Meet a How Do You Do It? author

Sadia

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 10-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. They live in the Austin, TX suburbs, where Sadia works full time in information technology. She contributes to a number of parenting websites and magazines and also runs The Mommy Blogging Guide, where she answers mommy bloggers' technical questions.

After-School Together Time

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Categories Parenting Twins, Relationships, School-AgeTags , , , 5 Comments

A few weeks ago, our 5-year-old twins J and M were pre-schoolers. I’d clock off work around 5:00, and drive to their pre-school to pick them up. When I reached daycare around 6:00 pm, they were always bursting with stories, discoveries, and questions to share with me. They’d trip over each in other their attempts to tell me and their Dad everything they had to report. M tends to be more long-winded than J, but many of their tales were groups efforts, born of their day in a common classroom.

Our schedule in our new city is quite different now. I work until 4:00 pm local time, and that work is done in my home office. Our daughters are elementary school kids. We have yet to finalize after-school care arrangements for our girls, but for now, my husband is picking the girls up from their bus stop around 3:00 pm. He’s finally getting to enjoy some post-deployment time off work.

I had already explained to the girls that my work in my home office made me as unavailable as I had been at work before I started telecommuting. Still, I prepared myself for another serious conversation with the our daughters about the fact that I would unavailable to them for their first hour home from school.

I needn’t have worried. M and J are in different classrooms for kindergarten, apart for much of the day for the first time in their lives. They have little desire to spend any time with me or Daddy when they get home from school. They need to be together. They grab a snack, during which M briefly reports on her day to Dad, and then both girls disappear into their bedroom, shutting the door behind them.

Do Not Enter: Twins at Play

They have plenty to tell us come dinnertime, but the first hour of the day during which they can be fully together is sister time. It’s not enough for them to see each other at on the school bus, at recess, and at lunchtime. It’s not nearly enough, after almost six years together, starting in the womb. They haven’t complained at all about being in separate classrooms, beyond first-day jitters. They just silently agreed on how to get quality twin time into their day.

How much time do your multiples spend apart? Do they want more? Less?

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Preparing for Kindergarten, Double-Quick

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Categories Classroom Placement, School-AgeTags , 4 Comments

Our first task upon arriving in our new town was getting the keys to our house. The second was getting M & J enrolled in school. They’d already missed the first month of the public school year in our new, unfamiliar town.

I’d gone ahead and registered them at the elementary school near our old home in Central Texas. Nothing is ever certain with the army. I didn’t want to run the risk of our orders being canceled at the last minute and then finding ourselves scrambling to register them. Backup plan notwithstanding, we ended up leaving town (and our neighbours, and a decade worth of friends) two days after the school year started there.

Registration seemed a pretty simple exercise in Central Texas, and I expected about the same in Far West Texas. We showed the school administration the girls’ birth certificates, shot records, and a utility bill to prove residency, and filled out a bunch of forms. As the school year approached, we received phone calls from each of their teachers inviting us to meet them at the end-of-summer open house.

I hadn’t accounted for this West Texas school district scrambling as best they could to keep up with development and population growth in the area. The school we expected the girls to attend was bursting at the seams, with 1100 students preK-5. They could accomodate them within the bilingual class, which initially seemed like a great opportunity to expose our daughters to Spanish, but it turned out the “bilingual” is code for ESL these days. There was no Spanish used in the bilingual program. We had to register our daughters as if they would be attending that school, and then fill it additional paperwork to request that they be assigned to an overflow school within the district. We would get a phone call from the district that afternoon, we were told.

The afternoon came and went, and our phones didn’t ring. The next morning, my husband called the school to find out who was in charge. He got a name, and a telephone number that was never answered. He looked up the office address, and headed out to get some answers. He talked to the folks there, who were knee-deep in overflow assignment research. Did J & M absolutely have to be in separate classrooms? Yes, my husband assured them, they did. They said they would do their best, and would call us within the next couple of days.

Sure enough, Thursday we got a phone call after a two-day wait. At 8:45 am, as my husband was headed out the door with our daughters, the local school called to tell us that our daughters had been marked absent for the day at their new school. We were perplexed, this being the first time we’d even heard the name of the second school. They would be considered present if they could get there by 10:00 am. And, by the way, there’s a school uniform. We asked whether the following day could be considered the girls’ first day. That, too, was up to the district, not the school, and besides this wasn’t their school anyway. The lady at the front desk (bless her) knew how frustrated we must be and wanted to make sure someone had spoken to us. My husband again ran the gamut of getting in touch with the school district. The attendance person was very understanding, and agreed that Friday could be the girls’ first day. Hubby located the girls’ school, 5 miles from our house, and risked epic papercuts as he filled out an entirely new set of paperwork.

Through this all, I telecommuted to work from the comfort of our home and my beloved massaging chair–our furniture arrived on Wednesday, and the chair was a huge improvement over the floor, carpeted though it is. My husband ran from store to store with both children in tow, trying to procure every last thing on the kindergarten supply list. Both he and the girls were amused by the baby wipe requirement. He managed to find the shop that sold the school’s uniforms, and learned that our five-year-olds were going to be significantly smaller in stature than their peers. He bought out everything they had in a 2-3T size, which was just enough so that they could show up at school without looking indecent.

I “commuted” home by taking the single step out of my office into the hallway, and armed with a silver and black Sharpie, did some hardcore labelling. I even got the girls’ names written on the ends of each of their four erasers and tops of their eight containers of Play-do. In retrospect, that may have been overkill. I did restrain myself from individually tagging each of 2 dozen pencils and each individual crayon.

Before we knew it, Friday was here. After all the “hurry up and wait,” which I would have thought army life had prepped us better for, our precious daughters were headed to kindergarten.

Waiting for the school bus

Dropoff was a little involved. We needed to take them to the local school, the one with no room,  and they would go by bus to their overflow location. My husband and I met the bus at the new school. My husband and friends had managed to talk me down from my initial indignation about the whole school situation, and I tried to go in the front doors with an open mind. The principal and assistant principal were helpful, forthcoming, warm, and informed. Just this week, they told us, the school has received over 20 new students, all overflow from nearby schools. The assistant principal led the girls through their morning routine, and found a little girl for each of them to be their friend for the day.

The girls’ teachers were quite lovely. When we mentioned to J’s teacher that she was comfortably reading chapter books, her first question was whether J was writing. No, I told her, she still needed to look up or ask how to spell words. M’s teacher noticed that she was being reserved, and told me that there was a boy in the class who was also being separated from his twin for the first time. The teacher promised to introduce M to him.

M came home and let out a 15-minute report about her day, her projects, and her new friends. The girls’ classes have outdoor play in the same place, at the same time. At lunch they had been served Sun Chips. Sun Chips, Mommy! J was content just to be held.

After all the drama, I think they’re in good hands.

Facetious question: What do you think the baby wipes are for?

Serious question: How do you walk the line between advocating for your children, and being that parent, the one who refuses to back off and let the experts do their thing?

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Daycare Passage

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Categories Childcare, Development, Relationships, Theme Week, WorkingTags 6 Comments

Our daughters were born 7 weeks early. We were somewhat prepared for that possibility. We joined a Lamaze class for couples with May 2006 duedates, even though our twins weren’t due until July. We assembled M and J’s cribs at the beginning of the third trimester. We interviewed and selected our daughters’ pediatrician well before they were due.

We had not, however, made childcare arrangements. All my research showed that we could expect our babies to be in the hospital until around their duedate, regardless of whether they were preemies or full-term. The doctors and nurses led us to believe the same in the whirlwind surrounding the arrival of our 3 lb 9 oz and 3 lb 6 oz newborns.

There was never any question about whether I would return to work after having children. I love being a mother, more than I ever imagined I could love any role, but I also love my job and my coworkers. I am built to be a better, more patient, more creative parent when I spend my weekdays interacting with adults, and my husband was born to be both a father and a soldier. I deeply admire parents who choose parenting as their primary career, in large part because I know I couldn’t hack it.

Once I had taken the requisite 2 weeks to recover from my C-section, I needed to decide what to do with the remaining 9 weeks of parental leave I had at my disposal. If I waited out the 5 weeks more we expected J and M to be in the NICU, I’d have only a month left to establish a routine, adjust to being a mom, and master breastfeeding before returning to work. Almost equally challenging, we would have to make daycare arrangements in a hurry, because we’d been anticipating that the girls would be 2 to 3 months beyond their due date before needing to start daycare.

I’d decided to go back to work while the babies were in the hospital when our lovely nurse, Michelle, stopped me. She told me quietly that our daughters were doing unusually well for preemies, and that they would likely be released long before their due date. They ended up coming home at the tender ages of 16 and 21 days.

We were going to need childcare 4 weeks after their original due date, instead of the 12 weeks we’d anticipated. All of a sudden, we were in a scramble to find the right place. We were absolutely unwilling to sacrifice quality in the interest of expedience. After all, our newborn treasures would be spending 10-11 hours a day in the care of strangers.

We wanted a formal childcare facility, rather than in-home daycare. We just couldn’t afford the possibility of a single careprovider getting ill or having some other emergency that rendered them unavailable when my husband would soon be headed to Iraq and I’d be parenting solo. I started with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services’ childcare search and scoured the violation reports. Only once I’d reviewed each centre’s history did I schedule visits.

We got lucky. Early on in our search we landed our home for the next 5 years. Its inspection record wasn’t spotless, but the only ding was that their infant changing table lacked a safety rail on all sides at their first inspection, a problem that was corrected within the week. The children we met at our visit were well-behaved but boisterous. There was clear affection between every teacher and every child. The facilities were clean, and our questions were answered directly. The older kids’ classrooms were organized, colourful, and proportioned for children, with posters at a child’s eye-level. The infant room contained a rocking chair for nursing mothers who wanted to breastfeed at dropoff or pickup. They would fully support my bringing expressed breastmilk and, later, homemade baby food.

It’s 5 years later, almost to the day, and today is the girls’ last day at their daycare. Their beloved teacher from the infant and toddler rooms is now the assistant director, and still finds a way to fit in a hug for each of them every day. J took her first steps within the walls of the school to which we will only return as visitors. M and J potty trained there, and learned to read. They learned about death, and grief, as well as security and love, and are now ready to move on to kindergarten.

In a lot of ways, it’s harder for me to leave this family of ours than it is for our daughters. Elementary school will be an altogether new adventure, and J and M are bringing with them all the skills and traits they developed at daycare. They’re off to a great start, and the gifts of their pre-school will be with them forever. If their elementary teachers are half as invested in our girls as their teachers have been thus far, we’re golden.

What are your childcare arrangements? What were your options, and how did you choose? What worked and didn’t work for your family? Was it different for each child? Did you experience additional challenges because of the increased uncertainty of birthdates associated with a multiple pregnancy?

If you’re currently expecting, what would you like to hear from parents who’ve been through the childcare selection process?

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Safety and Danger in Numbers

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Categories Safety6 Comments

I’m Sadia. I’m a long-time reader of HDYDI, and have met a number of my closest mommy friends through the site. I’m excited to have the opportunity to write here. I am the mother of five-year-old monozygotic twin girls, M and J.

J and M trying to share a toy, with questionable success.

We’re a two-career family, and our daughters will be transitioning from our beloved daycare/pre-school to public kindergarten. My husband is a soldier, and we’re about to go through our first army move, from the Austin, TX area to El Paso. A new routine at a new school in a new neighbourhood in a new town is sure to bring lots of excitement in the coming months, even though we’re managing to keep the state the same.

This post, though, has nothing to do with those changes. Instead, it’s about one of the constants in every parent’s life–keeping our children safe while letting them explore the world.

The heatwave the rest of the country has felt lately is the norm where we live, so we’re all about indoor play options during the summer. It’s very child- and parent-friendly here in the ‘burbs, and there are a number of establishments that attempt to serve both demographics by pairing a coffee shop with an indoor playscape. They usually have wifi and fancy caffeinated beverages for the adults, and the kids can choose from a selection of snacks, juices and opportunities for vigourous mayhem involving some combination of screaming, jumping, running and climbing. The kids are generally within visual range of their accompanying adults, but different parents provide different degrees of oversight.

One of our daughters’ friends spent the weekend with us, and I had some work to catch up on, so a trip to our favourite play-and-wifi hangout was in order. While my husband savoured his coffee, and I clattered away on my laptop, the girls embarked on a mission to figure out how to go down the two available slides while all three holding hands. They checked in with us every few minutes, with requests for water, hugs, or conflict-resolution. If five or more minutes went by without a check-in, either my husband or I walked over to the playscape for a quick visual verification of all three girls’ wellbeing.

About an hour into our stay, J came running up to us with her friend, less happy-go-lucky than they’d been. M, they told us, was in hiding because of “the scary guy.” We asked what they meant, and they told us that there was a guy sitting at the top of the slides telling all the kids “I’m gonna get you.” We looked over, and noticed that all the kids had abandoned the previously in-demand slides for other features of the playscape. My husband went over to investigate further, and I saw his posture slide into military vigilance mode.

After about five minutes of observation, he came over to me with all three girls in tow, saying it was time to go home. There was a grown man in the playscape, seemingly unassociated with any of the children present, scaring the kids. He was creepy, my husband said, and that was enough to make me pack up my things and talk up how exciting making dinner was going to be. My mother has spent her career working with abused children, so I’m probably more paranoid about these things than the average mom.

This was the second time we’d seen someone suspicious at this location. The time before, we’d left after speaking to the coffee shop management about our discomfort. A man had come into this family hangout solo, accompanied by a puppy, which he was unashamedly using as a kid magnet. My husband and I watched for ten minutes or so before saying anything, but we’d both felt our hackles rise. Perhaps the guy was there awaiting his family. Perhaps friends with kids had asked to meet him there. Perhaps he’d seen the coffee shop sign and not realized it was kid-centred. Still, he gave us the creeps, and we weren’t going to stick around.

This time, we made sure to thank the girls for letting us know that they were uncomfortable. It occurred to me that J and her friend felt empowered to come and talk to us about their concerns because they were together, while M, having broken off from her group, decided to hide instead. I wonder whether I let my children venture a little farther afield from me because there are two of them, looking out for each other. There is safety in numbers, although it is the number of children in this sort of place that makes it easy for creepy folks to hide.

Do you find yourself being hyperaware of adults who don’t seem to belong at a kid venue? Are there child-centred activities you won’t let your children attend for fear of paedophiles? How do you safeguard your children against unwelcome interactions? Do you listen to your instincts about strangers; do you tend to believe the best or worst of people?

I regularly study our local sex offender registry in an effort to memorize the faces I want to keep my children far, far away from. Do you?

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