Please Vote! Friday, June 5th

Hello Everyone! Enormous thanks go to our wonderful MoM’s who have agreed to “try out” for HDYDI! We are beyond thrilled that so many of you are reading along with us, and we hope you enjoy our contest week. Please vote for the author you would like to hear more from, as the authors with the most votes at 12:00am Eastern Time on Sunday, June 7th, will be invited to write for HDYDI. Enjoy and PLEASE VOTE!

Post #1: My Little Twin by Lisa

I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a full-time employee, a friend and a triathlete. I am also an information junkie and a writer. I try to tackle everything with 100 percent of my energy and passion, but balancing all of these roles is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I am learning and growing along with my nine-month-old daughters, Sarah and Jessica, and my husband of almost eight years, Jeff. Follow our adventure: www.ferrariflies.blogspot.com.

As a mother of twins, it is normal to have a beta twin or a little twin. I also know it is normal for identical twins to develop at different rates. But normal doesn’t mean you don’t worry and this has been very hard for me to internalize.

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When Sarah and Jessica were born, both girls were pretty physically stressed by the birth experience. Sarah, my Baby A, was 5 pounds, 15 ounces and she bounced back very quickly. Jessica, my Baby B, was 5 pounds, 10 ounces and had to be resuscitated after birth.  Although Jessica recovered relatively fast, she did have to spend time on a ventilator, had an arterial line and couldn’t be held or nursed for her first precious four days of life.IMG_0200

We got to come home from the NICU after nine very long days, but part of our discharge discussion included instructions on the follow ups we would need to have for Jessica with neurologists, signs of cerebral palsy to look for and a referral to early childhood intervention. I will never forget holding a sleeping Jessica on my chest as the nurse practitioner told me that Jessica’s discharge MRI was normal and she showed no indications of problems…yet. I made the nurse practitioner repeat the results twice because hearing it just once wasn’t enough.

So here we are almost nine months later. Jessica is about 1.5 pounds lighter than Sarah.  Jessica is also a little more reserved and quiet than Sarah, her rowdy, smile and holler at anyone sister. Sarah is days away from crawling, but Jessica is just fine. By all accounts her development is right on track. In fact, she even smiled first, cut teeth first and rolled over first. But still I worry…

I want to meet the needs of both my girls. I recognize that fair doesn’t necessarily mean equal, and I don’t want to create a scenario where my worry actually creates or reinforces the disparity I worry about. I have talked to other twin moms where one of their babies becomes known as “the Little One,” but I hope neither Jessica nor Sarah ever knows that once we made it past some of the first milestones, that I continued to carry the trauma of their first few days with me. I try to delight in their individual accomplishments on their individual timetables, but when Sarah is rocking on all fours and Jessica only rolls over occasionally that niggling worry continues.

I’m curious to hear from other twin moms. Do you have a little twin that you worry about or wish that you weren’t worrying about? Is this something you were able to successfully put behind you?

Post #2: Multiples And The Six Degrees of Separation by Anamika

After finding out that if we ever wanted to have biological children, we’d have to try IVF with ICSI, my husband and I decided we didn’t want to go that route. A few months later, we decided to adopt. Six months later, miraculously, our twins, Mrinalinee and Nayantara, came home. Mrini and Tara, as we call them, were 13 months old to the day when we brought them to our home (which is in Bangalore, India) in September 2007. Since then, I’ve been a SAHM, and it’s been quite a journey. You can read all about it on my personal blog: The Twins & I

I’ve read about how parents of multiples need to spend significant 1:1 time with each of their kids. And about how multiples, if not carefully monitored and directed, tend to develop an unhealthy degree of togetherness and dependence on each other; that they don’t develop fully as individuals; that, in order for them to be healthy, happy, independent adults, they have to be given opportunities to be apart; and that one way of giving them this ‘opportunity’ is to separate them in school. I’ve written before of how I feel on that matter, but I’ve been wondering, of late, just how much separation is enough.

I’ve somewhat arbitrarily allocated six separate degrees of separation, which have nothing whatsoever to do with the usual connotation of the terms “Six Degrees of Separation”.

1: Multiples who spend a few minutes spent apart from each other, everyday or a few times a week. This separation is likely to be largely unplanned and inevitable. Example: one kid wakes up before the other, or one kid has to go to the doctor, or both parents are engaged in some activity, one with each child.

2: Multiples who routinely sleep separately: which means, falling asleep, sleeping, and waking up in separate rooms (not simply separate cribs or beds in the same room).

3: Multiples who spend significant time apart, everyday or most days. This could just be time spent in different areas of the house, or could be time spent on separate activities that take them out of the house, such as sports or music lessons. To differentiate it from the first degree of separation, it would have to be at least an hour or so spent apart everyday. It’s difficult to visualize this as an unplanned separation, specially if it is a regular occurrence.

4: Multiples who have separate schedules; or, no schedule. Multiples have few overlap in their daily schedules and activities on most or all days. This could include any or all activities in the house, such as sleeping, eating, bathing, playing etc, and maybe even separate activities outside the house, such as sports sessions, playgroups etc.  (Personally, I can’t imagine how parents survive this; I’d go crazy in a week.)

5: Multiples who are in separate sections in school, or, worse still, separate schools. This, of course, could be initiated by the multiples themselves, or by their parents; or it might be mandatory due to external regulations or laws.

6: Multiples who live in separate homes. This is the saddest of all. Adoption laws in India prohibit siblings from being separated. But I don’t know if divorce laws do, too. In any case, this might happen if parents live separately, for any reason, or if multiples are sent to separate (for instance, boy/girl) boarding schools.

Out of these six degrees, in my opinion, the first is inevitable and harmless, perhaps even useful; and the sixth is tragic. Most of the in-between levels are functions of preference and convenience (parental, usually), and also a function of the age of the kids. My twins, now almost three, are comfortable with the first degree of separation and a bit of the second degree. They sleep separately in the afternoon, though nights apart are rare.

My girls might opt for – or indicate readiness for – the third and fifth degree of separation, as they grow older and discover different interests. At the right age and stage of development, I don’t think there’s any harm in that, and it is even to be encouraged. What I would not be happy about, is if that choice were to be made for them, without considering their opinion. (And if you’re thinking that, at 3, they can hardly have an opinion in the matter… well, you’d have to meet my kids to know.)

For my part, I hope they never opt for completely out-of-sync  food and sleep schedules, as indicated in the fourth degree of separation. I’ll certainly do my best to keep them on largely ‘normal’ (and in-sync) schedules, but if they do ultimately want to adopt completely different schedules, I’ll have to give in with good grace, I suppose. I only hope they’re teenagers by then.

As for the sixth degree of separation: naturally, multiples have to learn to live away from each other in their adult lives. The question is when and how they learn this. If it comes naturally, in the course of their education and career choices, and if they themselves have a say in the decision, then it is a positive development. But, if the separation comes about as a result of external causes and is not a decision in which the multiples have any say at all… that’s sad.

What do other MoMs out there think? How many degrees of separation would you consider and how good, bad, or ugly are these? Which separations work for your family, and why?

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Separate them? How can I possibly?

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Post #3: My Quest for a Good Night’s Sleep by Renae

Renae is a coupon clipping, penny pinching, bargain shopper living in a suburb northwest of Boston. She is a biracial (African American/Caucasian) stay at home mother to 15 month old biracial girl/boy twins. Although Renae has lived in New England for 13 years, she is still a Midwestern girl at heart (born and raised in Iowa). She loves spending her days with her kids, and hardly misses her elementary school teaching job at all. Renae loves taking her twins on field trips all over town (the grocery store, library, playground, etc.) and especially loves getting her twins together with other twins.

Not long after my twins and I began getting out and about in our small community, I started to get the question that I’m sure all new mothers of multiples must hear a lot: “So, are you getting any sleep?” Mind you, these were total strangers who would stop me in stores, get way too close to my tiny babies, ask the dreaded question, offer me parenting advice, and then walk away saying, “Boy, you’ve got your hands full.” What fun! Using every ounce of control I had in me, I would stifle my impulses to scream, cry, and lash out at the idiots who would dare ask a severely sleep deprived, highly emotional mother of twins such a ridiculous question. I wanted to shout, “Of course I’m not getting any sleep! I have two newborns!” But instead I would politely explain that while they were both pretty good sleepers, they woke approximately every 2 ½ hours to feed. Still, I wondered whether this was how it was supposed to be.

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So one day, instead of napping like I was supposed to (you know, the whole sleep when the babies are sleeping thing), I combed the archives of my twin club’s message board looking for information about infants and sleep. After reading several dozen posts on the topic, I concluded that we were basically on the right track. I also learned that when my twins got to the 4-6 month range, we could do something called “sleep training” and get them to sleep through the night. Although I had no idea what sleep training was at that time, it sounded good to me, and I couldn’t wait for my little guys to be old enough for us to start.

But at 6 months old, my son weighed 13 ½ pounds, and my daughter was just over 12 pounds. I was still getting up twice each night to breastfeed (yes, an improvement from the early newborn days, but still…), and I was completely exhausted. I talked to our pediatrician about sleep training, but given their slow weight gains, he advised that we continue with night feedings. And so we did.

But by 9 months old, I’d had it with night feedings. Without consulting our pediatrician, my husband and I decided to finally go ahead with sleep training. My son now weighed 16 pounds, and my daughter weighed almost 14 pounds. Their weights were still low, but I was convinced by the early morning playdate, that took place after our remaining 4am feeding, that they no longer needed a night feeding to get them through till morning. So we just stopped going in when we heard them stirring. There was some crying in the beginning, but three nights later, they began sleeping through the night regularly. Sleep problems solved, right?

Wrong. Because for the past 9 months when my husband and I would get up for night feedings (I was in charge of feeding, he helped with burping and diapering), our beloved kitty, who sleeps in our bed, would get up too. And she had grown accustom to being fed around 4:30am, which we did to keep her from bothering us before the alarm clock went off around 6:45am. The kids were sleeping through the night, but the cat was not! She would wake up around 4:00/4:30am, howl and cry and demand to be fed. Super annoying! My husband would cave and get up and feed her. But finally I asked, “Honey, if we’re expecting our children to sleep through the night, shouldn’t we expect the same of the cat?” Sleep training the cat began promptly, and within a week, she was back to starting her day when the alarm went off. So, sleep problems solved, right?

Not quite. Try as I might, I continued to wake between 3 and 5am. Often I woke to use the bathroom, but sometimes I would just wake up suddenly for no apparent reason. One might think, no big deal, just roll over and go back to sleep. But that seemed near impossible. I would lay awake for 1-3 hours, usually falling asleep just before the alarm clock would ring. Ugh! How very disappointing that everyone was getting a good night’s sleep except me, the most tired of us all!

This lasted for months, while I tried various things to keep me asleep until morning. For example: no drinks of any kind after dinner, going to bed earlier, going to bed later, ear plugs, sleeping on the couch, sleeping with more pillows, sleeping with no pillow. I tried everything I could think of, short of checking into a hotel at night.

So, what finally did the trick? Well, everything sort of fell into place when I joined a gym after weaning my kids at 13 ½ months. I started exercising from 7:45-8:45pm 5 nights a week, which pushed my bedtime back to about 10:30/11pm. Most nights, I don’t even wake up at all, but if I do have to get up to use the bathroom, I try to unconsciously do these things: 1) Stay in the drowsy awake phase (I try to barely open my eyes, except when absolutely necessary). 2) When I get back to bed, I take several deep breaths to help work my way back to sleep. 3) NO THINKING ALLOWED! As soon as I let my mind wander to playdates and grocery lists, I’m done for. I must keep my mind blank. It doesn’t work every night, but now at 15 months, I’m getting a good night’s sleep more often than I am not.

So, what do you think? Is this unusual or par for the course? Are all the rest of you sleeping soundly without any issues at all? If you are, I’m so jealous, you lucky ducks!

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Please Vote! Monday, June 1st

Hello Everyone!  Enormous thanks go to our wonderful MoM’s who have agreed to “try out” for HDYDI! We are beyond thrilled that so many of you are reading along with us, and we hope you enjoy our contest week.  Please vote for the author you would like to hear more from, as the authors with the most votes at 12:00am Eastern Time on Sunday, June 7th, will be invited to write for HDYDI. Enjoy and PLEASE VOTE!

Post #1: “Carry laughter with you wherever you go” by AmyO

AmyO, mommy to Reese Abigail and Riley Grace- 9 months, is a former elementary school teacher now stay at home mom in Texas.  Since having twin girls after going through infertility, IVF, and a lengthy NICU stay for the babies, she feels so blessed and often finds herself laughing at the daily occurrences of having multiples.   You can read more about them at  lovestarbucksalatte.blogspot.com and www.reeseandrileyowen.com. She will confess that since having twins, she has partaken of alcohol before noon once… okay twice, has been sucked into a soap opera, still has baby weight to lose, and can usually be found at Starbucks or Babies-R-Us.  When asked the question, “How do you do it?”  She always answers: “A lot of prayer and caffeine!”

Maybe it’s the fact that I’m ridiculously uncoordinated, or perhaps that I am 5 feet 2 inches tall with quite the wimpy stature, but I have found one of my BIGGEST challenges of being the mom of fraternal twin girls to be maneuvering that dang double stroller!  (You moms with more than 2 are snickering, I’m sure! J).  It’s quite laughable, but oh so true.

It all began when the girls’ 3-month appointment was coming up (last December), so I went to load the LIMO (aka Graco Quattro Duo Stroller) into my SUV and literally could not lift it.  It IS 39 lbs, y’all, – I looked it up.  So I quickly turned to the Double Snap N Go.  The day I bought it, I put it straight in my trunk for the following day’s appointment.  In the parking lot of the pediatrician on my very first outing alone with Reese and Riley, it was quickly apparent to me that this stroller needed to be altered a bit based on what kind of a car seat you had.  Did I know this?  No- because who reads directions?!  As I was fighting with it attempting to pop the car seats in, I was mortified when I realized something was NOT right… my girls were practically standing on their heads!!  I was in a panic because I was worried every ounce of blood in their body would rush to their heads, but physically there was NO way I could carry the seats in, so… I got their blankets and shook them out as big as they would spread and covered up the seats as much as I could, so no one would notice how bent back they were! Ha!

Here’s the proof. (Don’t call CPS… Daddy fixed this problem when he got home that same day!)Amy1

I was so embarrassed!  Didn’t want anyone to think I was a horrible mother that didn’t know what I was doing (even though I didn’t!)  I stumbled in the door awkwardly, and once in the room, I took the girls out of the stroller (I didn’t want the doctor to notice the angle!)- Reese was now on the floor in her carrier and I was holding Riley.  I can laugh about it now, but man was I sweating that day!

I figured that with time, I’d improve- like I’d run into fewer things and be more graceful through doorways, but I have to admit: after 9 months- I haven’t yet.   I still find doors just as challenging.  Just the other day at another doctor’s appointment, I made quite the “grand entrance.”  It included me trying to get the stroller in the tiny door/ narrow hallway while hitting my big booty on a sliding door behind me and knocking it slightly off the hinges and then proceeding to knock a frame off the wall with the stroller handlebar (I did catch it, however– impressive, I know)… all the while, a lovely father and daughter watched the whole thing and didn’t lift a finger to assist a poor clumsy twin mother.  Oh well.  You just have to laugh!

We’ve “graduated” to the Graco Quattro Duo- I can lift it now. Amy2

I love that I can laugh about these things.  I love that I have been blessed with twins to make my life more full of adventure.  I need to work on a lot of things… including my stroller skills, but I love that my girls love me anyway and giggle away on our rides…as dangerous as they may be.  SURELY I’m not the only mom who has moments of being clumsy and uncoordinated!  J  Do you have any embarrassing stroller moments while out and about with your kids??

Post #2: The Fun Continues by Amanda

I am Amanda, a first-time 40 year-old mom to boy/girl twins, living, laughing, playing and working (a little) in Pittsburgh, PA. I’ve been married for almost 9 years, and it took us 7 years to get our miracle IVF babies. I went to art school for college, but somehow I wound up working part-time at a fertility clinic, and I think of it as working with a team of dream makers, helping couples conceive. I enjoy being a creative person, writing, knitting and engaging in occasional inventive culinary pursuits. For more, visit twinertia.blogspot.com.

As we near the end of TFBCW (Twin’s First Birthday Celebration Week), I must report on some new and exciting baby developments. Seda started waving to people and clapping her hands on her birthday, and she’s very pleased with herself at her newly found skill. She also knows just what to do with her new rocking horse. She is still not babbling yet, but that will come in time. Kai, having thus far been ahead of Seda in communication skills, doesn’t wave yet or say “Bye-bye.” It’s so cool to see how they each pick up different skills at different times! Seda has always been ahead of Kai in physical development.

Friday night, my folks and Uncle S and Aunt P came over for dinner. Our version of the family circus had a fantastic raucous time. What we learned, is that Seda is quite the party girl. She doesn’t want to miss ANYTHING and as a result, that little pest did not fall fast asleep until 9:45!!! Usual bedtime is 8. Every time I thought she was ready, she’d wail if I put her in the crib. Some relaxation in Nana’s arms didn’t even fully do the trick, and besides, Nana had to get home for her own beauty sleep. Everyone left at 9:30, and I had to lay on the couch with Seda until she was comatose. I know my people are fun, so the girl obviously has very good taste in BFF’s.

When I heard that HDYDI was looking for writers, I got excited and thought, “YEAH! Mine is a voice they are missing!” This past week was hectic, full of the birthday celebration prep, aftermath and out-of-town visitors, so my mind is a bit too scattered and whipped to focus on anything very intelligent or whitty. So I looked through some older posts and found one that would really sum up a day in the life of “flying by the seat of our pants” parenting young twins. I wanted a humorous post that captured the feeling of trying to be organized but having the perpetual monkey wrench thrown in. This post is from last November, when the twins were almost 6 months old. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Gas pain, a runaway dog, and did you know shoes can get dry rot?

Yesterday my mom took pity on my lackluster meal preparation of late (when I told her we’d be noshing on some vegetarian borscht and cold baked chicken – now there’s an interesting juxtaposition!) and whipped up a batch of gourmet mac n cheese to take home for dinner. She packed it up nicely, insulated with newspaper, so in theory it would still be hot when we sat down to eat. She even cut up some fresh green beans so I would only need to drop them in a pot of water. I had carrots too, could handle that on my own.

So, got the babies home, unpacked, figured we would be able to eat before their next feeding. Not so at all.

The boy started squeaking at 6:15, just as the veggies finished cooking. I made bottles and changed the diapers. Girl baby started crying uncontrollably, didn’t want food, didn’t want to sleep, nothing was working, and I was starving. I put her back in the crib and she settled down, even smiled. I left to go eat so I had the strength to continue the evening’s duties.

As I gobbled down the food, hubby said, “Maybe she’s over-hungry. We could try some oatmeal.” I scowled and said, “Noooooooo. She’s bawling. She won’t want that.” Also, I didn’t want her to choke on cereal while crying so hard.

After I inhaled my food, I was ready for another attempt to feed her. Just then, the dog wanted to go out. I opened the front door, and usually I grab Ashiko’s collar before putting her on her chain, but she bolted out the door in pursuit of one of the neighborhood cats (who happens to look just like Snoopy). I ran out after her, but stopped in the middle of the street and thought, “Great…this is hopeless…I might as well just go back inside…she’ll come home eventually.” But I walked around the circle towards the cat’s house, and the owner and her dog were returning from a walk. She said our dog was nearby, had been playing with her dog. I said, “Where is she now? She’s probably gone back home and is making me walk all the way around the circle.” Sure enough, when I got back, there she was in the front yard, waiting for me. Sigh.

So then…I scooped up whiny girl baby and she was crying again. Sat down with her at the dining table, and she still didn’t want any bottle. I said to the hubby, “Hmm…maybe she does want some oatmeal.” We got that ready, and after the first spoonful she cheered up and let out a lonnnnnnnnnnnggggg loud toot. Aha! So it was gas pain that was causing all the distress! She ate all the cereal, happily tooting during the meal, had a few sips from the bottle and fell fast asleep. She was worn out from the ordeal! I then had to apologize to the hubby and (cough, cough) tell him he was RIGHT for suggesting the cereal idea. Newman!

This morning, I yanked an old pair of shoes out of the closet that I haven’t worn in 10 years. I’ve had them since 1993. They were always comfy, a classic style, German-made, long-lasting, yada yada. When I stopped at my folks’ at lunchtime to deliver some pumpage, they said, “Where’d all that mud come from that was on your shoes? We’ve been cleaning up little piles of it here and there.” I said, “What mud?” and looked at the bottom of my shoes to find that the heels had dry-rotted and were crumbling all over kingdom come! Who knew shoes could get dry rot?

I returned to work and entertained the Chief of Fashion Police with my fashion faux pas. She said, “Only YOU would keep shoes for 15 years!” She actually admitted they were a cute style but gave me a demerit for my socks that didn’t bear any matching quality to the rest of my ensemble, which is always a sore spot with her. But hey, at least I don’t wear my purple Crocs every day anymore! Those were my preggo work shoes.

Post #3: “Mommy Mode” by Vicky

Hello, I am Vicky, a new mom to 5-month-old boy/girl twin babies. They have come to us after years of praying and hoping for them. As a young mom of twins I am learning a whole new definition of wisdom and am experiencing a vastly different way of living life! I write about what this amazing reality looks like daily @ thecitycradle.com which is my place to share thoughts of loving the city… rocking the cradle…. and being on mission to leave a legacy of faith and goodness in this, the city of sin!

The looks have been frequent this week…

The look of horror… of embarrassment… of pity…

Or maybe they were looks of envy… of respect… I will chose to assume the later.

I have seen the looks come when we are out in public and I move into my MOMMY MODE! This MOMMY MODE is a recently new phenomenon that I am quite pleased with, although we are finding the general public may think otherwise.

You see I am currently taking care of 2 babies by myself for about 10 hours a day. I am feeding them, changing them, playing with them, talking to them, carrying them in and out of the car, teaching them to nap, soothing them when they cry. This is a serious amount of work for 1 person to accomplish, and so, I have begun to find the easiest and fastest ways possible to make them happier, smiley, easier babies. Enter in MOMMY MODE…

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Making them look like this is no easy feat.

Although I have found some great techniques for making both babies happy at once, they tend not to look like what the average NON-MOMMY MODE adult would label as sane, normal or appropriate!

Techniques like the perfect funny face, you know the one with the tongue sticking out, that stops a breakdown dead in it’s tracks. The VERY BIG smile with my bobbing head going left to right that always brings about a giggle. The swooshing noise, along with a big arm swing in the air works great and the ever-dreaded high pitch baby talk voice that somehow is the perfect tone to soothe any baby issue.

With twins I have learned quickly to do “whatever works” today… bouncing on the knee while singing is currently a favorite. They are also now old enough to be gently thrown in the air for a moment of quiet, a maneuver which horrifies any yet to be parents within 100 feet of us!

It’s no big deal that I do these things in my living room while buying 10 more minutes of peace until daddy gets home. At home I am just making the babies smile and harming no one. The problem comes because this is not a light switch, and you cannot simply turn off your MOMMY MODE every time you leave the house.

Which is why the looks have started. When I am out in public and begin my big smile dance directed at my babies… When I move into a high-pitched cooing chorus… When I (gasp) actually clap away in public to a made up rhythm to ease the baby’s tensions.

My MOMMY MODE does not stop just because I am out in a public setting– mainly because the responsibility and work of caring for 2 babies does not stop, the desire I have to make them happy and content does not stop, the love of seeing them smile does not stop.

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Seriously, these results take much coaxing, singing and dancing.

I know I may look silly, even insane to some but you know what??? I really don’t care anymore. Maybe it is MOMMY MODE taking over but ever since I’ve become a twin momma I have been much less concerned about how normal or how “put together” I may look!

I have many more pressing things to consume my mind like the giggling little babies laying next to me- thanks to a rousing round of funny smiles and happy songs…

I would love to know how do you keep both of your babies happy while out in public? What does your MOMMY MODE look like?

Post #4: “Why You Sign Up For Extra Snack Duty—Or The Importance of the Thank You” by Bekki

A California native now living near Seattle, Bekki Lyon is a SAHM to seven month old twins Will and Andy. Hobbies include playing catch up with laundry and dishes, avoiding sweeping, and mastering the skills necessary to balence her innate laziness and the daunting prospect of raising two already rambunctious boys.

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A good friend is the health and safety officer of her preschool co-op. Personally, I can’t imagine signing up for a job where the highlight of the year is getting to call every home to inform them of the current lice infestation. Or having to send reminder after reminder that no, sandals are not, in fact, closed toe shoes. What could possibly be the motivation to be the front of the line when the classroom comes down with kid-plague?

She wants a thank you. Some simple acknowledgment that she is doing a good job. Some sort of praise and recognition.

We all want that, and hopefully you are getting those reminders at home from your partners. But getting the cheerleader treatment from your husband is kind of like when he tells you your new haircut looks good—he knows he’s supposed to say it, but he’s not exactly sure what it means. And let’s be honest, the likelihood of your children thanking you for the daily grind, is well, slim at best. I can picture it now, my seven month olds looking dreamily up at me from their high chairs…”Thank you mama for the sweet potatoes that cover my face and every available surface in a 50 yard vicinity.” Yeah, not so much. Love and affection from your family is a wondrous thing, but it sometimes gets outweighed by the never ending cycle of nap time, meal time, laundry time and, once in a blue moon, sleep time.

But true, unprompted appreciation from near strangers–that is the kind of reassuring validation that lets you know you are, in fact, a good and competent mom. And so, my friend, and I would imagine many of you, signs up for far too many responsibilities at preschool. Or hosts extra playgroups. Or plans your huge extended family’s reunion in a different state while you’re 7 months pregnant with twins. Oh, wait, that was me.

I think the real issue here is not about proving yourself to other moms. Especially those perfect moms whose kids always have matching clothes on and NEVER need an spare burp rag. I think the main issue for us moms, especially moms who have a little too much on our plates (hello, multiples?), is our inability to thank ourselves. To acknowledge our general awesomeness. To live up to our own impossibly high standards. Because to admit we’re doing a good, nay, great job, is somehow not in our genetic code.

I know I spend so much time in the day with the mental mantra “This isn’t good enough, I’m not good at this. My kids deserve more.” Too much time. It’s crippling. So why do I host the playgroup with singleton moms? Well, because I need someone to gossip with, but really, it’s because I need to hear from other people that I’m actually doing a good job, that my kids aren’t being failed. I need the thank you for putting out a snack and vacuuming the floor. I need the reassurance that I made the right choice to be a mom.

Do you get enough thank yous in your life? Are you able to be your own cheerleader?


Divorce, marital problems, and multiples

After telling my husband I would not watch the season premiere of Jon and Kate Plus 8 last night, I ended up tivoing it anyway and watching it. I was sad after the show and stayed up way too late thinking about it. What really got me was when Kate said divorce rates are so much higher for multiple parents and they thought they would beat that statistic. The other part that was very hard for me to watch was the kids asking Jon when he was coming home and telling him they missed him. I am a total believer the majority of reality tv is scripted, but those moments still took my breath away.

In the multiples community, you can’t help but hear of two very sad realities: children dying and divorce. Every time I hear of a sick or dying child, I hug my kids close and gain some perspective. After watching that show last night, I’m going to hug my husband close and gain some perspective. My husband and I have been through some very tough things together: his back problems and surgery, double unemployment, my hearing loss and surgery. Yet having twins was very hard on our marriage because there was so much to do, so much stress, so little sleep, so much worry, so little money, and so little time. As joyful as those early months were, they were also some of our hardest together.

My boys are three now and I can say that my marriage is as strong as it has ever been. Yet last night I realized I can always do more to show my appreciation, work on my marriage, and commit to staying happy together. I don’t think I’ll watch the rest of the season but for that perspective, I am thankful. I am just sorry the perspective had to come at such a high price for them.

Singing Happy Birthday to Multiples

My boys turned three on Saturday and we sang Happy Birthday to them individually. They have to share SO MUCH that I thought it would be nice to give them individual attention on their birthday. Alex went first since he is the oldest, so technically his birthday is first! Then a couple of comments on my blog made me wonder what other multiple parents do? Do you sing it once? And those of you who are multiples, what did you do growing up and what did you wish was done?

One thing I did learn – keep the boys away from each other’s cupcakes/cakes in future birthdays. This is Alex blowing out Nate’s candles!

Cupcake

(Photo courtesy of Wendy Willis.)

Birthday emotions

The week before my twin boys turned 1, I was an emotional mess. I couldn’t stop thinking about their birth. I couldn’t stop remembering the emotions of our week in the NICU, so worried about my little boys.  I mourned the normal pregnancy, normal childbirth, and normal newborn experience I would never have. I was also ecstatic because WE MADE IT! through the first (very hard) year. Yet I was still so exhausted, so tired, and so overwhelmed.

The week before my twin boys turned 2, I was emotionally strong. I finally felt like we had our heads above water, and having twins complemented our life rather than dominated our life. I no longer mourned for experiences I would never have because I loved our life. Our life finally felt normal, and things felt easier as the boys gained more independence.

My boys turn 3 on Saturday and this week I am an emotional mess. This is the first birthday I’ve realized how very fast time is slipping through my fingers.  I see how limited my time is with my boys at home and it makes me sad because this has been an amazing ride. Usually I would try to get myself to snap out of it, but this feeling of life slipping away is helping me live in the moment and enjoy these times. In a short period of time, my babies turned into boys. As they turn from boys into adults, I want to be present in the moment.

Throughout my childhood, I clearly remember my mom crying on my birthday every year and I never understood it.  I get it now, mom.

Twins versus singleton, roar roar roar

This weekend, my husband Jon and I  watched our friend’s son Ben along with our twin boys Nate and Alex.  I learned some valuable lessons, most notably that Jon and I are definitely two-kid parents. I also had a super huge light bulb go off in my head. Twins versus singleton: it is very different, from both sides.

In the past, most of my focus has been on the negatives of parenting two the same age. Nate and Alex always have to share. They always have to wait. They never get alone time. In all of this, I never understood what my twins are GAINING from this experience. They are great at sharing. They have patience.  They have each other. It’s all cliche but it is true.

All of this was highlighted over the weekend when we threw Ben into the mix. Nate and Alex are used to waiting their turn to speak, or when they do speak, they often speak to each other. Ben is used to talking to adults, so even when Nate and Alex talked to him, Ben wanted to talk to the adults. Nate and Alex often have to wait for us to help them, so they’ve learned to try to do things themselves if we are busy. Ben often has the help of multiple adults, so he wanted us to do things for him.

This last point was highlighted frequently in physical activities. Jon and I simply can’t do everything physical for two 30+ lb children, so we rely on the boys to do a lot of the physical stuff. They take off their own clothes, climb into their chairs, climb into the tub, wash their own hands, climb into their car seats, etc. We’ve pushed them into more physical independence because it’s easier for us. It was very interesting to be around another child the same age who could not or did not want to do these things.

In no way am I saying either situation is better. What I took away from this weekend is that it will always be hard for twin parents and singleton parents to relate to one another on tackling issues because parenting multiples and parenting one kid are such completely different experiences. But I’ve always looked at it from the twin mom perspective. As a twin mom I’ve had to do things, so many things, to compromise but I could always justify it because I have twins. I now see things from the singleton mom perspective, where your kid relies on you for so much.

I’m so very glad we had this weekend, for me, for Jon, for my boys, for my friends, and for Ben. I feel like everybody won in some way. Our friends got a much-needed vacation. My boys got to take in another boy like a brother. Ben got to live in a house with “siblings”. Jon and I took away a better understanding of the things our boys have gotten from the experience of being a twin, lessons I will never forget. And I feel like I will be a better friend to my singleton mom friends when they talk to me about their trials and tribulations.

Now who wants to take my boys for a weekend so you can experience singleton versus twins?

Responding to "we're having twins!"

This morning, one of my husband’s college friends sent news that they’re expecting twins. I have heard of a lot of multiples since becoming a twin mom, but all of those announcements have been through my local multiples group. This is my first experience with a real-life friend becoming pregnant with multiples. I had no idea how excited I would be!  I can’t stop myself from making the longest mental list of advice (and assvice). Before responding to their request for advice, I need to narrow down my response. So… what three things would you tell a real-life friend expecting multiples? They already have one kid, so they’re not rookie parents. Here’s my gut reaction advice:

1. Pick up Dr. Barbara Luke’s book When You’re Expecting Twin, Triplets, and Quadruplets. Read the nutrition information, pre-term labor, and prematurity sections. Post the pre-term labor signs on your fridge.

2. Make sure you are going to an OB that specializes in high-risk (or multiple) pregnancies.

3. Line up as much help as humanly possible for after the babies are born.

What do you think? What would be your best three tips?

So this is what they mean!

When the boys were newborns, one of the things I hated to hear from twin moms with older twins was how much things get easier when they start playing together. I would ask when that was and they would say, “Oh, close to 3.” Peoples, if you come upon a mom of newborn twins, NEVER tell them things get so much easier THREE YEARS in the future.

But seriously, they were right. It’s as if some switch has been flipped in our house. Nate and Alex, who turn 3 next month, spend countless hours playing together with minimal interference. They talk and laugh and play. They also fight, but they’re getting better about working it out themselves. And they’re old enough now to know if they choose to solve their problems with physical violence, they go to timeout.

It really hit home this weekend when Nate helped Alex. My husband and I had gone out for a date, and the boys were completely fine with us leaving. When they went to bed, Alex started crying for us. The sitter said she walked upstairs to comfort Alex but by the time she got there, Nate had already comforted Alex and calmed him down just by talking to him.

Lightbulb moment: instead of two kids making each other crazy, I’m starting to see glimpses of two kids being brothers to each other. And they’re not even three.

The germiest child care option, yet it works for us

I always knew I would never be a stay-at-home mom. I’ve always loved math and science, and along with that has come the understanding that I’m a tad different. Looking through my childhood pictures, you will see me standing there as the lone girl on the math team, the junior engineering team, and the science team, to name a few. As an adult, I have a successful software career and I had always planned to continue that after having children. During my maternity leave, I learned something that was hard to admit: I would never make a good stay-at-home mom. I am a much better mother and wife when I work at a job outside the home. And I feel very good that part of my income goes to people who love being around children all day.

We researched two child care options: nanny and group day care. I telecommute full-time so our first preference was to have the kids out of the house. However we had a backup plan to hire a nanny if the boys were born too prematurely. North Carolina has a star rating system for group facilities, so we used this list a starting point to visit and interview 5 star day cares. When visiting facilities, we were astounded at the differences in equipment, facilities, staff, and general environment. When we walked into the center where my kids would end up, it just felt RIGHT. The babies were happy. The staff was friendly and open, chatting with parents as they passed through. They have an indoor gym so they always get exercise no matter the weather. They were willing to let my twins sleep in cribs next to each other. And most importantly, I felt confident in the director, who plays a huge part in how a facility is run.

I’m happy to report my gut instinct was right. We have been incredibly happy with our day care, and have referred six other families to the same facility. It is a place I know my children are loved, well-cared for, well educated, and happy.

What I love about group day care:

* Teaches me to be a better parent. My day care has taught me so much about caring for my kids! They see such a wide variety of kids so they always have a solution to our problems. From getting the boys to nap to getting them on sippy cups to dealing with a biting phase, they have helped me through some tough times.
* Socialization. My kids have a lot of friends they’ve known their entire lives. They get to experience peer relationships outside of the twin dynamic on an ongoing basis. For example, Alex gets to boss other kids around while Nate gets to be bossed around.
* Convenience. It is open almost every day of the year. If a teacher is sick, there’s another teacher to cover. I can be a few minutes late  or early and it’s okay.
* Structured activity. This was very important to us. We wanted our kids to participate in a wide variety of learning experiences. Every day they have structured music time, reading time, circle time, and outside time as well as structured meals and snacks.
* Access to lots of qualified babysitters who know my kids. I’ve gotten bolder about asking people if they babysit on the side. In this economy, the answer is frequently yes.
* Practice for “real” school.  I’ve learned a lot about communicating with teachers and caregivers, how to handle issues when they come up, and when to make a stink about something or let it slide. I’ve also learned how one of my boys will click with a certain teacher and the other will not. And we’ve gotten really good at the morning scramble. I’m taking all this in as practice for “real” school.

What I do not love about group care:
* Germs.
* Germs.
* Germs.

Make no mistake about it, kids in group care get exposed to tons of germs. I can not stress this enough to twin parents considering this option. When I look back at my blog from the first cold and flu season in group care, I’m surprised to see any posts NOT about illness. You name the illness, my boys have had it.

But! This goes back to the science thing. I believe people build an immune system by exposure. This year was my boys’ third cold and flu season in day care and they barely caught anything at all. The first year, I’m not quite sure how we survived. The second year, it was easier as they didn’t catch quite as much. This year, it was incredibly easy. And I feel conflicted about the following fact, but since my kids have had so many colds and illnesses, being sick doesn’t really bother them. They can cough all night and it doesn’t disrupt their sleep. Only fevers and ear infections really seem to disrupt sleep, both of which are cured by some Motrin and getting in bed with mom and dad.

However, a major factor in our ability to deal with illness is our (awesome) jobs. My company allows me to work with a sick kid at home, and my husband’s company has a very liberal sick leave policy. Knowing our kids would miss school with these illnesses at some point anyway, we decided it was better to do it while we both had jobs that fit so well with being working parents.

As for being a working mom, I love it, but I also feel strongly that I have a job that fits a working mom lifestyle. That is why I so very very very rarely talk about my job publicly – I want to keep it as long as possible! Since I don’t commute to work, I say good-bye to the boys at 8:25 and hello again at 5:05. We have at least 4.5 hours a day together as a family, more if someone wakes up early. While it does take significant effort to achieve balance between working, family, friends, chores, and me time, it is the right choice for me and my family.

And I am so very incredibly thankful to all the women in math and science who blazed the trail before me to give me the choice to be a working mom in a career I love.

Welcome to Child Care Week!

With the multitude of child care options available to parents, the authors of HDYDI have decided to share the nitty gritty details of their particular child care option. Each day this week, we’ll be featuring different authors who will provide details on their child care option. We’ll discuss pros and cons, rants and raves, and what went into making our decision.

Just within the HDYDI authors, the variety is astounding. We’ve got stay-at-home mom, single mom, stay-at-home dad, work from home mom, work outside the home parents, home day care, group day care, nanny, au pair, mother’s helpers… almost every situation you can imagine! So sit back, enjoy, ask questions, and share your experiences in the comments.