Getting Your Kiddos Involved in the Holidays: Snowman Kits

A couple of years ago, when our girls were just shy of three, we made “Build Your Own Snowman” kits for our friends.

We scouted our local dollar stores for the fixings you’d need for a snowman.  The girls loved the adventure of finding just the right trimmings.

DSC_0603Of course we included a hat and a scarf.  We had to get creative to find non-perishable things to be used to decorate the snowman.  We found sunglasses (in the party supply area — 5 for $1)…a doubled-up orange pipe cleaner for a nose…golf tees for the mouth…and brass brads for buttons.  In all, each kit cost about $3.

 

The girls had a great time decorating gift bags to hold our findings.  (We made quite a few of these bags for family and other friends, and the girls loved showing off their handiwork.)

DSC_0605On top of the bag, I tied a list of contents and my recipe for homemade hot chocolate, to be enjoyed after constructing the snowman.

As luck would have it, we haven’t had a significant snowfall over the past three years.  A couple of friends have mentioned they still have these tucked away for their next opportunity to build a snowman.  And I’ve seen pictures on Facebook from a couple of other families, pieces of our snowman construction kit having found their way into the dress-up bin.

Either way, this was such a fun activity, and a great way to get our girls involved in the holiday season.

What are some ways you get your young kiddos involved in the holidays?

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

Help! How Do You Keep Holiday Gifts in Check?

This is for sure a first-world problem, and not a new one, at that. But I’m really feeling it this year, and it doesn’t exactly fill me with holiday joy.

I have made a really concerted effort – as best I can – to keep my girls in check when it comes to material things. Our toy collection is far from overflowing.

For holidays and birthdays, we keep things really low-key at our house. The girls usually get one big, shared present (like their train set), and then they each have one gift to open. We follow a similar pattern for their birthday, and we always specific “no gifts, please” on the invitation to their birthday parties.

I consider toys and art supplies to be developmental necessities, and I’m pretty particular about what we have. If I think the girls would benefit from a new set of pattern blocks, for example, I buy it for them. I don’t necessarily wait for a holiday or birthday to come along.

I think it helps that we watch very little TV, so the girls are rarely exposed to commercials. We talk about the advertisements we see in magazines. The girls know those are working to make us think we need things; it’s up to us to use our brains and decide if we do, in fact, need something.

I am really happy with the balance we have…but that’s tough to maintain when it comes to family at the holidays.

We have a very small family, and they all live at least 250 miles away. My dad always asks me what the girls would like (or what I’d like them to have, as he {correctly} joked this year). My aunt asks, too…but then she feels she has to do more. “I can’t just give them house shoes!” she protested.

What’s frustrating is that my girls will be OVER THE MOON with some fuzzy kitty cat house shoes. They had some a couple of years ago, and they played in them all the time.

I witnessed last year my girls getting really overwhelmed during one family holiday exchange. Instead of giving them a gift bag of art supplies, each book / box of crayons / package of clay was individually wrapped. My B, then just shy of four years old, melted into my arms in a puddle of tears. That was so incredibly out of character for her…but she just couldn’t handle all the craziness, I guess.

I feel almost guilty that I’m complaining about people wanting to buy things for my children. I know my family finds a lot of joy in doing that. But I feel like I need to protect our boundaries…and protect my girls from being too overwhelmed.

Am I being too particular? Ungrateful, even? How do you manage the influx of STUFF at holidays and birthdays?

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

Christmas Cartoons for Young Kids

Most families already have their favorite Christmas cartoons for young kids, those specials that get pulled out every year and watched with wild abandon during December. In our house though, my twins are especially sensitive to anything scary on TV and we don’t like them to watch shows where kids are being unkind toward others, so some of the classic Christmas specials from my childhood don’t work in our home. The original stop action Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer from 1964 has both a scary abominable snowman that frightens the boys and unkind behavior from most of the characters throughout. The characters in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” are definitely mean to poor Charlie Brown. While the end message is heartwarming and redemptive, it’s just too little, too late for our viewing guidelines. Instead, we’ve found these newer (and a few older) Christmas cartoons for young kids at our local library and they are sweet, wintry and/or Christmas themed and appropriate for two years old and up.

Christmas Cartoons for Kids

Christmas Cartoons for Young Kids, 2+

Curious George: A Very Monkey Christmas

This is an adorable, one hour, animated Christmas cartoon about Curious George and the Man in the Yellow Hat celebrating Christmas. As the days pass, George and the Man (and their various friends) prepare for Christmas by shopping for a tree, writing cards, buying a turkey and singing in a holiday pageant. The usual monkey antics ensue and there are a few musical holiday numbers. There is a sentimental subplot where both George and the Man worry about what to get for the other but all is resolved and happy on Christmas morning.

Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas

The original, classic, animated 30 minute special from 1966 is a charming retelling of Dr. Seuss’s beloved book. It is true to the book’s story and heartwarming moral. It is sweet, funny and engaging. My boys have loved it since they were two and first saw it. We read the book at bedtime on December 1 and watch the movie the next day (and many repeated viewings throughout December). I know the Grinch’s behavior is uncouth and distressing overall, but because he is not involved in actual altercations with the other characters, children don’t actually see simple rude behavior being modeled during the show. When he does interact with Cindy Lou Who, he’s actually very gentle and sweet with her.

The Snowman

I had never heard of The Snowman before Sadia posted about it and I am so grateful she did. This movie is perhaps the sweetest cartoon I have ever seen. It’s a charming, beautiful, whimsical adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ classic picture book from 1982. At only 26 minutes long, it’s brief enough for even a rambunctious two-year-old to watch. There are no words, but the music and scenes are so perfect, words are not needed. The ending made me tear up a bit, but my boys (and the boy in the film) were not bothered at all by it.

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Choo Choo Express

Mickey Mouse and his friends get together in this cute, sweet, predictable winter tale to assemble the Clubhouse Choo Choo train. They have to haul Professor Van Drake’s Easy-Freezey snow home from atop the mountain before making the rounds to pick up more pals to join in the fun. This movie won’t become a classic and I doubt my boys will watch it much after this year (they’re five years old) but it’s an easy, educational, non-scary, wintry fun cartoon for the littlest kids.

What are some other Christmas or winter cartoons that your young kids love to watch? Share in the comments section.  

Twinfant Tuesday: Morning Routines

I wanted to share with you my hectic morning routine, along with some things I’ve discovered that help to relieve the chaos.

First of all, our morning routine is timed down to the minute because the adults need every possible extra second of sleep. We prioritize sleep in this family, so anything not essential is never done at the expense of sleeping. I’m not actually complaining about sleep, because all our kids sleep through the night: lights out for the babies is between 6:30 and 7pm, for their sister at 8pm. I know it could be much worse, so we do highly value the sleep we get.

It also helps that I’ve never been the type to labor over my appearance every morning: never liked to wear much make up, always had a wash and wear hairstyle. And my job as a teacher doesn’t require wearing a suit or anything fancy, so it’s basic business casual attire and comfortable shoes.

However, that doesn’t mean mornings aren’t crazy around here anyway. With two adults and three kids to get out the door, it’s truly a coordinated effort. The secret to most of it is to have a solid routine and prep what I can the night before.

6:00        I wake up

6:20        I am showered and mostly dressed

6:30        Bottles prepped for the day

Breakfast heated

Pack snacks (if preschool’s serving something I don’t approve)

Grab packed lunch

Husband wakes up

Big Sis gets out of bed

6:45        Hair and makeup done

Big Sis dressed and hair done

Babies changed and loaded in car (by Husband)

6:50        Out the driveway

7:10        Arrive at Grandma’s

7:20        At work

Husband takes care of giving preschooler her breakfast while he showers and gets ready. He does his chores in the morning (like unloading the dishwasher and picking up dog poop) since he gets home so late at night, so Big Sis usually doesn’t get to school till after 8am, but they get to spend some time together in the mornings.

Some things that have helped shave minutes off our morning routine:

Formula mixing pitcher / Take & Toss sippy cups

This is a great invention! I have the Dr Brown one that holds 40oz, and it’s perfect for four 9oz bottles. No clumps, no foam, just a few presses of the handle and you get formula ready to pour. Similarly, the handheld battery-run ones are useful too if you’re only making one (or two) bottles.

When they are done with bottles (can’t wait!), I teach them to use these sippy cups. They’re just one solid top with a spout that snaps onto a cup, great for washing in the dishwasher. Also good for teaching babies to drink from a real cup, no tiny pieces to take apart or silicone to sanitize, and very inexpensive. In fact, when I need Big Sis not to spill, like if she wants to have warm milk while lying down in the morning, we still use these.

Laundry basket / hamper / large bag

This is a lifesaver for all the knick knacks that always seem to accompany babies everywhere they go. At least once a week I transport clean/dirty bedding, soiled/backup clothing, rotating toys, food/snacks, new diapers/wipes– anything I need to remember to take to Grandma’s I dump in this basket so in the morning Husband just needs to load it in the car.

Ditto for Big Sis’s preschool, except hers is a bag.

Light up clock

clockWhen I switched Big Sis to her toddler bed, I got her this clock to prevent her from getting up at all hours. I didn’t think it would work as well as it did! She never gets out of bed until this light turns green at 6:30am, and not having a barrage of toddler questions come at me when I’m getting ready in the morning is definitely a sanity saver. Bonus: it teaches time!

Footed pajamas / leg warmers

My babies always sleep in footed zip-up (never buttoned) pajamas when the weather turns cold. It’s perfect for not requiring blankets, and nice and cozy to put on right after baths. We don’t change them in the mornings. Grandma might change them if it gets too warm during the day, or if their outfits get soiled, but usually they’re in them until they get changed into the next one the following evening. Big Sis wore these right up until she was potty trained.

When it’s too warm for footy pajamas, I have a couple sets of baby leg warmers both at Grandma’s and at home to keep tender knees from getting raw from crawling while wearing cooler short or long-sleeve onesies.

A dedicated Grandma who lives five minutes from work

No amount of money can buy this one. If you’re lucky enough to have one of these like I am, things are exponentially easier. I am literally five minutes away from my babies during the day. I can even visit them if I wanted to, but I’ve never had to. My mom makes soups and stews for the babies that I blend into baby food that they LOVE. I never have to worry about them while I’m working, and the peace of mind that I have dropping them off is probably the most stabilizing aspect of my mornings.

Food as {Preschool} Art

I love to be in the kitchen, and I love to do crafts.  Since my girls were about two, and they began to delight in my efforts, I have found a lot of joy from combining two of my loves.

I’ve never created any really elaborate sandwich sculptures…or made a pirate ship out of a watermelon, complete with melon ball-shooting cannons…but if I can spend 10 or 15 minutes and surprise my girlies with something cute and edible from time to time, I find it so much fun.

Yesterday we hosted our favorite twin friends for a play date.  We made handprint turkey crafts, and I wanted something fun for a snack.  Inspired by several different versions of cookie / candy turkeys on Pinterest, I came up with this little guy, using the supplies I had on hand…

DSC_0925The body is a snack-size Reese’s cup, on top of two chocolate-covered pretzel twists.  I broke a pretzel stick in half to use for the legs.  I positioned everything on a cookie sheet and dipped the Reese’s cup in a tiny bit of melted chocolate to adhere everything together.  The eyes (Wilton brand) were left from Halloween, as were the candy corn M&M’s I used to decorate the tail feathers.  The beak is made from mini Reese’s pieces.  Those were adhered with a tiny bit of melted chocolate, too. I put my completed birds in the refrigerator to set.  (Take the birds out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you serve them; otherwise the cold chocolate can be pretty hard.)

The girls and their friends thought these birds were pretty neat.  :)

Looking back through my files, here are pictures of a couple of the Thanksgiving-themed eats I made last year…

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Pumpkin-shaped cheeseball.

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Cornucopia of trail mix…made by steaming the end of a waffle cone and curling it around a wooden spoon.

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Turkey veggie tray.

My creations won’t win any contests, but in the context of the preschool crowd, they’re usually a hit.

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

Childcare Costs

Handing our children over to someone else’s care, especially when it’s for a full work day, is no small thing. Ideally, we want care providers to be our partners in raising our kids. A great childcare provider doesn’t just make sure that children are safe, fed and clean. She also nurtures children’s curiosity, character, and overall development. He communicates with parents about what he has observed during the day and honours parents’ desires and wishes for the care of each child.

Teacher and toddlers from daycare costs from hdydi.comChildcare providers don’t earn much, especially given the pricelessness of the duties we entrust them with. At the same time, childcare is incredibly expensive. It constitutes a huge proportion of a two-income or single parent budget, especially for young parents at the beginnings of their careers. Unfortunately, we have no magical solution to make childcare affordable, although we can tell you what we did to make ends meet and why we decided to invest in childcare.

In this post, Sara and Sadia try to present the realities of childcare costs in the US and Canada, since we were both shocked by the sticker price and its impact on our lifestyles.

The Reality of the Costs of Childcare

Sadia

daycare costs from hdydi.comWhen my daughters started public school, it felt like I got an enormous raise. Daycare got cheaper as our girls got older–prices tend to decrease by $10-20 per month per child per year of age–but the first year was a massive shock to the bank account. Two infant tuitions in the Austin suburbs came out to US$1650 a month, more than our mortgage. That was 7 years ago, so prices have gone up since. The US$1500+ didn’t include add-on options that became available at age 3, such as soccer lessons, gymnastics time, computer classes and Spanish activities.

I honestly don’t know how I would have made ends meet had I not still been married. We needed both incomes. Full day summer childcare prices for elementary-aged children are comparable to that of infant care, and I confess that this summer was financially challenging on just my income and the child support payment that my ex-husband provides. I really couldn’t have done it without the promotions and raises I’ve earned since my daughters were born.

The irony is that we had researched childcare options and costs. It was only after we decided that we were at a point at which we could afford daycare that we attempted to get pregnant. We just hadn’t budgeted for twins.

The care my kids received was worth every penny. I hadn’t realized going into it that childcare would be our family’s largest expense, but in retrospect it makes sense. Hiring the right childcare provider is an investment in my children’s future, not just their professional success, but also in their personal successes and sense of self. We got back a lot more than we paid for: lifelong friendship and mentoring, people with a real stake in my daughters’ development, and a healthy, happy, wholesome start. A couple of weeks ago, my 7-year-old daughter J had a theological question she didn’t feel that I was answering adequately, so she sought one of the staff members from her old daycare to discuss her concerns with her.

What saddens me is how little childcare providers are paid. I don’t know whether it was the financial structure of our program alone or whether this is typical, but I learned from one of the assistants I hired occasionally for evening babysitting that she earned less than $10 per hour caring for my children in her regular job. She was assisting 20 hours a week in the infant room at a program that was open from 6:30 am to 6:00 pm. In short, the people caring for my children wouldn’t have been able to afford to put their own kids in the program.

Sara

Costs of ChildcareBy the end of 2013 we will have spent over 30K in daycare for our 2-year-old twins, also significantly more expensive than our mortgage. When we were expecting we saved up money to help supplement my 13 months at home with Molly and Jack, (luckily Canadian benefits granted me 50 weeks of paid leave at C$501 a week and I used paid vacation for the remaining month). What we didn’t expect was to be living on an even tighter budget once I went back to work.

When you combine the immense daycare fees, cost of transportation to and from work, along with business clothes, some weeks it often feels that I’m quite literally working for very little money. On days when the washer has broken and you are about to tear out your hair in frustration it helps to think big picture. This is the most expensive time of our life (until we have two children in college 15 years from now), we just need to grit our teeth and count the days until full day kindergarten – 700! (but we’re not keeping track).

Why We Made the Decision to Go Back to Work

Sadia

I never considered being a stay-at-home mom. For a few months, we toyed around with the idea of my now ex-husband being a SAHD, but that wasn’t for him either. For him, his military career is more than a job, although he is loathe to admit it. Serving others through his army service is my ex’s calling, and he’s really good at it. He would have never been able to live with himself if others were fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan while he changed diapers.

Childcare Costs from hdydi.com

Photo Credit: ForestForTrees

I have an intense personality and my extroversion is off the charts. Even during the 8 weeks between my daughters’ release from the NICU and my returning to work, we were out and about all the time. With my husband away on training, and later on deployment, it was just me and the babies in the house. I needed adult contact, adult conversation, and adult challenges.

I wanted to be able to be the best mother I could be. For me, that involves finding fulfillment and challenges outside my children. Having my own intellectual and social needs fulfilled by my job, I can focus on being for my children what they need me to be.

Perhaps the scars of my turbulent relationship with my mother have made me this way. I just don’t want my children to ever be burdened by my needing them for fulfillment. They should be free to explore their own lives, not spend their time validating mine.

There was also a financial aspect to my returning to work, although money never mattered enough to us for that to be a primary consideration. Enlisted soldiers in the US army don’t earn a whole lot. I was the primary earner in our family, thanks to a higher level of education (my MA to his high school diploma) and my job in software.

Sara

I love my children immensely, and with costs considered we seriously thought about one of us staying home for a few years to be with the kids, but when I took up a part-time contract with my work during the last six months of my maternity leave I remember how much I missed my day job. I missed my connection to the outside world, my former self and my career aspirations. Part-time work would have been an ideal balance for home/work life, but living in a big city, with little to no part-time daycare options and having a job I love this was not a feasible option for  my husband or I. When I returned to work full-time although their were struggles, especially related to illness in the first six months, I was more focused when I spent time with my kids. I wanted to read the extra story at bed time and I wanted to build Lego towers with my kids because time was limited I made sure to make it quality time over quantity time.

Tips to Make it Easier

Sadia

We cut our non-childcare expenses to the bone. We cancelled our landline telephone and used our cell phones only, with no data plans. We cooked all our food at home and packed our lunches; we couldn’t afford to eat out. My ex sold his beloved gas-guzzling 1968 Cougar and bought a more practical car. I worked through the night while breastfeeding to make up the time I missed at work when the babies were sick. While our neighbours hired cleaning ladies, we didn’t. We didn’t have cable TV, go to the movies or go shopping beyond groceries and clothes for our growing babies.

Teacher reading to kids: daycare costs from hdydi.comMy employer provides an option to set up a dependent care flexible saving account. In essence, my employer sets aside US$5000 of my income to be spent on daycare before calculating my income tax. This has the effect of putting me in a lower income bracket for the purposes of income tax, reducing my tax burden. As I spend on daycare through the fiscal year, I send in receipts to prove where that money has gone, and the FSA management company reimburses me from the money that was already pulled out of my paycheck.

Sara

Financially we had to make some cuts to our cell phone services, cable and other frills so we could make it work.  We also sold a bunch of items we didn’t need any more to help with the initial pinch.  Big hurdles were when the kids got sick and we needed to make other arrangements during the day.  Having family members as emergency back-up, flex-time at work or sitters who you can call in a pinch (at an added expense unfortunately) helped us survive.  Knowing that there was an end date and having supportive people around us made the adjustment possible, I don’t know what we would have done otherwise.

What Other Options Are There?

There are programs out there intended to help reduce the financial pressures of childcare. There are tax rebates and assistance programs, although the latter involve huge amounts of red tape and often have internally inconsistent rules.

Centre-based care isn’t the only option. In-home childcare can be cheaper than centre-based case, but you’re dependent on the availability of a single person. You might be able to barter for care, providing your care provider a place to live and having her “pay” her rent in childcare hours. If you have family nearby, perhaps you can get free or greatly reduced care from them.

There’s the most obvious answer, one which many of us MoMs have chosen: one parent stays home and makes a non-paying career of being his or her own childcare provider. That comes with its own financial challenges, particularly if you were accustomed to living on two incomes.

We’re not experts here, just two moms who’ve felt the pinch. Please tell us how you address the issue of childcare costs for your family.

Taking Back Our Weekends

So this is what it feels like to be a full-time working mom of three. My posts have been few and far between lately… because working has been seriously kicking my ass.

With a three-year-old and two ten-month-olds, attempting to do well at another job sometimes is just. too. much. I am thoroughly exhausted most of the time, both physically and mentally. Teaching 120 high school freshmen is both mentally and emotionally demanding. I am “on” every single moment of every single class period, and I honestly think it’s just as difficult as my first job as a mommy. I am flat out drained at the end of each day. And I usually don’t get help with bath/bedtime, so there is no reprieve for me until 8pm, when all the kids are down. But by then there is no energy left for anything else either.

Which is why we’ve been using our weekends as our catch-all. Laundry gets done on weekends, mail gets read on weekends, bills get paid on weekends, grandparents get visited on weekends, grocery gets bought on weekends, chores and errands and trips to the library and keeping in touch with friends. It was getting so that our weekends were busier than our weekdays. It was getting so that any time we had for a breather we were using as down-time. Much needed time to rejuvenate, to relax, to unwind.

But I started noticing that our kids were getting left to fend for themselves. Of course they were fed and cared for, and their physical needs were met, but beyond that we just had nothing left to give. With time at such a premium, we found ourselves arguing about how it should get allotted to each grandparent, how much of our weekends we could devote to any activities, and just to complicate things even further, we still had to account for all that baby-napping we have going on. It’s just really been stressful.

One day I had an epiphany. I don’t want to live my life this way. I don’t want it to be forgotten in a whirlwind of running here and rushing there. I want to spend it together, as a family, enjoying each other’s company, making memories. My children will never be this age again. Our lives will never be here again. I want to cherish our weekends.

So I sat down with Husband and had a serious conversation about how we could rethink the use of our time. By no means are we any less busy, and our time-budget issues haven’t all been magically resolved, but our mentality has since changed. We are now committed to spending quality time together, regardless of what we’re doing. We are going to be present, in the moment, for our children and our family. We do not allow ourselves to hide in another room surfing our iPhones while our children are awake. We eat together, as a family. No electronic devices during mealtime. Whenever possible, we gate ourselves in with our kids to roll around, crawl, jump, tickle, get slobbered on, and giggle with them in the playroom.

What a wonderful way to de-stress.

Separate Schools, Two Weeks In

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Two weeks ago I posted about separating my twin boys for preschool, into two different schools. We are in the second week and still adjusting, but here’s a little update on how its going so far.

Both boys started on the same day, even though their schedules overlap only one day a week. We moved around my husband’s work schedule so that day he goes in much later than he used to, since we effectively have to be in two places at once. We stood on the porch and did first day of school photos, obligatory backpack shots, and lots of hugs. Even though only one kid got on the bus, the whole family waited outside for the bus, and his brother insisted on wearing his backpack too. Our little guy got on the bus that first day without a tear. Mommy, however, was not as tough. Yup, I cried. Not as much as I expected, and not as much as I had been in the months before this big day.

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Other kid’s private preschool has a very, very gradual, drawn out intro to preschool, in stark contrast to the school district’s put-them-on-a-bus-and-see-them-later approach. They have a two week orientation period which I suppose some kids probably benefit from, but our kid is ready to get going already. They only go for 1 hour, and instead of drop off, the first day was with the parent the whole time, the subsequent days the parents drop off in the room and get them into their routine before leaving. This Mommy is ready to just drop the kid at the curb, kisses and hugs and on your way, kiddo. The kid wants to know when they get to play at the playground (since they are only there one hour there’s no playground time.) Looking forward to starting for real next week. (and yes, I am one of those rip-the-bandaid off fast people.)

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Here’s a brief rundown of things the past two weeks.

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Kid 1:

  • Got kid onto bus, less than 1 hour later the bus company called (Mommy panic!) but only to tell me to expect him home a full 30 minutes before the original time they told me. Good thing we changed around Daddy’s work schedule.
  • Got a call from the social worker at the school even before he was home the first day telling me that “He was a little sad” when they put him on the bus, which I think is social worker speak for “Flipped his $#&!” when it was time to leave school. Which I guess is good he was having fun.
  • He had an ID tag on his backpack for the bus driver with contact info, but both our home address and phone number wrong. He got home safely anyway. If you ask where he lives he will tell you, “At our house!”
  • Day 2 on the bus and school day was without incident from the kid, but waving at the bus with the other kid, a nosy neighbor walked by adding, “But aren’t they twins? That one must have something wrong with him if he’s taking that bus to school.” IN FRONT OF THE OTHER KID. Gee, thanks.
  • Monday morning the bus driver was 20 minutes late, stopped way past the house, nearly to the neighbors yard and upset the poor kid so much thinking he was forgotten he cried getting on the bus and could be heard screaming as they drove away.
  • By Thursday the second week the novelty has worn off and he no longer has any interest in going to school or riding the bus. It was a major issue getting him to put on clothing and get outside for the bus. Thankful he gets Fridays off so we can not have that discussion for a few more days.

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Kid 2:

  • Went to the first day of school and had a total meltdown when the teacher told him the playtime was done and it was time to read a book. This was the first of many over-sensitive, emotional, sobbing outbursts we’ve seen since the first day of school from the typically laid-back, easy going kid.
  • Teachers told us he’s holding his own but it is obvious he misses his brother quite a lot, he talks about him constantly
  • He runs up to the bus when it arrives back home and has even run up the steps to hug his brother. It’s incredibly sweet.
  • By the 3rd day his brother was at school, he was so volatile and sensitive that I asked him to clean up his Potato Head toys and he sobbed, “But I didn’t get to give brother a hug AND a kiss before he left!”
  • He started a weekly story time session at the library, an extra activity he gets to do alone, since he doesn’t have school as often as his brother. The teacher said he did great and was one of the top participants in the activities and a great listener.
  • He told us he did not want to go to school this week because he wanted to be home for when brother’s bus came back.
  • After the bus nearly missed the house, he put on a Batman outfit because he thought meeting his brother in a Batman suit would cheer him up. (It did.)
  • His teacher at school said he was playing well with the other kids and was much happier than the previous day.

All in all, it hasn’t been bad, but it’s definitely been a transition. We have upped the frequency of random and seemingly senseless meltdowns. It’s heartbreaking to see how sad they are apart, even though they seem to both be enjoying school. They don’t yet “get’ the days of the week so it is confusing them who has school which day, and their behavior definitely shows they are hurting. With time we will all adjust to the new normal, but these first few weeks are pretty emotional.

Embarking Into the World of Technology

My fraternal twin girls are 4 ½, and to date, they’ve had almost no screen time.  Within the past couple of months, we’ve started watching a weekly episode of a show on the Animal Planet, but prior to that, our girls had not watched any TV.  We have very few battery-operated toys.  And outside of some limited exposure at preschool last year, the girls had not had any practice with computers.

I’ve been lamenting over this for a long time now.  Certainly I don’t want the girls to fall behind the technology curve over the long-term.  I don’t want them to feel intimidated by new gadgets.  I want them to embrace technology and learn to use it to their advantage.  But I didn’t want it to interfere with our block-building, book-reading, artwork-making, pretending-playing-filled days.

After lots and lots of conversation with my trusted mommy friends, as well as the girls’ preschool teachers last year and this, I finally decided that it was time to introduce technology into our days, via the iPad.

The girls’ four-year old preschool teacher seemed to best understand my concerns.  The girls already love to learn.  I didn’t feel it was necessary to augment their math and phonics with learning apps.  She agreed.  She talked about them learning the infrastructure of technology, though…developing an inherent feel for navigating the hierarchies of menus…feeling the drive of curiosity to figure things out and make technology work for them.  She suggested the iPad (over other tablet-type devices I was considering), rationalizing that the girls might as well learn in a “real” forum, using software that will be applicable to them for the foreseeable future.

Yesterday we bit the bullet.  We purchased two iPad minis, one black and one white.

I have talked with the girls that their iPads will be one of the many activities that they do throughout the day.  I was frank in telling them how important it is that they continue to enjoy everything they already love…building, drawing, pretending, reading.

I am confident that I will be disciplined in allowing time on the iPad, and I hope that my girls will be responsible in respecting the family rules.  I want them to have fun, but I don’t want to look back and see this as a major shift in the way we do things around here.

So…how do you schedule screen-time for your kiddos?  And being brand-new to the wide world of apps, I have no idea where to start…what apps do you recommend for Kindergarten-level skill-building?

Recent posts on this topic:

“Generation App” by mrslubby

“How Do You Introduce Technology?” by MandyE

MandyE blogs about over-thinking parenting, along with her adventures with her girls, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

Time together and apart at playschool

My daughters (R and S) are starting their third year of playschool next week.  They’ve been going to the same mothers’ day out program for those three years.

First day of Playschool - 2011 (age 2)

The first year, they went together to the toddler room. I don’t think the teachers learned much about their unique personalities that year, probably because even as parents we didn’t see many difference developing.  The teachers tried to support the girls as individuals by taking them to the bathroom separately, but it was challenging with a group of 1.5 and 2 year olds to be that structured, especially when potty training.

First day of Playschool - 2012 (age 3)

Last year, the girls went together one day a week and by themselves each one day a week in the 3 year old room. This gave the girls time at school by themselves and time at home by themselves with me.  It was during this last year that they really started developing their own unique personalities.  Their classroom teachers also recognized those differences. They told me how the girls behaved differently when they were together and apart.  R was more interested in crafts and writing her letters.  She also enjoyed helping the teachers.  S liked playing with the dolls and stuffed animals but sometimes she’d play with the cars and trains.  When they were at school together, they usually played together with each other but not with the other kids.

On the days they were at school alone, they made their own friends and ate lunch with other kids. R, who could write her name, even visited the 4-year-old class, which challenged her social and academic skills a little. The teachers encouraged this independence by separating them in different work groups or seating them apart at lunch time. R and S’s classroom teachers and many of the other teachers at the school could tell them apart. At home, I was able to include the girls in different activities like doing errands with me, playing their favourite games and helping in the kitchen.  I don’t need to tell you how much easier some tasks are with just one “helper.”

Soccer camp - Summer 2013 (age 4)

Next week, they’ll start going together one day a week and by themselves one day each again. I’m excited to see how they develop their own personalities even more over this year. At home, I’m going to work with R on her reading; I think she’ll be reading by Christmas. I think she gets bored without a challenge and that leads to potty accidents and baby behaviours. With S, I’m going to go at her pace. I think she has ideas, but she’s a little quieter so her sister and brother get to lead more. I’m curious to see what interests of her own emerge.

Even though kindergarten is still a year off, I’ve been talking to the girls about it.  They are quite definite they want to be in separate classes. I ask if they’ll be lonely by themselves, and they tell me “we will ride the bus together every day.” Since they look so much alike and their personalities are very similar, I think the time apart will let them explore their interests and develop their own identities.