Sleep Challenges, Big Kid Edition

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When I went to check on my daughters last night before I went to sleep, I found J’s Kindle lying on top of the covers. It should have been under her pillow. I sought out her 8-year-old twin M’s bedtime reading and found her book under the pillow, but on the opposite side from where I’d seen her put it at lights out.

When it was time to get up for school, J was the first to wake.

Me: J, have you guys been reading after I turn the lights out?

There was a long, pregnant pause. J sighed.

J: Yes. Yes, we have.
Me: By flashlight?
J: How did you know?

I had to laugh, loudly enough to wake M.

Me: Because I used to do the same thing. Thanks for being honest with me. I know you were tempted not to.
J: You did it too?
Me: I did.
J: What did your mommy say?
Me: She never caught me, but my Nanu (maternal grandmother) did.
J: What’d she say?
Me: That she used to do it too, but by candlelight or moonlight. And that sleep is important.

We shared a laugh. This time, M wanted to know what we were laughing about.

Me: M, I know about your reading by flashlight.
M: Am I in trouble?
Me: Do I look mad?

She studied me.

M: No, I don’t think so. Why not?
J: Because she did it too!
M: You DID?
Me: I did.
M: Mom!
Me: I know. But here’s the thing. Sleep is important. Sleep is when you form your memories and…
J: What memories?
Me: All your memories you’ll keep forever. Everything you’ve learned and everything you’ve seen and your friends and silly things M says. Your brain needs time to rest and recuperate, and so does your body. A lot of the chemical in your body that tells you to grow is made while you sleep.
M: Did you have to stop?
Me: Well, my Nanu didn’t tell, but she made sure that I got more sleep, because I was tired.
M: Do we have to stop?
Me: Yes.
J: (disappointed) Okay.
Me: You have plenty of reading time. We can try to adjust things to give you more reading time. But you need all the sleep time too.

M handed me the flashlight she’d just dug out from under her pillow.

I’m not sure I handled this the right way. Perhaps I should have been harder on the children for actively misleading me. Perhaps I shouldn’t have confessed my own childhood disobedience. Maybe the consequence of not respecting bedtime should have been the loss of reading privileges.

I really didn’t want to punish the children for loving literature. I didn’t want to make them afraid to admit their mistakes to me. I didn’t want them to feel that it was safer to build lies upon lies instead of coming clean.

Our bedtime check-in seems to indicate that I made the right choice. When I asked J what she’d learned today, she answered, “I learned that I can’t get anything past my Mommy. I have lots of examples! Like reading… and wearing perfume… and brushing my teeth.”

What would you do if you discovered your kids reading after bedtime?

House Monkey Update – Donna

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Categories House Monkey, Household and Family Management, Marriage, Older Children, Parenting1 Comment

In this springtime update, entrepreneur Donna talks about the  constant give and take of raising a family, nurturing a marriage, and running a business.

This morning, it’s cold & raining outside. Clearly, it is still very chilly here in the northeast yet I’m sitting here (symbolically wearing my flip flops) thinking about Spring.

The most basic thing in nature is birth, and Spring is always filled with birth. This time around I don’t have a round belly full of babies, but rather a brain bursting at the seams with a vision and a desire to birth our House Monkey dream. Over the last two weeks, my nights have been filled with sketching out the House Monkey website. What should it look like? What information needs to be on the website now (while we are still developing House Monkey itself)?

The list of thoughts go on and on. I realized I needed to gear up and get that website up and running because our magnets (promised to our backers from KickStarter) have the URL address on it… yet the website isn’t up yet. Nightly STRESS!

My days have been spent bursting at the seams with a scientific-based technical project from our day job. Another “birthing” process, but for one of my favorite clients. The guy is smart and I respect him significantly. It has been a great experience: climbing challenging corporate-manufactured “hills” with him to customize this unique product Mike and I have developed together for his organization.

Every day that I work with this client, it helps me realize that people make all the difference in the world. I believe any experience can be viewed as good or bad. I read in a book not long ago that all experiences are like a train that rides on 2 tracks. The good parts of the experience are the right track and bad are on the left track.

Which track we look at from inside the train is up to us. I do believe in this concept but I’ve noticed over time that if I like and respect someone, it is easier to look at the right track all the time! I’m feeling blessed with our work projects right now, despite the stress. I know we worked hard over the last two years to be here, but I can’t help but feel that it is all a gift.

Currently, the work-life balance seems in check (and that does indeed vary from time to time) but 5pm until bedtime has been running smoothly the last two weeks (draining, but running smoothly).

If you read Mike’s last post, you also know we were forced to call a “family meeting” to address the “spring slide” (slide in grades, slide in chores etc.). Thank goodness it seems to have worked. Perhaps it’s why our last two weeks have been smoother! Maybe the kids had a “re-birth” of their own. Or want their iPads back.

The why doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Mike and I are very consciously sticking to our guns with this discipline. So not easy to do. Do you ever feel like you’re the one being punished when you have to discipline your kids? That’s how we feel. Sometimes it is so much easier to give in and let them watch TV.

On the last day of school before Spring Break, my eldest, who gets home an hour earlier than the others, is pitching in at the office. Before Spring re-birth comes Spring cleaning: make room for the new. He did his two weeks without the iPad and now I told him he’d earned back his electronics 2 days early with his efforts! Is that cheating? Am I not sticking to my guns? Or am I giving him the opportunity to make things right?

More importantly, how do handle 3 other little faces walking thru the door in a few minutes who haven’t had the same opportunity? Someone tell the basement that its floor may reappear in a couple of hours!!!! It just depends on how badly they want their stuff back!

So the work-family life balance is for the most part in check, but the work-life-marriage balance has definitely been rough lately.

Our work and family time constraints are draining our couple time. Folks make me laugh when they say, “You see him all day long”! Nothing could be further from the truth. Mike goes in the man cave basement office to work, while I am in my upstairs office. Sometimes we connect in passing in the kitchen when we go grab some grub, but we usually take lunch back to my office. (We’ve gotta stop doing that!) When we do see each other, it is scheduled meetings to discuss work content. Other employees are usually in attendance OR it’s to discuss the family or child “problem du jour”.

Mike already mentioned our trip planned for our 15 year anniversary. It cracks me up how casually he mentions it.

The last time we went away alone was our 10 year anniversary. My parents took the kids (the twins were only 2 at the time) and we went to Bermuda. What Mike seems to forget is how I panicked. It took a lawyer and new wills just to convince me to leave my babies. Who gets the kids was such a deep question I didn’t want to think about.

Then there was the plane ride. Know that even though I fly all the time for work, I hate it! Many years ago, I stood on 7th avenue in NYC and watched a plane crash into a building and it still bugs me. Add on 4 little kids that mean more than the world to me AND add on both of their parents on the same flight! It was awful for me. You know it’s bad when the flight attendant offers to buy you a drink! But we got there and spent 4 glorious days in the sun.

I remember thinking (very guiltily) I could use one more day. The plane ride home was easier – and those 4 days bought me at least a year of sane parenting and a renewed connection to my husband! So yes, I agreed to a 15 year anniversary trip for my parenting sanity and for the ability to reconnect with Mike. But that doesn’t mean I am not already feeling guilty about a trip that is months away.

How do you make time to connect with your spouse?

Math Fun: Pi for Elementary Students

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Pi Day is coming up on March 14. Get it? π = 3.14. March 14 =3/14. This year, 2015, makes Pi Day (3/14/15) all the cooler, because the first 5 digits of π are 3.1415. Next year gets its glory too, since π = 3.1416 if you obey rounding rules. It’s the little things that bring us joy in my family.

In the run-up to Pi Day, my 8-year-old twin daughters have been assigned π-related projects of their choosing in their Gifted and Talented class. M, ever the perfectionist, is still pondering her choices, but J has decided to calculate the volume of the sun. Along the way, J will learn how to calculate the volume of a sphere to teach her classmates.

It warmed my heart when, as J was excitedly telling a family friend all about her project, she said, “I already knew about pi, because Mom helped us discover it with coins and stuff. It’s the relationship between diameter and circumference of every circle.” I was especially happy to hear this 3 months after we did that exercise. Since it made such an impression on my girls, I thought I’d share the activity with the parents of mathematically minded children everywhere.

Teach children about pi by letting them discover it for themselves. Have them measure the diameter and circumferences of objects around the house and show them that d/c is always approximately 3.14.

In December, we spent a day with dear friends, both physicists by training and IT professionals by vocation, who are expecting their second child and first daughter on Pi Day. My 8-year-olds wanted in on the joke, so I promised to explain it to them when we got home.

We measured all sorts of round things: coins, pot lids, coffee mugs, you name it. We used a piece of string around the edges to capture the circumferences and another piece of string across the middle to find the diameter. We then compared the scraps of string, finding that the circumferences were always just over three times as long as the diameters.

We then took it a step further, using a ruler to get a more precise measurement of each piece of string. Once we had our list of numbers, we punched them into the calculator, dividing each circumference by its diameter. We kept arriving at something close to 3.14.

I told my daughters that they had discovered a universal constant. Pi is a special, almost magical, number that just is. I told them that scientists used it to design rocket ships. I told them that builders used it to estimate their supply needs. I told them that they could even use it to calculate how much air is needed to fill a soccer ball.

To ice the cake, I had J and M put the word “pi” in the all-knowing Google search field. When even Google confirmed their calculations, they were so excited that they began to dance and all our lengths of string went flying.

Is pi for elementary students? I think kids are capable of understanding most concepts, given the chance. Let’s just keep the idea that math might be boring or hard to ourselves, shall we?

Please note that my daughters’ mathematical interests are atypical for their age. This activity is appropriate only for children who are comfortable with the basics of division. They certainly don’t need to know how to do long division, but they should understand that division is the breaking of things into equal parts, and that those parts need not be whole numbers.

Thinking about trying this activity with your children? Please let us know how it goes!

What Do You Like About Yourself?

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Categories From the Mouths of Multiples, Older Children, Perspective, Relationships2 Comments

What do you like best about yourself?

My 8-year-old daughters decided to take a quiz, designed for friends, to determine how well they knew each other. They had to predict what the other’s answer would be to a set of questions. The questions were mostly straightforward: favourite movie; famous person you’d like to be for a day; favourite food.

My daughters did reasonably well at guessing each other’s answers. J had changed her favourite song since the day before, so M got that one wrong. J completely missed M’s favourite movie until M set her right by humming the theme to Superman. Yes, the Christopher Reeve one from 1978.

The question that really got me thinking was this one: What do you like most about yourself? J’s answer was that she is trustworthy. M’s answer was that she was a twin.

I confess to being surprised by M’s response. I’m certainly aware that her relationship with her sister is central to her life and sense of self, but I wouldn’t have predicted that she would choose that as what she likes most about herself. I asked her what she meant, and she told me that she loves having someone who is always there, who loves her, and whom she can love. Rather than responding with a personal trait, she was responding with what she likes best about her life.

The twin relationship, something I have been trying to wrap my head around for the past 9 years, is that simple to my wise 8-year-old. She has love.

Take a moment to ask yourself what you like most about yourself.

The Jelly Bean Revolution

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This post has nothing to do with my daughters being twins, but I do hope it marks the beginning of the end of my months-long neglect of How Do You Do It?

In an attempt to reduce the pain that my expectations of decreased screen time has on my 8-year-olds, we’ve been watching movies on Netflix together and then researching or discussing related topics. For instance, we watched the wonderful animated musical about Moses, The Prince of Egypt. Then we read Exodus, the second chapter of the Old Testament, and discussed the accuracy of the film portrayal of the story and why the filmmakers chose to insert the storyline about the childhood relationship between Moses and Ramses.

We also watched Anastasia and then researched the real Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna’s life story. That discussion, which touched on the Bolshevik Revolution, led to this gem of an exchange:

M: What’s a revolution?
Sadia: It’s when a group of people come together to make a really huge change.
J: I thought it was when you changed yourself.
Sadia: Oh?
J: Like ‘no more jelly beans’.
Sadia: That’s a resolution. Zzzzzz not vvvvvvv.

Now, of course, I have visions of the Jelly Bean Revolution.

Revolution

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 8-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. They live in the Austin, TX suburbs where Sadia works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com.

Make-It Monday: Involving Your Children in Holiday Giving

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Categories Activities, Celebrations, crafts, DIY, Holidays, Lifestyle, Make-It Mondays, Older Children, Parenting, Preschoolers, Toddlers1 Comment

We try to keep holidays sweet and simple at our house, and I’m doing my best to impart the joy of giving of ourselves in my twin girls, who are now almost six.

I love to think of opportunities to involve the girls in the process of making handmade gifts, at least in some small way.  Approaching six years of age, there are lots of things the girls can do, especially when it comes to making holiday goodies with me in the kitchen.  I had to be much more creative when they were smaller…the idea of four little hands in the flour was not one I wanted to tackle with twin toddlers!

Today I’m sharing a some of the things we’ve done over the past few years, going back to when our girlies were approaching two.

Gift tags.  It’s become a tradition that our girls make gift tags to adorn the presents and goodies we give to our friends and families.  (I love that a few family members save the tags and use them as ornaments!)  The first year, I let the girls go to town with green finger paint on white card stock.

Xmas4I used a scallop punch to cut out 2″ ‘wreaths’, and I punched holes to show through to a red paper circle of berries.  I applied glue to the ‘wreaths’ and let the girls put the two pieces together.  Here’s the finished product:

Xmas3Another year I let the girls loose with a ‘present’ stamp, which they then colored.  (I had visions of checkered red and green packages…but they had other ideas, using almost every color in the crayon box.)

Xmas6And my favorite to date the girls did last year.  Xmas8At almost-five, they were able to complete these all by themselves, but these could be done with younger kiddos with some supervision.  We used washable brown ink to make thumb prints, and the tip of their index fingers in washable red ink made the nose.  The girls used markers to draw the eyes and antlers.  I love all the personality these little reindeer have!

Gift bags.  The girls had such fun making these bags when they were near-three.  I let them pick out button eyes, and I assembled the other pieces from card stock, felt, and sequins.  I applied glue to the pieces, and they put them in place.  XMas1

Cards.  I LOVE making cards  with the girls.  XMas2These were some of our earliest holiday creations.  At not-quite-two, I had the girls scribble with green crayons.  I cut out their scribbles in the shape of a tree, and I glued them to a blank card.  I let them decorate the tree with stickers, a favorite pastime at that age.

 

Charitable giving.  The last couple of years, the girls have had so much fun shopping for the food bank…it’s the one time of year I let them drive the miniature shopping carts at the grocery store, and they so look forward to it.  And of course we have to decorate bags to carry our goodies.

Tidings of Cheer.  The girls always go with me to deliver goodies to our neighbors.

Xmas9Since they were tiny, I’ve worked with them on a holiday message.  The first year they were able to participate, just shy of two years old, it was a simple, “Merry Christmas!”  We worked up to them singing, “We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!” when they were almost three.  The last couple of years, they’ve sung an abridged version of Jingle Bells as we passed out our goodies.  (Reindeer antlers add to the fun!)

Holidays seem infinitely more fun with littles in tow, and I love involving my girlies in all the festivities.  It’s something pretty special to see the light in their eyes when they share their own creations with our friends and families.

How do you involve your kiddos in the holiday season?

MandyE is mom to almost-six-year-old twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Twins and Shared Memory

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After I wrote my post on my daughter M confusing her sister’s experiences with her own, a several moms said that they’d seen similar things with their twin girls.

I tried to get an explanation of the phenomenon from my daughters, but verbal as they are, they are only 8. Their experience is the only normal they know, so they couldn’t find the words to make sense of it for me.

I approached a coworker who is an identical twin herself and asked her whether she had similar experiences. She said she did. She and her sister have shared memories in which they have no idea which sister was the subject of the memory. In fact, memories she creates now, whether or not her sister is around, are in the third person, as if she’s watching herself. Those of us who aren’t twins don’t have much experience in seeing what we look like from others’ perspectives!

I then sat down with M and apologized for being so incredulous at her confusing her sister’s activities with her own. I told her I’d spoken with my friend and thought I understood a bit better now.

“I’m disappointed in you,” she told me pointedly.
“About what part?”
“All of it,” she said, “except talking to your friend.”
“I’m sorry.”

Once again, I’m reminded that I can never fully understand The Twin Thing.

What twin experiences are a mystery to you?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Growth Spurt Compassion

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It’s growth spurt season at Casa Sadia. If M keeps up her current growth rate, she may even be out of toddler sizes by the time she turns 8 next week. (Yes, she’s a tiny little thing.)

J’s growth spurt occurred a couple of weeks ago. She grew so fast that she was woken by the pain in her leg muscle and my massaging did little to ease her discomfort. Yes, growing pains are a real thing.

I’ve observed that my children are particularly clumsy during these periods of rapid growth. I imagine that they aren’t quite aware of how far their arms reach and do a lot of tripping and bumping until they feel at home in their new larger bodies. During J’s last growth spurt, she spilled cat food all over the carpet and sugar all over the tile in a single day. Our broom and vacuum cleaner got quite the workout.

Now it’s M’s turn to grow. She came out of her room last night after lights out to report an injury. She’d banged her arm on the bunk bed guardrail and needed comforting. I kissed it better and offered an ice pack, which she declined. I reminded her that she was quickly growing, so she might want to be a little more careful than usual until she grew more accustomed to her 8-year-old body.

J came out to talk to me too. She was visibly upset. “Isn’t there something you can do?” she asked me. When I told her that I’d already done it in asking M to be careful, J began to tear up. “But Mom, she’s getting hurt!”

I was a little surprised at the intensity of her response. I reminded J that she’d been through the same thing herself only two weeks earlier, and hadn’t seemed nearly as concerned then as she was now.

“But Mom,” she said, “She’s my sister. I can’t stand to see her hurt.”

My wish for my girls is that each will treat herself with the same compassion they offer each other.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Martha’s Story: Miscarriage, Blocked Fallopian Tube and IUI

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This story comes from HDYDI reader Martha.

Our fertility story started about four years after we were married.  We tried for months on end with no results. Resorted to peeing on sticks to see just when the right time was. After about a year and a half of that I was finally pregnant.

I remember thinking—I’ve never told anyone else this to this day—I remember thinking, “I wonder how long will this last?” Self fulfilling prophecy? Probably. I miscarried right at  6-8 weeks, the very night we had people over for the Super Bowl and announced my pregnancy.

I remember passing that baby into the toilet. It’s brutal, but it’s the truth.

My doctors told me that since I had gotten pregnant I should keep trying.  Fast forward a year and still no more pregnancies. So we decided to see a fertility specialist. I was “advanced” in age according to fertility docs so it didn’t seem like a crazy idea.

IUII had a procedure to check everything out to make sure everything was working ok. It turns out that I had a blocked fallopian tube. It  was blocked with some body tissue, nothing that was a problem. They blew it out of there with some compressed air.

Did you know that you don’t always ovulate from alternating sides each month? You don’t. I was ovulating most often from the side that was blocked, hence the no pregnancy thing. Well, that made the most sense in the whole world!

Hallelujah!!! Now we can get pregnant!

But there was still nothing after a few months, so we opted for IUI. Our first round of IUI was supposed to be a trial run. I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into and didn’t know what to expect.

I did the injections. My faithful husband did his work with the cup. On the day of the insemination we happened to have tickets to a concert at the Erwin Center [large performance center in Austin). We went to the doctor, I got inseminated (totally not thinking this would work given the odds!), we went to Scholz Garten and drank a few beers and went to the Erwin Center to watch a concert. On the walk there I was visibly uncomfortable: the hormones they had given me to inject to induce ovulation had kicked in and I could feel it in my bones. The beers did nothing to hide the pain!

Flash forward a few days.

After my blood test following insemination, I heard “Congratulations! You are very pregnant!!!” said the nurse. Huh? Just how pregnant? My hormone levels were three times those of normal single pregnancies. I was freaked out!!!! I had done IUI. I knew that at the time of insemination I had ovulated four eggs. WAS I PREGNANT WITH FOUR BABIES???????

I was constantly nervous for the weeks that followed until we found out how many babies we were having. I knew it could have been four. The hormone level was that of three.

As I sat in the waiting room that day I wanted to vomit, I was that nervous. We were led into the exam room and the doctor did the vaginal ultrasound and announced that we were having…twins!!!  Oh thank the good Lord in Heaven! I was worried about three or even four!  At the time I thought, “Twins, I can handle.” And we have.

That was 9 years ago. Our twin boys are happy, healthy, smart, and funny. They make good grades and have friends who complete them. They are each others best friend 98% of the time, then they fight.

I wouldn’t trade the experience for a million dollars. Our twins were meant to be. They are perfect in every way. And our family is completed in every way because of them.

People ask me “How did you do it?” and my answer is always a stupid, “We didn’t know any better.”

Those of you expecting multiples know this: do not worry about the details. You are the parents of multiples. You are blessed beyond belief and God will lead you through this, whatever your situation needs.

Take one day at a time and enjoy your little babies because one day they will grow up and it will all be gone: that sweet baby smell… the naps… the nice kids…. Mine are 9 now and they stink. Boys just stink. They sweat: it happens. But one of my twin boys is as tall as my chin and he’s only 9!

What will the next 9 years hold? I can only hold my breath and wait.  Because it’s gonna be a great ride!!


Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.

Bye Bye Blankie

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Blankie
My daughter J is the snugglier of my twins. She’s sought tactile comfort more than M starting at a few months old. She’s always had two lovies, a simple flannel blanket with a satiny border named Purple Blankie and a little bear blanket named Green Bee. Never mind that Purple Blankie has no more purple in than green, yellow or blue.

On our move to El Paso 3 years ago, Green Bee got lost. I waited it out for a while, hoping that J would realize she didn’t need her lovey any more, but she begged for a replacement every day. After several months, when Daddy announced our divorce, I decided that this was not the time to break my child of her comfort objects. Enter Fuzzy.

The green one is Fuzzy.
The green one is Fuzzy.

About a month ago, I noticed that Purple Blankie and Fuzzy haven’t been appearing in bed. In fact, I’m not quite sure where Fuzzy is, and Purple Blankie is hanging out in J’s stuffed toy box.

It may have taken nearly 8 years, but J seems to be growing out of the need for comfort objects. Maybe this explains her anger of late. She may be working on new ways to channel her stress.

Do your little ones have comfort objects or loveys?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.