Make-It Monday: Involving Your Children in Holiday Giving

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.

Butterfly Morning

My little Robin, from her earliest days, has been a quiet poet. She would wake up before Hailey, as a baby, be happily lifted from her crib into my arms, and look out the window for a long while at the sun rising over the mountains. As she has grown, she has continued to show me that she is always watching, taking in her surroundings with a keen eye. I see what catches her attention; it is the beautiful things. A flower blowing in the breeze, a colourful earring dangling from someone’s ear, a canopy of trees overhead.

butterfly2I have been making more efforts to go on adventures with the girls one-on-one. This past weekend, I brought Robin out on a rainy morning for a donut at Timmie’s and a tour of the biology department’s greenhouse at Carleton U, which was hosting a tropical butterfly exhibit. It was free, not too busy when we arrived, and fulfilled its advertised promises of colourful butterflies landing all around us. I was so happy that I could bring my little Robin to such a beautiful, engaging activity.

Of all my girls, I knew she would like it the best, so we went just us two. She tried holding an orange quarter with a butterfly perched on top, but she quickly grew nervous and dropped it. She told me she preferred to look and not touch, so that’s what we did.

butterfly5We acted as though we were the only two there. I hoisted her up in my arms to get a better view, and together we watched colourful butterflies flutter and land all around us. I watched her delicate hand extend to point out a butterfly quietly eating flower nectar, and met her gaze when she looked at me with amazement. It was a moment I hope I never forget.

We didn’t talk a lot, and I knew she wouldn’t want to. It wasn’t a morning to quiz her, or encourage her to work on her speech. We observed, we found beauty, we shared looks of wonder. We turned our heads up to see the busy cloud of fluttering wings darting around the ceiling, captivated by the flashes of colour.

butterfly4A butterfly was passed onto my hands, so I squatted down to bring it close to her. She stepped back, hesitant in case is flew anywhere near her face, but stood close enough to see its antennae, its legs, its slowly opening and closing wings. For a moment, I saw the essence of childlike wonder erupt over her face, evidenced by her shy smile.

butterfly10It was only a morning, but without anyone else to detract from our moments together, I felt like I learned so much about my younger twin girl. My hope was that she would feel special, attended to, and worthy of my undivided attention. I think she did, as much as I can gather from her limited speech. What I know for sure is that I have a very deep soul in my Robin, and I am the lucky one for being chosen to mother her beautiful little spirit.

 

Sarah is the mother to four girls, two of whom are identical twins Hailey and Robin. They were born in the Yukon in a very small hospital at 35 weeks, and though they were small, they were mighty. She now lives in Ontario, where her high school sweetheart husband works very hard, and she stays home with the girls, freelance reporting on the side. In her past life, she was a journalist who covered everything from fast-paced federal politics to cats stuck in trees. Her writing has appeared in local newspapers and magazines, and in national publications like the Globe and Mail and ParentsCanada Magazine. She is a yogi, a mediocre cook, an awesome Beyonce dance move imitator, and an avid blogger at Cure for Boredom.

Make-it Monday: Cookie Costumes

Last year was my twins’ first Halloween. Big Sis was 3.5, and her brother and sister were 11 months old. It was my first chance to come up with coordinating costumes for my kiddos, and I ran with it! They were dressed as Cat in the Hat and Thing 1 and Thing 2– top hat, white gloves, blue wigs, and all. We went to Picture People for photos, and I now have irrefutable evidence of how cute they were. (To give you an idea, one picture poses Big Sis in an armchair reading The Cat in the Hat to her brother and sister seated on a bench.)

Obviously, I hope to continue these coordinating costumes for as many years as I possibly can.

This year, now that my eldest is almost 4.5, with many ideas of her own, I included her in choosing their Halloween costumes. I gave her some ideas, but ultimately we decided together. I suggested she be a chef, she changed that to baker. She wanted her siblings to be cupcakes, I changed that to chocolate chip cookies.

Baker’s costume was easy. I found a chef jacket and baker’s poofy white hat and ordered them on Amazon. But after scouring etsy and pinterest, I decided to make the chocolate chip cookies myself.

Materials for two cookie costumes:

1 yd light brown felt

2 pcs dark brown felt

1 yd batting

1 spool dark brown thread

2 yd dark brown thin ribbon

1 yd dark brown thick ribbon

I first found a template to use for my circle cutouts. After looking around the house, I found this SuperSeat base that had the diameter I was looking for, about 16.5 in. I traced it with a Sharpie and cut out 4 disks at a time from a 1/2 yard of felt that was folded over twice. I did it again with the other 1/2 yd.photo 1

Then I freehanded the chocolate chips to the dark brown felt. These came in 9×12 sheets. I pinned them together and cut them out 2-ply.photo 2

Next I randomly pinned the chocolate chips to four of the round circles. I could have attached them with a hot glue gun or even spray adhesive, but I chose to actually sew these on. It was time consuming, but felt much more solid.photo 3

In the middle of the other 4 round pieces I sewed on a 1/2 yd length of the thin ribbon, just attached at the center about 6 inches. These are the straps to tie on the sides. On top I sewed in the shoulder straps, about 9 inches of the thick ribbon each. (I heat sealed all the ribbon ends so they don’t fray.)image

Then I pinned the chocolate chip side to the strap side, wrong sides facing out, making sure the side ties line up. I decided to sew all the way around instead of leaving a side open for stuffing. That’s because I’m horrible at hand-sewing, and I knew that with my skill the cookie would turn out lopsided.image_1

Instead, I chose to cut a slit under the strap, and pulled the cookie inside out through it. I did end up hand-sewing these closed, but there would have been no problem leaving them open.image_3

I stuffed it using the batting I cut from the same SuperSeat template, after trimming it about an inch around for seam allowance. I did this four times. My guess is that they took about 4 hours over three separate nights.image_2

The completed cookies consist of four cookie pads, one for the front and back of each twin, attached at the top with ribbon, and tied on the sides with ribbon. Here’s Baby Boy sporting his new Halloween costume. Baby Girl decided not to cooperate. photo 4

How cute are they? I’m just giddy thinking about Big Sis in her baker’s costume, holding the hands of her chocolate chip cookie brother and sister! Next step, booking a photography session.

lunchldyd has her fingers crossed that all her kids cooperate for another set of adorable pictures. She is grateful that her current part-time teaching schedule is allowing her to think creatively and enjoy time for her crafty pursuits.

Toddler Thursday: Easing Fears at the Pediatrician

The holiday just before my girls were three, they got a toy doctor kit.  Immediately, it was a huge hit.  They checked out all their babies, and each of their stuffed animals took a visit to the vet clinic.

Dr kitWith their three-year check-up soon approaching, I decided to get in on the pretend action, admittedly with a bit of an agenda.

I made a big deal, talking about each of the different instruments, what they were used for…and how they were just like the ones Dr. F, our pediatrician, uses.  We took turns being the doctor, the nurse, and the patient, and I made a point to work into the scenario that someone was scared.

“I understand you feel scared, Mr. Bear, but you know Dr. A.  She’s been taking excellent care of you since you were a tiny cub.  First, she’s going to listen to your heart.  What a cool stethoscope!  Ooh…is it cold?  Does it tickle?  I know it does hurt.”

“Now she’s going to take a little peek in your ears.  It’s OK…there’s no need to be scared!  She’s just checking to make sure you didn’t lose any bananas in there.”

“This little band measures your blood pressure, how fast your blood is dancing around inside your body.  Is your arm ready for a hug???”

The girls got very accustomed to the routine, and soon they were repeating it to all their babies.  They were very encouraging, even to the most scared bear cub.

The real key (advice I got from a friend) was the positioning of the shot.  There’s truly nothing to be afraid of as far as the exam goes, right?  But shots hurt…no way around it.  And that’s the approach I took with the girls.

Mr. Bear, it’s time for a shot.  It will hurt, but ONLY for a second!  Then you’ll be ALL DONE and then we’ll go do something fun / get a sticker / have an ice cream [insert reward of choice]!”

My girls are now almost six, and they haven’t cried at the pediatrician — even for shots — since before they were three.  Empowering them with information and perspective has made visits to the pediatrician nothing to sweat.

(And, as a side note, my girls still play with their doctor kit almost daily.  “Vet” is a huge theme at our house.  That’s what both girlies say they want to be when they grow up, and they make sure to get lots of practice.)

MandyE is mom to 5 1/2-year old twin girls, A and B.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Thoughts on Working Part-time

School started two weeks ago, and I’m ready to reflect on getting back to work part-time.

The first week was a little sketchy. I started getting random headaches, my eyes were irritated and red, and I was still pretty exhausted. I was worried that this part-time decision wasn’t going to help anything. But now that I have another week down, I’m feeling like I’m back in the groove. In fact, I’m extremely happy with my new schedule.

I’m up and in the shower at about 6am, out the door by 6:45, twins dropped off at my mom’s around 7am, and at school by 7:10. Not much different from our summer schedule, except I have to actually get dressed instead of wearing tank tops and shorts, and I don’t do breakfast for the kids. Two classes and three hours later, I pick up the twins, give them their snack in the car, and we go home to nap for two hours. This is when I get some downtime, do some of my own things, or take a nap myself. Big Sis sometimes gets picked up from preschool after lunch (I’ve been trying out continuing with a half-day for her), and we go on an afternoon outing, again no different from our summer schedule.

The BIG difference is that I am not so exhausted that I can’t enjoy being with my kids. It used to be that I was completely drained after a whole day of work, but now I get a little break while the twins nap, so I have time to recharge. I now have the time and patience to listen to 4yo stories, soothe 21mo boo-boos, and generally be present and engaged.

By no means is it easy though. The twins are only getting more active each day, and one of my children is a climber. I had never experienced this before (Big Sis is much more low key), so it is completely shocking to me. My boy, at 19m, vaulted his crib rails, landed on his feet, and took off running. He is climbing everything climbable: shelves, beds, TV stands, dollhouses, play kitchens, you name it. We don’t go to the library anymore because he will scale the shelves there. And not only is he interested in the climbing, he also likes to jump on the surfaces on which he’s climbed. So I will come out of the shower to see him balanced on his tiptoes at the edge of the armchair in the playroom, bouncing up and down with a big grin on his face. And when he sees me he’ll say, “Ta-Da!” (Don’t have a clue where he gets that from…) His twin isn’t so much into climbing, but she will find and eat any and all little bits off the floor. I’ve got to keep my eyes on her at all times to make sure she’s not ingesting nasty stuff. These kids sure know how to keep me on my toes. Therefore, I am much more convinced now that my mom would not be capable of entertaining and chasing them all day every day.

Another bonus to this part-time schedule? Surprisingly, I’ve gotten even more efficient. I thought that with three kids I was already very efficient. And I am– consolidated errands, organized outings, great time management skills. I routinely do all 3 baths and bedtimes in 30 minutes. But now that I’m only at work for less than 3 hours a day, I find myself planning even further ahead, making lists and crossing things out right away, not procrastinating on any work stuff. My lessons are prepared days in advance, and I have calendars marked for the entire school year for holidays and days that we’re on a different school schedule. I don’t dread going to work anymore; on the contrary, I think I’ve actually fallen back in love with my profession.

I’ve been feeling happier and more productive. I’ve had interest in reading again, and even planned the kids’ Halloween costumes already. I have energy to think ahead, and I look forward to weekends not just for no work, but to actively plan activities that include Daddy.

Even considering the financial sacrifice we’re making, I don’t see how there could be any better alternative to this. It’s like the other shoe has dropped, after so long of such conflicted emotions about doing this. I’m elated that I made the leap on this decision.

lunchldyd is a part-time teacher and full-time mother to 21mo b/g twins and their 4yo sister.

Twinfant Tuesday: Separation Decisions For Multiples

“Are you going to separate them?”

“When are you going to separate them?”

Those are 2 questions that parents of multiples will have to answer over and over again as their multiples go through the different stages of childhood. The first time that question has to be answered is when you’re going home with twinfants in tow. Should they share a room? Should they share a bed?

For me the answers were fairly straightforward. Should they share a room? Absolutely! No way I’m going to manage night feedings in 2 different locations.

Should they share a bed? As long as it’s safe to do so was the consensus. What’s safe? As long as they do not have the ability to move or roll over each other, twins can share a crib. With this, my twins did share a crib for the first couple of months until they started wiggling to the middle of the crib to share body warmth. imageCute as it was, it wasn’t safe and that signified it was time for them to move into separate cribs. And so the first of many separation decisions was made based on safety and convenience.image

I wish all the other separation decisions would be as easy as the ones in the infant stage but no such luck. My babies are now pre-schoolers and I’ll soon have to face the question of separating them in school. As with the first decision that was made, the  answer will be a combination of what’s best for the family – convenient for the parents and in the best and safest interest of the kids.

If you’re a parent or caretaker of multiples, how do you do it? The separation decisions that is. What are the driving factors for determining when and how to physically separate your multiples?

Yetunde is the proud mom of twin girls, affectionately nicknamed Sugar and Spice and she blogs about the twin parenting life at www.mytwintopia.com

Make-It Monday: Thank-You “Notes” for Pre-Writers

We recently went to Chicago to see the sights, and also to visit some friends and family we haven’t seen in far too long.  When we got home, I wanted to have the girls make some type of thank-you gestures for those we saw.  I think it’s a great way to help them remember what we did, with whom…and I knew our friends and family would love seeing the girls’ handiwork.

I asked the girls what they most enjoyed about seeing Aunt and Uncle K.  They unanimously named Aunt K’s corn on the cob (she fixed it twice for them, seeing how much they loved it), and playing soccer with Uncle K.

I came up with a couple of fun crafts for them to make…

Craft1For our ear of corn, I gave the girls yellow paint and showed them how to dab it onto a long oval shape I drew.  [This was the first time we'd used Q-tips with paint...it was great!  We'll be coming up with more "dabbings" soon!]

When the paint was dry, the girls added green hand prints for the leaves.  (I didn’t take pictures of this part of the craft…even at age 5 1/2, I stay pretty close by when we start getting our hands covered in paint!)

For the soccer ball, I let the girls trace small hexagons (we have these awesome stencils). They cut out the shapes and glued them onto a piece of card stock.  Craft2 Then they traced a larger circle and cut it out.  Viola!  I am seriously in love with the way this turned out.

Craft3

Here are the finished products…

Craft4

The girls wrote little messages and signed their names.  I’m going to print a couple of pictures of A&B with Aunt and Uncle K to accompany the crafts.  I know they’ll be tickled to get this little surprise in the mail…and I love that my girls are still talking about Aunt K’s corn, and what soccer tricks they want to show Uncle K the next time we see him.

Do you have any tricks for making thank-you notes with pre-writers?

MandyE is mom to 5 1/2-year old twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Awkward Conversations

All summer long, I’ve had two or three kids with me wherever I’ve gone. Big Sis is in preschool half-day mornings, but all our afternoon outings consist of myself, pushing two 20mo b/g twins in a double stroller, which their 4yo sister is skipping next to. Or, in a store, it would be the twins up front sharing the child seat (they just barely fit now), and Big Sis usually in the main basket (she prefers to ride) with my wallet/phone/keys and items to be purchased. It is clearly obvious I have three young children, and I “have my hands full,” which is usually the gist of all my conversations at the mall, store, or park.

However, we’ve also been frequenting an indoor playground about once a week. They’re wonderfully confined spaces for kids to run off their energy, safely climb to their heart’s content, play with other kids, all while Mommy gets to blissfully sit by the sidelines without having to constantly chase after them. Today, since it was so incredibly hot (over 100), I took them for the afternoon. Big Sis has always just taken off at these places without a backward glance, and now the twins are following her lead. So I struck up a conversation with a nearby mom whose baby was crawling around at lightening speed. I noticed a couple older kids flocking around her as well.

Me: “They sure get around fast once they start moving huh?”

Her: “Oh ya, she’s going everywhere.”

Me: “So these 3 are yours?”

Her: “Oh no, just the two girls. If I had three I’d kill myself.” (Some exasperated eye rolling.)

Me: (Uhhhh… Awkward chuckle.)

I found out her girls are 6 and 1. I chose not to tell her about my 4yo and 20mo and 20mo, but I’m sure eventually she figured it out, as 3 open mouths came running when I pulled out the snacks.

lunchldyd is annoyed that these kinds of conversations keep happening.

Twins vs Singletons

Having a set of b/g twins 2.5 years after their sister puts me in a position to be able to compare and contrast the experiences of having twins and having a singleton– really having twins vs having two singletons. Now that the twins are 19 months old and Big Sis is 4, I feel I’ve gotten enough under my belt to do a little analysis. (Of course, everyone’s situation will vary, and all experiences depend highly on the temperament of each child as well as the character of each household, but I do find that there are some definite differences).

The GOOD…

Developmentally, I’ve got two kids doing the same thing. They generally play the same way, eat the same things, like the same places. They are in the same age group in any classes for which I’d sign them up, and very soon they would be able to play with each other. It’s one drop off and one pick up for both kids to grandma’s, and to preschool/school later on. At least until they’re old enough to pick their own separate activities, they’d be doing most things together. Big Sis will always be 2.5 years older, which means they would rarely be doing or liking the same things.

Two kids at the same age also means they’re more or less on the same schedule. There may be days when their naps are off, or even weeks during transitions when one does something that the other doesn’t yet. But even accounting for those differences, I consider them a unit for eating and sleeping. Big Sis has a different naptime and bedtime from her siblings; and actually she doesn’t even get to nap anymore because of the scheduling difficulties, even though she really could.

It’s a given that children cost a lot, but I think twins come with some economies of scale (assuming the comparison is between twins and two singletons). I get to buy many things in bulk, and sometimes I can even get a twin discount on stuff. But having twins over singletons is more of a time saver than anything else. Making two bottles at once only takes slightly more time than making one bottle, when I change one child I usually just change the other– almost everything we do takes less time than doing them with two children of different ages.

They have each other. They get to grow up together, learn together, support each other, and never be lacking a sidekick because their twin will always be there. Older/younger siblings do a lot of things together too, but it’s just not the same, at least not until they’re adults.

And the BAD…

Double Trouble” is true! It was actually easier when they were infants, when as long as I figured out how to feed them simultaneously, they were happy. There was a rough patch getting them on the same sleep schedule, but after that it was pretty good going until they became toddlers. Now, sometimes there are just not enough hands (or eyes). Example: toddlers on the move in the park. One was making a beeline for some stairs, while the other was attempting to topple a large trash can. Big Sis required minimal supervision, as she had found some little friends to play with.

The twins are also much more aggressive than their sister ever was. They are much more vocal in what they want, and will fight, even bite each other! They egg each other on when they’re misbehaving. “Group mentality” perhaps. One climbs on top of the play kitchen, and the other will climb it too. One screams and throws food, other other ups that by tossing a sippy cup too. Alone, perhaps they would not dare. Singletons just don’t get away with as much.

Activities for twins are difficult when there is only one adult. At least at my twins’ age, everything is much easier when the ratio is 1:1, or even 2:3 when including Big Sis. One adult to a set of twin toddlers is sometimes impossible (as in the case of Parent and Me swim class), but even when possible, it can get very stressful and overwhelming (Mommy and Me classes). Even if different-aged children are in an activity together, they would not need the same kind of attention at exactly the same time.

lunchldyd is a high school teacher on summer break in the Los Angeles area. She wonders how this comparison will change as her kids get older.

Bedroom Configurations

Just this past weekend we almost put in an offer on a house.

I know. Crazy since we had already decided to put that dream on hold to pursue my working part-time for this next school year, or possibly two. However, the husband had continued to look at listings online, and I’ve been open to moving to an area close to where I’ve decided to send the kids for elementary school (for its Mandarin dual immersion program).

This house is walking distance to the school, right next to a golf course. It’s just within our price range. Large lot, big square footage, a house our family of 5 could be comfortable in for several years. However… It has only 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, the same as we currently have. Though they are bigger than the ones we currently have, and there is space to add a fourth bedroom and third bathroom when someday we could afford it. However… The school district (other than this dual immersion elementary school) is not ideal, which means even though the area is desirable, the house will not appreciate as much as homes in other nearby cities. However… Though we could pay the new mortgage if we cut back on our lifestyle and watch our spending, it would be uncomfortably tight while I’m part-time, and that would be after sinking all our savings into the down payment.

For these reasons, my conservative husband and I decided the time is not right for us to move right now. We really like this house, in fact it is the only one that I have liked, and the housing market in our area is on another surge, but we’d be scrambling to sell our current house, working out all the details of our financing with our future budget, and generally putting ourselves under a great deal of stress. It is doable, but not something we feel ready to take on.

But this has gotten me thinking. If I was willing to move to a 3 bedroom house, then I guess I’m not as eager to move my twins into separate bedrooms as I thought. True, this house has bigger bedrooms and more common living space as well, but the twins would still be sharing a bedroom, or the girls would have to share. I did not think that I would be ok with that. But I guess I am, for the right house. Which means, then, that I should have no problems staying at our current house for a few more years.

So, what are your bedroom configurations, fellow MoMs? Do you have boy/girl twins sharing a bedroom? Until what age? How do you create space separation in a shared bedroom?

lunchldyd is mom to 19mo b/g twins and their 4yo sister.