One Grilled Cheese

A mother makes dinner for 3 on autopilot, instead of just for herself and one of her twins.

This year, my daughters’ after school care provider, the YMCA, began offering free dinner to children who are still in their care at 5:30 pm.

While it take some relinquishing of control on my part, I’ve come to love it. The girls aren’t grumpy from hunger when I pick them up. Waiting to feed myself until after they’re in bed gives us that much more time together. I don’t have to do backbends to ensure that they’re fed before evening activities such as dance lessons and Girl Scouts.

Sadly, as the novelty has worn off, my daughters have discovered meals they don’t like and won’t eat. They’ve always skipped the same meals… until last night.

M overheard her friend Tori’s mom say that there were bad unhealthy things in corn dogs, so she decided to do without. J, on the other hand, gobbled dinner down.

When I learned this, I offered M a couple of dinner options, from which she chose a grilled cheese sandwich. When we got home, I sent the girls off to wash their hands and put their backpacks away while I made M’s sandwich. I began heating up the sandwich press, washed my hands, laid out two slices of bread, topped them with cheddar cheese slices, layered on a second slice of bread.

Once the sandwiches were warm but not crisp, the way my kids like them, I put them each on a plate and assembled a turkey sandwich in the sandwich press for myself.

When I served the sandwiches, J didn’t come to the table, of course, since she’d already eaten. And then I realized what I’d done. From habit, I’d made a sandwich for each child, even while consciously aware that only one would eat.

M ended up taking the extra sandwich, plus an apple, into school today for dinner. And then, after a friend sneezed on her sister’s dinner, she gave her half.

What do you do on autopilot?

The Problem with Great Readers Is that We Run Out of Books

“Mom!” said my 7-year-old, M, when I arrived from work to pick up my kids from daycare, “I checked out three chapter books from the library three hours ago and now I’ve read them all. I have nothing to read!

I checked her backpack to see whether she’d picked out particularly short or easy books, but she had a 90-odd page Bailey School Kids book, a decent length presidential biography and a Katie Kazoo book in there. I asked her to tell me about the books and she regaled me at length with not-quite-summaries of what she’d consumed.

I know. This is a pretty great problem to have. My kids love to read. They’re fast. The challenge it poses, though, is a very real one.

Given a choice, this is the problem to have. Still, finding enough reading material to satiate voracious readers is a real challenge.

This is J. She was the one who happened to have a book in her hands when it occurred to me to take a photo for this post. M was brushing her teeth.

I do what I can to keep my kids supplied with reading materials.

  1. We take regular trips to the public library. Each child is allowed to pick out 7 books. Any more than that, and they lose track of where they are. I reserve a cube of the Ikea Expedit shelves in our living room for library books to keep them in one place.
  2. I haunt bookstores. We visit Half Price Books frequently and keep an eye on their clearance racks both for our home library and their classroom book collection. I invest in books that my girls will want to read again and again.
  3. Their school library is relatively well-stocked, although my daughter J took advantage of a persuasive letter writing assignment at school to ask her principal to invest in harder books.
  4. I donate outgrown books to the girls’ classroom teacher, in part so that she can also snap up more advanced books for her collection when she’s adding to it.
  5. I do a lot of book shopping online. Ebay sometimes pops up pretty fantastic lots of books. I can always donate any duplicates that we have. My girls have tablets, but they just prefer the feel of paper books to reading ebooks on their devices. I limit my Amazon.com shopping to books on specific subjects that I want but can’t find at the library, like foster care or divorce.
  6. Our loved ones know what readers J and M are. They are wonderful about giving them gifts of books.
  7. Paperbackswap.com is a great place to trade in old books for new for just the cost of media mail.

Anyone else have this problem? Any solutions I’ve missed?

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

Growing Pains

We were excited when the new size 6 pants I’d ordered for J arrived. She’s been growing like a weed and had grown out of her clothes. I asked her to try on the new pants, but sadly, she reported that they were far too loose in the waist. I washed them all and put them aside.

After several days with temperatures in the 70s, today was a relatively chilly Texas day. J came out of her room dressed in 5T sweatpants. They left a good portion of her shins bare. My foot came down.

“No ma’am,” I told her. “Those pants are too small for you. Please put on your new purple ones.”

She came out of her room again with an important update. “These are too big.”

I took a look, and they seemed to fit just fine. I noticed her pulling them up at the hips, bunching the fabric on both sides below the waistband.

“I think,” I informed her, “that you have become accustomed to your pants being too tight. It’s just like how you resist switching to new shoes when your feet grow. You’ll feel comfortable in a while.”

That did it. To cut a very long, very loud story short, she lost it. There was screaming and stomping, tears and threats, and a general insistence that her panties were going to fall off without super-tight pants holding them up. I don’t try to reason with the unreasonable, so I didn’t point out all the things wrong with her argument until M wanted to discuss them with me over sister’s screams. Yes, I agreed, her panties did stay on when she jumped on the trampoline in a dress. J even tried M’s panties on, only to break down into a fresh slurry of tears because they were too tight.

Proving myself to be the meanest mommy in history, I insisted that J go to school in her own panties and pants. Once she’d settled into the car and quieted a bit, I told her that I was 95% certain that she would get used to her new clothes by the time school was done. I also suggested that perhaps part of her resistance was that I wasn’t making her sister go up a size. She agreed that that was a big part of it. It wasn’t fair that M got to wear the old pants.

“The fact is,” I told her, “that your sister is just smaller than you right now. You’ve always been used to sharing clothes so it feels strange not to, but it’s no different than you having different shoes because of your different sized feet.”

J struggled with this idea, but had accepted it by the time we got to school.

When I picked her up after daycare, she said those sweetest words: “Mom, you were right.” She loved her new pants and had received 2 compliments on them. They were softer than the old ones, which she admitted had been too tight. She even agreed to model her too-small and just-right clothes for a before-and-after photo set.

A 7-year-old with a tendency to resist change isn't a fan of switching to a larger size of clothing

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

Spiral Learning: Permutations for Elementary Students

Permutations for Elementary Students

When I was browsing the lovely photos on MathiasQuads.org yesterday for this morning’s post, my daughter M took great care to read the names in each photo caption. She wanted to be sure to match each face to the right name. As an identical multiple herself, she understood how important it was to see Mary Claire, Anna, Grace and Emily as individuals.

M, aged 7, observed that they were rarely in the same order between photos.

M: There’s 16 ways for them to be lined up.
Me: How did you figure that out?
M: Because there’s 4 sisters and 4 spots and 4 times 4 is 16.
Me: That’s a very good deduction, my mathematician girl, but it’s actually 24. Can I show you how?

Is 7 a little young for combinatorics? Sure, but M showed an interest in it, so I dug back into my 8th grade math memories. I drew her a picture to show her how to think of permutations. She picked the colours for each sister.

Explaining permutations for elementary students. Showing them the first quarter of the pattern allows them to derive the pattern themselves. From hdydi.com

Me: There are 4 sisters who can go in the first spot. I’m just going to draw one of them. Once she’s in her place, there are only 3 sisters left to go second.
M: Then 2, then 1!
Me: Exactly. So there are 6 orders available for each sister who goes in the first spot.
M: And 6 times 4 is 12 and 12 is 24.
Me: Which is also 4 times 3 times 2 times 1.
M: Well, that was easy.

We’ll probably chat about combinations tonight during bath time.

Spiral Learning

I’ve always taken this approach to educating my daughters. If one or both of them is interested in something that illustrates a larger pattern or important skill, I explain it to them at a level that is pertinent, interesting, and within their abilities. Later on, when they’re more intellectually mature, I’ll come back to it. In a couple of years, I’ll show M how to use factorial notation.

My teacher friend Kaylan tells me that the eduspeak term for this is “spiral learning.”

Spiral learning is the practice of returning to a topic over time to build an increasingly sophisticated understanding

What sparks your child’s interest? What’s your approach to teaching?

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

An Introduction to Girl Scout Cookies

It’s Girl Scout Cookie season here in Central Texas. If you live in the US, chances are that you’ve seen little girls in uniform selling boxes of cookies in front of stores or had them knock on your door.


 

Perhaps you have a little Thin Mint addiction. Perhaps your No Soliciting sign has a Girl Scout exemption.

This post is an introduction to Girl Scout cookies for those unfamiliar with the point of cookie sales beyond satisfying your sweet tooth. It’s also for parents just getting started on their daughter’s Girl Scout journey. I know I was a little lost last year when cookie season began.

Where Cookie Earnings Go

Girl Scout cookie sales raise money for Girl Scout troops, but that’s not really the core purpose. From the $4.00 price tag of each box of cookies, our troop earns a measly 10%. That’s right. $0.40 for each box goes into the troop fund for the kids selling you cookies.

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There’s no obligation for Girl Scouts to sell cookies. In our troop, we ask parents who aren’t up for participating in sales to contribute what they can to the troop account, which we spend on things like badges, outings and a charitable donation.

Why Scouts Sell Cookies

Troops (groups of Girl Scouts who meet regularly and share activities) decide as a group what to do with their earnings. The point of cookie sales is to teach our girls the basics of entrepreneurship: Goal Setting, Decision Making, Money Management, People Skills and Business Ethics. 

Each girl sets for herself a goal for how many boxes of cookies she can sell during the sales season. Based on her age, she more or less independently sells the cookies. Daisies (kindergarten and 1st grade) are accompanied by older scouts at their sales booths and adults handle the money for them. Brownies can make their own change but parents are nearby for assistance.

Last year, my girls convinced me to buy a box of cookies from them, then handed out free samples in our vet’s waiting room. Not surprisingly, they were able to score several sales off this approach. This year, I asked my 7-year-olds what they thought they were learning to selling cookies.

M: People listen better when we stand up more confidently.

J: Counting money.

To keep things fun, the Girl Scouts each earn an award for selling a certain amount of cookies. In addition to the badges and pins they can add to their uniforms to show the skills they’ve exercised selling cookies, they earn extra incentives for selling different quantities of cookies.

A Twin Thing

My daughters actually asked me whether they could pool their sales toward a single (presumably better) incentive by crediting just one of them with all their sales. I said no. They were individual Girl Scouts and didn’t get to work the system. Our sales are evenly divided between the two children. We will probably modify that approach if they stick with Girl Scouts when they’re old enough to sell cookies more independently.

Keeping Track

One of the more challenging things for little girls is keeping track of what money is coming in and what cookies are going out. I made my daughters a chart, shown below, to help them keep up with sales. They used tally marks to track cookie boxes and wrote down donation amounts in dollars. (Click the image for a printable PDF.)

Cookie Sale Tracker

Different troops handle orders differently. In our troop, we discuss sales goals with our daughters and provide and initial estimate. Our Cookie Dad puts in an order for the troop and distributes the cookies once they arrive. If we realize we need more cookies, we can ask him and he’ll put in a couple of additional group orders during cookie season. We’re free to sell door-to-door or to our friends, but we’re also welcome to serve at booths set up at businesses around the community.

Other troops take orders by order form and only purchase cookies to meet their orders. They must then deliver the cookies. A couple of troops sell cookies online.

Types of Cookies

One of the things I found most confusing was the different types of cookies. Seemingly identical cookies had different names. People wanted to know why we weren’t selling their favourite cookie from the year before. People wanted to know why their cousin 100 miles away could buy Lemonades when we didn’t have them.

There are two different bakeries licensed to make Girl Scout cookies. They use different names (and recipes) for the cookies, although Thin Mints are Thin Mints regardless of bakery. So Samoas are Caramel Delites. Do-si-Dos are Peanut Butter Sandwiches. Also, Trefoils are Shortbread, Tagalongs are Peanut Butter Patties. Apart from the core 5 cookies, they make different types. Little Brownie Bakers’ lemon cookies are bite-sized powdered sugar-covered crescents called Savannah Smiles, while ABC Bakers’ Lemonades are lemon-iced shortbread cookies.

Also, from the official Girl Scout Cookie FAQ:

Half of the Girl Scout councils served by Little Brownie Bakers are taking part in the “Super Six” initiative and selling the core five favorite Girl Scout Cookies (Thin Mints, Samoas, Tagalongs, Do-si-dos, and Trefoils) and Savannah Smiles. Research shows that these core varieties appeal to the vast majority of customers. This initiative has been very successful and well received by both Girl Scout members and cookie consumers. The primary benefit to the participating Girl Scout councils is better management of cookie inventory and a way to streamline the sale process for girls and volunteers.

When Is Cookie Season?

Cookie season varies from region to region. I imagine that weather plays a role. I’m certain that Minnesota troops have no interest in selling cookies while there’s snow on the ground, while we Texas troop certainly don’t want our cookies melting in our cars in the summer.

Officially, cookie season is limited to 6-8 weeks to allow girls to focus on them for that period of time and then move onto other Girl Scout activities. Unofficially, I wouldn’t be surprised if the limited availability was intended to maintain consumer interest in the product. After all, people are more likely to buy a whole lot of cookies if they know they won’t be available again for 10 months than if they can run to the store if they run out.

If you’re interested in seeing when you’ll be able to buy cookies, you can check out the Girl Scout site’s cookie finder.

Any questions? What’s your Girl Scout cookie preference?

A big thank you to Michelle for editorial review!

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

MiM: How to make chew necklaces for kids who chew their clothes

One of my twin boys is a shirt chewer. Actually, he was a shirt chewer. I made chew necklaces for him to wear and completely cured him of his nervous habit of chewing on his clothing in about two months. I am not crafty and I can not sew at all. So when I looked for ideas about how to get kids to stop chewing their clothes, I was disappointed to find complicated, messy sensory games or options that required a sewing machine.

Finally, I found an easy, free, no sew option by whining to my friend who is a school teacher. She had seen a few students wear “chew necklaces” in her elementary school.

Chew Necklaces

How to make chew necklaces for kids who chew their clothes:

Supplies -
*old tshirts (that your child has outgrown or already chewed holes in)
*scissors
*regular bedroom dresser
*ability to braid

Steps -
*Cut out three strips of fabric (~25-30 inches long, depending on how long you want the necklace to be. Remember tshirt material stretches) from the old tshirts.

Tie Knot in end

*Tie the three strips together into a knot at one end.

*Tuck the knotted end into dresser drawer.Braid with knot in dresser

*Braid the three strips.

*Tie the end of the braid into a knot.

Tie knot in other end

*Tie the two knots together.

Tie together done

Because they are made out of tshirt material, they feel the same to kids as chewing on their clothes and are likely to be a great substitute. They can also be thrown in the wash with their clothes. They do eventually get chewed through (as evidenced in the above picture; the gray and red one is pretty much done) but it’s easy to make more. And oddly, the best news is that after wearing these for a few months, my son just quit chewing altogether. Now, we don’t need these necklaces and he doesn’t chew on his shirts anymore!

Chew Necklace

Parenting Petite Kids: A Followup

My daughters will be 8 in May. (EIGHT! Weren’t they born last Wednesday?!) J just went through a serious growth spurt and her 5T pants are suddenly visibly short on her.

Take a moment to absorb that, please. She is, at age (nearly) 8, outgrowing toddler sizes. Her twin sister, M, still fits comfortably in 5T clothes. We are, as I may have mentioned before, short. Petite. Whatever.

Short

This weekend promises to be a busy one, so I figured it would be worth my while to do a little pre-shopping research online before I outfit J with a new set of bottoms. We looked at several sites and found a decent selection of size 6 Hanes sweatpants that should carry her through until the weather warms.

She then asked if we could look around for long skirts in her size. We looked on the Children’s Place, Target, Walmart and Old Navy websites. (Hey, I’m raising two kids on one state employee income; my budget is tight.) Every skirt we found was, in her words, “babyish.” They were all short, many of them tutu-styled. Clearly, the things in J’s size are targeted at toddlers, not fashion-aware second graders.

Her disappointment was obvious on her face.

Me: Pumpkin, I think I understand how you feel. Until I got pregnant with you and Sissy, I wore a junior size large or size 13. Since those sizes are made for kids, it was really hard for me to find grownup clothes that were appropriate for work.
J: I’m so glad you understand! It’s so frustrating being the size of little kid when I’m an elementary schooler! I just want to find a skirt without cartoon characters. But everywhere I look, there’s Minnie Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Minnie Mouse!

I’m sure parents with kids on the other end of the spectrum are equally frustrated. What do you do when your little one is a size 4T but still rightly belongs in onesies? I realize that clothing companies put their money where the majority of the market is. I realize that a more skilled mother than I could do some sewing magic to make clothes work. I realize that someone with a bigger budget would have more options.

Still, it’s frustrating to watch my child be frustrated in the same way I have been ever since I started needing to find clothes in the US. I was blissfully unaware of the issue as a teen in Bangladesh, where off-the-rack clothes were still a relatively rare find and going to a tailor or making one’s own clothes was the norm.

Anyone know of affordable clothes for big kids that run really, really small?

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

Favourite Thing Ever

My daughters’ second grade teacher has given them permission to decorate their daily folders with stickers. My daughter J asked if she could use a dollar of her savings to buy stickers. I told her she could, but might want to check out the sticker bin in the art centre first.

Soon afterward, I found both 7-year-olds rummaging through stickers.

These twins' favourite thing ever? Each other! Check out this sweet conversation at hdydi.comJ: Mom! We have some really great stickers in here.
Me: I know! You’ve had them all along.
M: I knew they were there, but I didn’t really look. I’m not such a sticker person.
Me: You guys went through a period, when you were about 3, when you were all about stickers. They were your favourite thing ever.
M: More than sisters?
Me: Well, no.
M: That’s what I thought.

These kids have no clue how much joy their love for one another brings me.

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

The Importance of Good Public Communication

This post is a co-authored piece by me and my 7-year-old daughters.

Good Public Communication

Mommy: Where we live in Texas, we're not accustomed to cold weather. 100 degree days in the summer, we can handle. We know how to stay cool and safe. 32 degree days with precipitation? That's not within our realm of competence. We don't know how to drive on the ice. Our cities don't possess the equipment to render roads safe. Call us wimpy. My children's safety comes first.

J: This morning, we were getting rushed to be ready for school on time. Well, it happened that when we were almost at the front of the drop-off line, the news told us that all of RRISD was closed for a 2-hour delay. They were supposed to tell us that at 6:00 in the morning.

M: And it was 7:34. Super late, actually.

Mommy: Hearing about the delay on the news, I stopped and asked the teacher supervising the kids entering school if she knew what was going on. She said that her mom had called to tell her about the delayed opening. I asked whether I should just take the kids home with me and she said she would.

M: The car skidded when we were about to turn out of the loop. We were super-upset and mad at our school.

J: The skid was real creepy

M: Creepy. Right.

Mommy: The whole point of school delays is to keep kids safe by minimizing traffic during dangerous road conditions.

M: Well, that didn't happen today.

Mommy: I'm so disappointed in the school district. School starts at 7:45. The school district has a policy of announcing delays by 6:00 am. The RRISD website was down this morning, so I checked the local news. Austin ISD announced their delay at a reasonable time. I received a text about the delay at 7:44 from our school district. The email with the same announcement arrived at 7:49. I'm unimpressed.

As one friend put it, “I'm grossed out by how the schools are behaving. Are they just being stubborn? At what cost?”

As I'm typing this post, I receive an email from work. At 8:16 am. After about 1/4 of my team decided for ourselves that driving in wasn't worth the risk

Due to worsening road and weather conditions, The University of Texas at Austin will be closed until noon today.Students, faculty and staff who are already on campus or on their way to campus will still be able to enter their offices or classrooms even before the university is officially open for operations. They should make a personal decision on what is best for their safety.Decisions about delays and closure are made based on the best available information officials have at the tine. At 3:00 AM, the forecast and predictions indicated a safe opening. Weather conditions have changed, and we are now delaying campus opening to promote the safety of staff, faculty and students.

Okay, Central Texas. I'm not impressed.

M: *giggle* I like! It's funny!

Update 9:22 am: Just got a call from RRISD declaring all schools closed for the day. Even more disappointed than before. At least they apologized: “We sincerely apologize for the late decision… Please know that it was not our intent to put students, parents or staff in harm's way.” Too little, too late?

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

 

Thank-You Cards from Kids

The girls and I worked really hard making homemade holiday gifts (baked goodies, Shrinky Dinks key chains, and gift tags this year).  On the other end of the holiday, it’s important to me that I involve our girls in saying thank you to our friends and family who were so generous in giving their time and resources to us.

Since they were old enough to scribble a few streaks across a paper, I’ve worked with the girls to make thank-you cards.  Here’s an example of some cards we did when they were 2 1/2…

DSC_0468I wrote the text: “Thank you for the book about the,” and then the girls filled in the blank, so to speak.  At the time, they still weren’t drawing very recognizably, but they could choose a color for the background to the sea, and glue to it a few fish I’d cut out from construction paper.

They definitely “got” what we were doing, and why.  And I think this kind of activity helps them remember who gave them what.  They still know that Aunt Alison gave those books to them when we saw her in Alabama.

At almost-five years old, our girls can’t fully read, but they can print like no one’s business.  My plan this year is to have them write “THANK YOU” on the front of the cards, and address the inside of the card, “TO: AUNT ALISON” and sign their names.  We’ll either draw pictures, or in some cases I might take a picture of the girls wearing their new sweaters or playing with a particular toy to include in the card.

Of course the girls love to tape the envelope shut, apply the stamp, and walk the letters to the mailbox.

An art project, handwriting practice, and a sense of gratitude…it’s what’s on our agenda this post-holiday week.

How do you handle thank-yous with your kiddos?

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