Make-It Monday: Involving Your Children in Holiday Giving

We try to keep holidays sweet and simple at our house, and I’m doing my best to impart the joy of giving of ourselves in my twin girls, who are now almost six.

I love to think of opportunities to involve the girls in the process of making handmade gifts, at least in some small way.  Approaching six years of age, there are lots of things the girls can do, especially when it comes to making holiday goodies with me in the kitchen.  I had to be much more creative when they were smaller…the idea of four little hands in the flour was not one I wanted to tackle with twin toddlers!

Today I’m sharing a some of the things we’ve done over the past few years, going back to when our girlies were approaching two.

Gift tags.  It’s become a tradition that our girls make gift tags to adorn the presents and goodies we give to our friends and families.  (I love that a few family members save the tags and use them as ornaments!)  The first year, I let the girls go to town with green finger paint on white card stock.

Xmas4I used a scallop punch to cut out 2″ ‘wreaths’, and I punched holes to show through to a red paper circle of berries.  I applied glue to the ‘wreaths’ and let the girls put the two pieces together.  Here’s the finished product:

Xmas3Another year I let the girls loose with a ‘present’ stamp, which they then colored.  (I had visions of checkered red and green packages…but they had other ideas, using almost every color in the crayon box.)

Xmas6And my favorite to date the girls did last year.  Xmas8At almost-five, they were able to complete these all by themselves, but these could be done with younger kiddos with some supervision.  We used washable brown ink to make thumb prints, and the tip of their index fingers in washable red ink made the nose.  The girls used markers to draw the eyes and antlers.  I love all the personality these little reindeer have!

Gift bags.  The girls had such fun making these bags when they were near-three.  I let them pick out button eyes, and I assembled the other pieces from card stock, felt, and sequins.  I applied glue to the pieces, and they put them in place.  XMas1

Cards.  I LOVE making cards  with the girls.  XMas2These were some of our earliest holiday creations.  At not-quite-two, I had the girls scribble with green crayons.  I cut out their scribbles in the shape of a tree, and I glued them to a blank card.  I let them decorate the tree with stickers, a favorite pastime at that age.

 

Charitable giving.  The last couple of years, the girls have had so much fun shopping for the food bank…it’s the one time of year I let them drive the miniature shopping carts at the grocery store, and they so look forward to it.  And of course we have to decorate bags to carry our goodies.

Tidings of Cheer.  The girls always go with me to deliver goodies to our neighbors.

Xmas9Since they were tiny, I’ve worked with them on a holiday message.  The first year they were able to participate, just shy of two years old, it was a simple, “Merry Christmas!”  We worked up to them singing, “We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!” when they were almost three.  The last couple of years, they’ve sung an abridged version of Jingle Bells as we passed out our goodies.  (Reindeer antlers add to the fun!)

Holidays seem infinitely more fun with littles in tow, and I love involving my girlies in all the festivities.  It’s something pretty special to see the light in their eyes when they share their own creations with our friends and families.

How do you involve your kiddos in the holiday season?

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

Halloween and Fall Traditions

Happy Halloween! Popping in to share one of my favorite Halloween Traditions: Our Annual Pumpkin Patch trip. My boys were born the first week in November, so they were nearly a year old their first Halloween. I went with another twin mom to an Apple Orchard/Pumpkin farm and snapped this picture of them in the field, which became one of my favorite photos ever. It is enlarged and hangs on my wall. Every year since then we have visited a pumpkin farm to snap a photo and watch them grow. Because it is so close to their birthday, these are great milestone photos too. 

This the the only tradition we have kept up for Halloween every year, we have been out of town for the past two years, so my boys are trick or treating tonight for the first time they might actually remember. (we have beeb before but they were 2.)

Go Team Wood Annual Pumpkin Photos

Age: Almost 1

 Go Team Wood Annual Pumpkin Photos

Age: Almost 5

Go Team Wood Annual Pumpkin Photos

Age: Almost 2

Go Team Wood Annual Pumpkin Photos

Age: Almost 3

Go Team Wood Annual Pumpkin Photos

Age: Almost 4

 

Jen lives near Chicago where she is the Mom of these rambunctious, adorable almost-5-year-old twins and a sometimes-blogger at HDYDI.com and her family blog Go Team Wood that is mostly Instagram photos if we’re being honest.

Halloween Costumes for Multiples

Are you seeking inspiration for Halloween costume ideas? Check out our Pinterest board. If you’re already full of ideas, please share them with other parents in the comments!

Follow How Do You Do It? Blog’s board Halloween Costumes for Multiples on Pinterest.

If you’re all set on the costume front but want to check out holiday crafts and activities, we have a board for those too!

Follow How Do You Do It? Blog’s board Halloween Stuff – non-costume (HDYDI) on Pinterest.

Make-it Monday: Cookie Costumes

Last year was my twins’ first Halloween. Big Sis was 3.5, and her brother and sister were 11 months old. It was my first chance to come up with coordinating costumes for my kiddos, and I ran with it! They were dressed as Cat in the Hat and Thing 1 and Thing 2– top hat, white gloves, blue wigs, and all. We went to Picture People for photos, and I now have irrefutable evidence of how cute they were. (To give you an idea, one picture poses Big Sis in an armchair reading The Cat in the Hat to her brother and sister seated on a bench.)

Obviously, I hope to continue these coordinating costumes for as many years as I possibly can.

This year, now that my eldest is almost 4.5, with many ideas of her own, I included her in choosing their Halloween costumes. I gave her some ideas, but ultimately we decided together. I suggested she be a chef, she changed that to baker. She wanted her siblings to be cupcakes, I changed that to chocolate chip cookies.

Baker’s costume was easy. I found a chef jacket and baker’s poofy white hat and ordered them on Amazon. But after scouring etsy and pinterest, I decided to make the chocolate chip cookies myself.

Materials for two cookie costumes:

1 yd light brown felt

2 pcs dark brown felt

1 yd batting

1 spool dark brown thread

2 yd dark brown thin ribbon

1 yd dark brown thick ribbon

I first found a template to use for my circle cutouts. After looking around the house, I found this SuperSeat base that had the diameter I was looking for, about 16.5 in. I traced it with a Sharpie and cut out 4 disks at a time from a 1/2 yard of felt that was folded over twice. I did it again with the other 1/2 yd.photo 1

Then I freehanded the chocolate chips to the dark brown felt. These came in 9×12 sheets. I pinned them together and cut them out 2-ply.photo 2

Next I randomly pinned the chocolate chips to four of the round circles. I could have attached them with a hot glue gun or even spray adhesive, but I chose to actually sew these on. It was time consuming, but felt much more solid.photo 3

In the middle of the other 4 round pieces I sewed on a 1/2 yd length of the thin ribbon, just attached at the center about 6 inches. These are the straps to tie on the sides. On top I sewed in the shoulder straps, about 9 inches of the thick ribbon each. (I heat sealed all the ribbon ends so they don’t fray.)image

Then I pinned the chocolate chip side to the strap side, wrong sides facing out, making sure the side ties line up. I decided to sew all the way around instead of leaving a side open for stuffing. That’s because I’m horrible at hand-sewing, and I knew that with my skill the cookie would turn out lopsided.image_1

Instead, I chose to cut a slit under the strap, and pulled the cookie inside out through it. I did end up hand-sewing these closed, but there would have been no problem leaving them open.image_3

I stuffed it using the batting I cut from the same SuperSeat template, after trimming it about an inch around for seam allowance. I did this four times. My guess is that they took about 4 hours over three separate nights.image_2

The completed cookies consist of four cookie pads, one for the front and back of each twin, attached at the top with ribbon, and tied on the sides with ribbon. Here’s Baby Boy sporting his new Halloween costume. Baby Girl decided not to cooperate. photo 4

How cute are they? I’m just giddy thinking about Big Sis in her baker’s costume, holding the hands of her chocolate chip cookie brother and sister! Next step, booking a photography session.

lunchldyd has her fingers crossed that all her kids cooperate for another set of adorable pictures. She is grateful that her current part-time teaching schedule is allowing her to think creatively and enjoy time for her crafty pursuits.

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.

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?

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!

Thank-You Cards from Kids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you handle thank-yous with your kiddos?

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