Best Friends

There’s no denying the special bond that my twins share. Tiny and Buba are extremely close (as I’d hoped they’d be) and love each other dearly. Sure, they fight- sometimes quite a bit- but when it’s over, it’s over. Life goes on and they’re more than happy to snuggle together and read books or make up a new game to play. They started playing together at an early age- before most of their singleton friends were ready or interested in playing with either of them- and I have no doubt in my mind, that at the age of 3.5, they are each other’s best friend.

But over the summer, while we were attending group playdates with the kids who are now their preschool classmates, Tiny began to make new friends. Now, almost three months into the school year, Tiny has two other good friends who she looks forward to seeing at school and who look forward to seeing her. Buba has very little interest in playing with these kids. He has told me more than once that he has been sad at school because he wants to play with Tiny, and just Tiny. As Tiny’s friendship with her two new friends has grown, Buba has had more and more weepy days at preschool.

However, his teachers report that he is well liked by his classmates. Buba enjoys singing and drumming and acting silly, which his classmates love and think is hilarious. He seems to get a lot of laughs and attention when he’s singing new, silly words to familiar tunes (something we’ve been doing at home for a long time), but has yet to make a real friendship sort of connection with any of his classmates.

In general, I’m not too worried about this. I know that preschoolers will all develop socially in their own way and time. But it does break my heart a little bit to hear that he’s been feeling sad at school. I’m sure if he were a singleton, he wouldn’t care about other kids playing together while he played alone or parallel to other children. But watching his sister, his best friend, go off and play with others is not so easy to dismiss.

I wish there was something I could do to help him through this. I’ve asked if he’d like to invite a friend from school to have a playdate at our house, but at this point, he’s not really interested. Hopefully, as the year goes on, he will form some new friendships of his own. He may not be the kind of kid who wants to be everybody’s friend, and that’s okay. I just hope he can find a way to be happy in those moments where Tiny is off doing her own thing.

*reanbean is a mostly stay at home mom to g/b twins, Tiny and Buba, who also works very part-time as a private tutor. She blogs about their lives as often as possible at: http://www.reanbean.com/.

**The above photo was taken by a mom at Tiny and Buba’s preschool and shows Tiny holding Buba’s hand during circle time on the rug.

The New-to-Us Shopping Method

It’s that time of year again! The seasons are changing and spring/summer clothes will soon be put away with fall/winter clothes taking their place (or vice versa for those in the southern hemisphere). Outfitting two (or more) kids can be costly. Here are the methods I use to keep my kids looking good without breaking the bank.

I accept any and all hand-me-downs. We’ve been fortunate to have several family members and neighbors offer us hand-me-down clothing from time to time. Some batches are better than others, but it’s always fun to go through the bags and see which items still have some wear left in them for my kids. Now, while I do accept all hand me downs, I don’t necessarily keep them all. I toss aside the ones with large stains or rips and anything that I just don’t want to see my child wearing (we are all entitled to have our own tastes). Often, the clothes we receive are a size or two ahead of what my kids are currently wearing, so like Leslie H., I have an attic filled with bins of clothing sorted by size (currently 3T to size 6). With everything organized in bins, it’s really easy to find what I need when my kids are ready to move into the next size up.

Hand-me-down shirt with $1 pants purchased from another twin mom.

I shop for clothes at yard sales. Yard sale shopping is part of our Saturday morning routine from mid-May through early September. Most clothing at yard sales (at least in our area) are super cheap. I recently bought brand name t-shirts and pants, still in great shape, for a quarter a piece! At that price, I’m willing to pick up anything we might need in my kids’ current size or larger. This is, by far, the cheapest way to add to my kids’ wardrobes.

I shop from other mothers of multiples. Many mothers of multiples clubs have tags sales in the fall and/or spring. Prices vary, but often clothing is priced $1-$5. These MoM sales are great places to shop for quality second-use clothing, but I’ve taken it even one step further. After realizing that I bought most of my clothing from just two sellers, I contacted the sellers and asked if I could shop their clothing before the sale. Both readily agreed and it became a win-win situation for all of us- they have less to tag and cart to the sales, and I have smaller piles to look through.

Pink Carter's coat and navy Tommy Hilfiger coat for $3 each purchased at a MoM sale.

$1 spiderman shirt and $1 shorts purchased from another twin mom.

$2 outfit purchased from another twin mom.

I shop at resale shops. The prices at resale shops tend to be higher than what you’d find at a yard sale or MOM tag sale, but they’re still considerably cheaper than buying new from retail stores. I only shop at the ones that are choosy about their merchandise- the ones that sell name brand clothes and check thoroughly for rips and stains. The best is when our local resale shop has their buy a bag sale. For $5/bag, I can take away as many pieces of clothing as I can stuff into the bag(s). I have gotten some incredible deals shopping this way, and I always shop one to two sizes up at these sales.

Hand me down shirt with $3 Old Navy jeans from a resale shop.

I do buy new from time to time, but when I do, it’s usually from end of season clearance racks or in stores where I can combine a great sale with an additional 25-30% off coupon. Of course, if my kids really need a particular piece of clothing and I can’t find it through any of the above options, I’m not above paying full retail prices. But my kids don’t know the difference. They love getting new clothes whether they’re brand new or just new to us.

He Will If She Will

My daughter, Tiny, has oozed with confidence since the moment her personality started to emerge. In her mind, there is nothing she can’t do, and she fearlessly tries new things without even a second thought. She is a joiner, and will often seek out other kids to play with whether she knows them or not.

My son, Buba, is more reserved. He often hangs back in a new situation, watching to see what everyone else is doing before he decides whether to join in or not. He is more hesitant to try new things, and when faced with a group of kids, often prefers to play alone.

But here’s the thing- If Tiny tries something new first, Buba will almost always follow her lead. Even if she has tried to do something really hard and wasn’t successful, he will try too. I both love this, and despise it. I love that Tiny’s confidence can somehow be transferred to Buba and give him the courage to try things that he otherwise would not. But I so wish that he had some of that confidence on his own.

Given all of this, I wasn’t at all surprised a few weeks back when Tiny had no trouble at all going to a 3.5 hour day of gymnastics camp all by herself when her brother was home sick with a stomach bug. She didn’t know a single other kid in her group, and yet, she walked into that gym as if she owned the place.

But the following week, when Tiny was sick, Buba did not want to go to the first day of dance camp (something he had really been looking forward to) without his sister. His exact words were, “I can’t go, because if I do then Tiny will be so sad and she will be saying ‘Where’s my Buba?’” It took a lot of convincing, but I finally got him out the door and willing to give it a try. Fortunately the class was small (just two other sets of twin girls!), but he still was very tentative about the whole thing. He cried when I tried to leave (it was a drop off program), but agreed to participate if I sat in the corner of the room. So I did.

I could tell that, at first, he wasn’t really comfortable or enjoying the class at all. I think it didn’t help that everyone had a twin sister but him. But by the end of the session, he had really warmed up to one of the teacher’s helpers, and he allowed me to go to the waiting room for the last 10 minutes. This seemed HUGE and I was sure to tell him how very proud I was that he had finished dance class all by himself.

When Buba went back for day two, again without his sister, he was nervous about going by himself, but didn’t cry when I said I was going to run an errand or two. When I came back at the end of the class, the teacher said he had done really well, and Buba beamed from ear to ear as he eavesdropped on our conversation.

For the rest of the day, he told anyone who would listen about how he went to dance camp “ALL. BY. MY. SELF!” And when Tiny was finally well enough to go with him for the third and final day, it was clear to him that she was joining his dance class.

Now that everyone is healthy again, things are pretty much back to the way they used to be with Tiny always taking the lead and Buba following willingly. But I’m so glad that we had that experience- that he had that experience. Because now we know that he does have some of that confidence in there, and that Buba can experience new things successfully without his sister. The sky’s the limit now.

Do your multiples always do activities together? And does their confidence seem to feed off each other (in good or bad ways)?

 

 

The Preschool Process

The process of searching for a preschool can vary widely depending on where you live. Even out here, in the Greater Boston Area, it varies quite a bit from town to town. Here are just a few tips to help you if you’re in the beginning stages of looking for a preschool.

1. Find Out When You Need To Begin Your Search: We live roughly 20 miles from Boston and needed to begin our preschool search process last October (almost one full year before Tiny and Buba would officially begin!). I suppose, technically, we could have waited until winter or even spring, but several school we were looking at had late fall application deadlines. However, just 10-15 miles further north, many friends of ours were able to register easily the spring before their children would enter the school. Sometimes it depends on the area, and sometimes it depends on the schools. So, it just helps to know ahead of time what you’re dealing with.

2. Know What You Want: If you live in an area where you have a lot of options, it can be tremendously helpful to know what type of school/program you want for your children. Do you need all day or do you only want half day? Would you like a morning program where you have the option to have your children stay through lunchtime or even the full afternoon? Do you prefer to have classes grouped by age or do you like the idea of multi-age classes? How many days a week would you like your kids to go? Would you like a program that is primarily play-based, or would you rather have a program that will focus more on academic skills. And how far are you willing to travel? Would you prefer a school closer to home, or, perhaps, closer to work? These are just some of the questions that you can answer ahead of time that may help you narrow down your search.

3. Know What You Can Spend (But Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Discounts or Aid): I’m not sure what it’s like in other parts of the country, but out here, preschool can be quite costly. (I was shocked to learn, while visiting family this summer, that preschool for 4 year olds is FREE in Iowa! Anyone else have a deal like that?) Knowing how much you can spend, or how much you’re willing to spend, can also be an important piece of information when deciding which schools to look at. However, some schools offer sibling discounts, alternate payment plans, and/or financial aid. Not all schools publish these possibilities on their websites or in their literature, so don’t be afraid to ask. You may be surprised by how willing a director might be to work out a plan that allows your children to attend the school.

4. Talk To Other Parents, But Trust Your Gut: Talking to other parents whose children are already in a preschool you’re considering for your own children can be very helpful. They may be able to talk more specifically about things, such as how the teachers operate their classrooms, how well the staff communicates with parents, and what they personally like about the school. However, your friend may love a school for her own kids that you feel is not the best fit for your own children. Trust your gut and do what you know is the right thing for your own family.

What advice do you give to friends who are beginning to look at preschools for their kids? Not ready for looking yet- what further questions do you have about the preschool search process?

Prepping For Preschool

We are now just under four weeks away from Tiny and Buba’s first day of preschool. T and I chose to send them to a local co-op school that strives to build a strong connection between the child’s home and the school. As a result, we’ve already spent a good amount of time on the school grounds, connecting with other classmates and their parents, and talking about what it will be like when they start preschool this fall.

Back in mid-June, we received the kids’ class list noting which days each student will attend. All 20 kids in the class have schedules that allow them to know all the other children in the class, even though only 12 kids attend on any given day (meaning, their schedules all overlap at some point in the week). To help them all get to know each other, optional playdates were set for Monday afternoons and Friday mornings from late June until the week just before school begins. The playdates take place on the school’s playground, helping them become familiar with the school grounds as well.

Recently, each family received a welcome letter from the teachers. The letter included photos of the two teachers to post on our refrigerator for the kids to view and talk about. The teachers are currently in the process of setting up a home visit to each family, where they’ll talk and play with their incoming students and get to know a little more about them.

Similar to many preschools in our area, Buba and Tiny will have a visiting day prior to the real first day of school. On this day parents come into the classroom and stay as the kids get their first introduction to the school and their classroom. The visiting session is just one hour long and only three other students and their parents will be with us (five kids attend each one hour time slot throughout the visiting day). The following Monday, the children begin attending school on their own, but just for two hours each day. It isn’t until the following week that the full schedule of three hours a day, three days a week kicks in.

Tiny is naturally confident and independent, and I’m sure she will have no trouble transitioning to preschool this fall. But for Buba, who has a harder time separating from T and me and who takes longer to warm up in new situations, I’m so, so glad he’s had all of these opportunities to ease into the whole preschool thing. He already knows and looks forward to seeing a handful of his classmates, and he’s confident enough now to explore different areas of the school grounds (there are four different play areas) without me right by his side. He was very shy when we happened to meet his teachers during one of the playdates, but I’m hoping the home visit will help him become a bit more comfortable with them.

Fingers crossed that all this leads to an easy and smooth transition once that first day of school finally rolls around!

So, how are you/will you prepare your children when the time comes for them to begin school?

********************************

http://www.reanbean.com/

Double Trouble

I first heard someone refer to my twins as “double trouble” when I was still pregnant with Tiny and Buba. And it seemed that every time I pushed my sweet, little babies in the double stroller through the grocery store (yes, pulling the cart behind me) I’d hear that comment, “You’ve got double trouble!” at least two or three times.

But even when I was getting up many, many times a night to attend to my newborns’ cries, I never thought that they were double trouble. They were just babies, after all. And when Buba and Tiny started crawling and walking and getting into anything and everything they could, they still weren’t double trouble in my mind. Just curious little babies reminding me of the areas that I still needed to babyproof. At age two, the tantrums began, but my kids were kind enough to take turns tantruming, so I only ever dealt with one temper tantrum at a time. Frustrating and annoying? Yes. But still not quite double trouble.

Age three, however, has been a whole different ballgame. When Buba and Tiny are playing together, there is a lot of calculated toy snatching going on- often resulting in pushing and hitting from both sides and lots and lots of screaming and crying. We were once at a point where Tiny or Buba would do something naughty, but would stop the behavior when told to do so (A “That’s one” from 1-2-3 Magic was pretty much all it took). Now, not only does the offender often not stop, but the other one usually joins in using the excuse, “But s/he’s doing it!” as they both laugh their heads off (making my blood boil). And when I hear Buba call out, “Hey, Tiny! Want to go be naughty?” I know that nothing good is about to happen.

This time last year, my kids were tough as nails. But now, every little fall, every little scraped brings on major tears and dramatic crying. And to make matters worse, the kid who didn’t get a scrape, pretends to fall and get one so s/he can cry and get kisses for his/her pretend owie too. And then there’s the whining. Oh, the whining! It’s just non-stop!

From talking with other moms, I know that this is just what age three seems to be all about. Hubby and I are firm and consistent with our disciple approach (meaning some days there are lots, and lots of time outs and double time outs), and that seems to be just about all we can do until this not-so-fun stage passes. And don’t get me wrong, we do have some good days moments that remind me what sweet, funny, and caring children we have. But there are now plenty of moments where I look at my kids and think, “Uh-oh. I’ve got double trouble.”

**********************************

reanbean

http://www.reanbean.com/

Boys Will Be Boys?

“Can I have a ponytail?”

“I need a barrette!”

“Today I want pink undies.”

“Where is my leotard?”

I hear questions and comments like these almost every day. From Buba, my son.

He sees his sister (Tiny) getting pretty things for her hair, a special outfit for gymnastics class, and all kinds of pretty, sparkly, pink things, and he wants them too. At this point, I haven’t fully figured out why he really wants these things. Does he really, really want a ponytail, or is it just that he wants the same thing that Tiny is getting?

I think it might be a little bit of both. He seemed not to care much about the leotard until Tiny started to make a big deal about it. Once I gave him a special set of clothes (a Gap T-shirt and some gray sweatpants) and told him that they were just for gymnastics class, he stopped asking about the leotard. But he does seem to genuinely like pink things, and, especially at this point, I feel it is okay to let him have and enjoy the pink sparkly things. Because, well, who cares?

For the most part, I try to avoid any gender stereotyping with my kids. They both got baby dolls and trucks for Christmas, and they both love playing with the tea set just as much as they enjoy playing with the set of toy tools. But they’re starting to become aware that some things are perceived as being for boys while others are for perceived to be for girls. At the dentist’s office, the kids each got a goody bag to take home. Buba’s was green with trucks and dinosaur stickers inside, while Tiny’s was pink with Strawberry Shortcake and princess stickers (along with a toothbrush and sample sized toothpaste, of course). And then there was the donut shop girl who, after serving a chocolate frosted donut with multicolored sprinkles to Tiny, gave Buba a plain chocolate frosted donut and explained that this was the “boy donut”.  No one has a problem with Tiny racing around the floor with her cars, but even a close relative told Buba that he needed a wallet, not a purse.

I guess my feeling is that I just want to let Buba be Buba. If he wants to dress up in a tutu and carry around a purse, fine. It makes him happy. And that makes me happy.

So how about it? Anyone else have a little boy like mine? How have you handled gender stereotyping with your family?

Can’t Live With It, Can’t Live Without It

stroller

We received this stroller as a gift from my family, and began using it when Tiny and Buba were just about a year old. For over a year and a half, it was the only way we rolled when we were out and about. The kids could sit facing me, facing each other, or facing forward, and I became quite good at changing the seating arrangements with kids in their seats if and when a quick change was needed to detour any brewing trouble between them. For the most part, they were happy and I was happy.

But for the last few months, it seems no one is happy when I have to pull out the big, red stroller. The only way they can sit these days, is facing forward with Buba in the back and Tiny up front. But Buba can now pull down the canopy shade to torment Tiny when he becomes bored, and Tiny can easily Houdini herself out of the 5-point harness, turn herself around, and grab at Buba’s feet and legs in retaliation. And while I can contain and entertain them both much more easily in the stroller than I can with the two of them walking, I often find myself debating whether it’s worth the time and energy to pull out the stroller and wrangle each kid into his/her seat when I need to run in somewhere for just an item or two.

I’ve tried letting them walk with me in a store, and while it’s going much better than it did at first, it’s still not easy-peasy. They still can’t help but touch almost everything that interests them, and they’re not great at staying close to me should I let go of their hands in order to carry something. And it’s so frustrating, because I even though I loved this stroller for months and months, I’m really feeling the itch to ditch it. I mean, my kids will be three years old in three months, and they’re capable of walking without easily fatiguing. So why am I still wrestling with the non-automatic doors and running into displays as I try to round a tight corner? Why? Because sometimes, though I wish it weren’t so, it seems that’s the only way to accomplish the mission we’re on.

Have you successful transitioned to life without a double stroller? If yes, tell me your secrets, please.

Maybe We're Twins

The fact that Tiny and Buba are twins is not something that we’ve spent a lot of time talking about with them. We certainly aren’t trying to keep this bit of information from them. Our neighbor is constantly calling them “the twins”, and whenever a stranger stops to ask “Are they twins?”, we always answer truthfully. But the concept of being twins has not been absorbed the way they’ve sponged up so many other words and phrases. And within the last few months, hubby (T) actually completely confused them to the point that I felt a tutorial was needed.

It started at dinner one night. Buba casually commented that both he and T had blue bowls for their ice cream. T responded by saying something like, “ Yes, we do! Mabye we’re twins!” and then gave a really goofy just kidding kind of laugh. But, of course, Tiny and Buba did not pick up on the silliness of it. And since then, they’ve been commenting, “Maybe we’re twins!” in all sorts of inaccurate situations (i.e. Tiny notices that both she and I have pony tails and giggles, “Maybe we’re twins!”).

T thought this was hilarious, but I was somewhat bothered by it. It just seemed like being twins was a concept that Buba and Tiny should be experts on. So I sat with them and explained it. I showed them our first sonogram, and explained that they both grew inside my belly at the same time before they were born. I told them that it was special that they shared the same birthday and were the same age, unlike their friends who have younger siblings. And I told them that those are the things that make two people twins, not the shirts they are wearing or the color of the cups they’re drinking from. It seemed so simple, and I had no doubt that they understood.

But this morning, Buba and Tiny both chose to wear their Iowa Hawkeye shirts. With a beaming smile, Tiny looked at me and exclaimed, “Look, he have a hawkeye and me have a hawkeye. Maybe we’re twins!” And it seemed there was nothing more I could say but, “Yes, my dear. You sure are!”

Making a List and Checking It Twice

It may be a bit early for holiday shopping (perhaps), but right now (at least in our neck of the woods) it’s twin sale time again! I’ve only shopped the sales in our area, and they’ve all been huge events where you can find fantastic deals on used clothing, toys, books, games/puzzles, baby gear, and more. I always shop the fall and spring sales before even stepping foot inside a traditional children’s clothing store.

However, shopping these sales can sometimes feel like I’m running with the brides-to-be in Filene’s Basement. There are often tons and tons of shoppers and sometimes babies and kids in strollers, making it even harder to move around. I won’t lie. I was completely unprepared and overwhelmed when I shopped my first twin sale almost three years ago. I’m not a big shopper to begin with, and almost had an anxiety attack trying to manage the huge stacks of clothing. I don’t think I even made it over to they toys and books. And it wasn’t much easier when I went back for my second sale in the spring.

But by my third sale (the following fall), I realized that I needed more of a game plan to successfully shop during twin sale season. And now, as I approach my sixth sale, I feel that I really have a system that works for me. Here is what my game plan involves:

Make a list: For some reason, the sales are just much easier for me to navigate if I have a list of what I need. It keeps me focused and motivated to find the things we really need. It also keeps me from bringing home things we don’t need.

Find a seller: I was lucky enough to find someone who has boy/girl twins who are roughly a size ahead of mine (even though they’re a month younger than mine!). She lets me shop her items before she tags them, and it’s a win-win for both of us. I don’t have to hunt through huge stacks to look for what I need, and she gets to spend less time tagging her items.

Work the sale and pre-shop: This will be my third sale as a seller. It’s quite a lot of work getting all of my items organized and tagged, and being a seller means I have to work set-up on Friday night AND all day Saturday until the entire venue has been cleared out. But it also means that I get to pre-shop both Friday night AND Saturday morning. The amount of items to look through is still overwhelming, but at least I’m doing it with a relatively few number of other shoppers.

So how about you? Do you shop your local mother of multiples sale? What tips do you have for finding just what you need when shopping large tag sales?