Waving hello!

It’s been so long since I’ve been able to check in here! We just returned from a 10-day road trip from Colorado to California, in a minivan PACKED full of people. We spent several days in the mountains at Big Bear, where my kids chucked rocks in the water and fed French fries to ducks, headed down into LA to visit family and friends, and spent a whole day at Disneyland – which my daughter proclaimed to be, “The best day of her whole life.”

People’s eyes get big every time I tell them we DROVE to California – as if flying would really be an option! Even with gas prices the way they are, paying for airfare for seven people and then a car rental on top of that just wouldn’t work. I’m here to tell you, though: it was a blast! It was so much fun. I’m SO thankful we decided to take the plunge and just DO it. The kids were great on the drive! They drew on their Magna Doodles, watched DVDs, ate snacks I don’t ordinarily let them have, colored, and slept a fair amount of the time. And something awesome happened that I hadn’t even planned on: my husband and I had hours and hours together to just talk about…whatever! When we’re home, we’re always pulled away by housework and the needs of the children. But, not on vacation! Not when you’re trapped in a vehicle together for a thousand miles!

This was our first family vacation – and honestly, the first time my kids have ever slept anywhere but their own beds! And it went splendidly. I can attribute most of that to what I’ve learned from my jaded husband: ‘tis better to expect nothing and be surprised when things go well than to have any expectations of things to go smoothly, because that’s when things go to hell and you find yourself shaking your head, saying, “Never again!”

My family - I'm always BEHIND the lens!

All said and done, though, I am so thankful to be back home and in our own beds!! When I have a moment, I’d like to devote a whole entire post to Disneyland and the amazing, special care they took with our autistic son. It was the highlight of our trip!

School's almost out!

These little guys are getting ready to wrap up the school year – their first year of preschool! Bring on Kindergarten! We’ve had field day, which was precious. There’s nothing like seeing a bunch of 4-year-olds playing tug-of-war and running the 50-yard dash and doing a three-legged race! We’ve had our very last field trip of the year, and the very last homework packet came home a few days ago. The kids are practicing their songs for graduation, and I’ve all but given up on removing grass stains from the knees of their uniform pants.

I was so excited about the two of them going to school, that it never occurred to me just how much money we’d be shelling out on a regular basis – times two. The supply list was staggering – this is what I had to buy when school started, spread out between their two classrooms:

  • 4 oz. bottles of glue
  • 2 packages of markers
  • 24 count box of crayons
  • Kleenex
  • Disposable cameras
  • Ziplock baggies
  • Baby Wipes
  • Lysol
  • Clorox wipes
  • 3 gallons of Hi-C
  • 4 boxes of fruit snacks
  • Pudding, pretzels, and Ritz crackers with cheese spread
  • Dixie cups and paper plates
  • Liquid soap
  • Napkins
  • Watercolor paints
  • 5 oz. Dixie cups
  • Paper dessert plates – the small ones
  • Ritz cheese and crackers spread
  • Pudding cups that don’t need refrigeration
  • Small pretzels

That was a $100 Wal-Mart trip right there. Plus the cost of school uniforms for two kids, which are mandatory at the public schools in our area. And did I mention the $10 photo processing fee for each child, so they can take pictures of them throughout the year? (Why haven’t I ever seen any of these pictures?) Quite an expenditure at the beginning of the school year.

But it doesn’t end there! Every month, there’s a field trip, which costs six to twelve dollars per kid, depending on where they go. (And they’ve gone to some cool places!) There’s the book fair. Pizza day. Fundraisers. Birthday parties. Scholastic Book Order Forms! Plus the monthly tuition for our daughter. (Our son goes to preschool for free because of his disability.)

And before long, our younger twins will be heading off to preschool as well! I’ll probably moonlight as a barista at Starbucks so we don’t have to get a second mortgage to pay for more fruit snacks and glue sticks.

You've gotta have friends…

I want to share with you one of my biggest regrets about becoming a twin mom that I would totally change if I had a do-over. Not joining a twin club! I heard about them. I even had a nurse at my OB’s office hand me a flyer for the twin club her daughter, also a mom of twins, belonged to. But nooooo, I couldn’t see the benefit at the time. Some background: I have two sets of twins, yes, but I also have another child who is turning thirteen this year. I’d already BEEN a mommy for eight whole years by the time my older twins were born, so I said to myself, “This ain’t my first rodeo!”

But the truth is, having twins is totally different, and I really had no support system in place other than my husband. I had no other mommy friends with little babies, and didn’t know anyone else with twins. Looking back and knowing what I know now, that was a drag. I could have been making friends with other twin mommies, joining playgroups, going to a meeting every month with other mommies, AWAY from my kids…I just didn’t want to be bothered with it. And I was actually a little scared to show up at a meeting, because I wasn’t sure what to expect!

When my oldest was a toddler, we tried to integrate into a couple of different playgroups, and I ended up just withdrawing from the women and doing my own thing, because…they were all psycho. The groups were completely cliquish, and it felt like high school all over again. I was really gunshy about joining any sort of mother’s group after that.

So. I didn’t join a twin club. I just stayed home with my babies and watched Baby Einstein and took walks around the block with the big stroller. Alone. Fast forward a year, and I’m pregnant again, with twins again, and I think to myself, okay. Maybe I should look into this twin club thing. I got online and did a search to find a club in my area. Found out when the meetings were and I started attending. I remember the looks of horror when I introduced myself and told the group I had twins who just turned 1 and was expecting twins again in five months. I put myself out there, and hoped for the best.

Now I wish that I could say my experience was great, and that the club was supportive, and all of that. It just didn’t work out that way in the beginning, though. I had a hard time finding people to hang out with at the meetings and I felt like a real tool just sitting alone in my chair with my giant belly and no one to talk to. I think mother’s groups DO seem cliquish, and I think I’ve figured out the reason for it – as least, in my club. These women know each other really well and get together all the time for playdates and stuff. So on the one night of the month that everyone gets together and leaves the kiddies at home with dad, everyone wants to see their friends and spend time talking, and it’s sometimes hard to remember to look around and find the newbies to take under your wing.

I vividly remember being SO hurt because a couple of months had gone by, and no one from the club had called to check on me and find out how I was doing, if I’d had the babies yet, or if I was coming back to another meeting. At first, I figured they were just busy (Hello? They all have twins!) but I found out that there was another mom who joined the same time I did, due at the same time I was, and she had a “big sister” from the club calling her to check in and give her a little support. It really stung to hear that! I actually ended up sending this huge, “what the hell?” email to all the board members of the club, letting them know how I felt ignored and pushed away and that I wasn’t sure if I should keep coming to the meetings. The board felt a little blindsided by my letter, I think, because I really don’t think they realized how overwhelming and intimidating it all was for the new members. That single incident led to some big changes in how the membership process works.

I’m pleased to say that NOW, I’m a big part of my twin club. I’m on the board myself! I do the website for the club, and it’s one way I’ve gotten to know people in the club a lot better. I think you have to take a chance and just jump right in and make yourself a part of it all. It might be intimidating, but it’s so worth it. The women I’ve met through my twin club are kind, funny, generous people. They’d never intentionally make someone feel left out, and they always try to find new ways to reach out to the new moms.

My story is probably a little different from some others, but I wanted to say…I totally encourage all twin moms to join a twins club! Join, participate, and interact. You don’t have to wait until your babies are born to join a playgroup! Go NOW, while you’re still pregnant, and you can actually have a conversation and get to know some people. It’s so comforting to find yourself in a group of women where you know that every single mom there can relate to what you’re going through, because she’s going through it herself. Go NOW, so they can get to know you. Go NOW, so you can find out about the fantastic twin club sales! Don’t wait until your babies are here to get a support system in place. And, almost all clubs bring meals over to you after the babies are born!

If you’re not sure where to begin, check out NOMOTC, the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs. They keep a list of clubs organized by state, or you can enter your zip code on the front page of the site (in the right sidebar) and find the club nearest to you. Do it!

Here’s a fun little news story where I got to talk about how awesome my twin club is!

(Awww, they were so little then!)

I have a secret.

Double Trouble!The other day, my 3-year-old girl twins and I were shopping at Target while their older brother and sister were at preschool. I just happened to spot this shirt while on my way to check out the clearance rack, as I’m a big cheapskate and hate buying things full price. Hey, when you’re buying for as many kids as I have, it adds up! This shirt was so painfully cute, though, I really wanted to get a matching set for the little girls. It’s perfect, since we always refer to them as The Monkeys, and they’re currently obsessed with wearing All Things Pink.

It wasn’t meant to be, though. I searched the racks and didn’t find another shirt like that one in any size. I think it was the only one in the store. And since my girls honestly have more clothes than they need anyway, we just moved on, and went a little crazy perusing the junk at The Dollar Spot.

I kept thinking back to that shirt, though, and remembering how often I’ve heard from other twin moms how they HATE the phrase Double Trouble. Besides “you’ve got your hands full!” I’ll bet it’s what we moms hear most often from usually well-intentioned strangers approaching us in public. I personally don’t hear it all that much anymore. Usually it’s from some kindly grandfather-type, which makes it that much easier to tolerate. My kids are getting old enough that we aren’t as much of a spectacle. I really think it’s our strollers that attract the attention, more than the children. Your eye might pass right over a couple of kids walking together, but two matching children in a stroller? It’s gotta be twins! Let’s go see!

Yes, they're all mine. I really hated all the attention with the kids were little. I don’t know why I was so ridiculously self conscious about it, but I was. Looking back, I think I was just stressed out and worried about the kids throwing public fits, because it’s the same feeling I get now when my 4-year-old, who has autism, starts hollering and people start looking our way. I dreaded people dashing over to see us, though – I found it downright annoying! And since I had two sets of twins, only 17 months apart in age, we were a spectacle and a half, walking around with our big quad stroller. People never believed me when I told them we’d be approached at least a dozen times until they’d go shopping with us for the first time. I remember my preteen daughter’s best friend taking a trip to Costco with us, and later on saying, “I felt like a celebrity!” Indeed. I was so freaked out by all the attention, that I actually made this shirt on CafePress and wore it to places like, say, the home and garden show. Places I knew people would fall all over themselves to get to us and say crazy things.

I’m pretty much over it now. And truly, I regret being such a baby about all of it. It IS special having twins, and it’s true that a lot of the attention you get for it is positive and uplifting. Heck, strangers smile at you at the grocery store! So now that my twins are 4 and 3 and I’m not constantly being heckled in public, I’ve grown to really appreciate the specialness of it all. I’ve actually come to realize that I know something that all those people don’t know. Having twins is a blast. And it IS double trouble! When you realize the house is way too quiet, and you don’t hear anything except muffled bursts of maniacal laughter – uh, yeah. That’s double trouble all right! Those little monkeys get into way more mischief together than they do on their own. And it’s really cool, too. It’s not a burden, it’s not a nightmare, it’s not a cross to bear. I’ve gotten to where the comments rarely bother me, because I feel like it’s sort of like my own little secret. These folks who give me that “smellin’ onions” expression and say things like, “better you than me!” have no idea that they’re really paying me a compliment. Having twins is such a special blessing, and the fun and amazing moments way outnumber the crazy, I-want-a-do-over-with-this-parenting-thing moments.

And, in the spirit of Autism Awareness Month, I wanted to extend that notion just a bit. I’ve also come to realize that having a child with autism is a blessing as well. I get lots of sympathy for having an autistic child. I know you guys hear the numbers as often as I do – 1 in 150 kids today are diagnosed with autism. How can you not hear about it? It’s in every magazine, newspaper, and on every TV program. Yay for that, really – awareness is awareness. It’s frustrating to me how all the news is so depressing and hopeless, though. You NEVER see parents going on Oprah to say things like, “My autistic son is such a joy to our family. He’s bright and sensitive and I love seeing how his mind works. I can’t wait to see what his future holds.” Hey Oprah – if you want someone to come on and say some hopeful things like that, give me a ring! I could go on about this for fifteen more paragraphs, but we’ll save that for another post. My point is – I feel like this is another happy little secret of mine that nobody knows about! It’s what led to me starting up my other site, Autism is Beautiful.

So don’t sweat hearing things like, “Double trouble!” Almost without exception, people are just a little starstruck by the notion of twins and want to say SOMETHING. They have no idea you’ve heard that fifteen times already since you entered the mall! Smile and nod, smile and nod.

Autism is Beautiful

I've been preparing for weeks now…

…for the twice-yearly event known as the Twin Club Sale! I’ve been meaning to write up a whole post extolling the virtues of Twin Clubs and particularly, the consignment sales they’re famous for. I’m fairly involved with my twin club, so I always volunteer at the sale. This year, I ran one of the registers at the member’s only sale – the big event that’s open to the public isn’t until tomorrow morning. We’ll have a line of probably a hundred people waiting to get in at 7 in the morning – everyone’s looking for a bargain!

Oh, had I only KNOWN the bargains available at these sales when I was pregnant with my twins. I could have picked up cribs, carseats, a double stroller, Exersaucers, etc. etc. etc. for a FRACTION of what I paid for them new. And it’s all pretty nice stuff, too. What I really look forward to, though, is unloading all of our outgrown clothing and equipment we no longer need. A few weeks after the sale, I get a nice little check from the club. This year, it’s going to pay for our gas money to drive to California so our kids can meet Mickey Mouse.

Here’s our club’s big sale, all ready for the crowd of shoppers:

2008 Spring Sale

If you haven’t checked out these types of sales, you are missing OUT, mama!

Jennifer Lopez and her Twins

The first look at J.Lo and her newborn twins can be seen in the new People magazine! Woot!

PEOPLE world exclusive! Here’s your first glimpse of Jennifer Lopez and her twins, Max and Emme, born Feb. 22 in Long Island, N.Y.

This week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, features 12 pages of new photos of the pop star with husband Marc Anthony and their 1-month-old bundles of joy inside their Long Island home and nursery.

The happy new parents spoke candidly to PEOPLE about the pregnancy, addressing everything from Jennifer’s weight gain to rumors of infertility. For all the details, pick up the new issue, on newsstands Friday.

The Importance of Photographs

One of the things I never realized when I was about to have twins was how truly exhausting life would be. Of course, I knew life would be chaotic and I knew I’d be losing out on a lot of sleep, but I really, honestly, just had no idea. It took me awhile to realize that I ran on autopilot for weeks and even months on end. Someone suggested to me that I try to take pictures of the kids every single day. Not just pictures of them in the cute matchy-match outfits, but pictures of the mundane, ordinary moments of our day to day life. I have my digital photographs meticulously organized (thanks, Picasa!) and it’s easy to scroll back through years’ worth of history in the lives of my children. I am so grateful for those boring photos that are probably only interesting to me and my family, because a lot of that time is just a blur to me when I try to think back. When you’re so painfully sleep deprived, it’s just not possible to memorize every single precious moment.

One of my biggest regrets, however, is not making the time to have professional pictures taken of my children. I mean, I have a few. We managed to pull ourselves together and head over to the mall when the kids were a few weeks old. And I have lots and lots of average looking photos of my oldest daughter, taken at various JC Penney stores, Olan Mills photo studios, and of course, Wal-Mart – who can pass up the obligatory 102 portraits for $12.95? When we’re talking about pictures of our pride and joy, more is better. What I didn’t realize, though, was that those pictures are really pretty crappy.

A friend of mine is an amazingly talented photographer, with such a stunning portfolio that she has more clients than she knows what to do with. When she was first starting out, and trying to build her portfolio, she came over and took some pictures of my children. Here is one that took my breath away:

I have a wall full of pictures like these, and they just aren’t the sort of thing you end up with when you go to those chain stores. I wish so badly that I would have known this gal back when I got married and when I was pregnant and when my babies were brand new. She’s taken pictures of everyone and their children in our circle of friends, and the maternity pictures always make me teary. I have very few pictures of my bare pregnant belly, and I regret that now. What truly makes my heart hurt, though, is seeing pictures of brand new tiny infants. There’s such a short, precious window of time where you can get amazing pictures, and once that time passes, it’s too late. You can’t get that time back. This is the sort of thing I’m talking about:

I don’t think any woman could look at that picture without spontaneously ovulating! It’s precious to the point of heartbreaking! And I hate that I don’t have pictures like that of my twins. So this is my plea to you expectant mamas: find a photographer who specializes in baby photos and get her on the phone! Set something up where she can come to your home the first week you’re home with your babies. I KNOW it’s a crazy, exhausting, hormonally wacked out time – I know it is. Honey, I know: I have two sets of twins! I’ve lived through it. But make it a priority, so that you don’t sit around boo-hoo-hooing a year or so later, when you see pictures like this and they aren’t framed on your living room wall.

I know it’s expensive to have photos done. Believe me, we are broke as a joke, trying to maintain a family of seven over here. But truly, if you just skip getting the half-assed cheap pictures done every other month at Wal-Mart, you should easily be able to afford one amazing photo session with your kids every year, with a talented professional photographer. It’s so worth it, I promise you won’t regret having nice photos made. And the grandparents will love you for it.

Photo credits:
barebaby
Lamb Photography