Mommy-Daughter Date, Single Mom Style

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My birthday is 6 days after that of my twin daughters. Both usually fall in the same week as American Mothers’ Day. In the widest conceivable stretch, all three events occur within a 9-day period. We’re nothing if not efficient.

This year, Mothers’ Day fell on M and J’s birthday. My birthday was the following Saturday, the day before yesterday.

Sadia and her daughters do a lot of celebrating in May.

On Thursday evening, M informed me that she wanted to take me out for a birthday/Mothers’ Day treat. Her grandparents had given her a Starbucks gift card for her birthday and she wanted to spend it on me. This is probably not what they had in mind, but I have the world’s sweetest kids.

Here’s what J presented to me. She’d made me birthday breakfast in bed:

Birthday breakfast for mom from a 9-year-old. Nutella on toast.

Toast, cut into shapes, spread with Nutella, with “Love Mom” and “Best Mom” inscribed in royal icing. Seriously, sweetest kids ever.

M was insistent that our Starbucks celebration be exclusively ours. Her sister was not invited. I told her that I’d arrange a solo playdate for J so that she and I could have our mommy-daughter date.

We happened to be leaving an after-school school-sponsored event when we had this conversation, so I decided to see whether I could locate my girls’ best friend’s family, whom we’d just seen. They were still there. I asked whether they’d be willing to have J over. They said that they could make it happen the very next day.

They would pick J up from school with their daughter while M went to after-school care. I could pick M up at the regular time. It would be nice for their daughter S to get to play with J, since Mom and Dad have been quite occupied welcoming their one-month-old into the world. (Aren’t they wonderful friends? I wouldn’t dream of asking anyone else with a newborn to watch my kid!)

A 9-year-old's preferences for a mommy-daughter date.

M and I had a lovely time. I took her out for dinner at Mimi’s Café and then we headed to Starbucks for dessert on her dime. She got a chocolate milk and brownie. I got a decaf soy java Frappucino and cookie. We talked the entire time, about her friends, what she’s been reading, the state of the dwarf planet Pluto, what I’ve been doing at work, and the importance of feathers in art.

Age nine feels like a watershed between little girlhood and tweendom.

I was not allowed her to kiss her in public, but M did want to sit in my lap. I was not allowed to take photos, but she took my arm everywhere we went. She told both the waitress and the barrista all that we were celebrating. She didn’t mention her sister to either of them, which was a first.

I loved this one-on-one time, in no small part because I knew that J was having an equally good time. It also helped that there wasn’t any time pressure on us to retrieve her. Both my daughters (and their friend) would get tired around the same time, so we would very naturally ending up picking J up in time for bed.

We’re planning a mommy-daughter date for me and J in the near future. M will head off for a playdate with a different friend.

Making quality one-on-one time is a challenge for any parent with more than one child, but it’s all the more challenging for a single parent of multiples. If you’ve ever wondered how you can help the single parent in your life, how about offering to watch one or both children? Don’t be offended if he or she doesn’t take you up on it right away, or ever. It really is the thought that counts.

I’d never been one to think of my birthday as anything but another day of the year, but this year, my girls made it truly special.

The Magic of Childhood

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I recently told a coworker about some fire ant bites my daughter M had suffered over the weekend. We’d been exploring the creek behind a friend’s house when M stepped in a nest. Fire ant bites hurt. While M is tough, her tears had been quite the sight and her screams piercing.

My coworker smiled at me and pulled a small vial out of her purse. “This,” she told me, “is how we treat ant bites. Pixie dust.”

In her hand, she held a container of glitter.

“It’s body glitter. It really works on ant bites for 6-year-olds.”

Now that is some brilliant parenting.

That evening, I told my 9-year-old twin daughters about this conversation. They smiled at the gullible nature of children so much younger than they.

“We wouldn’t fall for that,” J told me. “We’re too grown-up to believe in fairies.”

“Yes,” M agreed, but quickly added, “But of course we believe in magic. Like the magic that powers Santa’s sleigh.”

“Of course,” J allowed. “And the magic that makes the Easter Bunny pink.”

“The Easter Bunny is not pink. They Easter bunny is grey and white. The magic part is how big he is and he gets everyone eggs for their egg hunts.”

“Pink.”

“Grey and white.”

“Pink. With a fluffy tail.”

“Ugh. But magical.”

“Yes. Magical.”

My girls, on the verge of tweendom, still have their magic. Their stuffed toys are alive to them, filled with personality, each unique. Santa is real, and the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. I know how soon this will be gone, my growing girls learning to be resigned to the humdrum of life.

May they always have some magic, like the magic they’ve brought to my life.

Twinfant Tuesday: “Mothering” on Mother’s Day

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Categories Discipline, Emotion, Infants, It Gets Different, Mommy Issues, Older Children, Parenting, Twinfant TuesdayTags 3 Comments

I remember my first Mother’s Day.  My girls were right at four months old.  I was incredibly grateful to have joined the ranks of motherhood, but I was tired…so very, very tired.  How wonderful it would have been to have a break.

But I didn’t get a break that year.  I changed just as many diapers, washed just as many bottles, dealt with just as much laundry as I had the many days before.

While I have yet to enjoy the elusive “day off”, my subsequent Mother’s Days haven’t been quite so grueling.  Certainly at six years old, my girls are largely self-sufficient.  They’re bundles of energy, but they’re so much fun.

I wanted to spend the day with my girls on Sunday.  I’m working full-time these days, and they are in kindergarten, so our downtime is a tiny fraction of what it used to be.  I cherish being with them on the weekends, and I wanted nothing more than to hang out with them and enjoy the spoils of being a mommy.

What I didn’t see as part of my Mother’s Day “bliss”, though, was disciplining my children for talking back to me, or for saying an inappropriate word.  I counted three time-outs between the two girls.  At age six, that’s a bit unusual (fortunately), but it had to be done.

And I certainly didn’t plan to get a “throw-up call” from Baby B a couple of hours after bedtime.  She somehow didn’t get any on her bed, but it was all over her…prompting a full shower and then drying her hair, and then doing a big load of laundry.

During these not-so-blissful times, there was a part of me that wanted to say, “Seriously???  On Mother’s Day??!!!  The last thing I want is to put you in time out!

But I stopped myself.

We may take a break from time to time (a well-deserved break, no doubt!), but our job as mothers never stops.  It changes, and it gets easier in many ways, but this is who I am.

This line of thought helped me keep things in perspective on Sunday.  Certainly I would have enjoyed a perfectly planned day, complete with some pomp and circumstance and some quiet time…and I definitely plan to eek out a pedicure in the next couple of weeks…but in the midst of not-so-fun, I was reminded how important my job is as a mom.

If you’re in the midst of the twinfant stage, hang in there.  If your kiddos are older, but still tucker you out just as much, that’s OK.  If you took some time “off” this weekend, hope it re-energized you.

Whatever stage we’re in, may we keep perspective.  May we appreciate it for what it is.  And may we feel the importance of our roles.

Hope everyone had a great Mother’s Day, in whatever way you marked the day!

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

Sleep Challenges, Big Kid Edition

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Categories Books, Discipline, Older Children, Overnight, Sleep3 Comments

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.