Anna and Elsa Make Passions Run High

Like much of the rest of the world, my daughters and I love Disney’s latest animated blockbuster, Frozen. And when I say “love,” I mean “luuuurve” with swirly hearts and glitter suspended in the air.

In case you don’t know much about Frozen, allow me to give a short and sweet overview without any (truly movie-spoiling) spoilers. Maybe this happens to be your first stop on the internet after living in seclusion since November. I actually met someone at church on Sunday who didn’t know about the movie.

Frozen avoids my biggest pet peeve about princess movies. I’m tired of boy-saves-girl-and-they-look-into-each-other’s-eyes-and-get-married-the-end. That’s not the picture I want my children to have of marriage or femininity or life. Frozen doesn’t give you that. Yes, there’s a charming prince and a pining princess, but two different characters tell them that it is completely ridiculous to get engaged to someone you just met.

Yeah. I know. I got engaged to my ex-husband after knowing him for less than a week. We were together for 9 years and made some fantastic babies. I don’t believe it was our lightning bolt romance that led to the demise of our marriage. But we’re the exception, people! And even we were focused in those first days about what the hard work of marriage would mean, not just the butterflies of attraction.

The central love story in the film isn’t a romance. It’s the affection between two sisters. The first time we watched the movie, I looked over at my daughter J during a pivotal scene between the sisters Anna and Elsa. Tears were rolling down her cheeks. She looked at me and shrugged. “I just love Sissy so much,” she said.

But it’s not happily ever after at our house either.

Before we’d even left the movie theatre after that first show, my daughters split up the main characters. J was Elsa; M was Anna. M even saved up to buy J an Elsa doll for Christmas. When singing their duets, my daughters’ voices fit together just right and they always know which part is whose. Over the past few months, their character assignment has meant that they aren’t allowed to sing each other’s solos.

This morning, we were playing the soundtrack, J singing along with the first verse or so of “Let It Go” and then losing interest.

M picked up where J left off, only to be stared down by her sister. M had had enough. She planted both her feet, glared at J and lashed out at her.

“I’m sick of you telling me what to sing. Sick, sick, sick of it! You aren’t even singing! Why can’t I sing Elsa’s song? Stop telling me what to do!”

I happened to be holding my iPad at the time and captured my reaction.

Mom's reaction to her 7-year-old vehement self-defense.

I was covering my mouth because I didn’t want her to see my smile. Her righteous vehemence was just so cute!

J was just as taken aback as I. She hadn’t realized how much self control it had taken for M to hold in all those spectacular high notes she has. She relented and allowed M to finish out the song.

I wonder whether loosening up the controls on who sings what will lead to arguments during duet time now.

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. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Wishing for a Twin

On Sunday, a new friend at church told me that her younger son, after meeting my daughters the week before, asked her to provide him with a twin. When she asked him why, he just said that it seemed cool.

When I conveyed this information to my girls, J simply responded, “It’s too late.”

M, on the other hand, demonstrated her typical garrulousness. “Of course he wishes he has a twin. Having a twin is the best. You never have to play alone! You’re never alone in new places. I get it.”

I get it too, this wishing for a twin. When I was a little girl, I used to imagine that I had a long lost twin sister, someone who would understand me and be there for me. We would bump into each other in the street, my fantasy went, and instantly recognize each other. We would read and play together, always laughing, always agreeing. Her parents would turn out to be my real parents and we would live happily ever after in her perfect room with a four poster bed.

I found my happily ever after in twinship after all, just not quite as I imagined as a young child.

Did you ever wish you were a multiple? If you are one, ever wish you were a singleton instead?

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.

 

Confidence and Prettiness

J walked into the bathroom where I was showering. She was dressed in a striped shirt and sweatpants. I wish I could wear sweatpants to work, but we are allowed jeans and I telecommute one day a week. I shouldn’t complain.

Me: Thanks for getting dressed for school so responsibly! You look lovely.
J: Thanks! I feel pretty.
Me: I’m so glad. I think it’s far more important to feel pretty than look pretty. Of course, you look pretty too, but confidence is the biggest contributor to looking pretty.
J: Nuh-uh!
Me: Oh?
J: Love! Love is the most important! Like I love my sister.
Me: You’re right.
J: Confidence too. (Clicks her tongue.) Both. Love and confidence makes you pretty.
Me: Love you!
J: Love you.

Sadia with J and M

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.

Stepmonster – A Book Review

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.

Siblings Without Rivalry – A Book Review

A mother of twins reviews Siblings Without Rivalry

Siblings Without Rivalry is by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, authors of How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk. If you missed my review of How to Talk… you can check it out here to get a sense of the prevailing philosophy behind these books. In a nutshell, Faber and Mazlish promote empathetic communication between parents and children and collaborative solutions to conflict.

While Siblings Without Rivalry is NOT a book centered upon the unique challenges of raising multiples, its sibling-centric focus does make it very applicable to most parents of twins. The authors wrote it as a follow-up to How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk because they felt they had not had sufficient space to fully explore sibling conflict in the first book.

The most important prevailing theme throughout Siblings Without Rivalry is that parents should acknowledge and respect children’s feelings, particularly toward their siblings, without minimizing or sugar-coating them.  If a child says, “I hate Owen! He always ruins my stuff,” then rather than saying, “Be nice to your brother,” a parent might say, “You really seem angry at your brother! You wish he’d take better care of your things.” Allowing both children to express anger and validating their feelings can help them to work through the conflict on their own, increasing both their autonomy and their sense of belonging within their family.

Other Interesting Takeaways:

  1. Wherever possible, parents should stay out of conflicts between children, and instead provide them with tools to work through their disagreement together. The general formula prescribed for intervening when necessary is:
    •  Acknowledge each side’s anger: “John, you want to watch Curious George, but Kristen wants to watch Elmo, is that right?”
    • Appreciate both sides of the conflict, and express faith in their ability to come to a fair solution: “Wow, that’s tough. There’s only one television, and both of you want to use it. But I know you can come up with a solution that works for both of you.”
    • Walk away.

    I admit that I find this approach a little hard to fathom. My children are two, and while they can express (loudly) what they want, they don’t grasp the idea of compromise. Or patience. But I really like the idea of giving kids the tools to work out problems on their own without requiring Mom or Dad to resolve them. (Note that the book DOES provide a different approach for handling violent conflicts. A parent would never be advised to walk away from a fight that could cause real harm to either child.)

  2. Resist the urge to compare. I think that as twin parents, we generally know better than to do this, but comparisons can pop up in unexpected places sometimes. (“Look, your sister ate all HER food…” for example, or “Your sister put HER jacket away…”) Rather than comparing one child to another (“Why can’t you put away your toys like your brother does?”) describe the behavior that you see: “I see your blocks on the floor.” Or describe what needs to be done: “Please put your blocks away.” Likewise, be careful of comparing one child favorably to the other. Rather than saying, “You are a better eater than your sister,” describe the behavior that pleases you: “I see that you ate all your carrots!”
  3. Don’t allow your children to be locked into roles or personas. People seem really inclined to do this with twins. People often make references to one of my twins as “the shy one” or “the artistic one”. And when they were small babies, a stranger once asked me which was “the good one.” Never tell your kid, “Why are you always so mean to your brother?” The child walks away thinking, “Yes, I know I’m mean.” A better approach is to set a positive expectation for the child: “I know you can be kind to your brother.”
  4. Rather than treating children equally, strive to treat them uniquely, according to their needs. Instead of focusing on doling out identical servings of food, ask, “Do you want a little bit of _________ or a lot?” Instead of saying, “I love you both the same,” say, “I love you because you’re you! No one could ever take your place.” Give time according to need, as well. “I’m spending a lot of time helping your brother with his project right now. It’s important to him. As soon as I’m finished, I want to hear what’s important to you.” And then tune in and engage with the other child.
    This idea really resonated strongly with me. I remember being aware that one of my children really “needed” me more when they were small babies, while the other was more independent and able to accept help from others. I felt guilty about that at the time, feeling that I had somehow neglected the more independent child or affected our bonding. Now, with the space of time, I’m aware of how my relationships with my children have evolved, and I worry less about how much time I’ve spent with each and more about the quality of the time I’ve spent with each.
  5. Set expectations about boundaries of conflict. If kids hit or use name calling, say something like: “You sound mad, but I expect you to talk to your brother without hitting or calling him names.” And then provide some alternative strategies. “Rather than hitting, draw me a picture of how you feel.” “Rather than hitting your brother, go hit this pillow.” But note that insisting upon good feelings between children can lead to bad feelings or lingering resentment. Allowing bad feelings between children can help them to work through those feelings and have a more positive relationship in the long run.

 Overall Impression

As with How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk, a few ideas in the book made me think, “Well, that sounds nice, but what do you do when THAT doesn’t work?” In general, though, I found Faber and Mazlish’s philosophies on how to treat and talk to siblings to be intuitive and thought-provoking. I was even able to (tactfully) suggest alternative ways to think about  and talk to my twins to other family members. All in all, I found it to be a very interesting and helpful read, but as with any parenting book, one should approach it willing to apply what makes sense and ignore what doesn’t.

Favourite Thing Ever

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

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

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

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

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

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?

Toddler Thursday: Preparing at home for the NICU stay

prepareAfter finding out I was expecting twins my brain started spinning. How would we fit in our current car? What about bedrooms? How would my 38 year old body handle this pregnancy? After I adjusted to the idea many of my initial worries disappeared, but one didn’t. How would our barely two year old Oliver handle things if our babies had a lengthy NICU stay? I had a history of preterm labor and had had all three of my boys at around 37 weeks.  That’s not very early, but I was worried that my body would kick into labor even earlier while carrying two babies. Sure enough right around 28 weeks I started having contractions and my Dr. put me on Procardia. I quickly realized I would need to prepare Oliver for not only the babies, but also for the time that I’d inevitably end up away from him. To complicate things my mother (who is our primary source of childcare) has a chronic illness that makes it difficult to predict how much help she will be able to provide.  In the event that she became ill at the same time the babies were still in the hospital I’d need to have things ready for someone else (who may not be familiar with our routines) to step in.  Eeeeeeek! No pressure, right?

Since Oliver isn’t in school or mother’s day out he spends the majority of his time at home. I knew that I needed to focus most of my energy on creating an environment that would keep him busy and allow him to be as independent as possible. I also wanted to simplify things so that whoever was caring for the boys wouldn’t have as much to clean and keep up with. The first thing I did was purge the playroom and kids’ rooms of any toys they hadn’t played with in awhile, were broken, or sets that were incomplete. I was brutal and got rid of almost half our toys. I was surprised that the kids never mentioned things were missing. After the clean out I sorted the remaining toys and put half away in a closet so they could be switched out periodically. This served three purposes. It made it easier for the big kids to keep things put away, it kept Oliver interested in his toys, and it kept him from being overwhelmed. By limiting his choices he actually started playing with his toys instead of doing what I call the dump and run (where toddlers pour all the toys onto the floor only to walk away without playing) After our playroom was organized I started on our back yard. Once again I got rid of any toy that was broken or in bad shape. I added new sand and toys to our sand box and made sure we had plenty of bubbles and sidewalk chalk. One addition that worked surprisingly well was a plastic easel. We kept it on the patio and would put paper and paints on it as needed. Oliver enjoyed being able to paint whenever he wanted and my mom loved that clean up was so easy. My husband did a safety check and made sure our fence was secure and the play scape didn’t have any loose nails or splinters. My goal was to make our backyard another place where Oliver could play independently and be safe.

I knew having a schedule would make it easier for Oliver during our NICU stay. Thankfully we had already established a routine and flow to our day (It kept my type A personality happy). As we got closer to the babies coming I typed and printed our routine and added it to our household binder (more on the binder later). The further I got in my pregnancy the more tempting it was to let our schedule slide. I was so tired and achy that I reeeeeaaalllly wanted to throw it out and let Oliver sleep late in the mornings and fall asleep wherever he happened to collapse at night. For the most part I tried really hard to stick to our routine knowing that it would make things better for everyone later.  We started practicing what Oliver should do after we ate (put his plate and cup in the sink), where he should put his dirty clothes, where his shoes were kept (the basket by the door), and how to get to the “approved for Oliver” snacks in the pantry. While helping him learn how to be more independent certainly made things easier for whoever was caring for him I was also hoping it would increase his confidence. Going from being the baby of the family to the middle child of five kids was going to be hard. I hoped knowing what to expect and how things worked in our home would help Oliver find his new place.

Knowing I’d be hard to reach in the hospital I decided to make a reference book for our family. I was worried that there would be a question and nobody would be able to get ahold of me. After looking at several examples on pinterest I decided the household binder was the format I liked best.  Our binder is organized by the topics: schedule, food, school, miscellanious phone numbers, and in case of emergency. The schedule area holds our daily schedule and all our routines are written out. This served almost as a script for our day. For example if my dad wasn’t sure what bedtime or bath time looked like for Oliver he could read about them before hand. The food area holds ideas for breakfasts and lunches, take out numbers, and a grocery list for items we typically need every week. The school tab is full of the bigger boys’ school information (schedule, phone numbers, lunch menu, and teachers contact information). Miscellanious phone numbers included the numbers to our plumber, air conditioner repair company, our pediatrician, and various friends who know the kids and could help if needed. I really thought I was going overboard adding this tab, but it turns out my parents needed it! While the babies were in the NICU our air conditioner went out. August in Texas is brutal and thankfully my parents were able to get it fixed quickly. The emergency tab holds copies of our health insurance card and a generic letter giving my paremts permission to seek medical care for the kids. I also included directions to our pediatrician and the closest hospital. While my parents knew most of the information included in the binder I wasn’t sure who else would be caring for Oliver and the bigger boys. Now that we are home and settled the binder serves as a great resource for our baby sitter.

Rhodes and Laurel were born at 34 weeks and spent two and a half weeks in the NICU. Thankfully Oliver and the bigger boys did beautifully while we were gone. My mom did become ill in the middle of our stay but continued to help out as much as she could.

Why There Are Pickles in My Tea: Introduction to Beth

I am thrilled to be a new member of HDYDI, but I wonder if I should confess to you all now that I am a fraud, or should I just let you figure it out for yourself?  Decisions, decisions.

I spent some time before writing this reading through other posts and I have to say that the amazing women on this blog really know their stuff!  They are fabulous mothers and I have no clue how they do it (no pun intended). And I am beyond jealous of them!  Because I am not so sure that I know how to do this….  The other night when we had an extra 90 minutes of screaming and melt downs, I realized just how little I do know.

Emily, is 4 (or as she puts it, “4 and 3 quarters, for real”), and the twins (aka troublematic or kidlets) are 17 and a half months. Fractions are obviously a part of our preschool world.

The twins were a huge surprise.  A knock-me-out-of-my-socks (or stirrups I guess) kind of surprise. But the bigger surprise has been them, as people–their distinct personalities. Emily is a fabulous big sister. She makes this easier. She makes this doable. But I am constantly having to remind myself that she is only 4 (and 3 quarters), or risk asking way too much of her.

The twins, Spencer and Sidney, are really funny.  Sidney is incredibly headstrong, determined, and once she knows you, sweet.  Until she knows you, she will stare you down with a look of doom, barely blinking, while she decides whether or not she approves of you. If so, you are in for a world of hugs, smiles, and kisses. If not, just leave now. Give up; it is not going to happen.  You can just imagine her face on picture day at daycare.

Spencer is my cuddle bug. He loves to read and his favorite reading spot is in my lap. He wants to play with whatever his sisters have. He is a tease already. He is currently debating the wisdom of learning to walk, but until them, he loves to have crawling races. Unfortunately, as his sisters are both walkers, he rarely wins. Potentially a good life lesson for a boy with 2 sisters?

When Emily was younger, her favorite book was Pickles in My Soup.  We would read it every night without fail.  She has tried to read it to the kids, but they are not ready yet.  Every time I get stressed now (or crazed, or on edge), Emily tells me I need tea.  Her homemade (imaginary) tea often has my beloved lemon, and just as often has pickles in it. The other night during the 90 minute scream-fest, there was not enough tea in the world to fix things!  But that is the beauty of twins (or of kids I guess). Every morning is a new chance to start over.  And every morning starts with hugs. Thank goodness for the hugs, and for tea.

Beth is known as mommy by a 4 year old and boy-girl 17 month old twins.  She blogs about life, kids, and DIY, at Pickles in my Tea and in my Soup.

Twinfant Tuesday: You Are Not Alone

This is based on the first blog post I ever wrote, Me…Start a Blog? when my fraternal twins were 1-year-5-months old. Reading blogs like HDYDI and other MoT, MoM blogs gave me a sense of connectedness, of support and of resources that helped get me through the first-year-and-a-half of parenting our prematurely born twins, who did NICU time in Hong Kong, for 3 and 6 weeks, and then “house-arrest” time for another 5 months.

Once I started the blog, I updated it consistently while in Chengdu, China and even wrote as an author for HDYDI for a while.

For the last year we have been living on a Thai island, a dream come true. Rahul and Leila are 4 now, swimming and running around barefoot with their friends. They go to pre-school and I am doing my yoga practices and teaching again.

I don’t update my blog as frequently anymore, still enjoy it, but there isn’t that same need to get past the difficult, painful experiences of the the NICU time, to express every moment or milestone, to compare with others, or to validate my parenting choices. There continue to be many stories, but for the moment they feature less frequently on the blog.

I have great blogger friends whose ideas and thoughts inspire me, and I found solidarity with many of them at a time when I needed it most, and now I hope some of these posts can do the same for others.

A mother of twins talks about how MoM blogs made her feel less alone in the first year of twin motherhood. from hdydi.com


Me…Start a Blog
Written end of March 2011

Over the last two years my world has revolved around taking care of Leila and Rahul, my almost year-and-a-half twins. So to start a blog now, seems a bit strange. What could I possibly have to say? And when?! I don’t know which regimes are being toppled over, I haven’t seen photos of the effects of the recent earthquake in Japan, I don’t know what yoga workshops are on in the region, don’t know if Federer is still kicking ass, or who presented at the Chengdu Bookworm literary festival; or anything for that matter. Outrageous, I know.

Only a few years earlier I didn’t even know what a blog was until friends in Chengdu complained that they couldn’t access blogspot. Facebook, YouTube, and a number of blogging sites are blocked in China.

After some complications in my pregnancy while in China, I ended up spending 4 months in bed including 7 weeks in hospital, split into 4 different hospital stays.

A number of foreign doctors here, in Shanghai, and Beijing recommended that we leave for the birth, due to the high risk of going into preterm labour and possible lack of high level care for premature babies.

So we went to Hong Kong at 26 weeks gestation. L and R came at 31 weeks, and were cared for at the Queen Mary NICU.

The bed-rest, high-speed internet and open access to all sites meant lots of time on the internet, and my initiation to blogs. But it was only when L and R were five-months-old, after my mum who had spent 9 months with me left, and both of those things coincided with our return to Chengdu that I really got into it.

I came upon some blogs that MoT’s wrote. For the first time in a long time I felt like I could relate. They wrote how exhausted they were, how they only bathed their babies a couple of times a week, rarely dressed them in anything other than pyjamas. I didn’t feel as guilty anymore that L and R didn’t go out everyday. They weren’t the only ones. To have them both ready to go out meant nappies changed, both well fed, not too tired, and a big diaper bag full of provisions.

I remember a post by a father of twins about how his two-year-old girls were finally sleeping through the night, most of the time, anyways. So my two waking up a few times each and every night means I can still be considered in the norm.

One mum wrote about her birth story; similar to mine – it included flights, hospital stays for both mum and babies, pumping pumping pumping, stress, fear, pain, relief.

Then there was one couple that blogged about their micro-preemie twins birth, NICU stay including all the medical details, the obsession with weight gain, the monitors, breathing, digestion, good days, bad days. It wasn’t the most fun blog I ever read. They were born much earlier than L and R, but I could relate to much of it and realised that I would have to deal with this part of R and L, and in fact all 4 of our lives one day, and to be at peace with it somehow.

Reading these stories was like holding a mirror out in front of me, a way to see what we had been through, a way to realize we were not alone – and importantly to let go of it.

There were honest, touching posts as well like the one HDYDI MoT, rebecca, who wrote One Baby Envy. Others complained about the silly questions they got when they took their twins out. If I get started on the questions and comments I got in Chengdu it would never end.

Sometimes the comments on the blogs were funny – MoM’s bitching about how J Lo (on the cover of People Magazine, March 2008) could possibly look as perfect so soon after she had her twins.

I related to these parents and it helped with the isolation I sometimes felt being in China without my family and with no experience with babies whatsoever. Neither of my brothers or brothers-in-law have children. One of my childhood friends has a son in Zambia who I haven’t yet met. I had held one of my friend’s tiny new born baby in Lebanon a couple of times last year feeling clumsy and incapable all the time. So yes, I had that experience.

I had a few parenting books. They only briefly covered twins if at all.

But, we were together again after my 6 month stint in Hong Kong, the 4 of us in Chengdu. That was our main source of strength. I had help from people here. L and R’s nanny or “ayi” meaning aunty as she is called endearingly is a superwoman, a great source of real support and help.

A friend as close as I imagine a sister to be was strong and present when I needed her most.

Another friend lent me lifesaving books at every stage along the way. And there were many others who made up my “village”, both in real life and in my blog life. The crazy thing now is that sometimes my kids both sleep for a few hours at the same time, but silly mama stays up to blog.

In addition to relating to other mums and dads on blogs, I found tips, such as this post that gives advice about choosing a double stroller that works for you depending on it’s use, tips like store big quantities of diapers, wet -wipes, food etc. so you don’t need to go out to the stores until really necessary. Obvious, but hey at least I don’t feel crazy when I walk into my pantry and see the hoarding.

There were videos of calm mums simultaneously feeding their babies. R and L were rarely on the same schedule, so it didn’t apply, but still nice to see how others do it.

So even though I live in this tiny world of eating, playing, bathing, trying to schedule, exploring and sleepless nights, I feel like I am above water now, some of time at least.

I now have the privilege to share my own stories and maybe get some interaction going. Perhaps a new mum, even a MoT will come across it and feel she can relate, find some useful information, or just have a laugh. I would be glad to contribute to that somehow.

These are stories for R and L to read one day if they want to. And if nothing else a way for friends and family to keep up with our lives in China, or wherever.

The other day I read a blog about the therapeutic effects of blogging. That did it for me, a few minutes later I signed up! Not really, I’m exaggerating, but it made me realise that every time I put down my thoughts they rarely came out negative or depressive, but rather I manage to find the “funny” in things, now that I am not sinking all the time, of course. It reminded me of a phrase from a song my dad often used to say to his not so smiley teenage daughter,

When you smile the whole world smiles with you. When you cry, you cry alone.

L and R out in Chengdu. 13 months old

L and R out in Chengdu.
13 months old

 

Natasha is mum of 4-year-old fraternal twins Leila and Rahul. She moved to Koh Samui, Thailand, with her children after spending 7 years in China. Her husband Maher, travels back and forth because work is in China. She has started practicing her yoga more regularly again, and even teaches a few classes a week, after a three year break. She blogs at her personal site Our Little Yogis and at Multicultural Mothering.