balance that allows everything to flow smoothly, while still having the flexibility needed to deal with the inevitable, unexpected challenges.  Last winter that balance was literally disrupted when I was diagnosed with vertigo just a few weeks after getting anemia (probably a long term consequence of my twin pregnancy). I felt like I was continually about to fall over – or maybe the world was about to spin out from under me. The finely-tuned system that ensured our commitments were met melted down. Everything from the kids got to playschool on time to buying groceries, from marking assignments to paying bills, from watering plants to putting away laundry was suddenly a challenge that required energy, concentration and balance that I had taken for granted. Even comforting a crying child was a new challenge since I couldn’t sway from side-to-side or rock back-and-forth without feeling nauseous.

The medication that gradually helped with the vertigo left me tired.  I had to ration my energy to get through the day.  I had to learn to let go of my expectations of what I could accomplish in a day. Our children got to watch more TV that I would usually allow, they ate grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner at least once or twice a week, and my husband had to take over the bedtime routine so I could lie in bed waiting for the medication to stop the world from spinning.

Balancing at the playground

I had to find new ways to be present with my children. While I lay in bed, I would cuddle one of our girls on each side. I would talk to them, tell the stories and hold them close. The drive to playschool with my son was another challenge. I didn’t feel well and he was reluctant to go. Finally, I stopped fighting with him. I realized that the situation wasn’t working.  I don’t know if he was picking up on my anxiety and the uncertainty at home or if there were other reasons he protested so much about going, but we just stopped going. It was what I need for my health and wellbeing as much as what he needed.

Things that I didn’t need to look after were picked up by other people, or if they weren’t essential they just didn’t happen. Extras were pushed to the side, until they fell over the edge.  Unfortunately managing this blog was one of the things that didn’t get the attention it needed.

It is now almost a year later. The year has been filled a series of ongoing health challenges following the vertigo. I’ve finally realized I need to use my time and energy differently to be healthy. In my upcoming posts, I plan to share more of these insights and some of the strategies I used to be the best mother I could as struggled to stand, to leave the house and to look after myself.

Giving Back to the Multiple Births Community

In Canada, we have a national organization called Multiple Births Canada (MBC).  We are currently in a competition to access grant funding, and we need all the supporters we can get. We would use the grant money to update our website and translate materials for parents with or expecting multiples who speak different languages.

Many of our resources are accessed by families from the United States including our fact sheets, many of which are free to download.

I’d like to ask you to take a minute to vote and show your support for families of multiples everywhere. All you need to do is click here or watch either (or both) of the following video and click on the link at the end.  If you have a Facebook account, you can vote using it.  You can vote once a day for an idea, so I encourage you to vote daily.

Thank you on behalf of families with multiples, and those who don’t yet know they will be families with multiples.

 

Help Us Help Them

 

 

MBC Supporting Families

 

 

 

A Week of Giving Thanks

Since (American) Thanksgiving is celebrated this week, I thought it would be a good time to have a theme week celebrating the blessings that come with having multiples. Please share your blessings with us this week, too.

I know many bloggers are writing about what they are thankful for this month, so I’m offering you the first part of my list of 30 Blessing I’ve Received From My Twins

  1. Two lovely daughters
  2. Lots of kisses and cuddles for me
  3. Watching how my 2.5 year old daughters care about and look out for each other
  4. A constant reminder to be aware of what makes each person unique
  5. The opportunity to reflect on my parenting decisions and how they reflect my values
  6. Becoming part of a community of parents of multiples online and in person
  7. Plenty of requests for reading stories
  8. Seeing how easily children adapt to multiples.  They are way less concerned about how they were conceived, or which ones is older than their parents.
  9. Lessons in patience and perspective
  10. Only having to narrow our name choices down to the top two
  11. Lots of helpers in the kitchen
  12. A constant reminder to look at people when I talk to them
  13. A son who enjoys “the sister” and “the other sister” even though he can’t tell them apart.  He wants to have 2 more baby sisters (but I think we’ve got our hands full).
  14. Opportunities to be an advocate for my children and to demonstrate through my actions that their uniqueness as individuals and as multiples is important
  15. Lots of great stories to share