Twinspiration: Book Review and GIVEAWAY!

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Categories Book Reviews, Infants, Parenting, Parenting Twins, Pregnancy, Toddlers9 Comments

When I heard that my friend Cheryl was publishing a new edition of her book Twinspiration, I was giddy at the opportunity to review it.  See, Cheryl is not (yet!) my friend in real life, but she’s become an amazing virtual friend since my twin girls were born almost eight years ago.

She’s Been an Inspiration for Years

I started following Cheryl’s blog when my girls were infants.  At the time, Cheryl’s boy/girl twins were in early elementary school, and I looked up to Cheryl as a twin mama blogger. The mix of advice and antics she wrote about gave me hope that I, too, would get through the dual dirty diapers and not-enough-hands angst that was my life at that time.

My twin girls are long past the diaper phase, and I have come to reckon with not having enough hands.  Still, I so enjoyed reading Twinspiration. Years past the infant and toddler stages, I found myself nodding my head in agreement with Cheryl, alternately chuckling, “Ain’t that the truth!” and “I sure wish I’d known this ahead of time!” and finding myself misty-eyed, remembering some of the trying times and the fleeting stages.

What’s in the Book

I thought so many, many times, “Where was this book when I was expecting my girls???”  I had several books on pregnancy, and one specifically on multiples, but nothing quite seemed to hit the spot that this book does.

Twinspiration provides a wealth of knowledge on what to expect, specific to a twin pregnancy and twin infant- and toddler-hood.  It’s written from the perspective of a MoM who’s been there, of course, but it’s not just an account of Cheryl’s personal experiences.

Certainly Cheryl writes about her dynamic duo, which grounds the book in real-life experience and practical advice.  But it’s more than that.  Cheryl shares different perspectives, too, informing the reader that things don’t always play out by the book.

There are also tidbits interspersed throughout the book from a pediatrician’s perspective.  What I love is that the book doesn’t attempt to present The Singular Answer, but rather it offers a range of possible scenarios.  As a prospective/new parent, I feel like this book would have equipped me with the knowledge to ask the right questions specific to my particular situation.  And what a treasure that would have been!

Dad’s Eye View

And as an added bonus, there are snippets of insight from Cheryl’s husband, affectionately dubbed “The Double Daddy Perspective”.  I know my husband would have appreciated hearing the spouse’s take on some of the twinfant stages.  Even now, eight years later, I had to share some of Double Daddy’s accounts with my hubby…it made for a fun conversation for us both, remembering things from Hubby’s point of view.

In Short, I Loved It

Twinspiration.  It’s engaging…it’s captivating…it’s a plethora of knowledge and experience.  And best?  It’s such a warm read, like sitting down for a cup of coffee and hearing the tales from someone who has been there…really been there…and can smile a big, warm, welcoming smile as she tells her tale.

Get Your Signed Copy

At How Do You Do It, we rarely do giveaways.  But Cheryl is one of our own. She’s such an ardent supporter of the twin community, and she’s generously offered to give away THREE SIGNED COPIES of her new book to How Do You Do It readers!!!

Are you expecting twins (or more)?  Have a friend who would appreciate the support?  Want to add a copy to your MoMs’ group library?  Or just want to reminisce about those mommy milestones?  Enter to win a copy!

To enter, simply leave a comment or a question on this blog post.  (Cheryl would love to hear from you!)  For extra entries, visit Cheryl’s Facebook page, Twinfatuation, or visit How Do You Do It’s Facebook page! If you like what you see, follow us.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This giveaway will run through November 16, 2016.  Please help us spread the word!

***

MandyE here.  Cheryl provided a copy of Twinspiration for me to read.  And I loved it.  The views I expressed here are my own.  I joyfully recommend Twinspiration to any of my MoM and soon-to-be MoM friends!

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Travelling With Multiples

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Categories Ask the Readers, Preschoolers, School-Age, Toddlers, Travel3 Comments

Who else has Spring Fever??? So many people have been slammed with snow, us included, that I’m getting slightly tired of it…and it’s only February! Colorado had a rare 70 degree day yesterday and it got me thinking about our travel plans this Spring.

My family lives here in Colorado close to us. Special K’s family lives in Kansas. Google Maps says it takes 5.5 hours door to door.

We have four kids…we know this isn’t true…for us.

All in all, it takes us under 7 hours to get from our house to my in laws in the van. And we’re actually pretty good at handling it…both the kids and the grown ups. Here are some of my road trip survival tips with multiples (or with multiple children):

  1. Start them early.We began doing this trip when each child was about a month old. It wasn’t always easy, but it was worth it because now they are used to being in the car for long periods of time. You may be thinking, “thanks jerk, my kid is four, this tip is worthless.” Sorry! Read on, I have more up my sleeve. :)
  2. Plan ahead. Before we go on any trip that is longer than an hour, we plan for potty breaks and possible leg stretching breaks. We will alter our route to ensure that there are ample opportunities to walk and pee if necessary. If no one needs the break, we just cruise on by. We also pack snacks, diapers and extra clothes. These may seem like “duh” moments, but a few weeks ago we had a trip to the aquarium, which is just over an hour from our home. I packed snacks just in case, thinking we wouldn’t need them…but there was a HUGE car accident that left us sitting on the highway for about 45 minutes. If I hadn’t packed those snacks, there would have been an uprising! 3 of my kids are in diapers, so this seems like a silly thing to add to the list, but again, I always plan for more than I could possibly need, because I am terrified of running out. If it’s a day trip, I still bring at least one change of clothes because spills happen and diaper leaks happen and no one wants to sit in wet clothes!
  3. Leave right before nap time or bed.The bedtime one might be hard on the grownups if you’re cool like me and go to bed by 10, but it is soooo nice to have a quiet trip the whole way! Typically, we leave right before or right after lunch…that way, there is some activity in the car as a distraction (food), and then the littles have their nap afterwards. This can buy us anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours of silence.
  4. Pack comfort items.This is critical, especially on our long road trips to Gramma and Papas house. H still uses a binky, but we are strict that she only gets it for nap and bed time. The one exception to this rule is long road trips. It’s her way of soothing herself and if it keeps her happy, then we all are happy! M likes her monkey and her blanky…she gets those too. Whatever it is, even if you don’t pull it out unless you are desperate, bring it. It is way better to have it and not need it then to need it and not have it (I’m talking one item per kid…don’t use this logic for the whole toy box!).
  5. Pack activities.My oldest is seven, so she can have things like a book or coloring pages. Sweet Pea also enjoys a folder of coloring pages. For this I simply print up free coloring pages that I find online, hole punch them and put them in a 3-ring binder. Each child also gets their own pencil box with crayons/washable markers. I get some of the free coloring pages from PBS Kids and others from my favorite mom bloggers. Do a little looking on Google and you can find a whole lot of free goodies! As for the Twinkies, I simply pack some toys that they haven’t seen or played with in a while.
  6. Electronics. I know, I know…they are young and electronics are so pervasive, but seriously, it is a seven. hour. car. ride. We have a Kindle Fire, kids version, that has an account for M&M and Sweet Pea, as well as a dual monitor DVD player that the Twinkies use to watch shows and movies. The kids only get such electronics in the car for our long haul trips, which keeps them special…and highly effective.

Now for the fun part. We just booked a trip to visit my Grammy in Florida this May. YAY! Here’s the kicker…we’re flying. The Twinkies are 2, so they need their own tickets now. Okay okay, even if they weren’t two, I would buy them their own seats because who wants to have a wiggly kid on their lap for 6 hours? Not me! Only M&M has been on a plane…my three littles are total newbies.

So what did I do? I read about 3715 blog posts on how to travel with toddlers on airplanes, but none of them really addressed the issue of multiples. Three of my children are under the age of four, and all of them are in diapers. I know that this will be challenging. Thankfully, some of my above tips can be modified for the airplane, but I’m still wondering how to manage this?

Here’s our current plan:

We have two flights with a nearly 2 hour layover in between (the gates are really close together and they are with the same airline, so we didn’t feel the need to factor in more time there).

We are bringing the car seats with us so no need to worry about renting them in Florida.

We will be bringing above mentioned coloring kits, Kindle Fires (we have two) and our laptops. That brings us to one coloring kit and electronic device per child.

I am planning on packing lots of little snacks that they will have to spend time opening (like presents!), and am considering giving them things like mini M&M’s that they don’t normally get.

We are also seriously considering purchasing a Trunki for each child.

10835410-1375201107-272949Have you ever seen such a thing? Have you ever heard of these? There are loads of rave reviews on them, and according to the website, they can handle all four of my children. Well, not at once. But one at a time! The kids can sit on them while we wait in various lines at the airport, and there is a “leash” attachment where we could drag them behind us…or they could drag each other.

If you’ve used these, could you please let me know what you think? We might buy just one and see what we think, before committing to three more.

Okay dear readers:

What have I missed? 

What tips do you have for travelling with multiples? With toddlers? 

Do you have any advice specific to airplane travel?

Happy travelling!

 

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Never Will I Ever: Toddler Thursday Edition

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Categories Parenting, Toddler Thursday, ToddlersLeave a comment

Do you remember the drinking party game Never Have I Ever? I was part of a group of friends in college who loved to waste away long winter nights playing this game. It was a fun way to get to know someone you had a crush on or just learn new and interesting things about friends.  If you’ve never played let me quickly catch you up: You all sit in a circle.  The first person makes a statement beginning with “Never have I ever…” If you’ve done it you take a drink you’re out. The object isn’t necessarily to be last person standing, but rather to be the person to create the most awkward social situations.

Before I had the twins I had several very basic parenting standards.  When it was just the three bigs (that’s what I call my older three sons) it was so easy to adhere to them that I really didn’t even know I had them.  They were almost “parenting givens”.  Then Laurel and Rhodes turned two.  Now I have no standards.  Seriously.  They have won every round of “Never Will I Ever…” we have engaged in. They are masters at creating awkward social situations.  Let me show you:

Never Will I Ever buy a toddler something just to stop a tantrum.”  In December my two oldest sons needed new shoes. I hauled everyone into the shoe store and set up camp in the aisle with the “almost man” sizes.  Laurel and Rhodes were playing happily in the same aisle so I was lulled into thinking it was ok for me to look away.  Rookie mistake.  I looked up and Laurel was gone.  We split up to find her perusing the clearance racks having chosen a new pair of very sparkly, very pink, 1 size too big, hello kitty, slip on shoes for herself.  When we found her she was clutching them to her chest and had her eyes closed in reverence.  She was in love.  I admired the shoes and calmly told her that it wasn’t her turn for new shoes and we needed to put them back.  She opened one eye and stated “IS my turn. MY shoes. YOU go.” and turned her back to me.  The three bigs were standing behind me and I could hear them start backing away and begin silently putting away the shoe boxes we were done with. Rhodes summed it up with an “Uh Oh”. They knew what was brewing.  I got down on my knees and softly asked her to put the pretty shoes back.  She started shaking her head as tears were rolling down her cheeks. I asked her one more time.  After she still didn’t move to put the shoes back I reached for them.  Before I could touch them she began shrieking. It was a sound straight from Hell. It was loud, high, and unending. The screaming was so disorienting I almost couldn’t figure out what had happened.  Laurel was backing into a storage room (still clutching her precious shoes and still shrieking) and looking at me as if I was coming to eat her. I grabbed her, grabbed my purse, and called to the bigs to get their shoes and meet me at the cashier.  Sweet little Rhodes had found a display of koosh balls and was quietly rummaging through the bin (we won’t discuss why a shoe store had these for sale). As I called for him to come with us to the register he began whimpering and whining for a ball.  At this point sweat was dripping down my back and Laurel was still shrieking while I held her horizontally across both my arms.  “OK, Rhodes.  Bring a ball.  Let’s just GO!” When I finally make it to the register the cashier asks if I would like her to put the Hello Kitty shoes away.  “No, No, I wouldn’t.”     Twins: 1    Mom: 0

“Never Will I Ever have a car so dirty it’s embarrassing… or a health hazard”.   In January I decided to get a car wash.  Before pulling in I made sure to stop at a gas station and do a quick clean up so I wouldn’t be too embarrassed when dropping it off.  After choosing a wash and paying I made my way to the waiting area which happened to be right next to the vacuums. I glanced over and saw that the man who had been vacuuming my car had stopped and was now pulling on gloves. I mentally shrugged my shoulders and assumed he must have been cold.  Then I paused and looked again… he hadn’t put on leather or wool gloves.  He’d put on LATEX gloves.  That’s right.  The carwash man had been so disgusted by the state of my captain’s chairs he’d felt the need to protect himself from communicable diseases. Guess who sits in that part of my suburban? My precious goldfish crunching, apple juice swilling, milkshake spilling, tissue needing toddlers.      Twins: 2  Mom: 0

  • “Never Will I Ever feel the need to host every playdate at my house for the rest of my children’s lives.”  When the twins were infants I usually invited friends to our house for playdates because it was more convenient.  I didn’t have to haul my giant twin nursing pillow to someone’s house.  When the babies were sleepy I could put them down in their own beds.  I didn’t have to worry about putting on real clothes.  Now I usually invite friends to our house for playdates because I have more control over the environment thus reducing the potential for humiliation. After finding myself in the following scenarios I’ve learned my lesson:
  • Twin locks themselves in bathroom
  • Twin found in teen’s bedroom trying on their new lip gloss
  • Twin rummages through refrigerator and helps themselves to pre-prepared lunch
  •  Twin found in bathroom brushing teeth with husband’s toothbrush
  • Twin grabs host’s coffee and pours onto pristine white carpet

Thank goodness my friends were gracious and able to see the humor in these situations.           Twins: 376  Mom: 0

Never Did I Ever think having two toddlers would be this hard… or this funny! I am so fascinated by these two little people.  While learning how to navigate this big world they are having two totally different reactions to the very same situations.  That is bound to leave this mama in some seriously crazy circumstances!

Tell me about a situation you never thought you’d find yourself in.  Ready to play Never Will I Ever?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Raising Readers

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Categories Development, Developmental Geekery, Language, Toddlers2 Comments

Spending time reading to children isn’t a matter of convincing parents whether or not to raise literate children. That’s a no-brainer in North America; either be literate or be left behind in this big, fast-moving world. Fostering a love of reading, and setting the foundation for kids to easily learn to read, that‘s what’s on the table.

Love of #reading. Setting a foundation for kids to easily learn. That's what's on the table. Click To Tweet

I get it: It’s the end of the day, you’ve wrestled your multiples (and maybe their siblings) into the bath, into their jammies, teeth brushed and into their bed. Why, oh why, throw a book into the mix? Why not call it a night, tuck them in and head downstairs for some much-needed adult time?

Whether you choose to incorporate reading into bedtime routine (which is common and easy to stick to) or throughout the day, reading daily to children as early as possible has substantial benefits. Anecdotally, I have seen kids learn sight words from repetitive rhyming books (like Dr Seuss). Academically, study after study supports early reading as a pathway to early reading and writing, language development, ability to focus and self-regulation. Many hospitals send new parents home with a book for baby, pushing home the point that reading is just as important as basic necessities like diaper changes and bathing. It is!

With my twin girls, their interests differ, but they have learned to wait their turns to sit in my lap, having me read (and re-read) their favourite books. I’ve noticed they frequently choose the same five or six titles for months at a time, so while I may be mind-numbingly under-stimulated, their little brains are firing away, developing at a rapid pace with each reading.

As twins, their language development has been slow, (which is common for multiples). Daily reading, asking them open-ended questions about the story and encouraging them to finish sentences they’ve memorized has helped tremendously. It’s a calm situation, they know the story, and are eager to please me by contributing their own thoughts and words, few as they may be. As they prepare to start kindergarten later this year, I am less nervous they will be behind in their slower-paced verbal development, because I see the spark of early, voracious readers.

It’s so easy: five, 10 minutes tops. Everyone has access to books, in any social situation (go to the library, borrow books, start your own collection). There are a great many books about twins geared towards all ages, and my girls love identifying themselves in the pages of twin stories. (for a list of twin books, see a past HDYDI post here). Find books that pique their interest, make it a habit, and watch your little readers soar.

 

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Gifts Even (Twin) Toddlers Can Make!

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Categories Activities, Celebrations, crafts, DIY, Lifestyle, Make-It Mondays, Preschoolers, School-Age, Toddlers1 Comment

Since our girls were about two, I’ve been working to involve them in our holiday gifts, at least in some small way.  I took a quick trip down Memory Lane to find pictures of some of our creations.

gift7Our longest-running tradition is gift tags.  The first one we did was a fingerprint wreath.  The girls finger painted big sheets of green.  I used a scallop punch to make a wreath shape.  I used a hole punch to make “berries”, and the girls glued the wreaths on red card stock for the berries to show through.

[The girls’ involvement has evolved over the years.  “Gluing” with a two-year old, at our house at least, meant that I used a tape runner to apply adhesive to the item to be glued.  I handed a piece at a time to the girls — nestled securely in their highchairs — to place where I pointed.  My girls are almost seven, and I finally (sorta-kinda) trust them with actual glue.]

Since then, we’ve used finger prints (using washable ink pads, which I LOVE!).  At four years old, the girls were old enough to make these reindeer themselves.  I love how different they all turned out!

gift4

The following year the girls made snowmen using non-toxic washable paint.  After the paint dried, they used markers to make the snowman’s features.

gift8

And this year we’re in the process of making penguins.  I love seeing some of our relatives keep these as ornaments year after year.

gift2We’ve also made gift bags.  I cut out the hat and mouth from card stock.  We used buttons for eyes, orange felt for a nose, and a bright rhinestone for the holly berry.  The girls glued everything onto a brown craft bag.  They were so proud to give these to family and friends!

And we’ve been making these gift card holders for a few years now.  I love the personal touch these add to the gift cards we give to the girls’ teachers.

gift6

And in the way of gifts, bookmarks have been big hits at our house.  We’ve done these several different ways.  When the girls were about 18 months old, they did some crayon scribbles, which I cut into strips…put the strips back to back (so they both had representation on the bookmark)…and had them laminated at the office supply store.  I punched a hole and let the girls choose a ribbon and a bead to top it off.  We’ve done similar bookmarks with fingerpaint and water colors.  Most recently, the girls in kindergarten, they wrote notes to each family member.

gift1I love my bookmarks so much.  They’re a great little token of the girls’ art ability, and they’re very functional, too.  Who can’t use a bookmark or two???

The girls look forward to our yearly projects.  I relish the opportunity to involve them in making something from the heart!

I’d love to hear what other mamas have done to involve their kiddos in gift-giving.  This is one of the great joys of my holiday season, for sure!

MandyE is mom to fraternal twin girls who will soon be seven.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

 

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Twin Toddlers: Wishful Thinking

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Categories Parenting, Toddlers2 Comments

I have recurring daydream.  It’s not reminiscent of fifty shades of whatever or spending the day at the spa alone.  It’s not having a chef and personal trainer.  It’s not being given the vacation of a lifetime or a shopping spree for a whole new wardrobe.  In my dream I’m gifted a service dog.  Yep, you read that right.  I want a twin wrangling, sanity saving, furry friend. I long for a gorgeous, well trained German Shepard named Gretchen.  I know I could hire a mother’s helper, but wouldn’t it would be so much simpler to just yell “Go, Gretchen!”?  Gretchen and I would be a team. We would work together to conquer this mess of toddlerness named Laurel and Rhodes.

There is nothing I hate more than the in and out routine associated with car seats.  It’s even more painful when there are two car seats to unfasten and refasten.  And let’s not even talk about how frustrating it is when the errand I’m running is quicker than it takes me to get both toddlers out of their car seats and buckled into their stroller (which is made so much harder because they insist on flopping around like catfish out of water).  If I had Gretchen she could stand guard over the twins while I ran my quick errand, or better yet, SHE could run my errand for me.  Gretchen could fetch my preschooler from his class and bring him to the car, she could mail the package, she could buy diapers.  Ok, maybe not buy diapers, but you get the drift.

Rhodes and Laurel are notorious for wandering away.  They don’t do this in the traditional toddler fashion where you see your child getting a little too far away and you can call to them.  My duo has mastered what I call the Ninja Stealth Wander.  I’ll give you an example that happened today.  I was checking out at the dentist office and the twins were literally standing on my feet.  Like right on my feet.  Hurting my toes.  I passed my debit card across the counter, looked down, and they were gone.  Poof! It hadn’t been more than 45 seconds since I’d seen them.  Right as I start to get alarmed a technician turns the corner with the twins.  She’d found them trying to get a drink from the water fountain.  Gretchen would have never allowed that to happen.  She would instinctively grab any toddler that wanders further than arm’s length away from me.  She would also know to grab any twin walking into a mud puddle, or accepting a blue snow cone.

How many times have you gotten situated to change a diaper or start the nap time routine only to find you’re missing one crucial item?  You know if you get up it means both toddlers will also get up and then you’ll have to play Catch the Twin all over again.  My ever helpful Gretchen would be able to bring me the blankey or the wipes in these situations.  This skill would also prove useful in the evenings when I’m just too exhausted to get the corkscrew or chocolate.

I freely admit that I rely on technology to entertain the masses when I get overwhelmed or have a task I really need to get done.  While this isn’t ideal, there are so many quality apps and videos available I never hardly feel any guilt over it.  Keeping the devices working and charged is a challenge for me.  With five kids in the family chargers get lost and screens get shattered on a semi regular basis.  It’s a frustrating and expensive problem.  In my daydreams Gretchen has the ability sniff out lost chargers and swoop in to catch devices before they hit the floor.

Having a toddler is hard.  Having twin toddlers (or more) is exponentially more difficult.  Feeling overwhelmed and inadequate seem to come with the territory.  While I may not have a Gretchen to relieve some of the stress, indulging in the occasional off the wall daydream and keeping my sense of humor help keep things in perspective.  This time is short. Try to roll with it and be kind to yourself. We are all doing the very best we can.

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Toddler Thursday: 8 Tips for Surviving Halloween with Toddlers

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Categories Holidays, Parenting, ToddlersTags , , 30 Comments

When my twins were toddlers I was incredibly excited about celebrating Halloween with them. They were finally old enough to walk and we would be able to go out and explore a handful of houses on our street before retiring home to give out treats to older kids.  What I wasn’t expecting was two entirely different Halloween experiences: one with a child who couldn’t wait to show off her costume to as many people as physically possible, basking over how cute everyone was telling her she was and another with a child who alternated between lying on the sidewalk refusing to move and trying to break inside the house of every place we visited (in one case making it most of the way down a hallway before he was apprehended and finally taken home).  Managing exciting, sugar fueled holidays with one child is hard enough….when you have multiples….

IMG_4533

Below are eight tips for surviving Halloween with young children (multiples or otherwise):

  1. Fill them up with a warm hearty meal (that they’ll actually eat) before they start filling up on candy.
  2. Try to meet their costume requests….get creative if you have to. It’s amazing how much you can impress a toddler with your ingenuity.
  3. If it’s going to rain….clear garbage bags can become excellent make-shift raincoats that ensure everyone can see their costume.
  4. Have extra adults on hand in case some of your children tire of Trick or Treating before others.
  5. Go out early…the closer it is to bed time, the more likely you are to have meltdowns.
  6. Be prepared for surprises.  Your child(ren) may decide that there is no way that they are going to wear the costume that they picked out themselves just two days ago.  Yes, it’s annoying, but it happens. The sooner you move on the better, trust me.
  7. Take breaks if you need to.  This is not an all or nothing situation.  There’s no rule that you can’t recharge for half an hour before heading back out.
  8. Remember to have fun, take lots of pictures and enjoy yourself!
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Toddler Thursday: Twin Toddler Travel Tips

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Categories Single Parenting, Toddler Thursday, Toddlers, Travel1 Comment

This post was originally published when my twin daughters were 2 and a half on my personal blog.

My twin daughters, aged 2, and I flew to Oregon and back, just the three of us, and the whole process was remarkably easy. Sure, we had a few hiccups, but I’d be happy to repeat the experience.

I think a number of things contributed to our positive experience.

The great

Southwest Airlines: The flight attendants on Southwest were just wonderful. On every leg of the journey, they helped me carry the car seats on and off the airplane. They were gentle with the girls, and praised them for being so obedient.

The first leg of the journey home was particularly noteworthy. The flight attendant, Laura, was an identical twin herself and has a 20-month-old and an 11-year-old. Whenever she wasn’t busy helping other passengers, she was chatting with the girls, keeping them entertained. She installed the car seats for me, told me about her relationship with her siblings, discussed parenting philosophies with me, and was just all around wonderful. Another attendant, whose name I didn’t get, walked us all the way out to the gate to wait for our next flight. This all went far beyond the call of duty, in my book.

GoGo Kidz Travelmate: This handy wheeled contraption attaches to the back of your child’s car seat, turning it into a stroller.

GogoKidz Travelmates make travel possible for the outnumbered parent.
The wheels snap off easily, and you don’t have to remove the back to install the seat in the airplane (although the manufacturers don’t recommend that). The security folks at the airport did take the Travelmates off the car seats, but they also reattached them for me. The Travelmates did away with need for a stroller and made it extraordinarily easy to transport the car seats through the airport, whether or not they contained children. Even my husband was impressed with them, and he usually laughs at my affinity for gadgets. The only downside is that there is not convenient place to store the wheels and the bar they attach to when they are removed. Fortunately, I was able to stick them in the overhead baggage compartment.

Car seats in the airplane: I never considered leaving the car seats at home or checking them, but once we got settled in our seats, I realized some benefits in addition to general safety. Since M and J are used to sitting in their car seats during our long commute, they knew exactly where to tuck their toys and sippy cups so that they would stay put. It gave them a great measure of comfort to be sitting side by side in their familiar seats. They almost thought it was a treat that I was able to interact with them and hold their hands, since my rule when I’m driving is that I can’t help them pick up toys or give them more snacks until we come to a stop.

Lollipops: I invested in a couple of packages of ring pops and brought a couple of extra lollipops along. Sucking on this candy helped little toddler ears adjust to the pressure changes of takeoff and landing, and kept both girls entertained.

Rolling backpacks: I bought the girls Disney princess backpacks that they could roll through the airport. When the kids were in the carseats, I just slung the backpacks over the Travelmate handles. I put a change of clothes in each backpack, as well as all the girls’ airplane activities and diapering supplies. The one tray table I had also fit inside the bag. I put a box of raisins in each bag for them to “discover” on the plane. I had them pack up their lovies into the front pocket of their backpack when we arrived at the airport, and put an empty sippy cup in a side pocket of the bag.

Stickers and notebooks: I handed M and J each a sheet of stickers and a plain notebook. They were given a clear admonition that stickers were not to be stuck anywhere but the pages of the notebook. This was all it took to keep J and M entertained for half an hour at a time. The smaller the stickers, the better, since it made it more of a challenge to peel the stickers from the sheet. J made up a matching game involving her stickers, matching them by colour and object.

Mini magnadoodles: These weren’t quite the hit the stickers were, but were good for 15 minutes of entertainment at a time. I ended up doing most of the scribbling, and the girls practiced identifying the letters I wrote out for them.

Lovies: Usually, the girls’ lovies, whom they call “Bee”, are limited to naptime and bedtime. For the course of the trip, however, I allowed free access to their Bees, which I think made them a lot braver and more comfortable in the airplane than they otherwise might have been. I did insist that Bees be packed up in the girls’ backpacks when we were in airports, because if we lost one, it would be the end of the world. They were handmade by my friend Suzanne; I can’t exactly run to the store for a replacement.

The okay

Movies: I took my laptop on the plane in lieu of a DVD player. I hadn’t tested my computer’s DVD playing abilities and discovered myself to be without sound. Mel and Jess didn’t mind, or even notice, in part because the first movie I put on was The Snowman, which has no dialogue. The movies gave them something to do, but I think we had enough other activities that we could have done without.

Star Kids Travel Trays: I had high hopes for these snack trays, but I only received one in time for the trip. Since the last thing I wanted was an argument over unfair treatment, I didn’t pull out the one tray table I had except on one leg of the trip, when Jess was allowed to hold the laptop on her lap. I think the tray table could have been very useful if the girls weren’t already accustomed to keeping themselves entertained in their car seats. The airplane tray tables don’t fit flat over our Britax Marathons, so if the girls had been using open cups, some sort of tray table would have been a must.

Books: I packed a couple of very small board books in the girls’ bags. Although they usually love books, they weren’t too interested in them during our flights. They only provided about 5 minutes of distraction between sticker adventures.

Washable crayons: I’m glad I had them along, but the kids didn’t even get around to pulling these out.

The hiccups

On the way there, M kept dropping things on the floor when she was done with them instead of handing them to me, meaning that I had to crawl on the floor in front of the seats to pick up her toys and trash. By the time we headed back to Texas, she’d seen her sister praised enough for handing me her things that she realized it would be a good idea to copy her. (Subsequent to this trip, it occurred to me that tying toys and the like to my diaper bag with ribbon would greatly simplify life, although there’s a strangulation hazard concern.)

Both girls threw brief tantrums on the way home, but they’d been woken at 4:30 am Pacific time and can be forgiven. Still, when one of them threw a full-on lying-on-the-floor drumming-her-heels tantrum at the gate in Phoenix, I wasn’t having it. I told her that if she didn’t stop screaming and stand on her feet by the time I counted to 10, she would get a spanking. Yes, I threatened a spanking in front of at least 100 hundred travelers, and was prepared to follow through. Perhaps someone would have called CPS on me. We’ll never know. I got to six, and she was good as gold.

There was at least one proponent of my flavour of discipline among the onlookers. From far back in the boarding line, I heard a man say, “She only had to get to six. Wow!”

Have you travelled alone with multiples? What worked for you?

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Traveling with Toddlers is Not an Oxymoron

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Categories Parenting, Toddler Thursday, Travel1 Comment

Road Trips in our family are a common occurrence. Our kids have been on road trips more often than they have been to the movies or to the grocery store it seems like. We have traveled the 5 hours to Disneyland to and from in 1 day or 1 weekend several times, and similar distances to visit family in Ut, AZ and Ca. But most notably we took my first set of twins when they were just barely 2 across the country. We drove 30 hours straight in the car and we only stopped at gas stations along the way. Oh yeah, and Mt. Rushmore was a pit stop for about 2 hours before we kept going.

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And, just this summer our family of 6 (kids aged 7 and 2.5) traveled across the country for 23 days and hit 23 states and nearly 7,000 miles.

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People think we are crazy. I think we are crazy. But, it was the most fun trip and best bonding time our family has ever had. It is doable. Don’t let a road trip with babies or toddlers frighten you! Frankly, I think it would be worse with teenagers :)

So here is my ultimate road trip guide:

TO DO:

  • Plan for 1 day at a time. What do your kids need for one day? That’s what you put in your diaper bag/front seat.  Food and drinks first, then diapers and wipes, then toys. You can always refill that bag later. I usually pack all my extra diapers, food, formula, etc. in a box or laundry basket.
  • LESS IS MORE! Your toddlers/kids really don’t need extra activities in the car just because they’ll be spending more hours there. Most things end up on the floor in 2 seconds flat! Then you have a tantrum because they dropped it!  Don’t give them anything until you really need to. (I’ll make a list of our road trip toys at the end).
  • Sing, talk and play! Make up games. None of that requires equipment.
  • Gas stops are toddler breaks. We always have 1 adult pump the gas and buy the food, and the other takes all kids to the bathroom and changes diapers, etc. We let them walk and run outside as much as they can. A few minutes is all they need. For a short day drive we stop once or twice at the most. Have a scout go in first to see if there is a diaper changing station in the restrooms! If not–stay at the car to change diapers. Front seats are trickier, but they do work especially if your toddlers are old enough to stand up. Use diaper cream as a barrier helps their little bums not hurt as much for long hours of sitting.
  • Prepare for emergencies.  We have been stuck  on the freeway stopped for hours, and had to change hotels at the last minute because of spiders and had kids projectile vomiting. It’s okay. It really is. What do you need for emergencies?
    • Triple AAA
    • Extra water and formula to make it if needed
    • Plastic bags to put soiled wipes/clothes
    • paper towels
    • disinfectant wipes
    • hand sanitizer
    • extra clothes in a tote bag
    • good phones and chargers
    • fill up with gas often
    • ziplock bags
    • tylenol, benadryl, etc (I just keep a first aid kit in my console always with band aids, neosporin, etc.)
    • You can never have too many wipes!! (for our 23 day trip, I brought 5 packages-1 in the car at all times, 1 in the backpack at all times, 1 in the clothes suitcase, and 2 in the laundry basket).
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  • Prepare your kids: Even young toddlers can understand what a road trip is sort of. We told ours we were going on a long trip and that they had to 1. get in their buckles and 2. sit nicely without screaming. If they did, they would get prizes. :)

DON’T:

  • Overpack-you can buy stuff at Walmart and gas stations. Do you have enough to feed your children for a few hours in case you get stuck somewhere? then you have all you need.
  • Plan too many stops. We plan for our stops to take about an hour. 1 stop for every 3 hours of driving
  • Never stop if someone is sleeping! Don’t even slow down… Trust me, you’ll regret it :)

FOOD:

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  • We let our kids eat in our car as long as it’s not something completely messy, but most of the time we stop and eat on trips. We find that it’s worth buying the fast food especially when we can split meals between our kids. Or we find restaurants where kids eat free. Finding a play place is a bonus. They can get their energy out while we eat and rest. :)  Usually my toddlers share one meal just fine. Sharing in the car is tricky, so I bought little trays from the dollar section at Target. I can divide up the food and they love eating out of the containers. I just would wipe them out with a disinfectant wipe and a little water afterwards :)
  • If we are staying in a hotel, we try to find ones with free breakfast included. 1 less meal to worry about. And if they load up on breakfast, their snack whining goes way down. 20150805_093637
  • I don’t give them many snacks in the car so they are hungry for meals.
  • Everyone has their own water bottle and we bring lots of water with us for refills. We refill at gas stations as much as possible.
  • You have to have some fun: Our go to family road trip snack is gummy worms. Trolli brand only :) If someone is cranky, we might just say, “you need a worm”
  • You don’t always have to eat poorly. We stopped at a gas station and my kids chose to have: a pretzel, cheese, veggie, fruit and yogurt meal. They turned down soda and juice most of the time. Whatever they eat at home they can eat on the road–it is doable.

SLEEPING: We have slept in hotels, friends’ couches, and grandparents’ houses which of course are the best

  • I’ve always used and brought 2 pack n plays with us. I know hotels tend to have cribs available, but a lot of the time they cost a fee, or are not really available.  I have a crib sheet and blankets already rolled up inside the pack n plays plus any stuffed animal so it is all ready to go. (It does all fit in there).
  • For hotels, we send one adult in to check in and bring out a cart. The other one unloads the car. We load it all onto the cart, have our kids hang on and off we go.20150402_182624
  • I pack all of our stuff into one bag. (just enough for 1 night).
  • Big kids are in charge of their own blankets and comfort sleeping items. We get a room with 2 queens. The big kids either share a queen or an adult each sleeps with one of the big kids to split them up if they’re too wild to sleep.20150403_084009 (This was just for fun. Toddlers sleep in pack n plays).
  • Every single hotel room we’ve found has room for 2 pack n plays
  • If we are at a friend’s house then our big kids each have a sleeping bag with a blanket and pillow wrapped up inside. They are in charge of it.
  • We also try to get hotels with an indoor pool or hot tub. I will stay and unpack/organize the hotel while my husband takes the kids swimming. Then everyone can bathe really quickly and get into fresh clothes before bed. Gets them away from jumping on the beds and making our neighbors mad :)

DRIVING:

  • We have always divided our duties up into driving or navigating. If you happen to have extra drivers, the other adult is the sleeper!  The driver drives. That’s it. No other duty. The navigator is in charge of GPS, taking care of the driver, temperature, music, and kid control. If everyone and everything is under control, they become a sleeper :)
  • We have found for days trips that you don’t need to worry about who drives when. Just decide whoever wants to. But for our longer trips we always switch at the 2 hour mark. It doesn’t matter if the driver wants to keep going, we switch. Our motto is: “No hero shifts.”

ACTIVITIES:

  • Yes, we use technology. Our SUV does not have a built in DVD player, but we invested in a portable one with 2 screens. For drives that are 6 hours or less, we just let them watch movies the whole time. They barely watch any tv during the week, so it doesn’t bother me to have them binge watch the whole time. The toddlers don’t have access to a screen though so they just get their normal stuff. (books, coloring, music, etc.)
  • For longer drives, they have to “earn” their movie time by reading, writing, or playing first before they can ask for screen time.
  • We started a point system which worked really well. I had a chart in a plastic sleeve protector taped to the dash that worked as a dry erase board. Every day I wrote the date and where we were going. (For a 23 day trip, it helped to keep everything straight!). Then they were able to earn points for activities such as: getting in their car seat buckles quickly, not whining, sleeping, throwing their trash away, etc.) Then they got to turn in their points for prizes (stickers, soda, gas station toys, etc). My 2 year olds loved this and every time they got in their carseats they would say, “I get a point!”
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  • For a short trip, I give each kid a bag with their stuff for the day. When it’s on the floor or used up, it’s gone. “Sorry.” I do ziplock bags with crayons and pencils. Glue stick and scissors for the older kids. I have a clipboard for each kid with plain paper and coloring sheets. Everyone gets a few books and one toy that is fun. That really is all they need.
  • For our long trip, I had 1 bucket in front with one day’s worth of activities and 1 bucket in back to refill the day bucket. That way they didn’t get board too easily. The best thing I did was get activities that could be thrown away! That way when they fell between the cracks or onto the floor-we just scooped them up at the gas stations and said goodbye.
  1. bubble wrap sheets if you can stand the popping :)
  2. aluminum foil sheets-kid(s are really creative. Ours had a snowball “fight”
  3. clothes pins and pipe cleaners (make butterflies, etc)
  4. window stickers
  5. paper for airplanes and creations
  6. glow sticks were great for night driving (flashlights too if they don’t distract the driver)
  7. balloons
  8. magnets

I hate dry erase boards! They are a nice thought, but the markers are permanent and even the washable ones are hard to get out!  Instead, magna doodles are the way to go. And it’s fun to use real magnets to trace on them too.  Remember, less is more!

MISC:

  • I would get a babysitter for 2 days before you go anywhere. These are the most stressful days-1 day for laundry, the 2nd day for packing. Get a friend who doesn’t mind taking toddlers for the day. That way you don’t have to use too much tv right before you have kids sitting in the car all day.
  • You don’t have to have another driver…I have done a few day drives by myself with all 4 kids! Yes, it is tough to drag two infant seats into a public restroom with 2 four year olds grabbing onto your back pockets, but I did it! I just had to make sure everyone had everything they needed before I started driving. If it fell, or was lost- too bad. Again, same rules as driving around town.
  • If you have young potty training, or fresh potty trained toddlers-never fear! You can still drive to Gma’s for Thanksgiving. Just throw in a toddler potty into the car. If there is a potty emergency, stop and have them squat on the road–I know, toddlers are stubborn and I’m dreaming right? the back of the car works, Pull Ups are great, or if there are accidents–that’s what the plastic bags are for. Just line the carseat before they get in and bring lots of changes of clothes :)
  • Naptimes get all messed up. I do different things depending on the situation. Most of the time I let them have their sleeping blankets/binkis if applicable in the car the whole time. No use putting up a fight. But, sometimes I’ve often saved them in the front and given it to them right at naptime. Even if they don’t sleep in the car, it still signals them for sleep and they can have a “rest”.  Same with bedtime. As soon as it gets dark, we start signaling them for bed. Get them in pjs at a rest stop (maybe), turn on lullaby music, give them blankets, etc.

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    SAMSUNG
  • Earplugs are great
  • Redbox is great…you can rent a movie at a gas station and return it in the next city
  • We drive the same route up to family a lot, so we know where there is a cheap pizza place we like. We call about 20 minutes before we get there, and lunch is served.
  • Backpacks-instead of my regular diaper bag, I put everything we need  the day in a good backpack–that way it can go from car to stroller to walking around Manhattan without having to juggle anything.
  • PJs–just make sure your kids are in comfy, weather appropriate clothes. If they fall asleep right before you get to a hotel-it should be no big deal to just put them straight to bed.
  • You do not have to play the Alphabet Game. It’s overrated. :)

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    SAMSUNG

PACKING: On any given trip, I will have:

  • a Backpack for a diaper bag
  • my personal tote for purse, books, tablet, phone chargers, etc
  • briefcase (my husband works on the road)
  • a tote with the day’s car activities in it
  • a basket with extra diapers, wipes, formula, toys, etc.
  • a suitcase that is packed for everybody (or 2 small ones). These stay in the car.
  • a duffle bag with our clothes and cosmetics for just that night to bring to the hotel (and a trash bag for laundry)
  • a mesh bag with our swimming stuff if applicable
  • a small cooler with water bottles and a few healthy snacks (we bring this to the hotel every night to put in the fridge).
  • an emergency car kit that always stays in there20150815_204018

Stashed in the console or under seats I have:

  • 1st aid kit
  • paper towels
  • batteries
  • chargers
  • pens/paper
  • gum/mints
  • stickers (I control those so it doesn’t get out of control)
  • everyone has a small travel pillow that is kept under the seats
  • I have stick on window shades, but if it’s really sunny, I keep extra baby blankets to hang from the windows
  • bungee chords always come in handy

 

Okay, that is a lot of information. Mainly if you are having a great time with your family-that is the most important!

I’ll never forget one of my favorite road trip moments:

I was pregnant and by myself with my almost 4 year olds. They had closed the freeway and I was almost out of gas. Needless to say, I was very anxious. But I was able to pull off to one of the only gas stations and fill up. Then I called my husband and he talked me through to an alternate route. So getting home took twice as long on a one way highway through the mountains, but we got home!

At one point, I had to pass a truck and it made me nervous since there was almost no shoulder, etc. I told my kids that they had to be totally quiet since Mommy was doing something “very important.” I whizzed past the truck and then it was smooth sailing after that. The kids were even especially quiet. Only about 30 minutes later, I heard a tiny voice from the back asking, “Mommy, are you still doing something important?”  I knew right then, like I’ve known all along, that I have good kids.

 

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Toddler Thursday: Sharing a Bedroom

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Categories Attitude, Development, Different Gender, Independence, Individuality, Joy, Lifestyle, Love, Mommy Issues, Multiple Types, Napping, Overnight, Parenting, Perspective, Preschoolers, Sleep, Toddlers4 Comments

After obsessively searching for about two years, my husband finally found us a new house. It isn’t too far from our current house, conveniently closer to our chosen dual-language elementary school, and in a nice quiet neighborhood of the foothills. It is a little larger than our current house (which is good because we’re bursting at the seams here), but still only three bedrooms. For a family of 5 with almost-3yo b/g twins, I was really hoping our next house would have four bedrooms, so that all the kids could have their own. With the cost of remodeling prior to move-in (gutting both bathrooms, building a laundry room, moving the water heater, updating electrical, refinish floors, new paint, etc), we are left with not much of a budget for what I really wanted: a bigger kitchen and another bed/bath. Those will have to wait until we can get plans drawn and a permit for the additions.

I was very disappointed that this was how it all worked out. In my mind, the whole point of moving was so my kids wouldn’t have to share bedrooms. All the labor of packing and managing a renovation just didn’t seem worth it if I couldn’t get what I really wanted. It’s true that remodeling this home instead of buying a move-in ready one makes it feel more our “own,” there’s been a lot of stress involved with money spent and making decisions, choosing finishes. Thankfully that’s all now starting to come to a close. I just decided on a floor stain today, after having chosen paint colors last week.

And I feel like I’m also starting to turn the corner on being disappointed on the lack of a fourth bedroom. At this point, I believe the only one who really wants to make sure all the kids get their own rooms is me. For sure the twins don’t care. They’ve literally been together all their lives, even before they were born.

There are times I certainly wish they wouldn’t keep each other awake during naptime, or wake each other in the middle of the night during an illness, but most often what I see is that the presence of their twin comforts them. They are always put to bed together, and always woken up (or left in) together. On the rare occasion that one sleeps longer/shorter than the other, and they become separated, they always look for and ask the whereabouts of the other. Every day I hear their conversations before they fall asleep and when they wake up.  There is talking and giggling, singing and dancing, squeals and jumping. If a strict can’t-get-out-of-bed-during-sleep-time wasn’t imposed (I just transitioned them into toddler cribs), they’d probably be in each other’s beds. I’m not sure they would be able to verbalize their closeness right now, but I know their separation would definitely cause them anxiety, especially during such a vulnerable time as sleeping. It would be too scary. Perhaps they need a few more years together for that security and comfort.

Also, so many big changes are taking place in our lives right now with the move coming up, Big Sis starting kindergarten, and little ones beginning preschool that I’m wary about giving them any more to deal with. I now think that even if we did have a fourth bedroom, I would not be separating the twins just yet. I think it will be a while before they will ask for their own privacy and space. It may be many years before we move them into their own bedrooms. I’ve come to see that this is the connection between twins, and that it doesn’t diminish their independence nor hamper their development in any way. And it’s actually a pretty amazing thing to have in our family.

lunchldyd is sad her days have been filled with contractors instead of fun with her kids (and posting on hdydi).

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