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.

Mommy Brain

It’s a real thing, you guys. Mommy Brain. A disease whose onset begins during pregnancy for some, sets in after the birth of a child for others, but definitely progresses with every additional child, and is most acute during those children’s toddler years. If you have multiples, your form of this disease is most likely incurable.

I’ve always considered myself a very organized, in control kind of person. All through high school and college, I’ve always had my schoolwork together: a straight-A, AP class person others would admire. After starting work, things loosened up a bit, but the house would still be clean and picked up, the bills in order and paid.

However, Mommy Brain hit when the kids came. Having the first was not so bad. I remember several times losing my phone or leaving my wallet places when distracted by having to take care of someone other than myself (I always got them back). And a couple of times of driving all the way to Costco and realizing I didn’t have my wallet with me. Things like that.

But since the twins have been born, these incidences have begun to cost me money. The most serious example: I forgot to pay our December property tax after the twins were born in late November. I remembered the day after it was due, but it was too late. The penalty was something like $350. In retrospect I should have called and pleaded “Mommy Brain.” Probably wouldn’t have worked, but it would have been worth a shot. I could have gotten a woman at the other end who had experienced this disease as well.

I also lose everything these days. I had a bunch of Thank You cards printed for Big Sis’s birthday gifts, very cute ones that had her picture on it. They were in a Costco photo envelope along with some pictures of her and her siblings from the party. I had sent most of the Thank You cards, and brought the envelope to school with the intention of giving the photos to coworkers. Just as I was getting ready to hand out these photos, the envelope was nowhere to be found. Then when a couple of late birthday gifts came, and I had to reprint new Thank You cards. Eventually I found them in a bag with other stuff I packed when cleaning out my desk at school, but too late to give out the photos, and no need for the Thank You cards now. It would have almost been better not to have found them.

I lost a $25 Target gift card too. I’d been telling myself it’s not lost, and had even been looking for it a little bit every once in a while, but by now I’ve just got to accept that it’s gone. Somewhere between my car and the Target checkout line, it disappeared. Let’s not even mention all the receipts that have vanished into thin air. Luckily, most places can now look up purchases by running the credit card I used… if I could remember which one, or whether my husband was the one who paid. Hah!

I walk into rooms without remembering why I went into them. Then I spend a minute or two wandering the house, trying to remember, before something, or more likely somekid distracts me again. The house is a mess, stacks of papers everywhere, and even with all this summer vacation time at home, there hasn’t been much I could do about it.

Most recently I forgot to pay my car registration. It was due in April, but since they send that renewal 3 months in advance, I squirreled it away somewhere and totally forgot about it until I got the delinquent bill at the end of May. By then the penalty was $174. To add insult to injury, just a couple days before my new tags arrived in the mail, I got a parking ticket for expired tags. $55.

It’s a good thing most of our bills are on autopay. I really can’t afford to have Mommy Brain anymore!

lunchldyd is a soon-to-be part time high school teacher and mother to 18mo b/g twins and their 4yo sister. She is working on putting her organizational skills to use so she could avoid more financial repercussions. Perhaps a board of some sort…

Separate Preschools – An End of Year Update

Preschoolbeforeandafter

Some of you might remember my post last summer about separating my twin boys for preschool, not into different classes, but into different schools. We are wrapping up the school year so I thought I would share a bullet-point list update of how the year went. One kid was done two weeks ago, the other finishes today. (Making up the snow days.)

DSC_0700

Good

  • Independence. Every discussion on separating twins in school eventually independence is cited as a main reason to separate. In our case, I didn’t feel like they were ready to be apart, and they didn’t really understand what was happening. However, it was very clear to us as parents that one was incredibly reliant on the other, to the point he would defer to his brother to answer questions about the alphabet or counting. Being in his own school, he has been able to demonstrate he can do those things on his own, without his brother.
  • New Experiences. Both boys love their teachers and have enjoyed going to school. They love telling each other about what they did today in school and they are able to share these experiences with each other.
  • Excelling in the school. Without the other to lean on, they have each grown and really prospered.
  • New friends. They have both made new friends and look forward to seeing them at school. We have set up playdates with new friends and it is nice to see them form friendships without each other. 
  • Progress. This time last year we were at such a tough place, middle-of-terrible-3’s, a kid with un-dagnosed, indeterminate delays, and it was heartbreaking and frustrating. Now a year later it is so much better. We have answers, strategies and we are all working together. It’s truly amazing to see how much progress we have all made as a family.

Bad

  • Juggling two different school calendars. One kid goes four days a week, one goes two days a week, overlapping only one day, but forcing us to be two places at once. Both schools were considerate of the situation within our family and invited the other kid to class parties. It never worked out though, it seemed whenever the parties were scheduled, one or the other was sick, or the other was in class that day in the other school. Both schools had a policy of no siblings on field trips, but requested parents to accompany their kids. Every field trip except one we couldn’t go because the trips, of course, fell of a day the other was NOT in school. 
  • Dependence. My boys are very close and play well together (most of the time.) They have active imaginations and finish each other’s thoughts. They devise games and scenarios and have similar interests. We have a playgroup we have played with since the boys were babies, comprised of other twin families, and whom my kids play with really well. It was surprising to read in a progress report that one of my sons did not have any friends, did not play with any other children and did not seem to socialize with anyone other than the adults in the room. Considering how social he is at home and with his playgroup friends, this was unexpected. He has since made a couple friends and seeks them out occasionally, but without the companionship of his brother it seems like he is less confident in making friends.
  • Emotions trauma and drama. The first weeks were really hard. Tears, tantrums, acting out, you name it. Same thing happened after Christmas break and the first few days of spring break after they’ve been together 24/7 again. We’ve also seen a lot of jealousy when one kid has something fun at school like a field trip or pajama day. One kid would have a bring-your-favorite-toy day and the other would want to bring one too. I was always writing notes explained weird outfits or things in backpacks. 
  • The Twin Thing. When we have been invited to parties or playdates, I am not really sure how to include/not exclude the other kid. I have been “that Mom” who invited her other kid to a playdate because I didn’t want to have one miss it because he has a twin brother. At age 4, playdates are still a Mom-goes-too event and as far as I am concerned these two are a package deal for now. Eventually they can have their own social calendars, but for now where one goes we all go.

Ugly

  • Germs. Lots of them. One preschool class is a pertidish of plagues, two was ridiculous. We just got through the longest, crummiest winter in Chicago in a century so we were inside, a lot. And with two classes full of oozing, snotty, sneezy preschoolers exposing our family to bug after bug, we pretty much had something or another in an endless cycle the past seven months. We had so much plague at our house, it was gross. Pink eye, tummy bugs, endless coughs, colds, fevers, snot. Yuck.
  • Uncertainty. We had to wait until May for the IEP meeting to find out whether my one son would continue in the early childhood program. Truthfully I wasn’t sure he would, he’s done so well meeting his goals. So we had to enroll him in the other school with his brother so we could save two spots in one class. At the meeting we were told he would definitely be going back next year, that he still has ground to cover before he’s ready to start Kindergarten. Due to their November birthday, they will be almost-6 when they start Kindergarten and have another whole year of preschool where they will be 5 most of the year. After this year of preschool, though, it is uncertain what will happen next. Whether they will be back together, separate classes, separate schools, separate grade levels. 

 

Jen is a stay-at-home Mom of 4-year-old twin boys who just finished up a year of preschool, separated and on their own. They all survived and thrived.  Their adventures are (intermittently and mostly in photos) blogged at goteamwood.com.

Matchy-Matchy… My Guilty Pleasure

When I buy clothes for my twin girls, now five, I try to get coordinating outfits, the same striped shirt in a different color, for example.  They usually like to coordinate…and — I finally figured out — I like it so much because it makes keeping up with laundry so much easier for me!

Occasionally the girls will want to match.  (I heard them sneaking downstairs a couple of weeks ago, whispering, “Mommy is going to be so surprised!”  They had gotten themselves dressed in matching outfits, from head to toe…including their socks and underwear…they were so proud!)

And occasionally the girls will choose to wear something totally and completely different from each other.

It’s all fine by me.

Particularly since the girls started preschool, when they were 3 1/2, I’ve tried to stay away from matchy-matchy, unless they really insist.  Even though they’re fraternal, I think some people have a tendency to want to see twins as looking just alike, and I want to help establish them as individuals as much as possible.

Still…who doesn’t love the cutest matching set of twinkies???  The one area in which I indulge myself is with the girls’ pajamas.

I love to buy two sets of matching pj’s, and it delights my heart to see my little elves, as I call them, bopping down the hall in the morning, or cuddled up for bedtime stories at night.

No harm, no foul…and you might guess I have pictures of them in every single set of pj’s they’ve ever had.  I just can’t help myself.

Twin sisters in matching pajamas.

Do you dress your multiples in matching outfits?  In general, or for special occasions? 

MandyE is mom to fraternal twin girls, now five.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Toddler Thursday: It Gets Easier

Moms and Dads of toddlers… It gets easier. I promise. It really does.

It wasn’t long ago that my boys were extremely busy toddlers. I’m actually surprised we made it out of that stage without any broken bones or stitches. To say my Wesley and Andrew were active and fearless is an understatement.

I remember running into another mother of multiples at our grocery store’s “play center” about a year and a half ago.  Her b/g twins were about 6 years old, and mine had just turned 3.  We didn’t chat, really, but after we both acknowledged being part of the ‘secret mom of multiples society’, she left me with a simple statement that has stayed with me.  Before now, it was something I held on to with hope, and now I still hang onto it because it was the truth.  She was so right.  So right, that I am sharing it with you now.

Here is what she said to me:

“It gets easier. Just wait until they are four. It gets so much easier.”

Now I completely realize that not all children follow the same developmental timeline, and what a blessing it is to have two children the same age to witness those differences in development, firsthand.  That being said, her “4 year” mark was right on target for both of my boys.  So right on, that when they were 3  years and 363 days old, I was still in the “hope” phase of her statement. Shortly after they turned four, I repeated her words to myself, and slowly began to notice the changes happening right before my eyes.  Amazing.

The toddler years pass, and then it really does get easier. Doesn't always feel like it will, but it does.Toddlers come with their challenges.  Everytime we’d be frustrated or overwhelmed with one thing, it would soon pass and we’d be on to a new one.  They climbed on EVERYTHING (but mostly on things dangerously high).  They were curious of the contents of every single drawer and cupboard.  I remember spontaneous back arches and flips making diaper changes difficult and messy.  Then it seemed like we had to wrestle our boys into their pajamas on some nights. When we started with ‘timeouts’, our main goal became trying to sit the kids in the designated ‘timeout’ zone for more than ten seconds as opposed to the actual discipline aspect of it all.  My boys are really good kids, but at times, it felt like we were losing a battle against a small team of toddlers.

…and then four came.

…and guess what?

IT. GOT. EASIER.

Don’t get me wrong, we still face our fair share of difficulties.  Restaurant manners one time. Restaurant rebels the next. Testing limits. Talking back.  BUT, there are so many things that have gotten easier in the past 6 months.

The boys dress themselves.  This saves us so much time, and allows us to give a direction, secretly knowing the boys will succeed.  We are proud and they are proud.

The boys stay near us.  For the longest time, I would not enter a store if I was unable to confine the boys to a shopping cart (have you seen those tiny carts at the chain drug stores?). Four year olds still have curiosity, but they are better able to follow simple rules and we are able to shop with the boys trailing right behind us or next to our cart.

They totally get consequences.  Last night, Andrew cried over his lost possibility of having a popsicle treat, but I can be sure he knew exactly which of his actions led to his freezie-pop downfall.

Hang in there.  The twin toddler phase seemed more difficult to me than the twinfant stage.  The term “terrible twos (and threes)” didn’t just invent itself.  Hang in there, laugh, lean on friends for support, and enjoy the bright spots amongst the chaos knowing it will all be ok.