HDYDI MoM-Approved Toys

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It’s that time of year when many of us are thinking about fun and educational things for our little ones.  With so many toys on the market…and SO MANY ADVERTISEMENTS…what things are really worth the money and the space allocation in the play room?

toys

The MoMs of HDYDI have put together a list of some of the tried-and-true toys that have been hits at their houses.  We hope you’ll find this a useful resource as you make your shopping lists!

Infants

Introduce reading without worrying about damaging books!

Cloth books. The best way to instill a love of reading and not go crazy with ripped pages (trust me, pages get torn!) is to get creative. How? Soft books! These come in classics, educational, holiday, and more. We have a few lying around, and not only do they help introduce reading, they make a great chew toy! Getting them by 12/2 will also help benefit the Celebrate Carter fundraiser. (angelabickford3)

Nesting cups or bowls.  The best $4 I ever spent was on a set of stacking cups.  They were perfect for our girls to grasp as infants…building towers was a great challenge when the girls were 12-18 months…and almost five years later, the cups serve a million different pretend scenarios. (MandyE)

Cooperating to make a tower at two years old.
Cooperating to make a tower at two years old.
Twins playing together with an activity table from hdydi.com
Playing together at age 10 months.

Activity table. I saw my daughters drawn to an activity table in the waiting room of our pediatrician’s office. I looked it up online and was surprised to find how affordable they were. My girls loved to fiddle and twirl all the knobs, levers and buttons. It helped them learn about cause and effect, and the fact that they could play simultaneously was a huge plus. Most models are pretty good for relatively young infants, since they can be used without the legs to keep babies occupied during tummy time. Add the legs, and these toys can keep toddlers occupied for comparatively long periods of time. (Sadia)

A set of 3 soft blocks makes a great first block set!

Baby blocks. Just another block? Nope! These are 5×5 inch blocks that are made of fabric and stuffed with soft material! We love our soft blocks because they can be used as ‘balls’, pillows (I’ve done this a few times), chew toys, and are educational. They also benefit the Celebrate Carter fundraiser if you buy them by 12/2. (angelabickford3)

One to Two Years

DSC_0540
Step 2 Deluxe Kitchen

Play kitchen.  We got a kitchen play set when our girls were two.  Three years later, our girls still play with it every day, as do any friends — boys or girls — who come to visit.  A wise fellow twin mama advised me to get the largest kitchen our space would allow, and I am very glad we did.  Both my girls can easily play at the kitchen.  The larger set also has room for the many accessories we’ve accumulated…play food, a pastry set, and a tea set.  Those have made great additions at subsequent holidays / birthdays. (MandyE)

Each of our girls had a car.  Many times, they both played...but just as often, they loved to push each other.  Teamwork!!!
Each of our girls had a car. Many times, they both played…but just as often, they loved to push each other. Teamwork!!!

Ride-on toys.  Our girls got ride-on cars when they were a year old.  They played with them for two solid years!  Long after their legs were doubled up to sit on them, the cars served as strollers for their baby dolls, fire engines, and vehicles for their many stuffed animals to drive.  We always used our cars inside, but many of these type toys are suitable for outside, too. (MandyE)

Two to Four Years

Big enough for four to play!
Big enough for four to play!

Train set.  When our girls were three, we got them a wooden train set, and it’s been a great investment.  We bought a Melissa & Doug set, but we’ve added different pieces from Thomas, Imaginarium, and IKEA, as those sets interchangeable.  We opted not to get a train table.  Instead, our girls play with the set more like a puzzle…and the older they’ve gotten, the more complex their set-ups get.  At soon-to-be five years old, they like to see how many loops they can create, or if they can make the set circle around the loveseat. (MandyE)

These kept my kids entertained for hours!

Quiet books and felt boards. Need something to help keep your little one occupied? I love, love, love our quiet books and felt boards. They keep even my busy one entertained and were super helpful for our 17 hour road trip. There are all sorts of choices too, for both boys and girls! And, if you get them before 12/1, you’ll help benefit the Celebrate Carter fundraiser. (angelabickford3)

Matchbox cars. These are cheap (sometimes less than a dollar a car) and small. They make excellent stocking stuffers and surprise gifts for a long car ride. We have a medium size white bin with a lid where we keep the cars. The boys call the white bin the “garage” and often bring it upstairs and dump out their cars to line them up, pretend race, or just drive them around the house. My boys got their first Matchbox car from my brother for their second birthday and still use them today, at age five. However, I would caution against buying the Matchbox car accessories (the race tracks, the large boat, the command centers, etc…) as they are like most newer plastic toys; they break easily and disappoint the boys after just a few plays. (Janna)

Legos have a lot more variety these days than in our childhood.
Big kid Legos have a lot more variety these days than in our childhood.

Legos.  We’ve probably had our Duplo Legos longer than any other toy. They were a hand-me-down when the boys were 18 months old. They played with them just occasionally in the beginning, but a year later at 2.5 years old, they were building towers almost every day. At five years old, they still play with them, though at this point, we’re planning on passing on the Duplo Legos as they are plenty old enough for ‘real’ Legos. (Janna)

Art supplies. The boys’ bachelor uncle with no kids surprised us all when he gave the boys their own giant watercolor pads and a full set of water color paints and a paint brush. It was the biggest hit that Christmas (at 3.5). Doing art projects with twins can be very messy and overwhelming so while we’d painted occasionally, we hadn’t given them their own supplies yet. They love having their own giant paper and paintbrush and paints. We now paint almost weekly and they also use the large paper for stickers, coloring or other art projects. (Janna)

Twins playing with a sand and water table from hdydi.com
At age two, my girls could be trusted not to try to eat the sand. Staying dry was a different story.

Sand and water tables. Our sand and table was a huge hit with all the neighborhood toddlers, whether it contained water, sand or both. This was the first toy that could quite literally keep my girls occupied for hours. I’d definitely recommend getting a table with a lid if you’ll ever leave it outside. I loved that mine had a drain on each side that could be opened from below to easily empty it for storage. Playgrade sand is easy to find at home improvement stores. (Sadia)

Teach the concept of time with a doll!

TimeIN dolls. These dolls have been a lifesaver for our two! They teach the concept of time and can be used to help potty train, teach skills like zipping, to teach about sharing, quality time with a parent, or other time-related concepts, and are just over-all super cute. They also benefit the Celebrate Carter fundraiser if you get them by 12/2! (angelabickford3)

Four to Six Years

Blocks. Trio blocks entered our house when our girls were four.  The girls could click them together pretty well, and the way the blocks snap means that the structures are very solid.  The girls can then play with the bird / cat / castle / zoo that they build, without fear that it will fall apart. (MandyE)

From Fisher-Price
From Fisher-Price
Our girls can play with these for an hour!
Our girls can play with these for an hour!

Magnetic pattern blocks.  These have been a prominent fixture since our girls were almost four.

They love creating patterns on cookie sheets, and this mama loves that there is so much inherent geometry at play, too. There are all sorts of pattern cards you can find to prompt designs, and the possibilities for open-ended play are endless.  (MandyE)

Lincoln Logs: We just received these from the neighbors three months ago, and the boys have used them every day to build elaborate log cabin villages. This is currently their favorite toy. Much younger than four, the Lincoln Logs would have probably frustrated their fingers, but for 4+up this is a great creative toy. (Janna)

Games.  For kids 3-6, don’t forget the board games (CandyLand, Chutes & Ladders, Hungry Hungry Hippos) and card games (Uno, Playskool Crazy 8s, Spud Rummy and Go Fish).  They are great for counting, taking turns, and learning to win and lose gracefully.  (Janna)

K’Nex. These building toys are made up of ribs and joints that fit together in 3 dimensions. I confess to having as much fun playing with our K’Nex collection as my daughters. They go back and forth between building everyday objects and abstract constructs. They sell Kid K’Nex, which are a larger and chunkier version of the original designed for smaller hands. I’d definitely recommend looking for K’Nex on Ebay or Craigslist, because it’s quite pricey brand new. (Sadia)

Dress up fun!

Capes. Kids LOVE dressing up, and a custom cape can add to the collection and make adventures more fun. If you get your cape before 12/1, it benefits the Celebrate Carter Fundraiser. (angelabickford3)

Older Children

Get your budding writer their first journal!

Journals. I loved writing as a kid – still do! Of course, I had a diary, a journal, a special to-do list book, etc. etc. I’m still that way. That’s why I think this is the perfect gift for a budding writer. You can choose from one of their pre-printed books (some aren’t appropriate for little eyes) or you can create a custom book. Super cute and they benefit the Celebrate Carter fundraiser if you get them by 12/1. (angelabickford3)

American Girl Dolls and Books. I confess that when I first heard about these dolls, recommended for age 8 and up, I thought they were an overpriced fad. As it turns out, though, we absolutely love the books that go with them. American Girl makes contemporary dolls with clothes to match their owner, but the ones we love are the historical dolls and the books that accompany them. Each historical doll is set at a particular point in history, and the well-written books allow little girls to explore what life was like for children in different points in US history. I’ve been getting my daughters new American Girls books for several years now, and they have yet to get old. Our local library has a decent selection of these books too. A while ago, a close friend of mine gave my girls her Molly (WWII) clothing and book collection, and my usually doll-averse kids love them.(Sadia)

siennas-locketSienna’s Locket. I really like this book. Not only is it written by a twin mom about her twins, but it’s related to special needs and seeing the world through different eyes. My kids love books already, but this is better geared towards older children (ages 3-12) and is an easy read for a new reader. The illustrations are beautiful too. If you have a special needs child or want to teach compassion to your children, Sienna’s Locket is so cute. If you purchase it by 12/2, you’ll help benefit the Celebrate Carter fundraiser. (angelabickford3)

Card and board games. Older children are ready for adult-orientated card and board games. My daughters love Monopoly, Scrabble, Boggle, Labyrinth, Mille Bornes and Fluxx. (Sadia)

Write notes to the tooth fairy & get a note back!

Tooth Fairy Kit. If your child likes to write notes and is at the point where they are loosing teeth, this cute tooth fairy kit makes a great, unique gift. This item also benefits the Celebrate Carter fundraiser through 12/2. (angelabickford3)

Make gardening fun!

Gardening fun. If your kids like to be outdoors and are interested in gardening at all, Plantables & Paper offers great seed starter kits that are fun, colorful, and serve a purpose. You can even plant paper and watch it grow. This item also benefits the Celebrate Carter Fundraiser through 12/1. (angelabickford3)

 

Not Quite a Toy

There are some great items for kids that aren’t quite toys, but that will help make life on mom a bit easier. Check out some of the Celebrate Carter Fundraiser items shown in the picture below. These items are available through December 2nd.

These items are for baby & kids to USE, but aren't toys. They're just things to make mom's life easier.
These items are for baby & kids to USE, but aren’t toys. They’re just things to make mom’s life easier.

Experiential gifts and gift cards.  One gift that keeps on giving and is fun for the whole family is a gift membership to the zoo, the children’s museum, or the botanical gardens.  A gift certificate for admittance into the bouncy house my girls think is just great.  They’ve also enjoyed gift cards for the yogurt shop / ice cream parlor.  And they think it’s pretty special to have their own money to shop at the bookstore.  (MandyE)

What are some of your kiddos’ favorite toys?  We’d love to hear your experiences, from one MoM to another!

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Traditions of Service and Giving for Children

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Operation Turkey

On Thanksgiving morning, my daughters and I will be volunteering at Operation Turkey, an effort that provides the homeless of Austin and other cities with a hot Thanksgiving meal. While this will be 7-year-old M and J’s first year participating, I went last year and had a great time. Will you be there? Come and say hello!

turkey1This group has their process down. Around 8:00 am, they take hundreds of milling participants and I-have-no-idea-how-many pounds of food and funnel the people into different tasks. Last year, by noon, 5000 people had been fed and I was headed home to prepare my own meal.

turkey2I wasn’t sure how kid-friendly Operation Turkey would be, so I decided to check it out last year while my girls were at Daddy’s place. I was pleasantly surprised. The children are tasked with decorating the Styrofoam boxes with messages and pictures of seasonal cheer. They’re busy, out of the way, and genuinely contributing. Once all the boxes are decorated and things are started to slow down, they’re welcome to rejoin their parents. I can’t wait to see my kids give of their time and creativity on Thursday.

Why Volunteer

Generosity and gratitude are among my core values and I hope to pass them on to my children. Events like Operation Turkey will set my kids up to know that joy that comes from giving and help them see that they’re not alone in wanting to share the privileges that have come to them. As we have discussed many times, we may not be rich as the world sees it, but we have enough for our needs and many of our wants and we are rich in love. Since we have enough for ourselves, we have enough to others too.

What Can Kids Do?

Our community is filled with opportunities for children to volunteer. M’s best friend volunteered at the local food pantry with her mom last weekend, using the Spanish she learns in the dual language program at school to direct Spanish-speaking families to the bags and food that will help ease their burden a little. Last winter, our Girl Scout troop took cookies and Christmas cheer to the residents of a local retirement community. J donated every penny she’d saved up from her allowance to her school’s Coats for Kids drive. I didn’t even know that until she mentioned it in passing.

We’ll probably go to our local Children Giving to Children Parade and donate toys and books to the Austin Blue Santa effort. Live music and floats are plenty of fun without the added warmth of helping out another child, but the donation is what really makes the event for us. The first time my girls donated at the parade, they were 19 months old. They understood that they were helping out a baby who didn’t have toys and they were old enough to feel good about it. The first time we went, they were 7 months old.

blueSanta

The weather won’t be quite so nice this year, but they’ll probably cooperate better for photos.

blueSanta2Do your kids volunteer or donate during the holidays? What opportunities are there for them in your community?

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

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Holidays After Divorce

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Mandy’s post about her Advent traditions made me realize how much our holiday practices vary from year to year. This year, I’m going to be experiencing an altogether new aspect of the holidays after divorce: My daughters and I won’t be together on Christmas Day. They’ll be in Washington State with their Dad celebrating Christmas with his family while I stay home in Texas, baking up a storm.

How one family tweaks family traditions in light of divorce and custody issues.

Holiday Custody

The custody arrangement in our divorce decree is pretty standard, from what I understand. The girls live with me full-time. Our daughters are to alternate between me and their father for Christmas and Thanksgiving. Technically, Daddy is supposed to have the kids for Christmas in even-numbered years and Thanksgiving in odd-numbered years as well as Fathers’ Day every year. However, given that he can’t always (or, so far, ever) adjust his work schedule to make that work, he spends the holidays with M and J whenever he can.  This year, he was able to secure some time off around Christmas and will be taking our daughters to stay with his parents for a few weeks.

Celebrating at Mommy’s House

J, M and I talked about how we wanted to celebrate Christmas together, and they decided that they wanted to have our standard Christmas, complete with gift-opening, Christmas dinner, family baking time, carol singing and watching The Snowman together.

Furthermore, they wanted to celebrate before they left with Daddy. We’ll be celebrating Christmas on December 15, while school is still in session. We had a quick discussion as to how Santa handles this sort of situation. The girls agreed that he can adjust his scheduled chimney descents to accommodate early Christmases with Mommy. He’s due at our house the night of the 14th.

Atypical Holiday Dates

Oddball holiday dates are no new thing for our family. My ex-father-in-law is a firefighter and my ex-husband a soldier. One or both them worked on holidays more often than not. With me and the girls in Texas, my in-laws in Washington state, my parents in the UK and Bangladesh and the girls’ dad all over the world, holidays were celebrated whenever we could achieve a modicum of colocation. For several years, I made a habit of flying out to Washington or Oregon between Thanksgiving and Christmas to attend the Christmas parade in my ex-grandmother-in-law’s hometown and celebrate a bunch of holidays and birthdays with the extended family.

Being away from J and M, though, is new for me. What has always been consistent is that we’re together, thinking about family and enjoying our love for each other. When I decided on a whim to get the girls’ boring old chocolate Advent calendars, I did think about whether they’d fit easily in their suitcase to go to Grammy’s house where M and J would spend the last few days in the run-up to Christmas. We’ll have to hit our traditional Christmas lights earlier than usual this year.

Blended/Broken Family Gifts

I also had to think about presents for my former relatives. I elected to get my ex-in-laws an enlarged photo of the girls, nominally from the twins themselves. M and J decided that we should get their stepsisters night lights to match the ones they have in their room at my house.

I give each child a $25 budget for her own shopping and she can choose to include whomever she wishes on that list, although it must include Daddy and Sister. If she wishes to make handmade gifts and bank the cash, that’s up to her. Since my ex was deployed so often, we’d established a routine that we’ve kept up of having the girls’ godmother or other family friend take them shopping for gifts for me. I skip out of work a little early a couple of days in December to take the girls shopping one by one for a gift for Sister. We do the same thing for birthdays.

What About Mom?

My family isn’t Christian and therefore doesn’t celebrate Christmas except in the most secular way, and that only when we’re living in a Christian country. In other words, the only gifts I get are the ones from my girls. I do allow myself to splurge on a gift “from Santa” at Christmas since I’ve been single. Last year, Santa got me the new camera I desperately needed. This year, he will be replacing my badly cracked iPad. No one ever said Santa couldn’t exercise an Apple warranty!

On the Subject of Santa

M and J know the story of Saint Nicholas, and we make a point of giving anonymous gifts to the needy during the holidays. When they were 4, J figured out that parents were very active in Santa’s stead. I told both my daughters that Santa was really an idea, the idea of holiday generosity, inspired by Saint Nicholas’ acts during his life.

Last year, however, M informed me that she chooses to believe in Santa. The message was clear. She wanted me to continue to keep the myth of his magical Christmas powers alive in our home. She had examined the option of looking at Christmas gift giving from a purely pragmatic perspective and rejected it. J agreed to keep the story alive, reluctantly at first, then with great gusto. She insisted that I buy a home with a fireplace, just to allow Santa to work his magic.

I get myself a little end-of-year treat. If crediting it to Santa brings joy into my daughters’ Christmas, so be it. And if Santa visits Grammy’s house too, I don’t think anyone will examine that too closely. What matters is family, even if it’s been broken up and reconstructed.

How do you deal with splitting yourself or your kids between families at Christmas? Do your kids believe in Santa?

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

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Advent Calendar Ideas

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I didn’t grow up with an Advent calendar, but I just love the idea of marking the days until Christmas.

A couple of years ago, when the girls were just shy of three, we made a countdown calendar.  I used their handprints to make a Christmas tree, and I wrote the numbers 1 – 24 on it.  Each day, the girls got to add an ornament sticker, their trees becoming fully decorated by Christmas.  They LOVED picking a sticker each day…and they talked about that calendar off and on the entire year following!

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Last year, I wanted to incorporate some fun activities, and the element of surprise.  I pinned a number of different ideas.  Here are some of my favorites…

…little packages, tied to a topiary…

…tiny little jars, I’ve seen arranged in various shapes, like trees or wreaths…

…a pretty jar filled with tiny boxes…

…little messages tied onto a frame with a screen in it…

 

…a holiday sock garland, each containing a little treasure…

[These are from what I think may be the mother lode of Advent ideas on Gluesticks…this site keeps going for days!]

I also love this idea from I {Heart} Nap Time

…little notes hung from clips on wire across a frame…

After much deliberation, here’s the calendar I created…

advent calendar-ME
…miniature clothespins glued to a frame…

And the verdict?  We had such a great time with it!!!  Each day we did a different activity.  There was a mix of really special things…like a cookie decorating party…and things we’d do anyway…like decorate our Christmas tree.

In no particular order, here were some of the items on our list last year…

  • Put up the Christmas tree
  • Buy a loaf of Holiday Bread from Panera
  • Make a donation to the local pet shelter
  • Eat out for breakfast
  • Make homemade hot chocolate
  • Go for a ride to see Christmas lights
  • Walk through the neighborhood with glow sticks to see Christmas lights
  • Leave a gift for the mailman
  • Leave a gift for the garbage truck and recycling truck
  • Make an ornament
  • Decorate cookies
  • Make chocolate-covered pretzels
  • Buy a new Christmas book
  • Go shopping for Sasha (our cat)
  • Wrap presents
  • Take gifts to our neighbors and sing Christmas carols
  • Walk around downtown and see the Christmas lights (and maybe a carriage ride?)
  • Visit the Opryland Hotel
  • Take cookies to Garcia’s (our favorite restaurant)
  • Make Chex mix
  • Make a donation to a bell-ringer
  • Take gifts to the girls’ teachers
  • Make gift tags for our Christmas presents
  • Watch the lighting of the tree in Rockefeller Center

I left the calendar open and filled in the next day’s activities the night before.  Some of these depended on the weather and what else we had scheduled, so having flexibility was really helpful.

The girls and I are looking forward to another fun year of holiday activities!

Do you have an Advent tradition?  I’d love to hear other ideas!

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

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Twin DIY Halloween Costumes

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Easy DIY Twin and Pregnancy Costumes

Happy Halloween! I hope you are ready for a special EXTRA edition of Make-It Mondays: Halloween Edition! Please forgive me that this isn’t on Monday, but I thought it would be very fitting to have this post be published in time for Halloween. Today, I want to feature some DIY Halloween costumes, both for us pregger moms and our multiples.

I know that so many of us see “DIY” and we get that sweaty feeling. Oh no! I’m not crafty! I can’t do that! Well, I’m here to tell you, friend, that you can! In this DIY post, it just means that these costumes aren’t all boxed-up nice and pretty. You have to gather a little here and a little there. You can do that! In fact, these tend to look much better than the pre-packaged costumes, and they are the most memorable ones!

*Note: In order to find the original source (when applicable), please click on the picture. If available, it will take you to the website where the image was found.*

DIY Costumes for Us Pregger Moms-to-Be

1. “Buns in the Oven Bakery”
This just requires a box with some holes cut in it and some spray-painted cups (or bottle caps) as the knobs. Easy!

2. “Skeletons Inside”
Yes, you do need to have the vinyl transfers, but once you do, all you have to do is iron this on a black shirt.

3. “I’m Dressed Up as my Mommy”
This is found on Etsy, but you could easily take a shirt and write it in marker (or vinyl).

4. “Snoopy Belly”
Ok, as a lover of the comic strip Peanuts, I have to include this one. This just requires some felt on a white shirt. Plus, you can coordinate with your honey, and he can be Charlie Brown!

5. “A Gypsy and Her Magic Ball”
This one doesn’t take much extra than what you may already have around your house. You will need a black top (tied up to reveal your painted belly) and a long, black skirt. You may need to get a black scarf and some beads to tie around your head, but that’s about it. Throw on some heavy eye makeup, and you are ready to go!

6. “Angry Birds”
Yes, the game isn’t as popular now as it was a year or so ago, but this is still a great home-made costume. You just need some felt (or vinyl) for the face, and you can tape a 3-D paper beak on for the final touch.

7. “Winnie the Pooh”
It doesn’t get much easier than this. A red-collared shirt, cut just under the bust. A yellow maternity shirt underneath. A black dot on your nose. A jar of honey. You can add the “Pooh” writing to the shirt or not. Regardless, you have an easily-recognized character.

8. “The Solar System”
“All you need to do is get a comfy black t-shirt, put a sun smack dab in the middle, and hang planets from your arms to turn yourself into something straight out of outer space.” -TheStir.CafeMom.com

You can find these costumes and some more at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/11/halloween-costumes-for-pregnant-women-2013_n_4071993.html

DIY Costumes for Our Multiples

1. “Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker”
Take a look at Professional Twin Mommy’s blog to see how she made this. My favorite part is that Luke and Leia actually ARE twins in the story. Yes, my Baby Boy and Baby Girl WILL be Luke and Leia one year.

2. “Superman and Clark Kent”
For identical boys, this is an adorable get-up. Superman needs a blue onesie with a felt “S” logo and a red cloth as a cape (a red towel would work). Clark needs a spiffy old-fashioned-looking suit with a blue onesie underneath. I love how this mom drew the glasses on her child, so he didn’t try to keep taking them off.

3. “Thing 1 and Thing 2”
This is perhaps one of the most popular twin costumes, so I almost didn’t include it. I liked how this mom (I wish I could find the original source) used blue boas for their hair, instead of buying a wig. The body costume itself was made from red sweatshirts and sweatpants, with a “Thing 1/2” circle cut, drawn, and attached onto the shirt.

4. “The Flintstones”
Although I found a picture of Fred and Wilma, you could easily extend this to the whole Flintstones gang (Pebbles, Dino, Barney, Betty, Bamm-Bamm) and have a whole family of Flintstones. These costumes aren’t much more than draped fabric (felt or cotton will work fine) with cut-off edges and accessories. Fred’s tie and spots are easy to add on, and the entire thing doesn’t have to be perfect. Remember, they came from a prehistoric era without sewing machines! The rougher, the better!

5. “Salt and Pepper”
This costume was found on Etsy (click the picture to take you to the listing), but it is easy to make! Onesies with the letter S and P on them, and two chef hats with black circles on the top. Voila! Your little movers and shakers (pun intended) are ready to go.

6. “Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum”
I wanted to show a picture of a girls’ version of this costume, because this is so gosh-darn cute! To make it easy, take a yellow shirt, red pants, and a blue bowtie. You can add the blue baseball caps and white gloves, but they aren’t required.

7. “Charlie Brown and Lucy”
As I said above, I LOVE the Peanuts comic strip. These adorable outfits are iconic, but also easy to pull off. Charlie Brown needs a yellow shirt (collared or t-shirt), with a black chevron stripe around the tummy. Black or brown pants will do, and a football is a great prop. Lucy will need a blue dress with 4 buttons sewn in the center. This will be another must-do for my twins.

8. “Sushi”
This costume will take a little bit of sewing to accomplish, but once that is done, it will be perfect! You will start with a white pillowcase dress (whether it is for a boy or girl), and then you need to pick your sushi. You can get a half-yard of colored fabric from your local fabric store (I would recommend felt because you won’t have to worry about the ends fraying). Cut it into the shape you want and sew it onto your base “dress.” You could also iron the material onto the base “dress” using Heat N Bond, if you only need to use the costume once. Also, look at those cute hats/headbands with ginger and wasabi rosettes!

9. “Gnomes”
This is a fun one. You will need to make a cone-shaped hat (either out of a stiff material or paper), and you will attach the hair to the underside of it. For a girl, you will take yarn and braid it into two parts. The boy will have one string of yarn with tassels hanging down. They are then just wearing red shirts and dark pants.

10. “Raggedy Ann and Andy”
This costume was made through a pattern, but it would be simple to replicate with a little bit of Goodwill shopping. Andy needs a red collared shirt and blue pants. He also needs lots of red yarn for a wig and a sailor hat (easy and cheap to get at your local party store). Make sure the pants are short, so the red socks show underneath. Ann needs a longer red yarn wig and an old-fashioned dress. I bet you could find this at a local thrift store. Even if it is big for your little girl, that’s ok. She then needs a white pinafore. This is easy to recreate with white fabric wrapped around the dress and two thick ribbon as the straps. You don’t have to include the bloomers, but white tights and black shoes will complete the outfit. You could also add red triangle makeup to their noses for a cute something extra.

Here are some other great sites for twin costume ideas:

http://blog.babygizmo.com/2013/10/10-great-halloween-costumes-twins/

http://www.pinterest.com/twinsgiftco/twins-costumes/

http://www.pinterest.com/rutgers96/twin-halloween-costume-ideas/

For a big list of other costumes (not necessarily DIY, check out this great one from hollilong.com), check out this link.

DIY Costumes for Our Multiples (From HDYDI.com Moms)

1. Jennifer Wood’s “Mario and Luigi”
“My Mario and Luigi costumes were overalls I got at resale for $3 each. The long-sleeve onesies I got on clearance at Kohl’s. The hats I made. “

Halloween DIY Costumes - HDYDI.com

2. Jennifer Wood’s “Captain Hook and Mr. Smee”
http://goteamwood.com/2012/10/30/mickeys-not-so-scary-halloween-party/

Halloween DIY Costumes - HDYDI.com

“Capt. Hook’s jacket was a thrift store boys dress shirt I added gold ribbon trim, black girls leggings from the thrift store, a yard of lace trim safety pinned to the collar and thrift store shoes. Mr Smee’s shirt and hat I made, but the sandals and shorts were thrift store too. The glasses, which made the whole outfit, were $1 store ‘cheaters’ that I popped out the lenses.”

3. Sadia Rodriguez’s “Rainbow Fairies Amber and Heather”
http://www.motherhoodsisterhood.com/2010/10/halloween-2010.html

Halloween DIY Costumes - HDYDI.com

4. Sadia Rodriguez’s Mary Poppins 
http://www.motherhoodsisterhood.com/2009/10/shortest-party-appearance-ever.html

Halloween DIY Costumes - HDYDI.com

Halloween DIY Costumes - HDYDI.com

“E-bay and eCRATER are far more convenient for thrift shopping than Goodwill or other brick and mortar thrift stores! The umbrellas, which I got brand new on Amazon, were the most expensive components of the costumes, at about $15 each.

Melody’s dress was a $2.50 Christmas dress, and the tulle for her hat cost a quarter. Jessica’s skirt is actually a knee-length skirt of mine, while her shirt was a $1 find. The coat/dress was about $10, second-hand. The shoes were $7/pair at Walmart, and the tights were hand-me-downs from the neighbours. I found the bucket hats at T.J. Maxx for $8 each, and the silk flowers were a couple of bucks. Jessica’s carpet bag was a $3 bag-shaped plywood box from Michaels, with a fabric scrap lacquered on using liquid laminate, which is one of the more bizarre things I happened to have lying around the house. So, both outfits came together in under $80. Sure, I could have bought brand-new ensembles for the same, but despite my grumbling, the effort was worth it in the end.”

5. Margie Pelz’s “The Lorax and the Truffula Tree”
http://www.doublethegiggles.com/2012/10/the-lorax-easy-homemade-halloween.html

Halloween DIY Costumes - HDYDI.com

6. Carrie’s “Moose Family”
“We were all moose for no reason other than I love moose! Homemade and it shows but that is what made it cute! The plus is that my boys are still wearing the fleece pants a year later and I took the antlers off the sweat shirt and still wear it.”

Halloween DIY Costumes - HDYDI.com

*Dory is the author of Doyle Dispatch and currently pregnant with boy/girl twins. To read more posts about Dory’s pregnancy and DIY projects, you can see the list here.*

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Thinking Ahead…Multiple Fun for Halloween

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Pumpkin spice lattes are back at Starbucks, and Pinterest is full of cute fall decor.  On one hand, it feels a bit early, but my girls’ Halloween costumes have been top of mind the past few days.

I don’t generally dress the girls alike on a day-to-day basis, but this will be their fifth Halloween, and to date, I’ve gone the “double the cuteness” route.  Two pumpkins, two cheerleaders, two ladybugs, and last year, two butterflies.

DSC_1102

(I should also note I’m taking full advantage of “cutesy” costumes for as long as I can…I know one day they’ll want to pick things out themselves, and a scary clown won’t be quite as adorable in the family photo album.)

Just for fun, I googled “Halloween costumes for twins”, and there are hundreds of “coordinating” ideas for multiples…

…salt and pepper shakers…peanut butter and jelly…apple and orange…lemon and lime…ketchup and mustard…M&Ms…peas in a pod…lion, tiger, and bear…cat and mouse…crayons…

And the character interactions are limitless, too…Thing 1 and Thing 2…Mickey and Minnie…Batman and Superman…king and queen…princess and dragon… Bert and Ernie…Charlie Brown and Snoopy…Buzz and Woody…

The funniest costume duo I read about was for boy/girl twins…a Mounds and an Almond Joy.  (This was one family’s response to the many questions they got about whether their B/G twins were “identical”…hahaha!!!)

And another one that I thought was comical was “Peace and Quiet”.  I can just envision printed shirts with those words…at least with my two, that would be a walking oxymoron!

Have you started thinking ahead to Halloween?  Are you planning to coordinate your multiples?  Have any fun ideas to share?

Also, check out our “Holidays” Pinterest board for more fun ideas!

MandyE is mom to 4 1/2-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

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First Father’s Day

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Father’s Day has always been a tough one for me.

My own dad split before I was two. My ex-stepdad and I have a relationship that has run the gamut from good to bad to nonexistent. Now, we have a healthy respect for each other and I definitely consider him an important family member. But I don’t call either one of these men “Dad.”

Enter my amazing husband. When we decided to start a family, I knew that we would truly parent as a team – my kids would have the dad that I never did. He is tender, kind, courageous, strong, funny, and smart – all the qualities that I hope my boys someday emulate. And he is there, in big and small ways, everyday, present and available to our sons. He is teaching me what a dad is.

Twin dads are a special breed. They don’t get enough credit much of the time. While many first-time dads are auxillary care-givers, twin dads are primary care-givers alongside mom. Most twin dads I know are more involved and more knowledgeable than dads of singletons, simply because they have to be – with two, mom can’t do it all (even if she wants to!).

The day we got home from the hospital when the boys were born, I returned in an ambulance for an additional four-day stay (uterine lining infection, among other things). My husband and my mom were suddenly responsible for 4-day-old infant twins. He was awesome. He took tender care of them, sleeping on the floor beside their Nap Nannies, because he wanted to be close to them. He dressed them and brought them to me in the hospital, one at a time, so they could nurse. He painstakingly fed them from a cup so they wouldn’t have trouble breastfeeding. When I got home, he would get up at night with me and bring me the boys one at a time. I literally did not change a diaper until the boys were two weeks old because my husband was eager to take care of them in any way he could.

As the boys have grown, I’ve watched their relationship with their dad blossom. R cries everyday when he leaves for work, and scampers up to him with a huge smile and shining eyes when he gets home. In the future, I can see the two of them enjoying hikes, playing catch, and sharing a love of books that R already exhibits. Shy M looks around for dad when he’s feeling nervous, and settles comfortably in the security of his arms. I know they will love sitting quietly together, making a meal or watching the game, and trading jokes, each with their own fantastic laugh. My boys love their dad, and he is crazy about them too.

I know this first year of parenthood hasn’t always been easy. In addition to having twins, my husband started a new job this year. Talk about major life stressors. Yet every day, he participates in running the household and finds energy to scoop up his boys and give them cuddles and play time and lots and lots of giggles. At times, I stand back and just watch the three of them, happy to witness all this love.

This Father’s Day is special because it’s the first one that I am happy to celebrate. Instead of an awkward reminder of half-relationships, this year I am proud to honor the best dad I’ve ever known. Times two.

Happy Father’s Day to all the new and veteran dads out there.

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Mothers' Day After Divorce

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I was divorced in June of last year after 8 years of marriage. I never saw it coming. Mothers’ Day in the US is 2 Sundays from now on May 12. It will be my first since our family was completely restructured and the ground ripped out from under me.

My mother-in-law was my best friend and confidante, and the best grandmother I could have ever desired for my children. She is loving, yet firm. She spoils the girls as only grandparents can, but has always respected my rules and boundaries. Sadly, my former in-laws have chosen to cut me out of their lives, despite my ex-husband’s very clear indication that he didn’t desire that and wanted the children’s well-being to come first. I won’t be sending my former mother-in-law a Mothers’ Day gift this year after 9 years of cards, flowers, and gifts. The running list I had of perfect gifts for her needs to be put away permanently. The reality that this surrogate mother is forever lost to me is really hitting home. Rejection hurts.

Things with my ex-husband were as polite as divorce can be. We didn’t involve lawyers, except to spend our tax refund to hire a single lawyer to draft a divorce decree incorporating the terms we agreed to on our own. I sent my ex a note a list of things that I’d taken care of for his family that he would now need to own on behalf of our daughters: thank you cards, Christmas and  birthday presents, summer visits and, yes, Mothers’ Day cards.

I’m pretty sure that Daddy’s going to forget about the girls’ Mothers’ Day cards for Auntie and Grammy, but I need to accept that it’s no longer my place to remind him. I can still teach my daughters about honouring those who love them. I can make sure that my ex’s new wife gets a card from our daughters. After all, this is her first Mothers’ Day as a stepmom. If picking up cards for her inspires the girls to ask to get cards from Grammy and Auntie, I won’t say no. It’s not my place to tell them to do so, though. This post-divorce co-parenting thing doesn’t come with demarcations of what duties are his and which ones mine… and that’s not even the hardest part.

Who do you honour on Mothers’ Day? Do your kids send cards to their grandmothers, aunts, and godmothers? Who in your family keeps track of card- and gift-giving occasions?

Sadia is mother of nearly 7-year-old identical twin daughters, M and J. After 8 years as an army wife, she made the surprisingly minor transition to single motherhood. In August 2013, she moved back to Central Texas from El Paso, where she had moved a year earlier on orders from Uncle Sam.

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Mothers' Day

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Happy Mothers’ Day (belated) to all mothers, experienced, expecting, both, or otherwise.

Yesterday was Mothers’ Day here in the US, as is the second Sunday of May every year. Mothers, grandmothers, godmothers and mother figures are celebrated in all sorts of ways, from children’s handprints to breakfast in bed, cards to vacations. Like many holidays, this one is highly commercialized, but I have yet to meet the person who considers this celebration of motherhood to be a burden or chore.

My family doesn’t do a whole lot for Mothers’ Day. Our twin daughters, J and M, have their birthdays this second week of May. We’re usually still working our way through their birthday cake leftovers through Mothers’ Day until my birthday rolls around a few days later. As you might imagine, Mothers’ Day gets a little lost in the middle of three birthdays.

My mum lives in the United Kingdom, and British Mothering Day falls two weeks before Easter for her. We do make a point of doing something for my mother-in-law for American Mothers’ Day. This year, however, some fantastic medical news eclipsed Mothers’ Day altogether, and the flowers and pampering headed her way turned out to be more a celebration of her good news than of the annual holiday. I confess that in my giddiness over my mother-in-law’s news, I failed to call my grandmothers-in-law yesterday, which I usually would do. Oops.

Despite my general grinchiness toward Mothers’ Day, my girls always bring some token home from school in recognition of my role in their lives, thanks to their rather less grinchy teachers. J has forgotten to give me hers this year, but I found M’s to be deeply touching.

Dear mom, I hope you like this mother's day. I wish you a lovely mother's day... Love M

“Dear mom,” it read, “I hope you like this mother’s day. I wish you a lovely mother’s day. You are the best mom. I learn lessons from you. Anyways thanks for the cats. I love Sasha. Mom she’s adorabel [sic]! Mom I love you. I miss you so much at school. Love M.”

To clarify, we added two young cats to our family last week. M is usually quite nervous around new animals, but bonded instantly with Sasha, a 13-month-old bundle of purrs and adoration. Fortunately, J and 7-month-old Sookie also hit it off, J giggling helplessly as Sookie attempted to groom her (J’s) toes. I suppose the addition of two new felines for me to mother is a rather decent celebration of motherhood this year.

How are you celebrated on Mothers’ Day? Who do you take this annual opportunity to recognize?

Sadia is currently recovering from her daughters’ sixth birthday party in El Paso, TX. She failed to write this post on Mothers’ Day because she appears to have forgotten to do much eating in the preparation, execution and cleanup phases of the party. Instead, she fell into bed shortly after tucking her daughters in at 8:00 pm, managing only to feed to cats and brush her teeth prior to crashing.

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MLK Day Is More Than a Day Off

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Growing up in the UK and Bangladesh, I was raised on Mahatma Gandhi’s life story and words as the embodiment of a worldwide move towards civil rights and mutual respect between people and between peoples. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. embodied those same values, and today’s US-wide commemoration of his achievements is a reminder to discuss his legacy with our daughters, now aged 5.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t taking full advantage on an extra day off work and school. We let J and M stay up an hour past bedtime last night to watch The Empire Strikes Back for the first time. Do you remember the first time you heard the line, “Luke, I am your father.”? It was quite something to see the looks on our girls’ faces! We’re showing the Star Wars films to the girls in the order in which they were released. We’re old-school nerds like that.

Before I read Nurtureshock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, I hadn’t given much thought to talking to the girls about diversity. I figured that our multicultural, interracial, international, interfaith marriage would speak for itself. Bronson and Merryman’s chapter on talking about race influenced me deeply, however, and I committed to discussing these issues with our daughters.

M was the one to bring up MLK at dinner last night. “We watched a movie about King Martin Junior at school,” she told us.

Dr. King

We clarified Dr. King’s name, and talked about his accomplishments. We boiled it down to something pretty simple: Dr. King helped people understand that everyone could be friends, regardless of the colour of their skin. “Oh!” observed M, “Like we’re a family, but you have dark brown skin and me and Sissy and Daddy is peach?” She has previously described her very fair-skinned White grandmother as “pink.”

Sadia and family

That seemed like a decent enough introduction to the lessons of MLK Day, so we left it that for dinner time. Later, however, J brought up MLK, and I had a burst of inspiration.

Me: You’ve always had a sister, right! And that’s pretty special. Does that mean you can’t have friends who don’t have sisters?
J: No. [Classmate] has no sister, and he is my friend. I don’t know very much about having no sister and brother except you have to play by yourself and that is sad.
Me: You and [Classmate] are different when it comes to having brothers or sisters, but you can learn from each other.
J: I love [Former neighbour] and she has no brother or sister.
Me: I love her too. It would be pretty sad if you only had friends who were exactly like you.
J: I would miss [Former neighbour].
Me: What Martin Luther King, Jr. and his friends taught us was to be friends with people who are different in all kinds of ways.

I could use that reminder myself. It’s time for me to stop complaining about how rude and insular people are in our new town, and make a real effort at understanding the culture here. It’s time for me to embrace differences. As is so often the case, teaching my children reminds me to a better person.

In what ways has raising your children reminded you of your values? Are you a better person for being a parent?

Sadia is working US army wife and mother of 5-year-old twin girls. She and her family recently moved to El Paso, Texas.

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