Twinsters: A Movie Review

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Categories Adoption, Book Reviews, Identical, Multiples in the News, PerspectiveLeave a comment

Imagine that a friend sends you a Youtube link to check out. You open it only to find that it features you… except that you never did what you see in the recording. There’s someone out there who looks and moves exactly like you. Could you possibly have a long-lost twin?

This is how Anaïs learned that she might have a biological sister. Samantha was adopted from South Korea when she was and raised across the Atlantic Ocean. The story of how Anaïs and Samantha learned of each other, connected, and eventually met is shared with us in intimate documentary form in Twinsters, currently streaming on Netflix in the US.

Twinsters Movie flier. A remarkable story of identical twins separated at birth.

My 11-year-old identical twin daughters and I watched this movie together. We knew all along that the two young women would confirm through DNA testing that they were identical twins. Still, we were swept up in the suspense as they waited for answers.

As we got to know Samantha and Anaïs, one American, one French, both adopted, both artists, my daughters couldn’t help but reflect on their own relationship, a connection they hold sacred and special. In one of her frequent jaw-dropping insights, M wondered out loud whether twins raised apart might become more alike than those raised together. After all, she pointed out, they don’t have the same pressures on them to claim their unique identities. She’s well aware that both she and her sister sometimes make choices simply to be different from one another.

Although you might be tempted to head over to Netflix immediately to watch this movie with your young children, I offer a word of caution. Samantha has a foul mouth, and Anaïs’ isn’t much better. There is a lot of casual profanity in this movie, so if that is something that bothers you, save Twinsters for the grownups. My kids are mature enough to know that hearing F-bombs used by others doesn’t make using them acceptable in our family. They had already had exposure to these words at school. (In fact, the only profanity allowed in our home, by order of my daughter J, is “Brad Dingleman.” Jenny Lawson fans will get the reference.) Still, we discussed how uncomfortable her language made us feel and I reiterated that her swearing choices made it harder for us to connect with her.

Twin expert Nancy Segal, who has been kind enough to guest post for us in the past, plays a prominent role in helping Anaïs and Sam find answers. Her understanding of twin relationships, in all their guises, has literally filled books. Even more than her presence on the screen, her understanding of twin relationships and what can make them so wondrous is apparent throughout the film.

One huge thing we loved about this story is that it wasn’t just about discovering twin identity. The young women also explored their identities as adoptees, as South Korean in name only, as infants given up by a woman who still insists that they were never born to her. They reconnected with the Korean women who fostered them as infants. They don’t share a language with these women, but they do share love, compassion, and gratitude.

While not a primary focus of Twinsters, we also get some insight into how Sam and Anaïs’ families deal with the shock of discovering that they have another family member out there. Obviously, families with adopted children are already ready to open their hearts to atypical relationships. Nonetheless, my heart warmed at seeing the way in which Anaïs gained not only a sister, but all her sister’s brothers too. I can’t even imagine the feelings the parents had, realizing that there was another child out there that could have easily been theirs.

The thing about real life is that it doesn’t have neat endings. The circumstances of their birth and the reasons they were split up continue to be mysteries to Anaïs and Sam. Sam embraced the exploration of her history more easily than Anaïs, for whom adoption presented a greater trauma than it did for Sam. In each other, though, they both found healing and joy.

Take the time watch Twinsters (without the kids, please) and let us know what you think!

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And the WINNERS are…

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Categories Book Reviews, Infants, Pregnancy1 Comment

Thank you to all who read, commented, liked, and shared our review of Twinspiration, the fabulous new edition by Cheryl Lage!

Twinspiration is a fantastic resource for expecting and new MoMs (and Double Daddies)!

[I can’t type that without saying, WHY didn’t someone put a copy of this book in my hands when I was pregnant with my twins???  I know without a doubt it would have calmed a lot of my fears, made me feel more in control…and made me feel a little less CrAzY a time or two!!!]

Now…without further ado…the WINNERS of the signed copies are…

Amy P.

Brenda H.

Ingrid S.

CONGRATULATIONS!!!  

Cheryl will be in touch with you directly to get your contact information.  And I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did!

And please continue to share the word about Twinspiration!  What a blessing it is for the multiples community!

~MandyE

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Twinspiration: Book Review and GIVEAWAY!

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Categories Book Reviews, Infants, Parenting, Parenting Twins, Pregnancy, Toddlers10 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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Lumi Finds Her Light: Free for You Until November 10

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Categories Book Reviews, Books, Giveaway2 Comments

Ever been in a rut?

There are times in my life when I just go through the motions. In graduate school, although my area of study was deeply interesting, I didn’t feel the glow that came with doing what I was put on the earth to do. I was just doing; I wasn’t living.

I felt dim.

Today, I’m living. Working single motherhood in the suburbs, and all that entails, lights me up from my toes to the ends of the hair. Who could have ever guessed that was my purpose?

Don't apologize if motherhood is what lights you up... or if it isn't.

When I present a new idea to my daughters and their peers and see it click, I feel that glow. When I write to you here, reaching out to the multiple birth parent community, I feel that glow. When I catch a bug in the software I test before it can cause trouble for a customer, I feel that glow. I count myself among the lucky women who have found our light.

Last weekend, my daughters and I met Sandy Parker, author of Lumi Finds Her Light. She told me that her inspiration for the book was all the women who feel “a bit dim”, who may have given up on even seeking the thing that makes them light up. It was obvious that inspiring others to find their passions is what lights Sandy up.

She’s so passionate, in fact, that she’s offering the Lumi Finds Her Light app free (iTunes/Google Play). It’s free to everyone, everywhere through November 10. It’s essentially an electronic copy of this sweet book, complete with audible narration. Send a text to 22828 with the word LUMI. That’s all it takes. Get a copy for your kids. Tell your friends.

Get the Lumi Finds Her Light book app for free through November 15, 2016.

 

About the book

Lumi Finds Her Light: The Inspiring Story of Being YOU! is the sweet story of Lumi, a firefly who doesn’t yet glow. She has a supportive mother, but feels incomplete as she watches her peers find their lights. She hates being the last one to mature. Eventually, she finds what it is that makes her light up, just as we all hope for ourselves and our children. The pictures draw kids in, and parents connect to the subtext.

Meeting the author

Sandy’s blogger event at Genuine Joe Coffeehouse was intimate and sweet. There were four moms there, plus the author, and 3 of us had our kids with us for a total of one 2-year-old, two 7-year-olds, and two 10-year-olds. While the book itself was a little babyish for my 5th graders, they immediately caught on to the message and saw its value.

It took about 10 seconds for Sandy to realize that the idea of “mischief” was what made my Twin B light up. In fact, the author managed to drop that word into conversation multiple times just to see Twin B transform into light.

Author Sandy Parker reads her book Lumi Finds Her Light to kids in Austin TX

Sandy wants to start a movement, encouraging all people to seek their light.

I’ll admit that while they enjoyed meeting Sandy, my daughters were far more taken with the glow in the dark experiments hosted by Mad Science Austin. One of my girls left with a recipe for her own phosphorescence experiment. And how adorable are those lightning bug mason jar cookies Crumbs by Jules? They taste as good as they look, too.

 

Sandy was kind enough to give us an autographed copy of her book. I look forward to sharing it with kids–and moms–who could use a boost.

Get a free copy

Now, go and get your copy of Lumi Finds Her Light free.

Get the Lumi Finds Her Light book app for free through November 15, 2016.

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National Reading Day: Books About Twins

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Categories Book Reviews, Books, Parenting Twins4 Comments

Books About Twins As a past elementary school teacher (having taught kindergarten, 2nd, and 4th), it’s no surprise that I love books. I prided myself on having one of the largest (and most organized) classroom libraries in our school. When I left teaching to be a mom to Audrey and David, I brought all of those books home with me! One thing that was missing, however, was books about twins! In the past year, I’ve been on the hunt for books about multiples for our children. As a way to celebrate National Reading Day today, here is what I found:

In my searching, I also found some books for adults:

Do you have any favorite twin books? Share with us in the comments!

My Random Musings
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Review: “The Birthday Triplets: Granny Rosie’s Amazing Magical Day”

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Categories Birthdays, Book Reviews, Books, Parenting6 Comments

I don’t have a hard count, but I’d guess we have upwards of 500 children’s books at our house.  I have the majority of books from my childhood, and I cannot resist buying books for the girls.  When I think about our vast library, though, there are only a handful of stories that relate in any way to multiples.

TheBirthdayTriplets Book CoversmallWhen the author of “The Birthday Triplets: Granny Rosie’s Amazing Magical Day” contacted us at How Do You Do It?, I jumped at the opportunity to review the book.

The Birthday Triplets are Candi, Cookie, and Coco, three vivacious little girls who abound with love and joy.  Set amid lively, colorful artwork, and fun, rhyming text, I knew my twin girls would be mesmerized with the story.

The story opens with a very lovely, but sad Granny Rosie.  Granny Rosie specializes in stirring up adventures in her whimsical adventure factory, but she laments that she hasn’t been able to cook up an adventure to keep her from being alone on her birthday.

Page15-1
I love how the text is part of the picture, too!

At last Granny Rosie happens upon a forgotten adventure recipe, one that invites her to her own birthday party!  Granny Rosie begins to measure and stir…until…she is surprised at a huge BLAST!  She thinks she’s made a mistake, until she hears giggles.  She’s swept away from her factory by three giant balloons, who soon reveal themselves to be The Birthday Triplets!

Candi, Cookie, and Coco arrive just in the nick of time to help Granny Rosie celebrate her birthday!  After much joyous dancing and singing, The Birthday Triplets hatch a plan to help Granny Rosie bring birthday adventures to anyone feeling sad or blue.

The girls head home – in a magical cloud, no less! – to Granny Rosie’s cottage.  Granny Rosie tucks them into their beds, with visions of new adventures dancing gleefully in their heads.Triplets_inbed

The story itself is incredibly sweet and fun, underscored by the qualities of kindness, empathy, bravery, and being your best self.  The artwork is truly magnificent.  I can’t help but be reminded of what the most beautiful candy shop must look like in the eyes of a child, the perfect embodiment of her vivid imagination.

And as a twin mom, my favorite part of the book is when Cookie finds herself afraid at flying home in Granny Rosie’s magical cloud.  She is immediately comforted by her sis Candi’s hug and wise words:

But we’re always together – we’re there for each other forever and ever.  Cookie, try to be brave.  You’ll see it’s alright.  Hold onto my hand as we fly through the night.”

Sweetness.

2014 birthdaytimesv13“The Birthday Triplets: Granny Rosie’s Amazing Magical Day” is the first in what will be a series of birthday adventures starring Candi, Cookie, and Coco.  The next book is scheduled to release this fall.  In the meantime, kids of all ages can connect with The Birthday Triplets via their Facebook page.  (Be sure to sign up to receive cards from The Triplets on your kiddos’ birthdays!)  And through The Birthday Triplets’ website, kids can also sign up for the The Birthday Triplets Times newspaper.

The hardcover book is available through The Birthday Triplets website, and the softcover is also available through Amazon.

I am thankful for the opportunity to have written this review, and to have added another book with a multiples theme to our library.   In exchange for writing this review, I received a copy of The Birthday Triplets book.  Well, and I got to engage in a fun email conversation with the author, Kelly Tooman.  [I think it’s so cool that she and her mom, Lynn Tooman-Cser, work as a mother-daughter writer-illustrator team.  And that, of course, got me thinking about how amazing it would be to team up with my dynamic duo one day…but I digress.  :)  ]  The views expressed here are my own.

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

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Stepmonster – A Book Review

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Categories Book Review Theme Week, Book Reviews, Co-parenting, Divorce, Family, Marriage, Parenting, Single Parenting, Step-parentingLeave a comment

Stepmonster

Angela talked about one aspect of children and marriage in her post this morning. When you and your spouse have children together, it becomes far more challenging to balance your priorities and give your marriage the attention it needs. There’s another place where children and marriage intersect: step-parenting. When you fall in love with someone who is already a parent, or when you’re a parent who falls in love anew, the stepparent role is a difficult one to navigate.

About Stepmonster

Review of Stepmonster from a mom trying to help her kids with their father's remarriageWednesday Martin’s book Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do can help. As you can tell, this book is targeted at women. There’s a real reason for that. While being a stepfather is no walk in the park, stepmothers are burdened with impossible cultural expectations and tropes. Our children grow up thinking of Snow White’s as the archetype of a stepchild, the witch-queen as the model of a stepmother. That’s a hard narrative to overcome. The title of the book is a reference to this perception of stepmothers. When we hear “stepmonster” we often can’t help but envision a stepmonster.

Martin is herself the stepmother of two who has managed to make it work, although it hasn’t been easy. As she writes in the introduction to Stepmonster, “Step-hell was for stepmonsters, and I wasn’t going there. Until I was.” She talks about how integrating a stepmother and stepchildren is inherently disruptive. The husband/father will get caught in the middle, especially if the children had been accustomed to having his time and attention to themselves.

Martin points out that most research and writing on integrating existing children into a new marriage focuses on the children. The effort to make things work is expected to come from the stepmother. Little heed is paid to the stepmother’s needs and challenges. Any failure in a stepmother/stepchild relationship is blamed on the stepmother, although I think all of us know that our children are not always angels. A stepmother is not a mother. Yes, there are occasions in which a stepmother fills the role of adoptive mother, but these are rare compared to the stepmother who doesn’t quite have the right to discipline the children, the stepmother who is expected to love her stepkids as her own even though there’s no expectation that they should love her in the way their love their own mother.

Possibly my favourite passage from the book is this one. It captures so well the unrelenting complexity of divorce, children and remarriage.

Though well-intentioned, the increasingly widespread belief that remarriage with children should be child-centric and change-free as possible can lead to stress for everyone involved. It is easy to see how it might be stressful for the woman with stepchildren. But research also shows that high levels of closeness and involvement between exes are as confusing and counterproductive for children as are high levels of conflict. Children are likely to wonder, “If you like each other so much and get along so well, why did you get a divorce?” and feel profoundly perplexed about what exactly makes a good relationship.

Why I Read Stepmonster

I wasn’t the target audience of this book. It is intended for stepmothers and stepmothers-to-be. I picked it up, however, for insight into how I could ease my daughters’ relationship with their father’s new (and now ex-) wife.

My kids hadn’t really even begun processing the reality of my divorce when their father remarried. We divorced in June of 2012, he moved in with his new girlfriend in September, and they were married in February of 2013. I needed to make this okay for my kids. I had reached out to my ex’s then-girlfriend, mother to mother, she having two young daughters of her own. We needed to put all four children first in this messy family reorganization. She was wonderfully receptive, but I didn’t feel like I could talk to her about my kids’ treatment of her without disrespecting my ex’s boundaries. So, I did what I do, looked for blogs and books that would help me understand the other side of this story. Stepmonster was the answer.

What I Learned from Stepmonster

Stepmonster has a lot of lessons for the brand new stepmother or the woman considering getting serious with a partner who already has children. A stepmother is not the stepchild’s mother. It’s okay not to have the unconditional adoration of a mother. A stepchild is not a stepmother’s child. It’s okay for the child not to have the love and trust in his stepmother that he has in his mother. The father/husband has a role to play. It’s not fair or appropriate to expect stepmother and stepchild to figure out where the boundaries lie. A father/husband has an active responsibility in making things work, respecting his new wife’s need for respect and boundaries, understanding his child’s misgivings about this replacement of her mother.

What I took away from this book was the role I could play. Martin didn’t really spell it out, but reading between the lines, I could see that I needed to do everything in my power to avoid feeding the stepmonster image of stepmotherhood.

I talked to my ex’s girlfriend, letting her know that I recognized that she would be an important part of my children’s lives, asking how I could help. I thanked her for every gesture she made to bring my children within her family, and she made many. She even went toe-to-toe with my children’s father, insisting that they needed to feel like they always had a place in their home, even if they were there only rarely. She insisted that they be allowed to have toothbrushes at their apartment. She set up a second bunk bed in her daughters’ room with my daughters’ names on it. She took my daughters to visit her parents at Thanksgiving, and her mom treated them no differently from her own granddaughters.

I’m not a jealous type, so that came easily. I know that some mothers fear that a close bond between children and their stepmothers threatens the mother-child bond. I just don’t see it that way. My kids have plenty of love for both each other and me. Why couldn’t they love their stepmother too?

In part, I’d learned from my own experience as a stepchild. Well, I’ve never knowingly met my stepmother of 20ish years, so perhaps it’s overstating it to call myself a stepchild. But I do know that the bitterness and venom that my mother spewed about my father’s girlfriends and the woman he eventually married did nothing but make me resent my mother and perceive her as being petty and selfish. It certainly didn’t make me love or trust her more.

I promised myself that I would not allow myself to feed into what Martin calls the “typical stepmother conundrum”: “the husband’s ex who wants it both way, giving us responsibility but not granting authority.” It was easy to keep boundaries with my ex; I was accustomed to taking care of business without his help, since he’d been deployed overseas for half our marriage. I was always the one who fixed plumbing issues and sealed the countertops, so I didn’t look to him for that stuff, although there was one time while we were waiting out the 90 days for our divorce to be finalized that he helped me look for my keys. (The cat had decided that they were toys and shoved them under a stool.) Our boundaries weren’t without issue, however. Our elderly neighbours were irate on observing me packing up my house to move without my ex helping watch the kids or lift some of the heavier boxes. I didn’t know 80-year-old Hispanic women possessed the colourful language I heard on that subject!

When There’s Another Divorce

Martin cites the following statistics: the divorce rate for couples in which one partner comes in with a child or children is 65%. When both partners already have children, it’s a depressing 70%. Only 5% of survey respondents considered stepchildren to be an asset to their marriages.

Stepmonster gives some advice on beating those odds. Just as in our post Finding Time for Romance When You Have Kids this morning, she argues that the marriage has to come first. Time alone is essential. Convincing your partner of this isn’t easy, but it’s critical. Having a child together is a wonderful thing, but it won’t decrease tension at all. It will increase it. A stepchild might adore his half-sibling, but that doesn’t mean he won’t resent what that sibling represents.

Unfortunately for me and my daughters, there wasn’t much in Stepmonster to help guide me on how to handle Daddy’s second divorce in less than 2 years with my kids. When J expressed her disappointment at the loss of her stepmother and stepsisters, Daddy told her, “You just need to forget them.” I knew that wasn’t the answer. I didn’t need a book for that! I reached out to my ex’s new ex and asked her if she’d be willing to maintain casual contact between her daughters and mine. She agreed.

On the bright side, post-divorce isn’t nearly as much work as a good marriage!

Any stepmothers out there? Does this book sound like something you’d want to read?

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.

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Finding Time for Romance When You Have Kids

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Categories Balance, Book Review Theme Week, Book Reviews, Books, Marriage, Parenting, RelationshipsTags , , , , , , 2 Comments

Marriage. Complicated at best even before you have kids. Add some multiples in the mix, and hey, let’s just say ‘ain’t nobody gettin’ lucky for awhile ’round here’.

LifeHacker.com recently posted an infographic with some interesting statistics on what makes a marriage happy, so this is definitely a hot topic. In fact, they said that the happiest couples are the ones without kids and that satisfaction levels in marriage drop for 67% of married persons.

Ouch.

So, when you have multiples (or kids in general), how do you keep your marriage relationship healthy? How do you find the time for romance? Well, with today being Valentine’s Day, we here at HDYDI figured we’d offer up some advice.

Before we dive into the juicy tips, I want to share a few resources we’ve found that can help in spicing up your marriage (did you see our giveaway today!?!) and having a healthy marriage after kids.

Healthy Marriage Resources

Books

{affiliate links}

Internet Resources

Alright, let’s get to the tips!

Romancing the Marriage…

Ldskatelyn was sick of not going on regular dates with her husband, and tired of asking the question “what should we do?” when the opportunity for a date night did appear, often resulting in the super over-done dinner and a movie date. So, for Christmas 2012 she planned out a year of date nights for her husband – 24 dates, 1 date night in and 1 date night out each month. All he had to do was pick the day! While some of the planned dates didn’t happen on schedule, or were switched with other dates, or included the kids, she ended up having way more date nights than she would’ve had otherwise. She especially found that date night ins were a great thing to have planned, especially since you can’t always afford the time or the cost of getting out, and it sure beat just watching movies or TV shows every night. For a look at what date nights she planned over the course of her year and how you can make your own ‘year of dates’, check out this post.

Not having family close-by, or a budget to hire a sitter very often, MandyE and her husband enjoy date nights “in” to stay connected with each other. For inspiration, they often think back to what they enjoyed together before their girls were born. While they haven’t made it to a college football game in the past five years, one of their favorite “dates” is to set up a tailgating event, complete with all their most-loved appetizers… even if it means watching the big game on tape delay. They find it’s a meaningful way to relax and remind themselves how much they enjoy each other’s company. See more of her date night ideas here.

SarahP understands that some people have a hard time leaving new babies. She says you should take people up on their offers to watch your kids and get out with your spouse (she’s really big on regular dates). Hanging out at home is great too, but actually leaving your home to do something together is also really vital. She encourages parents to change up their dates too. Do you want to be adventurous by exploring food you’ve never had before? What odd-ball Groupons are available? If you always go out to eat, maybe do something like ice skating or bowling. Do things that help you get to know the area you live in better. She’s very adamant that married couples should be spending quality time with their spouses, and it’s made a big difference in her marriage.

DoryDoyle shares an article on her blog about Love and Marriage and Parenting Twins. This is her first year of marriage with babies in tow, and she wanted to reflect on how to keep her marriage strong while raising twins. She shares that the statistics for couples raising multiples isn’t encouraging, and that it’s important to keep an eye on your relationship-meter. She gives 9 great tips on things she and her hubby do to have both a solid marriage (including romance!) and have fun parenting.

Marissa explains that because of her situation (complex medical needs), she and her husband really couldn’t both be gone that first year. So they did the next best thing – had a sitter come over and stay upstairs while they enjoyed take-out and a movie downstairs. No baby monitor to distract them either, because they were still right there in case of a medical need.

One of our newest contributors, MariTherrien says it’s the little things that matter. A quick backrub or playing with her hair the way she likes. Remembering your first date-iversary with a card, getting your partner’s favorite coffee or little treat at the store. Romance doesn’t always have to be movie-like grand gestures. When you do the little things you send the message that s/he matters!

They’re right. Going out on dates with your spouse – finding that time time bond – is pretty important. But, today is Valentine’s Day already, so how are you going to put together something that will show your spouse you’re serious about this romance thing?

Here’s what I did this year (see pic below). I made mine on HeritageMakers.com, but I also designed some free printable coupons where all you have to do is fill in the blanks and give  it to your spouse. It’s a cute idea that will start getting you on the right track towards adding that romance back in.

valentines gift love coupons

More Than Just Romance…

Now, romance is great and all, but let’s face it, there are other things that are also important to keeping a marriage healthy, like communication.

Sadia emphasizes that a marriage takes two, and it’s about more than just romance (although, that certainly helps!). She gives these tips:

  • ALWAYS say “I love you.” And always mean it.
  • Listen to understand, not just to respond.
  • Acknowledge your partner’s efforts, no matter how small.
  • Choose to be in love every single day.
  • Nurture your partner’s values, even if you don’t share them.
  • Don’t try to be everything to your partner. It’s okay for them to have friends to share certain interests with.

RebeccaD has one add-on to Sadia’s list above: figure out how to manage your own stress. Raising twins is STRESSFUL, especially the first year. If you don’t know how to manage it positively (or if you’re in need of new strategies now that time for workouts, spa dates, and sleep is nil), it will come out negatively at the nearest available adult—namely, your spouse.

I agree with them. Ever flown before? In the event of an emergency, you’re supposed to put on your air mask first, then help your children. Why? Because if you pass out while trying to help them, then you’re both doomed. And that’s the thing. The biggest piece of advice we can give you today:

Take care of your marriage first (or at least make it a strong priority), and parenting will fall into place.

When Romance & Marriage Just Aren’t Working…

This couldn’t go without saying, so here’s a side note from us HDYDI moms that have had a marriage end: We realize that not every marriage is a happy one, even if you’ve tried the above suggestions. So, if one spouse decides that they want out and has no interest in making things work, it’s time for both of you to put the children first and minimize the anguish of what is an unavoidably heartbreaking situation. Don’t get vindictive. Don’t get mean. Help your children know that they will never have to choose between their parents. You can’t convince someone to stay in a marriage after their commitment and heart have left it.

How do you keep your marriage strong and your romance alive? Tell us your tips and let’s all have a happier Valentine’s Day!

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The Foster Parenting Toolbox – A Book Review

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Foster

The The Foster Parenting Toolbox is precisely what it says, a collection of tools for parenting foster children. While the sections of the book are specific to foster situations, there’s a lot of parenting wisdom in this book that applies more generally to raising children.

Over 100 contributors wrote short pieces to contribute to this bulky tome of 446 pages. The style and tone of the pieces vary, from the first hand account from an experienced foster mother about her first foster experience to data-based treatises from academics and case studies from social workers.

A mother of twins reviews The Foster Parenting ToolboxThe book is divided into themed sections, most about 20 pages longs and each containing several related pieces.

  • Why Foster
  • Perspectives
  • Transitions
  • Teamwork
  • Birth Family Connections
  • Loss, Grief & Anger
  • Attachment & Trust
  • Trauma & Abuse
  • Family Impact
  • Discipline
  • School Tools
  • Parenting Teens
  • Nurturing Identity
  • Allegations
  • Respite & Support
  • Reunification, Adoption & Beyond

Obviously, some of these sections don’t apply at all unless you are a foster parent or are considering fostering. I’ll talk about those first.

Content Specific to Foster Parenting

I’ll admit that I wasn’t completely sold on become a foster parent when I picked up this book. There was a particular child I knew in need of foster care, and I hoped to foster, perhaps adopt him. It didn’t end up working out; he is instead in his grandmother’s custody. I figured that would be the end of any thought of fostering, but I leafed through the book anyway since I’d ordered it.

By the time I’d finished the 11 pieces in this “Why Foster” section, I was sold on fostering. It didn’t hurt that the tenth story was one of identical twins boys fostered because of neglect who were ultimately adopted by the author. That’s how you get to me: a story of a child in need with a happy ending, and twins at that.

I had a lot of questions about the financial realities of fostering. The articles that address this issue are refreshingly honest. Caring for a child costs far more than the stipend a family might receive for fostering that child. I would need my finances in order before I would want to register as a foster mother.

I had hoped for more guidance from the book on talking to the children I already have about the realities of foster care, but found myself going alone on that. Issues of sibling integration are woven into many of the first-person stories, but I would have loved a section devoted to this. The focus of the book is certainly on foster children, although it touches on life after foster care in foster-to-adopt situations.

General Parenting Advice

There is no section of the book intended to provide generalized parenting advice, but the anecdotes, recommendations and research on helping the most vulnerable children in our society can be brought to bear on parenting our forever children too. For instance, I find myself sitting quietly with a screaming child (my own and others’) just to let him or her know that I’m there for whenever they’re ready to talk. Before I read this book, I would have spent more effort to trying to reason and be heard over the screaming.

I found reading through parts of the Trauma and Abuse section very difficult, but still healing for the little girl inside me who still hurts from the emotional and verbal abuse of my childhood. I felt a little less alone and wanted to reach out to the children just coming out of those situations to let them know that there is happiness and security on the other side.

Overall

I haven’t read the book from cover to cover. This is another one of those resources that makes the most sense to approach from the index for inspiration in dealing with specific challenges. Having read selections, though, I feel more knowledgeable about what foster parenting would really be like. Of course, the proof will be in the pudding, if a foster child or children do enter our family some day. I hope they do.

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 atAdoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

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A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children – A Book Review

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Book review from a mother of identical twins, both identified as gifted

By the time my children were born, I felt fully capable of raising two little girls, whatever their personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. When they proved to be rather bright, I relished the gift of being the one to guide and nurture their curiosity and insights. My daughters’ daycare teachers were wonderful, encouraging them to explore, providing them just the right level of challenge, and introducing academic learning in a way that made it fun.

It wasn’t until kindergarten that it occurred to me that J and M’s intellectual gifts might present a challenge when it came to fitting into mainstream education. Thanks to their school in El Paso, I learned that their giftedness challenged the status quo. I was going to have to learn to be not just the mother of M and J, who happen to be smart, but to be a Mother of Gifted Children.

I confess that I fought the labels. Why couldn’t my kids just be kids? I could challenge them intellectually at home if the school couldn’t.

I finally gave in and bought A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children. It sat on my bookshelf for a while. When I finally cracked the spine, I wished I’d done so earlier.

My daughters, I learned early in the book, could be described as being at the lower end of the “profoundly gifted” category. As I read through dire warnings of teachers who don’t know what to make of gifted children, I was ever more appreciative of their teachers this year. While my girls have little to say about the research projects they’re working on with their Gifted and Talented teacher, they’re constantly bubbling with news of the extra lessons both their “regular” teachers teach them throughout the day, whether they’re done early with an assignment or seeking more excitement on a test than the basic instructions offer. Both teachers actually spend time with my daughters after school, while I’m still at work, giving them enrichment exercises, feeding their curiosity, and encouraging them to pursue their intellectual interests. I know, we are blessed beyond anything I could ever repay.

I was embarrassed to see myself described in early chapters of A Parent’s Guide to Gifted Children, the mother who underplays her child’s gifts, claiming that a child is merely a good test taker and not “special” in any other way. I find myself fighting for equity between my daughters by explaining away the small ways in which M is stronger in math and J in critical analysis. When my daughters’ teacher presented their test scores to me, I tried to explain away M’s slightly higher scores. I, proponent of treating all people as individuals, was trying to force my two children into a single mold.

In the early chapters of the book, it served more as a self-help book for me than a guide to dealing with my kids’ above average intelligence. I appreciated the very first words of the introduction: “The Importance of Parents.” I’ve never been one to believe that it is the school’s job to raise my children. Given my kids’ smarts, sending them to school is primarily to help them develop their social skills. I had high hopes for the school I chose for them, but I really lucked out in having several teachers in the dual language program who are committed to nurturing each child in the class as an individual. I’m glad that the girls’ teachers push them, but if they didn’t, filling in that space would be my responsibility, not the school’s.

Unlike some of the other book reviews I’ve written this week, I don’t feel like I can summarize the key points of the book in a way that’s helpful. The thing about giftedness is that it is unique every time. Realizations I had about J didn’t, for the most part, apply to M, or vice versa. I knew I was going to have to advocate for my girls’ academic opportunities and appreciate the guidance the book provides on those issues.

If you have, or suspect you have, a gifted child, I’d recommend reading through this book to find gems that help you be the best parent you can be to the little miracle in your care.

A mother of gifted identical twins reviews this book.

To give you a feel for what’s in the book, here are some chapter subheadings that stood out me:

  • What Exactly is Giftedness?
  • Is My Child Gifted or Just Smart?
  • Punishing the Child for Being Gifted
  • Why Wouldn’t a Gifted Child Be Motivated?
  • Avoid Power Struggles
  • Develop Rules as a Family
  • Types of Perfectionism
  • Depression and Suicide in Gifted Children
  • Peer Comparisons and the Gifted Label
  • Unequal Abilities among Siblings’
  • Does Common Wisdom Apply to Exceptional Children
  • When Parenting Styles Differ
  • When Scores Do Not Match Characteristics
  • Trust Your Own Observations
  • Can’t I Simply Trust the Schools?
  • Financial Support for Gifted Education

Any of these headings jump out at you? If they do, consider checking this book out of you local library.

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.

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