Thoughts on the Multiples of America Convention 2014

The Multiples of America (aka NOMOTC) Convention last week was an intense experience. I learned a lot and made a lot of new friends. I was inspired in my parenting, my writing, and my advocacy. Above all, I had fun. A lot of fun.

Multiples of America convention 2014

Before I Arrived

I took the entire week off work to attend. I could have easily attended Wednesday through Saturday and learned nearly as much. The first few days were purely social, filled with tours of the local sights and get-to-know-each-other activities. Pre-convention activities began on Sunday, July 20, but I didn’t show up until Monday.

I’d never really considered attending the conference before this year, although I was vaguely aware of its existence. This time it was in Austin (Texas), where I work. My children were away visiting their Dad. The timing and location just seemed right. It seemed to me that How Do You Do It? being a resource for parents of multiples, we should know a little something about this organization for parents of multiples. I encourage you to check out Multiples of America’s quarterly magazine, Notebook, filled with articles and ideas specific to parents of multiples and the clubs that support us.

I went into the convention without expectations. I’d given the schedule a once-over, but I had no idea what the participation in the various events would be. I didn’t know whether everyone would be carrying diaper bags, backpacks, or purses. I guessed that conference goers would be predominantly female, but I didn’t know. I knew a little about Multiples of America: that it maintained a registry of MoM clubs around the US and that it supports research into all things multiples. That was pretty much everything I knew Monday morning.

Multiples of America Convention 2014 registration.

The scene at registration. Photo by Hannah Day

First Impressions

As I wrote on the way back from the Hill Country tour, I was overwhelmed by how warm and welcoming everyone was. I felt that the convention was more like a family reunion than like the professional conferences I’ve attended in the past. (I work in IT.) MoMs who had been coming for years, most whose children are now adults, were there to see their friends. They were quick to open their hearts to me as a new member of the family. A few husbands tagged along, but this was definitely a women’s get-together.

I was among the youngest, if not the youngest, of the MoMs to attend the pre-convention fun. A couple of adult multiples, accompanying their mothers, were younger than I. (I’m 35, my twin daughters 8.) I suspect that this is not unusual. The pre-convention tours, while mostly not actively excluding children, were not child-friendly. My daughters would have probably loved the LBJ ranch tour, but wine tasting and the cute stores in Fredericksburg might not have been as much fun for them. I didn’t attend the Austin Sixth Street club/bar night, but that would certainly been out of the question with children in tow.

glasses-262382_640

In addition to being better kid-free, the tour prices were prohibitive. Few mothers of young children have $35-$65 to spare for each of up to 5 tours, especially after factoring in travel expenses and hotel room costs. I had a surprise windfall with which to pamper myself: when my ex-husband suddenly decided that he wanted our daughters to visit for nearly 2 months, I was able to recoup summer camp costs. Still, I didn’t stay at the hotel and didn’t have to worry about travel expenses beyond what I usually spend on my work commute.

I understand from the lovely women planning next year’s convention in Cincinnati that there will be more child-oriented activities. Still, I will have to scrimp and save to make it to that convention, and will likely have to bring my daughters if I am able to attend. Judging by the number of adult multiples I met who have been attending the Multiples of America (then NOMOTC) conventions since they were children, my girls would be welcome, loved, and plenty spoiled, even if we were limited to participation in only certain convention events.

Social Scene

I’m an extreme extrovert, so my favourite part of convention was the downtime. I loved getting to know so many lovely women on the bus to and from our tour locations, over meals at local restaurants, and over drinks in the hotel lobby.

Multiples of America 2014 Convention attendees

Heather and Anna, two of the wonderful new MoM friends I made. Photo by Hannah Day.

I have a feeling that many of these women will be friends of mine for life. I loved hearing about pairs who see each other only once a year at convention,  and who have shared hotel rooms annually for 20 years or more.

There were mixers, dances, and banquets aplenty, in addition to the downtime. I can’t remember the last time I danced so much or had so much fun doing it! I appreciated the thought that went into ensuring that some of the events seated strangers together while others, especially those later in the convention, allowed people to choose the others at their table. Door prizes and raffles provided extra encouragement to show up!

Mothers of multiples get together, mostly without the kids, at the Multiples of America Convention 2014.

There was raffle after raffle, thanks to a plethora of donations. And in the background are Janie and Corky, the very first of my new friends to take me under their wings. Photo by Hannah Day.

Getting Down to Business

The Multiples of America Convention 2014 wasn’t all fun and games, although there was plenty of that. The business at hand included voting on proposed changes to its laws, electing the next executive board, deciding on future convention locations, reviewing the budget and organization finances, and other non-profit concerns. Only delegates of Multiples of America member clubs were eligible to vote, although all convention attendees were welcome to attend the business meetings. Only existing executive board members ran for their positions, so the board was reelected by default.

The executive board appointed additional volunteers, called National Workers, to move the organization’s mission forward over the next year. I was appointed Single Parent Coordinator, and hope to use that role to advocate for outreach to single parents of multiples and military families by local parents of multiples groups around the country. I’ve already learned that one obstacle some single parents face in joining a club is the membership fee. Please be aware that many such clubs are prepared to cover membership costs for parents of multiples who can’t afford them. Don’t be afraid to ask!

I detected some severe generational tension between NOMOTC traditionalists and younger Multiples of America members. In the age of social media, clubs that meet in person can feel outmoded, and I got the impression that local clubs with younger memberships tend to feel that Multiples of America no longer adds value. I love that the organization changed its name last year to recognize the greater number of higher order multiples in the population, as well as the increased parenting role that fathers and other non-mother caregivers are taking in our world. I think there’s plenty of room for communities of all sorts, especially when our shared goal is to do the best we can for our children. Membership in multiples clubs in general has been dwindling, and I’m certain that the ease of finding community online is partly responsible. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, by any means, but there’s a place for both online and local community. I hope that the executive board hears this and acts on it. Multiples of America should be about supporting multiple birth families, not just keeping Multiples of America going.

In addition to the core business meetings of Multiples of America, the Austin Mothers of Multiples group that organized the convention allowed time for structured sharing of ideas between parents and between club representatives. There was a resource room and MoMs’ Mall with information and products available to the multiple mom, whether new, expecting, or experienced. Discussions on consignment sales and school placement were particularly active and rewarding. I can honestly say it had never occurred to me how much goes into keeping a MoM club running! Since HDYDI is an informal group funded out of my family budget, I’d never given any thought to what location-specific clubs have to do to guard against embezzlement or legal challenges that might exist to providing childcare during club meetings. I’m starting to realize how little I know!

Booths at the Multiples of America Convention 2014.

Photo by Hannah Day

I appreciated learning about the research that is underway in partnership with Multiples of America. Of particular interest was Dr. Susan Griffith’s presentation on the Post-Partum Mood Disorder study that the International Council of Multiple Birth Organisations (ICOMBO) is running. It’s not too late to participate! They need all MoMs, whether or not you’ve dealt with PPD, to fill out their survey, to get a handle on how PPD affects us after multiples births in particular.

Multiples of America has also partnered with local clubs to raise awareness of multiple births in the month of April. Who knows? Maybe HDYDI will participate in Multiple Birth Awareness Month next year!

In Short

I am so very glad I went to the Multiples of America Convention this year. I made many new friends and got some wonderful parenting insights. I’ll be writing another post on the different concerns that parents of fraternal multiples have from those of identical multiples when it comes to school and education. I came back energized to speak up for issues specific to multiples and empowered to advocate for single and military parents in my volunteer coordinator role.

Thank you to Debbie, Ada, Heather, Karen, and Elizabeth for all the work that went into putting on an extremely successful convention. And if you’re in Central Texas and looking for a photographer, Hannah Day was amazing! She managed to get all the pictures without ever seeming to be in the way.

Have you ever attended a state or national multiples convention? How does your experience compare?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 8-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 is the newly minted Single Parent Coordinator for Multiples of America, also known as the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs (NOMOTC). She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and currently blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering as well as here at HDYDI.

Twinfant Tuesday: A year in photos (minus the photos)

Next week, my little monkeys will be ONE!  That one saying is so true.  What is it again?  The days go slowly, but the weeks and months fly by, or something like that?  The other night my husband and I were watching photos float by on a slideshow from the past year.  While it’s impossible to adequately describe the first year with twins, a few of these moments help summarize the roller coaster.

Exhaustion

Photo: both 8-week-old babies are in just a diaper, passed out on my husband, who is also asleep.  My son’s arm is draped over the face of my daughter, whose mouth is wide open.  Everyone looks exhausted.  I recall this night in particular, because it was taken at the end of the first night we decided to “try” one of us going out for a few hours during the “witching hour.”  This witching hour was so very real in our house between about 5 weeks-13 weeks or so.  This particular night they started crying about 10 minutes after my husband left the house (of course), and they seemed to ratchet each other higher and higher on the scale of hysteria for the next 45 minutes until I called him, beckoning him home.  I still have no idea what got them so upset, but it was one of those nights where I needed to put them each in their crib and walk away for a good 3-5 minutes because I truly did not know how to calm them.  Eventually they stop crying for just as mysterious of reasons as why they started.  I still feel shell shocked by those first few months with two infants.  I can almost still feel the anxiety, counting the time until I’d need to go pump or breastfeed two babies again, or feel the burn in my sleep-deprived eyes.

Joy

Photo: taken after a bath, and the babies were laying side by side, and my son reached out and was touching my daughter on the arm.  She smiled back at him.  They were about 5 months old and it was taken on our first trip (see also: only) with the kids.  (We really took on the challenge of a first vacation with infant twins: Cold weather.  Over Christmas.  Staying at high altitude.  Attempting to take turns to go skiing.)  It wasn’t likely the first time they connected like that, but I do think it was the first one we caught on camera.  It captures the hope that I have for a close relationship between them and the warmth I feel in my heart when I see the connection between them.

Fear

My heart aches and is filled with gratitude simultaneously when I see the photo of my son smiling, holding a small box of cheerios in a hospital gown, the morning after our first night (and, hopefully, only for a very long time) in the hospital a few weeks ago after he took a bad fall and sustained a head injury.  We spent the night saying prayers that all would be okay, while we realized the vicarious pain one can feel for their child, as a parent.  Seeing this photo, even just a few weeks after, makes me so grateful that he is okay.  I’m almost equally as fearful of other accidents and illnesses that no doubt lie down the road for us as a family.  I was warned about how you experience pain when your children hurt, but it is truly something you cannot understand until going through it.

Fascination

Photo: my daughter standing, holding onto the collar of our 8-year-old pitbull-boxer mix makes me giggle.  I remember coming around the corner and catching her standing there with our dog, who patiently sat and let our daughter examine her “necklace.”  Mind you, she cannot walk yet, so this means she crawled over and pulled herself up on our dog’s collar.  Her fascination with jewelry has begun early, as has her love of feeding this doggy all her vegetables.  This photo captures the delight and fascination I feel as I watch these kids discover their world and learn new skills every day.  It’s incredible to watch them stand for the first time, or make a new sound and see their faces light up with pride.

And, that has been the emotional cycle of the past 12 months: Exhaustion, Joy, Fear, Fascination, or some derivative of these feelings.  I truly wish I could stop time for a day or at least an hour to really reflect on the ways life has changed and motherhood has changed me in the last year.  But, for now, a post like this will have to do.

Katie has b/g twins that will be one next week.  She lives in Chicago and balances full-time work, being a mom and training for a sprint triathlon for which she regrets signing up.

Twin Birthday Time

My daughters, M and J, turned 8 over the weekend. Eight. That makes me feel old. In fact, I’m focusing on my own upcoming 35th birthday to feel slightly less geriatric.

8-year-olds are intrigued by magnetism.

How did those squishy babies turn into these mature people?

A while ago, my daughters wanted to know what time they were born. Since I’d already given in and told them who was born first, I was okay with answering their questions. J was born at 6:33 am, M at 6:35. I thought that this detail would be noted in passing and filed away for another time.

Not so. My daughters both became obsessed with their birth times. My ever-precise daughter M counted down to her birthday, or rather birthminute. “I’ll be 8 in 19 days, 12 hours and 13 minutes,” she told me 22 days, 16 hours and I’m-too-lazy-to-calculate-it minutes ago.

J asked me to wake her at 6:00 on the morning of her birthday, “so I can enjoy a few more minutes of being 7.” When 6:00 am rolled around, she elected to go back to sleep, but M bounced up. She watched the clock until 6:35, then broke into a boisterous rendition of “Happy Birthday to Me”.

Twins don't get a birthday to call their own, but there's always something they can find to individualize it!

I’m so glad that we set the precedent of singing “Happy Birthday” to each child separately at their first birthday party. This year, J actively requested that she get her own “Happy Birthday”. Yes, my twins were born together, but they’re individuals. We celebrate them with a single party and, in recent years, a single cake, but they get their own song, unsullied by Sister’s name.

Being a twin is all kinds of awesome, but having to share a birthday, that milestone that is so important to children, comes with a downside. My girls, ever inventive, have used the precise times of their births to lay claim to their individuality.

Do you refer to your multiples’ birth as singular or plural? Do you say, “my twins’ birth” or “my twins’ births”? I do the latter. Sure, it was one C-section, but there were two births. It seems that the girls agree.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the single mother of 8-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, but now also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Relaxation Does Not Cause Pregnancy

I’ve heard my share of silly comments about being a mother of twins. You know what no one has ever said to me? “You must have been really relaxed to conceive two at once!”

So why do people feel the need to tell infertile women, “Just relax and it’ll happen!”?

Relaxation does not cause pregnancy. If it did, we’d have fertility spas and massage parlours, not clinics.

Just don't tell an infertile woman that the secret to getting pregnant is relaxing!Still, there seems to be this undeniable urge to respond to an infertile woman’s concerns about her inability to conceive with, “Relax and it will happen.”

I think it stems from our cultural discomfort with the idea of infertility. If the infertile woman stops talking to us about her infertility, we, her listeners, are the ones who get to relax. As long as we don’t hear about it, we don’t have to feel her anguish. After all, if she’s not talking about it, we don’t have to know about it. Infertility is silent as long as the infertile are silent.

“Relax and it will happen” silences those who try to speak out.

My challenge to you is to refuse to relax. Refuse to be silent. Own your infertility. Own your fertility. Fight for the motherhood you want. Mothers don’t relax when it comes to protecting their children. And mothers-at-heart don’t relax when it comes to making those children a reality.

Forget “Relax and it will happen”. Fight to make it happen.


Infertility TalesThis post is part of Infertility Tales 2014, How Do You Do It?‘s series to raise awareness about infertility and its impact on families. Please take a moment to read through some of the personal stories of loss, pain, fertility treatments, and success.

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

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.

Motherhood is a Romance

Motherhood is a romance: This single mom sees Valentine's Day as a celebration of love: her love for her children. I was having lunch the other day with a dear friend. He recently came out of a 5 year relationship and was talking about the awkwardness of being back on the dating scene.

“There’s thing whole thing,” he said, “about what to on Valentine’s Day. Or even whether I’m supposed to be wondering what to do on Valentine’s Day.”

I realized that I hadn’t thought about Valentine’s Day in those terms at all. At this point in my journey of single motherhood, a romantic relationship is not on my radar. I’ve been amped up about Valentine’s Day. I’ve been having a grand time plotting with my girls to help them make or buy a gift for Sister with her twin knowing what it is. I’ve been staying up far too late at night making heart shaped sweet treats for my daughters’ Girl Scout troop and classmates.

wpid-Photo-Feb-12-2014-710-AM.jpg

The love I celebrate on Valentine’s Day and every other day is my love for my children, their love for me, their love for each other.

I’m not saying that my friend doesn’t feel as strongly about his sons as I do about my daughters. He was a single dad for many years, and not the I’ll-call-my-kids-once-in-a-while kind of single dad either. He was the custodial parent, the one getting phone calls from the school, the one coaching soccer games and kissing boo-boos. But his boys are older now and likely uninterested in spending Valentine’s Day with their father.

I felt a little odd thinking these thoughts, that this day devoted to romance is to me another Mothers’ Day. I felt like perhaps I was disrespectful of those of you who have rich romantic lives with your partners.

Then Liggy posted this amazing gift on my Facebook wall and I felt like it was okay… Well, first I cried. At my desk at work. Once I was done crying, I felt like it was okay for my daughters to be the loves of my life.

Because motherhood is a romance.

Silly Old Grandpa

Grandparents. Ah, grandparents. Is there a more peculiar set of people out there? These last few days have really illustrated to me how amazing, spectacular, bizarre, hilarious grandparents sometimes are, especially grandfathers.

It’s been a whirlwind of Chinese New Year celebrations around here. My dad, who is only here a couple months a year, came from Taiwan a few days ago, just in time to host a big CNY party at my parents’ home. My children, who he hasn’t seen in person since a year ago, were featured prominently in this gathering of their longtime friends.

From the time we arrived, my dad gave his entire attention to my children. This man, who I’ve always known as an extremely strict and stoic father, was completely transformed when his grandchildren were placed in front of him. I mean, a completely-unrecognizable-to-me different person. It’s unexplainable, really, where this weird smiling stranger came from. Whereas to us, his grown children, there is no great outpouring of affection, never a big show of feeling, something came over him while in the presence of this next generation. It was a very odd, yet not unwelcome, sensation to watch him study my children with adoration and pride. He couldn’t control his joy when they went to him, dropped anything else to play with them… I even saw his eyes get watery when my firstborn told him she remembered a game he played with her the last time he was here.

The kids’ other grandfather is certainly not immune to their charms either. We found out that a guest at my parents’ party is coincidentally also a tennis-playing friend of my father-in-law’s. Hilariously, he recognized my children because my FIL never misses any opportunity to whip out their picture to show everyone his beautiful grandchildren. We were entertained for some time listening to stories of him talking about his grandchildren every chance he gets, to whoever was still willing to listen.

Such endearing, unexpected behaviors, especially when we are so used to the very stern and reticent fathers they used to be. Is this just crazy weird or what?

Ask the Moms: Multiples and Birthday Party Etiquette

For party throwers | For party goers

Mother of triplets Jenn reached out us with this question:

My triplets are turning 5 and would like to have a party inviting their classroom friends.  They are in the same class.  I cannot expect every guest to bring 3 gifts. I know you mentioned NO presents as an option but at 5 they are really looking forward to having their first birthday party with not just family but friends too and being able to open their classmates’ gifts!

I’m sure that this cannot be an uncommon problem for mothers of multiples!

Jenn, we’re so glad you asked about this. It’s not just a quandary for the parents throwing the party for multiples, but a common question for the parents of singleton guests too! There’s also the matter of attending a singleton’s party with your multiples. Are you expected to give a separate gift from each child, or is it okay to give one from the family?

When You’re Throwing a Party for Your Birthday Children

Above all, be considerate of your guests as Jenn is being. If you know that every guest you have invited has the resources to give extravagant gifts to each child and that is your community expectation, good for you. For most of us, that’s not the case.

Talk to your children ahead of time and explain to them that the real gift is their friends’ presence. They shouldn’t express disappointment at gifts, even if they feel it, and they should be certain to say “Thank you.” You may need to explain that this is one of the challenges of being a multiple. Sharing a birthday means sharing gifts. Or sharing a birthday means not sharing gifts. Set the expectation that works for your family.

Some possible variations include:

  • One gift per guest family per set of multiples.
  • One gift per guest family per birthday child.
  • One gift per guest child per set of multiples.
  • One gift per guest child per birthday child.

We generally discourage that last option. Imagine that you have triplets and you’ve invited triplets to their party. Nine gifts from one family to another is unnecessary, expensive, and will likely go under-appreciated by the overwhelmed recipient children.

Take your multiples’ relationship into account

Do your twins or triplets share all their toys? They would probably enjoy shared gifts.

Do they have a strong independent streak and enjoy keeping their possessions separate? They would appreciate less elaborate individualized gifts.

Do your multiples insist that everything always be fair and equal? It may be simplest to keep gift-giving within the family and invite guests not to bring gifts or to bring donations for the local library or food pantry instead.

Mention gifts in the invitation

This invitation demonstrates twin birthday party etiquette, with the multiples specifying that a single gift is appropriate.Eliminate discomfort on the part of your guests by specifying your gift expectations in the invitation. It can feel tacky to ask for gifts, but it’s better than leaving guests wondering if they need to bring a gift per child or not.

Consider wording your invitation with something like, “We request only your presence, but if you must bring presents, limit your family to one gift for the birthday girls to share!” You’re not asking for things, but you are setting a one-gift expectation for guest families. Then, your triplets can go round robin on opening the gifts to keep things fair!

If your kids have separate friends, perhaps because they’re in different classes, you could write something like “You are being invited to Twin A and Twin B’s party as Twin B’s honoured guest. Twin A is not expecting a gift from you!”

Creative solutions

There are several ways to provide guidance to party guests on what to give as a gift to keep things easy and equal.

Jenna did a “5 and 5 party” for her son. Each friend brought $10. $5 went to charity, specifically the local children’s hospital. He used his $5 to choose a toy and picked a new train for his train set after the party. Most kids also brought a card or picture for him.

Beth and Sadia have been to or thrown book exchange parties. Each child comes to the party with one age appropriate, gender neutral, wrapped book. The birthday girls’ parents brought a few extras, just in case someone forgot.  Everyone, including the birthday girls, leaves with one wrapped book. This approach has the perk of avoiding the need for pesky goodie bags!

Build an activity center. In your invitation, let your guests know that you’re building an art center, kitchen center, or dress up center and that you’d appreciate contributions towards it. As we suggested above, have the kids take turns opening gifts. Mom and dad can open any remainder to ensure that each kid gets to open the same number of gifts.

Dana often suggests family presents for her twins’ birthdays. These are things like be board games, a collection of books, or art supplies.

Sadia’s daughters have requested canned goods for the food pantry instead of gifts, after discovering the hard way that many people feel uncomfortable arriving at birthday parties completely empty-handed. MandyE always adds a “no gifts, please” note at the bottom of her invitations. Her daughters have gotten some really great cards over the years instead of gifts and love opening them!

When You’re Attending a Party with Your Multiples

Within the multiples community

If you’re part of a close-knit multiples community, as MandyE and Jen Wood are, you’ll probably notice that there are norms in place regarding birthday gifts from twins to twins or higher order multiples. Just ask one of the other moms.

Jen Wood is a playgroup with 7 sets of twins within a year of her kids. They’ve always brought one gift per birthday kid. They also received one gift per birthday kid from each other “set” of friends. If they didn’t share a birthday they wouldn’t be expected to share a gift.

When MandyE goes to parties for multiples, she usually has her girls make a handmade card for each kid and does a larger family gift.

Sadia’s daughters usually give a gift to each birthday multiple unless they know that the multiples in question like to share their clothes and toys. In that case, they will do a more elaborate gift to all the birthday kids. Her twins’ great aunt, who has triplets, always gets the twins coordinating but non-identical pajamas from her whole family.

Gifts for singletons

There’s no hard and fast rule here. Take the size of your family and your financial and time resources into account. This isn’t just an issue for multiples. We don’t imagine that large families should feel obligated to bring a gift from each child who attends a party when siblings are invited.

When MandyE and her daughters go to singleton parties, she lets each of her girls choose a gift. Sadia tends to bring a single gift to singleton birthday kids from the whole family.

On the one occasion that her daughters brought separate gifts, the birthday girl’s mom noticed and mentioned her surprise. In this case, Sadia’s daughters felt that they had individual relationships with the birthday girl rather than being her “twin friends.” They felt very strongly that they wanted to give gifts as individuals.

Twin birthday party etiquette

The truth is that there is no universal standard on how many gifts twins should give or receive. It falls on the multiples’ parents to set expectations for their own family and their guests. Take into consideration the relationships between the children involved, whether they function more as individuals or as a set. Remember that being there to celebrate the birthday child or children is more important than the gift you bring. It really is the thought that counts.

How do you navigate the murky waters of birthday parties with multiples?

Make-It Mondays: What To Do with Holiday Cards

One of the wonderful delights of the holiday season for me is getting cards in the mail.  I love all the pictures, the sentiments…and if you really want to make me swoon, a hand-written note makes me all warm and fuzzy inside.  My girls, now almost five, get just as excited to see what treasures are in the mailbox this time of year.

For the past several years, inspired by the amazing Marcia at The 123 Blog, I’ve been preserving our holiday cards in a DSC_0949simple binder ring folder.

I use a hole punch to make holes in the cards (being as careful as possible to avoid our friends’ faces…you can see I didn’t always do such a stellar job!).  You can find binder rings at the craft store or the office supply store.

DSC_0947Last year, I took some of the girls’ [plethora of] Christmas tree artwork and up-cycled it into a cover.  I glued it onto card stock and had it laminated at the office supply store for $1.79.

The 2013 binder is a collection of cards the girls received throughout the year, from birthday, to Easter, to invitations to birthday parties and thank-you notes from friends.

Our girls LOVE to look through our card collection.  It’s a great way to remind them of our friends and family, many of whom we don’t see very often.

What do you do with the cards you receive during the year?  Do your kiddos like to hang onto every single invitation (the way mine do!)?

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

Surviving the Holidays with Young Children

From hdydi,com, where mothers of multiples tell it like it isMy boy/girl twins have just turned a year old. And they also have a Big Sis who’s 3.5. So our holidays have been adjusted to meet the needs of these kiddos. Here’s how we’re surviving:

Schedule Around Their Schedules

First and foremost, we plan events around the babies’ sleep schedules whenever possible. Thankfully, the family is well trained to our kids’ strict habits so this was not particularly difficult to arrange. We even had extended family visit during Thanksgiving week and most events went without a hitch. From the babies’ first birthday party right before, to New Years’ dinner next week, everything is timed so we disrupt the kids as little as possible.

For example, we opened Christmas gifts before dinner. That’s what we’ve done since Big Sis was a part of the picture. And we eat early. Which is fine because for Thanksgiving and Christmas everyone eats a late breakfast and no lunch or just a light lunch anyway. So, when dinner is over at 6:00 or 6:30, we hightail it out of there so we can rush through our bedtime routine and get them to bed at just about the same time as usual.

Nothing is good with cranky babies, so everyone does their best to accommodate.

Don’t Get Too Ambitious

There was a time when I would have loved creating handmade gifts for the holidays, go all out with decorations, prepare all kinds of goodies. But, since the arrival of our first child, our Christmas ramp-up has gotten more simple. Our Christmas tree has gotten smaller and smaller. We still get the good-smelling live tree, but it has now shrunk to the size of my 3yo. This way, I can spend just a half hour stringing lights and hanging ornaments, Big Sis can reach to help, and it still looks very festive.

I will admit, however, that I did undertake a bout of baking this year. Since I get two weeks winter break as a teacher, I’ve always done a lot of baking during this time of year. There are a couple of recipes that my family always asks for, and it’s really too time consuming to make batches and batches of cookies any other time. This year I continued with the baking tradition, but probably at only half of what I used to make.

Only Buy Online

For years I’ve shopping on Amazon for Christmas gifts. This year, I exclusively shopped there. Even if I had the inclination to circle for parking and fight the crowds, I no longer have the time. To work around naps and get the entire family ready and out the door is just not an undertaking I want, not for something so mundane as shopping.

I can’t think of anything better. Prices are just as good online, if not even lower than in stores, and everything arrives right on your doorstep, already boxed. No carrying gifts from the trunk, hiding purchases from the preschooler, surreptitiously unhiding and wrapping. And also, it’s pretty darned exciting to find boxes at the door every so often.

Prepare Early

I started working on the kids’ holiday outfits right after Halloween. It’s amazing how many coordinating pieces there is to find with 3 kids. Don’t forget the hairpieces, stockings, socks, and shoes! I did not have to scramble for any of them because I was already done by Thanksgiving! I do need to work on getting pictures taken early as well though. This year we did our usual Picture People at the mall on a weekend about 2 weeks before Christmas. Bad idea!

I made full use of Amazon’s wish lists. Since before Thanksgiving, I’d browse a little bit online every chance I had a free moment (in line somewhere, after the kids have gone to bed, hanging out at the inlaws’), and put together some stuff at different price ranges for the kids. Sent it out to the family, and picked off whatever was left over when it got close to Christmas. And I’d buy a little bit here and there, when I saw a sale, or when a gift idea struck me. So the gifts would trickle in and I’d wrap them when I had a free moment, so it never got overwhelming. But the key is definitely getting this all going by Thanksgiving.

Fight Off Illness

I’ve been battling a bad cold since before Thanksgiving. Don’t know what exactly is going on, but it may have even been a couple (few?) colds back-to-back. Achy, chills, sore throat, congestion. At some point it got so bad I lost my voice for 4 days.

Even with all the preparation, with 3 young children the stress of the holidays will still get you. I am doing all that I can to combat this. Sleep every chance I get, try to go with the flow more. I’ve always had the mentality that I would just power through illness. Which may have worked pre-children, or with only one child, but that tactic is no good against twin babies plus a preschooler. You just don’t get downtime unless you create it for yourself.

Ultimately, these holidays come only once a year. By the time next Christmas comes, our kids will be another year older. Treasure these moments, love on the kids, and try not only to survive but truly enjoy. Wishing you and your family the best of the holidays and a happy 2014!